Chapter 7: Building Socialism


For Canadians to exercise genuine people’s rule over the collective life of the country, they must control Canada’s economy. Democracy therefore requires socialism: the social ownership of the machinery, raw materials and other means of production used to sustain and enhance human life.

Socialism in our country will develop along lines democratically decided by the working class and its allies. It will exhibit unique features, reflecting Canada’s history and current level of development, and its rich and diverse cultures and social traditions. Socialism will develop at its own pace, and with its own content, based on the planned, balanced and proportionate development of the economy through public ownership of the means of production. There is no universal model of socialism, nor any pre-determined timetable or schedule its development must follow.

But socialism will not be re-invented from scratch. Careful account will need to be taken of the important positive and negative lessons on the building of socialism from the experiences in many countries over the past century. Where appropriate, these experiences and lessons will have to be creatively applied to the building of socialism in Canada.

Despite setbacks in the revolutionary process, this is the historical epoch of the transition from capitalism to socialism on a world scale, a process in which the working class plays a central and growing role in advancing democratic, progressive and revolutionary transformations.

The Soviet Experience

It is particularly important to assess the experiences and draw certain lessons from the development of socialism in the first workers’ state – the Soviet Union – and to understand why socialism was overturned, and capitalism restored, after more than seventy years. The question demands the most searching thought and discussion, for two reasons. On the one hand, understanding both the great achievements of the Soviet people and the external and internal causes responsible for their grave setback can help Canadians in building socialism while avoiding the repetition of what went wrong there. Secondly, the defeat of socialism in the USSR is a powerful ideological weapon in the hands of monopoly capitalism, which it uses in order to convince workers and progressive-minded people that socialism does not work. By negating socialism as the revolutionary alternative to capitalism, big business seeks to discourage the workers and weaken their class struggle, and instead lead them to find an accommodation with the prevailing capitalist order.

We reject the bourgeois contention that socialism is a failure, that it is an inherently inferior and unworkable alternative to capitalism. Socialism was weakened and ultimately crushed in the USSR (and in other former socialist countries) as a result of a complex combination of interrelated internal and external circumstances and contradictions which culminated in its defeat and the temporary victory of counterrevolution.

The October 1917 Socialist Revolution in Russia marked a genuine new dawn in human social development. For the first time in history, workers set out to build a new society free from exploitation and oppression. The Soviet Union scored many great social achievements, overcoming unemployment, illiteracy, starvation, homelessness, and deep alienation. Socialism in the Soviet Union transformed an economically and culturally “backward” country to one of the world’s leading powers, and made great advances in culture and science.

These achievements were all the more remarkable, considering the relentless imperialist pressures against the USSR throughout its history. In its unflagging efforts to crush socialism, imperialist powers twice undertook direct military invasions (in the first of which Canada participated). They applied harsh economic sanctions, and precipitated an immensely expensive and dangerous nuclear arms race to bleed the USSR white, while sustaining a prolonged ideological and propaganda war, and resorting to outright subversion and sabotage.

Internationally, the Soviet Union played the decisive role in the defeat of European fascism in World War II, championed the cause of decolonization, supported liberation movements throughout the Third World, and provided vital assistance to the newly emergent states. Its peace policy also restricted – though it could not entirely suppress – imperialism’s tendency to military aggression.

Socialism also benefited the working class in the advanced capitalist countries, greatly strengthening the pressure on the ruling classes to grant substantial concessions to working people in the form of labour rights, the forty-hour work week, unemployment insurance, women’s rights, health care, public education, and pensions.

The internal causes of the crisis and defeat of socialism in the Soviet Union were not rooted in the intrinsic nature of socialism, but rather involved distortions and outright departures from socialist theory and practice. They arose, in part, from the extremely difficult conditions under which socialism was built.

Pre-revolutionary Russia was a sprawling, but economically under-developed country. It had a massive peasant population, but a relatively small working class. Poverty and illiteracy were rampant. The First World War, and Civil War that followed, worsened the conditions which confronted the young Soviet republic. However, owing to the unslacking hostility of imperialism – not least, from Nazi Germany, which invaded in 1941 – it was necessary to bring about modern industrialization at a stupendous pace.

