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The SPG's Program for the CCF (1938)

Following reunification of their forces in 1938, Trotskyists who were members of the CCF in Ontario formed a public caucus called the Socialist Policy Group, and began publishing Socialist Action, a mimeographed bulletin for discussion among CCF members. The SPG’s proposed "National Program for the CCF" was published in Socialist Action #4, in October 1938.

To make the document easier to read on screen, we have substituted colored subheads for the underlined subheads in the original. The original used two types of emphasis, CAPITALIZATION and underlining: we have substituted bold and italic type.

A National Program for the CCF

The Socialist Policy Group presents a program to end the isolation and decline of the CCF, a program to link socialist theory with the real immediate needs of the Canadian masses.

1. Why the CCF Does Not Grow

The times are ripe for socialism. In Canada, as everywhere, capitalism is permanently mired in the bog of its own creation. Unemployment increases, poverty, undernourishment and sickness spread, prices rise and wages sink. The crisis of 1929 has never ended and now, as in the USA, drags the people into even deeper depths of misery. The King government and the Hepburn-Duplessis autocrats can answer depression only with repression, like capitalists everywhere. The CIO is persecuted, all trade unions threatened, civil liberties curbed, and money flows freely only into the industries of war. Canadians, still tied to the treacherous imperialist government of England, are being sucked into the bloody whirlpool of the coming war.

Yet the Canadian masses remain outside the ranks of socialism. Why? Why do the fascists of Quebec grow, why does the Arcand organization extend itself over Canada, while the CCF marks time in B.C. and dwindles in Ontario? Why are capitalist parties still returned to power by pauperized prairie farmers? It is because Canadian socialism has not yet learned how to bridge the gap between the political backwardness of the masses and the advanced decay of Canadian capitalism. The workers and farmers are in desperate need of the necessities of life, of guaranteed living standards, of markets for what they produce, and the power to buy for themselves what they need; work on the one hand and freedom from wage-slavery on the other. These needs can now be satisfied only through a socialist workers government. Only a socialist party able to present a concrete program of action, with slogans adapted to the immediate needs of the masses, can become such a government. The CCF must change from a vague party of polite abstractions into a military party with a detailed realistic policy if it is to lead Canada through the present transitional period into socialism. It must really prepare for "Socialism in our time."

2. We Should Champion Complete Canadian Independence

Within the Dominion there is conflict between the desires of the wealthy in Ontario and Quebec to remain free of dominion responsibilities and the needs of the poorer provinces for national relief and for legislation. The Rowell Commission now investigating this conflict is powerless to do anything, whatever its findings. The CCF should make it clear that the real struggle is not between provinces or between west and east, but between the wealthy few and the needy millions. But since this struggle is at present bound up with dominion-provincial relations, the CCF is correct in advocating the amendment of the BNA Act to allow the dominion to legislate for a "new deal." At the same time it should warn the workers that only through their own government can they make such legislation mean anything.

The Privy Council in England has still the right to veto Canadian legislation and steadily uses that power to encourage the Hepburns and the other provincial sectionalists to dodge national responsibility. The Canadian workers and farmers need complete freedom from the Privy Council. We must advocate abolition of all Privy Council powers to interfere in Canada.

3. Against Imperialist War; For Socialist Defense

The recent "foreign policy" resolution adopted at Edmonton simply rehashes the vague phrases of the Regina Manifesto about Canada "freeing herself from her present commitments" and then adds contradictory verbiage calling for support of a "collective security" and a "properly organized League of Nations." So long as all nations but one remain capitalist there can be no League of Nations "properly organized" to advance the cause of workers and farmers in Canada or any other country. The CCF must openly oppose all policies which will allow Canadians to be butchered to save capitalism, whether disguised as a ghostly League, war of righteousness, a fight for the undemocratic "democracies," or tricked up as a defense of the British "homeland." The CCF only asks that Canada should have the "right to freedom of action in Case of war." As a socialist party the CCF should declare that any war into which Canada may be drawn by its capitalist government will be a war in which our workers and farmers will gain nothing and lose everything. Even in the improbable event of invasion of Canada only a workers and farmers government can be trusted to defend the homeland in the interests of the masses. And even this defense will be futile unless the Canadian toilers have the support of their brothers in the USA.

