Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Charles Gagnon

For the Proletarian Party

Preface to Second Edition

In spite of appearances to the contrary, in spite of defections, in spite of the doubts which plague militants at times, any careful look at the last 15 years of popular struggles in Quebec leads to the conclusion that the Quebec workers’ movement has made great progress. Less spectacular than during the 1960’s, the numerous struggles of the past two years were for many people an occasion to discover the necessity for the political organization of the working class. Such is the case for many political action committees (C.A.P. – comite fraction politique) and other comparable political organizations.

There can be no question of rejecting or setting aside the undeniable advances of these organizations, which have brought together groups of political militants, on the one hand, and important sections of the proletariat, on the other. Moreover, these advances must be the basis for the next step forward. For the Proletarian Party was written in this perspective.

By affirming the necessity of the revolutionary workers’ party, For the Proletarian Party adopts concretely the strategic line upheld by the principal existing political groups, which, for at least two years, have been working for the creation of what they have called up to now, the “autonomous political organization of the workers.” This objective signifies the de facto recognition of the leading historic role of the proletariat, not only in the abolition of capitalism and the construction of socialism, but also, at the current stage of the struggle in Quebec, in the battle for national liberation.

Nevertheless, the question of the party has remained purely theoretical for a majority of groups, like a distant objective to be mentioned only in passing and which could be ignored in the determination of current political priorities. But current practices can have a determining effect on the realization of the strategic objective of the creation of the revolutionary party. This is the perspective of the principal criticism in the brochure towards the practices, and also to a certain extent the orientation, of existing political groups.

This criticism consists essentially in the following: in the absence of a radical rectification of their current practices, the existing political groups are in danger of objectively, even against their own will, playing into the hands of social democracy. What should be the content of this rectification? While continuing to develop close links with groupings of workers, the political groups must resolutely turn towards the masses, open themselves up completely to the masses. Because, if political work, propaganda, study, “implantation”, local struggles, and the rest, remain the work of isolated groups, entirely occupied with “vanguard work”, it will sooner or later, but inevitably, be co-opted by the bourgeoisie, most probably through trade-union or social-democratic reformism.

For the Proletarian Party has received various criticisms to date. One of the most frequent consists in claiming that the brochure rejects organizational work for the sake of ideological struggle. It is a fact that the brochure does not clearly indicate the concrete relationships between these two complementary aspects of any political struggle: this was not its objective, since the brochure took for granted the existence of vanguard political groups. But to argue that it underestimates the importance of organization, is to set aside the entire first part of the brochure, which is devoted precisely to demonstrating the historic necessity of the supreme organization of the working class, the revolutionary party.

The goal of the second part, on the other hand, is to show that among the political tasks necessary for the development of the conditions for the creation of the workers’ party, of the organization for the leadership of the class struggle, priority must go to struggles on the ideological front. This does not mean priority only to developing and spreading Marxist theory, but above all to publicizing the gains represented by current workers’ struggles when they are waged from the perspective of developing the proletarian class struggle.

By advocating ideological struggle at this time in Quebec, we affirm the necessity for the penetration into the workers’ movement, of the theoretical and practical accomplishments of the existing political and popular groups. By advocating that the struggle on the ideological front should be the priority at this time, we indicate a path for the development of the existing groups, the creation of new groups, and, finally, the setting up the proletarian party.

In fact, For the Proletarian Party seeks to demonstrate how to apply two major lessons of the international proletarian movement to present-day Quebec; first, that no revolution is possible without revolutionary organization and, second, that no revolutionary organization is possible without revolutionary theory.

The necessity of the struggle on the ideological front can only be doubted if it is considered that merely a handful of militants is needed to develop revolutionary theory, formulate the proletarian ideology and show the working class how to use it. And the development of the struggle on this front in no way comes into contradiction – on the contrary with organizational work. Rather, it furnishes numerous new occasions for doing this essential work.

In the existing political groups, it is often forgotten that the recent development of tighter links between organized militants and groupings of workers is largely based on the mass political work which was carried out during the 1960’s. As much as it was correct to break with these forms of struggle, which consisted entirely in sporadic attempts at popular mobilization, it would be equally wrong not to recognize that this aspect of political work is essential and thoroughly positive to the extent that it rests on organizational bases whose development it advances.

Thus, struggle among the masses and mass struggles become the prime location for the application of the achievements of the advanced groups, which lose all significance if they are not concretely the vanguard of the masses. If not of the masses, then whose vanguard are they? And they will not become, they will not remain the vanguard of the masses if they do not act amongst the masses.

These questions should, no doubt, have been further explored in the brochure. But would it not rather be the task of the existing groups to take up, together, on the basis of a common practice, this work of clarifying the relations which ought to exist between vanguard practices and mass practices, these correct relations which must be established between the internal activities of the developing political groups and the broader struggles which affect the future of the working class in Quebec and of the entire Canadian people? The existing political groups cannot claim to be the vanguard if, because of their isolation, they remain indefinitely absent from popular struggles.

Aside from this preface, the second edition of For the Proletarian Party contains only one important change, at the very end of chapter 4, on the trade union question.

C. G.
Montreal, December 15, 1972.