Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist)

In Struggle on Unions: Opportunist Through and Through

First Published: The Forge, Vol. 2, No. 3, February 3, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Recently, since its second congress, In Struggle has put forward in its newspaper and in its concrete practice an increasingly consolidated rightist line on the question of communists in mass organizations

Our comrades from In Struggle have declared war on the League’s “leftism”, “dogmatism” and “sectarianism” in its mass work.

Of course, they aren’t the only ones who have declared war on us. Their criticism can only overjoy the union bureaucrats and reformists who have begun a communist witch-hunt within the working class’ mass organizations.

Lately we have seen how certain opportunists in the Central Council of the CSN in Montreal have repeated these accusations of “dogmatism” and “sectarianism” against the CCL(ML) in their newspaper Le Travail (see The Forge, No. 24).

At a time when the reformist leadership of the ADDS (a welfare rights organization) in Montreal is expelling League communists and sympathizers, In Struggle tells us that the League’s leftism is what is provoking these anti-communist actions.

According to them, there is no anti-communist campaign but simply an anti-League campaign. We’re the ones at fault if we can’t deal with the attacks of poor innocent people who control these organizations.

These words have a peculiar resemblance to the accusations coming from Gerin-Lajoie and other reformist and revisionist bureaucrats, according to which communists are the ones who cause disunity among the workers by criticizing their “duly elected leaders”.

The rightist orientation adopted at In Struggle’s second congress constitutes no fundamental break with their position on communist work in mass organizations. It is simply the consolidation of their past line. In Struggle is demonstrating an inability to answer the essential questions which Marxist-Leninists are confronted with in relation to mass work. These are: who are our friends and who are our enemies with in the workers’ movement; what are Marxist-Leninists’ tasks in the unions; what is their strategic goal and what are the tactics we must use to reach them.

It Is necessary to struggle against reformism In the unions

In Canada, today, reformism dominates the workers’ movement. In English-Canada, the NDP dominates many unions and the “C”PC revisionists occupy many intermediate administrative posts. In Quebec, the PQ is using the bureaucrats to reinforce their control on the workers’ movement in order to smother workers’ struggles and to prove its usefulness to American imperialism.

It is precisely because the traitors within the worker’s movement are the principal obstacle blocking and sabotaging proletarian unity that we must begin to fight right away to sweep them out of the movement.

“To enable the working class fight against oppression and capitalist exploitation to continue successfully through all its stages it is absolutely necessary to wage above all a ruthless and firm struggle against reformism, opportunism and revisionism as well as all the other dangerous bourgeois trends within the working class and union movement”. (Puna, the magazine of the Central Council of Professional Unions of Albania, 2-1976. p. 18, our translation)

On the other hand what does In Struggle have to say?

In their September 30, 1976 issue, p.8. In Struggle criticizes the League because, according to them, we spend too much time and energy attacking traitors, revisionists and reformists in unions instead of attacking the bourgeoisie.

According to them we would do better following the example of their second congress and putting forward the call for unity in unions. What they don’t say is that this unity must be forged in the struggle against the bourgeoisie and its agents within the unions.

How to lead the struggle against reformism

The basis of In Struggle’s thinking is that all immediate struggles are necessarily reformist and that communists need not intervene to direct the tactics in these struggles. Marxist-Leninists work on the long-term struggle, reformist leaders work on the immediate struggles. This is a dangerous conception which leads to liquidation of the fight against reformism.

In each struggle, local or national, economic or political, the two lines necessarily clash over the direction of the struggle and the tactics, the form of the struggle and the organization. The reformists advocate collaboration, passivity, respect for bourgeois law, etc. They reduce the struggle to that for immediate demands within the framework of the capitalist system.

Communist must join in the battle on this front. They must be in the vanguard of these struggles in order to expose the treachery of the sold-out bureaucrats in each concrete example it takes and educate the workers in the ideological and political line which determines these actions.

In Struggle abandons this area to the reformist leaders. They prefer to limit themselves to abstract and generalized declarations on the reformist line in their publications,all the while supporting the reformists as they do in union and in mass groups like SOS (an organization for daycare) and ADDS.

Under the pretext of fighting against economism In Struggle rejects close ties with the masses and participation in their struggles where they could do revolutionary education. Instead of close ties with the people in their struggles , In Struggle has chosen ties with the reformist leaders. While supporting the reformist orientation these leaders give to the struggles. In Struggle tries “to push the leadership towards the left”.

This line of “unity” leads In Struggle to practise entrism in the unions by coming to agreement and making compromises with the leadership. This opportunist attitude of “pushing bureaucrats to the left” was clearly criticized by the Communist International in the 1920’s. The International clearly established that the revolutionary rallying cry in unions must be: expel the reformist bureaucrats and transform unions into revolutionary unions.

