(Ross Dowson speaking) Well comrades I don’t know whether many of you remember the exact development of the topic tonight. I’m a little late not to make a grand entrance, but to try to adjust the topic to some new developments that have taken place since the last class. The last class ended in quite a … in a perhaps a little warm, but a very valuable discussion. Some sharp questions were posed, from the panel and some participants in the panel. Wasn’t the LSA just using the NDP? or Waffle? Wasn’t really the LSA a party within the party? -(really) a party? That was posed. I answered some of these questions very schematically; for instance, I projected the idea that the LSA, the LSO is ideologically a party, has a distinct ideology, from the official—what is considered to be the established ideology—the immutably established ideology according to Mr. Lewis, of the NDP. A distinct ideology. We are revolutionaries, and the ideology which the NDP brass has managed to implant on the NDP is a reformist ideology.
But I said in fact, we are not a party; because we do not declare ourselves a party, and we do not act like a party. And I said a few words about what I thought were the minimum requirements of a party. A party would have to confront all other political tendencies, in a sharp and decisive way in the area in which politics are understood and comprehended by the masses in the given circumstances. In Canada, it would seem to me, a party would have to run candidates, and in some scope, against the NDP—some confrontation against the NDP. It would (under)take all the tasks of a party; it would continually make pronouncements and announcements on any and every issue before the people of this country. But we don’t conform to that concept of a party—we support the NDP. Ideologically we’re a party, but we support the NDP because we think that this is where the working class generally are at; this is the level of experience and consciousness of the broadest layers of the working class, and we identify ourselves with this party.
The meaning of our unconditional but critical support of the New Democratic Party
We support this party. Our support is critical, but it’s not conditional. We make (place) no terms on the NDP as a party with regards to our support. We didn’t say you have to have a certain type of candidate for us to support this candidate; we supported all NDP candidates in the last elections and we campaigned for them wherever we had forces without discrimination, even though some candidates were of such a character that it was extremely difficult and embarrassing and repulsive to support them, but we supported them because that’s the nature of our identity with the NDP. We laid no conditions down, but our support is critical because we are socialists, and socialism is a revolutionary concept, and we are revolutionary socialists.Well, we ended the discussion sort of on that plane—that we weren’t a party within the party, that we weren’t using the NDP in any other sense that anybody (else) was using the NDP, that the labor leadership are using the NDP—it’s up for use—that’s what it’s been created for, and we’re not using it any way (other) than anyone else is. As a matter of fact, since our support is unconditional, even though critical, I would say that our identity with the NDP is much more complete, much more fundamental, than (of) anybody else who identifies with the NDP. I’m sure you know from your own experience that many NDP reformists and certainly the top leadership, do not give unconditional support to the party. They lay down certain conditions, and I related some incidents in this regard at the founding of the party—how Douglas laid his resignation on the table when it looked like the party was going to commit itself to opposition to NATO, and he said that he couldn’t support such a position shortly after he’d been elected to office.
At a subsequent convention, Mr. Brewin said he could not support the party’s position, although the party’s position was very clear and decisively established on a certain specific question, and he announced to the commission that he wouldn’t support that position although it was within the framework of his responsibility as foreign affairs spokesman. At any rate (…those) little discussions we closed last week’s meeting on, were reminiscent of the 60s to me—they were very reminiscent of certain other experiences we’d had in the NDP. For instance, in June 1963, a couple of years after the founding of the party, the Ontario and B.C. sections of the party purged important forces from their youth movement. The NDY (New Democratic Youth-ed.) in Ontario was in actuality disbanded. “It had been heavily infiltrated,” the saying was, “by radicals, by revolutionaries, by Trotskyists". As a matter of fact, they were “functioning as a party within a party."In August 1964, the LSA (League for Socialist Action) which had completely supported the NDP, identified with the NDP, was proscribed in British Columbia. That meant that anybody who declared themselves, who were known to be a member of the LSA, was automatically barred from membership. That’s all they had to say. It didn’t matter (what the) circumstances or conditions (were) - if you were a member of the LSA, you were proscribed—the organization was proscribed, and anybody who identified themselves with the movement was, ipso facto, “an enemy of the New Democratic Party.” That proscription was also carried into Ontario. Some persons thought it was terrible that revolutionaries started to deny that they were members of the LSA—they thought this was terrible—however I thought it was quite logical, it’s like when the boss wants to know, when you’re searching for a job, whether you’re a union member, and of course you know you won’t get the job, you can’t live, you can’t exist if you say you’re a union member. So that proscription laid certain conditions down—intolerable, unacceptable conditions—but the relationship of forces (was) such, that those conditions had to be recognized, and so the left to some degree—certain elements of the left, certainly the LSA, a component of the left—went underground, not through any desire of its own part.
In 1966, (…) in April, they suspended a whole layer of NDY leaders (and) attempted to expel the LSA’ers in Alberta. This was defeated. And then there was a wave in 1967, a series of other expulsions, from British Columbia right across to Quebec. So the party went through a debilitating experience—of expulsions, of threats, of harassment of radicals.
The Socialist Caucus broadens the fight to make the NDP the labor partyWith that, the Socialist Caucus was organized. This was the first serious attempt on a pan-Canadian scale to organize a left-wing caucus. In the earlier period when the party was formed, the LSA formed an alliance with other left forces in the NDP, with the Woodsworth-Irvine Fellowship in Alberta—Irvine was still alive, he was one of the founders of the party, and he had become quite dissatisfied with the rightward character of the New Democratic Party—and (then) the Fellowship, and the group around him in Alberta sought allies, and they sought an alliance with the League for Socialist Action/ LSO. There was also a new left element in Montreal which we were in an alliance with, and there was also (in) B.C. a long-standing CCF-NDP element which we were in an alliance with. But when the LSA was proscribed, a new alignment of forces took place, and we participated along with the others in the formation of the Socialist Caucus.
