Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The whole is equal to the sum of the parts


After several months of struggling against an opportunist trend in Canadian Revolution, the Bolshevik Tendency (now the Bolshevik Union) summed up its critique of this trend in a position called “Against Opportunism in the Journal” (reproduced here in the section following the Introduction). This position, submitted on December 9, 1975, was prefaced by three motions, one of which specifically called on the collective to reject the practice of “building unity around a common practice or task”, and specifically building “unity” around the practice of producing the Journal. This motion was voted on on January 24, 1976, and defeated. For this and other reasons we took the position that opportunism had been consolidated within the Journal.

This was the culmination of a two-line struggle on the nature of the Journal, what it should “become”, and, arising out of that, the nature of principled unity of Marxist-Leninists. This two-line struggle was not precipitated by our members but was forced upon us. Canadian Revolution was, as of the summer of 1975, performing a proven service to the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement. It was fulfilling its function on a coalition basis with an editorial board based on representivity. Its basis of unity was deliberately designed to be broad enough to accommodate a wide range of issues which were the subject of controversy within the Marxist-Leninist movement. The Journal had a difficult task. Because of the immaturity of the Marxist-Leninist movement in English Canada, it was necessary for groups and individuals who would ordinarily have had recourse to separate publications to pool their resources. That was the purpose of this tactical alliance.

Yet others in the Journal, under the leadership of the Toronto Communist Group, were not able to resist a fruit ripe for opportunist plucking. Therefore, late in the summer of 1975, they raised the question within the Journal membership: “What is the Journal to become!” The proven viability of the Journal in providing a wide-open forum for debate was not sufficient for these elements and they therefore sought to transform Canadian Revolution from a vehicle performing this service to our movement into a vehicle under the control of right-opportunism.

Our struggle was a struggle to maintain the Journal in the function and purpose for which it was founded. The positions of our members (who only later consolidated into the Bolshevik Tendency) were consistent, principled and correct since the beginning. We maintained that the Journal had an historically limited, specific function which was to provide a “forum for debate” and that the Journal was objectively a coalition of groups and individuals within the Marxist-Leninist movement who had come together to organize the practical (not the political) aspect of the debate. Anyone who examines the collection of documents in the appendix to this pamphlet will see that our position remained unchanged throughout the struggle in the Journal. On the other hand, a reading of the documents of the other groups and individuals within the Journal collective will underscore the vacillations of Workers’ Unity and the TCG in their opportunist jockeying for hegemony.

The coalition nature of the Journal was even more true at the time of the split than at the beginning. Before the Bolshevik Tendency left the main body of the Journal, there were, aside from two individuals, three consolidated groups: ourselves, Workers’ Unity, and the Toronto Communist Group. The predominance of these groups, from the beginning, has been reflected in the pages of the Journal. Of approximately 169 Journal pages (in issues no. 1 through 4) which consist of original articles rather than reprints, approximately 129 pages are the work of people in these three groups (51 pages by members of the BT, 43 by WU and 35 by members of the TCG).

In the two-line struggle the Bolshevik Tendency consistently fought for open debate; explicit recognition of the sources of leadership within the Journal grouping; a clear distinction between the process of summing up the level of debate and struggle in the movement, on the one hand, and true Marxist-Leninist political leadership, on the other hand; and recognition of the coalition nature of the Journal. We battled for this as part of a general Marxist-Leninist understanding that in the Marxist-Leninist movement unity must be built specifically around the elaboration of a revolutionary political line and program, and this in the context of “drawing lines of demarcation” against bourgeois ideology. The connection between our emphasis on the Journal as a “forum for debate” and the nature of unity of Marxist-Leninists is specifically the Leninist understanding that the means to a true and lasting unity of Marxist-Leninists has nothing in common with bureaucratic wheeling and dealing and consists specifically in debating all questions of importance as thoroughly as possible, i.e., “demarcating”.

The role of the opportunists in the two-line struggle was to encourage hidden leadership (thus misrepresenting the Journal to the movement); to seek means to censor and pass judgment on the debate without the Journal itself participating in the debate; to undermine a Marxist-Leninist conception of how unity is built among Marxist-Leninists by calling for the building of unity, not around a revolutionary political line, but around a “political line” defined in terms of the common practice of building the Journal and “guiding” (i.e., limiting, controlling) the debate in the movement. Essentially, they have taken a position which amounts to “unity in the belief that tactics are a process of growth of party tasks, which grow together with the party”. (Lenin, WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 133) Lenin calls this “a precious unity indeed”!

The opportunists, without exception, have a long history of political tailism and bankruptcy. Unable to rest on the strength of their own autonomous political practice and ideology, they turned to the Journal, with its resources and prestige, to bolster their own role in the Marxist-Leninist movement. They talked about the necessity of providing “leadership” in the movement without ever having engaged in the ideological struggle which is the basis for Marxist-Leninist leadership and without ever having advanced politics which are worthy of being called leading politics. They talked about the necessity to “guide” the struggles in the movement when they actually meant that they sought to limit the parameters of debate permissible within Canadian Revolution according to the guidelines of their own particular political opinions, whether or not an issue was still being struggled out within the movement at large.[1] Finally, they called for “unity” but never engaged in the ideological struggle which Marxism-Leninism recognizes is necessary for such unity.

