Posts Tagged ‘socialism’

“Socialists in Kingston,” Kingston Daily Standard. July 24, 1912. Page 04.

To the Editor of The Standard:
Sir, – The meeting held on the market square Monday evening was addressed by Mr. Milton Wayman, who was sent here by the Executive Committee of the Social-Democratic party, with head office at Berlin, Ont., for the express purpose of organizing a local branch of that party. This is a second time that an avowed Socialist has addressed a Kingston audience, the first being made by a provincial S. D. organizer two years ago while passing through here on his way from Peterboro to Brockville, where the party has a real live organization. At half-past seven Monday evening, Mr. Wayman started at Barrie street and walked down Princess street, announcing his meeting through a megaphone. He was followed to the market square by many people, curious to know what was going to happen. A crowd of four or five hundred listened for an hour and a half to Mr. Wayman’s forceful indictment of the present capitalistic form of social production and distribution of the necessaries and comforts of life, and, judging by the frequent applause and the number of people who expressed their willingness to become members of the party. Kingston is ready and waiting for the Socialistic message. The object and purpose of this organization will be to carry on a continual campaign of education by a systematic distribution of Socialistic literature, and by holding street-meetings, lectures and debates on social and economic questions. When deemed advisable, the local branch will run candidates at the municipal provincial and Dominion elections.

Respectfully yours,

Local Organizer of the Social-Democratic Party.
Kingston, July 24, 1912.

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“Our programme does not contain anything about change, reform or transformation, but rather the smashing of these three foundations of civilization: family, property, state.

This civilization whose dawn we have shown must experience its apocalypse before us. Socialism and communism come after and stand above civilization, just as civilization followed barbarism and stood above it. Socialism and communism are not a new form of civilization:

“Since civilization is founded on the exploitation of one class by another class, its whole development proceeds in a constant contradiction.”

If, therefore, Truman, Stalin and Churchill find themselves under the same anti-barbaric roof, and Chaulieu and some other relics want to have their place there as well – we remaining ones prefer to stay out with Marx, Engels and Lenin.

It may be confusing that communism has not yet emerged from a downfall of civilization; but it is completely ridiculous to confuse the satisfaction of capital about this fact with a threat of barbarism.

So it is an utterly banal and pathetic mistake to try to explain the stagnation of class antagonism and anti-capitalist revolution with the help of volitional factors and malevolent police gangs.

However, a cardinal mistake is to try to plant on us, after the level of capitalist civilization that we proclaimed as the last and worst level, a new, unforeseen class civilization. It is nonsense to search for a third class in order to then place this state as the state of this ruling class – which is not identical to the bourgeoisie – where it itself is supposed to be only the staff of the state, a staff that is not a new figure. We have understood and analysed this through all class struggles and successive forms of state.

Another mistake, as we have seen and will see, is the following stepladder: private capitalism – state capitalism – socialism. If this trio were to dominate the stage, the conclusion of the French left’s “bulletin” would be unavoidable: No condemnation and shame, but rather an alliance or support for the second stage – so that state capitalism, whether the Prime Minister is a Hitler or a Stalin, can face us alone as soon as possible.

Already immediately after the First World War, at the first appearance of fascism in Italy in 1919, we solved the historical and strategic question: No joining a liberal-democratic bloc against fascism – and just as little any bloc forming with fascism against the liberal bourgeoisie. We also immediately said why: Because they are not two social classes, but one and the same.

To have practiced the bloc strategy, even in both directions, is enough for us to explain the retreat of our revolution.

The hollowest construction is the one that wants to confront this infamous world (whose potential, however, is exceptionally high) of capitalist civilization  (and also the majority of the proletarians, who are now being used as a result of major historical mistakes) with the alternative of the “spectre of barbarism”: “Even if there is no revolution that gives birth to a new world and it may be suffocated, is the disintegration crisis of today’s society still occurring, so that we cannot come to socialism, but fall back from civilization into barbarism?” From pure brain caliber this threat does not frighten any bourgeois and does not encourage any proletarian to fight. No society disintegrates because of its internal laws, its internal necessity, if these laws and this necessity do not lead to the uprising of a human mass organized with the weapons in hand – something we know and expect. There is no death without trauma for any “class civilization”, no matter how corrupt and disgusting it may be.

As far as the barbarism is concerned, which is supposed to arise spontaneously after the death of capitalism as a result of its disintegration: If we regard its disappearance as a necessary condition for further development, which then had to lead inevitably through the swamp of the subsequent civilization, then there is nothing so terrible about its characteristics as a human form of coexistence that an unexpected return could frighten us.

How against Rome the wild hordes were needed – so that so many and so great useful contributions to the organization of people and things will not be lost – which were unconscious contributors to a much bigger revolution still far away in time, we want the gates of this bourgeois world of profiteers, oppressors and butchers to be struck by a powerful barbaric wave capable of burying this world among itself.

But just as there are borders, walls and curtains in this world, all forces, even though they compete against each other, are gathering around the tradition of this very civilization.

When the revolutionary movement of the working class becomes strong again, organizes and arms itself, and when formations emerge that do not adhere to the civilization of an Acheson or Malik, then these will be the barbaric forces that will not disdain the ripe fruit of modern industrial potential, but will snatch it from the throat of the exploiters by breaking their still sharp teeth.

Socialism will therefore welcome a new and fruitful barbarism, such as the one that came down the Alps and rejuvenated Europe; It had not destroyed but honoured the centuries-old fruit of knowledge and arts preserved in the womb of a vast realm.”

– International Communist Party, Forward, Barbarians!


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“The Socialistic bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society, minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. The bourgeoisie naturally conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best; and bourgeois Socialism develops this comfortable conception into various more or less complete systems. In requiring the proletariat to carry out such a system, and thereby to march straightway into the social New Jerusalem, it but requires in reality, that the proletariat should remain within the bounds of existing society, but should cast away all its hateful ideas concerning the bourgeoisie.

A second, and more practical, but less systematic, form of this Socialism sought to depreciate every revolutionary movement in the eyes of the working class by showing that no mere political reform, but only a change in the material conditions of existence, in economical relations, could be of any advantage to them. By changes in the material conditions of existence, this form of Socialism, however, by no means understands abolition of the bourgeois relations of production, an abolition that can be affected only by a revolution, but administrative reforms, based on the continued existence of these relations; reforms, therefore, that in no respect affect the relations between capital and labour, but, at the best, lessen the cost, and simplify the administrative work, of bourgeois government.

Bourgeois Socialism attains adequate expression when, and only when, it becomes a mere figure of speech. 

Free trade: for the benefit of the working class. Protective duties: for the benefit of the working class. Prison Reform: for the benefit of the working class. This is the last word and the only seriously meant word of bourgeois socialism. It is summed up in the phrase: the bourgeois is a bourgeois — for the benefit of the working class.”

