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

Montreal, October 9, 1976

Speech Of Mobilization, Communist Marxist-Leninist Group

Comrades and friends,

That so many Marxist-Leninists are gathered here today, on the initiative of the Marxist-Leninist group IN STRUGGLE!, is indicative that we all recognize that the central task of all Marxist-Leninists is to struggle for the creation of an authentic Communist Party in Canada. Since the betrayal by the modern revisionists, who transformed the Communist Party of Canada into a bourgeois party and into an agent of social-imperialism, such a Party is sorely lacking in Canada.

Lenin teaches us that: “To establish and consolidate the Party means to establish and consolidate unity among all Russian Social-Democrats.”

This is why the question of unity among Marxist-Leninists is so important, and this is also why it is one of the conditions for the creation of the Party.

However, there are currently two major, opposing trends on this question within the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada.

We have already explained in detail our position on this question in the Documents of the First Conference of Mobilisation (groupe communiste marxiste-leniniste). We will thus concern ourselves today with a confrontation between our positions and those of IN STRUGGLE! as regards three questions.

Firstly, with whom do we want to unite? And more precisely who is and who is not Marxist-Leninist?

Secondly, what kind of unity do we seek? In other words, on what basis shall we unite?

Thirdly, what kind of organization do we need? And more precisely, what is a Marxist-Leninist organization and what is the leading centre in the struggle for the creation of the Party?

However, before dealing with these questions we would like to point out our disagreement with the way in which this Conference was organized, which is a result of IN STRUGGLE]’s line on unity.

Firstly, we do not consider that all the groups who are participating in this Conference are Marxist-Leninist groups. Some of those present have never publicly explained their positions and have never produced a public self-criticism of their previous, opportunist, lines.

Secondly, we consider that IN STRUGGLE! by not organizing the conference in conjunction with at least the major Marxist-Leninist groupings in our country, was not motivated by a real desire for unity, but rather by a big-group mentality. This is reflected in its having organized the conference to coincide with its third anniversary.

This is why it is our opinion that these conferences will contribute very little to advancing the struggle for unity.

1) Who Is Marxist-Leninist And Who Is Not?

We consider that IN STRUGGLE!’s position on this questions is opportunist. In general, we agree with IN STRUGGLE! as regards the criteria which determine who is and who is not Marxist-Leninist. We cease to agree with IN STRUGGLE! when it refuses to apply these criteria, when it refuses to undertake a rigorous, scientific analysis of the ideological and political lines of the various groups in order to determine if they are or are not Marxist-Leninist and when IN STRUGGLE! is satisfied with a verbal recognition of Marxism-Leninism by any political grouping, in order to recognize it as Marxist-Leninist.

Why does IN STRUGGLE! take this position? The fundamental reasons are that IN STRUGGLE! builds an impenetrate wall between the acceptance of Marxist-Leninist principles and their application to reality, IN STRUGGLE! cuts theory off from practice.

In the first place, IN STRUGGLE! recognizes all those who claim to base themselves on Marxism-Leninism as Marxist-Leninist, and considers all waverings and disagreements in question of political line to be errors in the application of Marxism-Leninism.

No doubt, political errors are a consequence of a poor application of Marxist-Leninist principles. But what is fundamental is that if these principles are applied badly, this indicates lack of firmness on them. It is for this reason that we consider the acceptance of Marxism-Leninism to be inseparable from its application, This is why the acceptance of Marxism-Leninism must be verified not only by relying on the fact that one claims to be Marxist-Leninist, but also in tis application, in the political line.

It is because IN STRUGGLE! refuses to see this connection between ideological and political line that it consider as Marxist-Leninist those groups who revise Marxist-Leninist theory in order to justify their errors, all the while claiming, with great show, to be Marxist-Leninist. Thus it is not surprising to find that IN STRUGGLE! still considers that before it had published its self-criticism, Mobilisation was a Marxist-Leninist group, even though we have proved the contrary. IN STRUGGLE! limited itself to criticizing the manifestations of the political errors of the various anti-Marxist trends; it did not criticize their ideological foundations and get to the source of their anti-Marxist character.

