Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Organization of Communist Workers (Marxist-Leninist)

The Mouvement Revolutionaire des Etudiants du Quebec

First Published: As Chapter 4 in The Movement for the Party, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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This polemic draws on two publications by the MREQ: Towards the Marxist-Leninist Organization and CPC(ML): A Caricature of Communism. The pamphlet Towards the Marxist-Leninist Organization is the MREQ’s major work on the question of Party-building. It is presented in ’opposition’ to two previously committed errors. First, the CPC(ML)’s “precipitation” method of Party-building, that is, proclaiming one organization the Party before the necessary conditions have been developed. And second, the MREQ’s own error of the “spontaneous conception” of Party-building, that is, passively waiting for the Party to be formed, or more precisely, for the necessary conditions to develop, and not actively taking up that struggle oneself. The MREQ intends to rectify its error by forming, as the title indicates, some sort of pre-Party organization. The purpose of this organization will be to “...immediately take up the work of building the Party – to prepare the conditions that will be necessary for its creation.” (MREQ Towards the Marxist-Leninist Organization p.18)

The ’conditions’ or “political tasks” which must be accomplished are: 1) concrete analysis of Canada “...(and Quebec in particular)...”; 2) “...to develop links with the working class and sink roots in the masses...”; and 3) “...to build the largest possible unity among Marxist-Leninists.” (TMLO p.17).

What is new in the MREQ’s formulation? These are tasks facing all organizations, groups and individuals within the movement. It is perfectly clear for a Marxist-Leninist that when there is no Party, our work must be directed to laying its foundation. Then why this talk of one organization “immediately” taking up the work of Party-building? Objectively, this entire process has been going on in our movement for the past few years. If the movement has been oblivious to the task of Party-building, if it has not been “taking up the work of building the Party” and of “preparing the conditions that will be necessary for its creation” then what, may we ask, has been going on? Perhaps we’ve just been suffering from an optical illusion when we see various groups putting forward their analyses of class relations in Canada and Quebec. Perhaps all those groups of Marxist-Leninists who are discussing various questions, trying to build ideological unity, are in reality not exchanging views, are not developing debate on line. Perhaps those group banners we see in demonstrations are a fiction. Perhaps the representatives of these groups inside the facteries and “at the factory gates” are merely figments of our wishful thinking.

Perhaps, but we think not. It is not our movement which has failed to pose the question of Party-building and begun working for it. No. The MREQ is imposing its own lack of “political orientation”, the fact that it did “not openly deal with the problems of proletarian revolution in Quebec and the rest of Canada”, and that it “avoided having to determine the tasks necessary to build such a Party” onto the movement as a whole. The tasks the MREQ outlines as needing to be taken up “immediately” are neither new nor original for our movement. They are new only to the MREQ, which has recently “gone through a process of study, research, analysis and discussion in order to deepen (its) political line.” (TMLO p.A). If it were not for its presumptuous attitude towards the rest of the movement, we would congratulate the MREQ for its ’discovery’ of the ’new’ tasks facing us. Indeed, if the MREQ had simply wanted to cease being a student movement, had wanted to actually rectify its petty bourgeois conception of Marxism-Leninism, had raised itself to a consistent Marxist-Leninist footing and had joined with the rest of the movement in our common effort, we would have reason for welcoming their appearance in the movement. But this is evidently not what the MREQ intended, for it certainly is not what it has done. Instead, it has put forward a ’plan’ for the entire movement based only on its own narrow experience and suited only to its own narrow aims. In seeking to foster its own errors and inadequacies onto the movement as a whole, the MREQ has revealed that its turn to Party-building is in fact only a continuation of its original narrowness, its guideline that served it so well when it quite openly based itself in the student, petty bourgeois intelligentsia. Where our movement has been struggling for correct positions on the major questions before us, the MREQ suddenly steps in and pronounces, with the impertinence of a college sophomore, “...we intend to begin a debate...” and “...we will conduct this debate...”. It may come as a surprise to our new arrivals, but this debate has been going on for some time before we were ’blessed’ with their presence, and will continue in a principled vein despite their generous efforts.

If the MREQ wants to contribute to the movement by “clarifying our tasks” and providing some direction to our work, that is in fact welcome. But, this contribution must be based on an objective analysis of the movement as a whole, its historical development to date, and must propose a solution for the movement as a whole. But as we will see, the MREQ is less concerned with the objective tasks of our movement as with the problems of substituting itself in place of the movement. Hence, the MREQ’s peculiar interpretation of the ’pre-Party organization’: the MREQ casts itself in the role of that organization.


A cursory reading of the MREQ’s position may give the impression that its ’pre-Party’ is to be merely one Marxist-Leninist organization among many, joining in the already ongoing work of laying the foundations for the Party. But this is not the case. The MREQ, which bases its ’plan’ on being one step behind the movement to begin with, is proposing to create The Marxist-Leninist Organization, a single Pre-Party. The MREQ states that its “three conditions” for the Party cannot be fulfilled by unorganized communists. Any communist would agree to this commonplace, but how does this relate to ’building’ one pre-Party Marxist-Leninist organization? Evidently the MREQ fears that the existing circles, pre-Party groups and organizations will not be able to accomplish the tasks of laying the foundations for the Party. How this single Pre-Party Organization will be able to succeed where its component organizations have failed is a mystery that the MREQ does not even attempt to solve. Instead it attempts to confound the movement with tautology:

Why must we create such an organization?

Because the three tasks defined above as conditions for the creation of the party can only be assumed by communists organized into a Marxist-Leninist organization. Ibid. p.18.

This attempt to confuse reveals only the MREQ’s confusion over the tasks before our movement and its decision to ’resolve’ them through its own factionalism: We, the MREQ, must create the Marxist-Leninist Organization. We, the MREQ, have been nothing but a student opposition in Quebec. But now, having finally discovered Party-building, we will create the movement in our own image. Such is the motive force driving the MREQ towards its ’pre-party’. It aims to carve for Itself and a few cronies a historic role as The Marxist-Leninist Organization. And why ’historic’? Because “Only this type of organization, once it is created, can undertake the building of the Party. Hence, its creation is urgent.” (Ibid. p.19)

Now the difference between this ’pre-Party organization’ and all the others becomes clear. This ’Marxist-Leninist’ organization, this ’historic’ creation of the MREQ, is the Party-in-embryo. At some point in its development, this ’Marxist-Leninist’ organization will be ’dialectically transformed’ into the Party. That is to say, at some point in the future it will simply declare itself the Party. This ’original’ plan the MREQ has graciously notified us of is in fact not at all original, but the brain-child of the MREQ’s mortal enemy, the CPC(ML). As we trace through the reasoning behind the MREQ’s ’pre-Party organization’ we will see exactly how much the MREQ has learned in its ’opposition’ to the CPC(ML) and how it has charted a course in every respect identical to the CPC(ML)’s. In the MREQ’s version, only the names have been changed to protect the insolent.

1. Liquidation of the Marxist-Leninist Movement: The Principal Task

The MREQ has conveniently ’forgotten’ someone in its scheme of things. The history of the international communist movement has shown that truly Marxist-Leninist Parties are built by the concerted efforts of the principled circles, groups and organizations within the communist movement. The MREQ’s ’plan’, however, presents us with the stark reality that their ’Marxist-Leninist Organization’ will “immediately” take charge of the process from here on in and prepare the conditions for creating the Party. What role does the rest of the communist movement have in this plan? The MREQ cannot be so overtly sectarian as the CPC(ML). To do so would expose the MREQ as the CPC(ML)’s counterpart. The problem before the MREQ is to avoid that exposure. It therefore issues its invitation according to what is within its reach “at a given moment” and makes its appeal to like-minded ’comrades’. The MREQ states that its ’pre-party’

– will be created only through the unity of all those who are ready to become members of the Marxist-Leninist Organization around a political line.

The struggle for the creation of the Marxist-Leninist Organization should not take place in an endless series of debates lasting a year or longer. On the contrary, we should establish the greatest unity possible at a given moment with those who are ready to move forward and create the Marxist-Leninist organization. Ibid. p.23.

