Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Towards the unity of the Canadian Marxist-Leninists

Fight the Sectarianism of the CCL (ML)

Chapter 2: The League’s “self proclamation”

We must consider as positive the fact that three groups from Montreal, the Cellule Ouvriere Revolutionnaire, (C.O.R.), the Cellule Militante Ouvriere, (C.M.O.) and the Mouvement Revolutionnaire des Etudiants du Quebec, (M.R.E.Q.), united in the fall of 1975 to create the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist). But the fact that this organization presented itself and acts as if it were the Canadian organization of struggle for the party to which every communist in the country should rally, – something which has come to be known as the League’s “self proclamation,” – this fact was and still is, as long as it isn’t rectified in practice, a serious political error from the point of view of unity of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement.

It is not important that the League calls itself a league, a committee, a group, an organization, a union or some other thing. However, what is questionable is the fact that this “league”, created in Montreal by Montreal militants active in Montreal only, called itself the Canadian Communist League. If all Canadian communists were in Montreal and if all Montreal communists were in the League, we would more readily understand the League’s choice of name. The fact that Workers’ Unity of Toronto recently joined the League, as reported in a pompous way in a pamphlet published by the League[1], and in spite of the fact that Toronto and Montreal are the two “major” cities in the country, as underlined by the League’s central committee in the same brochure, doesn’t change anything. There are communists in Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver, Regina, Hamilton, Quebec, Winnipeg... who aren’t part of the League, at least not yet.

And when Lenin created an organization in Saint Petersburg in 1895 by uniting several workers circles from this city, he called it the “Saint Petersburg Union of struggle”, as reported recently in the League’s newspaper[2].

Of course, the League denied having “self-proclaimed” itself as the Canadian organization. The League said in No. 4 of The Forge:

“The decision to include ’Canadian’ in our name, was, for us, a question of political line. The CCL (ML) has stated openly since its creation that at the present time it is based only in Montreal and never put forward any pretentions of being a country-wide organization.”

The League continues:

“The ’Canadian’ in our name refers to our understanding of the need to struggle to build one country-wide Marxist-Leninist organization, one Party of the Canadian proletariat. It was particularly important to put this forward clearly in Quebec, as part of the struggle against narrow nationalism. The ’Canadian’ in our name implies a firm commitment to break with the localism that has thus characterized the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement, to develop a country-wide perspective and outlook in our agitation and propaganda. A commitment to insure that the CCL(ML) in fact becomes a Canada-wide organization, rallying the most advanced elements of the working class to Marxism-Leninism”[3] All this can be summed up in the following way: because the founders of the League had the intention to work for the creation of a Canadian party, they judged it reasonable to call their organization the “Canadian... League”. This name has supposed to have constituted a commitment from the League to become, “in fact,” really Canadian. All this, says the League, was a ”question of political line”. Very good. The conclusion from this reasoning is that every communist wanting to work at building a Canadian party, should add “Canadian” to the name of his group or organization. It is “a question of political line”!

The League denied that it “self-proclaimed” itself as the Canadian organization of struggle for the party, in the text we just quoted. Workers’ Unity of Toronto even judged it necessary to come to its rescue at the moment it joined its ranks. “The League has not declared itself to be the centre of the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada.” And Workers’ Unity continues: “On the contrary, it is clear that it is only in the course of practice – through the work of communist agitation and propaganda, the development of the political line, the struggle against opportunism, the struggle for unity – that a leading centre will emerge.”[4]

This is a viewpoint we couldn’t agree with more. However, by reading the League’s publications for the last few months, we feel justified in asking ourselves if this point of view is shared by the League as a whole or by its leadership, in any case. In the same brochure we just quoted the League’s leadership says:

”For the first time in years, communists of the two nations of our country, of the two major cities of Canada, are united within the same Marxist-Leninist organization; united within an organization which has a correct political line, functions on democratic centralism and sets as its central task the struggle to prepare the conditions for creating a genuine communist party in Canada.”[5]

If, as Workers’ Unity (Toronto) says, it is in practice that we will find a leading center in the midst of the Marxist-Leninist movement, the pompous declaration of the League’s leadership leaves the impression that this historical phase of the emergence of a leading center is over and that the League is it!

The enthusiasm of the League’s leadership is so overwhelming that it didn’t feel that is was incorrect to take liberties and change history by declaring that “communists of the two nations” gathered in the same organization “for the first time in years”.

