First Published: In Struggle No. 101, November 10, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Two recent developments, in the Marxist-Leninist movement are in themselves ample proof of the importance of the Third Conference of Canadian Marxist-Leninists on the international situation which was organized by IN STRUGGLE!
First, at the Conference itself, the small counter-revolutionary sect “Bolshevik Union” (BU), succeeded in completely exposing itself and its splittist line of conducting the debate as if the aim was to divide the movement as opposed to strengthening it through criticism and the elimination of opportunism in its ranks. By going even further in its practice of splitting and wrecking, despite the numerous criticisms that our group and other groups have addressed to it, Bolshevik Union has proven that it is not the least bit interested In uniting Marxist-Leninists and conscious workers around a Marxist-Leninist line aimed at the creation of an authentic Canadian proletarian Party. The Canadian working class should have no further expectations about this group, and in fact, BU’s harmful influence must be fought whenever and wherever it appears.
Second, the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) in keeping with its sectarian logic, incapable of waging the ideological struggle before the masses and on the bases of Marxist-Leninist principles, has had no other choice except to decree that IN STRUGGLE! is revisionist, to exclude it from “its movement” and to call for its ideological, political and organizational destruction.
These two developments show to what extent the Third Conference and the polemic leading up to it contributed to intensifying the struggle against opportunism on the questions on the programme of the proletarian revolution in Canada and in particular on international questions. They show how the Conference served to strengthen the proletarian line in this area. Moreover, this struggle served to help clarify what was really involved in the debate currently underway within the International Marxist-Leninist movement. And what is involed can be summed up. in one sentence: Do we or don’t we have to prepare a proletarian revolution and thus right now subordinate all our tasks, without exception, to it?
That was in fact, the question addressed by the four groups that participated in the Conference: IN STRUGGLE! the Red Star Collective (RSC), Bolshevik Union and the Vancouver Red Collective (VRC).
In this brief evaluation of the conference, we would like to express our point of view on the various answers given to the above question.
The two poles in this struggle are represented by those who put forward working right away to prepare proletarian revolution, and by those who refer to revolution as something far-off in the future, something abstract – a “long term” objective. As we’ saw at the Conference, the RSC represents the right-wing form of capitulation before our revolutionary tasks by advocating support for various classes and countries that are opposed to revolution and to the struggle against imperialism. BU, on the other hand, upholds the “left-wing” position: it talks a lot about revolution, but in practice refuses to work at the current tasks imposed by our revolutionary objectives. Instead, it is splittist and spits on the spontaneous struggle of the Canadian masses.
It became evident at the Conference that RSC had abandoned the proletarian class viewpoint in its analysis of the international situation and the tasks of Canadian Marxist-Leninists. Marxists aim at making proletarian revolution, at establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat in their own country and around the world, and in reaching a classless society, a communist society. This is the perspective communists use when determining which direct and indirect forces to unite and lead in the struggle; in determining which forces are in the camp of the enemy, and this, at each and every of the struggle.
Thus, in our era, the international working class, oppressed peoples and socialist countries are the fundamental and basic forces in the movement for proletarian revolution, a movement which also includes national liberation struggles against imperialism. Opposed to this is imperialism with the two superpowers leading the gang, and all the forces allied to it. They are the sworn enemies in their countries and in the world.
But RSC develops its analysis by starting off with the interests of its own country. It starts off from a nationalist viewpoint, and there why it ends up encouraging everything that it sees as nationalist Instead of starting off with proletarian revolution as the aim and making it its immediate guide, it bases its analysis on the situation in the enemy camp. Starting from the very real fact that the superpowers are today the two principal enemies of the independence of peoples everywhere and of socialism around the world the RSC ends up by making them into the principal and, in fact, the only enemies of the proletariat and of the peoples of all countries. And it ends up by including all forces in contradiction with the superpowers into the camp of the revolution. That is how it justifies supporting secondary imperialist powers like those in Western Europe, as well as the reactionary regimes of the “third world” in opposition to the superpowers, never mind if these regimes were put into power and are kept there by French. German, ... or Canadian imperialism. This is the same path that haa led some Marxist-Leninist organizations to support American imperialism against Soviet social imperialism, as BU did in the fall of 1976.
This is revisionist logic, it starts with the very real domination of the monopolies over the entire social life of imperialist countries and ends up including in the camp of the people all forces in opposition to them. This means abandoning the class viewpoint: it means only seeing one side of the coin and ignoring for example, that the non-monopolist bourgeoisie, in spite of all the contradictions between it and the monopolies; will inevitably oppose proletarian revolution because this revolution means its disappearance as a class. Abandoning the class viewpoint means ignoring the fact that despite the contradictions between the secondary imperialist bourgeoisies and one or other of the superpowers, the former can only end up by opposing, and in fact, do oppose, the people’s revolutionary struggles, against imperialism, because these struggles attack the very bases of their existence. Thus it is clear how the opportunists and the revisionists share the same logic of capitulation in the face of imperialism and reaction.
