Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

“Not with Whom to Go, But Where to Go”

Section 3: Two Views of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist Movement

Having shown that In Struggle! is not aiming at building a Bolshevik Party but a party of the old type, we will examine the roots of its mistake in its view of the movement and contrast this with our position.

To begin with, let us review various aspects of In Struggle!ís implicit political line on the unity of Marxist-Leninists.

(1) For In Struggle!, right-opportunism is everywhere and nowhere, and it is not against right-opportunism that we must demarcate such that it will not be present in the organisation, but rather against sectarianism which, conveniently, is not too eager to unite in this organisation (and, for that matter, if it does agree to unity then it has automatically been defeated). That is, there are no antagonistic contradictions in the movement except, perhaps, with those who think there are, and take them to be impediments to unity. We can assume that if In Struggle! considered that there was an antagonistic contradiction in the movement then it would not be aiming at the unity of all components of the movement in one organisation.

Apparently, if there is right-opportunism in the movement, it has been rendered innocuous, unantagonistic, a mere “deviation”, by the profound unity of the ideological line of the movement. Which brings us to (2).

(2) In Struggle! finds our real unity in this ideological line taken as a dogma, severed from its application in political line. It is by nature of these demarcations (if they could be called that) that In Struggle! identifies authentic communists, and considers that they not only have the right but the duty to be in In Struggle!’s organization. Apparently there must be demarcation around other fundamental things, but the result of these demarcations is not the defeat of the incorrect line, but a majority vote amongst those who have already been knighted with the honour of being authentic communists, and a minority will continue to hold to whatever position it likes as long as it behaves. (And, of course, since we already know that everybody is an authentic communist, and since contradictions are unantagonistic by definition, it will behave. Happy days!)

(3) In Struggle!’s view of two-line struggle leads us to believe that the problem with right-opportunism is not that it puts forward the class interests of the bourgeoisie, but that it sometimes (like the nasty Mensheviks in 1905) doesn’t submit to the majority if it happens to be in the minority. On the contrary, In Struggle! paints a picture of the two-line struggle as necessarily an unantagonistic contradiction “among the people” which is resolved by democratic centralism as part of the normal peaceful life of the party.

(4) Finally, we have the Bolshevik Union’s old friend, Unity-Criticism-Unity. The Bolshevik Union has struggled over the question of unity-criticism-unity on many occasions. (We refer the reader to “The Whole Is Equal to the Sum of Its Parts”, p. 7)

In Struggle! says:

Lenin indicates the general method we must follow: “Before we can unite, and in order that we may unite we must draw lines of demarcation.” This is why we must develop wide, public discussions on all the essential questions of the Canadian revolution. However, this public discussion cannot develop fully, and will not serve to advance the Marxist-Leninist movement as a whole towards its political organizational unity unless it is undertaken in a spirit of unity-criticism-unity. That is why it is important to struggle against sectarianism . . . the principal obstacle holding back the struggle for unity.” (In Struggle!, Sept. 16, 1976, Supplement, p. 4)

Here we have everything secured in one place: sectarianism, the main danger; the cure? – unity-criticism-unity. When the dust is swept away, this is the sum total of In Struggle!ís theory for the unity of Marxist-Leninists. What stands between us and the party? Sectarianism, which doesn’t want unity and therefore exaggerates differences, i.e., imagines antagonistic contradictions when there are none. What will insure that we go forward in accomplishing the tasks of Marxist-Leninists? Adopting an attitude that assumes that there are no antagonistic contradictions – i.e., unity-criticism-unity.

Thus In Struggle! is presently liquidating any genuine questions of politics in the Marxist-Leninist movement through its application of this formula. It is rendering the concept of “lines of demarcation” ridiculous, a farce, because these “lines” will be used neither to determine principles – since the line of the organization will be determined by majority vote – nor to purge opportunism, since the opposing lines can co-exist within the organization. All questions of political content are subordinated to questions of form, that is, attitude. Everybody with the proper attitude can be in one organization. It is trying to kill a movement of open struggle by the application of niceties.

The raising of the formula “unity-criticism-unity” to the level of principle in the struggle for unity in our movement is a cover for liberalism, for the sabotage of ideological struggle, for liquidating the tasks of the first stage of building the party by adopting norms appropriate to the party itself, and for seeking to combine right-opportunism with Marxism-Leninism.

In “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People”, Mao distinguishes between two different types of contradictions, those which are antagonistic and those which are unantagonistic. It is in this context that he deals with unity-criticism-unity as a “formula” which “epitomizes” the democratic method used in resolving contradictions which are unantagonistic. A “fetishization” of the formula has served to cover up any real understanding of this question in our movement. It is seen as a magical formula and subjective appeals are made to it. Perhaps if people were to speak a little less about the form (the formula itself) and a little more about the substance (that it is merely shorthand for the use of democratic methods) they would find it less suitable for their purposes.

The main thing about the use of democratic methods and of unity-criticism-unity is that they are meant to be applied in situations where the framework of antagonistic and unantagonistic contradictions has been settled.

Mao also described these things in terms of contradictions with the enemy and with our friends. But in our movement, the lines of demarcation that must be drawn in order to determine who are our friends (who will be in the party) and who are our enemies (those who are right-opportunists representing the class interests of the bourgeoisie, those who will be purged out of the movement by the formation of the party) has not yet been determined.

On the contrary, unless we assume that all the present components of the movement will be in the party, and that, therefore, the movement as a whole (rather than a leading centre at its core) is the party in its early stage of development, we cannot assume that we are only dealing with friends.

What does it mean, when we invoke unity-criticism-unity under correct circumstances, to start with a “desire for unity”? In a party after everyone is united around fundamental questions and in a society after a revolution has been made and it is determined which classes are “among the people”, or in the internal life of any given group in our movement, there is every reason to believe there will be “unity on a new basis”, after criticism, because the framework is already defined as one where we expect unantagonistic contradictions to be the order of the day. The “desire for unity” as the starting point is an affirmation of this expectation.

