First Published: October, No. 9, Autumn 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
The cells are the foundation of the Party. Their activity is crucially important. They must be strong and dynamic. They do the Party’s mass work, they spread its line among the masses, in mass action. They supply the Central Committee with information on the mass movement and how it follows the WCP’s line and political proposals... Finally, it is these cells which recruit new members and ensure their ideological and political training. For all these reasons, cells play a key role in the development of the Party and its political line.
Program and Constitution of the WCP, page 181.
The Workers Communist Party has greatly developed across the country in the year since it was founded. Its growing influence and its links with an ever-larger number of Canadian workers are reflected in the pages of The Forge, in the numbers of people who come out to Party meetings, and in the encouraging results of the Party’s first country-wide election campaign during last February’s federal elections.
The Party’s cells, its basic organizations, have played the key role in the Party’s development over the past year. Without their work the WCP would have been unable to grow, recruit new members or widen its influence.
But how do the Party cells actually carry out this work, ask many of our readers and friends?
To answer this question October has decided to present the example of a factory cell in Quebec, showing its experiences and the political development of its members and sympathizers.
The cell in question is in a big, American-owned, heavy industry plant. About 1000 workers are employed there. The great majority are Quebecois, but there are also some English Canadians and immigrants.
National oppression is very strong. As is often the case in Quebec, the difference between wages in the plant and those earned by Ontario workers in the same branch of industry is as high as $4.00 an hour. The Quebecois workers do not have the right to work in French as the company requires that all plans and reports be in English. The workers are members of one of the major American unions.
Communist work began three years ago, at first solely via the distribution of The Forge outside the factory. Later the factory cell was set up as several workers rallied to the Party. Today other workers in the plant who are close to the Party are organized in sympathizers’ groups.
Interviews with the comrades and sympathizers describe various aspects of the Party’s work: Forge distribution inside the plant, the WCP’s involvement in struggles, and communist agitation and propaganda aimed at winning new Party members from among the workers.
The comrades particularly stressed the importance of Marxist-Leninist theory and political study in developing their class consciousness as well as that of future Party members.
The WCP cell in the plant has existed since April, 1978. It is made up of two comrades who regularly distribute THE FORGE outside the factory, the cell secretary, Jean-Pierre, and three comrades who work in the factory, Marc, Louis and Patrick.
Marc is married with two children. He has been union steward in his department for three years now and in May this year was a delegate to the Canadian Labour Congress convention in Winnipeg. Marc was the first of the plant’s workers to join the ranks of the League , and then the Party.
Louis also has a child. He has been a Party member far a year. In 1976, like many Quebecois workers, he voted for the Parti Quebecois.
Patrick is twenty years old. He first ran into the League when he was a student at a technical school. He began working in the factory eleven months ago, after which he joined the Party.
I had a round-table discussion with the three comrades, and my first question was, how did they become Party members?
Marc: “I knew about the League from seeing The Forge in another factory where I worked five years ago. In the union there I worked closely with a League member. Then there were layoffs and both of us were thrown out. Him because he was a communist; me to scare the other workers. That’s when I learned you can’t just take something like that lying down.
“So when I got a job at this place I got involved with the League and became a member myself.
“Before, I wasn’t interested in politics at all. I didn’t even know who the Prime Minister of Canada was. But as I read The Forge and talked with comrades, I learned why workers like me should get interested in politics and should get involved to defend workers’ interests.”
Patrick: “I used to think communists were just isolated little groups. Maybe their ideas made sense but there were so few I just couldn’t see them getting anywhere.
“But later, with the struggle at Commonwealth Plywood in Ste. Therese and other strikes where the League was involved, I began to see that it isn’t a question of numbers. The most important thing is that communists take the right political positions to defend workers’ interests. Workers see that these positions are correct and take them up.
“I understood what Stalin meant when he compared the Party to an army’s general staff. It marches in front of the working class, giving it leadership. It is in the vanguard.
“Sure, all of the working class won’t be in the Party, but the Party will constantly show the need for socialism to other workers so that they also will join the vanguard.”
Louis first came in contact with the League through his wife. When he first met her she was active in the daycare movement and was in a League sympathizers’ group.
Louis: “She took me to a lot of League meetings, and I learned a lot of new things – that there is an alternative to capitalism, for instance. Before I had never asked myself how things could change for workers. Thanks to the League I learned how socialism had proven itself in other countries and how here in Canada we could eliminate exploitation and make a better life for all the people.
