First Published: Canadian Revolution No. 6, October 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The creation of the review Canadian Revolution in May, 1975, was a positive step in the development of the revolutionary movement in Canada. Its publication served to clearly affirm the existence of a communist movement throughout English Canada. It helped break with much of the isolation and localism which has so far characterized the Marxist-Leninist movement, particularly by spreading the lessons of the more developed movement within the oppressed Quebec nation throughout the country. Some articles in CR helped to publicize the viewpoints of different Marxist-Leninist groups. The journal also contributed to the struggle against some of the more blatant forms of economism.
From its creation, though, it was clear that CR could not continue to exist indefinitely because it carried with it inherent limitations. The very notion of an “independent journal of Marxism-Leninism” was a contradiction in terms. Produced by a coalition of different elements lacking unity or even positions on the major questions of political line under debate within the movement and not engaging in its own revolutionary practice in the proletariat, CR’s contributions could only be confined to a very specific period in the development of the Canadian communist movement.
That period is rapidly drawing to a close as the movement begins to break out of its backwardness. The past several months have seen a number of important changes and developments within the communist movement in our country.
In the fall of 1975, the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) was created through the unity of three groups in Montreal. Since that time, the League has undertaken communist work among the working class and published its newspaper, The Forge. Produced every two weeks in English and French, The Forge is building up a distribution across the country. Recently, the Toronto Marxist-Leninist group, Workers’ Unity, rallied to the League. The League now has opened a district in Toronto, the largest urban center in English-Canada, and has begun communist agitation and propaganda among the working class there too.
In Struggle!, the other most significant Marxist-Leninist formation in the country, has also begun publishing its newspaper in English and French and distributing it across the country.
There have been other developments in the past year. The ideological struggle within the Marxist-Leninist movement has developed rapidly. Blows have been delivered against economism and right opportunism, though both remain very strong. A fair number of groups and collectives have clarified their positions and put forward their views publicly. Increasingly, too, these groups and collectives are addressing themselves to the key questions being raised by the lines and practice of the League and In Struggle!, for it is these two organizations which so far have principally developed and put forward their lines.
Because of these advances in the communist movement, the role that CR can play has undergone a change. It is less and less relevant to the development of the revolutionary movement. The CCL(ML) feels that the time has come to cease publication of the journal, and move forward. Let’s examine in a little more detail why this is the case.
CR cannot in fact take real leadership in the development of the struggle against opportunism and for unity within the movement. You can’t fight a wrong line unless you’re armed with a single, correct one. But by its very nature as an alliance of different political views, the journal cannot take a clear line and point the direction forward for the entire Marxist-Leninist movement. It thus cannot stand at the head of struggle and is increasingly obliged to tail behind the Marxist-Leninist movement. Worse still, without a correct line to guide it, CR finds itself publishing anti-Marxist positions which do anything but help move forward the struggle for the party (such as the anti-Leninist analysis of imperialism done by the Edmonton group, Workers’ Unity).
Though this weakness has always been present ever since CR was created – that it could only serve as a vehicle for debate and not really contribute to pushing that debate forward – the problem grows more serious with time. The developments in the communist movement mentioned above mean that there now exist forces which can provide the needed leadership and a clear orientation.
The one function CR could assume – one that has constituted the bulk of its work to date – is the reproduction of documents from different parts of the country; but even this is no longer necessary. The League and In Struggle! have their own means of agitation and propaganda and many smaller groups are taking the initiative to independently publish and distribute their material.
As time passes, CR thus becomes increasingly left behind by the developments within the communist movement.
Moreover, CR’s separation of theory from practice is another important reason for its liquidation. At the outset of the journal’s publication, CR said it would encourage articles summing up the experience of revolutionary work in the proletariat. But there has been none of this very vital work in the pages of CR–and not surprisingly. For while individuals within the CR collective may have some practical experience, CR as a collective is not actively engaged in the working class revolutionary struggle. Clearly, the journal addresses itself to intellectuals and not to the advanced sections of the proletariat. It thus does not actively help to fuse the science of Marxism-Leninism with the working class.
Do we really need this type of theoretical journal for intellectuals today? What we need is one which is directly linked with communists who are rallying the most advanced workers to communism. We need a theoretical review which answers the problems of the practical revolutionary struggle. And only a Marxist-Leninist organization, leading forward the struggle to build a new communist party, can publish such a theoretical journal. This has been the historical experience of party-building throughout the international communist movement.
Here’s where the entire question of CR’s “independence” comes up in all its contradictions. “Independent” from what? It’s a basic teaching of Marxism-Leninism that nothing is independent of classes. Every publication pushes a line which represents either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. And if one calls oneself a Marxist-Leninist, one cannot remain “independent” of the different lines being put forward by existing organizations. One must choose the correct proletarian line. Two things happen with publications which proclaim to be “independent”. Either through petty-bourgeois fear and intellectualism they jealously guard their “independence” and become independent only of the proletariat. Or they choose to align themselves with a definite line, and dissolve or continue in a completely different form.
In fact, CR today is “independent” in name only. The overwhelming majority of its members have come to see the need to join a Marxist-Leninist organization to really push fofward the struggle for the party.
Certainly, it is not through the “common practice” of publishing an “independent” review together that In Struggle! and the League will resolve their differences and develop the struggle for unity!
Nor is it by reading articles from these two groups in CR that militants across the country can decide if they agree with one group or another.’ It is through the open struggle in their respective newspapers that these organizations can consistently and comprehensively explain their stands. Most importantly, it is by examining their practice and their revolutionary work, that militants can judge In Struggle! and the CCL(ML).
Given this situation, should CR continue to exist and maintain its “independence”, it would rapidly come to play a negative role and hold back the development of the Marxist-Leninist movement. To continue, CR will only be forced to justify the hesitation of militants to actively participate in the struggle to build the party. It would make excuses for those who wish to sit and debate indefinitely, rather than actively taking up communist agitation and propaganda among the working class.
But let’s break with this right opportunism. Let’s break with this clinging to the past, to manifestations of our backwardness, and move boldly forward! Only by building a country-wide Marxist-Leninist organization can communists in Canada actively take up the struggle for the party. We don’t need CR anymore and it will only hold us back. The dissolution of CR would be a positive thing. It would reflect the strength of the rising communist forces.
To liquidate CR would be a step forward; to fail to do so would be a serious error.
Communists don’t just end something by packing their bags and leaving. They sum up their work and their errors so all can learn the necessary lessons. We propose the liquidation of CR but we don’t suggest it should just suddenly cease publication.
The editorial board and the collective must first take a clear position in favour of terminating the journal. Then, they should proceed to explain their reasons to the readership and prepare for CR’s disappearance. Concretely, this should take the form of:
1) encouraging CR readers to subscribe to the communist press in Canada, to read and study all the different pamphlets and political line documents published by the various groups.
2) explaining to CR readers the necessity to study Marxism-Leninism, to take positions on key questions of ideological and political line, to organize themselves on a communist basis and carry out communist agitation and propaganda among the working class.
3) explaining the need to join a Marxist-Leninist organization with the correct line in order to undertake the task of fighting for a Marxist-Leninist communist party in Canada.
In this way, we can all move forward in the struggle to build a genuine communist party in Canada.
Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist)