Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Towards the unity of the Canadian Marxist-Leninists

Fight the Sectarianism of the CCL (ML)

Chapter 5: A little history goes a long way in demystifying the League’s gossip

IN STRUGGLE! was born in the fall of 1972 with the formation of a small cell of militants united around the task of producing the pamphlet For the proletarian Party. This cell, called l’Equipe du Journal, (EDJ), gave itself the task of building a newspaper of communist propaganda and agitation. The EDJ did not intend to achieve the project of building this newspaper alone, nor did it intend to achieve it outside of the progressive forces existing at the time, a great portion of which were already struggling to guide their actions with Marxist-Leninist principles and with the teachings of the international workers’ movement. And so, the EDJ published and widely distributed in Quebec a pamphlet explaining its project of starting a newspaper; and it met, in certain cases on several occasions, with all groups showing interest in this project.

As a reminder, meetings were held with the following groups (among others): APLQ, Mobilisation Librairie Progressiste, Strappe-Virage (this has now become the GRP, Groupe pour la revolution proletarienne) CRIQ which has since then become the GAS, Groupe d’Action socialiste) and MREQ, now dissolved in to the League...

Several of the groups recognized the importance and bearing of this project in the conditions then prevailing within the progressive forces, and decided to support the project either by giving financial support, by taking part in the distribution of the paper or by sending one of its members as a delegate to the EDJ. As we have already stated, MREQ sent three of its members as delegates to the EDJ. This is how the IN STRUGGLE “support groups” came into being; they were nothing more or less than groups that supported the starting of the newspaper. The meetings of the IN STRUGGLE “support groups” were to give these groups the chance to take part in the newspaper’s orientation and development.

Right from the beginning, the EDJ’s objective was to wage the struggle for the proletarian Party; this was clearly stated in For the proletarian Party and in IN STRUGGLE’S! pamphlet no. 1 published in the May 1, 1973, edition of the newspaper.

More precisely, EDJ set itself the task of working towards the realization of the conditions necessary for the creation of the Party. This was to be met by the penetration of Marxism-Leninism in the working class and the laboring masses in general, in order to tear them away from the domination of bourgeois ideology as exercised by Parti Quebecois nationalists and by reformists of all kinds. In the fall of 1973, the EDJ produced an internal working paper entitled Pour l’edification du parti ouvrier revolutionnaire that it decided to bring to the attention of the “groupes amis” or support groups at their December 1973 meeting.

These groups deemed this document worthy of being thoroughly studied and decided to set up an “ad hoc committee” composed of representatives of each of the IN STRUGGLE! “support groups”. The “ad hoc committee’s” task was to study the document on the one hand; and on the other hand to analyse the practice of the different groups in the light of the objective of the struggle for the Party and in the light of the tasks deriving from this objective. The committee began work in January 1974. Militants from four other groups or cells, including two militants from the Clinique populaire de St-Henri in Montreal, asked to become members of the committee and were accepted.

For lack of firm and well-informed political leadership, that IN STRUGGLE! should have exercised, the “ad hoc committee” turned out to a great extent to be a failure. It did not succeed in developing the propositions put forth in the document on the “building of the Party”. Neither did the “ad hoc committee” have any more success in doing a rigourous and penetrating criticism of the practices of the militants active in different progressive organizations. We must “remember that the winter of 1974 was precisely the period when IN STRUGGLE! energetically supported the development of the Comite de solidarity avec les luttes ouvrieres (CSLO). This period was also characterized by a strong tendency towards economism in the content of the newspaper, giving first place, if not the only place, to the immediate struggles of the working class, dangerously pushing into second place the political struggle and the struggle to rally the advanced workers to communism.

Conscious of the “Ad hoc committee’s” inability to fulfill its role, its members decided after a collective criticism in June, 1974, to dissolve the committee. However the summing-up, or the evaluation and criticism of the work and errors of the “Ad-hoc committee” was never rigorously completed, and the reasons for the committee’s failure were never clearly identified. For these reasons we can thus say that the attempt by the direction of IN STRUGGLE! to establish a “Project Association”, which the COR so mysteriously called the “Project ’A’” in its November, 1975, self-criticism, was little more than an attempt to re-establish the “Ad hoc committee” under a different name. In effect, the “Association” was to have grouped together essentially militants from IN STRUGGLE!, as well as those militants from the other groups which had participated in the “Ad hoc committee.” This, by the way, was never the case in so far as the MREQ and the CMO were concerned; these two groups had never participated in the “Ad hoc committee”, and they were not subsequently invited to participate in the “Association”. The task of the “Association” was to have been the preparation of a project-program for the establishment of an organisation. Finally, in order to avoid repression, this work was to have been conducted in the utmost secrecy.[1]

