Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

In Struggle’s article on “The path of the Canadian revolution”

A ’change in formulation’ which is nothing but an opportunist manoeuver

First Published: October Vol. 1, No. 1, Summer 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Since its creation, In Struggle (IS) has always had an incorrect analysis of the class contradictions in our country.

And it is precisely this analysis which permits us to define revolutionary strategy, and is therefore crucial. An incorrect analysis of class contradictions, particularly the principal contradiction, can’t help but lead to an incorrect strategy and thus lead the revolutionary struggle into a dead end.

For a year, the League unceasingly criticized these incorrect positions, particularly on the question that is most important strategically, the principal contradiction.

During that year, IS didn’t say a word, refused to debate and defend its position. IS avoided two-line struggle. And finally, IS recognized its mistake on the principal contradiction at its 2nd Congress, held last November. But the changeover was announced without any explanations. And IS didn’t present the slightest self-criticism.

Pressed to explain its position, IS then made an attempt in an article published last February, “The path to revolution in Canada” (Proletarian Unity Vol 1, no.3). But the article is another attempt to avoid two-line struggle: IS changes the “formulation” of the principal contradiction in a purely mechanical fashion, maintains the same incorrect position and in guise of an explanation of the changeover, it presents us with nothing but a caricature of a self-criticism.

The article is not the least bit based on the principles of Marxism-Leninism. It shows that IS refuses principled debate, refuses to use theory as a science and a weapon. Confronted with our political criticisms, IS has once again reacted in a completely opportunist fashion.

In its desperate attempt to maintain and defend its incorrect line, and because of its refusal to debate, IS is moving further away from Marxism-Leninism.

A change which had become inevitable

The situation had, in fact become intenable for IS. Its incorrect line on the class contradictions in our country had been widely criticized and it couldn’t go on, as it did for over a year, trying to avoid debates by keeping silent or by sidestepping the question.

It became clear for an increasing number of people, including members of IS, that the analysis given in their 1974 text on political line entitled The Creation of the Marxist-Leninist Organization of Struggle for the Party, (available in French only) was completely erroneous. IS stated:

The principal contradiction in Canada, including Quebec, opposes the Canadian proletariat on the one hand, to the Canadian bourgeoisie and American imperialism on the other.

The Canadian proletariat has two main enemies: the Canadian bourgeoisie which exercizes state power for its own benefit, political power over the working people on the one part; and American imperialism which through its economic power, its control over the major part of Canadian industry, commerce and even finance, exercizes its hegemony over the Canadian bourgeoisie, for the second part.(Creons l’organisation marxiste-leniniste de lutte pour la creation du parti, p.8 and 9, our translation)

IS showed its inability to draw a clear picture of the different contradictions in our country, its inability to make distinctions between our different enemies and identify the forces with which to oppose each one of them. On the contrary, IS clouded over the analysis of Canadian society, fusing together two contradictions (the one opposing the Canadian proletariat to the Canadian bourgeoisie and the one opposing American imperialism to the Canadian people) into one. And furthermore, in all this confusion, it completely forgot about the other superpower, the most aggressive of the two, Soviet social-imperialism.

In its analysis, IS denied the basic rivalry between two imperialist bourgeoisies by claiming that “American imperialism and the Canadian bourgeoisie have the same interests”. It thus draws near to Kautsky’s analysis of imperialism, severely criticized by Lenin, which acknowledged the unity and not the struggle between imperialist bourgeoisies, which saw only the “exploitation in common” and not the rivalry between them to continually extend exploitation.

These positions also showed that IS understood nothing about the analysis of the world divided into three. It did not situate the role Canada plays in the present international situation, nor did it see Canada’s relationship with the US as being one between a second world country and a superpower.

IS bases itself on a completely economist conception to explain its incorrect analysis. It states that the importance of American investments in Canada gives the American bourgeoisie “hegemony” over the Canadian bourgeoisie. Going completely against the Marxist principle which considers political power as being inseparable from economic power, IS separates the two, saying that the former is in the hands of the Canadian bourgeoisie and the latter in the hands of the American bourgeoisie. Finally, it clouds over the question of state power, saying that it is held by the Canadian bourgeoisie but that the Canadian bourgeoisie is “dependant” on its “ally and master at the same time”, American imperialism.[1]

In short, IS was incapable of identifying the principal contradiction in our country, the main enemy to attack, the key link to be seized in order to lead the struggle. It was incapable of formulating the other class contradictions in our country correctly and as a result was unable to trace a revolutionary strategy which could guide the proletariat to victory over the bourgeoisie.

