Tag Archives: NDP

Springtime for Hitler in Ottawa


Last week, our favourite sweater vest hoarding Prime Minister made the world’s laziest Nazi/Hitler invocation during Question Period. This is the latest in a string of Hitler references made by sundry politicos in Ottawa during 2012, and we’re not even half way through the year. His gaffe brought jeers and tears of laughter to denizens of the House and online. For your viewing pleasure, witness the exchange between Mulcair the Bearded Sandwich Explainer and Stevie Soulless Eyes HERE.

After I was done laughing and wiping tears of hilarity from my eyes, I went back to the Politics Respun crew, and asked them for their input. Stephen Elliot-Buckley, Kevin Harding, Jasmin Mujanovic and I weighed in:

Is there ever an appropriate time in debate for comparing our politicians, parties and policies to those of Adolf Hitler?
Short of starting some ethnic cleansing campaign or annexing a neighbouring state, no. The bar is set quite high. That said, I think there’s too much careless thoughtlessness when people are rejecting criticisms of fascism and totalitarianism and corporatism. Tossing those words around seems to fit some of the positions we’ve seen in Canada in recent decades that are contemptuous of democracy. As a society we need to be better educated about the meaning and historical context of those words so we can use them more intelligently. And we don’t need Hitler for all that. – Stephen

I’m not one to really ascribe limits to speech, save for the kind that involves things like yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theatre. That being said, I also think that there’s problems with making comparisons between exceedingly horrific historical events and the leader of the NDP asking Harper when he was going to bring Canadian soldiers home from our neo-colonialist romp in Afghanistan. There’s a balance; if you honestly, seriously, fully think that comparing the actions of your debate opponent to those of Hitler are necessary, then, by all means, do so – but don’t be surprised if you’re made out to look like an idiot after doing so. It’s a comparison that should be made exceedingly rarely, and only in circumstances that actually warrant it. – Kevin

Sure but only once they begin engaging in or advocating for the systemic genocide of a segment of our population. Until then, it’s juvenile idiocy. – Jasmin

If the politician/party/policies are truly akin to those of Adolph Hitler and not simply something that opponents of the politician/party/policies merely dislikes or takes offense to, yes. Using it as a tool to insult or derive a reaction (Godwin’s Law) does make it a de facto debating tactic. – Tia

Was Harper out of line on Thursday when he erroneously stated that the NDP did not support the fight against Hitler in 1939? Was Mulcair, when he shot back about Reform Party?

I think it would be wonderful to get into the debate about where Canada has stood on events like the Boer War, WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq x2, and Afghanistan. And the centuries of various forms of war against the first peoples. There is precious little serious, non-zinger based rhetoric floating around when, as a nation, we ought to be getting into the soul of the issue of the role of our military. – Stephen

No, and no. In the most literal sense. Take a look deeper at the statements – Harper said that the “leader of the NDP in 1939” didn’t even support war against Hitler. This – and only this – is specifically true. J.S. Woodworth, an ardent pacifist, opposed war in Germany. And he – alone in the House of Commons – voted against the declaration of war. And he was soundly castigated for his actions, and made fun of quite rightly, for his vote. Extending this smear to insinuating that the NDP itself loved Hitler is just fucking stupid, plain and simple. Mulcair, on the other hand, shot back about the Reform Party’s policies – here, he took the policies of the party as it then was and compared it to the actions of the party as it is now. No spurious smearing; if the party changed names, it’s still the party’s policies as they were, not the actions of an individual who was then castigated by the party. – Kevin

Harper’s statement was the depths of gutter politics–pathetic more than anything else. I thought Mulcair’s retort was rather funny, though, and I don’t even really like the guy. Not much else to do in a situation like that than mock the Prime Minister. – Jasmin

If the HOC was a UFC octagon (which would actually make a lot of politics in Canada much more entertaining and culturally relevant for the masses) this tactic by Harper would have been a move akin to kneeing your opponent in the balls. It was cheap, lazy and a last ditch effort to keep away from having to tap out. Mulcair’s retort was priceless, and he chalked up laugh points from me with his verbal ground n’ pound. – Tia

In the media (both traditional and social) there are perpetual invocations of Hitler/Nazis by Left of centre thinkers/commentators directed towards Harper, his government, and Conservative Party policy. Is there legitimacy in this comparison?

