Chapter Five
Politics and the War: Aspects of the Canadian National Experience

John English

The hanging of Benito Mussolini in a square in Milan brought Mackenzie King special satisfaction on an early spring evening in 1945. "Apart from Stalin," King proudly noted in his diary, "I (am) the only original left on either side." And, even in Stalin's case, "I have, of course, led my party longer ...."1 At one time King's endurance seemed as easily explained as Stalin's. While Stalin used force King, in Frank Scott's 1957 words, "skillfully avoided what was wrong/Without saying what was right,..." He "blunted us," never allowing our sides "to take shape". Lacking any higher goal than remaining in office, King shifted his party temporarily leftward and stole away the initiative that his CCF opponents had first and genuinely possessed. He endured, and through the thickets and land-mines of wartime politics, "...he led us back to where we were before."2

But in 1945 we were not where we had been before the war. A comparison of the prewar and late wartime writings of Frank Scott illustrates the change well. In Canada Today, published in 1938, Scott describes a nation where the "political situation... is not stable," where the absence of "firm leadership from Ottawa leaves the sense of national unity voiceless and unorganized against the attacks of provincial autonomists," and, finally, where "A sense of direction is wanting, and none can predict whence it will come." Canada could not make any significant international contribution, Scott declared, because "Canadians must first make up their own minds as to what kind of society they want and how they propose to get it." In 1938 Scott himself possessed a vision of an alternative society, one whose contours he and other socialist intellectuals had described in Social Planning for Canada, but Scott knew few shared that vision which posited a fundamental restructuring of the existing economic system. Instead, as Scott admitted, between a "right wing" Dominion government and "the scattered forces of the political left" lay "a wide area of dissatisfied citizens now knowing where to turn." By 1943, however, Frank Scott and David Lewis saw these citizens turning, not towards their schemes of the 1930s but definitely to the left, towards support for a society that distributed its benefits more fairly. Ottawa could now give "firm leadership" and Canadian labour could thrive, Labour did, but the CCF declined. In their studies of labour and the CCF, Gad Horowitz and Walter Young while admitting the internal weaknesses of the CCF and labour, gave most credit for the CCF demise to the "smokescreen" with which King shrouded his politics and confused his opponents. Gerald Caplan, following Coldwell and Joliffe in 1945, blamed virulent anti- socialist propaganda for the defeat of the CCF.3 Yet when later scholars, having the advantage of greater access to documents, finally pierced through the smokescreen of King's wartime politics, these interpretations have come to seem less convincing. King did, of course, use ambiguity most effectively, and he also consciously promoted welfare programmes with the aim of undercutting CCF support. But there is far more. Jack Granatstein has ably described various other impulses, apart from the CCF, including independent bureaucratic initiative, Cabinet rivalry, and general pressures of social change, that led the Liberals towards the welfare state and political success. In the end, Granatstein judges the reasons for King's victory in 1945 as "impossible to discover" although he cites a King letter saying that the victory was "little short of miraculous." Apparently not believing in miracles, Donald Creighton, like some wartime critics of the new social managers,4 attributed pre-eminence in wartime decision-


making to the planners, "a new, superbly confident generation of federal civil servants" who for the 1945 federal election had "crammed" the "Liberal shop windows... with the most appealing display of attractive goods." Fair enough, but Creighton does not explain why all the party windows looked very much the same in 1945. In fact, the most recent research has tended to elevate the politician's part at the expense of the "planner." Robert Bothwell and William Kilbourn, for example, have shown how that most treasured icon of Keynesian influence, the 1945 White Paper on Employment and Income, reflected the politician's will as much as the bureaucrats, and they have also revealed how little success bureaucrats' schemes had when their political masters opposed them. Furthermore, William Young, in his excellent study of wartime information, has shown how a governmental agency popularly thought to be dominated by leftist intellectuals nevertheless served best the interests of the Liberal party. Young's emphasis on the importance of pre-war and wartime interest groups in the creation of fora where varying opinions could meet in wartime on common grounds is an important contribution to understanding the intellectual foundations of wartime politics.5 Some international comparisons may also help.

