First Published: The Forge, Vol. 2, No. 4, February 17, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Last December, the CCL(ML) published a brochure For the Unity of Marxist-Leninists where we put forward our fundamental line on the question of unity. We considered it our responsibility, as one of the major Marxist-Leninist formations in our country, to clarify and systematize our position on this important question, one that in recent months has been the focus of much debate and struggle in the Marxist-Leninist movement.
The brochure clearly put for ward the position of the League on unity as well as our major criticism of the positions being put forward by the group In Struggle. It ended with a proposal for the intensification of the struggle for unity in the Marxist-Leninist movement. One of the points dealt with in the proposal was what we thought study groups, and Marxist-Leninists groups and collectives across the country should do to intensify the struggle.
For study groups, we put forward two alternatives – either to place themselves under the leadership of a communist group or organization or to consolidate themselves around a line and form a new group in order to carry on the struggle. The decision to do one or the other would necessarily be a question of political line. As for Marxist-Leninist groups or collectives, they had the responsibility to clarify and propagate their positions and develop the struggle locally and across the country.
In Vancouver, until recently, there existed seven different study groups and collectives, in the last month one of the groups, the Vancouver Socialist Group (VSG), dissolved itself and the members of the group are now working on a self-criticism and doing study under the leadership of the League. The decision to dissolve was based on fundamental agreement with the line being put forward by the League as well as an understanding that their group had been characterized by right opportunism, had never been Marxist-Leninist in that they had only a minimal basis of unity, had conciliated with opportunism and had not undertaken communist agitation and propaganda in the working class.
Another group, the Vancouver Communist Group (VCG) has recently announced that it has rallied to In Struggle. This group too had only a minimal basis of unity and was not involved in any systematic communist practice that we know of. Their decision, as a group, to rally to IS at a time when IS is pushing the equality of groups and the need to build the organization through a series of conferences, remains unclear.
It is particularly confusing in that the group publicly announced that it was rallying to IS before publishing any of its positions. Their position paper will apparently be published in the coming weeks, now that the group no longer exists! In their seven page announcement, there is no reference to such questions as unity around the international situation, the principal contradiction (it’s no wonder), the national question, etc.
It was apparently felt that understanding on the question of the need to unite and IS’s position on unity was enough for the VCG to decide to rally.
Why the VCG is seen as a special case and why other groups in Vancouver shouldn’t follow the example of VCG and rally to IS also remains unclear in the document.
“We did it, but that doesn’t mean that everyone should....you guys should continue with the conferences, we couldn’t”. That’s the message that readers of the document are left with.
As for the other groups in Vancouver. The Red Star Collective (RSC), Long March Collective (LMC), May First Collective (MFC), October Study Group (OSG), Wednesday Study Group (WSG) – to date none of them have clarified or propagated their positions on the major questions confronting Canadian Marxist-Leninists. None of them will defend a position on the international situation, the class contradictions in Canada, the tasks of Marxist-Leninists. The only position that these groups do have is on the unity of Marxist-Leninists and that amounts to cheering support for IS’s opportunist project. Even on this question, where they have put forward public statements on the IS unity conference in Montreal, they refuse to meet with the League (except for the RSC and WSG) to defend their positions, saying that their positions aren’t yet developed enough to engage in struggle with the League and we should wait awhile.
Yet if their positions aren’t developed enough to meet with and struggle with the League, how can they at the same time be developed enough to agree with the IS proposal and go full speed ahead in organizing a second conference? This makes no sense at all. The only thing that is clear is that these groups don’t understand what it means to say that we must demarcate in order that we may unite, that unity must be built through struggle with those you agree and disagree with in the movement, on the basis of ideological and political line. It is the responsibility of any group or collective that calls itself Marxist-Leninist to make their line and practice known to the whole movement and carry on the struggle for unity.
The opportunism of the groups in Vancouver reveals itself once again when we look at their response to IS’s proposal for tactical unity for International Women’s Day. All of the groups have agreed in principle with this proposal. But on what basis can groups who have no position on the class contradictions in Canada or how the woman question relates to these contradictions, unite?
Who is the main enemy of women? Is it the Canadian bourgeoisie? Is it the Canadian bourgeoisie linked to US imperialism? How do we mobilize women in the struggle against the two superpowers? What are the democratic rights of women? Should we encourage women to struggle for the right to work under capitalism? Etc. These are more than just abstract, intellectual questions. They’re part of the whole strategy and tactics for mobilizing women in the struggle to build the party and fight for socialism.
But what is IS putting forward? “In addition, we do not consider that it would be correct for communists to try to make unity on the basis of a platform that details the fundamental principles of political line. Rather we must work to achieve unity of action on the basis of tactical slogans that are part and parcel of working towards our objective of socialism....” (IS No. 78. January 6, 1977) In other words, let’s forget about ideological and political struggle over the fundamentals for now and unite around slogans. Struggle over line gets thrown out the window under the pretext that we all agree anyway that women are oppressed, just so that people can get together and feel good because they’ve finally done something.
As we’ve explained many times before, the League is not opposed in principle to tactical unity or the formation of coalitions (see Unity pamphlet). But in the context of the present situation, where groups are spending most of their time jumping from one tactical unity to another and far too little time on clarifying their positions and carrying out struggle over questions of line, tactical unity can be a harmful thing.
Let’s remember that most of these groups have been in existence for over a year without developing positions on one single fundamental question that Marxist Leninists must confront. The fact that they haven’t done this has hampered the struggle for unity, locally and across the country and has limited the groups’ ability to intervene in the working class and become involved in communist practice.
By minimizing the importance of and putting off the struggle over line, they have made serious right opportunist errors. To rally to a group without explaining the struggle that took place and the unity reached on fundamental questions of line, to jump onto a project to build the organization through a series of conferences that will diffuse and confuse rather than sharpen the struggle, to agree to tactical unity when unity on fundamental questions doesn’t exist – this is opportunism pure and simple.
Comrades, the struggle around political line must be at the centre of our preoccupations if we wish to build unity on a correct basis. We must intensify the debate around political line.