Back to Buck, Forward to Socialism

The statement by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on the outcome in Greece of the recent elections to the European Parliament has been posted below. We in CPS believe there are important lessons in the KKE victory for the struggle for peace and socialism in Canada.

The retention by the KKE of its dynamic and leading role on the left in Greek politics is a triumph and vindication of the correct application of the science of Marxism-Leninism in the complex class struggles of the 21st Century. The KKE victory demonstrates how a Leninist party can confront the reactionary attacks from the right, the vacillations of opportunist forces and anti-communism - and win. The KKE is successfully mastering the problems of the class struggle in Greece while at the same time making an important; one might say decisive, contribution to assisting Communists and the working class in developed capitalist countries of Europe to advance their struggles for peace and socialism.
There are many lessons for the Communists in North America and specifically in Canada provided by the line, strategy and tactics of the KKE and its leadership based as it is on unshakeable fidelity to principle and Marxist-Leninist fundamentals. The successful integration of the lessons by KKE from its revolutionary historic past to help solve the practical, theoretical and ideological problems of the present and future is exemplary. Such an approach if taken in Canada will lead to a stronger Communist Party. It is a model we in Canada need to examine deeply and without reservation.
The Communist Party of Canada did not start in 1990. Comprehensive, critical and objective study of the period under the leadership of Tim Buck and the major contributions by the whole Party to Marxism-Leninism is the central component to propel the Communist Party into a more prominent role within the Canadian working class. Buck's masterful approach to Marxism-Leninism as applied to the problems of winning socialism in Canada has richness and depth and particular significance to the new problems faced by the working class today. In particular his study of the emergence of Canada as an imperialist state, our integration with the United States economy and the peculiarities of that process, provides a "guide to working class victory in Canada"1].Understanding its affects on the working class today due to our close political and economic relationship with US imperialism, is vital to our progress. One could go further and say that we cannot understand fully the tasks of today unless we do that. If I may be permitted to coin a phrase, it would be "Back to Buck, Forward to Socialism".


The Communist Party of Canada as it approaches its 36th Convention confronts the need to make a decisive turn to the mainstream of the class struggle. To do that its leadership is required to invite publicly, a more self critical approach to its work and welcome into that discussion the whole membership and periphery of supporters to assist it to find solutions to the problems confronting the Party today. That cannot mean cherry picking what is complimentary to the current leadership and ignoring and banning what is critical. To prejudge a polemic is an attempt to evade it. That was never the attitude of Lenin and all those who are guided by his example on matters theory and practice.
Adopting as the first step in that process the attitude of the KKE as stated in its evaluation of the EU elections will signal a more militant, partisan and class approach to the challenges facing Canadian workers. The KKE states:
"The CC summed up its initial conclusions and promoted the process of discussion within the party and general with friends and supporters of the Party as well as with people who cooperate and struggle along with the Party."
With respect, the Communist Party of Canada does not do that. In fact it is quite the opposite. The attitude that is more often encountered is distant, insular, and dour when requests for discussion are posed and in our view that attitude is not helpful and must change. The notion of leadership infallibility, an intolerance and irritation with any critical commentary of its work is a feature of the attitude of some in the leadership of the Communist Party of Canada today and it is harmful to our cause.
The evidence for such an attitude is the failure of the party leadership to invite on a regular basis a discussion of its work, to provide a venue for such discussion, to organize rather than manage such a discussion. Failure to do that sends a message to supporters which imply leadership mastery of all aspects of the complexities of the current class struggle in our country which in our view is remote from the truth. Periodic omnibus resolutions by the Central Committee with fervent calls for action for the membership will not achieve the turn that is required. Something more is required.
The main obstacle to a break through for our Party into the mainstream of militant labour politics in Canada today is not limited to intensity of effort. If that were the solution, we would be rapidly growing in influence and membership since there are many examples of herculean efforts by individual party members who struggle everyday to advance the cause of the Party. The courage and determination of members to stand as candidates, to carry the Party's banners, to speak out for the Party's cause, to circulate its press, the example of full time organizers struggling to advance the cause of the Party under trying circumstances is not in question.
