The Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement of struggle for an authentic communist party is standing at the crossroads. In the next period we will witness the development of a clear revolutionary trend in the movement which will set us firmly on the path to the creation of an authentic Marxist-Leninist communist party – or else we will see the consolidation of opportunism, a reign of temporary confusion in the ranks of advanced elements of the working class who are ready to rally to communism, and the polarization of the movement along lines which will retard the struggle for the party.
In this article we plan to examine the questions of the party, the unity of Marxist-Leninists, the party programme, opportunism, and the tasks of Marxist-Leninists from many angles, but our overall perspective is the solution to the following problem: how to proceed from the present state of the movement to the creation of an authentic communist party which is capable of rallying and leading the vanguard of the proletariat, on the path to proletarian revolution in Canada, as part of the world proletarian revolution.
We will start with a review of some history of the Bolshevik Union and the Marxist-Leninist movement.
Before the formation of the Bolshevik Union, two of our members were in the vanguard of the struggle for the Party and against liquidationism (the position, for whatever reason, that the principal task was not to build the party) in English Canada, by virtue of having initiated and helped to found the journal Canadian Revolution, by virtue of publishing the article “Why Building the Party is the Principal Task” in the first issue of that journal (May 1975), and by taking up struggles with all who denied the centrality of building the party.
Subsequently, with other members of Canadian Revolution, the Bolshevik Tendency was formed within CR in response to opportunist attempts to transform CR into an impediment to the ideological struggle and demarcation that the members of the Bolshevik Tendency considered to be a precondition for the unity of Marxist-Leninists in a Communist Party.
Many groups have paid lip-service to Lenin’s dictum on this subject for as long as it seemed “opportune” or to justify personal grudges between groups. But we repeat the words that are on the front cover of our journal’s first issue, and the words that we will continue to repeat until the tasks that they imply are actually accomplished: ”Before we can unite and in order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation.” In the final analysis it was our insistence on this as a principle of Marxist-Leninist unity that led to the split in CR.
In the meantime, the Bolshevik Tendency had come to agreement on some of the burning questions of our movement (see p. 2, LD no. 1). One of our points of agreement was the recognition of In Struggle! as the leading group (note: leading group, not centre). In the context of rallying to In Struggle! as the leading group we prepared a statement which contained the following description of the Marxist-Leninist movement.
The Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada has not been a State-wide phenomenon. This has been true for a number of reasons, which include the more rapid development of the M-L movement in Quebec owing to the objective conditions of class and national contradictions being more conducive for the attraction of intellectuals, progressives and advanced workers to M-L as a solution to their oppression. But this situation both accelerated the development of a M-L movement in Quebec and retarded the development of the M-L movement in the rest of Canada. This is because the potential leadership Quebecois M-Ls could have given to the rest of Canada was prevented by an incorrect conception of the principal contradiction in Quebec and a generally pervasive economism and right-opportunism. This, of course, also characterizes the history of the miniscule number of M-Ls in the rest of Canada.
These factors also have to be seen against the backdrop of the pseudo-M-L movement that existed in the rest of Canada. This pseudo-M-L movement included CPC(M-L), Canadian Liberation Movement and Progressive Worker. None of these organizations furthered M-L in any way except insofar as the PW struggle against revisionism made a limited contribution. All three groups, and especially CPC(M-L), all but destroyed the potential base of people who might have been won over to M-L.
All that was left was a few isolated and scattered individuals and collectives who grasped enough M-L to realize that these organizations were not M-L but which never carried on a consistent struggle against neo-revisionism but instead descended into the grossest right-opportunism and anti-Leninism.
It needs to be stressed that the English Canadian M-Ls, unlike those in Quebec, did not develop in a close relationship (opportunist or otherwise) to the workers’ movement. Rather, English Canadian M-Ls came out of the anti-imperialist university milieu almost exclusively. Except for the grossest forms of workerism and economism on individual or very small group bases, contact with workers has been minimal. In terms of Toronto some of this history is summed up by (members of our group) in CR no. 1 and CR no. 4. In terms of western Canada, many so-called M-Ls were absorbed in the Canadian Union movement. But for most in both places, their “M-Lism” was restricted to small cliques and did not attempt to reach out to people at all.
There has never been a M-L movement in English Canada comparable in any way to that in Quebec. It is difficult to speak of a movement at all until CR and the intervention of Quebec M-Ls happened. There was no communication, no struggle, no progress, no one carrying a correct line on the party, on Canada, or anything else. This has only just begun to happen and really has not changed significantly. (January 1976)
This continues to be our basic view of the Marxist-Leninist movement in English Canada.
And, in regard to the movement as a whole, until our movement put the party on the agenda, where it should have been all along, and drew a line of demarcation by becoming a “movement of struggle for an authentic communist party”, thereby distinguishing it from the student movement, the so-called “left”, etc., it was not properly speaking a Marxist-Leninist movement. Between the collapse of the old CP under the weight of its own revisionism and international revisionism, and the prioritizing of the need for an authentic communist party, there was no two-line struggle between a proletarian line and a bourgeois line in Canada within a single Marxist-Leninist movement.
Both the Progressive Workers Movement and the “Communist” “Party” of Canada (“Marxist-Leninist”) distinguished themselves from revisionism by adopting bourgeois nationalist positions on the strategy for revolution in Canada and by adopting positions on the party that were not consistent with Marxism-Leninism. PWM was part of the general liquidationism which was one of the components out of which our present Marxist-Leninist movement developed, and the Bainsites proceeded to promote themselves to the position of “vanguard of the proletariat” on the basis of the loudness of their voices (or ambition) in opposing the revisionist CP, and on the basis of a Lin Piaoist-style claim of adherence to Mao Tse-tung Thought.
A two-line struggle (with a proletarian line as one pole of reference) only developed at that point, first in Quebec and later in English Canada, when the need to build the party was raised in struggle against those who postponed the struggle for the party to a point in time when, in relation to the development of the working class movement, it would be “appropriate.”
This struggle took place in a movement consisting of people active in the working-class movement, national liberation struggle (Quebec) and petit-bourgeois anti-imperialist struggles, and the groups involved had in general only the vaguest sympathy to, or understanding of, Marxism-Leninism – that is, if they recognized its leadership at all. (See Appendix 2 for a corroboration of this in the words of other groups in our movement.)
In this struggle, the understanding of Marxism-Leninism developed to a higher level for those who adhered to the proletarian line. Those who did not are not part of our present movement, although they may continue to be a part of the opportunist movement of the non-Marxist-Leninist “left” and some may yet be won to Marxism-Leninism.
How are we to understand this development?
As dialectical materialists, we know that all developments and changes are the product of struggle between opposites in a thing or a process. We also understand that struggle is absolute and permanent and the source of all motion and development, and that equilibrium (i.e., the unity of two opposites in a single whole) is temporary and transient. In this case the “unity of opposites in a single whole” was the movement out of which our movement of struggle for an authentic communist party developed. The struggle, the source of development, was between those who recognized the need to make building the party our principal task and those who said that it was not. (Or, stated more broadly, between Marxism on the one hand, and anti-Marxism and opportunism, on the other hand.)
And we must note that since “the unity” of this phenomenon was, like all unities of opposites, temporary, we did not see merely the wholesale transformation of this movement into our movement. The unity was not permanent, was not re-established: only some of the components of the old movement are part of our movement; the resolution of the contradiction had led to the formation of a new thing on a new basis.
The Chinese call this understanding of things “the division of one into two”, and counterpose the slogan “one divides into two” to the slogan “two combines into one”. The latter is a revisionist slogan which serves those who want to see (for whatever reason, be it liberalism and softness towards the bourgeoisie, or enmity to the proletariat) a reconciliation between Marxism and opportunism and, in the final analysis, between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie; rather than the defeat of opportunism and the bourgeoisie. Lenin made essentially the same point when he spoke of the need to “draw lines of demarcation” between Marxism and opportunism. We will be applying this concept to an understanding of our present movement in Section 3.
Here we will note that the victory of the correct political line on the principal task was hardly the defeat of right-opportunism in the Marxist-Leninist movement. On the contrary, many groups and individuals adapted to the call for a party because they saw that this was now necessary in order to maintain their existence in the workers’ movement and hence their struggle for the hegemony of the petit-bourgeoisie over the working class. We will see in this article and in other articles which we are putting forward that right-opportunism has adapted to the call for a party by consolidating its Economism in strong organizational frameworks.
* * *
If we are to choose one event that marked the birth of our present “movement of struggle for the party” it would be the publication in 1972 of “Pour le parti proletarien” (For the Proletarian Party) by Charles Gagnon and the “Equipe du journal” (the original core group of In Struggle!). This was published in a period of time (dating roughly from 1970) which we should consider the first stage of the development of our present movement, a stage which culminated in 1975 with two important events: (1) the publication of the first issue of the journal, Canadian Revolution in May, 1975, which provided liaison between the Marxist-Leninist movement in Quebec and Marxist-Leninists in the rest of Canada and gave a form to the existence of these Marxist-Leninists such that for the first time we can speak of a Marxist-Leninist “movement” in English Canada; (2) the formation of the Canadian Communist League (ML) in November 1975.
Developments in this first stage of the movement took place primarily in terms of the struggle against Economism on the one hand and the elaboration of tactics for the building of the unity of Marxist-Leninists on the other hand. In terms of the struggle against Economism we have as the two poles of reference the two main currents of the movement at that time: the newspaper In Struggle! on the one hand, and a variety of groups riddled with the most vulgar forms of Economism, which were active in the context of the “CAP” movement, on the other hand.
What was the background to this first stage in the development of the movement in Quebec? The early 70’s saw the peaking and decline of two radical currents in Quebec: the FLQ whose history is well known and a reformist current composed of citizens’ groups closely linked to the unions which formed FRAP (the Front d’Action Politique). This organization was finally torn apart by internal contradictions intensified by the October crisis and the loss of the municipal election in 1970. Within FRAP, there were local organizations called CAPs (Comites d’Action Politique) and it was within the most militant of these CAPS that we have the rise of the Economist-“Marxist-Leninist” current in Quebec.
In Struggle! provided leadership to the movement in struggling against this current by presenting Communist propaganda as the correct alternative to implantation as the means to make the fusion of Marxism-Leninism with the working class. The Marxist-Leninist groups that formed in the context of the CAP movement held to the erroneous “stages” theory according to which workers were not ready for Communism and that Marxist-Leninists should relate to the working class mainly in terms of the economic struggle, i.e., support for workers’ struggles without calling for proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and implantation of Marxist-Leninists to lead economic struggles as something separate from their activities as communists. The culmination of this struggle was the dissolution of the CSLO (an economist-type coalition of Marxist-Leninists in support of workers’ struggles), the criticism of the CSLO put forward by In Struggle in Against Economism in September 1975, and the formal (and only formal) repudiation of Economism by some of the Economist “Marxist-Leninist” groups.
Concurrent with this struggle, In Struggle! and MREQ (Mouvement revolutionnaire des etudiants du Quebec) took the lead in 1974 in raising the question of the unity of Marxist-Leninists and the formation of a “pre-party” organization. Subsequently, in November 1975, the MREQ, which had in practice followed the basically Economist line of the CAP groups, united with two groups connected with the CAP movement, the COR (Cellule ouvriere revolutionnaire) and CMO (Cellule militante ouvriere). This was the formation of the CCL(ML).
We characterize the raising of the Party question and the struggle led by In Struggle! against Economism as ”one step forward” in our movement and consider that this forms a distinct phase in In Struggle!ís development which we will henceforth refer to as “phase one”.
In contrast, we consider that the formation of the CCL (ML) was “one step backward” for our movement.
There are several reasons why the formation of the CCL(ML) was a step backward for the movement.
