First Published: In Struggle! No. 187, Jan 15, 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Early this winter, a conference of our Organization’s leadership cadres was held in Montreal to examine the Central Committee’s recent orientations on the questions of tactics and organization. The conference was led by the Political Bureau and brought together cell secretaries from all the regions in Canada. All in all the conference was very stimulating, dealing mainly with the three following questions: our work in the working class, the organization of cells, and the place of sympathizers.
We will deal with this point in more detail in the next issue of this column, since it was the central topic at the conference.
When an organization has a programme, the only way to convince the working class of the correctness of this programme is to exercise leadership in class struggle. This is true of any organization. But, there are two ways of doing this. The first way is the way of the opportunists, whom we know so well – Trotskyists, WCP, CPL, CP, Waffle. This method consists of implanting militants in a certain number of workplaces and sectors. This general tactic necessarily leads them to try immediately to take the leadership of the economic struggles... against this or that multinational or against this or that government, in order to build a few “strongholds” and in this way try and conquer a position of force within the entire working class.
This tactic is directly related to the type of party that one is aiming to build. In this case, it leads to parties where workers are restricted to waging economic struggles, which are eventually radicalized, and where the petty bourgeoisie wages the political struggle – preferably nationalist, at that!
We, on the other hand, have chosen another path. It is a more demanding path. It doesn’t exclude intervening in unions or in economic struggles or in any other aspect of class struggle. However, it gives priority to broad agitation and propaganda work done systematically everywhere. The content of this agitation and propaganda is defined by what is most important in the class struggle in our country, what will reinforce the entire working class and cause it to move forward, and at the same time weaken the bourgeoisie. This means that we must put forward central political calls to action dealing with the most important aspects of class struggle, calls to action which we defend in unions, citizen groups, among oppressed nationalities, etc.
We must present our Programme everywhere, and our cells must be organized in terms of this objective. This helps us to understand why our literature distribution committee plays a key role among the cell’s specialized committees. At this stage, the distribution of our press remains a broad form of intervention, a form of broad agitation in different events and struggles. Distribution is also a way of finding out what is happening in a given area, what the masses think about different questions, and what is the relative importance of different events.
The agitation and propaganda committee concentrates its efforts on the occasions where there is a real opportunity to offer more developed leadership in struggles and events. A correct combination of distribution and agitation-propaganda should enable a cell to have a broad and varied presence in its territory, to wage campaigns on important questions and to be at the centre of important events, at the same time as it remains on top of all developments.
It is in this context that an important question is raised. When should we concentrate on a workplace? When should we establish a regular intervention unit? In general, it is quite clear that our forces are relatively limited in relation to the demands of revolutionary work, so we must make the best possible use of our forces. We should envisage the possibility of establishing a permanent form of intervention when broad agitation over an entire territory gives results, and when there are people in a workplace who take up our calls to action, read our newspaper and are active to varying degrees, including some who are ready to follow the leadership given by our Organization as active sympathizer. The unit will enable us to do agitation and propaganda, to distribute our newspaper and to develop readers’ circles so as to consolidate and broaden our work from within one or several workplaces.That is when an intervention unit helps broaden our influence.
Any attempt to skip stages so as to enter a workplace more quickly, even though conditions are not yet ripe, can only lead us to lower the level of the content of our agitation and propaganda in order to have immediate results. Sending 15 Implantees into a workplace, in WCP style, or getting 5 or 6 militants elected to a union executive, doesn’t change matters.
The type of leadership which the cells should have in the masses on the basis of our tactical line means that we must be very attentive to our active sympathizers. On this subject, the conference came to the conclusion that there are still too many sympathizers simply carrying out specific jobs in conditions where they cannot situate their work in relation to the work of the entire Organization. We should inform them of our work plans, our perspectives and working hypotheses. On the subject of our tactic, we should provide them with the reasons which justify it. We should also discuss the results of their own work with them in light of this tactic, and the lessons which the cell draws from its own development.
However, it is not only the supervision and education of sympathizers which must be improved. Sympathizers play a role in the elaboration of our policies on all levels. But it is difficult for them to have a clear idea of how policies are elaborated because they don’t receive enough information about internal polemics and the issues at stake in our political discussions. This means that they can only have a very approximative idea about democratic centralism. But there isn’t a great wall of China which separates their opinions, and those of the masses In general, from those which regularly confront one another in cell plenaries and in our Organization’s congresses.The recent transformations In the newspaper are aimed at reporting more on these polemics in order to correct this situation.
The participants at the conference arrived at these conclusions after examining questions, criticisms and suggestions coming from sympathizers both in their daily work and during IN STRUGGLE!’s public conferences.
(to be continued)