First Published: The Workers’ Advocate January 5, 1982
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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In Vancouver, British Columbia, on October 4 and then again on October 17, bloody fights look place between anti-racist demonstrators at rallies called to protest against the KKK. These fights took place between, on the one hand, the People’s Front Against Racist and Fascist Violence which is associated with the Communist Party of Canada (M-L), and on the other hand, the British Columbia Organization to Fight Racism (BCOFR) which is associated with various opportunist groupings including pro-Soviet and Maoist revisionists as well as the New Democratic Party (NDP) social-democrats. The capitalist press across Canada and the U.S. gleefully reported on these events in Vancouver in order to discredit the anti-racist struggle and the progressive and Marxist-Leninist forces, and, at the same time, to promote the fascist gangsters of the KKK. In New York, the October 19 Daily News, with a distribution of a million copies, carried three big photos under the title “Anti-Racist Groups in a Brawl.” Two of the photos showed anti-racist demonstrators savagely smashing each other over the head with 2x2 sticks. The third was a photo of the Klan’s first cross burning in Vancouver in over three decades. With a similar message, these events were also covered by the Chicago Defender. The two Seattle dailies, the Times and the Post-Intelligencer reported that in these incidents a number of demonstrators were hospitalized with severe lacerations, broken arms and skull fractures. It is the assessment of The Workers’ Advocate that what look place in Vancouver on October 4 and 17 was in every way harmful. It played into the hands of the KKK fascists and the reactionary capitalist propaganda against the popular movements and the Marxist-Leninists, and it was a disservice to the anti-racist and anti-fascist struggle and the profound democratic sentiments of the Canadian working class and people. Moreover, to make matters worse and more complex, the responsibility for the harm done in Vancouver does not rest only with the opportunists, but also with the unprincipled and wrecking tactics of the CPC (M-L), a Marxist-Leninist party, but one whose leadership is in the grip of profound Maoist and liquidationist deviation.
The basis of the wrecking tactics used by the CPC(M-L), tactics which bear a great deal of the responsibility for the damaging events of October 4 and 17, does not lie in any excessive zeal on the part of the leadership of CPC(M-L) in fighting opportunism. On the contrary, the leadership of CPC(M-L) has over and over again reiterated its opposition to “ideological struggle,” has called for building the People’s Front without regard lo politics or ideology, and has denounced our Party for its stand of carrying the struggle against Chinese revisionism and Maoism through to the end. Thus the serious damage done by the incidents in Vancouver shows that it is precisely denigration of the struggle against revisionism and opportunism that leads to sectarian headbashing. Since the leadership of CPC(M-L) opposes the principled ideological struggle, it had no other way to solve the question of the different political trends in the anti-racist movement than through the use of highhandedness and force.
Our Party no longer has any relations with CPC(M-L) whatsoever. For a decade, from May 1969 to December 1979, our predecessors, the American Communist Workers Movement (M-L) and the Central Organization of U.S. Marxist-Leninists, had close ties with the CPC(M-L). However, right from the start, these relations were never the comradely internationalist relations they could have and should have been. Problems existed in the relations, and were never resolved, because of the deviations of the CPC (M-L). Finally, in December 1979, the leadership of CPC (M-L), seeing that it could not subjugate our Party to its will and upset over our Party’s profound struggle against Maoism and Chinese revisionism, unilaterally severed all relations between the two Parties and unleashed a savage war against us. Instead of sorting out the differences between the two Parties according to the norms established by Marxism-Leninism, they resorted to ugly wrecking activities.
In our Party’s struggle against the wreaking activities organized by the leadership of the CPC (M-L), we have put the issues of principle to the fore. As part of this, we have shown that CPC(M-L)’s unprincipled actions stem from its Maoist and liquidationist deviations. We have warned that these deviations are a danger to the CPC(M-L) itself. The events in Vancouver are a sad, if vivid, confirmation of the analysis of our Party on this question.
