First Published: In Struggle, No. 87, April 28, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The Second Conference of Canadian Marxist-Leninists was held in Montreal at the beginning of April. These public conferences are part and parcel of the struggle to unite all Canadian Marxist- Leninists in one sole organization on the basis of a program whose elaboration itself presupposes a systematic demarcation between correct ideas and erroneous ones, between the bourgeois line and the proletarian one. The conferences have precisely as their aim sharpening the polemic and the direct confrontation of viewpoints within our movement on the principal questions of programme, and this in a spirit of unity and within an organized and systematic framework. Thus, the Second Conference of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement was all the more important seeing as it dealt with questions relating to the path of the proletarian revolution in our country, questions which must be at the heart of the program the of the proletariat.
In this special supplement we publish the assessment and evaluation that our group has drawn up of this important conference. We have done the maximum possible to see to it that this assessment was made public as soon as possible, and that it be as widely circulated as possible so as to relaunch the debates and promote the polemic. In particular this evaluation should serve to considerably enrich the debates at the regional conferences, which are a resumption and an extension of the Montreal conference in those cities where the distance from Montreal limited the maximum possible participation of workers and friends of the Marxist-Leninist movement in the national Conference. As well, this evaluation should be seen as a significant contribution for the preparation of the Third Conference which will deal with the international situation. And we would like to see all friends and all those sympathetic to the Marxist-Leninist movement as well as all groups to send us the questions they want to see discussed at this conference so that we can start the task of drawing up an agenda for the conference.
As we have already stated in a previous issue of the newspaper, the Second Conference of Canadian Marxist-Leninists was a thoroughgoing success for the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement as a whole, and an all the more impressive success since it was achieved in spite of the systematic boycott of the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist).
The success of the Conference is above all due to the number of groups and individuals that participated in it. To have succeeded in bringing together for two days 1500 members and friends of the Marxist-Leninist movement, including a significant number of conscious workers to debate the path of the Revolution; and this right on Easter weekend, is already a great victory for our movement. To have succeeded in spite of the boycott of one of the biggest and most important Marxist-Leninist group in Canada, is not only a slap in the face for sectarianism which is such an obstacle to our movement, but also for the bourgeoisie which is constantly trying to make us believe that the masses aren’t the least bit interested in revolutionary theory. The workers who spoke during the plenaries and the workshops, those who came to listen to the debates, are living examples of the contrary. They are a reply to all those, inside the Marxist-Leninist movement and out, trying to prevent advanced workers from having access to Marxism-Leninism.
But it was not only unaffiliated individuals who participated in the Conference; also participating were the great majority of Canadian Marxist-Leninist groups. In fact, just one group, the Regina Marxist-Leninist Collective, replied positively to the divisive appeal launched by the CCL(M-L). All the others, to our knowledge without exception, participated in the Conference. As well, it is also worth pointing out the speech of the representative of several anti-imperialist groups which emphasized the positive nature of this Conference for the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists, and thus, for the unity between the Canadian people and peoples around the world.
But, apart from the abovementioned positive aspects the real success of the Conference lies quite simply in the fact that it attained the objective that we had openly and dearly given it almost a year ago in our plan of struggle for unity: promoting the struggle for the most solid possible unity on the ideological, political and organizational fronts. The fact that the objective was achieved is above all due to the fact that the Second Conference was an occasion for an intense line struggle between the proletarian line and the bourgeois line within the movement. And this, too, we had stated at the time of the publication of our plan of struggle for unity:
In other words, the Marxist-Leninist line which should guide the work of communists at every stage of the struggle and on all questions is not based on the conviction of one tendency or another of one organization or another, that it has the “correct line.” No, the Marxist-Leninist line, the correct application of principles to a given situation, can only be the result of struggle, the struggle against errors and deviations and the struggle against opportunism. It’s in the course of this same struggle that the truth will appear and that the Marxist-Leninist line will emerge and triumph over opportunism and revisionism. It’s this very struggle which will reveal who the movement should recognize as its leading center. A decision which will be decided by the correct leadership provided by one or another group or organization. (Proletarian Unity vol 1, no 1 p. 21)
The great victory of the Second Conference was, beyond a doubt, having unmasked the remainders of the bourgeois nationalist line within the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement and having attacked its theoretical and historical foundations.
