First Published: Lines of Demarcation Nos. 3-4, n.d. [early 1977]
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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“The Mass Line Study Group is a small group of nascent Marxist-Leninists whose work towards building the party consists in ideological demarcation within the movement of nascent Marxism-Leninism and nascent revisionism, and ideological intervention against bourgeois ideology in the working class movement.”
* * *
This article by the Mass Line Study Group began as a letter to LINES OF DEMARCATION commenting on the positive contribution which our pamphlet, The Whole Is Equal to the Sum of Its Parts, made to the exposure of opportunism in our movement. The letter gradually grew into an article.
The writers had affirmed that the Bolshevik Tendency’s experiences with the opportunists in Canadian Revolution were very familiar to them. They are in a unique position to comment on the history of these groups in Toronto because the Mass Line Study Group has a history that parallels and intersects that of groups like the (now defunct) Toronto Communist Group and Workers’ Unity (Toronto).
We are printing this article as a contribution to the task of laying bare the history of the movement and thus as a complement to what the Bolshevik Union has already done in this department.
Because of its emphasis on philosophy (which we consider is carried to an extreme), this article will no doubt be seen by some as an example of “intellectualism” (the League’s hobby horse). However, we consider that the investigation of the background of the movement contained in this article is not “intellectualism” but necessary to the defeat of opportunism in the movement. At this point in time this investigation has been to a large degree accomplished (by the Bolshevik Union in terms of the movement as a whole and in Toronto; by various documents and self-criticisms from Montreal; and by this article for Toronto). An investigation of the Marxist-Leninist movement on the west coast and the east coast are the missing components here, and it is especially necessary in the case of Vancouver given that there has been the sudden appearance of a half-dozen groups about which virtually nothing is known on a public country-wide level.
Publication of this article is not however to be taken as agreement with any specific position put forward in the article. In fact, we have several criticisms of it which will be dealt with in full in direct struggle with the MLSG.
Here we will note some of these briefly:
First of all, the article gives greatest stress to bourgeois ideology (one-sided, or wrong thinking as the main problem in the Marxist-Leninist movement, rather than opportunism (i.e., the furthering of the very material class interests of the bourgeoisie). The writers’ approach of treating bourgeois ideology “ as a material thing, with definite properties and specific laws of motion, in order that we may better demarcate against it in building the party” tends to one-sidedness. We will not be demarcating against bourgeois ideology in the abstract, laying the blame firstly on wrong thinking, but against specific positions that represent the class interests of the petit-bourgeoisie, labour aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. And when we do so, we must expose these specific positions principally in the political realm rather than principally in the realm of philosophy or ideology per se (as we consider the MLSG tends to do).
Consciousness derives from matter. This article, instead, takes consciousness (bourgeois consciousness) as its starting point and treats it as a material force all by itself. As a consequence of this approach, while any given point is not necessarily wrong, the overall perspective is askew. The groups criticized make mistakes of a philosophical and ideological nature because they are opportunist This article gives the impression that they are opportunist because they make philosophical and ideological mistakes.
Secondly, the MLSG does not start from a Marxist-Leninist definition of “subjectivism” (much less “bourgeois subjectivism”). The definitions of subjectivism given in several places correspond to no Marxist-Leninist analysis of subjectivism we are familiar with. (And certainly not to the analysis put forward by Mao in “Rectify the Party’s Style of Work”, MSW 3:35)
Thirdly, and connected with the second point, the article itself is marred by subjectivism. In “Rectify the Party’s Style of Work”, in the context of a discussion of subjectivism, Mao criticizes “aimless theorizing” and this tendency is evident in “One Country, Many Marxism-Leninisms.”
In spite of these criticisms, we consider that the article is generally correct as an account of the background and development of the movement in Toronto. Its value lies in the exposure of the thread of opportunism on the question of unity and the baseless “self-proclamation” of authentic Marxism-Leninism that runs through the Toronto groups and into the movement at large.
We think that a thorough history of Workers’ Unity (Toronto) and the Toronto Communist Group is particularly important because it is through these groups that the CCL(ML) and In Struggle! have chosen to make their respective entrances into English Canada. This alone speaks volumes about both the League and In Struggle! It also demonstrates the direction in which groups such as WU(T) and the TCG, which both have proven histories of careerism and hegemonism, are going in order to further their interests. We note that WU(T) has offered the movement only a tokenistic and highly self-complementary self-criticism for its history and that the TCG has not offered the movement any self-criticism for its history at all.
* * *
In 1970, during the War Measures Act, a group of “Marxist-Leninists” attacked the windows of an Eaton’s store in Toronto. Acting as the most revolutionary detachment of the most revolutionary “class” (youth, especially lumpen youth), Red Morning made its symbolic attack on the “Man”.
In 1973, a coalition of “Marxist-Leninists” launched a series of meetings that produced the militant trade unionist organization, the Right to Strike Organization.
In 1975, a coalition of “Marxist-Leninists” launched the journal, Canadian Revolution, an “independent journal of Marxism-Leninism”.
In 1976, a “Marxist-Leninist” collective, Workers Unity (Toronto), rallied to the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist). Later in the same year, another collective of “Marxist-Leninists”, the Toronto Communist Group, united with In Struggle!
At the heart of these various and contradictory “Marxism-Leninisms” are a number of common threads. First of all, and most obviously, these different “Marxism-Leninisms” feature at their core the same “Marxist-Leninists”! The above chronology heralds the progress of the same core of petit-bourgeois pilgrims in search of the Canadian Revolution.
Second of all, the chronology outlines the process of adaptation by bourgeois ideology to the impulses and imperatives of the developing revolutionary movement in Canada.
Third of all, the chronology exposes the barest outlines of the development of a conception of building the “unity of Marxist-Leninists” that is presently dominant in our movement.
We want to accomplish three things in this article. First of all, and most important, we want to demonstrate that the dominant approach to “uniting Canadian Marxist-Leninists” is not a “new thing” evolving out of a “new movement” in Canada, but an “old thing” which is bourgeois in its ideological content and, historically speaking, a hangover from the dominant and open subjectivism of the New Left. Secondly we want to focus upon the need for our movement to study its own history scientifically-to analyse itself. Thirdly, we want to encourage, by example, the treatment of bourgeois ideology as a material thing, with definite properties and specific laws of motion, in order that we may better demarcate against it in building the party.
We use the evolution of the careers of the ex-Red Morning pilgrims as the concrete example of both how the dominant opportunist approach to “unity” developed, and why we must break with it entirely to build the new communist party.
We concentrate upon the journal, CR, because it was with CR’s appearance that initiatives from the Toronto movement became Canada-wide in their impact. Our particular approach to the journal is that it is a “cell” of bourgeois subjectivism in our movement.
Lenin explains the cell idea as follows:
In his Capital, Marx first analyses the simplest, most ordinary and fundamental, most common and everyday relation of bourgeois (commodity) society, a relation encountered billions of times, viz. the exchange of commodities. In this very simple phenomenon (in this “cell” of bourgeois society) analysis reveals all the contradictions (or the germs of all the contradictions) of modern society. The subsequent exposition shows us the development (both growth and movement) of these contradictions and of this society in the...summation of its individual parts, from its beginning to its end.
Such must also be the method of exposition (and of study as well) of dialectics in general...To begin with the simplest, most ordinary and commonplace notion, from any proposition you please...(Lenin, ON DIALECTICS, LCW Vol.38.)
Now, of course we do not want to analyse the journal from the “commodity” standpoint. We analyse CR as a form of political organization – although certainly not a Marxist-Leninist organization, CR is seen to be a “cell” from two standpoints. It marks a stage in the development of bourgeois subjectivism’s penetration into a movement that is subjectively anti-bourgeois. Secondly, it offers us in concentrated form the present subjectivist method of organizing this subjectively anti-bourgeois movement into a revolutionary party – a method not exclusive to CR, but dominant in our movement today.
By analysing the contradictions in the journal’s line on “Marxist-Leninist” unity, we will expose, on the one hand, its historical development as bourgeois ideology in disguise. This, then, amounts to analysing CR’s relationships with the past opportunism of our movement.
On the other hand, by analysing the contradictions in CR’s “Marxist-Leninist” unity line and its relationship with other lines on “Marxist-Leninist” unity, we will be analysing how the focus on the bourgeois subjectivism of CR unfolds into a focus on the widespread subjectivism of our movement.
In a nutshell, our approach to analysing CR is materialist: “...we judge people not by the brilliant uniforms they don, not by the high-sounding appellations they give themselves, but by their actions and by what they actually advocate...” (Lenin, WHAT IS TO BE DONE?, Peking ed., P.9)
In the late sixties bourgeois ideology made a concession to the openly antagonistic contradictions of monopoly capitalism/imperialism. This concession took the forms of the New Left and revisionists’ “liberalization” of Marxism-Leninism, both of which enshrined subjectivism side-by-side with revolutionary proclamations.
Many in our movement date back to the bourgeois subjectivism of the New Left. How much of the New Left have we carried with us?
Because the principal defect of the New Left was its substitution of revolutionary sentiments for revolutionary science, the question of our progress in breaking with the New Left is necessarily a question of how well we have replaced merely self-proclamations of revolutionary sentiments with the social practice of revolutionary scientists.
What is subjectivism? The subjectivism of the New Left, as with bourgeois subjectivism in general, takes as its starting point the self of the subjectivist. Subjectivists do not analyze the world on the basis of what exists, but on the basis of what exists for them. In the forms by which subjectivism can try to survive in our movement, the focus would be on “revolutionary sentiments”, “revolutionary spirit”, etc. – not on revolutionary science.
The particular and most emphatic give-away of bourgeois subjectivism dressed up as “revolutionary” is the focus of subjectivism’s most intense anti-science – the self. The tell-tale signs of whether people who call themselves “Marxist-Leninists” can be scientific or not about themselves and their practice are their methods of struggling for unity. Willingness to be scientific (principled) in struggle is no more than willingness to oppose bourgeois ideology with proletarian ideology. The moral imperatives of struggling for unity are therefore imperatives of science vs. anti-science, of Marxism-Leninism vs. bourgeois ideology.
How has our movement broken with subjectivism? Subjectively.
The first break with subjectivism was the recognition that Marxism-Leninism is the science of proletarian revolution. With this recognition, all things became possible in our movement. On the one hand, this could prove the first step in the building of a new revolutionary party of the proletariat. On the other hand, this recognition could provide merely another cover for bourgeois dictatorship over the proletariat.
Our movement’s initial evolution from the point of general recognition of the necessity for Marxist-Leninist leadership provided no reason for satisfaction. Instead of the assimilation of Marxism-Leninism, we saw its fragmentation – the isolation and one-sided emphasis of one or another aspect of Marxism-Leninism and the organized attempts to ride these parodies of science to hegemony over the movement as a whole.
The Red Morning organization in Toronto noticed that Marx and Lenin had once muttered something about revolutionary practice. Quickly translating “revolutionary practice” into terrorism, Red Morning advocated terrorism and the organization of lumpen youth into the revolutionary vanguard. These anti-working class counter-revolutionaries nonetheless considered themselves Marxist-Leninists! Red Morning represented one of the crudest early attemps from within our movement to give bourgeois subjectivism a Marxist-Leninist cover.
The more perceptive subjectivists recognized that a change from the old forms was necessary for the survival of subjectivism. Seizing upon the maxim that the proletariat required its revolutionary party, subjectivism burped up the CPL and CPC(M-L). Again counter-revolution cowered behind the banner of self-proclaimed Marxism-Leninism.
From the soft amorphous mainstream of our movement some particles burst free and hardened into the organizational forms and political lines that ultimately demarcated them from the rest of the movement. Red Morning (“don’t fergit to smash the state!”) couldn’t survive the combination of seeing the FLQ raise the practical results of a terrorist line and the utter bankruptcy of their line on lumpen-proletariat as revolutionary vanguard. Red Morning dissolved in 1972; its members melted back into the mainstream of the movement. The CPL (“Racists use capitalism to oppress the working class”) and the CPC(M-L) stagger on, clearly counterrevolutionary outcasts from our movement.
But our movement had learned little from their example. We did not recognize that these counter-revolutionary organizations differed not in essence but in degree from the mainstream of our movement. The difference was not between revolutionary science and counter-revolutionary subjectivity but between the amorphous subjectivism of the movement, and the coherent and hardened subjectivist practice of these organizations.
The mainstream itsetf provided the proof. First of all, by the old method of metaphysics the mainstream drew exactly the wrong lessons from the bourgeois subjectivism of groups like FLQ, RM, CPL, CPC(M-L). The postponement of questions of revolutionary practice vs. day to day existence and the implicit rejection of the need for the vanguard proletarian party were the ’lessons’ spontaneously drawn out by the mainstream.
Second of all, the mainstream put these exactly incorrect lessons into practice. As if by magic, many of the rest of us noticed that Canada had a proletariat. (Lots of water, trees, nickel, uranium, hockey – and now this!) Having read somewhere that the proletariat was the revolutionary class (but not having read well enough to realize that it is only as a class-for-itself that the proletariat is revolutionary) we cleverly resolved to follow home the proletariat in the hope that we would find out where the revolution lived. We plunged into the factories that would have us. The economism of the CSLO in the Montreal area, of the Right to Strike Organization in the Toronto area, of the Western Voice in the Vancouver area, and the miscellany of petit bourgeois nationalists who hovered around the CCU was the result. We had touched the masses. All we needed now was some communists.
This Economist error of the mainstream, the metaphysical isolation of the proletariat from the principles and concretization of revolutionary ideology and thus our attempt to condemn the proletariat to remain a class only in-itself, proved once and for ail that we shared bourgeois subjectivism with the outcasts. Our demarcation of them – whether in formal denunciation or in the implicit manner of avoiding them like the plague – was a demarcation within subjectivism, not between revolutionary science and subjectivism. We hadn’t changed from subjectivism. Merely the content of our subjectivity had changed: from the self-proclamation as “revolutionaries” to self-proclamation as “Marxist-Leninists”.
Without exception, our movement had been a breeding ground for the most dangerous forms of bourgeois ideology – those with a revolutionary cover.
The last year and a half has witnessed great changes in our movement. We have seen the demise of the CSLO, the RTSO, and the Western Voice. The appearance of the journal, Canadian Revolution helped develop debate among those in English Canada who considered themselves Marxist-Leninists. The formation of In Struggle! and CCL(M-L) has the appearance of giving Canada-wide scope to the two-line struggle within our movement.
Clearly, one of two things must have happened. Either we have broken with our past subjectivism and surged forward to Marxism-Leninism or we have merely developed a more sophisticated cover for bourgeois ideology. Was the demise of the CSLO, RTSO et al simultaneously the demise of Economism? Was the journal, Canadian Revolution in fact a “Marxist-Leninist” journal and did it in fact stimulate struggle towards Marxist-Leninist political unity? Is the two-line struggle between the bourgeois line and the proletarian line, or is it merely a struggle within bourgeois ideology, between two bourgeois lines?
We have reason to believe the worst. While we can drift into bourgeois subjectivism unconsciously, we cannot drift out of it unconsciously. The qualitative break with subjectivism and the consequent development of revolutionary science cannot occur spontaneously any more than can the working class spontaneously become imbued with revolutionary science. This is a fundamental law of Marxism-Leninism.
Yet, as we examine the typical literature of the movement we find that in Canada, Marxism-Leninism has been supposedly disproven! A movement that began with the subjectivist rumblings within the petit bourgeoisie has apparently been spontaneously purified. At least, this spontaneous purification is what the dominant tendency in our movement assigns to itself.
We require a thorough, detailed Marxist-Leninist historical analysis of the history of the subjectively revolutionary movement in Canada. This is a necessary condition for its transformation into an objectively revolutionary movement. Instead we find the general assuption that our movement is already objectively revolutionary (without any analysis of what this means); the burning question becomes merely how to coagulate its elements.
The revisionism that necessarily develops out of such subjectivism and the hegemonism that inevitably plagues its organizational expressions mark our movement’s great leap backwards.
Are we haunted by the ghost of the New Left subjectivism? Yes and no. Yes – in the sense that the hallmark subjectivism of the New Left does a thriving business within our movement. No – in the sense that even the most superstitious elements of our society agree that ghosts appear after death, not before death. The New Left is not dead.
CR proposes to help unite the “genuine” Marxist-Leninists. CR’s reference to “genuine” Marxist-Leninists necessarily calls forth its opposite-non-genuine Marxist-Leninists. What distinguishes “genuine” from non-genuine Marxist-Leninists? How does CR ideologically demarcate the boundary that separates the two?
We have every right to expect a clear answer from CR. After all, how else whould CR know with whom “to unite through struggle, discussion, and shared correspondence”? Even if CR doesn’t have a clear answer, we do learn the answer For the fact is that any venture into ideological demarcation demarcates itself. Therefore, even the foggiest answer provides us with an answer: what is the ideological content of foggy answers? Similarly, as Lenin pointed out, a dialectical opposition is found in any statement. Even “...in saying ’John is a man, the poodle is a dog, this is a leaf of a tree’ etc., we disregard a series of characteristics as contingent’, we separate the essential from the apparent, and put one in opposition to the other.” (LCW38:361) It is precisely what is included, and what is left out of such a statement that tells us the world outlook manifested in the statement.
Unfortunately, when we examine CR’s boundaries for the “essential” features of “genuine” Marxism-Leninism we find that the unity that characterizes the “genuine” Marxist-Leninist movement is a subjective recognition of the ideological supremacy of Marxism-Leninism. This cannot itself be equated with objective ideological supremacy of Marxism-Leninism over the movement in Canada.
For example, CR begins its outline of the “genuine” Marxist-Leninist movement (apparently including CR) with the avowal of Marxism-Leninism: “We base ourselves on the historical experience of the world revolutionary movement as summed up chiefly by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao”. However, CR is unwilling to explain, or is unable to explain, how this subjective commitment is transformed into objective practice. Marxism-Leninism is a matter of science. Science is developed and proven by being tested in social practice – not by self-proclamation. Our search for unity with true Marxist-Leninists will come to nothing if we wander through the halls of vague statements that tip-toe away from concrete proof. As Lenin stated in “Two Tactics of Social Democracy”, “truth is always concrete.”
CR appears to half-recognize this fact. “As Marxist-Leninists we are opposed to all forms of opportunism and revisionism, including social-democracy, anarcho-syndicalism, social imperialism and trotskyism. These ideologies have nothing in common with Marxism-Leninism and are harmful to the cause of the proletarian revolution in Canada and throughout the world.” Further, in CR number 5, CR explicitly denounces the CPC and the CPC(M-L). CR seems to realize that not everyone who claims to be a proletarian revolutionary is one in practice. However, CR never applies this basic truth to our movement itself. Aside from self-proclamation of Marxism-Leninism, aside from proclaimed recognition of the need for the party, aside from recognition of Quebec’s right to self-determination, aside from proclaimed disgust for revisionists, trotskyites, social-democrats et al, CR offers no more criteria for what is essential to “genuine” Marxism-Leninism in Canada.
Has CR advanced ideological demarcation in our movement? No. Marxist-Leninist demarcation is not a smoke grenade. CR’s statement on “genuine” Marxism-Leninism never takes a concrete stand on what “genuine ”Marxism-Leninism is. CR gives us only a grab-bag of non-concrete statements within which we find (ultimate irony) that CR , using the scatter-gun principle, touches a correct base: “...struggle over questions of analysis, strategy and principle must be promoted as a precondition to...unity.” Something for everyone-even the “sectarians”.
At its least pernicious, CR’s statement evidences profound faith in the incredible powers of the self-proclamation of Marxism-Leninism. Somehow, bourgeois ideology will restrict itself to the already proven counter-revolutionary forces at work to mislead the proletariat. Bourgeois ideology becomes a satanic figure that shrinks away from all who proclaim their faith in Marxism-Leninism. Get thee behind me, bourgeois ideology!
In a more serious vein, CR’s ideological demarcation is in fact bourgeois ideological demarcation. Within the very broad and very vague guidelines outlined by CR, a “genuine” Marxist-Leninist is anyone who considers themselves Marxist-Leninist and who is not presently in a proven counter-revolutionary organization like the CPC, the CPC(ML) or any of the various trotskyite fragments. Now unless we are to be so naive to assume that all opportunists, all revisionists have been so kind that they have isolated themselves by joining the CPC, the CPC(M-L), etc., we can see that CR’s “demarcation” is practically useless in demarcating bourgeois ideology from our movement. This is the first sense in which CR’s demarcation of the movement is in fact a bourgeois demarcation, CR’s demarcation serves bourgeois ideology by not struggling against it within our movement.
In this confusion by CR, we find the cornerstone of CR’s opportunism. By equating the subjective basis of the unity of “genuine” Marxist-Leninists to objectively proven unity (hence, the use of the term “genuine”), CR is bourgeois subjectivist. The content of subjective thought is not objectively true unless it has been scientifically abstracted from perceptual data, and unless it has been scientifically tested and proven in practice.
CR does not set out the criteria for proof that someone or some group is a “genuine” Marxist-Leninist. CR thereby liquidates the concept of “genuine” Marxist-Leninism and dumps phoney and “genuine” Marxist-Leninists into the same pot (minus CPC, CPC(M-L), etc.). By reducing scientific proof to matters of subjective opinion, CR removes the science of proletarian revolution from the world of objective reality. According to CR’s formula, self-proclamation of Marxism-Leninism is concretized and proven not in the varied social practice of building the party to lead the proletarian revolution, but in the act of self-proclamation alone.
Of course, CR will protest that they do not exclude objective results in social practice – “look at our demarcation against the CPC and the CPC(M-L)” they will cry. Fine, let us look. What we see is not ideological demarcation of the CPC and the CPC(M-L) but merely organizational demarcation. The two demarcations are not necessarily the same thing. Ideological demarcation works to root out of our movement all concrete manifestations of revisionism, all hues of its political existence. It is clear that CR’s demarcation against CPC and CPC(M-L) does not do any more than take note of the fact that the CPC and CPC(M-L) are counter-revolutionary. The internal struggle documents of CR provide insight and proof for our argument. The then Bolshevik Tendency (now Bolshevik Union) pointed out when in CR:
If we want to be distinguished from CPC(M-L), then we must so distinguish ourselves, actively and in our actions and politics. This is not automatic, a gift from the skies. DP said in his criticisms of CPC(ML), “What is the essence of the proposal advanced by CPC(ML)? First of all, they call for unity of all who call themselves Marxist-Leninists...There is at no time an attempt to define those principles which determine who is and who is not a Marxist-Leninist.” (P4) Our position is: in order to call ourselves a “group of Marxist-Leninists,” there must first be an “attempt to define those principles which determine who is and who is not a Marxist-Leninists.” Until that attempt is made, it is an error to call ourselves “a group of Marxist-Leninists”, an error which is indistinguishable from CPC(ML)’s error on that subject.
How did CR respond to this excellent point? In CR number 5, we are told of the “obstructionism” of “certain members” against taking a position on the CPC and the CPC(ML). Where the CPC(M)L would have called BT’s criticism the workings of some “anti-party Kruschevite revisionist gang”, CR (more restrained, and “not at all the same as” CPC(ML)) calls it “obstructionism”. But, in essence the thinking of CR is identical to the thinking of CPC(ML): bourgeois subjectivist.
Clearly, CR has demarcated the CPC and CPC(ML) organizationally, but has not demarcated the ideological approach of CPC(ML) from its own ranks.
CR’s crowning but implicit admission of their subjectivism comes in the “Political Unity and Policy Statement...” in CR numbers 1-4, when CR notes that there is not “a great deal of unity on how to proceed with the historical tasks with which we are faced.” Now, comrades, if there is not a “great deal of of unity”, then there must be a “great deal” of division, n’est-ce pas? CR takes note of this fact in CR number 5: “The priority of CR will be to debate the questions of principle in relation to ideology, strategy, tactics and organization which divide genuine Marxist-Leninists from uniting to form the party...”
In both of these statements, bourgeois subjectivism reigns supreme. Notice that the “genuineness” of one’s Marxism-Leninism is separated from one’s political line. For example, using CR’s formula, ten different individuals and groups could have ten different views of how to proceed with our “historical tasks”, of “questions of principle in relation to ideology, strategy, tactics and organization”, and still be “genuine Marxist-Leninists”. However, while it is lamentably possible that none of these ten different positions would be a Marxist-Leninist position, it is a basic principle of science that no more than one could be the Marxist-Leninist position, that no more than one position on how to proceed with our “historical tasks” can be correct for any given situation.
Instead of recognizing the materialist conception of relativity in knowledge, CR puts forward the subjectivist conception of relative truth. By their idealist and relativist outline of Marxism-Leninism in Canada, CR completely liquidates the conception of objective truth in the science of proletarian revolution. Instead of approaching the question of what is Canadian Marxism-Leninism as a question of which one (if any) of a number of differing positions most completely represents the concrete analysis of concrete conditions, most completely captures objective reality, CR reduces the question to mere matters of opinion. Somehow, as long as we are all “genuine Marxist-Leninists”, these trifling political differences will be sorted out.
As Lenin points out,
The distinction between subjectivism (scepticism, sophistry, etc.) and dialectics, incidentally, is that in (objective) dialectics the difference between the relative and the absolute is itself relative. For objective dialectics there is an absolute within the relative. For subjectivism and sophistry, the relative is only relative and excludes the absolute. (LCW, Vol. 38, P360)
CR, therefore, lines up squarely behind subjectivism against the Marxist-Leninist conception of the relation between absolute and relative truth.
CR performs the role of those anti-scientific forces who work against what Lenin sarcastically terms, “..the exaggerated claims’ of science, to wit, its claim to objective truth.” (LCW,Vol. 14,P125) Counterposed to the subjectivist conception of relativity in knowledge, Lenin outlines the materialist conception of relativity in knowledge:
From the standpoint of modern materialism, i.e., Marxism, the limits of approximation of our knowledge to objective, absolute truth are historically conditional, but the existence of such truth is unconditional, and the fact that we are approaching nearer to it is also unconditional. The contours of the picture are historically conditional, but the fact that this picture depicts an objectively existing model is unconditional. When and under what circumstances we reached, in our knowledge of the essential nature of things, the discovery of alizarin in coal tar or the discovery of electrons in the atom is historically conditional; but that every such discovery is an advance of “absolutely objective knowledge” is unconditional. In a word, every ideology is historically conditional, but it is unconditionally true that to every scientific ideology (as distinct, for instance, from religious ideology) there corresponds an objective truth, absolute nature. (LCW, Vol. 14, P.136)
Why has CR not recognized the fact that “to every scientific ideology...there corresponds an objective truth, absolute nature”? Why is it that we must suffer CR’s prattling about “genuine Marxist-Leninists” instead of the beginnings of scientific ideological demarcation in our movement? Is it because the distinction between absolute and relative truth isn’t frozen solid enough for CR to see it move? Lenin writes:
You will say that this distinction between relative and absolute truth is indefinite. And I shall reply: it is sufficiently “indefinite” to prevent science from becoming a dogma in the bad sense of the term, from becoming something dead, frozen, ossified; but at the same time it is sufficiently “definite” to enable us to dissociate ourselves in the most emphatic and irrevocable manner from fideism and agnosticism, from philosophical idealism and the sophistry of the followers of Hume and Kant. Here is a boundary which you have not noticed, and not having noticed it,you have fallen into the swamp of reactionary philosophy. It is the boundary between dialectical materialism and relativism. (LCW Vol.l4, P.136)
CR’s bourgeois ideological demarcation follows exactly the logic of subjectivism. CR’s bourgeois ideological demarcation answers the question of genuine Marxism-Leninism as follows:
1. We are genuine Marxist-Leninists.
2. Therefore, our characteristics are the characteristics of of the genuine Marxist-Leninists in Canada.
The scientific approach to the same question takes the following form:
1. What are the general principles of Marxism-Leninism?
2. What is the concrete analysis of the contradictions of Canada situated in the concrete analysis of the main contradictions of the world?
3. What is Canadian Marxism-Leninism?/Are we Marxist-Leninist?
CR’s subjectivism is objectively anti-party. Marxist-Leninist political unity is not a unity founded on bourgeois subjectivism. For the Marxist-Leninist party is the advanced detachment of the proletariat, not the backward detachment which gravitates towards the bourgeois subjectivism of petit bourgeois intellectuals.
