Canada's Party of Socialism: History of the Communist Party of Canada, 1921-1976

Description

319 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
$29.95
ISBN 0-919396-45-3

Publisher

Year

1982

Contributor

Reviewed by Greg Turko

Greg Turko is a policy analyst at the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and
Universities.

Review

This book seeks to provide a history of the Communist Party in Canada from its founding in 1921 to 1976, as told by the Party itself in terms of its goals, achievements, and ideology. It is in this that one of the major strengths of the book is to be found. The reader is given a description and an interpretation of a controversial, and generally misunderstood, movement by its participants.

Two major themes quickly become apparent upon reading this book. First, the Canadian Communist Party has always been much more national, or even provincial, than international, particularly in its early history. Second, a small group of dedicated individuals has been responsible for holding the Party together since its creation. It has never been the mass movement it seeks to be.

Despite its value as an “original” source, this book has a number of notable shortcomings. Perhaps the most basic problem is that it is not particularly easy to read. There is virtually no central focus — partially, no doubt, because of the committee authorship, and partially because the authors have attempted to cover almost all facets of Canadian history since 1921 in 300 pages. Thus, on one level the reader is given a simple narrative of events in the Party’s 55-year history. On another level there is an attempt to provide an ideological history of the Party and of the class struggle against capitalism. On yet another level, this book is used as a polemic against various left-wing enemies (past and present), including erring individuals, breakaway factions, and reformist parties.

The lack of a central purpose or goal leads to another criticism. There is a distinct failure to develop major points raised or to deal with major historical events in so far as these related directly to the Party. The authors, for example, fail to provide details to support the statement that the “fascist groups in Quebec, and for that matter in the rest of Canada were financed by big business.” Too frequently the authors confuse statement with proof. Similarly, they fail to deal thoroughly and convincingly with historical events such as Stalinism, the Sino-Soviet split, and Soviet actions in Hungary (1957) and Czechoslovakia (1968).

Ultimately, the problem is one of self-perception. What, for example, is the role of the Canadian Communist Party (the reformist vs. revolutionary debate has not been settled within the Party)? What is the relationship of the Party to Soviet Communism (evidence suggests that the Canadian Party is much more pro-Soviet than many European parties)? And so on. Perhaps the Party will undertake another book that will provide a more complete analysis and an in-depth discussion.

Citation

“Canada's Party of Socialism: History of the Communist Party of Canada, 1921-1976,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38743.