Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

A. The Toronto Communist Group: Leadership in Opportunism

Before the Beginning of the Two-Line Struggle

The TCG is a difficult group to pin down because of their preference to work through closed-door battles of bureaucracy instead of open battles over political line. It is impossible, in the context of this pamphlet, to prove their opportunism, despite its long history, because of their consistent failure to put their politics down in writing. With one exception, we have never seen written self-criticism from these people despite the phenomenally multicoloured array of political lines which they have carried.

For this reason we take three documents, none of which was ever submitted for publication and only one of which was distributed beyond the Journal grouping, and use them to identify the politics of the Toronto Communist Group. These documents are: the Critique of the Native article, “Step-by-step Unity”, and their Statement of Unity. We do this because it is about time that they be held accountable for something, particularly in view of the confidence with which they suggested their own ability to determine “clear criteria as to what debate is legitimate within the Marxist-Leninist movement”. But before we do this we outline briefly some political experiences which our members had with them before the two-line struggle in the Journal began.

Two members of the Bolshevik Tendency worked for many months with the people who now constitute the TCG, before the formation of either group. Although we cannot in this context deal with the contents of the endless series of meetings among them, our members summarize by saying simply that the TCG, in all that time, refused to engage in any actual struggle over political line. The obstacles to ideological struggle were the TCG’s persistent academicism, line fetishism, and bureaucratism. In particular, the following questions were never debated:

(1) What is the principal task?

(2) Why is building the party the principal task? Why is building political line not the principal task? What is the group’s evaluation of published criticisms of their political line?

(3) How is the party to be built?

During the time when our members were working with the TCG, C.M.O. (a Quebec-based group, now dissolved into the CCL(ML)) submitted a solicited article on the woman question. A member of the TCG took leadership in recommending that this article not be published. The reasons advanced were that it was an inadequate position, “a mechanical application of the principles of Marxism-Leninism”, and not a proletarian line on women. It was said that another article was forthcoming on the woman question which would be a “better way to begin debate” on that vital subject. That other article, of course, was being written by two members of the TCG, one of whom was the one to recommend that the C.M.O. article not be published. Needless to say, the TCG has still not coughed up with that article, with the result that, in five issues of the Journal, the debate on the woman question has not commenced.

Our members went along with the TCG position on the C.M.O. article. This was a serious error and this is a serious self-criticism. They now understand that the motives in seeking to suppress that article were the same motives which were behind their position vis-a-vis the Native article: that is, bureaucratic determination of the political line. It was a bad precedent and it should never have been allowed to happen. Canadian Revolution is not an organization based on struggle over line and it is not in a position to pass judgments on the positions of others which are of controversy within the Marxist-Leninist movement (provided that they fall within the broad basis of unity of the Journal, which itself was originally designed to allow a broad field of struggle within the movement).

TCG and the Critique of “Nationhood or Genocide”

The first draft of “Nationhood or Genocide” was submitted in August. It was specifically submitted as a rough draft designed for feedback and commentary. Details and statistics were estimated, in the interests of time. All this was noted on the front cover of the first draft.

The first draft is available from the Bolshevik Union for the price of xerox. Although it was well received by many (Marxist-Leninists and others) outside the Journal grouping, people within the Journal had serious objections to its style, tone, and sloppiness of detail. The authors reviewed the first draft and attempted to correct these rough points, and there is no question that the final draft represents a far higher level of maturity and sophistication. However, the political line of the article is unchanged from the first draft to the final draft, and for that reason the authors do not submit a self-criticism for the first draft.

The reason the issue of the first draft of “Nationhood or Genocide” is significant is not for itself, but for the response which it elicited. Whereas criticisms of “style and tone” were received from many in the coalition, only the TCG sought to declare it “reactionary and anti-communist” and “non-Marxist-Leninist” on the basis of its political line. Two members of the TCG recommended to the editorial board that the article not be published, not only because of its “style and tone” but also because of its political line. The editorial board then asked them to summarize their criticisms in writing. We reprint the Critique in full, and respond to it ourselves, to show the politics of that group which seeks to “draw lines of demarcation around the Marxist-Leninist movement” through censoring articles on behalf of its readership. Within their confident declarations that “this is Marxism-Leninism” and “this is not Marxism-Leninism” were lines which were clearly neo-revisionist.

The authors sought to hold the TCG members accountable for the document. They were defeated in this struggle on the grounds that the document was internal. One of the TCG members said that he did not want the Critique public because he “hadn’t really thought about it”. He had thought about it long enough to suggest the article so “reactionary and anti-communist” as to be unfit for publication in Canadian Revolution, but not long enough to be willing to have his reasoning opened up for public examination. The authors maintained that one’s private political line should not differ from one’s public political line. The TCG members claimed that the criticisms of them were “opportunist”. The authors offered to hold a meeting with them to correct any opportunism in the criticisms. This meeting was refused.

