Lenin and Canada
The founding convention of the Worker’s party had rejected, demonstratively, the proposal for action which would have betrayed the essentials of Lenin’s teachings and attempts to circumvent, misrepresent, or reject them, which emerged during the years which followed the founding convention, were dealt with in the same forthright way, squarely, on the basis of Lenin’s teachings. Most serious in this respect was our failure to deal, promptly and decisively, with opportunist tendencies which came to the surface soon after. That failure was the condition in which the soil was prepared for the emergence of Trotskyite opposition and, later, an openly opportunistic attempt to mislead the party into repudiation of Lenin’s teachings.
In retrospect it is evident that our poor understanding of the importance of the struggle on the ideological front affected the level at which the party had started in the founding convention. There was no discussion in the convention of the importance of the struggle on the theoretical front, although Lenin’s emphasis upon that in The State and Revolution had been the subject of widespread comment. There was no resolution on, and therefore no discussion or, the indispensability of tireless emphasis upon the principles of Marxism and unequivocal opposition even to seemingly slight deviations from Marxism, as the necessary condition for its correct application in varying national conditions. “The Fight for the Party” was seen mainly as the fight for members. Certainly we failed to emphasize, or even give formal recognition to, the fact that the vital element in “the fight for the party” is the uninterrupted and undeviating struggle to strengthen and temper its revolutionary soul: Marxism-Leninism.
The convention had declared war on both leftism and opportunism. But we had not made any attempt to explain the reason why, particularly in the situation that prevailed in Canada, capitalism was giving rise to opportunistic tendencies continually, which permeated the petty bourgeoisie and, there from, the working class. In the main, the convention was alert only to opportunism in the trade union movement and there only that among its leaders.
In defense of the participants in our founding convention, it should be emphasized that opportunism was rampant among the bureaucracy of the trade union movement on a scale and with a brazenness that was without precedent. The struggle that had to be waged against anarcho-syndicalist confusion and illusions could not be separated from that fact.
The corrupt, bourgeosified bureaucracy of the American Federation of Labor and its affiliated “Internationals” was in full retreat before the employers’ post-war offensive and its belligerently reactionary slogan “Back to the open shop.” Their pusillanimous leadership, conditioned by cowardly class collaboration with the employers, was losing strikes all over the United States and Canada. Heavy wage-cuts were being inflicted upon workers. The Canadian Manufacturers Association was calling publicly for an over-all reduction of wages by thirty per cent. The presidents of a number of “Internationals” had reason to fear that their membership would seize upon a strike as an opportunity to “pull a Sidney Hillman,” i.e., establish a different union.
The response of the capitalist-minded autocrats who bossed the AFL and its “Internationals” was to seek peace between themselves and the employers by destroying the class character of the unions they controlled. They set about changing them fro, organizations of direct service to the employers; by integrating them with the machinery of monopoly-capitalist exploitation.
Samuel Gompers, president of the AFL, and following him his successor William Green, denounced the idea of independent working-class political action while, along with the presidents of the “Internationals,” participating actively in capitalist politics themselves, frequently using funds of the union they controlled to support the capitalist parties of which they were members.
A number of the “Internationals” offered their services to employers to help reduce their costs of production, a service for which the unions employed staffs of capitalist experts in speed-up techniques. For example, the Machinists’ Union entered into a contract with the Canadian National Railways, to cooperate with that corporation’s production experts in reducing the labor costs of production in the shops and roundhouses in which it built, repaired, or did the maintenance work on locomotives, rolling stock, and other railway equipment all over Canada. Some “Internationals” even advanced or underwrote loans to employers to finance changes in their production techniques. The price for such “cooperation” was simply that only their members or members of other “Internationals” would be employed. This put an additional weapon in the hands of the collaborating bureaucrats. It meant that opponents who were expelled from the union were, simultaneously, expelled from employment also, and from effective contact with their fellow workers.
A number of the “Internationals” established banks and insurance companies, the union presidents being the heads of these capitalist corporations also. They engaged in widely speculative schemes. One “International” union, through operations of its bank, became the owner and operator of scab coal mines and helped prevent the United Mine Workers’ Union from unionizing the miners of West Virginia. Truly did William Z. Foster brand those agents of monopoly capital within the trade unions as “Misleaders of Labor.”
Throughout that period, the Canadian party in close cooperation with the United States party led an unremitting campaign in the trade unions against the policies by which the capitalist-minded bureaucracy was seeking to emasculate them. The degree to which our campaign brought about changes in union leaderships or policies varied. In some unions, radical changes, both in the personnel of the leadership and in its policies, were brought about in a short time. In others the reactionaries were able to assert with formal truth that no changes were effected. That was the case in some unions, the members of which considered themselves to be “the aristocracy of labor.” It is noteworthy, however, that it was not true of all the unions in that category. The main point,, the decisive fact, indeed, is that the essential purpose of the campaign was achieved. The revolutionary workers returned to the unions. Under their influence thousands of radical workers who had been “sitting it out” resumed union activity. That was the vital fruit of Lenin’s guidance. It ended the domination of the left by anarcho-syndicalists illusions, and it revived organized struggle against class collaboration in the trade union movement as a whole.
Opposition to the polices if the “misleaders of labor” grew in the unions that they controlled and throughout the movement. Concurrently as the alternative to policies of class collaboration, demands for industrial unionism, independent working-class political action, unionization of the workers in the great mass production industries, gained wider and wider support. Organization was initiated in the steel, automobile, meat packing, electrical manufacturing, and agricultural machinery industries. In the face of terrific difficulties created by the open collusion of anti-union monopoly capital and the state, organization work was carried on in those industries, painfully but on a growing scale, until the dialectics of economic crisis and changing relations of forces in capitalist politics in the United States opened the way for the emergence of the “Committee For Industrial Organization” and the movement as a whole surged ahead.
During the period in which the Communist Party of Canada was developing rather exuberant pride in the Leninist role that it was playing in the trade union movement, some anti-Leninist tendencies were developing within the party itself. Those tendencies should have caused serious concern. The fact that they were not recognized immediately as evidence of dangerous infection was due to the same weakness in our grasp of Marxism which had allowed the founding convention to limit its fight against opportunist tendencies only as they became open opposition; as though each one was an entirely separate, fortuitous phenomenon.
The demands of space forbid detailed description of the multitude of forms in which opportunism expressed itself in the course of the struggle to overcome and, eventually, to eliminate anarcho-syndicalism from the working-class movement in Canada. We must limit ourselves to those which, revealing themselves at first as fortuitous, isolated moods, became distinct trends in the party.
