First Published:The Forge, Vol. 1, No. 14, July 1, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Unity is a key question for the young communist movement in Canada, as we struggle to build a genuine Marxist-Leninist party. Precisely because it is a question of principle, we should be mindful of “get-rich-quick” schemes which promise easy unity at the cost of little struggle. For solid unity can only be built around a correct ideological and political line.
The Marxist-Leninist group In Struggle has a long history of dancing around on this vital question, from an early period of promoting unity through common practice via the Comite de Solidarity avec les Luttes Ouvrieres(CSLO) to a few tries at conspiratorial, “secret” methods to build a Marxist-Leninist organization (see the criticism of its infamous ’Project A’ in The Struggle for the creation of the CCL(ML) ). Then, it flip-flopped and pushed the need to “demarcate” and become a “leading centre” so far that it refused to carry on debates over political line with some groups.
In recent months, In Struggle flip-flopped again and, casting aside the struggle over line, called in an April 26 editorial, for organizational unity of all those who called themselves Marxist-Leninists without saying around what political line this unity should be built. More recently, it distributed a draft text to several groups and individuals in Quebec containing its new plan for the unity of Marxist-Leninists and the formation of a Marxist-Leninist organization. Though this plan has yet to be put forward publicly by In Struggle, it follows directly as a practical application of its right opportunist line pushed in the April editorial. Whether it is “official” or not, we consider this proposal serious enough to warrant a thorough criticism and exposure. We would welcome any clarification from In Struggle on the subject.
In Struggle’s latest plan for the unity of Canadian Marxist-Leninists contains the following elements:
First, we decide on who are the genuine Marxist-Leninists in Canada. How? Whether or not a group accepts a program which, as we’ll soon see, is nothing but a “minimal” platform a platform that is a far cry from what the line of a Marxist-Leninist organization in Canada should be.
Then, on the basis of this minimal platform, a congress is called at which a new, more complete platform, for the organization is adopted.
We think this plan is completely erroneous, based on a number of false premises about the first stage of party-building. Most importantly, the political basis for unity is so ’minimal”, all kinds of opportunist forces would feel quite at home with it.
Communists do not object in principle to the method of rallying communists around a Marxist-Leninist unity platform and calling a Congress to officially form an organization. Under certain circumstances, this can be quite correct – providing the platform represents a correct political line, and that the demarcation with opportunism is complete.
The problem is that In Struggle’s proposed “minimal” platform is anything but correct and in no way can it serve to define who is a Marxist-Leninist, let alone be the basis of unity for the organization. But even then, it takes more than adherence to a correct platform to define who is Marxist-Leninist. A demonstration of resolute struggle against opportunism and attempts to put their ideas into practice in class struggle are also necessary.
The omissions are glaring:
1) The first thing that stands out is that no mention is made whatsoever of the principal contradiction, nor even of the major secondary contradiction in Canada! In Struggle does not even advance its own position on the principal contradiction (the erroneous view that it is the Canadian proletariat vs. the Canadian bourgeoisie and US imperialism), much less the correct definition (Canadian bourgeoisie vs. Canadian proletariat).
So it’s left to the members of this future organization – presumably including those who are convinced the contradiction is American imperialism vs. the Canadian people – to slug it out.
2) There is not a single word about Canada being an imperialist country, or a second world country – points to which even In Struggle itself agrees.
3) On the international scene, the Soviet Union is not singled out as the most dangerous of the two superpowers and world war is not seen as inevitable. Even such basic principles as the world united front against the two superpowers or the third world as the main force in the struggle against imperialism are left out!
4) The “Communist’’ Party of Canada, modern revisionism in its organized form, and its role as an agent of social-imperialism is not dealt with at all.
5) Concerning the Quebec national question, self-determination is not defined to include the right to self-determination up to and including the right to form a separate state.
6) The trade union question is completely avoided.
7) Communist agitation and propaganda are not at all defined as our main task in order to rally the working class.
And the list goes on and on. Clearly, the only thing that’s “minimal” in this platform is its attachment to Marxist-Leninist principles.
The sad thing is that this “minimal” program is even a cut-down version of In Struggle’s own positions. It represents a level of unity lower than that reached for common action at the March 22 Ottawa demonstration. And this program is supposed to be the basis for a fighting proletarian organization?
The league has always put forward its willingness to move towards the unity of all genuine Marxist-Leninists around a correct political line. Any other kind of projects, whether they are based on this kind of “minimal” line or a souped-up version of this line, must be condemned as opportunist.
