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David Lewis

In office
1971 – 1975
Preceded by Tommy Douglas
Succeeded by Ed Broadbent

In office
1962 – 1963
Preceded by William G. Beech, Progressive Conservative
Succeeded by Marvin Gelber, Liberal
Constituency York South
Majority 3,678 plurality

In office
1965 – 1974
Preceded by Marvin Gelber, Liberal
Succeeded by Ursula Appolloni, Liberal
Constituency York South

Born June 23 or October, 1909
Svisloch, Russian Empire (now Belarus)
Died May 23, 1981 (aged 71)
Ottawa, Ontario
Political party Co-operative Commonwealth Federation
& New Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Sophie Lewis (née Carson)
Children Stephen Lewis, Michael Lewis, Janet Solberg, Nina Libeskind
Residence Toronto/Ottawa, Ontario
Occupation Lawyer
Religion Judaism

David Lewis (born Losz), CC (June 23, or October 1909 – May 23, 1981) was a Russian-born Canadian labour lawyer and social democratic politician. He was national secretary of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) from 1936 to 1950, and one of the key architects of the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 1961. In 1962, he was elected as the Member of Parliament (MP), in the Canadian House of Commons, for the York South federal electoral district. During his time as an MP, he was elected the NDP's national leader and served from 1971 to 1975. After his defeat in the 1974 federal election, he stepped down as leader, and retired from politics. He spent his last years as a university professor, and a travel correspondent for the Toronto Star. In retirement, he was named to the Order of Canada for his political service. After a lengthy battle with cancer, he died in Ottawa in 1981.

Lewis's politics were heavily influenced by the Jewish Labour Bund, which contributed to his support of parliamentary democracy. He was an avowed anti-communist, and while a Rhodes Scholar prevented communist domination of Oxford University's Labour Club. In Canada, he played a major role in removing communist influence from the labour movement.

In the CCF, he took the role of disciplinarian and dealt with internal organizational problems. He helped draft the Winnipeg Declaration, which moderated the CCF's economic policies to include an acceptance of capitalism, though under the eye of government regulators. As the United Steelworkers of America's legal counsel in Canada, he helped them take over the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers. His involvement with the USW also led to a central role in the creation of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1956.

The Lewis family has been active in socialist politics since the turn of the twentieth century, starting with his father's involvement in the Bund in Russia, continuing with him, and then his eldest son, Stephen Lewis, who became the leader of the Ontario NDP in 1970. When David was elected the NDP's national leader, in 1971, they became one of the first father and son teams to simultaneously head Canadian political parties.


Early life in Russia

The Bund and Jewish life in the Pale

David Losz was born sometime after Svisloch's first snowfall in October 1909 to Moishe Losz and his wife Rose (née Lazarovitch).[1] His official birth date of June 23 was the one he gave the immigration officer when he arrived in Canada.[2][3] To understand David Lewis's political activism requires an examination of his roots in the shtetl he lived in from 1909 until 1921. [4] Svisloch was located in the Russian Empire's Pale of Settlement, in what is now Belarus. After World War I it became a Polish border town, occasionally occupied by the Soviet Union during the Polish-Soviet War of the early 1920s. 3,500 of Svisloch's 4,500 residents were Jewish. Unlike many of the other shtetls in the Pale, it had an industrial economy based on tanning. Its semi-urban industrial population was receptive to social democratic politics and the labour movement, as embodied by the Jewish Labour Bund.[4]

Moishe (or Moshe) Losz was Svisloch's Bund Chairman.[5] The Bund was an outlawed socialist party that called for overthrowing the Tsar, equality for all, and national rights for the Jewish community; it functioned as both political party and labour movement.[6] Lewis spent his formative years immersed its culture and philosophy.[6] The Bund's membership, although mostly ethnically Jewish, was secular humanist in practice.[6]

Moishe and David were influenced by the Bund's political pragmatism, embodied in its maxim that "It is better to go along with the masses in a not totally correct direction than to separate oneself from them and remain a purist."[7] This philosophy of compromise, has been part of both the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and New Democratic Party's (NDP) practices, and came into play between their "ideological missionaries and the power pragmatists when internal debates raged about policy or action."[7]

When the Russian Civil War and the Polish-Soviet War were at their fiercest, in the summer of 1920, Poland invaded, and the Red Russian Bolshevik army counter-attacked. The Bolsheviks reached Svisloch border in July 1920. Moishe Losz openly opposed the Bolsheviks and would later be jailed by them for his opposition.[8] He barely escaped with his life. When the Polish army recaptured Svisloch on August 25, 1920, they executed five Jewish citizens as "spies".[9] Unsafe under either regime and with his family's future prospects bleak, Moishe left for Canada in May 1921, to work in his brother-in law's Montreal clothing factory. By August, he saved enough money to send for his family, including David, Charlie, and Doris.[10]

David Lewis was a secular Jew, as was Moishe. However, his maternal grandfather, Usher Lazarovitch, was religious and, in the brief period between May and August before David emigrated, gave his grandson the only real religious training he would ever receive.[11] David Lewis did not actively take part in a religious service again until his granddaughter Ilna's Bat Mitzvah in the late 1970s.[12] In practice, the Lewis family, including David, his wife Sophie, and their children Janet, Stephen, and Michael, were atheists.[13]

Early life in Canada

The family came to Canada by boat and landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They then went by rail to Montreal to meet-up with Moishe Lewis. David Lewis was a native Yiddish speaker and understood very little English. He learned the language by buying a copy of Charles Dickens' novel The Old Curiosity Shop, and a Yiddish-English dictionary.[14] A teacher of Welsh descent at Fairmont Public School, where Lewis was a student, helped him learn English but also passed on his Welsh accent.[15]

Lewis entered Baron Byng High School in September 1924. He soon became friends with A.M. (Abe) Klein, who was to become one of Canada's leading poets. He also met Irving Layton, another future major poet, to whom he acted as political mentor.[16] Baron Byng High School was predominately Jewish because it was in the heart of Montreal's non-affluent Jewish community. It was ghetto-like because Jews from outside the school district were not allowed to go to other high schools, like Montreal High.[17]

