Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist)

For the unity of Marxist-Leninists

Chapter I. The general line of the CCL(ML) on the struggle for the unity of Marxist-Leninists in Canada

I. Q. Why is the struggle for the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists so important?

Unity of communists is both a question of principle and one of particular importance in Canada today.

For communists, unity must be a constant preoccupation, a duty, and a task which we must never neglect. In its battle against the bourgeoisie, the proletariat is united in its fundamental interest for socialism. History has shown that to succeed in this class war, the proletarian army must be united and led as a single force by a Marxist-Leninist communist party.

No army ever won a war with two or three rival commanders. Just think how much more the fight for socialism – a struggle much more protracted and complex than any war between states – demands that the working class be led by a single “general staff”. That’s how Stalin explained the role of the communist party:

No army at war can dispense with an experienced General Staff, if it does not want to be doomed to defeat. Is it not clear that the proletariat can still less dispense with an experienced General Staff if it does not want to be doomed to defeat? (Foundations of Leninism)

The bourgeoisie, naturally, lives in mortal fear of this class unity and will stop at nothing to break it. Remember how frantically it tried to prevent Quebec Alcan workers from supporting their brothers in B.C., or how the state tried to split women and men workers in the Quebec Common Front? The ruling class also has its opportunist agents in the workers’ movement to sow division in our ranks – like Joe Morris who took a chauvinist stand on the air language dispute, and other top union bureaucrats who divide the employed from the unemployed, for example. And the bourgeoisie also tries to split the working class party. In China, for example, the bourgeois elements in the party have been defeated in no less than eleven major two-line struggles.

All this shows why the struggle to unite communists is inseparable from the struggle against opportunism, against the bourgeois agents and their ideas within the revolutionary movement. Marxist-Leninist unity can only be achieved and maintained around the basis of a correct ideological and political line. What’s key is the struggle for the correct application of Marxist-Leninist principles to the conditions of class struggle; after all, we want unity not just so we can “get together”, but in order to lead a successful revolutionary struggle.

While the struggle for unity continues in all stages of revolutionary activity, it takes on a particular importance for us, today, in Canada.

Because now, the Canadian working class does not even have its party. The young Marxist-Leninist movement remains divided by important ideological and political disagreements. The responsibility for this situation lies first and foremost with the modern revisionists of the “C”PC.

There was a time when the workers in Canada did have their revolutionary party, when the Communist Party of Canada was able to lead hundreds of thousands of working men and women in common battles. But today, this party has completely degenerated: it has betrayed the working class to the bourgeoisie and serves as an agent for social-imperialism. This revisionist betrayal shattered communist unity in Canada. For over 20 years, attempts have been made to rebuild that unity, but only in recent times has progress been made. And any advances we make in our step-by-step struggle to rebuild the communist party will be accomplished by opposing revisionism and other forms of opportunism, by defending Marxism-Leninism and applying it concretely to the conditions of Canada.

Along with the development of a correct political line, in the struggle against opportunism, the recruitment of a certain number of politically conscious workers and the formation of factory cells in the country’s principal industrial centres, the greatest possible unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists is one of the three essential conditions for creating the new communist party in Canada. Our unity is all the more vital in the face not only of the Canadian bourgeoisie’s offensive against the working class, but also of the growing danger of world war posed by the two superpowers.

That is why communists across Canada are devoting so much energy to struggling for unity to build the party.

II. Q. How is the unity of Marxist-Leninists linked to our task of creating a Marxist-Leninist party?

As we mentioned, there are three conditions that must be realized in order to found the party. All of these conditions are essential, not two or two and a half, if we wish to create a real Marxist-Leninist communist party in Canada. No more could we think of building a house without a roof or a floor than we could think of founding a party without a program developed in the struggle against opportunism, without the greatest unity of Marxist-Leninists, or without rallying some of the advanced workers in the leading industrial centres of Canada.

The communist party represents the fusion of the socialist and workers’ movement. It is at once part and parcel of the workers’ movement and its most advanced battalion.

The three conditions for the creation of the party are interrelated. We need a clear political line firmly based on Marxism-Leninism and Mao Tsetung Thought if we hope to unite all communists on a firm basis. We need a clear line to which we can rally workers. On the other hand, it is in the practice of class struggle, of rallying workers, that we verify the truth of our line and develop it on all questions. It is through the struggle to unite Marxist-Leninists that we confront opposing positions, that the correct line is reinforced, that erroneous ideas are eliminated.

