Left/Right Concept Outdated
Peace and Environment News: November, 2009
It’s time to forget the archaic left-right conception of political ideology. This simplistic paradigm does a disservice to the complexity of modern society. These oft-abused labels have long been employed as lazy pejoratives by those disinclined or incapable of actually critiquing their opponent’s argument on factual merit. It is much easier to say, “ Oh, he’s a loony lefty or a rigid right-winger.” I must challenge the tired thinking supporting this practice. A recent Ottawa Citizen editorial is a case in point. While discussing the Obama Noble Peace Prize, the editors mention the opinion of two writers, “…left-leaning U.S. journalist George Packer…” and Ottawa Citizen columnist David Warren, whose political leanings are open to speculation. Is it really necessary for the editorialists to label George packer as left leaning? Perhaps David Warren is right leaning, or front-leaning or maybe sideways leaning? A person’s thinking can only be judged on its intrinsic merit. They snidely insinuate that even a lefty like Packer occaisionally sees reason. While this is clever business, it betrays the principles of rationale discourse.
Left/right dualism also leads to careless generalizations that often go unchallenged. Case in point: Citizen columnist Dan Gardner deviates from his usual precision in a 2008 column on racism and the flimsy evidence people use to support their opinions about this social scourge. Ironically, he starts his column with a vague generalization about opinions on racism from the left and right. He writes,” Those who accept the claim [that racism is worsening] uncritically will be from the left of the political spectrum. Those who dismiss it out of hand will be from the right.” Who are these left/right people he mentions so confidentially? No names are mentioned. He then decries the fact that, “No one will bother to actually look at the evidence offered in support of the claim.” I would like some evidence about Mr. Gardner’s assumptions regarding the so-called left and right’s beliefs about racism. For now I will give him the benefit of the doubt that such evidence exists.
Broad public misconceptions exist regarding the terms deployed to define the workings of our society. These errors are largely rooted in the paranoia and fear of the Cold War era. There is much confusion regarding terms like communism, socialism, capitalism and democracy. Capitalism is an economic system as is communism. It is not a political system, although many people, especially Americans, think it is. Nowadays, most so-called democratic nations have adopted a practical blend of socialist and market practices. Switzerland is a prime example.
What Canadians currently endure is a marketing democracy where we get to switch managers every four years or so. The main task of these information managers is to isolate themselves from the electorate so they can serve the interests of concentrated economic power while pretending to represent working Canadians. Under this system, elected MPs are punished for independent action and parliament is controlled largely by appointed operatives in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) whose main goal is the consolidation and perpetuation of power. Such developments are facilitated by public apathy and misunderstanding about the true nature of our society.
A functional marketing democracy requires broad acceptance of the popular mythology concerning the disciplined purity of the so-called free market. We live under an economic system of state capitalism where concentrated economic power (transnational corporations) receives generous subsidies and tax breaks while working people are subject to the hypocrisy of “tough market discipline.” Witness the events of the last year if you doubt the truth of my claim. Under state capitalism, the key players rotate between elite government posts and top jobs with organizations like the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE). For example, the current CEO is former Chretien cabinet minister John Manley. This secretive and extremely powerful body enjoys exceptional access to serving cabinet ministers and the PMO. The CCCE has been called a shadow government and its role in state capitalism is an integral part of marketing democracy.
The Canadian political spectrum is currently more homogeneous than at any previous point in history. Close examination reveals little difference in the policies of the federal NDP and Liberals. For that matter the federal Liberals and Conservatives have been largely interchangeable over the last 20 years. Paul Martin’s slaying of the deficit also inflicted a grievous wound to the social programs vital to his Liberal legacy. Is Stephen Harper still a “ fiscal conservative” when he runs up a huge Keynesian deficit? Words like conservative and liberal are just sales pitches, designed to appeal to voters’ emotions. These salesmen will do and say anything to attain and maintain power. That sounds totalitarian to me and the excuse of expediency will not suffice.