Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A New Focus

Earlier today, I quit the NDP.

Now, this has nothing to do with the NDP per se, but with politics, parties and government in general. I am most certainly not leaving to join the Liberals, the Conservatives, the Greens or any other party. These last few months I have utterly and profoundly lost all faith that working in government and via the state can affect any real positive changes in society. Indeed, I see that it can have the exact opposite effect.

Liberals lie to get in power and stay in power. Conservatives do the same. For all its good intentions, the NDP seem to have lost its direct active and cooperative heritage and is trying to play the other parties on their terms instead of its own. I think my frustration showed through quite obviously in my last post.

No, from now on I will concentrate only on non-governmental organizations, direct action and community organizations. I now honestly believe that the only way to affect change is at the personal, local level, between individuals who want to change and take control themselves, instead of taking orders from others or relying on their 'good intentions.'

Does that mean I am no longer a 'lefty' or 'progressive'? Of course I am. I still believe that every person has dignity and is free to do anything or live anyway, so long as it causes no harm or infringes on the freedom and dignity of anyone else. I will simply have a new and different focus, a focus that does not include using the state. I will look for solutions that do not require multi-billion dollar programs or circus debates in parliament, but that small, decentralized groups of like-minded people or groups of people can do. I will look for solutions that fight corporate power, not feed it.

What do these changes make me? A left libertarian. An anarchist. Whatever other label you wish. Apart from no longer accepting the state, I hold the same principles I always have. I merely wish to work for them in a different way. I'll still post my opinions on the politics of the day as I always have, but I certainly will not be partisan about it - I don't have a dog in that fight anymore.

I will leave it to my blogging friends to decide if that's something they can live with. I genuinely like and respect everyone as I always have, if that makes a difference.

I will leave it to Rob as to whether I will still be welcome in the Blogging Dippers.

Any questions?

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25 Comments:

At 12:23 AM, Blogger Robert McClelland said...

I will leave it to Rob as to whether I will still be welcome in the Blogging Dippers.

If a lack of party membership status had any bearing on membership in the Blogging Dippers I'd have to throw myself out.

 
At 1:00 AM, Blogger Josh Gould said...

Well, if you haven't already read it, I recommend The Dispossessed - a very thoughtful book. And I look forward to continuing to read about your thoughts in the future!

Just watch those propertarian pseudo-libertarians who think power and coercive structures emanate only from the State. ;-)

 
At 1:02 AM, Blogger Cliff said...

Hey Mike, obviously I knew you were headed in this direction and I respect the decision.

I'm sticking with the NDP and party politics for now. I've been less than impressed with some of the people I've been encountering lately who identify themselves as Anarchists - you know exactly who I'm talking about - but that isn't the reason. I still think there's a potential to achive something of value in the NDP, I want to be a voice against any swing to Blairite style New Labour authoritarianism - we can all see the potential for it - and I think there's a major pendulum swing to the left coming in North America and an NDP controlled by it's membership has the potential to take real, effective advantage of it.

I still think that local, one to one direct action can be expressed and amplified through a political party structure, but I can understand current Canadian politics engendering cynicism about that.

Drop me a line - my e-mail is in my profile.

 
At 2:14 AM, Blogger Ken Chapman said...

Hey Mike - your actions to go "a-party" but not apolitical actually justs make you a citizen. We have lots of partisans and could use a few more good citizens. Good on ya!

 
At 4:58 AM, Blogger jaycurrie said...

Welcome to the happy ranks of the politically homeless.

As a right libertarian I commend the move. We will not agree on much save the utter paucity of legitimate, honest, politics in Canada.

Direct action can and does work. Certainly better than the endless tactical compromise entailed in political parties as they are presently constructed.

 
At 7:52 AM, Blogger leftdog said...

Mike,
I have always believed that a person does not have to attend church to be a true believer.

Likewise with politics, I think that some people, myself included, tend to be so undisciplined politically that the framework and structure that a party can provide, helps me to focus.

You are an old lefty and that clearly is NOT going to change. You are cleary a progressive thinker, and that is not going to change.

The key here is how you are going to focus the 'activist' aspect of left thinking and membership in a party is not necessary where self motivation exists.

Cool.

 
At 8:51 AM, Blogger James Bow said...

Best of luck! It should be an interesting journey, and I'm looking forward to reading about it.

 
At 9:02 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Robert,

Thanks. I knew Eugene was still listed for the same reason, but I wanted to be sure.

Josh,

Added to the pile. Thanks. And don't worry, the corporation is the bastard child of the state and must be destroyed with it. Feel better?

