Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Documents of the 4th Conference of Canadian Marxist-Leninists on the Tasks Involved in Rebuilding the Canadian Proletarian Party

February 4 and 5, 1978



Yesterday I needed a calendar. Naturally, I used the calendar distributed by IN STRUGGLE!, because it was close at hand. In the month of February there are three dates marked in red. February 13, 1948, marks the beginning of the miners’ strike in Asbestos and Thetford-Mines, Quebec, during the time of Duplessis, three years after the Second World War. We know what a big nationalist and autonomist, and what an excellent servant of American monopolies, Duplessis was. We also know how to strike of the Asbestos and Thetford Mines miners ended... [1] The second date in red is February 2, 1976, the day when 4,000 workers demonstrated in Regina against the wage freeze in the province of Saskatchewan, in the province where Blakeney of the NDP, a so-called socialist party which is in fact social-democratic (socialism in democracy!), supports and fully applies the wage freeze. The third date in red is February 1,1977, the beginning of the flourmill workers’ strike in four flour mills in Montreal, in the PQ’s Quebec, under Levesque, an independentist, big nationalist and potential friend of the big American monopolies, who in addition is favourably biased towards workers. If we compare the end of the miners’ strike in the Eastern Townships in 1948 with that of the flourmill workers in 1977, we have to conclude that the favourable bias of the PQ with regard to workers is not much different from Duplessis’ bias with regard to workers. If we consider the evolution of the situation in Quebec, in Saskatchewan, and what happened in Manitoba and British Columbia under the NDP, we can say that there isn’t much difference, despite their language, between those who exercise power today and those at the time of Duplessis, MacKenzie King and Saint-Laurent.

To make a long story short, nothing has really changed within the camp of the bourgeoisie. Exploitation, oppression and reaction still reign supreme. And violent repression is always present, available as often as necessary. The important progress which we have observed this weekend is in part the considerable development of the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada in terms of its political unity on the objectives pusued and the means it puts forward. And finally, it is the movement itself which is moving towards the adoption of, and rallying around, a communist program. It is also the growth of the rallying of men and women workers and housewives to the Canadian communist movement. And so today, in 1978, we can say that the situation in Canada is not the same as it was in 1948.

In 1948, the old CP was starting to fall apart entirely, if it had not already sunk completely into revisionism. The Canadian working class had no leadership, which is why we saw a resurgence of parties like the PSQ, the NDP and all sorts of false, supposedly socialist parties in the years which followed. But today, in 1978, things are very different, because the force which will be capable of putting an end to capitalist exploitation in our country has already started to develop and penetrate within the masses.

The struggle for socialism, the party and the program is not a struggle to amuse ourselves, or for the pleasure of telling ourselves agreeable things, or to nail the League, Bolshevik Union, the CPC(M-L), or the old CP. Our struggle finds its meaning in the transformation of Canadian reality in the interests of the working class. I think that we agreed during the weekend that in the work of building the Party, the program must be our central concern. It is an excellent thing if the program is our central concern, if we are convinced of it, if we leave here enthusiastic, as this afternoon’s speakers have clearly demonstrated, about assuring the distribution and defence of the program. There is another important aspect: the best defence of a communist program is finally its application. Earlier, a comrade spoke about the struggle committees against the Wage Control Act. If IN STRUGGLE! put a lot of emphasis on developing this campaign against wage controls, it was precisely so as to apply the program. The comrade pointed out article 16a in the program, which defends the rights of expression and association, rights which the Wage Control Act attacks directly and indirectly. It also attacks them because of its central position amongst other laws which reduce and threaten our democratic rights. Why did the campaign against the Wage Control Act constitute a correct application of the program, even if it necessitated going against the current, even if, as the comrade said, “It didn’t interest the labour bosses much”? Why? Precisely because it aimed at uniting as many people and groups as possible in the fight and resistance to the growth of the Canadian bourgeoisie’s repressive measures. And our program says that this bourgeoisie is the principal enemy, the enemy that must be demolished in the revolutionary struggle. Therefore, the program can be applied to immediate struggles, not only in terms of its immediate demands, but also in terms of the general political proposals which it puts forward.

With regard to this, today I would also like to call your attention to an area where the application of the communist program is increasingly important. Today in our country we are faced with a political question, that of the independence of Quebec. There is also, it musn’t be forgotten, the fate of the national minorities and the Native people, both of whom the bourgeoisie would like to see disappear. We must keep our eyes open and understand what the bourgeoisie is preparing in the area of the contradictions between the Quebecois nation and the English-Canadian nation.

