First Published: In Struggle! No. 189, Jan 29, 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Editor’s note: Two Issues ago we began to sum up the lessons from our work which were analyzed at a conference of leading cadre of the MLOC IN STRUGGLE!. This week we continue this assessment with emphasis on the tasks of communists in workers’ struggles.
Work carried out by cells over the past year was examined at the conference. Many cells had trouble developing their influence in a consistent manner. The main reason for this situation was that they had organized their work exclusively on the basis of developing our influence in a series of workplaces when conditions were not ripe. This became evident when newspaper distribution did not develop in those factories, for example.
Limiting our work in this way often meant that we weren’t able to wage our national political campaigns as widely as possible over the entire territory of a cell or region. Nor were we able to profit from local events to develop them. At other times, we alloted too many forces and paid too much attention to economic agitation and support when the situation did not really justify it. An example of this was our agitation tour in the auto sector in southern Ontario this summer. These things can’t be examined in and of themselves, of course. What must be seen is that because of this erroneous use of our forces, we weakened our intervention in many popular and political activities.
Many of our problems are related to our capacity to accomplish the tasks of communists at this stage and of not replacing workers in their struggles. This is not a new debate, and it is worthwhile to review the polemic waged in 1974-75 between the Cellule Militante Ouvriere (CMO) and IN STRUGGLE!. The CMO then defended the position that communist agitation should be systematically subordinated to “organizational” work.
In essence, the CMO said “we have to organize the economic struggles”. This slogan, which has never been renounced by the WCP, was put forward because the CMO evaluated that in Canada there were hardly any conscious workers who questioned the “socialism” of the NDP and the PO, or who were interested in political questions. According to the CMO, there were only combative workers at the economic level in Canada. What had to be done was to “raise” their consciousness by organizing their strikes better than they had been doing in the past, by radicalizing them and by having them smash their their heads against the limits of these struggles.
IN STRUGGLE! explained its position in the pamphlet Against Economism. It stated that communists should support the struggles waged by workers, but it also stated that what they should be organizing is the broadest and most open communist agitation and propaganda in the struggles of the working class. And in fact, IN STRUGGLE! moved forward to publish a paper in both English and French across the entire country, and was the first to transform its paper into a communist weekly.
IN STRUGGLE! has used its press to put forward calls to action dealing with the main questions of the class struggle in the country. Workers hear about these calls to action, because we bring them into their struggles. They see how the Organization applies them to different situations and they can compare them with opportunist proposals. In this way, they can begin to understand the need for our programme.
Let’s take a closer look at the tasks of communists in economic struggles. A good positive example of our work was the Common Front struggle in Quebec this fall. Our work in this struggle consisted of clarifying what was at stake and identifying the political and economic context of the struggle. We also had to defend our calls of action in relation to the developments in the struggle, correctly identify the enemy, the different forces present, and the political trends at work in the struggle. As well, it was also necessary to make the workers’ demands as widely known as possible and to try and develop support within the population.
Our practical leadership in the struggle was very concrete because of the fairly high level of influence we had developed. However, this didn’t mean that we tried to determine the workers’ demands for them, or that we tried to radicalize or“politicize” their demands. And the support which we tried to create corresponded to the workers’ level of involvement in their own struggle.
As we can see, we shouldn’t hesitate to do economic agitation. The problem is that we must not let ourselves become completely absorbed by thissingle aspect of our work over a long period of time. We must also intervene on the political aspects of a struggle and we shouldn’t hesitate to do work around our central political campaigns within the struggle. We must also assure that the multiplication of specific calls to action are not an obstacle to the broad distribution of our communist press.
The correctness of our position has been confirmed by our own practical experience several times. For example, at CN-CP, we have rallied workers to our position after a long struggle waged when many different political trends were present. In Quebec, many workers were strongly influenced by nationalism due to the fact that the bosses they confronted were more often than not English-speaking. Here again, it was during their immediate struggles, and often in the most crucial moments, that the necessity of our calls to action and our programme became clear. At CN-CP, the committees set up to fight the 6% wage increase played an important role. In their struggles, workers are also confronted with rotten union leadership. At GM In Ste. Therese, Quebec, this led them to set up an information committee which published a pamphlet on their demands and in an attempt to democratize the union. We should have no hesitations about working in such committees.
However, that alone is not sufficient, because rallying workers is a long process during which certain moments are more important than others. For example, the campaign against the Wage Control Act and the series of conferences of Marxist-Leninists were, for many workers, special moments for raising their consciousness on the central role of the State and the necessity of waging the struggle with the entire working class right across Canada.
Participants to the conference also dealt with many other questions of tactics. We wanted to find the best way of building up forces that will form the first communist workers’ contingent grouped together in the party and which will enable us to win the leadership of the working class.
The revolution is a long series of battles. Should we start by attacking the enemy in its strongholds, in the places where it is best organized? Or should we win forces in places where it has less Influence? Should we hit our heads against a brick wall by systematically implanting militants in strategic factories when we know that for objective and subjective reasons (in particular the organized strength of the labour aristocracy) the development of communist influence will generally be a longer and more difficult process there? Our own experience has shown us that there is greater receptivity for the revolutionary programme among the most oppressed and often the most deprived sections of the proletariat. Our experience has also shown us that we meet the most conscious workers from the big factories at political meetings and demonstrations where we intervene and where they recognize our Organization and our newspaper.
This tactical approach does not mean that we renounce the necessity of conquering the strongholds of capitalism. It means that we are working to unite the revolutionary movement as rapidly as possible, because this will facilitate the development of communist work in those very stronghoids.