“I started to read The Forge and joined a WCP sympathizers’ group in the plant. With the group I started studying Marxist-Leninist writings, by Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong. My first reaction was simple: How will I ever be able to understand the way they write? I found it tough going. Even today I still have some trouble.
“I was surprised when the Party comrades asked me if I thought I was ready to join the Party. I had a pretty strange idea of what a Party member is. I thought a member was someone who understood Marxist principles perfectly, who could apply them without ever making mistakes, who could distribute The Forge to lots of workers with no trouble at all.
“But as I discussed it with Party members, I understood that becoming a member means wanting to change society in the interests of workers, and wanting to get involved in making that change. Joining the Party doesn’t necessarily mean you turn into the best leader around. Every worker who wants to fight for a socialist Canada has a place in the Party.
“In the Party we put a lot of attention on the communist education of workers like me, helping us to read and understand Marxist texts. I still have some trouble, but I’ll get over this difficulty because all problems can be overcome.”
Marc: “We had some changing to do to become communists. Among industrial workers like us you find a lot who really hate the bosses and who are very militant in struggles. But the turning point, when a militant worker becomes a communist, comes when you understand that workers aren’t just fighting one boss, like in a strike, but are part of a constant class conflict between workers and capitalists. You have to understand the revolutionary role of the working class: that the workers can and must take power from the capitalist class.
“You have to see that the struggles being fought by Native people, by Franco-Ontarians, by Maritime fishermen or by farmworkers are all struggles against the same oppressing capitalist class, and that all these people are allies who should work together to overthrow the capitalists, build socialism in our country and advance towards a communist society.
“You change when you broaden your viewpoint and understand that the struggles of third world peoples against imperialism, nowdays especially against the United States and the USSR, contribute to the liberation of all peoples, including us in Canada, and that we should support these struggles.
“Understanding the historic role of the working class in changing society is what we communists call class consciousness.”
“Reading it I understood where society has come from and where it is going. I learned that the capitalists who are running society today weren’t always there and, most importantly, that they won’t be around forever.
“In the past other classes ruled society, slaveowners, kings and lords. But every historical period was a step forward for the labouring people.
“Today society has developed to the point where workers, organized in the big factories, have the means to transform society so that the majority of the population can reap the benefits. And this change is inevitable.
“Once I understood that, I realized that being a communist, being a WCP member, meant taking positive steps to move history forward, to build socialism.
“It also helped me explain to other workers that Marxism isn’t off the wall or a pipedream, like the capitalists say it is. Marxism is a real science that shows workers can and must change society; and it’s a science that gives us the tools to do it.”
Louis: “But it is important to understand that people can’t just read Marxist-Leninist writings on their own and then make the revolution all by themselves.
“Everyone who really wants revolution and socialism needs to be organized in a party with collective leadership.
“This is the only way to put what we learn from Marxism-Leninism to work and make the revolution in Canada.”
Patrick: “I understood this historic role by studying Marxism-Leninism. A text that really helped was Stalin’s Historical and Dialectical Materialism. It showed me why socialism is the only possible future for humanity.”
For over two years now the Party has been active inside the factory thanks to the work of Marc, Louis, Patrick and various friends of the WCP. But what exactly is this day-to-day communist work they do with their workmates?
The Party’s work in the plant has several aspects: participation in struggles and positions taken at union meetings; distribution of THE FORGE and other Party publications; recruitment of new Party members from among workers close to the WCP; and work to bring workers who are less convinced of the need for socialism closer to the Party.
The comrades first told me about the distribution of THE FORGE in the factory.
Marc: “At the beginning we used to say we couldn’t distribute inside the factory because the company was too repressive and might throw us out.
“But then we noticed that in some departments workers who were buying The Forge outside the plant gates were themselves handing it on to other workers. We no longer had any excuse for not selling The Forge to the workers around us. Today our goal is to increase the number of readers. “We aren’t haphazard about it; we go about it scientifically. We look at the workers who are most open to our political ideas. We look at what each one thinks about the parties in power, about the international situation, about the union. We look at what attitude they take during struggles, how they react to the bosses and to other workers.
