Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Defeat economism!

A reply to Workers’ Unity (Toronto)

First Published: Lines of Demarcation No 1., July-August 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Workers’ Unity and the Two-Line Struggle

In Canadian Revolution 1:3, Workers’ Unity wrote an article entitled “Unite to Build the Marxist-Leninist Party.” In it they take the position that right-opportunism is the main danger in our movement. Then they launch an attack on the Stover-Perri article printed in CR 1:1 (“Why Building the Party is the Principal Task”), characterizing the Stover-Perri position as “a serious ’left’ deviation” and “an over-reaction to the errors of the recent period”.[1]

This article is intended partly as a response to the criticism of the Stover-Perri article, but only partly is that our purpose. The issues raised in this struggle are the fundamental issues which must be dealt with in the struggle to build a Communist Party in Canada. Lenin and Stalin make clear that the defeat of right-opportunism is the essential precondition for the building of the party in its first stage. This paper is written with that goal in mind.

“Right-opportunism is the main danger to our movement”. Workers’ Unity declares. Yes, and who is this that is the main danger? Surely not Workers’ Unity itself, for their old position (“real” right-opportunism) is now self-criticized and out of the way. We have found this to be a characteristic pattern in our movement. Everywhere it is declared that right-opportunism is the main danger, but nowhere is this right-opportunism to be found. Usually only the “left” “dogmatists, sectarians” etc. are a real enough danger to be mentioned by name or pointed to with some actual evidence that they exist.[2]

And what constitutes this amorphous “right-opportunism”? Read Workers’ Unity, and you will conclude that these people are well-intentioned activists who still remain somewhat confused, as Workers’ Unity themselves once were but are no longer, about the need for a new Communist Party. Wherein was there error? “Our definition of the central task was in fact a reflection of our SENTIMENTS about the importance of the working class rather than a SCIENTIFIC appraisal of the objective situation.” (p. 6) Their hearts were in the right place but they just hadn’t done their homework. Workers’ Unity still does not understand that their “SENTIMENTS” about “the importance of the working class” (by this they mean, of course, the importance of the trade-union struggle, as we will be showing) were bourgeois “SENTIMENTS” and not proletarian “SENTIMENTS”. “Gazing with awe upon the posteriors of the proletariat” (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 132) is guilty bourgeois sentimentality which has nothing in common with proletarian ideology and is in fact the main danger to it. And again.

Some comrades have been genuinely confused and are now recognizing their mistakes. They have fallen into economist and trade-unionist politics because they went into the workplace without a clear Marxist-Leninist line, but only with sentiments about the need to integrate themselves with the workers’ movement. Many of these comrades will be receptive to following a correct Marxist-Leninist line in working-class organizing. (Workers’ Unity, “Unite to Build the Marxist-Leninist Party,” CR 1:3, p. 10. Future ref-erences. unless otherwise noted, are from this source.)

Workers’ Unity’s empathy with right-opportunism is touching. Lenin says, “I have not the least intention of doubting the purity of your intentions.... One may become a demagogue out of sheer political innocence.” (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 151) Workers’ Unity aims to win these good people to Marxism-Leninism by assuring them that they do not have to alter their lifestyles in order to become Communists, but can continue their trade-union work as usual. That aside, however, let us note that the struggle against the secondary danger, the “left” “deviation” (i.e., Stover and Perri), is saturated with no such bourgeois sentimentality. On the contrary, whereas “Polemics against right-opportunism and economism are extremely useful and important”, we learn that there is a “harmful” “’left’ deviation . . . which we feel must be struggled against and overcome.” (p. 48) Whereas the struggle against right-opportunism is “useful” and guided by compassion, the “left” “deviation” is so “harmful” that it “must be overcome” as a precondition for building the party.

Workers’ Unity here has exhibited the fundamental error of right-opportunism on the issue of building the party, the error which characterizes their entire position paper: the confusion of the two stages of party-building. Stalin is clear that in the first stage the task is to win over the advanced elements to the organization through propaganda and agitation, and only in the second stage, after the advanced elements have been, rallied, does the party become a party of mass action. In the second stage, overcoming “left sectarianism” is the fundamental precondition for the success of the mass struggles. In the first stage, however, before the advanced elements of the proletariat have been rallied to communism, it is right-opportunism which must be “struggled against and overcome” as a precondition for the building of the party. Lenin makes this clear.

While the first historical task (that of winning over the class-conscious vanguard of the proletariat to Soviet power and the dictatorship of the working class) could not be accomplished without a complete ideological and political victory over opportunism and social-chauvinism, the second task, which now becomes the immediate task, and which consists in being able to lead the MASSES to the new position that can ensure the victory of the vanguard in the revolution – this immediate task cannot be accomplished without eliminating Left doctrinairism, without completely overcoming and eliminating its mistakes. (LEFT-WING COMMUNISM: AN INFANTILE DISORDER, Peking, p. 98.)

Since Workers’ Unity fantasizes itself to be ready for the second stage of building the party, in which Communists lead mass struggles, it is no wonder that they see “overcoming” the “harmful” “ ’left’ deviation” to be the essential element in consolidating their own right-opportunism.

Are we picking at straws? Not at all. Workers’ Unity characterizes the struggle of their own line against the Stover-Perri line as the “two-line struggle”. We notice that nowhere in their struggle against “right-opportunism, the main danger” is there the observation that this “struggle” is a two-line struggle. Rather, it is a friendly effort to persuade some well-intentioned petit-bourgeois trade-union militants to study some science in order to bolster their sentiments about proletarian posteriors. Against Stover and Perri, however, the struggle is a true, full-blown, two-line struggle, with the monumental significance of all major two-line struggles in the history of the world communist movement, a true class struggle between the ideology of the bourgeoisie and the ideology of the proletariat. Yet, the masses are told, do not regard this with cynicism and despair! Stover and Perri can be overcome, and victory can be won!

Now, what precisely is the nature of this two-line struggle? Here is Workers’ Unity:

Stover and Perri fail to pose a correct alternative to economism. They are not able to do so because (despite extensive writing on the questions), they fail to understand two very basic questions: what class struggle is, and the role of Communist leadership. On the basis of misunderstanding these two questions and their inter-relationship, they make serious errors on the question of implantation, (p. 48-9)

Implantation! A false debate (as Workers’ Unity calls it, p. 50)? Not at all! For Workers’ Unity, the question of implantation is the two-line struggle out of which the party will emerge. Whereas Lenin and Stalin say that the two-line struggle to build the party in the first stage is the struggle against right-opportunism. Workers’ Unity makes some creative improvements on Marxist-Leninist science and identifies the two-line struggle as the struggle against those who do not advocate implantation)

Implantation! A tactic (as Workers’ Unity calls it, p. 47)? Not at all! Implantation is Workers’ Unity’s question of principle. Perhaps we have unlocked the secret as to why they have refused, over a year and a half, to engage in ideological struggle with Stover and Perri. Stover and Perri have not come out in favour of the “tactic” of implantation!

Had Workers’ Unity found time to read the article before they criticized it, they might have observed that Stover and Perri did not come out against implantation as a “tactical” line “carried out by genuine Communist organizations historically” (p. 50). What Stover and Perri attacked in their article, as Workers’ Unity definitely and consciously knew, was not “implantation by an organization”, against which they did not have a position at the time, but the out-and-out liquidationism of which Workers’ Unity was a choice example. They were attacking the post-terrorist petit-bourgeois intellectuals who “went among the workers”, substituting their trade-union work for the practice of building the party; those intellectuals who defined “building class consciousness and fighting capacity of the working class” as the principal task. They were attacking, among others. Workers’ Unity. Now Workers’ Unity says that Stover and Perri have “set up a ’straw man’ for the sake of scoring points.” Straw man. Workers’ Unity! Funny, we thought you were real!

Who, then, was Workers’ Unity really attacking when they came out defending the “tactical” line of implantation? At the time they wrote, one group in Canada had taken leadership in opposing implantation: In Struggle!, whose stand is printed in the same issue of the Journal in which the Workers’ Unity article appears. In Struggle!, however, is apparently too formidable an enemy for Workers’ Unity to single out by name, and so they choose instead to credit the position to Stover and Perri, although of course they do not want to “single two individuals out for attack” (p. 49).

Workers’ Unity opens up on Stover and Perri as follows: “Agreement to the necessity to build a new Communist Party does not imply agreement as to HOW that party will be built.” They then say.