;-)

Cliff,

Yeah, I know who you mean. Actually, I was lurking around a few sites, making comments before that and never came across that kind of hostility. Mind you, at 22, all full of piss and vinegar, I might have gone off too. I'll drop you a line later today.

Ken,

Thanks. I've been wrestling over this for quite a while now, some of it obvious in my blog, most of it not. It was quite liberating, if you'll pardon the pun, to just let it out.

jay,

Where do I pick up the hat and the harmonica? ;-)

I think we might have a greed on quite a bit more than you think, even before I "jumped ship". And thanks for your post over at BBG...it was nice to see a discussion on this going, since I clearly had no clue (although in my personal situation, with well over $50 k in RRSP limit room, I just might be able to pull it off, if only for a few years...)

leftdog,

Thanks buddy, I appreciate the sentiment. The most trepidation I had about doing this was that people who liked what I wrote and thought I was insightful, would forget all that and drop me like a hot potato because I was now 'teh anarchist!!!!OMG!!!'

Thanks all.

 
At 9:03 AM, Blogger Mike said...

James,

Indeed it was an interesting journey. Perhaps I'll do a series on what did it for me.

I guess I won't be doing the hotstove anymore, eh?

 
At 9:27 AM, Blogger James Bow said...

I'd still do a Hotstove. It's not just about partisanship, after all. It's about people.

I generally agree with you on the benefits of working locally, and on the frustrations of Liberal and Conservative inaction. However, my particular interest these days is in getting reinvestment in municipal infrastructure, and increasing the availability of public transportation in our cities. This has pulled my political interest away from the federal government towards the provincial level where the responsibility lies. And I'm unsure how we can get the hundreds of millions, if not billions, required to implement these priorities without relying on big(ger) governments. The marketplace said its piece on public transportation decades ago and finds no value in it.

 
At 10:01 AM, Blogger Mike said...

James,

Well I'd be more than willing to do the hotstove, I just wonder if Staples will have me. I mean, you are normally the guy who represents the "no party" position, I wouldn't want to step on your toes.

Plus I'm could not in good conscience represent the NDP in anyway, so we might end up with very stacked panels in either the left or right direction (even more so than lately) since Greg won't get more than 4 involved.

As for you public transportation issue, well, perhaps I'll do a little research and post my new take on that. But I do see your point.

 
At 11:25 AM, Anonymous jeff said...

Interesting, Mike. 2 points to consider:

1. One may be anti-government if they wish, but I think they've got to be able to show why the job the government does could be better done in other ways. For example: How does a layman know better than the police force how to best protect me? How does a layman know better than economists how to run the economy? How would disaster relief be coordinated without a government?

2.For those who might maintain that any kind of legal system is unneccesary, how would you deal with Manson, Hitler, Stalin, etc? Reply: People could collectively defend themselves against an isolated attacker. Unfortunately, this fails to recognise the (all too apparent) problem in getting groups to coordinate and stand up for themselves.

There are other inherent problems with anarchism but these two are the main ones.

 
At 1:27 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Jeff,

Well I may do some more in depth posts on it some time, for now I think you need to get straight what "anarchism" means. Check out this series of videos (yes, I sent them to Ian).

Anarchy is not chaos, but highly decentralized, mostly non-hierarchical, voluntary associations of individuals. Free to join, free leave. Anything is allowed, so long as you do not harm or violate the freedom of others.

So if you wanted local government like we have now, well you could. But it would be voluntary, as would the taxes and fees that support it.

So, I'll address your questions with questions of my own. I'll try to make some posts with greater details later, but for now, these are just to get you to think about things a bit differently:

1. How exactly do the police "protect you" now? My general experience has been for them to show up after the fact and take your details. If you are lucky they solve the crime, after the fact. Anyway, why do the police need to be agents of the state? Also, economists don't run the economy, you and I do, by selling, buying, bartering and trading. We create wealth, not economists. There was economies long before there were economists. Disaster relief, like during Katrina? Need I say more on the effectiveness of the state there.

2. There is plenty of stuff out there on how this can be achieved, reasonably. I think a post on this subject in the future would help.

Again, just things to consider. You have some good questions (I had these as well early on) and at some point I will make some posts in an effort to answer these.

In the mean time, check out the video to get a better understanding of what anarchism really is.

 
At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Deanna said...

Mike,

Does this mean that you will no longer choose to vote?

Just curious.

 
At 7:55 PM, Blogger Mike said...

deanna,

I choose not to vote now. But never say never, there may be times when I choose to do so, if I see value in it. But that will be the exception, not the rule.

