Published The Workers Advocate, Vol 12 No 8, September 5, 1982
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Over the last two years, we have pointed out that behind the full-scale war launched against our Party by the leadership of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) lies their Maoist and liquidationist deviations which pose a great danger to CPC (M-L) itself. In the period since its Third Congress in 1977, CPC(M-L) claims to have repudiated Maoism; but the truth is that, behind the cover of lip service to the repudiation of Maoism, the leadership of CPC (M-L) has fought hard to preserve their Maoist blunders. This has once again been confirmed by the recently held Fourth Congress of CPC(M-L).
The reports published by CPC(M-L) on this Congress indicate that it was marked by a series of irregularities. In April when the Congress was publicly announced, CPC(M-L) stressed very heavily that its central feature was the Political Report. And Peoples’s Canada Daily News announced in its first Weekly Edition on April 3 that this Report would begin to be published starting in No. 3 of the Weekly Edition. But almost five months have passed by, and not a single document has been released from the Congress. Moreover, it was reported in PCDN that the Congress did not even get to vote on the Political Report. Instead it voted on a resolution from the “Commission on the General Line of the CPC(M-L)” which said that “the Commission had studied the Report...considered the Report to be consistent with the general line of the Party and proposed that it be adopted.” (PCDN, Weekly Edition No. 1, April 3, 1982)
Of course, this is not the first time that CPC(M-L) has demonstrated such irregularities at its congresses. We can attest from our participation as a fraternal delegation at their Third Congress that major parts of the Political Resolution published afterwards were never discussed or voted on at the Congress itself. These major parts of the Resolution included, among other things, the decision to disband all the previously authorized basic units and committees of the Party, presumably to reconstitute them later. There were also gross irregularities manifested at the Special Congress in 1978.
Although the absence of documents makes it difficult to make a complete judgement of the Fourth Congress, the recent publication of a book by Comrade Hardial Bains, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPC(M-L), makes it possible to get a good idea of some of the key stands of this Congress. The first volume of this book, The Necessity for Revolution, was released around the time of the public announcement of the Fourth Congress. Indicating the connection between the line of the Congress and this book, PCDN carried in its April 10 edition a statement from a participant at the Congress that the “concrete analysis of the conditions of the revolution in Canada, summed up in the Political Report of the Central Committee to the Congress, submitted by Comrade Bains (is) fully documented in the new book The Necessity for Revolution.” (PCDN, Weekly Edition No. 2, p. 8, col. 1)
The book was originally promised in two volumes, the first giving CPC(M-L)’s analysis of the conditions of Canada, and the second containing their elaboration of various questions of the strategy and tactics of the Canadian revolution. But although it was declared in April that Volume II would be “off the press very shortly,” ads for it are no longer being printed in PCDN. It seems to have met the same fate as the documents of the Fourth Congress.
Although a complete picture of the Fourth Congress has to wait till some time in the future, depending on when (and if) the documents are ever published, the first volume of Hardial Bains’ book gives ample proof that on various fundamental questions of the strategy of the Canadian revolution, the Fourth Congress has fully preserved the serious Maoist deviations of that party.
These questions include the assessment of the basic character of Canada and the stage of revolution in that country. From their earliest days, CPC(M-L) and its predecessors have denied that Canada is an imperialist country in its own right, using the pretext that American monopoly capital is a major exploiter and oppressor of the working people of Canada. Instead they have depicted Canada as a colony or neo-colony of the U.S., likening it to the dependent and colonial or neo-colonial countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. This assessment of Canada has been used to deny that in Canada the main contradiction is between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. It has been used to negate the socialist character of the revolution. Instead, CPC(M-L) has painted the revolution in Canada in national liberation colors, presenting it as some sort of nonsocialist anti-colonial revolution or as in an anti-imperialist nonsocialist stage prior to some future socialist revolution.
Such positions are not Marxist-Leninist. They represent a Maoist deviation. It may be recalled that it was Maoism and its product, the “three worlds” theory, which grossly distorted the strategy of the revolution in the so-called “second world” imperialist countries of Europe, Japan and Canada. It negated the socialist revolution in these countries under the slogan that the main enemy of the working people of these countries was not the ruling domestic bourgeoisie but foreign imperialism. (For a fuller discussion of CPC(M-L)’s deviations on this question and their relation to Maoist “second worldism,” see the article “Against Mao Zedong Thought!,” Part Two, in The Workers’ Advocate. August 25, 1980.) It should also be noted that while CPC(M-L)’s petty-bourgeois nationalist position on the strategy for the Canadian revolution owes much of its inspiration to Maoism, this position is also common to the pro-Soviet revisionists of the “Communist Party of Canada” and the mainstream of Canadian social-democracy, who believe in a national struggle for independence as a precondition for socialism in Canada.
CPC(M-L) also adopted the “three worldist” theses on the character of the Canadian revolution, but it gave the application of this theory in Canada an extreme twist of their own. Certain Maoist groups in Canada were quite willing to give lip service to recognizing Canada as an imperialist country even as they asserted that the main struggle was for the defense of Canadian independence and sovereignty from the two superpowers. But CPC(M-L) actually preferred to paint Canada in “third world” colors by denouncing the idea of Canadian imperialism. After the “three worlds” theory came under fire from the world’s Marxist-Leninists, CPC(M-L) added their own “profound” criticism that one of the main problems with “three worldsism” was that it placed Canada among the imperialist countries of the “second world”!
The Maoist blunders of the leadership of CPC (M-L) have been enshrined in all its previous congresses and major documents. The Fourth Congress too has preserved this position intact. In fact, to a large part, the basic purpose of The Necessity for Revolution is to try to back up this untenable position. In this article, we will examine the falseness of Hardial Bains’ arguments denying Canadian imperialism and negating the socialist revolution, As well, at the end of this article is attached an appendix of reference material from the major historical documents of CPC(M-L) showing that this Maoist deviation runs as a common thread through the entire history of that party.
CPC(M-L) has accompanied the release of this book with the flourish of trumpets. Wild claims have been printed in PCDN that this book is “not only an extremely important ideological-political work for the Party and the Canadian revolution but also a definite contribution to the entire International Marxist-Leninist Communist Movement.”
Such claims cannot be lightly passed over. Irrespective of the question of the Fourth Congress, such hefty claims about the significance of this book would by themselves call for a close look at it. But we have to admit that our reading of this book does not bear out these extravagant claims one bit. In fact, it brings to mind the old tale of the emperor and his new clothes.
Despite all the pompous declarations, the book is worthless, no, actually harmful, to the revolutionary and Marxist-Leninist movement. One can throw around the phrase “necessity for revolution” a thousand and one times, as the book does, but it is utterly empty when the book shows nothing of the actual processes that are paving the way for the revolution, speaks not a word about the actual class struggle, nor discusses the character of the revolution or the concrete tasks facing the workers and Marxist-Leninists.
In fact, the book is an expression of complete charlatanism. It is based on no original research but contains mainly a haphazard repetition of various pieces of statistical information from the government of Canada. Many of these pieces of data are worthless, others are simply listed with no conclusions drawn, and some are used to “prove” such earthshaking discoveries that “the proletariat and other working people make up the vast majority of the population of Canada.” The author tries to use the data to back up his Maoist blunders on the character of Canada, and for that purpose he is downright dishonest with his use of the information. He juggles facts, highlights certain things while obscuring others, and so forth. But even so, facts are stubborn things and, if put together in a scientific manner, they end up refuting all his basic theses.
In the 1920’s and the 1930’s, the Communist International recognized Canada as an imperialist country. It held that the Canadian bourgeoisie pursued a policy of imperialist domination and steered a line definitely in its own interests. This stand was linked to a general recognition that the British Dominions, like Canada, could not be classified alongside the colonies like India, etc. Rather, in the Dominions, capitalist development reproduced among the white population the class structure of the metropolis while wiping out the native population. The Dominions thus were given equal, or nearly equal rights, within the given imperialist system.
The Comintern also strongly criticized deviationist positions in the Communist Party of Canada which denied the need to prepare for a socialist revolution under the pretext that Canada first needed to realize full independence from the British Empire or the U.S. The Comintern declared that “the revolution in Canada is a proletarian revolution and that the demand for ’Canadian independence’ is wrong on principle because it removes the eyes of the Canadian workers from their real enemy, the Canadian capitalists, abroad to America and Britain.”
One would think that in the present period, when the Canadian bourgeoisie is much stronger than in the 20’s and 30’s, the conclusions of the Comintern would be more valid than ever. One would at least think that the leadership of CPC(M-L), who claim to be outstanding theoreticians, making even contributions of worldwide significance, would explain why they disagree with the assessment of the Comintern about such a fundamental question. But they have consistently refused to deal with the assessment of the Communist International and have instead revived the worst traditions of the “independentist” deviators that attacked the Communist Party of Canada from within.
