Lenin and Canada

Chapter 7: Lenin and Canadian Independence

The idea that a modern state, of fully developed state-monopoly capitalism, could loose its independence and become dependent upon and, in essentials, subservient to another, and still remain an imperialist state, an active partner in the exploiting, oppressive, bellicose, imperialist world system, seeking to preserve that reactionary system by wars of conquest, had never occurred to us until it happened to Canada. When it did happen our first tendency was to assume that Canada could either continue to be an imperialist state of could become dependent upon the United States but that it was not possible for her to be both at the same time. Again we were impelled by our need to take counsel with Lenin and again Lenin’s guidance led us to “...the sense of a bold forecast of the future and of bold practical action for its achievement.” (Vol. 21, p. 72)

Reference to Lenin showed the argument that it must be “either, or, imperialist state of dependency,” to be just a boggle over static concepts. Indeed, reading Imperialism afresh, for light on the unexpected developments, showed clearly that Lenin’s explanations of certain features of imperialism as a distinct and higher stage of capitalism could have been written to help us to understand the new, radical change in which was signalized by government action during the period of November 1947 to March 1948. For example:

Finance capital is such a great, such a decisive, you might say, force in all economic and in all international relations, that it is capable of subjecting, and actually does subject, to itself even states enjoying the fullest political independence. (Vol. 22, p. 259)

...it must be observed that finance capital and its foreign policy, which is the struggle of the great powers for the economic and political division of the world, gives rise to a number of transitional forms of state dependence.

...diverse forms of dependent countries which, politically, are formally independent, but in fact, are enmeshed in the net of financial and economic dependence, are typical of this epoch. (Vol. 22, p. 263 ” Lenin’s emphasis)

Those words alone explained what had appeared to be a contradiction in the behavior of the Canadian Minister of Finance. He had explained in some detail his ten days of discussions with bankers in New York City and with politicians in Washington, and the change that they had all agreed should be brought about. A spokesman for the pro-British Conservative Party declared “No Canadian government since Confederation had gone so far to take oarders from another country.” (16) At that the Minister leapt to his feet and interrupted his critic with a loud denial of “taking orders from another country.” (17) It is possible that he considered his denial to be true. Certainly he understood quite well that the powerful finance-capitalist tycoons in New York City wanted the change keenly. He knew equally as well that their opposite numbers in Canada scented the possibility of vast and quick profits from such a change. Furthermore, Abbott understood much more fully than his immediate critc did the qualitative change that had taken place in the role of governments as they became integrated with the operations of finance capital.

This is not the time for a detailed review of the “Abbott Plan.” It was named after the Minister referred to above, who acted for the government imposing it upon the people of Canada by a radio speech in which, without any previous warning whatsoever, he announced at eleven o’clock in the evening that its harsh restrictions, political and economic, would go into effect within one hour: that is to say at midnight. It was another four weeks before the law to provide a cloak of legality for the change was introduced in Parliament. That plan and the subordination to the United States that it imposed upon the people of Canada, has been analyzed in some detail in an earlier work. (18) It was the legal lever by which finance capital and its government of the day in Canada brought about a radical change in the relationship of Canada to the United States literally overnight. In economic terms the change was from all-round development of manufacturing, the processing of Canada’s natural resources, and trade with all countries, to restriction of manufacturing by drastic governmental action and systematic emphasis on expanding the production of raw materials needed by the United States. Abbott rationalized it as follows:

A greater integration of the efforts of the United States and Canada to assist world recovery would add considerably to the capacity to assist this continent to provide urgently needed assistance just as it did during the war. We are making every effort to achieve the needed integration. (19)

If we cut down the consumption of refrigerators, and other articles which contain metal, we can sell the metal in its original form....Instead of using labor in Canada to convert the metal into things our own people consume, we shall sell the raw materials. (20)

The words quoted are typical of numerous statements by members of the government of that day. They showed clearly, indeed brazenly, that their immediate aim was the economic colonialzation of Canada by the great monopolies in the United States. Even if it were accepted as being solely an economic policy, it was evident from the very beginning that, as we pointed out, under the terms of the Abbott Plan:

Canada will become increasingly dependent upon the United States for capital goods, machinery, and finished products (such as newsprint paper ” T.B.) to pay the United States for costly capital goods and manufactures. The inevitable economic and political results of such a relationship would be to undermine the political sovereignty of Canadian people. (21)

But study of all the factors in the situation showed that the change being introduced was not simply in economic policy. Their pretence of frankness was in fact a mask to obscure from the overwhelming majority of the people the fact that the Abbott Plan revealed only a limited part of their real aims. Their decisive motivation and objectives were political. The negotiations in New York City and Washington which preceded imposition of the Abbott Plan upon Canada, were not the beginning; on the contrary, they marked the conclusion of the first stage of their cynical over-all plan.