Paul Addison's study of Britain's road to 1945 reveals that Labour and Conservative shop windows had also come to look much the same in Britain. Beneath the sound and fury of Tory and socialist rhetoric in 1945 lay a "new consensus" that was "positive and purposeful" and was committed to "pragmatic' reform in a mixed economy." Like Young, Addison believes that creating this consensus in Britain, the "Progressive Centre," which rejected socialism because it called for too much change and free enterprise because it wanted retrenchment, played a major part. The war years in Britain, Addison writes, "can be understood as a phase of genuine change in which a spirit of parsimony and caution gave way to a spirit of greater welfare and more confident management."6 In Canada, too, this same new spirit gave that sense of direction whose deficiency Scott had lamented in 1938. Canada's road to 1945 was not the same, and along the way there were some forks Canadians did not take. Both King's critics and his admirers have tended to focus upon the final destination, the election of 1945, and upon how Canadians were led towards it. This essay proposes to explore why Canadians followed, and what choices they did not make.

The public opinion polls carried out by the Canadian Institute of Public Opinion and the Wartime Information Board provide us with a richer and a more continuous image of what Canadians thought than the snapshots frozen in time that elections represent. Moreover, World War Two brought to Canada a social statistical zeal and skill lacking earlier, with the result that we know more about how Canadians lived and worked than we do for pre-war generations. That the quality of material life affects political choice in a modern democratic society is not a vulgar marxist assumption but rather, a well-established finding of social scientific research. And yet there is one important qualification a student of Canadian politics in wartime must make. If an election had been held on the issue of conscription, consensus on socio-economic issues would likely have been of almost minimal importance. The public opinion polls offer strong support for this common supposition. Mackenzie King escaped Laurier's and Borden's fates because he had won an election in 1940 and Maurice Duplessis lost one in 1939. His freedom was thus much greater, and his fate was much different.

In 1939, however, most Canadians agreed with King that their freedom was limited by the sad condition of the Canadian economy and its apparent inability to support an extensive war commitment.7 Canada had not yet recovered the levels of production attained in 1928. Unemployment was probably about 600,000 or 20 per cent of the industrial work force, and the


iron and steel industry were operating at half capacity. As a nation we purchased, per capita, fewer goods and services than Americans and even Britons. That means we were neither so well-fed nor even so well-clothed as the other democracies, a fact not lost upon Canadian critics and, one imagines, many citizens.8 The Depression, in Canada, as in the United States, had exaggerated regional economic differences and increased the degree of inequality in the society. Rural areas were hardest hit, and the west was affected more than the east. Nevertheless, the general election of 1940 did not witness significant voter shifts as the Liberals took 51.5 per cent of the popular vote and 181 seats. Only on the prairies and in British Columbia did the Liberals fail to capture the majority in the popular vote although even there they took most of the seats. As Jack Granatstein remarks, "Canada apparently had voted for stability, for a moderate war effort, for Mackenzie King."9 It is worth noting that the CCF made no gains, returning five of its eight members from Saskatchewan (with 29 per cent of the popular vote), and losing seats in British Columbia and Manitoba. Its popular vote actually fell from 9 per cent to 8 per cent of the total. Even A.A. Heaps' Winnipeg North seat held since 1925 fell before the Liberal assault. Except for British Columbia and Manitoba, the CCF had no significant presence in urban Canada. Its poor performance in Ontario (less than 6 per cent of the popular vote) probably indicated the harmful effects of its ambiguity towards the war. While Labour in Britain was benefiting from the association of Conservatives with appeasement and was soon to share the responsibilities of power, the CCF in Canada could not, it seemed, ever make the war their issue.

