Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Progressive Workers Movement

For An Independent and Socialist Canada: A Marxist-Leninist View


Although we have stated our position as clearly and as simply as we could, there are many questions and arguments we could not fully deal with in the main body of the paper without frequently interrupting our analysis. Therefore, we have prepared this Appendix in which we hope to discuss certain theoretical questions in greater detail.

In the first section of the Appendix, we discuss those arguments against our position that we have come up against in our previous work. We have tried to present such arguments as clearly and honestly as possible. Nevertheless, since we are stating them in order to refute them, people who wish to examine them in greater depth would have to turn»to some of the literature of those groups who put such positions forward.

The other parts of the Appendix are self-explanatory. They concern questions on which we could only touch in the main body of the paper, but which we think are questions of importance and should be discussed more fully.

A. Incorrect Ideas on the National Question
“All Nationalism is Reactionary”

The first of the arguments usually raised against those who are fighting for national independence is that all nationalism is reactionary. Although the main proponents of this theory in this part of the world are foreign, namely the Progressive Labour Party in the United States, it is necessary to deal with this position because PL has a certain following in the Canadian Party of Labour and because some other Canadians hold this view, although they may not have worked it out in such detail has PL.

The clearest and most precise explanation of this position appears in the August 1969 issue of PL. Already in May 1969, PL announced “there is no such thing as revolutionary nationalism.” The August issue develops this position in full.

The first argument in support of the anti-nationalist position is that national struggle denies class struggle, thus playing into the hands of reaction. To quote PL:

“National struggle instead of class struggle must lead to imperialism. National struggle denies class struggle. And national struggle does not automatically lead to class struggle. Communists must intervene and put forward a Marxist-Leninist line. This gives the workers and oppressed people the correct and only alternative to capitalism.”

This whole formulation is very confused. For a Marxist it is not a question of national struggle versus class struggle. The national struggle – like every other political struggle – is a class struggle. The national banner is always raised by a particular class or classes. It depends on who these classes are and why the banner is raised as to whether, in that particular example, nationalism is progressive or reactionary.

We agree, of course, that communists must “intervene and put forward a Marxist-Leninist line” during the national struggle. National struggle does not automatically lead to a struggle for socialism (which we presume is what PL means by “class struggle”). Communists must provide leadership beyond the national struggle if socialism is to be achieved. But the question is, what is to be the attitude of communists while the national struggle is being waged? For example, should communists in Vietnam have condemned as bourgeois nationalists and reactionaries all those peasants, students, workers, intellectuals, and others who are not socialists but who have taken up armed struggle to free their country of American rule? This would seem to be the logic of the PL position. If all nationalism is reactionary, then all non-socialist Vietnamese nationalists are fighting in a reactionary cause and should be condemned as the agents of imperialism. In fact, the more fervently they fight in this reactionary nationalist cause, the more they serve the imperialist. And thus every defeat for the Americans in Vietnam is actually a victory for U. S. imperialism!

Unless we are prepared to accept such absurdity, we have to see that it is the PL position which is absurd. Clearly we cannot condemn all national struggles as inevitably leading to imperialism. As we have already pointed out, we must examine each manifestation of nationalism in its own context and judge its relationship to its specific situation. For Vietnamese communists to have rejected the national struggle would have meant their isolation from the Vietnamese masses at a time when everyone possible had to be brought into the struggle against the main enemy, U.S. imperialism. In a country dominated by imperialism, the nationalism which seeks to free the country from the foreign ruler has to be seen as having an overwhelmingly progressive character. If this means an alliance between classes and groups that in other arenas have opposing interests, then this alliance has to take place. If Marxist-Leninists maintain their own clear perspective and independent organisation, they have nothing to fear from such alliances.

The second argument marshaled by Progressive Labour in their attack on all forms of nationalism is not so much theoretical as historical. They point out that in a number of cases, nationalism has been used by native ruling classes to usurp the revolution and thus the removal of the foreign ruler through national struggle did not really change the oppression suffered by the mass of the people. Indeed, in the case of Algeria and Indonesia the imperialists have managed to return and renew their domination.

It’s true that Algeria and Indonesia do provide us with examples of national revolutions that led not to socialism but to neo-colonialism. The question is though, why did this happen? Was it the national aspect of the liberation struggle or some other factor that caused these setbacks? In order to prove their point, PL would have to show: (a) that in no case did a national struggle ever lead to socialism and (b) that in all the cases where a national struggle was later subverted by either a local ruling class or by foreign imperialists, it was the national aspect of the liberation movement that caused or allowed this to take place.

In the first place, PL knows very well that there have been successful struggles of national liberation which have led to the establishment of socialist states – China is the most prominent example. But in order to be consistent, PL is forced to be dishonest – they blatantly state the very opposite. According to them, China achieved socialism in one stroke:

“During the Chinese Revolution, there were those who said that you couldn’t skip stages and go from feudalism to socialism. They said China had to have capitalism first. It was claimed there were very few workers, and China, of course, had very little industry. One of the great contributions of the Chinese communists was to smash this idea. By leaping from feudalism to socialism they speeded up the revolutionary process and greatly intensified imperialist contradictions. Actually, a similar argument is being advanced today. There are those who claim local nationalists must first defeat the imperialists. Then this nationalist revolution can be transformed into the socialist revolution.”

Unfortunately for this argument, the Chinese themselves have a very different view of what happened in their own country. Lin Piao has written in Long Live the Victory of the People’s War:

“It is very harmful to confuse the two stages, that is, the national-democratic and the socialist revolutions. Comrade Mao Tse-tung criticized the wrong idea of ’accomplishing both at one stroke’, and pointed out that this Utopian idea could only weaken the struggle against imperialism and its lackeys, the most urgent tasks at that time.”[33]

And in case there should be any doubt as to the necessity of waging a national struggle against imperialism (at least in the situation that existed in China), Lin Piao further writes:

“In the struggle against imperialism and its lackeys, it is necessary to rally all anti-imperialist forces, including the national bourgeoisie and all patriotic personages. All those patriotic personages from among the bourgeoisie and other exploiting classes who join the anti-imperialist struggle play a progressive historical role; they are not tolerated by imperialism but are welcomed by the proletariat.”[34]

That is, the Chinese communists from their own experience acknowledge the existence of such a thing as progressive nationalism and point to the necessity of utilizing this force wherever possible.