The supreme justification of these opportunist positions is the “three worlds theory”. This “theory” is not based on a class analysis and on the world-wide class struggle. It is based on certain aspects of the relationships between countries without regard to the political and social regimes in power – be they imperialist, capitalist, revisionist or socialist. It puts socialist countries, and countries dominated by imperialism and comprador bourgeoisies into the same bloc. It puts forward the union of these countries with imperialist powers and uses this to make the two superpowers into the only real enemies of the peoples of the world and within each country. RSC’s adherence to this opportunist theory was predictable because the “three worlds theory” justifies the most nationalist positions. The RSC’s position is completely logical and in keeping with what it put forward at the Second Conference on the character of Canadian society. It is also logical with its conception of imperialism itself. At the Conference the RSC in effect maintained its position whereby Canada isn’t an imperialist country but an “imperialized” country, an economic colony of the United States. At the Conference we pointed out something we have already shown previously: RSC’s conception of imperialism is essentially a petty-bourgeois conception stating as it does that imperialism is not a specific stage of capitalism and that capitalism is not the fundamental cause of the problems of the Canadian masses.
This line, defended at the Conference by the RSC and outside of the Conference by the League as well, are, to us, increasingly marked by social chauvinism. Social chauvinism is nothing other than the abandonnent of the proletarian class viewpoint, of the abandonment of the class interests of the proletariat in favour of the interests of “our home and native land”, of the nation. And all this, of course, always on the fallacious pretext that there exists an even stronger imperialist power that puts our “sacred national independence” in danger.
It is certainly worth pointing out once again that RSC abandons the class viewpoint in the way it conceives the political debate. Its empiricism which reduces the debate to strictly presenting the most impressive possible quantity of specific but isolated facts, shows how for these comrades the line struggle is more of an academic exercise that an authentic struggle between two class viewpoints.
We consider that Vancouver Red Collective’s participation in the Conference was very positive, even if it was somewhat limited and contained certain ambiguities. We feel that VRC’s interventions in the debates were characterized by a hesitation to link the defence of the “three worlds theory” as a strategic concept to the social-chauvinist errors that stem from it. And this weakens the criticism of social chauvinism. By maintaining its agreement with the three worlds theory while all the while criticizing the social chauvinist errors, the VRC maintained confusion in somewhat the same way that we ourselves had done before our recent clarifications. But the context was considerably different: it was a moment when the sharpening of the line struggle both in the international and Canadian Marxist-Leninist movements made what was at stake in this struggle much clearer and each group had a duty to take a firm position. VRC comrades have no choice. They have to stop sitting on the fence as they tried to do at the Conference; and the fundamentally correct position they defended at the Conference should clearly lead them to reject the three worlds theory as a strategic guide for the revolutionary struggle. When they rectified their past errors on the imperialist character of the Canadian bourgeoisie, they showed that they were not afraid of recognizing their mistaken and they should continue along this path.
The Third Conference provided yet another opportunity to identify those genuinely working for unity on a principled Marxist-Leninist basis – and unmask those who are only seeking to divide. RSC, for example, has made serious errors – which we have fought. But despite its errors, it has proven its desire for unity by recognizing that current differences over the “three worlds theory” and the attitude to adopt vis-a-vis imperialism are differences within the Marxist-Leninist movement, differences to be settled according to the principle of unity-criticism-unity. This is also true in the case of VRC. BU, on the other hand, saw its sabotaging of the ideological struggle and its complete and utter contempt for the masses totally unmasked (see IN STRUGGLE! no. 98 p. 13). BU has never sought to convince and persuade the masses of the correctness of its viewpoint. Instead the people in this group have behaved like young Messiahs coming to announce the latest Divine revelations. Far from contributing to the struggle against social chauvinism, BU attacked IN STRUGGLE!’s so-called “confusion” and thus in practice sabotaged the struggle against social chauvinism. BU systematically kept the debate on an abstract level, refusing to come up with one iota of a coherent political analysis and position. Objectively, this group played a counter-revolutionary role, at the Conference just like it does in other aspects of its work.
As for the CCL(M-L), it continued in its boycott and in its refusal to have principled debate in front of the masses. But this didn’t prevent the struggle against the League’s line on international questions, an area where its line is essentially the same as the RSC’s. There are, of course, certain small differences in the wording of some aspects of the lines of these two groups, especially as far as interpretation of the “three worlds theory” and the question of which imperialist bourgeoisie is worthy of support against the two superpowers. But despite these nuances, both lines end up by capitulating in the face of the revolutionary tasks involved in overthrowing the Canadian bourgeoisie. Supporting some of the actions of the Canadian imperialist bourgeoisie, as in the case of the League; or refusing to. recognize Canada’s imperialist character, as in the case of RSC, both come down to the same thing – fooling the masses as to the true nature of our principal enemy and putting off the moment that this enemy will be overthrown. And seeing the question of imperialist war in terms of the possibility of an invasion of one’s “own” country, as both these groups see the situation, also comes down to refusing to adopt the correct class viewpoint on the question of war, refusing to prepare the working class to turn an imperialist war into a revolutionary civil war.
