The 20th Anniversary of the Waffle An Introduction
BY REG WHITAKER
The 20th Anniversary of the Wafne
Introduction REG WHITAKER t was only a very brief moment in Canadian political history. It began at the very end of the 1960s and vanished within just a few short years. Yet the Waffle movement had a power and a resonance which far outstripped any other New Left movement in postwar English Canada. The Waffle began as an attempt by left-wing elements of the New Democratic party to recall the party to its more radical origins. They were initially inspired by an uneasy sense that, in the search for electoral respectability, the party was forgetting its mission to transform the society. They were also inspired by the New Left experiences of the 1960s, given particular Canadian expression in the magazine Canadian Dimension, launched by Cy Gonick in 1964. Integral to the Waffle's position was an insistence upon the priority of the national question which was linked directly to socialism. This political agenda was captured in the Waffle Manifesto, For an Independent Socialist Canada, presented at the 1969 NDP convention in Winnipeg. The principles enunciated in the Manifesto attracted the support of a few NDP provincial MLAs and electrified many rank and file party members. They quickly polarized the national party, however, and the party leadership mobilized opposition to the Manifesto and defeated it at the convention. This initiated a brief period of less than three years in which the Waffle constituted itself as a distinct movement within the party. During this period the movement emerged as a strong minority voice within the Ontario and Saskatchewan parties, with some strength in the Manitoba and BC wings of the
Studies in Political Economy 32, Summer 1990
Studies in Political Ecomomy
party, and a smattering of support in other provinces. Two personalities stood out: Jim Laxer and Mel Watkins. Both academics, the former came to the movement from roots both in the New and Old Lefts, the latter from the position of a liberal anti-nationalist economist, who was radicalized by writing a report for the economically nationalist Liberal minister, Walter Gordon, on foreign ownership of the Canadian economy. Behind Laxer and Watkins, a new generation of political activists, along with some older militants, rallied to the banner. Wafflers attempted to advance their views within the party at the same time as they tried to mobilize as a broader movement outside the party. The party establishment was enraged at this 'party-within-aparty' strategy. Older party leaders, some with memories too long for their own good, viewed it in Cold War terms as Communist-type boring from within. More modem electoralist NDP leaders fretted about the bad image the party could be given by the presence of radicals. Few in the party establishment paused to seriously consider the infusion of new and important ideas which the Waffle represented. The issue of Canadian economic nationalism was in a very real sense placed on the public agenda by the Waffle's efforts. The Committee for an Independent Canada, grouping explicitly non-socialist nationalists, was formed following the Waffle's initial success at bringing the issue of American domination of the Canadian economy to the fore. Public opinion, as indicated in polls in the early 1970s, moved toward a more nationalist position on foreign ownership. The Waffle's insistence on socialism as the only viable means for recapturing national control found echoes in the wider public: for instance, a majority of Canadians expressed a willingness to use public ownership to reclaim energy resource industries. The NDP moved toward this position, and even the Trudeau Liberals adopted some of the ideas with the creation of PetroCanada and the National Energy Program. The Waffle also took an 'advanced' position on another national question, that of Quebec. Wafflers sponsored resolutions on Quebec's right to national self-determination which predated the rise to office of the Parti Quebecois 168
and the referendum on sovereignty-association in 1980. Again, the Waffle lost in the NDP but it forced a debate in a national forum. Wafflers also tried to mobilize within the labour movement. This took various forms, from educational activity for rank and file members to strike support, such as the memorable Texpack struggle in Brantford and Toronto. In effect, the Waffle tried to widen the range of participants in debates about the place of labour in the national struggle. This soon led to direct conflict with the conservative labour leadership, especially in the American-dominated internationals. This in turn gave rise to further difficulties for the Waffle within the NDP, given the strategic positions held in the party by the union brass. In 1971 Jim Laxer ran for the leadership of the national party. This campaign was the high point for Wafflers as participants in the NDP. Laxer forced David Lewis to a fourth ballot and collected 40 percent of the vote in the final showdown. This relative success was, however, the signal for the establishment of the party to end a relationship which right-wing social democrats increasingly viewed as an intolerable affront to their domination. With trade union leaders weighing in heavily, the Ontario party finally ordered the Waffle to disband or leave. At an Orillia meeting in the summer of 1972 the Waffle was expelled. Wafflers subsequently left the NDP in other provinces as well. There were clearly problems of maintaining a 'partywithin-a-party', although other parties such as the French Socialists have lived quite comfortably with organized leftwing factions since the early 1970s. But the expulsion was ultimately fatal to the Waffle. Its post-NDP life was even shorter than its life within the party; within two years it had disintegrated. In some ways, life outside the NDP need not have been fatal to the Waffle. As a non-partisan movement it could broaden its role without having to tie itself narrowly to electoral politics (although a few Waffle candidates did contest ridings in the 1974 federal election, as one means of reaching people). The political practice of the Waffle was progressive (for instance, gender parity was a fundamental and unquestioned requirement on all committees). Unfortunately, the taste for media prominence, 169
Studies in Political Ecomomy
generated by the Laxer leadership campaign, was too strong for some, who afterward could not accept the more modest profile assigned to a social movement. Moreover, the bane of left movements, ideological factionalism, reared its head. The Waffle finally came apart in late 1974. The NDP leadership took comfort from this failure, but they failed to recognize that they had lost something precious when they expelled the Waffle. The NDP lost energy, youth, new ideas, and above all that vision, not restricted by electoralism, of the kind of society that ought-to-be. The NDP wanted to be seen as a party like other parties, and it has succeeded in producing a miniature replica. David Lewis, no friend of the Waffle, years later remarked to me in exasperation at the party's me-too performance over the constitutional debate in the early 1980s, "When the Waffle left the NDP, most of the brains left with them." The depressing truth of this observation became all too apparent during the great Free Trade election of 1988. At no other point in Canadian history has the question of national survival been posed so dramatically, and the NDP failed the test dismally. The political opposition to Free Trade was led not by the social democrats but by the Liberals under John Turner. A broad coalition of workers, farmers, women, senior citizens, Greens, artists, writers and ordinary Canadian patriots grouped under the Pro-Canada Network offered exactly the kind of progressive nationalist movement which the Waffle had envisaged almost two decades earlier. The NDP, its eyes fixed firmly on its own petty partisan interests, joined the Tories in denunciation of the Liberals and ensured that Free Trade would be foisted upon the 53 percent of Canadians who voted against it. The 1988 election was, on the one hand, a vindication of the Waffle vision, and, on the other, depressing proof that the NDP cannot fill the role of a left-nationalist party. Twenty years after its inception, there is much that remains of the Waffle's legacy. The Waffle stepped out of the ghetto in which most such left movements have been trapped and, for a few moments at least, made radical socialist ideas visible to the wider society. The Waffle raised the issue of Canadian nationalism but insisted on its social content and insisted as well on the integrity of Quebec's national 170
struggle. The Waffle argued that socialism could not come from a political party alone, but only from a party that was supported by a broad popular movement mobilized outside Parliament. And the Waffle insisted upon the sincere attempt to devise a political practice appropriate to its goals for the society. The ideas of the Waffle have taken root in Canadian society, most notably in the lively and distinctive school of political economy which has flourished in the 1970s and 1980s. Studies in Political Economy, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 1989, is a lasting monument to the important contribution of the new political economy to the understanding of Canada. For all these reasons, the Waffle will remain an important page in contemporary Canadian political history. For those who were involved in the movement, memories remain compelling, an evocation of a moment when many things seemed possible. And of course there are the enduring friendships, political and personal, formed in those days. In October 1989 a Waffle reunion was organized in Toronto which brought back together many of the old Wafflers to reminisce, but also to analyze what had happened and to discuss the impact of the Waffle twenty years after its inception. SPE is pleased to present some of the contributions made that day, in this and in the next issue of the journal. One very sad note must be added. One of the people who came to the Toronto reunion was John Bullen, a young labour historian who had written the definitive history of the Waffle as his thesis. Subsequently, he had taught at the Labour College in Ottawa, and was eager to begin an academic career. Many of us who had not seen John for some time were delighted to renew our acquaintance with him, to learn of his young family and look forward with him to his future plans. Just a short time after this, we were shocked to learn of his tragic and senseless death in an automobile accident. Labour history and democratic socialism have suffered a great loss in John Bullen's terrible and untimely passing.
The Waffle and the Women's Movement
By VARDA BURSTYN
The 20th Anniversary of the Waffle
The Waffle and the Women's Movement VARDA BURSTYN ithout any question, the Waffle was the culmination of the politicization of the 1960s, Canadian style. The events and movements that formed the international context for our radicalization were indeed extraordinary: the Cuban revolution, the Algerian war of independence, Ban the Bomb marches, the American Black civil rights movement - Freedom Summer, SNCC, Malcom, Martin, the Black Panthers - both Kennedy assassinations, Vietnam, the war and the anti-war movement, dodging the draft, SDS, the Yippies, the urban ghetto riots, May/June in Paris, the Prague spring, the Prague repression, the Chicago police riots at the time of the Democratic convention, where I personally saw for the first time what the armed might of the state really looked like. In Canada we participated directly and indirectly in many of these movements. But we confronted and were touched particularly by the independantiste movement in Quebec and by the crisis . of national identity in English Canada, overshadowed culturally and stunted economically by the American giant to the south. This was the context of profound ferment within which the radicalization of women occurred. In the early 1960s (many take 1963 as the benchmark year, and the publication of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique as the benchmark event) middle class women, mostly professionals, began to
Studies in Political Economy 33, Autumn 1990
Studies in Political Economy
call for change in women's lives and status. Feminism was a dirty word in the early and mid 1960s, conjuring up images of sexually-frustrated bluestockings and suffragettes, but it was an idea whose time had come (around once again) and there was no stopping it. As the analyses, ideals and goals of the progressive causes of the 19th and early 20th centuries (abolitionism, trade union rights, suffragism) provided the analytic frameworks and examples of activism which women then emulated in their own name during the first wave of feminism, so the context of the 1960s inflamed women's political consciousness once again. And as the youth radicalization of the decade gained momentum, it was not only professional women like Betty Friedan who were involved, but younger women, students, and those associated with movements of more profound political opposition. Sara Evans in her book Personal Politics: The Roots of the Women's Liberation Movement in the Civil Rights Movement has documented this process with respect to American women. Because I was in high school during most of the 1960s, then left for the US at the end of the decade, I can't chronicle the parallel development among university women at that time in Canada. But by 1969, when the Waffle manifesto came hurtling out of Winnipeg, there were vibrant women's groups in many cities, on campuses and in student organizations, groups which brought together a new breed of women's activists: "women's liberationists" as we called ourselves to distinguish our more radical politics from those of main-stream, reform-oriented feminism. It was only in the 1970s that these groups would again divide - into socialist feminists and "radical feminists" with their respective differences in analysis, emphasis and strategy. It was this current of feminism - women's liberation that had the greatest impact on the Waffle itself. This is because, though the Waffle regrouped many social democrats of some long standing, its energy and its style were profoundly marked by those of the New Left, and its activists were often the same people that had been, or still were (in the case of the New Democratic Youth) active in New Left influenced student politics. In other words, the Waffle became the conduit through which the radical wo176
men's politics of the late 1960s entered and profoundly moved the NDP and, indirectly, many members of the unions affiliated to it. To telegraph the larger point, then, the most important impact the Waffle had with respect to feminism was in laying the ground work for what was to become a socialist-feminist current within Canadian feminism as a whole. That current may seem weak, amorphous, to us now, particularly in light of the work that remains to be done, the attacks on the women's movement by the federal government, and the wholesale appropriation of the rhetoric and mantle of feminism by bourgeois women. But if we compare the consciousness of feminism within the NDP and the unions to that evidenced by Liberal and Tory politics, or, even more telling, to feminism as a whole in the US, where socialist feminism is an almost exclusively academic current, I think the point will be established. The impact of the Waffle generally, and of Waffle women most specifically, on the NDP was very strong, both with respect to the NDP's stand on issues of importance to women, and with respect to the changing the role of women within the party. Prior to the onslaught on the Party's program led by Waffle women at constituency associations, provincial conferences and national conventions, NDP policy on women's issues was bland and unobjectionable, shaped by a mild (not to say gutless) fifties-style social democratic rhetoric of equality which had little substance or meaning. Waffle women, with Waffle men supporting them often enough to register their presence as different from many mainstream NDP men, tackled the big issues: childcare (universal, for the first time); abortion rights (fireworks that still explode on a predictable basis); equal pay; quotas for women on party bodies; the right to caucus. Because policy was debated at the grass-roots level as well as at centralized gatherings, and because delegates were elected to conventions on the basis of the policies they supported or opposed, women's issues often took centre stage in heated, even bitter disputes at the riding level. Nor were Wafflers content to see policies adopted, then hung in the closet until the next convention. They demanded that these be highlighted in election campaigns, in the literature and 177
