Thursday, October 06, 2005

Social Credit And Western Canadian Radicalism

The history of Alberta Alienation and the autonomous farmer worker resistance to Ottawa, the seat of political and economic power of the mercantilist state, dates back to the founding of the province one hundred years ago.

A more significant departure from European experience was the ambiguous state of government
accountability to legislative, and thus elected, power. Though granted ‘responsible government’ in the late nineteenth century, British colonies vested great power in un-elected upper houses, and the crown’s representative, the Governor General. For instance, Canada’s constitutional framers were explicit in their desire to create a ‘constitutional government’ that could effectively check any ‘democratic tide’ that might emerge. "The rights of the minority," remarked Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, "must be protected, and the rich are always fewer in number than the poor." The un-elected Senate would represent that minority. Macdonald’s chief spokesman for French Canada, Sir George Cartier, made the point clearly - the Senate’s purpose was to serve as “a power of resistance to oppose the democratic element.”
This vaguery on the part of government accountability allowed colonial elites to have their democratic cake and eat it too. They could allow ostensibly ‘democratic’ government to function, but reserve the right to intervene undemocratically over specific policies or programs.
Renewing Canadian Democracy: Citizen Engagement in Voting System Reform

If British Mercantilist Imperialism viewed the 'colonies' of its 'Commonwealth', as the 'hewers of wood and drawers of water', then Ottawa and its Mercantilist partner the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) viewed Western Canada as their 'hewers of wood and drawers of water' for the rest of Canada. See my Return of the City State for more on this.

British Imperialism was the underlying ideology of Ottawa's colonial mentality towards the West and Alberta in particular. Our development as a province was fostered by the expansion of the Mercantilist Monopoly of the CPR, who owned the majority of lands west of the Red River. This ownership was supported by the State and its army the NWMP/RCMP.

And the CPR and Ottawa opened up of the west to immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe, Ukrainians, Germans, Icelanders, Finns, Jews, Slavs from the Balkans, etc. They were promised homesteading lands, no taxes, and freedom from conscription. All of which would be broken promises by 1918.See my Canada's First Internment Camps

Alberta was a region of developing metropolis of workers and rural farmers. With Saskatchewan, its sister province founded in 1905, it was to become the 'bread basket' not only to Canada but the rest of the world. The CPR would transport the wheat, pay the farmers a pittance, ship it to the Grain Exchange in Winnipeg, and profit from its sales on the world market. Ottawa would gain its profit from taxes on those sales.

The Banks, the other mercantilist monopoly, would fund the farmers, who would then be in debt to both them and the CPR. And after WWI the farmers would be in debt to Ottawa as well, as income tax was introduced to pay off Britain’s war debt.

The autodidact social movement of immigrant farmers and workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan were influenced by socialist, communist, economic reformers, the ideology of the Cooperative Commonwealth and the Cooperative movement, Social Credit, and Henry George.

It was in Alberta and Saskatchewan that the greatest social experiment in social reform would occur at the end of WWI. It was an autonomous movement of workers and farmers radicalized by their immigrant backgrounds, their self study educational societies, and their building of The Socialist Party of Canada. The radical workers movement would form the One Big Union in Calgary and call for a General Strike against capitalism, The Edmonton General Strike 1919 .

While Canadian Historians have spoken of the 'two solitudes' between French and English Canada, there were in fact 'three solitudes' in Canada. The third solitude was the farmer worker rebellion in Western Canada. This had begun with the Riel Rebellion and would become more pronounced in the early half of the 2oth Century in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Social Credit was part of that movement of worker farmer rebellion against the Canadian mercantilist state.
Its founder Major Douglas is an example of the autodidactic intellectual trend at the beginning of the 20th Century when socialism begins to diverge into Modernism, being a movement of progressive politics, philosophy, art, and culture.

He first published his ideas about Social Credit in the British Modernist Journal 'The New Age', whose editor was A.R. Orage.

The New Age included modernist writers like T.S. Elliot and Ezra Pound. Orage himself was a Guild Socialist and he was influential on the ideas of Social Credit Douglas was developing in the 1920's.

“Guild socialism and Douglas had this in common: In their different ways they both questioned the deep faith that Marxist and most brands of socialism shared with the prophets of capitalism – that economic growth was in itself beneficent and necessary, and ultimately liberating. The guild socialists questioned this on aesthetic, philosophic and social grounds under the influence of William Morris, John Ruskin, and even of Robert Owen.Douglas-Orage review the nature of money from the ground up with a thoroughness that has few if any equals. “Douglas stressed that production does not create money. It is possible to imagine a producer in a system of single-stage production [i.e., without the purchase of intermediate goods and hence not incurring costs that have need of money]. Having access to land (which has not been bought) and a discarded spade, and having saved seed potato and horse manure (discarded A), it is possible for a producer to plant, tend and harvest a potato crop at no financial cost. The crop can be put in a discarded sack and sold to a neighbour for £5. Has the producer created £5? Or any money at all? That is the sort of maddeningly basic question Douglas was given to asking.
The Political Economy of Social Credit and Guild Socialism
Sustainable Economics
Volume 12 Number 3 June 2004
the bimonthly newsletter of the Green Economy Working Group of the Green Party of England and Wales

The first public presentation of C H Douglas’s economic analysis appeared in the December 1918 issue of the English Review under the title ‘The Delusion of Super-Production’. This was to be soon followed by his first major work, Economic Democracy, which before publication in 1920, appeared serially in the New Age: A Weekly Review of Politics, Literature and Art, edited by A R Orage. In his autobiography, Augustus John states: ‘A R Orage was a friend ofmine. The literary generation of his time owes much to Orage. Under his editorship the New Age became thebest and liveliest weekly. It carried no advertisements and in that respect was both unique and commercially unsound. I thought Orage’s notes on the first World War were as judicious as they were exemplary in style: he was so often right. After a period given up to the exposition of Guild Socialism, Orage fell under the spell of Social Credit as expounded by Major C H Douglas. I painted the major and was impressed by his personal dignity and charm. Unmoved by obloquy or boycott he stands apart, urbane and imperturbable….’ The influence of C H Douglas on his contemporaries

The New Age was open to debates between varieties of socialists, including guild socialist, Fabians, anarchists. The writers and thinkers around the New Age developed their own unique form of anti-capitalism that was also anti-socialist. It was called 'distributism'[i], and it would influence Douglas' theory of Social Credit.

Like Thorstien Veblen, Douglas does not embrace a Labour Theory of Value, but one which places the responsibility of the crisis of capitalism on its distributive nature, the price system.

