First Published: Proletarian Unity, Vol. 1, No. 6, August 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The workingmen have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself THE nation it is, so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.
There is certainly good reason to recall this elementary truth that Marx was the first to put forth in the “Communist Manifesto”, for it is a truth that capitalist ruling classes are always seeking to camouflage.
While at the national level especially since the election of the PQ the bourgeoisie is divided, various elements within the ruling class, from one faction and the other, have been exhorting the proletariat to abandon its own interests for the sake of the “nation”. And they’ve been singing the same song in every region of the country, just changing around the words a bit, each one trying to win the proletariat over to the capitalist plan. Each faction is also hoping to push the balance of power between the factions in its own favour, in order to profit to the hilt from the capitalist crisis which is shaking Canada.
For the members of the ruling class in Quebec, to fight unemployment and inflation, “English-Canadian colonialism” must first be fought. As far as they are concerned, the role of the Quebecois proletariat is to supply the foundation blocks of the Quebec “homeland”, and to make it into an independent State. Look at how Camille Laurin, Minister of Cultural Development in the Quebec government, put this bourgeois plan, “To the anglophone provinces that ask, ’What does Quebec want?’, the francophones of Quebec can now answer: a homeland... francophones in Quebec are attached to this nation by every fibre in their being... the government they feel the closest to is the Quebec government. In any conflict that could put the federal government in opposition to the Quebec government, they instinctively take the latter’s side, no matter what their party affiliations...” (from Laurin’s July 19 speech to the Quebec National Assembly)
In Ontario, the monopolist Canadian bourgeoisie has lost no time in launching its nationalist “Made in Canada” rockets; after all, there can be no question about letting the Canadian market and Canada’s international position weaken, can there? During the recent election campaign, Bill Davis spent his time declaring that the unity of Canada was above all other questions: “Elect me, I am the savior of our country, forget about your exploitation and your misery for the time being...” For this faction, whose national spokesman is Trudeau, if things are so bad it’s because investments are down due to the PQ’s election.
In the Maritimes and in the West, the bourgeois, are, like elsewhere, inserting their own demands into their grandiose defence of “national unity”: “The West is exploited by the rich provinces”, “If we’re poor in the East, it’s because of Ontario and Quebec”... and all of them say to the workers: “Help us get more subsidies and more powers: then you’ll get more jobs...”
This type of propaganda that you can hear “from sea to sea” has but one aim: getting the proletariat to abandon the point of view based on its specific class interests so that it falls into rank behind the bourgeoisie, getting the proletariat to put off its main objective forever; getting it to put off putting an end to the real source of exploitation, of oppression and of crises, capitalism itself.
And we must face the fact that the bourgeoisie is still enjoying a certain degree of success with its appeals to “national unity”. In more than one hundred years of control, this class has learned how to exploit the great spirit of sacrifice that the people has demonstrated under difficult conditions, in order to get it to serve its own interests.
But to pass its lies and demagogy down through the ranks of the working class movement, it also counts on its agents, its mouthpieces, the labour bosses and labour bureaucrats. “Be more productive and things will be better for the country...” that’s what they say repeatedly to justify their latest model of class collaboration implanting tripartism on the local, regional and national level.
Indeed, the bourgeoisie is well-armed to spread its class viewpoint: its media, newspapers, radio, and television, never let up in their flood of messages of love and understanding, of collaboration between the classes.
What’s more, in this intense ideological campaign there are Marxist-Leninists and progressives who defend positions which lead to abandoning the proletarian class viewpoint and proletarian interests. This is most clearly evident in relationship to the defense of the national independence of Canada.
Thus, in the West there are still comrades who want to make an alliance with certain sectors of the national bourgeoisie on the pretext that American imperialism is the principal enemy.
And, in the same sense, the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist), on the pretext of the “Three World” analysis, has just repeated to Canadian workers that they should unite with their bourgeoisie” to oppose the war preparations of the two superpowers”... Yes, indeed, help our bourgeoisie, after all, it’s so weak compared to the superpowers...! What does it matter if it is increasing its military budget at a rate of 12% every year?... it’s all to “protect the Canadian people”. What does it matter if it is allied to the USA at all sorts of levels, it’s probably because “it’s more or less forced into it”...
