Sifting Through the Past: Study Questions for Investigating Past Party-Building Experiences in Canada

To accompany the reading list we have developed under the heading History of Party Building & Communist Regroupment in Canada in the Study Guides section of our website, here are some preliminary questions for study groups to guide their reading of (some of) the materials compiled.  Feel free to supplement with more. Questions to follow for these and later materials appearing in the Study Guide.

Questions for Merrily Weisgold’s The Strangest Dream and Fergus McKean’s Communism or Opportunism.

  • What are some examples of the campaigns and initiatives of the CPC throughout the 1930s that indicated the work of a genuinely revolutionary (despite its limitations) party?
  • When and in what ways did the CPC’s class composition begin to shift from a mostly proletarian organization to a more petty-bourgeois one? To what extent was this a result of shifting historical objective conditions? To what extent was this a consequence of the Party’s lack of representation of all oppressed and exploited peoples in Canada? Did the CPC represent all sections of the proletariat?  If not, how do you think its shifting class composition come to bear on its ideological orientation?
  • Weisgold traces the history of the CPC from a powerful and revolutionary force in Canada in the 1930s into an undemocratic, dogmatic, inward-looking organization by the 1950s that stemmed from the Party’s ties to the Soviet Union.  Does blaming Stalin, the Comintern, or the Soviet Union help explain how communist leaders in Canada made the strategic shifts they made from the late 1930s onwards? How does McKean’s explanation of revisionism differ from Weisgold?
  • How would the CPC’s view of fascism changed if they were actively organizing Indigenous people in Canada over the course of their existence? How may have the participation of Indigenous nations in the ranks of the CPC made things different throughout the different periods of the party’s growth?
  • What was the Party’s policy during the Second World War? How did it analyze the war and how did that analysis shift with the invasion of the Soviet Union by the Nazis? What was the CPC’s analysis of the world situation and what did they expect after the war? How did these policies reflect an organization that was already revisionist?
  • Why did the Party abandon Fred Rose during the Spy Trials? How did this reflect opportunism? How could have the Party have positioned itself otherwise during these opening years of the Cold War?
  • What were the objective conditions of Canada after World War II? How could the CPC have reoriented itself in this period to prepare for the difficult decade to follow?  What is repression that undermined the work of the CPC in the 1950s?  Why had the masses become more hostile to their work in the 1950s than in the 1930s?

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