This was an extremely important development. I don’t intend to go into any great detail of it, but this movement was attacked very, very viciously right across the country, by the top leadership of the NDP. The New Democrat had a big article in August 1965. It was an attack against the Trotskyists, but everybody knew what it really was—it was an attack against the Socialist Caucus. Because of course they said, the Socialist Caucus was just a front for the Trotskyists. They smeared the Socialist Caucus as a Trotskyist device. So I say, while last week’s discussion ended on a note that was somewhat reminiscent of the 60s, and when you went away, and now you’re here tonight, when you went away and you picked up the (Toronto) Globe and Mail on Monday, it must have struck sort of a responsive chord in your memory. You must have thought there was some relevance in what we were talking about on Sunday night because in Monday’s press, there was a report, in the Globe and Mail, of an all-out attack against Waffle. Many of the arguments against the Waffle—I’d say they were almost identical (to) arguments against the LSA, and certainly against the Socialist Caucus—almost identical. The arguments were the same, largely. The circumstances were different but the arguments were the same.When I tried to give you a picture of the revolutionary dynamics of the NDP at its formation, I had to concede that out of the NDP Founding Convention no great breakthrough was made programmatically. The left was defeated at the NDP convention—there was a powerful left, but it was defeated down the line. But we took consolation, in the pages of (our press, Workers Vanguard, not Labor Challenge-ed.) that we were in the process of a radicalization, and life would put the programmatic positions—established sometimes by duplicity, by the NDP brass at the Founding Convention. Life would put these positions to a test, and we looked on the NDP as undergoing a big experience with new elements coming into the movement, and developing a critical evaluation, of not only the program, but the leadership, and being receptive to new and revolutionary ideas. That radicalization was in part under way, and we made that observation. But it was developing very slowly, certainly much more slowly than we had anticipated at that time—that was (…) in the major issue (of Workers Vanguard) reporting the founding convention of the NDP, where we talked about the dynamics of the situation and how there would be a big new experience, and we could anticipate that the party would radicalize despite the failure of the left to consolidate any programmatic base in the party.
In fact, that radicalization which we anticipated at the founding of the party in 1961, and of which the party was a partial expression, didn’t really hit the party until the summer of 1969. That was in the formation of the Waffle, in the presentation of a document called For an Independent and Socialist Canada. That slow development of the left—and for the moment I’m not going to say anything about Waffle—because I think most of you are aware of the significance of Waffle—that slow development of the left in that intervening period from 1961 until 1969—eight years, rather long years—that slow development of the left caused many (people) to challenge that the NDP would (amount) to anything of any importance—(to) challenge our evaluation of the NDP.
The New Left rejected the NDP and the working class as an agent for social changeThere was a radicalization, but it was taking place outside the NDP. That was the phenomena which the New Left, the student radicals were witnessing—that the radicalization was taking place but that it was not clueing in, not moving in on the NDP—wasn’t being reflected in any substantial sense. There were elements of course, because the NDP didn’t exist in a vacuum but in general, the radicalization in this whole period was obviously taking place outside the NDP. The NDP appeared, quite clearly, to the New Left—these are the new radicals, who rejected the Old Left, which (saw) the NDP (as) part of the Old Left—that’s how they saw it. That’s how the New Left saw the NDP—they saw it as part of the Old Left. They saw it as a parliamentarist movement—which it was—and they were for action, they were for confrontation. That was the mood and the feeling of the new radicalization in the early 60s, developing through the early and middle 60s. They saw the NDP as a party which made a dogma of parliamentary change—that that was the path to change and there was no other path. And they were for much more explosive actions, and actions which they thought would bring a much more rapid change in the system.
They were against the establishment, and they saw the NDP as part of the establishment, and they saw the trade union leadership—and in fact for a whole period many of them saw the unions and the working class, in essence, as part of the establishment—the working class as being essentially bourgeoisified, and no longer a factor for revolutionary and socialist change. That mood and that atmosphere was reflected in our own movement—in the League for Socialist Action and the Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière. There were persons in our movement who challenged our participation in the NDP, and our efforts to build the left, in alliance with other leftists. As I said, we were working with the Woodsworth-Irvine Fellowship, with the New Left Caucus in Montreal, and, particularly with the proscription of the LSA, through and with the elements that came around the Socialist Caucus, including such a person as Bert Herridge. Bert Herridge identified himself with the Socialist Caucus—a longstanding member of parliament from B.C., a man with an extensive record, a rather contradictory one—but some persons started to question (whether) there was any possibility of gains by being part of this whole process and this movement.They told us, these elements who were in the League, and certainly around the League, and a big pressure on the League—told us that the League was getting a conservative image. Here you called yourselves revolutionaries and socialists, and for radical politics, not just parliamentarist but (for) extra-parliamentary action, who identified with the Cuban Revolution, with the Vietnamese Revolution—they told us, we were getting a (…) conservative image by identifying ourselves with the NDP. And there was a big debate in this left, of which we were a part, because we were among the student radicals, too—we kept our connections with all these forces, all the rumblings that were going on.
There was a big debate going in these circles about who was going to make the revolution. We said, the working class was going to make the revolution in this country. That might strike you as odd, now, to hear that there was a big debate around this question. But the Young Socialists published a pamphlet with that title: “Who is going to make the revolution?” (comments from the floor) or “Who will change the world”—well, the same thing (general laughing). That’s what the title was, and the theme of the pamphlet was who is going to make the revolution? And there was a debate with this radical element that was coming onto the political arena. And we said it’s the workers who are going to make the revolution—and the New Left said “no, it isn’t,” and I tell you there are quite a few people that you know, now, who are leaders in the Waffle, who opposed us on this very question—who rejected our line that the left should identify with the NDP, many Wafflers rejected that line. They took the line that the NDP is irrelevant, and in essence, the working class are irrelevant in this whole period. They said anybody and everything was going to make the revolution butthe working class, but the working class. The students are going to make the revolution, and the community projects, the tenants’ organizations—they were going to make the revolution.But there is one thing they were sure about—they weren’t too sure about any of those particular forces—but one thing they were sure about was that the working class weren’t going to make the revolution—they are hopelessly bourgeoisified, they are hopelessly bought off. And therefore, the trade unions, to a large degree, were irrelevant, and the NDP was certainly irrelevant, because of course it was a party which was based on the working class, on the trade union movement—that is what it was. And that was (the) fundamentally different character of the NDP as you recall from the CCF, it was a mass party based on the trade union movement, on the working class movement.
