Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The NDP and Greens Self-Destruct in BC Election

This is Kevin Annett's take on the BC election.

When Will They Ever Learn: The NDP and Greens Self-Destruct and Hand an Unearned Victory to the Campbell Crew in
"Beautiful British Columbia"
by Kevin D. Annett

The bare and brutal facts tell it all: Gordon Campbell's Liberals won last night's provincial election by thirteen seats. But in twelve ridings taken by Campbell, the combined NDP-Green vote was actually greater than the Liberal. (1)

Clearly, a Green-NDP coalition would have won yesterday's election, which witnessed the Greens and NDP garnering over 50% of the popular vote, compared to the Liberal's 45%.

Even in Campbell's own riding of Vancouver-Point Grey, the combined Green-NDP vote came within 700 votes of unseating him.

This sobering conclusion is indicated by more than simple arithmetic. If the NDP and Greens had have done the sensible thing and joined hands, enough centrist voters would have been wooed from the Liberals to give such a left coalition easy victory.

So why didn't it happen?

Twenty five years ago, I was expelled as chair of the Point Grey Green Party after having publicly called for the Greens to unite with the NDP in the next provincial election. As a founding member of the B.C. Greens, I saw no real difference in policy between both parties when it came to the environment and other basic issues, and to run separately was, and remains, tantamount to political suicide. Yesterday's election results continue to bear this out.

Family feuds are always the most vicious, and the origin of many Green party leaders as activists in or around the NDP compels one to assume that the ongoing and disastrous animosity between the NDP and Greens is simple a battle of egos. Certainly nothing on the part of either party's leadership indicates much political sense when it comes to the need for a strong coalition-building strategy. Indeed, in the face of B.C.'s historically polarized, "first past the post" electoral system, which dooms the Greens from the outset from winning any seats and casts it, as best, as a spoiler force, the continued rejection of such a coalition by both party leaderships make absolutely no sense.

The pro-capitalist parties in B.C., unfortunately, have never suffered from such political stupidity. Ever since the formation of the NDP's predecessor, the CCF, in 1933, a continual anti-socialist coalition of liberals and conservatives has kept the left out of power: the only exception being when the anti-left coalition fell apart in 1972, and the national backlash to Brian Mulroney decimated the right-wing during the early 1990's.

Notwithstanding the virulent sectarianism of many Green activists when it comes to uniting with the NDP, the biggest barrier to a left-green coalition in B.C. is the odd confusion of the NDP itself when it comes to its own political self-identity, as it continues to deny its own principles and legacy in its elusive search for "middle of the road" respectability.

It was not for nothing that former Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent once referred to the NDP as "liberals in a hurry". The trouble is, they're not in much of a hurry anymore: a fact which routinely sours its supporters and prompts desperate spin offs like the B.C. Greens.

The problem is, we are running out of time, and cannot afford the luxury of further political myopia. The grotesque prostitution called the 2010 Olympics and the impoverishment and militarization of the province that has accompanied it is but a symbol of the disaster that is unfolding in B.C., as the land and its wealth is being sucked dry and shipped abroad.

The B.C. Liberals, and their corporate bosses, have a clear and stated plan, and no qualms about following it. It's time the NDP had a similar boldness - and political sense. And the place to begin is by knitting together a new peoples' coalition by approaching the Greens and working next time for a coalition government in B.C.

One can only hope that there is a next time.


Blogger Leonie Zurakowsky said...

Thanks for this column. I totally agree. What is the solution though? I think the Greens are too right-wing. What do you think?

Hope you don't mind if I post this to my email list Lotusland Notes (also a blog but on hiatus).

Thanks again,


3:58 PM  
Blogger BC Mary said...

I agree. But from a slightly different angle.

It's been my impression that the so-called Greens are flying under a false flag -- they are not green. And their platform seems very rightwing.

What made me suspicious was the go-easy treatment they have received from the Campbell Gang, especially when Adrienne Carr was Green leader.

The Greens are not about the environment. Good people think they are, and vote for them on that basis. It's very sad.

I read that Carole James did approach the Greens to discuss co-operation. What happened? If my suspicions are correct the so-called Green Party may have refused a coalition because they are not green at all, but a division of Gordo's Gang.

