What Are the Odds?
If we Canadians, following the programme advocated by many, but most clearly by the Canadian Liberation Movement, seized the foreign-owned industries in our territory – and if the principal foreign owner, the American Empire, launched military operations against us; What are the odds? Would we win?
Simple arithmetic (say 200 million against 20 million – for the purpose of the argument counting Quebec as part, or most likely, an ally of Canada) give no reliable guide. History is replete with victories won by small nations over much larger ones: Greece vs. Persia; Macedonia vs. Persia; Greece vs. Italy; Albania vs. Germany. Politico-military factors, not just arithmetic, decide wars. Von Clauswitz, the acknowledged bourgeois authority on war, was as clear on this as is Mao Tse-Tung.
CANADIAN MILITARY PROWESS
First, one must consider that it is Canada, not so much the U.S., which is famed as the homeland of fierce and expert fighters. Twice this century, Canada has become involved in major wars. Even though the motives of Canadian soldiers were confused (more so in the First than the Second), they accomplished remarkable feats.
Perhaps the most remarkable in the First World War was the Canadian performance in the air. Of the ten top ‘British’ aces, four were Canadian. Billy Bishop made such a mark that I doubt the ‘second rate Canadian’ propaganda has succeeded in erasing it from the minds of most readers. His official record is smaller than the Red Baron’s but he may actually have shot down more planes. Most of his fights were over enemy territory and many of his victories not confirmed.
Von Richtofen himself fell victim to another Canadian. The victor’s name was Brown, he was a captain, he ended up being barely an ace, but the Red Baron was among his first kills, if not his first. That’s all I know.
He should be a Canadian legend as much as
There should be a Canadian book about Richtofen
called APPOINTMENT WITH BROWN.
Brown committed the fearful offense of putting
To the career of a famous killer or hero of Imperialism. For that he has been consigned to limbo. How many Von Richtofens did Eddie Rickenbaker shoot down? Still, the Yankee flier is more famous than either Bishop or Brown.
It’s not generally known that the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge was a turning point, not only in the history of Canada, but of warfare. Here it was proved that a defense line which couldn’t be outflanked and was not surrounded, could be taken by direct assault, although manned by soldiers who had previously been considered the world’s most expert and steadiest.
Essentially, victory was won on the first day of all-out infantry and artillery assault against overwhelming German airpower. Canadian courage, Canadian dash played their role.
The main Canadian assault swept ahead as accurately as a railroad timetable. No wonder, the troops knew the plan to the last detail. Indeed, the whole army had been involved in drawing up and perfecting the plan.
A few months later, our recent ancestors – many still live to tell of it – concluded the horrible Battle of Passchendaele by actually winning some sort of victory after the British army had been virtually destroyed. There is only one word to say about that Canadian capture of Passchendaele Ridge – impossible. But history inalterably records … it happened. History and veterans are reticent about just how it was done. The world wants to forget the ultimate waking nightmare of Paschendale … But the time has not yet come when Canadians can afford to forget.
When the Canadian Corps reached the top of Vimy Ridge, their conduct amazed German witnesses; those who escaped and those who remained as prisoners. The ferocity and vengefulness of Canadian soldiers is largely legend. What struck captured Germans was Canadian chivalry. The first question to many prisoners was: “Are you wounded?”. The second: “Are you hungry?”
There was little cheering; the army simply stopped, milled around, and admired the fantastic view. This writer, who saw little action in the last war, nevertheless, was a witness and participant in another such incident, when Canadian soldiers aboard ship under torpedo attack, since they could do nothing, just stood on the decks and enjoyed the spectacle. Veterans of that war attribute the unquenchable Canadian morale to the morbid Canadian humour, a Chinese-like ability to see the funny side in everything. This is only one aspect of the Canadian capacity for forgetting oneself, even in the most desperate circumstances.
Like the players of Team Canada, in the midst of a close-played hockey game, with the prestige of the country at stake, forgetting the contest, rallying like a band of red guards.
Our People have amazing qualities.
Well – so have any People. But there’s no harm in us concentrating on the particular positive qualities we do possess.
