The Western Socialist
Vol. 20 - No. 171
May-June - 1953
The political buncombe mills are grinding once again into high gear in the province of British Columbia. Another provincial election has been called for June 9, one year subsequent to the previous elections. The minority Social Credit government, with one more seat but less first choice votes than the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, was defeated on March 24, in the ninth week of the first session of the legislature. When viewed against the preposterous Social Credit claims of having saved British Columbia from the "forces of Socialism," that session can be properly described as one of the most farcical in the history of the legislature. Here we had a situation where the alleged forces of Socialism were the strongest the C. C. F. ever mustered in the B. C. house. If the C. C. F. represented Socialism here at least was its best opportunity to declaim with a thunderous voice, the real issues that confront the working class.
To those workers who have some inkling of their class position, the disgusting spectacle of the shop-worn banalities, the political platitudes, fatuous flippancies and tub thumping indulged in by C. C. F. as well as Government supporters, should be a revelation of the falsity of any hopes they may have placed in the C. C. F. All of this vast torrent of words was irrelevant to any exposition of the real material interests of the workers.
An odd angle of the situation was the eagerness of Premier W. A. C. Bennett from the first to goad the opposition, especially the reluctant Liberals, into defeating the government. The Social Crediters, confident of being returned with stronger support were anxious to have this occur before the Federal elections expected in August or October. The theory is presumed to be that a B. C. victory would enhance their chances for their first all-out bid for Federal power.
It is ironical to note that the government was overthrown on a proposed act for a new basis of financing education, and that the greatest furore of the session, with noisy outside reverberations, was caused by a "Socred"* member's denunciation of a school course as immoral. Fantastic charges of Socialist indoctrination of school children were flung about. It is amusing to realize that the course criticized is called "Effective Living," contemptuously dubbed "Effective Loving" by the Minister of Health, Hon. Eric Martin. It is amusing because amid all the hubbub regarding education and effective living neither the Social Credit nor C. C. F. parties, in contention over school education troubled to avail themselves of the opportunity to do some educating of their own; i.e., to inform the electorate as to what Social Credit is and what Socialism really means! Could it be that neither one of these parties understand the theories they claim to represent?
One would think that the application of the theories these two schools of political thought are supposed to encompass would logically be advocated as a real basis for effective living. Or could this lack be interpreted as significant and silent testimony to the acute awareness of each that their appeal for votes and support received were not based on a program for Socialism or monetary reform?
Both parties solicited votes on promises to make Capitalism operate in the interests of the "people," glossing over the embarrassing fact that this convenient term, "the people," encompasses elements of two classes with conflicting economic interests.
The C. C. F. jibes at the failure of the Government to expound their professed monetary theories or to incorporate them in their financing, is another instance of the kettle calling the pot black, in view of their own failure, as usual, to utter one word indicating the need to abolish the wages system. But of course this is only what Socialists would expect from a party which identifies State Capitalism as Socialism.
The silence of the "Funny Money" party regarding the monetary theories they are supposed to hold has led to a local newspaper columnist challenging any member of the Government to accept his freely donated column space for a delineation of the party doctrines. The motive prompting this offer is the reported suspicion that most of the members of the party are as ignorant of the Douglas theory of Social Credit as the voters who supported them. The same criticism can be made with even greater validity in regard to the understanding of Socialism by the overwhelming majority of the C. C. F. and its supporters.
In the desperate bid for working-class support the fraudulent and mutually contradictory claims of the rival candidates should make the nature of the political confidence game more evident to discerning voters. By gathering together some of these contentions we get the following examples :
1. The late Mr. A. R. MacDougall, Conservative candidate in the 1952 elections charged his ten-year Liberal Coalition partners with advocating Socialism.
2. Social Credit charges that the reformist C. C. F. has plans for a Socialist British Columbia.
3. Mr. A. Laing, new leader of the Liberals claims the Social Credit League will bring about a "Socialist State."
4. Mr. Elmore Philpott, although not a candidate, but a supporter of the Liberal Party correctly defines the C. C. F. as a Social Welfare party and insists it is not Socialist and contends that the Saskatchewan C.C.F. Government is the best Liberal government Canada ever had. He pleads for a fusion of the C. C. F. and Liberals.
