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Documents from the 1954 Split in the Canadian Trotskyist Movement


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 Letter.

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 other countries:

  • Fourth International (Europe): "Germain" was Ernest Mandel and "Pablo" was Michel Raptis.

  • 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.

  • Peru: Lora.

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."

Initial Canadian Statement
November 29, 1953

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 the minority.

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 group."

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.


Ross Dowson to Farrell Dobbs,
December 2, 1953

Dear Farrell,

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.

Ross Dowson

Vern Olson to Gerry Healy
January 10, 1954

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 effect.

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 were.

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 here.

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 group.

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?

Comradely Greetings
V. Olson

Minutes of the Political Committee
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 group:

Opposed: Kane, Williams.

For: None

Abstained: Fitzgerald, McAlpine


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 International."

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 reformist pressures.

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 discussion.

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 World Congress.

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.

Murry Weiss to Farrell Dobbs
February 18, 1954

Dear Farrell,

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 meetings).

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 the Pabloites.

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 Pabloite split.

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 wall.

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 down.

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 everywhere.

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 Cochranites.

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 Trotskyist cadre.

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 tomorrow.

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.


Ross Dowson to Farrell Dobbs
April 5, 1954

Dear Smith:

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 hands.


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 International.


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 leadership.

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

Ross Dowson to the Canadian Section
April 9, 1954

Dear Comrades,

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 orthodox Trotskyism."

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.


Pabloite Minority Split in Canada, 
by Ross Dowson
SWP Discussion Bulletin A-17, 1954

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 therefore so.

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 party.

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 an action.

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 stomped out.

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 minority.

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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