First Published: In Struggle, No. 93, July 21, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The Vancouver regional conference on the path of the revolution held at the end of May marked another step forward in the struggle to demarcate through ideological struggle to achieve the political and organizational unity of Marxist-Leninists on the basis of a program.
Thoughout the course of debate and struggle, various aspects of groups’ lines were clarified and areas requiring further elaboration were pinpointed. Participating groups (IN STRUGGLE!, May First Collective, Long March Collective, October Study Group, Red Star Collective, Vancouver Red Collective, Red Wind Collective) prepared in a serious way for the conference. The Long March Collective, for example, put forward a position regarding the bourgeois nationalist influence of the Progressive Workers’ Movement on the Red Star Collective’s position. IN STRUGGLEI prepared a special intervention on the path of the revolution for the conference and RSC published its response to questions raised at the national conference in April.
The League and the Regina ML Collective refused the coalition’s invitation to participate in the conference. The League comrades, with such a “correct” line, and despite their boycott, attended as silent observers and did not dare to stand up and expose their line. This attitude is one of profund contempt for the other comrades of the ML movement, for friends of the movement and for advanced workers. The League’s sectarianism in this did not succeed, however, in preventing their lines from being addressed and criticized throughout the conference.
While we recognize the conference was principally positive, we cannot ignore the weaknesses that existed. We have much to learn about how to correctly undertake our struggles. The coalition erred organizationally, for example, in placing the debate around strategic consequences of the lines at the end of agendas rather than at first to enhance concrete discussion throughout the workshops. Thus often, debates were too abstract and difficult to follow. It is important to recognize that this had an effect on participation particularly by friends of the movement and we must work toward developing methods for their fuller participation in the future.
As well, some criticisms made to RSC were done incorrectly with interventions making PWM the main point and then making conclusions about the relationship between PWM and RSC. It would be better to look at RSC’s position and then if they fail to demarcate from PWM, to raise this for sharp struggle.
But to recognize our weaknesses is to know where our future struggle lies. Many advances in the struggle around political lines on the path of revolution were made. Let us point out some of the main points of struggle which both clarified and raised new questions of groups political lines.
The RSC, at the national conference, evaded the many questions put to them as to whether the Canadian bourgeoisie holds State power. At the regional conference, they were more clear and stated that this reactionary class has held political power since the Statute of Westminster in 1931, but has never achieved economic independence. This is an advance for RSC and the movement for it allows clearer struggles to take place. And the struggles will continue for in this position the RSC still fails to correctly understand the relationship between politics and economics. They maintain that socialist revolution in Canada is essentially economic, with the target being the alliance between American and Canadian capital which control the means of production: the strategic goal being the capture of State power from the bourgeoisie.
On the contrary, the State ensures the interests of the bourgeoisie, the owners of the means of production, but it is absolutely not a direct and immediate representative of the great corporations. It is not enough to take statistics, facts and figures comparing the bourgeoisies of one country and another to determine that the Canadian bourgeoisie must only have formal political control because it is not economically independent, as RSC does. The line is not so easily drawn. The question is, as IN STRUGGLE! maintains, a matter of the political independence of a country. And the Canadian bourgeoisie has this independence, has control of its State and of its national markets and indeed in no way can be seen as an economic colony of the US.
Debates also revealed serious errors in some groups’ conceptions of how political lines are tested and the importance of practice in the working class at this time. Communists must always strive to link the long and short term interests of the proletariat, to link the struggle for immediate demands to the need for socialist revolution. How else, other than through active political work defending both of these can we constantly draw these links and develop communist cadre in the working class?
The Bolshevik Union erroneously still put forward that such work at this time and stage is economist, that for them practice in the working class is publishing copious issues of Lines of Demarcation and trying to convince people that revolution comes from reading their voluminous quotes from Lenin interspersed with words of wisdom from,the BU.
And the RSC made a false distinction between the work of communists now and the work of the ML party when it “makes revolution”. But comrades, revolution is a day to day process. It is not something that drops from the sky, some day, when we find all of a sudden we’re doing it where we weren’t before. We do not aim to do economist work for a while and then revolutionary work – we aim to do revolutionary work in the working class at all times.
The conference revealed many differences, clarified many questions. Among them, the question of a possible alliance between the Canadian proletariat and the Canadian bourgeoisie and the question of whether invasion of Canada from US imperialism is inevitable.
The RSC erroneously put forward that such an alliance between the Canadian proletariat and bourgeoisie in general is not a consideration for the proletariat, except in the event of an invasion of Canada by Soviet Social Imperialism or US imperialism. In this case, the struggle of the proletariat would be to preserve its democratic rights and a “tactical alliance” could occur. The RSC also put forward the inevitability of invasion by US. imperialism which they say would change the form of the struggle but not the principal contradiction itself, which to them is between the Canadian proletariat and the Canadian bourgeoisie as well as American imperialism.
On the contrary. IN STRUGGLE! holds that invasion is not inevitable. Due to internal factors in the US, such as the possibility of the proletariat resolving contradictions there before the Canadian revolution and due to international factors, we cannot presume that such a invasion will inevitably occur. And if it occurs, then it may alter the principal contradiction or not, depending if US imperialism will lend a helping hand to the Canadian bourgeoisie its ally or will seek to seize State power.
These then, are some of the main points that emerged from the debates at the regional conference. The struggle will intensify and this is positive, for it is only in this way that we will reach a higher level of unity on these important questions. And the struggles must continue in a principled and comradely way if we are to advance the unity of the ML movement and thus of the proletariat itself.