Politics in Canada

(Continued from the March 1958 issue.)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation
We have often been reproached because we criticise the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. It is even said that we spend more time criticising the C.C.F. than we spend on all other groups combined. There may be some truth in this, but it must be pointed out that any group that professes, as the C.C.F. sometimes does, to stand for the same thing we stand for, is bound to find itself the object of more than ordinary attention from us. After all, if the aim of the C.C.F. is the same as ours, why are we in the field as a separate organization, or, more appropriately, why did the original C.C.F. membership form a separate political organization when the Socialist Party was already in the field? These are questions that cannot be directed towards the Liberals and Conservatives. They are quite happy about capitalism and they don’t mind telling people about it.

The C.C.F., like the Social Credit movement, had its origin during the Hungry Thirties. The statement of its views was adopted at a gathering in Regina in 1933, which afterwards became known as the Regina Manifesto. This manifesto was highly regarded in C.C.F. circles for many years, being described frequently by one prominent C.C.F. member, the late John Queen, as a historical document. It is now almost forgotten, having been replaced by a new document identified as the Winnipeg Declaration of Principles. This declaration was said by many of the C.C.Fs. opponents to have scrapped the Party’s adherence to Socialism. In reality, it scrapped or partly scrapped what some C.C.F. members thought was Socialism, an act that brought some relief and some indignation amongst different groups within the Party—but no exodus towards the Socialist Party. The C.C.F. could not adhere to something it never understood and it could not scrap something it never accepted. C.C.F. ideas have always, even in the Regina Manifesto, been linked with those of the Social Democratic Parties of Europe, particularly the British Labour Party. The British Labour Party was formed in 1906. One of its founders and first leader was Keir Haidie, who expressed himself as bang favourable to Labourism, not Socialism. The second Labour Party leader was Ramsay MacDonald, who was prime minister of two Labour governments and completed his political career as prime minister of a national government made up mainly of Conservatives. The third Labour Party leader was Clement Attlee, who was prime minister of the post-war Labour government and who retired not long ago from active politics to become a peer of the British realm, a status so elevating that on his visit to Canada a year ago he avoided questions on political subjects and declared to press reporters that he was a statesman, not a politician. The C.C.F. has never been critical of this sort of thing. It evidently sees nothing in this to be critical about.

Like the British Labour Party, the C.C.F. has never advocated Socialism. It has sponsored and supported numerous schemes for public or government ownership and it has at times referred to these collectively as Socialism and individually as steps towards Socialism. To the C.C.F. the city-owned Winnipeg Hydro, the government-owned Canadian National Railways and all such concerns are Socialist in character. If there are certain evils attached to these establishments, that is because of Liberal or Conservative administration. Under C.C.F. administration they would lose these evils. This, of course, is foolishness, but it is the kind of thing the C.CJ7. has been putting forward for many years under the heading of advanced and responsible politics. Perhaps the acme of foolishness was reached recently when some of its official representatives declared that the pressing need of today was for the government ownership of the natural gas pipe line that is at present stretching in all directions from Alberta. That this is not a pressing need at all is something the C.C.F. will probably never find out

So much for the larger aims of the C.C.F. It gains much of its support, indeed, most of its support, not because it advocates government ownership. This just serves to give it a serious and learned appearance, so providing a credible base for other things, and it is these other things that are the main attraction to the average C.C.F. supporter. High wages, low prices (except to farmers), larger pensions and unemployment benefits, low taxes (except to “big shots”)—in brief, legislation to improve (or convey the impression that they will improve) the living conditions of the “common man.” These things usually come under the heading of reforms, and reforms are the main stock in trade of the C.C.F.

A vast amount of sincerity rests behind most of the activities of the C.C.F. But sometimes one feels that this term can only be used with the greatest charity. More than 23 years ago a convention of the C.C.F. was held in Winnipeg and a resolution was brought before the delegates calling for old age pensions of $40 a month. This resolution created a lot of discussion, but hardly any of it concerned itself about the needs of the old people. Mostly it centred around the response the $40 proposal would receive from the electorate. To some, it was pointed out, this figure would seem sufficient; to others, it might seem miserly; while a third group might regard it as extravagant. The C.C.F. hoped to gain support from all sections of the people, so it was desirable to frame the resolution in such a way that it would have wide appeal. The delegates saw the logic of this position and the amended resolution dropped the $40 proposal and called instead for an adequate pension. Over the years since this time the word “adequate” has relieved the C.C.F. of many a potentially embarrassing situation.