But if we were to invoke a metaphorical usage of unity-criticism-unity in our movement, the situation is radically different. The criticism part of the formula is entered into on an investigatory basis in order to determine whether there will be “unity on a new basis”, and it is not a “given” that this will happen – unless, of course, we make the assumption that In Struggle! and others make, which is that contradictions in the movement are unantagonistic by definition (before we even have the definitions!), and that the movement is indeed “a whole greater than the sum of its parts” as if it were already a party. In contradistinction to this, the Bolshevik Union holds that there is an antagonistic contradiction in the movement with right-opportunism and that the most important thing in the movement is not the movement as a “whole” but an Iskra-type leading centre which must he formed.

We should make it clear that we are not speaking against this formula because it is incorrect in itself, but because it is used incorrectly to obscure matters rather than clarifying them. We do not speak against it because we feel that other than democratic methods should be used in the period of ideological struggle, but because the unity on a new basis that we must achieve (unity in a party) will happen at a point where we will cease to deal with right-opportunism democratically (by ceasing to struggle with it) and will use authority against it by keeping it out of the party. (This, of course, is in reference to the right-opportunism we will demarcate against in the party programme. Right-opportunism, of course, cannot be kept out of the party once and for all at this point but will inevitably rise up again.)

Further, in regard to a metaphorical use of unity-criticism-unity, we consider that if “desire for unity” is interpreted in the sense of “willingness to proceed to struggle” in an above board and all around way, then it is acceptable. But if we are to use it metaphorically rather than in the sense in which it was used by Mao, then we must be careful to note that there is a major change in its meaning. When unity-criticism-unity is applied in a circumstance where contradictions are unantagonistic nothing is lost from the first instance to the last. But in applying this formula to our movement as a whole, the situation is different. We will start with unity which is merely the desire for unity rather than the unity that exists in a framework already defined, then we will proceed immediately to struggle in the movement as a whole, and in proceeding to a new unity on a new basis (actually the first real unity) those who have “lost” in this struggle (defeated but unrepentent right-opportunism) will not partake of the unity on a new basis (the unity in the party). Something has been purged in the “criticism” or ”struggle” part of the formula.

In summary, the Bolshevik Union considers that the misuse of unity-criticism-unity is a good touchstone for identifying right-opportunism (just as a misuse of the expression “class struggle” is). Those who can pick up on this and perceive what a garbage distortion of Marxism-Leninism it is, those who are serious and impatient with the “club” atmosphere to which the petit-bourgeois radical intelligentsia are so addicted, will have a key to perceive the bankruptcy of the opportunist approach in general. Those whose main concern is the further radicalization of their radicalism within the happy family of those who only have to pick up the red flag to prove they are friend not enemy, will perceive our view of unity-criticism-unity as a great danger to them. Likewise those who see the revolution, or even the process of uniting to form a party to make revolution, as being a tea-party will never understand our position that the sign of the “desire for unity” at this point is the “willingness to struggle” – and, inversely, that the easiest way to recognize an opportunist in our movement is by her/his unwillingness to engage in theoretical struggle. The willingness to struggle will always be perceived by them as the liquidation of the desire for unity. And, in fact, it is a liquidation of the desire for unity, unprincipled unity!

At this point we can identify the key difference between the two views of the movement. The other view is held to by In Struggle!, Canadian Revolution, and, it seems, most of the groups in the movement which have expressed sympathy with In Struggle!’s view of the movement. Furthermore, although it is not clear at this time just what the League’s position is in theory (we will touch on their practice shortly), MREQ, for example, has in the past put forward views similar to those of In Struggle! (in “On the Unity of Marxist-Leninists”)

The Bolshevik Union’s analysis is the following: first of all we pose the question of what it is that stands between the present state of affairs and the formation of the party. We answer that there are primarily two things. One is opportunism, the other is backwardness (or primitiveness).

There are two possible ways to view this situation. One is to assume that we overcome backwardness merely by studying Marxism-Leninism and concrete conditions, that we are merely ignorant and that therefore we can pick these things up at any time. And, as well, all those who claim to be communists really are communists.

And then there is our position: that the backwardness is to be overcome in the struggle against anti-Marxism and that the study of Marxism-Leninism and concrete conditions is the terrain of this struggle. That is, to see the study of Marxism-Leninism and of concrete conditions alone as what takes us beyond backwardness is to see the need only for a quantitative development. But we say that a qualitative development is needed, that the development of Marxism in the struggle against anti-Marxism is the motive force in this qualitative development, and the key to going beyond backwardness.

Secondly, we do not see all the present components of the movement as all the components of the party merely in an early stage of development. We see that there is contradiction in the Marxist-Leninist movement between authentic (but often primitive) communism, and opportunism; that it could not be otherwise; that it is this contradiction that must be resolved to move things forward; and that this has been the base historically for the formation of all authentic communist parties (e.g., the Bolsheviks in the struggle against the Mensheviks, the parties of the Comintern in demarcation against the Social-Democrats).

Therefore, in the process of building the party there are two major contradictions that must be resolved. One is an antagonistic contradiction and is principal. The other is unantagonistic and is secondary. The principal contradiction is between orthodox Marxism and right-opportunism. Orthodox Marxism acts to scientifically elaborate the programme for revolution in Canada and favours struggle in the movement which best promotes this end. Right-opportunism aims at putting forth a pseudo-programme for revolution which deroutes the proletariat from accomplishing the tasks of the revolution, and at the same time attempts to sabotage ideological struggle in general in order to retard the development of the proletarian line. This contradiction is antagonistic because in forming the party we must make a break with right-opportunism, demarcate against it and expose it as the agency of the bourgeoisie.