The Workers’ Advocate has written this article with the aim of giving our assessment of the unprincipled wreaking activities pursued by the leadership of the CPC(M-L) in relation to the events of Oct. 4 and 17. The wreaking activities pursued in Vancouver were not the result of the misguided tactics by an individual unit of CPX(M-L) or the People’s Front, but were given the closest attention from the Party Center and have been enthusiastically applauded by the Central Committee plenum and by the central organ of the Party. Hence an examination of the recent events in Vancouver provides further insight into the ideological and political nature of the deviations afflicting the leadership of CPC(M-L).
To begin, it is first necessary to establish an outline of what actually took place on Oct. 4 and 17 in Vancouver. The leadership of the CPC(M-L) would like to smother any serious examination of its role in these events, with emotional outcries about “the lies and slanders and distortions” of events in the capitalist news media and the revisionist and opportunist press. For this purpose it is once again making the bluff of threatening “lawsuits of malicious libel” against “as many as 300 individuals and institutions.” (Sec People’s Canada Daily News (PCDN) of October 27 and 28. 1981) Therefore, in order to clear the air of this smoke screen which has been created to cloud a serious examination of the tactics pursued by CPC(M-L), we will rely, in outlining the course of events, primarily on the account presented by the leadership of CPC(M-L) itself.
People’s Canada Daily News, the central organ of the Central Committee of CPC(ML) prevents the following account of “What Took Place on October 4?”:
The ’BC Organization to Fight Racism’ called a rally in Vancouver East on October 4. The People’s Front mobilized members and supporters to participate in the rally, allegedly organized against racism and the Ku Klux Klan. The People’s Front went to the rally under the slogan Unity in Action and the spokesman of the People’s Front asked to speak at the rally. The spokesman of the People’s Front was violently attacked by the organizers and they also attacked the other members and supporters of the People’s Front. The People’s Front members and supporters defended themselves and the organizers who could not carry on their violence had to retreat and run from the rally which they had themselves organized. The members and supporters of the People’s Front stayed al the place and engaged the broad masses of the people in discussions about the dastardly attack of the organizers of the rally and about the work of the People’s Front. This is what happened on October 4. (PCDN, October 27, 1981, emphasis added)
From this, it can be seen that there was no question about whether the People’s Front could attend the rally, talk to the people there, and so forth. PCDN docs not claim that an attempt was made to stop the People’s Front from distributing literature, having placards, etc. This means that the People’s Front had abundant opportunities to do political work at the rally and that such work would not have created any incidents.
According lo PCDN, the fight took place only when a confrontation developed over whether the People’s Front could speak al this rally, which was organized by the BCOFR, a group with which the People’s Front has a sharp contradiction and which the People’s Front calls “moderate fascists.” The PCDN account cited above tries to give the impression that the representative of the People’s Front was simply immediately attacked upon politely asking whether he could speak. In fact, the situation was not that simple, as is clear from other accounts, in PCDN and elsewhere, of the events of October 4. The People’s Front did not simply request permission to speak, but helped develop a tense and confrontation situation over this demand. As a Joint Statement of the People’s Front and its affiliate, the East Indian Defence Committee, put it:
We went there to listen and to speak, to give our opinions on the issue of racist and fascist violence.... The BCOFR not only tried to prevent us from presenting our opinions, they launched a physical attack against our speakers with baseball bats in a vain effort to suppress our views, and they were soundly put in their place. (PCDN, October 23, 1981)
The above reference in the Joint Statement to an “attack against our speakers.” indicates that the People’s Front actually attempted to speak despite the opposition of the rally organizers. In fact, according to the bourgeois press, both the People’s Front and BCOFR speakers were “shouting into their megaphones.” (See the Toronto Globe and Mail or the Seattle Times, October 5, 1981) This indicates that the People’s Front speakers came equipped with megaphones and presumably used them when refused permission to address the rally. Anyone at all familiar with present-day political demonstrations is quite aware of what type of tense situation is created when one group attempts to take over control of who will speak at a demonstration organized by a rival group.
No matter how unjust the denial of the right to speak to the People’s Front, this did not in our opinion, relieve the People’s Front of their obligation to bear in mind the overall interests of the proletariat and the revolutionary movement.
