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
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.