Saturday, October 2, 2010

The CCF-NDP: From Mass Party to Electoral-Professional Party

Murray Cooke
York University
Prepared for the Annual Meetings of the Canadian Political Science Association, June 1-3, 2006, York University.

Tommy Douglas (former CCF Premier of Saskatchewan)
 becomes the NDP’s first leader in 1961.
The historical trajectory of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation has been commonly depicted as the shift from movement to party. These studies depict the grassroots CCF movement evolving into an institutionalized bureaucratic electoral party dominated by an oligarchical leadership. Typical is Zakuta’s assertion that the CCF “underwent considerable change in character during its life span. It began as a rather radical and spontaneous political movement but eventually developed much of the outlook and structure of the ‘old parties.’ It became, in brief, a somewhat conventional political party itself”.

These readings of CCF history invoke, explicitly or not, Michels’ theories on oligarchical political parties. For example, according to Walter Young, “The CCF provided an example of the operation of Michels’ Iron Law of Oligarchy” . The formation of the New Democratic Party then represents the victory of the party over the movement.

Read Murray Cooke's paper HERE.

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