First Published: Canadian Revolution No. 3, October-November 1975
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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In recent years, significant numbers of revolutionaries in Canada and Quebec have come to recognize the need for a new Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. But, although the historical necessity for such a party has been accepted THEORETICALLY for some time, it is only recently that Marxist-Leninists have begun to both ACTIVELY DEBATE the question and ORGANIZE themselves towards its actual realization. Positions are now being advanced on how that party will be built. Specifically, many communists are trying to determine what tasks they must take up now in order to lay the basis for its creation. Canadian Revolution has carried and will continue to carry debate on this crucial question.
We in WORKERS’ UNITY – a small collective of Marxist-Leninists in Toronto – are presenting here our particular contribution to this debate within the new Communist movement. While we also have liquidated the question of party-building in recent years, we have recently summed up and criticised that practice. On the basis of this, we have developed our views on how a new Communist Party will be built.
This paper will:
– outline our own errors by way of example of the dominant ’right-opportunist’ errors in the movement;
– explain our views on the steps towards the creation of a new party; and
– criticise what we see as a serious ’left’ deviation in the revolutionary movement.
But, before addressing these questions, it is necessary to be clear why the creation of a new Communist Party is on the historical agenda. This can not be understood strictly through the study of the revolutionary movement in other countries; it must also be grasped according to the concrete conditions and actual necessities of the struggle in Canada at this time.
Canada is presently in the midst of severe economic crisis. The contradictions of the world imperialist system are sharpening daily, and the effects of this are experienced acutely within our country. Over-production, the monetary crisis, inflation, layoffs, recession – these are all symptoms of monopoly capitalism in crisis. While this crisis is rooted in the inherent contradictions of the system, in particular in the bourgeoisie’s relentless drive for profits, the blame and the burden for the crisis is laid everywhere except where it belongs.
In Canada, as in all capitalist countries, it is the working class that is being hit especially hard. While the monopoly capitalists struggle desperately to maintain their own profit margins, they create economic hardship for ever-increasing numbers of Canadian working people.
In the face of growing attacks on its standard of living and basic rights, the working class has shown itself more and more willing to fight back in defence of its own immediate interests. The rising wave of strikes in recent years, and the increasingly militant character of those strikes, indicates the growing combativity of Canadian workers. Even the bourgeois newspapers are being forced to admit that ’class struggle’ exists and is on the increase, as they must report on one militant labour conflict after another. The situation in Canada closely resembles that described by an Albanian comrade:
The basic feature of the present period is the unprecedented increase of the mass character and intensity of the class struggle of the proletariat as well as the deepening of the political and social crisis in the capitalist countries. This is expressed mainly by the participation of the working class and the other exploited strata in the strike movement, by the increase in the weight of strikes of a political nature, by the combination of economic demands with political ones and by the increase of their level of organization. (Filip Kota, Two Opposing Lines in the World Trade Union Movement, P. 151, Albania 1974.)
(The author had earlier noted that the number of strikers in the advanced capitalist countries reached the 312 million mark in the 5 years from 1965 to 1970. This was a drastic increase from 81 million in the years 1920 to 1939, and 300 million from 1947 to 1966.)
But, despite this growing worker militancy, the class struggle on the whole in Canada has not advanced beyond the stage of isolated struggle between groups of workers and individual employers. The struggles that Canadian workers are fighting at this time – for job security, better working conditions, protection against galloping inflation, and for the defence of democratic rights won years ago through bitter struggle – are reflections of what Lenin called “trade union consciousness.” They are not reflections of “class consciousness” or “revolutionary consciousness.” Growing numbers of workers understand that they are compelled by their bosses to fight for their economic survival. Many can see that it is the capitalists and the government that are responsible for their growing impoverishment. But this does not mean that they see their interests as a class as being fundamentally opposed to the bourgeoisie and its state apparatus. Large numbers of workers are aware that the working class constitutes a “class in itself”, i.e. that workers exist as a distinct class with certain characteristics and conditions of life. But few workers see themselves as a “class for itself”, i.e., a class which must struggle consciously for its own emancipation as a class through the violent overthrow of the bourgeois state and the revolutionary transformation of the relations of production. This “class consciousness” exists to a very limited extent among Canadian workers.
This class consciousness must exist on a mass basis if a proletarian revolution is to be made in Canada. ”The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interests of the immense majority.” (“Communist Manifesto,” Marx and Engels, P. 45, Selected Works, Moscow 1970)
But, this consciousness will not develop spontaneously out of isolated struggles against individual employers. In day-to-day life, the working class is surrounded and influenced by ideologies that are directly opposed to its fundamental class interests. These alien ideas are perpetrated by the bourgeoisie through its control of the state, the media, the educational system, and all other institutions of capitalist society.
Workers are told by these various means that “capital and labour depend on and need one another”, that there is no fundamental conflict between them, and that the “neutral” state exists to ensure that no “interest group” is allowed to dominate the others. This ”bourgeois ideology” is designed to obscure the actual existence of a ”bourgeois dictatorship”, i.e. the domination of one class over another through the ownership of the means of production and control of the state apparatus.
