First Published: In Struggle! No. 272, November 17, 1981
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Compared to certain statements made at the time of the last congress, there are now different things being said. Our understanding of the evolution of imperialism around the world and in Canada is inadequate. We are hard pressed to understand let alone explain social political, and cultural phenomenon linked to the changing structure of capitalism and imperialism. The analysis of class forces and the strata of various classes and the relations between these is underdeveloped. Life went on after Lenin’s critique of imperialism in 1917.
If the above is true, which I believe it is, and if we maintain that political action (strategy and tactics) should be based on such an analysis, then we can come to one conclusion quick – the programme that we adopted is certainly not what we thought it was. I would urge militants to reread the presentation to our programme.
It was after the adoption of this programme, that we began to realize that our study of the history of the struggle for socialism was marked with idealism. Obviously this idealism didn’t just occur in this study process.
The formulation of a programme for revolution in this country remains an uncompleted task. It is from this perspective that I agree with the need to elevate our theoretical work. I see why the elaboration of revolutionary theory is still the most critical or determinant of tasks.
The international M.L. trend, of which we are a part, has done its share in transforming Marxism from a theory to a set of closed principles, into a dogma, Among other things, Gagnon’s pamphlet points out that this codification of Marxism started quite some time ago.
We have suffered from this problem. It explains in large part the source of our dogmatism and sectarianism, Anyone who considers themselves the sole guardians of eternal truths sees only heretics elsewhere. This negative dynamic has been and is still occuring. The third congress documents are full of it. Here in the Maritimes, we started our work in 1977 on the basis of a major analysis which placed just about every group, except ourselves, in the camp of reaction. This led us to a lot of trouble.
At the same time, I don’t think that we are the only ones that suffer from this problem. Some of the sectarianism that exists has been provoked by us. It seems to be a common feature of the movement whose class basis is mostly petty-bourgeois.
I.S.! should reconsider the revolutionary movement in this country; consider its theoretical contributions, its practical contributions. We should work out a new perspective or plan to promote the development of revolutionary theory that takes in all the movement. We are not the only ones who support the necessity for political organization. Our objective should still be the formulation of a programme around which revolutionaries can unite. A lot of attention should be given to how this is to be done as we are no longer dealing with only the self-defined Marxist-Leninists. This should be the key task of our organization. I just can’t see this coming about by some lowest common denominator, bottom line basis of unity as proposed by the editor of the newspaper. We should favour unity of the left where ever we can and especially in relation to the defense of the immediate interests of the people. But this is quite another thing – even if it can contribute to the overall process.
The changes that we have to our organization’s structures and rules should be based on the consideration of the situation in Canada 1981 (and not Czarist Russia) and the tasks that we want to accomplish. We need more democracy and equality in the organization. We need changes that allow for a greater participation of women and workers. These changes should be accompagnicd by an ideological struggle against chauvinism, privilege and intellectualism. Apparently there are some that feel that changes made will accomplish nothing until Marxism is turned right side up again. At that point changes will probably not be needed beause there will probably not be an organization! The elaboration of revolutionary theory is not just the task of a few individuals.
Our work in the masses must continue but not in the often top heavy suffocating ways of the past. Decisions of where to work, when and how should be left up to the cells. The whole purpose of developing our theory is to give all revolutionaries a better understanding of society in order to change it. We will never understand reality if we divorce ourselves from it. If by subjective conditions we still mean the consciousness and organization of the masses, then we can only get a handle on this by being a part of it. I do want to stress that I don’t agree with those who say that the solution to our problems is to be more involved in the masses. We have been involved in immediate struggles in the past, the WCP is quite involved, but that hasn’t solved the essential problem.
If the newspaper is an accurate reflection of “trends” inside our organization, then only a dogmatist would fail to see that our programme is no longer capable of uniting our militants. An amendment here or there won’t solve a thing.
What we need is some sort of manifesto even though it will only be a temporary basis of unity. It should indicate what our basic goals still are; what we feel confident in and what we don’t; what we think has brought the M.L. movement to its present condition; what will be the basis of and the orientation to our approach in the next period.
If I could put it in a nutshell, I would say that the manifesto should contain the spirit of what has made I.S.! something valuable, something that has attracted militants to it, It is a spirit of independence, of investigation, of trying to use Marxism as a science to try to understand what the hell is going on. We have a history that also contains elements of this to draw from.
A Maritimes member