Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The whole is equal to the sum of the parts

Bolshevik Tendency’s Positions

Note: all of the following positions were submitted by individuals who later came to constitute the Bolshevik Tendency.

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Position Submitted by Two Individuals

In our statement of unity we have said, “Struggle over questions of analysis, strategy and principle must be promoted as a precondition to the unity necessary to build revolutionary organization and ultimately a Marxist-Leninist political party/’ (Emphasis added)

Further, in the editorial of Issue No. 2 we have said,

Paterson and Scott’s articles represent an important and positive development in the Marxist-Leninist movement: the trend toward strong polemics against opportunist views dressed up in “revolutionary” disguise. For too long the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada has mistaken a basic weakness – the lack of such polemics – for a strength of so-called “implicit unity” and “non-sectarian debate”. For too long the idealist illusion has been maintained that the proletarian line will emerge without struggle, without contradiction, without demarcation of the revolutionary line from opportunism in all forms. In our view the trend toward polemics like Patterson’s and Scott’s must be encouraged and intensified, to help consolidate the principled unity necessary to a Marxist-Leninist party/’ (Emphases added.)

Further, in the polemic against CPC(M-L) Dave Paterson said:

What is the essence of the proposal advanced by CPC(M-L)? First of all, they call for unity of all who call themselves Marxist-Leninist. This is an important point. There is at no time an attempt to define those principles which determine who is and who is not a Marxist-Leninist, CPC(M-L) does not accept that there is an objective force which is Marxism-Leninism and that there are other forces which are bourgeois ideology recycled into different packages. (Emphasis added.)

Further, Lenin said, “Before we can unite, and in order that we may unite we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation.” (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking ed” p. 26)

These are the principles which must be kept uppermost in our minds when we discuss what the Journal is to become.

We all hope that a higher level of unity can be reached among those who call themselves Marxist-Leninists. Yet we have all agreed that we are very, very far away from achieving that level of unity amongst ourselves. The struggle against bourgeois ideology in our movement has barely begun. This is the precondition for principled unity.

Why was the Journal formed? It was formed in order to provide the forum for debate necessary to draw lines of demarcation against bourgeois ideology in our movement, so that unity may be possible.

Yet in the Journal there have been slow and subtle trends towards a level of organizational unity which is higher than the level of political unity amongst us.

For example, (two members of the BT) proposed that hours be kept track of in labour contributed toward the Journal. This was strongly opposed. Why? “We are all Communists.” HOW CAN THIS BE KNOWN, IF THE LINES OF DEMARCATION HAVE NOT BEEN DRAWN? Who is to say that some of us are not economists, revisionists, trotskyites, social-chauvinists, weathermen, opportunists, etc., masquerading as Marxist-Leninists?. Certainly many of these accusations have concretely been made by some members of the Journal collective against others within the pages of the Journal as well as outside of it. They have been made by various factions and against various factions.

As a matter of fact, many of these accusations have been outstanding accusations by certain tendencies within the Journal against other tendencies. That is why it was hard to get this Journal group together in the first place. None of these contradictions has been resolved through political and ideological struggle.,/p>

For example. In the Minutes of a recent Journal meeting (misplaced, therefore of necessity paraphrased), it is said that the Editorial board should gauge the level of debate nationally so that an article is not printed which is “sectarian or tailist”. Yet, as we said in Editorial no. 2, it is precisely the fear of sectarianism which has incorrectly limited strong polemics against bourgeois ideology in our movement. Now all of a sudden the Journal wants to limit debate too far in advance of our movement because it is “sectarian”. Since when is a struggle against bourgeois ideology sectarian? Since when can Marxist-Leninist theory be too advanced?

For example. There have been recent suggestions at meetings that we should elect the Editorial Board at large, that we should see ourselves as “Marxist-Leninists with Communist methods of work.” We will not vote for anyone with whom we have a potentially antagonistic con-tradiction. What kind of unprincipled bullshit would that be?

To erect an editorial board at large is to advance the level of organizational unity beyond the level of ideological unity. It is an open invitation to opportunism and hegemony-seeking.

