With the rise of fascism, and the election of reactionary provincial politicians, the upcoming federal election will partially function to restructure the left’s political consciousness around the neo-liberal project. Trotting out the reactionary policies of Doug Ford, Jason Kenney, and François Legault, the mainstream left will again proclaim that it is immoral to boycott or abstain from voting because of the legitimate fear of fascism. Andrew Scheer’s willingness to share platforms with known white nationalists, combined with his party’s bleak anti-people agenda, is the big bad that must be defeated at the ballot box. Even though the “People’s Party” led by Maxime Bernier is more openly abhorrent than the Conservative Party, the difference between the two is merely cosmetic. At the end of the day, Scheer is a reactionary and his party’s agenda is as essentially repulsive as Bernier’s. A Conservative federal regime, combined with the violence of the Conservative provincial regimes, would definitely embolden and be sympathetic to the rising fascist factions.
We have not yet reached a point where the prevailing “left” discourse demands that all progressives vote Liberal, claiming that splitting the vote between the Liberals and the NDP works in the interests of the Conservatives. The mainstream left is still largely in agreement that the entire left should vote for the NDP because the NDP is an ostensibly social democratic party and apparently not, like Trudeau’s Liberals, neo-liberal. This mainstream left includes not only the dyed-in-the-wool social democrats who would vote for the NDP anyway (and who are probably out canvassing for them right now) but the majority of anti-capitalist left organizations––including Marxist, anarchist, and other self-proclaimed socialist groups––that we can call neo-reformist.
Perhaps we will reach the point, as this election unfolds, when the neo-reformist left will demand that everyone vote Liberal instead of NDP just to keep Scheer out of office. Actually, this should be the logical conclusion of those who make the election a moral issue, who are self-righteously disgusted by rejections of the electoral system. If defeating Andrew Scheer is the goal then it would make more sense to demand that everyone on the left unite with the Liberals and vote for Justin Trudeau, with exception to the few ridings where the NDP consistently outpaces Liberal candidates. This reflects the prevailing discourse in the US, utilized in their last election in the Hilary Clinton campaign. And even though this strategy failed to prevent Trump’s victory it is still being proclaimed in the current Democratic primaries. It seems doubtless, at least at the moment, that this will be the prevailing discourse in this round of federal Canadian elections, however, since the People’s Party may split some of the reactionary voting bloc (which was perhaps the Liberal strategy when it agreed to provide a platform for the fascist Bernier in an official debate). On the other hand, the rise of Elizabeth May’s Green Party might also split the liberal left and neo-reformists. To this we can add the Bloc Québecois, in the Québec context, another supposed alternative to a reactionary federal government.
The point, though, is that those moral arguments that shame leftists for refusing to support bourgeois elections because of the threat of Conservative reaction are themselves undermined by the promotion of the NDP as an alternative; the pragmatic justifications fall flat. If they were to instead argue that the left vote for the Liberals in most circumstances, though, their claims to be “on the left” would also lose their strength. Defending bourgeois elections by appealing to the NDP (and maybe now the Greens!) allows this left to have its fictional cake and eat it too. They can claim that electoral action needs to be taken against the big bad that is Andrew Scheer while at the same time salvage their leftist credentials by appealing to the support of a party that has a social democratic history. The majority of these groups do not publicly maintain that the NDP will end capitalism, they are happy to proclaim their status as being to the left of the NDP (some like to imagine themselves “far to the left” of the NDP), which is why a few of them will quote Lenin’s defense of engaging in bourgeois elections in Left-Wing Communism an Infantile Disorder as justification for their decision.
Meanwhile the electoral dogmatists reveal their disdain for the masses. The fact remains, as we have argued since our emergence as a party, that a large percentage of eligible voters do not vote and that this percentage has been growing with every election. Amongst these voters are the most exploited and oppressed. We have often referred to this as an unorganized but already existing boycott. If the reason for this lack of electoral participation is because (as the bourgeois press likes to maintain every year) of “apathy”––a conjecture based on no social investigation––then even this signifies that the masses feel, on some level, that there is no viable future for them in any of the parties. The bourgeois establishment worries about this lack of participation because it represents the possibility of a constitutional crisis: how can we call Canada a democratic country if and when we reach the point when the number of people who don’t vote outnumber those who do? Hence, the absurd campaigns concentrated merely on the formal appearance of democracy: just get out and vote; it doesn’t matter who you vote for just as long as you vote! The left’s electoral dogmatists seem to be just as concerned with the constitutional crisis as the national establishment: they act as if it is abhorrent to abstain, even more horrible to boycott, as if voting is a deep moral duty required of the citizen. Those who admit they do not vote will be shamed by these dogmatists, will sometimes be told (even when they are oppressed people and/or exploited proletarians) that they are acting “privileged”. This is the same attitude as those who chastise anyone who challenges the system: “you don’t know how good you have it.” Behind this attitude is the threat: “do you want it to be worse for you?”
Along with this prevailing discourse is the fact that the bourgeoisie has set the terms of the debate. Capitalism is in crisis, as it has perpetually been, and its “democracy” is evidence of this crisis. What we are witnessing is a battle between the fascist and neo-liberal factions of capitalism with the social democratic inclined bourgeois faction being pulled further right because of this battle. The last two decades of Federal elections in Canada is evidence of a rightward drift as capitalism is poised to destroy the world––and people are becoming increasingly aware of its trajectory towards armageddon. Capitalism seeks to remain ascendant without giving up its right to exploit. The NDP drifted into the realm of neo-liberalism long ago; even its social democracy is a sham. When we look at the three core characteristics of the Canadian social formation––capitalism, settler-colonialism, imperialism––every electoral party is united in upholding this status quo. And, in point of fact, it makes no sense to claim that the NDP or Greens, let alone the Liberals, are a buttress against the fascism that the Conservatives or People’s Party would promote when both the NDP and the Liberals have been happy to uphold the foundations of white supremacy: settler-colonialism and imperialism.
The Dividing Line: Revolution not Reform
In this context we need to again point out what should be the dividing line for anti-capitalists, especially those who call themselves Marxist: class revolution which means armed struggle. The part of the organized anti-capitalist left that calls for everyone to support the NDP in every election will often maintain that they too believe in revolution and, on paper, agree that capitalism cannot be voted out. But they provide no alternative outside of reformist actions and calls to vote for the NDP in the meantime. They pretend that the amelioration of the working-class’s misery is a tactic when in fact it is the entirety of their strategy. Beliefs in a future, spontaneous insurrection are often professed when they are pushed. Revolution is just a daydream for them, a fancy word to be thrown out because they know in theory it is what makes sense but have no concrete plans to pursue revolution in practice.
There is no revolution without armed struggle; this is historical fact. To focus on the elections and finding ways to approach “revolution” without building an actual revolutionary movement––which, again, implies armed struggle––is the hallmark of neo-reformism. Even worse, we are now at a point where what was understood to be the foundation of revolutionary transformation has been turned into an abstract ideal so that all attempts to pursue it concretely are dismissed as “ultra-leftist”. Bring up the necessity to wage war on the capitalist state, and the necessity of building a movement that can do this, and you are called delusional, ultra-left, and sometimes even a “cop” for talking about revolutionary violence. Let us be clear: pig agents do engage in provocations by suggesting premature violence, but other pig agents also function to deradicalize a movement and work to prevent anti-state violence with tactics such as snitch-jacketing. There are improper ways of talking about and encouraging violence, true, but revolutionary violence itself is not pig-work, nor is it delusional or ultra-left (though it can be both of these as well).
We maintain that it is necessary for the anti-capitalist left to understand that armed struggle is the only way to overthrow capitalism. This is a fact learned from history and upon which all of the great revolutionaries were unequivocal. This understanding must be concrete and not abstract; it is not enough for leftist groups to imagine a spontaneous insurrection in the distant future while going about their practice of supporting bourgeois electoral politics. Bourgeois electoral politics, and a practice focused primarily on reformism, must be rejected. While there have been moments in history where involvement in bourgeois electoralism may have been useful, we are in a different period where the terms of this debate are no longer meaningful. Instead the left needs to remember what it means to be opposed to capitalism, which means understanding the importance of armed struggle and military strategy. None of this to say we must adopt an adventurist line, pick up weapons now, and launch something similar to the tragic (but still heroic) urban guerrilla experiences of western Europe in the 1960s. The point, here, is that capitalism will not fall without an active revolutionary movement––which means armed struggle, as it always has meant––and if we are to even take this fact seriously then we must start breaking from bourgeois legality. The electoral circus is one very prevalent and very recognizable aspect of bourgeois legality, particularly since it is used to justify the bourgeois system.
This is why the majority of the mainstream anti-capitalist left is neo-reformist: they like to pretend that they care for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism but in practice they pursue a reformist agenda, most notably voting for the NDP. They attack all projects that promote armed struggle, claiming that they are either “ultra-leftist” or surrendering ground to the fascists, and wallow in respectability politics. In close to three decades this “strategy” of a minimum program of working-class betterment and a maximum program of an imaginary insurrection has done nothing but make the minimum program the only practice and the so-called maximum program a slogan and delirium. In this time the bourgeoisie has consolidated itself with its social democratic wing moving closer to neo-liberalism as all of its legal parties have drifted further to the right. In this time fascism, which finds fertile soil in Canadian settler-colonialism, has raised its putrid head from the garbage heap some imagined it had been consigned to. The fact that even liberals and “social democrats” will now cry about the free speech of white nationalists, and that the media and even so-called “left” pundits will complain about “the violence of antifa”, demonstrates that the neo-reformist strategy is useless. When we founded ourselves as a party it was precisely to break from this stale and non-revolutionary approach to politics. But much work still needs to be accomplished. We still work committedly to breaking those chains of the working class so that a common strategy of armed revolution will be adopted, and successfully develop our struggle in a way that will take necessary action to achieve the end of capitalism.
Here it is important to map out the political lines of the Canadian anti-capitalist left so as to demarcate the revolutionary line from a confusing milieu of various “radical” claims regarding what “the left” should do at this conjuncture. Some of these lines overlap, especially due to the movementist malaise that still affects us, but it worth understanding them as distinct so as to draw a picture of the Canadian left and its long crisis.
1 “Left” Social Democrats. These are the “leftists” who truly do believe that support for the NDP will bring us closer to a socialist society. While they are largely aware that the NDP is drifting away from its social democratic roots (which makes them different from the NDP supporters who don’t care about this drift and who are thus consciously in the camp of the class enemy), they hope for a renewal of the party, a return to its pre-Layton days. A few of these supporters may have even jumped ship for Elizabeth May’s Green Party, but even they are looking to transform that eclectic project into something that looks like their fantasy version of the NDP. Encouraged by Jeremy Corbyn’s reversal of Labour’s Blairite phase, and inspired by US social democrats such as Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, they want the same for the NDP. They also tend to see the NDP and the “left” as being synonymous and thus cannot conceive of an extra-parliamentary left as anything other than aberrant, or distracting from their electoral commitments. On the whole they are useless because even if they reinvigorate the NDP, succeeding in helping it return to its social democratic roots, they are still not outside of the bourgeois project. A capitalism that is social democratic is still capitalism and, even worse, relies on imperialist super-exploitation to preserve a social democratic capitalism. An NDP led Canada is still a settler-colonial and imperialist Canada, and to preserve this prison house of nations is also to preserve the basis of white supremacy. The NDP is still interested in Canada as Canada; it does not care about the decolonization of Indigenous nations because, like the Liberals, it treats native sovereignty as a problem of civil rights rather than national self-determination. Finally, as a “legal” bourgeois party the NDP will not, if it is ever elected, change the terms of bourgeois “democracy” where reactionaries could win the next federal election.
2 The Broad Movementist Milieu. The rent-a-crowd, the heterogeneous anti-capitalist collection of groups of various sizes and individuals drifting in and out of these groups. They come from a variety of political perspectives––anarchist, autonomist, Trotskyist-influenced Marxists, etc.––but are largely united around the perspective that doing anything without an overall strategy will somehow result in a critical mass that will end capitalism. Identity opportunism and vague nods to Indigenous self-determination, racism, and anti-oppression politics reinforce the belief that they are engaged in radical politics. They are largely unconcerned with programmatic politics, since only the broad and general movement of rejection matters, and pride themselves on being “anti-sectarian” and “anti-dogmatic” except when it comes to their own sectarianism and when their supposed ecumenical perspective is called into question. They dip into a variety of the lines outlined here, though they tend to stay away from the seventh and eight lines, and thus also gravitate to electoral politics. Not because they think the NDP will generate socialism but only because an NDP victory will be another drop in the bucket against capitalism. Some elements in this milieu can be won over to a revolutionary line but other elements, because they like the inchoate “anything-goes” nature of movementism, will remain convinced that the style of politics that was elevated to a virtue during the anti-globalization period of the late 90s and early 2000s is correct – despite its proven failure.
3 The Entryists. The self-proclaimed “socialists” and “Marxists” who imagine that the NDP is the working-class party and thus can be infiltrated and taken over, transformed into the machine for class revolution. The Trotskyite International Marxist Tendency (“Fightback” being the name of its Canadian branch) is paradigmatic of this line. By pretending that the NDP is representative of the working-class, the entryists hope to avoid the hard work of social investigation and working-class organization by simply embedding themselves in the NDP and capturing the “authentic” working-class in the process of this infiltration. But if they had bothered to do a serious social investigation they would realize that the NDP is not representative of the working-class, especially not its proletarian conscious vanguard, and such an approach is merely indicative of respectability politics. By working to eke out a strategic territory in a bourgeois party that has been redefined by them as “proletarian” (which is a fictional redefinition to be clear) they can pretend they are doing mass work without having to make contact with the masses. Not only will the entryists be eaten alive by the machine of a bourgeois party, they will continue to serve as useful propaganda for keeping the process of bourgeois elections and reformism afloat. It is worth noting, here, that entryists are largely opposed to working-class militancy and in fact work hard to claim that the working-class is harmed by a militancy they feel originates from outside agitators. In this sense they are completely in line with the bourgeoisie, which makes the same argument, and thus should be treated as class enemies.
4 The “Left” Economists. Those who work primarily in the established unions hoping that legal working-class struggle will result in a viable anti-capitalist movement. While they can always be counted on, in each one of these struggles, to defend the most radical line, their vision is completely contained by the boundaries drawn by the history of working-class unions. Their vision is a return to the social unionism of the past, before the historic compromise between Labour and Capital, and thus direct most of their energy towards a revitalization of the union movement. Their hope is that such a revitalization will generate the end of capitalism as if the most social democratic unions will somehow, through their economic demands that are unbounded by the dictates of business unionism, spontaneously close the gap between what Lenin called “trade union consciousness” and “revolutionary consciousness”. They do not take the historical problem of economism seriously because their perspective is generated by this problem. But this line also, despite its support of the most radical expressions of the union movement, tends to fall in line with the official union demands to vote for the NDP and thus link even the most radical elements of the union movement to social democratic officialdom. A more radical version of this trend seeks to initiate a revolutionary party by returning to the factories and/or small shops in order to build a red union movement from which a party can emerge. This workerist trend was best expressed by Draperism’s “socialism from below” and has always amounted to nothing. A party must indeed build structures in factories and small shops but it can only do so with a revolutionary orientation if it is a strong party that has already organized according to a vanguard perspective (with a programme, with a core of the most advanced). Otherwise, this more radical variant of economism will end up in the same dead-end as social unionists, but as a minor trend with ostensibly red flags.
5 The Old Revisionists. The Communist Party Canada (CPC) and the Communist Party Canada Marxist-Leninist (CPC-ML) both have electoral fronts and are running candidates in this election. Although the CPC-ML initially emerged as an anti-revisionist faction it quickly degenerated into revisionism and became the most reviled group in the Canadian New Communist Movement due to its weird cult around its late founder, Hardial Bains, earning itself the pejorative of “Bainsites” by every other ML group in the 1970s-80s. We should expect that the Bainsites continue their sad little cult into this election and ignore the calls to support the NDP while still defending their own electoral bullshit. The CPC, though, is a different matter. Being the “original” communist party here, and also going revisionist before Khruschev (having upheld a pacification process through directive of the Communist International towards Communist parties in Imperialist centres), they have a tendency to bow to the ideology of social democracy while also drawing in youth cadre because of the prestige of their name. It is possible that the CPC, while still maintaining an electoral presence, will encourage their members to vote for the NDP––they have done so in the past. The younger cadre of the CPC who have been collected into the Young Communist League are worth examination. Many of them will openly proclaim lines that the CPC does not endorse, such as lines regarding Indigenous self-determination and the fact of Canadian Imperialism, but they are apparently permitted to declare such lines simply because the CPC opportunistically wants to keep this youth within its orbit. This opportunism is not specific to just their youth wing, but many of their younger members who are public representatives and electoral candidates will express similarly positions. These are positions that represent a more advanced revolutionary perspective than the CPC’s own line, yet these ideas’ ruptures with the party’s line are not adequately engaged with in political debate and development, just as the CPC’s own lines are not adequately propagated among their membership, as a means of opportunistically evading contradiction with their official line. In practice, the presentation of their party is vague and ephemeral, in the style of any bourgeois party that wishes to appeal to a wider base of support without concretely committing to a coherent program, and thus in their stagnant approach to struggle and insincere approach to the masses, their memberships only core directive is to bring all the “ideals” but none of the material fervor of communism to bolster their cowardly electoral approach. Since the CPC’s opportunism has been known since the 1960s this is not surprising. What is more surprising is that there are individuals who openly express rejections of Canadian settler-colonialism and Canadian imperialism but still choose to remain within the ranks of the CPC when it is very clear, by any reading of the CPC’s programme, that such rejections are in fact rejections of the CPC which is a pro-colonial and imperialist denying party. That these younger CPC cadre are responsible for the party’s promulgation, and that they will most probably follow its orders on who to vote for in the upcoming election, renders all of their “radical” claims regarding Canadian settler-colonialism and imperialism meaningless. One cannot remain with the CPC and support Indigenous self-determination. One cannot remain with the CPC and recognize Canadian imperialism in Honduras, Philippines, and other nations. But the strength of the old revisionist parties, particularly the CPC, still has clout but only because of the name. Considering this name has done nothing useful in the history of Canadian class struggle for nearly a century it needs to be exposed as the ineffective revisionist nonsense that it has been for a long time. Whereas the CPC-ML is a clique centered around the deification of the late Hardial Bains, the CPC is a glorified social club that raises the red flag to do absolutely nothing but mislead potential revolutionaries.
6 The Classical Trotskyists. Best exemplified by the International Communist League (ICL or the “Spartacists”) and the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT), this line is defined by its cultish purism. Although the classical Trotskyists do not collaborate with the reformist trend, and are definitely not movementists, their ultra-sectarianism places them outside of the very working-class struggles they claim to represent. The Spartacists are the worst of these two groups since they function only to show up at demonstrations they did not organize (for they are incapable of organizing anything) so as to chastise every participant and sell newspapers. The IBT, which split from the Spartacists years ago, is a bit better because they aren’t as dogmatic––even still they do little more than sell newspapers and argue for Marxist purity. This trend should be ignored because they have been largely incapable of organizing anything on their own and function only to chastise groups and individuals who do the hard work of organizing. At best the classical Trotskyists, who perfectly represent the errors of Trotsky, should be treated as examples of how non-movementist cadre organizations should not organize. Beyond this and at this conjuncture they should be ignored––because they’ve made themselves irrelevant to the masses they are irrelevant to us broadly. The significance in their even being mentioned comes from their ability to bear a frustrating similarity to the Broad Movementist and Entryist Trotskyites, as they pop up their weaselly heads into working class and progressive movements as they arise, but do so almost uniformly to chastise or impose their politics against the will of the masses. This allows them to have a kind of meaningless longevity: they can outlive movements that were more meaningful than their own because their entire practice is centred on just reproducing the basic terms of their existence without daring to struggle or win. Here we should recall how the Spartacists celebrated the collapse of the New Communist Movement in Canada––the dissolution of the Workers Communist Party and En Lutte––as if the fact that they still existed as a meaningless sect with no mass work meant that they had somehow “won”. These sects can probably survive well into a possible capitalist apocalypse without having done anything to try and prevent it: they are simply very good at perpetuating themselves without do anything to fight against capitalism which is why they are also good at surviving as trend based only on self-perpetuation.
7 The Anarchists. Although there are many self-proclaimed “anarchists” who locate themselves primarily in the second and fourth trends described above, the consciously militant anarchists have always opposed a vague movementism and an ineffective movementism. Since the days of the Anti-Globalization Movement the anarchists who have not fallen back into a vague movementism have distinguished themselves with anti-state militancy. Many of them now are active in the anti-fascist struggle. Our problem with them is not their dedication to the end of capitalism because we uphold and salute their dedication to fight against those trends that seek to pull them––and have succeeded in pulling some of them––into the neo-reformist constellation. Rather, our critique is that they lack the theoretical basis to rigorously pursue the end of capitalism. This inability rests in rejections of setting up a totalizing democratic project of armed workers, that requires the disciplined organization of the leading guard of the proletariat. Due to this lack, as long as they persist as anarchists many belonging to this trend will eventually and unfortunately be absorbed by the movementist perspective. After all, when the movementist perspective is captured by social democratic and “left” economist tendencies then these perspectives/tendencies will also capture would-be militants unversed in revolutionary theory. In any case they are allies in the broad movement and it is thus worth struggling with them in coalitions and united fronts. Finally, although this tendency does not share our strategic perspective of Protracted People’s War they understand that violence and even armed struggle are necessary.
8 The “Left” Québec Sovereigntists.Aside from the Bloc Quebeçois, the party that would best fit the Québeçois nationalists of the first category above (as an alternative to the NDP), there is also the more progressive seeming strains of Québec sovereignty. The members belonging to the above categories are generally united in their belief that the separation of Québec is a progressive requirement, some (the old revisionists and the Trotskyists) even going so far as to assert that Québec is an oppressed nation. More particularly, however, there is Québec Solidaire which––unlike the decidedly neoliberal separatist parties (PQ and BQ) which are steeped in racist dog-whistle politics now––has been able to maintain a social-democratic base of people who believe that social democracy is ingrained in Québec culture and must be protected mainly from external threats’ the QS has also succeeded in pulling some francophone anarchists into its orbit at least as supporters. The main problem with this current is that they discard class politics and (by supporting the losing colonizer as a “progessive” option) actual anti-colonial politics. They provide a progressive façade to a political project that is often reactionary and racist. Moreover, while this movement opportunistically takes radical positions to oppose big colonialist pipelines in the name of Québec nationalism, when in power at the provincial level, just like the NDP, they support similar projects also in the name of Québec nationalism. The Bloc leader Blanchet himself supported such policies when he was the provincial minister for the environment in 2013-2014. Although the QS might prove different from the neoliberal BQ and PQ, the fact that they are based in the same distortion of nationalism that is prevalent on the left obfuscates every contradiction through the colonial division of “English Canada” and “French Québec”.
9 The Maoists. In the first decade of this century the PCR-RCP was established as a Maoist party that put the question of armed struggle, according to the conception of People’s War, front and centre. In one of our founding documents, How We Intend To Fight, we demarcated ourselves from the above trends, particularly the normative movementism, and have organized according to a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist (MLM) logic since. This also means a rejection of bourgeois electoral politics, economism, revisionism, and obviously Trotskyism. Shortly after our founding, however, another Maoist grouping that felt they could not unite with us emerged: the Revolutionary Initiative (RI). The RI also maintains a rejection of the same trends, though their perspective is somewhat different than ours, and upholds the importance of MLM. We hope to find unity with them soon, which is something we have always sought since our inception. In the past few years, however, the PCR-RCP experienced a split where a faction led by some of its original members broke away because of a failure to accept democratic centralism, a refusal to rectify its mass work, and transphobic chauvinism. This PCR-RCP splinter, which sought to keep the party name while being only a local branch of the party (based in Montreal), became known as “the Continuators”. The Continuators share the same general perspective about the dominant lines, and thus still possess a general Maoist conception of reality, but since their unprincipled departure from the rest of the party have transformed into a tiny grouplet that pretends they are pursuing armed struggle with calculated photo-shoots and public posturing. Moreover, in the years following their departure, they have shrunk in size with a number of their members and supporters leaving their circle due to the errors that were identified before the split. Ideally the Continuators will recognize their errors, self-criticize, and seek unity with the rest of the movement they helped initiate––but we know that, at this particular stage, this will probably not happen anytime soon. If the Maoist trend is to survive and lead the armed struggle that it alone has upheld as strategically necessary, however, then it must achieve unity as quickly as possible. This has become harder in the past months due to the departure from our ranks of those who, upon correctly apprehending errors, opted to take a liquidationist and post-Maoist perspective, significantly setting our work back. However, the positions of the liquidationists are not special or new, but merely a new expression of a lack of correct engagement to issues that practically upholds the necessity of a revolutionary vanguard, and the arduous task of effectively overcoming the difficulties presented by this necessity. However, the positions of the liquidationists are not special or new, but merely the expression of a lack of commitment to the practical and necessary tasks of building and upholding a revolutionary vanguard. We recognize their departure as one of the many incorrect approaches to addressing our development towards the initiation of PPW and building revolution, particularly a lack of interest in effectively addressing internal contradictions within the Maoist movement itself.
Of the tendencies listed above, only the seventh and ninth are not neo-reformist; only the ninth has unified its revolutionary will in the kind of theory and practice that is required to overthrow the capitalist and settler state called “Canada”. But since this creature called Canada is both capitalist and colonialist, there is one more and extremely significant tendency…
10 The Radical Indigenous Milieu. This grouping is comprised of various groups and individuals from the colonized nations who are dedicated to these nations’ sovereignty and self-determination (i.e. Warriors Societies, the American Indian Movement, grassroots organizers of Idle No More, etc.). Although “decolonization” and “decolonial” are often thrown out as buzzwords by the neo-reformist tendencies––along with paying lip-service to historical land claims––this grouping is interested in pursuing decolonization in its literal rather than metaphorical sense because they understand its connection to their very existence as people. While some participants in this tendency might appear in coalitions and events sponsored by various neo-reformist trends so do aspects of the seventh and ninth tendency. The political line that defines this category is the dedication to overthrowing colonialism for the sake of national self-determination, which immediately places them at odds with the comprador elements in their communities that may also manifest in neo-reformist circles––not to mention outright settler bourgeois circles––but share common ground with neo-reformism unlike this anticolonial milieu which understands that colonialism cannot be reformed. Moreover, the most revolutionary of these groups also understand that armed struggle is the dividing line for social change; their great moments of struggle (from the Red River Rebellion to Oka) have been moments of armed rebellion.
Unity between the ninth and tenth tendencies is of primary importance for the strategy of Protracted People’s War in Canada. Unity of these tendencies with the seventh (anarchist) is also important, though secondary, because a broad militancy opposed to Canadian capitalism and colonialism is important for any united front. The question that needs to be solved, and we admit that we are still struggling to figure it out, is how unity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous revolutionaries can be properly developed, how the deployment of anti-colonial national self-determination functions alongside a revolutionary communist movement that wants to build socialism, particularly in a settler-colony. Establishing organic links between these tendencies is thus paramount.
The Threat of Fascism
We do not deny that fascism is a threat. The rise of traditional fascist groups along with repackaged variants––the so-called “alt-right”, Men’s Rights Activism, European cultural nationalism, etc.––demonstrates that capitalism never washed its hands of its Nazi embarrassment. Politicians such as Faith Goldy, Paul Fromm, and others are pulling in supporters, emboldened by mainstream Conservatives who will not openly admit to being white nationalists but are happily courting the white nationalist vote. Some of these Conservative politicians––Doug Ford, Jason Kenney, Scott Moe, François Legault––are in power, further emboldening out-and-out fascism and demonstrating that its resurgence is not at all marginal. Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada is the manifestation of the normalization of fascistic politics on the national stage; the other mainstream parties have allowed Bernier to participate in the official federal debates!
But we do not think the electoral blackmail that demands the left organize the working-class to vote against the Conservative Party––that claims we need to “vote out” the fascism represented by Scheer and Bernier––is meaningful as anything other than blackmail. Firstly, we do not believe that the rising fascist trend is dependent on electoral politics; it has grown across the country in spite of Liberal or NDP governments being in power. Secondly, and because of the first point, we do not believe that the electoral system will give us an alternative capable of suppressing the fascist resurgence: because this trend is not dependent on the ballot box it cannot be defeated at the ballot box.
