In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The Prairie Populist Resistance to the National Policy: Some Reconsiderations J.F. CONWAY Accounts of the emergence of third parties in Canada, largely based in the Prairie West, most notably the national Progressive party, the Social Credit party in Alberta, and the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.) in Saskatchewan, are at wide theoretical variance with each other. Indeed, though the region in . question and the social, economic and political phenomena under consideration are among the most studied aspects· of the Canadian story, no theoretical organizing principle has emerged to make this plethora of scholarly work a coherent whole.I It would be impossible to examine all published articles and books, not to mention the dense underbrush of unpublished theses and dissertations in one brief essay, but perhaps a few comments on the major published works will make the point sufficiently. W.L. Morton's classic, The Progressive Party in Canada, analyzed the Progressive upsurge ~s "an expression of sectional and agrarian protest primarily''2 which more or less ended in 1926 although it provided ''the seed, the phoenix ashes, from which were to spring the new parties [the Social Credit and the C.C.F.] of the next decade."3 Admitting some continuity between the Progressive upsurge and the Social Credit and C.C.F. projects, Morton insists that the new movements were at the same time a decisive break with the old. The rise of the Social Credit movement and of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation marked the beginning of a new phase of Canadian political development , a phase of class rather than sectional politics, of urban rather than Journal ofCanadian Studies Vol. 14, No. 3 (Automne 1979Fall) rural dominance. The period of 1910 to 1935 was one of transition in Canada from an agrarian to an industrialized society; with the Progressive movement passed the Canadian, and the North American frontier. Social Credit and the C.C.F. were the successors of the Progressive movement rather than the continuations of it.4 Similarly, Macpherson, in his brilliant account of Social Credit in Alberta, sees some discontinuity between the pre-existing farm movement and farmer government there and the ascendant Social Credit League of 1932-35.5 Although focussing his analysis of both the U.F.A. and the Social Credit on the theoretically (and empirically ) dubious proposition that the Alberta population tended to reject the party system, Macpherson salvages his work by locating the roots of both the U.F.A. and the Social Credit in the political class struggle of the agrarian petit-bourgeoisie in Alberta. This tends to render Macpherson's work theoretically confusing, a confusion that is only temporarily dispelled with his late remarks on the political implications of independent commodity production.6 Lipset's study of the C.C.F. in Saskatchewan similarly concedes its roots in the earlier agrarian agitations but coins a new theoretical term to characterize the phenomenon, "agrarian socialism."7 Lipset argues that there was a decisive break between the newer and older movements when the organized farmers' movement in Saskatchewan "went socialist."8 Despite the fact that he concedes that "even before the first election in 1934, party leaders began to omit all reference to socialism in their propaganda,''9 Lipset doggedly adheres to his profoundly questionable concept of "agrarian socialism." Similar kinds of theoretical problems can be pointed to in the work of McHenry, Zakuta and Young on the origins and development of the C.C.F.IO They all share in the difficulties encountered in the published classics by Morton, Macpherson, and Lipset. None of them is able satisfactorily to answer such questions as: was the Progressive party primarily a class or regional phenomenon? why did such apparently different movements as the C.C.F. in Saskatchewan and the Social Credit 77 in Alberta emerge from similar environments? was the agrarian agitation as a whole a Canadian version of the more or less universal response of the agrarian petit-bourgeoisie to the consequences of capitalist modernization for them as a class? or was it just an interesting chapter in the unique course of Canadian evolution? what was the structural impact of the movements, particularly where they won...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 77-91
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.