“Sabotage” of the Journal

Recently the main body of Canadian Revolution sent subscribers a letter in which they unanimously condemn the Bolshevik Tendency for its “counterrevolutionary actions intended to sabotage Canadian Revolution organizationally and financially.” This letter is reproduced on page 38 of the appendix. The issue that they have sunk their teeth into is the fact that when we left we took with us our share of the latest issue of the Journal, proportionate to our size within the Journal membership. The other is that we were, according to what they have told us orally (and as they will “prove” in CR no. 5), all along attempting to sabotage the Journal and only staying in it long enough to have the article “Nationhood or Genocide” subsidized by the Marxist-Leninist movement.

We have since decided that we were wrong to take the Journals and have made a self-criticism, which is reproduced on page 28 of the Appendix. We have offered to return all assets to the main body of Canadian Revolution. Among other things, we self-criticized for helping to create a situation wherein the politics of the split were liable to be obscured.

We did not realize at the time we took the Journals that we were in fact appropriating some assets contributed not just by Journal members but by supporting members from the Marxist-Leninist movement. When we realized this we offered to rectify this situation through the main body, in an offer reproduced on page 28. This offer was not accompanied by a self-criticism but was rather in the spirit of compromise. It was unresponded to. We were going to offer supporting members their due refunds directly through this pamphlet; now, however, our decision is to simply return all assets to the main body.

With our self-criticism, however, is also a criticism. However the situation may be misrepresented by the main body of Canadian Revolution, Canadian Revolution was a coalition and there was a split over principled differences. So very often, whenever there is a split in a grouping or a coalition, property questions are in dispute. In all of our experience we have never seen such an infantile and presumptuous response to such a situation as has been displayed by the main body of Canadian Revolution. We urge people to consider that, in our opinion, they are using the “emotional appeal to the taxpayer” technique in order to discredit us where they cannot discredit us on an open political basis. They are seeking to draw lines of demarcation over the issue of property when they have persistently refused to recognize the necessity of drawing lines of demarcation over the issue of ideology. We were wrong to take the Journals, but this does not justify the reaction of the opportunists to our action: calling us “saboteurs” engaging in “counterrevolutionary acts”, and exercising bureaucratic hegemonism by refusing to allow us to represent our side of the controversy in the pages of the Journal. We would like to stress, for our part, that no sabotage, or anything of a kind, was intended.

For us, a more important question than the secondary question of property is their claim that we have engaged in political and organizational sabotage of the Journal. Certain facts must be brought out here. Far from all along attempting to sabotage the Journal, it was two members of the Bolshevik Tendency who initiated the Journal. While this is impossible now to substantiate (we have heard the refrain that several people “had the idea at the same time”), this is how the Journal originated: those two members of the Bolshevik Tendency approached Workers’ Unity, who were at the time confused as to how to proceed in the movement. Workers’ Unity readily accepted the idea of the Journal. They recruited others but were opposed to including the Toronto Communist Group in the original collective. The TCG, for their part, was at first not interested in participating in the Journal on the grounds that it would be an “unprincipled unity”. (Famous last words.) The two groups had had no political contact for some time. It was at the leadership of our members that their hostilities and circle spirit were broken down enough to produce a Journal. Now they have found that they are compatible on a functional level and, without any struggle for unity over political line, they start calling this functional compatibility “building unity”. When we oppose this opportunism, we are labelled “saboteurs”. Apparently we struggled to form the Journal in order to sabotage it!

As to the opportunists’ claim that we only stayed in the Journal long enough to have a certain article subsidized, we are amazed! Our leaving corresponded to the date of the struggle (or non-struggle) over our charges of opportunism, the date that “unity around a task” was openly endorsed, and the date of the editorial board elections. Over this date – January 24, 1976 – we had no control. How we could have timed these meetings with the final production date is beyond our imagination. Perhaps they think that we invented our charges of opportunism in order to have an excuse to leave and take the Journals with us! Perhaps we “have deliberately invented this [opportunism] out of sheer hatred of mankind, in order mortally to offend other people!” (Lenin, WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 74) Having grown accustomed themselves to using politics as secondary tools for manipulating situations, they take this kind of thinking for granted.

Finally, in dealing with the question of “sabotage”, it is necessary to locate the real saboteurs. The Journal had been performing its service well without phony talk about “unity” and without a plan (or plot) for “what the Journal should become”. The opportunists, under the leadership of the TCG, raised such nonsense and subsequently forced a political crisis to interfere with the smooth functioning of Canadian Revolution as a forum for debate. Nevertheless, it has happened, and, although we realize that many in our movement will see the split as a tempest in a teapot, it is necessary to examine whose “teaparty” it was. Our most serious error and self-criticism is not having made it explicit, and written into the Basis of Unity from the first, that the Journal was a coalition, a forum for debate, and not an organization of true Marxist-Leninist political unity. Such a proposal would have passed handily at the beginning of the Journal formation.

We consider that the nature of the split in the Journal is significant to our entire movement not just for the struggle on the Journal itself, but for its broader implications in terms of the two-line struggle against right-opportunism which must be waged in order to build the party. We must defeat the widespread attitude which can be summed up as: “At last! Movement! And leadership! Movement and leadership are good. Let’s not examine it too closely. . . .” In this pamphlet we plan to examine, closely, whose “teaparty” the crisis in the Journal was, and who has actually been trying to sabotage the Journal.