One would expect that the bourgeoisie would perpetrate these lies, which serve their class interests so directly. But, these lies are also perpetrated within the workers’ movement, by elements who claim to represent the interests of the working class. We refer here to the labour bureaucrats and social democrats who divert workers’ struggles from attacking the real enemy, and sidetrack them into narrow economic reform battles. It is principally the New Democratic Party and its labour leaders which play this role in Canada. Within the trade unions – an important sphere of activity for large numbers of workers – social democratic ideology holds near unchallenged sway.
Social-democracy seeks to ’reform’ capitalism by introducing “progressive social-welfare policies”; it does not strive to fundamentally alter the economic basis of the system. Therefore, it has historically been the ideology that has most efficiently served the bourgeoisie in times of crisis. When traditional ’bourgeois ideology’ has experienced difficulty in maintaining its influence, when its bald-faced lies have failed to delude broad sections of the people, it has adapted to the situation and adopted more ’conciliatory’ forms.
Lenin correctly described these labour misleaders as “the lieutenants of the capitalist class within the ranks of the working class.” Despite their progressive-sounding rhetoric, these people actually prolong the present system of bourgeois rule! They do not advance class consciousness by virtue of proposing ’progressive’ policies; in fact, they retard it by obscuring the fundamental conflict between the interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The workers will certainly not learn of the true nature of the system of class rule from those who collaborate actively with its chief agents – the CLC and NDP leaders who sit with Turner and the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association discussing wage controls and industrial peace.
But class consciousness will not develop either under the leadership of the so-called ’left-wing’ of the workers’ movement, the revisionist Communist Party of Canada. The C.P.C., like its counterparts around the world, serve as a ’fifth column’ of Soviet Social-Imperialism – one of the two main enemies of the world’s people – within the workers’ movement. Their advocacy of the political line of “detente” and “peaceful transition to socialism”, and their substitution of the “anti-monopoly coalition” for proletarian revolution, has nothing in common with the interests of the Canadian working class. They rob Marxism-Leninism of its essence: the necessity for establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat to build socialism and communism.
Today’s revisionists are barely distinguishable from the social-democrats in their trade-union policies; in fact, they tail the backward policies of the right-wing labour leadership–and label them ’progressive’. (The C.P.C. hailed the recent O.F.L. demonstration at Queen’s Park in Toronto, held at 2 p.m. on a weekday when most workers are of course working, as a great step forward.) They have no qualms about abandoning all political principle in order to build their reputations as “respectable” trade union leaders, as skilled in controlling their members as the best (i.e, worst) trade union bureaucrats.
Nor will class-consciousness be built by any one of the host of ultra-left sects presently vying for the workers’ favour. These groups are characterized by an inability to merge revolutionary theory with the actual experience and practice of the workers’ movement. They begin not from the standpoint of advancing the interests of the proletariat and developing its leadership; they proceed from the desire to further their own interests as the self-proclaimed vanguard of the revolutionary struggle. It is not through “leftist phrase-mongering”, or opportunist interventions at high points in the class struggle, that workers will be won to accept communist ideas and become genuinely ’class-conscious’; it is through the consistent merging of communist ideas with the workers’ movement, and through actual leadership of communists in the mass struggles.
In short, there is no force at the present time which can develop the consciousness of the entire class and lead the struggle for proletarian revolution in Canada.
THE WORKING CLASS NEEDS ITS OWN POLITICAL PARTY. Its interests are not embodied in either the bourgeois parties or the so-called ’vanguards’ of the ’left’. The Canadian working class needs a party that bases itself on the historical experience of the revolutionary movement, and which is firmly rooted in the actual conditions of struggle in this country. It needs a party that is capable of leading all struggles against oppression and exploitation, and that never fails to indicate the necessity for a proletarian revolution.
Such a party is a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. Because Marxism-Leninism is the method, viewpoint and science of the working class that has been developed over 100 years of class struggle, it provides the tools necessary to fully grasp the nature of the capitalist system. But, it is more than a method of analysing the world; it is also the science of making revolution and the architect of socialism and communism. The teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao are a powerful weapon in the hands of the working class and its political party. By following a Marxist-Leninist line, the working class will be able to gain great victories in its struggle, while avoiding unnecessary sacrifice. It will be able to understand which forces are acting in its long term interests, and which forces are against it. It is only a party based on Marxism-Leninism that can define the correct strategy and tactics to enable the working class to overthrow capitalism and build socialism in our country.
A Marxist-Leninist party must develop a thorough analysis of the concrete conditions in Canada, and, on this basis, it must advance a strategy that can lead the struggle through all its inevitable twists and turns, and bring about proletarian revolution. It must be capable of providing answers to all the concrete problems confronting the movement. Its strategy and tactics must always “unite all who can be united against the main enemy,” winning all possible allies to the side of the working class.
