First Published: in Struggle! No. 111, March 30, 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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During the Fourth Conference on the tasks of Canadian Marxist-Leninists in the struggle for the creation of the Canadian proletarian Party, we announced that the Vancouver Red Collective (VRC) was rallying to our group. The VRC was formed in 1976 following a split in the Wednesday Study Group. in 1977, the VRC participated regularly in the regional and national conferences of Canadian Marxist-Leninists. Since its creation, it has also taken part in several Marxist-Leninist coalitions marking certain special events in the Canadian proletariat’s class struggle: the October 14 general strike in 1976, international Women’s Day 1977, and the Mobilization Committee against Bill C-24 in the spring and summer of 1977.
Late in the summer of 1977, the VRC decided to take up the struggle to unite organizationally and politically with iN STRUGGLE! Debates between the two groups dealt with the major aspects of the program of the Canadian proletarian revolution: Canada’s imperialist character, the Canadian State and the proletariat’s struggle to seize State power, the international situation and the “three worlds theory”; the Quebec national question; the struggle against women’s oppression and for their complete emancipation; the tactics of communists in the present situation; the application of democratic centralism in a communist organization; the work methods of communists... The VRC and IN STRUGGLE were able to reach ideological and political unity through this struggle in December 1977, the VRC decided to dissolve itself as a group and its members undertook fo rally individually to the ranks of IN STRUGGLE! and to publically explain the reasons that led them to do so.
We publish here a few excerpts from the VRC’s Statement of Rallying. As the VRC itself specifies, this rallying constitutes a new victory against the cirle mentality, and sectarianism which, notwithstanding the development of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement in the last two years, still mark groups like the Red Star Collective (RSC)of Vancouver and the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) (CCL-ML). It is also a victory against opportunism, a victory for the triumph of the communist program within the ranks of Canada’s Marxist-Leninist movement and working class. Within the RSC and the CCL, we find the consolidation of a political line which relegates the proletarian revolution to the background. Faced with this line, the successful struggle of the VRC to adhere to the Marxist-Leninist line of the revolution in Canada is most certainly another sign that the defeat of opportunism and the unity of true Marxist-Leninists the basis of the program of the proletarian revolution are making steady progress.
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The Vancouver Red Collective (VRC) has dissolved itself and rallied to the ranks of IN STRUGGLE! in order to best take up the task of building the communist party. This is not a sudden, spontaneous action; but one which is the only correct culmination of the process of building and deepening the unity between the VRC and IN STRUGGLE!, a process which has gone on within the historical context of the development of the young Canadian Marxtat-Leninist movement. In this statement, we intend to briefly lay out the principled basis of unity which exists between the two groups at the time of rallying, and the significance of the rallying of the VRC in the present conditions.
Unity is relative; that is, what constitutes a principled level of unity depends on the particular historic moment. Given the present development of the Marxist-Leninist movement and the working class in Canada today, it is necessary for groups to establish unity on programmatic questions before organizational unity is in order. In the process of rallying, therefore, IN STRUGGLE! and the VRC met and discussed the crucial questions before the working class in Canada today.
The VRC came into these debates with certain public positions. Firstly, in the VRC position paper of July, 1977, On the Unity of Marxists-Leninists, the VRC put forward a general approach to the question of party-building and its dialectically related aspects, which established basic agreement with IN STRUGGLE! This position holds that in order to carry out the central task of party-building, communists must develop a communist program, win advanced workers to communism, and build the unity of Marxist-Leninists and that all of these aspects are interrelated. Our theoretical and practical work cannot be separated. In this paper the VRC took a more detailed position on the question of the unity of Marxist-Leninists; again a position which clearly indicated agreement between the VRC and iN STRUGGLE! This position holds that, above all, the unity of Marxist-Leninists must serve the working class. it is a a clear rejection of the sectarian and economist errors on the question, for it holds that the struggle for the unity of the entire Marxist-Leninist movement is part of communist practice in the working class and that the proletarian line around which Marxist-Leninists unite is developed in the heart of the struggle to win workers to communism (...).
...The VRC had also taken a public position on the course and path of the Canadian revolution (available in the Documents of the 2nd National Conference of Marxist-Leninists on the Path of Revolution in Canada). This position was not in agreement with the position of IN STRUGGLE!, for the VRC had not taken a position on whether or not Canada was imperialist. We held that the Canadian bourgeoisie holds state power. But, basing ourselves primarily on the fact that there are substantial American economic holdings in Canada, we had stated that when state power was truly threatened, American imperialism would come rushing to the defence of its interests, and therefore had to be considered as part of the principal enemy of the Canadian proletariat. We concluded therefore that the principal contradiction in Canada was between the Canadian proletariat on the one hand, and the Canadian bourgeoisie and American imperialism on the other. After the debates of the 2nd National Conference in Montreal in April 77 and the subsequent Western Regional Conference in Vancouver in May 77, the VRC began to seriously examine the line we had carried.
