Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Cathy Lauzon

Response to Section 4, Alive 125: “Edward Pickersgill Had No Grasp Of Revolutionary Ideology”

First Published: Alive Magazine No. 143, July 14, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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March 11, 1979

The analysis that it is correct to form alliances, fleeting or longer-lasting, with the national bourgeoisie is correct at some times and in some countries. The quotations from Chairman Mao which appear in Section 4 refer to the situation in China at one such time. Nowhere in Section 4, however, is an attempt made to show that the correct analysis of the situation in China during the war of resistance against Japan has any relevance for us today in Canada. Therefore, even if Alive’s conclusion is correct – that anti-imperialist revolution in Canada can and must be waged prior to and separate from proletarian revolution – the evidence put forward in Section 4 has no bearing on the question.

Stalin said: “... Temporary blocs and agreements with the bourgeoisie in colonial countries at a certain stage of the colonial revolution are not only permissible, but positively essential.” (On the Opposition, p. 784) The Communist Party of China was absolutely correct to unite the whole country against the Japanese aggressors. The Seventh Plenum of the ECCI in 1926 declared that it was also correct for the proletariat to form “a bloc with considerable sections of the bourgeoisie” during the first stage of China’s revolution in order to consolidate the alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry. In these two situations the Communist Party of China acted correctly in seeking unity with the bourgeoisie. The Comintern’s analysis of China was that it was a semi-colonial, semi-feudal country with an oppressed bourgeoisie and a small undeveloped proletariat. The national bourgeoisie, because it was oppressed, could be united with in the struggle for national liberation. The policy of seeking blocs with the national bourgeoisie was declared to be correct by the Communist International only in the case of colonial and semi-colonial countries.

The Comintern’s analysis of Canada was quite different from its analysis of China. (Chairman Mao himself in “Problems of War and Strategy” distinguished between the situation in China and the situation in the capitalist countries.) In 1928 the Comintern stated that a Dominion is a colony, but a special type of colony – its main function is to serve as a colonizing region for the imperialist country’s surplus population. A Dominion is simply a continuation of the parent country’s capitalist system. It participates in the imperialist system of the parent country as a near-equal. Competition between various imperialist systems for influence in the Dominions can lead a dominion to break off from control by the parent country or even to enter into alliances with the original parent country’s competitors.

In 1929 the Comintern declared that Canada could not be considered a colony even in the restricted sense, because Canada had taken independent political stands from Britain on many important issues and had become a competitor in Britain on the world market. It also stated:

“... The myth that Canada is a ’colony’ of the United States is not borne out by fact”.[1] It said that the Canadian bourgeoisie had all of the political independence it wanted to have and was not in any way a progressive force. Canada was declared to be an advanced capitalist (imperialist) country with a developed bourgeoisie and proletariat, the relationship between these two classes being an antagonistic one. The call for proletarian revolution was declared to be correct. The call for Canadian independence through alliances with the bourgeoisie was declared to be incorrect and opportunist.

Of course it does not follow that the analysis made by the C.I. necessarily remains true today. This is not the Canada of 1929. But neither is it the China of 1939. I think the C.I.’s view was correct at the time it was made and is still fundamentally correct. In December I presented the APC with a document entitled: “Canada, the National Question, and the Communist Party of Canada – 1922-1931” and requested discussion on this topic. I am now repeating that request.

It was Trotsky who promoted the idea that Canada is a colony. Tim Buck, Maurice Spector and Jack MacDonald all agreed with Trotsky that Canada is a colony because that analysis enabled them to promote the idea that the Canadian working class could legitimately unite with the national bourgeoisie in a struggle for national liberation. MacDonald and Spector were both expelled from the CPC when their opportunism was exposed. Buck’s opportunism was never exposed in such a way, but an examination of his writings reveals that he was an opportunist to the core. Opportunism among Canadian revolutionaries has historically taken the form of calling for Canadian independence from imperialism through alliances with the national bourgeoisie.

To characterize the call for proletarian revolution as evidence of a “rotten” and Trotskyite line adds no clarity. The APC line reflects one of Trotsky’s actual views. To toss aside the analysis given by the C.I. as “rotten” instead of arguing against it honestly shows no respect for the thing that Stalin referred to as “the holy of holies of the working class” – the Communist International.

Since 1929 U.S. imperialism has increased its domination of Canada considerably. U.S. imperialism may very well now be the main enemy of the Canadian people, but is there any evidence to support the APC’s contention that the Canadian bourgeoisie has become a progressive force during the past 50 years? If such evidence exists, the APC should produce it. I think it is fairly evident that the Canadian bourgeoisie – in its entirety – is still the enemy of the Canadian working class. There are contradictions in the enemy camp, but that does not mean we should go over to the enemy camp, even “fleetingly.”

Communists support uniting with all of the forces that can be united with in the struggle against the main enemy. This is the basis of the united front against fascism that was formed prior to World War II. The Theory of the Three Worlds is a more global, more highly refined, more up-to-date development of this basic policy. In many Second World countries it is now possible to form alliances with the bourgeoisie in the struggle against imperialism. Not in all Second World countries by any means. An article by the Editorial Department of the “People’s Daily” (reprinted in Peking Review, Nov. 4, 1977 and reprinted in Alive 107) spells out the precise conditions under which the working class in a second world country can unite with the national bourgeoisie: “... Provided a country, developed or otherwise, becomes a victim of invasion and annexation by an imperialist power, the national war it wages against such invasion and annexation is a just war and ought to enjoy the support and assistance of the international proletariat.”

Canada has not been annexed to the United States, nor has it been invaded militarily by the United States. U.S. imperialism operates freely inside Canada with the full consent of the Canadian bourgeoisie. U.S. imperialism controls a significant portion of Canada’s economic base. That is, U.S. companies operating in Canada largely own the means of production (branch plants) and most of this country’s natural resources as well. The “legal and political superstructure”[2] – the Canadian state – which arises from this mixed economic base is prepared to defend the present arrangement militarily if need be. An alliance exists between U.S. imperialism and the Canadian bourgeoisie. The Canadian bourgeoisie has no interest in joining us in a struggle for national liberation, although it wouldn’t mind co-opting us. It benefits from the present arrangement. The interests of U.S. imperialism and the Canadian bourgeoisie are so interconnected that at the present time it is impossible to wage an anti-imperialist revolution in Canada without at the same time waging a proletarian revolution.

My view is that the call for Canadian independence from U.S. imperialism by forming alliances with any portion of the Canadian bourgeoisie is just as opportunist a slogan as it ever was. The Alive View as presently interpreted is opportunist. I say “presently interpreted” because two years ago I worked closely with a leading member of the APC in writing the official statement of the Guelph Committee for Working Class Rule in Canada. That statement declared that we: “support the overthrow of the U.S. imperialist domination of Canada and the Canadian monopoly capitalist class which as a whole represents U.S. interests.”


[1] John Porter, “The Struggle Against the Right Danger in the CP. of Canada – The Dominion Problem.” The Communist International, October 3, 1929. (John Porter was a pseudonym adopted by the ECCI in writing about the Canadian Party.)

[2] Marx’s actual formulation–not “cultural superstructure,” the expression which appears in the Alive View.