First Published: In Struggle! No. 105, January 4, 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The program of a workers’ party, as we know, is a brief, scientifically formulated statement of the aims and objects of the struggle of the working class. The program defines both the ultimate goal of the revolutionary movement of the proletariat, and the demands for which the party fights while on the way to the achievement of the ultimate goal. 
Many quote this definition, and we quoted it ourselves in Proletarian Unity #4. But we must do more than that, we must grasp the theses that this formula attempts to resume. Let’s look at the first point: the program is a brief statement. But, some will say, isn’t that a question of detail which isn’t very important? Just the contrary! Because this aspect of the form of the program is the concrete application of the necessity that the program deal with the fundamental conceptions as well as the necessity to express in an affirmative way, in the form of theses and not in the form of a polemic, in the form of conclusions and not in the form of explanations, both what demarcates and what unites us in our historic battle against the bourgeoisie.
Furthermore, this very form of the program is the concrete manifestation that our program must be a program of struggle, “the program of a party which is waging a practical struggle” (Lenin), a program leading to action, a program which after ceaseless explanation and education by the Party must resound in the ears of the workers like a real slogan, like a real standard able to unite us on the battlefield. So it’s with good reason that this “detail” about the form constituted one of the important points in the polemic which was waged by Marx, Engels, and Lenin to assure that the correct conception of the socialist program triumph. And this led these proletarian leaders to make a very clear distinction between the program and the commentaries on the program. Thus, in his criticism of the 1891 Erfurt program, Engels declared:
Generally, these preliminary remarks have suffered from an attempt to combine two irreconcilable things in the same text: a program and the commentaries on the program. Fearing that short, pithy phrases would be unclear, long, drawn-out commentaries are added. In my opinion, the program should be as short and precise as possible. There is no harm in one occasionally coming across a foreign word or a sentence whose full import one cannot grasp of first glance. Oral reports at meetings and written statements in the press do all that is necessary, and a brief but pithy sentence, once understood, will impress itself on the mind and become a slogan, which is never the case with a broader exposition. A concern for popularity should not lead to too many concessions; the intellectual capacities and culture of workers must not be underestimated. They have understood things much more difficult than the contents of a program, however concise and short it be.
Following the same logic, 11 years later Lenin wrote, “A program should give concise statements, without a single superfluous word, and leave all explanations to commentaries, pamphlets, agitation, etc.” In another text Lenin goes so far as to speak of certain superfluous words which only weaken the thought which is expressed, thus taking up one of Engels’ phrases, “All that is superfluous in a program weakens it”. And he even adds, “Headings, which are necessary in textbooks or articles, are quite unnecessary in a program.”. Another practical consequence of the theses which we have to expose on the conception of the communist program is that such a program must not be conjunctural but that, on the contrary, it must be applicable to the entire historical epoch of the proletarian revolution. In the same way, the program must not seek to resolve problems in the abstract, in ignorance of the concrete conditions in which they are posed. For example, a program which indicates that the road which leads us to communism must pass by the dictatorship of the proletariat and the pursuance of the revolution under socialism, should not try to imagine today how, by what measures and in what order the proletariat will exercise its dictatorship. In the same way, the immediate demands and the different tactics of struggle shouldn’t be included in the program unless they are a matter of principle.
The program should leave the question of means open, allowing the choice of means to the militant organizations and to Party congresses that determine the tactics of the Party. Questions of tactics, however, can hardly be introduced into the program (with the exception of the most important questions, questions of principle ...) Questions of tactics will be discussed by the Party newspaper as they arise and will be eventually decided at Party congresses. In drawing up this section of the program (on the immediate, concrete demands – ed. note), we should strive, therefore, to avoid two extremes – on the one hand, we must not omit anyone of the main, basic demands that hold great significance for the entire working class; on the other, we must not go into minute particulars with which it would hardly be rational to load the program.
Lenin’s indications are not gratuitous or irrelevant. On the contrary, they affirm that the communist program is in no way related to a catalogue of diverse tactics and demands. These specific tactics and demands correspond to a particular moment in the class struggle and they will be elaborated by the Party and transmitted in its press, as mean of struggle which materialize certain calls to action found In the program.
Grasping the correct Marxist-Leninist conception of the proletarian program is an essential condition to assure that the program play its essential role: to demarcate us from the bourgeoise and the traitors, and to unite all communists, the entire working class, and finally the entire people in our historic march towards socialism. With the constitution, the communist program constitutes the fundamental basic text of the Party, the basis of adhesion to the Party. In the same way that the constitution shouldn’t describe in detail all the structures and all the rules for the application of democratic centralism. the program should restrict itself to the fundamental conceptions which distinguish Marxist-Leninists from the bourgeoisie, reformists and traitors. That is why in the discussion of the program all of the theses, all of the sentences and all of the proposals must be scrutinized and discussed in depth so as to ensure that all the fundamental conceptions are expressed and that their correctness can in no way be doubted.
Some people will perhaps be astonished after reading the Draft Program proposed to Marxist-Leninists and the Canadian proletariat by IN STRUGGLE!, since they may have expected to find the entire political line including an analysis of the present conjuncture in Canada and in the world, as well as the immediate demands of the different strata of the multi-national people of Canada. Perhaps, certain people will have idealized the program, perceiving It as a sort of catalogue of different tactics and proposals. But by rereading the Draft Program for a second time, and by reading the commentaries which accompany the Draft Program and the many articles in the newspaper and the journal which develop and justify each of the points of the program, we are persuaded that these workers and friends of the Marxist-Leninist movement, these comrades, will see that each sentence of the program reflects the fundamental demarcation between the Interests of the proletariat and those of the bourgeoisie.
The discussions which will take place on the Draft Program for the proletarian Party of Canada will undoubtedly be decisive for the future of our struggle and particularly for our central objective which is the reconstruction of the Canadian communist Party, the vanguard of the revolutionary proletariat of our multi-national country. That is why we must all involve ourselves with the greatest seriousness in the discussion and defence of the communist program.
 The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik), 1938, reprinted by Red Star Press, 1973, p. 38.
 Opinion on Plekhanov’s Second Draft, Collected Works, Volume 6, p. 58.
 A Critique of the Draft Social-Democratic Programme of 1891, critiques des programme de Gotha et d’Erfurt, Úditions sociales, p. 82, our translation.
 Lenin, Notes of Plekhanov’s Second Draft Program, Collected Works, Volume 6, p. 38.
 Lenin, Draft program of our party, Collected Works, Volume 6, p. 238-241.