After trying to work with this theoretical and political confusion which served as their political line for two years, and after being constantly criticized by the League, IS was thus obliged to change its position.

It is the second time IS has had to review its political line. The first time was in 1974, when they published “Creons...”

Up to that time, IS had never published their political line, and the only published text that could be used for reference, besides their newspaper itself, was Charles Gagnon’s book For the Proletarian Party.

This text put forward a completely erroneous, bourgeois nationalist line. It identified the national question as being the principal contradiction and put forward socialist revolution in Quebec only:

Among the contradictions which give rise to the present political struggles, it is the national question, that is, the confrontation between the autonomous trend in Quebec and the Canadian federalist trend, that is principal. This is so even if in the final run it is the basic contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie which will determine the future of the working class, as well as that of the Quebec people, that is, all the classes and strata of people exploited and oppressed by Canadian capitalism (and its Quebec fraction) and Yankee imperialism. (Pour le parti proletarien, p. 5, our translation)

As we have already pointed out, the major change in political line introduced by “Creons” (putting forward socialist revolution in all of Canada rather than in Quebec only) was not accompanied by any self-criticism whatsoever.

Now with its second congress and the publication of the text The path..., IS reviews its political line once again and makes, so it says, certain changes. Let’s have a look at what they are.

In Struggle has made no changes in its political line

Its 1974 text Creons... contained what IS itself described as all the characteristics of a schoolboy’s homework”, but what it has come out with now is closer to a “Marxian scholar’s” thesis than to a political line. The text is completely muddled and none of the arguments it presents to defend its positions are based on principles. The so-called changes made are a last-resort attempt to patch up its line and hang on to it at all costs.

Obliged to recognize that its position on the principal contradiction was incorrect, IS has formally adopted the correct definition (Canadian bourgeoisie / Canadian proletariat) with no self-criticism (we’ll come back to that) and all the while keeps the same basically incorrect analysis.

In fact, IS itself insists that it has only changed the “formulation” and not the analysis. IS describes the whole thing as if it were merely a quarrel over words!

As for the basis of its position, IS has changed absolutely nothing. It continues to speak of the two main enemies of the revolution in Canada.

In the particular conditions of Canada, American imperialism is the principal foreign counter-revolutionary force, as well as being one of the two main enemies of the Canadian revolution. (Proletarian Unity, Vol.1, no.3, p. 35, our emphasis)

The League’s “general line” refuses to recognize the political, economic and military alliance of the two main enemies of the Canadian revolution: the Canadian bourgeoisie and American imperialism. (Proletarian Unity, Vol 1, no. 3, p. 39, our emphasis)

That’s the kind of scientific analysis IS comes out with. It formally identifies the principal contradiction in our country as being between the Canadian bourgeoisie and the Canadian proletariat, and three pages later it names two principal enemies, the Canadian bourgeoisie and American imperialism! Have our comrades from IS forgotten that identifying the principal contradiction is precisely naming the main enemy, the main target of our blows?

IS just cannot manage to get out of its confusion. Seeing American imperialism as an important enemy of the Canadian proletariat and the people, IS is incapable of clearly and correctly situating this superpower as an enemy which is secondary in relation to the Canadian bourgeoisie.

By continuing to speak of two main enemies, IS shows that it understands nothing of dialectics and of the analysis of class contradictions. The entire text also shows that IS still doesn’t understand what inter-imperialist relations are and it continues to incorrectly analyse the Canadian bourgeoisie’s alliance with American imperialism. In its text, IS states once again:

When we affirmed that American imperialism and the Canadian bourgeoisie have the same interests we indicated that this was in a general way and that these common fundamental interests were first of all those of exploiting the Canadian proletariat and of participating together in the exploitation of many regions in the world. (Proletarian Unity, Vol.1, no.3, p.29)

Given that, as IS says, in general all imperialists have the same interests – to exploit the proletariat – then isn’t this exactly why they compete with each other? IS still can’t manage to understand this and continues to see the relationship between the Canadian bourgeoisie and American imperialism as being strictly a relationship of unity for “exploitation in common”. IS thus get deeper into its Kautskyist analysis of imperialism.

