A Brief history of the Struggle for the Reconstruction of a Proletarian Party in Canada


First Published: Proletarian Unity, Theoretical Journal of the Marxist-Leninist Group In Struggle!, No. 7 (Vol. 2, No. 1) October 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The swindlers of Capital have launched their most savage attack against the Canadian proletariat since the end of the Second World War. The difficulties which the Canadian bourgeoisie is presently facing bring it to try and shift the weight of the crisis onto the backs of the working class and the masses. The capitalist class has joined ranks behind its instrument of repression, the bourgeois State, to bring down laws, one more repressive than the next, on the heads of the people. At the heart of this attack we find the sinister law C-73, the Wage Control Act, an instrument with which the bourgeoisie seeks to put down the revolt of the working class, as well as to intensify its exploitation in order to increase its profits. This law is an instrument to Impoverish and divide the proletariat.

It’s in these conditions that the resistance of the Canadian proletariat is growing. Particularly fervent in Quebec in the early 70’s, this outburst of combativity is now generalized throughout the entire country. Everywhere, the living conditions of the working class and the masses are the same – debts, unemployment, repression. But, despite the importance of this outburst of combativity, reality is there to remind us of its fragility, and of its incapacity to overthrow the cause of our troubles – capitalism. Of course there are victories, but the struggles must always start all over again. Often, it’s necessary to go out on strike for six months just to be able to keep what we already had. Often the struggles are directed onto all sorts of dead end paths which, at the end of the line, cause us to put into question having fought at all.

What the facts cruelly teach us each day is that the working class is missing a revolutionary leadership which could put it onto the path of attack against the bourgeoisie. A leadership which would lead it in the struggle to the end against capitalism and its hardships.

Because they struggle for the superior interests of the masses, because they represent the proletariat’s future, Canadian Marxist-Leninists have put the reconstruction of a revolutionary leadership of the proletariat at the very center of their preoccupations and actions. Today, to make revolution, is to struggle for the reconstruction of the Revolutionary Party of the proletariat, the Marxist-Leninist Party, And it is only by becoming involved in this struggle that we can claim to defend the real interests of the proletariat.

At the present time, a part of the movement, while it claims to struggle for the Party, has in fact, a tendency to dangerously subordinate this task. If this tendency develops and is not rectified, it will lead to revisionism, to the betrayal of the revolution. To wage struggle against this inclination to subordinate the struggle for the Party, and thus contribute to the revolutionary progress of the entire Canadian proletariat, we present our readers with this brief history of the struggle for the reconstruction of the Proletarian Party in Canada.

In regard to our task, the building of the Marxist-Leninist Party, we are going to retrace the history of the Canadian communist movement from the degeneration of the Communist Party of Canada up until our time. We try to establish which of the contradictions constituted the motor of the class struggle at each phase in the development of the movement. We also will try to identify who had the proletarian line, and who really made the struggle for the reconstruction of the Party advance.

Although our movement is still young, it is necessary to write its history. And it’s important to make it known to the masses. Our movement is no longer what it was five years ago. At that time the number of militants calling themselves Marxist-Leninists could have been counted on one hand. Today, the best elements of the intellectual youth are rallying to our ranks in waves. As well, more and more men and women workers are taking hold of the invincible arm of Marxism-Leninism and defending it before their class brothers and sisters.

In but a short time the movement has grown with the addition of new militants, full of revolutionary ardour, but often with little knowledge of the struggles which have led to the birth of this movement. However, the knowledge of these facts is essential to measure the depth of the line struggle which currently runs through our movement, and to grasp what is really at stake.

To act on social phenomena, one must first learn about the entire process of their development. Because social phenomena do not come into being all at once. They have a life, a history and a development. Thus the errors that we see in the movement today did not develop overnight. They existed before. And it is precisely by knowing what they were like and how they were modified to become what they are today, that we can really understand and correct them. In other words, we believe that it is by grasping what was, and by criticizing it, that we can forge tomorrow’s victories. This text is also meant to be an instrument of study and debate in preparation for the Fourth National Conference of Canadian Marxist-Leninists which will deal with the tasks of Canadian Marxist-Leninists. Our group has been holding these National Conferences of Canadian Marxist-Leninists for a year now. These conferences are a part of the struggle to unite all Canadian Marxist-Leninists into a single organization, on the basis of a programme whose very elaboration presupposes a systematic demarcation between correct and false ideas, between the bourgeois and proletarian lines. The conferences have the precise goal of accentuating the polemics and the direct confrontation of the points of view within our movement on the main questions of programme in a spirit of unity and within a systematic organizational framework. Up until now, there have been three conferences. The first dealt with the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists, the second with the path of the revolution in Canada, and the third with the international situation. The fourth will touch on the current tasks of Canadian Marxist-Leninists, that is, the struggle which Canadian communists must wage to give the Canadian proletariat a single revolutionary leadership. The experiences of the glorious Bolshevik, Albanian, and Chinese revolutions, prove that without its Marxist-Leninist Party, the proletariat cannot be victorious. We feel that it is of utmost importance, that we intensify the polemics and the debates within the movement and the masses on the current tasks of Canadian Marxist-Leninists. This is a pre-condition to moving towards our central objective - the reconstruction of the Party of the proletariat. The study of the history of the line struggle within our movement on the question of the Party is a key element to grasp in order that the debate becomes more concrete and rigorous. Our movement has already acquired rich experience. It’s time to generalize it.


For some, the Communist Party of Canada became revisionist in 1956 when the Party officially lined up on the side of the Soviet revisionists against the Marxist-Leninist line which was vigorously defended by the Communist Party of China and the Party of Labour of Albania. This point of view is erroneous. It takes into account only the most superficial aspects. If we really want to clear things up for the Canadian proletariat and arm it in the struggle to the finish against revisionism, we will not be satisfied with something which was finally nothing more than the end product of a process which had begun well before – the process of the degeneration of a proletarian party into a bourgeois reformist party. This task has hardly begun in our movement and there is absolute necessity to pursue and deepen it. The success of our current struggle against opportunism within the Marxist-Leninist movement, the success of our struggle to rebuild the authentic vanguard Party of the Canadian proletariat depend on it.

Thus it is not by accident or by intellectual curiosity that we have begun this history of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement with the presentation of our viewpoint on the development of revisionism within the Communist Party of Canada. We have done this because we are convinced that the lack of polemics on this point on the part of Canadian Marxist-Leninist groups constitutes a major obstacle in our current struggle against revisionism and opportunism. Finally we should add that we are undertaking this debate while being fully conscious of the important weaknesses which we still have in our concrete analysis of the subject.

To go right to the heart of the subject, it was at the August 1943 Congress that revisionism became the dominant aspect of the line of the Canadian Communist Party. Not only did this Congress adopt a new name for the Party, which became the Progressive Labour Party, (PLP)[MIA Note: In English texts, the Party's name is usually abbreviated LPP] but it also adopted a new political line which was contrary to Marxist-Leninist principles. And from that moment the Party abandoned all truly revolutionary strategy and accepted to submit all of its action to the narrow framework of legalism and bourgeois parliamentarism. Instead of systematically preparing the masses for revolution, for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the new party proposed the election of a workers’ and farmers’ government, which later would transform itself into a socialist government – without armed struggle, without revolution. The Party thus tried to make the masses believe that the bourgeoisie, by itself, would abandon its class privileges, without repression, without having recourse to the violence of its State apparatus.

This was a clear betrayal of the entire history of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, betrayal of the Marxist-Leninist principles on the question of the State and revolution.

Further still, the PLP even went so far as to propose to the proletariat that it ally itself with the Liberal Party, with a party which long had served the interests of the grand Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie, a party which had long waged open war against the communist and workers’ movement – forbidding strikes, freezing wages, rationing food-stuffs – all of that to fatten great Capital. It’s with this party that the PLP proposed an alliance against the Conservative Party! In brief, the only solution that the PLP offered to the masses who were cruelly oppressed by Capital, was to support one faction of Capital against the other. In fact, what they preached to the masses was to accept their miserable life conditions, and nothing more!

This act of betrayal, this denunciation of the revolution, were also accompanied by a complete abandonment of Marxist-Leninist principles on the very nature of the Party. In effect, the PLP no longer defined itself as a class Party, as the Party of the proletariat, but rather as a “Party of all the workers”. This sad refrain which is still defended today by the revisionists and Trotskyists, has but one goal – to make the Party acceptable to the hesitant and unstable elements of the petty-bourgeoisie. The history of the Paris Commune and of the Bolshevik revolution on which all authentic communist parties base themselves, show that, on the contrary, the revolutionary Party can include these elements to the extent that they abandon the point of view of their class of origin and entirely and unreservedly adopt that of the only class which is revolutionary to the core, the class point of view of the proletariat. Only the Party of the proletariat, composed of its most conscious and devoted elements, can wage the revolutionary struggle of the masses to its final victory against the bourgeoisie.

Consistent with its line, the PLP dissolved its factory cells, which are the fortresses of all authentic communist parties, built from within the proletariat, to constitute itself on an electoral basis like all other bourgeois parties.

For all of these reasons it is correct to affirm, that as of 1943 the CP (which had become the PLP) had abandoned the path of the revolution, the political independence of the proletariat, and had ceased to be an authentic proletarian party. From that moment up until it rallied to the positions of the Soviet revisionists, the gangrene of revisionism led the party from split to split, devoiding it of its authentic revolutionary militants, in order to let In a series of opportunists and petty-bourgeois and bourgeois careerists.

In 1945, Fergus McKean, who was then secretary of the provincial wing of the Party in British Columbia, in a book entitled Communism versus Opportunism[1], launched a full scale attack against the revisionist line of the PLP, and put forward the necessity of recreating a new Party. McKean did not succeed in organizing real opposition to the leadership of the PLP and was quickly expelled from the Party. He created a short-lived party which only lasted a few months.

The PLP, and before it the CP, had always had an erroneous line on the Quebec national question, and had never been a firm defender of the Quebec nation’s right to self-determination, nor a solid fighter against great nation chauvinism in English-Canada. At the 5th Congress of the PLP in 1949, there was a split within the party because of its chauvinist line concerning the national question. 300 of the 700 delegates left the Party when the leaders refused to change their positions. This split led to the departure of the major part of the Party’s forces in Quebec. They, for their part, fell into narrow nationalism.

The great nation chauvinism of the English-Canadian militants increased the narrow nationalism of the Quebec militants. From the viewpoint of the interests of the entire Canadian proletariat, the two parties were in the wrong, both their positions leading to a reinforcement of the division of the proletariat on a national basis.

Thus the fall of the revolutionary general headquarters of the Canadian proletariat led to the crumbling of the Canadian proletariat’s unity. This sad episode in the line struggle within the PLP should remain engraved in the memory of the Canadian proletariat as well as in that of present-day Marxist-Leninists. The lesson which must be drawn is that the building of an authentic revolutionary workers’ Party is an essential condition for the iron unity of the Canadian proletariat, and that this Party must be built in the struggle against the two faces of bourgeois nationalism – great nation chauvinism and narrow nationalism.

When in 1957, the PLP formally rallied to the line of modern revisionism put forward by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, it was a party which had already developed a revisionist line ten years before. Other struggles broke out in the Party which resulted in other splits. The most important of these was the struggle waged by the militants who later founded the Progressive Worker Movement (PWM).

In the late 50’s and early 60’s, an extremely important line struggle opposing Marxism-Leninism to modern revisionism was intensified within the international communist movement. This line struggle was waged parallely on the international level and within each party. On the international level the Party of Labour of Albania and the Chinese Communist Party waged principled struggle against the clique of renegades which has usurped the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and their allies in the different Communist Parties. Unmasked, the pseudo-communist Khrushchev and his gang of unscrupulous bourgeois power-seekers, provoked the split of the international communist movement by plotting to expel the Communist Party of China and the Party of Labour of Albania.

This split between Marxism-Leninism and modern revisionism on an international scale, sharpened the contradictions between the two lines within all the Communist Parties in the world. In all of these Parties the revolutionary elements, basing themselves on the correct positions elaborated by the Albanian and Chinese comrades, undertook the struggle against revisionism with new ardour. Such a struggle took place within the Communist Party of Canada. It broke out with the publication of the programme Socialism for the Sixties, which the party’s leadership presented to its members in 1962. This programme, which appeared at a period of economic progress in

Canada, was one step more in the consolidation of the revisionism which was already present within the CP. It questioned the historical role of the proletariat, identifying it not as the only class that is revolutionary to the core, but rather as one of the forces of the nation. Its objectives were merely to reduce the power of the monopolies. It proposed reforms and changes in the “structures of the economy”, in the structures of capitalism. It called on the working class to reform capitalism rather than to destroy it.

The Progressive Worker Movement

Early in 1964 in Vancouver, Jack Scott and his cell companions who opposed the line of the CP, created the Canada-China Friendship Association, which, by the way, was the first to be created in a Western capitalist country. This action was consciously and clearly the sign of a proletarian position which opposed the bourgeois line of the CP and all the revisionist parties, with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at their head. This too obvious support for China on the part of Scott and his companions led to their expulsion from the Party in the summer of 1964. They then tried to bring together all Canadian revolutionary forces, but their attempt failed.[2] Turning inwards to British Columbia, they founded the Progressive Worker Movement (PWM), in October 1964.

Although it was in fact the most vigorous attack at the time against revisionism in Canada, the very creation of the PWM is the consequence of the first failure in the struggle to rebuild an authentic proletarian Party. The history of this group was to be marked by the repetition of this defeat, always for the same reason. Even if it was the first Canadian group to wage struggle against revisionism during the 60’s, the PWM was never really able to break with revisionism. And we are going to look at the reasons why.

The struggle against revisionism

In a Declaration of Principles, the Central Committee of the PWM wrote in the first issue of the newspaper Progressive Worker:

“The contemporary period is marked by a resurgence of revisionism in the service of imperialism and demands a united and unyielding struggle on the part of Marxist-Leninists in defence of the basic concepts of Marxism-Leninism and for the socialist revolution.”[3]

After having explained the role of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as that of main leader of modern revisionism, the leadership of the PWM analyzed the Canadian Communist Party in the following terms:

“The communist party has fallen into the hands of the revisionists led by Morris and Kashtan[4] who are supported and encouraged by the Krushchevites. They engage in vicious unprincipled attacks against the Communist Party of China (foremost defender of Marxism-Leninism in the international movement): they promote the ’parliamentary’ and ’peaceful’ road to Socialism, thus disarming the working class in the face of capitalist class violence; they abandon the Marxist-Leninists concepts on Socialist Revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat: they abandon proletarian internationalism in favor of allying themselves with the Canadian liberal bourgeoisie; they accept – and try to get the working masses to accept – the ideology of social democracy, the main bulwark of capitalism in the labour movement. Having abandoned Marxism-Leninism, the CP leadership is quite incapable of leading the struggle for the realization of a program of fundamental working class demands”.[5] At the end of its declaration of principles the Central Committee of the PWM launched an appeal for the unity of the other Marxist-Leninists in the country to create the Party.

