Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Canada
Preface to the fifth edition (1920)

(Note: As J. Milne records in his History of the Socialist Party of Canada elsewhere on this site, the SPC of the time was “strongly sympathetic to the revolution in Russia”. Although they had a sound enough grasp of Marxian theory to realize that the establishment of socialism was out of the question in Russia, and although they did not accept that Bolshevik tactics were appropriate to conditions in Canada, they were nevertheless prepared to regard the coming to power of the Bolsheviks in November 1917 as a workers’ revolution that had put political power into the hands of the working class of Russia. This was not the position taken by those who reconstituted the SPC in 1931, nor of all the members of the SPC of the time, but, in the interest of historical accuracy and honesty, we reproduce below the preface to the 5th edition of the Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Canada in 1920 as it was written and published.)

This pamphlet has been in the hands of the working class for ten years. Over 20,000 copies have been sold, and as the demand continues unabated, we are venturing another edition.

We have had criticisms from all parts of the English speaking world, and have, after much discussion, revised some theoretical errors and obscurities. It has been our care in making these corrections not to interfere with the work as a whole, preferring to leave it, as far as possible, just as the author, who is dead, wrote it.

The Preface to the Fourth Edition draws attention to the Great War, and was written shortly after the world went mad, like the dog in the poem, for spite. The real causes of the war were set down, causes which very few to-day care to deny. We took the stand then that the war was not regrettable, and the grounds that “forward it must carry us to the Social revolution”. And we set down this principle, that the outbreak of peace would be as “cataclysmic as the outbreak of war”. There are other forecasts we could claim credit for, but let these suffice.

That we have been carried forward toward the Social Revolution requires no proof. The Russian Revolution has been carried through and the working class of Russia are masters of that country. They have retained mastery after almost three years of warfare against both the victors and the vanquished of the Great War. They have overthrown the national autocracy which was suited to early capitalism, have conquered the seat of power from the capitalists, have put down a dozen counter-revolutions of formidable character, which were strongly supported by foreign powers, have driven several foreign armies from their territories, and have, isolated from the civilized world, evolved an economy which has fed and clothed, and armed the men who accomplished this amazing feat.

It is a working class achievement and harbinger of the accomplishment possible when the workers take control of life.

It is fortunate that Russia was the first to revolt. We can conceive of no other country so admirably situated which could have withstood the rain of fire and brimstone showered down by the outraged God of Capitalism. Its geographical position prevented the capitalist world from bringing all its tremendous resources to bear, and its wealth of natural resources neutralized the Allied blockade. If they have sinned against the Holy Ghost in revolting before the evolutionary alarm clock called them, we freely forgive them, and humbly hope that those who await the appointed hour, will bear themselves as valiantly.

Other revolts which followed the war were for the time being crushed. The reports from Hungary show to what lengths a master class will go in avenging itself upon an unsuccessful working class revolt. That the Hungarian revolt was premature, in so far as the suffering entailed by Hungarian workers is concerned, we will concede, but social development is not concerned with human suffering, or human happiness. We have all seen, if we have no all been seized with it, the madness that causes a man to strike blindly at some inanimate object, which in some innocent manner causes him injury. And, in just such manner do revolutions occur, not from any premeditated design, but from the inherent consequences of a particular social condition. While we confess the difficulty, nay, the well nigh impossibility, of organizing a revolution, we can at least try to understand one when it occurs, and we can furthermore realize the inevitability of a social change in a world where social changes have been constantly occurring since the dawn of civilization and the advent of slavery.

It is for the purpose of furthering an understanding of this social phenomenon, inherent in a system where man is enslaved by man, where in the midst of plenty, the powerful many are starved and sweated by the feeble few, that this Manifesto is issued.

A thorough understanding can only come by study of the actual conditions which confront mankind. We do not pretend to reveal the secret in these pages. All we hope to attain by inducing the members of our class to read this book is, to call their attention to the fact that a thorough investigation has been made of society, and the results are available to almost any one who will devote some time and a little cash to that end.

The Great War has torn down, with that careless and aimless ruthlessness manifest in natural forces, many barriers to social progress. It has, just as the Crusade did for the rising capitalist class, thrust the working class into positions of power which they cannot help but enlarge. It has, just as the Crusade did to the feudal barons, torn from the hands of the capitalists many of their most powerful weapons. It has further, just as the Crusade, did, disrupted the economic machinery of the ruling class. It has in short, carried us forward to the Social Revolution.

This is so apparent, and the murmurings are so frequent – thunderings would be a more appropriate word, but we admire the soft pedal, – which, coupled with the manifest stupidity of the official hirelings of the capitalist class, might precipitate a revolution in half a dozen countries in Europe. Socialist literature abounds with information which discloses the economic motive underlying every move of the recent peace conference, and which also shows the utter impossibility of carrying into effect the proposals of the Versailles Treaty, or the League of Nations. Lloyd George can no more create a nation than he can create the country they are to inhabit; Millerand cannot extract tribute from Germany without injuring France any more than he could cut off his arms and increase his strength. These are facts known to all students of Marxian Socialism, to which this pamphlet is an introduction.