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Report of the Founding Convention of the Revolutionary Workers Party (1946)

[Unsigned document, originally published in mimeographed form in Revolutionary Workers Party Internal Bulletin, September 1946. The ellipses that occur in several places appeared in the original.]

On September 28-29, 1946 in Toronto, the Canadian party of the proletarian revolution was founded. Its founding was the consummation of years of patient work. The independent party of Trotskyism was dealt a crippling blow by the storm of reaction and oppression that broke out with World War II. For five long years only a small handful of workers scattered across the vastness of Canada hung on, confident of its revivification. It was not until September, 1944 that all the labors of those years, all the scattered strings, were pulled together by a convention held at Montreal.

The Montreal convention marked a high point in the history of our movement. This convention, taking place as World War II drew to a close, was the first truly national convention of Canadian Trotskyism since its appearance on Canadian soil in 1928. It was there that we set up a functioning national leadership, that we set ourselves the task of building the independent party of the Fourth International here in Canada.

But the 1944 convention was only a step — a gigantic one but still only a step, to the foundation of the Revolutionary Workers Party which took place in September, 1946. It was here that all the previous labors reached fruition. The immediate purpose of the convention was to draw the balance sheet of the past two years’ work and to launch the party which we had patiently been preparing since 1944.

Now Trotskyism, with a small but full voice and under its own banner, has entered the struggle against its enemies, to win the adherence of the Canadian workers. For the first time in seven years Trotskyism exists in Canada as an independent political force.

Our party today, small though it is, has a hardened core of tested revolutionists concentrated in the main industrial areas and with substantial roots in the working class movement. There were delegates in attendance from Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Toronto and Montreal. The convention opened with the National Secretary reading expressions of solidarity from comrades scattered across the country who were unable to be with us on this inspiring occasion. There were greetings from Vancouver, Wiseton, Milnes Landing, Magna Bay, Moon Lake, Windsor, and our American co-thinkers.

International Report

The first item on the agenda was the international report. We Marxists know that the world exists as an economic unit; that in order to come to grips with the problems of the Canadian revolution it is first necessary to approach it from the world view. It was fitting that the international report should be delivered by a fraternal delegate, E. R. Frank from the SWP (USA), a party which has played a substantial role in our development.

Comrade Frank opened his report with a reaffirmation of the perspective of the proletarian revolution. He related how the war swept over the 4th International on a world scale ... how its forces, nowhere mass parties, were unable to effectively struggle against its monstrous sweep and how its international connections were severed. Suddenly in 1943 we received word of the great revolutionary struggles that broke out in Northern Italy. As the war came to a close after 20 years of darkness end reaction, great struggles developed revindicating the theoretical program and the whole basis of our movement.

News broke through of our survival in every important country in Europe and of how the various sections acquitted themselves throughout the war years. Comrade Frank highlighted the heroic struggle of the parties of the 4th International ... how they organized cells in the German army, published illegal papers under difficult conditions and conducted themselves in every country as Bolsheviks. Our comrades fell as martyrs before the murder squads of Hitler and the GPU. The European parties were finally, in the early part of 1944, able to establish a functioning executive committee to coordinate their work and rebuild and strengthen the movement internationally.

Thanks to the traitorous role of the Social Democrats and the Stalinists, the first great revolutionary upsurge was defeated. But the defeat is not a definitive one — capitalism has achieved a temporary equilibrium — a breathing spell — but not stability. None of the world’s problems have been solved. Conditions are extremely favorable for our parties if they stand true to their program and are flexible in their tactics. The masses are being thrust into revolutionary struggle by their critical circumstances.

Comrade Frank went on to sum up the recent experiences of the SWP. After outlining its consistent opposition to the war and the imprisonment of 18 leading comrades, he described the campaign conducted by the Civil Rights Defense Committee to expose the Minneapolis trial. Relating the fruitful experiences of the SWP’s trade union work, he pointed out that the SWP was now taking the first steps on the road to building a mass party.

He then sketched in some of the recent developments in Canada that point to the increasing radicalization of the working class and the great potentialities of growth that are opening up before us. This convention is laying the foundations of what will surely end with the successful revolution on the American continent.

Various comrades participated in the discussion that arose from the International report which was later adopted by a unanimous show of hands. The next session opened with the Organizational Report delivered by the National Secretary, Ross Dowson.

Organizational Report

Comrade Dowson drew the balance sheet of the past two years’ work. At the 1944 convention we set ourselves the task of building the independent party of the Fourth International in Canada as soon as possible and we set up the organizational apparatus to achieve this end. In the intervening two years we have not only fulfilled all our objectives but have met and conquered new tasks and responsibilities that developed. We took the material that was at hand, immature and inexperienced though it was, and molded it to meet our needs, Comrades from factories and shops with absolutely no previous experience rose to the occasion. They became speakers, journalists, edited a paper, saw it through the print shop, and gave leadership to the party nationally.