Stover and Perri’s formulation of “putting forward a correct program of propaganda and agitation and the carrying out of that program”, as one of the three steps in party-building, does not adequately address itself to this problem. How will that agitation and propaganda be conducted? How will links with the masses be assured? The authors have nothing to answer these questions in their paper.... While,economism and implantation are attacked at great length, little or nothing is said about the way in which Communists should carry out mass work. (p. 49)

Unfortunately, if Workers’ Unity had read the Stover-Perri position before attacking it, they might have stumbled across the fact that the article was not an article about HOW to build the party. It was an article on WHETHER to build the party. It was an article written to struggle against liquidationism.[3] And so, first Workers’ Unity says that they have serious differences – a two-line struggle! – with Stover and Perri on the subject of HOW to build the party. But, when it comes to analyzing what those differences are. Workers’ Unity simply says that Stover and Perri do not deal with HOW to build the party. Perhaps the monumental two-line struggle in Canada is between those who have written a paper on HOW to build the party, and those who have not!

Workers’ Unity and Implantation

The fact is that the most serious error in the Stover-Perri position, and the error for which Stover and Perri are now self-critical, is that they do in fact come out implicitly in favour of implantation. They say:

It should be remembered that implantation is not a theory in itself; it is a specific historical tactic, and its relationship to the Marxist-Leninist movement as a whole must be kept clearly in mind at all times.... Both workplace practice and the refinement and elaboration of political line will be urgent tasks of a democratic centralist organization. Some comrades do not realize that, far from minimizing the importance of those tasks, our position will work to strengthen their importance. Building the Party will give both tasks fuller meaning and enable line and workplace practice to be tested properly, (p. 15, 46)

To understand why these statements were an error of bowing to Economism,and to understand why “implantation” to the Economists is no false debate at all but the two-line struggle and the question of principle, we must look more closely at the concept of “implantation”. What is “implantation”?

Neither Stover and Perri nor In Struggle! have said that militants should not go wherever the masses are to be found. Neither have they said that the party should be built “on shaky ideological and political grounds and isolated from the masses” (this is Workers’ Unity’s imaginative interpretation of the Stover-Perri article). Neither have they said that Communists should not be sent to intervene in specific workplace situations, or in unions, in order to conduct Communist propaganda and Communist agitation. What is central to remember here is that such intervention at this stage is ideological intervention, for the purpose of winning advanced workers to Marxism-Leninism; and, as such, it cannot be separated from the ideological struggle for the unity of Marxist-Leninists.

But this is not “implantation.” “Implantation” is the long-term intervention of militants into trade-union politics for the purpose of engaging in reformist activity, and, ideally, providing leadership to the spontaneous struggle. Such activity is not Communist activity; it is trade-union militant activity[3]. The fact that individual militants may represent themselves as Communists does not transform the essential character of their work, which is bourgeois politics. Such work is not Communist tactical intervention; rather, it is an indispensable part of Economist theory and ideology. For, how can Communists lead the day-to-day struggles of the masses if they are not implanted? Impossible! Such theory is a basic challenge to the Leninist conceptions of class struggle, class consciousness, and revolutionary activity, as we will be showing.

Adapting themselves to the threat of Marxism-Leninism in an era when liquidationism has been repudiated. Economists seek to combine their old trade-union work with the newer task of calling for a Communist Party. This work does not come from decisions of the Party; on the contrary, the Party comes from this work. Lenin described the situation this way:

Still others will be carried away, perhaps, by the seductive idea of showing the world a new example of “close and organic contact with the proletarian struggle” – contact between the trade-union and Social-Democratic movements.... (they) envisage the complete fusion of Social-Democracy with trade unionism. (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 140)

To the Economists, this is in fact what “the fusion of Marxism-Leninism with the working class movement” means: the fusion of Marxism-Leninism with trade-unionism. Their conception of this work – known as “links with the masses” – is entirely petit-bourgeois and personalistic. It is thought that Marxism-Leninism will be linked with the masses when self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninists are “part and parcel of the working class... firmly rooted in the heart of the working class...” (Workers’ Unity, p. 5): i.e., carrying lunchbuckets and walking the picket line. The fact that these self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninists are, objectively, struggling for reforms, is apparently a secondary question. Lenin says:

Attention, therefore, must be devoted principally to raising the workers to the level of revolutionaries; it is not at all our task to descend to the level of the “working masses”. (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 161)

And, on the subject of “part and parcel”, Stalin says:

The Party must be, first of all, the ADVANCED detachment of the working class. The Party must absorb all the best elements of the working class, their experience, their revolutionary spirit, their selfless devotion to the cause of the proletariat. But... the Party cannot be a real party if it limits itself to registering what the masses of the working class feel and think, if it drags at the tail of the spontaneous movement, if it is unable to rise above the momentary interests of the proletariat, if it is unable to raise the masses to the level of understanding the class interests of the proletariat. The Party must stand at the head of the working class; it must lead the proletariat, and not drag at the tail of the spontaneous movement.... Only a party which adopts the standpoint of advanced detachment of the proletariat and is able to raise the masses to the level of understanding the class interests of the proletariat – only such a party can divert the working class from the path of trade unionism and convert it into an independent political force. (FOUNDATIONS OF LENINISM, Peking, p. 103-4)

These personalistic “links with the masses” are referred to pejoratively by Lenin as “close and organic contact with the proletarian struggle”. Workers’ Unity accuses Stover and Perri of taking this phrase out of its particular context from WHAT IS TO BE DONE. Thank you. Workers’ Unity! We knew you hadn’t read the book! For if you had, you would know that Lenin uses this phrase throughout the book, over and over again, to refer to the many varieties of “links with the masses”, of which the Economists are continually providing the world with “new examples”! Lenin says:

Martynov... formulated the substance of (his differences with the ISKRA) as follows: “We cannot confine ourselves entirely to exposing the system that stands in its” (the working class party’s) “path of development. We must also react to the immediate and current interests of the proletariat.” (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 66)

This is Lenin’s characterization of Economism. Such a need to “also react” to the “immediate and current interests of the proletariat” is a theme which runs throughout the Workers’ Unity article. They say,

While leadership to mass struggles is not the principal task of the communists now, it is nevertheless an important way of influencing the most advanced workers and larger sectors of the working class. Communists’ leadership must always combine the “general with the particular”, the issuing of general calls with thorough-going particular leadership, (p. 50. Emphasis ours.)


Communists’ methods of leadership must combine propaganda as to the final aims of the struggle with leadership to the daily struggles and mass movements, (p. 49. Emphasis ours.)

In other words, the most advanced workers are won to communism by Communist propaganda; but the more backward workers are won by the two-stage process of the trade union struggle. Lenin, of course, referred to this as the “opportunist theory of stages.” And, in other words, the “general” – that distant abstraction, Marxism-Leninism – is combined with the “particular” – the trade union struggle, which is the real thing, what really counts. Lenin says:

The “Economists” do not altogether repudiate “politics”, but... they are constantly straying from the Social-Democratic to the trade-unionist conception of politics. Martynov strays in exactly the same way, and we agree, therefore, to take his views as a MODEL of Economist error on this question. (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, P. 67)

It is this pattern of “constantly straying” from Marxism-Leninism to the bourgeois politics of trade-unionism which makes Workers’ Unity’s article “a model of Economist error on this question”. Workers’ Unity prattles a lot about the “daily struggles and mass movements”, the “actual” struggles of the workers – in Lenin’s day, the words were “the drab, everyday struggle”, or “the economic struggle against the employers and the government”, or “concrete demands promising palpable results”, or “the calls of life itself”. What Workers’ Unity fails to grasp is that combining trade union politics with Marxism-Leninism, as they advocate, is to combine bourgeois politics with proletarian politics. Communists enter the arena of bourgeois politics for one reason and one reason alone: to win people from bourgeois politics to proletarian politics. Lenin says,

ALL worship of the spontaneity of the mass movement and ANY degrading of Social-Democratic politics to trade-unionist politics means precisely preparing the ground for converting the working-class movement into an instrument of bourgeois democracy. The spontaneous working-class movement by itself is able to create (and inevitably creates) only trade-unionism, and working-class trade-unionist politics are precisely working-class bourgeois politics. The fact that the working class participates in the political struggle, and even in political revolution, does not in itself make its politics Social-Democratic politics. (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 117)

Implantationists consider that it is through the dedicated reformist activity of the implantees who call themselves Communists that workers will be won to accept Communist ideas. Having descended into the level of spontaneity and backwardness, they consider that they will have proved themselves to be “the most dedicated and resolute defenders of the working class’ interests” (p. 5), “capable of winning the masses of workers to a revolutionary position by showing that it truly represents their interests.” (p. 46) Presumably, workers are supposed to be impressed with their dedication to trade-union militancy, and won to communism through that avenue. Unfortunately, the most advanced workers, aware of the bankruptcy of capitalism and searching for the tools to destroy it, will more than likely be unimpressed with the primary-school show-and-tell of the petit-bourgeoisie and will be searching instead for the tool for revolution: the ideology of the fundamental interests of the proletariat.

