Saturday, July 27, 2013

Chris Hedges, socialism, and the NDP

Part 6 of a 7-part interview from the Real News Network with Chris Hedges, author and activist following 15 years as a foreign correspondent with The New York Times.
"To even call yourself a socialist in this country is to essentially remove yourself from the acceptable parameters of public discourse."
Certainly the NDP agrees with that statement - its delegates having voted 960 to 188 three months ago to expunge the word "socialism" from their constitution, presumably in the vain hope of dampening Steve's enthusiasm for flinging it about come 2015. 
Well, it's only a word, right?

Thought experiment.
We are starting society over from scratch - the laws that determine our relationship to each other, to food and energy and the production of same - the works.
Hands up everyone who agrees to give corporate shareholders control over the government, the law, food production and distribution, our jobs, the life and death of our very ecosystem to do with as they please. 

No? No takers for that system? Because that's what we are currently voting for over and over and over again, and the longer it persists, the more of it we're voting for and what's worse - we know it. 
And this is the moment in time when we so desperately political support for an alternative vision that the NDP has chosen to deny their own roots in hopes of being mistaken for the other parties. 
Because it's only a word, right?


Anonymous said...

Strongly disagree. The most important task at hand is getting rid of Harper and that's what the NDP are going for here. And yes, it's only a word, one that is a turn off for most voters.

Robert McClelland said...

I refer you back to what Hedge's said. "To even call yourself a socialist in this country is to essentially remove yourself from the acceptable parameters of public discourse."

What good is clinging to a label when hampers your ability to reach the masses. Like it or not the corporate media still dictates who will or will not be heard and they decided long ago that socialists will not be heard.

Michel said...

I agree with Robert. I blogged about the change a while ago and thought referred to the words of Tony Judt on the matter:

[...] we cannot get away from the fact that we have lived through a century in which the word Socialism was both pejoratively and enthusiastically identified with political systems which turned out to be or could be seen to be from the beginning both economically inefficient, politically repressive, culturally sterile. We can't deny that. There's no point in pretending otherwise. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was after all, by its own account, socialist. Most communist states described themselves in various ways and various purposes constitutionally and so on, as socialist.

I don't think there's much point in defending the word. What we have to do is rather different and that is: shift the conversation from abstractions to substance. I am not interested, even if I were to live another 20 years, in trying to promote some abstraction called socialism.

If we're going to promote abstractions, I'd rather promote Justice or Fairness.

I'd rather promote Equality.

West End Bob said...

Not seein' many hands up for the current system we have in place, Alison.

Excellent series with Chris on The Real News - Segments 6 & 7 were my personal faves, too. (Chris actually laughs at one point in 6 - Had never seen that before!)

Great post . . . .

Wendell Dryden said...

"The most important task at hand is getting rid of Harper and that's what the NDP are going for here."

Yeah, well... If they support the tar sands, what's the point?

Remember how, in the US, the most important thing was preventing another George Bush-like president? So, they went with a popular, attractive, well-spoken, media-smart, visible-minority guy who turned out to be worse - worse because, under Obama, many left-wing voices silenced themselves and each other.

My fear is we'll replace a pudgy, easy-to-mock Harper with a popular, easy-to-like someone else (probably Trudeau, but who knows) who will be every bit as much right wing. Will Canada's left-wingers silence themselves as well?

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

If capitalism was doing the most good for the most people I too would run from the word socialism like it is chasing me with an axe. Capitalism is not doing so however, quite the opposite.

kootcoot said...

Mr. Beer and Hockey, you certainly have a wonderful way with words!

Purple library guy said...

Well, all the talk about "abstraction"--I get what you mean, but politics is by definition an abstraction. The question is what the abstractions mean.

The problem with socialism as a term is its baggage, sure enough. And OK, justice fairness and equality are all nice things. But socialism has a meaning, and its meaning deals directly with the actual sources of the problems of capitalism. The terms "justice", "fairness" and "equality" basically don't--I suppose they could, but as typically used they don't.
Let me float another term that we don't see that often: "Class". If your replacement terms don't deal with that and some of the other stuff socialism is about, they won't be adequate replacements. Give me a term that will do the heavy lifting and sure, I can work with dumping socialism.

Dumping the term "socialism" because the associations are too easy to attack is a potentially useful tactic, if a tactic is what it is and you still intend to get relevant jobs done. But the problem with the NDP's dumping of socialism is that it seems to be an acknowledgment that they no longer want to do any heavy lifting.

Anonymous said...

Socialism - a political system with the aim of creating a society in which everyone has an equal opportunity to benefit from a country's wealth.

It's seems so little to ask of a slightly lefty political party to support this.

Everyone feels free to discuss the unearned privileges of the 1% now, just so long as you don't actually mention class. Yet isn't that what we really mean?

Anonymous said...

While conducting some research on anarchism in Canada in the last century, I was fortunate enough to have the head Librarian (at the government agency formerly known as Library and Archives Canada) bring me a box of documents related to RCMP, CSIS and sundry police depts' infiltration and persecution of (gasp) peace organizations like the Quakers and Voice of Women and others they deemed to be a threat to the Government of Canada because of their socialist tendencies.
People in Canada and the US have frequently been jailed and killed for their political beliefs. Albert 'Ginger' Goodwin , Louis Riel in Canada; Saccho and Vancetti, the Rosenbergs and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the US were the cautionary tales for Anarchists, Communists and Socialists.
It would seem this barbaric threat has succeeded in creating successive generations of cowering people, afraid to offend the powers that be, but calling their cowardice pretty names like pragmatism and electability.

Waterbaby, Anarchist, Socialist, Spartacus...

fern hill said...

Great interview. Thanks, Alison.

What drives me insane is that in Canada, we already have the organization and political force that Hedges is quite right in saying the US does not have.

It is the NDP. Or was.

I want to cry when I think what the NDP could do and now seemingly won't in quest of power just like all the other parties.

Boris said...

No party has any sort of grand vision of Canadian society. The NDP is charging headlong toward mediocrity thinking this is what will allow them to compete against the Liberals. In practical terms, they move right and discard all that which first made them.

Some members of the Conservative Party have vision(s), but theirs are far from universal, spread between assorted theocrats, fascists, neocons, neoliberals, blithering idiots, bigots, and clinical misanthropes.

I don't see any easy out for a country willing to surrender itself to D-students so readily.

Anonymous said...

The same NDP convention that voted to stamp out the word socialism hosted two guest speakers - Third Way Blairite economist and Clinton advisor Joseph Steiglitz, and Obama campaign director Jeremy Bird. It was all about tactics but will prove a terrible tactical mistake on the NDP's part. If Canadians want US Democrat liberalism, they will vote for the Trudeau Liberals not the NDP.

Anonymous said...

See Chris Hedges on--"Sublime Madness"... neither he nor Michael Moore are afraid to talk about true Christianity, thereby nullifying the Right's hostage-hold on it. God is a Liberal--"if any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to ALL PEOPLE LIBERALLY..."

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