“For example, in another department there is a worker I want to give The Forge to this week. I’ve had talks with him and watched the way he acts in the plant, and I know he’s a guy with a really solid class stand, who always explains to the others that we shouldn’t give in an inch to the company. He is very close to the other workers and is very respected, because he watches out for everybody’s interests.
“On the other hand, he thinks we can improve capitalism by getting rid of its bad aspects, by reforming it. In elections, for instance, he’ll always vote for the party that seems to be a bit better than the others, the one that promises the most reforms.
“By making this analysis I am able to see where we agree and where we differ. I can base myself on his correct class feeling and his desire to serve the workers’ interests in order to show him that we can’t expect anything from capitalism and that we should put our energy into building a socialist system that workers themselves will control.”
Patrick: “We also make sure that the workers don’t just get handed The Forge every week, but that we take the time to have good discussions with them. It’s regular contact with a worker that builds up his political understanding.”
The comrades also explained that they are putting a lot of stress on building a FORGE distribution network in order to increase newspaper distribution.
Louis: “The distribution network isn’t just a question of having one worker pass The Forge to another. Above all it is a way of organizing so that communist ideas are circulated and taken up by more and more workers.
“Since there are only three Party members in the factory, we can’t contact a really large number of workers and have serious political discussions with them all. But the network enables us to reach an ever-larger number of workers, and this allows the Party to be present just about everywhere.”
Patrick: “We have learned that there are two things essential to make a network run well. First we have to really prepare our distributions. If we want a worker to discuss The Forge with another worker, he has to see that it is important. So we must have good discussions with him.
“We have to show him that the paper serves workers; we must interest him in current affairs, like the international situation, by showing the practical support Canadian workers can give to third-world peoples’ struggles.
“We have to point out what is important to learn from a particular strike or union convention. We must show what is at stake for the working class in every issue, and help him to see that the main question for the working class is to seize power, in other words, socialism.
“Of course there are workers who take The Forge just because it talks about workers’ struggles. A lot of immigrants, especially from the third world, read it because they are interested in international affairs.
“Even if these workers don’t agree with everything in the paper, we must show them the importance of giving it to other workers. At the same time we must encourage them to read the whole paper.
“The other essential factor for the network to function is that it must work in two directions. The cell or the sympathizers’ groups prepare the distribution every week and follow the political development of the readers, but the cell or the groups also have to learn from the network.
“The bigger the network, the more we will know about what is going on in the departments, how the guys are reacting to things, what they think. Workers have lots of good ideas and we should learn from them. They have criticisms and suggestions for improving the paper. And they draw lessons from their own struggles that are useful for the whole working class and help the Party’s work all over the country.
“There are also political ideas people don’t understand. Via the network the cell can pick up all these ideas, both good and bad, and keep its finger on the pulse of the entire factory.
“This enables the Party to decide what to say in leaflets or in union meetings in a way that will really answer the questions being asked in the plant. It allows the Party to be solidly implanted in the workplace and to listen to the workers everywhere.”
The comrades also explained that the network is not yet as extensive as they would like. They still have a lot of work to do, but they are already learning from experience.
Marc: “I don’t have any specific tricks for distribution, but from my own experience I know the best way of encouraging a worker to distribute is to do it with him at first.
“Look at Frank, one of the sympathizers. In the beginning Frank didn’t want to distribute the paper to other people because he was afraid of their reaction.
“Frank would often invite workmates to his home after work. He would invite me too because we’ve known each other since we were kids. When I got to his place I’d give him the paper like I do every week. Then I’d talk to the workers he’d invited over about the paper.
“Afterwards, in the sympathizers’ group we would make a political analysis of the workers who look the paper. We would look at their reactions, what they thought of the PQ, strikes, the international situation or whatever it was we’d talked about.
“This prepared Frank for the next time he talked with these workers, starting from our points of agreement with them.
“Now Frank is distributing around 20 papers a week.”
Another essential part of the Party’s work is participating in struggles to defend workers’ rights, improve their working conditions, and increase their standard of living.
In this respect it is important to fight on the Quebec national question in this factory. The company denies the right of Quebecois to work in French. Economically, national oppression takes the form of lower wages than those earned in Ontario.
The comrades explained how in their day-to-day battle for the rights of Quebec workers they were able to build and extend the Party’s influence.