But let us be clear that it is not only the winning of workers to communism which motivates Workers’ Unity to support the “tactic” of implantation. Workers’ Unity has also advanced one of the most creative justifications for implantation which we have ever seen in print. They say:

Some comrades hold to the view that workers are capable of leading their own strike struggles and solidarity movements in a militant fashion, and they ask, “Who are we to think that we have anything to offer? The workers can solve their immediate problems.” The answer, it seems, is that petit-bourgeois intellectuals are capable of producing communist propaganda as to the final aim of the struggle, and they should put their abilities to work in this manner – at least until some later point sometime after a party exists. But, the class struggle (n.b.: here Workers’ Unity means the “trade union struggle” – eds.) should be left to the workers, who, after all, can handle it better than we “petit-bourgeois leftists” could ever hope to. What is this but spontaneism in “left” clothing!

Yes, Workers’ Unity, some comrades do maintain that workers can go out on strike all by themselves, even if Workers’ Unity and other intellectuals aren’t there to help them at it. One of these comrades is Lenin. Let us see what Lenin says about such sophistry.

Our Economists ... were successful because they adapted themselves to the backward workers. But the Social-Democratic worker, the revolutionary worker, (and the number of such workers is growing) will indignantly reject all this talk about the struggle for demands “promising palpable results”, etc., because he will understand that this is only a variation of the old song about adding a kopek to the ruble. Such a worker will say to his counsellors .... “You are busying yourselves in vain, gentlemen, AND SHIRKING YOUR PROPER DUTIES, BY MEDDLING WITH SUCH EXCESSIVE ZEAL IN A JOB THAT WE CAN VERY WELL MANAGE OURSELVES…The ”activity” you want to stimulate among us workers, by advancing concrete demands that promise palpable results, WE ARE ALREADY DISPLAYING AND IN OUR EVERYDAY, LIMITED TRADE UNION WORK WE PUT FORWARD THESE CONCRETE DEMANDS, VERY OFTEN WITHOUT ANY ASSISTANCE WHATEVER FROM THE INTELLECTUALS. The intellectuals must talk to us LESS OF WHAT WE ALREADY KNOW AND TELL US MORE ABOUT WHAT WE DO NOT YET KNOW and what we can never learn from our factory and “economic” experience, namely, political knowledge... DEVOTE MORE ZEAL TO CARRYING OUT THIS DUTY AND TALK LESS ABOUT “RAISING THE ACTIVITY OF THE WORKING MASSES”. We are far more active than you think, and we are quite able to support, by open street fighting, even demands that do not promise any “palpable results” whatever. It is not for you to “raise” our activity, because activity is precisely the thing you yourselves lack. Bow less in subservience to spontaneity, and think more about raising your own activity, gentlemen! (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 89-92)

We suggest that Workers’ Unity go back and read WHAT IS TO BE DONE one more time, only this time, hopefully, they will take Lenin’s side in the debate.

Workers’ Unity’s pathetic statement, “What is this but spontaneism in ’left’ clothing”, is proof positive that they have openly confused the difference between the spontaneous movement for reforms and the conscious struggle for revolution. The fact that they think that it takes Communist ideology to create militant trade union struggles is the most devastating indictment of their Economism which we can bring to bear. But, then again, one can never devastate Economism too much. We proceed.

Workers’ Unity and “Vanguardism”

Over and over again in their paper. Workers’ Unity reads the debate between Lenin and the Economists and takes the side of the Economists. Their position on “vanguardism” is a fine case in point. On the basis of their worship of the spontaneous struggle, and of their “fear of belittling the spontaneous element”. Workers’ Unity launches a headlong attack on the Leninist concept of the vanguard party. They say:

Nor will class-consciousness be built by any one of the host of ultra-left sects presently vying for the workers’ favour. These groups are characterized by an inability to merge revolutionary theory with the actual experience and practice of the workers’ movement. They begin not from the standpoint of advancing the interests of the proletariat and developing its leadership; they proceed from the desire to further their own interests as the self-proclaimed vanguard of the revolutionary struggle. It is not through “leftist phrasemongering”, or opportunist interventions at high points in the class struggle, that workers will be won to accept communist ideas and become genuinely “class conscious”. . . . THE WORKING CLASS NEEDS ITS OWN POLITICAL PARTY. Its interests are not embodied in either the bourgeois parties or the so-called “vanguards” of the “left”.

Lenin, too, attacks phony “vanguardism”, but Lenin perceives phony “vanguardism” differently from the way Workers’ Unity perceives it. Lenin says:

For it is not enough to call ourselves “the vanguard”, the advanced detachment; we must act like one; we must act in such a way that ALL the other detachments shall see us, and be obliged to admit, that we are marching in the vanguard.... Social-Democrats who talk about Social-Democracy being the vanguard at the present time, when spontaneity almost completely dominates our movement, fear nothing so much as “belittling the spontaneous elements”, as “belittling the significance of the forward march of the drab, everyday struggle, as compared with the propaganda of brilliant and finished ideas”, etc., etc.! A “vanguard” which fears that consciousness will outstrip spontaneity, which fears to put forward a bold “plan” that would compel universal recognition even among those who think differently from us. Are they not confusing the word “vanguard” with the word “rearguard”? (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 104)

To Lenin, phony “vanguardism” is “vanguardism” which is really “rearguardism”: which worships the “actual” “day to day” “drab everyday struggles”, “promising palpable results”. But Workers’ Unity’s attack on “vanguardism” – despite their tokenistic “self-criticism” of their own fears of vanguardism in the past – is an anti-Leninist appeal to the strong Economist “SENTIMENTS” which continue to infest our movement and beyond. These “ultra-left” “vanguards” – what are they? According to Workers’ Unity, they are those groups which are not “merged” with the “actual” “practice” of the workers’ movement. Divest itself from the trade-union struggle, and a group becomes an “ultra-left” “vanguard”. And which groups could Workers’ Unity have in mind? Let us consult their previous position paper, wherein they specifically name the CPC(M-L) and the RMG. Workers’ Unity is still painting these groups with the brush of “ultra-left” because of their “vanguardism”, despite the fact that (a) despite “left” political lines in some cases, they have a right-opportunist trade-union practice, and (b) what these groups should be attacked for is not that they are phony “vanguards”, but that they are counter-revolutionary agents! Lenin says,

But the very fact that you select so despicable a phrase as “pushing on from outside” – a phrase which cannot but rouse in the workers (at least in the workers who are as unenlightened as you yourselves) a sense of distrust towards ALL who bring them political knowledge and revolutionary experience from outside, and rouse in them an instinctive desire to resist ALL such people – proves that you are demagogues, and demagogues are the worst enemies of the working class. (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 150-1)

Should our readers doubt,that this “anti-vanguard” bogey, this “sense of distrust” for outside propaganda, is precisely what Workers’ Unity has in mind to raise, we recommend that they read the article which follows, entitled “Marxism and Leninism: the Trade Union Work of Workers’ Unity (Toronto).”

Now, what do these “ultra-left” “vanguards” do? They “begin not from the standpoint of advancing the interests of the proletariat and developing its leadership”, says Workers’ Unity. And what are these “interests of the proletariat” to which Workers’ Unity is referring? Its fundamental interests, the overthrow of the existing order and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat? No, Workers’ Unity is saying that to begin at such a point would be mere “ultra-left” “vanguardism”. To avoid being an “ultra-left” “vanguard”, a group must begin from the point of view of furthering the day-to-day interests of the proletariat, the “concrete demands promising palpable results”. Then, and only then, can it raise the issue of the proletarian revolution, for which vanguard parties are notorious. So reasons Workers’ Unity.

Because, reasons Workers’ Unity, if such a group begins from a desire to “further their own interests as the self-proclaimed vanguard of the revolutionary struggle”, then it is not really acting in the interests of the proletariat. Workers’ Unity is still peddling the anti-communist propaganda that a “vanguard”, which begins by grasping the fundamental interests of the proletariat and seeks to provide Communist leadership as a beginning point, is made up of self-interested career-seekers who do not really have the interests of the proletariat at heart at all. Lenin says.

But good God! How “one-sided” were these incorrigibly narrow and orthodox doctrinaires; how deaf to the calls of “life itself”! Their articles contained – oh, horror! – not a single, can you imagine it! – NOT A SINGLE “concrete demand”, “promising palpable results”! Poor doctrinaires! (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 79)

Workers’ Unity is still luring people with the bait that only in the arena of trade-union practice, the struggle for higher wages, is the proletarian nature of a Communist Party tested. Workers’ Unity does not understand that it is not the success in the day-to day struggles of the trade union movement that determines the class character of the Communist Party. When they say, “... the correctness or incorrectness of a political position is... proven by whether or not, IN OBJECTIVE PRACTICE, it advanced the interests of the working class”, this is what they are referring to. This is made even more explicit by CCL(ML):

Communists aren’t afraid to confront their political line with concrete practice, to submit it to the collective experience of the masses and thus prove its correctness. While participating in and providing direction to factory struggles and by defending the daily interests of the masses of workers, communists point the road to total emancipation.... Communist propaganda does not consist only of giving Marxist-Leninist theory to workers through study circles or other such circles. It also means teaching them how to apply that theory in practice. (The Forge, March 11, 1976, p. 7 . Emphasis ours.)

But, if the arena of trade-union practice, the struggle for reforms, is not the arena in which the proletarian character of a Communist party is tested “IN PRACTICE”, then how is it tested?

What, then, will be the expression of the class character of our movement? – the over-zealous advocates of “close organic contact with the proletarian struggle” will ask us. The reply is: the fact that we Social-Democrats will organize these public exposures; that all questions raised by the agitation will be elucidated in a consistently Social-Democratic spirit, without any concessions to deliberate or non-deliberate distortions of Marxism; in the fact that this all-round political agitation will be conducted by a party which unites into one inseparable whole the pressure upon the government in the name of the whole people, the revolutionary training of the proletariat, while safeguarding its political independence, and guidance of the economic struggle of the working class, the utilization of all its spontaneous conflicts with its exploiters which rouse and bring into our camp increasing numbers of the proletariat! (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 104)

Workers’ Unity is the one promoting phony “vanguardism”, fearing “nothing so much as ’belittling the spontaneous elements’”, fearing that “consciousness will outstrip spontaneity.” Says In Struggle! in ’The Tasks of the Marxist-Leninist Movement: How to Build the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party“ (CR 1:3):

Stalin states clearly that during the first stage the party is not, strictly speaking, a “party of mass action”, or, if you wish, this is not its principal characteristic. In other words, the party, at this stage, does not practically, effectively, lead mass action in the class struggle, but it is making preparation to take this leadership. This preparatory period is one where cadres form, organize and arm themselves with a clear program and firm tactics. No genuine Marxist-Leninist proletarian leadership can exist if these conditions are not met. The attempts of those who improvise as revolutionary leaders of the proletariat without meeting these conditions invariably lead to opportunism.... In every case, having failed to properly accomplish the tasks of the first period, the self-proclaimed vanguards can never give genuine proletarian revolutionary leadership, (p. 13-14)

It is those who march at the head of the trade-union struggle, claiming to be providing Marxist-Leninist political leadership, who are “self-proclaimed vanguards” and opportunists. It is those who parade their empty “pop” Marxism-Leninism, which is just veneer for their trade union practice, who are resorting to phrase-mongering.

Workers’ Unity and “Line-Fetishism”

In the Stover-Perri position, it was argued that “line-fetishism”, or the dogmatist “left” deviation which held that building political line was the principal task, was actually only a cover for Economism, because the key link of Marxist-Leninist political organization was still missing. Workers’ Unity has admirably confirmed the organic relationship between Economism and line-fetishism.

It is not the desire of communist militants to link up with the working class, to proletarianize their ideology, or even to make “personal sacrifices” that ought to be attacked. It is the incorrect lines that those militants have carried (or in the absence of defined positions, the tailing of opportunist lines) which must be understood and defeated. (p. 50)

In other words, had these post-terrorist petit-bourgeois intellectuals entered the workplace not only with their noble “SENTIMENTS”, but also with their noble “lines”, their work would have been Communist work. The fact that they were not seeking unity with each other on a correct Communist basis is apparently quite beside the point. This is how Workers’ Unity responds to the Stover-Perri criticism of Economist liquidationism: by saying that these Economists should have transformed themselves into “line-fetishists”. They confirm these bankrupt politics when they say.

Some comrades... have fallen into economist and trade-unionist politics because they went into the workplace without a clear Marxist-Leninist line, but only with sentiments about the need to integrate themselves with the workers’ movement. Many of these comrades will be receptive to following a correct Marxist-Leninist line in working-class organizing. (p. 10. Emphasis ours.)

What was the error of the Economism and right-opportunism of recent years? Was it that these good militants were gazing with awe upon the spontaneous struggle, that they were liquidating the role of ideological struggle, of organization, of the unity of advanced elements? Oh, no! For Workers’ Unity, it was that they did not pack a political line into their lunchbuckets! Had they done so, they would not have been Economists! And now, in “working-class organizing” – i.e., in their trade-union work – many of these “comrades” will be receptive to toting such a line. Why not? It need not change their practice!

Workers’ Unity and “Revolutionary Practice”

Unwilling to flush themselves clean of Economism, right-opportunists must manipulate Marxist-Leninist terminology in order to justify the continuation of their errors in the Marxist-Leninist movement. Thus, for example, they attempt to justify their role in the trade union struggle by calling it “revolutionary practice”.

In the Stover-Perri position, a good deal of time was spent demonstrating that only with a Communist Party can the proletariat engage in revolutionary practice – that is, in practice which directly challenges the rule of the bourgeoisie. Until this is realized, the practice of the proletariat (or of the implantees “linked” with it) is not revolutionary practice but can at best be preparatory to revolutionary practice, no matter what label the implantees attach to themselves. In the case of implantation, of course, such practice is not even preparatory to revolutionary practice, but actually simply reformist practice.

This argument is confirmed by Lenin, by Stalin, and by Mao. Lenin says, “Revolutionary theory... assumes final shape only in close connection with the practical activity of a truly mass and truly revolutionary movement”, and is clearly referring to the second stage of the building of the party, when the masses, led by the Party, are engaging in mass action. Stalin refers to the first period of the formation of the Party as a period which is preparatory to revolutionary action (“THE STRATEGY AND TACTICS OF THE RUSSIAN COMMUNISTS”, SCW 5). Mao’s argument, as put forward in ON PRACTICE, is dealt with in the Stover-Perri position and is dismissed by Workers’ Unity, the group that talks so much about “practice”.

Because, we can see, Workers’ Unity considers militant trade unionism to be “revolutionary practice.” This is made very clear in their trade union work, which is dealt with in “Workers’ Unity’s Trade Union Practice: ’Marxism and Leninism’ ”. “Does this mean”, they say in response to the Stover-Perri argument, “that no practice advances the revolution until the party is built? What about the practice – i.e. building the party? And, how will that party be built?” (page 49) Workers’ Unity has made it clear that “that party will be built” through “actual leadership of communists in mass struggles” And so, by crafty verbal manipulations, last year’s trade union practice is transformed this year into “revolutionary practice”. You could have fooled us. Workers’ Unity, it still looks like trade union practice to us!

Workers’ Unity and Class Struggle

Just as the Economists fancy themselves to be engaged in “revolutionary practice” by leading the demand for higher wages, so they fancy themselves to be engaged in “class struggle” by the same “drab, everyday” “actual” procedure. The crescendo of Workers’ Unity’s attack on the Stover-Perri position is their criticism of Stover and Perri’s use of the term “class struggle”. Becuase Stover and Perri said that the liquidationists “did not yet find a class engaging in class struggle”. Workers’ Unity concluded that these authors could not possibly “provide correct direction” to the Canadian revolution. A serious situation indeed!

Just as last year Workers’ Unity transformed “trade-union consciousness” into “class consciousness” by their own “pop” Marxist-Leninist opinions, now they self-criticize that error and turn around and make the same error with reference to “class struggle”. By fusing the “trade-union struggle” with the “class struggle” in their high-sounding polemics, they are seeking still to transform their old trade-union practice into revolutionary practice. This, of course, is an easier route to go than the more arduous task of fusing Marxism-Leninism with the working class by winning the advanced workers to Communism and making a genuine qualitative change in the working-class movement.