This party must be a party of Communists, composed of the most dedicated and resolute defenders of the working class’ interests. It must be made up of the most class-conscious elements of that class. The Communist Party must possess a strong unity of purpose and an iron discipline if it is to be an invincible weapon of the working class in its revolutionary struggle. It it is united ideologically, politically, and organizationally, it will be able to withstand the enemies’ attacks and function under open and repressive circumstances.
The Communist Party does not stand above but is ’part and parcel’ of the working class. It must be firmly rooted in the heart of the working class in order to be capable of developing its class consciousness and fighting capacity. It must also be accountable to the masses, that is, it must practice criticism and self-criticism. A party comes to be regarded as a revolutionary vanguard through proving in practice that it has a correct political line, i.e. that it is able to actually lead the revolutionary struggle. A Communist Party, to be worthy of its name, must consistently sum up and learn from its mistakes, in order to correct both right and ’left’ errors. It must be accountable for all its actions to the class whose interests it claims to uphold.
At this historical stage in Canada, the creation of such a Communist Party is of the utmost necessity. Such a party is the key link that is necessary to move beyond the present state of weakness of the workers’ movement, and to move towards the realization of proletarian revolution in this country. Our task as Communists in Canada is to build that Party.
Although Marxist-Leninists in Canada have paid lip-service to the need to create a new Communist party, the question has effectively been liquidated in the practice of recent years. Many people (including ourselves) have postponed this question into the indefinite future, and have taken no steps towards its actual realization. The experience of the international communist movement – that the working class needs its own revolutionary vanguard – has essentially been ignored.
Now, growing numbers of revolutionary militants are beginning to address this question seriously. They are starting to analyse their own mistakes and take steps towards correcting them. This willingness to be self-critical, and the desire to apply the experience of the Marxist-Leninist movement to our situation, are healthy indications that new political directions will be developed. Self-criticism, on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, is one important method of developing a correct political line, and building new and greater unity within our forces.
However, despite the important changes that the new Communist movement is beginning to undergo, we can not afford to relax our vigilance by assuming for one moment that we have now overcome our previous “right opportunist” errors. Right opportunism has been the main error of recent years’ but it also continues to be the main danger in our movement. In a period when the Communist movement in Canada is young and inexperienced, when Marxist-Leninist groupings are just beginning to emerge, and political strategies are not even yet formulated, the danger of continuing right errors is very real.
Furthermore, right opportunism is the principal long-term danger within the revolutionary movement. It is the political trend that liquidates the possibilities of revolution by denying the revolutionary potential of the working class. By various means, it reconciles the interests of the proletariat with those of the bourgeoisie. Although right opportunism takes many different forms, it is essentially a trend that tails the spontaneous consciousness of the people. Mao TseTung describes right opportunists as those
. . . die-hards in the revolutionary ranks whose thinking fails to advance with changing objective circumstances. . . .Their thinking is divorced from social practice, and they cannot march ahead to guide the chariot of society; they simply trail behind, grumbling that it goes too fast and trying to drag it back or turn it in the opposite direction. (“On Practice”, Selected Readings, P. 79-80, Peking 1971)
All forms of opportunism are reflections of bourgeois ideology within the workers movement. “Left” opportunism serves the interests of the bourgeoisie no less than revisionism.
. . . The thinking of “Leftists” outstrips a given stage of development of the objective process; some regard their fantasies as truth, while others strain to realize in the present an ideal which can only be realized in the future. They alienate themselves from the current practice of the majority of the people and from the realities of the day, and show themselves adventurist in their actions. (Ibid.)
Both right and “left” errors must always be guarded against. At a particular point in the development of the revolutionary process, one or the other tendency always constitutes the principal danger. But, in the long term, it is right opportunism that constitutes the main danger to the revolutionary forces. This will continue to be true as long as bourgeois rule exists, and as long as bourgeois ideology is the dominant ideology. The danger of weakening and capitulation in the face of a powerful enemy can not be under-estimated. We have only to look at the betrayal of the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and its mouthpieces in the revisionist parties around the world, to be reminded of this fact.
Within the new Communist movement in Canada, both right and “left” errors are being made. As we proceed with new and difficult tasks, we must be on guard against both. But, in the short term, it is right opportunism that continues to be the main danger, and we must be particularly vigilant in order to root it out. We must analyse our past practice very carefully, on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, if we are to correct our past mistakes. It is not enough to ’condemn’ right opportunism, and “turn over a new leaf”. Self-criticism must be an on-going process if it is to lead to thorough transformation.
As we have already stated, the dominant trend of recent years has been the right-opportunist one that liquidated party-building. We, a collective of Marxist-Leninists in Toronto, have been part of that dominant trend. It has been less than a year since we began to be genuinely critical and self-critical of right-opportunist errors. We like many other comrades, have now undertaken serious analysis of our past political lines and practice, so that we can contribute to developing a correct direction for the new Communist movement. Rather, than liquidating because of grave errors, as many comrades have done in the past, we must use criticism and self-criticism to build greater unity among Marxist-Leninists.
