First Published: In Struggle No. 79, January 20, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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In its editorial of last December 20, IN STRUGGLE criticized the ultra-left errors of the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist), such as manifested in several community orgainzations in Montreal, including the Associations de défense de droits sociaux (ADDS), an organization of welfare recipients which fights for their rights, and the SOS-garderie (Daycare) movement. In a pamphlet entitled Against reformism: For an ADDS of class struggle the confirms that these ultra-left errors are not accidental errors committed by inexperienced militants, but rather a general line which guides the League’s interventions in mass organizations. What’s more, these left errors end up, in fact, in right opportunism; that is, in the lowering of the level of communist propaganda and agitation among the masses.
First let’s look at how the League manages to justify its political errors in ADDS, errors we criticized it for three months ago, (See In Struggle, Oct. 9/76, no 72) The League asserts in the pamphlet that “reformism and communism are two irreconcilable lines” (p. 10). This is true and no Marxist would contest it. The pamphlet goes on: “there will always be a death-struggle between the two”. This, once again, is true and equally irreprochable, but only dogmatists would go on to conclude that communists must wage a death-struggle against the carriers of reformism. Because as we all know, these carriers of reformism are very often sincere militants who can be rallied to proletarian ideology if sustained communist work, work not of division but of unity, is done with them; in short, work that combines education and total dedication to the masses we want to serve.
The comrades of the League, instead of wanting to link themselves to the masses, including the “reformist” masses – for obviously we cannot expect that the masses be communists spontaneously – affirm in the most serious possible tone that it is “better to mobilize 12 people who will come not only to a demonstration but who will struggle in a conscious and constant way for their short-term and long-term interests than the mobilize hundreds of people on a strictly reformist basis who have not learnt these lessons and do not have this experience” (p. 11). What an interesting conception of links to the masses, what an interesting conception of mass organizations like ADDS whose role is to organize the resistance of thousands of welfare recipients against the offensive of the bourgeois state. Comrades of the League, is this indeed your conception of leading mass struggles? To cut the advanced elements off from the masses, to split up defensive organizations of the working class on the pretext of liquidating reformists? Do you believe that it is through having socialist “platforms” adopted, that communists are going to rally the masses and as a consequence their organizations?
The comrades from the League talk about democratizing mass organizations, in particular ADDS, something we agree with completely because democracy within a mass organization is a necessary condition to communist education work. Then how is it that in practice they act in an ultra-left manner by cutting themselves, off from the masses? Let’s let them speak for themselves:
It is true that ADDS must become a genuinely democratic organization. But it will only become one if it has a clear political line, if it adopts a correct orientation, an orientation that will allow for the genuine defence of the rights of welfare recipients and will allow welfare recipients to take charge of their movement, in effect, an orientation that will allow ADDS to become an organization of class struggle. (p. 13)
Now there’s idealism in its pure state. If the masses were communist, indeed, there would be no doubt that their organizations would be more democratic. But the comrades from the League have forgotten one small detail. Must they be reminded that the Canadian masses are not communist. On the contrary, they are dominated by bourgeois ideology. And it is not overnight that mass organizations are going to rally to “a clear political line”, but that does not prevent the masses, supported by communists, from starting to struggle to further democratize their organizations right away. To want to impose “a clear line” with such haste is to refuse to start with the masses, and to refuse to wage the ideological struggle within the masses; instead it is to cut oneself off from the masses. As the Red Star Collective so judiciously put it, in speaking of unions,“ by posing communist organizational leadership as sufficient, they liquidate the real ideological struggle against the bourgeois line in the trade union movement.” (IS 9-12-76, p.7).
This completely applies to the League’s intervention in the ADDS. These ultra-left positions regarding mass organizations and a simplist and idealistic vision of communist leadership lead straight to right opportunism and abandoning the patient tasks of communist organization and education to the benefit of the vain-glorious arrival of a passing radicalism and bargain-basement leadership.