This is especially so because they had full opportunities to do political work at the demonstration despite the denial of a speaker. But it is clear that the People’s Front made the question of whether they would speak into the main issue, the main significance, of the demonstration. Thus, in the Joint Statement, they stress that:
...We utterly reject anyone who tries to prevent or stop democratic individuals from participating in public rallies, marches and demonstrations on matters of common concern and express their opinions. This is a fundamental democratic right and we will always defend this right as we did on October 17, 1981. (emphasis added)
As we shall see in a moment, with regard to the incident of October 17, PCDN does not deny that the People’s Front struck first. So this statement amounts to an avowal that the People’s Front regards the use of violence as justified whenever they are denied the right to speak at a rally. This is a prescription for a lot of head-bashing.
From the events of October 4 and the declarations above, it is hard to avoid the impression that the objective of the People’s Front at the rally of October 4 was precisely to take over the leadership of the demonstration. PCDN triumphantly crowed that; “...The organizers...had to retreat and run from the rally which they themselves had organized.” (PCDN, Oct. 27, 1981) It is notable that PCDN displayed little interest in the objectives of the demonstration. As we shall see later on in this article, CPC(M-L) in fact denigrates the struggle against the Klan, describes it as a “diversion,” and has taken instead to organizing such activities as sports tournaments, which they claim will unite the people and prevent “Canadians...(from being) divided on the basis of nationality, race or region.” It is also notable that while the People’s Front makes a big fuss over whether they can speak from the speaker’s platform, they remain silent on what differences in orientation for the struggle they would have put forward. It is precisely their participation in the creation of ugly scenes and disruptive activities at the demonstration, their putting above all else the question of who is presently in the leadership, combined with their lack of interest in the objectives of the demonstration, that marks the tactics of the People’s Front at this demonstration as not only horribly misguided, but as even wrecking tactics.
Following the October 4 event, the People’s Front and CPC(M-L) should not have gloated about their “victory.” They should have seen what real harm this fight had caused. They should have seen that the tactics they were pursuing can only gladden the fascists of the Klan and their capitalist masters and can only damage the prestige of the anti-racist struggle and the Marxist-Leninists in the eyes of the masses.
When the BCOFR announced its plans to make another effort to hold its rally on October 17, it was the duly and responsibility of all concerned, including CPC(M-L), to do everything possible to prevent a repeal of October 4. Given the embittered situation, CPC(M-L) should have taken extraordinary measures to ensure that there would be no more head smashing and bloodshed which the bourgeoisie would inevitably use to discredit the anti-racist movement, create doubts about the motives of the Marxist-Leninists, and step up their propaganda for the Klan fascists.
But CPC(M-L) did the opposite. They immediately set about working for another “victory,” a repeat of the debacle of October 4.
PCDN gives the following account:
What Happened on October 17?
A rally and march are again called by the same organizers but this time against the Ku Klux Klan and disruptors. The People’s Front again goes to the rally and march. The reactionaries come fully armed in riot squad formation and forcibly block the People’s Front members and supporters from joining the march. The People’s Front members and supporters defend themselves. When this riot squad fails to split the march and it becomes abundantly clear that all the marchers will march in one formation, the police riot squad launches a vicious attack on the People’s Front using their motorcycles, etc., to split the march. (PCDN, October 27, 1981, emphasis added)
The People’s Front-EIDC statement elaborates further:
During the week preceding the October 17 rally, the People’s From and the East Indian Defense Committee released a public statement entitled ’Unite in Action Against the KKK and Racist and Fascist Violence’ in which the attempt to physically deny us our right to speak by ’BCOFR’ at the October 4 public rally was denounced...we called on everyone who was democratically minded to attend the rally on October 17 and express their opposition to the KKK and racist and fascist violence. Over 10,000 of these statements were distributed in the days preceding October 17.
The leaders of the BCOFR did not respond lo the call for united action against racist and fascist violence. Instead, in public statements on the TV and other media, they stated that they will never unite, and they issued arrogant and angry threats against us....
Approximately 90 men confronted us in a goon squad....
Despite the attempt by this self-appointed goon squad to try and split the demonstration and to prevent the People’s Front contingent from even leaving the park, the People’s Front aired their view at the park and successfully broke through the blockade of these helmeted thugs, joined the march, and proceeded down Fraser Street....
