Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Excerpts from the Question and Answer Period

First Published: Alive Magazine No. 163, December 8, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

The question period after the Alive Production Collective speech of July 2 produced the following.

* * *

Audience member: Given the disarray of the Canadian Left, isn’t it perhaps a little bit premature to be talking about a united front with the national bourgeoisie?

APC representative: We’re not having any “success” organizing unity with the patriotic bourgeoisie; we’re not even pursuing it. The united front, including certain sections of the bourgeoisie, is the solution we support for the problem of making revolution in Canada as a point of theory but it is not a big point in our practice. Other Leftists’ solution, to whatever extent it exists, remains largely in the theoretical frame, too.

We would suppose that unity amongst Leftists should be possible to build first. Actually, we started early in our existence as a group to make a lot of calls to other Leftists for unity. We got some quite vile negative answers, as cited in our speech. Right now, we’re not making a lot of overt advances towards various organizations. Our practical thrust involves other things.

However, we are thinking of taking up these calls again. Left groups in other parts of the world are taking this spirit of unity up in a very big way. Hopefully that will create positive conditions for this spirit and practice in Canada.

There was an interesting model a short time ago in the U.S. Three organizations which have the same general sketch of politics, especially in the international scope, but which have their differences nonetheless, especially in the domestic scope, got together this year to implement a joint plan to celebrate May Day. In some cities in the U.S. they/did things outside the joint work – each group had its own meeting and the people who were going to show up were split three or more ways, with only a few at any one meeting. In three cities, though, they organized joint meetings. It was organized so that a representative of one organization gave the speech in Boston, someone from another organization spoke in New York, and someone from the third group spoke in Chicago. All three groups did promotion for the same meeting in each of the three cities and they had three great successes.

It’s easy enough for such groups to give a joint position on May Day – they all uphold the tradition of May Day, acknowledge its history, support that the proletariat should be mobilized. The matters on which there are differences don’t have to be mentioned on the particular occasion.

We were really encouraged by this unity.

In other countries a common thing is to issue a joint statement on an issue where a few groups have a common position, never mind having joint practice. It is a good step even to issue a statement like, “We are three organizations existing in Canada, all of which consider ourselves to be revolutionary and which consider the Soviet Union to be the greatest threat for a new world war.” A very simple statement and there are a number of organizations in Canada with the potential of signing such a document. In other parts of the world, they fulfil similar potential.

We have contact with revolutionaries in New Zealand. Four organizations, with four different lines on the way the revolution in New Zealand should develop, all agree on the threat of the Soviet Union. When the invasion of Kampuchea was instigated by the Soviet social-imperialists, they made a joint statement against it.

Things like that in Canada just haven’t worked yet. We’ve made some proposals like that on simple things. Some particular proposals we haven’t made very widely but we have made a few proposals widely and many Left groups have just laughed at us, saying, “There you are, a tiny group, trying to get to be a big group on our glories.” We answer with a shrug and a disappointed phrase, “Well, we’ll do our part. Honest. We’ll work twice as hard because we have only half as many members.” (Laughter) It doesn’t work.

We look at what is the practical possibility of unity right now. A lot of unity we’ve developed successfully in the past, there are no conditions for at present. This is especially so on a localized level. For example, there used to be really active foreign students associations at the university campus. This is less so now. We used to have programs together. We used to do many different things together. They would have a program for which we would do all the preparation of their advertising material, even if we weren’t a part of the program as co-sponsors or the like. We would do co-sponsorships, too. Just simple forms of concrete unity.

Conditions for this are coming up again but they’ve been absent, both on our part and on their part, for a little while. It’ll be good to do again. It made them feel warm to our organization. It made us encourage support for their good programs. If it was real good, we’d even go and put up their posters for them, as well as prepare them. We’d tell everybody we knew, “You should go to this program, it’s a good program.” We were never shy to participate in this just because it was simple unity. We were never afraid just because it was low-level joint work. We never felt that we were compromised in our integrity by such unity. We never felt that the joint work meant we were under the thumb of these student associations.

This is the practical unity we’re talking about. We feel that if Leftists started to work together in these ways, they’d find a lot of the things they bicker about would go by the board.

That’s why it seems humorous to us when we say, “Here’s a point of practical unity,” and some other Leftists respond by talking about the worry that if we unite we might have to split from one another ten years from now when our differences come down to being more important than points of common ground, when a difference of principle becomes immediate. We propose, “Let’s get there first. Let’s get through the ten years.” We’ve never been afraid of a principled split, even though we always desire principled unity.

Mao Zedong says some people go to their graves with their incorrect ideas. We can’t rectify everybody’s incorrect ideas. However, we still must unite. The issue can’t be made out to be: only if you have only correct ideas will we unite; as soon as all your ideas are correct, perhaps we can do something together. Rather we say: let’s accept that all of us have some incorrect ideas, some of us have some correct ideas too, but let’s do something in unity.

“A strike struggle is an expression of working class power. It is correct to support the working class. Let’s support the strike struggles.” That’s not hard to agree on. It’s not as though the strikes don’t exist. This is not abstract at all. Yet there are some who render concrete unity on common ground around a point like this abstract. Around such points, we build unity with whoever sympathizes with the struggle. Though it almost sounds opportunistic, we take unity where we can get it, we build the movement where we can build it.

We often find that the people who will unite on that basis are not people who consider themselves Leftists in the first place. They aren’t even people who have so much of a conscious self-image that they consider themselves anything in particular. They’re what you call “basic masses”, “salt of the earth” or whatever.

That’s concretely where we have the most success. We don’t have the most success with the national bourgeoisie or even with the petty bourgeoisie or the intellectuals and so on. We have the most success with those ordinary people. All in all, the theoretical line of mobilizing this or that section can be a little humorous because our movement itself is so new and so small.