By AJAMU NANGWAYA
dem wi’gi` whey dem talent to di state (they will give away their talent to the state)
an’di black workin’ class andahrate (and underrate the Black working class)
dem wi’ side wid oppressah (they will side with the oppressor)
w’en di goin’ get ruff (when the going gets rough)
side wid aggressah (side with aggressor)
w’en di goin’ get tuff (when the going gets tough)
dem a black petty-booshwah (they are Black petty bourgeois)
dem full of flaw (they are full of flaw)
Linton Kwesi Johnson, Di Black Petty Booshwah
Given the early record of the conservative mayor of Toronto John Tory in standing against issues that are of interests to the African Canadian community, it would not be hard for a casual observer of the African petty bourgeois elements to declare that their self-interested or politically misguided endorsement of candidate Tory has left them with egg on their collective face.
John Tory has long been a major political figure in the Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario. He has served as a leader of the party, advisor to conservative administrations and a reliable supporter of conservative interests.
During the latter stage of the October 2014 municipal election campaign, a seemingly puzzling but revealing display of political bipartisanship was executed by the African petty bourgeois elements in their support for the mayoral candidacy of the “old money” operative John Tory.
These middle-class or middle-income forces from the three mainstream capitalist parties in Canada (Conservative Party, Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party) embraced this “Red Tory” politician with reckless abandon and unfettered enthusiasm.
Mary Anne Chambers, a former cabinet minister and Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) in Ontario registered her support by declaring, “Toronto really does need John Tory to serve as its mayor now!’’
Another former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister, Speaker of the provincial parliament and MPP Alvin Curling explained his unbridled endorsement of his erstwhile political rival: “His conduct was excellent in the House, he was a gentleman and followed the rules accordingly. He made my job a little easier except for the other guys inside there. I found him to be a person who respected decorum of the House and I have a great respect for him.”
Curling praised Tory for his involvement in charitable and civic activities that merely confirm the noblesse oblige expectations of this member of one of Canada’s old establishment families.
Former school board trustee and current Ontario Liberal MPP and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Coteau gave his support to Tory. There just might be some truth to the claim that politics is a maker of strange bedfellows.
In Canada, the New Democratic Party (NDP) is perceived by many as a sort of left-wing party. But in practice it is a pro-capitalist party that essentially peddles the notion of “capitalism with a human face”. Surprisingly, two members of the African petty bourgeoisie who are normally seen as strong advocates of the Afrikan community on anti-African racism and other matters of material import jumped on Tory’s bandwagon.
Zanana Akande, former Ontario NDP cabinet minister and MPP, and past president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations endorsed Tory and chastised people who questioned his anti-racist and working-class positive bona fides:
“Perhaps the most depressing accusation made of Tory is his alleged attachment to a ‘segregationist,’ ‘classist’ and ‘elitist’ world view. For as priority neighbourhood activist Spider Jones said: ‘If John Tory is a racist, I’m the head of the KKK.’”
Akande’s position on Tory’s implied commitment to challenging White supremacy is rather baffling given his denial of the existence of White privilege.
Lennox Farrell, a co-founder of the Black Action Defense Committee and former candidate of the NDP and former Toronto mayoral candidate also lined up behind Tory. Farrell readily concedes that Tory’s politics “may not be the same” as his, but he had faith in the candidate’s “instincts and sensibility”.
Politics is not a faith-based enterprise. We ought to evaluate candidates on objective criteria and not pander to non-rational ways of knowing.
Tory naturally had the expected endorsement of Conservative Party operatives within the African petty bourgeoisie. Audrey Walters, former candidate of the Conservative Party of Canada and vice-president of the Jamaican Canadian Association extolled his endearing qualities: “In my opinion, what I seek for myself as a resident and as one who cares deeply about this country at-large and Toronto specifically, I trust the knowledge, service and leadership that John Tory will provide and I do not expect that he will disappoint.”
Samuel Getachew, a card carrying member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, writer and party activist, wrote a love letter masquerading as a column that peddled his endorsement of Tory.
Getachew had this to say about his political idol: “I have always respected and admired John Tory. He is a decent, passionate, dedicated and exemplary public servant. It is no wonder that he is now the front runner in the mayoralty Toronto race. He is a candidate that is rare and worth supporting. I hope many will.”
The only supreme quality of Tory that was left unexpressed by these endorsers-cum-cheerleaders is his ability to walk on water or raise Bob Marley or Claudia Jones from the realm of the ancestors.
The African petty bourgeois forces used their public status and/or influence in the media to champion Tory’s candidacy. According to Getachew, “Many of Toronto’s black newspapers – Share, Nigerian News, Pride and TZTA – as well as all the major mainstream newspapers endorsed him as well. He essentially became the “Trudeaumania” of 2014.”
Share newspaper is a Toronto-based weekly with the highest circulation within the African and Caribbean community and dubs itself as “Canada’s largest ethnic newspaper.” The newspaper supported Tory’s candidacy and sang his praises: “He has been involved in and supported many causes and initiatives in our community – especially for our youth, mostly in his own quiet way and without fanfare. We don’t see that concern and respect for our community changing if he becomes mayor.”
Royson James, columnist with the Toronto Star clambered onto the Tory bandwagon with a strong endorsement. This member of the African petty bourgeoisie is an admirer of his grande bourgeois counterpart and Tory’s ability to circulate among and give charity to those of us from the ranks of the “unwashed masses”: “Tory was born into a blue-blood family and one of the country’s top law firms. If he was weaned onto a silver spoon, he has learned to pass it around in many charitable pursuits. There are no “airs” with this Tory. He’s as approachable and normal a rich guy as you’ll find.”
Tory has not committed “class suicide” so it is hard for me to imagine how he is relevant to the material interests of the working-class in general and the racialized working-class in particular. We should be primarily preoccupied with the policies being championed by political candidates and not their attractive or seductive personality.
Based on the reaction of some members of the African Canadian petty bourgeoisie to Tory’s recent endorsement of carding by the cops, they might not have done due diligence on the mayor’s actual policy preferences. However, this matter will be taken up in a follow up article.
Ajamu Nangwaya, Ph.D., is an educator, writer and organizer with the Network for the Elimination of Police Violence.