First Published: in Struggle! No. 117, June 22, 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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“These last two days spent in considering and debating the Draft Program have been a great success. But we can’t let it stop there. Starting tomorrow, we must dedicate ourselves to the job of deepening and broadening our influence amongst the advanced elements of the Canadian proletariat. They are the people we must decisively turn our attention towards and make the Draft Program known to them – by getting their criticisms of it and by showing its essential correctness in practice and in the daily struggle.” These are the words which IN STRUGGLE!’s Secretary-General used to close the National Conference on the Draft Program presented by iN STRUGGLE!to the Canadian proletariat.
During the two days, more than a thousand participants gathered from Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver, Rouyn-Noranda and many other places. Men and women workers, immigrant workers, Native indians, welfare recipients, intellectuals and friends of the Marxist-Leninist movement had come to debate the Draft Program with IN STRUGGLE!, put forward questions and criticisms and suggest specific changes.
Others who took part included representatives of the Marxist-Leninist group En Avant!, the Iranian Student Association (CISNU), the Iranian Students Association of Montreal and the Organisation revolutionnaire haitienne d’action patriotique (ORHAP) and observers from the Alliance Laurentienne, an organization which brings together more than 200,000 status and non-status Native indians, and Metis.
The participants voted unanimously and enthusiastically for a resolution of support for the men and women workers at Commonwealth Plywood in Montreal and Fleck Manufacturing in Toronto. $835 was taken up in a collection after the meeting. In the same breath, everyone stood up in support of a resolution recognizing the existence of the Quebec nation, its inalienable right to self-determination, including the right to separate, and demanding absolute equality of the French language and culture with the other languages and cultures in the country.
From beginning to end, this was a conference which strengthened the unity of thought and action for all participants. It was a great stimulus for everyone to unite as one in the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat for its emancipation.
Everyone at the conference had just one thing in mind: to make sure that we end up with a revolutionary program which stands opposed on every point to compromises of any kind with the bourgeoisie. This is the spirit in which everybody buckled down to work on the Draft Program to take a close look at it, to see if it clearly explained what kind of society we live in, what kind of society we’re fighting for and what kind of struggle we have to wage to get there.
For example, why is it to important to uphold, as the Draft Program does, that Canada to a country dominated by an imperialist bourgeoisie which is completely reactionary? One participant put it this way: “Because it enables us to demarcate from the false revolutionaries in the Communist Party of Canada who say that the monopolies are the problem, not capitalism. And since these monopolies are in large part American, such an approach leads directly to a nationalist position which supports the call for a patriotic movement against the US which includes sections of the Canadian bourgeoisie. As for the League, they say that Canada is an imperialist country alright, but they hasten to add that it is above all a Second World country. Therefore the bourgeoisie can sometimes be patriotic, but it is not consistent. For the League, we must struggle first and foremost against the two superpowers. The struggle for socialism comes later!”
The formulation of the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat in article 10 was a major point of debate. As one person said: “The dictatorship of the proletariat is central to the whole program. It’s the proletariat who will dictate how the country is going to be run. They are the ones who will take the steps necessary to bring the enemy to its knees. This means making laws that serve the class interests of the proletariat. Laws will have to be adopted, for example, that forbid exploitation and take away the bourgeoisie’s right to bear arms. Another thing we’ll have to do to maintain power is to educate ourselves and reorganize the schools so that they serve the working class.”
A worker raised another point: “The Draft Program doesn’t explain well enough how to prevent the bourgeoisie from returning to power once socialism has been established.“ IN STRUGGLE!’s Secretary-General brought up several points which address this question directly: “As the Draft Program states, socialism means suppressing the private ownership of the means of production. To get to that point we must first throw the bourgeoisie out of power and then organize to keep our own power; that’s why the dictatorship of the proletariat is so important. The danger of capitalism being restored will exist for as long as its material basis, such as small-scale private production, exists and as long as the ideological basis exists with ideas like competition and profit. How do we stop people who are bourgeois in the way they think and in what they do from taking over again? There is no easy answer. We must exercise a total and thorough dictatorship of the proletariat over the exploiters in all sectors of activity. We will have to work to make sure that the proletarian positions win out on all questions, just as we have to, before the revolution. The power of the working class depends on what goes on inside the party, the participation of the masses in the country’s affairs, and on the constant demarcation from the bourgeois point of view.”
Another hotly-debated question was: why is it so important to identify a main enemy, as is done in article 13? “For example, the League pays lip service to the fact that the main enemy is the bourgeoisie. But in practice they call upon people to struggle mainly against the Parti Quebecois or the Soviet Union. As far as they are concerned, the fight against Soviet sputniks is as important as the struggle against the Wage Control Act. If you don’t identify the main enemy correctly, you inevitably run into a brick wall. The Revolutionary Workers League (RWL) says that the main enemy is the federal State. They say, ’Fight for independence. This will break up the State and in this way we will unite the Canadian proletariat and move closer to socialism.’ As if the strength of the Canadian bourgeoisie was based on the continued existence of the federal structure! Threatening the continued existence of Confederation is not the same thing as threatening the continuation of the police, the army or the courts. Weakening Confederation doesn’t break the power of the bourgeoisie. it’s an illusion to think that you can take power a little bit at a time, piece by piece. All that RWL’s approach will accomplish is strengthen the bourgeoisie that stands behind the Parti Quebecois! When you don’t identify a main enemy correctly, you try to fight on five different fronts at once and you end up running around like a chicken with its head cut off. in fact, you end up strengthening the enemy!”
A reply wasn’t long in coming when a member of “Bolshevik Union” (“BU”) spluttered that the Draft Program was bourgeois because it didn’t say that the principal contradiction on the economic level was between the proletariat and the owners of enterprises. They even went so far as to say “No political measure is going to affect the economy!’. A comrade shot back right away, “When you say that, you are liquidating the revolutionary struggle. And you wind up saying: let’s start off by reducing their economic power and we’ll go on to make the political revolution later. This means things like supporting the development of nationalized State enterprises and small-scab production. It means opposing the dictatorship of the proletariat, the primacy of politics over economics. It suggests that we should struggle against the various different boxes, the owners of enterprises. But you have a State if you want to change the economy around. And what is the proletarian revolution but a political act? Could you seriously argue that the Bolshevik revolution in Russia had no effect on the economy?
Article 16, which deals with the immediate demands, also raised a lot of debate. Some people proposed adding more demands like “the abolition of compulsory overtime”. Others asked why the “right to work” wasn’t in the Draft Program. As someone put it: “That is a very dangerous demand to raise. The labour bosses in the CSD  are especially keen on putting it forward. Like when the boss of a textile factory wants to shut the plant down for keeps. The CSD jumps in and champions the idea of lowering wages so that the workers can keep their jobs. But the union bosses aren’t the only people who raise this demand. The Forge does it too: “Work for everybody!” in fact, what they’re calling for is full employment. The struggle to win this demand has always gone hand in hand with the pitch to strengthen our ’ever so weak’ national economy.”
As we can see, the debates which went on around all points in the program tried to distinguish the point of view of the revolutionary proletariat from those of the revisionists and nationalists. This conference proved yet again that it is in the struggle against the various bourgeois trends that the program of the revolutionary proletariat can be tested and verified as the only real alternative to capitalist exploitation and misery.
 The Centrale de syndicats democartiques (Federation of Democratic Unions) was formed as a split from the Confederation of National Trade Unions in the aftermath of the 1972 Common Front strike. It includes a fair number of Quebec’s organized textile workers.