Now we must ask, what enabled China to succeed where Algeria failed? It could not have been the national aspect of the struggle in itself that was responsible for the success of the one and the failure of the other, for this aspect existed in both cases. The difference was that in the Chinese national struggle, a well-organized and experienced Marxist-Leninist party provided the leadership and protected the interests of the working masses, whereas in Algeria the Marxist-Leninists played a very minimal role. If anything, these two examples prove the necessity for Marxist-Leninists to take an active leadership role in the liberation struggle where foreign imperialism is the main enemy. It is true that if they put their faith in the goodness or progressivism of the national bourgeoisie, they will suffer great defeats, as in Indonesia – or as in China in 1927. To rely on the non-socialist elements to bring about socialism is a mistake on the right – but to refuse to recognize the necessity of unity with them in certain situations is an equally serious mistake on the left.

Certainly nationalism can be reactionary, a weapon in the hands of the ruling class in order to mislead the people. But it can also be revolutionary. It was the latter kind of nationalism that Mao was referring to when he said: “Can a Communist who is also an internationalist at the same time be a patriot? We hold that he not only can be but must be. ”

“Canadian Nationalism is Reactionary”

We must now turn our attention to arguments that deal specifically with the Canadian situation. Such arguments may or may not acknowledge that nationalism can be a progressive force in some circumstances, but they agree that in the case of Canada, nationalism is definitely reactionary.

“Canada is an Imperialist Power”

The first of these arguments states that far from being a neo-colony of the United States, Canada is in fact an imperialist power in her own right. Since much of our paper has been devoted to showing Canada’s colonial past and present, we need not repeat ourselves here. But certain aspects of this argument have to be dealt with.

The major “proof” of Canada’s imperialist nature is Canadian foreign investment and the existence of certain Canadian companies which derive huge profits from such investment. There are four questions that we have to ask in looking at Canadian foreign investment. How much Canadian foreign investment is there? Where is it located? Who controls it? And finally, does the fact of foreign investment characterize the fundamental nature of the Canadian economy? In other words, is the Canadian economy, like the American economy, essentially based on imperialist exploitation abroad?

By the end of 1964 Canadian direct investment abroad amounted to $3,356 million (DBS) – a sum which fell far short of foreign investment in Canada, less than one sixth. This would make Canada the only imperialist country with more foreign investment at home than it controlled abroad. $2,025 million, or 60% of this Canadian foreign investment was in the United States where it could hardly be looked upon as imperialist investment in the real sense – unless we wish to believe that their investment in the United States gives Canadians some significant measure of control in the American economy. Investments in the United Kingdom, Europe and Australasia amounted to $789 million, making a total of $2, 814 million in highly developed capitalist and imperialist nations, or almost 85% of all Canadian investments abroad. Only $542 million of Canadian foreign investments were placed in Latin America, in British, French and Dutch possessions in the Americas, in Africa and in Asia.

The point is that virtually all of Canadian foreign investment is located in areas where “Canadian imperialism” cannot exercise any control whatsoever in order to derive the traditional imperialist benefits of controlled markets, areas of investment, control of resources, and subservient native ruling classes. In fact, Canada would be the only imperialist country which does not possess – and never has possessed – any colonies and neo-colonies.

Of equal importance is the question of who controls Canadian foreign investments. In 1964 United States-controlled Canadian enterprises held $1,307 million which was 39 per cent of the total. An additional 4 per cent was held by other foreign-controlled Canadian enterprises – a total of 43 per cent of all Canadian investment abroad in the hands of foreign-controlled enterprises in Canada. The trend toward increased foreign control of Canadian investment abroad can be seen from the fact that 56 per cent of the increase in Canadian foreign investment during the decade from 1954 to 1964 was accounted for by Canadian companies under foreign control. It would appear from this that Canada’s role as a foreign investor is mainly limited to that of staging point for foreign capital investment in other lands. We have already pointed to Brascan as one example of such a “Canadian” imperialist company.

This is not to say that no Canadian companies invest abroad. But certainly it is absurd to argue that the roughly 2 billion dollars of Canadian foreign investment which is controlled by Canadian capitalists make Canada into an imperialist country. Can we say, with the evidence presented here, that the Canadian economy is based on imperialist exploitation abroad? As we have shown, Canada is nowhere in a position to exercise control and is in fact herself controlled economically to a greater extent than virtually any other colony or neo-colony on the globe. The Canadian firms which engage in imperialist activities abroad cannot be said to dominate the Canadian economy as the American economy is dominated by the American imperialist monopolies for example. The most important factor defining the nature and shape of the Canadian economy is foreign control, not investment abroad. A few Canadian companies investing abroad no more make Canada an imperialist country than does the sixty per cent of Canadian foreign investment that is located in the United States make the U.S. a Canadian colony.

“Canada has an Independent Ruling Class”

Another view that condemns Canadian nationalism as reactionary states that the Canadian bourgeoisie is an entity separate from the American bourgeoisie, but one which sees no conflict between itself and the U.S. bourgeoisie. Closely related to the “Canada is an imperialist country” view, this argument is saying once more that Canada is an independent capitalist state and explains our close ties to the U.S. by stating that the independent Canadian ruling class sees its interests as one with the American ruling class. The August 25, 1969 issue of Vanguard, organ of the Trotskyist League for Socialist Action wrote:

“Thus in reality the relationship of the Canadian capitalist class vis-a-vis the U.S. capitalist class can best be described as that of partner-junior partner.”

And further:

“If at other times there were conflicting interests which caused the Canadian capitalist class to pursue or attempt to pursue policies that took it into real conflict with the U.S. ruling class, this is no longer the situation. It is now apparent the Canadian capitalist class has arrived at a mutually agreeable relationship with U.S. capital in their common exploitation of the work force, of this country and its vast natural resources.”