“We propose that the Marxist-Leninist workers’ groups begin discussing plans for holding a national conference in the near future for the purpose of organizing a Marxist-Leninist Workers’ Party in Canada which shall dedicate itself to raising again, to a place of conspicuous honor, the proud banner of proletarian struggle”.[6]

The PWM thus clearly placed its task at the level of the struggle against revisionism, and from that point of view, we must accord it much merit. Particularly on the ideological level, it traced a first demarcation between Marxism-Leninism and modern revisionism and all other opportunist and counter-revolutionary ideologies, such as Trotskyism, Castrism, and social democracy. It unceasingly denounced the class collaboration practiced by the traitors of the CP. On the international level, it denounced the manoeuvres of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (such as the invasion of Czechoslovakia), and firmly supported the socialist countries and the struggles of the peoples against imperialism, particularly the just struggle of the Indochinese people. It once again took up the historical tradition of the international communist movement by establishing a center for the distribution of Marxist-Leninist books, by placing revolutionary songs in the place of honour, and by recalling the high points of the proletariat’s struggle, (Commune of Paris, October Revolution, Winnipeg General Strike). The PWM was a firm defender of the immediate interests of the masses, participating in the struggles for the right to work, opposing work speed-ups, fighting for the improvement of the masses’ living conditions and struggling for the democratization of unions.

However, it committed two determinant errors which prevented it from really rebuilding the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement. It abandoned the tasks of rebuilding the Proletarian Party, as well as that of applying the independent policy of the proletariat on all questions, that is, a policy distinct from all the other classes of Canadian society. From then on, it had irremediably started down the slope of revisionism.

The PWM was characterized by its spontaneism with regard to party building. From its creation, the PWM had established the necessity of uniting the revolutionary forces in the country and creating the Party. But to be truthful, this question was more a declaration of intention. Except for the last year of Progressive Worker[7], where it constituted the subject of a few articles, the question of the Party was never really the object of intense propaganda in the PWM’s press. Already, by its creation the PWM failed in its attempt to create the Party on a national scale. This failure rapidly led it to turn inwards on itself, to capitulate before the struggle to be waged for the whole Canadian proletariat.

Afterwards, it was to raise localism to the level of a principle for the construction of the Party, by putting forward the unification of communists on a regional basis before their unification on a national basis. In fact, the militants of the PWM devoted the essential of their energies to the development of their work In the union movement, without submitting this task to the task which must be the first of all the tasks of communists within the workers’ movement, that is, the rallying of advanced elements of the proletariat to communism through the activity of communist agitation, propaganda and organization.The Canadianization of the Unions

Throughout the greater part of its history, all of the PWM’s tactics were to be determined by the call for the Canadianization of the unions. According to these comrades, it was necessary to rid the Canadian unions of the hold which the American union bureaucrats had on them and return them to the militant control of the rank and file in order to turn them into arms which were not only defensive, but also offensive, for the liberation of the country and the emancipation of the workers.

“Revolutionaries must, therefore, strive to show the working class how to use the unions as a weapon to shape their future, a revolutionary weapon for the abolition of the system of exploitation of man by man”.[8]

And further on:

“It will, therefore, be necessary for us to raise this question [the creation of an independent trade union movement – Proletarian Unity editor’s note] in conjunction with the whole broad front of struggle and do more effective work in pointing out that the defeat of the US bureaucracy is essential to democratic worker control of the unions and that such control is a necessary prerequisite for turning the unions into the effective fighting organs they can and must become in order to defend the rights and living standards of the workers and free our land from alien domination”.[9]

In fact, the PWM even conceived of the creation of such an independent Canadian union movement as:

“the primary task confronting Canadian workers at this point in history...”[10]

This was in fact a disavowment of the teachings of Marxism-Leninism on the building of the proletarian Party, and the most base economism. Furthermore, the question of the Party rapidly became nothing but a mere reference in the PWM’s line. In fact, its work consisted essentially of “reviving” unions, seeking to make them militant by radicalizing workers’ struggles. On this point as on many others, the great similarity between the PWM’s practice and the current economist line of the Canadian Communist League (M-L) should be noted. The latter does the same work only this time with the slogan of “class struggle unions”, which is no different than the “militant unions” of the PWM.

Moreover, the PWM and the League do not have the monopoly on this sort of practice which limits communist activity in unions to the radicalization of local struggles. It also characterized the line of the Regroupement des Comites des Travailleurs (RCT – Federation of Workers’ Committees), an opportunist group whose still active militants have today joined the ranks of the League. This practice is like an old refrain which continues to reappear throughout the history of the movement, and which certain are still singing.

The PWM’s abandonment of the central question of the Party was also manifested by the little importance that it accorded to the elaboration of revolutionary theory. On this point Marxist-Leninists have always been clear. As Lenin himself stated: “Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement”. To this extent, the first task that the PWM should have taken up was to produce and distribute a rigorous criticism of the revisionism of the Communist Party of Canada, among the masses. By rigorous criticism we mean a criticism which would have analyzed the concrete history of the development of revisionism in our country, unmasking all of the most important manifestations by opposing them with the proletarian line.

On the contrary, the criticism produced by that group was partial and unilateral. Partial because it touched only certain aspects of the revisionist line, in particular union work and the attitude with regard to US imperialism. Unilateral because often the only reply it gave was to present the opposite position. And this reply was also often accompanied by a mechanical application of the line of the Communist Party of China rather than by a creative application of that line to the concrete practice of the revolution in our country.

With regard to the Quebec national question, the Communist Party of Canada had always adopted a chauvinist position which refused to recognize the Quebec nation’s right to self-determination and to set itself up as an independent State. Once again the PWM gave a unilateral reply without making a concrete class analysis. The PWM answered the chauvinism of the CP with narrow nationalism, giving its support to Quebec independence and even going so far as to break off relations with the militants in Quebec on its own initiative. The importance of this error should not be underestimated for its direct effect was to maintain the brick wall which already separated both the proletariat and the revolutionary movements of the two nations.

The modern revisionists in Canada as elsewhere, had, at the time, abandoned the revolutionary struggles against American imperialism preaching their rot about peaceful coexistence. According to the correct analysis of the Chinese Communist Party and the Party of Labour of Albania, American imperialism was at the time the main enemy of the peoples on a world scale. Mechanically applying this line to the Canadian reality, the PWM identified American imperialism as the main enemy of the Canadian people, to the point of advocating the alliance of the proletariat with the Canadian bourgeoisie. Through its unilateral criticism of the Communist Party of Canada, the PWM finally ended up in practice, with this type of a line of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie.

Here we should draw our readers’ attention to the fact that this error of mechanically applying the line of another Party instead of setting down to the task of developing one’s own line in all independence, by applying the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete practice of the revolution in one’s own country, still persist right up to the present time. Groups like Bolshevik Union (BU) and “C”PC(M-L)have developed such political laziness to the point of trying to make us believe that now the line of the Party of Labour of Albania and before that the line of the Communist Party of China could take the place of the line of the Canadian communist movement. For their part the CCL(M-L) and the Red Star Collective try to justify their propensity for supporting the Canadian bourgeoisie, by taking up as their own, the line of the Communist Party of China on the international situation. Dogmatic errors of this type if they are not rectified will sooner or later lead to a betrayal of the revolution.

Without a resolute struggle against great nation chauvinism and bourgeois nationalism, it’s impossible to unite the proletariat of the two nations, and this struggle for the unity of the entire Canadian proletariat is an essential aspect of the struggle to build a single party of the Canadian proletariat.

The abandonment of the central task of party building, and the abandonment of the work of elaborating and publishing the revolutionary theory of the Canadian proletariat, of the communist programme, could only lead the PWM to line itself up in the camp of bourgeois nationalism.

The massive penetration of American imperialist capital, organizations and culture in the ’50’s and ’60’s, and the powerful development of the national liberation movements of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America created fertile ground for the development of petty-bourgeois anti-imperialism in our country, particularly among Canadian youth. Because of its own errors, the PWM, far from channeling this movement towards the revolutionary proletariat, found itself literally caught up in it.

In what was to be its most complete document of political line, “Independence and Socialism in Canada”, published in 1968, the PWM advocated nothing less than a national liberation struggle against American imperialism:

“Recognizing US domination as being the chief obstacle on the road to socialism, socialists should direct their efforts towards removing this obstacle. This means working among the various sectors of the Canadian population and uniting as many Canadians as possible against their number one enemy, US imperialism. A broad coalition must be built, a broad coalition whose purpose is the breaking away of Canada from the American empire, the achievement of the power of self-determination of the Canadian people”.[11]

Following this, In the same manifesto, came a whole series of tactics, which on the basis of this strategic objective, sought to rally workers, farmers, students, and petty-bourgeois intellectuals. As history was to reveal, this was to objectively divert them rather than bring them closer to the proletarian revolution. Furthermore, it is significant that in this document which was the fundamental document of the PWM, the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat are not at all mentioned!

Thus this first attempt to organize the struggle against modern revisionism in Canada was bound to fail. And, not long afterwards, the PWM was forced to end its activities. However, its line was to be taken up and pushed to its logical conclusions by the “C”PC(M-L), that group of counterrevolutionaries which has never done anything more than try to “marxisize” bourgeois nationalism and which today still constitutes a major obstacle to the development of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement.

Another particularly negative effect of the PWM’s experience was that it reinforced the tendency of the petty-bourgeois intellectuals who were under its influence, particularly in the West, to retreat into small, closed study circles and to conceive of militant unionism as a model for the revolutionary work to be done within the working class. These circles, many of which still exist today, devoted themselves to studying theory completely cut off from the class struggle, and to practice which tailed after the workers’ movement. The effect of this was basically to abandon the struggle for the Party.

The history of the PWM and its failure in the struggle against revisionism is rich in lessons for the current young Marxist-Leninist movement. In the first place, it concretely shows how the struggle to elaborate the proletarian line and the communist programme is indissolubly linked to a profound and rigorous criticism of revisionism in Canada in all of the most important manifestations of its development, it also shows how in the absence of a real proletarian Party, the building of this party must be at the center of all the tasks of Marxist-Leninists. If not, we will find ourselves progressively drawn to the different petty-bourgeois and even bourgeois opportunist currents. More precisely, it indicates all of the importance of the elaboration of revolutionary theory and the revolutionary programme and their wide distribution among the masses, at this stage in the revolutionary struggle.

To fail at this duty, to be satisfied with winning immediate victories in any given struggle or on any given question, is to just as inevitably slide into opportunism and to fall into revisionism again. Finally, it permits us to understand the dialectical unity which links communist strategy and tactics. An economist tactic for work in workers’ and peoples’ struggles, or in mass organizations is a definite reflection of an attitude of collaboration and capitulation before the bourgeoisie and leads to renouncing the class interests of the proletariat. As we will see further on, these lessons apply just as much to the opportunist positions which still exist in our movement.


The result of the degeneration of the CP and the control of the workers’ movement by its corrupt stratum, the labour aristocracy, was the considerable weakening of the proletariat’s struggles in the ’50’s and ’60’s. More precisely, in the absence of a real revolutionary leadership, the proletariat found itself unarmed in the face of the open attacks of the bourgeoisie, in particular the vast “witch hunts” directed against the communists like, for example, the disguised attacks of reformism, apoliticalism and class collaboration unionism. During the ’50’s and ’60’s, all of that was to lead to a profound division within the workers’ movement, particularly on a nationalist basis, as well as to its being pushed out of the political scene.

In those conditions, the most important political movement in Canada, during the ’60’s, and even more so in Quebec, was the nationalist movement. It was even easier for this movement to develop, given the objective conditions of the period which really lent themselves to it. For it was during these years that the penetration of American imperialism was greatest. Favoured by the development of a tighter alliance with the Canadian bourgeoisie following the Second World War, American imperialism penetrated practically all spheres of our social life. On the economic level of course[12], but also in the political, military and cultural spheres.

On the Quebec scene, nationalism was even more exacerbated because of the considerable centralization of political power in the hands of the federal government during and after the war. The objective effect of this centralization was to accentuate the age-old oppression of the Quebec nation.

Thus, in Canada and Quebec, large sectors of the population reacted strongly to these phenomena. Particularly among the petty-bourgeois radicals, many began to compare their situation to that of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America who at the same time were the impetus for a vast revolutionary movement of liberation against imperialism. Frantz Fanon’s[13] ideas on anti-colonialism, Che Guevara’s[14] on the Cuban revolution and the Black Panther movement’s[15] in the United States, began to ferment in the minds of many revolutionary intellectuals. Groups like Partis-Pris[16], the Front de Liberation du Quebec (F.L.Q.) and Red Morning[17], took up their wide propagation. Today’s Marxist-Leninists and conscious workers must understand the role that the nationalist movement played at that time in the development of the revolutionary movement in Canada. This wide-scale political movement set great social forces into motion and no class was left indifferent. It was a powerful factor in making the masses conscious of the necessity of political action, even if it objectively maintained the proletariat under the domination of the bourgeoisie. In fact, to a great extent the current Marxist-Leninist movement was founded by the revolutionary elements of the petty-bourgeoisie who came out of the nationalist movement. How is that possible?

The deepening of the general crisis of imperialism and its effects in Canada in the ’60’s caused a fraction of the petty-bourgeoisie (intellectuals, students, social-animators) to become radicalized. For all of this fraction, the nationalist movement constituted the grounds for this radicalization. But rapidly, the stupendous growth of the workers’ movement in the late ’60’s, revealed what was really at stake in the class struggle in Canada. Among the radical intellectuals, revolutionary elements stood up and proceeded to criticize the reactionary character of nationalism and to adhere to Marxism-Leninism by seeking to approach the workers’ movement.

Because of the material conditions of the exploitation of the proletariat in capitalist society, the workers’ movement on its own cannot become a conscious movement, a Marxist-Leninist movement. A scientific understanding of the economic relations in society cannot spring up from its daily struggle. For the workers’ movement to become a revolutionary movement, it is necessary to import this knowledge of the economic relations of society, Marxism-Leninism, from outside.Historically, bourgeois intellectuals, having broken with their class, have been the ones to elaborate revolutionary science, and it is their task to carry scientific socialism into the workers’ movement.

But while fulfilling their historic role of carrying Marxism-Leninism to the proletariat so that it can assimilate it, these intellectuals have also brought with them the shortcomings of their class. These shortcomings often take on the following appearance: on one hand there is the tendency to exercise its domination on the workers’ movement which is mainly expressed by the action of reserving revolutionary theory for the intellectuals and leaving the workers’ movement busy with economic struggles. On the other hand there is the tendency to conciliate the interests of the proletariat and those of the bourgeoisie, which is particularly expressed by bourgeois nationalism.

