Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist)

For the unity of Marxist-Leninists

II. Critique of the line of In Struggle! on the unity of Marxist-Leninists

I. Q. What is the main obstacle to the unity of Marxist-Leninists in Canada: “dogmatism, sectarianism, and subjectivism” or right opportunism?

In Struggle! has accused the CCL(ML) of defending a “dogmatic, sectarian, subjectivist” line on unity. These criticisms are false. It is In Struggle! that has an erroneous attitude towards the struggle for unity.

To begin with, any debate on this question should be put within the overall context of the struggle for unity between the two groups. As we’ve said before, we consider In Struggle! to be a Marxist-Leninist group. But we have many serious differences with it over questions of strategic and tactical line: the international situation, the principal and secondary contradictions in Canada[1], our tasks in the first stages of party building and – the subject of this pamphlet – how to make unity.

A key problem in building unity between our two groups has been In Struggle’s reluctance to openly state or elaborate its stands and its tendency to change positions without warning, let alone make a self-criticism. For example, we’ve been waiting since December 1974 for an explanation of the ideological and political basis of its stand on the principal contradiction.

In Struggle! has made its various criticisms of the CCL(ML)’s line on the struggle for unity in several issues of its newspaper and in a pamphlet entitled ”Towards the Unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists, Fight the Sectarianism of the CCL(ML)”.

In Struggle’s brochure Fight Sectarianism is part of the overall campaign that it is waging against the League. Recent issues of its paper have been jammed with entire pages taken up with denouncing the League for all sorts of heinous crimes. In its mass work, too, In Struggle! is attacking the League everywhere. We think – and we’ll show this – that all this is a lot of noise to cover up In Struggle’s own errors and its refusal to debate line. The pamphlet Fight Sectarianism is a somewhat frantic tirade which is unprincipled not only in its abandonment of basic Marxist-Leninist principles, but also in its distortions, lies and fabrications about the League and its cover-up of In Struggle’s errors.

Let’s see what the pamphlet says.

The entire pamphlet supposedly deals with the question of sectarianism. But In Struggle! misses the essence of sectarianism and also erroneously identifies sectarianism, rather than right opportunism, as the main danger presently in the struggle to realize unity.

There is one and only one way for Marxist-Leninists to make principled unity, and that is around ideological and political line through a resolute struggle against opportunism. And there are two basic opportunist errors that can be made on this question, both of which essentially boil down to abandoning this principle. The first is the right opportunist practice of making unprincipled unity not on the solid political basis of a correct line. Right opportunists, fearful of struggle over line, characteristically insist on making unprincipled unity around anything but the solid basis of a correct political line. The sectarians, similarly, refuse to make unity for all types of flimsy reasons, but never concretely get down to the political and ideological struggle over line which would clarify the differences and point the way towards unity. The sectarian subjectively builds up his own importance and ignores the objective reality of the contributions of others. He insists he has the correct line, but refuses to explain, elaborate or defend it. He finds little things to disagree with in someone else’s line, but never discusses the essence of political differences, seeking splits and not unity. Communists, on the other hand, seek the truth, honestly and scientifically, and always defend Marxism-Leninism unwaveringly.

It’s not unusual to find groups making unprincipled unity and unprincipled splits, for both errors stem from the same error. For Trotskyists, because they are forever uniting on a sham also forever splitting again, always on an opportunist basis.

In Struggle! correctly links up sectarianism with subjectivism, dogmatism and a pretentious, arrogant style. But they miss the essence of the problem of sectarianism: that because of his subjective attitude the sectarian does not put politics in command. The sectarian ignores and refuses the struggle over ideological and political line. In Struggle! ignores this essential element and thus commits errors in analyzing what’s wrong with the Marxist-Leninist movement.

“The struggle for the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists,” In Struggle! writes, “must today pass through a resolute struggle against sectarianism... It is only when sectarianism is eliminated that unity will be possible.” (Fight Sectarianism, pg. 9-10) In the first chapter of the pamphlet, entitled “Sectarianism is retarding the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists”, In Struggle! adds:

Because if some methods to carry out the struggle are effective in solving contradictions among Marxist-Leninists, other methods can only widen the differences and lead to a deeper disunion. We must identify these erroneous methods as sectarianism and denounce them because they represent a backward factor in the unity of Marxist-Leninists and the implantation of proletarian ideology among the masses.(pg. 12)

Now, what ever happened to right opportunism? Surely, the danger to unity is not only deepening contradictions among Marxist-Leninists, but mainly trying to smooth them over and create a sham unity which only leads to more severe splintering later on.

If right opportunism is the main danger facing our young communist movement in the party-building process – and the Canadian communist movement is united at least around that point – then doesn’t this also hold true for the question of unity, one of the major aspects of that process?

In Struggle! talks about how “our movement, since the break with modern revisionism, is still recent” and of the:

dogmatism which is unavoidable in a young and inexperienced Marxist-Leninist movement that has had little time as yet to put its principles into practice and to learn the way to apply them correctly, i.e. to learn to use them to transform reality in a revolutionary way. (pg. 6)

No mention of the right opportunism or revisionist influence which, much more so than dogmatism, inevitably marks a movement whose origins do not stem from a struggle against and a complete rupture with modern revisionism, but from the youth, student and bourgeois nationalist movement.

Has this not meant years of economism? – of being good trade unionists afraid to tell the workers we were “secretly” communist – errors which now, across the country, are being repudiated? And on the question of unity, has not the dominant trend been right opportunism manifested in the abject fear of struggle over line? How long have study groups existed in cities across the country, content to debate theory academically and never take a stand and reach a higher level of unity around a correct line? How much struggle has it taken to get militants to realize the need to break out of amateurism and primitiveness, to study Marxism-Leninism, develop and unite around line and practice democratic centralism? How many militants used to – or still do – immerse themselves in vaguely progressive “mass organizations” and get together the handful of those who consider themselves Marxist-Leninists once in a while to discuss “how things are going”.

Wasn’t right opportunism the root of the flawed proposal for a Liaison Committee in Vancouver between groups there? Wasn’t it at the heart of the erroneous view of seeing the CSLO in Quebec as a method of building communist unity (as In Struggle! at one point saw it)? And what about In Struggle’s consistent refusal to engage in open polemics around strategically key questions? Lenin, after all, stressed how the right opportunists the economists were characterized by their reluctance to engage in debates over line, to downgrade political and ideological struggle:

... the majority of the Economists look with sincere resentment (as the very nature of Economism must) upon all theoretical controversies, factional disagreements, broad political questions, plans for organizing revolutionaries, etc. (What Is To Be Done?)

In the past In Struggle! seemed to agree with this criticism at least in words. In it’s December 1975 pamphlet Against Economism In Struggle! concluded with these words:

Indeed, the defeat of the economist deviation (of right opportunism) in our ranks is the essential condition for elaborating a correct political line and thereby building strong ideological unity among Canadian Marxist-Leninists.(pg. 68)

Have things changed so much in the past eight months that they would invalidate that statement? We certainly don’t think so, and the facts show right opportunism still constitutes the main danger – on unity, as on other questions.

In Struggle! seems to have changed their position very rapidly. And as usual this change has come about in a confused manner. Just a few months ago, in its April 29th call for unity, it correctly identified right opportunism as ”the principal error within the Marxist-Leninist movement”, but added that it “often develops in the steps of dogmatism”. Nothing is wrong with that, in itself. But, since then, In Struggle! has more and more jumbled different errors together without making clear distinctions. Just two days later, in a major May Day speech on unity, (reprinted in the July 22 issue of In Struggle!), the In Struggle! comrade made no mention of right opportunism at all as the main danger and just talked about “the struggle against economist and dogmatist errors” (pg. 10).

And then, a few months later, we get a pamphlet on unity which goes into hysterics about sectarianism and dogmatism, but doesn’t even mention right opportunism, let alone treat it as the main danger within the movement we’re trying to unite!

It takes a lot of nerve for In Struggle! to seriously underestimate the struggle against right opportunism and economism on the question of unity and then turn around and accuse the League of “singularly relegating to oblivion... since its creation” the question of economism (pg. 34).

Yes, sectarianism is an ever-present danger of which we must all be mindful. Just as in some particular aspect of our mass work, it might not be economism but dogmatism which colours our involvement in some workplace or leaflet. But that does NOT mean that right opportunism is no longer the main danger, that economism is no longer the main deviation in our communist work in the unions, etc., or that on the question of unity, right opportunism – the fear of struggle, the economists’ disdain for theoretical and political debate which Lenin so harshly criticized, the tendency to give in to the “line of least resistance” and make unity on an unprincipled basis – is no longer the main error.

The dangers of mistakenly identifying the major deviation should not be underestimated, for the corrective measures taken are determined by what is seen to be wrong in the first place. If the wall your speeding car is about to crash into is on the right, but you think it’s on the left and swerve rightward – well, it’s a costly mistake to make. Similarly, militants who feel that ultra-“leftism” is the main thing to struggle against will necessarily hold back, “go slower” and only compound the rightist errors that are really the main stumbling block to party building.

Today when the main menace to the international communist movement is modern revisionism, it is extremely dangerous to rant about sectarianism and dogmatism. It is very easy, after all, to simply open the door to the development of revisionism!

Comrades of In Struggle!, Marxist-Leninists should always remember the history of our movement during the last twenty years. When the main danger in the Canadian communist movement is right opportunism, we must be very careful about attacking “sectarianism and dogmatism” as the main obstacle.

For it is these very same arguments which were used by the revisionists to attack the Chinese Communist Party whom they accused of being “dogmatists and sectarians” (see Once Again on our Disagreements with Comrade Togliatti, Hongqi, 1963, reprinted by Librairie Progressiste, 1976, in French). The revisionists used this argument to mask their own abandonment of communist principles.

As the Chinese Communist Party said at the time in their 25-point letter of March 1963:

Some pretend openly that it is not revisionism but dogmatism which is the main danger; or that dogmatism is not less dangerous than revisionism. Where then is the principle in all this?

As Lenin said:

What a handy little word ’dogma’ is! One need only slightly twist an opposing theory, cover up this twist with the bogey of dogma’ – and there you are! (Lenin, Revolutionary adventurism, Vol. 6, Collected Works)

On the question of unity, seeing the error of sectarianism as the main danger or on a par with right opportunism will encourage militants to shy away from polemics, from the intense ideological and political struggle whose absence is, in fact, the main obstacle to unity. And this is just what In Struggle! ends up doing in its pamphlet.

Hardly a paragraph goes by, for example, without a sarcastic remark about the League’s “correct line”. Now, if In Struggle! doesn’t think that the League has a correct line, it has every right – or, rather, the responsibility – to expose what it feels is wrong with that line. This is how we can move forward the struggle for unity and the party. But, please, let’s leave it to the social-democrats of Canadian Dimension, The Last Post and Le Jour to chastize what they call “the left” for its endless “squabble” over the “correct line”! The bourgeois press – hopelessly confused about the importance of the differences between the Trotskyists, the revisionists and “CPC(ML)” and the genuine communists, let alone about the differences within our movement – forever scorns what it sees as “inner group sectarianism and splits over who has the correct party line”.

But Canadian communists should know better. We know that firmness on questions of line is not sectarianism, but a basic tenet of Marxism-Leninism that sets it apart from the Trotskyists or the revisionists. We know that it is the responsibility of all of us to put forward our views, to be open to criticism but defend our line until we’re proven wrong. This is what party discipline, democratic centralism and the primacy of political line is all about. If In Struggle! wants to criticize a group’s arrogance, that is its right. But to criticize a group for insisting its line is correct is to pander to the worst forms of anti-communism. Is In Struggle! suggesting that Marxist-Leninist groups put forward a “maybe correct line” in the interests of false modesty?

We’ll criticize elements in In Struggle’s line that we think are incorrect, we’ll criticize it for putting forward an incorrect line on certain things. But we’ll never criticize it for acting on the conviction that its line is correct. In fact, we hope In Struggle! believes it has a correct line, otherwise it should stop publishing a paper every two weeks.

There are other examples, too, of how In Struggle! confuses the issue of sectarianism. It complains that in the League’s critique of its stand on the principal contradiction, we challenge not only In Struggle’s application of Marxism-Leninism but also its understanding of Marxism-Leninism. But what is sectarian about this, about identifying the ideological root of someone’s error? We’re not saying, “You’re a bunch of fools that shouldn’t even pretend to be communists!” But we are saying, ”For Marxist-Leninists, we don’t think you’ve based yourself firmly enough on Marxist-Leninist science on this or that question, and that’s leading you to make some serious errors”.

Is this sectarianism or principled criticism?

Does this mean then that the League rejects out of hand any criticisms of its work to unify Marxist-Leninists? It does not. The League like any other organization is not immune to sectarian errors. For example some of our statements have been pompous and pretentious. To call our February 1975 meeting “the first communist meeting in some time” was an error that failed to take into account the contributions of other comrades and groups to party building. There are also a few formulations in our Statement of Political Agreement and in no. 1 of The Forge that inflate the League’s importance. Such pompous general statements are but self-flattery, reveal sectarian attitudes, and in no way actually contribute to developing the ideological struggle within the Marxist-Leninist movement. Eliminating these erroneous attitudes means rooting out petty bourgeois individualism and insuring that the party spirit dominates over the small-circle mentality. Communists’ confidence in line must be accompanied, as Chairman Mao points out, by modesty and humility. The CCL(ML) recognizes that it has some shortcomings in this regard. In order that in the future we may strengthen the struggle for unity, we hope that other comrades across the country will not hesitate to criticize us for any sectarian errors we may commit.

But to go from this to saying – as In Struggle! does – that the League has a completely sectarian, dogmatic, splittist line on unity, that sectarianism is the main obstacle to Marxist-Leninist unity (with the League as the chief culprit, of course) is quite another story. There is a big difference between a few errors and a sectarian line on unity. To seize on a few wrong formulations in a couple of the League’s publications as a pretext for denouncing the CCL(ML)’s general line on the struggle for unity is pure opportunism.