Trade union struggle is guided by trade-union consciousness; class struggle is guided by class consciousness. Trade-union consciousness is class consciousness in embryo (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 36); trade-union struggle is class struggle in embryo (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 36; “OUR IMMEDIATE TASK”, LCW 4:216). Muddling the one is the same muddle as muddling the other one. Both are justifications for Economism; therefore both must be exposed, discredited and defeated.

Workers’ Unity attacks Stover and Perri as follows: “Class struggle is, simply, the opposition or antagonism between groups having a different relationship to the means of production (i.e., classes) (Stover and Perri) show a lack of knowledge of a most basic principle of Marxism: CLASS STRUGGLE DOES EXIST INDEPENDENT OF HUMAN WILL WILL.”

Unlike Workers’ Unity, when we confidently declare something to be “a most basic principle of Marxism”, we like to substantiate this sort of declaration through quotations from Marx and Lenin. Workers’ Unity quotes two sentences from the Communist Manifesto, neither of which defines class struggle; then, on the basis of that, sigh with relief! Stover and Perri have been repudiated! They cannot provide correct direction to the revolution!

What is so tragic is that Lenin’s definition of “class struggle” was set out in plain view in the Stover-Perri position. It was one of the “extensive quotations” which Workers’ Unity was apparently too bored to deal with. Having skimmed “all the quotes”. Workers’ Unity now uses an attack on Stover and Perri as a cover for an attack on Lenin, whose opinions they apparently consider to be “bourgeois idealism”. Let us once again quote Lenin on the subject of “what is class struggle”, as set out in the Stover-Perri article.

We are all agreed that our task is that of the organization of proletarian class struggle. But what is this class struggle? When the workers of a single factory or of a single branch of industry engage in struggle against their employer or employers, is this class struggle? No, this is only a weak embryo of it. The struggle of the workers becomes a class struggle only when all the foremost representatives of the entire working class of the whole country are conscious of themselves as a single working class and launch a struggle that is directed, not against individual employers but against the ENTIRE CLASS of capitalists and against the government that supports that class. Only when the individual worker realizes that he is a member of the entire working class, only when he recognizes the fact that his petty day-to-day struggle against individual employers and individual government officials is a struggle against the entire bourgeoisie and the entire government, does his struggle become a class struggle. “Every class struggle is a political struggle” – these famous words of Marx are not to be understood to mean that any struggle of workers against employers must ALWAYS BE a political struggle. They must be understood that the struggle of the workers against the capitalists inevitably BECOMES a political struggle INSOFAR AS it becomes a CLASS STRUGGLE, (“OUR IMMEDIATE TASK”, LCW 4:216)

Workers’ Unity criticizes Stover and Perri for their extensive use of quotation, which “is not proof that the essence of a problem has been grasped.” (p. 48) How, then, do we judge whose definition of class struggle is correct: Lenin’s or Workers’ Unity’s? When struggling against the “serious ’left deviation’,” Workers’ Unity abandons the writings of Lenin and is forced instead to invent their politics in their own heads.

Should Workers’ Unity be unpersuaded by this “bourgeois idealism” of Lenin’s (or should they find it too long to plough through again), let us see what else Lenin has to say on the subject of “class struggle.”

Every class struggle is a political struggle. We know that the opportunists, slaves to the ideas of liberalism, understood these profound words of Marx incorrectly and tried to put a distorted interpretation on them. Among the opportunists there were, for instance, the Economists, the elder brothers of the liquidators. The Economists believed that any clash between classes was a political struggle. The Economists therefore recognized as “class struggle” the struggle for a wage increase of five kopeks on the ruble, and refused to recognize a higher, more developed, nationwide CLASS struggle, the struggle for POLITICAL AIMS. The Economists, therefore, recognized the embryonic class struggle but did not recognize it in its developed form. The Economists recognized, in other words, only that part of the class struggle that was more tolerable to the liberal bourgeoisie, they refused to go farther than the liberals, they refused to recognize the higher form of class struggle that is unacceptable to the liberals. By doing so, the Economists rejected the Marxist, revolutionary conception of the class struggle. (“LIBERAL AND MARXIST CONCEPTIONS OF THE CLASS STRUGGLE”, LCW 19:121)

Let us congratulate Mr. Yermansky (or should we say Workers’ Unity? – eds.) on his devoted and splendid explanation of the way in which the liquidators substitute a liberal conception of the class struggle for the Marxist conception, forgetting how to examine social events from the revolutionary point of view. (Ibid., p. 124)

Looks like Workers’ Unity joins Yermansky in “proving” that Lenin (like Stover and Perri) cannot “provide correct direction” because of his “errors on the question of class struggle.” Furthermore, let us see what else Lenin says about class struggle. Workers’ Unity is making itself famous in our movement for making proclamations which stand squarely in contradiction with Marxist-Leninist classics. A fine example of this phenomenon is Workers’ Unity’s statement that “Class struggle does exist whether or not a Communist party exists.” Lenin disagrees with the Economists:

The spontaneous struggle of the proletariat will not become its genuine “class struggle” until this struggle is led by a strong organization of revolutioanries. (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 166)

And, again from our favorite “serious ’left’ deviation”:

While the riots were simply revolts of the oppressed, the systematic strikes represented the class struggle in embryo, but only in embryo. Taken by themselves, these strikes were simply trade union struggles, but not yet Social-Democratic struggles. (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 36)

And, once again from our “overreaction to the errors of the recent period”:

An economic struggle that is not united by a central organ cannot become the CLASS struggle of the entire Russian proletariat. (“OUR IMMEDIATE TASK”, LCW 4:219)

If Lenin’s opinions are not “Marxist” enough for Workers’ Unity, then let us turn to Marx himself to see his opinion about this “most basic principle of Marxism”.

...the separate individuals form a class in so far as they have to carry on a common battle against another class; otherwise they are on hostile terms with each other as competitors. (THE GERMAN IDEOLOGY)

Not only does class struggle depend on the existence of an independent political party for that class; but Marx goes so far as to define the existence of the class itself in terms of whether it is united in battle against the bourgeoisie. And further:

Insofar as millions of families live under economic conditions of existence that separate their mode of life, their interests and their culture from those of the other classes and put them in hostile opposition to the latter, they form a class. In so far as there is merely a local interconnection among those small-holding peasants and the identity of their interests begets no community, no national bond, AND NO POLITICAL ORGANIZATION AMONG THEM, THEY DO NOT FORM A CLASS. They are consequently incapable of enforcing their class interest in their own name. (EIGHTEENTH BRUMAIRE OF LOUIS BONAPARTE, MESW 1:334 (Moscow, 1935). Emphasis ours.)

Moreover, if Workers’ Unity had had the time to read further into the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, they would have found this:

Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralize the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, INTO ONE NATIONAL STRUGGLE BETWEEN CLASSES. BUT EVERY CLASS STRUGGLE IS A POLITICAL STRUGGLE…This organization of the proletarians INTO A CLASS, AND CONSEQUENTLY INTO A POLITICAL PARTY, is continually being upset by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier. (COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, in Marx and Engels, SELECTED WORKS, Progress, p. 43. Emphasis added.)

Workers’ Unity says, “Class struggle... has existed in all previous societies” (p. 49), apparently as an explanation as to why “class struggle” is not a conscious struggle of a class. Apparently Workers’ Unity thinks that political struggle between classes, conscious political struggle, is a new phenomenon in the era of proletarian revolution. But Marx and Engels say in Workers’ Unity’s favorite source, the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO: “Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class.” (p. 37) To Workers’ Unity’s statement that “CLASS STRUGGLE DOES EXIST INDEPENDENT OF HUMAN WILL”, we reply with Mao’s statement, “The people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history.” (“ON COALITION GOVERNMENT”, MSW III: 257) It is true that the law of class struggle in class society is a law which exists independent of human will, in the sense that the reactionaries cannot stop the wheel of history from moving forward. But world history is not made “independent of human will.” This is a truth which goes back to the most basic level of human activity, which is the struggle for production. Marx says.

We pre-suppose labour in a form that stamps it as exclusively human. A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. At the end of every labour-process, we get a result that already existed in the imagination of the labourer at its commencement. (CAPITAL I, Moscow, Progress, p. 174)

Independent of human will? What a mechanical materialist, anti-people ideology!

