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The Communist Party of Canada is a communist political party in Canadamarker. It is a minor political party without elected representation at present in either the federal Parliamentmarker or in any provincial legislature. Since the merger of the Conservative Party in the early 21st century, the Communist Party of Canada remains the second oldest registered party after the Liberal Party of Canada.



The Communist Party was organized with great secrecy in a barn near the city of Guelphmarker, Ontariomarker, on May 28 and 29, 1921. Many of its founding members had belonged to groups such as the Socialist Party of Canada, One Big Union, the Socialist Labor Party, the Industrial Workers of the World, and other socialist, Marxist or Labour parties or clubs. The party was founded as the Canadianmarker section of the Comintern, and was thus similar to Communist parties around the world.

The party alternated between legality and illegality during the 1920s and 1930s. It was initially illegal, and created the "Workers' Party of Canada" in 1922 as its public face. The CPC was legalized in 1924, and the Workers' Party ceased to exist.

In 1922-24, the provincial wings of the WPC/CPC affiliated with the Canadian Labour Party, as part of a "united front" strategy against the capitalist parties. The CPC came to dominate the CLP organization in several regions of the country; the CLP itself, however, never became an effective national organization. The Communists withdrew from the CLP in 1928-29, following a shift in Comintern policy.

Expulsion of factions

From 1928 to the mid-1930s, supporters of Leon Trotsky, such as Maurice Spector, the editor of the party's paper The Worker and party chairman, were expelled. Jack MacDonald, who had supported Spector's expulsion, was removed as the party's general secretary for factionalism, and was ultimately expelled with the support of the majority of party members. MacDonald was also a Trotskyist and joined Spector in founding the International Left Opposition Canada, which was part of Trotsky's International Left Opposition. Also expelled were supporters of Nikolai Bukharin and Jay Lovestone's Right Opposition, such as William Moriarty. J.B. Salsberg was initially sympathetic to the Right Opposition but quickly recanted, allowing him to remain in the party.

Tim Buck replaced MacDonald as party general secretary in 1929, and remained in the position until 1962, steering a course of unswerving loyalty to the leaders of the Soviet Unionmarker.

Great Depression

In 1931, eight of the CPC's leaders were arrested and imprisoned under Section 98 of Canada's Criminal Code of Canada. The party continued to exist, but was under the constant threat of legal harassment, and was for all intents and purposes an underground organization until 1936.

Although the party was banned, affiliated groups such as the Workers' Unity League, the Relief Camp Workers' Union, and the National Unemployed Workers Association played a significant role in organizing the unskilled and the unemployed in protest marches and demonstrations and campaigns such as the "On-to-Ottawa Trek". Party members were also active in the Congress of Industrial Organizations attempt to unionize the auto sector.

The party also mobilised the 1,500-man Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion to fight in the Spanish Civil War as part of the International Brigade. Among the leading Canadian Communists involved in that effort was Dr. Norman Bethune, who is known for his work with the Communist Party of China.

World War II

The Communist Party opposed Canada's entry into World War II and was banned under the Defence of Canada Regulations of the War Measures Act in 1940. A number of Communist Party leaders were interned and others went underground or fled to exile in the United States. With 1941 invasion of the USSR and the collapse of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact the party reversed its opposition to the war. During the Conscription Crisis of 1944, the banned CPC set up "Tim Buck Plebiscite Committees" across the country to campaign for a "yes" vote in the national referendum on conscription. Following the vote, the committees were renamed the Dominion Communist-Labor Total War Committee and urged full support for the war effort, a no-strike pledge for the duration of the war and increased industrial production. The National Council for Democratic Rights was also established with A.E. Smith as chair in order to rally for the legalization of the Communist Party and the release of Communists and anti-fascists from internment.

The party's first elected Member of Parliament (MP) was Dorise Nielson. Nielson was elected in North Battleford, Saskatchewan in 1940 under the popular front Progressive Unity label. Nielsen kept her membership in the party a secret until 1943.

Labour-Progressive Party

The Communist Party remained banned but with the entry of the Soviet Union into the war and the eventual release of the Canadian party's interned leaders, Canadian Communists founded the Labour-Progressive Party in 1943 as a legal front and thereafter ran candidates under that name until 1959. Several party members were elected at various levels:

In 1946, Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk at the Soviet Embassy, defected to Canada alleging several Canadian communists were operating a spy ring which provided the Soviet Union with top secret information. The Kellock-Taschereau Commission was called by Prime Minister Mackenzie King to investigate the matter. This let to the convictions of Fred Rose and other communists.

Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 Secret Speech exposing the crimes of Joseph Stalin and the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary shook the faith of many Communists around the world. As well, the party was riven by a crisis following the return of prominent party member J.B. Salsberg from a trip to the Soviet Union where he found rampant party-sponsored antisemitism. Salsberg reported his findings but they were rejected by the party which initially suspended him from its leading bodies. Ultimately, the crisis resulted in the departure of the United Jewish Peoples' Order, Salsberg, Robert Laxer and most of the party's Jewish members in 1956.

Many, perhaps most, members of the Canadian party left, including a number of prominent party members. Many ex-Communists joined the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and its successor, the New Democratic Party (NDP). Some joined the Liberals.In the mid 1960s the United States Department of Statemarker estimated the party membership to be approximately 3500. The Soviet Union's 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia caused more people to leave the Canadian Communist Party.

Collapse of the Soviet bloc and party split

In common with most communist parties, it went through a crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and subsequently split. Under then general secretary George Hewison (1988-91), the leadership of the CPC and a segment of its general membership began to abandon Marxism-Leninism as the basis of the Party's revolutionary perspective, and ultimately moved to liquidate the Party itself, seeking to replace it with a left, social democratic entity.

The protracted ideological and political crisis created much confusion and disorientation within the ranks of the Party, and paralysed both its independent and united front work for over two years. Ultimately, the Hewison-led majority in the Central Committee (CC) of the party voted to abandon Marxism-Leninism. An orthodox minority in the CC, led by Miguel Figueroa, Elizabeth Rowley and former leader William Kashtan, resisted this effort. At the 28th Convention in the fall of 1990, the Hewison group managed to maintain its control of the Central Committee of the CPC, but by the spring of 1991, the membership began to turn more and more against the reformist policies and orientation of the Hewison leadership.

Key provincial conventions were held in 1991 in the two main provincial bases of the CPC - British Columbia and Ontario. At the B.C. convention, delegates threw out Fred Wilson, one of the main leaders of the Hewison group. A few months later in June 1991, Ontario delegates rejected a concerted campaign by Hewison and his supporters, and overwhelmingly reelected provincial leader Elizabeth Rowley and other supporters of the Marxist-Leninist current to the Ontario Committee and Executive.

The Hewison group moved on August 27, 1991 to expel eleven of the key leaders of the opposition, including Rowley, Emil Bjarnason, and former central organizer John Bizzell. The Hewison-controlled Central Executive also dismissed the Ontario provincial committee.

The vast majority of local clubs and committees of the CPC opposed the expulsions, and called instead for an extraordinary convention of the party to resolve the deepening crisis in a democratic manner. There were loud protests at the CC's October 1991 meeting, but an extraordinary convention was not convened. With few remaining options, Rowley and the other expelled members threatened to take the Hewison group to court. After several months of negotiations between the Hewison group and the opposition "All-Canada Negotiating Committee", an out-of-court settlement resulted in the Hewison leadership agreeing to leave the CPC and relinquish any claim to the party's name, while taking most of the party's assets to the Cecil-Ross Society, a publishing and educational foundation previously associated with the party.

Following the departure of the Hewison-led group, a convention was held in December 1992 at which delegates agreed to continue the Communist Party (thus the meeting was titled the 30th CPC Convention). Delegates rejected the reformist policies instituted by the Hewison group and instead reaffirmed the CPC as a Marxist-Leninist organization. Since most of the old party's assets were now the property of the Hewison-led Cecil Ross Society, the CPC convention decided to launch a new newspaper, the People's Voice, to replace the old Canadian Tribune. The convention elected a new central committee with Figueroa as Party Leader. The convention also amended the party constitution to grant more membership control and lessen the arbitrary powers of the CC, while maintaining democratic centralism as its organizational principle.

Meanwhile, the former Communists retained the Cecil-Ross Society as a political foundation to continue their political efforts. They also sold off the party's headquarters at 24 Cecil Street, having earlier liquidated various party-related business such as Eveready Printers (the party printshop) and Progress Publishers. The name of the Cecil-Ross Society comes from the intersection of Cecil Street and Ross Street in Torontomarker where the headquarters of the party was located. The Cecil-Ross Society took with it the rights to the Canadian Tribune, which had been the party's weekly newspaper for decades, as well as roughly half of the party's assets. The Cecil-Ross Society ended publication of the Canadian Tribune and attempted to launch a new broad-left magazine, New Times which failed after a few issues and then Ginger [44481] which only published twice.