The purpose of the Journal has always been to bring out the various lines that people are carrying, into the open. It is to provide our movement with a forum for debate. It is not to hurry up and take a majority vote on what does or does not constitute Marxism-Leninism. This would rob our movement of a forum for debate, without which it cannot move forward. We should not split the Journal over political line until those lines become clear and the debate is beginning to tail the level of struggle-unity in our movement.

If an editorial board is elected at large, then the criticism which Guelph has advanced (and which one individual has orally advanced) of the Journal will begin to have a ring of truth to it, that our unity is opportunist.

We propose that the Journal become what it was set out to be: a forum for debate. We propose that it remain this way until the lines are drawn out more clearly and struggle has advanced. As we have not even begun the process of formal struggle in Toronto over political line with each other, it is ridiculous to talk of the Journal becoming anything else.

The system of representative membership on the EB has been working fine. We have not heard any expression of dissatisfaction with the work of the EB.

The Journal started out as a coalition of different tendencies and should remain that way until political struggle has advanced. The E.B. should remain representational. The mechanics of this can be worked out later.

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Position of One Member

The principal aspect of the Journal Collective at this time seems to be one of confusion. Whats more, there seems to be a reluctance to come to grips with the problems at the base of the confusion. Important matters are forgotten or postponed and important projects have not been taken up. Instead we engage in debate that doesn’t seem to be putting us further ahead. It has been something of a mystery to me why we have been scheduling meetings to come to decisions about structural things (the ed. committee) and things related to the whole movement (antagonism) when, as everyone knows, there is a controversy over what it is that is going to have a certain kind of ed. committee and who it is that is going to make broad judgments about the movement.

My feeling is that the reluctance to clarify these matters is because the only two really principled alternatives are unpalatable to the majority of the members of the collective. As a consequence we end up looking for a compromise, jockeying for position and generally putting specific carts before general horses (i.e., trying to define the collective through the back door of setting precedents on specific issues). The two alternatives:
a) a coalition or alliance of groups and individuals professing Marxism-Leninism who put their line into the movement on an autonomous basis, and who are allied to provide the vehicle for this, recognizing the need for ideological development in the movement as a whole.
b) a group of people professing Marxism-Leninism who are an organization with a political line, or who are struggling internally for the elaboration of complete political line.

There are certain difficulties with both of these positions that lead to reluctance to confront them:

re a): – structural difficulties: the precedent of individual membership and other difficulties in the formulation of decision making,
– the fact that it seems to go against the tide of building unity.
– It does not allow us (as “the Journal”) to cope with our de facto “leadership position” in the movement.

re b) – most people are pessimistic about the present groups and individuals coming together in an organization because of the past history of antagonism.
– it would seem that most groups do not forsee the dissolving of their autonomous political activity into that of the collective in the near future (that this would be necessary goes without saying. Agreement to undergo formal unity discussions would imply that the groups are prepared to dissolve upon reaching agreement.)
– Such a decision to struggle internally to become an organization would become the priority political activity, probably to the exclusion of other activities (perhaps even the putting out of the Journal).

Certain people in the collective have maintained all along that the alliance position was the correct one and the only proposal that we have for the “organization position comes from outside the collective. As well, proposals have been put forward that are somewhere in between these two positions.

A characterization of the situation. The Journal has to lead. It just happened that way. We can’t really lead because we are not united. But we will fake it. Rather than developing a political line we will pass judgment on the political line of others and on the maturity of developments in the movement. And we won’t tell anyone that this is basically three groups and a few independents in Toronto agreeing about certain things because of conclusions reached in their individual political practice. No, we’ll present it as the position of the “Journal”. And just in case we are accused of opportunism by a few “insiders” who happen to know the composition of the group, we’ll say we are building step by step unity or unity around the need to demarcate the movement etc. We won’t announce to the movement that there are three groups and a few individuals in Toronto who agreed to put out a Journal within which ideological debate would take place and who have since decided that in or; der to carry out this task which is integral to the task of building an organization, these groups and individuals have formally started to struggle over political line. We won’t say this because it isn’t true. And it is ironic that although we agree that it is important that we build unity among groups in the M-L movement, we are going to present unity that has occurred (on the party) and that can further occur, as that taking place in some amorphous collective with no political line, rather than as an historic example of certain groups in the movement developing unity.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to prepare a more extensive analysis of the different positions in the collective and their implications. I hope to do this for the next meeting, arguing further that all middle positions put forward are basically unprincipled in their conception and that an alliance is the logical format at this time and until such time as a complete decision has been reached to undergo the necessary process to become an organization.

