Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

In Struggle!

The role of communists in the struggle against Bill C-73

First Published: In Struggle! No. 86, April 14, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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“Is it right, at the time when we are still at the stage of building the Marxist-Leninist proletarian Party, the stage during which we must work above all to rally the advanced elements of the working class to communism, is it right to actively participate and intervene in the struggles undertaken by the masses, and to even think of politically orienting these struggles?”

“Can we work for the unity of the proletariat when the proletariat doesn’t even have its party yet?” ... “Isn’t it possible that there’ll be Trotskyists in the struggle committees that you setup?”

These are among the questions that comrades in the Marxist-Leninist and working class movement have asked IN STRUGGLE! since we launched the appeal to intensify the campaign against Bill C-73 and all other forms of wage controls in last February 17’s newspaper. In this article, we will Answer a certain number of these important and timely questions. In addition, we would ask all our readers to send us their comments on our position and to send us information about the development of the political campaign at their workplace.

Wage controls: the heart of the bourgeoisie’s offensive

Bill C-73 and all the other forms of wage controls are today at the heart of the political offensive of the Canadian state aimed against the working class and the people as a whole. This damned law is the bourgeoisie’s answer to the economic and political crisis which is hitting imperialism in Canada and around the world. The proletariat’s struggle and the struggle of the entire people in our country has crystallized principally around the struggle against this law and all the other crisis measures, and every day the fundamental contradiction between the working clans and the bourgeoisie develops a little more.

As well, it is around this struggle that the differences within the camp of the bourgeoisie are sharpening and the reactionary alliance with American imperialism developing. And it is around this law that all the political parties, whether they call themselves bourgeois or not, are showing their support for the most repressive of capitalist policies towards workers. In this task they are aided by the agents of the bourgeoisie within the working class movement who are on the lookout for methods of class collaboration that will put down the revolt of the working class.

But faced with this offensive of the bourgeoisie, faced with the attempts of the agents within our own ranks to sow division, faced with the dead-end social-democratic, revisionist and trotskyist solutions, the working class and the masses are far from having given up in despair.

On the contrary, the proletariat resisted and through this struggle there developed, despite the long road still before us, a unity between the English Canadian and Quebecois proletariat which is greater than anything we’ve seen in a good long time.

The struggle against the law thus became a political struggle, without being a revolutionary struggle in the sense of a struggle where the working class,’ led by its Party, is consciously taking aim at the bourgeoisie and at overthrowing its capitalist state power. But it was nevertheless a political struggle in the sense of a struggle where the proletariat directly confronts the ruling class and its state, and where the outcome of the struggle could change the balance of power between the camp of the people and the camp of reaction here in Canada.

And at the very, moment that the struggle has reached a crucial point, the ruling class, divided, is turning to the labor bosses who are only too happy to collaborate with the ruling class to smash the working class in its movement to fight back. They are only too happy to find “more reasonable” ways to control wages, and to be sure that the effects of the law aren’t lost in a movement to revoke the decisions of the AIB and to reopen collective agreements.

This is the context in which IN STRUGGLE!’s intensification of the campaign against Bill C-73 and all other forms of wage control must be situated: Seeking to give a correct orientation to the mass movement against wage controls, to put forward the appropriate forms of organization, to struggle for the unity of the Canadian proletariat and the Canadian masses.

Working on this terrain to show that the interests of the proletariat and those of the bourgeoisie are irreconcilable, to show the relationship between this struggle and the struggle for socialism and for the Party – all this is to work to remove the conscious workers and masses from the domination of bourgeois ideology, it is to show conscious workers the correctness of Marxism-Leninism.

The revolutionary education of workers should be carried out in the heat of the struggle to defeat wage controls

But certain comrades say: “Aren’t we at the first stage of building the party? Isn’t our job to rally advanced workers to communism and to give them a revolutionary education? Isn’t it economist to want to incite the workers to political action?”

Stalin did indeed define three stages in the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat: the first, where it must work to construct its own party, is a period where the central task of communists is to rally conscious workers to Marxism-Leninism. The second stage is principally that where the proletarian party, composed of a strong core of communist proletarians, undertakes the practical leadership of the struggles being waged by the masses to overthrow capitalism. The third stage is that where the proletariat and the masses wage the armed struggle to overthrow the state power of the bourgeoisie and to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.

IN STRUGGLE! in Against Economism [1]indicated that the central task of the Marxist-Leninist movement today is to rally the most advanced elements to Marxist-Leninist ideas. On this, we agree.But the crucial question is precisely that of understanding how we are going to rally the advanced elements and how we are going to work to educate them.

To figure this out, it is important to stop mechanically quoting Lenin and to start using the Marxist-Leninist position, viewpoint and methodology to determine our tasks in the concrete situation we are in.

Wage controls are at the heart of the bourgeoisie’s political offensive against the working class and the masses. So it is precisely through mass political agitation on the very terrain of the struggle against Bill C-73 and all the other crisis measures that Marxist-Leninists must do their work: They must not only indicate the correct orientation necessary in this immediate struggle, all the while opposing tripartism, big nation chauvinism, bourgeois nationalism and the phoney solutions of the so-called worker and revolutionary parties, they must also call on workers to fight for socialism and to get involved in the construction of the proletarian party.

In other words, it is important not to make the error of conceiving agitation as an activity limited to launching an appeal to fight wage controls or an appeal for certain demands connected to this struggle. Agitational work within the struggles of the proletariat must always be aimed at educating the working class as to the fundamental contradiction of capitalist society and, starting from a particular struggle, showing the necessity of overthrowing the bourgeois state and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat...

As Lenin himself said to the economists: “Indeed, how can one speak of the ’political education’ of the worker , if one does not recognize the possibility of conducting political agitation and political struggle.” [2].

And even if here Lenin was attacking the economists, this passage also contains an important lesson for the dogmatists who, following the example of the Toronto group Bolshevik Union, want to limit themselves to “political education” outside of the political struggle and strictly inside books. Thus, apart from general appeals for the Party and for socialism, these dogmatists want us to leave the masses, including conscious workers, to the leadership of the labour bosses, the reformists and the revisionists on the pretext that the struggle against wage controls and the other crisis measures is not a revolutionary political struggle led by the Party. Their dogmatism leads them ultimately to right opportunism, and to quietly capitulating in the face of the agents of the ruling class within the working class movement. This is petty bourgeois contempt for the immediate struggles of the masses, and, like right opportunists, these dogmatists totally separate immediate struggles from the struggle for socialism.

We must constantly be working to strengthen the proletariat’s side in the balance of power, for the proletariat’s struggle against the bourgeoisie is a long-term affair. Keep in mind what Mao said about the revolutionary struggle in democratic bourgeois countries. “Because of these characteristics, it is the task of the party of the proletariat in the capitalist countries to educate the workers and build up strength through a long period of legal struggle, and thus prepare for the final overthrow of capitalism.” [3]

Today our task is .to do sustained political agitation against Bill C-73 and the other forms of wage controls, and against the ruling class, in an effort to “build up our strength”; and on the basis of our political agitation, we must widen the scope of our propaganda and develop it, we must explain in depth certain crucial questions confronting the working class movement, such as the formation of its party and the necessity for socialism... It is for these reasons that IN STRUGGLE! is publishing and distributing its journal Proletarian Unity. It is for these reasons that it organizes Marxist-Leninist conferences nationally and regionally, and that it is organizing propaganda conferences around May 1st.

Working for the unity of the proletariat is necessary for rallying advanced workers

Certain comrades have asked the following question on IN STRUGGLE!’s tactical line in this campaign: “Isn’t it opportunist to seek to unite the proletariat in the struggle against the wage control offensive, since unity is impossible without the Party and anyway that’s a task for the second stage of party building?”

Comrades, concretely analyse the situation in our country. It so happens that in Canada, one of the methods the ruling class has always used and still uses to put down the workers’ struggle is to sow division between the anglophone and Francophone proletariat, between immigrant workers and non-immigrant workers, between workers in international unions and those in Canadian unions and between the workers of different regions. In this job it has been aided by its agents within the working class movement. Last year, at a moment when the fightback was welling up, when unity in struggle was taking leaps forward, Michel Chartrand, of the Confederation of National Trade Unions, told Quebecois workers the day before March 22 not to go and demonstrate in a foreign country. As well, we have seen Morris and crew refuse to provide simultaneous translation for francophones at a meeting of Canadian fishermen called by the CLC, and federal Transportation Minister Otto Lang refuse francophone pilots and controllers the right to work in their own language. And today, Trudeau is trying every method possible to get Bill C-24 passed, a bill aimed at dividing Canadian and immigrant workers.

Thus, in our country the national question and regionalism have always been a source of division. They have always held back not only the immediate struggles of the working class but also the rallying of conscious workers to communism. Under these conditions, it is just and it is necessary to put the object of unity at the very centre of our tactics, to start working right away to achieve this objective, even if it is true that it is only under the leadership of the Proletarian Party that the most complete unity of the proletariat and the masses can be accomplished. After all, it is important not to think that this unity will be accomplished by magic when the Party is created...