It was this same incorrect attitude towards repression which led the IN STRUGGLE! leadership to ask militants, joining the Association, to tell no one of the Association existence, including other members and the leaders of their group... in the cases where such a leadership existed. For, indeed, certain groups which certain militants came from had a very liberal way of functioning which turned these groups into real transmission cables for the repressive forces. It is at this time that members of the COR, invited as members of the Clinique St-Henri and of the CSLO and having participated in the “ad hoc committee”, refused to abide by this rule, and revealed that they belonged to a group applying democratic centralism.

The Association held only two meetings, its founding meeting in August 1974 and the meeting at which the Association was dissolved in October of the same year! Between the presentation of this project in June 1974 and its abandonment at the beginning of October, the evaluation of IN STRUGGLE! activities considerably developed on the basis, among others of Pamphlet no 10 entitled “IN STRUGGLE! after one year of activity...” published in the June 27, 1974 issue of the newspaper. In September the erroneous character of the Association project, as well as the “ad hoc committee”, was an accepted fact within IN STRUGGLE!. From this moment on, the group undertook a systematic criticism of its former positions on the means to arrive at the establishment of a Marxist-Leninist organization of struggle for the party. This party was to be Canadian, since IN STRUGGLE! also rectified its line on the national question in Quebec at the same time.

It is in Creons 1’organisation marxiste-leniniste de lutte pour le parti (December 1974) that IN STRUGGLE!’s self-criticism concerning the Association is to be found. In this document, IN STRUGGLE! clearly states its conception of the organization 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.

This having been said, the attitude of “offended virgin” taken by the COR in its self-criticism of November 1975 and taken up again more recently by the League in its pamphlet entitled “Against right opportunism...”[2] greatly surprises us. In the first place, the League has all the necessary information to correctly place what it calls “Project A” in its real historical context. In the second place, as we said earlier, three members of MREQ participated in all the decisions and took part in all the activities of the EDJ between January and September 1973 – incidentally, perhaps we should ask the MREQ to make its self-criticism for this episode... that it “forgot” to relate in its “complete self-criticism” of November 1975? We should also point out that between January or February and August 1974, two members of the Clinique St-Henri (who we learnt latter were founders of the COR), first joined the “ad hoc committee” and afterwards the abortive Association.

Incidentally, if these two members from the COR now insist that IN STRUGGLE! didn’t make its self-criticism on the “Project A” there are very good reasons. Indeed, the two COR members refused to attend the second meeting of the Association, the very meeting during which the Association was dissolved. At the same meeting, a self-criticism was made based on a text which was given out to everyone, including the two COR militants, several days before the meeting. Besides this, on two occasions the same two militants had “neglected” – the first meeting was postponed because of their absence – to attend the dissolution meeting of the “ad hoc committee” in June 1974! In both cases, the two militants in question preferred to abstain from taking part in the collective criticism of each of these projects with which they had been associated. Instead they preferred to, later on, jump on IN STRUGGLE! by distorting the facts. Such a conception of criticism and self-criticism leaves us pensive; and this moreover, from an organization that specializes in giving out summons left and right and demands “complete self-criticisms” from every Tom, Dick and Harry.

The real errors of the Association scandalize the League, much more than those very comparable errors of the COR. Wasn’t the COR born clandestinely in April 1975? Did the groups to which its founding members belong, including the Clinique St-Henri and the ADDS St-Henri, know of the COR’s creation?

But there remains a difference between the Association and the COR: the latter existed until the League’s creation into which it dissolved, while the former, conscious of its errors, dissolved itself as early as its second meeting, its founders fully recognizing the extent of their error before all those they had tried to lead into an incorrect position. But in the Association self-criticism, there were two exceptions to the rule. Indeed, two COR members, rather than make their criticisms in front of everyone... preferred to unveil this “scandal” a few months later. Of course, we have to admit that the two militants in question were in a very awkward position: they would have had to criticize errors that they themselves had committed! Their abstention explains itself and it also explains the great importance they attach to the fact that others should always make their “complete self-criticism”!