Along with poets, he met Sophie Carson, who eventually became his wife. Klein, their mutual friend, introduced them. Carson was a first generation Jewish-Canadian and her family was religious. Her father did not approve of Lewis, because he was a recent immigrant to Canada, and in his opinion had little to no possibility of success.[18]

Lewis spent five years at McGill University in Montreal: four in arts, and one in law. He helped found the Montreal branch of the Young People's Socialist League (YPSL).[19] While at McGill he lectured at this anti-communist socialist club, and was its nominal leader.[20] One of his favourite professors, not because of the subject-matter that he taught, but rather for his personality, was Canadian humorist, and noted Conservative party proponent, Stephen Leacock.[21]

In his third year, Lewis founded The McGilliad campus magazine.[22] Many of his anti-communist views were printed in it during 1930–31. Even though he was an anti-communist, he published in the December 1930 issue his approval of the Russian Revolution and called for a greater understanding of the Soviet Union.[22] Throughout his career, he would attack communism, but would always have a sympathy for the grand experiment of 1917.[22] While at McGill, he met and worked with prominent Canadian socialists like F.R. Scott, Eugene Forsey, J. King Gordon, and Frank Underhill. He would later work with all of them in the CCF party in the 1940s and 50s.[23]

With the encouragement from F.R. Scott, Lewis applied for a Rhodes Scholarship during his first year at Law School.[24] The interviews were conducted in Montreal, since he was applying to be the Quebec representative. The scholarship examining board included the then-president of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), Sir Edward Beatty.[25] When asked what Lewis would do if he became prime minister, he stated that he would nationalize the CPR.[25] Despite his "cheeky" answer, and his socialist views in general, his responses to the board's cross examination proved that he wasn't a communist, thereby suitably impressing them, and they awarded him the scholarship.[25]

Rhodes Scholarship and Oxford

When David Lewis entered Lincoln College, Oxford in 1932,[26] he immediately took up a leadership role in the university's socialist-labour circles. Michael Foot, the future leader of the British Labour Party in the 1980s, mentioned in an interview that Lewis was,

the most powerful socialist debater in the place. I don't think with any rival ... He had a very powerful influence indeed amongst students, partly because he had so much more experience than the rest of us but partly because he had brilliant debating powers. I mean one of the best I've ever heard. If you talk of tough political debates, well, he was absolutely unbeatable ... I knew him [at Oxford] when I was a Liberal [and] he played a part in converting me to socialism.[27]

Labour Club

When Lewis came to Oxford, the Labour Club was a tame organization adhering to Christian activism, or the genteel socialist theories of people such as R.H.Tawney and his book The Acquisitive Society. Lewis' modified Bundist interpretation of Marxism, that Smith labels "Parliamentary Marxism," ignited the renewed interest in the club after the disappointment with Ramsay MacDonald's Labour government.[28]

The Oxford newspaper Isis noted Lewis' leadership ability at this early stage in his career in their February 7, 1934 issue: "The energy of these University Socialists is almost unbelievable. If the Socialist movement as a whole is anything like as active as they are, then a socialist victory at the next election is inevitable."[29]

In February 1934, British fascist William Joyce, (Lord Haw Haw), visited Oxford. Lewis and future Ontario CCF leader Ted Jolliffe, organized a noisy protest against the fascist, by simply planting Labour Club members, in the dance hall that Joyce was speaking in, and causing a commotion as groups of two and three, left making much noise on the creaking wooden floors. The speech was foiled. Afterwards, the Blackshirt contingent had a street battle in Oxford with members of the Labour Club and the townsfolk.[30]

Lewis prevented the communists from really making inroads at Oxford. He increased the Labour Club's membership by three quarters by the time he left.[31] Ted Jolliffe stated "there was a difference between his speeches at the Union and his speeches at the Labour Club. His speeches at the Union had more humour in them; the atmosphere was entirely different. But his speeches at the Labour Club were deadly serious ... His influence at the Labour Club, more than anyone else's, I think, explains the failure of the Communists to make headway there. Here were so many naive people around who could have been taken in."[32]

Oxford Union

At the end of January 1933, Lewis made his first appearance at the Oxford Union, probably the most prestigious and important debating club in the English speaking world.[33] The debate was on the resolution "That the British Empire is a menace to International good will" and, Lewis was one of the participants for the "Aye" side.[33] They lost.

The debate that brought Lewis to some level of early prominence was the debate on February 9, 1933. The debate topic was so controversial, that it was news around the British Empire and beyond.[34] The resolution was, "That this House will under no circumstances fight for its King or Country." Lewis again spoke for the "Aye" side. They won overwhelmingly and this caused an uproar throughout the Empire's newspapers.[34] The Times of London entered the fray by poo-pooing those that took the Union and their motion seriously.[34]

Lewis became a member of the Union's Library Committee on March 9, 1933, eventually progressing to the treasurer's position in March 1934. After two attempts, he became the president of the Union by winning a close election in late November 1934. He was president during the Hilary Term, from the beginning of January until the end of April 1935.[35] The Isis commented that "... David Lewis ... will be, beyond question, the least Oxonian person ever to the lead the Society. In appearance, background, and intellectual outlook he is a grim antithesis to all the suave, slightly delicate young men who for generations have sat on the Union rostrum ..."[36]

British Labour Party

David Lewis was a very bright star in the British Labour Party. Upon his graduation, in 1935, the Labour Party offered him a safe seat in the British House of Commons.[37] At the time of his graduation, Lewis hit a proverbial fork-in-the-road: stay in England or go home to Canada. If he were to stay in England, he likely would have been a partner in a prominent London law firm associated with Stafford Cripps, and become a cabinet minister the next time Labour formed government.[14] Cripps, then a prominent barrister and Labour Party official, was grooming Lewis to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Lewis' other choice was to return to Montreal and help build the fledgling Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), with no financial nor political assuredness. In the end, he gave up certain success in England and sailed back to Canada to work for the CCF.[37]

Lewis' democratic socialism

In accordance with Bundism, he rejected the need for both the necessity for violent revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Bund insisted that the revolution should be sought through democratic means, as Marx had judged possible in the late 1860s, and that democratic procedures should continue to prevail for everyone after the revolution.[38]

Fabianism mainly influenced him in terms of policies that could be implemented, and in procedures that underlined democratic practices, not in his determination to lay siege to the power structure.[39] The British Labour Party, with its parliamentary approach to attaining power, and its organizational prowess, was similar to the Bund's approach. [28] As Lewis biographer Cameron Smith points out:

So what he ended up with was a modified Bundist interpretation of Marxism. Call it, if you will, Parliamentary Marxism. It was a Marxian analysis of economics and a parliamentary approach to politics. And if David were forced to choose, he would have chosen Parliamentary over Marxism.[28]

Back to Canada, marriage, and the Social Gospel cohabits with Marx

After he and Sophie Carson returned to Montreal from Oxford, they wed. They were married on August 15, 1935 in his parents' home, with a rabbi performing a mainly civil law ceremony, as most traditional Jewish practices were not observed.[40]

J. S. Woodsworth personally wrote a handwritten note on June 19, 1935 asking Lewis to come back to Canada and work for the CCF.[41] In 1935 David Lewis became the National Secretary. As Lewis biographer Cameron Smith put it:

Into this political whirlwind stepped David. A centralist in a nation that was decentralizing. A socialist in a country that voted solidly capitalist. A campaigner for a party with no money, facing two parties each of which was big, powerful, and affluent. A professional, in a party of amateurs who mostly thought of themselves as a movement, not a party. An anti-Communist at a time when Canadian Communists were about to enter their heyday. A publicist seeking a unified voice for a party riven with dissent. An organizer whose leader, J.S. Woodsworth, really didn't believe in organization, thinking that the CCF should remain a loosely knit, co-operative association and believed this so implicitly that when it came time to appoint Lewis full-time to the job of national secretary [in 1938] he resisted, fearing the CCF would lose its spontaneity. That Lewis not only survived, but prevailed is a testament to his skill and perseverance.[42]

Most of the founders of the CCF – J. S. Woodsworth, T. C. Douglas, M. J. Coldwell, Stanley Knowles, etc., – were informed by the Social Gospel of the Christian Protestant-movement.[43] David Lewis' Marxist based socialism, balanced by the Bund's fundamentally democratic principles, felt an affinity to the Social Gospel. Both the Bund and the Social Gospel were focused on the here and now, not some reward in the afterlife. They both called on people to change their environment for the better – by themselves – and not hope that one day, God might do it for them. Social Justice, the brotherhood of man, the morality of striving to become a good person, were all in common to both projects.[43]

CCF National Secretary

It became obvious after the October 1937 Ontario election that the party needed an image change. It was seen by the electorate as far too Left.[44] F.R. Scott wrote to Lewis to point this out.[45] He mentioned not only moderating some of the policies, but "... in the political arena we must find our friends among the near right."[45]

In August 1938, David Lewis quit the Ottawa law firm of Smart and Biggar to work full-time as CCF National Secretary. His starting salary was $1,200 per year.[46]

Make this your Canada

Make this YOUR CANADA was a book that Lewis co-wrote, with F.R. Scott – then the CCF's National Chairman, in 1943. Its basic tenants were that national economic planning had proven itself during wartime conditions, with the King government imposing wage and price controls by way of the Wartime Prices and Trade Board.[47] There was enough evidence, according to them, to indicated that since it worked in wartime, why not apply it to create peace-time prosperity in a mixed economy?[48] They also called for social ownership of key economic sectors, and have a company prove that it can work better in the private sector rather than the public.[49] The book also outlined the early history of the CCF up until that time and explained how the party made decisions. It was by Canadian standards a popular book, selling over 25,000 copies in its first year of publication.[46][50]

Trying to create an organization

During his tenure as the National Secretary, he emphasized organization over ideology and forging links to unions.[44] From this point forward, Lewis worked to moderate the party's image and remove the more radical language of the Regina Manifesto that seemed to scare-off moderate voters. The offending lines in the Manifesto were: "[that] No CCF government will rest content until it has eradicated capitalism and put into operation the full programme of socialized planning ..."[51] Lewis, Federal Party Leader M.J. Coldwell and Clarie Gillis would spend the next 19 years trying to modify this declaration, finally succeeding with the 1956 Winnipeg Declaration.

A key concession that Lewis won at the November 1944 convention was "that even large business could have a place in the party – if they behave."[52] The key concern was monopoly capitalism, and how to prevent it. Specifically, Lewis was able to pass the following resolution "The socialization of large-scale enterprise, however, does not mean taking over every private business. Where private business shows no signs of becoming a monopoly, operates efficiently under decent working conditions, and does not operate to the detriment of the Canadian people, it will be given every opportunity to function, to provide a fair rate of return and to make its contribution to the nation's wealth.[53] This allowed for a mixed-economy, that still left most jobs in the private sphere.[54]

Federal Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) delegation attending the September 1944 Conference of Commonwealth Labour Parties in London, England . Pictured from left to right: Clarie Gillis, MP for Cape Breton South; David Lewis, National Secretary; M.J. Coldwell, National Leader, MP for Rosetown—Biggar, Percy E. Wright, MP for Melfort; and Frank Scott, National Chairman.

If anything, Lewis was keenly aware that the struggle was to not remain "ideologically pure," and that the party had to watch what it said. As the old Bundists knew "it was better to go along with the masses in a not totally correct direction than to separate oneself from them and remain "purist".[55] The problem was that the CCF was as much a "movement" as it was a "political party." Members frequently undermined the party. Lewis criticized the British Columbia CCF for recent comments published in their paper: "... what we say and do must be measured by the effect which it will have on our purpose of mobilizing people for action. If what we say and do will blunt or harm our purpose ... then we are saying and doing a false thing even if, in the abstract, it is true ... When, in heaven's name are we going to learn that working-class politics and the struggle for power are not a Sunday-school class where purity of godliness and the infallibility of the Bible must be held up without fear of consequences."[54]

David Lewis was the party's "heavy" and as such was the bearer of bad news. This apparently did not help his popularity. But considering he witnessed first-hand the Left self-destruct in 1930s Europe, he was quick to end self-immolating tactics or policies.[56] He would tolerate party members criticizing the party, but when it evolved into self mutilation, he cut it down with a pitiless, decisively cut-throat urgency, before it could harm the CCF.[56] This was most apparent when Lewis attacked and discredited Frank Underhill and his handling of Woodsworth House. It didn't matter that Underhill was one of Lewis' mentors, when Woodsworth House was stricken with financial difficulties in the late 1940s, Lewis was quick to blame and then discharged Underhill and the rest of the Woodsworth executive of their responsibilities. It was an unfortunate event that cost the CCF in the academic and intelligentsia world.[56] To sum up Lewis' reign, discipline and solidarity were paramount. There had to be limits to discussion and tolerance of dissenting views.

