Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2020-03-01

The State, Organised Labour, and Wage Controls in Canada

Document type Thesis
Author Kraft, Allan David
Degree M.A., Sociology
Publisher McMaster University; Hamilton, Ont.
Date 1982
Pages vii, 354 pages
URL https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/handle/11375/10510

Abstract

The focus of this thesis is the Liberal government's program of mandatory wage and price controls introduced on October 14, 1975. Beginning with a brief discussion of the marxist theory of the state, the thesis examines prior experiences with wage restraint programs, the evolution of post-war industrial relations, and the emergence of symptoms of economic crisis toward the end of the 1960's. Thereafter it considers the progress of state efforts to introduce wage/ price restraint, the social forces which shaped the pattern of state intervention, the actual operations of the Anti-Inflation Board, and the character of organised labour's opposition to compulsory controls. The thesis argues that state intervention into the sphere of wage bargaining is one concrete example of the deeper contradictions which lie at the basis of the state structure. With the end of the long boom of post-war expansion, the underlying tendencies toward a crisis of capital accumulation became manifest. The deteriorating effectiveness of established techniques of economic management, and the failure of the Liberal government to develop a coherent program of capitalist planning set the immediate context for the program of wage and price controls. The objective of controls was to restrict the rate of wage increases, thereby easing the downward trend in profit levels and relaxing the fiscal crisis of the state. The record of the Anti-Inflation Board revealed two general characteristics of the current economic and social crisis. First, the capitalist state is virtually powerless to exercise any influence over the long term pattern of inflation and slump. At the present stage of capitalism, attempts to plan economic development simply exacerbate the inherent anarchy of capitalist production. Second, the weakness of organised labour's opposition to controls indicates the urgent necessity for a restructuring of the economic and political organisation of the working class in order to defend the economic and social gains of the postwar period.