So we arrive at the amazing paradox that while the "crooshal" issue is supposed to be Free Enterprise versus Socialism, yet all the parties engaged in it are denounced as Socialist, with the exception of the Conservatives. We are now awaiting word of charges of Socialism to be levelled at the Tories by the Social Creditors. And it does seem the new leader of the Tories, Mr. Findlayson is a bit put out at the exclusion since he has lately coyly begged for such a tag by hinting darkly that he was probably what could be called a Socialist in his youth. Furthermore, a surprise move by the Conservative Party will probably give added weight to any anticipated accusations of Tories being tainted with Socialism. While the C. C. F. was storming against the government freeing of controls on milk distribution, the Tory party stole a march on and staggered the C. C. F. by promising free milk distribution to school children. This is a policy that political muddleheads had long associated with "Socialist" programs.
After more than twenty years of "practical politics" the C. C. F. is slow to learn how impractical it is to expect that the traditional parties can not outpromise them when occasions demand it. Getting the jump on the C. C. F. is becoming a habit lately with its opponents and rather trying on C. C. F. nerves, no doubt.
Although both C. C. F. and Social Credit programs called for increased taxation on the powerful mining and logging corporations, Social Credit by forming the government was enabled to implement its promise with C. C. F. voting support in the house. By some obscure reasoning this is supposed to represent a victory for "the people" in this case presumably, the working-class.
Complaints of plankstealing have been almost a constant feature of C. C. F. election campaigns. It never seems to occur to them that such charges are proof of the little there is to distinguish them from other Capitalist parties. Immediately after the 1952 campaign Mr. Harold Winch, C. C. F. provincial leader, complained that the party he accused of a Fascist outlook before the elections, had stolen some C. C. F. planks by adopting some of its procedures, even before the Legislature met.
Incidentally, Mr. Winch, the B. C. leader of the C. C. F., almost since its inception, has now resigned his office. The reason given is ill health, But it is rumored that a partial reason for his action was his annoyance with some internal party criticism. When the Government sought dissolution of the Legislature upon its defeat, Mr. Winch also called on the Lieutenant Governor and offered to form a "caretaker" government to carry on official business with the support of two non-C. C. F. members. Coupled with this bid was the promise not to introduce any controversial legislation during the session. The press reported the rumor that Mr. Winch made his proposition without first seeking authorization from his party.
If this is true the zealous regard for democratic procedures that the C. C. F. claims to cherish and finds lacking in the Social Credit attitude, would appear to be not too fondly embraced by some of its own leaders.
While on the subject of Democracy it should be noted in passing that B. C. electoral representation is heavily weighted in favor of the rural constituencies as opposed to predominantly working-class seats. This situation has been aggravated by the rapidly disproportionate growth of the cities in the past decade. As a self proclaimed champion of Social Democracy which sometimes claims, though falsely, to represent the interests of the working-class some might be forgiven for expecting that here was an issue the C. C. F. would make a great clamor about.. But such was not the case. The C. C. F. has never taken a lead or been very vociferous on such a demand. While paying lip service to the need for electoral redistribution it has adopted rather a subdued tone on this question, being careful not to appear in the forefront of an agitation that might jeopardize farmer votes.
Vote-catching expediencies are also betrayed in the C. C. F. attitude to alternative voting. The C. C. F. is adamant in its demand for the repeal of the Alternative Voting system itself. But although Mr. Harold Winch strongly urged the 1952 C. C. F. Convention to advise C. C. F. voters to plump and mark no other choices, the convention majority would not endorse such a call. By taking this stand the Party no doubt hoped to benefit in this trading of alternative votes, by not antagonizing other party voters and ensuring the loss of their 2nd choice votes to the C. C. F.
The capitalist difficulty in assuaging the growing anxiety that the mounting problems of Capitalism present has engendered the need for unorthodox-appearing political parties. It is the fervent hope of their most influential backers that their capitalist materialist interests will not be so readily discernible through the new disguises. The C. C. F. is an example of such a party. Another of these political freaks is the Social Credit Party. While it stands four-square for Capitalism (although it doesn't use the word), it is difficult to describe in terms of the traditional parties of Capitalism. It is probably the most reactionary party that ever assumed office in B. C. under the guise of reformism. With its parochial outlook, bigoted and narrow-minded attitude and intense nationalistic sentiments it suggests more of a pioneer backwoods than urban attitude to world problems. Indeed its intellectual antecedents can probably be more clearly traced to the "Greenbackers" and "Know Nothing" agrarian movements of the U. S. and Canadian middle west of the last century..
The tirades against the "International Bankers" by those of the Party like the Hon. Eric Martin, who cling to its old shibboleths is reminiscent of Hitler's fulminations on the same theme. Although Mr. Martin omits reference to the Jews, Social Credit propaganda has not been free, especially elsewhere in Canada, from sly insinuations on Jewry's associations with an alleged Bankers' conspiracy.