The first Canadian signal issued to the bourgeoisie had been in an elaborately staged prepared address by Louis St. Laurent, in January 1947. St. Laurent was, at that time, Minister for External Affairs. He became Prime Minister soon afterwards. The title of his address was “The Foundations of Canada’s Foreign Policy.” It was a carefully formulated statement to the effect that the prospect of a third world war made it necessary that in the future Canad’s foreign policy should be integrated with that of the United States instead of, as in the past, with that of Great Britain. The keynote of his address was: “In my lifetime we shall engage in the greatest and most destructive war ever waged in the history of mankind; to preserve our Christian civilization from the spread of atheistic bolshevism.” (22)

Louis St. Laurent’s cynical call to arms was followed two months later by the then President Truman’s notorious Navy Day Speech, in which he pledged all the naval power, all the military power, all the industrial power, and all the financial resources of the United States, “to stop the spread of communism.” Attempts to foment chauvinistic hatred of the Soviet Union and its heroic people became quickly “the order of the day” in monopoly-capitalist politics. The “integratiion” that the Minister of Finance and other members of the government referred to as desirable, was not “to assist world recovery” as they pretended. On the contrary, they were “making every effort to achieve the needed integration” as part of the aggressive jingoistic United States preparations for the war by which they hoped to destroy the rising socialist system, i.e., the Soviet Union and the fledgling People’s Republics. Guided by Lenin we drew the attention of the workers and all peace-loving people in Canada to the threat to our country and the people of her two nations in the following words:

In place of the wartime assurances of post-war devotion to the ideals embodied in the Yalta Accord, the Dominion govenrment’s foreign policy statements during 1947 were in accord with the aggressive imperialist war aims of the Truman Doctrine. The publicly owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was actively engaged in an extensive campaign in support of the idea of another world war ” this time against the U.S.S.R. and the New Democracies of Central and Southeastern Europe....Mackenzie King, the Prime Minister, “called for military preparations for war against those countries which reject the capitalist system.”...Lester B. Person, Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs, called a week later for organization of a military alliance of all the nations that are prepared to support the policies and aims of which the United States is the outstanding protagonist....by the end of 1947 nothing appeared certain except the increasing certainty of crisis and the threatening danger of a third world war. (23)

The sequence of events combined with their political character showed clearly that the Abbott Plan was but the initial public administrative measure introduced by the government to bring about a change in the purpose and the direction of economic development in Canada; to make it correspond with their drive to integration with the United States. Canad’s sovereignty was being discarded like an old shirt. The country was being committed to a policy aimed at economic and political incorporation in the United States in all except the name, as part of the grisly preparations for a criminal atomic war by which the blind enemies of human progress in the Pentagon and Wall Street, in Washington and Ottawa, hoped to reverse the course of history by destroying their socialist competitors.

It was difficult for democratic people to believe that such an outright betrayal was possible. It was even more difficult for them to believe that the betrayal was conscious and calculated. It contradicted the firmly established traditional concept of the bourgeoisie “at the head of the nation” Again we had to refer them to Lenin and show them that, to paraphrase his words, the Canadian bourgeoisie had accepted a subservient relationship to the United States rather than ally itself with an aroused working class to protect and maintain its independence from the United States. (Vol. 21, p. 77), The radical change of policy of which the Abbott Plan was only one facet, illustrated in a striking way the fact that the bourgeoisie was no longer the decisive force in shaping governmental policies in Canada; and, as we pointed out:

The dominant monopoly-capitalist interests are not concerned primarily with the development of Canada’s economy or the welfare of her people. The correspondence which did at one time exist between the aims of Canad“s industrialists and the national interest has disappeared. It disappeared with the transformation of Canadian economy from competitive capitalist enterprise to monopoly capitalism and the assumption of control by the “geniuses of financial manipulation”...The un-Canadian character of the policies adopted by the King government...reflects the un-Canadian aims of the finance-capital oligarchy which now dominates the economy and the politics of our country. (24)