Further. Let us see what Marx had to say about the relationship between history itself and “human will”.

History does nothing, it “possesses no immense wealth”, it “wages no battles”. It is man, real living man who does all that, who possesses and fights; “history” is not, as it were, a person apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims. (THE HOLY FAMILY, MECW 4:93)

Independent of human will?

Further. In the very same issue in which Workers’ Unity criticizes such a “serious ’left’ deviation”, there is an article reprinted from Albania Today entitled “THE OBJECTIVE AND SUBJECTIVE FACTORS IN THE REVOLUTION”, an article which unfortunately Workers’ Unity did not read.

The reformists and modern revisionists, with their anti-Marxist “theories”, are striving to prove that present-day capitalism can be transformed into socialism by a peaceful road, by means of reforms, by extending bourgeois democracy and its institutions, by gradually occupying important economic and political positions in order to later seize the whole power and ensure the transition to socialism. The philosophical basis of these theories is economic vulgar materialism which denies or underestimates the role of THE SUBJECTIVE FACTOR IN HISTORY, the role of the CLASS STRUGGLE AND OF THE MARXIST-LENINIST PARTY, which confuses the objective and the spontaneous, while from the methodological viewpoint they are a negation of dialectics and its replacement with simple evolution. The political essence of these theories is a fight against the Marxist-Leninist theory of the revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, the preaching of the integration of capitalism into socialism, (p. 26.)

And, again from the Party of Labour of Albania:

All the class struggles that have been waged in our country, whether by the people, under the leadership of the party, or by our enemies, have had the question of political power as their objective. (Albania Today, May-June 1975, “ON THE CLASS STRUGGLE IN SOCIALISM”, p. 9)

Fearlessly, Workers’ Unity takes on not only Marx, Lenin, and the Party of Labour of Albania, but Stalin as well. Stalin refers to the proletarian “class struggle” as something not ever present in advanced capitalist countries, but as something not yet born. Stalin says:

It is essential that the American Communist Party should be capable of meeting that historical moment fully prepared and of assuming the leadership of THE IMPENDING CLASS STRUGGLES IN AMERICA… For that end we must work in order to forge real revolutionary leadership of the proletariat, capable of leading the many millions of the American working class TOWARD THE REVOLUTIONARY CLASS STRUGGLES. For that end all personal factors and factional considerations must be laid aside and the revolutionary education of the working class of America must be placed above all. (STALIN’S SPEECHES ON THE AMERICAN COMMUNIST PARTY, 1929, p. 20. Emphasis added.)

We can see here that Stalin is saying that the class struggle is contingent upon the development of revolutionary education, or, in other words, class consciousness. And again, from Stalin:

The duty of the Communist Party is at once to begin preparatory work FOR THE COMING CLASS STRUGGLES, to prepare the working class and the exploited masses for new revolutionary struggles.... The cleansing process of the Communist Parties now proceeding... is at the same time an integral part of the great cause of preparing the working class FOR THE APPROACHING CLASS STRUGGLES, which is now the main task of the Communist Parties of the world, (ibid., p. 34-5. Emphasis added.)

Stalin is here taking that terribly “ultra-left” line that the task of Communists is to educate the working class in order to transform its struggles into class struggles. Looks like Stalin will have to sink in the same boat as Lenin for not being able to provide “correct direction” to the revolutionary struggle. And, finally, again from Lenin: “Politics means a struggle between classes.” (As quoted in Peking Review, January 2, 1976, p. 9.)

We hope we have not overburdened Workers’ Unity with a boring string of quotes. But next time Workers’ Unity wants to express an opinion about “a most basic principle of Marxism”, we recommend that they substantiate this opinion with some references to the literature of Marxism-Leninism. Workers’ Unity has again attacked a position which they have not read, and the result is that their attack on Stover and Perri is mere veneer for an attack on Lenin.

Politics means a struggle between classes. Class struggle, although it comes from the objective antagonisms between groups with a different relationship to the means of production, is itself a phenomenon of the superstructure. It is the organized struggle s of a class for the political aims of that class. Just as the struggle of twenty Native people on a reserve in Northern Canada for flush toilets does not constitute national struggle, but rather is an embryo of the Native national struggle, so a strike for higher wages is not class struggle, but is only an embryo of it; it is a class struggle which is not yet born. Just as national struggle is guided by national consciousness, and seeks the political goals of the whole nation, so class struggle is guided by class consciousness and seeks the political goals of the entire class.

It is not to bicker or split hairs that we place such strong emphasis on this point. It is rather to demonstrate the fundamental fallacy in Economist logic. For the Economists, every strike is a class struggle. Now, if every strike is a class struggle, and if Communists are supposed to be in the vanguard of the proletarian class struggle, then does it not follow that Communists should be leading strikes? Oh, the glory which goes to the Economists, marching at the head of the picket line, confident that they are in the vanguard of the class struggle, the motive force of history! Says Workers’ Unity:

Contrary to what Stover and Perri claim, class struggle does exist whether or not a Communist Party exists and whether or not the working class is conscious of its existence, (p. 49)

Remember the poor workers who weren’t even capable of going out on strike by themselves? Well, now we learn that they think that they are only engaged in trade union struggle; but, really, they are unwittingly engaged in class struggle! The Economists, basking in the glory of leading this “class struggle”, of course know what is going on; it’s just that the workers don’t know it! – Poor dupes!

But, if we divest the Economists’ activities of their fancy label and see them for what they are – that is, trade union activities – then where have we left Workers’ Unity? At the head of the picket line, but not in the vanguard of the class struggle. Rather, they are in its rearguard: bowing to spontaneity, living in “fear of ’belittling the spontaneous element’ ”, and “gazing with awe upon the posteriors of the proletariat.”

Now let us take Workers’ Unity’s understanding of “class struggle” and see where it leads. Workers’ Unity defends “implantation” thus:

The test of a Marxist-Leninist organization is its ability to advance the struggle for a proletarian party and the struggle for proletarian revolution. In order to do this, the cadre of such an organization (the cadre of a future Communist Party) must be tested and steeled in the course of class struggle, (p. 51)

So now, understanding that by this Workers’ Unity means the “trade union struggle” we learn that the members of a pre-party organization (not every one of them, we are granted, but most of them, for sure) must be “tested” in the arena of trade union struggles. Communists (with some exceptions granted – e.g., Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao) must first “gaze in awe” upon spontaneity; and then, having been properly trained, or “tested and steeled”, will be good material for the construction of a party. Workers’ Unity hits the jackpot, bumping smack into Lenin. Lenin says:

But the Martynovs and the other Economists continue to imagine that “by economic struggle against the employers and the government”, the workers must FIRST accumulate strength (for trade-unionist politics) and THEN “go over” – we presume from trade-unionist “training for activity” – to Social-Democratic activity! (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 113.)

“Tested and steeled in the course of ’class struggle’ ”! When is Workers’ Unity ever going to take Lenin’s side in the WHAT IS TO BE DONE debate?

And, finally, we proceed from the question of “what is class struggle” to an even more fundamental difference between Marxism-Leninism and Workers’ Unity: that is, what is “successful class struggle.” Given their definition of “class struggle”, we can assume that Workers’ Unity considers a wage hike after a strike to be ah example of “successful class struggle”. This must be why they specifically criticize Stover and Perri for saying, “It is only with a party that we can have successful class struggle”. Why, you don’t need a Communist Party to go out on strike!

But Marx says:

Wages are determined through the antagonistic struggle between capitalist and worker. VICTORY GOES NECESSARILY TO THE CAPITALIST. The capitalist can live longer without the worker than can the worker without the capitalist. (“WAGES OF LABOUR”, MECW 3:235. Emphasis ours.)

Where the working class is defeated. Workers’ Unity is preaching that it has succeeded. But where the working class is successful – i.e., where the Communist Party is built through the rallying of increasing numbers to the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, accomplished through the outside intervention of revolutionaries – Workers’ Unity preaches “opportunism”, or defeat. Workers’ Unity turns Marxism-Leninism on its head, and champions the politics of class collaboration.

Workers’ Unity and Class Consciousness

And so, we have proved Workers’ Unity wrong on the subject of “what is class struggle”, which was central to their attempts to destroy the menace of ultra-leftism in our movement. Yet it is true that this error, serious as it is, is still a very common one among Marxist-Leninists. In defense of Workers’ Unity, some might say that, even if they are wrong on the subject of “class struggle”, at least they understand what “class consciousness” is and how the working class is to acquire it. At least they have learned to distinguish between “class consciousness”, which is brought to the working class from outside of the economic struggle, and “trade union consciousness”, which is developed within the realm of the economic struggle. Or have they?