In the meantime certain proposals: 1) At the moment there are three suggestions for editorials outstanding. An editorial on why the party is the principal task at this time, one on antagonisms and one (suggested indirectly by one individual in the Agenda for this meeting) which would be a reply to the Guelph collective’s criticisms of us. Typically the most important one has been brought up last. I feel that our next editorial should be a response to the Guelph people, incorporating into it the decisions and discussions undergone to clarify the organizational basis of unity of the collective, i.e. its internal structure (first), its place in relation to the movement, responsibilities etc... 2) that no decision be made on antagonisms (and other matters of principal) and that no discussion be undertaken on the nature of the editorial board until a series of discussions have been undertaken to thoroughly hash out the question of the nature of the collective.

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Position of two members

(Note: these are only exerpts. The unedited position, which is very long, is available in full form for the price of xerox. The purpose of the exerpts is to show the consistency of our politics with other positions which we argued.)

The question of antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions on the Journal cannot be approached properly without discussing it in the context of what the Journal is.

We agree with EN LUTTE! on this subject. EN LUTTE! said in their letter to Issue No. 2:

Canadian Marxist-Leninists (should) develop the practical aspect of organizing a large, permanent and open debate on all theoretical, strategic, tactical and organizational questions which confront us at this moment.

This, we think, is the main and fundamental purpose of Canadian Revolution, and we agree with you on this question. Not only is this EN LUTTE!’s position on the subject, but they clearly say here that it is their impression that this is our position on the subject. We know that other organizations in Quebec have had this impression as well.

EN LUTTE! goes on to say that Canadian Revolution is a first step in the ideological struggle.

We think that Canadian Revolution has an historical function, as a first step towards open and wide struggle in developing correct ideological, political and organizational line, which is a necessary condition to unify in one organization all authentic Marxist-Leninists in Canada.

To speak of “historical function” and of “first step” indicates clearly the limits of Canadian Revolution as a means for unity. From discussions in the Journal, and in particular from certain positions put forward in the Journal collective, it appears that there are people who do not agree with this formulation. If not, then they should be explicit about this. In particular, the TCG has said that the collective should work to “build unity step-by-step”. Apparently the TCG thinks we have sufficiently succeeded in the “first step” and are ready to start talking about stepping to the second step.

We take the position that the Journal has not yet finished what EN LUTTE! has called the “first step”, and, until there is further concrete indication that it has, it should not be hurrying to accomplish the second step. What is the second step? Again from EN LUTTE! “CR, as a “first step”, must be clearly conceived as a means to accomplish the second one, which is the building of a Marxist-Leninist centre in Canada.” Canadian Revolution ITSELF is the first step. It is not the centre of Marxism-Leninism in Canada, whose creation is the “second step”. On the contrary, indications at the present time are that the centre of Marxism-Leninism in Canada will not be in Toronto but in Quebec.

There has been a trend in the Journal towards seeing Canadian Revolution itself as becoming a leading centre. This was never said at the founding of the Journal, and in fact was explicitly denied very vehemently by a number of people.

In order for the building of a Marxist-Leninist centre to take place in Canada, there was a precondition: “a large, permanent and open debate.” This was the historic function of Canadian Revolution.

It is unprincipled to unite in such a task with people whom others do not consider to be true Marxist-Leninists? This was Guelph’s criticisim, and (one individual in the Journal) indicated that he felt the same way. This is what Lenin had to say on the subject:

But these people are absolutely wrong. Only those who are not sure of themselves can fear to enter into temporary alliances even with unreliable people; not a single political party could exist without such alliances. (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 19)

Concretely, Lenin entered into a temporary alliance with the “legal Marxists” for the purpose of putting out a literary publication in struggle against Narodnism. Lenin said,

The literary agreement with the “legal Marxists” can be compared with a political alliance.... Thanks to this alliance, an astonishingly rapid victory was obtained over Narodnism and Marxist ideas (even though in a vulgarized form) became very widespread. (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 19)

We see, and have always seen, the Journal to be an analogous organ. Since the degeneration of the CPC into revisionism, Social-Democracy, revisionism and trotskyism have had hegemony in the workers’ movement and among progressive people. This situation has only begun to be countered. We viewed the Journal, from the beginning, in the role of breaking this hegemony.

