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The CPC Condemns Publication of
Tim Buck's Reminiscences (1977)

We previously posted Ian Angus's 1979 review of Yours in the Struggle — Reminiscences of Tim Buck, a book published by NC Press in 1977. That review included the following passage:

For all of the inadequacies of Yours in the Struggle, its editors deserve congratulation for publishing an important historical document, especially since they did so in defiance of an attempt to suppress it. Both of the editors have been suspended from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Canada for releasing the Reminiscences against the Party leadership's instructions.

The following letter from the CPC's Central Executive Committee sheds additional light on that episode. It is undated, but from internal evidence it was written late in 1977, probably in November. (The original in our possession is date-stamped "Dec. 20 1977," possibly the date on which it was received or filed.)

William Beeching, who co-edited the controversial book, was involved in a series of conflicts with the party leadership through the decade. He was censured for  "pursuing a separate left opportunist line" in 1970, and eventually expelled by a party convention in January 1980.

To All Members
Communist Party of Canada

      Re: "Yours in the Struggle — Reminiscences of Tim Buck"

Dear comrades:

The CEC addresses this letter to you in order to acquaint all members of the Party with the position of the Central Committee in respect to this book, published by the NC Press, Toronto, under the direction of Comrade Bess Mascolo and edited by Central Committee member William Beeching and alternate CC member Phyllis Clarke.

The book is based on a series of taped interviews made by comrade Buck in cooperation with the CBC. The existence of these tapes was first brought to the attention of the CEC by comrade Mark Frank. Copies of the tapes are in the possession of York University, Toronto, and are available for public study. The CEC received a copy of the transcript of the tapes from comrade Buck. Following its study of the transcript the CEC decided to write to comrade Buck (who was in Mexico for the winter) outlining its conclusions concerning the taped material for his consideration.

The CEC found that much of the material provided a good source for writing the autobiography which comrade Buck, though ill, was working on with the assistance of comrade Beeching. In this respect, however, the CEC pointed out there was need of validation of happenings, accuracy checking, correction of names, etc. The CEC also drew attention to other material requiring further development, as for instance the treatment of the Industrial Workers of the World; the socialist breakthrough; definition of the proletariat; the treatment of the early years of the formation of the Party which, as described in the transcript, could leave the reader with the impression of an exercise in conspiracy; and the treatment of the struggle against the right-wing position of "American Exceptionalism", which required filling-out to encompass all the forces involved in the struggle against opportunism, particularly the important role played by the YCL.

But far more serious than the above, some of the material in the transcript was open to misinterpretation at the expense of the Party. Two such areas drawn to the attention of comrade Buck in the CEC letter were the treatment of the 20th Congress of the CPSU and that of the 1946 "spy case".

The CEC letter to comrade Buck pointed out that the transcript treatment of that historic Congress might create the impression that the fraternal delegates from brother Parties were treated with contempt or worse in respect to the exposure of the cult of Stalin. The CEC advised comrade Buck that the transcript coverage of this aspect of the work of the 20th Congress could be misconstrued and thus obscure the impact of that Congress on world development; and on the strategy and tactics of Communist and Workers’ Parties. The CEC letter to comrade Buck stressed that there should be no impression conveyed in the autobiography of an approach to the 20th Congress that differed from the Party’s assessment of it.

Secondly, the transcript’s treatment of the "spy case", directed to undermining the reputation of the Party as part of the imperialist preparations for its cold war assault against social progress and peaceful co-existence, was rather ambigious [sic] and thus open to misrepresentation about the nature of this RCMP-rigged case and the role of a then Communist Member of Parliament.

Finally, the CEC letter to comrade Buck drew attention to the important role he had played for many years in the leadership of the Party, and consequently that what is written in his autobiography will be considered as part of the history of the Party. From this standpoint the CEC expressed its view that it was essential there be full agreement between author and CEC on the political content of the autobiography.

In outlining its views to comrade Buck, the CEC fully appreciated that the material studied by it was only a transcript of the taped remarks made during taping sessions. Consequently such remarks made during an interview would not necessarily be well thought out or well formulated. But in the actual writing of the autobiography comrade Buck would take fully into account the comments of the CEC.