Marxist-Leninists in Canada today, if they recognize the urgent need for a party, must all struggle to realize these conditions. Until this is accomplished, we cannot create the party. The struggle to unify all Marxist-Leninists is but one of these conditions. In itself it is insufficient for the creation of the party. If we wage only this struggle, we will not only not create the party but we will fail to unite Marxist-Leninists. For as we have stated, we would have no clear basis around which to unite, nor any roots in the proletariat. The situation in Canada today differs from that in Russia in 1900. There are not a large number of revolutionary communist workers regrouped in isolated circles across the country. The Marxist-Leninist movement is young, inexperienced theoretically and practically, and in its great majority composed of intellectuals of petty bourgeois origins with no links in the working class. The unity of these groups is an essential part of the struggle to create the party, but it must be accompanied by the struggle to develop a clear strategic line for the Canadian revolution, to break with opportunism, and to rally the most advanced workers to communism, to the Marxist-Leninist movement.

The central task which all Marxist-Leninist groups in Canada share is the task of creating the party.

Presently there are some (for example, In Struggle!) who claim that unity is the magical answer to everything, that it is the primary condition for realizing the party. To certain militants unity is the key stumbling block on the road to the party. This idea can lead to the conclusion that if we had everyone united today we could even create the party immediately. This view is erroneous. All the conditions must be realized in order to allow us to create the party.

For our unity cannot just be declared; it must be built – built in the struggle to develop a correct political line, in the struggle against opportunism, built in the struggle to win the advanced workers to communism. Unity is closely tied to, and dependent on, the manner in which we struggle to achieve the other conditions that are required to form the party.

If Marxist-Leninists wage the struggle for the party correctly we will certainly arrive at unity. It will undoubtedly be possible to unite all genuine communists in a single party. At present, however, there are still many questions that separate communists. Only through an intense ideological struggle will it be possible to remove these blocks to unity. We must step up our work of communist agitation and propaganda among the proletariat, to win over the most advanced elements who will provide the foundations on which the party can be created. We must sum up our practice and greatly intensify our study of Marxism-Leninism in order to develop the understanding of the nature of the Canadian revolution and assure that the party will know exactly where it is going. Only by linking the struggle for the unity of Marxist-Leninists to the other party-building tasks that we must undertake can we advance towards our objective.

III. Q. How does the League determine who is and who is not part of the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada today?

This is a question to which the entire communist movement in our country must pay close attention. If we aim to reach unity within our ranks, it’s essential that we be clear on who we are trying to unite. We want to unite communists with communists, and not with consolidated opportunists who are trying to pose as communists, much less with outright counter-revolutionaries. A clear definition of the Marxist-Leninist movement is necessary in order to advance and prepare the conditions for the creation of the party.

In recent years the Marxist-Leninist movement has made important progress around the world. New communist parties have been formed in many countries and important blows have been struck against the modern revisionists. In particular, the international prestige of the socialist countries like Albania and China has risen greatly. Given this situation it has become somewhat of a trend to call oneself a “Marxist-Leninist”. Many opportunist elements are trying to hide themselves under the garb of Marxism-Leninism.

More than fifty years ago, while analyzing the history of the development of revolutionary theory Lenin dealt with a similar phenomenon: “The dialectics of history were such that the theoretical victory of Marxism compelled its enemies to disguise themselves as Marxists.” (The Historical Destiny of the Doctrine of Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin) Thus at the present time we must be particularly vigilant when deciding who is or is not a genuine communist.

It’s obvious why we cannot afford to be liberal about this question. For, in the final analysis, such looseness means confusing friends and enemies.

It may be easier to include practically everyone who calls himself communist within the communist movement. It is certainly less controversial! But erroneous, nevertheless.

It is the responsibility of all Marxist-Leninists in Canada to consider a group as Marxist-Leninist only after serious study of its line and practice. It’s not a question of any group setting itself up as the ultimate judge above everyone else. It is a question of all of us taking the time to examine the work of a group, to decide exactly with whom we are dealing, and in this way making it much more difficult for opportunists to cover themselves in a revolutionary garb.

Now let’s see how to determine sham from genuine Marxist-Leninists.

With the communist movement, just as with everything else in life, it is deeds and not words which count. Everyone who calls himself or herself a communist is not necessarily one, for to be a genuine communist means much more than being a good talker.

We believe that the communist movement in Canada is composed of all those organizations, groups, collectives and even individuals who base themselves firmly on the principles of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought and who are attempting to use these principles to develop a strategic line for the revolution in Canada; who struggle to oppose all forms of opportunism; and who are actively engaged in the struggle to create a new communist party – in particular, by bringing Marxism-Leninism to the working class through communist agitation and propaganda.

Let’s look at these three criteria in more detail: First, genuine communists base their work on the principles of revolutionary theory as developed by the international proletariat’s greatest leaders: Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tsetung.

This theory, which accurately sums up the course of human social development and the methods for making revolution, has been proven correct a hundred times over in the course of the class struggle.

Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought is the ideology of the working class. It is a sharp sword in the battle to overthrow capitalism and to build the new socialist society.