The Toronto Communist Group

The Toronto Communist Group provided the leadership for the opportunist tendency to which the rest of the Journal members (main body) have now rallied. It may come as a surprise to many in our movement that there even exists a group called the Toronto Communist Group, that this group now controls the Journal by force of numbers, that its main activity in the Journal has been to consolidate that control, and that it has done this in spite of (a) having resisted the formation of the Journal, (b) having contributed nothing to the debate in Canada on the level of the two-line struggle (all the articles written by members of the TCG have been “safe” reviews, and attacks on bankrupt formations outside of the movement), and (c) having a long tradition of incorrect and inconsistent politics in the movement, dating in some cases back to the student movement of the late 1960’s.

It was the TCG which first raised the position that the Journal should “work for the transformation, over time, into the vehicle for the propagation of a political line”. This is stated in their “Step-by step Unity” proposal (formally entitled “On the Journal”, contained in an appendix on page 34). This proposal was put forward in answer to their own question, “What is the Journal to become?” The details of how the TCG managed to transform itself into the “leading centre” in the Journal are dealt with elsewhere. Here, we will focus on two of the most serious features of the opportunism of “Step-by-step Unity”. These are: the relationship between the majority and the minority, and the question of democratic centralism.

As a political rationale put forward by the TCG for majority rule over the minority in the Journal, we find this glib sophistry:

How do we decide?... The only solution is 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 a majority doesn’t make the decisions, then the minority does.... If consensus is our policy, then any one person can determine the limits of collective decision-making.

As well, they imply in the document that all democratic organizations are automatically democratic centralist, and that in the Journal it is just a matter of applying this properly – presumably the effective submission of the minority to the majority. They put these ideas forward as if they are absolute organizational principles. Apparently, when different groups work together, as on the Journal, consensus is an un-communist, anti-democratic centralist method of work! We find the parallel with the well-known paradigm of hegemony-seeking – the positions of the CPSU vis-a-vis the Communist Party of China – is inescapable. We quote from the PROPOSAL CONCERNING THE GENERAL LINE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNIST MOVEMENT, in part a polemic against the hegemony-seeking of the CPSU before the final break between the two parties:

If the principle of reaching unanimity through consultation is accepted in relations among fraternal parties (fraternal groups in our case – BU) then one should not emphasize “who is in the majority” or “who is in the minority” and bank on a so-called majority in order to force through one’s own erroneous line and carry out sectarian and splitting policies.

And, since people in the Journal place such great stock in considering contradictions in the movement as “contradictions among the people”, we quote from a section on that subject in DECISION OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY CONCERNING THE GREAT PROLETARIAN CULTURAL REVOLUTION:

The method to be used in debate is to present the facts, reason things out, and persuade through reasoning. Any method of forcing a minority holding different views to submit is impermissable. The minority should be protected because sometimes the truth is with the minority.

Now, we are hardly arguing against the principle of majority rule in situations where it is applicable in an organization or a party, but we deny that it is the only way to “run a group” or that consensus decision-making is not a valid Communist method of work.

The Bolshevik Tendency never objected to majority vote over the mundane tasks which confronted the Journal. The issue at stake was not this, but rather the question of majority minority[2] decisions over questions of political line. Our position was that, if there is an issue which is being struggled out within the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada, the Journal should not take a position on it but should leave it open for struggle. This was in keeping with our understanding of the Journal’s historical function. If the majority were to insist on putting forward their views on these questions, then we felt that there had to be a place for a minority platform, in order to reflect the struggles within the Journal collective. This view was rejected, and we were not allowed a minority response to the editorial in Issue no. 4. Such would have been a format which would have intensified rather than retarded struggle over these questions.

The problem with the TCG was that they were just going through the motions, with political content secondary to form, since form is more easy to manipulate for opportunist purposes. They are concerned only with the appearance of democratic centralism. They do not understand that, as an organizational principle, democratic centralism exists when there is a politically constituted centre, the necessary condition for communist centralism; i.e., when a centre has been rallied to, or voluntarily established, when specific politics have been rallied to (never the case within the Journal).

It has been convenient for the TCG to make these “mistakes” since they have all along been the largest voting bloc in the Journal. TCG’s position on majority/minority simply amounts to this: according to certain absolute organizational principles the TCG has the right to be the “leading centre” in the Journal by pure happenstance of having the largest number of votes. We quote from the section of their position on the Journal called “Power blocs and bourgeois politicking”, a section which proves the splitting-and-wrecking politics of “Step-by-step Unity”:

If a majority of the people in the Journal constitute themselves into a power bloc to take control, they will do just that. ... On the other hand, so what? If they are the majority that is their right.

Shades of the CPSU! Hegemony-seeking, the law of the jungle, is perfectly acceptable amongst Communists! Competitive capitalism transforms itself into monopoly capitalism! Bourgeois politicking is a matter of course, political content be damned. That was “Step-by-step Unity” in a nutshell, and its politics have come true.

The Elections to the Editorial Board and their Role in the Split

The basis for the application of these ideas and the carrying out of their scheme to transform CR into an organization (their organization!), was the election of an editorial board “at large” in the collective rather than by the usual representation of groups. These elections were nothing more than a bureaucratic manoeuvre to gain hegemony in the “leading body” of the collective, and isolate minority viewpoints. TCG is quite explicit in “Step-by-step Unity” that a major function of at-large elections was to isolate minority positions from having their proportional voice in the struggles on the Journal. They say,

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, (Emphasis ours)

Members of the Bolshevik Tendency struggled against these elections because they were put forward by the TCG with the rationale of going beyond the coalition features of the Journal and consolidating its organizational characteristics. We were willing to stay in the Journal, however, even after it was decided (in words) that we were not a coalition and that there would be elections, providing that the Bolshevik Tendency was represented, by voting at-large, on the editorial board. But even this was not to be.

