First Published: In Struggle! No. 188, January 22, 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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In Iran, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Nicaragua and elsewhere, bourgeois power and imperialist aggression are being directly confronted by the revolt of the oppressed and exploited masses. In many other countries as well, the people have been waging armed struggle for years. This is the case in Palestine, the Philippines, Northern Ireland, the Western Sahara, Colombia, Zimbabwe, Eritrea and elsewhere. This is the only means they have to throw out the reactionary cliques working in the interests of the different imperialists of the world. More and more working people in the imperialist countries are also being won over to the necessity of rising up against imperialism. This is happening in Italy, France, the U.S.S.R., the U.S.A., Canada, Japan and so forth. The multitude of strikes and the number of working-class struggles have rarely been matched in the past decade.
It is no accident that imperialist reactionary forces are so nervous lately. Everywhere in the world, they are being challenged. Although revolutionary struggles between the forces of progress and the forces of reaction are multiplying, their outcome and their success are far from assured. Often, these struggles are led by reformists, pacifists, ayatollahs, or even a “friendly” rival imperialist power. If these struggles are to put an end to imperialism, then the problem of rebuilding communist leadership must be faced. Only such leadership is capable of influencing the course of events so that revolutionary struggles resolutely take up the path of socialism.
Unfortunately, the international communist movement does not now constitute a force capable of concretely leading the struggle against world imperialism. It is not now a force whose communist programme and orientations represent the profound aspirations of workers of all countries of the world. The current division of the communist movement is in sharp contrast with the situation in the twenties and thirties when the Comintern (the Communist International) gave leadership to the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed peoples and nations.
To contribute to the transformation of this situation, IN STRUGGLE!’s Third Congress, held In March, 1979, sent out an Appeal, For the political and organizational unity of the International communist movement.
This Appeal invites communists of all countries to build proletarian leadership on the basis of a communist programme which would be a solid basis for their organizational unity on a world scale. Following this Appeal, we also proposed that an International conference on the problem of the unity of the international communist movement be held. The aim of this private conference would be to bring together representatives from the largest possible number of Marxist-Leninist organizations and parties so as to deepen the struggle against revisionism, against ideas and political programmes which go against the interests of the proletariat. We believe that it is by drawing lessons from the historical experience of communists and workers in their struggle against imperialism that communist leadership can be rebuilt.
All groups and parties which, to our knowledge, are genuinely struggling for socialism and communism and working for the victory of proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat are invited. We thus sent the Appeal and the proposal to all Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations that are known to us and not just to those who share our positions.
About thirty parties and organizations have answered to say that they are considering the Appeal and the proposal for a conference. We have also met with communists from fifteen different countries to exchange and debate our respective positions concerning the unity of the international communist movement. An increasing number of organizations in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America recognize the seriousness of the current situation in the movement. They want to fully understand the reasons behind the current weaknesses in the communist movement. On the basis of the positive reactions to the Appeal, the Central Committee of IN STRUGGLE! recently decided to continue the struggle so that the conference bring together the largest possible number of organizations.
We want the conference to remain open to all of the Marxist-Leninist forces as they are all directly concerned by this problem. Our intention with this conference is not to reproduce or create a new group of forces which mutually recognize one another and in doing so deny that other forces are part of the communist movement. On the contrary, our intention is to ensure that this conference be a place where the differences as to the path which should be followed to attain unity be clearly put on the table and discussed collectively. It is not a scandal for Marxist-Leninists to have differences on this or that question. Truth does not fall like manna from heaven believe us!Revolutionary ideas stand out when all points of view are expressed and after open and frank debate.
It would be deplorable if, in the name of “diplomatic rules” or “established practice”, which up to now have given no genuine result, we refused to work collectively for the unity of communists. Rules and practices, “established” or not, are judged by the results they give, and up to now, these results have been far from satisfactory.
The victories over revisionism or, at least, the broadening of the debate have been encouraging. But the overall situation of the movement is still difficult and confused. Recently, communists in Portugal, Italy and Thailand had splits which have not yet been politically explained. Division and sectarianism still seriously mark the movement on an international scale. The most striking examples of this are the events which took place at the International Youth Camp last summer.
As well, in the past few months, a tendency questioning the very existence of an international communist movement has been developing. “To unite we must split”, they say. This attitude is harmful, because it doesn’t permit demarcation beforehand, and demarcation is essential to any proposal to unite or to split. Behind this method, there is an attempt to impose conclusions which some have reached and which they judge to be beyond criticism. Bolshevik Union, a Canadian group which defends this position, is well known for having sabotaged the communist conferences organized in Canada. Its latest “achievement” is quite revealing. It publically supports bourgeois inquiry commissions in their witch hunts against Canadian communists and progressive people on the pretext of struggling against terrorism.
Another more important tendency wants to draw lines of demarcation on the basis of the evaluation of the qualities of certain leaders and the faults of certain others, such as Mao Zedong, Enver Hoxha or Joseph Stalin. While it is true the evaluation of these leaders is very important in the struggle against revisionism, demarcating in this way would mean reducing the struggle against revisionism to a declaration of unquestioned support for everything that this or that proletarian revolutionary leader has said or done. This method ignores the necessity of studying the historical lessons which must be drawn from the struggles of workers and peoples from all countries struggles against imperialist wars, against fascism, for national liberation, to preserve the dictatorship of the proletariat, to build solid Marxist-Leninist parties, etc.
We even feel that at the present time, the appraisal of the lives and works of certain leaders or parties cannot be a starting point for defeating revisionism. In fact, those who have used this method have rapidly strayed from a materialist and dialectical point of view in their examination of the communist movement’s past and present.
Since the starting point for this tendency is to defend the “purity” of Marxist-Leninist principles – which some find in the support of this or that leader, while others find it in the criticism of those same leaders – congresses and conferences are held, studies and analyses are made, and uncalculable energy is spent in determining the merits of one, and the mistakes of another. This results in a very special understanding of the history of the movement. A few months ago, we learned that the Communist Party of China and Mao Zedong never based themselves on Marxism-Leninism. But they weren’t alone, since French communists have informed us that the Communist Party of France was never worthy of the name. And, more recently, U.S. communists announced that Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese Workers Party were nothing but nationalists from the start. And questions are being raised about the Party of Labour of Albania... why not, once you’ve got a good thing going for you?
These conclusions, all of which are erroneous, are the result of a method which is just as erroneous. Besides reducing the analysis of the movement’s history to a war of quotes, most often taken out of their historical context, it makes the more important mistake of loosing sight of the fact that the defence of Marxism-Leninism requires more than placing Mao or Stalin on a pedestal and decisively stating “here is the litmus test for distinguishing genuine Marxist-Leninists from all kinds of revisionists and opportunists“!
The struggle against revisionism will be fruitless if it continues to be waged in this way. Why is it so terribly important for the French proletariat to reject Mao Zedong Thought (or to relentlessly defend it), when it has been bombarded by dozens upon dozens of communist organizations and groups telling it that if must reject or defend Stalin, or the three worlds theory, or Deng Xiaoping, or Mao Zedong Thought or Hoxha ever since the betrayal of the French Communist Party? None of these often short-lived organizations ever prevented the revisionists or social-democrats from imposing their line of class collaboration with the French bourgeoisie.
How can U.S. communists justify the fact that they have tried to make the defence of Mao Zedong Thought the main political struggle in the U.S. working-class movement in the past year?There as well, there are many disunited Marxist-Leninist groups. The only winners are the reactionary henchmen of U.S. imperialism who dominate the working-class and union movements and are preparing the masses to support their bourgeoisie in a new imperialist world war.
We are not going to busy ourselves in an exercise of comparing the degree of influence of the communist viewpoint in the working-class and popular struggles in every country. On that point, the situation in Canada is no more rosy than it is in the majority of countries. Nor are we going to ridicule the efforts of communists in the different countries as they try to transform the situation. Rather, we are trying to defeat an erroneous point of view in the struggle against revisionism, a point of view which is present and influential in certain sections of the international communist movement. It consists of separating the struggle against revisionism from its main goal which is the victory of the Marxist-Leninist point of view in the revolutionary struggles of the working class and peoples of the world.
Today, examples where the absence of real communist leadership have been cruelly felt can no longer be counted on the fingers of your hands.
To say that the international communist movement is on the sidelines of revolution in the world is to admit reality. It means realizing that, under current conditions, it offers no real alternative to the masses, to the Islamic movement in Iran and Afghanistan, to the revisionists in Italy, France and Spain, to Arab nationalism, or to the chauvinism of the German, Canadian or U.S. social-democrats.
The development of the struggle for socialism requires the victory over reformist and nationalist political trends and victory over revisionism, and the struggle for the unity of communists must follow a parallel path. The masses who are exploited and oppressed by imperialism will not recognize the correctness of communist leadership just because it is able to identity that this one is opportunist and that that one is Marxist-Leninist. They will recognize the correctness of this leadership when communists are able to provide an orientation which, based on Marxism-Leninism, will demonstrate that the path to socialism and communism is the only path which is capable of eliminating the suffering, torture and misery which they suffer daily, because it alone attacks the root of the problem, capitalism which has attained its imperialist stage.
To win the support of the masses, communists must wage a collective and open struggle to draw the positive and negative lessons, from the struggles which the working class and people have waged for decades.