They accused us of selling out!—when we were supporting the NDP—because we have to say, help build the NDP—by supporting, of course you help build it. We were advocates for it; when we went into the New Left, and got into the arguments, when we argued (that) the working class was going to make the revolution, and the NDP is a challenge before the New Left and the New Left should identify itself with the NDP, then you know of course we were building the NDP—and we were. This wasn’t our desire as a conscious process, but regardless of that, we were building it, we were identifying ourselves with it, and therefore that’s building it, is it not? If you identify yourself with the movement, you’re building it. And we had to plead guilty, that we were building the NDP—that was (being) guilty in the eyes of the New Left, and of course it’s (a right also) denied us by the right-wing of the NDP.
The LSA pioneers linking up the NDP to developing Canadian nationalist sentimentBut, we played a very positive role in this period of trying to build the NDP. We tried to bring the left into the NDP, and if you read a pamphlet called “Canada-U.S. Relations,” that pamphlet’s whole purpose, if you read it through closely, and everybody should read it, was to convince the NDP to get with the developing Canadian nationalist sentiment in Canada—before Waffle—long before Waffle. It was a polemic with the NDP right-wing—we were telling them what’s happening in this country, what this feeling is that’s developing in Canada. We said that there’s a radicalization taking place in Canada, and that one aspect—one aspect of it—is the anti-imperialist sentiment that’s expressed against the U.S. takeover of the Canadian economy. And that pamphlet was a challenge to the NDP to identify itself with that, before we even heard of Waffle—before anybody heard of Waffle. We were saying this is a major challenge before the NDP, to identify itself with this radicalizing sentiment, which was widespread, and developing, and going to become a very important force, and which we saw flare out in the most dramatic way just last summer around the Amchitka bomb test—which was probably the biggest action which has ever taken place in Canada, and which was an action which reflected the hate and fear, and hostility of the Canadian people, particularly the students, broad layers of the students, against American imperialism.
At any rate, we gave the NDP a radical image as against the Martin Lownies and the Hardings—they were all breaking from the NDP, they were dismissing the NDP. They were telling people to desert the NDP. We said, oh no, we’re not prepared to desert the NDP—we think you should work in the NDP and you should help radicalize it, identify yourself with this vast potential for the radicalizing process in this country. At any rate, we said you have to recognize that the NDP is there. It’s there. It’s not the old movement of the CCF, but it’s coming out of the experiences of the class, the NDP is. It’s a product of capitalism. You know, now, today the NDP leadership identify themselves with the NDP—they say they are the NDP. But really, they’re just fastened on to a big phenomenon that comes out of the capitalist system.The laws of capitalism are at work and they’ve created the NDP—it didn’t come from the efforts of David Lewis, or his son Stephen Lewis or from Coldwell or any of these people, it doesn’t come from their efforts—that’s not to deny that they played any part in the process, but it doesn’t come out of their efforts—it comes out of the workings of the capitalist system—the need, the desire, the inevitable consciousness that comes into the workers’ minds from their experience. I think we can say, because of the traditions in Canada of politics that come from Europe—particularly from Britain, the Labour Party concept—that it was inevitable that there should be the radicalization of the Canadian people (that) should take on a parliamentarist (character), a political party of a parliamentarist character. It’s inevitable that it would take on that form.
And so it’s part of the whole process of the radicalization of the working class, the NDP is. That’s was it is. (NDP Leader David) Lewis is trying to manipulate it and to confine it—that’s what he’s trying to do. And we’re trying to give it its head—we’re trying to give it a way out of the situation in which it finds itself in—to not let it be trapped within the confines of bourgeois parliamentary democracy—to make it a part of the whole radicalization process.
The NDP—an objective fact that revolutionaries must face up toThat’s an objective fact—the existence of the NDP. I recall (that) Trotsky was compelled to explain to some critics about the rise of Stalinism following the great achievement of the October Revolution, and the great deeds of the Bolshevik Party. Some persons (say) - well, of course, it’s common change—that Stalinism comes out of Bolshevism. That’s a common concept, that Stalinism is the inevitable offspring of Bolshevism. Trotsky held the view as you probably know, that it’s the antithesis of Bolshevism—it’s its opposite. And in this essay on Stalinism and Bolshevism, he talks about the role of the conscious factor in the historic process. He said, the Bolsheviks were only part of the process, only part of the process. At one time, they were a decisive part of the process—at the time of the insurrection—at the time (that) the class was moving toward the insurrection and the seizure of power, the Bolsheviks played a decisive role. Without the Bolsheviks, the Revolution could have not been achieved.
The great aspirations, the hatred of the masses for their conditions—the war, the blood, the destruction, their impoverishment—all those aspirations, those hopes that they thought they could (win), would have gone nowhere, but for the Bolshevik Party. And, the Bolshevik Party, at a critical juncture played a decisive role. Then, how do you explain Stalinism, the person said? Well, Trotsky said, but it was only one of the factors, only one of the factors—the Bolshevik Party (was). At another conjuncture, in a different framework, it didn’t play a decisive role—on the contrary, other factors moved in, and it couldn’t play any role—it could only play (the role of) a holding operation.Well, that’s what we’re faced with—we’re faced with an objective fact. The NDP is an objective fact—it’s there, no matter what the revolutionaries do. At a certain conjuncture of events, what the revolutionaries do can play a very decisive role, and in a whole period they can play a very important role in preparing new opportunities. And so we supported the NDP to participate in that process consciously. But the NDP was an objective fact—it was there, any you can’t, nobody can—get around it. Nobody could get around it; nobody can get around it now. And that’s what we told the radicals: you can’t dismiss the NDP
You can express your hatred for all its shortcomings, its diversionary aspects—but it’s there and you’ve got to recognize it. And that’s why we predicted the new radicalization would go through the NDP, would come up to it and go through it; go to it and into it, I should say. (…) Go to it, up to it and into it—that’s what we said the radicalization would do. Well, the new radicalization finally hit in June ‘69, in a very concrete and apparent way. We made projections; we made “guestimations,” but they came to fruition with the formation of the Waffle.
The ‘Waffle’ bursts onto the scene and transforms the NDP until its expulsionThat bore out our prediction—the development of the Waffle. We anticipated that; we foresaw it—we thought that it was an inevitable process; and I think that we have to say that we played an important role in making it possible. Oh, I wouldn’t say we played any decisive role—the decisive role was the radicalization process which capitalism brought into being, but we were a conscious element—small, relatively small—a conscious element in that process, and we—Socialist Caucus and all the work of the radicals across the country, made the grounds available for a Waffle. And we identified ourselves, and identified ourselves completely with the Waffle. Now, just three years after the formation of the Waffle—its development as a pan-Canadian socialist current—it’s under a very vicious attack. But it’s the same old attack, the same old attack which was leveled against the Trotskyists and against the Socialist Caucus—“disruptive, disloyal, having other loyalties, being a party within a party”—those are the charges against the Waffle.