Blinded by its growing nationalism, the League has closed its eyes to the rapacious actions of Canadian imperialism in the Third World, preferring to applaud, as it puts it, how positive this is in the struggle against the superpowers. That is how the League ends up by supporting the bourgeoisie on this question, and totally abandoning a class viewpoint. The League forgets that war is only another effect of the capitalist crisis, the most important effect, yes, but we must fight capitalism itself, we must overthrow the bourgeoisie in our own country and make a socialist revolution if we want to put an end to crises and to counter the unleashing of world war!
The League comrades would surely be wise to learn some lessons from the history of the communist movement in our country; more particularly, the history of Communist party of Canada, the CP.
The Party, founded in 1921, on the teachings of Marxism, led a large number of working class struggles during a period of almost twenty years, but during the Second World War it gradually abandoned the class viewpoint on many questions, and ultimately slipped into total opportunism towards the end of the 50s.
Thus, at its congress in 1943, on the pretext that Canada had become an “ally” in the struggle against worldwide fascism, Canadian communists also began to want to ally themselves with this bourgeoisie inside the country. To make itself more “acceptable” in the eyes of the bourgeoisie, the Party put an end to any sort of organization based on factory cell and substituted it by an organization based on territorial cells! Following the same reasoning, the Party drew up request to affiliate to the CCF (the forerunner of the NDP) by promising to respect its rules and its programme! For all practical purposes, this request amounted to a pure and simple renunciation of political independence.
As well, during the war, the leaders of the Party, with Tim Buck at the head, even went as far as declaring that after the war there would be no more unemployment! In losing the class viewpoint on these questions, and on the necessity of the socialist revolution, the Party came to make the worst possible compromises with the bourgeoisie and although it continued to refer to Marxism-Leninism, it clearly became but another bourgeois party.
Another negative example, this one closer to us in time, that Canadian workers and Marxist-Leninists might study is the experience of the Progressive Workers’ Movement (PWM) in English Canada from 1964 to 1970.
PWM, composed of Marxist-Leninists mainly from Western Canada, had as its goal the reconstruction of the Canadian proletarian Party.
But PWM was strongly marked by nationalism as far as the revolutionary strategy of the proletariat was concerned. By refusing to recognize the imperialist character of the Canadian bourgeoisie, by putting forward the possibility of an “alliance” with a nationalist faction of the bourgeoisie against American imperialism, and by even going as far as proposing the formation of an “Independence party for Canada”, these Marxist-Leninists abandoned the class viewpoint of the proletariat and its current task, overthrowing the bourgeoisie.
It is clear from all this that the slogan of “saving the nation” and bourgeois nationalism are an extremely dangerous tendency for Canadian workers and Marxist-Leninists. And it is also clear that it is indeed easy to loose sight of the class point of view of the proletariat and to end up by tailing behind the bourgeoisie, just like the labour bosses and other agents of the bourgeoisie in our ranks want. It is easy to put bourgeois nationalist interests above the class interests of proletarians.
And it is in order to provide arms for fighting this nationalism and all forms of abandoning the proletarian class viewpoint both domestically and internationally that this issue of PROLETARIAN UNITY is publishing both the evaluation of Progressive Workers Movement made by a Vancouver group, the Long March Collective and IN STRUGGLE!’s interventions at the Conference on the unity of Third World countries organized July 9 in Montreal by the groups which make up the Comite anti-imperialiste des peuples du Tiers-monde, the Third World Anti-Imperialist Committee.
The struggle against bourgeois nationalism within the working-class and Marxist-Leninist movements must be intensified and this struggle is an integral part of the current movement to rebuild a genuine proletarian Party, without which socialist revolution is impossible. This Party must represent a genuine rupture with bourgeois ideology; and only if it does will it constitute a decisive step forward for the proletariat.
 We refer readers to the document we published over the summer, Fergus McKean’s “MARXISM VERSUS OPPORTUNISM” in order to deepen their understanding of the two-line struggle that was waged during this period within the CP.
 For an analysis of the Conference, see the July 21 and August 4 issues of the newspaper IN STRUGGLE!