Discussion on revisionism in the ranks of the Communist movement in Canada (The Labor Progressive Party) commenced almost immediately following publication of the Duclos article on May 28th, 1945. However, it was not until almost two months later, July 21st, and after studying all of the material on revisionism published by the American Communists, that the National leadership finally issued a statement, in the name of Tim Buck, National leader of the Party: “The National Executive of the Labor Progressive Party studied and discussed the questions raised in Comrade Duclos’ article and subjected our parties recent activities to a critical re-examination. (The P.A., July 21st, 1945.) According to Buck, the collective opinion of the L.P.P. National Executive was, that Browder “Did interpret the Teheran Accord as a platform of class peace.” After making that “profound” observation Buck went on to point out that the Labor Progressive Party, on the contrary, regarded the Teheran Accord as “Above all a platform of democratic struggle.”
Apparently, in order to make clear what was meant by “democratic struggle,” Buck went ”on to explain that: “The fight for policies in accord with it (The Teheran Declaration) in every county is primarily a struggle to unite labor and all democratic forces, including a section of the capitalist class, behind policies of jobs, social security and progress at home, through co-operation with all democratic peoples in post war reconstruction and development abroad.” (Ibid.)
Since Buck had already pointed out that “The essential element in Duclos’ comment concerning the Teheran Accord is that it was wrong to estimate it as a platform of class peace after the war.” (Ibid.) One would be justified in assuming that Buck therefore agreed with Duclos, Or did he?
Here we have three different interpretations of the Teheran Accord. Browder interpreted it as a platform of class peace which Duclos pointed out was incorrect. Duclos interpreted it as a diplomatic document, i.e., an agreement between the governments of the three states concerned. Buck however, claims it is a “platform of democratic struggle.” Whether or not this joint struggle of “labor” and a “section of the capitalist class” is some new form of the class struggle to meet the “new conditions” Buck does not explain. However, one would be justified in drawing that conclusion since Buck refers to “The contrast between Comrade Browder’s Approach to Teheran as a platform of class peace and our approach to it as a platform of democratic struggle.” (Ibid.)
In regard to whether or not the revisionism of Browder was integrated in the policy of the Canadian Party, Buck states:
“A large part of Browder’s general conception and several of his concrete proposals became integrated in our thinking about political problems. Formulations expressing his point of view appeared in several of our articles. I accepted his proposal for Anglo-United States Agreement upon division of export markets without a thought of the elaborate revisionist concept of world and class relationships upon which it is based and urged that Canada should support such an Anglo-U.S. Agreement. It must be recognized frankly that we identified ourselves (with the Communist Political Association in, support of Comrade Browder’s ’New Course’ and our evaluation of the bearing that Comrade Duclos’ articles has upon our own Party work must start with this fact.” (Ibid.)
Having made this admission, Buck then goes on to say:
“It would be a serious mistake, however, to ignore the fact that there was a distinct and in some respects a deep going difference between what we did in Canada and what was done in the United States. If we make the mistake of assuming that our political policies, slogans and activities have been generally wrong we shall inevitably swing to erroneous policies as a result.” (Ibid.)
Indeed! Here we have a real achievement. The Canadian “Marxists” were “frankly” in support of Browder’s “new course” but it would be a mistake to assume that their “practical policies, slogans and activities were generally wrong.” In other words, the “new course” policy of Browder was frankly supported even to the extent of Buck himself urging that Imperialism cease being Imperialism and voluntarily come to “an agreement upon division of export markets”, yet to assume “that the practical policies, slogans and activities were generally wrong” would be a mistake which would result in an “inevitable swing to erroneous policies.”
After devoting three columns to an attempt to prove that, whereas the policies of the Communist Political Association on specific questions were wrong, the policies of the Labor Progressive Party in connection with these same questions were eminently correct, Buck then asks:
“How is it to be explained that our action slogans and practical activities were generally correct, expressing a line of struggle against reactionary big capital and fascist tendencies when we did not even question Comrade Browder’s theories?” (lbid.)
Indeed yes! How was it? Here is a real feat of legerdemain. The “new course” of Browder, the new incorrect tactical line, was accepted without question yet, in practise, this tactical line was correct. In other words, in putting the tactical line into practise it underwent a transformation into its opposite. It was admittedly, wrong in theory but became correct in practise. Marxism holds that without a correct theory one cannot be correct in practise. In fact, this is n elementary principle of Marxism. “Our theory is not a dogma but, a guide to action,” said Lenin. According to Stalin, “theory ought to be the handmaid of practise;” theory “ought to be verified by the data obtained from practise.” (Foundations of Leninism, p. 23.)
According to the fundamental principles of the philosophy of Marxism, Dialectical Materialism, theory is the opposite of pracice and the law of the “conflict and unity of opposites” dictates that the harmony or unity of the two is only possible when the correctness of a theory is tested in practice. Conversely, if the theory is incorrect will be proven so in practice. To argue that a tactical line is wrong n theory but that the “practical activities” based on such an incorrect theory are nevertheless correct is a monstrous absurdity.
Undaunted by this fact, however, Buck proceeds to nonchalantly explain the contradiction:
“It is clear now (?) that the extent to which we avoided repeating Comrade Browder’s errors in our practical work was due solely to our closer contact with the workers and the greater sensitivity of our Party to working class opinion.” (Ibid.)
Yes, “obviously!” But to whom it is clear, or why it is clear, Buck does not say.
After having stated that it would a mistake to assume “that our practical policies, slogans and activities have been generally wrong” and that to make any such assumption would result in “erroneous policies,” Buck then advises that, “Our task now is to subject all our work, theoretical and practical, to a critical and searching re-examination.” Does Buck mean to suggest the revisionism should be removed from the Party’s policies? But no! He explains:
“We must root out all tendencies towards revisionist theories and eliminate any reflections of revisionism in our practical work without making the mistake of ’throwing out the baby with the bath water.’” (Ibid.)
So it is not revisionism that is to be “rooted out” and “eliminated” but “tendencies” and “reflections” (elsewhere he proposes to root out “elements”.) But this is quite logical. To root out revisionism would prove that the policies followed were wrong and that in turn would result in an “inevitable swing to erroneous policies” which would (horrors) be even worse. Nevertheless, since most of us are not endowed with the power of clairvoyance it would be fruitless to search for shadows (tendencies, reflections and elements.) On the other hand, to endeavour to locate revisionism on the basis of a comparison of Canadian policies to similar American policies already recognized as revisionism would lay one open to the charge of Buck that: “The assumption too readily made by some Comrades, that all criticism appearing in the U.S. Communist press applies to Canada is wrong.” It is possible however to agree with Buck’s statement, that “It is important that this matter (revisionism) be studied on the basis of our own documents, program and statements and our own actual work in Canada.” (Ibid.)
