Untitled report of the PC (Political Committee) and the NC (National Committee) of the pre-SEL (Socialist Educational League)

dated Oct.6/55 by Ross Dowson

The main document adopted by our 1954 convention in reply to the liquidationism of our Canadian Pablists (followers of the Fourth International faction around Michel Pablo -ed.),, rejecting the concept that the CCF would be transformed by mass pressure into the party of the Canadian proletarian revolution, stated that "the mass revolutionary party in Canada will be forged in the process of a whole series of splits, unifications, expulsions." Elsewhere in the same document it was stated, "In the course of the exhaustion of the progressive possibilities of the CCF there will be splits, expulsions, reunifications, splits."

The predictions of expulsions have come to pass sooner than we expected and in a way that was unexpected by us. This last Spring a series of expulsions took place in the East - our expulsions. The basic forces of our movement in the East were cut out of the CCF by the right wing. While through an effective principled. struggle we were able to neutralize about third of the delegates to the Ontario convention and in one case win the support of about a quarter of the delegates we were unable to prevent the expulsion. We were unable to consolidate any viable support in the movement.

In the West while harassed and molested by the right, thanks to the protection of a broad left tendency in the movement, our forces remain intact in the CCF. There the broad left has been suffering setbacks. As a whole there has been a further dissipation of the left's forces. But our basic cadres remain inside the CCF and the CCF continues to provide us with a milieu for work. In the East while some progress has been registered in the rebuilding of our forces in the CCF, our basic cadre is out of the movement. Despite efforts to continue to work in the constituency clubs where we met a certain favorable response after the expulsions, the leadership has been successful in developing a hostile atmosphere and we are increasingly being prevented from working in and around the movement. Two comrades not even directly involved in the expulsions have been informed by a club which was not hostile even at the peak of the struggle that should they attempt to attend meetings in the future they will be barred at the door.

In support of proposals to adjust our work in the direction of certain semi-independent activities, our last convention recorded that the CCF in the East had undergone a considerable decline, that within the constituency organizations there was no material for the building of the revolutionary vanguard party, that our forces were being required to utilize the movement to move out and make contact with new layers of workers. With the expulsions even this line of action has been cut off. Our forces left in the CCF are unable to initiate activities. The movement has continued to decline.

Our forces in the East have been barred from the CCF and it is apparent that they will be barred for a considerable time to come. The limited forces that we still have in the CCF are isolated by the continued rightward course of the movement, the demoralization of the membership, and the failure of the movement to recruit any new blood. In effect what constituted an entry into the CCF has resulted in the East in extremely limited fraction work and under very unfavorable conditions. This situation is going to prevail for some time - until a new upsurge of the workers thrusts them into attempting to utilize for their purposes the instruments that are at hand.

It is apparent that Canadian Trotskyism has now either to re-evaluate its whole orientation to the CCF (its estimation of the line of march of the Canadian workers) or; to adopt new forms of work that will meet the changed circumstances that confront it and will permit it to carry forward its orientation to the CCF. We think that the latter course is the one to be followed.

We decided to make an entry into the CCF not just because our forces were small in the absolute sense; while a party in that we possess a program distinct from all others we did not have the forces to play the role that the Canadian workers expect of a party. We decided to enter because we were isolated, small, in the relative sense also, in relation to the class conscious development of the Canadian workers and western farmers and the direction of this development to the CCF. Our expulsion in the East has not changed this in any way.

The CCF (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, forerunner to the NDP) has continued to swing further to the right and decline, in electoral support, in club membership, and in level of activity. As much as the Coldwell leadership has promoted this process, fundamentally this is a reflection of the whole rightward moving course, the general decline and apathy of the labor movement. We have no cause to question our past opinion that the CCF reflects the first strivings of the class into independent class politics and that the working class in this country will in all probability as a class go through a CCF experience, if only a short one. The progressive possibilities of the CCF have not been exhausted by our expulsions.

Prior to the expulsions, and at an increased tempo since, our Eastern forces have been moving out more openly into semi-independent activities. Last Spring we held a series of forums; through one of them we provided a couple of the expelled an opportunity to publicly defend themselves against the CCF bureaucracy's slanders. Following the provincial election defeat we drew up a leaflet over the name of one of the expelled and circulated it on a fairly broad scale. But so far these moves have been of a somewhat empirical nature and have pointed up all kinds of contradictions.

The public forums were held under the auspices of two individuals, one a well known Trotskyist, the other the most known of the expelled. This sufficed for a couple of forums but soon one must have other speakers. It is difficult to capitalize on forums when no organization sponsors them. Despite their relative anonymity and the limited discussion circle perspective that the forums tended to project, a few persons came our way. They soon came in contact with the peculiar situation of the bookstore and the forums and classes held in the hall - these elaborate facilities supposedly owned and open for the use of certain persons thanks to the generosity of a certain individual. Anyone with any political experience not to speak of normal sensitivity, soon felt that there was something more behind all this than appeared on the surface. This contradiction between our semi-independent activities and the organizational forms dictated by other needs has compromised our relations with persons who despite it all did manage to move towards us - setting up an atmosphere of suspicion, lack of mutual confidence, etc. But of course the primary contradiction is that, cut off from building our movement through the CCF organizations at this time, we have remained fixed on organization forms that restrict our coming into contact with the very layers of workers upon whom we count to build our movement.