– Karl Marx and

Fredrick Engels, “Socialist and Communist Literature.The Manifesto of the Communist Party. 1848.    

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“To speak of literal music for a moment more, it has been a very long time since insurgents worldwide shared a moral equivalent of “The Internationale,” the anthem adopted by the (second) Socialist International in the late nineteenth century and subject to the contesting claims of socialists and communists ever since. International solidarity and the putative brotherhood of workers crashed and burned in 1914, when the German Social Democrats voted war credits to the Kaiser so that Germany could slaughter its ostensible class allies, and left-wing parties across Europe split over whether to support their respective nation-state or oppose an “imperialist war.”

In 1917, Lenin’s Bolshevik heresy was able to capitalize on antiwar sentiment in Russia to seize power. A few years later, the Soviet Union was promoting a version of “internationalism” that conveniently withered into a defense of the Kremlin’s foreign policy interests of the moment. As Vaclav Havel wrote in his great 1978 essay, “The Power of the Powerless,” universalist slogans like “Workers of the world, unite!” shriveled into loyalty cheers lacking any concrete meaning.

All these years later, the left is still tuneless. Missing from social democracy is a galvanizing cross-border spirit, a sense of historical destiny, and yes, a literal song. In the twenty-first century, attachment to the identity tribe is fiercer, more binding, than any attachment to a common purpose. Today’s most prominent left-wing chant, “The people united will never be defeated,” is a tautology. When it originated, in Allende-era Chile, it meant something topical. Today, it is strictly sentimental. Trump supporters could cheerfully sign on to their version of what it means to be “the people united”—designating immigrants and Muslims, not the bourgeoisie, as the excludables.”

– Todd Gitlin, “The Missing Music of the Left.” New York Review of Books blog, May 28, 2018.

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“It is of course true that Marx and Engels acknowledged the obvious, namely, that the overthrow of capitalism demands the overthrow of its state. For them, the political aspect of the proletarian revolution exhausts itself in overwhelming the capitalist state apparatus with all the means required to this end. The victorious working class would neither institute a new state nor seize control of the existing state, but exercise its dictatorship so as to be able to realize its real goal, the appropriation of the means of production and their irrevocable transformation into social means of production in the most literal sense, that is, as under the control of the association of free and equal producers. Although assuming functions previously associated with those of the state, this dictatorship is not to become a new state, but a means to the elimination of all suppressive measures through the ending of class relations. There is no room for a “socialist state” in socialism

though there is the need for a central direction of the socialized economy, which, however, is itself a part of the organization of
the associated producers and not an independent entity set against

Of course, for reasons not as yet discernible, this might be altogether
utopian, as thus would be a socialist society in the Marxian
sense. It has to be tried in a revolutionary situation if a serious
effort is to be made to reach the classless society. It may be forced
upon the workers by objective conditions, quite aside from whether
or not they understand all its implications. But it may also fail, if
the proletariat abdicates its own dictatorship to a separately organized
new state machine that usurps control over society. It is
also not possible to foresee under what particular concrete social
conditions the revolutionary process might unfold, and whether or
not the mere extension and intensification of dictatorial rule will
degenerate into a new state assuming independent powers. Whatever
the case may be, it is not through the state that socialism can
be realized, as this would exclude the self-determination of the
working class, which is the essence of socialism. State rule perpetuates
the divorce of the workers from the means of production, on
which their dependence and exploitation rests, and thus also perpetuates
social class relations. 

However, it was precisely the attempt to overcome the apparently
utopian elements of Marxian doctrine which induced the
theoreticians of the Second International to insist upon the state
as the instrument for the realization of socialism. Although they
were divided on the question of how to achieve control of the
state, they were united in their conviction that the organization of
the new society is the state’s responsibility. It was their sense of
reality that made them question Marx’s abstract concepts of the
revolution and the construction of socialism, bringing these ideas
down to earth and in closer relation to the concretely given possibilities. 

Indeed, the construction of a socialist system is no doubt a
most formidable undertaking. Even to think about it is already
of a bewildering complexity defying easy or convincing solutions.
It certainly seems to be out of reach for the relatively uneducated
working class. It would require the greatest expertise in the understanding
and management of social phenomena and the most careful
approach to all reorganizational problems, if it is not to end
in dismal failure. It demands an over-all view of social needs, as well as special qualifications for those attending to them, and thus
institutions designed to assure the social reproduction process.
Such institutions must have enough authority to withstand all irrational
objections and thus must have the support of government
which, by sanctioning these decisions, makes them its own. Most
of all, the even flow of production must not be interfered with
and all unnecessary experimentation must be avoided, so that it
would be best to continue with proven methods of production and
the production relations on which they were based.

– Paul Mattick, Marxism: Last Refuge of the Bourgeoisie?  Armonk, New York: M. E. SHARPE, 1983. pp. 160-162.

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“All these deformations and a row of other less important ones were inflicted on Marxism by its epigones in the second phase of its development, and they can be summarised in one all-inclusive formulation: a unified general theory of social revolution was changed into criticisms of the bourgeois economic order, of the bourgeois State, of the bourgeois system of education, of bourgeois religion, art, science and culture. These criticisms no longer necessarily develop by their very nature into revolutionary practices they can equally well develop, into all kinds of attempts at reform, which fundamentally remain within the limits of bourgeois society and the bourgeois State, and in actual practice usually did so. This distortion of the revolutionary doctrine of Marxism itself – into a purely theoretical critique that no longer leads to practical revolutionary action, or does so only haphazardly – is very clear if one compares the Communist Manifesto or even the 1864 Statutes of the First International drawn up by Marx, to the programmes of the Socialist Parties of Central and Western Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century, and especially to that of the German Social Democratic Party.

