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Canadian Party of Labour Handbook (1975)

The Canadian Party of Labour was a Marxist-Leninist political party in Canada.... It was a fraternal party of the Progressive Labor Party in the United States until about 1979 when the two organizations disagreed over the question of self-determination for Québec. The group was in existence from the late 1960s to 1984 and was most active in British Columbia Québec and Ontario where a number of its members achieved office in the United Steel Workers of America and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. [Adapted from Wikipedia]

The Canadian Party of Labour Handbook was published in 1975. We want to thank Barry Strom for scanning it and contributing the text to the Socialist History Project. Barry was a member of CPL’s postal workers’ fraction and a shop steward in the post office for many years. Now retired, he researches labour and socialist history, and participates in the anti-war movement.

Guidelines for Communist work
Canadian Party of Labour Handbook

published by Canadian Party of Labour
P.O. Box 1151, Adelaide St. P.O., Toronto, 1975

"Hence the necessity of a new party, a militant party, a revolutionary party, one strong enough to lead the proletarians to the struggle for power, sufficiently experienced to find its bearings amidst the complex conditions of a revolutionary situation, and sufficiently flexible to steer clear of all submerged rocks on the way to its goal.

Without such a party it is useless even to think of overthrowing imperialism and achieving the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This new party is the party of Leninism." --J.V. Stalin

This pamphlet is to help new members and our friends answer the question: "What makes CPL tick?"

There have always been two lines of thought and action in the workers’ movement on how to deal with the class enemy. One trend claims the capitalist class is too strong and too smart to be overthrown. This trend believes in adaptation and compromise, and is called revisionist.

The other knows the capitalist class must be violently overthrown, that its years of war and economic chaos are proof of its weakness. This trend believes that the working class can be organized under revolutionary leadership to seize power, and the sooner the better.

The Canadian Party of Labour belongs to the second trend. We came into being as part of the worldwide struggle to prevent the modern revisionists, led by Nikita Khruschev, from undermining the fight for a proletarian dictatorship.

In our ranks are working men and women from the principal industries and unions of North American capitalism. Many of our members are immigrants. We are perfectly placed to carry out the task of building a mass movement for socialist revolution.

Ever worker should lay a hand to the task of building the Canadian Party of Labour.

1. Membership requirements:

The four basic requirements for membership in CPL are (1) acceptance of the political line – that is, our party is made up largely of workers who hate capitalism and want to destroy it, (2) willingness to circulate our newspaper, The Worker, (3) participation in a party club or cell and (4) contributing financially to the organization.

2. How important is the political theory?

We need the theory because it helps us win. There have been many impressive accomplishments in recent years: men in space, electricity, steam power, medical advances, and everyone agrees they’ve been made because of science. We have a science of revolution called Marxism-Leninism and with it we’re unbeatable. As Lenin write in the "Three sources and three component parts of Marxism":

"His (Marx’s) doctrine emerged as the direct and immediate continuation of the teachings of the greatest representatives of philosophy, political economy, and socialism."

Marxist philosophy explains that progress comes through a "dialectical" struggle between two opposing forces: for example, socialism comes through the struggle between workers and bosses. It does not come through any peaceful, evolutionary process. The study of political economy, shows the inevitable downfall of capitalism because it is a system prone to destructive competition, to economic crisis and depression, and to war between the various capitalist power blocs.

The theory of scientific socialism, i.e. the theory of class struggle has shown us that the only way to defeat the old forces which maintain capitalism is, in Lenin’s words, "to find, in the very society which surrounds us, the forces which can – and, owing to their social position, must constitute the power capable of sweeping away the old and creating the new, and to enlighten and organise those forces for the struggle."

These are the theories we arm ourselves with in our day to day struggles against capitalism.

3. Why is the circulation of The Worker so crucial?

Our paper, The Worker, and its editions in various languages, is the central organizing tool of the party.

The newspaper’s value is most apparent when it comes to shop organizing, because it presents strategy and tactics of communist revolution as they relate to day to day fights around contract demands, health and safety, and shorter hours.

Using the newspaper in our organizing means that no matter where we go we are carrying our line -- on union issues, and on other important matters that we feel should be of interest to every worker.

Lenin regarded the existence of a regular party newspaper for agitational purposes as the trademark of a real communist organization. Later the Bolsheviks used their famous paper, Pravda, to build the base and the network of contacts and organizations that enabled them to seize power in 1917. Like Pravda, The Worker is the most important weapon in our revolutionary arsenal.