Like I said above, I think we need to be more precise. When we say totalitarian, we need to talk about an issue like “free speech zones” in Vancouver during our Olympics corporate orgy, with respect to the Charter and how such acts are an egregious violation of reasonable limits from Section 1 [http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/charter/page-1.html]. When we talk about corporatism and the corporate-political junta that is the neo-liberalism of the Liberal Party, Reform Party and Conservative Party, we should be clear on how we talk about governing for corporate interests. When we bring up soft fascism or hard fascism, we should connect that discussion with these handy 14 elements of fascism: http://www.rense.com/general37/char.htm. – Stephen

There’s legitimacy in comparing a lot of the actions of governments to fascism. To Hitler? Nope. And don’t get me started in the stupidity that one can find in certain right-wing fora who insist that Hitler was a commie socialist, not a right-wing fascist. – Kevin

No, absolutely not. I have very, very strong objections to Harper’s policy in particular as it relates to our treatment of First Nations peoples and overseas(mis)adventures–situations where people are actually dying)but he’s not Hitler, nor are the Tories Nazis, either. We have plenty of fascist movements around the world (including Canada) who make very few bones about their politics; we’d be better off actually engaging those people than wasting time on these partisan theatrics. – Jasmin

Comparing what is actually going on in Ottawa with the current Conservative government and WWII Nazis is laughable and makes your argument look small minded and uninformed. Like Harper or not, he’s not actively gassing his enemies in death camps and annexing small nations. Find a better comparison in history or grab some originality and create a term. I’m fond of Sweatervestism, myself. – Tia

Is Nazism a useful symbol for what makes us angry, from opinions on extended breastfeeding to criticism about opposing politicians?

I believe in Godwin’s law. Short of contemporary Nazis and similar groups, I think we need to educate people with more precise terms. – Stephen

If you legitimately think that the comparison is necessary, sure. Just don’t be surprised if you’re made to look like a complete idiot on your comparison if it’s out of line. There are way more useful comparisons or symbols to use. Boots stomping on faces, sweater vests, et cetera. – Kevin
Only a Nazi could ask such a question! Which is to say: sure…but only if you’re kind of slow and un-creative. First of all, very rarely are our opponents actually Nazi-like in nature. And on the odd occasion where I have engaged with actual fascists, the comparison to the Nazis was hardly insulting to them. So, with very few exceptions, the comparison is unjustified–and none of those exceptions are part of the mainstream Canadian political scene. – Jasmin

What is the term I’m looking for? Ah, yes. Reductio ad Hitlerum: claiming that a policy/group leads to/is the same as one advocated or implemented by Hitler/the Third Reich, and so “proves” that the original policy/group is undesirable. Guilt by association. Having been called a “Boob Nazi” (somewhat erroneously) often and FemNazi a few times, I am always perplexed as to how the person making the comparison arrives at the choice of words. I presume that the person throwing the terms around lacks a functional vocabulary/creativity. – Tia

Does invoking Hitler/Nazi in Canadian politics trivialize and desacralize memories of holocaust and the horrors of WW2?

Yes. And while trying to elicit empathy for violated peoples is a valid motive, we should do it in a more realistic context. We don’t have to go to gas chambers to talk about the abject poverty that millions of Canadians are one paycheque away from because of neoliberal, totalitarian, corporatist soft fascism. – Stephen

No. It trivializes the person making the comparison, if the comparison is not justifiable. Cf “Godwin’s Law” and etc. – Kevin

Yes, full stop. – Jasmin

Hell, yes. It’s disrespectful of people who have been affected by Hitler, who dealt a lasting blow generationally to so many families and individuals around the world. My grandparents were children/teenagers during WWII in Germany/Eastern Europe and our family is still impacted, several generations later. – Tia

Other thoughts/comments on this topic?

Harper is clearly desperate. He’s seen his polling numbers drop stunningly since the NDP leadership race, which is the kind of event to give the NDP a bump, not usually a corresponding plummet in the governing party’s stature. And now that I enjoyed the Twitterverse Monday morning kicking the tires of the NDP talking about expecting a coalition government with the Liberals and not a merger, the Harper Junta will be further trimmed in the polls. And now that the Liberals are going to let non-members vote in their leadership race, Cullenistas in the NDP can vote for a leader who is interested in a distinct, yet cooperative posture with the NDP. And yesterday NDP House Leader Cullen called for the speaker to enforce more decorum in the house. Cooperation and dignity, two of Cullen’s core leadership messages, seem to be defining this era of the NDP even if Cullen didn’t “win” the leadership. Harper’s a politician full of hate and vitriol. He is so angry, eager to demolish the Liberals, eager to cram his self-assured ideology wherever he can for the sake of some monarchist imperial brand of corporatism. He knows that suppressing voter turnout illegally or through negative politics keeps voters who embrace hope from turning up and mobilizes his base that hates their enemies. We need to reject gutter politics. As simply as last spring when Layton unilaterally stopped his party from heckling in the House, there is room for building something positive. Harper is incapable of doing that. So he invokes monsters, and in doing so, Godwin. – Stephen