The CCF should honestly acknowledge that Canada is a weak country which in war time would be secured from invasion only by the military strength of America. The CCF should use this fact to emphasize the common destiny of the U.S. and Canadian worker, the need for common labor organization in both countries, and the eventual perspective of a united workers and farmers government, in a unified socialist North America. The CCF should advocate the complete political, legal and military separation of Canada from the British Empire. Finally it should put teeth into its advocacy of isolation from American and British imperialist wars by calling for workers action to prevent the shipment of war materials from Canada to warring capitalist powers. Instead of playing about with boycotts of silk stockings, the CCF should be explaining daily to the trade unions the far more effective tactic of refusal to handle, load or transport war commodities such as nickel, which Japan draws almost entirely from Canada.

So long then as capitalism rules in Canada the CCF should advocate:

      Not a Cent, Not a Man, for Imperialist War
      Workers’ Stoppage of Supplies to Japan and Franco
      Transfer the War Budgets to Public Works

Since, however, the CCF advocates a socialist government for Canada it must be prepared to defend that government against attack from without as well as from within. To guarantee that defense will be in the interests of the toilers it must also be in their hands. The CCF should begin now to campaign not for pacifist abolition of war industries, not simply for nationalization, as it does now, but for nationalization under workers control. That is, the workers must be given the lead to take over the armament factories, the nickel and copper mines, etc. and run them so that no supplies will go abroad to feed capitalist wars, so that supplies may be sent instead to support the progressive struggles of the Spanish Loyalists, the Chinese, Arabs and other exploited colonials and so that Canadian workers may be ready to assist the Russian workers’ state whenever it is attacked. Likewise the Canadian army must be democratized if it is to protect the future Canadian socialist state. The CCF should place before the government the alternatives: Either abolish the Canadian army or make it a workers’ and farmers’ army. Elect all officers from the ranks. Take the army away from capitalist control.

All military commitments by the government must be confessed. The disgraceful situation in which a federal CCF member recently involved himself by refusing to make public his information as to Canadian military commitments in Europe must not recur. Socialists have no loyalty to the secret diplomacy of capitalist governments. By such secrecy the workers are betrayed.

      Publication of All Military & Economic Commitments
      No More Imperialist Alliances for Canada
      Arms and Armies Only if Controlled by Workers
      Democratize the Militia
      Towards a United States of Socialist America

4. Workers’ Expropriation, Not Capitalist "Nationalization"

The CCF policy as regards internal affairs must also become at once more bold and more specific.

(a) The socialist answer to the agitation for railroad unification, which is at present only a move by the CPR to increase its profits, is expropriation of the private interests in both railroads and operation of an amalgamated rail system under workers control. Only in this way can the lay-off of thousands be prevented, wage rates protected, shorter hours instituted and the railroads operated without the piling up of public debts to pay high interest to wealthy bondholders. Expropriation does not mean confiscation; any aged or infirm who now depend for a living upon railroad bonds can be guaranteed protection under federal old age and sickness benefits. If any able-bodied stockholders and high-salaried officials can offer genuine technical assistance, they may do so—at trade union rates. What is intended is not "indemnification" and vengeance but socialization, the elimination of super-profits to the few at the expense of ruinous freight rates to the farmer and the passing of rich natural resources into private hands. Railway rates will be set not by St. James Street but by joint councils of the railway unions and the farmers’ cooperatives.

(b) As with the railroad problem, so with the other glaring examples of paralysis in our economy, only a bold program of workers control can meet even the immediate needs of the masses and prepare them for the establishment of socialism. The Regina Manifesto and the Edmonton resolutions talk vaguely of "planning commission" and "economic advisory boards" "free from day to day political interference." This is not the language of class-conscious socialists. Sound planning can be based only on the knowledge the workers themselves provide in their own factory committees and it can be implemented only by a workers socialist government.

(c) The Hydro Enquiry has heard evidence pointing to the fact that although in theory the Ontario Hydro System is a publicly owned institution, it has been used deliberately in the interests of the power barons of St. James Street. An immediate demand must be: workers control of the power industry. The electrical power systems of every province should be made into one system under the control of workers committees. Put an end to the milking of Canadian economy by the power barons! Demand that the government expropriate the power industry and turn it over to workers committees.

