First Published: The Forge Vol. 7, No. 9, March 5, 1982
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The coming year promises to be a busy one for the Workers Communist Party.
The worsening of the economic crisis in Canada means that much must be done to build the workers’ fightback. And the sharpening of the contradictions on the international scene calls for increased support for the struggles of the peoples of Poland and El Salvador and a greater contribution to the fight for peace.
In addition to remaining active on these fronts the WCP has set itself another major objective for the coming period: to significantly improve its propaganda work and to develop its program on how to make revolution in Canada and what type of socialist society we would like to see in our country when capitalism has been overthrown.
What forms working class rule could take in Canada and what type of socialism would be appropriate to conditions here will be some of the major issues debated in the WCP in preparation for the Party’s second Congress, to be held this year.
If more workers are to be won to the cause of socialism it is clear that we must greatly advance in our ability to explain the advantages of a socialist Canada and how we can achieve it.
Today, with Canada’s economy suffering a protracted slowdown, rising unemployment and inflation as well as an obvious crisis of ideological and social values, working people are increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo. However, this discontent does not necessarily translate into support for the revolutionary socialist option. While there are many reasons for this, one of the most important is that at the present time the socialist alternative does not appear so attractive to many.
First of all, the word “socialism” is in the popular consciousness closely associated with the USSR and Eastern Europe. While these regimes are not socialist – for socialism means that the workers hold power, not a handful of privileged bureaucrats – we never stop hearing that these countries typify socialism.
Not only do the Soviet Union and its satellites repeat this endlessly to cover up the fierce exploitation of workers in their societies, but the Western media also take up the same refrain. They like nothing better than to point their finger at the USSR and say, “Look, that is socialism,” knowing full well that the police state structure and the faltering economies of the East block countries are unlikely to attract Canadian workers.
Over the past four or five years it has also become apparent that serious problems have emerged in a number of countries which refused to follow the Soviet Union when it abandoned socialism in the 1950s. There was Viet Nam’s invasion and occupation of Democratic Kampuchea and the Albanian Party of Labour’s stinging criticism of Mao Zedong. And now difficulties have also arisen in China.
In a number of developed countries like the US or Germany new Marxist-Leninist parties have experienced great difficulty getting established.
These problems in countries or parties upon which many progressive people had pinned their, hopes have served to spread pessimism about the possibility of successfully building socialism.
As a result many workers and intellectuals are hesitant to endorse the socialist option or remain sceptical about whether working class rule can ever be established in an advanced country like Canada.
This situation presents an important challenge to the Canadian left and to a Marxist-Leninist party like the WCP. It means that we must seriously undertake a number of inter-related tasks.
First, it is clear we must improve our explanation of our fundamental socialist option. We must combat the bourgeois stereotypes and distortions of what socialism is and show working people the very real achievements of the proletariat when it has held power. From the Paris Commune of 1971, through the Russian revolution and China’s liberation, the establishment of socialism has meant a tremendous step forward for the workers and peasants. But the truth about these events is not widely known.
But exposing the bourgeois propaganda and defending the accomplishments of socialism are not enough. We must also sum up the experience of the socialist societies to date, develop our analysis and understanding of working class political power and define what forms it could take in Canada.
Sixty years have elapsed since the first socialist revolution in October 1917 and a great many lessons can be learned from the working class’s efforts at building socialism in countries like the USSR and China.
What have been the strong points of the new social system? What have been its weaknesses? What objective and subjective obstacles have the revolutionaries in these countries had to confront? How can the danger of capitalist restoration be fought? These are the types of questions we must examine in order to historically evaluate socialism as it has existed to date.
Of course such historical study should not be some abstract academic exercise but rather part of the discussion of what type of socialism would be appropriate in Canada.
Canada is a developed industrial country. The working class makes up the overwhelming majority of the population and it is well-educated, with its own institutions and traditions of universal suffrage. This is far from the conditions prevailing in the more backward countries where socialism has so far been established. While we can learn a lot from the experience of others, socialism in Canada will be very different from what we have seen elsewhere, and we must develop the forms of working class rule appropriate to our country’s needs.
How should the political system function in a socialist Canada? How would democracy be guaranteed for the people? How would the economy function, or the national question be dealt with? These are just some of the questions we must grapple with.
In the coming months, as the WCP moves towards its second Congress, party members will be devoting themselves to the examination of such questions. The past experiences of socialism and its future in Canada will be the focus of study within the organization as well as being dealt with more fully in the party press.
As well as the discussion around socialism itself our Party intends to pursue a number of other issues including the examination of how make revolution in a developed country.
The questions raised above are extremely complex and our young party does not pretend to have all the answers.
But we must make a start because the study, debate and discussion of these issues are essential if the socialist movement is to win more workers and progressive intellectuals to its ranks in the present conjuncture.
Canadian working people remain open to socialism and are looking for change. But they remain to be convinced that socialism can provide them with a better life – greater democracy and improved material well-being.
To answer their hesitations and objections the left must push forward the debate over the experiences of socialism to date and the definition of the type of society we would like to see here.
We must be sure to stress that the contours of this new society do not exist in some text, nor can they be mechanically transposed from some other country. They will be defined and forged by the working people of our country as we advance in our struggle.