Speeches of Tommy Douglas
August 1960 Regina Saskatchewan
We must think in new terms to meet the conditions and the problems of the times in which we live. I’m delighted to see the number of young people here tonight. There is little use in you and me, and those of us who attended the 1933 convention, telling them about the depression and the situation of that time. Might as well tell them about the Napoleonic Wars. What they want to know is what have you to offer for the problems of today and for the world in which they live.
Let me remind you that Canadian society has changed very remarkably since 1933. When we met in this city, we were in the depths of a depression. A completely unplanned, laissez-faire capitalism had completely failed to meet an economic crisis. We had a million unemployed. The people riding the rails. We had farmers without enough to eat, and livestock dying for lack of feed. We had an abundance of almost all the things we needed for a good life, yet people hungry, who Roosevelt said ill-fed, ill-housed and ill-clad.
That was the situation in which we met at that time. But we must face the fact that that situation has changed radically. I say this because we must recognize that the situation has changed. No longer unplanned, laissez-faire capitalism. No longer a society which says every man for himself and the devil take the hind part. But today a measure of managed capitalism, with built-in, chained-in techniques by which they can prevent major economic depression and runaway booms with a built-in welfare state, either large or small, that can be expanded according to the needs of purchasing power. That we face today a different situation than what our forefathers faced.
Therefore we have to, like socialist parties all over the world, ask ourselves some very searching questions. Now I’m asking you to think about them seriously. This is not a time for demagoguery; this is not a time for beating the drum. This is a time for serious soul-searching.
With this changed situation in a quarter of a century, with a managed capitalism and a partial welfare state (and in a few years maybe a complete welfare state), is a socialist party any longer necessary? Have we any reason for existence? Have all the battles been won? Are there no mountains left to conquer? This we have to ask ourselves.
So I say to you that this affluent society, that they need a socialist party because in my opinion democratic socialism is still man’s best hope. I think that people produce better, people do better, people work better when they are participating through free courts, free exchange of opinion, a free press, free right to organize, free trade unions, free co-operators, free political parties. That out of that kind of participation, out of the ferment of discussion, out of the conflict of ideas, out of the exchanges of points of view we will merge with a better society, not a poorer one.
That is why, if we are to have socialism in the world, it must be democratic socialism. Because planning is not an end in itself, nationalization is not an end in itself. They’re simply parts of a democratic process by which people want to exercise some control over their own economic (lives).