It’s particularly in Quebec that this process was accomplished the most quickly, and that it had the greatest influence among the masses.

The nationalist movement in Quebec

Among the debates waged in the nationalist movement in the ’60’s, the debate on the relation between socialism and independence was the most decisive. All of the nationalist groups had reform programmes often proclaiming to be anti-capitalist, or anti-imperialist. The debate was crystallized around two themes. The first consisted of claiming that the independence of Quebec was a pre-condition to the future of socialism. The other put forward that the struggle for political independence and the struggle for socialism were one and the same struggle.[18]

Each of these tendencies was represented by a journal. Parti Pris, founded in 1963 by a group of intellectuals at the University of Montreal, applied Fanon’s theses on colonialism to Quebec. Its founders supported “tactical support” for the national bourgeoisie, in order to obtain the political conditions which would permit the waging of the struggle for socialism afterwards.

In opposition to Parti Pris, the journal Revolution Quebecoise, founded in 1964 by Charles Gagnon and Pierre Vallieres, was against support for the national bourgeoisie, and put forward the struggle for socialism on the basis of a working class organization.The polemic between the two journals was concretized with the creation of the Mouvement de Liberation Populaire (MLP) (Peoples’ Liberation Movement) whose manifesto proclaimed the rejection of support for the bourgeoisie, the necessity of building a revolutionary working class organization, the necessity of the Party and of a vanguard to build the Party.

At this point, we should bring a few clarifications. The concept of the “vanguard” at that time did not mean what it means today. It was not the Marxist-Leninist concept which designates the most advanced elements of the proletariat who must be rallied to create and build the party. The term “vanguard” had an elitist conception behind it. It was the “conscious” elements of the petty-bourgeoisie who had given themselves the mission of being the vanguard of the masses. The MLP was impregnated with this anti-Marxist pretension, as were the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ) and the Front de Liberation Populaire (FLP).

The MLP tried to approach the workers’ movement, but it had a very short life span. On the prompting of the Trotskyists a part of the MLP passed over to the Socialist Party of Quebec (Parti Socialiste du Quebec – PSQ) – a social democratic party issued from a split in the NDP and founded by Michel Chartrand, Emile Boudreau and others that disappeared after the electoral defeat in 1966. The goal of adhering to the PSQ was to radicalize it, according to the well known Trotskyist tactic which consists of infiltrating (or creating) a social democratic or revisionist type of bourgeois party so as to afterwards try and lead it on to revolutionary positions.

Approaching the Workers’ Movement

The second half of the ’60’s saw a considerable widening of the social strata won over to the nationalism and independence of Quebec. Thus, when in 1967, Rene Levesque left the Liberal Party, slamming the door behind him, he represented and brought out with him an entire segment of the Quebec bourgeoisie. With the creation of the Mouvement Souverainete-Association (MSA) and its fusion with the Ralliement National (RN) itself issued from the Creditist Party which ended up in 1968 with the creation of the Parti Quebecois, the bourgeoisie really took the nationalist movement in hand. The question of supporting or opposing the national bourgeoisie was more than ever concretely and clearly posed.

It’s at that moment that certain of the more radical nationalists began turning more systematically to the workers’ movement which began making strides forward on the political scene. The development of the workers’ and peoples’ struggles at the time, led to the sharpening of the existing contradictions among these elements. And so, two very distinct currents whose influence is still being felt today within the Marxist-Leninist movement appeared. The first, whose break with the bourgeoisie was least advanced, was the current that was at the time called “social animation”. Paid and financed by various governmental organisms or by religious and “charitable” organizations, the social animators threw themselves into the organization of citizens’ committees, tenants organizations and other peoples’ organizations. The characteristic of these different committees was to bring people together to defend themselves against rent increases, the destruction of homes, health problems, debts, etc. Through these actions, the social animators sought to attain political objectives, going from “workers’ power” to supporting the Parti Quebecois. But precisely because of their conceptions of political work based on a contempt for the masses, they camouflaged these objectives. And so they quite well represented that tendency of the petty-bourgeoisie which when it approaches the workers’ movement, seeks to keep or to conquer control, and to do so, conceives of its political work as work of manipulating the masses, for, according to them, the masses... can’t understand. In opposition to this tendency, the tendency called “mass political agitation” developed. Grouped together around organizations such as the Front de Liberation Populaire, the Front de Liberation du Quebec (the 1966 tendency[19]), the Mouvement syndical politique (the political union movement), and the Vallieres-Gagnon committee (a support committee that fought for the release from prison of Pierre Vallieres and Charles Gagnon), this tendency was at the origin of the great political demonstrations in the late ’60’s: McGill Franpais (1969), against the language Bill 63 (1969), Murray Hill (1968), Anti-Congress (demonstration led against the Union Nationale which was then in power) (1969), numerous demonstrations for the liberation of Quebec political prisoners, etc... These groups also manifested an active participation in all the important workers’ struggles in these same years: construction, taxi... As opposed to the social animators, these groups were not afraid to openly present their political objectives. They contributed to the development of political debates among the masses, thus widening their political horizons, while the animators reduced these horizons to their immediate problems. However, besides stimulating nationalism, these groups were incapable of the least bit of continuity in their work, of which the bourgeoisie quickly gained control. Just like the social animators, these groups were incapable of organizing the masses on the basis of their fundamental interests.

The evolution of these two tendencies was to lead both of them to defeat. On the one hand, the social animators for whom open political action was to become a necessity, in 1969-70, united with the social democrats of the union centers, and the Trotskyists, in the electoral experience of the political action committees (FRAP)[20]. This led to a new defeat whose organizational result was the departure of the political action committees (comites d’action politique – CAP) of St-Jacques and Maisonneuve from the FRAP. We will come back to this later.

For their part, the action of groups such as the FLP and the MSP did not meet with much better results. They rallied very few workers and perpetually had to begin their actions over again. The October Crisis of 1970 confirmed their total failure. These groups were easily disorganized by the effects of the sudden and brutal repression. The repression accelerated the explosion of their contradictions and spelled their defeat.

And so, the early ’70’s was a time of great reflection for all these groups. And a short time later, out of this arose two new organized tendencies,, that of CAP St-Jacques which withdrew from the FRAP on the basis of a criticism of its electoralism, and that of the Equipe Du Journal which was at the origin of the group IN STRUGGLE!, and which took up the ideas of mass agitation and propaganda, but this time on a Marxist-Leninist basis.

The debates which opposed these two tendencies at the end of the ’60’s are rich in lessons for the current Marxist-Leninist movement. For their struggle was in fact the struggle between two conceptions of how to link up with the masses. The foundation of this debate is still of current interest because the present-day Marxist-Leninist movement is still largely composed of petty-bourgeois elements, and thus of elements who are under the influence of the ideology of their class.

What was presented in the late ’60’s as a struggle between those doing work in the working class on the sly, or in secret, and those who threw themselves into vast campaigns of mass political agitation was to reappear in 1972-73, as a struggle opposing those, who like the CAP St-Jacques, limited their work to implantation (that is, sending intellectual militants into the factories), and militant unionism, and those, such as our group, who put forward the necessity of establishing links with the working class through communist propaganda and agitation.

Or in other words, there were those who put forward that communists could only link themselves to the masses on the basis of their revolutionary objectives, and there were those who claimed that it was first necessary to link up with the masses before presenting them with objectives of the revolution. This same struggle still goes on today, but in another form. Today it opposes those who like the League, seek to radicalize the economic struggles of the masses in order to give them a political character, and those who, like us, seek to unite the working class on the grounds of the open political struggle against the bourgeoisie and its State.

We have already presented the general situation in English-Canada in the preceding chapter, by situating the role played by the Progressive Worker Movement. However it is necessary to complete this by situating, in a more precise way, the role played by certain other important groups such as the Canadian Liberation Movement (CLM), the Waffle, and the “C”PC(M-L).

As was the case in Quebec, what all of these groups had in common was to propagate an essentially nationalist line in somewhat different forms from the Quebec nationalists, given the different nature of the national question in that part of the country. For, Quebec really does suffer national oppression. It is deprived of several of the fundamental rights of nations. While Canada is a politically independent State, which does however suffer vexations at the hands of American imperialism. Something else which these groups all had in common was to put forward fundamentally petty-bourgeois positions, and to recruit the great majority of their members from this class.

The nationalist movement in English-Canada

The Canadian Liberation Movement was formed in Ontario in 1969. It produced and distributed a newspaper, New Canada, and even had its own publishing house. Its influence went far beyond Ontario to the West of the country. This group, which was able to develop thanks to the decline of the PWM in the late ’60’s, shared the same nationalist line. However, in opposition to the PWM, there was never any question, in its official line, of basing itself on Marxism-Leninism, nor was there question of the necessity of a proletarian Party. For a fuller understanding of the line of this group, we refer the reader to the pamphlet “One step backwards, two steps backwards”, by Harry, (reedited by IN STRUGGLE!, April, 1977).

The Waffle corresponded to a somewhat different situation. It was a nationalist tendency formed within the New Democratic Party around the Watkins Manifesto. There was never any question of revolution for this group, not even a “national” one. In fact, it reflected the broad denying of the nationalist influence within social democracy. It was particularly strong in the early ’70’s in provinces like Saskatchewan and Ontario where the NDP constituted a major political force. However, once again, internal contradictions sharpened. One part of the movement became the nationalist caution of the completely corrupted leaders of the NDP while another fed into the various Trotskyist sects in English-Canada. Yet another, not very numerically important, recently rallied to the Marxist-Leninist movement. We should note that two Marxist-Leninist groups from Regina, (the Regina Communist Group, today rallied to IN STRUGGLE!, and the Regina Marxist-Leninist Collective, today rallied to the League) came out of the Waffle movement.

The “C”PC(M-L) merits particular attention. First of all because it still exists today, although the recent successes of the Marxist-Leninist movement have reduces its influence. But also because its work of sabotage continues to produce negative effects among the masses, and above all, because at a certain epoch, it was the only one of these groups to openly declare itself as being Marxist-Leninist.

The “C”PC(M-L) had its origins in a student group called the Internationalists formed in 1963 by Hardial Bains. With a leftist and ultra-leftist appearance, the “C”PC(M-L) always was and still is today, a fundamentally counter-revolutionary group.

In 1970, when it became a party, the “C”PC(M-L) self-proclaimed itself the Party of the working class. This self-proclamation was a serious act. For communists, the question of the supreme organization of the proletariat, its single party, constitutes a question of principle. You don’t create a party... because it’s necessary to create the party! You create the party when certain historical conditions have been met. You create the party when you have developed the programme of the revolution in your country, when you have united the Marxist-Leninists around this programme, and when a significant part of the advanced elements of the proletariat have rallied to this programme.

Even if it is clearly irrealist to specify these preliminary conditions with precision and in detail, it is In any case, absolutely essential that the creation of the Party be preceded by work of this nature, and further, that the creation of the Party be a factor which permits the development of this work.

However, this was not the case with the creation of the “C”PC(M-L).

The “C”PC(M-L) never established a communist programme, all of its theoretical work was reduced to the eclectic ill-assorted, illogical reproduction of bits of quotes from Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao TseTung and today Enver Hoxha. The only common point in the dozens of lines which it elaborated throughout its history, (in effect, the “C”PC(M-L) changed political lines whenever the wind changed), is their opposition to proletarian revolution. In fact, ail of these “political lines” were able to agree about one thing: the path of the revolution in Canada goes by bourgeois nationalism! Through all of its clothing changes, the “C”PC(M-L) never forgot the one stable point in its line: its conciliation with the Canadian bourgeoisie. Once again today, while it displays virtuous indignation in its press against those who support the “three worlds theory”, it publishes documents which contain the basest and most obvious pearls of social-chauvinism:

“1- The principal contradiction is between American imperialism and its lackeys in Canada and the great majority of the Canadian people. That is the principal contradiction which plays the decisive role in the forward movement of society.
2- The second contradiction is between the monopoly capitalist class and the Canadian working class. This fundamental contradiction manifests itself in the form of the struggle between the American imperialists and their Canadian lackeys (sic) on one hand, and the Canadian people on the other...”[21]

In effect, instead of a communist programme, we have something that is totally devoid of a class point of view and bathing in bourgeois nationalism, which soothes the Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie. Because a programme like that assures it of the proletariat’s support for its struggle to be “competitive” in the international arena and to rival all the other imperialist countries, including American imperialism. At the same time, it is assured that the political struggle for the long term interests of the proletariat will be completely drowned out and left aside in the interests of the so-called mass anti-imperialist struggle. This was caricaturally shown by the list of “13 mass revolutionary movements” which the “C”PC(M-L) drew up, with point 4 being a vague reference to the “the struggle against capitalist exploitation”:

“There are thirteen revolutionary movements within the Canadian people:
1- the struggle of the Canadian people against imperialist domination and control and to support the national liberation struggles of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America;
2- the national liberation struggle (sic) of the Quebec people against Anglo-Canadian colonialism (re-sic);
3- the just struggle of the Native peoples for the restoration of their hereditary rights;
4- the fundamental struggle of all workers against capitalist exploitation and wage slavery;
5- the fundamental struggle of all working women for social, political and cultural equality;
6- the economic struggles of workers for better wages and working conditions;
7- the struggle of the unemployed to obtain jobs;
8- the struggle of all workers to politically organize themselves in the workplace;
9- the struggle of the fishermen and the farmers against foreign monopolies;
10- the revolutionary struggle of all immigrants and national minorities against racial discrimination and repression;
11- the struggle of working youth against capitalist cultural aggression;
12- the struggle of the students against the decadent capitalist educational system;
13- the struggle of all progressive and democratic people against the fascist laws and regulations and repression by violence”.[22]

As you can see, it wasn’t the Canadian Communist League (M-L) who invented the “shopping list” of contradictions and tasks!!!

This is why it is correct to say that the “C”PC(M-L) is a caricature of a proletarian Party, that historically it has been the groups which painted bourgeois nationalist ideology red in order to better trick the masses and to corrupt the Canadian revolutionary movement from within. A Marxist-type vocabulary and the shameless usage of the Chinese Revolution and its great leader Mao Tse-Tung served to paint it red until the time when the young Marxist-Leninist movement broke with reactionary nationalism and unmasked this group of counterrevolutionaries for what it is – a gang of active agents of the bourgeoisie within the Marxist-Leninist and workers’ movements.

During the 1970 October Crisis, this Party even went so far as to openly advocate petty-bourgeois terrorism. Its practice and its conception of unity have always consisted in seeking the best means of swallowing up the groups that is meets on its path, even to the point of infiltrating them, and practising “entrism”. (A tactic widely used by the “C”PC(M-L) at one time, which consisted of secretly infiltrating into political groups and causing them to break up).

