Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Editorial: Going against the tide

First Published: Lines of Demarcation Nos. 3-4, n.d. [early 1977]
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The first issue of LINES OF DEMARCATION appeared in the context of the formation of the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) in Quebec and the degeneration into opportunism of the journal Canadian Revolution in English Canada. Thus the main thrust of the first issue (and the pamphlet, “The Whole Is Equal to the Sum of Its Parts”, which preceded LD no. 1) was the struggle against the opportunism of these two formations (and the Economism of Workers’ Unity (Toronto), a group in CR which “rallied” to the League).

Many changes have occurred since then and a new phase has been entered into in the movement. The question of the unity of Marxist-Leninists in the struggle to build the party has been placed more solidly on the agenda and quite rightly has become the principal concern of all Marxist-Leninists on a country-wide level. It has also become the principal concern of opportunism.

So, while the framework of LD no. 1 was relatively narrow, LD no. 2 and LD no. 3-4 attack questions more on the level of the movement as a whole. In “Not With Whom To Go, But Where To Go”, published simultaneously with this issue as LD no. 2, we have put forward a “concrete analysis” of the movement and outlined the problems that must be solved in going forward, and the nature of the struggle against right-opportunism that must be waged in going forward.

Another major difference is our exposure of the Economism, and right-opportunism on the question of unity and in general, of the group In Struggle!. Before the Bolshevik Tendency (an ad hoc formation which was transformed into the Bolshevik Union) became the Bolshevik Union as the result of the failure of our struggle for unity with In Struggle!, we had recognized this group as the leading Marxist-Leninist group in Canada. But in LD no. 1 we touched briefly on criticisms of In Struggle! that we were developing, i.e., that they were moving towards Economism, that they were liquidating the first stage of building the party, and in this issue these criticisms are developed and substantiated at length particularly in “Not With Whom To Go, But Where To Go” in LD no. 2 and in “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Political Leadership of In Struggle!” in this issue.

We consider that In Struggle! and the League have been carrying substantially the same Economist political line in the most important respects: both of them portraying the spontaneous struggle for reforms as a fundamental challenge to the rule of the bourgeoisie, portraying “victory” in this struggle as the equivalent of the struggle for socialist revolution, seeing the communist party as emerging out of this spontaneous movement, and in general failing to understand class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat. We therefore exhort the reader to consider the two articles, “One Step Forward...” and “Right Opportunism is Dead! Long Live Right Opportunism!” as two parts of an integral whole, with our most important criticisms of each of the groups applicable in general to the other one. In this context, we have repeated in both articles many of our substantiations from the classics that form the ideological line of the international communist movement, not only because we feel that these things cannot be repeated too often (and are not repeated often enough in our movement), but also to draw out that both groups violate these scientific principles in exactly similar fashion.

A summary of the positions in the movement on the question of the right to self-determination of the Native nation in “The Native National Question and the Marxist-Leninist Movement” rounds out this issue. These four main articles taken together, along with our previous positions, form the basis of our statement that right-opportunism is in a majority in our movement of struggle for the party and that a third trend in the movement must go against the tide of the right-opportunism of In Struggle! and the League. This position is put forward in the conclusion of “Not With Whom To Go...” and throughout that article.

The position that right-opportunism is a majority in the movement was first publically taken by the Bolshevik Union at the October 9th Conference on the unity of Marxist-Leninists in Montreal, sponsored by In Struggle! Our address to this conference is printed as Part II of this editorial. Our position on In Struggle!’s “plot” for the “unity” of Marxist-Leninists, of which this conference formed a part, is put forward in “Not With Whom To Go...”

We will not deal at length with this conference in general. In some respects it was a positive occurrence because it brought many groups together and catapulted some groups (for better or worse) into the public life of the movement where before they had been steeping in localism. But principally the conference was part of In Struggle!’s opportunist “unity” project and the predominant thing that occurred, with some exceptions, was the chorus-like endorsement of In Struggle!’s conceptions of “unity”, particularly on the part of groups from western Canada. Much time and energy was wasted by the practice of “letting everyone have their say” at length rather than concise simple statements to the effect that a group was in agreement with In Struggle! when that was the case. This situation was brought about and encouraged by the same In Struggle! which once stressed that struggle should take the form of examining differences. But that was before they learned to worship “unity” itself.

What was the response to the Bolshevik Union’s presentation? First of all we consider that it was unfortunate that these issues of LD we are now publishing with our complete positions had not been produced before the conference. Our position would not have been less of a shock, but those who were skeptical would have better been able to understand our reasons for taking it. The delayed production of LD nos. 2-4 caused our position to lose some of the momentum it might have had. We can only hope that we planted some seeds by our presentation at the conference and that some of those seeds will sprout as a result of the appearance now of LD no. 2 and LD no. 3-4.

In spite of the radical nature of our presentation and the violent reaction to it of many, we found the response to our position and to the Bolshevik Union in general to be basically positive (all things considered). 1000 copies of our address that we had printed in French and English were quickly exhausted at our section of the booktable. Because of the base laid in LD no. 1 in “Defeat Economism! A Reply to Workers’ Unity (Toronto)” many people were seriously concerned to understand our analysis that In Struggle! is Economist. Several people were extremely interested in our position on the Native nation, were familiar with “Nationhood or Genocide” and agreed with it. From these signs, and from the sales of LD no. 1, particularly in Quebec, we know, at least, that a large portion of the movement takes our work very seriously. (In contrast is the explicit policy of the League and its cadre to make a point of not “legitimizing” the Bolshevik Union.)