As indicated in the Introduction, the final form of “Nationhood or Genocide” incorporates the criticisms of the TCG document but represents them in generalized form. The reader can compare the Critique (in the appendix, page33 ) with the final draft of the Native article (as printed in CR 1:4) to see our responses to the TCG’s political line. We will here summarize and expand on these criticisms.

There are points where the TCG gets quite creative and imaginative in representing the political line of the first draft. Much of the Critique weaves sheer fabrications as to what was said within the article. However, in the interests of space, we will proceed to focus on the salient features of their neo-revisionism.

The first thing we note is that the TCG writers already had preconceived positions on what debate is appropriate for the Journal and what is not. Their “support for this article” was based on “the usefulness of concrete historical analysis to begin a comradely debate and encourage further historical investigation.” In keeping with their academicism and anti-struggle politics, they were all ready to declare on behalf of the Journal readership that this was not the time to make the connection between concrete analysis and polemics. Their statement that the article was “not mainly concrete historical analysis” – and, later, “It contains no class or historical analysis whatever” – is just an indication that they skipped over the first half of the article when they read it.

The second thing we note is that the TCG’s neo-revisionism is not even seen as a political line but as a question of “basic methodology”. This, of course (since the TCG knows Marxist-Leninist methodology so well, as it has abundantly proved through its reams of publications), puts the question beyond debate and into the realm of unchangeable scientific principles. Now, what is the first statement under “Basic Methodology”? “The analysis is a racialistic rather than a class analysis.” TCG hits the bulls-eye. Right onto the USSR’s attack on China’s line on the world situation. Says the Central Committee of the CPSU: China is “replacing the class approach with the racial approach” and “playing upon the national and even racial prejudices of the Asian and African peoples.” TCG joins hands later with this revisionist line once again when it says, “It presents the struggle of native (sic) people not as a class struggle, but as a racial struggle against white.”

The very next point under “Basic Methodology” is that the line of working-class benefit from imperialism is “non-Marxist-Leninist” – so much so that the Journal should “condemn” it. Apparently, neither Engels, nor Lenin, nor the Party of Labour of Albania are as wise as are the TCG members as to what is a non-Marxist-Leninist analysis. Oh, where would the world proletariat be without the TCG’s wisdom of basic Marxist-Leninist methodology?

Then says the TCG, “The article implicitly attacks the concept of the leading revolutionary role of the working class in several ways.” Let us see what these ways are.

1. “By suggesting the working class benefits from national oppression, and, by implication, does ’have something to lose other than its chains.’ ”

Like Workers’ Unity in “Unite to Build the Marxist-Leninist Party” (CR 1:3), the TCG must stop at the simplest quotes from the Communist Manifesto in order to attack the main danger, Lenin. Our final draft substantiates quite thoroughly that it is the Marxist-Leninist position that sections of the working class (which sections, depends on a concrete analysis) do benefit significantly from national oppression. However, TCG refers to such substantiation as “a couple of nice quotes from Lenin and Engels ... to satisfy this objection.” We take this as an open attack on the Marxist-Leninist classics and on Communist theory and ideology. Again, maybe we were supposed to take the TCG’s word for things instead.

2. “By presenting recent native (sic) resistance as objectively historically more important than the spontaneous upsurge in working class struggle.”

Although the article did not make the claim that it is “more Important”, apparently the TCG authors consider such a possibility to be absolutely out of the question. In making this statement they completely repudiate China’s line on the current world situation. “The Third World is the great motive force advancing world history.”

3. “By maintaining that primitive communalism creates the conditions for socialist consciousness, and therefore denying the Marxist truth that capitalist proletarianization creates these conditions.”

For the sake of brevity we will forgive the TCG for misrepresenting our discussion of the role of primitive communalism in the Native question. We will say simply that we think that they are here implicitly again attacking the Chinese and Leninist conception of uneven development and of the possibilities of socialism in the backward countries with very small proletariats, which is our concrete analysis of the situation of Native people. See also the final quote (by the Albanians) on p. 51, col. 2 of the article in Issue no. 4.

4. “By maintaining that native colonization and not the exploitation of the proletariat is the principal prop of bourgeois rule in Canada.”

We think that this is another implicit attack on Lenin’s theory of imperialism, which holds that the superprofits from the colonized world are key to the maintenance of bourgeois rule. The following was one of the supplementary theses of the Second Congress of the Comintern, which Lenin worked on and endorsed:

The colonies constitute one of the principal sources of the strength of European capitalism. Without the possession of the great markets and great areas of exploitation of the colonies, European capitalist powers would not be able to maintain themselves for long. The surplus value obtained by the exploitation of colonies is one of the supports of modern capitalism.... As long as this source of benefits is allowed to continue, it will be difficult for the working class to overthrow capitalism. (SUPPLEMENTARY THESES ON THE COLONIAL AND NATIONAL QUESTION. Translation from the French ours.)

