fbpx
Connect with us

Opinion

WAGNER: The prominent Toronto political scientist who called Communism ‘democratic’

As it turns out, some members of Canada’s Left have a fairly positive view of communism.

mm

Published

on

Some commentators have noted the silence of Canada’s Left in the face of anti-government protests in Cuba. Why the reluctance to condemn a communist dictatorship?

Well, as it turns out, some members of Canada’s Left have a fairly positive view of communism. One such prominent Canadian leftist was C.B. Macpherson (1911-1987), an internationally-renowned political scientist who taught political theory at the University of Toronto. Among other things, he was especially known for his critiques of capitalism and individualism.

Interestingly, Macpherson also defended Soviet Communism as genuine democracy in action. This can be seen in a series of CBC radio messages he delivered in 1965 that were subsequently published as a book entitled The Real World of Democracy. These lectures argued there were three forms of government that could be legitimately called democracies: the liberal democracies of the West, the Soviet bloc countries, and the one-party states of the Third World. 

As Macpherson put it, “democracy is not properly to be equated with our unique Western liberal-democracy.” Instead, “the clearly non-liberal systems which prevail in the Soviet countries, and the somewhat different non-liberal systems of most of the underdeveloped countries of Asia and Africa, have a genuine historical claim to the title democracy.”

Macpherson explained the meaning of democracy has undergone some change over time. It hasn’t always referred to the kind of constitutional system common in the Western countries: “Democracy originally meant rule by the common people, the plebeians. It was very much a class affair: it meant the sway of the lowest and largest class.” Thus, Macpherson argued Soviet Communism and other one-party states can legitimately be called democracies, based on this definition. That is, he used this conception of “democracy” to describe some of the world’s most brutal and repressive regimes. 

Karl Marx’s proposed “dictatorship of the proletariat” was an expression of genuine democracy in Macpherson’s view. He noted many people would find it outrageous to consider the dictatorship of the proletariat to be a form of democracy. “But,” he wrote, “to call it democracy was not outrageous at all: it was simply to use the word in its original and then normal sense.”

Macpherson’s analysis gets even worse. Lenin extended Marx’s theory by arguing a revolution would need to be undertaken by a relatively small group of class-conscious people he called the vanguard, which is to say, the Communist Party. 

From the Communist perspective, since the vast majority of people in any society are debased by the structures of capitalism, they cannot be trusted to participate in political decision-making. To allow their participation would just perpetuate the problems of the old, capitalist society. Only the vanguard could bring about the necessary reforms. As Macpherson explains: “Lenin, building on Marx, came out for a seizure of power by a vanguard who would forcibly transform the basic relations of society in such a way that the people would become undebased and capable of a fully human existence, at which point compulsive government would no longer be needed.” 

In Macpherson’s view, this rule of the vanguard to “forcibly transform” society is democracy in action, despite the fact that it involves politically motivated executions and concentration camps. Democracy, it seems, becomes indistinguishable from dictatorship.

Macpherson evokes what he calls the “broader concept of democracy” to legitimize the Marxist-Leninist state: “Wherever the circumstances are such that no motion towards this kind of society is possible except through the action of a vanguard, then the vanguard state, so long as it remains true to its purpose, may be called democratic.” Thus, in his view, an outright communist state can be legitimately called a democracy. Many of the most brutal, bloodthirsty, and repressive regimes in the 20th Century were democracies in this sense. Who knew?

Using a similar line of argumentation, the one-party dictatorships of the Third World can also be justified as democracies. Invoking Rousseau, Macpherson wrote one-party states can be legitimately called democracies because “there is in these countries a general will, which can express itself through, and probably only through, a single party.” As a result, “opposition to the dominant party appears to be, and sometimes actually is, destructive of the chances of nationhood. In such circumstances opposition appears as treason against the nation.” Thus, a one-party state, where opposition to the ruling party is punished as “treason,” can be a legitimate form of democracy. (Don’t tell Justin Trudeau.)

Macpherson was an internationally known and respected political scientist. The views he expressed were not the rantings of a black-clad activist running wild in the streets. Some elements of the intellectual Left truly believe that a Marxist-Leninist state (or any other Left-wing single-party state) is a genuine democracy. Despite the inescapably violent and murderous nature of communism, some Canadian leftists view it favourably. 

The lessons of the 20th Century have not been learned. Ideas that inspired inhuman tyranny – what C.B. Macpherson happily calls the “broader concept of democracy” – seem to be making a comeback.

Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard

Michael Wagner is a Senior Alberta Columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include 'Alberta: Separatism Then and Now' and 'True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.' mwagner@westernstandardonline.com

Continue Reading
4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Left Coast

    August 1, 2021 at 9:53 am

    Karl Marx was not an upstanding citizen . . .

    “From 1850 to 1864 Marx lived in material misery and spiritual pain. His funds were gone, and except on one occasion he could not bring himself to seek paid employment. In March 1850 he and his wife and four small children were evicted and their belongings seized. Several of his children died—including a son Guido, “a sacrifice to bourgeois misery,” and a daughter Franziska, for whom his wife rushed about frantically trying to borrow money for a coffin. For six years the family lived in two small rooms in Soho, often subsisting on bread and potatoes. The children learned to lie to the creditors: “Mr. Marx ain’t upstairs.” Once he had to escape them by fleeing to Manchester. His wife suffered breakdowns.

    During all these years Engels loyally contributed to Marx’s financial support. The sums were not large at first, for Engels was only a clerk in the firm of Ermen and Engels at Manchester. Later, however, in 1864, when he became a partner, his subventions were generous. Marx was proud of Engels’s friendship and would tolerate no criticism of him. Bequests from the relatives of Marx’s wife and from Marx’s friend Wilhelm Wolff also helped to alleviate their economic distress.”

    https://www.britannica.com/biography/Karl-Marx/Early-years-in-London

  2. Left Coast

    August 1, 2021 at 9:37 am

    You pretty much nailed it Stephen . . .

    Had a friend who went to Russia as a tourist in the mid 80s, he said the stores were mostly empty and the folks lined up for staples like milk, bread & meat.
    But being he was a Tourist he was allowed to go to the “Party” Store . . . which resembled a store in the Western democracies, well stocked for the Party Members.

    In the mid 80s Ted Turner owner of CNN was touring the Soviet Union sending news clips back to his network announcing how great things were in the USSSR, just a few years before the whole thing collapsed.

    Macpherson was ahead of his time . . . today Profs. with similar mindsets are COMMON . . . most Universities today have many of them . . . these fools are of course living the Marxist Dream of “TENURE” where they can’t be fired and Undergrads do most of their work.

    Today we are dealing with the indoctrination of our Children by School Boards & Teachers Unions pushing CRT . . . ““Critical race theory is an offshoot of critical theory, the brainchild of the Frankfurt School, a group of 20th-century Marxists associated with the Institute for Social Research. (Fun fact: the founder of the Institute for Social Research wanted it to be named the Institut fur Marxismus, which translates to the “Institute for Marxism.” That name was scrapped for fear it would alienate the public.)”

  3. Steven

    July 31, 2021 at 5:18 pm

    I was a cold war soldier in the 1980’s before the Berlin Wall fell. I spent sometime in West Germany & the tension was very high. Ask the people living under Communism how free they are. State Controlled Media, no freedom of mobility, no freedom to chose & on & on. Canada has a State Controlled Media, the CBC. Is the CBC representative of Canada’s left & right political establishments? Not as long as I have lived in Canada. The CBC has always represented the political left in Canada.

    There are two types of classes in Communist world. The Party that’s in control & then the masses who suffer under those in control. The Chinese Communist Party as an example; Cuba as another.

