Possible strategy for the Ginger Group of the BC New Democrats

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Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture
Possible strategy for the Ginger Group of the BC New Democrats

See below. (Dummy posts like this are needed?)

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Thanks for starting this thread, Michael, BUT...

Be forewarned:

Some deeply unpleasant types will show up in this thread to mock the very idea of a re-energized, re-democratized and newly-radicalized BCNDP.

We had another thread on this and they did their best to derail it, acting like the cyber-equivalent of drunk nightclub heckers.

I hope you've got a thick skin, because they'll be trying to tear strips off of it.



Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture

Thanks for the warning, Ken. I was more worried nobody would join in the thread at all. What I propose won't work unless there's open discussion about the issues (the 3 points, and all). There's a technical side to it that depends on that. (So I guess the hecklers come with the territory. :-)

I read the previous thread, and I think the Gingers were well defended.



I'm still here Michael,

I can't speak for the group on this but I'm interested in anything anyone has to offer --if they're serious about reform.  Shoot. 


*And yes, it's true.  Brian challenged for leadership but it was mostly symbolic, test the waters, lay some groundwork, that kind of thing.  I don't think he'll run in the next. 

Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture

Ah good, you're here! I was just about to send you an invite. I'm only waiting now for a friend. He promised to help demo the proposal. (He should be here tomorrow.) The technical part is still kind of primitive, and we're just learning how to use it. I don't want any of that to detract from the issues being discussed.

I'm looking at the first 4 posts of the previous thread. Are there any other statements/proposals that the group could share in public, at this time?

Which part of the programme would be the most interesting to discuss, if we could only choose one? (I'm thinking it would be the part on economic policy.)


Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture

I want to suggest a possible strategy for the Ginger Group. They're a left-wing splinter of the BC New Democrats. They ran candidates in the leadership convention of 2009,* including (is this true?) Brian Fisher for president. There isn't much information on them on the Web, except a recent post by GingerGoodone, which states their programme. Its main points are:

  1. Address the democratic deficit within the provincial NDP
  2. Refocus on the issues that confront ordinary citizens, and provide a sense of agency and belonging for the alienated membership
  3. Return the Party to its Socialist roots

I want to propose a strategy for achieving these aims, in particular under points 1 and 2. These particular aims have the special property that, if they are good for the party as a whole, then they ought to be good for the splinter group, too. By fulfilling these aims themselves (taking their own medicine), the Gingers ought to be able to attract new members, and eventually grow strong enough to force the same medicine on the party.

Is this strategy likely to work, in principle? Has any splinter group ever attempted it? (I'll follow up with a possible plan of execution, later.)

Thomas von der Elbe

Hello everybody,

I'm the friend Michael was waiting for.

Now, what in particular do you have in mind, Mike?


Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture

Hey Thomas, thanks for joining. I thought we could do a practice run on this policy statement. It looks like a good test case. We could maybe launch right in and discuss the issues (no need for up-front explanations of tools/processes).

So I created your position and I voted for you. What attracted me most is the economic policy. Here's the first thing I wanted to change: http://u.zelea.com:8080/v/w/Diff?b=3529&a=3539

What do you think? I'm not sure it's economically sound, but there's maybe more social justice to be gained from reducing income disparities (at both ends) than simply taxing the rich. I put in some numeric targets too, just to show we're serious. Is it an improvement, do you think?



Hi again Michael,

We can discuss anything you want but just remember that it's only a discussion, none of it has any force unless voted on by a majority of members or delegates.  I'd personally like to see set salary scales throughout society, as that could address several problems simultaneously, but I see no reliable way to adjust it to evolving economic conditions, let alone impose it on contracts between private parties, do you?   Not without centralizing all economic decisions and entrenching it constitutionally. 

The idea behind this simple social democratic tax proposal is that it would also allow future governments to reinvest in the lower end of society again, move towards the same goal organically if slowly.   It would also force the the party establishment to take a stand, one way or the other.   