For the League, this debate is a false one, a debate already settled since the publication of its Statement of Political Agreement, which it’s been content to cite over and over again in the last year. Worse still, this is a debate totally fabricated by IN STRUGGLE! to appropriate unto itself the title of defender of the correct line and to camouflage its own errors. To come up with statements like that, you have to be not only completely twisted by a mentality imbued with competitiveness and rivalry, you also have to be totally and crassly ignorant of the actual and past situation of the communist movement in our country. That reality is not like that, becomes immediately clear as soon as you go about learning about it as it is and not as you imagine it to be.
And the reality of the situation is this: bourgeois nationalism still constitutes, today as it has for a long time, the principal danger to the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement as far as the path of the Revolution in our country is concerned. If you want proof of the still recent and large influence of the Progressive Workers’ Movement line on many anglophone study groups and Marxist-Leninist collectives around the country, look at the current errors of the Red Star Collective and Workers’ Unity (Edmonton), look at the tendency which is still very much alive in the League to put forward the struggle for national independence of Canada in front of and to the detriment of the struggle for socialism, and the tendency which it is now developing of putting the rights of the Quebec nation forward in front of and to the detriment of the rights of the Canadian proletariat, whatever the nationality; or look at the still recent errors of our own group on the principal contradiction.
There you have a series of current and important manifestations of this erroneous line within the movement. But that is only one part of the phenomenon: in fact, the entire history of the Canadian communist movement is marked by bourgeois nationalism. Remember that from the time of its creation in 1922, the Communist Party of Canada, the CP, viewed Canada as a colony of England and advocated various forms of alliance with the Liberal Party to bring about the national independence of the country, an independence that in fact, had already been acquired at the end of the 19th century. Remember, too, that despite the important corrections at the beginning of the 30’s (among other things, on recognizing the imperialist character of the country), the CP continued to put forward supporting various factions of the Canadian bourgeoisie, sometimes the one represented by the Liberal Party, sometimes the one represented by the Conservative Party; and even more, hist after the Second World War, it concentrated the major bulk of its agitation and propaganda on the defence of peace and on national independance of the country vis-a-vis American imperialism, completely abandoning the preparation of the proletarian Revolution and slipping definitively into revisionism.
As well, in the 60s and at the beginning of the 70’s, all the major efforts to reconstruct the proletarian Party were marked by important bourgeois nationalist errors.: this was particularly true for the Progressive Workers’ Movement, whose Manifesto, Socialism and Independence for Canada advocated nothing less than a national liberation struggle against American imperialism as the “revolutionary” strategy for our country.
And this group exercised all the more influence seeing as its principal leaders, themselves former members of the CP, were the first to denounce the revisionism of Khrushchev and of the CP itself, and that a number of the important militants in the Marxist-Leninist study groups and collectives in the West were formed in the school of thinking of PWM, the school of bourgeois nationalism. And this the League calls a false debate fabricated by IN STRUGGLE!
For some, the importance of a line can be measured by the number of groups that defend it, by the numerical importance of these groups, etc. That is the way the League understands things. For it, there currently exist two Marxist-Leninist groups that are more important than the others, IN STRUGGLE! and itself. Thus the two-line struggle is the struggle between these two groups: the other groups can only act to prevent the good functioning of it all, and it would be useless to lower ourselves to debate with them.