In this article, we will analyse in some detail what our major errors have been. We do so not because of an exaggerated sense of our own importance, but because of the significance of those errors generally in the practice of revolutionary militants across the country. If it were only a small handful of people in Toronto who had made these mistakes, it would be of limited value to outline these errors in the pages of this Journal. But, that is unfortunately not the case. The errors that we will detail have characterized the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada for the last three years at least.
We will explain our own errors principally by showing the theoretical errors and opportunist tendencies out of which they arose, and by situating the errors historically in the development of the new Marxist-Leninist movement. In this way, we hope to provide useful examples that other comrades can draw on in analysing their own political lines and practice.
Our collective first came into being to answer the needs of individual Marxist-Leninists for study and collective summation of practice. As is true for most people in the new Communist movement in Canada, we came originally out of the experiences of the student, women’s and youth movements. Upon analysing the primarily “leftist” errors of our past practice, we proceeded to throw ourselves uncritically into “workplace organizing”, characterized by serious right opportunist and economist errors.
A year ago, we wrote a paper that began to analyse some of these errors, but in a very weak and partial manner. This paper, which we distributed to a limited extent across the country, was in fact a definite statement of an incorrect political line which we were continuing to hold. We will quote from it somewhat extensively, because it is, despite its confusions and contradictions, one of the few articulated positions of the right-opportunist trend within our movement.
In this paper, we assessed the present state of our forces, i.e. the “independent Marxist-Leninists”, and “working class organizers” outside of existing left sects. We referred to a tendency that had developed, in reaction to previous ultra-leftism, to concentrate on practice in the working class to the exclusion of developing a political organization.
Lip service is paid to the need for a revolutionary party to lead the working class movement. The lack of such a party (or pre-party revolutionary organization) is bemoaned by many people engaged in serious organizing. But the question is implicitly postponed in the sense that it always takes last priority to all other work.
It is certainly a fair statement to say that working class organizing is suffering at this stage from the lack of serious political organization.
In an attempt to solve these problems, we posed some of the right questions:
What is our central task as revolutionaries in Canada at this time? What are secondary tasks? What is the relationship between those tasks? What is our role as communists in Canada at this time, given our present situation and the objective conditions in which we operate?
But, we answered the questions wrongly:
. . . There are many tasks which face communists at all times. Particularly now, when the new communist tendency that we represent is relatively small and lacking in experience and organization, we are confronted with many tasks and levels of work which must be developed in a dialectical way: work in the trade union movement, point of production organizing, building mass organizations, developing communist organization, developing theory and analysis to guide our practice. These are all important and interdependent, but what should the central thrust of our work be We would argue that the central task is developing the class consciousness and fighting capacity of the working class.
. . . the essential secondary task at this stage is the consolidation of revolutionary organization, based on unity achieved through common practice and common theory, common program and ideology.
We went on to explain how this position differed from that of other political tendencies.
This line on the central task (i.e. building class consciousness) cannot be separated from a corresponding line which many Marxist-Leninists have taken on the building of a communist party. In contrast to the idealism of declaring oneself a ’vanguard’ communist party of the working class, and in practice making self-perpetuation the central task, many comrades have seen that a communist party which is deserving of vanguard status, develops through leadership of the working class struggle. . .
Nowhere in this position did we state clearly what precisely a “central task” is, or how one determines the central task at any given point. In examining Marxist-Leninist writings on this question, we have found two sources particularly useful.
In Foundations of Leninism, Stalin defines a central problem of revolutionary strategy and tactics:
To locate at any given moment the particular link in the chain of processes which, if grasped, will enable us to keep hold of the whole chain and to prepare the conditions for achieving strategic success.
The point here is to single out from all the tasks confronting the Party the particular immediate task, the fulfilment of which constitutes the central point, and the accomplishment of which ensures the successful fulfilment of the other immediate tasks. (P. 95, Peking, 1970)
And Mao TseTung, in Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership, addressed the same problem.
In any given place, there cannot be a number of central tasks at the same time. At any one time there can be only one central task, supplemented by other tasks of a second or third order of importance. . . .
It is part of the art of leadership to take the whole situation into account and plan accordingly in the light of the historical conditions and existing circumstances of each locality, decide correctly on the centre of gravity and the sequence of work for each period, steadfastly carry through the decision, and make sure that definite results are achieved. . . . (Selected Readings, P. 292-293, Peking 1971)
When we analyse our past position in light of these summations, the mistakes are glaringly obvious. There is no clear reason given as to why “building class consciousness” is the central task except a statement of the general truth that “without a unified class-conscious workers” movement it will be impossible to overthrow imperialism and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat”. And why was “party-building” seen as the secondary task? Seemingly only to distinguish ourselves from other political tendencies of whom we were critical, i.e. other “left” groupings who negate the leading role the working class must play in the revolutionary struggle.
