Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

In Struggle!

The third conference of Canadian Marxist-Leninists on the international situation

A Fundamental Debate

First Published: In Struggle No. 97, September 15, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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“Unity! Unity! Unity!”. This slogan, struck up spontaneously and taken up wholeheartedly by an enthusiastic audience, was the closing note of the Third Conference ot Marxist-Leninists, which took place in Montreal September 9, 10 and 11. Held under the banner of proletarian internationalism, the conference also demonstrated the militant way in which we, Canadian proletarians, are honouring the memory ot one of the great proletarian leaders of our era, comrade Mao Tse-tung, who passed away a year ago. That is why the conference began with a minute of silence in memory of Comrade Mao. That is also why the conference ended with a tribute to the one whose name will always be associated with the struggle to free all of humanity from all forms ot oppression and exploitation. [1]

How can nearly three days of debates, mustering 800 to 1,000 people a day in three parallel workshops, be described in a few paragraphs? All those who participated in the Third Conference will undoubtedly have been impressed by the intensity and diversity of the discussions and political events that occurred during these three days.

The anti-imperialist groups participated actively

Friday night was the “opening night” of the conference. This “opening”, however, wasn’t in the least a matter of protocol... On the contrary, it was very important in enabling the debates during the weekend to be “down to earth”. Indeed it is important to realize that if so many people, including many workers and women of the people, came and participated in these debates, it wasn’t in order to become UN diplomats or to look good in parlour debates, but rather to understand the situation of the working class and people throughout the world, to understand the forces operating on the international level so as to struggle more effectively. That is why the conference began by giving various Canadian, and especially Montreal, anti-imperialist groups, an opportunity to explain the struggle of their people, the struggle of the workers in their country, to Canadian Marxist-Leninists and workers in general.


Thus, for instance, the spokesperson for MEAM [2] explained how US imperialism, exposed as a paper tiger by the peoples’ struggles, is today dreaming up new schemes – for example, in South Africa and Rhodesia, where Carter is apparently in favour of “freedom ” for Africans!!! We also saw how the other superpower, the USSR, has used its socialist mask to support regimes, like the Ethiopian military regime, which in practice are nothing but corrupt middlemen for the new Soviet imperialism.


A spokesperson for the Haitian group EN AVANT! came to tell us about the struggle of her people against Duvaller’s fascist dictatorship which is controlled by imperialist, and particularly US imperialist, interests. Indeed, this intervention was especially important for us in Canada inasmuch as Canadian imperialism also takes a particularly active part in the oppression of our Haitian brothers. Perhaps you’ve already heard people who are influenced by bourgeois ideology wonder why on earth Marxist-leninists are so interested in what happens to other peoples when there are so many problems right here in our own country... But stop and think for a minute. Isn’t what happens in Haiti of the upmost importance for our own struggle in Canada? Are not Canadian and US imperialism the common enemy of the Haitian people and Canadian workers? In effect, as EN AVANT!’s spokesperson pointed out, the victory in one country is a victory for the other. That is why the group EN AVANT! emphasizes that the true friends of the Haitian people are workers throughout the world, as well as other peoples and nations struggling against imperialism; they also include the socialist countries and Marxist-Leninist organizations and parties across the world.


A Filipino comrade explained the struggle of his people against the ultra-reactionary Marcos regime, a regime in the pay of US imperialism and supported by Canadian imperialism. The Filipino comrade gave the meeting a highly developed class analysis of Filipino society which enabled us to understand and appreciate the just nature of this fraternal people’s struggle. It is the working class that is leading the national liberation struggle in the Philippines, in alliance with the peasantry which, makes up 80% of the population and is the principal base of the revolution.


Like the speech by the Haitian spokesperson, the speech given by the Association of Iranian students at the opening session highlighted the importance of the revolutionary organization and Marxist-Leninist ideology as the indispensable guide of peoples’ liberation struggles.

Third World Anti-Imperialist Committee (CAPT)

These four very concrete and animated presentations, brought out what was at the heart of the controversial debate at the Third Conference over the strategy of the proletarian revolution on a world scale. In particular, these presentations showed how the struggle in Third World countries is essentially a struggle against imperialism, and against the two leading imperialists, the Soviet Union and the United States. They also showed how this struggle cannot be victorious if the ultra-reactionary classes which are the agents of imperialism in these countries are not defeated. Finally, several people indicated how, in this struggle, the alliance between all the proletariat, oppressed peoples and nations is the only way to defeat imperialism and open the way to socialism.

As well, one other anti-imperialist group, the CAPT, intervened, directly to take a position in the debate over the “three worlds theory”, which it upheld. Apparently repeating the League’s hysterical outburst against the Third Conference, the CAPT began its speech by declaring that “this conference has set itself the task of opposing anti-imperialist struggles in general”. As the chairman of the conference pointed out after the CAPT’s speech, the very reality of the conference proved how false this accusation was. For not only did many anti-imperialist groups participate in the conference, not only was the goal of this conference to clarify the most correct orientation to defeat imperialism, but this conference also gathered together both those who oppose and those who defend the “three worlds theory” for the very purpose of debating this difference.

Two days of intense debates

The rest of the conference, that is the day-long sessions on Saturday and Sunday, were devoted to debates. Saturday morning the participating Marxist-Leninist groups, that is Bolshevik Union (BU), the Red Star Collective (RSC), the Vancouver Red Collective (VRC) and with the Red Wind Collective together, and IN STRUGGLE!, presented their positions. [3]

We will not go over the fundamental arguments of the speeches here. However we will go into two points which are going to influence future debates.