    These sick jerks in Canada who think Communism is ideal would be part of the ruling class, not part of the masses who live under Communism. It’s pathetic how the lefty rich & elites see themselves as savior’s of the masses while they themselves live lives of lavish luxury & others make do. Justin Trudeau as an example.

    Globalism is the new Communism, remember that folks when the globalists at the United Nations pass their agendas.

  4. Andrew Red Deer

    July 31, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    If he wasn’t dead I would ask him how democratic all the people shot trying to cross the Berlin Wall is, or those escaping Cuba and drowning in the attempt or those in Csechoslovakia in 1968 or Hungary in 1956 or or or or . So many we cannot count them. And now its here in Canada, thanks to the “democratic” liberal party. When are you leaving? Can you leave??? Is the government going to let you leave….. Are you going to get shot trying to cross the border soon??

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Opinion

McCAFFREY: Don’t let Calgary ruin the region

Central planning doesn’t work and the current government should reverse this mistake as soon as possible by abolishing the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board and allowing municipalities to return to cooperating on a voluntary basis.

Published

on

The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) was created in 2015 by the NDP government to control planning and development for the entirety of the Calgary region. 

Since then, this unelected body has been working on creating a new growth plan for the region that contains some of the most radical changes to development and planning rules ever proposed in Alberta.

With the enactment of this growth plan, the CMRB is set to become what will effectively be a fourth level of government for citizens of the Calgary region and will allow Calgary to export its bad policies across all the other municipalities of the region.

Yet barely anyone in the Calgary region has even heard of the board.

How is it possible a new level of government could be introduced without anyone noticing?

Well, in part, that’s thanks to a very deliberate effort by the former NDP government, and the board itself, to keep the powers and potential wide-ranging influence of the board as below the radar as possible for as long as possible.

The board, at least according to its designers, is simply meant to help manage planning and development issues, in order to help manage the significant population growth that the Calgary region is expected to experience in the coming decades.

Make no mistake about it, though, the CMRB and its growth plan do much more than this.

The entire growth plan is based on the philosophy that a small group of people, in this case, bureaucrats and city planners—particularly in Calgary—can do a better job planning and managing population and employment growth than the free market can.

The central planners believe the challenges of growth are better addressed by forcing the municipalities in the Calgary region to cooperate rather than compete to provide these services and facilities.

Rather than merely permitting cooperation between municipalities as claimed, however, the creation of the CMRB and the implementation of the growth plan actually forces Calgary and the surrounding municipalities to cooperate on many issues, even when this goes against the wishes of the municipalities and their residents.

Requiring municipalities to cooperate even if they believe it’s against their and their residents’ interests to do so is bound to lead to less fair and less equitable outcomes for the whole of the Calgary region.

Even worse, the forced co-operation doesn’t go both ways.

Despite claims the board is based on cooperation, the 10-member municipalities are being forced to participate in the organization, they cannot leave, and the voting system of the board effectively gives a veto to the Calgary on every issue.

In effect, this puts Calgary politicians and bureaucrats in charge of planning and development for the entire region, as without Calgary’s approval, no plan or development can go ahead.

This is no accident, the board was very deliberately created to do exactly this.

For years, Calgary has pursued bad public policies that have increased rules, regulations, red tape, and taxes on businesses and residents of Calgary.

The situation has become so dire that now many businesses and residents are leaving Calgary entirely and setting up their operations and family lives outside of the city in one of the many surrounding municipalities, where regulations and taxes are lighter.

Essentially, Calgary has become noncompetitive with other municipalities in the region, but planners in Calgary don’t see this as a problem, rather they see it as an opportunity.

But Calgary didn’t want to fix the problem by cutting red tape, getting taxes and spending under control, and working to become competitive again.

Rather, the city lobbied the provincial government to help them out by giving Calgary the power to impose the same high levels of regulations across the entire region—essentially killing off the competition.