Part I: Philosophy



The early Victorian political economists agreed in ascribing all "values" to three essentials: land, labour, and capital. Without staying at the moment to discuss the unsatisfactory meanings which were frequently attached to these words, we may notice that, the three together being defined as the source of all wealth, the possession of one or the other of them seemed logically defensible as a claim, and collectively, the only valid claim to the wealth produced. But it is rapidly receiving recognition that, while there might be a rough truth in this argument during the centuries prior to the industrial revolution consequent on the inventive period following the Renaissance, and culminating in the steam engine, the spinning-jenny, and so forth, there is now a fourth factor in wealth production, the multiplying power of which far exceeds that of the other three, which may be expressed in the words of Mr. Thorstein Veblen* (although he does not appear to have grasped its full implication) as the "progress of the industrial arts." Quite clearly, no one person can be said to have a monopoly share in this; it is the legacy of countless numbers of men and women, many of whose names are forgotten and the majority of whom are dead. And since it is a cultural legacy, it seems difficult to deny that the general community, as a whole, and not by any qualification of land, labour, or capital, are the proper legatees. But if the ownership of wealth produced vests in the owners of the factors contributed to its production, and the owners of the legacy of the industrial arts are the general community, it seems equally difficult to deny that the chief owners, and rightful beneficiaries of the modern productive system, can be shown to be the individuals composing the community, as such.

* "The Engineers and the Price System."

Douglas is not alone in addressing the crisis of Modernism, which occurs after WWI when Fordist industrialization leads to the very real domination of finance capital and the effective creation of mass consumerism. This creation of the worker consumer concerned Veblen, Hilferding, and other Marxists. A solution to the Modernist crisis of consumption was put forward by the Austrian School of Price and Distributive theory as well as the followers of 'Distributism'.

Yet perhaps the most important fundamental idea which can be conveyed at this time, in regard to the money problem - an idea on the validity of which certainly stands or falls, anything I have to say on the subject - is that it is not a problem of value-measurement. The proper function of a money system is to furnish the information necessary to direct the production and distribution of goods and services. SOCIAL CREDIT CHAPTER VII THE NATURE OF MONEY

This recognition of the 'reality' of the day, the crisis of capitalist overproduction, led to a variety of economic alternatives based not on production but distribution, including Keynes General Theory, which is also a distributive model for capitalist reform. However Douglas’s analysis leaves little doubt that his is not a socialist view of economics but rather one based on the distributism model of increasing consumption.

Part III: The Design of Economic Freedom



It is also vital to notice that, so far from these relationships being in any sense theoretical, they are so automatic and inherent that they exist in a definite form in the world to-day. In spite of all the agitation for what has been called workers' control of industry (an agitation which has been pressed forward in every part of the world) such a thing has never been in effective operation, for the reason that it is against the nature of things. Finance directs, and always has directed, the programme of production. Finance is the technique of credit; and the origin of credit (though not the whole basis of credit) should be the consumer. "Workers' Committees," Soviets, and so forth, are crude credit-distribution societies, whose working is inferior as such to that of the orthodox bank. It is possible to remove every factor from the industrial system, except effective demand, and some sort of industrial system, however primitive in kind (even to the extent of digging for roots and climbing for fruit), will remain; but take away the desire, the need or the belief in the ability to consume, and not a seed will be planted nor a tool employed. It is not for lack of technical ability, but for lack of effective demand, that civilisation today stands on the brink of irremediable catastrophe.

There is, therefore, no room for doctrinaire theorising in regard to the "aims of industry"; the trouble about industry is not that its aims are wrong, but that it fails to achieve them. And it fails to achieve them for a simple reason - the individual is divorced from the credit which is his, and, in consequence, does not duly function as a consumer. It is only necessary to recognise the natural relationships which underlie any sort of functioning of an economic society. If we recognise and admit these relationships, and make our arrangements accordingly, we have a machine which is designed to work in accordance with the only forces which are available to work economic machines, and the result is smoothness and efficiency. If we refuse to recognise these forces, or pretend that they have a direction which is contrary to the facts, or clamour for a change in their nature (a "change of heart"), we are likely to get an economic machine which is about as successful as would be a plough if installed for the purpose of driving an Atlantic liner. We are in the position of a would-be engineer who refuses to accept the principles of thermodynamics, and, instead of endeavouring to improve the steam engine, tries to alter the properties of steam.

The financial relationships which correspond to these principles are fundamentally simple. The credit power which is based on the demand of the community as a whole for goods and services can only be effectively directed in detail by trained technicians, using that description, in the words of the Labour Party, "to include workers by hand and brain." But just as it is in the nature of things that ownership and finance are indissoluble, so, while emphasising the sphere of the technician in production, it is equally certain that his product belongs not to himself, but to the community from which he derives his financial energy. It is the business of the scientist, the designer, and the inventor, to place before the individuals who compose the public the achievements which are considered possible. It, is the business of the public to say in what quantity and in what priority it considers those achievements desirable, and it is the business of the producer, in the general sense of the term, to act in accordance with the verdict, and to hand over the product to the general public - the consumer - of whom alike the producer and the inventor are a part. That is practically what happens at present, with the vital exception that the order system which connects the individual with the producer does not function; whether by accident or design is largely immaterial.

Interestingly Douglas agrees with Veblen for the need for a Technocratic leadership for advanced industrialized capitalism.

The credit power which is based on the demand of the community as a whole for goods and services can only be effectively directed in detail by trained technicians, using that description, in the words of the Labour Party, "to include workers by hand and brain."

Douglas then addresses the Labour crisis of Modernist consumption under Fordist capitalism.........

Whether society as a whole can be imagined to have an individuality of its own or not, it may be repeated that Society's individuality is not a prime interest of the human individual. It is an auxiliary interest, and may even be a perversive interest. It is most probably true that there can be no divergence between true Public Interest and any true private interest; if it were so, words would have lost their meaning; but it is certain that no crushing of individuality by Society can ever conduce to the well-being of other individuals. The human individual, under the same conception, contains either in a latent or active form, every function and attribute, although on a minute scale, which can be imagined to reside in a world society. Consequently, although work for its own sake, or employment as an end and not a means, is objectionable when it is purely functional, or to put the matter in everyday terms, since it is plainly desirable to cut down the amount of time necessary to improve the general environment at whatever rate is deemed desirable, work for its own sake may quite easily be essential to the well-being of the individual. The difference is subtle, but it is vital. To knit a jumper or to dig and plough because of the satisfaction of knitting a jumper or of creating a garden or a wheatfield, or even because it is healthy, is one thing, and it may happen as a by-product that the jumper or the wheatfield will be superlatively well done; to knit jumpers, or to dig and plough ten hours a day, six days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, because unless this is done the mere necessities of existence cannot be obtained, is quite another. To dress neatly, comfortably, and suitably, taking half an hour over the process, seems reasonable; to spend the day in dressing is monomania - our forbears called it "possession." When we do things under the compulsion of Society, we are blood-corpuscles, not individuals; we are doing them in the interests of Society primarily, and only secondarily, if at all, in the interests of our own individuality. As society is at present constituted, it is quite definitely to its advantage, and tends to the perpetuation of the present form of Society, that Lancashire mill operatives should work the maximum number of hours at a very dull occupation, with the minimum of change of work, and if individuals had no interests as such, that is to say, if they were Robots, contemporary society would probably work very well, and no difficulties would arise. But Lancashire mill operatives are developing individualities, and their interests are clearly not the same as those of Society as at present constructed. In one way or another the various units which compose the Society are proclaiming unmistakably their objection to a purely passive role, and the conflict which we see proceeding all over the world at the present time will clearly determine whether Society has power to remould the individual so that he becomes purely a passive agent in respect of purposes which he cannot understand, and has no means of estimating, or, on the other hand, whether the individual by non-co-operation or otherwise, can break up or remould Society. For my own part I have small doubt as to the outcome.