King nevertheless sensed that the economic disturbances which war would bring could benefit the CCF ultimately. Thus he supported unemployment insurance in January 1940 because he was "anxious to keep Liberalism in control in Canada (and) not let third parties wrest away from us our rightful place in the matter of social reform."10 The Prime Minister remembered the leftward and populist swing of public opinion during the last war, and he recognized that wartime sacrifice would lead to demands for more equality within the society. There was, too, what scholars of government expenditure have called the displacement effect: wartime needs accustom citizens to higher taxes permitting higher rates and new expenditures after the war ends. This was appreciated early in the war by Canadian officials and led to openness to innovation that had been absent before 1939.11 One saw this in the Dominion Provincial Conference of January 1941 where the limits of political possibility were clearly broadened even if politicians of the day did not immediately test them.

By that time, unemployment had almost disappeared. Only 40,000 remained on urban relief in December 1940, and in March 1941 the federal government ended its financial contributions to direct relief costs. With full employment came the inevitable strain on prices and in the six months following March 1941, the price index rose at a rate of 1.1 per cent per month, over three times the rate for the preceding twelve months. In the final months of 1941 the government, fearing a repetition of World War One'.s inflation and its consequences, adopted a universal price and wage ceiling. This was to be an extraordinarily effective device in the capable hands of the Wartime Prices and Trade Board. After mid 1942, the price and cost of living indices changed very little until 1946. But in January 1942, the many newly employed Canadians did not know this.12

Canada's first public opinion poll asked in December 1941 what Canadians thought of the new price law. Over three-quarters approved. This was hardly surprising since 44 per cent thought they were "worse off" than a year ago and, only 27 per cent thought themselves "better off". Professional and white collar workers grumbled the most about their status and those in


the cities complained more than those in the country. Yet there was strong support throughout Canada for government intervention, for controls (76 per cent), for prohibition of strikes in war industries (78 per cent), for government allocation of civilian manpower (72 per cent), for conscription for overseas service (usually 60 per cent), and even for stricter limits on liquor purchase (60 per cent). But this solid support for an interventionist state had not yet congealed into a political revolt, for voter preferences expressed in a poll taken on February 7, 1942 showed almost exactly the same party standings as the 1940 general election.13

1940 1942
Liberal 51 55
Conservative 31 30
CCF 8 10

What these first polls did reveal was a nation divided on the question of conscription, between francophone and anglophone. One found similar differences on such questions as financial assistance to Britain and liquor regulation, but on domestic questions there was a large degree of agreement. There is no doubt that the war was the paramount issue, and probably for this reason voters apparently had not changed their traditional voting preferences. The seriousness of the war had limited the potential for political change. Thus when the pollsters asked in June 1942 whether Canada should "win the war first and then think about the peace, or to start now thinking about the kind of peace we want after the war," 57.5 per cent answered "win the war first" and 39 per cent "plan peace now." Business leaders and "intellectual leaders", however, were much less disposed to postpone consideration of post-war problems.14

Using this information we can sketch a rough outline of Canadian voters between December 1941 and June 1942 when the York South by-election and the conscription plebiscite took place. Urban white collar, and anglophone, voters were probably the most discontented with government policy. This type of individual tends to be better educated and wealthier and, according to psychological studies, more policy oriented.15 This group may have been the vanguard of the political revolt that followed in 1943. Both the foundation for such a political revolt (the sense of being "worse off") and political instruments (a more interventionist state) were present, yet no common image of political change yet existed. Perhaps Mackenzie King best expressed the confused image of the possibility of change in a 1941 diary comment: I can see that there has been some guiding power leading me to express the post-war endeavour in terms from the Book of Revelations. In the spring of 1941 Industry and Humanity was an exegesis of the Book of Revelations; two years later, it was the inspiration for Keynes' General Theory. Reform came down from the heavens to solid political ground.16

Between February and December 1942 the price and wage controls showed their effectiveness, and by the end of the year, so had the allied forces. The strength of the support for a larger state role in the organization of society remained and strengthened throughout the year. The best example, perhaps, is the support for prohibition which grew from 20 per cent in February 1942 to 29 per cent in September and 37 per cent in December. In contrast to the United States where traditional hostility to state regulation among all classes continued, 49 per cent of English Canadians agreed with the following statement in August 1942:

Since the war started, the government has taken a bigger and bigger share in the


control of business, industry, and agriculture. Some people say this control should continue after the war.

