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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

A Green-NDP merger makes perfect sense...but not for the left

Any clearheaded analysis makes it obvious that for a real anti-capitalist, left movement a Green-NDP merger is irrelevant.

As is inevitable every couple of years or so talk has turned lately to the idea of a merger or alliance between the Canadian Greens and the New Democratic Party. This is coming in the wake of the victory of Annamie Paul as new Green Party leader and the surprisingly strong showing of ecosocialist candidate Dimitri Lascaris.

There was considerable talk of this in bourgeois magazines like Maclean's prior to the 2019 election as well.

One would suspect that the likelihood of Paul endorsing this move, just as she has taken the helm of a party that has seen what some might regard as remarkable growth over the last few years, is very, very low. That anyone around her in the leadership clique, including former leader Elizabeth May, would also endorse it seems farfetched at best.

Nor is there any reason at all to suspect that Jagmeet Singh and the NDP are interested in such a project. Why would they be? They have far more seats in parliament than the Greens and any actual merger would weaken the "power" of the caucus and party insiders. Their goal will be to try to push back the gains of the Greens wherever possible, even if this means losing seats for both to Liberals and Conservatives.

An electoral alliance would be less of an obstacle in theory, but in practice it would benefit the NDP significantly more, though ironically their constant siege mentality would probably make them incapable of seeing this in the same way they were utterly incapable of seeing that "strategic voting" would benefit them in 2015 until the point that it didn't.

Interestingly the big push for an alliance is coming from the left now. Both Lascaris and ecosoclalist Green leadership candidate Meryam Haddad have endorsed the idea in principle. Haddad got only 5.63% of the vote, but Lascaris ended up at 45.47% which makes his backing of it somewhat odd.

That the two parties of the "progressive" wing of neo-liberal politics that are marginally to the "left" of the Liberals should merge or form an electoral alliance makes perfect sense, though not at all for leftist reasons. Despite the furious denials of their partisans and the posturing of their leaders, there is little, in reality, that separates the two ideologically. They have quite different internal party cultures, and they certainly play at despising each other, but the sad and rather anti-environmental, right wing, colonialist NDP-Green government that was in British Columbia shows they can work just fine together when push comes to power or no power.

Were they to merge they might represent a formidable force in the fatuous and facile realm they both troll within already. There would be a convergence in the "just to the left" of the Liberals parliamentary squawking and before you know it there might be even more pantomime style negotiations for minor concessions from those actually in charge.

From a left point-of-view such a merger could conceivably open space for a new party to try to build on growing anti-capitalist, environmentalist and ecosocialist sentiments.

But there is no way in which such a merger or alliance would benefit the anti-capitalist left in-and-of-itself. That notion is, frankly, bizarre.

Due to the profoundly more democratic internal culture of the Green Party, Lascaris almost pulled off a staggering leftist upset. His 45% of the vote is even higher than the high water mark of the NDP's left, which came nearly 50 years ago when James Laxer took 37% on the Waffle banner.

This is remarkable given that his campaign was avowedly leftist in economic, social and foreign policy and was one of the more leftist campaigns for the leadership of a party with parliamentary representation in decades.

This makes his alliance talk unexpected given that during his campaign he, correctly, stated:

“Does it really make sense for us to be competing with the NDP, who have now moved the centre, and the Liberals?” he said. “We’re going to fight with them on their own ground? That is not a winning electoral strategy.”
Lascaris said the NDP has abandoned socialism, which presents a “tremendous opportunity” for the Greens.

How would an alliance between these two forces, then, be a "winning electoral strategy" and if the NDP has "abandoned socialism" -- which it has -- why would one want it?

Lascaris did far better than Niki Ashton in her left run for the NDP leadership in 2017 (she got 17% of the vote) which is rather telling.

After 50 years of various folks and apologists insisting that the NDP was the vehicle for leftist change and that the left could seize the reigns, it was in the Green Party that this came somewhat close to happening.

Of course, the personality driven Lascaris campaign would have hit a wall of internal party and caucus resistance every bit as harsh as what happened to Jeremy Corbyn had it succeeded. It is unlikely that there would not have been a spilt within the Greens of some kind.

Having said that, Lascaris would never have even been allowed to run for the NDP leadership in the first place. His views on Israel alone would have made that a certainty and if anyone doubts that recall that the entire reason that Paul Manly ended up running for the Greens and becoming an MP was due to the NDP disqualifying his candidacy in 2015 precisely due to comments he made around this issue.

There is no chance of a left victory within the NDP as the deck is rigged. Ashton is part of the party's family compact and caucus, but an insurgent campaign is a fantasy. Any leftists seeing Lascaris' Green Party run as somehow a signal that something similar would be possible in the NDP or in an NDP-Green merger are, frankly, delusional.

Quite the opposite is the case.

It is also quite likely that the Greens will now slam the door on such a campaign in future. With a newly minted centrist leader they have, presumably, years to do so and it seems probable that next time around, in a decade or so, no one remotely akin to Lascaris will be allowed so close to the controls.

Returning to the push by some on the left for a merger or alliance, this is a striking reflection of the Canadian left's weakness. The conclusion that a Green - NDP fusion of some type would help the left in either party, or more broadly, makes no sense at all.

In fact, a merger, despite their likely opposition to it, would aid the establishments of both parties and would end up less democratic for the Greens involved. It would see an entrenchment of the NDP as the senior partner and would ensure the kind of centralization and anti-democratic "screening" in favour of pablum politics and imperialist narratives that are the norm there. Such a transformation is undoubtedly coming for the Greens internally anyway. A merger or alliance would simply accelerate or help this along.

50 years after the Waffle a lone wolf, maverick campaign in the Green Party came closer than any other similar attempt trying to turn a mainstream party left. While Lascaris and his organizers deserve kudos for a valiant effort, after the NDP's close call with the Waffle -- and the purges and changes to prevent it happening again -- decades have passed with no similar internal threat. Decades are likely to pass within the Greens as well.

Any clearheaded analysis makes it obvious that for a real anti-capitalist, left movement a Green-NDP merger is irrelevant. A new leftist party is what is needed. Anything else is a distraction and a waste of yet more time that could be more constructively spent building mass alliances and formations outside of decrepit and dead end detours that have squandered countless opportunities on futile and Quixotic fantasies.


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