The Goal Must Be Revolution — Not Reform

A Toronto Star article states, “It goes without saying that our next mayor should have integrity, be law-abiding and set a good example to our children. We also need an effective consensus builder and administrator. We need a mayor whom police will want to work with rather than tail.”

Au contraire. It does not go without saying that a city needs a mayor. This corporate media piece hinges on the presumption that the capitalism-steered state is the nadiral political societal paradigm. However, the reality is that the present paradigm is an abysmal failure, except for the 1%-ers.

The piece presumes that people require a leader and that leadership be entrusted to one person. It belies the aphorism that “two heads are better than one.” In other words, a few of us are leaders and the rest of us are relegated to being followers. This is the folly of representational democracy. First, it is not democracy; this is demonstrated by the fact that the masses are allowed to participate only insofar as voting on who the decision-makers will be every few years; the people have very limited input into making the decisions. And there are no legal constraints on a politician adhering to pledges and promises made during an election to the people they supposedly represent; thus representational democracy is a farce.

The writer asserts, “Our city is on the cusp of profound changes and we need a mayor with the vision and capacity to lead.”

I am completely unconcerned whether a mayor smokes hash or the other tabloid blather surrounding Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Within the present political paradigm, insofar as leaders are elected to make decisions for the constituents, then it is the quality of those decisions that matter. In other words, I’d rather have a crack-smoking mayor who improves the quality of life for citizens, especially toward eliminating homelessness and providing decent-paying jobs than a prim and proper church/synagogue/mosque/temple-going mayor who cuts services, cuts jobs, and preponderantly looks after the affairs of the business elitists. Unfortunately, Rob Ford was a loser on all these counts.

The Toronto Star article states, “We created wealth through large corporations and built our city around the automobile. Our urban form separated where we work (downtown), live (the suburbs) and shop (the malls).”

Who is the “we” the writer refers to? Of course the workers created all the wealth, but the writer, I submit has it backwards. Large corporations created wealth through manipulating labor — “us.” That our cities were built around the automobile is the doing of capitalists.1

“We fretted as to whether our number of theatre productions, art galleries, good restaurants and professional sports teams made us world-class.”

Again “we.” The basis of the article, however, is congruent with the viewpoint of the petit bourgeoisie and 1%-ers. When Toronto was bidding for the 2008 Summer Olympics, a dissident group, Bread Not Circuses, captured the minds of many Torontonians and the so-called world-class Olympics received the message and failed to materialize in Hogtown.

The writer, adjunct professor Don Tapscott, analyzed Toronto’s political scape in the light of the hullabaloo surrounding the mayor Rob Ford, who was caught on video smoking crack cocaine. Tapscott proffered some ideas worth giving due consideration, such as “… to reinvent our local infrastructure and institutions as more collaborative and participatory, powerful and effective — to create a prosperous, sustainable, vibrant and open city,” “to move from the industrial model of teachers lecturing students and move to a more student-focused model in which educators exploit digital technologies and engage with small work groups,” and “to transform our clinician-focused health care to one where citizens take a more active role in promoting good health.” These changes all sound very reasonable, prudent, and an improvement over the status quo.

Tapscott also addressed prosperity: “In the industrial age, traditional corporations created wealth… Entrepreneurs are the key to prosperity and employment… We need to nurture our homegrown entrepreneurs and attract new entrepreneurs from afar.”

First, workers create the wealth; corporations just skim most of the profits. The ideas that entrepreneurs bring to the table are welcomed, as are the ideas that workers bring. Workers are the key to prosperity and are quite capable of managing the workplace in an egalitarian fashion without management/entrepreneurs.2

The professor addressed Open Government and an Open Toronto, calling for a “need to open up by releasing data to the world. … [I]t’s a change in the division of labour in society about how we create services and public value overall.”

The professor called for Turning Public Safety Inside Out: “Innovative cities now have more connected law enforcement agencies that involve citizens in creating a safer community.”

Turn inside-out or eliminate the police?3 As it stands the protection Torontonians need is from the police.4

His Rethinking Transportation envisions combining “autonomous vehicles with new incentives for ride-sharing to exploit excess capacity in cars, along with low-emission vehicles, and we could have a “virtual” public transportation system for the entire city — with almost no cost to government.”

Fifth, Creating a Sustainable City: “Digital technologies can help us move to networked models of air and water management.” Also, “smart buildings and wired communities, where for example every new condo project and office tower has a telepresence centre for global telecommuting.”

Hopefully no city will rush madly to the forefront of the digital frontier without due consideration to the potential health impacts of, for example, Wifi,5 cell towers,6 and the ubiquitous cell phones,7

Tapscott’s Transforming Social Services to “kickstart social development and justice” sounds fine.

The professor foresees Reinventing Local Democracy using current technology to move from the current “top-down democracy” to direct democracy. Again, I submit that Tapscott is very loose with what connotes genuine democracy.

Tapscott is, in essence, calling for reforms to politics within the capitalist system. It is not revolutionary, and while it may for a while lessen social inequality, it will not eliminate the poverty, homelessness, and despair felt and experienced by too many people. The system is destructive to the most vulnerable in society, and the system needs to be replaced, not reformed. Capitalism is not geared to allocating resources for the good of the wider society; the competition-based system is geared to being taken advantage of by a sociopathic minority, and while reforms might ameliorate the economic disparities for a while, the very nature of the beast will see it pulling back toward extreme laissez faire (despite the illusions of some economists, in a moment of intellectual fragility, when they posit an invisible hand).

Reforms that tinker with capitalism, prolong classism, and immiseration of many people. The system is anathema, and it is time to lay the basis and push for a genuine revolution.

  1. See Bianca Mugyenyi and Yves Engler, Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism (RED Publishing and Fernwood Publishing, 2011. Review. []
  2. See Peter Gelderoos, Anarchy Works (San Francisco: Ardent Press, 2010): 64-69. []
  3. Peter Gelderoos, 114-123. []
  4. See “Toronto G-20: Will Police be Held Accountable After Scathing Ombudsman’s Report?” TRNN, 23 January 2011. []
  5. 34 Scientific Studies Showing Adverse Health Effects From Wi-Fi,” Activist Post, 30 October 2013. []
  6. Lloyd Burrell, “New study links over 7,000 cancer deaths to cell phone tower radiation exposures,” Natural News, 22 June 2013. []
  7. Cell Phones & Wi-Fi―Are Children, Fetuses and Fertility at Risk?” Marion Institute, 3 Ocotober 2013. []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.