We developed an effective weapon in Labor Challenge which first appeared in June, 1945. Labor Challenge had a meteoric growth right from the beginning. By the time we had published 5 or 6 issues we had approximately 800 paid up subscribers. In the fall the N.C. decided that it was necessary for us to make a forced march to meet new developments. We needed a twice monthly and $1000 to launch it. This was a colossal sum of money for our movement but we managed to top our objective. At the turn of the new year we commenced to publish the twice monthly. That spring we set ourselves the task of broadening its circulation, We launched a campaign for a thousand new subscribers. The comrades rallied to the occasion and while we did not quite reach our objective, we demonstrated the real caliber of our cadres. Through the campaign and mass distributions our press, the voice of Trotskyism, has penetrated into new areas and caused considerable consternation to its opponents.

During this period we hammered out our program and clarified our perspectives. We met in 1944 under semi-illegal conditions. The war was still raging and the vicious Canada Defense Regulations were still operative. A large portion of our party was in the CCF in a semi-illegal status. In the ensuing two years those comrades in the CCF conducted an effective struggle for our program. Labor Challenge played an invaluable role in the clarification of our ideas and the rallying of our forces. Today we are consummating this work with the foundation of the Canadian party.

We now have a base in the Canadian working class with members at large and branches in the key industrial centers. We have developed an effective national leadership that has been able to give political guidance to the movement, despite the barriers of time and space and our poverty of forces. We have commenced the publication of an internal bulletin. We have imported and circulated across the country hundreds of pieces of Trotskyist literature. The party has been able to erect a fairly stable financial base under itself.

Comrade R. Dowson continued with the Trade Union Report. The highlight of our trade union work was the instrumental role we played in rescuing the newly developed French Canadian trade union movement from a reactionary separatist break from the rest of organized Canadian labor. Our work in this respect will go down in the history of Canadian trade unionism. We can confidently say that but for our party, development of the French Canadian working class would have been thrust back for decades.

Our party is almost completely proletarian in its membership. Because of this we have been able to exert an influence in the trade union movement completely out of proportion to our numbers. Our Vancouver comrades have great influence in the basic industrial unions in that area. In Prince Rupert we have done an effective job of popularizing certain aspects of our transitional program in the unions. One of our West Coast comrades is unable to be here with us as he is playing a leading role in the hard rock miners strike that is in progress now. In Toronto our work has not been so phenomenal but we are nonetheless making good headway and are at present in the process of concentrating our forces in the auto industry.

As we meet here the great strike wave is coming to a close. This strike wave has been national in scope, involving the overwhelming majority of the organized working class. The strikes were long and bitterly fought and ended in the greatest wage increases ever won by Canadian labor. The nature of the capitalist state, the bankruptcy of the reformist trade union leadership, has been exposed as never before to the most conscious elements of the Canadian working class. The next strike wave will demonstrate even more clearly the need for a new and revolutionary leadership in the unions. Our party, armed with its transitional program, will have great opportunities to grow and play a dynamic role in the coming struggles.

Comrade Bradley supplemented the organizational report with further information and comments on the struggle waged in the CCF by the Vancouver comrades. Comrade Murray Dowson remarked on recent developments in Toronto. He pointed out that it is necessary that all branches as soon as possible attempt to obtain headquarters and hold regular public meetings and study classes. We must show the workers that we are a serious political party and turn our face outwards in order to build the party.

After further supplementing the report, Comrade Whalen emphasized the point that the main field for party recruiting is in the trade union arena. We have great prestige and considerable influence in B.C. on the basis of our principled fight in the CCF and we will be able to capitalize on this in the immediate future. Comrade Stanton reported on the excellent work that the Prince Rupert comrades had done in the Boilermakers Union and the CCF Industrial Club that they had organized in the shipyards. He summed up with a general picture of our trade union work across the country. Our influence is already quite extensive and the coming period ahead is going to give us unlimited opportunities to build the party.

Party Tasks and Perspectives

Comrade Murray Dowson reported on Party Tasks and Perspectives. He pointed out that the convention had already dealt with the main features of the international situation which apply not only to Europe and the colonial countries but also play their role in Canada ... this is an era of continuing wars and revolutions ... the death agony of capitalism. Revolutionary situations are going to follow one after another. The Fourth International will have great opportunities to grow and to lead these actions in the name of the working class and eventually to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. All the signs point to a devastating depression in the immediate future — we must prepare in Canada for a revolutionary crisis — it is imperative to build our party with the greatest possible speed.

We must not only make known our existence but we must do it in a special way. We must show the workers that our party is the only party that fights against the coming Third World War. We must make of our transitional program a living thing — adapting it to Canadian conditions, revising it and reformulating it to meet conditions as they unfold, We must demonstrate to the Canadian workers the great practicality of our program — the practicality of the proletarian revolution. We must inspire them with its correctness and guide them in their struggles.

While this is our founding convention, unfortunately we have not had the time to present the delegates with a completely documented program. This however does not mean we have not a program ... we have ... it is embraced in what we call the transitional program of the Fourth International. The incoming National Committee must take upon itself the task of preparing a Declaration of Principles of the party as soon as possible.

