Introduction: They get elected, we get evicted: Going beyond the inoffensive reforms of progressive parties and the politics of the professional managerial class
AAD position on the 2018 municipal elections in British Columbia
The 2018 municipal elections in British Columbia are significant in two ways: one, they are dominated by “the housing crisis,” a term that refers both to the frustrations of members of the professional managerial class who feel entitled to owning a detached house with a fenced yard, and also to the sprawling crisis of life-threatening homelessness. And two, upon the field of “the housing crisis” an array of new political parties and politicians has emerged, each claiming to offer the reform that will solve this crisis of the day.
Of course, there is nothing new about politicians making promises. But following the enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, a new energy for electoral politics has arisen amongst people on the political left. Purporting a “political revolution,” this revitalized electoral progressivism has been especially energetic at the municipal level, where the model of Kshama Sawant’s election in Seattle is held up as proof that “democratic socialists” can get elected to office. But what they can actually accomplish once they are in City Hall has yet to be shown.
Alliance Against Displacement is not endorsing any political parties or politicians in British Columbia’s 2018 municipal elections. In some cases, we are supporting the slogans that politicians have taken from our movements – like in Burnaby where the mayoral candidate Mike Hurley has adopted a watered-down version of the Stop Demovictions Burnaby demand for a moratorium on demovictions. But we are not enthusiastic about the progressive turn to the ballot box for two reasons:
First, because the only policy reforms that are possible (and these parties are limiting themselves to what they imagine is possible) are inoffensive reforms that slightly improve the administration of capitalism and colonial power at the municipal level without improving life in any meaningful way for our people. These inoffensive reforms have no benefits and all the negative aspects of reformist politics because they adjust the appearance of state power, smoothing relations with the false promise that the system can be made fair with legalistic tinkering.
Second, because politics is happening in the streets, not in City Hall. An important political and economic contradiction in western Canada is that the decades-long turn towards financial investment and speculation has brought incredible wealth for some, and incredible disposability for others. A vast professional-managerial class has grown up to serve the well-heeled investors – both by serving them their luxury goods and by managing the disposable working class and Indigenous poor. In this context, where the majority of the working class is disposable, the politics of City Hall have shrunk to an extremely narrow field of possibility. Political advances can be made, but only by jamming the gears of legalistic possibility, refusing the logic of disposability and the rule of property. Where new political openings emerge, it is because working class and Indigenous people have broken open the corridors of business-as-usual through mass and illegal activities. The electoral circus can only follow politics made in the street – whether the far right populism of the anti-homeless, anti-immigrant, and anti-Chinese mob, or the collective survival struggles of communities organizing against capitalism and colonialism.
In this statement, we develop our critique of the electoral politics of the right and progressive politicians in British Columbia’s 2018 municipal election. We focus on some of the communities where we are organizing in collective survival struggles, but we think these observations and analysis are relevant to communities throughout BC, and to the phenomenon of electoral progressivism more broadly.
Read the full statement here, or browse through the sections below:
Part 1: Free market fundamentalism / Progressives compete on a narrow political field
Part 2: Chasing moral panic votes
Part 3: Inoffensive reforms for the servants of the Professional-Managerial Class
Part 4: Shining Vancouver’s Reconciliation Brand / City Versus Country
Part 5: Being an offensive opposition