BU professor’s book unearths new roots to formation of the CCF

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BRANDON, Man. — How true the New Democratic Party (NDP) remains to its roots is an eternal political debate, and now a new book by a Brandon University (BU) History Professor shakes loose some common beliefs about those roots.

A head and shoulders photo of James Naylor, smiling in front of a grey background
James Naylor’s new book, The Fate of Labour Socialism, reveals the previously unknown history of the CCF.

James Naylor, the Chair of the Department of History at BU, is the author of the recently released book, The Fate of Labour Socialism: The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and the Dream of a Working-Class Future. Naylor’s book reveals new layers to the history of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the forebear of the modern NDP.

“The established and straightforward story of the CCF is that it was created by social democrats, led by farmers, religious leaders and university teachers in response to the Great Depression,” said Naylor. “The truth is actually much more complex, as the CCF actually has roots that may be traced to Marxist-influenced, labour-based activists, who were involved in the Winnipeg General Strike and similar movements at the time.”

Naylor will discuss his findings in a Faculty of Arts Speaker Series event on Friday, Oct. 28 at BU. The session will take place from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Room 104 of Clark Hall.

“The irony is that I didn’t set out to write a book about the CCF because I believe their history was already well known,” Naylor said. “My intention was to find out what happened to the activists who were responsible for the labour movement that followed World War I, and I discovered that most of them become involved with the CCF. This led to a turbulent formative period as the leaders of this new party struggled to gain enough popular appeal to be effective without losing their labour ideals.”

An image of the book cover, featuring a cartoon image of a wolf, holding Canadian and American flags, and wearing a sash saying Fascism. The wolf is chained to posts marked with Communist Party, Socialist Party, CCF, Trades Unions and Labor Parties. The is captioned "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

The Fate of Labour Socialism is published by University of Toronto Press Publishing and is available at utppublishing.com/The-Fate-of-Labour-Socialism-The-Co-operative-Commonwealth-Federation-and-the-Dream-of-a-Working-Class-Future.html. Naylor appeared at a successful book launch last month at McNally-Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg.

“Dr. Naylor is a well-respected historian and writer. His keen insights on 20th century social movements have brought the topic to life for a new generation of students at Brandon University and beyond,” said Demetres Tryphonopoulos, Dean of Arts at BU. “In his new book, The Fate of Labour Socialism, Dr. Naylor puts his expert research skill to good use, overturning popularly held conceptions about the formation of the CCF, and not only rewriting history but also providing valuable context for questions that remain relevant in current political discussions.”


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