First Published: In Struggle! No. 288, June 22, 1982
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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On May 24th, shortly after the adjournment of the 4th Congress and the dissolution of IN STRUGGLE!, several dozens of militants from all regions of Canada gave themselves the common objective of struggling for the reconstruction of a communist revolutionary organization on a country-wide scale. They decided to make an appeal to all of the members, sympathizers, contacts and former members of IN STRUGGLE!, to all those who had followed and backed its interventions during its eight years of existence, to join them in this struggle.
But who are these militants? Why did we decide to rebuild a revolutionary organization when IN STRUGGLE! had just disappeared, and what path do we propose to reach this objective?
For many months, members from IN STRUGGLE! worked together to prepare the 4th congress and to defend a revolutionary viewpoint in the debates around this event. They shared several criticisms of IS!’s programme, of its practice and its internal life and were convinced of the need to wage a resolute struggle against these errors. But, at the same time, they proposed to base themselves on IN STRUGGLE!’s many theoretical and practical lessons to do this.
Several groups developed as a result of these members’ efforts: the British Columbia Region, the Collective of 30 (Quebec), the Collective of 4 (Quebec), members in Regina. Papers were written, among them a series of four on IN STRUGGLE!’s programme (IS! faces a decisive choice, by Charles Gagnon), on the women’s question (Women and class struggle, by Gillies Malnarich), on the world and Canadian situation (The present conjuncture: some outstanding facts by the Collective of 30) and finally an assessment of IN STRUGGLE! (Assessment of IN STRUGGLE! for the past few years, also by the collective of 30). Resolutions for the congress were written and widely debated on the woman question, the suspension of the programme, IN STRUGGLE!’s basis of unity, on tasks, on IS!’s recent action and on the internal life of the organisation. Public discussions and meetings were organized.
Many people from other cities or regions (Moncton, Ontario, Quebec City...) studied these papers and resolutions, criticized and enriched them, backed them and sometimes wrote their own resolutions.
At the Congress itself, about one hundred delegates and observers participated at least at one of the tendency meetings that were held every evening to take stock of the day’s deliberations. Two of our resolutions, on the women’s questions proposed by members from British Columbia and the one on the basis of unity coming from members from British Columbia and Quebec, were at the very heart of the debates. Even though both these resolutions were rejected in the plenary session, we can be satisfied today by the backing they received under the circumstances. We have only to remember that the majority of the proposals from the Majority Consensus (#287 of IS) did not get through the workshops. We have only to think about the fact that the Charbonneaus, Gagnes and company, who sounded off so much before the congress, did not even have the courage to submit resolutions or defend their positions so “brilliantly” exposed in the Cahiers brouillons, so convinced they were that they would have to eat their social-democratic and increasingly frankly anti-communist lucubrations.
Having said this, we are perfectly conscious that our proposals did not receive the support of the majority of members of IN STRUGGLE! who were present and thus they did not succeed in preventing the dissolution of the organization. We must study, seriously and with an open mind, the reasons why many members who, we are fully convinced, intend to continue the struggle against this system of exploitation and oppression, chose to abstain or even vote against our proposals. For instance, why did many women, particularly from Quebec, refuse, often with a heavy heart, to back the resolution on women? Was it because they rejected all Marxist viewpoints, all class viewpoints on the women’s question? Or was it because they were afraid of a return to the under-estimation of the women’s question and even the oppression they experienced in our organisation? Or was it because they did not find a really satisfying explanation of what they had just gone through?
What seemed essential to us in the debates, and this both before and during the Congress, was less to try to save IN STRUGGLE! at all costs, particularly if it meant abandoning all of what was the very base of its existence, but rather to defend the necessity of an autonomous political organization. This is the battle that we intend to continue today.
We still think that there is a place within the forces for change for a revolutionary organization that defends an independent Marxist viewpoint in class struggle, an organization that is active in the masses, a mixed, multinational, internationalist organization that is present from one end of Canada to the other. This organization should, as far as we are concerned, be based on the lessons learned during IN STRUGGLE!’s eight years of existence. Theoretical lessons, the importance of relying on and using Marxism not as a body of principles worked out once and for all but rather as a living theory that must constantly be worked on to develop it, enrich it, question it and compare it with reality and its transformations. Political lessons, such as an internationalist vision of class struggle, the recognition of the imperialist character of the Canadian bourgeoisie, the ackhowledgement that these are several nations in Canada that have the right to self-determination, and the class analysis that we started to do a few years ago. Practical lessons also, like being open to debate and working with all progressive forces.