The secondary contradiction is between the advanced and the backward in the Marxist-Leninist movement. By ”advanced” we should make it clear that we are not necessarily speaking of size or degree of physical penetration into the working class movement of any given group. We are referring to the distinction between those who hold to relatively developed and correct positions and those who hold to relatively undeveloped or incorrect positions, but who will nevertheless be able to rally to the more advanced positions over time, thus proving that their “mistakes” were within the realm of scientific shortcomings rather than a consolidated penetration of the bourgeoisie into the proletariat.

Why do we consider the contradiction with right-opportunism to be the principal contradiction? Because it is in the context of the resolution of this contradiction that we will be able to solve the other contradiction in the course of building the party.

Marxism develops in the struggle against anti-Marxism and the party will be forged in the two-line struggle. This struggle between two lines is between the proletarian line and the bourgeois line, it is not between a backward proletarian line and an advanced proletarian line. Marxism develops in the struggle against anti-Marxism rather than in the struggle against misconstrued Marxism because it develops in the class struggle.

If we see incorrect lines on fundamental questions as merely or essentially the product of backwardness, Marxism will not develop because it is only in recognizing fundamental class differences in the forces that are struggling to elaborate the strategy for revolution that we will be able to see what is at stake in the fundamental differences that exist. And it is only by this approach that we can recognize and consciously combat the offensive of the bourgeoisie on the political and ideological level where it, too, through various forms of anti-Marxism is striving to see its ideas become a material force in the world.

The secondary contradiction on the other hand will be resolved by resolving the principal contradiction. It will be by putting forward the correct positions that the backward will be able to advance, by having something to rally to. Furthermore, it is by exposing incorrect positions as dangerous to the proletariat, by exposing how they serve the bourgeoisie, that the backward will be motivated to advance.

Before we continue let us summarize in a schematic way the two views of the movement and how the party will be formed out of it:

Circles play a valid role at this point in time. vs. Circles are mainly the manifestation of circle spirit (and, perhaps, the “unequal development” of the movement) and are an anachronism at this point in time.

There is an antagonistic contradiction in the movement that we must make the pivot of our understanding of the development of the movement. vs. We must act as if contradictions are unantagonistic in the movement.

The movement has a left wing and a right wing which are “legitimate” (in the movement), but in forming the party the proletarian line must demarcate against the right. vs. The movement is homogeneously composed of authentic Marxist-Leninists.

Any organization that demands the membership of all Marxist-Leninists as a principle in the fashion of the party must not have a left and right wing in it. vs. The organization of struggle for the party may reproduce the present norms of our movement in the degree of differences it contains.

The movement itself is not the party in its early stage of development, but has within it authentic Marxist-Leninists who will form the party. vs. The movement as a whole is the party in its early stage of development and the party should contain all of its present components.

The present level of unity in the movement is not to be exaggerated. vs. The present level of unity in the movement is proof that we are all communists.

The level of unity needed in an organization that demands the membership of all Marxist-Leninists cannot be underestimated: it must be the highest possible. vs. The level of unity needed for all Marxist-Leninists in one organization need be only quantitatively higher than the present level.

What are the implications of our view of the movement? Earlier, in our outline of the development of our present movement of struggle for the party, we explained how it developed as a new thing on a new basis by the process of division of one into two, by demarcation of those who held to the proletarian line that building the party was the principal task, from those others active in the mass movement who rejected this line.

We apply the same reasoning to our movement and say that the creation of the party must be a qualitative leap to the creation of a new thing on a new basis, and that this can only take place, and must consciously take place, by the division of one thing (the present movement) into two, i.e., by the resolution of the principal contradiction in the movement. The “two things” are orthodox Marxism on the one hand and right-opportunism on the other hand.

There has been much metaphysical thinking in our movement on the matter of what exactly our movement is. There has been much more concern to define the movement than there has been to negate the movement by defining what we must go forward to.

This negation of the movement is for us the correct procedure and just as we will go beyond the movement not by “demarcating it” but by defining what we go forward to, we will go beyond circles by negating the circles with something better, not by calling for the formation of one big circle on the one hand, and abstractly denouncing circle spirit on the other.

So the party must negate the movement, not reproduce it in a different organizational form. Our “definition” of the Marxist-Leninist movement as presently constituted is somewhat different and simpler and in fact much broader than those put forward explicitly or implicitly by other groups. Since we know that the level of unity is not, and cannot be, great enough for the organizational unity of all Marxist-Leninists we are not concerned to exaggerate the present level of the movement. Furthermore, the level of unity needed for a Party-type unity will be put forward by a leading centre as part of the process of negating the movement, it will not be something that is a characteristic or attribute of the movement as a whole.

For us the criteria that describe those who legitimately belong to the Marxist-Leninist movement are the following:

(a) Those who are in the Marxist-Leninist movement “call themselves” adherents of Marxism-Leninism Mao tse-tung thought.
(b) They do not consider that they are the vanguard party of the proletariat.
(c) They acknowledge that there is no vanguard party of the proletariat and that the principal task is to build this party.
(d) It has not been proven that they are not Marxist-Leninist, (e.g., in addition to not corresponding to points b and c, we consider that it has been sufficiently proven that the Bainsites have nothing in common with Marxism-Leninism.

Another example: a group that agreed with the first three criteria but did not consider that capitalism had been restored in the Soviet Union would have proved, in spite of its claims, that it was not Marxist-Leninist.)

