The Waffle was a youthful, radical, left nationalist and socialist formation within the New Democratic Party. Formed in the heady days of 1969, the Waffle Manifesto was incredibly radical when read with today's eyes.
Our aim as democratic socialists is to build an independent socialist Canada. Our aim as supporters of the New Democratic Party is to make it a truly socialist party.
Sigh...I wonder when the last time anyone in or around the NDP used the word socialist. It is, of course, a document of its time, referring to "men" as a word covering everyone, ignoring Indigneous people altogether in its formulation of the founding two nations, and without a mention of equality for women, or women's liberation, as we called it in those days.
Yet the Waffle was an important factor in the development of these very social movements. It was women in the Waffle who fought for the NDP to accept women's liberation and women in leadership. They uniquely worked both inside and outside the party, creating a model of work that they also brought into the trade union movement. The Waffle women played a critical role in the shaping of the Canadian women's movement. As a result, Canada's women's movement included working class women and Canada has among the most feminist unions and social democratic parties in the world.
As a young woman I was attracted to the powerful women in the Waffle like Jackie Larkin and Varda Burstyn, both of whom remained active on the Left and in the women's movement. Waffle leaders like economist Mel Watkins and political scientist James Laxer continue to be relevant critics of the NDP.
In my view when the NDP expelled the Waffle, they cut out their heart by expelling the youth. It is true that the Waffle was sectarian towards the NDP, as was the culture of the time, and that the remnants of Cold War ideology made a rational response to this highly active opposition difficult, but still, it is hard to look back on the energy and creativity of the Waffle and not conclude that the NDP slit its own throat when they threw them out.