Workers’ Unity, which was at first against the elections, and then for the elections but with the proviso that everyone should vote so that it turned out to be representative (the best, the best of all possible worlds), flipped again and decided that it would not vote for the “candidates” of the Bolshevik Tendency. This of course turned the elections back into a popularity contest and negated the “representivity” aspect of the Editorial Board. Their reasons for the change were that the Bolshevik Tendency was “obstructionist”. (“We, of course, were flattered by this accusation, for what decent Social-Democrat has not been accused by the Economists of being a Narodnaya Volyaite?” – Lenin, WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 165) But it was like a Virginia Reel. While Workers’ Unity went flip-flop, the Toronto Communist group was going flop-flip, and declared in their election platform that “Step-by-step Unity” was “outstripped by the political developments”. However, this was a change in form and not in content, for it did not stop them from claiming the bureaucratic fruits of their bourgeois politicking: e.g., the elections, minority submission, and so forth. This was the final absurdity.

The different “styles” of work were evident here. Workers’ Unity (and one individual) electioneered on platforms of “Stop Bolshevik Tendency Obstructionism” without ever having advanced that criticism to our tendency or giving us a chance to respond to it. In contrast, the Bolshevik Tendency, which had criticisms of opportunism to advance to the TCG and Workers’ Unity, summed up these criticisms in a long paper (reproduced in the section following this Introduction) and was prepared to struggle them out at a meeting. But TCG and Workers’ Unity, both of which requested a good period of time to prepare their responses to these criticisms, never responded to them at a meeting scheduled for this purpose or, subsequently, no doubt they objected to our “methods of struggle”, i.e., criticism itself.

We also take into account that the elections were not truly the reflection of political unity but took their shape from the coalition nature of the Journal itself. Each group, as a group, put forward its own candidates. Each group, as a group, arrived at a position before Journal meetings as to what stand to take on various issues: motions up for a vote, or the nature of the editorial board itself, or who to vote for. There was no struggle over these questions during meetings, just the formalities of struggle. No minds were changed, because almost everybody was functioning under one degree of discipline or another. Members of each group would of course vote for their own candidates. All the elections did were to ascertain the relative popularity (and size) of the politics of other groups, as personified in the “candidates” who were running for the editorial board. They were the formal manifestation of the struggle of right-opportunism for hegemony.

The subject of the elections is dealt with in more detail in the section below entitled “Development and Conclusion of the Struggle in the Journal”. They were only a manifestation of the differences that existed in the Journal collective. We still have not gotten down to the root cause, the contradiction which was the motive force behind what occurred in the Journal. The struggle over the elections was only the cover for a far more important enterprise than the definition of the editorial board: the consolidation of right-opportunism against the left. The real (if not principled) struggle in the Journal occurred, as we will explain below, around the “methods of struggle” of the article “Nationhood or Genocide”, and the politics put forward in that article.

“Methods of Struggle”: The “Nationhood or Genocide” Controversy

In August of 1975, the first draft of “Nationhood or Genocide” was submitted to the Journal grouping for feedback. The political ramifications of this submission reflect as much on the Toronto Communist Group as a political group as they do on Canadian Revolution itself. For that reason, most of the detail surrounding the article is dealt with in the section later in this pamphlet specifically on the TCG.

For the purposes of this Introduction, however, we will summarize a few things. The first draft was met with a critique submitted by two members of the TCG which called the political line of the article “reactionary and anti-communist”. (Our comments on their Critique relate to the TCG as a whole because its other members later indicated that they supported the politics in the document.) They not only recommended that the article not be published but they also suggested that the authors of the article be expelled from the Journal collective for having submitted the article, because the authors held the Native right to secede as a question of principle and consequently were in antagonistic contradiction with those who did not.

The authors of the article took the TCG’s criticisms head-on. The politics of the Critique can be properly classed as neo-revisionist. The authors incorporated a response to the Critique in the second draft of the Native article, re-submitted for publication. The Journal grouping decided that the Critique was not a public document but that the authors could generalize the criticisms: e.g., “We have heard it said that. . .” This was a helpful suggestion, and the final published draft of the Native article took this form. The only people who voted against the printing of the article in this form were the TCG, thus continuing their tradition of seeking to limit debate in the pages of the Journal.

The responses of the authors, in the second and final drafts of “Nationhood or Genocide” (as well as in the section below on the TCG), have proved the neo-revisionism of the Critique. Most interestingly, we have since heard not a peep from the TCG on the subject of the political line of “Nationhood or Genocide”.

However, that was not the end of the “Nationhood or Genocide” controversy. The TCG responded to our polemic not by dealing with our politics, but rather focusing exclusively on the “style” of our polemics. It seems they felt like they were being treated like the enemy, and we all know the TCG is not the enemy! And so, the TCG turned to the rest of the Journal grouping, whom they had privately characterized to us as right-opportunists, for support in their struggle against those who would seek to take their politics head-on. It was proposed at the meeting about the Native article that we next hold a meeting about “the way (the authors) conduct polemics”. Thus came the meeting of October 26, whose minutes are reproduced on page 38 of the appendix, and the editorial to Issue No. 4, which is supposedly a reflection of the 26 October meeting.