Revisionism appears as an attempt to express in the form of a coherent theory the reformist character acquired by the economic struggles of the trade unions and the political struggles of the working class parties, under the influence of altered historical conditions. The so-called orthodox Marxism of this period (now a mere vulgar-Marxism) appears largely as an attempt by theoreticians, weighed down by tradition, to maintain the theory of social revolution which formed the first version of Marxism, in the shape of pure-theory. This theory was wholly abstract and had no practical consequences – it merely sought to reject the new reformist theories, in which the real character of the historical movement was then expressed as un-Marxist.    This is precisely why, in a new revolutionary period, it was the orthodox Marxists of the Second International who were inevitably the least able to cope with such questions as the relation between the State and proletarian revolution. The revisionists at least possessed a theory of the relationship of the ‘working people’ to the State, although this theory was in no way a Marxist one. Their theory and practice had long since substituted political, social and cultural reforms within the bourgeois State for a social revolution that would seize, smash and replace it by the dictatorship of the proletariat. The orthodox Marxists were content to reject this solution to the problems of the transitional period as a violation of the principles of Marxism. Yet with all their orthodox obsession with the abstract letter of Marxist theory they were unable to preserve its original revolutionary character. Their scientific socialism itself had inevitably ceased to be a theory of social revolution. Over a long period, when Marxism was slowly spreading throughout Europe, it had in fact no practical revolutionary task to accomplish. Therefore problems of revolution had ceased, even in theory, to exist as problems of the real world for the great majority of Marxists, orthodox as well as revisionist. As far as the reformists were concerned these problems had disappeared completely. But even for the orthodox Marxists they had wholly lost the immediacy with which the authors of the Manifesto had confronted them, and receded into a distant and eventually quite transcendental future. In this period people became used to pursuing here and now policies of which revisionism may be seen as the theoretical expression. Officially condemned by party congresses, this revisionism was in the end accepted no less officially by the trade unions. At the beginning of the century, a new period of development put the question of social revolution back on the agenda as a realistic and terrestrial question in all its vital dimensions. Therewith purely theoretical orthodox Marxism – till the outbreak of the World War the officially established version of Marxism in the Second International – collapsed completely and disintegrated. This was, of course, an inevitable result of its long internal decay. It is in this epoch that we can see in many countries the beginnings of third period of development, above all represented by Russian Marxists, and often described by its major representatives as a ‘restoration’ of Marxism.


This dialectical conception of the relationship of economics to politics became such an unalterable part of Marxist theory that even the vulgar-Marxists of the Second International were unable to deny that the problem of the revolutionary transition existed, at least in theory, although they ignored the problem in practice. No orthodox Marxist could even in principle have claimed that a theoretical and practical concern with politics was unnecessary for Marxism. This was left to the syndicalists, some of whom invoke Marx, but none of whom have ever claimed to be orthodox Marxists. However, many good Marxists did adopt a theoretical and practical position on the reality of ideology which was identical to that of the syndicalists. These materialists are with Marx in condemning the syndicalist refusal of political action and in declaring that the social movement must include the political movement. They often argue against anarchists that even after the victorious proletarian revolution, and in spite of all the changes undergone by the bourgeois State, politics will long continue to be a reality. Yet these very people fall straight into the anarcho-syndicalist ‘transcendental underestimation’ of ideology when they are told that intellectual struggle in the ideological field cannot be replaced or eliminated by the social movement of proletariat alone, or by its social and political movements combined. Even today most Marxist theoreticians conceive of the efficacy of so-called intellectual phenomena in a purely negative, abstract and undialectical sense, when they should analyse this domain of social reality with the materialist and scientific method moulded by Marx and Engels. Intellectual life should be conceived in union with social and political life, and social being and becoming (in the widest sense, as economics, politics or law) should be studied in union with social consciousness in its many different manifestations, as a real yet also ideal (or ‘ideological’) component of the historical process in general.”

– Karl Korsch, Marxism and Philosophy. 1923. English translation: Monthly Review Press, 1970, reproduced in its entirety

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Pierre Gaudard,

May 1, Montreal, Quebec. Gelatin silver print photograph, 1970. Canadian Photography Institute, National Gallery of Canada.

Purchased 1971. Accession number:


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“A New Order Shall Arise!” Front cover to A new order shall arise: statements on the policy of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.) in the present struggle against the Nazis and Fascists, featuring an address by M.J. Coldwell, policy resolutions adopted by the 1940 National Convention of the C.C.F., and cables of greetings exchanged by the C.C.F. with the British Labour Party. Ottawa: National Office of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, 1941.  

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“Canada’s Call to Freedom – CCF,” Co-operative Commonwealth Federation poster, c. 1940. 

Anthony Mardiros Collection, University of Alberta Archives.

‘Bring Them Back To Jobs!’ 

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“In contemplating the many reverberations of the patterns set up by sexual harassment, it is hard to keep in mind all the consequences. That women are forced to accept the image of themselves as fair game in any public space – even if for the least serious of attacks, say, whistling from across the street – maintains and reinforces women’s sense of belonging at home in the family, and hence of the most basic sexual division of labor, one of the biggest sources of sexual inequality

The attitudes that produce sexual harassment also maintain a powerful bonding among men which not only weakens any existing class consciousness, but is one of the major obstacles to its development. I might add that this is the hopeful view; the more skeptical one is that the historically developed notion of class consciousness that we have inherited is based so fundamentally on male bonding, on fraternity, that it cannot be transformed into a comradeship including women without changing the image of comradeship itself.

Thus, from a socialist perspective as well as from a feminist one, no general issue is more important than sexual harassment. To challenge it, to make it unacceptable, is to attack one of the major barriers to unity among people who have the possibility of bringing about radical social change. To challenge it is also to challenge one of the aspects of the male ego and the male-dominated culture that feminists so dislike – the ego and the culture that depend on the subordination of others.

The very difficulty of defining sexual harassment specifically should be an asset, for it cannot be combatted effectively in a mechanical, legalistic, or superficial way. Teaching men to quit harassing women cannot be done by rote. It requires enjoining them to try to see the world from a woman’s perspective: it requires developing the faculty of empathy that is so atrophied in many people; it requires challenging all those patterns of bonding which block the possibility of understanding a different point of view.

I do not consider sexual harassment as a gender-neutral phenomenon which women do to men as often as men to women. I would hardly deny that women can use sex in an harassing way; far from it. Sex is one of the few weapons women may have. But it is absurd on the face of it to suggest that the sexual harassment of men by women or of women by women is a social problem, any more than rape by women. For better or worse, women’s sexuality in our culture, whether heterosexual or lesbian, is not typically aggressive. Furthermore, acts of sex or sexual flirtation cannot be abstracted from the overall context of male supremacy which, with few exceptions, deprives women of coercive powers. These basic facts can be obscured when the struggle against sexual harassment becomes disconnected from a women’s movement, as has now happened to some extent. Thus we see polls which show men to be harassed as often as women!

This brings us to the second general topic, the changes created by the victory we have won in making sexual harassment illegal. Perhaps the most important characteristic of this victory is its fragility. In this period of strong anti-feminism it does not take much imagination to figure out how sexual harassment could be licensed again, and the legal and social weapons we now have against it taken from us. Only constant vigilance and militance on this issue can maintain these weapons for us.

Furthermore, as feminists we face a particular problem in how to use the weapons we have because of the definitional problems. There is a big area of overlap between sexism and sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is part of sexism; to detach it from that context would be to miss its importance. Yet we have an interest in defining sexual harassment specifically so that we can use the legal and moral weapons we have gained. If we insist on total subjectivity in the definition of the “crime” – that is, that whatever makes a woman feel harassed is harassment – then we will sacrifice all access to legal weapons. Perhaps someday we will be strong enough as a movement to make sexism itself a crime; but we are not that strong yet and “merely” pressuring sexual harassment out of existence would be most welcome.