All of this of course sounds very much like what we ourselves are saying, that the Canadian comprador bourgeoisie serves American imperialism by selling out and administering Canada for the benefit of the United States. There is a world of difference, however, between the two positions. What the LSA would have us believe is that Canada is not a controlled neo-colony of the United States, but an independent country. Our ruling class does not serve American imperialism, they merely cooperate with it because they see it in their interest to do so. In other words, national independence is not a problem at all for Canada, we already have it. What we need to do is simply to prepare for socialist revolution without cluttering our minds with thoughts of independence.

The LSA has for many years maintained Canada is an independent capitalist country; the statement quoted above is attempting to reconcile that view with the mass of evidence proving our colonial status. Since they must account somehow for all the facts which show Canada’s position as a colony without actually admitting these facts, they develop the theory of an independent Canadian ruling class which has a “mutually agreeable relationship with U.S. capital.”

If the Trotskyist theory were right, it would make the Canadian ruling class the first independent ruling class in history which saw no conflict of interest between itself and the foreign imperialist taking over its country. In fact, the weakness of this theory lies in its failure to recognize the true nature of the Canadian governing class as a comprador-capitalist class, a class which historically evolved and has always existed as the servant of British and American imperialism in Canada. When we say the Canadian comprador bourgeoisie plays the role of junior partner to foreign imperialism, we mean that this is the only role it knows how to play, the only role it has ever been allowed to play. It is nonsense to speak of an independent Canadian ruling class – such a class has never existed.

“Struggle in Canada and the U.S. is Exactly the Same”

There are two arguments against a national independence movement in Canada which differ from each other slightly, but lead to the same conclusions and can therefore be treated together. The first one states that Canada is no more a colony of the United States than is the U.S. a colony of Canada, but both are oppressed by the same ruling class – a continental bourgeoisie. The second sees Canada not as a colony of the United States but as virtually a part of the United States. Geographically the border is artificial, goes the argument, an imaginary line drawn by the bourgeoisie. Canada has the same language, culture and economic system as the United States; politically we are controlled from Washington and economically from Wall Street. One can cross from Canada to the U.S. and hardly even notice the difference, this argument concludes.

We feel we have dealt adequately with the premises on which these two arguments are based in previous sections of our paper. We have shown the development of the Canadian comprador-bourgeoisie – obviously it is not part of the American imperialist bourgeoisie, it merely serves the latter. There is no “continental bourgeoisie,” except in the sense that the American bourgeoisie rules the entire continent. And we have shown that the border is not “imaginary” – who besides a few “Marxist” intellectuals and our Resources Minister Joe Greene thinks it is? – that Canadians have a sense of nationhood and a desire to keep separate from the United States. But the political implications of these two arguments deserve a closer look.

The conclusion to be drawn from both arguments is the same: we must forget about an independence struggle in Canada and concentrate on the task of organizing socialist revolution in the whole of North America north of the Rio Grande. Thus, when Canadians express a desire for independence, we must tell them such desires are reactionary, for their task is to hang on the tail of the revolutionary movement in the United States. Such would be the effect of accepting this conclusion of a “continental” struggle for socialism.

We would always have to await developments in the United States, for obviously the continental revolution cannot be waged in Canada alone. Since we cannot ourselves overthrow the “continental bourgeoisie” nor the United States ruling class, we would have to wait for the American working class to do so and then make whatever contribution we can. In fact, if we wish, we could actually give up the struggle altogether and simply wait for the American Revolution to liberate us – for obviously once the American working class overthrows its own ruling class, they will have freed us as well – IF there is a “continental bourgeoisie” or IF we are actually part of the United States, that is. These are the conclusions such arguments lead to, reflecting nothing more than the kind of colonial-mindedness some people on the Canadian left manage to share with the Canadian comprador bourgeoisie.

We are not saying, of course, that revolutionaries in Canada must not or should not cooperate and work closely with revolutionaries in the United States. Anything we can do to help each other we must naturally do without fail, and we should at all times be in contact with our American comrades. But to say this is not necessarily to say that the way we carry on our struggle is exactly the same as the way they carry on theirs, or that we must follow only in their footsteps. We must recognize that in Canada we have our own specific situation and problems to deal with, and that these are not the same as the ones faced by American revolutionaries. Above all, in Canada we face the problem of foreign imperialistic control and the necessity for a national independence struggle if socialism is to be achieved.

“Nationalism is Irrelevant in Canada”

The final position we shall deal with states its argument thusly: “Nationalism, a sentiment for national independence, may not be reactionary in the Canadian context, but it is irrelevant. In all the other countries where a national struggle against imperialism has taken place, such as in China, Korea, and Vietnam, or in those countries where national liberation movements are in the process of developing, such as in the Latin American countries, the situation has been vastly different from the one we face in Canada.

They are all mainly agricultural countries with the poor peasantry forming the bulk of the population. The working class was (or is) a small part of the population, unable by itself to wage a successful fight for socialism, or even to free the nation from foreign rule. Naturally it has had to ally itself with the peasants and with other classes as well. But Canada is, by comparison to the Third World countries, an industrially developed nation. There is no feudalism, and no peasantry. The working class is the majority of the population, it need not seek class alliances in order to wage its struggle. It can fight directly for socialism; once we have socialism we shall have independence as well.”

As socialists, we agree of course that it is desirable to fight for socialism in the most “direct” manner. The question is, what is the most direct manner? Should we ignore the advice of Lenin, and not “carefully, attentively, and skillfully” take advantage of “every antagonism of interest among the bourgeoisies of the various countries and among the various groups or types of bourgeoisie within the various countries”? Should we fail to take “every, even the smallest opportunity of gaining a mass ally, even though this ally be temporary, vacillating, unstable, unreliable, and conditional”? Would it be more “direct” to ignore all possible allies, and attack the enemies of the working class as a block, even though they can be divided?

Any capitalist class is an enemy of the working class. But the small Canadian capitalists (i e., not the compradore bourgeoisie) have contradictions with the imperialists who are squeezing their class out of existence. The small farmers and shopkeepers constitute a potential mass ally of the working class – at least in the struggle against U.S. imperialism.

There is another consideration, as well as the question of class allies. Within the working-class there are many people who are not socialists, who are even anti-socialists, but who still support the idea of opposing U.S. domination. This group constitutes an important ally in the struggle against imperialism. With correct leadership, it should ultimately be possible to win many of them to a socialist position. But there is nothing unprincipled about uniting with them on the basis of their anti-imperialist sentiments. (Opportunism consists of uniting on some unprincipled basis.)

