he interwar years brought
several interesting developments in labour politics. The first was
the 1921 founding of the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) and
the second was the creation of the Co-operative Commonwealth
Federation (CCF) in 1932. As already noted, the CPC emerged as
a potent organizing force in the early 1930s, initially through
the Workers Unity League (WUL) and then the CIO. The party's skilled and
committed union activists made a substantial contribution to the spread of
the CIO in Canada. The CPC's critique of capitalism won it some
intellectual and other professional support during the depths
of the Great Depression. The CPC, though, fared less well at
the ballot box, never becoming a potent political force except
occasionally in civic elections.
The CCF emerged in the early 1930s, partly as an alternative
to the CPC. CCF socialists declared their objective to be to
"eradicate capitalism," but proposed to do so through
gradual reform. Called "parliamentary socialism," this approach
emphasized legislative acts and regulations to reform capitalism.
This strategy reflected partly the prominence of former Independent
Labor Party supporters in the new party. J.S. Woodsworth and A.A.
Heaps from Winnipeg and William Irvine of Calgary, all labour
Members of Parliament, helped organize the CCF. At its founding
convention in Regina in 1933, the party elected Woodsworth its
leader. The CCF received good support from prairie farmers, but
did not initially enjoy significant electoral support from labour.
Unfortunately for the labour movement, sharp and ever-deepening
conflicts between the CCF and CPC over questions of ideology and
political strategy divided and weakened labour's political voice.