Nor is it a question of a “united front” tactic, as the sectarian prattling of certain comrades “always onto the fine points in the line struggle” would have it. It is not a question of making alliances with certain segments of the bourgeoisie and bank presidents dissatisfied with the law, nor with social-democrats, revisionists and trotskyists. The unity we are seeking is the unity of the proletariat and the masses, unity in the face of the enemy, unity in the struggle against the agents of the bourgeoisie and against phoney solutions. That is why our agitation and propaganda links the two aspects – unity and struggle; because without isolating and destroying the influence of the agents of the bourgeoisie, the unity of the proletariat against its principal enemy, the Canadian bourgeoisie, and its ally, American imperialism, is absolutely impossible.

The struggle committees are mass organizations

Some comrades are also asking about the character of the struggle committees. They are wondering if these committees are not backward steps in relation to the CSLO [4]. If we are setting up struggle committees to intervene in the class struggle, doesn’t that mean to say that the party is no longer necessary? And couldn’t we end up finding trotskyists and revisionists in these struggle committees and than find ourselves obligated to make tactical unity with them?

First, the struggle committee against wage controls is not a mass organization set up by communists and their sympathizers in order to rally other workers to it. No, the struggle committees are conjunctural organizational forms aimed at developing the mobilization and the fight against wage controls as called for by IN STRUGGLE! This distinction is important.

Indeed, the struggle committees are not organizations created in order to support and develop all sorts of local struggles; nor is the aim that they become permanent organizations replacing the unions. IN STRUGGLE! is launching the appeal within the masses for the formation of these committees, and will no doubt be involved in their formation where it is possible. But these committees should not become the pure and simple creations of Marxist-Leninists and their sympathizers, where all the work is done by Marxist-Leninists. If that were to happen it would be a sign of the failure of our appeal, it would be a sign that these organizations are like the old local CS’s [5] or the current SOS class struggle daycare centres! [6]

In the same vein, communists would be making a serious error if in their work within the struggle committees that the masses set up to fight Bill C-73, to revoke the decisions of the AIB and to reopen collective agreements, they lower the level of their agitation on the pretext of not being understood by the workers and limit it to local and immediate questions. That would be to repeat the opportunist errors of the CSLO where agitation was confined to the call for the immediate struggle and propaganda to the struggle for socialism. Communists must therefore think of the struggle committees as fertile ground for mobilizing the masses against the very heart of the political offensive of the bourgeoisie – as well as fertile ground for developing our communist agitation and propaganda.

The Marxist-Leninist movement must rid itself of the “mania” of some for working with class struggle platforms which are often a pretext for lowering the level of the objectives of communist work or an instrument for taking control of mass organizations. On the contrary, the struggle committees against wage controls must be based on the broad mobilization of workers, on the unity of the proletariat and the unity between the proletariat and the other segments of the masses. They must totally reject any form of class collaboration whatsoever.

It is up to communists to constantly work to raise the level of consciousness of these committees by clearly identifying themselves, by seeking to make the Manifesto of Struggle against Wage Controls the guide to their orientation, and by consistently making the link between this struggle and the struggle for socialism and the party; in other words, communists must accomplish genuine political education within these committees.

To do this, we have a certain number of tools. Aside from the Manifesto, there is the newspaper and the journal; there are also the propaganda conferences, and last but not least of all, the denunciation and mobilization work around the other crisis measures that are hitting all segments of the masses, like lock-outs, layoffs, and Bill C-24...

But, horrors (!) there could be trotskyists in the struggle committees. Yes, that is possible. Like revisionists, trotskyists are present in the unions and in community groups. But we won’t succeed in showing the masses how these phoney revolutionaries betray the interests of the working class by closing our eyes like in the CSLO, or by harrassing the girls selling the trotskyist paper, as the League did at the Montreal demonstration in support of the flourmill workers. Rather, it is by understanding the ideological struggle before the masses, and it is by convincing the masses to isolate them and to expel them that we will succeed in fighting them, and at the same time, we will politically educate the masses.

But how are the struggle committees going to be set up?

IN STRUGGLE! is intensifying this political campaign by developing agitation and propaganda around the objectives and orientation of the campaign. It is doing this through the broadest possible distribution of the newspaper, the Manifesto and the journal, by organizing meetings, and speaking up in union meetings and community and other broad-based groups. One aspect of this agitation is the call for the formation of struggle committees.

The struggle committees are not principally support committees to one struggle or another. The struggle committees, instead, are above all, and before everything else, aimed at mobilizing against the wage controls, at strengthening the unity between the proletariat and the masses in the face of their principal enemy, and breaking the attempts of the agents of the ruling class to sow division.