Furthermore, In Struggle! is no example of a “model non-sectarian”, either. Here they are launching a campaign against the League, calling us all sorts of names because we wish to engage them in the ideological struggle on major questions of political line. In Against Sectarianism, In Struggle! even compares the League to counterrevolutionaries like the “CPC(ML)” and the “Canadian Party of Labour”, “But don’t forget one thing: on the question of the unity of Marxist-Leninists, the League’s line and the CPC(ML)’s amount to the same thing.” (Fight the Sectarianism of the CCL(ML), July 1976, p.33) By making such demagogic statements, attacking the League so as to avoid the struggle over political and ideological line while shouting “unity, unity”, it is in fact In Struggle! which is developing sectarianism within the communist movement.

What can be more splittist and sectarian than to accuse a Marxist-Leninist organization of having the same line as “CPC(ML)”? The call to unity is a just call, but if it is isolated from the method of achieving that unity – the ideological struggle – it can lead nowhere.

Engels used these words a hundred years ago to warn against those who falsely raise the cry of unity: “One must not allow oneself to be misled by the cry for ’unity’. Those who have this word most often on their lips are the ones who sow the most dissension... the biggest sectarians and the biggest brawlers and rogues at times shout loudest for unity. Nobody in our lifetime has given us more trouble and been more treacherous, than the shouters for unity.”

Well then we may ask: Is the League fundamentally sectarian and splittist? Or is it in fact being principled on questions of ideological and political line? And is it not In Struggle! which is pushing the opportunist line, a line of “all unity-no struggle”, a line which builds unity on sand and thus is, in the end, a fundamentally splittist and divisive line?

II. Q. What are the roots of the differences between In Struggle! and the League on the struggle to unify Marxist-Leninists?

Aside from what we’ve just talked about – and later on, we’ll try to show in more detail just how In Struggle! confuses ideological and political firmness with “sectarianism” – our differences can basically be summed up in two points.

First, on the nature and the composition of the Marxist-Leninist movement and why it is important to be clear on this question.

Second, on the centrality of the struggle over ideological and political line in the fight for communist unity in Canada. Despite frequent changes in the form of its position on unity, In Struggle!, in essence, has always tended to neglect this struggle.

From these two issues stem all our other disagreements on the tactical question of how to reach unity among the greatest possible number of Canadian Marxist-Leninists.

We shall now in some detail explain each of these two points. Sections two, three and four of this chapter will be devoted to treating the first point. Section five will deal with the second aspect.

First let us examine the question of the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada. In its pamphlet, In Struggle! states that the League “does not understand the movement and even denies its existence”. In fact the truth is quite the opposite.

It is In Struggle! which objectively denies the existence of a distinct Marxist-Leninist movement as separate from the consolidated opportunists, by obscuring just who is and who isn’t a Marxist-Leninist. And it’s In Struggle! which does not understand the concrete conditions of the communist movement in Canada today by denying its uneven development.

Thus concerning the nature of the communist movement in Canada we can immediately see two differences between the League and In Struggle!: over who is in the communist movement and over its uneven development.

To start with, the first problem.

In Struggle! charges that the “logic of sectarianism” leads the League to insist that the only “authentic, genuine Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada” is the League itself! (pg. 33). This is just nonsense, a complete distortion of fact. As we’ve explained in the first section of this pamphlet outlining our stand on the issue, the communist movement in Canada is a growing, increasingly vibrant and influential force.[2]

“How can the League hope to make unity with what it doesn’t know, with that which it refuses even to recognize the existence of?” In Struggle! asks, building up a straw man argument. In point of fact, though, the League has met and held discussions with members of Marxist-Leninist groups and collectives, as well as study groups, throughout Quebec and in many different parts of English Canada. Struggle with one group – Workers’ Unity in Toronto – eventually led to unity. In our paper, we have devoted much space to explaining our differences with In Struggle! precisely because we consider it to be a genuine, influential Marxist-Leninist group – hence, the urgency of resolving our differences of political line to achieve unity.

Even in our polemics against groups we considered opportunist, we always addressed ourselves to the genuine Marxist-Leninists in these formations. Does In Struggle! really think we’re spending all this time trying to engage in principled struggle for unity just to make things look good, when really, deep down inside, the League thinks it’s the only Marxist-Leninist group in Canada? Or is this just another diversion, another example of In Struggle! making a lot of noise about the League to distract attention from the weakness in its own position?

For just look at In Struggle’s stand on the Marxist-Leninist movement. Unfortunately, like so many other key issues facing Canadian communists today, this issue too has not yet benefitted from any particular clarity or consistency on In Struggle’s part. In a March 1976 polemic against the League’s “dogmatism and leftism” on unity, here’s the somewhat long-winded definition In Struggle! gave of the Marxist-Leninist movement:

There is a Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada. It is composed of those groups, organizations, cells, circles and even individuals who put forward that the road towards socialism in Canada is the proletarian revolution, the overthrowing of the bourgeois state power and the establishing of the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is composed of those who, on the international level, support the struggle against the superpowers’ hegemonism, the struggles for national liberation, for the people’s independence, for the denunciation of the inter-imperialist war and for proletarian revolution. It is composed of those who put forward that the proletarian revolution demands the direction of a communist party (Marxist-Leninist), the proletariat’s vanguard party, the party based on the principles of dialectical materialism and historical materialism, on the teachings of the October, Chinese and Albanian revolutions. .. and on all the struggles in the history of the international workers’ movement. It is composed of those who put forward that the central task of Canadian Marxist-Leninists is the building of the party which does not exist in our country and who therefore attach a primordial importance to the unity of the Canadian communists (M-L) which is an essential condition for party building. It is composed of those who put forward that the tasks of communists (M-L) are at this stage to spread widely Marxism-Leninism among the masses (that is, carrying out a real and resolute struggle against what is anti-Marxist) to win over the advanced elements of the proletariat and give them the theoretical and organizational instruments necessary to assimilate Marxism-Leninism, thus developing a proletarian vanguard who will be the headstone of party building. It is composed of those who, concerning women’s emancipation, put forward that it has to be linked to socialist revolution and that for the women of our country, the first duty is to get involved into it like all the male workers. (our emphasis and spelling corrections)

In all that, In Struggle! somehow manages never once, not even in passing, to mention the all-important criterion of practice[3] and another serious omission is the complete absence of any mention of the need to struggle consistently against opportunism.

More recently, in its pamphlet against the League, In Struggle! came up with a new definition – without, of course, renouncing its past formulations. This time, perhaps because of the League’s past criticisms of its stand, In Struggle! incorporated theory and practice:

a number of organizations and groups, cells and circles, trying, at different stages of advancement, to elaborate and apply the right path towards proletarian revolution in our country. Those various groups are not only disunited but also have differences on some questions which are determinant for the future of the proletarian revolution in Canada. (pg. 11)

If In Struggle! would apply this criterion of examining a group’s theory and practice it would do far more for the cause of unity. But it consciously shies away from trying to analyze groups, from using definite criteria to judge groups by, because that would be “sectarian”. Thus, it echoes the charge made by the May First Collective (MFC) in Vancouver:

The CCL(ML) draws narrow lines around the Marxist-Leninist movement which by definition excludes not only counterrevolutionaries, but also opportunists. By doing so they commit both a left and a right error. Identifying the Marxist-Leninist movement by definition does not build unity and could lead to sectarianism. (pg. 30)

What does MFC and In Struggle! think is wrong with the criteria we have set out? Or do they oppose in principle the need for all revolutionaries to examine all groups which call themselves communist on the grounds that a priori we should take a group’s word for it? Listen to this statement from In Struggle’s major political manifesto on the Marxist-Leninist organization:

In Struggle! must... a priori consider the other groups of the movement for what they claim to be, i.e., Marxist-Leninist groups which, unless there are manifest indications to the contrary, desire unity of Marxist-Leninists. There always remains, of course, to conduct an investigation to see if these claims are founded upon reality, if the interpretation of the principles is the same... (Create the ML Organization, pg. 20, emphasis in the original, our translation)

Is it not wiser to conduct an investigation before considering a group to be Marxist-Leninist?

Drawing distinctions between genuine communist groups and consolidated opportunist groups on the basis, not of some abstract definition, but of concrete investigation according to definite criteria is not at all sectarian.

“Unity”, Lenin wrote in 1914 in answer to critics of his alleged sectarianism, “is a great thing and a great slogan. But what the workers’ cause needs is the unity of Marxists, not unity between Marxists and opponents and distorters of Marxism.

“And we must ask everyone who talks about unity: unity with whom? With the liquidators? If so, we have nothing to do with each other.” (Unity, CW, Vol. 20, pg. 232)

How sectarian, how arrogant of Lenin, In Struggle! would say, to define the liquidators, the distorters of Marxism out of the revolutionary movement!

Is not the line pushed by MFC and In Struggle! a line of “unity by definition”, a line of opportunist vagueness which allows us to unite with virtually anyone who calls themselves Marxist-Leninist?

When Lenin’s Iskra was leading the struggle for unity and against the economists, he stressed that ”unity cannot be decreed... it must be worked for” (CW, Vol. 4, pg. 354). He was opposing those who were seeking the “easy way” for unity within the Russian Social-Democratic Party by trying to unite all who claimed to support social-democracy. He stood against this and for open polemics and sharp struggle against the opportunist lines being promoted at the time. That’s where his “demarcate before we can unite” slogan came from, the one In Struggle! used to be so fond of mouthing (but never applying, as we’ll see).

In Struggle’s stand has led it to some quite remarkable acrobatics. Consider this statement of March, 1976:

However, we believe that the debate concerning the composition of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement must be held and that it will effectively be held; we have a firm intention of taking an active part in it.

So much for good intentions, but then In Struggle! goes on to say:

But that cannot constitute, it must not constitute an impediment to the communists’ unity in their common activities, even if the movement’s outlines have not yet been clearly defined. (English Digest, Special Edition, March 1976.)

How’s that for a gem of double-talk? Oh sure, we should debate who is and who is not Marxist-Leninist (sometime...), but in the meantime, that shouldn’t be “an impediment” to us getting together, ”even if it’s not too “clear” who is and who isn’t a genuine communist!!!

And to give but one further example of these acrobatics, in an article explaining In Struggle’s conference on unity it is stated:

.. .whose positions we are sufficiently familiar with to recognize that they are part of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement today. Their inclusion is based on their adhesion to a Marxist-Leninist ideological line. But for In Struggle! their real inclusion in the Marxist-Leninist movement will only be confirmed in the struggle on all fundamental questions of ideological and political line of the Canadian revolution. (In Struggle! no. 70)

What a mishmash! Now we have groups which are part of the Marxist-Leninist movement, and we have their “real inclusion” as well, according to In Struggle!. They are in the movement – but not really in the movement. In Struggle! is scraping the bottom of the barrel here – just to get out of making a clear definition of the communist movement in our country.

The problem with not taking a clear stand on this question – and openly downplaying its importance – is that it necessarily leads to obscuring the difference between those outside the Marxist-Leninist movement – the consolidated opportunists and the counterrevolutionaries – and the genuine communist formations, some of whom may have opportunist elements in their lines. It obscures the fact that contradictions among communists are non-antagonistic, while contradictions between them and the other groups are antagonistic.

This is far from being an academic question. Errors in it have led In Struggle! to weaken the struggle against the consolidated opportunists – by treating them only as misguided Marxist-Leninists with “unclear” points in their line – and among genuine communists – by, at times, treating contradictions within the movement in an antagonistic way.

During the first half of 1975 (when In Struggle! was published only in French), In Struggle! was really hot on denouncing high and low what it called “the bourgeois line within the Marxist-Leninist movement”. The problem was, because In Struggle! never clearly defined who was a genuine communist, the carriers of this bourgeois line included everyone from the counter-revolutionary “CPC(ML)”, opportunist groups like the RCT and Mobilisation, to communist groups like those which founded the League.

Thus, “CPC(ML)” was dignified by In Struggle! as being the principal representative of the “neo-revisionist” current within the Marxist-Leninist movement, (from the title of its June 19, 1975 supplement)[4] Just a careless slip? A rather dangerous one to make and then to plaster over your newspaper in big bold headlines.

The RCT and Mobilisation were criticized, quite correctly, for their economism and opportunism – but that was all! They, too, were never excluded by In Struggle! from the Marxist-Leninist movement. (And before anybody says this would have been “sectarian”, we should keep in mind that members of the ex-RCT and of Mobilisation have since made quite clear to what depths the opportunism of their groups had taken them.)

In Mobilisation’s case, for example, In Struggle! contented itself for three years to hitting out at certain aspects of its economism. But it never took on Mobilisation’s entire opportunist line, showing why it wasn’t just a group gone somewhat astray, but its very ideological basis and all its political ramifications had nothing at all to do with Marxism-Leninism. In fact, it insisted Mobilisation was a Marxist-Leninist group even before that group’s self-criticism (and to this very day, in its pamphlet Against Sectarianism for example, continues to do so even though the members of Mobilisation, repudiating their old group’s line, have insisted otherwise!!) Thus, In Struggle! called for “Marxist-Leninist coalitions” to include such groups as Mobilisation (for example, around March 22 or March 8). Would this have helped the working class to understand what Marxism is and what it isn’t? Or doesn’t this really lend undue credibility to opportunism, just as we would do if we debated Hardial Bains in a “Marxist-Leninist forum”, thus giving his counter-revolutionary “party” validity and discrediting the genuine communists.

But not only does such lack of firmness confuse the workers; it does little to help genuine elements within opportunist groups. In Struggle’s failure to deal systematically with Mobilisation’s opportunism meant not giving the Marxist-Leninists within that group all the support they needed in fighting to defeat its bankrupt line.

