First Published: The Forge, June 17, 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Western Voice [WV] is a newspaper published in Vancouver, B.C., for the past three years. It was widely distributed in western Canada and had a fairly large influence in the working class and progressive milieu. But the paper never mentioned communism and oriented itself around trade union politics. As such, it was one of the main obstacles to the development of the Marxist-Leninist movement and its fusion with the proletariat in British Columbia. This spring, the Western Voice Collective [WVC] – after suspending publication of their paper for several months – put out a special issue which criticized the economist line of the WV.
The League would like to make a few comments on this self-criticism and the future of the Voice.
The general content of the WVC’s recently published documents shows that the WVC has made considerable progress. It is positive that the WVC militants have undertaken the struggle against economism and begun a public repudiation of their incorrect line. They justly criticize the completely bankrupt and economist thesis which formed the basis of agreement for the WV’s publication. They denounce the reactionary “theory of stages” (that workers must first become good trade union militants before they can be won to communism), and affirm the need to conduct communist agitation and propaganda.
But it is clear that the WVC’s struggle against right opportunism has yet to be carried out to the end. Aside from vestiges of economism (for example, seeing the “mass line” not as a communist method of leadership but as a diluted, political line for the masses) there is a much more serious overall narrow conception of what right opportunism is.
For the young, inexperienced revolutionary movement in Canada, faced with rampant reformism and revisionism, the errors of capitulation before the enemy, of right opportunism, are the main danger today. Economism is presently the main, but by no means the sole manifestation of this error. The fight against economism is doomed unless it is linked to a broader repudiation of other right opportunist stands and the development of a Marxist-Leninist political line to counter them.
As Lenin noted in What is to be Done?, there are only two types of ideology : bourgeois and proletarian. The WV did not bring Marxism-Leninism to the workers; it spread social-democratic and revisionist ideas – lines which must be exposed for WV’s repudiation of its opportunism to be complete.
While the documents in WV attach much attention to exposing the economist nature of the past issues of the newspaper, WV does not attempt to criticize their completely bankrupt political line.
On almost every major question, the WV was confused. On the international scene, it did not denounce the two superpowers and their struggle for world hegemony, or expose the rising Soviet superpower as the main source for a new world war, or explain the inevitability of this war and the need to build a world-wide united front against the two giants.
Concerning Canada, the WV did not explain the nature of the revolutionary struggle or identify Canada as a second world country, but wrote off the Canadian bourgeoisie as “an agent of US imperialism” and negated its imperialist nature. It also neglected the danger Soviet social-imperialism poses for Canada.
The paper incorrectly called for “an independent, socialist Quebec,” tailed behind Canadian trade union bureaucrats, and often acted as a left NDP. It neglected the struggle against the “C”P and-other revisionist parties around the world which are agents of social-imperialism and did not attack the “CPC(ML)” on a correct basis.
These are just some examples which show that the entire line of WV was totally anti-Marxist, right opportunist and economist. Unfortunately, the recent documents of the WVC concentrate on the WV’s past economism but barely touch many of these points. In particular, the analyses of the international situation and the main contradictions in Canada are neglected.
By failing to expose the totally bankrupt character of all aspects of its line and clearly emphasizing the key link of right opportunism which unites them, – or even sufficiently recognizing the need to do so – the documents fall short of their task of educating the masses.
The Western Voice propagated an erroneous political line for three years. Now the honest militants within the WV have begun to criticize and repudiate this line. They have published an issue of the paper dealing with this self-criticism. The next step for the WVC is to proceed to the liquidation of their group. As a group founded on a completely opportunist basis, they cannot, in their present form, carry through to the end their self-criticism and have no reason to continue to publish their newspaper.
What does the WVC say on this question? It states that, as such, the WV must be dissolved but that it will continue to exist during a “transitional” stage in order to further the repudiation of its incorrect line. Three types of articles are to be included in the paper: documents from the internal struggles inside the Voice, texts from the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada that clarify the tasks of communists, and contributions from readers to the criticism of the WV. The collective further maintains that “...it is our specific task to promote the repudiation of an opportunist line that has been dominant, not to be the agents, active or passive, of the development of a Marxist-Leninist political line, either as a collective or as a newspaper.” In short, on one hand, the WVC sees that the paper should not develop a Marxist-Leninist line and become a ML group but should dissolve, and on the other, they wish to continue to develop their self-criticism and even publish material on the tasks of Marxist-Leninists in Canada.
There is a contradiction in this position. The WVC is correct in proposing the liquidation of their collective. It is a group that existed to propagate an erroneous line and it should not be “given a coat of red paint” and then continue to exist. The Voice has no reason to exist now that its militants have begun to realize their errors and to carry their self-criticism before the masses.
Further, it is impossible for the WV to carry to the end the repudiation of their incorrect line since this criticism can only be completed by a communist group with a correct Marxist-Leninist line. The struggle to correct the errors of the WV can only be developed by proposing concrete solutions, by demonstrating what tasks communists should take up today and how communist work should be carried out. Just as it is impossible to win workers to communism in the abstract but only to a definite organization and political line, so too it is impossible to combat economism in general without countering it with a correct Marxist-Leninist position. It is only by developing a correct political line and by applying it in practice that the bankrupt line of the WV can be decisively repudiated.
But this the WVC can not do. And they themselves realize how erroneous it would be to try to turn their collective into a Marxist-Leninist group. The WV must dissolve.
The WVC has in fact already seen this problem and it is for this reason that they propose to reprint documents from the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement in order to offer perspectives to their readers. But look at what the WV proposes to reprint!
Specifically we hope to print Charles Gagnon’s: For The Proletarian Party, In Struggle’s Let us Create the Marxist-Leninist Organization of Struggle for the party, Against Economism, the articles on party building in the recent Canadian Revolution, and David Paterson’s article on the “CPC(ML)”
Don’t these “reprints” in fact represent a very definite ideological and political trend within the ML movement? If the WVC carries out their plan of reprinting these texts it will in fact directly contradict their expressed desire ”...not to be agents passive or active, of the development of a Marxist-Leninist political line....”
WVC’s proposed plan would not aid the development of its members nor the ML movement as a whole. “We are mindful of the real danger of falling into the trap of acting as a phoney kind of organizational-ideological centre, an intermediate organization, half way between the ML movement and the spontaneous workers’ movement, in a new guise” writes the WVC. Not quite mindful enough. Because printing a newspaper on the tasks of Marxist-Leninists which has no political line seems to us to be an absurd economist error. To simply republish one or even many sides of the current debates within the ML movement – and the main organizations all publish their own papers and brochures – in no way clarifies or contributes to the struggle to build a party.
The solution to all these contradictions is to be found not in the continued publication of a “transitional” WV but in the liquidation of the WVC. In Quebec, at least when the groups Mobilisation and Agence de Presse Libre du Quebec began to see their right opportunism, one immediately and the other, after some hesitation, ended publication of their magazines.
The honest members of the WVC have recognized their errors and begun to repudiate them before the masses. The Marxist-Leninists in WVC should now move on, dissolve their group and take an active part in the struggle to build an authentic communist party in Canada. The communists in the WVC should continue to repudiate their errors by studying Marxism-Leninism, beginning to apply it to the concrete conditions in Canada, and by undertaking revolutionary practice – communist agitation and propaganda.