In the second place, IN STRUGGLE! considers that ideological unity within the Marxist-Leninist movement has already been achieved and that we must now struggle for political unity which will allow us to arrive at organizational unity.

Here again, we do not agree With IN STRUGGLE!. Yes, we say that what unites Canadian Marxist-Leninists is their attachment to Marxist-Leninist principles! However, we do not conclude from this that unity around fundamental ideological questions has been attained. On the contrary, we hold that if the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement is currently disunited and divided, we must look for the causes in the ideological confusion and political waverings which characterize it. As long as this cause has not been eliminated, it is illusory to speak of unity of viewpoint and thinking within the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement, even around questions of ideological line. It is not until we have corrected our ideological errors, until we have developed and consolidated our ideological line that it will be possible to resolve our divergences.

Let us take an example. The political wavering, and the errors, which exist within the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement over as important a question as the principal contradiction, the principal enemy and the road for the revolution in Canada, are not simply errors in the application of an ideological line which we all have in common. No, this political wavering has an ideological foundation. Its basis is a lack of firmness on Marxist-Leninist principles, particularly as regard the theory of contradiction, the role and the nature of the state and the theory of imperialism.

Thus by separating ideological from political line, IN STRUGGLE! ends up seeking unity with opportunists, ends up obliterating the demarcation line from anti-Marxist trends and ends up believing that ideological unity has been achieved.

Moreover, in committing this error IN STRUGGLE! introduces a new concept into the Marxist-Leninist movement, the concept of the “true” Marxist-Leninist, which is opposed to the present Marxist-Leninists. How can IN STRUGGLE! assert that there can be Marxist-Leninists that are not “true” Marxist-Leninists? How can it say that only the struggle over line and practice will allow us to determine who is a “true” Marxist-Leninist? For us, there is no such difference: one is Marxist-Leninist or one is not. There is only one way to pose the question that IN STRUGGLE! raises, and it is the following: In the movement at the current time certain Marxist-Leninists commit errors, certain Marxist-Leninists do not show the greatest possible firmness in their attachment to the universal principles of Marxism-Leninism. It is impossible to determine whether certain of theses Marxist-Leninists will not persist in their errors: if, instead of making a self-criticism and correcting their errors, they try to justify them and raise them to the level of theory, they will revise Marxism-Leninism. If this happens, these comrades will leave the terrain of Marxism, upon which they now find themselves. The adhesion to Marxism-Leninism is not a historical question: we will not be “more” Marxist-Leninist later than we are now. This “new” concept that IN STRUGGLE! is putting forward in the movement is a cover for its opportunism on the question of the contours of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement.

This is why we say that IN STRUGGLE!’s line on unity is right opportunist. And this is what we will now show.

2) What Unity Do We Want?

With this understanding of the different lines within the Marxist-Leninist movement what kind of unity does IN STRUGGLE! propose?

Three inextricably linked propositions are made by IN STRUGGLE’ Firstly, IN STRUGGLE! says that it is not necessary to arrive at an absolute agreement on the essential ideological, strategic and tactical question we now face.

We are told that this would be dogmatic and cause splitting. Secondly, in the absence of a basic agreement on the essential questions IN STRUGGLE! proposes that in order to achieve unity we should come together in a Congress and decide who is right and who is wrong by means of a vote. Let the minority submit to the majority. Thirdly IN STRUGGLE! proposes two levels of unity of Marxist-Leninists, one for the organization of struggle and the other for the Party. For the former this political and organizational unity of Marxist-Leninists is incomplete while for the latter it is complete.

We think there is no difference between the unity to be realized for a Marxist-Leninist organization and for the Party. This is why we reject any unity which is not based on a correct ideological and political line around the basic questions of the day, which leaves unresolved disagreements on ideological, strategic and tactical questions. Thus we reject the “theory of level of unity” proposed by IN STRUGGLE! because it can only lead to confusion and to even greater disunity in the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement.