The tasks of communists in the unions

For In Struggle the tasks of Marxist-Leninists in mass organizations have never been clear. In its early days, In Struggle put forward a “leftist” line rejecting all work in the unions. It abandoned the masses of the working class to the influence of the agents of the bourgeoisie.

Today In Struggle recognizes that communists must work in unions. But in practice In Struggle still abandons the struggle against the bourgeois line. They do no education of workers in their defence organizations. At the same time they like to call the League’s work among the masses economist.

Inside the unions, the Marxist-Leninists must first and above all actively do independant communist agitation and propaganda. That’s the principal activity at this stage in party building.

The League does this work everywhere it can possibly make contact with the masses, whether it be in local union, in conventions or union conferences. But what is In Struggle doing about this task?

While the League intervened at the FTQ, CLC, Quebec Steelworkers, CSN and OFL conferences, not only with a tract but also through interventions of certain of its delegate members, In Struggle was absent or silent.

And when In Struggle members are delegates, which is a rare occurence, they don’t make any open communist interventions. A case in point is the FAS (Social Affairs Federation) convention. Inside local unions, In Struggle doesn’t fare any better.

At St. Luc Hospital in Montreal, during the Common Front Struggle when reactionaries attacked League communists during union meeting, the IS comrades present didn’t say a word. A few months later they did a public self-criticism in their newspaper concerning this issue. This is just one of the examples of their economism and right opportunism which can’t be covered over by great speeches about their role in the fight against economism.

The truth is that In Struggle should examine their role as educators before attacking the League. It is because the League is not afraid to do political agitation among the masses, to put ideas forward clearly, that the sold-out union bureaucrats search for ways to get rid of us.

But in the struggle against the bourgeoisie and its agents for socialist revolution it is not sufficient to do educational work and to unite communist workers.

It is necessary, like In Struggle says to unite with the large mass of workers. To build this united front it is first necessary to agree on its composition.

Who are our friends and who are our enemies In the workers’ movement?

This is crucial question we must always answer if we wish to define a correct path for the revolution. Calling for the unity of the workers’ movement without saying who we want to unite will lead us to compromising and collaborating with traitors and opportunists of all kinds.

As far as In Struggle is concerned, the traitors in the workers’ movement are limited to a few individuals almost exclusively confined to the top echelons of union bureucracy: like “Joe Morris and Ed Lawson of the CLC”.

In its editorial on December 20, 1976, In Struggle tells us precisely that we must never “mistake honest and combative but non-communist union traitors, who, like the CLC’s Morris and Ed concretely demonstrated that they are corrupt leaders, conscious agents of the monopoist bourgeoisie within the workers’ movement”. And further on, “To consider a union leader as a traitor because he is still dominated by reformism, because he is not a communist and does not put forward the setting up of a proletarian party, amounts to treating like enemies friends misled “by reformism.”

But what In Struggle doesn’t say is that even if the agents of the bourgeoisie are only a small minority, they are not found only in top union positions but are present at all levels including, in several cases, the local level.

The social base of union bureaucrats is the worker aristocracy, a small stratum of the working class completely corrupted by the bourgeoisie. This stratum of corrupted workers are privileged in their income and working conditions and can in no way be part of the united front of the proletariat. This small stratum is present in almost all workplaces and often in unions at all levels.

There is no way we can unite with these traitors. They are agents of the bourgeoisie who betray us daily in our local struggles. In struggles like the one at Dominion Engineering people like Boudrias and Labelle, local leaders of the Machinists union, betray the workers and are today the main target of the struggle.

It is of course correct to distinguish between the sold-out top leadership and the bureaucrats in the lower levels of union structures. Some of the latter are not traitors even if they have been taken in by reformism. They can be honest. What is the attitude of communists towards these union workers, local leaders, etc.?

Communists must not be stopped by the explanations of the lower union bureaucracy seeking to justify its weakness – which shows sometimes in spite of their good intentions – by placing the blame on the statutes and on orders coming from their central committees. Communists must constantly ask this lower bureaucracy for clear answers and ask what they are doing to get around the obstacles they describe, and whether they are ready to fight with the workers for destruction of these obstacles.“ [The four first world congresses of the Communist International 1919-1923, Re-edition Librairie Progressiste, p. 114, (our translation)]

We must confront these bureaucrats with a choice: the proletarian road or the bourgeois road.

For In Struggle, this is out of the question. They would rather work along with them, supporting them with no questions asked and supplying them with arms against the Marxist-Leninists of the CCL(ML). What is to be done when local reformist misleaders propose negotiation and reject mass mobilisation and struggle? Communists criticize reformist direction. They try to convince them and educate them. They don’t support them unquestioningly just to make things easier.

