The Cooperative Commonwealth vision received its most mature political embodiment in the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation Party in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan and at the Canadian federal political level.
The CCF, later called the New Democratic Party, was founded “to represent progressive farmer, socialist and labour forces, and to implement their agenda of nationalization of key industries, universal old-age pensions, health insurance, children’s allowances, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and other social welfare measures.” (1)
Its first convention voted for universal pension, health and welfare insurance, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage and farm security. The party doctrine was a radical departure from free-market economics and it became known as the Regina Manifesto. (2)
The CCF government in Saskatchewan implemented important social welfare measures in 1944, and the first provincial medicare plan in 1962. At the federal level, the CCF never formed a national government, but its policies contributed greatly to the national hospital and medical services insurance programs. (3)
The Cooperative Commonwealth was a central theme for the Farmer-Labor Party, particularly in Minnesota, from the time of its start in 1934 until it merged with the state Democratic Party to form the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in 1944.
The preamble to their 1934 platform read:
“We declare that capitalism has failed and that immediate steps must be taken by the people to abolish capitalism in a peaceful and lawful manner, and that a new, sane, and just society must be established, a system in which all the natural resources, machinery of production, transportation, and communication shall be owned by the government and operated democratically for the benefit of all the people, and not for the benefit of the few.” (4)
So the notion of a Cooperative Commonwealth has been with us since the late 19th Century and has motivated farmers, cooperators, union organizers, social workers, and politicians.
What has it to say to us of this generation, who face into the task of building Nova Earth, a world ostensibly free of “isms” like socialism or capitalism, a world that works for everyone?
(1) Canadian Museum of Civilization, “Co-operative Commonwealth Federation” at http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/medicare/medic-2k03e.shtml
(2) Co-operative Commonwealth Federation,” at http://www.cbc.ca/history/EPISCONTENTSE1EP13CH3PA1LE.html.
(3) Canadian Museum, ibid.
(4) “Frank Lindenfeld’s ‘Cooperative Commonwealth’: Building on History for a Cooperative Future” by Bob Stone, Grassroots Economic Organizing, at http://geonewsletter.org/story/frank-lindenfelds-cooperative-commonwealth-building-history-cooperative-future.