The opportunist tendency which emerged first and became widespread in the party seemed to derive directly from our excessive preoccupation with the struggle in the trade union movement. Its most general expression was the argument that the working class could achieve socialism through the trade unions alone. The role of the party, said the advocates of this trend, should be mainly educational, while helping the unions to become numerically strong enough to take over control of the industries, elect a majority to parliament, and to determine national policies. Such was the general form of that trend. What ,ay be described as secondary proposals, which varied according to local conditions, included some that were, objectively, anti-party. Some of the victims of that trend advocated complete trade union orthodoxy, even to the point of opposing party initiative to campaigns to unionize workers in unorganized industries because, they pleaded, organization required that new unions be established and the trade union bureaucracy would charge the party with “dual unionism.”
Another deviation from Lenin which, at first, found expression only in isolated cases but became a definite trend, was resistance to the nomination of Communist Party candidates in elections, on the ground that the party’s parliamentary activities would be more effective if they were concentrated upon support of candidates nominated by various labor parties. It must be noted that the “labor parties” referred to were the local organizations which operated in almost every urban community in Canada at that time as the sole reformist opposition to the Communist Party.
In addition to the two forms indicated above, opportunism expressed itself in the form of petty-bourgeois revolutionism and nostalgic arguments in favor of smuggling the essence of social-democratic federalism into the party in the disguise of “improving its structure.”
At first the opportunistic proposals were couched un terms of party advantage. As it became a trend, however, the emphasis changed from pretenses that the party’s leadership of the working class would be strengthened, to criticism of the party. “The party is a sect!” became a common assertations, even in party meetings. The reasons advanced for advocating unconditional support to candidates nominated by local labor parties because “We are all traveling the same way” and, tentatively but increasingly, “Should our fight not be against the capitalist class and its parties, and not against those who also want a better life?” In one or two localities the correctness of the party’s United Front proposal was questioned openly on the ground that: “It makes acceptance of positions dictated by the Communist Party a condition of our cooperation.”
As Lenin pointed out, such departures from Marxism “cannot be attributed to accident, or to mistakes of individuals or groups, or even to the influence of national characteristics and traditions, and so forth. There must be deep-rooted causes in the economic system and in the character of development of all capitalist countries which constantly give rise to those departures.” (Vol. 16, p. 347)
That was abundantly true of the upsurge of opportunism in the labor movement in Canada during the second half of the decade of the 1920’s. Capitalist economy had recovered from its post-war economic crisis. The effect of the decline in the scale of new capital investments from Britain was being more than counter-balanced by the rapid growth of investment capital form the United States particularly because a very much larger proportion of the latter was being used to develop new industries which employed labor. The country’s economy was expanding rapidly. The vicious wage-cutting campaign carried through by the employers had reduced wage levels drastically but it had tapered off by the middle of the decade. Immigration had grown again to mass proportions. The majority of all new immigrants were coming from Britain. Tens of thousands of them had been members of unions affiliated to the British Labor Party. In Canada they contributed to the growth of local labor parties which increased during that period. Canadian exports were increasing, the price level was rising, the signals of a redeveloping capitalist economic boom were becoming evident. The relation of class political forces was exactly as Lenin described the prevailing relation in capitalist countries and the stage of development which characterized Canada at that time, in his Preface to the Sorge correspondence.
In these countries ” where bourgeois-democratic historical tasks were almost entirely non-existent ” the political arena was completely held by a triumphant and self-satisfied bourgeoisie, unequaled anywhere in the world in the art of deceiving, corrupting and bribing the workers. (Vol. 12, p. 373)
The vagaries of capitalist politics in that decade were impelling the outstanding representatives of the “triumphant and self-satisfied bourgeoisie,” the Liberal Prime Minister W. L. Mackenzie King, to affect an attitude of mild sympathy for the idea of bourgeois social reforms and even of “kindly tolerance” toward the efforts at working-class political action.
In such an environment, with the very high degree of mobility which prevailed among the workers and the fluid relations between the petty bourgeoisie, urban and rural, and the working class, opportunistic tendencies sprang up like weeds. Poisonous ideological pollution seeped into the party continuously. It must be admitted, self-critically, that our failure to wage an unceasing ideological struggle led to a situation in which our party was intensely active in several fields of public work but, ideologically, resembled a neglected garden.
Simultaneously, and seemingly in opposition to the trend referred to above, there emerged another. The adherents of this second distinct trend struck a revolutionary pose and some of them were leftists temperamentally. But the essential political character of this trend was that of a reversion to sectarian passivity. Against the opportunistic proposal that the party should concentrate its electoral activities upon support of candidates nominated by local labor parties, t“the Leftists,” as they styled themselves, proposed that the party should stop supporting demands for reforms and candidates who advocated reforms and limit its participation in election campaigns to the use of them solely for political exposures.
Adherents of this trend revived some of the arguments which, earlier, had been part of the political stock-in-trade of the Socialist Party of Canada. They misrepresented the Marxist thesis that the replacement of capitalism by socialism is inevitable as meaning the inevitability of the collapse of capitalism. Because of that, they claimed the Communist Party should cease to involve itself in struggles for partial demands and discussions about tactics. In effect, they denied the necessity for the development of conscious revolutionary working-class struggle.
In passing, it is worthwhile to note that several of the main representatives of this trend , including most prominent spokesman Malcolm Bruce, member of the Political Bureau, had been identified with the same attitude in the Socialist Party of Canada. They had left the SPC and joined the Communist Party (some of them, e.g., Bruce, had read all of Lenin’s works that had been published in the English language up to that date) but they had not changed.
Through the first six years following the founding of the Communist Party of Canada in June 1921, political immaturity, which included a generally low level of theoretical understanding, was the common denominator of the ideological level of those of us who opposed both right opportunism and the self-styled “Leftism” no less that it was if these whose attitudes we opposed. Had more of Lenin’s critical works been published in the English language at that time we might have understood our problem better. As it was our essentially correct opposition to both trends took the form struggles between individuals, usually on the basis of a purely local expression of one or other deviation, as though each one of us had created his or her political preferences in a vacuum. Because many of those influenced were members of the party who were playing an active role in their trade unions, these local conflicts were adversely affecting the role of the party in the trade union movement.
The first elementary recognition of the nature of the elements of division that were developing in our party and of the necessity for dynamic political action to overcome them, came as a by-product of the great tragedy that befell all mankind ion the 21st of January 1924. The loss of Lenin affected the members of the Communist Party of Canada profoundly. It affected the working class as a whole, all democratic Canadians mourned the loss, but to Communists it was a particularly heavy blow. Our reaction, as the party members recovered from the first shock, was to rally our forces in renewed and deepened dedication to the ideal and aim that Lenin had personified.
