If you haven’t heard about the Leap Manifesto yet, and you’re concerned about the future of humanity in the face of myriad challenges, challenges which are corporate, environmental, and white-cis-het-patriarcho-supremacist, then perhaps you could go take a look at it.
(I tried to pick a section to highlight and quote here, but it was all too reasonable and on point. So I’ll wait here while you read it.)
OK. So. A concrete plan for a transformation of the Canadian economy and political system and energy infrastructure and racial relations and worker/capitalist relations, all in the name of making Earth more habitable and life more enjoyable in both the short and long term.
Sounds great, right?
So why in the hell haven’t we been hearing more about this kind of thing from, I don’t know, ANY MAJOR POLITICIAN?
Funny you should ask…
Here’s the thing. We’ve never had any shortage of great ideas in terms of how we should radically transform the world to make it more inclusive, equitable, environmentally sustainable, racially just. Plans to conclusively end poverty once and for all have been kicking around for a century or more. And I’m not saying that these ideas and plans and schemes and manifestos have been ill-informed or poorly designed or unworkable in practice.
It’s just that, well…
Capital doesn’t really care for these plans.
Because by and large they involve a lot of things that Capital flat-out loathes. Worker and consumer control of the means of production. Much higher taxes on the wealthy and on corporate profits. The non-extraction of lucrative resources. The regulation of unregulated industries. The dismantling of cissexist and racist Old Boys’ networks.
For these Capitalists, any policy change which challenges their undisputed supremacy, which erodes their hard fought gains over the past three decades in their fight against workers and the poor and those goddamn radicals who keep insisting that they get their fair share, is on its face unserious, dangerous, and deserving only of the most well-organized scornful opposition.
Take a look, for instance, at Jeremy Corbyn, the recently elected leader of the UK Labour Party.
Labour was once the quote-unquote “Socialist” party of the United Kingdom, the true opposition to Thatcherism. And while Corbyn isn’t that radical, his platform does represent a radical departure from the last three decades of UK government policy, under both Conservative governments (those of Thatcher, John Major, and current PM David Cameron) and “New Labour” Blairite governments (war criminal Tony Blair and his never-elected successor Gordon Brown). All of these governments hewed to the TINA consensus that less state involvement in the economy led to inherently better results, that taxes on the wealthy were inherently bad for everybody, that “a rising tide lifts all boats”, however inappropos the metaphor may have been.
And now here comes this self-proclaimed socialist Corbyn, with plans to renationalize the British rails, to put an end to the pernicious practice of perpetual austerity, to treat poverty as a problem to be resolved rather than a condition which can be blamed on its victims. And in retaliation, the whole of the United Kingdom’s business and media elite is united against the man, and will seemingly stop at nothing to undermine and discredit him.
For having the temerity to challenge the TINA consensus, Corbyn is cast as reckless, irresponsible, a Marx-worshipping weak-wristed “threat to our national security, our economic security and your family’s security.” (That last bit is courtesy UK PM David Cameron.) Corbyn’s election was immediately followed by a veritably parade of party insiders denouncing him, insisting they wouldn’t sit in his shadow cabinet, that they wouldn’t cooperate with his agenda.
So the question needs to be asked. What the hell kind of fate would befall a mainstream Canadian politician who embraced something like this Leap Manifesto?
Would the Globe and Mail, for instance, keep treating them seriously?
Not that I give one single winged fuck what the G&M thinks about literally anything. But some Very Serious Folks do.
In fact, let’s see what the good ol’ Globe had to say about this Manifesto:
Just as Tom Mulcair attempts to convince Canadians that the NDP is a safe, moderate choice in the Oct. 19 election, some of his party’s highest profile supporters are issuing a manifesto calling for a radical restructuring of the country’s economy.
The “leap manifesto,” signed by more than 100 actors, musicians, labour unions, aboriginal leaders, environmentalists and other activists, aims to pressure the next federal government to wean Canada entirely off fossil fuels in as little as 35 years and, in the process, upend the capitalist system on which the economy is based…
The dramatic transformation envisioned in the manifesto is in stark contrast to the pragmatic platform Mulcair is offering: balanced budgets, an openness to free trade deals, sustainable development of Alberta’s oil sands, no tax hikes except for a “slight and graduated” increase in the corporate tax rate.
See, these “radicals” are proposing a “dramatic” restructuring of our economy which will “upend the capitalist system”! Whereas on the other hand Mulcair’s NDP is described variously as “safe”, “moderate”, and “pragmatic” – although that status is presented as being contingent, and potentially undermined by the support of certain rogue elements in the NDP (like, fr’instance, CUPE) for this “radical” “dramatic” manifesto.
There’s a patronizingly indulgent tone to the Globe’s article. But that condescending amusement would quickly turn to hostile belligerence if this Manifesto were to be taken seriously, or embraced by a major party leader.
And not just by the Globe. We would see united opposition from both the media and the business community to such a stance. It’s hard to see how a party running on such a platform could get taken seriously, just as it’s hard to see a way that Corbyn survives as party leader until 2020 and wins the next UK general election.
Which implies, as this whole election has implied, that the path to social and environmental and racial and economic justice, here and abroad, is definitively not through the electoral process. That we can’t make the changes we need by voting in the right party and hoping for the best. That Capital is totally unwilling to cede its dominance over our decision-making and opinion-forming processes.
So I encourage you to sign the Manifesto if it aligns with your values. (I did.) But I also encourage you to not imagine that that action does a damn bit of good for anybody by itself.
Everybody who feels strongly about these issues needs to take direct action to address them, in whatever way you’re able.
And the sooner the better.
We can’t afford to wait for the “right” leader, or the “right” party, to come around.
Otherwise we may wait forever.