Indeed. CPC(M-L) from its earliest days has tried to establish a special reputation for itself with its vociferous denunciations of the idea that Canada is an imperialist country where the main contradiction is between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. For instance, the Political Report of April 1970, the founding document of CPC(M-L), characterized Canada as a ’“neo-colony of the U.S. imperialists” and went so far as to call the ruling Canadian bourgeoisie a “comprador bourgeoisie.” It explicitly placed the “contradiction between the working class, the laboring masses of both the urban and rural petit-bourgeoisie, and the capitalists” in a secondary position with respect to its view of the principal contradiction, that “between U.S. imperialism and its lackeys, the Canadian compradors, and the Canadian people.” (CPC(M-L) Documents - Political Reports 1970 and 1973. p. 11)
The last full congress of CPC(M-L), the Third Congress in March 1977, described Canada as “like a colony.” It denounced the idea of calling “Canada an imperialist power with the main contradiction being that between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat” as a position of “opportunist sects.” (Political Resolution of the Third Congress of CPC(M-L). pp. 17-18) In line with these views on the character of Canada, CPC(M-L) has consistently denied that the revolution in Canada is a proletarian socialist one.
However, in recent years, the leadership of CPC (M-L) has adopted the maneuver of evading any direct statements on the question of the existence of Canadian imperialism, while maintaining their deviationist positions intact. Thus, unlike many documents of the past, Hardial Bains’ new book never openly opposes the idea that Canada is an imperialist power. Instead it tries to confuse the less than careful reader with various remarks which appear at first sight to be characterizations admitting the existence of Canadian imperialism. For instance, it even acknowledges that there is an “imperialist bourgeoisie” among the Canadian capitalists. But never, not once, does the book, or for that matter, anything in the pages of PCDN ever openly, directly and unequivocally state that Canada is an imperialist country.
This is no unconscious slip of the pen, but a calculated evasion in order to fully preserve their blunders, while throwing a few sops in the direction of their critics who accuse them of denying Canadian imperialism. This is further proven by the fact that CPC(M-L) has not ceased to paint Canada as a colony, attributing to it features which are applicable only to many of the dependent and neo-colonial countries. The basic thesis of The Necessity for Revolution is that:
...Canada is a virtual colony of the United States, and in a very real sense can be considered as the 51st American state. (p. 106, emphasis added)
Hence, the stand of the Fourth Congress, as presented in this book, is fully consistent with the longstanding positions of CPC(M-L). Indeed, by presenting Canada as a “virtual colony” and as the “51st American state,” their stand is more extreme than ever. It should be noted that their shift in formulations, such as their acknowledgement of an “imperialist bourgeoisie” and so forth, do not at all rectify the basic problem of their deviationist line. In fact, even if they were to concede to calling Canada an imperialist country, it would not solve the problem so long as they continued to deny that the main contradiction in Canada is between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and to deny that the Canadian revolution is socialist. As we have already noted, this would only mean climbing from a “third worldist” stand on Canada to a “second worldist” position which admits that Canada is imperialist but still denies the class struggle and the socialist revolution.
In later sections of this article, we will examine the particular arguments made in The Necessity for Revolution which justify their painting Canada as a colony of the U.S. But at the outset, we would like to make it clear that the issue at stake here is not whether U.S. imperialism exploits and oppresses the working people of Canada. There is no question about that. Indeed, our Party has consistently opposed the U.S. imperialists’ trampling over the masses around the world, both in the dependent and neo-colonial countries and in the developed capitalist nations.
The issue at stake in this examination of CPC (M-L)’s stand is what is the real nature of Canadian society, what position does the Canadian bourgeoisie hold in the exploitation and oppression of the Canadian people, and the implications for the class struggle and the revolution in that country. While firmly opposing U.S. imperialist oppression in Canada, our Party does not believe that the Marxist-Leninists and workers of the U.S. should acquiesce to painting petty-bourgeois nationalism in Marxist-Leninist colors or give our support to the stepped-up strivings of the Canadian imperialists in their rivalry with U.S. imperialism. Taking the heat off the Canadian bourgeoisie, one of U.S. imperialism’s main allies in the world, is no service to the struggle against U.S. imperialism. Rather, our solidarity is with the struggle of the Canadian proletariat for emancipation, the struggle against the capitalist class, which is the fight that leads to the overthrow of U.S. imperialist oppression of Canada as well.
In his book, Hardial Bains tries his best to dishonestly juggle the statistical information to depict Canada as a colony. But despite these efforts, he fails to obliterate certain basic facts about the Canadian bourgeoisie which make it incontrovertibly imperialist. Indeed, one only has to intelligently put together a series of facts that Bains himself provides to prove that one is dealing here with no poor lamb, no mere colony, but one of the major imperialist countries in the modern world.
All the essential features which Lenin described as characteristic of imperialism are operating with full force in Canada.
First, take the question of the monopolization of the economy, which Lenin described as economically the main thing in the process of the emergence of imperialism in a country. Hardial Bains devotes a whole chapter of his book on this issue. He reports that the level of concentration of the capitalist enterprises in Canada is high even in comparison with other major imperialist countries. He writes: “In 1975, for instance, the largest 100 firms in Canada accounted for 35 percent of domestic assets, a higher level of concentration than in the U.S., West Germany, Japan, Sweden and France.” (p. 51) He also describes the massive existence of state monopolies in the Canadian economy. Thus monopoly is the dominant feature of the Canadian economy.
Second, in Canada just as in other imperialist countries, we encounter the phenomenon of the monopolistic position of a handful of banks which dominate the entire country and are powerful centers of capital. In this regard. Bains admits:
In Canada, the process of concentration in the field of banking is extremely advanced, to the point where there are only 11 domestic chartered banks in the entire country, with about 7,400 branches in every community, large and small.
... Together the ’big five’ banks account for more than 90 percent of the assets of all the banks.
The biggest of the Canadian banks are considered large even by international standards. The ’big five’ are all ranked among the top 300 banks in the world, and the three biggest Canadian banks are ranked in the top 50. (pp. 69-70)
Third, Canada is involved in the export of capital and draws superprofits from the plunder of the land and labor of the dependent and neo-colonial countries. The Canadian bourgeoisie is a prominent diner at the banquet table of big imperialist robbers who have divided up the capitalist world among themselves. Capital from Canada is exported to both developed capitalist countries and to underdeveloped ones. With respect to the latter, Bains remarks:
Canadian direct investment in the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, while very small compared to U.S. investment there, is nevertheless large by international standards. In 1976, for example, Canada ranked fifth among all the exporters of capital for direct investment to these countries, behind the U.S., Japan, West Germany and Britain. (p. 172)
Of course. Bains tries to weaken this acknowledgement with the assertion that a “significant feature of the capital which leaves Canada for other countries is that a portion of it is itself controlled from abroad, mainly from the U.S.” (p. 175) But he himself provides the figure that this portion is merely 15% of all capital exports, and only 12% of that exported to the poor countries. A significant feature, indeed!
While Bains refuses to give much detail on the plunder carried out by the Canadian bourgeoisie in Asia. Africa and Latin America, he nevertheless does acknowledge that heavy concentrations of Canadian direct investment can be found in such countries as Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil, Bermuda, Jamaica, etc. He also acknowledges that besides direct investment, Canadian capital is also exported by the Canadian banks, which have operations in almost every country of the world. As well, the Canadian government also exports capital in the form of credits and foreign “aid.”
Clearly, even from this brief survey, it is apparent that the thesis negating Canadian imperialism is absurd.
Besides denying Canadian imperialism, another one of CPC(M-L)’s favorite themes is that U.S. domination is increasing more and more over the country, that the “national question” is heightening, and so forth. Nevertheless, in his book, Bains gives a series of facts which demolishes this thesis as well, and shows instead that Canadian imperialism is actually strengthening itself vis-a-vis the other imperialist powers.
Bains is even forced to acknowledge that the major imperialist powers themselves recognize Canada as one of their own. He writes:
It is not a coincidence that in 1976, Canada joined the ’Big Seven’ – the private club of the leading imperialist countries in the world, the other members of which are the U.S., West Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Japan. (p. 118)
As to how the U.S. and others let in a mere “colony” like Canada among them, Bains does not bother enlightening us.
One of the chief examples of the strengthening of Canadian imperialism is that from the mid-1970’s, the export of direct investment from Canada has surpassed that coming into the country. Thus, by comparing figures for inflow and outflow of direct investment for the years 1975-79 given in Bains’ book, we find that $1.66 billion came into Canada while $6.11 billion went abroad from the country, (p. 118) In other words, for over half a decade now, Canada is a net exporter of capital for direct investment.
As well, the Canadian bourgeoisie is fighting hard to defend and extend its share of markets, both at home and abroad, in the midst of the world economic crisis. Bains remarks that “The Canadian bourgeoisie, which is so dependent upon foreign trade, and which is feeling the adverse effects of the heightened competition for shrinking markets, is actively participating in these [i.e., inter-imperialist – ed.] battles for markets and girding itself for those which are looming. It sees its positions threatened not only in the foreign markets, but in the domestic market as well....” (pp. 158-59)
At home, the Canadian bourgeoisie has been taking a series of steps to strengthen itself vis-a-vis the foreign-controlled companies. Bains points out that during the mid-1970’s “the federal government established its Foreign Investment Review Act and agency (FIRA) with the declared aim of restricting foreign direct investment in Canada to that which was of ’significant benefit’ to the economy.” (p. 119) There is also the Canadianization policy of the Trudeau government which seeks to increase the domestic control of the energy industry.
