Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The whole is equal to the sum of the parts

Positions of the Toronto Communist Group

Critique of the Native Article

From previous discussion of this article, we were expecting this article to be a concrete analysis of the history of the native people in Canada leading to the political conclusion that they have a national status. Our support for this article was based not on anticipated agreement with the conclusions (in fact, there were disagreements) but on the usefulness of concrete historical analysis to begin a comradely debate and encourage further historical investigation.

On studying the article we find not mainly historical and concrete analysis, but a polemic against another line, a line which is not attributed to any group but supplied by the authors. We have fundamental disagreement with the method, style, and tone of this article as well as some of its political conclusions.

The following is an outline of some of the main disagreements and a position, for struggle, as to what the editorial board should do with it. These notes are not a substitute for a reply to the article which, if important to do, would require more study of the document and other sources, and more time.

Basic Methodology:

a) The analysis is a racialistic rather than class analysis. “White people” (irrespective of class) are presented as materially and objectively benefiting from the national oppression of native people. This is a non-Marxist-Leninist method in analysing imperialism. It is a throwback to the erroneous “white privilege” line of Weatherman, Red Morning, and the L.S.M. It is a retrogressive trend in the movement and should be condemned by the journal.

b) The two-line struggle is presented between the author’s position and the author’s characterization of another position. The two-line struggle is not developed either in relation to:
(i) documented and summarized clear lines of other groups, or
(ii) a summary of the Marxist-Leninist position on national minorities, as developed by Lenin and implemented by China, with an explanation as to why these criteria do not apply to native people in Canada. This method is confusing, opportunist, and sectarian. Rather than leading to clarity over real differences, it promotes unclear division between Marxist-Leninists and native leaders and among Marxist-Leninists (including native Marxist-Leninists).

(c) The article has a strong tendency towards anti-communism by continuously lumping together, without distinction, Marxist-Leninists, revisionists, trotskyites, CPC(M-L), and Christian missionaries, in other words, by making no distinction between communists and agents of the bourgeoisie. The term “white left” is a racialistic, non-class, derogatory and anti-communist term; further it is an American term which ignores the Anglo-French division in Canada.

d) The article is in contradiction with the basis of unity of the journal when it calls for the drawing of lines of demarcation around the political line it presents as the first contribution on a question where the basis of unity specifically calls for debate. 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. This line objectively requires the withdrawal, immediately, of the authors or those with whom they disagree, from the journal collective as counter-revolutionaries.

Concrete Historical Analysis:

a) There is not any political-economic explanation rooted in an analysis of the forces and the relations of production to defend the line that all classes benefit materially from the national oppression of native people, despite a couple of nice quotes from Lenin and Engels tacked on the end of the paper to satisfy this objection.

b) The stages of slavery, feudalism and proletarianization of native people are sheer inventions put forward without any documentation. Furthermore, they stand in apparent contradiction to the authors’ claims that native people have somehow retained a primitive communal consciousness which they apparently view as more progressive than proletarian consciousness.

c) Marxist-Leninists are charged with having historically belittled or ignored the native struggle without substantiation (or, we suspect, investigation). Such a charge would have to be demonstrated historically since the founding of the Communist Party.

d) Periods of Canadian history which are absolutely clearly periods of French control and then British imperialist hegemony are described as periods of Canadian imperialism, thus rendering the very term meaningless.

e) There is not a single reference to events which show the historical basis for revolutionary unity of native people with other groups, including the working class, such as:
i) the alliances of a Metis rebellions and the support given to them by by organized labour
ii) the support by the workers, farmers, and national bourgeoisie of native rights (1837)
iii) the struggles by native people for goals which objectively are in the interests of the proletariat, such as the right to armed self-defense or opposition to ecological destruction
iv) the long history of close relations between native and non-native workers and trade unionists, especially in BC.

This omission means that Canadian history is not presented as a series of spontaneous resistances to and alliances against oppression (the proletarian view) but as a history of the active or passive support of the people for various acts of oppression (the bourgeois view).

