Sunday, October 10, 2010

The LSR and some much needed optimism...

Writing quickly between thanksgiving snacks, company and dinner! A re-post from my own blog from a few weeks ago. I'm doing some research on an old (1970's-1980's), but I believe still relevant topic, the League for Social Reconstruction (LSR). The LSR at one time encompassed some well known names in Canadian history who would, during and after their affiliation with the League played some key roles in Canadian politics; Frank Underhill, Escott Reid, Eugene Forsey to name just a few.

Probably the most obvious role of the LSR in Canadian history is that while, as Michiel Horn write, the ideas constituting what would come to be a 'Canadian socialism' were, " the air. The League's intellectuals served the important purpose of formulating these ideas clearly and systematizing them..." (The League for Social Reconstruction and the Development of a Canadian Socialism 1932-1936, Journal of Canadian Studies, V. 7.4, Nov. 1972). The ideas that they were formulating and systematizing were for the early policies and programs of the CCF in the 1930's and 1940's. Hence, while it is difficult to directly pin point the influence of the LSR on the CCF, the League most certainly played a key role in articulating the ideas and policies which were 'in the air' that would be put before the Canadian public and the federal parliament throughout the 20th century. These ideas would eventually turn into many of the welfare and social service programs we take for granted today. Regardless of the League's small though pivotal role in Canadian history their optimism about human nature and society is refreshing.

Some of the League's ideas in their original 1932 Manifesto you'll notice were implemented in Canada throughout the 20th century on the federal and provincial levels.
The re-post:

The League for Social Reconstruction (LSR) was a socialist think tank that existed in Canada between 1931 and 1942. Though incredibly idealistic their philosophy of society and human nature is nonetheless inspiring and brought out in me some much needed optimism. Some analysis and reflection on LSR philosophy is given in Michiel Horn's "The League for Social Reconstruction: Intellectual Origins of the Democratic Left in Canada 1930-1942." (University of Toronto Press, 1980):

"They believe that man is essentially co-operative rather than competitive; they have faith in his ultimate rationality and goodness."...At one point they write that the planned economy 'must invite allegiance' of every educated individual 'who has, in addition, a sense of social justice and has not soured in his hopes of human nature.'...Adjust the social and economic environment, and the human material will not show itself wanting." ...Sceptics will entertain the suspicion that the LSR's hopes rested on far too kindly a view of human nature...There will perhaps always be sceptics who believe such optimism to be foolish and mistaken, possibly even pernicious. The sceptics may be right. All the same, it is churlish to speak ill of those who would think well of us, who in any case think better of us than we believe ourselves to be." pp. 96-98

To end, in our increasingly secular and globalized world perhaps it would be helpful to reflect on this poem by Frank Scott, a member of the LSR, concerning this optimism.

The world is my country
The human race is my race
The spirit of man is my God
The future of man is my heaven
p. 98
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