We could, of course, commence our search for revisionism with Buck’s own statement on revisionism from which the above quotation is taken. For instance: His proposal to “unite labor” with “a section of the capitalist class,” or “the campaign” to “put labor in the government as the sole means by which to ensure jobs, security and international co-operation after the war.” We could be so unkind as to point out to Mr. Buck that his proposal to “put labor in the government” is nothing more nor less than Millerandism, constitutes a betrayal of Socialism and of the working class and is, in fact, a notorious revision of Marxian tactics and a perversion of Marxian principles. Or, we could ask Mr. Buck his authority for the statement that having labor in the government would “ensure jobs, security and international cooperation after the war.” We could further ask Mr. Buck if having “labor in the government” will also cause the economic laws of capitalism which, Marx teaches, result in the inevitability of economic crises, mass unemployment and insecurity, to discontinue operation in order to “ensure jobs and security.” However, maybe it is possible that the shock of seeing Communists jointly “making Capitalism work” together with the Liberals, a party of monopoly capital, would cause even the economic laws of capitalism to discontinue operation. For the present however, we will refrain from the temptation and proceed to an examination of what Mr. Buck terms “our own Party documents, program and statements.” Since, in the opinion of the American Communists, Browder’s revisionism “goes back at least ten years” and in view of the fact, “documents, program and statements” going back ten years are available, we will commence our search for revisionism in Party documents issued in 1935, the year-of the 7th Congress of the C.I. and the introduction of the new tactical line of “The Peoples Front against Fascism and War.”
Dimitroff, in his report to the Congress, warned of the danger of Fascism coming to power in a number of countries and characterized it as an “Open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary section of finance capital.” The Congress adopted a reshaped tactical line to cope with the menace of fascism and war. This “reshaped tactical line” was based firstly, on the tactic of the united front of the working class and secondly, on the basis of unity in action of the working class, attracting to it and uniting with itself sections of the urban middle class and the farmers, thus building a peoples front.
What did Dimitroff mean by the United Front of the working class? Did he mean a parliamentary electoral agreement? No! That is not what was meant. The purpose of the United Front was to prevent fascism and war because:
“Fascism was able to come to power primarily, because the working class, owing to the policy of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie pursued by the Social Democratic leaders, proved to be split, politically and organizationally disarmed in face of the onslaught of the bourgeoisie. And the Communist Parties on the other hand, apart from and in opposition to the Social Democrats, were not strong enough to rouse the masses and to lead them in a decisive struggle against fascism.” (The United Front, p. 19.)
The United Front was designed to unite the working class against the onslaught of the bourgeoisie. There are only two basic policies which the working class can follow in the political field, according to Marxism: The policy of class struggle against the bourgeoisie or the policy of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie. The policy of the Communist Parties was the policy of class struggle, whereas the policy of the Social Democratic Parties was the policy of class collaboration, i.e., co-operation with all, or sections of, the capitalist class, the securing of concessions, discouragement of militant action, confining practically all political action to the parliamentary field in order, first of all, to secure reforms and finally on the basis of the theory of “gradualism” to reform capitalism itself, through a Social Democratic government, to the point where capitalism would be gradually reformed and transformed into socialism through parliamentary acts and governmental decrees. (Such is the basic theory and policy of the C.C.F. in Canada.)
However, as a result of the victory of fascism in Germany and several other countries, large sections of the working class in many countries were, in 1935, becoming disillusioned with the possibility of improving their lot under capitalism or of ever achieving socialism by means of such a policy, of class collaboration. Further:
“The armed struggles in Austria and Spain have resulted in ever wider masses of the working class coming to realize the necessity for a revolutionary class struggle.” (Ibid., p. 28.)
The major political parties of the working class in practically all countries were the Social Democratic Parties and the Communists.
As regards the changed outlook of the members and supporters of the Social Democratic Parties:
“With ever greater ease are the Social Democratic workers able to convince themselves that Fascist Germany, with all its horrors and barbarities, is in the final analysis, the result of the Social Democratic policy of class collaboration with the Bourgeoisie. The masses are coming ever more clearly to realize that the path along which the German Social Democratic leaders led the proletariat must not be traversed again. Never has there been such ideological dissension in the camp of the Second International as at the present time. A process of differentiation is taking place in all the Social Democratic Parties. Within their ranks two principal camps are forming; side by side with the existing camp of reactionary elements who are trying in every way to preserve the bloc between the Social Democrats and the bourgeoisie, and who rabidly reject a united front with the Communists, there is beginning to form a camp of revolutionary elements who entertain doubts as to the correctness of the policy of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie, who are in favor of the creation of a united front with the Communists, and who are increasingly coming to adopt the position of the revolutionary class struggle.” (Ibid., pp. 29-30.)
In other words, because of the rise of fascism a united working class movement based on a policy of class struggle was now necessary and because of the fact a large section of Social Democratic workers were adopting the position of the revolutionary class struggle, a united front of the two principal political sections of the working class was now possible.
It was possible because of the changing outlook of the Social Democratic workers and necessary because:
“Whether the victory of Fascism can be prevented depends first and foremost on the militant activity of the working class itself, on whether its forces are welded into a single militant army combating the offensive of capitalism and fascism. By establishing its fighting unity, the proletariat would paralyze the influence of fascism over the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie of the towns, the youth and the intelligentsia, and would be able to neutralize one section of them and win over another.” (Ibid., p. 25.)
The United Front was to be formed first of all in the factories:
“The first thing that must be done, the thing with which to begin, is to form a united front, to establish unity of action of the workers in every factory, in every district, in every country, all over the world.” (Ibid., pp. 30-31.)
The United Front therefore, was nothing more nor less than unity in action of the workers, in the factories, in every district, region and country. The effect of such unity of action, however, would be widespread:
“A powerful united front of the proletariat would exert tremendous influence on all other strata of the working people, on the peasantry, on the urban petty bourgeoisie, on the intelligentsia. A united front would inspire the wavering groups with faith in the strength of the working class.” (Ibid., p. 31.)
Such unity of action, therefore, would confront the forces of fascism, not only with the sum total of the numerical strength of the workers but would add to that total large sections of middle class people who had previously wavered between support of the workers and support of the capitalists. As regards the conditions for such unity of action:
“The Communist International puts no condition for unity of action excepting one, and that an elementary condition acceptable to all workers, viz., that the unity of action be directed against fascism, against the offensive of capital, against the threat of wars, against the class enemy. This is our condition.” (Ibid., p. 32.)
As regards the issues on which the United Front should be based, the content:
“What is and ought to be the basic content of the United Front at the present stage. The defense of the immediate economic and political interests of the working class, the defense of the working class against fascism, must form the starting point and main content of the united front in all capitalist countries.” (Ibid., p. 36.)
As the joint struggle of the workers strengthened and extended in defense of their vital interests against the capitalists and assumed a scope national in character:
“We must tirelessly prepare the working class for a rapid change in forms and methods of struggle when there is a change in the situation. As the movement grows and the unity of the working class strengthens, we must go further and prepare the transition from the defensive to the offensive against capital, steering towards the organization of a mass political strike. It must be an absolute condition of such a strike to draw into it the main trade unions of the countries concerned.” (Ibid., p. 36.)
So far there is nothing ambiguous or difficult to understand as to what was meant by the united front of revolutionary class struggle of the working class. How were the workers to find the path towards unity of action?
“To ensure that the workers find the road to unity of action, it is necessary to strive at the same time both for short-term and for long term agreements that provide for joint action with Social-Democratic parties, reformist trade unions and other organizations of the toilers against the class enemies of the proletariat. The chief stress in all this must be laid on developing mass action locally to be carried out by the local organizations through local agreements.” (Ibid., p. 37.)
In order to achieve unity of the working class against capital on a national scale, first of all it was necessary to secure agreements in the localities between the principal organizations of the working class, the Communist and Social Democratic Parties and the trade unions.
