Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist)

The struggle against right-opportunism is essential for building the party

First Published: The Forge, Vol. 1 No 11, May 20, 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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This article aims to sketch out a basic understanding of the struggle against right-opportunism, the main danger in the workers’ movement, but especially it will talk about the fight inside the young Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada. The first part of the article sets out a general perspective whereas the second part of the article, to be published in a future issue, will attempt to deal with a brief history of the struggle against right-opportunism within the Marxist-Leninist movement in Quebec.

Marxism-Leninism develops in the struggle against all which is anti-Marxist. This universal truth of communist theory holds true for the struggle to build an authentic communist party in Canada.

1. Why isn’t it possible to make the socialist revolution if we don’t base ourselves on Marxism-Leninism?

More and more workers are realizing that the capitalist system is rotten to the core. They are open to new ideas; looking for an alternative; many confusedly aspire to socialism.

But socialism and the road to transform the society to a socialist system cannot be achieved in l001 different ways. There is only one way, that’s the way traced out by the history of the working class’s struggle against exploitation. That’s the way described in the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tsetung. Why? Because these men have scientifically analyzed the history of human society and understood how the class contradictions are the motor of history. They have drawn the lessons from the errors and synthesized these lessons to trace the road to socialism.

These great revolutionary leaders were able to develop this analysis because their fundamental outlook on the world was dialectical materialism and not the bourgeois ideology of idealism and metaphysics.

In the history of the working class, there have been several attempts to transform society. All, except those based on the science of Marxism-Leninism, have failed. This is the case also with those who have long since abandoned the Marxist-Leninist principles, like the “Communist” Party of the Soviet Union did in 1956, thus no longer remaining a communist party. The result is that they have transformed a socialist country into a capitalist country.

Marxist-Leninist principles teach us that it is impossible to make the revolution without a Marxist-Leninist party to guide the struggle: because the party is the guarantee that the revolution is directed by a single centre, that has as its base the scientific principles of Marxism-Leninism, the lessons from history.

But there are always opportunists who try to sidetrack us from the correct road and bring about our defeat. Why? Because they bow down before the spontaneous movement of the working class. They want to forget the science and the historical lessons of the workers’ movement. These are opportunists that deny the necessity to create the Marxist-Leninist party. They imagine that we can advance towards socialism without a unified direction, that the workers’ movement on its own, without a scientific direction, could overthrow the bourgeoisie and it’s state. They propose a multitude of “original” options. Thus we can hear of “the workers’ party” proposed by the reformists and Trotskyists, or the “federated mass workers’ party”, the “brilliant” revisionist idea. These conceptions all have one thing in common, they deny the Marxist-Leninist theory as the only guide to action.

2. What is opportunism?

Opportunism is bourgeois ideology in the workers’ movement and in the Marxist-Leninist movement, which coats itself with a veneer of progressive sounding words and phrases. It seeks finally to maintain the capitalist system in place. Opportunism takes two basic forms. Right opportunism openly abandons the struggle for the final aim of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat and seeks to reduce the proletariat’s struggle to one for mere reforms and small changes, e.g. reformist leaders in the trade union movement, the revisionist party. “Left” opportunism abandons the struggle for immediate demands, and thus abandons the struggle to mobilize the forces necessary to make the revolution, which it claims are worthless or impossible to achieve, e.g. the former terrorist organizations in Quebec.

Opportunism takes on many guises but it is reactionary in essence. Both right and “left” opportunism end up serving the interests of the bourgeoisie and the two superpowers.

In talking of these two forms during his time, Lenin said,

The revisionists consider that all reasoning about ’leaps’ and about the fundamental antagonism between the workers’ movement and the entire old society are mere words. They take reforms for partial realizations of socialism. The anarcho-syndicalists reject ’detailed work’ and especially the use of the parliamentary tribune. On a whole, this last tactic comes down to lying around waiting for the ’great days’, without knowing how to muster the forces that are needed to bring about these big events. All restrain the most important and urgent actions: the grouping of the workers in large powerful organizations, that know how to function well in all situations, organizations that are penetrated by the class struggle spirit, having a clear conscience of the goal and educated in the spirit of the real Marxist conception. (Lenin, Differences in the European Labour Movement, our translation).

3. What is the source of opportunism?

Firstly the bourgeoisie uses both the carrot and the stick, reform and repression, to maintain its domination. The bourgeoisie passes off “reform” measures like health insurance or unemployment insurance as examples of its generosity whereas they were really won by our own hard struggles.

As Lenin said. “A part of the workers, a part of their representatives let themselves be fooled by apparent concessions. The revisionists proclaim that class struggle is ’outdated’, or turn to policies which, in practice, lead to a renunciation of this theory.” Ibid

Thus the zigzags of bourgeois politics strengthen and develop opportunism in the workers’ movement.

Secondly the bourgeoisie and the superpowers send their agents into the trade unions and the working class.

The bourgeoisie pay off a small stratum of the working class with the superprofits gleaned from imperialist exploitation of the third world. This labour aristocracy serves as a social base for reformism inside the workers’ movement. The union bureaucracy, the actual top trade union leaders, composed of both labour aristocrats like Morris and petty bourgeois elements like Michel Chartrand, serve also as a support for the bourgeois line.

As well the bourgeoisie actually creates and supports counter-revolutionary groups and agents who it sends into the workers’ movement, police spies and phoney communist groups.

The two superpowers themselves have their agents like certain trade union leaders in the “international” unions who support American imperialism as well as the revisionist party which serves as an agent for Soviet social-imperialism.

Lastly as Lenin said, “there is not nor can there be a Great Wall of China between the proletariat and its neighbours, the strata of the petty bourgeoisie, including the peasantry. We realize that the passage of people, groups and sections of the petty bourgeoisie to the side of the proletariat must inevitably lead to waverings in the latter’s tactics.” Ibid.

With the developing crisis more and more members of the petty bourgeoisie are thrown into the working class us their jobs, businesses or farms are eaten up by the big monopolies.

4. Why is the struggle against opportunism an essential part of our struggle to create the party?

The CCL (ML) has set out three conditions for creating the party.

1. development of a correct political line.

2. realizing the greatest ideological, political and organizational unity of Marxist-Leninists in Canada.

3. establishing our organization in the heart of the proletariat by rallying a certain number of the most advanced elements of the working class and establishing factory cells in the principal industrial centres of ihe country.

But none of these conditions can be realized without a determined and resolute battle against all those both within the Marxist-Leninist movement and in the workers’ movement who seek to attack, water down or, sabotage our communist line.

Let’s look how this applies to the conditions to create, the Party.

(1) We cannot hope to elaborate and develop a political line, a strategy for the Canadian revolution without leading an attack on all anti-Marxist ideas. Political line develops in the practice of class struggle. Here it is tempered and tested. Part of this struggle is what Lenin called the theoretical struggle, the ideological battle against all erroneous ideas on the strategy for the Canadian revolution. In organizing in this struggle we not only sweep away ail dangerous ideas, but we develop and clarify our own line.

(2) Marxist-Leninist unity cannot be realized in a purely formal fashion – by uniting all those who say they are Marxist-Leninists. Here we must build unity around a correct political line. This means open polemics, first to demarcate ourselves and unmask ail anti-Marxist-Leninist forces, and secondly to fight erroneous conceptions amongst authentic Marxist-Leninists. Failure to lead the battle against opportunism will lead to a party with no solid foundations of unity, a party which would be incapable of leading the proletariat to victory.

(3) Neither can we hope to rally the most advanced elements of the working class to communism without a resolute struggle against opportunism. Presently right-opportunist forces dominate the trade union leadership. Reformists, revisionists and counter-revolutionaries try to infiltrate into the workers’ movement, all proclaiming themselves “socialist” when in fact their main aim is to block the development of a genuine Marxist-Leninist party. The struggle to win the most conscious elements of the working class to communism is a struggle first of all to win workers away from bourgeois ideology.

5. What is the main opportunist danger?

Actually today the main danger in the Canadian workers’ and Marxist-Leninist movements comes not from left errors, e.g. those of people who have terrorist, anarchist tendencies like refusing to work in the existing reformist-led unions, and are instead setting up parallel revolutionary unions of their own and thus abandoning the workers to reformism. Rather the main danger is right opportunism and comes from those who would:

1. liquidate communist agitation and propaganda for socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat in favour of uniquely trade union work or reformist politics.

2. or those who refuse to engage in communist agitation on the pretext that their line is not developed and refuse to engage in trade union work on the pretext that it is economist, thus reducing communist activity to study and parlour-room discussions on political line and refusing to work within the masses or lead their struggles.

Thus we see that right opportunism refuses to work for the fusion of Marxist-Leninist theory with the working class and ultimately refuses to struggle for the party.

