Long before the Communist Party of Canada was founded on May 28, 1921, workers in Canada had begun to study the revolutionary ideas of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. This led them to found different political organizations which could merge socialist theory with the concrete struggles of the working class.
Among these early efforts were the Social Democratic Party, Socialist Party of Canada, Canadian locals of the Socialist Labor Party (based in the United States) and the Socialist Party of North America. Their emergence reflected the rising militancy of a working class that was becoming radicalized by the sharpening class contradictions of capitalism in Canada, as well as by the horrors of World War One.
But the array of socialist parties and their differing approaches to resolving the problems facing the working class were also an indication of the lack of ideological unity and organizational direction. In part, this reflected similar weaknesses in the trade union movement which, at the time, was divided along geographic, sectoral, national, political and even religious lines.
Then came the October Revolution. The working class of Russia overthrew the Czar and the capitalists, grasped state power, took their country out of the imperialist war and began to build the first socialist society in human history.
The revolution, and the efforts of 13 imperialist states including Canada to smash it, galvanized workers who were suffering from growing post-war unemployment and misery. Class struggle surged from Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia, reflected most notably in the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.
At this critical juncture, many radicalized workers began to see the necessity of combining economic struggle with political and ideological struggle. The questions on many minds were, “What is next? Where do we go from here?”
The answer came from the October Revolution, which inspired workers around the world to form Communist Parties. This was a party of a new type, based on scientific socialism and working-class internationalism, fighting for reforms but rejecting reformism as a substitute for socialist revolution.
On May 28, 1921, in conditions of illegality, such a party was founded. At a convention held in a barn in Guelph, Ontario, the Communist Party of Canada adopted a revolutionary program and constitution, launched the Party press and immediately set about organizing workers.
And it has continued that work for 100 years.
In that time, the Communist Party has contributed to – and, in many cases, led – some of the most important struggles and campaigns of the working class and people. Unemployment insurance, socialized medicine, industrial unionism, women’s equality, solidarity with Indigenous struggles, peace and disarmament, the student movement, tenant organizing, antiapartheid – the list goes on and on.
In that time, Party members faced prison, persecution, physical abuse, job loss and, in some cases, death.
But for 100 years, the CPC has continued to develop and grow, always applying the science of socialism in the concrete arena of class struggle. The Party was born and grew in the struggles of the working class in this country.
No other such party exists.
May 28, 2021 is a day for working people to pause and reflect on the Communist Party’s 100 years of struggle. It is a day to commit ourselves to the continuing fight to overthrow capitalism and build socialism. It is a day to celebrate.
Get People’s Voice delivered to your door or inbox!
If you found this article useful, please consider subscribing to People’s Voice.
We are 100% reader-supported, with no corporate or government funding.