And Lewis identified the New Democratic Party with his forces, with the trade union leadership—that’s what the NDP is—that’s what he says the NDP is. And, he presents the ideas of the NDP as immutable, because what’s behind those charges against (Waffle in) the NDP is behind what was leveled before when they were leveled against the Socialist Caucus and against the Trotskyists. It’s the denial of elementary democracy, but not democracy in the abstract. Not democracy in the abstract. The Waffle presents itself as a serious challenge to the NDP brass—for all its weaknesses and for all its shortcomings it presents itself as a very serious challenge against the NDP brass. Of course, it has many weaknesses, and I don’t want to dwell too much on them tonight; we’ve talked about them in other forums, other areas. Tonight we want to talk about the defense of this development.
In general you could say that the weaknesses of the Waffle are a reflection of the inexperience of the Left—that’s what they are. I would hesitate to put them on this person or that person, to differentiate this current or that current. In general the weaknesses of the Waffle reflect the inexperience of the radicalizing elements in this country so far—their general inexperience. They’ve been deprived of a revolutionary theory. As a matter of fact, one of the weaknesses of the Waffle is that it hasn’t made any serious attempt to develop a revolutionary theory or a revolutionary strategy. It’s a broad socialist current with a diversity of viewpoints within it—summed up in (the) slogan “For an Independent, Socialist Canada.” That’s a radical and anti-capitalist concept, and the whole thrust of the Waffle is radical and anti-capitalist—that’s its whole thrust—even though it’s reformist, generally, from the point of view of its program and from the point of view of its strategy.
But the attack on the Waffle testifies to the seriousness of this whole development. What does the brass hope to do, by its attack on the Waffle? Well, (NDP leader David) Lewis gave an interview to the (Toronto) Star which has a certain inspired character. The Star wrote it as if they wrote it for Mr. Lewis—they didn’t write it as if it was a piece of news of an impartial character, but they presented Mr. Lewis’ views in extenso. Well, they said what they anticipated from the attack. They anticipate that the Waffle will break apart—they anticipate that the Waffle will blow apart—that’s what they anticipate. They think that (they) will throw a panic into the conscious Waffle circles and the peripheral elements that look to Waffle—it will throw them into a panic, throw them into a silence—scare them, and they also hope that they will break up the Waffle. And there were several projections in the interview that The Star gave to Mr. Lewis. Mr. Lewis cautioned some of those persons who thought this whiff of grapeshot would destroy the Waffle—he cautioned them. But he thought that probably certain elements would leave the Waffle, certain elements who were not tied to the party—he didn’t specify who they were. And, there were other cautionary statements in regard to another projection that the Waffle would just disappear—well, he thought that it would “rethink” its role, and it wouldn’t play the role it’s been playing in the last while, that is, as a conscious organizer of a left-wing current.
I think we can say there will be different reactions (in) the Waffle (...) Because the Waffle isn’t a homogenous force—it hasn’t had any extensive experience together as a political force, and certainly doesn’t have a common ideology. From what we now know, from what information has come back from various meetings of Waffle formations, particularly in the Ontario area, it seems that Waffle is going to fight, and that’s very good news—very good news that Waffle is going to fight. If they don’t fight, they certainly will be destroyed, because they’re up against a very powerful and very cynical machine. Some of them will shortly be reporting, I hope, at some assemblies and meetings, about what the nature of the attack was that was leveled against them—the mobilization of a bunch of trade union phonies, of brass stooges, and the time that was allotted to them to reply to the far-reaching and vicious slander that Lewis directed against the Waffle. But it would seem to me apparent from the information at our disposal that the Waffle is going to fight.
The revolutionary socialists in Waffle have a very important role. For this attack it seems to me has every possibility of radicalizing the Waffle further. If they stay and fight, that’s what the result of this attack can be. Of course there will be some who will buckle under—the most reformist wing, who have illusions about the NDP brass—and there are illusions in Waffle about the NDP brass. Or, the ultraleft—it’s quite possible that some of the ultraleft who supported the Waffle will fly off in a tangent. But as we now know, it would seem that Waffle is going to fight—and that’s a welcomed situation. They need to take the offensive in order to carry a fight like this. One of the laws of war is that you have to have a counter-offensive to defend yourself in a struggle as this—you can’t take a passive line in this direction. And, it would seem inevitable to us that elements within the Waffle are going to define a defensive—which will mean an offensive—strategy; to make known their views, to expound their ideas, because that’s what’s at stake—not democracy in the abstract, but the right of Waffle with its program (to exist), to promote its program, to define its program, and to fight for a new leadership of the Party. That’s what’s got the NDP brass up-tight—the fight for a radical program, and the fight for a new leadership.
So there are going to be some lessons learned in this struggle. One of the first lessons will be: the nature of the NDP leadership—what its nature is. I’m sure there are illusions among Wafflers, many of them, about what this leadership is. I’m sure a lot of persons came into this broad left formation with the idea that the differences are not so important, because of course Mr. Lewis talks about socialism occasionally—he doesn’t completely purge it from his vocabulary, and occasionally he talks about public ownership, under certain circumstances—he hasn’t made a principled position of opposition to public ownership—so I’m sure there are illusions, not only in Mr. Lewis, but in many of the persons who support Mr. Lewis; because the top brass is pretty united. I haven’t seen—so far—any waffling in the top brass of the NDP leadership about their attacks against the left—I haven’t seen any of that. So here we have a leadership which has revealed its character, in a way that many persons around the Waffle didn’t really understand. They revealed themselves as reformists—and persons are going to investigate this.
