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Why I Support the Revolutionary Communist Party Canada [Part 1]

Originally this was supposed to be a much smaller post, generally meant to reply to some of the question I've received from friends and comrades who have asked me, for several years now, why I tend to sympathize with and endorse/support the Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada both in my blog and in my real life.  Due to the recent arrests of four PCR-RCP members, and the revelation that the Canadian state is taking this organization seriously as a possible threat, I decided it might be appropriate to write an article explaining the political and philosophical reasons behind my support.  Until very recently, aside from those of us who follow Maoist-style politics, the PCR-RCP has been generally unknown in english-dominant Canada (as opposed to in Quebec where they have much more recognition) and this is post is generally aimed at this part of the country, as well as those readers in other countries who have expressed interest in this organization.  As noted above, it was meant to be much shorter: I have since divided the content into three posts.

Years ago, when the majority of political activist energy was filtered through the affinity and working groups of my union local, I had an encounter with a fellow union activist about the need to be involved in something broader than disconnected, though perhaps vital, groups.  He argued that, since I defined as a communist, I should involve myself in a communist organization that was closer to a party due to the limits to "movementism" and "trade union consciousness."  At the time, since I was just emerging from an "anti-vanguard" type of communism, I was not entirely convinced by his arguments.  Moreover, due to my dawning sympathies with anti-colonial and third world marxism (sympathies that would eventually lead me to Maoism), I was also unconvinced that the communist organization he was promoting, the New Socialist Group [NSG], answered the political questions I was just beginning to ask.

Eventually when I started to move towards Lenin's analysis of the state, I could not help but recall this conversation.  The problem, however, was that the solution he had proposed (getting involved with the NSG) did not seem entirely compelling: there did not appear to be any communist organization in Toronto, let alone Canada, that adequately addressed the problems I was beginning to believe were raised by the Russian and Chinese Revolutions.  Even my partner (who was responsible for so much of my political education) was arguing for the need to become involved in something broader than the union movement or these "movementist" groups, claiming that I might benefit from something that was actually "communist" rather than simply unionist or activist.  And I remember telling her, on more than one occasion, "you're right but I don't feel drawn to any of the organizations in Toronto."

That is, even if I could accept that there was a need for a revolutionary party, something that could ideologically unite various and disparate struggles, there did not appear to be any organization in the city that was up to the challenge.  This is not to say that I dismissed the work of activists in organizations like the New Socialist Group, Autonomy and Solidarity [now the "Upping the Anti" collective], or even the Socialist Project––some of them were doing, and continue to do, excellent work––but just that all of these groups did not appear to have: 1) a truly concrete analysis of the concrete situation that is Canada; 2) an appreciation for both the historical and international histories of revolution.

For example, none of the Toronto communist organizations (whether they proclaimed themselves as "parties" or "projects" or "pre-parties" or etcetera), possessed a theoretically unified analysis of the Canadian social and historical context and what it would mean to build a revolutionary organization within this context.  The analysis was disparate, sometimes intentionally eclectic, and often was about to responding to anti-people politics rather than coherently explaining a pro-people, that is communist, political program.  And though some of this analysis was incisive and influential to my growth as a political activist, it did not seem substantially different than the analysis that could be produced by leftist intellectuals involved in disparate affinity groups.  The point being: I wanted to involve myself with a group that could actually produce a productive and revolutionary response to the Canadian context––a group that knew what it was for, and not just what it was against, and was interested in working out the steps required, in this capitalist-colonialist nation, for revolution.

The fact that the majority of these Toronto groups were rather dismissive of the politics that emerged from the two great world historical communist revolutions––first Russia and then China––was something that always troubled me.  Since I was moving towards a position that understood that the insights derived from the Chinese Revolution possessed as much universal significance as those derived from the Russian Revolution, I could not in good faith work with an organization that dismissed the contributing of Maoism, was dogmatically Trotskyist (or at the very least post-Trotskyist), and maybe didn't even reflect the insights of the Russian Revolution––aside from some general "Lenin-was-a-great-revolutionary-leader-but-Stalin-ruined-things" position.  Other than a vague lip-service to the Russian Revolution, there was really no significant talk of the Chinese Revolution, or even a coherent appreciation of the lessons learned from past anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggles.  Even worse, when the Peoples War in Nepal was at its apex, not one of these groups even cared; they were more invested in populist movements in Venezuela than a potential communist revolution––some of them even admitted that they didn't care about Nepal because they "knew where that type of politics would lead" (an odd statement from supposed communists).

And these were the organizations of the supposed "non-dogmatic" communist left.  For I already knew that I would never be interested in those antiquated self-proclaimed parties that were trapped in historical dead-ends, cultic and missionary, or had degenerated into parliamentarianism.  These painfully orthodox organizations were the sorts of organizations, after all, that had once made me feel that communism was either repellant or antiquated.

So when I first learned of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada [PCR-RCP] I was initially wary.  First of all, the fact that it called itself the Revolutionary Communist Party caused me to immediately associate it with a notorious and dogmatic organization in the United States.  And even after one of my close comrades (a Maoist whose many debates and interventions with me influenced my understanding of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism) attended the PCR-RCP's founding congress and explained that, no, the Canadian Revolutionary Communist Party was entirely different from the identically named organization south of the border, I was still somewhat suspicious.  At that point in time I had resigned myself to a Maoist-Third-Worldism by default: this was not to say that I believed that revolution was impossible in the centres of capitalism, and that the solution was some sort of global peoples war, but that I was becoming more and more convinced that the "culture industry" prevalent in imperialist countries might be strong enough to prevent any potential and truly revolutionary party from emerging.  Although my communism was beginning to embrace the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, my experience with the supposedly revolutionary groups in Toronto––groups that spoke of revolution as something that happened elsewhere but were never interested in imagining its possibility in their own context––unfortunately predisposed me towards skepticism.