(1) The consolidation of Economism: although the groups that formed the CCL(ML) all self-criticized for Economism in a ritualistic fashion, their Economism was not defeated in practice. The continuing pervasiveness of Economism in the CCL(ML) has been analyzed by us in LD no. 1 and in “Right-Opportunism is Dead! Long Live Right-Opportunism!” in issue no. 3-4 of LD, and is touched on in Appendix no. 3 to this article. Briefly, they continue, in theory and in practice, to identify the struggle for reforms within capitalism as the “class struggle” and the struggle for ”state power”; Communist propaganda is still given a back seat to economic agitation; and the party is portrayed as primarily an instrument for “victory” in the economic struggle, which is made to appear as the equivalent of the struggle for revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. We will have many occasions to comment on the negative character of this consolidation for the movement as a whole. Just an example is that it provides a format for right-opportunist groups (like Workers’ Unity Toronto) to escape the necessary transformation of their practice and understanding by undergoing CCL(ML)’s ritualized self-criticism for Economism, and thus the base of potentially authentic communist forces is narrowed, i.e., CCL(ML) gives them the opportunity to transform their right-opportunism into a new kind of right-opportunism rather than into proletarian politics.
(2) Organizational consolidation around an incorrect political line. The Bolshevik Union has already thoroughly exposed the incorrectness of the CCL(ML)’s position on the principal contradiction (LD no. 1). CCL(ML)’s consolidation around this position without debating it first in the movement at large is of a piece with their refusal to respond to polemics (such as ours) against this position since their formation. It has become clear that their position is more an opportunist justification for a higher level of organizational unity in the movement than a scientific concern about the Marxist-Leninist analysis that must be made to elaborate the strategy for revolution in Canada. The effect of this consolidation on the Marxist-Leninist movement and the working-class movement is that they have contrived, mechanically, to become a greater material force (for Economism and right-opportunism) while retarding the political tasks of Marxist-Leninists. They retard this development actively by putting forward an incorrect line, and passively, by refusing to re-examine their line and partake of the criticism and self-criticism by which authentic Marxist-Leninists arrive collectively at a scientific analysis.
The Bolshevik Union considers that the formation of the CCL(ML) was a key event and, along with certain developments in the working class movement, that it marked the beginning of a second stage in the development of the Marxist-Leninist movement. The formation of the CCL(ML) was, in short, a turning point. Learning from negative example, putting forward a correct response to CCL(ML)’s step backward, the movement might have taken another step forward. The correct response would have consisted of a ruthless exposure of the continuing Economism and right-opportunism of the CCL(ML), the intensification of the drawing of lines of demarcation by actively defeating the incorrect politics put forward by the League, and the consolidation of a correct plan for the unity of Marxist-Leninists.
Instead, under the leadership of In Struggle!, we saw the opposite. In Struggle! crumbled under the “offensive” of the League and because it is the other major force, or de facto leading centre in the movement, its incorrect response had the effect of taking the movement as a whole another step backward: the struggle against right-opportunism, the main danger in the movement, was suddenly abandoned and the League’s “sectarianism” became the main danger.
If “left” attitudes were the main danger, then why worry very much about demarcation against right-opportunist political positions and practice? And thus the struggle against the political line of the League was not taken up. And if the process of unity put forward by the League was blatantly opportunist, amounting in practice to the negation of the movement on the one hand, and polarization rather than demarcation on political questions on the other, well then, mechanically adopt an opposite course for the unity of Marxist-Leninists, making the movement everything and the final aim nothing, rather than negating it, and soft-peddling demarcation for fear of polarizing.
We will be showing how this was in effect In Struggle!’s response to the League’s “offensive”. As we said above, we consider that this was a second step backward for the Marxist-Leninist movement and consider that the period from May 1976 (when it first confronted the League) to August 1976 marks “phase two” in In Struggle!’s development.
What were the positions that In Struggle! took during its first phase that allowed it to represent a step forward for the whole of the Marxist-Leninist movement?
(1) The struggle against the most vulgar forms of Economism present throughout the movement and the insistence on the role of a newspaper in doing communist propaganda, and as an organizer.
(2) Basically correct positions on the unity of Marxist-Leninists elaborated in part polemically against the incorrect positions of the Bainsites and against the proponents of building unity around “common practice”. This included a stress on the need to demarcate ourselves in open struggle in the movement before achieving unity, and stress on the ”rallying to a leading centre” concept of building unity. (i.e., the idea that one group will show itself as the leading centre in Canada by putting forward a fundamentally correct line on the Canadian Revolution, defeating right-opportunism and rallying to it all the authentic Marxist-Leninists). It is no accident, however, that In Struggle! took the turn that it did in its second phase and in retrospect we can see that these leading positions were often imperfectly understood by In Struggle! and ambiguously stated. We will be explaining how In Struggle! has been primarily Economist in its conception of its tasks in its second phase and how it has been putting forward an incorrect, liberal, and fundamentally right-opportunist line on the unity of Marxist-Leninists in this phase. But the seeds of this phase were there all along and these right-opportunist tendencies came to the fore, it is apparent, in response to the formation of the League. Thus: (1) Although In Struggle! had a correct understanding of the importance of a newspaper in doing communist propaganda and as an organizer, it had only a mechanical conception of this role. It is as if they had read What Is To Be Done?, appropriated only the organizational lessons of Iskra, paid lip-service to the revolutionary theory that Lenin lays so much stress on, and then taken up the struggle against Economism only in terms of its vulgarist forms rather than in terms of its right-opportunist essence. Thus we have three years of the continuous building of In Struggle! as an organizer but only sporadic attempts to develop the revolutionary theory that the newspaper is supposed to vehicle! Thus the League self-criticizes for Economism, and moves on to more subtle forms of the same animal (while retaining most of the old) and, for In Struggle!, which now becomes incapable of recognizing Economism because they themselves are steeped in it, Economism disappears for all intents and purposes. (2) There are many ambiguities in In Struggle!’s presentation of its views on the unity of Marxist-Leninists throughout its first phase. The strongest statement (and the source of the Bolshevik Tendency’s understanding of In Struggle!’s view) was “The Tasks of the Marxist-Leninist Movement” printed in CR no. 3 in October 1975 (originally printed in issues 38-41 of In Struggle!). Here, In Struggle! clearly put forward that
. . . the unification of Marxist-Leninists in one organization will not come about unless there develops in our movement a principal trend, a leading centre capable of rallying to itself the active forces of our movement. (CR 1:3, p. 18)
At this point in time In Struggle! raised the call to “rally to In Struggle!”. Furthermore, in our “statement” to In Struggle! we referred to those who
call on workers to rally to them because they represent communist leadership (i.e., the vanguard) but they themselves are unwilling to rally to leadership in the m-l movement because they in practice advocate one method of unity for the workers and another for university implantees and charter members of the M-L movement.
and we said:
We feel that En Lutte! has a correct position on the development of unity amongst M-Ls in the M-L movement in Canada. Specifically, we agree that this process must be one of rallying to a leading centre rather than as a process of federation as conceived by the CCL(ML). As M-Ls we expect advanced workers to rally to us on the basis of an ongoing struggle, not to set up separate organizations and unite with us on the basis of “principles”. In uniting ourselves we expect no less: we rally to those who have the correct politics in struggle, not develop independently and then unite around “principles” [we had in mind “principles” abstracted from politics – BU]. The readiness to do this is an indication of whether there w be a real understanding of democratic centralism in the organization. ... We haven’t analyzed the dangers of the CCL(ML) approach but suspect that if it begins with a rejection of democratic centralism on the ideological level, this trend will show itself organizational!
In Struggle! did not correct us on this matter so we assume that it was consistent with their position at that time.
But looking back to “Let Us Construct.. .”[13, we find In Struggle! talking not of a leading centre coming forward but of the “organization of struggle” amalgamating different groups and thus becoming the leading centre. Furthermore, in “Let Us Construct.. .”, they speak of contradictions between Marxist-Leninist groups as being a priori unantagonistic (a position that we maintain implies a “soft” and right-opportunist approach to unity and demarcation). These positions put forward in “Let Us Construct.. .” are the basis on which In Struggle! has built its project for unity, in opposition to the line of the “Tasks”, in its second phase.
Phase two begins with In Struggle! advancing a project for the tactical unity of Marxist-Leninists on International Women’s Day. This was a principled proposal although the League criticized the platform advanced by In Struggle! for not demarcating on the question of the principal contradiction, something that would have made tactical unity impossible as the League well knows. In Struggle!’s response to this situation marks a change in their political perspective. Previously In Struggle! had clearly demonstrated that it understood that the unity of Marxist-Leninists is not accomplished by “common practice”. But suddenly the League’s refusal to engage in “common practice” around IWD with In Struggle!, which formerly might have been seen as unfortunate but hardly fatal to the Marxist-Leninist movement, was seen as an attack on the very unity of Marxist-Leninists. Consequently In Struggle!’s first polemic and first attack on the League after its conception is not for its Economism or right-opportunism which has seemingly miraculously disappeared, but for its sectarianism and “leftism”.
In this second phase, two things happen (1) Although In Struggle! has not been developing its political line which it quite frankly admitted (in “Let Us Construct. . .”), it did not have, it pushed forward in the attempt to lead mass struggles around the wage controls, i.e., it moved in an Economist direction (this explains why it had not developed its criticism of the League); (2) it begins to elaborate a plan for the unity of Marxist-Leninists, slowly transforming the rationale presented for tactical unity on IWD into a rationale for organizational unity. As this phase develops In Struggle! is constantly soft-peddling differences in the Marxist-Leninist movement, encourages workers to take the position that “nothing fundamental divides us”, implies that the present level of unity in the movement is adequate for organizational unity and implies that it wants unity with the League as its political line is now constituted and that only the League’s sectarianism is standing in the way. There is virtually no criticism of the League for right-opportunism (and in fact a denial that the League is right-opportunist), and no attacks on the League’s political line. The impression is given that if we can only handle things correctly we can all be united in one organization that will proceed internally to resolve the differences that presently exist in the movement. In this phase In Struggle! abandons the “rallying to the leading centre” concept of building unity and calls for the unity of all authentic Marxist-Leninists in one organization which will become the centre.
Before we continue to examine In Struggle!’s positions during “phase two”, we will note that there is a third phase in In Struggle!’s development dating from the middle of September 1976 with the publication of the first issue of Proletarian Unity and the position on unity that it contained. Much of this polemic was conceived before In Struggle! came out with their most recent position, but we feel that the polemic against In Struggle!’s positions during its second phase is not dated and on the contrary will help us to evaluate the positions that In Struggle! is now taking and that we will thus be better able to ascertain whether it represents the half-step forward that it tries to portray itself as making, or, conversely, whether it is only a cover for the continuing errors of the second phase and not really even a half step forward.
First of all, we will characterize In Struggle!ís view of the Marxist-Leninist movement and of the unity of Marxist-Leninists in an organization.
Differences that presently exist in the Marxist-Leninist movement are not an impediment to immediate organizational unity and the present level of unity in the movement demarcates us from all of our enemies.
The life of any communist party is made up of this struggle between different stands, between correct and erroneous positions. The existence of divergences among the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement cannot constitute in itself a sufficient reason to oppose unity, (any) more than the existence of divergences inside the party necessarily lead to its breaking up. (“Fight the Sectarianism of the CCL(ML)”, July 1976, p. 9)
It would be without doubt an error ... to indefinitely pose as a condition for organizational unity all the developments that the lines and the programme of all groups . . . undergo. I think it is essential that in the coming months we establish the political basis necessary for the unity of Canadian Communists AT THIS TIME, and that we make unity on the basis of it. (In Struggle!, July 22, 1976, p. 10)
Why are communist groups still divided when basically they put forward the same positions concerning organization, the Party and revolution? We have asked ourselves these questions many times to come to the conclusion that nothing fundamental divides Marxist-Leninists. (In Struggle!, July 8, 1976, p. 5. This quote is from a position by a workers’ circle which is given a full page in this issue of the newspaper. In its introduction to this position, In Struggle! indicates that it shares this viewpoint.)
It seems that the CCL(ML) still lives in the era of “circles” which put their differences above the contradictions which fundamentally oppose all communists to the bourgeoisie and its agents. (Supplement, March 4, 1976, p. 1. Our translation.)
