Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

by John Burnley

The One That Got Away

First Published: Alive Magazine No. 55, October 16 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

This book is an important document for the organization that published it

On Unity of Marxist-Leninists
Published by “The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist)”
215 pages. Publication date: 1976

This book is an important document for the leadership of the organization which has published it. It is a concerted attempt to recapture and reclaim a certain energy which came up in Canada in the early 1970s; while at the same time it is offered forward as an attack on that same energy in 1976. It is this double-deal which is both the strength and the weakness of the book.

The strength of this book is clearly its force as a teacher of negative example on the question of building the Communist Party. Its weakness is in the undermining of the reminants of credibility retained by revolutionary organizations in Canada, and elsewhere. In short, this book is a most desperate attempt to scream, “I am king of the castle!” while at the same time detailing a feudalistic and hegemonistic concept of “castling” completely abhorrent to the vast majority of Canadian peoples.

At the very least, everyone will be agreed that On the Unity of Marxist-Leninists is a book designed to spread the publisher’s knowledge of the world. It is also clearly fact that there the agreement shatters as many get caught up in the endless argument about the nature of CPC(M-L) as an organization (i.e. “CPC(M-L) is not the king of the castle, I am!” etc.). Rather than get caught up in this unending game played by dirty-faced urchins, we should see if it isn’t possible to slice through the mire and achieve at least one correct idea.

For the sake of arguement let us simply attempt to determine whether the publisher has placed the correct title on its book. Then we will know something.

Mao Tsetung says, in his article Where Do Correct ideas Come From?: “Furthermore, the one and only purpose of the proletariat in knowing the world is to change it. Often, correct knowledge can be arrived at only after many repetitions of the process leading from matter to consciousness and then back to matter, that is, leading from practice to knowledge and then back to practice. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge, the dialectical materialist theory of knowledge.”

The more familiar statement by Mao Tsetung is the opening of that same article: “Where do correct ideas come from? Do they drop from the skies? No. Are they innate in the mind? No. They come from social practice, and from it alone; they come from three kinds of social practice, the struggle for production, the class struggle and scientific experiment.”

In its Introduction, the publisher of On Unity of Marxist-Leninists says, speaking of the years 1972 to 1975: “During this three year period, especially from the fall of 1972 to 1973, almost all revolutionary organizations which called themselves Marxist-Leninist came forward to join the Party.” The problem faced by the publisher in 1975 and 1976 (and a major reason for publication of this book) is that almost all organizations now calling themselves Marxist-Leninist, and there are many, are opposed to the publisher. However, for the sake of this review’s attempt to answer but one question, we will assume that all of the organizations concerned adhere, in theory at least; to the basic guidelines set out by Mao Tsetung on the question of where correct ideas come from (“They come from social practice, and from it alone.”)

Again, there are very large questions making the rounds, about the practice of the organization which is publisher of this book (some of which are very colourful and even gory), and the simplicity intended here would be endangered if we allowed ourselves to sink into the style of “you are so a counter-revolutionary; no I’m not you are!” etc. So, this review will examine only the social practice of the publisher as contained in the book itself, and from that skimpy evidence will attempt to determine whether or not the publisher has placed a correct title on its book.

Are the readers shaking their heads in disbelief and incredulity at our self-imposed restrictions? Have friends in the circles which call themselves Marxist-Leninist already moved on to read more sane articles or publications? Well, brace yourselves, we are going to draw the restrictions tighter still! We will attempt to determine the incorrectness of the title of this book by referring to one two-page item in this 215 page book.

This book is basically a reprinting of documents by and to the organization which is its publisher. On pages 36 and 37 there is a document titled: “Long Live the Friendship Between Guelph News Service and CPC(M-L)”. Between the title and the document is the following: “Statement of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist)on the document entitled An Official Document of Friendship, Cooperation and Respect Between the Members of the Guelph News Service and the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist)– dated February 12. 1971.”