Vancouver Red Collective

First of all it is important to point out that the VRC, as it announced in its speech, came to the Conference with substantial changes in the line it had defended at the Second Conference. In fact, at the Second Conference this group agreed with Red Star in saying that Canada was not an imperialist country. But following the line struggle which took place at the Second Conference, this group is now firmly convinced of the imperialist and completely and utterly reactionary nature of the Canadian bourgeoisie. On the international level, VRC, while it considers that the “three worlds theory” is a valuable though insufficient guide, nonetheless it categorically rejects the position, put forward by RSC and the League, which says that we must unite with secondary imperialist powers, in a, united front, not against imperialism, but only against the two superpowers. These positions coincide with those of IN STRUGGLE!

Bolshevik Union

Secondly, and this had very serious consequences for the functioning of the conference, the speech by Bolshevik Union (BU) and its general behaviour demonstrated once again that when BU talks about “unity”, it means splitting! Thus we were able to see that BU’s stand against the “three worlds theory” serves mainly as a pretext to split the movement. For instance, at a time when the debate on this question has hardly begun in our movement, BU is declaring that there is an antagonistic contradiction between those who uphold the “three worlds theory” and the “defenders of the line of the International communist movement”. BU didn’t come to the conference to debate, but rather to split the movement. And this, proven in practice, was even announced in the group’s opening speech: “We don’t need to debate with the supporters of the three worlds theory”!

Then, in the workshops following the speeches, and in particular in the Saturday afternoon workshop on the place of Canada in the world – the other two workshops dealt with the international situation – BU systematically turned people off by repeating like parrots quotations learned off by heart, and recited on any and all occasions. Showing the greatest contempt for the hundreds of participants in this workshop, BU tried to ruin the workshop by using filibuster tactics worthy of bourgeois politicians. This led one participant to say that for BU, the principle Of unity-criticism-unity seemed to have become critique-self-proclamation-purge! Another participant added, “what is this group doing here anyways if they are not interested in debating?” This question was also posed by IN STRUGGLE!’s spokesperson in the closing speech of the conference. That’s BU’s “armchair radicalism”: besides its divisive line and practice, BU presented nothing at the Conference except for paragraphs where the classics of Marxism-Leninism and the words of the proletarian leader Enver Hoxha, were used as a smokescreen to sabotage the debates and to caricature Marxism-Leninism in front of the masses.

But in spite of Bolshevik Union’s undermining work, the debates in the workshops, especially Sunday morning, were very favorable and contributed to significantly advancing the demarcation between the various positions, as the report on workshops presented at the plenary session Sunday afternoon indicated.

Unity or sabotage!

During the last plenary session, the people in the hall had their last chance to express their point of view before the groups made their closing speech. These speeches, at the end of the three days of the conference, indicated two principal points of demarcation. First of all, with the exception of Bolshevik Union, all the groups reaffirmed their opinion that any form of tailism in the current debate had to be rejected; and that both on the national and on the international level, the unity-criticism-unity method had to be applied. This method consists of starting from what unites us and ending up at a higher level of unity by criticizing the errors that divide us. At this point, this means in particular that recognizing both the Communist Party of China and the Party of Labour of Albania as authentic Marxist-Leninists, despite the divergencies that might appear, is a criterion that demarcates Marxist-Leninists from saboteurs!

The League, despite the insistent invitations from IN STRUGGLE! and the other groups before and during the conference, decided to boycott the conference. By refusing to wage line struggle, the struggle for unity, and by declaring that IN STRUGGLE! is against socialist China because it criticized the “three worlds theory”, the League has placed itself in the camp of the splitters.

BU’s behavior is of the same type as that of the League, even if their political positions are different. These two divisive groups are going to have to take a clear position not only in words but also In action: either they get involved in a line struggle with a spirit of unity, or they persist in their hopeless attempts to divide the Canadian and world Marxist-Leninist movement.

Proletarian revolution: now or later?

There was a second demarcation that will also have to be deepened in the coming months since it demarcates two different paths currently put forward in the world level. Either Marxist-Leninists strengthen the fundamental alliance between the world proletariat, the socialist countries and the liberation struggles of the peoples, by linking the struggle against the two superpowers, the principal enemies of the peoples, to the struggle against imperialism, including the puppet regimes of the Third World. Or else, on the contrary, the essential task right now is to be uniting all who can be united, including “secondary” imperialists, against the two superpowers, even if that leads to the emergence of a new superpower.

In brief, should we support “our” imperialist bourgeoisie when on the basis of its own interests, which are inevitably imperialist interests, it opposes the superpowers? Should we support it in its imperialist relationships with other imperialist powers or with countries of the Third World under the pretext that its actions are apt to weaken the currently most important imperialist powers, the USA and the USSR? Should we, to protect the national independence of an imperialist country threatened by other imperialist countries, make an alliance with “our” imperialist bourgeoisie in a national liberation struggle? In the final analysis, this is what the debate comes down to – proletarian revolution now or proletarian revolution later? Proletarian revolution, an immediate question to settle, or a “long term guiding line”? [4]

As one of the participants said and as IN STRUGGLE!’s spokesperson repeated in the closing speech, the Third Conference was the third victory against deviations within our movement, a step forward towards the victory of the camp of revolution over the camp of reaction!


[1] This joint message was signed by IN STRUGGLE!, the Red Star Collective and the Vancouver Red Collective, and wholeheartedly by the meeting. Bolshevik Union refused to sign the joint declaration, preferring to present its own message.

[2] MEAM: Mouvement des etudiants africains a Montreal (Movement of African Students in Montreal).

[3] These speeches will be published as a pamphlet in a few weeks.

[4] The term that is uses by the RSC.