4. Who writes the articles in The Worker? 

Because the strength of the paper is in its portrayal of the day to day struggles that workers are involved in we welcome articles from our members, supporters and readers, particularly stories reflecting what’s happening at the point of production. In fact, we encourage all of our readers, supporters and members to write articles.

5. Where does CPL get its money?

Our sole source of financial support is our members and supporters. We don’t have any government grants, tax deduction programmes, or wealthy capitalist patrons. Our donations are all relatively small, and we need a lot of them to do our work. We have enormous expenses including production of our newspaper, printing, travel, paying salaries of full time organizers. Our expenses are mounting all the time both because of inflation and, more importantly, because of the expanding class struggle. We recognize that different people can afford different amounts, but we ask that every member contribute something regularly to ensure that the work of the party can be carried on.

6. How is the party organized internally?

Our members are divided into clubs or cells organized along job and industry lines.

To be effective as a party of the working class, we concentrate on activity at the places where our members work. If you work at General Motors, then you join a club of workers in the same shop, maybe in the same department. Club meetings devote most of their time to discussing fights and struggles on the job, in union meetings, and other questions of concern to auto workers.

For members who are the only party members in a factory, the goal is to organize others on the job and to form a cell.

7. How do decisions get made in CPL?

The party is built around the organizational principle of democratic centralism. Decisions are reached through broad discussion within the party. The clubs, city executives and national committee of the party are all involved in democratic discussion to develop and modify the lines.

Once a decision is arrived at we rely on centralism to see that it is carried out. What is important is that decisions are not only widely discussed, but that they are implemented as well. There’s nothing more undemocratic than an organization that decides nothing because it is always "discussing", and therefore never implementing the will of the majority of its members.

8. Do you have to be a worker to join the Party?

The majority of our members are workers and active trade unionists and that’s the way it should be.

The conditions of a person’s life, and even of his parents life, have the greatest influence on his outlook. The best guarantee that the party’s outlook is proletarian lies in ensuring that the party is primarily composed of workers and trade unionists, and that students, professionals, and intellectuals, who are of course welcome to join, accept the leading role of workers in the party and in revolutionary activity.

9. Should members belong to trade unions?

Unions are basic working class organizations that fight for higher wages and better working conditions. They are also "schools for communism" because they are the principle organizations in which workers participate in the fight against the bosses.

Our members participate actively in the unions on their jobs. We have the goal of winning power in the trade unions by openly advancing the Party’s lines through Party-led rank and file caucuses or "fractions".

We believe that workers want communists and their outlook to prevail. By taking power, we will establish that communists are the leading political party of the working class, and we will, thereby, set the groundwork for working class revolution.

10. Immigrants and the Party

A large percentage of our members are immigrants, a fact we are proud of. Immigrants have joined the CPL in large numbers because of our dedication to the fight against racism. Immigrant workers are "superexploited". They get the worst jobs, the lowest pay, the crummiest housing, and a tremendous amount of racial abuse. So naturally they are very attracted to revolutionary politics.

In order to maintain the confidence of our immigrant members and supporters, we must wage a vigorous struggle against racism in our own ranks. It is the duty of every member to see that the tendency toward racist behaviour or attitude of himself or other members is overcome.

CPL does not establish separate organizations for immigrants. Our members join cells or clubs based on their own job situation, and not on their national origin. The old Communist Party made that mistake, and suffered accordingly because the bulk of its members were concerned about "national" issues and not about the situation in their unions and on the shop floors. Others, like the Maoites, organize in the same racist manner-if you’re white they’ll put you in one group, and if you’re black they’ll put you in another.

11. Why Non Public Work and the concern about "Security?"

The necessity for non-public, or clandestine, work has always been a touchstone of a Marxist revolutionary outlook.

At all times the capitalist class has possession of a repressive state apparatus, the army, police and courts. It would be a rank betrayal of our class if we were to build a movement for socialism which did not take full account of the enemy’s capacity for surveillance and force.

This is not a problem for "tomorrow". Class struggle waxes and wanes but the general drift of this epoch of imperialist decline is toward fascism. Whatever the situation, under capitalism and most probably under socialism, we must look to the security of our work. This we do by carrying out non-public work in every sphere where the party is providing revolutionary leadership.

The capitalist system was erected on unspeakable violence, Cromwell and Robespierre weren’t known for their qualms. The ruling class as we can see from the War Measures Act and the imprisonment of Quebec trade unionists, is always prepared to be ruthless and violent.