Like Newfoundlanders enjoying a secret joke, Canadian World War I veterans saw to it that war monuments in Canada were inscribed ‘1914-1919’. The nineteen-nineteen part refers not to the Treaty of Versailles, but to the fact that the last battles of the Canadian Expeditionary Force were fought not in France or Germany but in England: where the Canadians were held, kicking their heels, while efforts were made to recruit them for service against the Bolsheviks. Our men responded with a series of ‘riots’, so called, in which some were killed and some took wounds. A few survivors still actually draw pensions.
This is celebrated in an otherwise incomprehensible verse from Mademoiselle from Armentieres:
The little red train ran down the track
The little red train ran down the track
The little red train ran down the track
She hit the station a hell of a whack!
Parley-vous indeed! It means, “Are you on my wavelength?” “Do you understand?”!
All this we did despite the fact that Anglo-Canadian politicians seemed to be doing their very best to bring the war to Canada, to make it a civil war between the Québécois (then preposterouly called ‘the French’) and English Canadians. The Conscription Crisis was a colonial artifact … and as a matter of fact, resistance to conscription was as strong in British Columbia as in Quebec.
Had Canadians and Québécois started fighting each other in Canada (they did to some extent) they’d have likely fought each other in France too. Québécois might have played their part in the mutiny which overtook the French Army, probably making it a different kettle of fish. Québécois are not the worst, but probably the best fighters in the Canadian Army. Couldn’t the Anglo politicos be content with that?
They were less concerned with winning the war than with fastening their yoke tighter on Quebec. History is full of might-have-beens.
In the Second World War, at least to official historians (who don’t want Canadians to realize their capacities, being colonial compradors), the Canadian contribution was less spectacular. Apparently because a legend had grown up around the Canadians…
The rule was: “If a job looks impossible, send the Canadians. If they can’t do it we know it’s impossible.” There was the case of the Scheldt Estuary, which the Germans had flooded. The Canucks had to wade from island to island, practically without cover, capturing them one by one, advancing along the dikes, eyeball to eyeball with the Nazi parachutists, fanatical youths, thoroughly indoctrinated with Nazi racial theory. And the Canadians won the battle.
How many know that the Battle Of The Atlantic was 50 per cent a Canadian Battle? Except for the sailors concerned, we didn’t know that even while the fight was on! The record of the RCAF in fighter combat is even more obscure; perhaps because our men were delegated to flying Hurricanes, probably the worst fighter plane for its time of all time –
Canadian fighter pilots who made their mark mostly flew in the RAF, with Spitfires – another bad plane, as were all European planes of that day, but good enough to combat the preposterous Messerschmidt – which German fliers sarcastically called ‘the flying brick’.
It had difficulty taking off, difficulty landing, and had an extremely short flying and fighting time. A good combat plane in all respects except one. It couldn’t fly.
Against these Messerschmidts, flying the only slightly better Spitfire, Buzz Beurling, of Verdun, Quebec, scored 21 victories. Sometimes, during the Battle of Malta, Beurling’s plane was the only ‘British’ craft in the air. The Germans feared him. The Imperial British hated him. Called him ‘Screwball’; indeed the first word of his exploits to reach Canada were stories of a ‘Captain Skruball’. He died mysteriously in a light-plane crash soon after the war.
Tales of other Canadian aces in the RAF are recounted only in family histories. One of these aces is said to have been shot down by the British!
The main exploits of the RCAF in World War Two were those of the pathfinder squadrons; bombers who flew ahead of the main bunch and marked the target. This terror bombing accomplished little more than to make the Germans mad – unite them behind the Nazis. Still it called for skilled and courageous flying and shouldn’t be forgotten.
Canadian troops were used as cannon fodder in Normandy. Absolute insanity you say? Using shock troops for cannon fodder? Not so insane when looked at from the point of view of the Imperialists in command in the west. They had to think not only of winning the war but of winning the peace, and our men were notorious for their fanatical anti-Fascism.
Anti-Fascism? In the war between the wars, the war most unambiguously anti-fascist, the Defense of the Spanish Republic, Canadians contributed, on a per capita basis, the second largest contingent. Fighting against incredible odds, in a makeshift army using mostly makeshift weapons, we performed as well as anybody could expect.
In the only successful Loyalist offensive (cancelled out by a massive counterattack against Teruel), the Mac-Pap Battalion was among the first units to enter the city. In the retreats, the Mac-Paps succeeded in holding together, continuing to fight as a unit. That was rare.