If people see Canadian Revolution differently, then they should say so explicitly. They should make clear to our movement that they see the role of the Journal as having changed.

Antagonistic Contradictions

At one of the first Journal meetings, the question of the nationhood of Native people was raised. For three members (including ourselves), the right to secede for Native people was a question of principle. For one person, Native people were a national minority.

Because of disagreement, it was agreed by everybody on the Journal to leave the question open.

In the criticism of our article, two members of the TCG suggested that our statement that this was an issue of principle, called into question our participation on the Journal. They said there could be no principled unity with such a contradiction on the Journal.

Clearly their position has changed. Ours has not. Ours was, and is: we support as a question of principle the nationhood of Native people; we are fully willing to work on the Journal with those who disagree.

What does it mean that the nationhood of Native people is a question of principle for us? It means this: WE WILL NOT JOIN A COMMUNIST ORGANIZATION WHICH TAKES THE LINE THAT NATIVE PEOPLE AREA NATIONAL MINORITY. That is all that it means, and that is all that it ever meant.

Would we join an organization which had no line on the Native question? We certainly would. And we would struggle like hell within it to get it to take a correct line.

Yet the position of these two members of the TCG has changed. We are calling now for a thorough explanation from these two people on when and why their position has changed. And for a thorough self-criticism of the incorrect position. This explanation and self-criticism cannot be evaded.

The TCG has said that we handled polemics incorrectly, by making (their two members) out to be the enemy in our Third Draft of the article. Let us get the history straight.

We submitted an article saying that the nationhood of Native people was a principled question for us. They responded with a criticism which declared a whole host of our lines (or their conception of our lines) to be outside of the bounds of Marxism-Leninism: that is, to be antagonistic contradictions with Marxism-Leninism. They drew far more lines of demarcation than we did.

Our Third Draft simply responded to the “lines of demarcation” which (the two TCG members) had drawn. It did not create new antagonisms. We responded to being called the enemy; we did not do the first calling.

When people take lines which we think are bourgeois ideology, we say so. Notice that in our polemics we do not call those who disagree “counterrevolutionary”. The TCG continues to paint our picture in that light, and to say that we are calling people “counterrevolutionary” if they disagree over a particular line, and put them into the enemy camp. They are being provocative; they want us to say this, so they can force a “division (split or expulsion)” over this issue. We will not bite the bate. We have called certain questions bourgeois lines, or questions of principle. This nobody can stop us from doing. Our political development will not wait for the more backward elements in our movement. “Styles” of Work.

We are opposed to petit-bourgeois “styles” of work. Sounds like a damn fashion show, and the word indeed is fashionable in our collective. We are in favour of Marxist-Leninist methods of work. These include “drawing firm lines of demarcation against bourgeois ideology” and “leaving nothing unsaid”.

Not only does TCG call for petit-bourgeois “style” of work, they call for petit-bourgeois relations among Marxist-Leninists when the call for “comradely debate” and “comradely criticisms”. We call for principled debate and criticisms and oppose unprincipled debate and criticisms. These are scientific terms and not sentimental ones.

The position of the TCG resembles the criticisms of Engels in the German Social-Democratic Party.

At the time he dealt his blows at Duhring, many representatives of German Social-Democracy inclined towards the latter’s views, and accusations of acerbity, intolerance, and UNCOMRADELY POLEMICS, etc. were even publicly hurled at Engels at the party Congress. (Lenin, WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 1 3f. Emphasis ours.)

Lenin goes on to point out that Engels’ critics tried to have his polemics not published in the Party Journal, because “Duhring too had rendered services to Social-Democracy.” (Ibid.)