1943 Cartier by-election

Lewis first ran for the CCF in the 1940 federal election as the party's candidate in York West where he placed a poor third, receiving 8,330 fewer votes than the second place Liberal candidate, Chris j. Bennett.[57] Despite his poor showing in his first election, the party asked Lewis to run in the 1943 by-election in the Montreal, Quebec federal riding of Cartier. It became vacant due to the death of its MP, Peter Bercovitch on Boxing Day 1942 (December 26). Lewis was up against Fred Rose, the Communist Party candidate. It was a vicious campaign, that A.M. Klein immortalized in an uncompleted novel called Come the Revolution.[58] The novel was eventually broadcast in the 1980s on Lister Sinclair's[59] Ideas programme on CBC Radio One.[58] If the Communist rhetoric could be believed: "Lewis was a Fascist done up in brown."[60]

On election day, Lewis experienced something he was not accustomed to in his career to date: defeat and humiliation. It was a bitterly fought campaign, the likes of which could be traced back to Svilotch and the battles between the Red and White armies in the Russian Civil War.[58] Rose won and became the only (as of 2009), Communist to sit in the House of Commons as a Member of Parliament. Lewis placed fourth. The sizable Jewish vote mostly went to Rose. The leftist "common front" punished Lewis, by supporting Rose who was seen to be of the community because Lewis was, at the time, living in Ottawa. It took Lewis many years to recover from this campaign, and in 1945, the reverberation of this campaign coloured Lewis' decision on where to run.[61]

By-election on August 9, 1943: Cartier electoral district
Party Candidate Votes %
     Labour-Progressive Fred Rose 5,789 30.42
     Bloc populaire canadien Paul Masse 5,639 29.63
     Liberal Lazarus Phillips 4,180 21.97
     Co-operative Commonwealth David Lewis 3,313 17.41
     Independent Moses Miller 109 0.57

1945 elections: disappointment and defeat

Two men in shirt sleeves sitting side-by-side behind a large desk. Lewis, on the left, is making notes, while Coldwell is turning over a page in a folder on the desk in front of him.
M. J. Coldwell and David Lewis looking over some papers together

The Canadian federal and the Ontario elections of 1945 were possibly the most crucial to Canada in the 20th century.[61] As in Britain, it was the time of the beginning of the Welfare State, and depending on which party got in, would literally set the course of political thought, for good or ill, to the end of the century and beyond.[61] 1945 would turn out to be a disaster for the CCF, both nationally and in Ontario. The CCF would never fully recover from the 1945 electoral defeats, and would, in 1961, be forced to dissolve and become the New Democratic Party.[61] As NDP strategist and historian Gerald Caplan put it: "June 4, and June 11, 1945, proved to be black days in CCF annuals: socialism was effectively removed from the Canadian political agenda."[61]

The anti-socialist crusade by the Ontario Conservative Party, mostly credited to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) special investigative branch's agent D-208 (Captain William J. Osborne-Dempster), and the Conservative propagandists Gladstone Murray and Montague A. Sanderson,[62] were quite effective considering how high in the polls the CCF were in late 1943 and early 1944.[63] The September 1943 Gallop Poll showed the CCF leading nationally with 29 percent support.[64] The federal Liberals and Conservatives were tied for second place, each polling 28 percent.[64] By April 1945, the CCF were down to 20 percent nationally and were trending further downwards in the polls[64] On election day, the CCF only received 16 percent.[64]

The other side of this "perfect storm" for destroying the CCF's support was the unofficial coalition between the Liberal Party of Canada and the communist Labour-Progressive Party.[65] It guaranteed a split in the left-of-centre vote, with devastating effectiveness for both allies.[66]

Lewis ran in Hamilton West instead of a safe open Winnipeg riding that voted for the CCF since its inception and had a substantial Jewish population. Why he did this is not known and is open to debate. Historians and activists disagree on the exact reason, but the shock of the Cartier election probably made Lewis gun-shy to run in another knock-down battle with another Jewish Communist candidate.[66] Lewis was soundly defeated, along with his party in the June 11 election.[66] In the 1949 federal election, Lewis ran again in the Hamilton area, this time in the riding of Wentworth. Like every other federal election that he contested in the 1940s, he lost, coming a relatively distant third.[67]

Fighting Communist influence

The 1945 defeats were partially the result of an alliance between the Communist Party's representatives in Canada: the Labour-Progressive Party (LPP).[68] There was an unofficial alliance between the LPP and the Federal Liberals, and it cost the CCF seats in the House and Legislature. There is no question that the LPP focused in on CCF seats, and deliberately split the vote.[69] The LPP declared a "Liberal–Labour" coalition on May 29, 1944.[70]

The Communists, more or less, declared open warfare on the CCF in 1944, with spokesman John Weir stating in the LPP's Canadian Tribune newspaper that "a resounding defeat of the CCF at the polls must be [their] main objective.[71]

The Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL) supported the CCF, but the Trades and Labour Congress (TLC) refused to officially endorse them. This lack of unity between the two main Canadian umbrella labour organizations, to give their endorsement, hurt the CCF. This disunity was part of the Liberal–Communist alliance plan and was manifested in the TLC's governing body: president Percey Berough was a Liberal, and the vice-president Pat Sullivan was a Communist.[72] They made sure that the CCF did not get the support it needed to fight the 1945 elections.