The problem with Social Credit and distributism is that, like the Austrian School of Economics it denies the political economy of the Labour Theory of Value. The free association of producers is replaced with a consumers association. It is a response to the changes in production after WWI in particular the advent in North America of the Fordist model of manufacturing and the creation of mass consumption and the mass consumer.

In order then to identify the source of the crisis of capitalist overproduction, it reduces it to a theory of money, credit, interest and circulation. This means that it does not identify capitalism as the problem rather it identifies a single arena of capitalism as the problem, finance capitalism.

It reduces the problem of overproduction to the control of the economy by the banking and finance monopolies. Ipso facto the problem then is who invented interest, and who controls the levers of the banking industry.

As a result Douglas identifies money, interest and capital as being "Semitic".

A CONCEPTION which is closely connected with the theory of rewards and punishments, is that of "Value." In effect, value may be defined, to fit the orthodox conception of it, as that quality which gives to anything maximum exchangeability under present conditions. Rewards and Punishments, Justice, i.e. the assessments of desserts, and "Value," i.e. the basis on which desserts are assessed, may be said to be the corner stones of the Semitic structure of society.

And he relies upon the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as his source for this historical fact!

"IN a remarkable document which received some publicity some years ago, under the title of "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion," a Machiavellian scheme for the enslavement of the world was outlined. The authenticity of this document is a matter of little importance; what is interesting about it, is the fidelity with which the methods by which such enslavement might be brought about can be seen reflected in the facts of everyday experience." SOCIAL CREDIT Part II: The Mechanism of the Classical Ideal CHAPTER VI

And while Douglas did lace his Social Credit theory with the economic conspiracy theory of Jewish Bankers, that is not what the United Farmers of Alberta and later Social Credit movements took from his theory. These movements in Alberta were far more syncretic than that.

Social Discredit: Anti-Semitism, Social Credit and the Jewish Response.

Anti-Semitism in Canada in the 1930s and 1940s involved an image of Jews as international conspirators, secretly plotting world domination through an inchoate combination of international banking, communism and Zionism. In the mythology, based on the forged but widely circulated Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Jews thus posed a threat to national sovereignty, property, peace and prosperity.

In the 1930s, Social Credit doctrine made its way from its originator, Liverpool's Major C. H. Douglas, to the Canadian West. As Janine Stingel demonstrates, Social Credit was "wholly dependent on an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory" (p. 13). Anti-Semitism was not a coincidental adjunct to this right-wing populist movement, but resided at the core of a paranoid vision of bankers and money-lenders swindling honest Canadians out of the wages of their toil. Depression-era Alberta was fertile ground for such a message, particularly when it came through the medium of a popular radio-preacher turned politician, "Bible Bill" Aberhart. Alberta thus became home to the only North American jurisdiction with a government that officially endorsed anti-Semitism.

To dismiss Social Credit in Alberta as simply 'Anti-Semitic' is reductionist, and a-historical. It fails to understand Social Credit as part of the worker farmer reform movement in the West and in Alberta in particular.

And it fails to understand that the original movement from which it originated was 'distributism' whose ideology was adapted by left wing Catholics like Dorothy Day of the Catholic Workers League and corporatists on the right like Ezra Pound[ii] who viewed fascism as the logical outcome of Social Credit distributism.

Aberhart candidly admitted that certain Social Crediters were spouting anti-Semitism. Secondly, even though the premier failed to keep his promise to squelch the anti-Semitism among his followers, the [Canadian Jewish] Congress chose not to make the conversation public. As a result, an opportunity was lost to publicize Aberhart's acknowledgment of the problem and his failure to do anything about it. Social Discredit is full of intriguing episodes, but typically the documentation is more complete on the Congress side than on the Social Credit side. In February 1947 two Congress officials held a two-hour meeting with three Social Credit members of Parliament. One of the Congress representatives summarized the conversation that took place in a lengthy memorandum to the national executive. Unfortunately, there is no record of the impressions of those sitting on the other side of the table.
Social Discredit: Anti-Semitism, Social Credit,and the Jewish Response
Reviewed in University of Toronto Quarterly by James Pitsula

This contradiction is inherent in all distributive economic theories as they fail to deal with the real source of capitalisms dominance; that is the social relations of production. They are in effect an economic theory of consumers/ consumption of the new middle class in the era of Fordist production.

Social Credit is one of many distributive economic alternatives to Finance Capitalism including several current popular micro-economic models for creating an anti-capitalist cooperative marketplace. Local and Interest-Free or Alternative Currencies, Social Credit and Microcredit

The fact is that distributive theories of economics, that is theories of the dominance of finance; interest, rent, etc. rely upon the actual history of usury. Their critique of finance, mercantilism/capitalism is based on the moral repugnance in Christian Europe of usury, this is the source of their argument whether or not one uses the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or not.Christendom is historically Anti-Semitic. So the dismissal of Social Credit or other critiques of monopoly and finance capital as 'Anti-Semitic', should be taken with a large grain of salt.

It is also the underlying failure of the distributive theory of value, and one which is historically prone to conspiracy theories.

Of Usury

Francis Bacon


Many have made witty invectives against usury. They say that it is pity the devil should have God's part, which is the tithe, that the usurer is the greatest Sabbath-breaker, because his plough goeth every Sunday; that the usurer is the drone that Virgil speaketh of: Ignavum fucos pecus a praesepibus arcent; that the usurer breaketh the first law that was made for mankind after the fall, which was, in sudore vultûs tui comedes panem tuum; not, in sudore vultûs alieni; that usurers should have orange-tawny bonnets, because they do Judaize; that it is against nature for money to beget money, and the like.

