First Published: The Forge, Vol. 1, No. 5, February 26, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
Our aim in this polemic with En Lutte! is not to slug it out in an “all-struggle-no unity” battle, but rather, in the spirit of unity, to engage in open and frank criticism in order to fight incorrect ideas and bring about the solid unity of Marxist-Leninists. A unity that is essential for the struggle to build a single genuine communist party in Canada.
The CCL(ML) undertook the organization of IWD this year on the basis of a Marxist-Leninist political line on the woman question. (See the supplement in this issue.) On January 22. En Lutte! presented us with a proposal to form a “Marxist-Leninist coalition” to participate in the IWD activities organized by the union centrals. We answered its letter, showing how the proposition was wrong and not based on clear principles.
But the comrades from En Lutte! never answered our criticism. They proceeded to organize a “Marxist-Leninist coalition” with two other groups which claim to be Marxist-Leninist (the GRP and the CRICS). They tried to participate in the union centrals’ actions. That, as we shall see, was a flop.
In all this meandering. En Lutte! never once saw fit – either publicly or privately – to deal with the League’s criticisms. What En Lutte! did do was to misrepresent our refusal to participate in their “coalition” to the groups it contacted.
For this reason – and to clarify the League’s criticism of En Lutte’s opportunist stand, we reprint here the letter En Lutte! sent to the CCL-ML) and the League’s response.
Since this exchange, other developments have taken place.
On February 19, representatives from three Quebec union centrals (the Federation des Travailleurs du Quebec, the Confederation des Syndicaux nationaux and the Centrale des Enseignants du Quebec) organized a meeting to prepare the activities for IWD. Also present were Trotskyist groups like the Ligue Socialiste Ouvriere and the Groupe Marxiste Revolutionaire and the revisionists who gave their full backing to the events (Ligue des femmes du Quebec). En Lutte! and the “Marxist-Leninist coalition”, meanwhile, tried to gain acceptance of their right to address the public meeting scheduled for March 8.
No such luck. So the coalition sought out other political and popular groups to organize their own day apart from the unions. In a letter addressed to ADDS (Association pour la defense des droits sociaux, a group which fights for welfare recipients’ rights) the “Marxist-Leninist coalition” expressed great surprise that the union centrals and the other organizing groups showed a “refusal to admit the existence of divergences on the woman question.”
Having thus been snubbed, the coalition decided to withdraw from the IWD events because:
“1. the organizing committee has not shown any willingness to share with other groups the responsibility of the content of the March 8 evening”:
2. the coalition’s proposal for speeches was rebuffed and replaced by a show featuring singing stars.
3. the Marxist-Leninist point of view had been categorically refused by the centrals without the question ever being discussed at the organizing meeting.
The League. for its part, never participated in the union centrals day because we never promoted illusions about the possibility of striking up a deal with the agents of the bourgeoisie within the union movement, much less with the trotskyists, revisionists and feminists. The refusal of these traitors to allow a Marxist-Leninist line to be expressed at their IWD event should come as no surprise; a Marxist-Leninist group’s political line should allow it to foressee the actions of the enemy.
Interestingly enough, the withdrawal of En Lutte!’s coalition trom the union’s IWD events was based mainly not on a criticism of the reformist, feminist and revisionist line put forward by its organizers; it was not a withdrawal of principle, based on the fact that there can never be unity of point of view between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries. It was, on the other hand, based on the fact that the centrals & co. were “non democratic”.
While getting snubbed by the union bureaucrats. En Lutte! was also busy misrepresenting the League’ stand on this year’s IWD actions. In its letter to ADDS, En Lutte! and the coalition unabashedly affirmed that “the League did not accept, alleging that collaboration with the coalition was not possible because there is no agreement on the principal contradiction”.
Any honest reading of the League’s letter shows up how En Lutte transformed the real meaning’of our letter.
Was the League wrong in including March 8th in its global strategy and in attempting through International Women’s Day to rally the most advanced men and women of the working class to communism rather than only aiming at a “large mobilization of women workers and housewives.”? Was the League wrong is refusing a “Marxist-Leninist coalition” without having first discussed who is and who is not Marxist-Leninist? Was the League wrong in opposing unity of action with reformists, revisionists and trotskyists?
The League believes in the necessity to make the women question a part of the revolutionary struggle for socialism and therefore our strategic and tactical line does not change when International Women’s Day comes up. Can we say the same for En Lutte! who, it appears, wants to limit the woman question to a question of broad united fronts and to separate it from the strategy for socialist revolution.