Communists must struggle to apply these principles to the concrete situation in their country and elaborate on this basis the political line, the strategy for the Canadian revolution. This doesn’t mean that every group must have a developed line on every question. But rather that each group must undertake a serious study of Marxism-Leninism and analyze the concrete conditions in Canada. The aim of this is to determine the correct position to take on the fundamental questions under debate at this time which will constitute the basis for revolutionary strategy in Canada.

Among the most important tenets of Marxist-Leninist theory we can note the following:

– the historical mission of the proletariat is, through armed struggle, to overthrow the bourgeois state and replace it with the workers’ state, the dictatorship of the proletariat, in order to construct socialism and advance on the road towards communism.
– that class struggle has been the motive force of human history and continues under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Classes only cease to exist in the period of communism.
– that despite their national differences, all the workers and oppressed peoples of the world have the same common interest: to overthrow capitalism and imperialism. One must subordinate the revolution in one’s country to the interests of the worldwide struggle.
– that the proletariat opposes imperialist and social-imperialist plunder of other nations and supports the national liberation struggles and anti-imperialist wars of the oppressed nations and peoples.
– that the proletariat is opposed to wars between imperialist powers for the division of the world. Such wars are inevitable under imperialism and can only be eliminated with the destruction of capitalism and imperialism itself.
– that to be successful in its revolutionary struggle, the working class must be led by a genuine communist party organized along the principles of democratic centralism, practising self-criticism and linked to the masses.
– that we must firmly defend Marxism-Leninism against all opportunist and counter-revolutionary lines including modern revisionism and Trotskyism.
– that we must give the most militant support to the socialist countries like Albania and China.
– that communists have a duty to take up the fight for the emancipation of women, an objective that can only be finally realized under communism.

These are some of the more important principles.

We thus must exclude from the communist movement those who reject this theory, whether they do so openly or not. The anarchists and the Trotskyists, for example, do not make even the pretense of applying the teachings of the proletariat’s greatest leaders. They are clearly not part of the communist movement. Nor are the revisionists of the “Communist” Party of Canada, who have deformed Marxism to suit their own purposes, robbing it of its revolutionary content. The counter-revolutionary group “CPC(ML)”, which for years has displayed boundless energy in its attacks against the communist movement in Canada, which has systematically carried out sabotage and splitting activities, is not part of the Marxist-Leninist movement either. This group has done much to discredit communism in the eyes of the masses and to discourage support and interest in China and Albania. The only thing communist about it is its name!!!

As well as such blatant counter-revolutionaries we also must exclude from the ranks of the communists the empiricists, the “practical men”, who refuse to be guided by theory and who are buried in the trade-unionist economic struggles for some short-term gains and reforms.

Closely related to this first point, the need to base one’s work on the principles of Marxism-Leninism, is the second – the necessity for genuine communists to wage a bitter struggle to oppose all forms of opportunism.

Only by carrying out the struggle against bourgeois ideology can we educate the working class as to its fundamental interests. Marxism develops in the struggle against what is anti-Marxist. Today, of the various forms of opportunism that threaten to turn us from the correct path, it is right opportunism in Canada which represents the principal danger and modern revisionism, a form of right opportunism, in the international Marxist-Leninist movement. The rise to power of the revisionists in the Soviet Union and their subsequent restoration of capitalism was a serious blow to the world revolutionary movement. The revisionist “communist” parties around the world still have significant influence among the working class and constitute a serious block to the development of the revolutionary forces. The various revisionist theses, such as the “peaceful transition to socialism” (that revolution can now be replaced by the electoral method of struggle, that the bourgeoisie will give up its power without a fight), must be vigorously attacked and denounced. In Canada the revisionist party itself is not very powerful, nevertheless revisionist ideology, in various forms, is relatively influential.

Revisionism is the root and the condition for the existence of several different forms of right opportunism that presently constitute the main danger to the development of the communist movement in our country. Only through the incessant battle against opportunism can we really come to assimilate Marxist-Leninist theory. The firmness in the struggle against all forms of opportunism is a hallmark of all genuine communists.

And third, communists must put their revolutionary ideas into practice; they must take an active part in the class struggle. Today this means, principally, undertaking to prepare the conditions for the creation of a genuine Marxist-Leninist communist party in Canada.

Communists are not intellectuals who sit and philosophize and remain cut off from the workers and their struggles. They don’t squander away months in abstract, sterile debates, doing nothing in practice to build the revolutionary movement. Communists function along the principles of democratic centralism and actively engage in class struggle.

Of course what a group can achieve in terms of practical work is closely linked to its concrete situation. We would not insist that every group publish a newspaper in order to be considered as Marxist-Leninist!!!

Neverthless, we must apply the criterion of practice to each group – to determine if their actions live up to their words.