Marc: “The best example I can give of this is the discussions we had before the CLC convention in May 1980. The Party proposed several resolutions to be brought up to the convention and they were all accepted. The most important were those calling for the right to self-determination for the Quebec nation and the need for wage parity with Ontario. In fact, it was on the basis of these proposals that I was elected delegate to the convention.
“The Party’s resolutions stirred up a lot of discussion. Some guys said we shouldn’t ask for the same wages as in Ontario because the cost of living was supposed to be higher there.
“The debates allowed us to sit down with the workers and analyze national oppression. We showed why and how our American company takes advantage of Quebecois ’cheap labour,’ and how the oppression we suffer by not being allowed to speak French or by being underpaid all comes from capitalism.
“We were able to show how the demands for French as the language of work for Quebecois and for wage parity weren’t being put forward by the Liberals or the Parti Quebecois, but only by the WCP. These demands are a part of our program. We are the only party that defends the rights of the Quebec nation and fights for them in practice in the factories.
“Discussions like the ones we had about the resolutions for the CLC are a way to spread the Party’s analyses and make its positions widely known.”
Marc explained that another way to develop the Party’s influence was to work directly with the workers, involving them in communist work like the writing of leaflets.
Marc: “We have never put out a Party leaflet without first discussing it with the workers. I’ll talk to the workers and I’ll ask them: ’The Party is putting out a leaflet. What do you think? Do you think the analysis is correct? Does it cover everything?’ Often we’ll have to rework part of the leaflet as a result, because with their experience the workers usually teach us a lot.
“A few months ago, for example, the cell wrote a leaflet about a job safety problem. I went around the department with it. One older worker read it very carefully. He has worked in the department for 15 years, and if anyone knows the machines and the work methods he does. He knows what improvements the bosses should make on the machines so they’ll be safe. He even designed plans to make the machines safer, but the foremen just tossed them out.
“So this older worker told me that we should use his case as an example, because it proves that one guy by himself can’t force the bosses to improve conditions, only the power of all the workers together can do it. Experience taught him that, and he wanted to share it with everyone else.
“Thanks to that worker our leaflet had a big impact in the plant, because it dealt with the key question of unity. The workers could relate to what was in the leaflet. They could see that the Party wasn’t talking through its hat, but that it was really in touch with the workers and learning from them. It did a lot to strengthen their confidence in the Party. And for the Party this constant link with the workers is vital, because it is working for and with them.”
One thing that clearly came out in my discussions with the comrades was the way they learned by correcting their own mistakes.
Patrick: “In the fight to reopen the contract a year ago, we made important economist errors.
“Let me explain. In the cell we spent a lot of time organizing our union work. We put a lot of energy into mobilizing the workers by going round to the various departments, urging people to participate in decision-making at the union meetings and to take part in the walkouts. And people really participated. At some union meetings there were almost 1000 workers from the shop.
“So we managed to build a good balance of forces in favour of the workers, even though the union executive didn’t want to do a thing.
“This work was very positive. Through the struggle we won the respect of a lot of workers because they could see that we really had their interests at heart.
“But there was also a negative aspect to all this. We hadn’t increased the Party’s influence in the plant.
“Sure we distributed the paper to workers who already took it every week, but that was it. We didn’t take advantage of the situation to make the communist viewpoint better known.
“We didn’t show that fighting today isn’t enough, that a contract is really just a truce with the bosses. We didn’t explain that we would never see an end to the struggle under capitalism, and that for this reason we should fight for socialism.”
Marc: “When we caught on to this in the cell, we tried to figure out exactly what our mistakes were and how to correct them. We studied Lenin’s works, On Strikes, and What is to be Done. Why was it so important to go back to Marxist-Leninist texts? Because they contain the combined experience of the world revolutionary movement.
“By studying Lenin we better understood that the job of communists is to transform the workers’ spontaneous resistance into a conscious revolutionary movement. How is this done? Not by limiting our work to the strictly economic level of wage demands and union tactics, but by doing agitation on a political level. That’s the way to raise workers’ class consciousness, so they become conscious of their interests as a class in conflict with the capitalist class.”
Patrick: “As communists we know that this constant skirmishing with the bosses isn’t good enough. We know the limits of economic struggles. We know that the workers will never truly win until they take political power out of the hands of the bourgeoisie.
“But it’s not enough that only Party members and sympathizers know this. We must share what Marxism teaches us with other workers.”