This isn't meant as the final word though, just a preliminary statement. 



Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture

Hi GG, You remind me that I have to get back to points 1 and 2, eventually. I'm surprised that I'm more interested in discussing 3. I wouldn't normally classify myself as a socialist. But I never addressed the question of incomes before. (It always just bothered me in an unspoken way.)

I presented income brackets (low and high limits) as though they were an alternative to progressive taxes. Then you mentioned salary scales as another alternative. But now I see that I was wrong. Income brackets are not actually an alternative. They are more like an *end* (an explicit limit to disparity) wheras progressive taxes (or salary scales) are more of a *means* toward that end. Is this roughly true?

One thing I like about setting income brackets as a goal is the clarity of it. It shows very clearly that we're taking the bull by the horns. It also gives the voters something solid to vote for. It will be a difficult thing to oppose in an election, I imagine - at least on the surface.

Another thing I like: having taken the bull by the horns, we are not required to actually wrestle it to the ground. Wrestling it to the ground would entail a methodological debate (what will and will not work) in the way of acheiving the goal. Instead of getting prematurely tangled up in all that, we can simply let the debaters run their own races, and step in at the end to crown the winner. Do you agree that could work?

And Thomas: Isn't this a good way to build consensus (or at least to get off on the right foot): We take what comes easy, and leave the rest for later? Or am I getting too far ahead? Will anyone take a stand against a policy of setting clear income brackets?

Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture

PS - I discovered a little more about the structure of the party's left wing. There's another splinter group calling themselves "Take Back the Party". They have similar aims. According to this article they sometimes coordinate their activities with the Gingers. I also found an email address for them. We don't have an address for any of the Gingers yet. Maybe we should vote for this one in the meantime, Thomas?



Thomas von der Elbe

Hello guys,

@Mike: Sorry to disappoint you, especially since you are voting for me.

You asked me to make this change to my position: http://u.zelea.com:8080/v/w/Diff?b=3529&a=3539

But I don't see income brackets (low limit of 30% and high limit of 500%) as a good solution. But it made me think. Now, the problem is not so much a wide disparity between incomes, but that this disparity is in most cases not justifiable. Right?

But there are cases, where a wide disparity can be justified. If you take a job for instance which involves a 50% risk of dying. Why should such a guy get only max. 500% of a plumbers wage? Or if someone works 100 hours a week to get the max. 500%, why should someone else working 110 hours not get a bit more?

And since there are people willing to pay 1000% for a job to get done, wouldn't it be much cleverer to let them do so but take a high percentage of taxes and do beneficial things with it? Otherwise these taxes would get lost.

I tried to include these points into my position and I also merged some of the explanatory pieces of your suggested change.

The new difference between our positions is now: http://u.zelea.com:8080/v/w/Diff?b=3622&a=3539

What do you think?

@GingerGoodone: I agree, that fixed salary scales are probably difficult to implement and to maintain.



PS: Did the "Take Back the Party"-guys publish something more concrete somewhere?

Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture

I agree about the justifiable exceptions: we can't fix the income brackets in stone. But why throw them away entirely? Why not just add the justifiable exceptions?

What I like about this section (why I want to fight for it) is the possibility of being crystal clear with the voters. We can give them something postitive and concrete to vote for - some definite gain. But if all we're holding up is "higher taxation", that's no gain for an ordinary voter (it's just a loss for others). And the promise of good things to come from the added revenue, that's just a vague promise.

So I added a policy for justifiable exceptions. The tricky part was to specify who the lucky income justifiers would be. (Widely hated of course, unless... it's easy to guess.) So here's what I changed.

What do you think? Here's your patch. (Man, you'll never find a more helpful voter than me!)

PS: You're right, it looks like "Take Back the Party" has nothin concrete in the way of policy. Sooo, I "Take Back" my suggestion. Let's not vote for them.


