[Marxism] Meetings launch new edition of "Canadian Bolsheviks" by Ian Angus

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Dec 3 21:13:30 MST 2004


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              S O C I A L I S T   V O I C E
 Debate and dialogue on issues before the workers movement

Number 24, December 3, 2004          www.socialistvoice.com
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writing: socialistvoice at sympatico.ca. All issues of Socialist Voice are
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www.socialistvoice.com. --Roger Annis and John Riddell

VANCOUVER, TORONTO MEETINGS CELEBRATE NEW EDITION OF 
'CANADIAN BOLSHEVIKS'

By Roger Annis
“In the years immediately following World War I, something unprecedented

happened in the socialist left in Canada. The multiple quarrelling
groups that had 
comprised the left until then shook themselves up and transformed
themselves. 
The result was a new party that encompassed at least 80% of the members
of its 
predecessor organizations. The Communist Party of Canada quickly became
the 
largest and most influential group on the left everywhere in Canada, far

outpacing all existing organizations and dominating militant labour
politics in 
Canada in the 1920s.”

With those words, Ian Angus opened his presentations to two large and 
successful meetings, in Vancouver and Toronto, celebrating publication
of a new 
edition of his book, Canadian Bolsheviks: The Early Years of the
Communist 
party of Canada.

Since it was published in 1981, Canadian Bolsheviks has been widely
accepted 
as the definitive history of the first decade of the Communist Party of
Canada. 
Unusually, for a book written from a revolutionary Marxist perspective,
it is highly 
regarded by academic historians of the Canadian labour movement and
often 
cited as a key source. 

And it has educated countless Canadian radicals about the rich history
of 
revolutionary socialism in this country. Although it has been out of
print for 
several years, used copies continue to be read and re-read by activists
seeking 
to connect with the revolutionary socialist tradition in Canada.

This year the Socialist History Project (www.socialisthistory.ca)
republished 
Canadian Bolsheviks. The initial response the new edition has been even
more 
positive than the first time around.

That was clearly shown by the success of book celebrations held in
Vancouver 
and Toronto in November. It’s hard to recall any socialist meetings in
recent 
years that have been supported by such a broad range of sponsors, or
that 
featured such open and fraternal discussion among groups and individuals

representing many divergent opinions on the left. 

Forty-eight copies of the book were sold at the two meetings--an
impressive tally.

Vancouver

The 70 people who attended the Vancouver meeting on November 17 ranged 
from long-time socialist veterans to an impressive number of young
people 
whose first political experiences were in the anti-Iraq-war movement. It
was 
sponsored by International Socialists, LeftTurn.ca, New Socialist Group,

Rebuilding the Left, Seven Oaks Magazine, and Socialist Voice.

The chair, well-known author and activist Cynthia Flood, pointed out
that the 
impact of the Russian Revolution on the Canadian left is not well-known
to the 
new generation of radical youth, but the lessons of that tumultuous time
are still 
relevant today. “We need some understanding of ‘then’, so we can face
‘now’,” 
she said. “That is why the reappearance of Ian Angus’ book is so
welcome. It has 
come out of an expressed wish and desire on the part of many to have the
book 
available again.”

In addition to Ian Angus, speakers included Dale McCartney, an editor of
Seven 
Oaks magazine, Joey Hartman, vice-president of the Pacific Northwest
Labor 
History Association, and Mark Leier, director of the Centre for Labour
Studies at 
Simon Fraser University. 

Many meetings that are attended by people from a wide range of Marxist
groups 
end in sterile debates on obscure (to most people) points of history and
theory. 
That wasn’t true of the Canadian Bolsheviks celebration in Vancouver. A
friendly 
and lively discussion ended the formal meeting on a positive note, and
it 
continued informally for more than an hour in a café down the street.

While in Vancouver, Angus was interviewed by The Republic, a local
alternative 
newspaper, and on the Redeye show on Co-Op radio. He also spoke to a
History 
Department seminar at Simon Fraser University, arranged by Mark Leier. 

Toronto

More than 60 people attended the Toronto meeting on November 25,
sponsored 
by International Socialists, Marxist Institute, New Socialist Group,
Socialist 
Action, Socialist Alternative, Socialist Project, and Socialist Voice.
The sponsors 
and other Marxist groups participated in a literature sale offering a
wide variety of 
socialist books, pamphlets, and periodicals. 

The meeting was chaired by Socialist Voice editor John Riddell, and was 
addressed by Carolyn Egan of the International Socialists and Sam Gindin
of 
Socialist Project. Egan, who is president of the Toronto Area Council of
the 
United Steelworkers, described how the first edition of Canadian
Bolsheviks 
shaped her own political thinking in the 1980s. Gindin, a long-time
Canadian 
Auto Workers leader who now holds the Packer Chair of Social Justice at
York 
University, described it as important contribution to rebuilding the
left in Canada.

Noted labour historian Bryan Palmer was unable to attend, but he sent a 
statement that was read by John Riddell. Palmer described Canadian
Bolsheviks 
as “a book that in its researches and in its politics charted new
approaches to the 
communist path, approaches that were meant to revitalize the
revolutionary Left. 
When I put it down I knew that I had been educated in the best senses of
the 
word.”

And Palmer expressed the hope that its republication will “galvanize
serious 
scrutiny of the original years of North American communism, when a 
revolutionary Left made impressive inroads into the wider workers'
movement, 
establishing a presence in the trade unions and entering the fray of
class politics 
at many levels.”

Roots of Revolutionary Socialism

At both meetings, Ian Angus’s presentations focused on the roots of 
revolutionary socialism in Canada, explaining how Canada’s existing
Marxist 
organizations were excited and transformed by the Russian Revolution in
1917: 
“When the Bolsheviks took power in November 1917, suddenly theory became

reality  instead of just talking about a workers’ government that would
end 
capitalism, the Russian revolutionaries were actually building it.”

The example of the Russian Bolsheviks, and their own experiences in the
great 
Canadian labour upsurge of 1919, led Canadian Marxists to launch a
“party of a 
new type” that sought to fuse the program of Marxism with the living
struggles of 
workers across Canada, and to participate actively in the worldwide
struggle for 
socialism.

Angus also highlighted some of the achievements of the Communist Party
during 
the 1920s. It helped lead major strikes, fought for the rights of women
and 
immigrant workers, and defended the unity of the working class during
elections 
by working with other working class parties in the Canadian Labor Party.


He concluded: “Canadian Bolsheviks is about the birth and death of a 
revolutionary party. The early Communists didn’t make a revolution, but
they did 
show that a genuine revolutionary party can be built in Canada. Their
victories--
and their mistakes and defeats--provide powerful lessons for us today.”

For over 80 years, socialists worldwide have looked to the Russian
Revolution 
and the early Communist International for inspiration and insight. By
making 
Canadian Bolsheviks generally available again, the Socialist History
Project has 
made an important contribution to building the revolutionary movement in
the 
21st century.

                                                   *   *   *   *   *

The new edition of Canadian Bolsheviks can be purchased online in Canada

from www.chapters.indigo.ca or in the U.S. from www.amazon.com.

The Vancouver talks were videotaped: they will be televised on December
18 on 
the WorkingTV program on Shaw Cable Channel 4 in the Vancouver area, and

can be viewed on the Internet at
www.workingtv.com/canadianbolsheviks.html.

The Toronto meeting was recorded for broadcast on CIUT--89.5-FM in
Toronto 
and on the Internet at www.ciut.fm. A broadcast time has not yet been 
announced.

Ian Angus is available to speak at a limited number of meetings in the
coming 
months. If you are interested in organizing (or helping to organize) a
meeting to 
discuss and promote Canadian Bolsheviks, e-mail him at
ian at socialisthistory.ca.





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