The origins of the parliamentarist and purely electoralist NDP leadership(Where) does this type of (NDP) leadership come from? Where does it originate? Not only does the party have a reformist program, a false program, but it’s got a leadership which is treacherous. A treacherous leadership. Well, of course the party is structured to sustain this leadership, and to give birth to new varieties of this leadership. This party is a party that’s dominated by the parliamentarists, by the reformist parliamentarists. They have the top say in this party. This isn’t really a party which is a democratic party—it’s a party which has democracy on occasion. It has democracy during a convention, it has democracy for a decision, but it hasn’t got democracy for implementing its decisions. The rank and file have no control over this leadership except at a convention, and then, this leadership is in a party which is so structured that it gives it an extremely privileged and powerful position. Because this is a parliamentarist leadership which is before the masses and before the membership of the party on all occasions and becomes inevitably in these circumstances the political leadership of the party. The parliamentary leadership of the party becomes the political leadership of the party.
And the nature of this party as an electoral machine is of a party which continues to bear within it, to spawn again and again, persons of petty ambition, parliamentary ambition. The very nature of the party bears that (stamp) within it. The leadership of the party has positions where it can reward persons (within it) - particularly those in the trade union sector of the party leadership have this type of power at their disposal. The whole leadership—the party leadership and the trade union leadership—are persons who do business with capitalism; that’s their real relationship. (They) do business with the bourgeoisie—that’s the framework of their activity and their whole life. The trade union brass—their relationship is one of intermediary between the bosses and between the workers, between the bosses and the rank and file—they have an intermediary position. Their aim is to get the best possible deal under the circumstances, under the pressure of the boss, and the pressure of the workers—to try and play one against the other, to play an intermediary role, not a revolutionary role. And, (…) that’s their philosophy too; it’s not only their strategic position, but that’s their philosophy.You don’t hear anything about workers’ control among this trade union leadership; you don’t hear anything about the development of the unions as instruments of social change and social transformation. You hear them very seldom go off the small potatoes of a few cents more here, a few hours here, a few jobs there; they work within the system. And their whole apparatus is structured for that, and that apparatus has great resources which permits them to re-structure and continue to rebuild their apparatus along those lines—to pick up anybody who comes (along) with an idealist bent, and absorb them in their apparatus. They’re a source of corruption of radicals—that’s what they are. And so likewise is the parliamentary apparatus of the party—a source of constant and consistent corruption of radicals.
Aneurin Bevan (the post-war British Labour Party left-wing leader-ed.) in his book In Place of Fear portrayed this very graphically. He talked about how a member can come from a working-class arena like himself, an area like (this) himself, and goes into the House (of Commons-Ed.) with all its ritual, its cant, its doubletalk—and how you might get up and make the first very powerful speech (in) which you say what you want about your constituents; and then you come up against—what? You see all these esteemed gentlemen—what do they call one another—the “Honourable Member from so-and-so”—you make a speech before this audience, and they’re all sitting there, and if they think your speech has some wit and some humor, they applaud—and if they think it smells of the working class and the discontent of the working class, they feel uncomfortable, but it’s only passing discomfort—they can leave the House—and of course as you know many of them leave the House and don’t even bother listening to the speeches. Mr. Trudeau has been giving a considerable number of demonstrations of this character—just ignoring the opposition. So you have a whole framework and a whole operation which is a corrupting operation, and which defuses radicals. That’s (also) the structure and the nature of the (NDP), and the program of the party.I said a few classes ago when I was talking about Mr. Woodsworth and his sell-out of the party in World War 2, how he turned the party from an opponent of the war to an instrument in support of the war—I compared him to Noske and Sheidemann—and that must have shocked some of us here. Some of you must know who the Noskes and Sheidemanns were—they were the (Social-Democratic -ed.) hangmen of the German Revolution, they were the murderers of Rosa Luxembourg and (Karl) Liebknect. It may at the time have sounded a little extravagant—but it’s not extravagant—that’s the future, for those people. That’s what their future is. They’re opponents of the revolution—the leadership of this party are opponents of the revolution. At this time they view themselves to be opponents of the left wing. And there’s no limits to the nature of their struggle against the left wing.
The need to transcend the NDP, and how it will be doneIn order to make an independent and socialist Canada, it’s not enough to build a left wing in the NDP. It’s not going to be enough to build a left wing in the NDP, and I think that’s going to be one of the lessons for many people in this struggle. They’re going to have to transcend the NDP in their understanding. That doesn’t mean to leave the NDP—on the contrary that means to fight in the NDP for the adherence of the workers who have NDP consciousness, who have concepts that identify them with the NDP. That’s what the Waffle is out to fight for—that’s what it should be out to fight for—the adherence, the ideological adherence of workers who have NDP consciousness, who’ve developed a certain understanding of the need for political action. They (these workers-ed.) don’t belong to the right wing, they belong to the class—they belong to the class. And the revolutionaries have to participate in the struggle to win them to a revolutionary concept. To build an independent and socialist Canada, they’re going to have to have a revolutionary socialist party.
The nucleus of the revolutionary socialist party is contained in the League for Socialist Action/Ligue Socialist Ouvrière. The possibilities of building this revolutionary party are in the struggles today, in their multiform (aspects--ed.) and one of the most important forms of struggle—I don’t want to go into the other aspects of it—(is) the struggle for (the right to) abortion, to eliminate the abortion regulations in the Criminal Code, but they’re (also summarized-ed.) in the struggle of Waffle today. There is going to be a great experience for the Left, to win radicalized workers to a new level of consciousness and understanding of what the task is to bring a revolution in Canada, which is inscribed in that demand “For an Independent and Socialist Canada”—that would indeed be a revolutionary Canada because the only independent and socialist Canada would be a workers’ Canada.Thank you. (applause)
Bibliography1) Aneurin Bevan, In Place of Fear, William Heinemann, 1952
Question and Answer period:
Class #4 Question and Answer period, by Ross Dowson
Are socialists wasting their time in the New Democratic Party?(…) (I can only take up) one or two aspects of the questions that were raised. There were some very good questions I’m sure in all of them, so I should take up the ones that were raised. Okay. Well, let’s take up the second one: “Why are the Trotskyists even bothering about the NDP?” Well, I will try and paraphrase it (…) “Why don’t they come out with full colors, open banner?” (With a prompt from audience) - “Tell it like it is.” Well, I thought we are telling it like it is. As a matter of fact, this came out in the other panel. You know, we were talking about the Waffle, and we were talking about the women’s liberation movement; we were talking about the anti-Vietnam war movement. And so we also talked about there’s such a thing as the League for Socialist Action that carries on its own activities independently of the Waffle and of the NDP, and we’ve been doing that all along. We have never been submerged. The revolutionary socialists have not—for some years now—submerged themselves in these movements. As a matter of fact we launched—as I reported at the last class—we launched the LSA/LSO on the very eve of the NDP (founding) convention.
