As our examination of the policies of the Communist movement in Canada has shown, the deviations in theory and practise from Marxism commenced at least as far back as 1935 when the tactical line of the People’s Front Against Fascism And War was presented in a distorted fashion only three months following the adoption of the new tactical line by the 7th Congress of the Communist International.
First, the Marxian concept of the “United Front of the Working Class” was replaced by “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 people’s party. STEWART SMITH. (Towards a Canadian People’s Front, pp. 19-20.)
Whereas the central and decisive problem of the United Front was “unity in action of the working class” in “every factory, every region,” etc., it was presented as:
“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 farmer organizations and the Communist movement can be brought together into a broad united front party.” STEWART SMITH. (Ibid., p. 27.)
In other words, the united front of struggle of the working class was distorted and presented as the formation of a hodge-podge, farmer-labor party.
As regards the People’s Front and the leading role of the working class:
“The fundamental, the most decisive thing in establishing the anti-Fascist People’s Front is resolute action of the revolutionary proletariat...” DIMITROFF.
This was revised into its opposite:
“The urban middle stratum are of decisive importance for the fight against fascism and war.” STEWART SMITH.
The distortion and perversion of the united front was then carried further and presented almost solely as meaning an electoral agreement in election campaigns. With regard to the October, 1937, Federal election:
“In 20 constituencies a united front was secured in the face of the opposition of top leadership of the C.C.F.” TIM BUCK. (Ibid., p. 85.)
Election campaigns were presented as signifying a revolutionary development:
“That is a sketchy survey of the election campaign and its lessons which is sufficient, if you followed it, to enable you to see the tremendous growth of revolutionary ferment against the Capitalist Parties.” TIM BUCK. (Ibid., p. 92.)
The main energy of the Party was to be devoted, not to “establish unity of action in every factory,” etc., but to securing an electoral agreement with the C.C.F.:
“We need strong Party fractions composed of active workers, inside of the trade unions, C.C.F. Clubs, Social Credit groups and incipient fascist organizations.” SAM CARR. (Ibid., p. 106.)
Work within the C.C.F. and the organizations of the petty bourgeoisie was to become the main field of activity:
“We must have people who can go into the Merchants Associations, speak to Universities and Colleges, to Teachers’ Associations, and who can approach the widest stratum of the population. We must develop people for such work.” STEWART SMITH. (Ibid., p. 66.)
In order “to develop people for such work” the social composition of the Party was deliberately changed over a period through concentrating on the recruiting of university students, intellectuals and middle class elements who gradually assumed a more and more dominant role in the leadership.
Middle class propaganda organizations were also presented as a decisive form of the People’s Front:
“The League against War and Fascism – becomes decisive for the development of the united front at the present moment against war. “ STEWART SMITH. (Ibid., p. 28.)
This distortion and perversion of the united front and the People’s Front was presented in such a way as to utilize the threat of fascism as a bogey to force acceptance of the distorted line. The struggle against fascism was made to appear almost solely as a question of winning election campaigns, not by the working class, but by the “progressive people.” For instance:
“... 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 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.” STEWART SMITH. (Ibid., p. 25.)
In other words, the struggle against fascism was presented as an election contest between a “broad united front party” and the “reactionary forces.” Hence, the question of “transforming the C.C.F.” into a “broad united front party” together with making the League against War and Fascism a “centre for the unity of millions of the peace-loving people of Canada” became the two main political and organizational tasks of the working class in the struggle against fascism and war and the middle class became the “decisive stratum” in the struggle.
The perversion of the tactical line of the 7th Congress resulted in the militant energy of the working class being dissipated in fruitless efforts to secure election agreements, particularly with the C.C.F. leadership, and in subordinating the working class to the leadership of petty-bourgeois intellectuals. The class character of fascism and the independent and leading role of the working class in the struggle against it was obscured if not obliterated. The result of the perverted tactical line within the ranks of the Communist Party itself was confusion, indecision, dissipation of energy and the development of factional struggles. However, the leadership was able to crush all opposition by branding the opposition as “sectarian” or, in some cases, Trotskyists. The militant, left wing trade unions which had been organized by Communist Party members were either disbanded or their membership transferred to the unions of the A.F. of L. not “on the basis of a platform of struggle against the capitalist offensive and the guarantee of trade union democracy,” not on the “condition” of “struggle against capital, against fascism,” as Dimitroff insisted (The United Front, pp. 65-64), but on the basis of transferring the workers concerned from unions based on a policy of class struggle to unions with a policy of class collaboration; of substituting “revolutionary leadership” with “reformist leadership.”
Party members who opposed these policies were either driven out of the Party (Jim McLaughlin, Nova Scotia miners’ leader) expelled or threatened with expulsion.
Having already paralyzed the militancy and disrupted the unity of the working class and subordinated it to the leadership of the petty-bourgeoisie, who were placed in the leadership of many of the organizations, the next logical step was to bring the working class under the direct domination and leadership of the bourgeoisie itself and thus destroy all independent working class political action. The political line which did, in fact, lead towards this objective, was presented a little over a year later at the 11th Plenum of the Communist Party of Canada held in February 1937.
The further perversion of the tactical line of the 7th Congress was accomplished by what was supposed to be a profound dialectical analysis but which was, in fact, philistine eclecticism:
“Our policies must take into account the concrete relationship of class forces at the given historical moment. We cannot be indifferent to the question of which capitalist party is in office. We cannot afford to lump all capitalist parties and movements into one heap. We cannot afford to remain indifferent to the fact that the ultra-reactionary circles of the capitalist class are out to sweep away all the forms of democratic government and introduce fascism. We will not be partners to any moves that would pave the way for the return of the Bennett Tory regime.” TIM BUCK. (The Road Ahead, p. 17.)
The inference here was, that the forces of fascism were intending to use the Conservative Party as the vehicle with which to ride into power and set up a fascist dictatorship. In order to prevent this, the working class was warned:
“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... Such a policy would also mean that the struggle to make the King government enact progressive legislation would be weakened.” (Ibid., p. 16.)
“This would make it easier for Bennett and his ultra-reactionary associates... to involve Canada in another Imperialist war, to strip us of all our remaining democratic rights, to proceed faster along the road to the establishment of a Canadian fascist dictatorship, to abolish the Federal, provincial and municipal forms of democratic government, to wipe out all the workers, farmers and middle class organizations.” (Ibid.)
This meant that if the working class was to exert mass political pressure against the “executive committee of the capitalist class,” the State, they would weaken the struggle for “progressive legislation,” and pave the way for “wiping out all workers, farmers and middle class organizations,” would lead to “involving Canada in another Imperialist war” and “proceed faster along the road to Canadian fascist dictatorship.” In other words, Buck was warning the workers that if they put up any struggle against the capitalist class and its governments this would result in paving the way for fascism.
Instead of a struggle against the capitalist class and the capitalist Liberal government the workers were told:
“That unless the main blows of our Party, the labor movement and our people are struck against the fifty ’big shots’ and their henchmen it will be impossible to rally and organize the united front of the working class and the common people.” (Ibid., p. 16.)
All of which was in complete contradiction to the teachings of Marxism generally and in contradiction to the line of the 7th Congress of the C.I. in particular, which stated:
“Whether the victory of fascism can be prevented depends first and foremost on the militant activity of the working class itself.” (The United Front, p. 25.)
Instead of a political struggle against the King government the working class was told, in effect, that such a struggle would play into the hands of reaction and pave the way for fascism. The slogan advanced was “Direct the Main Blow Against Reaction.”
The bewildered working class were now to search for this sinister abstraction “Reaction,” and the nebulous “50 Big Shots and their henchmen.” However, they were given to understand that reaction was centered in the Conservative Party, the “ultra-reactionary Tories” headed by Bennett, Meighan and Herridge.
A little over a year later however, in July 1937, Herridge had become a progressive:
“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.” SAM CARR.
“Herridge’s speeches mirror a large and important sentiment in favor of democratic progress within the Conservative Party.” TIM BUCK.
In order to fight against fascism the working class were told to form an alliance with the “progressive Conservatives” and the “progressive Liberals.” This alliance was to be known as “A Democratic Front for Canada.” Classes and political parties no longer had any significance.
The entire population of the country was divided into two fronts; the Democratic Front and the Reactionary Front. Both the Liberal and Conservative parties were divided between the two camps of reaction and progress. According to Buck:
“These reactionary forces in each of the old parties, have considerably more in common with each other today than they have with the democratic progressively inclined younger elements who, also in each of the old parties, increasingly lean toward support of more democratic policies and legislation to satisfy the urgent needs of the people.” (A Democratic Front for Canada, p. 13.)
The problem was to unite these “democratic, progressively inclined younger elements” “in each of the old parties.” Said Buck:
“The weakness of the forces opposed to reactionary big capital and its policies, lies, almost entirely in their disunity. The “democratic front” is the immediate form by which this can be overcome.” (Ibid., p. 23.)
According to Buck, reactionary monopoly capital was no longer represented by the Liberal or Conservative parties but by the provincial governments of Ontario headed by the Liberal premier Hepburn and the ex-Conservative, Union Nationale, Premier Duplessis in Quebec. Said Buck:
“The point is, that now and for the immediate future, the alliance of Hepburn and Duplessis, is the concentrated spearpoint of reaction around which reactionary forces are already being mobilized and toward which we can see dangerous inclinations on the part of leading politicians.” (Ibid., pp. 15-16.)
But this reaction was different from previous reaction. Buck explained:
“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. He ruled Canada as the leader of the Conservative Party. He not only did not try to win the reactionary Liberals into his camp 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 lines. 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, C.C.F.ers and other progressives.” (Ibid., p. 21-22.)
The strategy and tactics for the working class to follow were:
“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., p. 23.)
This “brilliant Marxian analysis” of the class forces in Canada was, as usual, in line with the analysis of Browder in the U.S.A. who, during the same period, had defined the Democratic Camp as “now materialized in the organized labor movement, first of all the great movement of the Committee for Industrial Organization, and the progressive movements led by middle class figures within the old parties.” Browder also “foresaw ’two entirely new political parties’ corresponding to Tory reaction based on finance capital and to this democratic camp.” In 1938 Browder also adopted the term “democratic front.” By this time practically all independent political action on the part of the working class had been effectively wrecked. The main energy of the Communist movement was diverted to striving to obtain an electoral agreement with the C.C.F. on the one hand, and with the New Democracy Party of Herridge on the other. This was so right up until the outbreak of war in September, 1939. Revolts against this line continued intermittently within the Party, but the National leaders were always successful in silencing the opposition, either by plausible “Marxian” explanations or by ruthless denunciations of the rebels.
It was also during this period of 1937-38 that Dimitroff’s exhortations to “link up the present struggle with the people’s revolutionary traditions and past” were first distorted and finally perverted into a servile worship and glorification of bourgeois democracy which inevitably carried with it a defense of the capitalist system as a whole.
In his historic speech, Dimitroff stated:
“We Communists are irreconcilable opponents, on principle, of bourgeois Nationalism in all its forms. But we are not supporters of National nihilism, and should never act as such. The task of educating the workers and all working people in the spirit of proletarian internationalism is one of the fundamental tasks of every Communist. But anyone who thinks that this permits him, or even compels him, to sneer at all the national sentiments of the wide masses of working people is far from being a genuine Bolshevik, and has understood nothing of the teachings of Lenin and Stalin on the National question.” (The United Front, p. 79.)
Dimitroff raised the question of National sentiments in order that the Communist Parties might correctly apply Marxian policy on the National question and because: “It is unquestionably an essential preliminary condition for a successful struggle against chauvinism – this main instrument of ideological influence of the fascists upon the masses.” But he also insisted that, ”... We prove convincingly that we are free of both national nihilism and bourgeois Nationalism.” (Ibid., p. 82.)
As was the case in applying practically all other phases of the new tactical line, the deviation on this question was not to the left, not National nihilism, but to the right. Bourgeois Nationalism was what the Canadian “Marxists” presented to the working class as an ideological weapon in the fight against fascism, in the fight which Dimitroff called for:
“To defend every inch of bourgeois-democratic liberties, which are being attacked by fascism and bourgeois reaction, because the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat so dictate.” (Ibid., p. 34.)
While Browder in the United States resurrected Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln as examples of revolutionists for the American working class to heroize and coined the chauvinistic slogan, “Communism is 20th Century Americanism,” in Canada Buck and Ryerson proceeded to glorify William Lyons McKenzie and Louis Joseph Papineau as the revolutionary heroes for the Canadian working class to draw inspiration from. The slogan of McKenzie (Premier McKenzie King’s great grandfather), in the 1837 rebellion was: “Freedom of trade – every man to be allowed to buy at the cheapest market and sell at the dearest.” The credo of Papineau was: “I am a great reformer, insofar as necessary political changes are concerned, but I am a great conservative, so far as the preservation of the sacred right of property is concerned.”
So the Canadian battalion which fought in the International Brigade in Spain was named after these two champions of “free trade” and “the sacred rights of property” while Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews, the yeoman and the blacksmith who were executed on the corner of King and Toronto Street in Toronto for their part in the rebellion were seldom even mentioned.
Stanley Ryerson wrote a book entitled, “1837, The Birth of Canadian Democracy,” while Tim Buck evoked the names of McKenzie and Papineau to bolster his argument for giving greater powers to McKenzie King’s government. Said Buck:
“We speak, then, as a part of the ever growing alignment of the democratic people of Canada. We are for complete National unification. The work of democratic national unification commenced by William Lyon McKenzie and Louis Joseph Papineau a hundred years ago, must be completed by the Canadian people today, by extending the process of which Confederation was a part and making it possible for the urgent needs of the people to be satisfied.” (A Democratic Front, p. 13.)
By the time the second world war broke out, the discipline and devotion of the Party membership had been largely destroyed. Many of the old members had been replaced by new members, a large portion of whom were college students and middle class elements. However, the war put an end to the Party’s flirtations with the bourgeois and petty bourgeois parties, although, because of the lack of a disciplined and devoted membership, due to such policies, the Party in many districts nearly collapsed following its outlawing and the arrest of many of its leaders.
In 1942 when the Party emerged from underground, the “reactionary Hepburn-Duplessis Axis” was replaced by the Hepburn-Buck Axis. (Hepburn was supposed to have reformed in the interim.) The threat of fascism was again raised as an argument for an alliance between labor and monopoly capital. The workers were told that unless the “progressive forces” unite, there is a danger that “fascist-minded elements will come to power.”
The magic word “Teheran” was used as an argument in support of unprincipled compromises and betrayals of socialism and of the immediate interests of the working class in the most varied fields of political activity. Said Buck:
“We are in a new stage of history... This stage opened at Teheran... That argument also established the basis for a new era of democratic progress...
“The great coalition between the U.S.S.R. and the capitalist democracies is the highest expression of the world-wide class alliance brought into being by the war.” (Depression or Prosperity, p. 11.)
The Teheran agreement which Duclos described as a “diplomatic document,” Buck interpreted as a “world-wide class alliance,” as a result of which the people of Europe will be able to “move forward” to “progress such as did not seem possible a few short years ago.” (Ibid.) Following his release after ten days from the Don Jail, Buck jointly addressed a mass meeting with Hepburn in the Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens.
The Hepburn-Buck alliance reached its zenith in the Ontario provincial election when the Liberal Party and the L.P.P. not only arranged a saw-off whereby they would support each other’s candidates against the C.C.F., in a number of constituencies, but in at least three constituencies the two parties endorsed joint candidates.
Although the justification for these scandalous tactics and betrayals of Marxian principles was to defeat the threat of “pro-fascist Tory reaction,” the result was a smashing defeat, not only for the C.C.F., but also for the Liberals and the L.P.P. The Tories on the other hand won a landslide victory.
From the time of its formation in August, 1943, the L.P.P. became the outstanding apologist for every reactionary policy of the King government. When King, in order to retain the political support of the French Canadians, who were anti-conscriptionist, refused to carry out the mandate for total conscription which he obtained in the 1942 plebiscite, the L.P.P. which had campaigned for a yes vote, immediately reversed its position:
“The L.P.P. has made its position clear: unequivocal support to the effort to secure adequate reinforcements through the voluntary system.” (National Affairs Monthly, Dec, 1944, p. 258.)
In the North Grey by-election, the L.P.P. publicly endorsed and openly campaigned for the election of the Liberal candidate, Gen. S. McNaughton, Minister of Defense, in opposition to both the candidates of the C.C.F. and the Tories: “We call on the labor movement to back up Gen. McNaughton and to defeat the Tory intrigue against Canada.” (Ibid.)
From 1935 onward the general trend of the political line of the National Leadership of the Communist movement was one of reconciliation with and adaptation to capitalism, which is the essence of opportunism. The revolutionary tactics of Marxism, based on the class struggle as the motive force, for the “revolutionary transformation” of society from capitalism to socialism were replaced by tactics designed to secure reforms, “to make capitalism work,” the essence of reformism. The revolutionary theories of Marxism based on recognition of the irreconcilability of antagonistic classes, were revised and replaced by theories of “lasting prosperity,” “full employment,” etc., and of class collaboration (“world-wide class alliance,” “national unity,” “labor management co-operation,” “Liberal-Labor coalition,” etc.), the essence of revisionism.
In the ten-year period, 1935 to 1945, the National Leadership of the Communist movement in Canada replaced “revolutionary class struggle” against capitalism, Communism, with adaptation of the labor movement to capitalism, opportunism; substituted for the “revolutionary overthrow of capitalism,” the reforming of capitalism, reformism; they emasculated Marxism of its revolutionary content and substituted bourgeois liberalism, revisionism.
They carried the revision of Marxism to such lengths that the resultant policies were, in many respects, to the right of the Liberal Party of the big bourgeoisie.
Not even the Liberal Party had the colossal audacity to tell the workers that in the post war: “The National income would be maintained,” “that full employment is possible;” that the Teheran agreement was “a world-wide class alliance;” that the government could “finance lasting prosperity;” that the post war period would be the “epoch of the abolition of poverty;” that victory in the war would “assure freedom for China” and “freedom for India;” that the government elected would “determine the direction of our National development for a generation;” that “the future of trade unionism in Canada is closely linked up with the Teheran agreement;” that “capitalist economy will be able to avoid a crisis of the sort which followed the first world war;” that “our exports can be maintained at a level of two billion dollars per year;” that “a government based upon a democratic coalition of Progressive Forces is the key to lasting prosperity in Canada...”
Instead of assisting the working class to maintain an independent political position during the course of the war, in order to fight for a total war effort, the L.P.P. leadership adopted the slogans and policies of the capitalists and made them the slogans and policies of labor. Although the war was a just war, following the fall of France and the entry of the U.S.S.R. into the war, and for that reason it was correct for the working class to support it, on the part of British, American and Canadian Imperialism it was not a “people’s war” as the L.P.P. leadership maintained, because the planning, administration and conduct of the war was carried out not by the people but by the capitalist class and its governments. In fact, by using the false slogan “people’s war,” the L.P.P. actually weakened the role of “the people” in the fight for a total war effort and in democratizing the policies used in prosecution of the war.
By falsely propagating the slogan, “labor’s no strike pledge,” the L.P.P. leadership disarmed the working class, subordinated their interests to the interests of monopoly capital and weakened the organizational strength of the trades unions. As a matter of fact, neither the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada nor the Canadian Congress of Labor adopted a no strike pledge. They both agreed to do all possible to avoid strikes in order to maintain production, which was correct, but did not give any unconditional no strike pledge, which would have been wrong. While there might have been some justification for the unconditional no strike pledge of American Labor, which had the machinery and, to some extent, the protection of the Wagner Act, Canadian labor had no such legislation. Whereas the National War Labor Board in the U.S.A. settled disputes 80 percent in favor of labor, in Canada it was the opposite: Nearly 80 percent of the disputes which came before the Canadian War Labor Board were decided against the interests of labor.
The trade unions which were under the leadership of L.P.P. officials in some cases did not put up a fight for the demands of their own membership regarding working conditions, hours of work, wages and union security to the extent they should have. On the contrary, glaring conditions of injustice, discrimination and bad working conditions were often overlooked on the theory that to make an issue of them might lead to a strike and thus break the “no strike pledge.” On the basis of the L.P.P. slogan, “labor-management co-operation,” certain trade union officials collaborated with management to the point where they found themselves closer to the bosses than to the membership whose interests they were supposed to represent.
On the basis of the L.P.P. theory that post war issues would be decided “in the main on the field of parliamentary activity,” the winning of the membership of the trade unions under L.P.P. leadership to the support of the program, policies and candidates of the L.P.P. became one of the main tasks of the L.P.P. trade union officials. Such tactics were resented by large sections of the membership with the result that many trade unions became sharply divided into factions. Instead of “non-partisan trade union action,” which the L.P.P. advanced as a slogan to win the support of the trade union membership, some L.P.P.-led trade unions became the battle ground for the most partisan politics.
Following a policy of collaboration with the bosses, smothering protests of the membership regarding working conditions and attempting to use their positions in the unions to win support for L.P.P. parliamentary candidates increased the rift between the L.P.P. and. trade union leaders and the rank-and-file of their own membership. This could and did have one inevitable result: the development of bureaucracy. Union policies were frequently decided, not by the membership, but by bureaucratic leaders who told the membership what policies the unions should follow.
As a result of wrong policies and bureaucracy, dissension and disruption developed in many of the unions under L.P.P. leadership. Disintegration followed, and in some instances declines in union membership. Instead of entering the post war with a trade union movement marked by solidarity of the membership and trade union agreements providing union security and trade union consolidation, wrong policies and bureaucracy have resulted in many instances in the opposite: Inner dissension, insecurity, disintegration and a decline in union membership and prestige.
Such are the results of the revision, of Marxism in the trade union movement. The results of revisionism within the ranks of the Labor Progressive Party itself have also been disastrous. Since revisionism could not be reconciled with Marxism, education, based on the Marxian classics, was almost completely abolished. In fact, hardly any education of any kind was conducted within the L.P.P. Clubs. On the theory that parliamentary activity was decisive, the membership was burdened with the costs of maintaining club rooms in the various constituencies and of raising huge sums of money for election campaigns. This reduced the rank-and-file membership activity almost entirely to the organization of social affairs and the selling of raffle tickets, etc., for the purpose of raising funds. Political activity was reduced to the advocacy of coalition with the Liberals on the one hand, and on the other, vehement denunciation of the C.C.F. because of what was termed their “anti-unity policy.”
Conflict with the C.C.F. became inevitable because the L.P.P. itself had lost all semblance of a revolutionary Marxian party dedicated to the organization, education and leadership of the working class and had degenerated into a parliamentary, social democratic, reform party. The basic difference between the L.P.P. and the C.C.F. election platform and policies was that the policies of the L.P.P., in addition to advocating all kinds of reforms to “make capitalism work,” openly advocated class collaboration and openly supported the Liberal Party of the big bourgeoisie in opposition to the C.C.F.
As a result of such platforms and policies, the L.P.P. became not just a social democratic party, but a right wing social democratic party in many respects to the right of the C.C.F. In fact, so far to the right of the C.C.F. that its main condemnation of the C.C.F. was that the C.C.F. refused to participate in the unprincipled, open, class collaboration advocated by the L.P.P. and based on the slogans: “Labor-Management, Government-Cooperation,” “National Unity,” “Unity of All Progressive Forces,” “Make Labor a Partner in Government,” and “Liberal-Labor Coalition Government.” In fact, the L.P.P. in many respects came closer to being a bourgeois Liberal party in its election platform and policies than a Social Democratic party, in spite of its references to Marxism and the Soviet Union. Tim Buck stated in February, 1944, that the L.P.P. would “Judge parties and individuals by their policies.” Judging the L.P.P. and its leaders on that basis can result only in the conclusions reached above.
The question logically arises: How was it possible for a Communist movement which had been in existence for a period of 23 or more years to degenerate from the position of a revolutionary Marxist party of the working class with a background of militant struggle to an insipid, dilletante, petty bourgeois, Liberal-Labor, social democratic Party of class collaboration?
While there is no doubt a number of factors contributed to making such a development possible, one of the principle contributing factors was the cadre policy of the Party, i.e., the policy followed in the selection, training and promotion of individual members for positions of leadership.
In dealing with the question of cadres at the 7th Congress, Dimitroff, in referring to the policy to be followed in selecting cadres, stressed the following:
“First, absolute devotion to the cause of the working class, loyalty to the Party, tested in the face of the enemy–in battle, in prison, in court.
“Second, the closest possible contact with the masses. The Comrades concerned must be wholly absorbed in the interests of the masses, feel the life pulse of the masses, know their sentiments and requirements. The prestige of the leaders of our Party organization should be based, first of all, on the fact that the masses regard them as their leaders, and are convinced through their own experience of their ability as leaders, and of their determination and self-sacrifice in struggle.
“Third, ability independently to find one’s bearings and not to be afraid of assuming responsibility in making decisions... Cadres develop and grow best when they are placed in the position of having to solve concrete problems of the struggle independently, and are aware that they are fully responsible for their decisions...
“Fourth, discipline and Bolshevik hardening in the struggle against the class enemy as well as in their irreconcilable opposition to all deviations from the Bolshevik line.” (The United Front, pp. 119-20.)
Having laid down the above criteria to be followed in the selection of Cadres, Dimitroff further emphasized:
“We must place all the more emphasis on these conditions which determine the correct selection of Cadres, because in practise, preference is very often given to a Comrade who, for example, is able to write well and is a good speaker but who is not a man or woman of action, and is not as suited for the struggle as some other Comrade who perhaps may not be able to write or speak so well, but is a staunch Comrade, possessing initiative and contact with the masses, and is capable of going into battle and leading others into battle. Have there not been many cases of sectarians, doctrinaires or moralizers crowding out loyal mass workers, genuine working class leaders?” (Ibid., p. 120.)
The specific qualities and conditions which Dimitroff stressed as essential for Party leaders were, in the main, never observed by the Party leadership in Canada. The people selected for training in Party schools in 90 percent of the cases, had never been tested “in battle, prison, or court,” had not proved their ability to make independent decisions, nor had they been hardened and disciplined in struggle. On the contrary, a large proportion, if not a majority selected for advanced training in Party schools, were youths only a few months, or at best a few years, out of high school or university with no background even in industry, let alone in any struggle. And these youths, many of them from the ranks of the Young Communist League, to whom the class struggle was only a theory, an abstraction, were given up to one and one-half years’ training in Party schools and then sent out as finished Marxists to give leadership and decide policies for the working class movement; people who had never actually participated in the working class movement except in a propaganda or study circle.
These young “professional revolutionists” had in most instances not spent sufficient time engaged in practical work to learn how to think in a practical, materialistic fashion. Most of them were doctrinaire Marxists in the fullest sense, but because of their academic training, they considered themselves authorities on all questions of strategy and tactics of the labor movement. The negative features of such leadership were:
(1) The mechanical copying of the tactics and organizational forms and methods of the Communist Parties of other countries, particularly the American Party, which in many instances were entirely unsuited to Canadian conditions.
(2) The institution of a bureaucratic, mechanical method of instilling and enforcing discipline in the Party. These inexperienced and untried leaders could only enforce their authority through bureaucracy, not through ideological conviction.
(3) The adoption of policies quite out of keeping with the sentiment and needs of the working class, and tactics that extended from the extremes of right opportunism on the one hand, to leftist adventurism on the other.
(4) A tendency to adopt the policies, tactics and methods of work to the outlook and concepts of the middle class rather than the outlook and needs of the class the Party was supposed to represent – the working class.
How correct Dimitroff was when he reminded the Congress:
“Not all graduates of our Party schools prove to be suitable. There is a great deal of phrases, abstractions, book knowledge and show of learning. But we need real, truly Bolshevik organizers and leaders of the masses. And we need them badly this very day. It does not matter if such students cannot write a good thesis (though we need that very much too), but they must know how to organize and lead, undaunted by difficulties, capable of surmounting them.” (Ibid., p. 125.)
These academic “Marxists” regarded the working class as something to experiment with. The “sentiments of the masses” was just a phrase to them, as was Lenin’s dictum to “learn from the masses.” They regarded themselves as people gifted with infallibility who condescended to tell the masses what was best for them, and enforced their proposals through ruthless criticism and denunciation of those who disagreed with their policies. Those who challenged the correctness of their policies and proposals were accused of “opposing the Party line.” In other words, they interpreted their own ideas as the “Party line” and almost invariably were successful in forcing the membership to adopt them through fear of being charged with being Anti-Party, Trotskyite, etc.
The history of the Communist movement in Canada, particularly from 1931 onwards, is a history of the dissolution of organizations of the workers. In 1932 these doctrinaire Marxists conceived the idea of introducing in Canada the Neighborhood Council and Block Committee system of organization which had functioned satisfactorily in New York City among the unemployed who were housed in large tenement buildings.
In Canada the unemployed workers were already organized in the National Unemployed Workers’ Association but this organization, which had led the struggles of the unemployed for adequate relief, was dissolved and replaced by the entirely unsuitable block committees which soon collapsed in many areas and left the unemployed largely without any form of organization.
In fact, every organization of the workers which showed independent initiative, sooner or later came into conflict with the policies of the Communist Party. Policies of struggle of the mass organizations could not be reconciled with the Communist Party policy of “unity of all progressive forces,” of subordinating the working class to petty bourgeois and bourgeois leadership, of supporting the Liberal Party as the “lesser evil” in order to block the Tory Party from coming to power.
Following the dissolution of the N.U.W.A. came the liquidation of the Workers’ International Relief (W.I.R.), of the Women’s Labor League, The Farmers’ Unity League (F.U.L.), the unions of the Workers’ Unity League (W.U.L.), the Canadian Labor Defense League (C.L.D.L.). The League Against War and Fascism changed its name to the League for Peace and Democracy. Eventually the Young Communist League (Y.C.L.) was dissolved and finally the Communist Party itself was liquidated.
This consistent policy of liquidation was in fact a policy of liquidating all organizations of the working class which accepted the principle of the class struggle which finally culminated in the liquidation of the Communist Party itself. Opportunism in organization was the logical result of opportunism in tactics. Organizations of the workers which based their strategy and tactics on the principle of the irreconcilability of classes could not be used as organizations of class collaboration, inevitably come into conflict with the policies of the Communist Party and were therefore liquidated.
The National leadership of the L.P.P. not only encouraged the liquidation of the workers’ organizations which participated in struggle but discouraged independent activities of the workers of a militant mass character which did develop in spite of them. For instance, when the striking relief camp boys first proposed the “On To Ottawa Trek,” which was later broken up on Dominion Day, 1935, at Regina, the National leadership of the Communist Party categorically instructed the Party members concerned to call off the trek and published a statement against the proposed trek on the front page of The Worker, the National organ of the Party. Under the leadership of Arthur Evans, the Party members concerned disregarded the decision of the National leadership of the Party and the trek went on in spite of the National Party leadership.
The substitution of reformism for revolutionary Marxism was facilitated by replacing inner Party democracy by bureaucracy in the formulation of policy and in the election of leading bodies. Democratic Centralism was interpreted as meaning it was the duty of the membership to blindly accept the policies handed down by the leading bodies without question and to have no voice in the formulation of policy themselves. Anyone who even questioned the correctness of a decision of a higher body was in many cases branded as an anti-Party element, or as being undisciplined.
Instead of a discipline based on conviction, the Party membership were induced, cajoled and threatened into the acceptance of a system of mechanical discipline which was a crude perversion of Marxian principles. Writing on the question of discipline Lenin stated:
“We defined it as unity of action, freedom of discussion and criticism. Only such a form of discipline is worthy of a democratic party of the progressive class. The strength of the working class is organization. Without organization the mass of the proletariat is nothing. Organized it is all. Organization is unity of action, but of course, all action is useful only because and to the extent that it advances and does not retreat, to the extent that it intellectually combines the proletariat and lifts it up and does not degrade and weaken it. Organization without ideas is an absurdity which in practise converts the workers into miserable hangers-on of the bourgeoisie in power. Consequently, without the freedom of discussion and criticism, the proletariat does not recognize unity of action. For that reason, intelligent workers must never forget that sometimes serious violations of principles occur, which make the break-off of organizational relations absolutely necessary.” (Lenin on Organization, pp. 31-32)
Real discipline, working class discipline, according to Lenin, is not possible unless it is based on ideological conviction. Discipline is “unity of action, freedom of discussion and criticism.” Organization means unity of action but unity of action without ideas, without ideological conviction is an absurdity. And when “violations of principles occur,” said Lenin, it makes the “break-off of organizational relations absolutely necessary.”
There are two basic forms of organizational structure: centralism and federalism. In a federated structure the federated bodies retain autonomy which makes unity in action of the various autonomous bodies difficult if not impossible. Marxist Parties have always adhered to the form of democratic centralism as being best suited to the tasks confronting the Party. However, centralism was not intended to mean that bureaucracy replaced democracy in the higher organs of the Party.
In an article entitled, The St. Petersburg Split in 1907, Lenin explained the structure of the Bolshevik Party as follows:
“The Russian Social Democratic Labor Party is organized democratically. This means that the business of the Party is conducted by its members, directly or through representatives, and that all members are equal without exception. All the officials, all the leading bodies, all the institutions of the Party are elected, responsible and may be recalled.” (Ibid., p. 19.)
This meant that every official and leading body was elected by the membership, was responsible to the membership and could be recalled by them. Lenin explained in further detail:
“The business of the St. Petersburg organization is conducted by the elected Petersburg Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. The supreme body of the Petersburg organization, in view of it being impossible to gather all the members together at one time (nearly 6,000 members), is a delegate conference of the organization. All the members of the Party have the right to send delegates to this conference: one delegate for a definite number of Party members. For example, at the last conference, it was decided to elect one delegate for each 50 members. These delegates must be elected by all the members of the Party, and the decision of the delegates is the supreme and final decision obligatory for the whole of the local organization. But this is not all. In order to make sure that a decision shall be really democratic, it is not sufficient to gather together delegates of the organization. It is necessary that all the members of the organization, in electing the delegates, shall independently, and each one for himself, express their opinion on all controversial questions which interest the whole of the organization. Democratically organized parties and leagues cannot, on principle, avoid taking the opinion of the whole of the membership without exception, particularly in important cases, when the question under consideration is of some political action in which the mass is to act independently, as for example, a strike, elections, the boycott of some local establishment, etc.” (Ibid., p. 20.)
Here we have a very different explanation of democratic centralism, from that propagated by the National leadership of the Communist movement in Canada. While decisions of the higher organs are binding on the membership which elected them a democratic party must on principle take the “opinion of the whole membership without exception,” particularly on important questions.
Lenin explained further how this should be done:
“A strike cannot be conducted with enthusiasm, elections cannot be intelligently conducted, unless every worker voluntarily and intelligently decides for himself whether he should strike or not, whether he should vote for the Cadets (bourgeois liberals) or not, etc. Not all political questions can be decided by a referendum of the whole Party membership. This would entail continuous, wearying and fruitless voting. But the important questions, especially those which are directly connected with definite action by the masses themselves, must be decided democratically, not only by a gathering of delegates, but by a referendum of the whole membership.
“That is why the Petersburg Committee has resolved that the election of delegates to the conference shall take place after the members of the Party have discussed the question as to whether an alliance should be concluded with the Cadets, after all the members of the Party have voted on this question. Elections are a business in which the masses directly take part. Hence, every Party member must intelligently decide the question as to whether we should vote for Cadets at the elections, or not. And only after an open discussion of this question, after all the members of the Party will have got together, will it be possible for each one of us to take an intelligent and firm decision.” (Ibid, pp. 20-21.)
Lenin here insists on democratic discussion on questions of policy. First of all, in order to make an intelligent decision it is necessary “for all the members of the Party to get together” and independently express their views.
Secondly, delegates from regional conferences to the central conference should only be elected after all the local delegates have expressed their opinions and voted on the questions of importance.
Thirdly, all important questions affecting the entire membership were to be decided by referendum. And, it should be remembered, these measures were proposed for the Party in a country in which the Party was either entirely illegal or semi-legal. Lenin regarded inner Party democracy as a question of principle for a Marxist Party.
Violation of inner Party democracy was regarded as a violation of the principle of democratic centralism by the Bolsheviks. As recently as 1937 the Bolshevik Party insisted on the fullest democracy in the election of leading bodies:
“A report of Comrade Zhdanov at the plenum of the Central Committee, revealed the fact that a number of Party organizations were systematically violating the Party rules and the principles of democratic centralism in their everyday work, substituting co-option for election, voting by lists for the voting for individual candidates, open ballot for secret ballot, etc.” (History of the C.P.S.U., p. 349.)
According to the Bolshevik Party therefore the co-option of members to a committee, voting for a slate instead of voting for individuals and voting in elections by means of an open ballot instead of a secret ballot constituted violations of the principles of democratic centralism and of the Party rules.
Let us now consider how the principles of democratic centralism were observed by the National leadership of the Communist movement in Canada in contrast to the Party of Lenin which, prior to the seizure of power, held annual Party congresses.
During the eight-year period from 1935 to 1943 only one National Congress was held, in 1937, and the decision to form a new Party and dissolve the Communist Party itself was decided on, not by the membership, not by a convention, not even by the Central Committee but by a narrow conference of twenty-five people.
In the four-year period, from June, 1938, until February, 1942, not even a meeting of the Central Committee was called. When meetings of the Central Committee were held, many of the members were unable to attend but visitors were invited to attend and given voice in the proceedings; visitors chosen by the National leadership. At the National Convention, held in 1937, the provincial delegations were instructed by the Political Bureau whom they were to nominate to the Central Committee. At the National Convention where the Labor progressive Party was established, a similar procedure was followed. A nominating committee submitted a list of 75 members to constitute the National Committee. This slate or list was adopted without discussion. The nominating committee itself was dominated by the National leaders who recommended those whom they saw fit from the various provinces and insisted on the main representation being from the cities of Toronto and Montreal. Of the 75 members chosen to form the National Committee, 30 were from Southern Ontario and 20 from Quebec. The overwhelming majority of these were from the two cities of Toronto and Montreal. This meant that the members from Toronto and Montreal, many of them middle class people, constituted a majority of the National Committee under the domination of the National Executive. On the other hand, British Columbia, with the second largest Party organization in the country, was given only five representatives on the National Committee. But even this disproportionate representation does not give the true picture of how the National Executive members dominated meetings of the National Committee. Each Provincial Committee was obliged to finance 50 percent or more of the costs of sending representatives to National Conventions and National Committee meetings with the result that lack of finances prevented them from even sending the small number to which they were entitled. For instance, at the 1st National Convention of the L.P.P., the B.C. Party sent 12 delegates at a cost of $2,500.00. While Toronto was represented by three hundred delegates without cost. At National Committee meetings, B.C. rarely had more than three representatives in attendance, whereas Toronto always had at least 25. Representation from other provinces was usually even less than that from B.C. with the exception of Quebec which usually had its full representation present, practically all of whom were from Montreal.
All of which goes to show that both National Conventions and National Committee meetings were always overwhelmingly dominated by the delegates from Toronto and Montreal who constituted two-thirds or more of the total in attendance. It could, of course, be argued that in view of the fact that Toronto and Montreal are the two largest cities, with the National headquarters located in Toronto, that it. was logical the majority of the members on the National Committee and of delegates to the National Conventions should be drawn from the “two capitals.” The fact remains, however, that the Toronto and Montreal representatives not only constituted an overall majority numerically, but invariably followed the lead of the National Executive and in most instances were under their ideological and political domination.
The basis of representation, however, was not the principle feature of bureaucracy in the affairs of the Party but the almost total lack of democratic discussion on major questions of National policy. Discussion on major questions of policy by the membership and even by the Provincial Committees was only permitted after the policy had already been adopted. For instance, only one referendum vote of the membership was taken during the entire fourteen-year period from 1931 to 1945, and that was not on a political question but on the relatively trivial question of how many times weekly the National organ, The Worker, should be published.
On practically all occasions changes in the Party line were worked out by the National Executive and either adopted by themselves or submitted to the National Committee for their formal endorsation. On the rare occasions the National Committee was consulted before a policy was adopted they were not even given the opportunity to discuss anything tangible, such as a resolution that could be studied before the meeting. Invariably the new tactical line was presented in the form of a speech by the National Leader, Tim Buck, which the Committee members were then expected to endorse. Following these reports, those present witnessed the spectacle of a nauseating acquiescence in everything Buck had said; a spectacle of revolting adulation of Buck. For the past ten years at least the procedure was, not a critical discussion of policy, but a servile acceptance. The overwhelming majority of the members when called upon to speak, prefaced their contributions with the statement: “I solidarize myself with the report of Comrade Buck,” or “I wholeheartedly endorse the report of Comrade Buck.”
The bolder ones who had the temerity to question or even express doubts about a particular point presented by Buck, were ruthlessly dealt with by the National Leaders by means of a tirade of denunciation which invariably assumed a personal character. The loyalty of the person concerned was actually questioned and in most instances the unfortunate individual was obliged to make one or more statements aligning himself with Buck’s position, or face the probability of being removed from his position or even expelled from the Party on the grounds that he was in opposition to the Party leadership and the Party line.
By the use of such high-handed tactics, the National leaders successfully prevented any intelligent, critical discussion from taking place on the points raised and lacking anything in writing to study, it was difficult even to discuss points raised for fear of being accused of “misquoting” what Buck had said. Never, on any occasion during the past ten years, did the membership have an opportunity to discuss or criticize any major political issue until after it had already been adopted and by virtue of that action had become the official Party line, binding on the entire membership. And not only the membership were denied the right to discuss questions of political importance, not even the Provincial Committees had any voice in deciding National policies.
In accordance with such a bureaucratic denial of inner Party democracy, the following major changes in policy were made:
(1) In January, 1943, the war was characterized as a “People’s War” and the Policy of “National Unity” adopted as a Party objective at a conference of the Communist Labor Total War Committee held in Toronto.
(2) At a conference held in Toronto on June 13, 1943, attended by only a handful of delegates and with no representation from either B.C. or the Maritime Provinces, it was decided to “exorcise the spectre of Communism” which, it was claimed, “stood in the way of victory” and to form a new political Party of Communists.
(3) In August or September, 1943, the Communist Party was liquidated by the political bureau and its assets turned over to the Labor Progressive Party.
(4) In January, 1944, the objective of a C.C.F. Farmer Labor Government was publicly announced in Tim Buck’s New Year’s message; the decision having been made by the National Executive.
(5) At the National Committee meeting held on February 12, 1944, in Toronto, it was decided (a) “that the class interests of the working class as a whole will be served, by cooperation with the democratic circles of all classes, and all sections of the Canadian people including a decisive section of the capitalist class.” (b) That Canada’s next government would “probably determine the direction of our national development for a generation.” (c) “A high level of employment, maintenance of wage levels, progressive social legislation and general social progress in the post war years, depends entirely upon the extent to which Canada adopts policies in accord with the Teheran agreement.” (d) That “Teheran is the path by which mankind can march forward: to lasting peace, post war prosperity and democratic progress to a better life.”
(6) In May, 1944, at an enlarged National Executive meeting, it was agreed that the L.P.P. would strive to participate in the next government together with the capitalists as part of a “Liberal-Labor Coalition Government.”
(7) In June, 1944, it was decided that “It is essential that the working class should support such a policy” of “making the system work,” i.e., the capitalist system. This policy was first advanced in an article by Stewart Smith in the June issue of National Affairs, and later advocated from the public platform by other Party leaders.
(8) In a statement of the National Executive published in National Affairs, October, 1944, it was stated that the L.P.P. proposed that “The democratic coalition be achieved without delay through electoral agreements between the Liberal, C.C.F. and L.P.P. Parties.” In other words, the L.P.P. was to negotiate an electoral saw-off with both the C.C.F. and the Liberal Party.
(9) In an editorial published in the December, 1944, issue of National Affairs, the Party’s position in support of universal conscription was reversed and the new policy stated as follows: “The L.P.P. has made its position clear: unequivocal support to the effort to secure adequate reinforcements through the voluntary system... ”
(10) In the North Grey by-election, the Party officially endorsed and campaigned for the election of the candidate of the Liberal Party, General McNaughton, and for the defeat of the C.C.F. candidate, also on the decision of the National Executive.
(11) In April, 1945, in an article in National Affairs, Tim Buck proposed: (a) that “... The United States should agree to a division of the world export markets, on a basis which will guarantee to Britain a share of world trade sufficient to enable British industries to operate at capacity,” and that Canada should “Help bring such an agreement about.” (b) That “Canada should join the Pan-American Union.” And further, “Canada can play the most fruitful role in world affairs and in the British Commonwealth only if she accepts her rightful role as a sovereign American Nation in Western Hemisphere organization and activities.” In advancing these chauvinistic and revisionist policies based on the super-Imperialism theories of Earl Browder, Buck characterized Browder as “The leading Marxist thinker of the Western Hemisphere.”
(12) In the Ontario Provincial election of June, 1945, Liberal and L.P.P. candidates were officially endorsed by both parties and ran as Liberal-Labor candidates.
(13) In August, 1945, a meeting of the National Committee announced as a post war policy, “The establishment in all industries of joint government-union-management committees” in order to secure “cooperation” and “national unity.”
In arriving at the above decisions on major questions of National policy, in not one single instance was a referendum vote of the membership taken; on not one occasion were the provincial committees consulted; in not one instance was a resolution submitted in advance to the National Committee members; on only one occasion (in August, 1945) were the members of the National Committee supplied with a resolution on which to base their discussion even after the meeting convened; on only three occasions was the National Committee convened to adopt the policies proposed, and on all other occasions the National Executive simply decided on the new policy themselves and informed the Party membership of the New Party line, although on one or two occasions an enlarged Executive meeting was held in order to present some semblance of democracy.
The revision and perversion of Marxism was smuggled into the official Party literature under the cover of Marxian phrases and of contradictory and evasive formulations. The most characteristic feature of the Party documents was their ambiguousness. This is not a new feature of revisionism but a very old one which Lenin warned against over forty years ago:
“When speaking of fighting opportunism, there is a characteristic feature of present day opportunism in every sphere that must not be overlooked; this is its vagueness, its diffuseness, its elusiveness. The very nature of the opportunist is such that he will always try to avoid formulating the issues clearly and irrevocably; he will always try to find the resultant force, will always wriggle like a snake between two mutually excluding points of view.” (Vol. II. Selected Works, p. 455.)
Any explanation of how a complete revision of Marxism, in the spheres of program, tactics and organization, was “put over” on the Party membership would be incomplete without reference to the composition of the leading Party organs. The National Executive, many Provincial Executive Committees and the National Committee were almost exclusively composed of paid Party officials, the editors of various left wing papers, the leaders of mass organizations and the top officials of trade unions; all of whom were, in the main, dependent on Party support in retaining what were very often well paid positions. For instance, the entire National Executive was composed of paid Party officials, M.L.A.’s and aldermen. The composition of the National Committee was similar. At the last meeting, held in August, 1945, out of about 70 members in attendance, there were only two workers from the shops in evidence. With practically no representation of workers from industry on the leading bodies it is not surprising that bureaucratic methods come to prevail within the Party. In fact, being confronted with the task of forcing acceptance of a policy of class collaboration both within the Party and the mass organizations and trade unions, it (was practically inevitable that many of these party and trade union officials should develop into bureaucrats themselves. This is precisely what happened.
It is not a new phenomenon in the history of the Labor movement but a characteristic of reformism and opportunism in both the trade unions and political parties of the working class. Lenin warned against it when he wrote:
“Under Capitalism, democracy is narrowed, crushed, curtailed, mutilated by all the conditions of wage-slavery, the poverty and misery of the masses. This is the reason, and the only reason, why the officials of our Parties and trade unions become corrupt – or more precisely tend to become corrupt – under capitalist conditions, why they show a tendency to turn into bureaucrats, i.e., privileged persons detached from the masses, and standing above the masses.” (State and Revolution, pp. 96-97.)
Hence, with Party and trade union officials dominating all of the higher committees of the Party, themselves tending to become bureaucratic and; dependent upon the Party for their own positions, combined with an almost complete absence of democratic discussion on important political questions by the membership, the National leadership were enabled to substitute Opportunism for Marxism; to present centralized bureaucracy as its opposite, democratic centralism.
At the August, 1945, National Committee meeting of the L.P.P., Tim Buck, in an effort to dispose of criticism of the revisionism of the Party, attempted to belittle the critics by quoting from the report of Maurice Thorez to the 10th National Convention of the Communist Party of France as follows: ”The sectarians confuse a revolutionary line with gesticulation.” However, Buck conveniently overlooked what Thorez had to say on inner Party democracy and opportunism. Dealing with the problem of Party growth, Thorez stated:
“The second problem is the indispensable drawing into political discussions in the basic organizations of each member of the Party new or old.”
“Our Communist Party cannot function without the unity of will and complete unity of action of all members of the Party; but such a common will and joint action, with the iron discipline which constitutes our strength, does not exclude but, on the contrary, rests upon criticism, discussion, struggles of opinion within the heart of the Party.
“In 1929, fighting a sectarian group which stifled all political life in the Party and cut us off from the masses, we carried on, as the old Comrades remember, a public campaign under the slogans, ’Let the Mouths Be Opened,’ ’No Mannequins in the Party.’” (Political Affairs, Aug., 1945, p. 711.)
Speaking on opportunism Thorez declared:
“We must combat the opportunist, liquidationist concepts of certain people who think, without always clearly formulating it, that ’we have passed beyond the stage of the class struggle.’”
“The class struggle,” Thorez continued, “is a fact,“ and observed: “Opportunist concepts always lead to the liquidation of the independent role of the working class, the most active element in the union of the toiling strata of the nation. Such concepts lead to liquidation of the Party. Several leaders of the American Communist Party fell into this grave error. We didn’t hesitate to offer our advice through an article by our Comrade, Duclos, which, we hope, will help the American Communists to rediscover the correct path.” (Ibid., p. 712.)
As it was impossible to reconcile Marxism with opportunism, the speeches of L.P.P. leaders tended to, more and more, copy the demagogy and oratorical style of the old-line politicians, both at public meetings and Party gatherings. Marxian political propaganda, explaining the economic and political characteristics and contradictions of capitalist society were replaced by demagogic speeches replete with funny stories and the advocacy of reforms designed to make the system work more satisfactorily. The main qualifications of the Party spokesmen became, not a knowledge of Marxism and the ability to pass on this knowledge to the working class, but the ability to out-orate the politicians of the other political parties; to agitate audiences to fear the bogey of Toryism. The same type of oratorical dissertations and the eulogizing of Party leaders became a feature of Party conventions. No pretense was made to seriously grapple with the political issues affecting the working class but rather to put on a public exhibition in swank hotels in order to impress the public generally and the bourgeoisie in particular with the “respectability” of the Party.
Delegates were obliged to spend most of their time listening to the oratory of M.P.’s, M.L.A.’s, and aldermen. This procedure was in accord with the traditional opportunism of the Social Democratic Parties of Europe which invariably resulted in the Party becoming an appendage of the parliamentary fractions. The presentation of baskets of roses to the orators, standing ovations in support of various “leaders” and speeches of sickening adulation of “the leader” in a style typical of fascist “fuehrer worship” became the accepted practise at Party conventions.
Selection of Party officials became, more and more based, not on the criterion of devotion to the working class, loyalty to the Party, reliability, Marxian understanding and experience in the class struggle, but on the criterion of ability to mix with the bourgeoisie and deliver demagogic speeches; in other words, on the ability to ape the typical bourgeois politicians.
All of which was quite in line with and logically flowed from the characteristics which Buck maintained the Party should have, when he stated: “We Communists strive to win support for the policies we advocate by exactly the same means as, and by no other means than, the other political parties in Canada.”
Unfortunately, but inevitably, the methods and procedure of National gatherings were copied by the Provincial organizations.
Revisionism and perversion of Marxism was not confined to the Communist leaders in Canada as this also made its appearance in other countries in the English speaking world and some Latin American countries. The distinction of the Canadian Communist leaders lies in the fact that they led the Communist movement of Canada farther into the swamp of opportunism than was the case in any other country in the world, and having done so, resorted to the most unprincipled tactics to cover up their opportunism and destroy the political influence and personal integrity of those who criticized their opportunism and attempted to effect corrections.
A study of the writings of Tim Buck in Canada and Earl Browder in the United States shows that on most questions of policy Buck followed the lead of Browder; introduced the same theoretical concepts, advocated similar organizational forms and adopted similar tactics to the Canadian movement. However, on some occasions the opportunism of Buck anticipated that of Browder. For instance, the Communist Party of Canada, on Buck’s proposal, was liquidated and replaced by the Labor Progressive Party almost one year before Browder persuaded the Communist Party of the U.S.A. to accept voluntary liquidation and reconstitute itself as a political, educational association. The close similarity of both the timing and character of the opportunist policies imposed on the Communist movements in both countries tends to demonstrate that there existed, for at least ten years, an interaction, and to some extent, an inter-dependence of opportunism in the top leadership of the Communist Parties of the two countries.
Conventions and plenums of the American Party were attended by Buck while the American Party was usually represented at National gatherings of the Canadian Party by Browder. The sum total of the results achieved by the gradual substitution of opportunism for Marxism was in both countries almost identical, namely: Liquidation of the Communist Party; liquidation of the independent role of the working class; subordination of the working class to the political leadership of the liberal bourgeoisie; the strengthening of bourgeois ideology at the expense of proletarian ideology in the ranks of the working class; political retrogression instead of political development; and finally, a considerable strengthening of the ideological and political influence of both American and Canadian Imperialism. On the other hand, the operation of other influences enabled the labor movement of both countries to achieve certain gains, particularly in the sphere of economic organization, in spite of the opportunism of the respective Communist movements. The very process of concentration and centralization of wealth resulted in a parallel concentration of workers in ever larger industrial establishments, thus providing the basis for the development of all inclusive industrial unions.
Marxian economic and political concepts propagated before opportunism had displaced Marxism, left their imprint on thousands of rank-and-file workers and Party members, while the experience of the depression years was too recent to be forgotten by thousands of class-conscious workers who participated in the struggle against wage cuts and for adequate unemployed relief. These factors, together with the ideological influence of the Socialist U.S.S.R., and the almost universal recognition of fascism as the off-spring of monopoly capital, acted as a retarding influence on the penetration of opportunism in the ranks of the class conscious workers both inside and outside the Communist Parties.
However, there can be no question of the fact that the revision of Marxism by the Communist Parties of the United States and Canada, in addition to checking the development of the labor movement within these countries also had international ramifications with possibly serious consequences. Duclos, in his article of criticism of the “new line” of the American Communists, pointed out that several South American countries (Cuba, Columbia), in general followed the same path “as that advocated by Browder,” and “considered it correct.”
Blas Roca, general secretary of the Popular Socialist Party of Cuba (formed as a result of a merger of the Communist Party with other Socialist groups), in a letter of congratulations to Earl Browder, stated:
“I have just finished reading the Spanish translation of your admirable book Teheran, and I would like to congratulate you on this latest contribution to the victory of the United Nations, and to the attainment of better inner-American understanding through which peace and prosperity will be assured in the post war.” (Political Affairs, March, 1945, p. 268.)
Roca apparently accepted the entire “new line” advocated by Browder, including the concept that as a result of Teheran, Imperialism would become progressive, voluntarily share the world markets, assist in the economic development of colonial countries, and grant political independence to them. The following extracts from his letter give that impression:
“On the whole, it is easier for Latin America to understand and support the program you propose than it is for the United States or Great Britain, because Latin America stands to gain peacefully, after the violent defeat of the Axis, greater prosperity and, furthermore, greater National independence.” (Ibid., p. 283.)
“We must, of course, accentuate our efforts to make our people aware of the perspective offered by Teheran, and the possibilities of advantageous collaboration with Great Britain and the United States in a joint program for the harmonious solution of our acutest and most urgent economic problems. To that end, we are resolved to distribute your book even more widely, since the 21,000 copies sold to date have reached only those circles directly connected with the Party.” (Ibid.)
There can be no doubt that the supposedly authoritative writings of Browder and Buck over a period of years exerted some influence on the tactics employed by Communist Parties in other English speaking countries. Although it is known that the Communist Parties of Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were opposed to the revisionist theories advanced particularly by Browder, but also by Buck, which attributed to the Teheran accord the means of abolishing the class struggle, since according to them it was an “international class alliance.” Nevertheless an examination of the literature of the British Party would seem to show that it was influenced also by the revisionism of Browder and Buck. For instance, in a pamphlet published by the CP. of Great Britain, entitled, Trade Unions and the General Election, by J. R. Campbell, the following is stated:
“The age of scarcity is passed. Only the most narrow-minded self-seeking Tories wish to perpetuate the old days of cut-throat competition, unemployment and restricted production.
“The Labor Party and Communist Party, with the active backing of the trade union movement, can make this the age of abundance, and lead the way in building that kind of Britain for which the men in the services are fighting and the workers in civil life are toiling.” (p. 15.)
The revisionist concepts advanced in the above quotation are very similar to those advanced so assiduously by Browder and Buck.
Harry Pollitt, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, expresses somewhat similar ideas in speaking of the Party’s policy for the post war, when he states: “Our policy will produce the opposite results (from 1919-1920). There will be work and good wages for all, side by side with decisive measures of social reform. It is a policy that takes into account all the new political features of the present and coming periods. It depends for its success on the unity and strength of the labor movement and the willingness of the employers to cooperate.” (How To Win The Peace, p. 29.)
However the British Communists differed in their writings from Buck and Browder in that they consistently advocated Socialism and conducted education and propaganda for Socialism. Certainly it cannot be said that the crude revisionism of Browder and Buck was characteristic also of the British Party. Nevertheless, a review of recent writings of British Communist leaders cannot but lead to the conclusion that some of the revisionist concepts of Browder and Buck have also found their way into the British Party; particularly theories pertaining to National Unity and international economic cooperation in the post war. And indeed it is not surprising that revisionism, extending over a ten-year period, in such important countries as the United States, the greatest Imperialist power, and Canada, the third greatest industrial country in the capitalist world since the war and a member of the British Commonwealth, should influence the policies of other English speaking countries. Unfortunately, what Lenin said of the Communist Parties in 1921 remains true even today of some of the English speaking countries. Lenin wrote: “In the overwhelming majority of countries our Parties are still very far from being what real Communist Parties, real vanguards of the genuinely revolutionary and only revolutionary class, Parties in which all members take part in the struggle, in the movement, in the everyday life of the masses, should be.” (Vol. X., Selected Works, p. 299.)
The tragedy is, however, that the political development of the working class has been very greatly retarded in both Canada and the United States as a result of the opportunism which permeated both the theoretical and the practical work of the Communist Parties. Instead of having a strong, unified and politically independent labor movement, labor in both countries enters the post war period with an even greater degree of ideological confusion and political disunity than was the case in the pre-war period.
A number of factors can be pointed to as contributing towards or facilitating the introduction and spread of revisionism within the Communist Parties of Canada and the U.S.A. However, it would be incorrect to attribute revisionism to subjective factors alone, such as immature leaders, lack of inner Party democracy, the opportunism of particular individuals, etc. Lenin, time and again pointed out that opportunism is an international phenomenon, the basis of which is the economic exploitation of the colonial peoples by the advanced Imperialist powers. As Lenin put it:
“The question of Imperialism and of its connection with opportunism in the labor movement, with the betrayal of the cause of labor by labor leaders was raised long ago, very long ago!
“For a period of forty years, from 1852 to 1892, Marx and Engels constantly pointed to the fact that the upper stratum of the working class of England was becoming bourgeois as a consequence of the peculiar economic conditions of England (colonies, the monopoly of the world market, etc). In the seventies of the last century Marx earned for himself the honorable hatred of the despicable heroes of the ’Berne’ International trend, of the opportunists and reformists of that time, because he branded many of the leaders of the English trade unions as men who had sold themselves to the bourgeoisie, or were in the pay of the latter for services they were rendering to its class within the labor movement.” (Vol. X., Lenin’s Selected Works, pp. 41-42.)
Opportunism, or reformism, said Lenin, inevitably had to grow into Socialist Imperialism, or socialist chauvinism, which has world historical significance, because imperialism singled out a handful of very rich, advanced nations, which plundered the whole world and by that enabled the bourgeoisie of these countries, out of their monopolist super profits (imperialism is monopolist capitalism), to bribe the upper stratum of the working class of these countries.
“Only utter ignoramuses or hypocrites who deceive the workers by repeating commonplaces about capitalism and in this way obscure the bitter truth that a whole trend in Socialism deserted to the side of the Imperialist bourgeoisie, can fail to see the economic inevitability of this fact under Imperialism.” (Ibid., pp. 42-43.)
The economic inevitability of opportunism in the labor movement of Imperialist countries which Lenin refers to is amply proven by the history of opportunism. The working class of England did not even achieve a Marxist Party until 1920, although Marxist Parties had been established in the continental countries decades previously.
With the development of German and French Imperialism thus putting an end to the British monopoly of colonies and the world market, their Marxist Parties became more and more opportunist. France gave the world the first example of a Socialist, Millerand, entering a capitalist government as a cabinet minister, while in Germany about the same time, the notorious Bernstein developed an elaborate revision of Marxian theory through his writings, and it was the German Social Democratic Party whose leaders allied themselves with the German General Staff to crush the German revolution of 1918, and later objectively paved the way for fascism coming to power.
The leading economic and political role formerly played by Britain, France and Germany has now to a considerable extent been taken over by the United States and, to a lesser degree, by Canada. Hence the economic basis for opportunism is more highly developed in the U.S. and Canada than anywhere else in the world. It follows therefore, that it is not accidental that the Communist Parties of these two countries should be the ones in which opportunism should take root.
What Lenin wrote following the first world war equally applies at the present time:
“... Unswerving and ruthless war must be waged for the complete expulsion from the labor movement of those opportunist leaders who earned their reputations both before the war, and particularly during the war, in the sphere of politics as well as, and particularly, in the trade unions and the cooperative societies.” (Ibid., p. 46.)
This is particularly true when the opportunist leaders pose as Marxists, as Communists, and when their opportunism is pointed out, proceed to cover it up and deny it through skillful demagogy and to smother all honest criticism. “The first condition of true Communism,” said Lenin, “is rupture with opportunism.” (Ibid., p. 275.)
Hence it is clear that if the Canadian working class is to have a Marxist Leadership rather than an opportunist leadership, that leadership will have to come from other quarters than the opportunist leaders of the Labor Progressive Party who have demonstrated their determination to continue to cling to their opportunism and therefore to continue to mislead the working class of Canada. A Marxist leadership is essential, and because it is essential, will be created and developed in Canada as it has been elsewhere in the world.