The discommodities of usury are, first, that it makes fewer merchants; for were it not for this lazy trade of usury, money would not lie still but would in great part be employed upon merchandising, which is the vena porta of wealth in a state: the second, that it makes poor merchants; for as a farmer cannot husband his ground so well if he sit at a great rent, so the merchant cannot drive his trade so well if he sit at great usury: the third is incident to the other two; and that is, the decay of customs of kings or states, which ebb or flow with merchandising: the fourth, that it bringeth the treasure of a realm or state into a few hands; for the usurer being at certainties, and others at uncertainties, at the end of the game most of the money will be in the box; and ever a state flourisheth when wealth is more equally spread: the fifth, that it beats down the price of land; for the employment of money is chiefly either merchandising or purchasing, and usury waylays both: the sixth, that it doth dull and damp all industries, improvements, and new inventions, wherein money would be stirring if it were not for this slug : the last, that it is the canker and ruin of many men's estates, which in process of time breeds a public poverty.

The very real, harsh and brutal impact of the Depression produced the anomaly in Alberta in particular, where autodidactic workers and farmers supported Social Credit and also embraced Lenin's critique of finance capital.

Finance capital, concentrated in a few hands and exercising a virtual monopoly, exacts enormous and ever-increasing profits from the floating of companies, issue of stock, state loans, etc., strengthens the domination of the financial oligarchy and levies tribute upon the whole of society for the benefit of monopolists. FINANCE CAPITAL AND THE FINANCIAL OLIGARCHY

The Modernist ideology that influenced the workers and farmers movements in Alberta identified their class enemy not as capitalism per se but as ‘Monopoly’. In particular the Banks and CPR, who had foreclosed their farms and forced them into becoming the proletariat in Edmonton and Calgary in order to make a living and survive. They opposed Monopoly Capitalism and the Mercantilist elite.

It is the limitation of the critique of Monopoly, whether espoused by Douglas, the Cooperative movement, the Distributism movement, Henry George, or even the libertarian
Benjamin Tucker, which in its incomplete critique of capitalism allowed it to be adopted by the Left and the Right. Since it is a critique of finance capital it suffers the albatross of being prone to monolithic conspiracy theories.

Alberta was a microcosm of the world wide political upheavals of the 1930's , more so than anywhere else in North America. The workers and farmers revolts would lead to the growth of both socialism and fascism. The later being an outgrowth of the failure of the former to gain state power. Fascism used the language of National Socialism to appeal against monopoly capitalism in this it was the doppelganger of Stalin’s Socialism in One Country. By identifying one sector of the economy as dominating capitalism it was only logical that this would lead to identifying a specific group as the conspiracy behind that monopoly. In this case the banking monopoly was equated with usury, and usury was historically equated with the Jewish Diaspora in Europe.

Once Social Credit became a government and Bible Bill consolidated his power over this popular front movement, the party quickly declined into a Christian evangelical tyranny of the right.

This was the time of not only movements of the left but a rebirth of the evangelical movement in Canada, Baptists, Pentecostals, Evangelicals. Christian cults and sects outside of the mainstream churches flourished. Alberta in the depression was fertile soil for these movements as much as it was for their left wing counter part the social gospel movement.

It is this Christian evangelicalism that reeked of Anti-Semitism, and was rejected by radical workers and farmers, as well as social reformers who had hoped Alberta would provide an alternative to the capitalist state.

A Western Canadian Libertarian critic of Social Credit was

Eugene Sydney Woodward

Eugene Sidney Woodward (1880-1970) was the son of a railway clerk of Watford ,
. He won a scholarship to a grammar school, but dropped out and followed his

father's occupation. In 1908 he emigrated to Victoria, B.C., and the following year married Mary Burge, also of Watford . He opened a small grocery store in Victoria, and in 1916 was given a political patronage appointment as co-manager of the Victoria liquor store .

Woodward joined the Retail Clerks' Union, and quickly advanced in the labor movement, becoming president of the Victoria and District Trades and Labor Council within a year.

Throughout the 1920's he served as an alderman in the city of Victoria . In 1930 Woodward moved to Vancouver with his family .
He pursued his interest in
economics through independent study .

He was particularly influenced by the ideas of the American social philosopher Henry George, and by the German economist Silvio Gesell , founder of the Free Economy movement . [iii]

An original thinker, he was neither left-wing nor right-wing, although much of his ideology might be termed "libertarian" today .
In 1936 Woodward was invited to advise the Social Credit government of Albert a
on his economic theories . However, he soon broke with Premier Aberhart and became a vocal critic of Social Credit .
While in Alberta, he began writing for the Edmonton Bulletin . This touched off a
successful career as an editorial writer and columnist for the Vancouver Sun, Province, and News Herald, the New Westminster Columbian . He was also a frequent speaker on the
radio program "Town Meeting in Canada" . Woodward's final project was a book, Adventure
in Free Enterprise, published under the pseudonym Gene Ard in 1965 .

Alberta's farmers and workers opposition to the Banks and finance capitalism led them to support the Social Credit movement, but it also led them to form the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), and the creation of an anti-capitalist movement in the West and to form the backbone of the Communist Party of Canada.

All three of these movements overlapped in Alberta, with the Communist Party in 1935 supporting a united front with Social Credit to defeat the sitting United Farmers Government.[iv] The founders of the CCF dominated the city council in Edmonton, and supported the existing UFA government. This alliance between the CCF and UFA led to a further radicalization of workers and farmers against Social Democratic electoral politics after the UFA and the Labour dominated Edmonton City Council ordered a police attack on Hunger Marchers in 1932.[v]

Alberta Alienation and the resulting autonomous movement of workers and farmers for a democratic cooperative socialist society is a historical reality of our relationship as the hinterland to the metropolis. We were Ottawa's mercantilist colony until the advent of Newfoundland entering Confederation and coincidentally our discovery of oil.

Today the populist politicians of the right use this deep seated distrust and inherent radicalism to their own ends. They adopt the program of the Post-WWI worker farmer left in Alberta as their own, referendum, recall, proportional representation, criticism of unfair taxation, and a critique of monopoly (in the neo-con's case of state monopolies only).

The Left in Canada historically has failed to recognize itself in Alberta's early 20th Century revolt against the British Imperialist mercantilists in Ottawa. Situated as they are in the industrial heartland of Ontario, they dismiss us all as Rednecks, instead of celebrating our history as the history of Red Canada. The rebellion in the West was a revolutionary movement of workers and farmers that influenced Canadian politics for 60 years.

