This year marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of the Communist Party of Canada. From its founding convention held in a barn in Guelph, Ontario in 1921 until today, we have striven to remain true to our guiding principles and theory, and to realize them in our daily activities and struggles – as a revolutionary party of the working class of Canada, based firmly on Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism.

As we celebrate this anniversary, we remember the many contributions and achievements of our Party over those ninety years. Whether it was in organizing the unorganized, forging most of the industrial and public sector unions which exist today in our country;  building and leading the farmers’ movements for survival and dignity; organizing the ranks of Canada’s unemployed during the Great Depression, launching the famous On-to-Ottawa Trek; mobilizing thousands of young volunteers to fight against fascism in Spain and later across Europe during WWII; building the peace & disarmament movement in the post-war years; leading the historic struggle within the labour movement in English-speaking Canada to recognize the national rights of Quebec; helping to forge the pan-Canadian student movement in the 1970s; helping to build broad movements for civic reforms, universal health care, and defense of Canadian sovereignty; all of these and many other episodes in our history we remember with pride.

And we remember too that our revolutionary activities were carried out in circumstances of unrelenting hostility and attacks from Canada’s ruling capitalist class and its state. The periods when our Party was forced to work under conditions of illegality; when Tim Buck and other Party leaders and members were convicted and imprisoned; the McCarthy-style witch hunts which targeted our members and supporters and Communist-led unions; the secret ProFunc plans of the Canadian State to round up and incarcerate thousands of Communists and their families; the constant ideological, propaganda and physical attacks against our Party (from both the right and ‘left’) because it refused to succumb to anti-Sovietism – we remember all of those difficult days, and honour the memory of those comrades who endured such outrages with courage and resolve.

We came to understand – both at a theoretical level and through those real-life experiences as a Party – that the class purpose of those political and ideological attacks was not only to weaken and diminish our ranks, and to isolate the Communists from our living ties to the working class; it was also done in the hope of shaking Communists from our class bearings and pressuring the Party to abandon its revolutionary theory.

It is in this context that we mark another anniversary of sorts this year – it has been two decades since the inner-party struggle which almost liquidated our Party. In the late 1980s, George Hewison assumed the Party leadership and shortly thereafter a motley group of right opportunists, careerists and Trotskyists gradually gained ascendancy within the Central Committee of the CPC.

They were able to do so by concealing their liquidationist agenda and by taking advantage of confusion and disorientation within Party ranks due to developments in the former Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) where under Gorbachev’s stewardship the clouds of counter-revolution were gathering. In due course, the Hewison clique set about dismantling our Party piece by piece, starting with the dissolution of the Young Communist League and layoffs of Party cadre, and then the closure of the party’s print shop and publishing house, and progressive bookstores across the country.

As their liquidationist project gained momentum, this group began to openly break with the ideological principles and political line of our Party. They began negating the history of our Party (and that of the international communist movement in general) as having been “sectarian," “vanguardist,” and “doctrinaire.” They advanced reformist ideas about “incremental change” in place of, and as a substitute for, the concept of revolutionary transformation from capitalism to socialism-communism. They decreed that “imperialism” was an outdated concept (!) which no longer characterized “post industrial capitalism.”

And they attacked democratic centralism, the organizational principle of our Party, and set about dismantling Party clubs and other organizational structures. Over time, their denunciations of “Stalinism” led to attacks on Leninist ideas, and ultimately to a refutation of the postulates of Marxism itself. And they proposed that the Party change its name, dropping all reference to ‘communist’ from our banner.

Behind the scenes, this liquidationist faction began holding secret meetings with social democrats and ‘independent leftists’ to dissolve the Communist Party with the goal of forming a new ‘united party of the socialist left’, using party assets to finance their new venture.

Following the 1990 Convention, opposition to the increasingly obvious abandonment of Marxist theory and practice by the Hewison leadership grew across the country. When detailed evidence surfaced of their secret plans to dissolve the Party and steal its assets, and as expulsions of members began, the majority of the party membership demanded an emergency Canada-wide convention to resolve the issue. But the liquidators refused and instead set about dissolving party clubs and provincial committees that opposed their conspiracy. Members were told to sign loyalty oaths to Hewison et al or else face a refusal to renew their memberships.

Ultimately however the membership defeated their plans and saved the Communist Party from destruction, but at a heavy political, organizational and financial cost.

Ours was not the only Communist Party to go through such a convulsive experience; other parties around the world went through similar and sometimes worse trials during those difficult years. To our south, a liquidationist faction attempted to gain control of our sister party the Communist Party USA, but were successfully beaten back.

The lessons drawn from that painful episode in our history are important for the Communists in Canada – veterans and new members alike. But they are lessons which can also be useful to Communists internationally, in our common struggle for social emancipation, for an end to class exploitation and oppression – for socialism.

It is in this context that we now comment on recent developments and debates which have been taking place in our neighbouring party, the CPUSA. For several years now, our Central Committee has received inquiries from many concerned members about political and organizational changes in that party, and the renunciation by leading cadres of such fundamental Marxist concepts as “the dictatorship of the proletariat,” “democratic centralism” and “proletarian internationalism.”

