Can the NDP solve working class problems?
Is the NDP a socialist party?
The CCF/NDP is generally misconceived as Canada’s Socialist Party. If it was a Socialist
Party one would assume that the NDP’s goal was social or common ownership and
democratic control of the means of production and distribution, as the solution to
working class problems. Furthermore, most of the measures contained in the Regina
Manifesto, the foundation document of the early Co-operative Commonwealth
Federation, have since been enacted by Liberal, Social Credit and Conservative Party
governments, according to former NDP national leader T.C. Douglas. Despite the
enactment of these measures, society is still divided. The means of life are still owned
and controlled by a small minority of powerful and privileged people. The working class,
the majority of people, who own no means of production and who must serve those who
do, are beset by the same basic problems of insecurity and unhappiness as before. This is
because the condition of being a subservient class does not allow an abundant and full
life, regardless of advanced technology. No fundamental change has taken place.
The process of exploitation
The insecurity and unfulfillment of the majority therefore does not arise from inadequate
‘social services’ or unfair distribution of goods or profits. Government hand-outs are part
of the process of keeping the majority poor but productive, so that profits can accrue to
the owners in society. Wages are exchanged by employers for the productive abilities of
employees, to ensure the renewal of workers’ energies. The employing class reaps
surplus value (rent, interest and profit) above the cost of the workers’ keep (wages).
Poverty is determined by the relationship of wages to the inaccessibility of goods and
services that are available. This is the exploitation process that characterizes world
capitalism, state and private. In the sense of proposing to end the owner vs. non-owner
relationship, therefore ending exploitation and insecurity, the CCF/NDP has never been a
The early CCF proposed state ownership of some industries, misrepresenting this as
social ownership. Ownership of industry by the state is not social ownership, it is a form
of private ownership, the only difference being that the state administers the business for
the owners whose legal documents of possession assume the form of bonds instead of
shares and whose unearned income is expressed as interest in place of dividends. The
exploitation of the propertiless majority by the privileged few continues. When it comes
to profiteering, polluting, and depressing wages and conditions, there is no essential
difference between so-called free enterprise and state run business.
Because the CCF/NDP confuses ‘welfare’ state capitalism with Socialism, it claims to be
‘democratic Socialist’ to distinguish itself from the dictatorial state capitalism of Russia
and China. If Socialist society is not democratic, it will not be Socialism. The words are
What socialism means
As a system, Socialism means that all people own and control the means of life in
common, with free access according to need, to the goods and services that everyone has
produced co-operatively and voluntarily according to ability – a moneyless, wageless,
warless world of individual development. The method to achieve this is political action
by a conscious majority to change the basis of society. This is not the CCF/NDP
In the depths of the 1930s business depression, when the workers had produced greater
‘surpluses’ for their masters than ever before and when warehouses were overloaded with
unsold goods, the Regina Manifesto begged big business through its governments to
invest money to provide jobs. It was private ownership’s priority of production for
sale/profit, not use, that caused the unsaleable ‘surpluses’ in the first place. It was the
capitalist system that put the ownership of goods produced by the workers in the hands of
the minority that monopolized the means of life, and a pro-capitalist ‘labor’ party not
only agreed that this minority retain ownership, but advocated more of the same under
the pretense of Socialism.
Reforms preserve capitalism
In a rare moment of truth, the Winnipeg Free Press of August 1, 1934, exposed the new
CCF Party as being pro-capitalist by noting that “ . . . the CCF calls for nothing else but
repairs to capitalism”, and that “repairing capitalism is the way to prevent Socialism from
Old Age Pensions, Unemployment Insurance, Medicare, Family Allowances, Welfare,
etc. have been proposed and brought in by Conservative or Liberal governments since the
1880s in Europe and Britain and since 1912 in Canada. Consequently, to distinguish the
alleged left-wing from the so-called right-wing parties on the basis of their reform is
impossible. All are committed to capitalism.
CCF/NDP forced to run capitalism
Because the CCF/NDP campaigns for votes for the impossible aim of running the wages,
prices, profit system in favor of the workers, it has no choice but to supervise the
workers’ exploitation when it achieves office. The nature of the system forces it to
function solely for capital expansion. CCF and NDP governments have therefore had to
resort to strike-breaking and wage-reducing legislation, to the consternation of some
elements of the labor unions who support the NDP. It is not surprising that when the
former NDP premiers of Manitoba and B.C. first won elections they announced that their
administrations would be ‘business as usual’. That’s all they had a mandate for. The
breaking of the 1947 box factory strike by the first Saskatchewan CCF government, the
B.C. NDP government’s order forcing 50,000 striking workers back to the treadmill in
1975, and the Saskatchewan NDP government’s act ordering its Power Corporation
employees back to the job in 1975, are examples.
The NDP does not wait until it is in office to protect profits, directly. Its support in the
House of Commons for the Liberal government in legislating back to work railwaymen in
1966 and 1973, longshoremen in 1968 and grainhandlers in 1975, is notable. The NDP
governments of Saskatchewan and Manitoba received a blast from the CLC for co-operating with Trudeau on A.I.B. wage controls. Because of the growing business
recession, and the employing class’s need for fewer workers, the B.C. NDP government
began cutbacks on ‘social’ services before it was defeated, as any right-wing government
would do. After perceiving no major lessening of the pain of living under capitalism run
by social democratic governments, it is inevitable that workers turn back to the ‘old line’
promise makers in their blind search for alleviation.
Leadership and patriotism
Like all the parties of the capitalist spectrum, the CCF/NDP conceals the profit interests
of the owning class behind a fictitious common interest, the national interest, with
erroneous phrases such as ‘our’ dollar, ‘our’ trade and ‘our’ resources. They rely also on
the leadership vs. rank-and-file method, where members follow, because of unawareness
of their working class interest.
CCF/NDP leaders speak to Chambers of Commerce about the business of running
capitalism. Tommy Douglas once ran for election on a combined CCF/Socred platform.
M.J. Coldwell advised CCFers to vote for Diefenbaker once during World War II.
CCF/BDP leaders switch allegiances from the avowed capitalist parties to the alleged
Socialist one, or vice versa.
Gradualism was another ruse used by the early CCF, the idea being to slowly reform
capitalism out of existence. The old attitude of something now and ‘Socialism’ later
persists to a degree but in practice has turned out to be capitalism now and Socialism
THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF CANADA was in existence when the CCF was formed in
1933. It is still here and after the subsequent 45 years of painful worker education is
available to be expanded as an instrument for their emancipation.