Remembering the Waffle

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Fidel

Unionist wrote:

Fidel wrote:

So let's settle an old score and bring down the NDP! Then what?

No one's attacking the NDP here, Fidel. It was Stephen Lewis, following in his father's footsteps, who carried out the purge. Someone should ask him if he would have done the same thing today, or if he had it to do all over again.

Hindsight is always 20-20, and the Lewis' weren't the enemy then.

skdadl

Fidel, I am certainly not wishing to bring down the NDP or see it brought down, and I suspect that Laxer and Lewis have long since made their peace, as have many others.

 

That's the thing about getting old -- you get all sentimental and friendly.  Wink

Unionist

So you think that in hindsight, Stephen would acknowledge that his actions were wrong? Or do you think they were right?

 

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

skdadl wrote:

There's at least one very good memorial tribute to Joe around online somewhere -- I'll see if I can find it.

I linked to one above, already.

Fidel

Unionist wrote:

So you think that in hindsight, Stephen would acknowledge that his actions were wrong? Or do you think they were right?

You're talking about the good old days when the cold war liberal-fascist propaganda machine was in high gear?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Unionist wrote:

So you think that in hindsight, Stephen would acknowledge that his actions were wrong? Or do you think they were right?

I doubt very much that he would make such an acknowledgment today. But then, I don't care much what he thinks. What's important is what he thought and did back then.

Tommy_Paine

 

I missed the Waffle by just a few years.   My activity didn't start until after that.

I'm 50, and I don't understand the older union and some NDP activists sensitivity to charges of being "Commies".  To me, it's laughable.  But, I wasn't knocking on doors in the 50's or 60's.   And, even at that, as a kid I remember my parents and others connecting the NDP to the Red Mennace.

I got an inkling though, when, as a newly elected union rep in our plant, I suggested to my Plant Chairperson (also newly elected)  that John Clark's call for us to endorse May Day be endorsed by us.

Did. We. Ever. Catch. Shit.  from the old trade unionists.  I think even Bob White got wind of it.

So, even if I don't agree with the expulsion of the Waffle as a movement, I can see why the older gaurd thought it was a necessary step towards making the party more "respectable".  Unfortunately, by the time they did this there was a newer generation coming along eclipsing the old, which had no experience with red baiting, or the McCarthy era, making the point rather moot.

And, predictably, the MSM just found something else to scare the public with, anyway.  Every time the NDP tries to make itself look mainstream, the media will just move the goal posts on us anyway.  

I think if I was older, I would have been part of the Waffle.  Not because I know a Trotskyite from anything else, or that I'm a resolute believer in Marx. But because that's where the revolutionary spirit would have been.

And, I don't care what flavour of ism you want to call it, but it's that spirit that is missing from the NDP, and really strains my allegiance to it.

 

 

 

 

Fidel

skdadl wrote:

Fidel, I am certainly not wishing to bring down the NDP or see it brought down, and I suspect that Laxer and Lewis have long since made their peace, as have many others.

That's the thing about getting old -- you get all sentimental and friendly.  Wink

I think David Lewis decided that it was his calling in life to come to Canada and build a social democratic movement, and to try and manouver around the cold war bs at the time. He could have taken the easy route and become a high ranking politician with British Labour. And we're talking about a period when right-rightists in North America were in a state of high alert for the red menace. I still think FLQ was Canadian Gladio. I know only what I've read about that general period. I am reading your comments, Skdadl. Thank you, and I'ev always appreciated what you've had to say here. I think very highly of your opinion and am reading with interest.

 

janfromthebruce

Hey Tommy - you said

"I don't understand the older union and some NDP activists sensitivity to charges of being "Commies".  To me, it's laughable.  But, I wasn't knocking on doors in the 50's or 60's."

One doesn't have to go back to the 50's or 60's to be called a communist in running for the NDP - one just has to run in a rural Ontario riding - I was called a communist and the party called communist in the 1997 election.

Old myths and propaganda take a long time to fade away particularly from the older folk.

