IS has always treated the basic question of identifying our principal enemy, the target of the revolution, as an academic discussion, a semantic disagreement which has no effect on the struggle of the Canadian working class.
But in fact, the question is far from being academic. We must identify the principal contradiction in Canada in order to point out the nature of our revolution and its target. The League has always had a correct position on this fundamental question: the principal
IS has had three consecutive lines on the principal contradiction in Canada.
Starting in 1972, during the first year and a half of its existence, IS held a clearcut bourgeois nationalist position, identifying the Quebec national question as the principal contradiction and limiting the revolutionary struggle to Quebec alone.
...The “national question”, or in other words the confrontation between the Quebecois autonomist tendency and the Canadian federalist tendency, is principal among those contradictions at the basis of the present political struggle. (For the Proletarian Party, Charles Gagnon, in Western Voice, November 1976, p. 13)
This erroneous analysis left IS trailing behind the Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie and the various bourgeois tendencies which headed the “Quebec autonomist movement.” By taking this position, IS rejected and completely liquidated the class question, the interests of the proletariat.
This incorrect line was soon discredited within the ranks of the young communist movement. The groups that were to found the League elaborated a correct analysis of the principal contradiction and fought IS’s bourgeois nationalism.
Forced to alter its line, IS took up another analysis, a compromise which was equally incorrect. This was the “two enemies” line:
The Canadian proletariat has two main enemies: the Canadian bourgeoisie, that wields state power over the toiling masses for its own benefit, and American imperialism, which, through its economic power, its control over the major part of industry, of commerce and even of finance, exercises its hegemony over the Canadian bourgeoisie. (Create the Marxist-Leninist organisation of struggle for the party, in Western Voice, November 1976, p. 40)
For two years the League waged a fierce struggle against this opportunist line.
We explained the anti-Marxist nature of IS’s analysis in several polemics, especially in the pamphlet, Against Right Opportunism in the Analysis of the Principal Contradiction, and in the first issue of October.
Briefly, our criticisms were:
– that IS abandons Marxist-Leninist principles on relations among imperialist countries and adopts a Kautskyist analysis;
– that it deforms Marxist-Leninist principles on the nature of the state;
– that in separating political power from economic power it makes an anti-Marxist analysis;
– that its analysis of American control over the Canadian economy is wrong, being based on incorrect data.
We also pointed out that IS’s position led it to:
– objectively liquidate the struggle for the proletarian revolution, as well as the struggle to safeguard Canada’s independence, and
– liquidate the threat of Soviet social-imperialism to our country.
IS always refused to accept any of these criticisms.
IS’s line was unmasked to an increasing number of people. The fight undertaken by the League widely exposed the opportunism of IS’s positions and created a broad debate within the Marxist-Leninist movement and among the movement’s sympathizers. IS’s own rank-and-file militants began to demand that their leaders clarify their positions.
The IS leadership was cornered. To sidestep the criticisms made by the League and by its own members, they decided to reduce the whole issue to a question of “formulation”. At IS’s Second Congress, the leaders adoped the “formulation” of bourgeoisie versus proletariat.
But in fact, nothing had changed. IS maintained its incorrect line of “two principal enemies”. In texts issuing from the congress itself, IS wrote:
In the particular conditions of Canada, American imperialism is the principal foreign counter-revolutionary force, as well as being one of the two main enemies of the Canadian revolution. (Proletarian Unity, Vol. 1, no. 3, p. 35. Our emphasis)
This “two enemies” line is nothing new in Canada. Other revisionists, the “Communist” Party of Canada, also defend it. The “C”PC’s present program states:
In their drive for maximum profits the Canadian monopoly capitalists have betrayed Canada’s real national interests and have become the accomplices of U.S. imperialism.
Canada is being made an adjunct of US imperialism... (The Road to Socialism in Canada, the program of the “C”PC, Chapter 4)
So here we see IS and the “C”PC working hand in hand to sabotage the proletariat’s struggle against the Canadian bourgeoisie and the struggle of the whole people against US imperialism. And at the same time, they carefully hide the threat the other superpower, the social-imperialist USSR, holds over our people.
IS’s Second Congress was the turning point of IS’s degeneration into revisionism. Not only did it make a total mockery of political line, claiming that the analysis of class contradictions in our society comes down to a question of “formulation”, but at that moment it also began to openly slur the principles of dialectical materialism.
Look at what IS says:
...It (the League, Ed.) has become the instigator of what we could call the “grocery list” method of class analysis. The method is simple, it’s nothing more than a question of enumerating a series of contradictions, one being principal, another the most important secondary, the following, also secondary, but a little less important, etc. (Proletarian Unity, Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 32)
IS calls the application of dialectical materialism to Canadian conditions the “grocery list method”!
