First Published: In Struggle No. 81, February 17 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
Last January 22, IN STRUGGLE! militants in Quebec City organized a regional conference on the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists. About 150 participated in the event where debates on the necessity of the political and organizational unification of the movement, on the plan and method to achieve it put forward by IN STRUGGLE!, and on the question of common tactical actions, took place.
Aware of the conference through the newspaper, a comrade from Bolshevik Union came from Toronto to defend his group’s positions. This is positive and indicates the determination with which this group has undertaken the struggle for unity and the importance that it attaches to this struggle.
The conference was undoubtedly a success, and the enthusiasm of the participants that was so visible at the end of the day is eloquent testimony to that fact. The conference allowed both for a wider understanding of IN STRUGGLE’S line on the unity question, and for a deepening of the Marxist-Leninists’ links to the masses. That is why IN STRUGGLE’S desire to carry on political debate among the masses was pointed out by many participants, and was much appreciated.
This conference showed that by being isolated in their ivory towers Marxist-Leninists will never rally the vanguard of the proletariat and lead the masses in revolutionary struggle. For this reason the great majority of the participants left this day more determined than ever to grasp the line struggle that exists in the movement on the question of unity. Firmly convinced of the necessity of political and organizational unity of the movement, they clearly saw that it is the interests of the proletariat and the Canadian people that are at stake in this struggle. As one of the participants said, referring to the low degree of unity of Marxist-Leninists, for instance during the general strike last October “we prevent workers from developing a consciousness of a true solution (M-L) and we end up being hassed by fake solutions”.
How to succeed in this unity? The size of the struggle to be undertaken to unify the movement is dear to all of us, even if some have a defeatist attitudes regarding the growing examples of sectarianism. It was in this sense that a Chilian comrade intervened by saying that unity is necessary but will not come about tomorrow.
It is true that the dogmatic intervention of the comrade from Bolshevik Union and the sectarian action of the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) which didn’t bother showing up at the Conference, did not give her reason to see perspectives as encouraging.
Unity will not come about tomorrow. But it is not to be put off indefinitely, either. The struggle against sectarianism will be completed; and the fact that the participants grasped the importance of this struggle is encouraging. Indeed, many grasped that the struggle for unity concerns them, too; that it is not a struggle that must be waged solely among Marxist-Leninists.
The conference showed the urgent need for workers, both men and women, as well as groups and progressive individuals to break with their ’wait-and-see’ attitude, to undertake the struggle themselves, and to denounce the sectarianism which could seriously compromise the creation of the party. In this sense, all the groups which make up the movement at this point and all those who sympathize with the Marxist-Leninist movement must unite in forcing the League to break with its divisive line on the unity question.
But while the line struggle is underway, in this period where unity has not yet been achieved, should all Marxist-Leninists only intervene in their own little corner? Before the important political divergencies that divide them have been resolved, can they unite on certain occasions without betraying the principles that guide their action? This question was debated at length in most of the workshops, and out of the debates came an almost unanimous consensus: it would be subordinating the interests of the proletariat for Marxist-Leninists to refuse to unite together when the conjuncture demanded it. In spite of their differences, there are certain moments when Canadian Marxist-Leninist communists must reinforce their resources. Of course for all the participants it was clear that that is not the way to achieve a definitive unity. For that, a line struggle of great importance is necessary and this could not be carried out and completed in the context of common tactical interventions.
In the wake of a first evaluation of the conference, it is possible to say that it was a success in spite of the absence of the League, which obviously weakened the line struggle. The participants left better informed and better armed to deal with the unity question; they left more determined than ever to involve themselves in this question. As well, the conference allowed many groups and progressive individuals to come out of their isolation, which will help them to move beyond the localism that has often characterized their actions.
The unification of the movement is at once an immediate, crucial, and decisive task in terms of the future and the fate of the Canadian proletariat and people. And the conference showed that clearly. This was clear at the conference and it is why men and women workers, groups and progressive Individuals must tenaciously struggle to grasp the different positions put forward on this question and to take a stand on them. On the other side of the coin, it is the responsibility of Marxist-Leninists to make these questions accessible to the greatest number of people possible. The militants from IN STRUGGLE! should firmly criticize themselves for having not succeeded in doing so in certain of the workshops and they should affirm their determination to improve their capacities in this sense in the near future.
The presence of many women, resolutely determined to get involved in revolutionary action, was one extremely positive aspect of the Conference. Many of them had already gotten actively involved in the preparations for International Women’s Day and this conference reinforced their determination in demanding that Marxist-Leninist communists be united on that occasion. They will not tolerate the excuse that because there is no absolute identity of views between Marxist-Leninists, they cannot unite. They will not accept Marxist-Leninist groups subordinating the struggle for the just demands of women to the search for greater influence of “their” group. They demand that Marxist-Leninists multiply and bind their forces on this occasion in order to prevent the reformism put forward by radical feminists, nationalists and social democrats, as well as the “disguised” reformism of revisionist, trotskyist and neo-revisionist counterrevolutionaries, from detouring their struggle down a dead-end.
