Thirty Years – 1922-1952
The Story of the Communist Movement in Canada
ON JUNE 13, 1943, party leaders from all over Canada gathered in conference in Toronto again, this time to plan the establishment of a new party of Communists. Lieut. William Kardash, M.L.A., of Winnipeg, was elected chairman; T, C. Sims of Toronto, secretary. Following a day of intensive discussion, the conference adopted a declaration of purpose(1) of which the following excerpts are characteristic:
"Humanity has paid a terrible price in, blood and treasure,
shattered hopes and human misery, because Hitler was temporarily
successful in winning the sympathy of powerful interests in the
democratic countries and in duping governments with his fable of
the 'Spectre of Communism.'
"Today, no honest man will defend the imperialist appeasement policies of Chamberlain which helped to make Hitler master of Europe. All democratic Canadians applauded Premier King's repudiation of Munich, as Britishers applauded the similar repudiation by the Churchill government.
"History has proven that we Canadian Communists were much closer to reality on these questions than were the editors of the Toronto Telegram and Financial Post; and that we are far more correct in our fight for the real interests of the Canadian people than were many high-placed personages whose names we forbear to mention here in the interests-of national unity.
"We Communists have fought consistently for democratic unity of French and English-speaking Canada. We have upheld the right of the French-Canadian people to full national equality in all spheres of economic, social and political life, and first and foremost in labor's struggle on behalf of wage equality for Quebec. We were able to make a notable contribution to the defence of Canadian democracy by our systematic exposure of the treasonable activities of the Nazi-Fascist network operating in Quebec, by our struggle against the Duplessis Padlock Law and our consistent support of the growing democratic trends in French-Canadian life.
"We are not called upon, either by history, the laws of Canada, or the interests of our fellow-Canadians, to renounce our Communist convictions or the proud historic name to which those convictions give us the right. Canadian Communists have fought for those convictions. On the public platform, in city councils, in the trade unions and the factories, in the movements of the unemployed, on the field of battle in defence of democracy in Spain, in the plebiscite campaign, the battle for production, Communists have defended the convictions they hold dear.
"We are Communists. We have a part to play in the winning of the war and the building of Canada. We can play that part fully only if we are free to put forth and fight publicly for our proposals and policies on every question of national concern.
"...this conference constitutes itself a provisional national committee to initiate the work of drawing together the supporters of Communist policies, to prepare a draft program and constitution for their consideration, and to organize a constituent convention to establish such a party of Communists.
"Unite your forces in one powerful Dominion-wide party through which Canadian Communists shall play their full and rightful democratic role in shaping the destiny of this, our wide and rich and lovely land."
The National Constituent Convention convened in Toronto on August 21, for two days of intensive and historic sessions. In an atmosphere of inspired idealism and high enthusiasm 600 delegates established a new national party. From among numerous proposals they chose the name, "Labor-Progressive Party." It should be noted that in periods of illegality the term Labor-Progressive frequently had been the banner of Communist candidates. Shortly before the convention A. A. MacLeod and J. B. Salsberg had been elected in the Ontario provincial constituencies of Bellwoods and St. Andrew, Toronto, as Labor-Progressive candidates, and Fred Rose had been elected in the federal constituency of Cartier, Montreal.
The keynote speech delivered to the convention by Tim Buck(2) reiterated the reasons why immediate organization of the new party bad been undertaken. He pointed out that the majority of Canadians were dissatisfied with the Dominion government's conduct of the War effort, Its evasion of fundamental isues, its systematic favors to powerful corporations that were making unprecedented profits, the steadily increasing burdens upon the working people, its systematic concessions to pro-fascist elements while maintaining a rigid hard-faced attitude towards labor. "We place all our emphasis upon the supreme need to win the war," he declared, but ". . . peace will bring new problems.... It is no wonder that millions of people are asking 'What sort of world shall we build when the fighting stops?' The reply that springs to the lips of every progressive man and woman is 'It must not be the sort of world that we left behind us in 1939'."
At that time, while the British and American governments under the influence of Winston Churchill were delaying the invasion of Europe, it was already evident that hard fighting on the part of the progressive forces would be required to prevent the imperialists from restoring the sort of world that we had known in the 1930's. Tim Buck pointed out that the significance of the grand alliance headed by Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States went much further than military cooperation; it marked the possibility of a new era of history. It proved the practicability of intimate collaboration between the first socialist state and the great capitalist states. "Canada will go forward in peace and democracy to a higher life, if the unity of Britain, the United States and the U.S.S.R. is maintained... The alternative is reversion to a world struggle for colonial domination, for trade, for territorial advantage-the old imperialist struggle for power."
Tim Buck warned the delegates that "even while this convention is in progress there are signs which are cause for grave concern." He then quoted numerous examples of sabotage by the capitalist governments, including the Canadian governments, of understandings for co-ordinated action by the members of the grand alliance. Accredited diplomatic representatives of the Soviet government were being excluded from areas under Anglo-U.S. control, the heads of governments in exile were being prevented from leaving Britain to visit the Soviet Union, several of the governments in exile were protesting against the thinly disguised preparations for establishment of Anglo-U.S. military control of their countries after the war. There was indeed serious cause for concern at the signs that the imperialists were planning to scuttle cooperation between the capitalist and. socialist states at the first opportunity. As Charlie Sims was to write immediately after the convention:
"Powerful forces in Canada and the United States are already
working for such disruption. These interests, represented most definitely
by powerful investment bankers' associations are bent upon developing
a new era of imperialist supremacy and finance-capitalist exploitation.
"These are the interests which strive to counterpose a British-United States alliance to the Anglo-Soviet-American coalition. Their aim is not that of a lasting peace through collective security and freedom for all peoples, but an imperialist peace in which United States imperialism, with British imperialism as a junior partner, will dominate the world. The more blatant protagonists of this idea openly declare their aim to 'marry the wealth and power of the United States to the territory and resources of the British Empire.'
"If the aims of these interests, which would render impossible the unity of nations visualized in the Atlantic Charter, should become the objectives of foreign policy after the war, the present war will have been fought and won in vain."(3)
The theme of the combined need to strengthen the working-class movement, win higher wages and other concessions from the capitalist class while doing everything possible to ensure victory in the war and to make the war-time unity a force for continued democratic progress in the peace, was carried forward in the party program, which declared unequivocally:
"The Labor-Progressive Party has no interest apart from the
general interests of the working class, which are inseparable from the
real interests of the nation as a whole. Fighting in the front ranks of
the working class at each stage of historical development, the party
defends the immediate interests of working men and women and,
while so doing, defends their future interests.
"The Labor-Progressive Party is dedicated to the task of educating and organizing the Canadian workers, farmers and middle-class people, in the course of a consistent struggle for democracy, to the end that the majority of the Canadian people shall, by their own decision, achieve the great aim of socialism."
Pointing out that the focal issue in the problem of unity was that of relationships between the two nations, French and English-speaking Canadians, the program declared:
"It is the great movement of labor now arising in Quebec which, in alliance with all other anti-fascist forces, will give increasing political leadership to the anti-trust, anti-imperialist sentiment of the masses of the Quebec people, in the struggle for national unity and people's victory, for full realization of the democratic, national aspirations of the French Canadians."
In this connection the following should be added. The fight to build a mass party of Communists in Quebec, in the face of the Padlock Law, the vicious fascist efforts of the Duplessis government to suppress the labor movement and the anti-working-class obscurantism of the Catholic hierarchy, is a continuing problem, but the rapid growth of trade unionism and the increasing influence of Marxism-Leninism in Quebec, on the background of popular opposition to the underhand cooperation between Duplessis and St. Laurent in selling Quebec into bondage to United States imperialism, show that the workers of French Canada will build their mass Communist party. Already, the contributions of French Canada to the Communist movement have been tremendous. Some of the outstanding contributions to the struggle to organize the unorganized have been made in Quebec. The great needle trades strike, the organization Of the textile, asbestos, electrical, shoe, and other industries, have each provided outstanding examples of working-class militancy. The contributions of French Canada to the development of our party has been tremendous. From those stalwarts among the founders of the Workers' Party, Mike and Beckie Buhay, Bella Hall, Alex Gauld, etc., the party organizations in Quebec have regularly contributed talented and tested members both- to the national leadership and numerous local leaderships of our party. While fighting in the party for more energetic advocacy of the party's demand for the right to full national self-determination to the people of French Canada, the party there has made vital contributions to the building of the Communist movement all over Canada.
