A Communist Canada and the Continuators: putting the “Strange” in “Strange Bedfellows”

You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep, and by that standard we can tell less and less about ‘The Continuators’ – the group of former PCR-RCP members from Montreal who quit or were expelled from the Party last year. Their company has been, well, shrinking.

After disappointing showings at their much-lauded “Rally for Socialism” in November, the opening of the new location of the Maison Norman Bethune bookstore, and their event to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the Party’s founding, and after allegedly being expelled from both the May 1 and March 8 coalitions in Montreal, it would be easy to get the impression that the Continuators’ bureaucratic relationship to its “small movements” and poor application of the mass line has made them isolated and irrelevant.

The same could be said of their apparent inability to attract members or even sympathizers outside of Montreal (despite insisting they’d done so at the time of their expulsion). Or at least it could have until a few weeks ago when the Continuators started working openly with “A Communist Canada”.

Don’t feel badly if you haven’t heard of this group. A Communist Canada (ACC) is a very small “organization”, originally based in Sudbury, Ontario, whose most noteworthy public activities include a truly cringe-worthy podcast (“Follow the Red Brick Road”) and a campaign by its founder to have his friends change their Facebook profile pictures to headshots of themselves with the caption “I am the face of communism in Canada”.

What are the politics of ACC? Depends on the month. Since they were founded a couple of years ago, ACC has switched its allegiance again and again: first to the CPC, the PCR-RCP, and now the Continuators, often with brief intermissions as an independent initiative (this is not to mention the frequent sharing and re-sharing of articles from the CPC-ML on ACC’s page). Of course, no summation or self-criticism ever follows these seismic shifts. To call it eclecticism would be an understatement. ACC is positively scatterbrained.

While he was briefly involved with an organizing committee of the PCR-RCP, the leader of ACC showed a truly disturbing depth of opportunism, once even publicly shaking hands with a member of the fascist Soldiers of Odin at a Take Back the Night march. When criticized for this, he insisted that the xenophobic goon was a “long time friend that I rightfully call brother and have the utmost love and respect for.” He quit shortly after.

(For their part, the PCR-RCP, RSM, and Sudbury Against Fascism have fought successfully to keep the Soldiers of Odin out of future Take Back the Night marches and local soup kitchens, no thanks to ACC’s leader or his “brother”.)

ACC plans to hold a rally in Elliot Lake, Ontario to mark International Working Women’s Day “In solidarity with the PCR-RCP (Quebec)” – the Continuators. Posters for this event have been shared on the Continuators’ Facebook page, where they refer to it as an “excellent initiative”. The Continuators have always had a knack for attracting the loyalty of lone men in small Ontario towns who end up accomplishing nothing so maybe we should understand this as part and parcel to a broader trend. Still, we can’t help but wonder whether either side here knows just what they’re getting into, or frankly if they care.

ACC’s leader, for example, recently shared an article from The Red Flag, hosted on the Continuators’ website, “Mass Line: Building the Revolutionary Movement”. Normally this wouldn’t be too surprising since sharing (and re-sharing, and again re-sharing) articles from other groups seems to make up the vast majority of ACC’s public activity. What’s surprising is that this piece was written by an ardent supporter of the legitimate PCR-RCP who has very little good to say about the Continuators these days. It puts forward a perspective on the mass line that is completely opposed to what the Continuators uphold. To quote just a small part of the article:

Likewise, initiating a campaign that develops the independent action and leadership of the masses, brings people into closer contact with the Party and leaves them thinking of us as genuine, dedicated and courageous fighters for their interests could be a huge benefit even if the campaign ends without us recruiting a single member. Such a struggle teaches us a lot about our situation and how to struggle in it, wins people over to our ideas and provides future avenues for engaging with the masses.

The Continuators have criticized this perspective as liquidationist, as economistic, and as undermining democratic centralism. To quote from “We Are the Continuators”, the PCR-RCP is, according to them, “A Party building itself principally through the conception according to which the mass line is none other than reformist work under the cover of the designation of “mass work”, and according to which one must not under any circumstances rush the proletariat’s consciousness with anything other than the worst opportunist clichés regarding the immediate demands of the masses!” They’re wrong about their assessment of the PCR-RCP, are even misrepresenting it, but that’s not the point of this article.

It’s clear, though, that ACC’s leader either didn’t read the article, didn’t understand it in the slightest, or has no grip on the differences between the PCR-RCP and the Continuators. Either of these is equally likely. What’s less likely is that none of the Continuators realizes this. It looks like they’re happy enough to have a supporter, even if that supporter promotes a theory of the mass line which they find abhorrent.

This is not an isolated incident, either. On ACC’s own website, its leader describes having gotten access to internal documents of the PCR-RCP, reading them, and finding that:

I, Blungey McGrues , coming from the working class of Sudbury, and in the service of the working class of Sudbury and internationally, after reading the documents I no longer felt that

1. The RCP-Canada was in the best interest or service of the working class and

2. I could no longer in good faith organize for organizations whose main goal was to recruit/organize for a party I no longer supported or believed benefited the working class.

We happen to know that the documents in question were written by none other than the historic leading group of the party and, for the most part, predate the integration of anyone outside of Quebec into the PCR-RCP! There is absolutely no basis on which the Continuators can claim these documents do not reflect their perspectives, and in fact they claim to staunchly uphold them.

So on the one hand we have ACC, who openly promote a perspective the Continuators hate and openly oppose perspectives upheld by the Continuators, working with the Continuators. The Continuators, for their part, have not bothered pointing this out, either because they are so desperate for supporters that they didn’t look into this group or else are happy to let their misconceptions stand in order not to drive them away.

This is a relationship built on the strong foundation of mutual desperation and opportunism, so we shouldn’t expect political principle to undermine that foundation. ACC, for its part, has hitched its wagon to one hell of a horse. Maybe they see kindred spirits in the Continuators, whose slide into the style and substance of a historical re-enactment society ought to feel very familiar.

We don’t mean to rain on anybody’s parade, it’s just that we’re having trouble deciding which of these two groups is scraping harder at the bottom of the barrel.

Is it ACC who despised the PCR-RCP until the split and is hoping that opportunism will give them a platform? Or is it the Continuators, who are weathering a well-deserved storm of criticism, isolation, and hostility and who are now willing to take refuge in literally any available port?

Maybe it’s just that, in each other, ACC and the Continuators have found the only people who can still put up with them anymore. They truly deserve each other. We would like to wish both ACC and the Continuators the best of luck in this marriage of convenience. God knows you’re both going to need it.