A panel event which took place the University of Kings College in Halifax, Canada, on October 9, 2013.
Howard Epstein (outgoing MLA for Halifax Chebucto)
Judy Haiven (Solidarity Halifax, Saint Mary’s University)
Alex Khasnabish (Halifax Radical Imagination Project, Mount Saint Vincent University)
This Nova Scotia election season saw an array of positions on the Left concerning the outcome that might follow from the victory of the NDP. Among them, there were some who openly supported the incumbent Darrell Dexter as the lesser of evils, others who opposed him by casting a vote for another candidate, and still others who followed the abstentionist line by not voting at all. Many of those who voted for the NDP did so under the assumption that the they were a broadly center-left party with vaguely social-democratic tendencies, who might be pushed to reverse neoliberal policies and stave off measures of austerity. Some, while generally less optimistic, endorsed the NDP on the premise that organizing a mass movement against capitalism would be easier with the NDP in power. Others argued that the NDP had done nothing to deserve reelection, offering no hope for either change or progress moving forward. The rest, who took no stance either for or against any party, chose instead to eschew electoral politics altogether.
Now that the election is over we are afforded a brief chance to critically evaluate the prospects for the Nova Scotia Left’s transition into the next term. What is different today from the time of NDP's historic win in 2009, when the election seemed like a departure from the course taken under previous Progressive Conservative and Liberal governments? More recently, how are we to regard the Left's renewed focus on parliamentary politics (not only in Nova Scotia, but also in Quebec) when only a year earlier such politics were often deemed obsolete in light of the extra-parliamentarianism of Idle No More, the Quebec student strike and Occupy? Did the last four years since the election and last two years since the 2011 upsurge that started with the Arab Spring, signal progress or regress for the Left? How would the terrain have shifted for the Left with another term under the NDP vs the Liberals? Will government social programs and infrastructure deteriorate yet further? Or will legislative reforms breathe life back into the moribund welfare state? Should we, in fact, take for granted the idea that keeping the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives out of office promises a better environment in which the Left to organize? What does the future hold for a Left caught in the stale air of the status quo?
A moderated panel discussion and audience Q&A on problems of strategies and tactics on the Left today held on Thursday, 19 January 2012 at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Eric Anatolik (Occupy NS)
Jacques Beaudoin (Parti communiste revolutionnaire - Revolutionary Communist Party, Canada)
Howard Epstein (New Democratic Party MLA Halifax Chebucto)
Max Haiven (Edu-Factory, Historical and Critical Studies NSCAD)
Andony Melathopoulos (Platypus)
The panel was moderated by Pam Nogales.
"After the failure of the 1960s New Left, the underlying despair with regard to the real efficacy of political will, of political agency, in a historical situation of heightened helplessness, became a self-constitution as outsider, as other, rather than an instrument of transformation. Focused on the bureaucratic stasis of the Fordist, late 20th Century world, the Left echoed the destruction of that world by the dynamics of capital: neoliberalism and globalization.
"The idea of a fundamental transformation became bracketed and, instead, was replaced by the more ambiguous notion of 'resistance.' The notion of resistance, however, says little about the nature of that which is being resisted, or of the politics of the resistance involved.
"'Resistance' is rarely based on a reflexive analysis of possibilities for fundamental change that are both generated and suppressed by the dynamic heteronomous order of capital. 'Resistance' is an undialectical category that does not grasp its own conditions of possibility; it fails to grasp the dynamic historical context of capital and its reconstitution of possibilities for both domination and emancipation, of which the 'resisters' do not recognize that that they are a part."
-- Moishe Postone, "History and Helplessness: Mass mobilization and contemporary forms of anticapitalism" (2006)