Programme of the
Communist Party of Canada (1919)
"May Day" and "Programme of the Communist Party of Canada"
were two sides of a single sheet distributed in Montreal and in Southern
Ontario on April 30, 1919.
The Programme was printed at least one month earlier: copies of it
were confiscated during the arrest of Samsonovitch, Ewart and Zaborowski
on March 23. See Canadian Bolsheviks, chapter 2.
Originals in Vertical Files, Department of Labor, Hull, Quebec.
To the Workers of Canada:
The First of May is regarded by the workers of the world as a day upon
which they must attempt to express the solidarity of the international
working class fight against capitalism. Demonstrations are held all over
the world, and defiance is hurled at the capitalist class in all
languages. Even the contemptible "moderate Socialists" are forced upon
that day to use phrases which, if carried into effect, would destroy
capitalism and enthrone the workers as rulers of society. But they are
only phrase-makers, and the lesson for you workers to understand is that
May Day is not only a day for bold speeches, but also a day for bold
action. We have enough succeeded in seizing power and establishing their
own rule.[sic] In Germany an exceedingly bitter struggle is going on—the
workers have been defeated many times, but always rise again stronger than
ever. Those scoundrels, Ebert and Scheidemann [leaders of the Social
Democrats] and their gang of cutthroats are trying to save the capitalist
of Germany from defeat—they are traitors to the workers just like their
brothers in other countries: Henderson in England, Albert Thomas in
France, Gompers in United States, and Thomas Moore in Canada.
In France, Italy and England the decisive moment is fast approaching:
Reforms are thrown to the workers in order to deceive them, but conditions
are getting worse every day, and the workers are being forced to rise in
revolt against their capitalist oppressors.
Either starvation and death, or revolution—these are the only
alternatives. The workers must choose the path of revolution. The sham of
parliamentary action has been destroyed, tinkering with reforms does not
help the working class, only the complete overthrow of capitalism can
emancipate the workers—the workers of France, Italy and England will soon
choose the true road to Freedom—Revolution!
But on this continent, fellow-workers and soldiers, what a dismal
picture presents itself to us! Here there is no workers' triumph to
celebrate—only a blood-thirsty ruling class has anything to celebrate.
Unemployment, hunger, disease and death stalk amongst the workers here.
Soldiers who have fought for the exploiters under the delusion that they
were fighting for themselves are being turned into the streets penniless,
diseased and wounded. On the other hand, the capitalists are bloated with
luxury, their wives dressed in silks and jewels—you are starving and your
wives are in rags. Fellow-workers, are you content with this? Are you
willing to be a slave all your life, driven and starved? Are you willing
to see your children half-starved, whipped into factories, where they
become physical wrecks? Are you content to let your daughters be driven
into prostitution in order to live? You, soldiers, who fought so bravely
for your masters; you, workers, who have slaved all your lives so that
other men could enjoy themselves while you starved; can you not see that
you must rise up and put an end to this system of exploitation? You cannot
celebrate any victory on May Day, but you can resolve not to stay slaves
any longer, but to struggle uneasingly [sic] against the capitalist class
until you conquer power and establish the rule of the workers.
Your only hope lies in revolution—the sweeping away of this rotten
system of exploitation. You must achieve a victory over the capitalist
class so that you can celebrate May Day along with your fellow workers in
Long live the revolution of the workers against the capitalists.
Published by the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of
Programme of the
Communist Party of Canada
The object of the Communist Party of Canada is to organize and prepare
the working class in Canada for the Social Revolution and the
establishment of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The revolutionary
section of the working class must take the lead in the class struggle
against the bourgeoisie, and by agitation prepare the mass of the workers
for the decisive struggle for the establishment of communism.
The tactics of the Socialist parties hitherto have been to use the
political institutions of capitalism. Two reasons are usually given to
support these tactics: (1) That all the workers have to do is to elect a
majority to the House of Commons and "legislate the capitalists out of
business," and in the meantime advocate social reforms which will make the
process of growing into Socialism easier. (2) That the House of Commons
can be used for agitation purposes. Both of these reasons were shown to be
useless by the events of the war of 1914-18. These Parliamentary Socialist
parties either collapsed into one or the other of the Imperialist camps or
degenerated into mere pacifist organizations howling about the horror of
bloodshed and the abolition of "elementary right" such as free speech and
press. Both groups demanded peace, but did not demand, or work for, a
workers' peace based upon the triumph of the workers over the capitalist
class. Their whole conduct proves that they could not conceive of any
action not based upon the use of the institutions of capitalism. The
destruction of the capitalist State machinery and the building up of
workers' institutions never occurred to them—the majority Socialist
forgets nothing and learns nothing.