What is the attitude of communists toward the non-communist masses?

Communists do not reject unity with the non-communist masses. Such a conception would lead to defeat. On the contrary, Marxist-Leninists must work to create a single proletarian front, the broadest unity of the working class, locally in each struggle, and eventually on a country-wide basis during the final struggle.

But the orientation of this united front must be struggle, class against class. Its leading centre must be the communist workers, and it must be formed in the rank and file and in action, in class struggle. It cannot be fundamentally based on alliance with the lower-level bureaucrats. First and foremost it is unity in the rank and file of the working class in action which is important.

In Struggle does not understand all this. For them the alliance with the lower-level bureaucrats and reformist leaders holds the same importance as unity with the rank and file. This conception is fundamentally opportunist and leads them to support some odd positions.

At Montreal Locomotive Works, In Struggle published a tract supporting the “honest” and “militant” union leadership in the struggle for a new work contract. They aimed their criticism at the former union president, an avowed collaborator, and mentioned the betrayal of Jean Gerin-Lajoie. But In Struggle did not arouse the workers’ vigilance against the reformist dead-end solution proposed by the present union leadership, which includes an influential member of the executive well known for his revisionist ideas.

This member in particular proposes to call on the PQ government as a miracle solution to the layoffs and to the conflict itself.

Faced with this situation, In Struggle then calls for support for “our committee’s immediate demands! Let’s induce it to transform our union into a real union for class struggle, and not for class collaboration!” (MLW leaflet. January 26, 1977). In Struggle proposes that the workers induce their leaders to transform their unions.

This is a perfect example of the idea of “pushing union leaders toward the left” with no critique of their reformism. The workers at MLW would do better to reject In Struggle’s patronizing advice and take up their own struggle against the company and for transforming their union.

The strategy for transforming the unions

During its second congress, In Struggle developed its conception of the road for transforming the unions in Canada, “in a word, it is the task of seeking the unity of all parts of the Canadian proletariat, this is our task in order to weaken the bourgeoisie and be able to overthrow it. In particular, this implies the struggle to democratize unions, and to support the movement to Canadianize unions with a view to dislodging the reformist and anti-communist domination exercised in this area by the labour aristocracy and the union bosses” (In Struggle, Dec. 20, 1976)

The strategic objective of Marxist-Leninists in the unions in Canada can only be to transform them into class struggle unions. Not a mention of this objective from In Struggle. To “Canadianize” unions is only one aspect of this struggle and must be subordinated to it like the part to the whole. The principal focus in this strategy is the class against ciass struggle. In Struggle chooses to put this struggle off until later and puts the Canadianization and democratization as the immediate objective.

There are no stages in this struggle. The erroneous conception that states that it’s necessary to first build Canadian unions without ties to the US and afterwards struggle to transform” them, is defended principally by bourgeois nationalists (like Jim Laxer of the Waffle) who see American imperialism as the principal enemy.

To advocate “Canadianizing” unions without subordinating it to the struggle for a class struggle orientation is equivalent to supporting the union hacks, the agents of the Canadian bourgeoisie like those in the CSN and the Canadian Paper Workers Union who are searching to increase their hold over the workers’ movement.

Democratization cannot be considered separately from the fight for class struggle unions. It is an integral part of the fight, not a stage. We cannot speak of democracy without placing it in a precise political orientation. To speak of democracy in the abstract is to go back to an entirely bourgeois concept. The worst reformists (even Joe Morris) will talk about democracy in the unions with the greatest pleasure. The FTQ pretends that it is aiming to democratize construction unions in Quebec.

Democratization develops in class struggle; that’s why class struggle must be at the centre or our activity in the workers’ movement.

A rightist line triumphed at the last In Struggle congress

In Struggle’s line on the unions, and its practice in the workers’ movement, is thoroughly economist.

Yet this is exactly the position In Struggle is taking when they put forward their positions and their criticism of the CCL (ML)’s “leftism”. In fact, In Struggle’s theses and practice tend not to reinforce but to hinder the struggle to liberate the working class from the hold of bourgeois ideology and to rally them to Marxism Leninism.

These positions lead to the road to conciliation, to compromise and finally to alliance with the bourgeoisie. In Struggle tags behind the spontaneous movement and the reformist union bosses.

It is now time for Marxist-Leninists to intensify their educational work, to expose the proletariat’s false friends and to clearly define the lines of demarcation between bourgeois and proletarian ideology in the workers’ movement. The least bit of hesitation in relation to this struggle, any conciliation with the enemy can only serve to mystify the working class and to cloud the road to their emancipation.