Let us come back to the question of the “line” “struggle” in the Marxist-Leninist movement. We do not share the League’s point of view on this topic because it leads us to ignore the line struggle in the whole of the workers’ movement, e.g., what is principal, the victory of proletarian ideology, the victory of Marxism-Leninism in the workers’ movement, for it is that which must unite communists (m-l) and it is that which effectively unites them. . . . The position that the League puts forward is to give as much importance, if not more, to the divergences in the m-l movement, than the contradictions that oppose this one to the political bourgeois forces, revisionists, trotskyists, and reformists in general in the workers’ movement. (Digest, Special issue, March 1976, p. 7-8)
Although a debate throughout the movement must take place, the key debate will be mostly around the question of unity itself.
To adopt the party spirit is to work for the political, ideological and organizational gathering of the Marxist-Leninist forces around a programme, in a single Canadian organization. This we must do by starting with what unites Marxist-Leninists presently in order to achieve greater unity.
To adopt this party spirit, we must discuss the question of unity all over the country by permitting all the individuals, groups, cells, circles to express their point of view in a way that reinforces unity. (In Struggle!, August 19, 1976)
The present level of unity in the movement consists of various things (what we will refer to henceforth as “the ideological tine” of the movement) – e.g., support of struggles against the two superpowers, of national liberation struggles, etc. (Digest, Special Issue, March 1976, p. 8), but mainly it consists of recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The Party . . . must study and prepare, the overthrow of the bourgeois State power, the overthrow of the bourgeois dictatorship to establish the proletariat’s dictatorship and build socialism. That is the only possible road towards socialism and it is What fundamentally distinguishes the Canadian M-Ls from all the other so-called socialists, including the so-called Marxist-Leninists of the CPC(ML) that is neither Marxist-Leninist nor a party. This is also what unites true Marxist-Leninists. At the present time, all the Marxist-Leninists, all the Canadian communists can say they are united around the recognition of these principles and around the actions they undertake to apply them, (In Struggle!, July 22, 1976, p. 10)
The Canadian M-L movement is composed of circles . . . whose basic characteristic, which distinguishes it from all other political forces ... is its recognition of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Tse-tung Thought . . . and its firm belief in the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat are the only way towards socialism in our country. (In Struggle!, April 29, 1976, p. 6)
. . . Agreement on the nature of the Canadian Revolution, that is the implementation of socialism through the dictatorship of the proletariat. . . distinguishes the real m-ls from the false. (In Struggle!, May 27, Supplement, p. 4)
We are all authentic Marxist-Leninists as testified to by the present ideological unity in the movement mentioned above and the conclusion of struggle on such questions as the principal contradiction that must be resolved in making revolution are not necessary for accomplishing the tasks of revolution.
Was it opportunism to mobilize the masses in the struggle to abolish capitalism and the bourgeoisie, to install the dictatorship of the proletariat, and to construct the proletarian Party, while abstaining from formulating the principal contradiction? We do not think so, in so far as there was agreement on the nature of the Canadian Revolution, that is the implementation of socialism through the dictatorship of the proletariat, which by the way, distinguishes the real Marxist-Leninists from the false. (Ibid.)
There is a wrong way of approaching the question of unity in the movement and this is the main danger to the Marxist-Leninist movement.
The development of unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists is currently tightly bound to the struggle against sectarianism. The League today constitutes the principal agent of the sectarian trend within the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement. (“Fight the Sectarianism .. .”, P. 7)
In the following pages, we will try to demonstrate the following: the struggle for the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists must today pass through a resolute struggle against sectarianism, for the triumph of the “party spirit” over “small-group mentality”. (Ibid., p. 9)
In Struggle!’s organization of struggle for the party must be the transformation of the movement as a whole into a democratic centralist organization.
The aim of the struggle for unity is the transformation of the disunited movement into a united organization based on a Marxist-Leninist programme and applying the principles of democratic centralism. (Ibid., p. 11)
This struggle must aim at unifying ALL communists in a same organization . . . (where) . . . the struggle for the party will be able to be developed in a rigorous application of democratic centralism, in the submission of the minority to the majority which is the most advanced and the most correct form of the development of line struggles (In Struggle!, April 29, 1976, p. 6)
For what it is worth, the above is, with one omission – the question of political line or programme of their organization-to-be – an accurate characterization of In Struggle!’s “line” on these subjects during its second phase.
We make no apologies for lack of precision and “taking quotes out of context”, since In Struggle!’s presentation of its position during this phase was consistently marked by amorphousness and vacillation and much of what they were saying never had any real “context”.
While it was true that, as we have quoted them above, they indicated that the level of unity in the movement is presently adequate for organizational unity, occasionally there would appear references to differences and assurances that these must at least be touched upon or debated if not resolved. They seemed to be walking a tight-rope between their implicit political line on unity and anticipation of objections to the liquidation of the struggle over the fundamental questions of the revolution.
While they called for imminent organizational unity, they soft-peddled the demarcation that used to be the precondition for unity by saying things like:
These debates and exchanges will be aimed at clarifying [rather than resolving – BU] the basic, fundamental questions involved in the production of a programme which reflects unity that IN NO WAY PUTS ASIDE [rather than affirms – BU] the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism to our country. (In Struggle!, July 22, p. 10)
... if before we create the party, if before we create the organisation, we wait until all the contradictions within the movement are solved, we might be putting off the creation of the party into the far distant future, and thereby might be acting as the agents of slowing down the movement, of postponing until later the intensification of the class struggle in our country. (In Struggle!, July 11, 1976, p. 11)
How can Canadian Marxist-Leninists unite? ... By a programme that will contain a correct application of Marxism-Leninism IN THE STRUGGLE for the proletarian revolution in Canada. (“Fight the Sectarianism . . .”, p. 8)
The first two quotes above reveal without much commentary the balancing act: not wanting to liquidate fundamental questions, but not wanting to make unity conditional on their resolution. The third is more subtle and seems at first sight to be correct. But a close examination shows that where formerly (e.g., in its polemics against the Bainsites at a time when In Struggle! considered demarcation principal) In Struggle! would have written “correct application of Marxism-Leninism to Canada”, or to the proletarian revolution, we now have the vague “tactics-as-a-process” formulation “in the struggle” for the proletarian revolution. (Yes! someplace in, around or about, the struggle!)
What about the programme for this organization? First of all it was not to be maximal – i.e., it will only be the basis for a real programme – it will be “a programme that constitutes a solid base for the elaboration of a true party programme....” (“Fight the Sectarianism . ..”, p. 8) But, at the same time, it will not be minimal(!?):
... it is clearly false that we put unity above political line; on many occasions we have repeated that organisational unity must be based on political unity, unity around a programme. On the other hand, the League is wasting its breath when it states our platform is “minimal” because this platform has not yet even been published. (“Fight the Sectarianism . . .”, p. 51)
Above, we quoted In Struggle!’s opinion on the importance of the principal contradiction. However, at this point In Struggle! had not yet clearly stated whether or not the principal contradiction was to be in the programme of the organisation and thus form part of its basis of unity. This was the insidiousness of In Struggle!’s presentation of its project. By being intentionally vague, by dribbling it out over many months they were able to have the best of both worlds: appeal to the liberalism of those who did not want to demarcate on the one hand and stave off criticism from those who did, on the other.
What are our criticisms of In Struggle!’s “call for unity” during this period?
(1) It duplicated the Bainsites’ call for unity of January, 1975, in all essentials.
The essence of the Bainsites’ call for unity was that all who “call themselves” Marxist-Leninists should work together organizationally with subordination to the majority (the Bainsites) of the minority (all other Marxist-Leninists) on a basis of unity which could be used to unite anybody. In Struggle! in their supplement on neo-revisionism of July, 1975, criticized them in this fashion:
Its position on the unity of M-Ls corresponds up to a certain point to that of groups like Mobilisation/Librairie Progressiste and their friends for whom the unity of the M-Ls should be attained through “common practice” without taking into account the political line which underlies this “common practice”. Now Mao Tse-tung has however very clearly stated “the political line decides everything.” If the expression “common practice” is more modest and less high-sounding than that of “united front” applied to just about anything, in practice, the two expressions amount to the same conception of political unity, A UNITY OF MARXIST-LENINISTS WHICH WOUld MAKE ABSTRACTION FROM THE PRINCIPLES OF MARXISM-LENINISM AND OF THEIR APPLICATION, IN PARTICULAR REGARDING THE PATH OF REVOLUTION, i.e., REGARDING THE STRATEGIC PATH WHICH ALONE DETERMINES THE ELABORATION OF CORRESPONDING TACTICS FOR THE PRESENT PERIOD. (p. 8. Our translation.)
Here, during phase one, at a time when In Struggle! was putting forward basically correct positions on the unity of Marxist-Leninists, we note that the unity of Marxist-Leninists is firmly linked up with the question of revolutionary strategy. Furthermore:
This leads the CPC(M-L) to propose that m-ls unite on the basis of principles (after all, you need some!) that could be used to unite anybody. . . . The CPC(M-L) is blatantly seeking a fictitious unity, the unity of opportunists who liquidate Marxist-Leninist principles and their application TO Canada, on which all struggle for the unification of Marxist-Leninists must be founded, and who limit themselves to SUBJECTIVE ANALYSES of the revolutionary struggle in our country the better to camoflage their counterrevolutionary line, (ibid.)
Denounce the neo-revisionist imposters who use Marxist-Leninist theory and Mao thought, deforming them and EMPTYING THEM OF REVOLUTIONARY CONTENT, with the single goal of preventing a correct application of Marxism-Leninism, i.e., to the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and the Canadian people. (Ibid.)
Again, in the above quotes In Struggle!’s language was clear. They say: “.. . Marxist-Leninist principles and their application TO Canada.”
What did In Struggle! mean when in the context of attacking the Bainsites they said:
A Marxist-Leninist group cannot be a catalyst of the unity of authentic Marxist-Leninists unless it advances a fundamentally correct political line. (Ibid., p. 2.)
What was a “political line” for In Struggle! at this point in time, before they began kicking up the dust and slowly transforming its meaning from “political line on the Canadian Revolution” to political line “in the struggle” for proletarian revolution, or a political line “on the unity of Marxist-Leninists.” In “Let Us Construct.. .” they state:
To have a political line is to have shown what stage of the revolution we have reached; it is to have established the general path of the revolution; it is to have determined its general strategy and its tactic both in regard to its enemies and to its present and eventual allies. ... (p. 20. Our translation.)
It is particularly easy to see the duplicity of In Struggle!’s vocabulary at this point. Where before we understood In Struggle! to mean a very “maximal” political line on the revolution in Canada when it referred to political line in general, during its second phase, if we had said (as the League did to a certain degree) that it was not making political line principal and had quoted statements like the one above to the effect that “a Marxist-Leninist group cannot be a catalyst of . .. unity . .. unless it advances a ... correct political line”, they were able to turn around and say: but no, we do make political line principal, and we are not doing what the Bainsites did, we do have a correct political line; but it is the correct political line on the “unity” of Marxist-Leninists, it is Marxism-Leninism applied to the concrete conditions of the Marxist-Leninist movement, if not to the concrete conditions of Canada.
Another variation on this theme (the burying of political line) was the following response to the League:
. . . the League begins by saying that In Struggle! put organizational questions before questions of line. However, In Struggle! has clearly stated that the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists means the unity around a programme and unity in one organisation; and how can Marxist-Leninists adopt a common programme without dealing with all the fundamental questions of the Marxist-Leninists’ IDEOLOGICAL LINE of our country? (“Fight the Sectarianism . . .”, p. 34)
This brings us to a second point of similarity between In Struggle! in its second phase and the Bainsites in their proposals for unity: separation of ideological line from political line.
In conjunction with this there is a common stress on opposition to our enemies in the working-class movement as a basis for unity. The Bainsites make anti-revisionism the very programme for their so-called party and In Struggle! has constantly insisted that in our opposition to our enemies is to be found our real unity.