It wasn't until my experiences with my union local's most recent strike that I was again faced with the limitations of trade unionism, the need for involving myself in something broader––the necessity for a communist party that was brought home by the boundaries of union politics.  Thus, following the sordid end of the strike, I once again started to investigate the existence of self-proclaimed communist parties in my political landscape.  Recalling what the comrade mentioned above had said about the PCR-RCP, I decided to seriously engage with its program.  Several other members of my union local, who were also impressed by the limitation of trade-unionism, joined me in several reading groups that engaged with the party program.  And though this engagement was eventually aborted due to post-strike exhaustion, it was still an engagement that caused me to appreciate both the program and existence of the PCR-RCP.  But it was also this engagement that led me to attend the Second Canadian Revolutionary Congress sponsored by the Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada and, upon being impressed by the PCR-RCP members in attendance, to decide that I both sympathized with and supported this organization as the only current potential and revolutionary party in Canada.

And since I still get questions as to why I think that the PCR-RCP is the only existing organization in Canada that I believe can rightfully call itself a party, as compared to those other organizations I was never interested in joining, I am going to try and explain my reasons for thinking in this way.  I understand from my own experience, after all, the immediate skepticism that is raised against a group that uses the term "revolutionary party."  I don't think this skepticism is wrong: there have been so many disappointments, and so many new communist groups that manifest every two or three years––entryists, other versions of parliamentarianism, or splinter fractions of the same Trotsykist/post-Trotsykist banality.

There are reasons, after having observed the Toronto left and seeing the limits of even what its most progressive communist organizations could offer, that I believe the PCR-RCP is worth supporting.  I have broken these reasons down into five interrelated categories, the first of which I will discuss below and the other four I will divide into two successive posts: settler-colonialism and the national question; advanced guard versus tailism; concrete analysis of a concrete situation; revolutionary versus activist mind-set; and practice.

1: settler-colonialism and the national question in Canada.

This was probably the biggest barrier to joining the actually existing communist groups––especially since I was doing academic work on the question of settler-colonialism and was very aware that this nation we call "Canada" emerged through the contradiction of colonizer and colonized.  Although some communist groups were good at supporting indigenous self-determination, none of them really placed this self-determination within a larger theoretical framework.  They could not explain, aside from basic human rights and morality appeals, the why of supporting indigenous sovereignty.

This is not to say that some of these groups were not excellent in some of their practice surrounding indigenous self-determination (some of the members of Upping The Anti, for example, have been extremely exemplary in this regard, especially and most recently in the case of the Six Nations stand-off with Caledonia), but that there was no attempt to place this practice within a coherent theoretical approach to revolution in Canada.  Even worse: the anarchists who were sometimes better than the communists in concretely supporting indigenous struggle would often, due to their anarchist politics, fight tooth-and-nail against the idea of national sovereignty––and some supposed "communist" groups were not immune to this political analysis.

And then there were those groups who, though endorsing indigenous self-determination, were still so caught up in demands for Quebecois sovereignty as the prime national question, that they really had no systematic way of assessing Canadian settler-colonialism.  At best, the fundamental colonial contradiction was treated as identical to the supposed Quebec-Canada contradiction; at worst, it was misconstrued as a disconnected moral issue––something to do with "rights" and "decency"––allowing some of the more dogmatic groups to argue that Lenin's theory of the national question had nothing to do with indigenous people who (insert chauvinist reason here) lacked proper nationhood.  (I wish I was joking, but I'm not: this is an argument that is actually made by some "marxist" groups.)

So the first thing that made me take the PCR-RCP seriously, the make-it-or-break-it test that because of my political sympathies I would use to assess communist groups, was the fact that it was the only communist group in Canada that understands the settler-colonial context within a comprehensive party program.  And despite the fact that the PCR-RCP emerged in Quebec, it is significant in that it applies Lenin's theory of the national question primarily to indigenous nations and not to the Quebecois.  (And according to some of the ignorant comments of the post mentioned above demonstrated a hatred of this position.)  The fact that the settler-colonial question was approached as important, and in a concrete manner, is extremely significant––especially (and I emphasize this especially) in a nation that only exists because of a colonial encounter.  I should also point out that the similarly named American group is known for having a rather chauvinist approach to settler-colonialism (among other things).

[to be continued in the next post...]


  1. Great post, I can't wait for "revolutionary versus activist mind-set" I wish we had a real Maoist party here in the US

    I know you're probably busy but if you could shoot me an email at I need to ask you for a small to medium favor.

  2. Glad you liked this post... that category will be at the end of the second part, I believe, which I will hopefully post tonight.

  3. I've got a translation issue for you! Is the comrade in "And even after one of my close comrades (a Maoist whose many debates and interventions with me influenced my understanding of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism)" a he or a she? It's not that the gender matters in any way, but in french, it will automatically become a man, and in this case, it's impossible to find a neutral/ no-gender way of saying it. The only alternative I could see is using "a person" instead of "a comrade", but it's less political.

  4. did the other 2 parts to this ever get done ?

    1. Yeah. All three are linked in the PCR-RCP page on the top bar.

  5. I translate this post in spanish and publish in my blog:


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