In large measure, the adverse objective conditions forced the Soviet government to accelerate the socialist transformation of economic and social life, rapidly jumping over many transition stages in building socialism which would have made for a much more balanced process of development. One of the serious errors was the failure to retain the independent character of Soviet trade unions as the self-defence organizations of Soviet workers.

In these conditions, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had to assume the task of comprehensively representing the leading role of the working class. The Soviet working class itself was battered and massively decimated by the two brutally destructive wars fought on Soviet soil, with the places of the fallen and the administratively promoted being taken by inexperienced new workers recruited from the countryside. This partly explains, but does not justify, the way that the operations of the Party increasingly merged with the functions of the state, in particular with the administrative-bureaucratic apparatus which necessarily arose to centralize and tightly control the country’s scarce and depleted resources. Nor do these difficult conditions justify the serious violations of socialist legality, purges, and serious crimes against innocent people.

Important economic successes were achieved with central economic planning for several decades. It was not planning as such, but rather stifling rigidities and a myriad of other distortions in the principles of socialist construction, combined with external imperialist pressures that undermined the ability of socialist societies to master the scientific and technological revolution. As a result, the USSR and other socialist countries fell dangerously behind the developed capitalist countries in labour productivity and the material standard of living. This had destabilizing consequences.

The Party itself became ever more integrated into the administration of the state. The functions of the elected Soviets (people’s governing councils) became increasingly formal in character. Genuine popular governance with open criticism gave way to bureaucracy and commandism. Over time, the political connection between the Party and the working class and people as a whole suffered. Inner-party democracy was also eroded, too often replaced by careerism and opportunism inside the Party.

Great strides were made in advancing the conditions of Soviet women, especially on the job. But sexist limits to the emancipation of women were allowed to pass unchallenged.

All these negative developments reflected a degeneration of the central role of socialist democracy in the construction of a workers’ state and stunted the development of the political role of the working class and its allies in leading this transformation and the building of a new socialist society. Indeed, the violation of socialist democracy and legality was a major factor in eroding the people’s participation in the government and in the state and led to widespread cynicism and social alienation.

There was also a dogmatic ossification of theory which increasingly sapped the Party’s dynamism and prevented a real analysis of concrete conditions and problems in the building of socialism. Serious theoretical errors resulted – in estimating the world situation, in underestimating the resilience of capitalism, in proclaiming the irreversibility of socialist advances and relying on a military balance of forces between socialism and capitalism, as well as errors and insensitivity. For instance, the national question was proclaimed to have been fully “solved,” and socialism was all but declared to have eliminated the need for any ecological concern. The shutdown of public and inner-party debate on such questions adversely affected the foreign and domestic policies that flowed from these mistakes. The most costly result of the stagnation of Marxist-Leninist theory was the weakening of the Party itself, including its ability to identify and combat the rise of bourgeois, reformist and openly counter-revolutionary ideology within and beyond its own ranks.

In the presence of these internal and external factors, opportunist and counter-revolutionary forces gained the upper hand within the leadership of the Party, and finally brought about the collapse of the Soviet system and with it the other socialist states of Europe. Since the collapse of socialism, working people in these former socialist countries have faced massive privatization and the theft of social property, mass unemployment and poverty, the drastic erosion of education, health care and other social rights, the rise of organized crime and corruption, and the rise of ethnic and racial hatred.

The Construction of Socialism and the Socialist State in Canada

In contrast to the conditions that existed in the early years of the former Soviet Union or in other countries, socialism in Canada will be built on a highly developed economic and technical base, with a highly trained and educated working class, a developed infrastructure, valuable natural resources and a diverse set of secondary and tertiary industries. These conditions, combined with the lessons – both positive and negative – which can be derived from earlier socialist experiences, have the potential to provide a sound foundation for the construction of a socialist Canada.

