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The early political career of Angus MacInnis Stuart, Richard Grey

Abstract

Angus MacInnis was elected Member of Parliament for Vancouver South in 1930 as a representative of the Independent Labour Party and on a socialist platform. During his first session of Parliament, he began a political career that would last twenty-seven years, and also played a prominent role in the development of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. The purpose of this study is to determine the nature of Angus MacInnis' early political career, both in Vancouver and in Ottawa, and to assess his role in the development of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in its formative years from 1932 to 1935. The most important primary source of information is the Angus MacInnis Collection in the Special Collections Division of The University of British Columbia Library. This collection includes MacInnis' private correspondence and his scrapbooks; the records of the C.C.F. and its predecessors in British Columbia; and material of a general nature on the early socialist movement in British Columbia. Other primary sources in Vancouver include the labour press in the period 1915-1935, the daily press, records of Parliamentary debates and relevant government documents. Records of the national Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and several of MacInnis' contemporaries are found in the Public Archives of Canada in Ottawa. Also, associates of Angus MacInnis in the period under study were interviewed. Secondary sources include studies of the period, and biographies of contemporaries. Because this study is only of Angus MacInnis' early political career, the 1935 federal election has been selected as the termination point. This election was the first test at the polls of his Parliamentary efforts, and of his commitment to the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. Had he and the C.C.F. failed, all his efforts in the preceding ten years would have been for naught. His personal success and the comparative success of the C.C.F. vindicated his efforts. Angus MacInnis was first and foremost a socialist; not, however, of the doctrinaire, Marxian variety so typical of British Columbia, but rather pragmatic and Fabian in his approach, preferring constitutional to violent means. He was Canadian-born and understood Canadian problems to a much greater extent than did most of the British-born socialists in B. C. For this reason, Angus MacInnis was able to see the need for, and prospects of, a national, broadly based, constitutional, socialist party in Canada. Because of his pragmatism and his faith in constitutional methods, and because of early experience, he was adamantly anti-communist. As a member of Parliament, he showed himself to be conscientious, forthright and quick witted. He stood out in particular as a humanitarian in his defence of the victims of the Depression, especially the unemployed. He also indicated on many occasions his pragmatism and his faith in parliamentary democracy. In spite of these qualities, he was narrow in his interests, concentrating primarily on the failure of capitalism, the ineptitude of the Bennett government, the plight of British Columbia and Vancouver, and the condition of the unemployed. Angus Maclnnis' most lasting contribution in this period was not made in Parliament but rather in the C.C.F. To a great extent, it was because of his efforts that there was a strong socialist party in British Columbia when the C.C.F. began. His influence did much to bring the Socialist Party of Canada into the C.C.F., and to merge the two affiliates in the British Columbia C.C.F. into one party. As a political realist, he saw the need for a strong party structure, and did much to bring about such a development in B. C. and Ontario. It was for this reason that he attempted to forestall any compromise on the C.C.F.'s anti-communism, because he knew that the communists would destroy the Federation. As a socialist, he saw the need for the B. C. socialists in the national federation, and did much, by his own efforts and by bringing the B. C. socialists into the C.C.F., to ensure that the C.C.F. retained its socialist goals.

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