As the reader can judge, these criteria are not very “positive” in that we do not consider that any of these prove that a group is really a Marxist-Leninist group. Our definition of the movement is mainly a functional one and certainly not an epoch-shattering act of demarcation. It is by building the party and by being in the party that a group will have proved it was Marxist-Leninist. We consider that there are sham Marxist-Leninists in the movement who will not be in the party, that this is in the very nature of a movement as opposed to a party, and that our principal task is not to ferret these elements out of the movement itself by defining it but to ferret them out by defining the party (the party programme, etc.) against them. Instead of affirming a movement of authentic Marxist-Leninists we see the demarcation that determines what authentic Marxism-Leninism is as the process of formation of the party.

Earlier in examining In Struggle!’s view that it was the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat that distinguished authentic Marxist-Leninists from phony Marxist-Leninists, we indicated that we were not convinced that ex-members and adherents of PWM put forward the dictatorship of the proletariat, more so than the Bainsites, as more than a theoretical ornament. Yet we consider that they are in the Marxist-Leninist movement, (a) they “call themselves” Marxist-Leninists; (b) they do not claim to be the party; (c) they do not consider that a party exists and they recognize that building the party is the principal task; (d) the view that the principal contradiction in Canada is between the Canadian people and American imperialism, and the view that Canada is not imperialist, has not been decisively defeated in a scientific way as an anti-Marxist line.

This does not mean, however, that we affirm that they are authentic Marxist-Leninists, that all the groups who still adhere to what the Bolshevik Union considers bourgeois nationalist positions will be in an authentic communist party.

Our criteria for membership in the Marxist-Leninist movement are not high, but neither are they phony or unsubstantiated. Some of those who “call themselves” Marxist-Leninists and are in the Marxist-Leninist movement will be revealed (or are in the process of being revealed) to be opportunists and some will prove themselves to be authentic Marxist-Leninists by the only possible criterion, the use of Marxism-Leninism as a science as applied in formulating the programme for revolution.

How will this come about in terms of the two contradictions we outlined in the Marxist-Leninist movement and why do we consider that certain ex-PWM-ers are in the movement even though we consider their positions to be bourgeois nationalist?

It is only by putting forward correct positions and scientifically disproving incorrect positions that we can divide those who are wrong because they are backward from those who are wrong because they are right-opportunists acting objectively as the agents of the bourgeoisie.

Once a line is decisively defeated, shown to be wrong by reference to the established positions of Marxism-Leninism and concrete analysis, then those who are backward will have every opportunity to rally to the more advanced position and those that are acting as the agents of the bourgeoisie within the movement, having tied their fate, their “career”, to that particular line rather than to Marxism-Leninism as a science will stand exposed.

We should note that there are certain consequences of our position that put us very much against the tide of liberalism that prevails in our movement presently. One is that in fact we do want to “split” the Marxist-Leninist movement in accordance with our understanding of the movement “by division”. It is difficult for many to grasp that things progress, develop, that a real unity of Marxist-Leninists can be accomplished by dividing, rather than by a mechanical unity, a combining of two into one. Thus we are united with others in the movement in order to split the movement with a line of demarcation (the correct programme for revolution) between right-opportunism, outside of the party, and authentic Marxist-Leninists, inside of the party.

.. . The party is a voluntary association, which would inevitably break up, first ideologically and then physically, if it did not cleanse itself of people advocating anti-party views. And to define the borderline between party and anti-party there is the party programme, the party’s resolutions on tactics and its rules and, lastly, the entire experience of international Social-Democracy.... (“Party Organization and Party Literature”, LCW 10:47)

Another is that whereas those who hold to a liberal view of the movement want to tone down contradictions, deny their importance or existence, we want to intensify the contradictions between authentic Marxism-Leninism and right-opportunism, an attitude which will no doubt be perceived by many as “sectarianism”. We want to “pose the key problems of the ... movement in the sharpest possible manner” and solve them “in an irreconcilable revolutionary spirit, thus creating a firm basis for broad party activity.” (“Preface to the Collection Twelve Years”, LCW 13:106)

We want to hasten the process of drawing lines of demarcation because drawing lines of demarcation precedes unity, therefore is principal and defines our unity.

What is the nature of the mistake made by those who hold to the other, the liberal, view of the movement? In the final analysis, in In Struggle!’s understanding of the movement and its plan for the unity of Marxist-Leninists are to be found the seeds of revisionism.

By seeking to accommodate right-opportunism rather than defeating it, they are combining two into one and undermine a correct understanding of class struggle. By implicitly seeing backwardness (or “unequal development”) as the main problem in the movement, they reproduce the kind of revisionist thinking that led to the thesis, after the Chinese revolution, that the principal contradiction was between the backward forces of production and advanced relations of production, rather than class struggle. As well, it is this kind of thinking exactly that led the TCG to the revisionist pronouncement that the dictatorship of the proletariat automatically insures that there will be no national oppression after the revolution (see “The Whole Is Equal to the Sum of Its Parts”, p. 19). It is revisionist thinking in the form of mechanical determinism which, by liquidating the factor of conscious class struggle, disarms the proletariat.

And, by presenting a picture of the movement where the “normal” course of development is seen as the growing of the movement into the party (the main danger being nasty sectarianism which fights this “growth”), they abandon the Marxist understanding that qualitative change takes place not by “growth” (a simple realization of innate characteristics) but by struggle of internal contradictions.

In conclusion, for us, it is a given that the Marxist-Leninist movement is composed of authentic Marxist-Leninists and opportunists and no demarcation short of demarcation in a party (on the basis of a party programme for revolution) is going to signal the qualitative leap whereby we can say, yes, this makes such and such authentic tested communists and this makes those others “outside the Marxist-Leninist movement” (which is to say outside of the party which the movement has produced).

So we are not too concerned about who is “in” and who is “out” of the Marxist-Leninist movement. If a group in the movement puts forward positions, for example, that we feel objectively support Soviet social-imperialism, we will say that these simply are not Marxist-Leninists rather than that they are “outside of the Marxist-Leninist movement”, since there is no real authority in the movement to define the movement. It is much more meaningful to say “these will not be in the party” than to say “these are not in the Marxist-Leninist movement.”