In fact, the League’s “complete self-criticisms” often have the peculiarity of transforming themselves... into their contrary and, of becoming exercises of “self-proclamation” by the League and of degenerating into criticisms of other groups. The self-criticism of the League’s founding groups, in particular that of the COR, have thus given them an occasion to criticize IN STRUGGLE! which is held up as the principal agent for certain of their mistakes. More recently, in its newspaper, the League has been using these “complete self-criticisms” to absolve its founding groups from all responsibility for the existence of the economist tendency; the blame is put on other groups, IN STRUGGLE! included, against whom unfounded charges are laid. Let us have a look at another chapter of the history of the Marxist-Leninist movement as “arranged” by the League.

“More and more the economism of groups like the now defunct RCT (Group of Workers Committee) has been rejected. But for a long time communists in Quebec reserved communist propaganda for intellectuals and did basically economic agitation in the working class. The three founding groups of the League were themselves marked by economism. This economism has already been the subject of a full self-criticism in “The struggle for the creation of the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist).

This was also the attitude of EN LUTTE! (IN STRUGGLE!), for example, towards Atelier ouvrier, a group of Montreal workers, in refusing to let the workers study Marxist-Leninist classics in their study groups. Instead Atelier Ouvrier studied its own popularizations, the study of the classics being reserved for the intellectuals of IN STRUGGLE!”[3] To find such a passage in a leading article entitled “The struggle against right opportunism is essential for building the party” is at first sight surprising. Indeed, one presumes that the struggle against opportunism in 1976 should be waged against its present manifestations and not on the forms it may have taken in 1973-74. But the League’s “subtleties” should no longer escape the reader. What does this passage state, in effect? It states that all communists have for a long time been branded by economism, and adds that the League’s three founding groups, and they alone, so it seems, have made their “full self-criticism”. This is really a way to cheapen IN STRUGGLE!’s brochure, Against economism published at the beginning of September 1975; and several other texts published by groups such as the GRP, the GAS, Mobilisation, etc. which as far as economism is concerned, undertake deeper “full self-criticisms” than those of the “founding groups”.

But the League’s brilliant historical analysis does not limit itself to burying certain facts, since these facts might tarnish the founding groups’ image; but, as well, it totally distorts the history of the relationship between l’Atelier ouvrier and IN STRUGGLE! Here again, we are forced to set the facts straight.

The Atelier ouvrier was created in the winter of 1973 by several unionized workers, dissatisfied with their unions, along with a few Marxist-Leninist and progressive intellectuals some of whom belonged to different political groups of the time, while others did not. The founding of the Atelier was altogether independent from the founding of Equipe du Journal with the exception that two members of EDJ attended the first meeting of the Atelier because of their past work with certain of the workers. Despite the fact that two workers from the Atelier latter joined the EDJ and that an intellectual who joined IN STRUGGLE! in the Spring of 1973 stayed with the Atelier until the Spring of 1974, the Atelier’s leadership remained totally independent from IN STRUGGLE! until September 1974.

To state, as the League does, that the Atelier was an IN STRUGGLE! study group, to state that IN STRUGGLE! refused to let the workers of the Atelier study Marxist-Leninist classics, is to state two out and out lies. In the preceding chapter, we have seen that until the fall of 1974, IN STRUGGLE!’s line was largely marked by spontaneous deviations in organizational matters. The encouragement given by our group to the development of “workers committees” in 1973-74, as well as our participation in the CSLO of which a criticism was made in the pamphlet Against economism, are indications of the same error. The League is free to criticize IN STRUGGLE!’s errors at that time if it feels it can serve the promotion of the “virgin line” of an organization born in October 1975... which therefore has nothing to do with the mistakes made in the movement before that date, since the groups that founded the League have made their “full self-criticism” and since the League has forgiven all their faults! But the League has no right to distort history. Not only was the Atelier never a “study group” under the leadership of IN STRUGGLE!, but the day IN STRUGGLE! finally did take over its leadership in the fall of 1974, at the end of an intense struggle over political line, it was to conduct a severe criticism of the Atelier’s past errors. Made on the basis of Marxist-Leninist classics, this criticism lead to the dissolution of the group in December 1974.

Here again, the League’s statements leave us pensive. Indeed, in the Spring of 1974, two members of the COR, who were then known by us to be members of the Clinique populaire St-Henri, the very ones who were members of the “ad hoc committee”, asked to meet some members of IN STRUGGLE! after their “problems” with the Atelier.

