First Published: Alive, No. 157, October 20, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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At last. At long last! Come ’round and ’round, promises do get fulfilled. Finally, Alive has been dealt with by Bolshevik Union. This outfit has sent letters to us at a rate of one per year in 1976, 1977 and 1978. The missives contained promises that we would be subject to Bolshevik Union’s analysis. Now, instead of sending their yearly letter, in 1979, B.U. has gone against the code of the counterrevolutionaries and has broken the conspiracy of silence to publish an article on Alive.
The article is to be found on page 21 of the September, 1979 issue of “Proletarian Revolution” (number 16).
The expression “to be found” is highly appropriate since Bolshevik Union wasn’t brave enough to send us a copy and, thus, we had to find it for ourselves. This is par for the course for those making spineless attacks on Alive. We see nothing to fear in these characters, as they seem to see in us, so we have reproduced their article in this issue of Alive.
As is usual with such attacks, this article is full of distortions, lies and “facts” conjured up to suit their purpose, rather than a purpose arising from the facts. As usual, Alive replies to the attack.
The article begins with quite a mouthful, supposedly a presentation of Alive’s origins. In strict terms, Alive did originate in the sixties – the very last month of the sixties: December, 1969. Alive was not a coalition, though. Alive has never contained religious and “Maoist” influences at one time, certainly not at its beginning. It was religious at its beginning – a strong dose of liberal Christian humanism. Later, it took Mao Zedong thought as its guide. In the process, Alive struggled against and rid itself of one individual (who became an Alive associate editor first and became a revisionist later) as soon as he went over to supporting CP-revisionism.
Bolshevik Union gives us a bunch of one-liners which are neither funny nor worthy of rebuttal even if only in kind.
On more serious matters, we will reply. We have no interest in competing with the League (now, WCP) but it is interesting to hear the B.U.’s uninformed speculation that China might give us their Canadian franchise. Perhaps B.U. could let us know if this requires as sizeable an investment as a Tim Horton Donuts or a McDonald’s Hamburger franchise? Or a franchise as a Left group from the police? We have no way of knowing. We’re sure B.U. does.
The WCP(M-L) may or may not implant petty bourgeois in factories. (It is certain Alive doesn’t.) Implanting individuals in factories would surely be easier than implanting a whole group in the revolutionary movement as B.U. has attempted. Bound to fail, too, is B.U.’s plan to implant police agents among the workers and the progressives to “bourgeoisify” these masses.
Bolshevik Union speaks of a long and fatuous debate in the pages of Alive. No. The debate was internal to our organization. It is reported only in part in Alive’s pages so as not to jeopardize our group security.
Further, the exchange is reported with full acknowledgement that it began as a process of dealing with matters that are only secondary. It is interesting, then, that B.U. followed the series quite far (must have in order to label it long) but had to go back to its very beginning to make a reply. Who, then, is going back to dwell on the part of the exchange in the “Some Lessons” column which is secondary?
The article calls us “gurus” and “petty-bourgeois contemplating their navels”. This low level of political label is awfully similar to the tag Hardial Bains assigned us: “petty-bourgeois clan”. B.U. makes a big point of calling us petty-bourgeois throughout the article. They are misinformed. The facts are that our organization is not based in the university or any other petty-bourgeois environ, our members do not situate themselves in the professions or other petty-bourgeois careers and our members show a majority background in the proletarian class. Certainly, we do not show anything like the background these speculators claim – none of our members are “sons and daughters of capitalists”! It is a good indication of Bolshevik Union’s grasp of class analysis, though, that they equate “petty-bourgeois” with “sons and daughters of capitalists”. Capitalists are the bourgeois class. Clearly, these nuts think little members of the bourgeoisie – the children – are what is meant by the literal translation of petty-bourgeois. Strange understanding!
Only a few of those engaging in our exchange on profanity had “to learn how to swear”. Obviously, B.U. can’t read. It was reported that the whole debate was sparked because of a sense that there was too much profanity, too casually employed amongst our members. Some had long ago learned to swear too well. Nonetheless, we by no means have a “preoccupation with swearing”. B.U. says such would be a “misplaced petty-bourgeois fascination”. Perhaps they can enlighten us on what is a properly placed petty bourgeois fascination? Obviously, they know more about it than we do – we thought no such thing could exist.
Between our Collective and Bolshevik Union, which is really the gang based in the petty bourgeoisie playing at revolution? We first heard of B.U. in the Spring of 1976. An Alive seller in Toronto told us he had been approached by a man on a bicycle at the corner of Yonge and College. In the basket of the bicycle were numerous copies of a magazine. The man did not hail the seller in usual form, along the lines of saying “Hello” but gave the unusual opener, “Are you a Marxist-Leninist?” When asked to explain that one, he replied that the magazines he had were the first issue of Lines of Demarcation, which he had just picked up at the printer, and he wanted to distribute one to the seller but he was only supposed to distribute them to Marxist-Leninists.
We knew when we heard this story that we would never be short of entertainment as long as this strange outfit, best named Bullshit Union, remained on the scene. They haven’t let us down in providing something to laugh at. They went on to more humorous things than picking up the print run of supposedly revolutionary publications by repeated trips on a bicycle and hailing anybody on the street with the mechanical “Are you a Marxist-Leninist?”
In Alive 53, we printed a July, 1976 letter from Bullshit Union. They promised to analyze our role and challenged us ”to engage in struggle around these matters”. We responded in print with two questions to begin the said struggle. They haven’t answered the questions even yet.
Later, in May 1977, we received a second formal contact. This letter said: “Thanks for the back issues. Would you please send the same amount to our Quebec quarters and send future issues to both addresses. Thanks for your exchange. Could you tell how to get the news service agency from Albania and China. Yours, Bolshevik Union. P.S. The Quebec address is as follows: L U.B. CP. 241, Succ. R. Montreal.” We didn’t give the requested information on ATA and Xinhua – they eventually tracked it down anyway. We did send the copies of Alive to Quebec but found they had given us a false address. Good move, boys.
In March, 1978, we wrote a letter to B.U. This letter inquired about the promise, to “exchange” and put forward two important questions. “We have been receiving copies of the different issues of your publications on an extremely sporadic basis. We have never received your literature on a regular basis. Are copies being waylaid between you and us? Have you stopped considering this as a full exchange? (Are you only sending us choice samplings of your work?) Should we continue to send Alive? If you are publishing on an unpredictable schedule, should we send Alive on a complimentary rather than an exchange basis? “Please also be informed of two points from our previous correspondence with you – your letters to us, that is. 1. We’re still wondering if you intend to follow up on your announced project of giving your impressions of our work and telling us how our work relates to the M-L movement. 2. We sent Alive back issues to the Montreal B.U. address you sent to us but they came back marked address unknown. In the anti-imperialist struggle.”
They replied in April, 1978: “We do wish to continue exchanging publications... If there are any of our publications which you have not received – our bulletins or our polemic, ’Unmask In Struggle! Denounce Gagnonism!’, we will se 4 them to you. Regarding our thoughts on your magazine and its role in whatever movement may remain after the splittest (sic) activities of the major opportunist and revisionist “superpowers”, we shall take this up in the near future. Bolshevik Union.” What revolutionary verve in this last paragraph, eh? Real spirit, boys.
They never did get their mailing out straight so that we would receive a full exchange. In fact, nothing changed.
That letter was the last we heard from them formally until the September, 1979 article. Of course, informally, by verbal means, Bullshit Union has had much to say about Alive in the way of slander, innuendo, insult and lies. Much of this has made its way to our ears.
Another point of background regarding B.U. of interest for our readers concerns them getting their hopes up really high during 1978. This Union started off as a three man bullshit group. (One was a refugee from the U.S., curiously enough. Another was a refugee from the Bainzites and Perly’s CLM. The third was the fellow with the bicycle who they sent to the printers.) However, this Bullshit Union has since grown from a fledgling tiny grouplet into a full-fledged small sect of close to four times its original size! Ooo la, eh? In 1978, this grouplet almost had a collective heart attack. Both it and En Lutte took the opportunity to woo a temporary grouping called the Regroupement des Ex-Militants du Bainzites, a significant summer split from CPC(M-L). B.U. dreamed of leaping to two or three times its size in one easy step. Love takes a fickle course, though. En Lutte won the hand of the contested maiden... er, group.
B.U. did land a few individuals, though. One had been purged from the Regroupement for issuing statements in its name without authorization – statements sympathetic to B.U., funnily enough. It is rumoured (Bullshit Union starts most of these rumours itself to create a mystique around its group) that this anarchist had scurried to Montreal from out of town where the friendship to B.U. had been developing anyway. This big individualist had been one of the lesser top dogs in the Bainzites, leaving in an earlier split. This person was overjoyed at finding a group like the Regroupement to hook up with, having been looking for a group – any old group – for a while anyway. Contact had even been made with that unspeakable group, Alive, because of an old friendship with Edward Pickersgill [then the leader of the Alive Publication Collective – MIA]. An absurd proposal had been put by this character and rejected by us that our Collective form the membership of a Party under the theoretical guidance of this “leader” and some cronies who were ex-Bainzites also or dropouts from other outfits. This individual fit well with B.U., always dreaming of the whole cake but only ever landing a few crumbs.
Homage must be paid, though. This individual has rendered unto B.U. all knowledge (very little) of Alive and has made penance by preparing the September article attacking Alive. No doubt he has been encouraged to contact his old pal, Ed, too. After all, Bullshit Union never railed when we were under his misleadership, eh?
In the September article B.U. objects that we are tough. Why does it bother them that we are tough? Because we expose them by being so. We’re not street punks going out picking fights as they try to portray us. Some of us have been, though; and what pangs that gives their frail souls! We do>defend ourselves Well and ruthlessly when physically attacked, as some of our enemies have discovered in practice. Most others have heard it in the rumour mill. On the other hand, B.U. wears its victim mentality like a badge. It always announces every fight it ends up in and invariably whines about being beaten up in these encounters. We don’t mind lines of demarcation between ourselves and such professional losers who institutionalize taking beatings. We are not enamoured with a “macho” image but neither have we ever had occasion to proclaim that we’ve been physically routed and beaten by a bunch of bourgeois feminists. B.U. has! (Somewhat proudly proclaimed too!)
We are not social-fascist. Nor do we have such tendencies. We will, however, continue to retaliate with vigour against anybody out to physically harm our comrades or to actively disrupt our revolutionary political program. If that is something “more sinister” than the B.U. would like, so be it.
Bullshit Union doesn’t like our “level of culture”. They think we’re “a little sect of a political group”. Well, the people like our level of culture, as is shown in the developing support and acceptance of our program. We’ll admit we’re small. Bolshevik Union will not (and they’re smaller). However, we also assert that we’re growing and that B.U. is not. That’s one thing that worries them and their masters. Another thing that worries them is where we’re growing – in the working class communities and in the factories.
B.U. ends by calling us, “not a swear word” but one of those names “there have been complaints” about, one that is “violently objected to”! How daring, eh? The word? Scum. Oh no! Not so rough, boys. Oh, please. Never have we been so hard hit. Touche.
Come, come now. Who is amongst the petty-bourgeoisie and afflicted with their polite concerns? Bullshit Union, you must be joking! Or sticking too narrowly to the confines of your police manuals. We look forward to more promises, more “struggle” with you and, all round, more of your humour, kids.