Studies in Political Economy
speeches of candidates; that NDP members and politicians raise them in the context of extra-parliamentary solidarity actions, that they call press conferences when abortion rights or daycare issues were being contested in the political arena. What this meant is that the NDP had to come face to face with the way that women's oppression was expressed in its own ranks. This was a very difficult process and brought with it a lot of painful soul searching, confrontations between old friends and allies, and some very serious resistance from the party leadership. For example, as problematic as programmatic demands about abortion and childcare rights were to the party brass, the issue that occasioned the ugliest reaction was one of minimal quotas for women on executive bodies. For this was the issue that challenged, both symbolically and practically, the power of the established and male dominated leadership. Women were then, as they had always been, the back bone of the party. But during the early 1970s, the major organizational vehicles for their participation was the 'ladies auxiliary'. This body raised funds, organized the get-togethers that were the social glue of the party, did mailings, cleaned the local party office, and worked tirelessly in elections, almost always for male candidates. The confrontation that occurred between Waffle women's liberationists and the party was not in any simple sense reducible to a Waffle-women/mainstream-party-men polarization. In most riding associations, Wafflers had to face the anger and dismay of many long-time party women, who felt that the new feminism did not represent their politics and that the style of this new feminism indeed, in some cases, threatened their established power base. For me, this was the difficult part of being a (Waffle) feminist. I remember returning from the 1971 national convention at which the Waffle won almost a third of party support, to face the grim fury of the Beaches-Woodbine women's auxiliary. I had been waiting in line to speak on the debate about women's issues, and was being persistently baited by a steelworker bureaucrat (to me, with his pork-pie hat and middle-aged paunch, a caricature of a male chauvinist, to many of them, a man who resembled their husbands). In 178
terms that only those of us who lived through those years could now believe, he taunted me and suggested that a "good fuck" would help turn me from the error of my feminist ways. Finally, I turned on him with a few well-chosen feminist expletives, for which I received a little round of applause from others sitting near by. What I did not know was that CTV cameras were trained on me, and that my words (though not his) were broadcast live throughout the country. There was hell to pay at home. I was told that I had disgraced the riding association and betrayed the trust of its members, especially the women. Even more difficult was the day, during the election campaign of my former husband, when the grand old lady of Beaches-Woodbine, a stalwart Scots left winger who had never allowed herself to be politically contained in the women's auxiliary, pronounced herself against the inclusion of abortion rights in his campaign literature because it would alienate the voters. These were the kinds of interactions that all of us faced in our day to day work and that test our commitment to women to the hilt. I think, however, if we look at the way that feminism has served, since the exclusion of the Waffle, as a rallying point for the most progressive politics in the NDP, it's fair to say that Waffle women had a profound, long-term impact on the party. In the caucuses which Waffle women called at conferences and conventions, as well as in the riding association work, many women who were not particularly touched by other planks of the Waffle platform were drawn into discussing and participating in the women's stuff. And in every riding association where Waffle women worked, women who were first touched by the feminist issues began to re-examine other political premises and issues and found themselves radicalized on an even broader basis. Women who had been radicalized by other issues in the 1960s began to look at their situation as women through politicized lenses; then by the early 1970s women who were radicalizing as women began to look at other issues through the lenses they had acquired as they became feminists. Many of these women stayed in the party when the Waffle women left. There they became voices of a socialist feminism (albeit 179
Studies in Political Economy
of the social democratic variety) and one of the few truly vital forces within the NDP. I think it was the politics that grew out of this phenomenon that has allowed the NDP to present itself as the party of women in the 1970s and 1980s. Though the Waffle never truly constructed a substantial current within the trade unions affiliated to the NDP, it did have an important influence on a layer activists and leaders. Again, I think it's fair to say that the impact of Waffle women on trade union women was one of the most significant legacies of that period. I personally addressed women's and mixed union meetings in Oshawa, Hamilton, London, St. Catherines, Toronto and Windsor - the "big battalions of labour" as they were sometimes known, and I was not an especially active member in terms of labour movement participation. I was simply participating in a process that was unfolding wherever Waffle women were politically active. The meetings were often spectacular, especially in contrast to the tight, sometimes vicious politesse that reigned in riding association gatherings. I shall never forget what it was like to explain the notion of sexual objectification to a leering, whooping room of a hundred Hamilton steel workers, all male, while attempting to maintain both my dignity and political credibility. But the trying moments were more than compensated by the exhilaration of the women's meetings: the laughter, the anger, the strategizing, the jokes - the sheer energy was a high I will never forget. The women who organized and/or attended these meetings were among the ones who went on to found women's caucuses and committees at local, provincial and national levels in the labour movement, as well as to fight alongside other NDP women inside the party. Today, when women's committees are institutionalized, it is hard to remember what a battle royal it was to achieve the right to independent organizing and representation in the unions, what it cost those women, the risks they had to take, the pain of working side by side with men who opposed them fiercely. Along with others who joined them in the 1970s, and together with women in the NDP and independent socialist women, they came together to form the living core of socialist feminism in this country. Let me be clear: I'm not saying the 180
Waffle was responsible for this. But I am saying that, positioned as it was in the NDP, close to the unions, and expressing the new energy and politics of women's liberation, the feminism its members advanced was able to spark and fertilize key sectors and thus contribute in important ways to the growth of the English Canadian women's movement. I am not the best person to make an assessment of the effect which feminism has had on nationalism, because I have not identified with, nor been active in the most nationalist of left wing circles over the years. (Indeed, when the Waffle itself split over what to do in response to the threat of expulsion that came from the party leadership in 1972, I stayed in the party along with a group of others, in part because we differed from those who went on to form the Movement for an Independent Socialist Canada in our evaluation of the progressive valence of nationalism in Canada at that time.) But so many of the theoretical debates we had, in those days and subsequently, became concretized when we were faced with the nightmare of the Free Trade Agreement, and I, like many others who had been critical of certain premises of Canadian nationalism, knew what had to be fought. I think it was during that fight that we saw how nationalism and feminism had become linked and intertwined. There were crucial contributions made by individual feminists. Particularly important of course, was Marjorie Cohen's book. But even more impressive was the popular mobilization of women's groups - in unions, among immigrant women, from the women's services, from every sector where women were organized across the country. It was taken as a given that the erosion of Canadian economic and political sovereignty implicit in the deal would profoundly harm women; and that women were a central voice and constituency which national and nationalist politics had to address. In that sense, I think we can point to a positive legacy of mutual influence between feminism and progressive nationalism. In discussing the impact and interrelation between feminism and the Waffle, I have tried to focus on the positive aspects of that legacy, the ones that remain with us today in English Canadian political life. But it's important also 181
Studies in Political Economy
to recognize what didn't get done, to recognize the legacy that never was allowed to be. It was not easy to be a woman in the Waffle in those days, because coming to consciousness was often a painful process, and attempting to articulate the new understanding, to make men see what we were seeing, and find political and organizational vehicles to express all this was enormously difficult. Waffle women's caucuses were often initiated because women realized they simply couldn't make their political presence felt in mixed meetings - the men just talked us to death. Many of us were married to, or living with the same men we were confronting in our own political meetings, and this put a terrible strain on our relationships. There was no political consciousness of the oppression of compulsory heterosexuality, of the damage this caused in the lives of lesbians (and gays), and I think with real sadness about the lesbians who had to remain silent and closeted. The other thing that still gives me pain when I think about it is the way Waffle women, particularly in Ontario, fought and polarized among ourselves in anticipation of the larger split in the Waffle that took place in the summer of 1972. In a sense, perhaps it was inevitable. We understood so little about the dynamics of both mixed and women-only formations; we felt so passionately about our politics; and feelings were expressed openly in the women's caucus, whereas among men certain conventions of restraint prevailed. Political differences over the NDP and nationalism were displaced into the women's caucus and succeeded in separating us. For all that, the Waffle was the only political formation of any size, substance and vitality where militant feminism really flourished and grew. Waffle men, whom we often saw as narcissistic and resistant, nevertheless got up and were counted in debates in the NDP, and many of us felt a strong sense of camaraderie at those moments. Above all we felt a sense of potential, of energy and growth. We were all of us young, politically if not chronologically. We had never lived through mass radicalization of the kind the 1960s had produced; we were seized and shaken by women's liberation; we didn't have a non-stalinized, non-social demo182
cratic political leadership to show us how to organize we were winging it, at times gloriously, but winging it nevertheless. Because of this lack of experience, the interaction between us militants within the Waffle, as well as our sense of strategy and tactics within the party, was fraught with difficulty. In one's twenties, one is inevitably working out issues of personal identity (and most of us were in our twenties). We needed a layer of older, more experienced people to help us temper our personal, as well as political, choices. But we were making it happen, and the power of our momentum attested to the power of the social forces which our ideas and organizing represented. The premature death of the Waffle inside the NDP precluded fruition of the process that had been started. With its death a dynamic experiment in gender relations within a political formation came to an end. That formation, while not mass, was much larger than the 'groupuscules' of the far Left that grew to fill the political vacuum which the demise of the Waffle created. Whether or not a greater understanding of strategy and tactics could have allowed us to remain inside the party for a longer period, developing our capacity for political leadership, winning larger numbers to the program and orientation ("extra-parliamentary action") of the Waffle, is a question we will never be able to answer. However, the singular lack of success of such projects in other countries with social democratic parties suggests this would have been unlikely. Nevertheless, the potential of that period was never realized. Today, feminism, environmentalism, and antiracism form the trinity of issues to which any socialist party must give voice, in addition to the traditional issues of class politics. Now that many of us have been around for twenty or thirty years, I find myself wishing that we could apply what we have learned to the creation of a green socialistfeminist party. At this point, my desire remains a fantasy. But if there is a new momentum in the 1990s, I hope we can find ways of contributing what we have learned to political organizing and that a new radicalization will express itself in the impetus for a political party, be it a changed NDP or a new formation. For the example of Eastern Europe 183
Studies in Political Economy
shows again that, although there is no shortage of spirit and self-sacrifice among the people, organized political leadership is absolutely crucial if capitalism is not to triumph, over and over again. And crucial to that leadership is the integration of women and of feminism, an insight towards which the Waffle was working two decades: ago.
The Waffle and the Labour Movement
BY GILBERT LEVINE
The 20th Anniversary of the Waffle
The Waffle and the Labour Movement GILBERT LEVINE
many trade unionists signed the original Waffle Manifesto in 1969. Of the 96 original signers, only six, all of them men, were trade unionists. Just one, Paddy Neale, then secretary of the Vancouver Labour Council, held elective office, the others, Giles Endicott, Tony Carew, Ed Finn, Don Taylor and myself being researchers. With the exception of Don Taylor, all the signers came from Canadian unions. This rather narrow base made the Waffle's work in the labour movement difficult. Despite this, the Waffle, and its various off-shoots succeeded in exerting a profound and positive impact on Canadian trade unionism. The Waffle position on the labour movement was clearly set out in the Manifesto. Revitalization and extension of the labour movement were seen as central to the creation of an independent socialist Canada. The Manifesto asserted that, "[t]he struggle for worker participation in industrial decision making and against management 'rights' is a move toward economic and social democracy." In addition to this general political philosophy the Waffle had a specific labour policy which asserted, in part, Our goal is a powerful labour movement, based on the principles of unity, militancy, democracy and independence. Such a movement is indispensible for basic social change in Canada. The working class, first made conscious of itself, and then acting
Studies in Political Economy 33, Autumn 1990
Studies in Political Economy
on its own behalf, holds the key to the independent and socialist future of Canada. The organized workers must lead the way.
