[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

              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


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
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
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
party of Canada.

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

And it has educated countless Canadian radicals about the rich history
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
to connect with the revolutionary socialist tradition in Canada.

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

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


The 70 people who attended the Vancouver meeting on November 17 ranged 
from long-time socialist veterans to an impressive number of young
whose first political experiences were in the anti-Iraq-war movement. It
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
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
available again.”

In addition to Ian Angus, speakers included Dale McCartney, an editor of
Oaks magazine, Joey Hartman, vice-president of the Pacific Northwest
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
end in sterile debates on obscure (to most people) points of history and
That wasn’t true of the Canadian Bolsheviks celebration in Vancouver. A
and lively discussion ended the formal meeting on a positive note, and
continued informally for more than an hour in a café down the street.

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


More than 60 people attended the Toronto meeting on November 25,
by International Socialists, Marxist Institute, New Socialist Group,
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
Socialist Project. Egan, who is president of the Toronto Area Council of
United Steelworkers, described how the first edition of Canadian
shaped her own political thinking in the 1980s. Gindin, a long-time
Auto Workers leader who now holds the Packer Chair of Social Justice at
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
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

And Palmer expressed the hope that its republication will “galvanize
scrutiny of the original years of North American communism, when a 
revolutionary Left made impressive inroads into the wider workers'
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
organizations were excited and transformed by the Russian Revolution in
“When the Bolsheviks took power in November 1917, suddenly theory became

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

The example of the Russian Bolsheviks, and their own experiences in the
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 

Angus also highlighted some of the achievements of the Communist Party
the 1920s. It helped lead major strikes, fought for the rights of women
immigrant workers, and defended the unity of the working class during
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
and their mistakes and defeats--provide powerful lessons for us today.”

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

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

Ian Angus is available to speak at a limited number of meetings in the
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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