Now, we said the main area of activity for the next period is in the NDP and in participating in this radicalizing process, but we never got caught and strapped in that area. As a matter of fact my impression is that the League is involved in a whole series of areas where the Waffle is not, unfortunately, where we have been unable to influence the structured Waffle. You know, you have to be careful when you talk about the Waffle—the Waffle is much bigger than the structured Waffle which most of us are talking about—as a broad phenomenon in the NDP and in the left as a whole. At any rate, we haven’t been able to convince Waffle to get involved in the abortion coalition—(and) we haven’t been able to convince Waffle to get involved in the anti-Vietnam war movement in any effective way.As a matter of fact, in practically none of the ongoing areas of the radicalization today, (have we) been able to get Waffle involved—Waffle has strangely stood apart. Although it is a part of the radicalization process, it has strangely stood aside from the other components of this radicalization. Well, we didn’t say, okay, we won’t bother with those areas. We went into the Waffle with these ideas, we tried to broaden their participation in the overall radicalizing process—but when we didn’t (succeed), we didn’t cease—we went on and did our own thing. And of course we’re publishing Labor Challenge and we are now on a campaign for a twelve-page issue on a regular basis, and we are involved in a whole series of activities.
So I think that we are doing both. Well, someone could say, well, you’re wasting some of your time in the NDP—well okay, that would be another matter. If you say, okay, you’re doing this and that, you’re holding these classes and holding your forums, and you ran—as a matter of fact I was going through Labor Challenge to get a feeling of the Socialist Caucus. I see we were carrying on election campaigns. We were doing all kinds of things. We ran Art Young for Board of Control and John Riddell for Board of Education one year, then we ran Pat Schulz and somebody else for posts, and then we involved ourselves in a whole series of very public activities. Usually they were related to our NDP work, before Waffle, to try to project them into it, and when they didn’t (come in), we did. But we didn’t allow ourselves, we have never allowed ourselves to be confined and restricted—I think!—to the levels of present activity of the NDP or Waffle—we have maintained an independent operation.I think this is very necessary of course. If we had done that (confined ourselves to the NDP-ed.), we would have missed all kinds of opportunities. I don’t think (we would have been) nearly as successful (in) other areas of (the) radicalization developing on the plane they are now. We didn’t create them, of course—it would be presumptuous on our part of course to say that we created these movements, these developments—but we played some (role, in) certain periods—there were certain conjunctures where our role was quite important—we played an important role in developing these areas of radicalization, giving them a broader scope, giving them some know-how that we’ve accumulated, and we’ve never let ourselves be restricted. Now I don’t think, I am unaware, of any evidence that could be put here to say that well, you’re really wasting some of your valuable time around the NDP and Waffle. I don’t think so—I don’t think we have done that.
As a matter of fact, I must say—we were talking in one of the panels about the common experience that revolutionaries have had—and I was trying to think of the common experience of revolutionaries in this room, and the revolutionaries organized in the LSA/LSO and YS/LJS have had—and the big common experience has been the NDP experience—that’s where most of us have come out of. A very high proportion of us were persons who were involved in the expulsions, and you know, they like to make out that all those people who were expelled were Trotskyists from the beginning. I must say that at one time—I don’t have a very good memory, but I remember one time—we were talking about the expulsions and how they kicked out a lot of persons who were in the movement, in our movement, who were conscious Trotskyists, out of the NDP. But you know, about a month later, we had more than we had before, because in the process of the struggle, in the process of the fight for our rights to be in the NDP or the CCF, we educated and radicalized whole new layers of people. There’s one person, Gary Porter—quite an interesting case you see, that’s why I want to mention him—I wrote a document a while ago called “Socialism…” -what is it? It was a document developing our ideas on entry, it was a document I wrote addressed to our movement. It was adopted by our movement, on the need for our movement to enter the CCF, to dissolve the public face of the movement—that’s a different thing, we talked about it a couple of classes ago—at any rate, this was a famous document because the NDP got hold of a copy, you see, and they started to publish it.Well, you’d think we were uneasy—jeez, they’re publishing our documents. Here we were, we hadn’t (distributed) it very widely, and we’d circulated it on a certain scale. So they started to publish this document. Their purpose was to show what scoundrels we were, what cunning and diabolical people we were. But they published it and it fell into the hands of a person by the name of Gary Porter, who was an active leader in the CCYM (CCF youth movement), I guess at that time in Ottawa, and he read it and he thought it was the most. It convinced him that we were right. It was put in there—isn’t that a good phrase? (Laughter) It was put in there in order to alienate people, to make them hostile. But when he read it, he thought, jeez, that’s my experience, and he was recruited to the Trotskyist movement on the basis of their efforts (laughter from audience).
The lack of class consciousness among many elements of the “Waffle”So, that’s what I think partly what (the) Waffle experience is going to be; I think there’s going to be an experience for certain elements in the Waffle to get a more profound understanding of what the task is, before them. How do people learn? We were talking about this before the class—how do people learn? Like someone said, you know, they’re intelligent people. Someone raised the question (about) Mr. Laxer and Mr. Watkins—they’re intelligent people—why do they have such superficial—why are they not, why don’t they have a more profound understanding of some other questions, you see? Why are they so limited in their outlook? Why do they have so many illusions? Well, nobody could question their intelligence; they’re intelligent people; we don’t claim to have a monopoly on intelligence. As a matter of fact, (…) what is intelligence? (…) intelligence in some respects has little to do with it. I tried to translate it in terms I think you’d be more familiar with, and that is class consciousness. You cannot be widely knowledgeful and erudite with a profound memory and other things which are part of intelligence—you can have all of those things which are called intelligence, but you can be profoundly ignorant of the most basic and essential questions. You can be lacking in class understanding and class consciousness.