An independence movement is inevitable. The various bad consequences of being a neo-colony will worsen considerably as time goes on, particularly with a deterioration of the economic position of the United States. This will result in a deepening feeling of resentment about U.S. domination. With leadership, this sentiment can be translated into a movement capable of political action. The question of who will give this leadership, however, is another matter. If socialists do not take an active part in struggling within the independence movement, various bourgeois and petty-bourgeois tendencies will undoubtedly gain leadership roles. This will mean that the socialists will have abandoned the non-socialist workers to the influence of representatives from other classes. As we pointed out in a previous section, the result of national bourgeois leadership would be disastrous.

Certainly the fact that Canada has an industrialized economy and a much different class composition than the Asian, African, and Latin American colonies will mean that the struggle for independence and socialism will take different forms and must employ different strategies and tactics to meet the specific needs of the Canadian situation. But one necessity exists in all situations faced by revolutionaries everywhere: the necessity to isolate the main enemy and to unite against him as many forces as we can. To say that the main enemy is capitalism and the antagonists in the struggle are the working class and the bourgeoisie is merely to state a truism, but it does not deal with the particular Canadian situation. Who, we must ask, is the most important force behind capitalism in Canada? We have shown this to be the imperialist ruling class of the United States. It is therefore necessary to isolate this enemy and concentrate as many forces against him as possible. All Canadians who oppose American domination, working class or not, socialist or not, and for what ever reason, must be seen as allies (or at least potential allies) at this stage of the struggle. It is up to socialists to develop their own strength by giving effective leadership to the working class, to the independence movement in general, and by developing a genuinely revolutionary Communist party in Canada, and thus to ensure that the fight for independence does in fact lead to socialism.

B. Quebec

The following general comments outline what we feel is the correct attitude towards the struggle of the Quebecois:

(1) English-Canadians should support the right of the Quebecois to enjoy the basic democratic freedoms – such as freedom of speech, assembly, etc. These freedoms are presently being curtailed and increasingly denied the Quebec people.
(2) In particular, we must support the right of the Quebec people to secede from Canada, if they so desire. It must be understood that this too is a basic democratic right that should be supported unconditionally – whether or not it is our opinion that Quebec should secede. There will never be any possibility of solidarity between the peoples of English-Canada and Quebec if English Canadians support the forcible retention of Quebec within the Canadian state.
(3) The attitude of some English-Canadians that Quebec must remain part of Canada, no matter what the Quebecois think, is one expression of a kind of bigotry that has been called “national chauvinism.” In its crudest forms, English-Canadian chauvinism makes some people sound like racist “rednecks” of the American south. The Quebecois are justified in hating English-Canadians who call them “pepsies” or “frogs”. Progressive English-Canadians must fight this chauvinism. Furthermore, we must explain to our fellow workers that the demands of the Quebec people are not insane and unreasonable (as our press would have us believe), but are natural results of the depressed economic situation in Quebec and the historical fact that Quebec has always been treated like a conquered nation within the Canadian state.
(4) The above points (support for the Quebecois’ democratic rights, including the right of secession; and opposition to English-Canadian chauvinism) should be supported – as a matter of simple justice – by all Canadians, not only socialists.

But as anti-imperialists and socialists, we must go beyond this, and determine our attitude towards the independence movement in Quebec. Do we support it, support it under some conditions, or oppose it? For it is perfectly consistent to unconditionally support the right of a nation to secede, but at the same time attempt to persuade the people not to exercise that right.

Whether or not socialists support a secessionist movement depends on how that movement affects the struggle for socialism – does it advance the cause of socialism or hinder it?

In both Quebec and English Canada, the main obstacle on the road to socialism is the economic, political and cultural domination by U.S. imperialism. Anything that weakens this domination contributes to the struggle for socialism. The question is, then, does the independence movement in Quebec contribute to the weakening of U. S. domination?

To take a particular example: in Quebec the working people have a trade-union federation, the CNTU, which has broken with the imperialist dominated AFL-CIO to an extent unheard of in English Canada. This has weakened the “International” unions and U.S. domination in general. The CNTU is basically a Quebec body, not a Canadian one. Its formation reflects the nationalist sentiment of the Quebec people. This is not altered by the fact that some of the CNTU’s former functionaries – like Jean Marchand – went on to become spokesmen for Trudeau’s version of Canada. The CNTU shows that nationalist sentiment in Quebec can contribute to the weakening of U. S. imperialism.

But the “separatist movement” in Quebec is actually many movements. Many different groups claim to support the idea of independence. Pierre Bourgault (leader of the now-defunct R.I.N.) claimed to favour independence – from the Canadian state, but not from U. S. imperialism. Bourgault once said that an “independent” Quebec might well choose to join the United States! This kind of separatist politician plays upon the justified resentment of the Quebecois at English-Canadian chauvinism; at English-Canadian capitalists (who are often more visible in Quebec than the imperialists, although much weaker); and at the English-Canadian agents of U. S. imperialism in Quebec (the same comprador bourgeois class that is an enemy of the English-Canadian workers as well). However, while these grievances are justified, ”independence” from the Canadian state will not be true independence for the Quebec people, if it means continued national oppression by U. S. imperialism. And U. S. imperialism is capable of trying to fan national animosities between the Quebec and English-Canadian workers in order to divert the Quebecois from the main enemy and to create a climate in English-Canada that would make it possible to raise an army to suppress a genuine independence movement in Quebec.

Obviously, socialists in English Canada cannot support pro-imperialist separatism. But the best way to oppose it is not to lecture the Quebecois but rather to build support in English Canada for the Quebecois’ right of secession. In this way, we can make it clear that it is not English-Canadians as such that are the enemies of the Quebec people, but only those English-Canadians who allow themselves to be used as tools of U.S. imperialism.

The reactionary form of separatism is no doubt unacceptable to the rank and file of most independence organizations. In general, the anti-imperialist aspect is dominant in the separatist movement – sometimes in spite of the leadership. English-Canadians should support this because it will weaken our common enemy.