5. “By maintaining that the proletarian revolution is not the struggle for the liberation of all classes, but that a proletarian dictatorship would be capable of maintaining oppressed colonies – an impossibility under proletarian dictatorship.”

Reminiscent of Liu Shao-chi’s line! We responded as follows: In order for any form of oppression to be abolished under the dictatorship of the proletariat, conscious political demands must be raised. No oppression is automatically abolished without struggle against the objective forces of capitalism which are continually reproduced under socialism.... This is the fundamental line of Marxism-Leninism Mao Tse-tung Thought in the epoch of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Yet (the TCG authors) say that the maintenance of oppressed colonies is an impossibility under the dictatorship of the proletariat. In saying so they objectively have allied themselves with the capitalist roaders. They have apparently “forgotten” that nothing is an impossibility under the dictatorship of the proletariat, right up to the restoration of capitalism. Just slipped their minds! Real Marxist-Leninists!

Other responses to their statement are given by Lenin, who apparently heard it all before, in the quotes on page 52, column 2 of the final draft of “Nationhood or Genocide”. Further, Lenin says, “Engels was remote from the preposterous imperialist Economists which imagines that having achieved victory in the advanced countries, the proletariat will ”automatically”, without definite DEMOCRATIC measures, abolish national oppression everywhere.” (“A CARICATURE OF MARXISM AND IMPERIALIST ECONOMISM”, LCW 23:59) The authors of the Critique show that they carry a completely vulgar-materialist line on how oppression is abolished under socialism and on how the proletariat can struggle for the abolition of oppressed nations.

In sum, the TCG’s “heroic” defense of “the leading revolutionary role of the working class” is the same cowardly revisionist line which is attacked by the Party of Labour of Albania and by the Chinese Communist Party, as cited in “Nationhood or Genocide”, p. 51, col. 2. Says the Chinese Communist Party of the Soviet Union, “It has the audacity to claim that this is ’based’ on Lenin’s views on proletarian leadership.” And, says the PLA,

European revisionists reproach the parties which couragenously uphold Marxist-Leninist principles with allegedly belittling or even denying the role and importance of the revolutionary movement in Europe, with allegedly counterpoising to it the national liberation movement as the only revolutionary force in our time, with allegedly trying to isolate and wear the revolutionary national liberation movement of Asia, Africa and Latin America away from the socialist camp and the workers’ movement of the advanced capitalist countries, and so on. The revisionists stand in need of all this in order to prove that the center of world revolution is allegedly in Europe and that all revolutionary and liberation movements of other countries should be subjected to and led by revisionist Europe. (THE PARTY OF LABOUR OF ALBANIA IN BATTLE WITH MODERN REVISIONISM, p. 365.)

And, to top off their neo-revisionism, the TCG confidently declares that “the concept of a third world country inside a second world country is erroneous, and renders the Marxist-Leninist analysis of the present world situation meaningless.” While the world is waiting for TCG’s definitive summation of “the Marxist-Leninist analysis of the present world situation”, we comment that their “pop” Marxist-Leninist conception of how to categorize the world is adequately refuted on p. 47, col. 2 of our article. They are here taking essentially the line that “Algeria is an inalienable part of France.”

Aside from a neo-revisionist line on the world situation, the Critique takes an opportunist position on how to achieve the unity of Marxist-Leninists.

The article has a strong tendency towards anti-communism by continuously lumping together, without distinction, Marxist-Leninists, revisionists, trotskyists, CPC(M-L), and Christian missionaries, in other words, by making no distinction between communists and agents of the bourgeoisie.... The authors have taken the position that those who disagree with their position, for whatever reason, are racist, pro-imperialist, and, therefore, enemies of the Canadian revolution... The article presents the differences over nation or national minority as antagonistic (revisionist) at this stage. The Journal must disassociate itself from this sectarian pronouncement.

Like CPC(M-L), the TCG here is taking the position that it is “divisive” and “sectarian” to identify questions of principle within the forces representing themselves as Marxist-Leninist and to draw lines of demarcation therein. Whereas the TCG now champions the drawing of lines of demarcation over questions of property, they were horrified that others might seek to draw a line of demarcation over the question of an oppressed nation. As said earlier, the national question is inherently a question of principle, and to “disagree... for whatever reason” is not a pardon from social-chauvinism. Moreover the TCG is saying here that one must not identify a question as a question of principle too early, as if the more advanced elements of our movement are supposed to sit around and wait until the more backward elements have made up their minds. As pointed out in the final draft of “Nationhood or Genocide”, the authors sought to struggle over the Native question many times with people in our movement and were rarely successful even in finding the opportunity to do so. This criticism was summed up as “annexationist indifference in practice”. Moreover, the rich experience of the world communist movement is behind us, even if our own movement is primitive; the principal character of the national question has been established years ago and is part of Marxist-Leninist ideology.