This is best demonstrated by the coalition’s statement in the meeting of February 19, in which they expressed most clearly their political platform. No where in En Lutte’s proposal is there mention made of the necessity for demarcation from lines which objectively lead working women into a dead end. Nowhere in the coalition’s platform can we find the necessity for women to struggle against the two superpowers, nor against revisionism. The threat of war is not mentioned. The role of’ women in the third world, principal force in the world-wide united front against the 2 superpowers, has also been forgotten in their platform. Nor is Canada, country of the second world, defined as part of this world-wide united front. Nowhere is it clearly stated that it is the Canadian bourgeoisie which is the principal enemy of working women of Canada.
Because of these right opportunist errors’.“ Fn Lutte! has diminished the importance of women’s struggle by putting forward a minimal platform for March 8th platform which remains so general in its formulation that no group, not even the trotskyists, could disagree with it. In theory En Lutte! puts forward the necessity to struggle against all deviations which run counter to the interests of socialist revolution. They put particular stress on the fight against economism within the Marxist-Leninist movement; but along comes March 8th and it is ready to collaborate with any group whose line is “not contrary” to that of their minimal platform.
Now we ask En Lutte! is this the best way they can see to wage the ideological struggle which is so vital for our movement? Or is it rather an opportunist way to put forward a minimal platform around IWD which calls, not for a revolutionary March 8, but for a March 8 which reduces the level of the content of this important celebration under the guise of this being the only way to reach the masses. Surely, En lutte! is not saying that a Marxist-Leninist content would alienate the masses? For the League proved the contrary when its meeting against the Trudeau law last February 11 organized on a clear Marxist-Leninist basis attracted over 400 people.
Marxist-Leninists should “ever reduce the content of an event under the guise that it will thus be come more accessible to the masses. That is precisely the idea so cherished by economists, by the enemies of Marxism-Leninism who claim that the masses are not yet ready for Marxist-Leninist ideas.
A communist group should be judged on the basis of it’s political line and it’s practical application of this line. En Lutte! while waging the necessary ideological struggle against all deviations, particularly economism, in the pages of their newspaper, has, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, fallen in practice, into the worst form of right opportunism.
Montreal January 29, 1976
Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist)
The celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD), this March 8, is approaching, and our group, as we did last year, intends to participate in this event with the aim of spreading the proletarian ideology of the women’s emancipation struggle.
We think that the celebration of this day should be for the communists of our country, the occasion to struggle against feminist, reformist, revisionist, and trotskyist concepts on the question of the struggle for women’s liberation. Against false solutions, it is the duty ot all communists to put forward that the road to the emancipation of women must pass through the socialist revolution, and therefore the women of our country must take up the revolutionary struggle along with the men of the working class and working masses.
It is in order to realize this objective that we are submitting the following proposal for the organization of International Women’s Day. We believe this proposal is the correct position at the actual stage of the revolutionary struggle in our country.
1. In order that communists can relalize their objective for the IWD, we believe they must aim at an audience of the largest possible number amongst those who are likely to mobilize for March 8. In the actual conditions of the revolutionary struggle in our country, where the communist forces are still weak and divided, where the penetration of communist ideas within the working class is still weak, where in fact communists have not yet rallied the vanguard of the proletariat to communism, we believe that communists must intervene on March 8 in a mass front principally of the unions and community organizations we must defend within this front, a correct position on the emancipation of women, at the same time working principally to develop the struggle for the creation of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party.
We therefore believe that communists must work to bring together the largest number of community groups and organizations as well as the unions in a single demonstration of solidarity and revolutionary spirit based on correct political line rather then organize a separate day, cut off from the large masses. We believe it is the duty of communists to put forward the proletarian line within a mass front of groups.
Or course any “collaboration” with the unions and community organizations for IWD must be based on a platform in which the different points and demands, do not contradict the communists’ political line on the woman question. If it should happen for instance, that the front would adopt a clearly feminist line, we could not participate in such a front.
2. Because the Marxist-Leninist forces in our country are still divided, because their ever-strengthening unity is a determining condition for the success of our revolution, our group intends to encourage unity of action of Marxist-Leninists on I.W. D , a tactical unity which will serve to better counter the revisionists and trotskyites, as well as the reformist trends which are highly developed and dominant amongst the more advanced and combative strata of the working class and working people.
To this end, our group proposes the formation of a coalition of communist (M-L) groups, organizations, and cells with the objective of defending the proletarian line in the struggle for the emancipation of women within the context of a mass front of groups. Our group intends to avoid all debate on the general line of these groups, organizations and cells, including the question of determining who is “truly communist and who is not”. We intend to invite a certain number of groups to participate in this coalition on the basis that we believe they will put forward a correct point of view on the woman question and hence, reinforce the communist tendency within the mass front and counter more vigorously the trotskyism revisionist and all reformist and feminist tendencies.
As far as the coalition is concerned we put forward the following organizational principles:
– the groups in the coalition can do their own agitation and propaganda work apart from those common actions decided by the coalition.
– the Marxist-Leninist coalition must submit to the democratic decisions adopted by the unified organization ot the groups within the mass front. The coalition can quit the front if the decisions of the organization are reactionary. This must be a question of political judgement.
– the Marxist-Leninist coalition must be publicly known but each group can be represented within the large unified organization.
We therefore consider it necessary to invite the following groups, in addition to your organisation: The G.R.P., the G.A.S, the GIQ, the C.R.I.C.S., the N.P.E.,and Mobilisation.
Our group is submitting this proposal to your group, the C.C.L.(M-L), first and we ask you to respond to the proposal as a whole, that is on the necessity to form a Marxist-Leninist coalition to intervene within a large front of mass groups on IWD.
We await your reply on whether you are in agreement with the proposal as a whole or in part or not at all. If you agree with the entire proposal, we can agree on a time to meet with the other groups, submit the proposal to them and all together debate a common platform to put forward as well as different forms of organization to propose for the actual day (workshops, evening, etc).
In the event of a disagreement or some questions you may wish to discuss, we are prepared to meet with you.
Communist Greetings, the comrades from EN LUTTE!
Note: The English translation of En Lutte’s letter was done by The Forge.
In the first part of the letter we explain the origins of the CCL(ML) and its willingness to undertake the struggle for unity among Marxist-Leninists in Canada (This position is outlined in the editorial in this issue). We also once again reaffirm that we consider En Lutte! to be a Marxist-Leninist group, with whom we have important political differences and with whom we intend to undertake the struggle for unity, based on frank and open polemics and the method of unity-criticism-unity.
Montreal, February 6, 1976,
En Lutte! Comrades
Now here is our answer to your proposal for collaboration between our two organizations, and between us and other groups, for International Women’s Day.
After having studied your proposal with care we conclude that it is impossible for us to accept. We would like to briefly explain why. Our disagreement centres around two parts of your proposal. To begin with, we will examine the second part.
You propose that En Lutte and the CCL(ML) together take the initiative to form “a communist coalition of groups, organizations and M-L cells” to intervene in the March 8th celebration. This idea of a coalition of communist groups is wrong in many ways.
First, you consciously and explicitly try to escape the question of deciding “who or who isn’t Marxist-Leninist”. By so doing, you open the door to all kinds of compromises around political line, and finally to the confusion of the masses on this crucial question. Are you not abandoning the Marxist-Leninist principle of struggle against opportunism? As well, we do not see why, if all the groups that you propose to cooperate with are Marxist-Leninist groups, you distinguish (discriminate) between them on the one hand and on the other hand the League to whom you first sent the proposal. Are not all Marxist-Leninists equal and do they not deal with each other on an equal basis?
Even if the League agreed with the idea of a coalition, it could not join this one, because it unites together groups that we consider to be Marxist-Leninist and others that we do not’ acknowledge as Marxist-Leninist and still ethers that we are in the process of examining to answer this very question. But our answer in no way means that we refuse all collaboration with one or the other or all of these groups: we are ready to make a united front with them on specific occasions on the basis of a correct political platform.
There is a difference, however, between this kind of united front (around a common, precise and circumstantial action) and a communist coalition. A communist coalition is an agreement between Marxist-Leninist organizations, who have few differences in their political line, it is an agreement which is expressed in a regular collaboration between these organizations. Unity of thought is determining in such a situation.
Secondly, you put forward, implicitly, that the unity of Marxist-Leninists will benefit from this kind of “common practice”, leaving aside completely questions of political line. That is to say in the struggle for the unity of Marxist-Leninists you turn upside down that which is principal (the struggle around line) and that which is secondary (common action). You make common practice principal and line secondary. Moreover your proposal includes no clear outline of the political platform that En Lutte! would have such a March 8th coalition defend. But only on the basis of such a platform can groups reply to the invitation for a common action.
In the present situation, we believe that there are definite differences of line around the woman question (and, we must remember, around general strategic orientation – we will expand on this later) between certain groups mentioned by Eh Lutte! as being possible members of the communist “coalition”. How can we not take these political disagreements into account? Once again we cannot escape from political differences.
The CCL(ML) is not in disagreement, in principle, with unity of action – tactical unity – of communists in order to combat opportunism and our class enemy, and we believe that such a unity of action can be an aid in the struggle for the unity of Marxist-Leninists in order to strengthen the unity that we all wish to build. But unity of action must always contribute to accomplishing our present revolutionary tasks. This implies that unity of action must aim at a particular target, and must be established on the basis of a correct and clear platform. We mention here a few examples of such a unity, a campaign against repression, a demonstration against the superpowers, a public debate to intensify the ideological struggle inside the communist movement, etc. ML groups can also collaborate in the framework of a wide united front as often happens in Montreal.
