First Published: The Worker, Vol 10, No 21, September 28, 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
Communists fight for leadership in the unions and have won leadership in unions because they proved to workers that they were better, fighters for reform demands than the reformists. They even built large parties on the basis of training their committed cadres to this line even as their party openly said that they were for the dictatorship of the working class and for revolution. What’s wrong with this?
The central error is this: they did not fit the reform struggle into the revolutionary struggle, but had it the other way around. They forgot what they were about. They did not measure success and failure in the day-to-day struggle on the basis of how many workers, students, and professionals were being won to communist ideas – to the cause of socialist revolution and organization for revolution. They measured success and failure on the basis of how many workers students and others are involved in the reform struggle under their leadership. They thought, “if we have to set aside the slogan of socialist revolution to attract more masses to MAY DAY and emphasize the immediate demands we fight for year round, let’s do it. Sure, ’everyone knows’ our parties are for socialist revolution so what does it matter whether or not the masses are?
This kind of thinking then develops further along the road Socialist revolution isn’t on the order of the day. The masses are only ready to fight for immediate reforms. We want to lead the masses. At this stage of the revolution we adopt the strategy of “new democracy” or of “the anti-fascist popular front” or of “national liberation” or of “leading the reform movement on the basis of being better reformists than the reformists.” The old communist movement was transformed from a great force for socialist world revolution into a revisionist (pro-capitalist) force because they abandoned their central task: to build the socialist consciousness of the masses and the organization of the party based on that consciousness. This transformation didn’t happen overnight, but evolved out of wrong policies and views, until finally they end up like the “Communist” Party of Italy, fighting to retain a fascist law. How ironic that parties that led the fight against fascism end up defending it! and entering into alliances with it all over the globe like the Soviet and Chinese parties!
But of course, we say – “This can’t happen to us!” Comrades, it can happen to all of us, once we start setting aside the struggle for socialist revolution in favor of something else.
Our parties do not have to advise one another to get off the curb and into the intersection of the class struggle. Both parties have a good history of participation in the class struggle. Our criticisms and our self-criticisms of each of our parties is not over whether or not to participate in the intersection, but how to participate in these battles – with what line, what slogans, for what objectives do we fight in these class battles? That is what our debate is about.
If anything should not be passed over lightly, it is how we struggle daily for socialist revolution. Do you really believe that PLP is advising the CPL and the workers of the world to stand on the curb? Where do we say this? When do we practice this?
Because the CPL has made “the right to self-determination” its central slogan in the struggle to end the racist oppression of Quebec workers – the CPL says it is “biting the bullet” and advising us to do so too. Levesque pops the question and we must bite. We think it’s better to look at what we’re biting – we don’t want to choke. Levesque says “YES” or “NO” to independence, and therefore revolutionary communists must get boxed into the proposition of “Heads (yes) the bosses win, Tails (No) the workers lose.” Take your “choice!” Fight for socialism – smash racism. That’s not biting the bullet, you see.
Once we set aside the strategy of socialist revolution, in order to lead the immediate reform struggle, we immediately get caught in the bosses’ ground rules. We say “To hell with the bosses referendums!” Does this mean standing on the sidelines in this referendum? Not at all – we should expose the referendum as a nationalist-capitalist “solution” to the racist oppression of Quebec workers and develop a workers’ referendum in the shops, unions, etc., to end all racist discrimination against French-speaking Quebec workers and to turn the impending capitalist war into a class war for socialist revolution. As we pointed out in our editorial: “The sharpening class struggle...calls for developing socialist consciousness even more!” The slogan of self-determination does not raise the socialist class consciousness of the workers one iota.
We do not dispute the quotes that the CPL has obtained from the book – but we must remind our CPL comrades of the following points:
Even Lenin and Stalin abandoned the vague slogan of self-determination.
Based on historical experience and analysis at that time, they changed self-determination into the slogan of the right of non-sovereign nations and colonies to political secession. That was in 1921. More than a half century of revolutionary experience has been acquired since 1921. Yes, the earth still has oppressed and oppressors but revolutionary communists, using the science of Marxism-Leninism, have not stood still. Numerous former colonial and semi-colonial countries, oppressed have taken the path of national liberation and have achieved “political independence” or even have been granted “independence” under the pressures of the national movement. But the masses have continued to be oppressed and exploited by local and outside capitalist bosses. U.S. and Soviet imperialism back the national movements against one another to the hilt nowadays and the Chinese do so too.
If self-determination is a correct revolutionary slogan for workers in English Canada and Quebec, why isn’t is for Israeli and Palestinian workers, for U.S. and Puerto Rican workers, English and Irish workers, etc.? The CPL used to share our views on the national question and that the slogan of self-determination and independence are reactionary slogans without the dictatorship of the proletariat, just as the slogan of majority rule in South Africa is a reactionary slogan that is now espoused by U.S imperialism.
Yes, comrades, you are correct to demand that revolutionary slogans be concrete – that is that they should be examined in a specific historical context. We think the slogan of self-determination is vague and worse – it’s a reactionary bourgeois slogan. We think the slogan of Socialist Revolution and the Dictatorship of the proletariat is very concrete; it means: “Workers’ unite – organize for the armed struggle to destioy capitalism under the leadership of a revolutionary communist party.”