Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The Bolshevik Union

Unmask In Struggle! Denounce Gagnonism!

The Theory And Practice Of Gagnonism

Contrary to a widespread petty-bourgeois myth, it is not hard to belong to In Struggle. All that is necessary is to avoid being over eager for ideological and political explanations and to be ready to throw oneself headlong into “practice.” Just tell yourself that “practice” consists in tailing behind spontaneous struggles. Giving lip-service to your belief in “science” is quite enough; it is better not to talk about it too often. When one has understood these few ideas, one has mastered the foundations of Gagnonism.

According to Gagnonism, the “pro-worker” party (In Struggle no. 98, p. 3) will come as an outgrowth of the spontaneous struggles of the workers:

Workers’ struggles are the determining factor in the development of the workers’ movement, and therefore also in that of the proletarian party. (Charles Gagnon, Pour le parti proletarien, third edition, p. 51; our translation; see also p. 57 of same)

Once the frills are stripped away, it is clear that Gagnonism sends “Marxist-Leninists” into the workers’ movement in order to lead struggles. This is also supposed to be the main factor in developing revolutionary theory:

The struggles waged by rank and file groups in great part constitute the material from which the analysis of class contradictions can be made, while these same analyses make it possible for thousands of workers to get to know these struggles, as well as the contradictions from which they stem. This gives implantation work its real political scope and renders the very development of implantation ever more rapid. (Ibid., p. 53)

Lead economic struggles and analyze them so as to be able to educate the workers in other parts of the country. Such is a great teaching of the Gagnonist catechism.

Drawing from revolutionary experience, Marxist-Leninist science has come to a very different conclusion:

Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside of the economic struggle. (Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, Peking, p. 98)

When the author of Pour le parti proletarien tried, no doubt with the greatest sincerity in the world, to take some steps toward scientific socialism, he even provided us with a very “dogmatic” quote from Mao teaching us that theory is principal at this point in time (Pour le parti proletarien, p. 53). The opportunist groups such as the RCT found this “dogmatism” unacceptable. So the author hastened to write a new preface, in a very conciliatory tone. The reader will take pleasure in rereading this little gem, where this time it is said without any “dogmatism” whatever, that

priority must be given to struggles on the ideological front, that is to say . . . ESPECIALLY to the propagation of the attainments represented by present-day workers’ struggles. . . . (ibid., p. 14)

Of course, the author is a “Marxist-Leninist” and he hastens to add that here he is speaking of

present-day workers’ struggles when they are led (by neo-implantees of the IS type? - BU) in the perspective of developing the proletarian class struggle.

But, as Lenin pointed out:

The spontaneous struggle of the proletariat will not become its genuine “class struggle” until this struggle is led by a strong organization of revolutionaries. (What Is To Be Done?, Peking, p. 166)

What a dogmatist, this Lenin!

Stalin was just as bad. He had not understood the Gagnonist thesis of the development of theory “in the masses.” Consider how outrageous it is that he could write:

The fight of the old Iskra and the brilliant criticism of the theory of “Khvostism” in Lenin’ pamphlet What Is To Be Done? not only smashed so-called “Economism,” but also CREATED THE THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS for a TRULY revolutionary movement of the Russian working class.

Without this fight it would have been quite useless even to think of creating an INDEPENDENT WORKERS’ PARTY in Russia and of playing a LEADING PART in the revolution. (Foundations of Leninism, Peking, p. 24)

But in In Struggle it is the petty-bourgeoisie that “leads” workers’ struggles. That is why In Struggle does not need this kind of theory to build its “pro-worker” party.

Up to this point we have been talking about the theory of Gagnonism. Let us now talk about its practice, which we have the privilege of being familiar with. Here, what we are interested in is the practical organizational aspects of this group which has just come out with the slogan: “General strike” for October 14th. Not so long ago, In Struggle was mocking the League for “throw(ing) out slogans with unbridled frivolity”, slogans such as “for the general strike” (For the Unity of the Canadian Proletariat, April 1977, p. 34).