Reconstituted party

The renovated party, now with fewer than 1,000 members, was smaller than before the split and had lost a number of assets, including the party's headquarters at 24 Cecil Street in Toronto. The CPC was not in a position to run fifty (50) candidates in the 1993 federal election, the number required to maintain official party status. As a result, the newly-relaunched CPC was deregistered by Elections Canada, and its remaining assets were seized by the government. A prolonged legal battle, Figueroa v. Canada ensued, resulting in a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2003 that overturned a provision in the Elections Act requiring fifty candidates for official party status. Earlier in the legal battle, the party had its deregistration overturned and its seized assets restored. This victory was celebrated by many of the other small parties regardless of political differences on the principle that it was a victory for the people's right to democratic choice.

The CPC publishes a fortnightly newspaper called People's Voice. and its Quebec section, le Parti communiste du Québec, published Clarté. The CPC also periodically publishes a theoretical/discussion journal Spark!. These publications and other information about the party is available on its site [44482].

The Communist Party is one of two federally registered Communist parties in Canada, the other is the Communist Party of Canada . The CPC-ML was founded in 1963 as the Internationalists, an anti-revisionist Maoist party rejecting the reforms of Nikita Khrushchev. Today, the CPC-ML is known during elections as the "Marxist-Leninist Party".

The CPC is active in several trade unions, in the civic reform movement, and in a number of social justice, anti-war and international solidarity groups and coalitions. The Party is also working to help refound the Young Communist League of Canada. Local YCL groups have sprung up in several centres across the country, and a refounding convention of the pan-Canadian YCL happened in March 2007.

2005 split

In 2005, the Parti communiste du Québec split into two rival groups, both of which claim to represent the party. The national committee of one group, led by André Parizeau, voted unanimously to separate from the CPC in June 2005. His opponents reject the validity of this vote, claiming that Parizeau had expelled four of the six members of the national committee who would vote against separating. The Communist Party of Canada had previously expelled Parizeau, and does not recognize the legality of his group.

The split followed a lengthy dispute between Parizeau and the Central Executive Committee of the CPC. In November 2004, Parizeau introduced a series of amendments to the CPC program "Canada's Future is Socialism". According to a letter from Ontario leader Elizabeth Rowley, these amendments called on the party to expand its support for Quebec nationalism.

The Communist Party of Canada, according to a 2005 release, supports the right of "national self-determination, up to and including separation". It does not support the fragmentation of Canada, however, and has called for "a new, democratic constitutional arrangement based on the equal and voluntary union of Aboriginal peoples, Québec, and English-speaking Canada". Many in the national party executive considered Parizeau's amendments as reflecting a narrower view of Quebec nationalism.

Parizeau's amendments were rejected by the Central Executive Committee by a vote of 7-1; Parizeau himself was the only member to vote in favour. The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Quebec Party also rejected Parizeau's amendments by a vote of 4-2.

In January 2005, Parizeau wrote a letter to PCQ members declaring that the party was in crisis. Describing the four NEC members who opposed his amendments as a "Gang of Four" and a pro-federalist faction, he summarily dismissed them from office. In turn, Parizeau's opponents called for the CPC to suspend him from office pending an investigation into his activities.

This controversy came to a head at the PCQ convention of April 2005. After delegates voted 16-14 to expel one of the four suspended NEC members, Parizeau's opponents staged a mass walkout from the convention hall. The seventeen delegates who stayed voted to establish a new National Committee and Executive, consisting entirely of Parizeau's supporters.

On April 27, 2005, the Central Executive of the CPC voted to expel Parizeau for "factional activity and the pursuit of a right opportunist line", declared that the expulsions from the PCQ were illegal, and affirmed the authority of the previous National Executive Committee. This decision was confirmed by the party's Central Committee at a meeting held on June 18-19, 2005.

Parizeau's group published a letter of withdrawal from the CPC on June 15, 2005. In this letter, the CPC was accused of holding "des idées chauvines vis-à-vis du Québec" (chauvinistic ideas relative to Quebec). The CPC has rejected similar accusations from Parizeau in the past, and now holds the position that Parizeau's group has no legal authority to use the PCQ name. Parizeau's opponents in the PCQ have remained active in Quebec, participating in the province's May Day parades and starting a new periodical, entitled Clarté. Parizeau's group publishes a separate newspaper called La voix du peuple. The electoral authorities of Quebec have recognized Parizeau's group as the legal owners of the PCQ name.

The CPC's account of this situation is available online, as is the June 2005 letter from Parizeau's PCQ group.

