We have already clearly outlined the tasks of Marxist-Leninists in the ideological struggle in preceding sections. Here we will link this up with the concrete tasks of building unity in the movement and rallying the vanguard.
The principal task of Marxist-Leninists is to build the party. In accomplishing this task we have three absolutely inseparable activities. (1) The elaboration of revolutionary theory (or drawing lines of demarcation, or the ideological struggle for the programme), (2) the organization to vehicle this theory as propaganda (publications and newspapers), and (3) the rallying of the vanguard.
It is not difficult to see how we must prioritize these three activities. Without theory there can be no meaningful propaganda, without a vehicle for this propaganda there can be no rallying of the vanguard.
As our theory becomes increasingly more sophisticated to the point where we are able to put forward the party programme, we will be capable, in a newspaper, of decisively defeating our enemies in the working class movement and convincing the whole of the vanguard that we are the “whom” with which they should go because we will have shown “where to go.” And rallying the vanguard of the proletariat as a whole (as opposed to the most advanced workers, the vanguard of the vanguard that we must rally now) will be conditional on having done this. At this point we will have accomplished the principal task and we will have our Communist Party.
(In this article we do not plan to deal with the question of factory cells and such – i.e., the actual deployment of the vanguard – because as long as we are preparing to go into high gear in rallying the vanguard, as long as we are in the earliest phase of the first stage of development of the party, our first concern is to deploy our forces around a newspaper.)
In Section V we put forward the position that at this stage organization must serve the tasks of the ideological struggle and the rallying of the proletariat and must not be confused with the organizational structure necessary for the struggle for power itself in the second stage of the development of the party. And we said that Lenin’s Iskra, the leading centre of the Russian movement, operated under a similar assumption.
This is not to say that the organisational “network” of the newspaper is one thing and the organisation of the party is a whole other thing, without a connection. The newspaper begins with a relatively narrow function. It is primarily organisation for propaganda and rallying the vanguard. Only secondarily does it take up other tasks. But in the degree that it accomplishes its principal function, it is progressively more able to use the knowledge gained in the ideological struggle and use the professional revolutionaries who have been rallied in order to pass to more diversified activities. As it reaches the point where the ideological struggle has led to the elaboration of the strategy for revolution and a significant portion of the vanguard is rallied, it more and more passes over to the leading of mass struggles. And at this point we have a firm foundation for the party and the party is formally created, supplementing the network of agents of the newspaper with other detachments of the proletarian struggle in a party congress. Now the professional revolutionaries, as the backbone of the party, have passed to the mobilisation of the masses as their principal form of activity. But the creation of this backbone is done in the context of the unique organization of the newspaper, and the newspaper does not strive to duplicate the organizational characteristics of the party.
Let us take a look at Iskra, the leading centre of the Russian movement. First of all we have Iskra’s statement of priorities in the “Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra.”
To establish and consolidate the Party means to establish and consolidate unity among all Russian Social-Democrats, and, for the reasons indicated above, such unity cannot be decreed, it cannot be brought about by a decision, say, of a meeting of representatives; it must be worked for. In the first place, it is necessary to work for solid ideological unity which should eliminate discordance and confusion that – let us be frank! – reign among Russian Social-Democrats at the present time. This ideological unity must be consolidated by a party programme.
Secondly, we must work to achieve an organization especially for the purpose of establishing and maintaining contact among all the centres. ... We intend to devote our efforts TO THE FIRST HALF OF THIS TASK – since we regard THIS as the pressing demand of the movement today and a NECESSARY PRELIMINARY measure toward the resumption of party activity. (LCW 4:354)
Eight months later Lenin began to develop the organizational aspect of the newspaper in “Where To Begin.”
In our opinion, the starting-point of our activities, the first step towards creating the desired organisation (i.e., of the party – BU), or let us say, THE MAIN THREAD which, if followed, would enable us steadily to develop, deepen, and extend that organisation, should be the founding of an All-Russian political newspaper. (LCW 5:20)
The role of a newspaper, however, is not limited solely to the dissemination of ideas, to political education, and to the enlistment of political allies. A newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, it is also a collective organiser. In this last respect it may be likened to the SCAFFOLDING round a building under construction, which marks the contours of the structure and facilitates communication between the builders, enabling them to distribute the work and to view the common results achieved by their organised labour. With the aid of the newspaper, and through it, a permanent organisation will NATURALLY take shape that will engage, not only in local activities, but in regular general work, and will train its members to follow political events carefully, appraise their significance and their effect on the various strata of the population, and develop effective means for the revolutionary party to influence those events. THE MERE TECHNICAL TASK of regularly supplying the newspaper with copy and of promoting regular distribution will necessitate a network of local agents of the united party, who will maintain constant contact with one another, know the general state of affairs, get accustomed to performing regularly their detailed functions in the All-Russian work, and test their strength in the organization of various revolutionary actions. This network of agents ... will form the SKELETON of precisely the kind of organization we need.... (LCW 5:22-3)
The reader should note that, rather than being a “mini-party” type organization, the newspaper is merely a “scaffolding” around the building (the party) in construction, it forms a “skeleton”. And it derives from the accomplishment of the practical tasks of the newspaper, not of the mass movement: “organization will naturally take shape”, “the mere technical task” .... In other words, by the accomplishment of the tasks of a newspaper, the base will be prepared for something that will be consolidated at a later point.
In August 1902 Lenin made it clear that the organizational plan put forward by Iskra was to be consolidated not by Iskra, but by the party.
