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

Montreal, October 9, 1976

Speech Of Vancouver Communist Group


We are here today to discuss a question of crucial importance to both the Marxist-Leninist movement and the Canadian proletariat – the question of the unity of Marxist-Leninists. Crucial to both, because only through unity in action of the entire Marxist-Leninist movement can we systematically win advanced workers to communism in such a way as to fulfill our central task of building the party. This party will be of the Marxist-Leninist type – the vanguard of the proletariat that will provide the single direction to the class in the struggle to overthrow the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.

We in V.C.G. wish to express our support for the line In Struggle has advanced on this question. We welcome the convening of this conference, the proposal for more of its sort, and the publication of the journal Proletarian Unity. We see these as consistent with In Struggle’s line and as substantial steps forward in advancing ideological struggle and demarcation throughout the whole Marxist-Leninist movement and in the working class, steps which will aid the development of Marxist-Leninists unity on a countrywide basis.

We cannot in the space of a few minutes discuss all aspects of the unity question. What we will focus on here are some of the agitation, propaganda and organizational tasks Marxist-Leninists undertake in the process of winning advanced workers to communism and building the party – on how these tasks must correspond to the level of Marxist-Leninists unity.

First, it bears repeating that the building of unity of the Marxist-Leninist movement and the winning of advanced workers to communism are but two aspects of the central tasks of party building. As such, we cannot discuss the methods used in building Marxist-Leninists unity separately from our methods of work in the class.

With this in mind, let’s briefly look at conditions today. We have a Marxist-Leninist movement that is at one and the same time united and divided. We share a unity based on the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism, a summation of which has on the whole been correctly proposed by In Struggle in Proletarian Unity. This unity clearly demarcates the Marxist-Leninist movement from all forms of bourgeois ideology. But there are serious divisions among Marxist-Leninists around the application of these principles to concrete conditions – around major questions of political line. In this context many separate groups conduct their own agitation, propaganda and organizational tasks within the working class.

But if this work is to be most effectively undertaken, if the work of the separate groups is to be intensified so the links between Marxism-Leninism and the working class can be tightened and expanded to their utmost, the Marxist-Leninist movement must achieve countrywide political and organizational unity. We must form the organization of struggle for the party, uniting all Marxist-Leninists around, not the resolution to all political questions in all their aspects, but around the basis of a party program.

As separate groups we can and must achieve tactical unity whenever conditions permit, on the basis of our shared unity, to permit the most effective possible interventions in the class. But much as this is positive it is insufficient. For no matter what the form of our intervention at this stage – be it as separate groups or a tactically united Marxist-Leninist front – we still lack unity around political line, around the basis of a party program. What this means is that in our agitation and propaganda we must put winning advanced workers to the different lines of different groups in a secondary place. What must be given priority at this time is the promotion of Marxist-Leninist ideological principles and their application to concrete conditions to the extent that there is agreement throughout the movement. Clearly this marks the amateurishness of this stage – and the overriding need to advance beyond it. For to firmly win advanced workers to communism requires winning them not just to Marxist-Leninist principles, but also to their consistent application in the form of at least the basis of a party program. This is not to say that at this stage we cannot win anyone to Marxism-Leninism – rather that our abilities are limited.

This raises the question of how we should proceed to develop Marxist-Leninist unity. The method we uphold has been clearly advanced by In Struggle – a process of open countrywide struggle and demarcation in the whole Marxist-Leninist movement and the class, among all the different Marxist-Leninist groups and the different political lines. Only then can Marxist-Leninists clearly adopt such a program on a democratic centralism basis and form the organization of struggle for the party.

Some may ask, why not immediately make principal the advocation of different political lines, if it is such application of principles that is required to firmly win advanced workers to communism. We would argue that such action means to concentrate on the development of the different groups and their links to the class, rather than on the strengthening of the links between the whole Marxist-Leninist movement and the class. This approach, a manifestation of circle mentality, ignores the need for unity in action of the whole Marxist-Leninist movement. It amounts to conducting struggles on various fronts; taking not a single direction and aiming common blows, but going different routes, dividing our forces and holding back the struggle against the bourgeois dictatorship. This approach increases the danger both of consolidating divisions in the Marxist-Leninist movement and of building more than one organization of struggle for the party – thus hindering the development of the party itself.