Recent developments

The CPC held its 35th Central Convention on February 1-4, 2007 in Toronto. According to a Toronto Star article the assembly drew 65 delegates most of whom were from Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec with a few from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. Party leader Miguel Figueroa called for the Communists to field 25 candidates in the upcoming federal election.

Allied organizations

Traditionally, the Communist Party and Labour-Progressive Party have had allied organizations which were not formally affiliated with the party but were largely under its control. These groups often originated from left wing labour and socialist movements that existed prior to the creation of the Communist Party and operated political and cultural activities amongst various immigrant groups, published magazines and operated their own cultural centres and meeting halls. From the 1920s through the 1950s the largest immigrant groups represented in the party were Finns, Ukrainians and Jews who were organized in the Finnish Organization of Canada (founded in 1911 as the Finnish Socialist Organization of Canada), the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians (known as the Ukrainian Labor Farmer Temple Association until 1946) and the United Jewish Peoples' Order (known as the Labour League until 1945) respectively. Also active in the 1930s and 1940s was the Hungarian Workers Clubs, the Polish People's Association (formerly the Polish Workers' and Farmers' Association), the Serbian People's Movement and Croatian Cultural Association (formerly the Jugoslav Workers' Clubs) and the Carpatho-Russian Society. The Russian Farmer-Worker Clubs were formed in the early 1930s but closed by the government under the Defence of Canada Regulations at the outbreak of World War II. When the Soviet Union became Canada's ally in 1942, they re-appeared as the Federation of Russian Canadians. The Canadian Slav Committee was formed in 1948 in an attempt to put party-aligned cultural associations for Ukrainians, Russians, Poles, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Macedonians, Yugoslavs and Carpatho-Russians under one umbrella. The UJPO broke with the party in 1956 over the revelations of antisemitism in the Soviet Union. An influx of left-wing Greek and Portuguese immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in the creation of the Greek Democratic Association and the Portuguese Democratic Association which remain close to the Communist Party.

General Secretaries of the CPC

Central Executive Committee

The Communist Party of Canada's 35th convention held in February 2007 elected the following members to its leading body, the Central Executive Committee: Miguel Figueroa (Party leader), Elizabeth Rowley (leader of the Communist Party of Ontario), Pierre Fontaine (President of the Parti communiste du Québec), Darrell Rankin (leader of the Communist Party of Canada - Manitoba),George Gidora, leader of British Columbia Communist Party, Sam Hammond, Chair of the Trade Union Commission of the Party and Kimball Cariou (editor of People's Voice).

There is also a larger body, the Central Committee, which is elected at convention and meets in intervening years. The Central Committee nominates the members of the Central Executive Committee and the composition of the CEC is ratified by convention.

Election results

Election # of candidates nominated # of seats won # of total votes % of popular vote
1930 6 0 4,557 0.12%
1935 13 0 27,456 0.46%
19401 9 0 14,005 0.36%
19452 68 1 111,892 2.13%
19492 17 0 32,623 0.56%
19532 100 0 59,622 1.06%
19572 10 0 7,760 0.12%
19582 18 0 9,769 0.13%
1962 12 0 6,360 0.08%
1963 12 0 4,234 0.05%
1965 12 0 4,285 0.06%
1968 14 0 4,465 0.05%
19723 n.a n.a. n.a. n.a.
1974 69 0 12,100 0.13%
1979 71 0 9,141 0.08%
1980 52 0 6,022 0.06%
1984 52 0 7,551 0.06%
1988 51 0 7,066 0.05%
19934 n.a n.a. n.a. n.a.
19974 n.a n.a. n.a. n.a.
2000 52 0 8,779 0.07%
2004 35 0 4,564 0.03%
2006 21 0 3,022 0.02%
2008 24 0 3,639 0.03%


1: A ninth candidate, Dorise Nielson was a member of the Communist Party but ran and was elected as a Progressive Unity candidate.

2: The Communist Party was banned in 1941. From 1943 until 1959 they ran candidates under the name Labour Progressive Party.

3: In 1972 the party ran its candidates as independents. It is unknown how many party members ran in that election.

4: The party failed to register at least 50 candidates in time for the 1993 election. As a result the party was deregistered and its candidates ran as independents. Party status was not regained until prior to the 2000 general election. It is unknown how many party members ran in the 1993 and 1997 elections as independents.


  1. Benjamin, Roger W.; Kautsky, John H.. Communism and Economic Development, in The American Political Science Review, Vol. 62, No. 1. (Mar., 1968), pp. 122.

See also

External links

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