First Published: Canadian Revolution No. 2, August-September 1975
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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This article is written in response to CPC(M-L)’s call for the complete organizational unity of Marxist Leninists in Canada which was made earlier this year. It is hoped that this article will open the debate on the nature of the proletarian party which will lead the struggle for the construction of socialism in Canada, and on the nature of CPC(M-L) and how that organization holds back this struggle.
Because this article is seen as part of the beginning, not at all the end of the debate around CPC(M-L) and the building of a Marxist-Leninist Party in Canada, a great deal is left out. The article first proposes a response to the call for unity based on an analysis of what CPC(M-L) means by ’unity’ and how they see the process of party-building. To provide a clear illustration of the general analysis of CPC(M-L) presented in the first section, additional parts have been added covering CPC(M-L)’s historical development of political line and of its work in the trade union movement. It should be clear that these are seen as representative illustrations and examples, not as substitution for a complete and comprehensive analysis of all of the practice of CPC(M-L) over the past few years.
CPC(M-L) has a tendency to change lines on important questions without referring to previous lines or making self-criticism. On occasion, they will even resurrect a line from the past that has not been repudiated, if such resurrection proves convenient. Therefore, CPC(M-L) is being held accountable for all lines that have not been specifically repudiated, even though they might argue that these lines no longer represent their present line. And they must continue to be held responsible for all present lines that they conveniently drop without self-criticism. This article, therefore, does not limit discussion to the formal organization, CPC(M-L), which was proclaimed in 1970, but includes its predecessor organizations, the Internationalists and the Canadian Communist Movement.
It should be mentioned, finally, that while I am responsible and accountable for the content of this criticism, it would not have taken its present form without the helpful suggestions and criticisms of my first draft from many comrades in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto.
Early this year, the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) issued a call for the unity of Marxist-Leninists in Canada. (People’s Canada Daily News, v. 5 No. 10, p. 1) The first point in the call instructed Marxist-Leninists to join the “;one revolutionary party of the proletariat based on Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought”. The main thrust of the call, however, was a proposal for a method of building unity with those persons who call themselves Marxist-Leninist “;but are either reluctant or are opposed to joining CPC(M-L)”. It is to this proposal, its basis and its implications that this response will be addressed.
The proposal contains six main points. Abbreviated, but verbatim, they are:
1. In each city, factory, educational institution, area and other place of work, all those who call themselves Marxist-Leninist and base themselves on Marxism-Leninism Mao Tsetung Thought must agree to carry out one policy on all united front issues." [Examples follow – support of the Canadian and Quebec working class, the oppressed nations and people of Asia, Africa and Latin America and other countries against superpower politics and for national liberation and independence, support for China, Albania and other countries which are taking a consistent stand against the two superpowers; support for struggles of the Native people, struggles of workers and struggles against persecution and discrimination by the Canadian government of various strata of the people, and relating to opposing U.S. imperialist domination of Canada.] This is a minimum basis of unity and all those who call themselves Marxist-Leninist should at least wage united struggles on these issues.
This means that in each city, factory, educational institution, area or other places of work, all those who call themselves Marxist-Leninists should not organize alone on the above issues, nor should they attempt to forge cliques with others and thus divide the united front on these issues. What should be done is that when these issues arise, all Marxist-Leninists should sit together in a meeting to finalize the line and method of carrying it out on a democratic basis.
This meeting should develop policy as well as elect a leadership which will carry the programme and no Marxist-Leninist organization has any right to issue their own statements or carry out their own way of organising. All must work for the victory of one programme....
2. Each Marxist-Leninist organization should carry on its own activities all the time on issues which are not united front or broad front issues; that is, building their organizations, holding meetings, selling newspapers, implanting in the working class, etc., etc.
3. There should be no public criticism of each other’s work and there should be no public exchange of slanderous and incriminatory remarks.
4. All members and supporters of all the Marxist-Leninist organizations should be called upon to refrain from any kind of gossip or rumour-mongering against one another.
5. Each Marxist-Leninist group agrees to disseminate criticism of other Marxist-Leninist groups and about itself on an internal basis and agrees to answer such criticism or make comments about it in good time.
6. Finally, it is agreed that all organizations calling themselves Marxist-Leninist must permit their members and supporters to exchange views on political, ideological and theoretical matters with members and supporters of other organizations and there should be no restrictions on this point. No member or supporter of any Marxist-Leninist organization should be permitted to divulge any organizational information or differences which may emerge in the united front and no one should be permitted to solicit this sort of information from anyone. (Ibid.)
This proposal is followed by a lengthy explanation which contains the following warning; “It is the sacred duty of all Marxist-Leninists to assist this process. Refusal to do so means that particular Marxist-Leninist group is afraid of exposure and has gone over to the side of opportunism and is no longer a Marxist-Leninist group.” (Ibid., p. 4) Because this latest unity proposal is being actively promoted throughout the country by CPC(M-L), and because it poses a definition of Marxist-Leninists as those who “call themselves Marxist-Leninist” and who agree to accept the unity proposal, it is important at this time to analyse the proposal carefully and to point out why Marxist-Leninists must reject it as counter-revolutionary.
What is the essence of the proposal advanced by CPC(M-L)? First of all, they call for unity of all who call themselves Marxist-Leninist. This is an important point. There is at no time an attempt to define those principles which determine who is and who is not a Marxist-Leninist. CPC(M-L) does not accept that there is an objective force which is Marxism-Leninism and that there are other forces which are bourgeois ideology recycled into different packages. This vague composite of different groups and individuals would select a common leadership, develop a program on a great many positions, exercise discipline over this ’United Front of Marxist-Leninists’, and, indeed, exercise discipline over the political work of that organization which calls itself the party of the proletariat.
This United Front would ’unite’ all persons who work at the same plant, belong to the same union, live in the same city or ’area’, attend the same school, etc. into a common organization or united front on the basis that they claim to be Marxist-Leninist. They will unite to carry out ’one policy’ on, for example, “the issues relating to the support of the Canadian and the Quebec working class”. This policy, determined by whoever shows up at a meeting calling himself or herself a Marxist-Leninist will be binding on all present. No one “has the right to issue their own statements or carry out their program or carry out their own way of organizing”. And “there should be no public criticism of each other’s work”.
But what are “The issues relating to the support of the Canadian and the Quebec working class”? What are the lines in fighting for or against these “issues”? Is there a possibility of principled differences? Can the party of the proletariat really suspend all of its own agitation and propaganda that deals with “issues relating to the support of the Canadian and the Quebec working class” without even proposing a basic line to guide such work? These same groups should agree in advance to subordinate all their work to the decisions of a committee whose members and whose lines have not been announced or, indeed, even proposed? And these same groups should agree in advance to suspend all public struggle among contending lines on the major questions listed by CPC(M-L)?
Neither CPC(M-L) nor the independent Marxist-Leninists in Canada can be expected to take that proposal seriously.
CPC(M-L)’s proposal is not at all to build unity in the Marxist-Leninist movement. Rather it is to sabotage the growing trend towards unity that it is addressed. CPC(M-L) has very shrewdly looked about it and raised the alarms in a manner reminiscent of the Lin Piao band of ’desperate gamblers’. They realize that if such a ’united front’ of Marxist-Leninists were to be formed at this time, it would necessarily operate under the organizational hegemony of their organization. CPC(M-L) would be the only participant in the united front with a national organization and with a national press. Their ability to disrupt genuine struggle in that situation would be unchallengeable.
But more important than that at this moment, is the trend towards unity and the trend away from CPC(M-L) in the Marxist-Leninist movement. The past months have seen the growing unity of Marxist-Leninist forces in Quebec based on the work of several groups in carrying the ideological struggle to the working class and promoting debate over political line as primary; the resultant attacks on CPC(M-L) and all bourgeois agents in the workers movement by En Lutte!, MREQ and others; the disassociation of AIM and the main leaders of the Native Caravan from CPC(M-L); the spread of study groups and other forums uniting Marxist-Leninists; and the publication of Canadian Revolution as a forum for debate and struggle over line among Canadian Marxist-Leninists.
As their proposal for unity shows, CPC(M-L) will not hesitate to sink into the depths of opportunism in their desperate attempts to attack, sabotage, and break up unity among Marxist-Leninists. In the place of the wide-open debate and struggle being promoted by Canadian Revolution, they would substitute secret back-door discussions. In the place of a Bolshevik party rooted in the science of Marxism-Leninism, guided by a correct political line and planted firmly among the working class, they would substitute a hodge-podge Menshevik ’united front’ vanguard of so-called Marxist-Leninists.
So hurried was CPC(M-L) in coming off with this vast plot that in their call to unity they referred to the Communist Party as ’revisionists’ with whom the contradiction is antagonistic and ’Sham Marxist-Leninists’ with whom the contradiction is non-antagonistic. Perhaps the line behind that article was struggled out so secretly that the co-authors dared not speak with each other!
It should be noted that even CPC(M-L) members are at a complete loss to understand what their position is on unity and struggle with other Marxist-Leninists. This very journal is a rather amusing case in point. Three weeks before its initial publication, journal collective members were informed that CPC(M-L) looked upon the publication of CR as a good thing for the Marxist-Leninist movement by a Toronto member of CPC(M-L). The following week a CPC(M-L) member from Kitchener explained to some acquaintances in Vancouver that CPC(M-L) had a ’great deal of influence’ in the new journal,Canadian Revolution. Finally, a few days after its publication, a copy of the first issue was held in the air at a Montreal meeting by Hardial Bains and denounced.
But this kind of treatment is not unusual. Indeed, most people in this country who have been active Marxist-Leninists have been alternately denounced and held high by CPC(M-L) as its opportunist policies demanded. The Partisan Organization was denounced as part of the ’Holy Alliance’ until unity talks with CPC(M-L) became serious. Then they became serious Marxist-Leninists who had made great contributions to the Marxist-Leninist movement including their final act of liquidation. Two months later, Hardial Bains told me that not once did Partisans make a useful political contribution. Jack Scott was hailed as a great Canadian Marxist-Leninist while CPC(M-L) tried to draft him as their national chairman. When he refused, he was denounced as Canada’s leading counterrevolutionary. En Lutte! (L’Equipe de Journal) was denounced when it was first initiated. When the possibility of unity between En Lutte! and CPC(M-L) emerged, the denunciations stopped. When the unity talks failed, En Lutte! rejoined the list of enemies of the revolution.
CPC(M-L) has only one criterion for determining who is and who is not progressive – whether or not they support CPC(M-L). Hence those who refuse this opportunist call to unite are opportunist regardless of their political line and practice. Those who engage in open struggle are counterrevolutionaries. Those who develop political lines to take Marxism-Leninism to the working class and build the party among the proletariat are splitters. Only those who uphold the banner of CPC(M-L) are genuine Marxist-Leninists. This is the reasoning of CPC(M-L). But it is false reasoning. It has been used to split the Marxist-Leninist forces and must be denounced as the ravings of phony Marxist-Leninists.
What we stand for is not the organizational hegemony of CPC(M-L) and its phony ’united front’, but open struggle carried to the mass of the proletariat for ideological unity for unity based on political line; not the ’unity to a certain extent’ of the petit-bourgeois intelligentsia who have adopted the viewpoint of the proletariat ’to a certain extent’ (those who call themselves Marxist-Leninists’), but the uniting of all advanced elements who are class conscious and open to Marxism-Leninism step-by-step. Building the party amidst the masses and actually promoting the proletarians to an active and leading role. Revolution is the conscious achievement of the masses. CPC(M-L) denies both the ’conscious’ and ’mass’ aspects of party-building.