However, the organization must also resolutely fight the errors and weakness that were found in IN STRUGGLE! In this respect, it should take a feminist view of the world and struggle against patriarchy and all its manifestations such as heterosexism, chauvinism and male privileges, and do all this within our own ranks as well as in all of society. It also should aim to give a larger place and a leading role to proletarians, to base itself a lot more on their concerns and respect their experience.
Many things must still be clarified about the organization we must build. but the basis of unity we backed at the Congress, gives a good idea of the direction in which we, intend to work: “The process of building the revolutionary forces and consciousness is not the property of communists, even if we have a specific and important role to play. We are participants. We see our rote as utilising the scientific method of historical materialism and to make a distinct contribution to this process. We aim to determine and argue for the interests of the working class as a whole, always keeping in mind the interests of the least privileged strata. To do this most effectively, we aim to create a distinct organisation (and eventually a party) which works for the interests of a single class – the working class.” (Resolution on the Basis of Unity for a Revolutionary Communist Organisation, point 20).
While they fully realize the need for such an organization and are fully decided to pursue this objective, the members of our tendency refused to rush building it. There must be many debates before attaining this objective, debates we have only touched upon in preparing the congress of IN STRUGGLE! but that we could not pursue in depth because we were rushed as the congress drew near. The fact that we want women and proletarians to fully participate in the debate and not only to situate themselves with respect to positions developed by intellectuals and to come up with their own viewpoints makes it even more important for us to begin right now to adopt a pace that will respect their needs. Proletarian comrades from Regina emphasized this point, A good number of members have also clearly expressed their desire not to again feel pressured, to be able to reflect cool-headedly on IN STRUGGLE!’s crisis, on its dissolution and their involvement in a future organization. We must respect all of these concerns.
Thus, the next period will be one of debate, debate that will reach its climax at a national semi-public conference held in February 1983 and bringing together all those interested by the general orientation of our tendency. This conference will particularly decide our basis of unity (including the women’s question), as well as the process we should adopt to build a new organization in present political conditions.
This conference will be preceded by many kinds of debates based on the resolutions presented at the 4th congress and any other proposal that the members want to discuss. Thus we have already begun to gather together former members of IN STRUGGLE! and all people interested in order to propose they meet in small collectives (by territory or otherwise) which will permit them to broaden and preserve the links between them and begin debates. If they can and want to, these members could maintain or develop a collective intervention in the masses.
We will also try to maintain a regional life that will depend on the situation in each region. The holding of regional conferences in the autumn will be seriously considered.
In order to preserve one of the most important steps forward IN STRUGGLE! ever made, namely the links between people from all over Canada, we will try to organize modest but essential means of communication. Publishing an internal bulletin should allow us to get information from several groupings, to get to know the viewpoints that are expressed in other regions and begin the debate on a country-wide scale.
At the May 24th meeting, the tendency also elected a co-ordinating committee. it is composed of 7 people: 2 from British Columbia, 1 from Regina, 3 from Quebec and 1 from Moncton. Representatives of different groups will be able to join them at the end of the summer or the beginning of the fall.
The role of this committee will be to prepare the February national conference, but also to preserve and broaden links between different regions, particularly for those that may lind the situation more difficult after the dissolution of IN STRUGGLE!
This is the work we have to do in the next few months, difficult work certainly, but we think it indispensable. That is why we need everyone’s contribution, everyone who shares the objective of rebuilding a revolutionary communist organization throughout Canada and who are sympathetic to the general orientation expressed by our tendency (and this even if they were not convinced or did not agree with all the resolutions we proposed at the 4th Congress or with all the points in the basis of unity we submitted). We invite you to get involved in the struggle too, to join with other members to debate the summation of IS!’s congress, the basis of unity we could adopt, the path to take to reconstruct a communist organization. The very future of this organization is at stake.