This superficial reasoning loses sight to a fundamental fact, a Marxist-Leninist principle, that teaches that the two-line struggle within the Marxist-Leninist movement (and this is true even when there exists only the one Marxist-Leninist party) is the reflection of the class straggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Consistent Marxists know how to use this principle to understand reality and to transform it: it means that erroneous positions within our movement represent, in the long run, the interests of the bourgeoisie and not only the bourgeoisie in general but equally and above all, the particular interests of the Canadian bourgeoise. Canada is an imperialist country, but an imperialist country subject to a large degree to the domination and control of American imperialism. Under these conditions, the principal error within the working class movement in general, and the Marxist-Leninist movement in particular is precisely that of overestimating the importance of foreign powers, and above all, American imperialism, and of underestimating the power of its own bourgeoisie to the point of advocating all sorts of alliances with it; the principal danger within the movement is that of bourgeois nationalism, the open door to revisionism in Canada. That’s what the history of the Canadian communist movement teaches, and this is what was at the heart of the Second Conference of Marxist-Leninists.
The task of establishing the path of the Revolution in our country, like elsewhere, cannot be dissociated from a vigorous and scientific criticism of revisionism; in the concrete conditions of our country, that means above all a vigorous criticism of bourgeois nationalism. And this task is far from completion. Until the Conference, it was all the more difficult to complete because the nationalist line exercised its influence in an indirect way, you could say in a hidden way, by being defined principally by reference to PWM, at the same time as having some reservations about PWM’s line without ever clarifying what these were. And it was all the more difficult, as well, because the League claims that the debate was closed with its Statement of Political Agreement, that is with its paraphrase of the Marxist-Leninists classics, and an analysis of the development of capitalism in Canada that was so general it could apply, give or take a few phrases, to all advanced capitalist countries!
To complete this task, it was necessary for the nationalist line to be expressed openly and clearly, and it was also necessary for it to be unmasked openly and clearly. And this is what happened at the Conference. The Red Star Collective was the principal carrier of bourgeois nationalism at the Conference, followed in its error by Workers’ Unity (Edmonton) and the Vancouver Red Collective.
The nationalist position of these groups, like that of those who went before them, can be summed up in three basic theses:
1) Canada is not an imperialist country, but rather a country subject to a foreign imperialism – American imperialism.
2) the Canadian bourgeoisie is not a genuine national bourgeoisie due to the weakness of its economic control and to the fact that its existence lies fundamentally on its association with American imperialism rather than on its own interests and its complete control of State power.
3) the struggle of the Canadian proletariat must above all be directed against American imperialism thus it is possible to make alliances with various factions of the Canadian bourgeoisie. These are the basic points focused on in IN STRUGGLE! s criticism, as well as those of the majority of participants. And if today we can say that the Conference was a success, it is precisely because this criticism went to the bottom of the nationalist errors rather than limiting itself to the formalistic and superficial aspects of the question.
IN STRUGGLE!’s criticism brought out the fundamentally erroneous conceptions of the RSC on two central questions. Without going into the details of our argument here, we are nevertheless going to undertake to map them out because it is precisely around this matter that the Conference represents a step forward, a step that must know be completed by intensifying the polemic on these questions. Furthermore, that is what we intend to do in the upcoming months in our newspaper and journal as well as at the next Conferences.
The central questions are the following: first, the question of State power; second, that of imperialism.
For all consistent Marxist-Leninists, the question of State power is a fundamental question it is, in fact, a matter of nothing less than the objective of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat itself. As Marxism-Leninism teaches, the proletariat, in order to accomplish its historical mission of constructing socialism and ending up with a classless society, must wrestle State power out of the hands of the bourgeoisie, destroy it, and establish its own power over the overthrown exploiters, the dictatorship of the proletariat. That is the essence of the proletarian Revolution.
But the RSC completely evades the question. These comrades present the history of our country as a simple question of the relationship between various capitals a question of greater or lesser investment in different economic sectors. They do not understand, or refuse to understand the bourgeoisie’s absolute need for its own State power, State power it controls, in order to constitute itself into the ruling class. They do not understand how the Canadian bourgeoisie had to wage to struggle to make State power its own, without which it could have never existed and would have been quite simply integrated into the American bourgeoisie. And that is precisely what leads them to saying that the Canadian bourgeoisie holds a part of State power but that in the final analysis it only exists through its association with American imperialism. Indeed, they do not start from a point of view of the class struggle of the proletariat and they hide the fact that what the proletariat must confront is not just a certain quantity of capital, but the State that represents the interests of capital, the State with its machinery of repression and laws and army. etc.