The news media want to divert the issue by asking who struck the first blow, but none of them make the essential point – the fight took place precisely because the ’BCOFR’ self-appointed vigilante group physically tried to prevent the People’s Front contingent from leaving the park to join the march.... Fighting occurred because the ’BCOFR’ tried to deny the right of the People’s Front to leave the park and proceed to march on the street as part of a publically called demonstration on the streets against the KKK. (PCDN, October 23, 1981).
What can be made of all this?
First of all it should be noted that the BCOFR announced well beforehand that they did not want a People’s Front contingent in the march which they were organizing. They said so “in public statements on the TV and other media.” In fact they made it clear that their march was aimed in part against the People’s Front, i.e., what they called “disrupters.” The People’s Front then accepted the challenge and declared in 10,000 copies that it would be part of the BCOFR march no matter what the BCOFR said or did. In the embittered situation after October 4, this could have been taken as the People’s Front’s declaration of intent to repeat the previous successful attempt to take over or disrupt the BCOFR event. At the march itself, the BCOFR had organized a large and well-equipped squad to keep the People’s Front contingent out of their march. Nevertheless, the People’s Front responded by proceeding to bash its way into the BCOFR column. Eventually the People’s Front was separated from the rest of the march through the intervention of the police.
From its own account it is all too evident that CPC(M-L) took no measures whatsoever to avoid another clash. On the contrary, the People’s Front smashed into the BCOFR column and “successfully broke through these helmeted thugs” in complete disregard for the inevitable consequences – another head-smashing brawl. PCDN does not even attempt to deny who struck first and instead says that to ask this question is “to divert the issue.” Moreover, this precipitous action on the part of the People’s Front could have had no other conceivable objective except to repeal the “victory” of October 4.
The CPC(M-L) account is generally corroborated by the descriptions in the capitalist press. However a couple of additional points of interest should be noted. According to the October 19 Vancouver Sun and other accounts and photographs of the event, the 400-450 people in the BCOFR march were heading south on Fraser Street when they were met by the 30-50 members of the People’s Front who were marching north to confront the head of the BCOFR column. Before the two groups engaged, the BCOFR reversed direction and beat a retreat up Fraser Street. Hence the melee took place at what was then the rear of the BCOFR march.
This means that the People’s Front actually attempted to “break through” the front of the BCOFR column and failed in this only because the march turned itself around. This further confirms that the People’s Front was aiming not simply at joining the march, but was contesting its leadership.
CPC(M-L) hailed the October 4 and 17 fights as a victory over the social-democrats and revisionists with PCDN carrying a headline ”Splitters and wreckers defeated again.” A big campaign was begun in PCDN, with a series of statements coming in praising the actions of the People’s Front on October 4 and 17, calling them “inspiring, and so forth. One statement even wished the People’s Front “further victories.” (PCDN, Nov. 25, 1981. p. 2. col. 4) But it was not the revisionists and social-democrats who were “defeated” in these melees. Quite the opposite. For the anti-racist demonstrators to be involved in brutal violent clashes among themselves in the face of the fascist propaganda and activity of the KKK against the people is a terrible thing. It is a despicable crime against the democratic sentiments of the Canadian people who despise the KKK and are deeply concerned about their activization by the bourgeoisie. These fights were defeats for the anti-racist movement and victories for the reactionary capitalist propaganda, including the promotion of the fascist cutthroats of the KKK. The violence in Vancouver is what provided the material for such gleeful headlines as “Anti-Racists in a Brawl” or “Riot Police Split Anti-Hate Groups.” It is what made possible such news reports as those which quote Alex McQuirter, the Canadian “Grand Wizard” of the KKK, praising the anti-Klan demonstrators for “doing such a good job on each other” (Edmonton Journal, October 19,1981); or the news story that reported this same “Grand Wizard” of fascist terrorism as saying that October 17 had been “a good day for the Klan.” (Toronto Globe and Mail, October 19, 1981)
But CPC(M-L) does not even blink an eye at the harm that was done, let alone do they take any responsibility for it. Why did the People’s Front not take responsible measures to avoid another confrontation? Why did the People’s Front confront and attempt to “break through” the BCOFR column? For the leadership of CPC(ML) these essential questions are irrelevant. After all, they proclaim “who struck the first blow” is merely an attempt to “divert the issue,” Therefore so as to divert attention away from CPC(M-L)’s own responsibility for the violence, PCDN has simply resorted to loud shouting about all the crimes committed by the bourgeois press, the police, the courts, the opportunists, etc.. etc.. over the last decade.
