Out of the corner of my eye I caught, just over a year ago, some mentions in the media that the NDP had “softened its socialist language.” I paid it no need at the time, but this week, confronted with a near-toxic dose of wholesale-unquestioning-belief-in-the-redemptive-power-of-capitalism, I went in search of the NDP’s constitution for solace.
The version I found first, dated November 2011, had this delightful preamble:
The New Democratic Party believes that the social, economic and political progress of Canada can be assured only by the application of democratic socialist principles to government and the administration of public affairs.
The principles of democratic socialism can be defined briefly as:
That the production and distribution of goods and services shall be directed to meeting the social and individual needs of people within a sustainable environment and economy and not to the making of profit;
To modify and control the operations of the monopolistic productive and distributive organizations through economic and social planning. Towards these ends and where necessary the extension of the principle of social ownership;
The New Democratic Party hold firm to the belief that the dignity and freedom of the individual is a basic right that must be maintained and extended and
The New Democratic Party is proud to be associated with the democratic socialist parties of the world and to share the struggle for peace, international co-operation and the abolition of poverty.
That’s the kind of talk I can get behind, and was the tonic I was looking for.
Imagine my disappointment, then, when I went looking for an up to date copy of the NDP constitution only to find that all of this language was “softened” right out of the party’s constitution, replaced with a 400 word preamble that makes no mention at all of profit or capital, and denudes the mention of democratic socialism down to this:
New Democrats seek a future that brings together the best of the insights and objectives of Canadians who, within the social democratic and democratic socialist traditions, have worked through farmer, labour, co-operative, feminist, human rights and environmental movements, and with First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, to build a more just, equal, and sustainable Canada within a global community dedicated to the same goals.
That’s more like an homage to socialism than a commitment to it.
This repositioning – leader Thomas Mulcair was quoted as explaining it away as “a better way for us to reach out beyond our traditional base, talk to Canadians who might share our vision, who might share our goals, but who weren’t too sure” – may make the NDP more palatable, but it also excises the very heart of what made the party a compelling alternative to the Conservatives, Liberals and Greens, all of which embrace capitalism with ferocity and disagree simply on the degree to which it should be allowed to be unfettered.
It’s possible to argue that this softening was simply an exercise in catching New Democratic language up to New Democratic reality: when, after all, was the last time you heard an NDP candidate singing the virtues of emancipation from capitalism on the doorstep. But it’s a significant shift, nonetheless, and one we should all mourn.
Mourn not necessarily because we are socialists at heart – and I’m not sure that I am – but rather because in decapitating its principles, the NDP makes the political landscape even more homogeneous than it was before, and turns most political arguments about the economy into non-productive arguments about how to tweak capitalism this way or that rather than discussion about serious alternatives.
For those of you who have been following along with my telephony exploits, an update.
When we last left the issue a year ago, I’d migrated all of my telephone numbers to Vitelity, including local Charlottetown numbers for home and office, something enabled by Vitelity’s then-new ability to port 902 numbers to become DIDs. That’s worked very well for the last year.
This year, as part of a gradual plan to wean myself from the aging server that’s sitting in the server room at silverorange, I’ve taken another couple of steps:
- I migrated from Asterisk running on ye olde server to Asterisk running on a Raspberry Pi sitting beside me here on my desk in the Reinventorium behind a Bell Aliant Fibre Op connection with a dynamic IP. Unbelievably, this works extremely well, given that it’s running on a $35 piece of hardware: the RasPBX, which wraps up Asterisk and FreePBX into an easy-to-install distrubution for the Pi. And it just works.
- This change then left me with a conundrum: my home phone, a regular old cordless phone connected to a Sipura 2000 box, was no longer to see my Asterisk box, obscured as it now is behind a dynamic IP. Rather than trying to configure a dynamic DNS or some such solution, I simply created a Vitelity sub-account, moved my home phone number to that, and then connected the Sipura box directly to Vitelity, using their own (free) Voicemail system as a replacement for my own Asterisk voicemail.
All of this took more fiddling that this description suggests, but it’s working well now.
For reasons I don’t completely understand, when the friendly coffee agents at Receiver Coffee make me a decaf macchiato every afternoon conditions require they make two macchiatos.
Heretofore, in the old ROW142 days, the second macchiato would generally be consumed, for quality control purposes, by the agent themselves, but under the new regime, with the volume of coffee going out having increased exponentially, this doesn’t scale, and thus the second is now being offered up to me.
Which begs the question: what to do with the other macchiato?
And so I propose an arrangement: if you are in the Queen-Richmond area in downtown Charlottetown some weekday afternoon and are prepared to offer up some insights, witty anecdnotes, makeup tips or tales of woe while we sit drinking macchiatos on the Receiver Coffee balcony, the other macchiato is on me.
Just ping me on Twitter to proceed.
Penny, who was once four years old (I know, because I was there) is now ten years old. I’ve known Penny for longer than I haven’t known her, but we’ve never had a conversation because, at least up until the time I saw her last 3 years ago, she didn’t yet speak English and I didn’t yet speak Danish.
But, as my friend Ton relates, this didn’t prevent some indirect knowledge transfer from happening, with Ton and his partner Elmine as the midwives.
Reading that story I’m inclined to jump up and shout “yes!”, as that’s the way the world is supposed to work.
Thank you to Ton and Elmine for their activism, on both ends.
I look forward to discussing this with Penny in a few years in person.