A good part of the efforts that IN STRUGGLE! has put into international work over the past few years has gone to building support for popular struggles and the revolutionary forces in many different countries. Two of the people leading that work explained: “The first goal of international support work for us is to create an awareness among Canadian workers that the popular struggles in different countries are linked to one another. Then, we try to develop mass movements of protest against all the imperialist forces in the world, including our own bourgeoisie.”
But there is more. The Canadian working class itself is made up of many national minorities. Thus issues of support for revolutionary popular struggles abroad are excellent grounds for building multinational unity in Canada. And on top of all that, it is often a good way to reach a large number of progressives.
Many of people active in left organizations in Canada today started to understand the necessity of getting involved in the revolutionary struggle through international support work. That was what happened in the sixties and seventies with the movements of solidarity with the Vietnamese and Chilean people.
And finally, it is of particular importance to organize support to the struggles of the peoples around the world when you live in an imperialist country like Canada. The access we have to material things that are precious tools in any struggle is often much greater than that enjoyed by people in under-developed countries.
This latter fact was what enabled us to see that it was important to do more than just organize larger-scale support campaigns like we did around Iran and El Salvador. We must do many other more modest things as well. “If a revolutionary organization is unable to print its views because of the level of repression in their country or due to financial difficulties and we are able to print things for them (as we did for Venezuela’s Red Flag and the Chilean People’s Front with ANCHA) that helps right there.”
Smaller-scale actions, which require less energy to accomplish, can nevertheless often serve as a catalyst to stimulate mass action. “We have ’opened up new ground on many occasions. For example, one of our contacts put forward a motion in the letter carriers union in Edmonton supporting the Salvadoran people. That in turn led to meetings with a number of other trade unionists and organizing to do something on El Salvador at the Alberta Federation of Labour conference,” explained one of the people in charge of IN STRUGGLE!’s international work.
We have provided many different forms of support in the past few years and often several forms at once to one struggle. Take Iran. We have links with 8 revolutionary organizations that we give support to in one way or another. We did a big publicity and mobilization campaign after sending a journalist to Iran. A number of articles were published in the paper and reissued in booklet form. The journalist then went on a cross-Canada tour. Public debates were organized to combat the nationalistic and racist campaigns launched by the U.S. imperialists (“Let’s bomb Iran”. “Nuke them all”), especially in Western Canada.
We also helped a number of Iranian revolutionary organizations become known to a wider public by publishing things they have written. We have done this with Peykar. We took part in the international campaign of sending telegrams to the Iranian government to protest the jailing of a Mojahedeen member. We worked together with organizations like the Fedayeen (minority) and Peykar to tell the Canadian people about the political repression being meted out to the Kurdish and Iranian peoples. That repression has as often as not been ignored by those Marxist-Leninist organizations around the world that support the Khomeini government.
Financial and material support play an important part. A significant part of our total budget as an Organization is devoted to it. The priority goes to revolutionary forces who are at a turning point in their struggle. We have collected and sent $15,000 to El Salvador thus far. Priority also goes to people who are involved in an important struggle but have very few resources like the Party in the Philippines which we have given money to buy arms. Fully half of the 25 revolutionary organizations we have supported in one way or another in the past 3 years have been given financial or material support.
There are a number of other forms of support that are beginning to develop. Two supporters of our Organization took the initiative, for example, to organize a volunteer work brigade in Nicaragua this summer to help support the struggle of that people.
As our international support work has progressed we have step by step worked out more precisely what our approach to that work is and how it should be done. “We ran up against a major contradiction right away between the very widespread set of preconceptions which exist in the international communist movement (ICM) about national liberation struggles and the real facts about those struggles”.
One presumption which exists about the national liberation struggles is that they must be led by a clearly Marxist-Leninist vanguard-type organization (meaning that it must be clearly demarcated politically from social democracy, Soviet and Chinese revisionism, etc.). Another is that the dictatorship of the proletariat must be established as soon as State power is seized or very shortly thereafter which has as its objective the building of “absolute socialism”.
However, reality does not correspond to these preconceptions. In El Salvador, Iran and Palestine you just won’t find one organization leading the struggle which it is possible to identify as “the” organization which is correct with respect to all criteria. And countries like Nicaragua and Zimbabwe are simply not dictatorships of the proletariat or “absolute socialist republics”.
Marxist-Leninists thereby are faced with a choice. They can stop giving practical support and step up the ideological struggle to condemn those forces which do not correspond to their preconceptions of how the world should be. That is the stance that a lot of groups are presently taking to El Salvador. The result is that the field is left clear for social democrats and all sorts of reformists to dominate the support work. And the Marxist-Leninists in so doing also cut themselves off from the revolutionary and anti-imperialist forces in their own country.
The other possible attitude is to recognize that people can have legitimate objectives other than the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is to support those objectives and to support the struggles being waged to achieve them and the organizations which lead them. This is the approach we have taken. We thus develop our demarcation with social democracy and revisionism in the course of doing that support work and in relation to the actual issues in that struggle. What that has meant in the case of El Salvador is a focus on defending certain points of the revolutionary programme: the necessity to destroy the bourgeois army and the entire State apparatus; the necessity to wage a popular armed struggle linked to serious work among the masses that gets to the grass roots.
“We are often able to develop a more correct demarcation through doing the support work inasmuch as we are able to deepen our analysis of a given situation or struggle. Today when we denounce the Khomeini government we are sure of what we are saying because we have supported the Iranian people’s struggle for 3 years. We were able as a consequence to have discussions with 8 revolutionary organizations, compare our views and deepen our analysis.”
Organizing support for revolutionary struggles and the organizations leading them does more than make our internationalist commitment something relevant, real and concrete. It also stimulates debate on an international level insofar as it results in our views being listened to and taken seriously.
Since we began to do support work, our press has played an especially important role in telling people the truth about popular struggles in other countries and appealing for readers to support them in one way or another. Many organizations correspond with us and send us information on their struggles. In issue 242, this resulted in the article on Ireland. In issue 243, it produced the appeal from the Komala organization. The statement by the Turkish communist party, translated into English and typed within Turkey despite the monstrous repression that party is presently undergoing, appeared in the same issue.
Our newspaper has built up the range and depth of its analyses and appeals for concrete support in the past few years thanks in part to this kind of working together. But in order for the international support work to broaden still further and reach the maximum number of workers, our readers must do something too: take up and publicize the calls for concrete support. A current example of such a call is the campaign to get people to give One hour’s pay to the Salvadoran people. Readers can be the ones who issue the calls in their workplace or neighbourhood.
All support work done by our Organization, whether political or financial, takes a lot of energy from a lot of people. Our ability to continue to do that work depends on the degree to which our members put out that energy of course, but not just them. We are counting on our readers in Canada and around the world.