Over the past few months, particularly since last June’s central committee meeting, IN STRUGGLE! has taken up a number of important debates on fundamental issues concerning the struggle for socialism both internally and in our press (see issue 211 on this). The points of debate deal both with the evaluation of the positive lessons and defeats in the light for socialism and themes like the role of the proletarian party, democratic centralism, the tasks of communists in a non-revolutionary period and so on.
All these questions have been looked at within an historical perspective. They have also been examined in terms of the present-day situation and what tasks need to be accomplished. In short, we have tried to evaluate our work in light in the new situation.
Our research into the history of the fight for socialism has revived the interest of a number of progressives in our Organization. Indeed, some have moved quite a bit closer to us. There have been several major steps forward in our agitation and propaganda work. For example, the cross-country tour to build support for the Salvadoran people and our greater involvement in the women’s movement, the anti-racist movement and the unions. And mention must be made of the remarkable level of material support given to our Organisation by contributors to our fund-raising campaign which raised $175,000.
There have been important weak points too. Newspaper circulation is down. There has been a tendency to downplay the defence of our political line. The necessary increased focus on theoretical work and internal education has brought about some contradictions in our other work, particularly in our ability to get more involved in struggles.
Even more fundamentally, the basic issues which come out of our evaluation of the fight for socialism are in fact relevant to the questions we come up against in our day to day work. This is the spirit with which the central committee took a stand at its most recent meeting on the overall policy line which should guide us in carrying our our political tasks in the next period. Here are the main highlights:
The problems we are going through are mainly a reflection of the political and ideological crisis that affects not only the international Marxist-Leninist movement, but also the revolutionary and progressive fotees around the world and in Canada. Those problems are also aggravated by the general rise in strength of reactionary forces in all spheres of society.
We undertook the examination of the questions that are posed by the history of the struggle for socialism by breaking more completely with an ossified approach to Marxism-Leninism, an approach which has dominated for many years within the “M-L” movement: It was the current situation itself (China, etc.) which led us to confront these questions.
The progressive and revolutionary forces are also responding to the present situation by looking for alternatives to the bourgeois solutions, to the rise of the right-wing forces, etc.... and here there are different positions confronting one another concerning the fundamental questions of the revolution. The left-wing forces linked to trends such as social-democracy, anarchism, nationalism, etc... cannot pretend to have given correct answers which can guide the working class forward to socialist revolution.
We must confront this difficult situation by seeking to play the role of a real ideological and political reference point for the revolutionary forces in Canada and also to a large degree internationally.
This is the fundamental challenge that our organization faces. But in facing this challenge we are not starting from scratch. We are not starting out with just questions and nothing else...
We have a programme which already contains the foundations of a correct revolutionary alternative which we should not hesitate in defending in response to the various criticisms addressed to us. We have a history which shows our capacity to respond correctly both to very basic questions and to the political questions posed by new situations. In 1972, in 1975, and at other times, we played the role of a very important ideological pole in the situation as it was at that time. This led to the recruitment of many forces to our organization. We also have an organization which exists country-wide and is capable of having an influence on mass struggles and the progressive forces and taking part in the class struggle as a fighting organization.
Our programme, organization and history have an even greater practical utility in the present period of deepening capitalist crisis characterized by the rise Of organized rightist forces and by contradictions within the bourgeois camp itself.
We must rely on this solid foundation when we examine what our tasks should, be in the next period.
We can no longer be contented with simply stating that our task is to win over an increasing number of advanced workers to our programme on the assumption that the stage of the development (elaboration) of our programme is over. Neither can we envisage the winning over and recruitment of workers being principally due to the political leadership we execise in mass struggles. We have in fact leaned towards this interpretation of what our tasks were ever since the Third Congress. We even said, at certain points, that we should gear our efforts to directly affecting overall shape of current events.
In the next period, we must straighten but what our tasks are. We must develop our theoretical and propaganda work and raise the political level of our membership. The development of these aspects of our work is the key factor in our ability to face up to the fundamental questions before us and to play our vanguard role in the present conditions... this is also the way we will have to work in order to improve our agitation work in our ongoing mass work and struggles.
This orientation will have some practical effects on our involvement in mass organizations and struggles, for we cannot simultaneously accomplish all of our tasks with equal energies. On the other hand, this orientation will also have the effect of elevating the political quality of our interventions in struggles.
First off, one thing needs to be reaffirmed: we have a programme and constitution which fix our objectives, define our tactics and set the rules for the functioning of our Organization. Up until now no decision has been made to the effect that our Programme (or our Constitution) should be revised or corrected on one point or another. On the contrary, the decisions of the last central committee meeting (June 1980) aimed at formulating the theoretical and historical, bases to the present programme. The idea of modifying it was never evoked by the central leadership other than as the passible consequence of new conclusions that might result from our future research work. If some comrades have already reached such a new conclusion on one point or another, it is up to them to demonstrate to everyone else that it is correct.