Unfortunately, this letter was never sent to comrade Buck by reason of the worsening of his illness and subsequent death in Mexico. It was, however, sent to comrade Beeching who at that time was collaborating with comrade Buck in preparing the transcript for publication. Therefore, comrade Beeching, the main editor of the book, was well aware of the CEC’s criticism of certain parts of the taped materials.

It should be emphasized that both comrade Beeching and comrade Clarke were fully acquainted with the CEC’ s criticisms of those parts of the transcript outlined in this letter. For both were privy to all decisions of the CEC by virtue of their positions on the Central Committee.

In view of comrade Buck’s death the CEC decided to proceed with the publication of a book about Tim and his early life and his work as a leader of the Party. This was done without prejudice to further publication of materials of comrade Buck’s. In 1975 Progress Books published "Tim Buck — A Conscience for Canada" by Oscar Ryan.

Comrade Mascolo, with whom the Secretariat met and who is responsible for the publication of "Yours in the Struggle", was likewise acquainted with the views of the CEC in respect to the mentioned material. Yet, she too, in defiance of the views of the CEC, went ahead with the publication of the book without the necessary modifications and correction of those parts mentioned which could be inimical to the interests of the Party.

Characteristic of comrade Mascolo’s defiance, was her rejection of the request made on behalf of comrade Tom McEwen that the foreward [sic] to the book he had written at the request of comrade Buck not be published. Because of her insistence, all the taped material, possible of misinterpretation and misrepresentation remain in the book, material that enemies of the Party can use to link the honored name of Tim Buck with the anti-Soviet, anti-Marxist-Leninist, pro-imperialist policies of the Maoist leaders of China.

The very act of giving the book to NC Press, a Maoist-oriented publishing house that publishes the works of Mao in Canada and other ultra-left authors, unloosened a floodgate of Maoist support for its publication and promotion. This support includes Dr. James Endicott — a well-known advocate of the anti-Soviet positions of Mao — his son Norman Endicott, and other-well-known supporters of Maoism across Canada. Also actively supporting and promoting the book is the publisher of the magazine "Northern Neighbors", Dyson Carter.

This attempt to associate comrade Buck’s name with Maoism is done by NC Press in its advertising. A full-page advertisement in Canadian Forum is headed by a quote from James Endicott’s endorsement of the book. It is done also in the main text of the ad where it states that Tim "encouraged Norman Bethune to go to China" and neglects to say that Tim encouraged Bethune to go to Spain. Incidentally, the pro-Maoist NC Press also uses a quote from comrade Beeching in the ad, thus linking up the names of comrades Buck, Bethune and Beeching with the anti-Sovietism of Maoism and Mao’s Canadian advocate, James Endicott.

The CEC first learned, through a press release from NC Press, that publication of "Yours in the Struggle" was going ahead and that comrades Beeching and Clarke were editing the book. Neither of these comrades saw fit to consult with the CEC before undertaking this project. Such behaviour by two veteran members of the Party, holding positions on the Party’s Central Committee, is intolerable. In this manner, they set themselves on a course of evasion and defiance. This was the way they chose to "honor" the memory of an outstanding Canadian, an outstanding Communist, a steadfast Marxist-Leninist.

Consequently the Central Committee at its meeting of October 14-15, 1977 characterized the actions of these two comrades as "thoughtless, irresponsible and injurious to the cause of the Party, the working class movement and, not least, to the memory of Tim Buck". The CC decided to suspend comrade Beeching as a member of the Central Committee and comrade Phyllis Clarke as an alternate member of the Central Committee for ‘grave violation of democratic centralism in defiance of a decision of the Central Executive Committee".

In addition to these disciplinary measures taken by the Central Committee against two of its members, the CEC is taking steps to receive an accounting from other comrades associated with the publication and promotion of "Yours in the Struggle", and will take whatever disciplinary measures it deems necessary in accordance with the outcome of the said accountings.

Trusting this information will clear up any misunderstanding in respect to the CC’s attitude to this publication and why the action it has been compelled to take is vital to the best interests of the Party and the working class movement.

comradely yours,
Central Executive Committee
Communist Party of Canada.

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