The “Internationalists”, from their beginning in 1963, recognized that the Progressive Workers Movement centred in Vancouver was a non-revisionist Marxist-Leninist organization. They sought to attach themselves to it without submitting to its discipline as its student wing in the mid-sixties. This, however, was unacceptable to PWM and the Internationalists more or less went their own course, though they insisted in mimicking the PWM for several years. For example, the people who were later to become the leading core of PWM were among the founders in 1963 of the Canada-China Friendship Association, an organization which even today continues with many of its original members. Not content to work within this mass organization, but aware of the political value of its work, the Canadian Communist Movement attempted to confuse supporters of the original organization by the formation in Vancouver of the Canadian Friends of China Association in 1969. That same year, they initiated publication of the Progressive Worker’s Journal in Montreal, while the Progressive Worker was still being published by PWM and distributed nationally. Rumors were circulated that Jack Scott, the leader of PWM had become Chairman of the CCM. CCM continued to cash in on the respect with which Scott was held in much of Canada through the deliberate spread of these lies and formation of confusing organizations and publications with similar names until PWM was forced to come forward with its first public statement on the CCM. The statement denied that Scott or any other member of the PWM was involved in the CCM, that they did not regard the CCM as Marxist-Leninist, and that persons in cities other than Vancouver who were soliciting funds for or speaking on behalf of PWM ’should be viewed as provocateurs’. (B.C. Newsletter no. 5, Dec, 1969)
Failing to recruit Scott, CPC(M-L) attacked PWM as the ’Neo Revisionist Worker’s Movement’. (Mass Line 34-5, p. 3) By 1971, however, Jack Scott was again in vogue. Photos of him talking with Mao Tsetung were featured on the front page of their paper, and members loudly proclaimed his membership in and chairmanship of the Party. When Scott finally exposed these lies, he once again became the enemy, arch-revisionist, anarcho-syndicalist, and thus he is today, if one would believe People’s Canada Daily News.
The attention of CPC(M-L) was turned towards some of the smaller organizations in Canada which were moving towards Marxism-Leninism. Their greatest coup was scored when they managed to engulf most of the membership of the Partisan Organization of Vancouver in the Party ranks.
In 1972 CPC(M-L) called for the unity of all Marxist-Leninists on the basis that they were calling themselves Marxist-Leninists and therefore should be united. Political differences could be worked out later through shared practice and struggle. Through a deliberate policy of lies, subterfuge and bribery (several persons, including myself, were offered positions on the central committee of CPC(M-L), an organization to which we did not even belong), the Partisan Organization was broken up and many of its members joined CPC(M-L), leading a procession of petit-bourgeois radicals from Vancouver and other cities.
In 1973, CPC(M-L) changed its strategy for growth and announced the policy of “uniting on the basis of political line. . . . For lasting unity the question of political line is decisive“. (PCDN, v. 2, no. 68, p. 1) At last we hear a position from CPC(M-L) that makes some sense. Marxist-Leninists must indeed unite on the basis of political line. The Marxist-Leninist position on the relation between the party and the masses, is that ideology is the foundation and political line is the key link. Organization is the method for implementing the political line. CPC(M-L) has always seen the organization as the key link and political line as the method for building organization. Assuming that those persons uniting agree that Marxism-Leninism is their base, then it is wholly correct to unite on the basis of political line. But wait. CPC(M-L) proceeds to explain what they mean by ’political line’. “Political line is the sum total of tasks an organization set for itself in order to advance its over-all general tactical and strategic work. The organization develops around the political line and those who implement the political line get united in the organization which is being built for the purpose of executing that particular task as well as for the purpose of advancing from that stage to a higher stage. . . . Now the political line is to strengthen the centralised organs of the Party and lead the actual struggles of masses. So the decisive factor in the development of the revolutionary mass movement is the strengthening, expanding and deepening of the centralised leadership of the Party and the leading of the actual struggles of the masses. Unity among Marxist-Leninists can only be built on this political line. There can be no political line other than the decisive task facing the revolutionary organization. The revolutionary organization can only be built around this decisive task.” (Ibid) So here we have it. The vanguard of the proletariat doesn’t even know what a political line is. A handful of individuals get together, declare a set of tasks primary and that is the foundation upon which the party is united until a new set of tasks is determined. In their position, they list 12 ’political lines’ which were determinant during seven distinct periods of their activity from 1963 to 1973. Almost all of these ’lines’ deal with organizational tasks (build a discussion group, develop discipline, establish propaganda instruments, etc.). CPC(M-L) is obviously hopelessly confused. Political line is an analysis and strategy representing the stance of a particular class. Political line is the general and particular method for the application of Marxism-Leninism in a given situation. This is not something that changes in a matter of months to be replaced by a new ’line’. CPC(M-L) has mixed this completely with the ’central task’ which is the method by which the political line is applied at a given time. It is the central task that changes, not the political line. When Chou En-lai stated at the Tenth Party Congress of the Communist Party of China that ’Chairman Mao has laid down for our Party the basic line and policies for the entire period of socialism’ (Documents of the 10th National Congress of the CPC, Peking 1973, p. 17), surely he did not mean to say that there would be only one central task during this whole period. What CPC(M-L) actually proposed was a completely opportunist basis for uniting on pragmatic agreement around a specific task for a brief period of time without having to resolve any major questions of principle. CPC(M-L) actually proposed to divide Marxist-Leninists by refusing principled struggle and denouncing those who wished to engage in it.
Though the form has reverted to the 1972 proposals of “uniting on the basis that you call yourself communist or Marxist-Leninist or whatever”, in their latest proposals, the content is unchanged. Principled struggle, insofar as it takes place at all, will take place in a closet where the masses will be shielded from it. We totally reject this kind of ’unity’ as destructive and divisive in a primitive Marxist-Leninist movement that calls for open and public struggle over political line for the development of a genuine and correct strategy for leading the proletarian revolution in Canada. CPC(M-L) has shown us time and again that they have nothing to offer in this process and do so again by their insistence at branding all those who demand such struggle as opportunists and splitters ’afraid of exposure’ and ’no longer Marxist-Leninist’ as though this alone would change their basic ideological character. This is nothing other than a transparent exposure of CPC(M-L)’s organizational opportunism. When a primitive Marxist-Leninist movement was developing out of the dying ’New Left’ in 1972, CPC(M-L) quickly moved in to sabotage such development with proposals similar to the ones they advance today. In 1972 it was the United Front Against U.S. Imperialism and the New Marxist-Leninist Centres. Today, as the tendency for Marxism-Leninism is again on the upswing CPC(M-L) hatches its plans for a United Front Against the Superpowers and a united front of Marxist-Leninists. Marxist-Leninists are not so naive and primitive as they were three years ago.
But let us look a little more closely at the objective situation into which this proposal is being projected. After all, CPC(M-L) certainly does not anticipate the liquidation of their organization or their independent practice. They look at the situation in Canada quite realistically. Of the four countries in which “Marxist-Leninist” organizations have been formed under the leadership of Hardial Bains (Canada, USA, England, and Ireland) only in Canada (specifically English Canada) has one of them gained organizational hegemony over those who call themselves Marxist-Leninist. For this reason, as well as the fact that Bains makes Canada his residence, CPC(M-L) has always been the leading force in the “International” consisting of the Communist Parties (M-L) of Canada, England and Ireland, the American Communist Workers Movement (M-L), the Canadian Hindustani Ghaddar Party, and, at times, the CP(M-L) of Quebec whose existence is still referred to, though it amalgamated itself into CPC(M-L) in 1973. (PCDN, v. 2, no. 68, p. 3).
In this situation it is fairly clear that, without struggle, CPC(M-L) would be able to build organizational hegemony almost immediately over any “united front” of “Marxist-Leninists”. The conditions which they propose as the basis of unity, therefore, assume great importance. And what are those conditions?
First, a single program would be carried out under unified leadership in almost all areas of practical political work. No political work, agitation or propaganda, relating to these areas of practical activity other than that done under the discipline of the ’united front’, can be tolerated.
Second, no public criticism of the work of the ’united front’ or of any of the groups participating in it is to be allowed. All such differences are to be resolved far from the sight of the masses. Struggle will go on behind closed doors and differences will be ’internal’ while all carry out the majority line of the ’united front’. In short, the ’united front’ is in all practical senses a democratically central vanguard organization.
Finally, criteria for who is eligible to join the ’united front of Marxist-Leninists’ is exceptionally vague. It is open to anyone who claims to be Marxist-Leninist. In keeping with the tradition of CPC(M-L)’s tendency to emphasize form over content and organization over line there is no attempt made to advance a principled basis of unity or an objective definition of who is and who is not a Marxist-Leninist (with the exception, it should be noted, that those who agree with the proposal are ’genuine Marxist-Leninists’ while those who oppose it are ’revisionists and other opportunists’). None of this is important to CPC(M-L).
What is important to CPC(M-L) is that they appear, to the Canadian people, as the sole representatives of Marxism-Leninism, that they dominate all discussions and struggles among Canadian “Marxist-Leninists”, that no Canadian Marxist-Leninists struggle in public against incorrect counter-revolutionary lines advanced in the guise of Marxism-Leninism, and that no unity of any kind be built among Canadian Marxist-Leninists in which they (CPC(M-L)) are not the leading force.
It should be noted that CPC(M-L) with its customary fanfare and bluster insists, on turning the world on its head by declaring that those Marxist-Leninists who insist on carrying on struggle over principled differences in public are ’afraid of exposure’ and ’no longer a Marxist-Leninist group’. Are we to believe that a group which is Marxist-Leninist ceases to be one when it carries its struggles, lines, and principled positions to the masses? Are we to assume that inner-party discipline with the subordination of the minority to the majority also applies to relations between organizations with the smallest subordinate to the largest when questions of principle are involved? And who is it really that is ’afraid of exposure’? Those who insist on taking independent political lines and principled differences among the masses? Or those who seek to have struggle take place behind closed doors veiled by the cloak of secrecy, and who think contradiction should be resolved by ’democratic’ decision-making among those who call themselves Marxist-Leninists?
For several years, the struggle on building the communist party in Canada has been side-tracked by CPC(M-L)’s declaration that they alone are the vanguard of the Canadian working class. But is this assertion defensible? In a word, it is not. CPC(M-L) has never understood what it means to be the vanguard of the working class, or what is the nature of the proletarian party.
It was sufficient for CPC(M-L) to take a handful of petit-bourgeois intellectuals, begin publication of newspapers, organize a handful of demonstrations, manufacture a few slogans, and declare to the world that they had transformed themselves into the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) through the purity of their intentions and their utter devotion to Mao. In fact, no such transformation took place in their ranks, in 1970 when the party was declared, or at any time since.
Building the party is more than the simple declaration of vanguard status. The party must be built through the fusion of Marxism-Leninism with the proletarian movement. Marxism-Leninism must be taken to the working class through agitation and propaganda and the party must be built among that class. CPC(M-L) does not believe this. CPC(M-L) does not believe that a program and class analysis are necessary for the building of the working class party. CPC(M-L) rejects the notion that a party is built among the working class of a country and nation applying the science and method of Marxism-Leninism to the particular conditions of that nation or country.
Rather, CPC(M-L) has swallowed and offers to us to swallow the trotskyite viewpoint that any random collection of petit-bourgeois intellectuals can group together and call themselves the vanguard of the working class.
The essence of the trotskyite view of party building which has been adopted by CPC(M-L) is that the only stumbling block to making revolution at this time is lack of leadership. There is no dialectical understanding of the relation between the objective forces (crisis, inability of the bourgeoisie to govern, etc.) and the subjective forces (willingness of the working class to take arms for its liberation at a given time, leadership of Marxist-Leninists) in the process which leads to revolutionary change. CPC(M-L) accuses the Communist Party of failing to seize the initiative in leading a revolution in Canada in the 1930’s, and repeats the criticism in relation to Progressive Worker’s Movement in the mid-sixties. (See, for example, ML 18, p. 5) In doing so, they have adopted the entire trotskyite theory of the productive forces line about this being ’an era of revolutionary change’, about the objective conditions being ’ripe for revolution’ around the world, and the sole missing element was the concerted leadership of revolutionaries. They avoid an analysis of either of those periods. which would demonstrate that the bourgeoisie was quite capable of governing, the majority of the working class was not class conscious and willing to take arms at that time for the overthrow of the bourgeois state. They fail to see that neither in the 1930’s nor in the 1960’s was there a revolutionary situation in Canada.
