About that socialism... - Macleans.ca

About that socialism…


I somehow missed this during yesterday’s news conference.

For example, Mulcair said he backs the idea to update the language of the party constitution remove the phrase “democratic socialism” from the preamble, an effort that caused some division at the policy convention in Vancouver last year.

“We must refresh our way of speaking, modernize our approach and use a language that speaks not only to the initiated and the people who already agree with us, but that can please and attract (other) people who share our vision,” Mulcair said.

The “socialism” clause was a point of debate when New Democrats held a convention last July. A senior party official defended the change at the time, but amid disagreement the proposal was deferred—at the suggestion of Brian Topp, who had been elected president at the same convention—for further study.


About that socialism…

  1. Well, there is democratic socialism, and social democrats. Canadians would go for the second one.

  2. No doubting it has become a loaded word. Jingoistic McCarthyites and loony Objectivists have been attempting for years, not unsuccessfully, to make people think it’s a synonym for evil government robbing the people, regardless of how many times it’s shown to work such as in places like modern Germany and Sweden.  They base their attacks on those who took the name of socialism, such as Stalin and Hitler, and attempted to use it to white-wash their own despotic activities. (Never mind that to anybody with a brain it’s obvious that at least one, if not both of them, were lying about it since they held diametrically opposed public philosophies.)

    So, yes, it’s a loaded word, especially here in North America.  Does that mean you change it? That you basically attempt to whitewash your own politics to placate the misinformed? I mean, hell, it’s worked for Mr. Harper and his “conservative” government (There’s a reason, after all, I try to always call them the “CPC” and not “conservatives”) can’t it work for others then as well?

    Maybe.  Probably.

    But there’s another question buried in there. Should it?  Should we allow the corporatists and robber-barons define the language we use?

    For me that’s a harder question

    • It’s something that makes political linguistics (note the small “l”) both an interesting and infuriating part to political studies. The understanding of the specific terms will as often as not depend on the tribe to which the person already claims belonging. Though they have been arguably less successful at it, the more lefty-types, for example, often paint all C/conservatives as Social Conservatives, Rick Santorum, “The Monopoly Guy”, etc. This is as arguably incorrect as the C/conservative habit of painting all lefty-types as Stalin, Hitler, or Trotsky. 

      Of course, repeated enough, what became a rhetorical flourish quickly becomes internalized until we do indeed end up with these sort of accusations being thrown around as if they’re actually what any of the parties or their members (or the sympathetic non-participants) propose to do or bring around. Of course, at this point, we get “Hidden Agendas” or “Submarine Policies” and we convince ourselves that their platforms are just a decoder pin away from reintroducing our own ideologically-derived dystopian nightmare

      Of course, we realized long ago that when you control the discourse, you gain a tremendous amount of power. More C/conservative elements seem to have won the upper hand for the time being, but it wasn’t that long ago that some more reasonable C/conservative policies were met with vigorous opposition, bolstered by, for example, Dickensian imagery.

      Now that it’s somewhat more problematic (not to mention a big waste of time) to just declare a lifetime presidency and arrest countless millions of those who disagree, the political battlefield for the right to meaning is one that we’ve all seen and we all fight on, whether we think so or not.

    • “For me that’s a harder question”

      For you.  Probably not for Mulcair and I suspect he will yank that language from the NDP Constitution. 

  3. wiki ~ Clause IV:

    Tony Blair had in 1993, before becoming Leader of the Labour Party, written a pamphlet for the Fabian Society which criticised the wording of Clause IV for confusing ends with means. Blair put forward a case for defining socialism in terms of a set of values which were constant, while the policies needed to achieve them would have to change (“modernise”) to account for changing society. After becoming Leader he announced at the conclusion of his 1994 conference speech that the Labour Party needed a new statement of aims and values and that he would draw one up and present it to the party. The new version was adopted at a Special Conference at Easter 1995 after a debate.