First Published: In Struggle! Vol. 4, No. 5, October 28, 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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On Saturday October 9, a national conference organized by IN STRUGGLE! took place in Montreal on the theme of the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists. Although the complete evaluation of this event has not yet been done, we may without exaggeration say that it was an historical moment. For the first time since the degeneration of the Communist Party of Canada, most, if not all, Marxist-Leninist groups of both nations in Canada gathered together in one room around a common debate.
During the conference, more than 12 Marxist-Leninist groups and organizations spoke to the 1,200 people, militants, sympathizers and friends of the Marxist-Leninist movement. These groups, along with the individual militants and the representatives of Marxist-Leninist study groups and foreign patriotic organizations are the clear sign of the country-wide emergence and revival of the Marxist-Leninist movement in Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, British Columbia.
By coming out of their localism and their geographical and political isolation, these groups are tearing down the national divisions and linguistic barriers and have brought to a hitherto unknown level the debate and polemic on the unity within the Marxist-Leninist movement through a systematic effort to draw lines of demarcation in order to unite.
We must especially note the important contribution made by many English-Canadian groups, which through their full participation in the line struggle, brilliantly swept aside, in front of hundreds of people, the subjective sectarian and contemptuous conceptions which reduced them to “confused elements” (the League’s expression) unable to fully participate in the struggle for the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists.
This conference is only the first step in the systematic struggle to draw lines of demarcation in the struggle to unite. “A journey of 10,000 lis begins with the first step”, as Jack Scott, pioneer of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement reminded at the conference. As we, Canadian proletarians, undertake our “long march”, we must learn to depend on this first step of resolutely struggling against opportunism, especially right opportunism, and against sectarianism, in order to ensure the victory of proletarian ideology, Marxism-Leninism and Mao Tse-tung thought, on all points.
Jack Scott is a former member of the “Communist” Party of Canada that is revisionist today. He was expelled from it with other comrades for having defended the proletarian line in that Party eaten up by revisionism. “No investigation, no right to speak”! It is by recalling this slogan of Mao that comrade Jack Scott reestablished in front of the young Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement the reality of the struggle between the bourgeois line and the proletarian line in Canada in the 50s and 60s.
Comrade Scott’s speech was, we must say, the most moving moment of the conference on unity. The young Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement, gathered together for the first time in so many years, found in Jack Scott a part of its history and renewed its relation with its roots deeply anchored in the struggles of the Canadian proletariat. The near 1,200 participants in the conference gave a long standing ovation to comrade Jack Scott. In this way, the Marxist-Leninists of the whole country paid respect not only to a great proletarian fighter but also to a whole generation of workers who dared to march against the tide through very hard struggles and hold high the red flag of the proletariat’s interests.
One must really have had to plug his ears all day to state, as a comrade of the CCL(M-L) did at the end of the afternoon, that the conference didn’t advance the struggle for the unity of Marxist-Leninists. For despite the fact there were no discussion workshops, it is, in general, quite the contrary that happened. And if our comrades from the League had given themselves the trouble of listening a little bit better to what the “confused elements” of English Canada had to say, they might have returned home asking themselves more questions on their dogmatic and sectarian position which consists of limiting the movement to IN STRUGGLE! and the League. They might have begun to understand what several English Canadian groups brought out: that there is an increasingly evident relationship between sectarianism in unity matters and opportunism, more precisely economism and localism, in matters of political line.
Almost all the groups present, including the League and Mobilisation, insisted on the necessity to wage the struggle against opportunism inside the Marxist-Leninist movement, particularly against right opportunism. Right opportunism is in fact the main deviation to be found in the work of communists amid the masses. But having said this, is not having said everything.
And contrary to the evaluation made by the League, one cannot sum up the line struggle by putting on one side the supporters of right opportunism as the “main danger”, and on the other the supporters of sectarianism. We believe that the line struggle on the evaluation of the present contradictions of the Marxist-Leninist movement, both in terms of its internal relationships and its relationship to the masses, is a little more complex than that.
Several groups present, such as the Halifax Communist Group, the Vancouver Communist Group, the October Study Group and others have strongly expressed the opinion that sectarianism and small group mentality within the movement cannot be dissociated from the errors it has made and that it is still making, on a political as well as on an organizational level. For these groups, to have a sectarian attitude in the struggle for unity is to demonstrate that a deep break with opportunism, particularly economism and localism, in the accomplishment of the tasks of propaganda, agitation and organization has not been made.
The examples they brought to support their point of view certainly deserve to be studied more deeply. With the publication in the near future of all the speeches delivered during the day, everyone will have the chance to do this.
However, one thing is certain. We will not be able to make the truth triumph if a lot of us continue with sectarian attitudes, continue to use dogmatism, rather than historical and dialectical materialism, to analyse the reality of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement. As long as the League will not recognize the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement’s existence, as long as it will not, in fact, give up imposing on the movement as its only solution joining the League’s ranks in order to create the Party, it will always be difficult to have constructive polemical debates. It is even quite possible that, without defeating sectarianism and dogmatism, the polemics will only end up in division, in the creation of the “Party” without the unity of all Canadian Marxist-Leninists, without really engaging the vanguard of the working class in the building of a proletarian line.
Comrades of the League, this fear that several expressed on October 9, isn’t the product of our imagination. It is based on facts: your self-proclamation as the organization of struggle for the Party; your refusal to consider unity as an essential condition to rallying the vanguard to communism, and your contemptuous and haughty attitude towards certain groups in the Marxist-Leninist movement on the very day of the conference.
This is another “essential question” around which the different groups made clear demarcations on October 9. The majority of the groups recognized the necessity to create a Canadian pre-Party organization. But other comrades thought otherwise, in particular those of Mobilisation who said without flinching: “Does this mean that more than one Canadian Marxist-Leninist organization could exist? Yes, despite the fact such a situation isn’t desirable (our emphasis, I.S.!). And so, our position is that our central task is the struggle for the creation of a single Party of the working class, and not the struggle for the creation of a single Marxist-Leninist organization”. Are the comrades from Mobilisation really working towards the unity of Marxist-Leninists with such a proposition? These comrades put off unity indefinitely. “If there is one organization, so much the better! If there are several so much the worse!” It is simply deplorable to hear Marxist-Leninists reason in such a way at the present time. The question isn’t whether there will be one or more organizations but precisely how Marxist-Leninists can unite, politically and organizationally into one single organization. Communists who today say there is no need for a single organization but that for tomorrow a single Party is needed, are being, to say the least, inconsistent. That is called justifying the present disunity and despite the nice words that they might say about the single Party, putting off its creation indefinitely.
As long as attempts are made to justify the organizational backwardness of communists in all sorts of ways, opportunism will not be eliminated within their ranks. And this is clearly demonstrated by the history itself of the Marxist-Leninist movement. The period of disunity, of dispersion was also the period when economism and localism reproduced themselves in all groups and even sometimes in a dominant way in certain groups.
All those who believe only in the “line struggle on essential questions” by reducing the question of the single organization as a simple question of detail, and accuse others of working at building the unity of opportunists, are the same ones who dissociate the victory against opportunism from the struggle for the organization capable of leading us to this victory. If the Marxist-Leninist movement still remains divided in several groups or organizations for a long time, it will but engender opportunism and will not succeed in creating the proletarian Party in the near future. If we seek the creation of a single organization, it is precisely in the spirit of fighting against opportunism and economism which characterize amateurish organizations, and in the spirit of rallying the workers to communism.
And to those who, like the League, fear the unification congress of Marxist-Leninists into a Canadian organization of struggle for the party will result in the adoption of an erroneous line, we answer: we are convinced the communists and conscious workers are capable of leading the ideological struggle, of discovering truth, and of making it triumph.
The method put forward by IN STRUGGLE!, far from leading to a congress of opportunists justly relies on clear and distinct demarcations around differences within the movement, aimed at fighting against all forms of opportunism and at achieving the unification of Marxist-Leninists on a revolutionary program. Isn’t this what we did when we organized a conference on the unity of Marxist-Leninists, that is to say on the way Marxist-Leninists are to lead the struggle to achieve their superior unity? Isn’t this what we did when we put forward a plan by which all Marxist-Leninists and workers could participate in the discussions and polemics on all political questions that concern them? We are thus proving that we accord the struggle for unity a central place and we expect to strike a sharp blow against opportunism in our movement.
Halifax Communist Group
Cercle Communiste (M-L) (Montreal)
Groupe pour la Revolution Proletarienne (Montreal)
Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist)
Mobilisation, groupe communiste marxiste-leniniste (Montreal)
Bolshevik Union (Toronto)
Regina Communist Group
Jack Scott (former member of the Communist Party of Canada and founder of the Progressive Workers’ Movement, now a member of the Red Star Collective) (Vancouver)
Long March Collective (Vancouver)
May First Collective (Vancouver)
October Study Group (Vancouver)
Vancouver Communist Group
ORHAP and EN AVANT! (Haitian patriotic organizations)
A Quebec Common Front worker (Montreal)