And specifically addressing the issue of independence, the Ontario Waffle stated: the Canadian working class needs a Canadian trade union movement that is completely independent and free from domination by American unions. The issue of transformation of trade unions in Canada into completely independent Canadian unions is at the top of the union agenda and must be resolved.
During the period that the Waffle remained within the NDP, an NDP-Waffle Labour Committee was established. This committee met several times a year, attracting 40 to 50 people at each meeting. In addition to strategic discussions, it organized strike support, was active around Ontario Federation of Labour Conventions, published a newsletter and carried out an educational program. The headings of a publication entitled Socialist Program for Canadian Trade Unionists reveal the main thrusts of unionists within the Waffle: • militant economic struggles • workers control • combat unemployment • rank and file control of the unions • Canadian control of the labour movement • public ownership of resource industries • organize the unorganized • organize immigrant workers • women's rights in the labour movement The Labour Committee continued after the Waffle was expelled from the NDP, publishing pamphlets aimed at specific groups of workers (hospital workers, teachers) as well as more general ones such as A Fully Independent and Militant Union Movement in Canada. It didn't take long for the Waffle to affect the broader labour movement. In particular, its call for an independent, militant Canadian labour movement in 1969 was taken up by a small group of about 30 trade unionists who formed themselves into the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) Reform Caucus. The members of this group were an odd lot. 186
Levine/On the Waffle
They consisted mainly of younger union staffers and technicians such as Ed Finn, who was editor of the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway and Transport newspaper, Boris Mather of the Communications Workers, Jim Norton, a researcher with the Steelworkers, Fred Pomeroy, a Communications Union staffer, and John Fryer who was then General Secretary of the B.C. Government Employees Union. Very few of them had any direct connection to the Waffle, and no one, except myself, was publicly active and identified with it. This group met for a number of months preceding the 1970 CLC Convention and developed a document for that Convention which was labelled 'The Program for Reform'. Relative to the Waffle's program, this document had limited goals, being confined more to internal problems of efficiency and democracy in collective bargaining, social unionism, and union structures. The turbulence on the campuses and of politics in general during the 1960s did not extend to CLC Conventions, which were usually quiet and calm affairs. There was little effective opposition to a generally complacent leadership. The 'Red' delegates, who in earlier times provided an effective opposition to the CLC leadership, had either been kicked out or had been tamed. The 1970 Convention promised to be no different, yet when the Reform Caucus distributed its program and its members began speaking out against the bland policies of the Congress, the substantial press corps really took notice. Of course, the press loves controversy, and the actions of the Caucus were blown up out of proportion to its numbers. All the newspapers and TV stations highlighted the fight put up by the Reform Caucus: the Toronto Star had an editorial on its success; CTV's W5 covered it. This attention plus the enthusiasm of Caucus members meant that we were able to make some impact on the Convention. Initially, the Reform Caucus was successful in having the CLC adopt a policy which would have it move beyond its limited goals of improving the economic status of its members to goals which reflected greater concern with the betterment of society as a whole. A second success of the 187
Studies in Political Economy
Reform Caucus was to push the CLC to endorse the principle of industrial democracy, i.e, to extend collective bargaining to include all matters which affect a workers' industrial life, such as technological change, production plans, future industrial development policies, the curtailment of operations, the methods and processes of operation, and pollution controls. For the CLC and its unions, which had historically questioned industrial democracy and worker's control, this was a step forward. However, it was the issue of Canadianizing the labour movement - a key element of the Waffle Manifesto and the Reform Caucus - that had the greatest impact on that 1970 CLC Convention. It is important to recall that the CLC was unique among labour associations in the world at that time in that it was the only labour central whose main constituent bodies had their leadership and headquarters in another country. It was pure trade union colonialism. In 1969 over two thirds of the members in CLC unions belonged to socalled International Unions, i.e. American unions. Although the situation varied somewhat from union to union, for many international unions this imposed a variety of limitations: there was no Canadian office or Canadian spokesperson to speak on behalf of the Canadian membership; Canadian members' dues were being siphoned off to the US headquarters while distinctly Canadian research and education programs were starved for funds; changes in collective agreements required prior approval from the American head office in some instances; American union constitutions could prohibit political activities by the union in Canada; Canadian sections of international unions wanting to strengthen themselves through mergers were prevented from doing so by International headquarters. To call for Canadianization of the labour movement, or even for more autonomy or independence was tantamount to 'treason', provoking an outpouring of wrath from the leadership of the CLC and the Internationals. At about this time, I spoke at a Carleton University conference on Canadian independence and was taped by an RCMP (or CLC) stooge who gave a transcript to the CLC. They promptly put pressure on the president of Canadian Union of Public 188
Employees to have me fired for calling for a Canadian labour movement. But our call struck a responsive chord with rank and file delegates at that 1970 CLC Convention. The CLC leadership was forced to adopt part of the Reform Caucus Program, namely, that Canadian union leaders must be elected by the Canadian membership, that these officers could speak for the union in Canada. As well the international unions were required to lift their constitutional restrictions on political activities in Canada. These moves towards Canadianization were extended in 1974 with the addition of a condition that when an international union is affiliated to a world secretariat, the Canadian section should affiliate separately. In subsequent years, the minimum code of requirements for international unions operating in Canada was further augmented. Although, the job is far from complete, the Canadianization issues raised by the Waffle and the Reform Caucus have had some effect, partly because of the constant prodding and needling by the Confederation of Canadian Unions over the past twenty years. Since 1970, many large international unions within the CLC have severed their American connections. One of the first to do so was the tiny Communications Workers of Canada which split from its US parent in 1972 and went on to organize much of Bell Canada. Its current president is Fred Pomeroy, one of the members of the Reform Caucus. Other unions which have done the same include: in 1974 the Canadian Paperworkers Union, the Brewery Workers, the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks; in 1980 the Energy and Chemical Workers; in 1986 the Canadian Auto Workers, the International Woodworkers of America; and in 1987 Newfoundland路 Fishermen. As well, a number of local unions have left their internationals and have either joined national unions, the Confederation of Canadian Unions, or have become independent unions. As a result of these changes, the composition of the labour movement in Canada has been transformed, so that today two thirds of the CLC membership belong to Canadian unions. Twenty years ago it was inconceivable that a majority of the CLC Executive would be made up of leaders 189
Studies in Political Economy
of Canadian unions. To have a CLC President such as Shirley Carr from a Canadian union would have been impossible. And those international unions still in the CLC, with few exceptions, have far more autonomy over their affairs than they had twenty years ago. Today an American union headquarters would directly interfere with the autonomy of a Canadian local at its own peril. And the transformation will continue. I predict that some time in the next decade, the United Steelworkers of America will become a Canadian union. The retirement of its 'Canadian' international president, Lynn Williams, will hasten that process. As other American unions take stands, against the interest of its Canadian members - for example, supporting protectionist policies - there will be more breakaways. It would, of course, be wrong to assume that all of the increase in Canadianization and the relative decline of American unions in Canada has been the result of an ideological shift. Other factors have been at play. There has been a rise in public sector employment, where Canadian unions are strong, and a relative decline in employment in manufacturing, where international unions are strong. Also Canadian unions have been more effective than the internationals in their efforts to organize the unorganized. CUPE for example with close to 400,000 members is three times its 1969 size. All of the new unions of professionals, such as teachers and nurses unions, are Canadian. We can be justly proud of the work that we initiated twenty years ago in the Waffle. Part of our legacy is a more autonomous and a more independent labour movement. There are other parts of that legacy which also merit mention. Wafflers, and those who were influenced by Wafflers, have contributed significantly to the development of a more militant style of unionism. Twenty years ago, I believe I was the only full-time union staffer who was an active Waffler. Today if a Waffle meeting were called there would be many full-time staffers who would identify with the Waffle's philosophy. They, and many elected officials who were also influenced by the Waffle, have been among the leaders, for
Levine/On the Waffle
example, of the fight against employers' demands for concessions. The Waffle developed a form and style of communitywide support for workers' struggles. For example, in the Texpack, Artistic, and Dare strikes, and the Dunlop plant closure, the Waffle helped garner support for the strikers from a significant section of the community at large. Today, many unions, and particularly public sector unions, use this technique of gaining public support for campaigns against cutbacks and privatization as well as traditional strike support. The legacy of this reaching out beyond the labour movement is reflected in the current, albeit reluctant, willingness of the CLC and other unions to work with progressive coalitions such as the Canadian Peace Alliance and the Pro-Canada Network. The Waffle was one of the first groups to make the subordinate status of women a real issue for the labour movement. It called for the transformation of union structures so that women would be treated as equals in a common struggle. The Waffle demanded equal treatment for women in terms of wages, job classifications and job opportunities. As well it called for proper representation of women in positions of leadership and at conventions. While much remains to be done on these, and other aspects of women's subordination, the Waffle deserves real credit for initially raising the issue. Canadian unions no longer look to the United States for leadership in political and social issues. There has developed instead a more pan Canadian viewpoint. With independence or greater autonomy, Canadian unions are far better equipped, at least structurally, to challenge the government's conservative agenda. As a result of the Canadianization of the labour movement, Canadian unionists have been able to take a more independent position in international affairs. Probably the most shameful aspect of American trade unionism is its role in international affairs. The AFL-CIO is often to the right of the State Department, working hand in hand with the CIA to undermine progressive unionism internationally. In Canada, the CLC role in international affairs still leaves much to be desired. Nevertheless, its 191
Studies in Political Economy
record is far better than its US counterpart and is improving. The CLC supports the Canadian Peace Alliance, has been critical of US intervention around the world, and more recently has taken solid positions on the conflict in the Middle East. Wafflers and their ideas had, and continue to have, a big impact on the Canadian labour movement. In spite of the very short life of the Waffle, we can all feel proud that our efforts have resulted in a better labour movement and a better Canada.
