The vote at the NDP Montreal convention to remove the word "socialism" from the party's constitution is symbolic in all the wrong ways. It's ironic that at a time when neoliberal policies are on the ropes and capitalism never so vulnerable... they go seeking some nebulous approbation by deleting references to "socialism." It sends completely the wrong message and not unlike Labour in the UK, stinks of catering to the conservative critique.
Sure some have said reassuring things... that removing a constitutional preamble won't change the character of the party. If the party truly believed in its character it would care less about deleting "socialist" and be focused on taking down Harper - but there are a lot of other signs that the NDP is softening its position, not recent developments either.
A lot of people lost respect for the NDP in 2006 when it chose to side with the Conservatives in order to take down the Liberal minority. The move helped pave the way for the Tory curse we seem unable to exorcise. What Canada needs in a third party is a clear choice in the face of the crisis in capitalism. Voters are less persuaded by concessions on language than a show of real character and conviction.
The decision to place cosmetic distance between the party and an honorable word happens at a time when socialism is experiencing a revival of interest. In an article published in Rabble, Rick Salutin cites some interesting data. He notes that the Merriam-Webster online dictionary announced that its most searched words in the last two years were "socialism" and "capitalism" with socialism in the lead.
Salutin also references left-wing scholar Gar Alperovitz:
Gar Alperovitz, from whom I gleaned this info, also cites a Rasmussen poll finding Americans under 30 "almost equally divided" on preferring one or the other; and a Pew poll showing those between 18 and 29 prefer socialism 49-43 per cent. They finally managed to seriously downgrade socialism in the preamble to their constitution just when it might start working for them. It's a pity they didn't keep featuring it; at best it's now a boutique item.
At the Montreal convention, two speakers who talked truth to power with respect to the values and the grassroots energy the NDP should be channeling were Atefa Akbary and Farshad Azadian. Akbary made the great points that the more moderate direction risks cutting the NDP off from mass movements such as the Quebec student movement and youth seeking far reaching change. Azadian said that to oppose the Harper conservatives' corporate agenda effectively the NDP must look to its socialist ideas.
The NDP's apparent belief that tilting in a rightward direction will improve the party's image and electability is tantamount to chasing a deceptive lure. They're softening the image in a quest for electability at a time when people in many western democracies are seeking real alternatives on the left to neoliberal politics of greed and division.