As the Workers Vanguard had predicted in 1956, the leadership of the CCF and the Canadian Labour Congress moved to create a new political party, scheduling the founding convention for July 1961, in Ottawa.
This article appeared in Workers Vanguard, January, 1961.
A Socialist Policy for New Party (1961)
The socialist viewpoint is under the most powerful attack that this country has ever witnessed. The capitalist opposition to socialism, the lies of the Liberals, Tories and Social Credit, the slanders and distortions over all the mediums of communications in their hands, have been persistent. But this anti-socialism has been losing its effect—the workers have developed a healthy scepticism—the bias of the source is becoming too obvious.
The anti-socialist campaign of today and the past five years is the more powerful, the more effective, the more damaging, in that its source is persons long identified in the public mind as being in some way socialist—the leadership of the now defunct CCF, attempting to find another base of operations in the new party.
Their campaign against socialism reached a peak five years ago with the dumping of the Regina Manifesto and the adoption of the Winnipeg Declaration by the CCF national convention. Now, in the discussions on the new party it is reaching a climax.
The crisis of the thirties and the wave of militant protest that it whipped up imposed on the Douglas’ and Lewis’ a radical ideology which since the opening of World War 11 they have been steadily divesting themselves of. They are now intent on assuring that the new party is launched without such encumbrances as opposition to wars waged to make the world safe for capitalism (in these days of Laos and intervention in Cuba) and commitment to the elimination of the domination and exploitation of one class by another and socialized planning (in these days of AVRO shutdowns, Elliott Lake and the evacuation of the Maritimes).
The irony of the situation is that whereas the conditions prevailing in 1956 favored the adoption of the peaceful co-existence with capitalism, the economic climate in Canada today is undergoing drastic change and doing violence to their concepts.
Douglas proclaims to the Montreal and Calgary new party seminars that the problems of the 60’s are a good deal different than the 30’s.
New party MP Pitman protests that we mustn’t fight the battles of the thirties. But the generation that fought those battles as they line up with a new generation for unemployment insurance, talk about mass jobless marches onto Ottawa, and hear CLC leader Claude Jodoin himself warn that this unemployment is chronic, cannot help but see more similarity than difference between the thirties and today.
Taking their lead from Galbraith, a superficial essayist and commentator on matters economic, and advisor to the Democratic US president-elect Kennedy, the new opponents of socialism declare that there is nothing organically wrong with the system under which we live. They have a positive reluctance to define the system as capitalism and when they do, like Douglas, they call it planned capitalism—different in some way, a decisive, even if not defined way, from what it was in the thirties.
They attack socialism at its roots. They attempt to deny that there is a conflict, a struggle between labor and capital, or at least one that is in any way irreconcilable. As Coldwell put it “the class struggle is dead.” They challenge the concept that this system is one of crisis. The crisis confronting man in our times, they say, lies not in prevailing economic and social conditions, but in ourselves. According to Douglas, rather than new economic laws, we need a new sense of values.
Woodworker leader Joe Morris cut across these concepts in his report to the Calgary seminar when he assured those in attendance that trade unionists are well aware that labor is dealt with as a commodity ... they fully realize the significance of the present class division of society on the basis of economic interests ... not a day passes that they are not brought face to face with the class struggle in its ugliest and most ruthless form.
The question as to whether there is a class struggle and whether the economic system under which we live is one of crisis is not to be decided by freezing the picture at some particular moment, but by observing it as it unfolds before our eyes over a period of time. The Coldwell’s and Lewis’s stopped the film, which was limited to shots of North America at a period of relative stability, and said—see—this is the whole picture. But the reel is continuing to unwind.
The economic laws of capitalism, which Coldwell and Douglas had an impression of in the 30’s, continue to operate. Capitalism remains, for all the tinkering, a system of crisis. The crises arise out of the private ownership of the means of production and the private acquisition of the goods produced by social labor for social consumption. Man is divided along class lines determined by his relations to the means of production—there are those who own means of production—capital—and those who only possess the ability to work at the means of production owned by others. Between these two forces there is a conflict over the division of the fruits of labor. This struggle is the class struggle.
The class struggle is a fact, regardless of the particular forms or tempo that it takes on at any given tine. If it were not so there would be no unions. And if it were not so, there would be no basis for the new party.