CPC(M-L) has not succeeded in building the proletarian party precisely because they eliminated the working class from participation in that process. But more than failing to build the party, they have frustrated motion towards the construction of a Marxist-Leninist party in Canada through the misdirection of that struggle.
For several years, now, there has been sharp struggle around the question of building a proletarian party in Canada. Due to the presence of CPC(M-L) on the scene, the struggle often degenerated into the two alternatives of joining CPC(M-L), or rejecting party building as a task. But both of those are false alternatives. What was actually missing from the struggle was the third, and the only correct analysis. A communist party must be built among the working class of Canada. The time to begin building such a party is right now. CPC(M-L) is not such a party.
CPC(M-L) has actually advanced, in its “unity” proposal, a political line in disguise. The line is that the central task facing Marxist-Leninists is organizational. Independent development and propagation of political line (except on minor and local issues not related to ’united front’ work) is opposed on the grounds that it is splitting the Marxist-Leninist forces. Independent political practice (again with the stated exception) is also ruled out. Indeed, all lines on principled political questions become, subordinate to the line agreed upon by the ’united front of \ Marxist-Leninists’, all political organizing becomes subordinate to that of the larger group, and leadership of the participating organizations becomes subordinate to the combined leadership of the coalition. No public criticism, no taking of contending lines among the. masses is tolerated.
What we have is the rather bizarre spectacle of a political party putting itself under the leadership of the united front. Presuming that CPC(M-L) would participate in the ’united front’ for whose formation they call, then it follows from their proposal that they would not publicly criticise the work of the coalition itself nor any of the work of its participants. They would bind themselves to the implementation of the political line of the coalition without raising alternatives publicly. They would subordinate their political work in such a way that it was carried out under the ’democratic’ leadership of the coalition. Indeed, CPC(M-L) forfeits for itself the ’right to issue their own statements or carry out their own way of organizing.
There is no mention in the proposal of the method of developing and implementing the correct line. Nor is there mention of the carrying out of a correct program. All that is stated on the question is that line must be developed and carried out ’on a democratic basis’ and that ’all must work for the victory of one program’.
What has any of this to do with a Marxist-Leninist view on the independence and leading role of the party? Nothing. It represents a policy of subordination of the political independence of the ’party of the proletariat’ to achieve a numerically larger grouping of ’all those who claim to be Marxist-Leninists’. It is a totally bankrupt and revisionist political line.
What CPC(M-L) promotes is the bourgeois idea that unity for its own sake is a good thing. It is good to be united. But CPC(M-L) fails to ask or to answer the question, good for what and for whom? Rather, they pose a ridiculous formulation representing their ’dialectical materialist’ understanding of unity: ”Of the two opposite aspects of unity and disunity, unity is absolute while disunity is only relative, transitional and temporary and is playing the secondary role. Of the two aspects of struggle and compromise, struggle is absolute and compromise is temporary, relative and playing the secondary role. While this is the case, the guideline for the Marxist-Leninists is that in order to advance, deepen and broaden their unity, they must go against those responsible for disunity and oppose disunity.” (PCDN v.5, no. 10, p. 4).
In all seriousness, what kind of gibberish is this? Since when did unity become an absolute? And how did compromise, a tactic for carrying on struggle in its most effective form at a given time and place, become the dialectical opposite of struggle? While it is true that CPC(M-L) proposes abandoning struggle for the sake of compromise in building unity with those ’who claim to be Marxist-Leninists’, this has nothing in common with Marxism-Leninism. To disunite from revisionism, opportunism and counter-revolution is a good thing. There is no principle attached to unity in the abstract. Unity is only desirable insofar as it facilitates the advancement of the correct line for proletarian revolution. Similarly, compromise is a tactic for the carrying out of a concrete program. It never means the liquidation of struggle. It cannot, therefore, be its dialectical opposite. Marxist-Leninists recognize that struggle is absolute and unity is always relative. The absence of struggle, and its dialectical opposite, is opportunism. To cease to struggle for the implementation of a proletarian line for one minute is to yield to opportunism and for that one minute to participate in the sabotage of the revolution. That is why struggle is absolute. Unity is relative to struggle. Where unity is principled and facilitates struggle for the implementation of a correct political line, it must be promoted and built. But unity is always subordinate to the struggle for the development and the implementation of a correct political line and must never interfere with or retard that struggle.
To understand more fully the implications of CPC(M-L)’s constant organizational drive, it is useful to examine several other aspects of the practice of CPC(M-L).
They have consistently waved the red flag to oppose the red flag. They have used the prestige of the leaders of victorious struggles in other countries to cover up their own lack of analysis and consistent political line. With slogans like ’China’s Chairman is our Chairman’ they have sought to transform people like Mao into ’international leaders’ who are relied on – rather than relying on Marxist-Leninist principles and the Canadian proletariat. Because CPC(M-L) has no faith in the Canadian working class making a revolution, they are constantly forced to ’import’ their lines out of situation and cast them dogmatically about.
Despite frequent turn-abouts in line, they seek to maintain an image of infallibility by bluster against other groups upholding the line they have just abandoned and refusal to engage in public self-criticism.
They denegrate study of Marxism-Leninism and the need for revolutionary theory and concrete analysis of Canada. They have no faith in the ability of the masses to grasp Marxism-Leninism, fight revisionism and build the proletarian party on the basis of political line step-by-step.
The idea of ’swimming against the tide’, though they often refer to it, is foreign to them. Either they control a struggle, or a ’mass’ organization (or appear to), or they denounce it. They have always stressed form over content: the formal authority of their organization over the political authority of a line. The quality of their ’analysis’ is pathetic. It may appear correct at first glance, because of the careful attention paid to mimicking the style of expression of the Chinese, but, like Lin Piao’s “Long Live the Victory of People’s War”, this is just a pretentious cover for lack of analysis.
Behind a smokescreen of ultra-left slogans and provocations, the one consistent feature of their political line has been that it is class-collaborationist. This is quite clear in their definition of the basic character of the Canadian revolution as well as with their line on trade unions, fascism, etc.
Let us proceed to examine some of these aspects of CPC(M-L) more closely.
CPC(M-L) had its origins in the student movement in Vancouver, British Columbia, when Hardial Bains joined the Internationalists, a progressive student based at International House (a center for non-Canadian students) at the University of British Columbia. The group was sympathetic to Marxism-Leninism and determined to be a force for the ’dissemination of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought’ on the campus. They formed a working relation with the Progressive Workers Movement, a Marxist-Leninist organization centered in Vancouver and, together with PWM, operated a coffee house frequented by students from UBC. The Internationalists had their first split over the question of organized relationship with other Marxist-Leninists when several of its members quit to join the Progressive Workers. While Bains spoke in favour of a working relation with PWM, his group was insistent on organized independence and hegemony over student organizing. The Internationalists began to chart a path of independence from the PWM.
From that time to this, the Internationalists spawned into a full-fledged ’International’ including parties, cadre groups, movements, united fronts, mass organizations and literally dozens of newspapers in North America, the British Isles and India.
Bains moved to Ireland in the mid-sixties to continue his studies at Trinity College and formed ’Internationalist’ groups in Dublin and later London, both based on the model of the original group in Vancouver. In 1966, some of the Vancouver group including Robert Cruise were brought over to Dublin to closely study Bains’ method of organizing. After a few months they were dispatched to return to Canada and build similar organizations in the university communities in Toronto and Montreal. Bains, meanwhile, was absorbed with the task of organizing the first international conference of the Internationalists held in London in 1967. The Conference, sponsored by the Necessity for Change Institute, wound up with a call from the Chairman, Bains, for an “International Congress” to adopt a “common program and organizational structure” for the Internationalists. (ML, 10, p. 9)
CPC(M-L) and its various fraternal, front and predecessor organizations have never understood the independent role of a national proletarian party in an international struggle. Rather, CPC(M-L) has always understood it to be primarily an international revolution led by a central force with branches in various countries, nations and locales.
This analysis has led the predecessors to totally liquidate, except in form, the role of a national communist party familiar with the conditions of a particular nation.
The Internationalists began in Canada and set up branches in England and Ireland (and had members in Scotland). They evolved into the Canadian Student Movement, the Irish Student movement, the American Student Movement, Student movements of different provinces, states, cities, and universities which had publications called the Canadian Student, American Student, Vancouver Student, Irish Student, etc. These publications were published by the Necessities for Change Institutes. In May 1969, the American Communist Movement (M-L) later called the American Communist Workers Movement (M-L) was founded at a conference of North American Anti-Imperialists in Regina, Sask. Shortly after, a proliferation of “Communist Movements” were formed in Canada, Quebec, England and Ireland to match the one in the US. Finally, they began to emerge as ’Communist Parties’ with only the American group dragging its heels. So we have developed an Internationale of parties who all trace their origin to the Internationalists and their leadership to Bains.
Their identical publications broadcast the progress of the various parties to the various participating countries. Their various international conferences have been used to ensure that all the participants keep in step with the line as it takes form.
But what is the political relation of these parties? It is really very confusing, but very simple at the same time. The flurry of parties, organizations, publications, institutes and so forth masks the fact that CPC(M-L) has always liquidated the principle of independence for national communist parties.
At the beginning, the Canadian Communist Movement was very careful not to step on the toes of Quebec nationalists and established a separate sister organization called the Quebec Communist Movement. These two later became the Canadian and Quebec Communist Parties respectively (Marxist-Leninist). They had formally separate leadership and participated in North American conferences as representatives of one of the three North American nations. The slogan was advanced calling for the formation of a Peoples Republic of Quebec (ML 26) and CPQ(M-L) was duly advertised as an ’ally’ and ’sister party’ of CPC(M-L). For three years the separation of these parties was a matter of loudly proclaimed if poorly explained principle. For three years we watched the spectacle of two parties in this country bearing a common program but maintaining their independence and calling for the formation of separate People’s Republics.
But in 1973, as bourgeois nationalism was losing its grip on the left-wing movement and the call for proletarian revolution was gaining hegemony in Quebec, true to form, CPC(M-L) accomodated. Sandwiched in between announcements that Hardial Bains was editor of Mass Line and that branches would be opened in Vancouver, Regina, etc., was the following announcement: “It was decided to move the Central Headquarters of the Party to Montreal and was decided to move the offices related to the central office there. It was also decided to establish the Communist Party of Quebec (Marxist-Leninist) as the branch of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist).” (PCDN, v.2, no.68, p. 3) No explanation was offered as to why this decision was made. No self-criticism was made. It was not explained how the Communist Party of Canada can decide to make the Communist Party of Quebec its branch and move the headquarters of the former to the jurisdiction of the smaller party.
But even this change was too much for CPC(M-L) to fully implement. So a few short months later, CPC(M-L) was back in form arguing for a communist government which “will be led by the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) and the Communist Party of Quebec (Marxist-Leninist).” (PCDN, v. 2, no. 13 . Emphasis added.)
Now what kind of nonsense is this? We have two parties and we don’t have two parties. The national headquarters of two national parties are located in the same city. One national party is at the same time an ally and an branch of the other. The opportunists of CPC(M-L) outdid themselves on this question. Of course, it was marvellous. To those in Quebec under the influence of bourgeois nationalism, CPC(M-L) could point to the existence of a sister party whose duty it was to lead the revolution in Quebec. To those made nervous by the loud and long proclamations demanding a separate People’s Republic in Quebec, CPC(M-L) could point to the fact that it led the whole revolution while CPQ(M-L) was a mere branch.
But for CPC(M-L), not even this was enough. It was not sufficient to have fraternal allies in England, Ireland and the USA and a sister branch in Quebec. What was really needed was continental unity. So they put out a call for North American Marxist-Leninists to build “one genuine Marxist-Leninist centre of the American working class”. (North America News Service, 6/6/73) It never occurred to CPC(M-L)-to wonder how Canadian Communists were supposed to form this centre of the American working class. After all, wasn’t the American Communist Movement formed in Regina?
