First Published: The Forge, Vol. 1, No. 6, March 11, 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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At the beginning of last December, the editorial hoard of the magazine Mobilisation (produced by the Librairie Progressiste in Montreal), announced an indefinite suspension of publication. In a letter to its readers, Mobilisation explained this by the need to concentrate all its energies on two tasks: the sum-up of its activity of the last year, and the development of a Marxist-Leninist political line. Mobilisation stated that in the sum-up it is doing, the group aims to “deepen the rupture with right opportunism” which will lead it to formulate a political line which “will place it publicly in the struggle for the creation of a genuine communist party.” We believe that this is a positive step.
For until now, Librarie Progressiste has contributed more to spreading confusion and incorrect ideas within the workers’ movement than to developing the class consciousness of the proletariat through communist education. The CCL (ML) has never considered Librairie Progressiste as a part of the young Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada. Nor do we believe that they are a counter-revolutionary group. It is, rather, a group whose political line and practice are both characterized by right opportunism.
To the extent that Mobilisation is announcing and concretizing its willingness to break with the past to engage in the struggle to apply Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions in Canada, it is our communist duty to sincerely support this. For Marxist-Leninists, this support consists first and foremost of firmly criticizing the deviations of principle which characterize this group and of showing the gulf that separates that which is Marxist from that which is non-Marxist.
We are confident that the honest elements among the ranks of Mobilisation and the Nouveau Noyau who seek to take part in the Canadian revolution, will see that only a sincere attachment to Marxist-Leninist principles will allow them to identify and correct their errors. It is in this spirit that The Forge is criticizing certain major errors of the Librairie Progressiste and the Nouveau Noyau in tins article.
The Librairie Progressiste group was formed in the winter of 1971-72 by people who wanted to develop a political practice through the bookstore, Academic Marxism, i.e. Marxism as it is deformed and taught in bourgeois universities and other closely related intellectualist deviations strongly marked the group. The “diversity” of books sold at their bookstore – from Marxist-Leninist works to revisionist writings, and even including some Trotskyist and anarchist texts – reflected a preference for sowing confusion instead of making a clear choice to disseminate Marxism-Leninism, the only truly revolutionary theory.
In the autumn of 1973, Librairie Progressiste joined with the CAPS St. Jacques and Maisonneuve in order to develop, in Mobilisation a perspective opposed to that being put forward by En Lutte! In fact, in the debate within the progressive movement in Montreal at that time, Librairie Progressiste was clearly in the right opportunist camp, refusing to take a position on the question of a communist party and the necessity for its creation. Later, Librairie Progressiste participated in setting up the Regroupment des Comites de Travailleurs (RCT), modeling it on its own brand of right opportunism. This organization, regrouping many sincere but confused workers, was under the control of a few intellectuals who disdained Marxist-Leninist theory and worshipped the spontaneous workers’ movement against the bosses. This is why they are described as economist. In the spring of 1974, disagreeing with the contempt for theory in RCT, Librairie Progressiste left the group. But this split was only formal. In fact. Librairie Progressiste never really criticized RCT for its profound economism, its tendencies towards revisionism, and its tacit support for Soviet social-imperialism (by never mentioning the maneouvres of the Soviets in the world.).
Mobilisation then defined itself as the organ “of one of the organized expressions of the revolutionary movement.” (Mob., Vol. 4. No. 9) But this undertaking, lacking any frank self-criticism by Librairie Progressiste, remained outside of the young Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada.
Today, Mobilisation has paused to examine its past practice and to chart its future. This group must not forget its past nor deform its history and the important errors it has committed. On the contrary, it must understand the source of its errors and, this time, break with the past for good.
Officially. Librairie Progressiste does not have a political line. And that’s not hard to believe after reading Mobilisation. However, since June 1975, Librairie Progressiste and Nouveau Noyau have been distributing a long political line entitled Theses on a Strategy and Tasks of Building of a New Type of Communist Party to a limited number of groups “under the table.”
Any surprise at this strange way of disseminating a political line is, of course, fully justified. For circulating a political line in secret goes against a proletarian revolutionary attitude. Such an attitude can only be explained by a fear of criticism and contempt for the masses. The first duty of revolutionary communists is to expose their political line to the masses. It is by publishing their line, by submitting it to the criticism both of the masses and of comrades, by defending it in the face of attacks by enemies of the proletariat and by applying it in front of the masses that revolutionaries demarcate themselves. This is what it means to recognize the correctness of chairman Mao’s statement that “ideological and political line decides everything.”
We know that many members of Librairie Progressiste and Nouveau Noyau regret the decision to proceed in such a manner. But regrets are not sufficient. There must be a severe public self-criticism of this opportunist attitude; this is the first necessary step when one undertakes to draw up a Marxist-Leninist political line.
Even though the political line text of Librairie Progressiste remains hidden from the public, we think that it is necessary to criticize some of its more blatant errors. Moreover, these errors appear frequently in other publications of Mobilisation and characterize its practice.