The writer toured the country during March and April addressing Lenin Memorial Meetings. We held public memorials everywhere that it was possible. We held special membership meetings everywhere there was party organization. One of the highest tributes paid to Lenin during that period was the way that the public memorial meetings became marked by the enlistment of hundreds of workers in “The Canadian Party of Lenin.” In the special meetings of party members our attempt to describe the meaning of our incomparable leader’s life and work to Canadian proletariat was met by an outpouring of demands for party unity in re-dedication to “Lenin’s way.” In those discussions there developed, spontaneously at first, the elements of a frank party discussion of the differences that were becoming distinct in almost all the local organizations. There emerged also a realization that the source of our problems were not primarily in ill-deposed, unstable, confused, or otherwise unreliable individuals, although there were such. The primary source of our problems had to be sought in the national leadership of the party. We had failed and were failing to “raise the sights” of the membership by combining timely political initiatives with consistent ideological work which helped our members to grasp, firmly, the relationship of our contemporary activities to the struggle for the fundamental principles of Marxism.
At the first meeting of the Political Bureau following the tour, I proposed that the Central Committee carry through a party-wide educational campaign on the dangers of both opportunist and leftist deviations and call upon the members in every locality to take up the ideological struggle against them. To the amazement of others, in addition to myself, that the proposal was opposed by the General Secretary of the party, J. MacDonald. He argued, with a vehemence that was quite unusual with him, that it was a proposal “to make a mountain out of a molehill” and that “instead of behaving as though we have all the answers to every problem, we should be a bit modest and listen and learn from others, whose devotion to the socialist ideal may be no less sincere than our own.”
To the dismay of those comrades who were in favor of action to counteract the development of a “free-for-all” in the party, . Spector, the National Chairman and editor of our central organ The Worker, joined immediately with MacDonald in denouncing the proposal for an educational campaign. It should be explained that Spector always fostered the idea that he stood considerably to the left of MacDonald and that, against what he himself criticized as “MacDonald’s vulgar pragmatism” he, Spector, stood for steering the party by the compass of Marxism. It was a fact that, within the federated Canadian Labor Party to which our party was affiliated, Spector worked energetically to emphasize the distinctive character of the communist Party and the role that we were seeking to play in the building of an all-inclusive federated labor party. But, opposing the proposal for a party educational campaign to combat opportunist tendencies, he denounced it as “an attempt to want to think for themselves.” In the course of an emotional speech he characterized the proposal further “as an attempt to force a political straitjacket on our membership” and declared “the path to socialism has not yet been defined in practice anywhere, and that includes Soviet Russia.” The proposal was rejected by six votes to three.
It was not known, at that time, that Spector had established intimate relations with Trotskyites during the months that he had spent in Germany in 1923 “to study the mass revolutionary word of the German Party.” Even so, without that knowledge, the repudiation of Lenin that was implicit in his words should have impelled us to make an issue of them and bring it out before the party membership. Another, and in some respects even more serious failure, was our failure to recognize that the General Secretary of the party and its National Chairman, who was also editor of its central organ, had united in, objectively, denying the indispensability of Marxism as developed by Lenin as the sole scientific guide for the party in the struggle for socialism. Our political naivete on that occasion cost our party dearly during the years that followed. But life forced us into action. In spite of our own inadequacies, Lenin showed us the way to save our party.
Ideological passivity left the members of the Canadian party unarmed and, thereby, created favorable soil for poisonous seeds of Trotskyism. The seeds were able to strike root, however, solely because those members who sensed danger and tried to fight it, were not equipped adequately with knowledge of Lenin’s long struggle against Trotsly’s deviations, his political adventurism, his attempts to form oppositions, or to assist opposition “from the wings.”
We knew very little about the lessons to be learned from the long struggle between the various trends among the Marxists of Russia from 1900 right through to the eve of the Great October Revolution. We were quite ignorant of the role that Trotsky had played in that struggle. Lenin’s devastating criticism of Trotsky’s role in his article “Disruption of Unity Under Cover of Outcries For Unity” had not yet been translated into English. We had no knowledge whatever of the fact that, in the five years from 1903 to 1907 Trotsky adopted six different political positions, all except the first one being in opposition to Lenin. As Lenin pointed out, Trotsky’s idea of not being factional was ␄to flit freely from one group to another.” (Vol. 20, p. 331) We had no inkling of the fact that, in criticizing Trotsky’s actions at various times during that struggle, Lenin had condemned them as “Philistine conciliation” (Vol. 16, p. 211) “subtile perfidy,” (Vol. 16, p. 390) and had characterized Trotsky as “Judas” and as “a diplomat of the smallest calibre.” (Vol. 17. pp. 45 and 362) We would have been shocked into embarrassment at our own ignorance if we had discovered, suddenly, that as recently as 1914 Lenin had written that:
Trotsky, however, has never had any “physiognomy” at all; the only thing he does have is a habit of changing sides, of skipping from the Liberals to the Marxists and back again, of mouthing scraps of catchwords and bombastic parrot phrases. (Vol. 20 , p 160)
In July 1915, criticizing what Trotsky had written in opposition to recognition of the relationship between the defeat of one’s own government in an imperialist war and the struggle for the socialist revolution, Lenin wrote: “This is an instance of high-flown phraseology with which Trotsky always justifies opportunism.” (Vol. 21, p. 275)
Our knowledge of Trotsky’s political relations with Lenin was limited to events that had occurred since the Great October Revolution. Even concerning them our knowledge was incomplete and it was lopsided. Trotsky’s name had become familiar as a result of the Canadian government taking him off a ship on which he had sailed from New York to return to Russia, and holding him for some time at the request of the British government. When he was released and allowed to proceed on another ship there was a second flurry of publicity caused mainly by the fact that reactionary bellicose newspapers protested against it.(14) The same newspapers had exaggerated his role in the revolution and the civil war only to change their estimation of him after Lenin died, at first sign that he might become a disruptive element in the leadership of the Bolshevik Party.
Until Lenin died members of the Communist Party along with all radical workers believed much of what the capitalist newspapers published about Trotsky, including some which we should have recognized as the product of journalists’ imagination. Even the news that Lenin had intervened to save the trade unions from the dangerous, ill-considered policy that Trotsky was trying to impose upon them was received in the spirit of “imagine, even Trotsky can be wrong.” There were many who were not ready at first to agree that he was wrong. Until after Lenin died the carefully calculated myth that the Bolsheviks were “the Party of Lenin and Trotsky,” the product of their 20 years of collaboration, and that Trotsky had been the actual organizer of the revolution. Lenin “only its theoretician,” was accepted quite widely and conditioned the thinking of Canadian revolutionaries. It is necessary to emphasize these facts because, otherwise, the influence of insidious Trotskyite opposition within the Communist Party of Canada and its growth over a period of several years in the disguise of “freedom of criticism” would be inexplicable.