We emphasize again that the Bolshevik Tendency never sought to obstruct the tasks of the Journal grouping by pressing for our own political line. We simply sought to publish our own political line, and the TCG’s line as well, on the subjects at hand. It was the TCG which pressed for the hegemony of its own political line within the Journal grouping – and sought to do so without struggle over that line. When that line was demolished, they dropped the subject about the “non-Marxist-Leninist line” of the article and now sought instead for the hegemony of their line on how struggle is conducted. Since right-opportunism had a majority in the collective, and since subjective criteria such as “comradeliness” in questions of “style” has consistently been a primary question of principle for these elements, such hegemony was handily won. As Lenin says, “Just because the Economists are piqued by our polemics against them, they refuse to ponder deeply over the origins of these disagreements, with the result that we absolutely fail to understand each other. It is as if we spoke in different tongues.” (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking ed., pp. 77-8)

Thus Canadian Revolution has taken a political line on a burning question within our movement: how Communists are to struggle. It has taken this line without any open struggle, in the pages of the Journal, on the politics by which such conclusions were reached. The other side of the debate was not allowed the expression of its position. These experts on Marxist-Leninist methods of struggle have set CR up as judge and jury on the character of proper forms of debate. More seriously, CR now has a lever to deal with all threatening polemics, and to censor content on any subject under cover of objecting to form. This consolidation of right-opportunism against the left within the Journal is the leading example of “developing political unity” of which CR can boast.

But, this “developing political unity” violated an important Marxist-Leninist method: going “from the particular to the general and then from the general to the particular” (Mao, ON CONTRADICTION, MSW 1:321). In other words, the struggle began with a particular problem: the Native article, which apparently to some people was an “incorrect method of struggle”. The problem was raised to the general level: which methods of struggle are correct, and a position was taken by the Journal on this subject. But the movement of knowledge was never taken back to the “particular”. The question of whether the two lines on the Native question could co-exist within the Journal collective – the question over which the TCG people recommended the expulsion of the authors – was never again discussed, despite our requests to discuss it. (An example of “Bolshevik Tendency obstructionism”, perhaps, of which we were later accused by WU and one individual.) Moreover, there was never a meeting to struggle over whether the Native article (final draft) represented a correct or an incorrect method of struggle, and why. The editorial passed judgment on this subject but it was never debated. Of course, the Bolshevik Union maintains that “Nationhood or Genocide” represents a correct Marxist-Leninist method of struggle, and would have liked the opportunity to defend that position. We would like to deal with this question at this time, and put forward our response to the editorial of Issue No. 4.

The Editorial

While the CPC(M-L) gave us the appearance of Marxism-Leninism wrapped up in phony super-militant rhetoric, CR no. 4 gives, again, only the appearance of Marxism-Leninism, this time wrapped in the more familiar liberal style of a student trying to bullshit her/his way through a third-year essay.

The editorial seriously misrepresents the actual struggle that took place in the Journal collective and is politically and ideologically incorrect. The editorial was the specific product of a meeting on this subject whose minutes are appended on page 38. In this meeting the question of whether unity/criticism/ unity was the method of struggle in the movement, and whether struggle in the movement was by definition unantagonistic, was tabled. Furthermore, no discussion occurred in respect to concrete examples of correct and incorrect “methods of struggle” on handling contradictions in the movement. Nevertheless, the CR editorial refers to two articles which demonstrate these tendencies: the “good” method of struggle being represented by “A Reply to Imperialism and the Canadian Political Economy” by Workers’ Unity (Edmonton). Most of the members of the collective had not even read the Workers’ Unity (Edmonton) article! Yet when the draft of the editorial came back for approval with these “mistakes” it was rubber-stamped because it represented “the spirit of what was passed”, according to a member of the TCG. (Again, no doubt, our objections were a prize example of Bolshevik Tendency “obstructionism”.)

Another misrepresentation is contained in the sentence “Furthermore, we have re-established that we are a group of Marxist-Leninists engaged in...” (our emphasis) (This was an incorporation of decisions reached in another meeting entirely and so won’t be found in the appended minutes.) This gives no indication that what we (re-)established against the votes of the Bolshevik Tendency members (and, at that specific meeting, a waffling member of Workers’ Unity and one other individual) was that we were a “group” of Marxist-Leninists and that we were not, alternatively, a coalition. The nature of the debate has been completely hidden. And, as we have shown in “Against Opportunism in the Journal”, the Journal could not “re-”establish that we were a “group” of Marxist-Leninists because most people in the Journal considered it to have been originally a coalition.

The importance of the use of the word “group” may escape some Marxist-Leninists in English Canada. In Quebec, as is well known to all members of the Journal, the word “group” implies a fairly high level of unity – distinctly higher than a study circle, for example, or other cases of tactical unity of Marxist-Leninists. This was explicitly pointed out by us in the debate over the question, and the person who introduced the motion expressed that that is exactly what s/he intended. Apparently some opportunists find it easier to establish a Marxist-Leninist group by voting on the word “group” than by undergoing the more difficult task of engaging in ideological struggle and coming up with a political line.

As to the political and ideological errors of the editorial, we have not the space here to track down and underscore all the incorrect formulations, non-sequiturs, unjustified assumptions and confusions. Besides, we might be accused of making secondary antagonisms contradictory, or some such contortion of Marxist “dialectics”, and thus trying to “promote division on an incorrect basis.” (CR no. 4, p. 2)

In general, then: throughout the article it is clear that it sees differences in the Marxist-Leninist movement as being, by definition, “unantagonistic contradictions amongst the people”, to be resolved by unity/ criticism/unity. There are in fact two questions here. One is whether contradictions are a priori unantagonistic in the movement. The other is whether those who call themselves Marxist-Leninists in the Marxist-Leninist movement can be compared to “the people”.