This meeting brought out the fact that the criticisms made by members of the COR no doubt had foundations but that IN STRUGGLE! could not directly intervene in the Atelier’s business, since this group was autonomous. Furthermore, in May 1974, the CMO met separately with IN STRUGGLE! and l’Atelier, after being informed the these two groups had distinct leaderships, the Atelier being in no way whatsoever submitted to IN STRUGGLE!’s leadership. How is it that today, the League, distorting facts it has in its possession, speaks of the Atelier as an IN STRUGGLE! study group; and in which IN STRUGGLE! opposed the study of Marxism-Leninism by workers?

The League’s statement, moreover, goes beyond the relationship between IN STRUGGLE and Atelier Ouvrier. Given the context in which it appears, the statement leaves the impression that IN STRUGGLE! was an agent of economism in the same way, or similar to, the RCT. In reality, however, IN STRUGGLE! was founded precisely as the result of the criticisms of that political tendency of CAP St. Jacques which later gave birth to the RCT; the group IN STRUGGLE! was organised on the recognition of the necessity to accomplish Communist agitation and propaganda tasks, and to diffuse Marxism-Leninism among the working class. To verify these facts, the reader may refer to Pamphlet no 1, entitled “Why a newspaper of struggle for the working class?”, and in which IN STRUGGLE! explains its position, while at the same time criticizing those so-called “advanced” groups of that period which opposed all forms of communist propaganda.[4]

Now, it so happens that in defending its point of view IN STRUGGLE! met, in 1972 as well as in 1973 and 1974, with fierce opposition from a certain number of militants who today belong to the “all too pure” League and who seem to consider themselves fully authorized to dump their waste on the head of others, in particular IN STRUGGLE! . They do this today by advancing propositions they found incorrect and which they fought against when it was these “others”, including IN STRUGGLE!, which were fighting to have these same propositions adopted by the whole movement. To be more precise, let us point out that in 1972 and in 1973, militants from the CAP St-Jacques “secteur travail”, (workplace sector) who created the CMO in 1974, and in 1975 joined the League, were strong opponents of the building of a newspaper. Let us further add that in 1974, militants from COR, likewise, became opponents of wide-scale communist propaganda, adhering in its place to the “implantation tactic” and to “local organizations”. We even know of CMO “implanted” militants who, in 1974, refused our proposal that they distribute IN STRUGGLE! at “their” factory, because communist propaganda on the party carried too great a risk of frightening off the workers with whom these “implanted” CMO members were trying to develop ties... on another basis.

It is those CMO and MREQ militants who, on March 8, 1975, were opposed to the distribution of IN STRUGGLE! and consequently, of MREQ’s newspaper Le Partisan at the entrance of a public meeting. It was militants from COR, who, on May 1, 1975, physically prevented an IN STRUGGLE militant from distributing the newspaper in a public hall.

Let us further add, just in case the League wants to write a “full” and exact history of the economist tendencies in Quebec in the past four years, that is should not forget the pamphlet entitled De quelques questions brulantes sur la ligne tactique published by the CMO in June 1975. It should also not forget the struggle waged for the continuation of the CSLO by the League’s founding groups all through the spring and summer of 1975, while already in June 1975, contrary to what Mobilisation implies in its pamphlet Liquidons le spontaneisme, l’opportunisme et 1’economisme, IN STRUGGLE! was resolutely conducting a public criticism of the incorrect line spread by the CSLO.[5]

In the past few months, the League has developed the habit of taking dangerous liberties with the history of the Canadian, and particularly the Quebec, Marxist-Leninist movement. It must appeal to the vanity of the founders of the League to proclaim themselves the “first” in everything and the only ones to have made a “full self-criticism” of their errors, but historical truth contains richer lessons than the League’s “promotional” campaign.

From the historical materialist point of view, history, the “science of history” that is, does not only consist of reporting the facts correctly – which is an elementary requirement the League does not always respect – but also consists of placing these facts in the context in which they took place, to consider them from the point of view of the conditions in which they developed and not from the point of view of the conditions prevailing at the moment the facts are related. Otherwise, as the Central Committee of the CPSU declared at the time it published the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) in 1938, one merely “distorts historical truth”.[6]

So, when the League declares that IN STRUGGLE! “constituted itself... without clearly defining its political line”; when it accuses IN STRUGGLE! of not having demonstrated “the slightest interests in debating with the founding groups” of the League; when it states that the League was not created “without the knowledge of the majority of the communist movement”[7], not only is it taking liberties with history, but from lack of correctly placing the events in which they took place, it totally distorts the history of the Canadian, and in particular the Quebec, Marxist-Leninist movement.

