Politics in Canada

The worker of today is so little interested in politics that in all the parliaments of the present day world there is not a single individual who can be said to represent his interests. This is true in Britain where there is a large Labour Party representation and where there have been three labour governments in recent years. It is true in the United States where there is no Labour Party representation and where there has never been a Labour government. It is true in Russia where the government for the last forty years has called itself Communist. And it is true in Canada where Liberals and Conservatives have been changing places and holding hands in governing the country ever since Confederation.


Nothing is more certain than that the workers of Canada are content to give their continued support to the system that enslaves them. At every election there are four major parties and a varying number of smaller parties seeking the support of the electorate, and all of them propose to preserve the present order of society. They have this in common regardless of the features that seem to distinguish them. Leading the list are the Liberals and Conservatives. Behind them a few paces are the Social Creditors and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. And bringing up the rear are the Union National group of Quebec, the Communist Party and occasional new groups or offshoots from existing groups.


The “Old-Liners”


Up until last June, and for 22 years previously, the Liberal Party held undisputed control of the government. Capitalism was in vogue at the time of its rise to power; it was still in full bloom at the end of this period; and at no time in between was there any suggestion by any member of the Liberal Party that it ought to be replaced by another system of society—in spite of the fact that its 22 continuous years in office saw the country pass through the world’s worst depression and the world’s worst war. This period in office, combined with all the other periods it has held office during the 90 years that have passed since the country became self-governing, show that in spite of a surface radicalism that affects some of its members at times, the Liberal Party is constitutionally incapable of harbouring a single thought that reaches beyond the limitations of capitalist society, no matter how rotten this society may become.


It is true that Liberal governments over the years have brought into effect an impressive assortment of reforms (such as unemployment insurance, family allowances, and so on), which were all supposed to have added up to a better life; but it is also true that life has not improved to the point where people generally, even the Liberals, are over-exerting themselves boasting about it. This is a subject to which the reformers could well devote a considerable amount of thought.


The Conservative Party evolved a few years back into the Progressive Conservative Party. This bit of face lifting was instigated by John Bracken, who had been for many years the premier of a “Liberal-Progressive” government in Manitoba and who rose from the ranks of the Liberal-Progressives to become the leader of the Conservative Party. Mr. Bracken failed to win any elections for the Conservatives and he was hurried out of politics and back to Manitoba, where he became an authority on model liquor legislation; but the “Progressive” prefix which was his historic contribution to Conservatism in Canada is still with us and is still as rich in content as it was in the days before Mr. Bracken found that Manitoba needed his expert consideration to the cup that cheers. Progressive-Conservatism today is still the staunch unyielding upholder of capitalism that plain, simple, unprogressive Conservatism was a generation ago.


To determine the differences between the Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative Patty would require microscopic perception. And what the electioneering was all about last May and June is something that very few people today could tell about. The Liberal Party didn’t stand for very much except its record. And not to be outdone the Progressive-Conservative Party, too, didn’t stand for very much except the Liberal Party’s record. And since they both stood for the same thing they both came very close to being elected. There is no doubt that Mr. Diefenbaker, the Progressive-Conservative leader, was just as surprised as Mr. St. Laurent, the Liberal leader, who in turn must have been just as surprised as the average person to learn that Tweedledee had just nosed out Tweedledum. At any rate, last June saw the passing, for the present at least, of Liberalism in Canada, whatever that was, to be replaced in the places of power by Progressive-Conservatism, whatever that may be that is different, and the workers may look forward to the next four or five years without surprises—at least pleasant ones.


Social Credit


Canada holds the distinction of having given birth to the first government devoted to the idea that money is neither more nor less than pieces of paper identified as money simply (to use its own term) by the scratch of the banker’s pen. This group is the Social Credit Party and it now holds control of two provincial governments, the governments of Alberta and British Columbia. In Alberta Social Credit has held office for more than 21 years, first gaining power in 1936. The B.C. group has been in office a smaller period of time.


The theories of Social Credit were originated a generation ago by a certain Major Douglas of England, whose central proposition came under the heading of an A plus B theorem which was intended to explain a condition that Major Douglas described as an absolute deficiency in purchasing power. In depression times this sort of thing sounded good to a lot of people who didn’t have enough to eat, and Social Credit gained a certain support in England, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. An amusing thing about this movement is the fact that it gained its greatest support in Alberta, where it was probably least understood. None of the leading members of the Alberta Social Credit group has ever shown that he understood Social Credit Even the late Wm. Aberhart, the first Social Credit premier of Alberta, who was so highly regarded by his supporters that he was once described as a man with God-given guidance, proved many times that he never had the faintest grasp of what Major Douglas was talking about. Not that it mattered. The theories of Majojr Douglas and Mr. Aberhart were equally foolish. Mr. Aberhart, who was a preacher, gave expression to a mixture of backwoods bible-thumping and false, but popular notions on why people were hungry, and he called this Social Credit. Major Douglas was quite disturbed at this and for a time Social Credit in England would have nothing to do with Social Credit in Alberta. But this is old and unimportant history and all that needs now to be mentioned is that the Social Credit movement today makes no effort to justify its existence on a theoretical base. It gives no noticeable lip service to the ideas of either Major Douglas or Mr. Aberhart. It rides the crest of the boom that has come to Alberta and B.C., takes to itself credit for the boom, promises more of the same, and in all respects behaves as if it had never heard of the funny money theories that helped so much to bring it to prominence in Canadian politics. Social Credit has settled down to the comfortable and orthodox behaviour that workers whose brains are politically at ease find so acceptable today.


Jim Milne


(Socialist Party of Canada.)


(To be continued.)