The concerns raised have dealt with a number of interrelated issues, such as various statements issued by the CPUSA dealing with international questions, especially on the Palestinian struggle, and on the U.S. wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan; on trade union policy which many feel is insufficiently critical of class collaborationism in the leadership of the AFL-CIO (which has a direct bearing on Canada given the large presence of AFL-CIO affiliates in the Canadian Labour Congress); on the assessment of the role and class position of the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party and the absence of any independent electoral presence of the CPUSA in its own name; on various pronouncements by leading figures of the CPUSA on changing the party name, in describing the multi-trillion dollar government bail-outs as “a dose of socialism,” etc.; and in organizational decisions to cease the print editions of People’s Weekly World and Political Affairs, the layoffs of Party and YCL organizing staff, the internet-based ‘open door’ approach to party recruitment, etc.

Although deeply concerned about many of these developments, our Central Committee has until now refrained from comment. However, in light of the publication earlier this year of the article “A Party of Socialism in the 21st Century“1 by CPUSA Chair Sam Webb, our Central Committee finds it necessary to clarify our Party’s views on certain critical questions which have been raised. Although the various theses presented in this article refer, in the first place, to a proposed reorientation of the CPUSA itself, its title and text read as if these ideas should form the ‘template’ of the political approach of Communist parties in general, or certainly at least in other advanced capitalist countries such as Canada. This assumption was confirmed when comments from other fraternal parties were actively solicited by the CPUSA, a highly unusual practice.

We are aware of the formal responses given to this article by the Communist Parties of Greece (KKE)2 and Mexico.3 Our Party is in substantive agreement with the main criticisms of this document expressed by these two parties. We consider that the political line advanced in “A Party of Socialism in the 21st Century” constitutes a fundamental departure from Marxist-Leninist theory and practice. The pursuit of such an approach will objectively lead to the liquidation of the CPUSA as a revolutionary party of the working class in that country.

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Based on our 90 years of struggle, on our Party program “The Road to Socialism,“4 our Constitution,5 and on the decisions reached our conventions, the Communist Party of Canada understands its nature and role, and undertakes its political activities, as guided by the following general considerations and conclusions (among others):

  •         that the main contradiction underlying capitalism in Canada today remains the class contradiction, reflecting in the class struggle between the two main classes – the ruling capitalist class (especially its core, monopoly capital) and the working class of our country, a contradiction which can only be resolved through the revolutionary transformation of our society from capitalism to socialism;
  •          therefore that as a revolutionary party, the main task of the CPC is to defend and advance the long-term interests of the working class in pursuit of this ultimate objective, and “strives to be the leading political party of the working class, of all who labour by hand and brain… [a party which] arises out of the working class and is an organized political detachment of that class… [and which] has no interests separate and apart from those of the working class as a whole”;
  •          that our Party supports the struggle for immediate reforms to improve the conditions of the working class and the people under capitalism, and seeks unity with all other forces which support and will fight for such advances; at the same time, our Party never loses sight of the ultimate goal of socialism nor the fact that there can be no other course to socialism other than through the revolutionary overthrow of the existing order. In this regard, we consider a correct understanding of the dialectical relationship between reform and revolution to be of paramount importance;
  •          that in pursuing the broadest possible unity with other class and social forces to achieve immediate advances, it is absolutely imperative for our Party to studiously safeguard its independent role as a revolutionary party of the working class and oppose tendencies or pressures – either from within or without our ranks – to efface or submerge our independent role.  The CPC considers it vital that it speak directly, visibly and openly in our own name, and engage in ideological struggle – the ‘battle of ideas’ – against bourgeois, reformist and class collaborationist concepts that weaken, disarm and divide the movement;
  •          that the “world outlook of [our] Party is based on Marxism-Leninism, which embodies the theory of scientific socialism first developed by Karl Marx, Frederick Engels and V.I. Lenin. Marxism-Leninism is not a dogma; it is a living, developing theory, tool of analysis and guide to action. It incorporates the concentrated experience of all the struggles of the working class, both in Canada and around the world” [from Chapter 8 of our Party Program “Canada’s Future is Socialism”];
  •          that the CPC is imbued with a proletarian internationalist outlook, reflected in both our struggle to achieve socialism in Canada, and in our active solidarity with anti-imperialist and revolutionary struggles, and efforts to build socialism around the world. A critical aspect of our internationalist responsibility is the ideological struggle against bourgeois slanders and distortions of the history of the international working class movement and its efforts to forge socialism, both in the past and in the present day; and
  •          that in terms of our organizational principles as a Communist Party, these “are determined by its political aims…to guide the working class to the achievement of these aims, and to lead the people’s struggle, the Party must be founded on firm ideological, political and organizational unity, and on the continuous organized activity of its members in close contact with the working people, knowing their views and needs, and able to explain Party policy. Democratic centralism is the organizational principle which ensures this.” [from our Party Constitution]

This is where we stand, and these are the principles which we unwaveringly defend.

Communist Party of Canada

September 14, 2011