We have yet another interest in being specific about sexual harassment: because we women are changing, are deciding not to accept treatment that we previously regarded as normal, many men are genuinely confused. Indeed, many men are defensive and angry; many conceive of the pressure against sexual harassment as a rejection of their very personalities, and lack confidence in their ability to find other sources of identity. This does give us the responsibility to examine what it is that we find harassing, at least enough to be able to explain it to others. It is not our fault, of course, if men are thick-skinned about this, and our explanatory attempts may often, perhaps usually, fail, because men benefit from harassing women, and thus have an interest in not understanding. Still, our only hope after all is that the majority can be forced to change, so that a new norm can be developed, a new pattern of male-female public relations that allows women more space to define and initiate the sexual content of encounters. There is no substitute for patient, as well as impatient but repeated, explanation.” 

– Linda Gordon, “The Politics of Sexual Harassment.” Viewpoint Magazine, November 29, 2017, originally appeared in print in Radical America, in a 1981 special issue on sexual harassment.

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“Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are all embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate." 

— Bertrand Russell, "Freedom in Society.” Harper’s Monthly Magazine, March 1926

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“For reasons of timing, as much as anything else, CCYM activities were
shaped to an extraordinary extent by the Communist Party. The CCF had been founded during the ‘‘third period,’’ and the CPC dutifully
denounced the new political formation in hyperbolic terms as ‘‘social
fascist.’’ A couple of years later, the CCYM’s emergence coincided with
the beginnings of the CPC’s turn to the People’s Front policy. This
affected the CCYM in several important ways. Both the CCYM and the
YCL were rivals for the support of young workers, but with the Popular
Front policy, the decline of Communist sectarianism, and increasing
willingness to engage with liberals, church-goers, and the middle class
more generally (along with, of course, the traditional constituency of
workers), the Communists’ broadened gaze increasingly coincided with
the CCYM’s. The CCF was famously suspicious of working with the Communist
Party, at least officially, yet CCF leaders recognized the danger

of their perceived abstention and often allowed members to participate
in ‘‘immediate struggles’’ with the Communist Party. Among the most
successful of all the Popular Front movements were those specifically
comprising youth. The Youth Congress against War and Fascism, and
subsequently the Canadian Youth Congress, was extraordinarily successful
in mobilizing young people from a range of organizations
and political viewpoints.

The declared aim of the Popular Front was to fight the twin threats
of war and fascism, issues that appealed to young people who felt
particularly vulnerable. An initiative of the YCL, the Youth Congress
against War and Fascism attracted members of the YMCA, Jewish,
Catholic, and Protestant organizations, as well as farm and labour
groups. It also attracted the CCYM. T.C. Douglas, a national figure in
the CCYM, accepted an invitation to address the 275 delegates at Youth
Congress against War and Fascism in Toronto in early August 1934. Not surprisingly, given the CCF’s troubled history with the cpc, the
parent organization very quickly challenged this relationship. The ccf
leadership felt that the youth had to toe the line, although cracks
emerged within the adult organization, with many older labour socialists
open to the idea of a working-class alliance.

CCYM units had diverse reasons to be wary of collaboration with the
Communist Party. For many, the compromises of the Communists’
Popular Front strategy conflicted with their Marxism. They saw Stalinists’
appeal to pacifism, reflected in the language of the League against
War and Fascism, as a dangerous concession to liberals who did not
understand the full threat of fascism and the importance of socialism
as an alternative to the capitalist crisis that had bred both militarism
and right-wing movements. This was particularly true of the BC CCYM.
who felt themselves to have, ‘‘perhaps,’’ a ‘‘more revolutionary outlook,
even a keener discipline than some other provincial units,’’ but they
were able to point to CCYM groups in North Toronto, Winnipeg, Moose
Jaw, and Regina whose ‘‘positions on all issues has been consistent
and Marxist.’’ Other CCYMers criticized the CCF leadership for organizational
sectarianism toward the Communists, for placing the interests
of the federation ahead of broader struggles. Given the diversity of the
CCF and its youth movement, a variety of responses to the broadening
movements of the mid-1930s would emerge from the CCYM.

This was apparent in the emerging Canadian Youth Congress,
which came to replace the youth section of the League against War
and Fascism. While CCYM participation in the League against War
and Fascism was uneven and episodic, they found themselves pulled
much further into the workings of the CYC. The CYC was the most successful
Popular Front initiative undertaken by the Communists both
in size and breadth. The first Youth Congress, held in Toronto in
May 1935, represented 162,000 young people in ‘‘all’’ political parties,
church groups, athletic clubs, and social organizations; the 500 delegates
at the 1936 Congress represented ‘‘well over’’ 750,000. These
astounding figures are explained by the composition of the movement.
The first congress was addressed not only by Communist leader
Tim Buck and by James Woodsworth, but by Liberal and Conservative
politicians as well. The executive of the Winnipeg CYC (Canadian
Youth Council, as local branches of the congress were known) included
future CCF Member of Parliament Alistair Stewart and future Manitoba
Communist leader Bill Ross, but also the future Conservative premier
of Manitoba, Duff Roblin. The Saskatchewan CYC was, if anything,
even more socially diverse, with representatives from the regular political,
labour, farm, and church groups, as well as Doukhobors, Metis,
and the Jewish ‘‘Young Judaeans.’’

What was remarkable and reflective of the initiative gained by the
left broadly conceived was that, in spite of its size and breadth, the
CYC was clearly an organization of the left. With only eight dissenting
votes (largely Social Crediters), the 1935 Congress passed resolutions
condemning capitalism as well as tracing war and unemployment to
the functioning of the capitalist system. What made all of this possible
was the CPC’s turn. Ontario CCYMer Murray Cotterill articulated succinctly
the role of the YCL:  

Where two years ago, [the Communists] would have ‘‘ruled or broken,’’
now they seem to have laid down with the lion of capitalism. Standing rigidly
erect for God Save the King, modestly refusing to allow more than one Y.C.L.
delegate to stand for office, although allowing the usual profusion of Workers’
Unity League, Unemployed Youth Councils, etc., who, of course are ‘‘nonpolitical’’
and even voting for a place on the Continuation Committee for
Young Conservatives, the Commies seem to have adopted every one of the
alleged vices with which the C.C. F. was contaminated a few years ago, and to
have added a considerable amount of class collaboration to boot. It is some
zig-zag that the Third International has just taken.

The strengths and weaknesses of the Communists’ Popular Front
strategy were apparent to most CCYMers. Vastly more young people
were mobilized than either the YCL or the CCYM would have been able
to engage on their own; this was the rationale behind the CCF acceptance
of the participation in a Communist-associated movement. The
problem of the CYC was that it engaged huge numbers of young people
but, arguably, was incapable of offering them any useful direction.

