Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

In Struggle!

An old debate in the Canadian communist movement:

The imperialist character of our country

First Published: In Struggle! No. 87, April 28, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The real weight of the political attacks of the Canadian bourgeoisie against the people, with the wage controls at their head, can not be understood isolated from the fact that we are talking about an imperialist bourgeoisie. Because when the Canadian imperialists rollback our salaries, they do so in order to grow stronger and to be able to further exploit the workers of other countries. This question of the imperialist character of our country had an important place during the Second Conference of Canadian Marxist-Leninists. This shouldn’t surprise anyone since the entire history of the Canadian communist movement is marked by a continual struggle on this point. This struggle opposed on one the hand those for whom the fundamental problems of the Canadian masses were explained by the domination of a foreign power, and on the other, coherent Marxist-Leninists for whom the real cause of this problem was to be found in capitalism itself and especially capitalism which had attained its rotten and ultimate stage, the stage of imperialism. This is just as true for the present day Marxist-Leninist movement as it was for the Communist Party of Canada, from the moment of its creation, even before its total degeneration into revisionism.

We shouldn’t be satisfied with superficial criticisms

Just as we affirmed at the Conference, all refusal to recognize and to explain to the masses this fundamental character of Canadian society, all hesitations on this most vital question, can only lead, and have always led, to bourgeois nationalism, revisionism and neo-revisionism, to putting into second place and finally liquidating the proletarian revolution.

In these conditions, the establishing of the imperialist character of our country is a task which cannot be simply reduced to the illustration of Lenin’s definition of imperialism. On the contrary, it is a task which implies the rigorous analysis of the political economy of our country as well as a theoretical and political criticism of the erroneous positions defended in the past by the Communist Party of Canada at certain crucial points in its history, as well as those defended by the different groups who, in the ’60’s and beginning of the ’70’s, took in hand the task of rebuilding the proletarian Party.

Moreover, it might be useful to remind the Canadian Communist League (ML) which is closing its eyes to this debate, or at least trying to close those of its readers, that it has never presented the least criticism of either the Progressive Workers Movement or the Communist Party of Canada on this crucial question. It might also useful to remind the League that it never even criticized Worker’s Unity of Toronto’s anti-Leninist position, according to which imperialism is a new mode of production which is different from capitalism! This group has today rallied to the League, and the League even judged it useful to publish a voluminous pamphlet to draw the lessons and errors of the rallying. In all those pages, not one word on the subject!

It was thus normal and even necessary that this struggle be waged at the Conference in order to permit us to advance in our historic task to break with revisionism on all levels, a task which is essential for the reconstruction of the vanguard Party of the Canadian proletariat. And this struggle was indeed waged!

It principally opposed the line of Red Star Collective (RSC) to that of IN STRUGGLE!. Bolshevik Union (BU) did participate in the debates but its representatives were happy just to launch accusations without ever being capable of basing them on facts.Thus, according to BU, IN STRUGGLE!’s line is an integral revival of “Tim Buck’s revisionist line”. But at no time during the Conference did they specify just what Tim Buck’s line was, how it was revisionist and finally how it resembled IN STRUGGLE!’s line, except to say that both used the term “imperialist state”, a term which supposedly Lenin had never used! Besides noting the formalistic character of such a debate where a word replaces the reality that it is suppose to describe, we would invite BU to reread Imperialism, Highest Stage of Capitalism. They might note that Lenin also used the “revisionist” term imperialist state! (see among others p. 115, Foreign Language Press, Peking).

The other groups also intervened in differing degrees on one or another aspect of the question, but the debate was really concentrated between Red Star Collective and IN STRUGGLE! And the heart of the struggle being waged was the very definition of imperialism.

In its pamphlet Canada: Imperialist power or Economic Colony?, RSC sums up its position as follows:

It is not a matter of whether or not Canada has reached the monopoly stage of capitalism... If Canada were an imperialist country, then its economy would be dominated by a concern with external capital investments and the return from those investments. Canada would seek out natural resources from other countries to supply its burgeoning industry. It would be actively building up its military might to maintain economic and or political control of those countries it dominated and to carve out more territory for itself. But this is not the case. (Op. cit, p.9)

It is clear that for the RSC, imperialism is essentially the domination of one country over another, the possession of colonies or neo-colonies... This conception is essentially petty-bourgeois. In imperialist countries, it is characteristic of those who try to explain the fundamental problems of the masses by the domination of one or another foreign power, thus hiding from the masses the veritable cause of their oppression and exploitation capitalism itself.

Lenin, on the other hand, clearly established that imperialism is fundamentaly a stage in the development of capitalism:

We have to begin with as precise and full a definition of imperialism as possible. Imperialism is a specific historical stage of capitalism. Its specific character is threefold: imperialism is (1) monopoly capitalism; (2) parasitic, or decaying capitalism; (3) moribund capitalism. The supplanting of free competition by monopoly is the fundamental economic feature, the quintessence of imperialism. Lenin, Imperialism and the split in socialism, C. W., Volume 23, p. 105.

In Proletarian Unity no. 3, we have in fact shown how capitalism in Canada fulfills all the essential characteristics of this rotten stage of capitalism. In order to stay with the principal elements of our argumentation, we should recall that for a long time now the economy of our country has been submitted to the domination of a small handful of monopolies. Contrarily to what RSC affirms, it is not a question of how many monopolies are Canadian and how many American. What is important is the fact that these monopolies are directly issued from the development of capitalism in Canada, from the competitition which took place among the Canadian and foreign capitalists. From this process. Canadian monopolies sprung up and were present in all industrial sectors and even more so in the banks.

On this basis, a true Canadian finance capital, issued from the fusion and interpenetration of equally Canadian bank and industrial capital, was constituted. This finance capital set out on the conquest of world markets and took part in the struggle for the division of the world, in the exploitation of the dominated peoples and nations, by the exportation of its capital and its participation in international monopoly cartels. Moreover, the participants at the Conference added a multitude of facts to those that we’ve presented, which beyond a doubt demonstrated this exploitation of peoples, particularily those in the Caribbeans, by Canadian monopolies.

Internally, by the accentuation of the oppression of the Canadian masses, and externally, particularily by its participation in different imperialist wars (’14-18, ’39-45, Korea and Vietnam), the Canadian State pursued its imperialist policy, i.e. a policy which directly corresponds to the interests of finance capital and the Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie.

Deepen the criticism of PWM

These are the facts which we submitted to the Conference. By its refusal to recognize them, by its persistence in seeing imperialism only from the perspective of the relation between different bourgeoisies and by studying Canadian society strictly from the point of view of comparing Canadian and American capital, RSC comes to consider that the fundamental characteristic of the Canadian society is its domination by American imperialism. Thus, as several Vancouver groups, paritcularily the October Study Group, the Long March Collective and the May 1st Collective, remarked, the RSC remains prisoner of the same bourgeois national logic as that of Progressive Workers Movement (PWM).

Moreover, the RSC barely hides the fact. After having praised PW ’s concrete analysis in its opening address, it awkwardly tried to camoflage the errors by saying that PWM’s Manifesto “seemed to advocate a two-stage revolution”. We would like to remind RSC that PWM openly advocated a national liberation struggle as a necessary preliminary stage to socialism, as well as a united front of all those opposing American imperialism, including sectors of the Canadian bourgeoisie. We would also like to remind it that this same Manifesto which claimed to present the path of the Revolution in Canada, never once mentioned the proletarian Revolution!

Thus, despite a certain breaking with bourgeois nationalism despite its eminitely positive gesture of submitting itself to the criticism of the Marxist-Leninist movement and the masses during the Second Conference, the RSC, while not the only carrier, is the group which today most clearly represents the nationalist line in our movement. This line is even more dangerous given that its origins go back to the very creation of the Communist Party of Canada and that it has marked the entire history of the Canadian communist movement. We cannot combat this line by ignoring it or by excommunicating it, like the CCL(ML) does, even though it has never produced one tenth of the concrete analysis produced by RSC. No, we must force this line to be fully and openly expressed. And this was attained by the Second Conference of Canadian Marxist-Leninists. It is in this way that the Conference constitutes another victory of the proletarian line in our movement. Further, by the vigorous and principled struggle waged against this nationalist deviation, it constitutes a gage of greater victories to come for the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement.