Documents in: Bahasa Indonesia Deutsch Español Français Italiano Japanese Polski Português Russian Chinese Tagalog
International Communist League
Home Spartacist, theoretical and documentary repository of the ICL, incorporating Women & Revolution Workers Vanguard, biweekly organ of the Spartacist League/U.S. Periodicals and directory of the sections of the ICL ICL Declaration of Principles in multiple languages Other literature of the ICL ICL events

Subscribe to Spartacist Canada

View archives

Printable version of this article

Spartacist Canada No. 171

Winter 2011/2012

Trotskyist League National Conference

The Trotskyist League/Ligue trotskyste, Canadian section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), held its Twelfth National Conference earlier this year. Comrades from our Toronto and Vancouver locals, representatives of the ICL’s International Secretariat and the Spartacist League/U.S. Central Committee as well as members of the Spartacus Youth Clubs and other invited guests discussed developments in the class struggle internationally and in Canada and assessed our ongoing work in fighting to build the nucleus of a Marxist vanguard. The conference convened several months after the ICL’s Sixth International Conference, whose decisions served to frame our deliberations. The latest issue of our international journal Spartacist (No. 62, Spring 2011) includes a comprehensive report on the ICL conference.

A main resolution drafted by the outgoing TL/LT Central Committee was discussed, amended and adopted unanimously. We are fighting for revolutionary Marxism in a period defined by the global retrogression of consciousness that followed the destruction of the Soviet Union and the East European bureaucratically deformed workers states in the early 1990s. The document thus affirmed that rather than pursuing opportunist, “get rich quick” schemes, our approach must be propagandistic and programmatic. It noted that “a signal success in the period since our 2007 national conference has been the recruitment and integration of a layer of new members in both locals,” and that bringing these and other younger cadres into aspects of party leadership through training, education and political struggle must remain a priority.

The international report by comrade H. Kelter addressed two main subjects: the impact of the capitalist economic crisis, particularly in Europe, and ongoing discussions in the ICL over appropriate demands to raise to intersect struggles in countries of belated capitalist development, such as Tunisia and Egypt. In North Africa as elsewhere in the neocolonial world, our perspective is the permanent revolution: an understanding that all-round economic and social modernization cannot come under capitalism, including in its “democratic” guise, but requires proletarian revolution leading the poor peasants and other oppressed. Further advance toward socialism can only come through the extension of socialist revolution to the imperialist heartlands of North America, West Europe and Japan.

A number of comrades underlined the importance of our principled stand in defense of neocolonial Libya against the attack by NATO and its local allies, while giving no political support to the bonapartist strongman Qaddafi. This was in sharp contrast to the pro-NDP reformist left, which backed the pro-imperialist opposition in the name of a mythical “Libyan revolution.”

In the absence of major controversies, much of the conference was devoted to educational sessions and discussions assessing the state of the left and labour movement. One agenda point dealt with the fight for Trotskyism in South Asia, taking off from the articles on this question in the latest Spartacist. Comrades noted that the rapid growth of the Indian proletariat highlights an acute crisis of working-class leadership, as the various Stalinist-derived “Communist” parties all uphold class collaboration in one form or another. The work of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India during World War II is an essential reference point for militants from the subcontinent who seek the road to authentic Marxism.

A highlight of the conference was a panel on the stance of the Canadian left toward the Quebec national question from the 1920s to the 1950s. In his report, comrade Charles Galarneau noted that the early Communist Party of Canada (CPC) had a blind spot on the question of Quebec. Its campaigns for “Canadian independence” from Britain, which began in the mid 1920s, fed a retrograde Canadian nationalism that ossified with the party’s Stalinist degeneration. The CPC took until the early 1950s to formally raise the call for Quebec’s right to self-determination, and its politics remain marked by Maple Leaf nationalism to this day.

Comrade Galarneau also addressed the CPC’s work inside Quebec. Despite its line on the national question and the repressive/clerical nature of Quebec society, the party managed to build a base of several hundred francophone workers in Montreal by the 1940s. This was thrown away in 1947, when almost the entire French Canadian membership quit, with the key underlying issue being the party’s refusal to uphold Quebec’s national rights.

Comrade Andrew Shilling took up the views of the Trotskyists after their expulsion from the CPC in the late 1920s. The Trotskyists publicly raised the call for the right of Quebec self-determination by at least 1938. However, seemingly due to leadership discontinuities, more in-depth discussions on the question do not appear to have been pursued until around 1945, when Ross Dowson—who emerged as the central leader of Canadian Trotskyism in the early years of World War II—wrote a document titled “The Problem of French Canada.” Dowson had been posted in Quebec while in the army, and learned the realities of national oppression first hand. His document, which laid out a materialist analysis of Quebec society and the centrality of the national question in Canada, appears to have been intended to begin a broader discussion. However, this was not pursued to a clarifying conclusion.

In discussion, comrades noted that no credible detailed history of Canadian Trotskyism is available to us. This makes it difficult to trace the Trotskyists’ line on the national question and work in Quebec prior to the “Quiet Revolution” of the 1960s. (This period saw tumultuous social struggles that reshaped Quebec society, breaking the hold of the church and producing a sharp growth in both nationalist sentiment and left-wing politics.) Several comrades noted the importance of pursuing this research, since the Quebec national question remains a litmus test for would-be Marxists in Canada. The reformist left capitulates to Anglo chauvinism (generally via support to the NDP) and/or embraces bourgeois Quebec nationalism; we in contrast advocate Quebec independence while opposing all forms of nationalist ideology.

Discussion under the national report on the final day of the conference focused on analyzing the relationship between the NDP and the trade-union movement. In her report, comrade Miriam McDonald underlined how, unlike our reformist opponents, we have always fought to break workers and leftist youth from illusions in the NDP social democrats. Utilizing their ties to organized labour via the English Canadian union bureaucracy, which helped to found the party in 1961, the New Democrats have served for half a century as a reliable left prop for Canadian capitalism. More recently, as the report outlined, the NDP has taken considerable steps to distance itself from organized labour, while elements among the union bureaucracy have distanced themselves from the NDP, with some advocating “tactical” votes to the bourgeois Liberals. The conference resolution codified our present understanding:

“Always a right-wing social-democratic party, under Jack Layton the NDP has shifted its posture even further rightward, e.g., by dropping its paper opposition to NATO and NORAD and endorsing huge increases in military spending. No longer reliant on union funding, now banned under federal law, the NDP presents itself as the party of ‘middle-class families,’ aiming to displace the Liberals as the alternative to the Tories. NDP leaders would evidently like to refashion the party along the lines of the U.S. Democrats, i.e., as a purportedly ‘progressive’ bourgeois party, however this process is nascent and reversible. We continue to characterize the NDP as a bourgeois workers party.”

A report by our national treasurer took up the impact of the capitalist crisis on the Canadian working class, as well as our own financial situation. The conference also approved several revisions to our organizational rules and guidelines. It concluded with the election of a new Central Committee to guide the work of the TL/LT until our next conference, followed by the singing of the international workers anthem, the Internationale.


Spartacist Canada No. 171

SC 171

Winter 2011/2012


Occupy Protests Push “99 Percent” Populism

We Need a New Ruling Class—the Workers!


Imperialism and Capitalist Decay

(quote of the issue)


West Bengal After the Elections

The Political Bankruptcy of Indian Stalinism

Forge a Leninist-Trotskyist Party!


Trotskyist League National Conference


Fake Trotskyists in Camp of Counterrevolution

Hue and Cry over China’s Role in Africa


U.S., Israel, Canada:

Hands Off Iran!

Down With Imperialist Sanctions!