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

Montreal, October 9, 1976

Speech Of Halifax Communist Group


We are meeting to discuss the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists. Within the Halifax Communist Group we regard this conference as a significant step forward in our movement. Could a conference such as this have occurred two years ago? We think not. The basis for it did not objectively exist then. In this presentation we wish to put forward our views on what is involved in this development of our movement, how it has come about, and some of the lessons to be drawn from it.

In our view, it has been the struggle against opportunism, and economism in particular, which has been crucial in laying the groundwork for this conference which has led to the re-emergence of a national Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada. The growing trend toward unity in our movement could only have developed in the struggle against localism and small groupism. The fact that we meet here today is proof of the fact that Marxism-Leninism develops in the struggle against that which is anti-Marxist.

The initiative in calling this conference has been made by one group – EN LUTTE! But it reflects a significant change and development in the movement as a whole. It has a material basis for it reflects and is based in these advances, small but very important advances. On the other hand it underlines the limitations of our developments. Marxist-Leninists and class conscious workers are not satisfied with the present state of affairs. The victories gained to date are not good enough. Our movement is still weak and divided, scattered and diffuse. We cannot rest content with partial victories, but build upon them and transform weakness into strength, disunity into unity, quantity into quality.

We regret that our participation in this conference cannot be based On a far more developed position on the pressing task before us – the unity of Marxist-Leninists. We have not yet developed a position on the plan for uniting our movement put forward by EN LUTTE! This has in part been due to the error of EN LUTTE! itself, for we only very recently received this position.

But while we criticize EN LUTTE: for this and similar errors in relation to our own group, and, we believe, the movement as a whole, we also recognize that the principal block to our development at this time is our own small group nature. We recognize this serious, central weakness in our group. Therefore, the question of unity, the struggle to identify and rally to the leading Marxist-Leninist centre in our movement, is the principal task of the Halifax Communist Group at this time.

We do not suppose that all of the particular contradictions which our own group faces are the same for all small groups across the country. Nor will all such groups follow precisely the same course in resolving their particular problems. Yet it cannot be denied that small groupism itself remains a major weakness within the Marxist-Leninist movement, particularly in English Canada. By summing up the experience of the Halifax Communist Group, we hope that we may make a contribution in overcoming this stage of primitiveness and backwardness.

We are in agreement with EN LUTTE: that the principal and immediate task of the whole movement is the struggle for the unity of all Marxist-Leninists in our country, in order that we may create the Marxist-Leninist organization of struggle for the Party. But this cannot be accomplished while small group mentality continues to wreak havoc and disunity within our movement.

How then do we regard the position of our own group in the movement? Our understanding is based on our recognition that the movement develops unevenly. In our own case this means that our own development lags behind level of development in our movement. Nor can we simply “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps”. Our backwardness in relation to some other groups in the country is primarily a reflection of the fact that small groupism goes hand-in-hand with backwardness and primitiveness. This is an objective fact. Try though we may our group cannot carry on all the tasks of the movement as a whole. Try as we may, our attempts to institute democratic centralism fall short, both in providing correct leadership to our group and in realizing the full potential of all our members (and we are few enough to begin with). Try as we may, the range and complexity of the tasks we are attempting to deal with – a study circle, carrying out agitation and propaganda, initiating the two-line struggle with other Marxist-Leninists in our city, engaging in struggle with groups nationally, developing positions and taking action on the pressing issues of our movement – these tasks which we now attempt to carry out quickly tax and exhaust our capacity: our small group capacity.

We have said that there are many small and scattered groups in English Canada. Within the past year, however, an important change has been taking place in many of these groups, our own included. To a greater or lesser extent there is the beginning of a break with the localist, primarily theoretical study group framework. Many of the Marxist-Leninist groups are now actively taking up the tasks of communist agitation and propaganda. This, we consider a step forward. At the same time we are convinced that this activity will further sharpen the contradictions inherent in small groups attempting to undertake all the tasks of the moment. For it is in practice that the limitations clearly reveal themselves. Each day the question of the unification of Marxist-Leninists becomes a greater concern. Unification on a level politically and organizationally superior to what presently exists.

This concern for unity is not just the preoccupation of the Marxist-Leninists. At this very moment the proletariat is also intensifying its struggle against capitalist exploitation and oppression. We must remain aware, and the class conscious workers who are rallying to our movement, are aware that the labour movement is still under the leadership and hegemony of the agents of capitalism. These traitors are doing all in their power to undermine and divert the growing militancy of the workers movement along the path of dead end reformism and parliamentary politics. The proletariat is still without its organized vanguard. The unity of the Marxist-Leninists finds its meaning in the struggle to arm our class with its communist party.

It is for these reasons that we think the question of unity should be one of prime importance for all the Marxist-Leninists. It is for these reasons that our group considers the struggle for unity more advanced Marxist-Leninists as our most pressing task.