Even while admitting that these policies serve the “imperialist ambitions” of the Canadian bourgeoisie. Bains tries to fit these facts into his schema that Canada is just a colony and U.S. domination is increasing. Never mind how impossible this task is. He writes:
The bourgeoisie claims that its program to ’buy back’ foreign-owned companies in the energy sector is lessening the U.S. domination over Canada, is an indication of Canada’s growing ’independence,’ and so on. However, this ’Canadianization’ is merely the exchange of one form of domination for another; that is, domination through outright ownership for domination through indebtedness. (p. 124)
To give the impression that the Canadianization of the energy sector is just being financed through foreign debt, Bains gives the example of the government of Ontario acquiring 25% of a U.S.-owned oil company for $650 million, the funds coming from a loan from the same American company. But the truth is that this is not a typical example; in fact, a great part of the financing for takeovers in the energy industry has come from Canadian finance, not the foreign banks. For instance, when Dome Petroleum of Canada acquired Hudson’s Bay Oil and Gas Co. from Conoco last year for $3.5 billion, most of the financing came from four major Canadian banks.
Moreover, Bains’ argument that there is no difference between domination through ownership and domination through debt is absurd, especially in the Canadian situation. He is simply trying to explain away the fact that the Canadian capitalists will step up their control of some part of the economy when they consider it to be vital to their interests. Canadian history has seen many cases when the bourgeoisie has bought out foreign-controlled corporations. And where foreign debts have been incurred, over time they have been paid off, and full control has passed into the hands of the Canadian imperialists.
The growing strength of Canadian imperialism is not a recent phenomenon. This is the historical path the Canadian bourgeoisie has long been pursuing. Of course this is not a straight road and has various zigzags. For example, because of the current depth of the economic crisis and the flattening out of world oil prices, the policy of Canadianization of the energy industry has run into certain problems. But this does not negate the general historical trend.
The basic socio-economic character of a country is of immense importance in determining the strategy and tactics of the revolution. Thus the distortions of CPC(M-L) on the character of Canada provide the basis for their deviations on the perspective of the class struggle and revolution in Canada.
As we have seen, Canada is an imperialist country of highly developed capitalism. It has powerful productive forces and the economy is heavily monopolized. Indeed, the degree of concentration and the size of state monopolies are among the highest among the developed capitalist countries. Large-scale production is the order of the day and the socialization of production is extremely advanced. There is a proletariat of over eight million workers in this country of 24 million. About 40% of the working class belong to the industrial proletariat.
Clearly, in such a country, the character of the revolution can only be a proletarian socialist one which involves political power passing into the hands of the working class. This is not to say that the revolution is of a socialist character only in the major imperialist countries, for even among certain of the dependent countries, such as Argentina, the socialist revolution is on the agenda. Still, the highly developed imperialist character of Canada makes it certain that there can be no question whatsoever of the socialist nature of the revolution.
Of course, in Canada just as in other countries, the struggle for socialism inevitably takes up various political questions, such as the struggle against the oppression of the Native people and the people of Quebec, the fight against NATO, and so forth. As for the exploitation of the Canadian workers by foreign monopoly capital, this too can only be resolved through the socialist revolution. Indeed, the struggle against U.S. imperialist oppression is either a fraud or else a nationalist struggle for the ambitions of Canadian imperialism unless it is linked to the class struggle and the socialist revolution.
Preparation for the socialist revolution means putting the class struggle, the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, to the forefront. It involves training the proletariat in a spirit of irreconcilable hostility towards one’s “own” bourgeoisie and against capitalism in general. It includes consistent exposure and struggle against all the oppression carried out by one’s “own” bourgeoisie, including its national oppression at home and imperialist robbery abroad. This does not deny fighting the exploitation and oppression of U.S. imperialism but using this question to instill class hatred among the proletariat against capitalism and the bourgeoisie. It must not be used to infect the proletariat with the poison of nationalism but with the spirit of solidarity with the workers abroad, and in particular with the workers of the U.S., in the common struggle against U.S. and Canadian imperialism.
But the leadership of CPC(M-L) does not adhere to this stand. From their earliest days, they have painted the revolution in Canada as if Canada is a colony and not an imperialist country. They have given the revolution a nonsocialist and nationalist character. For example, the founding document of CPC(M-L) declared that the stage of revolution in Canada was a “mass democratic anti-imperialist revolution,” the completion of which was necessary to prepare “the material conditions” for the proletarian revolution. (Documents – Political Reports 1970 and 1973. pp. 10-12) In 1971-72, CPC(M-L) even launched the slogan to “Get Organized for National War Against U.S. Imperialism!” The Second Congress of CPC (M-L) in 1973 did not rectify the problem but reaffirmed the line on the “mass democratic anti-imperialist revolution.”
The Third Congress in 1977 made certain shifts in formulations and slurred over the question of ascribing a definite character to the revolution. Nevertheless it preserved their deviation intact by explicitly denouncing “the theory of the one-stage revolution” (i.e., the socialist revolution) as “trotskyite sophistry and windbaggery.” (Political Resolution of the Third Congress of CPC(M-L). p. 20) In addition, CPC(M-L) promised in its Third Congress to carry out their revolution hand in hand with the “vacillating and temporary ally of the proletariat,” the national bourgeoisie, which they prettified in the most shocking terms.
From all indications, the Fourth Congress has preserved CPC(M-L)’s basic positions on the strategic perspective of the class struggle and revolution in Canada. Just as on the question of the character of Canada, the book The Necessity for Revolution preserves their Maoist deviation on the revolution while hiding behind a cloud of evasive rhetoric. Like the Third Congress, it avoids giving a definite character to the revolution. In addition, to throw dust in the eyes of the reader, Hardial Bains even has an escape clause about the “transformation of capitalism into socialism” which is sprinkled here and there. But this is merely a generalized ultimate view, while the immediate question that is stressed is the national struggle.
Indeed, the book stresses over and over again that the main aim of the struggle in Canada is national. This is of course the logical consequence of their painting Canada as a colony. Thus, the thrust of the denunciation of the Canadian bourgeoisie is that it is anti-national, traitorous, and so forth. Time and again, it is stressed that the proletariat must take up the “national question” for solution (by which they do not mean the national oppression by the Canadian bourgeoisie of the Native people, of Quebec, etc., but the issue of U.S. imperialist oppression). This stress on the national struggle has gone so far that in the public rally announcing the Fourth Congress, the leadership of CPC(M-L) even gave the call to “defend and extend” the sovereignty of the nation! PCDN wrote:
He [Hardial Bains – ed.] concluded with an inspiring appeal to all of the members and supporters of the Party, and to the proletariat and revolutionary masses to defeat the plans of the bourgeoisie for fascism and war, to defend and extend the existing rights and freedoms of the people and the sovereignty of the nation and to advance with confidence and audacity toward revolution. (April 10, 1982, p. 3, col. 1, emphasis added)
But Canada already has national sovereignty. Not in the ethereal sense dreamed of by petty-bourgeois nationalists who believe sovereignty will solve all the problems of exploitation, avert war and usher in the millenium, but in the sense that all the imperialist countries have sovereignty. Of course, the Canadian working people are enslaved by international capital and exploited by U.S. imperialism. The way to chop off the tentacles of foreign capitalist oppression is not to work for the mirage of perfect sovereignty under capitalism, but to help smash the chains of world capitalism by taking up the class struggle and overthrowing one’s “own” bourgeoisie through the socialist revolution.
Giving the struggle in Canada a nationalist character is tantamount to spitting on the most basic Marxist-Leninist principles on the national question. The Marxist-Leninist classics have made it amply clear that in a fully developed capitalist-imperialist country like Canada, a country which has attained its political sovereignty, where the national bourgeoisie includes and is led by the imperialist bourgeoisie, the national liberation movement is a thing of the past. Consequently, raising the national program for such a country leads to whitewashing the imperialist national bourgeoisie and can lead towards an alliance with the bourgeoisie. In this respect, Stalin wrote:
What is the basic premise of the Comintern and the Communist Parties generally in their approach to the questions of the revolutionary movement in colonial and dependent countries?
It consists in a strict distinction between revolution in imperialist countries, in countries that oppress other nations, and revolution in colonial and dependent countries, in countries that suffer from imperialist oppression by other states. Revolution in imperialist countries is one thing: there the bourgeoisie is the oppressor of other nations; there it is counter-revolutionary at all stages of the revolution: there the national factor, as a factor in the struggle for emancipation, is absent. Revolution in colonial and dependent countries is another thing: there the imperialist oppression by other states is one of the factors of the revolution; there this oppression cannot but affect the national bourgeoisie also; there the national bourgeoisie, at a certain stage and for a certain period, may support the revolutionary movement of its country against imperialism; there the national factor, as a factor in the struggle for emancipation, is a revolutionary factor.
To fail to draw this distinction, to fail to understand this difference and to identify revolution in imperialist countries with revolution in colonial countries, is to depart from the path of Marxism, from the path of Leninism, to take the path of the supporters of the Second International. (Stalin, “Joint Plenum of the Central Committee and Central Control Commission of the CPSU(B) (July 29-August 9. 1927.” Works, Vol. 10, pp. 11-12)
Here Stalin was arguing against the Trotskyites who negated the national factor in the Chinese revolution. But the argument equally applies to the Maoists and others who try to give a petty-bourgeois nationalist character to the socialist revolution in imperialist countries.