Describing the grand alliance as "the harbinger of a world-wide system of collective security in the spirit of the Atlantic Charter," the program warned the working class that the long-term peaceful co-existence of the socialist states and the democratic capitalist states, expressed in the continued collaboration of the peoples and governments of the U.S.A., Great Britain, the U.S.S.R. and China, was the sole hope of World peace. Emphasizing the dynamic role that the working class would have to play in realizing that objective the program declared:
"The main task now presenting itself to the Canadian labor movement is to step forward as the champion of the true interests of the people. The movement for independent labor-farmer political action, which is arising in the course of the people's war, must be strengthened and united to carry the war to final and complete victory. The perspective is now before the Canadian labor movement of so consolidating its economic and political strength in coperation with the farmers, as to elect majorities to the governments of Canada - municipal, provincial, federal - so as to establish labor-farmer governments which can lead the nation in effecting profound democratic reforms in the economy and law of Canada."
The program categorically condemned the lie that the party advocates violence as a means of political struggle. "The Labor-Progressive Party rejects conspiracy and secrecy as political methods and publicly proclaims its program and policy at all times." The program continued:
"The Labor-Progressive Party categorically denounces force and violence as a means of imposing any form of government or economic system upon the Canadian people. Monopoly, not the labor movement, is the breeder of force and violence. It is the means whereby groups of anti-social, anti-democratic monopolists seek to maintain their power after other means of intimidation and control have failed. It is the means whereby an outworn social system seeks to perpetuate itself."
The basic position of the Communists towards violence expressed in the above quotation, which is so regularly denied or misrepresented by the hired propagandists of capitalism, was emphasized by Lenin during the revolutionary crisis preceding the great Russian Revolution in 1917. Emphasizing the urgent necessity for the working class to take over state power he wrote: "In order to obtain the power of the state, the class-conscious workers must win the majority to their side. As long as no violence is used against the masses, there is no other road to power. We are not Blanquists; We are not in favor of the seizure of power by a minority."(4)
The new party declared itself at its foundation the firmest defender of the real national interests of Canada, the champion of national unity and progress for the Canadian people:
"It seeks to instil in Canadians a deep awareness of the richness of
Canada's resources, human and material, and a pride in the great
pioneering that remains to be done. It is the champion of the closest
fraternity between Canadians of all national origins. It dedicates
itself to the flowering of Canadian culture, to the unhampered and
state-aided growth of Canadian science, technique, art, literature,
culture and education, understanding that the stimulation of all
expressions of our national spirit is at the same time a contribution to
the cultural wealth of all humanity ...
"For the achievement of these high purposes and the realization of this vision of Canada's destiny, and in the closest unity and brotherhood with all democratic Canadians, the Labor-Progressive Party is established, and hereby calls on all who support the general terms of this program to enrol in its ranks."
The above citations from the program express the fundamental concepts of the founders of the L.P.P. The conviction that, eventually, through their own experiences in which the educating and organizing activities of the L.P.P. will play a vital part, the workers of Canada will, by their own decision, achieve the great aim of socialism. Reinforcing the principles of the program, the constitution and the series of resolutions adopted by the founding convention based the future work of the party unequivocally upon the tested methods of democratic, political education, mass organization and struggle. In the manifesto that the convention addressed to all democratic Canadians, the party introduced itself as follows:
"We take our part in the mighty labor-farmer movement for
independent parliamentary action now springing up as the symbol
and instrument of a greater people's wartime democracy, for sweeping
national reforms, for a happy post-war Canada and for permanent peace.
"We call on the trade unions and farm groups to build their organizations and to come forward as part of this rising movement.
"We can look to a glorious future if the rising labor and democratic movement is united. We look forward to the election of labor-farmer governments which will carry through these great reforms, and which will oppose the monopolies who hinder our country's development.
"We hail the electoral victories in Ontario, Quebec and the West as the forerunners of such governments.
"We are a party of socialism. We have undying faith in the ability of Canadians to achieve our true destiny of becoming a mighty industrial nation, affording its citizens the highest living standards in the world, living in harmony with all other peoples and possessed of strong democratic liberties and institutions.
"The Labor-Progressive Party advocates this platform as its contribution to a better Canada. It will cooperate with all Canadians to achieve these great national reforms and to institute these national policies.
"Through unity to victory for progress!"
Canadian Communists were again a legal political force throughout the nation.
(1) Canada Needs a Party of Communists, published by the National Ititiative Committee to convene a Communinist Constituent Convention, June 23, 1943, Toronto.
(2) Victory Through Unity.
(3) The Keys to Victory, by Charles Sims, p. 11.
(4) Lenin: Selected Works, Vol. 6, p. 29.