Published: in On Unity of Marxist-Leninists,1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Social fascism is the main obstacle to the development of the student movement at the present time. In the 1960’s, the reactionary students’ councils played the leading role in opposing the development of the revolutionary student movement and liquidating the student struggles. The reactionary students’ councils still play a role, but the main obstruction is now being caused by those who are socialists in words and fascists in deeds. It is extremely important that the revolutionary students closely study the history of the struggle between social fascism and Marxism-Leninism in the student movement and criticise and repudiate the lines which are advanced by the social fascists to block the growth of the revolutionary movement.
The two previous articles, Some Problems Facing the Student Movement and A Call for Unity and Struggle Against Disunity showed that the Mouvement Revolutionnaires des Etudiants du Quebec had caused damage to the student movement at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal_by its splittist activities.
In fact, the entire history of MREQ, not only at UQAM but also at other places, and especially at McGill University, shows that they are a notorious gang of splitters. MREQ has never had a correct political line on any question and has never led the students in fighting against the main enemy. Every time struggle takes place it is forced to split with the Marxist-Leninists and with the objective revolutionary movement in order to cover up for its opportunist political line and its refusal to lead.
MREQ was formed by a group of students who split from the Mouvement Etudiant Quebecois (the student wing of CPC(M-L) in Quebec) in 1971 and who were centred mainly in the Universite du Quebec a Montreal. They were later joined by a group of students from McGill University who had been recruited to oppose the McGill Student Movement by a renegade who split from MSM in the spring of 1972 on an unprincipled basis, and by an American New Left professor.
Because MREQ had had contact with CPC(M-L), they supported China before many other groups and individuals on the left decided to do so, and the prestige which this has given them is their main prop, indeed their only prop. MREQ has made no contribution whatsoever to advancing the revolutionary movement; it has not given a correct line on any question and is notorious for not leading any actual struggles against the main enemy. Its main activity has been to oppose and attack MEQ and CPC(M-L) and organise splits to oppose the leadership of the Marxist-Leninists in the student movement.
Let us take a look at the various splits MREQ has performed and at the reasons they have given to “justify” them:
1. At the Universite de Montreal, MREQ attacked a group of students in political science who set up a general defense organisation aimed at uniting all those students who can be united for the defense of their interests. MREQ, through the Universite de Montreal newspaper, Volume 57, which it controls, put forward the line that students have no common interests to defend. Thus MREQ decides in advance that students cannot be organised to oppose the main enemy. We have dealt with this erroneous “left” anarcho-syndicalist line in a separate article.
2. At UQAM, MREQ did absolutely nothing to lead the students in fighting against the main enemy on the question of the Reforme Despres but instead once again took a “left” posture and published a leaflet calling on the students to split on the dual pretext that: 1) the struggle was being run “at the summit” (in the Tripartite Committee) rather than through “broad organisations” which can undertake “mass actions” and 2) reformist illusions were being spread by “so-called Marxist-Leninists” (a reference to UQAMSM) about the nature of the university and these need to be countered by “ideological struggle”. If these things were true, why didn’t MREQ first of all unite to struggle against the enemy, and then within the context of that struggle build the ’broad organisations’ and expose the reformist lines. MREQ did absolutely nothing to build any ’broad organisation’ to unite those who can be united nor did it launch any ideological struggle aimed at uniting the people against the main enemy. Instead, MREQ just stood on the sidelines and suggested to the students, professors and employees that they should divide amongst themselves on the basis of ideology This is like telling soldiers lined up in a trench face the enemy’s fire, “Hold it! First let’s have ideological struggle!” MREQ cleariy has no interest in uniting the revolutionaries to give correct leadership to the struggle of the masses; rather, MREQ’s interest is to cover up for its own complete refusal to lead by attacking MEQ as “revisionist” and “opportunist” and trying to wipe out its influence in the campaign on the Reforme Despres, and it does not matter to them if the campaign itself gets liquidated in the process. This was even more clearly exposed when the leader of MREQ at UQAM moved in a general assembly that only a new anarcho-syndicalist student organisation that had been set up by some of MREQ’s friends should be represented on the Tripartite Committee, i.e., UQAM Student Movement should be expelled. When UQAMSM was on the Tripartite Committee, MREQ denounced this committee and called for its replacement by a “broad organisation”; but when the possibility arose of expelling UQAMSM from it, then the Tripartite Committee was just fine in MREQ’s book.
3. On Thursday, November 21, the McGill Daily published an article by a friend of MREQ, denouncing the McGill Students’ Society as a “service” organiation with “no real basis of unity”. The article claims that for this reason, the lack of student support and participation in the Society is “natural”. The leader of MREQ on the McGill campus has boasted that his organiation is planning to run a propaganda campaign in the McGill Daily aimed at liquidating the McGill Students’ Society.
This plan of MREQ is based on an erroneous political line and will cause great harm to the interests of McGill students if it is carried through. It is absolutely untrue and slanderous to McGill students to state that the McGill Students’ Society is an organisation with “no basis”. The basis for existence of the Students’ Society is to unite all those students who can be united in the defence of their immediate interests. The Students’ Society has never properly served this role because it is not an independant organisation but is under the thumb of the administration, which exercises veto power over all its decisions. In effect, it has played the role of a “company union”. But the basic sentiment of McGill students has always been to have their own independent defence organisaiton. In 1969, the students voted in a constitutional referendum that the administration should no longer have veto power in Student’s Society affairs, but because the quisling Students’ Society executive of the day refused to fight to implement this decision, the administration arrogantly vetoed it. Consequently, the Students’ Society is still under the thumb of the administration.
MREQ wants to take advantage of this situation and of the dissatisfaction arising from it to liquidate the Students’ Society altogether, and thus leave the students without any defence organisation whatsoever. This, rather than being an improvement on the present situation, would be a step back. Historical experience has shown that without a defence organisation to unite them in struggle, students cannot struggle effectively against their main enemies.
4. During the 1974 Students’ Society elections, the MREQ clique refused to unite with the Popular Student Front and stood on the sidelines as the revolutionary students struggled for a genuinely independent, progressive and democratic Students’ Society. On the day before the election, MREQ, which was not running in the elections, published a leaflet denouncing all the candidates and calling on the students to “actively abstain” from voting. Having refused to unite in the PSR, MREQ in its leaflet did the propaganda that PSF was just a “front group” for MSM. MREQ said: ; “The Popular Student Front”, a front group of the McGill Student Movement, has forwarded a basically correct analysis of the nature ot the Students’ Society, but the past history of the MSM contradicts any of their statements about establishing a “genuinely independent, democratic and progressive Students’ Society. The MSM’s practice at McGill is a record of sectarianism and dogmatism that has done more than almost anything else to turn progressive students away from revolutioary politics.” What was PSF’s “basically correct analysis” of the Students’ Society? Precisely that the students need a general defence organisation, and that the Students’ Society should be strengthened and changed so that it becomes such an organisation – an organisation uniting all the students who can be united to defend their immediate interests. So, in March 1974, MSM’s line on building student defence organisations was correct, the students required such organisations to defend their interests against the attacks of the administration, etc., but MSM was “sectarian and dogmatic”. However, in October 1974, MEQ’s line on student defence organisations is “opportunist” and “reformist”, the masses no longer need such organisations, they no longer have any common interests in the face of attacks by the administration, and MSM has gone from “ultra-left” to “right opportunist”! This theoretical somersault completely exposes MREQ’s opportunism. For MREQ, the issue is not having correct Marxist-Leninist political line and leading the masses; for MREQ, the issue is how to attack and isolate the Marxist-Leninists in the mass movement so as to cover up for MREQ’s own refusal to do anything to advance the mass movement. MREQ’s change of tune simply reflects the fact that the political line of CPC(M-L) and MEQ is irresistibly gaining influence amongst the masses, and MREQ can no longer isolate us simply by saying “their line is correct but they’re sectarian and dogmatic”. In order to maintain some currency as the “genuine” Marxist-Leninists, they have been forced to attack the Party from a “left” posture and slander it as “opportunist” and “revisionist”.
5. During the strike of the McGill buildings service workers in the fall of 1973, MREQ followed its policy of seeking hegemony and did its best to isolate MSM and cause a split in the ranks of the striking workers and their student supporters. They floated a “strike support” committee, entered into relations with the trade union executive, declared themselves the “official” strike supporters, and said that no one else had any right to organise on this question. They arbitrarily issued a ban against MSM selling its newspaper, the Marxist-Leninist Daily, on the picket lines, (on the straightforward rightist grounds it was “too revolutionary” and “alienated” students) and managed to organise the president of the union to physically attack a member of MSM right there on the picket lines. They then shamelessly accused MSM of being “agent provocateurs” and “splitters”.
6. The MREQ clique did the same thing in March 1973, when 3 MSM members were sentenced to 15 days in jail on charges of “assaulting police”. These charges arose out of an incident in September 1972, when the three comrades had been attacked by police while distributing CPC(M-L) literature on the campus. A close friend and collaborator of MREQ reported on the sentencing for the McGill Daily. Instead of denouncing the fascist state for jailing students for their political activity, she used the opportunity to do propaganda for abject capitulation to the fascist state machine: “The Daily learned that their sentence would have been suspended had they not caused a commotion while court was in session.” The “commotion” was the comrades’ militant denunciation of the court’s sending them to jail for distributing revolutionary literature amongst the students. This MREQ supporter is saying that revolutionary students should be docile in the face of fascist repression.
7. In October 1972, the McGill Student Movement led an agitation against the McGill administration on the question of its invitation to notorious CIA agent Zbigniew Brzezinski to speak at McGill University. The administration launched a police attack on MSM for opposing this fascist’s right to speak and suspended two members of MSM from the university. MREQ and its friends did not lift a finger or say a word against Brzezinski or against the administration’s fascist attacks on MSM, but at the same time gave themselves the right to publicly criticise MSM, in the pages of the McGill Daily, for having failed to do “the necessary mobilisation of students against Brzezinski” and concluded that MSM’s action was “an empty gesture” which “will lead to no desirable political consequence” and “may rather prove counter-productive”. They also did the propaganda, under the pen of an individual who is now the leader of MREQ at McGill, that “Zbigniew Brzezinski is not a fascist”. This type of propaganda lands the MREQ clique in the camp of the administration. If these people were serious revolutionaries interested in leading the students in opposing the administration, and they felt that MSM was making some tactical mistakes in the Brzezinski agitation, why didn’t they a) unite to oppose the main enemy by vigorously denouncing the administration’s fascist attacks and mobilising the students to fight on this issue;; b) approach MSM privately and tell us where we were wrong and what tactics should be used; or if they thought we were incorrigible on this front, simply take over the leadership of the agitation themselves and vigorously lead the students against the administration using correct tactics. They did none of this. Instead, they split and attacked MSM as first principle. Thus, they objectively took the side of the administration by implying that MSM had “provoked” the reactionaries, and telling the students to have nothing to do with the agitation.
8. In the fall of 1973, MSM led an agitation to denounce Israeli Zionism and support the just cause of the Palestinian people. This agitation was opposed by an alliance of the administration, police and,reactionary Students’ Society executive; MSM comrades were physically attacked, arrested, charged with various “crimes” and suspended from the university. Once again, the MREQ clique did the propaganda for the reactionaries, saying that MSM had “provoked a confrontation” by “resorting to sloganeering” which “alienated students”.
These examples of MREQ’s splitting show that MREQ, while parading themselves as the great supporters of China and Marxism-Leninism, obstinately refuse to do anything to oppose the bourgeoisie. Whenever a struggle such as the Brzezinski agitation or the Reforme Despres campaign breaks out, MREQ trembles in their boots for fear someone will expect them to live up to their name of “Marxist-Leninists” and march at the head of the masses against the enemy. So to cover up for themselves, they wait until MEQ takes up the task and then attack MEQ, and say that the problem is MEQ’s “misleadership”. Formerly, they stood on the sidelines and gaped in horror as MEQ went into battle against the enemy, and they shouted, “You are crazy! Don’t be so bold! You’ll get wiped out!” and they called us “ultra-left”, “sectarians” and “dogmatists”. Now that the political line of CPC(M-L) has taken root amongst the masses and it is no longer possible to pass off CPC(M-L) as a tiny band of “crazies”, the opportunists stand on the sidelines and smile wisely as MEQ leads the revolutionary students into battle, and say, “Aha! You must have compromised. We knew you couldn’t stick it! Opportunists! Revisionists!” Then they pompously recite some quotations about the irreconcilability of class contradictions, like a peacock fanning its feathers. MREQ’s whole new “left” anarcho-syndicalist posture is just a bunch of peacock feathers; their right opportunist essence – absolute refusal to lead the masses in struggle against the main enemy – remains the same.
What programme has MREQ offered for the revolutionary students to engage the class enemy in struggle? It has no such programme. The only programme MREQ has put forward is the following three points: a) Struggle against the capitalist schools; b) Support for workers’struggles; c) Support for anti-imperialist struggles.
Let us look at these points:
a) Struggle against the capitalist school. If by this MREQ means struggle against the decadent bourgeois educational system, against fascist rules and regulations, against the system of selection against the sons and daughters of the working class, then we agree with MREQ that this is part of any revolutionary programme for the students. But when has MREQ ever led any actual struggle against the capitalist school? MREQ consistently opposes such struggles. At UQAM this term, students waged a struggle against the centralisation of powers in the hands of the administration (an appendage of the capitalist state); MREQ tried to split the ranks of the students and liquidate this struggle. At the University of Montreal, the political science students organised themselves to fight against the promotion of anti-people ideology in the class room and against arbitrary rules and regulations in their department, and MREQ outrightly opposed them and gave a call to split their organisation. At McGill, in 1972, MSM waged a struggle against the use of the university as a platform for fascists and imperialist stooges, and MREQ opposed this agitation. A lot more examples could be given of struggles “against the capitalist school” which MREQ has tried to liquidate, but not a single example could be given where MREQ led such a struggle.