Great time, and effort is being expended to deny that the new pasty is a class party. Although on occasion, particularly when they speak to working class audiences the Douglas’ refer to the Liberals, Tories and Social Credit as class parties, as parties of Big Business, of free enterprise—of capitalism. At the Montreal seminar, Steelworkers research director Harry Waisglass, expressed the hope that the new party will be neither socialist or free enterprise:
It is no accident that while Gaitskell is attempting, and failing, to divest the British Labor party of its traditional policy of nationalization of the basic means of production, that Douglas and company are concentrating their fire on nationalization. Douglas calls it a fetish. Professor Weldon warns us against such cure-alls. The top leaders of the new party have found refuge in a rephrasing of the Mackenzie King formula—nationalization if necessary, but not necessarily nationalization. In place of nationalization—new economic laws—Douglas talks in terms of a new sense of values. He offers us no clue as to how the new sense of values is to be realized.
Make the New Party a Dynamic Alternative
Ironically, all this is presented as something new, alive, and vital, The concept of nationalization, planification and industrial democracy, the class struggle, is old hat—the product of the thirties. But the views of Douglas and company not only predate Marxism socialism, timewise they are the product of an even more primitive stage of human thought. No one has claimed that public ownership is a cure-all. Derogative comments have been made that it is only a means. To be sure public ownership is only a means, but it is the only means yet suggested, with which we can meet the problems of our times.
Capitalism, while having developed the highest level of production, is a system of waste and inefficiency. Not only through useless competition, and the alienation of man, but through the destruction of already existing productive plant. The steel industry in the US is running at only 40 percent of its productive capacity. Across Canada whole industries are shut down or are on part time. Almost 13 per cent of the working force in the industrial Hamilton area is unemployed. The multimillion dollar Elliott Lake development is now deserted. Whole areas such as the Maritimes are depressed, failing into disuse, and being abandoned.
The socialists seek to change the economic laws governing society and human relations, by bringing order and plan into production, through placing the key sectors, the commanding heights of the economy, under public ownership. Through councils of workers, farmers, housewives, with the aid of technicians, we would establish a genuine and meaningful democracy. Once collectively in control of the means whereby we live, we could develop higher, more efficient and beneficent means.
What about the sense of values, the ethical and moral concepts that Douglas talks about? Isn’t man’s sense of values determined by conditions prevailing in his time. Aren’t the prevailing concepts in society the ideas, a reflection of the interests, of the ruling class? Not only would public ownership eliminate the crisis in society through planification, and remove all the areas of class conflict, since we would all be owners of the productive forces of the community, but it would lay down the material basis for a change in man’s sense of values. Only by changing objective reality will man be able to change and rise to his true height.
For Nationalization of the Basic Industries
We no longer remain in the field of speculation as to whether nationalization is the path to the future. Today we are witness to the startling transformation, within one lifetime, of Soviet economy from one of the most backward in the world into the second most advanced. With the elimination of the bureaucracy and the full participation of the masses in every segment of society, Soviet progress would be even more impressive.
The new party should commit itself to nationalization of the basic means of production, to a fundamental transformation of social relations. It will be fighting for reforms in a period when the resistance of the capitalist class is mounting against those reforms already won and when there is increasingly less possibility of establishing any new extensive and lasting ones. The fight to defend the interests of the workers can only be directed at the powerhouse of capitalist resistance—their ownership of the means of production.
It is necessary to give the movement a broader, higher and more inspiring aim than defence and modest adjustments of the status quo. The vision of a new world of co-operative labor, the elimination of the exploitation of man by man, and the free development of, the human personality, is not a deception like that perpetrated by Diefenbaker to manipulate our aspirations, but a practical realizability and a necessity. It is in harmony with the world-wide march of man.
It is not enough to talk about this in periodicals. It is necessary for socialists to attend the seminars and refute in debate, take on the superficialities and false positions expounded there, to frame resolutions to be submitted to the new party, convention, and to gather their forces to commit new party clubs and CCF organizations to the socialist viewpoint.
It is vital that every effort be made now to get the party off on the right foot. Time is short. The socialist forces must organize. The resolution of this debate cannot be left to the blind forces of history but requires the conscious disciplined intervention of human beings.
Copyright South Branch Publishing. All