This is the crux of the MREQ’s ’plan’ to establish itself as a ’leading centre’ of ’party-building’ in the movement. The “greatest possible unity” amounts to nothing more than the ’unity’ that exists “at a given moment”. Ideological struggle, the struggle to defeat opportunism and establish firm principles within the movement which the MREQ speaks of so much, is seen as “an endless series of debates”. The struggle to prove the correctness of one’s line and win the movement to it, an integral facet of Party-building, is now given a time limit of no more than “a year”. This is the MREQ’s view of the movement: We’ll give them, say, a year of ’debates’, and then “establish the greatest unity possible at a given moment with those who are ready to move forward.” The laggards will just have to fend for themselves.

Not only is the MREQ going to “begin” and “conduct” its own “debate”; on the same arbitrary basis it plans to end it whence cometh the new year. In the dead silence that follows, the MREQ’s ’pre-party’ will emerge. “Those who are ready to move forward” will, of course, do exactly that. Having nominated itself to open and close the ideological struggle within the movement, the MREQ is at liberty to determine its content. Those who oppose this time-table, who happen to think that ideological struggle should be waged to a decisive and principled end, ,who are not willing to settle for “the greatest unity possible at a given moment”, but who instead demand principled and comprehensive unity, obviously do not fit into the MREQ’s category of “ready to move forward”. Thus, the Marxist-Leninists are simply ’left behind’.

The MREQ’s ’plan’ for Party-building is based on the liquidation of the ongoing work of the Marxist-Leninist movement, and is, in fact, a sectarian ultimatum to the movement to ’accept’ its ’pre-party’ line within the year. One way or another we will be confronted with ’The Pre-Party Organization to create the Party’ , even though it will be comprised only of that opportunist section of the movement “ready to move forward” with the MREQ. The liquidation of the movement allows the MREQ space to establish itself as the ’pre-party’ without having to deal with the source of deviations and opportunism in the movement, and thus in itself. Rather than taking up a principled struggle to defeat the dominance of petty bourgeois outlook in the movement, the MREQ expresses and fosters that outlook. It gives the MREQ an excuse to maintain its Economism and general opportunist bent on the plea that “Only this type of organization ...can undertake the building of the Party”. The only way the MREQ can open the door for its exclusive ’Marxist-Leninist’ organization to build the ’party’ is to close the door on the movement and refuse to deal with it. With the communist movement and principled struggle thus out of the way, the MREQ is free to expand its circle into the ’pre-party’. From this basis it can “immediately take up the work of building the party”. That is it can then expand its ’pre-party’ faction into the ’party’.

But the MREQ’s demolition work is not quite finished. It has ’simplified’ the work of ’building’ its pre-party by liquidating the communist movement and the real struggle over political line. It now turns its sights to its ’party’. Thus far we were presented with three criteria for the transformation of its ’pre-party’ into the ’party’. But what the MREQ says in one breath, it takes back in the next. After setting up its criteria, the MREQ tells us that

These three tasks will of course be far from completed when the party is actually created. Communists will have to apply revolutionary theory to revolutionary practice, to strengthen their links with the masses, and to struggle for unity among Marxist-Leninists. These three tasks are thus also three essential tasks of the party. Nonetheless, we must recognize that an initial definition of the nature of the revolution in Quebec and the rest of Canada, and first links with the masses,and – certain degree of unity must be attained before the creation of the party. Ibid. p.17 (our emphasis).

From the “concrete analysis of the concrete conditions”, the MREQ lowers its standard to “an initial definition of the nature of the revolution”. From an organization that “will include for the most part the vanguard detachment of the proletariat capable of leading the struggle of the entire class” (p.18), established through developing “links with the working class” and sinking “roots in the masses”, the MREQ will now settle for “the first links with the masses”. And, from “the largest possible unity among Marxist-Leninists”, the MREQ descends to “a certain degree of unity”, the “greatest possible unity at a given moment”. It is obvious that the MREQ wants to make its ’transformation’ as smooth-going and imperceptible as possible. So imperceptible, in fact, that the borderline between The Marxist-Leninist Organization and its ’party’, or for that matter, between the MREQ and its ’party’, is virtually nonexistent. According to its watered-down criteria, the MREQ could go ahead and form its ’party’ immediately. It will not, of course, given the uncanny similarity this would have to the CPC(ML)’s declaration. But it will strive for the next best thing.

By liquidating the movement in its ’party-building’ plan, and by liquidating its own criteria, so as to efface the difference between its ’pre-party’ and its ’party’, the MREQ has facilitated its smoothly opportunist ’transition’ into The Party. But if the MREQ’s intention, as we have seen, is simply to declare itself The Party, then we too will join in asking: “Why must we create such an organization?”

2. The MREQ’s ’Predicament’ and Its Solution

It is obvious that the MREQ’s intention is to use its ’pre-party’ as a stepping stone to ’party’ declaration. As we have seen, the dividing line between the MREQ’s ’pre-party’ and its ’party’ divides very little, is only formal, and arises primarily because of the CPC{ML)’s ’precipitate’ example. But this is only one aspect of the MREQ’s opportunism. Another is shown through its immediate excuse for forming this ’pre-party’ organization.

If we apply the MREQ’s ’pre-party’ standards to its present existence, we find that by its own definition it is already functioning as its ’Marxist-Leninist Organization’. The MREQ has already ’analyzed’ concrete conditions, and determined what it “believes to be correct” political line on the “nature of the revolution” in Canada and Quebec. It has already defined and is putting into practice a “strategy for linking communists to the masses”, i.e. implantation. Even though the MREQ confuses its terms and refers to implantation as a “tactical” line also, the meaning is clear:

...implantation isn’t just one tactic among others, but the correct tactical line for Marxist-Leninists to develop links with the working class...Ibid. p.39.

As well, in Towards the Marxist-Leninist Organization, the MREQ has put forward “the strategy to follow for the creation of” a revolutionary party of the working class”, and is trying to ’build unity’ around its line with those “who are ready to move forward”.

Marxist-Leninist principle would guide those who were in fact aiming to contribute to Party-building to openly and actively extend the ideological struggle to try to win not “those who are ready to move forward” at any given moment, but the principled elements of the entire movement to its positions. Principle would guide such a group to fully participate in the life of the movement, making an “endless series of debates” a high priority, along with taking up the practical tasks, always trying to prove the correctness of its lines and the consistency of its leadership. But the MREQ opts out of this struggle, seeks to put a lid on debate and polemic by pleading the “urgent” necessity of its organization, seeks to move one giant step closer to its ’party’ without being hindered by the constraints of ideological struggle within the movement. On what grounds? The MREQ claims a peculiar predicament:

And indeed, MREQ...has never been and is not now a vanguard organization of the working class. As such, it cannot pretend to be the organization which, in its present form, will indicate the way toward proletarian revolution in Quebec and the rest of Canada. Ibid. p.3.

The MREQ knows very well what it would like to do, but ’unfortunately’ this cannot be done in its present form. If only the MREQ was in some other form, say, for example ’The Pre-Party Organization to Build the Party’, why then it could “indicate the way”. Evidently the MREQ has stumbled onto a new ’law of dialectics’: when we are in one ’form’ we cannot be principled and consistent Marxist-Leninists; but, when we change our ’form’ we undergo a miraculous transformation and become the vanguard of the proletariat. Obviously, a student organization cannot, at least since the Internationalists be a vanguard organization of the proletariat. Something ’new’ is needed. ’The Marxist Leninist Organization’ provides the needed solution. The MREQ “cannot pretend” to be the vanguard organization “in its present form”, but, rest assured, with its change of form the movement is guaranteed yet another ’pretender’ to that title.


The MPEQ has established itself in the national movement through its attack on the CPC(ML) and its supposed counter-proposal on Party-building. In fact, the MREQ and the CPC(ML) are like two peas in the same pod. What differences there are between them are not due to any fundamental conflict in views, but arise only because of the movement’s spontaneous rejection of the CPC(ML)’s ’party’ declaration. The MREQ must simply find another way.

In ’opposing’ the error of “precipitation”, the MREQ states:

It is...the correctness of the political line, and its application through links with the masses, that determines if a group really constitutes the party of the working class.

Certain people in Canada have already committed the error of proclaiming themselves the party of the working class without fulfilling the above conditions (namely the CPC(ML) and the CPL). Ibid. p.15.

According to this line of reasoning, had the CPC(ML) and the CPL developed “links with the masses” and had their organizations “developed and progressed”, this would have ’proven’ the correctness of their lines; then self-proclamation would have been in order. And needless to say, the same will apply to MREQ’s little group, which will ’justifiably’ lay claim to ’really’ constituting ’the party of the working class’ when it undertakes and accomplishes the tasks it has outlined for itself.

