Communist running in U of T’s riding!
Photo Credit/Zach Morgenstern
MORGENSTERN: So you’ve run multiple times both provincially and federally, correct? Could you talk about what the process of getting involved in a campaign is like?
GARVIE: I started running in 2007…. [I’ve been] in every provincial and federal election since then…. Basically, you ... put up a $1,000 dollar deposit and collect 100 signatures from people that live in the riding. And these are ... bars to try and keep smaller parties out, or independent candidates out…. We think it’s democratic to not have barriers for participating in an election.…
MORGENSTERN: What do you say to those who may strategically vote for bigger parties?
GARVIE: The Harper government has ... [brought lower] wages and living standards, austerity, war, environmental degradation, and ... [t]he Liberal party, on key issues like healthcare, the economy, free trade, even war [and] foreign policy, overlap[s] with the Conservatives…. The NDP under Tom Mulcair and even before has moved … to the right to try and take voters away from the Liberal[s]. On some issues they’re still progressive, such as daycare.… But … they’re for balancing the budget in the time of … a recession, … so there are going to be cuts … under an NDP government…. The Green[s] … [support] free education.... It’s good for the student movement to have a champion, … and they’re also against … any pipelines carrying tar sands oil. But they’re also for … the development of the tar sands.... They’re for market solutions to … environmental and social crises, which is not what we’re for…. Why not vote strategically? … It’s not a long term strategy.…
ALLAN BEST: But couldn’t the party get more votes if it moves closer to the mainstream?
GARVIE: So it depends on how you see politics.... We think that capitalism is not sustainable.… It brings crises, war, environmental degradation.... So if we start trying to be a new social democratic party that’s slightly to the left of the NDP, … we might be able to get elected, but would we really be changing the world fundamentally? … Is the point to change the world or is the point to get elected? Our point is to change the world….
ALLAN BEST: Within your lifetime could the Communist party threaten to win an election?
GARVIE: I certainly hope so—in … almost my parents’ lifetime, … we had MPs and MPPs, but it’s really hard to say.... In 2008 ... you’d ... tell people that capitalism’s going to generate serious economic crises and they’d be like, “Okay, yeah sure, great depression…” But now, especially in Europe, you talk to people and they know that capitalism’s not working for them.…
MORGENSTERN: Do you agree that tar sands oil should largely be kept in the ground?
GARVIE:…[The tar sands is] one of the..biggest polluters...the other parties say that expanding it... is possible under a sustainable model…that’s not what the scientists...are saying…We think [the tar sands] should be phased out and...people in those jobs should be...placed in other fields... [It] poisons indigenous communities in Alberta, trampl[es] indigenous sovereignty across the country with these pipelines, the[re’s the] danger of tanker spills coming..., it’s all bad news… We also need to put energy under entirely public control.
"Is the point to change the world or is the point to get elected? Our point is to change the world."
ALLAN BEST: What’s an issue you can hook people on? Is it hard to sell people on the whole communist package?
GARVIE: Some people are interested in single issues, but our general message for the campaign is “people’s needs, not corporate greed….” There’s a lot of people out there who understand that corporate greed [and] big business are the root of a lot of the problems, [that] they’re the voices that are saying we need to cut back on social services.… Push down wages, get rid of unions, build pipelines, expand the tar sands.… So yeah, if I was talking to people on campus I’d talk more about education, but I think a lot of people understand the corporate greed versus people’s need [philosophy].
ALLAN BEST: This is just a side note, … ”people’s needs, not corporate greed,”… is that supposed to rhyme? Are you going for a jingle and not noticing the plural on one of those -eed words?
GARVIE: I think the answer is yes.
ALLAN BEST: You should talk to head office.… Are there any misconceptions you face? Do people ask about gulags?
GARVIE: Communism’s not the only word that is controversial…. Some people react very negatively to unions, … [and] to feminism. I think we need communism, feminism and unions…. In terms [of] talking ... about the twentieth century, … it doesn’t come up all that often, but it does come up.... We’re not advocating for a return to 1930s U.S.S.R.... That was totally different conditions. This is Canada, an advanced, industrialized country, not a peasant country in the 1930s….
ALLAN BEST: The NDP has pulled back on talking about unions because people tend to react negatively to that. Could that be a communist approach as well?
GARVIE: No.... It’s a fundamental democratic right to belong to a union. It’s a way that we raise living standards for the whole population…. [The NDP] are talking about the interests of the middle class, they’re talking about small business, we’re a working class party. We say that we represent nobody’s interest except the working class…. Middle class in an amorphous … type thing … which is why they use it, by the way....
ALLAN BESTt: Today, is the connection between the communist and feminist movements ... still strong, or is it under-utilized?
GARVIE: [Y]es, the Communist party … stands in solidarity with [feminist] struggles and is often involved in them. For example, ... we’re calling for demands that are reflected in the women’s movement, … like pay equity, … public and free childcare ... [and] cracking down on violence against women…. Could we do more? Absolutely, but, we’re there…. We do have strong feminists in our organization who do work in these areas.…
ALLAN BEST: Do you think that public skepticism about the state on issues like police targeting minorities with drug laws and cardinghurts the communist, pro-state appeal?
GARVIE: When you have a[n] … inequality and then you drop … money into the policing of [marginalized] communities, it's bound to create racism.… [We] offer a solution. Expanding the state in terms of social services, in terms of education [and] in terms of breaking down systemic racism.... But this would reduce the “militarized police,” mistreating people in these communities and dumping them in jail.… There’s a huge pay gap … in terms of racialized workers—especially indigenous workers—in Canada....
MORGENSTERN: If I’m a student, why should I vote for you?
GARVIE: The average [undergraduate] in Canada graduates with $27,000 of debt.... There are no decent paying jobs…. Students getting into universities [tend to come] from higher incomes versus lower incomes.… [W]e’re in favor of getting rid of tuition fees, which would cost between six and seven billion at least for undergrad.... When you consider the military budget is 20 billion ... it's relatively affordable. [We also want to] have debt forgiveness.… We’re also for stopping corporatization of universities. This is seen at U of T with … the Munk Foundation having some control over the curriculum....
ALLAN BEST: I earn a multi-million dollar salary; why would I ever vote Communist?
GARVIE: You wouldn’t, we don't speak for you, and where did you make all your money? You made it off the backs of the people we represent!
MORGENSTERN: [On foreign policy] The Communist Party takes a stance that can be described as anti-nationalist — was Marx right to say ‘the worker has no country’?
GARVIE: Looking at the refugee crisis... you see a tremendous outpouring…[of concern] about people’s lives...Even politician’s justifications for war make the case on humanitarian grounds… “bomb Afghanistan until it becomes a feminist paradise” or something… in terms of Syria and Iraq, [Western leaders] have destroyed a region, and they’re trying to carve it up for the interests of mainly US capital, although Canada has its fingers in there too.
ALLAN BEST: Anything else you want to say?
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GARVIE: Canada needs have clear anti-austerity, anti-war demands to move Canada in a fundamentally different direction. That's going to come from a longer term struggle, it's not going to come from the elections. So yes, vote communist, but also get out there and do what you can!