Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Towards the unity of the Canadian Marxist-Leninists

Fight the Sectarianism of the CCL (ML)

Chapter 4: A dogmatic conception of the Marxist-Leninist movement and its history

Even if the League doesn’t yet go as far as asserting that it is the only organization in the Canadian communist movement, its actions in regard to Mobilisation and the Western Voice, among others, show without doubt that the League is firmly convinced that it alone has “the correct Marxist-Leninist line”, the “just line”. It is this “correct Marxist-Leninist line” that allows the League to decree not only who is in the movement and who is not, but also to show those groups who want to become “Marxist-Leninist” what to do. The “May 1st Collective” of Vancouver is right in saying:

“CCL(ML) (...) draws narrow lines around the Marxist-Leninist movement, which by definition excludes not only counter-revolutionaries, but also opportunists. In 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” (...) “The far more serious error, however, is the complete split they make between the two aspects of the central task of the period – uniting Marxist-Leninists and winning advanced workers to communism – while denying the centrality of ideological struggle to both of these tasks”.[1]

That explains why 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. That’s what allows the League to say that Mobilisation is not a Marxist-Leninist group, and can become one only by rallying to the League, which has the “correct Marxist-Leninist line”, rallying in the same way as an individual who believes in communism would join a Marxist-Leninist group.

That’s the basis of the “sectarian logic” that imbues the entirety of the actions of the League more and more deeply, from its “self-proclamation” as “the Canadian communist organization” to its formal notice to the members of Mobilisation that they must rally to the League, otherwise, no matter what they do, they remain outside the Marxist-Leninist movement.

So far, the League has restrained itself from clearly stating its opinion on IN STRUGGLE!’s place within the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement. Even though the League formally acknowledges our membership in the movement, it has, on one hand, undertaken a series of ferocious attacks which, in general, are based on past events grossly distorted by the League; and, on the other hand, it manifestly tries to lend credence to the opinion that there exists within the movement a line which is opportunist on all points... and of which IN STRUGGLE! is the principal agent.

In its article on the Western Voice and its pamphlets “Against Right Opportunism in the Analysis of the Principal Contradiction” and “Workers’ Unity (Toronto) rallies the CCL (ML)”, the League has undertaken to demonstrate that there is an opportunist line within the movement and that Canadian Marxist-Leninists must direct their principal efforts to the “repudiation of an entire ideological and political line”. The two main points of the incorrect line which the League keeps harping on, are the principal contradiction and the threat against Canada’s independence posed by the two superpowers. And whose positions on these two points has the League attacked above all in the last few months? Issue no 8 of The Forge carried two pages criticizing IN STRUGGLE!’s positions on international questions and the danger of a world war.[2] Last May the League published a pamphlet which criticizes IN STRUGGLE!’s position on the principal contradiction called “Against Right Opportunism in the Analysis of the Principal Contradiction: Criticism of IN STRUGGLE!’s Position”.

It is not necessary to be too shrewd to conclude that if there is a right opportunist tendency among Canadian Marxist-Leninists and if this tendency is not only characterized by economism – a question the League has conspicuously put aside since its creation – but, above all by its erroneous position on the principal contradiction in Canada, and the question of Canada’s independence vis-a-vis the superpowers and the danger of a world war, it is therefore not shrewd to conclude that IN STRUGGLE! is, according to the League, at the heart of this tendency.

Everyone knows that right opportunism is characterized by the renunciation of the principles of Marxism-Leninism. According to the League’s criticisms of IN STRUGGLE!, our group is not only in the process of forsaking the principles that should guide its actions, but also, what is far more serious and far more important, it doesn’t understand the principles of Marxism-Leninism. So it shouldn’t be surprising, then, if it doesn’t apply them! We can, on the mere basis of the chapter titles in the pamphlet, get an idea of IN STRUGGLE!’s profound theoretical weaknesses. For example: “At the root of an incorrect formulation of the principal contradiction we find errors of principle on the nature of imperialism” (p. 7); “IN STRUGGLE! hasn’t grasped the division of the world into three and liquidates the struggle for the defence of Canada’s independence” (p13); “IN STRUGGLE! committs errors on the nature of the state and does not clearly identify the enemies of the Canadian proletariat” (p 19). No wonder the next chapter is called “The opportunism of IN STRUGGLE”, (p 22).