As to the forms which the united front might take:
“These forms may include, for instance: coordinated joint action of the workers to be agreed upon from case to case on definite occasions, on individual demands or on the basis of a common platform; coordinated action in individual enterprises or by whole industries; coordinated actions on a local, regional, national or international scale; coordinated actions for the organization of the economic struggle of the workers, carrying out of mass political, actions, for the organization of joint self defense against fascist attacks; coordinated action in rendering aid to political prisoners and their families, in the field of struggle against social reaction; joint actions in the defense of the interests of the youth and women, in the field of the cooperative movement, cultural activity, sport, etc.” (Ibid., p. 37.)
The united front tactic, then, was to utilize the most varied forms, economic, political, social and cultural from a local to a national scale. In order that there should be no misunderstanding and the mistake made of regarding a formal agreement as in itself constituting a united front rather than actual unity in action of the workers:
“It would be insufficient to rest content with the inclusion of a pact providing for joint action and the formation of contact committees from the parties and organizations participating in the united front, like those we have in France for instance. The pact is an auxilliary means for obtaining joint action, but by itself it does not constitute a united front. A contact commission between the leaders of the Communist and Socialist Parties is necessary to facilitate the carrying out of joint action, but by itself it is far from adequate for a real development of the united front, for drawing the widest masses into the struggle against fascism.” (Ibid., p. 38.)
Even though unity between Social Democratic and Communist workers was obtained and even though there were included in this unity the organized workers of the trade unions such unity would still not include the majority of the working class. Therefore Dimitroff proposed the creation of organizational forms that would embrace all of the workers:
“The Communists and all revolutionary workers must strive for the formation of elected class bodies of the united front chosen irrespective of party, at the factories, among the unemployed, in the working class districts, among the small townsfolk and in the villages. Only such bodies will be able to include also in the united front movement the vast masses of unorganized toilers, and will be able to assist in developing mass initiative in the struggle against the capitalist offensive of fascism and reaction, and on this basis create the necessary broad active rank and file of the united front and train hundreds and thousands of non-Party Bolsheviks in the capitalist countries.
“Joint action of the organized workers is the beginning, the foundation. But we must not lose sight of the fact that the unorganized masses constitute the vast majority of workers.” (Ibid., p. 38.)
Recognizing the fact that fascism organized its mass base, not in the ranks of the working class, but in the ranks of the peasantry and the urban petty-bourgeoisie, as the success of fascism in Italy and Germany conclusively proved, The Communist International went further than the united front of the working class and proposed:
“In mobilizing the mass of working people for the struggle against fascism, the formation of a wide, popular anti-fascist front on the bash of the proletarian united front is a particularly important task. The success of the whole struggle of the proletariat is closely bound up with establishing a fighting alliance between the proletariat on the one hand and the toiling peasantry and basic mass of the urban petty-bourgeoisie, who together form the majority of the population even in industrially developed countries, on the other.” (Ibid., p. 39.)
It should be noted that Dimitroff here speaks of a fighting alliance between the working class and the peasantry or farmers and the middle class of the towns. And he explains further:
“In its agitation, fascism, desirous of winning these masses to its own side, tries to set the mass of working people in the town and countryside against the revolutionary proletariat, frightening the petty-bourgeoisie with the bogey of the ’Red Peril.’” (Ibid., p. 39.)
As a tactic to offset this danger Dimitroff proposed:
“We must turn this weapon against those who wield it and show the working peasantry, artisans and intellectuals whence the real danger threatens. We must show concretely who it is that piles the burden of taxes and imposts onto the peasant and squeezes usurious interest out of him; who it is that, while owning the best land and every form of wealth, drives the peasant and his family from his plot of land and dooms him to unemployment and poverty. We must explain concretely, patiently and persistently who it is that ruins the artisans and handicraftsmen with taxes, imposts, high rents and competition impossible for them to withstand; who it is that throws into the streets and deprives of employment the wide masses of the intelligentsia.” (Ibid., pp. 39-40.)
However, Dimitroff warned: But this is not enough.
“The fundamental, the most decisive thing in establishing the Anti-Fascist Peoples Front is resolute action of the revolutionary proletariat in defense of the demands of these sections of the people, particularly the working peasantry – demands in line with the basic interests of the proletariat – and in the process of struggle combining the demands of the working class with these demands.” (Ibid., p. 40.)
The success of the working class in forming a People’s Front therefore is, resolute action in defense of the demands of the farmers and middle class people. After outlining the need of different methods of approach to the organizations and parties of the farmers and the middle class, Dimitroff emphasizes:
“Our tactics must under all circumstances be directed toward drawing the small peasants, artisans, handicraftsmen, etc., among their members into the anti-fascist Peoples Front.” (Ibid., pps. 40-41.)
And Dimitroff concludes:
“Hence, you see that in this field we must, all along the line, put and end to what frequently occurs in our practical work – neglect or contempt of the various organizations and parties of the peasants, artisans and the mass of the petty bourgeoisie in the towns.” (Ibid., p. 40.)
After dealing with the question of the possibility, after the united front had assumed a powerful mass character on a national scale, of forming a United Front or People’s Front Government, Dimitroff again explained the purpose of the united front and of the People’s Front:
“We want to find a common language with the broadest masses for the purpose of struggling against the class enemy, to find ways of finally overcoming the isolation of the revolutionary vanguard from the masses of the proletariat and all other toilers, as well as of overcoming the fatal isolation of the working class itself from its natural allies in the struggle against the bourgeoisie, against fascism.
“We want to draw increasingly wide masses into the revolutionary class struggle and lead them to the proletarian revolution, proceeding from their vital needs and interests as the starting point, and their own experience as the basis.” (Ibid., p. 92.)
One would think it would be impossible to misinterpret or misunderstand such a clear exposition of the form, the purpose and the aims of the united front. It was a tactic designed to unite the revolutionary section of the workers with the mass of the working class and to unite the working class itself, on the basis of its own unity, with its natural allies: the poor farmers, the lower middle class and a section of the intellectuals.
Dimitroff concluded his famous speech with the following inspiring call to action:
“And we want all this because only in this way will the working class at the head of the toilers, welded into a million strong revolutionary army, led by the Communist International and possessed of so great and wise a pilot as our leader Comrade Stalin, be able to fulfill its historical mission with certainty – to sweep fascism off the face of the earth, and together with it, capitalism!” (Ibid., p. 93.)
This final call to action of Dimitroff certainly left no room for doubt as to the purpose of the united front. Because “only in this way” could “the working class at the head of all the toilers” fulfill its “historic mission” to “sweep fascism off the face of the earth and together with it, capitalism.” Obviously, the “united front of revolutionary class struggle” could not possibly be a struggle against fascism without at the same time being a struggle against capitalism, and for the eventual establishment of a socialist state. Fascism cannot possibly be eradicated without the eradication of capitalism because monopoly capital constantly breeds fascism. Therefore, as long as capitalism exists the danger of fascism and war will likewise remain.
The tactical line of the United Front of the 7th Congress of the Communist International remained the tactical line of the world Communist movement right up until the outbreak of war and with certain modifications due to conditions created by the war, remains a basic policy of Marxist parties even today.