Curiously, the League, in a pamphlet published a month before, quoted a declaration from IN STRUGGLE! clearly announcing that a group from Ontario had just rallied to our group![6]

However, we must say that the League’s above mentioned quote omitted precisely the part of the sentence concerning “a group from Ontario”. There are certainly some accidents that help a lot some times! We must nevertheless recognize that the many declarations of the League to the effect that it has the “correct political line”; that it has so many “firsts” to its credit; that it must assume the tasks of party-building, and etc; we must recognize that all these statements cannot just be the result of chance, on an unhappy run of bad luck which somehow always end up with the League looking as if it took itself seriously as the directional center of the Marxist-Leninist movement, whereas it would really prefer that this question be decided by practice, as Workers’ Unity (Toronto) has already pointed out. And the whole propaganda of the League is filled with pretentious, pompous, and often misleading statements aimed at making it appear that the League is the only Marxist-Leninist organisation in Canada.

In the chapter of “firsts” we can read in The Struggle for the creation of the CCL (ML) that MREQ was “the first Marxist-Leninist group to proclaim throughout the country the need for an organization”... on a “Canada-wide” basis.[7]

On February 12, 1976 The Forge announced on page one that the assembly organized by the League to denounce the Trudeau wage control was “the first communist assembly held in Montreal in a long time.”!

All these rather doubtful “firsts” especially the one concerning the assembly, constitute an important “roll of honour”, although not a complete one; the best is yet to come.

In the “Forward” of its pamphlet Against Right Opportunism... the League writes:

“Far from being the final word on the subject, we hope this is but the opening volley in an intense ideological struggle over political line. Our purpose in this and forth coming pamphlets is to initiate debate on key questions which must be dealt with if we are to build a solid unity among Canadian Marxist-Leninists based on ideological and political line and create a genuine communist party.”[8]

Unquestionably, when the League contemplates its navel, it is under the impression it discovers the world!

If it were to assert that it “initiated” class struggle in our country, we wouldn’t be surprised. From “first” to “opening volleys” and from “initiations” to “firsts”; just where will the League lead us? One thing is certain, however; assertions of the kind we have just quoted reveal a profound misunderstanding not only of the history of our country’s Marxist-Leninist movement, but at the same time a total contempt for the movement as it exists today.

What do they mean when they say that a brochure published in May 1976 would be the “opening volley” of ideological debate on questions of political line, that this brochure “initiates” debate on key questions put forward by Canadian Marxist-Leninists? What has become of the Progressive Workers Movement and its magazine? and Pour le parti proletarien and other publications of IN STRUGGLE!? and dozens of texts and publications that Canadian Marxist-Leninists have been writing and distributing for ten years now?

It’s one of two things. Either the League knows very little of the history and the current situation of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement, and if this is the case, it isn’t in a very good position to exercise leadership as much as it would like to; or else it considers the movement started with the League, in the fall of 1975, which also constitutes a grave error.

It takes a certain nerve or great ignorance to state in May 1976 that the League “initiates” the debate among Canadian Marxist-Leninists, just after having recalled in the same “forward”, that: “The essence of Marxism-Leninism is not simply an affirmation of a set of principles but ’the concrete analysis of the concrete situation.’”[9]

One thing is certain, it isn’t a concrete analysis of the reality of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement which provides the basis for the League’s application of Marxist-Leninist principles, principles which it repeats mechanically and pulls out so often out of its hat to admonish the readers of its publications. One thing is even clearer, it isn’t by totally blacking out the history and present reality of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement that the League will convince anybody that it is struggling for unity and for the party according to the principles “unity-criticism-unity”. How could the League make unity with that which it doesn’t understand, of which it does not recognize the existence?

Here we are touching on the principal motive that brought the League to “proclaim” itself as “the organization of Canadian communists (Marxist-Leninists)”. It is not important that the League formally declared that it is or is not the “leading centre” of the movement. Nor the fact that the League called itself the “Canadian... league”, which could have constituted only a minor error, if its practice had revealed that it recognized in fact the existence of the movement and that it was disposed to work with the whole of the movement to realize its political and organizational unity. But the following assertions we find in the first issue of The Forge, turn out to be the expression of the real position of the League on itself and on its role:

“The CCL(ML) will take on very important theoretical and practical tasks. If we carry them out well, we will be able to forge indestructable links with the working masses and move on eventually to the creation of the Marxist-Leninist communist party.” The CCL (ML) will seek to unite all the Marxist-Leninists in the country, once they are convinced of the correctness of its line – always within the perspective of assuring the unity, thus the reinforcement, of the revolutionary movement of the working class.”[10]

“The CCL(ML) is the instrument necessary to fulfill these essential conditions for the creation of a real communist party in Canada.”[11] Are we going to seriously pretend these remarks are those of an organization which doesn’t consider itself to be the “leading centre” of the Marxist-Leninist movement? The League, following its remarks, must assume the essential task of creation of the party; it must “unite all Marxist-Leninists in the country, once they are convinced of the correctness of its line”; it goes without saying that it “is the necessary instrument” for the creation of the party!