We would summarize both In Struggle!’s proposal during its second phase and the proposal of the Bainsites for the unity of Marxist-Leninists as having two components: (1) you “call yourself” Marxist-Leninist, i.e., abstract adherance to the ideological line of Marxism-Leninism, i.e., unity around ideology as a dogma rather than as a guide to action in elaborating the political line for revolution; (2) you are against revisionism in all its forms.
We disagree with this position, of course. There is no way that either of the above conditions can be verified or used to draw lines of demarcation except in the practice of elaborating the programme for revolution as a basis for unity. Otherwise, rather than the presentation of revolutionary alternatives to the revisionists and neo-revisionists, etc., the degree of our anti-revisionism is measured only by the volume of our voices and our confidence in our “innate” Marxism-Leninism. Otherwise our proclamation of adherence to the ideological line of Marxism-Leninism and our debates over it become debates over abstractions, dogmas, rather than the debate over the correct application of Marxism-Leninism as an ideology in forming the political line for revolution.
There is no guarantee that the combination of ideological line, taken abstractly, plus anti-revisionism equals communism. We have already seen in the case of the Bainsites that it can just as easily equal neo-revisionism.
Any political formation can claim to be anti-revisionist. But this does not mean it represents the fundamental interests of the proletariat. It may just want to compete with the revisionists. Any political formation can say they adhere to the ideological line of Marxism-Leninism, any group can memorize it or hide behind it. It is only when they begin to apply it in practice, when something is at stake, namely, the changing of the world in a certain way, that they must, if they are opportunists, begin to draw the wrong conclusions and consequently begin to alter the ideological line. The shifting ground of In Struggle!’s plan for the unity of Marxist-Leninists is an excellent example of this process in miniature: abstractly they begin (from December 1974 to December 1975) with a (generally) correct ideological line on the unity of Marxist-Leninists (as best expressed in the ”Tasks. . .”). But then, in formulating it in practice, and developing it politically, alterations on the ideological level take place, e.g., the expression “political line” is given a new meaning or a new range of meanings. Perhaps like the famous line of the Bainsites they were not making mistakes but just “deepening their analysis”.
Another example is that of our experience within Canadian Revolution. Each separate group and individual within that coalition had affirmed on different occasions that CR was a coalition and that they were opposed to “building unity around common practice”. But when a concrete situation in the world arose to apply that opposition to “building unity around common practice”, these people had no idea how to apply that principle to the concrete situation before them. This was because something was at stake in the maintenance of their class privileges – namely, the suppression of debate in Canadian Revolution. Thus all denied the journal was a coalition and all endorsed building unity around common practice.
And another example is the Native national question. We will be showing elsewhere (in the article “The Native National Question and the Marxist-Leninist Movement”) that both In Struggle! and the League take correct positions on national liberation struggles abstractly. But, when the time comes to apply that understanding to a concrete situation that relates to the strategy for revolution in Canada, they violate the principles which they have affirmed in the abstract, because this would come too close to threatening their class privileges in the world.
These examples serve to demonstrate that only in the application of the general ideological line of international communism to the concrete situations most immediately connected with the making of the proletarian revolution, can we verify the authenticity of adherence to the communist line.
So the Bainsites called for the unity of all Marxist-Leninists organizationally but did not insist on adherence to their political line, but only on the basis of the “fictitious unity” of ideological line. In Struggle! criticized them for this. But we must rush to the defense of the Bainsites, for if In Struggle! has a political line that is the basis of the organizational unity of all Marxist-Leninists, then the Bainsites did too. After all, they said more than “build organization.” And what is more, we don’t think that whether In Struggle!’s project or the project that the Bainsites put forward could be without a political line. Political line is determinant in everything whether the line is explicit or implicit, minimally stated or extensively stated. The question is whether this line is opportunist or proletarian. In Struggle!’s ”teachings” on unity during this phase, their call for the unity of all Marxist-Leninists as an imperative in one centrally disciplined organization around a line which was clearly meant to be less than the political line for revolution, was thoroughly opportunist and a betrayal of principles they had themselves outlined. (We will be showing that not much has changed in In Struggle!’s third phase.)
(2) It was clearly the liquidation of the party tor the sake of “unity.”
Here the analogy of the man who has thrown a stick off into the distance and the dog who has his attention riveted on the man’s finger father than where it is pointing, is appropriate. In Struggle! was so hypnotized by the finger, the immediate objective of the organizational unity of Marxist-Leninists, that it had forgotten the long-term objective. Wanting “unity” so badly, it forgot what we must unite around: the making of proletarian revolution! It did not realize apparently that by putting forward a project that can only be accomplished by retarding the process of demarcating, by attenuating rather than intensifying the contradictions within the movement, it puts the party that much further off into the future. And all in such a good cause! Lurking in the background, of course, is the assumption that we do not really need to demarcate amongst ourselves in order to unite, that demarcating is only a formality relating to “out there”, and that democratic centralism amongst those who “call themselves” Marxist-Leninists will by itself automatically produce the strategy for revolution.
We say, on the contrary, that we must always remember our goal, must always remember that all our actions are measured against that goal and however much we must concentrate on immediate aims, however important, even building the party, we must guard against seeing them as ends in themselves, as disconnected from the long-term struggle such that “they make abstraction from the principles of Marxism-Leninism and of their application, in particular regarding the path of revolution, i.e., regarding the strategic path which alone determines the elaboration of corresponding tactics for the present period”; and such that a separate set of rules or principles pertains to them, i.e., such that, for example, the party will magically contain all the solutions to our problems, leaving us to concern ourselves only with immediate organizational advances at this point in time.
A natural complement to the economic and political tendencies of revisionism was its attitude to the ultimate aim of the socialist movement. “The movement is everything, the ultimate aim is nothing” – this catch-phrase of Bernstein’s expresses the substance of revisionism better than many long disquisitions. To determine its conduct from case to case, to adapt itself to the events of the day and to the chopping and changing of petty politics, to forget the primary interests of the proletariat and the basic features of the whole capitalist system, of all capitalist evolution, to sacrifice these primary interests for the real or assumed advantages of the moment – such is the policy of revisionism. (“Marxism and Revisionism”, LCW 15:37-8)
We say that the party will contain what we put into it. Where In Struggle! was saying: when we get all the communists assembled we will begin to really think like communists, we are saying that in struggling with those who call themselves communists we can begin to develop the politics of the authentic communists and expose those who are not authentic communists. Where they were saying that because we need a party to make revolution, we therefore make revolution by making the party, we pose the question of how the revolution will be made, call for the struggle over the programme of the future party, and clearly recognize that the party is needed to implement this programme.
(3) It involved the liquidation of the first stage of party-building in order to proceed, in an opportunist fashion, to the second stage of the party, the leading of mass struggles.
In so doing. In Struggle! was liquidating the struggle for the party for the sake of unity in order to better intervene in the spontaneous struggle in what could only be an Economist fashion.
Further on we will be reviewing the stages in the development of a communist party as exemplified by the history of the Bolshevik Party. Here we will note that the basic relationship between the first and second stage is that the ability to accomplish the tasks of the second stage in the development of the party (leading mass struggles, marshalling the broad forces of the revolution) is prepared in the first stage by the development of the programme for revolution and the rallying of the basic cadres of the party.
Throughout In Struggle!’s first phase they (apparently) had a good understanding of this. In “Let Us Construct.. .” they said:
to attempt to elaborate a tactical line before the strategic line is elaborated leads straight to opportunism, (p. 15. Our translation),/p>
In their polemic against the Bainsites they said:
The initiatives of those who improvise as the revolutionary leaders of the struggles of the proletariat and of the masses without having accomplished the essential tasks of “winning to communism the vanguard of the proletariat”, always founder into opportunism, (p. 7)
And, in the “Tasks. . . ” they use Stalin’s definition to situate us in the preparatory period and note that we must
elaborate the strategic programme for revolution in our country . . . (and that) this preparatory period is one where cadres form organize and arm themselves with a clear programme. ... No gen- uine M-L proletarian leadership can exist if these conditions are not met. The attempts of those who improvise as revolutionary leaders of the proletariat without meeting these conditions IN- VARIABLY LEADS TO OPPORTUNISM Having failed to properly accomplish the tasks of the first period, the self-proclaimed vanguards can never give genuine proletarian revolutionary leadership. (CR 1:3, 13-14)
A period of the elaboration of revolutionary theory . . . such is the general characteristic of the first stage. ... To desire to skip this stage to try to lead the economic struggles of the proletariat ... IS A VOLUNTARIST AND DANGEROUS ATTITUDE WHICH CAN ONLY RESULT IN WEAKENING THE M-L MOVEMENT AND ITS PENETRATION INTO THE MASSES. (Ibid., p. 14)
In this connection we remind the reader of In Struggle!’s definition of political line in ”Let Us Construct. . .” and point out that in that document In Struggle! openly admitted to not having adequately developed its positions so that it could say it had a political line! And that since the publication of the “Let Us Construct. . .” In Struggle! had not developed any further what it did have, as put forward in that document.
Yet, in its second phase In Struggle! has been proceeding to break all of its own rules and has been acting as if it had a tactical line and as if we were in the second period of the development of the party. In “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Political Leadership of In Struggle!”, which will appear in ld no. 3-4, we will be explaining at length how In Struggle! has gone about doing this and how this has sunk them into the bog of Economism and right-opportunism.
At this point we note that this is clearly reflected by (1) the change of their main slogan (explained in the Feb. 19, 1976 issue of In Struggle!) from ”take up Marxism-Leninism” – a slogan clearly aimed at the advanced elements – to “eliminate capitalism itself”, a slogan clearly aimed at mobilizing the masses for revolutionary action in the second period after the vanguard has ”taken up Marxism-Leninism.” (2) the statement in their May 27th supplement which we will quote again because it speaks volumes:
Was it opportunism to mobilize the masses in the struggle to abolish capitalism and the bourgeoisie, to install the dictatorship of the proletariat, and to construct the proletarian party, while abstaining from formulating the principal contradiction? We do not think so, in so far as there was agreement on the nature of the Canadian Revolution, that is the implementation of socialism through the dictatorship of the proletariat, which by the way, distinguishes the real M-Ls from the false. (May 27,1976 Supplement, p. 4)
We do not consider that it was opportunist for In Struggle! to have proposed tactical unity on a basis which did not include the principal contradiction. What is incredible is that they could describe the event in these terms. We learn nothing from this sentence about the question of tactical alliances, but In Struggle! is telling us a great deal about its ideas about the dictatorship of the proletariat and how the proletariat can achieve it. This question will be returned to later.
(3) Another proof of our contention that In Struggle! has sunk into the opportunism it was once so careful to warn others away from is that, after many months of putting its main emphasis in its newspaper around mass struggles, principally the wage control struggles, it did not raise the slogan “turn the day of protest into a day of struggle for the party” for October 14. Instead we have “Make October 14 a springboard for struggle, a first step for other general strikes”, and other similar slogans. Translation: the working class is not ready to talk about the party, but mainly “ready” for talk about the economic struggle. Encourage them to engage in more economic struggles so that we can have more and better things to tail after.
In general we consider that the fact that the slogan “make the day of protest a day of struggle for the party” was not raised by the mass organs of the movement to be one sure sign that opportunism is in a majority in the Marxist-Leninist movement, a point that we will be developing further along.
How does all this relate to our contention that In Struggle! is liquidating the party for the sake of unity? We consider that in its polemics on the unity of Marxist-Leninists during its second phase. In Struggle! was guided, not by its desire to accomplish the tasks of the first stage of the party (especially the elaboration of the revolutionary programme around which all authentic Marxist-Leninists must unite) but by its desire to tail after the mass struggle, i.e., because of their desire to lead mass struggles before we are able, they were falsifying the level of unity needed for the unity of all Marxist-Leninists and thus obstructing the ideological struggle necessary to accomplish this unity. Like the League in its formation, like the main body of the journal Canadian Revolution, they are mechanically seeking to become a greater material force in the world by moving towards a “level of organizational unity that is higher than the level of political unity among us” (“The Whole Is Equal to the Sum of Its Parts”, p. 12).