In the Ontario provincial election, the communists then urged trade union members to vote for the right-wing Conservative, George Drew, rather than the CCF.[70]

Lewis and Charles Millard, of the Canadian Congress of Labour, decided to root the communists out of organized labour's decision-making bodies.[73] Their first target was the Sudbury, Ontario CCF riding association and its affiliated Mine, Mill Local 598.[74] The only problem was that Local 598 was not under Communist control: out of 11,000 dues-paying members, very few were communists (fewer than 100).[75] Over the next twenty years, a fierce battle was waged to take over Local 598 by Millard's United Steel Workers of America. Steel won.

The attacks on the Sudbury CCF were even more costly, at least in terms of voter support. Sudbury's Bob Carlin was one of the few CCF Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) to survive the Drew government's landslide victory in the 1945 Ontario election. He was part of Jolliffe's team that made the CCF's breakthrough in the 1943 Ontario provincial election. But first and foremost, he was a union man. He was a long-time labour organizer, going back to 1916 and the predecessor union to Mine, Mill: the Western Federation of Miners. Carlin was loyal to his union, Local 598, and he spent ten years building it up, making himself unpopular with the CCF establishment in both Toronto and Ottawa.[76]

Charles Millard, Ted Jolliffe, and David Lewis did not directly accuse Carlin of being a communist. Instead, they attacked him for not dealing with the perceived problem of communists in the Sudbury Mine Mill local. Local 598 was built by both Communists and CCFers, with the CCFers firmly in control of the executive. Carlin's first loyalty was to the men and women who helped build Local 598, regardless of their political affiliation. This is what got him in trouble with Lewis and Jolliffe. So Lewis and Jolliffe made the case to expel him from the Ontario CCF caucus at a special meeting of the CCF executive and the legislative caucus in Toronto on April 13, 1948.[77] In essence, Carlin became a causality of Steel's plans to raid Mine, Mill. The CCF lost the seat in the 1948 Ontario election, placing forth to the Conservatives and Carlin, as an independent, finished a heartbreakingly close second.[78] It was not until the CCF became the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Mine Mill/Steelworkers war was over in 1967, that another social democrat – Elie Martel in Sudbury East – was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from the city.[79]

Lewis and Millard's crusade to limit and end communist influence in trade unions and politics received an unexpected boost from the Soviet Union, in Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 denunciation of Stalinism. In his "Secret Speech", On the Personality Cult and its Consequences, delivered to a closed session of the 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev denounced Stalin for his cult of personality, and his regime for "violation of Leninist norms of legality". When the excesses of Stalin's regime were exposed, it caused a split in the communist movement in Canada. This permanently weakened it into a shadow of its former self. By the end of 1956, the LPP's influence in the trade union movement and politics was spent.[80]

Private labour law practice

Lewis resigned as national secretary in 1950 and moved to Toronto to practise law in partnership with Ted Jolliffe. He became the chief legal advisor to the United Steel Workers of America's Canadian division, and assisted them in their organizing efforts and in their battles with the Mine, Mill union.[81] Lewis mainly focused on his law practice for the next five years.[82] In his first year, he paid more in income taxes than he made on his yearly CCF National Secretary's salary.[82]

He bought his first house in the Bathurst StreetSt. Clair Avenue West area of Toronto during this period. His father Moishe died in 1951 in Montreal. After his death, David's mother Rose moved into the 95 Burnside Drive Lewis home.[82] This is the home where his son Stephen Lewis would spend his teenage years, and the other three children would grow up.

Winnipeg Declaration and the New Party

Politics was in David Lewis' soul, so after five years of limited involvement with CCF internal politics, he became one of the drafters of the 1956 Winnipeg Declaration, which replaced the Regina Manifesto.[83] The lead-up to the August 1956 CCF convention had Lewis working full-time in his labour practice, which included working on the merger of the Canadian Congress of Labour and the Trades and Labour Congress to form the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and putting in long hours organizing the committee that wrote the Declaration. He worked so hard that he collapsed in his office in May 1956. After going through several tests for a possible cardiac condition, the doctors deduced that Lewis collapsed of exhaustion.[84] He stayed in bed for a week and recovered enough to guarantee that the Manifesto's successor would pass ten weeks later. The convention was the last hurrah for the CCF. Even with the Declaration's modified tone that removed state planning and nationalization of industry as central tenets of the party's platform, the CCF suffered a crippling defeat in the 1958 federal election that became known as the "Diefenbaker sweep".[85] It was obvious to Lewis, M.J. Coldwell and the rest of the CCF executive that the CCF could not continue as it was, and with the co-operation of CLC, started exploring how to broaden its appeal.[86]

CCF President

In 1958, Lewis worked closely with the CLC's president, Claude Jodoin, and the CLC's executive vice-president Stanley Knowles[87] to formally merge the labour and social democratic movements into a new party. Coldwell did not want to continue on as the party's National Leader, because he lost his parliamentary seat in the recent federal election. Lewis persuaded him to stay on until the new party was formed.[88] Lewis was elected party president at the July 1958 convention in Montreal. The convention also endorsed a motion to have the executive and National Council "enter into discussions with Canadian Labour Congress" and other like-minded groups to prepare for a new party.[89]

Leadership succession crisis

By 1960, progress was being made in creating a new party, but Lewis had to play the heavy again, and try to keep the federal House of Commons leader from causing an open leadership crisis. Since Coldwell lost his seat, he constantly was thinking of resigning his post, but was asked by the party, many times, to stay on as National Leader. With Coldwell's defeat, the party needed someone to be its leader in the House. In 1958, the CCF caucus chose Hazen Argue as the new House leader.[88] During the lead-up to the 1960 CCF convention, Argue was pressing for Coldwell to step down. This leadership challenge would mean that plans for an orderly transition to the New Party would be in jeopardy, something that the CLC's and CCF's organizers, headed by Lewis, did not want. They wanted the most successful social democratic leader in Canada to be their leader: that meant Saskatchewan premier, Tommy Douglas.[90] To prevent their plans from derailing, David Lewis had to try to find a way to persuade Argue not to force a vote on the question of the party's leadership. Lewis wasn't successful. There was a split between the parliamentary caucus and the party's executive that made it to the convention floor. Coldwell quit and Argue became the National Leader.[91]

In the mid-1970s, David Lewis reflected on this incident and he realized that he did not handle the leadership transition well:

I, as president of the CCF, was very much in the wrong in trying to get a unanimous vote for Tommy. It arose out of a tradition we had had – no one opposed Woodsworth, no one had opposed Coldwell. They were chosen.