What’s more, right after presenting the “new formulation” it hurries to add:

Furthermore, we still maintain that the Canadian proletariat, in the accomplishment of its revolutionary task, cannot attack the Canadian bourgeoisie without also attacking American imperialism.(P.U., Vol.1, no.3, p. 33)

This statement, which is correct in itself, is put there only to convince the reader that IS’s analysis was basically correct all the time and that there was only a “small” problem of “formulation” in the principal contradiction.

But in fact, IS is incapable of correctly analysing the relationship between the Canadian bourgeoisie and the American bourgeoisie. In spite of its formal references to the world divided into three, IS does not see that the relationship between these two is one between the bourgeoisie of a second world country and the bourgeoisie of a superpower. It can’t manage to grasp the fact that they are two imperialist bourgeoisies, and that alliances between them don’t prevent their relationship from being basically one of rivalry. What interests imperialists is profit and to get it they will never hesitate to tear each other apart, to stab each other in the back, whether they’ve formed an alliance or not. Imperialists are out for only one thing: to expand at the expense of others, to conquer new markets, to submit peoples to their exploitation and oppression. Their alliances are nothing but pacts among thieves that are constantly broken, patched up, and broken again.

As we stated in our Statement of Political Agreement for the Creation of the CCL(ML):

The Canadian bourgeoisie has links with US imperialism that are in general similar to those a ruling class of any second world country would have with a superpower. By definition, then, this is an unequal alliance – all the more unequal because Canada is not a strong second world country as, say, France or West Germany. But nonetheless there exists struggle between the Canadian bourgeoisie and US imperialism. They are not two parts of a dominant class, but two distinct imperialist bourgeoisies.(Statement of Political Agreement, p.52)

And they are not two main enemies either! In analysing class contradictions it is necessary to have a clear understanding of this in order to foresee and make use of conflicts among our enemies. And this is all the more important in the present international situation, because it is a question of contradictions between a second world country and a superpower!

There is a dialectical link between the alliance and the rivalry between two imperialist bourgeoisies. It is quite clear that there is an alliance between the Canadian bourgeoisie and American imperialism. The alliance is an unequal one. And Canada, a second world country where American influence is very strong, often meekly follows this superpower’s “advice”. This doesn’t keep Canada from opposing American imperialism in certain circumstances as soon as it feels strong enough to do so.[2] The Canadian bourgeoisie defends only its own imperialist interests. In the relationship between the Canadian bourgeoisie and American imperialism, there is alliance between the two, there is domination by the latter over the former, and necessarily, there are contradictions between the two.

But IS understands nothing of all this. It speaks of alliances between these two bourgeoisies only to deny the contradictions between them and to justify its incorrect analyses.

Distinguishing one enemy from the other, correctly situating one in relation to the other, does not imply a softening of our attacks against them; on the contrary. All our agitation and propaganda in The Forge shows this. We relentlessly attack and denounce the two superpowers and the threat they represent to all of the world’s peoples. As for American imperialism in particular, we’ve explained and denounced its pressuring and its interference in our country through several concrete examples (the Garrison Dam, the Mackenzie pipeline, etc.).

Attempting to justify its erroneous line in spite of its “change in formulation”, IS repeats that American imperialism must not be underestimated, that it is very important, etc..., but doesn’t do much to denounce its activites concretely and regularly! IS can try to say that the League neglects American imperialism, but the facts are there to prove the opposite: it’s the League and not IS that has denounced American imperialism the most systematically from the start.

IS, by attacking the League on this question aims at a problem that doesn’t exist. And IS launches these attacks only because it refuses to recognize that the League has a correct position not only in its “formulation” of the principal contradiction, but also on the analysis on which it is founded, and thus on the analysis of the place American imperialism occupies in relation to the Canadian bourgeoisie, our main enemy.

IS is ready to use the most unbelievable arguments in order to keep from looking this problem in the face. Recently it came out with the following “new” analysis:

... by referring in a mechanical way to the fact that ”what characterized fundamentally the inter-imperialist relations is rivalry – rivalry which is absolute”, the League forgets that there exists an even more absolute contradiction, than the one opposing the imperialist bourgeoisies amongst themselves, and that it is the opposition of the proletariat to all bourgeoisies, to all imperialists of whatever country.(IS, Vol.4, no.15, our emphasis)

That’s a fine kettle of fish! One speaks of what is absolute and what is relative in a contradiction, and IS comes out with “an even more absolute contradiction”. Muddled enough as it is on the question of the principal contradiction, IS introduces a “novelty”: a contradiction that’s “more absolute” than the others! In other words the other contradictions are “more relative”? That makes no sense at all! It’s obvious that the comrades from IS don’t understand anything about the contradictions amongst our enemies (particularly inter-imperialist contradiction) nor about dialectics!