Building socialism requires the establishment of a new, socialist state, led by the working class and its allies. A socialist state is essential to plan and organize production and distribution, to break the power of the capitalist class, to extend democracy so that the creative power of the working people is turned to the building of a new, socialist society and to prevent the counter-revolutionary restoration of capitalism.

Ample historical evidence testifies to the fact that reactionary capitalist forces will not give up their power and privilege voluntarily. They will try to halt the democratic process. The danger will inevitably arise of capitalist violence against the socialist state and the expressed will of the majority of the people. This cannot be overlooked except at severe cost. The working class and its allies, when they achieve socialist power, will be justified in using the power and authority of the state to protect the democratic will of the majority against the minority, who will strive to restore their lost positions. The nature of the laws and measures enacted to protect working class power will depend on the amount of resistance that the reactionary capitalist elements offer to socialist law and order.

The peaceful transition to socialism, which is desirable, depends not only on the wishes of the people but on the relationship of forces at the time. The maximum unity and single-minded purpose of the people, the united participation of the widest masses of the working class in political struggle, and the forging of unity with the small producers (farmers, fishers and artisans) and with the middle strata of the population, will be crucial to withstand and paralyze capitalist violence and political reaction. The working class must be ready to use all forms of struggle to combat capital’s inevitable resistance to social progress.

For the first time in Canada’s history, however, the majority of the people will rule the country and establish a genuine democracy. The dictatorship of capital over labour – the rule of the minority over the majority – will be abolished and replaced by a socialist democracy in which political power will reside with the working class and its allies. For the first time, the interests of the Canadian people will be the prime determinant of our economic, political and cultural life.

Irrespective of the form it will take, the socialist state, from the point of view of its class essence, will represent working class rule. Marx referred to this as “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” In practical terms, state power will be exercised by the great majority of the Canadian population – over the former capitalist minority.

The Socialist Transformation

The political life of the socialist state will be more profoundly democratic than anything achievable under capitalism. Millions of working people will participate in the administration of the country’s affairs.

In order to establish the widest possible unity for the building of a socialist Canada, our party advocates agreement on a common program of all political parties and people’s organizations that recognize the necessity of a revolutionary social transformation and the leading role which the working class must play.

While it is impossible to know for certain the exact form that a socialist Canada would take, our party’s conception of that socialist state includes the following:

Our party advocates the formation of a multi-party government of those political forces that agree on the achievement and building of a socialist society. In such a multi-party government, all parties willing to participate in building socialism would make their contribution, and opposition parties too could make a positive contribution providing they abide by the laws and the socialist constitution.

Although capitalism prepares the material prerequisites, socialism does not develop spontaneously, but must be built in a prolonged struggle against the old and for the new. Immediately on its establishment, the workers’ state will undertake the task of organizing and leading, step by step, the transition of Canada to socialism.

It cannot be said today through just what stages this historical process will have to pass, or that it will involve only advances and no retreats. The pace at which socialist construction can proceed will depend on the democratic will and class struggle of the Canadian workers and people generally, and on the strength of the resistance put up by the capitalist exploiters, as well as on the international context.

The socialist government will have to replace the old capitalist state by a new socialist state. In order to reorganize the Canadian economy and society generally for the benefit of working people, it will have the duty to enforce the constitution and code of laws of the Canadian socialist republic, to maintain popular rule, and to protect socialist property and the rights and personal property of the individual.

The rights of the people will be proclaimed and the means provided by which everyone can exercise those rights. New technologies will make it possible to cut red tape and official arrogance in governmental operation and the workplace.

Freedom of speech, press, association and assembly will be guaranteed in the constitution. Working people and their organizations will have the media of mass communication at their disposal. Church and state, and church and school, will be separated. People will have the right to hold, practice and advocate religious or non-religious views. Fundamental civil rights, including the prohibition of arbitrary arrest and police action, the access of all citizens to the courts, habeas corpus and trial by jury will be embodied in the laws and constitution. The judiciary will uphold the constitution and laws of the socialist state and protect the rights of the individual, including the right to personal privacy.

