Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Progressive Workers’ Movement

Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line
The Progressive Workers’ Movement (PWM) was formed in 1964 as a split from the Communist Party of Canada by members who supported China’s position against the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

PWM was led by Jack Scott, a CP member since the 1930s and a BC/NWT labour organizer. Scott and other PWM members created the Canada-China Friendship Association–the first China friendship society in North America or Europe. Scott is the only Canadian anti-revisionist to have met Chairman Mao zedong.

Although, PWM had a few members in Toronto, the bulk of its membership was in Vancouver where it carried out most of its activities and published its monthly magazine Progressive Worker. In the 1965 federal election, the PWM ran a candidate in the Vancouver East riding and got 275 votes. Other PWM members were active in the Vancouver District Labour Council.

The PWM held that the Canadian economy was dominated by U.S. imperialism and that the struggle of the working class should be directed at breaking the domination of the United States over the Canadian economy. In keeping with this position, a key PWM activity was promoting independent Canadian unions against the international unions in the Canadian Labour Congress. The PWM also held the position that Quebec, being a separate nation, would develop its own struggle for socialism and took a “hands-off” attitude towards recruiting members in Quebec.
The PWM dissolved in 1970. Some members went on to form a short-lived, progressive community newspaper named New Leaf. Scott and other members went on to form the Vancouver Study Group which later became the Red Star Collective (RSC). The RSC was active the Vancouver area during the 1970s and continued to hold the position that Canada was a neo-colony of the U.S. This brought it into conflict with the newer Marxist-Leninist groups which held that Canada was fully developed capitalist economy that had reached the stage of imperialism.

Initially RSC willingly debated with these groups and participated in three National Conferences of Marxist-Leninists organized by In Struggle!. However, relations became strained as polemics became more intense and in 1978, the RSC announced that it was boycotting the fourth National Conference of Marxist-Leninists. The RSC also supported the “Theory of Three Worlds” and the new Chinese leadership that took control after Mao’s death. Scott, however, denounced the Chinese Communist Party during the 1980s as it became more reactionary.

During the 1970s, Scott was the author of a number of books on Canadian labour history. He died at age 90 in 2000.

Background Materials

Speech at the 1976 National Conference on the Unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists [On the Progressive Workers Movement and its Origins] by Jack Scott

Jack Scott: A Revolutionary Life by Bryan Palmer ((with notes from Al Birnie and Ralph Stanton)

Jack Scott Memorial (a video in two parts first broadcast on January 19, 2001)


  1. PW did not have a hands-off position on Quebec. I formed an anglophone PW group there in the 60s as well as a francophone group later. PW took a Leninist position of the right to national selfdetermination which does not mean one advocates splitting the working class in favor of a national bourgeousie which will continue exploitation and repression. Only a Socialist society can achieve that. But it does support the right of self-determination, especially in a case where it could lead to a socialist revolution.

    Jack was an old IRA activist,before he came to Canada, but he saw that independence didn't mean freedom for the working class. "Workers of the world, Unite" meant much to him and he was always a Marxist internationalist.

  2. The eagle and the leaf cover publication was 6 mo. coming after the monthly PW ceased publication. For a while they also put out the BC Newsletter but the disaffection of the Toronto Branch which had been taken over by a former member of the PL central committee and a general exhaustion and demoralization took hold, just as the Montreal and Toronto centers were heating up. The dissolution was a mistake and error after error followed. Of the triumverate of old CPers, Jack Scott, John and Beth Wood, only Jack and Beth remained, and the branch membership had dwindled. The structure was there but the leaders took a localized view. PL under the name of CPL took over the non-BC remnants, the Montreal branch was dismembered, leaving a few individuals who weren't moved to Toronto and a francophone cell which was perhaps more interested in their own aggrandissement. The London and Sudbury branch's were also killed by Phil Taylor the former PL CC member, in his drive to centralise and the Toronto CPL center didn't last much longer. Almost like a successfull CIA operation carried out to completion.