Thomas von der Elbe

Hi Mike, thanks for including the exceptions for the income brackets into your position. But one question still remains: If someone works 100 hours a week to get the max. 500%, why should someone else working 110 hours not get a bit more?

Secondly, you say, that "higher taxation" is no gain for an ordinary voter. But I propose a higher taxation only for the higher incomes, you know that, right?

But I agree, the benefit for the voter is vage. How about, if we bind this tax revenue to a specific purpose: here is what I changed.

I like your approach to let the people determine the specifics of it by themselves, so I merged this part. Thank you for the help!

Now, in case you can agree to this, here is your patch.



I'm becoming a little confused about where you two are going with this.  Can I ask what exactly is your interest in the Gingers? 

Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture

@GG - We're just learning how to use these tools/techniques, and we're still kind of clumsy with them! Sorry for the confusion. But our aim - aside from learning - is to help the Gingers. (Thomas may have more to add.)

@Thomas - I think I see my mistake (and it adds to the confusion). So I've now restored section A to the Gingers' original text, and added a new section on "Limits to income disparity". What do you think? Is this a good addition to the economic policy?




Thomas von der Elbe

@GG - Yes, we want to learn more about these new tools. And this place here is perfect to use them in a real life situation, with a real issue at stake. Even more since the Gingers also want to address the democratic deficit in the party. These tools are all about democratic participation, about large-scale collaborative writing in combination with voting.

You are of course invited to join us and explore the possibilities. If you like, you could vote for either Mike or me. And/or you could also draft your own position. If I like it, I might delegate the 3 votes which I'm currently holding to you. ;-)

@Mike - Ok, I admit I like your suggestion a bit more now: No fixed income brackets up front, but a continuous alignment of the income tax with the same effect in the end.

But I'm still hesitant to merge it into my position. There are many people out there, who have the ambition to get more and more income. To climb up this ladder step by step. Your suggestion will make them angry and I dont see the benefit of it. If we just increase the tax as soon as the disparity becomes to wide, we have already all that we wanted.


If someone else in this thread wants to strengthen Mikes or my position please consider voting for either one of us:





Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture

OK. Let's put this issue aside and move on to another. I've added a new section, "No taxation without account":

I wrote:
We believe that it is wrong for a government to resort to tricks and subterfuge in order to hide the true burden of taxation from British Columbians. Not only ought British Columbians to be fully aware of the economic costs of direct and indirect taxes, but also of the social burdens and moral deficits of a government that profits from gambling, sales of liquor and other contraband, where these burdens fall disproportionately on the poorer and weaker members of society. etc.


This is less likely to make anyone angry. What do you think?


Thomas von der Elbe

Ok. Yes, I like your new section. I patched it in ... Thank you!

I just made a few minor changes. It sounded a bit to radical to me: "moral deficits of a government", ...

Don't you think, this is better (frag 1)? 





Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture

I think you're right Thomas, there's something wrong with "moral deficits of a government". It sounds like a political attack on a governing party. Instead we could say "state". (But do most Canadians know that a province is technically a state?) Or maybe "revenue system" (that's what I chose). I also made other clarifications.

But I think we need to keep the "moral deficits". It's not merely a "moral question". It's plainly wrong to prey on defenceless people: moral deficits = costs falling disproportionately on the poorer and weaker.

Aside: One thing I learned in this thread is how attractive it is to take a moral line on issues. I've been thinking about that. I figure that politicians (per se) are usually forced to act on considerations of power, as opposed to what's right and wrong. Isn't that true? Otherwise their chances of holding office would be much reduced. So they tend to leave behind a moral vacuum. It could be this vacuum that's so attractive. If we (ordinary people) don't fill it, then who will?




Thanks guys, this is an interesting diversion but I think you're still missing something.  The BC Gingers have already worked out a preliminary statement and voted on it, section by section.  Part of it says that there should be a more democratic process for drawing up resolutions, but that has to be within the party and open to input by all voting members.     