At the end of page 37 is this notation: “(This, article first appeared in People’s Canada Daily News, Vol. 2 No. 49, February 15. 1973.)”

And it is exactly there that the publisher has sown the seeds of self-exposure and the proof that this book is not, in fact, “On the Unity of Marxist-Leninists”. You see, the publisher has taken advantage of the passage of time to attempt a fast-shuffle. The old shell game is in action here – which shell is the correct idea under!

In the issue of People’s Canada Daily News. Vol. 2 No. 49, February 15, 1973 (on the front page) under the title “Long Live the Friendship Between Guelph News Service and CPC(M-L)” and above the document, is the following: “Statement of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) on the Document Entitled An Official Document of Friendship, Cooperation and Respect Between the Members of the Guelph News Service and the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) Dated January 24, 1973 Received by the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist)– Dated February 12. 1973.”

Do you see the discrepancy? Under which shell did the dating of the document by Guelph News Service change from January 24, 1973 to February 12, 1973? We know that there was no time loss in 1973 and nor was there any changing in the system of calendars and so the hunt is on for the significance of the change (for, other than that, the document is reproduced accurately – the GNS document enclosed in the CPC(M-L) statement).

Our readers, some perhaps, are perplexed? A simple slip in typography, a line left out in copy-editing? Even in such an important book to the publisher such errors can come up on the technical front. The point has not been made, you say? It is not that important? These are the essential elements of the double-deal, the fast-shuffle, the shell-game, the con.

But the title is exposed to be incorrect. It is now, for some, simply a matter of not fully grasping the knowledge contained in the discrepancy above. “Often, correct knowledge can be arrived at only after many repetitions of the process leading from matter to consciousness and then back to matter, that is, leading from practice to knowledge and then back to practice.” We will take our consciousness of this matter of a small discrepancy back to matter. In doing so we shall see whether or not a better grasp can be attained by the widest possible range of readers of the incorrectness of the title of this book, On the Unity of Marxist-Leninists.

In the CPC(M-L) statement (in both the 1973 and 1976 printings) they say:

...we consider their attitude to be a positive contribution to the growth and development of unity amongst Marxist-Leninists and the anti-imperialist forces. Now when the trend of unity and solidarity is growing amongst the Marxist-Leninists and the anti-imperialist fighters, we consider Guelph News Service to be making a timely contribution in that direction.

Do you get it now? In this book titled On the Unity of Marxist-Leninists there is an article “saluting” an anti-imperialist organization for stating friendship, co-operation and respect for what it saw, at that time, to be the Marxist-Leninist centre in Canada. And, this is the only document in the book from a straight-forward anti-imperialist organization! Whatever else the book claims to reflect, this article does not reflect the title as it stands. So another element must be added to the shadow cast by the above-indicated date change. We must now consider the nature of the net which has been cast under the title On the Unity of Marxist-Leninists. Is it in fact a net encompassing “almost all revolutionary organizations which called themselves Marxist-Leninists” especially between fall 1972 and 1973? Or is it more of a web designed to confuse revolutionaries and distort actual history?

Consider this, in all possible fairness, is the possible typographical error regarding dating on this particular document simply a reflection of the more serious error of including this document in the book at all? On the basis of the knowledge readers have from our two motions from matter to consciousness and back to matter, it is necessary to conclude that this is still possibly no more than typographical and editing-level mistakes.

To determine whether there is actual political and hegemonistic web-weaving here, and thus to throw light on the suitability of the title to the whole book, it is necessary to return again to matter recorded in history. Here we return to the question of dates and date changing. This repetition of the process should tie the knot on the net cast by the title (or, if you prefer, untie the key knot of the web which has been woven.)