But over and above the theoretical confusion, what is IS trying to say? It tries to attack our analysis with the following argument: In the event of a proletarian revolution in Canada, American imperialism would surely intervene to counter it. Unfortunately, this is the worst argument IS could have found to defend its position! The argument in no way justifies speaking of two main enemies. For it is precisely because we have to expect armed intervention from the US that we must clearly identify the Canadian bourgeoisie and American imperialism as two distinct enemies in our revolutionary strategy.

This is why it is necessary to fully understand that we are faced with one principal enemy in Canada today, the Canadian bourgeoisie, and that the situation can change. The present situation and the one in which American imperialism would invade the country to counter proletarian revolution are two completely different situations that imply different strategies. IS forgets this entirely and tries to come up with an analysis that’s static, an analysis-for-all-seasons that could be applied to all foreseeable situations. And that’s exactly the opposite of a dialectical analysis.

IS tries to divert the debate onto something that’s already understood and agreed upon, something which we denounce constantly in our paper: the extent of the control, the interference and the pressures American imperialism exerts on our country. The question that has always arisen when analysing the concrete situation in Canada is where to situate this important enemy in relation to the Canadian bourgeoisie. Before the Communist Party of Canada degenerated into a revisionist party, this debate gave rise to important two-line struggles within the party. The question was clear: either the principal enemy is American imperialism (and earlier, British colonialism) or it’s the Canadian bourgeoisie. This is the same debate we’re involved in today and it’s also in this way that the problem must be presented, and solved.

But what IS does is try to side-step the question, to conciliate the two positions. It takes a kind of “half-and-half” position, hoping to unite everybody on the basis of opportunist compromise and on confusion. We can see the concrete results of IS’s attitude. Instead of helping to resolve the question one way or the other through debate and line struggle, the confusion fostered by IS gives rise to the development of all sorts of erroneous positions. For example, the one recently published by “Red Star Collective” and those of the counter-revolutionary group “Bolshevik Union”.

IS’s confusion on the whole question becomes even more evident when it ventures to speak about the other class contradictions in our country.

IS mentions a contradiction between American imperialism and the Canadian people, without developing it any further. As is to be expected, it does not identify this contradiction as being a secondary contradiction. It would indeed be pretty embarassing if it did, since one of the two aspects (American imperialism) is supposed to be a main enemy! IS does not elaborate on the subject any further, to tell us which struggles are to be led against this enemy, which forces we should rally to combat it. All these questions remain in the air.

And what happens to the other superpower, Soviet social-imperialism?

In issue no.77 of its paper presenting the positions that came out of its second congress IS says that:

The other imperialist states, including Soviet social-imperialism, should equally be considered enemies of the Canadian revolution.

This is unbelievable! In spite of the news coming in every day from the four corners of the world showing this superpower’s agressive and predatory nature, in spite of what Marxist-Leninists the world over say about it, IS sees the USSR as being just another imperialist country among others?

IS peddles this false, absurd and very dangerous theory in its newspaper, according to which Soviet social-imperialism would be no greater a threat to the Canadian people than would be other second world countries, like Switzerland or Belgium for example!

But curiously enough (and following our criticisms in Vol.2, no.2 of The Forge) the position expressed on the question in ,em>Proletarian Unity no.3 is no longer quite the same... We learn that we must “wage a fierce struggle against Soviet social-imperialism as well” (P.U., p.33), and under the title “The enemies of the revolution in Canada” and subtitled “The other imperialist states”, this is what we find on the Soviet Union:

All imperialist states oppose the proletarian revolution in every country, to one degree or another. Thus, we must count them among the enemies of the proletarian revolution in Canada. Particular importance, however, must be accorded to Soviet social-imperialism. First of all because, with American imperialism, it is presently the greatest exploiter and oppressor of the people on a world scale. And also because it is presently the principal hearth of a third world war. (The Path of the Revolution in Canada, p.30)

Might there be two analyses, one for its newspaper and one for its theoretical journal? Or might IS be beginning to understand, but without saying so, that our criticisms are justified and that it’s making a serious mistake in its analysis of Soviet social-imperialism?