In regard to the first point, we note again that passing laws about definitions is far easier than struggling over political line and determining, concretely, the objective nature of political contradictions. In regard to the latter point, we must understand that Marxist-Leninists do not claim to be “the people”. They claim to represent the proletariat; and not just the proletariat in any stage of its development, but the fundamental interests of the proletariat. If in fact they represent some “practical”, backward interests of a faction of the proletariat (e.g., economism), or the interests of another faction of the people (e.g., the petit-bourgeoisie), then they are not Marxist-Leninists and they are misrepresenting themselves. In that case, the contradiction between them and the proletarian line will become antagonistic. This is an historical fact. Both economism and petit-bourgeois revolutionism are tendencies which have been historically discredited and purged as supportive of the bourgeoisie.

Secondly, we consider that Mao’s strictures about the resolution of contradictions by the use of democratic methods (sometimes, but not necessarily, epitomized in the formula “unity/criticism/unity”) are a matter of principle primarily in organizational or governmental contexts: among the people after a revolution (or in a liberated area) or in a party or group that has already been formed. As we shall see in regards to the Native article, it does not have a great deal of meaning in a pre-party movement where “Ideological influence” is the principal factor and the “power of authority” has not yet been established. (These are quotes from Lenin as used in “Against Opportunism in the Journal”, p. 12 ) As to whether contradictions in the movement are antagonistic or unantagonistic, this remains to be seen, to be worked out in history, and is not a “given”. (For example, the Mensheviks were part of the “movement”, yet, in effect, agents of the bourgeoisie, and the contradiction between them and the proletarian party became antagonistic.)

The right-opportunist position, which views the “movement” in a metaphysical fashion, and takes the simple affirmation of Marxism-Leninism as proof that we are dealing only with contradictions among the people, is un-Leninist if not anti-Leninist. It denies the need to demarcate against bourgeois ideology within the movements bourgeois ideology, and, by that, a contradiction with the enemy. Although true “friends” of Marxism-Leninism, when found to be putting forward the line of the “enemy”, hopefully discard this line as quickly as possible. (The situation is not necessarily static.) Lines of demarcation are drawn against bourgeois ideology; they become lines drawn against particular individuals or groups when those individuals or groups insist on continuing to embrace bourgeois ideology.

Furthermore, in the editorial, and in discussions with CR members, the impression is given that if antagonistic contradictions arise they are more likely to be unantagonistic contradictions made antagonistic by incorrect handling than a reflection of the strength of bourgeois ideology. By this reasoning, Trotsky would have been a poor victim of the mishandling of contradictions.

We consider that “unity/criticism/unity” is a perfectly good method to adopt among Marxist-Leninists within the movement, but not the only method as a matter of principle. (For example, any given polemic may stress criticism.) But this is the position they end up taking. They say: “This method (unity/criticism/unity – BU) is fundamentally different than that used in struggle against those opportunist and counterrevolutionary trends outside the Marxist-Leninist movement. In one case the purpose is to persuade, discuss and struggle, “to win over and unite”, all those who can be united. In the other case it is to actively oppose and destroy opportunist organizations.”

Superficially this sounds correct but in fact it is one-sided and undialetical. While it is true that the purpose of polemics and struggle directed against the opportunists outside the movement is to smash, and the aim within the movement is to unite, this is only one side of the coin. We also want to smash opportunism inside of the movement, and in smashing opportunism outside of the movement we are trying to unite people behind the proletarian line. “Unity/criticism/unity” must never be used to supplant Lenin’s formula: “Before we can unite, and so that we may unite, we must FIRST OF ALL draw firm and definite lines of demarcation.” By drawing these lines, the proletarian line is evolved: “what is Marxist develops in struggle against what is anti-Marxist”. Through this process, honest and principled Marxist-Leninists are united, and not threatened. What needs to be determined is not just who is within and who is without our “movement”, but also what questions are questions of principle and what questions are not.

Lenin always sought unity with real Marxists, but he never recognized a qualitative difference between opportunism within or outside of the movement, as CR (main body) does. We see no Chinese wall around the Marxist-Leninist movement such that two completely different sets of criteria are necessarily applicable (as would be the case “amongst the people” after being bound together by a revolution, or in the case of a party bound together by solid principles resulting from the drawing of clear and definite lines of demarcation). We reject the view of the Marxist-Leninist movement which sees all the components of the movement as essentially all the components of the party in an early stage of its formation. The struggle against revisions of Marxism has always taken place within a movement: for example, the struggles within the First, the Second, and the Third Internationals. Lenin says:

The policy of revisionism... may assume an infinite variety of forms, and... every more or less “new” question, every more or less unexpected and unforseen turn of events, even though it change the basic line of development to an insignificant degree and only for the briefest period, will always inevitably give rise to one variety of revisionism or another. (“MARXISM AND REVISIONISM”, LCW 15:38)

Moreover, we take the position that it is in the very nature of opportunism to come as close as possible to the workers’ movement and seek membership and hegemony in the growing Marxist-Leninist movement rather than remaining obediently outside. How many CPC’s, CLM’s, CPL’s, CPC(M-L)’s and other phony Marxist-Leninists do these people have to be clubbed over the head with?