Because of the manner in which the Trotskyite virus was spread in the Canadian party, and because that was also the reason why it failed to establish a viable organization when it was exposed and compelled to identify itself with the realities of Trotsky’s opposition to the Soviet Union, to the building of socialism and to the world communist movement, it was necessary also to indicate the political character of the would-be organizer and leader of Trotskyism in Canada in the 1920s. M. Spector, the son of a small shopkeeper, was in all respects a twentieth century Canadian representative of the Proudhonists of a century ago, described by Marx and Lenin as follows:
...“brilliant” young bourgeois intellectuals who dash “into the thick of the proletarit” at times of social upheaval, and are incapable of acquiring the standpoint of the working class or of carrying on persistent and serious work among the “rank and file” of proletarian organizations. (Vol. 12, p. 105)
Fired with enthusiasm by the Great October Revolution, the Winnipeg Strike, the continuing signs of social upheaval in Canada, and his discovery pf Marxist literature, M. Spector abandoned his studies in 1921. He left Toronto University where he had been taking law, and became a full-time party functionary. From the first minute of his association with the movement, his romantic and quite uncritical attachment to Trotsky was unconcealed.
He withdrew from full-time party work in the spring of 1923 and returned to the university with the avowed intention of “going into law.” He abandoned his studies again shortly afterward when an ardent admirer of Lenin and supporter of the Canadian party offered to pay his expenses for an extended visit to Germany where, at that time, we all believed a revolutionary crisis was maturing. He went, supposedly, to study the mass revolutionary work of the German party. In fact, as he made known later, he spent his time with the Trotskyites, staying in the home of one of the most committed of them. When the expected revolution failed to materialize he proceeded to Moscow where, secretly, he completed his integration with the Trotskyites. Returning to Canada early in 1924 he resumed his activities as a full-time party functionary and, after a relatively short time, became editor of The Worker again.
A change had taken place in Spector’s attitude which the General Secretary recognized as “a change for the better.” In the past he had flaunted his uncritical admiration of Trotsky and everything related to him as though it was a banner. The sharp altercation that had been provoked by his brash adulation, such as referring to Trotsky as “the sword of the Revolution,” had usually been pacified by the General Secretary’s argument that “we can’t deny a comrade the right to romanticize a bit about a great revolutionary figure.” But after Spector’s return from Germany and Moscow he was very circumspect. For example, in the discussion of the proposal for a party educational campaign he did not betray any Trotskyite sentiment. Similarly with The Worker he resumed editorship. In relation to all the burning issues that were being discussed in the Soviet Union and throughout the world communist movement, The Worker became like Trotsky’s paper had been in 1914 when Lenin had written “In Borba you will not find a simple live word on any controversial issue.” (Vol. 20, p. 160) Lenin then named six issues that were the subjects of sharp controversy in the party and around it at home and abroad at that time, noting that none of them was mentioned in Trotsky’s journal. Lenin’s conclusion was that Trotsky’s political work was to be recognized by his refusal to take a stand on those controversial issues.
When he resumed editorship of The Worker in 1924 M. Spector adopted the same practice. He paid lip service to the achievements of the Soviet people led by their historic party, by publishing, occasionally, some official publicity issued by the Soviet government. At no time did he refer in The Worker to the conflict of opinion between Trotsky and the majority of the members of the Central Committee. Indeed, there was no public reaction to that conflict either in The Worker or by the General Secretary pf the party. There was no official recognition of the fact that an intense political conflict was being fought out in the Soviet Union and on a world scale, the outcome of which would affect the struggle for socialism crucially and for many years to come.
During that period Spector developed a practice of delivering public lectures on books. The lectures were popular and he traveled considerably in connection with them. His favorite was Trotsky’s Literature and Revolution, about which he went into raptures. There were rumors from time to time to the effect that in addition to his public lectures on books he was meeting with various groups of non-party people and that the subject in such meetings was Trotsky, his permanent revolution theory, his writings, his transcending superiority over all the other leaders of the Russian party, and so on. Spector denied categorically that he was associated in any way with any political organization other than the Communist Party and the Canadian Labor Party to which we were affiliated. The majority of the members of the Political Bureau objected to what the General Secretary declared would be “unjustified prying into a comrade’s personal life,” and nothing was done.
For the five months of February through June in 1925 the present writer led an organization campaign in the province of Alberta. At the beginning of April, I received a letter from the General Secretary, Comrade MacDonald. He explained that William Moriary, who was representing the party at the plenum of the ECCI, had cabled from Moscow asking for instructions on how to vote on the question of whether Trotskyism was an anti-Leninist current, harmful to the cause of socialism. MacDonald asked me to express my opinion by telegraph immediately. I replied as follows: In the conflict between Trotsky and the majority of the members of the Central Committee of the Soviet Party, Trotsky’s position is palpably contrary to the path that Lenin had indicated and the efforts of his supporters to organize international support for his wrong position is definitely harmful to the cause of socialism. Register my vote accordingly. I must protest against lack of information.
The above text is not in quotation marks because the telegram iis in the archives of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and not available to me. The text is correct, however, probably exact, word for word.
I did not receive any reply from the General Secretary and there was no reference to the matter in The Worker. At that time members of the Political Bureau were not supplied with copies of the minutes of meetings. In the heat of our struggle to establish firmly “The Mine Workers’ Union of Canada” I assumed that the members of the Political Bureau had decided to take action on Moriarty’s request.
I was amazed to learn, shortly after my return to Toronto in July, that a cable had been sent. It had been more that a simple instruction to him how to vote. It stated that “The Executive Committee is not convinced” that the Comintern was confronted by a system of views constituting Trotskyism. “Notwithstanding Trotsky’s mistakes prior to 1917 and during the Revolution, we are convinced that the implications of the ‘permanent revolution’ theory attributed to him are actually entertained by Trotsky and that he contemplates revision of Leninism.” In addition the cablegram gratuitously rebuked the Comintern for “the anti-Trotsky attack.” It concluded with a statement that there had been no request “for discussion in the party press.” That was an example of what Lenin once described as “the subtle perfidy” of Trotsky’s technique. It was not true of the issue in general and concerning the debate in the Plenum of which the cablegram was a part. The Worker had not told its readers anything. The truth was not that there were no demands for discussion. It was that there was very active discussion among the members. If the truth had been told in the cablegram it would have said, “We are doing our best to stifle discussion.”
An attempt by myself and M. Bruce to have the question re-opened in the next meeting of the Political Bureau was defeated by seven votes to two. The seven declared unanimously that we were misrepresenting the meaning of their cablegram. They insisted that its sole purpose and political meaning was “to establish beyond any possibility of doubt the fact that the Canadian party was not to be drawn into a struggle for power in the Executive Committee of the Comintern.” So spoke Spector, The General Secretary and Mrs. Custance, a very highly respected comrade who made no secret of her impatience at what she termed “everlasting quibbles about theories,” spoke in the same vein. The other members demanded that “the vote be taken.”
