One Step Backwards, Two Steps Backwards: A Critique of the Canadian Liberation Movement

Published: April 1977 by In Struggle!
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Publishers Note

“One Step Backwards, Two Steps Backwards ...” is an important contribution to the debate on the history of the movement in Canada. To the newly emerging Marxist-Leninist movement, presently engaged in trying to chart a correct course for the revolutionary struggle, it affords another opportunity to link history to the present conjuncture. We do not say that this critique is the final word far from it. We think rather, that this critique is trying to open an important struggle on what were the main errors politically and ideologically of the CLM. A group that existed in many different cities in Canada and which, in the name of socialism, practiced and promoted bourgeois nationalism. A group which had some affect in its misleadership on elements of the working class and Canadian people. We do not promote examining history for its own sake but rather to learn, so that we do not fall into political traps that continue to face the struggle as it moves forward.

While the Marxist Leninist movement in theory rejects bourgeois nationalism we see that we have a continued responsibility to fight it, both within our own ranks and amongst the masses. There are important deviations that must be recognized that are presently being struggled over in the international communist movement. These centre around how to fight against the danger of a Third world war, within one’s country and avoid the error of aligning in advanced capitalist countries, with the indigenous bourgeoisie against the two super-powers. In Canada, we face this area on two other fronts as well. In Quebec there is the necessity of fighting narrow nationalism while in English Canada the responsibility to win the working class and Canadian people to support the right of self-determination for Quebec. There is also a re-emerging force for bourgeois nationalism in the form of the Committee for an Independent Canada, which is talking of the possibility of establishing a new “Party”. All these things the Marxist-Leninist movement must address. And the April 9 and 10 countrywide conference on the Path of the Revolution in Canada, is another important opportunity to take these struggles more firmly in hand.

It is in this spirit that In Struggle has helped the comrade who authored the critique, to re-issue and re-circulate it. We wish to encourage all who want to make response and take up the debate, to submit their ideas and opinions to Proletarian Unity or the newspaper, whose pages are open for exactly this purpose.

In Struggle
April 1977

Preface to the Present Edition

This pamphlet was originally published in a longer mimeographed edition in October 1976 by a small group in Toronto. I wrote it for the consideration of the group but since the group was unable to agree on some of the positions taken we decided to do a limited circulation for two main reasons. The first is that we felt that the experience of the CLM contains some-useful lessons for the Marxist-Leninist movement and for the former members of the CLM. The second is that we hoped that the response would help in resolving the contradictions within the group. We still have not accomplished this and the present is still published under the pseudonym, “Harry”.

We have shortened the pamphlet considerably, deleting much of the empirical data in order to focus more on the questions of political line. The original also devoted much more space to the denunciation of Gary Perly, the CLM chairman, which was of some concern last year, but it is no longer relevant enough to warrant a great deal of space.

There have also been two corrections to the political positions taken in the pamphlet. These were done on my own initiative – IS! had originally proposed that we publish it as it was. However, I felt that the republication of the errors, once I was aware of them, would serve no useful purpose. The first is on the question of the principal contradiction which I then conceived of as between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie allied with U.S. imperialism. This contradicted an extensive quote from Terry Dance and Treat Hull’s Ontario Waffle: Social-Democratic to the End (Canadian Revolution I:1), which stated explicitly that the principal contradiction was between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. In order to save space, the quote was dropped and a more concise one from Mao Tsetung replaces it.

In the Section “Spontaneism in Party-Building,” I previously took the position that the founders of the CLM were part of the Marxist-Leninist movement. This was criticised by a number of people who responded to the first edition as being based on a very liberal definition of the movement. Although some might argue that in spite of its nationalist line the Progressive Workers’ Movement was a Marxist-Leninist formation, it cannot be demonstrated that there was an actual movement as such until the central task of building the party was grasped some years later. The text has been slightly altered accordingly.

March 1977.


We are a group made up mainly of people who were at various times members of the Canadian Liberation Movement who are now taking part in the struggle to build a genuine communist party in Canada. All of our efforts are now directed at the completion of this central task of all Marxist-Leninists in Canada. Our past practice, the practice of others who have considered themselves revolutionaries and the historical experience of other countries clearly shows that there can be no progress in Canadian social relations without a revolution for the dictatorship of the proletariat. This party must reflect and take upon itself the real interests of the working people of Canada. It must include all of the most advanced elements of the proletariat who will be able to lead the rest in their struggles against all forms of exploitation and oppression.

For some years, although we considered ourselves Marxist-Leninists, we promoted a counter-revolutionary line on the Canadian Revolution and within the Marxist-Leninist movement opposed the correct line that party-building is the central task. For this reason, we feel that a complete repudiation of our past practice is an important first step for us in particular in making our contribution to the successful completion of that task.

But our experience has not been totally negative. A critical analysis of our past practice, a scientific evaluation of its strengths as well as its weaknesses is important if our own experience or the hundreds of other ex-CLM members is not to be totally in vain. Important lessons can be drawn and centralized so that the future party will have the full benefit of our experience. It is in this spirit that we put forward the ideas contained in this article.

The experience of the CLM is a significant one in the history of the Canadian progressive movement of the last six years. The CLM maintained a national practice, and extensively intervened in the Canadian union movement. It also led numerous struggles in the universities and made itself felt in other spontaneous popular uprisings against oppression. Its newspaper, New Canada, was one of the most widely circulated of “left-wing” newspapers, sometimes subscribed to in bulk by some of the more militant Canadian unions. In order to get the full benefit of this experience, we must carefully analyse the CLM’s history and its position in history. We must grasp concretely the past from which it sprang, the interests it represented and the future direction to which it points its ex-members who are sincere in their desire to overcome exploitation and oppression in our country and around the world.

The CLM is now dead. After dramatically removing from office and then expelling its chairman and petty-dictator of long-standing, Gary Perly, it fizzled without a vote to liquidate or any discussion as to why it should. Those of us who considered ourselves Marxist-Leninists must take the principal responsibility for this. Although Canadian Revolution which began publishing shortly before the internal struggles of the CLM broke out had made it clear that the central task was to build a communist party, and although we grasped that fact, we were unable to relate that general task to the struggles inside the CLM. We were unable to give leadership to the rest of the members as to their future political direction. This error we hope to correct with this article.

Our over-all goals are: 1) to smash the bourgeois line of “Independence and Socialism”; 2) to expose Gary and Caroline Perly and those who continue to work with them as die-hard counter-revolutionaries; 3) to centralize our experience, good and bad for the benefit of the whole Marxist-Leninist movement, to begin a public debate over the role of the CLM which will better help to centralize that experience and improve the analysis of it; 4) we hope to win over as many ex-CLM members as possible to Marxism-Leninism and encourage them to take part in party-building – the only possible way to implement their revolutionary ideals.

In order to accomplish these goals we have compared notes on our own various experiences in the CLM and we have studied the documents distributed by a number of members and ex-members during the struggles around the last congress (February 28-9, 1976). We are not proposing this critique as an “official” history of the CLM. Before such a history can be written it is necessary to understand the class nature of the CLM, its line, its organization and its role. Only with this knowledge can the particular interventions, tactics and crimes against the membership and the proletariat be understood. This is the direction of this article. We think we have included enough material information to make clear our position, to prove the points we wish to sake. The article is not proposed as the be-all and end-all of the analysis of the CLM, but as the beginning of a public debate which will in the end provide a clear orientation for a detailed history.

We hope that all ex-members, people who worked with the CLM and other Canadian Marxist-Leninists will take an interest is a concrete analysis of the CLM and will make known to us what they think of the ideas we are putting forward. We encourage all interested to let us know their criticisms and corrections they would like to see. We also hope that those who agree with our evaluation will respond, perhaps pointing cut where they think that greater stress should be laid or additions made. It would be helpful in the writing of a future history as opposed to a critique, if those who were involved were to give us empirical histories of their involvement.


1. The World

By the late nineteen sixties a great storm of anti-imperialist revolution had broken out around the world. This revolution was directly mainly against U.S. imperialism and its allies, the main oppressors of the world’s peoples.

At the same time a change had taken place in the anti-imperialist camp. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which for forty years had been the leading centre of the world revolution, the centre to which not just the world’s proletariat, but all of the world’s oppressed peoples had looked for leadership had betrayed their trust. It had begun to sabotage their struggles and to urge “peaceful transition to socialism” through “peaceful competition” and “peaceful co-existence”. The staunch and militant leadership of J.V. Stalin who had led a third of the world’s population in over a dozen countries to socialism was first compromised and then abandoned under the pretext of criticizing his errors after his death. As is now clear this was just a cover for the re-establishment of capitalism in the Soviet Union and the entrance of a new form of imperialism onto the world scene, Soviet social-imperialism.

With this development, the people of the world turned to a new revolutionary centre, the one which most clearly and forthrightly opposed the rise of revisionism and social-imperialism. That centre was the Communist Party of China.

As the CPC provided the ideological and political leadership, the people of Vietnam demonstrated great revolutionary heroism in the actual fighting against U.S. imperialism and progressive people the world over rallied in their millions to support them and to denounce U.S. imperialism.

2. Canada

The changes in the world’s situation were the conditions for many important changes in Canada. While the leaders of the “Communist” Party of Canada swung in behind Soviet social-imperialism, thousands of Canadians began to struggle against the U.S. imperialist war of aggression on Vietnam. The response of the CP was to promote bourgeois pacifism – peace rather than victory. While seeming to support the Vietnamese, the CP regurgitated the CPSU’s betrayal of the international proletarian solidarity with the line of opposing the national liberation movements “since local wars (sic) might be the spark igniting the flames of world war.”

With the decay of the CP, the Canadian proletariat could not give leadership to the “anti-war” movement which was drawing large segments of the intelligentsia into radical and revolutionary politics. These intellectuals, heavily influenced by the tens of thousands of draft evaders and deserters from the U.S. army who had emigrated to Canada from the U.S.A. tended to look for leadership to the progressive movements in the U.S. like the Black Panther Party and the Students for a Democratic Society. For a while the concrete problems of Canadian society were very much neglected.

One of the leading groups opposing that trend, a group which arose out of the struggle against the struggle against revisionism in the CP and which gave leadership to the revolutionary line of supporting the national liberation struggle of the Vietnamese was the Progressive Workers’ Movement.

The PWM began as a result of a split in the CP in 1964. A large number of veteran communists in the Vancouver area, led by Jack Scott, were expelled from the party for opposing the party line on the nature of the struggle in Canada, i.e., opposing reformism, and for supporting the Communist Party of China.

An attempt was made to set up a branch in Ontario between 1965 and 1968, but it never quite got off the ground and was finally sabotaged. Some of the militants, including Gary Perly, then set up the Canadian Party of Labour. CPL established Canadians for the National Liberation Front (CNLF) to oppose the pacifist line in the anti-imperialist movement and give direct support to the NLF of Vietnam. CNLF was headed by Perly.

A split in CPL-CNLF over the national question in Canada resulted in the CPL as we know it today, completely outside the Marxist-Leninist movement, raising such Trotskyite slogans as “All Nationalism is Reactionary” and “Nixon, Brezhnev, Mao Tsetung: All the Bosses Must be Hung”, and a small Marxist-Leninist study circle headed by Perly.

By 1970 the PWM was in disarray and no Marxist-Leninist group in Canada was either attempting to build a new communist party or to develop and promote the proletarian line on the strategy for socialist revolution in Canada.

Since the proletariat could not lead the struggle, leadership fell to the remnants of the “New Left” anti-imperialist and university democratization movements, particularly those that had some grasp of Marxism. These people, petty-bourgeois in their approach and politics and in their conception of Canadian society, at least grasped the need for revolutionaries to have a base in the masses and particularly close links with the proletariat in order to be successful.

Many of these people considered themselves to be Marxist-Leninists and vaguely saw the need for a proletarian party. However, they vaguely felt that there were not enough communists to found a party and therefore the central task was to engage in various forms of reformist work such as in the NDP or the trade unions until such time as the proletariat was “ready” for them. After conceptions other than that of implantation into trade unions etc., was the conception of setting up “intermediate” organisations which were considered as a step for workers between trade unions and communist circles. (See Against Economism, by IN STRUGGLE! for a thorough refutation of this line.)

There were two main reasons for these developments in the Canadian Revolutionary movement. One was the petty-bourgeois background of most of those who identified themselves as revolutionaries. They exhibited a consistent tendency to prefer to pose as social-democrats or nationalists in their practice and leave communist ideas to discussions in university cafeterias. They often felt more at home with the bourgeoisie than with the proletariat so while subjectively favouring the proletariat, in their practice they attempted to reconcile the interests of the two classes. This could have been rectified if it were not for the second factor. This was the lack of continuity of the communist movement. If Canada had had a revolutionary communist party that truly fought for the interests of all the working people, it would have rallied to itself all the honest elements of the intelligentsia who wanted revolution. The party could have educated them in Marxism-Leninism and set them straight on the role of communists in the struggle. If it had not been for the counter-revolutionary nature of the revisionist CP most of the deviations we have witnessed in Canada in the last decade could have been avoided and Canadian Revolutionaries would have not had to begin over at the beginning in learning the science of revolution.

This was the social basis for the development of such organisations as the Waffle, the CPC(ML) and the CLM all of which were constituted within one year, 1969. Each of these groups represented a different form of petty-bourgeois counter-revolutionary deviation. The Waffle was social-democratic. CPC(ML) was at least ultra-leftist, later decaying into social-fascism and for some time exerting hegemony over the Marxist-Leninist movement while doing everything in its power to make Maoism a synonym for lunacy. The CLM was bourgeois nationalist. While each group represented a different trend in the elements of the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia which was attempting to assimilate Marxism-Leninism, they had many things in common, due to their common class background. All adopted strong economist tendencies from the CP, while attempting to some decrees to reject its revisionism. All made some claim to Marxism-Leninism, if not in public, in the cases of the Waffle and the CLM, then in private. All tailed to establish strong links with the proletariat.

All have died or are dying at about the same time, more or less in direct proportion to the amount of discipline required from their members.


1. The Strategic Line of Independence and Socialism

We saw above why these groups, the Waffle, CPC(ML), and the CLM all arose at the same time. Why are they dying at about the same time and this, when the militancy of the proletariat is dramatically on the increase? The groups had many particular differences in their lines, organisations and methods of work, and the particular reasons for the death of each are different the Waffle, when its leadership began to wane, was smashed by the leaders of the NDP; the CLM was split principally between the bourgeois nationalists and the Marxist-Leninists as soon as Perly’s dictatorship could no longer reconcile the two tendencies; the CPC(ML) is having its base rapidly eroded by the development of the genuine Marxist-Leninist movement and is becoming even more isolated than it ever managed to be in the past. (For an analysis of the Waffle, see T. Dance and T. Hull, Ontario Waffle: Social-Democratic to the End, Canadian Revolution, I: l, page 31. On the CPC(ML) see D. Paterson’s A Reply to CPC(ML)’s Call for Unity, Canadian Revolution 112, page 3, and IN STRUGGLE!’s recent translation of Supplement No. 41, II, 20, entitled Intensify the Struggle Against the Neo-Revisionist Trend in the Marxist-Leninist Movement.)

The principal thing that these groups had in common was a bourgeois nationalist political line. All promoted the strategy of a two-stage revolution in Canada, although the Waffle’s strategy was electoral, and the CLM never actually called for revolution in its propaganda. It is very important for us to grasp this fact: the proletariat and the working people have rejected the strategy of “Independence and Socialism”. This is the key lesson to be learned from the experience of the CLM. The CLM did not die because Perly wrecked it. Nor did it die because it was not a party promoting the same line. It died because outside the confines of a narrow segment of the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia there was no basis for its existence. Even this narrow basis was only for a short duration of Canadian history. The only way that the CLM could have survived would have been if it had had a concrete analysis of the concrete conditions in Canada. It would have had to rectify its errors of political line and rejected the two-stage revolution strategy. Only then could it have begun to build a solid base of support in the proletariat and rallied the proletariat to its ranks. But then the CLM would not have been the CLM.

For a few years the narrow base of the CLM was enough to continue providing people for the CLM to recruit to replace the many members who joined the movement with great enthusiasim and soon quit in frustration at the lack of practical results and the personal attacks made on them for their “failures”. But since the CLM could not establish and sustain links with the working class, could not recruit the most advanced workers, in fact very few proletarians at all, its days were clearly numbered.

We think that the CLM failed to attract proletarians principally because of its bourgeois line, rather than the fact that its methods of work and organizing tended to alienate people from it. The proletariat does not experience U.S. imperialism as national oppression, but as a form of capitalist exploitation. It is capitalism in general one must deal with when selling one’s labour power, working paying inflated and being laid off. The correct slogan is not “Independence and Socialism”, more accurately, “The Dictatorship of the Proletariat”. That is the concept which grips the imaginations of the advanced elements of the proletariat, the idea which calls them to action, or will when they hear about it. We will deal with this more extensively in the section on economism in the CLM.

The CLM summed up its line in a pamphlet entitled, “Join the Canadian Liberation Movement”, (1973), in this way:

“Canada is a colony. Our industry, our natural resources, our trade unions, our cultural institutions are all controlled from south of the border, the border we share with the world’s greatest imperial power, the United States of America.

“To end our exploitation, to build a new Canada, where the people hold the real power, we must unite patriotic and progressive Canadians in a Fighting Organisation dedicated to the achievement of independence and socialism.

“This is the aim of the Canadian Liberation Movement.”

Claiming to follow Mao Tsetung, the CLM based its line on the idea that the principal contradiction in Canada is between U.S. imperialism and the Canadian people. But what in fact does Mao say?

“...in capitalist society, the two forces in contradiction, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, form the principal contradiction.” (Selected Works, p. 110)

In private meetings with Marxist-Leninists, and people attempting to use Marxism-Leninism to give themselves a revolutionary direction, members of the CLM often attempted to use Chairman Mao’s On New Democracy to prove the line on the two stage revolution. Some leading members even tried to prove that Canada should be classed in the Third World because of its uneven development. When it was pointed out to then that Canada was a democratic country already, they would attempt to explain that since it is a bourgeois democracy, with U.S. imperialist puppets for prime ministers it is not really a democracy at all.

It is interesting to note that the CLM called Canada a “colony”, period. The whole approach of the CLM was as if Canada were a direct colony, though it never went quite so far as to say that. Sometimes it was called a “neo-colony”, although not in its printed literature, but this was in fact equated to direct colony. If it had promoted the line that Canada was a semi-colony, it would have had a better case. In fact, this was pointed out to Perly, a number of times, but he always avoided the issue by defining semi-colony as a country either in the process of being taken over, or ruled by several imperialist powers. Since Canada is “already taken over” and ruled “by one imperialist power,” it could not be a semi-colony.

The main reason that Perly (and as a result, the CLM) opposed defining Canada as a semi-colony, or a second world advanced capitalist country is that both definitions call for a one-stage revolution. Without the two-stage revolution strategy there would no longer be any reason for the perverse marriage of Marxist-Leninists and nationalists in the CLM. And Perly would no longer be “objectively” the leader of the Canadian people. It was an effort to suppress struggle over this and related points that the extreme centralization developed in the CLM. We will attempt to show this more clearly and show just how extreme this centalization was in the section on the development of social-fascism in the CLM.

The CLM line was based in part on a misunderstanding of the application to particular states in the era of imperialism of the Marxist principle that the class which controls the means of production controls the state. Rather than do a concrete analysis of the concrete conditions in Canada, the leaders of the CLM limited themselves to a line which basically went: “Since U.S. imperialism controls the economic base in Canada, it must control the superstructure as well. Therefore anything that the Canadian government does to oppose U.S. imperialism is simply a sham show of opposition to appease the nationalist sentiments of the Canadian people.” By the same token, the establishment of the Committee for an Independent Canada was seen, not as an attempt of the Canadian bourgeoisie to get a bigger share in the spoils, but an attempt by the “comprador” bourgeoisie to mislead the Canadian people away from the revolutionary leadership of the CLM and down the road to a further entrenchment of U.S. imperialism, if not annexation. This was called “Waving the Maple Leaf to Oppose the Maple Leaf” (New Canada, I:6, November 1970).

This is one aspect of what Lenin called “imperialist economism”. He had this to say in “A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism”:

“Big finance capital of one country can always buy up competitors in another politically independent country and constantly does so. Economically, this is fully achievable. Economic ’annexation’ is fully achievable without political annexation and is widely practised. In the literature on imperialism, you will constantly come across indications that Argentina, for example, is in reality, a ’trade colony’ of Britain, or that Portugal is in reality a ’vassal’ of Britain, etc. And that is actually so: economic dependence on British banks, indebtedness to Britain, British acquisition of their railways, mines, lands, etc., enable Britain to ’annex’ these countries economically without violating their independence. National self-determination means political Independence.” (emphasis added here) (CW, Volume 23, p. 44, 1964 ed.)

Can the “independence” slogan therefore be anything but counter-revolutionary in a country which already has self-determination? Absolutely not.


“The imperialist tendency toward big empires is fully achievable, and in practice is often achieved, in the form of an imperialist alliance of sovereign and independent – politically independent – states. Such an alliance is possible and is encountered not only in the form of an economic merger of the finance capital of two countries, but also in the form of military ’co-operation’ in an imperialist war.” (Ibid. pp. 50-51)

The CLM attempted to prove that Canada was not imperialist by stating that such arguments as Lenin’s are Kautskyite, that is, ultra-imperialist. That there can be only contention between different imperialist powers and since there is no (antagonistic) contention between the Canadian bourgeoisie and the U.S. bourgeoisie, Canada must be a colony. This deserves some attention here because errors on this point have haunted Canadian Marxist-Leninists for many years and continue to do so.

There are two basic errors on the nature of relations between imperialist bourgeoisies. One is the Kautskyite and especially, neo-Trotskyite line that there is complete collusion in a “collective imperialism”, a “world market”, etc., which is the cloak for the permanent counter-revolution, and opposition to national liberation struggles. The other is the line that there can only be antagonism between imperialist states, the position of the CLM and latterly, the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist). The League, which we regard as being genuinely Marxist-Leninist and not in the same counter-revolutionary class as the CLM, fails to see the alliance between the Canadian bourgeoisie and U.S. imperialism, We refer people for a critique of the League’s position to A Manifestation of Dogmatism, IN STRUGGLE!, no. 69, September 2, 1976.)[1]

Both positions are undialectical and unmaterialist. Undialectical because they fail to take into account the ways in which contradictory aspects of a thing develop, in this case the contradiction of collusion and contention. They are unmaterialist because they ignore obvious empirical evidence such as military alliances, joint exploitation of semi-colonies and colonies and even other imperialist countries,– West Germany, for example – and detente. Both the dialectical and materialist aspects are clear as relations between bourgeoisies decay (more correctly, develop) from an obvious alliance into hostilities and war. It is not surprising to hear, as we have, some of the individuals who came out of the CLM voicing support for the League’s line. While seemingly opposite, they are in fact two aspects of the same “imperialist economist” deviation.

One must not confuse Lenin’s refutation of an era of ultra-imperialism, a world-wide system, with relations between two or more imperialist powers in the age of imperialism. The League is correct to state “Among imperialist powers, contention is absolute...” (Against Right Opportunism in the Analysis of the Principal Contradiction) but incorrect to conclude from this the general principle that relations between two bourgeoisies in particular cannot be primarily collaboration. And in the face of common enemies, collaboration over a relatively long period.

To say that the Canadian bourgeoisie can only have a relation with U.S. imperialism based upon opposition or subservience is wrong. There are two aspects to the relationship and both must be taken into account) collusion and contention. This is true even in the so-called “neo-colonies” as we have seen very much in recent years. This is why the Chinese support for certain third world countries in their struggles against imperialism makes sense and can succeed in such cases as Venezuela and Mexico which we in the CLM always thought of a “neo-colonies” and therefore unable to take genuinely independent actions.

In terms of class analysis the CLM attempted to mimic Chairman Mao’s Analysis of Classes in Chinese Society and divide the Canadian bourgeoisie into comprador and national elements. Although the term comprador may apply to the bureaucrats of U.S. subsidiaries, we no longer see that it applies to any distinctly Canadian class. The Canadian bourgeoisie is “National” – although nurtured from abroad, definitely of the home grown variety.

None of the bourgeoisie, apart from some strata of the petty-bourgeoisie, wants complete independence from U.S. imperialism. They know that they are too weak to stand up to the proletariat and even continue making the profits they used to, alone. On the other hand, none of them wants complete dependence that is, annexation because that would limit their freedom of action in profit-seeking, and even wipe many of them out.

The proper distinction to be made in the Canadian bourgeoisie at this time is between those who favour weaker (the search for new partners, independent actions in the third world, etc.) and closer ties within the alliance between the two.

At present the contradiction between the monopolists and the non-monopolists does often leave out the latter identifying the U.S. monopolies as the main enemy and these often attempt to use the nationalist sentiments of the people to gain political support where they lack economic strength. But in a country such as Canada with thoroughly capitalist relations of production the bourgeoisie as a whole is the main enemy and there will be no split between “patriotic” and “traitor” sections of the bourgeoisie until the Marines arrive.

The class basis of the “Independence and Socialism” line is purely petty-bourgeois. It reflects the constant tendency of the petty-bourgeoisie to attempt to reconcile the interests of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. As such, since it objectively opposes the real interests of the proletariat, socialism, it is a form of counter-revolutionary ideology. No matter how many fine phrases, many of them quite right about the need for independent Canadian unions, about the need for “socialism”, etc., it remains bourgeois nationalist.

In an advanced capitalist country such as Canada, the proletariat fights for socialism. The bourgeoisie fights for a bigger share of the take from capitalist exploitation using the slogan “independence” in an attempt to rally the people behind it. And certain petty-bourgeoisie, in a typical attempt to create one big happy family raise the slogan, “Independence and Socialism”.

The reason for the subjective appraisal of the role of the U.S. imperialists in Canada by the progressive elements of the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia stems from the fact that the oppression of that stratum in Canada is primarily cultural as opposed to economic and political, and this in the form most specifically of the U.S. imperialist culture. The petty-bourgeois intellectuals do not oppose capitalist culture per se – most of them make their living in the mongering of it.

Every class thinks that it is the most important class in society and promotes its class interests wherever it can. The founders of the CLM, in their subjectivity, concluded that the rest of the Canadian people must be primarily oppressed by, and opposed to, U.S. imperialism. They took their line to the masses and what did they find? They found that the masses were not interested, not even the petty-bourgeoisie. The proletariat and working people identify capitalism in general as the main problem. Ergo, the CLM died.

Some ex-members argue that CLM fell apart because of other reasons and already attempts have been made to reconstitute it in different forms. Some say that the reason the CLM failed was because of its over-centralized organization and the dogmatism and sectarianism promoted by its leadership. We think these developments were a direct outgrowth of the incorrect political line: that the reason for the development of social-fascism in the organization was an attempt to hold the group together through manipulation and terror – to hide in the face of many failures the complete political bankruptcy of its leaders and its line. The dogmatism and sectarianism developed directly from the subjectivity and self-promotion of its leaders, based upon that line.

(Since this paper was first written we have had an opportunity to study IN STRUGGLE!’s supplement on Neo-Revisionism, cited above. We believe that this is an accurate characterization of the phony “Marxist-Leninist” aspect of the CLM which claimed Mao Tsetung as its authority. For the CLM as a whole, “bourgeois nationalism” is more precise.)

There were two results of the CLM’a application of the “Independence and Socialism” line, that, while requiring qualification, must be termed positive.

One is that, while its approach was bourgeois, the CLM did much to expose U.S. imperialism and to tie that in with the struggle against U.S. imperialism around the world.

It also exposed the role of the state as a tool of class dictatorship. While it got the class wrong, it encouraged people to think in class terms, and subjectively at least, to put the interests of the proletariat first.


The CLM developed almost as if part of a consciously laid out plan. The first stage (1969-72) was the promotion of spontanaeiem in party-building by establishing an “intermediate organisation” merging Marxist-Leninists (the main force) with bourgeois nationalists (the secondary force). The second stage (1972-73) was the isolation of the Marxist-Leninists in the organisation. The third stage (1973-75) was the institution of social-fascism in the organisation which is not hard to do if the less conscious are dedicated and disciplined and the Marxist-Leninists have either been driven out or forced to remain and keep silent in fear of their very lives.

In this article we have decided to place principal importance on the objective political errors of the CLM and especially those within it who labelled themselves Marxist-Leninists. This is where the most important political lessons will be learned. And this is where the most damage was done. It is entirely subjective on the parts of some ex-CLM members to criticise the CLM principally for the crimes committed against the members. The crimes against the working people of Canada are far and away more important, and the principal one of these was the propagation of erroneous lines on party-building and the Canadian Revolution. To take the other approach aids the bourgeoisie in two ways. One is to objectively cover up the seriousness of the political error behind the CLM line. The other is to provide more grist for the bourgeoisie’s anti-communist propaganda mill. Undue exposure of the mistreatment of members, etc. by organisations which can be labelled as “communist” by the bourgeoisie, only increases the opportunities to slander it. We hope to prove that the CLM itself was a slander of communism. We think that the CLM itself was a slander of communism. We think that we can learn the appropriate lessons without naming individuals or providing more fuel for the bourgeoisie.

1. Spontaneism in Party-Building

There was always a dual character to the CLM, One aspect, that of a mass movement was clear in its bourgeois nationalist political line and spontaneist practice. The other aspect was its form as a highly centralised political party which attempted to apply the principles of Marxism-Leninism, and especially Mao Tsetung Thought, to the conditions of Canada. Right from the beginning, although the CLM was founded mainly by a Marxist-Leninist study group, the bourgeois aspect was dominant.

But the problem goes deeper, for in setting up the CLM, its founders completely liquidated one of the most fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism – the principle of independence of political line and organisation.

Lenin proved that only with political independence and the practice of democratic centralism at the highest level, the level of communists, can political line be developed, put into practice and incorrect ideas corrected.

In other words, Perly and Co. would have taken on the task, not of building a Canadian liberation movement, but of building a genuine communist party, in co-operation with and through open ideological struggle with other Marxist-Leninist groups. If this party, on the basis of a scientific and concrete analysis were then to conclude that Canada needed liberation it would lead in the formation of a real anti-imperialist united front of organizations representing many classes.

In such a united front it would have clear organisational and political demarcation from other, for example, bourgeois nationalist, organisations. If it were to find that there was the basis for such a political line it would be in a position to change its strategy for the achievement of its over-all goals, the dictatorship of the proletariat and communism.

But since the CLM was founded on the basis of anti-U.S. imperialism, the line could not be changed without the break-up of the organisation. As soon as the Marxist-Leninists submitted politically and organisationally to the spontaneous upsurge of the anti-imperialist elements of the intelligentsia, the maintenance of the anti-imperialist struggle became more important than the propagation of communist politics and the development of communist organisation. Of course the CLM founders stated that they saw the need for a party, and within the organisation took steps they claimed were to achieve that goal (we will see just what these steps were) but nowhere did they put forward a practical plan as to the methods required. In reality, the attitude was that the party would arise more or less spontaneously from within the CLM.

From the beginning then, no discussion was allowed over the question of the general line of the CLM – either within the organisation as a whole or within the “Marxist-Leninist” caucus which was set up to regroup the communists within the CLM and quickly degenerated into a ruling clique of Perly’s puppets.

We characterise this (fundamental, along with the political line) error as spontaneism – following in the wake of mass spontaneous struggles, reducing the role of communists from open leaders of the proletariat in the struggle to set up the dictatorship of the proletariat to followers, tailists who take their lead from the spontaneous resistance always taking place wherever there is oppression.

The rationale behind not taking party-building as the central task was that “there are no communists so how can we build a party?” When there are not enough communists to build a party, communists must take their theory to the working class and to the spontaneous struggles. Completely open and above-board they must tell of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They must show the proletariat its need for its own vanguard party to lead the spontaneous economic (and anti-imperialist) struggles, to turn them from isolated and temporary phenomena into a party of strategy for revolution. The workers will respond, in Canada as in every other country. They need only the opportunity.

To the CLM the dictatorship of the proletariat was a vague ideal not even to be discussed with the workers “who were not ready”. This was, in propaganda and in practice, a denial of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of the leading role of the party in achieving it. This is the essence of economism, of the “reactionary theory of stages” in the development of workers’ class consciousness. Here is a good general rule from Lenin:

“The only choice is: either the bourgeois or the proletarian ideology. There is no middle course...hence to belittle the Socialist ideology in any way, to turn from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen the bourgeois ideology.” (What is To Be Done?)

Many other Marxist-Leninist groups of the time made similar mistakes of the same nature, but later on began to re-evaluate their practice and correct their errors. But for the CLM, the liquidation of party-building, the total loyalty to spontaneism was just the fist stage in the liquidation of Marxism-Leninism.

Not only did the CLM leaders attempt to liquidate Marxism-Leninism in the CLM but outside it as well. All the various groups and tendencies which were springing up all over the country attempting to apply the principles of Marxism-Leninism to Canada were written off as agents of U.S. imperialism, conscious or unconscious, if they did not join the CLM. This was done consistently by the leaders within the organisation in a snide and gossipy way, in private conversations between CLM members and outsiders. The CLM failed to do a concrete analysis of the Marxist-Leninist movement (and even of the “left”) because outside the CLM it did not think that there was such an animal. Jack Scott attended the 1971 CLM national conference as an observer where he clearly raised the issue of party-building. The issue was avoided and obscured by Perly and the “Marxist-Leninist” caucus (which had been set up the year before). They could not tell Scott about their “steps” in party-building, because it would have been a break in security to let out that the caucus existed – at that time, most members of the CLM did not even know of its existence. Scott was only invited in an attempt to draw him into the movement and increase Perly’s prestige with the members. He was not invited at all because he was a dedicated communist anti-imperialist of long standing who might have made a contribution to the CLM’s understanding of its tasks.

2. The Isolation of Marxist-Leninists

An initial step which was supposedly in the direction of party-building was taken late in 1970. At the first “national” (Toronto and Thunder Bay) conference of the CLM, Perly proposed the formation of a caucus of Marxist-Leninists. He pointed out that a national liberation struggle can only be successful where it is led by communists and the caucus was directed to give communist leadership and direction to the CLM while attempting to build a party by recruiting CLM members to it and forming links with “outside” Marxist-Leninists. The “outside Marxist-Leninists were unspecified but that did not matter because the caucus never publicly proclaimed its existence, much less made contact with these people. The founding of the caucus could have been a significant step forward in the rectification of the CLM’s errors and in party-building.

But subsequent events were to show that Perly had no real intention of building a party, in spite of the fact that he knew that the struggle he claimed to champion could not be successful without one.

In fact, the purpose in founding the caucus was two-fold. Firstly it put the leading and most independent minded elements under the very tight discipline so that no leadership could develop without being under Perly’s direct control, leadership which might question Perly’s political line and methods of work. It isolated these elements which most wished to grasp Marxism-Leninism, those who joined the CLM not primarily because they wanted to see U.S. imperialism defeated in Canada, but because they wanted to fight for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Secondly, under the pretext of a higher degree of discipline (the discipline in the CLM generally was already very high) it provided Perly with a small group of henchmen who unquestioningly obeyed him. These soon became nothing more than an extension of Perly himself in running the CLM by manipulating its membership and most importantly by squelching all ideological struggle in the CLM. Except for one or two spokesmen appointed from time to time membership was secret as were its meetings and decisions. In fact for about two years after its founding it was not referred to again, or was not supposed to be, and few of the members recruited to the CLM in that time were even aware of its existence.

It should be pointed out that the creation of the caucus was actually only the recognition by the CLM of a group of Perly’s closest collaborators which had functioned as a caucus and considered itself such for some time. Two or three new members were selected at the 1970 conference and one of them at least did not find out about its prior existence until 1976, just before it was disbanded.

If the members of the CLM had known what went on at the meetings of the caucus they would have been horrified. Important decisions were made for the larger organisation and then implemented through the caucus’ control of the national executive. Major questions of personnel were made, their location and re-location, marriages were made and wrecked, and when there was time left, decisions of CLM policy were made. But most of the time was spent in criticism sessions where the various “crimes” of different members were uncovered. As far as is known all decisions of the caucus were either proposed by Perly or approved by him. Any member who voiced the slightest objection to his proposals was regarded with suspicion and hostility, even by those who, down deep, deep as possible, agreed with the objections. Caucus members learned how to one-sidedly apply the principles of Marxism-Leninism, particularly the centralist aspect of democratic centralism. They learned that any questioning of the CLM line or leadership was sabotage, wrecking, splitting, etc. They learned how to require only the most “dedicated” and “selfless” (read submissive) discipline from the CLM members. As a result many fine revolutionaries were driven away from the organisation and the revolution in a spirit of disillusionment and self-doubt. Another result in this regard was that very few proletarians, who had not been trained in the finer arts of intellectual submissiveness, were recruited to the CLM, even those who agreed with the line. Those who were recruited did not last long when they found out what they had gotten themselves into.

Although a few of the caucus members, mainly the founding members, (sometimes referred to as the “caucus within the caucus” –also as the junta, the clique, etc.) were motivated principally by opportunism, many dedicated people committed to the ideals of Marxism-Leninism, but very inexperienced in their application joined the caucus and unwittingly helped it implement its anti-Marxist-Leninist line.

The more a member developed skills as an organiser and leader the more susceptible he became to such inquisitions and the more likely it became that he would be found guilty either of sabotaging a particular struggle or of attempting to split members from Perly. If he was working in one area of work, especially if it was somewhat successful, he would then be moved to another area of work, often in another city. Here, in spite of his previous “errors”, in spite of the fact that he could have no concrete understanding of the concrete conditions, he was often put directly into a position of leadership.

The experience in Ottawa is a good demonstration. The chief organiser there was a man who had had experience in the PWM, one of the few CLM members with previous political experience. In Ottawa, he established close relations with the Waffle and other sincere anti-imperialists. At one time he had three Marxist-Leninist study circles going, based on the PWM course guide. In 1972, he was brought to Toronto after Perly destroyed the relations with the Waffle and wrecked the study groups. In Toronto, he was put in charge of the 85% Quota Campaign. The replacement to Ottawa carried on in the same way, so he was subsequently brought down to Toronto as well.

We feel that the development in the CLM of what has been accurately described as “social-fascism” was a significant development, but not principal. Many ex-CLM members in criticising the CLM have told lengthy horror stories of how members were physically assaulted, marriages broken up (and in at least one case, made), money was stolen and struggles sabotaged (a major fund-raising campaign was directed by a member locked in a closet for five weeks – allowed out only to work at her job and to do housework for the Perlys). We think that this bears repeating: although it is not a bad thing in itself to expose Perly’s crimes against the CLM members, these crimes are secondary to the crimes committed as a whole and in which all of us, as ex-members, are responsible. These are the crimes against the proletariat and revolutionary people of Canada and which consisted primarily in promoting a counter-revolutionary line on the Canadian Revolution. It should be noted that some of Perly’s main henchmen from the “caucus within the caucus” were later among the most vociferous in denouncing him. This was in order to cover up their own crimes and to obscure the errors on political line. These people are still working with the Perlys[2] in the Canadian Workers’ Union and NC Press. We do not feel that they should be named at this time as die-hard counter-revolutionaries, but they should clearly understand that they have been given notice to cease their collaboration with the Perly’s immediately.

3. The Confusion of Ideology and Politics

The membership went along with and supported these developments not because they wanted to promote Perly as petty-dictator of the CLM or Canada, but because they honestly believed that they were guarding the line and unity of the CLM, promoting revolution in Canada. The reason they fell for this (opposition to ideological struggle over political line) was that since many of them were politically inexperienced Perly could obscure the differences between ideology and politics. That is, he promoted the idea that they were the same thing (for example, “If they are Marxist-Leninists, why ain’t they in the CLM?”).

Obviously, in the case of a struggle over political line, only one position can be correct but it is as the result of ideological struggle over that line either within an organisation or between organisations that understanding of the ideology is deepened and a correct line reinforced or an incorrect line discarded. Only an organisation capable of carrying out such constant struggle over its line can inspire revolutionary discipline from its members over a strategy and tactics that have been democratically agreed to. This is the spirit of democratic centralism. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the nature of the organisation of the CLM.

The approach of judging a person’s or an organisation’s ideology according to their agreement on certain questions of political line implies that it is up to each person and each small group, in a country such as Canada to determine who are and who are not Marxist-Leninists, to define the Marxist-Leninist movement. This approach is purely subjective, but one which has been widespread in the western world since the degeneration of the revisionist parties, and the proliferation of isolated groups and circles. The only result of such an approach is that ideological struggle within an organisation will be stifled and relationships between groups will be confined to affiliation or antagonism.

This was the basis for the CLM’s famous sectarianism.

It should be clearly understood that we are not attempting to divorce ideology and politics. But it is vitally important to understand their interrelationship, to understand that they are two aspects of the same thing, the “ideological and political line”. They are mutually exclusive as well as mutually identical. There is definitely a difference, and that is why we use two words. They are identical in that there can be no proletarian ideology without proletarian politics, no proletarian theory without proletarian practice. We can see the difference in the way that Marxist-Leninists use their ideology, their scientific method, to constantly evaluate and re-evaluate their political line. Only in this way can the contradiction between the two remain “harmonious”, that is, change with the changing conditions, correct errors, grow, etc. Our practice, the implementation of our “ideological and political line” in the same way deepens and broadens our understanding of our line and this in turn enables us to better our practice.

This is one of the principal lessons that the experience of the CLM holds for the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada today. The CCL(ML) in its denunciations of Mobilisation and Western Voice in the Forge have unfortunately followed this same pattern, although not by any means to such a profound degree as the CLM. We hope that the League can learn from the experience of the CLM in correcting that error.

4. The Propagation of Marxism-Leninism

In spite of the domination of the bourgeois aspect of the CLM, however, it did much to propagate Marxist-Leninist ideology in Canada. Particularly in the beginning and especially outside of Toronto, away from Perly’s most direct influence, classes in Marxism-Leninism which included non-members attempted to apply the international revolutionary experience to the concrete conditions of Canada.

The CLM did promote the idea of the proletariat as the leading force in the revolution. To some extent at least, it exposed the state as a tool of capital.

Especially in the first two years, and outside of Toronto, recruitment tended to be on the basis of agreement with the principles of Marxism-Leninism, at least as they were understood by CLM members at the time. As a result, many of its members became committed to the proletarian revolution in Canada and are now participating in the Marxist-Leninist movement.

NC Press became the main Canadian importer of publications from the People’s Republic of China and distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Marxist-Leninist literature to stores and study groups across Canada. Considering the prices of those publications, that amounts to a great deal of propaganda. Fortunately most of the former members of the NC Press collective are now participating in the Marxist-Leninist movement and their training and experience will continue to be put to good use.


1. Economism

The CLM was an “intermediate organisation”, set up by Marxist-Leninists in order to re-group the masses under their leadership, on the basis of participation, not in fighting for the dictatorship of the proletariat, but in the developing spontaneous movement. Rather than be completely “open and above board”, attempting to merge science (that is, Marxism-Leninism) with the workers’ movement by recruiting advanced workers to communism, the founders of the CLM established a “mass organisation” with a watered down programme, which could, (they hoped), attract more support than a programme of party-building and proletarian revolution. It was economic struggles for the workers and communism for the intellectuals all over again – Economism. That the CLM had a political aspect to its platform, does not alter the essence of it as an intermediate organisation. That political platform was not a programme for revolution, particularly proletarian revolution.

(Again, we strongly urge all those who have not read Against Economism by IN STRUGGLE! to do so. It deals precisely with the question of intermediate organisations and former members of the CLM will find it very helpful. We also recommend that former members read (or re-read) What is To Be Done? without allowing Perly’s interpretation to be applied to it as it was in the past.)

These errors could not be well applied to the CLM in general, as opposed to the would-be Marxist-Leninists in it, but for the fact that the CLM consistently opposed party-building and held itself up as the only alternative. But when CLM members refused and condemned as counter-revolutionary the dissemination of Marxist-Leninist propaganda that was economism of an advanced form. And to put forward a tactical line, no matter how correct, which is called a “programme”, and which does not attempt to effect the unity of Marxism-Leninism with the workers’ movement, that is economism. The CLM worshipped trade unionism, (Canadian trade unionism), as the be-all and end-all of the working class struggle and did not expose it as a form of bourgeois ideology in the working class movement – promoting the idea that gains can be made under capitalism through localised reforms.

What communists must put forward is the idea that unions must be transformed, through communist leadership into offensive weapons of the struggle of the whole class to, overthrow the bourgeoisie. At present trade unions are bourgeois in that they are defensive, reformist weapons for the protection of the workers from the constant erosion of their standard of living while still under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. To put Canadian unions forward as better defensive weapons (which is not untrue) is simply a sop to the proletariat thrown by the bourgeois nationalists.

The reason for the economist line the CLM put forward to workers was mainly its very low opinion of their reasoning powers. As is usually the case, this was accompanied by “workerism”, the idealising of workers and their struggles. It was incomprehensible to the CLM that a worker could be backward or bourgeois. To listen to the CLM, all the workers of Canada supported its line, all were not anti-communist, all were patriotic and supported the 85% Quota, etc. As a result, large numbers of workers that the CLM came into contact with who were not quite so “advanced” were termed “lumpen” or “petty-bourgeois” or condemned as “agents of U.S. imperialism”. But as for the real proletarians, each and every one of them was a hero, a self-less fighter for the interests of his class. CLM leaders used to talk about “working class consciousness” as if it were something very akin to Marxism. Since Marxism was the philosophy of the proletariat, didn’t it follow that the proletariat was Marxist? (In the CLM, Marxism was the word for Marxism-Leninism, which too clearly denoted the need for a party.) This was not the idealistic elevation of the workers; it was the attempted transformation of Marxism-Leninism into a bourgeois ideology.

Later on, as CLM members became somewhat disillusioned in their attempts to rally workers to it, some of them turned to slander of the working class. As one ex-member recently put it:

“Few proletarian elements entered the CLM. If they did they soon left or were driven away. A number of reasons were given for this. Sometimes it was said that Canadian workers were so oppressed, culturally, politically and economically that they wandered about with this real colonial mentality that prevented them from fighting back. At other times, it was said that they lacked the intellectual dedication of the petty-bourgeoisie. One time the CLM says that workers lack guts and another time brains. When the majority of the Canron workers left the CLM, Perly notably said: “Now all the liquidationists are leaving or being weeded out as the struggle gets tougher.” (Canron, in Toronto, is the main place organised by the Canadian Workers’ Union.)

The principle of economic struggles for the workers and communism for the intellectuals is based on the line of reasoning that is thoroughly bourgeois: “Don’t talk to workers about the dictatorship of the proletariat because the poor things are so oppressed that they just can’t understand what’s in their own best interests.”

2. The Two Main Slogans

The practical programme of the CLM was limited to two main points: winning “Canadian Unions for Canadian Workers” and forcing the state to implement the “85% Canadian Quota” on university professors at Canadian universities. How these things were supposed to fit into a strategy for “Independence and socialism” was never made clear. They were never put forward as tactics in a particular stage in the anti-U.S. imperialist struggle. That stage was never defined, nor were subsequent stages.

Neither the CLM nor Perly himself ever attempted a written statement of the strategy for socialism in Canada although it widely circulated the last issue of Progressive Worker – organ of the PWM – on “Independence and Socialism in Canada: A Marxist-Leninist View.”

Those slogans are not necessarily opportunist in themselves and are part of the struggle for a revolutionary union movement and universities which serve the people (something that will not be achieved while the bourgeoisie controls the state). But the CLM isolated these slogans from the class struggle of which they were only a secondary part.

Both of these slogans put form over content. A union is not revolutionary or anti-imperialist because it is independent, not does a university serve the needs of Canadian working people because the majority of its professors are Canadian. When that point was raised with the CLM, the CLM claimed that while that was true, it was a first step. What the next step was never explained.

To the CLM these two slogans served the purpose first and foremost of building support for the CLM, not on the basis of a programme for the Canadian Revolution, but on the basis of the short term goals of the spontaneous movement. In spite of its militant phrases, the CLM never put forward a programme for revolution.

By the time the CLM entered the scene the independent Canadian union movement was rapidly gaining strength and winning sound victories. The struggle for Canadian studies in the universities was also underway. These two slogans seemed to give credence to the CLM’s claim that it was leading the struggle against the U.S. imperialists. In terms of organisational scope and the dissemination of propaganda that may have been true, but in terms of actual content the slogans, the “programme” of the CLM, tailed the spontaneous struggle just as did its strategic line of “independence and socialism”. In fact this abject spontaneism and formalism was a natural outgrowth of the CLM s strategic line!

The spontaneous struggle is not a struggle for revolution and is incapable of producing a programme for revolution. This can only be done by science, the science of Marxism-Leninism applied through and by a democratic centralist organisation capable of centralising the experience and actions of the most scientific and militant leaders of the proletariat. When the CLM did not take up this strategic goal it became incapable of scientifically evaluating the actual role and place of any tactics within a revolutionary strategy. Its strategic goal was not revolutionary. It also became incapable of re-evaluating its strategic goal – maintaining the spontaneous struggles was all too important for the very existence of the organisation.

The actual aim underlying these slogans is “Build the CLM”. They were advanced only partly because they were felt to reflect the needs of the masses. They were advanced (1) to attract people to the CLM; (2) to demarcate against other political groups who did not attach as much (if any) importance to the slogans; (3) as a basis for the CLM’s interventions into the spontaneous movement.

1. If people were in agreement with these slogans (with other qualifications) they were encouraged to join the CLM. This was supposed to be the basis for the building of a mass anti-imperialist movement. Occasionally there was reference to a broad “united front” of some kind built with the national bourgeoisie, but concrete terns for its basis of unity were never put forward. In reality, in spite of the fact that the CLM was organised with party-like discipline (in some respects) and in spite of the fact that it called itself a mass movement, it was something of an all-class united front itself, its basis of unity on a minimum programme, its lack of definition of “socialism” and its actual inclusion of anti-communist elements all showed this aspect of its nature. The only things left out were the words “united front” and the organisational independence of its various tendencies.

2. As discussed earlier, the CLM slogans were used as templates to gauge the trueness of other anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and Marxist-Leninist groups and tendencies. For instance, the Waffle was opposed, not because it was Social-Democratic, but mainly because it did not support the Canadian union issue, and the NDP was criticised mainly for being a tool of U.S. unions. The idea was widespread within the CLM and actively propagated outside that all who did not support these slogans were “objectively” agents of U.S. imperialism. Some were referred to more politely, in a political sense, as “Yank-suckers”. Perly once (1971) calculated that there must be well over five hundred thousand conscious agents of U.S. imperialism in Canada! Only a logical conclusion if one assumes a plot behind every “error” and one’s own position is erroneous. In fact, a more likely figure would be closer to twenty million.

3. The CLM attempted to jump on every spontaneous bandwagon that it possibly could (usually ignoring any struggles in which other political groups were participating, except to criticise them from the pages of New Canada). It often sabotaged particular struggles in order to direct them against U.S. imperialism. The slogans provided a basis for the presence of the CLM – regardless of the actual conditions. For instance, where a factory was being shut down, as at Dunlop in 1970, or where the workers were fighting a wage freeze and massive lay-off at Acme Screw and Gear in 1971, the CLM launched its main attack not against the company or the state, (capitalism would be to much to ask), they launched it against the U.S. union, thereby weakening the forces of the workers and showing the CLM standing alone against the forces of oppression.

This same logic was behind the CLM’s failure to support the Artistic Woodwork strike in 1973. In that strike, a small Canadian union, the Canadian Textile and Chemical Union, was fighting for recognition by the company and holding a militant strike in the face of vicious attacks by the police and professional strikebreakers. It had succeeded in building a great deal of support among students and had even gained support from U.S. unions and the Ontario Federation of Labour. What was the CLM’s response? It attacked the CTCU for failure to make primary the issue of “Canadian Unions for Canadian Workers” and it withheld all support.

The fact of the matter in the Artistic strike was that the CLM would have had to accept the leadership of the CTCU leaders and could not have gone into the struggle openly trying to undercut support for them. For the CLM, the policy was: “If you cannot run it, or wreck it, ignore it.”


1. The CLM

The “Canadian Liberation Movement” was an “intermediate organisation” founded by Marxist-Leninists on a counterrevolutionary bourgeois nationalist line. It was an attempt to reconcile the interests of the Canadian proletariat and the Canadian bourgeoisie under the dictatorship of Gary Perly. With the founding of the CLM its members abandoned Marxism-Leninism and their subsequent actions had nothing in common with it.

The strategic line of “Independence and Socialism” only serves to obscure the class conflicts at the basis of and pervading all of Canadian society. The revolution in Canada will be of one stage for the establishment of socialism – the dictatorship of the proletariat.

While we think that the struggle against U.S. imperialism is an important struggle of the Canadian proletariat for socialism, we think that it is by no means all of the struggle. The Canadian bourgeoisie is not a class of puppets, but of allies, of U.S. imperialism in the exploitation of Canadian workers and the workers of other countries. The enemies of the Canadian proletariat are two-fold: the Canadian bourgeoisie and U.S. imperialism. It is true, as both the CLM and the CCL(ML) have stressed, that U.S. imperialism is in contradiction to the whole people. But the contradiction between U.S. imperialism and the Canadian bourgeoisie is of a different nature than the contradiction between U.S. imperialism and the Canadian proletariat. The contradiction between U.S. imperialism and the Canadian bourgeoisie is of the nature of a contradiction between allies – collusion. It has never been to date an antagonistic contradiction. In fact, the stronger the Canadian proletariat grows, the stronger will become the bonds between its two principal exploiters.

The principal error, after the one of political line, made by the founders of the CLM was in the liquidation of organisational and political independence of Marxist-Leninists. This led directly to the conversion of the CLM into a pseudo-party and the suppression of ideological struggle. This was, in turn, the firm foundation of the CLM’s unbridled subjectivism – dogmatism and sectarianism in the evaluation of the Canadian Revolutionary movement and of the development of social-fascism in the organisation... That this may have been precisely the subjective intention of certain of its founders is secondary to the objective errors made. These subjective intentions should be kept in mind in the evaluation of the future behaviour of these people and even those who wish to criticise ourselves for our past practice. But the main errors made and the main lessons to be learned are the objective political errors of line and organisation.

2. Gary Perly

Gary Perly is a counter-revolutionary demagogue and traitor to the working class. All honest workers, militants, and Marxist-Leninists should beware of all contact with him and those few misguided individuals with whom he continues to surround himself in the Canadian Workers’ Union. He is nothing but a bourgeois careerist whose only ability is as a manipulator. He has no grasp of the science of Marxism-Leninism except to misapply it in order to achieve his abiding goal of self-promotion, which is his only principle.

He is of the same class as Trotsky and Hardial Bains, though he is not nearly on a par with the latter in terms of demagogy and manipulative skill.

His role in the CLM and the role that he promoted for that organisation was almost exclusively confined to sabotage and splitting and wrecking. Within the CLM he promoted relations which are best termed social-fascist.

Former members of the CLM have shown serious weaknesses in their evaluation of political lines and leaders. That they were inexperienced politically does not fully define the problem. There were many other inexperienced individuals who came into contact with the CLM and did not join. We hope that this paper will help them to understand the political errors made. They should also consider that they have an ability to be swayed by demagogy, which even at the final congress was the order of the day. We suggest that they keep in mind the Webster’s definition of a demagogue: “...a person who tries to stir up people, by appeals to emotion, prejudice, etc., in order to become a leader and achieve selfish ends.” Appeals, by Marxist-Leninists must always be made on the basis of reason, science and in the interests of the proletarian class.

3. Build the Party

The central task facing all Marxist-Leninists, and all those favouring revolution, is the building of the genuine proletarian party. Immediately we require a single organisation of all genuine Marxist-Leninists to struggle for that party. Our group is of the opinion that the group IN STRUGGLE! has put forward the most advanced line on the building of the party. We urge all former members of the CLM to investigate the Marxist-Leninist movement and particularly IN STRUGGLE! and to take part in party-building. This is the only way to implement the lessons we have learned from our past errors. This is the only way proceed for our years of toil in the CLM not to have been in vain. Only with a genuine communist party which can centralise our experience and give continuity to our struggles can we achieve the victory of the Canadian Revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat – independence, socialism, social justice, etc., for the working masses of the Canadian people. Who says different does not have the interests of the masses at heart.

Based upon our previous experience, our group would like to stress that in the Marxist-Leninist movement today, in the pre-party organisation when it is formed and later in the party, there should be lively on-going ideological struggle over the elaboration of the political programme for the revolution and the correction of errors.

A negative attitude towards ideological struggle and clear demarcation, whether of liberalism or dogmatism, is the first stage in the liquidation of Marxism-Leninism. A positive attitude is a mark of the sincerity of those who call themselves Marxist-Leninists.



[1] It is not our intention to make parenthetic criticisms of the League, or of anybody else. This article is principally concerned with the CLM. However, it is correct for us to attempt to disseminate the lessons we have learned in a concrete way as many of them apply to the current situation in the Marxist-Leninist movement. It would also be improper for us to detour from our main goal into repeating long criticisms of the League that have been made elsewhere. We hope we have properly resolved this contradiction by presenting references to documents upon which we base our criticism. We urge all those who have not done so the study these documents and those of the League and make up their own minds.

[2] The main criticisms of Gary Perly apply to his wife Caroline (nee Walker) as well. We have not singled her out in the main body of this document and name her primarily for her theft of the assets of NC Press which demonstrates to us that she refuses to rectify her previous “errors”. She was always one of Perly’s most reliable flunkies opposing Perly only to protect her own interests and usually from the right.