In particular I, for example, have been accused in the press ... of wanting to turn the Editorial board of Iskra into the Russian Central Committee, of wanting to “order” “agents” about, etc. This is downright distortion of what is said in What Is To Be Done?, but I have no desire to keep on reiterating in the press: “you are distorting.” Those who should begin to speak up are, I think, the functionaries in Russia, who know very well that the “orders” of Iskra go no further than advice and an expression of opinion, and who see that the organizational ideas propounded in What Is To Be Done? reflect the vitally urgent and burning questions of the actual movement. (“A Letter to the Moscow Committee”, LCW 6:209)
And, in What Is To Be Done?:
Those who regard the Iskra’s “plan” as a manifestation of “literariness” have totally failed to understand the substance of the plan, and IMAGINE THAT WHAT IS SUGGESTED AS THE MOST SUITABLE MEANS FOR THE PRESENT TIME IS THE GOAL. These people have not taken the trouble to study the two comparisons that were drawn to clearly illustrate the plan proposed. The Iskra wrote: the publication of an All-Russian political newspaper must be the main line by adhering to which we could unswervingly develop deeper, and expand this organisation (i.e., a revolutionary organization always prepared to support every protest and every outbreak.) Pray tell me: when bricklayers lay bricks in various parts of an enormous structure the like of which has never been seen before, is it “paper” work to use a line to help them find the correct place in which to put each brick, to indicate to them the ultimate purpose of the work as a whole, enable them to use not only every brick but even every piece of brick which, joining with the bricks placed before and after it forms a complete and all-embracing line? And are we not now passing through just such a period in our Party life when we have bricks and bricklayers, but lack the guiding line which all could see and follow? (What Is To Be Done?, Peking, pp. 200-01)
The newspaper was to be the “main thread”, the “scaffolding”, “the most suitable means for the present time”, but was not claiming to be the “goal”, the building itself.
Having established that the leading centre of the Russian movement was not a pre-party or mini-party, we will outline the tactics-as-a-plan of the Bolshevik Union. First of all we will outline it as a specific plan of action for our group and then we will show why we consider that it embodies the plan that all Marxist-Leninists should be pursuing in accomplishing the tasks of Marxist-Leninists at this time.
We have already underlined the importance of a newspaper, but it is a fact that the Bolshevik Union does not produce, and is incapable of producing, an Iskra-type newspaper at this time. The foundation for such a newspaper has yet to be laid: the theoretical foundation without which an Iskra-type newspaper is impossible.
We consider that through LINES OF DEMARCATION the Bolshevik Union has taken the lead in our movement in recognizing the principal role of theory and acting in practice on that basis. (And that before the Bolshevik Union was formed, certain of its members were taking the lead in this by initiating the journal Canadian Revolution and by their publications in that journal.) We consider that LD is the leading theoretical journal in the movement at this time, and will be calling on others to recognize this as part of our plan, but we are aware that this is as much a reflection of the failure of others in the movement as of our achievement.
At the same time as we proceed to lay the theoretical foundation for an Iskra-type newspaper we aim to create around LINES OF DEMARCATION the nucleus of cadres who will begin to build the network appropriate for a newspaper. Thus we will attempt to create through LINES OF DEMARCATION the embryo of a newspaper and the embryo of a newspaper organization.
We should note in introducing our plan that it starts as a plan to fulfill the practical needs of preserving and developing LINES OF DEMARCATION; it is a structure that conforms to the function of a journal. At the same time it is conceived to best facilitate the ideological struggle around the various organs of the movement and the rallying of the most advanced workers to this struggle.
And, finally, we note that we are not claiming to be the leading Marxist-Leninist group or centre in Canada (although we will no doubt be accused of making this claim). What we claim is that this leading centre needs to be established to counter right-opportunism generally and the right-opportunism of the League and In Struggle! in particular. What we are proposing is a plan to build that leading group and that leading centre, and we are proposing to create a structure towards that end through LINES OF DEMARCATION because of the objective role which the journal is playing in the movement at this point in time.
The following is a rough sketch of our plan.
The Bolshevik Union will continue to struggle for unity with all groups and individuals in the movement, but at the same time we will recruit people to LINES OF DEMARCATION on the basis, not of the specific political positions of the Bolshevik Union, but on the basis of the ideological struggle.
We will be asking groups and individual Marxist-Leninists to “affiliate” to LD on the following conditions:
(1) Recognition of LINES OF DEMARCATION as the leading theoretical organ in the movement.
(2) Recognition that right-opportunism is the main danger in the Marxist-Leninist movement and that the building of the Party, the principal task, must be done in the context of drawing lines of demarcation against opportunism, mainly right-opportunism.
(3) Active struggle for unity with the Bolshevik Union.
(4) Participation in the production of LD (to the degree possible) and in the creation of a distribution network for LD.
As an integral part of this distribution network, affiliates of LD must participate in the setting up of circles for (a) the study of LD and other publications of the movement, always from the point of view of demarcating against anti-Marxism (primarily in the form of right-opportunism within the movement) and from the point of view of the struggle to build the party, (b) the study of Marxism-Leninism in general, in order to form and deepen the theoretical base for ”a”, (c) propaganda and agitational activities where possible.
(5) regular material support.
The first two points contain the political essence of this affiliation: to recognize LD as the leading theoretical organ in the movement is to recognize that we are best favouring and leading the ideological struggle. And inseparable from this is our position on waging the ideological struggle against right-opportunism.
And, to recognize that we are best favouring and leading the ideological struggle is to recognize that the way we are putting forward and developing specific political positions is the way to arrive at a correct scientific and programmatic theory of the Canadian revolution. For example, a Marxist-Leninist need not be convinced that the Bolshevik Union’s position on the principal contradiction is correct in order to become an affiliate of LD. But (s)he must recognize that the work we did on the principal contradiction is the kind of work that will allow us to come to a final conclusion on this subject.
We might add here that the Bolshevik Union does not consider that “On the Principal Contradiction” in LD no. 1 has proved that the principal contradiction is between the Canadian proletariat on the one hand and both the Canadian bourgeoisie and American imperialism on the other hand. What we proved in that article was not even that the version of the principal contradiction held to by the League and others was necessarily wrong, but only that the League’s analysis of the principal contradiction was totally wrong. We consider that, by our article, and by the introduction of the Comintern position into the debate, we have made major contributions to settling this question but that the struggle is by no means completed.
