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Jack MacDonald Joins
the Left Opposition (1932)

Jack MacDonald was a founding member of the Communist Party of Canada and a member of its top leadership from 1921 to 1930. He was party Chairman from 1921 to 1923, and National Secretary from 1923 to 1929.

MacDonald supported the expulsion of Maurice Spector for Trotskyism in 1928. In 1929-30 he tried to play a balancing role between the pro-Stalin faction headed by Tim Buck and the party majority based in the Finnish, Ukrainian and Jewish groups. That effort failed, and he was expelled early in 1931.

Many historians, following Tim Buck’s accounts, incorrectly describe MacDonald as a "Lovestoneite"—a supporter of the pro-Bukharin "Right Opposition," but he was never part of that current. He tried to play an independent role, but that wasn’t possible in Stalin’s Comintern.

In the Spring of 1932, MacDonald joined the International Left Opposition in Toronto. His Statement was published in the U.S. Trotskyist newspaper, The Militant, on May 28, 1932.

Statement of Jack MacDonald

After a careful and extensive study not only in retrospect of the pre-October polemics and activities of Bolshevism and the literature and general ideological activity of the Communist International, particularly up to the death of its founder and leader—Lenin—and the opening of the struggle against "Trotskyism", but also of the more immediate and pressing situations and struggles of today, viz., Germany, China, Spain, etc., and the official C.I. programs, strategy and tactics therein, I have become convinced that the position, program and general criticism of the "Left Opposition" under the brilliant, untiring and courageous leadership of comrade Trotsky are fundamentally correct; and that the Left Opposition is the historical bearer and custodian of true Marxist-Leninism.

In this necessarily brief statement I have no intention of reviewing at length the attitude of the Canadian Party during my association with its leadership or my personal attitude during the "discussion" and subsequent fight against "Trotskyism".

Suffice it to say, that the ideological campaign against Trotskyism—charged with the attempt to revise Leninism—consisted of the scant distribution among the membership of occasional official bulletins from the C.I. containing alleged excerpts from the writings and speeches of Trotsky, counterposed with the official "true Leninist" rebuttal from the leading scribes of the International.

Honest comrades, with their faith in the revolutionary integrity of the central leadership unimpaired and who therefore resent and reject any suggestion of bureaucratic intrigue, falsification or degeneration, accept these official communications at their face value and act accordingly; search with the official microscope, flaying and uprooting in the name of Communist discipline and democratic centralism any tendencies, deviations, or suspects that would weaken or dilute the revolutionary movement in the face of its class enemies. In this so-called ideological campaign (if self-criticism is still in vogue) I accept my full share of responsibility and error and admit its travesty. What organizational and ideological crimes have been committed in the name of discipline!

For some time I have had occasion to compare these "excerpts" as published in official bulletins, with the actual writings of Trotsky. Many are completely false; others torn from their context are deliberately misinterpreted; while others correct in text are presumably demolished with the dud bombs of anti-Leninist theory.

I recall the first appeal which came to the C.E.C. of the Canadian Party to record itself against the Russian Party Opposition. This was during a session of the Enlarged Executive of the C. I. —a Canadian delegate being in attendance. The delegate had recorded himself against. Why not? There are few exceptions. A cable was dispatched to Canada requesting the C.E.C. to solidarize itself with the majority. Little if anything was known by the Canadian Party of the theoretical substance of the questions at issue. No liaison was in existence in those days where one could imbibe the latest on tap through "Lenin" students, etc. This honest unschooled proletarian center dispatched a return cable withholding decision until adequate information pro and con was received by them. The Canadian center fell into very bad grace over this incident. They might at least have adopted the course of one C.E.C. member, who, being unable to be present wired the C.E.C. to record his vote against Trotsky, but protested lack of information.

In brief the so-called question of Trotskyism was approached in a purely superficial and bureaucratic manner. This was in the days prior to deportations, exiles, etc. How far the regime has developed bureaucratically since those days must be obvious to all sincere comrades.

It is positively criminal in the best revolutionary sense to close one’s mind against the Left Opposition’s trenchant criticism and charges of the growth of a bureaucratic regime in the C.I. The autocratic and mechanical removal and superimposition of leadership on sections of the Comintern; the hounding of old and tested bolsheviks on the pretext of some discovered heresy in writing or speech, but in reality to make way for a substantial prop for the present regime; the stifling of initiative and discussion; the parody of workers’ universities where "leaders" are molded and manufactured to standard current pattern, etc., are evidences, if only in an organizational and limited sense, of the truth of this criticism.

One had only to attend the Sixth Congress of the C.I. and that was several years ago, to have proof of the opposition’s contention in its broad international sense, not to mention the alarming bureaucratic growth since in virtually every section nor the tragedy of the internal party situation in the Soviet Union. I have a vivid recollection of this "corridor" congress. I recall the session of the Standing Committee where the Pol-Bureau of the C.P.S.U. made its declaration, drawn from it, in its own words because the delegations were "speculating" on the rumored differences within the Bureau. No such principle differences existed, ran the declaration signed by all members of the bureau and implemented by remarks from Stalin and Bucharin. Hardly had the delegations reached home before news broke out that not only were there principle differences, but that actual factions existed. And this after the lie had been given to delegates who had probed beneath the surface of official declarations and reported the existence of groupings and factions.