It was perhaps not surprising that the former NDP government was willing to give Calgary this power, as the NDP government do not understand or believe in the benefits of free market competition to begin with.

But the current Alberta government has repeatedly stated its core focus is on reducing red tape and unleashing Alberta’s economy. They have put significant effort into achieving this goal in many other policy areas.

Yet, when it comes to regional planning they have, so far at least, permitted the exact opposite to continue.

Rather than reducing red tape and regulation to get the Calgary region’s economy going, in almost every policy area the growth plan goes in completely the other direction and essentially centralizes planning decisions for the entire region.

All types of development—single family houses, row houses, apartments, shopping malls, retail stores, manufacturing, warehouses, agricultural services, and more—will now have to be approved not only by the local municipality but also by an unelected board dominated by Calgary.

Thrown out the window is any concept of the free market, individual choice, property rights, competition and, frankly, basic economics.

This dramatic centralization will impose a series of significant direct and indirect costs on the economy of the Calgary region, none of which are considered by the CMRB in its growth plan.

These costs include the millions of dollars spent creating and operating what is effectively a fourth level of government, the significant costs to Calgary businesses, residents, and the economy as a result of this extra bureaucracy, the dramatic costs that would be incurred by projects being reduced, relocated, or cancelled under the growth plan, as well as indirect and intangible costs.

The plan also runs roughshod over local democracy in the member municipalities, and over the property rights of the residents of those municipalities.

What, exactly, is the point of electing a local council in your district or town, if planning and development rules—until now one of the most important tasks of a local government—will now be controlled centrally by an unelected board?

Worse yet, this move from voluntary cooperation to forced cooperation will not solve the very problems the CMRB and the growth plan were designed to fix.

The end result of a growth plan that replaces voluntary cooperation and competition with forced collaboration will be higher taxes and higher fees, more regulation and red tape, increased housing and infrastructure costs, less efficient delivery of utilities and services, and worse environmental outcomes for the entire region.

There are far better ways to accommodate future population growth in the Calgary region than via a top-down, centrally controlled regional growth plan that violates the values that made Alberta what it is today: individual freedom, personal choice, fiscal responsibility, property rights, and a free market built on competition rather than government diktat.

The proposed growth plan would block billions of dollars of investment, redirect billions more out of the Calgary region, and cost tens of thousands of jobs. This is the exact opposite of what the Calgary region needs right now.

The CMRB, and the requirement for them to create a growth plan to control development in the region, were an ideological creation of the former provincial government, based on the idea that top-down central planning is the best way to run an economy.

Central planning doesn’t work and the current government should reverse this mistake as soon as possible by abolishing the CMRB and allowing municipalities to return to cooperating on a voluntary basis.

Peter McCaffrey is the President of the Alberta Institute, an independent, libertarian-minded, public policy think tank that aims to advance personal freedom and choice in Alberta.

The Alberta Institute has prepared an academic research paper outlining the history of regional planning in the Calgary Region, and looking at the implications of the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board on jobs, investment and democracy for Alberta.

Continue Reading

Opinion

Krahnicle’s Cartoon: September 17, 2021

mm

Published

on

Continue Reading

Opinion

MORGAN: It’s time for Kenney to resign

“I say this regretfully, but it’s time for Jason Kenney to resign as premier of Alberta and as the leader of the United Conservative Party. I wish things had ended differently.”

mm

Published

on

Premier Jason Kenney gambled and lost.

His move to declare Alberta as being permanently open for business was a hail-Mary pass for a beleaguered government and it has failed in the worst possible way.

Alberta is in the midst of a health care crisis, deaths are on the rise and we are entering a new period of mandatory vaccine passports, lockdowns, and other restrictions.

I say this regretfully, but it’s time for Jason Kenney to resign as premier of Alberta and as the leader of the United Conservative Party.

I had the highest of hopes for Kenney. I was enthusiastic as he won multiple leadership races and merged the previously intransigent Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties. I was thrilled when Rachel Notley’s NDP government was trounced in the general election. I thought we’d be looking forward to some steady, competent, conservative governance for at least a couple of election cycles.

I was wrong. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Love him or hate him, Jason Kenney is undeniably one of the brightest and hardest working politicians in Canada. He worked his way from advocacy into elected office and then became a respected cabinet minister in a number of portfolios. It appears Kenney met his match when it comes to the party and provincial leadership. He has managed to alienate both the left and the right within the province and I don’t see how he can recover from this.

Kenney’s leadership woes were already appearing well before the COVID-19 pandemic appeared on the scene. The shotgun marriage of the Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservatives was showing cracks as caucus infighting began to smolder. The pandemic crisis exacerbated the issue and Kenney is now heading up a deeply divided caucus with multiple members having been tossed out of the party or disciplined. This inability to manage his own caucus has shaken the confidence Albertans had in Kenney to manage the province.

The Kenney government has been noteworthy for setting high targets and then failing to move toward them. The Fair Deal panel appeared to be an act of deferral, rather than an exercise to build a stronger, more independent province.

Kenney refused to take strong actions against Ottawa despite the open hostility shown to Alberta by the Trudeau government. This has fed the theory Kenney is using Alberta as a stepping stone towards pursuing a federal run. We can safely say Kenney’s federal career is finished at this point.

It seems that everything Kenney has touches turns to scheiße. The energy “war room” has turned into a running joke and with long and constant delays on its launch. The Allen Report examining groups that attack Alberta’s energy sector has been a waste of time. Energy producers seeking a sense of confidence in Alberta have been left disappointed.

In picking a battle with Alberta’s doctors and nurses, Kenney has drawn fire from all sides of the political spectrum. While there certainly is room to reexamine the agreements with health care providers, it has to be done carefully and with strong leadership. The UCP has appeared ham-handed and virtually leaderless on the issue.

The Kenney government has become election fodder used to hammer the O’Toole Conservatives on the federal front. The UCP looks so inept and unpopular that Trudeau is using it to attack O’Toole, and O’Toole hides from any association with Kenney.

Politicians are by nature self-interested beings. Caucus members within the UCP are surely weighing their options as the Kenney government continues to crash and burn in public opinion. With less than two years to go before the next provincial election comes, they know the window for getting rid of Kenney is closing quickly. The only hope the UCP has of winning the next election is to get a new leader and show some sign of new direction, and soon.

Rumblings from caucus are soon going to become a roar.

There are two options for the UCP right now. They can keep Kenney into the next election and most likely hand Rachel Notley a second NDP term, or they can get on with finding a new leader and reconnecting with Albertans. The UCP now is simply too wildly unpopular to regain the trust of the electorate under Kenney’s leadership.

I still respect Jason Kenney and appreciate what he did on the federal front, along with his efforts to unite conservatives in Alberta. I would like to see Kenney retain what dignity he can by resigning for the sake of Alberta and his party. It would hurt his pride, but it still would be a better end to a political career than being kicked out by his own caucus, or by the electorate in a general election. His “best summer ever” strategy failed and it’s time to face the music.

I wish things had ended differently.

Cory Morgan is the Alberta Political Columnist for the Western Standard and Host of the Cory Morgan Show

Continue Reading

Recent Posts

Recent Comments

Share

Petition: No Media Bailouts

We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

343 signatures

No Media Bailouts

The fourth estate is critical to a functioning democracy in holding the government to account. An objective media can't maintain editorial integrity when it accepts money from a government we expect it to be critical of.

We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

**your signature**



The Western Standard will never accept government bailout money. By becoming a Western Standard member, you are supporting government bailout-free and proudly western media that is on your side. With your support, we can give Westerners a voice that doesn\'t need taxpayers money.

Share this with your friends:

Trending

Copyright © Western Standard New Media Corp.