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Documents of the National Conference on the Unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists

Montreal, October 9, 1976

Speech Of May First Collective

This conference marks an important step in the struggle to resolve the contradictions within the Marxist-Leninist movement and accomplish the tasks necessary to create a single Marxist-Leninist organization of struggle for the party. It is a sign of the serious commitment of the whole movement to struggle for that unity – a unity which is absolutely necessary to accomplish our central task and struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat in Canada.

We have not had a chance to study the keynote speech and cannot yet take definite positions on the points included in it, nor have we yet fully studied the PROLETARIAN UNITY article. But we do have definite positions on the important issues to be addressed here, and our views have been greatly influenced by the ideological leadership given by In Struggle!. In our speech today we would like to state where we stand on the unity of Marxist-Leninists, what points we feel constitute that unity, what are the points of struggle, the principles which must be upheld in analysing the concrete conditions and resolving the contradictions. These are essential in developing a systematic plan of struggle to arrive at a programme and a method of creating the Marxist-Leninist organization of struggle for the party.

This is consistent with the position we published in February of this year, entitled “Ideological Struggle is Class Struggle”, which also appears in No. 5 of CANADIAN REVOLUTION. In this paper we expressed agreement with the general ideological line put forward by In Struggle!, applying it to the movement as a whole as well as to a proposal for local unity of Marxist-Leninists in our city. The essence of our stance can be summed up in two quotations from that article:

CCL(ML) and, as we shall see, the proponents of the Liaison Committee, draw narrow lines around the Marxist-Leninist movement which by definition excludes not only counter-revolutionaries, but also opportunists. In doing so, they commit both a left and a right error. Identifying the Marxist-Leninist movement by definition does not build unity and could lead to sectarianism.
  (Ideological and organizational unity cannot be decreed it cannot be brought about by a decision, say, of representatives; it must be worked for. (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 4, p. 354)
  The far more serious error, however, is the complete split they make between the two aspects of the central task of the period – uniting Marxist-Leninists and winning advanced workers to communism – while denying the centrality of ideological struggle to both of these tasks.

In Canada, at this time, we are in the preparatory period in the development of the party and our work must be directed toward the accomplishment of the objectives of this stage: winning the vanguard of the proletariat to communism and elaborating a programme and general tactical principles.
  The immediate task is to unite Marxist-Leninists and win the class-conscious workers to communism. These are not two separate tasks, but two aspects of the central task, which will only be accomplished through intensification of the ideological struggle, the struggle to demarcate Marxism-Leninism from opportunism and make proletarian ideology prevail in the workers’ movement.
  The struggle against opportunism is also a struggle against amateurism, for it is not just bourgeois ideas but also non-Marxist forms of work and organization which hold back the development of the movement. Ideological struggle must be seen and carried out as a form of class struggle, the main form of class struggle for Marxist-Leninists at this time.
  Through the intensification of the two-line struggle, a leading centre will emerge. Marxist-Leninists will rally to this centre because it is putting forward the most correct line which will best lead us to the accomplishment of the tasks at each stage which, in turn, will move qualitatively toward the accomplishment of the central task of the period – the creation of the vanguard proletarian party in Canada.

We have agreement with In Struggle! on the central task and the four tasks of the period, the accomplishment of which we see as being the correct method for achieving the proletarian party. What is now necessary is to develop the national struggle over the application of these four tasks, especially towards our immediate objective of a single Marxist-Leninist organization of struggle for the party.

We feel that the line expressed in our position paper is basically correct, however there are certain errors and weakness which we should point out to the rest of the movement. These errors became apparent to us when we attempted to apply our line to the struggle for unity among Marxist-Leninists.

We prepared a proposal to build the national newspaper under the editorial direction of In Struggle! with other groups uniting under their ideological leadership, but remaining organizationally independent. We were concerned with resolving contradictions in our own group, and English Canada generally, arising from a lack of revolutionary practice particularly in the workers movement and organizational backwardness. This led us to view the building of a national newspaper as the most important of the tasks before us.

To overcome the uneven development of different groups in different regions, we proposed applying democratic centralism in stages between groups. That is, we saw unity being built in stages. In doing so, we confused the concepts of leading centre and Marxist-Leninist organization, attributing the characteristics of the Marxist-Leninist organization to the leading centre. In fact we saw the leading centre as a separate stage.

One consequence of this error was that we ended up concentrating on the contradictions within the one line and saw the consolidation of that one line as primary. We lost sight of the national two-line struggle. We saw a “qualitative” leap with every change of application of In Struggle!’s line. This led to a lot of confusion when the Digest appeared, then disappeared and the newspaper appeared before we had published our call for it!

In concentrating entirely on differences over application of one line, we lost sight of what was strategy and what was tactics. We lost sight of the goal of ideological struggle – the unity of the whole movement and the fusion of Marxism-Leninism with the workers’ movement.

We correctly called on other Marxist-Leninist groups to take up the two-line struggle, but applied this in a dogmatic way – we characterize this as “demarcate in order to demarcate”, rather than demarcate in order to reach a more solid unity.

We now understand that the key link of the four tasks of the period is the grouping of the largest possible number of genuine Marxist-Leninists into a single Marxist-Leninist organization of struggle for the party. And we now correctly understand three of the principles of party-building embodied in Lenin’s formulation, “fusing socialism with the working class movement”. They are:

1) The primacy of ideological struggle: Unity must be built through ideological struggle, through the demarcation of Marxism-Leninism from bourgeois ideology in all its forms, both in the Marxist-Leninist movement and in the workers’ movement.

2) Bolshevization: A major part of the struggle to unify Marxist-Leninists is the struggle for the application of proletarian democracy and organization, to develop a solid core of disciplined cadre for the party we are building.

3) Single Centre: We must always strive to unify Marxist-Leninists in one organization with a single centre of leadership. Therefore, unity must be based on real ideological agreement.

These principles must guide us in correctly applying the four tasks of the period, achieving a real and solid unity as a result of the struggle and practice of applying them. We must strive for a deeper understanding of how the laws of dialectical materialism are applied to different situations and conditions.

We see an important obstacle to the unity of the whole movement at this time in the sectarianism which exists within our movement, and which does not recognize uneven development, hiding behind the backwardness of the movement as an excuse for not building unity.

There is also a danger of a third centre arising out of the refusal of some groups to address directly the two-line struggle, dogmatically and randomly applying the demarcating formula – the “demarcate to demarcate” approach is not confined to our own recent past.

The flip side of this is a tendency among certain groups to liquidate the struggle for principled unity by consolidationism or by promoting the building of that unity through common practice. This, for example, is the main deviation at the present time in Vancouver, where the gap between theory and practice remains so great that vulgar economism co-exists side by side with the “legal Marxism” of study groups, and where there is virtually no practice in the workers’ movement through which to test and advance the line.

We recognize that, in the struggle for unity, the national group In Struggle! is playing a leading role – that they have put forward the most correct line on how to unite the movement, how to carry out the tasks of the period.

It is now the urgent task of all of us to put that line into practice, to determine its correctness through practice, and to defeat the incorrect line. This is the way to move forward to the single Marxist-Leninist organization of struggle for a single party.