Documents from the 1954 Split in the
Canadian Trotskyist Movement
Canadian Statement, November 29, 1953
Dowson to Farrell Dobbs, December 2, 1953
Vern Olson to
Gerry Healy, January 10, 1954
Minutes of the Political
Committee, January 31, 1954
to Farrell Dobbs, February 18, 1954
to Farrell Dobbs, April 5, 1954
Dowson to the Canadian Section, April 9, 1954
Pabloite Minority Split in Canada, by Ross Dowson, 1954
The following letters and articles concern the 1954
split in the Canadian Trotskyist movement, a division which directly
reflected a harsh and destructive split in the Fourth International as a
whole. It should be noted that all represent the views of the majority
group; we hope that at some time we will be able to add material from the minority
that left the organization..
In 1953, the Trotskyist Fourth International split into
two public factions. A long-simmering dispute focusing on the strategy
Trotskyists should adopt towards the Communist Parties, became public in
November, when the U.S. Socialist Workers Party published a "Letter to
Trotskyists Throughout the World" in its newspaper, The Militant.
Among other things, the letter accused the European
leadership of the International, and particularly Pablo [Michel Raptis],
of "working consciously and deliberately to disrupt, split and break up
the historically created cadres of Trotskyism in the various countries
and to liquidate the Fourth International." It cited as proof the
support given by Pablo to a minority faction led by Bert Cochran, which
had recently split from the SWP.
This led to the formation of the International
Secretariat, led by Michel Pablo and other European leaders of the F.I.,
and the International Committee, supported by leaders of the U.S. SWP,
the British Socialist Labour League, and a French group associated with
the newspaper La Vérité. Most of the national parties and groups in the
F.I. supported one side or the other, and many experienced splits
between supporters of the IS and supporters of the IC. Canada was no exception.
At that time the Canadian Trotskyists were operating in
semi-"underground" fashion. Their forces had been radically weakened by
the wave of repression and anti-Communism that accompanied the opening
of the Cold War. In 1951, in an attempt to link up with other left-wing
currents, they had dissolved their public organization and joined the
social-democratic CCF as individuals. By the time of the 1953 split,
there were at most a few dozen organized Trotskyists in Canada, based
mainly in Toronto and Vancouver.
The group’s isolation meant that it had little or no
regular contact with the leaders of either side in the international
dispute – they only learned how serious it was when they received the
November 16, 1953 issue of The Militant, carrying the SWP’s Open
Initially, the Trotskyist leadership in Toronto
unanimously condemned the SWP’s letter while remaining neutral on the
political issues. By the Spring of 1954, a clear majority of the
Canadian group, led in Toronto by Ross Dowson and Vern Olson, had
declared support for the SWP’s position. The Vancouver group supported
the SWP position unanimously. A minority in Toronto and southern
Ontario, led by Murray Dowson and Ken Sutherland, split from the
organization and declared that they were the Canadian section of the
Fourth International, but their group soon disappeared.
The Canadian Trotskyists launched a public organization
and newspaper in 1955. (See "Socialist Educational League Formed.") The
split in the fourth International was eventually healed at a
Reunification Congress in 1963.
A Note on Names and Pseudonyms
These documents use pseudonyms for several participants.
We have been able to identify the following Canadians:
"Fitzgerald" was Murray Dowson
"Kane" was Ross Dowson
"McAlpine" was Ken Sutherland
"Rose" and "Kelly" were both Joe Rosenthal
"Thorne" was probably Reg Bullock
"Lloyd" was probably Ruth Bullock
"Williams" was Vernel Olson
"Houston," "Ford," "Dale," "Wilson," "D and J,"
"Mason, "Clarke," "Wilson," and "Blake" have not yet been identified
The documents also mention a number of individuals from
Fourth International (Europe): "Germain" was Ernest Mandel and "Pablo" was Michel
Socialist Workers Party (U.S.): Farrell Dobbs ("Smith") and Murry Weiss.
"JPC" was James Cannon, the SWP's Chairman
Socialist Workers Party minority (U.S.) Bert Cochran and Ernie Mazey.
Socialist Labour League (U.K.): Gerry Healy
Ceylon: Leslie Goonewardene.
Because the U.S. SWP was prohibited by law from
belonging to the Fourth International, it was sometimes referred to in
correspondence and documents as the "New Zealand section."
The center read the letter published in the November 16
issue of the Southern press with no prior knowledge of its essential
contents. Since then we have received no communications either from the
party (majority) or the suspended minority. The only other available
material is a document from the international center which includes a
resolution that had been presented by the minority to the November
Southern plenum and the resolution adopted by the majority suspending
On November 23 the international sent us a note which
read in part: "The Cannon faction which has just publicly split our
movement in such a revolting manner has passed the word around that they
have your (Canada’s) support in this unprincipled struggle against the
organization and principles of the international. We refuse to accept
such a claim without verification. We have always considered your group
to be a principled organization and not just an annex of the Cannon
In order to clarify its position on these developments,
on the basis of the information at its disposal at this time, the tops
at a meeting on November 29 unanimously adopted the following statement:
The tops affirms the affiliation of the Canadian
group to the international. We recognize the present leadership as
being the duly elected leadership of the movement. We recognize its
authority and its directives until such time as a world meeting sees
fit to replace this leadership. We fully intend to have
representation at the coming world meeting. We stand by the right
and the authority of the world leadership to intercede in the
affairs of all affiliated bodies to see that the openly arrived at
and agreed upon line of the world meeting is implemented. Such
actions are obviously to be constantly subject to the scrutiny and
the critical advice of all affiliates and, should it be deemed
necessary, complete reconsideration at a world meeting.