Fidel

I was called a communist at one house when I was canvassing during the last election. I didn't blame communists, but I did shrug my shoulders and think that it would be a good day when the old fart at that house goes on to meet his maker, and longing for  a day when all of the cold war bullshit is put to rest once and for all.

waffler

I was too young for the Waffle but was a member of the Movement for an Independent Socialist Canada actually the West Toronto branch. The problem when the NDP and the Waffle  parted ways is it discouraged a new generation of leftists from being involved in the NDP. The same can be said when the NPI disbanded. The fault of my generation lies in the fact that we did not create a Canadian Socialist Party. The NDP, even though I vote for them, is social democratic and is unlikely to ever change.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

I think it is more truthful, and more exact, to say that the NDP has been very successful at destroying any socialist buds that blossomed within that party, and has also contributed to a political climate hostile to such a formation outisde the NDP. Babble itself has plenty of articulate NDP supporters with nothing but venomous antagonism to socialist ideas.

Yes, it is the fault of socialists not to have succeeded in building their/our own party. But others, and not just the old line parties of the Liberals and Conservatives, have made their "contribution" to this lamentable result.

KenS

Delusions of [modest] grandeur.

The fact there are Dippers who relish in dissing socialists says nothing about what the party as a whole is doing. While they do get dissed- those 'socialist buds' just don't have any oomph. The same thing would happen to them if they were simply ignored.

The days of David Lewis feeling a need to keep the commies at bay are long over.

Fidel

I've even read some babblers' claiming that the NDP is a political force for neoliberal doctrinaire. And those are considered offensive, fighting words for most NDPers.

genstrike

I'm way too young for the waffle, but I went to most of the conference in the peg.

It seemed to me that while there was a lot of remniscing going on, there was also some malaise in the room.  It seemed as though there were a lot of the people were saddended with the realization that the NDP is not going to ever represent their views, or be the "the parliamentary wing of a movement dedicated to fundamental social change", and seemed as though they have been lost and drifting ever since.  Some of them drifted back into the NDP, I guess because they were the least of the evils, but still seemed depressed at the realization that the NDP is not and is incapable of becoming what they want it to be.

My favourite comment of the day:  "And we thought Ed Schreyer was bad.  After Doer, he's looking better and better all the time."\

Also, there were some interesting debates on economic nationalism, between those who took the more traditional waffle position of Canada as a colony, and those who took the position of Canada as an imperialist state.  I definitely fall into the latter and still do, but at least I learned about some of the logic behind the former.

I thought the last panel, on where the left should go in Canada was interesting.  I thought the timing of the conference was especially interesting as well - right after the provincial NDP convention at which a status quo candidate was overwhelmingly elected, and a challenger from the left was turned down.

At the last panel, the speakers and audience talked about the NPI for a little, and the idea of social movements being kind of integrated into the NDP.  One of the panelists, Rebecca Blaikie, really got my blood boiling, and I must admit to a profanity-laced tirade after the conference due to her disingenuous dismissals of the student movement in Manitoba or practically any sort of extra-parliamentary action (especially when the NDP is in power).  Essentially, my concern was that social movements being integrated into the NDP could result in them being cynically exploited by the party, something which I think has happened to some extent in Manitoba which has been harmful for the left.

My conclusion remains that the NDP is not a vehicle for the left or "the parliamentary wing of a movement dedicated to fundamental social change", and I'm basing that on my personal experience and the history and collective experience of those in the room, who were involved with various reform movments from the waffle to the NPI.

Wilf Day

genstrike wrote:
My conclusion remains that the NDP is not a vehicle for the left  . . .

A classic statement, I'm sorry to say, of sectarianism.

Look at successful leftists: Lula, Chavez, and others. They built broad-based movements. Lula comes from a militant background, an indigenous left-socialist party built during the military regime, at odds with the official social democratic party led from exile. Yet when he ran for president he led such a broad-based coalition that his VP was a Liberal, radical mainly by being a minority Protestant (they call them evangelicals in Brazil, but it doesn't mean what we mean by that term) in a Catholic country.

Would you say his winning campaign was not a vehicle for the left in Brazil? Some said so at the time. I thought they were being sectarian. History shows that was so.

