Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Vote Communist in twelve ridings and other thoughts for election day in Ontario

With the election a mere two days off the standard calls for strategic voting are reaching a fever pitch though, as always, they are not really calls for strategic voting at all and this time they favour the New Democrats instead of the usual beneficiaries, the Liberals.

I will return to the question of strategic voting in a moment, but there is a party that has put forth an unapologetically radical, anti-capitalist platform that deserves support in the twelve ridings in which they are running candidates, the Communist Party.

The Communist Party platform embraces real public ownership models, a $20 an hour minimum wage, fare free transit, justice for Indigenous people, a leftist tax reform model, actually effective legal limits and penalties for pollution and emissions as opposed to the market driven cap-and-trade and carbon tax models, ending public funding for Catholic schools, and much more.

You can read their full platform at Our Program: A People's Alternative for Ontario, can see their full election leaflet on our post Communist Party launches Ontario provincial election campaign in Toronto -- "Ignite the movement for Socialism" and can watch the speech by their leader Dave McKee at their campaign launch at the end of this post.

Their candidates are:

I hope people will give consideration to a vote that sends a serious message of opposition not just to this-or-that aspect of modern capitalism and neo-liberalism, but that rejects the entire system and all of its evils completely. I feel that the dedicated activists the Communists are running are all head-and-shoulders above any other electoral option right now.

Just one of the CP memes with points from their excellent platform
Of course, the Communists are running in only 12 ridings. What about the other 112? And what about the certain cries that even where the Communists are running every vote should be directed to the NDP and "stopping Ford"?

Needless to say, actual "strategic voting" does not work that way which is why it really never plays out in practice. There is no case, even this election, where an across the board vote for one party in every riding is a vote to stop the right wing alternative or where doing so in every riding is necessary.

Regardless, the underlying premises of "strategic voting" -- that activists "have no choice" but to remain in or support parties like the NDP due to the self-fulfilling logic that there is no alternative to it -- are a major part of what have led to the imprisonment of the electoral energies and vision of many leftists within an opportunistic party run by third-way careerists. These premises can be rejected and should be rejected.

They will have to be rejected at some point if we ever want to see the emergence of a genuinely leftist mass party outside of Quebec with Québec solidaire.

Given its nature and composition the Liberal Party should not be considered as an electoral alternative to the right, "strategic" or otherwise, in virtually any context and certainly not in this one. No Liberal anywhere in the province deserves a vote on Thursday.

With the dynamic of this election having led to the collapse of Liberal support in much of Ontario they are no longer seen by basically anyone as the strategic bourgeois 'progressive' option to stop a Conservative victory. Even the Toronto Star has endorsed the NDP as they did the federal NDP under similar conditions in 2011.

It is an easy enough transition for them to make as there is little of fundamental significance that separates the two parties anymore when it comes to their programs.

Now it is the New Democrats and their partisans who get to push the call for a strategic vote and to denounce in apocalyptic terms anyone who resists it. I hope the irony of this is not lost on people given that New Democrat partisans in Ontario, federally and in some other provinces have historically rejected such calls outright as generally they would have meant the obliteration of the NDP.

It is not even in the short-term interest of the left to embrace strategic voting calls as such. Every election they are made, every election the alternative is framed as catastrophic, etc. If the calls to vote for Trudeau to stop Harper or to vote for Wynne to stop Hudak were rejected by leftists there is no inherent reason to embrace the call to vote Horwath to stop Ford other than a lingering nostalgia for when the NDP was actually, at least to a degree, a socialist party.

Although meant for a different, American context one of the issues with calls for strategic voting is summed up well by this quote from a recent article in Liberation:
Unfortunately, the “lesser of two evils” argument ends up contributing to the very problem that it aims to address. By channeling people into a political system that is by its very construction anti-democratic, this argument corrodes any effort to build a powerful, militant people’s movement.

While many people and activists who I respect have said that they feel this incarnation of the Horwath led ONDP is somehow profoundly different from the previous ones, I do not at all share this analysis.

I have written at greater length as to why in articles such as Rehabilitating Andrea Horwath's leadership and the danger of a short political memory and Vote NDP to stop Ford...but don't try to sell it as supporting a leftist agenda. The ONDP yet again is acting as a brake on the aspirations of leftists and has even led many to laud and embrace terribly short-sighted proposals such as the ONDP's childcare and dental care plans that dangerously reject what was once a bedrock left principle of universality. Introducing means-tested social programs with varying payment levels is a repudiation of even social democratic principle and once entrenched such programs are very difficult to make universal while very easy to make less inclusive.

Having said that, there are no easy answers as a Ford victory would be terrible on any number of levels with very real, negative consequences for people that are not at all abstract. Neither are the consequences of continuing to support opportunistic 'progressive' parties that often end up sowing disillusion and 'austerity with a human face' abstract.

Which is why my final advice for this election remains:
Vote NDP to stop Ford if that makes sense for you in whatever community you are in.
But don't try to pretend this is a vote for anything other than a liberal platform from a party that will govern in exactly the way such a platform implies.

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