In February 1974, a group led by Ross Dowson
resigned from the League for Socialist Action/Ligue Socialiste OuvriÈre,
citing a variety of political differences, mainly related to the
NDP and Canadian nationalism. They established the Socialist League,
which published the newspaper Forward until the early 1980s.
Shortly after its founding, the Socialist
League published the following statement as a pamphlet.
and the Struggle for a Socialist Canada
The wave of the youth radicalization that swept across Canada in
the past decade has made many attempts to overcome the deeply rooted
crises of capitalist society and to replace it with socialism. Both
during this period and earlier, revolutionaries who are now gathered
together in the Socialist League have tried to give political direction
to the growing consciousness of the Canadian working people and
their allies in the traditions of Marxism.
The New Wave of Radicalism in Canada
The Canadian radicalization reflects the crisis
of capitalism not only in Canada but throughout the world. The Vietnamese
and Cuban revolutions inspired a new generation with anti-imperialist
consciousness on a world-wide scale. In Canada, this revulsion directed
chiefly against US imperialism led many to view Canada as part and
parcel of the US-dominated world imperialist system.
Trotskyists in Canada participated in the building
of the mass movements against the shameless and satellitic complicity
of the Canadian government in Vietnam. This anti-imperialist sentiment,
initially based in the student movement, proceeded to influence
the mass organizations of the Canadian working people, expressing
itself in demands for independence from the pro-imperialist American
trade union brass and in the development of a desire for democratically
run unions responsive to the needs of Canadian workers. This anti-imperialist
sentiment swept right into the heart of the union-based New Democratic
Party where the Waffle developed as the fusion of the Canadian youth
radicalization with politicized layers of the working class.
The Challenge Before Canadian Socialists
The continuing crisis of Canadian capitalism,
expressed in runaway inflation, unemployment, rising taxes, cutbacks
in the public sector and education, and the housing crisis is daily
drawing wider layers of Canadians into the arena of politics. The
phenomenal growth of the NDP, demonstrated by the presence of NDP
governments in three provinces and the fielding of expanded slates
for provincial elections in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island,
dramatically points up the growing possibilities opening up for
But the revolutionary left, in a state of disunity
and discord, has failed to develop a successful strategy to reach
the mass of Canadian workers. The crisis of leadership in the workers'
movement and in the revolutionary left has meant that most Canadians
look upon the NDP as the only practical alternative to the rule
of big business. The NDP—not the organizations of the radical left—constitutes
the only mass, organized, political expression of the aspirations
of Canadian workers for independent working-class political action
today and for some time to come.
The NDP, however, is dominated by a liberal-reformist
leadership which is parliamentarist and opportunist. This leadership,
although capable of moving to the left under mass pressure, has
the limited perspective of reforming a system which cries out for
Problems of the Canadian Left
At present, the revolutionary left is isolated
from the mass of newly radicalized workers. The Waffle, which emerged
as the broadest and most dynamic current within the radicalization,
has done much to pose the socialist solution to Canada's economic
problems, especially those related to Canada's domination by US
imperialism. But the Waffle's outright rejection of the NDP in its
entirety blocks it from ever developing a mass base. Thus, the Waffle
has erected an unbreachable organizational barrier to the mass,
pan-Canadian audience which previously was most responsive to its
The sectarianism inherent in the Waffle's rejection
of the NDP is a generally recurring problem of the revolutionary
left in Canada. The unevenness of the radicalization has resulted
in the more advanced elements and organizations searching for shortcuts
to the working class and rejecting the NDP in the process.
But in Canada today, the rejection of the NDP
does not mean the rejection of liberal-reformism; rather it means
isolation from the millions of Canadian workers who are just beginning
to express their developing class consciousness through identification
with independent labor political action through the NDP.
Need for a Transitional Program
In order to make a mass intervention in the
Canadian workers' movement, revolutionaries require an interventionist
strategy in the NDP. Such an approach stands against the abandonment
of a revolutionary orientation and for the adoption of a transitional
program and strategy in the tradition of Leon Trotsky's founding
program for the Fourth International. With this program and strategy,
revolutionary socialists seek to meet the needs of Canadian workers
in terms of immediate demands and of those demands which will carry
them into struggles which challenge the entire capitalist system.
The activists who came together to found the
Socialist League have followed this strategy for many years. In
the women's liberation movement, the student movement, the Quebec
independence movement, and trade union movement, we have fought
for a program capable of mobilizing mass independent struggles in
the streets. Far from posing an obstacle to working class action,
the NDP has served to focus the need for independent labor political
action within our transitional strategy. On many important occasions,
we have united with New Democrats in the struggle for a socialist
program and leadership while simultaneously gathering revolutionary
cadres into an independent Leninist organization with a perspective
of revolutionary change.
The Socialist League
In this approach, the Socialist League stands
firmly on the historical positions of Marx and Lenin. We are, in
our majority, longstanding former members of the League for Socialist
Action/La Ligue Socialiste OuvriÈre (LSA/LSO),
the traditional organization of Canadian Trotskyism affiliated to
the Fourth International.
We resigned from the LSA/LSO because of its
This degeneration was the result of a two-year
process in which all the sections of the Fourth International, including
its highest bodies, were subjected to an all-out assault from ultra-leftist
pressure emanating from the immature young radicals which had recently
found their way to the tiny nucleus of cadres that constituted the
Fourth International. The LSA leadership failed to answer the challenge
of the ultralefts but instead adapted to it, especially as mass
mobilizations of key sectors of the radicalization began to decline.
The Revolutionary Marxist Group represents an
ultraleft current which crystallized within the LSA (as an extension
of the international current). Its sectarian approach to politics
does not flow out of its adherence to the principles of Trotskyism
but rather to its immaturity.
Although it cannot be said that the disagreements
among the Trotskyist currents represent differences of fundamental
theoretical principles of Marxism, the differences on the plane
of intervention are real nonetheless. For example, the LSA has rejected
as a principle the nationalist mood that has taken hold of virtually
every sector of the radicalization. Despite the clearly anti-imperialist
roots of this sentiment, and its anticapitalist direction, the LSA
leadership has dismissed this nationalist mood as reactionary in
all its forms and expressions.
Even more significantly, the LSA has dumped
its longstanding strategic orientation to the NDP. We do not place
conditions on our support to the NDP because we are attempting to
build broad left wings within the party directed against the NDP
leadership's lack of a socialist perspective or program. Although
this position is what distinguished the Trotskyists from every other
current operating in the milieu of Canadian working-class politics,
the LSA has carried out concentrated sectarian attacks on the NDP
as a whole in its retreat from recognizing the NDP as the touchstone
of mass class politics.
And the revision of the LSA's positions on these
key questions is part of a more widespread revision of its approach
to other questions as well. This has been the conclusion of the
LSA's adaptation to ultraleftism.
The founding members of the Socialist League
carried on an extended effort to prevent the LSA from pursuing its
sectarian course. The Socialist League was formed after it became
obvious that this process could not be halted. The Socialist League
intends to continue to develop within the framework of the political
traditions of the LSA, as they were developed over three decades
before they were dumped.
The Socialist League is a democratic centralist
organization which views its main tasks as gathering cadres for
the future mass revolutionary party. In this sense, the Socialist
League is the legitimate continuator of Canadian Trotskyism, going
back to the founding of the Communist Party in 1921.
For a World Party of Revolution
We are internationalists to the core despite
the present state of disunity within the world revolutionary socialist
movement. Therefore, we remain partisans, for a Fourth International
and for the reunification of Trotskyist forces on a principled basis
after differences have been tested in practice.
The radicalization in Canada is deepening and
broadening. We intend to be an integral part of mass future struggles
as they find expression in the labor movement, in the women's movement,
on the campuses, and in the NDP. In so doing, we will work in unity
with all individuals and groups engaged in the mass movements to
build a socialist Canada in a socialist world.