That play of Brecht’s was an extremely sophisticated play last night. (It was) put on in an extremely bald and bold way, but (it was) a very sophisticated and profoundly intelligent play. It would strike a response, as the director said, among high school students and others who are open, who’ve had certain limited experiences. It was interesting as he said, (to) these young kids (who) have had experiences with a cop—they really got that play, they thought it was good. (But when) it went to the Rotarians or some other group like that, they didn’t understand it at all, they were hostile, they were alienated. It wasn’t that they weren’t intelligent, (that) they weren’t class conscious—they were class conscious. The bourgeoisie were class conscious (like) the petty-bourgeoisie (…) The essential character of the Waffle—a good number of them—is that they are petty-bourgeois—they’re not proletarians.That’s not to give any cult (status) to proletarians, but most workers have a certain rudimentary class understanding of their position (in society-ed.) and they can cut through a lot of the hypocrisy and cant, and they’re free of certain pressures that petty-bourgeois are under. For instance, imagine a professor (who) goes on a demonstration—what’s he going to think about? What’s going to happen to his job if he gets picked up, you know; and what pressures he (is) under to conform, the goodwill he has to have (from) his fellow academics, you see—the whole job problem, the whole social strata which he moves in. So there’s a whole series of factors which cause intelligent people not to be very profound and to draw the full conclusions. So I just want to carry that through—what’s wrong with Waffle? I’d say to a large degree, it’s petty-bourgeois. Waffle is to a large degree petty-bourgeois and does not have any real roots in working class elements.
Now, you don’t hold that against persons—their social origins. A person can break through their social origins and their general class outlook, on the basis of a theoretical understanding and the grasp they can get from an exchange of experiences with others, and—I think there’s another problem—they have limited experiences. People in Waffle have made limited experiences, and they haven’t had common experiences. This is very important in developing a consciousness—to have a common experience. I’d say this is the very first common experience that Waffle has had—the attack of the NDP brass. It gives them some insight into what the NDP is, what the brass is—and then they have to learn how to fight; they’re going to discuss all this. So people have to have some common experiences in order to develop a consciousness. This is one of the big problems in the Waffle. Sure, it’s reformist, it’s reformist—it’s not revolutionary—and we got into a discussion about this.There are people who are reformists, who are socialists—think of themselves as socialists—the classic reformists, you know, the persons who think that we’re going to get socialism by an accumulation of reforms, of gradualism. Well, there are elements in Waffle who think that, and I would think that probably the better elements who even call themselves “socialists” are reformists in this sense, they’re gradualists. They’re not revolutionary socialists, they’re anti-capitalist. One thing they don’t understand is the nature of the state. They think that parliament rules this country (...) and not the very small number of big-shots who control the strategic heights of the economy. They have all kinds of illusions in the parliamentary process. They don’t understand that this state has to be smashed, and a new state has to be formed—a state that is re-structured and reflects the interests of the working class and reflects the structure of the working class. The working class can be involved in the whole problem of government. They don’t understand that.
So they shy clear—someone was asking me why don’t they get involved in the abortion campaign. That’s a good question, if you want to talk about Waffle, why don’t they get involved in these things? Well, for one thing, these things are not structured in a sense. You know (how) parliament is structured, elections are structured—the whole process is very methodical and you have to discuss it, etc., but these movements are radical, they’re explosive. You know, people do things that are unanticipated in these movements. They have a rebellious character, these movements. And I think this is why many persons in Waffle don’t get involved in these things.
The wealth of common experience within the Socialist CaucusI think what you have to say fundamentally is, is that the Waffle has not had a common experience yet—just as the working class (hasn’t). In the previous class I tried to talk about what common experience the class has in Canada. Well, there’s only one big common experience, and that was the Depression in 1929, and (that’s) a couple of generations ago. You could ask what common experience have we had. Well, I referred to the common experience of revolutionary socialists who got expelled in the NDP or who went through the experiences of expulsions. Or you have the people who went through the Vietnam War experience—you know, felt alienated by the war and Canadian complicity, got involved in the movement, got into the arguments and the discussions and debates, and developed a common experience too.
This is very necessary, in order to have a direction, to have a common experience, and to develop any real understanding of the social processes at work. The Socialist Caucus—well I don’t think I want to go into much of (its) history. I did pull out a few things, and I discarded them. The Socialist Caucus was a really big experience. I know it’s been dismissed by—I think it was (Mel) Watkins (Waffle leader and economist-ed.) who was asked about it once in an interview, and he tended to dismiss it—well why didn’t it go anywhere? (…) I think he said (because) it was Trotskyist—he just put that label on it, Trotskyist. There’s some truth in that, of course; the brass were able to label it Trotskyist (…) relative to the Waffle development, it was limited, that’s true. But it wasn’t Trotskyist, it was broader than Trotskyist. The Waffle was quite immature and unsophisticated compared to the Socialist Caucus.For instance, the Socialist Caucus put forward a program at the 3rd Convention of the NDP in July ‘65. Now, they didn’t start from a broad experience, which is undigested and unassimilated, that is, the experience of Canadian nationalism, an anti-imperialism sentiment. They came from a socialist, a more or less general socialist consciousness. I just put down the six-point program which they put out, which they distributed to the 3rd Party Conference. Public ownership of basic industry—I didn’t put the whole thing down—(the issue of) public ownership of basic industry was part of the ongoing struggle for many, many years, and it was from a principled point of view. What kind of society do we need? You see—what’s the change that has to take place?—a very profound thought. It wasn’t just a reaction to a juggernaught that’s moving in on the Canadian economy, and how do you fight this back—and so people have all kinds of concepts of how you fight it back—well, we need a socialist Canada, but it isn’t formulated in any serious way. .
But this demand was a part of the whole socialist tradition which had developed in the fight in the CCF. Then came the support of the colonial peoples’ struggle for political and economic independence—you don’t hear that in Waffle—that was the second plank. They identified themselves with the world revolution. Waffle hasn’t got what you could call a “foreign policy"-hasn’t got a world outlook. You never hear anything in Waffle about this to my knowledge—I never heard anything about it. Then it (the Socialist Caucus) came out for recognition of the NDP as Canada’s labor party. Okay, so it was trying to build itself, you see, in the radicalization. It was for establishing democracy in the party. It was for recognizing Quebec as a nation with the right of self-determination—well, Waffle picked that up; it was part of the experience. It (Socialist Caucus) was for a charter of women’s rights—this was before the women’s liberation movement started to go—that’s in ‘65 (S.C. Manifesto, 1963-ed.), just the very beginnings. I just gave you the ragged points. For instance in one of the conventions in Ontario here, it led a big demonstration out of the convention in the noon-hour, a very effective anti-Vietnam War demonstration. It came out of the Socialist Caucus—it was called on the floor, and people were appealed to go, and (Bert) Herridge led the demonstration, and a very big proportion of the assembly delegates at the Ontario NDP convention joined this action. It was an early action, in solidarity with the struggle of the Vietnamese people and opposed to Canadian complicity.The Socialist Caucus was very bold—a very bold operation. They had the support of 30 to 40 delegates at one of the conventions, the 1965 convention of the Ontario NDP. It surprised me when I read it, how strong it was. There’s other scatterings of information here, and I never pulled them together. For instance, they held some very effective meetings, and they pulled together some people who you will be surprised to hear about now. For instance they had a meeting at which appeared Gordon Vichert, of Hamilton who appeared on the Socialist Caucus platform, Dan Heap, well-known in the Waffle, Bob Wright from Welland, well-known in the Waffle, Jack Grant, York North, (who) I think probably identifies with the Waffle now, and of course, Stew Sinclair, a member of the League. But they had the support of various people who have continued on and participated in the party and who subsequently became part of Waffle operation.