Even though it was earlier pointed out that the presence of a comrade from the Bolshevik Union was a positive gesture on their part, the comrade’s dogmatism and sectarianism was publicly criticized during the final part of the conference. The comrade’s dogmatism and intellectualist interventions did not move the line struggle forward; on the contrary, they sabotaged the debate in one of the workshops and thus put a break on the links to the masses.
The comrade replied to these criticisms with contempt. According to him, at the present stage propaganda and agitation must be addressed to the vanguard of the proletariat. For him, that means that today Communists shouldn’t seek to rally advanced workers, as if they could be rallied to communism outside of workers’ struggles, outside of the masses’ struggles. As well, the comrade is under the illusion that the vanguard of the Canadian proletariat is made up of war-hardened communists! To him! if the masses don’t understand the brilliant exposes of the Bolshevik Union, it’s because they aren’t in the vanguard, they’re just too backward!! As well, rather than acknowledging the fact that the criticisms were correct ones, the comrade preferred to tell the participants that he doubted that they were advanced enough to understand the differences between his group and IN STRUGGLE!
Finally, the comrade tried – unsuccessfully – to get away with an argument which is dear to the heart of the League: IN STRUGGLE! is sabotaging the debate, refusing to undertake the debate, on the essential, political questions; it wants unity for unity’s sake, it wants unity with opportunists. In spite of all his intellectual pirouettes, the comrades was not able to convince the participants that this “conclusion” was correct. In fact, our practice shows that the opposite of what is put forward by the League and the Bolshevik Union is correct as far as our so-called liquidation of the line struggle is concerned.
Seeing as the League is active in the Quebec City region, a letter was specially sent to it at the beginning of January, inviting it to participate in this regional conference. The League did not only not come, it also did not stoop to inform the participants of the reasons behind this sectarian action.
The League’s contempt for the Marxist-Leninist movement is well known. What is less well known is its contempt for the masses. And its sectarian move in this case says plenty on this score. It doesn’t take 56 intellectual pirouettes to show this – and it is the League that will have to justify its actions.
Comrades of the League, the masses will not easily forget this slap in the face, they will not forget that you did not even show up to defend your positions in front of them, or even bother to justify your absence.
As a housewife in one of the workshops said, the fact that you were not present is testimony to your lack of political maturity. She is right; and your method of waging the polemic is a source of astonishment for many people. The petty-bourgeois radicalism that you have demonstrated by throwing up the fact that we had modified our position on the formulation of the principal contradiction without simultaneously doing a self-criticism is only one example of the radicalism that has ended up with you smelling the scent of revisionism everywhere.
We now know that you have decided to boycott IN STRUGGLE’S conferences. But in a situation where 150 people meet together precisely to discuss the unity question, a question around which you think our plan is opportunist and that we are refusing to carry on the debate over line, why didn’t you take advantage of the occasion to explain your views in front of the masses? The masses are not content with the simple affirmation that your line is correct, that another is right opportunist and has dangerous revisionist tendencies, that another group is or is not in the movement etc.... They are waiting for these things to be proven.
It was such a desire which motivated one progressive individual to travel two hundred miles to attend the conference. He was revolted by your absence and by your obvious manoeuvrings to get out of waging the line struggle, and he told us during one on the breaks: “The League has been screaming at every street corner that IN STRUGGLE! has refused to undertake the political debate. But when the time comes to defend their positions, the League doesn’t even put in an appearance.”
Everyone has heard you clamour about how opportunist we are and how we refuse debate around political line. Are you really serious when you say that? The participants in the Conference saw the contrary, and some type of explanation from you would certainly not have been superfluous.
Comrades, your sectarian gestures had the effect of weakening the line struggle, holding back the ideological and political development of the participants, and of depriving them of a chance to clarify in their minds the debate which is currently underway in the movement. This is wrong; it shows a profound contempt for the masses. Your divisive decision to boycott the national conferences will have the same effect, this time on a wider scale. It is about time that workers, progressive groups and progressive individuals gave you a good kick in the behind. It is about time you put both feet back on the ground before you totally eliminate yourself from the line struggle by proclaiming yourself before the masses to be the party, without their knowledge and without the knowledge of the movement. In all the workshops, without exception, the participants criticized your absence. This article is the mouthpiece for these just criticisms from the masses, it uncovers the roots of your gestures and indicates the scope of their impact.
Your sectarianism has led you to ignore the masses and to display contempt for them. Your competitiveness has led you to sabotage the line struggle. In boycotting this conference you did not limit IN STRUGGLE’S work, as your sectarianism made you think it would.
Open your eyes, comrades, it is the advancement of the masses that you are sabotaging. It is the interests of the Canadian proletariat and people that you have releguated to second place, behind your small-minded group interests!!!