The meta-narrative on Harper’s stupidity in jumping into Godwin’s law so quickly ignores the fact that Harper didn’t have an answer as to when the troops engaged in neo-colonialism in Afghanistan will be coming home – so instead he pulled out Hitler. Idiot. – Kevin

I’ve been left with a Broadway show tune from The Producers in my head, ear-worming me endlessly. Springtime! For Hitler! In Germany! Thanks for that, Harper. – Tia

Encouraging Early Political Engagement: CitizenNext.ca

It is not an accident that I am a political junkie.

Even as a toddler, I was fed a steady diet of left-of-centre ideology, pro-union sentiments and anti-monarchist dogma. My mother, who was not overtly political, ensured I could recognize political leaders from around the world by sight before I could read, that I understood the vast differences between different types of political thought, and the inherent differences in Canadian political parties before I was school aged. During election season, she brought me with when she voted, and made sure that I was well aware that voting was a responsibility that we had as Canadians, and was something that was not an option. One of my earliest memories as a child is one of smearing mud on the back the giant brown and orange   “JIM FULTON, NDP” billboard in our yard when I was sent out to play while my infant brother napped. In a subsequent provincial election, the neighbours erected a massive Social Credit sign on their front lawn, and I was informed “SoCreds are evil. NDP is Good. SoCreds only work for big businesses. NDP is for the working class people…like us.” One might even say I was brainwashed.

When I was in grade 4, I engaged in fisticuffs on the school bus with a boy from down the street. Ryan was a year older, and his parents were self employed. There was some sort of provincial election brewing, and Ryan’s parents had a megalith of a Social Credit sign on the corner of the lawn. I informed Ryan that his family was clearly batting for the wrong political team, and that, people who voted SoCred were evil and sucked. Ryan retaliated, informing me that only losers would vote NDP. We wound up smacking the hell out of each other with math books, and were sent up to sit in the front of the bus for the remainder of the year.

Why are my memories of a blue collar, slightly pinko childhood in Northern BC in the 1980’s relevant now?

As Manitoba (where I am a home owner and my children go to school) creeps ever closer to the October 4th provincial election, there has been an onslaught of automated calls to our residence, glad-handling politicians standing on my doorstep, reams of glossy campaign fliers from the Conservative, NDP and Liberal parties festooning my mailbox. Most of the propaganda is of the usual variety: health care funding/cuts, taxation increases/cuts, infrastructure, aboriginal issues, education. Bored to tears of watching the Three Stooges bonk one another on the head on the local news, I was pleased to notice something that was out of the realm of the usual regurgitation. It was a large 1/4 page ad in the Winnipeg Free Press, advertising a website: www.citizennext.ca. The tag line? “When You Vote on October 4…Bring Your Child.” On it, a man voting at a booth, with children surrounding him. Under the picture, it read “It is never too early to learn about democracy.” Finally! A government campaign that I could relate to!

A quick visit to the CitizenNext website shows that someone in the employ of the government put some thought into the program. There are games and puzzles for kids to enjoy while passively learning about democracy. There are voter pledge cards, which can be personalized and printed off for the child, and a sticker that they can finish it off with only when they go to the booth with you to vote.  They list books to read to children about democracy and politics. While I’ve seen previous campaigns that were targeted at educators, this one is targeted at parents. The gist is that declining voter numbers can be traced back to parental apathy, and that by acting now, we can turn the tide in a decade or two, by educating our children now. The site also shares a number of simple ways to foster engagement early:

Ideas for raising kids to be engaged citizens:

Talk about it – Let your kids know why you think it’s important to vote. Even very young kids can understand the idea of selecting a leader. Engage older children in a discussion about political issues that are important to you or that come up in the news. Encourage your kids to express their own opinions and ideas.

Vote at home – Introduce the concept of voting by holding simple votes on household issues. It could be as simple as voting on what to prepare for a special meal.

