The Leap Manifesto and Power

Doug McCorquodale

Doug McCorquodale is a thirty five year member, activist and official with unions in mining and construction. June 10, 2016 - The Leap Manifesto has caused quite a stir on the Left and the Right. Tens of thousands have signed on as supporters. The right wing press, the one per centers and rightist minions of the “free” market economy often viciously denigrate the Leap Manifesto.

Leftist critics of the Manifesto cannot dispute that the document has elevated the discussion of climate change (global warming) as nothing else has. The campaign by Leap supporters to spread the document’s message has kept the issue of climate change in the Canadian public sphere for longer than any other document in recent memory.

The Manifesto does do a good job of defining the climate crisis. Ecosocialists and scientists know time is short for making the necessary transitions to “prevent catastrophic global warming” and that “small steps will no longer get us where we need to go.” The Manifesto recommends leaping to ‘energy democracy,’ which means changing energy sources and “wherever possible communities should collectively control” these new sources.  Creation of democratically run innovative ownership structures is proposed. This is the alternative to private-profit gouging corporations and bureaucratic state owned companies. The Manifesto tries to place its politics as falling somewhere between 20th Century ‘socialist’ states and the late capitalist regimes of the 21st century.

The Manifesto pushes for change not only on climate change but also on the many ills created by the greed and violence of present day decaying capitalism. The Manifesto does a relatively good job of supplying some of the policy solutions for saving the Earth and most of her species, including our own.

Everyone truly interested in saving the planet would not object to redistributing wealth and transitioning to a green power economy with training and resources for the carbon workers of today.  All of which are vital in order to move into a new clean energy world. Policies such as ecological agriculture, ending global trade deals, the elimination of damaging resource extractions, real justice, protecting all workers, and welcoming refugees would also be popular with the 99%.  Other popular policies, such as expansions to education, childcare, and medical care make sense; likewise, enhancements to the arts, and social programs to build “resilient communities to be as strong as possible in the face of the rocky future we already have locked in” are good proposals.

The Manifesto advocates a “vigorous debate about the introduction of a universal basic annual income.” A good idea, but what about full employment?  Full employment, is a very realistic proposition but not if you want to keep the market economy. The Manifesto, rightly, condemns the capitalists for manufacturing crises to ‘justify’ austerity measures, and their demands for public financial scarcity “in times of unprecedented private wealth.” The manifesto’s solution is for correct policies: tax the rich and the corporations, increase royalties, end fossil fuel subsidies, cut military spending etc. Those of us who want a green economy can hardly be against this!

Now, how shall we get to energy democracy, the green economy?  How will we confront the powerful interests at present controlling everything, twisting democracy, and exploiting the economy?

The Manifesto is clear.  “We call on all those seeking political office to seize this opportunity and embrace the urgent need for transformation.” (Emphasis is the Manifesto’s.) How will we compel these politicians to do the right thing? The answer is so simple! The manifesto states: we will call for town meetings, where residents can “define the leap to the next economy” and “inevitably, this bottom-up revival will lead to a renewal of democracy at every level of government, working swiftly towards a system in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns.” (Again, this is the Manifesto’s own emphasis.) Of course this is tempting, and people tend to look for easy solutions and policies that they think the public will readily accept. This is political expediency and it won’t ever stop climate change or truly change society. (Emphasis ours.)

The tactic of town meetings is a good one, but not as a tool to lobby politicians. The bottom up campaign is also good, but not if it is to be done for any capitalist reform revival.

We need to build a movement that seeks to challenge and overthrow the power that rules over us. Look at the a past capitalistic period where we thought politicians listened, when we did not know that campaign money from lobbyists was the real force that determined politicians policies.

Once upon a time, taxes were more progressive, income disparity between rich and poor was less, etc. There is no way to return to this “kinder fairer capitalism”.  It is not achievable. The world has changed, for the worst, especially with globalization,. We have a much better chance of winning a 21st Century Ecosocialist World than we have of stopping global disaster by promoting the ‘socialist’ systems of the 20th century or by wishing for a ride on a time machine taking us back to any dubious period some might think of as a ‘kinder’ capitalism!

So there we have it. A good document outlining the crisis but very misplaced on the subject of power. All capitalists everywhere and all their minion politicians from all established political electoral parties (excepting at least one socialist party in Quebec) are not going to implement the radical changes contemplated by the Leap Manifesto. The resistance at the recent NDP Federal Convention to the Manifesto has shown that they do not grasp even the “Leap” part.  They refuse to see the urgency of global warming. They are going to discuss the principles of the Manifesto for two years before deciding anything. The Leap Manifesto imperative “time for this great transition is short” is failing to move the NDP quickly.

The Manifesto does not promote system change but rather system reform.

System change means changing to a political and economic way of performing which is for people and the planet - not a for-profit-only world.  We need a system that is ruled by the people - not the rich and their political minions. Changing the Capitalist system from within has never worked. System Change means moving from Capitalism to Ecosocialism.

Ecosocialists defend the right of the Leap supporters to assert their views about how to challenge the status quo – even by attempting reforming capitalism.  Their strategy to confront power and change is unintentionally, we think, on the wrong path. Nevertheless, we as Ecosocialists advocate working with anyone fighting to save the planet from climate change.  As Ecosocialists we speak the truth to the rulers and the ruled.  We pose the question of power: Who can obtain it and who will wield it to effect the absolutely crucial change we all need to survive?

Again, the Leap Manifesto is a good document to generate discussion on climate change and it does include many needed policies for a new society. However it proposes the same old failing strategy for confronting political power.  Reforming capitalism has failed to stop climate change; in fact, constant plans are on the go for more and more destruction. The need to end the profit system is overdue. Join us to fight for a new Green World.