Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fred Schofield - A Pioneer Communist in Saskatchewan

By Cathy Fischer
Focus on Socialism

From 1953 to 1963 the citizens of Rural Municipality #137, in southwest Saskatchewan, were represented in the provincial legislature by a member of the CCF. For those same ten years they chose for their representative in the federal government a member of the Liberal or Conservative Party. And at the same time, they elected as their R.M. councillor a well known Communist, Fred Schofield. Such an anomaly was not as strange as it might seem. Fred Schofield was recognized as a person genuinely interested in striving for a better life for his community.

Fred and his wife Fay farmed for many years near the village of Beverly, just west of Swift Current. But they were not just farmers. They were well integrated in their community, they were acquainted with the hardships suffered by farmers in the Dirty Thirties, and they looked on farming not only as a means to make a living, but as an essential element in the makeup of the country and the basic requirement for feeding its people. They were active in the many organizations through which farmers tried to improve their standard of living, and to thwart the efforts of the grain companies to turn the family farm into corporate farming.

As was pointed out at Fred's funeral in September 1996, attended by some 300 people, in addition to the ten years he served as councillor, he had always been active in the National Farmers Union, he was on the local school board for 14 years, on the local committee of the Wheat Pool for 59 years, on the Credit Union board for many years, and was secretary of the local telephone company. In his spare time (!) he was active in the local history group. Fay, who still resides in Swift Current, was equally as active.

Early on the pair realized that there was little or no future for the family farm under capitalism, with its control of markets by the stock exchange and other instruments of oppression used by the big agriculture corporations. They joined the Communist Party and for many years were well known in their community for their work as Communists. Fred ran as a candidate for the Labour Progressive Party, as the Communist Party was known during the war years and for a time after. In 1969 and 1970, Fred served as leader of the Communist Party in Saskatchewan, in spite of considerable hardship and sacrifice on their part as the provincial office was in Regina.

The 70's saw the Communist Party of Canada, influenced by the better times of the period, adopting theories of accommodation with capitalism, as were many of the Communist Parties around the world. The Schofields, and the Party members in Saskatchewan, did not agree with this accommodation. They held to the position espoused by Tim Buck, who for years had been the national leader of the Party in Canada. That position declared the necessity to continually struggle against the forces of capitalism and work for socialism in Canada.

In 1979, in spite of the Schofield's record of a lifetime of fighting for socialism, the Central Committee of the Communist Party decreed that they, along with all the members of the Saskatchewan provincial committee and the Regina club were enemies of socialism and they were expelled. Subsequently Fred and Fay played an active role in the founding of the Committee of Canadian Communists.

No comments:

Post a Comment