The victory won at the Conference against social chauvinism strengthened the capacity of the masses to struggle against the erroneous positions of the League on international questions. The League’s censorship as far as IN STRUGGLE! is concerned did not prevent the proletarian line from being victorious. Can a line that refuses all confrontation with opposing lines be a true revolutionary proletarian line?
There were points brought up at the Conference which the Marxist-Leninist movement will have to go into and deepen its analysis of in the future. We are speaking more specifically, of the following areas of question:
1) deepening the criticism of the three worlds theory as a justification for opportunism and in practice, abandoning, the proletarian revolution.
2) the historical experience of the international communist movement in national and international united fronts.
3) the correct way of using contradictions within the enemy. Our group intends to delve more deeply into these questions in the near future.
In short, the proletarian line demarcated from the bourgeois line at the Conference, despite certain difficult conditions which prevailed. First, documents from the different groups were only available at a late date: RSC’S two weeks before the Conference, and in English only; BU’s five days before the Conference and IN STRUGGLE!’s most recent documents only a few days before the event, even if its basic position has been known for almost a year, known to the degree that the League and the RSC were accusing us of rejecting the three worlds theory even before the Conference.
This led to the situation where some aspects of the debate were not fully known, or not quite clear, to everyone. IN STRUGGLE! still considers, however, that it was correct to publish the supplement to No. 96 of the newspaper (the supplement on the three worlds theory) and to have the Conference take place on the scheduled dates. The political line of a communist group or Party is in constant evolution, and it would be idealist to expect the line to be enunciated once and for all, or to think that a Conference will solve all questions under debate. If this were the case, the Conferences would be forever put off until everyone had read, more and “studied” more. The Marxist-Leninist Conferences are an occasion for ideological struggle, for revolutionary struggle. They do not mark the end of a process, but rather point the path to follow in the struggle against opportunism and for the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists.
We believe that generally speaking the material organization served the political debate in a positive way and allowed the most active possible participation of the masses in the struggle for unity. In the struggle for the unity of the working classes of the two nations that make up Canada, the simultaneous translation of what is being said is most important. And in this domain, we have to point out that the major difficulty of the Conference was the faulty sound system which meant that translation was only partial in the opening plenary and in one of the workshops. We intend to do all that is necessary to see that such problems do not repeat themeeivea either at future Conferences or at the group’s other activities. The comrade translators have acquired greater skill in translating although there still remains room for improvement.
There were more speakers from the floor at this Conference than at previous ones. This is an important fact and it confirms the correctness of the procedure followed whereby the priority in terms of the right to speak is given to those who have not yet intervened. This promotes more active participation in the debates.
The workshop chair persons had a very important role to play at the Third Conference. Their job was not limited to simply keeping track of the speaker’s list for they were also called upon to give leadership to the debates and promote both widest possible expression of viewpoints and insure that the debates concentrated on the principal questions under discussion. The chair persons were called upon to keep careful track of the way the discussions were evolving in terms of the themes proposed in the discussion guide and to indicate to the hall the points that should be centred on. Keep in mind that the chair persons represented all groups present and saw to the application of guidelines previously laid down and jointly agreed to by all the groups.
As for the discussion guide, published in No. 90 of IN STRUGGLE! we feel that basically, it played its role, by indicating the major areas to be debated. However, we feel it would have been useful to have reprinted it just before the Conference, updating it where necessary, in view of the evolution of the different positions. This would have enabled people to better prepare for the Conference.
As far as the financial aspects of the Conference are concerned - remember that the Conferences are quite expensive. Since we feel the Conferences are most important we feel it is correct to wage ideological struggle around this question. A leaflet was handed out at the Conference with the event’s budget on it, and with an explanation of why we were asking for a voluntary contribution of $5.
IN STRUGGLE! appraises the Conference as having been largely positive. It enabled a step forward in the struggle for unity around that question so central to the revolutionary programme of the proletariat – the question of the analysis of the international situation and our internationalist tasks. The Conference also contributed to the unity of the international Marxist-Leninist movement since it deepened the struggle against the social-chauvinist tendency that exists on the international level thus strengthening the defense of Marxist-Leninist principles and proletarian internationalism. The Conference also enabled the identification of the weaknesses of the Marxist-Leninist movement on these questions, in particular the weakness in the concrete analysis underlying the various positions.
As we have already said it is up to each group to evaluate the Conference and make appraisal known to all, as well as to sum up the value of the Conferences to date. This is part of each group’s responsibility, in terms of the organization of the struggle for unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists and for the reconstruction of the proletarian Party. These evaluations will help us in putting forward concrete proposals on future Conferences.
LONG LIVE TNE UNITY OF CANADIAN MARXIST-LENINISTS!
STRUGGLE FOR TNE REVOLUTIONARY PROGRAMME OF TNE PROLETARIAT!
STRUGGLE FOR TNE CREATION OF TNE PROLETARIAN PARTY!