Thus, the betrayal of Canada’s independence was the considered aim of the Canadian government, acting for the finance-capitalist monopolists with which it had become integrated, no less than it was the aim of United States imperialism. The struggle to regain Canada’s independence must, of necessity, be a struggle against the monopoly-capitalist interests in Canada and their government, as well as against United States imperialism as such. The highest national interests of both of the Canadian nations, French and English, were at stake. It could be expected that broad circles of the youth, of the intelligentsia, and other circles of the petty-bourgeoisie, would be drawn into the struggle as it developed. It was quite clear, however, that against the integrated forces of state-monopoly capitalism, such a struggle could reconquer national independence only if an aroused and united working class marched at its head.

The urgent immediate need was for mobilization of all democratic forces, particularly the working class, in democratic actions for peace and for Canadian independence. Study of all the factors involved, in the light of Lenin’s teachings, indicated definitely that, as the struggle extends and its political level rises, those two streams must converge and to some extent even merge in united struggle which, objectively, must challenge the power of monopoly capital. Indeed, in Canada, to regain our independence from the United States requires that that control of the country be wrested from the state-monopoly-capitalist oligarchy and restored to the democratic will of the people. This, which in the past would have been a bourgeois-democratic task, will be accomplished now only as part of the political advance of the working class.

The Communist Party of Canada developed a wide public campaign on that issue. Explaining the portent of the Abbott Plan and the sinister anti-democratic military aim of which it was a part, we concentrated all the energy and resources of our party on the task of mobilizing opposition to it. “Keep Canada Independent!”, the slogan under which we tried to bring about rejection of the Abbott Plan, became a subject of broad public discussion all over the country.

Public discussion of the issue of independence and of its inseparable relationship to the struggle against the drive of the United States imperialism to war, brought forward the question: “If Canadian capitalist prefer that Canada be absorbed by the United States via the path of integration of capitals, how can the economy of this country be maintained and developed further without United States capital?” In various forms that question is being asked all over Canada. The Communist Party proposes that the democratic answer is nationalization:

It is clear that to establish Canadian control of decisive policy-making is going to involve some measure of nationalization ” state ownership.

Nationalization of foreign-owned monopolies will open the way for better all-round economic development. The political necessity for their nationalization would be compelling even if there were no specifically economic reasons...the monopolies impose upon us, day by day, policies dictated in the U.S.A., including matters concerning foreign relations, military commitments, acceptance of a reckless nuclear attack role in Europe, and so on. (25)

Step by step, the public utilities, natural resources, and key industries, especially the foreign-owned, will have to become government-run properties...we cannot escape the need for nationalization, and the sooner we start the process the better. (26)

Regrettably, it must be emphasized, the social democrats, as a political party and as a group in Parliament, sneered at the warnings of the Communist Party. They voted for the Abbott Plan. They supported the cynical anti-communist, anti-democratic aims enunciated by St. Laurent and Pearson. Their support of what they euphemistically described as “Canada-U.S. Integration” and their over-all pro-United States position divided the Canadian working class on the issue of Canadian independence and the struggle for world peace, actual activity to regain our independence has been limited to a relatively small minority.

All the parties represented in Parliament supported the policy that was misnamed “Canadian-U.S. Integration” when it was introduced in 1947-48 and have continued to support it consistently since. Outside parliament opposition was by the Communist Party and its supporters alone throughout the first 15 years that it was in effect. In the circumstances United States absorption, at times via giant U.S. monopolies, has proceeded apace. Developments have shown conclusively that the warnings broadcast by the Communist Party alone when the Abbott Plan was introduced were fully correct. The character of the resuldts, economic, political, and cultural, has been exactly as we forecast. But their scale and the rate at which they are extending into every sphere of social life in Canada is far worse than even the Communist Party thought to be possible in such a short time.