The essence of tailism is perceiving the level of the intensity of the spontaneous movement as the main factor that defines our tasks. (And it is also another form of tactics-as-a-process and of mechanical materialism.) It is a view which does not realize that it is within the realm of consciousness that the party comes to lead, rather than tail. We can only lead and not tail because of our consciousness as embodied in our clear understanding of the strategy and tactics for revolution, not by merely organizing so that we are better able to physically run ahead of the masses with blank signs, or signs that reproduce unintentionally the strategy and tactics of revisionism, trotskyism or neo-revisionism.
Earlier we said that the formation of the League was a key event in the development of the Marxist-Leninist movement and mentioned that this turning point was connected with changes that were happening in the working class movement. We were referring to the intensification of resistance to the wage and price controls and the putting of the general strike on the agenda. This development in the working class movement was a challenge to the Marxist-Leninist movement. It was a challenge that should have thrown the Marxist-Leninist movement into high gear in accomplishing the tasks of the first stage of the formation of the party such that it could have the political wherewithal to take leadership in the growing struggles of the workers, i.e., such that it would be able to lead them in terms of a presently non-existent strategy for revolution rather than running ahead with signs and slogans that are barely distinguishable from those of our enemies in the working class movement.
But it was also a challenge to right-opportunism existing in the movement, a challenge to liquidate the tasks of the first stage in order to gain influence in the working-class movement immediately, in a fashion that could not help but be Economist and become an obstruction to the accomplishment of the tasks we must always keep before us.
In Struggle!, of course, rose to this challenge in terms of its right-opportunism rather than in a correct Marxist-Leninist fashion.
(4) It involved the falsification of the present level of unity in the Marxist-Leninist movement. A key point of In Struggle!’s move to liquidate the party for the sake of unity was, rather than putting forward positive criteria for our organizational unity (unity around what we are uniting for: the revolution and thus the programme for the revolution), the putting forward of negative criteria for the unity we must develop, i.e., mainly our differences with our enemies in the working class movement. Thus our real unity is to be found, not around our long-term goal, but in terms of our short-term tactics in the working class movement, the better to opportunistically proceed to a mockery of the second stage of building the party. We have already seen how during this phase In Struggle! makes the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat the dividing line between real Marxist-Leninists and false Marxist-Leninists (and all others claiming to be socialist).
Now, although the prominence of this slogan in our movement would seem to distinguish us from many of those (but not all, e.g. the CPL) who call themselves socialists, let us examine this question and see whether this really unites us and whether it really distinguishes us from our enemies in the working-class movement.
In Struggle! considers that this position demarcates us from other phony Marxist-Leninists in Canada such as the Bainsites. In their polemic against them (their supplement on neo-revisionism, June, 1975), they describe the situation as follows:
Despite all of the tricks that it employs in its misleading propaganda (another eloquent example of these tricks appears in the next two quotations), CPC(M-L) cannot hide its bourgeois line anymore. Its two-stage strategy simply removes the struggle for socialism, i.e., for the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
“The world historic process of proletarian revolution goes through stages in a spiral-like motion. Canada is part of this world movement, and within Canada too there are many stages, steps, advances and setbacks on the road to overthrowing US imperialism and the Canadian compradors, and through this anti-imperialist revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat is established.” (Emphasis En Lutte!’s) (PCDN, Vo. 5, no. 13, p. 2)
“The basic programme of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) is to complete the mass democratic anti-imperialist revolution (emphasis En Lutte!’s), whereby the first stage towards the total overthrow of the bourgeoisie and all other exploiting classes will be accomplished and the dictatorship of the proletariat in place of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is established and the historic era of continuing the class struggle under the dictatorship of the proletariat is inaugurated. . . .” (Political Report, PCDN Vol. 2, no. 135, p. 1)
We therefore see that for the CPC(M-L) the strategic question is not the proletarian revolution but rather the question of the achievement of the “mass democratic anti-imperialist revolution.” According to it, the question of the proletarian revolution, i.e., of the establishment of the dictatorship, will be posed as if by magic – we do not know exactly when. What we do know is that it is not a question on the agenda for CPC(M-L). The dictatorship of the proletariat becomes for it a distant step about which there is no need to worry at present. Moreover it states unambiguously:
“But this practical, concrete problem of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat in real-life terms is a long way off from the present level of revolutionary development in our country. Far more important to us now in practical terms is how to build a united front of the Canadian people led by the proletariat against the main enemy of the Canadian people, US imperialism and its comprador monopoly capitalist class.” (PCDN Vo. 5, No. 11, Jan. 13, 1975, p. 3)
The game is clear. With scorn for the aspiration of the masses for socialism and of the vanguard elements of the proletariat to give themselves a revolutionary party, its strategy for revolution, in real terms, is counter-revolutionary and obstructs the development of proletarian ideology among the masses.
The struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat as the fundamental task of the Marxist-Leninists in the advanced capitalist countries, no longer exists, according to CPC(M-L), EXCEPT AS A THEORETICAL ORNAMENT. For the whole emphasis is placed on the struggle for national independence in Canada against US imperialism. (Supplement, Aug. 1976, pp. 3-4. Translation by In Struggle!)
So much for the Bainsites. But what about the Progressive Workers’ Movement and those who are ex-members and adherents of PWM?
We have carefully studied the “Independence and Socialism in Canada” position of 1969, which is their theoretical base, but we do not find the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat used there even as a “theoretical ornament”! Many Marxist-Leninists in the movement still regard this document as the last word in Marxist-Leninist theory. For example, the “two individuals” referred to in “The Whole Is Equal to the Sum of Its Parts” (p. 26) made this clear upon joining Canadian Revolution. And Workers’ Unity (Edmonton) in CR no. 4 say of their article, “A Reply to ’Imperialism and the Canadian Political Economy’ ”:
This position is part of a tendency in the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement which has existed since the Progressive Workers’ Movement articulated its position in the 1960’s. The clearest and most concise exposition of the fundamental tenets of this position can be found in the special issue of PW published in 1969. ... In spite of its inadequacies and errors on some questions, it has yet to be superceded, (p. 15)
Now, we know that ex-adherents of PW are quite capable of taking up the slogan “dictatorship of the proletariat.” But if their analysis of Canada is still the same, how do we know that they are not using it, like the Bainsites, only as an ornament? In Struggle! is quite right to indicate that the reason the Bainsites minimize it is “because all the emphasis is put on the struggle for national independence of Canada against American imperialism” – and this was the main emphasis of the 1969 PW position. (They take the position that Canada is a colony or neo-colony.) Furthermore, the last written word that we are familiar with from the Vancouver Study Group (ex-adherants of PW who are now the Red Star Collective and the Long March Collective, it seems) on this subject is, “our group has always held that the principal contradiction in Canadian society is between the Canadian people and US imperialism.” (CR 1:1, p. 56)
There is a logical connection, of course, between the view that Canada is a colony and that American imperialism by itself is our main enemy on the one hand, and that the dictatorship of the proletariat must come sometime after the accomplishment of the first task of liberation of the Canadian nation from American imperialism, on the other hand. Thus the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat becomes less immediate.
However, recently, no doubt because of the polemics against them in the Marxist-Leninist movement, the Bainsites have been upgrading the dictatorship of the proletariat. They now say things like their “basic line” is “seizure of political power by revolutionary violence, guiding the proletariat in its struggle to overthrow the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat so as to achieve communism.” (“What Is The Issue?”, 1976, p. 82)
Opportunists can do these things. They do not have to be consistent with their past analysis. We are all very much aware of how the Bainsites have historically shuffled their political line around to suit the occasion. Now we are not saying that the ex-adherents of PW who now speak of the immediacy of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat are necessarily only using it as an ornament. But we have no reason to believe that they are not doing this, and thus cannot affirm that we have any more unity with them than we do with the Bainsites on this subject. It is up to them to explain the connection between what they are now saying and the 1969 position that they still take as their basis.
What about the League and the dictatorship of the proletariat? We will be showing in Appendix 3 to this article and in “Right-Opportunism is Dead! Long Live Right-Opportunism!” in LD no. 3-4 that there is no real consistency between the way the League raises this slogan in theory and the way it uses it in practice. As far as we are concerned, it is no more than a dogma in their hands.
Furthermore, in regard to In Struggle!’s general contention that we are united by our differences with our enemies, we have raised the question in LD no. 1 (p. 55) as to whether the League’s line on the principal contradiction is a trotskyite line. We have done this precisely to indicate that we are not certain that the League is necessarily closer to a Marxist-Leninist position than the trotskyites are. We are not convinced that more unites us within the movement than divides us from opportunism outside of the movement.
Only the elaboration of a correct programme for revolution will distinguish us, once and for all, from the strategy and tactics of the opportunists and counter-revolutionaries in the working class movement. Until that time, being careful to expose in our movement, the replication of the strategy and tactics of our enemies is a basis for examining our positions and struggling against neo-revisionism. “Marxism develops in the struggle against anti-Marxism.”
Finally, what about In Struggle! and the dictatorship of the proletariat? In Section 3 we will be explaining why a correct understanding of the dictatorship of the proletariat is intimately linked with a correct understanding of the struggle against right-opportunism. We will be making the point that the application of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the period of the preparation for the dictatorship is the struggle against right-opportunism.
But In Struggle! has recently liquidated the struggle against right-opportunism in favour of the struggle against “left” errors, dogmatism and sectarianism. We will be showing in this article and in “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Political Leadership of In Struggle!” that, in practice, In Struggle! does not really uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat.
(5) It involved the sabotage of the fusion of Marxism-Leninism with the working-class movement (i.e., the rallying of advanced workers).
We have already referred to the position put forward by a workers’ study circle in the July 8 issue of In Struggle!, where they ask of Marxist-Leninist groups what is keeping them from uniting, and observe:
Why are communist groups still divided when basically they put forward the same positions concerning organization, the party and revolution? We have asked ourselves these questions many times to come to the conclusion that NOTHING FUNDAMENTAL DIVIDES MARXIST-LENINISTS.
This is how In Struggle! encourages workers to think and speak during phase two.
In their August 19th editorial In Struggle! writes: “’Why don’t you start off by uniting!’ That’s what workers often answer when Marxist-Leninists invite them to rally to the ranks of the revolutionary movement.”
In this editorial In Struggle! does not proceed to explain to the workers why this is a fundamentally erroneous approach to the question, although they do make some token comments about demarcating. Instead, they agree! “Yes comrades, let’s start by uniting!” and proceed to talk about demarcation as if it were not the start, making it by implication into an annoying little side trip that we must engage in for the record, but not take too seriously. Talk about demarcation is quickly followed up by an attack on the sectarianism of the League. In this editorial they also say:
But what do they (the workers – BU) find before them? A divided Marxist-Leninist movement, composed of a multitude of groups . . . spending a lot of energy in internal struggles instead of struggling against the bourgeoisie, our real enemy.
What is In Struggle! doing here? It is concealing the differences that exist in the movement and encouraging workers to underestimate them, in direct contradiction to their position in the “Tasks” where they said: “. . . never should this search for unity mask differences.” (CR 1:3, p. 23) It is encouraging workers to set themselves up in opposition to Marxist-Leninists, as being unconcerned with the details of the Marxist-Leninist movement, rather than encouraging them to become a part of the movement. It betrays a false understanding of both the ideological struggle that is taking place in the Marxist-Leninist movement and what the relationship must be between Marxist-Leninists and advanced workers. Finally it is saying that our struggle against opportunism is not a struggle against the “real enemy” and encouraging workers to take this position. The contrast between In Struggle!’s position and the Marxist-Leninist position is blatant:
OPPORTUNISM IS OUR PRINCIPAL ENEMY It has been shown in practice that working-class activists who follow the opportunist trend are better defenders of the bourgeoisie than the bourgeoisie itself. WITHOUT THEIR LEADERSHIP OF THE WORKERS, THE BOURGEOISIE COUld NOT REMAIN IN POWER This is where our PRINCIPAL enemy is, an enemy we must overcome. We must leave this Congress firmly resolved to carry on this struggle to the very end, in all parties. THAT IS OUR MAIN TASK. (“The Second Congress of the Communist International”, LCW 31:231)
In Struggle! is encouraging workers, for example, to consider that our differences over the strategy for revolution in Canada, including the principal contradiction, are not fundamental. They do this directly as shown above, and indirectly by what they choose to feature in their newspaper. From a regular reading of In Struggle!’s newspaper during its second phase, workers would not be able to learn very much at all, however keenly interested, about the principal contradiction – why In Struggle!’s understanding of it is correct and why the League is wrong. Perhaps In Struggle! considered that advanced workers will instinctively know which is correct, or perhaps In Struggle! encourages them to say, “what has the discussion of this got to do with the unity of Marxist-Leninists?” They were being taught during In Struggle’s second phase that it was a reflection of sectarianism to take this most basic question of the strategy for revolution in Canada as an aspect of fundamental unity for Marxist-Leninists.
