First Published: Alive Magazine, No. 47, February/March 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Seeking truth from facts is not a tendency which has support in all circles. Even some people who support Alive in the face of harassment decline to identify the magazine simply.
Jack David, editor of the critical quarterly Essays on Canadian Writing, has an article titled “Canada – Mags” in the autumn-winter 75/76 issue number 14 of Poetry Information, from London, England. In it he lists Alive as one of the “good ones”, saying of Alive: “A cantankerous Maoist-Marxist, literary and political mag. Poetry and short stories out of the 30s or any other political/literary era. A great letters section. every letter received printed, including subscription requests.” (Maoist-Marxist?)
Stan Dragland, a professor at the University of Western Ontario who has been friendiy to Alive for a long time, has recently had a letter published in the daily newspaper London Free Press in which he says: “On Jan, 7; vendors of Alive magazine, a Marxist-Leninist publication emanating from Guelph, were arrested by city police on the campus of the University of Western Ontario. The charge was, strangely enough, trespassing, rather than failing to obtain a vending permit.” The letter goes on to point out that it is not an issue of Alive’s right to be on campus but rather the basic “principle is freedom of speech and the free interchange of ideas.” (Marxist-Leninist?)
The arrests of Alive sellers in Jan./76 bring back to mind other “creative” descriptions and comments made in print and on the radio back in 1974 when Alive was winding up court cases on a number of other arrests. Again the reluctance to use the accurate term “anti-imperialist magazine” can be seen.
Jenifer Booth in a Winter/74 paper for the Library Science Program at the University of Toronto described Alive as being on a “Quest for the Holy Grail” – Sir Galahad? Fraser Sutherland, in Quill & Quire Nov./74, said: “It would be mistaken to conclude that Alive is narrowly Maoist – Guelph’s answer to the Red Guard.” He concluded his article saying, “The Canadian literary community has often been supercilious about Alive, sometimes astonished, more times than not simply amused. But also I think, respectful. Hysterical the Alive editors may be; dishonest they aren’t.” Morris Wolfe In Books in Canada Oct./74 described Alive as “perhaps the most electic magazine in the country” Joanne Kates on CHUM-FM Nov./74 said of Alive, “The magazine seems to have a Marxist-Leninist slant, and often the rhetoric gets too heavy io swallow – but again, in the establishment news media we are offered so few alternative ways of interpreting totals, that Alive’s political slant is useful.”
The April 16/74 issue of On the Line, at that time described as Kitchener’s Working Class Newspaper, pointed out that, “The police agents of the monopoly capitalist class have opposed the continuation of this debate (note: on Literature and Art for whom) by attempting to suppress the sellers of Alive magazine first through intimidation, then by actual arrests, charges and court proceedings.” The daily newspaper People’s Canada Dally News (PCDN) expressed the viewpoint of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) accurately pointing out that Alive is an anti-imperialist fighting magazine. The Dec. 9/74 PCDN Editorial said, “Alive magazine has over the years taken a consistently anti-imperialist stand, especially since the fall 1971...Alive is a fighting magazine which engages in struggle and support of the people and against imperialism and social-imperialism.”
Readers can thus see that Alive has been described as a number of things cantankerous, Maoist-Marxist, Marxist-Leninist, Sir Galahad, not narrowly Maoist, eclectic, Marxist-Leninist slant, anti-imperialist fighter.
Alive Magazine: Literature & Ideology – Fact or Fantasy of Material Life
The Alive Production Collective has always felt very warm towards those people who have come forward to support Alive’s struggle, even when the descriptions they have made of Alive have been “creatively” inaccurate.
Alive has been an anti-imperialist publication, to one degree or another, since its founding in 1969. At that time it was opposed to both U.S. imperialist aggression in Vietnam and Russian imperialist aggression in Czechoslovakia. Another anti-imperialist cultural publication, Literature & Ideology, also began publication in 1969. Founded in England and published variously from Ireland, the U.S.A. and Canada, Literature & Ideology carried the Marxist-Leninist line and was published, from 1969-1974 by the Norman Bethune Institute for Ideological Studies. The Norman Bethune Institute also published, and still publishes, PCDN. Although Literature & Ideology, in the 18 issues published during 1969-1974 did not mention Alive, on January 76, 1975 the publisher of L&I during a visit with the Alive Production Collective invited Alive to take over publication of L&I pointing out that while it was impossible for L&I to publish the same range of material as was published in Alive, It had been demonstrated in Alive that all of the material suitable for L&I could easily be carried in Alive. This point reflecting the fact that while all Marxist-Leninists are anti-imperialists, not all anti-imperialists are necessarily Marxist-Leninists, was clear to Alive and the proposal was accepted.