Our definition of the central task was in fact a reflection of our SENTIMENTS about the importance of the working class, rather than a SCIENTIFIC appraisal of the objective situation. When we spoke of the many different and related tasks that faced the new Communist movement, it sounded more like a list of separate projects than an objective analysis of what was “the particular immediate task, the fulfilment of which constitutes the central point, and the accomplishment of which ensures the successful fulfilment of the other immediate tasks.” (Stalin, op. cit.)
We now hold that the creation of a new Communist Party is the central task facing Marxist-Leninists in Canada. A Communist Party is necessary in order to develop the class consciousness of the entire class and to lead the struggle for proletarian revolution. Since that party does not exist at this time, the creation of the Party must take precedence over all other tasks. All aspects of communists’ work must be analysed in light of this central task i.e. how does a particular task contribute to or detract from the task of building the Party.
We must evaluate our successes an failures in relation to this clear-cut strategic goal.
For the Communist Party to be the “general staff” of the proletariat, it must not stand above but rather be part and parcel of that class. But, this does not mean that the party will arise spontaneously out of the working class’ struggle. The history of the workers’ movement shows that it will not. The task of building a party has historically been taken up by those who realized that it was absolutely essential for the success of any revolutionary struggle. It cannot wait until a time when “conditions are more favourable” or “the working class is ready”. In both Russia and China, the struggle for a Party was initially taken up by intellectuals and activists of primarily petit-bourgeois and bourgeois class origins at a time when the workers and peasants were mainly influenced by non-proletarian ideologies. These early communists took up this task because they understood that the working class had to grasp communist ideas if their revolutionary potential was to be realized. And so they set about integrating revolutionary theory with the practice of the mass movements, and providing actual leadership to the revolutionary struggle.
In the struggle to build a genuine Communist Party, ACTIVE IDEOLOGICAL STRUGGLE has always played a central role. Lenin stressed time and time again that, in order to develop a correct political line which could win the support of the masses of the Russian people, it was necessary to wage relentless straggle against all right and “left” deviations in the movement. While vigorously combatting the “social-chauvinism and opportunism” of the leaders of the Second International, he nevertheless argued the importance of discerning “shades of difference” within the revolutionary forces.
The past practice of our collective, and of most Marxist-Leninists across the country, stands in direct contradiction with these principles.
By distorting the principle that “the working class must lead in everything”, we obscured the fact that party-building is a task that must be consciously and systematically undertaken by Communists in Canada at this time. The Party will not be built through our (or anybody’s) individual participation or leadership in trade union struggles. Nor can it wait until the majority of the workers are convinced of its necessity. They will not be convinced except through the protracted work of that Party. Class consciousness does not arise spontaneously; it develops through merging communist ideas with the experience of the daily struggle against exploitation.
At best, we paid lip-service to the understanding that a correct political line must be fought for. We did little to advance the ideological and political straggle for a new party, much less a correct line to guide that party.
Although we made initiatives from time to time to other Marxist-Leninists and “unaffiliated leftists”, we never followed through in the consistent fashion that was required. We carried out little of the serious study and theoretical work that is essential to develop a correct political line. Without this, our occasional initiatives were bound to fail: they were made on the basis of incorrect lines, but, at the same time, they were without significant content. It is not enough to argue for ideological struggle and debate – it is essential to develop a political line on the major questions facing revolutionaries in the present period. Without these positions, we could not expect to win people to more than a process, whereas, the central question in the building of a Marxist-Leninist party must be the question of political line.
During the Tenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Chou En-Lai stated:
Chairman Mao teaches us that ’the correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line decides everything.’ If one’s line is incorrect, one’s downfall is inevitable, even with the control of the central, local, and army leadership. If one’s line is correct, even if one has not a single soldier at first, there will be soldiers, and even if there is no political power, political power will be gained.
It is the implementation of a correct political line, i.e. Marxism-Leninism applied in the concrete conditions of China, that has enabled the Chinese people to achieve such great victories. In this country at this time, such a Marxist-Leninist line is in a very primitive stage of development. A document of the Mouvement Revolutionnaire des Etudiants du Quebec (MREQ) sums up the situation this way:
At present the revolutionary movement in Quebec and the rest of Canada is very young. It does not yet have much experience in struggle, and is only beginning to answer such important questions as “who are our enemies and who are our friends.” The concrete analysis of the concrete situation is not yet advanced enough to define the strategy of proletarian revolution. Finally, the revolutionary movement has few real links with the working class, and is also divided on certain questions of the situation and the tasks of communists. An additional factor to be considered is the isolation of revolutionaries – a result not only of Canada’s size but also of the uneven development of capitalism and divisions maintained by national oppression. One thing, however, is certain: all these divisions can only be surmounted, and the unity of Marxist-Leninists realized, in the struggle for a more correct application of Marxism-Leninism to the practice of making revolution in Quebec and in the rest of Canada – in other words, through the elaboration of a correct political line. . . . (MREQ, Towards the Marxist-Leninist Organization, English translation, P. 16, January 1975)
It is through discussion with other Marxist-Leninists in Southern Ontario and Quebec, and through renewed study of the experience of revolutionary movements on this question, that we have become convinced of the central role of political line in building a new party. Genuine unity of Marxist-Leninists will not be built spontaneously through participation in the class struggle, nor through ”common practice and common theory, common program and ideology”, as we said in our paper of last October. We must thoroughly study and apply Marxism-Leninism to an analysis of the concrete situation – this will provide the basis for a correct political line around which to unite, a line which can win mass support and guide the working class towards its emancipation.