Nevertheless, on the negative side, we did suffer some damage in going against the tide at this conference. This is reflected in the fact that letters of support (for LD as a journal) were withdrawn as a direct result of it. One Marxist-Leninist group that withdrew its letter put forward the reasoning that it did not want to be “inadvertently” associated with the position we put forward. They have suggested a letter for the next issue after they have prepared criticisms of our position.

From other sources we know that many objected, not quite so much to what we said, as the way we said it. In other words, if we had simply stated our views without drawing the logical and inescapable conclusion that opportunism is in a majority in the movement, our positions would have been more palatable to some. Or else, they felt that we should have only put the party programme on the agenda without attacking those who sabotage the centralization of it on the agenda; or merely stated that Native people were a nation without attacking as social-chauvinist those who deny the right of Native people to self-determination.

What these people fail to understand is, in regard to the first example, that the momentum of the movement must be understood. We must decide not just whether there are some correct and some incorrect politics existing in the movement, but also whether the movement as a whole is being led by the correct or the incorrect politics. We should not be acting in a fashion consistent with Marxism-Leninism if we did not draw the conclusion, from our analysis, that the present momentum of our movement is in the wrong direction, a right-opportunist direction which will not lead to the formation of a proletarian party.

And, in regard to the second example, that we used words that were too strong when we identified In Struggle! as “social-chauvinist” and “racist” at this conference, we note, first of all, that In Struggle! has taken a “national minority” position denying the right of Native people to self-determination, without struggling over, and in spite of, a widely known concrete analysis of this question proving that Native people are a nation with the right of self-determination up to and including secession. That is to say, In Struggle! knew exactly what it was doing and all the ramifications of the situation; it was not something we could see as a mere “mistake” or haste in taking a position, or sloppiness. Secondly, we quote Lenin from “Notebooks on Imperialism” where he puts forward the following thesis as the first of a series of theses he was working on:

... (1) Social-Democrats of an oppressor nation, particularly of the so-called Great Powers, must demand the right to self-determination – the right to secession for the oppressed nations, upholding this right not only in the legal, but especially in the illegal, press and especially in wartime.

and comments:

... In view of the elementary, ABC nature of thesis No. 1, its acceptance by all democrats and Marx + Engels 1848-76, and its confirmation by the experience of the war, – Social-Democrats who do not recognize this thesis SHOULD BE TREATED AS ENEMIES OF THE PROLETARIAT AND DECEIVERS OF THE WORST KIND, AND EXPELLED FROM THE PARTY. (LCW 39:737-38)

We plan to continue to struggle with In Struggle! but consider that the strongest language on this subject is quite appropriate in the effort to cure a very sick patient and expose to others the acuteness of the disease.

We would like to very briefly in this editorial sum up the work of the Bolshevik Union to this point in time. To begin with, we can claim two main accomplishments.

The first is that we have, more than any other group in Canada, done real concrete analysis and made this the basis of our political positions. We are referring specifically to “Nationhood or Genocide: The Struggle of the Native People Against Canadian and American Imperialism” published in Canadian Revolution no. 4 (written by two members of the Bolshevik Tendency and endorsed by the Bolshevik Union) and “On the Principal Contradiction: A Critique of the Political Line of the CCL(ML)” in LD no. 1. Notwithstanding the great amount of work that remains to be done, taken together these two articles stand far and above all other work done in the movement in applying Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of Canada and in laying bare the motion of the society within which we must make revolution.

Secondly, with this Marxism, there has been our struggle against anti-Marxism, the main danger to the Marxist-Leninist movement and the proletarian revolution: right-opportunism. We have pursued this consistently and systematically where other groups have dropped it entirely for all intents and purposes (e.g., In Struggle!) or used it only as a cover for their own right-opportunism (e.g., the League).

In this issue of LD we have not been able to go further in the analysis of the concrete conditions of Canada because of the necessity of making a “concrete analysis” of the movement itself and summarizing the struggle against right-opportunism. We will return to analysis and polemics on the concrete conditions of the Canadian revolution in future issues. Questions we will be prioritizing are: a further concrete analysis of Canada (in particular, demonstrating that Canada is an imperialist country); some questions of international significance, and the question of women.

It is in the practical side of our work that we have shown the most limitations. The late appearance of issues no. 2 and no. 3-4 is the result of poor planning on our part to a certain degree and also a reflection of our size and limited division of labour. A regular appearance of LD with one or, at the most, two long articles would be preferable to the periodic double issue or simultaneous publication of several issues.

We are still working on this problem, one which will not be completely solved until we have more people working with us, but in the meantime we are hoping to be able to print a monthly “bulletin” in between issues of LD. This will allow us to have more immediate and regular contact with the movement at large.

Finally, there is the plan we have put forward in “Not With Whom To Go...” (see Section 6) for the expansion of LD, for the intensification of the ideological struggle, and as the base for the eventual transformation of LD into a newspaper. All who support the development of LD as an organ of the ideological struggle in our movement should consider participating in the LD “network” we are trying to create. So far, several Marxist-Leninists have accepted this plan or are seriously considering it pending its formal presentation in the context of our position on the movement in “Not With Whom To Go...” in LD no. 2.

December, 1976