The main theme running throughout the MREQ’s Party-building strategy is that only its ’Marxist-Leninist Organization’ can undertake and accomplish the tasks necessary for the creation of the Party. It is precisely this outlook that stands at the heart of the most narrow circle mentality, a sectarian approach that threatens to split the movement once more and further block the political development of the working class. The MREQ sees the struggle for the Party as a battle among different groups, each vying for the title of ownership to the Party. According to this reasoning, only one of these groups “really constitutes the party of the working class”, only one can ’rightfully’ lay claim to the Party. Thus Party-building is reduced to a fight between those who are ’right’ and those who are ’wrong’ for proclaiming themselves the ’party’.

For the MREQ to ’correctly’ stake its claim, it must define its necessary ’conditions’, immediately take up its ’tasks’, fulfill these ’tasks’ and voila – the ’vanguard party’ of the proletariat. How long all this will take depends to some extent on the level of opposition the MREQ receives from the rest of the movement. But only to some extent. The bulk of the MREQ’s recipe calls simply for “the greatest unity possible at a given moment with those who are ready to move forward”, and we can rest assured that the MREQ will find sufficient elements ’ready to move forward’ to effect its ’party’ regardless of what the movement says about it.

This narrow attitude in our movement has put Party-building on the level of factional quibbling, with each ’pre-Party’ trying to outdo the rest. We cannot overemphasize the harm this brings to the movement’s development. In a situation that demands unity based on firm and definite Marxist-Leninist principles, we are given instead an appeal for unprincipled unity based on factional affiliation. On the plea of building ’the party of the working class’ we are given instead a classic demonstration of how to wreck the Party-building effort. The MREQ’s ’plan’ conveniently omits what is most essential in building a truly Marxist-Leninist Party, takes a sectarian stand towards the rest of the communist movement, and altogether ignores the role of the advanced workers in forging real Party unity. Taking its lead from the CPC(ML), the MREQ is bent on a course of ’party-building’ that in fact encourages the formation of a dozen separate parties. Those who are not prepared to “move forward” with the MREQ are, by implication, encouraged to go off on their own. Each group automatically assumes its lines are correct, creates its own criteria for proving this, declares itself in rapid succession the’centre’, the ’Marxist-Leninist Organization’ and finally the ’Party’. Such is the outcome of the MREQ’s ’plan’. Rather than fostering principled struggle it fosters petty competition, elevating the interests of its faction above those of the movement. What is this if not a crass expression of petty bourgeois hostility towards the working class.

In reality the Party is not the result of one group creating another which in turn transforms itself into the Party at some future date. In reality the Party is the result of the work of the movement as a whole. It is the organized expression of the transformation, not of one group, but of the movement from many scattered, disunited organizations with contending political lines into a single organization fused with the advanced workers and carrying the correct line for direction of the working class movement. It marks the development, not of one or a few groups, but of all the principled sections of the movement from a low level of political unity and practical work to a new, higher level of unity demanding consolidation into a new, higher form. The creation of the Party expresses the fusion of the communist movement with the working class movement on a national scale. As such, it can only be the work and product of the work of the movement as a whole.

This view is totally alien to our petty bourgeois new arrivals. On the one hand, as a typical expression of its inveterate egotism, petty bourgeois elements who attach themselves to Marxism-Leninism without completely rejecting their class narrowness view the movement, the struggle for the Party, the Party – all things of consequence – as stemming from themselves, from their ’precious’ circles. On the other hand, a common feature of petty bourgeois outlook is its rejection of all authority and discipline; a petty bourgeois wants to be his own boss. The motive force of the petty bourgeois is ’independence’, the free market, freedom of competition for his own petty enterprise. The denial of this ’freedom’ by the conditions of monopoly capitalism inspires the petty bourgeois to anti-authoritarian sentiments. The crushing of the petty bourgeois into the working class inspires resentment of proletarian discipline. These two factors account for the vacillations of this class, and its ability to objectify this vacillation by claiming to do one thing while doing the exact opposite. The MREQ claims to be building the Party of the proletariat; it is in fact doing everything in its power to sabotage that Party. It shows by its formulations that what it is in fact aiming for is a means to advance its narrow class interests at the expense of the proletariat.

The working class must exercise strict discipline and dictate to all those who take up the workers cause. The Party is the formalized, organized expression of the will and interests of the working class, enforces discipline and dictates the activities of the revolutionary proletarian movement. Prior to the formation of the Party, all communist work must come under the discipline imposed by the objective needs of the working class and communist movements. Our work must be based on an objective appraisal of these needs, must be in strict correspondence to the interests of the whole movement, and is always subordinate to that whole. But this is a bit much for our petty bourgeois centers of the universe. They must at all costs put their very own precious ’pre-parties’, their own petty enterprises, above the movement as a whole. Only then can they insure their independence, independence from the working class and from true Party discipline, and turn the movement into a market place for their petty competition. Despite their proclamations to the contrary, such ’party-building’ deprives the working class of its needed leadership and actively fights against its interests.

The CPC(ML) and the MREQ merely show us different sides of the same debased coin with which they hope to buy their way into the working class. What binds them together is that both start, as the MREQ so aptly says of the CPC(ML), “...from the interests of its organization rather than from objectively determining the interests of the proletariat and from that elaborating the duty and tasks of communists.” (CPC(ML) A Caricature of Communism p.29).

The MREQ shares with the CPC(ML) its indifference towards the movement; liquidates the movement when it has no use for it; bears the same narrow, factional conception of the ’party’; and presents the ’pre-party’ as an ultimatum to the movement in the same fashion. What distinguishes the MREQ is that it has had the ’good sense’ to launch its Party-building plan minus the CPC(ML)’s ’excesses’. Both were faced with the ’predicament’ of passing intact from student organizations to ’Marxist-Leninist’ organizations. Both employed the same ’change of form’. The CPC(ML) also did not want to ’precipitate’ anything, put forward the need for an “initial analysis” of Canada, and formed its pre-party organization to ’create the material conditions’ for party-building. The CPC(ML) also put forward what it thought was a correct political line, ’proven’ in practice by the ’development’ of its organization. The CPC(ML) even held to the ’correct tactical line’ of implantation, stressing the necessity for communists to carry on agitation and propaganda in the factories for party-building. And, of course, the CPC(ML) established a “certain degree of unity” with “those who were ready to move forward”. The CPC(ML) fulfilled each of the MREQ’s three criteria for party declaration. The MREQ is determined to do the same.


Given this uncanny likeness to the CPC(ML), the MREQ must steadfastly maintain that its ’plan’ for Party-building is in every way different ’in principle’ from its archenemy’s. It raises its ’opposition’ to the CPC(ML)’s declaration on two specific counts:
1) that before its formation, the CPC(ML) had “...not defined a correct political line or tested it in practice.” and
2) that the CPC(ML) was formed before it had ’linked’ with the masses, i.e. before it had established a “...more profound proletarian character. ” (MREQ Towards the Marxist-Leninist Organization p.19, P.17)

What the CPC(ML) lacks, we can rest assured that the MREQ will find its own unique way of fulfilling. But this cannot be done in its present form, as the MREQ. Someone would be sure to ask just what these students think they’re doing, with their talk of defining correct lines and rendering themselves a “more profound proletarian character”. Indeed. But, what could be more profoundly proletarian than to declare oneself The Marxist-Leninist Organization? Such possibilities! Under this new form, one could do anything. And the MREQ sets out to do precisely that. As we shall see, these two points of ’difference’ that the MREQ raises against the CPC(ML) serve as accurate indicators of what content the MREQ hopes to instill into its ’pre-Party’ and therefore, ’Party’, organization. What we find upon examination of these two ’distinguishing features’ is that objectively the MREQ denies the guiding role of Marxist-Leninist theory in determining political line, and on this basis, binds itself hand and foot to the tail of the spontaneous working class movement, to Economise.

1. Bowing to Spontaneity in Theory

There is no question that the CPC(ML)’s general political line for revolution in Canada is fundamentally incorrect, objectively places the petty bourgeoisie as the leading force of the revolution, and liquidates the dictatorship of the proletariat. The MREQ ’recognizes’ and ’opposes’ this basic error. The MREQ also places great emphasis on the importance of political line for developing communist work. But when we inspect its view more closely, we find that, in terms of forming the pre-party or Party, this emphasis is only sophistry. In the MREQ’s orchestration of things, the content of a line must play second to its ’testing’. This is brought out quite clearly in the MREQ’s ’critique’ of the CPC(ML):

One further point should perhaps be emphasized; by political line we do not just mean some abstract text or document which gives a good analysis of a situation.