Our attempt to re-open the question in the Political Bureau was defeated but in ensured that the sending of the cablegram would be reported to the 4th National Convention of the party at the beginning of September. In reporting it to the convention MacDonald repeated and elaborated upon Spector’s specious argument about “the sole purpose and political meaning” of their action. He emphasized the fact that the seven members who had been present had voted unanimously. Bruce, who had been in Nova Scotia, had failed to reply. “Comrade Buck had replied. His telegram was anti-Trotsky but he said he did not know anything about the actual question under discussion.” And MacDonald read the final sentence of my telegram complaining about lack of information from him. By that unscrupulous trick he made the ensuing argument about what that final sentence of my telegram meant overshadow the issue of the pro-Trotsky cablegram.
The debate on MacDonald’s report and the vote which followed it revealed for the first time the alarming extent to which the negative questioning and sniping at the policies of the Soviet Union, which at that time were the main public expressions of Trotskyism in Canada, had merged with the opportunist trend in the party. It marked the extension of the unacknowledged alliance between MacDonald and Spector to a party-wide scale. Not one speaker defended Trotskyism as such. Most speakers took their cue from MacDonald and argued that the most important thing was to make it clear that our party was independent and was not going to be drawn into “struggles for power” in other parties or in the Comintern. A few speakers pointed out that the cablegram sent by the Political Bureau had involved the Canadian party, very definitely, in the struggle over policy in the Comintern and had placed the Canadian party squarely in Trotsky’s camp. We pointed out that, to endorse the sending of that cablegram would mean, in effect, to reject the resolution addressed to our party by the ECCI. Not one of our arguments was answered. The leading defenders of the cablegram did not even refer to the fact that that we had spoken. Our motion that the question of the cablegram should be taken out of the main report and voted on separately was rejected by an overwhelming majority. MacDonald’s report was adopted with only seven delegates voting against it.
After the 4th National Convention the influence of those who campaigned for public party discussion of the conflict between Trotskyism and Leninism strengthened somewhat, in spite of the fact that the convention had rejected our position. Only one of us, namely, the present writer, remained on the Political Bureau. M. Bruce was not re-elected to the Central Committee. He moved from Toronto to the Pacific Coast and returned to work at his craft of carpentry, part of the time in the United States. Immediately after the convention, however, he continued to speak out on the issue. Beckie Buhay and Annie Buller, nationally known and popular party women, also spoke out strongly on that question. We were supported actively by the leadership of the Young Communist League and by a number of rank-and-file activists, typified by W. (Bill) Bennett on the Pacific Coast and Tom McEwen who, at that time, was still working at his craft of blacksmithing in Saskatoon, John Boychuk and others in Toronto.
Powerful support for our position was implicit in the resolution adopted by the commission set up by the ECCI to study the work of the Canadian party while Moriarty was in Moscow. The resolution criticized the ideological passivity of the party leadership and the resulting “ideological confusion” in the party. It expressed the opinion that the leadership of the Canadian party did not understand the international importance or the Trotsky discussion to the Soviet party and to the entire International. It noted that the party leadership had prevented the publication of discussion articles in the Canadian party press. That section of the resolution concluded with the following appeal:
...we urge the Central Committee of the C.P. of Canada to publish in the party press the decisions of the Communist International and also explanatory articles on the question of Trotskyism versus Leninism, and to explain to all party members the Comintern’s attitude to this question by organizing discussions on it in the party organizations. (Resolution of the Canadian Commission, Fifth Plenum of the ECCI, Moscow, 1925)
The forthright criticism in that resolution and its comradely appeal to the Central Committee should have brought about a public discussion in the party regardless of anything that the majority of the leadership could do. It did not have that effect, however. MacDonald cushioned its impact by sending a mimeographed copy to every party organization, simply as part of a mass of mimeographed material in preparation for the forthcoming 4th National Convention. There was never a party discussion of that resolution. In spite of its urgent appeal, MacDonald and Spector, supported by the majority, continued to suppress discussion, refusing to reply to our arguments or to engage in debate in any way. The length to which that tactic, which we mistakenly ridiculed as “hiding their heads in the sand,” was carried is illustrated by the following.
The writer addressed a public meeting organized by the Young Communist League in Alhambra Hall, Toronto. In the question period a member of the audience asked the speaker to comment on a statement made by M. Spector, “in answer to a question in this same hall two weeks ago.” The questioner described Spector’s statement as having been to the effect that “The Marxist Law of Labor Productivity excludes the possibility of establishing large-scale socialist industry in a predominantly peasant country such as Soviet Russia is at present.”
In addition to being a gross distortion of Marxism, the statement attributed to Spector was a rare case of self-exposure to counter-attack. Taking advantage of that, this writer “let go with both barrels.” I pointed out that “such a statement is in effect a denial of both the historic achievements of the Soviet people and of the revolutionary character of their state. And, furthermore, to use the principle of the law of labor productivity so mechanically is contrary to Marxism. Indeed, for an informed Marxist to do that would be outright dishonesty.”
I had no idea then that Spector had been repeating an argument used by Trotsky. It illustrates how poorly informed we were. At that time it would have shocked me to learn that Trotsky was capable of such a crass failure to grasp the revolutionary-dialectic of Marxism. Not being aware that Spector’s reply to a question had linked him directly with Trotsky, I used the most provocative language that I could in the hope of forcing him to reply.
The hall was full. A good proportion of the audience were youthful supporters or admirers of Spector. Several of them protested against what they characterized as “a planned public attempt to impugn Comrade Spector’s authority as a Marxist.” They demanded that he be given an opportunity to reply at an early date. The writer and the leading comrades of the Young Communist League were jubilant. “This,” we assured each other, “will surely start a public debate.”
It did not start a debate. Spector refused to deal with the incident in The Worker on the ground that “ that “the central organ of the party must not get bogged down in local wrangles and speculation. It must concentrate upon Canadian problems.” The majority of the members of the Political Bureau supported him.
The conflict over policy in the Soviet Union and the Comintern did get into The Worker, however, immediately after that. Spector had arranged before the 4th Party Convention to spend some time in the Maritime provinces lecturing on Canadian politics and on books, including a new one by Trotsky elaborating his viewpoint on“The Coming Revolution in Britain.” For reasons over which none of us had any control, I became acting editor of The Worker during his absence. I dealt with the issue immediately, probably not as skillfully as it could have been dealt with but forthrightly so as to make the change of attitude evident to the readers. MacDonald, who questioned the propriety of what I did at first, quickly recognized the significance of the response from the readers. Whether because of that or because neither he nor Spector had any stomach for it, I was elected to lead a party delegation to the 7th Plenum of the ECCI s few days after Spector returned from Nova Scotia.
The other member of our delegation was Comrade Matthew Popovich, an outstanding leader of the revolutionary “Ukrainian Labor-Farmer Temple Association.” We arrive in Moscow at the end of November.
For the Communist Party of Canada, the 7th Plenum of the ECCI was a decisive turning point. From acquiescence in a process of systematic smuggling of sympathy for Trotskyism into the party in the disguise of bourgeois liberalism, the majority of the members turned, in a very short period, to active opposition to Trotskyism. That turn illustrated vividly the great political value of international conferences. The manner in which it was brought about, however, illustrates the political immaturity of our party at that time which made it possible for anti-Leninist opportunism to persist.
In its 7th Plenum the Executive Committee of the Communist International elaborated, definitively, its position on the bitterly-contested question of whether the Soviet people could build socialism in their country, standing alone as it did at that time, surrounded by the hostile forces of world imperialism and its satellite capitalist states.
My own understanding of the debate on that question was enriched immeasurably by participation in that Plenum, including the days we were in Moscow before it opened. One of the first to contact the Canadian delegation after our arrival was our mutual friend, Comrade Carl Jansen, “Charlie,” as Popovich and I, and hundreds of members of our party knew him, had continued to have a very warm interest in the Canadian party and was perturbed by the silence of The Worker on the crucial issues being debated in the International. We described the situation and asked for his help.
Comrade Popovich had been instructed by the Central Committee of the ULFTA to make arrangements with some delegations in connection with literature in the Ukrainian language. His only assurance of being able to do that was to contact those delegations and make arrangements before the Plenum opened. We agreed that he should attend to that alone and I should collect information for the use of our delegation in the Plenum.
Comrade Jansen and I spent the first two days after my arrival in the library at the Comintern building. From Lenin’s works, copies of Pravda and Izvestia, and mimeographed materials, “Charlie” gave me running translations of Lenin’s writings on questions that I asked. I scribbled a stenographer’s notebook full. Among them were the writings which cleared up, completely, my confusion about the political relationship between Lenin and Trotsky, particularly through the years before the Great October Revolution. They showed clearly that Trotsky’s current opposition to the path which clearly followed the main line of Lenin’s precepts was not accidental, but was consistent with the entire record of Trotsky’s deviations.
It is difficult now to recapture the elation, the sense of discovery, that was inspired by learning that Lenin had written so definitely about the essentials of the problems that were then the subjects of intense debate. I remember vividly the challenging tone in which I said to Comrade Jansen, “Why was this not published in English before this?”, when he translated the following, from Lenin’s “Report to the Ninth All-Russia Congress of Soviets”
...there are now two worlds: the old world of capitalism, that is in a state of confusion but which will never surrender voluntarily, and the rising new world which is still very weak, but which will grow for it is invincible. (Vol. 33, p. 150)
Even today the unshakable confidence in the Soviet workers, their historic party and their revolution, expressed in those words, are an inspiration to all revolutionary workers. To me, in 1926, Lenin’s words were an assurance that socialism would triumph in the Soviet Union. The excerpts that I learned of during those sessions of running translations convinced me, even before the Plenum opened, that Lenin would have been on the side of those who were saying “Yes, we can build socialism in the Soviet Union, and we will.”
I learned that he had written in 1915, in his article “On the Slogan for a United States of Europe” that: “Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence the victory of socialism is possible first in several or even in one capitalist country.” (Vol. 21, p. 342) I knew that it would contradict the care with which Lenin expressed himself to suggest that those words referred only to the socialist revolution. Even if I had made such a mistake I would have been corrected by the statement in April 1921, in his pamphlet on “The Tax in Kind”: “The correct policy of the proletariat exercising its dictatorship of the proletariat in a small-peasant country is to obtain grain in exchange for the manufactured goods that the peasant needs. That is the only kind of food policy that corresponds to the tasks of the proletariat and can strengthen the foundations of socialism and lead to its complete victory.” (Vol. 32, p.343) And, as though to explain the fact that he was referring to the building of socialism, the point made towards the end of his pamphlet: “Is an immediate transition to socialism from the state of affairs predominating in Russia conceivable? Yes, it is, to a certain degree, but on one condition, the precise nature of which we now know thanks to a great place of scientific work that has been completed.” (Vol. 32, p. 350) The “great piece of scientific work” that Lenin referred to was the GOELRO plan explained in his article “An Integrated Economic Plan” in February 1921, in which he remarked that: “The conceited ignoramus is betrayed by his jibes at the Øfantastic’ plan.” (Vol. 32, p. 141)
These are only examples of the contributions made to my understanding of Lenin’s attitude to the question of building socialism in the Soviet Union. Others, such as his article: “Re the Monopoly of Foreign Trade” (Vol. 33, p. 455) in criticism of the “learned gentlemen” who argue that “the objective premises for socialism do not exist in our country” (Vol. 33, p. 477) published in Pravda in May 1923 showed clearly that Lenin fought for that point of view to the end.
In the Plenum there were differences in some delegations, reflecting differences in the world movement. Among the delegates from English-speaking parties there were some who, in marked contrast to M. Spector and his fellow crypto-Trotskyites in Canada, made no secret of their confidence that Trotsky would “sweep the Plenum off its feet.” What I had learned about Lenin’s attitude to the question of building socialism made me even more confident of the opposite. The result of the debate justified my confidence.
The Report of the Executive Committee was exhaustive and convincing. Many of the contributions to the debate were powerful. But the crucial feature of the Plenum was the debate within the debate, in which Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev argued the case for the opposition and Stalin for the majority of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The three speeches for the opposition were, indeed, a serious attempt to ᰴwin the Plenum.” Each one of these three spoke for an hour and a half and their speeches were articulated so as to get the advantage of three distinct approaches and three different styles of speaking in one prepared “case for the opposition,” against the course decided upon by the CPSU, and particularly against the idea that socialism could be built in the Soviet Union.
For this writer, their arguments were not convincing, either separately or as a joint presentation. They claimed vehemently that it was impossible to build socialism in a backward peasant country, which the Soviet Union was, at that time, as regards the technical level of the economy. But vehemence and their quotations were not enough. Their arguments suffered from a decisive weakness in that they were trying to use Marxism against revolutionary change. Their conception of the struggle for the triumph of socialism on a world scale contradicted the vital modification that Lenin had introduced in the Marxist law of socialist revolution, corresponding with the changed conditions of the imperialist epoch. In addition to the fact that they tried to defend some untenable theoretical postulates, the effect of their argumentation in general was weakened by the evident fact that much of it was based upon wishful thinking instead of objective reality.