Its practice has always been one of dividing the Marxist-Leninist forces. Finally, except for a few students who venerated its leader, the “C”PC(M-L) never rallied the vanguard of the working class. What characterizes the “C”PC(M-L) on the question of the creation of the Party, is the inversion of the relation which it establishes between the political objectives of the working class and the organizational forms that it establishes to achieve them. For communists, form is always subordinated to the content; organization must serve ideology. For the “C”PC(ML), on the contrary, the political line was reduced to organizational tasks:

“Political line is the sum-total of the tasks an organization sets for itself in order to advance the over-all general tactical and strategic work.”[23]

The entire history of the “C”PC(M-L) is the expression of the ultra-leftist tendency of the petty-bourgeoisie which seeks to exercise its hegemony over the proletariat, and which in fact, doesn’t recognize the principle proclaimed by Marx and Engels in their Manifesto... “that the emancipation of the workers is the work of the workers themselves”, that is, which doesn’t recognize that the masses must have their own experience and wants to make revolution in place of the masses.

The existence of the “C”PC(M-L) is an important obstacle to the central task of building a really proletarian Party. In English-Canada, the social-fascist manoeuvres of the “C”PC(M-L) have pushed circles into localism and caused them to turn in on themselves, and have been an obstacle to the undertaking of the task of party building. And generally, they have developed a repulsion for Marxism-Leninism among the masses. Canadian Marxist-Leninists must pursue the criticism and struggle against the “C”PC(M-L). First of all because it still exists and continues its undermining work. But also because it’s urgent that we protect ourselves against its deviations which risk reappearing in other forms. At the present time, there is a part of the movement which tends to adopt attitudes and a point of view similar to those of the “C”PC(M-L).

For, after having self-proclaimed itself the organization of struggle for the Party, the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist), who, in passing, has as one of its founding groups the Mouvement revolutionnaire des etudiants du Quebec (Revolutionary Movement of Quebec Students), which originated, in part, from a split in the “C”PC(M-L), is heading straight to its self-proclamation as the Party of the working class. The sectarianism that the League has manifested with regard to the Marxist-Leninist movement, its tendency, in the last while, to promote its organization before the masses in an unprincipled manner, not to talk of its habit of substituting itself for the masses, as it is currently doing in the flourmill workers’ struggle, all of this originates in the same class position as that of the “C”PC(M-L). And if there is no serious rectification, all of this can only lead to the same result – the creation of another counter-revolutionary Party.

The Third Conference of Canadian Marxist-Leninists which was held last September 9,10, and 11, gave us the opportunity to note that Bolshevik Union (BU) has more in common with the “C”PC(M-L) than with the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement. During those three days, BU’s militants adopted a splittist attitude which was, on all points, similar to that of the “C”PC(M-L). They sought to antagonize the current differences within the movement rather than to resolve them by frank and open ideological struggle. They refused to debate with those who recognized the “three words theory”, and were content to label them “revisionist renegades”. They openly sought to sabotage the debates by attacking IN STRUGGLE! on the basis of lies and by centering the conference’s attention on secondary questions. They systematically refused to develop one word of solid argument against the “three worlds theory”. And furthermore, just like the “C”PC(M-L), BU adopted a tailist attitude with regard to the line of the Party of Labour of Albania, and used the prestige of that glorious Party to justify its splitting and wrecking actions.

The struggle against bourgeois nationalism in English-Canada had its start in the late ’60’s. In particular, it was crystallized around the Simon Fraser Student Movement, a movement of student youth in British Columbia, which criticized the PWM for having put the exploited at the mercy of the bourgeoisie, and which was opposed to the CP because of its too obvious conservatism. The youth movement of this epoch produced many different organizations which opposed bourgeois nationalism. Among them, there was the Partisan Party which supported the necessity of building a single Marxist-Leninist Party on a Canada wide scale. However, the Partisan Party was waylaid by the “C”PC(M-L). And that spelled the defeat of the anti-nationalist movement in English-Canada.

The following years, that is from 1972-77, were to see a certain development of bourgeois nationalism in English-Canada, particularity in the Vancouver region. Groups such as the Western Voice and the Vancouver Study Group (VSG), were formed, set up by the ex-militants of the PWM. These groups had militants who were active in the union movement where they defended an essentially nationalist line: the struggle for the canadianization of the unions seen essentially as a struggle to democratize the unions. Even if these groups weren’t very big, even if the VSG, for example, never did political work within the workers’ movement on its own basis as a group, their line carried considerable weight, given the active role played by their militants and the prestige that certain of them had among the masses.

The influence of bourgeois nationalism will only be questioned with the appearance of a Marxist-Leninist movement, which was able to succeed where the youth movement had failed.


The 70’s began with an exacerbation of the contradictions in the world which led to a deepening of the general crisis of imperialism. The oppressed peoples had the wind in their sails. In particular, the heroic struggle of the Vietnamese people won international support, and the serious defeat which this small people inflicted on American imperialism accentuated contradictions within the United States themselves. The invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops, in 1968, discredited the USSR in the eyes of the peoples, and revealed its real imperialist nature. As of then, a new superpower had made its entrance onto the world stage and its voracious appetite and rivalry with American imperialism, became a threat for the security of the peoples.

The firm principled struggle led by the Party of Labour Albania and the Communist Party of China against modern revisionism, led by the pseudo-communist party of the Soviet Union, the successes in the building of socialism in Albania and China, and the resounding success of the Great Cultural Revolution in China rapidly increased support for the socialist countries among the peoples of the world. This support and the prestige of the socialist countries resulted in the expulsion of Taiwan from the United Nations in 1972 and triumphal entry of China.

In the industrialized capitalist countries, the accelerated rise in the cost of living and in unemployment, increased the anger of the workers’ movement. In Quebec, unlike in the ’60s, it is no longer the petty-bourgeoisie which is to be found in the heart of the great mass movements. Rather, it is the working class. During the conflict at La Presse in 1971, more than 10,000 workers took to the streets to support the strike struggle.

Strikes succeeded one another as if by chain reaction. They were longer, more frequent and more militant. The vigour of the workers’ movement was so great that the union centers published Marxist-sounding social-democratic and nationalist literature. The QFL denounced the State as “the instrument of our exploitation”. The CNTU launched an anti-monopoly campaign in which it explained the volume of American imperialist penetration in Quebec. Louis Laberge, that anti-communist and champion of business unionism, completely sold-out to the bourgeoisie, began threatening that he was going to “break the regime”, right in the middle of workers’ meetings.

The growth of the workers’ movement reached a high point with the civil-servant and semi-public workers’ Common Front strike in the spring of 1972. Following walkouts by more than 200,000 workers across the province, the bourgeois State tried to put down this movement by condemning Yvon Charbonneau, Louis Laberge, and Marcel Pepin, the leaders of the three large union centers in Quebec, to a year in prison. The answer from the workers’ movement, and in particular from the industrial proletariat, was lively and quick. Across the province, factory occupations and occupations of entire cities multiplied. The heroic example of the workers of Sept-Isles, who completely paralyzed their city, resounded across the province.

And so, the early ’70’s witnessed once again extremely difficult economic struggles. Despite the still important weight business unionism, social-democracy and “militant” unionism often linked to bourgeois nationalism, were the dominant tendencies in the workers’ movement. It’s in this context that the Marxist-Leninist movement appeared in Quebec with the publication of the pamphlet For The Proletarian Party, in 1972 and with all that followed, that is, the formation of the Equipe du Journal around the line developed in the pamphlet. From that moment on the Equipe saw to the production and distribution of the newspaper IN STRUGGLE! and began concrete work to apply the line put forward in For The Proletarian Party. To understand what an important step forward For The Proletarian Party was, we must situate it in the historical context the period and examine what was dominant in the progressive groups at the time.

The Trotskyists dominated the FRAP but were quickly loosing ground, although they had a certain influence in the citizens’ groups and in certain union centers in Montreal. The “C”PC(M-L) (or the “C”PQ(M-L) which changed names in the most opportunist manner possible, depending on whether the situation was favorable or not to nationalism, was a marginal phenomenon, but had some influence in a few citizens’ groups, unions and schools. It was their “leftist” period, one of raging battles with the police where the “C”PC(M-L) responded tit for tat. In the student movement many tendencies were to be found, including the Trotskyists, the “CPC(M-L)”, the student sector of the Political Action Committees (CAP) St-Jacques and Maisonneuve, and the MREQ, which was Marxist-Leninist in name, but whose practice was far from being consistent. Instead of attacking the central task commanded by a creative and rigorous application of Marxism-Leninism, and by the concrete situation of the workers’ movement, that is the reconstruction of the revolutionary Party of the proletariat, the militants of the MREQ limited their activities to what they called, at the time, the struggle against the capitalist school and support for the working class and anti-capitalist struggles. There were also a few Marxist-Leninist study circles, with no unity between them and a few progressive workers’ committees. As for the relations between this movement in Quebec, and the movement in Canada, there was voluntary ignorance on both parts, which clearly shows the weight of bourgeois nationalism.

Within the progressive movement, the two most influential groups at the time were the CAP St-Jacques and the CAP Maisonneuve. The two CAPs merged in 1972. Their unity and fame were achieved during the struggle within the FRAP in December, when they opposed the social-democrats and Trotskyists. They demarcated from the electoral experience of the FRAP. They criticized the FRAP for not being well rooted in the working class and for not sufficiently educating its militants to work within the proletariat. These criticisms are to be found in the manifesto published in December 1971 by the CAP St-Jacques, This manifesto entitled For an autono-mous political organization of workers was much talked about In the progressive milieu of the time. The manifesto identified American imperialism as the principal enemy of the Quebec people. It put forward the necessity of an autonomous organization of Quebec workers to wage the struggle for the national liberation of the Quebec people and for “socialism.” (One did not yet speak of the dictatorship of the proletariat). To do this, the manifesto proposed the setting up of groups of workers, in the community or in the workplace, which would be the basis of a future organization of workers. As well, it insisted on the necessity of diving the militants a Marxist education. (Marxism-Leninism was presented as a “tool”).

The manifesto arrived at a period of intense mass struggle which enabled the CAP St-Jacques and Maisonneuve to develop. As in all periods where there is an intensification of class struggle, the mass movement forces the clarification of positions and accelerates the polarization. At that particular moment, the Common Front strike of 72, put on the agenda the necessity of uniting the CAPs to centralize their political work. Two lines were crystallized in the debate which was held during and after the struggle.

The first line considered that, not to intervene in the struggle, was unthinkable. It proposed to develop a class analysis of the interests at stake in the struggle so as to be able to undertake propaganda work, counting on the militants who were implanted in factories, and assuring a presence on the picket lines. Those who held this line affirmed the necessity of uniting among themselves, and of uniting the forces in order to centralize the work. The line of the opposition had its stronghold in the work sector of CAP St-Jacques[24]. The leaders of the Work Sector completely refused to intervene in the class struggle on the pretext that the Common Front struggle was too vast for the CAP, that the militants were hardly experienced, and that since they had been implanted for such a short time, it was asking too much of them. The work sector supported the idea that the militants should educate themselves before acting, by means of their implantation in the factories, by the carrying out of inquiries and by developing their local work. Once the militants were educated, then the real political work could take place. Consequently, the Work Sector opposed the centralization by the CAPs because that would lead the CAPs to turn inwards on themselves. The Work Sector proposed the decentralization of the CAPs into different nuclei of militants, to better penetrate the working class. Briefly, the Work Sector, opposed the unity of the CAPs, and advocated local work and amateurish organizational forms.

The work sector’s line wanted to stimulate the economic struggles by union activism and to organize the proletariat around economic struggles. The political struggle was reduced to the struggle to democratize the unions. The Work Sector’s line consisted in no more no less than promoting local work and refusing the revolutionary political struggle of the proletariat. Furthermore, in practice, these militants rejected the idea of Marxism-Leninism as a guide for action. They conceived of theory as an historical and economic analytical grid for militants, and that is all! This rejection of revolutionary theory was also expressed in the refusal of debates, which characterized the work sector. In other words, the work sector’s line, when it came to party building, consisted of doing economic organizational work among workers, while they educated their militants by lectures.

This line is fundamentally economist because it limits the working class to the economic struggle and reserves theory for the intellectuals. It is certainly not with this line that the proletariat will advance on the road of the revolution.

The work sector’s line once again took up the line of social animation which had reigned in the late ’60’s within the citizens’ committees in St-Jacques, which gave birth to CAP St-Jacques. Just like the social animation line, the positions of the Work Sector consisted of saying that the working class wasn’t ready for political action and that consequently it was first necessary to prepare the workers for political struggle by making them wage struggles which concerned their most immediate needs. Briefly, the work sector’s line was profoundly marked by the same “workerist” point of view, and the same contempt for the masses, as was the social animation current.

Despite the sectarian and putchist methods of the leadership of the work sector, the line of the work sector was the most influential line in the progressive movement, at the time that For The Proletarian Party appeared in October ’72.

The appearance of For The Proletarian Party was the most articulated and solid opposition to the economism which reigned at the time in the work sector. For The Proletarian Party affirmed the necessity of adopting the proletarian ideology, that is, Marxism-Leninism, as the science and the arm of the proletariat in its struggle against the bourgeoisie. It called on the necessity of struggling for the creation of a Marxist-Leninist proletarian Party, having as its objective proletarian revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. To do this, it was necessary to develop the ideological struggle against bourgeois ideology, in particular bourgeois nationalism and reformism, by wide-scale propaganda and agitation, by rallying conscious workers, and by uniting Marxist-Leninists.

For The Proletarian Party constituted a qualitative leap forward among the progressive forces at the time. The affirmation of the “PROLETARIAN” character of our tasks, in itself, marked an important rupture with the use of such terms as “salaried workers” or other expressions of the same nature. The fact that Marxism-Leninism was no longer considered to be an analytical grid, but a science and a guide for action, permitted the masses to grasp Marxism-Leninism and to demarcate from the economist point of view of the CAPs on the question.

For The Proletarian Party represented the first real break with revisionism and economism with regard to the strategy for building the Proletarian Party, which was seen as the expression of the fusion of Marxism-Leninism and the workers’ movement. Because of that, it constituted the birth of the real Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada. For the first time since the complete degeneration of the CP, Canadian revolutionaries fixed the creation of a Party as their objective and established the method - ideological struggle among the masses. They also developed the means to attain their objective, buckling down to the task of publishing a newspaper, putting into practice the line and practicing criticism and self-criticism. If we recall the experience of the PWM which we talked about before, we will remember that the mistake of the members of this group was to be content with stating the necessity of such a Party, without making it the center of the revolutionary struggle, without giving themselves the means for achieving that task. In brief, the militants of the PWM never really undertook the task of building the Party. They were more content with supporting local workers’ struggles. That is what distinguishes them from the militants who published For The Proletarian Party which constituted the beginning of the Marxist-Leninist movement because that’s where the process of the fusion of Marxism-Leninism with the workers’ movement began. Because the building of the Marxist-Leninist Party is precisely the struggle to unite Marxism-Leninism with the workers’ movement.