But in all circumstances, we must begin at the beginning, define an objective and an appropriate platform and, then, unite Marxist-Leninists and all those who can be united on the basis of this platform. The inverse method-calling for common action and then trying to get political agreement, (to reach a deal as we might say) is opportunist. It puts political line in the back seat and tends to reduce it to the lowest common denominator which will bring agreement among all those who claim to be Marxist-Leninists. Which brings us to another problem in your proposal.
There is a tendency on your part to reduce the question of the emancipation of women to the lowest common denominator and to treat it as an isolated question. But the woman question is fundamentally a class question and must be treated as such. The C.C.L.(M-L) treats the struggle for the emancipation of women as an integral part of the proletariat’s revolutionary struggle and therefore a communist organization’s position on this question is entirely linked to its political line and its revolutionary strategy.
Of course, the struggle for reforms and the democratic rights of women is essential, and communists must unite all those prepared to wage those struggles. But the struggle for the emancipation of women is not limited to the fight for democratic rights; it consists primarily of fighting to bring oppressed and exploited women into the class struggle beside their brothers. Furthermore, in their work among women of the working class, communists, first and foremost, aim to rally the most advanced elements to communism. And this can only be accomplished if we educate these women about the path of the proletarian revolution in our country, and direct their struggles against the enemies of the revolution which are also their principal enemies. That is why the woman question cannot be isolated from the question of revolution.
It is only by linking the struggle for the emancipation of women to the struggle for proletarian revolution, that is by proposing a clear and correct line for both (the whole and the part), that Marxist-Leninists will succeed in combatting opportunists of all kinds: reformists, pseudo-revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries. It is only in this way that we will truly gain an influence amongst the masses. Otherwise we could end up collaborating with trotskyites and revisionists, who, by the way, claim to support the liberation of women through “socialism”. Because of this your proposal of a communist “coalition” is wrong. Such a “coalition” on March 8 would only lead to confusion and will do nothing to further the unity of Marxist-Leninists. How. for example, could so-called “unified” Marxist-Leninist groups combat the revisionists and trotskyites. if they cannot agree on what is the principal contradiction in Canada.
Here now are the reasons for our disagreement with the first part of your proposal, that is that communists intervene in collaboration with the union centrals (it is clear that you are speaking of the centrals though you call them “the unions”).
The C.C.L.(M-L) considers independent communist agitation and propaganda among working women as an essential part of Marxist-Leninist activity. This activity is all the more important in view of the fact that the Marxist-Leninist movement is still weak and very young, and relatively isolated from the working class while the opportunists and counter-revolutionary trotskyites and revisionists are particularly actively spreading their poisonous vemim and disorienting the women’s movement. We therefore reject your argument that:
“In the actual conditions of the revolutionary struggle in our country, where the communist forces are still weak and divided, where the penetration of communist ideas within the working class is still weak, where in fact communists have not yet rallied the vanguard of the proletariat to communism we believe that communists must intervene on March 8 in a mass front including principally the unions and popular organizations and that we must defend within this front, a correct position on the emancipation of women, at the same time working principally to develop the struggle for the creation of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party.”
It seems to us that such a position leads to making a united front with trotskyites and revisionists. Of course we must go where the masses are. but the most important thing is to go there to defend a clear firm, correct line (and we have already stated what we mean by that). Let this be clear: the C.C.L.(M-L) does not intend to abandon the masses to the reformist leaders of the unions and all the opportunists of every kind. On the contrary, we believe it is our duty as communists to participate, and intervene on the basis of our positions in the demonstrations organized by the union centrals, in order to combat the influence of traitors in various guises. The C.C.L. (M-L) will not fail to meet its responsibilities: we will be present at the union centrals’ actions and we will denounce all counter revolutionaries as we should. However we believe this kind of intervention is of secondary importance compared to the task of doing communist education, which Marxist-Leninists must do in depth by organizing their own IWD celebration. In this way we will better demarcate ourselves from the opportunists and reformists, especially from the revisionist partisans of the &@8220;United Front of Women”. We must reach the masses but not by abandoning our communist line.
These then are the principal reasons why we find it necessary to refuse your proposal.
We wish to inform you that the C.C.L.(M-L) has decided to organize a celebration of March 8. This celebration is organized on the basis of a Marxist-Leninist political platform. We are sending you a copy of that platform so that you can study it. We are prepared to unite our efforts with yours to make a success of this IWD on the basis of the platform we submit to you.
We are ready to meet with representatives of EN LUTTE! whenever you wish, if you accept our proposal to collaborate or should you wish to discuss any aspect of our reply to your letter.
 Groupe pour la Revolution Proletarienne, Groupe d’Action Socialiste, Groupe d’Intervention Quartier, Centre de Recherche et d’Information Centre-Sud, Noyau des Petites Entreprises