It might also be mentioned in passing that the $40 pension which the CC.F. found too hot to handle in 1934 has been in effect now for many years, introduced by a Liberal government The Liberals also increased the amount not long ago by $6, and the Conservatives more recently have increased it by an additional $9.

Time and circumstance very often nullify the effects of reform. Capitalism has a bad habit of throwing up new evils or new twists to old evils, and it can manage to do this with as much rapidity as the reformers can cope with. No sooner is a patch applied here than the need arises for a patch elsewhere, and while this is being attended to the old patch breaks out again. And while reformers often point with pride to the reforms they have enacted or helped to enact, they are less frequent in pointing with pride to the wholesome, healthy and happy living conditions of those who have benefited by these reforms. It is doubtful if a reformer can be found anywhere so foolhardy as to declare that the country with the greatest number of reforms is the country with the highest standard of living.

A great deal more could be said about the C.C.F., its policies and activities, but space will hardly permit. It must be added, however, that there is no good reason for the existence of the C.C.F. Its existence is actually harmful to the best interests of the workers, for it spreads wrong ideas about Socialism and helps to preserve the belief that the present system can be improved in such a way as to make life really worth while for the mass of people.

The Communist Party
Of the various other groups that seek the support of the Canadian electorate it is possible here to comment only, and briefly, on the Communist Party. This organization has been clamouring for the support of the workers ever since the early 1920s. It has existed under various names: the Workers’ Party, the Communist Party, the Workers Unity League, the Labour-Progressive Party (its present name) and others. At election times it sometimes refers to itself as the Labour Election Committee. The reason for all this is partly to fool the authorities (who have sometimes been troublesome) and partly to fool the workers. That it has succeeded at any time in fooling the authorities is doubtful; but it has had some success in fooling workers.

The Communist Party has always claimed to represent the workers, but it has never at any time concerned itself about the interests of the workers. It began as a section of the so-called Third or Communist International, which was organized and controlled by the Russian government, and it has at all times since then been completely subservient to that government. Whatever ideas and policies have been considered to be in line with the interests of Russia’s rulers at any given time, these have been the ideas and policies of the Communist Party. There has never been a time when the C.P. has opposed a position taken by the Russian ‘government, even when, as has frequently occurred, that position has been at variance with the interests of the workers. To show the unwholesome nature of this party one needs only to note that Stalin, who is so roundly condemned today, was worshipped and fawned upon by Communists during all the years he was dictator of Russia, praised in the most revolting way even in the midst of his greatest villainies, and is criticised today only because he is criticised by the Russian government

The record of the C.P. is almost unbelievable in a group professing to represent the working class. During its earlier years it sought to control movements of workers and tried to destroy those it could not control. For many years it carried on mudslinging campaigns and violent attacks against other groups. On various occasions it sponsored strike breaking activities. And during the second world war it supported both sides at different times, in line with Moscow’s changing fortunes. At no time has it taken an independent working class stand on any issue. At all times it has been an enemy of the workers.

The Socialist Party
The Socialist Party of Canada is different from the parties named above in various ways, but it is different in one very important respect: it advocates Socialism. This is something none of the others do or have ever done. Often have spokesmen for the C.C.F. complained about “old line” parties (Liberal and Conservative) stealing planks from their platform. It would be impossible to imagine a Socialist complaining about any part of the Socialist platform being stolen. We have only one plank; it is not necessary for anyone to steal it; we urge everyone to accept it. It calls for the establishment of a system of society in which the means of life will be owned, controlled and operated by and for the whole of the members of society. This plank forms the objective of the S.P.C. It is the one tiling we ask people to accept and support, and we ask people to support it because it is the one thing that can bring about an effective treatment to the major problems of today. Poverty, wars, depressions, all the evils that loom large in the lives of people, have a common origin in the nature of existing society. They can be ended only with the ending of capitalism. The Socialists have been carrying this message to the workers continuously over the years. Today, at what may be the closing of another of capitalism’s booms, with the world standing on the brink either of war or depression, the message becomes more urgent. How much longer will the workers disregard it and continue to place their trust in the system that is bringing them ever closer to destruction?

(Socialist Party of Canada.)


Leave a Reply