What is a communist program? How is it different from bourgeois and revisionist programs, like those of the Parti Quebecois, the New Democratic Party or the “Communist Party of Canada”, and the “class-struggle” platforms of the Saskatchewan Waffle and the League?
This question crops up in serveral forms. Some ask why the program is so short, and others find in rather “dry”. Why doesn’t it delve deeper into the questions it deals with, and in particular that of the immediate demands? Others wonder whether it is suited to conditions today. Or is it not so general that it could have been written 15 or 20 years ago?
The way in which one considers the question of the program and the conception of the program is intimately related to the kind of party one wishes to build and the way in which one envisages the struggle for socialism in this country. The debates on rallying the vanguard of the proletariat to communism in order to build a revolutionary party have shown that it is necessary to rally workers to a revolutionary program. This program is a guide for the political action of the working class in a process leading to the seizure of power.
The masses of working people are waging and will continue to wage struggles on many issues, including wages, health, industrial accidents, social services, unemployment, political rights, daycare, etc. These struggles put them in direct opposition to various sectors of the bourgeoisie – this or that capitalist, manager, minister, level of government, high-ranking civil servant, municipal politician, police force or whatever. Workers know very well who their immediate enemy is and where their immediate interests lie in such conflicts. It is not the job of the communist program to list all these specific demands. The role of the program is to point out what all these struggles have in common, to point out that the cause of these problems and the misery that workers have to endure under capitalism is one and the same. The role of the program is to identify the class enemy (or the enemy class) hiding behind each specific, individual enemy. The role of the program is to indicate the only path that will enable us to solve these problems once and for all.
So such a program cannot be thought out simply in terms of the struggles in the next two or five years. It is the program of the revolutionary transition from bourgeois power to proletarian power, from one mode of production to another. Those who are uneasy about the general nature of the program forget its essential aspect – its precision concerning the fundamental questions of the class struggle and the struggle for socialism. By comparing the program with bourgeois, opportunist and revisionist programs, we can see how it is complete and precise, even if it is general.
In opposition to those who promise “socialist” reforms as a way of eliminating the exploitation of man by man, the communist program puts forward the revolutionary struggle, the overthrow of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Instead of electoral promises, the communist program defends the slogan, “The emancipation of the workers will be accomplished by the workers themselves”. In opposition to the revisionist strategy of a “peaceful transition to socialism”, the communist program advocates arming the masses and destroying the machinery of the bourgeois State.
These are a few examples showing how the communist program is a powerful weapon in the hands of the revolutionary proletariat. But, some will say, the program is not very precise about what must be done in the struggles waged by workers today, struggles that are not aimed at taking power.
First, the program as a whole indicates that all these various struggles must be considered with a view to weakening the bourgeoisie and strengthening the proletariat and its allies. Second, the program includes the demands that are essential if the working class is to strengthen itself and weaken its enemies in the struggle. These demands cover the main areas in which the bourgeoisie and the proletariat confront each other. They provide a clear orientation for how to struggle today in the perspective of the socialist revolution.
As for those whose only criticism is that the program could have been written 15 or 20 years ago and that it is therefore outdated, our answer is that the program could indeed have been written 15 years ago, but this does not in the least mean that it is outdated. If those who were communists then had not sunk into revisionism, if they had not substituted nationalism for Marxism-Leninism, and if those who broke first with the “CP” – the founders of the Progressive Workers Movement in Vancouver, for instance – had not also remained prisoners of their own nationalism, then the communists could indeed have drawn up the program of the Canadian revolution and distributed it among the masses. The essence of this Draft Program could have been written 15 or 20 years ago, for there has been little change in the purpose and tasks of the proletarian revolution in Canada in the intervening years; but it has taken twenty years for new Marxist-Leninists to break with revisionism and develop this Draft Program. This kind of criticism made by people like the Vancouver Red Star Collective simply illustrate that they have not themselves broken with revisionism and nationalism. When they say outdated, they mean not “renewed” enough, not “revised” enough for their liking – not in close enough step with the new revisionists of the “three worlds theory”, probably.