Furthermore, TCG’s opposition to equating Marxist-Leninists with Christian agents “without distinction” is identical to the economist uproar about EN LUTTE!’s editorial against implantation, wherein the same parallel is made. We replied, (p. 55, col. 2) “If Marxist-Leninists want to be distinguished from these agents of the bourgeoisie, then they must so distinguish themselves.”

If we summarize the various criticisms made by the TCG of “Nationhood or Genocide”, we find they are saying roughly this: We are all Marxist-Leninists. It is anti-communist to identify us with agents of the bourgeoisie. Marxist-Leninists represent the interests of the proletariat, no strata of which can possibly benefit from national oppression. Canada cannot have a Third World colony annexed within its state borders. When the proletariat seizes power, the future oppression of Native people will be impossible. Don’t worry, Indians, you have nothing to worry about when you are in our hands!

The TCG does not have to come out and take a “national minority” line on the Native question. It is written right into their politics.

We emphasize in concluding this section that the thrust of the TCG’s criticisms of the political line of “Nationhood or Genocide” was not its concrete analysis but its use of Marxist-Leninist principles. Were the objections to have focused on demonstrating, for example, that Native Canada is not objectively a part of the Third World, or a colony of Canada, then their criticisms (although incorrect) would be errors of concrete analysis, and not actually neo-revisionism. The seriousness of their document lay in the fact that they were challenging the basic Marxist-Leninist analysis of national liberation struggles of the Third World in general. Such an analysis must be a question of principle for any Communist organization.

It is interesting to note that those who came out declaring the first draft of “Nationhood or Genocide” to be “reactionary and anti-communist” are the same ones who wave the banner of “don’t make non-antagonistic contradictions antagonistic”. Except with the left, of course. As usual. None of the right-opportunist and economist drivel which has been published in Canadian Revolution has ever been suggested for censorship by anybody, much less labeled “reactionary and anti-communist.”

When the TCG called the article “reactionary and anti-communist”, the authors did not respond howling in horror at their “uncomradely polemics”. Rather, the authors analyzed the content of the TCG’s politics, dissecting just what it was that they perceived as “reactionary and anti-communist” and what politics they were putting forward as an alternative. The authors did not take a personalistic “how dare you say that about us” attitude to their position. On the contrary, they were quite pleased to at last have some of the TCG’s politics in writing, and thrived on the opportunity to escalate the level of struggle in our movement.

Apparently, however, the TCG’s enthusiasm for such political confrontation did not match that of the authors. Since the authors’ responses to the Critique, we have been met with absolute silence. In December the Bolshevik Tendency sent the TCG the following memo, which was circulated throughout the Journal collective. The memo read:

Two members of your group characterized the first draft of “Nationhood or Genocide” as “reactionary and anti-communist”.

We would like to know the following things. 1. Do these two people still consider the final draft to be reactionary and anti-communist? If not, what in it has changed that makes it not so?

2. If you still maintain that it is anti-communist, then why did you not say so during the meeting on the article? If you failed to do so, then you were being liberal and opportunist.

3. You indicated in your internal document that the nation (question of principle) line could not co-exist with the national minority line within the Journal group. Do you still hold to this position? If not, why not? If your position has changed, we will expect a self-criticism in writing.

4. If you still hold to that position, then what do you intend to do about it?

5. We have made some very serious accusations that your politics objectively support Soviet social-imperialism. We expect a response to these accusations in writing. If we do not hear a response, then we will assume that our criticisms are correct.

To this date, there has been absolute silence in response to our memo. For this reason, we assume that the politics of the Critique continue to be the political line of the TCG. The only response to our criticisms has been the breast-beating about “comradely polemics”, which saga is related in the Introduction.

A Reply to the TCG’s Call for Unity

Following close on the heels of the Critique was the TCG’s “Step-by-step Unity” proposal for the Journal. We see this as a more explicit statement of the bureaucracy and hegemony-seeking which was contained in the Critique. We see it as the leading statement of the attempt to transform Canadian Revolution into an organ under the control of right-opportunism. Although “Step-by-step Unity” has been “withdrawn in September” and “outstripped by the political developments”, its politics live on.

In CR 1:2, Dave Paterson wrote a criticism of CPC(M-L)’s call for unity of January 1975. He said that it is a call for “unity around a common practice” which in practice could only mean a unity in which the largest and strongest group gains political hegemony over the smaller and weaker groups, without struggle over line and despite the political issues which may be involved. For such reasons, Paterson termed the CPC(M-L)’s call for unity “counter-revolutionary”.