But even this call got lost in a hodge-podge of confusion. A slogan was put forward noting that “the fact that Marxist-Leninists all over the US and North America are uniting for the cause of proletarian revolution is just great!“ (NANS, 12/7/73) The formation of North America News Service was announced. It was published daily in Boston, with a weekly edition edited by Hardial Bains published in Toronto, and billed as a “digest of revolutionary journals from North America and other countries.“ (PCDN, v. 2, no. 114) Was CPC(M-L) to go the way of CPQ(M-L)? or, perhaps, the headquarters of the Communist Party of Canada were to be moved to Chicago to exercise continental hegemony.
CPC(M-L) adopts a trotskyite position that complete and total organized unity must be built among communists throughout the world to take part in the international battle against imperialism. There has never been a clear line on the independence of national communist parties. International conferences have been called by CPC(M-L) and its predecessors to build political and organizational unity among North American and European comrades from time to time. The role of Canada was being liquidated in the process of building North American unity just as the role of Quebec was liquidated and the smaller party placed on the display shelf by its parent organization. But CPC(M-L) has never explained these actions. If CPC(M-L) agrees with the Communist Party of China that “it is impermissable for any Party to place itself above others, to interfere in their internal affairs, and to adopt patriarchal ways in relations with them” (A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement, Peking 1963, p. 47), then how do we explain the conference in Regina which formed the American Communist Movement, and how do we explain the Conference in Toronto in 1972 which put out the call for the formation of the Communist Party of the USA (M-L)? If CPC(M-L) agrees with the Communist Party of China that “it is impermissable to impose the programme, resolutions and line of one’s own Party on other fraternal Parties” (ibid.), then how does it explain the liquidation of CPQ(M-L) at a Congress of CPC(M-L)?
Where does CPC(M-L) really stand on the question of building unity? What principles are involved? Why does CPC(M-L) seek hegemony over the so-called communist movements of other countries? What does this have to do with their leadership of the proletariat in Canada?
CPC(M-L) has always viewed China directly and Mao Tse-tung individually as the leaders of the international revolution. This continues today. There has never been an understanding of the difference between the policies pursued by China which are particular to their situation and the principles of Marxism-Leninism which they have applied to China. CPC(M-L)’s participation in the “Canadian part” of this international revolution has often been simple mimicry of Chinese positions ad random.
In his New Years speech this year, Hardian Bains made the following statement: “Every revolutionary in the world must orient his policies according to the policies of the socialist People’s Republic of China. People’s China is the strongest base area against imperialism and social-imperialism.” (PCDN, v. 5, no. 4, p. 1) What does this mean? It means that the revolutionary movement for communism is a directly international movement. The struggle will be waged on a battlefield of the world and will pay no heed to national boundaries or conditions. The main contradiction in the world is necessarily the main contradiction in each part of the world. The most advanced force of Marxist-Leninists, therefore, must be the leading force in the international revolution against the common enemy of the people of the world. Since that territory held by the People’s Republic of China is under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, therefore it is liberated territory in the struggle for the world. The government of China, it follows, must be the world proletarian vanguard. National communist parties must follow unabashedly the direction of that vanguard.
CPC(M-L) has made the mistake of considering the Communist Party of China as the direct leadership of the international communist movement. They have then extended this role to the Chinese state. Some of their lines in the past and present make this clear.
The Canadian Communist Movement and the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) carried the portrait of Mao Tse-tung on their masthead, emphasizing that they considered themselves in alliance with the party under Mao’s leadership. But it was more than an alliance. In 1970 they declared Mao to be “the greatest helmsman of the working and oppressed people of the world”. (ML 18, p. 5) To be more specific, they declared that “under the great and glorious leadership of Chairman Mao, our own mass democratic anti-imperialist revolution has begun to move forward.” (ibid., p. 2) Finally, they declared that “China’s path is our path” (ibid., p. 5) and carefully studied “the application of People’s War to the struggles of the Canadian working class”. (ML 16, p. 2) Again, they declared that “The International Communist Movement is proudly surging forward with Chairman Mao at the crest and the Communist Party of China at the centre in a family of ever-increasing Marxist-Leninist parties and groups”. (ML 19, P. 1)
What does it mean for Bains, in January 1975, to call China the “base area”? Mao states that base areas “are the strategic bases on which the guerrilla forces rely in performing their strategic tasks and achieving the object of preserving and expanding themselves and destroying and driving out the enemy.” (Problems of Strategy in the Guerrilla War Against Japan, MSW II, Peking, p. 93) “Areas which are surrounded by the enemy but whose central parts are not occupied or have been recovered . . . are ready-made bases for the convenient use of guerrilla units in developing guerrilla warfare.” (ibid., p. 96)
So China is the liberated territory upon which the revolutionary forces of the world fall back for support and sustenance in their attempt to expand and enlarge that territory. If we carry forward the analogy that China is the base area in an international struggle, then the government of China is the high command and central leadership in an ongoing process of guerrilla warfare taking place on many fronts throughout the world. In this context Bains’ declaration that revolutionaries throughout the world must orient their policies “to the policies of the socialist People’s Republic of China” make perfect sense, as do the declarations proclaiming Mao Tse-tung the leader of Canada’s mass-democratic anti-imperialist revolution.
What CPC(M-L) offers us is a “left” form of the discredited Soviet “socialist camp vs. imperialist is the main contradiction” line, substituting “China” for the “Soviet Union”, as the leading force. Unquestionably, the Communist Party of China is leading the ideological struggle against Soviet revisionism in the world communist movement. That party is one of the most advanced in the world, after more than fifty years of struggling to apply Marxism-Leninism to their own particular national conditions. And China’s state policy, both domestic and foreign (under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the main instrument of the proletarian control of the state) has been exemplary. It is,not, however, the task of Marxist-Leninists in Canada to apply China’s policies to this country. What we must learn from the Chinese is a policy of self-reliance, taking the initiative, and applying Marxist-Leninist theory (including the contributions of Mao Tse-tung) to the particular conditions of Canada.
The Internationalists, the Canadian Student Movement, the Canadian Communist Movement and lastly the Communist Party of Canada (M-L) have never had a clear political line or class analysis. They have proceeded from one subjective muddle to another always considering themselves clear, consistent and correct. But let us examine where this “correct line” has meandered over the past few years.
In 1969, the Canadian Communist Movement made a list of the four “irreconcilable contradictions” of capitalism. They were: the contradiction between labour and capital, the contradiction between cities and countryside, the contradiction between shrinking markets and overproduction and the contradiction between skilled labour and manual labour. (ML 3, p. 12) Now just what the origin of this prolific list of contradictions was no one will ever know. What is clear is that from the beginning, CPC(M-L) was unable to distinguish antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions. What is the irreconcilable contradiction in Canada between cities and the countryside? Is this a convenient quote from some Chinese publication describing a non-antagonistic contradiction among the people? Or is it part of some analysis that was left out of the article? And the contradiction between skilled and unskilled labour. Is this not a contradiction among the people? Mao Tse-tung makes clear that “the contradictions between ourselves and the enemy are antagonistic contradictions. Within the ranks of the people contradictions among the working people are non-antagonistic.“ (On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People, MSR, Peking, p. 433) Without specifying it, CPC(M-L) leaves the reader with one of two options. Either believing that the urban unskilled proletariat is the implacable enemy of the “countryside” and “skilled labour” and must defeat those enemies, or rejecting their analysis entirely.
Not caring to have to defend these original hypotheses, a new political report was prepared and adopted 8 months later with a new list of contradictions. This report is still in use within CPC(M-L), though cadres will state if prodded that certain unspecified parts of it are outdated. The new list specified four main contradictions as follows:
“ 1. Between U.S. Imperialism and its lackies . . . and the Canadian people. This contradiction is the principal one and will necessarily lead to anti-imperialist revolution.
2. Between the working class, the urban and rural petit-bourgeoisie, and the capitalists.
3. Between the comprador and the national bourgeoisie. This is a contradiction in the enemy camp.
4. Contradictions among the people.” (ML 18, p. 3)
In this report we have the first clear formulation of the line which calls for a two-stage revolution leading first to the formation of a New Democratic State and later to the victory of proletarian revolution. This has been a point hotly contested by CPC(M-L) over the years, and they consistently deny such a formulation, but let us read what they say on the question.
CPC(M-L) called for the “Mass Democratic Anti-Imperialist Revolution in Canada”. This was to be “a people’s war ... on a scale never before seen in the whole history of the Canadian working class and Canadian people. This people’s war will burn the imperialists and their lackeys to the ground.” (ibid.) “Canada is a neo-colonial nation no less than any other subject nation in Africa, Asia, or Latin America.” (ML 10, p. 15) “The leading aspect of the contradiction is to smash U.S. imperialist domination of Canada and build a people’s, democracy under the leadership of the proletariat. The first step must be taken before the second can be achieved.” (ML2, p. 2)
Again, CPC(M-L) declares that “the principal task of the Canadian People’s National Liberation Movement is to build the People’s Democratic Dictatorship” (ML 34-5, p. 4) They claim that “any forward march in Canada means the elimination of the national oppression and the building of the material conditions for proletarian revolution.” (ML 18, p. 4).
CPC(M-L) has become hopelessly entangled in its complete inability to reconcile strategies of national liberation in the colonial world and of proletarian insurrection in the capitalist countries. Time and again, it compares the situation in Canada to that in the third world countries. In October 1974, CPC(M-L) called upon the Canadian people to learn from the experience of the people “all over the world, in Latin America, in the Afro-Asian countries and elsewhere” where “U.S. Imperialist corporations are being thrown out or taken over for just the sort of behavior United Aircraft has exhibited here in Canada.” (PCDN, v. 4, no. 40, p. 1) They carry the illusion further when they point out that the national bourgeoisie, as in third world countries, may well become allies of the revolution. They point out that Eric Kierans (former president of the Montreal Stock Exchange and Liberal cabinet member) and Walter Gordon (former Minister of Finance), because they are not “the principal enemy” should be seen as potential allies. (PCDN v. 5, no. 15, p. 4)
Hardial Bains is even more clear in his 1975 New Years speech. He states that “the first contradiction is between U.S. Imperialism and the monopoly capitalist class, on the one hand, and the masses of the Canadian people, on the other. When we speak of the masses of the Canadian people, we mean not only the Canadian working class, but include a large section of the petit-bourgeoisie and even some sections of the bourgeoisie. The second contradiction is between the proletariat, on the one hand, and the bourgeoisie on the other. The proletariat will succeed in leading the struggle against the bourgeoisie only if it mobilises the largest majority of the Canadian people against the main enemy.” (PCDN v. 5, no. 4, p. 4. Emphasis added.)
Now just what does all this gobbledeygook mean? Apparently, it means that CPC(M-L) is still entertaining fantasies of a two-stage revolution. The first part is a national liberation struggle, an all-class alliance against U.S. Imperialism. Following that is the struggle against the bourgeoisie. They advance a class-collaborationist strategy for revolution in an industrial capitalist country. But CPC(M-L) has dropped all references to two-stage revolution in the past few years, as though they were afraid to admit the implications of their class line. Rumor has it now, that CPC(M-L) is now about to drop its line about Canada having a comprador bourgeoisie, a line it has held in one form or another for ten years. God knows what the implications of this move will be on their “strategy”. But for the moment CPC(M-L) is seemingly content to call for a two-stage revolution to happen all at once. They will call for the formation of a socialist republic as Lenin did in Russia and a People’s republic as Mao did in China and deny that there is a difference. They will call for the dictatorship of one class in an anti-imperialist war, and a New Democratic state as the culmination of the socialist revolution. All in one stage, mind you. With two parts to it.