We strongly disapprove of the publication of the
November 16 letter which makes public property of the party’s
(majority’s) differences with the international leadership. We
consider this to be a breach of international discipline. We
strongly disapprove of the majority’s failure to advance its
opinions through the regular channels provided by the international.
In the light of the information at its disposal the
tops is not prepared to take a stand on the merits of the respective
positions or to identify itself with the minority or the majority of
the southern group.
We recognize both the majority and the minority as
legitimate tendencies in the world movement — until such times as
the majority breaks from the world movement (which we do not
understand it to have done) or the international formally recognizes
the minority as the official group in the south.
Following the drawing up of the enclosed document we
received your note of the 27th. This enclosed statement was drawn up to
be circulated in our own group with a copy going to Europe and one to
yourselves. This document was our opinion as of November 29. At that
time we had not received "Against Pabloist Revisionism" nor had we
received your revelations as to Quatrieme Internationale’s
comments on Iran.
Your Open Letter was like a bolt from the blue. Our
connections have always been very poor with the International and the
various sections. Our relations with Pablo have been most fraternal —
they have amounted to our sending the odd report, their making some
general favorable comment and our sending them whatever help we could
scrape together. We had no complaints and since we have had poor
connections with the sections were totally unaware that anyone else had
any. Some of us have occasionally noted tendencies in the movement with
which they disagreed, however we have never had any experiences which
could be pulled together into anything meaningful. So as I say your Open
Letter came as a shock. In everyone’s opinion an unprecedented and
unjustifiable act. We are at a loss to understand why your differences
are not being expressed through other channels — particularly when we
are so close to a world gathering. It is my opinion that you have
prejudiced your getting a proper hearing on the political issues at
stake by this utilization of the press, by this taking of the dispute to
the public. The International to most of us here is a very precious
thing. We are not at all prepared to toss it aside but should it need to
be reshaped are prepared to reshape it.
Its reform does not appear to be your position and not
just from your taking this dispute to the public but from your defiant
recognition of the French majority. We assume the whole affair there
will be up for examination when the gathering takes place — and in the
light of subsequent developments it may be that we have to reconsider
the whole thing. But I myself do not feel that any principle was
violated by the leadership’s intervention in France as your letter
suggests. We intend to be at the gathering and will line up with any
forces that we think it advisable to do so.
I have not yet read your "Against Pabloist Revisionism."
I have received your copy and hastily flicked through it before loaning
it to one who at the time was in a better position to examine it. But
even a casual glance through it tells me that you take up several
aspects of the document that I disapproved of. Off hand it appears that
we see eye to eye on the political aspects of the question. Should this
prove to be the base we will present these views to the world gathering.
Dear Comrade Healy,
I received your letter and document as well as two from
comrade Mason. Thanks for your correspondence and for placing us on your
mailing list. We were very much in need here of the information you
sent. As I wrote to Lloyd, we were completely in the dark here when the
news broke in The Militant. We are over the shock now and in the process
of coming to a position here on the events in the International.
You are probably in possession of a statement from our
P. C. regarding the matter. As I recall the document, we gave
organizational support to the I.S. but did not take a position on the
political questions. This statement was the immediate response to the
"Open Letter" and I would like to say, a correct one on the basis of our
knowledge at that time. The reaction of the comrades here was immediate
and unanimous. The statement of the P.C. was adopted with one
abstention by the Toronto group. It might be argued that we were hasty
in making a decision but I don’t think anyone here would react
differently if the whole thing were repeated.
However much has passed since that time and if the same
statement were presented to the Toronto group now I doubt if it would
pass. We are at present in the middle of a discussion of the political
issues and I don’t think the present division in our ranks is
definitive. Those who support the I.S. document are still not aware of
the organizational questions other than what appeared in The Militant.
Your documents are now circulating in the party. They should have some
Personally, I have made up my mind. While I
wholeheartedly supported our P.C.’s statement at that time, on the basis
of the knowledge we have now, my sympathies are solidly with the British
and SWP majorities as their political position is expressed in the SWP
plenum document on Pablo revisionism. I am assuming that the British
section supports this resolution in its main line. Organizationally, I
also support the majority of the two parties.
I just read a letter from our Western comrades and they
are overwhelmingly in support of the SWP "Open Letter" in all respects.
They of course were in a better position to know all the facts than we
They are in constant touch with one of the SWP branches
and experienced first hand the operation of the minority there. This
information has just come to us. Due to the distance between us,
approximately 3,000 miles and for security reasons, correspondence has
been kept to a minimum.
The party as a whole has not taken a position yet. We
have not been interested in pushing the question, due partly to the fact
that we do not want a sharp division on this question at this time. We
believe the question can be settled here in the cause of the struggle
without any serious consequences. There are no differences on our work
We will be pleased to get documents from the British
section on the political issues.
Your latest document on the history of the differences
is very interesting. It sheds some light on the revisionism of the Pablo
We will be watching events closely over here. What do
you think will come of the 4th WC? Is the majority going to be allowed
by Pablo to attend?
Minutes of the Political
January 31, 1954
Present: Williams, McAlpine, Fitzgerald, Kane.
Resolutions and documents of the 14th plenum read. Among
the various decisions of the plenum was the following:
"To suspend from membership in the International all
the members of the IEC who subscribed to the split appeal which
appeared in The Militant of November 16, 1953, as well as the appeal
of the Committee of the Fourth International or who approved it and
are trying to rally on this basis the sections of the International.