There has been little difficulty in unmasking CR’s bourgeois ideology. Why, then, has this comparatively easy and basic task not been generally accomplished already in our movement?
The answer is, firstly, that the majority of groups and organizations in the self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist movement are themselves bourgeois subjectivist. Subjectivism can demarcate only subjectively; it cannot in fact demarcate subjectivism. Subjectivism comtemplating subjectivism merely stares into a mirror and intones: “not perfect, but don’t criticize too harshly.” We will prove this point further below. For the moment, however, we focus upon a second reason for the survival of CR’s subjectivism.
Bourgeois subjectivism always travels with a body-guard: bourgeois metaphysics. Metaphysics shields the subjectivist core from the “sectarian” attacks of science. In the case of CR, this metaphysical body-guard masks an entire history of opportunism behind a cry for unity which metaphysically inverts Lenin. Instead of “before we can unite, and in order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation”, we have “before we can struggle, and in order that we may struggle, we must first of all unite.”
From the outset, CR assigned itself an important role in our movement. “The journal will seek to unite through struggle, discussion and shared correspondence, genuine Marxist-Leninists throughout Canada.” It is precisely in relation to this self-assigned role that CR’s metaphysics looms large.
CR’s starting point is subjectivism. It is precisely when CR moves off its subjectivist starting point of comtemplating its “revolutionary” sentiments that it becomes metaphysical. CR’s move to unite “genuine Marxist-Leninists” begins, with a subjectivist view of “genuine Marxism-Leninism”. On this basis they zig and zag in a vicious circle which they name the “unity of Marxist-Leninists”.
The founding members of CR presented themselves to the movement as a “working collective of Marxist-Leninists” having “political unity”. This so-called “political unity” surfaces in the editorials of the journal, in its statement of “Political Unity and Policy of the Journal” (CR numbers 1-4) and in the “Basis of Unity” (CR number 5). This, then, is one of CR’s many “brilliant uniforms”.
However, CR indulged in some false advertising. CR was at its founding no more than a coalition of grouplets and indiviuals who considered themselves Marxist-Leninists and who were tactically agreed on the need for Canada-wide political debate.
This fact is established in Bolshevik Union’s pamphlet, “The Whole is Equal to the Sum of its Parts”. It suffices to add that from the time of the Bolshevik Tendency’s exit from CR, CR has become principally a coalition between members of CCL(ML) and In Struggle!. We await with interest CR’s mental gymnasitics as they try to explain how CR was not a coalition before BT’s exit, only to become a coalition after BT’s exit.
We have a preview of the dance CR will perform. On the one hand CR tells us that the BT comrades were “obstructionist”, and held back the deepening of unity within the journal coalition: “...The contined obstruction on the part of certain Journal members...over whether CR should take positions, meant in practice that we didn’t.” On the other hand, with BT’s exit from CR, political unity has not deepened-merely CR’s coalition basis has become more obvious.
Is it possible that the Bolshevik Tendency’s great crime was realizing that the emperor didn’t look so good with his clothes off? We look for the answer to this and other mysteries in the next issues of CR. In the meantime let us note that CR saw political disunity within a tactical coalition but proclaimed it Marxist-Leninist political unity. Any organization shrouded in such basic misconceptions and misrepresentation on the subject of Marxist-Leninist political unity is not well-equipped to give any leadership whatsoever to uniting the movement in Canada.
What happened here? Did the majority of CR collectively get up on the wrong side of the bed one morning? Or is this a historical error which they have been making for years? Is it possible that these people have been misconceiving and misrepresenting “Marxist-Leninist” political unity for quite some time?
History provides us with the answer. Our starting point goes back over six years to the formation of the counter-revolutionary group, Red Morning.
Red Morning was born on the shaky foundations of “left”-wing bourgeois pluralism. This political theory, in general, liquidates class analysis and replaces it with the pursuit of power by certain “interest groups” defined by virtue of their race, national minority status, their age, and sometimes even by the clubs and associations they enter into. In its “left” form, bourgeois pluralism babbles about such phenomena as “youth-as-class” or “lumpen-as-vanguard” defined by such characteristics as lack of privilege and quantity of oppression. As one wing of RM explained after RM’s dissolution:
Youth were seen as most oppressed within both the lumpen proletariat and the employed working class, because of such factors as high unemployment rates, police repression, authoritarian schools, adult chauvinism,and various forms of “cultural” oppression, such as capitalist exploitation of radical youth culture for a profitable market.“ (“Criticisms of Red Morning’s Political Line”, 1972. – written after RM dissolved)
The working class in general was written off as follows:
We held that the mass of white people in imperialist countries were very economically privileged relative to the mass of workers and peasants in the Third World. This privilege, we maintained, was derived from the super-profits of imperialism. Further, this privilege provided a very strong material basis for bourgeois ideology among the mass of white people in the form of racism (fear of, hatred for the people of the internal colonies and the Third World) and national chauvinism (respect for and identification with the imperialist state and imperialist ruling class). (Ibid)
Red Morning’s propaganda itself is almost entirely orientated towards lumpen youth:
If we’re sincere about liberating ourselves from this insane, profit-hungry system, then we’d better start relating to power – to the power of the Man. The pigs are expanding their forces and equipment...The main force against the Man in Canada is the Quebec liberation struggle...But they will only win their freedom by smashing the same Man who steps on us every day-in our schools, at work, in the streets, at the welfare office, in the jails.(Red Morning, Early Spring, 1971)
For those of you who are still mystified, we include Red Morning’s political economic profundities:
We believe it is the right of all people to have all that is necessary for a full and decent life...We will no longer allow Canadian and American businessmen to rip us off. We will fight for a socialist society organized around peoples’ needs.
...No one should have to do work that is degrading to themselves or to others. Shit work should be shared by all... We will support the Native People’s fight for self-determination (how soon they forget–MSLG)
The people must control the production and distribution of all drugs, and end the use of death drugs such as speed, smack and glue which destroy our ability to fight...(Ibid.)
Are you still confused? If so, perhaps Red Morning prescribes the cure: “...psychedelic drugs such as grass, hash and acid can be used by the people to see things more clearly to help us love and fight better, to help us build a revolution and a new world...”(Ibid.)
In the place of Marxist-Leninist class analysis we find bourgeois hippy pluralism. In place of the Marxist theory of knowledge we have the drug theory of knowledge. In place of the proletariat-for-itself as vanguard we find lumpen youth who are going to “fight the Man”.
This is the science of proletarian revolution? Or is this the unrestrained subjectivism of an insular group of declassed petit bourgeois who tainted the name of revolution with their worship of the spontaneity of the lumpen masses?
Eventually spontaneous combustion did its work. Red Morning dissolved in 1972. The leading elements of its two main factions continued a feud that lasted for at least the next three years and possibly to the present day. We will show below that it was during the unprincipled conduct of this feud that CR’s version of “unity-criticism-unity” was born. After all, the majority in CR, the ex-Toronto Communist Group and ex-Workers’ Unity (Toronto) trace their lineage back to these two warring factions coming out of Red Morning.
But between Red Morning and CR, three years passed. How did the ex-RM cadre transform themselves from objective counter-revolutionaries who wanted to ride to power on the bad trips of the lumpen youth, into a group with pretensions of helping to “unite through struggle and discussion” Canada’s “genuine Marxist-Leninists”?
Mere mortals, according to Marxist-Leninist principles of struggle, must meet two conditions to transform their erroneous practice into revolutionary practice. They must first of all conduct rigorous and scientific self-criticism as the initial culmination of a subjective determination to change. Also included in this process is the evaluation of criticisms of themselves from other sources. Second of all, they must prove in their practice that they have in fact recognized their errors and transformed themselves.
After Red Morning split into basically two warring factions, the leading elements of one faction developed into the “Marxist-Leninist” Wychwood Collective which, with some additions and omissions, appeared in 1975 as the Toronto Communist Group. In 1972, the original components of this faction published and distributed the above-quoted “Criticisms of Red Morning”. It is not clear whether “Criticisms...” was a conscious attempt to whitewash its writers’ practice in Red Morning. Nonetheless, it is clear that it objectively substitutes the form of self-criticism for the content of a Marxist-Leninist self-criticism.
Some examples demonstrate this point:
Our analysis of the contemporary world was basically subjective, static, simplistic, and devoid of class analysis. Our analysis was subjective because it one-sidedly stressed only the principal contradiction in the world today. (“Criticisms...”)
It is rather more difficult to say what was good about Red Morning’s class analysis, since it was both very confused and very wrong. Perhaps the most fair thing to say is that we made an honest attempt to avoid the kind of dogmatism that asserts mechanically: “The working class is the main force of change because the Marxists say so.” To try to avoid this dogmatism, we analyzed the spontaneous political motion of youth, women and the lumpenproletariat, trying to understand this motion in class terms. In doing so we departed from Marxist-Leninist science and made a number of very serious errors. (Ibid.)
Somehow it becomes possible to “depart from Marxist-Leninist science” without ever having been there. RM’s only connection with Marxism-Leninism was in their minds. The “dogmatism” of seeing the proletariat “as the main force of change because the Marxists say so” is replaced by the dogmatism of lumpen youth-as-vanguard because a group of hippy petit bourgeois say so.
This “self-criticism” meticulously examines some aspects of the errors of RM. To its discredit, it sidesteps some of the more obviously subjectivist aspects of RM’s politics. The “guilt trip” approach to revolution is a case in point. To atone for “white-skin” privilege, whites must lead the revolution by their “exemplary” practice. Perhaps the dredging up of such an embarassing side to RM’s revolution would be too much to ask of a statement which is a “self-criticism” in form only. After all, “Criticisms...” is merely an atonement for past sins, not a scientific analysis of political errors.
This becomes most obvious when we realize that this wing of RM resolutely refused to draw out the political implications of the line of RM. For example, what are the class interests of “revolutionaries” who completely liquidate proletarian revolution as so much “white-skin privilege”? What are the class interests of “revolutionaries” who completely liquidate the class content of socialism into a matter of “power of the people” in a manner that is no more than “hip” social-democracy? What is the world outlook of “revolutionaries” who recommend psychedelic drugs so that we may “see things more clearly”? What is the grasp of Marxism-Leninism held by “revolutionaries” who decided that the split in the Black Panther Party was one between the “revisionists” led by Huey Newton and the “Marxist-Leninists” led by Eldridge Cleaver?
The list of ignored but basic political questions goes on and on. Red Morning, it is clear, was bourgeois in its ideology, petit bourgeois in its approach to tailing the meanderings of the lumpen proletariat. In no way was Red Morning objectively revolutionary. Yet, not a peep on this from the people who wrote “Criticisms...”.
As we’ve stated, it is not clear whether this objective whitewash was intentional at the time of writing “Criticisms...”. There are indications that it might have been. In 1973, when the Wychwood Collective launched its hegemony drive in Toronto, they denounced an individual member of the collective which developed into Workers’ Unity (Toronto) for being counter-revolutionary in his attitude towards the working class. When asked for substantiation, WC merely referred back to the political line of Red Morning! What was “revolutionary” but erroneous when they held the line, became counter-revolutionary when someone else held the identical line.
A similar opportunist double standard surfaces in the internal struggles of CR. The Toronto Communist Group, in their attack on the Bolshevik Tendency’s position on the Native Nation, writes:
This article is a reactionary and anti-communist submission.... It liquidates the revolutionary role of the proletariat...(Document in The Whole is Equal to the Sum of its Parts, Bolshevik Union, P34)
When the liquidation of the revolutionary role of the proletariat is perceived to be the line of someone else, it is “anti-communist” and “reactionary”. That which is anti-communist is counter-revolutionary. Period. But when the Toronto Communist group, in the same document written in 1975, refers to the “white privilege” line of Red Morning, Weathermen, etc., a line which certainly “liquidates the revolutionary role of the proletariat”, it is merely a “retrogressive trend in the movement”. Even in 1975, this wing of Red Morning refuses to draw out the political implications of its own past politics. It is clear that this does not stem from an inability to face such implications (for they are only too willing to draw them out of the line of others) but merely an unwillingness to examine their own practice scientifically. This is opportunism, pure and simple.
Now, whereas in the case of the TCG wing of the original membership of Red Morning we have had to show that their critical examination of Red Morning was not a genuine scientific analysis, we don’t have the same problems with the Workers’ Unity (Toronto) faction of Red Morning. Why? Because the Workers’ Unity (Toronto) faction never even went through the motions of doing a self-criticism. They are to be credited with at least making their opportunism obvious.,/p>
This is how counter-revolution ends. Not with a self-criticism, but a cover-up.
There are some who will hold that this is so much “water under the bridge”. We answer that we are explaining the present opportunism of CR by examing the roots of its development in the past. Used in this way, history is never so much “water under the bridge”.
Secondly, it will be pointed out that in the case of TCG, our criticism is inappropriate because its membership was not entirely made up of ex-Red Morning cadres. However, we have proven that even up to the present the ex-RM membership of TCG has opportunistically refused to self-criticize for their past counter-revolutionary politics. Also, it is clear that they have not been forced to do so by the non ex-RM members of TCG. Hence, TCG as a whole, carries an opportunist line on the past counter-revolutionary practice of RM, and objectively sides with the opportunists who are so afraid of science that they refuse to apply it to themselves. The ex-TCG is every bit as accountable as the ex-Workers’ Unity (Toronto).
Several basic lessons can be drawn from this brief look at Red Morning. First of all, the enshrinement of subjectivism in RM’s line is obvious. Howver, the manner of protecting this subjectivism even after the liquidation of RM is an example of bourgeois metaphysics worth studying.
Basic to this protection is a double layer of subjectivism. The inner layer is the core subjectivism of the New Left: “We hereby appoint ourselves revolutionaries, Marxist-Leninists, etc.”. The outer layer contains the specifics of a particular subjectivist line, in this case, the line of RM. When events demand it, this upper layer can be discarded while the bottom layer remains intact. For example, the writers of “Criticisms...” go to great lengths to put distance between themselves and the past practice of RM but never open their minds to the obvious question: Were we counter-revolutionary? From an opportunist standpoint, they avoid the question with good reason, for such a question necessarily leads to a whole Pandora’s Box of questions: “If we were counter-revolutionary then, are we revolutionary now?”, and the question most deadly to subjectivism, “What are the objective criteria that determine whether or not we are revolutionary?”