I met with Hazen and tried to dissuade him from being a candidate. It was wrong. This attitude produced bitterness around the Hazen-Douglas contest.[92]

In July 1961, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) became the New Democratic Party (NDP). They elected Tommy Douglas as their leader by a convincing 1391 to 380 victory over Hazen Argue. Six months later, Argue quit the party and crossed the floor to join the Liberal Party.[93]

1962–1971: Member of Parliament for York South

Just as David Lewis drafted Tommy Douglas for the top job of the NDP, Douglas returned the favour two days after the NDP's 1961 founding convention was over. He wrote a letter to Sophie Lewis, David's wife, telling her that David must run.[94] He decided to run in his home riding of York South, which at the time, the provincial riding seat was held by the NDP's Ontario leader, Donald C. MacDonald.

Diefenbaker's government had to call an election sometime in 1962, so there was enough time to start planning Lewis' campaign. He had two campaign managers: his son Stephen Lewis, and Gerry Caplan.[95] One of their main strategies was to gain votes in the riding's affluent Jewish enclave in the Village of Forest Hill. Lewis, however was not active in Toronto's Jewish community.[96] He was perceived as an outsider because he did not take part in community events or belong to a synagogue. It was also known that his Bundist politics meant that he did not support the creation of the state of Israel, which did not sit well with the mostly Zionist community. It took extra effort on Stephen and Caplan's part to convince them to vote for David, both as a Jewish voice, and then as someone that would not harm their businesses.[96] On the campaign trail, in his role as party national vice-president, David Lewis had to tackle the impending doctor's strike in Saskatchewan, due to the implementation of Medicare in July.[97] He called the province's doctors "blackmailers" for suggesting such a strike.[97] He also appeared on one of the few national television spots allocated to the NDP during the campaign.[98] He appeared on the national CTV Television Network with Walter Pitman to present the NDP's platform on a planned economy, in a conversational-style election broadcast.[98] On June 18, 1962 David Lewis won York South, and finally became an MP.[99] Since Tommy Douglas failed in his attempt to get elected to the House of Commons, Lewis was considered the front-runner to become house leader until Douglas entered the house in a by-election in October.[99]

Canadian federal election, 1962
Party Candidate Votes %
     New Democratic Party David Lewis 19,101 40.42
     Liberal Marvin Gelber 15,423 32.64
     Progressive Conservative William G. Beech 12,552 26.56
     Social Credit Reinald Nochakoff 179 0.38

Lewis did not get a chance to serve for long, as the minority government of John Diefenbaker finally was defeated in the April 8, 1963 general election. In the anti-Social Credit Party backlash, a party that was perceived to be anti-Semitic, Lewis' new-found support in Forest Hill evaporated and returned to the Liberals to guarantee that the Socreds were contained.[100] This would only be a temporary set-back for him though. With Diefenbaker in opposition, and unlikely to resurrect the coalition in Quebec that gave him his majority in 1958, and the perceived anti-Jewish Social Credit were a diminished force, Lewis was able to regain the confidence of the voters in Forest Hill.[101] He won the 1965 general election and would do so through two more elections, becoming the House Leader when Tommy Douglas was defeated in the 1968 general election.[101][102] At the 1969 Winnipeg National Convention, Douglas announced that he intended to step-down as leader by 1971, which meant that Lewis became the de facto leader during this time.[102]

The October 1970 Quebec FLQ Crisis put Lewis in the spotlight, as he was the only NDP MP at the time that had any roots in Quebec. He and Douglas were opposed to the implementation of the War Measures Act on October 16, 1970.[103] 16 of the 20 members of the NDP parliamentary caucus voted against the implementation of the War Measures Act in the House of Commons.[104] They took much grief for being the only parliamentarians to vote against it.[103] Lewis stated at a press scrum that day: "The information we do have, showed a situation of criminal acts and criminal conspiracy in Quebec. But, there is no information that there was unintended, or apprehended, or planned insurrection, which alone, would justify invoking the War Measures Act."[105] About five years later, many of the MPs that voted to implement the Act, regretted that they did, and belatedly honoured Douglas and Lewis for their stand against it.[103] Progressive Conservative leader Robert Stanfield went so far as to say that, "Quite frankly, I've admired Tommy Douglas and David Lewis, and those fellows in the NDP for having the courage to vote against that, although they took a lot of abuse at the time....I don't brood about it. I'm not proud of it."[103]

Leader of the NDP

David's son, Stephen Lewis, was coming into his own during this period. Starting in 1963, at the age of 26, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Following the engineered 1970 resignation of Donald C. MacDonald,[106] Stephen was elected leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party. During the early to mid 1970s, the father and son team would lead the two largest sections of the NDP.

In February 1968, Stephen Lewis, as a supposed representative of the Ontario NDP legislative caucus, asked Tommy Douglas to step down as leader, so that a younger person could take over.[107] Douglas and his staff were taken aback by this suggestion, but the circumstances on the ground changed, as a federal election was called for that June, shortly after the meeting.[107] Donald C. MacDonald, remembers the situation a little differently, as he stated that Lewis was not an official caucus representative, but was acting on his own.[108] MacDonald would get his own visit from Lewis later in 1968. On October 28, 1969, at the federal NDP Winnipeg convention, Douglas made it official that he would step down as leader before the next convention in 1971.[109]