It’s bad enough that In Struggle’s unwillingness to define the Marxist-Leninist movement led it to compromise with opportunists. Worse still, its fuzziness on this key question also led it to blur the distinction between the opportunists and the genuine communist groups, like COR, CMO and MREQ, trying to make unity with it. We’ll examine in more detail later how it abandoned any serious struggle over line with these groups, despite all the talk about “demarcation”. We’ll also see how, today, the form has changed – gone now is any mention of “demarcation” – but how the essence of In Struggle’s game remains the same: there’s no need for too much struggle, since we’re all Marxist-Leninists anyhow.

To sum up, then, who really denies the existence of the Marxist-Leninist movement? Those of us who insist on strengthening it by excluding opportunists and constantly trying to rid ourselves of opportunist lines? Or those who, like In Struggle!, only dilute the movement in a large, undefined mass of opportunism with no definite criteria, no sharp lines of struggle... virtually just a name?

III. Q. What is the truth about the development of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement?

In Struggle’s second error concerning the nature of the Marxist-Leninist movement is that objectively it denies its uneven development and misunderstands the role of a Marxist-Leninist organization and the emergence of a leading centre.

To grasp In Struggle’s errors we can examine two questions: the first is the question of the leading centre and the second is In Struggle’s criticism of the creation of the League. They are closely connected.

The leading centre

Historical experience has shown that in the struggle for a party, there inevitably emerges one group whose ability to put forward a consistently correct ideological and political line allows it to play the role of a leading centre. In each different country, of course, because of varying objective and subjective conditions, it may take different organizational forms, but inevitably one line, one direction, emerges as the correct one.

This was the case of the small Iskra group which Lenin led in its fight against the economists and Mensheviks to build the Bolshevik party in Russia. Similarly, Enver Hoxha’s Tirana branch of the Korea Communist Group, after a considerable period of ideological struggle, was able to unite Albanian Marxist-Leninists into a party. In both cases, it was the line, not the size of the means of propaganda of each group, which determined its leading role.

Let us look at the example provided by the creation of the Party of Labour of Albania in a little more detail:

During the 1930s there existed a number of different communist groups in Albania and a struggle was carried out to achieve their unification. As everywhere, this struggle was intimately linked up with the fight to smash the open counter-revolutionaries and the struggle for a correct line within the revolutionary movement. Among the various erroneous views and opportunist deviations that were combatted by the Albanian communists during the pre-party period was the so-called “theory of cadres”.

The proponents of this line held that there was no proletariat and bourgeoisie in Albania and that therefore conditions were not ripe for revolution in their country. According to them, the principal task was to prepare cadres for the future. To involve them in any immediate struggles would be too dangerous!

For example, the History of the Party of Labour of Albania describes the views of the leaders of the Shkodra Communist Group in the following terms:

... (they) had their origins in the erroneous concepts of the role of the social classes and strata in the Albanian revolutionary movement and in the situation created in Albania by the enslaving policy of Italian fascism.

It was in the struggle against these erroneous concepts that the unity of the Albanian communists was forged. The Tirana branch of the Korea Communist Group, with Enver Hoxha at its head, played a key role in this struggle, particularly in combatting certain sectarian tendencies among the leaders of the various groups, which kept them divided.

Before there could be unity of Marxist-Leninists in Albania, there had to be a struggle over what political line around which to unite. This struggle over the strategic line of the Albanian revolution was particularly sharp in Albania, which at the time was under foreign occupation by Italian fascism. A clear line of demarcation was drawn between those communists who recognized the necessity to wage the struggle for national liberation and those who rejected this strategic stage in the socialist revolution. The latter excluded themselves from the Marxist-Leninist movement and there could be no unity with them.

Because of its correct line, because of its proven ability to unite the communist forces and lead them towards the party, the Tirana branch of the Korea Communist Group gradually became the leading centre of the struggle to build the party in Albania.

The Albanian comrades sum this up in the following terms:

under Enver Hoxha’s lead, the Tirana branch gradually became the real organizing centre for the entire communist and anti-fascist movement in Albania. Dedicated communists of the different groups had united around this branch. They constituted the basis of the coming communist party. (History of the Party of Labour of Albania, pg. 80)

Finally, in November of 1941, the meeting of the communist groups was held to found the party on the basis of a correct Marxist-Leninist line. Here the fruits of the struggle against opportunism and for unity which the communists had been waging were realized. The Party of Labour of Albania, which was to lead the Albanian people in the war against fascism and later in the building of socialism, was born.

From this example, we can see that the leading centre emerges from the struggle to apply Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions in the particular country.

It is not necessarily the case that all the groups rally organizationally to the leading centre. In fact, in the Albanian example, the various groups met together to found the party. What is key is the role of ideological and political leadership that the leading centre played in founding the party.

In Canada, too, a leading centre will emerge in the struggle to found a party. But, as yet, there is clearly no group in our country which is leading our entire movement directly forward towards the party. While it is the correct line that allows a group to emerge as the leading centre, it is only in practice that it can gradually come to play that role.

As its basic line is tested in practice and it meets with success in the work of rallying workers, uniting with other communists and developing even further its line, in the fight against opportunism, it will gradually become capable of fulfilling the tasks of a leading centre.

Its emergence will be a good thing, not a bad thing. The gradual formation of a leading centre will permit a step-by-step resolution of our current problems of dispersal, inequalities and disunity in order to lead to the creation of a single, powerful proletarian party. We have a duty to strive to build just such a leading centre.

It is wrong, though, to confuse the formation of this leading centre with the creation of a Marxist-Leninist organization. A Marxist-Leninist organization is one which has a sufficiently developed political line – and the means to develop that line further – to allow it to eventually expand across the country and work directly for the creation of the party. This does not mean that such an organization is necessarily the leading centre – only practice will determine whether or not its line will be correct. That’s why it’s possible – unfortunate, but nonetheless possible – for there to be more than one Marxist-Leninist organization in a country which plays an important role in building the party. Naturally, we all must struggle to prevent such an eventuality; however, if the struggle for unity does not develop favourably, two or maybe even more organizations could be formed.

The CCL(ML) is a Marxist-Leninist organization. Our organization, created precisely to take up the task of party building, has made significant progress over the past period. Nonetheless, we do not affirm at the present time that the League is the leading centre in the struggle for the party. Our organization was only founded a year ago and we have only begun to undertake our tasks. We have the clear intention of struggling to build the League into the leading centre. Not because we want to be “it”, but because, convinced of both the necessity for such a leading centre and the general correctness of the ideological and political line of the League, we have a duty and a responsibility to build the League into precisely such a centre.

Were we not to take up this task we would be abandoning our responsibilities.

However, it is practice, and practice alone, that will determine whether the League will in fact play such a role – or whether it must be taken up by some other group.

Committing a serious error, In Struggle! confuses the creation of a Marxist-Leninist organization with the building of a leading centre. In its original call for a Marxist-Leninist organization it wrote,

The unification of a certain number of Marxist-Leninist groups and militants will, in effect, permit the constitution of a real ’leading centre’ (’centre directeur’ in the original French) of the process of building the proletarian party... (Create the Marxist-Leninist Organization of Struggle for the Party, pg. 18 – emphasis in the original, our translation)

Two years later, in its call for Marxist-Leninist unity last April, In Struggle! again equated the two. By talking about building “the organization of Canadian Marxist-Leninists” and more or less equating it with the creation of the leading centre, In Struggle! manages to accuse the League of assuming the mantle of the leading centre:

That is why the pretention, more or less displayed depending upon the circumstances, of the CCL(ML) of forming ’the organization’ must be vigorously opposed. At this moment, such a pretentious attitude in fact constitutes an obstacle to unity, for it does not correspond to reality. Only an organization formed from a large debate led throughout the country, on the line and program to be advanced, will be able to assume the role of leading the movement towards the party. (Statement by the In Struggle! leadership, April 29, 1976)

This criticism of the League is complete trash. The League has never claimed to be the leading centre or the organization of Canadian communists. We have said that the League is a Marxist-Leninist organization struggling for the party. There’s a difference – which In Struggle! refuses to see.

The logical conclusion of In Struggle’s confusion on the leading centre is that they claim that the organization they are going to create in the next period will automatically be the leading centre. They talk of the creation of “the organization of all Canadian communists”, “the organization of struggle for the party” (our emphasis) uniting “all Marxist-Leninists”.

Now who is it who is being pretentious? The CCL(ML), a Marxist-Leninist organization which states its intention to struggle to build itself into the leading centre? Or In Struggle!, which is on the point of creating “the organization”, the leading centre, and achieving the unity of “all Canadian communists”?

Not only is it pretentious, but when In Struggle! does create “the organization, the leading centre, etc.” they will commit exactly the error of which they accuse the League – proclaiming the existence of the leading centre.[5]

The creation of the CCL(ML) was correct

In Struggle’s misunderstanding of the term “leading centre” leads them to criticize even the creation of the League. This is the second aspect of their erroneous understanding of the Marxist-Leninist movement which we will examine.

In Struggle’s argument is clear. There can be only one Marxist-Leninist organization. It must unite “all Canadian communists” and thus will be the leading centre. Since the League was created by only three groups and does not exist across Canada, obviously it shouldn’t be called “Canadian” and it is not “the” organization we’re looking for.

Especially in the conclusion of their pamphlet Fight Sectarianism, In Struggle! rants and raves about the nerve of these groups to proceed to found the League. It demagogically attacks the formation of the organization of struggle for the party – without the consent of other Marxist-Leninists:

The problem all Canadian Marxist-Leninists have to solve... is not mainly to decide whether three groups agreeing on essential questions must unite or not and create the Canadian organization, thus splitting the movement in two and leaving the majority aside. (Fight Sectarianism, pg. 57)

Here In Struggle! accuses us of both attempting to create the organization and of splitting the Marxist-Leninist movement. This is indeed raising the call of “unity” in vain. By creating the League, we split nothing. We united. First we united the three groups into the League – around a correct Marxist-Leninist line. Second, on the basis of this line the League can, and has in fact, pursued the struggle for unity in a more systematic and intensive fashion.

What’s so splittist about this? The whole issue is a false debate churned up by In Struggle! to hide the real questions. The point is: is the League’s ideological and political line right or wrong? If it is correct, as we maintain, then the League will grow and develop. If not, it will fail. It’s as simple as that!

But, to answer In Struggle!, let us go back and see why the three founding groups decided to create the League. Out of the struggle between the groups (after an unsuccessful struggle with In Struggle! itself) a sufficiently developed political line emerged to form a Marxist-Leninist organization. We laid out this line clearly for all to see. Of course, we don’t think it is complete – we’ve also stated it’s a far cry from what is needed to create a party. There are weaknesses in it. But we felt, and remain convinced, that it was a basically correct application of the principles of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions in our country and that it would allow us to expand and play a role in uniting Canadian Marxist-Leninists and building the party.

Convinced of its correctness, we had a responsibility to act. The groups that founded the League could not have sat around for a year or two waiting for everyone to “democratically adopt” this line. We’d still be waiting. It is the responsibility of the more developed Marxist-Leninist groups to lead and raise the level of debate of the movement. The movement is pushed and thrust ahead by the needs of the times and by the initiative of its most advanced elements.

Those who see clearly have a responsibility to act. And we did. We created the CCL(ML).

The Marxist-Leninist movement has developed unevenly, as we have already mentioned. This problem can be overcome not by reducing everything to the lowest level, but by struggling forward, struggling to develop our work, to raise our level of organization and to build the leading centre that will guide us towards the party.

In Struggle! argues:

The proclamation of the League in November 1975 as the Canadian organization of struggle for the party was a serious political error, for it did not take into account the Marxist-Leninist movement. (Fight Sectarianism, pg. 57)

They accuse the League of creating an organization only in Quebec and ignoring the developments that occurred in the rest of the Marxist-Leninist movement.

To this we answer the following: First, it’s important to understand that it’s no accident that the CCL(ML) was first formed in Quebec, the oppressed nation in Canada. The struggle against the glaring oppression of the Quebec nation served to politicize many people during the ’60s. Over the last few years the situation in Quebec developed rapidly, with more and more groups and individuals moving away from the bourgeois nationalism which had dominated in the preceeding years and turning to Marxism-Leninism and developing an understanding of the need to build an authentic communist party in Canada. Second, the groups that founded the League carried out some struggle with other groups that existed in the rest of the country and clearly stated their views in their political line documents. However, none of the groups in the rest of the country were sufficiently developed for there to be a possibility of creating unity in the short term.

In its new theoretical review Proletarian Unity In Struggle! demagogically attacks the groups which founded the League for ignoring the rest of the country, but remember what the situation was a year ago! In the rest of Canada much of the debate was taking place among individuals in study groups or other loosely knit organizations. Marxist-Leninists were not regrouped into groups that based themselves on a clear political line and were therefore limited in their ability to engage in revolutionary practice and to sum up their experience in a systematic way. In fact, most people shunned the idea of organization, putting forward the idea that the central task of Marxist-Leninists at the time was “the development of political line”, while others put forward that the central task was the “building of class-consciousness”. Thus, while the struggle for unity was proceeding among different Marxist-Leninist groups in Quebec, the equivalent of these groups did not yet exist in the rest of Canada. There were no existing consolidated groups with whom the struggle for unity could take place.

Yes, at the time the League was created the three groups did analyze the situation in the Marxist-Leninist movement. There were no other possibilities of achieving immediate unity. We had elaborated a basically correct line. There was no other choice but to create the League.

To date, practice has confirmed that the three groups were correct in going ahead and creating a Marxist-Leninist organization. Since last November the League has expanded to many regions in Quebec and to Toronto. Its paper and its publications are being read across the country and have a definite influence on the debates on the revolutionary strategy for this country. This could not have happened had the three groups not formed the League.

In Struggle’s criticism of the League’s very formation, therefore, is completely off the mark. It is based on the most rightist, localist and backward conception of party building.