The Bolshevik Union does not call “Step-by-step Unity” counter-revolutionary. We think that word is over-used to apply to any incorrect political line. Rather, we characterize it as opportunist hegemony-seeking. What is significant is that Dave Paterson is a member of the TCG, and this directly links “Step-by-step Unity” with the CPC(M-L) article. The format of the following criticism is drawn up with that in mind, in order to show the blatant flip-flop opportunism of the TCG.

We note that, at the time the proposal was submitted, the TCG was the largest bloc of voters in the Journal and more than twice as large as the next largest bloc. We note also that, at the time the proposal was submitted, there was (to our knowledge) no ideological struggle going on amongst any of the separate groups in the Journal (TCG-WU, WU-BT, TCG-BT). Circle spirit was at its pinnacle. That is why it can, in its historical context, only be understood as a call to hegemony, as “Step-by-step Expulsion”, based on majority rule over political line and, inevitably, minority exit. Their “call for unity” was a diversionary and contentless proposal, utterly devoid of any talk of politics, class interests, or ideological struggle; moreover, a proposal which went as stealthily as it came, and was removed from the scene without self-criticism, after the rest of the Journal membership (excluding the BTT) had been won to its politics. Needless to say, we insist on drawing some lessons from it.

We begin by drawing a perspective from Paterson on CPC(M-L).

The article first proposes a response to the call for unity based on an analysis of what CPC(M-L) means by “unity” and how they see the process of party-building.... The CPC(M-L) has a tendency to change lines on important questions without referring to previous lines or making self-criticism. On occasion, they will even resurrect a line from the past that has not been repudiated, if such resurrection proves convenient. Therefore, CPC(M-L) Is being held accountable for all lines that have not been specifically repudiated, even though they might argue that these lines no longer represent their present line. And they must continue to be held responsible for all present lines that they conveniently drop without self-criticism. This article, therefore, does not limit discussion to the formal organization, the CPC(M-L)... but includes its predecessor organizations. (“A Reply to CPC(M-L)’s Call for Unity”, CR 1 :2, p. 3 All future references from this article will be referred to simply by page number.)

TCG begins.

We agreed at one point last month {note: the Journal never agreed to any such thing – BU) that our objective for the Journal was to work for the transformation, over time, into the vehicle for the propagation of a political line. This is the alternative to it being an endless debating society....

This last phrase, “endless debating society”, has been reflected in oral comments by TCG referring to the Journal, if it were to continue as a coalition promoting open debate rather than becoming an organization promoting its own “leadership”, as a “Monthly Review of the left,” a “Readers’ Digest of the left”, and “merely a social service to the movement”. We consider all these to be frontal attacks on the nature and purpose of the Journal as put forward by EN LUTTE!, which is that it is our task to engage in “the practical aspect of organizing a large, permanent and open debate.” It is a concise statement of their opinions about the role of ideological struggle in the building of the party, large, permanent and open debate.“ It is a concise statement of their opinions about the role of ideological struggle in the building of the party.

As an example of what the TCG sees as political leadership which the Journal can provide:

The journal, however, must be prepared to intervene in struggles and provide leadership in them. We cannot be passive in the struggles but must take initiatives in moving them forward. A good example of this is the decision to promote the line that building the communist party is the central task.

As pointed out elsewhere, the TCG (like Workers’ Unity) tailed the movement on the question of the central task and refused to struggle over it. Now that they have, for whatever reason, changed their minds, they want to use the prestige of the Journal to declare themselves in the role of “leadership” on this question. The Bolshevik Tendency had no objection to the Journal seeking to sum up the level of struggle in the movement, in order to continue to perform its function as an effective forum for debate directed toward the building of the party. But that is not the same as Marxist-Leninist political leadership, which is provided by those who first advance a political line in our movement. It must make the TCG (and now the main body of the Journal) feel quite important to say, “We are the leaders”, since they have never been able to play this role based on their politics.

That the TCG proposal is a proposal of “Unity around a common practice or task” is explicit in the text. This is dealt with in “Against Opportunism in the Journal.” To quote Dave Paterson on CPC(M-L) (which begins with a quote from CPC(M-L):

“There can be no political line other than the decisive task facing the revolutionary organization. The revolutionary organization can only be built around this decisive task.”... What CPC(M-L) actually proposed was a completely opportunist basis for uniting on pragmatic agreement around a specific task for a brief period of time without having to resolve any major questions of principle, (p. 6)

Then the TCG finds a fascinating justification to emphasize the “organization” aspect of Canadian Revolution.

Finally, it should be pointed out that membership criteria for joining the Journal collective (agreement with the program, participation in the work and financial support) are almost identical to those for joining a party. So it is clear that we are not merely a coalition.

This is tantamount to saying that, because a ship has windows, it is not merely a ship but has aspects of a highrise and that therefore we should try to make it into more of a highrise. Bureaucracy, bureaucracy. This is apparently TCG’s conception of how Marxist-Leninist political organization is achieved. Through the back door.