We cannot judge a group or individual only on the basis of their proclamations. Many times in the history of the class struggle opportunists and counter-revolutionaries have tried to camouflage their acts with revolutionary phrases.

To be a communist today in Canada means fulfilling all three criteria, for all are interlinked and vital to the demarcation between real and sham Marxism.

But these criteria can be applied only in a concrete way and not abstractly. There is thus a certain historical element to the definition of the communist movement. To judge if a group or individual is genuinely communist we must examine where it came from and the state of the revolutionary movement as a whole.

For example, as the revolutionary movement progresses certain questions, once the focus of debate, are gradually resolved. Those who still stick to the rejected, erroneous views can no longer be considered part of the communist movement. For instance, in the late fifties and early sixties, the international communist movement was rocked by debate on the question of modern revisionism: the debate centred on the so-called “peaceful road to socialism”, the attitude towards world war, and other issues.

The leaders of the Soviet Union betrayed the working class and preached capitulation to the imperialists. It was the Communist Party of China and the Party of Labour of Albania who staunchly defended the principles of Marxism-Leninism.

What started as a debate within the world communist movement eventually became a split – with the revisionists totally abandoning revolutionary principles. Today in Canada, any militant who cannot decide between the “peaceful transition” or the revolutionary road, between the path followed by the leaders of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union or that of China’s party, for example, cannot be considered as part of the revolutionary movement. Thus, Marxist-Leninists today must combat the influence of modern revisionism and its headquarters in the ”Communist’’ Party of the Soviet Union, now a completely capitalist country run by a social-fascist and social-imperialist clique. They oppose both superpowers and support the struggle of the third world, principal force in the world united front against imperialism, colonialism and hegemonism.

IV. Q. What are some examples of groups that the League considers to be part of the Marxist-Leninist movement and some that are not?

One thing that strikes any observer of the revolutionary movement today in Canada is that it is a young movement, a movement that is growing stronger everyday, getting larger and more powerful. On the other hand, it still remains fragmented, divided on major questions of line, and still largely cut off from the mass of workers.

Another characteristic of our movement is the uneven development of forces across the country. The state of the movement varies considerably from city to city, from region to region.

Both the League and In Struggle! are directly engaged in communist work in both nations. In Quebec, where because of the history of national oppression, the movement is the most developed, both groups are organizing in Montreal and major industrial centres in the province. Both are also beginning work in Toronto, and each has influence in other English-Canadian cities through their newspapers.

In addition, from Halifax to Vancouver, there are numerous study groups, collectives and individuals with different origins and experiences involved in different revolutionary practice today, with different levels of political development.

It is not surprising that our movement should be in such a situation. The different groups were formed for a variety of reasons and in differing conditions. Some have rapidly acquired the experience of class struggle and are capable of developing a more complete and correct political line. Others have been more isolated and are just beginning to study some of the important questions facing communists in Canada.

As we’ll see later, any plan to unite the Marxist-Leninists in Canada must take into account this uneven development, the different positions and organizational forms which presently exist within our movement. It must assure that all groups – no matter what size or how influential – participate actively in the struggle for unity. And at the same time, it must assure that the groups with the most developed political line, experience and organizational strength play a strong role in pushing things forward.

To take but one example: we consider In Struggle! to be a genuine communist group. We always have, despite recent complaints from In Struggle! to the contrary.

We have many differences with the comrades from In Struggle! – several of them very serious ones in fact. For instance, there are differences on the analysis of the international situation, the contradictions in Canada, and the tasks of the Marxist-Leninists for party-building. But this should in no way hold back our determination to struggle to achieve unity with them as fellow communists.

Why? Because In Struggle! was founded four years ago on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, with the explicit purpose of struggling to prepare the creation of the party. In Struggle! has carried out a struggle against opportunism and was in fact formed in opposition to the economist line of the CAPs in Montreal, as we pointed out in our brief history of the revolutionary movement.[1] Since that time, In Struggle! has contributed to the struggle for the party and has raised several issues for debate within the Marxist-Leninist movement, including the question of stages in party-building. It has also carried out communist agitation and propaganda within the working class.

To mention but two other examples of communist groups, without here actually examining them in detail, there is the Halifax Communist Group in the Maritimes. This collective has carried out some study of Marxist-Leninist principles and has written up a document outlining its political line. While this line is not fully elaborated on many questions it is nevertheless based on Marxism-Leninism and is clearly situated in the struggle against opportunism. This group is now gaining its first experiences of communist agitation and propaganda.

In Northwestern Quebec there is the Groupe Abitibi-Temisca-mingue (marxiste-leniniste). This is a young communist group which firmly bases itself on the principles of Marxism-Leninism, which has led a principled struggle against opportunism, particularly reformism, and has begun to develop agitation and propaganda work in its region. There are of course other Marxist-Leninist groups and collectives in other parts of the country. In Vancouver, for instance, the communist movement is growing rapidly. The League is continuing its study and analysis of the communist movement and of the lines and practice of different groups in order to determine the correct attitude to adopt towards each one.

