First Published: Lines of Demarcation No. 1, July-August 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) has published an article in The Forge (May 20, 1976, p. 10-11) entitled “The Struggle Against Right-Opportunism is Essential to Build the Party.“ In it they charge that “a large number of groups across the country” are “right-opportunist” and that right-opportunism is the “main danger within the workers’ movement and within the Marxist-Leninist movement.”
It is not possible for us to take up the general aspects of their position in this issue. There will be a major discussion of right-opportunism in Issue no. 2 of LINES OF DEMARCATION.
Since these groups are part of the “main danger”, it is only reasonable to expect CCL(ML) to come out and name these blackguards! But, alas, CCL(ML) is going to keep us in the dark about this “main danger”. Instead it only names one of the culprits, the “Bolshevik Tendency in Toronto.” Is this to be interpreted to mean that this group is the strongest organized manifestation of right-opportunism in Canada, or the one with the most developed right-opportunist politics? Is the Bolshevik Tendency the main danger of the main danger?
If the Bolshevik Tendency is really so dangerous, it would only be reasonable to expect the “vanguard” to back up its claims with a concise in-depth political exposure. Instead, we are treated to a couple of conjectures about their “political work” and about what “these people think.”
The criticisms made by CCL(ML) are completely without foundation, and the Bolshevik Union considers it necessary to expose these fabrications.
CCL(ML)’s criticism reads as follows:
According to these people, because the Marxist-Leninist movement is on its first legs, it should not try to propagate its influence among the broad masses in the heat of struggle, but only restrain itself to educating a small number of advanced workers, outside of the class struggle.
Others don’t even do this but limit themselves to studying amongst themselves and leading debate amongst Marxist-Leninists. This is the case of a large number of groups across the country like Bolshevik Tendency in Toronto which limits its political work to debate and parlour room discussions and to propaganda in Canadian Revolution.
CCL(ML) makes this claim without having made any direct investigation into the “political work” of the Bolshevik Tendency or the Bolshevik Union. Apparently, they have learned many lessons from Workers’ Unity: not only on the subject of immigrant workers in Toronto, but also on the subject of how to struggle with the Bolshevik Union.
The Bolshevik Tendency had one meeting with CCL(ML) only days after the former’s formation. CCL(ML) insisted on keeping this meeting short and of a “parlour room” nature. They refused our request for a series of meetings for ideological struggle; they had just wanted to ask a few questions.
Since that time, the Bolshevik Tendency wrote to CCL(ML) requesting an investigatory meeting. This was denied on the grounds that the League was still studying some of our documents. They promised a meeting for the future but since then we have received no communication from them.,/p>
We conclude from this that the League considers meeting with other Marxist-Leninist groups to engage in ideological and political struggle for the unity of Marxist-Leninists to be mere “parlour room discussions.” Perhaps CCL(ML) didn’t like our “parlour”! Maybe we should have suggested the kitchen?
Superficially, this seems to be a contradictory stand for the CCL(ML) to take, since it was MREQ (now fused into the League) which criticized In Struggle! for not engaging in enough “parlour room discussions” (“On the Unity of Marxist-Leninists”). As well, the League has glorified the tripartite “parlour room discussions” of MREQ, CMO and COR which led to the “fusion” which formed the CCL(ML). In fact, it was MREQ that criticized In Struggle! for “big group chauvinism” because of its supposed refusal to struggle with the groups that formed CCL(ML). Did MREQ et. al. “fuse” in order to be “big group chauvinists” in their own right?
CCL(ML)’s lack of direct investigation (or, apparently, lack of much of any investigation) is very telling in their criticism of us. The date of the criticism is May 20, 1976. Had the League even investigated with Workers’ Unity (Toronto) they would have learned that the Bolshevik Tendency had ceased to exist a month before. The Bolshevik Tendency was composed of a number of Marxist-Leninists who were agreed upon a number of points and who were struggling for political unity among themselves and with others. Political unity was reached in late April and the Bolshevik Union was founded. Workers’ Unity knew of this because they knew that we distributed thousands of propaganda leaflets to Ontario workers at the April 28 Ontario Federation of Labour demonstration at Queens’ Park. (This leaflet is available from Bolshevik Books.) This distribution was our first public activity as a united group.
The only other material distributed by Marxist-Leninists at this demonstration was a number of agitational leaflets from In Struggle! distributed by the Toronto Communist Group.
What was CCL(ML) doing at this demonstration? Nothing! There were no leaflets from CCL(ML) and the Forge, to our knowledge, was nowhere in sight.
Fifteen thousand workers came to demonstrate. Where was the “vanguard”? With their Toronto “district”, Workers’ Unity, they were preparing a banquet for a May 1st celebration. This was a $4-a-plate by-invitation banquet attended, for the most part, by petit-bourgeois “leftists”, personal acquaintances, and “implantees.” At least in Lenin’s day the Economists treated the workers to politics “on festive occasions.” Apparently Workers’ Unity and the CCL(ML) reserve their politics and their festive occasions for the petit-bourgeoisie, by invitation, and treat the workers to “Marxism and Leninism” on other occasions!