The political campaigns led by the Party around the February ’80 federal elections and the Quebec referendum provided other good opportunities for increasing the Party’s influence in the factory. The comrades described to me the work they did around the referendum campaign.
Marc: “The referendum campaign had a lot of impact in the plant. I think the most positive result was the way it showed that the Party was an honest-to-goodness political party that gives serious thought to what is going on in our country and acts on it. Although many guys weren’t prepared to spoil their ballots, they saw that the WCP had a clear position on a question as important as the referendum.”
Louis: “We had many discussions in the plant throughout the period. The debate between ’yes’ and ’no’ supporters was already a hot one, so it was a good opportunity for us to put forward the Party’s position and explain why we proposed spoiling the ballot.
“Of course we used the newspaper to do this, as well as leaflets we put out when PQ ministers or Liberal MNAs were campaigning in the area, but most effective of all were small get-togethers where we invited workers to discuss the referendum with us. About twenty workers came to these meetings.
“This gave us a chance to have really good discussions, especially on the basis of the slide show on the Quebec national question the Party had produced for the campaign. Many people left the meetings with copies of the special referendum issue of October.
“One worker in my department came up to me afterwards and said that what struck him most was understanding that you have to look at the national question from the workers’ point of view. Before talking with us, he said, he really believed in ’one big Quebec family’ with Levesque at the head. Now he could see that the national question is the same as other issues – the capitalists and the workers have different interests.
Patrick: ”It was also good that we didn’t just stick to the referendum. We talked a lot about what socialism would be like in Canada, how workers would run the country, and how socialism would give justice to Canada’s different nationalities.
“Even if we didn’t convince all these workers to spoil their ballots, we did good work explaining the main points in our program, like socialism. We strengthened their political confidence m the Party. Now they see us as a real Party that must be taken seriously. And we accomplished this thanks to the in-depth political discussions these get-togethers allowed us to have.”
Cell secretary Jean-Pierre explained to me that another very important part of the Party’s work in the factory was the organization of sympathizers’ groups.
Jean-Pierre: “Often workers join the group out of curiosity. They read The Forge, and agree with a lot of our positions on political questions. Above all they are prepared to follow the WCP’s orientation for turning the unions into real weapons for the working class. They are fiercely opposed to collaboration with the bosses and prepared to fight to defend workers’ rights.
“In the sympathizers’ group we have to show these workers the whole of the WCP’s political line and program. Our Party is far more than a militant program for unions or a defence organization against the crisis. Above all it is a revolutionary political alternative that offers Canadian workers a way to radically change their lives. We must lead workers to join the Party, not only because they are against capitalism, but for positive reasons, because they want to fight for socialism.”
I was invited to attend a meeting of one of the factory's sympathizers’ groups.
The meeting is held at Frank’s house. Frank will soon join the Party, and his wife, Carole, is also in a WCP group in the neighbourhood where they live. They have two children.
Denis, another group member, has worked in the plant for seven years. He is a very active unionist and all the workers know him. He first ran across THE FORGE in a distribution outside the shop. First he took it out of curiosity, then because it interested him. But Denis was led to join the group because of Marc, who works with him daily in union affairs.
The comrades explain that two other workers from the plant are in the group, but they don’t come to meetings regularly. “That’s one of the things we’ll be discussing tonight,” Jean-Pierre remarks.
Jean-Pierre announces that there are four points on the agenda: the political situation, the situation in the factory, study of a Marxist text, and the discussion of the two workers who don’t attend the meetings regularly.
The discussion is a lively one as we look at the week’s political situation: international affairs, the constitutional crisis in Canada, the strikes going on in the country, and so on.
The political situation is also the starting point for preparing the week’s distribution of THE FORGE in the plant. The comrades and sympathizers discuss what theme should be put forward and what articles to use, as well as the kind of positions and reactions the workers are likely to have.
Denis, the union activist, presents the point on the situation in the factory. He sums up the company’s recent attacks and after a discussion the group decides on points to raise at the upcoming union meeting.
The third point on the agenda is the study of the MANIFESTO OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY. Even before we begin, Denis asks: “I want to know if this is really the original text Marx and Engels wrote in 1848 or if it has been brought up to date. It’s incredible, it describes exactly what is going on today.”
Frank: “It’s true. What Marx and Engels wrote 100 years ago is still relevant. I think it’s because capitalism today, just like a hundred years ago, means a handful of bosses exploiting the workers. And it’ll be the same as long as capitalism exists.”