Who is not in the movement? As we have already seen, certainly not the Trotskyists, the revisionists or the “CPC(ML)”. With such blatant counter-revolutionaries their nature is usually relatively easy to discern. With other opportunist groups, however, the case is often much less evident.

In Quebec, for example, the Regroupement des comites de travailleurs had widespread influence across the province for some time. But it was never part of the Marxist-Leninist movement. The RCT did not base itself on the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism: it denied, for example, the need for a communist party and called only for a vague, social-democratic “workers’ party”. Its analysis of the international situation was erroneous, neglecting the danger of social-imperialism and remaining confused on the restoration of capitalism in the USSR (Some of their militants went so far as to question if the Chinese comrades were right to openly denounce the modern revisionists!). As far as the class contradictions in Canada were concerned, the RCT took the narrow nationalist position that the principal objective was Quebec independence. Finally, the RCT had a thoroughly opportunist and economist practice in the working class and its militants were hard to tell apart from the trade union hacks. In fact the RCT line was right opportunist, revisionist and economist.

Today, the RCT has disintegrated completely. But could we ever have considered it as part of the communist movement ? We think not.

Similarly, in English Canada, there is the example of the old Western Voice newspaper, published on the west coast. Was it Marxist-Leninist, albeit with many weaknesses? Again, no. For the paper put forward an erroneous line on virtually every major question. It did not explain correctly the international situation, failing to show that the Soviet Union was a capitalist country, one of the two superpowers struggling for world hegemony (or that this country is the main source of the danger of a new world war). It negated Canada’s character as an imperialist country of the second world and called for the formation of an “independent socialist Quebec”. This newspaper advanced the economist “theory of stages” (that workers must first participate in the economic struggle before becoming open to political ideas) and tailed after the union bureaucrats and the NPD. The Western Voice did not even concretely pose the need for the formation of a new communist party.

Although the line between a group with a thoroughly opportunist line and a Marxist-Leninist group committing opportunist errors may not always be easy to draw, it is crucial that we make this distinction.

V. Q. What is the correct method to achieve the unity of genuine communists in Canada?

The key to achieving the much-needed unity of our forces lies in one word: struggle.

Marxist-Leninists have always maintained that everything in the world grows out of struggle. The unity of communists is no exception. If we desire unity, then we must fight for it. More precisely we must fight to achieve agreement on the key questions of ideological and political line, for as Mao Tsetung put it “the correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line decides everything”. Only on this basis can we build solid organizational unity.

Ideological and political line are interrelated and interdependent. Ideological line means the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. Clearly, unity between communists must be based on the firmest attachment to and understanding of these principles – not just verbal reference to them.

Ideological line is the basis for the elaboration of political line. The political line is the specific application of these universal principles to the concrete conditions of the revolution in Canada, outlining the path to socialism we must take.

Only with a clear and correct political line can we advance. Marxism-Leninism is not an abstract dogma, a “recipe” for revolution. It is a tool that must be applied to each practical situation.

Workers cannot be rallied to Marxism in the abstract – to simply an ideological line. They are won to a concrete political line – that proposes a definite course of action to realize the socialist revolution in Canada.

A Marxist-Leninist political line sums up the analysis of the domestic and international situation, charts the course for the revolution, identifying its character and enemies, and outlines the tasks of communists.

Naturally at the outset our line will be quite general. As the struggle develops we will be able to deepen it. It is a serious error to reduce a Marxist-Leninist political line to simply the identification of the central task.

Sure party building is an important aspect of our line. But what type of party do we wish to create? What road will it follow to realize the revolution? While today we cannot define a perfect or “complete line” we must constantly strive to develop our concrete application of the principles of Marxism-Leninism to the situation in Canada.

It is through the political line advanced by a group or an individual that we can verify their attachment to the Marxist-Leninist ideological line. Often it is through differences of political line that we can first identify ideological differences. Any group that makes serious errors of political line, and continues and justifies these errors, is bound also to commit errors of ideological line.

That’s why here in Canada, the unity of communists cannot be reduced to simply a formal agreement on the general principles of Marxism-Leninism. It must be based on a true adherence to these principles and their translation into a correct political line. Any attempt to divide ideological line from political line – something In Struggle! and its followers like May First Collective of Vancouver tend to do, as we’ll see later – any attempt to achieve unity of one while neglecting the other is opportunist and, in the end, will prove unsuccessful.

What it all comes down to, in the final analysis, is that for unity, we need struggle over line, and for struggle over line, we need to defend Marxist-Leninist principles and combat opportunism.