The analysis must be translated into practice – into revolutionary work – in order for the organization to test the correctness of its perception of reality, see the concrete results of its work and rectify its errors.” p.25

Of course it is in practice that political lines are tested. What seems to look O.K. on paper can later prove to be false in practice. p.66 CPC(ML) A Caricature of Communism.

“Of course” there is a relation between theory and practice which “should perhaps be emphasized”, but all that the MREQ emphasizes is its one-sidedness. By associating theory with “abstract text”, and placing it in striking contradiction to “concrete results”, the MREQ reveals its own ’abstract text’ understanding of revolutionary theory and in fact denies the ’concrete results’ of the world-historical experience of the proletarian movement.

There is in fact a test that theory can be put to prior to its execution in practice. This test is not simply whether a theory ’looks O.K. on paper’ or seems to ’give a good analysis of a situation’. The first test that our theory must pass must be its conformity to the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism. These principles are precisely what the MREQ ’overlooks’ in its anxiety to push its own ’theory’ over on us. From the MREQ’s standpoint, we would simply have to sign up in their ’Marxist-Leninist Organization’, proceed to declare the ’Party’, engage in whatever work it deems fit, and only after, say, thirty or forty years of failing to bring about the revolution could we then say on the basis of this ’concrete result’ that the MREQ’s plan was bankrupt after all. But we cannot be so generous with the life of the revolution. All that is necessary is thirty or forty minutes with the MREQ’s theory to determine, on the basis of the ’concrete results’ of the international proletarian movement, that this ’plan’ is nothing more than subversion of our Party-building effort. What ’looks O.K. on paper’ to the MREQ is one thing; the principles of Marxism-Leninism are something else. What the MREQ has put on paper is simply its opportunism, opportunism achieved through the rejection of Marxist-Leninist principles, on the plea of waiting for “concrete results”.

Following from this opportunist defense of its ’theory’, the MREQ assures us that it will apply the same pragmatic criteria to the rest of us:

It is not surprising that militants belonging to different groups with varying experiences should not have entirely the same point of view on the tasks to accomplish at the present time. However, in the final analysis, it is the practice of the Marxist-Leninist organization that will determine the correctness of these positions. Towards the Marxist-Leninist Organization p.23/

Here we must give the MREQ its due as an adept at opportunist subtlety. Where the Bolshevik Tendency brazenly quacks about the “constant flux of all things”, the MREQ speaks in an ’understanding’ tone about the “varying experiences” of varying groups. If each group determines its “point of view” on our tasks from its own “varying experiences”, this can only mean that there is no objective basis to draw on and measure against; each group would rely on its own direct experience alone. It follows that the only way to judge correctness would be to ’test’ each ’view’ in practice, precisely what the MREQ proposes. In this passage the MREQ is not only admitting that its ’theories’ on our present tasks stem from its own narrow experience; it is drawing the ’logical’ conclusion of its argument for all groups: the impossibility of determining objective, scientific line prior to practice. This is nothing more than the denial of Marxism-Leninism as a guide and measure for our work. What the MREQ offers us instead is an anarchy of ’varying experiences’ and ’varying views’ whose consequences can only be known in the ’practice’ of its very own ’Marxist-Leninist Organization’. It is only in such an unprincipled anarchy of political lines that the MREQ could hope to pass itself off as a viable trend.

The MREQ ’forgets’ the fact that each and every plan put forward in the movement has a definite class content and basis. Communists cannot simply advance their plans on the plea that, being from ’their own varying experiences’, they must be ’tested in practice’ before the content can be correctly judged. The MREQ ’forgets’ that Marxism-Leninism provides us with the means for accurately determining which lines speak in the interests of the proletariat and which do not, of drawing clear and definite lines of demarcation long before each line has been ’properly tested’ by the MREQ’s method.

In fact, the MREQ has forgotten nothing, since it had grasped none of this to begin with. The MREQ has put forward an opportunist proposal for advancing itself and whoever is willing to go with it one giant step towards declaration of themselves as the ’party’. Its ’view’ of testing line is in perfect accord with the other elements of its ’party-building’ plan. Proclaiming the necessity of ’testing’ only by direct practice is fully complemented by its hostility toward ideological struggle, that “endless series of debates” which would openly expose the MREQ’s ’plan’ as one more sectarian move towards yet another ’party’.

The MREQ is desperately trying to convince the movement that it is different, more principled than the CPC(ML). Yet at every turn we find it consistently tailing after the CPC(ML)’s ’party-building’ program. It accepts the idea of one section of the movement forming an organization whose purpose is to declare itself the ’party’. From this basic point of ’unity’, it tries to demarcate itself on the basis of the differing political lines of itself and the CPC(ML). However, its method of ’testing’ the line demands only ongoing, direct experience, and consequently renders the content of its line subordinate to and dependent upon its Marxist-Leninist Organization. The distinguishing feature of its political line is thereby liquidated until after its ’plan’ is completed. At this point, once it has eliminated Marxism-Leninism as the standard of measurement for correctness of line, the MREQ concludes exactly the same pragmatic criteria that the CPC(ML) has maintained for years:

If an organization has correctly defined its tasks and correctly evaluated the situation in which it finds itself, if its line is correct, it will be successful in its work. For a communist organization this means that if it has correctly applied Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions it will develop and progress. CPC(ML) A Caricature of Communism p.25.

The CPC(ML), you see, simply states that its line is correct and that this accounts for its development from a “small organization to a relatively large”, “from a low level to a higher”. Whereas we, the MREQ, offer something entirely new. We, the MREQ, state that our line is correct, and this will account for being “successful in its work”, for our ’development and progress’. We, the MREQ, deny that the CPC(ML) is the Party, and boldly state that it is a caricature of communism. We, the MREQ, choose to offer our own unique caricature of communism: we ourselves will become The Party.

Once it has established that the direct practice of its pre-party is the only means ’ testing its line, the MREQ has guaranteed the ’correctness’ of its formulation. It will proceed to its proposed ’Marxist-Leninist Organization’ irrespective of criticism levelled against it. But from that point it will be forced to proceed more carefully. The movement is not completely insensitive, after all. In order to proceed with as little friction as possible, the MREQ must begin to ’prepare conditions’. If someone points out the opportunist basis of the MREQ’s ’plan’, it can always reply that

Mistakes in analysis are inevitable, but with practice and study they are corrected. Above all, it is necessary for an organization to sum up its experience. A good understanding of criticism, self-criticism can help correct many errors. Ibid. p.19.

Quite right. But from a group which objectively liquidates the role of Marxist-Leninist theory, and shows this concretely in its contempt for ideological struggle, no amount of ’criticism-self-criticism’ will bring them a shade closer to a principled line. The MREQ has already demonstrated that it will ’correct’ its very inevitable errors, not on the basis of Marxist-Leninist principles, but through the process of summing up its ’concrete results’. In short, it will employ, not criticism, but Economism. “Mistakes in analysis are inevitable”. True enough. But just how frequent and severe those mistakes are depends entirely on how firmly rooted an organization is in Marxism-Leninism. The ’mistake’, rather, the gross distortion of Marxism-Leninism that the MREQ has evolved, is not at all inevitable for anyone who simply takes the time to find out what it is they’re doing. It is inevitable only for unrestrained petty bourgeois intellectuals who presume to “teach what they have not learnt”. When this opportunism is exposed, it is not enough to simply ’repudiate one’s line’ through a formal and hypocritical ’self-criticism’.

If the MREQ maintains its conception of the Marxist-Leninist Organization to declare the ’party’, based on its criterion for determining the ’correctness’ of its line, the stage will be set for its more or less rapid conversion into the ’Party’. Whatever high-sounding names they may give themselves, it is clear that the basis and method of their formation clearly reflects their opportunist content. That is, on the one hand, a factional attitude to the communist movement as a whole; and on the other hand, because it can only develop its theory-as-a-process, a tailist approach to the spontaneous working class movement. Both are classic means by which the petty bourgeoisie attempts to preserve itself intact while rallying a section of the working class behind its own narrow aims. This is the ’higher stage’ the MREQ wishes to bring us to. This is its ’solution’ to the backward state of our movement. It is in fact no different than the ’higher stage’ and ’solution’ already achieved by the CPC(ML).

