The Western Socialist
Vol. 37 - No. 277
No. 5, 1970
A neighbor came over the other day from across the street with the news that he had accomplished a feat of no mean significance. He had discovered the cause of the leak in his garden hose.
The hose had leaked intermittently for twenty years. Each time he had wrapped more friction tape around it, until the hose became unmanageable. He was compelled to disconnect it from the tap, and discovered that he had not put a washer in it when he hooked it up. He speculated that his wife had said something to him at the precise moment twenty years before when he first attached the hose and he had forgotten to insert the washer.
Unavoidably a parallel came into view with this neighbor and his garden hose on the one hand and the wasted years of the social democratic parties like the New Democratic Party of Canada on the other. They persist in evading any mental confrontation with the social causes of the problems that are the chief reason for their existence. The 1970 leadership convention of the Saskatchewan section of Canada's ostensible reform party provided further evidence of the bankruptcy of ideas in these organizations.
Thirty-seven years ago, the Socialist Party of Canada pointed out the anti-Socialist nature of the NDP (known then as the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation), by referring particularly to the first paragraph of that party's Regina Manifesto, a paragraph which, to the politically uninformed, sounded more socialistic than any other part of its inaugural statement. Mainly because it emphasized "the supplying of human needs and not the making of profits." but it included "exchange" in its vision of a better society, along with the promise of better wages and doles. Exchange is necessary for the realization of the surplus values that the owners of capital exploit from the labor time of the working public. The difference between what the workers get in wages and what they produce is the surplus value which includes the unearned income of the tiny minority that owns and controls the means of production. These things are economic pillars of capitalism; recognized as such since the days of Marx and Engels.
In the October, 1933 issue of The Western Socialist, Canada's only real Socialist Party also drew attention to the CCF's promise of ". . . compensation to the present owners." (As NDP Premier Ed Schreyer of Manitoba has just compensated the insurance firms of that province preparatory to the setting up of a government-operated auto insurance scheme. And as the conservative-oriented Social Credit government of British Columbia did when it nationalized the hydro system and the ferries.) The capitalist class retains ownership. They merely need a change of wording to explain their effortless and copious income, interest in place of dividends.
Socialism basically involves a working understanding of capitalism. Socialists in Canada during the depths of the depression knew that capitalism had developed the productive apparatus to a stage at which more goods and services had been produced than at any time in the past. Millions of people were destitute. The SPC, as usual, advocated the socialist solution, common ownership and democratic control of these means, so that all people could have free access to them.
Not the CCF however. In all their class unconsciousness they merely agitated for improvements in the social sickness that caused the problems initially. Jobs for the unemployed (so that more unsaleable "surpluses" could be produced) a state controlled banking system, (as has subsequently been shown is a great aid to commerce); pensions and employment insurance, (a wonderful wage depressant — workers who can see a dole coming from the boss do not resist the pressure against real wages as hard); medicare, (which has the same effect on wage incomes) and other goodies to make entrepreneurs happy.
When capitalism is in the doldrums, the position of its chief beneficiaries is still great, relative to the class they live off. "Business" has been compared to sex. When it is good it is very good. When it is bad it is still good. And leftist visionaries are always on hand to unconsciously serve the interests of profit.
The SPC noted this conservatism of the Manifesto back in 1933. As if to confirm it, Tommy Douglas, leader of the NDP, said 28 years later, — "75 per cent of the platform we proposed back in 1933 has been introduced." (Weekend Magazine No. 36, Vol 2-1961.) And mostly by avowed capitalist parties trying to govern the chaotic system. They have not been wasted years for the class that owns capital. The wealth that has accumulated in the hands of the rich is more massive than ever. Their dominance over the rest of society more extended. And the social problems assaulting the useful section of the population, if not greater, are as omnipresent as ever.
The measures in the Regina Manifesto that Liberal, Progressive-Conservative, Social Credit and CCF governments have used to strengthen capitalism cannot take all the credit for propping up the outdated system in this country. World War II, by sacrificing tens of millions of the world's workers, and by destroying a lot of the wealth that the workers were, as usual, denied access to during the depression, created new markets and started factory wheels going again. But like its U. S. counterpart, the "Socialist" Party of America, the CCF-NDP paved the way for newer, more efficient ways of fleecing the working class.