For there are not only the consolidated opportunists trying to come off as communists that we have to expose. Even among genuine Marxist-Leninists, opportunism is a danger. At a time when bourgeois ideology has such a strong influence within the workers’ movement, and when the communist movement is so young and inexperienced, serious opportunist errors, especially right opportunist errors, are bound to be committed by even the most dedicated communists.

The only way to strengthen the entire Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada, to elaborate a correct line around which we can build political and organizational unity, is to relentlessly criticize these errors in our own work and in the work of our fellow communists.

VI. Q. How do we wage the struggle for unity?

We have said that only struggle can lead to unity. But won’t struggle lead to greater and greater differences?

Everything depends on the manner in which you carry out the struggle. The struggle against opportunist errors within the Marxist-Leninist movement is of a different nature than that against consolidated opportunists outside the communist movement. In the first case, our aim is to carry out the ideological struggle, to convince the comrades of their errors so that we may advance together. In the latter case, our aim is to politically, ideologically and organizationally smash the opportunist group. The aim of ideological struggle within the Marxist-Leninist movement is to strengthen the whole movement.

The contradictions and struggles within the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada are the reflection of the class struggles and contradictions that exist in society as a whole. The development of these struggles is a good thing since:

What is correct invariably develops in the course of struggle with what is wrong. The true, the good and the beautiful always exist by contrast with the false, the evil and ugly, and grow in struggle with the latter. (Mao Tsetung, On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People)

It is a good thing – that is, if we know how to resolve these contradictions. First, we must clearly understand their nature. There are two types of contradictions: contradictions between us and the enemy, which are antagonistic; and contradictions among the people, which are non-antagonistic. As Chairman Mao Tsetung explained:

Since they are different in nature, the contradictions between ourselves and the enemy and the contradictions among the people must be resolved by different methods. To put it briefly, the former are a matter of drawing a clear distinction between ourselves and the enemy, and the latter a matter of drawing a clear distinction between right and wrong. (Ibid.)

The contradictions within the Marxist-Leninist movement are contradictions among the people. To resolve the contradictions within the Marxist-Leninist movement, to achieve unity on the key questions of ideological and political line, as to resolve any contradictions among the people, we must use the method of unity-criticism-unity. That is to say, we must build on our desire for unity and resolve the contradictions that separate us, one by one, through struggle. Chairman Mao has explained this in the following terms:

To elaborate, it means starting from the desire for unity, resolving contradictions through criticism or struggle and arriving at a new unity on a new basis. (Ibid.)

Let us examine how to apply this method to the struggle for unity in a little more detail.

Groups like May First Collective in Vancouver try to paint the League’s insistence on using the unity-criticism-unity method as a liberal way out of struggle, opposed to real, honest-to-goodness struggle and “demarcation”. As we’ll see later on, it is In Struggle! which sees unity as absolute and struggle as relative; it is In Struggle! which shies away from struggle and seeks to gloss over contradictions.

Unity-criticism-unity does not stand opposed to “demarcate so we can unite” as May First pretends. One is the method communists use to resolve their contradictions and other contradictions among the people. The other is an essential part of that method, the development of a clear political line.

Today, in Canada, applying the method of unity-criticism-unity concretely means a number of things:

1. First, Marxist-Leninists must trace two lines of demarcation: between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries; and among Marxist-Leninists, that is, between what is correct and what is incorrect. In order to carry out the struggle for unity, a group must first resolutely distinguish itself from the opportunists and counterrevolutionaries, indicating with whom they wish to unite. Then they must clearly advance their positions, including criticisms of other lines. It is evident that if you want any type of agreement with someone, you must first start by stating where you stand, putting forth your political line. This is even more true if we desire a principled unity among communists. It must begin with a clear statement of position.

Lenin expressed this in the following terms:

Before we can unite, and in order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation. Otherwise our unity will be purely fictitious, it will conceal the prevailing confusions and hinder its radical elimination. (Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra)

2. Second, they must not hesitate to carry out the struggle against opportunism. They must criticize that which is erroneous in the line of others and in their own line. While remaining open to criticisms of their own errors, communists must refuse to compromise on questions of principle.

3. Third, they must display a real spirit of unity. Communists in Canada must place the party spirit foremost and break with small-circle mentality. We must break with petty bourgeois tendencies and attachment to “one’s” group, and place the interests of the whole Marxist-Leninist movement over that of any political group or organization. We must beware of the danger of sectarianism. In the struggle over line, which at times will get quite intense, we must pay attention to adopting a correct, comradely attitude towards the militants of other groups. The purpose of the struggle is, after all, to achieve unity, not to maintain division. This also means treating all Marxist-Leninist groups as equals. While we must recognize that some more developed groups may play a larger role in the struggle for the party, all groups should be judged on the basis of their line and practice, not on the basis of their size.