For, if one considers that the EDJ’s line in 1972 wasn’t as “clear” as it might be in 1976, one must also point out that in many respects it was clearer than those put forth at the same time by the people who, three years later, joined together to create the League.

If the League considers that IN STRUGGLE! has not “demonstrated the slightest interest in debating with the founding groups” of the League, it must not forget that in January 1975, it was IN STRUGGLE! which asked to meet with MREQ, and that meetings were held until September 1975. The League should not forget either that IN STRUGGLE! had accepted to meet with COR in December 1974 and that it was COR which asked that the meeting be postponed and finally reject holding it; it should not forget, either, that IN STRUGGLE! and CMO met in the spring of 1975 and that the CMO was to prepare a proposition for a second meeting, a proposition which, to this date, has yet to be received!

If one can say that the founding groups of the League as well as IN STRUGGLE! had, late in 1974 and early in 1975, published documents calling for the creation of a Marxist-Leninist organization, one must also point out that during 1975, conditions changed considerably inside the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement, particularly with the appearance on the scene of several English-Canadian groups, so that one cannot say that the propositions put forward by the League’s founding groups, as well as those of other groups, had really been the object of debate throughout the whole movement when the League’s self-proclamation came about in November 1975.

But what is more important than all these isolated facts, is IN STRUGGLE !’s consistency in seeking to associate other groups in its action, as is proved by MREQ’s presence at the EDJ, and the presence of militants of the Clinique St-Henri – militants who were later to found the COR – in the “ad hoc committee” and in the Association. Proof of this is also found in the presence of several groups in the CSLO of which IN STRUGGLE! was one of the initiators. What is more important, is that historically, the MREQ, the CMO and the COR, and later on the League, have consistently stood in the way of the participation of communists and progressives in joint activities, for example on March 8, 1975 as well as on March 8 and March 22, 1976.[8]

It is the League’s dogmatism and sectarianism, and that of its founding groups, which has held back a greater rapprochement between them and IN STRUGGLE!, between them and several other groups. The League and its founders have always tried to hide this dogmatism and sectarianism under the phoney excuse that any collaboration between Marxist-Leninists, and between Marxist-Leninists and progressives, demands a previous agreement on the whole political line a “complete unity of thought”, to use The Forge’s expression, on the principal contradiction, on the danger of war posed by the USSR, etc. In other works, the League poses such conditions to temporary unity of action between Marxist-Leninists and sympathizers of the movement to an extent that was not even to be found united together inside certain parties during, one period or another of their history, as the history of the international communist movement shows.


[1] The self-criticism of the COR published in The Struggle for the creation of the CCL(ML), see pp. 28-29.

[2] Note 5 p. 29

[3] The Forge, no. 11, May 20, 1976, p. 11

[4] Published in the preview issue of the newspaper, May 1, 1973. See pages 7 and 8 of the Pamphlet in particular. This pamphlet does not exist in English.

[5] IN STRUGGLE! published three articles criticizing the CSLO, namely “EN LUTTE! et le Comite de solidarity avec les luttes ouvrieres”, no. 41, June 19, 1975, p. 7; ”A propos du CSLO, qui sont les veritables liquidateurs?”, no. 44, September 11, 1975, p. 7; “La dissolution du CSLO, une etape importante dans la lutte contre l’economisme”, no. 46, October 9, 1975, pp. 4-5. Furthermore, the pamphlet Against economism was published during the week preceding the congress which dissolved the CSLO, held on September 13, 1975. Mobilisation’s pamphlet “Liquidons...” is not available in English.

[6] The complete quote of the CPSU(b) resolution, which may be found on page 7 of On the Organization of Party Propaganda in Connection with the Publication of the History of the CPSU(b) – Short Course, Moscow, 1939, reads: “In historical science. anti-Marxist perversions and vulgarizations were until quite latterly connected with the so-called Pokrovsky ”school” which interpreted historical facts in a perverted way, treated them, in defiance of historical materialism, and not from the standpoint of the conditions in which the historical events took place, and thus distorted historical truth.” (underlined by I.S.!)

[7] These three statements may be found on page 28 of the pamphlet Against right opportunism...

[8] On the League’s “unification” practices on the occasion of March 8, 1976, see the Supplement “For unity of action against the enemies of the people! Fight against dogmatism and sectarianism in the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement, answer-supplement to the criticism of the CCL(ML)”, no. 56 (Vol. 3, no. 15). March 4, 1976. (Available in English in the special issue of the Digest).