It may be that the independence struggle in English Canada will develop and sharpen to the point where we will find ourselves fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Quebecois to free the northern part of our continent from U.S. imperialism. It may be that, under those circumstances, solidarity between English-Canadians and the Quebecois could develop to the point where both would want to be part (as equal nations) of the same state. But this situation, if it occurs, lies in the future. English-Canadian radicals cannot ask the Quebecois to wait for us before they begin to take on U.S. imperialism. If they want to do it in the near future by struggling for a truly independent national state, it is our duty to support them every way we can.

However, it is not up to us to start a campaign in English-Canada for Quebec’s separation. We can best help the cause of anti-imperialism and worker-solidarity by building support for the Quebec people’s fight against repression and their right to self-determination.

C. Canada’s Peculiarities as a Colony

The point we have made throughout our paper is that Canada has always been a colony, at first of Britain and later of the United States. At the same time it seems on the surface that Canada has more in common with the Western, industrialized, Christian and white imperialist countries, specifically the United States, than with the colonial countries of the Third World, which are for the most part agricultural, non-Western, non-Christian, and non-white. Certainly, Canada is a colony of a type different from other colonies in the world. In this section we shall briefly discuss what factors in Canada’s historical development have caused this difference.

To begin with, most countries we regard as colonial possessions were settled territories with a high level of pre-industrial civilization long before the coming of the colonial powers. In these countries, such as the colonies of Britain, France, and Spain in Asia and Latin America the colonists would form a small minority of the population and would force the local populations to provide the work force in the exploitation of the natural resources. Capitalism would thus be introduced by the imperialist, but it would employ a relatively small part of the population. Most of the country would remain feudal, most of the population would remain agricultural.

In North America, the human population was sparse and the economy had not even reached the feudal agricultural level in many places. Furthermore, the native population was not ready to be reduced into slavery and the service of the foreigner. They simply had to be wiped out, and the remnants placed outside the economy – i.e., the reservations. Who was to be the work force then? Clearly the work force had to be imported from Europe, much of it from the colonialist countries themselves. This made it relatively easy for the imperialist powers to impose their own cultures upon the population. Specifically today we can see how our close proximity to the United States, our common language, plus the fact that our population comes from substantially similar cultural roots enables the United States to impose her cultural domination over English Canada. Naturally in Canada, the cultural and racial differences between the local population and the imperialist would not be as readily noticeable as say in Latin America and Asia.

Too, our economic development has been quite different from that of most other colonies. We were not, except for Quebec, a feudal country taken over by foreign capitalism. Feudalism never developed in most of Canada. Most of our population arrived here when capitalism was in full control and our economic growth has taken place along capitalist lines. All along we have developed as a capitalist colony. Thus we have no feudal landlord class and no landless peasantry congregating around urban areas and acting as a depressant on incomes and living standards. We have a large country whose abundant natural resources have to support a very small population, again unlike the colonies of the Third World.

The capitalist form of economy puts our working population in a much better position to gain for itself a higher standard of living than is possessed by the populations in non-industrial colonies. The fact that our working population is industrial and heavily concentrated gives it much greater economic power – the ability to withdraw labour power, to strike. Advanced technology makes it possible for relatively few workers to produce many goods at a high rate of profit, but it also increases the profit loss in case of work stoppage.

As we have shown, Canada is of crucial importance to the American empire. It is the U. S.’ richest colony, on whom the U. S. is increasingly dependent not only for many of her strategic raw materials but for sources of energy as well. We are in every sense of the word the most important reserve area of American imperialism, one that has to be kept relatively stable at all times. This necessitates that our working population, or at least significant sections of it, be treated better than the native populations in many other areas. Clearly the white, English speaking working class of Canada would not accept a standard of living that was grossly lower than that of their fellow workers a few miles to the south. Also, a good part of our population is engaged in the low-cost, high-profit work of extracting, low-level processing, and shipping of raw materials to keep the wheels of U.S. industry turning. As well, we are close to the dominant imperialist market which keeps transportation costs at a minimum. All this enables the foreign exploiter to pay slightly higher wages to a section of the working class without doing any damage to his profits.

But we must repeat: it is not the cultural or racial composition, internal economy, or standard of living that decides a country’s colonial status, but the relationship of that country to other countries. India is not a colony because it is Asian, poor, and mostly feudal, but because her economy and consequently her political life are controlled from abroad. It is the same with Canada: we are a colony because foreigners rule us.

D. Attitude Towards the American Working Class

Some people on the left argue that to demand the independence of the Canadian labour movement from the control of American unions is to “divide the international proletariat” and hinder the struggle against capitalism. Corrupt, they say, as the U.S. “international” unions may be, we should stay in them and fight from within to change their character from reactionary to progressive. We have shown how the Communist Party of Canada has pursued this “boring from within” policy for the last four decades with disastrous results. But we should say a few more words on the question of the relationship of the Canadian working class, and of Canadian revolutionaries in particular, to the American working class.

An example of what we consider to be the true spirit of working class internationalism was given by the London Working Men’s Association in 1837, the year of a growing struggle for independence in both Upper and Lower Canada. The London workers wrote thusly to the Canadian fighters for independence:

”Brother Canadians, do not let yourselves be deceived by fair promises. Trust in the sacredness of your cause. You have the full approval of your distant brothers. Have faith in your leaders. We augur your triumph... May the sun of independence shine on your growing cities, your joyous hearths, your deep forests, and your frozen lakes – such is the ardent wish of the Workingmen’s Association.”[35]

By this message, and by mass rallies held in support of the Canadian struggle, the workers of England did their internationalist duty in the fight against the common enemy.

In the struggle against U.S. imperialism, the responsibility of the Canadian working class to themselves, to the nation and to the international movement – including the U.S. working class – is to take the lead in the struggle for national independence and to ensure that the national struggle opens the road for an advance to socialism. This is a struggle which Canadian workers must take up regardless of the present attitude of the U.S. labour movement or of the state of the progressive movement in that country.

Regardless of the odds that may confront us it is both our national and our international duty to raise the struggle for the nation to the highest possible level. Those who harp upon our responsibilities toward the U.S. workers should give a little attention to our responsibilities to Canada and to the whole international labour movement which is much wider than the United States of America. What greater service to the cause of the international working class movement could we perform than to remove Canada from her position as the great reserve area of U.S. imperialism?