Theoretically, of course, it cannot be ruled out that, under certain conditions, progressive national liberation struggles could arise in an imperialist country. In this century, we have seen imperialism give birth to the monstrous German Nazi fascism which sought to completely destroy entire nations, including imperialist ones like France. Under such conditions, progressive anti-fascist national liberation wars did emerge in Europe during the Second World War. But even under such conditions, the Marxist-Leninists and revolutionary proletariat are duty bound to stick firmly to the class point of view and to strive to develop the anti-fascist liberation struggle towards the proletarian socialist revolution. To do otherwise means lapsing into right opportunism and betrayal of socialism.
But the situation in Canada cannot be compared to the Nazi-fascist enslavement during the 30’s and 40’s. Nor is the overall world situation like that which existed during the Second World War. This highlights the profound character of the deviation of the leadership of CPC(M-L).
In the next several sections, we will proceed to examine Hardial Bains’ major arguments behind the description of Canada as a mere colony of the U.S. These include:
A) A substantial section of the capital invested in the Canadian economy is foreign, mainly American. It is claimed that this gives the U.S. corporations “leading positions in all sectors of the Canadian economy.”
B) Canada has a sizable debt to the financiers abroad, again mainly in the U.S. Bains makes the claim that Canada is the most indebted country in the entire world and uses Canada’s indebtedness to suggest that this makes it just like the dependent and neo-colonial countries.
C) He also asserts that Canada’s trade relations with the U.S. are just like the unequal and enslaving trade relations characteristic between the imperialist metropolises and the underdeveloped countries.
D) Canada is linked with U.S. imperialism through political and military pacts such as NATO and NORAD (North American Air Defense Command), in which the U.S. exercises a dominant position. This is supposed to turn Canada’s national sovereignty into a myth.
We have studied each of these arguments closely. We have taken note of the information Bains provides, as well as researched the facts he distorts or entirely omits. From this, as we shall show, it is quite clear that each of these arguments, if examined intelligently, ends up smashing the entire bogus thesis of denying Canada’s imperialist character.
Let us begin with the argument about foreign investment. In fact, it is on this question that the leadership of CPC(M-L) has historically staked its main case for treating Canada as a colony of the U.S. The same is true of Bains’ latest book. There is of course no question that foreign capital is substantial in the Canadian economy. But does this mean that U.S. capital dominates “all sectors of the economy”? Does it negate the existence of Canadian imperialism? The facts do not prove this to be so.
One of the striking things about Hardial Bains’ approach to the economy is that he takes a microscope towards foreign capital while looking at Canadian capital through the wrong end of a telescope. Thus his book literally overflows with data on the foreign capitalist penetration of the country. It includes data on the extent of foreign capital in the economy as a whole, its distribution in the various sectors of the economy, in the different branches of manufacturing, in the regions and cities of the country, and so on. But he does not take a similar approach to the character of Canadian capital. However, if one looks at all the facts, including what the author slurs over or omits entirely, one discovers that while there is substantial involvement of U.S. capital in Canada, nevertheless there remains a fairly strong Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie which controls most of the commanding heights of the economy and which rules Canada.
Above all, it should be noted that it is the Canadian bourgeoisie that controls the greatest part of the economy. This may get missed if one allows oneself to get buried in the detail provided in Bains’ book. According to his own figures:
Altogether, the foreign-controlled enterprises account for more than a third of total sales, more than 30 percent of the assets, nearly 40 percent of equity and nearly 45 percent of profits of all non-financial enterprises. (pp. 74-76)
In other words, the Canadian capitalists control about two-thirds of total sales, almost 70% of the assets, etc.
There is no truth in the assertion Bains makes that “the U.S. multinational corporations...have captured leading positions in all sectors of the Canadian economy.” (p. 105) The fact of the matter is that the Canadian capitalists have long had a consistent strategy of keeping tight control of certain key sectors of the economy, such as banking and the infrastructure, while allowing foreign capital to expand in certain other sectors. Thus, in manufacturing, oil and gas, and mining, foreign control accounts for the greater part of these sectors. According to the most recent government statistics, foreign control (both U.S. and otherwise) accounts for 56% of the assets in manufacturing, 74% in oil and gas, and 60% in mining. But it should not be overlooked that, even in these sectors, there are sizable Canadian corporations, such as Noranda in mining. Petro-Canada and Dome in petroleum; and in a series of branches of manufacturing, there are dominant Canadian companies, such as Massey-Ferguson, Moore Corp., Abitibi-Price, etc. And as we have already noted, the Canadian bourgeoisie has been attempting to increase its control over the sectors which are heavily foreign-controlled.
But in a series of key sectors of the Canadian economy, it is the Canadian bourgeoisie which is overwhelmingly dominant. These include finance, utilities, transportation and trade. For instance, foreign control only accounts for 1% of the assets in railroads and 4% in utilities.
Most significant is the Canadian bourgeoisie’s control over the financial sector. It must be remembered that it is the banks and finance capital generally which are the characteristic institutions of imperialism. As Lenin observed:
As banking develops and becomes concentrated in a small number of establishments. the banks grow from humble middlemen into powerful monopolies having at their command almost the whole of the money capital of all the capitalists and small businessmen and also the larger part of the means of production and of the sources of raw materials of the given country and in a number of countries. This transformation of numerous humble middlemen into a handful of monopolists represents one of the fundamental processes in the growth of capitalism into capitalist imperialism. (Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Ch. II)
Of the top 25 financial institutions (banks, mortgage and trust companies), the Canadian-controlled institutions account for $395 billion out of the $402 billion total assets, a full 98%. And of the top 15 insurance companies, Canadian companies controlled 84% of the total assets. (“Canada’s Top 500 Companies,” Canadian Business, July 1982)
Among the large financial institutions, the Canadian banks are worth taking special note of. They are no small fry but powerful centers of finance. The biggest five of the chartered banks control among themselves $313 billion in assets. Even Hardial Bains is forced to acknowledge their size and strength, as we have already noted. While he notes this feature of the Canadian economy only in passing and obscures its real significance, it is the banks which provide the nexus of power of the Canadian imperialist bourgeoisie. The banks not only dominate finance, but also draw tribute from industry, commerce, government, foreign countries, etc.
Such facts hardly go to prove that Canada is a mere colony. Instead, they show that, while foreign capital has heavily penetrated the manufacturing and resource extraction sectors, there remains a powerful Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie which is based in finance, utilities, trade and transportation and with smaller representation in industry and resources. Not only has the Canadian capitalist class put its mainstay in finance, trade, utilities and transportation, but it has also jealously guarded this base against foreign encroachment. For instance in the mid-60’s when foreign firms tried to expand their takeovers of insurance companies they were prevented from doing so. Also there are strict restrictions on foreign capital penetrating the banking sector. Meanwhile, Canadian capital has entered into an alliance with foreign capital in other sectors and has historically encouraged them to invest in industry and resource extraction. In recent years, as we have seen, the Canadian bourgeoisie has been stepping up its efforts to expand its control over these sectors as well.
The fact of the matter is that the investment of foreign capital in a country does not determine whether or not it is an imperialist power. The imperialism of a country depends on other things, such as whether it has its own strong finance capital, whether its economy is highly monopolized, whether it exports capital and participates in the plunder of the oppressed peoples, and so on. And Canada fulfills all these characteristics of an imperialist country. To be sure, the large amount of U.S. capital in the country makes U.S. imperialism a big exploiter of the workers of Canada and gives it certain economic levers over Canada, but this is not sufficient to turn Canada into something other than an imperialist power.
This is of course not the first time the world’s Marxists have encountered an imperialist country with large amounts of foreign capital in it. We have already referred to the historic line of the Comintern on Canada itself. But an even more famous example is imperialist Russia at the time of World War I. The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) described Russia in these terms:
That Russia entered the imperialist war on the side of the Entente, on the side of France and Great Britain, was not accidental. It should be borne in mind that before 1914 the most important branches of Russian industry were in the hands of foreign capitalists, chiefly those of France. Great Britain and Belgium, that is, the Entente countries. The most important of Russia’s metal works were in the hands of French capitalists. In all about three quarters (72 percent) of the metal industry depended on foreign capital. The same was true of the coal industry of the Donetz Basin. Oilfields owned by British and French capital accounted for about half the oil output of the country. A considerable part of the profits of Russian industry flowed into foreign banks, chiefly British and French. All these circumstances, in addition to the thousands of millions borrowed by the tsar from France and Britain in loans, chained tsarism to British and French imperialism and converted Russia into a tributary, a semi-colony of those countries.” (p. 162)
Indeed, Russia’s dependence on foreign capital was so great that a tremendous section of the banking capital of Russia was owned by foreign banks, as Lenin pointed out in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. He described that, of the “working capital” of the big banks, more than three-fourths belonged to banks that were merely subsidiaries of the foreign banks, mainly of France and Germany. (Chapter III) But none of these facts about the huge claws of foreign capital in Russia, which were even more extensive there than in Canada today, made the Russian Marxists cease considering Russian as an imperialist power or led them to call for a national struggle against foreign capital.
