How to Be a Progressive Activist Without Having a Daily Nervous Breakdown, Jamming, 11/03/2017

That’s actually a pretty tough achievement these days. Right now, it’s easier to push for more progressive politics as a Canadian than, really, pretty much anywhere else in the world.

Charlie Angus, the MP for the eastern half of Northern Ontario, is
running. He's long been a strong advocate of a new national 
consensus and institution to restore – at long last – justice for
indigenous people in Canada.
For example, our social democratic party, the NDP, is having its first leadership debate this Sunday for our contest later this year. I’m the Vice-President of my electoral district’s riding association, so I’m helping promote the event on social media, and through personal posts like this.

But I’m in a very privileged position here in Canada. At least relatively speaking. This seems to be one of the few Western countries where the white nationalist alt-right isn’t taking hold of our politics.

Of course, I haven’t adopted some born-again complacency in the three weeks since I posted about my generation’s confrontation with reborn Nazism. Nothing about that has changed.

White nationalism is still a major political problem facing Canada – people wouldn’t be holding demonstrations against the existence of Muslim people in front of our largest city’s house of government if it wasn’t.

Our major conservative party has had its youth wing pretty much entirely compromised by white nationalists. One leading Conservative leadership candidate is openly courting them, declaring that people who don’t share white Christian values shouldn’t be welcome in Canada. Even the more traditional conservatives leading the race throw bones to the alt-right or channel Trumpism in their rhetoric.

Manitoba MP Niki Ashton has made one of her core initiatives the fight
for a more fair economy, often working with groups of young white
collar workers around Canada who are advocating for better working
conditions and more security in their often precarious jobs and careers.
I’m confident that Canadians and the Canadian government can resist and prevent a takeover by white nationalist leaders and activists. They’ll fight hard, and we’ll have to work considerably harder to fight them. But we have better material defences against them.

For one thing, significant portions of Canada already have majority-minority populations, or close enough to it that far fewer people in our cities have stereotypical or racist misconceptions of Asian and Latin American immigrant groups.

Too many white people in Canada’s cities already know Asians, Africans, and Latin Americans to be turned against them with racist fearmongering. These people are our friends.

As well, our political parties have never had to marginalize social democratic multiculturalism to succeed. Here’s what I mean.

Right now in the USA, the Democratic Party and its activists are in a serious rebuilding mode. They’re leaders in the anti-Trump resistance, but the party itself is still figuring out how best to overcome Republicans electorally.

Guy Caron is the MP for Rimouski, so far the only leadership
contender representing the strong Quebecois base of the New Democrats.
He made universal basic income as a central point of his policy platform,
restoring to the front of Canadian politics an important idea that's been
blown away to the wind by the hurricane of Trumpist nationalism.
They have a tough road ahead, especially because they seem to be shooting themselves with infighting – typical of the American left over the years. You could see it in the way progressive activists continued to argue over Tom Perez or Keith Ellison taking over the DNC chair.

The Sanders wing saw Perez as continuing Clinton-style neoliberalism that ignored the real economic suffering of millions. The Clinton wing saw Ellison as continuing the blind populism that made what should have been Democratic votes peeling off for Trump in the name of some amorphous ‘change.’

That division among the American left is a hangover from the three biggest mistakes Sanders and his campaign made.

1) Vilifying Clinton so much that he provided Republicans almost as much ammunition as FOX and no take-backs could ever sound sincere. 2) Pushing a protectionist economic populism whose core principles hewed too close to Trump’s. 3) Completely failing to even bother considering black outreach seriously.

Meanwhile, many conservative Americans think Perez is a radical left-wing loon. And the spectre of Perez’s (or Ellison’s) advancement being purely a matter of identity politics continues to haunt American discourse.

Peter Julian is probably the most senior parliamentarian among the
leadership contenders, and a strong voice for social democratic policy
from the west of the country, thanks to his strong constituency in
The truth is that American politics have been radicalized already along white anglophone ethnic lines. That was the substance of “Make America Great Again,” taking the country back from minorities, and painting the advancement of non-whites as theft from the rightful lot of white Americans.

The Democratic Party in the United States today has, as its core constituency, women of colour. It’s the party of multiculturalism and the fight against inequality along all vectors. Arguing over which inequality to emphasize – whether to, as Sanders did, divorce racializing inequities from inequities emerging from economic processes – ignores the real integration of all these inequities and oppressions.

Canada, in contrast to the United States, has had a mainstream social democratic party for decades. So these ideas have never truly had to fight against institutional opposition to the same intensity as in America, when the Democrats spent decades embracing Reaganism with hugs.

There again is the ultimately flaw with Hillary Clinton as the 2016 Democratic standard-bearer – the formative decades of her modern political identity was in that era of conservative liberalism.

In Canada, we never had to make that compromise. Those who refused it could always find an institutional home in the New Democratic Party. The core reason why we lost the last federal election to Trudeau was because he doubled down on that language while our strategists got scared and pursued a triangulation campaign straight out of 1994.

That institutional home of the NDP unites all the intersectional politics of liberation – economics, gender, racialization, class – in one coalition. One box on a ballot.

The best defence against Canadian white nationalism is strengthening the voice and growing the platforms of the New Democratic Party. Our next leader has to stand for that total liberation – no one is free if a single person still wears their chains.

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