The Waffle and Quebec
By Patricia Smart
The 20th Anniversary of the Waffle
The Waffle and Quebec PATRICIA SMART midst the ongoing confusion surrounding the Meech Lake Accord and the NDP's contradictory position on it, it is instructive to look back at the relationship that existed between the Waffle and the Quebec wing of the NDP in 1971, and the potential we saw at that time for a new politics growing out of an alliance between the Quebecois and English-Canadian left. Just before the Quebec NDP election last December, president Michel Agnaieff stated, in an interview with the Canadian Press, that the convention would be a waste of time for Quebeckers, since the present mood of the party is so hostile to Quebec that there's no hope of influencing it. Not only were none of the seven candidates for the federal leadership anywhere close to being fluently bilingual or knowledgeable about Quebec's history, but one of the front-runners, Dave Barrett, had publicly stated that he thought Quebec no more distinct a society than Alberta or British Columbia. The contrast with 1971, when between them the Waffle and the tiny Quebec wing of the NDP managed to make Quebec's right to self-determination a major issue in the leadership race and at the convention, is depressing to say the least. The question of Quebec for the NDP has been an oscillation between principle and the crassest of vote-seeking tactics since the party's founding; arid the party with its Western base and lack of support in Quebec does of course face a real dilemma in attempting to determine its position on Quebec. In the mid-1960s, the party had a progressive
Studies in Political Economy 32, Summer 1990
Studies in Political Ecomomy
position on Quebec. very close to the one the Waffle would later include in its manifesto - that is. recognition of Quebec as a nation and of its right to some kind of special status within Canada. But after five years of bombings and militancy in Quebec, Trudeau was carried to power in 1968 by an electorate which wanted a leader who would deal with the Quebec problem once and for all. and an electorate that felt reassured by this French-Canadian who scornfully dismissed Quebec's claims to nationhood. And so it was into an atmosphere of renewed conservatism over the Quebec question in the party that the trouble-making Waffle group emerged. emphasizing. with greater and greater clarity over the years of its existence. the right of the Qu6Mcois to determine their own future. For those of us who met to draft the Waffle manifesto in late 1968 and on into 1969. the unprecedented nature of events in Quebec and the obvious power of the alliance between Quebec intellectuals. artists and labour around the national question was not a problem. but an inspiration and a model. Our own nationalism made us understand instinctively what the Qu6Mcois were talking about and gave us respect for their desire for self-determination. As well, we felt that the growth of left nationalism in English Canada offered the possibility for the first time of a real alliance with Qu6b6cois socialists. with whom we would be united in a common struggle against American cultural and economic domination. "Two nations. one struggle," we said in the manifesto. But alas. as Canadians were reminded again last year in the 'Free Trade' election, the Qu6b6cois have some difficulty with the idea that the Americans are the enemy and that we are the allies: they invariably seem to get that particular equation turned around. Still. the Waffle did gain a fair amount of credibility in Quebec. and it is conceivable that. if we had been allowed to continue to exist within the NDP. the party would by now have the base in Quebec it has been seeking so desperately for the last decade. At the very least. we managed to keep the idea of Quebec's right to self-determination alive in English Canada through the traumatic days of October 1970 and its aftermath. 196
P. Smart/On the Wame
My own memories of the beginning of the Waffle are very much tied up with Quebec, for at the time I was a PhD student, totally immersed in the novels of Quebec writer Hubert Aquin and the nationalist fervour that had produced them. I was probably typical of many Canadian students of Quebec culture in that I found in that culture a passion and sense of identity that seemed lacking in my own; and typical of Canadian students as well in the fact that I really didn't know very much about our own culture and literature. At the University of Toronto, where I had done my undergraduate work, there had been only one course which touched on Canadian literature. It was called "American and Canadian Literature," and in it we became thoroughly familiar with the work of Emerson, Thoreau, Poe and Henry James, and then - about two weeks before the final exam - were given a quick run-through of the poetry of E.J. Pratt. As I recall, my understanding of the parallels between our own struggle and that of Quebec began to take shape during some long walks with Jim Laxer in Macdonald Park near the Queen's University campus, on lovely fall afternoons when we probably should have been in class. We talked about George Grant, whom I was just starting to read, and the socialist independantiste journal parti pris, which had been produced by Quebec students in the 1960s, and had had an enormous impact on the politicization of Quebec culture. A few months later, when I read Dennis Lee's Civil Elegies, I finally saw in our literature that passion and despair about the nation, to which we were trying to give birth, that I had recognized in the works of Quebec writers. It was Jim Laxer who had the greatest influence in shaping the Waffle position on Quebec, and in convincing us of the importance of Quebec in our political agenda. As early as 1963, he had organized a large demonstration on the University of Toronto campus to protest against Donald Gordon's blundering statement that there were no FrenchCanadians qualified to occupy positions in the higher echelons of the CNR. That statement led to Gordon being burned in effigy in Quebec. Both Laxer's MA and PhD work centred 197
Studies in Political Ecomomy
on the nationalism of Henri Bourassa, which, in spite of its eccentricities, contains a 'two nations' position not unlike the one the Waffle would adopt. It was Laxer who argued during the early meetings of the group for the importance of including a fairly lengthy statement on Quebec in the manifesto, and it was he who eventually drafted those four paragraphs. The main points of those paragraphs were: that "there is no denying the existence of two nations within Canada, each with its own language, culture and aspiration;" that "English Canada and Quebec can share common institutions to the extent that they share common purposes;" that "an English Canada concerned with its own national survival would create common aspirations that would help to tie the two nations together once more;" and finally that "socialists in English Canada must ally themselves with socialists in Quebec in this common cause." It is worth noting that the resolution produced by the party leadership to counter the Waffle manifesto (the infamous "Marshmallow Resolution") represented a total retreat on the question of Quebec, although it reproduced, in a less socialist form, the main points of the Waffle position vis-a-vis American domination. Even its title, "For a United and Independent Canada," indicates that it might have been our position on Quebec that upset the party brass more than anything else in the manifesto. Unlike our two nations position, theirs (like that of many people within the NDP today) reduced Quebec to one of the many regions of Canada experiencing "disparity of income and opportunity within Confederation. " Ironically, one of our main opponents in the debate over the Waffle position on Quebec was John Harney. In the pages of the September 1969 New Democrat he objected to our recognition of Quebec as a nation, arguing it would be interpreted by the public as an acceptance of the possibility of a divided Canada. Jean-Paul Harney's constituents in Quebec in the 1988 election would have been bemused to learn of this former incarnation of their supposedly French-Canadian leader. The Waffle's statements on Quebec and attempt to form an alliance with certain elements of the tndependantiste left
P. Smart/On the Warne
intensified after the convention, mainly through the efforts of Jim Laxer. At the Waffle conference on the "Americanization of Canada" at the University of Toronto in March 1970, Laxer went beyond the manifesto position to talk about Quebec independence, stating that, "English Canadian socialists must recognize that Quebec is a nation, in the full sense of the word, and that Quebeckers must have the right to self-determination up to and including the right to form an independent Quebec state," By the end of the year, Laxer was the Waffle candidate in the federal leadership race, and, in the wake of the October Crisis and the War Measures Act, was more convinced than ever of the need to defend the Quebec independence movement in English Canada, and develop a new relationship between English Canada and Quebec. In a December 1970 interview with La Presse, he suggested that the NDP should seek some accommodation with the Parti Quebecois in terms of electoral strategy. (Later the Quebec NDP would do that by deciding not to run provincially.) A few weeks later, in January 1971, Le Devoir published the text of the Waffle resolution on Quebec, prepared for the upcoming convention. In response to its recognition of Quebec's right to self-determination and the call for an alliance between socialists in the two nations, the newspaper's editorialist, Claude Lemelin, wrote that "the suggestions outlined by Jim Laxer and the Waffle group could turn out to be the only way to maintain fraternal links and an intimate and fruitful cooperation between the two nations in Canada," David Lewis's response was to accuse the Waffle of breaking with the party's federalist stance and of fraternizing with the Parti Quebecois. It was clearly not coincidental that Raymond Laliberte, the highly respected former leader of the Quebec Teacher's Union, decided at that point that the NDP was worth taking seriously. In February of 1971 he was elected president of the party's Quebec wing, and the group passed a resolution on selfdetermination almost identical to that of the Waffle. By the time the convention took place in April, Quebec had become a major issue on the party's agenda and in the leadership campaign. Which is not to say of course that our Quebec resolution was endorsed by the convention: we 199
Studies in Political Ecomomy
lost by 428 votes (853 against to 425 for). Almost exactly the same number of votes separated David Lewis and Jim Laxer on the fourth and final ballot of the leadership contest (1046 to 612). The party also heavily rejected what, in context, seemed a ridiculous compromise resolution from Ed Broadbent, calling both for continued support of federalism and a recognition of Quebec's ultimate right to determine its own future. In retrospect, it's actually not a bad position; but the mood at the time was one of polarization. When the debate on Quebec began on the floor of the convention, delegates were lined up at the 'Yes' or 'No' microphones, depending on their position. Ed, however, stood in the centre of the floor, and when his turn came to speak he demanded a microphone in the middle, saying that his position was both 'Yes' and 'No'. John Gray later wrote in Saturday Night that his performance indicated you could have a PhD and still be an idiot. The resolution the party finally adopted, drafted by Charles Taylor, seemed aimed at salving the consciences of party members as far as the War Measures Act was concerned, without making the slightest concession to Quebec. It affirmed the party's commitment to a strong federalist position, while deploring the use of force as a means of maintaining national unity. The 1971 convention marked the last of the Waffle's public statements on Quebec. Not only was our own right to exist (and determine our future) within the party soon to come under attack, but the trauma of the events of October 1970 and especially Laporte's murder sank the Quebec left into a depression and apathy that was to last for several years. Looking back, though, at the rapprochement we did manage to achieve with some elements of the Quebec left before 1971, and the extent to which we raised the country's consciousness on the Quebec question, we can be proud of our record. Twenty years later, major Canadian politicians, including some in the NDP, are willing to publicly demonstrate, in a way that would have been inconceivable in the 1960s, a frightening amount of hostility to Quebec and an inability to appreciate the richness offered the whole country by the distinct society which it obviously is. It seems all too likely now that Meech Lake will fail, making it close 200
P. Smart/On the Waffle
to impossible for Quebec to remain within the country. And the tragedy is that many of these politicians don't know enough about Quebec to recognize the implications of what they're doing. Our history seems to reveal an almost cyclical need, one which seems to arise in almost every generation, to recreate this country and recommit ourselves to it. Every major politician since John A. Macdonald has known, though, that building a nation on the northern half of this continent involves accommodating Quebec. The present refusal, on the part of English Canadians, to listen to Quebec seems to indicate an inability to conceptualize the nation this time round, a lack of imagination, energy and generosity that may well do the country in. Maybe this twentieth anniversary celebration of the Waffle should be the occasion for a new initiative on the part of the nationalist left in English Canada. We learned in the past that the media, the politicians and the Canadian people were interested in listening to the things we knew needed to be said. And in spite of the apathy that seems to be abroad in the country, surrounding the question of Quebec, I think they would listen again to a restatement of the importance of Quebec to this country and the necessity of respecting i!s (ij,stirict aspirations.
The Waffle and Canadian Political Economy
BY RIANNE MAHON
The 20th Anniversary of the Wafne
The Waffle and Canadian Political Economy RIANNE MAHON he rediscovery of Canadian political economy - a creative fusion of Latin American dependency theory, European marxism and our own home-grown Innisian political economy, developed to explore the reasons for Canada's position as a rich but underdeveloped country - cannot be understood without reference to the Waffle. It was primarily through the Waffle, and the broader antiimperialist New Left to which it gave voice, that whole new vistas were opened up in the study of Canadian history, politics, culture, economics and geography. As students, many of us eagerly attended the lecture series that was later to be published in (Canada) Ltd. 1 We spent nights debating the 'Naylor thesis': was Canada a 'rich but underdeveloped' country? Was the victory of merchant over industrial capital in the late nineteenth century a pivotal development of Canadian economic history? Or had such distinctions been rendered irrelevant by the advent of monopoly capitalism? Was Canada simply a dependent nation or was it a 'subimperialist' power? Was the state an instrument of American capital? Of our own 'comprador' bourgeoisie? Or was it something more complex? Was the 'business unionism' of the Canadian labour movement due to the predominance of the so-called 'internationals'? On what basis could we join forces with left nationalists in Quebec?
Studies in Political Economy 32, Summer 1990
Studies in Political Ecomomy
In pursuit of answers, we searched long forgotten texts by Innis, Creighton, Ryerson, MacPherson and others to learn more about the 'staples thesis,' the empire of the St. Lawrence, the 1837 rebellions. Some of us nearly ruined our eyesight reading poorly photocopied versions of Pentland's then unpublished PhD thesis which gave us our first taste of Canadian labour history. We rushed to the bookstores to purchase Wally Clement's first book. More than just an 'update of Porter', The Canadian Corporate Elite showed how the modem-day descendants of Naylor's merchant-financiers remained alive and well, albeit in an asymmetrical partnership with American industrial capita1.2 The paradox of Canada's position as a 'rich dependency' constituted the central focus of these debates. While important work was done on the role of the petite bourgeoisie and the working class, it was the Naylor thesis, with its emphasis on the nature of the dominant class in Canada, and its external ties, that held centre stage. A little work was done on native people - undoubtedly because of the valiant struggle of the Dene which caught the attention of white southerners in the mid-1970s - but, with the exception of Quebec, the new political economy paid scant attention to questions of race and ethnicity.3 Gender questions too remained at the margin of Canadian political economy despite the fact that its progenitor, the Waffle, was very much enlivened by issues put on the agenda by the contemporary women's movement. In other words, feminist political economy there was, but after the death of the Waffle, it grew alongside the new Canadian political economy. Maroney and Luxton are thus right to argue that there were two political economies, not one, and there was little in the wal of a constructive dialogue between them until the 1980s. The role played by various classes and class fractions in shaping Canada's trajectory as a rich dependency was one of the principle issues enlivening the debates of the new Canadian political economy. The role and nature of the Canadian state constituted another important axis of debate. We are all by now familiar with the famous 'relative autonomy vs instrumentalist' positions on the state. This debate 188
Mabon/On tbe Wame
crackled through the pages of the Panitch book, with some of us arguing for relative autonomy while others documented the instrumental ties binding the state to capitaLS What is often forgotten is that the whole issue has a wider political importance. That is, it is not simply an academic question but one which goes to the heart of strategic debates. The Waffle's position seemed to be instrumentalist in a double sense. The state was seen by Naylor and Hutcheson as an instrument in the hands of foreign and indigenous 'comprador' capital. 6 At the same time, it was viewed as a potential instrument for social transformation. Thus Jim Laxer could argue that, it is in the interest of North American capitalists to weaken the Canadian state and to limit it to the passive function of maintaining a peaceful and secure climate for investment. In contrast, it is in the interest of Canadian socialists to resist any decline in our national sovereignty.'