The left is not defined by any individual. The left in Canada is the proportion of the population who are left of centre. Pollsters could help us define whether that amounts to 33% of the population, or what. If you define it as the universe of those whose interests and attitudes make them potentially part of the left, I'd take the attitude that the majority of the population would benefit from a left government and should be considered potentially part of the left. Certainly any organizing campaign to unionize a workplace aims to appeal to the large majority.  

I'd also say that any less inclusive attitude is defeatist.

Unionist

genstrike wrote:

This conference was a good example of that.  One of the panelists was complaining about the student movement in Manitoba not rolling over when the NDP government decided to increase tuition.  If that's not sectarian, then what is?

Well said, genstrike - and Wilf's comment was offbase in my view. The worst sectarianism is practised by partisans of an organization (any organization) who defend the organization, right or wrong, and attack those who criticize its policies.

genstrike

Wilf Day wrote:

genstrike wrote:
My conclusion remains that the NDP is not a vehicle for the left  . . .

A classic statement, I'm sorry to say, of sectarianism.

I'm not trying to be sectarian, I'm just looking at my experiences and the experiences of others and basing my conclusions on those.  And I'm not a sectarian guy, I work in my student union with folks from all sorts of political or apolitical backgrounds.  I've worked on campaigns with anarchists, communists, socialists, social democrats, feminists, economic nationalists, peace activists, Palestinian solidarity activists, environmentalists, liberals, and probably even a Red Tory or two.  I've worked on campaigns with people from at least six political parties that I can think of, including the NDP.  And I've been in and out of the NDP.  I just look at the NDP, and I see a constant rightward shift (see quote about Schreyer and Doer above), not only in the NDP but also in any comparable party in the world, and I look at the repeated failure of reform movements, and I think we need to stop pretending the NDP is something it isn't and banging our heads against a wall.  It seems quite frankly absurd that in 2009, after the waffle, the NPI, the governments of Rae, Romanow and Doer, that we're still asking the question "should anti-capitalists be in the NDP?"

This conference was a good example of that.  One of the panelists was complaining about the student movement in Manitoba not rolling over when the NDP government decided to increase tuition.  If that's not sectarian, then what is?

But, if you're going to define sectarian as not clinging to the NDP when they have repeatedly shown themselves to be incapable of becoming a vehicle for the change we need and have been downright hostile to reform movements, social movements like the student movement, and even moderately left candidates like Steve Ashton, then yeah, I'm sectarian.

Fidel

Wilf Day wrote:
The left is not defined by any individual. The left in Canada is the proportion of the population who are left of centre. Pollsters could help us define whether that amounts to 33% of the population, or what. If you define it as the universe of those whose interests and attitudes make them potentially part of the left, I'd take the attitude that the majority of the population would benefit from a left government and should be considered potentially part of the left. Certainly any organizing campaign to unionize a workplace aims to appeal to the large majority.  

I'd also say that any less inclusive attitude is defeatist.

Very well said, Wilf. I think we also have to realize that Canada's triple layering of government is not common among countries, and especially not countries where social democrats were able to create social democracy when in strong central government roles, ie the Nordic countries. Chavez is a national level leader as well, and still he has faced much opposition from that country's elites backed by the US.

And we could do with a Canadian version of Venezuela's MMP before very long, too. Perhaps the NDP will also win federally by campaigning on a platform of anti-poverty and anti-corruption. I think the NDP has solid platform planks on both of those issues.

 

Wilf Day

Unionist wrote:
The worst sectarianism is practised by partisans of an organization (any organization) who defend the organization, right or wrong, and attack those who criticize its policies.

Sure. But criticism of NDP policies was not the topic.

The question was, is the NDP left, and a vehicle for the left? Which to my mind is like saying "Are unions left, and a vehicle for the left?" One can criticise Steel, the CAW, and the CLC, on various points. But to say "unions are useless right-wing organizations" is sterile left sectarianism.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Wilf Day wrote:

genstrike wrote:
My conclusion remains that the NDP is not a vehicle for the left  . . .

