First Published: The Forge, Vol. 2, No. 10, May 12, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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In Vancouver BC there are a number of groups which claim to be Marxist-Leninist. The May First Collective (MFC), typical of these groups, is not Marxist-Leninist. It Is an opportunist group despite its claims.
On all three counts – their adherence to Marxist-Leninist principles, the struggle against opportunism, and work of communist agitation and propaganda in the working class, MFC strikes out miserably. Let’s look at the first point. First of all, to date, they have not put forward a public position on the international situation, the class contradictions in Canadian society, the tasks of Marxist-Leninists in the workers’ movement, nor is there any indication that MFC even considers it important to develop positions on these questions. So it’s pretty hard to talk about May First’s great attachment to the principles of Marxism-Leninism and the importance they accord to developing a line. The only “contribution” produced by MFC was the pathetic display of distortions, lies and utter confusion that we were treated to in their “masterpiece”. “Ideological Struggle is Class Struggle” in Canadian Revolution no.5 (The League wrote a response to this article in CR no. 6).
Here we are told that it is wrong to exclude opportunists from the Marxist-Leninist movement, that at this stage of party building it’s wrong to build factory cells, that propaganda must be the principal form of mass work, as opposed to agitation etc. These, as well as other positions maintained by the MFC, fly in the face of any real understanding of the principles of Marxism-Leninism.
When it comes to the struggle against all forms of opportunism, it’s easy to see that MFC understands absolutely nothing and conciliates with opportunism right down the line. MFC jumps up and down about the “dogmatic and sectarian” League who supposedly excludes opportunist groups from the movement by definition and not by struggle. They saw nothing wrong in groups such as Mobilisation or Bolshevik Union participating in In Struggle’s unity conferences, saying that “After all Mobilisation didn’t disrupt the first conference, so why should they be excluded from the second?” MFC feels that even if all the League’s criticisms of Mobilisation were correct (which they highly doubt) that wouldn’t necessarily mean that Mobilisation could have no positive contribution to make on a question like the principal contradiction. MFC still continues to defend the Western Voice against the League’s “slanders” (see Forge Vol 1, no 13) saying ridiculous things such as the WV was a Marxist-Leninist collective just before its dissolution, because the majority of its members, by that time, were all Marxist-Leninists...
That a completely opportunist group like Mobilisation could have a positive contribution to make to the development of a correct Marxist-Leninist position on the principal contradiction or that a group like the Western Voice could at any point be considered to have been Marxist-Leninist... what rubbish!
It simply recalls May First’s own opportunism.
It’s when we’look at the third criteria, the question of communist practice, that MFC really gets caught with their pants down and their intellectualism, opportunism, and contempt for the working class become clear. MFC has no consistent revolutionary practice. It does not advance the struggle for the creation of a new communist party. In our discussions with MFC, their first line of defense was to admit that in fact their group was quite “weak” with regards to communist intervention in the working class, that in fact they carried out no systematic work of communist agitation and propaganda. They excused this by saying that they put most of their time into intervening in the Marxist-Leninist movement where they feel they “played a leading role”. Leading role...? Perhaps... in the opportunist movement, but certainly not in the Marxist-Leninist movement!
MFC has spent so much time hammering home their discovery that “ideological struggle is class struggle” and propaganda must be the principal form of mass work, that they had no time left for intervention in the working class.>/p>
And on the rare occasions MFC does do something it simply exposes its opportunism. For example in meetings held recently in Vancouver (International Women’s Day, In Struggle’s March 22nd meeting) members of the group who were present did nothing to expose and denounce rotten Trotskyist and bourgeois feminist lines that were being put forward. With all their pie in the sky talk about the importance of ideological struggle, this group goes along with opportunist lines that welcome Trotskyists into workshop discussions, that allow them to distribute their garbage in front of meetings.
MFC does not have communist practice nor unite any of the other basic characteristics of a Marxist-Leninist group. It is not Marxist-Leninist. It is an opportunist group that must be crushed.
The opportunism of the MFC must be understood in the context of the general situation in Vancouver where the struggle against opportunism, anti-party conceptions, intellectualism. and passivity in the face of mass struggles that has shaken Quebec over the last few years, has not yet taken place. Many of the groups have settled into comfortable routines of some abstract study and a conference here and there.
Enter In Struggle. What attitude does this “champion” of the struggle against economism take with regards to the situation? The same attitude it took towards Mobilisation and APLQ (Free Press Agency of Quebec) in Quebec – that of conciliation with opportunism. “You’re doing fine boys and girls keep it up. Let’s all hold hands in one big happy family and build our Marxist Leninist organization. We’ll show the League that it can’t keep bullying us around. Let’s stick together, organize some conferences, hand out some leaflets and everything will be just fine”. Once again. In Struggle conciliates with opportunism, patting the groups on the head and taking them under its wing to protect them from the League who dared to question the supposed fact that they were all Marxist-Leninist. Of course it serves In Struggle’s purposes to maintain that there is an abundance of ML groups in the movement in order to drown out the two-line struggle between the CCL(ML) and In Struggle. This opportunist line of conciliation and rallying with sugar-coated bullets has led In Struggle into a bankrupt strategy for unity. In fact IS plays on these groups’ petit bourgeois fears of so-called hegemonism of the League in order to swallow them up itself. But opportunism does not dissolve when it is absorbed by a Marxist-Leninist group. It merely corrupts increasingly from within.
The fact is that MFC, a group with no political line on most major questions, a group that conciliates with opportunism, a group that has no communist practise – is not a Marxist-Leninist group, The only principled attitude that Marxist-Leninists can adopt towards opportunist groups such as MFC, is one of firm and resolute struggle. We must unmask these “fellow travellers” who try to use Marxist-Leninist phrases and noisy polemics as an easy ticket into the movement, which for them is more a question of being part of the “in” crowd than of making revolution in Canada.
It’s an insult to the working class that the self-assured and arrogant MFC be allowed to put itself forward as a communist group.