In this way, by nipping such elementary questions in the bud, subjectivism survives. Had these elementary questions been asked and answered, subjectivism would have had a much harder go of it and (dare we hope) might have been overcome.
So steps in metaphysics to aid subjectivism. Outlining the characteristics of metaphysics, Mao writes:
The metaphysical or vulgar evolutionist world outlook sees things as isolated, static and one-sided. It regards all things in the universe, their forms and their species, as eternally isolated from one another and immutable. Such change as there is can only be an increase or decrease in quantity or a change of place. Moreover, the cause of such an increase or decrease or change of place is not inside things but outside them, that is, the motive force is external. (Mao, Selected Works, Vol. 1, P. 312, Emphasis added by MLSG)
The metaphysics of the ex-RM cadres isolated subjective feelings, revolutionary sentiment, etc. from objective social practice. By using this simple metaphysical tool, they tried to avoid seeing their subjective feelings put to the test of social practice. The test would, of course, have proven that their revolutionary sentiments were false.
Similarly, by negating the possibility of qualitative change, they render their sentiments immutable regardless of practice. The only changes that mark their political development are quantitative – not from counter-revolutionary to revolutionary politics, not from bourgeois to proletarian ideology – merely the addition of three more “main contradictions of the world” to the only one that RM had recognized, merely the change of place, or focus, from lumpen youth to the working class.
Thus, the ex-RM cadres preserved intact their underlying subjectivism and melted back into the mainstream of a subjectivist movement. The utter futility of mixing opportunism with revolution came to light again in the outbreak of an economist epidemic in Toronto in 1973.
In 1973, in response to both the Dare Strike and the Artistic Strike, and to the lack of militant support of union struggles by the leadership of the Ontario Federation of Labour, three “Marxist-Leninist” collectives conspired to commit Economism. Building a tactical alliance between themselves and with miscellaneous CCU camp-followers, they laid the oasis of the Right to Strike Organization in Toronto.
One of these collectives was the Wychwood Collective, some elements of which developed into the Toronto Communist Group, another the Downtown Collective (so called because that is where they lived) which eventually forsook their old name for Workers’ Unity (Toronto) and the North York Collective (named for the Metro Toronto Borough in which they lived) some elements of which developed into the Mass Line Study Group. Unlike the other two collectives the NYC was not part of the Red Morning hangover. Recently graduated students, the members of NYC manifested an intellectual attraction to Marxism-Leninism that was strong enough to draw them out of the realm of academia, but not strong enough or well founded enough to prevent them from becoming Economists.
We leave to the future a detailed analysis of the RTSO’s opportunism. Suffice it to say, for now, that the RTSO was a thoroughly Economist organization, as exemplified in its Basis of Unity:
At the Artistic Woodwork plant in Toronto, workers battled against the latest of a series of attempts to break strikes at small and medium sized plants across southern Ontario. At Texpack, Dare and Giddon, small union locals battled scabs, court injunctions, the police, and often professional strike-breakers – the chief weapons of those who attack our right to strike.
This attack is not confined to small union locals. Even in large plants, open union-busting is beginning to occur. Recently the bosses have fired the Negotiating Committee of the U.A.W. at Douglas Aircraft in Malton and of the Pulp and Paper Workers of Canada at the MacMillan-Bloedel plant in Harmac, B.C.
These attacks take place under the protection of reactionary anti-Labour laws – not only in Ontario but across Canada. In Quebec, laws are being prepared to almost eliminate the right to strike for an increasingly militant workers’ movement.
With the Anti-Labour legislation pointing the way, strike-breaking and union-busting are on the increase. It is clear that the giant monopolies and the government which they control are trying to destroy militant unionism and the right to strike.
We must defend our unions and our right to strike. In Toronto, a group of militant trade unionists and some politically active people are building the Right to Strike Committee – a committee which is independent of any political party or organization.
The main work of the committee so far has been to: 1. Carry out research into the Labour Relations Act and the history of the Labour Relations Board. 2. Produce this monthly newsletter to distribute information concerning the battles of working people to defend their unions and their right to strike.
For our purposes here, however, we want now to concentrate upon the metaphysical view of “unity-criticism-unity” which surfaced in the struggle to form the RTSO, and which is presently the main fad of our movement in Canada.
We mentioned above that the two factions of ex-RM members conducted a long-lasting feud. This feud dominated events in the formation of the RTSO. For example, in one of the early planning meetings, when we were summing up our joint practice in support of the Dare Strike, the representatives of the North York Collective criticized the Wychwood Collective for slandering members of the Downtown Collective, for not informing DC of certain meetings and for general sectarian methods of struggle towards DC.
We were hysterically attacked by WC for “anti-communism”. According to the subjectivist logic: 1. We are communists, 2. you criticized us, 3. therefore you are anti-communist. This criticism was withdrawn, sans self-criticism, about two months later. More importantly, we were criticized for “obstructionism” and “endangering the unity” of the tactical alliance. Thus began to emerge the metaphysical version of “unity-criticism-unity”.
Tactical coalitions were to ignore the past political practice of its components. And, if any present practice stemmed from past practice, it was to be ignored also.
One of the few things to the credit of the NYC during its two year life of eager Economism and opportunism was that it correctly analysed surfacing contradictions in the tactical coalition as being based in the unresolved feud that dated back to Red Morning. The NYC demanded that WC and DC sit down and struggle through the contradictions of their past and present practice. Both sides refused, WC the most emphatically. “It would get in the way of our mass work”, WC decided. To the discredit of NYC, it didn’t immediately withdraw from this coalition of nonsense but bowed to the opportunism of both sides and continued as a part of the tactical alliance.
A second principle of metaphysical “unity-criticism-unity” is that if you ignore a contradiction long enough, it will go away. The formation of RTSO, and the “unity” talks between the three collectives represented a stoic attempt to put this principle into practice and simultaneously demonstrated its utter bankruptcy. In the autumn/winter of 1973, in a manner reminiscent of the CPC(ML), WC appointed itself the leader of the revolutionary forces in Toronto, and launched a drive to literally destroy the other two collectives because they refused to submit to WC’s “communist” discipline. The principal weapon in WC’s arsenal was to fabricate ludicrous stories about both collectives to alienate these collectives from the milieu of progressive petit bourgeois that were the RTSO’s newest adherents. Ultimately WC succeeded only in isolating themselves.
In the RTSO, WC sought to bring the organization under the hegemony of the Ontario Waffle. Apparently the RTSO was not right opportunist enough; a good dose of petit bourgeois nationalism was necessary. Ultimately the WC representatives on the RTSO were forced to leave.
Thoroughly isolated, WC cadres fell cannibalistically upon each other; WC dissolved in the spring of 1974. After their dissolution, they absolutely refused to deal with criticisms from any of the people with whom they had worked during the Dare Strike, the Artistic Strike, and the RTSO, “As individuals”, we were told by several of them, “we are not collectively responsible for the activities of an organization which no longer exists”. As the second half of the “Catch 22” opportunism, we were told by all those individuals who we approached that they would not struggle through criticism and self-criticism “at this time”.
The ex-WC members had learned well from the opportunism of their opposite wing of the RM split. All criticisms were to be ignored; if you ignore a contradiction long enough, it will go away.
Freed of the excitement of fighting off WC’s hegemony drive, NYC and DC went on happily with the work of the RTSO and with their Economist work within the various trade unions of their individual cadres. Both collectives were entirely ignorant of the lessons to be drawn from WC’s opportunism, and from the metaphysical approach to “unity-criticism-unity”, which breaks down into: 1. unite on the basis of a common task, 2. ignore all past contradictions, 3. deal only with present contradictions unless they stem from past contradictions, 4. ride off happily into the sunset (unity). Any attempt to raise political criticism of this process was dismissed as so much “left-”opportunism-even though all three collectives had consistently agreed that right opportunism was the “main danger”. Sound familiar?
The creation of metaphysical methods of struggling for “unity” was developed because of the opportunist attitude taken by both sides of the RM split towards their own feud. The actual practice and filling-out of this application of metaphysics is to be credited to all three collectives. The most important immediate effect of this approach to struggle was revisionism in general, and Economism in particular.
Building unity on the basis of a common task alone liquidates the analysis of past practice. Necessarily, if we are to liquidate history, we must liquidate ideological struggle as well, in the interests of the pressing details of the present day-to-day. Why? Because if the tactical basis is primary, and if serious Marxist-Leninist ideological study and struggle would come into contradiction with its very basis of existence (as it certainly would have done), then it must be postponed – right? Similarly, matters of communist organization towards building the party was postponed.
Subjectively “Marxist-Leninist”, we used metaphysics to protect our subjectivism. Subjectively “Marxist-Leninist”, all three collectives substitued spontaneous economic struggle for creating the conditions for conscious political class struggle. Subjectively “Marxist-Leninist”, all three collectives liquidated ideological study and struggle in the interests of the day-to-day concerns of the trade union movement. Subjectively “Marxist-Leninist”, all three collectives liquidated the concrete analysis of concrete conditions and the development of Marxist-Leninist political unity on this basis in the interests of hegemony struggles between tiny collectives.
An important basic component to this revisionist treatment of Marxism-Leninism was that through the metaphysical treatment of “unity-criticism-unity”, the three collectives protected their subjectivist “Marxist-Leninism” from the encroachments of science. For example, just as “common practice around a task” was a pre-condition for political unity, it became a precondition to struggle over criticisms as well. That neatly took care of the often correct criticisms of the revisionism and Economism of all three collectives made by the group represented by Jack Kumlin: no common practice, no struggle over criticisms. Of course, as we’ve already mentioned, the primacy of the immediate tasks of the tactical coalition also prevented more than the most superficial criticisms of those who shared a common practice. The rule, in practice, became “no criticism because it will endanger our common practice”. Neat circle, n’est-ce pas?
Again spontaneous combustion did its work, the RTSO gradually dissolved. The NYC representatives withdrew from the RTSO after outlining a critique of tactical alliances that took on tasks that required far greater political struggle for unity than was allowed under the metaphysical rules of “unity-criticism-unity”. The NYC, which had reformed recently into the North York Study Collective, demanded that the continued existence of RTSO be prefaced on a thorough political struggle for unity among its components on such basic points as: 1. a class analysis of Canada, 2. the common strategy based on a common analysis of classes.
The DC (soon to be Workers’ Unity (Toronto)) agreed with our “sentiments” but moved discussion to the more “practical matters” of the organization. At this point NYC withdrew. The RTSO went on to produce one more issue of its newspaper, then gradually noticed that it no longer existed.
The ex-members of WC who formed the core of TCG began to follow the lead of In Struggle! in criticizing Economism. Finally they had been made to see the light! But they have never self-criticized to their former colleagues in Economism for their practice in helping to organize the RTSO, or for their right opportunist attempt to destroy it, or for their Economist practice in the various trade unions which their members had infiltrated. With these notable omissions, TCG’s criticism of Economism is a sham, and a deliberate cover-up. This is yet another example of how these opportunists put the protection of their own opinion of themselves ahead of the science of proletarian revolution and at the expense of revolutionary science.
In the case of Workers’ Unity (Toronto) we find that this group made the uncharacteristic move of at least performing a ritual form of self-criticism, published in CR, number 3. In the first issue of Lines of Demarcation, Bolshevik Union does an excellent job of unmasking this so-called self-criticism for Economism. We wish to emphasize of the points made by BU namely, Workers’ Unity (Toronto)’s nakedly subjectivist and metaphysical defense of their “revolutionary sentiments” despite their lack of revolutionary science. Again we see social practice metaphysically isolated from subjective opinion. Again we see metaphysics rally to the core subjectivism – “We are revolutionaries, Marxist-Leninists, etc.” – to protect it at the cost of some minor changes in the outer subjectivist layer: “a little more red paint on the Economism, please.”
We must add one more point. Neither in their self-criticism in CR number 3, nor in their pamphlet “Workers’ Unity (Toronto) Rallies to the Canadian Communist League (ML)” does Workers’ Unity (Toronto) utter one peep of actual self-criticism for their role in the RTSO . They pretend either that the RTSO never existed or was an extremely insignificant sidelight to their general practice. Poof! Red Morning disappears from history. Poof! The Right to Strike Organization disappears from history. It certainly saves a lot of tiresome self-criticism.
We repeat, this is yet another example of how these opportunists put the protection of their own opinion of themselves ahead of the science of proletarian revolution and at the expense of revolutionary science.
The third collective, the third co-conspirator in the section of Toronto Economism on which we’ve focused, published a self-criticism for Economism on May 31, 1975. The North York Collective/Study Group’s self-criticism suffered the basic weakness that it attacked bourgeois metaphysics by using bourgeois metaphysics as its principal weapon. Because some elements of NYC/SG are part of the MLSG, the MLSG is responsable for a self-criticism of the bourgeois metaphysics of the 1975 self-criticism. We begin.
The NYC/SG’s self-criticism metaphysically isolated the general from the particular. In the self-criticism we had discussed the general dialectics of spontaneism without any discussion of the concrete forms out of which generalities must be abstracted. This means that our self-criticism did not reveal the bourgeois metaphysics in the concrete practice of Economism – of our work in the trade unions, and especially in the RTSO. Similarly, the revisionism of the NYC/SG’s pretense at being “Marxist-Leninist” is only generally summed up, not analysed concretely in terms of specific line, campaigns, questions of ideological principle, etc.
Therefore, the war against the concrete opportunism of the three collectives was not engaged by the self-criticism. Looking back, we recognize now that this error of metaphysics removed almost all educational value potentially contained in a self-criticism for Economism. Similarly, we ourselves were not well enough educated by the self-criticism. The break with Economist practice in our workplace political work didn’t develop until many months after the self-criticism was published (as shown by our feeble criticism of the RTSO’s tactics-as-political unity).
(This part of our present self-criticism developed as our response to criticism of the 1975 self-criticism’s non-concrete analysis. This correct criticism was made both by the Guelph Workers Committee and by the Bolshevik Union.)