As for the exact relationship between those affiliated with LD, and the Bolshevik Union, it must be stressed that this will not he one of discipline, that it will be purely voluntary. (And we note in passing that the Iskra organization, although obviously centralized on the ideological level, was not democratic centralist or formally disciplined. See One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, LCW 7:391)
It should be clearer at this point what is the distinction between recognizing LD as being the leading theoretical organ in the movement, on the one hand, and recognizing a leading centre or group, on the other hand. To recognize a leading centre or group is to recognize a fundamental correctness in the political line and practice of that centre or group. When we ask people to recognize that we are producing the leading theoretical organ in the movement we are maintaining that we have best acted to further the process of open ideological struggle throughout the movement as a whole. We understand that people who affiliate to LD may have fundamental differences with the political lines we have put forward in that journal (e.g., over the principal contradiction, over the Native national question, over the international situation), and the only requirement of political agreement with the line expressed in LD is that concerning the danger of right-opportunism.
The Bolshevik Union will function as the editorial board of LINES OF DEMARCA TION and will maintain complete control over the contents of LD. Affiliates of LD will have no authority over LD itself, but only “ideological influence” in the form of letters and advice. Conversely, the Bolshevik Union will have no authority over, or responsibility for, those affilated to LD, aside from ideological influence.
The effect of this plan for expanding LD by affiliation will be to create three levels of participation around LD.
First of all, the Bolshevik Union with the level of unity and discipline of a Marxist-Leninist “group” with a consistent body of developed politics.
Second of all, the “network” of those affiliated to LD. Here the level of unity will be exactly that of the level of unity of the movement as a whole. It will be a level of unity of those who “call themselves” Marxist-Leninists. And any unity that is “built” out of this network will not be around the “common practice” of the tasks we have listed as conditions for affiliation to LD but out of the direct struggle with the Bolshevik Union listed as point 3.
And let us remember that this network, of LD or of the newspaper, is not meant to be permanent organization in itself or something comparable to a party-type organization. Furthermore, the Bolshevik Union would not expect to reach unity with all of those who affiliate to LD. The struggle for unity between a group or individual and the Bolshevik Union will allow us to locate exactly what the fundamental differences in the movement are which prevent unity and reflect the line of demarcation between opportunism and Marxism-Leninism. And if both parties are agreed that at the same time as locating and examining the differences, the ideological struggle has been pressed forward by the activities of LD and the LD network, then nothing has been lost if unity is not achieved.
As a third, and indirect level of participation we have the circles that will be set up by those affiliated to LD.
The “links” with the masses in the first stage of the development of the party can be nothing more than the advanced workers themselves and since we do not have a party we can only rally the vanguard workers to the ideological struggle for the party.
Therefore the rationale for circles of workers (and progressive intellectuals) cannot be the study of Marxism-Leninism in abstract for those who “want to know more about” Marxism-Leninism or for those who want to deepen their understanding of Marxism-Leninism as an adjunct to their “communist practice” (to use the League’s phrase) as if we already had the party.
The only possible rationale for such circles is to rally workers to taking up the ideological struggle in the Marxist-Leninist movement, to spreading the ideological struggle in the working-class movement, and thus to train advanced workers to become professional revolutionaries and working-class leaders.
There will of course be varying levels of development in the circles set up by those affiliated to LD. Some will consist in full or in part of workers who are not advanced enough to even meaningfully “call themselves” Marxist-Leninists. Some will consist of workers who will be advanced enough so that the members of the circle will be able to make the judgments necessary to determine whether they want to affiliate directly to LD and thus begin an active struggle for unity with the Bolshevik Union.
But the main aim in all of the circles would be to turn them into demarcation circles, to make as their main activity the demarcation of authentic Marxism-Leninism from right-opportunism on the burning questions of the movement.
Let us consider more closely what it means to rally the vanguard of the proletariat.
In addition to the breakdown of the stages of development of the party, in “The Political Strategy and Tactics of the Russian Communist Movement” Stalin lists what we may take as a breakdown of the stages in the rallying of the proletariat.
a) Welding of the main core, especially the “Iskra” group, and so forth. Fight against Economism. The Credo.
b) Formation of Party cadres as the basis of the future workers’ party on an all-Russian scale (1895-1903). The Second Party Congress.
c) The expansion of the cadres into a workers’ party and its reinforcement with new Party workers recruited in the course of the proletarian movement (1903-04). (Works, 5:72)
First of all the formation of the Iskra network of professional revolutionaries; secondly their training within this context as the backbone of the party; thirdly the rallying of the whole of the vanguard on the basis of the Party programme (formally adopted at the Second Congress.)
We are in the period of “welding the main core”, of the training of advanced workers to become professional revolutionaries as a precondition to rallying the vanguard as a whole.
Lenin writes about how these professional revolutionaries came forward:
If we join forces to produce a common newspaper, THIS WORK WILL TRAIN AND BRING INTO THE FOREGROUND, NOT ONLY THE MOST SKILFUL PROPAGANDISTS, BUT THE MOST CAPABLE ORGANISERS, THE MOST TALENTED POLITICAL PARTY LEADERS CAPABLE, at the right moment, of releasing the slogan for the decisive struggle and of taking the lead in that struggle. (“Whereto Begin,” LCW 5:24)
This newspaper would become a part of an enormous pair of smith’s bellows that would fan every spark of class struggle and popular indignation into a general conflagration. AROUND WHAT IS IN ITSELF STILL A VERY INNOCENT AND VERY SMALL, BUT A REGULAR AND COMMON EFFORT, in the full sense of the word, A REGULAR ARMY OF TRIED WARRIORS WOULD SYSTEMATICALLY GATHER AND RECEIVE THEIR TRAINING. ON THE LADDERS AND SCAFFOLDING OF THIS GENERAL ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE THERE WOULD SOON DEVELOP AND COME TO THE FORE SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC ZHELYABOVS FROM AMONG OUR REVOLUTIONARIES AND RUSSIAN BEBELS FROM AMONG OUR WORKERS WHO WOULD TAKE THEIR PLACE AT THE HEAD OF THE MOBILIZED ARMY and rouse the whole people to settle accounts with the same and the curse of Russia. (What Is To Be Done, Peking, p. 210)
These are the things we must keep in mind when we look at the tasks of those affiliated to LD and the circles of workers they must develop. And it is in terms of the “welding of the main core” that we must define “advanced workers” at this time.
