Can the NDP solve working class problems?

Written: 1978

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 Socialist organization.
State ownership
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.
‘Democratic Socialism’
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 interchangeable.
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 objective.

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 arriving”.

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 never.

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.