BY BENJAMIN ISITT
The Canadian Historical Review
The 1950 Vancouver convention of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) opened against the backdrop of the Korean War and tense Cold War debates within Canada’s social democratic party.
Providing a window into this moment of ideological tension, the gathering demonstrates how leftists sought to forge domestic and foreign policies amenable to the narrow public opinion of the McCarthy era. The convention also illuminates the complex character of British Columbia’s postwar left and the broader intellectual and political milieu of the early Cold War years in Canada – debates over the prohibition of atomic weapons and the relationship between markets and the state that would culminate in the CCF’s Winnipeg Declaration of Principles later in the 1950s.
Finally, the Vancouver convention highlights the role of Trotskyists within the CCF, a strategy of ‘entryism’ that has been explored only peripherally in the historiography of social democracy in Canada. The ideological confrontation at Vancouver left the CCF squarely in the hands of ‘moderates,’ shaping CCF strategy and policy for its final decade of political activity, while muting the Canadian left’s independent voice in domestic and international affairs.
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