But the Socialist Caucus was a very effective operation. (John ) Harney even spoke from one of the platforms. At that time I think there was a leadership struggle, and Harney was not afraid to move out and identify himself on the platform of the Socialist Caucus. At any rate, I’m not sure what I wanted to say about the Socialist Caucus, except to say that the Socialist Caucus was, to a large degree, Trotsky-baited into the ground—it was to some considerable degree Trotsky-baited into the ground. Waffle could also (take the) fall for that, too, because they did their bit of Trotsky-baiting, too. As a matter of fact that was one of the charges of (David) Lewis (NDP leader-ed.), that they provided an arena for the Trotskyists and Maoists at the Hamilton conference. I anticipate they will change their view on this because there’s been a lot of Trotsky-baiting in Waffle. If they don’t fight against that, they will also go down—that will split them asunder—this is a big assault. But I think the main factor confronting the Socialist Caucus was that these were wide expulsions. There was red-baiting, and the radicalization hadn’t really hit in the Party yet. And the Waffle picked up and fused with the work that the Socialist Caucus had done.
What type of party, of cadre, is necessary to link to and lead the class?I took a note here from another class—so we’re talking about a Revolution. Here we are, revolutionaries talking about a Revolution. Well, what makes a Revolution? There has to be objective circumstances to make it favorable, for a Revolution. What we were talking about in the early part of the class, about the vanguard party—what we are now in the process of trying to do—is we’re trying to build a cadre that can participate in a conscious way in the radicalizing process. It’s an educational task, but it isn’t an educational task in (the) formal way that most people see it. It isn’t a matter of merely accumulating this bit of knowledge and that bit of knowledge, and the accumulation of knowledge that leads to a broad level of socialist consciousness—that isn’t our concept of the revolutionary process and the radicalization of the masses. Our concept of the radicalization is in the streets and confrontation and in building cadre—that’s how we see the radicalization. This is the big (goal) - the possibilities of the Revolution.
There has to be a big common experience for the class. There has to be a crisis in society in which the class is susceptible to the most radical concepts—the class as a whole. That doesn’t assure the social change. What assures the social change is this radicalizing experience, plus the cadre. Someone asked me (if) I could complete the analogy about Bolshevism—well, the Bolsheviks played a key role at a specific juncture of revolutionary crisis. Then when the ebb took place, (with) the degeneration, (and with) the exhaustion of the Soviet masses, Stalinism came on the arena. The Bolsheviks were paralyzed; they weren’t able to do anything—they were overwhelmed by objective circumstances.What we’re out to do, is we’re out to accumulate cadre; we’re out to participate in the ongoing radicalization, to go through the experience with the class—we’re out to build cadre. That’s the main task. It isn’t in the immediate gains that are made. The conjunctural gains that are made are important, but the most important thing that the elements in this experience in this struggle (is that they) gain some important experience, and move feet higher in this understanding, in their concepts. With the widening of cadre, there’s a possibility of spanning the uneveness in the development of the class. The bourgeoisie—we were talking about this in the panel—the bourgeoisie are carrying on a continual process to de-educate the class, dis-educate them, to disperse them, to overwhelm them with difficulties.
The working class learns certain things, but these things are undone in the continuing process, and only elements of them are sustained and retained by elements of the class. But the cadre is very important to span this ebb and flow, this destruction of knowledge and experience, and to generally co-ordinate it. And particularly, when the crisis hits the capitalist system, and more elements are thrown into the struggle that span these differing struggles that develop (at) these differing paces, with differing objectives, (the cadre) spans them and co-ordinates them in one powerful thrust against the system, (…) that is the Revolution, the Insurrection. That’s what’s necessary.The revolutionary vanguard in this country is where it is, primarily because of the objective circumstances that exist. The objective conditions are two-fold: one of them is the economic situation, the broad experience the class has. If the workers feel a certain economic well-being, they’re not susceptible to revolutionary concepts, revolutionary ideas. Only elements of them are. This process develops unevenly. The (second--ed.) big factor in the radicalization of the broadest layer today is the women’s liberation movement, in my opinion. This is having a tremendous impact of a common character on a broad layer. Many women are going to become radicalized in the process. They have to be won to the revolutionary vanguard in the process of those struggles. This revolutionary vanguard will bring these persons together to make them an effective hitting force. With the conjunctural crisis of capitalism, this cadre can play the decisive role in the struggle.
That’s what we’re about. We’re out to build the League for Socialist Action. I don’t think we’ve lost anything in working in, participating in the experience of the class, in the NDP. I think it’s a very key area. In some ways it’s a higher level of experience for many workers than just women’s liberation, or the Vietnam (antiwar area) - it’s a more generalized experience. It tends to develop a political consciousness and raises the level of workers to an understanding that it’s not enough to fight against elements of society, but they have to fight against the total society. But of course there can be parliamentarist illusions with that, (but) I think most workers are going to overcome the parliamentarist illusions too—this is part of the process of the experience.So it’s a broad struggle that pulls together the experience of different levels of the class, and these experiences are jelled in a strategic concept that can only be developed by a revolutionary vanguard party.
I think that’s all I have to say. (applause)(Jim Mitchell: That’s the end of this series, comrades. Friday night there will be a comrade up from New York to speak on the Black Liberation struggle today and next Sunday night we start the series on “The Transitional Program")
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