Why rightist? Because it focuses on organizational form completely and abandons the centrality of line. Rather than bemoaning what the League calls itself, In Struggle! would do better to focus its criticisms on errors in our line which it thinks will prevent us from playing an important role in building Canada-wide unity of Marxist-Leninists. In Struggle! will probably rally groups sympathetic to it in the near future to create another Marxist-Leninist organization. We’re certainly not going to dispute its name, whether it calls itself Canadian or not. Will the fact that it may include members from Vancouver, or that it may do work in more English-Canadian cities than the League, make it any more “Canadian”, or even “Marxist-Leninist” for that matter, than the League? Clearly, it’s not a numbers or a geography game that we’re playing here. One thing we know for sure. Any organization In Struggle! sets up will be no more “the organization of all Canadian communists” – as it already claims it will be – than the League or any other group could be at this time. Only the party can be that.

Why backward and localist? Because it seeks to hold back the development of the Marxist-Leninist movement. It is the responsibility of the groups with the most developed line to push forward the debate by presenting their views. They must inspire, challenge and sometimes even push less developed Marxist-Leninist collectives and groups across the country to take a stand on key issues. By making line – not size, name or geography – the key factor, all groups can participate actively in the struggle to determine Canada’s path to revolution. In Struggle’s position only encourages certain anti-party, petty bourgeois small-group attitudes of individuals and groups who shy away from the discipline of a democratic-centralist organization.

So we see that it is not the League but In Struggle! which does not understand the conditions in the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada. It is In Struggle! that does not understand the role of a leading centre and how it emerges. It is In Struggle! which constantly turns the debate away from what the League advances – its ideological and political line – to questions of organizational form. It is In Struggle! that is steeped in opportunism, and not the League.

* * *

Let us continue to examine In Struggle’s erroneous understanding of the Marxist-Leninist movement by looking at their criticism of how the League has dealt with Mobilisation and Western Voice.

IV. Q. How is the League waging the struggle against opportunism in its attitude towards Mobilisation and Western Voice?

In In Struggle’s pamphlet the chapter entitled “A very strange conception of the struggle for unity” starts with the following distortion:

The League’s position on unity is easy to sum up: it is based on the two following fundamental theses. The first thesis is: the League exists and has the correct line. Second thesis: if other existing groups want to be involved in building the party, they must do a ’complete self-criticism’, and break with their former opportunism in practice... by rallying to the League. Well, we must admit, at least they make things clear. The path for building the party is already charted: it is simply a question of all Marxist-Leninists rallying the League... and all that’s left for Marxist-Leninists to do is let themselves be convinced of the correctness of the line of the League.

The first “thesis” is true. No group would deny it exists (!) or that it has the correct line to justify its existence. If you thought you didn’t have the correct line, it would be your duty to dissolve. We are sure In Struggle! thinks it exists. (!) And if it doesn’t think it has the correct line for party building, it had better stop promoting a line it thinks is incorrect.

But the second “thesis” is total fabrication, jammed with confusion and errors.

In fact, the League’s attitude towards a political group is determined solely by what type of group it is. With Marxist-Leninist groups, we call for principled struggle over line to reach unity. When beginning discussions for unity with a Marxist-Leninist group, we have never put forward the need for rallying to the League from the start. For it is only the nature of the political unity reached which can determine what form the organizational unity should take. For example, if two Marxist-Leninist groups – regardless of size – are debating and struggling for unity, and one of them eventually accepts the line of the other as correct, it rallies to that line and that organization (as was the case when Workers’ Unity rallied to the League). On the other hand, if through struggle groups reject the errors of their own lines and unite around a new, more developed line, then the groups can fuse to form a new organization (as happened with the three founding groups of the League).

Once political and ideological unity have been achieved between two groups, they can discuss the precise form of organizational unity that is most appropriate. There is nothing inherently wrong with one Marxist-Leninist group rallying to another, as In Struggle! would have us believe. It is not an “unfair” or “sectarian” method of realizing unity. Rallying is one organizational form to realize unity. But the CCL(ML) has never proposed that it is the only form and that all Marxist-Leninists should simply rally to the League. This is how we behave towards Marxist-Leninist groups.

As for consolidated opportunist groups, the situation is completely different. We call for their liquidation, for the members to dissolve those groups on a correct basis and take part actively in the Marxist-Leninist movement by working with a Marxist-Leninist organization – with the League, if they agree with our line, or with another group if they don’t.

Of course we have never suggested that conscious elements within an opportunist group should just quit the next day. On the contrary, they have the responsibility to wage an intense ideological and political struggle to completely smash the bourgeois opportunist line of a particular group.

The League feels that if a group is opportunist, and if Marxist-Leninists begin to launch a struggle against its opportunism, then the direction, aid and support of a genuine communist organization is vital for those militants to wipe out all traces of their past opportunism and participate fully in the party-building process.

It’s not a question of the League alone having magical powers to “cure” all opportunists, as In Struggle! seems to think. It’s simply that Marxism develops in the struggle against what is anti-Marxist and, similarly, you can’t defeat what is anti-Marxist unless guided by a Marxist-Leninist line. Now, militants within a thoroughly opportunist group might be able to self-criticize their past, study Marxism-Leninism, engage in practice and eventually consolidate a correct line. But this is a roundabout and unsure way of doing things when a more direct alternative exists. Much better to be aided by a Marxist-Leninist group.

This is not just the position of the “arrogant” League, as In Struggle!, playing upon English-Canadian militants’ lack of exposure to developments in Quebec, would have us believe.

For example, a group called the Agence de Presse Libre du Quebec (APLQ) – (the one subject to all the controversy in the bourgeois press a little while ago concerning a government-sanctioned police break-in) – existed for many years, putting out the same sort of “progressive” analysis as Western Voice in Vancouver.

Influenced by the rapid developments within the Marxist-Leninist movement, APLQ first tried to save face by coming out with a mild self-criticism, saying it would try to do more study to develop ”better application” of Marxism-Leninism, while continuing to publish a reduced version of their magazine. But within a few weeks, after an intense struggle over line, the majority of the members of APLQ realized you can’t go half-way in the struggle against opportunism. They completely suspended publication and asked to meet with both In Struggle! and the League to figure out how to get some leadership to continue their self-criticism.

Much to the disappointment of APLQ comrades, In Struggle! told them that their first self-criticism – which APLQ had since rejected as hopelessly opportunist – was fine and that they should just keep up the good work! The League, on the other hand, made clear its criticisms of the initial self-criticism and offered to guide the APLQ militants in the continuation of their struggle against the opportunist line that they had followed, in the preparation of a profound self-criticism and in the study of Marxism-Leninism. This is what the APLQ members decided to do.[6]

A somewhat similar development took place with some members of the ex-RCT after that opportunist group dissolved. After discussion, they decided to work under the League’s leadership to develop into Marxist-Leninists.

In fabricating this “second thesis”, then, In Struggle! only reveals its own opportunism on the unity question. For it puts all “other” groups in the same bag, refusing to distinguish who is and who is not Marxist-Leninist.

In Struggle! has completely distorted the position of the League. Throughout its pamphlet, it plays on this distortion, brushing over the different attitudes that the League adopts to Marxist-Leninist or opportunist groups in order to accuse us of “arrogance” and “sectarianism”.

The two examples over which In Struggle! makes a lot of fuss and attacks the League are Western Voice and Mobilisation. Now, as we have previously pointed out, Mobilisation and Western Voice were opportunist groups. We had no intention of proposing unity discussions with them. Rather, we called for their destruction.

Yet In Struggle! got all upset about it. In Struggle! states:

The League does not consider Western Voice and Mobilisation as groups whose activities, in the past, have been more or less dominated by opportunism, and are now, by the self-criticisms they have undertaken, in the process of becoming part of the movement, and better applying Marxist-Leninist principles. (Fight Sectarianism, pg. 30, emphasis added)

As if the destruction of opportunism meant just adding on more and more elements of Marxist-Leninist principles to your line. We’ll see what the League put forward to these two groups in a little more detail. Let’s start with Mobilisation.

The struggle against Mobilisation

As we mentioned earlier, for many years Mobilisation put forward its opportunist line, its “new theories” of continental revolution, building the party from the bottom up, etc. In Struggle! spent less time exposing its opportunism than it did trying to convince the League and others why Mobilisation even before its self-criticism should be involved in “Marxist-Leninist coalitions”. The League, instead, was somewhat less polite and attacked Mobilisation’s opportunism head on. As we said in our first article on Mobilisation:

To the extent that Mobilisation is announcing and concretizing its willingness to break with the past and engage in the struggle to apply Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions in Canada, it is our communist duty to sincerely support this... For Marxist-Leninists, this support consists first and foremost of firmly criticizing the deviations of principle which characterize this group... We are confident that the honest elements among the ranks of Mobilisation and Nouveau Noyau who seek to take part in the Canadian revolution will see that only a sincere attachment to Marxist-Leninist principles will allow them to correctly identify and correct their errors. It is in this spirit that The Forge is criticizing certain major errors... (The Forge, March 11, 1976)

Sectarian? Arrogant? A pompous doctor dispensing “cures” for his suffering “patients”. That’s the way In Struggle! would paint the scene. Fortunately, that’s not the way the Mobilisation comrades saw it!

Moreover, the great vigilance of our comrades of the CCL(ML) was a precious support in (our) movement of struggle-criticism-reform. It permitted us to avoid grave consequences for the Marxist-Leninist movement... (Mobilisation, Documents de la premiere conference, pg. 72, our translation)

Even In Struggle! has to admit that the League “had certainly been successful” in helping Mobilisation, for “hardly a month” after our first criticism, Mobilisation came out with a “most interesting and well-documented text” of self-criticism. But In Struggle! doesn’t stop to think for a moment why the League in one month was more helpful to the genuine communists of Mobilisation than all of three years of In Struggle’s cozying up to Mobilisation as a “Marxist-Leninist group” combined with calling it “opportunist” without ever taking apart its line!

We should mention that since its self-criticism Mobilisation has published two other documents: a brochure erroneously criticizing the League for continuing to refuse to consider Mobilisation as a Marxist-Leninist group, and a statement on unity where they announce their decision to dissolve and rally to the League.

What does In Struggle! say about Mobilisation’s decision to rally to the League? It says it’s wrong for two reasons. First, because the League’s “political line is largely erroneous on essential points”. In Struggle! has made progress here. Rather than worrying about the fact that we consider our line correct, they state that it is erroneous.

Now, if In Struggle! would elaborate on this, maybe we’d get somewhere. But alas, only a “further article” will give us the debate we have been awaiting for almost a year.

Second, how can Mobilisation rally to the League since Mobilisation considers itself to be Marxist-Leninist, whereas the League considers it not to be so? And, In Struggle! adds, the League is wrong because it calls for a group it considers to be opportunist to rally to its ranks.

The point is, of course, that the League has called for first the liquidation of Mobilisation and then the rallying of its militants to the League. It is not a question of rallying an opportunist group to the League but of destroying an opportunist group and rallying its members to a communist organization. We are presently engaged in discussions with Mobilisation on political line.

The League’s position on Mobilisation has always been firm. After our first criticism of the right opportunist essence of its line, we responded very favourably to Mobilisation’s self-criticism and repudiation of its past, which took up and even developed many of the criticisms originally advanced by the League. Nevertheless, we pointed out that Mobilisation’s self-criticism did not imply that its past opportunist line had been completely smashed, and that Mobilisation was still in a period of rectification and could not be considered as a Marxist-Leninist group. We pointed out that Mobilisation’s complete victory over opportunism could only be attained by its liquidation and the rallying of its members to the League.

As we have taken pains to explain above, the League has never said rallying to the League is the only way a group can be considered Marxist-Leninist, despite what In Struggle! charges in its pamphlet. Mobilisation’s case was one case where this, however, did happen to be true. Why? Because of the question of practice – one of the three essential criteria for determining whether or not a group is a genuine communist group that we referred to in the first chapter.

Mobilisation was not just any old “mixed-up” group. It was a leading centre for the opportunist movement in Quebec. It actively fought the development of the Marxist-Leninist groups. It always worked to increase its influence and prestige, developed a small-group mentality and showed little interest in principled struggle and unity.

Even after its self-criticism some of this erroneous attitude carried over. Thus, though it was clear to everyone that Mobilisation’s new political line was very close to that of the League, Mobilisation, at the end of its self-criticism, did not clearly raise the need to join the CCL(ML). It raised the possibility of creating a new Marxist-Leninist organization. The creation of such an organization with a line quite similar to that of the League would be splittist, an opportunist act – and we publicly criticized it as such. In fact, since then Mobilisation has seen, too, that:

The decision, taken by Mobilisation, to dissolve and create a Marxist-Leninist organization, went against the principle that “the correctness of the ideological and political line decides everything. (Documents de la premiere conference de Mobilisation, pg. 72, our translation)

Opportunism has not been totally defeated within Mobilisation. For despite its now announced intention to rally to the League, Mobilisation has still not entirely broken with the small-circle spirit of its past. In the case of Mobilisation, the proof of the triumph of a correct line within the group will be its liquidation in practice.

For Mobilisation, the criterion of practice means not whether they publish a good leaflet in some factory or hold study groups, but whether the group will break with its whole past and put the interests of the entire Marxist-Leninist movement first. That is to say that since they have arrived at political positions that are practically identical to those of the League, only when they have actually liquidated their group and called upon their members to rally to the League will it be possible to say that the break has been completed.

Mobilisation’s self-criticism must be put into practice – its conclusions must translate into reality. Until this occurs, until in actual fact Mobilisation is buried once and for all, how can we consider the group as Marxist-Leninist?