We shall now proceed with an examination of how the tactical line of the 7th Congress was presented to the membership of the Communist Party of Canada, and of how it was applied in practise. The new tactical line of the Congress was first presented in Canada at a meeting or plenum of the Central Committee of the CP. of C. in Nov. 1935, just three months after the Congress was held. The report on the new line was delivered on behalf of the Political Bureau by Stewart Smith, who headed the Canadian delegation to the Congress. His opening remarks were as follows:
“The Seventh Congress of our World Party, the Communist International, analyzed the basic changes in the world situation, which have taken place since the Sixth Congress, and laid down the foundation for the greatest mobilization of all workers and progressive people against capitalism that has ever been known in the history of the class struggle.” (Toward a Canadian Peoples Front, p. 5.)
This innocent appearing statement nevertheless contains within it the beginning of a revisionist line. Smith does not speak here of a united front of the working class nor does he outline the clear and definite social composition of the People’s Front as laid down by Dimitroff but creates the ambiguous phrase, “all workers and progressive people.” Who the so-called progressive people are, is not stated. However the term is so broad it could include almost anyone. Further on in his speech the tactical line is again placed differently:
“The Communists have the decisive historical task of bringing together into one common front all the people who stand for peace, for democracy, for economic betterment against the reactionary oligarchy who are striving toward fascism, towards war and who are bringing economic degradation to the masses.” (Ibid., p. 13.)
Here again is another sloughing over of the class composition of the People’s Front and of changing the term to “common front” of ”all the people who stand for peace, for democracy,” etc. Such phraseology is a distortion of both the class composition of the People’s Front and the purpose. Instead of a “fighting alliance between the proletariat on the one hand, and the toiling peasantry and basic mass of the urban petty-bourgeoisie,” a “People’s Front of struggle against fascism and war,” we now have an insipid, meaningless “common front” of all the people who stand for peace, for democracy, etc.
This perversion of the United Front and the People’s Front tactic is further developed:
“We have commenced active propaganda, for the building up of the united front of all progressive forces of the Canadian people in lasting form through the transformation of the C.C.F. into a broad federated peoples party.” (Ibid., pp. 19-20.)
Instead of proposing a united front of struggle of the working class, beginning in the factories, it now becomes a “united front of all progressive forces” and achieved through “the transformation of the C.C.F. into a broad federated people’s party.” This concept is then developed further:
“The central problem of the united front confronting our Party, the working class and all progressive people is the question of how the C.C.F., the trade unions, the farmers organizations and the Communist movement can be brought together into a broad united front party.” (Ibid., p. 21.)
The united front of revolutionary class struggle of the working class, beginning in the factories, is now perverted into a “united front party”; a party that is to be a hodge-podge of farmers organizations, trade unions, Communists and C.C.Fers. Fascism is then raised as an argument as to the necessity for such a polyglot conglomeration, such a monstrosity of a political party:
“If the strongest unity of the people has not been welded together before the next elections, we will face at that time if not before, the danger of the most reactionary and possibly open fascist forces coming to power unless in the meantime a broad united front party has been built up, supported by the masses of the Canadian people who are prepared and ready to act against fascism and reaction though not yet prepared to fight for socialism.” (Ibid., p. 25.)
The coming to power of fascism is here presented as an election contest and the struggle against fascism is perverted into a parliamentary election campaign. Compare this concept with that of Dimitroff: “Whether the victory of fascism can be prevented depends first and foremost on the militant activity of the working class itself, on whether its forces are welded into a single militant army combatting the offensive of capitalism and fascism.”
No logical arguments are advanced to justify the proposal for the formation of such a party which is also referred to as: “... A broad farmer-labor party, if possible, affiliated to the C.C.F.” (Ibid. p. 30). It is quite true that, as regards the United States, Dimitroff proposed “that under American conditions” a “Workers’ and Farmers’ Party, might serve as such a suitable form.” And he added: “Such a party would be a specific form of the Mass Peoples’ Front in America.”
What were the peculiar “American conditions” to which Dimitroff referred? He was referring to the extreme difficulty of new “third” parties getting on the ballot in the American Federal elections because of the stringent electoral laws which make it almost impossible for third parties to run candidates for Congress. For instance, in the State of New York a petition of 50,000 names is required in order for a third party to get on the ballot. While third parties have been formed and have contested elections they did so in most cases only on a state scale. For instance, the American Labor Party in New York State and the Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota. If our information is correct the Communist Party of U.S.A. for instance, in the 26 years of its existence, has never yet been able to get its candidates on the ballot in federal elections. One of the reasons why Dimitroff proposed that “under American conditions” the Communists should take the initiative in forming a “third party,” in the form of a Workers’ and Farmers’ party was not only to break through the political monopoly held by the two old line parties in the Parliamentary field, but also because:
“In no case must the initiative of organizing the party be allowed to pass to elements desirous of utilizing the discontent of the millions who have become disillusioned in both the bourgeois parties, Democratic and Republican, in order to create a “third party” in the United States, as an anti-communist party, a party directed against the revolutionary movement.” (The United Front, p. 43.)
In other words, the danger existed that unless the Communists took the initiative in forming a “third” party “the millions who have become disillusioned in both the bourgeois parties” might be swept into support of a “third” party organized as an anti-Communist party, or possibly even a straight fascist party.
However, this was not the situation in Canada where there is no difficulty for third parties to get on the ballot either in provincial or federal elections and where a multiplicity of third parties contesting elections were already in existence, such as, the C.C.F., Social Credit, Reconstruction, Union Nationale, Communist, etc. The proposal therefore that “... It is necessary and imperative that the trade unions, C.C.F. Clubs, farmer organizations and Communist Party should come together in some form of a broad farmer labor party if possible affiliated to the C.C.F.” (Ibid, p. 30.) was a mechanical transposition of a tactic that was correct under “American conditions” to the Canadian scene where it was absolutely incorrect and ridiculous.
This does not mean that it was unnecessary to build a People’s Front of struggle against fascism and war but the way to build it was not simply to create a hodge podge, farmer labor party, out of the existing parties and other organizations, the leadership of which would inevitably be a petty bourgeois leadership with, not a program of struggle against capitalism, but a purely reformist program. Furthermore, the proposal to begin forming a People’s Front in such a fashion was a complete distortion of the tactic of the united front and the People’s Front and of working backwards, of putting the cart before the horse. As Dimitroff placed it:
“For it cannot be seriously supposed that it is possible to establish a genuine anti-fascist Peoples Front without securing the unity of action of the working class itself, the guiding force of the antifascist Peoples Front.”
And further:“But in a number of countries we shall not get beyond general talk about the Peoples Front unless we succeed in mobilizing the mass of the workers for the purpose of breaking down the resistance of the reactionary section of Social-Democracy to the proletarian united front of struggle.” (The United Front, p. 101.)
What Dimitroff warned against was precisely what happened in Canada. The Canadian Communists never did “get beyond general talk about the People’s Front” and three years later even dropped all reference to it. The main energies of the Party were directed, not towards building a united front of struggle of the working class from below, in the factories, but of scheming and manoeuvring, either to transform the C.C.F. into “a genuine farmer labor party” or to secure an electoral agreement with it for a division of seats. Such an electoral agreement, if it had been achieved, would have been nothing more nor less than what Dimitroff termed “The unprincipled tactics of forming blocs with the Social Democratic parties on the basis of purely parliamentary arrangements.” (Ibid., p. 73.)
