First Published: In Struggle No. 84, March 24, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The following was recently to IN STRUGGLE! by the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist). We are publishing the letter as well as our answer so that one can judge the odd method of the League in the struggle for the unity of Canadian Marxist Leninists.
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March 10, 1977
In the context of the intensification of the struggle for the unity of Marxist-Leninist, the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) proposed to hold a conference on the struggle for unity in Vancouver. We would invite In Struggle! to organize this conference jointly with the League, The format would be as follows. It would open with speeches and debate between the representatives of the League and In Struggle!. This would be followed by questions and debate from the floor. Other groups from Vancouver would be welcome to intervene in the discussion period. We propose March 29th or 28th as a date for the conference. Since the delay is short we would urge you to respond to this proposal within a week, that is by the l6th of March we shall assume your reply is negative and proceed accordingly.
Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist)
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Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist)
We received your letter of March 10 (which, by the way, was dated 1976 in the French version) inviting us to jointly organize a conference on the unity of Marxist-Leninists with your organization to be held March 28 or 29, in Vancouver. Your letter asked that we send a written reply to you before March 19, and it indicated that silence on our part would be considered as a refusal and you would then “proceed accordingly...”.
We would like to thank you for the invitation for we consider it a gesture which is in keeping with building unity. However, we would also like to express our regrets that your letter, despite its explicitness on the date, the place and the channels of communications, does not explain the exact reasons which demand that this conference on unity in Vancouver be organized with such haste, more precisely, in little more than two weeks.
Like yourselves, we, too, consider it fitting and timely that a Conference on the unity of Marxist-Leninists be held in Vancouver, because of the large number of Marxist-Leninist groups in that city that, on one hand, want to take an active part in the building of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist party; but, on the other, find themselves in disagreement, disagreement whose basis and substance is not widely known, and perhaps even badly identified. A conference that would bring all these groups together would most certainly be the basis for a step forward in the process of demarcation around their respective positions and would thus lay the ground work for the development of the struggle for unity.
Before going into our position on your invitation in detail, we feel it would be useful to clarify a certain number of things so that there will be no possible ambiguity or confusion in our reply. After all, as you are no doubt aware, at this point, confusion does exist, and so do numerous ambiguities on the question of unity.
First, we would like to remind you that we are organizing a Conference of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement on the path of the revolution in Canada in Montreal on April 9 and 10 (that is, barely 10 days after the date that you propose for the Vancouver Conference on unity!).
You are most certainly aware of our plans in this regard, in December 1976, we sent you an official invitation to take part in the conference, that is, to come and present your positions in front of all of the participants. This participation could include the distribution of all documents that you consider useful and should be brought to the attention of all those interested in the question. Subsequently, through our newspaper and our theoretical journal, we have kept the movement and the masses up to date on developments in the plans.
You are certainly familiar with our plans for the Conference on the path of the revolution, for in the last weeks you have denounced it without let up in The Forge as a thoroughly opportunist undertaking, and you have decided to boycott it and have urged your readers to do likewise.
Taking into account the importance of the question on the agenda of the April 9 and 10 Montreal Conference, an importance that you yourselves have insisted upon with vigor in the past; taking into account its national character since groups from various regions of the country (including Vancouver) have enthusiastically agreed to take an active part in it, you can understand that we are anxious to ensure the best conditions possible for preparing for the Conference for all participants, including ourselves. By this we mean that each group should have the greatest time possible to become familiar with the different positions on the path of the revolution and to formulate its own position on this question which Is central to the elaboration of a (Marxist-Leninist) communist programme for the Canadian revolution.
Under these conditions, it seems to us inappropriate, to say the least, to ask certain of the groups that will be participating in the Montreal Conference to hastily prepare af the same time their participation in another Conference, called on very few days notice and planned for the other end of the country on another subject. Of course, the situation of your group could be “special” in this regards if you persist in your boycott of the Conference on April 9 and 10 on the path of the revolution. But according to the information we have, most, if not all, of the groups in Vancouver are planning to be present at the mid-April Montreal Conference and they are planning to participate in it actively.
Some of the groups are even according the major part of their time to preparing their participation in the Conference; again, something you are familiar with since you sent representatives to a preparatory meeting for the Conference which was held in Vancouver in February.
Second, certain past incidents are worth recalling. Last October 1 you sent us a short letter inviting us to organize “a series of public debates in the biggest centres across the country” jointly with you. You added that “each of these meetings would deal with four important themes: the international situation; class contradictions in Canada; the tasks of Marxist-Leninists; the struggle for unity”.
We replied that we were open to all propositions which were apt to advance the unity of (M-L) communists but that as far as your particular proposal was concerned we first had to know what your viewpoint was on the position put forward in Proletarian Unity in September, a position which included a proposal for conferences on the almost identical subjects as you have put forward for debate.
You did not reply to our letter in early October, except with the intensification of your denunciation of our “opportunism” on the unity question (as on all other questions) in your newspaper, and in the pamphlet you published in December entitled For the unity of Marxist-Leninists which contained a vigorous denunciation of what is represented as our position but which has a great weakness in that it does not analyse either the article in September’s Proletarian Unity or the Conference held in Montreal on October 9.
In short, we are of the opinion that the League, to this day, has not done a scientific criticism of our position on the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists. You have criticized certain aspects and passed over others in silence. But nowhere have you showed why, in your opinion, it is opportunist to call for Marxist-Leninists, to unite organizationally around a programme that has been submitted to public criticism and more, around a programme put forward at the completion of a series of national and regional conferences which deal precisely with the principal questions of the programme of the proletarian revolution in Canada.