This is how Lenin posed the problem:

SO LONG AS WE HAD NO UNITY ON THE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS OF PROGRAMME AND TACTICS, we bluntly admitted that we were living in a period of disunity and separate circles, we bluntly declared that before we could unite, lines of demarcation must be drawn; WE DID NOT EVEN TALK OF THE FORMS OF A JOINT ORGANIZATION, but exclusively discussed the new (at that time they really were new) problems of fighting opportunism on programme and tactics. (Our emphasis)

For Lenin it was clear that is is only after having resolved all disagreements on the essential questions, after having obtained ideological and political unity, that organizational becomes not only possible but necessary. And this ideological and political unity cannot be decided upon by means of a vote, nor can it be decreed. Such a unity has to be won through ideological struggle and must be reflected in the recognition of their errors by those who previously defended incorrect positions.

But IN STRUGGLE! does not at all agree with us on this question. IN STRUGGLE! thinks, that if we could only agree upon the organization of a congress of all Canadian Marxist-Leninists, we could then, after a more of less prolonged ideological struggle, decide upon the fundamental questions by means of a vote. But what unity of action, based on the conscious submission of all of its members, could possibly exist in such an organization? Let us suppose that 55% of the members think that the principal enemy in Canada is the Canadian bourgeoisie and 45% think differently – how could we than unify the activity of this organisation? It could only be done by purely bureaucratic means.

IN STRUGGLE! justifies its position that absolute agreement on the essential questions is not necessary inside an organization that functions on the principles of democratic centralism, in two ways. Firstly, IN STRUGGLE! tries hard to convince us that organizational unity is necessary for political unity. But the way in which IN STRUGGLE! uses this argument is false. It is true that organizational unity, a democratic and centralized functioning, creates the best conditions for consolidating ideological and political unity. But it is incorrect to use this argument to justify and organizational unity which is not based on a firm ideological and political unity. Ideological and political unity on all the important questions of strategy and tactics is the prerequisite condition, the essential and necessary condition for organisational unity. And, only this unity can assure a centralized and democratic functioning, because it constitutes the very basis of conscious Party discipline.

Secondly, IN STRUGGLE! often refers to the history of different Marxist-Leninist parties. According to IN STRUGGLE! those parties tolerated in their midst, and over a period of many years, fundamental divergences on the strategy of the revolution; Comrades, we must not distort history. At each stage of their development the Marxist-Leninist parties, whether it was the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, the Chinese Communist Party, or the Albanian Party of Labor firmly maintained unity around the essential questions. To have acted differently would have been opportunist. Obviously there continued to be two-line struggles around questions of detail and of application of the line. If these contradictions became antagonistic, it is because the opportunist used divergences on secondary questions to do a political and ideological about-face. But we should not see these purges as having been inevitable at the moment that contradictions around secondary points of political line appeared. This is the Marxist-Leninist way to understand history.

The comrades of IN STRUGGLE! play with history, in order to justify their opportunist conception of unity of the Canadian Marxist-Leninists. All Canadian Marxist-Leninists must pay careful attention to the lessons of history must avoid drawing superficial conclusions.

3) What Organization Do We Need?

We will now examine the last of our important points of disagreement with IN STRUGGLE!, where once again we believe that IN STRUGGLE! commits right opportunist errors. This point of disagreement is the question of the role which a Marxist-Leninist organization must play in the struggle for the creation of the Party.

For us, it is very important to distinguish three different concepts which correspond to three different entities. These three entities are a Marxist-Leninist organization, the leading centre and the Party.

The key link which must be grasped by all Canadian Marxist-Leninists is the building of a national Marxist-Leninist organization. Only such an organization can build the Party from all sides at once, ideologically, politically and organizationally. Only such an organization can bring into being all the conditions for the creation of the Party, that is, the elaboration of a correct ideological and political line, and the formulation of a revolutionary programme, draw lines of demarcation between itself and revisionism, other anti-Marxist trends and particularly right opportunism, the unification of all Canadian Marxist-Leninists, and the establishment of the Marxist-Leninist organization within the proletariat.