So far as the U.S. working class is concerned, they too have responsibilities. Their most important responsibility demands that they support all movements for national self-determination wherever – ;including Canada – such movements are directed against U.S. imperialism. This is not only a question of a correct internationalist attitude, it is also the only way in which the U.S. workers can ever hope to put an end to their own exploitation. Because the organized workers in the U.S. have so far failed to measure up to their responsibilities is no reason for us to fail in ours. Nor can we suspend our struggle against U.S. domination because it might prove embarrassing to the U.S. workers and cause them to feel unfriendly toward us. The way in which to change the outlook of U.S. workers and help them to achieve their own emancipation is to intensify the struggle against imperialism, not hold it in abeyance.

Though we must never define the U.S. working class as the enemy, and must always emphasize – as do the Vietnamese – that the enemy is U.S. imperialism and not the American people, we cannot restrict our own struggle simply because the American ruling class may manage to mislead its people into opposing Canadian independence, as many Americans oppose Vietnamese independence today. At the same time, we repeat, we must always be ready to work closely with progressive elements in the United States – with mutual respect for the right of the movements in both countries to follow the course dictated by conditions in their own land.

E. Watkins Manifesto and P.W. Commentary

(NOTE: The following is the “Watkins Manifesto” or so-called “Waffle Manifesto”, introduced at the 1969 Winnipeg Convention of the N.D.P. We publish it as a contribution to the discussion on principles and tactics in the struggle for independence.)


Our aim as democratic socialists is to build an independent socialist Canada. Our aim as supporters of the New Democratic Party is to make it a truly socialist party.

The achievement of socialism awaits the building of a mass base of socialists, in factories and offices, on farms and campuses. The development of socialist consciousness, on which can be built a socialist base, must be the first priority of the New Democratic Party.

The New Democratic Party must be seen as the parliamentary wing of a movement dedicated to fundamental social change. It must be radicalized from within and it must be radicalized from without.

The most urgent issue for Canadians is the very survival of Canada. Anxiety is pervasive and the goal of greater economic independence receives widespread support. But economic independence without socialism is a sham, and neither is meaningful without true participatory democracy.

The major threat to Canadian survival today is American control of the Canadian economy. The major issue of our times is not national unity but national survival, and the fundamental threat is external, not internal.

American corporate capitalism is the dominant factor shaping Canadian society. In Canada, American economic control operates through the formidable medium of the multi-national corporation. The Canadian corporate elite has opted for a junior partnership with these American enterprises. Canada has been reduced to a resource base and consumer market within the American empire.

The American empire is the central reality for Canadians. It is an empire characterized by militarism abroad and racism at home. Canadian resources and diplomacy have been enlisted in the support of that empire. In the barbarous war in Vietnam, Canada has supported the United States through its membership on the International Control Commission and through sales of arms and strategic resources to the American military-industrial complex.

The American empire is held together through worldwide military alliances and by giant monopoly corporations. Canada’s membership in the American alliance system and the ownership of the Canadian economy by American corporations precludes Canada’s playing an independent role in the world. These bonds must be cut if corporate capitalism, and the social priorities it creates, is to be effectively challenged.

Canadian development is distorted by a corporate capitalist economy. Corporate investment creates and fosters superfluous individual consumption at the expense of social needs. Corporate decision-making concentrates investment in a few major urban areas which become increasingly uninhabitable while the rest of the country sinks into underdevelopment.

The criterion that the most profitable pursuits are the most important ones causes the neglect of activities whose value cannot be measured by the standard of profitability. It is not accidental that housing, education, medical care and public transportation are inadequately provided for by the present social system.

The problem of regional disparities is rooted in the profit orientation of capitalism. The social costs of stagnant areas are irrelevant to the corporations. For Canada the problem is compounded by the reduction of Canada to the position of an economic colony of the United States. The foreign capitalist has even less concern for balanced development of the country than the Canadian capitalist with roots in a particular region.

An independence movement based on substituting Canadian capitalists for American capitalists, or on public policy to make foreign corporations behave as if they were Canadian corporations, cannot be our final objective. There is not now an independent Canadian capitalism and any lingering pretensions on the part of Canadian businessmen to independence lack credibility. Without a strong national capitalist class behind them, Canadian governments, Liberal and Conservative, have functioned in the interests of international and particularly American capitalism, and have lacked the will to pursue even a modest strategy of economic independence.

Capitalism must be replaced by socialism, by national planning of investment and by the public ownership of the means of production in the interests of the Canadian people as a whole. Canadian nationalism is a relevant force on which to build to the extent that it is anti-imperialist. On the road to socialism, such aspirations for independence must be taken into account. For to pursue independence seriously is to make visible the necessity of socialism in Canada.

Those who desire socialism and independence for Canada have often been baffled and mystified by the problem of internal divisions within Canada. While the essential fact of Canadian history in the past century is the reduction of Canada to a colony of the United States, with a consequent increase in regional inequalities, there is no denying the existence of two nations within Canada, each with its own language, culture and aspirations. This reality must be incorporated into the strategy of the New Democratic Party.

English Canada and Quebec can share common institutions to the extent that they share common purposes. So long as Canada is governed by those who believe that national policy should be limited to the passive function of maintaining a peaceful and secure climate for foreign investors, there can be no meaningful unity between English and French Canadians. So long as the federal government refuses to protect the country from American economic and cultural domination, English Canada is bound to appear to French Canadians simply as part of the United States. An English Canada concerned with its own national survival would create common aspirations that would help to tie the two nations together once more.

Nor can the present treatment of the constitutional issue in isolation from economic and social forces that transcend the two nations be anything but irrelevant. Our present constitution was drafted a century ago by politicians committed to the values and structure of a capitalist society. Constitutional change relevant to socialists must be based on the needs of the people rather than the corporations and must reflect the power of classes and groups excluded from effective decision-making by the present system.

A united Canada is of critical importance in pursuing a successful strategy against the reality of American imperialism. Quebec’s history and aspirations must be allowed full expression and implementation in the conviction that new ties will emerge from the common perception of “two nations, one struggle.” Socialists in English Canada must ally themselves with socialists in Quebec in this common cause.

Central to the creation of an independent socialist Canada is the strength and tradition of the Canadian working class and the trade union movement. The revitalization and extension of the labour movement would involve a fundamental democratization of our society.

Corporate capitalism is characterized by the predominant power of the corporate elite aided and abetted by the political elite. A central objective of Canadian socialists must be to further the democratization process in industry. The Canadian trade union movement throughout its history has waged a democratic battle against the so-called rights or prerogative of ownership and management. It has achieved the important moral and legal victory of providing for working men an effective say in what their wages will be. At present management’s “right” to control technological change is being challenged. The New Democratic Party must provide leadership in the struggle to extend working men’s influence into every area of industrial decision-making. Those who work must have effective control in the determination of working conditions, and substantial power in determining the nature of the product, prices and so on. Democracy and socialism require nothing less.

Trade unionists and New Democrats have led in extending the welfare state in Canada. Much remains to be done: more and better housing, a really progressive tax structure, a guaranteed annual income. But these are no longer enough. A socialist society must be one in which there is democratic control of all institutions which have a major effect on men’s lives and where there is equal opportunity for creative non-exploitative self-development. It is now time to go beyond the welfare state.

New Democrats must begin now to insist on the redistribution of power, and not simply welfare, in a socialist direction. The struggle for worker participation in industrial decision-making and against management “rights” is such a move toward economic and social democracy.

By strengthening the Canadian labour movement, New Democrats will further the pursuit of Canadian independence. So long as Canadian economic activity is dominated by the corporate elite, and so long as workers’ rights are confined within their present limits, corporate requirements for profit will continue to take precedence over human needs.

By bringing men together primarily as buyers and sellers of each other, by enshrining profitability and material gain in place of humanity and spiritual growth, capitalism has always been inherently alienating.

Today, sheer size combined with modern technology further exaggerates man’s sense of insignificance and impotence. A socialist transformation of society will return to man his sense of humanity, to replace his sense of being a commodity. But a socialist democracy implies man’s control of his immediate environment as well, and in any strategy for building socialism, community democracy is as vital as the struggle for electoral success. To that end, socialists must strive for democracy at those levels which most directly affect us all – in our neighbourhoods, our schools, our places of work. Tenants’ unions, consumers’ and producers’ cooperatives are examples of areas in which socialists must lead in efforts to involve people directly in the struggle to control their own destinies.

Socialism is a process and a programme. The process is the raising of socialist consciousness, the building of a mass base of socialists, and a strategy to make visible the limits of liberal capitalism.

While the programme must evolve out of the process, its leading features seem clear. Relevant instruments for bringing the Canadian economy under Canadian ownership and control and for altering the priorities established by corporate capitalism are at hand. They include extensive public control over investment and nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy such as the key resource industries, finance and credit, and industries strategic to planning our economy. Within that programme, workers’ participation in all institutions promises to release creative energies, promote decentralization, and restore human and social priorities.

The struggle to build a democratic socialist Canada must proceed at all levels of Canadian society. The New Democratic Party is the organization suited to bringing these activities into a common focus. The New Democratic Party has grown out of a movement for democratic socialism that has deep roots in Canadian history. It is the core around which should be mobilized the social and political movement necessary for building an independent socialist Canada. The New Democratic Party must rise to that challenge or become irrelevant. Victory lies in joining the struggle.

P.W. Commentary

The statement has a number of positive aspects which must not be lost sight of. It no doubt represents an honest desire for the realization of socialist objectives on the part of at least some of the signers, and as such (although unclear on some basic points), offers a reasonable basis for broad unity on the left on some important issues.

The authors of the document certainly state the problem clearly and fairly correctly. U. S. domination of our economy and the sell-out policies of the Canadian capitalist traitor class are the root cause of most of Canada’s ills. The statement is also on the right track in presenting the alternative – an independent Canada that begins the task of socialist construction as a sure guarantee that the nation will remain independent.

While we welcome the positive aspects of the statement and particularly congratulate the sponsors for placing on the agenda for discussion some of the most important and complex problems facing the Canadian people and the left in particular, we consider it necessary to voice some dissent on several points of principle. There are two areas in which we consider it important to offer different points of view: (1) on the trade union movement, and (2) on revolutionary change versus parliamentary manoeuvering.

The document is, to say the least, quite ambiguous on the question of trade unionism and the role of the working class in the fight for the nation. The statement’s authors appear to see the working class only in the role of pure and simple trade unionists. “The New Democratic Party,” reads the statement, “must provide leadership in the struggle to extend working men’s influence into every area of industrial decision-making. Those who work must have effective control in the determination of working conditions...” and further on, “The struggle for worker participation in industrial decision-making and against management ’rights’ is such a move toward economic and social democracy.”

We contend that workers must go beyond simple trade unionism and take up the struggle for political objectives. If the battle for socialism is to be won, the role of the workers must be something more than “participants in industrial decision-making”; they must become the leading force in the fight for the independence of the nation so that more advanced objectives may be the more easily achieved.

Even more difficult to understand is the apparent acceptance of the trade union movement in its present basic form. The statement calls only for “the revitalization and extension of the labour movement” and offers no suggestions for any basic changes in forms and methods of organization.

A fact well known to everyone is that more than 70 per cent of Canada’s trade union movement is under the domination of the AFL-CIO. Also known to all who can read and observe is the well-documented fact that the American so-called ’labour movement’ is nothing more than a front for U.S. imperialism, that it defends U.S. foreign policy in its most reactionary and aggressive aspects, and that it provides a cover for CIA operations in labour movements around the world. It must be obvious to any thinking person that Canadian workers held captive in this type of union organization are very unlikely candidates for a lead role in the fight for the independence of the nation. If the sponsors of the statement are really serious about their call for a struggle for independence, then they cannot afford to limit themselves to a demand for a ”revitalization” of the labour movement. They must (even at the risk of losing some of their union bureaucrat friends who, in private, pretend “sympathy” for Canadian independence) support the fight for an independent Canadian union movement. Without this necessary ingredient, the demand for an independent Canada will remain just talk.

While we can find a broad area of agreement with the way in which the NDP left states the problem and with their general proposals on the solution, we cannot agree with the way in which they propose to solve it. The authors seem unaware of the realities of the struggle for socialism.