Firstly, we took up the question of the imperialist nature of the Canadian State, and as we have made known at the 3rd National Conference in September 77, and at the Western Regional Conference in October 77, we took a clear stand that Canada is an imperialist country, under the dictatorship of the Canadian imperialist bourgeoisie. We came to this decision when we realized that our stated criteria for deciding whether or not Canada was imperialist (i.e. a “sufficient” amount of Canadian imperialist economic activity internationally) was empiricist and incorrect. While we had stated at the 2nd National Conference that we recognized some imperialist aspects of the Canadian bourgeoisie’s foreign economic policies, we had incorrectly withheld judgment because we had not yet determined whether this was a sufficient criterion for calling Canada imperialist. Through the line struggle in the movement, we came to understand the political nature of imperialism, not just its economic manifestations in foreign policy. We came to understand that imperialism was a stage of capitalism and that once having reached that stage, a bourgeoisie would act in its imperialist interests. This stage had been reached in Canada and the Canadian bourgeoisie and its State are in the reactionary imperialist world camp.
Once having made this determination, it was necessary for the VRC to reconsider both our methodology and conclusions on the principal contradiction. It became apparent that once again we had taken an empiricist approach and had based ourselves on statistics reflecting the present economic situation, while neglecting a political history of class struggle in Canada. Further, and more seriously, we had made the error of underestimating the role of the State in the imperialist era, a question which is central in distingulshing Marxists from anti-Marxists. These two errors led us to take a position which had both economist and bourgeois nationalist tendencies. Economist because in saying that when the working class truly threatened State power, American imperialism would come to the defence of the Canadian State, we had denied that right now the Canadian working class has as its principal enemy the Canadian bourgeoisie, and right now the Canadian working class is engaged in a struggle against this bourgeoisie and its State. We had objectively said that later on a political analysis of class struggle would be necessary, but right now an economic analysis was sufficient. Our position had bourgeois nationalist tendencies because, basing itself on statistical analysis of economic holdings, the political importance of the Canadian State was denied. This objectively made American imperialism the principal enemy of the Canadian working class and left the door open for an alliance with the Canadian bourgeoisie against American imperialism. It was through the line struggle in the movement that the VRC came to reject our original position and take up the position that not only is Canada imperialist, but that the principal contradiction in Canada is between the proletariat and the Canadian bourgeoisie. As this position has been defended and developed within the movement, it is not necessary for us to elaborate further in this statement.
...It is clear that the VRC and IN STRUGGLE! reached unity on programmatic questions, and that this is principled unity – unity which must be realized organizationally. However, it would be a serious error to think that the unity which led to the dissolution and rallying of the VRC was built only on the theoretical level, through group-to-group discusslons. On the contrary, the unity between the two groups was also built through the participation of both groups in the work of the movement and the working class. Even though the VRC recognized for some time the need to dissolve, we continued to participate in the line struggle of the movement through conferences and in practice in the class through coalitions, to the best of our ability. It is important to understand this, for the VRC could not have reached its present position in isolation. It was only by situating ourselves within the development of the movement and the class struggle, that the VRC was able to advance, and that unity between the VRC and IN STRUGGLEi was built.
In the VRC July position paper, we made clear that we recognized that a small, local group such as ours was incapable of carrying out the tasks of the period; specifically was incapable of carrying out systematic practice in the working class. Because we saw that the development of line and theory were totally integrated, we also recognized that our lack of consistent practice in the working class made it impossible for us to adequately develop, test, and centralize political line. Since July, our activities have only proven time and again the correctness of this position and the importance of ending the small group nature of our movement.
There is a more particular significance to the VRC rallying at this time, significance which comes directly out of the development in the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement. Over the last few months, we have seen a sharpening of the lines within the movement, and a clear polarization of the movement. On the one hand, there is the line carried by the CCL(M-L), which denies the existence of a Marxist-Leninist movement other than itself. The CCL has completely consolidated its sectarian errors and has continually refused to put its line before the masses for criticism in an open way. Rather, the CCL is taking up struggles, issue by issue, seizing the immediate demands of a particular group of workers and attempting to win popularity with this particular group. This is economist practice which is becoming an ever increasing danger.
Closely related to this line is the tendency within the movement, reflected mainly by RSC, to see the development of political line as divorced from communist practice in the class, and to put forward that, at the present time, the principal task of communists is to develop political line. This line also leads to economist practice.
...it is in the light of this development that the rallying of the VRC must be situated. For the VRC was faced with an immediate choice. Either we could choose the tendency of economism, or could choose the proletarian line: the line which states that all Marxist-Leninists must unite their forces in order to carry out the communist task of building the communist party; the line which states that Marxist-Leninists must put forward a communist line in the workers movement around which we can unite the entire working class against its principal enemy, the Canadian bourgeoisie; the line which states that in undertaking this task we will win workers to communism, will develop, test, and centralize a communist program, and will build the unity of communists. It is through the experience and practice of the young Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada that agreement between the VRC and IN STRUGGLE! on the absolute necessity of taking this stand now has been forged. The militants of the VRC therefore take up enthusiastically participation in a national Marxist-Leninist group, which bases itself on a proletarian line, and will move forward with the Canadian working class to the creation of the proletarian party; the only organization which can lead us to the victory of the proletarian revolution in Canada.
Vancouver Red Collective (January 1978).