Archive for the ‘Canadian Politics’ Category

By J. F. Conway / Socialist Project

Populism: “any political movement which seeks
to mobilize the people… against a state which
is either controlled by vested interests or too powerful in itself.”

— Oxford Dictionary of Sociology

 

Commentators on the political scene in the established media typically use the term “populism” simplistically and pejoratively. This is a blind, thoughtless, and ill-conceived attack on decades of predictable stability in our democracies. There is a sense of imminent danger conveyed – where will this upheaval lead? The consensus seems to be that populism is something to be feared and contained. It is irrational – a modern expression of mob psychology. Often facile comparisons to the rise of Italian fascism and German Nazism are tentatively made.

Some commentators attempt a deeper analysis, aware that a simplistic notion of populism cannot account for the complexities of the phenomenon. Hence, there is the “left-wing populism” of Corbyn in the UK, Sanders in the U.S., and Mélenchon in France, and the “right-wing populism” of Trump in the U.S., the Independence Party in the UK, and Le Pen in France. Indeed, the two varieties of populism have emerged to become challengers to political orthodoxy in most European countries. Both left and right populism condemn neoliberalism and globalization for their terrible consequences for the underclasses. Both have little faith in the existing political system, and their base was previously largely disengaged from the electoral process. Both blame current élites for the troubles the people face and the hardships they endure.

Fundamental Differences

But the differences are fundamental. Left populism blames the system – neoliberal capitalism – and seeks systemic change. To achieve this change requires the capture of state power and its use to end austerity by raising taxes and increasing social spending, to take measures to reduce inequality, and to end the uncontested power of the super-rich. Left populism rejects white nationalism, xenophobia, and racism. Right populism blames the current political élite, not the economic élite, and deplores a rigged political system that shuts them out. They embrace white nationalism and hark back to earlier times when “white privilege” was intact. Their economic woes are blamed on the cheap labour available offshore, luring factories to foreign nations, and the cheap labour of immigrants at home stealing their jobs. They yearn for a return to the golden days of the past when jobs were plentiful and life was prosperous and secure.

We can perhaps learn from the past. Twentieth century populism unsettled established capitalist politics in Canada and the U.S. from the turn of the century to the Great Depression. Left agrarian populist movements in Canada organized the Progressive Party challenge in 1921, denouncing the Special Interests and the plutocracy of the élite, demanding progressive reforms and thus ending the cozy two party domination of Canadian politics by the Liberals and Tories. They were joined in that challenge by militant trade unions and working class socialist parties. In the Great Depression left agrarian populist and working class organizations joined forces in Saskatchewan, founding the Farmer-Labour Party/CCF, driving to power in 1944. The threat of the CCF on the federal scene contributed to the rapid construction of the welfare state. In the U.S. left agrarian populist organizations, militant trade unions, and a small working class socialist party fused with the Democratic Party, providing much of the impetus and energy for the election of Franklin Roosevelt and the implementation of the New Deal. Class analysis, and sustained political and economic class struggle contesting for state power, were the essence of the movements both in Canada and the USA.

Left Populism Ascendant

Similarly the left-wing and right-wing populist upsurge of today is clearly all about class and class struggle. Among left populist movements this is evident in their rhetoric, analysis, and proposed remedies. But class struggle is also central to the right-wing populist upsurge as its leaders attempt to capture the discontent of the underclass and lead it into a right-wing political project (it is here where you find echoes of Italian fascism and German Nazism).

Class and class struggle has returned to political contestation in today’s late capitalism, thanks to neoliberalism’s dismantling of the welfare state and the cruel, remorseless exploitation of the underclasses in both the advanced world and abroad. So far left populism seems to be the more ascendant, as right-wing populist parties in Holland, Austria, Germany, Finland, and the UK suffered recent electoral setbacks, while left-leaning populist parties enjoyed growing support. Only in France does the right populist challenge remain strong, Marine Le Pen’s National Front. But it faces an equally popular left populist movement, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise. And in the UK the right populist Independence Party (UKIP) was wiped out as Corbyn’s Labour Party came within striking distance of forming government. Meanwhile Trump’s right-wing electoral coalition is disintegrating around him.