6. Why is the main danger right opportunism?

The CCL(ML) has affirmed since its creation that the main danger both within the workers’ movement and within the Marxist-Leninist movement is right opportunism. We use this term rather than that of economism because we think, while it is a particularly important form of right opportunism within the Marxist-Leninist movement, there are other dangerous forms which cannot be neglected. Modern revisionism is a form of right opportunism, and is the most dangerous on a worldwide scale. Modern revisionism is represented in Canada especially by the “Communist” Party of Canada, a bourgeois reformist party and an agent of Soviet social-imperialism. But modern revisionism also influences the Marxist-Leninist movement, bringing about a negligence of the danger of Soviet social-imperialism for the Canadian revolution.

In Canada when the Canadian revisionist party degenerated completely at the end of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties, there was no large-scale public struggle against the revisionist line.

In other countries, in Europe for example, there were hundreds of militant members who quit the party and fought to set up a true Marxist-Leninist party. In Canada, only a handful of members attempted any form of open struggle.

Thus rather than being founded by staunch hard fighters against opportunism, the Marxist-Leninist movement grew out of the youth and student movement of the sixties and seventies and out of the national movement in Quebec. Thus the large majority of Marxist-Leninists came initially not out of the Communist Party or out of the working class, but from the petty bourgeoisie. Their class origins and their political experience, coming mainly out of student radicalism and bourgeois nationalism led them to bring in many anti-Marxist ideas along with them when they began to aspire towards Marxism-Leninism.

The new Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement (as we will show historically in the next article) came into being through a struggle against right opportunism, particularly economism. which today still represents the main danger.

In Quebec, the struggle of genuine Marxist-Leninists was waged against a number of economist formations like the CAPs (Political Action Committees), Mobilisation, Bulletin Populaire. But even genuine Marxist-Leninists themselves were marked by the very same economism they wanted to fight against.

7. What is the ’theory of stages’ or ’pure economism’?

Quebec economists for a long time defended the “theory of stages”, a theory which has held back the Marxist-Leninist movement. These people called themselves socialist, but in reality they were only reformists. They didn’t struggle for the socialist revolution; they only fought to reform the capitalist system, to “better” it. They helped to make us run around in circles for years fighting only for better living and working conditions while the bourgeoisie was amusing itself by taking away everything we had just won.

The “theory of stages” consists of saying that the workers are not “ready” to fight for socialism. They must pass through a more or less long period – rather an eternity – of economic and reformist struggles before we can take up questions of political revolution. The economists limit themselves to supporting the combativity of workers in their daily struggles during strikes and in their battles for immediate demands, but they never talk of socialism, of Marxism-Leninism. They don’t fight to rally the workers to communism. They don’t struggle to create a communist party in Canada.

Most of the time they lead only economic and trade union battles and don’t talk of the need to overthrow the state power” of the bourgeoisie and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. When they lead political struggles, they are only struggles for reforms. They support bourgeois parlies like the Parti Quebecois in Quebec or the NDP in English Canada because they think that the workers are not yet ready to recognize that these parties have nothing to offer the working class, that they are only representatives of the bourgeoisie.

All these people deny the role of the conscious element, of the party armed with Marxist-Leninist theory, in leading the workers’ movement. They think that the working class can gain a revolutionary consciousness by itself without us, the revolutionaries, doing communist education work.

8. Why must communists do communist agitation and propaganda?

It is the task of those who have a revolutionary consciousness to communicate it to their class brothers and sisters. If I we communists, who understand the necessity of building a communist party and overthrowing the bourgeoisie don’t talk about it, who will? Certainly not the bourgeoisie. On the contrary the bourgeoisie is doing everything in its power to side-track the working class from its historic mission.

It is spreading lies on communists, calling them fools or agents from foreign countries, killers, monsters. But communism, Marxism-Leninism, is the theory of the working class. It is for this reason that the bourgeoisie wants us to turn away from communism. What should we do faced with the domination of bourgeois ideology? Should we rest silent in front of their lies? Should we pretend not to be communists in order not to “freak” people out? No! We must counter the lies of the bourgeoisie by educating the working class about what is communism, that it is the only road to freedom. This work of education is communist agitation and propaganda.

9. Are the workers really ready?

Certain people will tell us “the workers are not ready to hear about communism and revolution. We have to wait. If we start talking about communism, we will lose the masses, we will isolate ourselves.” This is only another way to deny the leading role of the conscious element of the party. The most advanced workers must take hold of Marxism-Leninism and they must show their class brothers and sisters that they are the best defenders of their interests. We must openly and clearly tell them about communism, do education in the struggles of the working class.