By attributing the cause of social problems to the nature of financial operations it is calculated to dupe the workers into looking elsewhere than to the capitalist ownership of the means of production.
For the rise of this bible-punching brigade of hypocritical demagogues the C. C. F. must assume a fair share of credit. For twenty years it propagated reformistic fallacies including monetary reforms as a solution to the social problems Capitalism gives rise to. Is it any wonder that the voters it failed to educate for Socialism (because it largely lacked that understanding itself) turned to a party that appeared to offer even more enticing reforms, many of them former C. C.F. voters themselves. And the thousands of C. C. F. voters who gave their second choice votes to Social Credit and thus voted it into office only gives added emphasis to the political bankruptcy of reformism.
The howls of protest and predictions of blue ruin for industry that greeted the imposition of the heavier taxation on the primary industries was reduced to a low grumble when the new Federal budget brought down soon after revealed tax reductions that largely compensated for the provincial increase.
A section of the Liberal press which bitterly opposed Social Credit last year is now solidly backing the Social Credit League as the only hope for "stable government." Mr. Bennett is boasting that his party is spurning promises, since the usual fate of political promises is to be speedily forgotten. This is an admission that Social Credit promises can be as little relied upon. Perhaps the memory of the Social Credit swindle in Alberta regarding the failure to pay the promised "social dividends" is still fresh in his memory.
Be that as it may the "Funny Money" boys who are past masters of all the political tricks are imbued with the childish hope of avoiding the odium that is increasingly being associated with the word "politician" simply calling themselves a league instead and are engaged in sedulously trying to cultivate the impression they represent a vast "people's movement."
The fact that a political party in this day and age can make its major appeal for support on the need for "good government"; "stable government"; "economy with efficiency"; reduction in public debt, which it already claims to have achieved, is an indication of the contempt it holds for working class intelligence. The promises of government debt reduction and no borrowing is a strange appeal to a class the interests of which such policies are not designed to serve. But of course behind all this, without committing itself unmistakeably, it contrives to leave the vague impression that when Federal control is obtained their money magic will be revealed and paradise will be taken by storm for the "people."
When one considers the cabinet which the Social Credit party assembled perhaps Socred sensitivity to the word "politician" can be better appreciated. It is without doubt one of the most oddly assorted and prize gangs of political opportunists ever assembled in a B. C. government. Its leader, Premier Bennett himself, was a member of the Conservative Party, for the leadership of which he struggled unsuccessfully for years, as was likewise Education Minister Mrs. Tilly Ralston. Both were M.L.A.'s in the Tory-Liberal coalition but jumped ship when it was foundering and joined the Social Credit party later when it looked like a winner. Attorney General Robert Bonner campaigned for the Tories during the election and was given the Cabinet post immediately following it. The Minister of Finance, Mr. Einar Gunderson was a former member of the Liberal Party who presumably also knew which way to jump.
The Liberals and Tory parties still badly shaken by their political shellacking have junked old leaders for new and with new promises but the same old hogwash now appear in new penitent poses and while publicly repudiating their "old gangs" plead for a chance to show how regenerated their parties are.
Such are the highlights of a campaign that some sardonic humorists must have depicted as "the most crucial in the history of B. C." As if to meet the challenge of such an epic event the C. C. F. has (with a new leader too) once again revived nationalization emphasis and has extended the scope of industries it proposes to bring under government ownership, including forests. In these proposals the C. C. F. is giving recognition to the gathering indications that another economic depression is on its way. But in advocating nationalization the C. C. F. is merely adapting its program to the trends and needs of Capitalism's historical development.
So goes the farce of "the most crucial election in B. C. history," a campaign in which, as formerly, the real interests of the working class are not even discussed. Unfortunately, rather than Socialism being an issue in this campaign the support for Socialism is so meagre that the Socialist Party of Canada lacks the necessary funds to finance a campaign. Therefore it is not placing a candidate in the field in this election, as it did in the previous one. But we urge the workers to consider that a vote for any candidate in this election is a vote for Capitalism. Those who support Capitalism with their votes must be prepared to suffer the effects that the system engenders.
As long as Capitalism prevails, in a state organized form or otherwise, the position of the working class will be one of servitude to a ruling class, for the convenience of which they will exist as mere instruments of profit by means of unpaid labor. The wages system is the mechanism and symbol of its slavery and the social ownership of the means of production is the means of its emancipation. That emancipation is the workers' own job. It is up to you to build a Socialist movement strong enough to place candidates in the field for the purpose of working class conquest of political power.
*"Socred" is a nickname current here for Social Credit.