In the case of NYC/SG, however, this metaphysical error was not used as was the metaphysics of the ex-RM opportunists to protect their core subjectivity, i.e., “We are revolutionaries, etc., etc.”.
This was the main positive aspect of the self-criticism. In fact, what effectively demarcated NYC/SG’s self-criticism from the variety of sham self-criticisms that surfaced at different times from different wings of the ex-RM members was that it expressly called attention to the pretensions of being “revolutionary” without revolutionary science and social practice. For example:
In the world today, (bourgeois ideology and Marxism-Leninism) are the two great ideological camps. There are not three, not five, not three billion. Respectively, the two camps represent the interests of the two decisive social classes in capitalist society: the bourgeoisie, the proletariat...
To be a “leftist” but not a Marxist-Leninist, is to attempt the impossible task of overthrowing the bourgeoisie by means of bourgeois ideology. It is to attempt the impossible task of building for proletarian revolution without applying the science of proletarian revolution...
When the contradiction between non-science and goals that require science is given concrete expression in social practice, reversals are inevitable. Confusion, sectarianism, opportunism reign. The contradiction is resolved only by crossing over completely into one of the two great camps.
It is precisely this contradiction that lies at the basis of the opportunism, confusion, and sectarianism in the errors which we have made. (NYSG, “Self-Criticism”, P.1)
A secondary positive aspect to this self-criticism was that it attacked the unity-around-a-task approach to building political unity:
The second level to this spontaneist error is the fact that a factor in our tactics was often the fluctuations, zigging and zagging of a spontaneist “left”, itself caught in the contradiction of trying to use bourgeois ideology against the bourgeoisie. Therefore, we made sectarian errors: we worked off implicit unity (unity without an explicit unity in scientific political line) with some people, and implicit unity against other people.
The empiricist proposition that runs like thread through all of these errors is:“practical unity first, political unity at some other time”. This linear progression essential to bourgeois ideology and the metaphysical conception assumes that there can be more than brief, tactical unity without political line unity. Quite apart from this proposition’s nonsensical quality on the theoretical level, the last few years of splits, hegemony drives, of the becoming-a-communist movement in Toronto exposes it to ridicule. (lbid.,P2.)
However, this self-criticism has fewer merits than demerits. While on the one hand self-criticizing for spontaneism, we nonetheless conceived of a “spontaneous class struggle” (P2.) which in context referred to the trade union movement. How can a spontaneous ecomomic struggle of the working class, complete with reformist politics, be equated to the scientific understanding of proletarian “class struggle” which is not spontaneous but conscious, not reformist but led by revolutionary “ science as formulated by the proletariat’s revolutionary Party? The equation is spontaneist. (This correct criticism was raised by the Bolshevik Union.)
This spontaneist conception of “class struggle” lays the basis for another error namely, that we did not at that time recognize that party-building was/is our central task. In the self-criticism, we held that “concrete analysis of concrete conditions” was our central task without grasping the fact that political line development lays the basis for political unity to form the communist party. Neither did we understand that it is after the party is built and in its second stage of development that as an instrument of mass struggle it alone can effectively transform the general spontaneous struggles of the working class into conscious class struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisie. (The correct criticism that we held an incorrect grasp of the central task was raised by both Workers’ Unity (Toronto) and Bolshevik Union .)
We have already pointed out that a very important error in our attack on metaphysics was our metaphysical isolation of general statements from the concrete particulars. We wish here to dwell upon another side to this error, a side that has become a glaring trend in our movement at the present time.
This principle of metaphysics surfaces in our introduction to the self-criticism:
The appropriate time for discussion of the particularities of the general contradiction, and the resolution of old contradictions, comes after we receive a response in writing to this self-criticism – after the ideological guidelines are laid down.
On one level, this quote from our self-criticism manifests the above-mentioned error of isolating the the general from the particular. This metaphysical operation produces generalities which are inevitably bourgeois idealist in at least some aspects of their content because they do not result from scientific abstraction. However, in this particular statement from the self-criticism, we take the error a step further. We demanded that this metaphysical error be repeated by everyone who received the self-criticism and that any attempt to re-introduce the concrete and the general to one another be postponed until “after the ideological guidelines are laid down”.
Despite its “high-sounding appellations” this proposal amounted to no more than relegating the ideological principles of Marxism-Leninism to the netherworld of meaningless symbols and formulae of bourgeois idealist philosophy. Metaphysically isolated from materialist abstraction and metaphysically isolated from concrete application, the “general ideological guidelines” take their place alongside Plato’s “perfect triangles”.
We will deal with the revisionist implications of this error at length below when we analyse In Struggle’s proposals for revisionist unity – a bourgeois idealist unity that calls itself Marxist-Leninist.
For the moment, we conclude our criticisms of the 1975 self-criticism by noting that because Economism in particular and revisionism in general exist in the concrete, even the highest-sounding “general ideological guidelines” are helpless to deal with it unless they are drawn from and applied to concrete conditions.
What are the threads running through the zig-zags of the movement of “Marxist-Leninists” in Toronto from 1970-1975?
Criticism/self-criticism is at the very guts of unity-criticism-unity. It is the ideological content of criticism/self-criticism that marks whether unity-criticism-unity is a process of struggling for the unity of Marxist-Leninists, or a process of uniting revisionists. The Toronto movement, in the years 1970-1975, demonstrates the methods of struggle which are useful only in uniting revisionists.
The following threads can be abstracted from this process.
1. If possible, avoid self-criticism. After all, if it is true that “We are Marxist-Leninists”, any criticism is most probably “anti-communist” and not worth dealing with. At different times, this opportunist principle has been put into practice by the elements who formed Workers’ Unity (Toronto) (now “rallied” to the CCL(ML)) and the elements who formed the Toronto Communist Group (now “united” with In Struggle!).
This practice evidences opportunists who put themselves ahead of proletarian revolution and the proletarian science that guides its development.
2. Self-criticism, when made, flip-flops between one of two metaphysical errors. One error is to deal only with the particularities of errors without drawing out the general lessons of the particular errors. Elements of the future Toronto Communist Group performed this metaphysical operation in their “Criticisms of Red Morning’s Political Line”. In so doing, these opportunists left intact their inner subjectivism, their inner conviction that they had been, and would continue to be “Marxist-Leninists” at the minor expense of some alteration to the outer subjectivist layer: from the lumpen proletariat to the proletariat as a class-in-itself.
The other side of the metaphysical approach to self-criticism is to liquidate the particularities while concentrating on the generality. This error of metaphysics was made by the North York Collective/Study Group. Also, by pretending to self-criticize for Economism but by ignoring their Economist practice in the RTSO – their most significant Economist practice – Workers’ Unity (Toronto) committed the same error.
What do we see? We see a zig-zag of one-sided emphasis on either empty generalities or disconnected particulars. These zig-zags demonstrate the fact that bourgeois metaphysics cannot cope with both sides of a contradiction. Confronted with the contradiction between the general and the particular which lays at the basis of drawing scientific conclusions, metaphysics confronts a puzzle which it cannot solve. Metaphysics fakes it. Capable of only a one-sided grasp of things, metaphysics pretends that the other half of a contradiction does not exist.
3. Marxist-Leninist unity begins with tactical unity. The revisionism of the “Marxist-Leninists” in the RTSO, the opportunist feuding between the three “Marxist-Leninist” collectives, demonstrate the utter bankruptcy of this line in practice.
“Tactical Unity” is based upon a common recognition of a need by people who may have fundamentally different political lines. The explicit political struggle necessary between the different components of tactical unity is prevented in the interests of maintaining that tactical unity. We’ve outlined the finer points of maintaining tactical unity in our discussion of the formation and operation of the RTSO. Suffice it to say that the principle of building Marxist-Leninist political unity on tactical unity has been proven unsound in the practice of the Toronto movement. Proposing to build political unity on tactical unity means objectively to oppose a struggle for Marxist-Leninist political unity.
4. Whether someone is Marxist-Leninist or not depends upon their opinion of themselves – not on their political line and practice. This inner core subjectivism is the raison d’etre of the other three main threads of the revisionism and general opportunism in Toronto, 1970-1975.
In different ways these metaphysical “principles” of non-struggle protect the inner core of bourgeois ideology – whether it be the petit bourgeoisie’s fascination for the lumpen proletariat, or the labour aristocracy, or even itself-at the expense of revolutionary proletarian politics.
Did bourgeois subjectivism move to another planet, condemning its metaphysical body-guard to unemployment? Did unprincipled criticism/self-criticism evaporate? Did proposals for tactical unity die of embarassment?
The evidence says not. We’ve seen CR attempt to pass off a tactical coalition (based on the need for the journal) as Marxist-Leninist political unity. It is clear that at least one metaphysical body-guard has found work. What about the others?
In early I975, when Workers’ Unity (Toronto) and the Toronto Communist Group found themselves attracted to the proposal for CR from two individuals now in the Bolshevik Union, they faced quite a problem. From the time of the Red Morning split, and especially from the time of the Wychwood Collective (future TCG) hegemony drive in 1973, there had been quite a feud between these two opportunist groups. How were they going to handle working together on “an independent journal of Marxism-Leninism”?
They decided to ignore the problem. There was no political struggle between the groups over past political contradictions between them – no analysis of Red Morning, no analysis of the RTSO, no analysis of WC’s hegemony drive. Overwhelmed by their tactical unity, “let’s have a journal to promote debate”, they shelved the necessary principled political struggle lest it rock the new boat. Clearly, principled political struggle would have sabotaged this new-found “unity of Marxist-Leninists”.
It was only a matter of time before this approach would prove that a call for Canada-wide debate would become, in practice, a stifling of political debate, of political struggle for unity. It was inevitable that in the hands of these opportunists the tactical unity to create the conditions for political struggle would be transformed into a tactical unity between TCG and WU(T) to stifle those who insisted on that political struggle. Exit the Bolshevik Tendency.
The evidence suggest that that the record of the elements of CR has not improved since BT’s departure.
Our attention turns to the most recent issue of CR (number 5), the issue printed following the departure of BT. CR number 5 contains a change from the old “Statement of Political Unity and Policy of the Journal” (printed in CR numbers 1-4) to a new “Basis of Unity of the Journal”. This “new improved” version of the old smoke grenade contains the following changes.
“We are further agreed that the creation of one Marxist-Leninist political party throughout Canada is the central task at this time.”
What has changed? First of all, this position clearly states that building the party is the central task and thereby replaces the old statement’s vagueness on the question of what priority should be assigned to the task of building the party. Why the change? CR wants to keep it a secret – CR doesn’t even attempt to explain it. Certainly there is no indication of any political struggle over the question. Perhaps the CR editorial board heard voices.
Pardon us, but we are suspicious. In CR number 1, Perri and Stover put forward a generally correct anti-Economist and anti-“line-fetishist” argument that party-building was the central task.
In CR number 3, Workers’ Unity (Toronto) self-criticized for the fact that their Economism had liquidated the central task of building the party. Workers’ Unity (Toronto)’s new position merely reversed the causality by objectively arguing that the party must be built upon an Economist foundation.
Now, basic reasoning tells us that if: 1. P/S and WU(T) had both been component parts of CR, and 2. P/S and WU(T) had fundamentally opposing positions on what kind of a party should be built, therefore, there must have been if not principled struggle, at least a political contradiction within CR over the question. (Good Heavens!)
Basic reasoning is supported by the evidence. Workers’ Unity (Toronto) goes out of its way in its article to attack the P/S article. However, when it comes to CR’s official change of line, there’s not even a murmer of any political contradiction ’ not a hint of which position won out and why.
Merely, CR gives us a vague statement that is agreeable to anyone who sees party-building as the central task, regardless of why, regardless of the different kinds of party that anyone might have in mind.
In a similarly mysterious vein, CR outlines another side to their position on the central task: “...where common enemies and a common state power are faced, the struggle of the proletariat for socialism is strengthened by forging a country-wide leadership (party).”
Fine. But why no self-criticism over the former line that “as a matter of principle in our relations to the Marxist-Leninist movement in Quebec we uphold their right to their own debate”? Either something was incorrect in the old position – and a self-criticism is required, or both opposing positions are correct – in which case CR must explain its refutation of science.
Similar mysteries emerge with CR’s recognition that both the CPC and the CPC(ML) are in fact counter-revolutionary organizations. Again, we receive no explanation of why the original CR position merely implicitly attacked the CPC and the CPC(ML).
CR has completely sidestepped their responsibility to explain how and why they changed their position. With all the slipperiness of Mitchell Sharp, CR raises a totally irrelevent issue and addresses only the question of why the changes took them so long: “This statement to the movement has been long overdue.” CR goes on to blame the delay on the Bolshevik Tendency’s “continued obstruction... over whether CR should take positions.”
We have seen what CR means by “taking positions”: changes that fall from the sky with no struggle, no grounding in concrete investigation, no self-criticism. We applaud the comrades of the ex-Bolshevik Tendency (now the Bolshevik Union) for their “obstruction” of this thoroughly opportunist process.
CR number 5 states: “We see the struggle of the Native people as an important question to be debated and discussed, and encourage opinions on this question from all Marxist-Leninists,” However, CR’s old statement in numbers 1-4 had stated: “As regards our relations to the struggle of Native people, at this time we are not agreed on the national character of the struggle, but see it as an important question to be debated and discussed.” The old statement indicated that the national question was open to debate whereas the “new improved” statement ignores the national question of the struggle of Native people. Mitchell Sharp strikes again. With a subtle turn of phrase CR takes the position that the struggle of Native people is not a struggle for national self-determination. Certainly CR claims to regard “the struggle of Native people as an important question to be debated and discussed”, and certainly CR encourages “opinions on this question from all Marxist-Leninists”. But the question does not seem to be important enough for CR to acknowledge, debate, discuss, their change in their position on the question. Is the CR majority trying to tell us that they aren’t Marxist-Leninists?