CYC congresses, both national and provincial, were valuable venues
for debate and discussion. Developing a common program and plan
for action, however, would potentially demonstrate how fragile the
organization was. Certainly the Communists argued for the broadest
basis of unity possible (even including delegates from the Canadian
Union of Fascists, at one point). In response, in 1935 CCF trade unionist
Al Desser tried and failed to get the congress to explicitly oppose
fascism, and the following year the Trotskyist Revolutionary Youth
League, along with some unionists, resigned in protest against their
continued attendance. In 1937 the challenges of inclusivity emerged
in another way. The annual congress was held in Montreal, and the
Quebec delegation, comprising mostly Catholic youth organizations,
put forward a list of conservative demands as a precondition to their
participation. The CYC was to condemn all ‘‘subversive doctrines,’’

affirm the existence of God, declare the right of individuals to private
property, and seek social peace between social classes. For the first
time the YCL and the CCYM delegates met together in caucus to determine
a response and concluded that they had little option but to
accede. The Communists’ Daily Clarion celebrated the spirit of unity,
arguing that ‘‘the congress, with such diverse views present, was not
the place to present the case for socialism.’’ The Montreal Star lauded
the ‘‘true statesmen’’ for their response to the ‘‘ultra-nationalistic’’
French-Canadian groups. The trajectory was clear. Immediately afterwards,
the Thunder Bay Youth Council opted not to condemn the
Padlock Law (generally seen by the CCF as emblematic of the threat of
domestic fascism) in order not to alienate Catholics.

Such concessions were rooted in the logic of the Popular Front,
which placed unity ahead of a political program. Violet Anderson, a
delegate of the Youth Unit of the League of Nations Society, gave great
credit to the Communists for steering the CYC away from its explicit
critique of capitalism in 1936 (while admitting that the chair was
‘‘somewhat tyrannical’’ in prohibiting any discussion of the question). CCYMers, not surprisingly, were of various minds. Some, like CYC co-chair Kenneth Woodsworth, Student Christian Movement activist
and nephew of J.S. Woodsworth, were entirely onside. Surveying the
movement at the end of the decade, he argued that youth, at least
in the CYC, exercised a greater pragmatism than their parents. ‘‘The
Youth Congress ‘platform’ is not an attempt to provide any panacea
for our economic ills. Proposals for extension of educational opportunities,
technical training, employment projects, recreation, etc… .
seem to many older people to be disappointingly mild. Where is the
much vaunted radicalism of our modern youth? It would be hard
to find.’’ At least, one could add, in the CYC.

In general, however, CCYMers were more interested in winning
the CYC to a more explicitly socialist program. While a vaguely anticapitalist
statement was passed at the Toronto Youth Congress 1936,

for instance, a CCYM resolution calling for social planning, the socialization
of industry and finance, and the encouragement of co-operatives
as alternatives to capitalism were defeated.68 ccymers were at odds
over how to proceed. In the Calgary Youth Council, for instance, a very
public debate emerged between CCYMers. Alberta CCYM Vice-President
Tom Roberts felt that the CYC should be more explicitly socialist, while
CCYMers in the Alberta CYC leadership disagreed. Gertrude Gillander,
the secretary of the Alberta CYC, having recently played a role in
cementing Junior United Farmers of Alberta support for the congress,
wanted to distance the CYC from its initial reputation as a ‘‘red
breeding ground.’’ And provincial CYC President Margaret Archibald
defended the concessions to the Quebec delegates in front of William
Irvine and J.S. Woodsworth, who ‘‘both expressed their disapproval
of ‘our’ attitude towards the French Canadians. They both say that all
socialistic minded youth sacrificed all they stood for in order to get the
French Canadians interested.’’

No doubt many CCYMers felt the same and questioned the purpose
of building the CYC as it seemed to bring Canadian youth no closer to
an understanding of socialism. Tom Roberts, for instance, was far
from isolated; he was chosen Western Canadian officer for the CCYM by the 1938 National CCYM convention. Most CCYMers do not seem
to have bought Kenneth Woodsworth’s or Margaret Archibald’s Popular
Frontism and either abandoned CYC activities or struggled valiantly
to politicize CYC gatherings. This was particularly the case as the Communists’
growing support for collective security contrasted with the
CCYM’s refusal to support, or participate in, ‘‘another imperialist war,’’
and, indeed, willingness to take advantage of a ‘‘revolutionary situation’’
that a war could provoke. Those CCYMers who continued to take part
in the CYC were, according to David Lewis, perceived as ‘‘cantankerous
and doctrinaire’’ by church groups and other CYC participants whom
the CCYM was presumably trying to attract.”

– James Naylor, “Socialism for a New Generation: CCF Youth in the Popular Front Era.” The Canadian Historical Review, Volume 94, Number 1, March 2013, pp. 67-72

Pamphlet cover is from the Canadian Youth Congress, 1936. Source.

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“ A number of youth groups were present at the CCF’s Regina Convention
in 1933, although they reflected the geographically skewed
character of the convention itself. Prairie groups were overrepresented;
very few came from east of Winnipeg. The Junior Section of the United
Farmers of Canada (Saskatchewan Section) and the Regina Young
People’s Socialist League represented the host province. Young labourist
groups came from Winnipeg and Edmonton. The Junior Section of
the United Farmers of Alberta attended, as did the Young Socialist
League of BC and, from Ontario, a short-lived entity called the ‘‘Junior
Canadian Commonwealth League.’’ According to Ontario Socialist
Party member A.H. Downs Jr, the last had been formed by ‘‘the most
reactionary elements’’ of the CCF Clubs (‘‘youths, mind you’’) and it
‘‘withered and died, very shortly after birth.’’

At the Regina Convention, this small coterie decided to build a pan-Canadian
organization despite, interestingly, the ‘‘heated opposition’’
of Laura Cotton. Cotton was the associate secretary of the Ontario
Association of CCF Clubs and very soon would become a member of
the Ontario CCF Council following the purge of the left-wing labour
socialists (and particularly Socialist Party of Canada members). There
is at least reason to suspect that her concern was rooted in a fear – not
entirely unfounded, as it would turn out – that the youth movement
might challenge the ‘‘adult’’ organization’s narrowing view of politics,
which was becoming increasingly focused on electoral success. In the
United States, the leadership of the Socialist Party of America often
expressed a ‘‘‘flimsily concealed’ antagonism’’ toward the YPSL, their
youth affiliate, viewing them as ‘‘potential hotheads.’’ Both European
and American socialist parties had seen a revolt of youth during
the First World War, as the ‘‘adult’’ parties mobilized inadequately
against the war. The Socialist International decried the ‘‘undisciplined

radicalism’’ of youth in several European sections, and despite the
American party’s anti-war stance, the majority of youth abandoned
the YPSL in favour of the new Communist movement.