At times, however, a more Gramscian view surfaced in which electoral struggles to win control of the formal state apparatus were seen as but one of many arenas of struggle in which the new party was to playa unifying role. Strategic differences thus constituted the subtext of the debate within the Waffle on the role and nature of the state. In the new political economy this dimension was often forgotten for reasons I shall go into below. These debates on the nature of the dominant class, the role of the petite bourgeoisie and/or the working class, and the state's relation to these various classes continued on into the 1980s. At political economy sessions at the Learneds, in the pages of Studies in Political Economy, Canadian Dimension and This Magazine such issues were routinely raised. They gave the Canadian Left an intellectual vitality which attracted new adherents and won the sometimes grudging, sometimes open, respect of those in the academic 'mainstream' - at least outside of economics I Canada, of course, was not alone in experiencing the emergence of a vibrant Left in the halls of academe. During the late 1960s and through a good bit of the 1970s, there 189
Studies in Political Ecomomy
was a flowering of marxist and feminist scholarship in most advanced capitalist countries. What was, perhaps, somewhat unique was the way in which the new ideas - or the rediscovery and reworking of older ideas - were put to use in analyzing the specificity of Canadian capitalism. Even the so-called 'metropolitan marxists' were forced to ponder the peculiarities of Canadian class structure and the Canadian state and this was due in no small part to the way the Waffle had defined the agenda. The story could stop here but this hardly seems appropriate at a time when the Waffle's worst fears seem about to be confirmed. The Mulroney government seems bent on dismantling the remaining barriers to full-scale integration into a declining American empire. The Free Trade Agreement (PTA) is the most obvious example of this but it is not hard to find others, as the complex east-west communications network that provided the fragile infrastructure binding the country together is being dismantled and handed over to 'the private sector' - to say nothing of the 'Meech discord' that cuts across party lines. It thus seems appropriate to consider the new Canadian political economy's contribution to the current struggle. Canadian political economists have made a substantial contribution to the fight against the consolidation of a continental capitalist economy. People like Duncan Cameron, Mel Watkins, Daniel Drache and Marjorie Cohen were very active in the Pro-Canada Network. They and others have done important work showing how the PTA constitutes a threat to all workers, not the least to women employed in the most vulnerable branches of Canadian manufacturing and in the service sector. They have mustered cogent arguments concerning the threat to social programs, the environment and Canadian culture. In all of these ways they have played an indispensable part in documenting the Pro-Canada case. At the same time, the opposition had a curiously defensive ring to it. We seem almost to have forgotten our earlier critique of the status quo in our effort to defend it from something worse. This weakness partly reflects the absence of a Waffle-like formation. The opposition to the PTA had 190
to be cobbled together from the many sites of progressive struggle and it had to discover a common strategy quickly if it were to act before the agreement was ratified. Perhaps if the Waffle - or the "movement for an independent and socialist Canada" as it was called for a while in Ontario - had survived, the basic elements of such a strategy, enriched by the contributions of the now much stronger women's movement and strengthened by the advances made within the labour movement and other parts of the popular sector, might already have been worked out and we would have been able to meet the challenge head-on. We will never know whether the free trade battle would have turned out differently had the Waffle survived. But its demise had a profound impact on the new Canadian political economy which, I think, became tragically apparent in the fight against free trade. In other words, the new political economy was really born as the Waffle was dying and the New Left, in general, was in retreat. The political setbacks that marked its birth, in turn, cast their shadow on it. From the outset, the new Canadian political economy suffered from 'Cassandra's dilemma'. As you may recall, Cassandra was that classical figure, blessed with the ability to foresee disasters, but cursed by the fact that her warnings would never be believed. Like Cassandra, both the Waffle and its progeny 'foretold' that the ties of dependency binding Canada's economy and culture ever more closely to the US could one day take on a more formal character. The Waffle sought to prevent this outcome by trying to build a movement for an independent and socialist Canada. Its academic orphan, however, proved incapable of carrying on the task of inspiring resistance. This failure cannot be attributed solely to the fact that it was only an intellectual movement, not a party; intellectual movements in the past have helped to feed the formation of transformative forces. The new Canadian political economy might have been able to breathe new life into the Waffle project had we been able to round out our analyses of the structure of domination by showing that something could be done to change the course of history. Had we told our story in ways that showed that historical action is not 191
Studies in Political Ecomomy
just the prerogative of elites - the people can act and their actions can make a difference - then we might have escaped Cassandra's fate. It was difficult for us to do this, however, as we were subconsciously affected by the political reversals suffered by the Left in Canada and elsewhere. It made sense, in this context, to probe the bases of bourgeois power, showing how the state - whether as 'instrument' or 'relatively autonomous structure' - could use repression and concessions to contain dissent. Conversely, it seemed utopian to raise questions of 'agency' or to think seriously about alternatives to the status quo. This is not to say that most of the work produced by adherents of the new Canadian political economy did not at least implicitly call for struggle against the system they described. Nor did we completely neglect the question of alternatives. Nevertheless, when we did attempt to address such questions, our prescriptions remained too 'statist' or too state-centred, with little attention to the way that shopfloor struggles, the fight for gender equality and for the environment might make a substantial contribution, not only to advancing but also to defining, our socialist alternative. In saying this, I do not intend to provide a leftist chorus to the neo-conservative attack on the state as such. What I am arguing is that such state-centred prescriptions ignore other, equally vital terrains of struggle, struggles which necessarily require the active participation of the people themselves, rather than their passive acquiescence in the action of their political representatives. These kinds of issues - action through the state versus action in civil society - were debated in the Waffle. The Waffle, after all, was part of the Canadian New Left and its members included those active in the fledgling women's movement, tenants associations and the unions. All of them emphasized the importance of extra-parliamentary activity in developing the basis for a new society within the bosom of the old. We will never know whether these debates might have come to the kind of creative resolution needed. We do know, however, that in the absence of such a forum for political debate, many of the new Canadian political eco-
Mahon/On the Wame
nomists gravitated toward the kind of 'functionalist' critique for which we have been duly criticized. Fortunately, I do not have to close on a pessimistic note. Although 'Mulroneyism' seems to be setting the agenda today, the fight against the FTA began to bring the fragments back together, creating the rudiments of the kind of alliance of which the Waffle once dreamed: a much-altered trade union movement, a stronger, self-confident women's movement, a renewed environmental movement, Native peoples struggling for the right to control their own lives, farmers fighting the encroachment of 'agri-business' and the churches calling for the foundation of a society which places human need before corporate profits. This fledgling popular coalition may have lost the 1988 electoral battle but the war is far from over. It is being fought on many fronts: in the work place and within the state where the unions and feminists are fighting to shape the very structure of work as well as the distribution of income; in the complex of arenas that together map out the conditions for reproductive choice - the abortion struggle, the fight for universal, quality daycare, the struggle to redefine the length of the normal working day; in the fight for 'quality of life' that is taking place in both northern and southern communities. In this context, it may no longer be utopian to raise the questions of 'agency' and of alternatives. In other words, the political conditions seem propitious for Canadian political economy to rid itself of Cassandra's curse and, with renewed vitality, make its contribution to this larger project. Notes 1. 2. 3.
Robert M. Laxer (ed.), (Canada) Ltd.: Th4 Political Economy of Dependency (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1973). Th4 Canadian Corporate Elite: An Analysis of Economic Power (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1975). Frances Abele and Daiva Stasiulis, "Canada as a 'White Settler Colony': What About Natives and Immigrants?" in Wallace Clement and Glen Williams (eds.), The New Canadian Political Economy (Kingston-Montreal: McGill/Queen's Press, 1989). Heather Jon Maroney and Meg Luxton (eds.), Feminism and Political Economy (Toronto: Methuen, 1987).
Studies in Political Ecomomy
Leo Panitch (ed.), The Canadian' State. Political Economy and Political Power (Toronto-Buffalo: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1977). Tom Naylor, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Commercial Empire of the St. Lawrence," in Oary Teeple (ed.), Capitalism and the Nati01Ul1QlUlstion in Ca1Ulda(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972) and J. Hutcheson, "The Capitalist State in Canada" in Laxer, (Ca1Ulda)Ltd ... James Laxer, "The Americanization of the Canadian Student Movement" in Ian Lumsden (ed.), Close the Forty-Ninth Parallel: The Americanization of CaMda (Toronto: 1970), p, 276.