The seizure of power by the workers of Russia under the leadership of
the Bolshevik Communist Party in November, 1917 marks the turning point in
the conception of Socialist tactics. The old parliamentary programs were
subjected to criticism and slowly in each country arose groups of workers
advocating the tactics of the Bolsheviki. Of course, many of these groups
consisted of "revolutionary phrase makers" who accepted these tactics in
word but not in deed. These phrase makers are typified by wanting to use
parliament for "agitation".
The tactics of the Bolsheviki are based upon the fact that we do not
need the institutions of capitalism for our emancipation, but we must
destroy them and substitute our institutions in their place, and the
success of the social revolution can only be assured by the arming of the
workers and the disarming of the capitalist class and its followers.
The Communist Party of Canada builds its facts upon this basis. We
oppose the use of parliamentary action as a snare and delusion. We know
that parliament, even when filled with capitalist representatives, is only
a debating chamber, and has no executive power whatever. The
parliamentarians are the best safeguard of capitalism against the attacks
of the workers. Instead of relying upon capitalist institutions, our
business is to urge the workers to seize power and destroy the rule of the
The Communist Party does not worry about reorganizing the Trade Union
movement; we do not propose to fritter away our forces in guerrilla
warfare with the capitalist class about better conditions under
capitalism. It is inevitable that the workers, in their instinctive revolt
against the conditions imposed upon them under capitalism, should seek
some means of defence against this oppression. Thus rises trades unionism
and later industrial unionism. It is our duty to point out the limitations
of these means of defence and urge them to take offensive measures against
The role of the general strike in the social revolution is that it
prepares the way for the civil war between the workers and capitalists. To
say that by the general strike alone the workers can emancipate themselves
is ridiculous—it is only part of the action necessary for the overthrow of
capitalism. It is a common saying that the workers control in industry,
their "economic power" and so on, but we must recognize that the workers,
by refusing to work do not demonstrate their control of industry. They
demonstrate the fact that they can destroy industry by refusing to work.
To destroy a thing is one thing, to control it is another. A strike by the
workers could make it impossible for the capitalist to extract profits—but
that does not give the workers control of industry. The workers must not
only make it impossible for the capitalist to rule—they must take over
society and rule themselves.
The Communist Party of Canada entirely support the Communists of Europe
in their actions, not only in words, but we are determined to take the
same actions in Canada. The elemental revolt of the mass of the workers
against the Imperialist Autocracy is coming soon on this continent, the
autocracy will fall and some "popular" leader from the "labor movement"
will be called in to save capitalism, supported by the moderate
Socialists. Then the Communists must step into action and destroy
capitalism and establish communism.
Then will come the time for the putting into practice of our program as
(1) The first act in the revolution of the proletariat is the forcible
seizure of the governmental power and the establishment of the
dictatorship of the proletariat.
(2) The complete destruction of all capitalist political institutions,
and the substitution of Workers', Peasants' and Soldiers' Councils as the
(3) The abolition of the standing army, disarming of the capitalists
and their followers (especially police officers and army officers), and
the arming of the fighting proletariat leading to the establishment of the
(4) The abolition of all law courts, and the substitution for them of
(5) The confiscation of all private property without compensation,
secret or open, including factories, mines, mills, railroads and real
estate owned by individuals or corporations and used for profit-making.
This confiscated property to be socialized, that is, to be made the
property of the working class under workers' control.
(6) The confiscation of all banking accounts (excluding the small
accounts of the workers), and the nationalization of the banking system.
(7) The handing over of the land to the agricultural laborers and poor
These are the first steps we must take in order to establish the rule
of the proletariat. Society must be run in the interest of the worker
alone (this constitutes a dictatorship of the proletariat) until such time
as the bourgeoisie disappears and every member of society is a worker;
then, the dictatorship of the proletariat will become unnecessary.
Published by the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of
Copyright South Branch Publishing. All