Lenin and Canada
The symposium on “Leninism and Our Time” initiated by Problems of Peace and Socialism is timely for two main reasons. I think it is important that we should act in good time to help in making the centenary of Lenin’s birth a year of extending and deepening study of the inexhaustible treasury of his works. And I agree fully with the emphasis that the historic Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties in Moscow, in June, placed upon the mounting possibilities for a broader offensive against imperialism, against the forces of reaction and war. I am confident that our symposium will encourage broadening circles of revolutionary workers to turn, more and more systematically to Lenin, for his creative guidance in solving the new problems of our time. Everybody who does consult Lenin is inspired by the striking manner in which the trend of developments today proves the scientific correctness of his work.
Proof of the validity of Leninism in conditions of today is all around us. The character of our epoch, of transition from capitalism to socialism on a world scale, the fruit of Lenin’s leadership, and its epochal struggle between the tow social systems, puts its stamp upon the class struggle at all levels and in all its forms of expression. It makes the issue of peaceful competition between the two systems versus world nuclear war the fundamental issue of our time. In this connection we must emphasize the fact that the necessity to strengthen the fight to prevent nuclear war grows, as the spreading decay of imperialism increases the influence of the reckless military-industrial complex in the imperialist states, particularly in the United States and West Germany. It must be emphasized also that the character of our epoch imbues the struggle to prevent nuclear war with the dynamic quality that its success will open the way to the peaceful fulfillment of the loftiest aspirations of mankind. Truly did the International Conference emphasize that one of the cardinal tasks of the international communist movement is to head the struggle of the peoples for a lasting peace and today, far from diminishing, the importance of this task constantly grows.
Because of the objective character of our epoch its subjective forces, that is to say the political awareness of the participants in its sharpening struggle, is becoming increasingly important. Consider the epic struggle against the criminal ware of wholesale destruction being waged by United States imperialism and its allies and puppets against the people of Vietnam. The unflinching heroism of the people of Vietnam, the unstinted aid being given to them by the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, the massive support that they are receiving from democratic peace-loving people all over the world, who are rising up in a tidal wave of democratic protest against United States imperialism; each of these features of the heroic struggle emphasizes the increasing importance of political awareness. It is particularly noteworthy that in capitalist states the most powerful and rapidly growing opposition to United States imperialism is that of democratic masses of men and women, black and white, representing many walks of life, in the United States itself. Millions of patriotic Americans are making the cause of the Vietnamese people their own.
U.S. imperialism will be compelled to withdraw its troops, and to allow the people of Vietnam to settle their national affairs as they wish. Victory for the heroic people of Vietnam in their unwavering struggle to maintain their national independence will mark the end of the era during which great imperialist states were able to impose their will upon weaker peoples by brute force of arms. By virtue of that fact and the character of our epoch, it will open the floodgates for a great and widespread democratic advance all over the world.
In Canada as in the United States and other capitalist countries the present period is characterized by the extending mass struggles and rising militancy of the working class. Workers are fighting to curb the killing speed-up which increases the worker’s productivity but shortens his working life. To protect the modest gains won by bitterly-fought strikes in the past and maintain their living standards in face of the reckless inflation, by which the monopoly-capitalist government reduces the purchasing power of their wages at a constantly accelerating rate, workers are fighting back, on a scale and with a militancy that are without precedent in the history of the trade union movement in Canada.
A striking feature of this period is the tremendous increase in the role being played by women. By their numbers, by their militancy, and by the unwavering consistency with which they work and fight, the democratic peace-loving women of Canada are changing the composition of the ranks of the fighters for democracy, peace and socialism. In an equal degree they are influencing, strongly, the quality of democratic action at all levels of the class struggle. In French Canada the broad popular struggle to win the right of self-determination is merging with the workers’ struggle to close the gap between the level of wages and salaries in French and English Canada. Pressed by the widening gap between continuous increases in the monopoly prices that they have to pay for everything that they buy and the drastic decline in their incomes, farmers all over Canada organized a great convention in Winnipeg at the end of July, 1969, and merged their numerous provincial organizations in one militant National Farmers’ Union.
Young workers, indeed young people in general, are increasingly an important factor in the political life of Canada. In industry and the trade unions young workers are “setting pace” in militancy. They are fighting to win for the workers, through their unions, an effective share in the control of the technological revolution in industry and over its effect upon workers. They want democratic control of industry and progressive policies in their unions. They are activists in the rank-and-file movements. They are opposed to militarism and to war. They want radical progressive change and they are prepared to fight for it, and they are receptive to the idea of socialism. Militant students are a vital force in actions to aid the heroic people of Vietnam, and in all spheres of the struggle against imperialism and the danger of war, There is growing realization among the students that genuine democratization of education, with elimination of racial and regional discrimination, and the complete equality of opportunity for higher education for all, will be achieved only when all the democratic people who recognize that such a democratic advance is a basic social necessity in modern society, unite with the organized working-class movement to achieve it.
Progressive young Canadians in general, workers, students, and rural youth, are united by their opposition to the evils of imperialism, its blind impulsion to reaction and war and, particularly, against the bestial crimes being committed by U.S. imperialism in Vietnam. In sharp contrast to the politics of imperialism, the youth are inspired by lofty ideals. They are motivated not by fear but by their ardent desire to advance continuously, to new horizons of democratic progress, to richer lives of self-fulfillment. They are a vital force in the struggle to bring about an alliance of all who work by hand or brain.
