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PETER R. SINCLAIR The Saskatchewan CCF: AscenttoPower and the Socahsm Decline IN i944 THE COOPERATIVE COMMONWEALTH FEDERATION [CCF] won a sweeping victory intheSaskatchewan provincial election, avictory which has often been hailed astherise topower ofNorth America's first socialist government ? Thispaper willreview thedevelopment oftheparty upto1944, paying particular attention toitsrelationship withother political organizations and tothetransformation ofitsearly socialist policy onland ownership. Thehistory oftheCCF before 1944 isbest understood byemphasizing that it wasmorea political partythana social movement. Thisstress ontheCCF asa party diverges fromthepositions ofbothLeoZakuta, whointerpreted theOntario section asa movement fromI93• to I94I, andWalterYoung, forwhom thenational ccFwas ahybrid party-movement during alltwentyeightyears of itsexistence? Thisanalysis of the Saskatchewan ccr is not evidence fortherejection oftheories about thedevelopment of theCCF in Ontario orthecountry asawhole, butitshould bestated thatgreat care must betaken before accepting theccFmembers' owndefinition oftheirorganization as amovement rather than aparty. Professor Young's position also leads to conceptual problems in thathewouldhaveto denytheexistence of a revolutionary party,because, forhim,it issocial movements whichseek basic social change. ThisiswhyYoung begins hisbook withtheextreme statement x Forexample, S.M.Lipset, Agrarian Socialism (New Yorkx968 ); Dean E.McHenry, TheThirdForce inCanada Berkeley andLosAngeles •95o),p.v;GadHorowitz, Canadian Labour inPolitics (Toronto x968), p.9;DavidE. Smith, 'A Comparison ofPrairie Political Developrnents inSaskatchewan andAlberta,' Journal o!Canadian Studies, 4, •969, P.•7;Walter D.Young, Democracy andDiscontent (Toronto •969), p. 7 x 2 LeoZakuta, A Protest Movement Becalmed (Toronto x964);WalterD. Young, TheAnatomy o!aParty: theNational CCF(Toronto •969) Vol. LIVNo 4 December •973 420 THE CANADIAN HISTORICAL REVIEW that'Socialists belong tomovements, capitalists support parties? Furthermore ,according toYoung, asocial movement issuccessful whenitsgoals are achieved, apartywhenit wins power. Therefore, bceause the½½F didnotwin a nationalelection, it isdescribed asa failureasa party,yetsuccessful asa movement because some ofitspolicies wereenacted byothergoverning parties . However, Younghimself records thatit wasMackenzie King'sperception of the½½F asa nationalthreatwhichpersuaded him to enactseveral laws favoured bytheGet. 4In doingthishewasresponding totheccr asa party competing for political power.Suchevents should makeusverywaryof stressing thesocial movement qualityoftheccr. The concept of social movement implies a diffuse, relatively unorganized support forfundamental social change. A political partyisaformalorganizationcommitted to winningpower,usually withintheframework of existing electoral and governing institutions. Sucha partymaybe the organized expression ofasocial movement, butit isthepartycharacter oftheccrwhich must beemphasized if wearetomakesense ofitsdevelopment in Saskatchewan .Commitment towinning power bypopular election ledtoa conservative compromise in itspolicyandpragmatic attempts to formcoalitions with Social Credit. • Elaboration oftheabove themeshould beginwithanaccount oftheradical origino.ftheSaskatchewan ccF,whichemerged earlyin thedepression asa coalition of farmerandlabourgroups. Much earlier(i 92I) those farmers whoweremost interested in reformhadestablished anindependent Farmers' Union.A majorconcern of thisgroupwaspoliticaleducation, a taskwhich theycontinued whenthe Farmers'Union mergedwith the Saskatchewan Grain Growers'Association to form the United Farmersof CanadaIvac]. By1928thelefthadtwoimportant successes. At the 1928convention ofthe uFc a resolution waspassed whichfavoured the compulsory marketing of wheatthrough thepoolco-operative oncondition that75percentoffarmers sign contracts withtheexisting voluntary organization. Thefewsocialists in theorganization hadlongbeencampaigning fora compulsory poolbecause theysawit astheonlywaytohavesome control overselling prices. In addition ,George Williams, theleader of thisgroup, waselected vice-president of theuFc.øThisachievement wasconsolidated in 1929 whenWilliamsbecame president andanunqualified resolution forcompulsory co-operative marketingwaspassed . 7The radicaltrendis evident in thespeech of theretiring 3 Young,TheAnatomy o[a Party,p. 3 4 Ibid., p. 8 5 Its relationship withtheCommunist partyalsodemonstrates thepartynatureof the ccF.SeePeterR. Sinclair,'The Saskatchewan½.½.F. and the CommunistParty in the i93o's'Saskatchewan History,xxvI, I973, i-io 6 UFC(SS) Minutes, I928, Archives of Saskatchewan [^s] 7 Ibid., i929. Supporters sawit asioo percentcontrol,opponents asioo percent compulsion. THE SASKATCHEWAN CCF 421 president, J.A.Stoneman, whocommented, 'We should stress moreandmore that we dosupport publicownership andcontrolof notonlyrailways but naturalresources aswell? Thiswasa veryimportant statement because in asking forthepublicownership of naturalresources hecouldbeinterpreted tomeanthatfarmers should giveuppersonal ownership ofland. One resultof the depression wasincreased pressure for directpolitical action.Addressing the I93O uFc convention, E.A. Partridgedemanded a form of Christian socialism to replacecapitalist exploitation: 'We must organize along class lines, wemustrealize thatit isthesame class, whoexploits labour, whoexploits thefarmer, only inadifferent way,andthatthepropertyless farmermustjoinhands against thecommon enemy...True co-operation hasitsfinalgoalinsocialism, whichisthecontinualobservance of theGolden Rule,thegospel themanJesus Christpreached andpractised, twothousand years ago? Following thisspeech a motion to allowtheuFcto undertake directpolitical actionwasnarrowly defeated. xøHowever,it wasagreed that farmers should setup another organization 'forthepurpose of moredirectly selecting andelecting representatives tothelegislature andtheHouseofCommons , pledged to support thedemands of organized agriculture. m As 193¸ drewtoaclose, therewasnosignofanendtothedepression andthefarmers weregrowingmorebitterbecause manywerefacingforeclosure after years of workingto buildup...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 419-433
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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