Compare this with the following from TCG: “...the contradictions with Marxist-Leninist individuals or groups who hold to the bourgeois line on one or more questions is not an antagonistic contradiction unless the individuals or groups concerned have shown that their theory and practice as a whole follows the bourgeois line and that such errors are not rectified in due time after comradely criticism. ” (last emphasis ours) The TCG, too, has rendered services to Social-Democracy!

This is not our concern. Our concern is not tiptoeing around the petit-bourgeois egos of members of our movement who have rendered their services to social-democracy but who carry the bourgeois line on one or more questions. If they are honest communists, they will pay more attention to the political content of the two-line struggle in a polemic than they do to the “uncomradeliness” of the debate.


We do not disagree that the contradiction between our politics and CPC(M-L)’s politics is antagonistic.

There are, however, different analyses in Canada as to the position of CPC(M-L) and the basis of criticism of it. EN LUTTE!’s criticism of it and MREQ’s criticism of it are very different.

As for our position, we are unclear as to whether EN LUTTE! sees CPC(M-L) as part of the Marxist-Leninist movement. In the beginning they say it is; but in the end they say that it is not a part of the “authentic Marxist-Leninist movement”. This contradiction has been pointed out to us by comrades in struggle.

Before the Journal takes a clear position on this subject, we think that EN LUTTEI’s position should be clarified. It would be a hegemonic move on the Journal’s part to rush into the Statement of Unity a position which did not reflect a two-line struggle going on in Quebec on a major question, and thereby to close off debate within our Journal on a question which is still being debated in Quebec.

The Journal is a service to the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada. It is not our own little toy. We have an historical obligation to reflect the debate going on throughout Canada on major questions. This is a point which apparently the TCG has not yet been “persuaded” of.

Any line on CPC(M-L) must be taken in full consideration of the differences between EN LUTTE! and MREQ on the subject. After EN LUTTE!’s position has been clarified, then the Journal can decide on this question. Before that point, it would be hegemonic and highhanded to take a position on the subject. Known as “closing debate”. As for our own politics, we will not take a principled position on it until we have engaged in further struggle with comrades both in Toronto and in Quebec on the subject.

There is one other issue in the CPC(M-L) debate, however. TCG has said, “the door to opportunism is still open until we agree and openly state” a position that is against CPC(M-L). Apparently we must remind TCG that, even after we have done so, the door to opportunism is still open anyway. Right-Opportunism is the main danger in our movement, and that does not just mean CPC(M-L).

We have all demarcated against CPC(M-L). But we think that some people use the CPC(M-L) in an hysterical way to cover for the fact that they, too, have opportunist politics. They want to say, “CPC(M-L) is one thing, and we are another.” That way they can insist that they be treated differently than CPC(M-L), even if the things they say and do might be the same.

If we want to be distinguished from CPC(M-L), then we must so distinguish ourselves, actively and in our actions and politics. This is not automatic, a gift from the skies.

A Group of Marxist-Leninists

DP said in his criticism of CPC(M-L),

What is the essence of the proposal advanced by CPC(M-L)? First of all, they call for unity of all who call themselves Marxist-Leninist. This is an important point. There is at no time an attempt to define those principles which determine who is and who is not a Marxist-Leninist, (p. 4)

Our position is: in order to call ourselves “a group of Marxist-Leninists,” there must first be “an attempt to define those principles which determine who is and who is not a Marxist-Leninist.”

Until that attempt is made, it is an error to call ourselves “a group of Marxist-Leninists”, an error which is indistinguishable from CPC(M-L)’s error on that subject.

To declare that we are “a group of Marxist-Leninists” is to bureaucratically, and from the top, give us all a special stamp of approval which will insulate us from “uncomradely polemics”. This “approval” has not been won through ideological struggle amongst us. It is a petit-bourgeois political ploy which is not reflective of the two-line struggle now happening in Quebec, but on the contrary attempts to supercede it rather than reflect it. The Journal has an historical obligation not to do this.

As pointed out before, there is nothing in our Statement of Unity that CPC(M-L) could not agree with except that “there is no party”. Is the basis of our unity, then, “smash the party.”???

