Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was established in 1932 in Calgary, Alberta, as a socialist coalition of farmers, laborers, and progressive reformers from western Canada. The institutional impetus for a new political party came from the breakaway "Ginger Group" of Progressive members of Parliament (MPS) in cooperation with two Labor mps, including James Shaver Woodsworth, who became the party's first federal leader.

The League for Social Reconstruction, a group of urban intellectuals, drafted the Regina Manifesto that the CCF adopted in 1933. The manifesto called for the replacement of capitalism with economic planning, the nationalization of key industries, and the development of cooperatives. Though radical, the socialism of the ccf was nonrevolutionary– most of the party's members were not Marxists but Christian socialists and British Fabians.

Contesting elections federally and provincially, the CCF had its greatest successes in the 1940s: it topped a national public opinion poll in 1943; formed the Official Opposition in Ontario in the same year; formed a government led by Tommy C. Douglas in Saskatchewan in 1944; and elected twenty-eight MPS in 1945. Its members were adept parliamentarians and innovators of social policy who pushed the federal Liberal government to expand and improve the welfare state in Canada.

With the onset of the cold war, charges of communism dogged the CCF. It tried to moderate its image in 1956 by replacing the Regina Manifesto with the Winnipeg Declaration, but was unsuccessful. In the 1958 federal election, the party's leader, M. J. Coldwell, lost his seat and the CCF was reduced to only eight MPS. The CCF and the Canadian Labour Congress entered a formal alliance to create the New Democratic Party in 1961.

See also PROTEST AND DISSENT: Woodsworth, James Shaver.

Amy Nugent University of Calgary

Young, Walter D. The Anatomy of a Party: The National CCF, 1932–61. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969.

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