If you'd like to help out I might be interested in what you have to suggest in regards to, say, how you think certain sections might be better phrased for public consumption or what other areas you think need attention and why.  I can pass them on to others for their consideration.  That's about it.  I'm also a bit curious about what kind of voting program youre using for this little excercise, I'm not familiar with it.   

Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture

I'm an outsider when it comes to parties. Speaking for myself, I don't have a good understanding of internal politics, power struggles, and so forth. On the other hand, I don't think our proposal depends much on that. I think it depends more on the perspective/approach of Ratbert and genstrike:

Ratbert wrote:
... wish the Gingers the greatest success in prying the levers of party power from the elitist suits and apparatchiks that deny the grassroots any sort of input into the decision-making process.

genstrike wrote:
Best of luck, but as a rule I tend to not support these "take back the NDP" initiatives, not because I think they're too left wing or going to hurt the NDP, but because I think they're doomed to failure. There have been similar initiatives in the past, and they have all been unsuccessful. I just don't see the NDP as having the intellectual or moral backbone to stand up to neoliberalism, and I think the "return to its socialist roots" shtick is played out and ignoring the history of the NDP. The Regina Manifesto was a dead letter at least by the time Tommy Douglas got elected, and the NDP hasn't been socialist since maybe the very early days of the CCF.

Honestly, I think what we need to be doing is focusing way more on building strong grassroots movements and radical bases than trying to influence the NDP from within.

That's basically our proposal, although we didn't explain it in detail. It's easier to demonstrate (I think), than to explain. But here's a general explanation. And here are some specific things that we are *not* proposing:

  • We are *not* proposing to replace the official decision-making systems of the party, or of the Ginger Group. We expect you to continue voting on policy, delegates and so forth, exactly as you do now.
  • We are *not* proposing to set any kind of preemptive agenda. Although our little group of outsiders (Thomas, Alex and I) have reached consensus in places (as in "No taxation without account"), we speak only for ourselves. It is not binding on anyone else. Anyone who joins in the discussion/drafting/voting may freely post a position that differs from it, and just as freely solicit votes in support of their own, separate consensus.

This second point is crucial. If you understand what I mean, then you'll also understand one of the positive aspects of our proposal. It's a practical reply to the arguments of Ratbert and genstrike:

  • We *are* proposing to offer technical supports for "building strong grassroots movements and radical bases". Suppose that you have two disaffected and somewhat isolated members of the party, one in Campbell River, and one in the Okanagan Valley. Normally, they could not expect to have much substansive input into the party's platform. Nevertheless, they could join in this discussion thread and begin to collaborate (the two of them) on a new policy initiative for the party. They could do it right here in Babble, and do it today.

Did we demonstrate this aspect well enough, more or less? In turn, I wanted to ask: Has anyone seen this kind of thing before? Do you know of anyone who's already been down this road?



Michael Allan wrote:

  • We *are* proposing to offer technical supports for "building strong grassroots movements and radical bases". Suppose that you have two disaffected and somewhat isolated members of the party, one in Campbell River, and one in the Okanagan Valley. Normally, they could not expect to have much substansive input into the party's platform. Nevertheless, they could join in this discussion thread and begin to collaborate (the two of them) on a new policy initiative for the party. They could do it right here in Babble, and do it today.

    I think you might have misinterpreted what I was saying a little bit.  What I'm proposing isn't so much of an attempt to build some sort of internal NDP left caucus with a focus on changing party policy, but a focus on building movements outside of the party.  Things like the feminist movement, anti-war movement, Palestine solidarity movement, etc.

    I think this focus on changing party policy is likely ineffective (there have been many attempts over the years, from the Waffle to the NPI, not to mention the Socialist Caucus, none of which have been particularly effective), and even if you do change party policy, that is far from a guarantee that it will be implemented once elected.  As just one example of many, the Manitoba NDP supports anti-scab legislation in theory, however they have consistently opposed implementing it over the past ten years.  Simply put, I think the way politics are done on the mainstream NDP left or what have you are more or less ineffective and disempowering at best, and there is a pretty big opportunity cost.  Just imagine how much could be accomplished if, say, the Palestine solidarity movement had the resources and organizational weight of the NDP.

    Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture

    One thing I like about the Gingers is how they demonstrate their openess by taking a concrete proposal into a public discussion. We've been on the lookout for that kind of thing, because our tools depend on online forums (like Babble). You'd think it would be easy to find, but it's actually quite rare. So we're happy to help the Gingers.

    I agree though, they have little chance of reforming the party from within. Their original plan cannot work. I think they were planning something like this:

    1. Reform and democratize the NDP administration, *then*
    2. Refocus on the issues of social justice that members care about

    The problem is in step 1. Restructuring the administration is not within the power of the Gingers, and they are unlikely to succeed (just as you say). So they may never get to step 2. Instead, this would be a better plan:

    1. Reform and democratize the Ginger Group, *by*
    2. Refocusing on the issues of social justice that members care about

    This is within their power. They could start executing this plan today. Steps 1 and 2 could be glued together using the tools that we're demonstrating in this thread. That would entail what you suggested in the previous thread: "building strong grassroots movements and radical bases." The effort would necessarily cut across the membership boundary, extending both inside and outside of the party/group. The end result would nevertheless include a reformed party administration (first you win the members, then you win the party). Still, it would have to start with the Gingers.

    We might start with one of the other groups you mentioned. But we've been looking around, and we don't see any evidence that they have concrete proposals, or that they're open to discussing them online. Where can we find (for example) serious online discussion of a proposal to end or limit warfare? Or to further the cause of women? Or the Palestinians?


    Protrucio Protrucio's picture

    If I were voting directly on economic policy issues I would want to know that there was at least a 60% chance or probablility of the policy I am taking the time, energy and skill to support  becoming legistlation and or being implemented.

    There are interest groups or communities of interest and "think tanks" that focus on reforming the political economy yet, year after year these potential pockets of radical change remain ineffective in so far as they do not influence provincial or federal politics.


    Protrucio Protrucio's picture

    How will the pending CETA Canadian European Trade Agreement impact the implementation of the parties policies..... I am concerned about this.  http://www.canadians.org/trade/documents/CETA/CETA_ten.pdf

    Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture

    Hi Protrucio,

    As you later suggested off-forum, we can start tackling the environmental policies separately in a practise thread.

    I googled for discussions on CETA. If any of those threads is suitably focused (I haven't looked yet), we could maybe do a refit attempt on it, and get something growing.

    Protrucio Protrucio's picture

    I am checking out discussions on CETA.....arguments seem complex not easily reduced to binary...although I would really like to work within the CETA duscussion...what do you think?

    Protrucio Protrucio's picture

    The democratic deficit within the NDP has at least two dimensions: 1.) the first is methodological involving use of new media and democratic processes such as direct online voting.

    2.)The second pertains to policy specific content and EMERGENT FEDERAL POLICY DECISIONS .

    With reference to the second dimension mentioned above, the NDP have yet to address the pending Canadian European Trade Agreement CETA which if ratified will have massive implications for NDP Party Policy and Ginger Group position papers.

    I propose that we discuss some of the mojor implications of probable CETA ratification on politics in British Columbia by means of Votorola Criterion established for environmental debates.


    Hello Protrucio and Mike,

    BTW, I like the section "Environmental policy" in your positions, so I merged it into mine. Thanks!

    Michael Allan Michael Allan's picture

    Protrucio wrote:

    I propose that we discuss some of the mojor implications of probable CETA ratification on politics in British Columbia by means of Votorola Criterion established for environmental debates.

    We'd have to learn the tools and practices, first. It takes lots of work and a team effort. I think we should return to the practise thread in the Votorola list, and leave this thread till later (as you originally suggested).