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Announcing the Second Edition of
Canadian Bolsheviks
The Early Years of the
Communist Party of Canada

By Ian Angus

The Socialist History Project is very pleased to announced that Canadian Bolsheviks: The Early Years of the Communist Party of Canada, by Ian Angus, has been republished in cooperation with Trafford Publishing. Canadian Bolsheviks describes and explains the first attempt to build a Leninist Party on Canadian soil, showing why it succeeded so well at first, and why it ultimately failed. This path-breaking work, originally published in 1981, has been out of print for some time.

The photo at the right shows the Nov. 17, 2004 Vancouver meeting for Canadian Bolsheviks. All the presentations at that meeting can be viewed on line at WorkingTV.com.

Socialist Voice published a  report on the public meetings that were held  in Vancouver and Toronto in November 2004, to celebrate the new edition of Canadian Bolsheviks.

If you are interested in organizing (or helping to organize) a meeting to discuss and promote Canadian Bolsheviks, email Ian Angus at ian@socialisthistory.ca

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Publication Info
Published by The Socialist History Project in association with Trafford Publishing
ISBN 1-4120-3808
Trafford catalogue #04-1623
Trade paperback (6x9), perfect bound, 339 pages

Preface to the Second Edition, 2004

Twenty-five years ago, I wrote Canadian Bolsheviks to rescue the history and achievements of the first generation of Canadian revolutionary socialists from decades of distortion by both anti-communist and Stalinist writers.

The book was well received in academic circles and (more important to me) by people who looked to the first attempt to build a revolutionary party in Canada for lessons and inspiration in their own efforts to change the world.

Recent years have seen a new rise of interest in radical ideas and movements. Hundreds of thousands of young people around the world are looking for paths to social change. Most aren’t Marxists, of course—more often than not, they accept the Marxism=Stalinism=Totalitarianism equation that our society’s opinion-shapers promote.

But for anyone who wants to go beyond criticizing the world as it is, to actually changing it, the experience of the revolutionaries who founded and built the Communist Party of Canada is directly relevant.

The men and women who built the Communist Party of Canada weren’t perfect. They made mistakes. They weren’t even aware of some of the issues we consider important today. But they committed their lives to social change, and did the best they could—and they built the most successful, principled, and effective revolutionary organization Canada has ever seen. They have a lot to teach us.

I offer the second edition of Canadian Bolsheviks to the new generation of Canadian radicals, as a contribution to your debates and discussions on how to change the world.

* * *

Two or three years ago, after many years in which other responsibilities kept me from writing about revolutionary history, I began receiving e-mails and phone calls asking about Canadian Bolsheviks. Some of the queries came from academics, some from socialist groups, and a gratifying number came from individuals who wanted to discover the history that was omitted from their school books.

Most wanted to know where to find the book: sadly, I had to tell them that Canadian Bolsheviks was out of print. Now I no longer have to say that.

When I decided to arrange a second edition, I considered doing a complete revision based on research that has been done over the past 25 years. But while that research has added a great deal to my understanding of the developments discussed in Canadian Bolsheviks, it hasn’t changed the overall picture, and a complete rewrite would have substantially delayed getting Canadian Bolsheviks back into print. So this edition is substantially the same as the first.

In addition to spelling corrections* and minor stylistic changes, the changes I have made fall into four groups:

  • I have taken advantage of new technology to include some pictures and to correct and expand the Index.
  • In a few cases, I have changed the present tense to the past tense in passages referring to events in the 1980s, or to individuals who were alive in 1981 but have since died. Similarly, I have noted that certain important document collections have been moved since they were listed in my Bibliography.
  • In 1981, many people still viewed Tim Buck as a reliable source of information about communist history, so in the first edition I dealt with his most significant falsifications in appendices that immediately followed the chapters dealing with events involved. In this edition those appendices are at the back of the book, where they still make important points but don’t interrupt the flow.
  • The first edition included a limited selection of documents that weren’t available anywhere else at the time. I had wanted to included more, but time and cost made that impractical. Today, all of those documents, and many more besides, have been posted at the Socialist History Project website, www.socialisthistory.ca. Since they are now readily available, I decided to reduce the thickness and price of this edition by referring readers to that resource.

Finally, I want to thank all of the people who encouraged me to make Canadian Bolsheviks available again. Above all, I am eternally grateful to Lis Angus, whose encouragement, support and advice made both the first and second editions of Canadian Bolsheviks possible, and who is still, after all these years, the most important person in my life.

Ian Angus
North Grenville, Ontario
July 2004

Part One of the Preface to the First Edition, 1981

Canadian Bolsheviks is a study of the birth and death of a revolutionary party.

At the end of World War I many of the leaders of the left wing of the Canadian labor movement concluded that the existing organizations of the left were inadequate to the task of overthrowing capitalism and creating a new society. They established a new party—a new kind of party—that attempted to combine the experiences of Canadian labor with the lessons of the Russian Revolution. They called their new organization the Communist Party of Canada.

They made mistakes, but they learned from their errors. They learned quickly and well, founding a party of great promise. They united revolutionary socialists from every part of the country in a single organization with a common program and a common approach to political activity. This had never been done before in Canada. They extended their influence through consistent activity in the labor movement and through cooperation with the non-communist left. The Communist Party soon became the largest organization of the Canadian left.

A decade later, the Communist Party of Canada was in a state of collapse. Three-quarters of its membership left its ranks in one two-year period. Almost every one of the founding leaders of the party was expelled. Tim Buck rose dramatically from a secondary leadership position to undisputed control of the party apparatus. The CPC was soon to describe itself as "Tim Buck’s Party."

This organizational collapse and transformation was accompanied by an equally dramatic change in the party’s political direction. The CPC abandoned the program it had adopted in its early years, walked out of the unions, and isolated itself in a mindless binge of sectarian ultraleftism that deprived it of all allies and left it wide open to attack. The party turned its back on its principles.

When the crisis was over, an organization with the name "Communist Party of Canada" remained, but it was not the party that bore that name through the 1920s.

The chief characteristic of the old party had been dedication to the cause of proletarian revolution. It had welcomed the leadership of the Communist International, but it had accepted orders from no one. The Russian leaders of the International were first among equals, but no more.

The chief characteristic of the new party—of "Tim Buck’s Party"—was unquestioning submission to the dictates of the Kremlin. From 1930 until today the Communist Party of Canada has followed every twist and turn of Soviet foreign policy. Its program and policies are determined not by the needs of the working class in Canada and abroad, but by the narrowly perceived diplomatic concerns of the Soviet bureaucracy.

The Communist Party of Canada was transformed, at the end of its first decade, from a revolutionary party into a border guard for the Soviet Union. In Canadian Bolsheviks I have tried to explain how and why that change took place.

Ian Angus
Toronto, Ontario
November, 1980

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