b) Support for workers’ struggles. MREQ actually does organise “support” for workers’ struggles. “Support” is a reactionary fraud perpetrated by MREQ to keep the students from actually uniting with the working class and coming under their discipline, i.e. the discipline of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. Instead of this, MREQ organises “Workers’ Support Committees”, whose activities consist of doing propaganda about the “poor exploited workers”, taking food baskets to the “poor exploited workers”, etc. Thus the sentiment of the students to unite with the revolutionary working class movement is diverted into bourgeois philistinic activity, and instead of joining the army of the proletariat, students join a “left”-wing Salvation Army.
c) Support for anti-imperialist struggles. MREQ does everything to liquidate the movement in solidarity with anti-imperialist struggles by carrying its splittist politics even onto this front. Rather than organising solidarity meetings and rallies on a broad basis, MREQ tries to split the solidarity movement by organising to isolate and attack CPC(M-L). At the celebration of the 4th anniversary of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam in Montreal, in 1973, MREQ created an ugly scene by trying to start a brawl involving a representative of CPC(M-L). Recently a meeting in solidarity with the struggle of the Zimbabwean people took place sponsored by a large number of groups, from which CPC(M-L) and other genuine anti-imperialist organisations had been excluded. Even to support the heroic anti-imperialist struggles of the world’s people, MREQ does not have the largeness of mind to overcome its habit of splitting.
In sum, this 3-point “programme” of MREQ is a fraud, a programme to prevent the revolutionary students from uniting, from coming under the discipline of the working class and its Party, and from leading the actual struggles of the students. The real programme of MREQ is (1) to split the ranks of the revolutionary students, (2) to liquidate the students’struggles. In contrast to this is the programme of the Mouvement Etudiant Quebecois, adopted December 18,1971. It is a programme which reflects the revolutionary experience of the Internationalists in the youth and student movement of the 1960’s, and which provides concrete guidelines for the revolutionary students as to how they can join the class enemy in battle. It boldly calls on the students to come under the discipline of the Party and to actually join the working class, and is in total opposition to the MREQ hoax of “workers’ support”. We reprint the MEQ programme here and call on all our comrades and all revolutionary students to study it and put it into practice.
By putting into practice this programme, MEQ, student wing of CPC(M-L) in Quebec, has developed and will continue to develop as the revolutionary vanguard organisation of the Quebec students, as the headquarters of the proletariat amongst the students. Organisations such as MREQ which obstinately refuse to lead the revolutionary students against the enemy, and which organise splits to cover up for their opportunist line, are bound to be swept aside by the revolutionary student movement, no matter how many “credentials” as “Marxist-Leninists” or supporters of China they may have. All revolutionary students should thoroughly criticise and repudiate their splittist and liquidationist politics, and unite to lead the masses of the students in struggle against the main enemy.
1. Act as an Instrument of Propaganda for the Communist Party of Quebec (Marxist-Leninist)
a. Disseminate Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought.
b. Distribute widely the Red Book, Five Articles by Chairman Mao and Peking Review, etc.
c. Propagate QCP and other Party publications on a wide scale.
d. Invite speakers from the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) to discussion groups, mass democracy meetings, study groups, etc. on various questions facing the Quebec people.
2. Wage War of Annihilation on the Cultural Front
a. Create public opinion in support of the mass democratic anti-imperialist revolution, in support of national liberation struggle. Create public opinion for proletarian internationalism, against reactionary national chauvinism, and denounce all the agents of U.S. imperialism and Anglo-Canadian colonialism who are preparing public opinion for a counter-revolutionary civil war.
b. Launch struggles in the professions by developing a systematic programme under the heading, Class struggle in the classroom.
c. Organise denunciations of imperialist lackey personalities in the universities, CEGEP’s and High Schools.
3. Encourage Students to Actually Join the Quebec Working Class
a. Use the universities and CEGEPs as a battle and training ground to develop Marxist-Leninist cadres who are encourged to take up jobs in the working class.
b. Those who have taken up professions, are politically conscious and advanced, are called upon to spend maximum time in living amongst the workers and actively supporting their struggles, and
c. Work as revolutionary intellectuals for the local area committees
4. Advance the Resistance Movement Forward!
a. Resolutely combat all fascist rules and regulations – War Measures Act, Public Order Act, Identification card plot, rules and regulations against political work in the schools, communities, etc.
b. Influence the Student Councils to take political action on various international, national, and local questions, and
c. Mobilise the students and faculty to support the just struggles of the patriotic anti-imperialist fighters against repression of the state machine.
(This article first appeared in People’s Canada Daily News, Vol. 4 No. 82, December 17, 1974.)