The creation of the "third period" at the Sixth Congress, as justification for the left about-face, unquestionably under the blows of the opposition—a period that has apparently passed into history or been conveniently forgotten to avoid the creation of a "fourth" period; the rejection of the united front tactic with the non-party workers organizations in the slogan of the "united front from below", as an apology for the unprincipled maneuvering with the leaders of the Social Democratic and reformist trade union organizations; the tragic and catastrophic caricature of a bolshevist-Leninist policy in China, with its complete subordination of the Communist Party to Chiang Kai-shek and its corollary of subsequent adventurist and putschist insurrection; the eclectic and mechanical creation of the "war danger", which led the parties to orientate their activities solely on the imminence of war from which the proletarian revolution would be born; the swing back to the "right" with its glaring legalistic and parliamentary activity, just as the world economic crisis broke, only to find the parties isolated from the consequences to a great extent of the third period tactics; the acrobatics on trade union policy, etc., etc.—all this is at least ample proof of the zig-zag centrist policy of the present regime.

The appalling debacle of the Communist forces in the recent German presidential election with the enormous growth of the Fascist forces; the almost complete isolation of the party from the trade unions; its insignificant influence over the social-democratic workers, despite the deep internal crisis in Germany; the theory of "social Fascism"; the flirting, to put it mildly, with certain Fascist leaders; the apparent developing theory that a Fascist victory with its demagogic program and slogans means rapid disillusionment of the workers, which will be followed by a flocking to the Communist standard, Italy, Poland, etc., notwithstanding; all this in the German situation if nothing else must impel a general stocktaking and inner searching in the ranks of Communism.

One looks in vain for any keen analysis of these phenomena in the official Communist Press. In the Canadian "Worker" after the first presidential vote in Germany, there appeared a leading editorial that for trifling, irresponsible, poltroonish approach is, I believe, without parallel. Two main points were made. Firstly, the Opposition was "disarmed" with the assertion many times repeated that the "renegades" would possibly find cause to rejoice. Just why, wasn’t stated. Secondly, finally and primarily, the most outstanding and significant result of the election was the gain of half a million Communist votes over last election. What humbug! The second vote with its loss of over a million Communist votes, still remains to be "explained", so far as I am aware.

The wealth of literature issued by the Left Opposition from the pen of Trotsky is something that no worker or student of Marxism or Leninism can afford to ignore or neglect. One listens in vain for the voice of Stalin on the outstanding events of today. Here in the opposition press and literature every question is approached and analyzed, clearly, fearlessly and dialectically. I recollect how in certain so-called discussions we used to blast and damn the theory of Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution with an arsenal of quotations given to us by Bucharin. How the polemical differences between Lenin and Trotsky were magnified. How Trotsky underestimated or denied the role of the peasantry. How he would leap across historical stages. "Down with the Czar!" "Up with the Labor Government!" How during Lenin’s leadership he was held in check and did great service for the revolution. But since Lenin died his old false theories had cropped up again, his old Permanent Revolution which was the source of all evil.

Every worker today can read Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution for himself. Let us understand what the "differences" between Lenin and Trotsky were on the role of the peasantry, the "democratic dictatorship", etc. Acquire a knowledge of the rearming of the Party on the return of Lenin to Russia before October—in short have done with fabrication and misrepresentation and read history.

The theory of the Permanent Revolution is not an attempt at a leap of the proletariat over definite historical stages, but the transformation of the nation under the leadership of the proletariat. Here I may quote section two of the fundamental thesis of the Permanent Revolution: "With regard to the countries with a belated bourgeois development, especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks, democratic and national emancipation, is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of the peasant masses." The tasks of the "democratic dictatorship of the proletariat" were realized not before October, not in the "dual power", but by October—through the dictatorship of the proletariat supported by the poor peasants.

It will be instructive at some other time to retrace the directives to the Canadian Party, given by the opponents of the permanent revolution in their desire to find historical stages that might not be "skipped over". These run the whole gamut, from the fight against the British monarchy, demand for constituent assembly, farmer-labor government, farmers political parties, national independence, etc., etc.

I reject the theory of national socialism—of socialism in one country—evolved in the struggle against Trotsky in 1925, as contrary to all the teachings of Marx and Lenin. The inevitable social patriotic errors that the Left Opposition warned against are strikingly evident today. The appeal to the international proletariat against Japanese Imperialism, in its general formulation is a recent indication of this. A still more recent example is the advancement by the Daily Worker of the justification (based on an article in Izvestia) of an alliance between the Soviet Union and American Imperialism against Japanese Imperialism. The propaganda and agitation surrounding the slogan of "Defend the Soviet Union" is saturated with pacifism. All this is the logical outcome of the false theory of "socialism in one country".

This statement is made in support of the Left Opposition after thoroughly probing all doubts and reservations, slowly, calmly and deliberately. I make it with the sincere hope that any influence I may have with the workers, through my association with and work in the working class movement in this country, may lead the advanced workers to a critical examination of the Communist movement today, in all its ramifications, theoretical, organizational, strategical and otherwise; and to an examination of the literature and theoretical position of the Left Opposition and particularly to the works of Trotsky.

From this I am convinced there will inevitably come again another "re-arming" of the movement—a re-establishment of the advance guard of the international working class movement, on the solid bed-rock of the theories of Marx and Lenin.




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