Furthermore, while separate groups can begin the development of political lines, they cannot complete that process through the necessary implementation of the principal from the masses to the masses on a countrywide scale. It is only with the creation of a national organization that Marxist-Leninists will be able to take a common ideological and political line to the working class on a consistent basis. This will allow the systematic testing of the lines, the systematic centralization of the lessons learned from practice across the country – consequently furthering the correcting and development of the basis of a program into a true party program – a party program developed out of concrete experience.

No one group can claim to hold the correct political line, for it lacks such testing. Of course, even the organization will not be able to claim its line is fully proven correct. But we must remember that a major reason for building the organization is to allow for such testing, to allow for the development of the party through criticism and struggle not only among Marxist-Leninists, but among the proletariat as well.

We in V.C.G. disagree with the methods for winning advances workers to communism proposed by the CCL(ML), because those methods are precisely to win them to the supposedly correct political line of the League. This method stems from an incorrect conception of building the organization – a conception that says the League is already qualitatively the organization and that all that is required to build the true organization is the quantitative addition of more Marxist-Leninists and workers won over to its lines. But those lines were not developed through the process of open struggle and demarcation in the Marxist-Leninist movement or the working class; they do not represent the basis of a party program decided upon by the whole Marxist-Leninist movement through a process of democratic centralism. And while they are presented as being correct, these political lines have not met, and cannot meet, the test of practice on a countrywide scale by a largely local group.

Further, if the League is to be consistent, its method of winning advanced workers must apply to other Marxist-Leninists – which means it must support the diffusion of different political lines in the class by any Marxist-Leninist grouping that declares itself to be qualitatively the organization. This approach, as we have stated above, works against unity in action of the whole Marxist-Leninist movement and rather, increases the dangers of consolidating divisions and creating more than one organization.

Out of our agitation and propaganda work comes our organizational work in the class. In Struggle, again, correctly relates this work to our existing conditions, advocating the development of readers circles, newspaper circles, worker study circles, and the like. The V.C.G. supports this method and considers incorrect an approach promoted by the League that makes the building of factory cells its organizational priority in this period of separate groups.

The development of such party structures requires first of all that sufficient numbers of advanced workers are won to communism and become communist cadre – so it is they and not a few implanted militants, who develop these structures. It is through the process of involving advanced workers in the Marxist-Leninist movement and winning them to proletarian ideology that such communist cadre are formed. Through this process, the proletarianisation of the movement, the organization and the party, occurs. But the proper expansion of our work in the class which will allow the firm winning over of such a number of workers requires that the Marxist-Leninist movement be united around the basis of a party program.

To understand this more clearly, we must understand that a central role of factory cells is to advance the program of the party in order to win over more workers and thus build the party and its influence in the class. Such work can hardly be undertaken under the auspices of separate groups carrying different political lines. In fact this work can only be begun by the true organization. For at the point where such an organization has developed the full program around which Marxist-Leninists are united – a program that can be promoted through factory cells by sufficient numbers of advanced workers as communist cadre – this will be the time for the creation of the party. Factory cells are the basis of the party and as such it is the aim of Marxist-Leninists to develop them. But in a period where there is not unity around a party program, let alone the basis of one in a pre-party organization, to promote as a priority a task of organising factory cells, means the seeking of hegemony in the working class of the political lines of the particular groups organising them. This again is a circle mentality approach.

The need for building one organization of struggle for the party is clear. All Marxist-Leninists, all separate Marxist-Leninist groups, must make this their immediate task. We must undertake the struggle to demarcate in order to unite, starting from the unity we share. Unite we can and unite we must, if we are to move forward and build the proletarian party!