This is not being “sectarian” or “arrogant”, but is applying a consistent definition to the Marxist-Leninist movement and adopting a principled approach to criticism and self-criticism. As the Albanian comrades put it:

Self-criticism must also be done openly, sincerely by whoever does it, and we must not forget that self-criticism is only the beginning of the matter, that life and practice must show if this self-criticism was really sincere or if it was the same as a confession in front of a priest. (The Party of Labour of Albania, On the Edification and the Life of the Party)

It’s important to realize the particularities of the Mobilisation case. As we said in the first section of this pamphlet, in applying the criteria for determining the Marxist-Leninist movement, we must pay close attention to studying the situation and the evolution of a group.

Another group in Canada could publish similar political positions as Mobilisation recently has and apply them in practice and they could be genuine communists.

This is also why – strange as it may appear on the surface – we do not consider Mobilisation to be Marxist-Leninist despite how close some of its positions are to ours, and yet, we consider In Struggle! – despite all our differences – to be Marxist-Leninist.

You can see that our position on Mobilisation is a lot more principled than the simplistic opportunism In Struggle! tries to make it out to be.

In any case, what else does In Struggle! wish us to propose to Mobilisation? To go form a new organization? To go on as they are? The only correct thing is for Mobilisation to liquidate itself and call for its militants to rally to the League. And this in fact is the path upon which Mobilisation is engaged through discussions with the League.

The struggle against Western Voice

What about the case of the Western Voice, on the other side of the country in Vancouver?

As we’ve seen, the Voice had pushed a thoroughly opportunist line. Then, last winter, the editorial collective – composed of militants who were members of various groups and collectives in Vancouver – wanted to repudiate that line and begin a public self-criticism. Some people in the Voice were obviously quite sympathetic to In Struggle’s positions. But did In Struggle! publicly support its self-criticism, and – what is much more important – spread the lessons and weaknesses of this struggle against opportunism across Canada through its newspaper? Maybe in private In Struggle! told the Western Voice militants what a good job they thought they were doing, but the many comrades and workers in the rest of Canada certainly didn’t hear anything about it.

The League, for its part, in its paper stated that:

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 repudiation of their incorrect line. They justly criticize the completely bankrupt and economist thesis which formed the basis of agreement for W V’s publication. They denounce the ’reactionary theory of stages’... and affirm the need to conduct communist agitation and propaganda. (The Forge, June 17, 1976)

We then went on to point out weaknesses in the WVC’s self-criticism, notably the tendency to restrict right opportunism to economism and not to see the effects it has on positions on Canada, Quebec and the world.

The WVC decided to continue publishing on a “transitional” basis, notably by reprinting In Struggle’s various positions, with the goal of ”clearly defining the political tasks facing the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement” (Draft Political Resolution).

We felt this was a wrong way to go about things. The WVC, which previously had promoted what it admits to be an “economist and revisionist political line”, was composed of individuals from several Vancouver groups and collectives. Since its self-criticism its sole basis of unity was around three points: adopting Marxism-Leninism as an ideological basis of unity; agreeing that party-building was the central task; and agreeing that ”the Western Voice cannot be a Marxist-Leninist mass newspaper nor in any way a Marxist-Leninist ideological centre”.

The WV explains its tasks in the transitional stage as follows:

... its is our specific task to promote the repudiation of an opportunist line that has been dominant, not to be the agents, passive or active, of the development of a Marxist-Leninist political line, either as a collective or as a newspaper.

As we explained in The Forge, June 17,1976, since “it is impossible to combat economism in general without countering it with a correct Marxist-Leninist position”, and since the Voice – by its own admission – could not and should not develop that line, it was wrong for it to continue publishing in any form. Under similar conditions, both Mobilisation and APLQ had completely suspended publication of their magazines when they realized the depth of their opportunism and wanted to repudiate their past.

Was the WVC’s basis of unity sufficient for the collective to make decisions as to what is or is not a positive contribution to the fight against right opportunism? We think not. Even the WVC itself admitted that “a general adherence to Marxism-Leninism does not automatically provide us with a concrete Marxist-Leninist analysis, a Marxist-Leninist political line”.

On what basis, then, was it decided to reprint In Struggle’s documents? Did the WVC judge the line put forward about the principal contradiction, about women, about the Quebec national question, about the international situation to be correct? Or was this not considered relevant? Our objection, as expressed in The Forge article, was that the WVC, in carrying out its “transitional” publication, was becoming a passive, if not an active, agent in the promotion of a definite political line – despite its stated intentions to the contrary.

In Struggle!, so eager to paint the League as the worst thing to hit party building in Canada since the “CPC(ML)”, insists that there is no contradiction here and that what really bothered the League was that the WVC, instead of “rallying” to us, reprinted stuff from the “non-Marxist-Leninist” In Struggle!

In Struggle!, here, is really scraping the bottom of the slander bucket. The Forge article stated clearly that:

... printing a newspaper on the tasks of Marxist-Leninists which had 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 Marxist-Leninist movement ... in no way clarifies or contributes to the struggle to build a party. (emphasis added)

Does In Struggle! really think we’d be any less critical if the WVC decided to publish an issue, half filled with its positions and the other half with the League’s. Or three-quarters “in favour” of the League? What difference does it make?

The real issue is that WVC’s solution is simply an erroneous method to combat and repudiate right opportunism. As we wrote in The Forge:

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.

If the communists in the WVC, after studying Marxism-Lenin-ism, the concrete situation in Canada and the different positions being put forward in the movement today, decided to consolidate their repudiation of opportunism under In Struggle’s leadership, we would disagree with the choice, but never in principle with the method. But to publish this “transitional” Western Voice without a clear line, but taking positions on all sorts of questions – this is not to oppose opportunism but to resort to it!!!

* * *

If we look at the cold, hard facts – and not the hysterical imagination of In Struggle’s polemicists – the League definitely does not say that “all Marxist-Leninists” in Canada have bankrupt lines and should rally to us. What we did say to those within consolidated opportunist groups was that they should liquidate these rotten opportunist groups and that they needed a Marxist-Leninist line to guide them in their self-criticisms and rectifications.

With genuine communist groups, such as In Struggle!, we maintain our position about the need for principled, comradely struggle around key questions of ideological and political line.

All of this, of course, is a far cry from In Struggle’s lies about the “two fundamental theses” which underlie our line on unity.

* * *

As we stated earlier there are two points which underlie the differences between the League and In Struggle! on the question of unity: the understanding of the Marxist-Leninist movement, and the central role of ideological and political line in the struggle for unity. In the last three sections we have examined the first point. Now let us proceed to the second.

Q. V. Does In Struggle! really struggle over ideological and political line?

It is true that in their pamphlet In Struggle! states that “the struggle for unity is inseparable from the struggle of line, from the struggle for a correct application of Marxism-Leninism to the proletarian revolution in Canada”. But, as the comrades from In Struggle! themselves point out, “Communists are judged by their acts and by the results of their activities, not only by their declarations” (pg. 11). And In Struggle’s acts speak a lot louder of its opportunism than its words.

The fact is that since its creation In Struggle! has tried to hawk all kinds of schemes, plans, projects and ways to make “unity” – everything was tried except principled struggle over line. That is what has been constant in In Struggle’s position on unity – despite various phases and changes, despite the different forms in which their line has been exposed. In an early period from its origins in 1972 to its December 1974 manifesto, In Struggle! set up and published its paper and solicited the cooperation of other groups in its distribution without a clear political line. Its schemes for unity at that time included the “Comite ad hoc”, “Project A”, and even the CSLO. A second period from December 1974 until last fall was characterized by a lot of noise about “demarcation” and “ideological struggle”, but little serious attempts to unite with existing Quebec groups except through secret, unannounced, unprincipled absorption. In the third and current period. In Struggled line has taken a liberal form of shying away from struggle, accusing the League of “sharpening contradictions” among communists, and refusing to debate and develop line.

Despite all the varied forms and colours it has taken, In Struggle!’s line on unity has fundamentally remained faithful to its opportunist essence of abandoning the struggle over ideological and political line. Facts are stubborn little things. As much as In Struggle! may rely on English-Canadian militants’ lack of familiarity with developments in Quebec – many groups and collectives active in Quebec can testify to some of the distortions in In Struggle’s fanciful history of the movement – it can’t escape reality.

Let’s take a look at the history of the struggle for unity among Canadian Marxist-Leninists and see just who is “taking dangerous liberties” with the facts, the history of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement, particularly in Quebec, just who is displaying the “greatest faithfulness to facts ... the greatest intellectual rigour”.[7]

In Struggle’s 1st position: unity without line

When the In Struggle! newspaper was set up in 1972, says In Struggle!, its line was “sufficiently clear for several groups to work with us – including MREQ which participated on the paper for 8 months, but then left without any clear explanation”.

Sounds credible, doesn’t it? Except when you realize that “8 months” meant one pre-publication issue in May and one issue in September. That in the production of those two issues, enough political disagreement arose to convince MREQ that there was no clear basis for people to cooperate on the paper. MREQ then withdrew from participation in In Struggle!. Obviously, MREQ realized that it was an error to have participated in the project from the beginning.

When MREQ left, things were not explained as well as they could be today – but the three basic reasons for MREQ’s withdrawal were nevertheless clear. Some months later a further meeting was held to explain to In Struggle! the nature of the differences. Yet still, it seems, In Struggle! has not gotten them clear. So we’ll repeat them here:

– MREQ insisted that the socialist revolution must be Canada-wide, and that the principal contradiction was between the Canadian bourgeoisie and the Canadian proletariat. In Struggle! back then advocated a “Quebec national liberation” line, though it never fully elaborated this.
– MREQ did not agree with In Struggle’s ultra-“leftist” stand on the trade unions, which saw them as totally integrated into the bourgeois state apparatus and purely tools of the bourgeoisie. On this basis, In Struggle! rejected work in the trade unions.
– MREQ maintained that it was impossible for its three members to participate in two democratic-centralist organizations at the same time. In Struggle!, which was then trying to consolidate the loose way it had gathered people around it and was calling for democratic centralism to be set up on the paper, insisted the contrary!

These, comrades of In Struggle!, are facts.

In Struggle!, in its defence, also says that, yes its original line had ”errors” and ”lack of clarity”, but compared to the general confusion at the time, it wasn’t bad.

No one is asking that In Struggle! back in 1972-73 should have had a line on all the things we’re now debating, when the movement has progressed immensely. But surely one can see the pitfalls when a group exists for two years before it produces – in its December 1974 document Create the Marxist-Leninist Organization of Struggle for the Party – it first major line text. During the interval, In Struggle! could not help but attract people on an unclear fuzzy basis, on simply “wanting to distribute the paper”. Thus, it was during this period, in fact, that In Struggle! promoted a whole series of opportunist schemes for unity, such as the “Comite ad hoc” and “Project A”.

In its pamphlet Fight Sectarianism In Struggle! uses two basic techniques to whitewash these doomed schemes for unity. First, it downgrades their seriousness, writing it off to “lack of clarity” and some confusion over political repression. Then, it cleans itself of any guilt by pretending that it did a wonderfully frank self-criticism in its December 1974 document.

Here’s how In Struggle! paints the picture (pages 40-41): In the fall of 1973, it got together “different progressive organizations” in a “Comite ad hoc” to study its documents for the building of a revolutionary workers’ party and to “analyze the practice of the different groups in the light of the goal of the struggle for the party”. But, because of a “lack of clear and firm political direction”, the plan was “a failure”, and the groups scuttled the project “after a collective self-criticism”.

But this criticism, In Struggle! continues, was not pushed to the end, the reasons for its failure were not “clearly identified” and so the In Struggle! direction, in putting forward Project A “...were only trying to put the Comite ad hoc back on its feet...under a new guise”. The “Association” had the role of allowing the original members of the CAH “to prepare a draft programme for the setting up of an organization”. It worked completely secretly “in order to fight repression” and this “same erroneous attitude towards repression” led the In Struggle! leadership to ask the “Association” members not to tell even the members of their own groups about the project.

The “Association”, though, met only twice, to create itself and dissolve itself. For, as luck would have it, “between the setting up of the project in June ’74 and its abandonment in the beginning of October”, In Struggle’s line developed such that “by September the erroneous character of both Project Association and the Comite ad hoc was a definite lesson within the In Struggle! group” which was committed from then on to a systematic criticism of its past positions on building a Marxist-Leninist organization. And that was the end of that:

It is in Creons l’organisation marxiste-leniniste de lutte pour le parti (December 1974) that In Struggle!’s self-criticism clearly states its conception of the organisation and the means to build it. This document represents a major step in In Struggle! ’s breaking with the spontaneous errors which until then had deeply marked the group and had compromised its efforts in the struggle to build a genuine organization. (Fight Sectarianism, pg. 40)

The problem is that this is just a story – there was no self-criticism whatsoever of these two projects in their December 1974 text. And the supposed self-criticism in their most recent text is nowhere near sufficient.

Just like In Struggle! blurs distinctions when it says groups with consolidated opportunist lines can change by developing a “better application” of Marxism-Leninism, so too does it write off its own opportunist errors as a simple “lack of clarity”. The harshest self-criticism it makes is for “spontaneity”. But this almost comes off as a little over-eagerness to make unity, a product of youthful exuberance. What In Struggle! never does is admit that at the heart of spontaneity, as Lenin noted in What Is To Be Done?, lies opportunism – in this case, right opportunism. Can you find the word “opportunism” mentioned even once in In Struggle’s belaboured “self-criticism” of its past little projects?

The problem with the “Comite ad hoc” was not merely a lack of “clear” direction. The very idea of regrouping organizations – community groups, loose political formations, and a handful of groups that considered themselves communists – the majority of whom had no political line, let alone a developed one, to debate a document never widely distributed publicly, is opportunist.

In Struggle’s next go at it – Project Association, A, or anything else you want to call it – was even more opportunist. It’s not simply a question of a bad line on police repression, as In Struggle! tries to present it so as to prettify its opportunism. Much as it may try to squirm its way out of it, In Struggle! cannot deny that its ”project” was an attempt to secretly form a ”Marxist-Leninist organization” by uniting the leadership of various groups – unknown to the membership of these groups! Now security is one thing, but you don’t keep the creation of an organization by merging with other groups a secret from your own members.

Instead of publicly struggling over line to reach unity with genuine communists, In Struggle! discusses a text it never made public to some groups, and then invites the same crowd to create by conspiratorial means a new Marxist-Leninist organization!

These criticisms were all made by the COR, which originally took part in both opportunist schemes. They were made both directly to In Struggle! comrades when the errors occurred and in the self-criticism that the COR published last fall.

The most shameful, if not downright disgusting, move by In Struggle!, though, is when it tries to make English-Canadian comrades believe that it had accounted for and repudiated all these errors (errors of ”lack of clarity” only, of course). In its December 1974 document[8], you really do have to “look for” the self-criticism of Project A in this text, for it is nowhere to be found. Project A is not even mentioned. And the Comite ad hoc is not criticized, but presented in a positive light, as a “significant factor” in developing line and unity, along with other projects of “common practice and debates” like the CSLO! (pg. 19)

Just as in the latest unity pamphlet, there is no criticism in the December document of the fact that these attempts at unity were opportunist because they avoided struggle over line. In fact, the only criticism made in the December 1974 document was that In Struggle! paid too much attention to “common practice and general debates over political line” as a method of unity (notice how the two are equated, as if they were both equally correct as means for unity and as if In Struggle! ever carried out the second) ... and not enough to talking about uniting organizationally into a Marxist-Leninist organization! (pg. 19)

In Struggle’s 2nd position: “demarcation” or absorption of other groups

In Struggle’s failure to make a complete, open break with its past opportunism on the unity question – it took two years, until July 1976, for it even to acknowledge Project A – has had serious consequences. Its December 1974 document did contain references to a principled path to unity– notably, the need to unite around line, to resolve contradictions among Marxist-Leninists in a non-antagonistic way using the method of “unity-criticism-unity”. But, because In Struggle! did not uproot the foundations of its errors, it could not correctly apply these principles in practice.

Just look at what happened in the year that followed the publication of its December 1974 text and the calls for unity put out by the CMO, COR and MREQ. The publication of these documents marked the beginning of a new, more mature stage in the development of the Marxist-Leninist movement. Key questions of the revolution – the international situation, the principal and secondary contradictions, the tasks and unity of Marxist-Leninists – came to the fore for the first time in a comprehensive way. Regardless of what errors In Struggle! had made in the early period of the movement, here was a turning point, a chance to ensure that the struggle for the party was put onto the right track.

But In Struggle! got off on the wrong foot by not making a clean break with its past errors, as we’ve seen. The same old opportunist line on unity was now cloaked in a new cover – “demarcation”: For months, In Struggle! filled the pages of its paper screaming for ”demarcation” between the bourgeois line and the proletarian line within the Marxist-Leninist movement. Yet behind all the noise, there was very little demarcation and struggle on questions of ideological and political line.

In Struggle!, for example, continued its old policy of getting as many groups as possible to distribute its paper without a clear basis of unity.

Even to this day, In Struggle! apparently doesn’t understand why political unity must come first. The reason CMO militants for example refused to distribute In Struggle’s paper was not – as In Struggle! claims – because they were so horribly economist they didn’t want the workers to be “confused” by communist ideas. It was because, as they explained at the time, they disagreed with In Struggle! over several questions of line and did not want to distribute a paper they were not in total agreement with.

During 1975, too, MREQ spent many fruitless months trying to debate with In Struggle! for unity. In Struggle! constantly delayed meetings, brought up endless structural proposals, complained about “too much theory” being discussed, and, in the final analysis, just plain refused to debate key questions of line. A detailed, lengthy sum-up of this experience was published by MREQ – including excerpts from letters exchanged between the two groups – in September, 1975. Further criticisms were made in the Statement of Political Agreement. Yet, incredible as it may sound, In Struggle! never responded at all to these criticisms. Maybe it just hoped they would go away if ignored for a long time. But what greater proof that you care little for principled unity, when a group publishes its critical sum-up of a struggle for unity with you ... and you don’t say a thing! And what greater hypocrisy than to remain silent on all these criticisms for a year, to fail to struggle last fall when militants throughout Quebec were asking why MREQ, CMO and COR had failed to make unity with In Struggle!, and then ... a year later, to blame it all on the founding groups of the League for their “sectarianism and dogmatism”? Not a single shred of evidence in this year-late rebuttal is given for this accusation about the founding groups, and In Struggle! tries to paint itself lily-white by saying that after all, it was the one to call the first meeting with MREQ! So just who is trying to keep the facts about the history of the revolutionary movement in Quebec under the rug?

During the summer of 1975, In Struggle! did absorb several smaller Quebec groups (like CIME, Theatre de la Shop, CAP St. Laurent). Only demarcation was lost in the shuffle. Not a single one of these groups had ever produced a public political line text. And their joining In Struggle! was never made public, never explained for all of us to benefit from along with a self-criticism of their past errors and an explanation of why they had chosen In Struggle’s line. They all just sort of disappeared over the summer. (This backroom “unity” was finally acknowledged almost a year later, in the April 29 In Struggle! call for unity ... Even then, all that was said was that several Quebec groups had rallied to In Struggle! and that a full account of this would be forthcoming... “in the coming months”!!! It’s November now, and we’re still waiting....)[9]

The theoretical justification for all this seems to have been In Struggle’s “theory” of democratic centralism “to be applied as the Marxist-Leninist method to arrive at unity”. In 1975 In Struggle! stood openly opposed to all Marxist-Leninists taking a stand on the burning issues of the day, regardless of the size of their collectives or groups. In its series of articles on the tasks of Canadian communists, (reprinted in Canadian Revolution) it talked about the need for:

...democratic centralism to be applied as the Marxist-Leninist method to arrive at unity. In the course of this struggle, all groups must participate. Is this to say that we must wait until each group has produced its line before the correct line is rallied to? To reply in the affirmative to this question verges on seeing the creation of the organization as a kind of consultative commission where “memoirs are handed out and where a choice is made to determine what is right and what is wrong in each of the texts... we hold that this is an idealist conception and we are opposed to it.

Democratic centralism is the scientific method of organization for structures, of a Marxist-Leninist party or organization, or state and mass organizations under socialism, that are united by one political line. It is based on political unity, not a method for separate groups to realize political unity. In practice of course, what applying “democratic centralism... as the Marxist-Leninist method to arrive at unity” meant for In Struggle! was that “small” groups should not bother producing a line, but should rally to the “correct line” of a “bigger group”! On what basis these groups without a line were supposed to judge which “correct” line to rally to, well...

In Struggle’s 3rd position: “Fight sectarianism” or unprincipled unity

The third, and so far the latest phase of In Struggle’s opportunism on the question of unity coincided more or less with the creation of the League in the fall of 1975. From then on, increasingly up until today, In Struggle! has downplayed ”demarcation” and “ideological struggle” and has promoted a liberal line on unity through compromise and conciliation.

No open struggle over line

When the League was created around a line which on many points took on In Struggle’s views head on, not even a peep was to be heard from In Struggle!. For months, In Struggle! remained silent.

The League, in its paper The Forge and in a pamphlet, made direct criticisms of In Struggle’s line on the international situation and the principal contradiction, with the hope of clarifying our differences and moving towards resolving them. But, again, only silence. Since the few paragraphs in its December 1974 text, In Struggle! has not put forward a single sentence in defence of its stand on the principal contradiction – it has been almost two years now!!! Nor did it ever attempt to criticize the League’s political line until almost one year after our creation, this September when it published two articles in its newspaper! But these articles did not, much to our disappointment, even mention or defend In Struggle’s position on the principal contradiction! (You really have to wonder whether In Struggle! really believes the principal contradiction is called “principal” just for the fun of it. It certainly treats it that way.)

As well, incredible as it may sound, In Struggle! to date has not even formulated any contradiction between US imperialism and the entire Canadian people (as distinct from the proletariat). And it has yet to clearly formulate the menace of Soviet social-imperialism to the Canadian people. Is it any surprise, then, that in its pamphlet on unity, In Struggle! betrays a profound dislike – and misunderstanding– of ideological struggle?

What can we conclude except that In Struggle! obviously does not place very much priority on developing a correct strategic line, let alone uniting around one? Why the constant postponing of debate that must come if communists around the country are going to reach any kind of unity. A communist group in northern Quebec, the Groupe Abitibi-Temiscamingue (marxiste-leniniste) was told for months by In Struggle! comrades that its position on the principal contradiction was being “developed, elaborated”, that they shouldn’t be too quick in siding with the League before they heard In Struggle’s arguments. Well, the comrades in Abitibi soon realized they were just being led on by In Struggle!. As they expressed their dismay in a statement:

Among the external causes which favoured the maintenance and development of our deviations, the most important was the confusion of In Struggle’s political positions. In order to establish whether or not we were really in disagreement with In Struggle’s positions, we first had to be acquainted with the group’s positions; but that wasn’t an easy task.

No doubt this is how many groups and collectives across Canada are beginning to feel.

It does get a little hard on one’s patience. After all, on April 29 – six months after the League was created – In Struggle! wrote in its paper backhandedly that “the characteristic of the program of the CCL(ML)” is “theoretical principles cut off from a true concrete analysis”. The League’s program may be preliminary but it is certainly not abstract.

All we can get from In Struggle!, in that same article, is a promise that “in the coming months In Struggle! will let be known analysis of the principal errors of the CCL(ML)”. That was April. In July, In Struggle! put out a pamphlet on unity in which not a single criticism of the League’s strategic line is made. But again, we are graciously informed that

The struggle to demarcate within the Marxist-Leninist movement cannot be carried out in one day. We will take the opportunity in the coming months to indicate our disagreement with the League on certain major points in their line. (pg. 13)

Struggle over line cannot be waged in one day, but it does have to start one day! Not “in the coming months” ... and we believe it should come before criticism of “sectarianism” and “dogmatism” are thrown about carelessly.

In Struggle’s pamphlet on unity, in fact, betrays a misunderstanding and dislike of ideological and political struggle. On the one hand. In Struggle! says:

That the League clearly expresses its disagreements with In Struggle! and does not hesitate in using all forms of criticisms and polemic to put forward its positions, is not something we reproach it for. (pg. 34)

But on the other hand, it gets all upset when, in those very same polemics In Struggle! claims to appreciate (though never respond to), we challenge the ideological roots of In Struggle’s line. On the principal contradiction, for example, we feel that behind its analysis of an alliance of US imperialism and the Canadian bourgeoisie opposing the Canadian proletariat, there is a fundamental confusion on the Marxist notion of imperialism and the state. But In Struggle! is outraged that we would challenge its understanding of Marxist-Leninist principles (p. 34). Criticize us for our “application” of these principles, In Struggle! says, but don’t accuse us of not understanding them! This is sheer liberalism. Is it wrong to try to go the heart of an error? In Struggle! goes so far as to say that, despite all its criticisms of our stand on unity, it still believes that the League “manifests a great concern for basing itself on principles” and that it’s just our application of these principles which is flawed. How In Struggle! can believe the League can commit all the hideous crimes it is accused of and still show a “great concern” for principles is beyond our comprehension. This only shows that In Struggle! understands little about how ideological line is related to political line. It shows that In Struggle! does not understand this basic teaching of Mao Tsetung:

We are for active ideological struggle because it is a weapon for ensuring unity within the Party... Every Communist and revolutionary should take up this weapon. (Combat Liberalism)

In Struggle!’s reluctance to get involved in debate over ideological and political line has necessarily – what else could one expect? – led to opportunist unity. For if you don’t have a clear line to start with, and if you don’t defend it or answer criticisms of it and even scorn attempts to point out ideological errors then on what basis do you try to rally people?

What better proof of the dangers of In Struggle!’s lack of clarity than its work in English Canada? In Struggle’s only major line document has not even been translated completely into English, and you get groups like May First Collective in Vancouver falling head over heels for the line of In Struggle!. Just where May First’s eagerness led them could be seen by the fact that by the time May First got around to slamming the League for not “demarcating” enough, In Struggle! had long since dropped that tune. Surely, any honest militant in Canada notices that, in Vancouver, May First hits the League for being liberal, wishy-washy and afraid of struggle in the fight for unity; and in Montreal, its mentor, In Struggle!, criticizes us for exactly the opposite thing – being too harsh, sectarian and critical![10]

In Toronto, the Bolshevik Tendency originally worked on Canadian Revolution along with the Toronto Communist Group and Workers’ Unity. The Bolshevik Tendency and the TCG both insisted that In Struggle! was the “leading centre”, but mutually disagreed on almost everything else.

While we’re on the subject of the TCG, by the way, it provides an excellent example of the kind of backroom secret unity In Struggle! is so fond of criticizing and so equally fond of practising.

The TCG never produced a clear statement of its political line, except for a brief statement of unity which did not take a stand on key issues like the principal contradiction. Yet, incessantly over the last year the TCG moved closer and closer to In Struggle’s position. How, on what basis, with what they agreed and disagreed, we still did not know. For TCG did not have a clear statement of line and In Struggle! was not exactly a stickler for clarity, either. Then, in the April 29 issue of its paper, In Struggle! informed us that it had “rallied” a group from Ontario, and at its May Day rally, a spokesman from TCG made a speech.

Of course, the League assumed that the TCG had joined In Struggle!. We were critical that this was done completely in secret. For example, when Workers’ Unity rallied to the League, we produced an account of the struggle that went on to share the lessons we learned and to allow WU to criticize itself for its errors. The rallying of TCG to In Struggle! was a significant enough event for the groups to reproduce a similar sum-up – if they were principled.

But, much to our surprise, not only was no such document produced, but the TCG in Toronto insisted that they were not members of In Struggle! and that the announcement of a group “rallying” to In Struggle! did not necessarily mean joining, etc. It was on the basis of this fact that the League, in announcing unity with WU, said that this represented a “first” in Marxist-Leninist unity. Needless to say, we – and many independent militants in Toronto – were disappointed in the TCG/In Struggle! display of confusion.