Here, as in Europe, the presence or absence of a strong labour party was key. New Zealand’s Labour party
didn’t emerge until 1916, four years after the majoritarian voting system had been abandoned. By the time
Labour gained power in 1935, its opponents responded by merging into a single opposition party, eliminating
the necessity of voting system reform. By contrast, conservative opposition to Labour in Australia could
not unify their rural and urban interests behind one party. Thus the adoption of the alternative vote in 1918
allowed both rural and urban parties to co-exist without giving advantage to Labour through centre-right vote
splits.Similar dynamics led to its adoption in most Australian states as well. In Canada, the situation
was different again as the key national reform party of the era was organized around farmers, not urban
labourers. Initially, labour led a spate postwar social organizing, culminating in the 1919 general strikes in
Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver, and the rise of the radical One Big Union. But by the 1921 federal election,
recession and state repression had thinned their ranks, and labour candidates won just a handful of ridings.
However, at the provincial level, the political threat from the left and their allies had more impact, leading to the adoption of partial PR systems in Manitoba (1920) and Alberta (1924).
Anglo-American discussion of voting system reform, after a brief surge of interest after WWI, slipped from
public discussion throughout the 1920s, and from favour with many previous supporters in the 1930s. Britain
faced the prospect of electoral reform again in 1931 under a minority Labour government but the parties
couldn’t agree on an alternative. Increasingly, left activists everywhere were viewing calls for proportional
voting as a manipulation by their opponents to simply limit their influence or ability to govern. Certainly
British Labour’s unhappy experience in minority government in 1924 and 1929-31, where neither Liberals or
Tories would sanction much of the left’s policy agenda, convinced many that only a majority for the left would
allow them to do much. Indeed, throughout Europe, left parties faced hostile coalitions determined to block
their agenda. New Zealand Labour reversed its historic support for PR in 1934 just as it was on the verge of
power, and the Canadian Trades and Labour Congress dropped PR from its annual list of demands in 1931
after a decade of lobbying for it.
Renewing Canadian Democracy: Citizen Engagement in Voting System Reform


From the horses mouth: Social Credit in Alberta

Social Credit governed Alberta from 1935 to 1971. During this time: the Social Credit government eliminated Alberta's debt; established the Credit Union Act and Alberta Treasury Branches to provide low-interest loans; kept Alberta debt-free and income tax-free; and encouraged local ownership and control of hospitals, schools and utilities.

At the same time as the Province of Alberta was established in 1905, the farmers, who made up about 80% of the population, created the two farmer organizations, the Society of Equity and the Alberta Farmers Association, which became the United Farmers of Alberta in 1909 (UFA). The Co-operatives fought to combat the abuse of farmers at the hands of the corporate establishment, and to reduce speculation, waste and market manipulation, with the help of leaders like Henry Wise Wood. Wise Wood taught the farmers how the Co-operative Movement had been established to prevent people from being exploited by the industrialists and business community and to develop enterprises that would benefit the owner/members. These Alberta co-ops worked to improve conditions and to serve the people.

In 1913 the UFA and its members were studying such researchers, philosophers and theoreticians as Henry George, Alexander Del Mar, Sir Arthur Kitson, John Ruskin and later the very qualified work of Professor Frederick Soddy and C.H. Douglas.

After working very hard to influence the Liberal government of 1905 to 1921, under great and constant pressure from the membership, Henry Wise Wood and the UFA gave in to the pressure of the members wishing the UFA to become political. The UFA ran candidates in the election of 1921 and swept the province. In 1923, the UFA government struck a committee, headed by George Bevington, then a member of the Board of the UFA farmers co-operative, to study Monetary Reform. Bevington and his committee brought C.H. Douglas to speak to the Alberta Legislature and the House of Commons. Then in 1927, Douglas was contracted by the UFA government to act as a financial consultant to the government.

Bevington was constantly in search for someone with a public profile to lead in educating the public on the problems of the relationship with the federal government, the eastern and business establishment, the monetary system and the potential of monetary reform. In 1932 Bevington found just such a vulnerable, high profile candidate.

William Aberhart had been preaching the gospel on the radio since 1925. He was dedicated to the people of Alberta, he knew the devastation the depression was inflicting and he knew they needed more than nourishment for the soul. Aberhart was also a High School Principal at Crescent Heights High School in Calgary. When Aberhart found that one of his star pupils and valedictorian had committed suicide because he could not find a job, he was heart struck. Bevington had a friend, another Principal, then in Edmonton to mark Provincial exams, give Aberhart a book on Social Credit. After reading it twice, Aberhart said, "I think there are answers here."

Aberhart started talking about Social Credit on the radio in November of 1932. The request for information came so quickly that the Social Credit League of Alberta was established. Educators and discussion groups were set up all across Alberta. Aberhart still had no intention of going into politics and was dedicated to the UFA government. In 1934 Aberhart and Douglas made another presentation to the UFA government Committee on Agriculture. Based on the Legislation passed in the House of Commons in England in 1931, the Statutes of Westminster, it was thought that Alberta and the other provinces were considered "sovereign entities" and therefore had the right to create and control their own credit and possibly their own currency.

The Province of Alberta had existed in a state of bankruptcy for quite some time, R.G. Reid had replaced Premier Brownlee in 1934 because of Brownlee's indiscretions and in 1935 the UFA was facing yet another election. Because the UFA could not gauge the mood of the public, in a radical and unprecedented move, they decided to "test the waters" of the public reaction to "monetary reform" and run Social Credit candidates. The UFA supplied the literature and most Social Credit Candidates campaigned from the UFA locals or campaign offices.

To kick off the campaign Aberhart declared war on the existing "Poverty in the midst of plenty." Aberhart did not pull any punches and told the people straight, "if you have not suffered enough, it is your god given right to suffer some more."

In keeping with the Douglas Social Credit, Aberhart promised a dividend to all adult citizens of $25.00 each month. (The very next day after the election people lined up at city hall in Calgary to collect their dividends. This was not feasible so soon after the election of course because the Province was bankrupt and the new government had to have time to get established. The dividend cheques did not come until much later and because the Heritage fund had not been properly established it did not last long.)

The result was a sweep for the Social Credit candidates.
Aberhart now had a dilemma. He was under great pressure to stand for office. The MLAs wanted him to be Premier but he did not want to be in politics. In 1936 Aberhart succumbed to the pressure and when the MLA from Okotoks stepped aside, Aberhart stood for the office and was uncontested and therefore acclaimed.

The war was on with Ottawa for the "Provincial Rights" guaranteed to each Province under the British North America Act, and the banking and corporate community. The people of Alberta were destitute and poverty stricken and Ottawa was not forthcoming with any assistance. Alberta could not get money to get rolling again and the visits to the New York Bankers had insignificant results. Of the first pieces of legislation upon the return was to "stop borrowing money." The new government also floated a debt bond to pay down the debt. Thirteen pieces of Legislation that were passed by Alberta were declared "ultra vires" (illegal) by either the House of Commons or by the Supreme Court of Canada. All thirteen bills were directed at helping the poor by putting "purchasing power into the hands of the people," preventing the foreclosures of the homes, farms and small businesses, and developing a Constitution for the People of Albert, which included property rights protection.