Political lines:

a) The thesis that native people are a nation is never demonstrated clearly for struggle, since at the end of the article we are left not with a scientific proposition but the vague idealist notion that there may be native nations somewhere or anywhere, including continentally. The stages of slavery, feudalism and proletarianization are sheer fabrication. The applications of Stalin’s criteria is superficial and the explanation of different stages of the national question confused and confusing.

b) The line of native people as a national minority is not refuted because it is not presented. The only line refuted is the author’s characterization of this line, including their speculation that this involves denial of native rights such as land claims and autonomous regions.

c) 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.

d) the line that the fundamental contradiction facing native people is not with the ruling class but with all classes and strata of whites is a counter-revolutionary line that aids the bourgeoisie and splits the unity of the proletariat and oppressed peoples. This line must be refuted by the journal.

e) The article jumps from claiming that natives are a nation with the right to self-determination to advocating secession and a separate party, without explanation. Further, no explanation is offered as to why the same principles should not apply to Quebec (a rather serious question). Still further, no mention whatever is made of the Leninist method (not a principle) of having one communist party to fight one state.

f) The article implicitly attacks the concept of the leading revolutionary role of the working class in several ways:

1) by suggesting the working class benefits from national oppression, and, by implication does “have something to lose other than its chains”.
2) by presenting recent native resistance as objectively historically more important than the spontaneous upsurge in working class struggle.
3) by maintaining that primitive communalism creates the conditions for socialist consciousness, and therefore denying the Marxist truth that capitalist proletarianization creates these conditions.
4) by maintaining that native colonization and not the exploitation of the proletariat is the principal prop of bourgeois rule.
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.

g) Substitution of a moral for a scientific basis to Marxism-Leninism – by arguing that it is in the interests of the proletariat (materially) to maintain the colonization of native people and to view with desire the lush territories of the native colonies. We are left with the proposition that the proletariat must support a struggle which is against their interests, for moral reasons. A good basis for Christianity, perhaps, but the only morality the proletariat knows is the defense of its own interests – the liberation of humanity.

h) 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. Further, the authors must clarify whether this is the basis on which they will conduct the struggle over the article.

Style of Writing:

a) The article is unnecessarily long for the amount of actual political content, even going to the point of repeating quotes. The same content could be put in a maximum of one-half the space.

b) The style is arrogant (“We’ve saved our trump card for the last”) and divisive (disagreements are seen as racist and revisionist). There is a general tendency to substitute moralism and emotion for science and persuasion.


This article is a reactionary and anti-communist submission. It contains no class or historical analysis whatever. It is a polemic against an imaginary line. It liquidates the revolutionary role of the proletariat and presents the struggle of native people not as a class struggle, but as a racial struggle against white. It seeks to divide, not to unite, to proclaim, not to explain. It demands the end to a struggle which is just beginning. Printing this article would be an error.


(these are mine only [initials of one of the writers])

a) The first step is for the authors to state whether they still maintain the line presented in their article that all who oppose their position are racist, pro-imperialist, pro-genocide, revisionist and anti-communist. If this is their position, whichever line has a minority of support must be expelled from the journal group immediately, for there can be no principled basis of unity.

b) If the authors repudiate their line, a thorough self-criticism is the precondition to the re-submission of an article on the native question, and to working relations being continued in the journal. Such accusations and charges as they have made cannot and must not be treated lightly.

c) The article they have submitted is beyond any hope of repair and should be thrown in the garbage or disposed of by similar means. There is no use whatever in a rambling polemic on a question in which the facts have not been presented. It is only when the facts are agreed and the lines are clear that a polemic has validity.

d) The journal is still prepared to publish a position on the native question which argues, based on a class and historical analysis (and not in opposition to Marxism-Leninism) that native people do or do not constitute a nation within Canada. This article will be written based on a class analysis and will have as its object the education and persuasion of its intended readers.

e) Such an article will be considered from the authors of “Nationhood or Genocide” provided the above steps are accepted and they have not been expelled from the journal group.

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“Step-by-Step Unity” (On the Journal)

This position is being written in response to the discussion at the journal collective meeting last week. In that meeting there was much inconclusive discussion about methods of work which resulted in a decision to postpone the decision on how to select a permanent editorial board. It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs of the journal collective that the only thing we have been able to do in the last three collective meetings is postpone decisions. The fact that we cannot decisively resolve problems is an indication that we must orient our discussions to the roots of the problem – that is, our objectives for working on the journal in the first place and what we think its political objectives should be. From there we can proceed to discuss our methods of work.

Perspectives on Building Unity in the Journal

We agreed at one point last month 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 was never decided. – BU] This is the alternative to it being an endless debating society, or its dissolution when the two-line struggle becomes sharper throughout Canada. This transformation involves a few steps, some of which we have already begun.

The first of these is drawing clear lines of demarcation around the Marxist-Leninist movement. There must be clear criteria as to what debate is legitimate within the Marxist-Leninist movement, and what is debate that goes beyond the bounds of Marxism-Leninism. In a sort of half-assed way, we have already been addressing this question in practice. We determined that we should publish an attack on CPC(M-L) and not consider the publication of a reply, because we do not consider that within the scope of legitimate debate. What we have not done is systematize our lines on how to advance the debate and where to draw the lines. We are moving rather spontaneously in that area. What makes that problem more difficult is that debate is not a static thing. If it takes the form of sharp ideological and political struggle, unity will be built and lines will sharpen, and the struggle will lead to some form of resolution. The journal, on its own behalf, will have to step in at one point or another and take a formal role in that debate.

The second step we have also taken tentatively, though not decisively. That is for the journal to formally take a role in struggles as they develop and not merely tail behind the movement in Canada. We did this a few weeks ago when all present at a collective meeting agreed that building the communist party was the central task facing Marxist-Leninists in Canada. Where we fell down in that decision was that, once made, we did not know how to go about its implementation.

The third step is for the journal collective internally to build unity step-by-step. In this step there has been little advance at all and, indeed, not too much struggle. More to the point, we have yet to define what kind of unity it is that we wish to build step-by-step and how this fits in with the growth and development both of the journal and of the Canadian Communist movement as a whole.

Making the Steps

First of all, we should understand the variations of “demarcation” that have been used and are still being used in connection with the selection of content for the journal. These fall into three main areas. The first is those lines with which we agree and which we consider it important to promote. Our analysis of these questions is that they are matters of principle which are not subject to debate within the Marxist-Leninist movement. This may involve such questions as whether the proletariat is the leading class in history, whether Mao is a Marxist-Leninist, etc. Someone holding a contrary view should look elsewhere for publication. These are treated as the boundaries of the Marxist-Leninist movement.

The second area includes lines with which we are in agreement and which we adopt as questions of principle at certain points in the debate. These lines we will also promote through the journal. We will not consider difference with these lines to be necessarily outside the Marxist-Leninist movement, but we consider them to be sufficiently incorrect to demand simultaneous reply. These may include such lines as the central task of Marxist-Leninists or (later) the principal contradiction in Canada.

The third area includes lines on which we have no collective position and which are generally unresolved amongst Marxist-Leninists in Canada. This area is one in which we promote debate and encourage the publication of dissenting views to advance and clarify the debate. This includes such things as the native question, implantation, method for building the party etc.

It is and must be a purpose of the journal, in promoting debate, to facilitate the motion of lines from the third and second area into the first area – that is we promote debate in order to resolve it. This in no way speculates on the manner in which debates are resolved. It may well be that two clear and different lines emerge in the struggle and crystallize into the formation of two clear and distinct tendencies.

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. Already this line is representing a turning point in the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement. It is one of the standards against which we are measuring the work of Marxist-Leninists in all parts of the country. And it is a line that we should promote in the journal. Does this mean that the struggle is closed and all that disagree with the line are in antagonistic contradiction with us? No, it doesn’t. It means that we have a) determined a new criterion by which submissions to the journal will be judged; b) it means that we have concretely advanced our unity as presently stated in the “Statement of Political Unity”; and 3) it means that we have adopted a concrete basis for evaluating our own political work vis-a-vis the Journal. It provides a clearer basis for struggling about the political work promoted by the journal and about the role each of us plays in it. Would we accept articles that disagree with that central task? Yes, if they are clear and concise formulations of lines argued from a basis of Marxism-Leninism. But they would not be printed alone. We would, as described in the “Statement”, maintain the right to reply.

What we are, in fact, talking about here, is precisely “building unity step-by-step.” Building (formal) unity in the journal must be done as required by political demands upon us and in relation to the development of struggle among Marxist-Leninists in Canada.

If we genuinely see the journal as eventually developing into the vehicle of a political line, then we have to recognize the step-by-step process of progressively increasing and consolidating the basis of unity of the journal to reflect and to lead the advancing struggles. To date, our most serious weakness has been inaction This, however, will lead quickly to tailing behind the movement and abdicating a leading role if we are unable to be more decisive in the near future.

Concretely, we propose at the present: a) formal adoption of building the communist party as the main task facing Marxist-Leninists in Canada at this time; b) the publication of an editorial to that effect in the next issue of the journal. Someone from the collective should be delegated to write that editorial and it should be approved by the collective before publication; c) incorporate that central task into the basis of unity, a step which changes the character of the role the journal will play in the struggle around it; d) concretely evaluate what the implications of the central task on the rest of the work the journal is planning and how, if at all, it changes our political priorities in the journal.