A classic statement, I'm sorry to say, of sectarianism.

Look at successful leftists: Lula, Chavez, and others. They built broad-based movements. Lula comes from a militant background, an indigenous left-socialist party built during the military regime, at odds with the official social democratic party led from exile. Yet when he ran for president he led such a broad-based coalition that his VP was a Liberal, radical mainly by being a minority Protestant (they call them evangelicals in Brazil, but it doesn't mean what we mean by that term) in a Catholic country.

Would you say his winning campaign was not a vehicle for the left in Brazil?

Lula's "indigenous left-socialist party" (the Workers' Party) during the dictatorship period was denounced by the "official social democratic party" as sectarian.

In fact, your example actually supports genstrike's thesis, not yours. The Brazilian Democratic Labour Party, which, like the NDP, is the "official" representative of the increasingly-inappropriately-named Socialist International, is not part of Lula's "vehicle for the left". So who are the sectarians in that scenario?

Lula's success came in spite of Brazil's NDP-counterparts.

Unionist

Wilf Day wrote:
One can criticise Steel, the CAW, and the CLC, on various points. But to say "unions are useless right-wing organizations" is sterile left sectarianism.

I'll belabour this for a second - you're wrong, Wilf. Sectarianism, in this context, would be something like: "We won't work with the UE because they're communists", or, "We won't support that strike because they're Teamsters, who are right-wingers, and anyway they raided us last year...", or, refusing to find fault in one's "own" union while finding the same in others.

If someone says unions are useless right-wing organizations, I may disagree with them; I may think they're too prone to applying labels; I may think they're bowing out of some tough work; but I'll only call them "sectarian" if they go one step further and refuse to join with unions (or any other organizations) in common cause.

 

Fidel

I know that Chavez has promised military support to Hondurans waiting to declare that the streets belong to them. But where is the backup now that the chips are down?

When social democrats were expropriating foreign capital in the 50's and 60's, there was strong US-backed opposition to democratic socialism. Arbenz seized land from United Fruit, Allende tookover Anaconda copper, and Goulart nationalised ITT. Social democrats in Central and Latin America have never blamed anyone but the gringos for those very undemocratic reversals.

And just umpteen months ago, Donald Rumsfeld announced increased US aid to Latin America's militaries. The fascists in Chile and Venezuela, A rgentina, Brazil etc, are still there and laying in wait for the signal from Warshington. The war on democracy is still on.

Fidel

There, edited. We can resume our sectarian positions now.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

.

George Victor

genstrike wrote:"My conclusion remains that the NDP is not a vehicle for the left  . . ."

 

Watkins and Laxer chose it as the best posssibility then. Don't think they've shifted a helluva lot.

genstrike

Wilf Day wrote:
The question was, is the NDP left, and a vehicle for the left? Which to my mind is like saying "Are unions left, and a vehicle for the left?" One can criticise Steel, the CAW, and the CLC, on various points. But to say "unions are useless right-wing organizations" is sterile left sectarianism.

And I'm trying to answer that question with my opinion, which is based on my experiences living in a province with a strong NDP, my interpretation of the history of the NDP, my interpretation of the history of other parties similar to the NDP in other countries, and a bit of a theoretical background.

And, regarding unions, these are totally different questions - this is asking if a political party is a vehicle for the left or not, a perfectly valid and highly important question for anyone interested in advancing the radical social change which is looking more and more necessary all the time.  Out of curiosity, which of the following statements are "sterile left sectarianism" and which aren't:

The Communist Party is not a vehicle for the left

The NDP is not a vehicle for the left

The Bloc is not a vehicle for the left

The Green Party is not a vehicle for the left

The Liberal Party is not a vehicle for the left

The Conservative Party is not a vehicle for the left

skdadl

genstrike wrote:

My favourite comment of the day:  "And we thought Ed Schreyer was bad.  After Doer, he's looking better and better all the time."\

 

I really appreciated your report, genstrike, and I thought that was such a funny line.