Undoubtedly we will be accused of sectarianism for saying these things. Our response is simply that those who would make this criticism are obligated to prove, in a scientific, fashion, why we are wrong. If they will not engage in open struggle over these questions, but must merely resort to whispering about “uncomradeliness” and “nasty style of work”, then this will only further substantiate our position that the current hysteria about “sectarianism” has nothing in common with a scientific approach to building the party but is merely a cover for opportunism and the fear to confront political questions. In short, we expect to find out why we are wrong or else we expect to have our positions adopted.

What is Happening in the Marxist-Leninist Movement

We have already described to a certain extent the course of development in our movement, the one step backward of the League and the capitulation of In Struggle! to that.

After the League formed it proceeded to adopt a very definite set of tactics in the Marxist-Leninist movement. Mainly this has taken the form of refusing to admit that a movement exists by refusing to acknowledge or “legitimize” as Marxist-Leninist, groups that it is not to its advantage to acknowledge.

We will not go into detail here about these tactics because they are becoming well known throughout the movement. Basically they amount to using their size and “influence” to delegitimize before the working class (or at least “their” workers) other Marxist-Leninist groups in the movement. But they do not do this on the basis of attacking the political line of these groups or on the basis of other consistent criteria. In practice this has taken the form of simply denying that certain groups are Marxist-Leninist and refusing to carry their material in their bookstores, publish letters from them in The Forge where ”their” workers might read them,[1] or participate in tactical unity with them. Another example is that of pouncing on groups (Western Voice, Mobilisation) who have self-criticised for right-opportunism[2] and declaring that these groups cannot be Marxist-Leninist unless they rally to the League or go to a higher organizational form as the League did after its founding groups “self-criticized.”

It is a great mystery why the League even considers In Struggle! in the movement. At least, that is, if we look for principled reasoning. In practice the reasoning is clear: they would be proclaiming themselves to be the movement and thus discrediting themselves. Consequently they would have less chance of winning over In Struggle! cadre and potential cadres intermediate between the two groups in the great two-line struggle that is supposedly in progress. Different strokes for different folks. If you can expect to build your organization by the addition of another group by denying it is Marxist-Leninist, then deny it. If you can best build it by publically engaging in struggle with it as an equal, then find some rationale for that. And if you find that certain elements (like the Bolshevik Union, for example) are decisively opposed to the League on a political basis, and do not offer loose cadre to be won over by struggle, then deny they exist.

The League maintains that the open exchange of views should be limited to themselves and In Struggle! because these are the two groups with the most developed politics. Yet, the League also keeps on saying that In Struggle! does not develop its politics. We suspect that one reason the League keeps on pushing for debate with In Struggle! is that In Struggle!’s line (or lack thereof) is silly putty. If In Struggle! had been undertaking a decisive struggle to defeat the League’s right-opportunism, we strongly suspect that their tactics would be quite different and that their liberalism towards In Struggle! would turn into its opposite.

What was In Struggle!’s response to all this? In Struggle! proceeded to attack the League for sectarianism, completely missing the point that the League’s tactics are the tactics of hegemony-seeking, the tactics of right-opportunism seeking control over the movement.

In Struggle! presents the League as being “conceited” and thus obscures the real problem: that the League is wrong. Other groups in the movement have been following In Struggle!’s incorrect lead on this question, and this has been very unfortunate. With its usual knack. In Struggle! makes what is secondary principal and mistaking appearance for essence attacks the “policies” of the League. They home in on the fact that the League is proceeding to negate the movement as if this were in itself incorrect. In fact a leading centre with a correct political line must do exactly that – proceed to negate the movement by best accomplishing the tasks of building the party. Such a centre must proceed by demarcating some (in an open and scientific fashion), and rallying others. That the League is doing this in a mechanical, heavyhanded and unprincipled fashion is secondary. What is principal is that its political line and practice are incorrect; it is a dummy political line on the basis of which it is impossible for them to lead the principled ideological struggle of a leading centre, that a correct political line grounded in reality would permit.

In Struggle! makes the League’s behaviour out to be merely a policy of the League, merely a “leftist” sectarian attitude, rather than looking deeper and seeing that it is a consequence of their right-opportunism. The League has not adopted its tactics because they are purist or adventurist in a “leftist” fashion, or because they want to run too far ahead of the working class movement. They adopt them because they consider that it is the best way to gain control over this movement and the masses.

But In Struggle! has not understood and cannot understand this; to do so would undermine In Struggle!’s conception of the unity of Marxist-Leninists, since the two groups are fundamentally aiming at the same thing: the negation of the movement on an unprincipled basis and the sabotage of the ideological struggle.

What are the characteristics of this right-opportunist hegemony-seeking that we should be so familiar with from past experiences, since it was manifested by both the CPL and the Bainsites?

It amounts to a drive to premature organizational consolidation; to taking on the attributes of a party without having the political characteristics of a party. They are saying: we do not really have a programme for revolution, we have not in practice succeeded in acting as the vanguard of the proletariat, but nevertheless we are it, the vanguard party (or “pre-party organization”) of the proletariat and all real communists must join us.

But whereas the League has pursued a more or less “traditional” course in doing this. In Struggle! has adopted a somewhat newer course. (Not completely new, however, because it reproduces many of the characteristics of the Bainsites’ second drive for hegemony in the movement, their famous unity proposals of January 1975). Instead of saying that In Struggle! is “it” in the old familiar fashion, In Struggle! has decided to pursue a course opposite to that of the League and call for the creation of such an “it” organization out of the whole movement. In Struggle! has declared the movement to be “it”, and is essentially calling for the democratic centralisation of the movement as a whole. In Struggle! has, in short, taken the measure out of the movement and decided that there is a ”good possibility”* that In Struggle! will be in the majority in “it” and thus have effective hegemony in the movement, all the while posing as the dialectical opposite of the nasty League.

