Sunday, January 22, 2006

Historical Memory on the Eve of the Election

Well said from the right. Publius at Gods of the Copybook Headings gives us a historical overview of how we got here today, where an Alberta based Conservative party, not seen since the days of Borden and Bennett, will become Government.

A government which is poised to also include Quebecois. There is a spectre haunting Ottawa and it is the spectre of Riel. His ghost appears as the spirit of reform of the new Conservative party and the NDP. Both Western Canadian Parties.

The old Conservative Party has been historically the voice of Ontario/English colonialism in Canada. Craig Oliver noted yesterday on CTV's Question Period that Western Alienation has existed since the beginning of the NWT, we were created as a colony of Ontario. Or at the very least a colony of John A. MacDonald, the CPR and the British Crown. Yep Ontario.

Pubilus says;

Westerners, to mangle F. Scott Fitzgerald, are different from you and me, they're from out West. The regional differences, economic, social and demographic between the West and Ontario have made certain kinds of ideologies more attractive, both to the man in the street and the region's elites. Prairie populism is not in and of itself an ideology, as Stephen Harper realized when he quit the Reform caucus and agreed to lead the National Citizens' Coalition. Once in power populism disintegrates almost immediately. Just try and remember who the United Farmers of Alberta or the United Farmers of Ontario were. Footnotes in our national histories because they brought anger but not the ideas that make policy and institutions, the sort of things that last. The ideologies that the West brings to the table, really more like different perspectives on ones found else where in Canada, are libertarian and evangelical.

Actually UFA and UFO did bring policies to the table, interestingly policies that were key to Reform's original popularity; Recall and Referendum. And I agree that once in power populism dissolves in the face of power. Manning sat in Stornaway after saying he wouldn't. Reformers accepted Pensions after being elected based on saying they would never accept them (Hey Deb Grey how's your retirement going at taxpayer expense). Like Mussolini, the rabble is organized in the streets to mount the barricades and then once in power they rule from the statist quo.

I don't mean libertarian in the sense that the people of West want to destroy the welfare state - if only! - merely that they are more skeptical of government, having felt its ill affects only too acutely in the region's comparatively short history. I don't, also, mean evangelical in the purely religious sense. Evangelical in the simpler sense of wanting change and expecting risk - of idealism. There are Christians in Ontario, they're just very quiet about it, lest they be discovered and soon after interrogated for not conforming. It's a beat and sound that's different out there. Nothing wrong with Ontario, Canada needs Ontario and needs what it represents. It just needs less of it in the years to come. Enough with the United Empire Loyalists and the never ending permutations on their bloody paternalism. I'm all for stability, I' m occasionally smug - no really, I am - but the Globe and Mail I do not need.

Here! Here! I agree. The IWW, the One Big Union; the industrial union movement of the working class originated in Western Canada. Not insignificantly because the work out here was not Trades or Craft based but semi or un-skilled labour. Farmers forced to mine or cut trees or build railways.

Even our Socialist movement, the Socialist Party, and the Social Democratic Parties, were an outgrowth of both class and ethnic consciousness of battling the English Canadian Ruling class. To the English bourgeois we were all Enemy Aliens. Sound familiar.

But a strong streak of libertarian socialism of the William Morris school, of autodidactic learning, of a third way between the Socialism of the English and the Europeans developed.

Our own indigenous socialist movement was of farmers and workers, and worker farmers if you like. It arose with a sense of liberty, we left the old country to be free, and came to a country that had a more advanced capitalist economy, albeit a mercantile monopoly capitalist one.

My grandparents faced down the big Mining companies, the railways and the banks to make a living. In order to get a fair shake they had to organize, so they did. Unions and political parties. In this case the UFA, then the CCF and the Communist Party of Canada all had their roots in the evangelical call of socialism and the ideals of the cooperative commonwealth.

Publius is correct about evangelism as well. For it was the Methodist and Anabaptists who populated the west at first. J. H. Woodsworth the fiery orator for the Social Gospel. My own grandfather who was recognized as a preacher by the Presbyterian (itself an offshoot of Methodism) Church, because there were no Ukrainian Orthodox or Catholic Churches out west at the turn of last century. My grandfather who then helped found the first socialist workers farmers organization in Western Canada, the Ukrainian Farmer Labour Temple.

This evangelism today has been embraced by the right. But it was there in the founding of the socialist movement as well. You have to be an idealist to believe in the cause. Regardless of the rigor of you learning, even founded in materialism, it is idealism that is the heart and soul of radical movements, left or right.

And while the right would have you believe the West was always Right, not so, the West is the very soul of Socialism in Canada. We have always embraced reform out west both Left and Right. And we have embraced clear cut plain speaking politics. In effect we can never be Liberals, mealy mouthed centerists who seek state power. Our clashes have to be clear cut, black and white, left and right. In the west the middle way, the centrist, the statist quo was the rule of Ontario, the English ruling class in Canada. We sent politicians left or right to Ottawa to represent us. That is why we never sent many Liberals. It was either Conservatives or CCF'ers.

The Liberals were wiped out in Alberta for over sixty years as a provincial party. Today the Federal Liberals stand on the eve of their greatest defeat. One that may not be as bad as Kim Campbells, but for the all powerful party of the Centre and Central Canada, it will have the same psychic impact. Their internal battles over power for the past four years have left them unfit to rule. And the two parties that will replace them in the House as voices of the Left and Right, the NDP and Conservatives will be because the West Wants In. Both are parties of the West.
We will have the last laugh this election night. And it's been a long time coming.

Also See:

Social Credit And Western Canadian Radicalism

Canada's First Internment Camps


  • The Edmonton General Strike Of 1919

  • Also references in the article: A greater union,

  • Calgary 1919-The Birth Of The OBU And The General Strike

  • The CCF:The Original Reform Movement

  • The Edmonton District Labour Council and Municipal Politics 1903-1906

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