There is something more important that has to be done. What has to be done is in the realm of public propaganda, education, theory and ideology. The CPS contend that the Party leadership has become impatient and intolerant with requests for discussion of this problem. There is a danger that if this does not change, the Party will be reduced to barren appeals to the membership for action that will not materialize in practice because the necessary programmatic, theoretical and ideological problems confronting the membership and its supporters have not been adequately solved.
The main evidence of that problem is disdain for Communist polemics with opportunist trends that arise in the labour and people's movements and in its absence, an accommodation in practice to reformist and ultra-leftist pressures on our Party and its supporters which they are poorly equipped to confront and defeat. For the Communist Party's leadership to deny this is the case is folly. It is rare for any critical evaluations of alien pseudo Marxist trends to be taken up by the leadership of the Party. Worse, there appears in the name of unity, a deliberate avoidance of such evaluations. For example, the views of the Communist Party have coincided with Socialist Project oracles such as Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch and cited the views of right wing social democrat Ed Broadbent[2] former leader of the NDP as evidence that the line of the Communist Party of Canada on trade union policy, and in particular its criticisms of Buzz Hargrove and Ken Lewenza of the CAW must be correct. When Communists turn to right wing social democracy and radical petty bourgeois theorists for validation we assert the Communists have a problem.
Do we agree with Broadbent's social democratic reformist view of post war class and labour history[3] that Broadbent lauds as a "golden era" and where he asserts that the people and workers of the "North Atlantic countries were major beneficiaries? Broadbent extols without explicitly saying so, the role of social democracy during the cold-war in subverting and accommodating the leadership of the organized labour movement in Canada to the anti-communist and anti-Soviet campaigns of imperialism that characterized that era.
Did labour benefit from the cold war or was its essential militancy undermined? That is a theme that demands critical in depth analysis to educate the working class and the contemporary organized labour movement today about the source and corroding affect of class collaborationism and what are its real ideological, theoretical and class origins. In our differences with the CPC over its response to the Magna CAW deal we dealt with that matter which was pointedly ignored by the Party leadership. We are on the record with our assessment of Ed Broadbent and his attacks on Buzz Hargrove and his views about labour history and in particular as they apply to the Canadian auto workers. We intend to continue to elaborate our views on this issue.
A similar situation prevails on environmental theory and the dominance over this issue by an array of liberal, humanist and social democratic academics activists and theorists. The Communist left in Canada and the USA have made accommodations to classless environmental theories that are in essence anti-working class and that mistakenly declare global warming to be a greater threat to human life and the future of the planet than nuclear weapons and imperialist war. We in CPS have also stated our views on this matter attempting to apply a class analysis based on Marxism to establish a basis for unity with this important movement. Our views on this matter were also pointedly ignored by the leadership of the Communist Party which has done no original Communist theoretical work on this file.
Why is there no Communist class response to the theories of the radicalized liberal and social democratic left? We contend that is a serious weakness and the failure to do so results in lending credibility inside the organized labour movement and the mass anti-monopoly movements of the people to reformist and non-Marxist views. One need only go to the websites of the CLC and its provincial affiliates to see the consequences of uncritical acceptance by the leadership of these organizations of social reformist theory and ideology. In particular such influences are the main obstacle to organized labour entering more fully into the struggle against militarism and war and for peace. That underlines the vital importance and significance of the reorganization and role of Canadian Peace Congress and the World Peace Council that does not receive either the political or organizational support it deserves.
Is it unreasonable for Party members and its base of supporters to expect that the Chair of the Party's Labour Commission would be seized with the need to confront Broadbent's social reformist musings about labour history rather than his bewildering and unrelenting attacks on the Hargrove Lewenza leadership of the Canadian Auto Workers that he has elaborated in detail in a string of bleak assessments in the pages of People's Voice. This is done at a time when the CAW confronts the full onslaught of a combined US-Canadian finance capitalist attack on the union and the jobs of its members. Is it unreasonable to expect that General Secretary Miguel Figueroa, Comrade Dan Goldstick the editor of Spark and other academics who are leading members of the CC, Provincial leaders, leading and experienced Communist candidates would at least occasionally write on an assigned and consistent basis, critical Communist assessments about theoretical and policy matters as they arise in the mass movements?
