Nobody wanted this election—that is, a Communist ‘nobody,’ subtracted from the Communist ‘everybody’—which is to say, the parties of the ruling class requested it at all of our expense. This election call follows a season of reckoning: with the genocidal toll of Canada’s residential schools, with the existential threat of climate change, with the deadly mismanagement of public health during a global pandemic, and with an economic crisis that threatens us all where we live and work, so long as we are able. Unsurprisingly, the major party platforms reflect little or none of that experience.
This indifference characterizes parliamentary politics for most people today. Clearly these elections are important to someone, as the bourgeois parties attempt to shore their fortunes and form a preferential government. But this reshuffling of the deck tends not to produce drastic, or even perceptible, change in most people’s lives. Popular engagement in party politics seems to break down along cultural lines, where a longstanding and sporting rivalry between Liberal and Conservative franchises stands in for substantial disagreement. Perhaps the Tories have been worse for working people—such is their calling, despite a blue-collar solicitude—but the recent Liberal budget is hardly more kind to the unincorporated.
Against the backdrop of this functional stalemate, the NDP commends itself to the concerned voter as a noble outlier—an untested movement consultancy, spanning the gulf between prudence and principle. This optimism feels simply unfounded from western Canada, where the NDP have governed on and off for decades, presiding over deepening austerity, the expansion of the prison industrial complex, and the invasion of Indigenous territory on behalf of gigantic energy companies. Meanwhile, as the NDP gains in the esteem of democratic socialists, an impolitic far-right jeers from the growing sidelines, where the newly minted and already fetid People’s Party advocates free movement for angry white men, and closed borders for migrants. The centre, it seems, cannot hold for much longer.
None of these options recommend enthusiasm, or even participation. While the best-case scenario this month remains a Liberal minority government, a deep-seated, even strategic, complacency prevails. In many ridings, every ballot line appears already wasted, as an expression of agreement with a system hastening the fate of life on earth. Many people ask us, why vote Communist? Aren’t I throwing my vote away? Conversely, we’d ask such a strategist, what are you doing otherwise?
The Communist Party of Canada is the only anti-capitalist option on the ballot—and for honesty’s sake alone, this is significant. As usual, social democrats have borrowed more than a few proposals from the further left for this election: the nationalization of private care homes, head-to-toe universal healthcare, and a guaranteed livable income for all. Ideally, we’d like to work with them to make these far-reaching reforms a reality in the immediate future. Ultimately, however, even the most humane capitalist parties are obliged to treat these issues discretely, insofar as they are unable to name the causal basis of the miserable conditions that these policies would only ameliorate.
Where every other party is obliged to broker the interests of working class and colonized people to the grand abstraction of ‘The Economy,’ balancing corporate interests with the best of their respective platforms, the Communist Party of Canada can confidently name the profit system that dispossesses all, however differently—of land, of lifetime, of the wealth that we incessantly create.
How can we meaningfully address the climate crisis without locating it historically, as a culmination of capitalism? How can we address endemic unemployment and houselessness except as a necessary output of the capitalist system? How can we place reconciliation on the agenda without land changing hands, on a scale commensurate with Canada itself? We believe that economic and environmental justice are intimately related, and that neither is practicable within the confines of the present system; nor can this justice be served on stolen land. We want to nationalize industry for full employment in a zero emissions economy. We want to tear up the Canadian constitution, as a document of colonial subjugation, in order to embark on a new, voluntary partnership between Indigenous nations and working class people, wherever they come from. This, of course, would only be a start.
As one can plainly see, the distance between the Communist Party of Canada and the next best option on the ballot is immense, and yet a large and sympathetic faction of the NDP appear determined to make this difference out to be one of degree and not kind. While social democrats have laundered many socialist principles to the benefit of the working class, one cannot stand in for the other.
On September 20, don’t let a common sense spectralization of the ballot, read from underdog left to rabid right, tempt you to give way on your conviction. A vote for the Communist Party of Canada is not going to send us to parliament anytime soon, but it will expand the political imaginary of this election—rebalancing the bourgeois ballot for the fight ahead.
Cam Scott is the Communist Party of Canada candidate for Winnipeg South Centre. Follow him on Twitter @CamScottCPC.