The capitalist press is indeed a lying vehicle of reactionary and racist propaganda, of promotion of the Klan fascists, and of poisonous slanders against the anti-racist and progressive movements. Likewise the police, attacked and arrested several People’s Front members, arc indeed arbitrary and brutal instruments of capitalist violence. And the social-democrats and revisionists are indeed reformist lackeys of the bourgeoisie guilty of untold crimes against the revolutionary movement. But the crux of the matter is that the wrecking work of CPC(M-L) against the October 4 and 17 rallies did nothing to combat these forces. On the contrary, it provided “a good day for the Klan,” fueled the fire of the racist and anti-communist propaganda, and served to disrupt the anti-racist movement. This is the essential point that the leadership of CPC(M-L) is avoiding like the plague.
Let us now turn to examine the ideological and political stands which lie behind these wrong and harmful tactics pursued by the leadership of CPC(ML).
One of the basic ideological and political features lying behind the CPC(M-L)’s wrecking tactics on October 4 and 17 is their denigration of the mass movement against the hated fascist Ku Klux Klan. As can be seen from the pages of PCDN, the People’s Front and CPC(M-L) are quite detached from the movement against the Klan in Vancouver. Thus they do nor advance any guidelines for how to strengthen this movement; moreover, they have taken up phrasemongering against it. This lack of concern for this movement is one of the features that give such a strong wrecking flavor to their insistence of being the leader of any demonstrations, even at the expense of ugly scenes. It is their disparagement of the anti-racist movement that is one of the basic ideological reasons why they display no consciousness of the great harm done by the incidents of October 4 and 17 and instead judge everything with the petty interests of of the moment, the rivalry between themselves and the BCOFR. They ignore the interests of the revolutionary mass movement and see only the question of their rivalry with the BCOFR for the leadership of this or that demonstration.
For example, following the events of October 4 and 17, CPC(M-L) spent a great deal of attention on them. The 11th plenum of the CC of CPC(M-L) met on October 19 and discussed these events. (PCDN, October 20, 1981) A meeting was held in Vancouver setting forth a program for dealing with the situation. The program included a petition concerning these events, a plan for a “People’s Investigative Commission,” and the usual empty threats from CPC(M-L) to launch libel suits in the courts as well. PCDN began carrying a series of statements hailing the actions of the People’s Front.
In all this activity, it is rather striking that CPC(M-L) put forward no program to the masses on how to carry forward the struggle against the Klan. The basic issue they raise is only the defense of the wrecking tactics of the People’s Front and the cursing of the opportunists. Yet one would have supposed that any group that felt that it was vital, even at the price of head-bashing, to contest the leadership of the demonstrations would have had some program to deal with the anti-Klan struggle, some differences concerning how the struggle was being carried out, that they felt justified such extreme measures. But no, PCDN showed no interest in the anti-Klan struggle. Their interest had been only defying the BCOFR at the demonstrations that the BCOFR had organized.
What PCDN and the People’s Front showed interest in with regard to the anti-racist struggle were basically those activities that either they directly organized or that they had a direct stake in. As far as October 4 and 17, therefore, their interest in the demonstrations was simply that the BCOFR had organized them, and not in what significance such demonstrations had, despite their being called by the BCOFR for the struggle against the Klan, Instead, what PCDN stressed all through the period leading up to the October 4 and 17 events, incredibly enough, was athletic or sports tournaments. They are still carried away by this enthusiasm for sports events.