In 1971, David Lewis ran to succeed Douglas as National Leader, who was stepping down after ten years at the helm.[110] The 1971 leadership convention was a tumultuous affair.[111] A new generation of NDP activists known as The Waffle, proposed many controversial resolutions regarding nationalization of all natural resource industries, and Quebec Sovereignty.[111] It took the combined efforts of the NDP establishment — and the sizable trade union delegation — to vote down these resolutions, causing many bitter debates and divided the convention along Waffle/Establishment lines.[111] Lewis, as the leading establishment figure, won the party's leadership on April 24, 1971, in a surprisingly close, contested race, that required four ballots before he could claim victory.[112] Part of the reason for the close race was James Laxer, The Waffle candidate that had been prominently featured in the media leading up to and during the convention.[112] Lewis' perceived heavy-handed tactics in dealing with The Waffle at this and previous conventions had made him enough enemies to make the leadership race 'interesting'.[113 ] As well, Lewis was involved in most of the internal conflicts within the CCF/NDP during the previous 36 years, so many members who had felt his wrath as party disciplinarian during this period, plotted their revenge against him.[113 ] At his first press conference after winning the leadership, Lewis stated that he was not beholden to the Waffle, as they were soundly defeated on the floor, and he made no promises to them.[114] He also took on the party's Quebec wing, stating that they could continue to theorize about possible self-determination resolutions, but come election time, they must pledge themselves to the party's newly-confirmed federalist policy.[114] He did not purge the Waffle from the NDP, instead leaving it to his son Stephen to do in June 1972, when the party's Ontario wing resolved to disband the Waffle, or kick its members out of the party if they did not comply with the disbanding order.[115]

He led the NDP through the 1972 federal election in which he uttered his best known quotation calling Canadian corporations "corporate welfare bums".[116] That election campaign returned a Liberal minority government and elected the greatest number of NDP MPs until the 1988 "Free Trade" general election, and left the NDP holding the balance of power until 1974. The NDP propped up the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau in exchange for the implementation of NDP proposals such as the creation of Petro-Canada as a crown corporation. Lewis really wanted to topple the government in a vote of no-confidence as early as possible, because he saw no strategic advantage to propping up the Trudeau government: Trudeau would get the credit if the program was well received and the NDP would be vilified if it were unpopular.[117] In hindsight, Lewis' no-win evaluation of the situation was correct: the party would not be rewarded for its efforts by the electorate.[117]

In the 1974 election, the NDP were reduced to 16 seats and, Lewis lost his seat in Parliament, leading him to resign as party leader in 1975. It was revealed immediately after the election that he had been battling leukemia for about two years. It is reported that Lewis had kept everyone, including his family, unaware of his condition.[118]

Canadian federal election, 1974
Party Candidate Votes %
     Liberal Ursula Appolloni 12,485 43.10
     New Democratic Party David Lewis 10,622 36.67
     Progressive Conservative Paul J. Schrieder 5,557 19.18
     Independent Richard Sanders 103 0.04
     Marxist-Leninist Keith Corkhill 102 0.04
     Independent Robert Douglas Sproule 97 0.03

Awards and death

In December 1976, Lewis was appointed as a Companion of the Order of Canada, with his investiture held on April 20, 1977.[119] He was awarded the highest level of the Order of Canada as,"recognition of the contributions he has made to Labour and social reform and the deep concern he has had over the years for his adopted country."[119] He became a professor at the Institute of Canadian Studies, at Carleton University in Ottawa during this time.[25] In 1978, Lewis visited Svisloch one last time, and noted that, "[t]here was none. Not one Jew now lives there."[25] The Holocaust wiped out the town's Jewish community, and with it, his extended family.[25]

David Lewis completed the first volume, of a planned two volume set, of his memoirs, The Good Fight: Political Memoirs 1909–1958 in 1981.[25] He died shortly thereafter — on May 23, 1981 — in Ottawa.[25] He is the father of Stephen Lewis, a former Ontario New Democratic Party leader and in the early and mid 2000s was the United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. His other son, Michael Lewis, was a former Ontario New Democratic Party Secretary, and a leading organizer in the NDP. He is also the father of Janet Solberg, former president of the Ontario New Democratic Party in the 1980s. His other twin daughter is Nina Libeskind, the wife and business partner of architect Daniel Libeskind. Broadcaster Avram (Avi) Lewis is his grandson. Avi's parents are Stephen Lewis and Michele Landsberg.