Although we have indicated that we do not see contradictions in the movement as automatically unantagonistic, there is nevertheless a question of making unantagonistic contradictions antagonistic. Taking seriously the contention that we are necessarily dealing with unantagonistic contradictions, how can we relate this to methods of struggle, to how differences should be handled, and how do they themselves succeed in this respect? At the same time as answering this question, we can deal with the question of what the open debate is, that CR is supposed to be encouraging. Consider what Mao has to say about such matters in the SPEECH AT THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY’S NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PROPAGANDA WORK, Peking, 1968, p. 22.

To “open wide” means to let all people express their opinions freely, so that they dare to speak, dare to criticize and dare to debate; IT MEANS NOT BEING AFRAID OF WRONG VIEWS AND ANYTHING POISONOUS; it means to encourage argument and criticism among people holding different views, allowing freedom both for criticism and for counter-criticism; IT MEANS NOT SUPPRESSING WRONG VIEWS BUT CONVINCING PEOPLE BY REASONING WITH THEM. TO “RESTRICT” MEANS TO FORBID PEOPLE TO AIR DIFFERING OPINIONS AND EXPRESS WRONG IDEAS, AND TO “FINISH THEM OFF WITH A SINGLE BLOW” IF THEY DO SO. THAT IS THE WAY TO AGGRAVATE RATHER THAN TO RESOLVE CONTRADICTIONS. (Emphasis ours.)

How do you “aggravate contradictions,” and make “unantagonistic contradictions antagonistic”? By sharp and strong polemics which seek to smash opportunism, by identifying a question as a question of principle? On the contrary, this is the correct method of handling contradictions. Lenin never hesitated in advancing “the keenest, most ruthless and uncompromising criticism” against his opponents even in the context of being united with them. (LEFT-WING COMMUNISM, AN INFANTILE DISORDER, Peking, pp. 60-61)

It is the very people who pontificate about “not aggravating contradictions” and the need to “correctly resolve contradictions” who are using precisely the method that democratic methods like the above were originated to combat. CR clearly considers that “Nationhood or Genocide” was a manifestation of a “wrong view” and was in their eyes “poisonous”. (In the editorial they imply that we are engaged in a “dangerous practice”.) Their response has been to attempt to “finish (us) off with a single blow”: first with the TCG attempt to censor the article, then the decision about methods of struggle as a formula for “restricting” onbe and for all debate of which they disapprove in the future, then further by the position put forward by separate tendencies giving the Journal the authority to demarcate what does and what does not constitute Marxism-Leninism on the basis of votes taken within the Journal group, and finally with their refusal to publish any of our future polemics on the grounds of our “counterrevolutionary” “sabotage” of the Journal.

Further on, the “SPEECH OF THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY” continues:

We are of the policy of “opening wide”. So far there has been too little of it rather than too much. WE ARE NOT AFRAID OF OPENING WIDE, nor should we be afraid of criticism and poisonous weeds. MARXISM IS SCIENTIFIC TRUTH, IT FEARS NO CRITICISM AND CANNOT BE DEFEATED BY CRITICISM, (p. 25. Our emphasis.)

The Journal reflects an attitude referred to earlier as a trend in the movement as a whole: to see the Marxist-Leninist “movement”, and thus Marxism-Leninism and the unity of Marxist-Leninists, as something fragile, endangered, and not to be subjected to too close an examination. They do not honestly see Marxism-Leninism as a science which “fears no criticism”. Rather they recognize the precariousness of their opportunist grasp of the situation and feel the need to “finish off with a single blow” and “restrict” debate within confines over which they have control.

In these quotes and other references that Mao makes in ON THE CORRECT HANDLING OF CONTRADICTIONS AMONG THE PEOPLE, he stresses that the key in applying the democratic method in resolving contradictions is the use of persuasion (i.e., criticism, polemics) as opposed to force. These references make it clear that majority hegemony is not necessarily the correct method for “running any group” and that restricting open debate is one way that contradictions are aggravated, rather than by the “incorrect methods” of debate of which “Nationhood or Genocide” is supposed to be an example.

The Journal’s application of the principle of using democratic methods to resolve contradictions is hopelessly confused; a matter of applying principles of growing roses to the raising of pigs. How is the article, “Nationhood or Genocide”, “undemocratic”? How does it use force?

CR’s pontificating about the “dangerous practice” of polemics which “confuse antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions” is pure diversion. We are left by the editorial with the conclusion that the main danger is not unprincipled unity or in observance of Marxist-Leninist principles, but incorrect presentation of one’s viewpoint which, Mao makes it clear, Marxist-Leninists should not fear. This is consistent with the fact that in practice the main body of CR treats the left as the main danger, while happily welcoming right-opportunist (i.e., liberal) methods of struggle into their pages, without commentary. The sum total of CR’s garble on the subject of contradictions is this: antagonistic contradictions between proletarian proletarian and bourgeois lines must not be presented as if they are antagonistic, lest they become antagonistic! Presumably these antagonisms are only a secondary aspect of the matter, the principle aspect being the good will, sincerity, and innate Marxism-Leninism on the part of those who “call themselves” Marxist-Leninists.

