International Socialist Review, January 1904
by G. Weston Wrigley
Marvelous as has been the growth of the Socialist party vote in many of the United States, the most western province in Canada, British Columbia, has by its recent election campaign, taken a foremost place in the American class struggle which has for its goal the capturing of the powers of government by the working class, and through the intelligent use of that power abolishing the wage-system and establishing collective ownership of the means of life, production being for use instead of for profit.
The Socialist party of British Columbia was organized in 1901. Previous to that time there had been branches of the Canadian Socialist League and other Socialist clubs in existence.
The convention of 1901 united the various bodies upon a political platform of a "reform" character—there being nearly a score of "immediate demands" enumerated. In 1902 several revolutionary Socialist bodies were formed, but upon the Socialist party convention deciding to discard its "reform" policy and stand clear for "revolutionary" Socialism all Socialist organizations (with the exception of one S.L.P. section) united and the rapid growth of the party began. The platform of the S.P. of B.C. is probably the shortest and most uncompromising statement of the principles of revolutionary socialism that has ever been drafted in any country.
In 1900 a Socialist candidate for the Legislature secured 684 votes in Vancouver City and in 1902 another cast a vote of 156 in North Nanaimo. On October 3, 1903, a general election took place to choose 42 members of the B.C. Legislature. In the old Legislature there had been a labor member, I.N. Hawthornthwaite, of Nanaimo, who had joined the Socialist Party and he, with ten others (one being an S.L.P.) were nominated as candidates.
To prevent the working class from securing representation in the halls of legislation the capitalist class adopts various schemes. In the United States one of the plans is the requirement of petitions for a place upon the ballot. Once having nominated a state ticket, however, every voter in the state has an opportunity of voting for the candidates for state officers. In Canada all governors, judges, etc., are appointed by the king’s minions, and there being no state officers to elect, voters can only vote for the candidates in their own legislative district. This prevents a vote of the entire province being taken unless the Socialist party has candidates in every district. And in elections for the Canadian parliament and B.C. Legislature a deposit of $200 is required from each candidate, this being lost if one-half the vote of the winning candidate is not secured. In municipal elections labor is disqualified by property qualification laws in electing mayor and aldermen.
Massachusetts, with 39,065 votes, cast 9.9 per cent of the total vote in 1902; Montana, 3,131 votes or 5.7 per cent; Washington, 5,573 votes or 5.6 per cent, and Colorado, 8,994 votes or 4.8 per cent. The percentages of the socialist votes in the various states in the 1903 elections are not yet compiled, but the following figures show that British Columbia, for a time at least, holds the proud position of leading the socialist movement in America.
There are 34 electoral districts in B.C., electing 42 members. Vancouver City elects 5 members, each voter having 5 votes. Victoria City elects 4, each voter being able to vote for 1, 2, 3 or 4 candidates. Cariboo elects 2 members and voters have a double franchise. In the recent contest the Conservatives nominated 41 candidates; Liberals, 40; Socialist party, 10; Labor party, 4; and Socialist Labor party, 1. In two districts there was no election—Conservatives and Liberals each securing a member by acclamation, the districts being small and without socialist organization. In one district the Liberals withdrew from the field and assisted the Labor party in defeating the Conservatives. Two Liberals, two Socialists and one Socialist Labor party candidate lost their $200 deposits.
The following table shows the total votes cast for the various parties, the S.L.P. vote (284) being counted as socialist:
But as the above table includes all the plural votes cast in Vancouver, Victoria and Cariboo, it is manifestly unfair. For instance, the Liberal and Conservative voters having 4 or 5 votes would divide them between 4 or 5 candidates, while socialists would vote only for the socialists and not use their other votes. While there were many voters who split their ballots by voting for several capitalists and one socialist and, consequently, every voter who voted for socialism cannot be counted a socialist, the following table counting only the highest votes for each party in each district comes as near as possible to a fair test of party strength:
These figures cover the whole province although, as has been pointed out, the election deposit law disfranchised socialist voters in 25 districts. Thus a more favorable showing is made by only counting the highest votes in the 9 districts where socialist voters had an opportunity of exercising their franchise. Here are the figures for these 9 districts, together with the percentages:
Highest votes in 9 districts:
The Legislature now stands 22 Conservatives, 17 Liberals, 2 Socialists (J.H. Hawthornwaite, Nanaimo, and Parker Williams, Newcastle), and 1 Labor. According to percentage of total vote cast it should be 19 Conservatives, 16 Liberals, 4 Socialists and 3 Labor. Five old party men were elected by less than 200 votes, although it will be seen by the above figures that the lowest Socialist vote was 166 and the highest 1,338. Thirteen were elected by between 200 and 300 votes, five by between 300 and 400, seven by between 400 and 500, and only ten by over 500 votes. It will be seen, therefore, that with only about 40,000 voting citizens of British Columbia, and with 32 of the 42 members elected by less than 500 votes, the Socialist party has only one or two more election campaigns to go through before it secures control of the powers of government. The great work now is education and organization and in these two fields the party is well equipped, it practically owning the Western Clarion, Vancouver, a weekly paper, and having in E. T. Kingsley, Nanaimo, a splendid organizer, who, being a member of the S.L.P. for many years, is thoroughly grounded in the principles of revolutionary socialism.
Socialists as a rule belong to the propertyless class and are, therefore, practically disqualified from participating in municipal elections, except for the local school boards, for which every voter, regardless of property ownership, is eligible. In this field there is a splendid opportunity for activity and educational propaganda as is shown by the following figures of party votes in towns in the various districts, in most instances the places named being regularly organized into self-governing municipalities.
The victory in British Columbia has given inspiration to the socialists in all parts of Canada. In Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the Socialist Party fused with the labor unions in the Legislative elections last June, they are again treading on dangerous ground, their aldermanic nominee having written the "Labor Representation League" stating that all "true socialists" would support labor candidates if they demanded the full product of their toil. In Ontario, however, a proposed fusion with the labor unions has been turned down almost unanimously and a strong pledge, with an anti-fusion clause adopted. They have also taken a clear, stand as revolutionary socialists and resolved to nominate a number of candidates for the Canadian Parliament. Even priest-ridden Quebec and far-off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland will soon start the socialist snowball rolling down the mountain side to victory in the valleys beneath.
Canada must, therefore, be reckoned with as a red spot on the socialist map of the world. In May, 1902, the following vote was polled for socialism in 11 districts in Ontario:
SOCIALIST LABOR PARTY
The combined vote of both parties in Canada is, therefore, as follows:
Reference has been made to the platform of the Socialist Party of British Columbia and its briefness may allow its addition to this record of the victories won since its adoption. It is as follows:
Copyright South Branch Publishing. All