Then we have the TCG’s concept of majority vote. They say:

The only solution is by majority vote. There is no democratic alternative. In running a group of any kind, there are only two types of decision-making: majority and minority. If the majority doesn’t make decisions, then the minority does.... If decisions are made by vote, then it is clear that simple majority rule is the only democratic way, and the only way which ensures that the journal policy is supported by the majority of its members.

This concept of “majority rule” has been dealt with in the Introduction, but it is so central to the struggles in the Journal that we will examine it even more closely here. The Bolshevik Tendency had no objection to majority rule on various tasks of production and distribution which were needed to produce the Journal. But, when we talk about majority rule over political line within a coalition, it is a different question. This is stated so excellently by Dave Paterson as follows:

Are we to assume that inner-party discipline with the subordination of the minority to the majority also applies to relations between organizations when questions of principle are involved? And who is it that is really “afraid of exposure”? Those who insist on taking independent political lines and principled differences among the masses? Or those who seek to have struggle take place behind closed doors veiled by the cloak of secrecy, and who think contradiction should be resolved by “democratic” decision-making among those who call themselves Marxist-Leninists? (p. 7)

The dispute here in the Journal was not between “majority rule” versus the “tyranny of the minority” (All hall! 1789! Liberte, egalite, fraternitei). It was between those who thought that political line should be decided within the Journal collective by majority vote to “guide” the debate in the movement and those who thought that controversial questions should be left open for struggle and not voted on at all; or, barring that, that the minority should have a platform within the pages of the Journal. Their position on majority rule was their theoretical justification for hegemonism in Canadian Revolution.

We note here, too, that Paterson takes the position that principled differences can and do exist between various formations claiming adherence to Marxism-Leninism, and that it is in struggle over these principled differences that the Communist Party is built. Yet when this position was raised within the Journal coalition, TCG was intolerant of it.

On the subject of “democratic centralism”, TCG has this to say:

Democratic centralism is the method of work used by communists. Fundamentally it means democratic decision-making carried out in a unified way. An organization can be democratic centralist without any formal leadership at all if its members all agree to carry out democratically made decisions. To this extent, the journal is already democratic centralist.

So here we have it. The vanguard of the proletariat doesn’t even know what “democratic centralism” is. What happened to a central body? What happened to ideological struggle; two lines; politics? The TCG sees the Journal as partly democratic centralist, even though, as we pointed out until we were weary, there was no ideological struggle going on within the Journal collective. As summed up so well by Dave Paterson:

Struggle will go on behind dosed doors and differences will be “internal” while all carry out the majority line of the “united front”. In short, the “united front” is in all practical senses a democratically central vanguard organization, (p. 6)

We have a situation where, as Paterson said of CPC(M-L)’s “united front” strategy,

It is fairly clear that, without struggle, CPC(M-L) would be able to build organizational hegemony almost immediately over any “united front”of “Marxist-Leninists.” (p. 6)

In the following section, the TCG openly endorses the splitting and wrecking of the Journal.

Power blocs and bourgeois politicking – really, there is little that can be said on this question. If a majority of the people in the journal constitute themselves into a power bloc to take control, they will do just that and there is nothing (or very little) that the minority can do. That majority will have effective control over the journal. On the other hand, so what? If they are in the majority, that is their right. There is no indication that anyone in the journal is planning such a coup at this time, but if it was done in the future and succeeded, that, too, is democratic.

Oh, the heaven of living in a bourgeois democracy! Here we had a forum for debate which had published exactly two issues. Most of the controversy had not even begun. But already the TCG had visions of “democratic” splitting and wrecking of the movement’s forum for debate. The TCG never seemed to volunteer to leave the Journal over issues of principle; they just kept on inviting others to leave. The TCG is so bureaucracy-minded and hegemony-oriented that they couldn’t even wait for a third issue of Canadian Revolution to be published before they started fantasizing about coups and majority takeovers. Compare Paterson on CPC(M-L):

Hence those who refuse this opportunist call to unite are opportunist regardless of their political line and practice. Those who engage in open struggle are counter revolutionaries. Those who develop political lines to take Marxism-Leninism to the working class and build the party are splitters. This is the reasoning of CPC(M-L). It has been used to split the Marxist-Leninist forces and must be denounced as the ravings of phony Marxist-Leninists.

What we stand for is not the organizational hegemony of CPC(M-L) and its phony “united front”, but open struggle carried to the masses of the proletariat for ideological unity for unity based on political line; not the “unity to a certain extent” of the petit-bourgeois intelligentsia who have adopted the viewpoint of the proletariat “to a certain extent” (those who call themselves Marxist-Leninists), but the uniting of all advanced elements who are class conscious and open to Marxism-Leninism step by step. (p. 5)

It is precisely “unity to a certain extent” which is the character of the “building unity” of Canadian Revolution. While all members affirmed that the unity built for the Marxist-Leninist party was not taking place within the Journal, the opportunists seemed to envision the Journal as some kind of second-level form of Marxist-Leninist unity, intermediate between a tactical coalition and a pre-party organization. Their creative improvements on Marxist-Leninist science were indeed inspiring!