We contend that this is not done because of the mistaken view that to criticize the views of those with whom we seek to unite in anti-monopoly struggles will harm those movements. That in our view is a concession to anti-communism. That problem has plagued our Party since Tim Buck stepped down from the leadership and a centrist approach emerged and dominated questions of unity often veering into openly revisionist territory. The centrist trend emerged as the dominant trend in Communist leadership assessment of what constituted a correct approach to labour unity and anti-monopoly mass struggles of the people and over time lead directly and inexorably to the inner party crisis of 1990.
Centrism is the most difficult of deviations in communist parties to correctly assess because it seems so plausible. What could be more common sense than guarding against "left" dogmatism on the one hand and "right" revisionism on the other? One need only assert, when confronted with a difference, that there is a threat from one or the other and quote at length from correct Marxist theory, with which no Communist will disagree. Such an approach becomes a contrivance to evade the urgent and necessary and patient polemics and discussion of the real objective concreteness of the issues that underlay differences and that can lead to its resolution without splits.
Centrism effectively submerges differences in a welter of re-statement of Communist fundamentals which no Communist challenges. The membership, and in particular new recruits, soon weary of such barren and irritatingly long winded discussions led by "leaders and their betters" that evades the concreteness of issues and meanders all through the well known theories of Marxism without talking about its concrete application in real conditions.
Is there a need to discuss theory and ideology for reasons other than its direct application to solving the problems of the class struggle? Like any other science the fundamentals must be first be mastered through study and education. We believe there is an urgent need to do just that in the course of which their power in solving contemporary problems will become clear.
For example, Lenin is often quoted these days by Comrade Sam Webb, General Secretary of the CPUSA whose views are in the public domain via the internet and where at least, the CPUSA invites comment on his analysis. Comrade Webb's basic contention as we understand it is that Marxism-Leninism upholds his thesis that the task of "building the mass movements" is the primary work of the Communist Party and its membership at this moment and into the far distant future. Socialism he argues is not on the agenda, something that Comrade Kashtan also asserted[4] at another time but in the context of the same discussion of contemporary political and class struggles. The demand for concentrating on building mass movements is asserted as though there were Communists who opposed building the mass movements.
We in CPS contend that posing the question in the way Comrade Webb does needs critical examination today. In our view it is an evasion of a more important question that needs to be discussed. We believe it is at the nub of current differences of assessment and approach among Communists in Canada and the USA as to what a fully Marxist revolutionary line for today should be.
In our view that question is: "Do we set aside our theory and ideology in the name of unity?" And even more importantly and relevant, what is the theory and ideology that will be set aside and what theory and ideology will take its place? Or alternatively, are we in a period where an eclecticism of theories prevails, all of which have some aspect of relevance, and all of which should merit respect and tolerance? Or stated in another way, does Communist ideology harm the building of the mass movements or strengthen them? We contend it is the latter and not the former.
Since Lenin is freely quoted to defend various theses emanating from the revisionist right and the modern day versions of the "economist left" expressed in such slogans as: "theory is a process", "Marxism is not a dogma" and other such statements, it clearly invites and must lead to a discussion of the fundamentals of Lenin"s teachings on what constitutes the role of a vanguard party in contemporary struggles.
The invitation to consider what has become obsolete in Marxism needs to be taken up. The onus for doing so first of all falls on those who suggest there is a need to revisit the matter of fundamentals. That needs to be done without fear and forthrightly as to what fundamentals is proposed are obsolete, have lost their revolutionary relevance and should be set aside or revised. To imply that theories do not apply without saying why they do not apply does not do the advocates of such a view much credit.
Quoting Lenin can also be problematic since like Marx he can be called into the debate to buttress one or the other point of view. Permit me to quote from Lenin's classic work "What Is to Be Done" where Lenin dealt exhaustively with the need for an unrelenting struggle for the purity of Marxist Leninist theory. Lenin was compelled in this work to confront an out of context quote from Marx used by advocates of a trend among Russian revolutionaries who revered direct action and expressed impatience with theory. Lenin argued passionately for the idea that theory was absolutely vital to revolutionary advance but not just any theory but a scientific theory that fulfilled all of the main tenants of Marxism as developed by Marx and Engels.