It is a great deal to swallow, but we are supposed to believe that since that date, In Struggle has made a great leap forward. We are not supposed to think that there is any “frivolity” here. This must be due to re-organization. Each time In Struggle sees a problem, it explains it as an organizational problem. Its political line is never at fault. If one of the group’s sympathizers complains about some difficulty, the inevitable reply is that a re-organization is on the way, which will heal every sore. In fact, IS is one vast wound where each re-organization turns out to be a re-disorganization.

Meanwhile this sympathizer must “go among the masses” and “centralize” all information s/he can lay her/his hands on. That is how revolutionary theory is forged, isn’t it? Nine and a half times out of ten, the sympathizer will get no feedback on what s/he has “centralized.” In Struggle is a bottomless pit where empirical data accumulates in a random fashion.

In Struggle “centralizes”, that is to say, In Struggle works under “centralist centralism.” Let us give a precise example. The Second Congress of In Struggle had voted that the group did not have a position on the Native question. In Struggle had previously taken a public stand that Natives were national minorities but this “position” was not based on any concrete analysis. Showing much honesty, the majority of members in the Congress therefore decided to abandon that stand, until the group did a concrete analysis. But in fact In Struggle’s leadership clique overthrew this democratic decision in issue 85 of its newspaper. Such is “centralist centralism.” That issue of the paper did not offer the indispensable concrete analysis. Was the “position” it put forward based on In Struggle’s “practice” among the Native people?

Let us return to our sympathizer. Will s/he criticize this anti-democratic gesture? No, because first of all s/he does not know about the Congress’ decision; the leadership of In Struggle was very careful not to make it public. Just imagine: they might have had to make a self-criticism!

Also, the sympathizer cannot know that the article in issue no. 85 of the newspaper, which is supposed to demolish the Bolshevik Union’s position on the Native question, says nothing worthwhile, because the article says nothing about the colonial question. Lenin clearly stated that every colonial question is a national question. That is why the Bolshevik Union recognizes the full rights of oppressed nations, including the right to secede, for the Native people.

The sympathizer knows nothing of these terribly “theoretical” questions. S/he only gets one session of theoretical training a month. Other meetings are used to decide on the schedule of “practical” work, “practice” being, for In Struggle, a mere expenditure of elbow grease. We can see why In Struggle cadre are so lamentably weak in revolutionary theory; their “training” consists in learning the theory and practice of radical trade-unionism.

In time, if s/he is sincere and if s/he puts in a lot of personal energy, this sympathizer, now a cadre, will learn enough Marxism-Leninism to understand some of these things. S/he will write polemics that will not necessarily be distributed to the other members of her/his cell. (Centralist centralism.) Finally, after a thousand disgusting misadventures, s/he will resign from the group. But surprise, surprise! S/he will first be told that s/he does not know the line of the group well enough (!), that s/he does not have sufficient theoretical knowledge to resign! When the sympathizer shows the firmness of her/his decision, new surprise!: In Struggle must be the only group in the world where your resignation can be refused – so that you can be “purged” instead! Such subtlety! It is easier to get into In Struggle than to get out of it.

In Struggle’s practice does not consist of building an organization of professional revolutionaries, but of training combative reformist militants. It is not a practice that aims at rallying the vanguard of the proletariat; rather, it aims at building “the unity of the proletariat” before there is a Party, in order to “make the bourgeois state back off.” Nor is it a practice which serves the elaboration of revolutionary theory, but rather one which grovels before the theory of Gagnonism, the theory of spontaneity falling all over itself from one “conjuncture” to the next.

Comrades, where is Gagnonism leading you? And what can be expected of a man who wrote:

In the end, nobody can say exactly what the revolution we want will be. Let us remember, however, that it will not have as its model the Russian Revolution, or even the Cuban Revolution. Even if we once believed that the Russian Revolution was the first proletarian revolution, it seems more and more clear that it was rather the last great bourgeois revolution. (Charles Gagnon, “Pourquoi la revolution”, Parti Pris, vol. 5, no. 5, Feb. 1968, p. 32; our translation)