In order to secure this fictitious unity with the C.C.F. the Party went so far as to propose:
“We need strong party fractions composed of active workers inside of trade unions, C.C.F. Clubs, Social Credit groups and incipient fascist organizations. We want these groups inside of the organizations in order to possess the necessary instruments for winning the masses of Canadian people for a united effort for a better life and against capitalism.” Report of the organizational secretary to the 9th Plenum. (Towards a Canadian Peoples Front, p. 106.)
So! In order to secure this pseudo united front with the C.C.F. “strong party factions” were to be established inside the C.C.F. Clubs in order to win over the C.C.F. from within. This is where the perversion of the united front tactic finally led to, a ridiculous caricature of the united front, which instead of assisting in creating confidence and united action between Communist and C.C.F. workers created greater disunity and distrust.
But to proceed with the presentation of the tactical line of the 7th Congress to the Canadian Party. Further on in the report of Stewart Smith we find these astounding statements:
“The urban middle stratum are of decisive importance for the fight against fascism and war.’’ The hundreds of thousands of office workers, school teachers, doctors and storekeepers, salaried employees and intellectuals can be neglected by our party only at the risk of imperiling the whole fight against fascism and war. The Party must bring about a decided change in this respect. We propose that in every district the Party adopt special measures to deal with this problem. Special units and committees must be set up to conduct systematic work among each of these large sections of the population. We must commence work in merchants associations, and must learn how to build trade union organizations among the office workers. We must win the school teachers to the fight against fascism and war. We must learn how to organize associations of the professional people along progressive lines, for example, among the doctors, around the issue of the fight for state health insurance.” (Ibid., p. 44.)
So! “The urban middle stratum are of decisive importance for the fight against fascism and war.” Compare this with Dimitroff: “Whether the victory of fascism can be prevented depends first and foremost on the militant activity of the working class itself.” Any further comment is unnecessary. And the communists were to work in merchants associations and organize the doctors. Well! Well!
We are also told how the revolutionary class struggle against fascism and war is to be conducted:
“The League Against War and Fascism in which our party participates as a minority group in a united front with large masses of workers and farmers and intellectuals becomes decisive for the development of the united front at the present moment against war and must receive far greater support from the Communists in every locality, becoming a centre for millions of the peace loving people of Canada.” (Ibid., p. 28.)
The League against War and Fascism was a delegated body composed of representatives of various organizations which met once or twice monthly and conducted propaganda. Its leadership was made up of middle class intellectuals and we are told that this organization “become decisive for the development of the united front at the present moment against war.” Lenin had a somewhat different concept of unity:
“Unity cannot be created out of agreements between little groups of intellectuals – this is an error of the saddest, most naive and ignorant type. Unity must be won, and only by the workers themselves; the class conscious workers themselves are capable of achieving this by stubborn and persistent work.” (The United Front, p. 215.)
And Dimitroff added:
“In the struggle against fascism and war, not empty words, not platonic wishes, but action is needed. To achieve this action it is necessary to bring about the unification of all the forces of the working class and to carry out unswervingly the policy of the Peoples Front.” (Ibid., p. 216.)
As the quotations given above conclusively prove, the policy of the People’s Front laid down in August by the 7th Congress, three months later was presented to the Canadian Party in a completely distorted form. Instead of a united front of the working class we are presented with a “united front of all progressive forces.” Instead of the militant unity of the working class being decisive against war and fascism the middle class is presented as the decisive force. Instead of the united front being unity in action of the workers in the factories and among the unemployed it is presented as an election agreement with the C.C.F., as a farmer labor party and as a propaganda body led by intellectuals such as the League Against War and Fascism.
In the report on behalf of the Political Bureau, Stewart Smith also gave an analysis of the Liberal Party and the Government of Mackenzie King:
“The reactionaries in the Liberal Party have already in the provinces put into effect measures of the most ruthless police terror, instigation of fascist repression, utilization of section 98 for the arrest of striking workers, relief cutting, increasing of taxation and extension of the system of forced labor as a compulsory system in every municipality, curtailment of civil rights and annulment of municipal autonomy. It is this line which the reactionaries in the King Government will attempt to extend and put into stronger force through the combined Liberal Provincial and Federal administrations.” (Towards a Canadian Peoples Front, pp. 17-18.)
One would be somewhat inclined to believe that this Liberal Party and the King Government were reactionary; “ruthless police terror,” “fascist repression,” “arrest of striking workers,” “relief cutting,” “increasing of taxation,” “forced labor,” “curtailment of civil rights,” “annulment of municipal autonomy.” In fact, one would be justified in believing it must have been at least a semi-fascist government, from this description. Therefore it is somewhat astonishing to read the report of Tim Buck to the eleventh session of the Central Committee of the CP. of C. in February 1937, just one year and three months later. He states:
“The election of King and the Liberal Government was a setback for reaction in Canada.” (The Road Ahead, p. 19.)
So! The election of the Government which a little over a year earlier was guilty of “ruthless police terror” and “fascist repression” is now considered a “setback for reaction.”
And not only that:
“But it is equally true that unless the main blows of our party, the labor movement and our people are struck against the 50 ’big shots’ and their henchmen it will be impossible to rally and organize the united front of the working people. For example: to concentrate the main blows of the people against the King Government and the Liberal Party at the present historical moment would help to open up the path for the ultra-reactionary Tories headed by Bennett and Meighen.” (Ibid., p. 16.)
Indeed! Not only is this government a “setback for reaction” but we must not criticize it strongly or that would play into the hands of the “50 Big Shots.” After informing his readers not to attack the King Government, Buck then informs us:
“The King Government by itself is no barrier to the Reactionary plans of big Capital – King has been compelled to give concessions to the working people, but he grants greater concessions to organized reactionary interests.
“Thus the measures adopted by King have not been such as to weaken the grip of finance capital upon the economy of the country, have not weakened or in any way impaired the control of the multimillionaires, who reap all the benefits of the productive wealth of our people and have, so far, benefited the mass of the common people, the farmers and the middle class only indirectly and to a very limited degree.” (Ibid., p. 22.)
“The official Liberal Party on its part strives to prevent the establishment of a broad peoples movement by democratic gestures and slight concessions to the democratic wishes of the people but fails to halt the strengthening forces of reaction and the growth of semi-fascist organizations which threaten to provide a base for the establishment of a concentration of reactionary forces.” (Ibid., p. 24.)
After first saying that it would be a mistake to direct the main blows against the King Government whose election was “a setback for reaction” and that the main blows must be delivered against a nebulous “50 Big Shots” he then states that this same government grants concessions to reaction and permits the growth of semi-fascist organizations. Just how the working class is going to conduct political action without directing that action against the government of the “multimillionaires” Buck does not explain. Neither does he explain how the working class is going to direct its main blows against the nebulous “50 Big Shots.”
However he does explain the “chief task” of the Party:
“The building of a united front of all progressive forces in a broad party of the common people remains the chief task of the Communist Party in Canada.” (Ibid., p. 25.)
Buck also enlightens his readers as to who these so called “progressive forces” are. Speaking of united action in Alberta on a joint program of demands, he states:
“Such a program must provide the basis for joint action of all sections of the labor movement, the U.F.A., the Social Credit movement, the Trade Unions, the C.L.P., the C.C.F. and the Communist Party and even sincere progressives from the ranks of the capitalist parties.” (Ibid., p. 50.)
And now the unity movement has become just one big happy family, C.C.F.ers, Social Creditors, Communists and “progressive capitalists.” But of course, there still remains the bold, bad, reactionary capitalists. As regards these Buck states:
“The leaders of finance and industry are being marshaled into a definite political grouping by systematic propaganda of the type of which R. B. Bennett, W. Herridge, and E. W. Beatty (all spokesmen of the Conservative Party) are the exponents but which may be heard in every chamber of commerce and every board of trade, wherever spokesmen of the capitalist class address their fellows. The representatives of reactionary finance capital in Canada are preparing and organizing the advance guard of capitalist reaction.” (Ibid., p. 20.)
Just so! The King Government and the Liberal Party which, only a little over a year previously had been characterized at the previous plenum as organizing “ruthless police terror” and “fascist reaction” have now become “progressive” and the real reactionaries are the “50 big shots” whose chief spokesmen are Bennett, Herridge and Beatty.
The next meeting of the Central Committee of the CP. of C was held on June 3-6, 1938. The speeches delivered were published in booklet form and entitled, A Democratic Front for Canada. In the foreword by Sam Carr we read:
“The speech of Mr. Herridge at the Tory Convention represents the sentiments of a section of progressive Conservatives who can and should become part of the great line-up of democratic forces in Canada.”
And Buck elaborates:
“Herridge’s speeches mirror a large and important sentiment in favor of democratic progress within the Conservative Party. Herridge’s speeches mirror a growing sense among the progressively inclined members of the Conservative Party that if they would serve Canada, they must support progress, that fascism is contrary not only to the interests of labor, but to the interests of 98 percent of the Canadian people.” (Ibid., p. 14.)
Whereas, the year previously, H. W. Herridge had been designated as one of the three chief spokesmen for reaction, he has now become the spokesman for the “progressive Conservatives.” Whereas, previously the Liberals had been “progressive” and the Conservatives reactionary, now a large sections of the Conservatives had also become “progressive”; so “progressive” in fact that, along with the Communists they “can and should become part of the great line up of democratic forces in Canada.”
According to Buck, reaction and fascism in Canada had now acquired a new vehicle: the provincial governments of Ontario and Quebec, headed by Premiers Hepburn and Duplessis. Buck explains:
“There is treason afoot in Canada today just as there was treason within Austria and Spain. To see this one has only to study the record of the two men who comprise the leadership of this reactionary constellation generally termed the Hepburn-Duplessis Axis.
“The Hepburn-Duplessis alliance signalizes a definite stage in the development of the strategy of reaction. There is a difference between the reaction expressed by the Hepburn-Duplessis axis and the reaction of R. B. Bennett. (Possibly a more “progressive” reaction, F. M.) He ruled Canada as the leader of the Conservative Party. He not only did not try to win the reactionary Liberals into his camp (Oh?) but he followed the old and ’honored’ tradition of firing liberals out of government positions.
“The Hepburn-Duplessis alliance has passed beyond the basis of party interests alone. It cuts across party lines and is based upon class interests, the interests of reactionary big capital, against the whole of the common people of Canada and particularly the farmers and the working class. Its drive toward fascism is against progressive Liberals and Conservatives, equally as against Communists, (Indeed?) C.C.Fer’s, and other progressives. The Hepburn-Duplessis alliance is the spearpoint of reaction in its drive towards fascism and war. It is this which makes the new signs of growth of open fascist organizations particularly significant.” (Ibid., pp. 21-22.)
According to this “profound Marxian analysis” the two political parties of the big bourgeoisie no longer represent their class interests. The interests of monopoly capital are no longer served by the Liberal and Conservative parties but by the “Hepburn-Duplessis Axis” and “its drive towards fascism is against progressive Liberals and Conservatives, equally as against Communists...”
That being the case, it logically follows that the so-called “progressive Liberals and Conservatives” should unite with the Comunists against this “drive towards fascism.” Buck even explains this further:
“The process of differentiation within the two old line parties continues and the speeches of Herridge reflect clearly, that among sections of the younger Tories and younger Liberals there is a definite opposition to the policy of the die-hards, who dominate the national leadership.” (Ibid., p. 23.)
To meet this threat of fascism and to unite these “progressive forces” Buck proposed:
“If we would save Canada from further division, from the danger of disintegration, if we would save our people from further suffering and starvation, we must gather all progressive people together against Hepburn and Duplessis, against reaction and against fascism and for the democratic unification of our country, for progress and peace.
“Against the concentration of reactionary forces headed by the Hepburn-Duplessis alliance, all the forces of democracy must be gathered into a wide democratic front.” (Ibid., pp. 22-23.)
All reference to the “anti-fascist People’s Front” has already been dropped and replaced by the term “Democratic Front.” Whereas Dimitroff explained: “We want unity of action of the working class, so that the proletariat may grow strong in its struggle against the bourgeoisie in order that while defending today its current interests against attacking capital, against fascism, the proletariat may reach a position tomorrow to create the preliminary conditions for its final emancipation.” (The United Front, pp. 32-33.) Buck states: “We must gather all the progressive people together – for the democratic unification of our country, for progress and peace.”
As to the program of this “Democratic Front,” Buck proposes:
“A program around which a democratic front will be rallied must be one which the people understand and which can be carried through by Dominion and Provincial governments under our present governmental set up. Thus, it cannot be a fundamental program for the socialist reorganization of Canada, because the majority of the people are not ready to support such a program. What is required is a series of proposals of a constructive, progressive character, aimed to satisfy the most urgent needs of the people and capable of enactment and fulfillment by provincial and dominion governments now, a program that can be immediately carried out by a parliamentary majority.” (A Democratic Front for Canada, pp. 24-25.)
In other words, what is required is not a program such as Dimitroff proposed:
“We want to find a common language with the broadest masses for the purpose of struggling against the class enemy, to find ways of finally overcoming the isolation of the revolutionary vanguard from the masses of the proletariat and all other toilers, as well as of overcoming the fatal isolation of the working class itself from its natural allies in the struggle against the bourgeoisie, against fascism.
“We want to draw increasingly wide masses into the revolutionary class struggle and lead them to the proletarian revolution, proceeding from their vital interests and needs as the starting point, and their own experience as the basis.” (The United Front, p. 92.)
No! What Buck wanted was not a program “for the purpose of struggling against the class enemy,” not a program to lead them “to the proletarian revolution” but a program of collaboration with the capitalists, the “progressive Conservatives,” a program of a “constructive, progressive character.”
Such a program, Buck explained, is contained in the Party’s brief to the Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial relations (the commission established to recommend changes in the division of powers and responsibilities as between Dominion and Provincial Governments). The Communist Party brief, Buck points out, gives a “complete plan by which the national income of Canada can be redistributed so as to provide adequately for all the people.” (A Democratic Front for Canada, p. 19.) He further instructs Party members:
“Every member of our party is charged with the responsibility of acquiring such a knowledge of our brief that he can explain it and tell people in simple language how the wealth that is produced today can be redistributed, even under our present set up, to provide a measure of comfort to every man, woman and child.” (Ibid., p. 19.)
Since the Communist Party had now developed a “complete plan by which the national income of Canada can be redistributed so as to provide adequately for all the people,” and since this could now be accomplished “even under our present setup” and by a “parliamentary majority,” there was obviously no need or purpose in “class struggle” nor was there any need for socialism. So Buck quite “logically” points out:
“Our Party declared categorically that the issue in this election is not Socialism but of compelling changes in our national structure that will enable Ottawa to utilize the reserves of our country to improve the conditions of the people.” (Ibid., p. 27.)
As regards the danger of fascism, Buck has also a complete and quite simple plan for overcoming that danger:
“In this situation, the guarantee of democracy against the growing danger of fascism, lies in the strengthening of the democratic powers of the people. The only way it can be strengthened is by a united working class fighting consistently for unity of all democratic forces, in the struggle for democratic unification of our country.” (Ibid., p. 12.)
So now the way to fight fascism is “to struggle for the democratic unification of our country.” This was to be achieved by “extending the process of which Confederation was a part.” Further, national unification was necessary because “the existing distribution of powers under the British North American Act” resulted in a situation where reform “Legislation is not enacted because the provinces in a large measure haven’t the resources and the Dominion Government has not the constitutional right.” (Ibid., pp. 10-11.)
In other words, national unification meant to amend Canada’s constitution, the B.N.A. Act, through a new allocation of powers between the Dominion and Provincial Governments granting greater authority and powers in the fields of taxation, labor laws, social legislation, etc., to the Dominion Government. And this was to constitute a “guarantee” against fascism. How simple!
But regarding this government and its leader, Premier King, Buck then states: “His policy of following meekly at the heels of Chamberlain on all questions of foreign policy has prevented Canada from becoming a positive force for peace against fascist aggression abroad, while at home, instead of actually combating reaction and the fascist threat he capitulates regularly to reactionary big business. (Ibid., p. 21.)
And further: “While democracy is being crushed, full freedom and encouragement is given to fascism.” (Ibid., p. 11.)
And again: “The immediate significance of the fascist organizations is not because of the number they have in their ranks. It is that they are operating under the open protection of governments. It is that the open fascist organizations are now being organized as instruments of policy, which the monopolists hope to utilize in their drive against the working class.” (Ibid., p. 22.)
The crude absurdity of Buck’s entire position now becomes obvious: McKenzie King, “meekly follows at the heels of Chamberlain”; this policy “has prevented Canada from becoming a positive force for peace against fascist aggression abroad”; he “capitulates regularly to reactionary big business”; under his premiership “the fascist organizations” are “operating under the open protection of governments” and “while democracy is being crushed, full freedom and encouragement is being given to fascism.” But, “in this situation, the guarantee of democracy against the growing danger of fascism” lies in “democratic unification of our country” through “changing” the “existing distribution of powers under the British North America Act” and by giving the King Government the “Constitutional right” to achieve “complete unification” by means of granting it greater authority. For, in Buck’s own words: “We must formulate demands looking to defeat reaction through democratic national unification. All this is urgently needed to head off reaction and fascism and to preserve the peace of our country.” (Ibid., p. 25.)
To such depths of absurdity had the “revolutionary class struggle against fascism and war” been perverted, within three years of the time the tactical line of the People’s Front had first been presented as a world policy. And to think that while this absurd nonsense was being presented to the working class of Canada as the means of combating fascism and war, as Marxism, hundreds of Canadian Communists were giving their lives in the armed struggle against fascism in Spain, as members of the International Brigade.
Buck concluded his “masterful presentation” with the following “stirring appeal” to “militant action”:
“Our Party must become the driving force in the fight for peace, for protection of the youth, for democratic, national unification, for security and progress. We do not place our slogan of Socialism in the background (???) but in its correct relation to the actual problems and struggles of today. Our struggle to unite Canada is an integral part of the struggle for Socialism. As part of this struggle today, we call upon all Democratic and Progressive people to unite. Against the reactionary sectionalism of Hepburn and Duplessis, we are for national unification. Against the schemes of reactionary big capital looking to fascist reaction, we are for Democratic progress. Against the war makers, we call for peace. Against the reactionary concentration of Hepburn, Duplessis and the most sinister elements in Canadian politics we call for the building of a wide democratic front to carry Canada forward to Democratic National Unity, progress, peace, prosperity and Socialism.” (Ibid., p. 41.)
And this nonsensical phrasemongering is presented to the Canadian working class as a Marxian program of revolutionary class struggle against capitalism and fascism and as the road to emancipation, to socialism. Just imagine: “we are for democratic progress,” “we call for peace,” “against... the most sinister elements we call for... demcratic national unity, progress, peace, prosperity and socialism.” The role of the working class is not even mentioned.
Compare this philistine, pedantic phrasemongering with the unequivocal, clear instructions of Dimitroff:
“When carrying out the policy of the Peoples Front against fascism and war,... the Communists do not lose sight of the historic need for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, which has outlived its day, and for the achievement of socialism, which brings emancipation to the working class and the whole of mankind.” (The United Front, p. 236.)
“When we carry on a resolute struggle for the defense of democratic rights and liberties against reaction and fascism, we do so as Marxists, as consistent proletarian revolutionaries and not as bourgeois democrats and reformists. Where we come forward in defense of the national interests of our own people in defense of their rights and liberties, we do not become nationalists or bourgeois patriots – we do so as proletarian revolutionaries and true sons of our people.” (Ibid., p. 231.)
“The experience of many years has gone to prove that the fascist instigators of war are not to be held back by persuasion or arguments. There is only one effective means of curbing them, and that is the united and unbroken struggle of the masses of the people against fascism in the different countries and on an international scale.” (Ibid., p. 227.)
“To want peace is not enough. It is necessary to fight for peace. It is absolutely inadequate to carry on general propaganda against war. Propaganda against war ’in general’ does not in the slightest degree hinder the conspirators sitting in Berlin or Tokyo from carrying out their dastardly work.” (Ibid., p. 176.)
“The struggle for peace is a struggle against fascism, a struggle against capitalism, a struggle for the victory of socialism throughout the world!” (Ibid., p. 185.)
In October, 1938, in a speech to the Ontario Provincial Convention of the CP. of C, the Ontario leader of the Party, Stewart Smith, presented the party line in the struggle for peace as follows:
“In this noble struggle for peace, which represents the highest interests of humanity, let us above all build the unity of the people. The forces of peace in Canada as in the whole world can win. The forces for peace are strong. Labor has already shown the road at the great convention of the Trades and Labor Congress.
“The churches in large numbers are taking up the struggle. Senator Carine Wilson of the League of Nations Society, representing a large section of Canadian opinion has declared for collective peace action. Never before were the Canadian people so aroused to the struggle for peace. The peace forces can win through unity.
“We appeal to all genuine friends of peace and democracy, all true patriots of Canada, to take up the struggle for a positive Canadian peace policy in world affairs.” (Has Chamberlain Saved Peace, pp. 26-27.)
The fight for peace has now reached the point where the churches, women senators and the League of Nations Society become important factors. Now compare this petty bourgeois nonsense about how to fight for peace with Dimitroff’s demands for:
“An independent struggle by the proletariat for the maintenance of peace, independent of the capitalist governments and the League of Nations, making it impossible for the working class movement to be subordinated to the behind the scenes designs of the Imperialist Governments in the League of Nations.
“Under present conditions, the fight to maintain peace is a fight against Fascism, and this fight is in essence revolutionary.” (The United Front, p. 184.)
In the same speech, Stewart Smith also presented the Party policy regarding the anti-fascist united front, as follows:
“The aim of every loyal democrat must be one of bringing the maximum degree of unity between all democratic forces.