Incidentally these Canadians, the first of our nation to oppose Fascism in battle, to this day get no pensions from the Canadian government. Neither are they entitled to treatment in veterans’ hospitals. The Imperial dinosaur never forgets. It may do its damnedest to make you forget – but it forgets nothing, forgives no deed of justice.
In both World Wars, Canadian civilian effort was outstanding. Though in the Second it was hampered at first by a virtual strike of the bourgeoisie, who demanded and got greater profits. This is why there was still unemployment in Canada a year and more after the Second World War started.
I have laboured a point which seems minor perhaps too long. The fact is, any people on Earth, fighting a just cause, using correct ideology, (these days, Mao Tse-Tung Thought – somewhat contributed to by Norman Bethune – a Canadian), can accomplish military feats which astound the world. The example of Vietnam is always before us.
But the grip of U.S. Imperialism on Canada is ideological, is cultural, economic, every damned thing you want to think of.
The Imperialist legend is that all men are equal – except Canadians. Canadians are inferior!
I’m putting it this way because that’s the way the liberal puts it. American Fascism doesn’t take much hold on the Canadian mind. American liberalism does. Both sides of the border, small-‘l’ or big-‘L’, American and Canadian Liberalism are the same. Liberalism is a tool of Capitalists, Bureaucrats and Imperialists against the minds of subject and exploited peoples. Liberalism says first that Canadians are inferior. Then: “So we’re inferior! So what! After all there are certain values which go along with inferiority!” You’d think they were talking of a primitive people.
History is leading to a Workers’ Earth, and finally a classless society – true – but fought for through the Revolutions and Peoples Wars which are national. No lesson of history has been more profoundly impressed than this.
I’m talking of such a possible war, and must get back to the question of Canadian prowess in the bloody game. Bloody as the knife in Bethune’s fingers…
The history of Canada has been a history of rebellions. Several are mentioned in Canadian history books, are played down and made to look like comic opera. Yet it might be argued that our history, since at least 1837, has been one of continuing Revolution, as yet incomplete, flaring here, flaring there, but always isolated or suppressed locally before it has a chance to become general.
The struggle in Ontario in 1837-39 was actually a very bloody one, considering the small population.
The Land Struggle in Prince Edward Island went on for over a hundred years. It was remarkable for its comparative lack of bloodshed, not because the Island farmers lacked militancy, but because they took care to arm themselves with muskets, a military weapon, rather than rely on the slow-loading rifles and shotguns of that day. Immediately after their victory, the Islanders were tricked and sold into Confederation (not the founding of our nation, but the ultimate sellout into Imperialism).
It has taken another century for Islanders to reconcile themselves to the fact that they are Canadians. Faced with a renewed Land Struggle, they are only recovering their legendary militancy today.
The latest rebellion was in this century. The fierce strikes which swept Canada in the 1920’s and 30’s reached their apogee on Cape Breton Island. Reading about the struggle, listening to reminiscences, legends still repeated all over the Atlantic provinces, one is forced to say: “That wasn’t just a strike. It was Revolutionary War.”
In one of the most treacherous turncoat deals in Canadian History (that’s saying a lot), it was sold out by the Communist Party of Canada which turned the Steel and Mine Unions – avowedly Red Unions – over to John L. Lewis and other U.S.A. bureaucrats.
Not only Cape Breton was betrayed. All Canada was betrayed, since other strikes going on at the same time were also very savage. There was a widespread tendency for the petit-bourgeois to take the side of the workers, the very opposite to what was happening in the U.S. The mood of the Canadian proletariat was definitely pre-revolutionary and revolution often has not only a polarizing power but also a pulling power.
In these conflicts, both Patriots and ‘loyalists’ acquired a military instinct which has become part of Canadian culture and psychology. Such things are not abolished in two decades of negativating propaganda. Imperialism is simply incapable of changing the character of a people that fast. All Canadians have to do to recover it is realize it’s there.
The first attempt of the United States to become an imperialist power was stopped in its tracks by the supposedly inefficient Canadian yokels. In the War of 1812-14, the American armed forces alone outnumbered the whole Canadian nation. The British had little do with our successful defense. They were fully occuped with Napoleon in Europe. It seems the French Imperialists and the would-be American ones had worked out a divvy-up-the-world scheme: the American attack on Canada and Napoleon’s invasion of Russia came simultaneously.
