Bill Moriarty on the CCF (1933)
William (Bill) Moriarty was elected to the Central Executive
Committee of the Communist Party of Canada at its founding convention May
1921, and remained one of its most important leaders through the 1920s. He
was expelled from the CPC in 1930 as a supporter of the "right wing"
Lovestone current, (known as the "Communist Party (Opposition)" in the
U.S.), and remained a member of Lovestone’s international
tendency until his death in 1936.
The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, predecessor to today's NDP,
was originally a true federation, bringing together a wide variety of
socialist, labour and farmers' organizations, as well as individuals who
joined the CCF Clubs. Moriarty's Toronto-based group, the Marxian Educational League,
joined the Ontario CCF's Labour Conference in 1933, and he was elected
a delegate to the Regina Convention of July 1933.
The CCF was founded in Calgary in 1932, but the Regina meeting was
its first real national convention. The program it adopted, known as the
"Regina Manifesto," was more radical than anything it or the NDP has
said since, but, as Moriarty's report shows, socialists in 1933 were far
less impressed than some later writers.
This article appeared in the CP(O)'s New York based newspaper, Workers’ Age, September
15, 1933. The original featured idiosyncratic spelling (e.g. "tho" and
"thru" for "though" and "through") and erratic paragraph breaks. In the
interest of easier reading, we have corrected both.
The Labor Movement In Canada
The Regina Convention of the C.C.F.
by W. Moriarty
Toronto, Canada. Around 140 delegates convened in Regina, Sask.,
during the closing days of July, for the first national convention of the
Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. The delegates came from the six major
It is scarcely a year since the C.C.F. was first organized. In that
time the Federation has experienced a remarkable growth; particularly in
the Tory-ridden province of Ontario has it made giant strides. But it must
be said that the social composition of the first organization is
distinctly middleclass. The influx of this element into the individual
membership section, known as the "clubs," was reflected in the attendance
and discussion at Regina.
The whole tenor of the convention was reformist. From the first crack
of the whip, J. S. Woodsworth, M.P., leader of the C.C.F., appealed to
the delegates not to follow the model slavishly, but to build up a
"Canadian Socialism." "The untrained masses are incompetent to pass
judgment upon the complicated problems of capitalism." So, it was not
surprising to discover that a "Brains Trust" had been at work upon a
14-point program. This was flung into the convention and considered right
off the bat.
A "Brains Trust" Program
The program was a skillfully prepared document. It reflected the
patient care of its university godfathers. Though to the left of the
simple 8-point program of the past year, much more comprehensive, it is
thoroughly reformist through and through. The present writer went to the mat on
the preamble, moving the deletion of two references: "We do not believe in
violent change" and "seeking to achieve its ends solely by constitutional
methods." Comrade Winch, Socialist Party delegate from British Columbia,
seconded the amendment. Little support was secured. The convention was
just as solidly against my attempt to have provision made on the ultimate
planning commission for worker and farmer representation.
Social Control—By Your Leave
The next major explosion followed an attempt to revise the section on
social ownership. "We do not propose any policy of outright confiscation
for the taking over of these (basic) industries from private into public
control. The transfer of businesses and industries to public ownership
should be made at a fair valuation." My amendment called for the deletion
of this asseveration. Other comrades supported and the clause was referred
back. The subsequent revision differed only from the original in that it
was even more evasive. The convention stuck to its compensatory guns with
The desire to "base practise upon sound theory," as the president put
it in his introductory address, seemed to have got lost in the desire on
the part of some delegates to recognize the ethics of compensation, the
just claims, that savings provide new equipment, to afford to be generous,
and most of all, to avoid class hatred. Are we not seeking to establish a
classless society? Answering his own question with a ringing "yes," our
defender of compensation and the higher political tactic, urged that we do
not carry antipathies over the borders of our idealistic commonwealth.
Social Ownership For the City -- Private Ownership For The Country!
Then to agriculture. "Security of tenure for the farmer upon his farm.
. " "The immediate cause of agricultural depression is the catastrophic
fall in the world prices of foodstuffs as compared with other prices....
To counteract the worst effect of this the internal price level should be
raised so that the farmers' purchasing power may be restored." What does
this mean? A gesture in favor of the inflationists, who are numerous in
the farm organizations?
External trade is to be regulated in accordance with the national plan
"through import and export boards." An "encouragement by the public authority
of both producers and consumers cooperative institutions."