The evidence tells us that within CR there was a fierce struggle over whether or not the Native struggle is a national struggle. The Toronto Communist Group attacked BT’s article as being incorrect in its “basic methodology”, its “concrete historical analysis”, its “political lines”. Phrases like: “This article is a reactionary and anti-communist submission ” are peppered throughout TCG’s position, (see The Whole is Equal to the Sum of its Parts, Bolshevik Union, p. 33-34)
How does CR represent this struggle to our movement? In CR number 4, CR writes,
The debate, however has not centred so much on whether Native people constitute a nation or a national minority, but on general questions raised by the article of how differences in the Marxist-Leninist movement are handled. (CR, no.4, editorial)
According to CR, the debate was not over content, but mere style of presentation. As we know, a favourite refuge of liberals is to focus on form as if form did not in fact flow from content. Lenin quite correctly pointed to the connection between the two:
Every man with convictions who thinks he has something new to say writes “challengingly” and in such a way as to make his views stand out in bold relief. Only those wh6 are accustomed to sitting between two stools lack “challenge”... (Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, Peking edition, P.53)
More important than CR’s liberal focus, however, is their outright dishonesty. TCG’s attack upon BT’s position deals almost exclusively with its content and makes only a passing reference to its “style of writing”. It is obvious that CR’s focus only upon form is a deliberate attempt to falsify the content of the struggle and misrepresent it to our movement.
We are able to evaluate the real content of the struggle in spite of CR, only because the Bolshevik Union violated CR’s code of liberalism by printing the polemics.
As we’ve mentioned, one of the “brilliant uniforms” donned by CR was its dedication,
...to fight for the creation of a Marxist-Leninist political party in Canada. To this end, struggle over questions of analysis, strategy and principle must be promoted as a precondition to the unity necessary...(“Political Unity and Policy of the Journal”, printed in CR numbers 1-4)
Yet, in practice, CR stifles debate. In practice, CR goes well beyond normal liberalism to deliberate falsification in order to prevent the surfacing of political struggle. CR, in practice, organizes against its promise to facilitate, “...ideological and political struggle and discussion in order to lay the basis for Marxist-Leninists to achieve a common analysis, strategy and programme..”(Ibid.)
Why the stifling of political struggle? The answer goes back to the inner subjectivist core of the majority that won control in CR against those who formed the Bolshevik Union. The answer goes back to their willingness to attack Economism in others, but to avoid any scientific concrete self-criticism of their own Economism. As unrepentant Economists, they fit neatly into a slot Lenin designed for Economists 74 years ago:
...the majority of Economists quite sincerely disapprove (and by the very nature of Economism must disapprove) of all theoretical controversies, factional disagreements, broad political questions, schemes for organizing revolutionaries, etc. (Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, Peking edition, P.22)
The subjectivism of the New Left, despite its enshrined status within the New Left, wandered about in confusion. The ebb of the New Left was marked by people’s superficial sense that feeling “revolutionary” was not enough – that a political program for revolution and the revolutionary practice of implementing this program were necessary. With this development, subjectivism went underground.
1. The first stage in subjectivism-as-mole is marked by Red Morning’s barely disguised subjectivism. Red Morning makes the self-proclamation of Marxism-Leninism without any pretense of discussion of what Marxism-Leninism is. Subjectivism here is not very far underground, as demonstrated by the “guilt-trip” approach to rallying the revolutionary forces, the drug theory of knowledge, and the liberalized pseudo-Marxist conception of “alienation”. This is the New Left once removed.
2. The second stage is almost concurrent with the appearance of Red Morning, and features the one-sided emphasis of one principle of Marxism-Leninism isolated from other principles of Marxism-Leninism. In particular, this stage is marked by the petit bourgeois circles CPL and CPC(ML) which gave themselves the name “party”. This is subjectivism twice removed.
3. Sans scientific self-criticism, the ex-RM cadres turn their backs upon the lumpen proletariat and bury their subjectivism in the posteriors of the Toronto area working class. Under the umbrella advertisement, “Marxism-Leninism”, the ex-RM cadres, together with the newly-recruited ex-students of NYC, foist the “new communist movement” onto an unsuspecting working class.
Further underground now, subjectivism bases its claim to be “Marxist-Leninist” on a superficial grasp of some general principles of Marxism-Leninism. For example, all three “Marxist-Leninist” collectives claimed to agree (in 1973) that 1. the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its satellite parties were “revisionist” and 2. that the Chinese Communist Party was the leadership of the world Marxist-Leninist movement, 3. that the proletariat was the main force of revolution, 4. that right opportunism was the main danger in the “new communist movement”, 5. that we needed at some future time to build the revolutionary communist party, 6. that contradictions among “communists” were to be handled according to “criticism/self-criticism/unity”, 7. that contradictions between communists and the masses were correctly handled by applying the “mass line”. This was the sense of ideological principles that in the main defined the “ideological unity” of the three “Marxist-Leninist” collectives, and which defined their inclusion in the “new communist movement” in Canada and the U.S.
However, these principles existed only in the realm of the subjectivity of these three collectives; they were neither applied nor developed in social practice. Consequently, they did not take root.
For example, the only practical result of siding with the Chinese CP against the CPSU was that we worked against the revisionist Canadian CP when we encountered them in our Economist work in the trade union movement. However, we could not politically struggle on the basis of Marxism-Leninism-with the Canadian CP because our spontaneist work was essentially identical to the Economism of the despised revisionists: moving up as “militants” in the trade union bureaucracy, proposing “anti-monopoly” coalitions, etc.
The “recognition” that the proletariat was the basic revolutionary force against bourgeois dictatorship represented only a change of focus from the spontaneism of the New Left’s populist anti-imperialism, and in the case of ex-RM cadres, a change in focus from their fetishist worship of the lumpen proletariat. We followed around a class-in-itself and objectively served to maintain bourgeois ideological hegemony over the working class. Therefore, our “recognition” that right opportunism was our main danger was phoney. Our own right opportunist practice, however, helped to prove that right opportunism was nonetheless the main danger in the “new communist movement”.
Our “recognition” that at some future time the revolutionary party would be necessary was merely a pretense at recognition. Party-building was utterly liquidated by the fact that all three collectives made “militant” trade unionism their nearly exclusive work. The only way in which we put our “recognition” into practice was that we regarded the CPC(ML) as a phoney party, and implicitly operated against the CPC-(ML) whenever we encountered it in our Economist work. Again, we could not struggle politically with them over anything more than certain particularities of certain tactics – our Economist work was essentially identical to theirs. The CPC-(ML), as a phoney party, was the crystallized mirror opposite of our phoney recognition that a revolutionary communist party was necessary.
The principles of struggle between “communists” were house-broken by such metaphysical confines as “tactical unity”-as-political unity. Similarly, the “mass line” became changed from the method by which communists ensure that the proletariat learns from its experience – the method by which the concretized proletarian ideology of the communist party in its second stage leads the working class movement into the method by which subjectivism dressed itself up in workers’ clothing.
This stage of subjectivism marks the significant development of bourgeois ideological demarcation within subjectivism, between different detachments of a subjectivist movement in the name of Marxism-Leninism. The principle guideline in this subjectivist demarcation was a one-sided ingestion of some principles of Marxism-Leninism. Detached (isolated) from the body of science as a whole, like dissected sections of a bug, these principles withered in our revisionist social practice.
However, passing itself off as Marxism-Leninism served as a double-edged sword for subjectivism. On the one hand, riding in the minds of certain petit bourgeois’ self-proclamations as revolutionaries and concretized in their revisionist practice, bourgeois ideology operates within the very heart of the subjectively anti-bourgeois movement. Yes just as Marxism develops in the struggle against anti-Marxism, the bourgeois, too develops in the struggle against the anti-bourgeois.
On the other hand, the subjectivist use of certain Marxist-Leninist ideological principles presents the risk of these principles being turned upon subjectivism itself. Subjectivism is for the first time exposed to the risk that the very tools used in its disguise may acquire a life of their own (concretized by the more scientific elements of our movement) and turn upon it.
Of course subjectivism’s body-guard can stave off the danger for a time. Tactical unity-as-political unity can serve to keep the ideological principles domiciled within the privacy of our “revolutionary” sentiments. Similarly the liquidation of history, by avoiding historical analysis and the self-criticism that it calls forward (viz. TCG and WU(T)) works wonders for bourgeois ideology.
However, contradictions do not disappear before their resolution, they merely become temporarily and relatively stable. Because organized subjectivism is always hegemonic rather than dedicated to scientific analysis and scientific principles of struggle for unity, the forgotten contradictions always reheat, become active, pointing out a trail that can be sniffed out and exposed.
Subjectivism is forced further underground.
4. Subjectivism, clinging to metaphysics, plots out a more sophisticated defense. The journal, Canadian Revolution, serves to meet a definite need for Canada-wide debate in our movement while simultaneously serving as a Trojan Horse by which the discredited subjectivists of TCG and WU(T) smuggle themselves into a position of leadership in our movement – especially in English Canada. This brilliant leadership campaign succeeds without either TCG or WU(T) having to account scientifically for their own histories of opportunism and, in the case of TCG, without ever having to put forward their political line! Suddenly appeared these wonderful people who wanted to help our movement move forward by stimulating political struggle for unity.
However, the other side of CR begins to make its presence felt and begins to cut away at subjectivism. Political debate is stimulated in our movement; the war on bourgeois ideology finally enters the realm of objectivity. Rather than becoming only the beneficaries of this stimulated debate, the subjectivists of CR find that it works against them. With the work of the Bolshevik Union, attention is focused upon the CR as a repository of bourgeois ideology masked behind Marxist-Leninist phraseology.
The question remains, “Is this subjectivism’s dying breath?” Does the sliding demise of CR (which hasn’t published in six months) reflect the demise of subjectivism in our movement? Does the fact that CR is basically spit down the middle between In Struggle! and CCL(ML) mean that changes in organizations represent a radical change from the bad old days of bourgeois subjectivism?
The first solid hint of the survival of subjectivism comes early in the pamphlet outlining the unity between WU(T) and the CCL(ML). Workers’ Unity (Toronto), preoccupied with keeping their “revolutionary” sentiments and credentials intact regardless of their social practice, utters the following statement on Red Morning:
Specifically, we developed out of a reaction to a past line which was thoroughly anti-working class, the line of Red Morning a youth-culture-oriented, petit-bourgeois leftist organization which was totally divorced from the masses of people. (“Workers’ Unity (Toronto) Rallies...”, P.6)
Just before this statement in the pamphlet, WU(T) refers to the CPC(ML) as a “counter-revolutionary group which has held back the struggle for a genuine communist party in Canada”. (Ibid. pp5-6) We agree, but what about Red Morning? Red Morning was not only objectively anti-working class, it was subjectively anti-working class. This isn’t counter-revolutionary?
Again we face the problem that the question, “What are the objective criteria of revolutionary politics?” is side-stepped by WU(T). With the arbitrariness always characteristic of bourgeois subjectivism, Workers’ Unity (Toronto) examines their own history only from the standpoint of the development of Canada’s revolution (themselves) whereas the parallel development of others (like the counter-revolutionary CPC(ML)) is the development of revisionism and counter-revolution despite the fact that the development of CPC(ML) displays many identical characteristics to the development of WU(T).
CPC(ML) is indeed a counter-revolutionary organization. They have been proven this in their social practice. However, the CPC(ML) is being treated as if it were sent to this earth to die for the sins of all of us. This handy “miracle” saves opportunists like WU(T) from self-criticism.
This little side-step by WU(T) is one taint on what appears to be a principled self-criticism for their Economism and revisionism. In another example, with the appearance of self-criticism they write:
...despite all the “good intentions” in the world, we did not advance a proletarian line. We reinforced bourgeois ideology (i.e. social democratic ideology) in the working class. Because trade union ideology – no matter how militant sounding-does not aim to abolish the capitalist system. (Ibid. P.6)
“We reinforced bourgeois ideology”, “we did not advance a proletarian line” – this means that WU(T) was a revisionist collective. But WU(T) won’t draw the necessary conclusion. Just like RM, they lay out the data, but side-step an ideological analysis of what it means. After all, there are limits to what “genuine Marxist-Leninists” must do in self-criticism. Real self-criticism is reserved for revisionists.
Again, the inner core of subjectivism remains intact at the minor cost of housebreaking Marxist-Leninist principles of struggle and discarding the outer layer of trade unionism.
This inner core subjectivism peeks out at us in their statement, “...trade union ideology does not aim to abolish the capitalist system”. Revolutionary ideology is not merely a matter of “aiming” to abolish the capitalist system. After all, some militant trade unionists do “aim” to abolish capitalism – for example, Workers’ Unity (Toronto)! Likewise the cadres of CPC(ML), CPL, etc.,etc. The point is not the subjective aim to abolish capitalism that defines what is revolutionary ideology. Workers’ Unity (Toronto) claims that they know this from their own history: “despite all the ’good intentions’ in the world, we did not advance a proletarian line.” Yet, the fact that revolutionary ideology is a matter of science, of concretizing in Canada the general scientific principles of the science of proletarian revolution, of building the party on these foundations of demarcation against bourgeois ideology escapes them at precisely the moment that they begin to examine themselves.
A third taint on this “self-criticism”, and another example of the survival of subjectivism, comes with WU(T)’s implicit admission that the “new Marxist-Leninist movement” both existed, and yet existed only in their minds.
The last few years has seen the birth of a new Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada...Workers’ Unity in Toronto also come out of this history...(Ibid., pp.5-6)
It follows from this quote that, (a) There existed a “new Marxist-Leninist” movement, and (b) WU(T) came “out of this history”.
However, WU(T) also claims:
The “new Marxist-Leninist movement” that we claimed to be a part of existed only in our self-conceptions and in our knowledge of the existence of other groupings. To progressive militants and the working class generally in Toronto, the new communist movement was virtually non-existent. (Ibid. P6)
The mind boggles. Workers’ Unity (Toronto) was part of something that did not exist! On the other hand, it did exist “only in our self-conceptions” etc. Without realizing it, WU(T) has unconsciously summed up the subjectivism of a movement which did and does exist, of which they were are are a part – the movement of bourgeois subjectivism dressed up in revolutionary clothing.
Finally, how does WU(T) outline the turning point in the saving of their revolutionary sentiments?