Napoleon’s invasion of Russia established one of the primary rules of war in the present age: DON’T MARCH ON MOSCOW. It has gone unnoticed that the simultaneous American adventure established an equally valid rule: DON’T INVADE CANADA. The war of 1812-14 is not the only Yankee military incursion into Canada, only the most spectacular and determined one.
The politico-military factors which made for the astounding David vs. Goliath victory could operate for us today. Scratching out the British, Canada did have two important allies. One was the Indian Peoples, at that time making, under Tecumseh, their second attempt to recreate themselves as a nation. The other was the American Anti-Imperialist Movement.
Throughout America’s history, her people as a whole have never been sympathetic, or at least really committed, to their bourgeois masters’ Imperial ambitions. Practically all America’s major wars have had to be represented as anti-imperialist. The Spanish-American War, the First and Second World Wars… When a rival Imperial Power doesn’t exist, one has to be invented; Russia in the 1950’s (Korean War); China at least until recently.
The best illustration of how our three factors: Canadian military prowess, the Indian Alliance, and American anti-Imperialism worked together to win a Canadian victory in 1812-14, is the Battle of Queenston Heights.
The Imperialist army went into battle already seriously weakened in numbers, yet still more numerous than its opponents. The New York Militia had been called up ‘to defend the United States’. Crossing the Niagara, invading Canada, to them, did not come under that category. They stayed on the other side, their only role that of spectator.
Nevertheless, the Imperialists did manage to get sufficient forces across the river to attack the Canadian line. The Canadian line held.
Then the Mississauga Indians infiltrated the woods alongside the battlefields, climbed trees and began firing down on the bedeviled Yanks. Brock, a Canadian who had transferred his family and property to Canada, although already mortally wounded, ordered an advance. Then the Mississaugas came out of the woods, turned the retreat into a rout, killed many Americans and captured most of the rest. That particular Imperialist army ceased to exist as a fighting force.
Later in the war the Imperialists invaded Canada in overwhelming numbers – so overwhelming they defeated their purpose. They couldn’t supply themselves and had to live off the land, loot, murder, and burn the houses of resisting civilians. Much of the Canadian population of the time was of recent American origin and not United Empire Loyalists either. Largely they had come to get away from the social chaos existing in the super-capitalist United States…
The war became a Peoples War, and from then on the American cause was hopeless.
PROSPECTS: THE INDIAN ALLIANCE
Canada owes its very existence to the Indian People. Unfortunately for the Indians – and almost everybody else – Canada is a bourgeois country, a colony in fact. Gratitude plays no part in bourgeois relationships.
The Indian Alliance was deliberately broken by the Canadian Comprador government as soon as the fur trade ceased to be of major importance. First, in the Red River Aggression against the Metis People. Then by a deliberate breaking up of all Indian governmental structures.
The Indian Alliance was smashed and it was done very cleverly, using the pretence that it was still valid. All this was completely unnecessary. The Indian People were quite ready to change their ways. In fact, the Plains Indian Culture was not ancient but modern, of more recent origin than Capitalism.
The appalling poverty in which more than half of Canada’s Indians live has been so detailed it requires no comment here. The very way this poverty is stressed by know-nothing Liberals (including Indian ones) is racist. It gives the impression that Indians as a people cannot cope with modern conditions.
Most white people can’t really cope with modern conditions: this is a society planned, not for the people, but for the bourgeois. The fact is that, in spite of all the impositions laid upon them, many Indians do as well as can be expected. Many work as cowboys, long distance truck drivers, high steel workers – any job in which the boss is far away. They object to the extreme modern type of proletarian work-discipline, and in some of their own enterprises have shown it to be useless and unnecessary.
While our compradors have lost us the Indian Alliance, Canadian patriots can get it back. It can be done because it must be done.
It is ridiculous to say most of Canada is uninhabited. Most of Canada is inhabited by Indians.
The Ecology Movement must be treated as a vital part of the Anti-Imperialist struggle in Canada. To the Indian, especially the woods Indian, so vital to the continuation of Indian culture and identity, Ecology is a matter of life or death.