 

So funny, in fact, that I'll give you a trade. A week or so ago, when [URL=http://www.pogge.ca/archives/002497.shtml#comment-28586]pogge[/URL] wrote about Doer's silly apologia for the oil sands (which were always the tar sands when I were a tad in Alberta), friend Alison from Creekside (who I'm sure won't mind being quoted) wrote this in comments to pogge's post:

 

Quote:
Doer already sold his soul to the North American SuperCorridor Coalition years ago and gave the keynote speech at their conference last year. When he got the ambassadorship, I assumed that meant he passed the audition.

 

Doubled me up, anyway.

genstrike

George Victor wrote:

genstrike wrote:"My conclusion remains that the NDP is not a vehicle for the left  . . ."

 

Watkins and Laxer chose it as the best posssibility then. Don't think they've shifted a helluva lot.

So, I'm in disagreement with Watkins and Laxer.  Your point being?

Fidel

And if we keep pushing that line, we'll have everyone believing that is was Gary Doer who rubberstamped all of the Canadian energy giveaways dating back to St Laurent and Diefenbaker through to CUSFTA & NAFTA. What a great achievement for the left. Divided we fall. I can't read anymore of this ongoing anti-NDP vendetta thread. It's caustic.

genstrike

Fidel wrote:

And if we keep pushing that line, we'll have everyone believing that is was Gary Doer who rubberstamped all of the Canadian energy giveaways dating back to St Laurent and Diefenbaker through to CUSFTA & NAFTA. What a great achievement for the left.

Yes, that is exactly what people are saying in this thread.  How about you try reading things before you respond to them?  I challenge you to find a single post in this thread accusing Gary Doer of whatever you are accusing the rest of us of accusing him of.

Fidel wrote:

Divided we fall. I can't read anymore of this ongoing anti-NDP vendetta thread. It's caustic.

Then don't.

Fidel

#80 was not a reply to you. And don't bother.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

The NDP ain't perfect, but who else is there to vote for?

skdadl

I'm sorry, Fidel. I didn't mean to upset you.

Fidel

Boom Boom wrote:

The NDP ain't perfect, but who else is there to vote for?

Oh I think most of us in this thread vote NDP. It's the I'm NDP with reservations that tends to get to me. I was not part of their experiences with the party, so I can't say too much about it. I think we should concentrate on the here and now at this opportune time when the neoliberalama is failing Canadians more than ever.

genstrike

Boom Boom wrote:

The NDP ain't perfect, but who else is there to vote for?

Who said anything about voting?

Fidel

skdadl wrote:

I'm sorry, Fidel. I didn't mean to upset you.

Perhaps it's Gary Doer that upsets me. But I'd still prefer to think the NDP as well as the Waffle are more than the sum of Gary Doer,  or even a David Lewis who donated his life's work to trying to build an inclusive social democratic movement during an unprecedented time of cold war propaganda and nearsightedness of the social democrats in Canada. I realize the Waffle was hard done by, and that's something that can never be reversed. But in 1972-74, there were no food banks in Canada -  homelessness almost unheard of in Canada - and almost everyone had jobs that would support their families. It wasn't perfect, but the right was somewhat on its heels then and still quite dangerous. Since 1984 it's been one victory for the right after another in Canada.

genstrike

Fidel wrote:

#80 was not a reply to you. And don't bother.

See, this is what I mean about why we should be clear on who we're talking to when we're attacking each other.  This is exactly what I was talking about in the "Is snark killing babble" thread.  Maybe instead of what looks like swipes against everyone.  If we can be honest and straight up, and communicate clearly who and what we're talking about, maybe we can deal with the inevitable issues directly and more respectfully than with passive aggressive comments directed at no one in particular but really directed at someone which do nothing to add to the discussion and just raise the tension.

skdadl

Fidel, what can I say? These days, I hang out a lot with people like Alison and pogge, who do serious work on the SPP. I've been known to pitch in a bit. If I weren't mocking Gary Doer, I couldn't face my best political allies and friends, and worse, I couldn't face myself.

 

It hasn't bothered me for a long time to recognize that politics happens at many levels at once. I can support the NDP while being bored out of my skull by party politics. The short term matters, which is why I always vote, but the long term matters too, and the long term is edumacation.