Once again IS presents us, one after another, with two different positions. Once agains it contradicts itself, fostering confusion and ambiguity.

But having recognized the “particular importance” of Soviet social-imperialism, IS goes not a step further. It doesn’t draw any conclusions. It doesn’t make any concrete analysis of the Soviet Union’s threat against the Canadian people. It doesn’t give any indication of who can unite to fight against it. And it doesn’t say a word about who supports social-imperialism in Canada, in particular the Canadian revisionist party which IS systematically neglects to identify as an agent of social-imperialism.

Sometimes In Struggle talks about the division of the world in three and says the Soviet Union is the main source of war, and at other times it contradicts itself completely by saying the Soviet Union is on the same footing as the second world imperialist countries.

When In Struggle decides not to include the USSR in the secondary contradiction opposing the Canadian people to the two superpowers especially American imperialism, the group demonstrates that it doesn’t understand the great danger which Soviet social-imperialism, a superpower and the principal source of war, represents for all the peoples of the world, including the Canadian people.

IS shuts it eyes to the systematic plunder of our natural resources by Soviet fishing boats off the coast of the Maritimes, the same way it ignores the presence of a Soviet military base on an ice island in the Canadian north. IS prefers to put all these questions aside!

And we have seen the results of this in IS’s practise. This brought IS to compromise with revisionists like the Mayor of Nazareth, a member of the revisionist party of Israel and to write a prettied-up version in its paper of the conditions which social-fascism imposes on the Soviet people (see The Forge, Vol. 2 no. 2, p. 15). This also explains why it says that revisionists could take part in the fighback committees against Bill C-73 which they want to set up.

Thus IS didn’t change its analysis one bit. It simply tried to remove American imperialism from its “formulation” of the principal contradiction without understanding why, in an attempt to avoid our criticisms. This is nothing but a clumsy manoeuver to side-step the two-line struggle, and to avoid having to recognize fundamental criticisms. In Struggle conciliates with Canadian bourgeois nationalism, today just as it did when “Creons... ” was published, because it identifies two enemies in our country. IS refuses to take a clear position, it refuses to clearly say that American imperialism is not our principal enemy. This is an opportunist position which tries to conciliate opposing lines and analyses.

In analysing IS’s practice and political positions we can also understand the practical consequences of its incorrect line which, far from disappearing, are only getting worse.

Through its inability to clearly identify the Canadian bourgeoisie as the principal enemy, IS refuses to take class struggle as the key link.

Thus, in its report from its second congress, IS speaks of putting “unity [on what basis] at the center of its tactics of struggle”. (IS no. 77, p. 7) According to IS this “implies the struggle to democratize unions, and support to the movement to Canadianize unions, with a view to dislodging the reformist and anti-communist domination exercised in this area by the labour aristocracy and the union o bosses.”

This right opportunist position evacuates the struggle class against class and does not identify the fight we must lead within the unions to develop the proletarian trend, as being principal. Its position is dangerously close to the bourgeois nationalist position which maintains that our unions should be “canadianized” first and as for their class character, that will be taken care of later.

If IS understood what a principal contradiction was, it would see that stating it to be between the Canadian proletariat and the Canadian bourgeoisie means to take up the struggle class against class starting now, in our unions and everywhere else.

IS’s right opportunism is consolidating at all levels. In practice, it compromises with reformists, does not adopt a firm attitude towards revisionists, conciliates with bourgeois nationalism and refuses to lead the struggle to transform the working class’ mass organizations into organizations of class struggle. In its political analysis, it refuses to clearly identify the different class contradictions, does not include social-imperialism among them and does not clearly identify the Canadian bourgeoisie as our main enemy.

In Struggle scorns dialectics

Not only does IS not understand at all what an analysis of class contradictions is and why it is important, but, what is even more serious, it has taken a completely contemptuous attitude toward such an analysis. This is what IS says about our analysis of class contradictions in Canada:

In this respect the League must bear a particularly large responsibility. It has instigated what we could call the “grocery list” method of analysing classes. The procedure is simple; it consists more or less of lining up a series of contradictions, one of which is principal, another which is the most important secondary contradiction, the next secondary too, but a little less important, etc. (P.U., no.3, our translation)

This is all the consideration IS gives to the fundamental law of dialectical materialism and its application to the analysis of our society. IS calls it the “grocery list” method!