If B.C. had a free press -- not a hopelessly biased press -- there wouldn't be another Campbell Government wreaking havoc on the B.C. environment.

If B.C. did NOT have a 223-person Public Affairs Bureau, there wouldn't be another Campbell Govt either, of course.

Thanks for a good analysis.


4:32 PM  
Blogger Frank Partisan said...

It looks like your post said all that needed to be said.

In the US the Green Party varies from state to state. Some places they don't run candidates, and support Dems. They got beat up after the Gore/Nader Florida issue.

Nader was expelled. He took the best people with him.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

Leonie, feel free to post Kevin's article

BC Mary. I know that some Greens are right-wingish but here in Naniamo, they definitely are not so, but form an honored part of the activist community - ie Clayoquot Sound and Cathedral Grove actions etc. Accusing them of being a false flag operation for Campbull is going to exacerbate the division between the NDP and them. (And its not like the NDP are militant or even vaguely socialistic.)Parties exist for reasons of history and ideological division. The original BC Greens were all direct actionists and as always happens with a parliamentary party, the group moved in the direction of moderation and compromise to gain support.

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You point out (in comment #4) that "it's not like the NDP are militant or even vaguely socialistic," and also that the Green Party has "moved in the direction of moderation and compromise to gain support." So, given this assessment, which few would contest, why would an anarchist be concerned with the whole political project of these groups as currently constituted? And, in particular, why hope for a coalition between them to further their electioneering ambitions? Is electing such a coalition really a viable strategy for achieving social change? And is it a strategy consistent with anarchism?

(By the way, I'm not an anarchist, but I'm always perplexed by the attachment to the NDP and to electoral politics among people who identify as anarchists)

In solidarity,

9:45 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

Good question Steve! The answer is rather complex and has to do with both the nature and history of anarchism as well as an examination of ideology in general, so I won't respond here. However, I will respond in the form of an article on the matter which will be my next posting. Please check back from time to time. (I should have it done in the next couple of days or so.) In the meantime, consider this - non-anarchist revolutionary socialists are also concerned about social democrats and Greens in this way. Why do you think that is so?

12:15 PM  
Blogger mollymew said...

First of all, I had extensive experience with the NDP when I was younger, and since my resignation from the party in the early 70s I would be about as inclined to support the NDP as I would to shit my pants in public. At that time the "Green Party" in Saskatchewan was the silliest collection of new age faddists that you could imagine (something I suspect is true even today in parts of Canada). Yes, the Green Party (and the NDP) vary from place to place.
That being said, let me play Devil's Advocate for the members of the NDP. I think that a couple of the people above have expressed the views of the left of the NDP on the Green Party. In how many ridings across Canada has it been neither captured by the rights wing nor remain an ageing countercultural joke ? Do these ridings represent a segment of the Greens that even equal the futile efforts of the NDP left to move the party leftwards ? I doubt it. I can see very plainly how the "left" of the NDP would be extremely wary of ANY party that could elect someone like Elizabeth may as its national leader. In such a swamp the "left" would be even more powerless than it is in the NDP today.
Then we have the centre and the right wing of the NDP. Why on God's green earth should they make an "alliance" with a party that, from their point of view, will NEVER win any seats on its lonesome if matters remain the way that they are ? A party that they hope will fade away with repeated failure. Would, perhaps, remaining in opposition be a preferable outcome to them rather than actually allowing the Greens to gain the credibility (and ability to compete in the future when any temporary deal may not hold) that they presently lack-and to risk further "vote draining" in years to come.
As I said I have not been a supporter of the NDP for many years, but I can still put myself in their mindsets and say why I think such a coalition would be a non-starter from their point of view. On the other side-the Greens-I can only recognize how their most opportunist right wing and the centrists could see such a thing as an opportunity- much more, of course, than the NDP would. Neither has nay principles to speak of, but their attractiveness to the average NDPer is probably less than zero. As for the `left`of the Green Party I`d let them answer for themselves. Quite frankly I cannot comprehend their mindset.
So, to sum up, such a coalition is basically an impossibility, at least from the view of the average NDPer. It would involve either compromises or dangers that they would be unwilling to risk. is this a bad thing ? I don't know. Would a NDP/Green coalition government in BC be substantially different enough to justify any anarchist support ? That is an open ended question with a lot of other debate that would no doubt result.

9:26 PM  

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