Why is the program at the heart of all the tasks of communists?
The subject of the conference is the tasks involved in rebuilding the Canadian proletarian Party. The conference is thus concerned with the main task of communists at the present time, the task that is essential if the working class is to overthrow the bourgeosie and build socialism in Canada.
To reach the goal, to build the party, three tasks must be carried out: uniting Marxist-Leninists, rallying the vanguard of the proletariat to communism, and working out the program of the socialist revolution in Canada. We consider that the program is central in these three tasks. The unity of genuine Marxist-Leninists must be achieved on the basis of the program, and the vanguard of the working class must be rallied to the program. To put it more clearly, Marxist-Leninists can only be united and the vanguard of the proletariat rallied to communism on the basis of the program of the socialist revolution.
Take the question of rallying workers. In the past, many people have tried – and many are still trying – to rally workers on the basis of all kinds of immediate, supposedly more “accessible”, issues. For some, the issue is the canadianization and democratization of trade-unions; for others, like the CCL(ML), it is unemployment, or class-struggle trade unions, or class-struggle daycare centres, or class-struggle food co-ops; for the trotskyists, it is whatever catches on best at a given time – a list of trade-union demands, or the independence of Quebec, for example. All these people claim that they are thereby building the working-class party. However, experience has proven that such methods result in a reformist and opportunist party rather than the proletarian party that the working class needs.
Saying that workers must be rallied to the program of the socialist revolution is to say that we want to build a revolutionary party, not a reformist party. It means that we want an organization that will work at channelling all the various mass struggles towards a definite goal – the proletarian revolution for socialism. For this program is nothing other than the definition of the tasks and purposes of the struggle of the working class and the identification of its friends and enemies. This is the basis on which we want to unite those whose task it is to lead the masses towards socialism.
This is also why the program is at the heart of the struggle for the unity of Marxist-Leninists. The program covers all the essential questions in the struggle for socialism in Canada. And what is the struggle for the unity of Marxist-Leninists if not the struggle for the unity of those who break with opportunism and revisionism on these essential questions? Genuine unity cannot be achieved through agreements and compromises on fundamental questions. Unity is not a matter of an agreement between two or more organizations or their leaderships, as the League liked to pretend a while back, when the word “unity” was still part of its verbal make-up. The unity we are seeking, the only unity worthy of Marxism-Leninism, is unity on the basis of the fundamental principles applied to the concrete reality of Canada. This is precisely what the communist program is.
We are living at a time when the working class is sollicited by a great many projects, all presented as socialist projects. This is why the program is so vitally important, for it is the program that demarcates us from all the dream pedlars hawking their wares in the working-class movement. The Canadian working class is looking for perspectives and leadership able to point out clearly the path of full liberation. It experiences daily the lies and betrayals of sold-out union bosses, social democrats, revisionists and nationalists. It is receptive to political debate. The task of genuine communists is to offer it the revolutionary program, the only program that can indicate the goal and the means of achieving its total emancipation. This is why the question of the program is so important today.
How do the opportunists liquidate the task of working out and spreading the communist program?
The answer depends, of course, on what kind of opportunism we are talking about.
For example, there is the League’s kind. On questions of program, it adopts two basic attitudes. First, it doesn’t raise the question of the program, and pretends that the question is settled because it has already developed a certain number of opportunist positions on certain issues in its Statement of Agreement. Second, having thus “settled” the question of the program, it sets about dishing up all kinds of reformist platforms on all kinds of matters for the working masses. This kind of opportunism does two things: it liquidates the question of the program by denying that it is the decisive task in making progress on the path of the party and the revolution, and it therefore offers the masses everything under the sun except the revolutionary program.
In this aspect, the opportunism of the trotskyists of the Groupe socialiste des travailleurs quebecois (GSTQ – Socialist group of Quebec workers) is similar to that of the League. The trotskyists liquidate the question of the program by listing the most progressive trade-union demands and presenting the list, not as the program of the revolution, but as a set of transitional demands towards socialism. Of course, the trotskyists, like the League, do have a “revolutionary” plan stowed away somewhere, but out of pure, undiluted opportunism they prefer to pretend that the masses are not ready for these ideas, so that it is necessary instead to tail after the trade-union organizations, nearly all of which are today dominated by reformists, class collaborators, or even out-and-out reactionaries.
In addition to these two kinds of opportunism on the development and distribution of the program, there is also that of small parasitic gangs like Bolshevik Union. These small gangs of “big talk-little action” experts do not work at developing a program – they are too busy cataloguing Marxist-Leninist classics. They don’t take the activity of communists in the class struggle (indeed, for BU, class struggle does not exist in Canada) and the concrete analysis of the country very seriously; for them, these are not included in the tasks necessary for working out the program of the socialist revolution in Canada. Rather, the urgent task is to regurgitate ad nauseum quotes from Lenin. Involving the masses in the question of the program is certainly out of the question, for, according to BU, the masses are much too backward, much too “stupid” to understand the “scientific” truths propounded by these Marxist-Leninist “PhD’s”.
Briefly, then, this is how the opportunists liquidate the task of developing and making known the communist program. They are all utterly contemptuous of the masses, and most of them are also inveterate practitioners of tailing after. In all cases, their action (or lack of action) ends up reinforcing the control of the reformists and pseudo-socialist political hacks who organize workers around everything except the path and the means of making the socialist revolution in Canada. Their action cannot result in either a true proletarian party or a revolutionary program.
What are the lessons to be learned from the struggle for the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists up until now?
IN STRUGGLE! has always considered the struggle for the unity of Marxist-Leninists as an essential task in rebuilding the Canadian proletarian Party. When we proposed our plan for building this unity, we focussed it on very broad and intensive debate of the most important questions of political and ideological line. We invited all those who claimed to be Marxist-Leninists and who were not, like the “CPC(ML)”, proven counter-revolutionaries in disguise to take part in the struggle on the questions of program. The series of national conferences – this one is the fourth – and the many regional conferences have been an important part of this process.
We thought, and we still think, that this struggle should be waged in an open-minded way, so as to clearly distinguish the true Marxist-Leninist positions from opportunism. Today, we can state that our plan was fundamentally correct. There has been gradual and increasing demarcation. The opportunists have been gradually exposed and hundreds of people all across Canada have been able to participate in the debates.
Some people have accused us of seeking superficial unity – formal, organizational unity without any political basis. It is, to say the least, surprising that these same people were the first to withdraw from the debates on the path of the revolution, international questions, and the tasks of rebuilding the proletarian Party. Those who talk themselves hoarse with the absurd accusation that we want unity without debate are today those who rapidly chose division – without debate, of course.
Once again, reality confirms that opportunism fears frank, honest debate before the masses like the plague.
In practice, Marxism-Leninism has demarcated from opportunism in the course of this struggle, and authentic Marxist-Leninists have become more and more firmly united. And the same process has occurred in the opportunist camp. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? It is a very good thing. It is now clearer what is at stake. The various brands of opportunism are better known now. A selection has been made on the basis of the fundamental questions of the struggle for socialism. So we can say that the over-all results are positive.
How should the struggle for unity be continued in current conditions?
Conditions today are very different from conditions two years ago. Many small groups have rallied to the more developed groups. We are no longer in a situation in which the crucial problem was that of furnishing a common forum of debate to the many small groups that could not, on their own, assume all the tasks involved in the struggle for unity. In other words, the struggle for unity can no longer be seen as a merger process between different groups. From now on, the struggle is to unite the honest, sincere elements in Canada who claim to adhere to Marxism-Leninism around the communist program.