THE SAME FAILURES — REPEATED
The Saskatchewan CCF government was voted out of office in May, 1964, and the once hated Liberals were voted back in. If this reform party's way of running capitalism had been different, or basically beneficial to the majority at least, there is no reason why it should not still be manning the political bastions in that province. Naturally they, as a government, were blamed for the inevitable social problems, as workers or small farmers are encouraged to do by the mass media of those who own and control. But there is no way of making the system pro-social.
The 1970 convention of this Saskatchewan section was held in the city of the Party's birth. And fittingly the leadership contest, (made necessary by the resignation of former premier Woodrow Lloyd) was held in the Regina armories. Some technological changes in, procedure were in evidence. TV cameras and radio microphones were strategically stationed in the right spots for maximum coverage. The fraction of the working class that is paid to help keep the rest of that class thinking in bourgeois directions knows the value of publicising events like this. Banners proclaiming the virtues of the various candidates aspiring to be the exalted shepherd of the prairie provincial flock were waving everywhere. The hoopla was reminiscent of a U. S. Republican Party conclave.
Unfortunately, progress in thinking had not kept up to convention room technology. The popular myths of the old Manifesto, were repeated or altered.
"Taxes are too high to develop our resources for our people." "Improve compensation." "Improve the health system." (Applause). "Protect our citizens from the rampages of private enterprise." "Reduce school taxes by 25 per cent." (Applause) . "Jobs for our young people." "Enrich the lives of the poor, the Indians and the workers."
The CCF-NDP following has never comprehended the class division of modern society, in spite of its sincere opposition to big business and monopolies. A lot of left-wing liberals and small-business conservatives have the same outlook. And they buy all the stories of nationalism that help to keep this schism hidden. In a world bursting with productive potential and becoming a global village, NDP'ers are not satisfied with fractionalising the earth federally. They extol provincialism too.
Example: A. E. Blakeney, the successful candidate — "Our task in the '70's is to build a greater province," and "fight all Liberals who are mismanaging our province."
Thirty-seven years ago, the Socialist Party of Canada, while explaining that the CCF was not Socialist, emphasized that a party for the working class must be made up of leaderless workers who understand capitalism and therefore know what has to be done to solve the wrongs in society. Eighty-five years before that, Marx and Engels made no bones about this when they showed that, "The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority."
The existence of leaders was a notable feature of the old CCF, and is of the "new." Blakeney, like any good leader, being able to voice the' confusion of his followers better than they could themselves, said, "The people of Saskatchewan will not go second class on leadership."
It has been said that there is no fool like an old fool. It also seems there is no radical like a rural radical for persistent hide-boundness. Like a child who has discovered the limitations of his new toys and must go back to playing with the old ones again, the left-wing, youth section of the NDP campaigned for a swing back to "the pure Socialism of the Regina Manifesto"! And kicking U.S. business giants out of Canada. As well as promoting government ownership of land, to be leased out, to give small farmers a chance. A bizarre reversal of roles in which the main body, recognizing the inevitability of bigger business in capitalism is regarded as being retrograde, while the youthful minority, wanting to turn the economic clock back 3 or 4 decades sees itself as being progressive by comparison.
"History repeats itself," said Marx, "first in Tragedy, then in Farce," as he was quoted in The Western Socialist nearly 4 decades ago. And a farcical ending was predicted for the CCF come NDP. It is tragic that their mish-mash of political confusion for capitalism is still being casually accepted by many workers in Canada as socialism.
Meanwhile, the present Liberal Premier Ross Thatcher, discussing possible government action on strikes, warned striking pulp workers of the mill in Prince Albert that he would not allow "excessive wage demands" to jeopardise the profit potential of a new mill to be built at Meadow Lake. The Prince Albert mill is 70 per cent owned by the government, which happens to be very chummy with the private enterpriser who owns the other 30 per cent.
What has this got to do with the archaic NDP? Well, too many workers are too busy trying to survive capitalism to remember the box factory strike in the same town back in 1946. In this case the enterprise was completely run by the government, and the chairman of the board of directors of government corporations also warned the strikers that the plant would be shut down if the workers did not co-operate to increase production and "bring the factory out of the red." (The Western Socialist, Oct. 47) . The only difference here being that the government foreman was a CCF'er, and he called himself a socialist.
Wealth, in the form of capital run by the government, is still anti-social and class owned. Socialist society involves the end of the master-wage-slave relationship — not new, "humanitarian" names for this relationship to hide behind.
The real Socialist Party of those days urged CCF'ers not to sink into apathy by the failure of reforms, but to join the SPC and concentrate on knowledge first. Through the years some have done this, and the welcome mat is still out.