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J. B. McLachlan Resigns
from the Communist Party (1936)

A Letter to Tim Buck, 13 June 1936

This letter was first published as an appendix to David Frank and John Manley, "The Sad March to the Right: J. B. McLachlan’s Resignation from the Communist Party of Canada, 1936," Labour/Le Travail 30 (Fall 1992).

Glace Bay, C. B., [June 13, 1936]

Dear Comrade Tim:-

I have been unable to find time to reply to your letter until now. I mean your letter of June 4th. You complain I did not reply to your last letter. That is true. However, I did write a reply just before that to certain criticism of two editorials; one on Lewis and one on Woodsworth, and I, too, got no reply to these. Instead there came more criticism of some other editorials which were not named.

Comrade Findlay was exactly right when he told you that I could not go on any longer working inside the party. I hope he also told you why. In case he did not, may I do so now?

You say in your letter: "Needless to say, we feel that your action can be based upon nothing less than a misunderstanding of the political line of the comintern." I can assure you that I have paid the greatest attention to the line laid down by the VII Congress, specially the part dealing with trade union work, and have read everything I could get my hands on. I am absolutely convinced, that in the "Nova Scotia Miner", I am following the line laid down by the party. On the other hand, I firmly believe the party in Canada has gone badly to the right. As proof, take these incidents: The Truckmen’s Union in Toronto was granted by the Workers’ Unity League, disaffiliation, because the boss did not like the W.U.L. Again, members of the party, without rebuke, in the Mine Workers’ Union of Canada convention helped to put through a resolution to have miners over fifty years of age laid off work to make room for younger miners. In the resolution, the reason given for this, was that the older workers "could not produce as much coal as the boss had a right to expect."

Again, the work done in Nova Scotia by the rank and file Unity Committee was deliberately suppressed. A record of this work was in the W.U.L. office at the very time an editorial was written in the last issue of the W.U.L. paper and sent all over this country showing that the miners of the west were putting over "stirring events" while Nova Scotia was doing nothing. The party had nothing to say about such an unfair proceeding of suppressed information. The "Worker" did at length publish an A.L.P. dispatch stating shortly and fairly what had been done about unity in Nova Scotia, including the Five Point Programme. But someone in the "Worker" office saw fit to add two or three lines to that A.L.P. item stating: "That no one, however expected that Lewis would ever grant these points." This same A.L.P. story appeared in other labor papers without the defeatist lines.

You know, Tim, what would happen to a soldier who would preach such hopelessness, and spread despair and defeatism in the very middle of a fight, as these three fearful added lines were intended to do. He would have his useless brains blown out. Again, the very manner in which the "Worker" sometimes characterizes the objections of honest workers to the methods used to bring about unity shows how far to the right the draft had become. It was said these workers "got off a lot of hot air." "That they were blowing off steam, etc."

Tim, I can remember tory R. B. Bennett using these same terms about the workers. Take these statements about the workers and compare them with the evident frantic attempts to say as many nice things as possible about a traitor and scoundrel like Lewis and they show the extent the party has gone to the right. The core of true unity is found in the plain demands of the great rank and file, whatever these demands may be, the core of the activity of the party has been the wishes of the top leadership. Like a lightning flash Adolph Germer, Lewis’ man, showed how far Lewis can be trusted in his C.I.O. drive when he demanded that the Motor Car Workers’ Convention repudiate the resolution it had just passed favoring a workers’ party and in its stead go on record in favor of the present President of the United States.

Lewis is a wrecker and would wreck that industrial union rather than see it take a political working class stand. Yet the party in Canada says we should love traitors like that. The party’s statement in the "Clarion" of June 6th says: "We must be on the most friendly and brotherly relations with all trade unionists." Such a statement is pretty good theology worthy of a Methodist Conference, but in the trade union movement where the labor lieutenants of the boss have assumed the role of dictators on a prince’s income extracted from poverty stricken workers, one, if honest to his class, must use whatever power he may have to expose and fight the scoundrels. The "Nova Scotia Miner" is blamed for telling the miners the truth about Lewis. I refuse to deceive them either by my word or by my silence in regard to his dictatorship, his robbery or his treachery.

Therefore, you say the party cannot under such circumstances continue its support of the paper. Now, now, Tim, don’t assume too much. The party never put a cent, in its life, into the paper, but over and over again the paper has given money to the party. The party or at least its representative here in 1929-30 did his best to destroy the paper, and today in 1936 the question of its destruction has been raised in group meetings and the D.B. In 1929, party leaders here said I was too old and out of date and should be out of the movement. In 1935 my age was given as a reason why I should be dropped and today the talk both here and in Toronto about ending the Nova Scotia Miner is just the same old story in another form to try and silence me. I am not going to be silenced, the paper won’t die, nor am I getting out of the movement.

As I look back over the years it appears to me now that I was always more or less of a misfit in the party. I was always under a kind of humiliating supervision. You know this was true when the party had Sandy McKay "watch and report on McLachlan" as Jack McDonald confessed in my presence. This was true when the party accused me, to others, of trying to get into the O.B.U. and had high party officials in other countries write me about this "crime." Party members knew they were slandering me to those high officials and were willing to send the slander on to these officials of the party and leave me in the dark until through these letters I learned of the "crime." To get me out of the movement was the one consuming ambition of Barker while he was here. You know that history pretty well. Luck thought I "should be shot" if there was no other way of silencing me. Bill Findlay being more humane only tries to liquidate the "Miner" so as to silence me for the good of the party. I cannot help but believe that present fault finding with the "Nova Scotia Miner" is not only a reaction from a rightest [rightist] movement but is also part and parcel of the policy followed down the years, almost without a let-up since the days of Sandy McKay, in an attempt, if not to get me out of the party, at least to silence me.

I refuse to follow the party in Canada in its sad march to the right in order to secure its blessing for the "Nova Scotia Miner", and I am not going to give up my activity in the working class movement while I live. Therefore, in order not to embarrass the party further, I resigned from it completely, as Comrade Findlay informed you. This matter is settled and ended insofar as I am concerned.

With Deepest Comradely Regrets,

[J. B. McLachlan]

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