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The Canadian Red Raids

(September 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 22, 5 September 1931, p. 3.
This article is also included in the Canadian Socialist History Project archive.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

When the first attack wss made against the Communist party in Toronto two years ago the reformist leaders were able to delude many workers by explaining that the rights of free speech were being taken away from the Communists only, and not from the workers.

In less than a year the right of free speech had been banned even for the “pinkest of the pink.”

Today the Communist party is again attacked, not locally but nationally. The Attorney-General of Ontario has openly stated that the purpose of this attack is to drive the Communist party into illegality.

History has already taught us that political tendencies of the day are determined by the basic economic conditions and in order to understand why the political rights are being taken away from the Communists it is necessary to go beneath the surface.

In Canada, agriculture still plays a dominant role in the economic and political life of the country. The present depression coupled with the big drop in the price of agricultural products below the cost of production; the record-breaking accumulation of tremendous stocks of raw materials; the falling off of the internal and external trade – have left in their wake mass starvation and destitution. Thousands upon thousands of small and middle-class farmers are ruined and bankrupt, while mass unemployment leaves its bitter trail from one end of the country to the other.

Again, in Canada, workers have demonstrated behind the Red Flag. Troops being called out to cow down the workers has become a common occurrence. Militant demonstrations of the unemployed, while yet still limited to the West are growing. The hungry workers in the cities want bread. The ruined farmers want the bankers’ noose taken off their necks.

This present crisis is quite different structurally from that of previous crisis and will not be overcome in a hurry. Even the capitalist bankers themselves openly say that much. This winter, the bourgeoisie openly state, is going to be the hardest Winter yet experienced by all classes. Mr. Meighan, former Prime Minister of Canada, in a speech at Toronto stated “that Canada is facing its greatest trial in history.” “Unless something is done to meet the growing competition from Russia, the existence of thousands of producers will be ruined.’’ He calls for a war against Russia to save capitalism but that is another question which we will discuss in future. The fact, though, is the growing competition Canadian capitalism is meeting on the world market is coming not only from Russia but from Australia, Argentina, etc., added to which is the reduction of the demand itself, and there lies the crux of the matter.

Canadian capital is preparing to fight for a greater share of the markets of the world by the lowering of the standards of living for the workers and farmers. The question before capital is not only of this Winter as many bourgeois politicians wish us to believe, but the Winters and the Summers of the future. What are the principal factors behind the present assault of capital against the workers and farmers? The power of the bourgeoisie in Canada has been built up on a strongly organized and centralized industrial and banking system. The small and middle-class farmers, in the vain hope of achieving security and independence, organized themselves in a “Wheat Tool’’, financed by the banks with the purpose in view of keeping up prices. But this worked to the contrary. Today they are worse off than over before, and their land and possessions are mortgaged to the banks who are also extracting their pound of flesh for the huge accumulated stocks in the “Wheat Pool”.

The workers – except for a small minority of the higher skilled labor – are completely unorganized and at the merry of the bosses. The majority of industries are concentrated in Ontario and Quebec. In the latter Province the workers are almost completely under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and the company and Catholic Unions. In Ontario, it is the Orangemen and conservative trade unions. Only in the West have the workers demonstrated with the spirit of militancy.

The leader of the workers and poor farmers is a weak Communist party. The false policies and perspectives the Stalinist Comintern has foisted on the Canadian party in the last lew years, is one of the principle factors responsible for the failure of the party to penetrate the masses. The isolation of the party finds its reflection in the fact that in the West where the workers are more militant, the party is organizationally weaker than in the East, where the workers are more conservative. The adventurous 3rd period policies were forced on the party during the peak of the capitalist prosperity. When the slogan should have been for partial demands, the party was “fighting for the streets”. What saved the party from committing complete suicide in those days, was the fact that the membership of the party is made up of foreign language federations, whose activity is mostly cultural and social.

The growing terror against the Communists raises to the forefront more sharply than ever before the necessity of the rehabilitation of the party. In the present crisis, the party is faced with problems that raise again the following demands, if the party is to measure up to its tasks.

  1. Unification and reinstatement of all expelled Oppositionists.
  2. Inner-party democracy and ideological clarity: that, is absolutely essential if the membership is to develop as the real leaders of the working class.
  3. Policies based not “on the building of socialism in a single country”, which cannot become a reality surrounded by a bourgeois globe, but on international revolution.

We warn all Left wing workers, whatever may be the differences that they may have with the Communist party leadership, that this must not be made the cover for the failure to take a definite position in the defence of the party. The workers of Canada, if they allow the bourgeoisie to smash the party, will find that tomorrow they too will be disarmed. We warn the workers and farmers of Canada, that the capitalists are preparing a general attack against your living standards. The successful suppression of the party will follow in the suppression of all militant labor organizations and progressive bodies.

In the fight for legality, the Left Opposition calls upon all workers to actively support the party.

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Last updated: 5 December 2014