Although we saw “building class consciousness” as our central task, we did not correctly understand what class consciousness is. We made the all-too-common mistake of mystifying the spontaneous militancy of the workers, a militancy that has been taking increasingly more combative forms in recent years. True, we attempted to develop this militancy to a higher level; but we were necessarily limited to being militant trade unionists ourselves, because we were no more than isolated individuals in separate workplaces. The following was our conception of how to build a “class-conscious workers’ movement”:
Firstly . . . (it) involves developing a militant political centre within the trade union movement, organized around a clear program for independent political action. Secondly, it involves organizing the unorganized majority of the working class, with the end goal in mind of uniting the entire working class in struggle.
. . . Forms of struggle must be developed, on the job and in the trade union movement, that fight immediate enemies and expose the contradictions of the system to the working class. As communists, we should take a leading role in developing these tactics of struggle. On the one hand it means uniting with militant workers on a local union, union-wide, and industry-wide basis, around both particular demands reflecting local conditions and a general trade union program. On the other hand, it means developing inter-union, class-wide organizations on questions that effect the entire working class (e.g. Right-to-Strike Committee, a Working Women’s Committee, etc.).
We also outlined a “Trade Union Program” which consisted of a series of issues or questions that we should push the trade union movement to take up: organizing the unorganized; fighting for the rights of women workers; defending the standards of living of the working class; supporting the struggles of the Quebec people and the native peoples; and so on. But HOW this ”class-conscious workers’ movement” would be built, and by WHOM, remained unanswered.
In fact, the role of a Communist Party (and to a limited extent a pre-party Marxist-Leninist formation) is essential in developing class consciousness.
Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside the economic struggle, from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships of all classes and strata to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations between all classes, (emphasis in original) (Lenin, What is to be Done?, P. 78-79, Moscow, 1969)
Class consciousness is both the self-knowledge of workers that they constitute a “class for itself” and, an understanding of the political, economic, and social relations of the society as a whole. This consciousness does not develop through workers’ participation in the economic struggle alone. From that sphere, workers can only develop trade union consciousness, which Lenin referred to correctly as “bourgeois working-class ideology”. Trade union consciousness does not fundamentally challenge the relations of production which exist in bourgeois society; it merely drives workers to bargain for a better price in the sale of their labour power to the capitalists.
Workers must therefore be engaged in ideological and political, as well as economic struggle, in order to become fully class-conscious. This is a far cry from our previous conception of how to build class-consciousness, which amounted to little more than interjecting a few ’political’ ideas in the course of the ’economic’ struggle. But, even had we understood what class-consciousness was, we were not capable of developing it. What is required is consistent revolutionary education and training of the working class. Communists must also give leadership to the mass struggles, including the day-to-day economic struggles. But, they must do so as communists, united ideologically, politically, and organizationally, so that they can put forward a genuine revolutionary alternative to the working class movement.
The task of building class consciousness is a difficult and protracted one which does not end even with the seizure of power through proletarian revolution. As long as classes still exist, that is until the historical stage of communism is reached, class struggle continues. The proletariat must consolidate its dictatorship over the bourgeoisie in order to ensure that capitalism will not be restored. To do this, the workers must have a firm grasp of their historic tasks and their responsibilities as the new ruling class of the society. This class consciousness can only be developed and maintained (now or at a future stage of the struggle) through the ongoing work of a Communist Party, raising the level of the workers’ understandings of their day-to-day experiences to the level of scientific socialism.
The errors that we have outlined – on party building, class-consciousness, and the definition of the central task – reveal serious theoretical weakness. This weakness characterizes the Marxist-Leninist movement as a whole in Canada. Most comrades are either very new to Marxism and Leninism, or are emerging from a period of serious errors.
This theoretical weakness can only be overcome through honest study and investigation, where revolutionary theory is used to help seek out the truth from facts, not to bolster a weak and subjective analysis. Often, grave political errors have been obscured by “phrase-mongering” from Marxist-Leninist writings. However, to be a Marxist-Leninist is to base oneself on the revolutionary theory that has been developed in the course of 100 years of class struggle. It is to study and apply Marxism-Leninism, and to advance it to a higher level by testing theory in practice. It is not to selectively quote from this or that article out of context, as proof of the correctness of one’s line. (Certainly we found enough quotes to justify our errors using this method.)