The political line text of Librairie Progressiste and Nouveau Noyau raises several questions: it touches everything from the history of the world trade union movement to the Black and Chicano liberation movements in the United States and throws in an analysis of the different fractions of the American bourgeoisie for good measure.
Make no mistake about it. Despite many references to Marxism-Leninism, the text of Mobilisation in fact has nothing in common with Marxism-Leninism. True, it does contain certain terms and concepts borrowed from Marxism-Leninism. But this is only the abstract and formal reference that opportunists generally make in order to be accepted in the revolutionary movement.
The dominant characteristic of Librairie Progressiste’s text is its eclecticism – the old bourgeois method of taking the “best” parts of different theories and making an “original” political line out of the mish-mash. Thus, far from sticking to Marxist-Leninist principles, Librairie Progressiste scoops up “theoretical formulas” from just about everywhere, whether they are contradictory or not: a few Chinese positions, some analyses of Chilean or Italian groups, quotes from writers like Bettelheim and some Trotskyist concepts like that of “continental revolution”. Also, the document contains no clear positions on the fundamental questions of the Canadian revolution. A position is stated, then put into question in the very next sentence.
To better illustrate what kind of erroneous positions this attitude entails, let’s examine the point of view of Librairie Progressiste and Nouveau Noyau on certain important questions.
On this question, Librairie Progressiste’s document fails to explain the division of the world into three. The first world is described as “two monsters devouring each other.“ In reality, the first world is the source of a new world war: in the battle for hegemonism, the conquest of territory, the superpowers contend and extend their rivalry all over the world.
The interests of the second world are presented as forming a monolithic bloc with those of the United States: the positive evolution of the second world countries, who cannot remain indifferent to the hegemonic designs of the two superpowers, is not even considered.
The tendency of second world countries to unite among themselves and associate with the third world are, according to Mobilisation, doomed for failure because “everyone is trying to tear each other apart.”
The role of third world countries as the principal force in the revolutionary struggle of the world’s people against colonialism, imperialism, and particulary the two superpowers, is not included in the analysis developed by Librairie Progressiste. The text only deals with the role of the socialist countries and forgets about an important contradiction on the world scale: that between the oppressed nations on one hand and imperialism and social-imperialism on the other.
Furthermore, the text seriously underestimates the danger posed by the aggressive drives of Soviet social-imperialism in the world. They state that social-imperialism is “very far behind US imperialism,” that the “USSR is advancing, but slowly,” that “its socialist mask prevents it from acting like an imperialist power in broad daylight” etc.
This analysis shows an understanding of nothing; it’s like voluntarily pulling the wool over one’s eyes. The relation of forces is evolving more in favour of the USSR – it is the rising imperialism. The position of Mobilisation is both wrong and dangerous; it fools people by not showing how “we must guard against the tiger coming in the back door.”
Moreover, the authors of the text ignore how a new world war is inevitable and that the people of the world must actively prepare for it. There is no detente in the world today and when Mobilisation states that “a real world war is a possibility” they are playing a game of superpower hegemonism. In their special issue on the Trudeau law, Mobilisation denounced the war preparations of the second world countries, especially in Europe. But this is only echoing the revisionist parties of those countries who best support social-imperialism by trying to block the necessary defence preparations to protect the territorial integrity of those countries.
In its text, Mobilisation tries to explain the origins of social-imperialism. They say that the “Soviet Union, after an attempt to establish proletarian power, slid more and more into state capitalism.” There are several errors here. First, contrary to what the authors of this “brilliant analysis” say, the USSR was a socialist country. The revolution, led by the party of Lenin and Stalin, can in no way be reduced to “an attempt to establish proletarian power.” Moreover, the USSR did not “slide” towards capitalism. Rather the bourgeoisie and the clique led by the treacherous Khrushcev made a counter-revolutionary coup d’etat. Such an analysis by Librairie Progressiste is not unlike the Trotskyist theory of the “bureaucratization of the worker’s state.”
In this area, Mobilisation displays a tendency towards Canadian exceptionalism. This is so not only in the political line text, but in all of its publications. In its line document, it states: “We are placed in a situation almost unique in the world, being situated “between the countries of the third world and those of the second world.” (That would make Canada the only country in the 2 1/2; world!!!) Such acrobatics can only mean that Mobilisation understands neither the nature of imperialism nor the nature of the relationship between the countries of the first and second world.
The text does not talk about a principal contradiction in Canada (is this concept out of fashion for them?). However, it does state that the “capitalist monster which we must confront is a monster with two heads, two brains, two aspects, complementary and autonomous, yet integral and indissolubly united.”