Then we have the TCG’s position on what a political line is.

The basis proposed for selection of a person to the editorial board is NOT their general line, or their line on the national question, party-building, implantation or anything else of the sort. It is their political line on the tasks of the journal at this stage, and an assessment of their capabilities to perform the tasks required.

Apply Paterson’s critique of CPC(M-L):

So here we have it. The vanguard of the proletariat doesn’t even know what a political line is. A handful of individuals get together, declare a set of tasks primary, and that is the foundation upon which the party is united until a new set of tasks is determined.... Almost all of these “lines” deal with organizational tasks.... CPC(M-L) is obviously hopelessly confused. Political line is an analysis and strategy representing the stance of a particular class. Political line is the general and particular method for the application of Marxism-Leninism in a given situation. This is not something that changes in a matter of months to be replaced by a new “line”. CPC(M-L) has mixed this completely with the “central task” which is the method by which political line is applied at a given time. It is the central task that changes, not the political line. (p. 5-6)

Then says the TCG, “The various component groupings were not dissolved in the process, nor was their liquidation seen as an objective of the struggles in the Journal collective. Caucussing has taken place within the groupings in relation to the journal and this has not been discouraged at all.” Now we learn that Workers’ Unity has not been “discouraged at all” from having their collective meetings, nor has the TCG been so “discouraged”, nor has the Bolshevik Tendency! And now we learn that, when WU, TCG, or BT have their meetings to pursue their own autonomous political practice, this constitutes “caucussing”! We were happy to learn that the TCG has drawn the line somewhere, and has been so generous as to not “discourage” this “caucussing”. However, perhaps they were just bowing to small group mentality! Perhaps we should have recognized TCG as the leading centre in the Journal, because of its voting power, and not been so intent on cultivating our own “caucussing”! Again from Paterson on CPC(M-L):

Indeed, all lines on principled political questions become subordinate to the line agreed upon by the “united front of Marxist-Leninists”; all political organizing becomes subordinate to that of the larger group, and leadership of the participating organizations becomes subordinate to the combined leadership of the coalition. (p. 7)

Glaring by its omission in “Step-by-step Unity” is any glimmer of an indication that there existed in Canada a key two-line struggle to which all Marxist-Leninists must relate. They refer to “two-line struggle” once or twice in passing but make it quite abstract, as though it were a thing of the future. The only implication to be read from “Step-by-step Unity” is that either the Journal is to become a leading centre or else that TCG holds the politics of localism, federalism, and the refusal to follow leadership. In fact, their Statement of Unity shows that they do hold to such politics. For the time, however, we will simply summarize the implications of “Step-by-step Unity”. Again, from Paterson on CPC(M-L):

As their proposal for unity shows, CPC(M-L) will not hesitate to sink into the depths of opportunism in their desperate attempts to attack, sabotage, and break up unity among Marxist-Leninists. In the place of wide open debate and struggle being promoted by Canadian Revolution, they would substitute secret back-door discussions. In the place of a Bolshevik Party rooted in the science of Marxism-Leninism, guided by a correct political line and planted firmly among the working class, they would substitute a hodgepodge Menshevik “united front” vanguard of so-called Marxist-Leninists....

CPC(M-L) has actually advanced, in its “unity”proposal, a political line in disguise. The line is that the central task facing Marxist-Leninists is organizational.... What CPC(M-L) promotes is the bourgeois idea that unity for its own sake is a good thing. It is good to be united. But CPC(M-L) fails to ask or to answer the question. Good for what and for whom?

... The critisim which has been advanced here of CPC(M-L) must also be understood as a criticism of the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada. The Marxist-Leninist movement has been the soil of opportunism out of which the CPC(M-L) has sprung. Where errors in CPC(M-L) have been pointed out, there also lie weaknesses in the Marxist-Leninist movement. It is our task, now, to fight opportunism in our own ranks and initiate the struggle to build the genuine party of the proletariat, (pp 4,7, 20)

We await TCG’s response to our critique of “Step-by-step Unity”. We hope that Dave Paterson’s position that “it is our task, now, to fight opportunism in our own ranks” has not, like the “Step-by-step Unity” proposal, been “outstripped by the political developments.”