Now we are getting closer to what the purpose is of In Struggle!’s “organization of struggle for the party.”

Currently we have in Canada a movement of struggle for the party. In this movement there are a number of circles and groups which are studying Marxism-Leninism and attempting to relate their work to the movement as a whole. In this movement it has been affirmed many times that differences must be taken openly to the masses. ([3] on p. 36, col. 1)

In Struggle!’s plans for an “organization of struggle for the party” has made no new contributions in questions of the political line for the strategy for a proletarian revolution in Canada. Their polemics against “sectarianism” have in fact pre-empted any worthwhile concrete analysis of Canada as well as any genuine contribution to the defeat of our principal enemy, right-opportunism. But what the “organization of struggle for the party” has to offer our movement is this:

. . . the present groups . . . would (not) keep some autonomy and would (not) be able to publicize their divergences with the programme adopted by the organisation’s congress. (Proletarian Unity no. 1, p. 26)

Thus, without having elevated our movement to any higher a plane on questions of the strategy for revolution – and, as we have shown concretely in our case, having declined to participate in concrete efforts to accomplish this – In Struggle! is proposing to group our scattered and diverse movement into a structure which will silence it. They are trying to kill the Marxist-Leninist movement of struggle for the party by transforming it into an “organization” where all important struggles will be sheltered from the masses.

We have seen the effects of In Struggle!’s campaign to silence the Marxist-Leninist movement. Many groups have been following In Struggle!ís leadership like mice followed the Pied Piper. Very little has occurred in the way of contributions to concrete analysis since In Struggle!’s sabotage campaign, and – most outstandingly – virtually nothing from the groups which have declared their enthusiasm for In Struggle!’s project. Struggles over line are exceedingly difficult to initiate because people want to relate only to the two largest groups (the very groups which are silencing the movement) and because people want to talk about herding themselves into one organization where they will not be able to “publicize their differences.” The wide debate[4], which was once promised us as the alternative to the Bainsites’ phony “Marxism-Leninism”, is being squelched.

In struggling against the Mensheviks after the Second Congress of the RSDLP, Lenin identified a new form of opportunism which he called “opportunism in matters of organisation” or “organisational opportunism”. He considered it a distinct form of opportunism and noted that it was international and one of the few consistent characteristics of right-opportunism throughout the social-democratic movement. We consider that in our movement there is also a major form of ”organizational opportunism” and that it is the best way to summarize the projects of both the CCL(ML) and In Struggle!

Briefly, it is the drive to mechanically accomplish organizational tasks when the priority is the elaboration of revolutionary theory. Whereas in the Russian movement organizational opportunism took the form of resistance to centralism, in our movement it takes the form of centralizing on an incorrect basis.

There are several reasons for this. (1) Democratic centralism has become too much an aspect of orthodox Marxism to revise it overtly. Better to revise it by creating a caricature of it. (2) The bourgeoisie, too, in the form of right-opportunism, can learn from historical experience and appropriate proletarian tools. (3) For other reasons, right-opportunism is in a majority in our movement, therefore it is in its interests to see a non-opportunist minority subordinated to it.

We have already described this organizational opportunism as hegemony-seeking. And, as we have mentioned, it is nothing new in the movement. We have already been through the course with the CPC(ML). In Struggle! criticized the CPC(ML) for wanting to proclaim the party first and build it later. In Struggle! has done essentially the same thing by wanting to proclaim the formation of what can only be the party in its early stage of formation, and then build it later. The vocabulary is more humble, the substance is the same. We are perfectly indifferent to the semantics of the matter. An organization which operates by democratic centralism, which declares itself to be revolutionary and communist, and which says that it is the duty of all communists to be in it, is declaring itself to be the party.

Like CPC(ML), In Struggle!’s new “organization of struggle for the party” will be striving at the silencing of contradictions within the Marxist-Leninist movement by keeping all differences quietly sealed within the envelope of one organization. But this “organization” will find, as the Bainsites found to their dismay, that it will only give rise to a higher level of contradiction in the movement. When this organization takes the incorrect line on fundamental questions of the Canadian revolution – and how can it do otherwise, with its scorn for the theoretical struggle and its dismissal of the scientific method – there will be others in the Marxist-Leninist movement who will not be in this organization who will take up open, public struggle against its line. The “organization of struggle for the party” will just be one more big circle with a hollow political line, a contempt for theory and a welcome mat for opportunists. Authentic Marxist-Leninists will expose and defeat it in order to rally the vanguard of the proletariat to authentic Marxism-Leninism.

What the CPC(ML) did openly, what the League is about to do (and has done in all essentials in practice except come out with the actual statement that all must rally to them to be considered communists) and what In Struggle! is proposing (in the shiftiest, most two-faced manner yet) all amount to the same thing: a democratic centralist organization with the largest possible number of bodies in them submitting to the discipline of a majority which is not bound by a scientifically developed and stated programme for revolution. None of them have amounted to: united all Marxist-Leninists and the proletariat in a revolutionary way, i.e., around the programme for revolution.

And it is this theory plus the practice of rallying the vanguard which is the only permissable basis for the final negation of the movement.

What about the question of democratic centralism in the movement, the question of authority.

We have already seen the role that Lenin accorded to the circles in developing revolutionary theory. Let us now consider certain observations of Lenin’s that we have had cause to quote on a past occasion when we were struggling against a mechanical conception of democratic centralism in CR.