It was in the spring of 1975 that we and other Marxist-Leninists in Toronto initiated the publication of Canadian Revolution (CR),a journal to serve as a forum of debate in the new communist movement. CR did in fact bring Marxist-Leninists in many cities across the country “out of the woodwork” and into contact and debate with one another. Previous exchanges had been individual, sporadic, and isolated, largely dependent on personal travel. The debate carried in the pages of this journal pushed militants in many cities to break out of localism and right opportunism, and address themselves to the “burning questions” of our movement. Thus the publication of CR was an important step forward for the new communist movement. (Ibid. P.7)
Oh really? Haven’t we seen that as political struggle intensified, CR moved to curtail it, not promote it? CR’s good side – creating country-wide debate-was an important step forward for our movement. However, we’ve seen also that it was a step forward for bourgeois subjectivism as well.
Therefore, WU(T)’s break with their past subjectivism becomes the new subjectivism of CR. In our humble opinion, this is no hell of an accomplishment.
Clearly, WU(T) has not advanced beyond subjectivism; WU-(T) has merely advanced subjectivism.
If one half of this new fusion is subjectivist, what about the other half? Does CCL(ML) represent anti-subjectivism; will they lift up WU(T) beyond their subjectivism? Or will WU(T) drag CCL(ML) down to their level?
The evidence is that the two met on the same level with regard to subjectivism. There was no relative up or down.
a. On the (confused) virgin birth of the “correct fine”
We hope that Marxist-Leninists in Canada will recognize the fundamental correctness of the League’s political line and rally to our ranks. We can then better struggle to unite the greatest number of Marxist-Leninists and create a single communist party in Canada. (The Forge, June 3/76, P.4)
First of all, how did this “correct line” develop? CCL(ML) is ready with the answer: “Political line develops in the practice of class struggle.” (The Forge, May 20/76, P.10)
However, as anyone who absorbs Marxism-Leninism knows, class contradictions and class struggle are not the same thing:
We are all agreed that our task is that of the organization of proletarian class struggle. But what is this struggle? When the workers of a single factory or of a single branch of industry engage in struggle against their employer or employers, is this class struggle? No, this is only a weak embryo of it. The struggle of the workers becomes a class struggle only when all the foremost representatives of the entire working class of the whole country are conscious of themselves as a single working class and launch a struggle that is directed, not against individual employers but against the entire class of capitalists and against the government that supports that class. Only when the individual worker realizes that he is a member of the entire working class, only when he recognizes the fact that his petty day-to-day struggle against individual employers and individual government officials is a struggle against the entire bourgeoisie and the entire government, does his struggle become a class struggle. (LCW, Vol.4 P.215-216)
Clearly, the development of consciousness from spontaneity is prefaced upon the intervention into the working class of organized revolutionaries who carry “from without” the concretized principles of scientific socialism – Marxism-Leninism. Therefore, at least the general analysis and general strategy are worked out before spontaneous economic struggle can be elevated to conscious political class struggle. Therefore, general political line comes first.
Similarly, the “strong organization” of revolutionaries united on the basis of this political line is a second precondition for class struggle.
...the spontaneous struggle of the proletariat will not become its genuine “class struggle” until this struggle is led by a strong organization of revolutionaries.(Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, Peking edition, P.66)
And on the question of unity,
...before we can unite and in order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation. (Lenin, What Is To Be Done? Peking ed., P 26)
Instead of the Marxist-Leninist formulation, CCL(ML) takes us in a circle. Correct political line is the basis of unity for Marxist-Leninists. Fine. We agree. But where does this correct line come from? “Political line develops in the class struggle”. But there is no “class struggle” yet! So we’re back at square one.
Political line develops out of something that does not exist. Are these people phantoms sent to plague us?
Leaving these mysteries aside, one thing is clear. CCL(ML) hopes that other “Marxist-Leninists” will “recognize the correctness of the League’s political line...”, but CCL(ML) does not know where this line came from. On the basis of this “correct line” CCL(ML) scoops up WU(T) which does not know where it came from.
b. How the “Marxist-Leninists” were found inside a mirror
Together they plan to “realize the greatest ideological, political, and organizational unity of Marxist-Leninists in Canada” (The Forge, May 20/76, P.10). But they do not know who these “Marxist-Leninists” are.
In a recent issue of The Forge, CCL(ML) appeared to advance deeper ideological demarcation within our movement. Criticizing the In Struggle! conference of October 9, CCL(ML) appears to zero in on the subjectivist definition of Marxism-Leninism:
In Struggle! applied an erroneous definition of what is a Marxist-Leninist group, inviting practically everyone who claims to be communist. In fact many of those who gave speeches were not genuine communist groups...In particular we wish to underline that In Struggle’s invitation to Bolshevik Union, helped to legitimize this opportunist group of saboteurs as part of the Marxist-Leninist movement. It is disgusting that such a group whose work is simply to dividend wreck the Marxist-Leninist movement should be allowed to speak. (The Forge, Oct. 21 /76,P.11)
Our first question: what, in CCL(ML)’s book, qualifies as “genuine Marxist-Leninist”? CCL(ML) does not know:
In Quebec the struggle of genuine Marxist-Leninists was waged against a number of economist formations...But even genuine Marxist-Leninists themselves were marked by the very same economism they wanted to fight against. (Ibid, May 20/76, P11)
What have we learned? Apparently “genuine” Marxist-Leninists and phoney Marxist-Leninists can both be Economist. Therefore, Economism is not the demarcating point.
CCL(ML) has more mysteries for us:
All communist groups must assume the task of studying Marxism-Leninism, of taking positions on the major political questions we face, and of beginning communist agitational and propaganda work with the goal of winning the most advanced workers to communism. (The Forge, June 3/76, P.4)
It is inherent in the League’s wording that if “all communist groups must assume the task” of developing line and of doing communist agitation and propaganda, that it is possible to be a communist group without doing any of this – presumably as long as such a group is willing to begin to “assume the task”. Therefore, political line development, and communist agitation and propaganda are (at least initially) not necessary to qualify as “genuine Marxist-Leninist” in the CCL(ML)’s books.
...At the present time, differences on several questions of political line prevent us from following a single road. We believe that in order to overcome these obstacles to unity, Marxist-Leninists must resolve the non-antagonistic contradictions which exist on following questions:
– the analysis of the principle contradiction in Canada
– the struggle of the Canadian people in the world-wide United Front against the two superpowers
– the Quebec national question
– the strategy and tactics in the struggle to build the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party to fuse Marxism-Leninism and the labour movement.
– the tasks in the unions. (The Forge, Feb. 26/76, P.3)
What is this but CR’s relativist subjectivism whereby x number of different groups, individuals, etc., could hold x number of different positions on all these questions and still be “genuine Marxist-Leninists”? Having already discredited this anti-materialist nonsense in our criticism of CR, we will not dwell on it here. However, it is clear that it is possible for a variety of groups to be CCL(ML)-certified “genuine Marxist-Leninists” despite a wide spread disunity on the very basic components of political line.
In a nutshell, CCL(ML) isolates “genuine Marxism-Leninism” from just about every aspect of social practice. The difficulty for CCL(ML) therefore, is how they will manage to “demarcate” against Bolshevik Union if social practice is so unimportant in defining their mysterious category, “genuine Marxist-Leninists”. But wait. CCL(ML) does mention one thing essential to “genuine Marxism-Leninism”:
Among genuine Marxist-Leninists in Canada the essential point of departure is to “start from the desire for unity for without this desire the struggle is certain to get out of hand.”-Mao Tse-tung. (The Forge, Feb. 26/76, P.3)
Mao did not divorce the authenticity of one’s revolutionary politics from social practice. CCL(ML) does. Among other characteristics of genuine Marxist-Leninists (all defined in social practice by Mao), the “desire for unity” in struggle is one demarcating property. For the CCL(ML) it is the only one.
This is the new meaning that CCL(ML) gives to the formula “unity-criticism-unity”. Obviously CCL(ML) really means “unity-unity-unity”; after all, this is the essential “point of departure” of “genuine Marxist-Leninists”.
CCL(ML)’s unity-unity-unity formula has a hidden clause, however. True to its subjectivist roots, this metaphysical formula, which does not allow for qualitative development, translates in practice into: unity-unity-unity-WITH US!
Hence, Bolshevik Union’s “demarcation” from the ranks of “genuine Marxist-Leninists” courtesy of CCL(ML). For as we all know, BU has no “desire for unity” with CCL(ML) as it is presently constituted. No group in our movement has subjected CCL(ML) to deeper or more thorough criticism over their line on Canada, and over their line on “comminist” agitation and propaganda, than has BU. How does CCL(ML) respond? How eagerly does CCL(ML) defend their “correct line” (of mysterious origin)? Simply by demarcating BU out of the movement and thereby relieving themselves of the responsibility to struggle against BU.
According to CCL(ML)’s subjectivist logic, BU became “opportunist” splitters of the whole movement because they criticize CCL(ML).
Yet, CCL(ML) has, in words-in its “high-sounding appellations” indicated that it would take exactly the opposite course: “before creating the party we have to exhibit an unshakeable firmness to defend Marxism-Leninism.” (The Forge, Dec. 75, P. 10)
In practice, however, CCL(ML) has demonstrated an “unshakeable firmness” not to defend its line. Is CCL(ML) trying to tell us that the defense of its line, and the defense of Marxism-Leninism are two different things?
In practice then, CCL(ML) demonstrates that it does not know what scientific criteria demarcate “genuine Marxist-Leninists”. In the place of these scientific criteria, CCL(ML) substitutes its subjectivist evaluation of whether or not people genuinely want to unite with CCL(ML).
From subjectivist relativism whereby CCL(ML) absolves “genuine Marxism-Leninism” of all scientific content and metaphysically isolates it from almost all social practice, CCL(ML) has zagged to the more primitive subjectivist proposition that is proven in their demarcating practice: CCL(ML) has more of these mysterious “genuine” qualities than anyone else. Sensitive to the criticisms of In Struggle! that CCL(ML) does not really believe in the existence of the Marxist-Leninist movement, CCL(ML) does not put their more primitive subjectivist side to the forefront. It merely leaks into view in their practice of demarcation in the movement.
Again, we find that an attempt at ideological demarcation demarcates the demarcator.
No, bourgeois subjectivism has not suffered from the appearance and growth of CCL(ML).
Only too eager to imitate the forms of the CCL(ML)/WU(T) “struggle” for unity, In Struggle! outlines the “struggle” between IS! and the Toronto Communist Group. In Struggle! criticizes an “important deviation” of the TCG:
...a tendency of the Toronto comrades to separate the question of organizational unity from ideological and political unity and to defend their backward organizational forms as necessary until there had been more common practice and ideological debate in the country-wide movement. In practice this tendency was revealed in a proposal for collaboration on a country-wide newspaper with In Struggle! and with other militants, without organizational unity, discipline and application necessary to achieve this. (In Struggle!, Sept. 30/76, P.4)
Our first point is that again TCG has escaped making any scientific self-criticism for their past revisionism and hegemonism.
Our second point is that In Struggle! has in fact criticized TCG for bourgeois ideology without apparently realizing it. For, what is the separation of “organizational unity” from “ideological and political unity” but our good friend, the metaphysical bodyguard which isolates one interconnected thing from another, in this case one-sidedly emphasizing organizational unity at the expense of its basis – ideological and political unity? What is this but our infamous tactical unity-as-political unity of the RTSO and CR? Now we find that TCG wanted a tactically-united country-wide newspaper. What else is new?
It is also apparent that IS! doesn’t really mind. They refer to it merely as an “erroneous tendency” not as an example of bourgeois ideology in our movement. Not willing, or not able to recognize the metaphysics, IS! never has to examine the entire history of TCG’s bourgeois subjectivism which lies at the basis of metapysics.
However, we must ask, wouldn’t IS! have had some doubts? After all, IS! was aware of the contents of BU’s criticisms of the opportunism of CR. The answer is that such matters of bourgeois ideology in our movement do not matter to IS! In Struggle! has perfected unity-unity-unity to a degree that would make CCL(ML) blush (pink).
In struggle! opens its attack on the “sectarian” side to CCL(ML)’s unity-unity-unity line with the following:
To apply the principle of “unity-criticism-unity” in the struggle for unity first demands the acknowledgement of the existence of the Marxist-Leninist movement. This movement is composed of the various groups, organizations, circles, and cells embarked in one way or another on the road of the proletarian revolution in Canada and in the application of the strategy that consequently follows. To acknowledge the existence of the Marxist-Leninist movement doesn’t consist only in stating it exists, but principally in acknowledging this fact in practice. (In Struggle!, Fight the Sectarianism of the CCL(ML), P.7)
Because In Struggle! makes this the basis of their attack on CCL(ML) we must believe that they sincerely feel that it is a matter of Marxist-Leninist principle that Canada has a Marxist-Leninist movement. Therefore, it is fair for us to ask IS! to explain this thing that “exists” but which no one seems to be able to describe.
IS!, in outlining their proposal for its national “unity” conference of October 9, explains that it is inviting representation from the entire Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement and outlines the criteria of membership in this movement:
At the present time, In Struggle! considers that inclusion in the Marxist-Leninist movement is based on theoretical and practical adhesion to a Marxist-Leninist ideological line. We start from the point of view that a Marxist-Leninist movement exists across Canada. This movement is made up of all those who adopt Marxism-Leninism and Mao Tse-tung thought as their guide to action and who strive to acquire the most complete knowledge possible of these principles; of those who struggle against opportunism in all its forms, against revisionism, trotskyism and other forms of bourgeois ideology present in the labour movement and among Marxist-Leninists themselves. (IS!, Sept. 16/76, supplement, P.4)
There is little difference between this statement and the subjectivist outline of “genuine Marxism-Leninism” used by CR. We are told that Marxism-Leninism is proven in the social practice of “struggle against opportunism in all its forms...”(Correct.) But we are not told what these forms are. We are told that there is “bourgeois ideology present...among Marxist-Leninists themselves”, but we are not told what forms it takes. In Struggle! stays on safe ground, but in such a way that their abstraction is metaphysically isolated from the concrete to the point of being useless – a bourgeois abstraction not a scientific abstraction. “Opportunism” and “bourgeois ideology” escape unscathed.
Now that we know that IS! does not tell us what the Marxist-Leninist movement isn’t we ask, does IS! say what the movement is? No.