The low level of unity that In Struggle! considered necessary to unite Marxist-Leninists in one organization is of a piece with the level of Marxism-Leninism that they considered necessary to take to advanced workers.
WHY DID LENIN SAY:
Social-Democracy ... represents “the combination of socialism and the working-class movement”.... The task of Social-Democracy is to bring definite socialist ideals to the spontaneous working-class movement, to connect this movement with socialist convictions that should attain THE LEVEL OF CONTEMPORARY SCIENCE (“Our Immediate Task”, LCW 4:217)
Nowhere in the world do the workers’ parties unite groups of intellectuals and “trends”; they unite workers on the following terms: (1) RECOGNITION AND APPLICATION OF DEFINITE MARXIST DECISIONS ON QUESTIONS OF TACTICS AND ORGANIZATION; (2) submission of the minority of class-conscious workers to the majority. (“Adventurism”, LCW:20 359)
... We must see to it that every Social-Democrat and every class-conscious worker has definite views on all important questions. Unless this condition is fulfilled, it will be impossible to carry on wide and systematic propaganda and agitation. The discussion of questions of theory and policy will be connected with the drafting of a Party programme. ... (“Draft Declaration of Iskra and Zarya,” LCW 4:324)
Our task is to fuse Marxism-Leninism at its present state in our movement with the workers’ movement. Instead In Struggle! promotes a division: the workers, still separated from and mystified by Marxism-Leninism are put on the one side mindlessly calling for unity. Marxist-Leninists are put on the other side portrayed as old women bickering over nothing. In short: the workers’ role is to call for unity, the role of Marxist-Leninists is to unite.
This is dead wrong. The vanguard workers must be part and parcel of the unity of Marxist-Leninists and not something separate. Workers must take up the struggle for the party themselves, not wait for Marxist-Leninists to present it to them on a platter readymade. This way, the strength of the vanguard and the fullest participation of the advanced elements of the proletariat will be assured.
In Struggle! trivializes the nature of Marxism-Leninism as a science to the workers, mystifies it and misrepresents it. They present a picture of the proletariat already existing as a class-for-itself, able to singlemindedly demand of Marxist-Leninists that they “unite”. Thus the formation of the proletariat as a class engaged in class struggle is portrayed as separate from the formation of the party.
Workers who should be advanced enough to consider themselves Marxist-Leninists are given a voice “deus ex machina”, separate from the Marxist-Leninist movement, as if they were the voice of the working class movement. Thus a wedge is driven between the working-class movement when our aim is to realize a fusion.
There is a consistent thread of reasoning in everything In Struggle! has been putting forward. It amounts to this: we are already authentic communists and our main task is now to proceed to the leading of mass struggles, in these mass struggles we must convince workers that they must make revolution with us, not follow the revisionists, trotskyites and neo-revisionists, etc. As for greater content to our struggle, more revolutionary theory, etc., these can wait and will be worked out in due time in the future. Thus, at this time it is sufficient to take “proletarian ideology” to the working class, if not a clear strategy or tactics for revolution. They will instinctively perceive that we are the real communists and go with us, rather than with our enemies.
But the mistaken assumption here is that the workers must decide with whom to go. In the words of Lenin from which we have taken the title of this article and which we will have occasion to repeat often:
We welcome the “carrying of strife into the ranks of the workers,” for they and they alone will distinguish between “strife” and differences on principles; they will sort out these differences for themselves, form their own opinion and decide NOT “WITH WHOM TO GO, BUT WHERE TO GO”.. .. (“The Bourgeois Intelligentsia’s Methods of Struggle”, LCW 20:473)
We will distinguish ourselves from our enemies not by convincing the working class that we are “better” because we abstractly uphold the ideological line of the international communist movement which these others only pretend to follow, but because we will be using Marxism-Leninism as a science in establishing the direction we must go in. (And we certainly don’t mean just raising the slogan, “dictatorship of the proletariat.”)
Insofar as we are not yet able to do this fully, we must rally the advanced elements to this task, to this struggle and they must become a part of the Marxist-Leninist movement in accomplishing this task. (We will be taking up this question again in Section 6.)
Let us stop and consider for a moment the likely course of the development of the working-class movement and the revolution. Let us recall that petit-bourgeois “labour parties” calling themselves socialist will always be with us and sometimes may have more influence in the working class than the proletarian party. (Note, for example, that a bloc of such parties held a majority against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Soviets for a period of time before the actual seizure of power.) One of the tactics of these parties will inevitably be to call for the unity of all those who call themselves socialists. They will adopt no end of subterfuges in bringing their positions in seeming correspondence with correct Marxist-Leninist positions (after all we have already seen the style of the Bainsites). The main form that their tactic will take will be to say: let us unite against our “real enemies”. And in applying this tactic these parties will always seek, and inevitably find, workers who will be backward enough to take up their call for “unity”.
We say that workers must learn right now what real unity is. They must come to perceive the shades of differences and the importance of shades of differences. Lenin says:
... Only shortsighted people can consider factional disputes and a strict differentiation between shades inopportune or superfluous. The fate of Russian Social-Democracy for many many years to come may depend on the strengthening of one or the other “shade”. (What Is To Be Done?, Peking, pp. 28-9)
Discussions (talks, debates, disputes) about parties and common tactics are essential; without them the masses are disunited; without them common decisions are impossible and, therefore, unity of action is also impossible. Without them the Marxist organization of those workers “who can get at the root of things” would disintegrate and the influence of the bourgeoisie on the unenlightened would thereby be facilitated. (“The Struggle for Marxism,” LCW 19:346)
By not encouraging this kind of attitude amongst workers right now, In Struggle! is setting us up for a future attack by our enemies.
(6) In the struggle for unity, In Struggle! was putting one set of values forward in theory, but was in practice acting on another set of values.
This discrepancy followed as a consequence of their untenable line on unity. In explaining it we will take up again with some aspects of our struggle with In Struggle!. (Further details about this are contained in the introduction to our article about In Struggle! entitled “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Political Leadership of In Struggle!”)
The period between the formation of the League and In Struggle!’s first attack on the League was also the period during which the Bolshevik Tendency was attempting to rally to In Struggle! It was also during this period that the TCG was rallying to In Struggle!, and we were surprised to find that In Struggle! was pursuing the struggle with this group more actively than with us. In retrospect this is understandable, because the amorphous politics that In Struggle! was about to adopt during its second phase were very close to the kind of politics put forward by the TCG in Canadian Revolution: “pop” conceptions of Marxism-Leninism, democratic centralism, etc., step-by-step unity and tactics-as-a-process conceptions of the unity of Marxist-Leninists and a conception of the movement which was so liberal as to envision that the only thing standing between the movement and the party was the mechanical application of organizational frameworks.
We will not be able to draw out all the parallels between the TCG’s practice in CR and In Struggle!’s practice in the movement at large here, but we suggest that the reader refer to “The Whole Is Equal to the Sum of its Parts” and compare it with the points made in this article. In that pamphlet, too, we pointed out how closely the opportunist conception of unity in CR corresponded with the proposal put forward by the Bainsites for the unity of all who called themselves Marxist-Leninists, and we were alone in insisting that Marxist-Leninist unity must be a unity around a revolutionary political line and programme, and this in the context of drawing firm and definite lines of demarcation against bourgeois ideology. The two-line struggle within Canadian Revolution is now in many ways being replicated throughout the movement as a whole.
Did In Struggle! relate to us with a desire for unity in our struggle with them? They did not. In Struggle! constantly postponed meetings and, although we were promised responses, we never received any formal written commentary or statement on criticisms and commentaries we had delivered to them.
We consider that at the root of this we can find, predictably, our position on the Native question. (The reader should refer to a number of other writings by our group on this subject. We maintain that Native people constitute a nation. In Struggle! at that time had no official position, but implicitly held that they are a national minority.)
If we were to characterize In Struggle!’s approach in meetings we had with them it would be in the following way: ”What has the Native question to do with the unity of Marxist-Leninists?” Their whole approach amounted to reducing all things to the question of “unity” rather than to the question of what we were to unite around. For our part, we knew that the question of whether Native people were a nation had something to do with the strategy for revolution in Canada (i.e., who are our allies and what is the nature of our alliance), so we assumed that it had something to do with the unity of Marxist-Leninists. We felt that we had undertaken the struggle to apply basic principles of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of Canada, that this was principal in the task to develop a correct political line, and that the development of a correct political line was the basis of the principled unity of Marxist-Leninists. Moreover, we felt that “Nationhood or Genocide” contained important criticisms of Economism and the application of Lenin’s theory of imperialist economism to the concrete conditions of the Marxist-Leninist movement, and – as we will be developing later – offered us a key opportunity to break with the forces of the labour aristocracy in the Marxist-Leninist movement. We assumed that In Struggle! held to its position that the defeat of right-opportunism was principal in the development of the correct political line and the creation of the Marxist-Leninist organization.
We persisted therefore in attempting to struggle with In Struggle! about this, expecting them to put forward some sort of coherent commentary on this subject. They never did.
What we are trying to show here is that In Struggle!’s conception of the unity of Marxist-Leninists, and the struggle over line in that context, prevented it from struggling with us over a fundamental question of the Canadian Revolution. By having too much of the “spirit of unity” (a major slogan of In Struggle!’s during its second phase) it was not able to show a proper desire for unity as manifested by a willingness to struggle over fundamental questions. This resulted, in their dealings with us, in a situation where they were, in theory, making the “spirit” of unity everything and, in practice, not acting with a desire for unity at all. To have acted with a correct desire for unity with us would have been inconsistent with the unprincipled unity they were seeking in the movement as a whole such that they feared we could go too far in demarcating, get too involved in demarcating round minor things having only to do with the strategy of the revolution (!) rather than the minimal set of major things necessary for a lowest common denominator-type unity aimed at accomodating all who are willing to bite.
What it came down to was that In Struggle! was calling for the same kind of false “unity” which they had taken leadership in opposing only months previously. The May First Collective attacked the opportunist conception of “unity” this way:
That is, we should unite organizationally at the highest level possible in order to advance political unity. Unite in order to unite! . . . There is no need to get “bogged down” with agreement on even the most basic principles which guide our approach to building the party!
But this line of uniting organizationally on the “highest level possible” is transparently in practice a formula for uniting around the lowest common denominator, a line of even development, of levelling, which is in fundamental contradiction to the concept of developing a leading centre.
.... Unity around backwardness!
And, concludes May 1st Collective, in words reminiscent of the “Tasks of the Marxist-Leninist Movement”:
Rather than uniting around backwardness in order to develop political line, the Marxist-Leninist movement will build unity around ideological and political lines through sharp struggle. (“Ideological Struggle is Class Struggle”, CR 1:5, p. 36)
Recently, in “Fight the Sectarianism of the CCL(ML)”, In Struggle! has adopted some of the vocabulary of the TCG and speaks of the movement as a “whole” which is more important than its parts, (p. 5) Perhaps what we have failed to understand is that In Struggle! has a transcendental desire for unity mystically relating to the movement as a whole and perhaps In Struggle! will accuse us of circle spirit for judging it on the basis of its actions with a mere “part” of the movement (us).