The question which is raised by all this is “How do we decide”? That question came up briefly in the last meeting. 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 the decisions, then the minority does. For example, if a two-thirds majority were to be required to make a change in the statement of unity, then one third of the collective would be able to make the decision not to change it. If concensus is our policy, then any one person can determine the limits of collective decision-making. 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.

The only realistic alternative to this, is to challenge the method of decisions by votes at all. Practically, this line has taken the form of referring to the existence of blocks, and suggesting that decisions be made individually by each of the blocks, and implemented where decisions overlap. In the struggle last week, this took the form of some historical discussion as to whether the journal collective was a coalition, or an organization, or part both. If the latter, it was still not clear how much was organization and how much was coalition. One person even suggested that the journal has always been a coalition and that some others are trying to sneak in a change through the back door.

The journal is neither a coalition nor an organization, nor has it ever been either of those in the past. It is, rather, a combination of both of those which could take either direction. Indeed, it will move spontaneously in one of those directions unless we address this question directly a and determine consciously which we prefer.

From the beginning, the journal collective has had some aspects of a coalition. It was not seen as a complete union of Marxist-Leninists, but as a practical working forum for the accomplishment of various specific tasks, chief among them the publication of a journal. 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. Finally, each of the initial groupings in the journal were given representation through selection of their own delegates, on the editorial board of the journal.

It should be clear, however, that the journal was never completely a coalition. It has a strategic, not a tactical, political line and objective, which includes struggling for unity among Marxist-Leninists locally and nationally. Its membership is not restricted to groups, but we have been active in attempting to interest individuals to join the group. Membership in the journal collective is individual, not collective. The whole struggle which took place several months ago about the representation of Workers Unity in the journal collective and on the editorial board was resolved precisely by determining that the journal was not a coalition and that membership in the collective was not based upon membership in a participating group.

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.

The real question is which way do we wish to move? It is the position of this paper that we should be attempting to build unity, not fragment it; that we should be attempting to consolidate, not diffuse our lines and our political work. We should be seeking to emphasize the collective aspects of the journal group and reduce the coalition aspects. This is the organizational form that is consistent with our objective of eventually being the organ of a single political line. Certainly that will not be produced by a coalition.

There are a few points that are raised by this position. The first is to be clear that we are NOT simply declaring that we are an organization. We are defining political collectivity as a desirable objective to be worked towards Second, it means that we must seriously, and immediately address the question of the central task and the implication of our agreement upon it. It is insufficient to merely agree with the formulation that party-building is the central task, and fail to review the work and priorities of the journal in the light of that task. Third, attention must be paid to the process of developing, extending and formalizing our unity – both in relation to the political use to which we put the journal and as a process of building more formal unity amongst ourselves. It is indeed ironic that we are one of the few Marxist-Leninist groupings in English-speaking Canada that is not using the journal for group study and struggle, while most of the authors of positions are accessible and available to help lead in such discussions and struggles. Fourth, we must formalize decision-making in the collective so that lines can be debated and adopted or rejected democratically. Either decisions will be made by the various groupings and reported to the collective as a whole, or they will be made by the journal collective itself. And if they are made by the journal, questions will be decided by either a majority or a minority. The clear preference we put forward here is that decisions be made by the journal collective by simple majority vote. This process applies to all decisions made by the journal collective.

The Editorial Board

Since much of this preceding position devolved from the discussion of the journal collective last week on the selection of an editorial board, that question should be addressed directly here. Simply, our position is that the decision to select an editorial board should be made in the same manner as is recommended for other decisions. That is, by simple majority vote.

The editorial board is the closest thing that the journal group has at this time to a leadership body, so much discussion has been focussed on this question. So let us try to address a few of the points head on.

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 ail agree to carry out democratically made decisions. To this extent, the journal is already democratic centralist. Therefore, the question is not whether we should become democratic centralist or more democratic centralist. The question is how do we correctly apply democratic centralist methods of work at this time.

Historic and Present criticism of groups and individuals – As part of a process of building and consolidating our political unity, it will be necessary to come to a common outlook on our histories which will involve self-criticism of errors made in the past. This, however, is a lengthy process which will take place over an extended period of time. We think it more appropriate that any person standing for nomination to the editorial board be criticised by anyone in the collective holding such criticisms and be responsible for self-criticism for the same. This is part of an election process and must precede the selection of an editorial board.