 

I always vote, though. Diderot would never forgive me if I didn't. I take Diderot with me every time I go to vote, and I tells ya, we bounce and laugh the whole way.

Fidel

Unionist wrote:
If someone says unions are useless right-wing organizations, I may disagree with them; I may think they're too prone to applying labels; I may think they're bowing out of some tough work; but I'll only call them "sectarian" if they go one step further and refuse to join with unions (or any other organizations) in common cause.

I don't blame people like Buzz all that much for betraying the NDP the way he has. Afterall he's simply acting on the wishes of union members. I know that certain municipal workers tend to vote a certain way, and they cite the Liberals for upholding certain hiring practices for unionized workers. But what they gain on the swings everyone else loses on the roundabouts. NUPGE says that since 1982 there have been 170 repressive anti-labour legislations enacted across Canada. Something's got to give, and I think it's time that trade unions in Canada really encouraged their members to get behind the NDP. 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Fidel wrote:

I don't blame people like Buzz all that much for betraying the NDP the way he has. Afterall he's simply acting on the wishes of union members.... I think it's time that trade unions in Canada really encouraged their members to get behind the NDP.

How's the whiplash coming along?

Fidel

skdadl wrote:

Fidel, what can I say? These days, I hang out a lot with people like Alison and pogge, who do serious work on the SPP. I've been known to pitch in a bit. If I weren't mocking Gary Doer, I couldn't face my best political allies and friends, and worse, I couldn't face myself

He's off on his own tangent now, Gary Doer is. And I'm not hoping for big things from him now he's spending so much time in Warshington. Could suprise us, but I doubt it. Maybe Gary's just found himself some gold and decided that he should sit on it. Whatever his priorities are at this point in his life, I will never be under the illusion that Gary or the NDP were responsible for the Yanks dictating national energy policy to Ottawa and the provinces. And it goes so much deeper than just energy and timber, doesn't it. Many Canadians still don't fully realize how much of the rug has been pulled out from under them and their children.

 

Fidel

M. Spector wrote:

Fidel wrote:

I don't blame people like Buzz all that much for betraying the NDP the way he has. Afterall he's simply acting on the wishes of union members.... I think it's time that trade unions in Canada really encouraged their members to get behind the NDP.

How's the whiplash coming along?

I think he was trying to hold a union movement together and merely expressing the political will of a large part of the unionized workforce apparently. We can't force them to vote NDP. It's something they'll have to decide on themselves, one lesson at a time.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Fidel wrote:

I think it's time that trade unions in Canada really encouraged their members to get behind the NDP....

We can't force them to vote NDP. It's something they'll have to decide on themselves, one lesson at a time.

Ouch! more whiplash!

Fidel

Ya whatever. Let's let Wafflers speak, shall we?

skdadl

Fidel wrote:

 Maybe Gary's just found himself some gold and decided that he should sit on it.

 

Ha! "Get gold and sit on it." That's the dragon in John Gardner's Grendel. Fantastic novel.

Fidel

I knew you'd recognize it, Skdadl. Deja vu.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Waffle on Wiki Is the article entirely correct?

Gaian

The nationalist movement was also Walter Gordon's (Liberal cabinet minister) thing, and Mel Watkins was somehow associated with him earlier, as I recall. Heck, George Grant - Conservative historian - was also lamenting the loss of Canadian autonomy at the time. The United Steelworkers of America were rabidly nationalist!! I really think that these facts should be added to what is really an attenuated history.

And attenuated at the more recent end. Stephen Lewis is a beautiful human being, but when Lyin' Brian appointed him to the U.N. he caved in not opposing the U.S. testing of cruise missiles along the valley of the Mackenzie River. One can appreciate how those guidance systems have come to be used today. Totally involved in an anti-war movement at the time, I haven't been able to forget it. But that's just one of history's little vagaries, part of the oh-so-much-more-complex reality than what's customarily served up.

ottawaobserver

An ambassador represents the government, not her/himself. We would not want an ambassador freelancing on foreign policy set by an NDP government either.

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