2. Bowing to Spontaneity in Practice: Implantation

Having declared its political line ’correct but tentative’, and its pre-’party’ Organization the necessary means for simultaneously ’proving’ this line and uniting ’those who are ready’, the MREQ has only one remaining obstacle before it: “linking communists to the masses”. Its solution to this obstacle is as far from Marxism-Leninism as the universities are from the industrial districts. The MREQ poses, not fusion, but Economism; not raising the level of the advanced workers, but lowering the level of communists to that of the most backward workers. Its entire focus is the economic struggle; it intends to ’win the masses’ to Marxism-Leninism by leading the spontaneous struggle and providing concrete, palpable results in opposition to political propaganda , agitation, and the combination of the economic and political struggles; it eliminates the scientific conception of the advanced workers and thereby eliminates them from the Party-building process; and generally lowers Communist work to militant trade unionism.

a. The Question of Proletarian Character

The MREQ maintains that it is “premature to create the party immediately” because it would not have a “profound proletarian character”. What with all its emphasis on the importance of political line, one would think that the MREQ’s concern here is with trying to develop truly proletarian content in the work of its proposed Marxist-Leninist Organization. But that is not at all the case. Its understanding of “profound proletarian character” is not the least profound. What it aims to create is a profoundly opportunist proletarian caricature, a justification for its planned metamorphosis out of its student form.

For a revolutionary militant, integration with the working class is an important form of re-education through contact with the masses. It is only through the integration and constant linking of its militants with the masses that a Marxist-Leninist organization will take on a truly proletarian character. ...this does not mean that a militant who has not worked in a factory cannot have a proletarian world view; but it certainly does mean that a revolutionary organization cannot really be proletarian while the majority of its militants are not implanted in the midst of the proletariat. Towards the Marxist-Leninist Organization p.37

We may ask: Since when does a Marxist-Leninist organization send its militants into the factories to transform their ideology? Proletarian ideology arises outside of the spontaneous struggle, outside of the sphere of relations between labour and capital. It is the task of communists to bring this ideology, this scientific summation of the relations among all classes and strata, to the working class; not vice-versa. But the MREQ, in its caricature of Marxism-Leninism, ’goes amongst the workers’, not to take the workers class consciousness, but to rub elbows with them in the hopes that this ’organic contact’ will render their organization ’profoundly proletarian’. How this is to be of any service to the working class movement is a mystery.

In fact, the presence of any petty bourgeois new arrival, no matter how ’militant’, inside the factory gates says nothing at all about ’proletarian character’, proletarian outlook, or grasp on Marxism-Leninism. However the MREQ prettifies its geography, the fact remains that the majority of ’militants’ who ’integrate with the working class’, who find themselves inside the factories, have very little choice in the matter. The militancy of petty bourgeois elements stems precisely from the fact that imperialism has closed the door on their petty bourgeois aspirations. They find themselves “implanted” in the working class, not out of the conscious plan of any organization, but from the necessities of existence. Their ’re-education’ consists in the denial of fulfilling petty bourgeois ambitions and learning to accept their ouster from privileged society. They do not on this account completely abandon their petty narrowness and through ’contact with the masses’ take on a scientific outlook. On the contrary, petty bourgeois outlook finds its natural complement inside the factory in the form of trade union reformism, is reinforced and given a ’proletarian’ character. It is classic that a student organization, the MREQ, having outlived its usefulness on the university, having exhausted its formal education in bourgeois ideology, having found that all the degrees in the world would not secure its place in privileged society, and having found that there was in fact nowhere to go except into the factories, it is classic that these students would justify their declassed status with high-flown phrases about “integration with the working class”, “re-education”, “profound proletarian character” and so on. Our students can then fall in behind the tail of the spontaneous workers struggles, strive for ’palpable results’, pat themselves on the back for ’transforming’ their student militancy into trade union militancy, and pretend that all of this is occurring by conscious design. There is in fact a degree of ’consciousness’ involved here, but it is only consciousness of one’s narrow aims and how to go about achieving them – in short, opportunism.

The MREQ maintains that a factory job is not necessary to develop a proletarian standpoint, but this is in contradiction to the logic of its argument. It states that its Organization can only “really be proletarian” when the majority of its ’militants’ are in the factories. But if this is the case, it also follows that an individual ’militant’ can also “really be proletarian” only when implanted. What holds for one must hold for the other. Likewise with ideological outlook. If the ideology of the ex-petty bourgeois ’militants’ gets transformed “through contact with the masses”, then so also must the ideology of the Organization. The MREQ, of course, cannot draw this conclusion. It would be openly admitting that there can be no “re-education” of its militants because the Marxist-Leninist Organization has in no way been ’transformed’, and has set itself squarely at the tail of the spontaneous movement.

The MREQ’s concern for prettifying itself, for giving its Organization a “profound proletarian character” by association, denies the role of conscious communist leadership and thereby liquidates the most important task of communists – the ’re-education’ of the working class. What the MREQ proposes is not conscious leadership of the working class, taking the working class beyond trade union reformism, but the training of its ’militants’ in the art of trade union reformism. What the MREQ proposes is not “sinking roots in the masses”, but sinking roots in what is most near and dear to it, the struggle for petty reforms:

This link between the communist movement and the masses must take place through sinking roots in the masses in order to lead the day-to-day struggles of the workers with and among them. In this way Marxist-Leninists will arrive at a better understanding of the living conditions of working people, and of their needs. Little by little Marxist-Leninists will come to lead the most militant sections of the working class, because they will show through their actions and their devotion that they are the people who struggle the most resolutely for the interests of the working class. Ibid. p.16.

We could not ask the MREQ for a more succinct expression of their subservience to spontaneity. According to the MREQ, communists do not appeal to the advanced workers, but only to “the most militant sections”, that is, to the militant trade union struggle. Communists educate the class, as our students have it, not through propagandizing the inter-relations among all classes and strata, not through political exposure and agitation, but simply through ’leadership’ of the day-to-day, i.e. economic struggles of the workers against their employers. But that is not all. Even to lower communist work to the level of trade unionism will necessitate some ’re-education’ of our militants so that they “will arrive at a better understanding of the living conditions of working people, and of their needs”. One cannot, after all, pass directly from the university to the trade union struggle. The MREQ’s earlier counterposing of ’abstract’ theory to ’concrete results’ has borne fruit. It has concocted a theory that delivers it from the responsibility of providing truly communist leadership, relieves it of the ’burden’ of standing at the head of the workers movement. Instead it offers us the ’far-reaching’ task of showing ’devotion’ in the struggle for trade union demands, of achieving ’concrete results’. Such is our students’ conception of “profound proletarian character”.

As we will see, the MREQ’s idea of the role of communists in the working class does not stop at the ’re-education’ of its militants. It is a fully elaborated Economist system encompassing the conduct and content of propaganda and agitation, the relation of the economic and political struggles, strategy for building the Party, and so on. Once its militants have been ’re-educated’ and fit for trade unionism, it is then a matter of giving the trade union struggle itself a ’political’ and very ’proletarian’ character by making it the focus of ’Party’ work.

b. Inside versus Outside

For the MREQ, the main problem in the ’fusion’ of the two movements is “...exactly how is this linking of Marxism-Leninism with the working class to be accomplished?” It is this question that will occupy center stage for the soon-to-be ’Marxist-Leninist Organization’, since its practice will also be the acid ’test’ for its presumedly correct theory. What is the MREQ’s solution?

We feel that the correct way in which a revolutionary organization should bring about this link is to join with the working class, to have militants inside the factories and other workplaces. This practice of placing militants in factories is often called implantation. Ibid. p.35.