Unlike last year’s May Day banquet, which Workers’ Unity sponsored jointly with the revisionist-influenced Portuguese-Canadian Democratic Association and occasional supporters of Soviet social-imperialism (TCLSAC), this year’s event was held strictly to promote the CCL(ML). No contending lines were tolerated. Members of the Bolshevik Union sought to set up a book table and were not allowed; they were told that if they distributed leaflets at the door they would not be allowed to attend the banquet. There was no debate from the audience and no concrete acknowledgements of the ideological struggle within the Marxist-Leninist movement. All we were treated to by these good people was a well-orchestrated promotional with CCL(ML) and Workers’ Unity patting each other on the back and declaring that they had the correct political line.
We ask the reader if it was the Bolshevik Union or the CCL (ML) that was displaying the spirit of the “parlour room”.
In addition to this, in spite of the Bolshevik Union’s small size and recent formation, we have engaged in a broad range of political work and continue to do so. This has included intervention in the workers’ movement, women’s movement, and anti-imperialist struggles. And when we intervene, we intervene with the full range of our politics up front and not disguised. The interventions of the Bolshevik Union have attempted to counter the severe isolation of the Marxist-Leninist movement in Toronto which has been confined to the “parlour room” by groups such as Workers’ Unity, the Toronto Communist Group, and the Toronto Marxist-Leninist Collective, for too long.
The Bolshevik Union has consistently struggled to have the struggle to build the party taken out of the “parlour rooms” of the movement and taken to as many people as possible.
The League’s false “criticisms” would not be as serious if they were merely operating out of self-imposed ignorance; but they are in fact consciously making false statements in an apparent attempt to slander our group. The Bolshevik Tendency (along with the League) formed part of the “regroupment on a Marxist-Leninist basis” that organized an intervention at the CLC demonstration in Ottawa on April 22. The Bolshevik Tendency also distributed the agitational material of the re-groupment in Toronto before the demonstration.
Did CCL(ML) consider the regroupment “parlour room discussions”, or is it simply lying about the Bolshevik Tendency? Incidentally, Workers’ Unity did not participate in the regroupment. Perhaps they were too busy sending out invitations.
As to the Bolshevik Tendency “limit(ing) its political work ... to propaganda in Canadian Revolution, the Bolshevik Tendency never published anything in Canadian Revolution. The Bolshevik Tendency only formed shortly before the production of issue no. 4, and the split in Canadian Revolution took place long before the publication of issue no. 5.
Presumably CCL(ML) is talking about two articles written by members of our group: “Why Building the Party is the Principal Task” and “Nationhood or Genocide”.
We assume that this criticism by CCL(ML) constitutes their response to these two articles. Apparently CCL(ML) thinks these two articles useless “propaganda”. Meanwhile, the League is perched comfortably on the fence on the subject of the Native national question. Or, does the League consider Canadian Revolution to be mere useless “propaganda” and pointless “leading (of) debate amongst Marxist-Leninists”?
In the first issue of Canadian Revolution, MREQ said: “It is our belief that this journal represents a positive step forward in the struggle to unite Marxist-Leninist forces across Canada, by bringing forward for national debate, important questions of the Canadian Revolution.” (p. 54)
Apparently to CCL(ML) it is now “right-opportunism”, the “main danger”, to devote much political energy to writing articles for Canadian Revolution.
Furthermore, the Bolshevik Tendency split from Canadian Revolution on January 24, 1976, a fact that CCL(ML) was aware of months before their criticism of us. If CCL(ML) had read any of the material about the split which we sent them, then they knew that it was not the Bolshevik Tendency which was trying to keep the debate confined to the “parlour room.”
The most outrageous lie by CCL(ML) is the statement that “these people think that you can’t act before you have mastered Marxism completely.” This is a consciously opportunist statement on the part of the League. It was Stover and Perri, in issue no. 1 of CR, who attacked what is now the Toronto Marxist-Leninist Collective (and, implicitly, the Toronto Communist Group) for this erroneous conception. The TMLC saw the need for a “complete ideological, organizational and political line” before any work could be accomplished by Communists. Stover and Perri took leadership in attacking this line and upheld that the central task was to build the party – and that the correct political line emerges in the course of open struggle.
Why didn’t the League single out the TMLC, who continue to be the classic example of self-cultivation in our movement? Is it because the TMLC recognizes CCL(ML) as the leading Marxist-Leninist group in Canada? Why not attack the Toronto Communist Group, which rarely puts forward its politics publicly and limits its political activity to hegemonic “parlour room” games in Canadian Revolution?
CCL(ML) says in the same article that the bourgeoisie “is spreading lies on Communists.” Why is CCL(ML) “spreading lies on Communists?” Why is CCL(ML) “spreading lies on” the Bolshevik Union?
In Issue no. 2 of LINES OF DEMARCATION, we will be attempting to answer this question. We will be showing that CCL(ML)’s attack on us is essentially nothing but a cover for its bankrupt line on party-building and a disguised attempt to make implantation and Economist union work a question of principle. We will demonstrate that it is the League that is saturated with Economism and right-opportunism and is, in fact, the “vanguard” of right-opportunism in the Marxist-Leninist movement.