  1. ^ His actual date of birth is unknown. When he emigrated from Russia to Canada in 1921, he did not speak English, and according to his daughter Janet Solberg June 23 was the first date that popped into his head when the immigration officer asked him when he was born. (Smith, pp.93,542) Smith identifies October as a best guess, since the only specifics given were that he was born "right after the first snows in 1909". (Smith, pp.93,542)
  2. ^ Smith, p.93
  3. ^ Smith, p.87
  4. ^ a b Lewis, David (1978-07-15). "Lewis finds Nazi-like mentality in Russia". The Toronto Star (Toronto: Torstar): pp. 1, 3.  
  5. ^ Smith p.11
  6. ^ a b c Tobias, pp. 312-316
  7. ^ a b Kosovsky, p.133
  8. ^ Smith. pp.17–19
  9. ^ Smith, pp.114–15
  10. ^ Smith, p.115
  11. ^ Lewis 1981, p.12
  12. ^ Smith, p.152
  13. ^ Smith, p. 396
  14. ^ a b Frayne, Trent (1971-04-17). "David Lewis has it all to win NDP leadership except for his age: 61". The Toronto Star (Toronto: Torstar): pp. 11.  
  15. ^ Smith, p.125
  16. ^ Smith, p.146,148–149
  17. ^ Smith, p.146
  18. ^ Smith, p.150
  19. ^ Lewis 1981, pp.29–30
  20. ^ Smith, p.155
  21. ^ Lewis 1981, p.24
  22. ^ a b c Smith, p.157
  23. ^ Smith, p.159
  24. ^ Lewis 1981, p.32
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h Ward, Bruce (1981-05-24). "David Lewis' principles guided political career". The Toronto Star (Toronto: Torstar): pp. A4.  
  26. ^ Smith, p.178
  27. ^ Smith, p.161–162 interview with the author.
  28. ^ a b c Smith, p.187
  29. ^ The Isis (Oxford: Holywell Press): pp. 9. 1934-02-07.  
  30. ^ Smith, pp.194–195
  31. ^ Smith, p.196
  32. ^ Smith, p.196. Ted Jolliffe in an interview with the author.
  33. ^ a b Smith, p.180
  34. ^ a b c Smith, p.181
  35. ^ Smith, p.183
  36. ^ The Isis (Oxford: Holywell Press): pp. 7. 1934-11-28.  
  37. ^ a b Smith,p.197
  38. ^ Asher, p.22
  39. ^ Penner, p.51
  40. ^ Smith, p.199
  41. ^ Smith, p.198
  42. ^ Smith, p.248
  43. ^ a b Smith, p.232
  44. ^ a b Smith, p.290
  45. ^ a b Scott 1986, p.38
  46. ^ a b Caplan, p.111
  47. ^ Lewis & Scott, 1943, pp. 5–16
  48. ^ Lewis & Scott, 1943, pp.122–137
  49. ^ Lewis & Scott, 1943, pp.126–132
  50. ^ make this YOUR CANADA was re-printed in 2001, by the Hybrid Publishers Co-operative Ltd. – in time for the federal NDP Convention in Winnipeg that saw the battle to either disband the party and form a new party, or renew itself in other ways.
  51. ^ Stewart 2000, p.103
  52. ^ Smith, p.292
  53. ^ Lewis 1981, p.250
  54. ^ a b Smith, p.293
  55. ^ Smith, p.63
  56. ^ a b c Smith, p.295
  57. ^ "York West, Ontario (1914 – )" (HTML). History of Federal Ridings since 1867. Elections Canada. Retrieved 2007-07-05.  
  58. ^ a b c Smith, p.299
  59. ^ The same Lister Sinclair that co-wrote Ontario CCF leader Ted Jolliffe's "Gestapo" speech during the 1945 Ontario general election.
  60. ^ Smith, p.301
  61. ^ a b c d e Caplan, p.191
  62. ^ Caplan, pp.168–169
  63. ^ Caplan, p.193
  64. ^ a b c d McHenry, pp.135-137
  65. ^ Caplan, p.148
  66. ^ a b c Caplan, pp.157–158
  67. ^ "Wentworth, Ontario (1903–1966)" (HTML). History of Federal Ridings since 1867. Elections Canada. Retrieved 2007-07-05.  
  68. ^ Caplan, p.133
  69. ^ Caplan, p.117
  70. ^ a b Caplan, p.135
  71. ^ Canadian Tribune, December 16, 1944
  72. ^ Caplan, p.116
  73. ^ Smith, p.305
  74. ^ Smith, p.310
  75. ^ Smith, p.317. From Mike Soliski's The Case for Sudbury, p.4
  76. ^ Smith, p.316
  77. ^ Smith, p.318
  78. ^ Smith, pp.317–318
  79. ^ MacDonald, p.145
  80. ^ Smith, p.322
  81. ^ Smith, p.308
  82. ^ a b c Smith, p.336
  83. ^ Stewart 2000,pp.195–196
  84. ^ Smith, p.361
  85. ^ Stewart 2000, pp.195–196
  86. ^ Stewart 2000, pp.196–197
  87. ^ Knowles lost his Winnipeg seat in the "Diefenbaker Sweep", but was very quickly ushered into the CLC's executive.
  88. ^ a b Stewart 2000, p.211
  89. ^ Stewart 2000, p.210
  90. ^ McLeod & McLeod, pp.271,275
  91. ^ Stewart 2000, pp.211–212
  92. ^ Shackleton, pp.256–257
  93. ^ Stewart 2000, pp.213–214
  94. ^ Smith, p.391
  95. ^ Smith, p. 393
  96. ^ a b Smith, p.394
  97. ^ a b City Bureau (1962-05-04). "Sask. Doctors 'Blackmailers' Lewis Tells Pharmacists". The Toronto Star (Toronto: Torstar): pp. 57.  
  98. ^ a b City Bureau (1962-05-15). "Planned Economy Key To Full Employment--NDP". The Toronto Star (Toronto: Torstar): pp. 02.  
  99. ^ a b City Bureau (1962-06-19). "Fight For Health Plan David Lewis Pledges". The Toronto Star (Toronto: Torstar): pp. 25.  
  100. ^ Morton 1986, pp.42-43
  101. ^ a b Morton 1986, pp.64-68
  102. ^ a b McLeod & McLeod, pp.359-360
  103. ^ a b c d Janigan, Mary (1975-11-01). "Some MPs say they regret voting for War Measures". The Toronto Star (Toronto: Torstar): pp. 3.  
  104. ^ McLeod & McLeod, p.336
  105. ^ Spry, Robin (1973). "Action: the October crisis of 1970" (Video). NFB Documentary Feature Film. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2009-12-11.  Quoted from 55:55 to 56:08 mins.
  106. ^ MacDonald, pp.151–152
  107. ^ a b McLeod & McLeod, pp.341
  108. ^ Stewart 2003, p.269-271
  109. ^ Frank, Jones (1969-10-29). "Socialism is only way to stop youth 'revolt' Tommy Douglas says". The Toronto Star (Toronto: Torstar): pp. 1.  
  110. ^ Morton 1977,p.124
  111. ^ a b c Globe Editorial (1971-04-26). "A self-inflicted wound". The Globe and Mail (Toronto: CTVglobemedia): pp. 3.  
  112. ^ a b Goldblatt, Murry (1971-04-26). "Long road to the top". The Globe and Mail (Toronto: CTVglobemedia): pp. 3.  
  113. ^ a b Morton 1977, pp.124-126
  114. ^ a b Goldblatt, Murray (1971-04-26). "Lewis asserts his command: no pandering to the Waffle". The Globe and Mail (Toronto: CTVglobemedia): pp. 1.  
  115. ^ Sykes, Philip (1972-06-26). "Officially dead, the Waffle girds for its biggest battle". The Toronto Star (Toronto: Torstar): pp. 6.  
  116. ^ Morton 1977, p.119
  117. ^ a b Smith, p.474
  118. ^ Smith, p.477
  119. ^ a b "David Lewis C.C." (HTML). Honours, Order of Canada. Governor General of Canada. 2009-04-30. Retrieved 2009-11-08.  


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See also

External links

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