So in practice, to the RSC, the Canadian bourgeoisie is a negtigable entity and it is indeed American imperialism that is the principal enemy of the Canadian proletariat.
The Bolshevik Union pushed this error even further by stating that the Canadian State is a new type of State, an “intermediate” State (intermediate between what and what, BU did not say!) held neither by the Canadian bourgeoisie nor American imperialism but by the alliance of the two of them! Once you take into account the respective strengths of these two bourgeoisies, this comes down to saying that State power is held by American imperialism. Under such conditions, to be consistent, you have to put forward a national liberation struggle. The only other possibility is that fundamentally these two bourgeoisies have fundamentally the same interests, that they have no opposing interests, which leads to liquidating the struggle for national independence and to’ capitulating before American imperialism.
In fact, to the extent that BU, like the RSC, does not understand the existence of the Canadian bourgeoisie as the ruling class, it does not understand the necessity for the proletariat to take State power for itself. And this is why, after criticizing IN STRUGGLE! for making the question of State power central it ends up by reducing the divergencies between Marxist-Leninists and revisionists to the following:
For revolutionaries, for Marxist-Leninists, the principal goal is not to gain petty concessions for the State, but to seize the means of production and place them in the hands of the proletariat. Therefore the principal enemy is those who own the means of production. That is the difference between the Marxist-Leninist point of view and the revisionist point of view. BU’s opening speech.
Despite the booming nature of this declaration from BU, it rather tends to make the real basis of the differences between Marxist-Leninists and revisionists disappear, that which Lenin called the cornerstone for demarcating real Marxists from the phony variety: the conquest of State power by the proletariat, the dictatorship of the proletariat. While the revisionists do not aim at seizing the capitalist State without destroying it, which is the essence itself of the proletarian revolution, BU totally liquidates the very question of State power. Given this, how can they talk about seizing the means of production. Is BU defending the Trotskyist position of taking State power factory by factory, outside of the revolutionary political struggle against the bourgeois State?
The other question that was identified as being at the heart of the differences between Marxist-Leninists and bourgeois nationalists is that of Canadian imperialism.
We have already dealt with this question in a previous issue of the newspaper (No. 87, ) and we will come back to it in more depth; here we will stick to the strict essentials of what the Conference brought out. What constitutes the source of the differences is not simply an unequal amount of concrete facts to support one thesis or the other, but rather a question of the conception of class. As we stated and demonstrated at the Conference, RSC’s conception of imperialism, and the point of view of those who share this conception, is essentially petty bourgeois. It consists of reducing imperialism to the domination of one country over another, which amounts to explaining the fundamental problems of the masses through the domination of another country on theirs and of turning them away from the genuine cause: capitalism itself. As Lenin amply explained in general, and as we have already shown for our country, imperialism is before and above all a particular stage of capitalism, the final and rotting stage of capitalism; and the problems of the Canadian masses have their origins in capitalism itself, capitalism which has reached this rotting stage.
As long as the RSC maintains this petty bourgeois conception it will remain a prisoner of bourgeois nationalism and thus turn the Canadian masses away from the only revolutionary path, that of overthrowing capitalism in Canada.
Thus the Conference brought into focus the tight association that has linked bourgeois nationalism and revisionism down through the history of the Canadian communist movement. It brought out the absolute necessity to deepen the rupture with Canadian revisionism. Indeed, we cannot reconstruct the vanguard Party of the Canadian proletariat by starting from zero, by ignoring the Party that was for a time the vanguard Party. The CP committed important errors and even before its definitive degeneration into revisionism it slipped into bourgeois nationalism several times.
In addition, those errors have, to various degrees, dogged all the groups that have undertaken the task of reconstructing the proletarian Party, all the groups that have been and are today in the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement.
As long as we haven’t sorted out the right from the wrong in the CP’s line, and as long as we haven’t established a clear line of demarcation between modern revisionism and the new Marxist-Leninist movement, we will remain exposed to and subject to these former errors. And this line of demarcation will not be drawn on the basis of stating our line alone.
By necessity it implies the complete criticism of the revisionist line in Canada, a criticism as much of its current manifestations as its historical development. This, too, was confirmed by the Conference.
As Lenin put it:
The most reliable thing in a question of social science, and one that is most necessary in order really to acquire the habit of approaching this question correct and not allowing oneself to get lost in the mass of details or in the immense variety of conflicting opinions – the most important thing if one is to approach this question scientifically is not to forget the underlying historical connection, to examine every question from the stand point of how the given phenomenon arose in history and what were the principal stages in its development, and, from the standpoint of its development, examine what is becomes today. (The State Collected Works, Vol. 29, p. 473)
This is true as far as the question of State power is concerned, and it is also true for the current errors of the Marxist-Leninist movement.
In spite of the positive results of the Second Conference just enumerated, it is important to point out a number of questions around which the debate was weaker, if not ignored altogether. This is necessary not only to render an account of what happened but also to correct them in the future.
Of all these questions, the most important is doubtless that of the composition of the Canadian proletariat and the nature of its allies in the struggle for the proletarian revolution. This is a manifestation of a more general weakness of the Marxist-Leninist movement: for pratically no really developed positions exist on this question so crucial to the future of the Revolution in our country. We had hoped, in our letter of invitation to the different groups, that the Conference would be an occasion to launch this debate This was not the case. We must take a share of the responsibility to the degree that our principal document on the question hardly touched the surface of this question, and to the degree that our representatives at the Conference hardly dealt with the subject. However, we have undertaken to correct this weakness and we are putting the mechanisms into place so that this question can be fully debated in the coming months.
As well, the national question in Quebec was by and large ignored, and there to, there has to be a deepening in the line struggle around this question in the movement. Remember, once again, that this question was at the heart of one of the most important splits within the CP, the split in 1947 when the Party refused to recognize the right of Quebec to self-determination. It is hardly necessary to dwell on the sharpness that national division in Canada has taken on these days since the election of the PQ government in Quebec: more and more, big-nation chauvinism in English Canada and narrow nationalism in Quebec are developing; more and more, their harmful consequences within the working class movement and within the Marxist-Leninist movement are appearing, what with the League playing the game of nationalism and chauvinism, acting as if they could teach the most reactionary elements of the PQ a thing or two!
And finally, a last weakness which will have to be corrected as much for the next Conference as in the preparatory texts, is the demarcation with positions outside the Marxist-Leninist movement: the revisionist positions of the CP, of course, but also social democratic, trotskyist and reformist positions of all stripes, positions whose influence is still present within the Marxist-Leninist movement.
IN STRUGGLE! has always defended the necessity of drawing a clear line of demarcation between the Marxist-Leninist movement and the various bourgeois tendencies within the working class movement! This is a necessity not only to avoid confusing contradictions among the people (which are not antagonistic) and those between the enemy and ourselves, but also to avoid debates between sects, debates that are turned inwards, and that lose sight of the fact that right now it is not Marxist-Leninists which exercise the principal influence over the advanced workers, but various bourgeois tendencies. For this, too, we must take a large share of the responsibility because by and large we neglected this aspect of the debates both in our preparatory texts and at the Conference itself.
It would be impossible to genuinely assess the Marxis-Leninist Conference without evaluating the behavior of the various groups in the debate: it is, in fact, impossible to separate a political line from the way it is debated.
And as far as this goes, the Conference can be placed in the perspective of a rectification already undertaken within the movement: the majority of the groups and individuals participating demonstrated concern in basing their speeches and positions on concrete facts. Canadian Marxist-Leninists and conscious workers are less and less content with debates that are limited to questions of formulation, even the formulation of the principal contradiction. What we want, is to understand and explain reality in order to be able to transform it. And within this context, congratulations are due to the majority of the Conference’s participants. We must all continue working in this same direction, for the victory of the proletarian line depends on it.
However, certain participants criticized us for our tendency to push their positions to the logical conclusions: this was the case with BU and the RSC. We disagree with their point of view. The ideological struggle obliges Marxist-Leninists to be vigilant, to pay attention to the slightest error, to the smallest nuance of opinion and to explain their consequences. This is all the more true when the debate deals with the path of the Revolution. This can never justify the falsification of positions that we are fighting against but we are convinced that we did not make such an error at the Conference. We therefore invite these groups to explain these criticisms publicly and we will reply.
Nevertheless, we must absolutely criticize and combat the incorrect behavior that some demonstrated at the Conference.
In the first place, we denounce the openly divisive behavior of the Bolshevik Union. This group did not participate at the Conference in order to promote the greatest possible unity of the Marxist-Leninist movement, but on the contrary, in order to promote its division. It participated to sell its own trash, and even this, through the most spectacular methods. It accused IN STRUGGLE! of defending the revisionist line of Tim Buck cela fait de l’effet! We would like it to demonstrate which of Tim Buck’s lines it meant (this former leader of the CP defended several positions within the Party), in what way it was revisionist, and how its resembles IN STRUGGLE!’s, thereby enlightening everyone. But that’s not BU’S aim, BU’S aim is to look good.
BU put forward a developed position on Native peoples. That would have been positive if it had sought to help the Marxist-Leninist movement to develop its line on this important question. But BU is not seeking to help the Marxist-Leninist movement, it is seeking to further divide it. That is why it makes its own position a question of principle, knowing that no other group has a sufficiently developed position on the question. This path is the path of making each new question an instrument of division of the movement. That is why it systematically detoured the debates in workshop 3, on to this question alone, thus preventing debate on two other equally vital questions: the struggle to safeguard the national independence of Canada and the struggle against national oppression in Quebec.
In fact, BU, in its behavior at the Conference, showed itself to be the sharpest manifestation of petty bourgeois radicalism, that tendency of all petty bourgeois intellectuals to take themselves for the navel of the world. The struggle against this divisive current is of the greatest importance for the development of a movement like ours, which is still largely composed of petty bourgeois intellectuals. These types have no other way “to make if’ than to put themselves in evidence, to get themselves noticed, to place individual above the collectivity, one’s own small group above the movement as a whole. And this spontaneous tendency of intellectuals does not disappear instantaneously the day they decide to rally to Marxism-Leninism!
And this type of individualism, which within the Marxist-Leninist movement is manifested by openly sectarian and divisive activities, has taken a consolidated form in all capitalist countries during the 20th century – that of Trotskyism. For the Trotsyists, in fact, do exactly this when they advance the right and the necessity of constituting factions, when they propose “the right to tendencies” in the place of a steel-like unity of the proletariat, (see the series of articles that appeared in IN STRUGGLE! on Trotskyism, particularly article 5. published in No. 69)
That is where the current tactics and behavior of BU lead; we will no longer allow them to continue down such a path nor allow them to attract to themselves other sincere comrades. But it is surely not by cutting off the microphones to them at our Conferences neither by a priori excommunicating them that we will succeed, but rather by deepening and publishing a systematic criticism of their positions, as we did at the Conference.
As well, RSC’s attitude of fleeing in the face of the multiple criticisms posed to them must be severely criticized. This attitude, which is opportunist in its base, was most obvious as far as the relationship that the majority of the participants established between PWM’s line and RSC’s line is concerned. Instead of replying firmly to these criticisms, the comrades from RSC chose to say that they were not prepared for replying to such a question. Coming from a group where several members had already been in PWM, from a group that had tried to camouflage the errors of PWM in its opening address, this statement does not hold water. For when you get to the bortom of it, RSC refuses to acknowledge its nationalist errors and their ultimate consequences as they were formulated in PWM’s Manifesto.