.. .Previously our Party was not a formally organised whole, but merely a sum of separate groups, and therefore no other relations except those of ideological influence were possible between these groups. Now we have become an organised Party, and this implies the establishment of authority, the transformation of the power of ideas into the power of authority, the subordination of lower Party bodies to higher ones. (One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, LCW, Second Edition, pp. 367-8)

We know that in the Russian movement the qualitative leap that allowed them to go to a higher level of organization, to the establishment of authority in an organized party (an organization as opposed to a group) was the drawing of lines of demarcation in the party programme and in the organizational principles that had been put forward by Iskra. But in our movement what do we have? We have a mad scramble to build the organizational forms of the party before we have elaborated the theory and politics that the organizational forms are meant to vehicle. We have a negation of what is good about pre-party organizational forms (the circles) – i.e., their flexibility in waging the ideological struggle; and we have the conviction amongst some (In Struggle!) that it is the organizational forms that create the politics and the theory of the proletariat rather than serving these.

When will these people understand that a democratic centralist organization (e.g., a party with diverse functions rather than a group which tends to specialize) carries out the tasks of the revolution, that it is a sense a military formation meant to prepare to physically, as well as ideologically, attack the enemy; and that democratic centralism in its most complete form exists to carry out the program of attack, not necessarily to draw up the programme of the attack. Will someone tell us that Iskra would have elaborated the programme for the Russian revolution more quickly or efficiently if they had united with the Economists in a democratic centralist organization at the point when the Economists were in the majority in the Russian movement?

Furthermore, Lenin makes it clear that iron discipline is not pulled out of a hat, as a “good communist thing to practice”; on the contrary, it develops only insofar as the party develops in its struggle to seize power from the bourgeoisie.

Only the history of Bolshevism during the whole period of its existence can satisfactorily explain why it was able to build up and to maintain under most difficult conditions the iron discipline needed for the victory of the proletariat.

And first of all the question arises: how is the discipline of the revolutionary party of the proletariat maintained? How is it tested? How is it reinforced? First, by the class consciousness of the proletarian vanguard and by its devotion to the revolution, by its perserverance, self-sacrifice and heroism. Secondly, by its ability to link itself with, to keep in close touch with, and to a certain extent, if you like, to merge with the broadest masses of the toilers – primarily with the proletariat, but also with the non-proletarian toiling masses. Thirdly, by the correctness of the political leadership exercised by this vanguard, by the correctness of its political strategy and tactics, provided that the broadest masses have been convinced by their own experience that they are correct. Without these conditions, discipline in a revolutionary party that is really capable of being the party of the advanced class, whose mission is to overthrow the bourgeoisie and transform the whole of society, cannot be achieved. WITHOUT THESE CONDITIONS, ALL ATTEMPTS TO ESTABLISH DISCIPLINE INEVITABLY FALL FLAT AND END IN PHRASE-MONGERING AND GRIMACING. On the other hand, these conditions cannot arise all at once. They are created only by prolonged effort and hard-won experience. THEIR CREATION IS FACILITATED BY CORRECT REVOLUTIONARY THEORY, which, in its turn, is not a dogma, but assumes final shape only in close connection with the practical activity of a truly mass and truly revolutionary movement. (“Left-Wing” Communism, an Infantile Disorder, Peking, pp. 6-7)

At this time, in our movement, we have seen in practice how the theoretical development of the movement has been retarded by the prioritization of mechanical growth by the two de facto leading centres. We have seen the League make a show of quantitative progress in the development of political line by the fusion of the politics of three groups and the trading off of this and that between them accompanied by “self-criticism”. And then with the appearance of an advance in politics they have proceeded to an organizational advance in such a way that allows them to realize to the maximum the heart’s desire of all right-opportunists: the gaining of influence over the working class as opposed to rallying the working class to communism. Now with the house all tidied up, with their dummy political line set up like a shield against charges of opportunism, they are succeeding in rallying “the radical intelligentsia” (many of whom might have become and might still become authentic Marxist-Leninists) to turn a good thing into a bad thing (i.e., their proletarianization into implantation) and to gain that “influence”.

Likewise, In Struggle!: quantitative progress in the development of political line is what they advocate, but qualitative progress in the development of organization.

In both cases the result is the sabotage of the ideological struggle, of the posing of the “key problems of the ... movement in the sharpest possible manner.” On the one hand the League, thinking only in terms of organizational gains to be had, engages in struggle publicly only with In Struggle! on questions of political line,[5] thus restricting the definition of the ”key questions” to the differences that exist between those two groups. On the other hand, In Struggle! acts as if we have already posed the key questions, calls for the perfunctory posing of others, and demands a superior organizational form for the completion of the task by democratic centralism, “the most correct form of the development of line struggles.” Thus the superior organizational form becomes the measure of everything we do rather than the posing of the key questions.

Returning to the question of democratic centralism: In a movement which has been traditionally riddled with opportunism, it is not surprising that key Marxist ideas are appropriated in a mechanical fashion and turned into fetishes. Thus we had the TCG proclaiming in CR that for communists democratic centralism was the only way “to run a group.” It should be clear to anyone who read our pamphlet, “The Whole Is Equal to the Sum of Its Parts”, that this was not simply a mistake on their part but a position convenient to adopt to accomplish their hegemony in the journal. The TCG in CR, like In Struggle! in the movement (which group the TCG has now joined), had a significant enough size to be able to exercise hegemony on the basis of their presence alone.

Thus democratic centralism is severed from any understanding of why it exists, is taken out of any meaningful context, becomes part of the “bag of tricks” of would-be Marxist-Leninists, and like other Marxist concepts, rather than being applied in a scientific and consistent fashion, is taken up and wielded when it serves some immediate purpose only to be forgotten at other times.

Thus we have In Struggle! throughout its history periodically referring to the struggle for democratic centralism as one of the tasks of Marxist-Leninists. As if democratic centralism were a thing in itself! As if democratic centralism grows from a little caricature of itself into a big caricature of itself!