We do not, for example, need workers calling for “unity” right now, in the way that In Struggle! has put it forward. These workers are being encouraged in backwardness. They are not the most advanced workers. They are impatient and looking for leadership from the movement as if it were already a party. They do not understand the movement and they are not taking up the tasks of the movement. The workers that must come forward, the most advanced, are those workers who understand that there are fundamental differences and those who make their first task the understanding of these differences; those who can therefore become Marxist-Leninists, active professional revolutionaries, and take up the tasks of Marxist-Leninists in the ideological struggle. Stalin understood this well. In “Comrade G Telia: In Memoriam” he draws a portrait of an advanced worker:
At that time (shortly after Telia had escaped from prison – BU) a split was taking place in the Party. Comrade Telia then belonged to the Mensheviks, but he did not in the least resemble the “official” Mensheviks who regard Menshevism as their “Koran”, who regard themselves as the faithful and the Bolsheviks as infidels. Nor did Telia resemble those “advanced” workers who pose as “born Social-Democrats”, and being utter ignoramuses shout in their comical way: we are workers – we don’t need any knowledge! The characteristic feature of Comrade Telia was precisely that he rejected factional fanaticism, that he utterly despised blind imitation and wanted to think everything out for himself. That is why after escaping from prison, he at once pounced upon the books: “Minutes of the Second Congress,” Martov’s “State of Seige”, and Lenin’s “One Step Forward.” It was a sight to see Telia, his face pale and emaciated, poring over these books and to hear him say with a smile: “I can see it’s not such an easy matter to decide whether to be a Bolshevik or a Menshevik; until I have studied these books my Menshevism is built on sand.” And so, after studying the necessary literature, after pondering over the controversies between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, after weighing everything up, and only after that. Comrade Telia said: “Comrades, I am a Bolshevik. As it looks to me, whoever is not a Bolshevik is certainly betraying the revolutionary spirit of Marxism.” (SCW 2:30-31)
On a practical level the Bolshevik Union will provide guidance to circles in the following ways.
(1) distribution of all important movement publications and newspapers.
(2) active participation in leading circles where requested or possible.
(3) written guides for further study of questions already raised in LINES OF DEMARCATION.
(4) a basic pamphlet on Marxism-Leninism as an introduction to the movement and the struggle for the party.
(5) help in formulating propaganda and agitation around specific local issues. Also when the Bolshevik Union prepares leaflets around specific issues these will be provided to affiliates and circles to be used at their discretion.
Before we proceed to explain how our plan relates to the tasks of the Marxist-Leninists in the movement as a whole let Us look at a comparison between the network we will try to create, first around LD and later around a newspaper, and the Iskra organisation.
They are not meant to be identical. We have tried to learn from a study of Iskra and apply what we have learned to our conditions. There are differences in the historical circumstances that account for some of the differences between what we have outlined and the reality of such a network as it will develop and the Iskra organization.
First of all the theoretical development of the Russian movement was much further ahead at the point of the formation of Iskra than ours is presently. The Development of Capitalism in Russia, Lenin’s major work of political economy, which formed the basis for understanding the contention of all forces and classes in Russian society, had been produced in 1899, the year before the formation of Iskra. And although they did not yet have a programme and although there had been a period of “crisis of socialism”, a strong theoretical base had been laid in the years 1884-1894. (See What Is To Be Done, Peking, p. 221, where Lenin outlines the periods of early development of the Russian movement.)
Thus the necessity in our movement of starting with a theoretical journal.
Secondly, there was a much higher degree of spontaneous revolutionary activity in the Russian movement and the rise to a revolutionary situation was relatively steady. The Russian movement developed in a police state. The dictatorship of the Tsars was one of the most oppressive in modern history. Everywhere there was political, and not merely economic, struggle against the dictatorship. It was on the fertile ground of the “committees” that existed throughout Russia (which were amateurishly carrying on this struggle) that Iskra built its network.
But in our movement we are operating in a bourgeois democracy where the masses are accustomed only to the struggle for reforms and, what is more, are accustomed to a certain degree to receiving these reforms. In our movement we must be prepared for the possibility that the transition from a pre-revolutionary situation to a revolutionary situation will be relatively abrupt as the general crisis of capitalism reaches a higher level of intensity and resistance and struggle can no longer be confined within the economic realm where the bourgeoisie has learned so well to contain it.
This may be a time of confusion and links with the masses, in the sense of a large casual readership of a newspaper or a sympathetic following, will come to nothing if the tactics necessary to the situation are not intimately known and understood as guides to action by working class leaders who are able to take up the day-to-day struggle in areas where it has never been present before. This means we must lay our bricks all the more carefully during this period. This means we must be especially careful in developing our links with the masses, these links being the vanguard workers.
Thus the network of professional revolutionaries must be “further ahead” of the masses, they must be the most far-sighted of workers. In leading the masses, working class leaders will have that much further to ”pull them up” and they wilt need a very deep understanding of the workings of our society in order to deal with the changes of the transition, should they be sudden. It follows from this that the distribution of a newspaper and the formation of a network may be less of a “mass” phenomenon (in the short run) than it was in the Russian movement. The temptation will be, and has been, to sacrifice political and theoretical level to Economism and ”cheap popularity” as the League and In Struggle! are doing, but we must not succumb to this.
How does the plan that we have outlined relate to the tasks of Marxist-Leninists in general and to what has already been accomplished in our movement?
First of all let us say that we have at all points since the formation of the Bolshevik Tendency prioritized the struggle for principled unity with other groups. Before independently taking up the tasks of Marxist-Leninists in a general way as the Bolshevik Union we sought to implement the idea of “rallying to a leading centre”, by struggling for unity with In Struggle! We have petitioned the League publically and privately at every turn to take up the struggle with us. But a “split” exists between us and In Struggle! and the League objectively and this split is not of our making. And we consider that the gap between the two components of the split is a gap between the Marxist-Leninist approach, a real expression of the “desire for unity” and the readiness to struggle, and opportunism in the struggle for unity.