Interestingly, only 37 per cent of French Canadians agreed. In other aspects of governmental control, too, francophones showed greater suspicion of governmental action. In September 1942, the Gallup Poll revealed yet another difference when the CCF soared to 21 per cent in public support, deriving nearly all the support from English Canada. In 1943, CCF support reached its apogee moving to 23 per cent in February and 29 per cent in September. Never again was this level attained, and by June 1944 the party had fallen back to 21 per cent where it stayed--give or take two points--until the war ended.17

The CCF in 1943 obviously was ready to take advantage of the general trust in governmental intervention which cut across party lines. For example, even Conservatives agreed with the statement that all public utilities should be owned by the government.18 The CCF's rise shows clearly and rather ironically that the conscription plebiscite had cleansed the party of its major blemish, its ambiguous stand on the war. The post-war world had become paramount in the minds of Canadians, and if many Canadians had forgotten the CCF's position on the war in 1939, they had not forgotten the depression. These Canadians, the Wartime Information Board reported, faced the future with a feeling "akin to dread." They were also quite sceptical about the government's promises that they would prevent this frightening future.19

The CCF in 1943 thus broke through most of the traditional barriers it had faced. Party allegiance became weaker, no doubt in part because of the geographical mobility the war caused. Most important to the CCF leaders was the dramatic increase in support among the urban industrial working class. This was most dramatically evident in the Ontario general election of August 4, 1943 where CCF supporters swept most working class constituencies. In most others, the party ran third, often a poor third. Polls indicated that the provincial support for the CCF and the other parties in Ontario was almost exactly the same as federal support for the parties. In the Ontario election, the CCF received 32.4 per cent of the vote. A month later its national support was measured at 29 per cent. The other area of significant CCF support was of course western Canada where in September 1943, 41 per cent expressed support for the CCF as opposed to 23 per cent for both other parties.21

Quite apart from these election results, what surely encouraged Canadian socialists was the extent to which party supporters recognized the party platform. In polls, CCF supporters consistently supported nationalization, government intervention, and labour's claims enthusiastically. When significant groups were asked which political party would treat labour, farmers, white-collar workers, business men and industrial leaders best, the reply must have heartened the CCF.22

Conservative Liberal CCF
Farmers 23 25 25
Labour 11 17 42
White-collar 24 26 19
Businessmen & Industry 44 21 5

Similarly, the oft-cited poll, taken in October 1943, which showed Canada more reform-


oriented than either Britain or the United States led many to prophesy a new society when the soldiers returned:23

"After the war would you like to see many changes or reforms made in Canada, or would you rather the country remain pretty much as it was before the war?"

Canada US Britain
Reform 71 57 32
No Reform 23 34 58
Undecided 6 9 10

Nor Was the CCF support confined to the young. In Ontario, for example, supporters were found at all levels,

21-29 -- 26%
30-39 -- 29
40-49 -- 27

50 plus -- 21

The war, it seemed, would bring not Armageddon but the New Jerusalem.

David Lewis and Frank Scott were ecstatic: "This war," they declared, "is becoming a people's war." The people, "roused by the burdens and sacrifice, are finding their own strength, sensing their own potentialities, and seeing their role of leadership in the revolutionary process." We were in the war's "second stage" where our thoughts no longer dwelt on victory above all else.25 The farmer and the worker could now claim what was rightfully theirs. The coalition seemed as solid as any that political parties had built in our past.

It was not. Many of the recent converts changed their minds again as Damascus neared. Why they did is not easily explained. The notion that a propaganda campaign undermined the CCF is simplistic. As one recent thesis has shown, the anti-CCF propaganda of Trestrail, Murray and others gained greatest circulation after the decline of the CCF in the public opinion polls. Moreover, the propaganda, despite the support of some Liberals, probably hurt the Grits as well as the CCF. Business, the polls showed clearly, was not very fond of Liberalism between 1943 and 1945; their hearts, their votes, and, in most cases, their contributions belonged to Bracken. The areas where the propaganda flourished were not those where CCF was strongest.26 Secondly, the CCF remained in 1945, as in 1943, the political party primarily identified with "social security" and economic equality. Since the CCF decline in urban English Canada seems to have begun after September 1943, several months before the Liberals proclaimed their commitment to reform, the King swing to the left cannot be the full explanation for CCF decline.

