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

Montreal, October 9, 1976

Speech Of October Study Group

Comrades and Friends!

We welcome this conference because it demonstrates concretely the strength and unity of our young movement. Across our entire country,in the past few short years, Marxist-Leninists have more and more clearly demarcated themselves from the dead-ends of their previously reformist, revisionist, bourgeois nationalist and economist practice. We all have taken our first, difficult step on the long march to proletarian revolution. Today the Marxist-Leninist movement is stronger numerically and ideologically than it has been for at least a quarter of a century in Canada. This encourages us!

But as a Chinese worker comrade put it: “You can never change your world outlook once and for all and then be done with it”. Ours also is a fragmented, a divided movement, of considerable unevenness, with much discord and confusion – because lines of ideological unity and ideological struggle still have not been sharply drawn, and their importance for the entire movement clearly understood by all. It is no wonder then that bourgeois ideology, particularly economism and sectarianism, still flourish within our movement.

This conference is the first opportunity for our movement as a whole to reveal simultaneously to all its parts, to communists and class conscious workers, our contradictions and confusion. When the specific dimensions of our problems are understood by our entire movement, then and only then, will our plan for unity be a materialist, a dialectical – an effective – plan. This conference provides an important opportunity to develop such an understanding and that is a second reason we welcome it!

There is another aspect to this same point; namely, the conference breaks with a previous pattern in the movement of one to one, single group to single group, relations and struggles. We reject the League’s “three point proposal” for unity precisely because it tries to preserve this pattern, in particular it tries to reduce our movement to two groups itself and IN STRUGGLE!

There is an important difference between a method that uses experience and advanced understanding to increase the capabilities of the entire movement (including the least advanced elements) and a method that uses self-proclaimed “correctness” to try and intimidate less advanced elements, leading them to underestimate their capabilities, initiative and self-reliance. We believe the League is making this error of trying to treat adults as though they were children who have to grow-up all over again, this time “correctly” because they are under the strict supervision of “correct” parents.

But our movement, in its collective thoughtfulness, has not yet chosen its headquarters. It is only at the successful conclusion of our struggle for unity that we will democratically designate and consolidate a leading center, consisting of those who have proven in practice their ability to qualitatively advance our entire movement.

Are we denying the role of leadership until the day when we have a single, Marxist-Leninist organization of struggle for the Party? Far from it. There must be leadership throughout the process of struggle for this organization. This must be understood dialectically. Leadership promotes ideological struggle and in turn the ideological struggle builds our unity and allows us to consolidate leadership that has proven itself in practice. This is the correct application of democratic centralism to our movement.

This brings us to the third reason we welcome this conference. IN STRUGGLE! has organized this conference to initiate ideological struggle around a concrete plan it is advancing for the unity of our movement. As the document For a Proletarian Party, as the document Against Economism marked new advances in the development of our movement, so we are convinced that the documents Fight the Sectarianism of the CCL (ML) and the first issue of Proletarian Unity will mark a new advance in the practical struggle for our ideological, political and organizational unity.

We learn from the history of the international communist movement that one line, in a two-line struggle, takes the initiative of systematically formulating both lines, ferreting out from practice piecing together from comments, exposing the roots, extending the consequences, evaluating in its totality, what otherwise would be ignored, treated as minor, ideologically inconsequential.

But again: neither IN STRUGGLE!, nor October Study Group, nor any individual or group can expect such an initiative to be successful unless our entire movement joins the ideological struggle.

Why is this? Because the unity we desire is based on the centralization of the correct ideas and human energy of our whole movement. There cannot be such centralization, therefore unity, without democracy – without the participation of all members of the movement as equals in a process whose outcome has not been pre-arranged by any particular member or group. For no group, however large or experienced, is superior to or wiser than our entire movement and the class conscious workers. Only the collective thoughtfulness and wisdom of all comrades can forge the voluntary bonds of steel to which we all aspire.

Comrades and friends!

There are two other polemical struggles in our movement that are important to our current and future deliberations. The May First Collective has made an important contribution to our movement with its document Ideological Struggle is Class Struggle. They forcefully demonstrate that ideological (class) struggle is the foundation of both uniting our movement and merging Marxism-Leninism with the workers’ vanguard. They show how these are two aspects of a single task. And we also agree with them that those – whether locally or nationally – who separate these aspects promote economism.

For us, to try and win the workers’ vanguard to Marxism-Leninism by presenting only a set of “conclusions” or “correct” positions derived from closed study or negotiation or even “struggle” is to treat that vanguard as robots who only can memorize. This is precisely the image of communist organization that the bourgeoisie spreads in order to frighten workers. “Someone, somewhere, somehow is doing the thinking, laying the plans, and you, the working class, are simply their troops to carry it out”.

Conversely, to win advanced workers through involving them in public ideological struggle within the Marxist-Leninist movement, involve them in the struggle for their united organization, puts a lie to this bourgeois propaganda. It demonstrates in practice our conviction that the working class can think for themselves, particularly communists thoughts, that the working class is the most revolutionary and creative class in human history. Only in this way can help build a communist vanguard inside the working class.

Comrades and friends!

Unity is within our grasp – but only if we recognize in time and vigorously struggle against a dangerous trend to factionalism within our movement. We need to sharply remind ourselves about polemics we have waged for many months (if not years) against CPC (ML). “If the minority is not able to lead the masses, link itself closely up with them, then it is not a Party and is good for nothing even if it calls itself a Party” wrote Lenin (On Organisation, p. 88). We have concluded that CPC (ML) are just such a gang of “good for nothings”.

The working class seeks Marxism-Leninism precisely because it profoundly desires to be done with posturing, with talk, promises and “leaders” that lead them inevitably to a dead-end, with the bourgeoisie still entrenched in power.

It is a cheap trick then – worse, a betrayal – for any group of “Marxist-Leninists” to drop from the sky proclaiming themselves the new leaders of the working class, with inflated talk and inflated promises of course.

Comrades of the League! In the past we have learned from your polemic against the opportunist tricksters of CPC (ML). It helped win us to Marxism-Leninism. But today there are disturbing signs and hints that arrogance and impatience, rooted in a sectarian and economist understanding of the struggle for unity, are bringing you close to self-proclaiming yourself a “Party” – without having either the character or capacity of a Party. At the very least what you intend is ambiguous.

Therefore, comrades of the League, we call on you to make clear to the entire movement that it is not your intention to declare yourself a “Party” and to affirm that it is your aim to struggle for the creation of a single Marxist-Leninist organization, a new organization that will unite our entire movement and thus place all the current groups, circles and “organizations” that exist.

For if steps are taken to consolidate into factions, this will be a serious set-back for the whole movement. But as we know from the history of CPC (ML) and Trotskyism, it is fatal for the factions. Only a proper struggle for unity will transform us into an effective force that will lay the foundations for an authentic Canadian proletarian party.

Long live Marxims-Leninsm!
Unite our Marxist-Leninist movement!