This doesn’t mean that we should shy away from harsh criticism or recoil from intense struggle. But we should keep in mind that, though it is a struggle against bourgeois ideology, it takes place among the people, that what is key is developing and uniting around the correct line, and that which group said what first is a relatively secondary question. Chairman Mao put this in the following terms:

The essential thing is to start from the desire for unity. For without this desire for unity, the struggle is certain to get out of hand. (On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People)

4. Fourthly, communists must be willing to recognize and self-criticize for their errors once they have been clearly identified. If a communist or a communist group is unwilling to admit an error, to assess its consequences, and to struggle to correct it, how can unity ever be achieved?

This is the general content of the method of unity-criticism-unity when applied to the struggle to unite the communists in Canada into one party. If a group wishes to seriously contribute to the struggle for unity, it must carry out this method firmly and unswervingly. If this method is correctly applied, there is no reason why we will not be able to resolve our differences, achieve ideological and political agreement and achieve the unity so essential for the creation of the party.

VII. Q. Around what questions is it necessary to reach agreement today?

While Marxist-Leninists always unite on the basis of agreement on ideological and political line, the precise questions on which it is necessary to reach unity vary according to the concrete conditions in which the communists find themselves.

At the present time, the CCL(ML) proposes that there are three general questions around which communists in Canada should reach agreement in order to unite:

1. Agreement on adherence to the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism–Mao Tsetung Thought as elaborated by the international proletariat’s finest leaders: Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tsetung.
2. Agreement on the general analysis of the present international situation and a basic analysis of the class contradictions in Canada.
3. Agreement on the tasks that communists must undertake at the present time in order to advance the creation of the party.[2]

Why these particular points? Because without unity around these questions, any organization formed, any unity made, will be ineffective. Unless we are clear on where we are going, there’s not much use in uniting to get there together. We’re not saying that no unity can be reached until all questions in these areas have been answered, until the definitive history of Canada and the world has been written. But there is a basic minimum of points which must be cleared up before we can unite. And the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada is sufficiently developed today for us to be able to debate these points and advance clear positions, the bases upon which more developed positions can be built.

Let’s look at why these points are important: 1. Agreement on adherence to a Marxist-Leninist ideological line is obviously essential. This means recognizing Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought and dialectical and historical materialism as the scientific philosophy that guides our action. It means seeing Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought as a guide to our actions, not a lifeless dogma. It means recognizing the contributions made by the five great proletarian leaders and defending the principles of Marxism-Leninism unconditionally. Earlier, in the section on how to distinguish genuine communists from opportunists, we formulated some of the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism that are the heart of our ideological line.

2. In order to conduct their revolutionary work, communists must also have a good grasp of the world in which we live. In the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, there is no great wall of China that separates Canada from the rest of the world. On the contrary, Canada lies right next to the USA, one of the two superpowers, which is at the present time battling for world hegemony. While to the north we have a frontier with the other superpower the Soviet Union. We cannot neglect the struggle against either one of these giants. Understanding the international situation is crucial to the struggle against all our enemies.

At the same, the Canadian proletariat has international responsibilities to all the oppressed peoples of the world.

We must particularly understand the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and the aggressive nature of Soviet social-imperialism. We must analyze the rising factors for a new world war, brought on by the rivalry of the superpowers, the Soviet Union being the main source of a new world war and the most dangerous of the two superpowers. In this context we must grasp the role of the revisionist “Communist Party of Canada” as a traitor to the working class and as an agent of Soviet social-imperialism in our country.

The CCL(ML) believes that a new world war is inevitable and the peoples of the world must prepare themselves and struggle against the war preparations of the superpowers.

At the same time, we must study the rising factors of revolution in all countries. We must support the third world peoples’ struggle for national liberation, new democracy and socialism.

We must grasp the complex role of the developed capitalist and imperialist countries of the second world and their relation to the superpowers; that many of these countries maintain imperialist relationships towards other countries, while at the same time being subject to superpower vexation and domination. We must support the class struggle of the proletariat in second world countries other than Canada against their own bourgeoisie.

We must grasp the role of third world peoples and countries and understand why in the world united front against colonialism, imperialism and particularly the hegemonism of the two superpowers, the third world is the main force. By concretely analyzing the international situation we will be able to educate the proletariat and chart a clear course towards the proletarian revolution in Canada. The Canadian working class also has important internationalist responsibilities towards our class brothers and sisters around the world, among which is the clear denunciation of and struggle against Canadian imperialism. These can only be correctly assumed if we clearly identify the development of the contradictions of the world imperialist system and the state of the world today.

To carry out any serious revolutionary work in Canada at the present time, one must have at least a rudimentary analysis of the internal class contradictions that are moving forward the history of our country. In particular, we must identify the principal contradiction. It is by determining the principal contradiction that we can identify who is the principal enemy of the Canadian revolution. If we can’t even explain who our main enemy is and the relationship between this enemy and the other enemies, how can we ever hope to give clear leadership to the working class?