For the most part, however, CCFers were keen to harness the energy
of youth and prevent them from falling into the grips of their political
opponents. Modern notions of child development saw such activities
as beneficial, not just for the movement, but for young people themselves.
Some were acutely aware of these ideas. The general secretary
of the CCF Clubs in Ontario, Donat LeBourdais, had spent much of the
previous decade as education director of the Canadian Committee on
Mental Hygiene, which focused on shaping the social development of
the nation’s children. Others, such as CCF National Secretary Norman
Priestley, noted the growing interest in youth organization generally,
and more particularly quasi-political groups like Protestant youth
groups, including the Student Christian Movement, and the upstart
New Canada Movement that quickly grouped tens of thousands of
young people in rural Ontario. Although non-partisan, many such
groups intersected politically with the CCF. The New Canada Movement,
for instance, was potentially open to CCF ideas, although, in
J.S. Woodsworth’s evaluation, ‘‘naive.’’ Priestley told the secretary of
the ‘‘Nyacs,’’ the National Youth Association of Canada, an early incarnation
of the CCYM in Toronto, that their work ‘‘would save the C.C.F.
from becoming a movement of elderly people.’’

Young farmers’ organizations affiliated to the new youth movement
although, outside of Saskatchewan and Alberta, the agrarian wings of
the CCF soon slipped away. In the latter province, despite the existence
of a Junior Labour Group in Edmonton, the larger youth organization
affiliated with the CCYM was the Junior United Farmers of Alberta (UFA).
The UFA’s relationship to the CCF was always tenuous and CCYM activists
perceived the Junior UFA as rivals even before the farmers’ organization

departed the CCF in 1938. Even less promising were universities, in
contrast to the relative successes of the YPSL and the Student League
for Industrial Democracy in the United States. Despite the presence
of some left-wing students who had been active in the Student Christian
Movement, and the role played by some university professors
in the League for Social Reconstruction and the CCF, only a limited
number of campus CCYM clubs were organized, and the national
movement was not closely associated with students. Perhaps only
in Quebec where the CCYM was, like the CCF, small, anglophone, and
confined to Montreal, was it closely associated with the academy. Its
connection with the League for Social Reconstruction in that province,
and its presumed role as a school for the adult organization, was
reflected in the fact that their main activity in the late 1930s seems to
have been the development of a leadership course under Professor
Leonard Marsh. Such training in ‘‘leadership’’ and organization
reflected the CCF’s increasingly electoral focus; generally the CCYM focused much less on such organizational matters, seeking to educate
itself in political theory and international events instead. 

Elsewhere, particularly in British Columbia and Ontario, the CCYM attracted considerable numbers of newly radicalizing youth. The dynamism
of the British Columbia organization generally was reflected
in its youth wing(s). Just as the BC movement was initially bifurcated
between its SPC and Club wings, two youth organizations emerged:
the Young Socialist League (YSL) and the Co-operative Commonwealth
Youth (CCY), although neither was formally affiliated to an ‘‘adult’’ organization,
apparently as a declaration of their own independence. Interestingly, the more left-wing SPC was either more wary about heavy-handed proselytizing among youth, or considered young people
as pre-political, prompting the YSL to assure the adult organization
that it was ‘‘non-political, being wholly for study and recreation.’’ Consequently, they attended the Vancouver Symphony, played tennis,
and, of course, educated themselves. Beginning in 1933 they held
weekly Sunday night public meetings at the Colonial Theatre, boasting
that no speaker was over twenty-five years of age. The CCY was
critical of this character of the YSL, declaring that ‘‘The only fault of
the Y.S.L. appears to be their aversion to action – well action is half
of the C.C.Y. program.’’ Nonetheless, the rivalry was mainly friendly,
and the increased activism and radicalization of both organizations
put the issue of their fusion on the table. 

They shared growing hopes for a revolutionary transformation of
society. As the CCY told the YSL’s January 1935 Convention, they were
interested in the creation of ‘‘class-conscious youth’’ in BC through a
combination of socialist study and action, and they hoped to work
with the YSL to build ‘‘a movement of revolutionary communist youth
as shall in the approaching crisis, be capable of losing our chains and
gaining a new world.’’ They each published a newspaper: the YSL’s
Spark preceded the CCY’s Amoeba. The boundaries between organizations
were vague. Members of both organizations regularly attended
SPC leader Wallis Lefeaux’s weekly lectures on Marx’s Capital and read
about the materialist conception of history in the Amoeba. There was
little sense that youth had a set of interests of their own; as the CCY banner proclaimed, ‘‘Abolish the Wage System. No Compromise.’’ The activism and non-sectarianism of the youth was reflected in their
choice for the editor of a combined Amoeba/Spark newspaper at the
end of 1935. Besides being the CCY provincial organizer, editor Lefty
(R.E.) Morgan was also a member of YSL and the Industrial Workers
of the World at the time of his brutal beating by police at Ballantyne
Pier during the 1935 longshoremen’s strike.

The Ontario CCYM was similar in its enthusiasm, talent, and, for
the most part, its Marxism. The core leadership came out of the earlier
‘‘Nyacs,’’ which Spencer Cheshire remembered as particularly engaged
and dynamic, compared to the broader and more diverse CCYM.  Despite a career that placed her at the forefront of some of the major
struggles in Canadian labour history, Eileen Tallman (later Sufrin) felt
that ‘‘the years in the Ontario CCYM were the most stimulating in my
life.’’ Its diversity spoke to the breadth of the new CCYM’s appeal.
Some, despite their age, had considerable experience. Twenty-one year-old
Felix Lazarus had been a socialist for six years, worked as
a YPSL organizer in the United States, participated in the important
Toledo Auto-Lite strike, and became active in Ontario Labour Party
circles. Irish-born Eamon Park had working-class roots and found
work in the meatpacking industry, while twenty-three-year-old Bill
Grant was a second-year law student at Toronto’s Osgoode Hall. 

The initial CCYM adopted some of the characteristics of earlier socialists,
particularly around the importance of political education. ‘‘Pretty
stiff ’’ classes and tests were developed; as the CCYM provincial executive
commented, ‘‘Only in the hands of a highly trained nuclei can be
placed the duty of building a mass organization of Socialist Youth in
Ontario.’’ Eileen Sufrin remembers that one of her first assignments
in the CCYM was a talk on the life of Lenin: ‘‘From the start, the study
of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and the various European influences formed
a background which we felt impelled to explore and to use in measuring
the ideological worth of the new left-wing political movements in
Canada.’’ CCYMers compared themselves favourably in this regard to
the adult organization, which they considered ‘‘lax’’ in studying the
‘‘fundamentals of socialism.’’ The lack of confidence, in fact, went
both directions. Graham Spry expressly opined that ‘‘elders agreed’’
that youth were ‘‘inclined to be impatient and impulsive’’ and expressed
relief that the age limit of the CCYM was set at thirty-five, allowing for

sufficient ‘‘level-headedness … to keep the impetuosity of the younger
iconoclasts at an even keel.’’