Other Vancouver groups, particularly the Long March Collective, the May First Collective and the October Study Group, must also answer, to a certain extent, to the same criticism even though their error manifested itself in another way. As they themselves pointed out, the groups did not arrive at the Conference with a position of their own but with points of view on the main debated lines and positions. In this way, they helped identify RSC’s errors. Nevertheless, their interventions lacked firmness in many respects. Thus the comrades did not fully participate in the debates under the pretext that their line wasn’t sufficiently developed on the debated questions. Poor pretext: these groups’ line is sufficiently developed to demarcate themselves from revisionism, social-democracy and Trotskyism. If this were not the case, they would not form Marxist-Leninist collectives, they would not be engaged in the class struggle to rally the proletariat’s vanguard to Marxism-Leninism as they are doing in their region. Their line is even developed enough for them to criticize the League’s dogmatism, RSC’s refusal to situate itself in respect to PWM, even developed enough to say that they generally agree with IN STRUGGLE! All this stems from debates within these groups, from meetings with other groups. Those who participated in the Conference would certainly have learned a lot if the groups had presented the lessons that they drew from these debates, from the differences they have with such and such a group, from their agreements too, etc. It was the comrades’ duty to do this and we believe that they didn’t do it sufficiently.
But our summary would be incomplete if it didn’t take into account the main group that tried to sabotage the Conference, no other than the League itself.
Keeping up its divisive campaign, its campaign to divide the Marxist-Leninist forces of the country, the League used all the low and dirty manoeuvres of the opportunists: publishing the falsehoods of the Vancouver Socialist Group without corrections, deforming our positions on the question of unity, attempting to oppose members of our group to our leadership, calling a conference on unity in Vancouver with practically no notice in order to sabotage the preparation of all the groups for the Montreal Conference that had been announced many months in advance, and most of all, calling to boycott the Conference.
Once again we repeat: never, no matter on what occasion or under what pretext, should a boycott be permitted between Marxist-Leninists. Even concerning workers’ organizations completely dominated by openly counter-revolutionary forces, even in such a case, Lenin and all Marxists along with him always defended the necessity to participate in these organizations in order to defend a communist viewpoint within them. Must we add that at the very least we have a right to expect such an attitude when a Conference called by a Marxist-Leninist group is concerned!
By formally adopting a resolution that firmly condemns the League’s boycott, the vast majority of participants (only 5 persons voted against the resolution) clearly indicates that they have the firm intention of not giving up the struggle to bring the comrades of the League back onto a path that is more consistent with the proletariat’s interests.
But that’s not all: admitting the inadmissable, admitting even that the comrades of the League did not participate in the Conference, it is our right to expect that the League at least answer the firm criticisms that we and other groups addressed to it quite some time ago now. But, before the Conference and since then, the League has yet to answer any of these criticisms in a substantial way.
The League’s dogmatism and sectarianism, as the Conference showed us more clearly, hide its ignorance, its incapacity to answer the criticisms we formulated; its ardour to transform everything that moves into “... of class struggle” hides its contempt for the elaboration of revolutionary theory, for the elaboration of the Canadian proletariat’s communist program. A little while ago this could have gone more or less unnoticed, many being inclined to satisfy themselves with the Statement of Political Agreement. But times have changed comrades, the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement is progressing rapidly, conscious workers too: they thirst for revolutionary theory, for theory that will guide them towards more than a new, more combative union executive. They demand a theory that will guide them towards the proletarian revolution, towards the building of the Party that will lead the revolution to the final victory..Remember this!
The participants in the Second Conference of Canadian Marxist-Leninists showed it clearly.
History teaches us that the most correct ideas don’t get very far if they are not materially translated into the organizational form that flows from them.
