The Western Socialist
Vol. 28 - No. 223
No. 5, 1961
New Democratic Party
Canada since confederation has been governed exclusively by the Liberal and Conservative parties, separately or jointly. These parties have succeeded in weathering all the storms of the modern world while preserving an unbroken ability to convince the electorate that they alone merit majority support at election times.
There have been times when Liberal-Conservative supremacy has been threatened, and on the provincial field their hold has long been partially broken, as for example, by the Social Credit and Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) governments in the western provinces. But on the national field the opposition has never been great.
WHY A NEW PARTY
Now comes a new threat. During the first week in August more than 1700 delegates from trade union locals, the CCF and other groups described as "liberally-minded," gathered in Ottawa to form a new political party. It was the largest political convention in Canadian history, the elaborately prepared outcome of a Canadian Congress of Labor convention resolution in 1958 favoring the formation of such a party.
The CCF and related groups across the country are now extinct. In their place, backed by the CLC and many of the individual unions, has come into being the New Democratic Party. Communists would also have entered its ranks except that they have been barred.
Why has the New Democratic Party been formed? Do its aims reflect the needs of modern times? Are these aims really socialist or socialistic? These are among the questions that must be occurring to some of those who are now thinking seriously about politics. The Socialist Party of Canada, standing apart from this new party and giving it no support, offers here its views on these questions.
That there is a need for a new political party in Canada is established in none of the vast amount of written and spoken statements issued in its behalf since the party was first proposed. The 1958 convention resolution placing the CLC on record in favor of the new party called for a "broadly based people's political movement which embraces the CCF, the labor movement, farm organizations, professional people and other liberally-minded persons interested in basic social reform and reconstruction through our parliamentary system of government." Later in the same year the CCF held a convention and hailed the CLC resolution as a "landmark in our country's history," adding that the CCF "has always appealed to organized labor and organized agriculture to join in building a people's political movement." A few months later (Nov. 1958) a pamphlet issued jointly by the CLC and the CCF (A new Political Party for Canada) said: "It is now recognized that there is little, if any, difference between the Conservative and Liberal parties. Both represent, in the main, the viewpoint of big business. Only the CCF has consistently expressed the viewpoint of labor, farmers and others in Parliament and the provincial Legislature."
The claim of the CCF to be the kind of party proposed by the CLC, a claim freely concurred in by the CLC, raises some interesting questions. Why did the CLC propose a new party? Why did it not simply give its support to the CCF? Why, on the other hand, did the CCF regard the CLC decision as a "landmark in our country's history"? Why did it not say, "Never mind a new party. What you're looking for is here. Support the CCF"?
A NEW CCF
There are some of course who would say that the CCF was too Socialistic or not Socialistic enough, or that it was too broad or not broad enough. But such objections were also aimed at the new party during the founding convention and, it is safe to say, will continue to be aimed at it for the rest of its days. The fact is that the New Democratic Party is simply the CCF with a new name and trade union support on a larger scale than formerly. The pretense of something new and the three years of high-pressure tub-thumping bear a striking likeness to the efforts of the soap maker whose secret ingredient and new wrapper help in the marketing of an old product.
Thirty years ago the founders of the CCF thought that the breaking of the monopoly in Ottawa could only be accomplished by a party substantially different from the Liberal and Conservative parties; and when the CCF was launched every effort was made to give it this appearance, prominent in its program being the hair-raising promise to "socialize" industry. The passing years and the continued success of the Liberal-Conservative hold on Parliament gradually weakened faith in the power of radicalism, a process hastened by the failure of British Labor government nationalization in the post war years to accomplish results promised. The CCF became less and less like its old self and more and more like its political opponents, hoping somewhere along the line to acquire their formula for political success.
The New Democratic Party is the end result of this process. In spite of its expressed distaste for the manner in which the country has been run, it has adopted a program that could readily be taken over by either of the parties it hopes to replace. It has tried hard to make itself look sufficiently like them to capitalize on their electoral successes, and it dwells on their failure to create a land of plenty with the confident assumption that the new party will not fail. Indeed, the most important difference between the old parties and the new one is that they have held power and the new one has not.