"To suspend from their posts of leadership in the
sections all those who signed these appeals, or approved them and
are trying to rally on this basis the sections of the International.
"To refer the final decision on these cases to the
Fourth World Congress."
The national secretary noted that these resolutions are
immediately operative against Comrade Kane who supports the Letter and
the Committee, is a member of the IEC, national secretary of the group
and member of the national committee. They are also immediately
operative against Comrade Thorne, a national committee member who cast
his vote along with his branch which went on record in support of both
the letter and the committee. These directives suspend Kane from
membership in the international and both Kane and Blake from their posts
in the Canadian group.
A vote was called on the IEC directive to the Canadian
Opposed: Kane, Williams.
Abstained: Fitzgerald, McAlpine
ALL NC MEMBERS ARE ASKED TO CAST THEIR VOTE ON THE ABOVE
MOTION AND TO APPROVE OF ONE OR THE OTHER STATEMENT SUBMITTED TO THEM
BELOW, or SHOULD THEY DESIRE, TO SUBMIT A STATEMENT OF THEIR OWN.
Fitzgerald, McAlpine statement:
We the PC of the Canadian section of the Fourth
International have received the official report of the 14th Plenum of
the IEC which includes a resolution to suspend all those who support the
"Open Letter of the SWP" and the "Committee of the Fourth
We recognize that the IEC was completely justified in
taking this action against the SWP and other members of the "Committee"
who broke the discipline of the International and launched a public
struggle against the duly elected bodies of the International during a
pre-Congress discussion period.
We agree along with the majority of the sections of the
international that this was a splitting tactic and we call upon all
those who want to maintain the World Party of Trotskyism to repudiate
the "open letter" and the "Committee" and participate in the
pre-Congress discussion with the rest of the international with whatever
political ideas they now hold.
We further urge any members of the NC of the Canadian
section who have supported the "committee" and/or the "open letter"
without realizing the splitting character of this stand, to cease to do
so and unite with us in continuing the discussion, which has just begun
in our section, with the assurance that this discussion will be carried
on in the spirit of democratic centralism and bolshevism. In asking them
to cease to support the "open letter" and/or the "committee" we
recognize their right to advocate the political ideas they now hold. And
we further appeal to the Vancouver comrades who have signed the document
now being circulated in the party, to withdraw this document which calls
for support of the "committee" and in its place submit whatever
political differences they have with the main documents of the IS in
proper form, or any other documents, for discussion in the section.
The PC of the Canadian section which is now working in
the hostile atmosphere of reformism (the real movement of the masses) in
Canada which with the USA form the last bastion of reactionary
imperialistic capitalism realizes the need, even more than other
supporters of the International, to continue to support a disciplined
world party of Bolshevism in order to remain firm against capitalist and
Kane, Williams statement:
The national committee of the Canadian section most
vigorously protests the decision of the IEC, refuses to implement the
decision, and demands that the IEC repeal this decision immediately.
The Canadian group, along with all other sections of the
world movement, is in the midst of a pre-World Congress discussion. The
Open Letter is part of this world discussion. The International
Committee from its declaration and from all the statements of its Swiss,
New Zealand and French supporters, is an international fraction. Its
Canadian supporters are loyal members of our party and our International
who look upon it as a rallying point for certain ideas now part of the
This decision of the IEC prohibits the free development
of the discussion not only in the Canadian party but in the entire
international. It not only removes leading comrades from the posts that
the Canadian party in convention elected them to, but is a monstrous
threat held over the heads of all leading members should they gravitate
to the ideas expressed in the Open Letter and by the International
Committee. The IEC by this decision decrees — CONFORM OR ELSE!
This decision excludes leading cadres of the movement
from being delegates to the World Congress—their status is to be
determined, following the opening of the World Congress, by persons who
have ordered their suspension — persons who obviously hold the view that
these comrades are splitters and anti-Fourth International elements. If
this decision were to be enacted it would only affirm fears that have
already been expressed that the coming World Congress will be a rump
In the interest of clarifying the dispute that is taking
place in our movement and the entire movement’s Trotskyist re-arming we
demand that the IEC immediately repeal this decision.
Secretary’s note —
We had intended to attempt to present the essence of the
discussion that flowed around the presentation of these statements;
however this would be very difficult, raising all kinds of questions of
interpretation, etc. We think it correct to note however for the
information of the NC that Comrade Kane stated that he could reply right
now to the McAlpine, Fitzgerald appeal — that he had not the slightest
intention of submitting to an IEC ukase or the McAlpine-Fitzgerald
appeal to repudiate his statements of support of the Open Letter or the
International Committee. He expressed the opinion that the Fitzgerald
and McAlpine appeal would only result in delaying decision for a week or
so until we heard from those to whom it appeals — that we were going to
have to take a stand on the IEC decisions.
Discussion on organization continued — General agreement
that it would be highly desirable to hold a convention — if from the
point of view of representation this proved impractical we should hold
regional conferences. McAlpine expressed opinion that convention might
be held before WC to elect delegate and conferences follow up
afterwards. Counter opinion expressed that election of delegate must
represent wind-up of discussion so that the delegate elected represented
view of majority. Congress is being held at such a time that it would be
necessary to hold Canadian convention prior to May 1.
I spent two days in Toronto and had four meetings. At
night I went home with two waverers and talked (that was not one of the
My general impression of the situation: The section is
now right in the middle of the crisis. A national Pabloite faction has
developed. We have a nose-counting majority in the whole section but it
is just barely getting into fighting shape, forming an organized caucus
and acting like a majority. Leaving aside the picture in B.C. branch
internally, the national majority is not consolidated, working together
or exerting its majority through the national committee.
The lineup in the Toronto branch when I left, after
winning over the two waverers, is 8 declared and fairly solid majority;
5 minority, 3 neutral (hard to determine on which side).
During the last few weeks the shift took place toward
I think my visit was timely and helped them along
somewhat. I walked right into a full branch meeting without any chance
to meet with our own people. I spoke for over an hour and seemed to make
a strong impression. At first it looked like Murray and the
other Pabloites wouldn’t speak at all but they finally made some weak
statements and asked a few questions. They use almost exclusively the
Germain line and formulations.
I hammered away on the political issues and kept coming
back to them every time they raised some of Germain’s formulas. Then I
sailed into the organization question. One of the Pabloites accused me
of bringing an ultimatum to the section because I said the principled
issues were irreconcilable. I replied by demonstrating who is using
ultimatums and edicts. Here they are sitting with a ukase suspending the
three leading members of their organization. The suspension comes on the
eve of the full discussion the section was launching. It gives us an
indication of what Pablo means by a Fourth World Congress. I didn’t have
to present proof of my contentions regarding Pablo’s intrigues against
the British section, they could judge from their own experience, etc.
After the meeting I met with the majority people and
took up the business you talked to me about. I think all the corrections
were made satisfactorily. We also discussed the strategy of the fight.
Before I go into that, I better finish up on the matter
of Ross’ letter. He will send the letter to Ceylon but has no Bolivian
address. He will have to use the Samasamajist address for Ceylon. Gerry
and you will get copies at once. You can use them in any way you wish.
At the meeting of the majority it was decided to set up
an organized faction and go to work in military style to smash the
We will get a convention call issued. This will put all
questions into the branches and offers us a good back-stop for any
variant that occurs in the Toronto branch. Up to now the fight has been
bottled up in the NC except for some very general discussion in the
branch. In the meantime the Pabloites were building a faction and
talking peace in the branch. It was agreed to cut out this farce and
open up on them in the branch on all issues. The convention strategy
does not mean the branch cannot go on record for the International
Committee or anything else. As soon as they have the majority in the
branch they will put it to a vote.
In the meantime they will bring into the branch the
issue of the suspensions. The Pabloites are trying to straddle it. In
some ways it’s a godsend, these suspensions can be used as an object
lesson everywhere and in Canada they can force the Pabloites to the
They consulted me on whether to send money to Pablo! You
can imagine what I told them.
I advised them to answer all organizational tricks and
questions with the simple statement: referred to the convention. In the
meantime not one ounce of cooperation with a phony committee which wants
the Canadian section to open its discussion by throwing out the leaders
of the opposition to Pablo.
It is clear to me from this visit that we in no way
could maneuver with the Canadians. They are going through a major fight
which will end in victory for us. But the fight must be carried through
and everything subordinated to its victory.
I talked with the Buffalo comrades who have a lot of
standing in Toronto and we agreed that they would pay close attention to
the situation and work with Ross to help out in every way they can. I
had talked to Ross about this previously and he was in full agreement.
The best service the Buffalo people can do is to go to work on the
undecided and the weaker Pabloites and see how far they can be whittled
It seems that Cochran was invited to come up there. Now
the leading comrades are agreed that we shouldn’t permit such a meeting.
I urged them to block it on the grounds that Cochran is representing the
Pabloite expellers and is there to organize a factional split and not a
discussion. Also that he led the disloyal walkout from the American
party and thereby walked out of the genuine Trotskyist movement
The two waverers I stayed with drove me down to Buffalo.
It is indicative of how far things had gone that these two were on the
verge of joining up with Joe Rose, who is now conniving with the
One final impression, which perhaps will explain the
background of these developments. I am convinced that Pabloism, that is
real Pabloism, has taken a deep hold in the whole organization up
there. They don’t fully realize it. They think they are all united in
the work in the CCF. And they are, but on a Pabloite line I’m afraid.
They have become infected with this terrible disease of thinking that
everything can be solved with fancy endless maneuvers in the CCF, with
"deep" entry conceptions.
In my opinion the Canadians will not get out of the
woods fundamentally until they begin to publish a Marxist periodical of
some kind and begin again the fight for Trotskyism in Canada. Ross told
me he had been thinking along these lines. All their good work in the
CCF could be utterly wasted and turn into the opposite of what was
intended without a drastic reorientation in the direction of building a
In a sense I first got the idea of this international
fight after this visit. We are really saving the world movement, not
simply from some false resolutions and a clique domination, but from
utter liquidation through Pabloist politics in each section. Just
imagine if Cochranism had taken over in America by a creeping method,
imperceptible, without a faction fight, and you can get something of a
picture I believe of what happened to many sections.
In the light of such an appreciation the Open Letter
tactic appears in an altogether different light. It was a life or death
necessity and not one out of many variants.
I am on my way to Pittsburgh in a few minutes. I will
write soon about the tour. It’s going great guns. The meeting in Buffalo
was very fine. The branch here is really something. I’ve become very
fond of the comrades here in a short time. It feels like I’ve known them
for years. I think the feeling is mutual.
A carload of comrades are going to drive me to
Pittsburgh as soon as they get out of the plants and we will eat on the
road. Some of them will stay over in Pittsburgh for the meeting
Regards to all comrades.
P.S. The convention method I proposed they use instead
of two regional conferences — a national convention has more authority,
in the world movement, and what is important is not how they hold the
convention, but the vote on resolutions and delegates and the conclusive
settlement of the fight, election of new Committee, etc.
They will be conscious of giving the most authoritative
support to the I.C. in the shortest possible time.
I am enclosing a copy of a statement that our minority
here gave us at our meeting last Wednesday. Appended to it is a short
comment that went with it to members of our tops.
We are approaching a showdown here. Upon the
presentation of this statement I am confident that the minority expected
that we would expel them. I have never thought that they would go
through a convention and thus give formal recognition to the fact that
they are the minority and on the basis of full discussion. But we are
strangling them with democracy. The get-together is planned for next
weekend. If we had a formal statement of break from them we would be in
favor of its postponement. In fact there is a bit of a mix-up here with
our Western friends …. it doesn’t look like we are going to get much
representation. Tonight I am hoping to get some definite word from our
minority so that we can call off the convention and can arrange it more
to the satisfaction of ourselves. We will go through with it however no
matter what inconvenience should they appear to be going to stick along
with us right up to and into the convention. We think this necessary
from the point of view of the international.
The majority is solid and overwhelming. We have been
winning the fence sitters slowly and steadily till now the lines are
very hard drawn. The minority is down to a hard core of 5 here in
Toronto, a couple in Windsor and one in Montreal. The majority has
Toronto two to one, Vancouver unanimously, and all the outside points
that we have heard from. The only important point that may still be on
the fence is Prince Rupert but last correspondence showed him swinging
our way. Of course it is always a tendency to write off persons you
lose, they were no good anyway, and usually this is true when the lines
have been drawn clearly in discussion as they have in this dispute. But
there is no question that we have come out of this well. The majority
comrades have grown considerably. You would have been pleased to have
heard how they handled Ernie Mazey. Somewhile back we had agreed to hear
Murray and some one of the Cochranites. As time went on I was for saying
to hell with it but the majority of the comrades thought in the interest
of winning the one waverer left in Toronto that we should go through
with it . .. and we did. Mazey left here pretty well squashed.
The maximum strength of the minority is 8 and it is by
no means a homogeneous group. On the whole it is composed of the weakest
elements that we had. One of them is a non-political type who formally
speaking should be on a leave of absence but he has been resurrected by
the minority. The Windsor duo are a husband and wife combination, very
demoralized, persons who have had practically no contact with the center
and who also wouldn’t be on the books if we had operated in a more
formal basis. These two have long been friends of Joe Rose, long after
the rest of the minority condemned him utterly. Another is a new comrade
who is with the minority solely on a personal basis. McAlpine is the
only real Pabloite. Fitzgerald and Wilson are the only two with any real
ability and do represent a loss to our movement — however one that
despite all our efforts could not be prevented. Fitzgerald will be
deserting them within the next few weeks by going to Europe for a year
or so. Wilson has long been a Stalinist conciliator — Clarke called him
one not long ago to his face — Pablo with his trick formulations has
really disoriented this comrade and he doesn’t know what he knows. At a
recent discussion they suggested to one of us that they had 48 percent
of the Eastern part of the party. They have developed the happy faculty
of just writing off the West where they have no one. The other day
another one of them told a comrade that they had more than that ... and
he started to enumerate a couple of sympathizers in Montreal and added
into it Joe Rose and a couple of friends that he has. When they pull the
pin it may well be that Pablo will be circulating information to the
effect that they are the majority of the Eastern section if not the
entire section. But there will not be the slightest truth in such
claims. They are a splinter of a splinter. The only effect that their
defection will have will be a certain financial loss. However we have
more contacts around us at this juncture than we have had for years and
not only will completely recover in short order but go forward.
The Canadian experience has been a sort of test tube
experiment. Our minority never tired of telling us how the Italian
International Committee supporters remained in the Italian group despite
the fact that the majority came out for the Pabloite IEC. We agreed to
go through a long serious detailed discussion with our minority which
would be resolved at a convention. As the discussion proceeded they
attempted to keep it on the organizational plane; we finally forced it
on the political plane. As we proceeded to clear the air and win the
majority of the party they commenced to balk at a convention. When the
convention was inevitable and they were faced with a clear and
indisputable rejection of their line they announced their decision to
refuse to be a part, even as an objecting minority, of the decisions of
the convention. The whole process should be of considerable interest to
other sections which are still going through the experience. At our last
Toronto meeting one of the comrades took time to patiently demonstrate
through a liberal use of quotations that the Pabloite line was not at
all the line adopted by the IIIrd World Congress. They had always been
hammering that our views were a rejection of the IIIrd World Congress,
representing its decisions as something engraved in stone as
imperishable guides for evermore. But at this meeting they turned around
— proclaiming that the IIIrd WC decisions were not sacred, that they
were necessarily revised by subsequent plenums.
Should we be faced with the formal split within the next
few days I will certainly write you all the details — in fact in such a
way as to be suitable for publication. If we have to go through with the
convention to get it I will send you a detailed report of the
convention. I hope you received a copy of the document, "Two Years of
Entry." I would be interested in knowing what you comrades think of it.
Of course it could do us irremediable harm should it fall into the wrong
I might add that we here are in complete agreement with
the tactical demands that you make on Pablo. We have been following this
line since Germain opened the door for them and JPC developed this line
in his excellent letter to Leslie Goonewardene. We were also highly
satisfied with the way you handled the Kane letter and are agreeable to
it appearing in an IB [Internal Bulletin]. I will inform everyone of
the excellent developments you report in your letter to us. I assume
from your Lora letter that you now have a suitable address.
The attached statement was presented to the Toronto
group meeting Wednesday, March 31, 1954. It was presented on behalf of 8
persons in the Canadian group (Fitzgerald, McAlpine, Ford, Dale,
Houston, Wilson and D and J).
Immediately following presentation of the statement the
Toronto group passed a motion designating the action of the minority as
profoundly disloyal — the vote was 8 for, 4 against.
The majority referred to in the statement is the entire
membership of the Vancouver group and a two to one majority in the
Toronto group plus strong support in the membership at large. The
minority is composed of 5 persons in the Toronto group and three persons
in other Eastern points.
This statement that the minority refuses "to be a part,
even as an objecting minority," to what forces in the Canadian group
have stated they intend to press for at our convention to be held next
week is probably without precedent in the annals of the socialist
movement. It is a crude attempt on the part of a minority to blackmail
the convention into submitting to its will with the threat that it will
split the party.
It goes without saying that no Bolshevik group would
submit to such an outrageous threat. Speaking on behalf of the minority
Fitzgerald stated that should the convention decide to commit the
Canadian group to the International Committee, which the majority
considers contains the forces in the Fourth International that are
fighting against Pabloite revision of our doctrine, the minority would
immediately constitute itself the Canadian section of the Fourth
STATEMENT OF POLICY
The faction that has been organized by the Canadian
supporters of the International Executive Committee of the Fourth
International, to defend the unity of the Trotskyist movement against
the Cannonite splitters and the political program of our movement as
expressed by the Third World Congress and the main line of the documents
submitted by the International Secretariat of the Fourth International
for discussion at the Fourth World Congress, and is presently called the
Minority Faction of the Canadian Section wishes to make the following
announcement of a decision taken by our Faction.
Despite every effort on our part to keep the party on
the correct road politically and loyal to the Fourth International and
to persuade it to send delegates to the forthcoming Fourth World
Congress it is now painfully apparent that the Canadian Cannonites
presently called the Majority Faction are determined at all costs to
deepen the split initiated by the Cannonite section of the New Zealand
This is clearly revealed by two motions before a
convention called for early in April, one from Vancouver the other from
Toronto, which call for affiliation to the so-called "International
Committee" and the steps taken by the Canadian Cannonites to cut off
financial support to the IEC and the decision they have taken not to
raise the levy for the World Congress.
Our Faction remains loyal to the principles of
revolutionary Marxist internationalism — the fundamental concepts of
Trotskyism. We refuse to be a part, even as an objecting minority to any
actions which would strengthen the hand of Cannonism in its struggle to
destroy the Fourth International around which are rallied the
overwhelming majority of the forces of world Trotskyism.
March 29, 1954
At its meeting of April 7 the Toronto group passed a
motion that the national convention called for April 10, 11, 12 be
temporarily postponed and a letter to this effect be circulated
immediately throughout the movement.
At that meeting the Pabloite minority split from the
party in the persons of all of its active supporters in the Toronto
branch — Fitzgerald, McAlpine, Ford and Houston.
First item on the agenda of the April 7 meeting, held
just three days before the convention date, was a letter from the
so-called Committee for the Socialist Regroupment of Canada applying for
membership in the branch. This is the group that Kelly (Rose) took out
of the party some 9 or 10 months ago. Fitzgerald immediately moved a
motion of acceptance. Prior to the vote being taken on this motion
Comrade Kane read a motion that he said he would present should the
meeting turn down the Fitzgerald proposal. His motion read: "In view of
the fact that the leaders of the minority and majority had jointly
agreed to freeze the membership of the party until after the convention
which would actually prohibit acceptance of this application until then,
and in view of the past relations that these comrades have had with the
movement — only two months ago they called for a split from our movement
to their Committee for the Socialist Regroupment of Canada — with
Comrade Kelly in particular having a long record of disruption of the
Canadian section and its work; that we refuse this application at this
time with the understanding that following the convention should these
comrades still signify their wish to become part of the Toronto branch
that we are prepared to go through a series of experiences to test their
adherence to a discipline of an organization based on the principles of
Immediately upon the defeat of his motion, Fitzgerald,
in defiance of the chair that he speak on the motion now confronting the
meeting, announced that the four supporters of his motion were leaving
the meeting. When asked about the convention and their delegates, they
answered that they would let us know, and that anyway, the convention
was our worry, not theirs. With this they walked out of the meeting
about 30 minutes after it had started.
This development comes as no surprise following the
finalization of their whole previous conduct at the March 31 meeting. At
that meeting they presented a statement to the branch which said that
"We refuse to be a part, even as an objecting minority to any actions"
that would commit the Canadian section to what they call the Cannonite
International Committee. This crude attempt on the part of the Canadian
Pabloites to blackmail the party into submitting to its will with the
threat that it will split the party is probably without precedent in the
history of the Bolshevik movement. Despite this extreme provocation the
Toronto branch continued on in its preparatory work for the convention.
At this same meeting Fitzgerald replied to a question as to what the
minority would do should the convention come out for support of the
International Committee with a statement that the minority would
immediately reconstitute itself the Canadian section of the F.I.
Even this scandalous statement was merely a
summarization of a whole series of previous attempts to frustrate the
democratic processes of the movement which they commenced as soon as
they became aware that they were a pitifully small minority — one that,
as the discussions were proceeding on the political issues at dispute,
was moving from weakness to weakness. As time went on they openly
opposed the convention, attempting to take advantage of the difficulties
that confront us due to lack of finance, distances separating us, etc.