The Waffle and the National Question
By Mel Watkins
The 20th Anniversary of the Waffle
The Waffle and the National Question MEL WATKINS he Waffle Manifesto was entitled "For An Independent Socialist Canada." Its opening sentence reads: "Our aim as democratic socialists is to build an independent socialist Canada." The very essence of our position, of our politics, was the linking of independence and socialism, of the national question and the class question. John Bullen, in his splendid history of the Waffle, shows how that linkage was, in his words, the Waffle's "principal political tenet." In 1965 George Grant had written in Lament for a Nation that socialism could not be the salvation of Canada because Canadian socialist leaders "had no understanding of the dependence of socialism and nationalism in the Canadian setting." We were resolved to change that. We said that independence could only be achieved through socialism because the Canadian business class, and the political parties which represented Canadian business, could not be relied upon. "There is not now an independent Canadian capitalism and any lingering pretension on the part of Canadian businessmen to independence lacks credibility." With the passing of Walter Gordon, there are no longer even such lingering pretensions. We said an independent socialist Canada could be achieved through the NDP as the party of working Canadians. Yet on the national question and on the role of the trade union movement we truly waffled in the Manifesto. Under the influence of staff reps from international unions and of Ed Broadbent, the only elected politician involved
Studies in Political Economy 32, Summer 1990
Studies in Political Ecomomy
in the Waffle in its early days (who abandoned us at the insistence of David Lewis), we called for more democracy in the labour movement and for workers' control, but we made no mention of the importance of an independent Canadian union movement. In the era of the American war in Vietnam and of the New Left as a global phenomenon, we translated anti-war and anti-corporate sentiment into Canadian nationalism, and we even tried to do it within a parliamentary party. We threatened the mainstream of moderate Canadian nationalists and brought about the creation of the Committee for an Independent Canada. For a brief and heady period, there were teach-ins across Canada in which an independent Canada was assumed, and the debate was about whether it should be a capitalist Canada or a socialist Canada. The 1970s are now seen as a nationalist interlude between, on one side, the era of special status for Canada within the American Empire of the 1950s and the 1960s, otherwise known as the great sell-out, and, on the other side, the Reagan-Mulroney era of the 1980s, with Canada (to paraphrase Stephen Clarkson) as exemplary client state. It was a decade brought to us by Pierre Elliott Trudeau of all people; fervid anti-nationalist though he was, he knew his priorities and was willing to tolerate a little Canadian nationalism the better to defeat Quebec nationalism. It was, incredibly, even brought to us by Richard Nixon who decided that a beleaguered America couldn't afford to treat us - as he saw it - so benignly and would grant us no further special status. Thus with Watergate about to burst, Nixon came to Ottawa in 1972 and unilaterally declared us independent! Lest we forget, these were the years of the Canada Development Corporation, of the Foreign Investment Review Agency (FIRA) and Petrocan, and of the Third Option to lessen Canadian dependence on the US, culminating, postWaffle, in the National Energy Program. The Waffle contributed to the nationalist environment within which these things happened but, wanting more, much more, we were not impressed at the time and, I suspect, have been disappointed, though not all that surprised, that much of it didn't last. 174
Watkins/On the Wame
Relative to domestic ownership, foreign and American ownership in Canada fell in the 1970s and continued to do so into the 1980s; though it remains so high that Canada's right to be in the Guiness Book of Records as the ultimate comprador nation has hardly been put at risk. It should be conceded that none of us on the nationalist side anticipated this decline. And if, after the event, we have been slow to hail it, it is because we're not sure, given the context in which it happened, that it actually mattered. There were those who insisted that it proved that the Canadian business class, and the Canadian economy, were now more mature. The problem with that, however, was that trade dependency on the US grew at the same time, since the Third Option had failed miserably. We soon discovered that the new macho business class really just wanted protection against possible American protectionism. In the face of that threat it was Canadian workers and their unions which went nationalist, while Canadian business turned totally continentalist and dragged the whole country into free trade with the US. The Canadian business class, having opposed any policies that would have reduced our vulnerability and dependency, now argued that the only way to deal with them was to increase them. Ironically, it turns out that Canadian business had simply become mature enough to insist wholeheartedly on continentalism, and to have the cohesion and the clout to get its way. The key change, the true big reversal, was in the labour movement which moved away from international union dominance toward national unions, creating thereby a stronger base for the articulation of a nationalism that is, by its nature, left nationalism. If we waffled at the outset, we quickly made up for lost time; a Waffle Labour Caucus argued for Canadian unions, while Wafflers worked with the militantly nationalist Confederation of Canadian Unions in the Texpack and Artistic Woodworkers strikes. Indeed, having moved, we did so to the point that it became our undoing, for it was the international union leadership, in alliance with the Lewis family party establishment, that led the purge. By the time the Canadian labour movement itself became Canadian, which it unambiguously did with the
Studies in Political Ecomomy
breakaway of the Canadian Autoworkers in the 1980s, the Waffle was history. The 1980s has otherwise been a thoroughly miserable decade, of American truculence and bluster under Reagan and of Canadian retreat, first under Trudeau and then yet more so under Mulroney. The Free Trade Agreement was the culmination of this Canadian slide into colonial status. What did we learn about Canadian political economy from the Great Free Trade Debate, and from the federal election that became a veritable referendum on the issue, that may be germane to our assessment of the Waffle? We saw, as already implied, a stridently continentalist business class which was wholly and depressingly consistent with the Waffle's best analysis and worst fears. We likewise saw a unified, nationalist labour movement, to whose existence, I like to think, the Waffle had modestly contributed. We saw a bumbling NDP leadership that, hard though it was to believe, could not grasp the nationalist nettle of free trade as firmly as corporate lawyer John Turner and the Liberal party. In Abe Rotstein's memorable phrase, the NDP, unable as well to get anywhere in Quebec, demonstrated its inability to deal with the national question in either official language. Such apparently is the continuing cost to the NDP of our expulsion. Perhaps our leaving deprived the NDP of the continuing stimulus it needed to relate to Canadian, and Quebec, nationalism. We cannot rewrite history, not even our own slight role, but if our staying would have made the NDP more genuinely nationalist, I can almost be persuaded that we should have tried harder to stay. But the Free Trade debate also witnessed the creation of the ProCanada Network by a broad range of popular sector groups, and of a host of local coalitions against free trade. This represented a most impressive social movement. We old Wafflers should all be happy if future historians see the Waffle as an embryonic version thereof. Thus, although we lost on free trade, we saw remarkable evidence of a strong, left nationalist sentiment as recently as one year ago. Let us, by all means, emphasize the Waffle's contribution to that legacy. Tell me: who on the left has a stronger claim? 176
ON THE WAFFLE
Canada, Left-Nationalism, and Younger Voices By Greg Albo
The 20th Anniversary
of the Waffle
Left-Nationalism, and Younger Voices GREGORY ALBO We must somehow escape on the one hand from our obsession with the moment and on the other hand from our obsession with history. Harold Innisl Now the record of the advanced capitalist countries demonstrates the remarkable resiliency of capitalism. that is, its ability to transcend particular contradictions. The likelihood that this will not indefinitely be the case depends not on the mere waiting for the contradictions to deepen and to ripen, but on the articulation of the socialist alternative, on the development of socialist strategies around particular contradictions, and on the building of a socialist movement ...It follows that a necessary first step for socialists in Canada is the identification of the contradictions inherent in contemporary Canadian capitalism. Mel Watkins2
he 1988 free trade election pitted two old foes against each other. Since at least the mid-60s Canadian political life has been overwhelmingly animated by heated debate between 'continentalists' and 'nationalists' about the economic, social and cultural direction of Canada within North America. The other historic issue of Canadian politics - the relationship of the Quebec nation to the Canadian state - has been intimately intertwined with the first, although each has its own set of internal dynamics
and tensions. Left and liberal nationalists have consistently argued that the slow, steady drift into the American orbit Studies in Political Economy 33, Autumn 1990
Studies in Political Economy
has subordinated Canadian sovereignty to US power and left the Canadian economy severely stunted - a producer of staple commodities for the American market. In contrast, the continentalist ruling bloc has contended, as much by blind faith and assertion as analysis, that the linking of the Canadian and American economies has been the essential ingredient in Canadian prosperity, and that it will continue to be so. Moreover, North American integration has been not only the appropriate economic choice for economic specialization in areas of comparative advantage, it has also underpinned the welfare state and enhanced Canada's international role as 'honest broker' between smaller nations and the American Superpower. This is the central division which has dominated modern Canadian politics, effectively marginalizing many other issues.3 And it has marked the political and cultural practices of the Canadian Left. The Left has no doubt played the major role in intellectually and politically sustaining the 'nationalist movement', and keeping it on a progressive track for some two decades. It is therefore all the more startling that the organizational expression of this 'alternate politics', the New Left Waffle Movement, lasted a mere 6 years from 1969 to 1974 (and that is stretching it). The Waffle legacy is surely cultural, in the fullest sense of that word, influencing intellectual debate and political visions long after its dissolution. Indeed, the history and subsequent course of the Waffle illustrates one of Raymond Williams's most striking insights. That is, active social struggles connected to people's actual material position - even if the formation itself is only shortlived and narrow in organizational terms - can leave lasting, crucial residues in political life. This insight is absolutely central to the notion of hegemony as a contested intellectual and practical process permeating daily life: A lived hegemony is always a process. It is not, except analytically, a system or a structure. It is a realized complex of experiences, relationships, and activities, with specific and changing pressures and limits. In practice, that is, hegemony can.never be singular. Its internal structures are highly complex, as can readily be seen in any concrete analysis. Moreover, it does not just passively exist as a form of dominance. It has continually
Albo/On the Waffle
to be renewed, recreated, defended, and modified. It is also continually resisted, limited altered, challenged by pressures not at all its own ...counter-hegemony,"
The Waffle and Its Alternative Politics It was in developing such an alternative politics - a counter-hegemonic project if you wish - that the Waffle challenged the dominant ways of thinking about Canada and critically engaged what it meant culturally to be 'Canadian'. In doing so, the movement altered the terrain of Canadian politics. For those of us who came to maturity well after the movement ceased to have an explicit political form, this was readily apparent. The intellectual ground of the right, with its triumphal account of Canadian history as the march of Great Men and its conception of Canada's political role as noble Middle Power brokering the Atlanticist Alliance, was no longer uncontested. It was possible to enter Canadian universities at the end of the 1970s and receive a much less complacent treatment of Canadian society. Through the by then standard texts of Levitt, Watkins, Clement, Gonick, Panitch, and, of course, Naylor, it was possible to explore an alternate and far more challenging, authentic conception of Canada. Indeed, an entirely different history was being told of a branchplant economy,of imperialconstraintson national determination, and of the valiant, often violent, struggles of working people for a more egalitarian society. By the early 1980s these existed as axiomatic themes, as common in political meetings as in the classroom. They bore the distinct imprint of the Waffle's manifesto (if not always its direct linking of the struggles of independence and socialism). Canada was a 'rich dependency', skewed in its industrial development by a weak manufacturing base and massive staples exports to the US market. The weak Canadian capitalist class, and a state controlled by financial, staples and comprador capitals, could not be expected to alter this cumulative regression to dependence, and consequent balkanization, of Canada. Rather, an alternative project, to reclaim the economy prior to implementing socialist measures, depended on an industrial strategy backed by an alliance between national capitalists and Canadian workers. The precise terms of the industrial strategy, as be163
Studies in Political Economy
tween the contradictory objectives of strengthening national capitals and improving the lot of the workers, would be worked out as a series of compromises internal to the nationalist oppositional bloc. This is what we learned and what informed our politics - such as they were, given that there was no political movement to anchor them.s The ability to analyze Canadian society critically, what Gramsci termed "liberation from the prison of ideologies in the bad sense of the word, â€˘â€˘6 was a vital legacy that the Waffle and its intellectual offspring, the New Canadian Political Economy (NCPE), left to younger militants. Moreover, as part of the general revitalization of socialist politics across the capitalist world through the 1960s and 1970s, the Waffle legacy helped cast our intellectual and political horizons even wider. We observed with interest and sympathy trends in the European Left and the struggles of the South to throw off imperialism. This process, however, was not without difficulties and frustrations. The political impasse of the Left in the 1980s created a climate of cynicism and practical isolation. In this atmosphere, it was difficult to nourish commitment to a broader socialist community in Canada. For students, however, there was at least a great deal that was intellectually exciting. As a result of the intellectual space built by the New Left, we could pour over Marx, Panitch, and Gonick alongside Dahl, Van Loon and Whittington, and Lipsey. Indeed, by the time we turned to reading Althusser, Poulantzas, Gramsci, and Anderson in graduate school in the 1980s, these texts had almost attained canonical status. We read them closely and turned our attention to the study of working class politics, asking new questions. What were the key processes of class formation? Was the postwar experience of corporatism relevant to all capitalist societies? Were the limits of social democracy exposed by the crisis of the capitalist state in the West? At the same time, new sources and new intellectual debates moved to the centre of radical social theory: feminist politics and the writings of Michele Barrett, Varda Burstyn, Dorothy Smith, and many others; Foucault, Stuart Hall and Edward Said on the discursive practices constitutive of cultural, sexual 164
Alba/On 1he Waffle
and racial identities; and a raft of new issues and concepts from Fordism to post-modernism, that seemed to be capable of providing insight into the radical shifts in spatial patterns and social identities occurring throughout the 1980s. It is probably because of these broad intellectual shifts, as well as the lack of a political formation, that much of the New Canadian Political Economy began to sit uncomfortably. 'Newer voices' challenged the very assumptions of the NCPE. This was perhaps less true for the 'Metropolitan Marxists', largely grouped around Studies in Political Economy, in whose work it was possible to see common theoretical interests: i.e. 'class politics'; the articulation between gender and class; and the way in which the experience of the economic crisis and the impasse of Fordism in other countries could inform studies of Canada. Unlike the more 'Innisian based' political economy, which appeared wholly unreceptive to these urgent issues in social theory, it was possible to make 'structure and agency' comparisons with other states and societies based on the altered terms provided by the class-theoretic approaches within the NCPE. But even here an uneasy tension was communicated. Two of the most widely cited and justly praised pieces of the NCPE - the 1981 "Dependency and Class" essay by Leo Panitch and Rianne Mahon's 1984 book The Politics of Industrial Restructuring - were inspired by the need to increase the strategic salience of class within left-nationalist politics. Yet both remained trapped by the problem of having to solve the 'paramount riddle' - how to account for Canada's exceptional 'dependent industrialization"," The Anomalies Compound and Politics Unsettles: Welcome to the New World? By the end of the 1980s the limits of the 'new' Canadian Political Economy were becoming increasingly apparent. The world around us - and within - had changed. Several structural features are notable. The 'centre economies' of Britain and the US are, even more than Canada, being ravaged by 'de-industrialization'. 'Eurosclerosis' has been pushing unemployment levels in much of Europe beyond those in the North American bloc. The general internationalization of productive capital and 165