But must such an organization regroup all Canadian Marxist-Leninists? We think not. We believe that it is only the Party which will be able to bring about the complete unity of Marxist-Leninists in Canada and for this reason it is precisely the task of the Marxist-Leninist organization to achieve this unity by working towards bringing about all the conditions for the creation of the Party. Does this mean that there can be more than one Marxist-Leninist organization? Yes, although such a situation is not desirable. Thus, our position is that our central task is the struggle for the creation of the single Party of the working class, and not the struggle for the creation of a single Marxist-Leninist organization. For us it is opportunist to bring about the unity of all Canadian Marxist-Leninists outside of the realization of all the conditions for the creation of the Party, because this divorces organizational unity from ideological and political unity and from the fusion of Marxism-Leninism with the workers’ movement.

In our opinion it is correct that a Marxist-Leninist organization be convinced of the correctness of its line and attemps to win the entire movement to it. Indeed, this is its only raison d’etre. It is completely absurd, and anti-Marxist, to allow an incorrect line to penetrate the working class. If one does not believe in the correctness of one’s own line, why propagate it, why defend it, and why rally people around it? These questions cannot be answered.

However, not all Canadian Marxist-Leninists agree on which of the two lines now confronting each other is correct. This is completely normal, as Mao teaches us, it can take time for what is correct to be recognized by everyone, to win out and to assert itself in practice. Only practice permits us to verify the correctness of an idea, of a line. And this is where the question of the leading centre comes in.

The leading centre will emerge as a result of the struggle over line within the Marxist-Leninist movement. This leading centre will be that part of the Marxist-Leninist movement which by its ideological firmness, its capacity for political analysis, its determination and its organizational solidity will play a vanguard role in the struggle for the creation of the Party. The leading centre will emerge in the course of the struggle for the creation of the Party and it cannot be decreed into existence. Practice, and history, will tell us if an organization with a correct line has been equal to its responsibilities.

In this respect we must make a self-criticism concerning the position adopted in the documents of our First conference. In our documents, we asserted that the CCL(ML) is the leading centre at this point in time. As we have just shown it is impossible to decree a leading centre in the struggle for the creation of the Party. This error was the result of a subjectivist position on our part.

But IN STRUGGLE! does not see these questions in the same light. For IN STRUGGLE!, there can be but one Marxist-Leninist organization which IN STRUGGLE! calls the Organization, with a capital “0”, of struggle for the Party. This organization is to regroup all Canadian Marxist-Leninists or at least the great majority of them, and upon its creation would become the leading centre in the struggle for the creation of the Party. Now let us examine where this position leads us.

Let’s suppose that IN STRUGGLE! had won a certain number, or even the majority of the Marxist-Leninist groups and circles now in existence in Canada to its programme, but that because of the fundamental disagreements which still characterize our movement, IN STRUGGLE! had not succeeded in convincing all Marxist-Leninist formations to participate. At that point IN STRUGGLE! would have two choices, both of them equally incorrect. It could hold its conference with all those in agreement with its programme and create the Marxist-Leninist organization with a capital “0”. According to IN STRUGGLE! this would automatically be the leading centre. But as we have shown, the existence of the leading centre cannot be decreed, even if the majority of Canadian Marxist-Leninists vote on it. This would be the self-same self-proclamation IN STRUGGLE!has so much reproached the CCL(ML) for. The other choice for IN STRUGGLE! would be to wait until all those who disagree with it are finally convinced, and while waiting postpone unity with those it had already won over. This would only prolong the present state of disunity within the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement and perpetuate amateurish methods of work.

As for us, we recognize neither the correctness of IN STRUGGLE! political line, nor its platform for unifying Canadian Marxist-Leninists within the Marxist-Leninists within the Marxist-Leninist organization with a capital “0”. Unless IN STRUGGLE! can show us that our line and our tactics-as-a-plan for the creation of the Party are incorrect we will continue our struggle against the right opportunism of IN STRUGGLE! and we will continue our struggle to create the Party on the basis of a correct ideological and political line, of the unity of all Canadian Marxist-Leninists, and of the fusion of scientific socialism with the workers’ movement.