Therefore although we will continue to struggle for unity with all groups in the movement, in the degree that it is not presently possible to proceed together in accomplishing the tasks of Marxist-Leninists, we must take up the tasks independently. We would not be acting in a correct Marxist-Leninist fashion if we thought that, although we consider that the tasks are not being correctly pursued by others, it is presumptuous of us to attempt to be taking correct steps in accomplishing them ourselves. And we would not be acting in a correct Marxist-Leninist fashion if we blithely assumed that “it will all come together.”
It will come as a shock and an insult to some that the Bolshevik Union is starting from scratch and calling this the accomplishment of the tasks of Marxist-Leninists, when there already exist two newspapers and two large organizations in the movement. However, for those who base their understanding on substance rather than appearance, and those who have understood the reasons why we consider right-opportunism to be a majority in the Marxist-Leninist movement, this will not seem out of line. And for the rest it should not at least come as a surprise that we do not consider In Struggle! and The Forge to be Iskra-type newspapers. Although In Struggle! seems to have taken Iskra as their organizational model, neither group has ever even made the pretense of taking Iskra as their political model. They have never claimed to be such, nor are they going in the direction of becoming such.
In Struggle!, of course, has mainly been organisation around a newspaper and some may wonder how what we propose to do is different from what they have already done.
The members of the Bolshevik Union were at first impressed by In Struggle!^ attempt to apply the experience of the Russian movement. But over a period of time we perceived that rather than learning from this experience they were mechanically mocking it and they are now carrying this mockery to its logical conclusion in trying to convene a congress “of all Russian Social-Democrats.”
Its emphasis on propaganda was merely an emphasis on a newspaper as an Economist organiser as an alternative to the “tactic” of implantation adopted by other Economists. The newspaper is not, and is not struggling to become, an Iskra-type newspaper.
Why is this? Because an Iskra-type newspaper, as a leading centre, is first and foremost a centre that puts forward leading politics. A success as a newspaper as an organiser, In Struggle! fails as a newspaper as a newspaper; it fails in the department of content. And this failure is bound to be reflected in what it is succeeding in organising and how it organises it.
What is the content of an Iskra-type newspaper and how is this reflected in what and how it organises? It is principally an intensely political content, it is principally propaganda:
... What we need is definitely a political newspaper. Without a political organ, a political movement deserving that name is inconceivable in the Europe of today. Without such
a newspaper we cannot possibly fulfill our task – that of concentrating all the elements of political discontent and protest, of vitalising thereby the revolutionary movement of the proletariat. (“Where To Begin,” LCW 5:21)
... A newspaper gives answers to everything, while popular literature gives instruction on a few things. (“Some Reflections on the Letter from ’7 Ts. 6 F.’ ”, LCW 6:316)
In 1897, before he had put forward the idea of a newspaper as the best way to accomplish the tasks of propaganda, Lenin put forward the following excellent description of propaganda in ”The Tasks of the Russian Social-Democrats”:
The socialist activities of Russian Social-Democrats consist in spreading by propaganda the teachings of scientific socialism, in spreading among the workers a proper understanding of the present social and economic system, its basis and its development, and understanding of the various classes in Russian society, of their interrelations, of the struggle between these classes, of the role of the working class in this struggle, of its attitude towards the declining and the developing classes, towards the past and the future of capitalism, and understanding of the historical task of international Social-Democracy and of the Russian working class. (LCW 2:329)
Will someone tell us that this is the scope of In Struggle! or The Forge? Will someone tell us that they are particularly discontent with their failings measured against this, i.e., that they are madly rushing to assimilate the theory that is needed to accomplish these propaganda tasks?
Lenin shows how the newspaper must make a meaningful connection (and we say “meaningful connection” advisedly, we do not mean “tacked-on” messages) between manifestations of spontaneous struggle and the overall struggle.
We must try to create a higher form of agitation by means of the newspaper, which must contain a regular record of workers’ grievances, workers’ strikes, and other forms of proletarian struggle, as well as all manifestations of political tyranny in the whole of Russia; WHICH MUST DRAW DEFINITE CONCLUSIONS FROM EACH OF THESE MANIFESTATIONS in accordance with the ultimate aim of socialism and the political tasks of the Russian proletariat. (“Draft Declaration of Iskra and Zarya,” LCW 4:326)
In other words:
“.. . THE LIGHT OF THEORY MUST BE CAST UPON EVERY SEPARATE FACT. . . “(Ibid.)
And the connection between this and the organisation of professional revolutionaries? It is this content, this thorough and deep understanding of all the factors at work in society, that is the content and basis of their training:
.. . the masses will never learn to conduct the political struggle until we help to train leaders for this struggle, both from among the enlightened workers and from among the intellectuals; and such leaders can acquire training solely by systematically appraising all the everyday aspects of our political life, of all attempts at protest and struggle on the part of various classes and on various grounds. Therefore, to talk about “training political organisations” and at the same time to contrast the “paper work” of a political newspaper to “live political work in the localities” is simply ridiculous! (What Is To Be Done, Peking, p. 199)
In Struggle! has not appreciated the ideological and theoretical role of a newspaper (and the relationship of these things to the rallying of the vanguard) because they have not appreciated the nature of the leading centre as a centre which first of all puts forward leading theoretical and political positions. Thus, while they appreciate the role of a newspaper as an organiser, have so used it and no doubt will continue to use it, they can readily abandon it as their principal form of organisation and are obviously seeking to do so. Rather than the organisation of a network of professional revolutionaries around clearly developed and revolutionary politics, their newspaper “as an organiser” has merely been the quantitative accumulation of cadre as a base for an organisation such as it is proposing. They might just as well have proceeded like the groups that formed the League! (We have already shown that with In Struggle!’s steady upward development in “organising” in the last three years there has been no comparable rise in its theory or its politics. No doubt they have had significant success in rallying people to the struggle to rally the proletariat, and this is a great thing no doubt. But what we need is the actual rallying of the proletariat to a revolutionary movement and – shall we repeat? – “Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.”
We ascribe to In Struggle!’s Economism the fact that it is seeking to abandon the newspaper as its principal form of organisation and move to a mock party form as soon as possible.