“It is especially important to develop the independent initiative of labor in the political field through such bodies as the Labor Representation Association, and co-operation and understanding with the C.C.F., in order that in elections the best possible agreements may be made to elect the largest number of progressive candidates.” (Jobs and Security, p. 14.)
So! The united front of struggle of the working class has now degenerated into a question of election agreements and blocs with the Labor Representation Association and the C.C.F. “in order to elect the largest number of progressive candidates.”
The People’s Front has now become the Democratic Camp. States Smith:
“The growing democratic camp shows itself in the political life of Ontario as yet mainly in a developing unanimity of opinion among the people on the main issues before the province and nation.
“Its heart is the labor movement, especially the mass trade unions which occupy such a vital part in the life of almost every community and especially now in such cities as Oshawa, Cornwall, St. Catherines, Kitchener and Timmins. It extends to, as yet, widely separated sections – the progressive wing of the McKenzie King Liberals; the Progressives in the Conservative Party, especially supporters of Herridge; the masses of church people; the movements against the monopolies among the farmers; the housewives movements and the Youth Congress movement.” (Ibid., p. 11.)
Just so! After three years of building the People’s Front it has now become “a developing unanimity of opinion.” It includes the “labor movement,” “progressive Liberals,” “progressive Conservatives,” “the masses of church people,” “farmers’ movements,” “housewives movements,” and the “Youth Congress movement.” The Marxian concept of class divisions in society and of political parties as the representatives of definite class interests has now completely disappeared and in its place we have a “democratic camp” composed of the labor movement, Liberals, Conservatives, farmers, church people, housewives and youth. (The homes for the aged and the kindergartens must have been overlooked.) The “militant struggle of the working class” against fascism and war has now become a “noble struggle” conducted by “true patriots” and “loyal democrats.”
And sixteen years after the foundation of the Communist Party of Canada this childish drivel is presented to a Party Convention as revolutionary Marxism.
The desire for unity with Herridge and his “Progressive Conservatives” finally resulted in 1939 with the Communist Party publishing his speeches in full on the front page of the Party organ, The Clarion, with appropriate headlines. H. W. Herridge, millionaire brother-in-law of Ex-Premier R. B. Bennett, had organized and was, in 1939, the leader of the New Democracy Party. The eagerness of the Communist Party Leadership for unity with this section of the bourgeoisie finally culminated with the Saskatchewan leader of the Communist Party securing the nomination as a Federal candidate of the New Democracy Party only to be later repudiated by Herridge. This attempted marriage of the Communist Party to the New Democracy Party was broken up by the war. However, when the smoke of the 1940 election battles finally cleared away the candidates of the New Democracy Party elected to the House of Commons all turned out to be members of the Social Credit Party, including Hlinka, New Democracy member for Vegreville, Alta., who was termed the “most outspoken fascist in the Canadian parliament.”
As was to be expected, the outbreak of war resulted in one series of blunders after another by the national leadership of the Communist Party. For the first few days they did not take any position, thus leaving the Party organizations throughout the country without any lead whatever.
After a few days a statement was finally made in the name of Tim Buck, in support of the war. This statement was so equivocal and ambiguous that a member of the B.C. Provincial Executive argued for three hours that it was really a statement in opposition to the war as an imperialist war, because of the policies of Chamberlain and of the paper.
With the Communist Parties of other countries characterizing the war as an imperialist war, because the policies of Chamberlain and Daladier, the Canadian Party leadership finally issued a statement in opposition to Canada’s participation in the war, several weeks after the war started.
With the outbreak of war and the subsequent illegality of the Party there followed a swing from crass opportunism to the most fantastic leftist adventurism. To begin with, the King Government, whose election in 1935 was considered “a setback for reaction,” overnight became reactionary again and now replaced the “Hepburn-Duplessis Axis” as the “spearpoint” of “sinister reaction”:
“The King Government is an outright Imperialist Government. It is the pliant and willing agent of the decisive circles of big capital in Canada. King involved Canada in the Imperialist war so cunningly that there was no real debate upon the question. He crushed opposition to the war as ruthlessly as Bennett or Meighen could.” (T. B. in The Monthly Review, official Party organ, April and May, 1940. p. 15.)
And another article by T.C.S. states:
“We correctly seized upon Mackenzie King’s February 21st radio speech to expose his criminal role in bringing about this war hand-in-glove with Chamberlain.” (Ibid., p. 34.)
It should be remembered, this was the same government that Buck proposed a few months earlier to grant greater powers to as a “guarantee” against fascism.
The role of Herridge had also apparently been reversed:
“The position of Herridge and Coldwell and Heaps and their leading associates was closer to the position of Manion in several respects than to the avowed position of Mackenzie King. Their treachery to the masses of Canada’s people in hitching the C.C.F. and the Social Credit Parties to the chariot wheel of Imperialist war policy availed them little in their quest for cheap parliamentary advantage but did incalculable harm to the cause of the working class.” T.B. ( Ibid., p. 16.)
So! The leaders of the two Parties which the Communist leadership did their best to secure electoral agreements with a few months earlier, are now revealed to have been merely in a “quest for cheap parliamentary advantage.”
Writing on C.C.F. Peace Aims, S.S. states:
“The theory of imperialism renouncing itself, establishing economic cooperation and equal access to markets and raw materials is, like all other theories of the C.C.F., borrowed from the stinking rubbish heaps of European Social Democracy. Its author was Kautsky.” (Ibid., p. 2d.)
As regards the attitude of Imperialism towards the colonial people S.S. writes:
“To pretend that British Imperialism will voluntarily free peoples as a result of victory in the war is simply to hide the fact that British Imperialism, if it could concievably free peoples, could set free dozens of times the Czechs, Austrians, and Poles without waging any war in Europe.” (Ibid., p. 26.)
Three months later, in August 1940, the National leadership informed the membership that Canada was, in fact, a semi-colony under the political hegemony of Britain and the economic hegemony of American Imperialism. As a result of the clash of these two rival Imperialisms on Canadian soil they stated: “A revolutionary situation is maturing in Canada.” After making this “profound” observation they then advanced the slogan “For An Independent Socialist Canada.” (Just what happened to the revolution is hard to ascertain.) They also forecast the coming to power of Socialism all over Europe as a result of the revolutionary situations supposed to be developing in Germany, France, Britain, etc.
Following the entry of the Soviet Union into the war the Party, for a period, followed a policy of practical activity which was basically correct. They campaigned intensively for a total war effort and for a “yes vote” in the plebiscite on conscription.
The public work of the Party was carried on through the medium of the Communist Labor Total War Committee. Membership in the Party soared, discipline was well maintained, a basic industrial form of branches was established which gave direct leadership in the shop to the workers on the job; enthusiasm and devotion to the Party was at the highest level of many years. During this period, the latter half of 1942, the hundred or more Communists arrested and interned under section 21 of The Defense of Canada regulations, after the outlawing of the Party in June 1940, were released.
The opportunism which had sapped the strength of the Party during the prewar period and the leftist adventurism which had tended to make the Party appear in the light of a pro-nazi force during the early war years, and had consequently discredited it in the eyes of many workers, was to a considerable extent overcome following the change in the character of the war.
The possibility of the Party following its proper role as a Marxist Party of the working class appeared brighter than at any time during the seven previous years. However, whether it would actually rid itself of both deviations – ultra left adventurism and right opportunism – still remained to be seen.