It is well known that one of the prominent features of many of the dependent and neo-colonial countries of the world is that they are heavily in debt to the financiers in the imperialist centers. For example, countries like Mexico, Brazil and Argentina have built up staggering debts to the foreign banks and governments, to say nothing of the smaller and weaker dependent and neo-colonial countries. These debts place the economies of these countries in a very precarious situation. The world economic crisis has made it even more difficult to repay these debts, and the burden of these debts is constantly being increased on the shoulders of the poor working masses who are already exploited to the bone as it is.
Several years ago, the leadership of CPC(M-L) discovered that the Canadian state too is indebted to the financiers abroad, and especially in the U.S. Voila! To them, this was convincing proof that Canada was a weak dependent country, just like the underdeveloped countries. The Third Congress of CPC(M-L) thus declared that Canada “is one of the biggest debtor countries in the world.” Hardial Bains’ book echoes this position and goes so far as to claim that Canada has “the largest absolute debt” in the world, (p. 166)
So much confusion has been created on this issue that there is much to be cleared up. Let us start with the size of Canada’s debt.
No, Canada does not have the largest absolute debt. When one commonly speaks of a country’s debt abroad, one means the debt incurred by the state. For example, this is what one means when one refers to Mexico’s foreign debt of $81 billion. According to the latest edition of the Canada Yearbook published by Statistics Canada, the comparable figure for Canada was $20.6 billion at the end of 1976. the latest year for which figures are given. This included $16.8 billion from the provincial governments and their agencies, $2.7 billion from municipal governments, and the rest from the federal government. Although the federal government has a far larger debt than its share of the foreign debt indicates, it is mainly owed to the financiers at home.
But Bains makes the claim that Canada’s debt is much higher, that it stood at $48.5 in 1976 and at $69 billion at the end of 1979. (pp. 115-116) How does he come up with such high figures? The fact is, he is straight-up dishonest with his figures. When he talks of Canada’s debt, he does not mean what is meant be everyone else, i.e., the debt of the state. Instead he uses the figures for Canada’s “net international indebtedness.” This is a complicated figure, published by the government to help keep track of a country’s overall balance of payments situation, but it has nothing to do with what Canada actually owes abroad as debt. What it amounts to is that Bains adds on to Canada’s debt a part of the assets in the Canadian economy owned by foreign capital. But foreign ownership of part of the Canadian economy is a different matter and we have already discussed this. To bring this into the discussion on Canada’s debt shows that Bains want to skin the same ox twice.
While Canada’s debt burden is heavy, it is by no means sufficient to convert Canada into either a “banana republic.” or a Mexico, or even a Poland. Moreover, to get an idea of the intensity of the yoke of foreign debt on a country, one must judge it in reference to the size and strength of a country’s economy. Thus, compared to its gross national product. Mexico’s foreign debt comes to a staggering 59% while in Canada’s case it was about 11% in 1976.
The leadership of CPC(M-L), however, has latched onto the question of Canada’s foreign debt as a big discovery which allegedly proves all their theses denying Canadian imperialism. At their Third Congress in 1977 they especially tried to make a big deal out of it. And they have not stopped doing so in the years since.
But Canada’s debt does not negate its status as an imperialist. Canada too exports capital, especially to the poor countries where there is a shortage of capital and superprofits can be made. The Canadian economy is marked by parasitism and the explosion of all sorts of paper securities. Among the bourgeoisie, a stratum of idle parasites has long existed who live by “clipping coupons,” so to speak, drawing tribute from financial manipulations and the exploitation of the working masses of the poor countries.
While Canada is an imperialist country, yes. it too is indebted to foreign finance capital. But what kind of big discovery is this on the part of the CPC(M-L) leadership? Creditor-debtor relations are by no means uncommon among the imperialist countries themselves. For instance, take the situation after World War I. Lenin wrote then of the relations between the different powers of the victorious Entente:
What are the debtor-creditor relations that have developed between the principal powers? I shall convert pounds sterling into gold rubles, at a rate of ten gold rubles to one pound. Here is what we get: the United States has assets amounting to 19.000 million, its liabilities are nil. Before the war it was in Britain s debt. In his report on April 14. 1920, to the last congress of the Communist Party of Germany, Comrade Levi very correctly pointed out that there are now only two powers in the world that can act independently, viz., Britain and America. America alone is absolutely independent financially. Before the war she was a debtor; she is now a creditor only. All the other powers in the world are debtors. Britain has been reduced to a position in which her assets total 17,000 million, and her liabilities 8,000 million. She is already half-way to becoming a debtor nation. Moreover, her assets include about 6.000 million owed to her by Russia. ...Krasin...representative of the Russian Soviet Government ...made it plain to...the British Government’s leaders, that they were laboring under a strange delusion if they were counting on getting these debts repaid....
In regard to France...her assets amount to 3.500 million, and her liabilities to 10.500 million! And this is a country which the French themselves called the world’s money-lender ...notwithstanding victory. France has been reduced to debtor status. (Lenin. “Report on the International Situation and the Fundamental Tasks of the Communist International, July 19. 1920,” Collected Works, Vol. 31, pp. 219-220)
The fact that, in the post-war situation, America alone was a creditor country, showed the relative strength and financial preponderance of U.S. imperialism among the big powers. It showed that the U.S. had enriched itself during the war even at the expense of its allies. The weight of this tribute fell on the shoulders of the working masses of Europe, who were saddled with increasing burdens of taxes by the European imperialists to pay back these debts. But the Marxist-Leninists did not conclude from this situation that such countries as Britain and France had ceased to be imperialist powers. It is well known that the strategic perspective of Lenin, Stalin and the Communist International for Western Europe was the socialist revolution and not national struggle against the foreign bourgeoisie.
Similar to his argument that Canada is a debtor country just like the underdeveloped countries. Hardial Bains also makes the outrageous claim that Canada’s trade relations with the U.S. are metropolis-colony type of relations. He writes:
The enslaving and unequal character of the trade between the imperialist countries and those of Asia, Africa and Latin America is clearly seen in the composition of the merchandise trade of these poor and backward countries. On the balance of trade, these countries each year run up enormous deficits. The prices paid for their main export commodities – almost exclusively raw materials – are relentlessly driven down by the imperialists, who are the main purchasers of these goods, while at the same time, the prices demanded by these same imperialists for the manufactured goods desperately needed in those countries are incessantly rising. Canada’s trade with the United States has the same characteristic, i.e. heavy reliance upon the export of raw materials, and import of manufactured goods, while at the same time, the Canadian bourgeoisie enriches itself from this same unequal trade it conducts with the countries of Asia. Africa and Latin America. (pp. 148-149, emphasis added)
This is an absolutely ludicrous comparison. This argument alone proves how empty his whole thesis about Canada being a colony really is! Nevertheless, for the sake of our author or anyone else who is uninformed about the character of Canada, we will explain a few elementary things.
For one thing, the Canadian economy is not a backward economy but a modern industrial economy. Canada’s trade is therefore not based on one or two primary products but reflects a diversified economy. Its exports in 1979 included 32% of manufactured finished products and an additional 30% of fabricated materials. Meanwhile, for the vast majority of the poor countries, their exports are made up of an overwhelming preponderance of raw-materials, and the range of products exported is very narrow, one or two or three products often providing 75% or more of a country’s trade. Moreover, it should be noted that Canada’s trade generally shows a surplus while the poor countries constantly run up huge deficits.
Considering that Canada is an industrialized country, the fact that its exports also include a large share of raw materials does not indicate that its trade is colonial. The fact of the matter is that Canada is a country richly endowed with resources, both agricultural and mineral. The U.S. too is a substantial exporter of raw materials – does that make the U.S. a non-industrial country or make it a victim rather than a perpetrator of unequal trade? Of course not. It can hardly be forgotten that certain raw materials give enormous power to the imperialist countries; the U.S. for instance is very well known for using its wheat and other food exports as a weapon to dominate other countries. Canada too has strategically important raw materials, such as wheat, uranium, etc. which give it political leverage over other countries.
At the same time, it cannot be said that all is equal with regard to the trade between Canada and the U.S. An enormous part of Canada’s trade, about 70%, is with the U.S., making the Canadian economy closely dependent on the American economy. As well, Canada remains dependent on the U.S. for a number of important manufactured goods, especially in the sphere of machinery. The unequal relations reflected here are unequal relations between two developed capitalist economies which are closely integrated. To compare these relations with the relations between imperialism and the underdeveloped countries is absurd.
Besides the economic exploitation of the working people of Canada, there is also the issue of Canada being tied to U.S. imperialism through various political and military treaties, such as NATO and NORAD. Canada is a close partner of the U.S. in the Atlantic Alliance. And there is no question that, in this alliance, the U.S. imperialists exercise hegemony. This alliance between Canada and the U.S. is a serious problem for the Canadian people. Among other things, it means that the Canadian people can be pulled into war or other adventures for the imperialist ambitions of U.S. imperialism.