Thus, despite its “left” appearance, this method of carrying on the debate within mass organizations has a contrary effect to the one intended: it leads to the liquidation of communist work within the masses. This is the same thing that happened in SOS-Garderie, even if the League, in its central organ, The Forge, clamoured about the triumph of the proletarian line because its platform had been adopted. This simplistic claim is, however, far from the reality of the situation. In fact, the League’s “socialist platform” in SOS-Garderie was, in effect, as in the case of ADDS, a lowering of the communist point of view. It seems that in its haste to take over the leadership of mass organizations, the League has forgotten to give a communist content to its “socialist platforms”. To have the necessity for socialism recognized without having explained the political meaning of this objective – that is: the fundamental necessity to take up the political struggle in order to overthrow bourgeois power; and the necessity of the Party, of the revolution and of the dictatorship of the proletariat – is to have votes passed on words that have been emptied of their meaning. For communists, to speak of socialism without unmasking the fraudulent way this word is used by the revisionists and social-democrats, is effectively, right opportunism.
In the light of this, what happened in SOS-Garderie? First, the League started to intervene in this movement at a time when many months of turning inwards had greatly weakened the links this organization had with the masses. Then, on the basis of a hasty investigation, the League decided that what was missing in SOS-Garderie congress where the League’s platform was adopted, reality of SOS-Garderie was that it was a movement badly in need of being reconstructed and democratized so that it could become a genuine fighting instrument for community daycare. As well, it is not surprising to note that the SOS-Garderie congress where the League’s platform was adopted was composed in good part of sympathizers of the League and of the group Mobilisation, and that 3 daycare centers abstained on all votes. Furthermore, it is important to look at the way the debate was carried on before the congress. First, the League presented a very dogmatic text that it withdrew two or three weeks after debates had begun in the daycare centres. Then, it presented another one where socialism was no longer the central question, and finally, three weeks before the congress it took back this second text and presented yet a third one where once again socialism was the central question. Occupied as it was in doing and redoing its “socialist platforms”, the League effectively neglected its communist tasks of education, of rallying advanced elements, and of investigation among the masses.
By liquidating this former mass movement, the group which united* daycare centres, the former SOS; and by undertaking the task of setting up a new SOS movement on the basis of individual membership and under its leadership, the League has shown, above all, that left opportunism goes hand-in-hand with right opportunism. For this SOS-Garderie now has all the appearances of an “intermediary” group, and it is not clear whether it is struggling principally for daycare centres by trying to unite the greatest number of people together against the bourgeois State to force it to accede to this just demand; or whether on the contrary it is trying to substitute itself for the leadership of the Party, the sole Party, in the struggle for socialism.
In short, the League, while claiming to be the champion of the struggle against reformism, is in the process of making the same errors of the former Comite de solidarity avec les luttes ouvrieres (CSLO) (the Committee of Solidarity with Workers’ Struggles) which in September 75 led IN STRUGGLE! to publish its pamphlet Against Economism. In fact, it was an ultra-leftist position which was at the root of the setting up of the struggles of the working class. In the same way, the ultra-leftism of the League resides in its contempt for the masses in their struggles for their demands, in particular the popular masses; and in its rejection of mass organizations devoted to the defence of these demands. In the same way that the CSLO wanted to be an alternative organization to the unions that were considered too rotten and too reformist, the League is trying to purify peoples’ organizations by reorganizing them around platforms that are vaguely socialist. Like the CSLO, these organizations only unite the advanced elements of the masses and cut them off from their class brothers, that are left behind without an organization on the pretext that they are too reformist. As in the case of the CSLO, this left opportunism leads to economism and to right opportunism. Because the League “socialist platforms” are, in fact, in no way communist. The reformists of the NDP could be very satisfied with this socialism that ignores the necessity of the Party, of the socialist revolution and of the dictatorship of the Proletariat. What is that, if it is not a scandalous lowering of communist work in the masses, marked by a superbly economist line?
Thus, rather than working within the broadest possible mass organizations of the people, and at the heart of their struggle in order to bring together a communist proletarian core, the basis of the future party, the League, on the contrary, is working to set up new, radical organizations, purified of all reformists – but where the masses are absent.