From less than 4,000 million dollars at the end of the Second World War, United States investments in Canada had increased to 20,000 million dollars by 1965. They constitute now 80 per cent of all foreign investment in the country. Foreign owners control no more than 60 per cent of the manufacturing industry as a whole. As part of that they control 97 per cent of the automobile industry, 97 per cent of the rubber industry, 78 per cent of the chemical industry, 74 per cent of the natural gas industry, 59 per cent of the mining and smelting industry. A daily paper reported recently that 500 enterprises passed out of Canadian into foreign ownership during the year 1968 and the first nine months of 1969. (27)

The economic base of the Canadian bourgeoisie is not simply dominated by United States-owned monopolies, it is being taken over physically by U.S. state-monopoly capital.

It is necessary to point out that the United States share of total foreign investment, 80 peer cent, does not define the United States share in control. Most of the biggest monopolies in Canada, virtually the commanding heights of the economy, are subsidiaries of giant United States monopolies. The influence of many U.S.-owned corporations extends into every village, town and city in the country, through tens of thousands of sales agents, through expenditures on advertising, and the advertising itself.

The rate at which the growth of U.S. investment is accelerating is illustrated by the fact that, four years before it reached 20,000 million dollars, its total was 13,900 million dollars. Even more startling is the fact that the growth by 50 per cent in four years was the result of the re-investment of super-profits. After paying to the parent company in the U.S. inflated charges for dividends. interest, management fees, license fees for the right to produce and sell the parent corporation’s product in Canada, and numerous other charges, many of which are unknown to the public, the U.S.-owned corporations in Canada still have an aggregate surplus of undistributed profits of three quarters of a billion dollars per year with which to take another bite out of Canada. United States imperialism is securing ownership of the priceless natural resources of our country, taking over its manufacturing industries, and domination its political life, with super-profits made by its double exploitation of Canadian workers.

The foregoing does not provide a complete picture of the take-over of Canada by United States imperialism but it indicates the scale on which it is proceeding. The rapid build up of the U.S. monopoly-capitalist productive plant and so on, with the over-all expansion of employment, has concealed the basic effects of this process from the majority of Canadian workers so far. In this sense the words of Marx, addressed to Engels, can be applied to Canada today: “...in developments of such magnitude twenty years are no more than a day, though later on there may come days in which twenty years are embodied.” (Quoted by Lenin, Vol. 21, p. 75)

Days in which twenty years are embodied may not be immediately “around the corner” in Canada, but a big change is definitely in the making. Until recently public advocates of action to regain Canadian independence, other than communists, have been members of the capitalist class and they addressed their arguments to the capitalist class. The two most notable of such were James Coyne, former Governor of the Bank of Canada, and Walter Gordon, when he was Minister of Finance. The fatal weakness of each of them was that they were not prepared to break politically with monopoly capital and its dominant oligarchy. The result was that both of them were silenced by being ousted from their positions. Even so, it is noteworthy that the present Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, is seeking to sidetrack the influence of Walter Gordan’s advocacy of action to regain Canadian independence by appointing a young ambitious politician to his cabinet. According to the announcement of the appointment, his job will be to assist the Minister of Finance “in efforts aimed at reducing United States dominion of the Canadian economy.” (28) Evidently Prime Minister Trudeau wants to show that he is “against sin.”

Signs multiply that a big change is in the making in the struggle to regain Canadian independence. Stirrings among the youth, including many of the younger members of the Liberal Party, are becoming crystallized and finding expression in demands for political action. The biggest development of that sort to date found organized expression in the national convention of the New Democratic Party at the end of October 1969. In addition to being numerically, and in terms of the very wide publicity that it received, the biggest organized addition to the struggle, from circles other than the Communist Party, it was also significant politically. The biggest and most influential labor unions in Canada are affiliated to the NDP. Its debaters concerning policies are followed with warm interest by all politically aware workers. In a manner somewhat similar, to that of the British Labour Party, the policies propagated by the NDP become accepted by wide circles of workers.

The left wing in the convention had previously crystallized around the issue of Canadian independence. Its leading spirits issued a manifesto prior to the convention, setting out the policies and measures to which they urged the convention to commit the party, to regain Canada’s economic and political sovereignty. The measures proposed and indicated in their manifesto bear a marked resemblance to the immediate measures proposed by the Communist Party for the same end. Indeed, the most important difference is the following. The Communist Party proposes them as measures directed primarily against the U.S.-Canadian monopoly-capitalist oligarchy. We emphasize that a successful struggle for them will mobilize the forces and clear the way politically for a peaceful advance to socialism. But the left wing in the New Democratic Party convention equated the winning of Canadian independence with socialism. Their tendency to make their own impatience a substitute for policy was expressed in their slogan: “An Independent Socialist Canada.” But a number of them were very earnest and showed that they sere learning quickly.