We are witnessing the return of class struggle politics in the 21st century and the re-engagement of extra-parliamentary popular movements, and the disenfranchised, in electoral contests for state power. Only time and events will tell if we have entered a long term new wave of class struggle politics. •

J. F. Conway teaches sociology at the University of Regina.

Source: Populism in the 21st Century: Class Struggle Returns to Haunt Capitalist Democracies

By Olivia Ward | March 13, 2017

She calls herself a humble scribbler, but when I read in a recent parody by Canadian journalist Olivia Ward about how Donald Trump reacted to allegations about “The Russian Connection” by ordering the Russian Tea Room in Manhattan to close …

…In a speech immediately ridiculed by Donald Trump, actress Meryl Streep told the Golden Globe audience, “we need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in the Constitution.” Ironically, she called for supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, whose main mission, until now, has been campaigning for those in the dungeons and torture chambers of authoritarian regimes. “We’re gonna need them going forward,” she said, “and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.”

But therein lies the nut graph, as editors like to call the crucial piece of the story. Because safeguarding the truth has never in living memory been more difficult in the democratic world…

Continue reading: Truth, Lies and Democracy: Journalism in the Age of Trump – BillMoyers.com

On Wednesday night, a rally against the federal Liberals’ Motion M-103 was held in Toronto. The motion is moderate and largely exploratory, and is in part a response to the grotesque […]

…Charles McVety, once debated with me on CBC television, again on sex education. On air, he said that I was no longer “a family man” and suggested I was defending the former Ontario government advisor and convicted child pornographer Benjamin Levin.

This is the very type of “free speech” to which many on the new right refer: the right to insult, offend and, often, simply lie.

Source: What the right keeps getting wrong about free speech

Yes, I made excuses. Why am I so willing to give the benefit of the doubt? It is because I know how critical it is to keep hope alive. I do not want to feed the bad wolf. Citizen engagement and faith in the system are essential ingredients for our survival. We cannot risk feeding cynicism.

Source: Trudeau Broke His Promises But Don’t Let Him Break Our Faith | Elizabeth May

75 charts every Canadian should watch in 2017 – Macleans.ca

Maclean’s presents its third annual chartstravaganza to help make sense of the Canadian economy in the year ahead

Source: 75 charts every Canadian should watch in 2017 – Macleans.ca

Here’s One:

Canada’s gig workers

Linda Nazareth,
RelentlessEconomics.com.
Twitter:@relentlesseco 

linda-nazareth1

“Here is the graph I would like to show you: the number of gig workers in Canada. I know they are there. More and more, Canadians do not have long-term, single-employer jobs but rather move from gig to gig, sometimes juggling several at the same time. The trouble is, gig work as a reality is pretty new to all of us, so neither Statistics Canada nor anyone else tracks how many gig workers there are out there. So since there is some overlap between gig workers and the self-employed, I have settled for showing a graph of the self-employed. Interestingly, the percentage of Canadians in this category has really not changed much over the past few years, although it did get a bump during the downturn in 2008-09, although not as big as it did during the recession of 2000.

There are other gig workers. Some pick up one contract after another with maybe some involuntary unemployment in-between, others are contract workers who drive for Uber on the side or fiftysomethings who take on work at their old employers occasionally, but who are not employees. All may be simply counted as ‘working’ when they have a job, and ‘unemployed’ when they are looking for one. We do not have a good count of how many there are but we should: gig work is the way of the future and will affect everything from government policy to how banks lend money. The first step in dealing with this new reality means knowing how many people are already immersed in it.”

Canada has a long history of exporting military equipment around the world, but keeping tabs on the size and scope of the arms industry proves surprisingly difficult.

Source: Canadian arms trade much larger than data suggests, expert says – Business – CBC News

Logging the best lines lodged by Jason Kenney in the debate on BDS.

Source: Nine things Jason Kenney said during the BDS debate that should make you rage | rabble.ca