The claim that the CCF was Socialistic and that this characteristic has been passed on to the new party may be set aside at once. Had the founders of the CCF been Socialist they would have joined the Socialist Party and there would have been no CCF. Socialism has never meant to them what it has always meant to Socialists. To them, government encroachments on the affairs of the country "for the common good" could be regarded as Socialist in character, and over the years they have advocated government ownership, money reform, price control and a vast assortment of other measures, all with the wrong claim that these had something to do with Socialism and would serve the common good.
This is not to say that socialism was an extensively used term in the CCF. It was not. The party always preferred what it believed to be the more enticing term, "cooperative commonwealth," from which it gained its name. But the use of both terms has declined steadily in the CCF during recent years and with the advent of the new party it seems likely that they are heading for the ashcan. They have lost the glamour they were once believed to possess, and unpopular thoughts are poor sources of votes.
But Socialists are people who do not skirt around the realities of the modern world in the hope of finding some thing to say that will be well received. They still advocate Socialism, unpopular as it is, because they see in Socialism the only effective treatment for the ills of society. And when they talk about Socialism they are not talking about government ownership, job security, price controls and the other things that loomed large at the new party convention and were always important to its founders. They are talking about a new system of society.
THE DIVISIONS OF CAPITALISM
Present-day society is divided into two classes, the working class and the capitalist class. The working class consists of all those who are compelled by the makeup of society to work for wages in order to live. The capitalist class consists of those who own the means for producing and distributing wealth and are so placed as to be able to live without working, by coming into possession of the proceeds of the workers' labors beyond the amount represented by their wages.
This is the starting point of all clear knowledge of society and, since its general acceptance can only lead to results not desired by the capitalists, their giant publicity machines work steadily to prevent this acceptance. Their success was complete among the delegates to the new party convention where there was no recognition of the class division in society, which undoubtedly accounts for the extensive, undistorted TV, radio and press coverage received by the convention and the careful, even respectful, reproduction of Mr. Jodoin's every fatuous utterance.
The class division in society leads to class conflict, the workers struggling for more in wages of the things they produce, the capitalists struggling to take to themselves a greater share. Often enough these struggles take the form of strikes and lockouts. Often enough too the jails are filled with strikers.
The over-all picture shows that the capitalists are in the best position in these struggles. They are not the ones who starve during strikes or who are kicked around by police or otherwise intimidated. Their position is protected by the power of the state, and when the smoke of battle clears away the workers, even when victorious, can always be found still providing more luxuriously for the capitalists than for themselves. Nothing in the New Democratic Party platform is intended to end this ridiculous situation.
Production today is carried on for profit, the quest for which leads the capitalists far afield. They sweat the workers of their own industry and homeland, but their activities do not end there. They sweat the workers of other lands, poach on the preserves of other capitalists, steal markets from one another, struggle for exclusive control of sources of raw materials, block trade routes to competitors. There is nothing, in fact, that they will not do in the quest for profit. On the national field their interests are furthered by the placing of campaign funds in directions favorable to them. On the international field this is also done, but it is supplemented by military build-ups, threats and often war. To cope with this situation the New Democratic Party would rewrite the rules and remodel the agencies for conducting war.
THE NEED IS SOCIALISM
The Socialist Party proposes to deal with the conflict of the classes, the poverty of the workers, the constantly overhanging threat of war and the many other evils that afflict mankind by establishing a new system of society, one in which the means for producing and distributing the needs of man are owned by society as a whole and operated for the one purpose of providing for human needs, a system in which there can be no wage workers, no capitalists and no conflict of interests, no profits, no quest for profits and no wars, where humans can live free from the uncertainties, terrors and insanities of today. The Socialist Party proposes the introduction of Socialism, a conception sadly remote from the thoughts of those who founded the New Democratic Party.