Year of refusal: crisis and ideology in the Communist Party of Canada, 1956-7

Twentieth Century Communism - ISSN 1758-6437
Volume 2021 Number 21

Year of refusal: crisis and ideology in the Communist Party of Canada, 1956-7
Mack Penner pages 55-89


Just as they did for other communist parties around the world, events in 1956 brought a crisis to the Communist Party of Canada (CPC). Khrushchev’s Secret Speech and the Soviet invasion of Hungary produced a reckoning with what exactly it meant to be a communist and a marxist-leninist. In Canada, this reckoning would lead to a mass exit of party members and to a precipitous decline in the general fortunes of the party after 1956. In existing histories, this crisis has been presented as though it played out in quite strictly bipolar fashion as a conflict between a growing minority of independent marxists on the one hand and, on the other, a larger group of party leaders and their supporters who remained committed to a Soviet-aligned marxist-leninist politics in Canada. In fact, the ideology of the crisis was more complex. Ideological reactions to 1956 could range, at least, across stalinist, liberal, marxist-leninist, or independent-marxist iterations. Taking 1956 to constitute a year of refusal in the CPC, this essay follows the trajectories of these ideologically distinct ‘modes of refusal’ and suggests an alternative history.

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To cite this article
Mack Penner (2021) Year of refusal: crisis and ideology in the Communist Party of Canada, 1956-7, Twentieth Century Communism, 2021(21), 55-89

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