By stating that the two enemies of the proletariat are the Canadian bourgeoisie and American imperialism, Mobilisation predicts revolution on a continental scale: “to establish the revolutionary program which will be the basis of the North American revolution.” Besides falsely identifying the enemies of the Canadian revolution. Mobilisation uses a typically Trotskyist theory, the theory of “continental revolution”, a variation of the theory of “world revolution” developed by Trotsky. This theory is false because it ignores the law of unequal development of capitalism in the era of imperialism. In fact, the development of different capitalist countries is unequal and proceeds by leaps; this is linked to an unequal development of class contradiction in each country which favors revolution in one country but not necessarily in another. Advocating that “we must hope for the day when the three peoples(?). . . will struggle side by side against the monster”. Mobilisation objectively rejects the struggle to create the conditions that would allow for the creation of a real communist party in Canada which alone is capable of leading the Canadian proletariat to overthrow the Canadian bourgeoisie.
The position of Librairie Progressiste on the national question in Quebec is hardly any better. Quebec is described as “an internal colony” of Canada, and not as an oppressed nation.
The text does not take a position on the separation of Quebec from Canada, nor on the question of whether there should be a single party in Canada, or one in Quebec and another for the rest of Canada (assuming, of course, it’s not a North American party we want!). This is a manifestation of opportunism, adopting a conciliatory and compromising attitude with regard to bourgeois nationalism which allows the group to rally nationalists without transforming them.
Librairie Progressiste’s stand on women is completely confused and superficial. The text explains the specific oppression of women by “fundamental characteristics specific to women” which somehow dispose them to being oppressed under capitalism.
The relation between the struggle for democratic rights and the revolutionary struggle, the situation of women under socialism and under communism, are not touched by the authors of this document.
Finally, there is much to criticize in incorrect positions put forward by Mobilisation on the unity of Marxist-Leninists. Without going into detail, suffice it to say that Mobilisation denies the determining role of the struggle of ideological and political line in the process of unity of Marxist-Leninists.
While we have only dealt with a few of the major deviations which run through the political line of Librairie Progressiste and Nouveau Noyau, it is nonetheless clear that this line is elaborated not with the desire to apply the revolutionary principles of Marxism-Leninism to concrete reality, but according to the bourgeois method of taking a bit of everything without pronouncing oneself clearly on the major questions of the Canadian revolution.
Moreover, just before it suspended publication, Mobilisation distributed a special issue (in the form of a newspaper) on the Trudeau Law. This text reflected many of the errors we have already underlined. They put forward an incorrect position on the importance of a general strike against the Trudeau law, according to which “it will directly challenge the power of the bourgeoisie, it will pose the question of power.”
For communists, to pose the question of power, means to pose the question of the overthrow of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat.
It was correct for Mobilisation to suspend publication, to do a sum-up of its past practice and to develop a Marxist-Leninist political line. However, we should not have any illusions. For the members of Mobilisation, it is not a question of “deepening the rupture with right opportunism”, but of beginning that rupture.
The struggle against opportunism is a difficult one. which must he waged without letting up. To date, Mobilisation has always trailed behind the revolutionary movement, be it on the question of the split in the CAPs, leaving RCT, or the publication of political line texts by the young Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement in the last year.
Today Mobilisation must choose: to openly and honestly break with its past, or to sink into opportunism. The break with right-opportunism demands a frank, serious and complete self-criticism of the political positions and practice developed up until now; adherence to Marxist-Leninist principles.
You can’t expect very good results from artificial respiration on a corpse: Organizations, like Mobilisation, which are the product of a political line entirely riddled with opportunism, must be liquidated. Those who are sincere communist militants within such organizations must be the first to struggle for an end to these groups. They must avoid the real danger, which consists in taking an old chassis rotted and rusted from past mistakes and covering it up with red paint.
Those communist militants who are now breaking with the opportunism of the past, must not hesitate to recognize their past mistakes and then channel their energies in the consolidation of a true Marxist-Leninist organization which is firmly engaged in the struggle for the creation of a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party in Canada. We must put an end to all these multiple groups founded on opportunism. We must avoid the long detour which consists in “cleaning up” these old groups and developing their own practice. Comrades, the time has come to consolidate a single Marxist-Leninist organization across Canada.
The C.C.L.(M-L) supports all those within Mobilisation and other such groups who sincerely wish to eliminate their past errors and join the struggle for the unity of Marxist-Leninists and of a true Communist Party.
 The Nouveau Noyau (New Nucleus) is a group formed out of the CAPS and is now linked to Librairie Progressiste.
 The CAPS originated in the citizen’s committees (which were formed at the end of 60s) and eventually regrouped in a social-democratic movement called the Front d’Action Politique (FRAP). After participating in the regroupment, the CAPS withdrew on vague references to Marxism-Leninism and the necessity to create an “Organisation Autonome des Travailleurs” (an Organization of Autonomous Workers).
 Recall that En Lutte! was formed in reaction to the CAPs; it played an important part in the criticism of this deviation. Thus, it is not surprising that the the CAPs have denounced En Lutte! and have opposed the necessity to create a proletarian party, as En Lutte! has put forward.