Consequently, the Alive Production Collective issued a statement on Jan. 31/75 announcing the consolidation of these two publications under the name: Alive Magazine: Literature & Ideology which would be published by the Alive Production Collective. (Alive had previously been published by Alive Press Ltd a publishing company with shareholders, not all of whom are anti-imperialist.)
The first issue of the newly consolidated publication was published at the end of March, 1975. The April 11/75 issue of People’s Canada Daily News/On the Line (those two publications having merged on February 17/75) hailed the consolidation of “two fighting magazines on the cultural front” in an article headed with those words that same issue of PCDN/OTL reprinted the consolidation statement by the. Alive Production Collective.
Issues numbered 42, 43, 44, 45 and 46 of Alive Magazine: Literature & Ideology were published between the end of March and December of 1975. The publication of issues number 45 and 46 has created some small disturbance in some circles, which disturbance has, in turn, given rise to some people in those circles cancelling their subscriptions and returning unopened copies of the magazine. These, involving about half a dozen addresses, were mainly centred in Vancouver. One of the returns, from Vancouver, contained a signed, handwritten letter, dated Jan. 19, 1976 saying: “Alive: I received today issue #46 of your paper. Cancel my subscription immeadiately. I refuse to support anti-Party publications. I also warn you that all those who attack CPC (M-L) come to no good end.” This unwarranted and unexpected attack of Alive’s relationship to CPC(M-L) came in the mail a few days before the Jan. 30/76 issue of PCDN (having separated again from On the Line on or about Nov. 19/75) ran an editorial noting that: “Today begins ihe republication of Literature & Ideology under the title: New Literature and Ideology. The current issue is under preparation will be numbered 19 in order to show continuity.” The editorial, further,stated, “ Literature and Ideology has also undergone change. Instead of being merely a critic of the imperialist and social-imperialist propagandists, Literature and Ideology now is edited and written by actual fighters who are involved in the anti-imperialist socialist revolution” The editoral also says “It (L&I) is entirely dedicated to pulling forward culture of world revolution and firmly believes that a truly Canadian identity will only come into being with the success and victory of world revolution.” These unscientific formulations are offered even though the editorial has earlier said: “Literature and Ideology takes up Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought as Ihe basis of its thinking...”
Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought has as a corner stone something called “dialectics”: even a half-witted grasp of dialectics (such as some people suggest is Alive’s grasp) clearly shows that the truly Canadian identity is being developed all of the time in the course of the struggle against Imperialism. Such identity does not only come into being on the occasion of victory over imperialism! Only a classic Idealist would suggest that “things come into being” rather than developing in struggle.
Our former subscriber from Vancouver is correct if he thinks someone is attacking CPC(M-L), but he is incorrect if he thinks that someone is Alive!
It is not Alive who is attacking the Party by calling for anti imperialist socialist revolution! It is not Alive that’s attacking the Party by saying that ihe Canadian people do not have a truly anti-fascist, anti-imperialist identity! It’s not Alive who’s attacking the Party by constantly confusing the issue of on whose shoulders the Party must be built!
For the record, Alive is not anti-Party and nor has it ever attacked CPC (M-L). Alive is, as it has always been, to one degree or another, an anti-imperialist publication. That there are two lines in the Party on Alive has been pointed out by the Party itself. That, again is a simple matter of dialectics! The unity of opposites!
However, the Jan. 30/76 issue of PCDN carries a New Literature and Ideology article (unsigned) called “Note on the Relations of Alive Magazine and Literature & Ideology” which is quite interesting in laying bare who is the cause of the small confusion which has come up.
There is two line struggle within every organism in the world. This is the Marxist-Leninist analysis: Unity of Opposites. Within Alive all through its history there has been two line struggle – independent of Alive’s will (just as there has always been two line struggle between Alive and certain forces outside of Alive but inside some organism of which Alive is a part – Canada, the world, etc.). This Is not something over which any organism has “control”, i.e. there is not control over whether or not there is two line struggle between the opposites.
This two line struggle surfaces in various forms. E.G.: In an organisation as small as Alive the two line struggle (internal) surfaces, invariably, close at hand. And, in a nation-wide organisation the two line struggle can surface either within one section of the organisation or “between” sections of the organisation. Thus, in a nation wide organisation, two line struggle can “break out” within one section as a major internal contradiction – to be fought mainly there – or a “whole section” can carry the negative line and thus be in contradiction, as a section, with other sections. In this last case it is fact that in the “whole section” carrying the negative line there will be some subordinate manifestations of the positive line – while in those other sections carrying the positive line, there willl be definetely be manifestations of the same negative line which is dominant in the “negative section”.
