Thirty Years – 1922-1952
The Story of the Communist Movement in Canada
THE DEMAND FOR establishment of a legal party of Communists was unanswerable. Well-known Communists, could walk the streets again but the party was still banned. Active public work was carried on through the Communist-Labor Total War Committee movement, but there was need for legal political expression on a nation-wide scale of the Communists' liberating ideal of "the People's War." There was need for organized public struggle to achieve a higher role for the working class in the national war effort. Furthermore, there was talk of a war-time election. It was clear that one of the reasons why the government refused to lift the ban was to prevent the Communists from coming before the working class as the party of working-class advance in the struggle for victory. For all these reasons the establishment of a legal party was necessary.
But before founding a new national party it was necessary to deal authoritatively with the erroneous ideas, mentioned in Chapter Thirteen, that had been propagated throughout the party during the period of illegality.
Political differences within the party leadership had revealed
themselves in the course of an underground meeting of the full
Political Bureau during May, 1940, and had persisted since.
The members of the Political Bureau had divided sharply in
their estimation of the status and role of Canada and, therefore,
on the tasks confronting the working class. The position of the
majority was summarized as follows:
a) The Canadian bourgeols-democratic revolution having been defeated in 1837, the task of completing the "uncompleted" bourgeois-democratic revolution was the decisive task then confronting the Canadian people.
b) The Canadian bourgoisie is a dependent bourgeoisie. Canada is caught in the vortex of the Anglo-American conflict one section Of the bourgeoisie being dependent upon and subordinate to British imperialism, the other section being dependent upon and subordinate to United States imperialism.
c) The antagonisms between British and United States imperialism were being aggravated by the war and the conflicting interests of British and United States imperialism were leading to "a crisis of bourgeois rule in Canada."
d) The relationship of the bourgeoisie of French Canada to the bourgeoisie of English-speaking Canada is that of an oppressed bourgeoisie to their oppressors. The political perspective of French Canada is that of national bourgeois-democratic struggle to free French Canada from that oppression. The immediate task of the revolutionary working-class movement in Quebec is to unite the workers in support of the bourgeois-democratic struggle for the fight to national self-determination.
e) Canada's relationship to Britain in 1940 was still a "semicolonial relationship under which Canada has not even nominal control in the basic imperialist question of war and peace."
The manner in which they propagated their theory of the inevitablility of Canada becoming involved in an imperialist war between Britain and the United States is exemplified in the following quotation from an, article which purported to clarify "The dependent relations of the Canadian bourgeoisie and the maturing revolutionary crisis":
"Only a fool would try to predict when and under what circumstances in relation to other imperialist wars, especially the present one between British and German imperialism, the contradictions between American and British imperialism will break into war. But only a stupid apologist for imperialism, or a social-chauvinist who knows nothing of the real 'economic essence' of imperialism and is sold completely to the service of capitalism can fail to see that the war must inevitably involve U.S. imperialism in war with British imperialism . . ."
On the basis of such arguments the majority proposed that the party's central slogan "Withdraw Canada from the Imperialist War" should be replaced by the slogan "Separation from the Empire."
The minority opposed that position, urging that it tended to turn the face of the party away from its immediate tasks, away from the working class, and away from the direct struggle against the Canadian bourgeoisie. The minority opposed the theory of the "inevitability" of war between Britain and the United States. They argued that: "The immediate effect of the war is to drive British and United States imperialists to subordinate their antagonism and cooperate with each other in defence of their mutual imperialist interests." The minority rejected the theory that a crisis in the ranks of the Canadian bourgeoisie, as a result of sharpening British and American contradictions, was inevitable. They maintained that the basic political contradiction in Canada was between the interests of monopoly-capital and the interests of the masses of the people. They maintained that the political perspective of the working-class movement flowed directly from and was hinged upon that basic contradiction; that the immediate and urgent tasks of the party were to get into and strengthen the numerous wage movements and to unify the struggles of all those sections of the population which, for various reasons, were opposed to increased participation in the war. They insisted that the slogan "Withdraw Canada from the Imperialist War" expressed the unifying motive for broad, popular struggle against the profit-hungry monopolists who were seeking to thrust Canada deeper into the war and into world-wide imperialist entanglements.
Concerning French Canada, the minority maintained that the development of capitalism and of French-English bourgeois relationships had "by-passed" the conditions for bourgeois leadership of the struggle for the national independence of French Canada. The bourgeoisie of French Canada will not lead the struggle for national self-determination. They, along with the upper circles of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church in Quebec, are now full partners with the bourgeoisie of English-speaking Canada in exploiting the national market and resources, including the Canadian working class. It is they who maintain the province of Quebec as an area of low wage levels, low standards of education and social services, of excep tionally high capitalist profits. The struggle for the right to national self-determination has yet to be won in French Canada but the bourgeoisie will not lead it; the bouraeoisie has become an enemy of that ideal. Today, only the working class will lead the democratic forces of French Canada to full national self-determination.
So sharp was the split between the members of the Political Bureau that it was impossible to achieve agreement upon policy in the conference at which the differences became evident in May, 1940. The leadership was separated geographically and, as a result, all directives and propaganda material sent out to party organizations throughout the following twelve months were based upon the completely false theory held to by the majority of the members of the Political Bureau. A systematic exposition of the theory was published in a pamphlet entitled Towards Canadian Independence, distributed throughout the party in April, 1941.
A plenum was convened, therefore, in January, 1943, attended by nearly 100 leaders of the party. It repudiated the theory of semi-colonialism and the proposals which had flowed out of it. It reaffirmed the position that: "All the essential features of Canada's bourgeois-democratic revolution have been completed, the Canadian bourgeoisie enjoy complete and unquestioned sovereignty." It re-emphasized that Canada's national policies expressed the will of the monopolists. They have the power to modify their state relationships and they exercise that power when it suits their purpose. They did not issue a declaration of independence; on the contrary, they seek still to exploit "the British connection." What those facts reflect "is not lack of Canadian sovereignty but the unity of class interests that has dominated and still dominates the relationships between the British and Canadian imperialist bourgoisie."
The plenum characterized both the general theory that Canada's relationship to Britain was one of semi-colonial subordination and the claim that the struggle confronting French Canada is a bourgeois-democratic struggle, as right-opportunism, reflecting dangerous petty-bourgeois influences within the party. The plenum called upon the party membership to close its ranks around the class policy of national unity for victory over fascism, and to strengthen the working class for the struggles that were bound to follow.