American tourists swarm over the north woods, shooting moose and deer. As bad as going into a farmer’s pasture and slaughtering his cows. For a price, they can obtain the same ‘aboriginal rights’ for which Indians have to fight continuously.
All the schemes – the co-ordinated North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA) to turn the North into a reservoir for hydro-electric power and the export of water to satisfy the diabetic thirst of the American industrial colossus – mean absolute ruin to the Indians. There is not as much water as you would think, looking at a map. The many lakes and rivers that leak over the land are the result, not of plentiful water, but low evaporation and poor drainage. Think of the fire warnings and colossal fires every spring and summer. In fact, total precipitation in the North is very low. Lower than many deserts. At the height of summer, much of the tundra does become a desert. Canadian water is probably not a renewable resource at all. Like oil it could simply be drained away – and when it’s gone it’ll be gone.
NAWAPA (the James Bay scheme is only a part) would flood the beaver ponds. There goes the Indians’ money. Moose and deer feed largely on water plants in the beaver ponds. There goes the Indians’ food. In fact, in parts of the North, the Canadian Liberation struggle has already begun.
It is absolutely necessary that Canadian Patriots assign forces to work with the Indians, co-operating with them in this struggle. White leadership is probably out of the question, as Indians have good and understandable reasons to reject any sort of White leadership. The White and Indian struggles could be parallel, or Indians could be the leaders…
Effective co-operation with the Indian People depends in its turn on the enlistment of the Working Class…which is Canada’s most patriotic class but as yet does not know where to turn. It has to be sure the Canadian Liberation struggle is primarily for its benefit – and for the benefit of all working people, including Indians.
It is the Indian’s task to arouse themselves, and knowing what they do about the Yanks, knowing it better than we do, they may rouse themselves much quicker than you think. The case of the Indians doesn’t correspond to the case of the Montagnards in Vietnam. Those Montagnards were a primitive people. The Indians are a modern people, using every tool and technique appropriate to their lives and their pocket books.
PROSPECTS: THE U.S. ANTI-IMPERIALSITS
The fact that a very significant part of the American people are anti-imperialists has not seemed to have worked so well in the Vietnam War. It is Vietnamese victories and not the American anti-imperialist movement which are bringing the end of the war into sight.
The movement was co-opted by middle class elements who persisted in making it an anti-war rather than an anti-imperialist struggle. The stubborn facts are that war can be combatted only with war – plus other methods equally militant.
Still the Black Panthers and some other groups have courageously condemned Imperialism, called for its overthrow, called for victory for all assaulted peoples of the world. When we think of possible war between the U.S. and Canada, a War of National Liberation, we mustn’t be isolationist; mustn’t forget that Yanks as well as Canucks are capable of thinking and analyzing previous mistakes.
Unlike the movement against the Vietnam War, which took years to gather steam, an Anti-Imperialist Movement inspired in the U.S. by a war against Canada could spring up in weeks. It would spring up as soon as Canadians showed themselves able and willing to defend themselves.
The most serious weakness of the ‘Anti-War’ Movement in the States was and is its failure to penetrate in any serious way into the proletariat. Here we’ve got to remember that many Americans are of Canadian birth or recent origin, and a rather large proportion of these are proletarians. Others have close family connections with people in Canada.
CANADIAN LIBERATION IS THE KEY
We stand a chance, a chance amounting to a certainty. The strategic and tactical problems of such a war would be immense – but not insurmountable. A people armed with a modern Marxist-Leninist ideology is invincible in a defensive war.
That problem requires an article at least as long as this, and need not be written by me. It is being discussed and taken seriously by more and more Canadians all the time.
I’m not guaranteeing the war would be short. I’m not predicting it’d be long. It could possibly be a series of short wars punctuated by and ended by revolutionary uprisings in the Heartland of Imperialism.
Patriotic Canadians must resolve to liberate themselves. Every nation has not only a right by a duty to be free. We are the principal colony of the American Empire and the key one. By consenting to be slaves, we injure every people struggling to be free. Deprived of its ownership of Canada, the principal Imperialist Power could never survive.
Acorn, Milton. “What Are the Odds?” More Poems for People. Toronto: NC, 1972. 90-102.
Reprinted with permission from the literary estate of Milton Acorn.