Of course, this does not mean that the struggle committees shouldn’t support workers in struggle against wage-controls or shouldn’t for a certain time concentrate its forces on a struggle in one particular plant to reopen a collective agreement.

On the contrary, the struggle committees against wage controls should seek to link their actions and demands to the struggle against other crisis measures. For example, in a meeting to denounce Bill C-73 and other forms of wage controls, immigrant workers could be invited to come and speak about Bill C-24; or workers could be organized to go and demonstrate against Bill C-24 or to support the light of welfare recipients against cutbacks decreed by the bourgeois State. In the same way, the struggles against these other measures, like Bill C-24, or lay-offs, must be linked to the struggle for the repeal of wage controls.

The struggle committees are not aimed at replacing the unions

On the contrary, the struggle committees are a form of organization designed to broaden mobilization and to unify the struggle against wage controls, either within one union, or between the different unions of the same plant, or different plants, or, alternately, between the workers of a factory and the residents in the surrounding area: many different forms of unity are possible! A struggle committee in one factory, in two or more factories; a struggle committee bringing together workers and oppressed and exploited masses; a struggle committee in a school, or in a neighbourhood near a factory.

To the extent that the struggle committees broaden mobilization and widen the struggle against wage controls and the ruling class, and to the extent that they operate democratically and wage the fight against the efforts of the labor bosses and the phoney revolutionaries to quell revolt through class collaboration, these committees will be a tool in the fight for union democracy.

In this context, the question of whether or not the struggle committee is autonomous from the local union has little importance. What is important is the orientation and the democratic method of operation we seek to give it. What is important is the broad mobilization that it must do through agitation around Bill C-73.

Where it is possible, it is most certainly correct for a union, following in the wake of a resolution presented at a general membership meeting, for which agitational work among the workers has been done beforehand, to set up a struggle committee.

In other places, where the labour bosses or the local executive block any effort to democratically set up a struggle committee, the combative workers can set one up, seeking to mobilize the factory’s workers themselves. In still other places, the initiative could come from the workers and the militants of community groups who together would work to mobilize the workers and the residents of a neighbourhood in order to form a struggle committee.

Independent of the form that the struggle committee takes, what is decisive is the struggle for a just orientation and democratic functioning. So it is clearly essential to wage the ideological struggle against those elements who favour class collaboration and phoney solutions, and against those elements who seek to co-opt the committee to achieve their own aims and quell the growing revolt.

Struggle to abolish wage controls! Struggle to create the Proletarian Party!

Comrades, at a time when the bourgeois State is showing signs of wanting to step up and sharpen its political offensive, at a time when the union bosses are hunting around for an arrangement with the bourgeoisie and its State and when they are once again eager to betray our fundamental interests to serve their own, we, the communist militants and the conscious workers, must struggle so that the revolt against the wage controls and the struggle against tripartism becomes a struggle which will enable us to advance towards our objective of creating a Marxist-Leninist Proletarian Party to overthrow the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and build socialism.

We will do this not only by indicating the correct orientation for strengthening the current struggle but also by constantly putting forward the necessity of passing onto the offensive against the ruling class, of passing onto the revolutionary struggle for socialism and of providing ourselves with that weapon which is essential in the war, our Proletarian Party.

Certainly we must be on guard not to limit our call for the struggle against wage controls, and not to make this appeal an objective isolated from the call for the struggle for the complete overthrow of the bourgeoisie. We must take care not to spread ourselves out too thin and end up by isolating ourselves in a series of immediate and local struggles. But neither should this be a pretext for saying that the struggle against the wage controls is useless, and that communists and workers shouldn’t be concerned and involved in it because it isn’t aimed directly at overthrowing the bourgeois State under the leadership of its Proletarian Party.

No, comrades, that would be another way of abandoning the working class to the labour bosses and to the phoney political solutions. That would be another way of betraying the interests of the proletariat!

Educate the proletariat in the midst of the class struggle


[1] Against Economism see the second edition published by IS.

[2] Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 4, p. 288, A propos de le prefession de foi.

[3] Mao Tse-tung, Selected Works, Vol. 2, p. 219, Problems of War and Strategy.

[4] Comité de solidarité avec les lutte ouvrières, the Committee to Support Workers’ Struggles, which existed in Montreal and was dissolved in September 1974. See the criticism of the CSLO in Against Economism published by IN STRUGGLE!

[5] Local CS’s: the local committees the CSLO tried to set up.

[6] See IN STRUGGLE! no. 79 p. 4-5.