Here is what Lenin said of this matter: It is necessary in support of the point of view we are arguing for in this article to quote it fully:
"the celebrated freedom of criticism does not imply the substitution of one theory for another, but freedom from all integral and considered theory; it implies eclecticism and lack of principle. Those who have the slightest acquaintance with the actual state of our movement cannot but see that the wide spread of Marxism was accompanied by a certain lowering of theoretical level. Quite a number of people with very little, and even a total lack of theoretical training joined the movement because of its practical significance and its practical successes. We can judge from that how tactless the Rabocheye Delo is when, with an air of triumph, it quotes Marx's statement: "every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programs." To repeat these words in a period of theoretical chaos is like wishing mourners at a funeral "many happy returns of the day." Moreover these words of Marx are taken from his letter on the Gotha Program, in which he sharply condemns eclecticism in the formation of principles: If you must unite, Marx wrote to the party leaders, then enter into agreements to satisfy the practical aims of the movement, but do not allow any bargaining over principles, do not make "concessions" in questions of theory." This was Marx's idea and yet there are people among us who strive "in his name" to belittle the significance of theory."[5]
Such was Lenin's advice and attitude to the matter of theory. Can the Communist Party grow without a corresponding growth of the study and application of theory and a deepening of Communist ideology among its membership?
The Communist Party of Canada must look closely and without fear at not only the organizational state of the Party, which in many respects has evolved more into a collection of collectives than an integrated and united vanguard Party of the Leninist type and, if it wishes to overcome that organizational weakness, more importantly must address the weak state of its theoretical and ideological work. If this is not done the organizational weaknesses in the Party will be deemed to be primarily due to a lack of effort by the membership rather than the theoretical inadequacies of the leadership.
We in CPS say these things because of our deep conviction that the working class is demanding and urgently in need of a revolutionary response to the economic and political crisis it confronts today and that can only come from a theoretically strengthened Communist Party.
The general political malaise among the masses expressed in disillusionment and boycotting of elections, the public disgust with capitalist politics, the weariness and revulsion with the war in Afghanistan, the disillusionment of the youth and the abandonment of their needs, the anger at the indignities that continued to be imposed on working women, on racial minorities, on immigrant workers, the frustration of workers with the corporate and finance capitalist investors using the depression as the pretext to de-industrialize the manufacturing sector, plunder the state and pension funds, the cynical sell out of our energy and mining resources, the undermining of Parliament and its substitution by cosmopolitan decision making by finance capital at the IMF, the World Bank, the G8, at NATO headquarters in Brussels and in the back rooms of the Bilderberg Group and Doha, anywhere except in the Parliament of Canada all of this and more characterizes the current state of politics that cries out for revolutionary presence of Marxism in all of the mass movements of the day.
We in CPS say these things in the full knowledge of the enormous difficulties faced by our Party and its supporters. Since when has it been otherwise?
We are inspired by the renaissance of our movement internationally and the heroism and accomplishments of KKE, the parties of the remaining socialist states, and the heroism of Communists in countries in revolutionary transition. We for our part in Canada can and must do better.


Left Turn Canada!

[1]Tim Buck, Canada: The Communist Viewpoint, Chapter VI- "The Guide to Working-Class Vicotry". Tim Buck outlined the role and determining feature of the fight for socialism in Canada. His question was to all Communists was "Bourgeois or working-class ideology?"
[2]Sam Hammond, "Crisis and Challenge in Labour: fight or Fold?", People's Voice, November 16-30 2007
[3]Ed Broadbent, "Political assault on social rights is worsening inequality", CCPA Monitor, Vol. 6 No.1, May 2009
[4]William Kashtan, "Some questions of party line and style of work", Communist Viewpoint, Vol. 10 No. 1, Jan-Feb 1978
[5]VI Lenin, "What is to be done", Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1961, Moscow, Collected Works, Volume 5, pp. 347-530