The socialist government will enact the social ownership of the economy’s financial and industrial sectors, lands and resources and transportation and communications.

The functioning of the economy will require that small and medium non-monopoly businesses continue to operate for some time as part of the overall economic plan, under a variety of forms of property and of production, under conditions established by the socialist government. In addition to state enterprises and private enterprise, there will be producers’ and consumers’ cooperatives and, where conditions warrant, joint state-and-private enterprises.

The individual ownership by working people of personal possessions, homes and cottages, pensions, savings and insurance policies will be guaranteed. The Canadian people themselves will decide, in the light of circumstances, on any compensation for the expropriated property of big capitalists.

Socialist planning of the economy, employing the latest scientific and technological advances and relying on the creative abilities of the working people, will make it possible to provide full employment and to end regional disparities across Canada. Social programs will be progressively expanded to take the place more and more of items of private consumption previously obtainable only for a price. Accordingly, the role of the market in Canadian society will be progressively diminished and replaced with production for use. The benefits of new technologies and higher productivity will be used to reduce working hours and heavy physical labour and provide working people with more time for meaningful leisure and culture.

Production will be planned to meet the changing material and cultural needs of the people, while at the same time halting and reversing environmental degradation and destruction caused under capitalism. The needs of the Canadian and the global environment will be respected, and development strategies will be selected in such a way as to minimize the exhaustion of resources. Production can be planned to meet the needs of our people without the profit-driven promotion of over-consumption that accompanies mass poverty in the world today. A socialist economy will create the conditions necessary to fully implement the prudent and efficient use of natural resources and a planned management of the environment, but vigilance and scrutiny must be ongoing.

By removing the heavy toll exacted by the capitalist class in the form of profit, rent and interest, and parasitic speculation, and by eliminating the tremendous waste caused by military production and wars, economic crises, overproduction, planned obsolescence of consumer goods, unemployment, cut-throat rivalry, and competitive advertising, the socialist state will place at the disposal of society huge amounts of previously wasted resources.

Under socialism, the creation of social wealth has only one objective – to further the interests of the people, by raising living standards, improving and extending social services and unleashing the cultural forces now stifled by corporate domination.

Security and Freedom

Once socialism is established, it will guarantee the right to a job to every Canadian by law. Wages will be paid according to the quantity and quality of work and level of skill performed.

Since industry will be owned by the working people, the bourgeoisie will disappear as a class; consequently, the conditions will be created for ending the conflict between labour and capital. New social relations, socialist in character, will come into being in which the interests of the workers, engineers, scientists and managers will be harmonized.

Side by side with the operation of a revolutionary people’s state, Canadian democracy will increasingly rest on non-governmental institutions of the people. Under socialism trade unions will not only have the rights which they need to function in a capitalist economy – to organize freely, to negotiate, and to strike – but they will participate in the processes of government, and take an active part in the management of the production process and planning bodies at the workplace, regional, provincial and Canada-wide levels. Labour rights will be constitutionally guaranteed. Trade unions will conclude collective agreements with socialist industry, progressively raising wages, shortening hours and improving working conditions. They will have the power, backed up by the courts, to enforce health and safety laws, to administer social and health insurance and to supervise measures for the mental and physical health of workers.

Farmers will be guaranteed security of tenure on the land they cultivate by law and will be relieved of the burden of debt imposed by the finance and industrial monopolies. Farmers’ marketing co-operatives will be a medium of trade between town and country. Where economies of scale can be achieved by combining smaller farms into production co-operatives, the socialist state, through affordable loans and other means, will facilitate this process for interested farmers.