“Implantation”? “Placing militants in factories”? Truly ingenious! But then, it has been a fairly common practice in the history of the world communist movement for communists to enter the factories to organize the working class. We seem to remember something about ’factory nuclei’ and making ’every factory our fortress’. Why, then, has the MREQ chosen to be so ’ingenious’ and concocted a fancy new word, “implantation”, to describe a very old phenomenon: “going amongst the workers”? Simply to provide a basis, a new and unique slogan, behind which it can develop its Economism. As Lenin noted when the descendants of the original Economists, the Mensheviks, raised the old slogan “To The Masses” in 1905:

There is nothing more warranted than the urging of attention to the constant, imperative necessity of deepening and broadening, broadening and deepening, our influence on the masses, our strictly Marxist propaganda and agitation, our ever-closer connection with the economic struggle of the working class, etc. Yet, because such urging is at all times warranted, under all conditions and in all situations, it must not be turned into special slogans, nor should it justify attempts to build upon it a special trend in (communism). A border-line exists here; to exceed the bounds is to turn this indisputably legitimate urging into a narrowing of the aims and scope of the movement, into a doctrinaire blindness to the vital and cardinal political tasks of the moment. V.I. Lenin, On Confounding Politics with Pedagogics, CW Vol.8 p.452.

Since it has sprung from the petty bourgeoisie, the MREQ cannot help but recognize that it is physically outside of the working class. It hopes, however, to avoid recognizing, through a barrage of phrases, that it is also in every respect outside the working class ideologically. The ’link’ the MREQ provides – ’implantation’ – is solely a physical link, but it presumes that such ’linking’ will also pass for ideological fusion. What it achieves in fact is not fusion of the two movements, but confusion of the two movements.

The MREQ has self-criticized for previously emphasizing their “position as students rather than as revolutionaries”. In this emphasis, they advocated “taking the side of the workers”, which meant only to “actively support them wherever they struggle against capitalist exploitation” (TMLO p.3). Now the MREQ has taken the ’tremendous leap’ from “mere support for the working class struggles to direct involvement in struggles for the purpose of leading them”. Formerly, the MREQ students cheered on the trade union struggle from the outside. But now, you see, our ’revolutionaries’, having ’implanted’ themselves, will cheer on and lead the trade union struggle from the inside. Still suffering from the shock of ’implantation’, our students have ’forgotten’ that it may be in fact the task of petty bourgeois militants who have no intention of organizing a revolutionary workers’“ movement to take the lead in the economic struggle, to show their ’devotion’ to trade unionism, but this has nothing in common with the tasks of Marxist-Leninists.

Marxist-Leninists have no need to give fancy names to the most elementary prerequisites of communist work, to isolate those elementary tasks and make it appear one is ’revolutionary’ for having achieved them. All Marxist-Leninists would agree to the importance of concentrating our efforts on the large industrial districts, on developing active work within the plants to win the industrial proletariat. The real question is not where we should be, but how to conduct our work on a communist basis, how to raise the workers’ political consciousness, how to draw out the advanced workers and bring them into revolutionary work. To raise the necessity for communists to be within the working class, to raise this as a special theory and slogan while glossing over the content of what is done within the factories, is in fact to deny the role of communists within the class. The MREQ is striving, not for fusion with the advanced workers, but simply for a ’link’ with militant trade unionism. This is all that it achieves with its theory of ’implantation’. As it turns out, there was no need for them to rack their brains for such a fancy name; the CPC has achieved the same result, minus the ’creativity’.

Once ’inside’ the MREQ proposes to lead the day-to-day struggle by “...working and struggling with the workers...” and in this way ’prove’ that they are the ’best defenders’ of these everyday interests. That is, they intend to win the workers to ’Marxism-Leninism’, to themselves, through militant trade unionism. What, then, distinguishes them from the indigenous trade unionists? Any good trade unionist is ’directly involved’ and even ’leading’ the day-to-day spontaneous struggle of the workers. Any good trade unionists can easily prove to be the ’best defenders’ of these immediate interests. Perhaps the MREQ will remember Lenin’s words that

the trade union secretary of any, say British trade union, always helps the workers to conduct the economic struggle, helps to expose factory abuses, explains the injustice of the laws and measures which hamper the freedom to strike and the freedom to picket, explains the partiality of arbitration court judges who belong to the bourgeois classes, etc. etc. In a word, every trade union secretary conducts and helps to conduct ’the economic struggle against the employers and the government’. It cannot be too strongly insisted that this is not yet (communism). V.I. Lenin, What is to be Done? Foreign Languages Press Peking p.99.

What distinguishes the MREQ from the run-of-the-mill trade unionists is that the MREQ proposes to put the trade union struggle under ex-student, petty bourgeois leadership and call it ’Party’ work. Militant trade unionists are simply workers who have not got beyond the spontaneous struggle of the working class. Our MREQ ’militants’ are simply petty bourgeois opportunists who have not got beyond their narrow class outlook and show that they have no intention of abandoning it. The fact that they pursue petty bourgeois interests under the name of Marxism-Leninism makes them, from the standpoint of Marxism-Leninism, completely reactionary.

The MREQ has ’considerably simplified’ the tasks before our movement. So much so that they cease to exist. Formerly our task was to show the workers the limits of trade unionism, to combine the economic and political struggles into one integral class struggle, to oppose all attempts to limit the workers to the spontaneous struggle, to raise the working class to conscious political struggle for state power. But, the MREQ informs us, things are not that complex. What is essential, it states, is to show that we are the “best defenders of the interests of the working class”. This will be achieved quite militantly, of course. We must go ’with and among’ the workers, producing concrete, palpable results in the struggle for the workers’ immediate needs. In short, we must simply prove ourselves better trade unionists than the present trade unionists themselves. With such high criteria for fulfilling its final ’material condition’ for the ’Party’, the MREQ should have no trouble at all. With the criteria for communist work reduced to being the ’best defenders’ on the ’inside’ of the day-to-day struggle, one simply groups together all the militant, ex-student trade union ’leaders’, and voila, the MREQ’s ’Party’. How delightful for the bourgeoisie, to see this new ’Communist Party’ trying to win the confidence of the workers in the same way it does – through the tangible, concrete results of reforms and concessions. How delightful for the bourgeoisie, since it is prepared to deliver the goods a thousand times over what the MREQ’s ’Party’ could present.

Not to be left behind in the “constant flux of all things”, the MREQ informs us that its “...process of integration with the working class is a dialectical one.” Indeed. It is so ’dialectical’, in fact, that it achieves the negation of its stated purpose. The ’revolutionary militants’ who were to provide communist leadership to the trade union struggle are ’transformed’ into their antithesis: reformists tailing behind that struggle. Its ’plan’ for spreading Marxism-Leninism among the workers is likewise ’transformed’ into a plan for spreading ’Marxist-Leninists’ among the workers. In fact there seems to be no end to this ’dialectical’ process. The MREQ, for example, sets out to advance the interests of the working class, and ends in advancing the interests of the bourgeoisie. How chock-full of contradiction! How teeming with dialectical subtleties. The MREQ has shown that it has fully mastered the ’dialectics’ of modern opportunism, the ability to say one thing while doing the opposite. The law of contradiction at work here, however, is simply the antagonism between the interests of the petty bourgeoisie and the interests of the working class. The MREQ’s ’solution’ to this contradiction is to simply deny one’s petty bourgeois affiliations and proceed to gravitate towards what one is most familiar with. For the MREQ this means the struggle for ’concrete results’, i.e. trade unionism. And it is precisely this that constitutes their Economism. Anyone in the least familiar with Marxism-Leninism knows that those who in any way attempt to limit the workers to their spontaneous trade union struggle, who, in the words of Lenin, make “...this struggle the exclusive (or, at least, the main) starting point...the exclusive, or at least, the main basis” of their work, and who invent theoretical justifications for this subservience to spontaneity, are in fact strengthening and sanctifying the ideological enslavement of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie. This has somehow got ’lost’ in the MREQ’s ’dialectics’.

With the instinct of petty thieves who realize they may have left tracks behind them but who are anxious to get on to other ’business’, the MREQ finishes its libel of Marxism-Leninism with the desire to “...clarify some points in order to prevent any misinterpretations to which our positions could give rise.” (Towards the Marxist-Leninist Organization p.37).

These points are that ’implantation’ is the function of The Marxist-Leninist Organization and not of isolated individuals, that this Organization will carry on work in other strata (how comforting), and

Finally, we must also underline that implantation is only appropriate in the first stage of party building. A proletarian party will not be built only by the implantation of militants who have acquired Marxism-Leninism outside the factories. On the contrary, the party will put the accent on the development of revolutionary cadre from the working class. At this point, implantation will have become secondary. This is another characteristic which distinguishes the Marxist-Leninist organization from the Marxist-Leninist party. Ibid. p.38.

The MREQ should have no fear that it will be ’misinterpreted’. Its clarification shows that we have misinterpreted nothing. In spite of its hue and cry about achieving ’profound proletarian character’, the MREQ verifies that its pre-party ’vanguard’ Organization will be comprised of petty bourgeois ’militants’, ’militants’ who have been ’implanted’, rubbed elbows with the working class, and proved their ’devotion’ through the struggle for ’concrete results’. Such is the activity and composition of the Marxist-Leninist Organization. As to the advanced workers, they apparently do not exist at this point, and so play no role in the Organization that will create the ’Party’. It is the ’Party’, you see, that will “put the accent on”, highlight, if you will, the “development of revolutionary cadre from the working class”. And if this is the function of the ’Party’, it follows that the advanced workers also have no role in the actual creation of the ’Party’, but are drawn in after the fact. What then, may we ask, is the content of the MREQ’s ’fusion’? Simply developing a “profound proletarian character”, not through winning the advanced workers to communism, but through giving our ’communists’ a taste of working class existence. The ’Marxist-Leninist Organization’ does not put its ’accent’ on developing the revolutionary political consciousness of the working class. No. That will come sometime later, with the ’Party’. The ’Marxist-Leninist Organization’ puts its ’accent’ on trying to ’link’ with the workers through producing cheap, reformist results and on ’transforming’ their own ideology from that of ’militant’, but still petty bourgeois students to that of ’militant’, but still petty bourgeois trade unionists. It will simply have transferred its reformism from the student movement to the trade union movement.

The MREQ has drawn up this ’stages theory’ not simply out of naivete or lack of information, but through concerted opportunist effort. By following a ’plan’ that calls for ’implanting’ militants to lead the economic struggle, prove themselves the ’best defenders’ of trade union interests, and only at a later date shift the ’accent’ onto the development of political consciousness, the MREQ guarantees that it will never arrive at the political organization of the class. The ’accent’ from the beginning is on Economism, and that is where it will lay. Despite the MREQ’s drivel about ’adherence’ to MLMTT, it has shown that it adheres instead to the notion

...that ’by the economic struggle against the employers and the government’ the workers must first accumulate strength {for trade unionist politics) and then ’go over’ – we presume from trade unionist ’training for activity’ – to (communist) activity! V.I. Lenin, What is to be Done? Foreign Languages Press Peking p.113

c. Political Propaganda and Agitation versus ’Palpable Results’

Being so convinced of its “correct tactical line” of ’implantation’, the MREQ extends its theoretical justification in opposition to its opponents. It tells us that other ’militants’ maintain different ways “...to make the tie between Marxism-Leninism and the working class (for example, the distribution of a newspaper or propaganda material at factory gates in order to raise the political consciousness of the working class).” (Towards the Marxist-Leninist Organization p.38).

If the MREQ were opposing groups who relied solely on the distribution of propaganda, groups who did not combine propaganda with factory organization, then there would be a valid basis for their criticism. But that is not at all the reasoning behind the MREQ’s remarks:

A newspaper is an essential tool for a revolutionary organization, but militants must also be able to take over the organizational work that must be done inside the factory, as well as the work of propaganda and agitation. A great many different papers can be sold at the gates of a factory and all can call themselves revolutionary. How do the workers tell the difference? In the final analysis, the mass of workers can only be won to revolutionary propaganda when they see the militants of an organization at work practically defending their class interests. Ibid. p.38-39.

We admit, says the MREQ, that propaganda is important. However, talk is cheap and the workers are incapable of telling opportunist propaganda from revolutionary propaganda. We, the MREQ, will win the workers to our propaganda (to propaganda which stresses the importance of ’concrete results’) by proving in practice our ability to achieve ’concrete results’. We, the MREQ, wishing to avoid the issue of the class content of our propaganda, will blame our own confusion on the workers. We, the MREQ, who have graciously taken it upon ourselves to ’implant’, to ’re-educate’, to prove ’devotion’ and so on, will not bother with those workers who can very well distinguish between opportunism and Marxism-Leninism. The advanced workers have no place in our Weltanschauung. No. We will address ourselves to ’the workers’, that is, to the average workers and backward workers {in particular) and entice them to our view with ’concrete results’. Once that is achieved, we will form a ’party’ to organize more of the same.

Any class conscious worker would reply to the MREQ’s ’plan’ with the scorn it deserves, would

...indignantly reject all this talk about fighting for demands ’promising palpable results’, etc., because he will understand that this is only a variation of the old song about adding a kopek to a ruble. Such a worker will say to his counsellors... you are wasting your time, gentlemen, and shirking your proper duties, by meddling with such excessive zeal in a job that we can very well manage ourselves. ... The ’activity’ you want to stimulate among us workers, by advancing concrete demands promising palpable results, we are already displaying and in our everyday, petty trade union work we put forward these concrete demands, very often without any assistance whatever from the intellectuals. But such activity is not enough for us; we are not children to be fed on the thin gruel of ’economic’ politics alone; we want to know everything that others know, we want to learn the details of all aspects of political life and to take part actively in every single political event. In order that we may do this, the intellectuals must talk to us less of what we already know, and tell us more about what we do not yet know and what we can never learn from our factory and ’economic’ experience, that is, you must give us political knowledge. ... And it is not for you to ’raise’ our activity, because activity is precisely what you yourselves lack! Bow less in worship to spontaneity, and think more about raising your own activity, gentlemen. V.I. Lenin, What is to be Done? Foreign Languages Press Peking p. 89-92.

According to the MREQ’s scheme, propaganda and agitation occur at the plant gates, and are only supplemental to the struggle for ’concrete results’. “In the final analysis” it is the production of ’concrete results’ which stirs the “mass of workers”, and from the MREQ’s Economist logic it follows that those ’results’ are what we should be aiming for. But this is a mockery of communist propaganda, communist agitation, and communist workplace organizing. The MREQ proposes to lead the workers struggles, not through fusing scientific socialism with the advanced workers, not through putting its propaganda at the level of the advanced, not through combining the economic and political struggles to create a comprehensive class struggle, but simply through putting the ’accent’ on Economism and reducing propaganda and agitation to the level of Economism. The MREQ follows its forefather Martynov and redefines propaganda and agitation to make a space for its own, more ’profoundly proletarian’ category. Where Martynov devised the concept of “calls to action” as a means to limit communist activity to the struggle for ’palpable results’, the MREQ follows suit with ’implantation’ to do the same.

There is in fact no contradiction between propaganda/agitation and ’practically defending’, leading the trade union struggle. Propaganda, agitation and organization are inseparably connected and must be so combined if we are to carry on truly communist work whether within or outside of the factories. Communists take part in and lead all manifestations of the proletarian class struggle. To build revolutionary class consciousness demands the proper combination of all forms and methods of struggle. But the MREQ’s ’plan’ insures that this task would never be fulfilled. By juxtaposing propaganda/agitation to workplace organizing, by setting the former on the ’outside’ and the latter on the ’inside’, by aiming at the average and backward workers with the aim of maintaining them at the level of trade unionism, by limiting propaganda to the ’struggle between labour and capital’, the MREQ has simply placed itself deeper into the marsh.

d. Propaganda and Agitation on an Economic Basis: Eliminating the Advanced Workers

For the MREQ, propaganda and agitation are not ’practical’, but ’ideological’, and since they take place ’outside’ the workers struggles, beyond the plant gates, they must be supplemented by another sort of activity, something concrete and very ’practical’, i.e. producing ’concrete results’ ’inside’ the factories. The purpose of the MREQ’s geography is to make it appear that the central issue is ’inside’ versus ’outside’, and once it has reduced our tasks to this simple-minded basis, advance its own theory of ’implantation’. In the meantime, what is truly central – the content of our work – is somehow lost sight of. Propaganda and agitation, no matter where it occurs, must be judged according to its class content, what it raises or fails to raise, whose class interests it protects. The same applies to the content of our organizational work. But the MREQ, in its ’dialectical’ fashion, chooses to abstract from all this, and elevate instead the ’location’ of our work. It is, after all, a little dislocating for our students to suddenly find themselves ’inside’ the working class. They spontaneously gravitate towards the ’content’ they find most appealing, most familiar, and most ’concrete’, that is, to the content of trade unionism.

