First Published: In Struggle! No. 230, December 9, 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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IN STRUGGLE!’s 7th Anniversary has already been celebrated in several cities including Vancouver and Toronto, and it will be celebrated in Montreal on Saturday December 13. We used this occasion to interview Charles Gagnon, Secretary General of our organization.
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What is the importance of the celebrations organized in the various cities of the country for IN STRUGGLE!’s 7th anniversary?
C.G.: Since its creation, IN STRUGGLE! has celebrated its anniversary every year. It is generally an opportunity to look back on our activities, to bring together many sympathizers and friends, to discuss our work with them, and of course to celebrate our successes together.
In addition, this year, the anniversary coincides with the launching of the fund-raising campaign. The last time we called on friends of the Organization for financial support was two years ago. We are now repeating this call because the development of our activities across the country – and abroad – require more money,
Last spring the Central Committee declared that the work of the Organization was marked by idealism and that the pace of work was very high. Can we say that these problems are solved?
C.G.: The life of a communist is a very demanding one. That is undeniable. For seven years now, the comrades of IN STRUGGLE! have contributed an awesome quantity of work and efforts on a continuous basis.
Moreover, communists experience the same problems, the same contradictions as all the other members of society: emotional problems, health problems, the problems of bringing up children, financial problems and problems related to their working conditions. We might be tempted to think that because communists have a good understanding of the problems of life in a capitalist society, they can solve them easily. But contradictions between men and women, between work and leisure, between intellectuals and workers are intimately linked to the very organization of the society in which we live. The possibility of bringing about transformations at these contradictions is contingent on the transformation of society. This is also true for communists. We cannot expect an Organization like IN STRUGGLE! to abolish male chauvinism or to solve the problems of child care, even within our own. ranks. We must understand that the main purpose of a communist organization is to work for the transformation of the living conditions of the masses, and not to ensure the well-being of its members.
Insofar as we are conscious that these are social problems, it is easier to understand that they will only be solved through mass struggle, in which communists, who are part and parcel of the masses, must be active.
This does not mean that militants do not have specific problems. Our Organization must confront these problems, which are the result of the demands of political work, organization and methods of work.
One of the problems which IN STRUGGLE! confronts is that of the questions raised at the Central Committee last June – the history of the struggle for socialism and on the results to date. Isn’t it?
C.G.: It would be futile to deny that revolutionary forces are presently going through a very difficult period in many countries. It seems to me that the main question is that of the meaning of revolutionary work in a situation which is not a revolutionary one, as is the case in a country like Canada.
To go straight to the point, I believe that a certain number of recent events have led communists to ask a certain number of questions on the path to socialism. The development of the U.S.S.R. in the past twenty years, the development of China since the seventies, the conflicts between China and the U.S.S.R., between Vietnam and China, between Cambodia and Vietnam, between Albania and China. are all factors which have brought about certain a disillusionment. This is especially for Marxist-Leninists who had, for 15 years, seen China as the example of how to avoid the errors of modern revisionism.
There is an important crisis among communists in the world, and we must have the courage to recognize this. We must be lucid enough to recognize that this crisis will not be resolved by slogans and ex-communications. In fact, we find the same crisis among many socialists and progressive people who are reexamining the question of the path to socialism.
What is becoming of IN STRUGGLE! in this context?
C.G. IN STRUGGLE! was created at the end of 1972 with the publication of the pamphlet entitled For the Proletarian Party. The objective of our Organization today is still the building of the party for socialist revolution in Canada.
As we said at the very beginning, the proletarian party – the party for socialism – is not, and cannot be, merely the group of people who, at one time or another, are convinced that they are the revolutionary vanguard. Such a vanguard can only be considered to really exist when it is recognized as such by those to whom it wants to give leadership, that is by the working class and labouring masses.
How does IN STRUGGLE! work to reach this objective in the present conditions?
C.G.: It seems to me that there are presently two basic tasks which communists should work at as a priority.
In the crisis situation which I spoke about earlier, ideological work is important. We must work to bring satisfying answers, scientific answers, to the questions raised by the development of the struggle for socialism in the past years. We will find these answers as we develop our understanding of the history of class struggle, in particular since the proletariat has started its march towards socialism. We must explain how this struggle developed, how it led to the known situations. A scientific analysis of recent history will teach us much more on the conditions for socialism as regards the forms of struggle against the bourgeoisie, the role of the party, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the economic laws of the passage to socialism, etc. than the repetition of principles formulated by great revolutionaries in the past.
We will also find answers to these questions by analyzing the present situation. We must correctly understand all the means which imperialism uses to maintain almost absolute power internationally. If we understand this, and at the same time, are capable of measuring the revolutionary potential of various forms of struggle of the proletariat and of the peoples of the world against imperialism, we will be in a better position to deal with the theoretical, political, strategic, tactical and military questions of revolution.
This is our first basic task. The second task is that of establishing a link with the proletariat. For communists must not isolate themselves in an ivory tower to analyze the class struggle from outside. It is on the grounds of immediate struggles that communists can establish links with the proletariat. In Canada, these struggles are not revolitionary; they are struggles for reforms, economic struggles, democratic struggles, as well as support demonstrations for the struggles of other peoples....
If you say that the situation is not revolutionary in Canada and that communists must be active in struggles for reforms, are you not, in fact, adopting a reformist position, are you not following in the footsteps of revisionists?
C.G: You could also say that to uphold the importance of studying history and the present situation is to adopt an intellectual point of view, cut from reality, a dogmatic point of view. The danger of reformism must not scare us away from the struggle for reforms as long as we are active in these struggles not only to win immediate victories, but also to develop the consciousness of the masses, to have workers share in the conclusions of Marxism on the contradictions of capitalism, on the need for revolution, on the role of a communist organization....
This is how we will succeed in building a party, a party which knows where it is going since it has a good understanding of the society which it wants to transform and the lessons of past struggles, a party which at the same time will weave strong and lasting bonds with the masses in the fire of their struggles.
As you can see, IN STRUGGLE!’s basic line has not changed. What is beginning to change in our Organization, however, is our attitude towards the problems posed by the struggle for socialism. We are no longer content with slogans and sentences learned by heart; we have taken up the task of giving our programme a more scientific basis. This is how our work will finally become more concrete, and correspond more to the contradictions which the masses ace, thus bringing more clearly to light the true bearing and the historical necessity of the struggle for socialism.