The rising trend of resurgent fascism is due to two interconnected factors: a) the current succession of economic crises and the inability of Canada’s limited social democracy to contain these crises; b) Canadian settler-colonialism and the fact that Canada was established as white ethno-state. Beneath Canada’s multicultural façade is the horrific reality of ongoing colonialism and a genocidal past that has not gone away. The popular Beer House song “White Canada Forever” was still being widely sung in bars across Canada in the first three decades of the 20th Century and was evidence that there was a common white nationalist garrison mentality that was only temporarily suppressed and distracted by the multicultural policies post-WW2 and the 1960s antagonistic rivalry between anglo and franco settler nations. There has always been an unbroken and troubling white nationalist undercurrent in Canadian society, connected to the material fact that it was built upon stolen Indigenous land, which is why Faith Goldy can parody Indigenous Land Recognition statements in her speeches––using similar words to recognize the “traditional lands” of this or that European colonizer group––and garner applause from her growing coterie of supporters.
In moments of economic crisis this underbelly of white nationalism manifests more acutely because the cosmetic solutions of multiculturalism (which also, it needs to be said, intentionally functioned to isolate and divide non-white working-class populations both from each other and the white working-class) can be targeted by fascist ideologues who want to convince a significant strata of the white Canadian population that the process of immiseration caused by capitalist crisis is the fault of immigrants and even those complaining about colonialism. Just as the good relations between an Indigenous reserve and the bordering settler population fall apart the moment the former defends their self-determination (i.e. Oka’s response to Kanehsatake, Caledonia’s response to the Six Nations, etc.), good relations between a significant strata of the white working-class and non-white proletarians is easily strained in moments of crisis where this undercurrent of white supremacy manifests.
To be precise, and to oppose the blaming of the white working-class for all the ills of racist society, this trend affects the upper echelons of the class structure: the so-called “middle classes” are in fact much worse and more committed to their racism, which is why there are now “public intellectuals” such as Jordan Peterson who cater to them, ensuring them that they are better than immigrants and the white working-class. There is much more that needs to be clarified here, especially on how we make sense of the class breakdown of white nationalist “populism” so as to understand that it is not primarily the fault of poor working-class whites, as a lot of elitist liberal explanations like to claim, but in fact is generated by those who see themselves as “middle class”. This is not to deny that settler-colonialism has generated an identity politics of “whiteness” that seeks to produce a cross class alliance of settlerism, but only to recognize that it is in fact anti-mass to claim the impetus of white supremacy comes from the white working-class, and that their “ignorance” is alone to blame for the resurgence of fascism. The Jordan Petersons, Lindsay Shepherds, Faith Goldies, and Maxime Berniers are drawn primarily from the petty-bourgeoisie and speak the language of this strata.
In such a context, it is completely foolish to assume that fascism can be defeated through the mechanism of electoral politics. If white nationalism is intrinsic to Canadian society then working within the limits imposed by this settler-colonial society, and voting for one or other of its representatives, will at best temporarily repress the ugly underbelly that generates fascism. This is not an abstract assessment; it is in fact extremely concrete. All we need to do is examine how the alternatives to a Conservative victory conceive of ending fascism. While both the Liberal and NDP parties are complaining about the ways in which the Conservatives are courting white nationalists there is nothing in their politics that poses a solution to this problem. Neither party is interested in ending settler-colonialism, which is the basis of this fascism, and neither has endorsed anti-fascist actions against those fascist groups that tend to gather around today’s Conservative politicians. Liberal supporters openly complain about “anti-fascism” as being identical to “fascism”, refusing to accept how logically absurd this comparison is, and have proven that they are not at all interested in attacking the colonial basis of Canadian fascism––they are completely committed, for example, on building that pipeline through Indigenous land. The NDP likes to imagine it is superior to the Liberals and yet still has shown no interest in openly confronting this rising tide of Canadian fascism aside from proclaiming that its values are different. Neither the Liberal Party nor the New Democratic Party condone direct confrontation with Canadian fascists: they do not order their members to confront and fight Nazis; both of these parties like to imagine that fascism can be defeated in free debate rather than smashed in the streets. They both believe that fascism can be voted and talked out of existence and thus, if either of these parties come to power, they will not end this resurgent fascism. The electoral blackmail is meaningless.
The rising tide of fascism is largely extra-parliamentary and the rightwards drift of the big bourgeois parties is in fact a symptom of this extra-parliamentary pressure. As long as they continue to organize unabated, and as long as their politics are reflected in the attitudes in fractions of every economic class they will constitute a significant part of the “public” that the three big parties seek to placate in order to gain votes. Whereas the Conservatives will shamelessly court this “public” the Liberals and NDP will seek to convince them that their “real” interests are better served by voting against the Conservatives, by appealing to “authentic” Canadian values that were only ever ideological (kindness, inclusion, multicultural, etc.), and thus allowing these various strains of reaction to set the tone of policy and debate. Elements of left neo-reformism have also been pulled along by this rightwards drift with some of their ideologues ordering the Canadian left to drop its demand for open borders since this would alienate the white working-class.
(See, for example, Sam Gindin’s “Building a Mass Socialist Party” that was published in Jacobin in 2016. This attempt to pass off social fascism as a progressive critique of neo-liberalism, while weirdly asserting that dropping activism around immigrant and refugee rights is good for immigrants and refugees, is a perfect example of something that is left in form but right in essence. The title of this social fascist piece is also worth mocking since Gindin (whose background is his paid work as a labour aristocrat bureaucrat, a tenured university position in a Political Science department because he was in the same petty-bourgeois “socialist” talk group (Socialist Project) with another tenured professor) was part of trying to build such “mass socialist party” in the first decade of this century that was a predictable failure: the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly. This organization was yet another experiment in big tent socialism that mobilized students, academics, and elements of the labour aristocracy with a vague programme with no revolutionary agenda.)
Within the context of Québec, the BQ has also been pulled into this drift with their support for imperialist aggression and anti-immigrant stances.
Adopting the strategy of winning over the Canadian public by convincing it that its “real” interests are in opposition to Conservative policies, and thus tactically catering to some fascist sentiments in the hope of demonstrating how they are morally wrong in the long run, is already a proven failure. We only need to look at the Ford regime in Ontario as evidence of this failure. Although Ford’s policies regarding medical care and his obsessive focus on Toronto––to cite only two examples––were demonstrated to harm his base of 50+ year-olds and rural Ontarians they still voted for him because of the colonialist undercurrent that generates fascism. While many of them are now complaining that he is cancelling services they need or alienating their communities by pouring money into his restructuring of Toronto, they voted for him mainly because of their hatred of progressive values. Despite their complaints today, which are the complaints this population always makes about the Conservative governments they elect, they will vote for another Ford tomorrow as long as he opposes immigration, environmental reform, abortion, and LGBT rights. Trying to win over those mobilized by reactionary ideology through a political process that is itself being pulled along by the logic of resurgent fascism is to play a game that is becoming increasingly defined by this fascist pressure.
The point, here, is that the tone of electoral politics is being increasingly set by a non-electoral political sequence, generated by the need of the ruling class to close ranks in the face of crisis capitalism and consolidate itself around the core logic of Canada: patriotric settler-colonialism. If fascism in electoral politics is the result of this extra-parliamentary pressure then it can only be confronted outside of the electoral arena. It cannot be voted away any more than capitalism in general and Canadian colonialism can be voted away.
The fact that the fascists have been more successful in organizing an extra-parliamentary movement than the anti-capitalist left, when the latter have more to offer the masses, demonstrates the current failure of this left as a whole. It also demonstrates the relative strength of settler-colonialism and imperialism since white nationalism is primarily generated by these characteristics of Canadian society. In this context opposition to the electoral blackmail is necessary as an organizing tool: it puts us in contact with those elements of the proletariat who have not been pulled into the fascist drift, who are not interested in a convention that has been rigged by the pressures of settler-colonialism and imperialism.
Those who still believe that “Canada” is something to be saved and argue that its “goodness” is under attack by the evils of fascism are not offering a political solution that is anyways anti-fascist. Even if they make this argument according to the “lesser evil”––even if they argue that voting against the Conservatives is a strategic stop-gap measure––the moment they appeal to an authentic and kind Canada, even to a “socialist Canada” (as the revisionists call it) is the moment they reveal themselves as incapable of opposing the onslaught of fascism. Those who believe that fascism represents an aberration rather than an intensification of what this settler nation always was lack the political perspective to combat fascism. The return to liberal norms––another Liberal victory or even an NDP victory––is just a return to the same Canada that generates fascism because of what Canada is… And we have already outlined what this country is, at root, in our document What Is Canada; we have diagnosed the nature of its bourgeois disease, a disease that will always generate fascisms. Nor will the independent Québec promised by the BQ (or even by QS) provide us with an inoculation to this disease: based on the nationalism of the losing colonizer it can only generate similar fascist sequences, as all settler capitalisms do, which has been proven by the anti-immigrant and Islamophobic policies of the leading separatist parties.
From the beginning of our existence we have argued that we need to break from bourgeois politics if we are to ever succeed in building a communist movement. In the context of “Canada” this not only means breaking from the allure of the electoral circus––and in doing so gathering in those elements of the proletariat that have done so spontaneously––but also in building a movement that is in opposition to the settler-colonialism and imperialism that is part of Canadian capitalism. Building what we have called a “comprehensive fighting vanguard party”, that can concentrate and expand our sphere of operations so as to wage war upon these aspects of Canadian society, will also build the strongest possible war against fascism since the corpse of fascism is animated by the machine of Canadian settler capitalism. In this spirit, we extend an open invitation for those anti-fascist and communist-minded organizations and individuals to join with us… to “cast-away illusions and prepare for struggle!”