Whereas Mao tells us:
Hence, if in any process there are a number of contradictions, one of them must be the principal contradiction playing the leading and decisive role, while the rest occupy a secondary and subordinate position. Therefore, in studying any complex process in which there are two or more contradictions, we must devote every effort to finding its principal contradiction. (On Contradiction, Selected Works, Vol. 1, p. 332)
When it rejected this method, IS rejected dialectical materialism itself.
With this “grocery list” label, it maligns the revolutionary science of the world proletariat, and substitutes the revisionist method – cloud every issue, blur every question so as to prevent the people from seeing clearly and fighting.
IS’s change in “formulation” is only a formal change, a red paint job to cover over its anti-Marxist line, just as the group was beginning its quick slide into revisionism.
IS’s practice drives this home. The “change in formulation” did not in the least alter IS’s sabotage of the class struggle. In fact, IS continues to trail behind the Canadian bourgeoisie.
In the labour movement, IS does not attack head on the bourgeois line or the agents of the bourgeoisie infiltrated into the ranks of the workers. Why? Because according to them, we first of all have to “Canadianize” the unions, that is, remove Canada’s “international” (American) unions from US control.
“Canadianization” and democratization of Canadian unions are a good thing, and League communists defend this and fight for it.
But this is only part of the struggle communists must wage in unions. The main task of communists in unions is to struggle to tear them away from the influence of bureaucrats who push class collaboration. We must transform unions into tools for the struggle against the bourgeoisie, into class struggle unions.
But IS makes “Canadianization” and democratization the principal struggle in the unions. This position leads to capitulation to the bourgeoisie, to rejecting class-against-class struggle and to defending the agents of the Canadian bourgeoisie in the ranks of the working class.
Alcan workers in Kitimat, British Columbia, who have a Canadian union and Canadian union leaders, came to realize through their own bitter experience that IS’s line is a dead-end that does an excellent job of serving the bourgeoisie.
The Alcan union (CASAW – Canadian Association of Smelter and Allied Workers – Local 1) is affiliated with the Confederation of Canadian Unions (CCU), a central that is 100% Canadian.
But just like any other union dominated by the bourgeois line, their union retreats in the face of class-against-class struggle and advocates the nationalization of the monopolies as the solution for labour conflicts, etc.
In September 1977, three of the Alcan union’s top brass made a deal with the company: they agreed to pay the company $130,000 in return for having charges against the union, arising from a strike a few months earlier, dropped.
Not only did the bureaucrats leave the 2000 workers without funds a few weeks before the end of the contract, but they hamstrung them by publicly renouncing any future direct action, sitdown strikes, etc. Did IS rise to the workers’ defence and show the true nature of these traitors? No. IS defended the three rats, calling their acts a “major error, but only an error,” and violently attacking the League for having denounced the sellout.
We can clearly see the results of IS’s line putting Canadianization of unions first and rejecting class-against-class struggle. IS protects bourgeois agents in the workers’ movement just because they come from a Canadian union. Faced with a struggle for the victory of the proletarian line, IS capitulates totally and grovels to the bourgeois line.
No matter how it is “formulated”, IS’s line does not take class struggle as the key link. Kitimat is only one example among many of IS’s sabotage of people’s and workers’ struggles (see chapter V).
With the publication of its “draft program,” IS settled the question of the fight against the two superpowers in Canada with a wave of its hand. Its trick – liquidate the entire question!
The only remark that even vaguely resembles a reference to the question is in point 13 of the “Program”. And even then, listen to what IS has to say:
The Canadian working class must also be prepared to confront the combined forces of world imperialism and reaction, especially the allies of the Canadian bourgeoisie, and also the big hegemonistic powers which are always the sworn enemies of socialism around the world.
Who are these “allies?” We must refer to the Commentary to find the answer: “the term ”its allies“ refers first and foremost to US imperialism.” Unfortunately, we are left in total darkness as to who the other possible allies might be. And the identity of the “big hegemonistic powers” is also left to our imagination.
One thing does stand out clearly in all this confusion and that is IS’s refusal to identify the danger the two superpowers pose to the Canadian people and its refusal to fight their oppression of the Canadian people.
What does this lead to? 1. rejecting the struggle for Canada’s independence in face of the superpowers’ hegemonic aims of annexation and interference; 2. stopping the working class from taking on its vanguard role in the united front of the Canadian people which must be built in order to safeguard Canada’s independence; 3. isolating the Canadian proletariat and people, as well as Canada as a country, from the world united front against the two superpowers.
IS’s positions on the struggle against American imperialism arise directly from its wrong analysis of the class contradictions in Canada. IS has never been able to situate the American superpower accurately. They either rate it as the Canadian working class’s principal enemy (along with the Canadian bourgeoisie in their “two enemies” argument), or are satisfied with saying that it is “one of the enemies” of the Canadian proletariat. IS has never described the real relation that exists between the US and Canada and the Canadian people: that of a hegemonic superpower out to increase its already heavy domination of our country.
