First Published: In Struggle No. 77, December 20, 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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In the September 2 and September 16 (nos 69 and 70) editions of our paper, IN STRUGGLE! published an evaluation of the strike of the Alcan workers in Kitimat, an evaluation prepared by two Vancouver Marxist-Leninist groups, the October Study Group (OSG) and the May First Collective (MFC). Later on, another Vancouver group, the Red Star Collective (RSC) sent us a response to this evaluation. We published the full text of this response in the November 24 and December 9 (nos 75 and 76) issues of our newspaper. The polemic initiated by the evaluation of this strike of Alcan workers in British Columbia is of great importance for the whole Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement. It greatly surpasses the immediate context of the analysis of a particular struggle. In our opinion in fact, the Red Star Collective’s response represents a largely positive contribution in the struggle presently going on within the Marxist-Leninist movement between the bourgeois line and the proletarian line on the question of the role Marxist-Leninists should play within unions. In this editorial, we will concentrate on the main question raised by the RSC (but we may perhaps return to other aspects brought up by this evaluation of the strike later on) by linking this polemic to the one presently underway in Quebec concerning the role to be played by communists in mass organizations. The Red Star Collective’s intervention aims essentially at denouncing the left opportunism present in the Kitimat strike evaluation; opportunism, which, by basing itself on an erroneous conception of the true nature of unions, in fact ends up, according to the RSC, by putting the whole of the working class within the camp of the enemy. (IS! Nov. 24, p. 6)
The RSC particularly reproaches the two other Vancouver groups for is mistaking honest and combative but non-communist union leaders with traitors, who, like the CLC’s Joe Morris and Ed Lawson, have concretely demonstrated that they are corrupt leaders, conscious agents of the monopolist bourgeoisie within the workers’ movement. But these enemies of the proletariat must in no way be confused with the great mass of workers who, even if dominated by bourgeois ideology and reformism, nonetheless constitute the objective forces of the revolution. The RSC correctly notes that if things were otherwise, “99.9% of the working class would be traitors”. Such is the fundamental position expressed by the RSC in this polemic and we agree with this position.
To consider a union leader as a traitor because he is still dominated by reformism, because he is not a communist and does not put forth the setting up of a proletarian party, amounts to treating like enemies friends misled by reformism.
By placing reformist workers misled by the bourgeoisie in the camp of the enemy, communists commit a very serious error. They qualify a contradiction within the people as antagonistic, they are thus led to oppose the people and to isolate themselves from the masses. This attitude objectively leads to counter-revolution by creating a favorable ground for anti-communism and allowing counter-revolutionaries to lead the masses towards reaction.
Confronted with the class enemy, there is but one correct attitude... merciless struggle, because the contradiction which opposes us to the bourgeoisie can only be settled by the bourgeoisie’s overthrow and its elimination. On the contrary, the contradictions within the people must be solved by patient communist educational work. The communists will be able to solve the contradictions within the people and to fight against reformist ideas by rallying the honest workers who carry these ideas only if they base themselves on the masses and use democratic methods.
But at the present time, the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) (CCL-ML) is reproducing leftist errors on a broad scale, ones that are strongly comparable to those criticized in the IN STRUGGLE! edition of October 9 (no 72). We are talking in particular of the action of the CCL(ML) and also of the group Mobilisation in the Associations de défense des droits sodaux (ADDS) and at the Centre de formation populaire .
Recently the CCL(ML) published a pamphlet entitled Against reformism! For a class struggle ADDS! in order to support its Intervention within this welfare recipients organization in Montreal. This text, while being very unilateral on the concrete analysis of the action of the ADDS, tries to justify the leftwing positions of the League, and states that IN STRUGGLE!, in failing to support the actions of the CCL(ML), is playing the game of the reformists. Indeed, the League’s pamphlet also includes important and truly justified elements of self-criticism but, in confining this self-criticism uniquely to the “style of work” of their militants, the comrades of the League lose sight of the essential: that the style of work of communists is inseparable from the political line they hold within the masses and their organizations. It is precisely a leftist line which guides the League’s interventions in several other mass organizations. And so, in the SOS garderie  movement, the League, on the pretext of defeating reformism, managed to have a platform adopted which turns a movement of struggle into a group-of-those-who-agree-with-the-League’s-platform. Such a conception of communist leadership of mass organizations leads us straight into the CSLO’s economist error: the creation of intermediate organizations which only regroup the advanced elements of the masses thereby condemning the others, the “reformists”, to a greater domination by bourgeois ideology.
Whether it be in unions or in other mass organizations, communists must not work towards division but towards unity. They must not seek to take short-cuts by imposing Marxism-Leninism at all costs, but patiently and solidly work in educating the masses so that they grasp this tool and make proletarian ideology triumph within their organizations. It is only by beginning with confidence in the capacity of the masses to overthrow the bourgeois ideology which presently dominates their organizations, that communists will be able to win over their most devoted and most sincere leaders, and set them free from the grasp of reformism. It is in this way that the traitors and the agents of the bourgeoisie will get more and more isolated, until the day when the masses will definitively kick them out from the ranks of their organizations.
Concerning the criticism addressed to us by the RSC at the end of its article, we do not endorse it. If we published the OSG and the MFC’s joint evaluation, this in no way meant that we entirely endorsed their analysis or that we “did no investigation on the actual situation”. Of course we never claimed to have perfect knowledge of the situation in Kitimat nor of the trade union-movement in British Columbia. But if we would have had to wait for this situation to change, we still wouldn’t, to this day, have a quarter of the knowledge which came out of the polemic itself.
This is why we maintain the policy of opening up our pages to articles from other Marxist-Leninist groups and also to the contributions from the masses in order to broaden and deepen the struggle against opportunism within the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement across the country.
 ADDS: a group uniting welfare recipients particularly in Montreal, but present elsewhere in Quebec.
 CFP: center for workers’ political education mainly on union matters,
 SOS (garderies): a group uniting the community day-care centers in Quebec in their struggle to demand to the government free day-care centers fully controlled by its users and working people.