The forthright speech by Stalin for the CC of the CPSU was in striking contrast to the speeches by Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev. Instead of flights of oratory and rhetorical “reaching for the stars,” he explained why it was possible to build socialism in the Soviet Union, precisely because of the changes to meet which Lenin had formulated his historic modification of the law of socialist revolution. He agreed that the problems presented by the task were such as no people had ever solved before. He agreed also that the hostile forces of imperialism would strain every nerve to prevent the Soviet people from completing their task. But, whereas the position of the other three was that those were among the reasons why it should not be attempted, Stalin’s position was that those were the reasons why that stupendous task had to be undertaken, and accomplished, by the Soviet people in the historically brief breathing spell that they had won. Against their argument that it was impossible, his position was that it was the imperative next task in spite of all tremendous problems involved, and that there was no Marxist alternative. While this was the essential thesis of his speech, he did reply to their argument that “it can’t be done,” by explaining that it could be done and showing concretely how.
To this delegate the position that the Communist Party of Canada should take was clear. Furthermore, it was clear also that what was needed in Canada was the challenge of an unequivocal public statement rejecting the position of the opposition bloc and dedicating our party to all-out support of the political line of the CPSU, including of course the building of socialism in the Soviet Union. I wrote a speech based upon those convictions. Popovich, my fellow delegate, had been chosen to accompany me “because,” MacDonald said when nominating him, “Comrade Popovich will be a moderating influence.” But Pop, as we called him, agreed with me and I delivered the speech at the Plenum. We knew that if would be public knowledge before we got back to Canada, even if the editor of The Worker refused to report it. Now “the shoe was on the other foot.” The Political Bureau and The Worker, we thought, will have to either accept of reject the line to which we have committed our Party.
Upon our return to Canada, I reported to the Political Bureau on the work of the delegation. It had included a number of other activities in addition to participation in the 7th Plenum of the Comintern, but that was the central point of interest. With Popovich’s agreement, I hinged our report as a whole to that. I dealt fully with the controversy in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the obstructionist role that the Trotskyite opposition had chosen to play, its evolution, or denigration, into an opposition bloc, the significance of the struggle to every communist party in the world and, because of that, the impossibility of the leadership of any communist party, including our own, escaping responsibility for the political character of its guidance or lack of guidance to the party that it heads.
I dealt fully with the developments in the Soviet Union, the level of its economy and the necessity to decide, firmly, upon the path to be pursued in the next stage of development. I explained the policy supported by the Central Committee of the CPSU, the reasons why that policy was correct and why no other policy could be correct in the given circumstances. Contrasting the line of the opposition bloc to the incontrovertible evidence of the direction of Lenin’s thinking on the very same sort of problems I said: “Comrades, as the elected leaders of the Communist Party of Canada, we have to decide whether we are on Lenin’s side in this struggle or if we are against him!”
The Chairman, M. Spector, stopped me and demanded that I withdraw that statement. “It was,” he declared, “a brazen attempt to intimidate the members of the Political Bureau; a Stalinist trick which expressed only the opinion of the delegation. The work of the delegation is yet to be judged by this committee and its judgment will decide who will be permitted to speak for Lenin. I demand that the statement be withdrawn.” By his excited intervention, the chairman almost did succeed in creating a diversion and changing the tone of that vitally important meeting. But, for reasons that were known only to himself, the Secretary General, MacDonald, failed to support Spector as he usually did. He suggested that the committee should “hear Comrade Buck out.”
It was the first time in the history of the Canadian party that the issues, their background, and the probable consequences of the adoption of one or the other political line were explained fully and in unequivocal terms. The result, after an intensive discussion, was that the Political Bureau adopted a resolution solidarizing the Canadian party with all the decisions of the 7th Plenum and rejecting specifically, the opposition bloc’s erroneous assertion that it was impossible to build socialism in the Soviet Union.
M. Spector opposed the report of the delegation, claiming that Comrades Buck and Popovich had been misled into accepting a false conception of the political content of the differences in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He opposed the resolution and announced his resignation from the Political Bureau and from the offices of editor and Chairman of the party. He withdrew his resignations when the General Secretary appealed to him to do so, implying quite strongly that intimate collaboration between them was not at an end. Spector was allowed to withdraw his resignations. The demand of Popovich and myself that he should be required to change his vote on the resolution was defeated. MacDonald moved a motion that: “The resolution adopted by this meeting states the opposition of the Party on the 7th Plenum of the ECCI. This fact shall be reported and not differences of personalities that found expression during the meeting.” After some equivocation I withdrew my opposition to that motion. The result was that MacDonald’s report in The Worker and to the 5th National Convention which took place shortly afterwards, presented the matter as though there had been unanimity on the political essentials “in spite of some differences of opinion about how it should be presented.” The fight to compel M. Spector to take a public position and say plainly where he stood in relation to Trotskyism had to be started over again.
From there forward, however, the struggle against Trotskyism was on a different footing. The 5th National Convention in June 1927 endorsed the following resolution unanimously:
The Central Executive Committee of the Party in resolution, unanimously, and unreservedly supports the position of the “majority of the CP of the U.S.S.R. in its attitude towards the “oopsition bloc” that the building of socialism is impossible in the U.S.S.R. and solidarizes with the CP of the U.S.S.R. in declaring that, given a sufficiently long period of peace, the development of industry and agriculture into one harmonious balanced economy, completely excluding the private capitalist, is possible. (Report of the 5th National Convention CP of Canada)
The effect of the resolution was to give the report of our delegation the authority of endorsement by the party as a whole. Matthew Popovich and I emphasized this in reporting on the 7th Plenum of the ECCI, which we did widely. I traveled across the country reporting to public meetings. Members of the party responded actively. Support of Trotskyism, even excuses for Trotsky, evaporated. Instead of Trotskyite propaganda of doubt and confusion seeping into party organizations from “friendly left-wing connections,” local party organizations started local ideological offensives to win support for the decisions of the 5th National Convention of our party and the 7th Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Comintern.
J. MacDonald, who had been re-elected General Secretary, joined in with the change. The modification of his public attitude was slow at first, barely perceptible in fact. But, as the change in the attitude of the party’s membership gathered strength and became assertive, MacDonald was at increasing pains to free himself from the suspicion of having a conciliatory attitude towards Trotskyism.
Following the convention, M, Spector retreated immediately from his previous position of “doubt concerning the relation of the policy of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to the rigidly scientific approach of Marx, Engels and Lenin, to this problem.” He adopted instead the attitude that: “The decisions of our party’s convention are law to me.” He started to publish Comintern resolutions and reports in The Worker. He traveled more and addressed more meetings than had been his wont for some time, his topic being “The 5th National Convention.”