The newspaper as an organiser is essentially the organisation of the rallying of the proletariat. The party-type organisation, diverse rather than specialised, is essentially the organisation of the already-rallied proletariat in its struggle for power.
But the Economists see the Economic struggle as already the struggle for power and want to jump ahead of the rallying of the proletariat to make tailing (but pretending to lead) the economic struggle their principal activity. And since even they must see that the vanguard has not been rallied, this rallying becomes subsumed under the “leading” of the economic struggle. Agitation in the economic struggle rather than propaganda for the struggle for the party becomes the way to rally the vanguard and the two stages of the development of the communist party are compressed such that an identity is made between the rallying of the vanguard and leading mass struggles.
Let us reiterate what the relationship is between rallying the vanguard, mass struggles and propaganda and agitation. In everything we do, propaganda and rallying the vanguard must be principal. Intervention in the economic struggle per se and agitation are always secondary because we do not have the preparation, the backing, to do this meaningfully (i.e., to really consistently lead them as part of the revolution).
But of course we are rallying the vanguard in the masses and obviously we will not intervene without reference to the mass struggle and without a certain amount of agitation. But it is these advanced workers in the masses who are, at this point in time, our links with the masses. In contrast to this the organisational opportunists are trying to mechanically duplicate, as links with the masses, the traditional relationships that build up between mass struggles and organisations and the party in the second stage of development of the party. (The League’s “implantation” is the best example of this.)
At this point in time we are rallying advanced workers to the ideological line of the international communist movement (albeit often poorly understood), to certain elements of political line depending on the group, and to the struggle for the party.
But this was not, for example, the principal thrust of In Struggle! and the League around the general strike. Their principal thrust was to rally workers to more militant spontaneous activity. (This was evident in their propaganda.) In reversing what is principal and what is secondary they think that they have created a “catch-all.” By attempting to lead the mass struggle they will build their ”links” with the masses. And, as for the advanced workers, they will see the references to communism tacked on and the references to the struggle for the party and will rally to this.
What is the flaw in this? Just as the organisational opportunists are sabotaging amongst Marxist-Leninists the ideological struggle and the building of a real proletarian party by their Economist rush to liquidate the tasks of the first stage of development of the party, they will do the same among advanced workers.
Consequently, just as we cannot accomplish the tasks of the ideological struggle proceeding like this, advanced workers will not be able to become real communists, i.e., we will not be able to rally the vanguard to Marxism-Leninism. If the principal activity of a “communist” organisation at this stage is intervention in the economic struggle, then it is bound to develop advanced workers principally in terms of the economic struggle rather than principally in terms of the ideological struggle and in terms of becoming working class leaders in all respects as “socialist theoreticians.” Inevitably a division of labour is created between advanced workers and intellectuals rather than the fusion of Marxism-Leninism with these advanced workers. We have seen concretely in Section I how In Struggle! has encouraged this division. (And the letter from the worker sympathetic to the League which we are printing in LD no. 3-4 is a fine example of what the League encourages workers to think.)
In other words the rallying of advanced workers, the fusion of Marxism-Leninism with the proletariat through the vanguard in the masses, is not simply a matter of bringing workers under the discipline of a rigged-up “communist” organisation. It is primarily a matter of developing advanced workers as Marxist-Leninists and as working-class leaders. And there can be no question of their becoming primarily leaders in the economic struggle. They must become working class leaders in the international proletarian revolution, in the fullest sense of the word “leader”: leaders who must understand firstly the history and nature of the international proletarian revolution and secondly the specific tactical tasks in the economic struggle; leaders who will prepare for the conquest of political power and represent the people in the governing of this country after the revolution.
What was the message delivered to advanced workers by In Struggle! and the League around the general strike?: Your principal activity is to build the spontaneous movement, your secondary activity is to become communists. What should the message have been?: Your principal activity is to come into the Marxist-Leninist movement, take up the struggle for the party and become communists. Then, when you, the vanguard, have been developed (rallied) to a certain point we will be able to take leadership in spontaneous struggle like this and the more quickly we really accomplish the first task, the sooner we will be able to proceed to the second in a meaningful way as part of the revolution.
We have already seen that Lenin defined the newspaper as the “main line” and the “main thread.” In What Is To Be Done? he also describes it as the link that must be found at all points in the struggle that is “the most important at the given moment, the one that guarantees the possessor of the link the possession of the whole chain.”
In Struggle!, by not understanding the principal role of content in a newspaper, has relinquished this link. The League never really made a pretense of attempting to grasp it.
This, then, is our summary of how we consider the tasks of Marxist-Leninists have been accomplished so far. The plan we have put forward is what we consider to be the best way of grasping this link, of laying the foundation for an Iskra-type newspaper and Iskra organisation-type network of professional revolutionaries. It is also the way that will best favour, through the ideological struggle, the possibility of transforming one of the present movement organs into such a newspaper.
The plan we have outlined with its three levels of participation (The Bolshevik Union, the network of affiliates and the circles) is a plan for a real “organisation of struggle for the party” (note: “organisation” with a small “o”). It is both an organising of the struggle for the party and organisation for the struggle for the party, and unlike the plans and realities of In Struggle! and the League it is neither implicitly nor explicitly a mini-party or a pre-party. Nor is it an attempt to seek hegemony in the Marxist-Leninist movement, as we feel In Struggle! and the League are both doing. On the contrary, it is the structure which we feel will best favour the open ideological struggle in the Marxist-Leninist movement and will therefore be the most effective means of countering the attempts of hegemonism on the part of the dominant right-opportunism in our movement.
Along with the plan we have put forward there is another aspect to the question of how we must proceed in the movement – that of how groups that presently exist and are coming into existence should proceed to develop themselves in the public ideological struggle and the direct struggle for unity with other groups.
It was In Struggle! which first laid great stress on the concept of rallying to a leading centre and it has been In Struggle! which subsequently proceeded in its last two phases to systematically obscure what it means.
In “The Tasks of the Marxist-Leninist Movement” in CR no. 3 they were clear:
How to Create the Marxist-Leninist Organization of Struggle for the Party?