The socialist state will promote the development of science and technology, of accessible and inclusive programs for amateur sports and physical exercise, and a democratic people’s culture. State support will stimulate the creative process and build the conditions for a flourishing of the arts. Freedom of artistic expression will be constitutionally guaranteed

The material conditions for totally overcoming the various forms of gender oppression will be provided under socialism. It will be important for socialist society to value fully all women’s social and economic contributions, to ensure gender equality in both paid and unpaid work, and to make gender equality permeate all aspects of life. Socialist society will eradicate poverty. The care of children, the sick and the elderly must no longer fall to women but to all adults, with high-quality childcare available to all workers. Gender equality also means zero tolerance for violence against women, Trans and non-binary people in any form. A strong commitment to solidarity between men and women is involved in bringing about and maintaining a socialist Canada. Eradicating gender inequality will be crucial for putting capitalism altogether behind us and advancing to a higher stage of society.

A socialist society will protect the rights of children and young people. Educational opportunities will be available to all in a fully democratized and free public educational system, at all levels. Tuition and learning materials will be free, and students at post-secondary institutions will be given living allowances. Employment training for youth will be provided.

The great burden of insecurity will be lifted from the people. Full social services will be provided. Access to quality health care will be guaranteed. High quality childcare and assistance for child rearing will be provided. Senior citizens will have access to a full range of social services. No one will go hungry or homeless in a socialist Canada. Family law will remove the patriarchal concept of privilege for the heterosexual nuclear family, and instead fully recognize the variety of family forms and sexual orientations.

Socialism creates the conditions for the fundamental and fully democratic solution of the national question. The constitution of a socialist Canada, firmly based on the principle of the right of nations to self-determination, will guarantee the voluntary union of free and equal nations. The essential rights of national minorities and ethnic groups will be constitutionally guaranteed.

A socialist Canada will have to correct the historic and ongoing injustices which the Indigenous peoples have experienced, while providing all-round assistance to the furtherance of their national rights and aspirations. Indigenous people will achieve full and complete equality in all aspects of life, as all vestiges of racism and discrimination are rooted out. Co-operative and public ownership can make it possible for Indigenous communities to do away with class exploitation. Economic and other forms of assistance will be necessary so that Indigenous peoples can protect and develop their languages, cultures and values. Indigenous rights will be spelled out expressly in the socialist constitution.

Collective rights will be protected and advanced in such a way as to secure also the essential individual rights of Canadians. Above all, the right of democratic decision-making and the right of lawful dissent must be protected.

The Constitution will declare that all power derives from the people and is exercised at all levels of government through their elected representatives. The right of recall of representatives by their electors, the right of access to information, and the right of petition and criticism of government or any branch of it must prevail. Through the elected organs of government and through trade union, factory committee, farm, community and professional organizations, the masses of the people will take part in the administration of Canada in a new and more democratic way than at any time in the past. A people’s army and a popular militia will be formed to preserve socialist law and order and to assure the defence of Canada.

Canada’s relations with all other countries will be governed by principles of equality, peace, friendship, open diplomacy, cultural and scientific exchange and trade on mutually advantageous terms.

It will be illegal to practice or advocate mistreatment or discrimination on the basis of national, ethnic or Indigenous origin, gender, racialization, age, disability, sexual orientation, or religion.

Socialism will create new social and economic relations of equality. The exploitation of one class of people by another will be abolished – the essential condition for building a new society in which human rights are ensured.

Socialism will not only alter the basic institutions of society in a radical way,; it will create the conditions for the free and unfettered development of humanity as a whole. Building upon the human capacity for practical intelligence and caring solidarity, which people have always shown themselves able to display in some measure, even under the most adverse conditions, socialism will in time change the whole tone of people’s day-to-day relations with one another. People will start to take increasingly direct charge over their affairs collectively. Labour itself will become, in Marx’s words, “not only a means of life, but life’s prime want.” People will tend to become less socially passive and competitive, and more critical-minded and co-operative.

A new people will emerge in time, free from bigotry and prejudice, reared in a humane and friendly atmosphere. Creative labour for the good of society and the individual will be characteristic of the citizens of a Canadian socialist commonwealth. They will bring into being the communist society humanity has dreamed of for centuries – a classless society founded on an abundance of material and spiritual wealth in which the state will wither away and people will each contribute according to their abilities and receive according to their needs.

Next Chapter: The Communist Party

Previous Chapter: For a people’s Government