      A Unified Railway Under Workers Management

      Workers Control of the Power Industry

5. The CCF and the Farmer

Although the CCF has shown some growth on the prairies, its support comes rather from the middle class and worker of the small town than from the more impoverished sections of the population. The drought-stricken farmer and the miserably-paid hired man have not yet generally been drawn away from the mirage of Social Credit or from panicky dependence on the old-line capitalist parties. The CCF has failed to consolidate its gains with the farmers because it has not sufficiently distinguished its policies from those of the capitalist parties. Like them it talks about credit reform, banking control and the like and sows illusions that "nationalization" of the banks will in itself solve the financial problems of the farmers.

The CCF should frankly tell the farmers that there is for them no separate and independent road to freedom from mortgage sharks, bank interest, high machine prices and high freight rates. These are evils of capitalism which only a socialist state can remove. Sectionalist legislation which tinkers with tariffs at the expense of the city worker and the consumer generally are to be opposed. The CCF should end its policy of conciliation with anti-labor fallacies entertained by the established farm interests. It should tell the farmers plainly that only a strong working class can wrest the railroads and banks from private capital and operate them for the benefit of the toilers on the farms and in the cities alike. The proletariat is, even in Canada, larger and of course more concentrated and strategically placed than the farming class. The proletariat must give the lead, and the CCF should keep itself predominantly a workers party in membership and policies.

Nevertheless the Canadian worker is in need of farmer solidarity. How are the two progressive forces to be brought into one coherent force? One method is the utilization of existing farm organizations, selling cooperatives, etc., to secure collaboration with trade unions, consumers’ cooperatives, etc. in the city on immediate issues affecting both. Agreements for an upward sliding wage scale, for example, could be drawn up only with the aid of farmer bodies. Collaboration should be extended. The CCF should advocate a farmer-labor plan for the production of agricultural machinery at cost. Such a plan must involve (a) workers control of agricultural-machine factories (b) workers control of railroads (c) sale and shipment of machines to the farms at cost. In return the farmers receiving such machinery would agree to supply their farm products at cost to the trade unions and consumers cooperatives By such methods solidarity of the working farmer and the city worker can be created, without which a socialist government could be starved out by reactionary big-farm interests in the first days of socialist legislation.

The CCF must be careful also to clarify its attitude to the farmers. Although considering them of necessity second-line forces, they must nevertheless be careful not to frighten farmers into the ranks of fascism with talk of land-socialization. The CCF proposes not to socialize the land of the small farmer (i.e., at least 80% of the farmers) but to rescue their land from the banks and mortgage companies, guarantee them a decent return by agreements with worker committees, by national crop insurance, freight rates and machinery at cost.

      For Joint Committees of City Worker & Working Farmer
      Farm Machines & Freighting at Cost by Workers Control
      Farm Products at Cost to Workers by Farmer Control

6. Federal Work for the Workless, at Trade Union Rates

The CCF has failed to organize the unemployed except in insignificant fractions. Its policy remains hazy despite the acuteness of the unemployed problem. What the CCF has failed to emphasize is the tying of unemployed work to trade union organization, and the need for clear and forthright slogans. The unemployed need not only work, but work at union rates, and this provision is equally necessary for the protection of the union worker himself. To provide work for all, there must also be sweeping reductions in the hours of work. The six-hour day and the five-day week are elementary slogans in the campaign creation. Along with the slogans for federal public works, which the CCF timidly advocates and which should be daily stressed, should go an agitation for a sliding scale of working hours. All the work in hand should be divided among the available workers. Canada can provide not only more work but work for all, and the more who work the less each will need to work. By such agitation too, the worker and the workless will be drawn together into a single group united in their fight for employment and for decent living standards.

      Create Jobs by Reducing Work Hours
      Federal Work Programs at Union Rates
      For the Union of Worker and Workless

7. Protection of Wage Standards

Except in isolated sectors the CCF has also failed to win the trade union movement to its banners. This is not because the workers are not in need of socialism. It is because the CCF gives no lead to the unions. CCF leaders solidarize themselves with the T.U. bureaucracies, instead of giving militant support to the T.U. rank and file. The CCF should boldly take the lead in trade union strategy.

