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Socialist League Founding Statement

In February 1974, a group led by Ross Dowson resigned from the LSA/LSO, citing a variety of political differences, mainly related to the NDP and Canadian nationalism. They established the Socialist League, which published the newspaper Forward until the early 1980s.

Shortly after its founding, the Socialist League published following statement as a pamphlet.


The Socialist League
and the Struggle for a Socialist Canada

The wave of the youth radicalization that swept across Canada in the past decade has made many attempts to overcome the deeply rooted crises of capitalist society and to replace it with socialism. Both during this period and earlier, revolutionaries who are now gathered together in the Socialist League have tried to give political direction to the growing consciousness of the Canadian working people and their allies in the traditions of Marxism.

The New Wave of Radicalism in Canada

The Canadian radicalization reflects the crisis of capitalism not only in Canada but throughout the world. The Vietnamese and Cuban revolutions inspired a new generation with anti-imperialist consciousness on a world-wide scale. In Canada, this revulsion directed chiefly against US imperialism led many to view Canada as part and parcel of the US-dominated world imperialist system.

Trotskyists in Canada participated in the building of the mass movements against the shameless and satellitic complicity of the Canadian government in Vietnam. This anti-imperialist sentiment, initially based in the student movement, proceeded to influence the mass organizations of the Canadian working people, expressing itself in demands for independence from the pro-imperialist American trade union brass and in the development of a desire for democratically run unions responsive to the needs of Canadian workers. This anti-imperialist sentiment swept right into the heart of the union-based New Democratic Party where the Waffle developed as the fusion of the Canadian youth radicalization with politicized layers of the working class.

The Challenge Before Canadian Socialists

The continuing crisis of Canadian capitalism, expressed in runaway inflation, unemployment, rising taxes, cutbacks in the public sector and education, and the housing crisis is daily drawing wider layers of Canadians into the arena of politics. The phenomenal growth of the NDP, demonstrated by the presence of NDP governments in three provinces and the fielding of expanded slates for provincial elections in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, dramatically points up the growing possibilities opening up for revolutionary socialists.

But the revolutionary left, in a state of disunity and discord, has failed to develop a successful strategy to reach the mass of Canadian workers. The crisis of leadership in the workers' movement and in the revolutionary left has meant that most Canadians look upon the NDP as the only practical alternative to the rule of big business. The NDP—not the organizations of the radical left—constitutes the only mass, organized, political expression of the aspirations of Canadian workers for independent working-class political action today and for some time to come.

The NDP, however, is dominated by a liberal-reformist leadership which is parliamentarist and opportunist. This leadership, although capable of moving to the left under mass pressure, has the limited perspective of reforming a system which cries out for replacement.

Problems of the Canadian Left

At present, the revolutionary left is isolated from the mass of newly radicalized workers. The Waffle, which emerged as the broadest and most dynamic current within the radicalization, has done much to pose the socialist solution to Canada's economic problems, especially those related to Canada's domination by US imperialism. But the Waffle's outright rejection of the NDP in its entirety blocks it from ever developing a mass base. Thus, the Waffle has erected an unbreachable organizational barrier to the mass, pan-Canadian audience which previously was most responsive to its politics.

The sectarianism inherent in the Waffle's rejection of the NDP is a generally recurring problem of the revolutionary left in Canada. The unevenness of the radicalization has resulted in the more advanced elements and organizations searching for shortcuts to the working class and rejecting the NDP in the process.

But in Canada today, the rejection of the NDP does not mean the rejection of liberal-reformism; rather it means isolation from the millions of Canadian workers who are just beginning to express their developing class consciousness through identification with independent labor political action through the NDP.

Need for a Transitional Program

In order to make a mass intervention in the Canadian workers' movement, revolutionaries require an interventionist strategy in the NDP. Such an approach stands against the abandonment of a revolutionary orientation and for the adoption of a transitional program and strategy in the tradition of Leon Trotsky's founding program for the Fourth International. With this program and strategy, revolutionary socialists seek to meet the needs of Canadian workers in terms of immediate demands and of those demands which will carry them into struggles which challenge the entire capitalist system.

The activists who came together to found the Socialist League have followed this strategy for many years. In the women's liberation movement, the student movement, the Quebec independence movement, and trade union movement, we have fought for a program capable of mobilizing mass independent struggles in the streets. Far from posing an obstacle to working class action, the NDP has served to focus the need for independent labor political action within our transitional strategy. On many important occasions, we have united with New Democrats in the struggle for a socialist program and leadership while simultaneously gathering revolutionary cadres into an independent Leninist organization with a perspective of revolutionary change.

The Socialist League

In this approach, the Socialist League stands firmly on the historical positions of Marx and Lenin. We are, in our majority, longstanding former members of the League for Socialist Action/La Ligue Socialiste Ouvričre (LSA/LSO), the traditional organization of Canadian Trotskyism affiliated to the Fourth International.

We resigned from the LSA/LSO because of its sectarian degeneration.

This degeneration was the result of a two-year process in which all the sections of the Fourth International, including its highest bodies, were subjected to an all-out assault from ultraleftist pressure emanating from the immature young radicals which had recently found their way to the tiny nucleus of cadres that constituted the Fourth International. The LSA leadership failed to answer the challenge of the ultralefts but instead adapted to it, especially as mass mobilizations of key sectors of the radicalization began to decline.

The Revolutionary Marxist Group represents an ultraleft current which crystallized within the LSA (as an extension of the international current). Its sectarian approach to politics does not flow out of its adherence to the principles of Trotskyism but rather to its immaturity.

Although it cannot be said that the disagreements among the Trotskyist currents represent differences of fundamental theoretical principles of Marxism, the differences on the plane of intervention are real nonetheless. For example, the LSA has rejected as a principle the nationalist mood that has taken hold of virtually every sector of the radicalization. Despite the clearly anti-imperialist roots of this sentiment, and its anticapitalist direction, the LSA leadership has dismissed this nationalist mood as reactionary in all its forms and expressions.

Even more significantly, the LSA has dumped its longstanding strategic orientation to the NDP. We do not place conditions on our support to the NDP because we are attempting to build broad left wings within the party directed against the NDP leadership's lack of a socialist perspective or program. Although this position is what distinguished the Trotskyists from every other current operating in the milieu of Canadian working-class politics, the LSA has carried out concentrated sectarian attacks on the NDP as a whole in its retreat from recognizing the NDP as the touchstone of mass class politics.

And the revision of the LSA's positions on these key questions is part of a more widespread revision of its approach to other questions as well. This has been the conclusion of the LSA's adaptation to ultraleftism.

The founding members of the Socialist League carried on an extended effort to prevent the LSA from pursuing its sectarian course. The Socialist League was formed after it became obvious that this process could not be halted. The Socialist League intends to continue to develop within the framework of the political traditions of the LSA, as they were developed over three decades before they were dumped.

The Socialist League is a democratic centralist organization which views its main tasks as gathering cadres for the future mass revolutionary party. In this sense, the Socialist League is the legitimate continuator of Canadian Trotskyism, going back to the founding of the Communist Party in 1921.

For a World Party of Revolution

We are internationalists to the core despite the present state of disunity within the world revolutionary socialist movement. Therefore, we remain partisans, for a Fourth International and for the reunification of Trotskyist forces on a principled basis after differences have been tested in practice.

The radicalization in Canada is deepening and broadening. We intend to be an integral part of mass future struggles as they find expression in the labor movement, in the women's movement, on the campuses, and in the NDP. In so doing, we will work in unity with all individuals and groups engaged in the mass movements to build a socialist Canada in a socialist world.

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