Nothing in this world exists separate from, or above, class struggle. Everything which happens is connected in one way or another to the struggle between classes for supremacy one over the other. What, if anything, was going on in the world between the date on the original Guelph News Service document (January 24, I973)and the date attributed to that document in the book titled On the Unity of Marxist-Leninists? Well, among other things, CPC(M-L) held its “2nd Consultative Conference” from January 26th to February 4th, 1973, at which substantial motion was attempted on the very matters summed up in the book On the Unity of Marxist-Leninists. That is, in the period covered by the date change the CPC(M-L) was busy tying the knots on its arrangements with the “revolutionary organizations which called themselves Marxist-Leninists” who had “come forward to join the Party”.

Is it significant, one way or the other, whether the GNS document was dated before or after that “Consultative Conference”? Of course it is! After all: Where do correct ideas come from? Do they fall from the sky? Either the Guelph News Service document was presented prior to the conference as an indication that Guelph News Service was not a Marxist-Leninist organization but rather an anti-imperialist organization; or, the Guelph News Service document was presented after the conference arising from knowledge gained from a conference dealing with union of various organizations calling themselves Marxist-Leninist.

The fast-shuffle, double-deal requires subtle lighting. A shadow here, a shading there and who knows under which shell lies the pea?

That the GNS document is included in the book On the Unity of Marxist-Leninists; that there is a significant date change in its reproduction; that in the period covered by the date change there was a “major” conference held by the organization to whom the document was addressed; all of these things cast the darkest shadow on the motive and effect of this publishing enterprise. Indeed the publisher’s credibility is clearly strained passed the breaking point.

That the organization inserted Guelph News Service in a book titled On the Unity of Marxist-Leninists is the clearest indication that it has not in fact published a book about Marxist-Leninists, or about unity!

That the date changes on the document in question have in fact proved to be seriously relevant belies technical origins and adds to the abundance of evidence that some person or persons, known or unknown, in the organization called CPC(M-L) has something up the sleeve other than the ace of hearts.

The title placed on this book by the publisher is incorrect.


Alive readers will recognize that there is a particular poignancy to this book review In the past many leftists and cleftists have viewed Alive as nothing more or less than a front-group for the very organization which has published On the Unity of Marxist-Leninists. In all that time Alive declined to dignify the McCarthyism in those claims. In that whole period there was a two-fold background to Alive’s position. First, Alive’s organizational sympathies and connections could not be considered to be the issue. In the spirit of all the progressive and revolutionary cultural workers in North America who resisted the tide of McCarthyite repression, Alive declined to answer and insisted that it be judged on the basis of its own practice. At the same time, Alive could see no other alternative than CPC(M-L) during the period 1971 to 1975, for one reason or another. And so, while neither affirming nor denying connection to CPC(M-L), Alive paid attention to CPC(M-L) and united on certain key issues which benefited the street sellers of both Alive and the newspaper sellers of CPC (M-L)’s publications.

Because Alive paid attention to CPC(M-L) in that period, and paid attention to those things which its own experience indicated to be positive, the word went out that Alive was a front for CPC(M-L). That Alive continued to operate proved conclusively that either it was a front or it was not!

Nothing more and nothing less. (Even when Canadian Dimension magazine, a magazine published by people adhering to the Waffle ”left-wing” of the social-fascist NDP, said that Alive was the closest thing in CPC(M-L) to reality, even then Alive continued its own life.)

One of the effects of CPC(M-L)’s activities has been a very serious undermining of the possibilities of building unity, by sowing a massive distrust of organizations on the mass level. If a front group is a group in which members of another group have influence and practice then Alive certainly supports front groups – for they are the very point at which various individuals and organizations can have common practice on specific issues without the need for immediate and thorough harmony of thinking.

Be that as it may, and we will address this question further in future, Guelph News Service was a front group. It was a front group, in the classic sense, for Alive. When CPC(M-L) inserts the Guelph News Service in to its book called On the Unity of Marxist-Leninists it has more on its mind than a fast-shuffle on a minor “organization” that existed in southern Ontario during 1972 and 1973. It has on its mind one more attack on the organization that “got away”.

A far better and more accurate title for this book would be: “On Unity of Those Organizations We Could Get Our Hands On, And Sowing the Seeds of Disunity Amongst Everyone Else.”