Marxist-Leninist theory teaches us that “contradiction exists in the development of all things and all phenomena”, that “there is nothing that does not contain contradiction; without contradiction nothing would exist.” (Mao Tsetung, Selected Works, vol. 1, p. 316). The law of the unity of opposites is the fundamental law of dialectical materialism. Marxist-Leninists must base their analysis of everything and every phenomenon on this world conception. It is by analysing the contradictions in the world around us that we come to know reality in order to transform it, in order to plan the correct strategy for the struggle. The great leader Mao Tsetung many times recalled the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin and himself elaborated the necessity of making a dialectical analysis of the world, of identifying the various contradictions in the world around us, particularly the principal contradiction. He showed that without this analysis it is impossible to plan a correct strategy or to achieve victory:

Hence, if in any process there are a number of contradictions, one of them must be the principal contradiction playing the leading and decisive role, while the rest occupy a secondary and subordinate position. Therefore, in studying any complex process in which there are two or more contradictions, we must devote every effort to finding its principal contradiction. Once this principal contradiction is grasped, all problems can be readily solved. This is the method Marx taught us in his study of capitalist society. Likewise Lenin and Stalin taught us this method when they studied imperialism and the general crisis of capitalism and when they studied the Soviet economy. There are thousands of scholars and men of action who do not understand it, and the result is that lost in a fog, they are unable to get to the heart of a problem and naturally cannot find a way to resolve its contradictions. (Mao Tsetung, On Contradiction)

Therefore, what IS is ridiculing when it refers to the “grocery list” is the very method of analysis used by Marxist-Leninists, the basis for the elaboration of revolutionary strategy and tactics.

What IS takes as a mere quarrel over words is in fact a fundamental debate over Marxist-Leninist principles. IS is putting the principles themselves in question.

IS displays the same contempt for theory when it speaks as though the debate on the principal contradiction were a matter of “formulation”. One would think that for IS the whole question is reduced to the arrangement of words on paper. It does not understand that debates over the analysis of our society are essential to make sure Marxist-Leninists follow a correct strategy. It does not understand that to make mistakes in an analysis, to make a mistake particularly in the identification of our principal enemy, means to plan an incorrect strategy. It means dragging the working class on to the wrong road and leading it to defeat.

For Marxist-Leninists the determination of the principal contradiction is an essential aspect of their analysis of all things and phenomena. And it is all the more imperative to clearly distinguish the principal contradiction, our principal enemy, when the situation is complex and the enemies to defeat are many and strong. To identify two enemies as IS has done is to make an anti-Marxist analysis that can lead only to defeat.

IS constantly talks about the necessity of making a class analysis of Canadian society. This task is an essential one and it must be accomplished. But IS opposes this task to the task of analysing class contradictions in Canada. However it is not a question of doing one or the other! A more detailed analysis of social classes will complete and deepen the analysis of the major contradictions in society. IS is using the problem of the class analysis to cover its incapacity to analyse the contradictions correctly, and to avoid being exposed by debating the question.[3]

By reducing everything to the necessity of “clearly determining who is in the revolutionary camp and who is in the reactionary camp”, IS is trying to conciliate all the divergent positions on the analysis of the principal contradiction. Most people would easily agree to put the Canadian bourgeoisie, American imperialism, and “all the imperialists” in the reactionary camp; the statement is general enough and it doesn’t take years of analysis to reach this brilliant conclusion! Where the struggle between Marxism-Leninism and opportunism, between the true and the false, begins is when it comes to situating each of these enemies in each step of the struggle, to making a dialectical analysis of the class contradictions in our country. This is precisely what Marxist-Leninists must do!

IS refuses to make this dialectical analysis. This analysis means deciding which of our enemies in the “reactionary camp” is principal at the present stage, and which of them could become principal under what conditions. It means as well to analyse what forces we can oppose to each of our enemies at each step in the battle. And finally, it means to analyse the contradictions within the two camps themselves to learn how to resolve the contradictions among the people, and how to use the contradictions among our enemies to the advantage of the revolutionary struggle.

IS is refusing to base itself on Marxist-Leninist principles to analyse its line and its errors. Towards theory it shows contempt and arrogance. IS understands nothing about the importance of political line and treats it as an intellectual exercise, a game of concepts and abstract ideas without practical consequences. It is not a matter of juggling with words, comrades. It is not a question of “formulation” either, but of how to guide the revolutionary struggle. We must show the way for thousands of men and women of the people who will devote their lives to the struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisie and build socialism. Marxist-Leninists bear a very heavy responsibility to analyse reality correctly. If the road they chart is to lead to victory and not to defeat, they must not stray from principles.