When the majority finally met all its terms — even that of holding the
convention in Toronto and assuring them at the March 31 meeting that
despite the fact that their strength did not warrant it we were prepared
to give them 2 of the 5 delegates apportioned to Toronto — two days
prior to the convention they used the ruse of a membership application
of the Kelly clique to split from the party.
The Toronto branch, what with the split of the Pabloites,
feels that it is justified in asking for postponement of the convention.
The irreconcilable hostility of the Canadian party to Pabloite
revisionism of orthodox Trotskyism has been clearly established in the
process of the pre-convention discussion. Through their split the
Pabloites have removed the pressure upon the party to formally establish
it through a convention at this time. We are of the opinion that the
party can now digest this last, final lesson of the incompatibility of
Pabloism with Trotskyism and go about the business of making more rounded
preparations for its 3rd convention. The April date as you know was set
entirely to meet the schedule of Fitzgerald’s leaving the country and
the date of the Pabloite rump Fourth World Congress. We suggest that
following close consultation of all sections of the party a new date for
the convention be arrived at.
The Toronto branch, the only place in the party where
the Pabloites had any real strength, comes out of this dispute with
higher spirits, increased confidence in itself and increased strength.
The defection of the 5 Pabloites will have no deteriorating effect on
the branch other than for a short period of financial difficulties. The
branch is firm and has developed in political stature considerably. At
this juncture it has more contacts around it than it has had for years.
In only a few months it should be back again at its previous numerical
strength and with a considerable addition to its hitting power.
We warn the party to take no heed of the grandiose
claims that the Pabloists will no doubt be making of their strength. They
are a miserable and demoralized handful. They will probably be claiming,
as their British counterparts did, to be in some way the majority of our
party. They will possibly be claiming the support of two persons in
Windsor who have been nothing more than sympathizers for several years,
three persons in Montreal (2 who themselves recognize their status as
merely sympathizers of the movement) the Kelly group (4) which
Fitzgerald-McAlpine themselves declared in a PC letter dated February 6
(2 months ago) to be sectarian opponents to our entry into the mass
movement and disrupters of our work in the unions and mass movement who
have merely "seized upon the dispute in the International to further
disrupt the Canadian party and its work."
This unprincipled combination is without perspective and
doomed in short order to blow apart. The Canadian section of the Fourth
International moves forward going about its task of building the forces
for the mass party of the Canadian proletarian revolution.
The supporters of Pablo have splintered from the
Canadian section of the Fourth International. They pulled out two days
prior to a national convention scheduled to formally determine the
position of the Canadian section on the struggle that the international
forces of Trotskyism have been waging against Pabloist liquidationism.
Immediately following their walkout they announced a
farcical reconstitution of the Canadian section of the Fourth
International under their auspices, and their intention to endorse a
person, to masquerade as a delegate from the Canadian section to the
Pabloite rump Fourth World Congress.
The Pabloists claim to represent the majority of
Trotskyists in the most highly industrialized section of the country and
35 percent of the movement nationally. The mechanics behind the trick of
setting themselves up as THE Canadian section of the Fourth
International, while only claiming to have a minority of 35 percent of
the Trotskyists in Canada, are: that to support the International
Committee (which is an international faction already speaking for the
basic cadres of Leon Trotsky’s Fourth International), is to have split
from the Fourth International. Pablo — who had been entrusted by the
Third World Congress to carry its line and who has completely revised
it, at the same time high-handedly purging from its continuing bodies
all those who opposed his traitorous course — he says so, and it is
While the Pabloists remained in the Canadian section,
that is up until last week, they recognized that the forces of orthodox
Trotskyism were the overwhelming majority, and not just 65 percent
either. The West, representing one half of the numerical strength of the
movement, was almost 100 percent in support of the International
Committee. The Pabloists were never able to tally more than one-third of
the forces in the main Eastern concentration.
Now, having deserted the party, the Pabloists suddenly
claim to have 35 percent of the Canadian Trotskyists. But like the
earlier reports of Mark Twain’s death, this is an exaggeration — in fact
it is a lie of the whole cloth.
Their splintering off from the movement was heralded on
April 7 by a pitiful handful walking out of the only party group where
they had influence. This miserable little group is attempting to deceive
itself, probably more than anyone else who might be interested, by going
through the motions of adding to itself a scattering of persons who are
more or less sympathizers of the movement, a handful of disreputable
elements who walked out of the section 10 months ago after almost three
years of sectarian disruption of the party’s work, and then, through a
series of arithmetical manipulations, turning up with the total of 35
percent. The bulk of them are persons who have become demoralized and
defeated under the difficulties of attempting to build the revolutionary
The Canadian section remains solid and confident of its
capacity to build the mass Marxist party of the Canadian revolution. Its
cadre, in the process of coming to grips with the revisionist concepts
of the Pabloists, has tremendously matured, developing a clearer concept
of its tasks and in short order will more than make up for whatever it
lost through the Pabloist desertion.
The Canadian section’s experience with Pabloism has been
a rich one. Last November the Socialist Workers Party, in an open letter
to Trotskyists throughout the world warned against Pablo’s international
faction which was revising Trotskyist fundamentals and purging its
opponents from the movement. The Canadian Political Committee, admitting
inadequacy of information, made the mistake of disapproving the act of
an open statement, while declaring its neutrality on the political
issues at dispute. Pablo and his aides quickly circulated the
International to the effect that Canada supported his politics as
against the views of his opponents.