The League therefore does not criticize IN STRUGGLE! for incorrectly applying Marxism-Leninism to this or that point on the national or international situation; rather it affirms that IN STRUGGLE! grasps hardly a word of Marxism-Leninism, its fundamental error lies in its ignorance of Marxism-Leninism! And, the question that follows or will soon follow is: can a group like IN STRUGGLE! which shows such a poor grasp of Marxism-Leninism, be considered a part of the movement, when at the same time the movement has within it an organization as advanced as the League, which has not only jt mastered the principles but also succeeded in applying them correctly to all the essential questions of the revolution in our country?

We now understand more clearly why Mobilisation should dissolve and rally to the League; why the Western Voice would not help the movement in publishing IN STRUGGLE!’s documents against economism; and why the struggle against economism is of secondary importance in the struggle against “an entire ideological and political line dominated by opportunism.”[3]

“Sectarian logic” leads to the following conclusion: the authentic, the genuine, Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada is composed of the League. Those who want to collaborate on the building of the party on a “correct Marxist-Leninist line” must rally the League. What is the difference between such a position and the one held by the CPC (ML) as reported and criticized by the League itself? There is only one: the League has the “correct line”; the CPC (ML), doesn’t! 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.

In the same way that the League is in the process of reducing the present Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement to itself and to the groups which agree to do their “complete self-criticism” under its direction, it is showing a tendency that is more and more marked of dating the birth of the movement to the creation of the League in October 1975.

Isn’t the League the first Marxist-Leninist organization in Canada since the CPC degenerated into revisionism? Wasn’t the League the first to bring together Marxist-Leninist communists “of the two nations of our country, of the two major cities of Canada”? The first, in a long time, to organize a communist meeting in Montreal? Didn’t the League “initiate the debate” among Canadian communists on fundamental questions of line? Didn’t the League sound the “opening volley” in this debate with its pamphlet “Against Right Opportunism...” last May?

In short, all the groups that came before the League had next to nothing that was Marxist-Leninist about them. Mobilisation was at the helm of a movement entirely corrupted by opportunism; the Western Voice carried out an anti-Marxist line. IN STRUGGLE!, still sapped by opportunism today, didn’t have a “clear line” at its creation; this group conspired behind the backs of the genuine Marxist-Leninists and prevented the workers from having access to the fundamental works of Marxism-Leninism by feeding them its own “popularizations”. History gives few examples of such self-importance, of such pretention and contempt coming from a Marxist-Leninist organization and aimed at the movement from which it draws its origins. For, where does the League come from? May be the League thinks it comes from the gods? Or could it be the fruit of a spontaneous creation of life?

The League’s conception of history and of the present state of the Marxist-Leninist movement is not materialist; it is a conception stamped with subjectivism and dogmatism and it leads directly to sectarianism. And its sectarianism is leading the League to practices which are not only dubious but also quite erroneous and even dishonest. 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. But when the League sets about, in some cases on the basis of idle gossip, to knowingly distort the history of the movement, especially the history of IN STRUGGLE!, in order to exclude IN STRUGGLE! from the movement and to more easily assume the role it has already assigned itself, that of leading the struggle to create the party, this we refuse to accept.

In criticizing IN STRUGGLE!’s position on the question of the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists in its pamphlet “Against Right Opportunism...”, the League begins by saying that IN STRUGGLE! puts organizational questions before questions of line. However, IN STRUGGLE! has clearly stated that the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists means the unity around a program and unity in one organization; and how can Marxist-Leninists adopt a common program without dealing with all the fundamental questions of the Marxist-Leninist ideological line of our country? The League then adds a short note:

“This, by the way, is how the group Equipe du Journal – later to become IN STRUGGLE! – was formed at the end of 1972, subordinating political questions to organizational questions.” (our emphasis, IS)[4]

Thus, IN STRUGGLE!, in 1972 as in 1976, did not and does not have a “clear line”, a “correct Marxist-Leninist line”. In other words, the League says that whole history of IN STRUGGLE! is marked by opportunism.

