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A Noble Cause Betrayed ... but Hope Lives On
Pages from a Political Life, by John Boyd

Chapter 3
Why I Left the Communist Party
(My Letter to the Central Executive Committee)

Feb. 18, 1970

To the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada,
Toronto, Ontario.

Yes, I have dropped my membership in the Communist Party. After long and careful consideration I came to the conclusion that I can no longer belong to

  1. a Party that condoned and continues to condone the terrible injustices and crimes that were committed and are still being committed to this day in Czechoslovakia — all in the name of "Marxism-Leninism," "democratic centralism" and "proletarian internationalism."

  2. a Party that condones the distortions of socialist democracy and socialist legality that have been taking place and are continuing to take place in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries since the 20th Congress of the CPSU — likewise in the name of "Marxism-Leninism," etc.

    (This conclusion is based not only on sources that are available to everyone, but also, and mainly, from what I learned from a score or so of Soviet Communists and foreign Communists who have lived in the Soviet Union, with whom I worked in Prague, as well as a few I met in Moscow. Some of them were old-time members of the CPSU, some new; all of them highly knowledgeable in their fields. They described the situation much more sharply and much more harshly than I do. Significantly, most of the information given to me by these Soviet persons was given individually, when alone, very seldom when there were two or more present).

  3. a Party whose leadership remains silent when anti-Semitism is used to advance a particular policy or interest — as, for example, in the propaganda seeking to establish that counter-revolution had gained the upper hand in Czechoslovakia. (Why did not anyone in the leadership of the Canadian Party denounce or criticize or even seek to correct the lie, one of a dozen at least, in Dyson Carter's own version of a "white book" —Whatever Happened in Czechoslovakia? — that Jiri Hajek was a Jew, whose real name was Karpeles? Why didn't the Canadian Tribune publish, as the London Morning Star did, the statement Hajek issued denouncing the canard, which first appeared in lzvestia, and its slimy purpose? Was it because it happened to be at the same time, grist for the mill of the "official" line? And hasn't the same attitude of silence been taken towards, or mealy-mouthed attempts made to explain, the ill-disguised efforts recently in Czechoslovakia and earlier in Poland, to exploit anti-Semitism in the Party's inner struggle by concocting charges of Zionism against devoted and dedicated life-long veteran Communists?).

  4. a Party (and this is true of most other Communist Parties today) in which a small group at the top —often influenced strongly by one or two individuals, and even more often by the top clique of the Party of another country — is the sole and final arbiter of who in the Party is a "left-sectarian dogmatist" and who is a "right-wing revisionist." Strangely enough, in spite of constant references to "two dangers," regardless of which is the greatest at any given time, there doesn't seem to be any record of anyone in the Party ever having been denounced or disciplined, much less expelled, for left-sectarianism or dogmatism. For example, even though the Central Committee of the present Communist Party of Czechoslovakia proclaimed in a resolution at its November 1968 plenary meeting that there is a need to fight both dangers, to this day no one has yet been denounced or disciplined for left-sectarianism or dogmatism. But the screws sure have been turned against anyone even suspected of leaning towards so-called revisionism. Is it at all perhaps because those doing the labeling and categorizing, denouncing and hounding and expelling, in Canada and Czechoslovakia, are the real left-sectarians and dogmatists?

  5. a Party in which members who gave years of selfless devotion and work "for the cause" and have not abandoned their dedication to socialism can be treated by their lifelong colleagues almost as "class enemies," simply because they strongly uphold views they sincerely believe in on certain important issues. Their only recourse, apparently, under the present arbitrary and convenient interpretation of "democratic centralism" is to clam up and conform or get out.

Apropos this last point, I recently have had some personal experiences that would appear to be relevant:

  1. a top executive officer of the Party told me on my return that I could not express to my fellow-members in the Party my views and feelings about what I saw and experienced in Czechoslovakia, because this would be in contravention of the convention decisions and thus harmful to the Party. (I haven't worked in the YCL and Party for over 40 years to have my mind and my conscience muzzled that easily.)

  2. a Party member holding a responsible post told a member of my family while I was still in Prague that I am an "imperialist agent" because of my views about what happened in Czechoslovakia.

  3. a highly placed, responsible member (I went to some trouble to find out who) informed a Toronto Telegram reporter after I declined to stand for the Central Committee that I'm flirting with the Trotskyists — a deliberate lie. Why? I hold no brief for the Trotskyists. While I consider the overwhelming majority of them every bit as sincere in the desire for socialism as are most members of the Communist Party, I also find they are every bit as sectarian, as dogmatic, as clich้-minded, and as irrelevant to the real Canadian scene as are all-too-many members of the Communist Party. If they have a "plus" it is in fact that they have been able to attract a large number of young people to the cause of socialism.

  4. a leading member has been peddling the story that the job I now have had been arranged for me even before I left Prague. Since this is an outright lie, what purpose could it have other than to discredit me among my friends?

I realize that these latter charges involve the actions of individuals and not the Party as a whole. But I find this readiness to brand as an enemy anyone who holds a sharply different view on a major issue, or issues, all too symptomatic of an attitude throughout the Party. (The last convention was a good example of this. So is the manner in which those who are now in the "driver's seat" in the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia are dealing with those who don't agree with their "official" policy. Likewise, what they did to those who opposed them, including good veteran Communists, to get into the driver's seat).

Let me make one thing clear: in spite of all the above, I have not given up my ideals, the ideals for which I worked all my life. I still believe in socialism, but genuine socialism, "socialism with a human face," as the Czechoslovak Communists so aptly described it, with all that that implies.

However, I do not see how the Communist Party of Canada, as it is now constituted, with its present policies and above all its methods, can be instrumental in advancing the Canadian people to socialism. I believe that somehow, eventually, the coming generation or generations of revolutionaries and forward-looking and thinking people will achieve that goal; but only as they are able to rid the present movement (and the regimes in the socialist countries) of most of the present injustices, weaknesses and evils: dogmatism, sectarianism, and above all bureaucratic elitism, which is such a damper on the potential in the socialist. world today.

While I've had criticism of, and reservations about, some of these injustices, weaknesses and evils in the past (those I knew about) I was willing to rationalize, to overlook them in the interests of the greater common goal, to see them as flaws in the movement in the socialist world, flaws which eventually could and would be fought against and eliminated. My two-year stay in Czechoslovakia — what I saw there, what I learned from the representatives of other Parties and most of all from 15 to 20 Soviet Communists with whom I worked and whom I got to know intimately and whose confidence I gained — all this convinced me that it is a pretty frustrating hope.

Certainly in the Party in Canada it is. Were I in the Italian, Spanish or British Party, to name a few, no doubt I would still be a member, for I find myself in agreement with their policies, their approach, and their thinking, as I know them from the documents and articles that I read, but even more from conversations I had with their leading people. I find that the leaders and members of these Parties share the critical views that I have and they hope to fight through for them. But there is no room for these views in the Canadian Party — and, unfortunately, as yet in too many other Communist Parties.

As I made clear in my letter to the convention and in subsequent conversations with Bill Kashtan, I have never had and do not have any intention of publicly proclaiming my differences with the Party or making a public issue of them. This is why, when I decided to drop my membership, I simply told the secretary of my former club that I would no longer pay dues or attend meetings, without giving any reasons. I thought this would be the best for all concerned.

In reply to your letter, I have tried here for the first time to briefly outline some of these reasons. But I have no desire to get into any discussions, polemics or debate about them. With this letter, therefore, I consider the matter closed.

Yours sincerely,
John Boyd

[ Continued ... ]

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