Indeed, as the Liberals began to move left, Canadians seemed to move towards the centre at the beginning of 1944. The polls in 1944 showed a retreat from the reformist feeling the previous years' polls had evoked. Unlike 1943, CCF supporters were increasingly isolated in their advocacy of government ownership and intervention. Thus, while 51 per cent of CCF supporters approved nationalization of life insurance companies and 49 per cent of banks, only 28 per cent of Canadians generally approved of life insurance nationalization and 23 per cent of banks. Both nationalizations were planks in the Regina Manifesto. Even greater isolation


occurred when pollsters asked what was the best way to keep up employment after the war. Thirty-five per cent of CCF supporters answered government ownership of industry, but only 3 per cent and 8 per cent of Conservatives and Liberals respectively answered in this way. This poll, taken in September 1944, contrasted strongly with a similar December 1943 poll which showed much more Liberal and Conservative sympathy for public ownership. What these polls suggest is the definite limits on the growth of CCF support. As their platform became better known, party support began to weaken. Moreover, their commitment to expansion of government control conflicted with the growing sentiment among farmers and workers in 1944 that controls should not last.

Western support for the CCF weakened first. Between September 1943 and late January 1944, the Gallup poll showed a 7 per cent decline in Western support for the CCF, although it remained at 34 per cent, the most popular party. Similarly, support among farmers for the CCF nationally tumbled from 25 per cent in September 1943 to 17 per cent in June 1944.28 The Saskatchewan election victory in that same month may have been less striking than it would have been a year earlier. Some Liberal organizers believed this, and blamed the existence of controls for the Liberal defeat in the province.29 The CCF thus profited from the opposition to the application of a technique of which they philosophically approved.

But it was urban Ontario where the old parties gained most and where CCF hopes30were most bitterly dashed. The polls, unfortunately, are not so helpful here.30 Nevertheless, we do have some valuable information on a single constituency which may illuminate what happened between 1943 and 1945.

In late 1943 and early 1944, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with labour and civic officials commissioned a large scale survey of an area roughly the same as the provincial North Waterloo constituency. Over 10 per cent of the residents of the area and nearly all local businesses responded to this survey of their post-war expectations and of their wartime occupations. The area is mainly urban, possesses a strong industrial base, and only in its ethnic make-up does it differ from other Ontario industrial cities. In 1942, labour officials in the city of Kitchener, as elsewhere in Ontario, had protested strongly against controls on their wages. The area newspaper carried many complaints about the impact of wage controls on workers, and the Kitchener mayor, who had attacked labour unions at the war's beginning, had become, by 1942, a supporter of labour's claims. In short, it is very likely that more residents of this area thought they were "worse off" than "better off" as Canadians generally did according to early 1942 polls. In the 1943 provincial election, the CCF candidate, John Cook, a trade union official, was elected in this traditionally Liberal seat. Here, as in other respects, North Waterloo followed other urban, industrial constituencies.31 If we can assume that North Waterloo's economic profile and its political attitudes reflect urban, industrial Ontario, the survey may clarify our understanding of socio-economic and political change in the later war years in urban, industrial Ontario.

The predominant impression gleaned from the survey is of a society that has recently undergone great disruption of normal patterns. In 1939 the community employed 9,239 men and 4,288 women, and 3,198 men and 131 women were to enlist in the armed forces in the next four years. Yet, in 1943, the community employed 11,411 men and 6,824 women, a net addition to the work force of 8,037 employees. This result surprised the survey directors who sought to discover where the additional work force had been found. About 2,000 from the community itself had been "retained in, or drawn into employment because of war conditions."