Certainly in their trade-union practice they have not. The reader will notice, in the article that follqws, that Workers’ Unity specifically tells the workers of the “political” gains “measured by what we learned” in the course of the trade-union struggle: “lending the economic struggle itself, ITSELF a political character!” However, in a position paper written to the more sophisticated. Workers’ Unity does not deny outright that “class political consciousness can be brought to the workers ONLY FROM WITHOUT.” In fact they say so (p. 8), and affirm that this can be done only “through the ongoing work of a Communist Party”. And yet, on closer examination, what exactly is this “ongoing work of a Communist Party”? We quote again from Workers’ Unity:

It is not through “leftist phrase-mongering”, or opportunist interventions at high points in the class struggle, that workers will be won to accept communist ideas and become genuinely “class conscious”; it is through the consistent merging of communist ideas, with the workers’ movement, and through actual leadership of communists in mass struggles, (p. 4)

“Interventions at high points in the class struggle”, translated from Econom-ese, of course means the spreading of Communist propaganda and agitation during strikes, accomplished by militants who are not employed in that situation. Workers’ Unity considers this form of work (a form of work, incidentally, in which Lenin engaged a great deal) “opportunist”. Too much “pushing on from outside”. Workers’ Unity? And, not only is this form of work “opportunist”, but it also is not the way by which “workers will be won to accept communist ideas”. They are saying that workers will not acquire class political consciousness from the outside intervention of revolutionaries! What Workers’ Unity is actually coming out in opposition to is the practice of bringing “class political consciousness ... to the workers ONLY FROM WITHOUT.” Communists, in other words, in order to develop the class consciousness of the proletariat, must be firmly implanted within the economic struggle throughout its development, including being involved as leaders of the trade union struggle. This is confirmed when they say, ’The Communist Party . . . must be firmly rooted in the heart of the working class in order to be capable ot developing its class consciousness and fighting capacity.“ (Also confirmed here is that Workers’ Unity still thinks that class consciousness is intrinsically connected with “fighting capacity” – i.e., trade union militancy. Haven’t we been through that struggle already?) Unfortunately, Lenin disagrees: “There is no need to consider the economic struggle the MOST widely applicable means to involve the masses in the active political struggle.” (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 73-74)

There are two problems here with Workers’ Unity’s creative opinions. The first is that it is a disguised attack on the fundamental of Leninism that revolutionary knowledge is in fact brought to workers from outside the sphere of the economic struggle. The second is that it begs the question of how workers are to in fact determine which of the contending lines within the Marxist-Leninist movement is the correct political line to which they should be rallying. For, if workers cannot grasp Marxist-Leninist science until Communists themselves are implanted participants in the trade union struggle, then it follows that only those workers lucky enough to be employed in the same factory as a Communist will be ushered into the portals of Marxist-Leninist knowledge. The stage is set for the “infantile and retrograde attitude belonging to small groups or isolated collectives which cling tenaciously to remaining isolated, surrounded with THEIR ”masses” and with THEIR “workers”. (EN LUTTE!, CR 1:3, p. 19) Little room is left for contending lines to be studied and judged by intelligent workers, sympathetic to Communism; instead, we have the fantasies of comfortable hegemonism on the part of the “implantee”. And what about the masses of less fortunate workers whose employers did not hire an “implantee”? How are these ever going to acquire class political consciousness?

And so, when Workers’ Unity counterposes this “tactic” of implantation to “leftist phrase-mongering”, they are not actually distinguishing between “empty phrase-mongering”, devoid of concrete meaning and analysis (as understood by Lenin and Mao), on the one hand, and correct and thorough Marxist-Leninist ideology, on the other hand. Not at all. The distinction which they are drawing is between raising the ideology of Marxism-Leninism from the outside, on the one hand, and, raising communist ideas in the course of trade-unionist (“actual”, “everyday”, etc.) struggles in which they are implanted, on the other hand. Their opposition to “leftist phrase-mongering” – in context, to be understood as “raising the ideology of Marxism-Leninism” – is none other than the old economist worship of “the forward march of the drab, everyday struggle, in comparison with the propaganda of brilliant and complete ideas” (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 88).

A summary of their position is, in truth, their “previous conception of how to build class consciousness, which amounted to little more than interjecting a few ’political’ ideas in the course of the economic struggle” (p. 8). Should there be any doubt that this is the sum total of what they are saying, we refer readers again to the article which follows, wherein we show that this is exactly what they do do in their trade union work.

No, Workers’ Unity does not come out and attack Lenin’s position on the source of class political consciousness as directly as they do his position on “class struggle”. But a careful study of their position, taking care to peer through the evasive wording of their “empty phrase-mongering” and understand it in the context of their two-line struggle against “left opportunism”, will reveal that they have not yet grasped the role of class consciousness in the building of the revolutionary movement. On this question, Workers’ Unity sinks into the nadir of bourgeois ideology when they state, as a defense of their “tactic” of implantation:

A third reason why implantation is important is as one means of proletarianization of the revolutionary organization, that is, of adopting the outlook of the revolutionary proletariat, (p. 47)

At last, Workers’ Unity has enlightened us as to where they have learned their ideology. They have entered the workplace, where the workers are saturated with trade-union consciousness and bourgeois ideology, and gazed with awe upon this “revolutionary outlook.” Whereas Lenin tried to argue that the proletariat under capitalism by itself develops only a bourgeois outlook, and is by itself only a reformest proletariat. Workers’ Unity helps us realize that the proletariat under capitalism is already a revolutionary proletariat endowed with a revolutionary outlook. Moreover, whereas Lenin thought that Communists learn their “revolutionary outlook” from the science of Marxism-Leninism, and brought this outlook into the working class in order to transform it into a revolutionary proletariat. Workers’ Unity brings us refreshing new insights and helps us realize that Communists learn their politics from “adopting the outlook of the revolutionary proletariat.”

Workers’ Unity’s errors on “class consciousness” are only a more or less disguised form of the same error which surfaces when they come out guns a-blazing on the question of “class struggle”. Just as class struggle as Lenin understood it (i.e., political struggle) is guided by class consciousness, so class struggle as Workers’ Unity understands it (i.e., trade union struggle) can only, inevitably, be guided by trade union consciousness. The two questions are inseparable, and Workers’ Unity demonstrates this in masterful fashion Their errors are corollaries of their Economism, and fully inevitable on that basis.

Workers’ Unity and the Communist Party

It will become clearer now why Workers’ Unity found an article on WHAT the principle task was, in which the actual program for propaganda was only briefly touched upon, to be “a serious ’left’ deviation” and “an overreaction to the errors of the recent period.” Missing from that article was the worship of the trade-union struggle which is essential to Workers’ Unity’s politics. “Not a single concrete demand promising palpable results! Poor doctrinaires!” “How will that agitation and propaganda be conducted?” asks Workers’ Unity. “How will links with the masses be assured?” Stover and Perri have not “assured” Workers’ Unity that that agitation and propaganda will be conducted in the arena of trade-union practice. They have not “assured” Workers’ Unity that they can continue their trade-union work, uninterrupted by one day, unjostled by the change in their political line on the central task. Without this “assurance” – the two-line struggle on HOW to build the party. Stover and Perri have “ignored” the trade-union struggle. Lenin came under the same attack for his “ignoring” of such questions.

My interlocutor (an Economist friend – eds.) accused the author of ignoring strike funds, mutual aid societies, etc..... On questions of both organization and politics the Economists are forever lapsing from Social-Democracy into trade unionism. (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 138.)

A Leninist party is built of and by professional revolutionaries; an Economist party is built of and by trade-union militants. Lenin is quite explicit on this point.

It is only natural to expect that a Social-Democrat, who conceives the political struggle as being identical with the “economic struggle against the employers and the government”, should conceive of an “organization of revolutionaries” as being more or less identical with an “organization of workers”. And this, in fact, is what actually happens; so that when we talk about organization, we literally talk in different tongues. (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 137)

Workers’ Unity fits this description tailor-made. To Workers’ Unity, militant trade-unionism is “politics”, as is made clear in the article which follows. To Workers’ Unity, it takes the conscious work of Communists to bring about the spontaneous struggle (p. 49-50). And, to Workers’ Unity, a Communist Party must be an “organization of workers”, “tested and steeled in the course of class struggle.” And that is why we “talk in different tongues” about HOW to build the party!

