48 Years of Socialist Journalism (1969)
This article, written by Richard Fidler, was published as supplement to the March 10 1969 issue of
Workers Vanguard, the English language newspaper of the League for
Socialist Action/Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière. It was illustrated with
pictures of Canadian socialist newspapers of the previous five decades.
Agitator, teacher, historian
—the role of the socialist press
Our 48 years in labor’s fight for a better world
The impressive sequence of newspaper mastheads arrayed on the right
hand side of this page represents a continuing tradition of revolutionary
socialist journalism in Canada which extends over the past 48 years.
The Workers Vanguard traces its origins right back to The Workers’
World, organ of the Canadian communists, which first appeared on Aug.
17, 1921. Among the prominent contributors to this weekly paper, which
subsequently became The Workers’ Guard, then The Worker, were such
leading communist spokesmen as Maurice Spector. Jack Macdonald, Jack
Kavanagh and Max Armstrong. All four subsequently became leading figures
in the Trotskyist movement, and defended the revolutionary Marxist program
against the bureaucratic degeneration of the Communist party under
Spector, who was editor of The Worker during much of the 1920’s,
was the first editor of The Vanguard. established in 1932 as the
organ of the International Left Opposition (Trotskyist) of Canada. The
Vanguard published on a more or less regular basis until 1936. It was
followed in 1938 by Socialist Action, organ of the Socialist
Workers League, which was first mimeographed, then printed until the
outbreak of war in September 1939 when it was banned by government decree.
Socialist Action continued to publish underground in mimeographed
form during the war.
The first issue of Labor Challenge, the organ of the
Revolutionary Workers Party, appeared legally near the end of the war, in
June 1945. Soon after, it became a twice-monthly, and published as such
for five years until reverting to a monthly. In 1952, it was discontinued
while its supporters entered the CCF, where they participated in
publishing a number of left wing bulletins. In late 1955 the Workers
Vanguard began publication, and has appeared regularly since then,
first as a monthly, and during the last year and half as a twice-monthly.
This spring we are aiming to double its size to 8 pages.
The continued publication of this socialist press, in spite of the most
adverse conditions—the poverty of its supporters, frequent isolation,
periods of reaction when the whole left movement often seemed to
constitute no more than a corporal’s guard, even illegality for several
years—is indeed an inspiring tribute to the remarkable comrades who kept
alight the flame of revolutionary socialism. It is also and above all a
vindication of the correctness of the political perspective of Trotskyism.
An impressive record indeed—particularly when compared with that of
the trade union movement and the CCF/NDP. With all their resources of
money and manpower, their scores of full-time organizers, etc., the labor
movement in this country has never attempted to establish a labor daily
newspaper. The NDP, Canada’s labor party, has only one weekly newspaper,
soon to revert to a twice monthly.
Our press has been primarily a cadre organ—serving as the instrument of
the revolutionary socialist movement, seeking recruits to Marxism and
educating them in the class struggle program. We have never yet grown to
the point where we could even think seriously of providing the mass
labor-socialist paper that is needed so badly in this country. But to the
extent that our limited capacities allowed, we have consistently spoken
out on all the important issues facing the broad working class movement.
Our long-standing record in defending the basic principle of labor
political action independent of the capitalist parties is without parallel
in the left. We were among the first to hail the formation of the New
Democratic Party—the mass labor party which we advocated for many
years—and we have been in the forefront of the struggle to build the NDP
and win it to a socialist program and leadership.
It is in the pages of the revolutionary press displayed here that you
will find the only accurate cumulative account of the main issues and
events in the history of the international and Canadian working class
movement, and a consistent Marxist analysis of their significance. This is
one our most precious assets—for armed with the lessons of the past, we
will shape the future.
As the multiplicity of journals testifies, the fight to build a
revolutionary socialist party in this country has not been a smooth,
The first issue of The Workers’ World, original precursor of the
Workers Vanguard, featured a report of the third congress of the
Communist International. The headline read "Trotsky Makes Great Speech."
Barely seven years later, in November 1928, Maurice Spector, an editor
of what was then The Worker, was summarily expelled from the
Communist Party. His crime: having expressed his solidarity with the
revolutionary program being defended by Leon Trotsky against the
bureaucratic degeneration of the Comintern under Stalin and Bukharin.
Forty years after Spector’s expulsion, the Workers Vanguard is
continuing the struggle in defense of revolutionary Marxism and workers
democracy initiated by Trotsky and the International Left Opposition.
The major issues in the historic Trotsky-Stalin dispute are outlined by
Spector in his statement to the Communist party that is reproduced on the
opposite page. Stalin’s disastrous policy in China and his opportunist
maneuvers in Britain were only the first manifestations of the treacherous
international role of the bureaucratic caste that was consolidating its
hold on the isolated and industrially backward Soviet workers state. The
Stalinist virus spread quickly throughout the world Communist movement,
and was a major factor in the crushing defeat suffered by the German
working class at the hands of Hitlerism in 1933. This, together with the
defeat of the Spanish revolution and the lost opportunity for revolution
in France in 1934-36, directly contributed to the onset of World War II,
It is the Stalinization of the Canadian CP, with its resulting fatal
political errors and demoralization of a whole generation of class
conscious workers, that explains the party’s eventual decline to its
position today as a shell with almost no influence in the left, rightly
rejected by all the new youthful revolutionary elements.
Revolutionary socialism, of course, has nothing in common with the
reformist illusions characterized by social democracy and its partisans in
the leadership of the CCF and New Democratic Party. In our editorial
statement in the first issue of the Vanguard, in 1932 (reprinted on
this page), we declared war on the "social reformists" and reaffirmed that
the main challenge before Canadian workers, as before the world working
class, was to overcome the crisis of leadership in the workers
organizations by constructing the revolutionary party.
The Trotskyist prognoses have been vindicated many times over. But for
years, the vindication was expressed in defeats, in the failure of the
proletariat to take the power owing to false leadership and betrayal by
the social democrats and Stalinists alike. It is not easy to build a
movement through force of negative example—and even many class conscious
workers, understanding the role of the social democrats and Stalinists and
acquainted with our analysis nonetheless did not see their way clear to
active participation in the Trotskyist movement. During many years, the
mere survival of our small cadres was a major achievement.
The postwar extension of the world revolution, beginning with the
Yugoslav and Chinese revolutions, and continuing through the Cuban and
Vietnamese revolutions, has laid the basis for a new upsurge of
radicalization in the advanced capitalist countries like Canada. Insofar
as the new revolutionary leaderships, such as the Cuban, bypass the old
reformist and neo-reformist parties of social-democracy and Stalinism,
they have been obliged to seek their points of reference in concepts long
defended by the Trotskyists alone.
Today, we are on the threshold of what promises to be a new wave of
radicalization, which has already found initial inspiration and expression
here in the anti-Vietnam war movement and the growing support for the NDP.
In looking back, we can appreciate with renewed understanding the immense
historic importance of the work of the tiny but dedicated forces who in
this country as around the world at great cost and personal sacrifice
preserved that priceless heritage, our revolutionary Marxist theory.
Looking ahead, we can say with confidence that the Trotskyists in the
League for Socialist Action/Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière
will play a key role in the struggles that develop. Today more than ever
it is clear that only a firm conscious cadre based on the worked out
program of revolutionary Marxism can begin to come to grips with the
difficult but essential task of building an alternative leadership for the
Canadian working class—a leadership capable of guiding the socialist
struggle to victory.
Copyright South Branch Publishing. All