The Bolshevik Union knows from its own experience with In Struggle! what its desire for unity consists of. Others will have to learn this for themselves in their relations with In Struggle! and in the positions In Struggle! is putting forward. And if they find that they are sliding into unity with In Struggle! very quickly or easily we suggest that they carefully examine their own politics.
What was the final result of our dealings with In Struggle!? During our last meeting with In Struggle!, their representative looked at the table of contents of Issue no. 1 of LD (as listed in the advertisement in “The Whole Is Equal .. .”) and asked what the articles listed had to do with the unity of Marxist-Leninists (particularly the articles on the principal contradiction and against Economism). We will probably have more than one occasion in the future to pose this question to In Struggle!: What has the revolution got to do with the unity of Marxist-Leninists?
As for the Native question, once again, it has been struggled around rather than over, and was a key determinant in the course of events. We will be showing in “The Native National Question and the Marxist-Leninist Movement” that their overriding concern of how the Native question would relate to the formation of one Canada-wide party was a symptom of their Economism and their search for hegemony. For now, however, we note that once again it has not been confronted and nothing new has been learned in the movement at large. Recently In Struggle! has finally taken a position on this question and refers to Native people as a national minority. But no rationale has been put forward on this subject, no struggle with us was taken up again before they came out with this position. So much for the open debate In Struggle! talks about as part of the process of the unity of Marxist-Leninists. What is the difference between In Struggle!’s criticism of the League for taking positions on political line without debating them in the movement and In Struggle!’s action in this case?
As we mentioned earlier, we make no apologies for any possible misrepresentation of In Struggle!’s positions during this second phase. Their positions during this period were amorphous, o the extreme and we have drawn what we feel is the only possible consistent picture, and identified some of the components of their implicit line on “unity”. We will next examine the positions In Struggle! has been taking its third phase (marked by the publication of ”Towards the Unification of the Marxist-Leninist Movement” in Proletarian Unity no. 1) to the point of seeing whether it has changed significantly.
What is the half-step forward that In Struggle! seems to have taken with the publication of their latest position in September 1976?
The main thing is that they have started talking about demarcating again and are now clear that we must demarcate around:
– the course of the revolution
– the internationalist tasks of Canadian Marxist-Leninists
– the present tasks of building the Party (p. 6)
(The “course” of the revolution is elsewhere defined as debates over the principal contradiction and our relation to American imperialism.)
Also, they self-criticize:
... we have often accorded more importance to tactical questions than to the strategic line in our polemics, (p. 6)
In this respect (demarcating – BU) our group must recognize the weakness of its action during the last few months, its protracted silence on some fundamental questions such as the path of revolution in our country, the Marxist-Leninist method of achieving unity, the position of Canadian Marxist-Leninists on international questions. ... (p. 19)
We are aware of this error (not providing correct leadership – BU) and we intend to correct it completely in the coming months: not to be content in calling for unity of all Canadian Marxist-Leninists, but to put forward clear propositions on this question and to accomplish them well. (p. 25)
If today our line contains some ambiguities (! – BU) and creates confusion on certain points, we will work resolutely to abolish these ambiguities, and to clear up the confusion, (p. 28)
We will examine “Towards .. .” in terms of the categories under which we criticized In Struggle! during its second phase.
(1) Duplication of the Bainsites’ call for unity: Do they still separate ideological line from political line? Do they still define our unity in terms of our opposition to our enemies? Yes and no. Because they have now asserted more precisely what they think we must have for organizational unity, they no longer have to rely on the ideological line (i.e., abstract adherence to certain basic principles that distinguish us from the revisionists, neo-revisionists, and trotskyites, etc.) as the only criteria for the unity of Marxist-Leninists. But they continue to find our real unity in the ideological line by itself. We know this because they insist that this line defines who is presently a Marxist-Leninist and that all who are presently Marxist-Leninists must be in the organization of struggle for the party.
(In doing this In Struggle! raises to a principle an incorrect interpretation of a quote from Lenin. They say,
“Canadian Marxist-Leninists must apply without reservation the principle formulated by Lenin: “TO ESTABLISH AND CONSOLIDATE THE PARTY means to establish and consolidate unity among all Russian Social-Democrats.” (In Struggle!’s emphasis.) But Lenin clearly continues by defining this consolidation in terms of unity around a party programme. This is dealt with at length in the rest of the article.
Also we know that those who don’t adhere to the lines of demarcation drawn in the programme of the organization will, nevertheless, be in the organization because they will “not be able to publicize their divergences with the programme adopted by the organization’s congress.” (PU, p. 19)
Thus we do not find our unity by the drawing of lines of demarcation of which Lenin said ”BEFORE we may unite and IN ORDER that we may unite”, but we already have that unity. If we correspond to the criteria run down by In Struggle! on page 16 of Proletarian Unity no. 1 (a set of criteria that could be used to unite anyone, as In Struggle! said of the Bainsites’ criteria) then we are automatically authentic Marxist-Leninists.
Further along we will be explaining the importance of this point in terms of exactly what kind of party we are trying to build: a Social-Democratic party of the old type with a “legitimate” left wing and right wing, or a “monolithic” Bolshevik party of the new type. Our conclusion on our criticisms of In Struggle! under this heading are that they still stand.
(2) Liquidation of the party for the sake of unity: Are they still softpeddling demarcation with the conviction that we do not really need to demarcate? In other words, do they still seem to hold to a
conception of political unity . .. (which is) a unity of Marxist-Leninists which would make abstraction from the principles of Marxism-Leninism and of their application, in particular regarding the path of revolution, i.e., regarding the strategic path which alone determines the elaboration of corresponding tactics for the present period. (Supplement on neo-revisionism, p. 8)
It is not really clear why In Struggle! now thinks we must demarcate in the areas it has indicated. During phase two it certainly seemed to be putting forward the position that we are all already united as Marxist-Leninists by our adherence to a common ideological line and that this was adequate for organizational unity, and that democratic centralism would be the most efficient mechanism for demarcating to produce the party programme. They said for example:
This struggle must aim at unifying all communists in a same organization whose programme and statutes would have been submitted to the attention of all and debated by all in order to be finally approved democratically and, therefore, constitute the basis from which the struggle for the party will be able to be developed in a rigorous application of democratic centralism, in the submission of the minority to the majority WHICH IS THE MOST ADVANCED AND THE MOST CORRECT FORM OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF LINE STRUGGLES ON WHICH LAY THE CREATION OF THE PARTY AND ITS PROPER DEVELOPMENT. (In Struggle!, April 29, 1976, p. 6)
Furthermore, during phase two the worst conceivable thing in the world was the risk of raising something that wasn’t necessary for the “unity” of Marxist-Leninists (by their very liberal conception) into a principle.
During this phase it was clear that something less than the strategy for revolution is what we would unite around. Now what is the situation? They talk of demarcating around the “course” of the revolution but not the strategy or programme for revolution. They distinguish the programme of this organization from the party programme by saying that “it will not necessarily indicate all the means that must be implemented to move the revolutionary struggle in our country forward.” (p. 19)
What does this refer to? What is this but a blank check for further vacillation? Does it refer to the question of our allies, for example? What about the Native question, which the Bolshevik Union considers to be a fundamental question of revolutionary strategy and something we must demarcate around?
We have every reason to assume that In Struggle! still considers that we really do not need to demarcate because we are all already united and we all must be in the same organization anyway whatever the demarcations result in. In Struggle! still considers that demarcation around all of the fundamental questions of the Canadian Revolution would be divisive, would lead to “unnecessary” splits. In Struggle! is therefore still thinking in terms of the ideological line alone, in terms of abstractions, in terms of dogma rather than in terms of the integrated whole that our demarcations add up to: the programme for revolution which is the party programme. Rather than saying “before unity, first demarcation” – the Leninist formula – they are still really saying, “first unity, then demarcation.” Without demarcation around the party programme, the sabotage of the ideological struggle by keeping it behind the closed doors of their “organization” and the resistance to real demarcation with which In Struggle! was openly marked during its second phase remain in force in a slightly more subtle form. The “half-step forward” of In Struggle! in its third phase is nothing more than an adaptation.
(3) Liquidation of the first stage of party-building in order to proceed in an opportunist fashion to the second stage of the party, the leadership of mass struggles. There are two things in this respect: (1) In not moving towards the demarcation of the programme for revolution, the party programme, in continuing to call for the unity of all Marxist-Leninists in one organization around something less than this. In Struggle! continues to liquidate the accomplishment of the tasks of the first stage. (2) An examination of In Struggle!’s practice in phase 3 tells us whether it plans to continue to put its energy into leading mass struggles without having rallied the vanguard of the proletariat to a strategy for revolution and derived a tactical line in the working class movement from that strategy. From their recent editorials on the relationship between the general strike and the unity of Marxist-Leninists, it is clear that they are raring to go again, that they have not changed at all. (We will be demonstrating this further in an article entitled “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Political Leadership of In Struggle!”)
(4) Falsification of the present level of unity in the movement: As long as In Struggle! continues to believe that our adherence to a common ideological line is assurance that we are all fundamentally authentic Marxist-Leninists, they will be falsifying the level of unity that exists in the movement. The exaggeration of the quality of unity that already exists in the movement and the underestimation of the quality of unity needed to unite all authentic Marxist-Leninists in one organization are two sides of one coin.
We have already reviewed the question of the level of unity that exists in the movement on the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This could be done for all of the aspects of the definition that In Struggle! puts forward of the Marxist-Leninist movement and would reveal that it is not at all certain that we are really united around these various aspects in reality, when they are verified in the practice of specific political situations. Only our application of ideological line in deriving political line can show whether or not we really have a common ideological line, whether we are really united around it.
Under this category we mentioned that In Struggle! did not properly understand the dictatorship of the proletariat because it was liquidating the danger of right-opportunism. In “Towards...” the question of right-opportunism is resurrected:
On the one hand, this struggle takes the general form of the struggle against right-opportunism, especially economism, the principal obstacle to the fusion of scientific socialism and the workers’ movement in Canada. On the other hand, it takes a particular form on the specific question of unity because here, sectarianism currently constitutes the principal obstacle in the struggle for the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninist Communists, (p. 6)
That is why if it is correct to say that right-opportunism remains the principal deviation within the Marxist-Leninist movement, a deviation present in all the groups and organizations, it is nevertheless true that the main obstacle to the development of the struggle for unity of communists today is sectarism (sic) and dogmatism, (p. 23)
Here they have done in a more sophisticated fashion what is constantly done in our movement: lip service to right-opportunism being the main danger, quickly followed by an attack on the “real enemy”, “left” opportunism. Yes, right-opportunism is in general (in theory) the main enemy, but in practice, when we get specific and name names, “left” opportunism is the main danger. Right-opportunism is everywhere and nowhere, it is acceptable because we are all guilty of it, yet we already know that we are all authentic Marxist-Leninists and we are not demarcating against right-opportunism because we all must be in the same organization. But “left” opportunism is real, it is the obstacle in the path of moving things forward.
We described In Struggle! during phase two as kicking up dust all over the place. What is happening in phase three? Has the dust half settled? Are they taking a breather before they start kicking again? Is it only a matter of a more refined grade of dust? We note too that, during this phase, some talk about criticizing right-opportunism appears but no genuine criticisms of right-opportunism appear. Particularly in the case of the League, the vanguard of right-opportunism in the Marxist-Leninist movement. In Struggle! continues to put them principally in the “ultra-left” category. Thus we have been given no reason to change our minds about In Struggle! in this respect. They are still failing to uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat.
(5) Sabotage of the fusion of Marxism-Leninism with the working-class movement (i.e., the rallying of advanced workers). Are they still encouraging workers to see demarcation as diversion? In so far as In Struggle! will be saying in its third phase that there are some fundamentals of the Canadian Revolution that we must demarcate round and some that we do not need to demarcate around, they cannot help but continue to do this. Abstracted from revolutionary strategy In Struggle! can pick and choose what it wants to demarcate around, or, rather, the minimum that it can get away with demarcating around according to the average demands of the movement as a whole. (And we note that what In Struggle! has put forward as the level of unity needed for organizational unity is only a replication of the level of unity of the League’s political line, that they are simply tailing the League.)