The Liberal Government in Ottawa built a very strong campaign against the province of Alberta because it had elected populist governments, first the UFA and then Social Credit, and destroyed the party system in the province. This campaign was extremely evident in Ottawa's refusal to extend Alberta's bond payment in 1936 causing Alberta to fail to make its payment. Alberta was the only province that this was allowed to happen.

The banks had closed branches in over 137 communities across Alberta, leaving the people without banking facilities and the Provincial legislation putting a moratorium on foreclosures was declared illegal. In 1937 the government introduced the Prosperity Certificates which were declared illegal because the issue of currency was federal jurisdiction. The Prosperity Certificates were all honoured but they were dubbed "funny money" by the establishment and the news media.

After two and a half years of fighting Ottawa, the Alberta Legislature passed the Credit Union Act in March of 1938. Credit Unions, however, required people and real money to get established. Using the concept of the Social Credit, credit houses, based on a system proposed by Alma Hancock, the Alberta Treasury Branches was established in September of 1938 and working with the Credit Union and Co-operative system to keep capital circulating in Alberta communities. Between March of 1938 and Aberhart's death in 1943 he had seen 151 Credit Unions established.

The Alberta Social Credit Party, never was, and could not be, C. H. Douglas Social Credit. Alberta Social Credit or Provincial Social Credit was more of a hybrid or custom built party that attempted to bring the best aspects of all philosophies to the administration of Alberta's society. The Alberta Treasury Branches and The Alberta Heritage Trust Fund are really the only two aspects of Douglas's Social Credit Proposals that could be used because of the difference between federal and provincial jurisdiction.

Social Credit and the Co-operative movement believed in the rights, freedoms and capabilities of the people, democracy, autonomy, local ownership and control, and open and voluntary participation. These philosophies also believed in and propagated the values of self-help, self-responsibility, equality, and the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others. Both Social Credit and the Co-operative movement believed in the power of people working together and the empowering concept of a "hand up."

The Social Credit Party established the four basic principles of the constitution to govern itself and to give it direction in developing its policies and legislation.

These principles combined with the values, principles and philosophies of the Co-operative movement dictated legislation and a philosophy of "community building." The Social Credit government of Alberta passed legislation that encouraged the development of towns and guaranteed the people that when the town population was adequate the financing would be available to build the necessary schools. The Social Credit philosophy was also dedicated to developing the very best education and education system the world had to offer and it was considered of the best in the world.

The Social Credit government developed a program that was promoted by the Alberta Treasury Branch to develop Alberta made products with a campaign "What Alberta makes, makes Alberta." A system of credits of 3% to 5% dividends or discounts were paid by the ATB to anyone who bought an Alberta made product or service. Even the MLAs had part of their salaries paid in credits and if they did not buy Alberta made they could not make use of that portion of their pay.

From the very beginning in 1935 Social Credit was committed to developing a public health care system, some of which was introduced in 1935.

Above all Social Credit was committed to the fight against "Poverty in the midst of Plenty." Art Dixon, long time Social Credit MLA and Speaker of the House, always said "Social Credit has always fought for the little guy and stood up to Ottawa for Provincial Rights. Social Credit was the heart and soul of the farmer, the small business people, the working people, the ordinary Joe, and the community, and was very concerned about the well being of the seniors who built Alberta and the young people who will continue to build Alberta."

William Aberhart asked, "Should a worm starve to death because the apple is too big?"


An address delivered at Swanwick, November, 1924 .

By Major C. H. DOUGLAS

(Revised,* January, 1954)

The financial system, in its control over production, stands to the works or factory system of the world, considered as an economic unit, in the same relation as the planning department of a modern factory does to that factory.

The distribution side of the financial system exercises a function not dissimilar to that of the progress department of a factory.

No discussion of the financial system can serve any useful purpose which does not recognise:–

(a) That a works system must have a definite objective.

(b) That when that objective has been decided upon it is a technical matter to fit methods of human psychology and physical facts, so that the objective will be most easily obtained.

In regard to (a) the policy of the world economic system amounts to a philosophy of life. There are really only three alternative policies in respect to a world economic organisation:–
The first is that it is the end in itself for which man exists.
The second is that while not an end in itself, it is the most powerful means of constraining the individual to do things he does not want to do; e.g., it is a system of Government. This implies a fixed ideal of what the world ought to be.
And the third is that the economic activity is simply a functional activity of men and women in the world; that the end of man, while unknown, is something towards which most rapid progress is made by the free expansion of individuality, and that, therefore, economic organisation is most efficient when it most easily and rapidly supplies economic wants without encroaching on other functional activities.

You cannot spend too much time in making these issues clear to your minds, because until they are clear you are not in a position to offer an opinion on any economic proposal whatever.

In regard to (b) certain factors require to be taken into consideration.

(1) That money has no reality in itself. That in itself it is either gold, silver, copper, paper, cowrie shells, or broken tea cups. The thing which makes it money, no matter of what it is made, is purely psychological, and consequently there is no limit to the amount of money except a psychological limit.

(2) That economic production is simply a conversion of one thing into another, and is primarily a matter of energy. It seems highly probable that both energy and production are only limited by our knowledge of how to apply them.

(3) That in the present world unrest two entirely separate factors are confused. The cry for the democratisation of industry obtains at least 90 per cent of its force from the desire for the democratisation of the proceeds of industry, which, is, of course, a totally different thing. This confusion is assisted by the objective fact that the chief controllers of industry get rich out of their control.

I do not, myself, believe in the democratic control of industry any more than I should believe in the democratic control of a cricket team, while actually playing, and I believe that the idea that the average individual demands a share in the administrative control of industry is a pure myth.

The present world financial system is a Government based on the theory that men should be made to work, and this theory is considerably intermixed with the even stronger contention that the end of man is work. I want you to realise that this is a statement of fact, not a theory. More than 95 per cent of the purchasing-power actually expended in consumption is wages and salaries.

It will therefore be seen that there are two standpoints from which to examine its mechanism. The first considered as a method of achieving its political end of universal work, and the second as a means of achieving some other political end–for instance, the third alternative already mentioned.

Considered as a means of making people work (an aim which is common both to the Capitalist and Socialist Party Politics) the existing financial system, as a system, is probably nearly perfect.

Its banking system, methods of taxation and accountancy counter every development of applied science, organisation, and machinery, so that the individual, instead of obtaining the benefit of these advances in the form of a higher civilisation and greater leisure, is merely enabled to do more work. Every other factor in the situation is ultimately sacrificed to this end of providing him with work, and at this moment the world in general, and Europe in particular, is undoubtedly settling down to a policy of intensive production for export, which must quite inevitably result in a world cataclysm, urged thereto by what is known as the Unemployment Problem.

To blame the present financial system for failing to provide employment is most unfair; if left alone it will continue to provide employment in the face of all scientific progress, even at the cost of a universal world war, in which not only all possible production would be destroyed, but such remnants of the world’s population as are left will probably be reduced to the meagre production of the Middle Ages.