The question of the relationship between the struggle for socialism and the struggle to defend and develop Canada’s independence has always been one of the great controversies within the communist movement in Canada. The Communist Party adopted several different positions (while it was a revolutionary party) as the two-line struggle within the party developed. Since the party degenerated, this question has remained an issue of debate within the communist movement. From the time of Progressive Workers’ Movement to the present, Canada’s and the Canadian people’s relationship to U.S. imperialism has been at the centre of the ideological struggle within the Marxist-Leninist movement. The identification of the principal contradiction allows a clear and precise answer to be given to this question: how does the struggle for socialism relate to the struggle to safeguard the independence of our country, in the present international situation?

Considering the importance of this question for the development of a clear strategy for the proletarian revolution in our country, considering the importance of clearly resolving this problem that has caused so much discussion within the Marxist-Leninist movement, we believe that a solid unity of communists at the present time must be based on a clear and correct identification of the principal contradiction in Canada.

We believe that Canada is an imperialist country of the second world and that the principal contradiction in Canada opposes the Canadian bourgeoisie to the Canadian proletariat. We think that the revolution must be a proletarian revolution to smash the bourgeois state by armed struggle, establish the dictatorship of the proletariat and build socialism and communism.

It is important also that we be able to situate the principal contradiction with respect to the other contradictions in society.

The principal contradiction is the key link. Yet to grasp only this contradiction is not enough. To develop our political work among the proletariat we must have a clear understanding of the major secondary contradictions. We must see the importance of the struggle of the Canadian people against the two superpowers. Considering the danger of war today, Canada’s independence could be threatened and any confusion on this secondary contradiction could be fatal. We must prepare the Canadian people and develop the struggle against American imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism.

We hold that the secondary contradiction of first importance is that between the Canadian people and the two superpowers, particularly American imperialism. And that the proletariat must take the leading role in the struggle of the Canadian people against imperialist domination, war threats and in safeguarding the independence of Canada, these tasks being subordinated to the proletarian revolution.

We must also grasp the importance of the Quebec national question and the relationship between the struggle against national oppression and the fight for socialism. A correct understanding of and position on the Quebec national question is essential if we are to build the unity of the Canadian people against the two superpowers on a firm basis. It is equally crucial if we are to guarantee the proletariat’s unity against its principal enemy, the Canadian bourgeoisie.

We put forward that Quebec is an oppressed nation which has the fundamental right to self-determination, up to and including the right to separate and form an independent state. But actually, we oppose separation and subordinate the national question to the struggle for socialism in Canada.

We must also recognize the oppression of the Indian and Inuit peoples and struggle for the realization of their national rights. We must struggle against the oppression of women linking this struggle to that of the entire working class for socialism which alone can lay the basis for the complete emancipation of women. Without a basic understanding of the secondary contradictions in Canada it will be impossible for us to correctly orient our communist work.

3. The unity of communists today is impossible unless we first clearly agree what are the tasks that Marxist-Leninists should undertake at the present time.

The central task of communists in Canada today is to carry forward the battle for a new Marxist-Leninist communist party. To accomplish this goal, Marxist-Leninists must clearly identify the conditions that must be achieved in order to attain it. They must elaborate a plan to accomplish them and clearly determine the tasks that have to be accomplished. We must agree on the need to develop a revolutionary program in the continuing struggle against opportunism (principally modern revisionism, also reformism, Trotskyism and all forms of opportunism); on the need for the struggle for the unity of the greatest possible number of Marxist-Leninists; and on the need to rally a certain number of the best elements of the working class and create factory cells in the leading industrial centres of Canada.

We have to be able to determine what place participation in mass struggles takes in the early stages of party-building and the leading role of agitation and propaganda in the rallying of the most advanced workers. We do not claim that it is necessary to achieve unity on tactical questions in our work among the masses.

Differences on tactical questions will always exist within the party. It is nevertheless essential to agree that the bourgeois line actually dominates the labour movement through the control which the agents of the bourgeoisie exercise over the trade unions. We must agree on the need for communists to work within the unions where the masses of workers are, with the strategic objective of transforming these unions into instruments of revolutionary struggle. Without such an analysis to guide our work, we will never get anywhere.

These then are the three major areas of struggle we see as key to building solid unity among Canadian Marxist-Leninists. In the conclusion of this pamphlet, we’ll outline what steps we think can be taken to make progress in the debate around these questions. But first, let’s elaborate our position on unity beyond the general principles we’ve raised in this chapter by examining our stand in comparison to the position put forward by In Struggle!


[1] See The Struggle for the Creation of the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) published October 1975.

[2] In certain articles in The Forge we have sometimes enumerated these questions in a slightly different fashion. The content however is the same.