When we study and apply Marxism-Leninism, we must be careful to distinguish “universal principles” from particular experiences of a movement at a certain historical stage. There are certain truths that are universally applicable, and we must develop our revolutionary work according to these truths. To do otherwise is to fall into empiricism. (For example, the bourgeoisie has proven that it will not give up its power without a fight, and therefore, revolutionary armed struggle will be necessary to overthrow it. In every country, the revolutionary movement must be prepared for this eventuality.) But, there are many questions whose answers will not be found in the experience of other revolutions. Strategy and tactics, for instance, must be developed according to the concrete analysis of the concrete conditions in each country, using the Marxist-Leninist method of analysis. It is only dogmatists who fail to recognize this.
Too often in the past, comrades have been ’cocksure’ of the correctness of their positions, only to thoroughly repudiate those lines a few short months later. Often this process has been repeated many times, with people more confident in their incorrect positions each time round. We can not afford to repeat this process one more time. We must apply revolutionary theory to practice in an honest and thorough-going fashion, and be willing to be genuinely self-critical of our positions.
In addition to the points already made, there are further factors that contribute to errors in political line, specifically, subjectivism and opportunism. ’Quite often, positions which are contrary to the interests of the working class are adopted for opportunist reasons. The Chinese Communist Party in particular has written a great deal about the struggle against the influences of “non-proletarian” or “self-seeking” ideologies within their ranks. These subjective factors must always be understood if thorough changes are to be undergone. Given the inexperience and weakness of our movement at this time, we must be particularly watchful for subjectivism and opportunism within our ranks.
In many ’left’ circles in Canada in recent years, the ’bogey’ of “vanguardism” has been hurled at anyone who attempted to forward a clear political line. This criticism (or, rather, attack) is one from which most people have recoiled. In particular, those people who have once been members of one of the self-proclaimed ’vanguards’ on the left, have been swayed by this misnomer of a criticism.
We, like many others who believe that the working class needs its own revolutionary vanguard, have shrunk back in anticipation of this criticism. In a reaction to past ultra-leftism and so-called “vanguardism”, we have bent over backwards to prove that it is possible to call yourselves Marxist-Leninists without claiming to be the vanguard of the proletariat. We have done this primarily by showing that we were “good trade union fighters”, not the traditional image of “vanguardists.”
In fact, the correct criticism to make of the many self-proclaimed “vanguards” is one of apriorism, that is, of constructing an image within the realm of one’s own head, without reference to the knowledge and experience of the external, real world. (See Engels, Anti-Duhring.) It is perfectly correct and necessary to attempt to build a genuine vanguard Communist Party. But, such vanguards develop through proving themselves to be vanguards IN PRACTICE.
This atmosphere of “anti-vanguardism” (in fact, mostly anti-Leninism) exerts strong pressures on people not to take general political initiative, but to remain confined to a particular area of practice. But, in this situation, the responsibility of Communists is to persevere in fighting for what they believe to be correct and to win other people to realize that a genuine communist vanguard must be built. It must always be kept in mind that the correctness or incorrectness of a political position is not measured according to how many people in ’independent left’ circles like or dislike it; it is proven by whether or not, IN OBJECTIVE PRACTICE, it advanced the interests of the working class. This, and nothing else, must be the criteria for judging a political line. To allow other standards (like political/social popularity) to influence our decisions, is to follow class interests other than those of the proletariat. Without a doubt, our opportunistic bowing to “anti-vanguardism” was an important factor in us liquidating the task of creating a new Communist Party.
A further subjective error on our part was that of adhering to a ’small-group mentality’. By this we mean that we clung to our own “primitiveness”, (as Lenin called it in What is to be Done?) as an excuse not to take up tasks that we believed to be important. Although we did argue with other Marxist-Leninists about the need for discussion and debate towards the formation of a pre-party organization, we quickly retreated back into the security and obscurity of our small collective as soon as those initiatives were rebuffed. Implicitly, we were self-righteously saying, “some day history will prove that we were correct.”
This fear of taking initiative is essentially a fear of erring. But, this subjectivist error was in fact a major factor in the perpetuation of our own mistakes. It is impossible to discover our mistakes (or build on our strong points either) if we keep them buried. It is a ’safe’ position with little risk involved – but it is not an attitude that will build a revolutionary workers’ movement or a new Communist Party.
We assumed that no small collective such as ours could possibly accomplish anything significant by ourselves. This was true enough. By ourselves, we were, and continue to be, extremely weak. However, to use our size and our “primitiveness” as a reason not to struggle for a correct political line, is inexcusable. It is a bad thing to struggle for the hegemony of one small group over another; but, it is quite another thing to struggle for the hegemony of a correct political line over incorrect ones. It is only if we “DARE TO STRUGGLE”, that we also “DARE TO WIN”.