Studies in Political Economy
the lightning mobility of financial capital plagues nationstates and progressive movements everywhere. Canadian multinationals (especially financial and 'development' capitals but not exclusively) are a dynamic component of the new globalization. The growth of Canadian foreign direct investment in the US threatens to rival US levels in Canada in the early 1990s. The spectre of Japanese imperialism haunts the business capitals of America and Europe, and the potential leverage of the huge pools of financial capital in Japan poses a threat to any new socialist government. The dual pressures of economies of scale and economies of scope are forcing all sizes of capital to think globally (the exact opposite of the fashionable thesis of flexible specialization). In Canada, this increasingly means economic and political ties across the Americas. The case for the relevant political and economic comparison being the other advanced capitalist countries, a point already insisted upon by the 'Metropolitan Marxists', is now unassailable. Just as pressing, and problematic, are questions of agency. The 'nationalist identity', which is fragmented and unorganized within civil society in Canada, is only one of many, and it has lost its place at centre stage through most of the 1980s as the collective identity piecing together diverse struggles. New issues structuring political life demand attention in Canada as elsewhere. What is the relationship between working class politics and other social movements? Do the social identities formed around gay rights, women, race, peace, and environment constitute specific, autonomous logics of collective action? What do the struggles of these agencies mean for overturning the private market, if anything? Moreover, can these agencies be condensed in an oppositional alliance - an alternate politics - that will rekindle the socialist project? Is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for re-establishing a general political interest only to be found in recognition of our common position as paid labour? Will the deepening of 'democratic-popular' struggles within the working classes expand their transformative capacities and give a new, socialist direction to the labour movement? These concerns keep pushing themselves forward, and they are only integrated with difficulty, with 166
Albo/On the Waffle
ever increasing numbers of ad hoc hypotheses, into the core problematic of Canadian Political Economy. Either social theory will bend to the will of the NCPE or the terms of the latter will have to change to meet the 'new times'. These theoretical differences find a parallel in political practice. The struggles of the 1970s opened a political space which has encouraged, to a degree at least, an 'independent left' politics to flourish in many popular organizations. This deepening of democratic struggles in feminist groups, solidarity work, green and disarmament forums, and gay and lesbian rights organizations, have given most younger militants their initial political experiences. And it has informed our commitment to respect the complexity of issues that socialist politics has had to incorporate. For those of us who are intellectuals, it has established our theoretical interests, for the most part, and made us acutely aware of the barriers 'to thinking' about these issues within a framework overdetermined by the 'nationalist moment' in politics. It also must be acknowledged that a certain frustration has existed, for those of us of an activist bent, because of our inability to forge a common political project or to locate the broader cultural institutions necessary to sustain an active socialist community. Here the fallout of the Waffle has provided a block. Tensions at political meetings, political codes, and even individual rivalries, often date back to some Waffle episode in which we had no part. Political imaginations remain limited to the existing constellation of political forces. Similarly, in defining a common collective interest, there has been an inability to find a vocabulary or ways of addressing issues beyond nationalist politics. A lack of trust between women and men, based on earlier political encounters, is still often pervasive. Finally, there has been a huge age gap, made all the larger by the differences of relevant political experiences. Those of us who are younger are fewer in numbers, and have come to maturity in harsher political times. Thus the ambiguous feelings: we have been enticed by the formative political and cultural experiences of the 'Class of 68' and the Waffle in particular, but also overwhelmingly excluded from its nostalgic codes, alliances and antagonisms. 167
Studies in Political Economy
The result of the altered intellectual agenda and political impasse is that the Waffle, and its alternate politics have begun to lose their appeal. A more rigorous assessment suggests we may yet have to shed more of the Waffle legacy if our 'creative organizational and intellectual capacities' are to evolve, and socialist ideas are to penetrate throughout society. Let us briefly consider the two most prominent legacies, one theoretical and the other political. The 'rich dependency' thesis remains the core, problematic of the NCPE, and the major theme of Canadian economic history. As witnessed through the free trade debate, it still provides the alternative political and policy responses for a broad swath of the Left. But how fertile is this? No doubt it can be argued that the NCPE forced us to examine more closely the specific contours of Canadian society, and helped avoid the abstract-formal theorizing characteristic of much of recent Marxist writings and politics. Yet virtually all theoretical positions, Marxist and neoWeberian, have turned to closer examination of the specific institutional dynamics within national social formations (although the sudden fondness for neoinstitutional analyses often conceals a political move to the right). So, by itself, the study of the concrete is not unique. Moreover, the 'rich dependency' position has inexorably framed the specificity of Canada in a way that casts a 'faulty industrial structure' as the decisive issue governing economic and political struggles. A weak: manufacturing capacity defines the 'Canadian problem' and 'industrial policy' as the solution. Posed in this way, it seems impossible to incorporate adequately the broader relations of power, and specifically the theoretical dilemma posed by agencies, without severely compromising the hard core of the problematic. Indeed, as the new writings within labour and women's history so vividly illustrate, either the problematic is abandoned altogether, or some of the issues posed by the NCPE readdressed in a way that leaves very few of the original theses intact. In probably the most convincing (and important) books embracing the NCPE - Williams's Not for Export and Laxer's Open for Business - these difficulties leap from the pages.S The role of agency, particularly of 168
Albo/On the Waffle
subordinate classes, remains unclear. The critical issue of Canadian politics remains foreign investment levels, and other problems have their ultimate cause there. Examined strategically, they both logically end with a quite explicit case for an industrial policy to reverse Canadian dependency, whatever social class or political party might be ruling. Indeed, the 'new' industrial policy debate, the matching of high-quality production with progressive training policies, threatens to reinforce this cramped political vision by once again posing industrial policy as the solution to the 'Canadian economic problem'. There is no shortcut around this theoretical impasse. The tell-tale signs of a degenerative research program are evident, and the necessity of actively exploring Canadian political economy in new ways is obvious. In attempting to grapple with the issue of 'agency and structure', the essays in The Canadian State had a common theoretical interest in 'class politics'; dependency was a subsidiary issue.? The new 'openness' of debate provides a challenge to think things through again and complete the break. Unfortunately the NCPE problematic, with its close focus on dependency, staples production, and foreign investment levels, still maintains a strong hold on the writings of an older generation of intellectuals and on the 'common-sense' of activists across the Canadian Left. 10 It would, however, be grand folly to suggest that these writings did not address serious matters and that they did not have results which would necessarily be incorporated in any adequate understanding of Canadian society. But if we are to broaden our agenda, theoretical and political, to fully include formerly subordinate issues - whether they be issues of class, gender, environment - the centrality of the 'national question' is precisely the political snare we need to escape. The long, arduous struggles in opposition to free trade, led in admirable and dedicated fashion by a cadre of leftnationalists, also forces us to critically reflect on the impact of the Waffle. It has become common currency that the major problem of the Free Trade Agreement (PTA) election' was the lack of 'tactical voting' on the part of the opposition. This deficiency was only compounded by a badly conceived 169
Studies in Political Economy
strategy on the part of the NDP leadership, who downplayed free trade to highlight leadership. In numerous ridings, this split the anti-FTA vote between Liberal and NDP candidates and allowed Tory candidates to squeak through the middle and gain a plurality. In other words, the implicit 'Nationalist Popular Front' formed in opposition to the FTA -- which went from the Liberal Party to the Communist Party and virtually all popular organizations - also had to have had a more formalized structure to ensure a constituency-byconstituency voting agreement. The touchstone of the nationalist opposition was the political conclusion that by voting to block continentalism and implement policy designed to diversify Canadian markets, the Canadian 'rich dependency problematic' would be resolved, regardless of which party might benefit in consequence. It is difficult not to suggest we are leaving many serious questions unanswered if left at that. This is not to suggest that the FTA was not an extremely bad agreement that dealt a sharp blow to an array of democratic struggles within Canada. The anti-FTA struggle invigorated and brought together a disparate coalition of popular forces. It succeeded, albeit only briefly, in creating a 'general interest' around a 'nationalist collective identity', with the purpose of defending and maintaining social protections and the power of the state to intervene in the economy. But a straight polarization between a 'national-popular' coalition of the centre-left and a 'continentalist ruling bloc' of the right, as the tactical voting strategy implies, was difficult to envision. A general rejection of the neoconservative agenda did fuel the opposition. However, for tactical voting to work, the anti-FTA forces would have had to adopt an even more baldly liberal position to counter Tory arguments. This would have undercut the very oppositional voices giving impetus to the coalition. The strategy also would have reinforced the Liberal attempt to reclaim its crown as the 'Party of National Unity'. Yet the Liberal Party, as the Waffle and the NCPE taught us, has been the traditional bearer of continentalism. After a brief flurry of nati.onalist measures in 1981, it was headed down the neoconservative
Albo/On the Waffle
road. 11 It is difficult to believe they offered much different in 1988. A second common observation illustrates the same dilemma of the nationalist opposition. That is, it was difficult to challenge the Tories in debate and win positive support without an alternative social and economic vision. In fact, the political choices were posed in the traditional way: 'continentalism' versus 'industrial policy'. The latter was little different in content from what had been conceived in the 1970s. The lack of creditable alternatives denied tactical voting its material base (especially when national capitals shifted to support free trade and thus abandoned the centre ground around which the nationalist strategy pivoted). Indeed, few people were buying the industrial policy position, just as they were not in Britain, the US, and elsewhere. Suggesting a different tack would have divided the coalition, the historical dilemma of Popular Frontism. Attempting to concretize the varied demands of the movements, making the compromises necessary to construct a coherent alternative, necessitated a political vision and a mobilization strategy beyond defensive nationalism (quite different from the challenging form nationalist struggles took in the 1960s). The Pro-Canada Network, a nationalist condensation of progressive forces, and not a nascent socialist one, is the institutional-strategic legacy of the free trade fight. Its creation is a positive development, one that socialists should readily support. But whether it can transcend the limits of nationalism to construct an alternate project, while at the same time clarifying its uneasy relationship to the trade unions and the NDP, is a decidedly open question. Moving On: Politics Beyond Free Trade It is proper that we reflect upon the Waffle experience in these difficult times for socialists everywhere. If only briefly, the Waffle suggested an alternate radical politics and cultural practice, and the residues of that moment have informed subsequent intellectual and political practices. But, to borrow from Gramsci again, the 1980s saw the old dying and the new struggling, to be born.
Studies in Political Economy
In the 1990s we must, once again, begin the enormous task of renewing the socialist project. The Canadian Left needs to reassess and develop its own contribution to a new internationalism; a contribution which recognizes that the old schisms between socialists are outdated, one which focuses on forging an agenda for the next stage of social struggles in Canada. Undoubtedly this project will be informed by nationalist aspirations; the affirmation and development of cultural and political space for national communities is an essential component of socialism. But any socialist project in Canada for the 1990s must also be broader than that. A 'war of position' will no doubt be carried into an array of agencies and organizations that will expand the capacities of subordinate groups to shape their own struggles and futures. Surely the struggle for selfgovernment and social justice for aboriginal peoples must be of the highest priority in all our collective efforts. So, too, the struggles of women for reproductive rights and equality, and the struggle of social minorities for political inclusion form a vital current which needs to be concretized in political structures. Finally, global economic shifts, specifically the evolving consolidation of a hemispheric trading bloc, demand that we begin to forge concrete working class and trade union ties that span the Americas. It is not hard to imagine these agencies. The remarkable gathering of popular movements in the Pro-Canada Network during the free trade fight, and now in opposition to the horribly regressive Goods and Services Tax, demonstrates the vast potential. But let's face it. The reaction of these same popular groups to the Meech Lake constitutional proposals revealed all too dramatically the limited ability of this 'minimalist' form of political organization to make positive political interventions. It is difficult, yet absolutely necessary, to move from the spontaneous gathering of these agencies within coalitions, fighting defensive battles around specific issues, to an emergent formation, projecting an alternative political vision. Indeed, the working out of the economic, environmental and democratic dimensions of a re-formed general interest and collective identity - the object of socialist intellectual and political practice -- will 172
Albo/On the Waffle
be a daunting task, made all the more difficult by the collapse of both the authoritarian-command system and social democratic reforms. As Raymond Williams submitted in looking Towards 2000 and beyond his own past, The real struggle has broadened so much. the divisive issues have been so radically changed, that only a new kind of socialist movement, fully contemporary in its ideas and methods, bringing a wide range of needs and interests together in a new definition of the general interest, has any real future.12
The extension of this array of struggles into the 'complex of experiences, relationships, and activities' that comprise social life - from the organization of day-cares and medical facilities to the control of work place structures to substantive constitutional and electoral reform - will necessarily inform this 'democratic project'. But will we have the political and cultural imagination to create a formation that brings these 'needs and interests' together and engages Canadian society? Here we will need to reclaim some of the political daring that emerged with the Waffle's alternative project. That might be the Waffle's ultimate legacy. Notes 1. 2.