In his public addresses, Spector did not question any decision made by the 5th Convention, neither did he challenge, directly, any statement that had been made in the convention. The burden of his speeches was to the effect that: “Our revolutionary task is here in Canada. Success here will be the best contribution that we can make to the world historic advance of mankind. No developments elsewhere, nothing in fact, will excuse us if we fail.” At first it was interpreted as a considered attempt by Spector ro re-establish intimate relations between himself and MacDonald, who was known to hold a similar opinion, almost to the point of parochialism. But bit by bit it became evident that any effect upon relations with MacDonald were purely incidental. M. Spector had retreated to a new and, he thought less vulnerable position from which to continue his support of Trotskyite opposition. The feature of the convention that he dealt with elaborately in his public addresses was “The Chairman’s Speech”; namely, his own. In the convention it had been a report of gloom and doom. In his public addresses it became even more so. Furthermore, the addresses became more and more general. In locality after locality members complained that the effect of M. Spector’s speeches was to undermine the confidence of the workers. MacDonald “sympathised” but defeated every attempt to have the Political Bureau instruct Comrade Spector to desist.
The climax came towards the end of October 1928. Spector and MacDonald had returned form the 6th World Congress of the Comintern and Spector had been invited by the Toronto City Committee of the Party to report on the Congress to the Toronto party membership. The City Committee accepted his proposal that his address should be entitled “The Soviet Union and the War Danger.” His speech to the members who packed the Alhambra Hall was a variation on his theme of gloom and doom. Except for a brief introduction to each section of his speech, he dealt neither with the realities of the war danger nor with the 6th World Congress of the Comintern, but with the Soviet Union, mainly with episodes and incidents which he claimed characterized the situation there at that time. Without actually using the words “Thermidorean denigration,” he implied quite definitely that it had set in. His address was short but he succeeded in conveying such a negative impression that I, as chairman of the meeting, representing the City Committee, found it necessary to explain to the audience that I disassociated myself from it, considered parts of it to be thinly-veiled slanders of the Soviet Union, and that I intended to bring the matter before the party Secretariat. Following the meeting a group of comrades thanked me and volunteered to be on hand to support my demand for action.
The following morning when I asked for a meeting of the Secretariat, MacDonald agreed. To my surprise he agreed, in the Secretariat meeting, that a special meeting of the Political Bureau be convened. In the resulting meeting of the Political Bureau, he insisted that the PB call the full Central Committee into session (a remarkable step for MacDonald) “because,” he declared, “what is involved here is Comrade Spector’s right to be a member of our party. That is too important to be dealt with summarily by the Political Bureau.” The radical change in MacDonald’s attitude was, politically very positive, and in the struggle against Trotskyism in the party for some time found the change mystifying. As it happened, James Cannon, the leader of the Trotskyites in the United States, informed Spector of the real reason for MacDonald’s attitude before our Central Committee met, thereby enabling Spector to anticipate the inevitable result of the meeting and to prepare his “defence” before the rest of us knew the technical details of the case against him.
When the Central Committee assembled on December 11th, MacDonald opened the session with a report which virtually ignored the political charges that I had laid, including the Alhambra Hall speech, but which socked every member except Spector into a sobering realization that we had been inexcusably naive.
MacDonald had received, from the General Secretary of the United States party , materials that had been found in Cannon’s files which proved conclusively that Spector was a leading member of the Trotskyite underground organization and was committed to an attempt to destroy the Canadian party, or to split it if destruction was beyond his power. In addition to documents ” letters, telegrams, reports and criticisms of reports ” the U.S. party leadership had supplied MacDonald with considerable information on the activities of the Trotskyites, including some in Canada. It had informed MacDonald when James Cannon, Martin Abern and Max Schachtman, the three main leaders of the Trotskyite grouping there, had been expelled from the party. The documents and information of expulsions had evidently arrived in Toronto over a period extending from the seizure of Cannon’s files (which was before October 27th) to the meeting of our Central Committee which was November 11th. A meeting of the Political Bureau had been held in the first week of November, at which we endorsed the expulsions by the U.S. party. Spector had refused to vote for MacDonald’s motion endorsing the expulsion and had refused to commit himself to participate actively in an ideological campaign against Trotskyism. The Political Bureau had removed him immediately from all responsible positions.
If the information in MacDonald’s possession had been communicated to the Political Bureau at that time, Spector would have been expelled from the party at that meeting. The Political bureau would have had no alternative As it was, he was expelled six days later, Nov. 11th. The delay gave him time to write a document which he addressed to the Political bureau. Because its date is Nov. 6th, five days before he was officially expelled, that statement frequently is misrepresented as the reason for his expulsion. The truth is that he wrote it only when there was no longer any possibility for subterfuge.
When Spector read his statement to the meeting which made his expulsion formal he placed special emphasis on the phrase: “Nothing on earth can separate me from the revolutionary communist movement.” Life soon contradicted that declaration. The subterfuge of being the Leninist critic, by which he had gained wide personal support in the party, became his nemesis when his real political position and aims became known. Unable to form an organization or even to attract any effective support, he went to New York where he worked for a time on Cannon’s Trotskyite paper. Before long he deserted that also. He repudiated Marxism-Leninism, repudiated specifically, the principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and became an employee of Histadruth, selling its bonds to supporters of Israel, largely Zionists, in the United States.
M. Spector had been a source of Trotskyite confusion in the Canadian party almost continuously since its formation. It started as uncritical romantic adulation of Trotsky. After his extended stay in Germany in the spring of 1923 it became calculated political double-bookkeeping. In party meetings he had denied support for Trotsky. His advocacy of Trotskyism in non-party circles was a subject of gossip in the party and around it. After Spector was expelled from the party MacDonald confessed to its 6th National Convention, in a show of self-criticism: “I may have erred in protecting, to a certain extent, certain comrades, who other comrades were convinced were blocking the way for the turn of our party to this new line....From this point of view I may be termed a conciliator.” (J. MacDonald, page 115, Sixth Convention Report)
The reality or it was even worse than conciliation; it was a crass example of the fact that, in the Canadian party, Trotskyism and right opportunism were two sides of the same coin. That was demonstrated in the most vulgar way soon afterwards. MacDonald followed Spector out of the party. He deserted the party and became an advocate of the anti-Leninist fallacy of “North American Exceptionalism,” following the United States renegade Lovestone. He and Spector joined forces in an unprincipled but futile attempt to form an anti-Leninist organization. They failed, and passed quickly into political oblivion.
The power of Lenin’s teachings and his name enabled the Communist Party of Canada to emerge successfully from each of those challenges. The lesson. and its warning, was clear. The fight for Leninism should never be relaxed; its edge must never be diverted. Whether the danger appears to be right opportunism of left demagogy the interest of the party, its members, and the working class as a whole, requires prompt and unequivocal championship of Marxism-Leninism as the sole ideological guarantee of the party’s integrity.
14. Trotsky was in Canada at the time of the February revolution in 1917. He did not take any part publicly in the Canadian movement but, on his way from Western Canada to embark for his return to Russia, he addressed two small meetings in Toronto. They were necessarily restricted because of the law which forbade them. He expressed optimism concerning the prospects for the socialist revolution.