Surveys of the surrounding area showed that at least 400 had begun to commute to Kitchener factories from their farms or villages. The rest, it appears, were "sucked into" the city from the towns and farms of southern Ontario, a fact indicated by the increase of 2,100 in "boarders and roomers" between 1939 and 1943. Surveys of four rural townships confirm this impression;

The result of (the war-time growth of industry) is that, from approximately 2,500 farms in the four townships canvassed, more than 1,200 members of farm families have left in the past four years--or almost one from every second farm; and, in addition, there has been a loss of more than 700 hired men, who had been employed on a permanent basis until war broke out--or not much less than a loss of one hired man from every third farm in the district.

And yet farm income had not suffered nor had production decreased; indeed, the opposite had occurred. Between 1939 and 1943 average farm household income increased from $2,300 to slightly more than $3,700, that is, 61.5 per cent. This new prosperity may partly explain why farm communities in southern Ontario did not turn strongly towards the CCF in the 1943 provincial election. The war had been more generous towards them than their western counterparts whose incomes did not reach such levels. The farm communities in southern Ontario had lost many to the factory and the uniform, but the evidence clearly indicates that these men were underemployed, a drain upon, rather than a contributor to, farm incomes. The war, therefore, may have strengthened the traditional community and maintained normal voting patterns.33

In the city, however, the traditional community was much changed. Those who carried out the survey expressed astonishment, claiming that "the changes ... constitute something like an industrial revolution." This was more than mere Chamber of Commerce hyperbole. The comparison of 1939 and 1943 illustrates how remarkable the change was:

1939 1943
Payroll 15,149,000 30,331,000
Manufacturing payroll 10,973,000 24,579,000
Aggregate sales 74,000,000 146,250,000
Manufacturing sales 53,700,000 115,500,000

The workers reaped benefits from this increased production as average wages rose substantially:

1939 1943
All occupations $1,120 $1,663
Manufacturing 1,076 1,708

Throughout the city the war had effected a significant redistribution of income patterns:

Households Under $1,500 $1,500 to $2,600 $2,600+
1939 57% 29% 14%
(early) 1944 36% 45% 19%


The middle income group was thus much strengthened. The survey aptly concluded that "there can be no doubt that in material comforts the population of Kitchener-Waterloo lives, on an average, considerably better than it did in 1939--in spite of heavier taxation and even after purchasing War Bonds and War Savings Certificates to the tune of $17,500,000." There can also be no doubt that they wanted to live after the war as they had come to live during the war.

What they wanted in the post-war world was a richer material life. In answer to questions about post-war wants, citizens overwhelmingly spoke of refrigerators, motorcars and, above all, houses. More important, they believed they would obtain these things. Survely few had ever heard of Keynes but experience had led them to share what an Ottawa mandarin described as Keynes' exciting vision of what could be accomplished in a free society...." The vision was expansive as well as optimistic, and it removed the constricting and limited conceptions of what a society could achieve, so prevalent in the thirties.33 In this sense, the 1945 White Paper on Employment and Income represents not merely an "unreserved declaration of acceptance of the Keynesian approach" but also an expression of the everyday experience of many Canadians in wartime.34

After a decade of depression and of more recent wartime disruptions, things had come together at last. The urban residents of all income groups expected no real loss of income at the war's end. They certainly did not fear a depression. The survey further revealed that this confidence was justified. The businesses of the community indicated that they did not intend to reduce employment significantly after the war; indeed, only 4½ per cent of the work force needed to fear loss of their job because of the end of munitions contracts. But there were other firms, such as clothing and textile manufacturers, who already could indicate their intentions to expand to meet post-war needs. These needs would surely exist, because, in the survey of postwar spending intentions, residents indicated they could finance 61½ per cent of their planned post-war consumer purchases--stoves, clothing, and even vacations--out of their past savings. One can imagine Chamber of Commerce members chortling as they wrote: "No more encouraging piece of news attained: we would become a nation of prudent spendthrifts. The report's overall conclusion was also unambiguous: "... if everyone, in the territory covered by the Survey, succeeds in realizing his objectives as stated, the post-war demands of Kitchener- Waterloo can absorb successfully the number of workers then likely to be seeking jobs...."35

