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Social Classes and Social Credit in Alberta

Social Classes and Social Credit in Alberta

Foreword by Maurice Pinard
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Social Classes and Social Credit in Alberta
    Book Description:

    For years scholars have maintained that Social Credit was a protest on the part of small-scale farmers, who fought against their disadvantaged position in advanced capitalism by rejecting central Canada's control of the prairie region. The protest is usually described as conservative and its supporters portrayed as small agrarian capitalists who combined their opposition to regional exploitation with a firm commitment to capitalism. Based on a review of census materials on occupations, election results, and the party's statements and appeals, Bell reveals that this traditional interpretation is misguided on several counts. He provides a greatly revised picture of the movement's popular class base and its goals and motives, and shows that it was far more radical than commonly believed. The theory of social movements Bell draws from this analysis is applicable not only to Social Credit but to social movements in general.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6459-6
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Maurice Pinard

    For some forty years now, a great number of Canadian social scientists have considered the rise of the Social Credit movement in Alberta during the mid-193os to be a political phenomenon whose general characteristics have been well analysed and explained. For them, it never presented any puzzle to start with and no further examination or revision of the received wisdom regarding it appeared necessary. Almost unanimously, they shared the view that the Social Credit doctrine was conservative, even reactionary, and aimed at preserving capitalism. More specifically, Social Credit was seen as fundamentally petit-bourgeois in its orientations and projects. Given such...

  4. Acknowledgments (pp. xvii-2)
  5. 1 Introduction (pp. 3-7)

    The Social Credit movement in Alberta provided some of the most intriguing and controversial episodes of Canadian history. It was from the beginning a movement that evoked the strongest emotions, both positive and negative. It achieved a remarkable notoriety in the short period preceding its electoral victory in 1935 and once in power received extensive international attention.

    What really captured people’s imaginations was the movement’s promise that it could solve the problems of the Depression. Social Credit represented one of several programs competing for acceptance in a world desperately looking for solutions. The other competitors included socialism, communism, fascism, liberalism,...

  6. 2 A Brief History of Alberta to 1935 (pp. 8-18)

    The pages that follow review, in broad outline, the political history of Alberta to 1935. The chapter is designed mainly for those who are unfamiliar with western Canadian history, in particular the immediate circumstances surrounding the rise of the Social Credit movement. Chapter 7 examines the period from 1935 to 1940, Social Credit's first term of office.

    When Social Credit formed the government in 1935, the province of Alberta was only thirty years old, although the region had been a part of Canada since 1870. Its human history, however, dates back several thousand years. Native peoples had lived in the...

  7. 3 The Conventional Wisdom (pp. 19-36)

    Here I shall examine three claims regarding the class basis of mass support for Social Credit in Alberta: that the movement was essentially a farmers’ movement, that it was a petit-bourgeois movement, and that the movement had a cross-class, lower-middle-working-class appeal. The petit-bourgeois thesis will be especially closely scrutinized since it is often claimed that Social Credit appealed primarily to members of this class, that Douglasism and the Aberhartite adaptation of it were essentially “petit-bourgeois ideology,” and that the movement’s behaviour in office was distinctly petit-bourgeois. My main concern in this chapter will be with the quality of the evidence,...

  8. 4 The Douglas Social Credit Philosophy (pp. 37-60)

    Just what was this “social credit” that so easily stirred the emotions? What kind of a society did Social Crediters want to create? Here I begin to address these questions by examining the doctrine of the founder of Social Credit, Major C.H. Douglas. By examining the original Social Credit theories, we can begin to make sense of the Alberta Social Credit movement as well as the larger international movement of which it was a part.

    Major Douglas’s theories of society are expressed in numerous books, pamphlets, and articles. Like many social theorists, he did not write a comprehensive treatise explaining...

  9. 5 The Alberta Social Credit Philosophy (pp. 61-85)

    William Aberhart and his followers were very successful in promulgating the Douglas Social Credit philosophy in Alberta, but they evidently misunderstood some aspects of it and also presented various themes and ideas under the Social Credit rubric that were foreign to Major Douglas. In addition, although Aberhart’s adoption of the Social Credit cause was sudden and dramatic (see Irving 1959, 48-9), his knowledge and interpretation of the doctrine changed over the course of the eleven years in which he was at the forefront of the Alberta movement. Hence it makes sense to consider the Alberta Social Credit philosophy not as...

  10. 6 The 1935 Election: Cities, Towns, and Countryside (pp. 86-106)

    Voting data for Edmonton by polling subdivision (the area within a constituency covered by a single polling place) are not available.¹ For this reason Edmonton must be excluded from the within-cities analysis of the vote for 1935. This is especially unfortunate because Edmonton was the only city having a comparatively low Social Credit vote;² an analysis of the results there might have provided clues to why this was the case. None the less, such data are available for Calgary, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat.

    Census data could not be used in the analysis that follows, as provincial constituency and polling subdivision...

  11. 7 Social Credit in Power (pp. 107-128)

    Social Credit in power is often portrayed as a conservative, even reactionary party bent on freeing Alberta from the forces of imperialism.¹ It is often suggested that since it was a petit-bourgeois movement, as a government it was a priori conservative and incapable of any truly radical action. This approach is taken by Macpherson, who supports this theoretical position with the assertion that “Aberhart, from his first day in office, preferred to placate the established outside interests ... his economic radicalism was very limited ... nothing he did was in conflict with a basic acceptance of the established order” (1962,...

  12. 8 The 1940 Election: Cities, Towns, and Countryside (pp. 129-139)

    In the 1940 election the popular vote for Social Credit dropped from 54 per cent to 43 per cent, the lowest point it would reach until the party’s defeat in 1971. None the less, Social Credit retained its majority in the legislature, taking 36 of 57 seats. The Independents, a coalition of Liberals, Conservatives, and UFA supporters, were a close second, earning 42 per cent of the popular vote and 19 seats (Alberta 1983, 13). Voter turnout was high at 75 per cent, but not as high as the 82 per cent recorded in 1935 (53, 59).

    Unfortunately, missing data...

  13. 9 Social Credit in Alberta: An Alternative Perspective (pp. 140-164)

    In any historical era, a large number of social movements come into being and attempt to change society. Some compete with other movements for public support and political power, while others are more or less on their own, too powerless to be noticed by the larger public and too weak to elicit a response even from those whose interests they oppose.

    The vast majority of social movements are of the weaker sort. Most never gain a substantial following, much less embark on a large-scale mobilization. Yet Social Credit was able to do that and more. The movement not only got...

  14. Notes (pp. 165-182)
  15. References (pp. 183-192)
  16. Index (pp. 193-196)