At the point of “flare up” between the negative and positive lines – and in the situation where the negative line is greatly dominant – the subordinate positive forces are often surrounded and attacked quite viciously by the negative forces. This is the period when those positive forces are tested most serverly. This the period when mistakes may be made on minor tactical questions – but it is the period when if the strategic line is firmly upheld, it will, in the long run, compensate fully for any minor tactical errors. The key for the positive forces in this situation is to grasp that although they appear alone, surrounded and under attack, there are forces in other places which are counting on and working for the defeat of the same negative line. At the same time, in those other sections, the subordinate negative line will attempt to send support to the negative-dominant section – in order to further demoralize and weaken the positive forces in that area – creating the illusion that the negative force is dominant throughout the organization and the country.
The outnumbered positive forces in such a situation must firmly resolve to fight against the negative line – adjusting tactics to the situation – and must be prepared to dig in for an extended period of time – while remaining more flexible and mobile than ever. They must be prepared to be painted in the blackest possible light – and must in fact, in this kind of situation, welcome the black-painting as continuing evidence that the dominant negative line is being deeply affected and disrupted by the firm resolve of the positive line.
At all times the positive forces must SEEK TRUTH FROM FACTS...even if the gathering of these facts require extensive research and painstaking attention to the historical development in the contradiction.
The negative line invariably exposes itself through a transparent web of lies and distortions which can only be propped up with the borrowed glories of the positive line.
In the article Note on the Relations of Alive Magazine and Literature & Ideology it is stated “In January, 1975, Alive Magazine and Literature & Ideology appeared together as a single publication.” This is absolute nonsense! On January 24th Alive Magazine number 41. came from the printer, bearing Louise Michel on the front cover. That issue was widely distributed starting with the Women’s Conference, held by the Louise Michel Branch of CPC(M-L) in Waterloo, Ontario on January 25th. The reprinting of a speech by Hardial Bains, Chairman of CPC(M-L) and the salute by Alive to the leadership and members of CPC(M-L), also contained in that issue, served as a partial base for the discussions which led to the consolidation of Alive and L&I.
Further the Note said “Literature & Ideology accepted this arrangement because we genuinely believed in building the unity of anti-imperialist forces.” Yet again, if this Note appears in L&I 19 that will be the first time that L&I has made mention of Alive. The article continues, and here it gets more than a little confused:
“The work of summation was carried out and the conference (Conference on the Culture World Revolution) was held in Montreal from December 29 to January 3. Discussion took place on cultural questions and on the question of Alive magazine and Literature and Ideology However, in the course of completion of this work, those connected with Alive magazine dropped out of tht process. Literature and Ideology therefore decided at this time not to own the tradition of Alive magazine since the tradition of Alive magazine would not be of much consequence to our future work.
Accordingly, Literature and Ideology issued an advertisement in November 10-15,1975 issue of People’s Canada Daily News announcing the publication of issue Number Nineteen of Literature and Ideology sometime in the future,” That is the way the article reads! A couple of things cry out for comment! There’s little enough opportunity to spotlight such graphic self exposure!
1. Conference was help Dec. 29 to Jan. 2. Discussion took place. 3. Alive dropped out. 4. Accordingly the in Nov 10-15/75 issue of PCDN. Such foresight to be able to issue an ad two months before making the decision! And, to place the ad in a non-existent publication! Simply amazing!
Of course, the fact is that Alive Magazine: Literature & Ideology were consolidated in January, 1975. A fact confirmed in theory and in practice by its repeated publication, and by the various statements in PCDN and PCDN/OTL throughout 1975. What the Note was trying to say is: the Alive (Production Collective) dropped out of the discussions leading up to the Conference on the Culture of World Revolution and continued its publishing program. Then, some people placed the ad for Literature & Ideology 19 in the Nov. 10-15 issue of PCDN/OTL. Then discussions continued and the decision was made to publish New Literature and Ideology.
The question of the decision against owning the tradition of Alive simply exposes the petty shopkeeper ideology of these false-heirs to the history of either Literature & Ideology or Alive.
The Note concludes: “People who are still confused about the question of whether Literature and Ideology and Alive magazine are consolidated in a single publication should face the facts of material life. Those facts are that those connected with Alive magazine did not wish to consolidate our work, thus the two magazines are separate publications.”
Setting aside whatever real or imagined contradiction there is in the Note writer’s head between the facts of life and the facts of material life, we would simply point out that the April 11, 1975 issue of PCDN/OTL, edited by Hardial Bains, hailed the consolidation of two fighting magazines on the cultuial front, saying “Alive Magazine: Literature & Ideology, Number 42 has past been published. This issue, although it is the first of the consolidated publication of Alive and L&I, is part of the continuing struggle to oppose imperialism, especially the two superpowers, and all internal reactionaries on the cultural front.”
