First Published: November 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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“Given that the different communist forces throughout the world remain relatively weak politically, that their links with the working masses of the different countries are not very developed, and that they remain divided and isolated from each other;
Given that the victory of Marxism-Leninism over revisionism is held back considerably by the disunity that has existed in the communist forces for over 25 years; and given that, despite certain recent attempts, there has been no serious indication of the development of significant moves toward unity for some time;
Given that our interventions in the world communist movement in the last period have convinced us of the existence of real and important differences among the communist forces, and have even showed that some forces do not consider that unity is an immediate question;
And whereas proletarian internationalism requires unity, since the proletarian revolution cannot be achieved without the militant unity of the proletariat throughout the world;
And whereas this unity can only be realized within a single organization that bases its action on a common programme that represents the living application of Marxism-Leninism to the present conditions of the world;
Therefore this Congress calls on all known communist parties and organizations of the world to take up immediately the struggle for their own political and organizational unification. This is necessary because, since the beginnings of the communist movement in the 19th century, it has been established that the proletariat of all countries must unite in its struggles in order to present a single front in the face of imperialism and reaction.”
* * *
This decision by our Organization took place at a Congress that was marked by important victories for the defence of the purity of Marxism-Leninism and the deepening of the struggle against all forms of revisionism, for the reconstruction of the proletarian party in Canada and for the future of the proletarian revolution in our country and around the world. These victories were reflected not only in the adoption of this Appeal to the communist forces of the world to take up the struggle for political and organizational unification. They were also reflected in the adoption of the Programme which will guide the creation and action of the proletarian party in Canada, in the modifications to our Constitution which help guarantee the correct application of democratic centralism in our ranks and thus strengthen our struggle against opportunism, and in the adoption of the Political Report which provides an important analysis of the contradictions in Canada and the world and a firm defence of the interests of the proletariat and the future of the proletarian revolution in all the different struggles in the world today.
None of these decisions were arrived at spontaneously. They were all preceded by an important and lengthy process of open and democratic debate, a process that included not only several months of intense study and discussion within our own ranks, leading to the debates and decisions at the Congress itself, but also the two preceding years of open discussion of these fundamental questions at public conferences organized by IN STRUGGLE!, conferences which involved thousands of workers and other sympathizers of the Marxist-Leninist movement from all across our country.
The adoption of this Appeal, in particular, was the product of the efforts of our Organization for more than two years now to fully assume our important responsibilities in relation to the international communist movement. During this period, we have tried to come to understand the nature of the world communist movement and its battles against opportunism and against imperialism. These efforts have included the beginnings of a serious study on our part of the nature and origins of many of the forms of modern revisionism. They have also included the opportunity for invaluable discussions with foreign comrades concerning the problems of the world communist movement, in particular our recent discussions with many foreign parties and organizations of our private letter, sent to the known communist forces, entitled ’For the Militant Unity of the International Communist Movement’.
We consider that the adoption of this Appeal represents an important development for our Organization in our understanding of the real meaning of proletarian internationalism. We admit frankly that in the history of our Organization this understanding has not always been fully reflected in our line and our practice. This can be shown by certain concessions that were made in the past to ’three worlds theory’, and also by the relatively little attention that we gave to the problems of the international communist movement and to our liaison with foreign parties and organizations during the first few years of our work. These deviations have been corrected through a process of serious study, reflection, and discussion, a process which was greatly aided by our developing knowledge of the texts and opinions of foreign communist forces; and in this process we have come to the conclusions which are expressed in this Appeal. In coming to these conclusions, we were also forced to confront –and to reject –the implicit opposition which has existed for many years now, in important parts of the world movement, to the creation of an international communist organization. We are now convinced that such an opposition cannot be maintained in the face of a critical examination, either from the point of view of principles or from the perspective of a serious examination of the practical results of historical experience. We are also fully convinced that the real development of proletarian internationalism requires the complete political and organizational unity of the communist forces at the world level, and that therefore in today’s world, where such unity does not yet exist, the development of genuine internationalism depends on the struggle to achieve this kind of unity. We have arrived at this conclusion based on our study of the principles of Marxism-Leninism, of the experience of the world communist movement, and of the reality of this movement today. We know that many other communist forces are studying the same fundamental problems and that some have even arrived at the same conclusion. And we are optimistic that a serious consideration and debate of these problems will soon lead many other communist forces to this conclusion as well. It is precisely towards the creation of the complete political and organizational unity of the world communist movement that our Organization will concentrate its efforts of proletarian internationalism in the next period. This demonstrates clearly both our deep conviction of the importance and the correctness of our views on this question, and also our full understanding of the fact that the problems of the world movement at this time cannot be solved without the collective efforts of all the genuine Marxist-Leninist forces in the world.
This Appeal from our Organization to the communist forces of the world arrives at a time of great problems and great events in the world communist movement, a time of battles and decisions which are truly of major historical importance for the future of the world proletarian revolution.
The all-round deepening of the crisis of imperialism has been accompanied in the last few years by a major offensive by modern revisionism against the forces of Marxism-Leninism. The treachery of the revisionist leaders of the government and communist party in China has caused important losses to the world communist movement, just as the treachery of Khrushchevite revisionism over twenty years ago also dealt important blows to the international communist movement. And in the climate of confusion created by the revisionist betrayal of the Chinese leaders, all of the other opportunist forces, including the Soviet-style modern revisionists and the international Trotskyist movement, have re-doubled their efforts to attack and to destroy the forces of Marxism-Leninism. At a time of growing struggles against imperialism and reaction, different forms of revisionism are rushing to the aid of the exploiters and oppressors by attacking the only forces which can lead the revolutionary proletariat and its allies to real victories.
The Marxist-Leninist forces of the world have not remained silent, have not capitulated in the face of these attacks. All over the world, in every region and in many different countries, the Marxist-Leninists have stood up to denounce the Chinese revisionists and their counter-revolutionary ’three worlds theory’. And they have also done more: they have linked this important struggle against the revisionism of the leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and its social-chauvinist supporters around, the world to the continuing battle against the many different forms of modern revisionism, and they have shown that this battle depends for its victory on the iron unity of the world communist movement.
The struggles waged by the international communist movement in the last few years show that there exists a deepening and growing understanding of the importance of a many-sided battle against all of the forms of modern revisionism and also a desire for greater unity in the conduct of this battle. However, at the same time, we cannot pretend that the majority of the communist forces in the world have yet arrived at the one conclusion that we consider to be essential: that the victories of these battles now taking place depend on the achievement of the complete political and organizational unity of the communists at a world level. We therefore consider it important to explain clearly in this text how our Organization has arrived at this conclusion, and what we think this conclusion means practically for the orientation of the struggle to unify the world communist forces in battle against revisionism.
* * *
The general crisis of the imperialist system is deepening all around the world, both in the advanced capitalist and revisionist countries and in the colonies and neo-colonies dominated by imperialism. The response all around the world to this crisis is the response of popular resistance, even revolutionary movements of the working masses suffering from the exploitation and oppression of the world system of imperialism and reaction.
But these revolts will only lead to real and lasting victories if they are led with the goal of socialism and communism, if they are led by the proletariat and directed toward proletarian revolution. The complete failure of the bankrupt solutions of the reformists and revisionists around the world provides ample evidence, both historically and in our times, to confirm this view. The Leninist thesis that imperialism is the era of proletarian revolution retains all of its force and validity today. This means concretely that all of the struggles of the proletariat and its allies, no matter what their particularities in different countries, must be led by the proletariat as part of the world proletarian revolution if they are to succeed in ending the exploitation and oppression of the masses.
In today’s world, it is precisely the existence of such a proletarian leadership which is most often missing and whose lack is so cruelly experienced. The possibilities for the people of the world to deal important death blows to the imperialist system exist today: both in terms of the depth of the crisis and the strength of the revolt of the working masses. If we cannot say with confidence that these possibilities will be transformed into lasting revolutionary victories, it is precisely because the communist leadership does not exist to lead these revolts on the path of proletarian revolution.
The harsh reality of today’s world is that the genuine communist forces remain relatively weak and divided –more than twenty years after the open struggle against the treachery of Khrushchevite revisionism was begun. And this cannot be separated from the fact that, in the battles against modern revisionism in the last decades, it has all too often been the forces of opportunism, and not the forces of Marxism-Leninism, which have temporarily triumphed. The events in China are the most recent example of this. The revisionist leaders of the CPC have not only succeeded in beginning to fully restore capitalism in China itself but also in winning an important fraction of the world ’anti-revisionist’ forces to follow their global strategy of collaboration with Western imperialism and international reaction. We can also re-call that the period of the revisionist treason of Khrushchev with his rise to power in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), the party of Lenin and Stalin, meant not only the wrecking of the socialist economy of the USSR and the transformation of the Soviet Union into a social-imperialist force. It also included the victory of the capitalist road over the socialist road in most of the countries of Eastern Europe – with the notable exception of socialist Albania – and the opportunist betrayal of most of the existing communist parties in the world. We can also consider the important obstacles to the victories of the anti-imperialist struggles created by the domination of reformist and revisionist leaderships – the case of Chile being only one example among many – and the problem of continued domination of mass social-democratic and revisionist parties over the working people in the advanced capitalist and revisionist countries.
In fact, we must admit frankly that much of the balance sheet of the experience of the world proletarian movement in the last decades is negative. Important opportunities for revolutionary victories have been missed, both in the developed countries and in the colonies and neo-colonies, because of the dominance of opportunist forces. And many of the gains which had already been won by the world communist movement in the era of imperialism – the establishment and consolidation of the communist parties around the world, and the creation and expansion of the camp of the socialist countries – have been temporarily lost.
It is vitally important that we examine and confront this reality of the relative weakness of the communist forces in the last decades. The first step to transform reality is often to understand it as it really is. When we look carefully at this situation, we are forced to pose some serious questions, questions which are heard more and more often both from the revolutionary workers and from the communists themselves. What are the real reasons for the weaknesses of the communist forces, and the continuing strengths of modern revisionism? And how will this situation be transformed?
It is customary for Marxist-Leninists to respond to these questions with a statement of revolutionary optimism. Such a response is completely correct. The old order of exploitation, oppression, and misery is dying; and the new order, the future of socialism and communism, is being born in this era, the era of imperialism. The difficulties of this process, the existence of the kind of set-backs and reversals that have always occurred when one social system has replaced another, can never put into question the final outcome of the struggle. The theory of Marxism-Leninism remains ever-young and ever vital, and will finally triumph over all forms of modern revisionism. The future of the world belongs to the revolutionary proletariat, which will finally liberate itself and all mankind.
But such a response, while completely correct, is very far from being enough. The tasks of communists internationally today are not only to defend the ideals of our cause, the justness of our theory, in the face of the confusion and demoralization provoked by the attacks of modern revisionism. Our tasks must also include a radical transformation of the situation in the world, which requires that communists win definite and lasting victories in the complex battle against modern revisionism, in order to lead the proletariat and its allies to the seizure of power in the revolutionary situations now appearing in the world, and to consistently defend the conquest of proletarian power wherever and whenever it is won. To pretend otherwise, to ignore or underestimate the nature of the tasks that we face, would be finally to act as if the communists are an ideological sect waiting for more favourable conditions in history, and not the natural leaders of the world proletariat who must lead the revolutionary forces to real victories in the battles against imperialism and opportunism going on today.
Such a transformation depends first and foremost on a qualitative change in the strength of the communist forces themselves. It depends on the reconstruction of the political and organizational unity of the communist forces at a world level.
Only the complete ideological, political, and organizational unity of the international communist movement can provide the kind of force that is capable of facing – and defeating – the powerful forces of imperialism and their allies and agents.
It is accepted within the ranks of the communist movement that capitalism at the stage of imperialism is an international system, that this system can only be combatted with the international unity of the proletariat and its allies, and that this practice of proletarian internationalism depends on the unity of the communists themselves. This is widely known, and often repeated. But do we really understand all of what this means?
What it can only mean is that the communist forces of the world, in order to defeat the forces of imperialism and opportunism, must themselves have unity of thought and action. It means that the communists must learn how to act together, as a single force, leading the single army of world proletarians in the battles against exploitation and oppression, against imperialism and all reaction, against all forms of revisionism and opportunism. It means that the world communist forces must become united in their understanding of the strategy and tactics of the imperialist forces and their allies and agents, and of the methods to combat all of these forces – which can only mean to become united in their understanding of the strategy and tactics of the proletarian revolution itself, not only at a world level, but for each country as well. And it means that this unity must become reflected not just in words, but in deeds. From the question of the nature and methods of struggle against Chinese revisionism, to the question of the path forward for the proletarian revolution in Iran today; from the question of the defence of the interests of the world proletariat in the complex situation in Southeast Asia, to the question of the forms of international solidarity in fighting the rise of fascist reaction, the world Marxist-Leninist movement must not only learn to speak with one voice, it must also learn to march forward as one force. And when we have learned to do this, then we will find that the international army of proletarians is marching behind our banners, grouping its allies, and going on to victory in the proletarian revolution.
There is only one way to accomplish this – and that is with the political and organizational unity of the world communist movement, resulting in an organization united on a common programme which demarcates from all the forms of revisionism and opportunism, and bound by a common discipline reflected in a collective constitution.
We consider that such an orientation can and must be defended first and foremost on the basis of Marxist-Leninist principles. The very nature of the proletarian revolution, which is characterized essentially by the fact that it is a revolution led by the proletariat on a world scale, directly poses the problem of the nature of the links that must unite the world communist forces. The struggle of the world proletariat is a struggle for communism, for the elimination of all classes and the State itself in each country and on a world scale; and the victory of this struggle in each country and around the world depends on the final victory over imperialism and reaction on a global scale. And if we refer to the teachings of Marxism-Leninism, from the time of Marx and Engels, including the life and work of Lenin, and going up to Stalin in the period before the dissolution of the Comintern, then we can see clearly that there has been a consistent attitude on this question. The proletarian revolution will be the work of the popular masses led by the proletariat; and the proletariat has essentially the same interests around the world; thus it is only by its organization on a world scale that the proletariat is really able to take the leadership of the revolutionary struggles in our time and to lead them to the conquest of power, to socialism and to communism. It is only in the last few decades that the communists began to break with this principle, both in theory and in practice. Today, it is more than time to make a serious analysis of this change in orientation and of its results.
Secondly, we consider that such an orientation can be defended on the basis of historical experience, particularly on the basis of the experience of the Communist International or Comintern. The world has already known three international organizations of the revolutionary proletariat, of which one, the Comintern, was founded in the era of imperialism on the basis of the lessons of Marxism-Leninism and the experience of the Bolshevik revolution, with the goal of building the world communist forces into united and disciplined parties capable of winning victories for the proletarian revolution. The Comintern was founded by the active minority of Marxist forces in the world at the time, with the aid of the Bolsheviks and Lenin, in a process of open struggle not only against the social-chauvinist treachery of the leaders of the Second International, but also against the opportunist deviations within the ranks of the anti-revisionist forces themselves. In a remarkably short time, it succeeded not only in uniting all of the active communist forces on a principled basis, but also in consolidating its unity on the basis of the programme and statutes adopted and the political analyses and tactical decisions of its regular world congresses. The Comintern took on the tasks of strengthening the communist forces where they did exist and of aiding the creation of the communist parties where they did not exist; and it largely succeeded in this work, both in terms of the development of the communist parties in the advanced 12 capitalist countries and in terms of the establishment of communist parties for the first time in many of the colonies and neo-colonies.
Of course, the complete summation of the experience of the Comintern remains to be made. In fact this essential task, which has been largely neglected up until now by the Marxist-Leninists in their battle against modern revisionism, is a part of the work that must be done to re-create the programmatic unity of the international communist movement. But one thing is quite certain, even without completing this summation. That is the fact that even the most minimal examination of the experience of the Comintern reveals that this period was the period of the greatest development of the world communist forces, in terms of unity, membership, and mass influence, that the history of the international workers’ movement has yet known. Furthermore, the important victories won in certain countries in the period immediately after the dissolution of the Comintern, especially the seizure of power by popular forces under proletarian leadership in Eastern Europe and Asia, can only be understood on the basis of the existence of communist parties in these countries, and thus on the basis of the conditions created by the existence of the Comintern itself. Thirdly, and finally, we consider that such an orientation can be defended on the basis of a serious examination of the historical experience since the dissolution of the Comintern.
The Comintern was dissolved in May 1943. The Cominform (Communist Information Bureau) was set up in 1947, never including more than a small number of parties, and was finally dissolved in 1956, the same year that Khrushchev presented his notorious ’secret’report to the 20th Congress of the CPSU in which he denounced Stalin as an unscrupulous dictator. By then the first split of modern revisionism had been largely completed, and the party of Khrushchev and Brezhnev was joined by the vast majority of those parties which had formed the Comintern barely thirty years earlier.
During this period, there were the Moscow Conferences of 1957 and 1960, which proved to be unsuccessful attempts at rebuilding the unity of communists on the basis of Marxism-Leninism. After this the international unity of communists continued to disintegrate; giving way mainly to bi-lateral relations among those forces opposed to Soviet-led revisionism, on the one hand, and the Party of Labour of Albania and the Communist Party of China, the two most influential parties fighting revisionism, on the other. Very recently, there have been some attempts towards unity among some of the forces opposed to the revisionism of the current leaders of the CPC; but we cannot pretend that these attempts have achieved major or lasting results.
And what are the concrete results of more than 35 years now without the organized unity of the world communist forces – a period, it is worth noting – which is longer than the entire life of the Comintern itself? They are the results that are well-known, if not necessarily well-understood, in the world communist movement, the results we described earlier in this text. They are the continuing domination of revisionism in the workers movement; the existing weakness and disunity of the communist forces; the tragic victories of revisionism in struggle with Marxism-Leninism, even within some of the States of proletarian dictatorship themselves. Furthermore, revisionism often appears in the form of nationalism, and ’national exceptionalism’; and it is an undeniable fact that these nationalist tendencies were given a powerful impetus by the dissolution of the Comintern.
One of the arguments against the reconstruction of a communist international has been the fact that this is a call put forward by the international Trotskyist movement. This argument has some influence in Canada, and it probably does in other countries as well. But it is not an argument that stands up to serious examination. The Trotskyists of course do call for an international –but so did the real communist leaders of the world proletariat in the past. In fact the Trotskyists have their ’international’, the counter-revolutionary grouping known as the Fourth International. It is characterized by the same fundamental ideological confusion, opportunism, and rotten factionalism as the member sections exhibit in their respective countries. The kind of ’international’ desired by the Trotskyists has nothing in common with the Marxist-Leninist unity on principles and on programme, and the iron unity of action, that is needed by the world communist movement. And this fact should be even more evident if we examine the way the Trotskyists evaluate the history of the Comintern – which is to defend its existence, while attacking every important decision it ever made! It became quite clear in the history of the international workers movement that the Trotskyists were completely incapable of accepting the common verdicts of the world communist movement, decided at its congresses; and it is still clear today that they could never accept the Marxist-Leninist programme or the proletarian discipline of a real communist international. It would be a serious error to allow the fact that they pay lip service to the need for an international to become a block to seriously examining this important question from the point of view of Marxism-Leninism.
We think that all of these considerations point to one essential conclusion, which is that the accomplishment of the political and organizational unification of the genuine Marxist-Leninist forces in the world is not only an eventual goal to be desired, but also an essential condition for real and lasting victories in the struggle against world imperialism and against opportunism.
* * *
To accomplish the complete reunification of the world communist movement will not be an easy task. It means that we must not only be prepared to intensify our struggles for unity while fighting all forms of opportunism, but we must also be prepared to seriously question and re-evaluate some of the most basic attitudes that have prevailed among the communist forces in this battle up until now.
To begin with, the genuine communist forces must commit themselves to deepening considerably the struggle against all forms of revisionism and opportunism. Unfortunately, the struggle against modern revisionism up until now has often remained quite superficial and has thus often succeeded in only going halfway. It is a fact that the possibilities of victory for the proletarian revolution depend on the deepening of the unity of the communists, and that this unity in turn depends on a much more profound understanding of the forms and nature of all kinds of opportunism, including the kinds of opportunism that continue to affect the line and practice of the communist forces themselves. We cannot change this situation if the communist forces content themselves with reducing the struggle against revisionism and opportunism to reciting a few slogans and repeating a few declarations on the international situation that are falsely presented as a ’general line’. We cannot change this situation if the communists themselves are content with watered-down Marxism and Leninism, with substituting a few quotations from the leaders of the world proletariat for a serious analysis of the complex problems we face. We should learn some lessons, for example, from the fact that while Khrushchevite revisionism was being opposed by the Marxist-Leninists because it underestimated the importance of the national liberation struggles, the revisionism of the ’three worlds theory’ was being constructed on the basis of a completely distorted exaggeration of the revolutionary role of the struggles of the oppressed nations for independence. A more profound examination at the time of the role of the national liberation struggles as a form of the proletarian revolution would have certainly produced more vigilance against the development of the current Chinese revisionism. And such an analysis must absolutely be done today if we are to arm ourselves against all forms of opportunism on this question.
We should also learn some lessons from the fact that opportunist and even counter-revolutionary forces can now be accepted as ’anti-revisionist’forces by important parts of the international communist movement if they are simply capable of producing a written denunciation of Chinese revisionism and declaration of allegiance to the Party of Labour of Albania (PLA). An important example of this is the counterrevolutionary and neo-revisionist political formation from Canada knows as the ’Communist Party of Canada Marxist-Leninist’(CPC(M-L)); a formation which we have proven conclusively in our public documents to be nothing but a gang of opportunists. We are convinced that this situation of the ’recognition’ of an opportunist force, on the basis of a superficial judgement concerning the nature of its struggle against revisionism, is not the only case of its kind in the world today.
If we are to really deepen the struggle against revisionism, then this means that we must do a rigorous analysis of the line and practice of the communist movement historically, and particularly during the period of the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, a period which has never been fully analyzed in the course of the struggle against modern revisionism. The necessity of this analysis becomes quite clear when we stop pretending that revisionism began yesterday, or with the actions of an individual like Khrushchev. Of course, the revisionism of the leaders like Tito, Khrushchev, or Deng is not fundamentally different from the revisionism of leaders like Kautsky or Bernstein or Trotsky that was fought by Lenin and the Comintern.
All the theories of revisionism rest finally on the same foundations: the abandonment of the struggle for proletarian revolution where the working class has not yet taken power; and the weakening and destruction of the proletarian dictatorship where the working class and its allies have succeeded in winning power. But revisionism has such a long life precisely because of its tremendous capacities to develop new forms and new ’theories’to justify these fundamental forms of treachery, and even to hide these new forms and ’theories’ behind a Marxist-Leninist language and the banner of proletarian revolution. If the Marxist-Leninists are not capable of understanding all the origins of these deviations in the last decades, then how will they be armed to combat them when they appear again in new forms and with new ’theories’, outside of or even within the ranks of the communist forces?
An important example of this problem is the evolution of revisionism in the communist parties of the capitalist countries. The Communist Party of Canada was liquidated in 1943 – the same year as the dissolution of the Comintern – and replaced with the Labour Progressive Party. This new party was a thoroughly revisionist party in every sense, a party whose very programme was based on the idea of collaboration with the ’progressive’capitalists of Canada and the ’democratic’ forces of world imperialism; collaboration in the perspective of the struggle for reform, which was to be a prolonged and necessary stage before the question of socialist revolution could even be introduced to the Canadian proletariat. In the United States, Browder’s leadership led to the liquidation of the communist party in the same year; and the subsequent struggle against this treason was not completely successful in re-building the communist party.
In Great Britain, the communist party produced its new programme, ’The British Road to Socialism’in 1951. In this programme, the party leaders developed all of the main revisionist theses concerning the character of the revolution in the advanced capitalist countries, based on the idea of the peaceful transition to socialism in parliamentary alliance with the social-democratic British Labour Party. All of these forms of modern revisionism appeared well before the death of Stalin and the rise to power of Khrushchev in the USSR; and all of them have been left without serious collective examination by the world communist movement since. These facts show clearly the importance of an analysis of the origins of revisionism which is not limited to comments on the role of Khrushchev and the CPSU.
But the problem of the origins of revisionism in the capitalist countries is only one of the many problems in the historical understanding of the roots of opportunism in the world communist movement. We can mention as well the theory of collaboration with the bourgeoisie for a protracted period after the seizure of power, a theory now being justly criticized in relation to the experience in China, but being politely ignored in relation to other situations. When we stop to think that this theory was also applied in many of the ’peoples’democracies’ of Eastern Europe where revisionism and capitalism finally triumphed, in the form of the fusion of the communist parties with the bourgeois social-democratic parties in 1948, and that it is also defended by certain Marxist-Leninist forces today, who propose a programme of alliance with the non-monopoly bourgeoisie in a two-stage, antifascist, anti-imperialist, democratic revolution even in countries at the stage of monopoly capitalism, then we can see that the problems we confront, are too profound to be resolved by a simple denunciation of Chinese revisionism. We can also wonder whether one of the origins of the ideas of collaboration with the bourgeoisie during the transition to socialism lies in the concept that the two-stage revolutions in the colonies and neo-colonies must result first in the joint rule of all classes which have contradictions with foreign imperialism, a concept that existed not only in China but in the texts of many of the Marxist-Leninist forces of the world in the last period.
The examples could continue, but the basic point is quite clear. Unless there is a serious analysis, and a collective analysis, of the real historical origins of all forms of opportunism, we will not be armed to combat them. The questions confronting the world proletariat today are not new questions. Most of them have even been present for over a century now. Wouldn’t the proletariat be better armed to establish its strategy and tactics if it was able to learn from the lessons of the past? This is true in regards to the question of war, of the struggle for independence, of the anti-imperialist struggle, and of the anti-fascist struggle; it is also true for the question of class alliances, of the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship, of proletarian democracy, of democratic centralism, of the life of the party, and of many other fundamental questions which concern the success of the proletarian revolution. And history has already shown that, in fact, the communist movement can make great progress when it is able to sum up the lessons of its own experience, to base itself on its successes and to avoid the errors of the past.
Of course, to sum up the historical experience of the communist movement, particularly in the last several decades, is also to sum up the positive and negative lessons of the experience of the Comintern itself. Such an experience should be fully understood by the communists, to be used in our struggle. As well, many of the important forms of modern revisionism appeared in the guise of defence of the decisions of the Comintern during the 1930’s and 1940’s, and this experience has never been fully understood by the communists. This fact alone is sufficient to justify an open and critical attitude toward the particular decisions and policies of the Comintern in this period, and towards the actions of its leaders at this time as well.
If the communists do not establish their own collective understanding of the experience in this period, then the only result is to leave the interpretation of the historical lessons to the opportunists like the Soviet revisionists and the Trotskyists. This shameful situation, which has happened too often, demands rectification, because an understanding of this history belongs rightfully to the world proletariat, and is an indispensable tool in its struggle for emancipation.
* * *
How can we take up this struggle, to intensify the demarcation with all forms of opportunism, based on a serious summation of the historical experience of the communist movement, without falling into a kind of study and discussion that is either sterile and academic at best or sectarian at worst? There is in fact only one way that this can be done, a way that has already been demonstrated by the history of the world communist movement, and that is to undertake the public and principled debate on the programme of the world proletarian revolution. This is the method that led to the establishment and consolidation of the Comintern itself, under quite similar historical conditions, and it is the method we must take up today.
It is the question of the communist programme which has always been at the heart of the demarcation between Marxism-Leninism on the one hand and all forms of opportunism on the other. This has been true historically, from the struggles of Marx and Engels against the anarchists and Utopian socialists, to the consolidation of the Bolshevik party under Lenin, to the creation and strengthening of the Comintern. And this is still true today: whether we are talking of the struggle to expose and defeat Chinese revisionism or whether we are talking of the battle to build or to consolidate the new communist parties.
It is only natural that the question of the programme is at the heart of any real demarcation with all opportunism, because it is only the communist programme which finally provides the essential basis for the unity of communists, for a unity which goes beyond declarations of solidarity to the point of a common orientation and a common action in the battles they lead.
Such a programme of course remains to be elaborated. It is towards this concrete goal that Marxist-Leninists must now orient their efforts of study and reflection, of discussion and debate. Such a programme would be our fundamental guide to apply the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism to the development of the world proletarian revolution, taking into account the historical experience of the communist movement and the particular conditions of today’s world.
The elaboration of such a programme must have one clear goal, and that is the defence of the interests of the proletarian revolution in every revolutionary struggle in the world today, whether or not these struggles include certain democratic, antifascist, or anti-imperialist aspects, or even the possibility of more than one stage of revolution in the case of colonies and neo-colonies. If this goal is forgotten, then we will only find ourselves once more disarmed in face of the many opportunist deviations which use the existence of such particularities in different countries and struggles to justify the abandonment of the proletarian revolution.
Of course such a programme could not resolve all of the complex problems of tactics posed by the particular struggles in different countries or even at a world level. To pretend otherwise would be to abandon the Marxist-Leninist conception of the programme. But it must provide the fundamental basis that would allow the world communist movement to judge, to evaluate its tactics in a collective way, both in relation to the struggles in particular countries and on a world scale. Unless the programme provides this for the world movement, then the unity of thought and action which is so badly needed will be compromised; and we will be vulnerable to the dangers of the nationalist attitudes which justify each party and organization determining the conduct of the revolutionary struggle in its country in isolation from the world communist movement.
To orient our collective efforts toward the formulation of a communist programme for the world proletarian revolution would already be a major step forward toward the political and organizational unity of the world communist movement. It would allow us to fully use the many important contributions already made by different forces in different countries in their summation of the historical experience of the communist movement and in their battles against different forms of opportunism. And it would also allow us to break with many of the superficial kinds of attitudes which have been substituted for a real demarcation with opportunism: with the diplomatic pretensions of ’total unity’ among different communist forces, with the recognition of communist forces on the basis of their rhetoric rather than their programme and practice, and with the listing of great leaders and elimination of other leaders as the highest proof possible of the faithfulness to the defence of Marxism-Leninism. Finally, the struggle for the programme will be to lay the basis – the only possible basis – for the real and lasting unity of the world communist movement.
But none of these particular aspects of the struggle to reconstruct the unity of the world communist movement will succeed unless there is another essential condition that is met. And this condition is that all of the communist forces take up the struggle, beginning now, with the concrete understanding of the goal, and that is to unite. Our collective aim is not just to consult, to compare our experience, to debate, or to co-ordinate our ideological and practical activities. It is to do all of these things, and more, but with the precise objective of developing our unity as rapidly as possible, to move the world communist movement towards a qualitatively different and higher stage, the stage of its organized unity at a world level. Such a perspective is particularly important in relation to the discussions and even polemics that will take place in the next period among the communist forces. Such discussions and polemics are absolutely necessary, since the real and continuing factors of division will never be eliminated without them. But they must be conducted with one spirit, and that is the spirit of unity, of criticisms that are principled and constructive, no matter how sharp the criticisms may be. Only then will these debates lead to our goal, which is the reconstruction of the unity of all the genuine communist forces; and not to new scissions on a basis that is not clear.
The problems confronting the movement in its struggle for unification are serious, and the tasks imposed are not easy. But we must use our understanding of the gravity of the problems and the complexities of the tasks not to retreat from our historical duties, but to re-double our efforts to overcome the many negative aspects of the present situation and build a collective determination to work to resolve these problems and to unite our forces. This will be done if we fully understand that it is the interest, the future of the world proletarian revolution that is at stake.
To develop our unity means also to recognize that there are attitudes and practices which have been developed with the goal of reinforcing the unity of the international movement and of fighting against the opportunist forces, but which have been shown by the experience up until now to have created important obstacles to this struggle.
One of the most common of these practices is to deny the very reality of the situation of the world communist movement today. Often of the real weakness, real division of the communist forces internationally is hidden today behind the smokescreen of militant declarations to the effect that the forces of Marxism-Leninism are winning victory after victory in the struggle against opportunism, and that the communist party has been created and consolidated in nearly every country of the world during the battle against modern revisionism.
Such statements do not bear the most minimal comparison with reality. If it is true that Marxism-Leninism has won constant victories in its battles with opportunism, then why is it that capitalism has been restored in nearly every socialist country that once existed? And why is it that in most countries, including both the developed countries and the colonies and neo-colonies, the revisionist, social-democratic, and bourgeois nationalist political parties remain the most influential parties in the working masses – 50 years after the construction of the communist parties in these countries by the Comintern, and more than 20 years since the first battles for their reconstruction after the treason of Khrushchevite revisionism? And if it is true that the Marxist-Leninist communist party exists and has been consolidated in most countries in the world, then surely we can expect that such parties, when a revolutionary situation arises, are capable at least of giving an important proletarian leadership to the mass struggle, if not of actually leading the seizure of power. This was the attitude of the Comintern in judging the actions of its member parties; and it is still a correct attitude today. Where were these parties in France in 1968, or in Nicaragua or in Iran in 1978? Where are these parties today, in the struggles of the peoples of Zimbabwe, of Azania, of Palestine?
These attempts to hide the reality of the world movement must be criticized, because their only practical result is to draw attention away from the realities of the weaknesses of our movement, and finally therefore to deny the nature and magnitude of the tasks we face to rebuild this movement as an effective political force.
Another attitude on the part of some important Marxist-Leninist forces is to recognize the reality of the weaknesses of the world movement, but to insist that they will only be overcome through the gradual testing of experience in each particular country, one-by-one.
Such an attitude is presented as an original conclusion, but it really seems more like a reproduction of the same arguments that were used to justify the dissolution of the Comintern and which have been accepted by most Marxist-Leninists ever since. It would be very interesting if the comrades who adopt this attitude would try to demonstrate in a convincing manner that the experience of more than 35 years without an international organization has produced better results than the 24 years of the Comintern.
Another common conception that exists in the ranks of the Marxist-Leninists is the idea that we must find some kind of ’criteria’ for relations among Marxist-Leninists before beginning the serious struggle for unification. These criteria are supposed to eliminate the possibility that we might directly confront opportunist forces and phoney ’parties’ in international relations.
One form of this conception is the idea of the ’criteria for recognizing parties’. Interestingly, these criteria do not include the question of the programme, as the example of the CPC-ML in Canada shows clearly. Nor are these criteria really applied in any consistent fashion. For every ’rule of recognition’which exists in theory, there are a dozen exceptions made in practice, exceptions justified solely on the basis of the fact that the formations being ’recognized’ have been aggressive in denouncing Chinese revisionism and proclaiming their solidarity with Albania. As for the fact that there are often a number of other formations in the same country which are struggling against Chinese revisionism and supporting socialist Albania, well... this is not even explained.
Another form of this same conception is the idea that there must be a ’basis of unity’ as a condition for any kind of active relations. Such a ’basis of unity’in practice turns into a listing of the most important points on which the party or organization disagrees with other Marxist-Leninist forces engaged in the struggle against revisionism. Naturally, this creates certain difficulties for organizing serious discussion and debate; since it becomes necessary to begin relations with the kind of agreements that could only be produced by serious discussion in the world movement as a whole.
Both forms of this same conception have but one result: to oppose, in the name of the refusal to compromise with opportunism, the kind of real collective struggle against opportunism which is the only struggle that will be effective.
We communists should remember that we have only one goal in relation to our struggle for unity at the world level, and that goal is to unite all of the communist forces. It is in this struggle, with the intensification of the collective battle against all forms of opportunism, that we will be able to arrive at a common judgement on the opportunist forces that claim to fight revisionism and we will be able to expel them from our ranks. And it is also in this way that we will be able to win over to our ranks some forces that are now vacillating in the struggle.
Of course, to adopt such an attitude does not solve the famous problem of determining ’who is the party’ in each country. But we should remember that this problem can’t be resolved by ’criteria’ because it is rooted in an important aspect of the reality of the international communist movement. The fact is that the divisions among the Marxist-Leninist forces internationally are also reproduced in each country, and that in many countries the party does not exist. This type of problem was solved by the Comintern by the struggle to re-create or to strengthen the parties in each country, with the active involvement of the communist forces of each country, including forces which were not united in their own land. We should adopt this same perspective, and not pretend that it is possible in today’s conditions to mechanically and immediately apply the ’principle’ of one party in each country.
The true communist party is eventually recognized by the revolutionary workers in each country. But from the point of view of the international communist movement, the recognition of the communist parties in each country can only properly take place on the basis of the kind of unity we must create, on the basis of the programme and constitution of an international organization. And the struggle for this kind of unity could well involve the process of unification of different communist forces within the individual countries, as has been demonstrated by the experience of history. If we try to solve the problem of the recognition of the communist parties outside of this perspective, outside of a collective struggle for political and organizational unity, then we will only end up weakening the struggle to defeat opportunism and to reinforce our unity, because this struggle depends for its victory on the active involvement of all the forces which are fighting revisionism.
Another very questionable attitude which exists among certain forces is the tendency to reduce the struggle against revisionism to the struggle against the particular party or even the particular leader which has made revisionist errors. The result of this attitude is to ignore the fact that these same errors were, and are still, affecting the practice of many different communist parties and forces. An important example of this problem is the attitude taken by many forces toward the evaluation of Mao. On the basis of the identification of certain important errors in the practice of the CPC, Mao’s contributions as a Marxist-Leninist leader are completely denied. Further, the existence of these same errors in the ranks of other parties, both historically and presently, is completely ignored.
Such subjective assessments cannot really aid the unity of the world movement. In fact, they only serve to recreate the mentality of the ’father-party’. This is quite evident from the attitude of these same forces in glorifying the role of the Party of Labour of Albania, as if the opinions of this party constituted the general line of the international movement. Such an attitude does a great disservice to the PLA, which cannot be expected to play by itself the role of a collective leadership to the world movement; and also to the other parties and organizations, whose collective efforts are essential to the unity of the world movement. These attitudes are also often present when these same forces speak in defence of comrade Stalin, going far beyond the correct and necessary defence of the life and work of Stalin, to a position that implies that all of the victories of the world communist movement during the period of Stalin’s leadership were due to his personal genius, and that any critical examination of the world movement during the time of Stalin’s leadership is a manifestation of revisionism. Such an attitude denies the fact that the victories of the world movement in this period were due mainly to the collective leadership of the world movement, organized in the Comintern, and not to the personal merits of its leaders. As well, such an attitude results in practice in opposing the necessary critical examination of this period, which must be done to fully understand all the sources of modern revisionism.
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Many problems exist, and even in combatting these problems we confront important errors by the communists themselves, errors that must be corrected if our struggle is to succeed. But, in spite of this, there is also the desire for unity in the world communist movement which is very wide-spread, and there is a general realization of the serious nature of the battles against revisionism in which we are now engaged. As well, there are an important number of forces in the movement who are beginning to correctly identify the problems we face and the errors that have been made, and to put forward methods to overcome our weaknesses and develop our collective strength.
The problems will be overcome, the errors will be corrected, if we take our desire, our need for unity as a starting point and if we proceed in all our actions with the profound conviction that we must develop this unity to a qualitatively higher level. This means that we must now give to the struggle for the reunification of the world communist movement the same seriousness that we have already given to the life-and-death struggle against the exploiters and their agents in our own countries. More than that, we must finally realize that it is the same struggle. This means that we must now take up this struggle with the perspective of action, action that will gradually begin to transform our situation in the favour of the unity of our forces.
Our Organization is prepared to devote whatever efforts we can to developing this struggle for the unity of the world movement as a practical and immediate struggle, and we consider that it is essential that other communist parties and organizations do the same. In order to do this, we are prepared to participate in any appropriate forms of discussion, collaboration, or debate proposed by others, as well as to take the initiatives on our own basis that will aid the reconstruction of the unity of the world movement.
One kind of action that must be developed is the serious discussion of the problems in our movement and the ways that they will be overcome. In this perspective, we invite you to print and to distribute this Appeal, and to make known your opinions on its content. Another form of action that should be developed is the serious public discussion to resolve the existing programmatic differences which exist in the international communist movement. We must learn how to properly apply the basic principle established by Lenin:’Before uniting, and in order to unite, it is necessary to draw the lines of demarcation’. And we continue to believe that this kind of public discussion would be greatly aided by the organization of public conferences which would bring together the world communist forces to seriously discuss our common problems.
This is the orientation that our Organization will take up on the basis of the decisions of our Third Congress and of our profound conviction that only this road will lead to lasting victories over our enemies. But we are taking up this road in the complete knowledge that the efforts of our Organization alone cannot transform the situation in the world communist movement in the way it must be transformed. The tasks we have described are not only the tasks of our Organization; they are tasks which rest on the shoulders of all the communists of the world. They are tasks which cannot be either ignored or postponed, because they concern the very future of the world proletarian revolution.
Comrades, our times demand action. The future is ours, if we reach out and take it; if we are capable of using the growing revolutionary storms in today’s world to lead the proletariat and its allies to the seizure and defence of political power. But this will not be accomplished unless we ourselves, the communists, are united and organized at a world level. When we have achieved this, we will be able to confront the forces of imperialism and reaction, and all of their agents, as a single force again, leading the single army of world proletarians into united and victorious battles.
To all genuine Marxist-Leninist parties, organizations, and groupings, to all communists and revolutionary workers, we address this Appeal –from the Third Congress of the Marxist-Leninist Organization of Canada IN STRUGGLE!, to the communist forces of the world:
Take up the battle to rebuild the unity of the world communist movement!
Forward to the victory of the communist programme at a world level!
Forward to the victory of the world proletarian revolution!
Long live proletarian internationalism!