Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

John Burnley

The Shoe

First Published: Alive Magazine: Literature & Ideology No. 44, November 1975
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

The flower patterned curtain swung high in the breeze and, tailing, swept across Dan’s freckled face. He stirred slowly, reluctant to leave his dream. The curtain swung slowly again and again bringing him into this new day. The call of the birds outside his bedroom window was in contrast to the fiery meeting he had reconvened in sleep. Yet the two images were complementary. Passing his arm across his face, Dan sat up and looked outside. A fine day! Swinging his legs to the side he sat with chin in hands focusing his eyes on the shiny alarm clock. As if on cue the clock began its shrill call. Six-thirty on Monday morning with the whole day to himself! He would have to be sure to spend the day fruitfully, he thought to himself. It would not do to have the weather so congenial if he did not make a contribution towards making the future equally bright.

On the floor beside the bed he did several pushups and knee bends. This was the way he began every day. The motion combined with the fresh air blowing freely through his open window served quickly to loosen his appetite. A frying pan full of bacon and eggs soon brought his stomach into harmony with the rest of his body.

The best part of this week was that he had the day off. His work at the post office was physically demanding. That coupled with his political work in the evenings generally left him exhausted, through definitely happy, by the time each weekend rolled around, it’s not bad, he thought to have the two days at the weekend to fit in some time for writing. The main thing, he kept telling himself, is to struggle against the bourgeois culture’s drive to make him complacent.

As he washed and dried his dishes and cleaned his small apartment Dan’s mind roamed back over the events of the previous day. His dream had riveted upon the main speakers at the founding of the Toronto Branch of the East Indian Defence Committee. His conscious memory now made a much more thorough recollection of the eight hour meeting. He strove to remember every significant detail so that he might start turning a news article over and over in his mind. Whenever possible he submitted articles to People’s Canada Daily News/On the Line. Even though most of the articles never got further than his local study group he always found it helpful to write about his experiences at these public events.

The overwhelming success of the June first meeting, he knew had to be attributed to the high level of organization before and during the meeting. The afternoon and evening programs, chaired by Comrade Bains the leader of the Party, moved through the various stages without any noticeable hitch. The range of speakers from the East Indian community was a powerful reflection of the thorough going anger of that whole community at the federal government’s racist and fascist attacks.

The rich and powerful culture of the East Indian community was demonstrated in the words and music of an East Indian poet. The fullness of the program was indeed a blow at the racists and fascists who attempt to promote the idea that the immigrants have nothing to offer to Canada.

A whole section of the meeting had been turned over to the Pakistani community. Speakers from that community expressed their fervent opposition to the racist and fascist attacks of the federal government on their own community and also expressed long lasting solidarity and support for the struggle of the East Indian community to defend itself.

Resolutions were presented for democratic discussion and approval. These resolutions righteously denounced the racist and fascist attacks on the immigrants and were all unanimously approved by the crowd of close to a thousand. Copies of the constitution of the East Indian Defence Committee were circulated.

The entire gathering had given a richly deserved standing ovation to Comrade Martin Bracey when he was warmly introduced by Comrade Bains. Martin Bracey had indeed carried out his just warning to the judge in his Montreal trial more than five years ago: “You can put us in chains but you will never keep us down!” The monopoly capitalist class had done everything possible to break the spirit of Martin Bracey but there he was addressing this historic revolutionary meeting. All the people there recognised the significance of his speech.

Speakers and representatives from active revolutionary and progressive groups throughout Canada and the world were gathered onto the stage in a celebration of solidarity which must have cast spears of ice cold fear into the hearts of all reactionaries. Any police agents who were present must have been shaking in their boots!

Leaders of the Native People’s struggles were also welcomed enthusiastically to the meeting. They spoke from their 400 year history of oppression about the need to fight back in the fiercest tit-for-tat struggle. They also repeatedly called for unity between the Native people, the immigrant communities and the Canadian people in the struggle against the monopoly capitalists in Canada and in the U.S.

Dan could clearly recall how his heart had swelled, almost to the bursting point, with pride at the revolutionary gathering in which he had participated. The cool midnight air which had greeted the participants at the close of the program only intensified the awareness he had of the warm solidarity displayed in this time of intensified racist and fascist attacks. Each section of the people when singled out had to form its own defence organisation to fight the specific attacks by the monopoly capitalist class. The leadership, both in learning this and in implementing the organization, was coming strongly from the Party.

Eight o’clock on Monday morning and he had the full day ahead. This Mackasey Flu had struck him at the perfect time. He would go to visit old Ben at his shop in the East End.

As Dan strode smiling down Main Street, he witnessed Monday morning traffic which he had seldom seen. As he passed the Contini Variety Store, Mrs. Contini stepped out and waved hello. He laughed and called out to her, “And how are you this morning, Mrs. Contini”?

“Fine, Danny, fine. And you? How are you that you’re not at work?”

“Oh, I’m just great. Just great. It’s just a slight touch of that Mackasey Flu that’s got me today”! Danny felt like singing as he spoke.

“Ah yes! That dog is getting his answer, that’s for sure. You take care now Danny. Don’t be letting yourself get too used to the holiday life.”

Danny stopped and faced Mrs. Contini with a serious face. “It’s not a holiday by any means. On a day like this we have to do something special. We’ll be making good use of the extra time this evening to lay some real plans for those fascists in Ottawa.”

Mrs. Contini nodded thoughtfully. “You watch them Dan. Watch them very carefully. There’s not much difference between them now and that Mussolini dog we had to contend with back in the old country”!

Dan nodded and waved as he continued on his way. “We’ll watch them and we’ll deal with them. You can count on it”! His heart“ had leapt when Mrs. Contini had called him Dan instead of Danny. He had never minded the affection Mrs. Contini displayed. She had seen him grow up in the neighbourhood. But, at that moment, when she called him Dan, then he knew that she recognised him as a soldier in a war she and her husband had served for more than a half a century.

Dan knew that his comrades and friends in the union were treading on a long and historic path. The economic crisis was plunging the monopoly capitalists more and more into direct fascist attacks on the unions. In Quebec the Cliche Commission was playing the Bourassa government’s tune in perfect pitch. That bloody Judge Cliche, former leader of the N.D.P. social fascists in Quebec, had come out into the light as a faithful servant of the capitalist class. His recommendations against the construction unions threatened to place those unions squarely into the hands of the construction capitalists.

Mrs. Contini knew what she was talking about. The Cliche Commission was doing no more than rehashing the same old tactics of that fascist Mussolini. His own union, like that of the Longshoremen in Montreal, would not be far behind if the Cliche Commission was successful. The racist and fascist attacks on the immigrant communities were one and the same as the fascist attacks on the defence organisations of the working class.

Dan took a deep breath as he swung to a stop at the bus stop. He would have to be sure to mention his conversation with Mrs. Contini to Bob when he picked up his “PCDN/OTL” that afternoon.

Standing alone at the bus stop gave Dan a chance to pull his new copy of Chinese Literature from his jacket pocket. On page 5 he poured through a poem celebrating the first session of the Fourth National People’s Congress which had been held in Peking in January. The poem was titled, “Glad Tidings Flow on Wings of Gold.” The socialist revolution in China had indeed unleashed a tide of writings from the ordinary workers. Dan never made the mistake of wishing things were already at that stage in Canada but his subscriptions to Chinese periodicals always gave him more strength to carry on.

The bus arrived as he finished one verse which read:

Let our poems, like sharp daggers, pierce
The enemy’s dreams of restoration.
Let our verses shake the whole universe,
Bugle-calls for greater socialist construction.

Depositing his token in the bus driver’s container, Dan hurried to a seat halfway down the length of the bus.

The east wind of the Congress sweeps our steel city.
Around the furnace our feelings are united victorious.
Marching ever under the banner of Taching,
We fly along Chairman Mao’s revolutionary road.

The thirty five minute bus ride was soon complete. Dan was not far now from old Ben’s shop. How will old Ben be keeping, he wondered. It’s six months since last they’d seen each other. He was not long in wondering for old Ben’s shop stood before him within a few moments.

Ben’s Shoes, Fine Work and Repairs! Dan read the sign as he went through the old door. The shop, unlike the shoe shops of story books, was as brightly lit as ever. Ben, silver hair and broad smile, sat at the far side of the small room. “How are you Dan! It’s good to see you! Come and sit yourself down.”

Dan walked across the shop and extended his hand. “Hello Ben. It’s good to see you, too. How are things”?

They shook hands warmly and began to exchange stories of funny things that had happened in the past months. Ben said that he’d been expecting to see Dan sometime soon with this bout of Flu that was going around. They both laughed at that as Ben plugged in the kettle for a pot of tea. “Now, Dan. What’s this fella Davidson on about? Saying to hell with the public and all that-stuff?”

“It’s the same with all the leaders of the unions Ben,” started Dan. “The fascists up in Ottawa are continually promoting the line that these strike struggles are against the interests of the public. They have such a massive campaign going on that it’s backing the unions into a corner.”

“Look, Dan. Don’t they realize that it’s the men and women in the unions who are the public? Them and the workers who aren’t organized. Those bastards in Ottawa are just raising a big smokescreen.” Ben had been a union man for close to twenty years before he set up his shoe shop fifteen years ago. “If the union leaders fall for that malarky they’ll just be playing into the government’s; hands. Pass those tea bags, will you.”

Dan passed the tea to Ben and thought before answering. “Well, I’m not going to say anything against our union, that’s for sure. But all across the country pressure’s on. The capitalists are in a frenzy and they’re intensifying their fascist attacks all the time.” Dan stopped again to think. “You know, Ben, they’re times when government sets up union leaderships which will play patsy for them. But then there are times like these we’re in now when even those patsies are unable to satisfy needs of the capitalists. The economic crisis is so fierce now the fascists are putting the heat on every section of the people.”

Ben nodded as he poured boiling water into the teapot “Uhhuh. It’s like all this business with the immigrants.”

“The Green Paper.”

“That’s it,” said Ben. “The big push to blame the immigrants for everything that’s gone wrong since who knows when. It seems like everytime I read the paper watch television or listen to the radio here in the stir, there’s some new dog promoting racism against immigrants.”

“It’s all part of the same fascist parcel,” agreed Dan. *#8220;I was at a meeting yesterday over on the other side of town. It was to form a Toronto branch of the East Indian Defence Committee.“

“And how was it”? asked Ben.

“You had to be there. It was something like I’ve never seen before.” Dan went on to excitedly describe meeting. Ben listened attentively, nodding every now and then. Finally, when Dan paused for breath, Ben handed him a cup of tea and murmured, “it sounds like the same kind of energy we had back in the Thirties. No wonder government is coming on so strong with all this racism, fascism.”

Ben looked thoughtfully at Dan’s excited face as both sipped their tea. After a time he spoke again. “Look Dan. I don’t want to pull the rug out from under you or anything like that, it’s just that we thought we were going to really give them hell back there in the Thirties. And didn’t do that bad a job when you look at it. But something happened. One day we turned around and our leaders were telling us to vote for the Liberals and; Conservatives.”

Dan nodded. “Yes. I’ve read about that. But this time it be different. This time our leaders are leading squarely and surely with Marxism-Leninism and Mao Tsetung Thought.”

“Your union leaders”?

“No. The Party.”

“Ah, yes. That CPC (M-L). I’ve heard of them. They’re the ones who’re giving that dog Kashtan what’s for.

“Kashtan and his revisionists. And all the rest of too. You see, Ben, they’re not like all those other parasites. They encourage us to have our own organizations and they provide us, through newspaper, with information and analysis. They are ones who are providing leadership which is really useful to the workers. They’re also the ones who are leading the struggles of the immigrant communities against these racist attacks.”

Ben nodded. “I’ll have to buy that PCDN paper often, that’s obvious.”

Dan laughed. “So you know more than you’re letting on.”

Ben joined in the laughter with which Dan was rocking the room. “When you’ve been through what I’ve been through, Dan my boy, you learn to go into a discussion with a bit of caution. I spent a year in prison forty years ago for saying the wrong thing to the wrong man.”

Dan had heard the story of the sacrifices which were made by many workers in the struggle to organize union locals in their factories. Ben had been in the thick of that struggle. He had paid his dues long before his place of work was organized. “It’s still difficult to know what to do right now, Ben ”

“Sure it is, Dan. It’s never easy to be patient.”

Dan was always surprised at how quickly Ben was able to go straight to the heart of what was on his mind. He had known Ben for almost as long as he could remember. It was as if Ben was the grandfather whom Dan had lost in the the war against the nazis in Spain. Perhaps that was because Ben and Dan’s grandfather had both served against Franco but only Ben has returned to the neighborhood. Since that time Ben had always been like a member of the family.

“There’s a line which keeps coming up.” said Dan “That we should stop messing around with political work and get on with more direct actions. Like guerilla war. Sometimes its hard not to get caught up in that,”

Ben smiled as he poured the last of the tea into Dan’s cup and reached over to plug the kettle in again “Sure it’s hard. That’s why you’ve got to learn patience. You see Dan, if you go into armed activity before you’re ready you just get wiped out. You should pay attention to what the Marxist-Leninists are saying. Really pay attention. You have to organize, organize, organize! Organize so that when the tit-for-tat struggle is moved by the fascists to the level of direct armed oppression you’ll be a part of an organized force of educated revolutionaries.”

“And you can bet,” Ben continued, “that that’s where we’re headed. It may be a while yet but it’s inevitable. Hell this is the last continent those dogs are going to let go without a fight. When that fight comes you’ve got to be sure to be ready. You and all the others who are coming up with you.”

Dan listened in complete silence as Ben went quickly through the mistakes which had been made in the past. He was amazed at the grasp which this old friend, this old shoemaker, had on the present situation. He knew now why it taken so long for Mrs, Contini to call him Dan. It did not overly surprise Dan, then, when Ben pointed out “There are quite a few of you young guys who drop in here and eventually I tell them all this same story. It’s not the best, perhaps, but it’s the way I put across what I feel about what has to be done.”

Dan placed his cup on the floor beside his chair and listened as Ben picked up the shoe he had been working on when Dan came into the shop. “You see this shoe It’s an extremely complicated thing in itself. As a matter of fact when you get to know shoes the way I do you see that its really quite a simple thing. Yet, it performs an admirable job of protecting the interests of its owner. That shoe will last for a long, long time if it’s well made and well looked after.

“When that shoe was being made, and I made this one myself right here in this shop, it was a straight forward operation because I knew exactly what had to be done. I had all of the ingredients close at hand in their proper place. The leather by itself is worth no more than any other raw material. It had to be cut and trimmed... shaped and fitted. A bit of glue here and a hole there and it began to look like something that might serve someone’s foot. The whole process right down to the tiny nails which fixed the sole in place and the lacing to secure it went almost without thinking on my part. Why? Because it had all been organized!

“Most people look at a shoe and they think simply of the shoe as a whole and finished thing. Me? I look at that shoe and I see all of the little touches that must be included if the shoe is to operate smoothly What if the nails are placed in the sole only from the centre too close to the front and on one side only? Why, as soon as the owner starts to walk the sole will flap and perhaps trip him. That Would hardly be a good shoe.”

“I look at the complete shoe and I think of revolution. A successful revolution must have the essential elements organized before the revolutionary force can successfully defeat the class enemy. This organization is as much a part of the process as is the actual combat. And it is this which terrorists and ultra-leftists cannot await”

Old Ben paused in his story. Unplugging the kettle he squinted in Dan’s direction. “Can you see the analogy?”

Dan nodded slightly and slowiy.

“We,” said Ben, “Have to become like nails in the sole of the shoe. The Party provides the theory to build the shoe and place the nails. It provides the lacing to tie the shoe in place and then, having organized many shoes it provides the direction in which the shoes must march and the weak points against which the shoes must pound.”

Dan smiled. “It’s a pretty good analogy”!

During the late afternoon bus ride home Dan’s thoughts centered on Old Ben’s final words at the door of the shoe shop. “This CPC (M-L) we were talking about, Dan, looks like its got a damn good shoemaker at its head”!