Marxist-Leninists are people who adhere to the ideology of Marxism-Leninism. The Journal is a contribution to the struggle to ascertain what is and what is not Marxism-Leninism in Canada. Therefore, we are a group of people who are struggling to determine what Marxism-Leninism is in Canada.

To take this position would be to actively differentiate ourselves from CPC(M-L). To take the other position would be to do as CPC(M-L) does.

The TCG has proposed, “CR reaffirm that it is a grouping of Marxist-Leninists and reject the view that the Journal may be defined to include ’anyone who call themselves Marxist-Leninists. . .” But on what basis is it a grouping of Marxist-Leninists? By agreement with the Statement of Unity. If someone agrees with the Statement of Unity, is that enough to consider them a Marxist-Leninist? Let us be clear on that subject. Then, what we are saying is, “you are a Marxist-Leninist if you agree with a statement of unity which CPC(M-L) could agree to plus you say, ”smash the party.” ”

We say, that is not enough. To be a M-L in Canada is more than that. We are struggling to determine what is Marxism-Leninism in Canada. That is what this Journal is all about.

Majority vote is lovely. But, given the historical function of the Journal, the majority vote should not reflect people’s opinions on a given line. It should reflect the fact that there is a debate going on in Canada as a whole. If there is a two-line struggle on a subject in Canada, then historically the Journal has no right to allow the majority to decide the “correct” line at this stage. We should vote only on whether an issue is sufficiently represented within our movement to warrant being aired by us at this time.

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Election Platform

(Note: this was the position of our entire tendency.)

The Bolshevik Tendency, which recognizes EN LUTTE! to be the leading Marxist-Leninist group in Canada, considers that EN LUTTE! has taken the leading position on the Journal as well. We are therefore running on EN LUTTE!’s platform on the nature of the Journal. That is as follows,

... We firmly believe that this desire (for unity) must be embodied in a permanent struggle for unity and a higher level of political and ideological line. This struggle will not achieve its objectives if Canadian Marxist-Leninists do not develop the practical aspect of organizing a large, permanent and open debate on all theoretical, strategic, tactical and organizational questions which confront us at this moment.

This, we think, is the main and fundamental purpose of Canadian Revolution, and we agree with you on this question.... But it would be idealist to think that a journal published by a collective united on a minimum platform will be a permanent and principal means of unity.

We think that Canadian Revolution has an historical function, as a first step towards open and wide struggle in developing correct ideological, political and organizational line, which is a necessary condition to unify in one organization all authentic Marxist-Leninists in Canada.

To speak of “historical function” and of “first step” indicates clearly the limits of Canadian Revolution as a means for unity. It is not our purpose here to speculate on the future of Canadian Revolution. Nobody at this moment can say exactly how it will develop, what path it will follow and what precise role it will play in the way of building Marxist-Leninist unity in Canada. Our conviction is that CR as a “first step” must lead to the emerging of a Marxist-Leninist centre, to the constitution of a central trend within the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement.

... CR, as a “first step”, must be clearly conceived as a means to accomplish the second one, which is the building of a Marxist-Leninist centre in Canada. We firmly believe that this is an absolute necessity to achieve organizational unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists.

... In the present situation, given the general dispersion and isolation of Marxist-Leninist forces, open and wide debate on strategic and tactical line, on theoretical and organizational questions, on party building and unification of Marxist-Leninists must be systematically organized on a national scale.

CR is, at this moment, a significant initiative in the present phase of party-building in Canada – which is, as no one can doubt, a primary phase.

This is our platform on the function of the Journal in the Marxist-Leninist movement.

We are running three candidates for the position of member of the Editorial Board. We are running three candidates ONLY because this enables us, in view of the small number of people running, to avoid voting for certain candidates for whom we are unwilling to cast our ballots. It is not an attempt to seek hegemony in the Editorial Board, and we remain consistent in our position that the Journal is objectively a coalition, and should not be subjected to the hegemony of any political tendency. Should anybody happen to be entertaining thoughts of voting for a member or members of our tendency, then we request that preference be given to candidates in the order listed.

Our responses to the platforms of other candidates will be circulated shortly.