The authors of the Note in the Jan 30 1976 issue of PCDN, also edited by Hardial Bains, will not so easily shrug off this historic development – which is a development within the anti-imperialist organism, of which the Marxist-Leninist organism is a part.
Readers can see that Alive has been described as a number of things. Non-Marxist-Leninist reviewers have variously described as: cantankerous; Maoist-Marxist; Marxist-Leninist; Sir Galahad; not narrowly Maoist; eclectic; Marxist-Leninist slant; etc. Whereas the publications which are presented as either anti-imperialist or Marxist-Leninist (On the Line; People’s Canada Daily News; People’s Canada Daily News/On the Line; New Literature and Ideology) have described Alive as anti-imperialist figher on the cultural front (but never as Marxist-Leninist); and now of not much consequence.
We, of the Alive Production Collective, like to counter the various “creative” descriptions of Alive by pointing to the magazine’s masthead Alive has advanced from calling itself: Independent Canadian Literature to calling itself: anti-imperialist cultural work in the spirit of Norman Bethune & Lu Hsun. For the uninitiated there is a world of difference between the phrase: “anti-imperialist revolution and the phrase: anti-imperialist socialist revolution. The force of anti-imperialists is a large force in Canada. The force of a anti-impenalist socialists is, to say the least, not nearly so large.
The collusion and contention all over the world by the two superpowers, the US and the USSR is increasing at such a pace that a new and unprecedented world war is looming large on the horizon. The contention between the two superpowers all over the world is prelude to their “going head to head” in such a world war The position which Canada occupies in the world, speaking geographically, determines without a shadow of a doubt the need for anti-lmperialist revolution by the Canadian people. We are the only country in the world which borders on both imperialist superpowers! To speak of any less or more than anti-imperialist revolution in Canada at this time is to play into the hands of one or other or both superpowers.
We welcome the appearance on the cultural scene of New Literature and Ideology for it is the struggle between opposites that all things develop. This new publication will provide a good opportunity for progressive, anti-imperialist fighters to intensify the anti-imperialist struggle.
Already published is a “Draft Summation of the Work of Literature & Ideology” by James Reid (carried in the Jan 30/76 issue of PCDN.) Examination of the contradictory lines contained in this article will serve to clarify what must be done in Canada at this time. For example, it does not take a “Marxist-Leninist” or an “anti-imperialist socialist” to the contradiction between the following excerpts from that article: 1. “Literature and Ideology has been an active proponent of the Marxist-Leninist line that literature and art should serve the millions upon millions of working people...”; and 2. “If (L&I) has not really solved the question of Literature and Art for whom...”. Also, in the same article 3. “...if we fail to advance along the revolutionary path being broken by the Party, we will lose our claim to being the only magazine in North America waging anti-imperialist struggles on the cultural front...”; and, 4. “We are determained to be the soldiers of the Party on the cultural front and to take all our orders from the Party.”
We wish New Literature and Ideology BON VOYAGE as it sets off to determine whether or not there is such a thing as art which is separate from class struggle: We also wish it GOOD HUNTING as it searches for clues as to whether it is an ANTI-IMPERIALIST publication or as they indicate in point 4 above a MARXIST-LENINIST publication, on the cultural front.
However, in welcoming New Literature and Ideology onto tne scene, and in wishing them BON VOYAGE we would caution them on a couple of points:
1. There are already several magazines which are waging, to one degree or another, anti-imperialist struggles on the cultural front.
2. If for six years they have been serving the millions upon millions of working people and are now setting out to solve the question of literature and art for whom? then they are raising the possibility that they are no serving the millions of working people? (How then can they be soldiers of a Marxist-Leninist Party? For, surely no Marxist-Leninist Party would order its soldiers to do other than carry out cultural work in the interest of the the working masses of the world!?)
We realize tnat these and certain other issues in may be “foggy” for someone who passes as a practioner of “low level skills” and “crude form” but, whether New Literature and Ideology finally determines itself to be an ANTI-IMPERIALIST; ANTI-IMPERIALIST SOCIALIST; or a MARXIST-LENINIST publication, we invite those involved to examine the document: TALKS AT THE YENAN FORUM ON LITERATURE AND ART by Mao Tsetung. That document clearly shows that the question of “Literature and Art for Whom?” has been solved (NOTE: Mao Tsetung, the leading Marxist-Leninist of our era, successfully led both an anti-imperialist revolution and then a socialist revolution in China.)