In fact, IN STRUGGLE! was formed at the end of 1972 on the basis of “For the Proletarian Party”, which, in spite of its errors and its “lack of precision”, put forward a position that was nevertheless clear enough to initiate or, at least, to reinforce, the wave of criticism of economism and opportunism which was rapidly growing within progressive forces in Quebec at that time. IN STRUGGLE! was formed on a line whose major characteristic was its preoccupation with the question of the party. And this was undoubtedly a step forward, even though it wasn’t, we agree, a party program! But, is it correct, is it materialist to judge the positions we held and actions we did in 1972 in the light of the ideological and political clarifications carried out by the whole movement in 1976? Certainly not. That isn’t materialist, it is idealist and dogmatic.

Moreover, the League “forgets” one thing as it launches its criticisms of the lack of precision of the Equipe du Journal’s positions (IN STRUGGLE!’s name in 1972). The League is forgetting that one of its founding groups, MREQ[5], at that time considered the EDJ’s line to be sufficiently clear to take part in its activities for at least 8 months. Indeed, MREQ, in reply to IN STRUGGLE!’s appeal to other groups to take part in the building of a newspaper, delegated 3 of its members who took part in all the EDJ’s activities and decisions until September 1973. At that time, MREQ decided to withdraw its members for reasons that remain obscure to this day; reasons that MREQ was unable to clearly express at a meeting held with IN STRUGGLE! to discuss why.

Who had a “clear and correct Marxist-Leninist line” in 1972 and in 1973? Was it the MREQ? The workplace sector of CAP St-Jacques[6]? The Progressive Workers’ Movement? The CPC (ML)? That’s the question the League is implicitly asking. And it’s a “phoney question”. The question of the composition of the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada is different from defining who had the correct line at all times; that does not exist. The question is how, progressively and through many errors and fumblings, did progressive groups and militants educated in Marxism-Leninism, succeed in tracing the path of the proletarian revolution in our country; how did they learn to apply the universal principles of Marxism-Leninism and the lessons of the international workers’ movement to the practice of the revolution in our country.

If the League had a more materialist vision of history, it would undoubtedly have a less pretentious and more modest conception of its role at the present stage. If the League, for example, would remember the history of one of its founding groups, the Cellule Militante Ouvriere (CMO) (which was formed following a split within the “workplace sector” of CAP St-Jacques and the criticism of the opportunism of the CAP, a criticism spearheaded by militants from the workplace sector), maybe today it would deal with the criticism of Mobilisation and Western Voice with less self-importance and would hurry to take back its ridiculous statements which insist that no one can grasp Marxism-Leninism and succeed in correctly applying it to Canada without placing himself under the direction of the League! The Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement, and that includes the League, has a history. And it is this history which has created the present situation, whether the League likes it or not.

The League not only completely ignores the history of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement; but, moreover it does its utmost to completely distort some of its episodes in so far as this helps it to glamorize its “correct line” by throwing, all other groups into the fires of opportunism. In spite of the fact that it will involve some length, we think it necessary to clarify some of the “criticisms” the League has of IN STRUGGLE!, criticisms which deal with events of the past. This will enable us to clearly show the League’s erroneous conception of the nature of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement and of its history.


[1] Canadian Revolution, Vol. 1, No. 5 April-May 1976, pp.5-6.

[2] The Forge No 8 April 8, 1976 pp. 10-11

[3] The translation is ours, because the English version of the League’s pamphlet Against Right Opportunism in the Analysis of the principal contradiction does not contain the following paragraph which in the French version appears just before the last paragraph of the “Foreward”, and which reads: “L’opportunisme de droite est le danger principal dans notre mouvenment aujourd’hui, et il faut aller plus loin que l’opposition a l’economisme qui n’en est qu’une forme; notre effort doit porter sur la rupture complete avec l’ensemble d’une ligne ideologique et politique erronee.” English and French readers, according to the League, do not have to apparently read the same text on the same question!

[4] Against Right Opportunism… p. 27 Note (5) The footnote refers back to page 3 of the same pamphlet.

[5] MREQ: Mouvement Revolutionnaire des Etudiants du Quebec, A revolutionary student group in Quebec.

[6] Le secteur travail of the CAP St-Jacques.