Representation – at present consists of representatives of small groupings on the editorial board. No one, however, represents the journal collective. If the collective itself is not a real coalition, its editorial board is. This is becoming more unsatisfactory as individuals without groups join the collective. They are completely unrepresented. Similarly representation is weak for a group such as the persons from Better Read whose unity is not based on a common political line, but principally on shared practise. Furthermore, representation is undemocratic. We are all members of the journal collective. We all attend the meetings, work on the journal, and support it financially. But we have only peripheral say as to the constitution of its leading body. We have no control over the appointment of someone we oppose or the selection of someone we support. This is even more serious in the cases of persons who do not belong to groups. Finally, this method of selecting leadership opens the journal up to extreme opportunist manipulations including destruction of the journal itself. As an extreme example, if a half-dozen couples decided to join the journal under false pretenses, and seek representation on the editorial board, they would constitute a majority. Does anyone believe that it is beyond the scruples of CPC(M-L) or some similar group to attempt this?Let’s just recall for a moment the fate of On The Line or Alive Magazine.

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 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.

Implicit political lines taking hegemony – This, too, is a possibility. The only guarantees that we can have in this area are (a) making the basis for selection to the editorial board explicit, and b) assuming that candidates are honest. 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. For example, a person will be selected to the editorial board on the basis that she/he thinks that we should make a special effort to promote struggle around questions x-y-z for the purpose of resolving them within the next year and developing them into a programmatic formulation; or that the main task of the journal collective should be building its own internal unity to supercede that of the individual groups involved; or whatever. That person is accountable to the collective not for a line on the national question, but for lines that were the basis of selection onto the editorial board. It should also be clear that it is up to the majority of the journal collective to decide that the best form of the editorial board at this time would be a mix of lines, rather than one line. This decision would be made by their vote for persons of different views. Finally, it should be clear that the editorial board is subject to formal review at least every six months and more often if necessary, and that any member, or the whole board, may be recalled by majority vote at any time.

In summation, we think that the journal collective should be moving bo build more unity internally, step-by-step. Part of this means stepping up the democratic aspect of the work within the journal group at this time. We recommend adoption of the previous recommendations of the editorial board on the method of selection of a permanent editorial board.

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“Outstripped by the Political Developments” (TCG’s Election Platform)

The following is TCG’s platform which will guide our work in the Journal and on the Editorial Board, if elected. We are not asking the Journal group as a whole to struggle to agreement on this position. We do ask that Journal members who support the platform, express it by voting for our candidates.

Our understanding of the present conditions in the Marxist-Leninist movement is that there has been a qualitative change since the beginning of CR. Two leading forces from Quebec are both now undertaking a national practice – the League and EN LUTTE! This practice will include organizing struggle with Marxist-Leninists in English Canada on their own behalf, the development of national publications to put forward their respective lines, and both are issuing the call to Marxist-Leninists in Canada to rally to them.

There are two lines in the Journal group on which of these forces is the leading centre in the struggle for the Party. We think our past line of trying to transform CR into the organ of a national organization has been outstripped by the political developments. Because there are two lines on the leading centre, it is impossible to rally CR to either through a common decision. CR therefore should remain an independent journal with its purpose being to sharpen and deepen the two-line struggle on a national scale. When the two-line struggle has been firmly taken up across all Canada the possibility of CR’s liquidation may be raised or objectively become a question. This question however must be addressed by all Marxist-Leninists and not only those in the CR group .

We stand for the following priorities for CR publication: a) Because the two-line struggle is sharpening and being led by EN LUTTE! and the League, CR should, as its first priority, concentrate on exposing their respective strategic lines, and tactical lines on the central task and the tasks of Marxists-Leninists. This would include their views on: agitation and propaganda, links with the masses, stages of party building, how to build a national organization and the Party, and the main deviation in the movement. b) contributions should be solicited from Marxist-Leninists in Canada in response to this struggle as well as any historical summations of local or regional practice and the error of economism, c) publication on topics other than the above should not be abandoned but made secondary particularly when there is a contradiction over space. Positions on women, trade union work, etc. . . when submitted should continue to be assessed according to CR’s present guidelines. d) different positions should be put forward in the pages of the journal expressing how members see CR’s direction and purpose in relation to the political developments. Marxist-Leninists in the rest of Canada should also take this question up and their views published in the Journal.