In early 1945 the world these workers wanted was not so far away; and they knew it. In the elections of 1945, John Cook, the CCF MPP, lost and, one week later, the Liberal Louis Breithaupt won a decisive victory in the Federal election. In the provincial election, the CCF vote dropped significantly in the working class areas of the city although, rather interestingly, CCF totals in some middle class areas remained almost the same. This might be explained by the survey evidence that service workers had done less well in wartime than either the farmer or the factory workers. In the federal election, the same pattern obtains. Breithaupt took seventy- five of the seventy-six Kitchener polls and his weakest performance was in the most prosperous polls despite Breithaupt's own position as the pre-eminent businessman of the city. Perhaps it was not the worker but the businessman who remained outside the new consensus.36

What did this consensus mean and how had it been formed? Perhaps we can now give a preliminary sketch of the road to 1945 which the urban Ontarian followed. The Kitchener- Waterloo survey and all other evidence suggests a society where in 1941 and 1942 men and women were suddenly in motion from the farms to the city, from the home to the factory, from under-employment to full use of productive capacity. In the first two years of the war, the


growth in employment could come mainly from those workers who had had none; after that time, the city turned to the country and towards other areas where it had not sought workers for many years. The result, in Kitchener-Waterloo, was an addition to the work force almost equal to the pre-war work force, which, of course, had itself not remained the same. New rooms, new faces, new friends, and, for many, the first shock of factory life, all these came so quickly. The effects were probably concentrated in the period of mid-1941 to mid-1943, and only the discipline of war constrained the chaos of that moment. So much was left behind, and in 1943 many showed this in their support for the CCF and their abandonment of traditional political ties. The rural areas, which had once turned to a third party, remained true to the old parties. But the war had not much altered their traditional social and economic patterns; indeed, it may have reinforced them. This was not so in the cities.

In early 1942 most urban residents thought the war had not improved their lot. By early 1944, they no longer believed this. Moreover, the disruption of social and economic life which had occurred in 1941 and 1942 had ended, and there was a new regularity to social patterns of work life. Initially puzzled by the changes occurring about them and later uncertain what had brought the new material benefits, urban Ontarians were receptive to new thoughts on the organization of society. They expressed these thoughts to pollsters and, when they could, in the polling booth. But always there was an ambiguity in the responses. They wanted a more active state if this meant social security, but not if it meant nationalization. They approved of controls, but not of rationing. In their commitment to the war, they exuded idealism, but their personal goals were permeated with materialism. From ambiguity and uncertainty came confusion and, in some cases, freedom from old restraints. As uncertainty disappeared, however, so did the desire to innovate. Just as they hoped and expected to remain in the better position they had obtained, those who had flirted with alternative visions of society now could accept that the larger society could also stay what it had become in wartime. The conclusion was conservative, but, in terms of 1939, the result was not.

Workers would still be workers even if wartime needs meant that their standard of life was, by earlier standards, middle class. Yet, as Ely Chinoy has shown, North American workers in the post-war era accepted the lack of occupational mobility because they regarded the accumulation of personal possessions as a very real way of "getting ahead".37 Contrary to the expectations of many intellectuals, the war had probably blunted the sense of class antagonism and stultified the formation of working class consciousness. But in a larger sense, perhaps, Theodore Zeldin's comments on French intellectuals are relevant here. "(The intellectuals) told the world what it was that divided it, their slogans were adopted by political parties and they provided interpretations of history." In doing so, "they gave a false veneer of simplicity to the issues on which Frenchmen did have opinions, obscuring the multiplicity of their attitudes."38 One sees in Canada, too, this multiplicity of attitudes that defies simplification; and to see the war's impact on politics in terms of the familiar political continuum does not help our understanding of a complex phenomenon. The road to 1945 ran through not merely King's College, Cambridge and the East Block, but through the heart of the workshops of our nation.


Table of Contents
Previous Chapter (4) ** Next Chapter (6)

Transcribed and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation