First Published: The Forge, Vol. 5, No. 42, December 5, 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The Communist Party of Canada is apparently just as upset by criticism of its domestic policy as it is by accusations that its international line amounts to little more than apologies for the Soviet Union and its satellites.
In the second half of a two-part polemic against the WCP (see “Theory and Revolution” column on Poland in the November 21 Forge) leading CP theoretician Alfred Dewharst answers charges that his party is cosying up to the NDP.
He states that WCP leaders, in the name of ’revolution’” are trying “to fence themselves off in splendid isolation” from working people by rejecting class alliances and refusing to unite with workers who support the NDP.
Dewhsrst puts forward the CPC’s path to socialism: the election of an and-monopoly government “based on a new class alignment” which would “open the door” to the elimination of capitalism.
Let’s take a closer look at the underpinnings of this CP strategy to see what doors it really opens.
Dewhurst’s main criticism of the WCP is that “the WCP’s classless leaders reject out-of-hand Lenin’s time-tested theory of class alliances as the path to achieving workers’ power and the building of a socialist society.”
In fact, the WCP has never dismissed class alliances. Our difference with the CPC is over whom the working class should ally with. Based on an in-depth class analysis, the WCP Program states that the working class – which makes up two-thirds of Canada’s population – is the principal and leading force in the fight for socialism.
The program goes on to call for a “united front... based on the alliance between the working class and its two main strategic allies – the rest of the working people and the oppressed nationalities.” p. 130).
The lower stratum of the petty bourgeoisie – small farmers, fishermen and shopkeepers “can be won as a firm ally of the proletariat.” A large part of the middle stratum of this class the more well-to do petty bourgeoisie – can be won over or at least neutralized.
The eight million people in Canada who make up the oppressed nationalities are also “invaluable allies or reserves of the working class.” (p. 48) By uniting all these forces, we can build a powerful movement which targets the entire ruling class – both the dominant monopoly fraction and the non-monopolists.
The CPC’s view of class alliances, however, is quite different. Their program does not even make a reference to the oppressed nationalities, except for the Quebecois people.
But they do “open the door” to uniting with workers’ enemies. The program explicitly states that “the Communist party works for a new political alliance” uniting workers not just with small farmers and other petty-bourgeoisie forces but with “the non-monopoly bourgeoisie” (Road to Socialism, p. 46). Note how the CPC does not even talk here about “some elements” but to the non-monopoly bourgeoisie as a whole.
As any Marxist will tell you, the non-monopoly bourgeoisie is not your corner grocer. They are capitalists whose profits come from the exploitation of surplus-value of workers. If they have not yet developed into powerful monopolies like Argus or Power, it is not because of any goodwill towards workers but simply a result of capitalist competition. In fact, many smaller bosses are often more openly oppressive (as the brutal anti-unionism of companies like Fleck or Commonwealth Plywood have shown).
The CPC is telling workers to embrace this section of their enemy as an ally. And then the CPC has the nerve to say the WCP has a “classless” view of alliances! To justify this alliance with part of the ruling class, Dewhurst wiped out basic Marxist class analysis by conjuring up a completely new social entity called “the non-monopoly population” – a classless term if there ever was one.
The CPC’s proposed alliance with the non-monopoly bourgeoisie is not an oversight in their program. It stands at the very core of their two-stage theory of the transition to socialism.
Dewhurst explains in his column that the election of an anti-monopoly government “based on a new class alignment” is the first “distinct stage of the struggle for socialism.”
“This anti-monopoly government,” the official CPC program elaborates, “will not aim to eliminate the property rights of the capitalist class as a whole but only those of monopoly” (Road to Socialism, p. 47). Together, the friendly capitalists and workers will “carry through the economic and social reforms capable of opening the door to socialism,” creating “the best conditions for a relatively peaceful advance to socialism.”
But it is sheer political suicide to pretend that Conrad Black, Ian Sinclair and their fellow monopolists will simply hand over their power and fortunes to the working people. The bourgeoisie will not relinquish control over its state apparatus, disband its 80,000-man army, its RCMP and its police forces and let the workers take over the country if they so desire.
“The world has not yet produced such kind-hearted capitalists,” Lenin remarked. “Socialism can develop only in struggle with capitalism. There has never yet been in the world a ruling class which would give up without struggle.” (Collected Works, Vol. 28, p. 361). Why should Canada’s capitalists be the first?
The illusions the CPC is spreading are dangerous. Drawing on the experiences of world history, communists have a duty to explain that at some point it will be necessary for workers to rely on the force of arms to defend theri struggle against the reactionary violence of the bourgeoisie.
The third issue raised by Dewhurst’s article is the attitude Marxists should take towards reformist parties like the NDP.
To divert attention away from the CPC’s bootlicking of the NDP, Dewhurst tries to paint the WCP’s criticism of the NDP as dogmatic. He claims the WCP condemns all workers who support the NDP and is thus unable “to harness the great revolutionary potential that resides in the ranks of the working masses.”
The issue at stake here is how to genuinely harness the workers’ revolutionary drive – by courting or by exposing the NDP leaders?
Contrary to Dewhurst’s fabrications, the WCP has never denounced workers who back the NDP. The communist militants of the WCP unite with reformist-influenced workers in labour’s daily struggles. The many trade union caucuses within which WCP members are active are based upon the unity of all workers, regardless of their political affiliations, around a fighting program of demands.
But to develop the revolutionary forces within the labour movement, the WCP carries out education to expose the NDP for what it is – a “bourgeois labour party” to use Engels’ term.
The social-democratic NDP leaders do not want to put an end to capitalism, they simply want to tinker with it. The NDP plays an essential safety-valve role for the ruling class, allowing it to coopt workers and keep their system in balance. Building a base upon the labour aristocracy, reformist parties like the NDP help the ruling class penetrate wide sectors of the working class. Reformist parties are the last prop of the capitalists to perpetuate their rule: “The stronger the reformist influence is among the workers the weaker they are, the greater their dependence on the bourgeoisie” (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 19, p. 373).
That is why the task of communists in the labour movement is to break workers away from the influence of the NDP.
But the CPC thinks otherwise. Though Dewhurst tries to tone down his party’s embarassing support for the NDP, the CPC’s program makes no bones about it: “The Communist Party works systematically for cooperation and the united front with the New Democratic Party in the defense of the vital interests of the working class..,” (Road to Socialism, p. 45).
It does not seem to bother the CPC that the NDP’s “defence” of workers’ vital interests includes the breaking of the strike of Saskatchewan government workers last winter by the NDP regime of Allan Blakeney. Or that NDP leaders like Tomy Douglas go on to sit on the boards of oil companies like Husky Oil.
All that matters to the CPC is cozying up to the NDP in order to cement an alliance with the non-monopoly bourgeoisie: “We work for united action with the NDP as the basis for creating an anti-monopoly coalition,” the CPC Central Committee said in its report to the 1980 party congress.
These two opposing approaches to the NDP are much more than a quarrel over words. They have a direct bearing on the development of the labour movement and its ability to defend workers’ rights.
At the recent convention of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, WCP members helped build a broad rank-and-file caucus. It made sharp criticisms of the NDP government’s anti-union policies and the top union leaders who prefer gathering votes for the NDP to organizing an independent labour fightback. But the CPC saw fit to denounce these militant steps taken by rank-and-file delegates as “ultra-leftist” (Canadian Tribune, November 10).
It appears the CPC is really interested in harnessing the workers’ revolutionary potential... to the chariot of the NDP.
The firm attitude communists must take towards social-democratic parties is nothing new. While struggling side-by-side with their class brothers who are influenced by reformist ideas, communists have always sought to fight the class collaboration pushed by the reformist leaders.
The CPC, when it was faithful to its revolutionary name, took this principled stand in the early thirties towards the CCF, the forerunner of the NDP. In a 1934 pamphlet called Socialism and the CCF, the CPC attacked the reformists’ program for being “nothing else than an attempt to adapt the Canadian working class to the interests and institutions of Canadian capitalism.”
When the WCP makes this same criticism of the NDP today, Dewhurst rushes to the defence of the reformist party.
On every count, the CPC’s strategic line is similar to the revisionist stand criticized by Lenin when he spoke bitterly of “the opportunists... denying the socialist revolution and substituting bourgeois reformism In its stead, by rejecting the class struggle with its inevitable conversion at certain moments into civil war, and by preaching class collaboration...” (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 21, p. 17)
Dewhurst’s polemic does bring out the fundamental difference between the CPC’s and the WCP’s road to socialism n Canada and shows that it is the CPC which is neither Marxist nor Leninist.