“Outstripped by the Political Developments”

In the finest of TCG traditions, their position on the Journal flipped suddenly and without self-criticism, when they submitted their election platform which we entitle “Outstripped by the Political Developments”. Their new position did not change any other aspect of TCG’s practice within the Journal. They did not, on January 24, vote to disassociate themselves from “building unity around a common practice”. They did not respond to any of the criticisms we had made of their previous position. They did not oppose the at-large elections, whose political rationale had been put forward in the form of their original proposal. They did not criticize any of the other election platforms which had been submitted, in which positions borrowed from “Step-by-step Unity” had been put forward. They did not acknowlege the leadership or influence of the Bolshevik Tendency in struggling against their previous position or the general trend of opportunism. They made it appear as if they had thought up their new position all by themselves. They did not come out and affirm that the Journal is objectively a coalition of different political viewpoints, or support the principle of minority expression of differing politics. All they did was to say that, now that the CCL(ML) was formed, it would be impossible to rally the entire Journal to one set of politics! As if such would have been possible four months earlier!

One can only speculate as to what motivated the TCG to flip-flop their position on the Journal. Only one meeting previously, a member of the TCG openly stated that if a certain political tendency had a majority on the Journal, they should take it over. However, because none of their practice on the Journal changed along with their election platform, we are not impressed with the turnabout. They provided leadership in the Journal toward the consolidation of opportunism and won the rest of the membership (excluding the Bolshevik Tendency) to their opportunist politics. This was their role on Canadian Revolution.

What is the TCG?

The only other thing which the TCG has left us of a controversial nature is their Statement of Unity, which was written in September 1975 as the first formal statement of their collective politics despite a long history of mutual association and presence in the movement. A copy of the Statement and of our criticism of it is available from us for the price of xerox. We do not find it worthwhile to reproduce these here. Very little new can be learned from their Statement which was not obvious from the other two documents.

We will summarize our evaluation by saying that it is riddled with vague generalities and “pop” Marxism-Leninism of the type that gives an impression of profoundness while skirting the burning questions of our movement. It seeks to make remarkably creative additions to Marxism-Leninism under the pretext of not being too dogmatic. On the subject of Canada, they misapply Lenin’s theory of imperialism and put forward the interesting position that Canada is monopoly capitalist but not necessarily imperialist (this controversial question is of course avoided). Also avoided is all but three words of self-criticism of their previous erroneous politics, which could fill a book. Their position on building the party is centrist and self-promotive, with the weakest of critiques of economism and right-opportunism. Not one word is mentioned of the two-line struggle in Quebec, despite their mention and re-mention of the need to avoid dogmatism through a careful application of dialectical materialism to concrete conditions. They do not provide leadership, nor do they admit they are following. Finally, they very talentedly skirt China’s line on the world situation in almost every one of its aspects. But they do insist that all criticism within the movement be “comradely”! Their statement of unity contributes, in our opinion, nothing new to the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada, except further proof of the bankruptcy of their politics.

The Bolshevik Union has summarized its evaluation of the TCG based on all of the information available to us on this group. We affirm that they are objectively and functionally within the Marxist-Leninist movement. However, Marxism-Leninism is an “objective force” (Dave Paterson), and those who represent themselves as Marxist-Leninists must prove it. They have never proved to us that they carry Marxist-Leninist ideology, and they have given us many reasons to doubt it. These are:
1. Their neo-revisionist stand on national liberation struggles of the Third World, as exposed in the Critique of “Nationhood or Genocide”.
2. Their capitalist-road line on the possibility of maintaining oppressed colonies under a dictatorship of the proletariat, as exposed in the Critique.
3. Their skirting of and repudiation of China’s line on the world situation, as shown in their Statement of Unity and in the Critique.
4. Their opinions about what constitutes democratic centralism, as shown in “Step-by-step Unity.”
5. Their position on building unity around common practice, as shown in “Step-by-step Unity” and as reinforced in their refusal to repudiate that position when it was voted on.
6. Their use of the term “political line” to refer to immediate organizational tasks, as shown in “Step-by-step Unity”.
7. Their repudiation of the Leninist method on how to build the party, as shown in “Step-by-step Unity” and in their Statement of Unity.
8. Their repudiation of Lenin’s theory of imperialism, as shown in the Critique and in their Statement of Unity.
9. Their use of Canadian exceptionalism to cover for the many revisions of Marxism-Leninism which are found in their Statement of Unity.
10. Their refusal to engage in ideological struggle.
11. Their refusal to self-criticize for changes in line.
12. Their refusal to respond to criticism.
13. Their attempt to seek hegemony over the Journal, as shown in “Step-by-step Unity”.
14. Their failure to contribute anything to the two-line struggle in the movement through public struggle over theory and practice, while at the same time refusing to follow leadership.
15. Their extremely bureaucratic methods of work, and their emphasis on “expertness” over “redness”.

Our position is that they are a consolidated opportunist tendency, although not a counter-revolutionary tendency. This means that we are still willing to struggle with them, should the opportunity present itself. We are not optimistic about their embracing correct and consistent proletarian politics in the future, although there is always that historical possibility. This is our summary evaluation of the Toronto Communist Group.