As we have mentioned, it is still not clear exactly what In Struggle! considers we must demarcate around (if anything) besides the three main things they have outlined. They have written a blank cheque, as we have seen, by only vaguely describing what will be left out, i.e., what distinguishes it from the programme for revolution, the party programme. In Struggle! is applying a double standard here. It expects more of the League, for example, than it does of itself, or of the organization of struggle for the party. In criticizing the League for having implicitly declared itself the leading centre of the movement they say that the League is incorrect because “the line struggle has not been FULLY waged within the movement on ALL the fundamental questions” (p. 21). We advise In Struggle! to apply this standard to the unity of Marxist-Leninists and say the result must not be an incomplete series of components of the revolutionary strategy, but the programme for revolution itself.
Are they still underestimating the level of propaganda that needs to be taken to the workers? In Proletarian Unity they claim that the appearance of this journal will increase their ability to do propaganda. They indicate that their newspaper will now primarily be for agitation, leaving the journal primarily for propaganda, (e.g., “the newspaper... in its main capacity as agitator...” [p. 5]) Here again, they are tailing the League’s economism in the movement. Since the journal will not reach as many workers as the newspaper does, they are preparing to take a step backward from propaganda under the guise of taking a step forward.
(6) Discrepancy between its “spirit” of unity in theory and its expression of the desire for unity by struggling for unity in practice: In “Towards. . .”, In Struggle! says:
... In Struggle! intends to intensify its interventions ... in the months to come in order that its positions be PERFECTLY WELL KNOWN, in order that the DEMARCATIONS WITH ALL THE POSITIONS THAT WE FIND ERRONEOUS BE CLEAR (p 28).
As long as an important segment of the movement refuses to make a CONCRETE SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS of the questions where there are divergences . . . IT WILL REMAIN IMPOSSIBLE TO CLARIFY THESE QUESTIONS and root out the influence of bourgeois ideology from the ranks of the movement (p. 23).
Now, we maintain that the desire for unity is shown in practice by a willingness to struggle in a principled fashion over the differences that keep us apart. The comments from In Struggle! cited above amount to a good definition of what principled struggle consists of. And yet, in the very period of time that In Struggle! was preparing these words for publication they do just the opposite and come out and say that Native people are a minority rather than a nation, clarifying nothing, and making no concrete analysis! Again, perhaps we have misunderstood In Struggle!’s transcendental “desire for unity and its mystical relationship to the movement as a “whole” such that it does not have to act in terms of the norms it sets itself. Perhaps it is just the squealings of the Bolshevik Union’s small group mentality that we might expect them to show us, and others in the movement and Marxist-Leninists in the Native nation, a correct desire for unity by correctly struggling over this question.
In conclusion, the rationale put forward in its second phase remains operative for all intents and purposes, i.e., there is really no “phase three” for In Struggle! and its “self-criticisms” in Proletarian Unity no. 1 are a humbug.
In Struggle! promised us more theory, more concrete analysis and more demarcation. There has been the attempt at presenting the appearance of this lately; there have been, for example, exchanges between In Struggle! and the League on such topics as American imperialism and the question of national independence. If these one-page essays are meant to be an example of more attention to theory or demarcation, or are supposed to be an explanation to advanced workers of anything, then the ideological struggle is (or remains) a farce.
For example: the garbled bungling, the total lack of clarity of the article on the question of national independence (In Struggle!, Sept. 16, p. 8) could not help but impress anyone who read it and tried to make sense of it (“make sense of it”, as opposed to the ritual of finding the position in it).
Thus, to date. In Struggle! and the League continue to conspire in the sabotage of the ideological struggle and the silencing of the Marxist-Leninist movement.
We hear the howls of outrage already whenever we put forward the position that In Struggle! is sabotaging the ideological struggle. For, after all, did not In Struggle! hold a conference where all were encouraged to have their say, etc., etc. We cannot deal here at length with the October 9 Unity conference or In Struggle’s plan for conferences in general, but we should note here:
(a) Such conferences could never be more than a supplement to written polemics and written presentation of concrete analysis (assuming that this is being done), at best. At the worst they may just be a “show” and part of In Struggle!’s effort to manipulate the content and the scope of the ideological struggle.
(b) Their plan for an “organization of struggle for the party”, as we will be explaining later, is explicitly a plan to transform the open struggle over line in the movement into an internal closed-door struggle wherein the strategy for revolution is decided by majority vote.
In all of its activities, In Struggle! is particularly insidious and good at covering its tracks (e.g., the whole deception of its self-criticism and its supposed changes in what we have called its “phase three”). If their major slogans around the general strike were Economist, they had a few that were not, that they could point to. For example, at the October 2 Unity conference, a worker who spoke for In Struggle! concluded his speech with a slogan which identified the struggle against the Trudeau measures as one against “imperialist reaction”, a slogan which takes our understanding of the Trudeau measures outside of the narrow confines where Economists like to keep it, and situates it in the context of the general crisis of capitalism, i.e., it broadens the perspective of the advanced workers rather than constricting it. In keeping with In Struggle!’s insidious “something for everyone” approach, when we systematically criticized the major slogans put forward for the day, an In Struggle! cadre defensively reminded us of this one, as if that made everything all right!
Because of this insidiousness, because In Struggle! is not particularly concerned with consistency and may have at one time or another put forward correct positions where it has also put forward incorrect positions, or where it is acting with a contrary practice, it is absolutely necessary, in evaluating In Struggle!, to always carefully examine what is principal and what is secondary in its theory and its practice.
Furthermore, in connection with this insidiousness, we must remind In Struggle! of the movement’s rejection of the famous trick of the Bainsites: adopting, then dropping, and sometimes resurrecting different political lines and positions without real explanation or self-criticism. In Struggle!’s record in this department is becoming notorious. While studiously incorporating incorrect bourgeois positions with correct proletarian politics in one political line (or congress!) may be the best way to be “all things to all men” or, if not all men, at least to those whose main concern is an unprincipled “unity”, it is not the way to build a proletarian party.
We will be developing our criticisms of In Struggle! further in the next two sections where we examine the development of the Bolshevik Party and summarize our views of the movement. In particular, we will be showing that (1) they refuse to learn from the history of the international communist movement, specifically the history of the Bolshevik Party, and consequently resurrect the party form of the “old type”, the Social-Democratic party; (2) throughout, In Struggle! has an implicit political line on the unity of Marxist-Leninists that betrays a fundamentally liberal, right-opportunist conception of the movement in which the seeds of revisionism can be clearly seen.
Finally, it must be stressed that our specific criticisms of In Struggle! in this section are not merely criticisms of this or that “mistake” that In Struggle! is making. When we compare In Struggle!’s project to that of the Bainsites, for example, we are not merely saying: the Bainsites made “mistakes” and now In Struggle! is making similar “mistakes”. The Bainsites’ main “mistake” was rabid opportunism which led to a counter revolutionary organization which exists to sabotage the struggle for the proletarian party. In Struggle!’s “mistakes” are not merely a matter of not accomplishing our tasks well. They lead inexorably in the same direction as that of the Bainsites.
Likewise in regard to the points mentioned above. We are not saying merely that In Struggle! has a poor understanding of the history of the Bolsheviks and that we present a better understanding of it; or that In Struggle! is aiming at a Social-Democratic Party of the old type, but it would be better to aim at a Bolshevik Party. On the contrary, the one view is the product of opportunism which can only strengthen in the direction of conciliation and compromise, of capitulation to the bourgeoisie, and to counter-revolution. The other, and only the other – i.e., a correct understanding of the development of a Bolshevik party – is Marxism-Leninism.
The history of this struggle is contained in “The Whole Is Equal to the Sum of Its Parts” and LD no. 1. This pamphlet and LD no. 1 give further details about the history of the Bolshevik Tendency and the Bolshevik Union.
From this point we will refer to the “C”“P”C(“M-L”) as the “Bainsites”, after their ubiquitous leader Hardial Bains. Quotation marks around the words “Communist”, etc., are inadequate to express the contempt we must show for this group and their appropriation of the name, Communist Party of Canada (M-L).
“Let Us Construct the Marxist-Leninist Organization of Struggle for the Party”, December 1974, In Struggle!’s first major political statement. In French it is entitled Creons I’organisation marxiste-leniniste de lutte pour le parti”.
Here, and throughout this article, capitals that appear in quotations represent our added emphasis. Italics indicate that the emphasis is in the original.
The use of this quote is one case where In Struggle! may criticize us for taking things out of context since it is not a statement put forward in the context of the organizational unity of Marxist-Leninists, but was put forward in a defense of their call for tactical unity of Marxist-Leninists for IWD. Nevertheless, this statement clearly shows what importance In Struggle! attached to the principal contradiction and, in general, their polemics for tactical unity put forward for IWD in March and indistinguishable from their polemics for the organizational unity of Marxist-Leninists put forward in their second phase.
We note that during this period In Struggle! at least once put forward to one group in the movement, the APLQ, an outline of their platform for the organisational unity of all Marxist-Leninists that did not contain a reference to the principal contradiction, (see The Forge, Aug. 26, 1976, p. 7)
A good example of this is the poem on page 5 of the July 8 issue of In Struggle! One line reads: “The proletariat cries out for the unity of the Marxist-Leninist movement.”
It is true that when we began the struggle for unity with In Struggle! we told them that we had no principled differences with them and that our differences could all be resolved by democratic centralism. This was a reflection of our own primitiveness. We considered that In Struggle! had more developed politics than we did and we sought to rally to their leadership on that basis.
In the course of our struggle with them we saw minor differences widen into major points of difference. We consider this a positive, rather than a negative, development, in that it deepened our struggle and led to clarity as to what constitutes a bourgeois line versus a proletarian line on a number of questions. During that period we feel that our politics developed to the point that they became more developed than In Struggle!’s politics. At that point it became incorrect to seek to rally to them as a leading group. But our desire to rally to them in the beginning was entirely correct and we do not make a self-criticism for this.
The difference, at its fundamentals, is the difference between unity around line and unity around common practice. The TCG in Canadian Revolution called for building “unity” around the common practice of producing the journal. It was clear that debate would be internal, secret, at best superficial and at worst non-existent (as had been debate over the question of what the principal task was). But “we were all Marxist-Leninists”, even though most of the journal membership had been unwilling to prove this – and so this made it all acceptable.
Now In Struggle! is also calling for “building unity around our common practice” – the practice of building the party. We are all agreed to build the party, therefore we should all unite around this task. That is why we may say that it is in fact In Struggle! which has rallied to the Toronto Communist Group.
In passing it should be noted that although we insisted on struggling over this we did not make rallying to In Struggle! conditional on their adopting our position. We maintained that we would join an organization that did not have a position and fight within that organization to have that position adopted, although we would not join an organization that already had a position different from ours. We had taken that position within CR as well (see “The Whole Is Equal . ..”, p. 31). In Struggle! made a point of asking us if we would split with such an organization if it adopted subsequently what we took to be the wrong position. We said that since it was a matter of principle, we would. No doubt, they found us terribly divisive in this respect.
In Struggle! never showed up again after the first appearance of ld, despite its very limited criticisms of them and its strong defense of their line on the principal contradiction. But ld did demonstrate that we were taking political questions seriously. This was probably the last straw.
There is a certain ambiguity about one of the criteria they lay out here. They say we “affirm the right of the Quebec nation to self-determination up to and including secession, and the NATIONAL RIGHT OF THE INUIT AND INDIAN MINORITIES.” (p. 16) This could be interpreted two ways. Perhaps they are saying that the level of unity in the movement is that we at least recognize the democratic “national” rights of the Native peoples or perhaps they are saying that the position of the movement is that Native people are a minority and not a nation. At the conference in Toronto on October 2, In Struggle! cadre were asked at each separate workshop to clarify this point. At each workshop the question was evaded.
This position is taken publically for the first time as a brief mention in passing, in an article on American imperialism. (In Struggle!, Sept. 2, 1976, p. 5)