Let us examine CPC(M-L)’s stand on the anti-Klan movement in some more detail. PCDN has carried a series of ideological arguments slighting the anti-racist struggle. One of them is the longstanding theme of the leadership of CPC(M-L) that to fight against “racist and fascist violence” is one thing, but to “fight racism” is entirely different. They bitterly denounce “fighting racism” as allegedly being the line of inciting race war, of “making race the issue.” This sectarian word-chopping, this absurd quibbling, shows an utter disregard for the revolutionary mass movement.
A typical example of this denunciation of “fighting racism” occurred in the events leading up to the October incidents in Vancouver. Under the pretext of denouncing the opportunists, the People’s Front actually denounced the anti-racist movement in shameful words that echo the bourgeois liberals. PCDN reports that the People’s Front issued a press release. Part of its content follows:
We also condemn the Vancouver Province for its role in promoting the moderate fascists, in its story of June 2, 1981. ’Racism fighters prepared to use firearms.’ The press release notes that the moderate fascists are neither ’racism fighters’ nor ’community leaders’ as the bourgeois press alleges, but in fact they are a product of the mass media just as is the KKK itself. These so-called ’racism fighters’ are racist themselves and have not only joined the KKK in making race the issue, but also in creating KKK hysteria over firearms. This is precisely the script whereby some further provocations will be used to stir up a race war. (PCDN, June 1, 1981, emphasis added)
How devastating! Only it does not strike at the bourgeois press or at the opportunists but can only succeed in estranging the People’s Front from the mass movement. This statement, while raising no concrete features concerning what the opportunists are doing and hence striking instead at the general idea of fighting racism, denounces the struggle against racism as allegedly “join(ing) (with) the KKK in making race the issue.” In a word, the People’s Front is simply giving voice to the ordinary liberal sermons against the militant struggle against rhe racists. With this phrasemongering, People’s Front has simply condemned all the progressive masses who are seething against the Klan’s racism and who consider that fighting against it is indeed a burning issue into one big reactionary heap with the “moderate fascists” and the KKK itself.
The People’s Front then goes on to endorse what it itself describes as the hypocritical slogans of the provincial government. PCDN continues:
The People’s Front press release goes on to vigorously condemn the hypocritical rule of the provincial government whose ministers have been spouting off that this is a time for cool heads to prevail. The statement points out that while these are fine-sounding words, they are betrayed by the actions of the government. (Ibid, emphasis added)
Good grief! The masses are being confronted with the outright fascist terrorism of the Klan. The government is appealing to the population to not get hot about this and calls for “cool heads to prevail.” So the People’s Front replies that, while they agree with these “fine-sounding” words, unfortunately the government is being, hypocritical and “betraying” its own call for “cool heads.”
But the People’s Front has not reached rock bottom yet. It goes further and not only pledges that it will carry out the government’s program of “cool heads,” but it also outlines a program to do so. PCDN continues:
The People’s Front, the press release continues, has kept and will keep a cool head in the face of these race provocations. The recent successful sports tournament for the high school youth in Surrey and Delta, organized by the People’s Front on May 23, proves once again that the ordinary youth hate racism, and are united in their desire lo uphold the democratic ideal. (Ibid., emphasis added)
Finally, the press release of the People’s Front concludes, according to PCDN with the following appeal:
We call upon the masses of British Columbia to reject all this racist hysteria and to join with the People’s Front in developing a mass popular democratic opposition to war and fascism such as the International Sports and Cultural Festival being organized in Vancouver from August 1 to 3, the demonstration against imperialism, racism, fascism and war on July 31 and other actions.... (Ibid., emphasis added)
So here we see what is behind this echoing of the provincial government’s calls to keep a “cool head.” The people’s Front puts forth the basic program for the anti-racist struggle, the real issue, the true path, as – the holding of sports tournaments.
Such things resemble the ludicrous antics of confused bourgeois liberals infatuated with the philistine belief that sports tournaments were the best way to unite people in their “desire to uphold the democratic ideal.” But when such things are said in the name of Marxism-Leninism, moreover as the alleged crushing refutation of opportunism, then this is a big liquidationist deviation.