The questions of the revolutionary struggle which confront the communist and workers’ parties today were dealt with quite fully by the International Conference in Moscow. The fundamental importance of unity in the worldwide struggle against imperialism and war, the significance of the struggle for peaceful coexistence, Leninism and democracy, the conditions in which the transition from capitalism to socialism may be achieved without civil war, the struggle to achieve unity of our world movement in its unshakeable proletarian internationalism which expressed itself in the Conference. That, indeed, was a convincing refutation of the chauvinistic anti-Leninism which is the ideological stock-in-trade of the main opponents of our world movement who masquerade as revolutionary internationalists.
I want to discuss some questions of the revolutionary movement that were dealt with in the Conference but which are of particular importance to the Communist Party of Canada and to our brother parties in some other countries of highly developed capitalism. For example, consider the question that is posed by the relatively slow growth of our party in relation to the rapid growth of militancy in the ranks of the working class. As I have indicated, in Canada as in all the countries of highly developed capitalism, workers are fighting militantly against the erosion of their living standards by inflation, for higher wages, for a measure of democracy in their places of work, and so on. Workers and masses of democratic white-collar and middle-class people are fighting, consistently and with determination, against war, against imperialism, against the politics of state-monopoly capitalism. It is incontrovertible that history has shown that Leninism is the only unfailing guide to their struggles. In fact, in Canada, the issues which unite them and the circumstances in which they fight are themselves proof of the validity of Leninism. The correspondence between the Leninist perspective for many democratic mass activities and the path followed by their participants is well known. Yet, even among workers who fight militantly, on the job and in the streets, in actions which, within their limits, correspond with Leninism, only a few accept Leninism consciously as their ideology and guide, and join the Communist Party.
The fact that a worker does not join the Communist Party does not by itself necessarily indicate any disagreement with Leninism. This is clearly shown by the manner in which workers applaud the spokesmen of the Communist Party, express their preference for communist leadership on the job, in strikes, on picket lines, and in other class struggle activities. It must be said that, in the main, they have not yet freed themselves from the ideological domination of state-monopoly capitalism, its ideologists and the poisonous influence of its all-pervasive media of mass communication. Nevertheless, it would be a grave mistake to dismiss their failure to join the Communist Party as simply an expression of the level of the class struggle. Our task is to work effectively to raise that level in the process of building the party. It is imperative that we follow Lenin’s advice and adapt ourselves to “...the theoretically helpless, but living and powerful mass working-class movement that is marching alongside...” (Vol. 12, p. 363)
The working class is moving towards the political action by which the influence of our epoch will be made to prevail completely. The sinister reactionary aims, if not the anti-Canadian effects, of the sell-out of Canada’s sovereignty to the United States will be replaced by policies more in accord with the new realities created by the advance of socialism, and the imperative necessity for policies which express the aim of peaceful coexistence. The main currents of democratic action which are converging in this trend are the following. The broadening and strengthening popular action for peace, particularly its demand that the United States get out of Vietnam. The demand that Canada withdraw from all military blocs. The demand that Canada take definite steps to free herself from United States domination.
In this situation the Communist Party if Canada proposes that the present irresponsible control of Canada by United States imperialism and its monopolies should be challenged and eventually replaced by a broad alliance of democratic, patriotic forces, rallied around the united labor movement. Winning effective support for this aim involves action to raise the level of working-class political action. This will be accomplished but not by propaganda alone. Closing the gap between the pace of the rise of militancy and that of ideological development will be, and can only be, a result of the enhancement of the role of communists in the planning and development of the aims of their fellow workers as well as the leadership of their immediate activities. That enhancement must be achieved “inch by inch,” by consistent day-to-day work. Propaganda must explain the continuity of the levels — from actions on the job to the formulation of the policies and slogans which express the guidance of Leninism but, as Lenin pointed out, “...the objective maximum ability of the proletariat to unite as a class is realized through living people and only through definite forms of organization.” (Vol. 13, p. 104)
The forms of organization will be shaped by the traditions of the country and the conditions of the time. But to free the working class from the ideological domination of state-monopoly capitalism, the “living people” who lead them to unity as a class must be guided by Leninism.
The new problems of this period are making millions of rank-and-file members of the trade unions aware of the fact that a new type of leadership is necessary. The trade unions in North America need leaders who spiritually, physically, and by their own experience are equipped to lead their unions to victory in the revolutionary changes that must be achieved. A growing majority of the workers are beginning to realize the profound truth to which Lenin drew attention, even though they may not have read his penetrating words: “Capitalism created its own grave-diggers, itself creates the elements of a new system; yet, at the same time, without a ‘leap’ these individual elements change nothing in the general state of affairs and do not affect the rule of capital.” (Vol. 16, p. 348)
Today, in the main, it is the young workers who can most readily make the “leap” that Lenin referred to — from the ideological shackles imposed by state-monopoly capitalism to the revolutionary dialectical materialism of Marxism-Leninism. Such are the working-class leaders who boldly foresee the future and prepare the workers in advance, to be able to seize the initiative and hold it; from wage movements, through the fight to change national policies, to the fight to make the working class the effective leader of the nation.
Such, in this period, is the path by which Leninism will become the principal content of the rising level of the militancy of the working class. Our supreme confidence in Leninism enables us to say with certainty of the frenzied, reckless, capitalist class of North America and its decaying system today, as Lenin said in 1920: “However rich and strong that class may be, it is doomed, whereas we are a class that is advancing towards victory.” (Vol. 31. p. 399)