Security is one thing – you don’t have to give the names and addresses of every new member of In Struggle! – but when an English-Canadian group known in the rest of the country “rallies” to a major Marxist-Leninist formation, you’d except some public statement!

Some time later, (July ’76 – almost three months) a representative of the TCG on the Canadian Revolution editorial board told a League member that, after all, TCG had joined In Struggle!, that there were reasons for keeping it secret and that a public self-criticism would be forthcoming shortly.

For In Struggle!, in its pamphlet Fight Sectarianism..., to criticize the League for claiming to be the first organization to unite communists of both nations is thus the lowest form of opportunism. With In Struggle! not having announced on what basis or with whom such “unity” was made – and with TCG fervently denying that it had rallied to In Struggle! and that there was some confusion in the text of the In Struggle! article – what did In Struggle! expect us to do? Say we were second, maybe, depending if TCG and In Struggle! could make up their minds about who rallied when and why and with whom?

The League publicly criticized In Struggle’s unprincipled and erroneous attitude towards the rallying of the TCG and other groups in The Forge no. 17 of September 9. Finally on September 30 of this year, 5 months after the whole affair started, In Struggle! announced in its newspaper it had rallied TCG and began to self-criticize for having waited so long. The upshot of this entire sad affair, though, should prove beyond a shadow of a doubt how serious In Struggle’s opportunism on the question of unity can be.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the only expression of In Struggle’s “unity-at-all-costs” line this past year. For a while, groups in English Canada sympathetic to In Struggle! were pushing a line which argued that right now unity on strategic questions was not needed. All we needed, they said, was to unite on a tactical line for party-building, on what our tasks in the first stage are. This line is totally erroneous. You can’t very well unite on tasks for a party unless you agree what that party should fight for in the first place, what the nature and the path of the revolution is supposed to be!

Unity through common practice

Then, for a few months last winter and early spring, In Struggle! in Quebec was promoting a line of unity through common practice; notable examples were International Women’s Day (IWD) and the March 22 demonstration in Ottawa.

There is nothing wrong in principle with common practice between communist groups, providing: 1) that it is completely subordinated to a correctly waged struggle over ideological and political line, which is the principal way to fight for unity; and 2) that it complements that struggle over line by assuring tactical unity is made for a particular action around a clear political line produced through principled struggle.

For example, if In Struggle! and the League had been engaged in a principled, open struggle over line, and if one group approached the other to unite in a particular mass action, such a move could be beneficial to making unity, especially if through struggling around the tactical line to put forward, the groups reach closer unity.

Unfortunately, In Struggle! had not then even begun to engage in serious polemics. It hadn’t even publicly acknowledged the League’s existence, let alone criticized its line or responded to our criticisms of its line. Then, suddenly, it approached the League to create “a Marxist-Leninist coalition” for International Women’s Day.

We declined and explained why in a letter to In Struggle!: the formation of “a Marxist-Leninist coalition” with some groups such as Mobilisation, which were not communist, would only lend credibility to opportunists; In Struggle! submitted no platform as the basis of this unity, referring only to the need to fight reformism and feminism; and because we felt communists should organize IWD independently, instead of with reformist trade union leaders.

Only when In Struggle! began circulating rumours about the League being so “sectarian” it wouldn’t unite with anyone who didn’t agree with its stand on the principal contradiction were we forced to print In Struggle’s proposal to the League and thus reluctantly get involved in a polemic on this question. (See The Forge, no. 5 and 6) Three days before IWD, In Struggle! printed a hysterical response to the League. A notable feature of that polemic was its criticism of the League for saying that In Struggle! did not put forward a clear basis for unity of action around IWD. In its defence, In Struggle! presented its platform. But it neglected to say that this was – three days before IWD – the first time that platform had been published. The first time it had been made known to the League or other militants!

When the March 22 demonstration in Ottawa came around, In Struggle! – again pushing its “everyone-can-join-who-wants-to” line on the Marxist-Leninist movement – called for another “Marxist-Leninist coalition”. This time, however, In Struggle! at least submitted a proposition for a platform for the event with their letter to the League. The League agreed with the value of a common action in this event, but raised the same objections to the notion of a “Marxist-Leninist coalition” as before. In the end, the united contingent was termed “a regroupment of Marxist-Leninist, political and community groups on a Marxist-Leninist platform” – which satisfied no one and avoided the real issues in the debate.

But, even more distressing, the platform for the action was adopted with little or no struggle around line. In Struggle! raised few objections to aspects of tactical line which the League had been promoting and In Struggle! disagreed, for example, with the slogan “Prepare the General Strike”. So the leaflet published reflected much more the League’s line than In Struggle’s – but this didn’t mean that any successful struggle over line had been waged. In Struggle! had in fact compromised on these points “in the interests of unity”.

The contingent in Ottawa was a qualified success. But, because the unity reached had been more for show than through intense struggle, it was not very long-lasting. That’s why we’re a bit dubious about In Struggle’s reference to the need to rekindle “the spirit of March 22”. In Struggle!, August 19, 1976.)

In preparation for May Day, the League this time approached In Struggle! to discuss the possibility of co-ordinating our different contingents with common slogans. In Struggle! rejected the idea immediately, saying only that they were conducting a “sum-up” of previous attempts at common practice.

This, then, is the real story behind the struggles over common practice this past year. Did, in fact, the League constantly create obstacles to the unity of communists and progressives in common activities, as In Struggle! claims in its pamphlet? No.

The League rejected one proposition for common practice with In Struggle!. We accepted to collaborate in one case and, in the last, it was In Struggle! that refused co-operation. The facts speak for themselves. In Struggle’s attacks against the League on this point are simply demagogy.

In Struggle! raised the cry of common practice constantly during the spring of 1976. Of course, they said from time to time that common practice was not the principal means of struggling for unity. But since they did nothing else in fact, it was the principal method that In Struggle! proposed.

Common practice by itself can very easily lead either to the formation of unprincipled unity and the abandonment of ideological struggle, or to the embitterment of the relations between communist groups – since there is no way to get to the basis of the divergences that are causing different approaches to immediate practical problems.

Just look at the examples of common practice that have occurred over the past few years: the Comite ad hoc, the CSLO, In Struggle’s women’s day event, the March 22 demonstration in Ottawa and so on. While some of these were quite successful in themselves, no one could argue that they have contributed significantly to advancing the cause of communist unity.

There is another aspect. Common practice can also serve to mask, and downplay, the seriousness of differences that separate two communist groups. We can’t simply attack some of the effects of disunity among communists (several different meetings, newspapers, leaflets, etc.) when we neglect to attack seriously the cause of this disunity (differences of ideological and political line). That is to say, we must first of all develop the ideological struggle.

It is for these reasons that the League frankly admits that we are in general reticent to get involved in common practical activities with other Marxist-Leninists groups, as long as the ideological struggle has not been seriously taken up.

The whole theme of common practice has afforded In Struggle! an excellent opportunity to talk endlessly about unity, and in fact make absolutely no attempts to solve the basic problems that are preventing unity.

This does not mean that even at this time we reject all common practice. Under certain circumstances, for example, the struggle against repression and other events which are of crucial importance to the Marxist-Leninist movement, we will seriously examine this possibility. However it does mean that, until there is serious ideological and political struggle, the CCL(ML) has absolutely no intention of getting involved in an endless series of “Marxist-Leninist coalitions”, “regroupments on a Marxist-Leninist platform” and other such affairs which simply confuse the masses, and give them a false impression of the degree of unity that exists within the Marxist-Leninist movement on the one hand and cause a false sense of satisfaction and encourage the abandonment of the ideological struggle within the Marxist-Leninist movement on the other.

Earlier, we said that two conditions must be united for common practice to be correct. Presently, we see no reason to further proposals for common practice from In Struggle! until these conditions are fulfilled. Until In Struggle! takes up the ideological struggle on the key questions of political line, until In Struggle! seriously undertakes the struggle for unity, common practice between our two groups can lead nowhere. It can only provide an excuse to avoid the struggle over line.

If In Struggle! wants to intensify the struggle for unity, then they should take up the struggle over line. The serious undertaking of this task will provide far more fruitful results than a few common events. It will provide the possibility of eliminating our differences and achieving a real unity of line – the precondition to organizational unity.

In Struggle’s “lessons” from history

During this third period of In Struggle’s line on unity, it has done some amazing theoretical gymnastics to justify its positions. We have already mentioned the sudden disappearance of the ”demarcation” slogan from their newspaper and the switch to frantic calls for common practice.

A further point constitutes such a blatant deformation of Marxism-Leninism, that it demands comment. These are the “lessons” that In Struggle! tries to draw from the history of the international communist movement.

To take one example, in Fight Sectarianism In Struggle! states:

The Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement must, in this regard, learn from the great revolutionary parties of history, the Party of the October Revolution in Russia, the Chinese Communist Party, the Labour Party of Albania... All these parties experienced, in their early years, a more or less long period when important divergences on basic questions for the future of the revolution existed in their midst. If the communists of these countries had applied ’sectarian logic’ they would have destroyed their parties many times ... if they had ever managed in actually setting them up! (pg. 8-9)

What a deformation of history!

In Struggle! presents the question as if a whole group of confused people sat down, formed the party and then discussed their differences later. If this were the truth, the Chinese Communist Party would have been an opportunist party and not a communist party.

In fact, contrary to In Struggle’s version of history, the Chinese Communist Party was formed on the basis of a correct Marxist-Leninist line and only after an intensive period of ideological struggle.

There were originally six different communist groups in China that united to form the party. Before its creation, the Chinese communists led several important struggles to defeat opportunism. The various workers’ newspapers that were established after 1919 were an important weapon in the hands of the revolutionary intellectuals. First, a battle was waged to defend Marxism and to show the need to apply it to China. Next, they established the necessity of following the path of the October Socialist Revolution in Russia, the need for armed struggle to overthrow the reactionary regime. The reformists were severely criticized. And third, the communists had to fight the anarchists who had infiltrated into the various communist groups. The genuine Marxist-Leninists defended the need for a revolutionary party to guide the proletariat in its revolutionary struggle.

During this period the Hunan group, under the leadership of Mao Tsetung, played a leading role. When the representatives of the different communist groups met secretly in Shanghai in 1921, it was on the basis of the struggle that had gone before. They founded the Chinese Communist Party around a correct Marxist-Leninist line.

All this is nothing to In Struggle!. To them, the Chinese Communist Party was lost in the forest for years. True, the full line of the party for the national democratic revolution was not completely elaborated for years, but the basic orientation was correct – except during a period when opportunists usurped the direction of the party.

For In Struggle! to present the Chinese Communist Party in this light in the present period when the ideological struggle among Marxist-Leninists is the key to realizing their unity, is opportunism of the lowest kind. What lesson should we draw from the Chinese Communist Party? According to In Struggle!, that we can unite on any basis, of course. They practically even say this themselves:

... keeping in mind the lessons of the international communist movement, that is to say understanding that if, before we create the party, if before we create the organisation, we wait until all the contradictions within the movement are solved we might be putting off the creation of the party into the far distant future and thereby might be acting as the agents of slowing down the movement, of postponing until later the intensification of the class struggle... (Speech by In Struggle! representative on May Day, In Struggle!, July 22, 1976, pg. 11)

In itself this statement is not wrong; in the historical context, however, it is erroneous. The League has stated that to found the party we need to elaborate its line and program. In Struggle! has never expressed disagreement with this. We say that as a principled basis of unity for a Marxist-Leninist organization in Canada today we need a clear line on certain key questions of line. In Struggle! has never clearly stated on what they don’t think that unity is necessary. Who are these people who wish to “solve everything before reaching unity”, before creating the party, that In Struggle! is warning us of? Why don’t they tell us so that we can beware of the danger, too?

This is difficult for them to do. Presently, the problem is not militants desiring to discuss everything before uniting. The problem is to develop the ideological struggle within the Marxist-Leninist movement and thus seriously undertake the fight for unity. Warning against wanting to agree on every point at a time when what’s needed is to begin discussion and struggle on the main questions can lead to serious errors.

In Struggle! attacks the League for refusing to uphold party spirit. In fact, it is In Struggle! that does not have party spirit – they refuse to carry out the relentless struggle against opportunists.

Look at the lesson that Stalin drew from the history of the CPSU(B):

The theory that says that we can deal with opportunist elements through ideological struggle within the party, that we must overcome these elements within a single party is a rotten and dangerous theory that threatens to doom the party to paralysis and chronic disease: it threatens to throw the party into the arms of opportunism. The road to the development and strengthening of the proletarian parties must include their purification of opportunists and reformists. The party is strengthened by ridding itself of opportunist elements. (Foundations of Leninism, p. 116, Peking Edition.)

Communist parties, comrades from In Struggle!, strengthen themselves by leading the struggle to differentiate the correct line from the wrong line, to correct those honest revolutionaries who have temporarily made mistakes, and to purge without mercy incorrigible opportunists.

Communist parties are set up by means of a determined struggle against opportunism both inside and outside of the communist movement, and not by hiding differences under the table or by including in the party incorrigible opportunists.

These are the lessons that we must draw from the great revolutionary parties of history, and not a would-be “logic of sectarianism” to be avoided at all costs.

In Struggle! can, of course, draw any “lessons” it likes from history. The trouble is In Struggle! then went on to apply these “lessons”.

In Struggle’s congress for unity

The next scheme In Struggle! tried for unity was its “project” for a congress to be called on the basis of a minimal political line. This idea was put forward in a text distributed to some groups in Quebec, which read in part:

Schematically, things could happen in the following way: after a period of debate on the platform for unity, all those who rally to it are admitted to the founding congress of the organization. On this occasion, a proposal for a programme is presented on which the delegates are called upon to pronounce themselves.