Forge in the Two-line Struggle A Principal Orientation: a Leading Centre (This is a headline, p. 19)
For En Lutte!, the M-L organization of struggle for the Party will never see the day unless from the two-line struggle which is presently being carried out, and which absolutely must be intensified, an orientation and a leading centre emerges, in other words unless democratic centralism is applied as the M-L method to arrive at unity. In the course of this struggle, all groups must participate. Is this to say that we must wait until each group has produced its line before the correct line is rallied to? To reply in the affirmative to this question verges on seeing the creation of the organization as a kind of consultative commission where “memoirs” are handed out and where a choice is made to determine what is right and what is wrong in each of the texts. ... we hold that this is an idealist conception and we are opposed to it. (p. 20)
... We are convinced 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, (p. 18)
The M-L organization will not be a synthesis of points of view or of groups. It will be the result of the rallying of M-Ls to the most just line which will emerge in the ideological struggle amidst the M-L movement, (p. 20)
But In Struggle! abandoned this position and is encouraging the movement to abandon it.
A leading centre is by definition the leading centre amongst other centres. By calling for the formation of a leading centre out of the whole movement in its “organisation of struggle for the party”. In Struggle! is distorting the very concept. A leading centre becomes the leading centre by virtue of rallying others to it on the basis of its politics, not by first amalgamating all these others and, having done that, becoming the leading centre because there just are not (or according to In Struggle! should not be) any other centres. For In Struggle! of course, the logic of this is simple: what was understood as a leading centre in a Marxist-Leninist movement composed of many “centres” has been transformed into the leading centre in the working-class movement, i.e., the party.
What is the consequence of this? We have already quoted the position (in Section I of this article) we put forward to In Struggle! in our struggle for unity with them, a position which we took to be their position. Implicit in what we said was the view that groups must unite, in struggle, on the basis of their politics to the degree that they have developed them, that unity should not take place around abstract “principles”, that each group should not be concerned to produce a complete and perfect “political line” but should orient to those who have more developed politics, and that this approach is in a sense a form of democratic centralism on the ideological level because it involves recognizing and rallying to leadership rather than the arbitrary assertion of independence.
This view, consistent with the expressed opinion of In Struggle! in “The Tasks of the Marxist-Leninist Movement”, also takes a stand against amalgamation of politics in forming political line or programme. It assumes that the leading centre, comparable to Iskra, will be best able to put forward a body of strong politics and supplement and change this from what is learned in the ideological struggle.
But where In Struggle! rejected “amalgamation” and the “line fetishism” of small groups in “The Tasks.. .”, in ”phase two” it began to cultivate these things, speaking as if, yes, this was the normal way to proceed, but it is too difficult, or will take too long, and so, voila, we have In Struggle!’s new plan for its “organisation of struggle”.
Where in “The Tasks . ..” they had observed, and condemned, that
For many m-ls, in fact, the organizational unity of Marxist-Leninists will not be possible until the day when every collective or every small group will by itself undertake on its own basis the general tasks of the movement, (p. 19)
in “Fight the Sectarianism of the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist)”, this is legitimized:
In the present conditions of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement, which is composed of numerous groups at different levels of advancement ALL ENGAGED IN FORMULATING THE COURSE OF THE REVOLUTION IN CANADA AND ITS APPLICATION IN THE TASKS OF AGITATION, PROPAGANDA AND ORGANIZATION, which are aimed at rallying advanced workers to Marx-ism-Leninism, the struggle to create the party must advance through political and organization (sic) unification of the Marxist-Leninist movement. This unity must be achieved around a programme that correctly applies Marxism-Leninism to the struggle for socialism in our country, a programme that will be debated widely throughout the movement. Everyone will be able to situate himself in relation to the programme before deciding to participate in the creation of the organisation. ... (p. 53)
In their March 4 supplement, rather than polemicising against this tendency, they legitimise it by taking a position because of it.
This position is quite correct in the present conditions of development of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement, WHEN THE MAJORITY OF THOSE WHO MAKE IT UP HAVE NOT YET PUBLICALLY MADE THEIR POSITIONS KNOWN. (Our translation. P. 0)
As for amalgamation:
The Canadian Marxist-Leninists will only unite, and unite they must, on the basis of a programme they will share, a programme on whose elaboration they will have totally participated. Then there are chances (sic!) that the programme, profiting from the many but dispersed experiences of the whole movement, will go beyond the statements of theoretical principles, cut off from a true concrete analysis of Canadian reality, that remains the characteristic of the programme of the CCL(ML). (April 29, 1976, p. 6)
Metaphysical “principles” for the League, empiricism for In Struggle!
Why these changes? Why are they wrong? Again it is a matter of sabotage of the ideological struggle. If each group is mainly working in an introverted fashion to elaborate a whole range of politics, they will be less likely, given their limited resources, to prioritize struggle over differences when this does not fit into their timetable. The fact that these groups are working mainly at this rather than mainly struggling for unity with a centre which has more developed politics also suits In Struggle!’s plans in that these groups will consolidate and the movement will stabilize at its present point. In Struggle!’s “congress” will seem all the more an amalgamation of all or the majority of the groups in the movement. Furthermore, since this encouragement has been part of a campaign to win these groups to In Struggle!’s views on “unity”, in the degree that this is successful these groups will be tied to the relatively narrow framework of struggle that In Struggle! has defined – including the specific suppression of public polemics over fundamental differences.
On the other hand, if In Struggle! proceeded to unite these groups on the basis of adherence to all the aspects of In Struggle!’s present political line, there is the possibility that unity would fail in the struggle over some specific difference. Basically, In Struggle! is inconfident that it can rally the movement on the basis of its politics. Instead of taking leadership as a leading centre which first and foremost puts forward leading politics, they take leadership in the organisational side of the matter (always the experts here!) and are indulgent or vague about what the final political unity is that we must achieve.
In Struggle!’s inconfidence is double. It is inconfidence in its own political line and inconfidence in the ability of authentic Marxist-Leninists to recognize the correct political line and to actively rally to those who put it forward.
What is our position? Are we opposed to small groups participating as fully as possible in the Marxist-Leninist movement or in the rallying of the advanced workers? No; it is a question of what is principal and what is secondary in their activities.