In order to effectively meet our responsibilities it is necessary that we reinforce the National Office and concentrate our forces. We must draw the best elements from Prince Rupert and move them in to reinforce the center and Vancouver if possible. Montreal must be aided by an able and responsible comrade from the National Office so that we can take advantage of the trade union possibilities there and build a firm branch.

In order to meet the financial needs of the party it is necessary that all comrades and branches make every attempt to meet and if possible oversubscribe their sustaining quotas. Even if this is done we are still left with a considerable monthly deficit (approximately $150.00). Immediately after this convention it is necessary to launch a financial campaign with a minimum objective of $1500 in order to meet this deficit and stabilize the new party.

In the coming Spring we must launch a drive to increase the circulation of our press. But in the meantime we should set ourselves the task of obtaining two subscriptions per month per member. This will give us a stable sub base between campaigns.

Our biggest job is to put our party on the map. Mass distributions of our paper, public meetings, will not be sufficient to overcome our comparative isolation. We must demonstrate to the workers that we are a serious political party. We must enter the political arena by running candidates in elections under our own banner. The Toronto comrades must make every attempt to run someone in the coming municipal elections.

The National Office has given considerable leadership to the party in the past year ... it must increase this phase of its work. This can be done in part by the publication of a combined Internal Bulletin and Party Builder. The Declaration of Principles of the party must be drawn up as soon as possible and printed in both French and English in pamphlet form.

Following the report there was considerable discussion and the report was finally adopted.

The next session was devoted to a discussion of the problems of the Montreal branch and our work amongst the French Canadian working class. Comrade Kelly gave an extensive report on the radicalization of the French Canadians. In the process of the war which speeded up the industrialization of Quebec, whole new strata of the population have been proletarianized and subsequently unionized. He outlined the various factors that are developing to make the French Canadian workers the most explosive section of the Canadian working class ... who will readily find in our program an effective weapon, The decline of the CCF in Quebec and the extensive influence of the LPP amongst the organized workers was discussed at some length with participation from the floor. After a detailed discussion on the opportunities that are opening up for the growth of our party in French Canada, the convention agreed that we should have as a perspective the publication of a French language paper. In the meantime French literature should be imported from Europe and the Montreal comrades make every attempt to issue leaflets on important issues of the day.

After the report on Tasks and perspectives was adopted as a whole the convention was presented with a series of motions for its consideration. The following were adopted:

That the incoming National Committee be instructed to draft a Declaration of Principles, and publish it in the Internal Bulletin. Upon its adoption by the organization it is to be published in pamphlet form in both French and English.

That the campaign to raise $1500 be immediately inaugurated. The P.C. draw up tentative quotas on the basis of past performances and recent developments and submit them to the branches for their approval.

That the P.C. draw up plans for a sub campaign to be held this coming spring. In the meantime the organization accept the goal of two subs per person per month in order to increase the circulation of Labor Challenge.

That M. Dowson be sent to Montreal to help organize the party there. That T. Bradley remain in Toronto to aid the National Office. That A. Macphee of P.R. be requested to try to see his way clear to come to Toronto to reinforce the National Office. The remainder of the P.R. comrades be asked to try if at all possible to reinforce the Vancouver branch by moving to that locality.

That the N.C. publish a regular Internal Bulletin and Party Builder.

That the Toronto branch participate in the 1946 Municipal Elections. That it extend its trade union work and speed up its educational activities.

That the Vancouver branch attempt to obtain a headquarters. That Vancouver be consolidated into one branch. That it arrange a series of forums and study classes and intensify its educational activities. That it participate in elections if at all possible.

The next session met to discuss the name of the party and its press. It took up among other things, in detail, the proposed constitution; and elected the incoming National Committee. The following motions were adopted:

That the name of the party be The Revolutionary Workers Party of Canada.

That its press continue to be known as Labor Challenge.

The proposed constitution was seconded and adopted as enclosed in this bulletin.

The National Secretary reported the suspension over the past two years of three members from the National Committee — F.W., K.J., and H.A. After a discussion of the circumstances the action of the National Committee was upheld by unanimous agreement of the delegates.

That the National Committee consist of nine (9) members with one alternate.

The following comrades were elected to the National Committee:

R. Bullock
R. Dowson
Lloyd Whalen
D. Whiteside
M. Dowson
A. Macphee
Tom Bradley
Muriel Bradley
Alternate: George Stanton

The convention decided to make formal application to the Fourth International for recognition as its Canadian section. The party adopted as its insignia the hammer and sickle with a figure 4 superimposed on them.

The convention extended its thanks to Comrade Frank for his valuable assistance and sent fraternal greetings to the SWP (USA) .

Revolutionary greetings were sent to Natalia Trotsky, the companion of our martyred leader.

The delegates expressed their solidarity with the Fourth International by extending revolutionary Communist greetings to its International Executive Committee and all sections of the World Party of the Socialist Revolution.

The foundation convention of the Revolutionary Workers Party culminated in a rousing rendition of The Internationale.

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