But does that turn Canada into a vassal state or a colony of the U.S.? By no means. The secondary position which Canada has in relation to the U.S. is not something peculiar to Canada but a general feature of imperialist blocs and alliances. An imperialist power can be economically and financially dependent on a stronger power, it can be tied to that power through treaties, but this does not transform the first country into a colony. Such a situation does not obliterate the fact that within the alliance, the weaker country maintains its own imperialism, its own ruling class and its own interests and ambitions.
Once again, let us return to imperialist Russia before the October Revolution. The Russian government, both that of the Tsar and the bourgeois regime that came to power in February-March 1917, was not only economically dependent on Anglo-French capital but tied to it through numerous political and military pacts. While it is true that all this enchained Russia, it did not make it any less of an imperialist country. Examine the attitude Lenin adopted towards this situation:
Russia is waging this war with foreign money. Russian capital is a partner of Anglo-French capital. Russia is waging the war in order to rob Armenia, Turkey and Galicia.
Guchkov, Lvov and Milyukov, our present ministers, are not chance comers. They are the representatives and leaders of the entire landlord and capitalist class. They are bound by the interests of capital. The capitalists can no more renounce their interests than a man can lift himself by his bootstraps.
Secondly, Guchkov-Milyukov and Co. are bound by Anglo-French capital. They have waged, and are still waging, the war with foreign money. They have borrowed billions, promising to pay hundreds of millions in interest every year, and to squeeze this tribute out of the Russian workers and Russian peasants.
Thirdly, Guchkov-Milyukov and Co. are bound to England, France, Italy, Japan and other groups of robber capitalists by direct treaties concerning the predatory aims of the war. These treaties were concluded by Tsar Nicholas II. ” (Lenin, “Letters from Afar,” Collected Works, Vol. 23, p. 335)
In the above passage, Lenin was discussing the chief reasons why the bourgeois government of Russia could not get the country out of the imperialist war. Thus, even while pointing out how the Russian bourgeoisie was bound closely with Anglo-French capital, Lenin put to the forefront the fact that it was a class question, not a national question. He exposed that Russia was a partner of Anglo-French capital, that it had its own predatory aim of seizing several territories, and so forth. As is generally known, Lenin did not conclude that the issue for the toiling masses in Russia was to fight for national independence and sovereignty against the foreign enemy, but that the revolution had to be carried forward against the bourgeoisie. In this and subsequent articles on the provisional government, Lenin pointed out that no capitalist government could secure a democratic peace, but the socialist revolution was necessary and power had to pass into the hands of the workers and poor peasants.
This general principle applies to Canada as well. The fact remains that Canadian imperialism is a partner in the Atlantic Alliance and participates in Washington’s imperialism, not just to help the interests of U.S. capital but mainly for its own rapacious aims which coincide in many respects with those of U.S. imperialism. Canada remains one of the wolves in the Western imperialist pack, a weaker wolf and not the leader, but a wolf just the same.
If there are so many facts and arguments which make an ironclad case verifying the existence of Canadian imperialism, how can the leadership of CPC(M-L) stick to its utterly untenable position? The answer lies in the fact that they do not adhere to the Marxist-Leninist analysis of imperialism, but base themselves on a petty-bourgeois nationalist outlook instead. Indeed, in reading Bains’ The Necessity for Revolution one is struck by the crude and vulgar spirit of petty-bourgeois nationalism that permeates it from beginning to end.
It is a basic feature of capitalism to be international. In its imperialist stage, this feature is tremendously extended. The imperialist world involves a complexity of relations, and since it is in the very nature of capital to strive for maximum profit, imperialism gives rise to a series of relationships of dependence and domination. But there are different types of domination. There is the colonial type of domination, seen in the basic division in the imperialist world between imperialist oppressor nations and the poor oppressed nations. As well the law of the jungle exists even among the imperialist and developed countries. Among them, too, capital gets exchanged, debts are incurred and enslaving political alliances get established. However, these things do not negate the fact that the relatively weaker imperialist countries remain imperialist just the same.
CPC(M-L)’s style of petty-bourgeois nationalism, however, refuses to recognize this reality. In the petty-bourgeois nationalist scheme of things, since Canada is “contaminated” by foreign economic and political influences, it is no longer an independent imperialist country but a mere colony. This is at heart a reactionary concept because from this scheme of things, CPC(M-L) concludes that the task for the toiling masses is to work towards a refined national sovereignty rather than to wage the class struggle leading to the socialist revolution against capitalism.
Let us take a look at some examples of the petty-bourgeois nationalism of the leadership of CPC (M-L). To begin with, take their efforts to obscure the existence and strength of the Canadian bourgeoisie. We have already noted that Bains tries his best to obscure the strength of Canadian capital by diverting attention towards the foreign capitalists. This is taken very far. He goes so far as to deny that the Canadian corporations, the very bedrocks of the Canadian bourgeoisie, are really Canadian. He asserts:
Even those companies which are considered to be quintessentially ’Canadian’ often have substantial blocs of foreign, mainly U.S. capital, such that they too are effectively controlled from abroad.” (p. 72)
In Bains’ mind, the mere existence of foreign capital in Canada has made it impossible for there to be any Canadian capital. Thus if a Canadian company has any stocks owned by foreigners, or it borrows some money from foreign banks, or even does business with foreigners, then its Canadian character is automatically suspect. It is worth examining some of Bains’ efforts to deny the existence of Canadian companies, for it exposes the complete dishonesty and charlatanism of his petty-bourgeois nationalism.
One of the Canadian companies that Bains claims is “effectively controlled from abroad” is Canadian Pacific Ltd. (CP). How? Because it “had 35% foreign ownership.” (p. 72) Now this is quite a discovery on Bains’ part! It is true that ownership of 35% of a company’s shares, if held by a single bloc of capitalist interests, could give them control. But does Bains offer any proof that in the case of CP, this is actually so? Of course not. He simple argues on general grounds based on petty-bourgeois nationalist logic.
But really, this is a preposterous claim on Bains’ part. Canadian Pacific is indeed the quintessence of Canadian capital; it is a major tool of Canadian imperialism. The Canadian bourgeoisie has made every effort to keep CP out of the control of U.S. capital. As for its stock ownership, the controlling blocs of CP’s stocks have always been kept in Canadian hands. Today, for instance, the largest single bloc of its stocks is the 11% held by Desmarais’ Power Corporation, while the other main blocs are also held by Canadian monopoly capitalists. Clearly, you have to live on the moon to argue that CP is not Canadian! Canadian Pacific was established as a railway company by the Canadian capitalist class shortly after Confederation in 1867. It was a linchpin of the Canadian bourgeoisie’s efforts to consolidate its home market by building a transcontinental railroad of its own. Rivalry with the American transcontinental railroads was a big factor as well. Since those beginnings, Canadian Pacific has developed over the last century as one of the most powerful Canadian corporations, with holdings not only in railroads but also in land, resources, airlines and many other areas. Today it is the largest private corporation in Canada.
While the argument about CP is itself a real gem, the first prize for Bains’ efforts to deny the Canadian character of Canadian capital must go to his argument about the Canadian banks. The banks are where the center of power of Canadian finance capital lies, the biggest single refutation of Bains’ fairy tale about a weak, colonized Canada. No doubt, this must bother him to no end. So he ventures forth with this sally:
Another such sector is finance, in which foreign capital has been subject to legal restrictions. But there is a close relationship and ’personal link-up’ between the financial magnates of Canada and the U.S., to the point that it is extremely difficult to ascertain what is Canadian capital and what is foreign (especially American) capital, where the one begins and the other ends. An example of the ’personal link-up’ between the finance capitalists from the U.S. and Canada is seen in the web of interlocking directorships held by the members of the boards of directors of the Canadian banks. The Royal Bank, for instance, has a director who also sits on the board of General Motors, which is controlled by the Rockefeller and du Pont interests in the U.S. ... In fact, almost all the directors of the big banks in Canada also sit on the boards of least one company which is foreign-owned or foreign-controlled. (pp. 77-78)
What an incredible understanding our author shows of the capitalist economy! We wouldn’t be too surprised if, say, a bourgeois nationalist came upon the fact that the Royal Bank of Canada, Canada’s No. 1 bank, has one if its directors on the board of GM in the U.S., and he exclaimed: “My God, the Yanks have taken over the pride of our country. Is there anything left which is Canadian?” But such an attitude is not only absurd, it has nothing in common with Marxism-Leninism. It is well known that the banks are the most powerful centers of capital, that they strive for domination and extend their tentacles everywhere. But according to Bains, the fact that the Canadian banks have their directors also on the boards of foreign-controlled corporations is supposed to prove not the strength of Canadian banking capital, but that it is hard to determine who controls the banks!
Bains clearly does not adhere to the Leninist analysis. Rather, his moans and groans about not being able to see where the capital of one country begins and that of another ends show graphically that what he is looking for is some kind of “pure and national” capital, untouched by contact with foreigners. Unfortunately, this is a futile search. The merger of capital is a basic feature of capitalism. Contrary to the nationalist prejudices of the author, this does not mean that there is no Canadian capital with its own character and interests.