The programme, democratically adopted during the congress, will be that of the organization and all members will be held to respect it. Applying democratic centralism, the new organization would take in hand the struggle for the party; it would elaborate a programme and statutes for the party and, at the opportune moment, would convoke the founding congress for the party. (The Forge, August 26, 1976.)

A congress is one organizational form which can be used to reach unity, depending on the conditions prevailing in a country, just like unity between major Marxist-Leninist organizations, rallying to a leading centre, etc., are other viable forms. What is key, though, is that whatever the form, the content – debate and struggle over ideological and political line – must be the same.

For example, in the case of a congress, Lenin in his time opposed opportunist attempts to reach unity among Russian communists by prematurely calling a congress before the major questions of political line had been settled:

How to begin the building of a united party of the working class was a question on which opinions differed. Some thought that the building of the Party should be begun by summoning the Second Congress of the Party, which would unite the local organizations and create the Party. Lenin was opposed to this. He held that before convening a congress, it was necessary to make the aims and objects of the Party clear, to ascertain what sort of party was wanted, to effect an ideological demarcation from the “Economists”, to tell the Party honestly and frankly that there existed two different opinions regarding the aims and objects of the Party– the opinion of the ”Economists” and the opinion of the revolutionary Social-Democrats. (History of the CPSU(B), p. 27.)

Only when such a debate over line has developed to a certain stage can we be sure that not just anybody who’s mouthing support of Marxism-Leninism comes to a congress and “unites” with us.

But In Struggle’s original proposal sidesteps these crucial political principles. Presumably, if one were genuinely interested in a “period of debate on a platform of unity”, one would include in that platform stands on current issues of controversy – the principal contradiction, the inevitability of war, the Quebec national question, etc. Instead, In Struggle’s minimal line is so minimal that almost anyone could come to its proposed congress. As the version of the In Struggle! platform reprinted in the August 26 Forge shows, there is no mention in the platform of the principal contradiction, Canada as an imperialist country, the USSR as the main source of the up-coming world war, the trade union question, communist agitation-propaganda as our principal task ... to name but a few omissions.

What type of “unity” would we get if we united around a line like that?

It’s bad enough In Struggle! put forward such an opportunist scheme for unity. At least it should have the principles to admit it did so, and defend its act or make a self-criticism.

But instead, In Struggle! hit a new low by opting for the favourite opportunist tack: deny everything and blame your accuser. In an obviously frantic response to the League’s criticism of its congress scheme, In Struggle! (July 22, 1976) blasted the “sectarian” League for its “slanderous article... packed full of fallacious declarations”. The League either made up this “project”, it writes, or it got hold of an internal document.

The sad truth, however, is that the document does exist – The Forge reprinted excerpts – as well as declarations from militants of groups in Quebec who received the text from In Struggle! (See The Forge no. 16). So, either the League and many other militants in Quebec are engaged in a giant conspiracy to slander the innocent In Struggle!, or In Struggle! lied through its teeth. The facts are there.

Recent developments

In the weeks preceding the publication of this brochure there have been a number of new developments in the struggle for unity. The group In Struggle! has finally published some criticisms of certain aspects of the political line of the League. (Specifically on our views of the contradictions in Canada and the international situation.) We are encouraged by this positive development. Clearly the growth of the communist movement and the criticisms of the League have finally convinced In Struggle! of the need to take up the struggle over the major questions of political line.

Since the League has published its criticisms of In Struggle’s congress proposal it has been seriously modified. In Struggle! now proposes that a series of conferences be held in the coming months to debate certain questions in preparation for the founding congress of its organization.

In Struggle’s new method for achieving unity differs little from its past positions. In fact it is a project which avoids generating the political struggle around the main questions of line. (See the Appendices for articles reprinted from The Forge no. 20) Since this project was unveiled just as we went to press we will not here submit it to complete criticism. In the coming period however the CCL(ML) will pursue its criticisms on In Struggle’s plan for unity. Here we shall make but a few general comments.

In Struggle’s “new” line on unity, presented in the first issue of its theoretical review Proletarian Unity remains flawed by serious opportunist errors. In Struggle! bills this as a self-criticism for its past errors and a clarification of its line. In fact it in no way constitutes a serious self-criticism. The central article in this review, Towards the Unification of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist Movement, deforms the history of the communist movement in Canada, twists the positions of the League, muddles the importance of the struggle for unity, and avoids serious self-criticisms for In Struggle’s errors. To give but a few examples:

In Struggle! defines sectarianism as the main danger in the fight for unity. (See chapter II, section 1 for a criticism of this point of view.)

In Struggle! maintains their confusion between a Marxist-Leninist organization and the leading center, and affirms their intention to create the organization of Canadian communists.

In Struggle! remains confused over the composition of the Marxist-Leninist movement. It criticizes the “CPC(ML)” for creating a party before unifying all Marxist-Leninists. In Struggle! states: “The founders of the CPC(ML) and the PTC had simply reversed Lenin’s position and instead of fighting for the ’union’ of Marxist-Leninists in order to create and strengthen the party, they decided to first create the Party, and probably thought the unity of Marxist-Leninists would come afterwards!” (Proletarian Unity, pg. 14)

This misses the whole point. Is this what is wrong with the “CPC(MD”? No. The “CPC(ML)” was founded by a counter-revolutionary clique. There is absolutely nothing communist about it. The problem is not that they created the party too soon. If they had struggled longer for “unity” all they would have achieved was a greater unity of counter-revolutionaries.

Despite the fact that In Struggle! refers to the need to realize several conditions to found the party, in this article it is evident that for them it is unity which is the key to all the other problems. It states for instance:

“The role that we assign to the Canadian organization struggle for the Party is to lead this movement, where uniting factors are developing, towards its complete political and organizational unity, that is towards the Party.” (Proletarian Unity, pg. 27)

But as we explained at the beginning of this brochure in fact all three condition are required to form the party.

When In Struggle! formulates the conditions for creating the party, they neglect the need to develop a clear political line. They call for unity of Marxist-Leninists and rallying advanced workers. They claim unity of Marxist-Leninists is the principal and determining factor among the conditions.

This position is erroneous for two reasons. Firstly, the unity of Marxist-Leninists is not the determining factor for the development of political line. It is not through the addition or subtraction of the political lines of all the Marxist-Leninist groups in Canada that we will arrive at the correct strategy for the socialist revolution in our country. Unity is the result of a struggle over line. That struggle must precede unity. The correct line is developed through the correct application of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete situation in Canada, not through establishing the common denominator which all groups could agree to.

Secondly, though the unity of Marxist-Leninists plays an important role in the rallying of advanced workers, because it allows greater forces and a single organizational basis to which workers are called to rally, unity is not a precondition to the task of rallying workers. The latter task must be undertaken as of now. It requires a political line developed to a certain degree; it contributes to the verification and enriching of that line; it constitutes the element of practice in our political work. It also changes the class composition of the Marxist-Leninist movement which we are struggling to unite, and therefore not only accelerates the process of unity but also qualitatively raises its significance.

In Struggle’s exclusion of line in the conditions and its interpretation of unity first, line and practice second, are simply a manifestation of right opportunism, a search for quick results and a neglect of fundamental principles.

And as for self-criticism, this text is simply a band-aid to cover up In Struggle’s errors. To give but one illustration: In Struggle! writes, referring to the period of nearly two years between the publication of Create the Marxist-Leninist organization of... and Proletarian Unity:

It took more than a year for In Struggle! to see clearly all practical consequences of the conclusions drawn in Creons... ; one year of gropings, of trial and error; but also one year of progress because what is clear today wasn’t clear yesterday and, that means that new steps forward are now possible. (Proletarian Unity, pg. 25)

Some conception of self-criticism! For two years In Struggle! was confused, but now they are not, so everything is O.K. This reveals In Struggle’s erroneous conception of what is a political line. According to In Struggle! we start out not knowing what we are doing, and then gradually we get clearer and clearer.

Remember In Struggle! drew just this “lesson” from the history of the communist movement as we saw in section V of this chapter. This is an opportunist theory. We must start by basing ourselves on Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, to analyze the situation and determine a correct course of action. Through the lessons of our practice we then can deepen our line and correct our errors.

If In Struggle! turned in circles and worked by trial and error on the question of unity, it was because they have held an opportunist line on the struggle for unity, not because they were going through a two-year “learning experience”!

Comrades, the importance of self-criticism is to draw lessons from our past, to correct our work in the future. If we cannot honestly evaluate our errors, how can we avoid similar ones in the future. We call on the comrades of In Struggle! to critically evaluate their line, and rectify their errors, not out of moral fervor – but because unless they do this they will continue to develop right opportunism within the Marxist-Leninist movement in the struggle for unity.

In the coming period we shall continue our criticism of In Struggle’s plan for unity.


To sum up, what can we say about In Struggle’s line on unity? The best comment comes from their own pamphlet on unity:

It so happens that today, some Marxist-Leninists speak loudly about unity but adopt positions that are indeed spreading division. (Fight Sectarianism, pg. 11)

Certainly, this applies to In Struggle!. Right now it is conducting a demagogic campaign against the League. Playing on the genuine and deep-felt desires of workers and militants across the country for unity, it is trying to come across as a fervent defender of principled unity, unjustly attacked by the “mean, sectarian and arrogant” League.

But the facts speak otherwise.

Accusing the League of “sectarianism”, In Struggle! doesn’t even understand the roots of this error and why it, like right opportunist errors on unity, means avoiding struggle over line.

In Struggle!, not the League, denies the “concrete reality” of the Marxist-Leninist movement – particularly its uneven development – and doesn’t understand what a Marxist-Leninist organization or a leading centre is. It spreads confusion about the composition of the movement by brushing over the distinction between consolidated opportunists and genuine communists.

In Struggle! screams constantly about “the party spirit”, while all the time forgetting a key element of this spirit – the relentless struggle against opportunism.

And, most importantly, In Struggle! consistently, despite all the changes in the form of its line on unity – and you have to admit there have been many changes – has neglected the need for open, frank struggle between comrades over ideological and political line. In Struggle! is living proof that right opportunism – the fear of struggle and the eagerness to make unity around an unclear or incorrect line – and not sectarianism, is the main danger, the main obstacle to Marxist-Leninist unity in Canada.

If we are all mindful of this danger, if we all struggle ceaselessly against it – and against any other errors, such as sectarianism – if we put politics in command and struggle in a principled way around ideological and political line, then, and only then, can we make some headway in uniting our movement.

We are convinced that the comrades of In Struggle! sincerely wish to fight for the unity of Marxist-Leninists.

We urge them, therefore, to seriously reconsider their line, to critically evaluate their practice on this question and to criticize the opportunist positions that have so far characterized their work on this question.

We have criticized In Struggle! for its past vagueness, lack of clarity on political line and its lack of clear self-criticism when it changes its positions.

On the question of unity, comrades, make a clean break with the past!

In conclusion, we would refer the comrades from In Struggle! to Lenin’s writings on the question of unity and urge them to really learn some lessons from the history of the international communist movement.

This is what Lenin said:

One view on unity may place in the forefront the ”reconciliation” of “given persons, groups and institutions”. The identity of their views on Party work, on the policy of that work, is a secondary matter. One should try to keep silent about differences of opinion and not elucidate their causes, their significance, their objective conditions. The chief thing is to “reconcile” persons and groups. If they do not agree on carrying out a common policy, that policy must be interpreted in such a way as to be acceptable to all. Live and let live. This is philistine “conciliation”, which inevitably leads to sectarian diplomacy. (Notes of a Publicist, Collected Works, vol. 16, pg. 212.)

And further:

It is in this that the enormous difference lies between real partyism, which consists in purging the party of liquidationism and otzovism, and the “conciliation” of Trotsky and Co., which actually renders the most faithful service to the liquidators and otzovists, and is therefore an evil that is all the more dangerous to the Party the more cunningly, artfully, and theoretically it cloaks itself with professedly pro-Party, professedly anti-factional declamations. (Ibid., pg. 211.)


[1] See The Forge, No. 8, p. 10-11, and the pamphlet Against Right Opportunism in the Analysis of the Principal Contradiction.

[2] Never since its creation has the League ever maintained the position which In Struggle! has invented for us. See for example: The Struggle to Create the CCL(ML) and the articles on unity in The Forge, Vol.1, Nos.2 and 4.

[3] The same sort of definition limited to what a group “advances” or “puts forward” was given in In Struggle!’s “CPC(M-L)” Supplement, June 19,1975.

[4] In Struggle! has even reprinted this article under the same title in July of this year.

[5] In Struggle!’s errors have in no way been rectified in the recent “clarification” of their line in Proletarian Unity. In fact their serious confusion between a Marxist-Leninist organization and the leading centre continues.

[6] See The Forge no. 17 for excerpts from a letter written by APLQ to its readers explaining how the process of self-criticism was undertaken.

[7] We wish to mention that we have no intention of answering all the distortions of history that In Struggle! has achieved in Fight Sectarianism. As it is, we apologize to the reader for the length of the following section, particularly for those militants who are not familiar with the history of the Marxist-Leninist movement in Quebec. We do not wish to reduce the debate, as In Struggle! has done, to who did what when. Nevertheless some distortions cannot remain unanswered.

[8] Only excerpts from this text – which to date remains In Struggle!’s basic political line document – were translated into English in Canadian Revolution (though Western Voice says it plans to reprint parts as well). Entire sections, notably the one on unity, are still available only in French, which shows how highly In Struggle! considers political line.

[9] In the first issue of Proletarian Unity In Struggle! covers up this whole affair by saying that it might have been better to explain these groups joining In Struggle!, but in any case they mostly weren’t even Marxist-Leninist. To this we respond: First, why is In Struggle! rallying non-communist groups – remember their criticism of the League – instead of having them dissolve and then educating their members? And, second, in any case this should not be done secretly, hidden from the rest of the communist movement.

[10] There are, of course, many other contradictions between the positions of May First and In Struggle!, as our critique of May First’s positions (soon to be published) will show.