Bring your child with you when you vote – Children are welcome at voting stations. Show your kids what voting looks like.

Visit our Game area – For games and activities related to citizenship and voting.

Take older kids to a live debate or watch one on TV – Discuss the points the candidates make and ask your kids for their views.

Point to resources on the Web – There are many excellent websites devoted to encouraging youth to participate in the election process.

All of the people that I know, who are avid political enthusiasts and are active politically, have at least one parent that downloaded some sort of passion or duty into them. When reading biographies of politicians, they often come from what seems to be dynasties: generations of people who catch the bug, and can’t shake it. What concerns me about this campaign, which I believe is a fantastic start, is that it misses the mark. People who care already do this with their kids. They are having these discussions. They’re involving their charges. They’re taking their progeny to the booth. The problem is that people who are already apathetic are not going to pick up the glossy half page flier in the mail and suddenly feel inspired to a) leave the house and vote and b) have deep and meaningful conversation with their children about the importance of voting.

I give the Manitoba Government an “A” for effort, but remain skeptical of the impact that this will have long term.

In the meantime, my daughters both have “I VOTED – CITIZENNEXT.CA” stickers on their coats, because they joined me at the advance polls over the weekend. I can only hope someone else sees the round little reminder on their coats as they scamper by, and  suddenly feels compelled to put an X in the box on October 4th, possibly with their child in attendance.

The BC NDP Channels Brian Mulroney

I want a BC NDP that is a beacon of hope, clarity, vision and inspiration to address the dire economic, energy and environmental challenges we have created for ourselves by the start of the 21st century. But now the party is merely channeling Brian Mulroney’s “open for business” approach to becoming dependent on odious foreign tourism money.

While I was watching the Twitter feed of #g20 marches in Toronto and the draconian police response yesterday afternoon, the BC NDP’s leader released two statements on leadership and tourism. They demonstrated why the party is losing credibility among those desperate for a constructive vision for a better future, and those who care about economic reform, the environment and meaningful political participation in the 21st century.

  1. Vision: “I believe that leadership is about listening carefully to British Columbians and then making decisions that are in the broad public interest. … That’s the way best decisions are made.”
    1. We actually need leaders who can inspire us with ideas that will truly make a difference with our current ecological, energy and economic challenges like the world has never before seen. In the absence of new ideas we slide towards the opposite: seeing our leaders as cynical or vision-free politicians who can listen to people, then merely make shrewd policy based on what they hear, regardless of principles.
    2. The BC NDP has unanimously endorsed its Sustainable BC plan twice at conventions in 2007 and 2009. Only now, a year after a third electoral loss, is the party starting to implement the vision. It should not be this complicated!
  2. Priorities: “I believe that it’s time for a new positive agenda for our province, an agenda that grows our economy, enhances our public services and looks out for our environment.”
    1. Public services are critical to ensure the rapacious profit motive does not suck life out of necessities like healthcare, education and other public goods. That’s good.
    2. But to merely “look out for the environment” is just not good enough considering the scope of how we have threatened our ecological existence for the last 1.5 centuries. The BC NDP’s Sustainable BC plan, in fact, even calls for “a diversified economy that operates within the environmental carrying capacity.” The environment cannot be a subset of the economy, which is how the BC NDP is operating now.
    3. Finally, “economic growth” is simply the wrong paradigm. It still sounds fine for people who haven’t heard of or fully understood the violence to our society from global capitalism and the worship of GDP growth, even with the most recent global economic meltdown. It has cost us trillions to just fix this most recent mess. Anyone who thinks there won’t be a dark, deregulated capitalism sequel cannot read history.
    4. A sad irony is the fact that at the 2009 BC NDP convention there was a workshop on Steady-State Economics put on by the party’s environment committee, the same group that actually came up with Sustainable BC. If you are interested in an economy that can exist within the planet’s environmental carrying capacity, you need to look at Steady-State Economics. Deaf ears, however, exist in the party when we continue to hear about the need for economic growth.
  3. Unsustainable Tourism: “Tourism is an essential part of a sustainable B.C. economy. The Approved Destination Status agreement [with China] is an amazing opportunity to grow this critical sector of our economy and build relationships with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.”
    1. Global tourism is not sustainable. What is the ecological footprint of travelling around the world? It’s too high. Our tourism sector should be focusing on sustainable travel with low footprints, not from tourists from around the planet.
    2. Why is the BC NDP excited about Chinese tourism income? Because they have money and we can “grow this critical sector of our economy.” The Chinese wealth is based on global corporate trade in goods and services combined with massive human rights abuses and environmental devastation, working with horrible retail partners like Walmart, all resulting in China’s growing wealth. There is nothing sustainable about endorsing this economic model or trying to glean some of its wealth. The lure of dollars is flashy when we look to China. Building relationships with that nation, however, makes us further dependent on its economic model of optimized exploitation. That sickens me that we would seek to be a parasite on such a moral criminal.
    3. “New Democrats have taken the lead in having in-depth discussions with community business leaders to figure out the best ways for B.C. to seize the opportunity of our new status with China.” This is simply incompatible with Sustainable BC. In fact, I would expect the BC Liberals to endorse the NDP’s actions here. Further, this approach reflects what kind of listening the BC NDP is doing with British Columbians and what kind of choices and priorities it is making. And when I say that I want a BC NDP that is a beacon of hope, clarity, vision and inspiration to address the dire economic, energy and environmental challenges we have created for ourselves, this is just heading in the wrong direction.
    4. And frankly, it is somewhat galling that the Chinese government, a gang that is profoundly not anyone’s role model, should bestow on us an approved destination status. Actually, it is more a reflection of our sorry state of economic morality. So much for ever trying to tie human rights improvements to continued trade with China when what we really want is for them to like us enough to let us lure their new idle rich to our resorts.
    5. Finally, “New Democrat tourism critic Spencer Chandra Herbert raised concerns about B.C.’s readiness to get the word out that we are open for business [my emphasis]. Sadly, we need to rewind to 1984 to see how “open for business” began such an economically despairing quarter century of Canadian economic history: “Canada is open for business again,” said Brian Mulroney. His audience, 1,450 U.S. executives and their guests at an Economic Club of New York dinner in Manhattan’s Hilton Hotel, evidently liked what they heard: they gave Canada’s new Prime Minister two standing ovations. Mulroney, 45, vowed that his government would be “there to assist and not to harass the private sector in creating new wealth and the new jobs that Canada needs.” Honestly? I cannot see how the BC NDP can be a beacon of hope for the 21st century if it is now spouting Mulroney Free Trade rhetoric.