The League has always maintained that the creation of the party is our central task. We outlined three essential conditions which must be fulfilled to create the party: the development of a correct ideological and political line into a programme of strategy and tactics; the greatest possible unity of Marxist-Leninists in Canada; and the recruitment of a certain number of conscious workers and the formation of factory cells in the major industrial centers of the country.
Finally, the League has always insisted that, as Mao put it, “ideological and political line decides everything”.
In Struggle throws principles out the window, and raises the unity of Marxist-Leninists above all else. It argues that now unity has become our “principal and immediate task”, and that throughout the first stage of party-building, it is the decisive factor.
What happened to ideological and political line being decisive? Obviously, In Struggle doesn’t think it is. And so in the mad scramble for unity at any cost, line gets thrown by the wayside. In fact, the development of a correct line is not even seen by In Struggle as one of the three essential pre-conditions for a party. It only mentions unity and the “fusion of the communist and workers’ movement” This is In Struggle’s first error which leads it to its opportunist “minimal” program idea.
Second, of the three conditions needed to create the party, In Struggle places the priority right now on the wrong one. Correct ideological and political line is always decisive, but at any given moment, it can be necessary to center our energies on one of the three conditions. We think that, at the present time, the priority should he placed on the rallying of a certain number of advanced workers.
Why? Because it already have defined the essential elements of the political line. Even if we still have the immense task of elaborating them into a program, we think that the fundamental orientation to guide us in this process is already there. Yet, because of the particular historical circumstances of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement, our ties with the advanced workers, are very weak.
In many other countries, the Marxist-Leninist movement emerged out of the struggle within the revisionist party. Many communist workers left to build the new party.
In Canada, on the other hand, the revolutionary movement grew out of the youth, student and, in Quebec, the nationalist movement.
If we are to build a proletarian party which is not one in name only, at this point in time, we must devote our energies to winning over the most conscious workers to communism. This means carrying out widespread communist agitation and propaganda while directly participating in the struggle of the proletariat.
This does not mean that we at all neglect the struggle for unity. On the contrary. Right now in Canada, persevering in the elaboration of line and above all working to rally advanced workers to communism is the best way to prepare the groundwork to reach a higher unity of Marxist-Leninists.
In a complete reversal from its past positions, In Struggle now maintains that it is a mark of “sectarianism” to attempt to rally other Marxist-Leninists to the political line of one or the other of the most developed communist groups. Instead, it maintains that we should dream up this “minimal” line which everybody can accept and supposedly the remaining crucial political differences can be worked out later on, inside the Marxist-Leninist organization.
But this is sheer nonsense. Since when are Marxist-Leninists not supposed to put forward what they consider to be a correct line and try to win people to it? Since when are we supposed to dilute our line so as to appeal to as wide an audience as possible? This is not “unite the many to defeat the few” but simply “unite the many to unite the many”!
In Struggle makes a big point of underlining the importance of struggling against opportunism in the workers’ movement. But what about opportunism in the Marxist-Leninist movement?
Unless we clean up our own act, we can’t very well go off and rid the workers’ movement of bourgeois ideology. But, by putting off the struggle against opportunism in political line and practice. In Struggle commits a serious right opportunist error. For the short term goal of re- grouping a lot of confused forces across Canada, In Struggle appears ready to sacrifice the basic Leninist principle of unity around ideological and political line.
In the long run, any organization founded on such a shaky basis is bound to be torn apart and disappear, or sink into the worst form of opportunism.
In Struggle’s project leads necessarily to a betrayal of the fundamental interests of the working class in Canada. The interests of the class lie in making proletarian revolution. And to get there we need a single party of steel, a party armed with a map to reach its goal. The party must have a political strategy, it must know who is our enemy and who are our friends. It must regroup the most dedicated fighters of the proletariat, the staunchest fighters against opportunism.
The fight for that party, today, means the fight to build a country-wide Marxist-Leninist organization. Not just any old organization, but an organization with a correct line.
But In Struggle’s project promises only an organization with no strategy, an organization comprised of all kinds of opportunist elements with a hundred different political lines. It would provide no leadership to the working class. That’s why we must reject this project radically and completely.
To the comrades of In Struggle, we express our desire that they break with these shortcuts and erroneous projects. We ask them to take a position on the burning political questions of the day, that they correct and repudiate their erroneous stand on unity so that together, we can move forward to struggle towards real Marxist-Leninist unity.