It is certainly ’dialectical’ that the MREQ, which finds it has so much to say on the content of political line, how it is ’tested’ in practice, and so on, should be suddenly struck deaf and dumb when it comes to ’all those newspapers’ which may appear at the factory gates. Lord, how will the workers ever tell the difference? The MREQ, in proposing that our ’undiscerning’ workers ’tell the difference’ through the economic struggle, has ’forgotten’ that it is in fact possible for workers to think, that it is in fact possible for workers to distinguish opportunist propaganda from Marxist-Leninist propaganda without the least appeal to ’concrete results’, and that it is precisely the role of communists to raise the level of the masses of workers to do precisely that. Rather than raising the level of the working class, rather than raising issues that do not at all promise ’concrete results’, the MREQ proposes that we lower our own level to the spontaneous level of the workers and in fact tie every ’political’ issue to some ’concrete result’.

In this way, the MREQ not only shows its disdain towards revolutionary theory and the advanced workers, but shows contempt for the masses of workers as well. Instead of trying to win the advanced workers to Marxism-Leninism and raise the broad masses of workers to ever higher levels of political consciousness, the MREQ seeks to put blinders on the movement and restrict the workers to the narrow economic struggle. The MREQ imagines that the advanced workers simply do not exist, that the ’most militant sections’ of the working class are incapable of assimilating revolutionary theory from the start, and that what is needed is some ’economic training’ before they will be capable of being “won to revolutionary propaganda”. Consequently, the MREQ needs only to ’propagandize’ this economic struggle in its fullest militancy, and produce some concrete results for the workers to recognize it as a true ’friend of the people’. But in fact it is the MREQ that is incapable of assimilating revolutionary theory, incapable of acting without the promise of ’concrete results’. This is what the MREQ hopes to obscure with its apologetic remarks such as:

We must admit that both propaganda and agitation are necessary, while not sufficient, to lead the workers to revolutionary action. Workers learn from their own experience who are their friends and who are their enemies. Towards the Marxist-Leninist Organization p.39

“We must admit” states the MREQ, that propaganda and agitation are necessary, however much we may attack revolutionary propaganda and revolutionary agitation, however much we may reduce both to the level of trade unionism. But while paying lip-service to the role cf propaganda and agitation, we, the MREQ, will continue to dilute its content and paraphrase Lenin in order to justify ourselves. When Lenin speaks of the mass of workers learning from their own experience, he is speaking of revolutionary experience, experience that is learned from precisely because communists have shown the line of march beforehand, by their propaganda and agitation. But the MREQ has shown that by the ’workers own experience’ it means the struggle for ’concrete results’, and the workers are supposed to learn, not through revolutionary propaganda and agitation, but through seeing who it is that achieves those ’results’. The MREQ proves itself a ’friend’ of the working class solely on this basis.

It goes without saying that propaganda and agitation alone are not enough to lead the mass of workers to revolutionary action. But that was not the question at hand. The question was, how are we to make ’the tie between Marxism-Leninism and the working class’. Marxism-Leninism teaches us that this ’tie’ is made by winning the advanced workers to scientific socialism. To bring about this fusion, propaganda is precisely our main form of activity. What is ’not sufficient’ is not propaganda and agitation, but propaganda and agitation that is based solely on the economic struggle, that limits the workers to that struggle. The MREQ wishes to overcome this ’insufficiency’, not by expanding the basis of propaganda and agitation, but simply through complementing it with ’concrete results’. Compare our students’ paraphrase of Lenin with the original:

The proletarian vanguard has been won over ideologically. That is the main thing. Without this not even the first step towards victory can be made. But it is still a fairly long way from victory. Victory cannot be won with the vanguard alone. To throw the vanguard alone into decisive battle, before the whole class, before the broad masses have taken up a position either of direct support of the vanguard, or at least benevolent neutrality towards it, and one in which they cannot possibly support the enemy, would be not merely folly but a crime. And in order that actually the whole class, that actually the broad masses of the working people and those oppressed by capital may take up such a position, propaganda and agitation alone are not enough. For this the masses must have their own political experience. V.I. Lenin “Left-Wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder Foreign Languages Press Peking p.97.

Of the “main thing”, of winning the advanced workers to communism, not a word from the MREQ. Of “political experience” and what that entails, not a word. Instead the MREQ gives us its rehash of Economism, liquidates the advanced workers, and proceeds to blunder on about workers learning “from their own experience” in the struggle for ’concrete results’. In fact the working class learns, through political propaganda and agitation, through political experience, that not all those who win ’concrete results’ are their friends. In fact the working class learns, if the communists have done their work, that those who stress ’concrete results’ are in fact the worst deceivers of the working class, ’friends’ whose only aim is to abort the revolutionary workers movement.

In order for the workers to know who their friends and enemies are, they must first be taught what their objective interests are and must be trained to recognize the manifestations of the interests of all other classes and strata in society. This requires the development of the class political consciousness of the workers, and foremost of the advanced workers, something that cannot be learned within the sphere of economic relations alone. It is only on the basis of broad and comprehensive propaganda and agitation combined with revolutionary organization that the masses of workers can have truly political experience from which to learn. The MREQ will protest that it, too, recognizes the ’political struggle’ and in fact has stated that the workers “...will acquire this experience in the practice of class struggle against the bourgeoisie and its state. It is during these struggles that communists must prove themselves.” (Towards the Marxist-Leninist Organization p.39.)

But we have seen that by ’class struggle’ the MREQ means the struggle for ’concrete results’, i.e. militant trade unionism. There is, after all, such a thing as trade union politics, which includes the ’struggle against the bourgeoisie and its state’, or, in Martynov’s words, the ’economic struggle of the workers against the employers and the government’. Our modern Canadian and Quebecois Martynovs have simply updated this thesis, thinking somehow that it can be passed off as Marxism-Leninism. Their ’plan’ for ’linking’ Marxism-Leninism with the working class begins by denying the role of the advanced workers, denying the necessity of winning the advanced workers to Marxism-Leninism, and denying the conscious role of the Party, i.e. that it is the vanguard detachment of the class and must raise the class to its advanced level. Their ’plan’ proceeds from this point to attempt to-lower the level of Marxist-Leninist propaganda and agitation to the level of the spontaneous consciousness of the mass of workers, reduces the practical tasks of communists to defending the immediate interests of the workers, bows in subservience and tails behind the spontaneous struggle, and elevates this narrowness to the rank of a theory, a very old and very rank theory at that. To the MREQ’s ’plan’ to prove itself a ’friend’ of the workers and to ’lead’ them to ’revolutionary action’ by taking over the leadership of the trade union struggle, we can only echo Lenin’s query:

Can Martynov quote an example where the leadership of the industrial struggle alcne has succeeded in transforming a trade union movement into a revolutionary class movement? Cannot he understand that in order to bring about this ’transformation’ we must actively take up the ’direct leadership’ of all-sided political agitation? V.I. Lenin What is to be Done? Foreign Languages Press Peking p.94.

The rest of the MREQ’s elaboration and justification of its Economism brings nothing new to light. But one more point should be noted, if only because it is widely used in our movement as a rationalization for the backwardness of the revolutionaries; that is, the plea of ’backward’ conditions:

It must be stressed that implantation isn’t just one tactic among others, but the correct tactical line for Marxist-Leninists to develop links with the working class, taking into account the concrete situation in the Marxist-Leninist movement today. Towards the Marxist-Leninist Organization p.39 (our emphasis)

That is, on the account of backward ’concrete conditions’ we will advance only backward tasks; since we lack clear direction, are plagued by the predominance of petty bourgeois opportunism, have few if any links with the advanced workers, are only beginning to take up the tasks of Party-building as a movement, and so on, because of all these conditions the MREQ advises us to degrade our theory and tasks to the level of the spontaneous movement. “Taking into account the concrete situation”, the MREQ states in effect, we will bow down to that situation as our ne plus ultra. We will not advance beyond it, but instead attempt to drag everyone else back. The MREQ is so pleased to be out from under the trauma and alienation of university life that it is perfectly content to maintain its ’organic contact’ ’with and among’ the workers, fighting to prove its ’devotion’ in the struggle for petty reforms. It is so content that it will move into its pre-’party’ Organization and then into its ’party’ without batting an eye. As to the real needs and tasks of the working class and communist movements, that is another story. The MREQ will not hear of it. We cannot stop the MREQ from proceeding along this path, nor from raising its own primitiveness to the level of a theory. But we can and must expose the MREQ’s myth that their Economism has anything to do with Marxism-Leninism, and if they wish to go into the marsh, insure that they make their way alone.