The struggle is first of all the struggle against all forms of opportunism – nationalism, social chauvinism, economism – especially in its consolidated forms. Considering unity with the League or the Vancouver Red Star Collective is now out of the question. Both groups are opposed to our Draft Program (or at least this is what can be concluded from their silence). But it is entirely possible that during the struggle to unmask their opportunism several people will come to see matters in a new light.
To sum up, the struggle for unity is the struggle to unite Marxist-Leninists around the communist program. Today we have a Draft Program. This must be the basis of the struggle we wage from now on. So we can affirm that the struggle for unity has had very positive results, and that IN STRUGGLE! has basically respected its commitments. This is why today we can come before the Canadian working class with a Draft Program, while those who trumpeted that “the political line is decisive in all things” several years ago are still peddling their reformist “platforms” and avoiding debate on the questions of program.
What does rallying the working-class vanguard to communism mean?
It means, first and foremost, that the most class-conscious and active workers must be rallied to the goal of the socialist revolution. It means making them understand that their political questions are answered in the communist program. It also means proving to the most class-conscious workers that the proletarian Party is the principal means for putting an end to capitalist exploitation.
Our work within the Canadian working class has shown that many workers long for socialism, and that many of them want a party able to lead the struggle for socialism. The problem is that quacks and opportunists attract these conscious workers. That is why the rallying of the working-class vanguard to communism requires first of all that we struggle against the false solutions. Our task is to tear the conscious workers away from the influence of reformists and phoney socialists.
Rallying the working-class vanguard to communism also means developing communist leadership in the mass struggles of Canadian workers. This communist leadership develops when communists, wherever they find themselves, openly propose the revolutionary solution for the problems that workers confront under capitalism. This communist leadership becomes a living and active reality in workers’ and people’s struggles when steadily increasing numbers of men and women adopt and defend the fundamental ideas of the communist program.
How will we rally the working-class vanguard to communism?
Rallying people to communism doesn’t mean having the most people in one’s readers’ circles, meetings or supposed “factory cells”. If the question is considered mainly in terms of numbers – if numbers are the major concern – it is inevitably considered in the wrong way. It leads to practices like those of the League, which we know so well. The League is constantly on the lookout for what is most popular, so as to attract as many people as possible to its organization by all sorts of methods. Rallying workers to communism doesn’t mean rallying them to the best short-term solutions for each particular problem that they encounter. Under capitalism, there is no better solution than socialism, and that applies to all specific issues. When the League claims that the stage of a “class-struggle trade union” consciousness, or of “class-struggle food co-ops and daycare centres” is a necessary preliminary step (the left-wing social democrats of the Waffle would agree with it on this point), it is in fact asserting that workers are not now concerned with the socialist revolution and the proletarian Party.
In short, the League does what opportunists have always done; it applies the theory of stages and steps. For instance, class-struggle unions are necessary to lead workers progressively to socialism. Or again, it is necessary to fight for national independence to be able to raise the question of socialism in Canada and Quebec one day. This point of view is shared by all opportunist groups and organizations: the Saskatchewan Waffle, the Socialist Organizing Committee in Vancouver, the Ottawa Committee for Labour Action, the Vancouver Red Star Collective and the League.
Communists see things in a different way. They don’t set out to find THE struggle and THE demand that will enable them to establish contact with the masses, with the idea of later talking to them about socialism and revolution. Communists go among the masses and establish contact with them by offering leadership in immediate struggles on the basis of the communist program. Essentially, this program says that socialism is the only solution for the misery and sufferings under capitalism, and that to achieve socialism it is necessary to overthrow the power of the bourgeoisie, destroy the bourgeois State and establish working-class power, the dictatorship of the proletariat. To do this, a proletarian Party, a Marxist-Leninist Party, is necessary.
But how can we do all that and at the same time be involved in immediate struggles for limited objectives, often on purely economic questions?