I want the BC NDP to be worthy of support as not just a lite-beer alternative to the BC Liberals. I want the party to be so focused on a sustainable 21st century and beyond that people flock to it.

I’m not seeing it now.

What I am seeing is the party ignoring its Sustainable BC policy for years now. The party has finally started recognizing its membership is in decline despite its polling improvements and success in the legislature, but it is unable to figure out why. That’s just sad.

We need only look to the party’s new Our Province, Our Future consultation process to see what it is blind to: membership engagement. Practically everything I wrote about unions engaging their membership applies to political parties. But when we look at the Our Province, Our Future website discussion forum we see only 14 posts in almost 2 months.

Granted, not all party members are all over the interwebs. Many don’t have email. Many won’t share their email address with the party. But the party does have at least a few thousand member email addresses. But how many members have received an invitation to contribute to the Our Province, Our Future website discussion forum. How many have received an email letting them know the site even exists? Seriously, how hard would it be to at the very least email a few thousand members? Fundraising emails come out without much difficulty. Why not something of more substance if the party values members for more than their financial contributions?

The conclusion I do not want to draw from this is that the party leadership is not really interested in engaging its membership beyond taking their money. But judging from this wholly inadequate explanation for the Our Province, Our Future promotional methods, I have little left to conclude.

I had a dream of Sisyphus and futility. How many times should a voter look to the same political party for signs of hope? A short answer rests in the appalling voter turnout last May, under 50% for the first time ever. Beyond the party’s membership decline, it saw a decline in donations in key ridings, a decline in volunteers, and a decline in its base actually turning out to vote.

Sisyphus was trapped, but BC voters aren’t. If the BC NDP continues to show itself largely bereft of progressive vision, inspiration and policy that can truly address the real challenges of the 21st century, people will go elsewhere.

I can’t help but think about how inspirational it was for the BC NDP to bring Thomas Homer-Dixon to its 2007 convention to speak about resilience and being proactive in the face of paradigm shifting challenges. That was an inspiring time. Sustainable BC was a grand policy statement at that convention that spoke to Homer-Dixon’s issues, all a year and a half before the last election. People were optimistic.

Then it all ended up under the bus.

And now we’re sucking up to China for tourism investment and the party is channeling Brian Mulroney.