Working class politics after the NDP

Sam Gindin and Michael Hurley
NDP dead end cartoon

The issue that we can't ignore this Labour Day is the disorientation in our movement's politics. List the issues working people are most concerned about today – whether deindustrialization, unemployment and underemployment; access to healthcare, childcare and pensions; poverty, racism, conditions of foreign workers and appalling levels of overall inequality; the environment, transit costs and transit services; another corporate-friendly trade agreement that is insensitive to workers and communities; or the horror of Gaza – and two things especially stand out. First, how fundamental the actions of the Canadian state are to what is most important to us. Second, how distressingly unable we have been to influence those actions.

This speaks to the limits of capitalist democracy, but it also highlights the profound failure of our movement's politics. For a good many years labour has farmed its politics out to the New Democratic Party (NDP). When members asked what the union was doing to ease the latest attack on the working class, the quick reply was often ‘wait for the next election’ and vote NDP. For some this was a matter of unquestioned principle and solidarity. It was also a convenient answer for leaders either stumped by what else might be done, or uncomfortable with – even fearful of – the implications of broader working class engagement.