In a recent article criticizing our group’s thesis on the path of the revolution in Canada, the CCL(M-L) put forward the following opinion on the strategic line explained in For The Proletarian Party.

“This text [For the Proletarian PartyProletarian Unity editor’s note] presented a completely erroneous, bourgeois nationalist line. It Identified the national question as being the principal contradiction and put forward socialist revolution in Quebec only”.[25]

Five years later, the League finally decides to pass judgment on For the Proletarian Party... better late than never! However if we are to follow the League’s reasoning, this line was completely erroneous and a bourgeois nationalist line. But, if this is really true, how do you explain that For The Proletarian Party called for the struggle against nationalism, and clearly proposed the proletarian revolution, a revolution in which the proletariat would exercise its hegemonic role. If the League wasn’t so blinded by sectarianism, if it had a materialist conception of history, and if it had the least little concern to educate the proletariat, it would have criticized the fact that For The Proletarian Party did not make a complete break with bourgeois nationalism, in that it confined the proletarian revolution to the limits of Quebec.

But at the same time it would have had the honesty to say that we advanced the project of the proletarian revolution for the first time, we affirmed the leading role of the working class, and we called for the struggle against bourgeois nationalism. Then the League would have concluded that, in the context of the epoch, For The Proletarian Party represented the most advanced position on the question, that it constituted a precise demarcation with revisionism, and that it contained the necessary elements to establish a decisive rupture with bourgeois nationalism. Then the League would only have been able to submit to the judgment of practice, and recognize what life experience had made evident.

But if the League had adopted such an attitude, well then it wouldn’t be the League! It’s quite easy today, outside of the conditions of the epoch, to say that For The Proletarian Party had a bourgeois nationalist line. With reasoning like that, we could retell the history of humanity and show, for example, that the defeat of the slave revolt at the time of the Roman Empire, was due to the non-application of the principle of mass line by its leader Spartacus! This example is a little exaggerated of course. But what we wanted to say with this caricature is that we cannot evaluate a past political line, we cannot evaluate something which at a given time constituted a progressive factor, if we look at things strictly from the point of view of what exists today. What constitutes progress in the past is not the same thing that constitutes progress today. It is completely anti-Marxist and idealist to criticize a group of individuals for not having, in the past, the knowledge that we have today. In other words, if we follow the reasoning of the League, you’d have to believe that the proletarian line appeared all of a sudden, that the correct line came down from the skies and ended up somewhere... who knows? Or perhaps it ended up in the Statement of Agreement of a few individuals who were gathered together in their garden one evening, under the full moon of course! No! The proletarian line is the result of struggles, which went on for years. The proletarian line was always present but it was dominated. The proletarian line in Canada was developed and reinforced during the experience of the nationalist movement in the ’60’s in Quebec. Thus, in 1972, at a very specific moment, For The Proletarian Party represented the highest interests of the Canadian proletariat and a superior development of the proletarian line. And in fact, the step forward that For The Proletarian Party constituted permitted the advancement of the struggle of the revolutionary proletariat in Canada and the breaking with bourgeois nationalism in a more complete way.

Not to recognize this is to demonstrate that we are motivated by petty-bourgeois revolutionarism rather than by Marxism-Leninism. The League has much interest in finding all possible means for discrediting the historic role of For The Proletarian Party. For, all the opportunist groups such as the APLQ (Agence de presse libre du Quebec – the Free Press Agency of Quebec), the CRIQ (the Centre de recherche et d’information du Quebec – the Research and Information Center of Quebec) a research group which became the GAS (Groupe d’action sociallste-Socialist Action Group) before rallying to the League), the NPE (Noyau des petites entreprises – Small Factories Nucleus) and the Librairie progressiste (Progressive Bookstore), which opposed Marxism-Leninism and fought our group during that period, have today rallied to the League. When one is open to criticism about his opportunist past, it’s of interest to be able to present a vision of history which can, to some extent, justify his errors.

The Librarie progressiste, the APLQ and the CRIQ were groups of intellectuals who defined themselves as workers’ “support groups”. They were groups of parasites who supported the work sector’s line because the role of intellectuals was to blindly follow those who had links with the masses. Indeed, these groups were in ardent opposition to the line defended by the EDJ.

The EDJ, from its creation, waged a very firm line struggle against the opportunism of the CAPs. This had the effect of accentuating the contradictions within the CAPs, where for a long time, opposition to the leadership of the work sector had been developing. The most vigorous and important opposition came from the militants of the school sector and the neighbourhood nucleus of the CAP St-Jacques, who registered their attacks in a document entitled Against Opportunism [26], which, in our opinion, remains one of the best documents to study in order to understand the opportunism of the work sector, and the roots of the current opportunism in our movement. The very line of the work sector which favored the turning inwards of small groups, led to the crumbling of the CAPs. In the face of the sharpening of the differences, and the splits which took place – many militants joined our group, others formed the Cellule militante ouvrtere (CMO – Militant Workers’ Cell), others the Noyau des petites entreprises (NPE), which later became the Cercle Communiste marxiste-leniniste (Communist Circle Marxist-Leninist), before rallying to the League last winter in the most opportunist way imaginable. In an utterly putchist manner, the leadership of the work sector, reorganized the CAPs and in the spring of ’74, formed the Regroupement des comites de travailleurs (RCT).

The RCT constituted the degeneration of the work sector, which wallowed in bourgeois nationalism and revisionism. The RCT’s line was a completely revisionist line. Not only did the RCT’s militants not propagate Marxism-Leninism in the masses, nor do communist organizational work, but further, they firmly opposed it. Moreover, they opposed the recognition of Marxism-Leninism as a guide for action. The RCT put forward that it was a priority to work “at the base” to organize the workers into committees which would wage economic struggles and to seek to radicalize local struggles. The gathering of the different workers’ committees would result in an “organization of Quebec workers”.

The RCT’s militants’ practice consisted of infiltrating into factories, and, without identifying their political convictions, taking over a union factory or newspaper committee, and trying to pass off their political line. And that’s what the RCT called, with a little less refinement than the League, the tactic of implantation. These literally putchist methods came from the same line as that of the work sector. And this same workerist line put forward that the awakening of socialist consciousness passes through many stages. The first stage was the economic struggle, followed by a second stage which was the political struggle. In What is to be done? Lenin qualified this opportunist theory as the “theory of stages”, which, by mechanically applying the principle according to which the masses must make their own experiences, consisted, no more no less, in confining the masses to economic struggles.[27] But it was not only the RCT and the work sector who put forward this line. It was also to be found in Vancouver and in the Maritimes, in groups such as the Western Voice and the East Coast Socialist Movement. The Western Voice Collective in Vancouver was a group of petty-bourgeois revolutionaries which existed between 1973 and 1976[28]. The East Coast Socialist Movement was a group quite similar to the Western Voice, which existed in the Maritimes from 1970-1972. The group published a newspaper entitled the “East Coast Worker”[29] These groups were composed of petty-bourgeois elements freshly arrived from their university desks, just like the RCT and the Work Sector, and their militants, who, while studying the classics of Marxism-Leninism in their rooms each evening, by day, devoted themselves to completely economist work among the masses.

Our group waged firm struggle against this erroneous line which, In Quebec was led by the RCT, although, it was substantially shared by parasite groups, that we have already named. Our propaganda attacked the opportunist character of this line by showing its relationship with the partisans of the “theory of stages”, who Lenin had condemned in his time. It denounced the reformist character of the RCT’s line, and revealed its practical implications, that is, the maintenance of the proletariat under the yoke of capitalist exploitation and at the mercy of bourgeois politics.

In the manner of the Work Sector, the fundamentally erroneous line of the RCT led it to its failure. A grouping of small autonomous circles was unable to ensure the centralization needed to resolve the internal contradictions which were inevitably engendered by their scattered method of work. Moreover in many factories, the petty-bourgeois elements which had been sent there to do political work were kicked out by the union bosses, without having won the workers over to communism. The groups who had always considered IN STRUGGLE! to be a gang of “theorists” and had always opposed it, began to turn away from the RCT. A typical example of this type of opportunism was the Librairie Progressiste (Progressive Bookstore) which began to adopt centrist positions. And so, the Librairie Progressiste considered that IN STRUGGLE!, like the RCT, had its “good sides”. IN STRUGGLE! had interesting theoretical findings; the RCT had long experience of concrete work with the working class. However, the RCT had the fault of not doing “vanguard” work (as it was called at the time), while they had disagreements with IN STRUGGLE!, but, as they themselves said, “We still have not clearly identified them, and consequently, we cannot grasp their full significance”.[30]

Thus, because it was becoming too obvious that the line of the RCT was rotten, it was impossible not to denounce it and to demarcate from it. But at the same time, these groups were too opportunist to recognize the correctness of our line. For this precious experience of links with the working class which the RCT had acquired was probably valuable for reformist work but was absolutely useless for communist work. But the most remarkable consequence of the line struggle against the line of the Work Sector and the RCT was the recognition, at least formally, by all existing groups that the task of the hour was the creation of the Marxist-Leninist Party and that agitation and propaganda were the tasks to be accomplished to achieve this objective.

The RCT was to perish, corroded by its internal contradictions which had intensified by its setbacks and by the struggle against its opportunism which our group spearheaded. Even so, economism did not disappear within the movement. It even existed within our ranks. And that is what pushed us to support the idea of turning the CSLO (Committee of Solidarity with Working Class Struggles), a mass organization which we had contributed to set up during the strike at Firestone in 1973, into a permanent committee.

The heirs of the RCT

Though the RCT was crumbling to pieces, its line continued existing without any doubt. It continued in groups such as the MREQ, who had kept aside from the struggle against the RCT; in the CMO, which did not claim to be for the “propagandists”, as we were called, or for the “implantationists”, and in the COR (Cellule Ouvriere Revolutionnaire – Revolutionary Working Class Cell), set up in April 74, Mobilisation, etc. These groups were the political heirs of the line of the RCT. It is true that these groups opposed the most openly revisionist aspects of the RCT. They recognized Marxism-Leninism to be a science, they acknowledged (at least formally) the central task – the building of the Marxist-Leninist Party – they agreed in words with the necessity of communist agitation and propaganda. But at the same time, these groups were carriers of the same fundamentally economist line of the RCT. Their political work in the working class was basically trade-unionist. They made the theory of implantation which had been so precious to the RCT, their own. The COR and the CMO considered that implanting petty-bourgeois elements in factories was the way to establish links with the working class. The MREQ believed that it was a method of proletarianizing a Marxist-Leninist organization. All of these groups considered it a good way to reeducate the petty-bourgeoisie.

Linked to this conception of implantation, was the idea that it was necessary, for workers to be able to judge the revolutionary value of this or that group, that intellectuals take the workers’ place in the factories and in the leadership of their struggles, and that in this way prove their devotion.

This political conception, the origins of which can be traced back to the petty bourgeoisie’s desire to establish its hegemony over the proletariat, denied, for all practical purposes, the principle according to which it is the masses who make history. Those who supported such a theory considered that propaganda outside the factories was not enough. However, as the self-criticism of the League’s founding groups attested, it so happens that these “dedicated implanted workers” never did any serious communist propaganda. In practice, this political conception led to reserving theory for the intellectuals (or circles for those who did vanguard work) and keeping the masses subjected to the yoke of bourgeois ideology.

Our group firmly opposed this way of considering links with the masses. It held that the role of communists is not to do what the working class has been doing for more than 150 years – that is, to be able to organize to defend its immediate interests; rather, their role is to give the masses revolutionary ideological and organizational leadership so that they can overthrow the bourgeoisie. Our group vigorously denounced this “theory” because it led in practice to a refusal to have Marxism-Leninism penetrate among the masses.

Two lines on the nature of links with the working class confronted each other. These contradictions were most clearly manifested on the practical terrain of the CSLO, a committee which undertook to support workers’ struggles and in which all the groups of that period participated. The publication of Against Economism, which sets forward the theoretical synthesis of the struggle within the CSLO, and which, moreover, proposed its dissolution, was an answer to the CMO’s pamphlet “De quelques questions brulantes...” (Some Burning Questions...”), the MREQ’s platform, and Mobilisation’s theory of “mass political organizations”, a theory inspired by the neo-Trotskyist group Lotta Continua in Italy which had a certain effect on the movement here. Against Economism was also a self-criticism of the economist errors that our group, among others, had committed.

The economist line proposed gathering together the most combative workers in “intermediary organizations” – the expression is the CMO’s – that is, organizations whose platforms were neither communist nor really broadly-based, in spite of what was said at the time. The most typical example of these platforms was the CSLO’s, which was anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, against national oppression, and for the defence of democratic rights. On the contrary, our group defended the idea, the simple and straight-forward idea, that communists’ work in the working class should be communist work, be it ideological or organizational. It explained that communists didn’t link themselves to the masses by implanting themselves in factories, but rather by their work of agitation and propaganda. In other words, the link with the masses is a political link, not a trade-unionist link. Against Economism showed that because it advocated assembling advanced workers in organizational frameworks that had neither a truly communist nor a truly mass character, this conception of intermediary organizations contributed to isolating the masses from advanced workers, and maintaining a reformist level of class consciousness. These conceptions led directly to lowering the political level of agitation and propaganda to a level acceptable for the bourgeoisie, and could only lead to failure and moving away from the revolution. An important characteristic of this error, still found among today’s opportunists, was the isolating of the work of agitation and propaganda from the other tasks of communists. And this is a striking example:

“We have thus determined that our principal task in the first stage of the struggle for the Party is that of rallying the vanguard of the proletariat. To fulfill this task, communists’ main form of activity is agitation-propaganda. However, during this period the communists must not stand aloof from the struggles waged by the toiling masses; rather, they must involve themselves in them, inasmuch as their forces allow, in order to transform them into political struggles and to carry out their work of agitation-propaganda. In their work within the working class and the masses, communists must never forget either to set up and work within mass and vanguard organizations, always with the principal objective of rallying the vanguard to communism. And to accomplish this work, communists must be linked to the working class and the masses. That is why we advance implantation in factories as the principal means of linking ourselves to the masses, without, however, rejecting other forms of links with the masses.”[31]

Thus, ideological and organizational work are separated: on the one hand, (supposedly) communist work of agitation-propaganda, and on the other hand, economist organizational work. Now, since ideology and organization are not separated in reality, the CMO militants had, like others, an ideology in conformity with their organizational work – i.e., reformist – which meant in practice that they linked themselves to the masses in a reformist way and liquidated communist agitation and propaganda. Against Economism had an important impact in English Canada, for it furnished important clarifications regarding current errors. Thus, in Vancouver, in particular within the Western Voice Collective, the publication of our pamphlet permitted a consolidation of the struggle already undertaken against economist errors. If For The Proletarian Party had, for the first time, correctly stated an objective, a method and a means of accomplishing the proletarian revolution, and thus constituted the act founding the movement, Against Economism constituted a decisive step forward in the development of the proletarian revolution in Canada, inasmuch as it clarified fundamental aspects of the nature of communists’ political work among the masses. Against Economism was the final blow for the CSLO experiment, but not, however, for the rightist economist and opportunist line. This line was to reappear under new colours with the creation of the Canadian Communist League (ML) in October 1975.