H. Innis, "A Plea for Time," The Bias of Communication (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1951), p.90. M. Watkins. "Contradictions and Alternatives in Canada's Future," in R. Laxer, ed., (Canada) Ltd.: The Political Economy of Dependency (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1973), p.250, emphasis added. Glen Williams and Gord Laxer have recently written (very valuable) books which rewrite history as if this panicular political division was always the alignment of Canadian politics, and Canada's evolution from 'colony to nation to colony' the unfolding of this contradiction. There are also traces of this in Janine Brodie and Jane, Jenson's path-breaking text, but they are more sensitive to the variable positions of social forces in different conjunctures, thus leaving the question more open and avoiding the historicism of the other two. See: G. Williams, Not for Export (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1983); G. Laxer, Open for Business (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1989); and J. Brodie and J. Jenson, Crisis, Challenge and Change (Toronto: Methuen, 1980). R. Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1917), p. 112. Formations are 'those effective movements
Studies in Political Economy
8. 9. 10.
and tendencies, in intellectual and artistic life, which have significant and sometimes decisive influence on the active development of a culture, and which have a variable and often oblique relation to formal institutions' (p.1l7). It should be remembered that, in the early 1980s, the disillusionment with the New Democratic Party extended throughout the Left. This was especially strong among those of us from working class communities in western Canada who had to live with the: constant retreats and double-dealing of NDP governments. As well, far left groups, such as the Workers Communist Party and the various Trotskyist factions, were already finished or deteriorating. They too represented another generation's politics, crystallizing in their practices past debates about national roads to power (often formed out of or in relation to Waffle positions). The Communist Party of Canada, of course, was still buried beneath the rubble of what we now politely call, 'the years of Brezhnevite stagnation'. This was a hostile, isolating world to face for those of us who wanted to get excited about left-wing politics, difficult enough in Canada at any time. A. Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1971), p.344. L. Panitch, "Dependency and Class in Canadian Political Economy," Studies in Political Economy No.6 (1981), p. 28; and R. Mahon, The Politics of Industrial Restructuring (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984), ca. 8. Williams, Not for Export; Laxer, Open for Business. L. Panitch (ed.), The Canadian State (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977). The debate is usefully re-presented in: D. Glenday, "Rich But Semiperipheral: Canada's Ambiguous Position in the World-Economy," Review 12/2 (Spring 1989); and P. Resnick, "From Semiperiphery to Perimeter of the Core: Canada's Place in the Capitalist WorldEconomy," Review 12/2 (Spring 1989). The role of the NCPE in informing the free trade opposition is effectively detailed in: Ontario Federation of Labour, It's Not Free (Toronto: OFL, 1986); and J. Laxer, Leap of Faith (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1986). In 1970 Kari Levitt provided a succinct summary of the Liberal role in this regard: "The continentalist tide has been running strong. It has been permissively assisted by successive Liberal administrations who opened the floodgates to massive American direct investment in the postwar period. Never has a country's control over the 'commanding heights' of its economy and over the policy levers of its fiscal and monetary controls been surrendered so swiftly, silently and hospitably." Silent Surrender (Toronto: Macmillan, 1970), p, 56. R. Williams, Towards 2000 (London: Penguin, 1983), p, 174.
The Waffle Manifesto For an Independent Socialist Canada
The Waffle Manifesto: For an Independent Socialist Canada Waffle Resolution 133 Our aim as democratic socialists is to build an independent socialist Canada. Our aim as supporters of the New Democratic Party is to make it a truly socialist party. The achievement of socialism awaits the building of a mass base of socialists, in factories and offices, on farms and campuses. The development of socialist consciousness, on which can be built a socialist base, must be the first priority of the New Democratic Party. The New Democratic Party must be seen as the parliamentary wing of a movement dedicated to fundamental social change. It must be radicalized from within and it must be radicalized from without. The most urgent issue for Canadians is the very survival of Canada. Anxiety is pervasive and the goal of greater economic independence receives widespread support. But economic independence without socialism is a sham, and neither are meaningful without true participatory democracy. The major threat to Canadian survival today is American control of the Canadian economy. The major issue of our times is not national unity but national survival, and the fundamental threat is external, not internal. American corporate capitalism is the dominant factor shaping Canadian society. In Canada, American economic control operates throughout the formidable medium of the multi-national corporation. The Canadian corporate elite has opted for a junior partnership with these American enterprises. Canada has been reduced to a resource base and consumer market within the American Empire. The American Empire is the central reality for Canadians. It is an empire characterized by militarism abroad and racism at home. Canadian resources and diplomacy have been enlisted in the support of the empire. In the barbarous war in Vietnam, Canada has supported the United States through its membership on the International Control Commission and through sales of arms and strategic resources to the American military industrial complex. The American empire is held together through worldwide military alliances and giant monopoly corporations. Canada's membership in the American alliance system and the ownership of the Canadian economy by American corporations precludes Canada's
playing an independent role in the world. These bonds must be cut if corporate capitalism and the social priorities it creates are to be effectively challenged. Canadian development is distorted by a corporate capitalist economy. Corporate investment creates and fosters superfluous individual consumption at the expense of social needs. Corporate decision-making concentrates investment in a few major urban areas, which become increasingly uninhabitable while the rest of the country sinks in underdevelopment. The criterion that the most profitable pursuits are the most important ones causes the neglect of activities whose value cannot be measured by the standards of profitability. It is not accidental that housing, education, medical care, and public transportation are inadequately provided for by the present social system. The problem of regional disparities is rooted in the profit orientation of capitalism. The social costs of stagnant areas are irrelevant to the corporations. For Canada, the problem is compounded by the reduction of Canada to the position of an economic colony of the United States. The foreign capitalist has even less concern for balanced development of the country than the Canadian capitalist does with roots in a particular region. An independent movement based on substituting Canadian capitalists for American capitalists, or on public policy to make foreign corporations behave as if they were Canadian corporations, cannot be our final objective. There is not now an independent Canadian capitalism and any lingering pretensions on the part on Canadian businessmen to independence lack credibility. Without a strong national capitalist class behind them, Canadian governments, Liberal and Conservative, have functioned in the interests of international and particularly American capitalism, and have lacked the will to pursue even a modest strategy of economic independence. Capitalism must be replaced by socialism, by national planning of investment and by the public ownership of the means of production in the interests of the Canadian people as a whole. Canadian nationalism is a relevant force on which to build to the extent that it is anti-imperialist. On the road to socialism, such aspirations for independence must be taken into account. For to pursue independence seriously is to make visible the necessity of socialism in Canada. Those who desire socialism and independence for Canada have often been baffled and mystified by the problem of internal divisions within Canada. While the essential fact of Canadian history in the past century is the reduction of Canada to a colony of the United States, with a consequent increase in regional inequalities, there is no denying the existence of two nations within Canada, each with its own language, culture, and aspirations. This reality must be incorporated into the strategy of the New Democratic Party. English Canada and Quebec can share common institutions to the extent that they share common purposes. So long as Canada is governed by those who believe that the national
policy should be limited to the passive function of maintaining a peaceful and secure climate for foreign investment, there can be no meaningful unity between English and French Canadians. So long as the federal government refuses to protect the country from economic and cultural domination, English Canada is bound to appear to French Canadians simply as part of the United States. An English Canada concerned with its own national survival would create common aspirations that would help to tie the two nations together once more. Nor can the present treatment of the constitutional issue in isolation from economic and social forces that transcend the two nations be anything but irrelevant. Politicians committed to the values and structure of a capitalist society drafted our present constitution a century ago. Constitutional change relevant to socialists must be based on the needs of the people rather than the corporations and must reflect the power of classes and groups excluded from effective decision-making by the present system. A united Canada is of critical importance in pursuing a successful strategy against the reality of American imperialism. Quebec's history and aspirations must be allowed full expression and implementation in the conviction that new ties will emerge from the common perception of "two nations, one struggle". Socialists in English Canada must ally themselves with socialists in Quebec in this common cause. Central to the creation of an independent socialist Canada is the strength and tradition of the Canadian working class and the trade union movement. The revitalization and extension of the labor movement would involve a fundamental democratization of our society. Corporate capitalism is characterized by the predominant power of the corporate elite aided and abetted by the political elite. A central objective of Canadian socialists must be to further the democratization process in industry. The Canadian trade union movement throughout its history has waged a democratic battle against the so-called rights or prerogatives of ownership and management. It has achieved the important moral and legal victory of providing for working men an affective say in what their wages will be. At present, management's "right" to control technological change is being challenged. The New Democratic Party must provide leadership in the struggle to extend working men's influence into every area of industrial decision-making. Those who work must have effective control in the determination of working conditions, and substantial power in determining the nature of the product, prices and so on. Democracy and socialism require nothing less. Trade unionists and New Democrats have led in extending the welfare state in Canada. Much remains to be done: more and better housing, a really progressive tax structure, a guaranteed annual income. However, these are no longer enough. A socialist society must be one in which there is democratic control of all institutions, which have a major effect on men's lives and where there is equal opportunity for creative non-exploitative selfdevelopment. It is now time to go beyond the welfare state.
New Democrats must begin now to insist on the redistribution of power, and not simply welfare, in a socialist direction. The struggle for worker participation in industrial decision-making and against management "rights" is such a move toward economic and social democracy. By strengthening the Canadian labor movement, New Democrats will further the pursuit of Canadian independence. So long as the corporate elite dominates Canadian economic activity, and so long as worker's rights are confined within their present limits, corporate requirements for profit will continue to take precedence over human needs. By bringing men together primarily as buyers and sellers of each other, by enshrining profitability and material gain in place of humanity and spiritual growth, capitalism has always been inherently alienating. Today, sheer size combined with modern technology further exaggerates man's sense of insignificance and impotence. A socialist transformation of society will return to man his sense of humanity, to replace his sense of being a commodity. But a socialist democracy implies man's control of his immediate environment as well, and in any strategy for building socialism, community democracy is as vital as the struggle for electoral success. To that end, socialists must strive for democracy at those levels that most directly affect us all â€” in our neighborhoods, our schools, and our places of work. Tenants' unions, consumers' and producers' cooperatives are examples of areas in which socialists must lead in efforts to involve people directly in the struggle to control their own destinies. Socialism is a process and a program. The process is the raising of socialist consciousness, the building of a mass base of socialists, and a strategy to make visible the limits of liberal capitalism. While the program must evolve out of the process, its leading features seem clear. Relevant instruments for bringing the Canadian economy under Canadian ownership and control and for altering the priorities established by corporate capitalism are to hand. They include extensive public control over investment and nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy, such as the essential resources industries, finance and credit, and industries strategic to planning our economy. Within that program, workers' participation in all institutions promises to release creative energies, promote decentralization, and restore human and social priorities. The struggle to build a democratic socialist Canada must proceed at all levels of Canadian society. The New Democratic Party is the organization suited to bringing these activities into a common focus. The New Democratic Party has grown out of a movement for democratic socialism that has deep roots in Canadian history. It is the core around which should be mobilized the social and political movement necessary for building an independent socialist Canada. The New Democratic Party must rise to that challenge or become irrelevant. Victory lies in joining the struggle.