They have studied the definition of what a communist party is but they have not studied how the communist party develops. Little wonder that they add up all the component parts of the mature form, separate them metaphysically, and then assume that to arrive at this form you start out with a miniature of each component; a “little” sketchy or partial political line, plus democratic centralism in a truncated form, plus “little” links with the masses.

A key aspect of democratic centralism is that it is the principal of leadership operating from the top downwards. We have already seen that Lenin considered that when this was not possible previous to the formation of the party, this leadership was accomplished by the ideological influence of Iskra. What is principal here, the leadership or the form of the leadership?

At this point we must reiterate that ideological and political line are determinant in all. They determine whether democratic centralism (a method of exercising leadership) is to be used in the service of the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. In Struggle!, instead, is asking us to unite around democratic centralism itself, “the most correct form of the development of line struggles”. In Struggle! is asking us to unite around authority itself, because, of course, as everybody knows – and as the bourgeoisie is constantly telling us – this is just the communist way to do things.

Let us remember the Bainsites, who once cordially invited all Marxist-Leninists, whatever their political line, to come into their pseudo-communist party and struggle out their differences by democratic centralism. Their democratic centralism is democratic centralism in the service of the bourgeoisie. Some may say that their problem is that they are not really democratic centralist and imply that it is this rather than its political line that is the trouble. But that they are not really democratic centralist is beside the point; even if they were to rigorously, every day, in everything they do, uphold the democratic side of democratic centralism, we deny that this would automatically produce the proletarian line on the revolution in Canada.

In conclusion, and to summarize our position on In Struggle!’s project for the unity of Marxist-Leninists: If a programme of an organization of struggle for the party that expected all Marxist-Leninists to rally to it does not draw lines of demarcation against opportunism in a scientific way on all key questions of the Canadian revolution, does not have the party programme as a basis of unity rather than as unity newly discovered by majority vote at a congress, and is democratic centralist, then a minority carrying the proletarian line on the strategy for revolution could be forced to submit to an opportunist majority. THIS COULD ONLY IMPEDE THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PROLETARIAN PARTY TO LEAD THE CANADIAN REVOLUTION.

Without the drawing of lines of demarcation against opportunism on all the key questions we have no way of knowing that a majority might not be an opportunist majority. This makes a gamble of the unity of Marxist-Leninists. It is not consistent with the principle of building the party from the top down. The Bolshevik Union stands opposed to such a democratic centralist organization.

In Section 5 we will explain at length why it is necessary to struggle for the party programme in achieving a real, revolutionary unity of all authentic Marxist-Leninists.


In the last three sections we have outlined our view of the Marxist-Leninist movement at this time. Two roads lay before us. The following of the first road, the opportunist road, will be marked by hegemonistic coups and result in a stagnant movement with the marshalling of our forces into the carrying out of fundamentally Economist tasks; in a loss of all those sympathetic to Marxism-Leninism but suspicious of the history of opportunism and hegemony-seeking; in a repetition of the mistakes of the Bainsites with the consequent burning out and cynicism of cadre; in a deepening of the suspicion of Marxism-Leninism on the part of advanced workers, which is to say, the growth of the seeds planted by the Bainsites. Consequently, advanced workers will be confronted with one more self-appointed vanguard without the tools that give it the right to call itself the vanguard and the ability to become the vanguard. And, of course, we will have superior newspapers of labour reportage rather than of communist propaganda.

It is only by rejecting this road and by taking up Marxism-Leninism and applying it scientifically that we will be able to find the correct road to the formation of a truly proletarian party. To do this, much that has been done incorrectly must be undone. In order to correct our errors and chart our course there are three main areas which must be thoroughly examined by the movement.

These are, firstly, the nature of right-opportunism, why it is the main danger to the movement at this point in time, and, further, why it is in a majority in the movement; secondly, the way we must demarcate in elaborating the party programme; and thirdly, the role of the newspaper and the leading centre in how we must proceed. These are examined in the next three sections. Section 6 contains the Bolshevik Union’s plan of action for the next period of time.


[1]As of this writing, the League has failed to publish a letter from the October Study Group criticizing them for their declaration that “many” groups which spoke at the Unity conference were not genuine Marxist-Leninist groups. Apparently (assuming that the League continues to decline to publish this letter), they have done this because the October Study Group is one of the ”many”!

[2]This is not to affirm that we accept that these self-criticisms are necessarily thorough or genuine.

[3]This “good possibility” is a quote from an In Struggle! cadre in a workshop at the Toronto Unity conference of October 2. He indicated that once we were all together at the congress of In Struggle!’s organization there would be a “good possibility” that a majority would vote for the “correct” political line. A Bolshevik Union cadre pointed out that this seemed to have nothing in common with a scientific Marxist way of proceeding.

[4]From the October Study Group: “. . . We place our confidence in the Marxist-Leninist movement as a whole and in class-conscious workers to determine, through ideological struggle, who is and who is not Marxist-Leninist; to determine, through ideological struggle, a revolutionary political line. We recognize that this approach also divides our group from yours (the League – BU) at the present time. We welcome open, widespread and frank debate on these questions.” (letter written to The Forge, December 1976.) From the Halifax Communist Group: “Before and in order that M-L-ists can unite, it is essential to have occur on a nation-wide scale the organization of a debate through which all M-Lists and class-conscious workers can participate. ... At this particular juncture, our movement can only benefit from the expression of as many points of view as possible.”(Nov. 29, 1976) From the May 1st Collective: “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.” (CR 1:5, p. 36)

From Dave Paterson: “CPC(M-L) . . . insists on turning the world on its head by declaring that those Marxist-Leninists who insist on carrying on struggle over principled differences in public are ’afraid of exposure’ and ’no longer a Marxist-Leninist group.’ (CR 1:2, p. 7)

[5]We consider that the “Response to May First” in CR 1:6 is only an extension of their debate with In Struggle!.