It is by politics such as these that the Economists, who were once deaf to the calls for a Communist Party and who cringed in fear of “vanguardism”, have come to terms with the forces of Marxism-Leninism in Canada. They have adapted themselves, using Leninism as protective colouration.

Workers’ Unity: Opportunist in Form, Economist in Essence

Thus, through the use of the art of vacillation equalled only by their previous position paper, Workers’ Unity betrays the shallow and phony nature of their self-criticism of Economism. Class consciousness is brought by Communists to the trade-union struggle from outside (page 8, column 1), but then again it can only be developed inside the trade-union struggle (p. 5 c. 1). Communists learn their revolutionary outlook from the science of Marxism-Leninism and bring it to the working class (p. 8., c. 1), but, then again, Communists learn their revolutionary outlook from the working class (p. 47, c. 2). Communists bring their ideology to the working class to transform it from a reformist proletariat to a revolutionary proletariat (p. 4, c. 1-2), but, then again, the proletariat is already a revolutionary proletariat (p. 47, c. 2). Class consciousness is the political knowledge of a class-for-itself (p. 8, c. 1), but, then again, it is also linked in some inseparable way with “fighting capacity”, or trade union militancy (p. 5, c. 1). Advanced workers are those with developed consciousness and are “open to communism”(p. 46, c. 2), but, then again, they are also those militants who have proven themselves by leading strikes (p. 46, c. 2). Workers are now striking spontaneously all by themselves (p. 3, c. 2), but, then again, the workers can’t go on strike all by themselves but need petit-bourgeois militants to help them at it (p. 49 c. 2-p. 50 c. 1). Implantation is but one of many tactics to win advanced workers to communism (p. 47 c. 1), but, then again, to fail to use this “tactic” is opportunism and doomed to failure (p. 4, c. 2). Communists should implant out of a willingness to “sacrifice all for the revolutionary cause” (p. 47, c. 2), but, then again, one must not attack implantees for their petit-bourgeois self-sacrificism (p. 50, c. 2). Communists must not bow to fears of “vanguardism” (p. 9, c. 1), but, then again, the interests of the workers are not represented by “vanguardist” parties (p. 4, c. 2). Communists must engage in the widest possible ideological struggle to build the party (p. 46, c. 2), except with a “serious ’left’ deviation” (in their refusal to talk to Stover and Perri). Communists enter the workplace to win advanced workers over by propaganda and agitation (p. 46, c. 2), but while they are at it they must also lead strikes (p. 47, c. 1), and to fail to do so is to be an “ultra-left sect” which does not truly defend the interests of the proletariat (p. 4, c. 2), but then again, the true interests of the proletariat are a proletarian revolution (p. 4, c. 2). Right-opportunism is the main danger in our movement (p. 5, c. 1), but, then again, the two-line struggle to build the party is the struggle against the ’left’ deviation (p. 48). The backward elements are won over by the rallying of the advanced and intermediate elements (p. 46, c. 2), but, then again, they are also won over by being impressed with the trade-union militancy of Communists (p. 50, c. 1). Workers’ Unity’s previous position paper was private (when Stover and Perri chose to cite it), but then again it is public (when Workers’ Unity chooses to cite it). Stover and Perri make serious errors on HOW to build the party (p. 48, c. 1), but, then again, they do not answer the question of HOW to build the party (p. 49, c. 2). Points are not proved through the use of “selective quotation” (p. 48, c. 2), but, then again. Workers’ Unity uses selective quotation throughout their article.[4] Their previous (wrong) politics amounted to injecting political ideas into the course of the economic struggle (p. 8, c. 1), but, then, again, their current (correct) politics amount to injecting political ideas in the course of the economic struggle (p. 10, c. 1). The Communist Party must lead the class (p. 6, c. 2), but, then again, it must not stand above the class (p. 5, c. 1).

Workers’ Unity has written a long but inconsequential position paper which flirts with both Marxism-Leninism and Economism. Its vacillations are a classical example of what Lenin was referring to when he said that Economists do not repudiate Marxism but that they are constantly straying from Marxism to trade-unionism, from proletarian ideology to bourgeois ideology. But the true nature of Workers’ Unity’s politics are revealed when they abandon their patient empathy with right-opportunist “errors” in order to destroy the “ultra-left.“ At that point, vacillation ends, and Workers’ Unity sides unflinchingly with the bourgeois line. Workers’ Unity is calling for a party, but that party must be built of and by trade-union militants. These are Workers’ Unity’s politics. With Lenin and the rest of us who disagree: the two-line struggle. And they are correct. The two-line struggle is between the politics of Workers’ Unity and the politics of Lenin.

And now we have clarified why it is that Workers’ Unity has sought to attack so scathingly an article which they have read so superficially, an article which was written in order to struggle against the liquidationism which they at the time were championing. We have clarified why it was such a “serious omission” that that article did not “assure” the central importance of trade-union practice, and such a “serious error” that that article did not refer to trade-union practice as “revolutionary practice” or “class struggle”. We have clarified why Workers’ Unity chose to publish their attack without any ideological struggle with its authors, despite the possibility that such struggle might have strengthened their own position and heightened their own ideological and political development. We have clarified why Workers’ Unity refused to meet with two Marxist-Leninists once those Marxist-Leninists proved to them in writing that building the party was the central task.

The reason is that Workers’ Unity, in bowing to spontaneity, inevitably “belittles the conscious element”. They have so cringed in fear of ideological struggle, and so slinked away with their tails between their legs from open political confrontation, that they would sooner parade their own semi-literacy, misinterpret an article which they are attacking, and run headlong into Lenin over and over again, rather than have one meeting on building the party with Canada’s “serious ’left’ deviation”.

Workers’ Unity continues to be an outstanding example of the world-historic trend known as “Economism”. Their belittling of the role of ideology is proved in their theory and in their practice. Their worship of the trade-union struggle is their downfall. Their politics must be defeated if the party is to be built. This is the lesson of WHAT IS TO BE DONE. Lenin says: “We can make no progress until we finally put an end to this period.” (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking, p. 5)


[1]As dealt with by the Bolshevik Union in “The Whole Is Equal to the Sum of Its Parts,” Workers’ Unity published this article in the wake of their refusing, for a full year, to engage in any ideological struggle with Stover and Perri on the subject of building the party, despite repeated requests made to them to engage in such struggle. Workers’ Unity has also subsequently refused even one meeting with Stover and Perri to struggle over their position as published and to discuss the response Stover and Perri planned to make to the criticism. And yet, they put forward in their article that their criticism was advanced in the “spirit of ’unity/criticism/unity’ ”.

We will be showing that the reason that they have refused to engage in any such struggle is that their previous politics – that is, that it is in fact the “ultra-left” which is the main danger – are in reality unchanged.

[2]In this connection. Stover and Perri are self-critical for this same error: that is, not mentioning any right-opportunists by name in their position. This was done, again as dealt with in “The Whole Is Equal to the Sum of Its Parts”, as a liberal concession to Workers’ Unity, which refused to allow their position paper to be quoted and in fact made this question a question of principle. (Another fine example of Workers’ Unity’s “spirit of ’unity/criticism/unity’ ” and “desire for unity”.) Bowing to backwardness, Stover and Perri therefore generalized about right-opportunism in our movement and protected these opportunists from exposure, an error which weakened their position. Thus the “left” dogmatists, who had themselves contributed to the struggle against Economism in our movement and who were principled enough to be willing to be held accountable for their politics, were the only ones who were quoted by name in the Stover-Perri position.

[3]The authors do deal briefly in that article with “a correct program of propaganda and agitation”, in their position that there should be a Canada-wide Communist newspaper.

[4]Workers’ Unity claims that ”our incorrect positions have been ’substantiated’ by the selective use of quotations“ (p. 48 c. 2), and makes the same claim earlier (p. 8, c. 2). The fact is that, to the best of our knowledge, Workers! Unity had written – before the advent of Canadian Revolution – exactly ONE position paper. That paper, the one referred to in this article, contained two very short quotations, one of which was from Lenin and one of which was from a REVISIONIST source. This is Workers’ Unity’s history of finding “enough quotes to justify our errors using this method.” We can only assume that Workers’ Unity is using this phony “self-criticism” as a weapon to attack those who learn their politics from the literature of Marxism-Leninism instead of from their “actual experience in the mass struggles”.