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We Need A Better Political System To Curb Aggressive Capitalism

Our political system works mainly for the handful of people who control the parties.

07/24/2017 13:35 EDT | Updated 07/24/2017 13:50 EDT
Mark Blinch / Reuters
Shadows are seen as a woman walks down Bay Street in the financial district in Toronto, March 11, 2009.

Aggressive capitalism is kicking the crap out of us, so we should see if we can start a public conversation about the need for an alternative political and social system.

It's shocking that capitalist businesses have become so dominant. They literally rule the world. In Canada, the low-profile Canadian Council of Chief Executives is all powerful when it comes to influencing government.

We can see the corporate greed all around us. Four out of 10 Canadians – many of them earning around $11 an hour – can't pay their bills but Canadian corporations are sitting on at least $630-billion in cash they're refusing to invest in the economy.

Unfortunately, even when many people know about the damage caused by capitalism, they're either not knowledgeable enough or too afraid to discuss alternative political ideas such as socialism.

Powerful people fearful of the threat of social upheaval have demonised the words socialism and communism, and this scares the hell out of many people.

Mainstream media are owned by corporations that seldom, if ever, report on alternative political systems.

People are fed up

Despite the lies and badgering that comes from corporations and the wealthy, people in several countries are fed up with traditional politics. They're fighting back against corporations and governments that are joined at the hip.

Those who supported the Brexit vote for Britain to leave the European Union and the millions who voted for Donald Trump are, among other things, anti-establishment. They feel they have been ignored and left behind.

It seems that many Canadians share the same views. Seventy-one per cent of people taking part in a large poll in June said they believed the same populism evident in the U.S. is on the rise in this country. Many of those interviewed were working class or poor.

Ekos pollster Frank Graves found that 70 per cent of those polled believe that almost all the economic growth over the past 20 years has ended up in the hands of the top one per cent.

Our political system works mainly for the handful of people who control the parties. Only 11 per cent of Canadians have been members of a political party in recent years. When it comes time to elect new leaders, the candidate who sells the most cheap memberships often wins.

Potential socialist vote

I believe there is such dissatisfaction with mainstream political parties that, if we adopted proportional representation and people felt their vote counted for something, thousands of Canadians would vote for a well-led socialist party.

I am not an authority on alternative political systems, but if a party wanted to give power back to Canadians it might:

  • get rid of neo-liberal policies,
  • use government funds to pay for much of the costs of voting in elections,
  • greatly reduce business lobbying,
  • change the tax system to make it more just,
  • a switch in economic policy that would reduce unemployment,
  • re-instate powers of the Bank of Canada so it could make no-interest loans to governments and reduce borrowing from corporate banks,
  • buy back and nationalize assets that are required to protect the public interest, and
  • introduce a proportional representation voting system.

So, is there a strong socialist party that is capable of advancing the cause?

Sadly, the answer is "No."

I've compiled a list of the socialist and communist groups I'm aware of in English-speaking Canada. (I'm not discussing socialism in Quebec as it is a big topic on its own. The province has had a number of fairly successful socialist parties over the years.)

NDP is not socialist

First, just to clarify, the NDP is not a socialist party. The NDP says it's a social democratic party, but it moved so far to the middle in the 2015 election that the Liberals were able to win the election with a few progressive promises.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, June 8, 2017.

There are three small groups trying to push the NDP to the left: The NDP Socialist Caucus, and Momentum, which says it is the NDP's left alternative to austerity, and Courage: A coalition of the independent left that says it wants to "put democracy back into the NDP".

Other groups include the Socialist Party of Canada, Socialist.ca (International Socialists), Socialist Alternative.ca, New Socialist and the Communist Party of Canada .

Once a bastion of socialism and communism, there still are many strong socialist adherents in labour, and a few small but effective groups across the country, such as Solidarity Halifax.

It's disappointing that not one of the few English-language groups has been successful in attracting more than a few dozen followers. They seem incapable of attracting new members.

It's particularly upsetting groups are doing poorly when there are opportunities out there that haven't existed for years.

Do weak groups damage socialism?

Some critics say the groups are more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to representing socialism to the community.

I'd like to see a couple of groups prove the critics wrong. If they really care about what they're doing, they should buy a new organizing manual and develop a new strategy.

Most important, they need to get out and speak to people in the language of everyday people not the jargon of socialism.

It would be great to see independent socialists now on the sidelines move into one or two of the groups and give them new life or – if necessary – take them over. Or, of course people can also start a new group.

Some folks could get together and create a place for discussion – perhaps a closed Facebook page – where ideas could be shared. The Bullet, an excellent Internet blog, is there to unite socialists.

While socialists don't have a chance in hell of getting their ideas into mainstream media, they should make a stronger effort to get onto alternative media sites.

In closing, I hope that my criticisms and pressure from other people reading this will put a fire under the butts of the socialist groups and encourage those hanging back to get involved.

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