In addition, another fact has caught our attention and it, too, is worth recalling. Last January we invited you to come and present your positions on the unity question at a Conference in Quebec City. More than a hundred militants from various regions of Quebec showed up at the conference... but the League was notable by its absence. The reason for its refusal to present its position before the dozens of militants who wanted to hear it? IN STRUGGLE’S opportunism, of course!
The reasoning seems to be as follows: when IN STRUGGLE! organizes a conference on unity in Quebec City and invites the League to come and present its position, and thus, in the process, publicly criticize “IN STRUGGLE’S opportunism”, this is also “opportunist”, and so the League doesn’t show up; even if it is formally invited. The League doesn’t come, because IN STRUGGLE! is “opportunist” in the struggle for unity...
Third, we would like to draw your attention to what seems to us to be an important contradiction in the manner in which you are waging the struggle for unity within the movement, especially in regards to our group. Since last winter, IN STRUGGLE! has undertaken a resolute struggle on the unity question and has produced texts in accordance with this struggle: in particular the May 1, 1976 Declaration, published in our newspaper, the pamphlet Fight sectarianism (August 76) and the first issue of Proletarian Unity (September 76).
In reply, the League has launched into a series of attacks on IN STRUGGLE’S so-called opportunism. You have been saying that demarcation and struggle over essential questions of line, for example the principal contradiction, are central to achieving unity. But in saying this, you have neglected to concretely take into consideration IN STRUGGLE’S actual plan which puts forward unity on the basis of a (M-L) communist programme and not unity for the sake of unity.
Today, at the moment that IN STRUGGLE! is advancing in the application of the positions it put forward last year; at the moment that we are intensifying our interventions and our polemics on the’ questions essential to a programme; at the moment that our conferences, as anticipated, are enabling the movement as a whole to grasp a better understanding of the various positions on basic questions which are current.within it; and more precisely, at the moment that April 9 and 10 are approaching, the dates that a Conference will be held which will deal with, among other things, the principal contradiction, a question to which you attached such importance, when we were organizing conferences on unity – what do you do? Well, you boycott this Conference and at the same time you propose a Conference on unity to be held at the other end of the country!
What should be make of all this? When IN STRUGGLE! proposed to the movement that it debate unity in order to promote demarcation on this question, the League says: “it’s opportunism, first we have to demarcate on the question of the principal contradiction”; when IN STRUGGLE! announces months in advance a Conference on the path of the revolution, including the principal contradiction, a Conference to be held in Montreal on a date which is quite public, the League, on one hand, protests, qualifying the plan as opportunist. With much energy and persistence, it calls for a boycott. On the other hand, it invites IN STRUGGLE! to a conference on unity at the other end of the country, to be held at barely a ten-day interval to the other Conference!
Comrades of the League, you should not be very shocked to learn that we find this tactic most shocking.
That said, we are very interested in taking part in a public debate in Vancouver on the unity of M-L communists. However, to be more productive, and to better serve the cause of the unity of Canadian communists, such a conference should not be organized in haste, not at the moment when a large number of communists all over the country, and especially in Vancouver, are involved in preparing for another conference which will deal with a question central to the communist programme.
The following, therefore, is our answer to your proposal:
1. We share the viewpoint that it is necessary to hold a public conference on the unity of Marxist-Leninist communists in Vancouver where there are a high number of groups which are concerned about this question. We will take part actively, as actively as possible, in all conferences, and public debates held in that city on that question, as on all other questions which concern the future of the Marxist-Leninist movement in our country.
2. However, we consider the organizing of a conference on unity in Vancouver on March 28 or 29 as you propose in your letter is, to say the least, inopportune; on one hand, the date is too close at hand to allow for serious preparation and organization of such an event; on the other hand, our group and the majority of groups in Vancouver are currently involved in preparing the conference which will take place in Montreal a mere ten days later. (Incidentally, it takes three days to get from Vancouver to Montreal by train!)
3. Consequently, we are of the opinion that the Conference in Vancouver on unity should take place at the end of April, something which would allow for more solid preparation. As well, we propose that all the Marxist-Leninist groups active in Vancouver, not only the League and IN STRUGGLE!, be involved in organizing the Conference in order to ensure its success.
We feel that the position we are putting forward here in regards to your project is very much in keeping with building greater unity of Marxist-Leninists, and we sincerely hope that you will give it serious consideration.
As we are aware that your plans for- a Conference on unity are already known to groups in Vancouver, or at least, to certain groups, we feel it necessary, in view of the tight deadline that your letter gives us, to send them a copy of this letter accompanied by a copy of the invitation dated March 10 that you sent us.
If you decide that this conference must take place before April – and we see no reason for this – we regret to inform you that e would not be able to take part in organizing it. However, we will most certainly be present to defend our position on the unity of Marxist-Leninists.
We would like to take advantage of this occasion to reiterate our invitation to you to take part in the April 9 and 10 conference in Montreal on the path of the revolution in Canada. It is the duty of Marxist-Leninists to defend their positions at all times, and this is even more true for a Conference, which, according to you, will bring together a number of opportunists, for, as Mao Tse-tung put it: “Marxism develops in the struggle against that which is anti-Marxist”.
We are looking forward to receiving an answer from you in the near future. We would like to inform you that the Vancouver comrades are thoroughly capable of representing our group in the case that we might be able to work together, along with the other groups, on organizing this Conference on unity in Vancouver. We would hope, however, that you would send a copy of all correspondence on this subject to our central leadership by the channels you are aware of.
Finally, taking into account the obvious relationship between your proposal on a conference on unity in Vancouver, on one hand; and your campaign to boycott the Montreal conference on the path of the revolution, on the other, we reserve the right to make this correspondence public in that it concretely illustrates the different positions and tactics current In the Marxist-Leninist movement on the question of its unification.
Intensify the struggle against sectarianism in order to develop the demarcation between Marxism-Leninism and opportunism!
The Political Bureau of IN STRUGGLE!