Nor is this reference to sports a mere passing aberration, as the reader might hope. We see that the press release refers to an “international festival” that is to be organized by the People’s Front. Moreover, PCDN Is full of stories about sports tournaments organized by CPC(M-L) and their supporters and eulogies of the value of this activity. For example, let us consider further PCDN’s description of the Surrey-Delta sports match. The PCDN of May 25. 1981 carries a headline: “Surrey-Delia Invitational Sports Tournament a resounding success/The youth are a powerful reserve in defense of democratic rights, and against imperialism, racism, fascism and war.” The headline itself shows what incredible nonsense is being made about sports.
This PCDN also has a Joint Statement of the Surrey-Delta Sports Committee, the People’s Front, and the East Indian Defense Committee. This Joint Statement describes that in fighting against racist attacks at a high school, one of the basic proposals that was put forward was that “an athletic tournament be held to unite the students and put an end to the tense atmosphere and repressive scene at the school.” The Statement goes on to describe how, overcoming obstacles, this was accomplished, giving rise to the tournament reported on in this PCDN. The article states that “in our opinion the efforts to make our tournament happen, as well as the event itself, will have made a small contribution [it was only a small tournament, unlike the big “international” one scheduled for August, which the statement ascribes greater powers to – ed.]. The youth have proved again, through their athletic activity and friendly spirit that they are not fascist.” The Joint Statement goes on to “salute the democratic sports-minded youth of Queen Elizabeth School and others in their determination to end racism in their school.” The People’s Front makes a big point of organizing independently of politics and ideology, but apparently has found a substitute, sports-mindedness.
The Statement ends by calling on people to engage in more sports activities. It says they should “...carry on this work. The People’s Front and East Indian Defense Committee are organizing and hosting an International Sports and Cultural Festival from August 1 to 3. There will be the founding conference of Youth Against Imperialism, Racism, Fascism and War on August 2. [Right in the middle of a sports tournament! – ed.] We invite anyone interested in helping to make this event a big action to show once again Canadians will never allow themselves to be divided on the basis of nationality, race or region, nor be used as cannon fodder in another imperialist war to sign the volunteer lists being circulated at the invitation sports tournament today.” Here indeed sports and cultural events are described, as not only having the power to fight racism, but also to oppose imperialist war preparations.
Our Party does not, of course oppose sports activities. Properly organized, they are helpful for the people’s health. Like other cultural activities, it may indeed be possible to use them in an auxiliary role in certain situations. But to place sports in the middle of the struggle against racist and fascist attacks it simply ludicrous. It shows how far CPC (M-L) has detached itself from the revolutionary mass movement.
CPC(M-L) defends this rightism with a dash of semi-anarchist phrasemongering. In our article “Economist Distortions of the ’Make the Rich Pay!’ Slogan” (Part 5 of the series “Against Mao Zedong Thought!” in The Workers’ Advocate, March 10, 1981). we showed that, while CPC (M-L) has moved to accentuate its rightist and even liquidationist theories, they still combine this rightism with semi-anarchist blunders. The liquidationism is flavored with semi-anarchist seasoning. And so it is, as well, their negation of the anti-Klan movement.
While the People’s Front concentrates a good deal of this activities on organizing sports tournaments, it justifies this with the semi-anarchist phrasemongering that the struggle against the Klan is a “diversion,” presumably from the direct revolutionary struggle against the bourgeoisie and the state that is represented by sports tournaments. For example, writing of the All-Canada March, PCDN writes:
The All-Canada March is aimed at further developing the struggle against the KKK and other racist and fascist groups, but this struggle is being waged by keeping firmly in mind the fact that the promotion of such groups is a diversion so that the people do not look at the bourgeoisie and the state as the real culprits, the real perpetrators and organizers of racist and fascist violence. Such diversions arc being organized by the bourgeoisie not only in Canada, but throughout the world.... In fighting the KKK and other racist and fascist groups, the people must direct their main blows against the bourgeoisie and its state. (PCDN, July 27, 1981, emphasis added)
What an inspiring perspective for the fight against the racist and fascist groups: you may fight, but with the consciousness that you fight a shadow, a mere creation of the bourgeois media of no real importance, and that you are avoiding the real battle. And what is the real battle, the way the people can direct their main blows against the bourgeoisie and its state? Well, the All-Canada March itself is a good example of that. Bear in mind that the All-Canada March has its grand finale in Vancouver and culminates in, yes, you guessed it, the International Sports and Cultural Festival. For that matter, the People’s Front claims that the Surrey-Delta Sports Tournament was one of the “successes organized by the people by taking matters into their own hands and not relying on various government or trade union or school officials to ’protect’ them, pose a big threat to the rich and their state. (PCDN, June 3, 1981, emphasis added)
Sports, you see, are one thing that, for the time being, CPC(M-L) stoutly maintains is not a diversion. They may and have attacked the ideological struggle, the struggle against national oppression, the struggle for trade union democracy, the struggle for a belter contract, etc., as diversionary, but not sports festivals. This was clarified by the Chairman of CPC(M-L) in a speech he gave in Britain. In this speech, be issued CPC(M-L)’s standard condemnation of the opportunists for “promoting every kind of diversion.’’ Among other things, he accused the opportunists of the “diversion’’ of labeling the International Sports and Cultural Festival in Vancouver as “a diversion from revolution.” But, he explained, such sporting events are in reality “extremely important in the life of the people.” (Workers Weekly, November 28, 1981) What a sick joke.