A caricature of self-criticism

Nevertheless IS has had to justify its “change in formulation”. The first thing it did was to innocently slip it into the report of the results of its second congress (In Struggle, vol. 4 no. 9). There it said, as though by the way, that “of all the contradictions in Canadian society it is the contradiction opposing the Canadian proletariat to the Canadian bourgeoisie which is principal.”

Confronted with this unexplained sudden change, we immediately denounced the absence of any self-criticism on the part of IS. We then insisted again on the importance of this question and we reaffirmed Lenin’s position on the attitude Marxist-Leninists must take toward their errors.

Frankly admitting a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, analysing the conditions which led to it, and thoroughly discussing the means of correcting it – that is the earmark of a serious party; that is the way it should perform its duties, that is the way it should educate and train the class, and then the masses. (“Left-wing” Communism, an infantile disorder)

We do not change our position on the analysis of the principal contradiction the way we change our socks! This analysis is the very basis of a group’s political line. It is no small matter to be wrong in the identification of our principal enemy!

It was altogether opportunist on the part of In Struggle to suddenly present its new position without any explanation. But how offended IS was at our reaction, calling us sectarian and waxing indignant that the League didn’t wait for the third issue of Proletarian Unity before demanding a self-criticism!

Then, by way of self-criticism, this is what IS gave us in their long-awaited number three. It begins by reducing the importance of the error:

For our part, we must admit that we have also committed an important error on the question of the path of the revolution in our country. This error was expressed in our formulation of the principal contradiction in Canada. (P.U., no.3, p. 33, our emphasis)

IS is not trying to analyse its error. It has been cornered into recognizing it and resists doing so. Refusing to recognize that the League put forward and defended the correct position on the principal contradiction from the beginning, IS is now trying to make us believe that its erroneous positions were not seriously wrong, but that it was only a matter of bad “formulation”.

As far as the analysis as a whole is concerned, IS tells us that “it confused two qualitatively different contradictions” and that the consequence of this was that it “considerably underestimated the struggle to safeguard our national independence”. And that’s it!

There is not a word about the effects of such an error on its practice, or how such a serious error could endanger the future of revolution in Canada. Neither is the error linked to IS’s right opportunism and economism in its work in the unions and other mass organizations. Neither is there any explanation of how this position conciliated with Canadian bourgeois nationalism.

IS does not even see that it is a right opportunist error which could lead to revisionism. Clearly IS does not see the gravity of the error, nor is it in the least trying to analyse the roots of it.

IS doesn’t say a word either about Marxist-Leninist principles used to analyse class contradictions. Why is it an error to confuse two qualitatively different contradictions? Why did IS make this mistake? What is it about dialectical materialist principles that it did not understand? How does it now intend to grasp Marxist-Leninist theory in order to analyse reality and avoid repeating the same mistakes? These questions do not interest IS. IS refuses to debate Marxist-Leninist principles of analysis, it refuses to use them as a science, as a weapon.

IS refuses to admit that its erroneous position confused the answer to the fundamental question: who holds state power in Canada? And that this confusion makes the character of the Canadian revolution unclear.

IS refuses to see that it is making a serious error in its analysis of imperialism and the ties between the Canadian and American bourgeoisies. Instead, it clings to its wrong position and tries to justify it by all means.

If we want to talk about dogmatism, here is a good example: like a parrot IS repeats after us the correct formulation of the principal contradiction in our country without understanding it, without basically changing its own analysis, and without putting this “new formulation” into practice!

All of IS’s verbiage has nothing to do with Marxist-Leninist self-criticism. For about five years, in fact ever since it came into existence, IS has always had a wrong analysis of the class contradictions in our country. This is enough reason for a serious inquiry. But no, instead IS “forgets” its self-criticism and, inviting ridicule, pompously declares in Proletarian Unity, no.2 (before The Path . . . was published):

We must never forget (sic) that the principal contradiction in Canadian society opposes the proletariat to the bourgeoisie and not the nation to an imperialist power. (page 35)

Not bad for a group which has always “forgotten” what the principal contradiction in our country was. After the League spent months trying to refresh its memory IS wakes up all of a sudden and comes forward as the great defender of the correct “formulation”.