What started out five years ago as a clear and precise reactionary line, has degenerated into an unclear and imprecise reactionary muddle. Where CPC(M-L) originally called for the formation of a People’s Democratic Dictatorship as the precondition for waging proletarian revolution, now they muddle together contradictions against the U.S. Imperialists and the “masses” of the Canadian people which is waged by the proletariat and specified allies to no clear end, with the contradiction against the bourgeoisie (national or comprador?) where the allies are unspecified, but the presumed end result is proletarian dictatorship. Is it that the national bourgeoisie is our ally in the first part and our main enemy later on? Or is it that we first fight the US imperialists and then the Canadian bourgeoisie. Or perhaps, if the strategy indicated by the line calling for the nationalization of United Aircraft is an indication, they call upon the national bourgeoisie to expropriate the holdings of the imperialists and the comprador bourgeoisie, thus making them a full-fledged bourgeoisie who we can fight in good conscience. Why doesn’t CPC(M-L) make any of this clear? Is it to their advantage that no one knows what they are talking about?
If CPC(M-L) is muddled, if they move back and forth with the wind, it should come as no surprise. From the beginning, CPC(M-L)’s predecessor organizations have worried that their members might learn too much. In 1969 the Canadian Communist Movement branded as “erroneous, anti-working class and anti-Marxist” the thesis that “We need a class analysis of Canada before we can have a party”. “Class analysis comes out of struggle”. (ML 5, p. 2) The bankruptcy of this statement hits like a slap in the face. CPC(M-L) asserts that there can be a revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat without a class analysis. To think that Marx could have saved himself all those years of toil in the libraries of London and led an insurrection, developing his class analysis “in struggle”. What opportunities were lost to the world! But wait! Just who is the proletariat, anyway? And whom should they fight? And with whom shall they ally? CCM didn’t mind such trivialities. “We must study through actual struggles and, following Lin Piao, study only when we have a concrete problem in mind. If we don’t do this, we will have a programme of self-cultivation which is not revolutionary work. Ideological propaganda at the place of work and organization of the non-unionized workers; this is what we have to do. . . . Out of this will develop a mass struggle which will give rise to class analysis and political programme.” (ibid.) So class analysis is to develop spontaneously in the struggle between something and something else, preferably involving non-unionized workers somewhere along the way. And this is done by the vanguard of the revolution which will shortly become the vanguard of the proletariat when it finds out who the proletariat is and spontaneously develops a program.
This formulation was far too extravagant for even CPC(M-L) to hold on to for very long. So with little fanfare and no self-criticism, a new line was sneaked in early in 1970. “We considered it a counter-revolutionary and bourgeois notion that in order to initiate mass work it was necessary for us to have a class analysis.” (ML 18, p. 4) There is a subtle change here that CPC(M-L) did not bother to point out. The original line was that a party did not need a class analysis. The second was that no class analysis was needed to do mass work. Both, of course are wrong. Oh, it is possible to do mass work without an analysis, or a strategy, or a program, or an organization, for that matter. But it is never possible for Marxist-Leninists to give correct leadership to the mass struggles of the proletariat and to their ultimate struggle for state power without making a correct class analysis. In the first page of his earliest published writing, Mao Tse-tung says the following: “Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? This is a question of of the first importance for the revolution. The basic reason why all previous revolutionary struggles in China achieved so little was their failure to unite with real friends in order to attack real enemies. A revolutionary party is the guide of the masses, and no revolution ever succeeds when the revolutionary party leads them astray. To ensure that we will definitely achieve success in our revolution and will not lead the masses astray, we must pay attention to uniting with our real friends in order to attack our real enemies. To distinguish real friends from real enemies, we must make a general analysis of the economic status of the various classes in Chinese society and of their respective attitudes towards the revolution.” (Analysis of Classes in Chinese Society, MSW I, Peking, p. 13)
Of course, this did not apply to CPC(M-L). All that was necessary was to “become the worthy disciples of Chairman Mao”. (ML 19, p. 1)
This refusal to develop a class analysis of Canada has led to the most unbelievable twists and turns in political work, especially in CPC(M-L)’s relations with the trade unions. But we shall come to that later.
The Internationalists adopted a student-as-vanguard line in the guise of class analysis when they wrote the following: “The contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is most sharp on the cultural level. The economic contradiction is there – workers are still paid the minimum wage according to Marx’s formula. But at the present time the principal aspect of the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is the cultural contradiction. When this is the case, students and other petit-bourgeois sections will be the first to take a Stand. ... By the very nature of their position, the students are in contradiction with the cultural superstructures (for example a school or university) of the society at a higher level than others, except, for example, writers and artists. This is why the students formed the first mass movement in the great sweeping tide of the Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which has destroyed the fifth column of the imperialists inside the red base area of the world revolution, the People’s Republic of China. But the student movement is a part of a whole people’s movement against imperialism, and must consciously integrate in that movement if it is to overthrow imperialist oppression.” (Irish Internationalist 1, no. 1) This analysis was reiterated in CPC(M-L)’s political report in 1970. “We pointed out that because of the intensification of the contradiction between the U.S. Imperialists, their lackies, and the Canadian people on the cultural level, the economic contradiction was temporarily relegated to a secondary position. Because of this, the petit-bourgeoisie, especially the students in the universities, would be the first to rise. .. Our analysis has been proved completely correct.” (ML 18, p 4)
What analysis? What we have been given is a declaration that the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeois! most affects the petit-bourgeoisie. We have the assumption that the proletariat’s battles are on the ’economic’ front while those of the petit-bourgeoisie are on the ’cultural’ front on behalf of the laggard proletariat. We have a ridiculous summation of the Proletarian Cultural Revolution which fails to mention that the working class when mobilized had to wage physical battle against many of the anarchist and ultra-left students. We have the hopeless equation of post-revolution China under proletarian dictatorship with pre-revolution conditions in Canada. We have Marx inventing a relation between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie which still applies, but doesn’t really apply because Marx left out the bit about cultural contradictions placing students and petit bourgeois in the lead until economic contradictions became primary. All of this in the same report which declares it to be a “counter revolutionary and bourgeois notion” that a class analysis should be developed.
To emphasize this anti-intellectual nonsense, CPC(M-L) saw fit to raise the question to one of principle by declaring “The third plenum resolutely opposes book worship and certainly believes that the more you study, the more foolish you become.” (ML 49, p. 4) This hysterical opposition to study, to development of class analysis; this worship of the spontaneous mass movement and the role of the petit bourgeoisie within it led to the development of such lines as would be comical if they were not coming from the pretended vanguard. Examples are: “U.S. trade unions are the greatest enemy of the working class.” (ML 6, p. 11) “The main enemies of the movement and of the people at the present time ... are all those who are unwilling to undergo the transformation required of a revolutionary.” (ML 10, p. 11) “The main enemy of the working people in B.C. is social democracy.” (PCDN, v. 2, no. 12, p. 3) “The chief enemy of our people is U.S. Imperialism.” (ML 1. p. 2) “The two superpowers have become the main enemy of the people of the world including the Canadian people.” (Resolutions of Toronto Anti-Superpowers Committee, 1/2/75) This proliferation of “main enemies” is to be expected from an organization which insists on developing its analysis from mass struggles and not from systematic study of the relations of the class forces in Canada. The last of these, from early 1975 is another example of the simplistic and juvenile analysis of a “party” unwilling or unable to do a class analysis. How in the world did CPC(M-L) decide that not only U.S. Imperialism, but Soviet Social-Imperialism as well was the main enemy? In what way is it that the USSR became our co-exploiter? What CPC(M-L) did is quite simple, and quite wrong. They made a determination that of the main contradictions in the world, the one between the imperialist camp and oppressed nations was primary. Then they escalate this contradiction so that it becomes the contradiction between the imperialists (or rather superpowers) and everybody else. Finally, they declare that since this is the main contradiction in the world, it must also be the main contradiction in each and every part of the world. Such is the class analysis of CPC(M-L)! We would certainly hate to see what would happen to CPC(M-L) if they were to study and become even more foolish!
For all their twists and turns, however, it would be incorrect to think that there is no common thread that runs through the analysis and the line of CPC(M-L). From the very beginning, they have promulgated an analysis calling for an all-class alliance in Canada against U.S. Imperialism. Mao Tse-tung has said “In capitalist society the two forces in contradiction, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, form the principal contradiction. The other contradictions, such as those between the remnant feudal class and the bourgeoisie, between the peasant petit bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie, between the non-monopoly capitalists and the monopoly capitalists, between bourgeois democracy and bourgeois fascism, among the capitalist countries and between imperialism and the colonies are all determined or influenced by this principal contradiction.” (On Contradiction, MSW I, Peking, p. 331)
This, however, has never been the analysis of CPC(M-L). From the time of the publication of their political report in 1970 to the present, they have held that the principal contradiction is between U.S. Imperialism and the Canadian people (including the native bourgeoisie), and that the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie was a secondary contradiction. This is far more than a mere twist of analysis. For in this analytical error is the germ of the essence of CPC(M-L)’s historically incorrect line on the nature of the Canadian revolution. What CPC(M-L) has consistently proposed is a strategy of class-collaboration with the bourgeoisie and the formation of an all-class alliance against U.S. Imperialism.
The call was put out in the 1970 Political Report for an “anti-Imperialist revolution as the precondition for proletarian revolution.” (ML 18, p. 3) This led to the formation of the Canadian People’s United Front Against U.S. Imperialism, a “front" which circulated petitions calling for the formation of revolutionary area committees. The United Front was to include all those who opposed US imperialism in Canada including native capitalists – completely Canadian, independent and non-monopoly capitalists” (Canadian People’s United Front Bulletin no. 1, p. 3) under the slogan that “Canada belongs to the people”, (ibid.) Finally, CPC(M-L) called upon the masses to “get organized for a national war against U.S. imperialism” and prepare for the convening of the “First People’s Congress’ of Anti-imperialist and patriotic groups and individuals”. (Ibid., p. 8)
In the constitution of the Party, those who advanced “counter-revolutionary” slogans of “anti-capitalist” and “one stage revolution” were “proven renegades” and “enemy agents”. Again and again, CPC(M-L) has driven home the point that what is to be established is a “People’s Democracy”, an anti-imperialist regime, and that the main contradiction is between the Canadian “people” and U.S. Imperialism. As recently as January of 1975, Bains defined the Canadian people as including “sections of the bourgeoisie”. (PCDN, v. 5 no. 4, p. 4)
This is nothing less than a perversion of the CCP’s success in doing a correct class analysis of their own country. In China, under the domination of foreign imperialists, the national bourgeoisie suffered not only great indignities, but was systematically robbed of any chance to develop as a capitalist class. They were, in many cases, reduced to such a level of impoverishment and desperation that they had no choice but to support the revolution against imperialist domination of China. For this reason, they were included as one of the progressive forces in the national revolution against imperialism. Indeed, some of the vestiges of national capitalist ownership have not yet disappeared from China.
To suggest that there is any comparison between the systematic destruction and obliteration of the capitalist class in China by the imperialists and the development of the capitalist class in the modern industrial power of Canada is to reduce Marxist analysis to the level of a rather sad joke. What could be the class basis for the national bourgeoisie in Canada to support a revolution? The revolution in Canada will not yield a people’s democracy as it did in China. It will rather lead to the formation of a proletarian state in which capitalism is abolished. There is no class basis for calling upon the national bourgeoisie to support the Canadian revolution. Sure, there will be some individuals among the bourgeoisie who will repudiate their class interests and support the revolutionary movement of the proletariat. And we will welcome these people, and all people of revolutionary sentiment whatever their class origin. But these are class traitors, not “sections of the bourgeoisie”.
CPC(M-L) is actually promoting, under the banner of Marxism-Leninism, a class collaborationist policy for Canada. There can be no alliance with the bourgeoisie. The policy of all-class alliance in an advanced capitalist state is thoroughly revisionist and can only lead to the sabotage of the proletarian revolution. Canada is not a colony. There is no comprador bourgeoisie. The revolution is a proletarian revolution. The objective is the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Given the revisionist nature of CPC(M-L)’s basic political line, why is it that its reputation among Marxist-Leninists and progressive people in Canada is as an ultra-left sect? Basically, the ’right’ nature of its lines has been obscured behind many forms and varieties of ’left’ posturing.