This gives Jean-Pierre the opportunity to explain to the sympathizers that Marxism isn’t irrelevant and out of date the way the capitalists maintain. He explains that it is a science that analyzes capitalism and proves that this exploitative system is destined to disappear because of the class contradiction between workers and capitalists.
We then discuss the two other members of the sympathizers’ group. Jean-Pierre proposes that we first discuss why they don’t regularly come to meetings and then look at ways of showing them the importance of becoming fully involved with the Party.
Jean-Pierre: “Let’s look at the first one: he’s a young worker, 18 years old, who thinks he’ll get out of this mess on his own. He often says that he doesn’t intend to stay his whole life sweating away in a factory like his father did, that it’s only temporary. He applied for a job here because he needed money. He is convinced that he can do something else with his life, open his own business and be his own boss.”
Frank: “I know the other worker pretty well. He is hesitant because he doesn’t have confidence in the workers’ ability to really unite to defend their class interests. He doesn’t understand his role as a conscious worker to help the others progress politically.”
Jean-Pierre: “And both these workers could bring a lot to the Party. As workers who understand the need to do away with capitalism, their place is in the Party. That’s why we must find ways to overcome their hesitations.”
Several suggestions come up in the discussion, and people agree on two basic points. First the need to show the two workers in practice, by involving them in communist work, that the Party is the only real alternative and that we must have confidence in the working class.
Jean-Pierre: “But the second point is even more important. We have to continue studying Marxism with them to strengthen their understanding that the only system that can liberate the people from exploitation and oppression is socialism, and also that we can build socialism here in Canada with workers like them.
“It is through daily, organized work that we will give them confidence in the Party, its program and the socialist future.”
After the meeting ended I asked Frank and Denis how they first started studying Marxism-Leninism and what they’ve learned from it.
Frank: “I started by reading the Study Handbook and the Party program. I had a hard time understanding in the beginning. It was the group that helped me to really grasp it because it helped me understand what I’d read in a deeper and clearer way.
“The more you realize that what you are reading is right, and is true, the more interested you become and the more you want to learn. It’s a spiral that begins but never ends.”
Denis: “For me, reading Marxist texts was really an eye-opener. I had read a lot before, some scientific books, a lot of history and even a little economics. But these books never helped me understand reality, society and its evolution the way Marxist readings did.”
Frank: “Before I didn’t see that our society is divided into two classes. Sure I knew there were bosses and workers, but I used to think that the way to get somewhere in life was to become a company bigshot.
“The group really opens your eyes. You see how there’s always been class struggle and how there always will be until we get to communism. You learn about the role of the state, laws and the courts under capitalism. You learn how the economy works and how you are exploited. But most of all, you learn how to get rid of capitalism.”
I asked Frank why he had decided to become a Party member.
Frank: “I think becoming a member is a way of making sure the Party’s line continues to defend workers. You can fully participate in the Party’s life, in all the internal debates, in all the democracy that exists within the Party. You have the right to vote on decisions. You can go to the Party congress if you are elected as a delegate. By being in the Party you assure yourself, and other workers, that the Party is headed in the right direction, that it’s fighting for real socialism in Canada.”
Denis, on the other hand, is not yet ready to join the Party. He agrees with most of the Party’s political line and he has seen the Party defend workers’ rights. He himself says that for him, the Party is like “a big family that helps its members and works together for the same goal.” But he is afraid that if he joined, Party work would take up all of his time.
Frank: “Before I made the decision to join, I was also afraid that being in the Party would mean I wouldn’t have any more family life.
“But I understood that the Party takes into account the family life of its members and sympathizers.
“I also understood that the biggest contradiction isn’t between the Party and the family but between the factory and the home, between capitalism and the family.
“When you come home exhausted from the factory, and you don’t feel like doing anything, then things start to go wrong at home. The Party’s aim is to end just this kind of situation where you have to wear yourself out for the bosses. So, it seems perfectly normal to me to give time to the party. By doing that we will be able to live in a socialist society where all people’s lives, including family life, will be improved.
I asked Jean-Pierre, the cell secretary, to sum up the most important lessons from the cell’s development.
Jean-Pierre: “What can we see from two and a half years of work? We started from nothing, no communist work whatsoever. Today we have an established factory cell, sympathizers’ groups and a fairly widespread influence in the plant.