I figure I can be more effective via direct action, rather than voting.

Of course, I may go through the act of voting and spoil my ballot in creative ways in order to express my lack of consent.

 
At 9:45 PM, Blogger Herbinator said...

Far be it for me to argue with you. A single voice can make a difference ... we just aren't recognized for it. Keep speaking, as a voice amongst the many. You always have your vote ... and a vote amongst options, to boot.

 
At 12:26 AM, Blogger Declan said...

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I disagree with your stance. I personally find the idea of world without police, courts, socialized healthcare, public education, sewage treatment, garbage collection,the internet, etc. etc. etc. pretty unappealing, and I am strongly convinced that the vast majority of these things would not (have) happen(ed) in the absence of government.

I also think generally that trying to fight for progressive causes while ignoring the role of government is like fighting with both of your hands tied behind your back.

Of course, there is huge diversity of actions one can take and things that one can do for progressive causes and naturally there are lots of these which do not involve government so of course as a practical matter there is plenty of room and need for those pushing for progressive causes in ways that do not involve government.

On the topic of voting I am skeptical about how much you can achieve with direct action during the 20 minutes or so every few years that it takes to vote. Why not do both? I also think that not voting is one of the strongest actions in support of elite power and the status quo that one can make - even more so than voting Liberal or Conservative. If everyone stopped voting this would lead to dictatorship, not communitarianism, in my opinion.

Anyway, it should be interesting. Good luck with everything. I look forward to seeing your case for how the benefits of government can be achieved without government. I'd like to believe it is possible, but as I say, I'm very skeptical.

Oh, one final note, the police need to be agents of the state so that you don't have rival police forces (which would then likely become known as 'militias' or 'gangs') battling for control of a given area. On the other hand, I do think we could get by just fine without economists...

 
At 8:11 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Declan,

Yep, not surprising. Rest assured, I did not come to this lightly.

"I personally find the idea of world without police, courts, socialized healthcare, public education, sewage treatment, garbage collection,the internet, etc. etc. etc. pretty unappealing, and I am strongly convinced that the vast majority of these things would not (have) happen(ed) in the absence of government."

Well, I guess I will have to do some posts on how I think this could now work. Think about a highly decentralized setup, where these things are delivered at a much smaller scale than they are now. Some of this stuff worked quite well in CNT controlled Spain, before Franco took over (except the internet, of course). But I guess I'll have to dig in and explain in another post.

As for voting, what good has my 20 minutes done? We get name calling, smears and outright manipulation of the system whether I vote of not. I am merely advocating cutting out the middle-man and working directly to solve the problem, rather than let highly-paid politicians study, argue, and use an issue to callously try to gain power for power's sake, and get around to creating an ineffective, more expensive program 3 years later. I am merely choosing not to play that game anymore.

I didn't expect anyone to jump up and agree with me. I too was skeptical and slowly, after reading, researching and a lot of thinking and soul searching, came to my conclusions. Its wasn't done lightly nor on a whim. If you haven't already, check out the "Anarchism in America" video series I recommended to Jeff, if only to better understand where I am now coming from - its not really all that different than it was before.

I also know we live in a real world where the state is intertwined with us - I'm not about to advocate utopian ideas if they require a revolution or massive natural disaster to work. I will advocate baby steps that empower people.

And for what its worth, I am not just against the state - our modern corporations are just as bad, if not worse.

 
At 9:15 AM, Blogger James Bow said...

I've been wondering a long time about this myself, and I can't help but wonder if we've just gotten too big. Perhaps in our future, we're looking at much smaller countries gathered together in loose economic federations. I mean, I've written a lot about the need for Toronto to have, essentially, provincial powers in order to manage its regional growth. I've talked about the idea of making Toronto Canada's 11th province. There may be other places in Canada where this approach would work, like Vancouver or Montreal, or even Calgary and Edmonton. A provincial legislature in your home town might be powerful enough to address your problems, and more responsive than a government in Ottawa.

I'm going to be doing a post on this.

 
At 10:44 AM, Blogger Mike said...

James,

Ironically, it was Jane Jacobs suggesting this very thing in "The Dark Age Ahead" that got me curious about this kind of decentralization. If you remember my "1,2,3, Magic" post fro over a year ago, I suggested something similar way back then.

Really, I think its the word "anarchism" that has everybody spooked. My ideas really aren't that different than before, just how to implement has changed somewhat.

 
At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Deanna said...

You wouldn't even vote municipally? Isn't that local enough?

