First Published: In Struggle! No. 288, June 22, 1982
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The following resolutions on our intervention in movements of struggle are based on a necessarily limited experience of intervention in CNTU unions. They can be enriched with the contributions each person can make on the basis of his or her own experience. We can all find extremely positive examples of our work in unions and elsewhere (a concern for democracy, an open attitude, political leadership at times, etc.). But this is not and should not be the point here. Without forgetting about these positive examples, it is important to proceed from the many negative examples and break with certain conceptions implicit in THE vanguard party and THE leadership of the proletariat.
1. We must break with a conception that means we evaluate struggles in terms of our own goals as an organization (making people conscious, building the vanguard), a conception that sees people’s struggles as a springboard for... recruiting for the organization. We must stop seeing ourselves as THE leadership of THE working class as a uniform entity.
On many occasions we evaluated our work in terms of sales of publications, rallying, contacts, influence. We very rarely evaluated it in terms of links, understanding the struggle, understanding people. We had laid out the path to follow, we acted as if we were the vanguard, and we were thereby supposed to win people to our programme, our way of seeing things.
In this framework, the important thing was what we said or thought, not the struggle itself for what it represented in the short run, for what it could accomplish. This may seem to be in contradiction with the interventions of some members, perhaps, but it is nonetheless true that the ideological concepts implicit in the self-proclaimed VANGUARD led many to evaluate things in this way. It cannot be decided in advance how things will happen, how unity should be built, who will necessarily lead the struggle, etc. Similarly, we cannot claim to be the vanguard of a class that the majority of the members do not belong to and have never belonged to. Nor can we pretend that this class is a uniform entity, without major contradictions (take, for example, what happened at the Montreal Popular Summit and the contradictions that came out there between community groups, unions, women’s groups, users, ecologist groups, etc.).
2. People’s struggles are factors of progress in and of themselves. They enable people to improve their understanding of their situation and of society. They allow them to experiment with new forms of organization. They are of course limited but we must start to wage them now, and not wait for after the revolution. We must recognize that struggles are a way of learning about power; this does not necessarily mean they are ways of seizing power. Consciousness is acquired in more than one way; the necessity of daily and political struggle has to be learned. We must also learn by being directly involved, for ourselves, in these struggles, retaining an autonomous point of view that can allow us to clarify the issues at stake but with sufficient humility not to pretend we are the truth incarnate and knowing how to change ourselves too.
3. It is not the job of a political organization to dictate, on the basis of an analysis done from behind a desk, to its members and supporters what to say and do on a daily basis. A political organization should be a place to debate, on the basis of struggles and our practice, about a political understanding of the current situation, struggles, so as to build the political capacities of its members and supporters.
4. By being active in the masses and learning the historical lessons from the world feminist working class movement, a political organisation must develop long term perspectives for the struggle for socialism in this country.
People have not waited for the communists before struggling and organizing. Leaders are recognized for their work, and not merely for what they have to say. Immediate struggles have their limits. This is why the people active in different movements of struggle seek political alternatives to bourgeois power. They get together to analyse, on the basis of their own situations, the current situation and conditions, the issues at stake in struggles, how the work should be oriented to increase collective consciousness; they seek to draw out the political stakes of the struggles, to understand how societies are evolving and to envisage ways of transforming them in the interests of the oppressed. This is why they seek a political organization. But when, in order to LEAD, the political organization winds up telling them what to say and how to say it, the members lose contact with reality and grow away from people. Some of them wind up losing confidence in this organization.