We agree that what we have now is thoroughly unsatisfactory and must be replaced by an entirely different social system; one which will free the productive forces of the nation and permit Canada to determine her own destiny. But this statement is vague on the way in which this new society will be brought about.

Judging from the statement, the activities of the trade unions (discussed above), plus tenants associations, etc., plus parliamentary activity of the NDP will be enough to achieve “an independent socialist Canada.” PWM believes that the struggle is going to be a good deal harder than that. The following few paragraphs will outline the course we feel the struggle for national independence and socialism will take and the role that socialists should take.

First of all, it should be stated the U.S. imperialism controls Canada not only economically and politically, but also culturally. That is, the Canadian people (in spite of strong anti-imperialist sentiments which rise periodically to the surface) are generally confused as to the causes of our national woes. They have been brainwashed (or rather braindirtied) by all kinds of propaganda from all kinds of sources – including not only the Americanized press, the Liberal and Conservative parties, but also most of the NDP leadership and trade union bureaucrats. All of us have been affected by this process to some extent or another. (The more confused Canadians can be heard phoning open line shows to complain that everything would be fine in Canada if it weren’t for “student troublemakers” or the “Frenchmen”.) Obviously, it will not be possible to build an anti-imperialist movement of any significance as long as most Canadians have no clear idea of what the basic problem is.

Thus, at this stage of the struggle, the main function of anti-imperialists – and particularly of socialists – is educational: we’ve got to help clear up this tremendous confusion and point the finger at the real enemy of the Canadian people.

Educational work, however, involves a lot more than giving out pamphlets. The various tenants, etc., organizations mentioned in the statement are useful in resisting the worst effects of imperialism, but they will not in themselves fundamentally change the nature of Canadian society. The long range importance of these organizations is that they will educate the people through practical struggle to recognize the need for fundamental change.

This educational work has to be carried on at every area possible. Workers must fight to rid the labour organizations’ domination by the AFL-CIO hierarchy. Progressive students must expose the imperialists’ control of the university to their fellow students and the whole community. The Liberal and Conservative parties must be exposed to everybody as puppets. A struggle must be carried on inside the NDP which will result in either (1) the NDP becoming a genuinely anti-imperialist party over the dead bodies (figuratively speaking, at least) of the opportunists and labour fakers who now dominate the party, or (2) winning away the many sincere people who presently support the NDP to build a new party. (The significance of the “Left Manifesto” is that it has helped open the NDP for discussion which could be the beginning of such a struggle within the party.) Nationalists and socialists outside the NDP are also promoting the idea of a struggle for independence and the culmination of the work of all those groups must be one unified independence movement.

A pro-independence party is a necessary step in the struggle for national independence. The culmination of the early (educational) phase of the struggle will be reached when a decisive number of Canadians support the new party. This will signify that the U. S. will no longer be able to rule via puppets and quislings like Trudeau (or New Democratic ’Trudeaus’ like Ed Schreyer).

At this point something will occur of which the statement makes no mention at all. The U. S. imperialists – like every other exploiting class in history – use two methods for controlling their vast economic empire: deception and violence. When the deceit is effective, they don’t have to use violence. (For example, there is no need to land the marines in Canada now.) When the deceit no longer works, in come the troops and the most brutal open forms of repression – just like in Vietnam, the Dominican Republic and many other countries in the ’free world’.

If the first stage of the independence struggle can, broadly speaking, be called “educational”, the last stage will be military. It is impossible to predict, at this point, the details of the military stage of the struggle. (Much depends on developments within the United States and the rest of the world.) But we can draw our general conclusion from the historical truth that no exploiting class has ever voluntarily given up power.

Hopefully the American working class will not always allow itself to be used as the executioner of imperialist aggression. But there is no reason for Canadians to wait for the U.S. working class to clean its own house and then grant us national independence. Our internationalism does hot consist of subordinating our country to U.S. imperialism because we are afraid that the imperialists will be able to use the American working class against us. Our internationalism can find expression in depriving the U.S. imperialists of one of their greatest reserves – the country we live in. The internationalism of the American working class can find expression in supporting our struggle – and the struggle of others around the world – for national independence.

But when the time comes that the imperialists will have to use violence in order to maintain Canada as a colony, then Canadians must be prepared to fight, or else the imperialists will be able to achieve a good deal of repression with a minimum of forces. If we are prepared, and the American soldiers rebel – so much the better. In any event, we must be prepared to defend ourselves.

The military stage is still in the future. Serious educational work, in fact, has scarcely begun. At the present time, anybody who will participate in any capacity in the struggle for national independence (regardless of his or her attitude on armed struggle) is a potential ally. Within the NDP, the supporters of the Left Manifesto have their task cut out for them in winning over party supporters to a militant socialist pro-independence platform, a true grass-roots movement that could be an important component of the struggle for the liberation of Canada.

Marxist Theory on The National Question

Some of our readers may wonder why we did not quote more extensively from the Marxist classics in order to “substantiate” our position. We have not done so for the simple reason that nothing is easier than to find some relevant quote from Marx, Lenin, etc. to “justify” virtually any position, including the various positions on the national question. A recent issue of Progressive Labour, published by the Progressive Labour Party in the U. S., declared for example that they (PL) have read everything that Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao have ever written on the national question and could find nothing that said nationalism could ever be progressive. Having said this, PL quoted several statements by the above-mentioned authors supporting this view. We looked up the original sources and found these statements to be authentic – but quoted very much out of context by PL.

The first necessity in studying the works of the founders and developers of Marxism-Leninism is to study them in historical and political context, and not to seize on individual quotes as dogma. We could have reprinted many pages of quotes from Marx through Lenin to Mao to “prove” the correctness of our position – but without an explanation of the historical background this would not have been much more useful than the quotes used by PL. We have therefore prepared a full-length article on The Historical Development of Marxist Thought on the National Question, and had intended this article to serve as part of the Appendix. Lack of space, however, has prevented us from including the article in this edition of the Progressive Worker – it will therefore appear in the next edition of our quarterly journal.


[33] Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1966, p. 51

[34] Ibid., pps. 50-51.

[35] Quoted by Stanley Ryerson, Ibid., pps. 63-64.