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NDP ditches socialism at wrong time





It’s richly ironic that New Democrats, who laboured for years to shed the albatross of “socialism” so they could gambol like Liberals in the fields of electoral bliss, finally succeeded last weekend just when the word may no longer be cursed. I say that because Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary has announced its two most searched words last year were socialism and capitalism — with socialism in the lead . Left-wing scholar Gar Alperovitz , from whom I gleaned this info, also cites a Rasmussen poll finding Americans under 30 “almost equally divided” on preferring one or the other; and a Pew poll showing those between 18 and 29 prefer socialism 49-43 per cent. They finally managed to seriously downgrade socialism in the preamble to their constitution just when it might start working for them. It’s a pity they didn’t keep featuring it; at best it’s now a boutique item. Stay calm though. This doesn’t mean the proletariat has finally grown class-consciousness. It’s mostly curiosity. People haven’t become socialists but they seem to want to know about it. They genuinely wonder if there could be an alternative to the vile dog’s breakfast of (ever increasingly) maldistributed wealth we now have. No one knows what socialism would mean today and efforts to define it, from Alperovitz to the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly , are sketchy and preliminary. The hunger is for the mere hint of an option. It doesn’t matter if you call that socialism or alternatism or there-must-be-something-better-than-this-ism. But it has to be serious and new. Chrystia Freeland , author of the Gelber prizewinning book Plutocracy , who comes from business journalism, not the left, told the Star: “It’s not going to be enough to go back and reheat F.D.R. It’s new times and it takes new thinking.” Personally I’d start by focusing on the “social,” not the “ism.” Whatever socialism is, it has to do with society making decisions together, democratically, for the general good, hoping to get that right and working to fix what it got wrong. This contains some irony itself, a week after the death of Margaret Thatcher, who’ll live on in infamy or glory for insisting there’s no such thing as society and whose demise unmistakably roiled U.K. society. Read more..