All these attempts to deny that Canadian capitalism is really Canadian are only the latest version of the longstanding view of CPC(M-L) that Canadian imperialism cannot exist because monopoly capitalism in Canada is itself really a foreign import and not an indigenous product. As the Third Congress put it: “Monopoly capitalism in Canada developed by importing massive amounts of foreign capital and it did not develop as a result of the indigenous merger of industrial and banking capital.” (Political Resolution of the Third Congress of CPC(M-L), p. 19)
This is absurd. The issue in whether a country is imperialist is whether the merger between banking and industrial capital took place; it is irrelevant how “indigenous” this process was. But even there, the leadership of CPC(M-L) is simply lying. The Canadian banks were launched in the early 1800’s. In the latter half of the century, industrial capital also emerged, although it was relatively weak. By the turn of the century, the Canadian industries had been consolidated as profitable joint-stock companies, whereupon they were brought under the control of the financiers. A prominent example of this process was the emergence of the iron and steel industry. Simultaneous with this process, foreign capital also established itself in manufacturing.
CPC(M-L)’s history of capitalist development is based on a completely nonsensical schematic view of how countries take the road of development into modern industrial and imperialist countries. The fact of the matter is that in imperialist countries generally, there is a merger of native banking and industrial capital, while foreign capital is also involved, to a greater or lesser degree. The fact that in Canada there was a greater involvement of foreign capital does not rule out the emergence of imperialist finance capital.
In order to bring out the absurdity of CPC(M-L)’s petty-bourgeois nationalist schematism on how capitalism develops, we would like to give the following analysis from Stalin:
History up to now knows three ways of the formation and development of powerful industrial states.
The first way is the seizure and plunder of colonies. That was the way Britain, for example, developed. After seizing colonies in all parts of the world, she for two centuries squeezed extra capital’ out of them for the purpose of strengthening her industry, and eventually she became the ’workshop of the world ....
The second way is the military defeat of one country by another and the imposition of indemnities upon the defeated country. Such was the case with Germany, for example. After defeating France in the Franco-Prussian war, Germany squeezed an indemnity of 5,000 millions out of France and poured this money into the channels of her own industry....
The third way is for a capitalistically backward country to grant concessions to and accept loans from capitalistically developed countries on enslaving terms. Such was the case with Tsarist Russia, for example. She granted concessions to and accepted loans from the Western powers on such terms and thereby imposed upon herself the yoke of a semi-colonial existence, which, however, did not preclude the possibility of her eventually emerging on the road of independent industrial development, not, of course, without the aid of more or less ’successful’ wars, and of course, not without plundering neighboring countries....
It would be wrong to think that in real life each of these paths of development is necessarily travelled in its pure form, and is absolutely isolated from the others. Actually, in the history of individual countries those paths often intercrossed and supplemented one another, presenting an interwoven pattern. An example of such an interweaving of paths is provided by the history of the development of the United States of America. That is explained by the fact that, notwithstanding all the differences between them, those diverse paths of development have certain features in common, which bring them close to one another and make their interweaving possible: firstly, all lead to the formation of capitalist industrial states: secondly, all presuppose an influx from outside of ’extra capital,’ obtained in one way or another, as an essential condition for the formation of such states. It would be still more wrong, however, on these grounds to confuse those paths, to jumble them together, failing to understand that, after all, those three paths of development imply three different modes of formation of industrial capitalist states, that each of these paths puts its own special impress upon the complexion of those states. (“Questions and Answers – speech delivered at the Sverdlov University, June 9, 1925,” Works. Vol. 7. pp. 198-200)
As Stalin indicates, there is no one “pure” way in which countries take the road of development into industrial countries. He notes that capitalist countries can acquire the “extra capital” needed for development in a variety of ways. Canada has its own particular features in this regard. It took out loans from abroad, just as the U.S. and Russia did, for example. And it also established a tariff wall to protect itself from foreign industry simply dumping goods in the home market, which ended up encouraging foreign capital to invest in manufacturing facilities inside the country. At the same time, Canada used both World Wars to enrich itself heavily and for many decades has also drawn superprofits through its own exports of capital abroad. The precise character of the path Canada took does not fit CPC(M-L)’s nonsensical schemas about “indigenous” development, so they completely negate the emergence of Canada as an imperialist country.
Another example of CPC(M-L)’s petty-bourgeois nationalism is its attitude to the question of political independence and sovereignty. It is generally recognized that political independence and sovereignty refers to the question of state independence. In the real world of imperialism, of course, this is subordinate to the interests of capital. Finance capital establishes its domination worldwide. Even among the countries which are centers of finance capital, the stronger ones lord it over the weaker ones. From this situation, the Marxists have always drawn the conclusion that the issue for the proletariat in the developed capitalist countries is to struggle against capital, while petty-bourgeois nationalism calls instead for working towards a refined and “pure” national sovereignty. Marxists can and do expose the dragging of the domestic bourgeoisie behind the vile plans of another, stronger bourgeoisie to show how ugly both bourgeoisies are, but they use this exposure to show how capitalism ties a country to the crimes of world imperialism and to advocate the need for socialist revolution against one’s “own” bourgeoisie.
To sum up, it is clear that on one question after another, the leadership of CPI(M-L) abandons the Marxist-Leninist class standpoint and replaces it with a vulgar spirit of petty-bourgeois nationalism. Everything about the character of Canadian society is looked at with an outlook based on a “pure” and “refined” conception of the nation and nationalism. Thus, when they look at the Canadian economy, they do not find a “pure” national capitalism but an economy closely intertwined with foreign capital. And when they examine the Canadian state, they find that it too does not fulfill their preconceived notions of an ethereal national sovereignty.
From this assessment, CPC(M-L) sets up the task to struggle for the fulfillment of their conception of national sovereignty. And like true petty-bourgeois nationalists, they paint the utopia that this sovereignty will solve all sorts of ills, get rid of exploitation, create a balanced economy, avert war and assure peace, prosperity and progress. The national struggle thus becomes the vehicle to usher in this millenium while the class struggle and the fight for socialism are pushed aside.
Marxist-Leninists do not lament the internationalization of the world economic and social life brought about by capitalism. Instead they draw the paramount conclusion that this means that the workers too must unite internationally, in a common struggle against world capitalism. And this is where the reactionary character of Bains’ petty-bourgeois nationalism comes forth so strikingly. What with all his talk about the inter-penetration of U.S. and Canadian capital, one would think that a Marxist-Leninist would draw the conclusion, that, for the emancipation of the proletariat, the unity of the workers of the U.S. and Canada is one of the most important things. But this is not mentioned a single time in his book.
Diametrically opposed to the petty-bourgeois nationalism of Bains stands the internationalist approach of Marxism-Leninism. Contrast any of Bains’ prejudices with the stand of Lenin:
The unity of the workers of all countries is a necessity arising out of the fact thai the capitalist class, which rules over the workers, does not limit its rule to one country. Commercial ties between the different countries are becoming closer and more extensive; capital constantly passes from one country to another. The banks, those huge depositories that gather capital together and distribute it on loan to capitalists, begin as national institutions and then become international, gather capital from all countries, and distribute it among the capitalists of Europe and America. Enormous joint-stock companies are now being organized to set up capitalist enterprises not in one country, but in several at once; international associations of capitalists make their appearance. Capitalist domination is international. That is why the workers’ struggle in all countries for their emancipation is only successful if the workers fight jointly against international capital. That is why the Russian worker’s comrade in the fight against the capitalist class is the German worker, the Polish worker, and the French worker, just as his enemy is the Russian, the Polish, and the French capitalists. (Lenin, “Draft and Explanation of a Program for the Social-Democratic Party,” Collected Works, Vol. 2. p. 109)
Far from training the Canadian proletariat in the Marxist spirit of internationalism, the leadership of CPC(M-L) has for many years inculcated an unhealthy spirit of nationalism, which has often ended up as outright chauvinism against the American workers and revolutionaries. For example, consider the struggle between Marxism and opportunism. It is quite well known that both are international trends which have their own class base in every capitalist society. But for years, CPC(M-L) has tried to paint opportunism in Canada as a phenomenon imported from abroad, especially from the U.S.
The same attitude finds its expression today in the way they agitate against the New York-based Guardian Angels (a reactionary “anti-crime” vigilante outfit) organizing in Canada. CPC(M-L)’s agitation is being run on a straightforward nationalist appeal. Far from making any class distinctions between American reactionaries and American proletarians coming into Canada, CPC(M-L)’s press is carrying ultra-chauvinist anti-Marxist appeals against “U.S. assimilation”! Needless to say, not a word is mentioned about uniting with the American workers in struggle against the common class enemy.
But Bains’ petty-bourgeois narrow-mindedness does not stop at blindness towards the internationalization of the proletarian struggle that results from the worldwide nature of capitalism. It has also led him to the most petty-minded parochialism. In his book, he goes to the extreme of bemoaning the migration of workers that is brought about by capitalism. The chapter of his book on “The Proletariat and the Working People” begins with a series of lamentations about “stability...in terms of residence in the communities of their forefathers (being) an unknown phenomenon” and how “Each year hundreds and thousands of workers and their familiej move from one region to another,” and so forth, (pp. 244-47) While Marxists recognize that it is capitalist exploitation which forces workers to move and that there is sometimes pain and sacrifice involved in the process, how can proletarian revolutionaries nevertheless be blind to the fact that migration also advances the conditions for the united struggle of the working class against capitalism? Bains is completely silent about this aspect of the question. But contrast this parochial approach of Bains to the broad outlook of Lenin’s in the following remarks on workers’ immigration between nations, which, needless to say, involves far greater pain and sacrifices than migration within a country:
Hundreds of thousands of workers thus wander hundreds and thousands of versts. Advanced capitalism drags them forcibly into its orbit, tears them out of the backwoods in which they live, makes them participants in the world-historical movement and brings them face to face with the powerful, united, international class of factory owners.