In the IS! call for the national “unity” conference, and in parallel positions in the IS! journal, Proletarian Unity, IS! does not demarcate a movement that contains scientific political unity:
In spite of their unity on the fundamental principles which must guide their action, Canadian (ML) communists are still divided on many essential points of political line. (Proletarian Unity, Vol. 1, no.1,P.17)
Again we find the anti-materialist relativism of a “genuine Marxism-Leninism” sans political line agreement. IS! tries to cover itself, however, by laying out general areas of unity – the “fundamental principles” which unite the movement:
...opposition to those so-called socialists who favour class collaboration...the road to socialism...is through proletarian revolution...the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat... ...they believe firmly and totally in proletarian internationalism. ...upholds the self-determination of the Quebec nation up to and including its right to secede...the national minority rights of the Inuits and Native Indians...(In Struggle!, Sept. 16/76, supplement, P.4)
The list goes on and on. The character of the list is again merely a bourgeois abstraction that is useless in providing any concrete outlines of our movement that demarcate against bourgeois ideology.
IS! merely constructs a fence on the basis of the lowest common denominator of the movement. IS! bows to the backwardness of our movement by attempting to unite on the basis of this backwardness. Because the lowest common denominator of our movement is bourgeois ideology, we can expect to find that IS!’s approach for the “unity of Marxist-Leninists” is itself bourgeois in its ideology.
And so it is.
The first sense in which its basis is bourgeois in its ideology is that it elevates and enshrines bourgeois subjectivism while at the same time liquidating the struggle against the bourgeois ideology which IS! claims exists “among Marxist-Leninists themselves”. IS! accomplishes this task by refusing to be concrete about how “Marxist-Leninists” prove their “Marxism-Leninism.” Instead, IS! utters fatuous statements of the ilk: “There is a contribution to be made by all Marxist-Leninists in forging political and organizational unity in the next period.”(In Struggle!, letter of invitation to the Oct. 2nd, “unity” conference in Toronto).
This resembles nothing so much as Krichevsky’s concern lest a rupture occur between revisionism and scientific socialism.
“Generally speaking”, writes B. Krichevsky, editor of the Rabocheye Dyelo, “this talk about the Mountain and the Gironde that is heard in the ranks of Social-Democracy represents a shallow historical analogy, a strange thing to come from the pen of a Marxist. The Mountain and the Gironde did not represent different temperments, or intellectual trends, as ideologist historians may think, but different classes or strata-the middle bourgeoisie, on the one hand, and the petty bourgeoisie and the proletariat, on the other. In the modern socialist movement, however, there is no conflict of class interests; the socialist movement in its entirety, all of its diverse forms,” (B.K.’s italics) “including the most pronounced Bernsteinians, stand on the basis of the class interests of the proletariat and of its class struggle for political and economic emancipation.” (Lenin quotes Krichevsky, in What Is To Be Done?, Peking ed., pp.11-12)
Commenting on Krichevsky, Lenin writes,
But can anything more “shallow” be imagined than this opinion of a whole tendency based on nothing more than what the representatives of that tendency say about themselves? (Lenin, lbid.,P.12)
Secondly, in struggling about to find a term for their liquidation of concrete analysis of the divisions in our movement, IS! comes up with: “a fundamentally correct ideological line” (IS!, Proletarian Unity, Vol.1, no.1, P.17). In so doing, IS! reveals their fundamentally incorrect line on Marxist-Lenjnist ideology.
IS! repeats and deepens the error made in NYC’s self-criticism of 1975. IS!’s bow to subjectivism enlists the metaphysical bodyguard which isolates ideology from political line, and the general from the particular.
This we call the barnyard theory of ideology. Ideology is presented as a sort of fence enclosing the area of a farm. Inside the farm live all “genuine” Marxist-Leninists. Outside the farm live marauding bears, wolves, and other revisionists and opportunists.
This theory comes complete with a barnyard theory of politics. Political line is developed within this ideological fence – much as farm buildings are constructed within the area of the farm. Any disagreements among the “genuine” Marxist-Leninists do not concern the perimeters of the farm,i.e. ideology, but merely the matter of what building to put where. Struggle among “genuine” Marxist-Leninists is of course conducted according to a metaphysically bastardized conception of unity-criticism-unity which allows for no qualitative development (we are inside the fence – no,the outhouse should go over there – we are still inside the fence).
Merely having the fence does not guarantee any buildings however. As IS! dresses it up:
A fundamentally correct ideological line does not automatically guarantee the application of Marxist-Leninist principles to the Canadian revolution...(Proletarian Unity, Vol.1 no.1, P.17)
Just as “genuine” Marxism-Leninism can be isolated from objectively revolutionary social practice, now a “fundamentally correct ideological line” can be isolate from “the application of Marxist-Leninist principles to the Canadian revolution”.
Therefore, IS! here relegates Marxist-Leninist ideology to the realm reserved by the bourgeoisie for bourgeois philosophy: Ideology suddenly becomes something entirely independent of the concrete world. However as Marx and Engels pointed out:
When reality is depicted, philosophy as an independent branch of knowledge loses its medium of existence. At the best its place can only be taken by a summing-up of the most general results, abstractions which arise from the observation of the historical development of men. Viewed apart from real history, these abstractions have in themselves no value whatsoever. They can only serve to facilitate the arrangement of historical material, to indicate the sequence of its separate strata. But they by no means afford a recipe or schema, as does philosophy, for neatly trimming the epochs of history. (Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Moscow ed., Vol. 2, P. 26)
And, we add, relegated to this “independent” existence a la bourgeois philosophy, Marxist-Leninist ideology certainly loses its advantage against bourgeois ideology – it no longer depicts reality. ”Independent“ or reality, this “Marxist-Leninist” ideology can no longer struggle against bourgeois ideology in the concrete.
We want to point out that one of the objective functions played by the bourgeois idealist conception of philosophy is to mask the class contradictions of bourgeois society and their reflection in thought. And, we want to emphatically point out that this is exactly what IS!’s conception of ideological unity accomplishes. IS! allows the self-proclamation of Marxism-Leninism to stand regardless of whether or not the self-proclaimer is concretely bourgeois ideologically. IS! serves to mask the reflection of the class contradiction in the thought of the movement. This approach is dangerous to a movement dedicated to the ultimate resolution of class contradictions.
Again, we see subjectivism ably served by metaphysics. Bowing to the subjectivism of our movement, IS! wishes not to offend it. The handy butchering of an ideology that in reality has the “concrete analysis of concrete conditions” as its “living soul” (Lenin) but which in IS!’s imagination is free of concrete analysis, marks bourgeois metaphysics and revisionism in top form.
What IS! does not grasp is that Marxist-Leninist ideology and political line (concrete analysis...) are flip-sides of the same coin. From the concrete history of society, from the concrete history of the proletariat’s struggle for socialism in various countries around the world, from the concrete history of those societies in which the proletariat has overthrown the bourgeoisie, general principles of Marxism-Leninism have been scientifically abstracted.
These general principles are abstracted only to be applied. They are a “guide to action” and the guide to analysis that finds out what action to take. They are the tools of concrete analysis which guides revolutionary practice.
The correct use of these general principles in concretely analysing concrete conditions, in Canada, is the development of Marxist-Leninist political line. Correct use is prefaced on two operations: 1. acquiring a correct understanding of the concrete particularities out of which this or that general principle was correctly abstracted, and 2. acquiring a thorough grasp of the concrete conditions of Canada. These two operations, for example, tell us that the New Democracy policy of the Chinese Communist Party was the correct revolutionary line in China while at the same time telling us that it is not the correct policy for the Canadian revolution.
Mao discussed how we should handle the relationship between the general and the particular in the contradictions of all things. Because Marxism-Leninism is a material thing, his comments apply.
Since the particular is united with the universal and since the universality as well as the particularity of contradiction is inherent in everything, universality residing in particularity, we should, when studying an object, try to discover both the particular and the universal and their interconnection, to discover both particularity and universality and also their interconnections within the object itself, and to discover the interconnections of this object with the many objects outside it. (Mao, MSW, Vol. 2. P. 329)
Mao also points out,
Where our dogmatists err on this question is that, on the one hand, they do not understand that we have to study the particularity of contradiction and know the particular essence of individual things before we can adequately know the universality of contradiction and the common essence of things, and that, on the other hand, they do not understand that after knowing the common essence of things, we must go further and study the concrete things that have not yet been thoroughly studied or have only just emerged. (Mao, ibid, P. 321)
Clearly, to know the general principles of Marxism-Leninism is impossible if that “knowledge” is not founded on how those general principles apply in concrete Canadian conditions. In the objective interest of providing subjectivism with the utmost flexibility, IS! features a dogmatic side to their bourgeois ideology.
No, bourgeois subjectivism does not suffer at the hands of In Struggle!
By unfolding the opportunism of CR we have found disturbing similarities between the subjectivism of the movement in Toronto and the two major organizations (IS! and CCL(ML) founded in Quebec). Also, we have found that metaphysics is as overused in Quebec as in Toronto. Clearly, bourgeois subjectivism and bourgeois metaphysics dominate our movement.
Heretical though it may sound, this should not surprise us. Commenting upon the fact that workers, upon awakening, “clutch at the first available means of struggle”, Lenin wrote:
...“the first available means of struggle” will always be, in modern society, the trade union means of struggle, and the “first available” ideology will be bourgeois (trade union) ideology. (Lenin, What Is To Be Done? Peking ed., pp.53-54)
Can it be qualitatively different for the “awakening” petit bourgeois intellectual? Most of us in the Canadian movement share the origins of being “awakening” petit bourgeois intellectuals. Our life experience was not the life experience of the working class; our “first available” means of struggle were consequently not trade unions but all the intellectual wiles of the educated petit bourgeois. However, our “first available” ideology was still bourgeois ideology and it was within bourgeois ideology that we initially “awakened” Further, as intellectuals, our “clutch” at bourgeois ideology covered much more ground than mere trade unionism.
Our own history and the history of the world proletarian movement tells us that the proletariat cannot overthrow the bourgeoisie using bourgeois ideology. History tells us that it is consequently necessary to demarcate against bourgeois ideology in building the revolutionary proletarian party. It is time to put these lessons to work.
In a movement that has accomplished very little concrete analysis of concrete conditions, that is characterized primarily by subjective commitment to a vauge sense of the general principles of Marxism-Leninism, bourgeois ideology, (particularly in its right opportunist form) holds the upper hand. Our objection to the essentially identical bases of the unity proposals of CR, IS!, and CCL(ML) is not that they key on the subjectivity of the unity that defines our movement, but that they all pretend that this subjectivity is something else – an objective Marxist-Leninist unity. This pretense in practice allows them to skip the entire period of demarcation against bourgeois ideology in the first stage of party-building.
No comrades, we must recognize our movement for what it is. Only on this basis will we be able to advance towards the development of the party. The substitution of subjective committment to proletarian revolution for scientific recognition of its necessary and essential development merely takes us in a circle.
What we have is the embryo of a Marxist-Leninist party in Canada – a nascent party. A mere germ. Simultaneously, we have the embryonic form of a new revisionism specially suited in general to a world dominated by two superpowers, and in particular to the concrete conditions of Canada and skillful in manipulating certain principles of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tse-tung Thought. Some of our movement will become the communists of the new Marxist-Leninist party; some of us will develop into full-blown revisionists.
The issue is not settled yet. Many in our movement (CR, IS!, CCL(ML)) propose that nascent communists and nascent revisionists unite. Such a unity guarantees that revisionism wins out. To unite fire with water is to extinguish fire.
And this, comrades, is not what any of us had in mind. Because party-building is our central task, the period ahead will develop into a demarcation against bourgeois ideology with regard to the content of this task-the methods of building Marxist-Leninist political unity, the development of Marxist-Leninist political line. Demarcation will divide those who merely fling themselves into some subjectivist sense of “party spirit” from those who prove their Marxism-Leninism by demarcating against bourgeois ideology in building the party.
We know that bourgeois subjectivism and bourgeois metaphysics thrive in our movement. Consequently:
Before we can unite, and in order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation. (Lenin)
 We recently received a document from the Halifax Communist Group but have not yet been able to study it.
Yet, in a letter sent out to all former RTSO newspaper subscribers in June, 1976, Workers’ Unity (Toronto) performs a ritual self-criticism for their practice within the RTSO: Our“solutions” had been equally vague: “reform the laws”, “better labour legislation”, “political action”, etc. We never talked about the goal of building a socialist society, even though most of us (privately) believed that there was no other solution...at best the RTSO tailed after the unions...calling for “more militancy”. Workers’ Unity (Toronto) goes on to explain that they have recently joined the CCL(ML) and why it is generally necessary to give a thicker coat of red paint to Economism. We repeat, this self-criticism was somehow only necessary within the narrow confines of the ex-RTSO but not necessary within the movement.
 Our subjective intentions at the time of writing the 1975 self-criticism were to at all costs avoid making the mistake of hiding implicit criticisms inside the form of a self-criticism – a well-established practice in the Toronto movement. With this in mind, we avoided the particularity of opportunism in Toronto and therefore, objectively sided with it. This is merely another example of how the “best intentions” are no substitue for science, and a fertile base for revisionism.
 After all, it was a Workers’ Unity (Toronto) representative who addressed an RTSO conference on public service workers in early 1975 with the following profundity: “The owners of big corporations are making huge profits”. But when addressing the reasons behind these owners’ “attack on the right to strike” she commented, “They are trying to pass off their losses on to the working people.” Not even a blush.
 See CCL(ML) pamphlet, Workers Unity (Toronto) Rallies to the Canadian Communist League(Marxist-Leninist)
For an excellent treatment of this basic point see “Defeat Economism’’ in Bolshevik Union’s Lines of Demarcation Vol.1, No.1, pp.33-39
 CCL (ML) makes a minor foray into the barnyard-fence theory (in The Forge, August 26/76, P. 9): “Apart from the essential ideological questions like a firm basis on Marxism-Leninist principles, the struggle against opportunism, modern revisionism, we see the essential political questions as follows...” CCL(ML) doesn’t recognize that the concrete struggle against opportunism etc., is a political question as well. What does this say about their “correct” political line?