Now we must seriously come to grips with the changed situation that confronts us and bring our activities and organizational forms into harmony with these changed situations.

In order to carry out our orientation to the CCF, in order to rebuild our forces within the CCF, we an required to move out into organized independent activity. At this stage of the class struggle the cadre of the revolutionary party cannot be built from within the CCF both because of the decline of the movement and our expulsion from it. The CCF is not now a source of recruitment to the cadre, nonetheless our forces in the CCF must be built up. We must have an effective force in the CCF that will know how to effectively meet the influx of worker-militants that will come with the next upsurge - that can prepare the ground for the possible re-admission of our presently expelled forces. This force can only be built on the basis of independent activity.

The human material with which the vanguard party is to be built is not now going to the CCF and what element that does, does not stay within in the organized movement for there is no left wing at present that can give it any perspective. Increasingly wider layers of workers, not yet a viable force, are getting to understand the treacherous class collaborationist role of the Coldwell leadership of the CCF. The CCF leadership has over the past years betrayed the cause of socialism, its theoretical precepts, the long range interests of the class, countless numbers of times. They are now even betraying the workers at their present level of consciousness and understanding. They did so when Coldwell and three other CCF M.P.s (elected Members of Parliament) defied a national convention and national council position to vote for German re-armament which a Gallop Poll revealed was opposed by % of the population. A critical and distrustful attitude to the CCF is being built up in the minds of worker-militants. But there are no signs that labor political action will take another course - that it will move in another direction without a full scale test of the CCF.

In order to carry out our entry in 1952 we were compelled by the anti-democratic character of the CCF to abandon publication of our press, to create the appearance of having completely dissolved the party and to adopt illegal organizational forms. The new situation confronting us compels us to reconsider all these actions.

The illegal organizational forms that we were compelled to adopt in order to achieve our purposes now stand frontally in the way of the gathering of the cadres, for the mass Trotskyist party of the Canadian revolution. They stand frontally in the way of carrying out the CCF orientation which under different conditions they were first adopted to implement. They have turned into their opposite. To carry out our orientation today we must move out more into the arena of independent activity.

The organization of our forces as an independent party with CCF work having the status of faction work (as opposed to long-term non-split fraction work -ed.), designed to feed us with information and pick off the odd advanced worker that we might contact, would be contrary to our whole evaluation of the probable course of development of the Canadian working class. Organizational forms must serve political ends. We do not want to appear as an opponent political party to the CCF, challenging the CCF for hegemony over the working class movement. We want to appear as the socialists, as the leaders of the opposition to Coldwell's treacherous misleadership of the working class. We do not look upon the CCF as a place for smash and grab faction work but the area where the struggle for the hegemony of the class will unfold. We do not desire to strip the CCF of revolutionaries other than a few left for reconnaissance purposes, to empty it of what revolutionary content it may have. We desire to build and strengthen the revolutionary forces in the CCF, to lead the masses in struggle for the leadership, for the control of the mass movement, knowing quite well that the revolutionary leadership cannot remain in these petty bourgeois, non-Bolshevik forms and that the bureaucracy will not permit them to do so. To reorganize our forces as an independent party would only play into the hands of the CCF leadership. It would make it all the more easy for them to isolate as from the working class movement at its present level of development. It would in a sense amount to our voluntarily isolating ourselves.

Should we meet the need to move more outward by attempting to erect in front of the illegal organizational forms we are now maintaining, another organization - a sort of front? Our responsibility as revolutionaries is to build the revolutionary vanguard party. The presently illegal organization is the vanguard in its present state of development. To answer the question as to whether we should erect some kind of legal front one must answer the question "what would we gain from the point of view of building the vanguard?" What would be the program, the general aim of such an organization? Whom could we expect to attract to it other than the immediate contacts that we now have? There is no discernable motion of unattached layers of workers who could be corralled by some limited program of a revolutionary character or action. The whole climate today is against it. The first evidence against this is the lack of a functioning left wing of any kind at any political level in the Eastern CCF and the complete isolation of the Trotskyists within the CCF. The same situation prevails in the trade unions, showing that the situation in the CCF is not an anomaly. To attempt to carry out semi-independent work through the setting up of another organization and maintaining the cadre organization as it is now would place a profitless strain, through duplication of meetings etc., etc. on our limited forces.

The organizational form that is most suitable to our needs at this time, that will be the most favorable instrument for the building of the vanguard party, would be the illegal organization operating openly as an educational league. Organized as a league we would have all the freedom of movement of the independent party but at the sent time our true relationship to the CCF would be expressed.

The primary role of the league will be propagandistic (educational), through forums, a press, magazine and pamphlet sales, election participation where thought practicable, etc. It will be oriented to the CCF. Through whatever avenues at its disposal the league will give leadership to the left currents in the CCF, it will attempt to be the spokesman of the left, sharpening up the criticism of the Coldwell leadership, advancing our transitional program. Presenting itself as the CCF Left Opposition, the League will have great political flexibility around the principled program of Trotskyism.

On the basis of its independent activities, which will be carried primarily by those who have been barred from working in the CCF, the league will appeal to those workers who are coming to understand the treacherous role of the CCF reformist leadership and program. It will appeal to dissident elements in and around the Stalinist LPP and workers who want an alternative to both the CCF and the LPP (Labor Progressive Party -- Stalinist).

Since its main field of operations will be in and around the CCF and amongst militants who tend to gravitate towards the union political action committees, the CCF leadership will soon label the league as an opponent political party. In the interest of the security of our forces known membership in the league will be of necessity limited to those barred from the CCF. Since the league will not want to play into the right wing's hands it will have no formal international affiliation. Fraction work in the CCF will be one of the main activities of the league. It will meet the expansion and contraction of the opportunities for fruitful work in the CCF with the appropriate deployment of its forces. All who can possibly do so, including those attracted to the league on the basis of its independent work, will hold membership in the CCF. Through the work of its fraction the league will gain new recruits. Though the league the strategy of the socialist opposition to the Coldwell reformist policies will be hammered out and applied.

Our convention last year, pointing up the historically unprecedented absence of a revolutionary socialist press in this country, decided we should publish a series of pamphlets. To be published over the name of one of the known leading comrades they were to serve as a substitute for a paper in view of the fact that "such a project (as a paper) would require some sort of apparatus of a formal character which it would not be advisable to set up at this time when it would be so vulnerable to the disciplinary action of the mass movement's leadership.'' These pamphlets were to put forward the full Trotskyist viewpoint. At the same time we decided to attempt to publish from the West Coast what would ultimately be a cross-Canada left CCF press. We thought that the native left wing in BC would provide us with a base and prominent BC left wingers would provide us with a cover. Various difficulties in the East have frustrated our attempts to publish the planned pamphlets. The treachery of the leading left wingers on the West Coast has frustrated the publication of a left CCF press.

Both efforts would have had an unfortunate anonymity about them. The league will not only provide us with the necessary organizational structure to publish and circulate a paper. The league will provide us with an organization which can profit by, which can be the center around which will gravitate those who find themselves in ideological agreement with the views of the paper.

The comrades in the East are in a position to provide the apparatus for the publication of a monthly tabloid. They are also in a position to provide the paper with a sufficient circulation base to make it well worth the effort of ceasing to rely entirely upon the southern press (the SWP Militant -ed.) and, of publishing a paper of our own. Nationally our movement should be able to finance the paper without having to function on a crisis basis.

Due to the fact that the West in toto is still able to function within the CCF their participation in the circulation of the press will be somewhat curtailed. For instance it would probably unwise at this time that they distribute it at public functions, that is, publicly identify themselves with it other than as persons who think that it advocates many good ideas. They would of course take subscriptions for it from interested persons. They would circulate it with care amongst persons who seem to be interested. They would provide us with contact lists for sample mailing. It will be of great aid to them in developing contacts for it will be able to say all that they are circumscribed from saying.

What will the line of the press be? It will be the Canadian press of world Trotskyism. It will be directed towards the building of the league which is gathering the cadre of the mass revolutionary party of the future. It will support and identify itself with all progressive tendencies within the CCF. It will present itself as the voice of the left wing. It will, while giving support to the CCF, ruthlessly lay bare and criticize from its socialist viewpoint every treachery committed by the CCF and its leadership. In general it will be similar to Labor Challenge after 1948 when we concluded that the CCF had become the Canadian form of the labor party. There will be adjustments in so far as it will only be a monthly with a smaller format, in so far as we are not formally a section of the Fourth International, etc., etc.

The CCF continues to move to the right and decline. There is no cause for as to conclude from this that the line of march of the Canadian workers will not go through the CCF. But it must be recognized that new possibilities for the independent growth of the Trotskyist movement are developing. While the class collaborationist policies of the leadership have demoralized many CCF card holders and caused them to drop out of the movement, they have rendered, a much more limited strata it is true, susceptible to the influence of our class struggle program. Many workers who have never joined the organization but who consider themselves to be CCFers have developed the most critical attitudes to the movement - attitudes that make them susceptible to the influence of a league oriented to the CCF.

In this period, before the workers move forward in an attempt to give their content to the CCF, we have an opportunity to strengthen our forces, to add to our numbers, to heighten our own political understanding, to more broadly disseminate our views. This can best be done organized as an independent league. The greater success in this the more quickly will be the evolution of the Canadian workers to the program of the socialist revolution and the instrument of that program, the Canadian section of the Fourth International.


The PC and NC have already had a preliminary discussion on some of the immediate aspects of the above proposals. In the discussion of the name of the league there were two suggested - The Socialist Educational League and The League for Socialist Action. The first was the most favored. Three names were suggested as suitable for the paper - The Socialist, The Voice of Socialism and Socialist Action. The latter was the most favored.


(The first issue of Workers Vanguard was published in December 1955 - ed)

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