Our objective’s are twofold: communism and socialism understood as the transition from capitalism to communism. Socialism is imperative not only because capitalism creates and increases the number of inequalities and injustices, but also because capitalism is doomed. It is condemned to disappear because of the insoluble contradictions on which it is based and that it constantly reproduces.
To reach these objectives, we advocate proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. In other words, we don’t think that capitalist society will crumble under the pressure of a greater number of struggles on a series of fronts nor as the result of the piling up of various progressive reforms. We don’t think that socialism will replace capitalism because of a broad social consensus achieved on the basis of a constant evolution of the consciousness of the people as a whole. We think that the development of the consciousness of the masses of working people, which is essential to the making of revolution, can in fact be achieved, in large part, in the course of struggles for reforms. But we also believe that revolution is necessary to the achievement of socialism, the passage of political power into the hands of the working class. The dictatorship of the proletariat consists in upholding and increasing the power of the working class after the revolution against all the forces opposing it.
That is the gist of what our Programme says in Articles 1 to 6 inclusively. Article 7 deals with the general tasks of the revolutionary struggle. Article 8 presents particular and immediate tactics that should be adopted to ensure the progressive development of the general tasks.
Should we be second-guessing our Programme? No, we must deepen our understanding of it. It must be explained with concrete examples and, after the studying and debates, corrected on certain points if necessary. After the Third Congress, we decided that the Commentaries to the Programme should be worked out more and be given a more rigorous foundation on the theoretical and historical level, and on the level of concrete analysis. And as is becoming more and more clear, our decisions concerning the critique of revisionism head exactly in the same direction.
In short, we are not challenging socialism as an objective. We are trying to better understand its “nature” as a transitional society moving towards communism, the conditions under, which it may be achieved and how it can be built. We are not foreswearing the dictatorship of the proletariat. We want to understand better how it can be exercized to serve the interests of the masses of working people and what the inter-relationships should be between the party, the masses and the State. We are not rejecting the necessity of making revolution. We are trying to better define the conditions of its occurrence in an advanced capitalist society and in a world under the near-total domination of the imperialist pozers.
We continue to believe that Canada is an imperialist country. We reject the line of “independence and socialism” both for Quebec and for Canada as a whole.
We are not renouncing the concept of the vanguard party as the vehicle for leadership of the revolutionary struggle in favour of having “a party among many others” or a federation of mass organizations. We have unanswered questions on how to build it, on the ties the party should have with other fighting organizations and on the specific characteristics of such a party in a society like ours. Those characteristics might vary depending on the political tasks dictated by the class struggle being waged by the masses at each stage of its development.
That adds up to a lot of questions, many more than we can resolve in the next months. Hence, we must continue our research into the history of socialism. Marxist theory and the concrete analysis of imperialist society. The posing of these questions puts us on common grounds with other forces and political trends which view their objective as socialism. Furthermore, the popular forces involved in different mass movements are also taking a serious interest in these questions.
But until proof to the contrary none of these questions as such challenge our Programme’s fundamental theses. At the same time, acknowledging that resolution of these questions might possibly entail modifications to our Programme on one point or another does not justify acting as if this was already the case.
Our line has been remarkably constant with respect to strategy and tactics. The first document that we published in October 1972 was entitled For the Proletarian Party. It put forward the necessity of doing “mass propaganda” to win the advanced elements over to proletarian revolution and away from social democracy and nationalism. Our Programme, adopted in April 1979, reaffirmed the central importance of the party and the task of “build(ing) the camp of the socialist revolution under the leadership of its vanguard party” (Article 7) “around the immediate struggles of the proletariat and working people”. It concluded that “the party of the working class takes up its role as the leader of the revolutionary proletariat by joining in these struggles and by demonstrating the need for revolution through them.” (Article 8)
Joining in struggles and demonstrating the need for revolution through them: that is what doing agitation and propaganda involves. And doing agitation and propaganda is still the simplest expression of what our political tasks are at present as long as we specify that we mean doing agitation and propaganda for socialist revolution and for the party that will ensure victory around the immediate mass struggles.
Although, our fundamental line has remained constant, things have changed a lot since IN STRUGGLE! was first created. Our Organization has developed and the objective situation has also changed in certain respects. New problems have appeared. The effort to figure out the right way to tackle them leads to the posing of many questions that can be capsulated in one: “How do we do communist work in the present situation?”.
We continue to uphold the objective of socialist revolution and the idea that the party plays a leading role that serves to unite and arm working people against the bourgeoisie. We also still feel that our agitation and propaganda must point out the necessity of revolution and of the party. It must promote the unity of working people and at least help develop the consciousness of the need For revolutionary forces that are capable of defeating reactionary forces.
We thereby continue to reject “stages” line of first winning the confidence and trust of people by joining their struggles and then undertaking communist work. We developed our basic positions from the very beginning in opposition to this line, defended by the Regroupement des Comites de Travailleurs (RCT) in the 1972-74 period (in Quebec).
There is no doubt that communists are able to intervene more today than they were eight years ago. For one thing, there is a great diversity of immediate struggles and movements in which we can participate and make ourselves heard. Thus, we are by no means questioning the lessons learned in applying our line and the results obtained by becoming more open to listening to and working with progressives and militant movements. In sum, we should not counterpose communist agitation and propaganda to developing tighter links with the immediate mass struggles now in 1981 any more than we should have in 1972 or 1975.
The problems that we are encountering at the present time, like the drop in newspaper circulation (in Quebec at least), the downplaying of communist educational work, difficulties in recruiting and so on cannot necessarily be explained as being due to our greater openess towards progressives and progressive movements. But they should, however, alert us to one real danger: our active participation in progressive movements must not lead us to abandon our independent (and communist) point of view on the stakes of class struggle at a given movement or to up the constant defence of the communist programme.
In the past while, our opening up to progressives and to the left was accompanied by somewhat of a weakening in the active defence of our independent viewpoint. This slight backing away from an attitude of struggle had negative effects: it led to a tendency on our part to exaggerate our past errors. Nevertheless, the debate with progressives and revolutionary forces must be continued. We must follow up the work that has already begun in our press with the series of articles on the debate within the left.
In this situation we should not be second-guessing our intervention in progressive movements and mass organizations nor our working with progressives which is an integral part of our agitation and propaganda work.
We must review and unite around what our objectives are in intervening in progressive movements and mass organizations. They include, of course, helping these struggles to be won and especially developing the unity of the proletariat and the masses against the bourgeoise and the State. But our fundamental objective is only achieved if we make the masses conscious of the need for revolution and communist programme as an alternative. For all these reasons distribution of the newspaper must occupy an important place in our interventions. We must discuss important political questions by ways of meetings, talks, circles, etc. and work at winning over and recruiting the advanced elements.
We must also avoid reducing our agitation and propaganda to just intervening in progressive movements and mass organizations. Our first priority is to build up a still wider distribution of the newspaper within mass organizations, and at meetings, struggles and cultural events. This task should in fact involve a more active search for subscriptions and more sustained attention to the subscribers.
Our newspaper must play a central role in the development of our agitation and propaganda work, including within the progressive movements and mass organizations. That is why all levels of leadership must examine the situation and ensure that the necessary efforts are put on expanding the use and study of the newspaper increasing its distribution.
The attention paid, to propaganda, relative to that accorded other tasks must be stepped up: there must more meetings, talks and debates of all sorts on every question that concerns revolutionary work in Canada and the world.
We must also continue to identify the questions and the stakes that are central for Canadian working people in each and every important development in the class struggle. This is an important aspect of our leadership in the class struggle.
We must take the time to debate these issues and clarify the important political stakes involved both internally and in public meetings, talks and various sorts of circles. The winning over and recruitment of advanced elements must remain a constant concern in all our agitation and propaganda work.
For a number of years now, IN STRUGGLE! has been an organization which although relatively undeveloped has been active throughout the country. It is fairly well known at least among the most active strata of the workers and progressive movements. Right from the beginning, our Organization set itself the task of working to establish the conditions for the creation of the party of the proletariat. We have always said that these conditions do not simply depend on our own will nor just on the accomplishment of a list of specific tasks defined in advance. The creation of the party is not an act resulting mechanically from the realization of a whole set of conditions that are laid out ahead of time. It is a political decision that must be made when an analysis of the situation indicates that it is politically necessary and possible to create the party.
The purpose of an organization is not the organization itself. We must build an organization that will allow, or better still that will favour, the accomplishment of our tasks. Our present tasks include linking up with progressive movements aid the distribution of the newspaper and our press. They will include occasional and relatively short political campaigns and internationalist support activities which are both dictated by the specific situation at a given moment. They include research and analysis work and polemical exchanges with revolutionary forces in Canada and abroad. Finally. they include – and this is something which we forget too often – theoretical education and practical training for all the members and probationers which goes beyond the public-oriented propaganda activities (meetings, talks. circles).
So, given the conditions that must be attained for the realization and the smoothest possible coordination of these various tasks and activities, we must now, consider making changes in our organizational forms. No organizational transformation, no matter how radical it may be, will resolve our present problems unless it makes our organizational forms consonant with the political tasks we have to carry out internally and in our mass work. It will not be a solution unless it creates the best possible conditions for a lively application of democratic centralism.