Some people, including the opportunists often called “economists”, think that a brick wall separates immediate struggles from the revolutionary struggle for socialism. In general, opportunists have absolutely no confidence in the ability of wokers to develop their class consciousness to the point where it becomes socialist and revolutionary consciousness. Opportunists capitulate when faced with the task. They create a wall between current struggles and the revolutionary struggle, and then say that since the masses are on this side of the wall, we have to stay here too. Furthermore, opportunists do not understand that the revolution is a process that has already begun. Some of them talk about the “final, decisive battle” without understanding how the process is under way today, in the heat of the class struggle.
Take the example of the League in the struggle of the millworkers in Montreal. For the League, the struggle was mainly a matter of 25$, and it threw itself head long into collecting quarters. Then it realized that some of the workers were criticizing the PQ government, and so started centring its attack on the PQ. According to the League, it was the PQ and its police, rather than the bourgeois State, the State of the entire Canadian bourgeoisie, that was a partner in the shooting of the workers. There we have a good example of opportunism and tailism, its faithful fellow-traveller. The Quebec government is closer, it is what one sees at first glance, and so the League wanted to organize workers against it. The reasoning is exactly the same as the reasoning of the labour bosses and the League on the struggle against wage controls. “Workers in my shop aren’t talking about it anymore”. So the League didn’t talk about it either. It looked for a smaller, more vulnerable enemy. Following this reasoning through to its practical consequences, one reaches the same conclusion as do all the opportunists: that the masses are not ready for socialist revolution, that instead we have to talk about strong, Canadian, democratic trade unions, or multinationals, or the threat of war and the USSR – anything and everything except communist ideas, which might frighten people. Such an attitude is one of total contempt, and contempt for the masses is the other side of the coin of opportunism. Its language is demagogy.
What lessons are to be drawn from all this? That communist participation in immediate economic and political struggles must be aimed at raising the level of workers’ class consciousnes. This consciousness must be political consciousness, because it involves understanding the necessity of defeating the bourgeoisie’s political power to put an end to capitalist exploitation.
Some are struck first and foremost by how difficult the task is. Indeed, it is a task that requires going against the tide and opposing ideas generally accepted in this country, opposing ideas that the bourgeoisie has always encouraged. Those who look down on workers think that it is necessary to begin with the things that are supposedly easier, the ideas that occur the most spontaneously. They do not want to admit that the ideas spontaneously accepted today are the dominant ideas, the ideas of the dominant class, the bourgeosie. These ideas are not the sole property of the labour bosses or the PQ; they are also the ideas of a class, and we must develop the struggle against this class.
For the opportunists, the enemy, depending on the time, place and circumstances, may be the PQ, or this or that labour boss, or the U.S. multinationals, or this or that capitalist. They imagine that by adding up all the individual immediate enemies, the working class will realize that all these people are its enemies and that they all belong to the same class. Workers know what enemy they are fighting against in their many struggles. The problem is that there are still too few workers who realize that all the particular enemies are representatives of a main enemy, a social class which can support all the individual capitalists because of the power that it wields. Too few workers are aware that their union boss represents the capitalist class, and that it is for this reason that he is their enemy, and not because he is or was defeatist or anti-democratic in this or that situation.
Our task is to create the proletarian Party. To do that, we must make Marxist-Leninist ideas known among the masses, and organize class-conscious workers on this basis. In immediate struggles we support workers’ just demands and stress the need for socialist revolution. We point out the class enemy hidden behind this or that capitalist,’union boss or opportunist group. This is how we carry out our tasks as communists; not as reformists, demagogues and tailists, but as conscious revolutionaries who go against the tide – against the divisions maintained by the bourgeoisie between English and Freeh-speaking people, between men and women, between immigrant workers and Canadian workers; against the idea that capitalism can be gradually improved until it becomes a society free from exploitation; and against the bourgeois socialism of the NDP and the “CP”. These are the ideas that we sow and cultivate among the masses when we participate in the many struggles that they must wage today. Experience has proven that unless communist ideas triumph in the working-class movement, socialist revolution is impossible.