Considered as a mechanism for distributing goods, however, the existing financial system is radically defective. In the first place, it does not provide enough purchasing-power to buy the goods which are produced.

I do not wish to enter at any great length into the analysis of why this is so, because it is always a matter of some heated controversy. I have, however, no hesitation whatever in asserting not only that it is so, but that the fact that it is so is the central fact of the existing economic system, and that unless it is dealt with no other reforms are of any use whatever.

And the second feature of equal importance is that considerably less than the available number of individuals, working with modern tools and processes, can produce everything that the total population of the world, as individuals, can use and consume, and that this situation is progressive, that is to say, that year by year a smaller number of individuals can usefully be employed in economic production.

To summarise the matter, the principles which must govern any reform of the financial system, which will at one and the same time avoid catastrophe, and re-orientate world economic policy along the lines of the third alternative, are three in number:–

1. That the cash credits of the population of any country shall at any moment be collectively equal to the collective cash prices for consumable goods for sale in that country, and such cash credits shall be cancelled on the purchase of goods for consumption.

2. That the credits required to finance production shall be supplied, not from savings, but be new credits relating to new production.

3. That the distribution of cash credits to individuals shall be progressively less dependent upon employment. That is to say, that the dividend shall progressively displace the wage and salary.

I may conclude by a few remarks on the position of the banks, in respect of this situation. It is becoming fairly well understood that the banks have the control of the issue of purchasing-power to a very large extent in their hands. The complaint which is levelled at the banks is generally that they pay too large a dividend. Now curiously enough, in my opinion, almost the only thing which is not open to destructive criticism about the banks is their dividend. Their dividend goes to shareholders and is purchasing-power, but their enormous concealed profits, a small portion of which goes in immensely redundant bank premises, etc., do not provide purchasing-power for anyone, and merely aggrandise banks as banks.

But the essential point in the position of the banks, which is so hard to explain, and which is grasped by so few people, is that their true assets are not represented by anything actual at all, but are represented by the difference between a society functioning under centralised and restricted credit and a free society unfettered by financial restrictions.

To bring that perhaps vague generalisation into a more concrete form, the true assets of the banks collectively consist of the difference between the total amount of legal tender, or Government money, which exists, and the total amount of bank credit money, not only which does exist, but which might exist, and which is kept out of existence by the fiat of the banking executive.


[i] Now almost forgotten, Distributism was a composite of several social and moral theories first articulated by Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) and Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) in the pages of volume 2 of The New Age. The initial concepts arose from the four-way (and more) argument among H.G.Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Belloc and Chesterton over modernity that began with Belloc’s "Thoughts on Modern Thought" (02:108). Although probably initially stage-managed by Orage, the debate became a messy, two-year-long wrangle that engaged many readers until the discussion petered out in 1909.

That discussion, now known as "the Chesterbelloc" contoversy, helped Belloc and Chesterton develop a rationale for equitable distribution of property and restoration of worker control in commerce, agriculture, and industry. This cluster of ideas, soon called "Distributism," was based on the two men’s look back, to European history, as well as their concerns about the present and the future of mass industrial society. Their ideas were not especially daring or innovative, but rather were built on what they felt had worked in the past. Calling for a return to the Christian social conscience, Distributism warned against the trend toward dehumanizing state control of society and for the efficacy of the self-contained organic community.

This restoration of society to a human, organic scale was to be accomplished through a return to a social system not unlike medieval guilds -- small units organized according to natural economic classes and productive functions. The idea was to create a balanced or mixed economy of independent farmers and small industries owned and operated by the workers themselves, thus creating a sort of peasant-worker state. The Roman Catholic Church was to provide whatever federal and international control might be needed. Independent, small farming was to be the backbone of this society based on decentralized control, self-sufficiency, and rural reconstruction.

This new/old society was definitely not to be imperialist. Things were to be decided by the people in small groups, negotiated by personal interaction. Anarchism’s belief in no coercion of cooperation was a major tenet, and the Distributist ideal was not far from that described by Kropotkin. Distributism was anti-Utopian and did not offer a blueprint, as would have H. G. Wells or the Fabians, gladly, for a future society. Belloc and Chesterton refused to be tied down to specific proposals, believing that any social outcome needed to come from individual human desire and conditions, rather than from planning imposed from above.

Distributism claimed to be much more than a political theory; it was a philosophy or way of life firmly founded on religious principles. Belloc, born in France, was a life-long Roman Catholic and Chesterton became one in 1922. Chesterton in particular sought to retrieve the sanctity of human relationships through articulating a form of Thomism that sought to reintegrate the individual into a corporate state. The key to this was the family and private property -- but not too much property.

Distributism critiqued both socialism and capitalism. Capitalism was called a denial of property because capitalism denied its limits. Communism was termed the unnatural child of this mother, capitalism, and was predicted to eventually consume its parent. It has been called the forerunner of the "Third Way" approach now being touted as the ideal mixed economy for the 21st century. Some thinkers argue that the Chesterbelloc’s critique of collectivism has more credence for post-industrial rather than industrial society

In 1926, the Distributist League was founded, mainly in order to help the G.K.’s Weekly’s finances. (Sewell, "Devereux" 141) The Distributist League had two objectives:

  • preservation of property, in order that the liberty of the individual and family could be independent of oppressive systems,
  • and better distribution of capital by individual ownership of the means and instruments of production, which was the only way to preserve private property

Distributism constituted a revolutionary response to the conformity of the modern industrial age by its critique of a collectivist-plutocratic state. The mainspring of the neo-Thomist revival in Catholic intellectual circles, it profoundly affected a generation of Roman Catholic writers in England as well as many North American thinkers: Dorothy Day, Robert Coles, and Marshall McLuhan, among others. In her 1943 biography of Chesterton, Maisie Ward lists movements in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sri Lanka that were directly inspired by Distributism. Distributism-by Carol DeBoer-Langworthy

[ii] Like Yeats, Pound’s concepts of esotericism and culture brought him against liberal and democratic doctrines. Pound saw in Fascism the fulfillment of Social Credit monetary policy which would bread the power of plutocracy. He considered artists to form a social elite "born to rule" but not as a part of a democratic mandate. "Artists are the antennae of the race but the bullet-headed many will never learn to trust their great artists." The war, as he saw it, had been caused by the rivalries of international capitalists. He thought he had found a solution to the evils of unchecked capitalism, one especially favourable to the arts, in the Social Credit theory of Major C. H. Douglas, who argued that a system of state credit could increase purchasing power in the population at large, thus promoting creativity and removing power from bankers and financiers. Pound embraced the Social Credit theory with enthusiasm. Here was the means by which the Money Power which corrupted culture, could be overthrown. During the 1930’s and 1940’s Pound wrote a series of booklets on economics and politics, including his first "Social Credit: An Impact"(1935), "A Visiting Card" (1942), and in 1944 "Gold and Work", and "America, Roosevelt, and the Causes of the Present War", the latter three being published by Fascist Italy. Attracted to Mussolini by his energy and his promises of monetary reform, Pound assumed that the Italian leader could be persuaded to put Douglas's theory into practice. At first, the main target of Pound's attacks is 'usury', which he depicts (e.g. in Canto 45) as an unnatural force that pollutes the creative instinct in humanity. By about 1930 the usurers he condemns are usually Jews, and his language is vitiated by virulent anti-Semitism. The way Pound came to his (political and economic doctrines was by the same esoteric path as Yeats.