The rhetoric of CPC(M-L) has always been flamboyant, and a great deal has been made of symbolic virtues. Sentences like “All three arrested comrades always held the treasured Red Book high which terrified the reactionaries” (ML 19-2) were the order of the day. Again, “The historic demonstration in Toronto . . . has struck terror into the hearts of the Canadian comprador bourgeoisie”. (ML 13-1)
Of course little terror was struck into the hearts of anyone by these great shows of religious fervor. CPC(M-L) attended demonstrations armed with clubs. They invaded plants and factories “holding high” the red books through which medium they intended to “disseminate Mao Tsetung Thought to the proletariat.”
The slogan-type denunciations of fascism are far too frequent to repeat, and they still continue. Everything in sight from the Woods Report on Labour Relations in Canada, (ML 15-1) to the Shreyer government in Manitoba, (ML 29-6) the Toronto Star (ML 44-4), and the United Auto Workers (ML 48-4) were fascist. Slogans called for escalation of People’s War, (ML 22-supplement), and red banner headlines threatened that “Blood debts must be paid in Blood”. (ML 23-1) At demonstration after demonstration, CPC(M-L) members never lost the opportunity to launch attacks on the police or the organizers (or both) and provoke the arrests of their members. Once arrested members would continue denunciations of the police and in court would denounce the judge, provoking sentences for contempt of court. CPC(M-L) seldom lost the opportunity to boast of the large numbers of arrests they had faced as though this were proof of their claim to vanguard.
But the implication of all this fighting and arrests must be considered. It is impossible to fault the members of CPC(M-L) for the dedication, persistance and personal courage they have shown in the face of overwhelming odds. This, however, does not change the facts. They did nothing through this course to advance the cause of the proletarian revolution in Canada. Indeed, they have made themselves a danger to be associated with. The savage repression which, in the beginning, was intentionally provoked by them, now falls naturally as a hammer to an anvil. To be known as a member of CPC(M-L) is to make arrest at a demonstration almost a certainty, and a beating in the police station a likelihood. Many dozens of young Canadians have been jailed and several more residents of this country have been deported in CPC(M-L)’s quest to prove that there is no difference between bourgeois democracy and fascism. Even today, CPC(M-L), rather than educating the working class to the racist, anti-working class nature of the federal government’s “green paper” on immigration, insists on clouding the issue, rabidly and incorrectly insisting that it fascist. (Unity, vol. 1, no. 2, p. 1)
The ultra-left sloganeering and posturing has had serious consequences on the development of a revolutionary movment in Canada. Among these are: the arrests, beatings and needless imprisonment of many genuinely militant and progressive people, many of whom, as a result, have rejected not only the childish fantasies of CPC(M-L), but the revolutionary struggle of the Canadian working class as well; and, more important, the ideological disarmament of the Canadian people through the systematic propagation of distorted truths lies and hysteria.
For example, what is the real impact of the all-too-common use of the epithet “fascist” by CPC(M-L)? In April 1975, in a discussion of the “green paper”, CPC(M-L) defines fascism “simply absolute power plus racism” (ibid., p. 2) in justification of its thesis that the “green paper” is fascist. First of all that is not what fascism is. No, fascism is “the open terror dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic a most imperialist elements of finance capital.” (The Fascist Offensive and the Tasks of the Communist International DSW Sofia, v. 2, p. 8) “The accession to power of fascism not an ordinary succession of one bourgeois government another, but a substitution of one state form of class domination of the bourgeoisie – bourgeois democracy – by another form – open terrorist dictatorship.” (ibid., p, 10)
Is this what CPC(M-L) teaches about fascism? No. CPC(M-L) is utterly incapable of distinguishing fascism from repression under bourgeois democracy. This mindless use of hysterical rhetoric is reactionary for two reasons. First of all, many the Canadian people know well what the true nature fascism is, having lived under it, and having fought it. They know that Canada is no fascist state. They know that CPC(M-L) is lying to them in order to stir them up, rather than analyzing concrete conditions in order to lead them. Second, CPC(M-L) acts much like the little boy who cried wolf. The term “fascist” is used so indiscriminately that it loses meaning. The vocabulary is robbed of a term by which people can be educated to the true nature of fascism. If we describe the Woods report, the UAW, the Shreyer government and the “green paper” as fascist, then what term do we use to deal with groups like the Western Guard? or the emergence of pro-fascist leaders among the bourgeoisie? How do we tell the masses about the real and present danger of a fascist state when we have already persuaded them fascism is really bourgeois democracy by another name shouting hysterically from the rooftops, CPC(M-L) is robbing the Canadian people of their opportunity to learn the nature of fascism in all its seriousness, and the need to even now, to fight it.
It is well worth noting that CPC(M-L)’s line on fascism neatly complements their line on class-collaboration, anti-fascist struggle, like the anti-imperialist struggle, is one which members of all classes can and will participate defense of their own class interests. In clouding the issue of proletarian revolution with the question of anti-fascist struggle, CPC(M-L) once again sets the stage for a strategy based an all-class alliance whose immediate objective is the throw of something other than capitalism and the establishment of something other than proletarian dictatorship.
Among serious “left” errors, must fall CPC(M-L)’s treatment of its supposed role of vanguard of the revolutionary struggle. CPC(M-L) has never subscribed to the line that the party must be accountable to the masses. Time and again, their political and priorities have twisted and turned with never so much of a hint that there have been errors. It has taken the attitude the correct way to rectify a mistake is to repudiate practice, not to make self-criticism. But this undercuts the leading role of a party. If such a party is truly accountable to the masses, it must publicly acknowledge its mistakes so that changes in political line are not seen as mere flips and flops.
On this very question, Lenin said “A political party’s attitude towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how earnest the party is and how it fulfills in practice its obligations towards its class and the working people. Frankly acknowledging a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, analysing the conditions that have led up to it, and thrashing out the means of its rectification – that is the hallmark of a serious party; that is how it should perform its duties, and how it should educate and train its class and then the masses. By failing to fulfill this duty and give the utmost attention and consideration to the study of their patent error, the ’Lefts’ . . . have proved that they are not a party of a class but a circle, not a party of the masses, but a group of intellectualists and of a few workers who ape the worst features of intellectualism.” (Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder, LCW, v. 31, Moscow, p. 57)
For several years, CPC(M-L) held high the example and the lines of Lin Piao. They now feign rectification by criticizing Lin Piao. But Lin Piao is not responsible for the errors of CPC(M-L). The responsibility for those errors falls on those in CPC(M-L) who copied his deviations from Marxism-Leninism. It is those leaders of CPC(M-L) who failed to analyze Canada and contented themselves to copy lines coming from China who must be denounced and who must produce self-criticism.
No, CPC(M-L) does not criticize its errors, because CPC(M-L) does not make errors. It merely “advances” beyond them. Some deviations are supposedly introduced into the party line by “saboteurs” like Jack Scott, but as Hardial Bains told me in November 1972, “There have been no errors, we are just inexperienced.” CPC(M-L) is not a party of the working class or a party of the masses. It is a rather crude, sectarian, counter-revolutionary collection of ragtag petit bourgeois who play at revolution in a pathetic parody of the great Communist Party of China.
It is this aspect of parody that has made CPC(M-L) so openly accessible to police agents. Because of the lack of genuine ideological struggle, it has been easy for police agents to ape the verbiage, to mouth the rhetoric, and to appear to be genuine Marxist-Leninists within the “party”. I am not here repeating the old rumour of Bains being an agent of the CIA or the FBI or the Soviet revisionists. I know of no evidence whatever to lend credibility to these charges.
More concrete charges, however, do exist. In May, 1973, CPC(M-L) saw fit to promote the New Morning Collective (NANS, 15/5/73), a collective led by an admitted agent of the RCMP, David MacKinnon. In late 1971, New Morning released a statement claiming that MacKinnon “has recently been exposed as a conscious paid agent of the Solicitor General’s Department’s Special Security force. For an unknown period of time, he has been operating as a double agent, collecting data at the highest level on the revolutionary left. . . .MacKinnon has and will always play the politics of provocateur.” (see “New Morning Self-Criticism” – Partisan, v. 1, no. 11. Emphasis in original.)
Two months later, he was forgiven and welcomed back into New Morning’s leadership. Within a year, CPC(M-L) was promoting New Morning for its high praise of Bains.
Twice in June of 1973, “Comrade Joe Burton”, leader of Red Star Cadre in Florida was featured on the front pages of North America News Service. Notable in his speeches was prolific praise of “Comrade Bains” and mimicry of CPC(M-L) political lines. (NANS 4/6/73 and NANS 6/6/73) Burton was also a featured speaker at the North American Conference of Marxist-Leninists in Toronto (November 1972) which was to help found the CPUSA(M-L). (PCDN, v. 2, no. 17) It has now been revealed that Burton was a paid agent operating for the FBI among CPC(M-L)’s “fraternal organizations” from 1972 to 1974 during which time he was in Canada at least a dozen times. (Toronto Star, 17/2/75, p. 1) His identity went unknown until he revealed himself.
The significance is not merely that an agent infiltrated CPC(M-L). The significance is that CPC(M-L) has not to this day assumed responsibility for promoting an FBI agent or an RCMP agent as communist leaders. That their organization is so dogmatic that it can be penetrated at high levels is a serious weakness. That their leadership is so thoroughly bourgeois and careerist that a little flattery will earn the most treacherous enemy a spot on the front pages of their papers is also serious. That CPC(M-L) would consider it a normal method of operating for the leader of a small collective in one single city (Tampa, Florida) to make twelve or more trips outside the United States to consult with Canadian “Communists” indicates their level of arrogance and how little they understand of national autonomy. But that it does not hold itself accountable for promoting and holding high these agents as leaders to the people, this is intolerable!
In perhaps no area of their public work has CPC(M-L) made as many or as dramatic twists and turns and whirlabouts as in their work in and around the trade union movement. For this reason this work is worthy of more detailed examination as an example of their complete opportunism.
The first major position taken by the Canadian Communist Movement on trade union work was a straight out-and-out bourgeois nationalist line rooted partially in their refusal to do a class analysis, and partly in their incessant mimicry of all the lines of Progressive Workers in that period, regardless of which were right and which were wrong. The CCM was really at a loss to distinguish. Indeed, in a later moment of weakness, CPC(M-L) declared that the Progressive Worker’s Movement was “correct in theory” but had been led into hopelessness by “their social practice”, specifically their “critical acceptance of Mao Tsetung Thought” and open and concealed attacks on Mao Tsetung thought complaining about the “language of Peking Review” etc.
It was the strategy of PWM that was mimicked by CCM, and part of that involved tailing after the independent union phenomenon in an uncritical way. CCM, as its contribution to this process far outdid the worst errors of the PWM and declared U.S. unions to be “the greatest enemy” of the working class. One article declared “To work at the creamery one must join the Teamsters ’International’ Union. It is a closed shop union. This American imperialist union really means very little to the workers.” (ML 7, p. 5) This line becomes more than a little ironic when we note the tremendous fight CPC(M-L) has put up to win the Rand formula and a closed shop for the UAW at United Aircraft. In an article a short while later, the CCM described the following: “Canadian workers are increasingly struggling against the US Imperialist controlled International Unions which are tools of US domination in Canada. Recently, militant workers marched in Toronto demanding the right of independent Canadian unions to exist in the face of the persecution and harrassment on the part of the imperialist International Unions.” (ML 1 3, p. 4)
This love affair went so far as to carry banner headlines declaring support for the righteous struggle of the Pulp and Paper Workers of Canada against the International Brotherhood of Pulp, Sulphite and Paper Mill Workers. (ML 17, p. 9)
Evidently, the founding of CPC(M-L) threw trade union work into chaos and for two months after this event, nothing is written about trade union organizing. Then the following: “We found that it is very important not to recruit workers into ’International Unions’ or ’Independent Unions’ because both are the tools of monopoly capitalism while at the same time, establishing underground units in these unions. What must be done is to begin completely underground compact units which lays its principle stress on revolutionary politics. . . . New unionism is the backbone of the struggle.” (ML 25, pp. 1 and 5)
An entire turnabout of policy was summed up in one paragraph. There was no analysis, no explanation, and no self-criticism for previous support of the “Independent” “tools of monopoly capitalism”. CPC(M-L) proceeded to attack the CLC as “traitorous class collaborators” (ML 27, p. 2), the Toronto Labour Council as “Scabs”, (ibid., p. 4), the UAW as “social fascists” (ML 48, p. 4), and so forth.