More and more the economism of groups like the now defunct RCT (Grouping of Workers’ Committees) has been rejected, but there is [MIA Note: missing text in original]

More and more the economism of groups like the now defunct RCT (Grouping of Workers’ Committees has been rejected. But for a long time communists in Quebec reserved communist propaganda for intellectuals and did basically economic agitation in the working class. The three founding groups of the League were themselves marked by economism. This economism has already been the subject of a full self-criticism in The struggle for the creation of the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist).

This was also the attitude of En Lutte! (In Struggle!), for example, towards Atelier Ouvrier, a group of Montreal workers, in refusing to let the workers study Marxist Leninist classics in their study group. Instead Atelier Ouvrier studied its own popularizations, the study of the classics being reserved for the intellectuals of In Struggle!

But there is another way of preventing the masses from getting hold of Marxism-Leninism. This form of right opportunism is less evident but equally deadly as classical economism. It consists of refusing to involve oneself in the struggles of the working class.

10. Should Marxist-Leninists participate in immediate struggles?

Today there is a debate inside the Marxist-Leninist movement on this question. Some Marxist-Leninists pretend that communists must distribute their newspapers and tracts but must not participate in or attempt to initiate or direct immediate struggles. They want to restrain Marxist-Leninist education to book learning. These people pretend that they are above immediate struggles. They think that it is economist to participate in these struggles. But how will the masses recognize that Marxism-Leninism is really their science if communists do not show this concretely, if they do not lead struggles against the effects of capitalism, democratic battles (for the defence of the country’s independence, for the right to strike, etc.) and if they do not link these struggles to the fight for socialism.

According to these people, because the Marxist-Leninist movement is on its first legs, it should not try to propagate its influence among the broad masses in the heat of struggle, but only restrain itself to educating a small number of advanced workers, outside of the class struggle.

Others don’t even do this but limit themselves to studying amongst themselves and leading debate amongst Marxist-Leninists. This is the case of a large number of groups across the country like Bolshevik Tendency in Toronto which limits its political work to debate and parlour room discussions and to propaganda in Canadian Revolution.

This phenomenon is not new. We only have to refer ourselves to the history’of the Albanian Party of Labour. At the time just before the creation of the Party, one Niko Xoxi put forward “the theory of cadres”. According to this theory “communists should not act, penetrate among the masses and organize them, but remain locked up in their cells and busy themselves solely with theoretical education.” (History of the Albanian Party of Labour, Tirana, 1971, our translation)

These people think that you can’t act before you have mastered Marxism completely. They don’t understand that “to learn Marxism, it is not enough to learn it from books; it is above all by class struggle, practical work and contacts with the working and peasant masses, that we can really assimilate it.” (Mao Tsetung. our translation)

To carry out communist education, we must combine study and practice. If not, we are not Marxists.

To defend their arguments, their passivity in the class struggle, these comrades quote the great leader Stalin: “In this period (period of the creation of the party) the party is weak; it has a programme, general tactical principles, but as a party of mass action, it is weak.” (our translation) However Stalin didn’t say that Marxist-Leninists should not intervene, act and direct the movement. He said that Ihey are weak, that their possibilities are limited.

This same Stalin led a group at Tiflis in 1900 which led strikes: Lenin, the great leader and fighter against economism in Russia at that time, directed the class struggles of the St-Petersburg textile workers and wrote in What is to be done? “(the economists) consider that the party should not get involved in the spontaneous movement of the working class, and even less direct it, but rather it (the communist movement) should follow it, study it and learn lessons from it.” (our translation)

Isn’t this exactly what those who want to restrain Marxist-Leninist activity to study and propaganda and thus cut it off from the working class are doing? Worse still, they want to cut off the leaders of the movement, the most advanced workers, from their class brothers and sisters by pulling them out of the factories, and out of their struggles, to restrain them to study.

Marxist-Leninists must show that they are the best defenders of the interests of the working class not only in the long term but also in the short term. Their task is to participate in the immediate struggles to bring revolutionary consciousness. Communists must put forward slogans which subordinate the immediate struggles to the long-term struggles as a part to the whole, but they must also show that they can propose correct tactics to win the immediate struggles. Not to do communist education about socialist revolution is to cut off the socialist movement from the workers’ movement. Not to participate in the immediate struggles of the working class is to leave the direction of these struggles in the hands of the actual reformist leaders and to limit ourselves to a propaganda outside the movement; it means maintaining the same division between socialist consciousness and the workers” movement.