To get a majority vote against the manifesto issued by the left wing, the right wing was compelled to offer the delegates an alternative resolution, submitted by the National Council of the party. The alternative acknowledged the necessity for action to end United States domination but its right-wing sponsors assured the delegates that it is the way to end United States domination without putting the party in a “political straitjacket.” Their real meaning was , with out offending George Meany and the General Executive Board of the “International” unions. That, of course, also means no effective fight for Canadian independence. However, the delegates voted 449 in favor of the National Council’s resolution against 268 who voted that it be referred back for redrafting in line with the manifesto of the left.

By means of its alleged alternative the right wing maintained its control of the leadership and administration of the NDP. But the left wing was not defeated politically. The resolution submitted by the national Council which was adopted, is, in effect, a repudiation of the attitude that the National Council had always maintained towards “Canadian-United States integraation,” right up to the convention. Furthermore, the retreat of the right wing on that burning issue made it impossible for them to rally enough support among the delegates to enable them to maintain their traditional policy of support for Canadian membership in NATO and in NORAD. Overwhelming their opposition, the convention voted in favor of Canada’s complete withdrawal from NATO and NORAD and, for good measure, against Canadian participation in the Organization of American States, declaring that organization to be a tool of American imperialism. The left wing with its manifesto, made the convention of October 1969 different from any NDP or CCF convention that had ever been held before.

There is not yet a formal united front of communists and left social democrats in Canada. Such a development will correspond with a substantially higher level of labor political action than is general at the present time. But the line of action advocated by the left wing of the convention and supported ay a third of the delegates is one of the streams of action for peace and for Canadian independence which, with patient but consistent work, will converge in struggles for immediate demands. In such struggles more and more political activists will recognize that Marxism-Leninism is our sole guide to victory. It is a striking affirmation, on the basis of specifically Canadian experience, of the validity of Lenin’s teachings in relation to the new problems which emerge in capitalist countries as consequences of the desperate attempts by the imperialists to counteract the inexorable process of the decay of their system and the irresistible advance of socialism. For the Communist Party it reconfirms the fundamental correctness of Lenin’s emphasis upon the primary importance of what a Marxist-Leninist party does:

...it is not so much a question of the size of an organization, as of the real, objective significance of its policy; does its policy represent the masses, does it serve them, i.e., does it aim at their liberation from capitalism, or does it represent the interests of the minority, the minority’s reconciliation with capitalism? (Vol. 23, p. 119)

The Communist Party of Canada relies, confidently, on the consistent use of the inexhaustible treasury of revolutionary inspiration and tested scientific guidance in the theahings of Lenin, to ensure that we and the advanced sections of the working class will be ready to put the stamp of the working class upon the days in which twenty years are embodied.

All honor to the memory of Lenin, our inspiring and unfailing guide to a shining future of peace and limitless progress for all mankind.

16. Howard Green, MP, Hansard, Vol. 87, No. 12, January 26th, 1948, p. 559.

17. Douglass Abbott, Mp,Hansard, Vol. 87, No. 12, January 26th, 1948, p. 559.

18. Canada: The Communist Viewpoint, by Tim Buck. Progress Books, Toronto, 1948. Second printing 1949.

19. Douglass Abbott, House of Commons, Ottawa, December 16th, 1947. (My emphasis ” T.B.)

20. Douglass Abbott, House of Commons, Ottawa, March 18th, 1948.

21. Canada: The Communist viewpoint, pp. 31-32.

22. The Right Honorable Louis St. Laurent, the Maurice Cody Memorial Lecture, January 1947, Convocation Hall, University of Toronto.

23. Canada: The Communist Viewpoint, pp. 16-17.

24. Canada: The Communist Viewpoint, pp. 35-36.

25. Put Monopoly Under Control, by Tim Buck, Progress Books, Toronto, 1964, p. 70.

26. Ibid., p. 72.

27. Toronto Daily Star, October 17th 1969.

28. Toronto Daily Star October 16th, 1969.