The Work Sector is dead, long live the CCL(M-L)!

The creation of the League was a direct result of the struggle between IN STRUGGLE! on the one hand and the COR, and the MREQ on the other hand within the CSLO. The CSLO had already been dissolved with astonishing rapidity and unanimity. The MREQ, the CMO and the COR had for several months defended vigorously the continuation of the CSLO. A few days before the meeting which voted to dissolve the CSLO, they had prepared a text which proposed its continuation. Meanwhile, Against Economism was published, and suddenly, the day of the meeting, our “friends” began to support, without discussion, our proposal to dissolve the CSLO. Two months later, the CCL(M-L) appeared on the scene, sounding off like a moose that has just had its hide filled with buckshot.

It is clear that the League was created in opposition to our group. Thus, in its version of the history of the struggle for the unity of communists in Quebec[32], our group is presented as the historical obstacle to the unity of Marxist-Leninists in Quebec.

The League deluges us with all sorts of verbiage which is supposed to prove our sectarianism: we don’t want unity. We have refused political debate. We have carried the line struggle to excesses by being too insistent about the demarcation between groups. We have denied the role that “even the smallest group can play in the building of a revolutionary organization”[33]. In short, we have contributed to developing sectarianism among militants. But the League is not satisfied with attributing us with a supposedly sectarian history. It even asserts that we have an erroneous conception of unity! Thus, according to the League, we originated the theory of joint political actions as the main method of achieving the unity of communists. And by a judicious use of insinuations, it implies that its founding groups played an important role in our abandonment of this erroneous conception of unity.

We refer our readers to our supplement Create the Marxist-Leninist Organization of struggle for the Party, published December 12,1974, where, well before the CMO or the COR ever published anything whatsoever, we wrote as a headline, “The unification of Marxist-Leninists cannot take place without ideological struggle”.[34] As for the MREQ, it did not attack this conception any more explicitly than we did in its document of October 1974, entitled En avant pour la creation de I’organisation marxiste-leniniste. But, never mind!

The important thing to remember is that for the League we were an obstacle to the unity of communists and these three groups “suffered” from our sectarianism and our erroneous conceptions of unity. That is why these three groups were unable to unite with us! And thus they were justified in uniting amongst themselves! Is it possible that we were so sectarian and repulsive? To be clear about this, let’s analyze their self-criticisms of their errors.

Consider the question of their economist errors. Firstly, everyone reproaches himself for having neglected communist agitation and propaganda, for having done trade-unionist work. In short, if we have correctly understood the self-criticism, nobody did communist work. In this way, the three groups pretend to bare their economist errors. But nobody except the COR makes self-criticism for its participation in the CSLO, and the COR takes care to point out that all Marxist-Leninists in Quebec made the same mistake, (p. 27) The COR also tells us, in these terms, that it has corrected its mistakes:

“Later, we waged the struggle for a correct line in the support of workers’ struggles. We put forward the necessity to create support fronts instead of mass organizations for the support of workers’ struggles. Communists should participate openly and actively in these fronts”, (p. 27)

If we re-read this quotation closely, we must conclude that the CSLO’s error was that it was a mass organization, and that the correct thing would have been for the communists to create “support fronts” where they would have participated openly and actively. If the COR asserts that the CSLO’s mistake was that it was a mass organization, it is mistaken. The CSLO’s mistake was that it was neither a mass organization nor a communist organization, and this led to isolating the advanced elements from the rest of the proletariat and lowering the political level of communists’ political work. In short, it would seem that the COR doesn’t recognize the essence of its errors, and that it continues to repeat them today within the CCL(M-L).

Let’s look at the CMO’s criticism of its conception of intermediary organizations, criticized in Against Economism:

“Moreover, In speaking of these mass groups in our pamphlet ’De quelques questions brulantes sur la ligne tactique’ (A few burning questions on tactical line, ed. note), we used the term ’intermediate organization’ which gave the impression that we considered them as something other than mass groups”, (p. 23)

Thus, the CMO does not recognize its errors with regard to this question. Moreover, it is still reproducing these same errors. Reading this passage should convince you:

“Through study, summing up of practice and the criticism of the economism of the CAP St-Jacques, we came to understand the fundamental importance of communist agitation and propaganda. But we committed the error of not considering this as the principal practical task at the present time; rather, we considered it as equal importance with the tasks of organization and participating in and initiating mass struggles”. (P. 22).

If we have clearly understood this passage, the CMO’s mistake consisted in having given as much attention to the work of organizing and initiating mass struggles as to the work of communist agitation and propaganda. So, if we are to believe the CMO, it would be correct to devote more efforts to the work of communist agitation and propaganda than to the work of organizing and initiating mass struggles. There again, the same mistakes are reproduced. In fact, the essence of the economist error was not that too little time was given to communist agitation and propaganda. The essence of this error was the separation of the links with the masses from the tasks of agitation and propaganda. This led in practice to the liquidation of communist agitation and propaganda, and to links with the masses developed on reformist bases.

Moreover, the CMO talks about the criticism of the CAP St-Jacques’s economism, and about the fundamental importance of communist agitation and propaganda, but says nary a word about the Equipe du Journal that waged a firm struggle against the CAP’S economism. It doesn’t mention the group that tried for three years, against all opportunist currents, to convince everyone of the preponderant role of communist agitation and propaganda in the activities of Marxist-Leninists.

With regard to the practice of implantation, each of these groups made self-criticism. But none of them accuse themselves of having had an erroneous line of which implantation was one aspect. Rather, they talk of having had a “confused” position, of having over-emphasized one aspect or another. In the end, it’s not so much the line itself that was wrong, but such and such an aspect that was “unclear”, etc. If we re-read the quotation from the CMO, concerning intermediary organizations, we’ll see that what it questions is not its line, but the use of an erroneous term.

To be truthful, the self-criticism of the League’s founding groups is a superficial self-criticism that pretends to recognize the most glaring aspects of their opportunism that the victories of the proletarian line made impossible to disguise. But they in fact reproduce the same errors. The League’s three founding groups retreated visibly when faced with the criticisms made of them in Against Economism. The CMO’s, MREQ’s and COR’s self-criticisms are made in the style of someone filling out their income tax forms. The errors are added up without ever establishing the relationship between them. And so the COR, which has only a few ideas on the international situation, which has no position of the question of women, and which says that it had a confused and erroneous analysis of the tasks of Marxist-Leninists in Canada& – which would be sufficient, according to the current criteria of the League, to toss this group out of the Marxist-Leninist movement – does not try to establish the link between all these mistakes or weaknesses in its line and the fact that its militants put most of their efforts into producing a small shop newspaper or going bowling with working-class families.

For us, the League’s self-criticism is a formal, hypocritical and opportunist self-criticism. But what is most alarming in all this so-called self-criticism process is that all these groups criticize their former errors without the least reference to the line of the group that for the last two years waged, often alone, the most resolute struggle against these same errors.

Indeed, in these dozens of pages there is not a single reference to Against Economism, the theoretical text that was the fatal blow for the CSLO, (rejected by all now), except to say that the CSLO exaggerated and ridiculed economist errors! We could point out in passing that, two years after its publication, we are still waiting for criticism of this text. Perhaps we’ll have to wait as long as was the case with For the Proletarian Party.

What can we conclude other than that the sugary self-criticism at the base of the creation of the Communist League sought only to rehabilitate economism and opportunism – both of which were badly in need of rehabilitation! It was no longer possible to put forward open conciliation or the lowering of the level of agitation and propaganda. And thus – as the history of this group has shown more than amply – the League camouflaged its economism with fashionable radicalism, a leftism that constantly repeats, as if to convince itself, that it is the purest of pure as far as Marxism-Leninism in Canada is concerned. But to make this metamorphosis believable, they still had to end with up the upper hand and so they decided to serve up the same old dish, heated up with a new sauce. The chosen ingredient was to be our supposed sectarianism, for the League accused us of sectarianism right from the beginning of this famous self-criticism. The accusation is serious, but since this group has a habit of making “serious” accusations backed up with unprincipled arguments and without any relation whatsoever to reality, we’ll go on to these groups’ process of unity, and how we were supposed to have been sectarian. The unity process of the three groups, which lasted from the spring to the fall of 1975, seems to have consisted mainly of debates between the leaderships, in which the role of members’ and sympathizers’ participation leaves one wondering.

“We did not carry on polemics and open ideological struggle sufficiently and we did not prepare our militants and sympathizers adequately for the creation of the Marxist-Leninist organization”, (p. 40).

Of course, this is less astonishing when one has seen the League discourage its members and sympathizers from attending the First Conference of Marxist-Leninists in October 1976, and afterwards calling for a boycott of the conference last April. For the League, the matter of unity concerns above all its central committee, and not its members or the masses. But, back to the process of unity. Why this unity? Because an organization was necessary! The three groups accused themselves of having had a “wait and see” attitude in terms of organization. They emphasize that they were in agreement on all points except the “deepening of the class analysis in Canada in particular, the identification of the principal contradiction” (a very important minor difference, when one is acquainted with the League’s criteria for unity). Consequently, the three groups created a commission to smooth out differences, and in one month this commission was able to arrive at an ideological consensus between the three groups.

Since finally the manoeuvre was a bit gross, the League hurries to say that the history of the process of unity of its three founding groups is not a “universal model” (p. 15) – that they neglected debate, they neglected the importance of certain questions, putting off their resolution until the end of the tripartite debates. These facts force us to conclude that the unity that predominated in the founding of the League put organizational unity well to the forefront, ahead of ideological and political unity – i.e., it was necessary to unite!

In short, the way the ideological differences between the three groups were ironed out leave us with the distinct impression that the groups reached an unprincipled unity. They united because they had to create an organization!

In Fight the Sectarianism of the CCL(M-L) IN STRUGGLE! pointed out that self-proclamation was the underpinning of the creation of the League. Proof of this has been so striking and overwhelming that the League has tried to drown the criticism by self-criticizing for the pompous and sectarian attitude which marked its first public stammerings, while at the same time protesting much too much that its line on unity has no sectarianism in it at all (see For the Unity of Marxist-Leninists, by the CCL(M-L), pp. 43-44). But this was not and is not an accident, nor an overly enthusiastic cry from baby after his first burp! The self-proclamation of the League was a mask to hide what was really involved in the process leading to the creation of the League: this process, this opportunist process, was in fact aimed at consolidating an opportunist line.

Moreover, the League has never deigned to reply to our pamphlet, Against Economism. The very superficial criticism it does of the errors of the three founding groups in no way put into question their economist errors. Today it is possible to see how and why the creation of the League was not, in fact, a step forward for the Marxist-Leninist movement, but rather the beginning of the consolidation of the right opportunist line within the movement.

And it’s precisely for that reason that all of the groups which opposed For The Proletarian Party, have joined the League. It would appear that all those who supported the Work Sector and the RCT, as well as those who wanted to maintain the erroneous experience of the CSLO, have been reborn as the pure and fervent defenders of unexpurgated Marxism-Leninism. This change of clothing or change of theme song might have fooled some for awhile, but sooner or later the unfolding of events was bound to reveal the real nature of things. The act of creating the League was a very serious one because it constituted an act of opposition to an already constituted Marxist-Leninist line which had won important victories. The League was created without the knowledge of the movement, in an opportunist way. The sectarianism which it flaunted from the moment of its birth, served in fact to camouflage its right opportunist line.

Today, from an historical perspective, we are able to trace the birth of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement back to the publication of For The Proletarian Party, and the foundation of the Equipe du Journal (EDJ). Practice has proven that it was in For the Proletarian Party that the central task of building the Marxist-Leninist Party and the means and method for doing so were posed in a correct manner for the first time. The EDJ-EN LUTTE! (IN STRUGGLE!)[35] was the most faithful propagandist of this line and it was because it was able to maintain itself on the course of the strategic objective of building the Party, as formulated in For The Proletarian Party, that it was afterwards able to rectify its nationalist errors on the path of the revolution.

The opportunism in our movement has been constantly defined in opposition to the line in For The Proletarian Party. At the time of the Work Sector and the RCT, this opposition was manifested in open opposition to Marxism-Leninism, by a refusal to spread revolutionary science within the working class. It was a time when the small groups were all turned inwards on their local practices. It was a time when the opportunists were so taillst with regard to the spontaneous movement of the working class that they supported the PQ during the elections because the workers in the shops voted PQ!... In brief, it was a time of reformist work in the working class and of open conciliation with the bourgeoisie.

But life is such that if we have a correct line and if we persevere, sooner or later we are going to develop and be successful. Basing itself on the line in For The Proletarian Party, IN STRUGGLE! waged a firm struggle against opportunism in the movement and its ranks grew with the addition of new militants. The Work Sector and the RCT rapidly perished. All of the remaining groups, as well as the new groups to appear on the scene, formally recognized the line of For The Proletarian Party, while all the while maintaining their opposition to the group which advanced this line. In words they recognized the necessity of building a Marxist-Leninist type Party, and the imperative of doing communist agitation and propaganda, but in practice, they conserved the heritage of the RCT, and they lowered the political level of their work within the working class to a level acceptable to the bourgeoisie, to the level of reformism.

The result of the struggle against this tendency to lower the level of agitation and propaganda was the publication of Against Economism. Because of the answer which it gave to the question: How should we build links with the working class? Against Economism constituted another leap forward for the proletarian line. From that moment on, it was no longer possible to be satisfied with a formal recognition of someone’s adherence to Marxism-Leninism. It was now necessary that deeds be consistent with words!

The direct result of the publication of Against Economism, was the fusion of the most important opportunist groups into one new organization, the CCL(M-L). The League was created without the knowledge of the movement and in opposition to a Marxist-Leninist line and group, which for three years had caused all of the progressive forces to advance. The League pretended to recognize the greater part of its economist errors without ever mentioning the group which had contributed to the criticism of these errors. The League constituted the consolidation of the right opportunist line, present throughout the movement’s history, only this time hidden behind a new mask.

Thus, the Marxist-Leninist movement was born in Quebec as a break with bourgeois nationalism, and it was developed and reinforced in the struggle against economism. The victories won in Quebec in the struggle against economism were to stimulate similar struggles in English-Canada, and aided the coming together of the communists of the two nations. And this is what we are going to examine in the next chapter.