Concerning this question, all the groups underlined the evident progress of the Second Conference in relation to the First, particularly the fact that the Conference had been prepared better, that workshops had been organized. These are major lessons that will help us go even further.
Another lesson is that we were able to prove in practice that all the groups could participate in the Conference’s organization while the ultimate responsibility still remained ours. Moreover we must underline the fact that many groups did not simply make propositions concerning the Conference’s organization but that they also organized collections to finance it, thus taking up their responsibilities in a proletarian spirit.
Nevertheless, three major weaknesses still need to be corrected for the next Conferences:
1) ensuire a better preparation
Even though we have advanced in this domain, the fact remains that the time reserved for the study of the Conference’s texts was shorter than we had planned. Such was particularly the case of RSC’s text but also of our own. For the Third Conference, our main text is already published (cf. PU. no. 2) and we have already invited all the other groups to produce theirs as soon as possible, especially since the subject of the coming Conference has been known since last September.
The Conference’s immediate preparation will also have to be improved. We will have to make sure that the opening speeches of all the groups are available in written form, in French and English, right from the very beginning: in this way each participant from the floor can prepare his intervention more seriously. Concerning this, we must underline the fact that RSC and BU saw to this task whereas we ourselves did not even see to it.
2) ensue a better exchange between the floor and the groups’ spokespersons
The workshops permitted everyone to delve more deeply into the most important questions and also permitted the people present to take position in the debate. This was the workshops’ aim and it was reached.
But the workshops were marked by complicated procedures that made it difficult for most groups to answer the questions from the floor and, even more, the procedures considerably reduced the possibility of intervening from the floor. We must correct this situation by favouring participation from the floor even more, thus favouring the masses’ participation.
In fact, we do not consider RSC’s criticism concerning this question, to be correct. RSC put forward that we should limit the; floor’s participation in order that the spokespersons of the groups be able to debate more between themselves. We must understand that one of the important roles of the Conferences is to submit the line of the different groups to the masses’ criticisms. And so, the largest possible participation of the masses in the debate is essential to the elaboration of the political line and the Second Conference showed the high political level of the interventions from the floor. In this way, the role of the groups’ spokespersons is to centralize the different viewpoints and to answer, not to every single intervention, but to the line that they support.
We believe that the most appropriate method consists in prompting the debate from the floor right from the start and ensuring at regular intervals a minimum time limit that will permit the groups’ spokespersons to answer the main points put forward.
3) last, we will have to considerably improve our translation capacities. The absence of simultaneous translation in workshops 2 and 3 reduced at least by half the time alloted to the debate and made it difficult for many persons to correctly understand the translated positions. This question if far from being a strictly material one, it is first and foremost a political question of the utmost importance. For a long time, the bourgeoisie has used the language barrier to divide the Canadian people: our duty is to fight this division with proletarian internationalism which, in this case, means that each person has the right to completely understand the interventions made in the other language. This implies considerable financial costs but we plan to put politics in command and to count on the masses.
As we can see, the Second Conference left a lot more questions unanswered than answered. This should not surprise anyone: such fundamental questions cannot be resolved in a single weekend. Nevertheless, today the stakes are clearer and demarcation has taken giant steps forward. These are necessary conditions to continue the polemic, to delve more deeply into it and to finally reach the triumph of the proletarian line and the true unity of all Marxist-Leninists.
The subject of the next Conference will be another major point of differences in the movement: the evaluation of the present international situation and the tasks it commands of Marxist-Leninists. We have already invited all the groups to participate in it and the majority have answered yes. The League and the Regina (ML) Collective only have to overcome their sectarianism, their fear of submitting themselves to the masses, and the Conference will be an even greater success, the success of the whole movement.
Step by step, we will in this way advance in the struggle against opportunism and in the elaboration of the program of the proletarian revolution in Canada. Step by step, we will also overcome our differences and we will forge our unity of steel, the indispensable condition for the creation of the proletarian Party.