But it was to be more than a year before it became clear what this “New Unionism” was all about. In August 1971, CPC(M-L) published the Canadian Workers Movement General Statement of Purpose (ibid., p. 5). They completely exposed themselves as full-fledged anarcho-syndicalists. The statement begins by defining itself as “the defense organization of the workers in Canada . . . open to all fully employed as well as unemployed workers” who agree with the statement and execute it in practise. Its purpose is to “unite workers all over Canada into one organization irrespective of their section or trade.” CWM declared itself “opposed to all capitalist industrial unions” including the CLC, International unions and “capitalist influence” in Canadian unions. Rather, it proposed to organize Workers Revolutionary Committees within unions to oppose them and among non-unionized workers to “oppose their incorporation into capitalist unions”. “The basic aim of CWM is to develop all struggles of the workers into one revolutionary storm and do so by neither following the tailist line of crawling behind the backward elements nor shooting ahead by isolating ourselves from the masses of workers.” It “will be based on democratic centralism and all contradictions among its members and supporters are resolved through the mass democratic method. . . . CWM, the defense organization of the workers, under the leadership of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), will certainly mobilise the main force and prepare conditions for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Canada.” (ibid.)
So here we have it! We will bypass the economism inherent to purely trade union struggles by the formation of a revolutionary trade union movement. We will form a mass organization with a Marxist-Leninist line. Or is it to be a Marxist-Leninist organization with mass membership? This proposal shows the distance from which CPC(M-L) had wandered from Marxism-Leninism. Here is the supposed leadership of proletariat demanding that workers get out of the trade union movement. And what do they offer? A Vanguard party another name. CPC(M-L) labours under the illusion that this is a type of organization other than a mass organization with limited goals short of proletarian dictatorship and a vanguard organization which fights for the victory of the proletarian revolution. There is no such organization. Lenin makes point quite succinctly in “Left-Wing” Communism – Infantile Disorder. It is worth quoting at length. “We waging a struggle against the ’labour aristocracy’ in the name of the masses of the workers and in order to win them over our side; we are waging the struggle, against the opportunist and social-chauvinist leaders in order to win the working class over to our side. It would be absurd to forget this is elementary and most self-evident truth. Yet it is this absurd that the German ’left’ Communists perpetrate when, because of the reactionary and counter-revolutionary character of the trade union top leadership, they jump to the conclusion that; . . we must withdraw from the trade unions, refuse to work them, and create new and artificial forms of labour organization! This is so unpardonable a blunder that it is tantamount to the greatest service Communists could render the bourgeoisie. Like all the opportunist, social chauvinist, and Kauskyite trade union leaders, our Mensheviks are nothing but ’agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement’.
“The revolutionary but imprudent Left Communists stand crying out ’the masses’, ’the masses’, but refusing to work within the trade unions, on the pretext that they are ’reactionary’, and invent a brand-new, immaculate little ’Workers Union’, which is guiltless of bourgeois democratic prejudices and innocent of craft or narrow-minded craft-union sins union which, they claim, will be (!) a broad organization. . It would be hard to imagine any greater ineptitude or greater harm to the revolution than that caused by the ’Left revolutionaries’! Why, if we in Russia today, after two and half years of unprecedented victories over the bourgeoisie Russia and the Entente, were to make ’recognition of the dictatorship’ a condition of trade union membership, it would be doing a very foolish thing, damaging our influence among the masses, and helping the Mensheviks. The task devolving on Communists is to convince the backward elements, to work among them and not to fence themselves off from them with artificial and childishly ’Left’ slogans.” (LC v. 31, Moscow, pp. 52-4)
Yet is not this precisely the path chosen by CPC(M-L)? But not to fear. CPC(M-L) is resourceful if not critical. This polk needless to say, failed and was abandoned. But up popped another one to take its place. No need for self-criticism, analysis, or explanation. The exposition of CPC(M-L)’s third line on trade unions in four years came most fully in a speech by Hardial Bains in Vancouver in February 1974. (British Columbia Labour Code Bill 11, By Hardial S. Bains. Toronto 1974, p. 24) He speaks of anarcho-syndicalism in the Internationalists in 1968 and 1969 and hints that there may ha been a few individuals who deviated here and there in the party, and follows up with an attack upon Jack Scott, finally suggesting that Scott speak with some “actual workers” (ibid pp. 27-8) about his “anarcho-syndicalist” lines.
The main thrust of the new line on the working class was the announcement of the Organize the Unorganized campaign, (ibid., p. 25) The explanation of this is that unions “cut down the competition in their (the workers’) ranks and transform them from individual workers to the class of workers. Unions provide the workers with class consciousness and class solidarity. Unions are ’schools of communism’.” (ibid., pp. 28-9) “The trade-union struggle is the starting point of the movement to overthrow the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. The workers acquire this consciousness of struggle on their own.”(ibid., p. 29) This being declared, Bains goes on to repudiate what he has just said with: “The workers on their own are capable only of trade-union consciousness. This consciousness can be transformed into revolutionary consciousness only by building the Party of the proletariat based on Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism.” (ibid., pp. 29-30) In one sentence we have unions providing class consciousness. Unions do no such thing. Unions are a reflection of the spontaneous consciousness of workers to collectively fight to improve their own particular conditions of exploitation. That, however, is a far cry from understanding the class nature of the struggle and building solidarity throughout the class. In the following paragraph we are told that workers “on their own” learn of the need for proletarian dictatorship. But then Bains retracts it the next paragraph. Here again he is only partially correct. It is indeed correct that in order to develop trade union consciousness into revolutionary class consciousness, it is necessary to build a Marxist-Leninist party. But this in itself is not enough. What must be addressed is the specific lines and tasks of that party. On this question CPC(M-L) has nothing to say except “organize the unorganized” and “Fight Jack Scott”.
To see how the present trade union strategy sabotages working class struggle, let us examine the lines of CPC(M-L) in relation to the ongoing strike of the United Aircraft workers near Montreal. This strike broke out 18 months ago in the Montreal suburb of Longueuil when 2600 workers walked out. Their demands included monetary increases including COLA, improvement in working conditions, the rehiring of a union militant, a closed shop for the UAW and the Rand formula dues checkoff. The UAW organized the plant in the early 1960’s but had been unable to win a closed shop or the dues checkoff. At the time the strike broke out, about 92% of the 2600 production workers were paid up members of the union.
Since the beginning of the strike, the leaders of the United Auto Workers have done everything in their power to prevent the workers from taking charge. When the courts instructed them to abandon their picket lines, they abandoned their picket lines. The union leaders have resisted any attempt to wage political struggle over the violent attacks on the workers by the United Aircraft Company. They have resisted any suggestion to spread the battle throughout the aircraft industry, or the auto workers as a whole. To be sure, they have raised a paltry few dollars at plant gate collections, they have made fine speeches spinning yarns of their high moral intent, urging the company to “come to its senses” and the like. But when it has come down to the crunch, to shutting down production, to putting a halt to the movement of equipment out of the plant, to preventing the daily entry of two thousand scabs (most of whom were union members at the outbreak of the strike), they have not even tried. “The courts are against us”, they cry. “What can we do?”
Since the outbreak of the strike UAW militants and communists have waged a battle against the sell-out leadership of Dennis McDermott and his cronies. They have been exposing his refusal to lead a battle for the rights of the workers. They have attacked his bourgeois theories of class collaboration and class harmony. “If we could only live in peace.” Has CPC(M-L), the “vanguard of the working class”, played a leading role in the fight against class collaboration and sell-out? Why CPC(M-L) has scarcely enough room in their paper to sing his praises. Headlines scream that the union has taken the “capitalists to court for defying injunction” and praises the union for “waging tit-for-tat struggle right through to the end.”(PCDN, v. 3, no. 4, p. 26) They get an injunction and we get an injunction – both of us through the bourgeois courts. Their injunction prohibits picketing. Our injunction prevents them from sending letters to the workers urging them back to work. This is tit-for-tat struggle? This is how we win battles “right through to the end” with the bourgeois courts?
CPC(M-L) continues its litany: “The United Auto Workers are determined to back the workers at United Aircraft all the way – though the company is threatening to pull out of the country entirely – a threat that has no substance to it.... The United Auto Workers have been paying $40.00 a week strike pay to each of the workers for the past 9 months. In August the international executive added $100,000 to the strike fund. [This is one week strike pay] . . . The Canadian Labour Congress has issued a statement saying that it ’fully supports the strike struggle of the United Aircraft workers’. This complete support has been ratified by locals of a number of unions across the country. . . . The QFL has pledged to intensify its support of the United Aircraft Workers. The President of the QFL stated, ’We are going to do everything to get this multinational corporation to respect the workers of Quebec.’” (On The Line, v. 5, no. 3, p. 8) CPC(M-L) could have added even juicier quotes if it had bothered to read some of the press releases issued by the UAW. Statements like “grasping carpetbaggers running roughshod over the rights of workers” and “marionettes guided from the US” also make interesting reading. But all these fine words and statements and assurances of “full and continuing support” are like so many words in a washtub. They do not alter the fact, that despite the courageous display of militancy and solidarity shown by the workers in this strike, their union leadership is one of the reasons why they have not yet won after 18 months.
Undoubtedly CPC(M-L) will try to turn the world on its head and say that this is anti-union. But that is the last thing it is. To be pro-union means to fight class collaboration. (See “Sweethearts With Carling O’Keefe”, by D. Paterson, This Magazine, Jan-Feb 1975, p. 36) To be pro-union means to fight for mass militant organizations of the working class, not to sit around and defend the “labour lieutenants of the capitalists”. To be pro-union means to constantly attack and expose relentlessly those anti-democratic demagogues who pretend to defend the rights of the workers on the one hand and bow in fealty to the bourgeoisie with the other. Support the strike we must do, but to support it actively means to identify to the workers their enemies, the fifth columnists in their ranks who owe allegiance to the capitalists. And it is precisely in this battle, not afterwards when the battle is over, that this must be done, so that the treachery of the pro-capitalist labour leaders can be seen most clearly.
But CPC(M-L) is much too busy grasping at straws. In the fall of 1974 the social democrats despaired of winning the strike because of the “viciousness” of the company and put out a call for the federal government to nationalize it. Not wanting to be left out of the parade, CPC(M-L) immediately leapt on the bandwagon as if they had invented the idea and put out a call for the nationalization of United Aircraft. What were their reasons? “This arrogant U.S. imperialist company has contributed nothing to the Canadian working class and people, like dozens of other U.S. imperialist firms who are plundering the resources and wealth created by the people of Canada. . . .Something must be done against these international pirates!Takeover of United Aircraft would be a very good thing. . . . The behavior of the United Aircraft capitalists shows how brazen and to what lengths these U.S. imperialist corporations are prepared to go in their drive for maximum profits. . . . All over the world, in Latin America, in the Afro-Asian countries and elsewhere, U.S. imperialist corporations are being thrown out or taken over for just the sort of behaviour United Aircraft has exhibited here in Canada. This vigorous trend of nations standing up to the two superpowers (the U.S. imperialists and the Soviet social-imperialists) and defending their national economies against the foreign imperialist plunder is deepening and becoming more intense as the superpowers step up their exploitation and competition for markets and sources of cheap raw materials. The takeover of United Aircraft by the Canadian government would be a good thing. Action should be taken against these foreign firms.” (PCDN, v. 4, no. 40, p. 1)
After sifting through all the indignation and feigned surprise that imperialists act like imperialists, what have we left? The assertion that the Canadian nation should stand up to U.S.imperialism by nationalizing U.S. owned corporations operating in Canada. Now this is a strange assertion. CPC(M-L) previously declared that Canada’s ruling class is a comprador bourgeoisie and restates this assertion in defense of their line on nationalization. (PCDN, v. 5, no. 14, p. 1) So just how is this a blow to U.S. imperialism for a corporation to be transferred in ownership from a U.S. imperialist corporation to a state of “comprador lackeys of U.S. imperialism” (ibid.) Or has CPC(M-L) decided to sidetrack that “analysis” and make the Canadian state part of the united front the Canadian people against U.S. imperialism? None of this is said. More important, nothing is said about how any of this contributes to a) winning the strike against United Aircraft, building class consciousness and socialist consciousness in the working class, and c) moving the Canadian working class forward on the path to socialism.
Revisionists and social democrats have long held that the path to socialism is to buy up foreign-owned industries or nationalize the financial sector of the economy. But one their reasons in doing this is to prevent the working class from taking this historic task into their own hands. The state transformed magically into an agency of the people above classes and represents the Canadian nation. So CPC(M-L) joins the chorus of opportunists urging the state to intervene, and nationalize United Aircraft, and, presumably, other U.S. imperialist corporations. And just what does this accomplish that is of benefit to the Canadian people? How is it that the state is to make conditions more favourable for revolution How is the federal government going to ease the rapacious exploitation of the United Aircraft workers and the rest of the Canadian working class? CPC(M-L) is peddling this bourgeois panacea in order to disguise their vacuous line on struggle of the working class.
Recently, the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (not to be confused with CPE(M-L), an appendage of CPC(M-L)) advanced a Marxist-Leninist position on nationalization in response to all the carping of social democrats to nationalize this and that. “The Labour Party tries to present nationalization as a measure carried out in the interest of workers. Nationalization is really a prop for capitalism in extremis. . . . Real nationalization, the public ownership of the means of production, can only exist where real state power ha been won by the working class. The phoney nationalization in a bourgeois state like Britain is used by both parties to bail ou industries in trouble, even if they call it different names. . . Nationalization by parties serving capitalism are merely further steps toward the corporate state. They have nothing whatever to do with socialism.” (The Worker, 31/10/74)
Yet this is precisely what CPC(M-L) proposes. “By uniting the Canadian people, by actually organizing the masses in support of the United Aircraft workers own demands, such a motion becomes part of the overall tide of anti-imperialist struggle in Canada.” (PCDN, v. 5, no. 15, p. 2) But “uniting” them behind what to do what? Does it move forward the class struggle to unite the people behind the leadership of the NDP the PQ and other social democrats to demand bourgeois states illusions and continue to foster illusions that the state as “our” representatives will give the workers a better deal? Materially it improves the lot of the working class not one whit, and it holds back the development of revolutionary consciousness.
The workers’ movement cries out for Marxist-Leninist leadership to take it out of the swamp of spontaneity and bourgeois demagoguery. And yet it is precisely this swamp into which CPC(M-L) leaps in its race to assume the mantle of working class leadership. CPC(M-L) describes their demand as a tactic “to give it (the struggle) a political focus in order to further expose the comprador nature of the Canadian government” (PCDN, v. 5, no. 16, p. 2) and win the demands of the strike. Lenin on this question said, “There is nothing clever in your assertion that the Social-Democrats’ task is to lend the economic struggle itself a political character; that is only the beginning, it is not the main task of the Social-Democrats. For all over the world, including Russia, the police themselves often take the initiative in lending the economic struggle a political character, and the workers themselves learn to understand whom the government supports. The demand to ’lend the economic struggle itself a political character’ most strikingly expresses subservience to spontaneity in the sphere of political activity. Very often the economic struggle spontaneously assumes a political character, that is to say, without the intervention of the ’revolutionary bacilli ’ the intelligentsia’, without the intervention of the class-conscious Social-Democrats. . . . The task of the Social Democrats, however, is not exhausted by political agitation on an economic basis; their task is to convert trade unionist politics into Social-Democratic political struggle, to utilize the sparks of political consciousness which the economic struggle generates among the workers, for the purpose of raising the workers to the level of Social-Democratic political consciousness.” (What Is To Be Done, LCW v. 5, Moscow, p. 415-16)
CPC(M-L), however, does not do this. In its call for nationalization, it makes not one reference to socialism. It makes no analysis of the limitation of nationalization. It has confined itself to promoting this demand as though it alone would raise the struggle to a decisive level. CPC(M-L) has fallen into the “stages of consciousness” trap wherein they advance a whole stream of middle-level demands which will not be realized in the hopes that the workers en masse gain something from the experience of having fought for them. They then hide behind the apologia that this demand “came from the workers” after explaining that “every two-bit demagogue in the trade union movement appeals to the ’masses’, to the ’rank and file’ in order to push their opportunism”. (PCDN, v. 5, no. 14, p. 3)
It is not the task of communists to cloud the issues by calling upon the bourgeois state to come to the rescue of the United Aircraft workers. It is the task of communists to lead the struggle for their immediate demands, to fight traitorous class collaboration in their ranks, and to educate the working class and all classes of the population in the struggle for socialism and the proletarian party. It is this task that CPC(M-L) has chosen to liquidate.
It is important to point out one final important aspect of the call for nationalization. Nationalization is not a principle as it has been made here by CPC(M-L). As such it must be rejected. It is a tactic which may or may not be employed or called for, depending upon the circumstances. The reason the call for nationalization of United Aircraft is wrong is that it has been advanced as a foil by the UAW leaders to hide their ineptitude and reaction. It is a call to divert the struggle from the picket line to the corridors of Parliament. CPC(M-L) has not only fallen into this trap neatly laid down by the union “leaders”, it has built a roof over the trap and enclosed itself by raising the demand to the level of a principle.
The reactionary role of CPC(M-L) in the United Aircraft strike is merely a continuation of their history of errors in the working class. From a line that it was not necessary to work in the working class organizations, to a line that “International” unions were imperialist, to a line that all unions were reactionary and that “revolutionary” unions must be formed, to a line of cuddling up to the bureaucracy in the name of working class unity, CPC(M-L) has never held a Marxist-Leninist line in the working class movement.
Currently in the trade union movement, CPC(M-L) seeks to cover up and mediate all differences in the name of the “proletarian united front” of which the bureaucrats are a part. Militants who lead the attack on reactionary bureaucrats are accused of “dividing the working class movement”. Of course we divide the “movement”. We expel the conscious agents of the bourgeoisie and wage struggle against class collaboration. We don’t wave slogans about organizing the unorganized without also directing our attention towards the kinds of organizations into which the unorganized are led.
Does this mean that the unorganized should be left that way? Of course not. It means that they should be mobilized into the battle against class collaboration within the trade union movement and the working class as a whole. It means that they are not led about with preachments about the virtues of nationalization of U.S. imperialism, but are educated and mobilized to take part in the class struggle against those who CPC(M-L) would have us believe are potential allies. We suggest that when CPC(M-L)’s current labour “strategy” is ready to go the way of its predecessors, they take some time out before hatching a new strategy to study the tasks of the worker’s movement in bourgeois society and the tasks of communists not only in relation to the trade union movement (for such is, in itself, a concession to trade unionist ideology) but in relation to the class and society as a whole.
What has been written is far from a comprehensive analysis of CPC(M-L). An article such as this is far too limited to perform such a task. Furthermore, that task will be accomplished in the field of action where genuine Marxist-Leninists will have to face their revisionism and opportunism face to face. This article, at best, sets out some of the directions in which that struggle will have to go.
CPC(M-L) has from time to time advanced tactics and lines that are correct for Marxist-Leninists. This, however, has been random and arbitrary, not consistent. Because CPC(M-L) has lacked the foundation of a clear and correct political line, because they have operated for years with an incomplete and, to the extent that it exists, incorrect class analysis, and because they have consistently refused to admit and criticize their errors, actions which might have contributed to the advance of Marxism-Leninism in Canada have been lost in an eclectic maze.
CPC(M-L) must be recognized as thoroughly opportunist, incapable of leading the working class and progressive people forward to socialism. To unite with these opportunists on the basis they propose is to sink with them to their own level o opportunism.
To the extent that they are believed by the Canadian people to be “Maoists”, they injure the reputation of the Chinese Communist Party. To the extent that they are believed to be Communists and Marxist-Leninists, they hold back the masses from grasping the true essence and greatness of Communist theory, history, and practice. To the extent that they an believed by progressive and revolutionary people to be a genuine party of the working class, they obstruct the creation of such a party, so urgently needed to lead the Canadian working class and the Canadian people to the triumph of socialism.
Many of the rank and file members and “supporters” of CPC(M-L) are honest and sincere fighters for the Canadian revolution. But until that party is reduced to ashes, until its thoroughly opportunist line is defeated, and until its leaders are banished and stripped of any thread of legitimacy, their energies will be dissipated, their dedication wasted, their political development retarded, and the struggle for a socialist Canada held back.
CPC(M-L) has been able to achieve organizational hegemony in English Canada with a bourgeois nationalist line on the national question and a tailist-idealist approach to the trade union struggle precisely because these lines are still dominant among the majority of (would-be) Marxist-Leninists. The criticism which has been advanced here of CPC(M-L) must also be understood as a criticism of the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada. Too long have we avoided the development of correct program. Too often have we bowed to spontaneity an sunk into economism. We have liquidated the question of building the party, and we have shied away from the difficult task of actually applying the science of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of Canada. We have, in the Marxist Leninist movement, been the soil of opportunism out of which CPC(M-L) has sprung. Where errors in CPC(M-L) have been pointed out, there also the weaknesses in the Marxist-Leninist movement. It is our task, now, to fight opportunism in our own ranks and initiate the struggle to build the genuine party of the proletariat.
Readers should also be aware of the following recent critiques of CPC(M-L): CPC(M-L): A Caricature of Communism. Published by Mouvement Revolutionnaire des Etudiants de Quebec. A 120-page historical critique. Available in English only for $1.60 (10 copies or more, $1.40 each). MREQ, CP. 422, Succursale “C”, Montreal, Quebec. Intensifions la lutte contre le courant neo-revisionniste au sein du mouvement marxist-leniniste. Supplement to EN LUTTE! No. 41, June 19, 1975. A Criticism of neo-ievisionism in the Marxist-Leninist movement, focusing on the CPC(M-L). Available in French only. EN LUTTE! , CP. 277, Succursale “N”, Montreal, Quebec.
Hardial Bains once told me that surely they wouldn’t have suffered thirteen hundred arrests, and have a section of the R.C.M.P. constantly watching them if they were not indeed a threat to the bourgeoisie (Conversation Dec. 1972)
Shortly before this paper on CPC(M-L) was begun, I had a series of long arguments in my home with members of CPC(M-L) on their analysis of Canada-as-colony with a comprador. Even the most stupid, they declared, could see that Canada had a comprador and a national bourgeoisie, and any attempt to distinguish Canada from the third world in this matter was pure intellectualization. As this paper neared its conclusion, I had another discussion with a CPC(M-L) member who informed me that Canada couldn’t possibly have a comprador bourgeoisie as it was a developed capitalist country closely integrated with U.S. Imperialism in exploitation of the third world. To my query as to when the “line” had changed, I was asked in turn, when, in the past month, had I seen a reference to a comprador bourgeoisie in the CPC(M-L) press.
In retrospect it is worth noting that these “complaints” were about incorrect lines being carried in Peking Review while it was under the leadership of ultra-leftists loyal to Lin Piao, ultra-leftists who were later to be purged. It is to the credit of PWM that they had the foresight to point out these errors while Lin was still in power while CPC(M-L) copies even the worst of the Chinese errors and has yet to self-criticize.
Bains, the professional intellectual vagabond, “vanguard proletarian leader” of the struggles on two continents who never worked a day in his life feels not a bit bashful about suggesting that a man who spent more than forty years in the working class should meet some “actual workers”. Surely Hardial, you could at least have accused him of workerism.