The Robarts-Pepin Task Force is currently holding hearings across the country and stirring up an unprecedented wave of chauvinism, on the one hand, and narrow nationalism, on the other. Those who defend these essentially reactionary positions are adopting increasingly virulent extremist positions. It’s worth reading the reports and accounts of what happened in different cities across the country to see the opinions expressed during the hearings held by the Task Force. We must realize to what extent the Canadian bourgeoisie could profit from a situation like that. Extremist tendencies are reappearing in our country. There are the people who are beginning to say, “If the referendum doesn’t work, it will be necessary to think of something else.” A book has just been published by an ex-member of the FLQ from the years 1962-63 entitled, It was only the beginning... We hear groups like that of Jean-Marc Brunet of the Mouvement reformiste social (Social Reformist Movement) talking in terms which are, strictly speaking, racist and even fascist. Jean-Marc Brunet would like to eliminate all the communists, all the leftists in the country, as he says. We heard recently that bombs had exploded in a city in New Brunswick, the work of an Acadian group or cell, apparently,... unless it was that of the RCMP, as has already been the case. Nevertheless, narrow nationalist, reactionary and extremist tendencies do exist amongst the Francophone minorities and oppressed people of the country, currents which are strongly nationalistic, reactionary and extremist, just as there are English Canadian racists and chauvinists calling for the elimination of French in the country and the immediate assimilation of French Canadians.

If these two tendencies developed even slightly, they would constitute an excellent opportunity for Trudeau and company (or those who succeed him) to treat us once again to the War Measures Act or various other forms of limitations on democratic rights, in the name of the fight against extremists. They would once again take advantage of the situation to reduce democratic rights, hinder the struggles of the working class and popular groups and intensify repression. The bourgeoisie manoeuvres cleverly to sow disorder, and when things explode, it gives itself carte blanche to put out the fire. Unfortunately for those who are in the way of the firemen, if they happen to be crushed it will be for the sake of defending democracy “threatened by minuscule extremist groups”! This is one way the bourgeoisie could be strongly tempted to crack down and develop repression against the masses of the Canadian people. Faced with such a situation, we must once again rely on the communist program. The communist program upholds the equality of nations and languages, the struggle against national oppression, and, in the case of Quebec, the recognition of the right to self-determination.

This is an important political question in our country today, and communists must pay careful attention to it. In practice, this means that the struggle against big-nation chauvinism must be intensified in English Canada, Quebec’s right to self-determination must be accepted, and the struggle against narrow nationalism, bourgeois nationalism in Quebec must be stepped up. I am not saying that the danger stems from the independence of Quebec or Levesque’s referendum. The danger is perhaps not so much there. The danger resides rather in the fact that the bourgeoisie uses this situation to divide the Canadian working class and block the revolutionary struggle which has to be led by the proletariat as a whole.

A comrade came to the microphone to tell us that he had problems in his communist work at a food co-op, because in this sector of the struggle, the consumer sector, as in many others, the communist program does not furnish an orientation. We must pay close attention to this question. It is important, and the orientation of our work may depend upon the way in which we answer it. What is principal at this time – and both the struggle against the Wage Control Act and the struggle on the question of Quebec’s right to self-determination illustrate this – is that communists must mobilize the proletariat and the popular forces to wage the struggle on the political level. The work of communists is not restricted to seeing how something political or something more correct than what the reformists put forward can be found in specific economic struggles. A good food co-op can be a positive thing, but it is not necessarily a communist program that will allow us to organize it any better. What is important for those who work with the workers who are there, or who are members, is to do communist work, that is, precisely to involve them in political struggle. What is the point of developing a system of well-organized, democratic food co-ops, of having lots of daycare centres and better unions (at least superficially), if at the same time on the political level the bourgeoisie uses every means at its disposal to divide the proletariat in different ways – between nations, national minorities, men and women, immigrants and native Canadians. We might well win some specific struggles, but on the political level we would not win anything. Now, the communist program says, and rightly so, that we must wage the struggle with the view of uniting the proletariat and strengthening the camp of the revolution for the struggle against the bourgeoisie, against its political power, its class power in our society. This must be the primary work of communists in the various organizations they belong to.

In conclusion, much – perhaps too much – has been said about the demobilization of the working class, it is true that the Canadian bourgeoisie is currently headed towards heightened exploitation. It wants to increase its profits, it wants to be able to invest more, especially abroad, and to increase its power. It is true that because of this, it is headed towards increased repression, and that, on a global scale, imperialism is breeding conflicts and contradictions that could lead to a new world war. All this is inherent in the very nature of the capitalist system. And if we look at history since the beginning of the century, it would seem that a third world war is possible after two previous wars, two massacres, and that the working class in most countries is still in the grip of the bourgeoisie’s exploitation and repression. Yes, there are indeed reasons to be uneasy about this situation. But it seems to me that after this weekend we have spent together, and after the testimonies we have heard, if one looks at the progress made by our movement in the last two or three years we must also and above all realize that the Canadian working class is again consciously taking up the path leading to socialist revolution. It is this that must motivate us even more in our work at this time. If in the last few years there have been, and still are, manifestations of defeatism or even cynicism with regard to the political struggle, we must not forget that during the last 30 years or so, in our country, the working class has had no real leadership on the path to follow. At a time when the movement showing the working class the way to achieve socialism is developing, and when the most advanced elements of the working class are rallying to this movement of revolutionary struggle, we have every reason to be very confident and deeply convinced that the Canadian masses, like those in other imperialist countries where the situation is also worsening and where the movement is developing, will also make the socialist revolution. Revolution is on the agenda today, not 20 or 30 years from now.


[1] The strike was crushed savagely and bloodily.