Incapable of understanding what a self-criticism is, IS found it hard enough to admit that it made an error of “formulation”. It then rushes to “situate” the error “historically”, considering this to be a good enough excuse.

We should, however, situate this in historical perspective. Our erroneous position, originally published in Create the Marxist-Leninist Organization of struggle for the Party (op. cit.), was adopted at our group’s first congress. This congress was a major step forward in the struggle against bourgeois ideological influence within the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement, particularly in Quebec; and within our own ranks. In particular on the question of the path of the revolution in Canada, we broke fundamentally[4] with bourgeois nationalism by indicating that the struggle against national oppression in Quebec had to be integrated into the struggle of the whole Canadian proletariat both English and French speaking. (P.U., no.3, page 33)

Therefore, according to IS it is not a serious matter to commit a new error at the same moment as the old one is “corrected”. Twice in a row IS has made a completely erroneous analysis of the class contradictions in our country, but it doesn’t see this as a problem. It’s enough to change the formulation of the principal contradiction and, there you are, another “big step forward” accomplished.

And, IS concludes, never faltering, “This is how the elaboration of the revolutionary road always progresses” ...from one erroneous position to another.


The attitude IS has taken today towards its right opportunist positions on the analysis of the principal contradiction in our country is a serious mistake. The account published in Proletarian Unity no.3 of the positions taken at its second congress, especially the “change of formulation” of the principal contradiction, is nothing but deceit, an opportunist trick. IS is trying to fool the masses and its own members and sympathizers by saying that the big debate on the principal contradiction has now been resolved, and that all its errors were negligible, nothing but a question of formulation. Instead of educating, and raising the level of understanding of Marxist-Leninist principles, IS’s manoeuvers encourage contempt for and neglect of principles, and sow confusion.

A group which clings desperately to an erroneous position, which uses every means to justify it including ridiculing fundamental aspects of Marxist-Leninist theory, such a group can only, if it does not rectify its attitude, fall completely into revisionism.

IS comrades, it is more than time that you woke up and assumed your responsibilities. It is your duty to seriously analyse your political line, to study Marxism-Leninism in order to firmly base yourselves on its principles, to see where they have been badly applied, misunderstood, or even rejected in your political positions. Your duty is to take the criticisms of other communists seriously. Your duty is to lead the struggle against opportunism, especially when it is in your own ranks, and defend Marxism-Leninism everywhere without fail.


[1] For a more detailed explanation of our criticisms, see Statement of Political Agreement for the Creation of the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) and our pamphlet Against Right Opportunism in the Analysis of the Principal Contradiction.

[2] The control of foreign investment, Canada’s position on the 200 mile off-shore limit, and the recognition of the People’s Republic of China are examples. In other respects it’s clear that since the election of the Parti Quebecois in Quebec, and the deepening of the political crisis within the Canadian bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie has been weakened and forced to give in to American imperialism on several questions. (For example, on military questions and the concessions concerning the 200 mile off-shore limit).

[3] In vol.4, no.14 (page 8) of its paper, IS explains what a class analysis should involve and announces the great developments to come: “Moreover, one need only glance at the writings of Mao to see that the heart, the centre, of the debate was not around neat formulae. Rather it was around a class analysis, an analysis of the attitudes of different classes towards the revolution, in order to understand against whom we must fight and with whom we must fight; to understand with whom we can make alliances, in what circumstances and on what tactical basis. We invite the reader to read and study the article in the third issue of Proletarian Unity which goes more deeply into this question.”

But the reader in question runs the risk of being disappointed. Instead of a class analysis he will find only a description of the revolution’s enemies (of which we have already spoken), and a page-long list of generalities and confusion on the revolutionary camp. The reader will surely be grieved not to find the analysis explaining, as IS announced, “with whom we must make alliances, in what circumstances and on what tactical bases”. The same reader will also be surprised to find no Marxist definition whatsoever of social classes, such as the definition given by Lenin, for example, which is not even mentioned.

But the disappointed reader of Proletarian Unity will doubtlessly understand that he must arm himself with patience. IS explains that “such an analysis (of classes) is yet to be done” and that it can give us only the “general contours”.

After all the roaring about the necessity for a class analysis, Proletarian Unity gave birth to a mouse. The uproar served only to hide the necessity of defining the class contradictions in our country.

[4] Without self-criticism, let us remember.