Both this enthusiasm for knowledge and a measure of adult suspicion
were apparent in the Manitoba CCYM as well. Declaring, ‘‘Youth
today is in grave danger of moral corruption through the inherent
evils of our present state of society’’ and pointing to the difficulties of
even contemplating marriage under existing conditions, leading to ‘‘a
perversion of the fundamental laws of nature,’’ the CCYM put a leftist
spin on broader social panics about the condition of the nation’s
youth. The solution for the CCF youth was to ‘‘‘do our part’ to equip
ourselves mentally and physically to take an intelligent part in the
new co-operative society.’’

From the outset, then, CCYM activities revolved around education
and recreation. Annual summer schools emerged across the country,
combining study and healthy relaxation in equal measure. A week of
the well-established, decade-old summer school (originally in Summerland
but, under the auspices of the CCF since 1934, moved to Salt
Spring Island), was dedicated specifically for the youth. The Winnipeg
CCYM held their summer school just west of the city in Headingley;
the cost was seventy-five cents for the week. Although they appealed
to a youth increasingly familiar with summer camps, their experience
would not be a putative escape from modernism, but an indulgence in
the modernist pursuits of politics and organized sport. In Toronto,
the CCYM organized athletic and health clubs as well as bowling, and
played baseball and hockey. In Hamilton, as elsewhere, they produced
radical plays. The Edmonton CCYM orchestra was a staple at CCF rallies. In a few cases, as in North Toronto, CCYM branches sought to
build community centres ‘‘in which young people can make themselves
at home, have the use of a library, organize their own social
affairs, attend education and study classes conducted by persons
versed on various subjects of current importance [and] take part in
cultural activities such as Art and Dramatics.’’ A significant consequence
of the focus on education and recreation in the CCYM is,
perhaps, a less clearly demarcated gender division of labour. Within
the CCF itself, as Joan Sangster notes, these were areas of growing
women’s activity and, one might add, ones of declining importance as
the federation became more focused on electoral activity. But education
and related activities were the lifeblood of the CCYM and involved
all members, although we know little about the ways in which organizational
tasks may have, or may not have, been shared. 

Across the country, debate and discussion rang through CCYM halls.
New members quickly fell into a world where the nature of the Soviet
Union, the threat of fascism in Canada, whether FDR’s New Deal posed
promises or dangers to workers, how to respond to events in Spain,
and many other issues were hotly contested. These were exciting and
challenging issues that required understanding from every activist.
Through the fall of 1935, the Ontario CCYM debated ‘‘the inevitability
of Socialism’’ in the pages of the New Commonwealth. The topic may
appear sophomoric and even contrived, but it was a means by which
CCYM leaders could raise the issue of the importance of organization
and socialist action. The debate reflected several characteristics of
the young CCYM. For instance, all of the contributors claimed Marxist
credentials, insisting that their ideas were materialist, and scientific.
Those on the ‘‘yes’’ side, including Lloyd Harrington and Eileen Tallman,
argued that wage slavery had served its historic purpose and
that not even fascism was capable of destroying accumulated human
knowledge. Those on the ‘‘no’’ side essentially agreed. Spencer Cheshire
pointed out that economic laws and increasing human control over the
natural environment made socialism possible. What was potentially

missing, as another contributor pointed out, were ‘‘agents of socialism.’’
The task, underlined by Murray Cotterill, was to build a mass movement.
Saving the last word for himself, the editor of the CCYM column
cited Marx: ‘‘The struggle between the two forces ends in a victory for
the new class, or they both tumble into chaos.’’ The debate reflected
features of 1930s Marxism that was shared by labour socialists in the
CCF and by Communists, particularly the belief in economic laws, the
power of the economic base to drive society and culture forward, and
historical materialist modes of argument. At the same time, there was
a tendency away from what could be perceived to be the scholasticism
of the pre–First World War socialist tradition. The key to socialist
success was not just education, but engagement with the masses.
The crisis of capitalism and rise of fascism had, in an important
sense, posed the question of action much more clearly than in the
past. What kind of action? This short debate did not lend itself to
specifics, but it is noteworthy that, despite the fact that this debate
took place during the 1935 federal election, none of the contributors
made note of that fact. While there was no specific critique of electoralism,
CCYM attentions were directed more widely. There would be
no singular fixation with the ballot box.”


– James Naylor, “Socialism for a New Generation: CCF Youth in the Popular Front

The Canadian Historical Review, Volume 94, Number 1, March 2013, pp. 60-67  

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“The transition from a disciplinary to a punitive penal system happened very quickly, although its implications would go unnoticed for a long time. Arguably, we still don’t fully understand the nature of this cultural shift, which exceeds the penal system and appears in a number of the institutions of everyday life. But I get ahead of myself.

The punitive turn began in the turmoil of the 1960s, a time of rapidly rising crime rates and urban disorder. In 1968, with US cities in flames and white backlash gaining momentum, congress overwhelmingly passed — and Lyndon Johnson reluctantly signed — the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. As Jonathan Simon has suggested, the act became something like a blueprint for subsequent crime-control lawmaking.

Shaped by a conservative coalition of Western Republicans and Southern Democrats, the legislation invested heavily in local law enforcement, asserted rules for police interrogations designed to countermand the liberal Warren court’s decisions, including Miranda, allowed wiretapping without court approval, and, in a successful bid to secure liberal support, included modest gun control provisions.

Although the legislation did little to increase criminal penalties, it reversed the logic of earlier Great Society programs; instead of providing direct investment, the act’s block grants ceded control to local agencies, often controlled by conservative governors. Most importantly, the act established the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), an independent branch of the Justice Department. Blaming low conviction rates on a lack of cooperation from victims and witnesses, the LEAA launched demonstration projects aimed at recruiting citizens into the war on crime.

Tough talk about law and order articulated “the strange new angers, anxieties, and resentments racking the nation in the 1960s,” as Rick Perlstein has shown, and, by 1972, Richard Nixon had consolidated a new governing coalition that still dominates American politics. Nixon’s anti-crime narrative appealed to the traditional Republican base’s rural and small-town values and incorporated conservative Southern Democrats, who viewed the civil rights movement as lawless and disorderly. It also attracted Northern “hardhat” conservatives and white ethnic voters alarmed at escalating crime, urban riots, and campus unrest. In short, the nascent war on crime firmed up white backlash and gave durable political form to a conservative counter-counterculture.

But race reactionaries were not the only group spreading tough law-and-order rhetoric. Vanessa Barker has described how African American activists, representing the communities hardest hit by surging crime rates, also agitated for harsher penalties for muggers, drug dealers, and first-degree murderers.