The basic ideological deviation behind this incessant cry of CPC(M-L) about “diversions” was explained in our article referred to above on CPC(M-L)’s economist distortion of the ”Make the Rich Pay!” slogan as follows:
Finally we take up the constant refrain from the crusaders that everything is a ’diversion.’ No matter what the real world, the needs of the practical movement, calls for, the crusaders have a penchant for denouncing it all as a diversion. This too was strikingly revealed in their propaganda during the 1980 elections. They refuted to deal with the actual policies put forward by the capitalist panes under the hoax that this was all ’diversionary.’ They denounced the struggle for a shorter workweek as ’diversionary.’ With respect to the struggle against national oppression, they declared: ’To our estimation, the rich raise this question as a diversion.’ On other occasions, they have declared all kinds of things – such as the ideological struggle, the struggle against the trade union bureaucrats, the question of trade union democracy – as ’diversions.’ And any request to explain how to ’make the rich pay’ has been denounced as the biggest diversion of all!
What this amounts to is essentially anarchist mocking of the real world and the actual class struggle instead of dealing with the real world as it exists. The crusaders denounce the real world. They proclaim their fury at it because it doesn’t fit their preconceived ideas. In this respect, it is not strange at all that they denounce our Party as the theoreticians of ’the movement.’ This reveals in a concentrated form their disdain for the actual class movement of the proletariat. Instead of dealing with the actual class movement, the crusaders counterpose to it their particular shibboleth of the day, such at their distorted conceptions of ’Make the Rich Pay!’
In the case of the anti-racist movement, a further aspect of this semi-anarchism is apparent. The People’s Front and CPC(M-L) directly organize the sports festivals. They do not, however, have leadership of the mass actions in Vancouver. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this is part of the reason for their enthusiasm for the sports sphere of work and for their denigration of the anti-Klan struggle. Indeed, it must not be overlooked that in the sporting matches which they spend so much time and effort organizing. CPC(M-L) is able to exercise its undivided leadership over a wide field of events, including Kabbadi, volleyball, soccer, softball and more.
Thus CPC(M-L) denigrates the mass movement against the Klan, describes the anti-racist movement as a “diversion,” and is detached enough from the revolutionary mass movement to eulogize the organizing of sports tournaments. But for what principle, then, was the People’s Front fighting when they took upon themselves a big part of the responsibility for the head bashing of October 4 and 17? It is CPC (M-L)’s negation of the revolutionary mass movement, its closing its eyes to the existence of anything but their rivalry with the opportunist chieftains, that is one of the ideological bases of their wrecking tactics in October.
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This article will be continued in a future issue of The Workers’ Advocate. It will go into further questions, such as the CPC(M-L)’s use of the “unity In action” and “no unity in action” slogans. It will also farther demonstrate that the head bashing of October 4 and 17 had nothing to do with fighting against opportunism. On the contrary, sectarian head-bashing goes hand in hand with denigration of the ideological struggle and an attitude of pragmatic maneuvers with the opportunist chieftains.