Briefly then, we would like to put forward our general conception of the question. To arrive at a correct policy requires on the one hand a grasp of the principles to guide us, and on the other, their application to the concrete conditions. Unity is relative and the struggle between opposites is absolute. The unity arrived at, at a particular point in the development of a group or the movement as a whole may be more or less sufficient to reach certain objectives. But it is precisely in the struggle to attain an objective that we discover too many limitations, too many weaknesses. Some contradictions are resolved and newer more complicated ones crop up. It becomes necessary to size up the situation, to determine which contradiction is principal and which is secondary, to rectify errors in our original conception – our initial unity. For the Marxist-Leninists this higher unity must be reflected in a more correct political line consolidated with the material force of organization. Given this orientation we reject the conception of “absolute unity” or the absolute correctness of this or that political line. For even when unity is reached conflict between ideas continue.

Our group considers that the formation of the Marxist-Leninist organization of struggle for the party will represent a qualitative transformation of the whole movement. We think it extremely important for Marxist-Leninists not to mistake the qualitative leap of the whole movement. In our view the comrades of the CCL have made this error in their self proclamation as the MLO of struggle for the party. The resolution of contradictions within a group or between one or more groups are one thing. The transformation of the whole of the movement, presently required, is quite another. The comrades of the League are in error in that they substitute the part for the whole. This error has serious implications in that it can very quickly lead towards dogmatism and sectarianism. Unfortunately this was seen to be true, when on March 8 the League refused to participate in a tactical unity with other Marxist-Leninist groupings to counter more effectively the bourgeois line on the women question. In practice the League took the position that the differences between themselves and other M-L groups were greater than those between the M-L forces and the counter revolutionary revisionists and trotskysts. Notwithstanding the important differences that exist among Marxist-Leninists, we feel that the action of the League was wrong. In that particular situation and in the present conditions, the interests of any one particular group must be subordinate to the interests of the whole. And it is becoming clearer with each passing day that these interests are reflected in the growing tendency to unite our movement.

So while we do not consider the formation of the League as that qualitative leap required by our movement, we do not deny that there is very real progress to be made in the developing unity among Marxist-Leninist groups in our country today. We have already indicated that the immediate way forward for our group is through the identification of and the rallying to the leading centre in our movement. For us this will be a qualitative advance, though clearly it will not constitute the formation of the MLO.

In our view, it is the EN LUTTE! group that constitutes the leading political force in the M-L movement today in that it has correctly addressed the concrete reality of our movement, has summed up the contradictions and has generally pointed the way forward in overcoming them.

In our own particular case, and, we believe for the movement in general it has been the struggle against economism which has allowed for our advance. On the basis of an analysis of the concrete conditions, particularly in Quebec, the EN LUTTE! group was able to identify the principal deviation in our movement. A deviation which threatened to liquidate entirely the tasks of communist agitation, propaganda and organization. The criticism of the CSLO contained in the pamphlet Against Economism analysed very accurately errors which members of our present group had been making for several years. These include the erroneous belief that the working class was not ready for Marxism-Leninism and would first have to go through a stage of militant trade unionism and reformism, In words we upheld the necessity of building a communist party, but in practice denied it completely. It has been through the ideological struggle led by EN LUTTE! that we have come to realize the errors of localism and small groupism and the manner in which we separated Marxism-Leninism (which we studied sporadically) from the class struggle of the proletariat. The struggle against these errors has been and remains integrally related to the struggle for the creation of the Marxist-Leninist Organization of Struggle for the Party.

We say “remains”, for the struggle against economism is far from over. The recognition of the dangers of economism is a good things but recognition must be accompanied by a resolute ideological struggle against it in theory and in practice. This is important when we realize that the struggle to merge scientific socialism with the workers movement has only recently begun. In so far as economism is concerned, we consider that the self criticisms of the three founding groups of the CCL(ML) are incomplete. Their tendency is to see economist errors as a series of tactical mistakes separate from their ideological roots. Economism is not simply the product of a weak grasp of Marxism-Leninism. Such a view bypasses the ideological basis of economism and tends to minimize the necessity for a protacted ideological struggle against it. If this ideological struggle is not persevered in, it is inevitable that this deviation will reoccur.

We are also of the opinion that EN LUTTE! have put forward a generally correct and leading position on the immediate tasks of the movement. They have consistently applied dialectical and historical materialism in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the movement. They have correctly summed up the relationship between struggle to unify Marxist-Leninists and the merging of Marxism-Leninism with the working class movement as two aspects of the principal task of Party building and that the principal form of this struggle at present is ideological struggle.

We regard this identification of EN LUTTE! as the leading centre in our movement as a first step in our own group’s struggle to unite itself at the highest level of the movement. We are aware, however, that this position is still a limited one and will have to be expanded and consolidated. We have no position on EN LUTTE’s plan for unity. We have yet to develop our own understanding on all the points that today demarcate Marxism-Leninism from all opportunist and revisionist groups and tendancies. We do not yet have a position on which questions of political and ideological constitute a principled basis of unity at this time. This last questions in particular our group is now in the process of answering. It is through this struggle and the struggle for organizational unity with the leading centre in our movement that we will finally be able to put an end to one aspect of small groupism – our own.

In closing, I wish to inform comrades who have not already received it that our Basis of Unity is available at the literature table. We have also brought with us copies of a leaflet which our group is distributing at various worksites throughout Nova Scotia on the Trudeau wage controls. Since this is the first attempt of our group to carry out communist agitation and propaganda among the working class we are anxious to receive the views and criticisms of other comrades on it.