Monday, December 7, 2009

The House That Jack Built: Introduction

THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT: Will it Hold Up Without its Foundation?

James Shaver Woodsworth (1874-1942) was the founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), a democratic socialist party that later became the New Democratic Party (NDP).

Unlike the political traditions of Canada, the Conservatives and the Liberals, the CCF was founded on a social need, not a political one.

According to Woodsworth's daughter, her father was moved by the plight of the new immigrants, who had flocked to our shores, displaced by war and poverty. He had witnessed the slums of London, and feared that we might replicate the same deplorable conditions.
... he could not forget the sights he had seen in London's East End during his years as a student in England. Misery and poverty had made those appalling slums during the very time that England's growing industry and commerce were piling up fabulous wealth in other parts of the city. Expansion and riches had gone hand in hand with degradation and poverty to make the largest metropolis in the world. Now here was Winnipeg, gateway to the West, expanding rapidly and becoming rich. At the same time people were pouring in from all over the world, poor people driven to seek the security in the New World .. What about these people? Did no one care that they were crowding together into Winnipeg's fast-growing slums? Did no one realize that in Winnipeg, in Canada, we were starting down the same road that had led to the slums of London?
"If through indifference or selfishness we protest, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' there comes the inexorable reply, 'The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.' Someone is responsible! Every unjustly-treated man, every defenceless woman, every neglected child has a neighbour somewhere. Am I that neighbour?"
He decided that he was that neighbour and immediately proceeded to follow the dictates of his conscience. He did not rest until the Church authorities gave him a chance to work in Winnipeg's North End among the crowds of arriving immigrants. (1)
And in 1933, during the Great Depression, Woodsworth united the left wing forces, into a political party that would address the concerns of the disadvantaged.

Tommy Douglas would eventually pick up the reins, followed by others who had a vision of Canada's vast natural resources, going to help all Canadians.

However, many now fear that under Jack Layton, the party has lost its way. Chosen because he was urban and media savvy, his priorities have switched from helping others, to building a successful political machine, at any cost. (2)

And to do this he has joined forces with Stephen Harper, whose ideology is the polar opposite to everything the CCF/NDP once stood for.

What is the endgame here? Does he believe that the Conservatives will once again topple under the weight of their own scandals, and he will be there to replace them.

Sad as it is, corporate Canada will never allow the NDP to govern. It would be Bob Rae all over again, where they wouldn't have a minute's peace?

I think that Layton has sold out his principles for power, and may have done irreparable damage to the party in the process.

Rather than building on the foundation of Woodsworth and Tommy Douglas, Layton is instead attempting to build his own structure. I think it will all come crashing down.


1. J.S. Woodsworth: A Man to Remember, By Grace MacInnis, Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1953, Pg. 2-3

2. How to rehabilitate the NDP, By James Laxer, This Magazine, August 14, 2009

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