Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Cowardice of Left Anti-Communism: A Reply to David Camfield

The attack on the Communist Party of Canada by David Camfield recently published in Passage doesn't merit a response, but rather necessitates one. That is to say, the arguments made in the piece aren't good ones, but left unresponded to they may mislead young radicals exactly in the manner that Camfield erroneously charges against the Communist Party of Canada. In the piece, which is itself a response to Kimball Cariou's exemplary article 'Canada Still Needsa Communist Party,' Camfield makes a number of charges. The most prominent of these charges is the least compelling, and is in large bold letters at the top of the page: "Since the 1950s, Canada's Communist Party has lacked the size, and degree of influence on a mass scale, needed to be a genuine party." What is one even to do with this? What is this argument other than an incoherent tautology? The Communist Party of Canada has lacked size and influence, so therefore it ought not have size and influence? It hasn't been sizable or influential, so its growing size and influence ought to be checked? Nothing in the following paragraphs in any way turns this frustrated lament into an actual argument. But beneath the charge that the Communist Party of Canada cannot be a revolutionary force in Canadian politics lies a more insidious and bitter argument, that the Communist Party of Canada ought not be a revolutionary force in Canadian politics.

The real substance of David Camfield's argument is that he simply doesn't want young people to fall under the sway of the Communist Party of Canada. He portrays them in the manner of Socrates' accusers: corrupting the youth. But the fact of the matter is that the Communist Party of Canada is growing in size and influence not because of the nefarious machinations of its elder members, but rather because its positions are right and principled. This is what Camfield is actually attacking, the taking and holding of principled positions whatsoever, and that is precisely why young people are gravitating towards them.

On the front of Social Democracy, Jagmeet Singh is undeniably an improvement over Thomas Mulcair, and does not deserve the racist treatment he has received in the House of Commons. And yet, it is no accident that while a majority of NDP MPs have denounced the Israeli annexation of the West Bank, he and Randal Garrison have not. On foreign policy most of all the NDP compromises with and reproduces imperialist falsehoods and reaction. The Communist Party of Canada does not do this, ever. At no point does the Communist Party of Canada split the difference with those who champion and cheerlead for Israeli apartheid, or the disastrous and bloody war in Yemen, or reproduce the grotesque sinophobia being promoted by US Empire today. On the foreign affairs front that is why young people are inspired by the line of the Communist Party of Canada, it is not an aftereffect, something smuggled in after the fact, it is rather the reason that young people are turning to them. The same is true of domestic politics and a resolute commitment to justice for working class people and indigenous people.

Older Social Democrats, or more broadly older Trotskyists, are allergic to principle, to belief, to solidarity with global class struggle. So long have they prefaced anything resembling socialist principle with qualifiers and disclaimers of responsibility that all that remains are the qualifier and disclaimers. And worse, they hold forth their qualifications and disclaimers as a virtue in and of themselves. 'We are the real left,' they claim, 'because we have for so long denounced the left.' And that is all that remains, paranoiac denunciations and pious idealism. That is what David Camfield's argument amounts to 'don't fall under the sway of the Communist Party of Canada, who have solidarity with Palestinians and Yemenis and Chinese people, instead hold fast to doing nothing and believing in nothing.'

Ultimately the dispute has little to nothing to do with the Communist Party of Canada itself, the institution and its personages. The fact that the Communist Party of Canada expresses the principled anti-imperialist positions domestically and internationally that it does merely exposes those for whom those positions are anathema. That allergy, that remove, that refusal to have unwavering and unequivocal love and solidarity for working class and indigenous struggle against the Canadian State and Capital at home, and unwavering and unequivocal love and solidarity for actually existing socialist states and minoritarian movements abroad, is what young people are rejecting and moving away from. The fashionable nihilism of the geriatric and deteriorating 'new left' is no longer fashionable, and they are enraged. That is the substance of David Camfield's objection to the Communist Party of Canada, that they believe too much, and are encouraging younger people to believe too much.

Whether one chooses to become involved with the Communist Party of Canada or not - and I am neither a member nor do I speak for the Party - I wholeheartedly encourage everyone, especially young working people, young indigenous people and young marginalized people, to read and study their program 'Canada's Future is Socialism!' adopted and ratified at the 39th Central Convention of the Communist Party of Canada. This document is the gold standard of contemporary Socialism. Not only do critics like David Camfield not offer a credible alternative to this program, they lack the ability to. Their argument is, in effect, that it is wrong and dangerous to so earnestly and unreservedly endorse such an unvarnished socialist program. This argument is failing to gain traction precisely because young people are exhausted with late capitalism and are sick of exactly the kind of compromise and complicity that saturates Camfield's critique.

Young people are not being duped, misled, scammed, grifted, or anything else left anti-communist allege. Young people, working people, indigenous people and marginalized people are inspired and united by rigorous critique and principle, and that is why its critics launch such facile attacks against the Communist Party of Canada today.

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