Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Waffle and the Labour Movement

Studies in Political Economy
Autumn 1990

Click image above for Program
Not many trade unionists signed the original Waffle Manifesto in 1969. Of the 96 original signers, only six, all of them men, were trade unionists. Just one, Paddy Neale, then secretary of the Vancouver Labour Council, held elective office, the others, Giles Endicott, Tony Carew, Ed Finn, Don Taylor and myself being researchers.

With the exception of Don Taylor, all the signers came from Canadian unions. This rather narrow base made the Waffle's work in the labour movement difficult. Despite this, the Waffle, and its various off-shoots succeeded in exerting a profound and positive impact on Canadian trade unionism.

The Waffle position on the labour movement was clearly set out in the Manifesto. Revitalization and extension of the labour movement were seen as central to the creation of an independent socialist Canada. The Manifesto asserted that,

"[t]he struggle for worker participation in industrial decision making and against management 'rights' is a move toward economic and social democracy." In addition to this general political philosophy the Waffle had a specific labour policy which asserted, in part,

Our goal is a powerful labour movement, based on the principles of unity, militancy, democracy and independence. Such a movement is indispensible for basic social change in Canada. The working class, first made conscious of itself, and then acting on its own behalf, holds the key to the independent and socialist future of Canada. The organized workers must lead the way."

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