In introducing this section we indicated that the CR position had made the error of failing to complete the movement of knowledge the height of opportunism to say that an oppressed nation has the right to secede but that this is not a question of principle. Lenin makes clear that the national question is inherently a question of principle. Lenin also makes clear that “subjective good intentions” do not justify a social-chauvinist political line. (“THE DISCUSSION OF SELF-DETERMINATION SUMMED UP”, LCW 22:360) In a recent issue of The Forge, CCL(M-L) says:

In the concrete situation in Canada, the unity of the proletariat must be based on a recognition of the fact that Quebec is an oppressed nation which must have the right to self-determination and independence. This is a question of principle for any Marxist-Leninist organization. (April 8, 1976, p. 3)

Why would this standard not be applied as well to Native Canada? “Nationhood or Genocide” is written in the spirit of, “So that we may unite, we must FIRST OF ALL draw firm and definite lines of demarcation.” The article puts Lenin’s dictum into practice, not only by raising the Native question and identifying it as a question of principle, but also by strong polemics seeking to smash opportunism within our movement. The purpose of this is the unity of Marxist-Leninists around the proletarian line.


Canadian Revolution is one of the main poles of reference in the Marxist-Leninist movement. If their “building unity” and their variety of “leadership” is consistent with the norms of the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada, then it bodes ill for the development of real unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists in the near future. TCG and Workers’ Unity claim to be Marxist-Leninists. We seek unity with authentic Marxist-Leninists. Our experience with the Journal is not encouraging. In the Journal we ran across a complete absence of understanding as to what, in practice, constitutes Marxist-Leninist unity on a principled basis. And yet it is these elements who will, in the future, be stringing words together about unity, the correct resolution of contradictions, and deciding what is and what is not permissable debate in the Marxist-Leninist movement. All this, based on a unity which has been achieved by completely avoiding any concrete ideological and political struggle or decision-making.

Although the TCG claimed that its “Step-by-step” unity-building proposal was “outstripped by the political developments”, we have come to the conclusion, as we have studied and summed up the two-line struggle, that it is exactly the stated views and aims of “Step-by-step Unity” which triumphed. Its politics are now the politics of Canadian Revolution.

As to the question of “providing leadership” in the movement, the essence of the Journal’s opportunism on this question is not that the Journal attempted to provide leadership in the sense of taking initiatives in certain areas, but how they came to think about and represent their leadership. If they had, in the CR no. 4 editorial, from the general back to the particular: that is, by failing to struggle over, or demonstrate, why the methods of struggle of “Nationhood or Genocide” were incorrect. We would like here to complete our discussion of “methods of struggle” by showing, in light of our general position, why “Nationhood or Genocide” represents a correct method of struggle among Marxist-Leninists. The Bolshevik Union takes the position that it would be represented the range of opinions in the Journal and named the groups who held to these positions, then the Journal would have been providing correct practical leadership in terms of the historic function of the Journal, which was to organize the practical aspect of the debate.

It is not an accident that this possibility was rejected. Workers’ Unity and the TCG maintained that the Journal was not just the sum of its parts – a coalition whose participating groups should be named – but “a whole greater than the sum of its parts”. Of this sort of creative addition to Marxist dialectics, Lenin says:

This argument belongs entirely to the realm of obvious fallacies; it is as like as two peas to those arguments which mathematicians call mathematical sophistries, and which prove – quite logically, at first glance – that twice two are five, that the part is greater than the whole, and so on. There are collections of such mathematical sophistries, and they are of some value to school children. (“THE POSITION OF THE BUND IN THE PARTY”, LCW 7:94)

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” has simply been the recognition on the part of the opportunists that they can better use the resources and prestige of Canadian Revolution to promote themselves into positions of leadership in the movement than they would have by going under the names of their own groups and based on their own past political practice. It has been said that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach. They have decided to be the “teachers” of the movement and will proceed to struggle over how to struggle, and concern themselves with form oblivious to political content.

We consider that it is our task to expose and demystify the component “parts” of Canadian Revolution (main body) in order to show that the opportunist “whole” is precisely the sum of its opportunist “parts”. The first part of this pamphlet, along with the Introduction, is meant to communicate the basic outline of what occurred in the split in the Journal. The second part is a closer examination of TCG and Workers’ Unity and the remaining members’ roles in the Journal. With reference to the TCG, we will be showing that the position they put forward for building unity in the Journal calls for the same type of opportunist unity which CPC(M-L) called for in its unity proposal of January, 1975, We will be comparing Dave Paterson’s own words (in “A Reply to CPC(M-L)’s Call for Unity”, CR no. 2) with Dave Paterson’s own words (as a member of TCG, in “Step-by-step Unity”). We will also be putting forward some of our own experiences with these elements outside of the context of the Journal struggles themselves.

We close by making perhaps the most important point in this introduction: in our opinion a careful reading or rereading of Lenin’s WHAT IS TO BE DONE will do more for the building of unity in the Marxist-Leninist movement than 45 volumes full of editorials in the style of CR no. 4.


[1] The reader of CR may, incidentally, have the impression that the Journal was swamped with copy such that the ominous task of “leading” by having to choose what to print became a major factor. In fact this was never the case, and if the Journal founders in the near future, this, rather than any question of sabotage, will be the reason. During the period that the struggles were most intense, the Journal’s most serious practical problem was the lack of copy. The representative array of tendencies present in CR, plus feedback from the movement in general, was a perfectly adequate structure for such decision-making and “leadership”.

[2] Actually, there was a more final absurdity. After we left the Journal there were mutterings that “Step-by-step Unity” was “withdrawn in September”, a simple lie, if this is what they are now claiming. Certainly the TCG held to the politics and stated aims of that proposal right up until election day approached, and won others over as well, as we will be showing.