In 1973, incarceration rates began an unprecedented thirty-five-year climb, and political tides began to turn even in liberal states. That year, New York passed the most draconian drug legislation in the country. Under the Rockefeller Drug Laws, the minimum penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, or heroin was fifteen years to life. (It took until 2009 for New York to retire much of what remained of these laws.)

Ironically, the Left was helping to prepare the way for a decisive turn to the Right. Leftist activists from the civil rights, black power, and antiwar movements were leveling heavy criticism against the criminal justice system, and rightly so. Patterns of police brutality had been readily discernible triggers of urban unrest and race riots in the late 1960s, and minorities were overrepresented in the prison population (although not as much as today). Summing up New Left critiques, the American Friends Service Committee’s 1971 report, Struggle for Justice, blasted the US prison system not only for repressing youth, the poor, and minorities but also for paternalistically emphasizing individual rehabilitation. Rehabilitate the system, not the individual, the report urged — but the point got lost in the rancorous debates that followed. As David Garland carefully shows, the ensuing “nothing works” consensus among progressive scholars and experts discouraged prison reform — and ultimately lent weight to the arguments of conservatives, whose approach to crime has always been a simple one: Punish the bad man. Put lawbreakers behind bars and keep them there.

In 1974, Robert Martinson’s influential article “What Works?” marked a definitive turning point. Examining rehabilitative penal systems’ efficacy, Martinson articulated the emerging consensus — “nothing works,” and rehabilitation was a hopelessly misconceived goal.

Tapping into the zeitgeist, Hollywood released Death Wish that same year, followed by a host of other vigilante revenge films. Exploitation movies enlisted a familiar Victorian spectacle — sexual outrages against girls and women — in the service of right-wing populism. Their plotlines invariably connected liberals, civil libertarians, and high-minded elites with the criminals who tormented the ordinary citizen. Notably, however, such films carefully muted the racial backlash that had inaugurated the punitive turn: they depicted the vicious criminal as white, allowing audiences to enjoy the visceral thrill of vengeance without troubling their racial consciences.

Thus far I have described the rise of the carceral state in largely negative terms: what happened in the late 1960s was not only a war on drugs nor a new system of racial domination but something wider. A succession of changing motives and rationales supported the punitive turn, and the urge to punish came from an array of sectors and institutions. The time has come to sum up my analysis in more positive terms.

First, beginning in the 1970s, all social institutions turned toward detection, capture, and sanction. A broad-spectrum cultural shift away from values of forbearance, forgiveness, and redemption animated this transformation. The punitive turn was, first and foremost, a cultural turn.

Many observers today look skeptically at cultural explanations of this sort, which claim that people do x because they believe y. From structuralism to poststructuralism and beyond, a cavalcade of theoretical currents promoted an abstract idea of “culture,” severing it from history and political economy. In highlighting the cultural element in these developments, however, I do not mean to suggest that culture always sets the course of historical events, only that it sometimes does — a point that Friedrich Engels was also keen to make.Further, I do not assert that once the desire to punish got into people’s heads, it spread uniformly throughout society, nor would I argue that this cultural shift sprang into being ex nihilo.

At its inception, the punitive turn found fertile ground in preexisting institutions of race and class. As it developed, political actors and moral entrepreneurs reworked received ideas, some of them older than the republic, some of them torn from the headlines. The United States’ long history of capitalism and various forms of power all participated in the carceral state’s development.Second, federal legislation played a key role in institutionalizing and hardening this cultural change. This was not merely a question of mechanizing the law with mandatory minimum sentences or “three strikes” provisions but of automating a system of interconnecting institutions.The nucleus of this development was already present in the 1968 Safe Streets Act, aimed at expanding and modernizing policing, and in the LEAA, designed to increase prosecution and conviction rates. From this start, police forces grew, became more proactive, and made more arrests.

Securing greater cooperation from more victims, prosecutors brought more cases to court — often with higher charges. Responding to the shifting mood, judges sentenced more defendants. Across four decades, legislators passed laws that criminalized more activities, increased sentences, and expressly barred compromise, early release, consideration of mitigating circumstances, and so on. Put simply, the law became more punitive. Such mechanisms could persist under changing conditions because a vast institutional network spanning the state and civil society actively produced fresh rationales for them.The punitive turn was consolidated into a punitive avalanche.The result was a transformed system, in which prison, parole, and so on were stripped of their disciplinary aims (reeducation, rehabilitation, reintegration) and reoriented toward strictly punitive goals (detection, apprehension, incapacitation). Horkheimer and Adorno would have called this “instrumental rationality”: a nightmare version of bureaucracy that suspends critical reasoning and tries to establish the most efficient means to achieve an irrational end.”

– Roger Lancaster, “How To End Mass Incarceration,” Jacobin. August 18, 2017.

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“Socialism Is Inevitable, East York Workers Told,” Toronto Star. April 19, 1933. Page 20.

’Something Going to Happen’ Before Summer Ends, Speaker Warns

Scores Relief Plan

The day of capitalism is almost past and socialism is inevitable, Frank Watson of Oshawa predicted at a meeting of the East York Workers’ Association, which packed the large auditorium of the Danforth Park public school last night.  Some move on the part of the workers, he said, could be expected before the end of the summer.

‘I wonder just how long you are going to continue on your present relief fare,’ he asked. ‘To my mind the government are imbecile to institute such a system and something is going to happen before the summer is out.

‘Socialism is a system based on production for use.  In the days when you went to war, they had to conscript labor power.  They don’t need that now, what they need is wealth, so let us conscript wealth.’

Says Profit System Wrong

‘Capitalism is based on production for profit and has existed on this continent for about two centuries and in Europe for four.  There will be systems to follow it.

‘The employer is not in business for any other reason than taking the life and soul away from humanity.  He cares nothing for you.  The day of capitalism is drawing to a close and the worker is beginning to wake up.

‘It matters nothing to the capitalist if you lose your job or if your family is thrown out on the street.  There is no sentient in the capitalists cause.  About 50 per cent of the people here are on relief.  This is the democracy that you fought for. Does it not show that the capitalists are incapable of managing industry?

‘It is an absolute impossibility to put capitalism back on its feet.  Canada is on the gold standard if you believe what Bennett says.  He seems to be the kind of man who tries to train a 12-inch gun on a mosquito.’

Use Franchise.

‘The average worker,’ he said, ‘doesn’t realize that money is being operated in the wrong channel.  It was originally intended to serve as a medium of exchange.  Unfortunately it has been functioning as capital as well.

‘To crush the political power of capitalism, you will have to use the system that is in your grasp.  You have the franchise.  take advantage of it.

‘You are heading towards a system similar to that which is in use in Russia and you will have to take several of its points into your consideration.  The Socialist is heading towards the same goal as the Communist, but he is not going to be driven by Moscow.  We as an organization are advocating peaceful means, if possible, but undoubtedly  a new system has to come.’”

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