There can be no doubt that dire poverty alone compels people to abandon their native land, and that the capitalists exploit the immigrant workers in the most shameless manner. But only reactionaries can shut their eyes to the progressive significance of this modern migration of nations. Emancipation from the yoke of capital is impossible without the further development of capitalism, and without the class struggle that is based on it. And it is into this struggle that capitalism is drawing the masses of the working people of the whole world, breaking down the musty, fusty habits of local life, breaking down national barriers and prejudices, uniting workers from all countries in huge factories and mines in America, Germany, and so forth. ” (Lenin, “Capitalism and Workers’ Immigration,” Collected Works, Vol. 19, p. 454)
It should not be thought that CPC(M-L)’s petty-bourgeois nationalism allows it to take a consistent stand against national oppression. Unfortunately, it does not measure up to this elementary standard of democracy. This is especially where the national oppression by one’s “own” bourgeoisie is concerned. For example, because CPC(M-L) denies Canadian imperialism, it does not carry out a firm opposition to the Canadian bourgeoisie’s plunder and oppression in the Caribbean, Africa. Latin America, etc. At home, they tend to overlook the fight against the national oppression of the Quebecois people, for instance. One of the most shocking things about Hardial Bains’ book is that while the author tries to come up with every quibble and concoction to present U.S. oppression as the main thing in Canada, in this book of 318 pages there are only a couple of merely passing references to the oppression of Quebec!
CPC(M-L) has in fact never been able to take a principled Marxist-Leninist approach to the question of Quebec. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, its Maoism led it towards an accommodation with petty-bourgeois nationalism in the general mass movement. So much so that they organized separate parties in Quebec and Canada! and they gave the line that the stage of revolution in Quebec was for national liberation.
When they abandoned this line, they veered in the direction of liquidating the struggle against national oppression altogether. At times, this has been done under the banner that the chief struggle for the workers in both Quebec and Canada was the fight against U.S. domination of Canada. At other times, an economist argument has been given that the oppression of the Quebecois is only a matter of exploitation. For example, in response to an opportunist group which raised the slogan of “absolute equality of languages and nationalities,” the leadership of CPC(M-L) polemicized:
They have advanced the slogan of the ’absolute equality of languages and nationalities’ at this time, at this historical juncture, when in the capitalist countries, the issue of the ’absolute equality of languages and nationalities’ is not an important issue. The issue is the struggle against exploitation. That is the central issue, whether it is the exploitation of a nation or a class.” (Speech by Hardial Bains at New Year’s Meeting in Montreal, January 1, 1980, printed in PCDN, January 4, 1980)
But this is to make a travesty out of Leninism. In an important passage Lenin wrote:
The Marxists’ national program...advocates, firstly, the equality of nations and languages and the impermissibility of all privileges in this respect (and also the right of nations to self-determination, with which we shall deal separately later); secondly, the principle of internationalism and uncompromising struggle against contamination of the proletariat with bourgeois nationalism, even of the most refined kind. (“Critical Remarks on the National Question,” Collected Works. Vol. 20, p. 27)
On other occasions, the leadership of CPC(M-L) counterposed the demand for equality of languages and nationalities to the right to self-determination. This too is a mockery of Leninism.
In sum. they have no principled stand on Quebec. While tomorrow they may flip-flop again, today their petty-bourgeois Canadian nationalist deviation has led them in the direction of Canadian great-nation chauvinism on the question of Quebec.
In the final analysis. CPC(M-L)’s denial of Canadian imperialism and its substitution of the struggle for socialism with a nationalist program carries with it the danger of heading towards an alliance with the Canadian bourgeoisie. The fact of the matter is that nationalism against the U.S. multinationals is the official policy of the Canadian government. Behind this stands the imperialist ambitions of the Canadian bourgeoisie to strengthen itself against its other imperialist rivals. When CPC(M-L) raises the call to “defend and extend national sovereignty,” they cannot avoid echoing the bourgeoisie.
In fact, in the past CPC(M-L) has openly welcomed the bourgeoisie as an ally in its nonsocialist revolution. From its founding document through its Third Congress, CPC(M-L) called for an alliance with the “national bourgeoisie.” In recent years, as a cover-up job, they have redefined the “national bourgeoisie” as the “middle bourgeoisie,” still portraying alliance with it as decisive for carrying out the revolution. They have never bothered to define this “middle bourgeoisie.” However they have themselves strongly indicated that this “middle bourgeoisie” is really their “national bourgeoisie” since they have theorized that in Canada the national bourgeoisie cannot exist as a big bourgeoisie.
But everyone knows that the national bourgeoisie, in an imperialist country like Canada, includes and in fact is led by the imperialist big bourgeoisie. Thus, even while their theories about “middle bourgeoisie” are wrong in and of themselves, they have really been prettifying the Canadian imperialist bourgeoisie and, in effect, opening the door for alliance with it.
These positions of CPC(M-L) bring to mind the opportunism of a trend in the German communist movement after World War I which Lenin and the Comintern characterized as “National Bolshevism.”
This trend arose in the post-war conditions where the victorious imperialist countries imposed enslaving terms on the defeated countries. The terms of the Versailles peace treaty imposed a brutal enslavement on Germany. The country was broken apart; it was robbed of its coal, bread, its merchant fleet, etc. It was forced to pay staggering indemnities to the victorious imperialists. The great weight of these policies was of course transferred by the German bourgeoisie onto the shoulders of the working masses. However, despite such extremely enslaving conditions, Lenin and the Communist International did not cease considering the German bourgeoisie as the main enemy of the German workers. They pointed to the socialist revolution and Soviet power as the only path for the salvation of the country.
Under these conditions, however, an opportunist trend arose in the German communist movement which placed the question of the oppression of the Versailles system to the fore of the struggle of the German proletariat. In his work “Left-Wing” Communism – An Infantile Disorder, Lenin referred to: ”...the preposterous absurdities of ’National Bolsheviks’ (Lauffenberg and others), who have gone to the length of advocating a bloc with the German bourgeoisie for a war against the Entente, under the present conditions of the international proletarian revolution.“ (International Publishers. New York, 1940, Ch. VIII. p. 57)
The Executive Committee of the Communist International also vigorously condemned this poisonous stand:
War against the Entente is the alpha and omega of the policy of Lauffenberg and his comrades. It may be that war with Entente capitalism will become a necessity for Soviet Germany if the workers in the Entente countries should not come quickly enough to the help of a victorious proletariat in Germany. But should this war have to be fought the German proletariat will find it more than ever necessary to defeat the German bourgeoisie, for the German bourgeoisie, the German counterrevolution, notwithstanding all the hymns of hate against France and England, will make common cause with Entente capital against the German proletariat.... Lauffenberg and Wolffheim are spreading the poison of the illusion that the German bourgeoisie could, out of nationalist hatred, become allies of the proletariat. If the proletariat were to be befooled by this idea they would become cannon fodder for German capital which under the flag of the sham Soviet republic, would use the proletariat for war against the Entente and then discard the cloak and openly re-establish capitalist rule. (ECCI. “Open Letter from the ECCI to the Members of the German Communist Labor Party.” June 1920)
Of course, the oppression of Canada by U.S. imperialism cannot be compared to the much heavier oppression of Germany by the Entente. Thus, the condemnation of “National Bolshevism” highlights even more strongly the seriousness of the deviation of the leadership of CPC(M-L).
In the final analysis, the strategy of a national revolution in Canada serves to divert the fire of the class struggle of the Canadian proletariat away from their main enemy. Canadian imperialism, to dreams of a perfect national sovereignty under capitalism. This severely blunts the edge of the struggle against the Canadian bourgeoisie. As we have seen in this article, the nationalist program of CPC(M-L) adds up to a gross embellishment of the Canadian bourgeoisie, whose crimes in Canada and abroad are glossed over.
Moreover, this policy of preaching that the main struggle in Canada is for national sovereignty is fraught with extremely serious dangers such as falling into an accommodation, or an outright alliance, with the bourgeoisie. They themselves have a hard time distinguishing it from the nationalist program of the Trudeau government, which is the program of the Canadian bourgeoisie to strengthen its imperialist positions at home and abroad. And as we have noted, this Maoist deviation is closely adapted to the politics of the pro-Chinese “three worlders,” the pro-Soviet revisionists and the mainstream of social-democracy in Canada.
Finally, it is important to emphasize that CPC (M-L)’s nationalist deviation does not in any way help the fight against U.S. imperialism either, because, by blunting the struggle against Canadian imperialism, it leaves intact one of the main pillars of the imperialist Atlantic Alliance.