We stated in the previous chapters that one of the results of the degeneration of the Communist Party of Canada and the rise of modern revisionism was the crumbling of the proletariat’s unity and its division on a national basis. One of the most negative effects of the rise of nationalism in the ’60’s was to deepen the ditch which separated English-Canadian and Quebec workers. Of course these divisions have an objective basis. It’s a sad fact, but true, that the national oppression of the Quebec nation by the Canadian bourgeoisie furnishes the conditions for this division. Throughout Canada’s history, the bourgeoisie’s policy has always consisted of arousing national hatred to maintain its domination. Throughout the country, the ruling class has continually persisted in not recognizing the national rights of the francophones. We have only to recall that very few of the bourgeois political parties recognize the Quebec nation’s right to self-determination. And among the chauvinist parties we find the rotten social democratic NDP, which still tries to pass itself off as a “workers” and even a “socialist” party.

In the past few years, the most popular tactic for arousing national hatred in Canada, has been to play off the national minorities and the immigrant colonies against the Quebecois and vice-versa. We have only to recall how two years ago, the Montreal millionaire Bronfman financed an hysterically racist campaign on Montreal radio, on the pretext of opposing Bill 22. We only have to think of the war which the Inuit are presently waging against Bill 101 (the Language Act) and the way in which the different factions of the bourgeoisie are trying to use this struggle to make political hay. The federal State is publicizing this struggle in order to heighten our mistrust of Quebec workers while the nationalist faction of the bourgeoisie in Quebec is trying to pretend that this correct struggle is a manoeuvre of “les anglais” to suppress the linguistic rights of the Quebecois. We can also talk about how the nationalists have been bringing out the bogeyman of the assimilation of the race, due to the massive entry of immigrant workers, and presenting these class brothers and sisters of the Quebec workers as the cause of their national oppression. There’s no end to the examples of the bourgeoisie’s policy of division.

The reinforcement of the Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie after the Second World War had as an effect, the hardening of the resistance of the nationalist faction of the bourgeoisie in Quebec. The policy of this nationalist faction of the bourgeoisie in Quebec consisted of promoting narrow nationalism so as to gain support in the masses and to reinforce its positions in its contradictions with the Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie. The reason for the PQ’s success can be found in the fact that it sought to and, in fact, was able to attack the working class to the tail-end of its kite. Up until then, ail of the nationalist parties or organizations in the history of Quebec were characterized by their openly contempt and antagonistic attitude towards the working class. The nationalists of the 19th Century opposed the working class’s right to association. Those of the ’30’s supported fascist theses and openly praised private property. The strength, the political genius of the PQ consisted in making an alliance with the workers’ movement through union centers. This alliance was illustrated during the United Aircraft strike, one of the longest and hardest strikes in our history. During this conflict, the PQ deployed its entire machine (artists, unionists, politicians) to “come to the aid” of the strikers. At the end of the strike, Louis Laberge, while praising the unionist past of Ren6 Levesque, solemnly announced that the QFL would give its support to the PQ in the next elections. From that moment on, bourgeois nationalism had a direct and open door to the working class through the intermediary of the union leadership. This fact deserves attention, for it gives an idea of the position of strength which bourgeois nationalism holds and of the real danger that it represents for the proletarian revolution. Bourgeois nationalism in Quebec is no longer a simple social movement involving the petty-bourgeoisie, it now has stubborn roots within the working class.

These facts should permit us to judge the importance of each step made in the direction of the unity of the whole Canadian proletariat. In the entire history of Canada, and this is particularly true today, the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement is the only political force to have fought great-nation chauvinism and narrow nationalism, and to have been the vigorous defender of the national rights of the Quebecois. It is among the very few to have recognized the Quebec nation’s right to self-determination (including the right to separate), while ail the while putting forward the necessity of the unity of the proletariat of the two nations and showing that the achievement of this contradiction must be preceded by the recognition of the national and democratic rights of the Quebec nation.

As the general crisis of imperialism deepens and the political crisis shaking the Canadian bourgeoisie intensifies, as the factors of division grow within the proletariat, at the same time we can see the factors of unity progressing. We have only to think of the manifestations of solidarity between the proletariat of the two nations which are increasingly frequent. This solidarity is testified to by the different committees created in Vancouver and Ontario to support the flourmill worker’s struggle. We should also remember the demonstration in Ottawa on March 22, 1976, where for the first time in a long time, the workers of the two nations united to mark their opposition to the bourgeois State, and in particular to the Wage Control Act. But clearly the most important phenomenon in this sense is the birth of a Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement.

Victories of the Canadian Communist Movement

When For The Proletarian Party launched the idea that the proletarian revolution was henceforth on the agenda, and that one of the things this implied was the struggle against bourgeois nationalism, a great step forward was taken in the proletariat developing its own policy independent from that of all the parties of the bourgeoisie.

However, For The Proletarian Party did not represent a complete break with nationalism even if the most decisive steps in that direction had been taken. For The Proletarian Party made the error of limiting the framework of the revolution to that of Quebec. This indicates the weight of bourgeois nationalism then present within the revolutionary forces.

It was towards the end of 1974, the beginning of 1975, that the Quebecois groups understood that the Quebecois proletariat cannot make proletarian revolution if it does not unite with the rest of Canada. One after another, documents were published – En avant pour la creation de ’Organisation marxiste-leniniste (Forward for the Creation of the Marxist-Leninist Organization) by the MREQ in October 1974, and Creons ’Organisation marxiste-leniniste de lutte pour le Parti (Create the Marxist-Leninist Organization of struggle for the Party) by IN STRUGGLE! in December 1974 – which argued that the proletarian revolution must be carried out on a Canadian scale. From that point on, little by little, all of the Marxist-Leninist groups in Quebec were to rally to this point of view.

Until then, the links between the Marxist-Leninists of the two nations had been very tenuous. The creation of the journal Canadian Revolution in May 1975 changed the situation. The creation of the journal Canadian Revolution is an important milestone in the history of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement By translating some of the texts of Quebec groups, the new journal carried the debate to a national level. At the same time, it obliged the circles of English-Canada to come out of their state of isolation and to stop turning in on themselves. Canadian Revolution also marks the beginning of the adhesion of the circles of English-Canada to the idea that the creation of the Party is the central and immediate objective to be achieved at the present time. Until that time, the circles had considered that the central task was to develop a political line, and they had an erroneous conception of this task, divorcing it from practice in the masses and from the struggle for the unity of Marxist-Leninists. The success of the struggle against economism in Quebec helped small circles to move out of their isolation. We have previously mentioned that the publication of Against Economism had stimulated the line struggle which was being waged in the Western Voice Collective. The debate now had a national character.

On May 1st, 1976, our newspaper became a bilingual newspaper. From that time on, our propaganda and our agitation was to reach workers of both languages. This was a concrete application of our strategic line, and a clearer break with bourgeois nationalism.

The widening of the debate on the national scale led to the rallying of groups in English-Canada to groups in Quebec In June 1976, Worker’s Unity of Toronto announced that it had rallied to the League. Just a little while later, the Toronto Communist Group joined IN STRUGGLE!

While the debate was gaining national scope, the consolidation of right opportunism in the League was becoming more and more apparent. The rallying in rapid succession of Mobilisation, the GAS, the APLQ, and the CC(M-L), opportunist groups which had always, in the past, slowed down the development of the Marxist-Leninist movement, is an eloquent sign of this. Our group is partly responsible for the fact that this tendency within the League was reinforced, and thus able to cause the damage it is presently doing to the revolution. Our silence, our slowness in reacting to the appearance of the League, deserve to be criticized by the masses. We attribute this error to the dogmatism which existed in our ranks and which gained strength in the struggle against economism. Following the success of the struggle in the CSLO, our group developed the tendency to close in on itself, as if the struggle against the lowering of the level of agitation and propaganda meant that we had to stop all political work in the struggles of the masses. The consequence of this was that the way was left open for the League in the masses. This enabled the League to take advantage of the good faith of honest militants, without having to face any firm and articulate opponents who could have armed these people to resist the attacks of the League’s divisive and sectarian line which was being presented to them as the latest thing in revolutionary matters.

October 9, 1976, was the occasion of an important even which was to materialize the desire for unity of Marxist Leninists across the country. It was the National Conference of Marxist-Leninists which our group had taken the initiative of organizing. For the first time since the degeneration of the Canadian Communist Party, Marxist-Leninists of both nations participated in a common political meeting and expressed their firm desire to unite in a Marxist-Leninist Party. It was following this conference that the Group for the Proletarian Revolution (GRP), the Halifax Communist Group, the Vancouver Communist Group and the Regina Communist Group decided to join our ranks.

A second conference of Canadian Marxist-Leninists on the path of the revolution in Canada was held in Montreal April 9 and 10, 1977. Following this conference which forced the participants to demarcate from bourgeois nationalism, three Marxist-Leninist groups in Vancouver, the Long March Collective, the May First Collective and the October Study Group announced their decision to rally to IN STRUGGLE! If we take into account the historical weight of bourgeois nationalism in the Canadian communist movement, and the power of “small-groupism”, each group being jealous of its own autonomy, the rallying of these groups to IN STRUGGLE! marks another important victory for the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement. It represents a step forward in the struggle for the reconstruction of the revolutionary Party of the proletariat.

At the present time, the Marxist-Leninist movement is a living reality. The groups of English-Canada have come out of their state of isolation and are active in the line struggle within the movement. The polemic has a national character. Marxist-Leninist literature is becoming more and more abundant, more and more rigorous. At the same time, the intensification of the polemics at the National Conferences of Marxist-Leninists enabled us to perceive more clearly the differences which divide us.

However, in spite of the progress of the proletarian line, in spite of the fact that the unity of Marxist-Leninists is growing, we realize that there are still obstacles which stand in the way of the achievement of this unity.

The League

The League has been and remains one of the most important obstacles to the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists, to the unity of the Canadian proletariat. For a year now, the League has demonstrated an attitude of contempt for the small Marxist-Leninist groups. If they do not swear to rally to the League, it pretends to ignore them, it accuses them of generating confusion or else it expels them from the movement, with the threat of excommunication as the only form of trial. The League refuses to debate with the movement. It has substituted sensationalism and slander worthy of the worst yellow newspapers for honest and open ideological struggle. The League has a peculiar conception of line struggle, according to which whoever does not have a point of view absolutely identical with the one it holds is the worst sort of leper and is going to sink into the dark brown swamp of revisionism.

Moreover, the League believes that the masses are too stupid to participate in the line struggle and in the struggle for the unity of Marxist-Leninists. It is the only possible explanation of the fact that it called for the boycott of the Conferences of Marxist-Leninists, that it has systematically refused to participate in public debates in various parts of the country, that it has forbidden our militants to distribute our literature at its public meetings, that it has refused to sell Marxist-Leninist literature with which it has differences. The League is attempting to keep the masses ignorant of the Canadian, as well as the international, Marxist-Leninist movement. It is understandable that the League, which has up until now restricted its theoretical activities to the incessant repetition of general and abstract principles, should fear that its militants and sympathizers become aware of the fraudulent nature of its own line by reading documents other than its own. So be It! We must understand that, objectively, the League contributes to dividing the Marxist-Leninists of the two nations, that it opposes the unity of communists.

The League is attempting to create its party outside and apart from the struggle for the unity of the masses. It is seeking to create its Party without debate among the masses, who must be preserved from “deviations”. One group has already practiced this type of sectarianism: the “C”PC(M-L) . Like the “C”PC(M-L), the League wants to create the Party without the masses knowing about it. It wants to make revolution in their stead. But let us not be mistaken, behind these “leftist” errors hides a strong tendency towards right opportunism.

The political work of the League in working-class struggles aims at radicalizing the economic struggles in order to make them political. The League seems to think that workers must be hit over the head with a club or shot at with a gun before they can understand that they are exploited not only by one boss, but by a whole class which maintains its dictatorship thanks to the strength of the State apparatus. Reasonings such as these are not new in the history of our movement. They were brilliantly put forward by the RCT before the later’s total political downfall. This is not surprising when we know that the League is the product of three groups which were looking for a way out of having to recognize their economist errors which had been revealed to the masses in Against Economism.

This is the League’s heritage. The League is the heir of the opportunist errors of the “C”PC(M-L) and of the RCT, that is to say of the two main opportunist tendencies in Canada. But these are not the only opportunist tendencies which exist in Canada.

Another tendency, typical of the circles in English-Canada, consists of elaborating in great detail, and in isolation, the political line, and putting off to some later date, for all practical purposes, the struggle for the Party. This tendency is strong mainly in the region of Vancouver and the Red Star Collective is the most articulate example of this.

The Red Star Collective

In a pamphlet published recently by the Long March Collective of Vancouver[36], it is stated that the RSC established the development of the political line which would make possible the unity of communists in view of the creation of a Marxist-Leninist organization as the priority of communists. Once this organization was created, the task of communists would be to rally the advanced workers to communism.

The Vancouver Study Group, the ancestor of the RSC, had formulated a similar position in 1976 when it proposed the setting up of a liaison committee to unite the various groups in the region of Vancouver[37]. This way of separating the struggle for the unity of communists from the struggle to rally advanced workers is, in essence, erroneous and economist, as the Long March Collective has pointed out; it leads to restricting the theoretical debates to the intellectuals and to leaving the economic struggles for the workers. This line made a principle out of the very real isolation in which the Vancouver groups found themselves. By putting off to some later date the rallying of advanced workers, it leads in practice to the refusal to build an organization on a national scale.

The literature which the RSC has been publishing for some time now deals mainly with questions pertaining to the development of the line. In most cases these documents consist of long lists of facts, said to be concrete, in which an empirical method takes the place of dialectics. Even if it is important and necessary to publish documents on these questions, this is not enough. It is not just a question of writing long theses, it is also a question of inserting these positions in the conjuncture of the working-class movement. We must also submit our positions to the criticism of the masses and verify them in practice. We must not only elaborate a line, we must also enable it to penetrate the masses, translating it into lively slogans which will mobilize the masses for revolutionary action. This dialectical movement between theory and practice is the only way to make sure that a line develops in a proletarian manner. Whether we like it or not, a Marxist-Leninist political line cannot develop outside of the struggle to rally workers.

The RSC includes militants who formerly belonged to the PWM and the Vancouver Study Group. These militants still refrain from recognizing PWM’s nationalist errors, and up until now have never produced an evaluation of the experience of PWM. Regarding Party-building, the RSC makes mistakes which are a continuation of the mistakes of PWM. They undoubtedly put less emphasis on the struggle for the Canadianization of unions and devote more energy to developing their political line, but in practice the militants of RSC, like those of PWM, do not do communist agitation and propaganda in the working-class movement. This will inevitably lead to capitulation in face of the task of building the Party, just as happened with PWM...

Bolshevik Union

Although we can go back and uncover the historical roots of the RSC and the League, the task seems more difficult in the case of Bolshevik Union (BU), a circle formed in the fall of 1975 around a few militants from the journal Canadian Revolution.

Bolshevik Union appeared at a time when the debate among Marxist-Leninists was emerging from the narrow framework of small circles and taking on a national dimension. This group is thus the consolidated expression of these small circles that refuse to transform themselves into Marxist-Leninist organizations. This small-group obstinacy and resistance is demonstrated by Bolshevik Union’s opposition to democratic centralism, that is, the principle of leadership of all authentic communist parties. It is also revealed in its contempt for the proletariat’s struggles, and its elitist conception of the vanguard of the proletariat.

In social terms, Bolshevik Union represents the interests of the segment of the intellectual petty-bourgeoisie radicalized by the crisis, but which refuses the proletarian revolution. This group’s line is closer to Trotskyism, which is moreover the political expression of the intellectual petty-bourgeoisie, than it is to Marxism-Leninism.

The relationship between BU and Trotskyism can be found in various aspects of its political line. Its elitist conception of the vanguard of the proletariat is curiously reminiscent of the Trotskyist theory of cadres that the Albanian communists fought in the early 1940’s, and which results in refusing to have communists intervene in the masses’ struggles on the pretext that the cadres, the future leaders of the Party, are not “ready”, This theory expresses the fear and cowardice of these petty-bourgeois elements when faced with the revolution. In the same way, BU’s line on the role of the State unequivocally recalls the Trotskyist theory which states that the revolution consists in taking over factories one by one because the necessity of destroying the bourgeois State is plainly secondary, priority being given to “taking over the means of production”. Such a theory serves to delude the masses concerning the role of the State and the repressive nature of this instrument which is indispensable to the bourgeoisie in maintaining its dictatorship.

But BU’s counter-revolutionary line is most clearly demonstrated in its practice of unity, which is in fact a practice of splittism. During the Third Conference of Canadian Marxist-Leninists it became evident that the more the militants of BU had points in common with a line, the more they tried to demarcate from it. This is the very essence of splittism. It consists in subordinating points of agreement, that is to say, subordinating what already constitutes a factor of unity. This can only lead to division. This is indeed very petty-bourgeois behaviour: emphasizing heavily what sets us apart from ordinary mortals instead of basing ourselves on what unites us with our exploited brothers. In practice, such a position leads to splits among communists, which means the sabotaging of the revolutionary struggle. We were wondering which family tree BU could be attached to. Well, splittist seeds grow on “C”PC (M-L) trees!

The current Marxist-Leninist movement has become a political reality on the Canadian level. The factors of unity have been reinforced by the national conferences and the frank and open debates. Significant victories have been won against bourgeois nationalism and small-group spirit. But the more the movement develops and the more the debates accentuate, the more we realize that the obstacles we currently confront have deep historical roots. The affiliations are becoming clearer. When we see how the League practices unity, we are convinced that the umbilical cord which attached the MREQ, one of its founding groups, to the ”C”PC(M-L) has not been entirely severed. As for BU, it has just given us proof that it is the adopted child of the Bains gang! The RSC, for its part, is the leader of the gang in the bourgeois nationalist tendency which goes back to PWM. Both rightist and “leftist” errors are to be found in ail these groups. Thus, the League’s sectarianism is a screen for its economism. BU talks constantly about absolutely demarcating from the worst opportunists, but it doesn’t hesitate to call upon the proletariat to support the Canadian bourgeoisie in defending the country’s independence. The RSC has a dogmatic conception of how to elaborate a political line, but at the same time it compromises with the Canadian bourgeoisie, which it perceives as not “really” imperialist! In short, right opportunism is often combined with dogmatism and sectarianism, and this is understandable. For the more the proletarian line is demarcated from the bourgeois line, the more the bourgeois line is obliged to disguise itself in radical clothing, under “left-wing” colours, in order to win the attention of the masses.


The Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement had its origins in the petty-bourgeois revolutionaries who became politically active in the wake of the nationalist movement of the Sixties (particularly in Quebec). In the face of a rapidly developing workers’ movement, these revolutionaries became aware of what was really involved in class struggle.

But at the same time as this fusion was taking place and revolutionary theory began to take hold in Canada, nationalist ideology – as a bourgeois deviation – was grafted onto revolutionary theory. Thus the movement and ideology of the petty-bourgeois continued to exist, even within the Marxist-Leninist movement. In part, this was possible due to the great affluence which existed within the ranks of the petty-bourgeoisie who, despite their efforts to adopt the proletarian viewpoint, continued to carry with them their own class interests.

The tendency to substitute oneself for the masses, to want to make the revolution in place of the masses, and to doubt the revolutionary capacity of the masses, are also errors characteristic of the attitude of the petty-bourgeoisie in regard to the proletariat. These tendencies were expressed when the petty-bourgeoisie tried to link itself to the working class, and, it was in the struggle against these deviations that the proletarian line became distinct.

In recent history, the struggle within progressive and Marxist-Leninist groups between the two lines – between the forces of progress and of reaction – included three important occasions.

First: during the Sixties the progressive forces were represented by those who favoured political agitation in the masses in order to raise the level of consciousness of the people; they had acquired their experience in the nationalist movement and in the struggle to demarcate from it. Opposed to this current was the tendency of the social animators, those who favoured a low-keyed approach to the masses, refusing to deal with political questions.

Second: in 1972 with the publication of For a Proletarian Party, which was the founding act of today’s Marxist-Leninist movement, came the realization that it was not enough to do mass political agitation in order to link with the masses, but that propaganda must also be undertaken; and that both agitation and propaganda must be of a communist nature. Opposed to the Marxist-Leninist line were those who more and more doubted the ability of the masses to make revolution, and who at that point, were trying to link with the proletariat on reformist bases through the implantation of petty-bourgeois elements in factories and in union struggles.

Third: today, at a time when the proletariat is suffering under the heavy weight of the crisis, at a critical time when a short-term victory of the proletariat against the savage attacks of the bourgeoisie would put the working class as a whole in a better position to pursue the revolutionary struggle, the old opportunist line has re-emerged in all its splendour in the form of the radicalization of economic struggles in order to make them political. Opposed to this line is the proletarian line which seeks to unite the working class on the basis of the political struggle against the bourgeoisie. This tendency, which refuses to come into contact with the working class on a political basis, and which in practice prevents the working class from seizing the invincible weapon of Marxism-Leninism, persists today.

We cannot reduce the struggle against opportunism in our movement to the struggle against this strong current alone, although it is the most important and most firmly consolidated opportunist tendency. Just as this tendency is characterized by the wish to gain hegemony over the entire movement, there is another tendency which refuses to develop within the masses. In this case certain small groups want to maintain organizational primitiveness and the division between the workers’ movement and the Marxist-Leninist movement. In the past this has led to compromise in respect to the task of party building and has allowed proletarian politics to tail behind the nationalist movement. Today this current is trying to separate the struggles to develop the theory of revolution in Canada and the unity of Marxist-Leninists from the diffusion of Marxism-Leninism in the masses and the struggle to rally advanced workers to communism. In practice this leads to the isolation of Marxist-Leninists from the masses and to the liquidation of the task of building a strong country-wide Marxist-Leninist Party.

Although the history of our movement is not very long, it is rich in lessons, lessons which we must grasp in order to go forward to even greater victories. Opportunist errors, in different disguises, have a habit of reappearing during the course of the development of the proletarian line. The struggle against opportunism requires that we have an understanding of the development of revisionism in Canada and a critique of its most important manifestations. One of the characteristics of opportunism is to make compromises with the bourgeoisie. History shows us that those who tend to make compromises with the bourgeoisie in terms of the strategic plan, tend also to make secondary the struggle for building the Party – even liquidating the struggle.

In short, the success of the revolution in Canada depends upon the unity of the proletariat of the two nations. The existence of a Marxist-Leninist Party is the essential element necessary in order to realize and consolidate this unity and shape it into a powerful force for the liberation of all workers.

We can say that the situation in our country is positive. We have begun to draw lessons from our past struggles, and if we are able to do so, even in a limited way, this is because we have applied Marxism-Leninism to the practice of proletarian revolution in our country. These lessons represent the results of revolutionary work In Canada. They are the products of our experiences in our revolution.

We are advancing upon a difficult path. It is one which places us in irrevocable opposition to the Canadian bourgeoisie and its allies, all the reactionary forces around the world. Weak, divided, spread out across a vast country, the Marxist-Leninist and workers’ movement will defeat the enemy and achieve our final objective if we put into practice what we learn. Positive steps forward will lead us to positive leaps forward and will be transformed into great victories. The Canadian revolution has begun!


[1] We invite our readers to attentively study this historical work on the line struggle within the CP, which we have recently reedited. Fergus McKean, Communism versus Opportunism, republished by IN STRUGGLE!, Montreal, July 1977, 327 pages.

[2] Scott gave a brief but moving account of this defeat before the entire Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement during the National Conference on the Unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists, held in Montreal on October 1976. This speech is available in: Documents of the National Conference on the Unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists, Montreal, October 9, 1976. Published by IN STRUGGLE!, Montreal, January 1977, p. 69-70.

[3] Progressive Worker, vol. 1, no. 1, Oct. ’64, p.

[4] Leslie Morris and William Kashtan were leaders of the CP. Kashtan is the current general secretary of the CP.

[5] Progressive Worker, vol. 1, no. 1, Oct. ’64, p. 7

[6] Progressive Worker, idem, p. 8

[7] The PWM existed from 1964 to 1970.

[8] Taken from the union program of the PWM which appeared in vol. 3, no. 6 of Progressive Worker.

[9] Idem, p. 8

[10] Idem, p. 8

[11] Independence and Socialism in Canada, Progressive Worker (quarterly) p. 44

[12] See the article The path of the Revolution in Canada, Proletarian Unity, Vol.1, No.3, Feb. 77

[13] Frantz Fanon: theoretician of African national liberation struggles during the ’60’s, particularly in Algeria. Fanon’s ideas represented the revolutionary aspirations of the bourgeois nationalists in the struggle against colonialism. These ideas reflected the double character of the bourgeoisie in a colonial context. That is, they were both anti-imperialist and anti-communist at the same time.

[14] Ernesto Guevara, called ”Che”: revolutionary of Argentine origin who was one of the leaders of the Cuban revolution. He was assassinated by the CIA in Bolivia in ’67 where he was trying to organize a revolutionary movement. Guevara was a sincere anti-imperialist fighter, even if his theories were anti-Marxist. He put forward that the masses would be stimulated into making revolution by the exemplary action of small armed groups. These ideas were opposed to the Marxist principle that it’s the masses who make history and that the role of the Party is to make them conscious. To this he opposed the bourgeois concept according to which it’s the heroes who make history and that the vanguard of the masses is but a group of elite. Guevara’s Ideas represented the aspirations of the petty-bourgeoisie in Latin America who were up against the oppression of American Imperialism.

[15] Black Panther Party: a radical reformist party of the Black American petty-bourgeoisie. The party acquired international fame in the ’60’s when, under the guidance of Eldridge Cleaver it had a terrorist line which led it into direct confrontations with the police, in ’71 there was a split in the Party. Cleaver was expelled and his line was liquidated. Today the Black Panther Party wages struggles for social reforms (housing, milk distribution to children, etc.).

[16] Parti-PHs: a journal published by radical intellectuals in the 1960’s. It was mixture of nationalistic and socialist writings. These writings stressed the ”colonial” situation of Quebec.

[17] Red Morning: Canadian political group which existed in English-Canada, particularly In Toronto, around 1970-72. It adopted a terrorist line Inspired from the Black Panthers and the radical movements among American youth, in particular the Weathermen.

[18] This debate continued into the early ’70’s. It ended with the publication of two works: L’Urgence de choisir (The urgency to choose) by Pierre Vallieres and Pour le Parti proletarien (For the proletarian Party) by Charles Gagnon, a document which was the basis for the creation of the group IN STRUGGLE! in 1972, and which constituted the most complete polarization of these two theses. From that moment on, it became clear that the two theses are irremediably antagonistic. It was no longer a contradiction within the progressive forces, but a fight to the finish between Marxism-Leninism and bourgeois nationalism.

[19] The FLQ went through many phases. The first, in around ’63, was essentially anti-British. The second tried to approach the workers’ movement. That was the tendency of ’66. The third, In ’60, was marked above all by its radicalism.

[20] A reformist party which ran in the Montreal municipal elections in 1970.

[21] In Documents, Political Report 1970, Political Report 1973, p. 48, French version, CPC(M-L), 1976.

[22] Idem, p. 70

[23] Peoples Canada Daily News, vol. 2, no. 8, p.1

[24] Cap St-Jacques was divided into three sectors – WORK – COMMUNITY SCHOOL – which were defined according to the places where the militants worked. The so-called “work” sector took charge of the political work in the workplace, especially in the factories; the “community” sector grouped together the militants who worked in the peoples’ organizations, in particular a medical clinic; the “School” sector was specialized in the struggles being waged in the schools (student struggles, professors’ strikes).

[25] October, Vol. 1, no. 1, summer ’77, pp. 27-28.

[26] Against Opportunism, work document of the militants of the ex-CAP St-Jacques (school sector and neighborhood nucleus) March, ’74, 31 pages.

[27] Lenin, What is to be Done?, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1973

[28] To understand its history and its errors, read Documents of the ideological struggle within the Western Voice Collective, published In 1976 by the militants of the Western Voice, 19 pages.

[29] To understand the line of this group, we refer our readers to the criticism made by the Halifax Communist Group in To develop conditions locally for the building of the national vanguard, struggle against the economist error in our group. Dec. ’76, 12 pages.

[30] Mobilisation, D6but d’un Mouvement Socialiste a\ Montreal, 2leme Ed., 1971 (“Beginnings of a socialist movement in Montreal”).

[31] De quelques questions brulantes sur la ligne tactique, CMO, June 1975. (our translation).

[32] The Struggle for the Creation of the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist), p. 6-8, undated document.

[33] By the way, knowing how the League looks down its nose at the small, confused groups, and encourages, as a way of achieving unity, petty-bourgeois competition between large groups, we can presume that it would today disown this remark.

[34] We go on, “That is why the unity of Marxist-Leninists absolutely cannot be realized without proceeding from a clearly formulated political proposal, distributed among the groups, widely debated and developed in order to become the political rallying point with regard to which each and every person will be able to form an opinion and act accordingly.” Supplement to IN STRUGGLE!, no. 29 (December 12, 1974), p. 19. In English, Western Voice, November 1976, p. 55.

[35] The EDJ is the initial name which the nucleus of militants who published the newspaper EN LUTTE! Itself. It wasn’t until its first congress in November ’74, that the group adopted the same name as its newspaper.

[36] The Progressive Worker’s Movement and the Red Star Collective: a Legacy of Economism and Bourgeois Nationalism in the Marxist-Leninist Movement, by the Long March Collective, May 77, p. 22. This pamphlet has just been published by IN STRUGGLE! in Proletarian Unity Vol. 1, No. 6, August 77, pg. 14-30).

[37] See in Proletarian Unity, Vol. 1, no. 2, p. 54, the article from May First Collective, “Ideological struggle is class struggle” Vol. 1, No. 6, August 77, pg. 14-30).