And then the Labor Code. "A national Labor Code to secure for the
worker maximum income and leisure, insurance against illness, accident,
old age and unemployment, freedom of association and an effective voice
(amended to participation) in the management of his industry or
Socialized health services were covered by Plank 8.
Next, calls for "the amendment of the Canadian Constitution, without
infringing upon racial or religious minority rights or upon legitimate
provincial claims to autonomy so as to give the Dominion Government
adequate powers to deal effectively with urgent economic problems which
are essentially national in scope; the abolition of the Canadian Senate."
External Relations proposes the "regeneration" of the League of Nations
and the International Labor Organization! Both "participation in
imperialist wars" and "all attempts to build up a new economic British
Empire in place of the old political one, since such attempts readily lend
themselves to the purposes of capitalist exploitation and may easily lead
to further world wars" are to be resisted.
Please! Not The Class Struggle!
A new taxation policy was followed by the plank on "Freedom." This
calls for freedom of speech and assembly for all, repeal of Section 98 of
the Criminal Code. This illegalizes any organization advocating the
overthrow of the government. It was under this section of the Criminal
Code that the Communist Party of Canada was declared illegal and amendment
to the Immigration Act to prevent the present inhuman policy of
The emergency program (immediate demands) very weakly demands that
programs of public works and adequate maintenance for the unemployed be
financed by "the issue of credit based on the national wealth."
Failure rewarded my efforts to have this changed to read "based on the
proceeds from a steeply graded income tax, and an assessment upon such
interest and profits which flow from the operation of all industries,
banks, insurance companies, etc." I reasoned that the capitalist class was
directly responsible for the present breakdown and that it was an evasion
to speak of social credit. Rather than shirk the promotion of the class
struggle, this was the time to promote it. By focusing the attention of
the workers upon the responsibilities of the capitalist class, and urging
them to struggle to secure amelioration, we could the better mobilize the
working class in the class war.
This was enough for the convention! Out it went!
Tactics And The Toronto "Worker"
Then the resolutions. Miss Agnes MacPhail, farmer member in the Federal
House, waxed indignant at the tone of one caring for independence of
action by the C.C.F. members in the parliament. She was going to continue
to use common sense.
The Socialist Party of Canada, British Columbia Section, submitted that
immigration be restricted. Back of this was the Anti-Oriental slant of
the Pacific Coast reformists.
The delegation from the West Coast was a lame duck outfit. Pritchard,
once imprisoned for his activities in connection with the famous Winnipeg
strike of 1919, seemed anxious to forget his past. He climaxed a
reactionary stand throughout the convention by introducing a motion of
thanks to the capitalist press for its treatment of the convention
The resolution on class war prisoners, (Mooney, Billings, Roy, the
Meerut prisoners, Scottsboro, victims of Fascist terror) was tabled on the
motion of Woodsworth, who made the extraordinary statement that such
resolutions, making an appearance at all conventions, were not worth the
paper they were written upon. Forgetting apparently, that were it not for
such protests by the workers, that Mooney and Billings would have been
executed long ago, and the Scottsboro boys would have long since been
offered in sacrifice to racial prejudice in the States.
And Woodsworth, who was arrested during the Winnipeg strike, also
forgets that the plan of the Canadian government of that day to deport the
foreign-born among those arrested, which plan was only altered because of
the temper of the workers throughout Canada when the Immigration Board
plans became known.
The Toronto "Worker," commenting upon this incident, lined itself up
with those who persecute the workers when it indulged in its favorite
tactic by omitting mention of the name of M. N. Roy in the resolution. And
what of the actions of its own friends throughout the convention? Was it
cowardice or lack of understanding which caused them to remain silent? Or
How about the matter of the C.L.D.L. letter which asked for a "united
front"? How come that the writer had to take the Marxist stand on this
issue? Or was the "Worker" delegate instructed beforehand that the letter,
when sent, would be couched in such terms as to preclude any possibility
of a united front? Certainly there were no restriction upon anyone
obtaining the floor. The chairman, Garland, played no favorites.
Time for self-criticism, Messrs. Toronto Editorial Board!
The Convention Did Turn Left
Well, this was the convention. Dominated as it was by reformist
sentiments, still the leftward turn reflected the will of the masses for
serious organization battle with the old-time capitalist parties. And this
is something which cannot be overlooked by any party seriously, engaged in
working class politics. Self-satisfaction is not a solution to the
problems of the masses. A return to the older and well-tried tactics of
pre-"third period" days is necessary.
And the experiences of the Regina convention convinces me that the
change is urgently needed.