The immediate need of organized labor is protection of its existing standards in a period of growing reaction. Such anti-labor blows as the Padlock Law can be fought only secondarily with legalistic Civil Liberties Unions, and primarily with the organized strength of the workers themselves. Only the threat of extensive strikes in Quebec will now defeat the Padlock Law; without being adventuristic, the CCF must be on the alert to give militant leadership to the harassed workers of Quebec and of other provinces instead of manoeuvring, as do the CCF leaders now, always for peaceful compromises at the expense of the union.

Equally threatening to the standards of the workers is the continued rise in prices. Fixed wage-scales are useless against sky-rocketing living costs.’ The CCF should take the lead now in advocating a sliding scale of wages. All collective agreements should, without allowing for decreases, insure automatic wage increases with each monthly rise in the price of consumers’ goods. The amount of increase would be determined not by the bosses alone, but by committees of owners and workers meeting with consumers’ and farmers’ cooperatives.

      Rally Trade Union Strength to the Defense of Civil Liberties
      Strike Against Padlock Laws
      Rising Wages for Rising Prices

8. How to Make Demands "Realizable"

The immediate source of income for work programs, for nationalized industry paying union rates, for old age and sickness insurance, crop insurance, and the like, must be direct taxation of the rich. Money "reforms," inflations, and the like, must be exposed in all their falseness. In order that even the smallest gains may be made it is now necessary that the Fifty Big Shots of Canadian capital be taxed out of existence. In other words, the workers must be frankly told that even their minimum demands, in this period of bankrupt capitalism, will only be achieved if they are prepared to form a government to socialize wealth and industry.

Under the existing situation small factory owners, taxpayers, etc. may put forward their income figures or their account ledgers to prove that they can pay no more taxes or can provide no higher wages. The workers must be prepared to answer such arguments with the logical socialist answer: either run your business at decent wages and pay out from your profits to finance public make-work schemes, or get out of business. If the capitalists cannot make money, the workers can say: turn the factories over to us; we will run them without the necessity to pay dividends to private "owners."

"Realizability" or "unrealizability" is, in the given instance, a question of the relationship of forces, which can be decided only by the struggle. By means of this struggle, no matter what its immediate practical successes may be, the workers will best come to understand the necessity of liquidating capitalist slavery. The socialist state alone can guarantee permanent "realization" of any progressive demands.

      Expropriate the 50 Big Shots

9. How to Fight Fascism

The struggle to preserve and heighten the living standards of the Canadian masses leads inevitably to the formation of organizations which will later play a part in the socialist state. The struggle is one which cannot be conducted entirely within the framework of trade union and political parties. Only 20% of the Canadian workers are now in trade unions and these are divided against each other. The CCF must work actively and unceasingly for trade union unity—not simply as such, but on the basis of rank and file control and progressive politics. The party should encourage the formation of permanent factory committees, joint committees between different unions in the same area, and seek to extend those committees (which the workers form spontaneously in times of stress) into permanent national councils which could serve as the bridge to trade union fusion. The creation of such councils would greatly facilitate also the organization of the unemployed with the employed.

Hand in hand with joint councils should go the work of joint defense committees. The picket lines of strikes must become representative of all organized labor; the strike defense committees must be maintained after the strike, linked with similar committees in ether parts of Canada and, through trade union solidarity, made into a system of workers’ defense guards. This and not Leagues for Peace and Democracy should be the concern of the CCF. Only by militant counter-action of the workers can fascist hoodlums be suppressed.

The CCF must answer the threat of strikebreakers and red-baiters with the slogan: workers defense guards. Such a defense organization can play also the positive role of a worker-farmer defense system to protect the legislation of a socialist government against the military coups of capitalists.

The CCF should immediately create from its own ranks defense squads, equipped, drilled and trained to meet the fascists on their own ground, to defend the workers’ press, their meetings and their picket lines. Let us learn from Oshawa and Sarnia.

      Meet the Fascists Blow for Blow
      Organize Workers’ Defense
      Towards a Workers’ National Guard

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