This is kinda funny to me, actually - since I went from anarchist to federalist over a process of about 20 years.

 
At 12:14 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Deanna,

Well local is more likely, but it would really depend on the situation. Here in Ottawa, the local government can be worse than other levels.

I'd love to hear your story going in the opposite direction from mine. Drop me line sometime.

 
At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Deanna said...

Well, if you don't mind me posting the short version, here it is:

Time. Even the most politically active people, anarchist or no, still have to hold down jobs, pay the rent/mortgage, other bills, spend time with the family, and so on and so forth. You just can't be self-sufficient (especially in an urban area!) without delegating some of the responsibility to someone else. That list of Declan's about all the things government gives you - well, it's true. "You pays your money, you gets your services".

By all means, act locally. Go green, run food banks, write letters to papers, rally other people, come up with community-based solutions. I do all those things as much as I can. But in the end I had to delegate. You will have to expect other people to pick up the slack - and even if you're a super-marvel of efficiency and can do a lot in a little time - most people aren't. Or they're more passionate about some other issue. And some can't be bothered. Have you heard the radio dj's who whine about recycling? "Why should I have to expend my personal effort to sort my garbage. That's gross." (Those guys really piss me off.)

Anyway, that's when I began to see government in a new light. It's all very well to say "Act Locally" - and I still do. But each of those little locales need to communicate. They need highway, rail, or other transport systems. They need goods moved from one place to another. Businesses (especially large ones) need stable regulations and standards. People need electricity and health care and support services. Is a community of 500 or 10,000 or 500,000 able to put in their own hydroelectric dam or nuclear power plant? (Do we want our neighbours to run a nuclear power plant if their idea of dealing with nuclear waste is to dump it over beyond their community boundary?) Do we just ignore other communities if they have a disaster? Should we go back to the days where corporations can set up company towns and if you want a job you follow their rules and shop at their stores? Who would stop them, if people are desperate enough to work for them?

I kept coming back to the supply of services, laws and regulations, paying for services, etc, and I couldn't see a way around it. You'd have to set up a "government" of some kind - elected representatives or volunteers or whatever - to deal with all the things that the community's citizens delegated, to communicate with other communties, and so on and so on. Organization (and to a certain degree, specialization) is efficient. Now I admit, organization from the bottom up is much more attractive than organization from the top down. But as a practical idealist (I really, really like IP's blog name) I could not envision a way to make this work short of an apocalyptic scenario that isolated communities where people worked together to rebuild their societies and link up with the outside. And everything was all sunshine and flowers and no strong guy with some advantage decided to seize territory and create his own kingdom. Yeah. And that doesn't even take into consideration the number of people who would have to die in the apocalypse. So, morbid daydreams aside, there only seemed one way to provide services, enforce laws and regulations, and pay for everything - and that was through an organization popularly known as "government". And once I acknowledged that, and my desire for all people to have access to the same high level of important services and to stop corporate and individual "bad guys" from off-loading their "externalities" on someone else well, a federal government became necessary to oversee everything. And that's how I ended up an NDP supporter. They don't have decades of government baggage and they essentially support the sorts of things I support - publically owned utilties; efficient, effective, cost-effective services (especially health, education, social safety net) provided to everyone; recognition that the "free" market is not a magical, utopic, faeryland place; might does not make right; human rights are for everyone and not just select, special people; and so on and so forth. So now I work locally, but I also work federally by providing feedback to the NDP (well, other parties too, to be honest), and sending them my hard-earned money. (Total aside - this year I received a real live thank you call for my donation. I don't know if the federal NDP hired someone to do nothing but make phone calls, but damn, it really was nice to feel appreciated. They didn't ask for more money, they just said thanks and talked about their plans, and answered any questions I could think of one the spot. That beats the "thanks for your donation will you give us more" letters hands down. aannnd back on topic ->)

To be honest, it's the provincial governments that I would currently abolish. I feel they are a completely un-necessary level of government. We need organization at municipal/regional to deal with local issues and we need organization at the federal level to handle standards, laws, and regulations as well as national and international issues. Not to mention single payer insurance. ;) Sometimes municipalities/regions would have to communicate (perhaps monthly or quarterly meetings!) but they don't need a provincial government to get in the way.

 
At 8:26 PM, Blogger DazzlinDino said...

Welcome to the ranks of the disenfranchised Mikey......

 
At 3:05 AM, Blogger John Murney said...

Count me in, Mike. I began 2007 without a membership in any political party, and for now, I plan to keep it that way.

 

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