“We have succeeded in building up the Party here mainly because of the perseverance of the comrades. First the outside distributors who had all the work on their shoulders at the start. They were the ones who made the Party known in the factory even before there were any comrades inside. Then the comrades working in the plant, who persevered in distributing The Forge, in getting themselves known and respected as communists and in involving themselves in struggles and the union structures.
“But there are also political lessons the cell has drawn from its work. We learned how essential it is for communists to take part in economic struggles, like the fight to reopen the contract last year. We also learned, through our errors, that it is vital to do political agitation on political questions, to explain, for example, how the state is never ’neutral’ under capitalism, or the source of national oppression and how to eliminate it. We learned that this is the only way to raise workers’ class consciousness, and it’s a lesson we are putting into practice at this very moment in our preparations for the next contract fight.
“We also learned how important it is to take part in political campaigns like the referendum campaign if we want the Party to develop. Political campaigns allow us to make the Party’s positions widely known; we can publicly present the Party as a real political party with a serious political alternative to offer on the major issues of the day.
“As for bringing workers closer to the Party and recruiting new members, we learned that while it’s essential to distribute The Forge, this is not enough. You have to have in-depth discussions with workers about socialism and how to get there. You must study Marxist-Leninist texts with them in order to show the historical necessity of socialism and the role of the working class in fighting for it. In other words, you must do propaganda.
“We saw the results good propaganda work gives. In the small meetings we held during the referendum campaign, the in-depth discussions we had with workers on the national question and socialism in Canada brought them a lot closer to the WCP.
“Frank and Denis and the other comrades explained this too: they developed their political consciousness by reading and studying Marxism-Leninism and by applying what they had learned. That’s how they understood the role of the working class in changing society and the need for them to join a communist party.
“For me the example of all these comrades and sympathizers shows that workers are fully capable of mastering Marxism-Leninism. This capacity of the proletariat to take its future in hand, to fight to transform society and to build socialism in our country, is what we must continue to build. And this is the work the cell will continue doing.”
Marie, a young worker, has been a part of the team distributing The Forge outside the factory from the very beginning.
Before the factory cell was set up, the communist work at this plant was carried out only by this distribution team. But now that there is a factory cell, how do Marie and the team see their role?
Marie: “We could have said that with a factory cell we don’t have to push ourselves anymore, that outside distribution is no longer necessary.
“But that kind of reasoning doesn’t take into consideration why outside distribution is essential, especially if there’s a factory cell. Our role is to support and extend the work done by the comrades inside. Our distribution gives us the chance to talk to many of the workers in the plant and discuss a specific political question with them every week. It means we can inform the comrades inside about the workers’ opinions and feelings. We can also identify the most politically open workers with whom the comrades inside can then make contact. Also, the distribution allows us to widen The Forge’s influence considerably.
“The outside distributors were very enthusiastic when the cell was created.
“We saw that the work we’d done distributing The Forge outside the plant had really contributed and helped build the factory cell. It had prepared the ground for the comrades inside.”
October: Have you seen a change in the workers’ attitude since the cell has existed in the factory?
Marie: “Since the Party has been really present in the factory we’ve been able to see all the respect and confidence the workers have in us.
“For a while now, whenever we distribute a Party leaflet outside, several workers take piles in with them to hand out inside.
“I remember one occasion during the February 18 federal election campaign. We were distributing a leaflet about the WCP candidate in the region. The plant workers’ knew him well because he regularly distributed The Forge at the gates. He had been particularly active with the workers during the fight to reopen the contract last year.
“One worker took a thick pile of leaflets to distribute in the plant. He explained that he thought it was very important for the workers to vote for an candidate that truly defended workers’ interests. As far as he was concerned the WCP was the only Party to side with the working class.
“Outside we have also seen the results of the Party’s work on the Quebec national question and on the need to unite Quebecois and English-Canadian workers. Now some Quebecois workers spontaneously take in some English leaflets because they know English-speaking workers in their departments and think it’s important for everyone to read the Party’s leaflets.”
 The Canadian Communist League (ML), founded in 1975, was the organization that worked to bring together the conditions necessary for the founding of the WCP.
 The Study Handbook is a collection of Marxist-Leninist texts put together by the CCL(ML) in 1978 as a readers guide.