[iii] Silvio Gesell, Argentinean/German businessman, farmer, and reformer proposed another form of money known as stamp scrip. Frank Lloyd Wright thought of Gesell's proposals as the application of Wright's principles of design to the world of finance.

Gesell pointed out that virtually all other goods tend to either deteriorate or incur cost for storage. Money should be no different. If it does not deteriorate, it becomes subject to manipulation through withholding from circulation for speculative reasons.

Gesell's stamp scrip, is money which needs a stamp affixed to it each month in order to maintain its value. Gesell proposed a 1% stamp each month. The money thus pays for itself in a little over eight years. It is paid into circulation by the government for services rendered. It was tried in Worgl, Austria in the 1930's with great success. It was stopped by the Austrian central bank.

(Gesell's theories on interest are highly appreciated by Keynes.)

[iv] The Calgary Working Class and the Social Credit Movement in Alberta, 1932-35

Larry Hannant

IN AUGUST 1935 THE PEOPLE of Alberta shocked the country by electing a Social Credit government. Most explanations for this remearkable success have focused on the predominance of farmers in the province. This essay probes the roots of the Social Credit movement in Calgary in 1932. What emerges is a new recognition of the vital role of Calgary workers in launching the movement. As organizers, activists and, at certain times, shock troops, Calgary workers led the Social Credit sweep through the city, then propelled it into the rural arena where it was won its electoral victory.

McCrory, Jamie. "My Dear Friends, Rain..." Scarcity, Socialism and The Words of My Roaring." AgorA: Online Graduate Humanities Journal. 1.2 (Spring 2002).

Calling the Social Credit Party of Alberta a socialist response to the Depression may seem strange, but it is not an inaccurate descriptor of the party under Aberhart's leadership. As both David Elliott and Alvin Finkel have written, Aberhart's Social Credit--which rarely coincided with the conservative theories of Major C.H. Douglas, the founder of the movement--had several links to socialist political groups of the 1930s. Correspondence between Aberhart and Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) MP William Irvine regarding possible affiliation between the two parties (Aberhart, 84), the assistance of Communist campaign workers on the successful election of a Social Credit candidate in a 1937 by-election (Finkel 69), and the co-authoring of the anonymous "Yellow Pamphlet" of 1933 by Aberhart and H.B. "Hilly" Hill, a self-professed Communist ("In Search" 14), suggest, if not a sympathy toward socialist politics, at least some common ground with it. An editorial in the September 24, 1934 edition of the Social Credit Chronicle, the party's official journal, reveals fairly significant overlap between socialism and Social Credit: "Let the supporters of Social Credit stand firm on this issue, let Alberta take the lead in showing the country that the people have broken away from the old yoke of the capitalistic system" (qtd. in Finkel 72). The distinction between Social Credit and socialism is to be made, for Aberhart, in the former's foregrounding of the individual and the latter's focus on the common good (Aberhart 57). Despite its reluctance to align itself with socialist political movements, however, the Social Credit Party can perhaps be safely characterized as taking part in a broad and active anti-capitalist discourse of the 1930s that, in the context of a larger project, I have chosen to call socialism.

Social Credit's contributions to that discourse were frequently presented as responses to empirical observations. In the Social Credit Manual, prepared for the 1935 election, Aberhart defines his party's project as follows: "It is the duty of the State through its Government to organize its economic structure in such a way that no bona fide citizen, man, woman, or child, shall be allowed to suffer for lack of the bare necessities of food, clothing, and shelter, in the midst of plenty or abundance" (5). He goes on to demonstrate with statistical evidence Alberta's potential natural wealth, but does not provide support for his lamentations regarding the actual poverty in which most Albertans live. The Social Credit movement presents itself as addressing a real need: the implied reality of life in Alberta in 1935 is that men, women and children do not have access to the bare necessities. By focusing on material necessities, the above passage defines the citizenry as first and foremost biological entities and constructs the Depression as an era of desperate economic inequality that unjustly threatens the physical health of all. That Aberhart's party won fifty-six of sixty-three seats in the election (Irving 331) is perhaps a testament to the accuracy of this construction. It is still a construction, however, that naturalizes a certain vision of the Depression and provides the rationale for Social Credit's socialist critique.

The dislocation of wealth and productivity from rural Alberta – rather than its complete disappearance – is the cause of that threat. Borrowing the phrase from the CCF (Finkel 72), Aberhart dubs the clique of Eastern magnates who control Canada's "great wealth (machinery and natural resources) . . . 'the Fifty Big Shots'" in the Social Credit Manual (Aberhart 13), and Johnnie makes use of the same moniker; Applecart more colourfully refers to "Toronto, and all her high-muckie-muck millionaires" (Kroetsch 33) as "that scarlet Who-er of Babylon" (30). Although the coagulation of wealth in the East is the root of the economic problem for Applecart and Johnnie, the novel records – or creates – a specifically local reality that has little to do with Toronto and its millionaires. Applecart can successfully connect "Satan and all of hell with the dirty Eastern millionaires, the financial racketeers" and rip "into all of the betrayers of Christ and His holy principles" who, "it turned out, had a lot to do with the price of wheat and hogs" because he is "the voice of the prairies" (Kroetsch 34) and only of the prairies. At the heart of his political sermons is the knowledge that Albertans experience poverty and shortage constantly. The unscrupulous prosperity of Toronto may be the cause of their woes, but it is secondary, a dream beside their reality, a prospective bounty that they can only hope to reclaim. The Words of My Roaring is a thoroughly local history, a retelling of Notikeewin's Depression not only by Johnnie, but by everyone he meets on the campaign trail. The anthology of individual misfortunes that speaks through Johnnie creates an almost unbrigeable gap between the Fifty Big Shots, who exist vaguely on the horizon of Kroetsch's Alberta, and the poverty and drought that plague the province. In The Words of My Roaring, the cause of the Depression is of far less importance than the experience of it.

[v] Alvin Finkel documents in his work The Social Credit Phenomenon in Alberta, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989. John Irving, The Alberta Social Credit Movement, Oxford University Press, 1959.

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