What is the role of the rest of the Marxist-Leninist movement in these conditions? A relatively simple role, even though less glorious, less glorious because it is without a doubt more simple: to be convinced by the League of its “correct line”, to produce its “complete self-criticism” and to join the ranks of the League!

In regards to the League’s explanations on its decision to include “Canadian”, we skipped a passage. This is the time to correct our “forgetfulness”. The League writes:

“Of course, it would have been possible for us to send two or three militants off to a few of the major cities and thus pretend that we were a national organization. Or we could have stomped across the country, pounding our chests saying “we’re the genuine Marxist-Leninists, so join us” denouncing those who refused to join as counter-revolutionary. But this is obviously not the way to build unity – even if CPC (ML) might think so.”[12]

It is thus not up to us to tell the League that to go about shouting “We are the genuine Marxist-Leninists...” is only to remind us of the unfortunately famous sectarian methods of the CPC (M-L). However it would appear that if theses words are put to verse and sung, then the results are somewhat more easily swallowed! Permit us to quote these verses from the same issue of The Forge:

“We must build our unity
And it’s already begun
Yes! It’s the truth
There’s a League which was created
It’s with it we’ll go forward.

The League will show the way
In the struggle we must wage
We of the proletariat Must overthrow the bourgeois-class
United we’re sure to win.

With our strength we will advance
Victory is ours for sure
But we must rally round
The League which will build
Our Workers’ Party.”[13]

The League is right in denouncing the erroneous methods the CPC (ML) employs on the question of unity. We agree with this view-point, for practice has shown that CPC (ML)’s “self-proclamation”, its pretentions of constituting the “leading center” of Canadian Marxist-Leninists, its slogan calling everyone to rally to the “party”, all of this has brought CPC (M-L) to lamentable failure: the great majority of Marxist-Leninists that have anything to do with them, don’t stick around very long. With reason of course, for not only was CPC (ML) rotted by sectarianism, but it was, and remains, dominated by a bourgeois line and its practice was and remains fundamentally counterrevolutionary.

The lessons to be drawn from the history of CPC (ML) on the question of unity of Marxist-Leninists, as for many other subjects, should not be ignored. This is why they shouldn’t only be formulated abstractly, but should also be put into practice.

The founders of the League should have known that the struggle for the party, the struggle against localism, is not a question of name, and the fact that “Canadian” was included in its name does not guarantee that, in reality, we shall better serve the cause of party building. It also happens that, in the concrete conditions which surrounded the League’s creation, its decision of adding “Canadian” to its name, has brought it to do something that is in direct contradiction... with its intentions. This shows that the world’s best intentions will never replace “concrete analysis of the concrete situation”.

For the founders of the League should have known that, in October 1975, to put a name on part of the Marxist-Leninist movement that seemed to include the whole of it, wasn’t a good way to struggle against localism, and to favor the uniting of Marxist-Leninists. In reality, the League’s decision was and still is a manifestation of localism and an encouragement to localism, by advancing the point of view that any communist group, confined or not to some locality, in a town or region, can, in the name of its desire of breaking out of its confines and working on a nation-wide basis, proclaim itself to be a national organization. This point of view is wrong, it goes along with what we call the “sectarian logic”, for it encourages the creation of many supposedly “nation-wide” organizations, all of them carrying the “correct line”... with the best of intentions, of course.


[1] Workers’ Unity (Toronto) rallies to the CCL(ML), June 1976

[2] The Forge, no. 10, May 6, 1976, p. 11

[3] The Forge, no. 4, February 12, 1976, p. 14

[4] Workers’ Unity (Toronto) rallies to the CCL (ML), p. 22

[5] Ibid. p. 1.

[6] See Against Right Opportunism in the analysis of the Principal Contradiction: Criticism of IN STRUGGLE!’s Position p. 30. For IN STRUGGLE!’s declaration, see no. 60 of our newspaper, April 29, 1976, p. 5. Moreover, in our newspaper of May 13, 1976, p. 4, we wrote: “This was followed by a speech of a comrade from an English speaking group from Toronto recently rallied to IN STRUGGLE!

[7] The Struggle for the creation of the CCL(ML), p. 33

[8] Against Right Opportunism..., p. 2.

[0] Ibid.

[10] The Forge, no. 1, December 1975, p. 11.

[11] Ibid, p. 10.

[12] The Forge, no. 4, February 12, 1976, p. 14.

[13] Ibid.