Yet Canada is one of the countries that suffers most from the American superpower’s exploitation, oppression and interference. The US takes advantage of its economic domination to shift the crisis not only onto Canadian workers (with layoffs, factory shutdowns) but also onto the entire Canadian people by raising prices, “dumping” various goods and pillaging maritime resources, thus hitting Canada’s small coastal fishermen.
The US also attacks the people with political threats and pressure, through the NATO and Norad military alliances with our bourgeoisie, and through its cultural domination.
On this last point, we will show how IS has reduced itself to whitewashing the US’s attacks on the Canadian people.
A serious dispute arose between Canada and the United States in June and July of 1978 over maritime boundaries and the application of the 200-mile off-shore limit to fishing.
Pending a definite settlement of the problem, an interim accord had been signed in 1977 permitting Canadian and American fishermen to fish in each other’s territorial waters as long as they followed established quotas.
But what did the United States do?
It began by demanding sections of Canadian territory. It wants an entire area in the Dixon Entrance in British Columbia where it had already illegally arrested Canadian fishermen some years ago. It has greatly exceeded fish quotas extablished by the interim agreement. And it has chased Canadian fishermen out of American territorial waters off the west coast. It was this last incident that ignited the dispute.
This American action is a direct attack on Canadian small fishermen. Their livelihood, already far from ample, is being swallowed up by the United States.
In a situation like this, the task of the communists is to come to the defence of the people’s interests, which are being attacked by the American superpower. This is what the League did by telling the Canadian working class about this attack and by calling for support for the fishermen.
But what did IS do? Its article (IS no. 118), “What’s at stake in the Great Canadian “Fish War”?” treated the question as merely a quarrel between the Canadian and American bourgeoisies and claimed the Canadian people had nothing to say about the subject. This is how IS completely liquidated the struggle the Canadian people must wage against US hegemonism.
IS defended the very same position again in the fall of 1978 on the question of the “free trade” agreement between the US and Canada.
IS refused to take a position on this agreement, which has important implications for the Canadian proletariat and people. As the League has shown (see The Forge, Vol. 3, No. 17), “free trade” will result in the loss of thousands of jobs and the shutdown of many plants in Canada, will bring about increased US control of the Canadian economy, and will weaken our country’s independence.
But, using the pretext that the Canadian bourgeoisie is divided on the question of “free trade”, with some fractions opposing it and others supporting it, IS says the working class should not take a position on the question because that would be “indicating to the bourgeoisie the best way to manage its economy”.
IS is simply grovelling before the bourgeoisie and capitulating to American imperialism. By refusing to defend the point of view of the working class and the people, IS lines up on the side of the exploiters and imperialism.
IS is blinded and overwhelmed by the apparent strength of imperialism. Faced with political conflicts between imperialist countries, like the “fish war” or the question of “free trade”, IS stands aside, powerless, a passive onlooker. And it wants to drag the proletariat and the people along with it.
It is “impossible” to fight for our rights, IS tells us, because imperialism is too powerful. It is also “impossible” to fight to maintain Canada’s political sovereignty, endangered by the American superpower, and of course, it is a question that concerns only the capitalists, not the Canadian people.
These stands are nothing new; in Lenin’s time, opportunists defended them. Lenin led the struggle against these opportunists, showing how these people justify and rationalize their capitulation to imperialism and their refusal to fight against it.
As Lenin pointed out, this seemingly “left” tendency, which he called “’imperialist economism”, developed during the First World War.
This line, he said, is incapable of solving “the problem of how to link the advent of imperialism with the struggle for reforms and democracy.” (The Nascent Trend of Imperialist Economism, Collected Works, Vol. 23, p. 15)
Why did Lenin label this tendency as “economist”? Because in this case, economism is the “ignoring of the political struggle now, at present, immediately, and at all times, which is impermissible for a Marxist.” (ibid, p. 16)
Lenin refuted this opportunist point of view:
The Marxist solution of the problem of democracy is for the proletariat to utilise all democratic institutions and aspirations in its class struggle against the bourgeoisie in order to prepare for its overthrow and assure its own victory. (Reply to P. Kievsky (Y. Pyatakov), Collected Works, Vol. 23, p. 26)
For us as communists, this concretely means that:
– Through our agitation, we call for resistance to the American superpower’s encroachments and domination of our country. Thus we strengthen the people in their fight for their rights and help build up the world united front against superpower hegemonism.
– We must denounce the Canadian bourgeoisie’s capitulation to the American superpower, and its abandoning of the country’s defence. We must show that the people alone can and must take this struggle in hand. In this way we can strengthen the united front and the struggle against the Canadian bourgeoisie.
As Stalin explained:
Now the bourgeoisie will sell the rights and independence of their nations for dollars. The banner of national independence and national sovereignty has been thrown overboard. There is no doubt that it has fallen upon you, representatives of Communist and democratic parties, to pick it up and carry it forward, if you wish to be patriots of your countries, if you wish to become the leaders of nations. There is no one else to raise it (Speech to the Nineteenth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in The Essential Stalin, Bruce Franklin, ed., p. 509)
IS’s refusal to fight social-imperialism is once again confirmed in its “draft program”.
IS brutally betrays the interests of the Canadian people by not exposing the danger represented by social-imperialism, an aggressive superpower. The threat of this new giant, hungering for world domination, is so unimportant to IS that the only mention of the USSR is in a parenthesis in article 2 of its “draft program.” (p. 17).
IS is bending over backwards to stop the Canadian people from seeing that the superpowers are our enemies and that we are threatened by them. IS has presented us with numerous examples of this in the last year – the most striking was in January, 1978.
On January 24, 1978, Cosmos 954, a Soviet military satellite carrying 100 lbs. of uranium-235, crashed in the Northwest Territories. The Canadian bourgeoisie capitulated completely to this Soviet aggression against the Canadian people, and the blatant US interference that followed.
The League denounced these acts of aggression in The Forge, and organized a demonstration in Montreal and a picket line in Toronto. Our agitation showed that the two superpowers were fighting at the expense of the Canadian people, and that only the people can genuinely defend our country’s independence.
What about IS? All it had to say was that: “the Canadian bourgeoisie (...) uses every possible excuse to exaggerate (sic!) the danger of Soviet social-imperialism.” (IS, no. 108, p. 18)
So to hear IS tell it, the Canadian bourgeoisie was too hard on the USSR, one of the two greatest enemies of the world’s peoples. Well, we never would have believed it!
As a matter of fact, the USSR didn’t either. Indeed, the Soviet embassy in Canada was rather pleased with the Canadian bourgeoisie’s total capitulation. In an official note, the USSR declared, “Washington and Ottawa’s realistic attitudes” were “noted in the USSR,” and that “without any doubt, we can feel the effects of the climate of detente.” (Combat, revisionist party’s Quebec publication, Feb. 24, 1978, p. 7, our translation from French).
Our little IS revisionists are so eager to defend the USSR that they do it better than the new czars themselves!
Its attitude towards the USSR clearly situates IS in the camp of all revisionists and opportunists.
Communists do not compromise or conciliate with the USSR. They know that it is the most dangerous superpower, and that it poses an immense danger to the peoples of the world. In the interests of the peoples and proletariat of the world, in the interest of world socialist revolution, communists relentlessly fight Soviet social-imperialism.
Revisionists betray the people and the working class. Today their common bond is that, to different degrees and more or less openly, they support, defend and protect social-imperialism. The USSR is the ringleader of modern revisionism, and all revisionists, IS included, follow it in one way or another.
But IS’s capitulation to the two superpowers goes even further. Following the lead of the Trotskyists, who fanatically oppose the struggle to defend national independence, IS even declares that it would be “social-chauvinist” to defend our country against military occupation by one or the other of the two superpowers.
IS takes exception to the League’s position which states that when war breaks out:
If Canada is not invaded our task at this point will be to lead the proletariat at the head of the people to turn the imperialist war into a revolutionary war for socialism. If Canada is invaded by one or the other or both of the superpowers (and at the beginning this is most likely to be US imperialism) our task will be to lead a people’s united front and the people’s army against superpower occupation and after liberation to proceed directly with the socialist revolution. (The Forge, Vol 2, no. 7 p. 16)
IS is attacking a correct Marxist position. While criticizing opportunists who were backing their own bourgeoisie in the imperialist war, Lenin clearly stated:
’Defence of the fatherland’ in a war waged by an oppressed nation against a foreign oppressor is not a deception. Socialists are not opposed to ’defence of the fatherland’ in such a war.
National self-determination is the same as the struggle for complete national liberation, for complete independence, against annexation, and socialists cannot – without ceasing to be socialists – reject such a struggle in whatever form, right down to an uprising or war. (A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism, Collected Works, Vol. 23, p. 34)
What does this mean for Canada? If our country is invaded by either one of the superpowers, the principal contradiction (bourgeoisie / proletariat) will change, and we will have to use all our energies against this new enemy. We communists will devote all our strength to fighting back, to leading the Canadian people in this phase of socialist revolution in order to expel the aggressors, the main enemies of the world’s peoples. We will continue the fight in order to smash the exploiters and build a socialist Canada.
IS does not want to take on the fight to defend our country’s independence. It totally liquidates the struggle against the two superpowers here in Canada, as we have seen it do on the international level. Should we be invaded, IS intends to stand on the sidelines, arms folded, watching the aggressor’s tanks roll by – that is, if it isn’t cheering!