Such a system cannot be reformed or removed except by means of revolutionary violence.

We do not hold these views rhetorically or from a desire to inspire vainglory or terrorism. On the contrary it is the responsibility of the Canadian Party of Labour to organize the broadest and most democratic workers movement, instilling it with unity and the keenest fighting spirit, so as to meet and annul the forces of violence which the ruling class may direct against its drive to socialism.

Specifically, on every job we must build non-public organizations which are unknown to the boss or his flunkies in the workers’ ranks.

Also, on every job we must have a security force which can withstand the threat of physical intimidation. Goon squads were used to expel or silence the left-wing of the unions in the past; we have already seen them used against us in the UAW and the Steelworkers. If we are to win, it is the forces under CPL’S leadership that must do the intimidating.

That does not mean that we’re looking for trouble only that we intend to go about our work unmolested.

12. How did CPL start?

The CPL was formed by a group of communists who had become disgusted with the liberalism and the treachery of the old Communist Party of Canada. We were encouraged by the example and assistance of the US Progressive Labour Party, which was formed in 1962. We are part of a movement that maintains that the Soviet Union turned away from the revolutionary road following the death of Stalin, and has reverted to capitalism. This outlook was shared temporarily by the Chinese Communists and Maoists around the world. But they eventually succumbed to the same nationalism and revisionism that the Russians did.

13. Does CPL support Stalin?

Stalin was one of the world’s greatest revolutionaries. He was the leader among a group of revolutionaries who successfully established and maintained the world’s first proletarian dictatorship. Whether or not we should support him can best be answered by a quick look at what was accomplished under his leadership. He defined and elaborated the foundations of Leninism. He successfully defeated the Trotskyites, the first serious and counter-revolutionary trend in the Soviet Party. Under his leadership the Soviet Union was industrialized and the foundations of socialism were built. He led the RED army which smashed Hitler’s fascist armies.

Naturally anti-communists hate Stalin as they hated Marx and Lenin in their day. But the bourgeoisie’s campaign of slander against Stalin, is actual testimony to all the tremendous things he did. He did not sell out revolutionary movements in order to make friends with capitalist governments (like Brezhnev and Mao do); he suppressed counter-revolutionary movements because he wanted nothing to come in the way of socialism; he gave political, moral, and financial aid to communists all over the world. He was an uncompromising leader of the workers.

14. Will we go bad like Russia and China?

The great revolutions of this century, particularly those in Russia and China, did not "go bad". Power was seized in these countries by right-wing and pro-capitalist forces. But the upheavals in Europe and Asia have been so vast that the question of socialism has reached every quarter of the world and nowhere is capitalism secure. That is particularly true for those capitalist-roaders precariously in power in Russia and China. Strong class struggle has emerged in Eastern Europe and there is much evidence that the Chinese working class is fed up with their new exploiters. After all Mao and Brezhnev are joining a war-torn and volatile system rather late.

The struggle for worldwide socialist system is long and arduous. Setbacks are inevitable, but they cannot erase the class struggle which must go on until it has been solved by the removal of exploiting classes.

 The working class is revolutionary because it must be; violent upheavals take place when the mass of people ask "What else can be done?" Revolutions are not, and cannot, be led by anyone wanting and iron-clad guarantee that there will be no setback. Struggle is the daily fare of workers before, during and after a revolution. Only a fake or utopian simpleton would fail to fight for his class because previous struggles were imperfectly waged.

We are fortunate to have historical examples of proletarian victories such as those of 1870, 1917 and 1949 to guide us. From them we can learn how power was wrested from workers by the various phoney communists.

Our interest in the past isn’t morbid or inhibiting. We’ll learn what we can to fight scientifically and effectively, now and in the future.

15. How do you join CPL?

A person who wants to join should make his feelings known to any member.

For the first six months you become a "candidate member". During this period of probation you learn about the party’s politics, about how it works.

After the six month period, you will be evaluated by your club and club leader, and a recommendation will be made that you become a full member of the party. For new members as well as old, recruitment of members is one of the most important tasks of any party member. It is an item on the agenda of every club meeting. We all make it a part of our daily activity to talk about joining with our fellow workers, family, relatives, friends and neighbours.

Sell The Worker/L’Ouvrier
Make CPL a mass party!
Defeat racism; unite the working class!
Build CPL fractions;
Take power in the trade unions!
Fight for the 6-hour day; 30 for 40!
Workers of the world, unite!
Establish working class dictatorship!

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