Immediately, in keeping with its democratic traditions,
a wide open discussion developed within the Canadian section. Very
shortly some of the party’s main concentrations, along with the majority
of its national committee, made known their political support of the SWP
Open Letter and of the International Committee that had been organized
by the French, British, Swiss, New Zealand and Chinese sections. No
sooner was this a fact than did Pablo, through a rump meeting of the
International Executive Committee, suspend, along with all other IEC
members who took similar positions, the Canadian national secretary who
had been elected to the IEC by the Third World Congress. At the same
time the Pabloite IEC suspended the majority of the leadership of the
Canadian section from the posts that the Canadian section in convention
had elected them to.
The two leading Canadian Pabloists expressed their
complete agreement with Pablo’s Stalin-like attempt to decapitate the
Canadian section with the astounding comment that, due to the nature and
the political level of the Canadian section, this instruction was
inoperative here. The Canadian section of course refused out-of-hand to
submit to the Pablo ukase.
With the refusal of the Canadian section to be stampeded
by him and his pitiful handful of supporters through false accusations
of split, Pablo made a slight tack in his course. Ignoring the refusal
to implement his orders, he wrote, "Take the time to know and discuss
all the documents of the International on the crisis ... adjourn your
final decision until you have heard the reports of your representatives
to the World Congress."
This tactical shift from plying the axe to an attempt to
seduce sections into not taking positions on documents up for
discussion, urging them to send along delegates chosen by undetermined
means on undetermined views to vote an international policy and
international leadership — which would be discussed and approved later
by national sections when everything is sealed, signed and delivered —
resulted in a sudden veer on the part of his Canadian supporters to get
out from under a national convention which they themselves had proposed
be held to determine the position of the Canadian section.
Early in the dispute, when it had already become
apparent that the overwhelming majority of the section supported the
International Committee, one of the leading Pabloites stated that he
would never submit to the Canadian section supporting the IC without a
full-fledged convention. As this was agreeable to all, plans for such a
convention were immediately made.
During the pre-convention discussion it was only with
the greatest difficulty that the party was able to force the discussion
from the organizational plane onto the political issues at dispute. The
Pabloites at first claimed that there were no real political
differences. But once the discussion got underway, on the East German
uprising, the French General Strike, the political revolution in the
USSR, Stalinism, and finally the orientation of the Canadian section
itself, their deep-going differences were brought out.
All this time the documents of the Pabloist
International Executive Committee were freely circulated. A leading
spokesman of Pablo’s Cochranite supporters was even permitted to address
one of the main party groups. But the Pabloites were strangling on this
democracy. The Trotskyist cadres of the movement rallied to the defense
of their doctrine and the Pabloites moved from weakness to weakness.
As the convention approached, and in receipt of Pablo’s
instructions, the Pabloites commenced to desperately attempt to get out
from under it. One week before their walkout the minority presented a
statement bewailing the apparent fact that the convention was going to
ally the Canadian section with the International Committee. The
statement flung in the face of the party the challenge that the
Pabloists "refuse to be a part, even as an objecting minority," to such
Despite the disloyal statements of leading minorityites
and this outrageous attempt to blackmail the party into not carrying out
its democratic will, the majority remained unprovoked. Their very
failure to provoke the majority into any disciplinary actions against
their disloyal conduct only goaded the Pabloists into greater fury.
They revealed that they were collaborating with a
handful of sectarian disrupters who had walked out of the party, along
with some party property, some 10 months previously, and who, when the
international dispute erupted, had come to life again only in order to
announce their enthusiastic support of Pablo and call for a split from
the party to their so-called Committee for Socialist Regroupment. At the
time of this split appeal the Pabloists sharply dissociated themselves
from this Committee, labelling them disrupters of the party "who have
seized upon the dispute in the International to further disrupt the
party and its work."
At a meeting two days prior to the convention, in
collusion with these disrupters, the Pabloites presented their
applications for re-admission to the party. The majority, in view of the
pre-convention agreement to freeze the membership, voted that the
applications be held over until after the convention and further
experience could be had with these persons. With this the minority
The next day the Pabloists circulated a statement over
the name of three leading members which bore the return address of the
so-called Committee for the Socialist Regroupment. In the statement the
Pabloites label the party convention a rump convention without
authority. They condemn the convention for lack of documentation
although the minority presented no documentation whatsoever, not even a
statement on its own behalf all during the discussion, other than its
infamous threat that it would not be a minority, even an objecting
They condemn the convention for its alleged
non-representative character — its failure to represent "the real
relationship of forces." Part of the evidence to back up this charge is
that the basis of representation to which they had previously agreed
does not allow voting representation to a point where the party had one
member, and that the split-calling deserters, the so-called Committee
for Socialist Regroupment, do not have representation at the convention
of the Canadian section of the Fourth International.
The Canadian experience demonstrates that Pabloism
considers itself to be completely incompatible with orthodox Trotskyism;
that Pabloism is totally unprepared to accept a position of a loyal
minority within the ranks of any of the parties of the Fourth
International. The Canadian experience confirms to the hilt the charge
that Pabloism is attempting to liquidate the Fourth International, to
wreck and disperse the precious cadres of international Trotskyism.
The solidity of the Canadian section, now in alliance
with its co-thinkers in the International Committee of the Fourth
International, who already encompass the overwhelming majority of the
forces of the Fourth International, is striking testimony to the
indestructible temper of Leon Trotsky’s world movement, against its
enemies from within as well as its class enemy without.
April 9, 1954
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