First Published: In Struggle! No. 286, May 4, 1982
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The question has been raised, as others have said... and for some time now!
However, up till now, there have been few exchanges on the matter. We have therefore decided to share our ideas with you in this regard, if only to aid other people in making up their minds...
We are IS! militants from Montreal. For some time now we have been holding discussions together in order to prepare for the Congress. The existing points of view, the kinds of developments which often seem like name-calling, haven’t satisfied us: we wanted to know where we were at, broach the debates based on our questions... That led to formulating resolutions and an agenda which we are presenting today.
...this is our main preoccupation. Already we have met other militants from Montreal, Toronto and Halifax who share our outlook and who have begun similar undertakings. Till now, all congresses, assemblies or conferences were the responsibility of a particular category of members who were also charged with preparing us on what was principal, what was secondary, etc.
For once, and a once that’s particularly important in our history, we wanted to start from our practice to determine what we wanted to break with and on what basis we can continue.
All members must be able to take up this approach collectively, not based on faith in the affirmations of others but based on what we know. And a large majority of members have the political maturity to do it.
1. Adoption of the agenda and procedures – 1/2 day. 2. Debates and adoption of resolutions on our practice 2 1/2 days:
a) intervention in the masses (unions, popular groups, culture, anti-imperialist support work, etc.);
b) the question of women and homosexuals (feminization of the organization, attitude of men in the struggle against women’s oppression. etc.);
c) organization (the kind of organization and the exercise of power within it, democratic centralism, intellectual work versus manual work, the development of theoreticalwork. etc.
3. Final points – 1 day;
– our attitude toward the programme,
– organization and interim elections.
Depending on the outcome of the debates held, if one or some groupings of members have sufficient agreement to continue together, it will be necessary to more precisely define the meaning to give to our practice. The objective of the “2nd part” is to assure ourselves that we have the time to cover the essential questions, without “rushing”... but without any illusions either on the degree of unity we can attain at this moment; after this period of crisis, we must go through a period of maturing before being able to define a very precise political basis.
The 2nd part could thus contain the following points:
New Basis of unity – 1 day
Elements of the conjuncture – 1/2 day
Organizational perspectives – 1 day.
First, we have included subjects where we had a practice and where we are sufficiently able to take decisions collectively. We don’t want theoretical debates and resolutions which are going to go way over our heads and which we are going to have to take up again in 3 years because we didn’t know what we were talking about.
– All members (or nearly all) have had experience intervening in our society, “led by the organization” or not. We have learned a lot of things about the role of our organization, and what it can pretend to do at the present time for the socialist revolution. We have also learned what people around us are fighting for and against, and how they get organized.
– The question of women has taken, over the last period, an enormous place in the life of our organization and in society. Women particularly are involved in this (quite logically so). But we need collective debates and decisions on this subject. Men must also get involved more than they have to date. We are including the question of homosexuals here to the extent that it has developed within the same movement and raises somewhat the same basic elements.
– Organizational questions: who doesn’t have something to say here after what we’ve gone through! We already have some resolutions. One on the kind of organization we no longer want to be (THE VANGUARD in blazen letters); one on democratic centralism; another which criticizes the role and the lopsided weight intellectuals have had in our organization; and still another on the demands placed on militants within our organization...
...and around yours as well! With these resolutions it’s very possible to collectively discuss the lessons from our practice. When we speak of lessons, we mean what we draw from our practice that we are sure of; as much what we don’t want as what we want to work for. We don’t need infamous summations which everyone is familiar with where the principal aspect (positive or negative) is stipulated, the secondary aspects, the conjuncture, our objectives, the shortcomings of our practice, so elaborate that you get lost in the commas.
A committee could review the resolutions and propose ones to the Congress which address subjects which preoccupy the majority; the ones which can best be eventually amended. What a job for the resolutions committee!
The remaining time for final points is necessary in order to decide what to do our programme (suspend it, reject it...)
There are, to our knowledge, two other proposed agendas. One has been supported by the majority of the Central Committee:
– Evaluation of the present programme as a basis of unity;
– Adoption of a point of view on the oppression of women and their liberation;
– Adoption of perspectives concerning the practice and organization of IS! following the Congress.
The other proposal brought to the Central Committee remained a minority one:
– Criticism of the programme and determining a basis of unity for the organization;
– Review of on our practice starting from the summations and their syntheses, and debate on the conjuncture and adoption of an orientation for work in the immediate future;
– Criticism of the constitution and adoption a way of functioning for the organization.
The questions and objections which are raised for us in regards to these two agendas are the folowing:
The two are both wide-reaching and not very precise: they both begin with a discussion not the programme, without providing any guidelines for what subjects to debate, any suggestions for time... Are we going to have time to cover all the subjects in the number of days available? Is it realistic or will it be necessary to drop important questions on the floor of the Congress (eventually even the question of women, our practice). Will it be necessary for the Congress to go to the wee hours of the morning – and what kind of shape we will be in – to cover the agenda?
In relation to what focal points will these discussions take place? Will it be highly theoretical debates – for or against the programme? The floor will belong again, as always, to the same people who are “experienced” in “line” debates, leaving, again, the examination of our practice to one side. Indeed, what has been at the heart of putting the programme in question: the questioning of some or, more correctly, the daily confrontation with this orientation? Why resolve this orientation starting from debates around concepts when everything which has been dynamic has occurred at the level of practice?
Are we refusing to take up the fundamental debates? No? We want them to happen – for once – on our terrain and not 10 miles ahead of us. Once we have adopted a point of view on what we know, we will have lots of time to go 10 miles forward, but together, and not always in the wake of the big-thinkers, having the time to better think for ourselves.
We share certain views with the comrades who want to develop a majority consensus (see newspaper no. 278). They have, for example, a greater concern for democracy within the organization. They don’t have an agenda, but something in thcir approach bothers us: why do they continue to reproduce a process of “from the the top down” ...They produce a draft resolution quickly, quickly, so that people can discuss it, amend it. Why not give the floor directly to the members?