Secondary is attempting to accomplish all the tasks of Marxist-Leninists in the movement and the “general” development of political line. Principal is the struggle for unity, the ideological struggle, with the de facto leading centres of the movement on the basis of the developed politics of these centres. For example, a group that is at a primitive level of development must not start by attempting to elaborate a general analysis of its own, unnecessarily duplicating work that has already been done in the movement. On the contrary, it must start with the positions as they have been developed in the movement, review them, and in the degree that they are found correct rally to them, acknowledging the leadership that has been provided, and if possible begin the process of rallying to those who put the positions forward.
But in so far as some or all of the positions existing in the movement are found to be incorrect, then it must strive to put forward the correct position in terms of and building on the positions that have been developed in the movement, explaining exactly why they are wrong and what the ramifications of their incorrectness are in connection with other positions and in relation to the struggle against right-opportunism.
And this must take a polemical form in both public and private struggle. We do not need groups intuitively rejecting positions that have been put forward, spending a great deal of time and energy producing an entirely separate analysis and presenting it to the movement for “comparison.” This is not the best and quickest way to lead and learn from the ideological struggle. In fact it is not “struggle” at all.
In conclusion: while only the party programme can be the basis for the negation of the movement, for the formation of the party and for the demand as a principle that all who claim to be Marxist-Leninists must be in it, this is not necessary for unity between any two components of the movement. WE MUST PROCEDE TOGETHER WHERE POSSIBLE. The procedure we have outlined, derived from the “rallying to a leading centre” concept of achieving unity, must be a principle in our movement. Our first task is always to ascertain whether direct and immediate unity is possible and to ascertain just what the differences are that are so fundamental that they prevent unity. Thus we will know better and quicker where the lines of demarcation must be drawn and will that much sooner be able to reveal (as opposed to “conceal”), and resolve, the “prevailing confusion.”
Our movement must go through the phase of circles. It is clear that we are smack in the middle of this phase. In this period an Iskra must come forward, a leading centre, in the form of a newspaper, with leading politics. But instead of “unity” with opportunists, i.e., with all who “call themselves” Marxist-Leninists and producing an “organisation of struggle for the party” or a party of the old type with two “legitimate” wings in it, this centre, having rallied the best elements (as Iskra had) must proceed to form the party undiluted by those who do not adhere to the lines of demarcation drawn around the programme for the revolution or the organisational principles of the Bolshevik party. This is essentially what happened in the Russian movement, in spite of the attempt at unity and the split with the Menshevik elements at the Second Party Congress.
By proceeding in the fashion we have proposed we aim at having achieved the maximum degree of unity before the formal formation of the party, so that the tying up of the loose ends of the movement (i.e., of the authentic Marxist-Leninist elements of the movement) will be a relatively easy task when it is time to call a party congress.
Note: this is not meant to preclude active struggle for unity with any other groups in the Marxist-Leninist movement.,/p>
We can anticipate an objection of the League (if we may indulge in the fantasy that the League will respond to what we say) to the view expressed here. They have polemicized in our movement against “the theory of cadres” which is, as it is explained by the Albanians (and fought by them) – the cultivation of cadres, isolating them away from the masses in little cells, or the cultivation of cadres as an end in itself rather than as part of an immediate plan. We are against the “theory of cadres”, too, of course, and say that the vanguard must be rallied in the masses. If, however, by attacking the “theory of cadres”, the League is trying to introduce Menshevik ideas into the movement against Lenin’s theory of beginning with an organisation of professional revolutionaries and against the idea of aiming propaganda at advanced workers, drawing them into a communist organization and “cultivating” them to a level where they can function as communist working-class leaders, we have disagreements with the League and its version of the “theory of cadres.”
There will be more on this subject of the “theory of cadres” in the coming issue of LD.
And we will observe in passing that if the programme of In Struggle!’s organisation is to be the product only of demarcation in the areas In Struggle! has outlined, and if the politics of the newspaper of this organisation are to be derived from this programme (which would be the correct way to proceed), the level of the political content of this newspaper is going to be lower than that of In Struggle! presently.
And to these people, the cadre of In Struggle! (and of the League, etc.) we say that we hope they will seriously consider the positions we are putting forward. The issue at stake is not a matter of “group” allegience in a movement where all are authentic Marxist-Leninists happily proceeding to the party each by their own route. It is a question of preparing the subjective conditions for proletarian revolution. These conditions will be prepared correctly or we risk the defeat of the struggle for power in a revolutionary situation.
Two members of the Bolshevik Union have polemicized against “line fetishism” in “Why Building the Party is the Principal Task” in CR no. 1. In part this polemic was correct but it was also incorrect and badly conceived on certain points. It was correct in that it spoke against the view, current at the time the article was written, that each small group should elaborate a whole “political line” and, presumably, unite by negotiating over it. It was correct too because it took a stand against the totally erroneous idea that each small group could independently “test” this line in practice without a party. The polemic also showed that “line fetishism” was at its essence just a cover for the continuation of Economism and did not confront any of the fundamental problems of Economism. This has been demonstrated quite concretely in that the adherents to liquidationist “line-fetishism” – specifically, the Toronto Communist Group and individuals from the Toronto Marxist-Leninist Collective – flipped right back into the grossest Economism as soon as liquidationism was defeated, even to the point of liquidating the struggle to develop political line itself. But, although the polemic was correct in rejecting the view that the development of a whole political line was the principal task for each group, it underestimated the level of unity needed in the party– the role of the programme in forming the party was not understood. This point deserves more attention, and a more detailed self-criticism of that article will appear in a future issue of LD.
Some examples of this: (1) the Workers’ Unity (Toronto) articles in CR no. 1 and 2 made no concrete references to the other positions existing in the movement. (2) The series of ”Documents” (especially 2 and 3) produced by the Cercle Communiste (ML), although they make several very good points in a general way, give little account of why their positions are different (or, often, that they are different) from the positions of the League and In Struggle!, and there is little attempt to estimate what the differences mean, how deep they go, etc. In both cases, the line of demarcation is not located or drawn.