Economism: While many comrades are undertaking critical evaluation of their past practice, the errors we have referred to are by no means yet overcome. Especially within the practice of militants involved in trade union and work place practice, “economism” must be continually guarded against. Economism is that political trend which, while claiming to “lend the economic struggle a political character”, objectively does not challenge bourgeois or trade union ideology. While the SUBJECTIVE INTENTIONS of many revolutionary militants (including ourselves) has been to integrate the communist movement with the workers’ movement, the sole judge of communists’ work must be its OBJECTIVE EFFECTS IN PRACTICE. Our political work of recent years, and the work of other militants who have carried similar positions, has not advanced the building of a new Communist Party or a class-conscious workers’ movement. We will examine this particular error of economism further, not only for the purpose of self-criticism, but particularly because it is an error that many militants still refuse to recognize and correct.
Various rationales have been developed for pushing Marxist-Leninist politics into the background, especially in working-class organizing. One of the most common reasons given is that ’ ’we must not alienate the working class’’. It is said that workers will be “turned off” if they know that we are communists. This line essentially says: “now is the time for militant trade unionism, revolutionary politics will come later.” This approach attempts only to build support for individual communist militants – but as militant trade unionists; it does not build support among the workers for the actual program of the Communists.
The practical political implications of this approach have been very very serious. Some comrades have gone as far as to pose as “members of the NDP who are critical of the NDP”, in order to establish their credibility as militant trade unionists. They argue (to other communists, that is) that workers will be convinced of the bankruptcy of the NDP through their own frustrated attempts to implement progressive labour policies within the party. They attack as “ultra-leftist” those who argue that social-democracy must be systematically exposed as a bourgeois ideology – by explaining its political role presently and historically, and by building a genuine Marxist-Leninist alternative.
A similar ’rightist’ attitude is taken towards the labour bureaucracy. While often ’opposing’ the particular policies of the trade union bureaucrats, these people are not prepared to attack class collaboration and to make an open break with it ideologically and politically. Programs for workers’ actions are tailored so as not to “give the labour bureaucrats an excuse to attack us”, rather than acting according to the communist principle of serving the interests of the working class at all times. It is said that bureaucrats will be exposed at some future point when the ’secret communists’ decide that the time is right. But, as this trend continues, that time is put off further and further into the future.
Labour bureaucrats and the NDP can and must be exposed as serving the interests of the bourgeoisie and not the proletariat. Workers will be won to accept this, but not unless the Communists fight openly for the acceptance of their ideas in the course of the workers’ struggles. As Marx and Engels said in the Communist Manifesto,
The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. (P. 63 Selected Works, Marx and Engels, Russia 1970)
Unless communists adopt open and principled methods of work, they cannot expect to win workers to more than ’radical trade-unionism’. These attempts to make communism more ’palatable’ (by not mentioning it) will certainly not develop the “class consciousness and fighting capacity of the proletariat”, or build support for a new Communist Party.
But then, some who call themselves Marxist-Leninists, have gone so far as to argue that a Communist Party is not only not necessary at this time, but further, that it will not be created by the conscious work of the Communists, (see earlier section on how a Communist Party is built.) Some have suggested a newer version of what is essentially a ’spontaneist’ conception of party-building, i.e. that the new Party will emerge out of the growing practical unity of “base groups”, “mass workers’ committees”, and perhaps even “reform aldermen”. What kind of party this is going to be – electoral? Marxist-Leninist? mass? cadre? – is not made clear.
This opportunist line reveals more than an ignorance of the Marxist-Leninist experience on the question of party-building: it also shows a basic contempt for the working class and its ability to grasp scientific socialism. True, a great deal of cynicism and anti-communism exists among workers. But it must be understood that the betrayal of past communist leadership, and the lack of a serious revolutionary alternative at this time, are key reasons why this cynicism and anti-communism is not being overcome. It can and will be overcome, in large part, when workers realize that it is only the Communists’ program that will lead to the end of exploitation. But that alternative can not be grasped unless it is presented. It must be presented – starting now – by agitation, propaganda, and organizing work in the heart of the proletariat. Only in this way can scientific socialism become a powerful weapon in the hands of the working class. The merging of ’militant trade unionism’ with the workers’ movement can only result in more of the same militant trade unionism.
There are large numbers of militants who have carried out an essentially “economist” line in recent years. Some comrades have been genuinely confused and are now recognizing their mistakes. They have fallen into economist and trade-unionist politics because they went into the workplace without a clear Marxist-Leninist line, but only with sentiments about the need to integrate themselves with the workers movement. Many of these comrades will be receptive to following a correct Marxist-Leninist line in working-class organizing.
But, there are other people who are elevating their political errors into an explicitly economist political line – and defending that line. They will go to great lengths to preserve their own newly-gained ’trade-unionist status’, including attacking and attempting to isolate those communists who are beginning to unite and organize on the basis of principled politics. They have come to be motivated more by self-seeking careerism and opportunism, than by any revolutionary desire to serve the working class. Their ’communism’ is confined to a back room, while their opportunism is openly paraded. This trend of so-called communists, masquerading as social-democrats, must be vigorously opposed.
Economism in all its forms must be carefully guarded against, otherwise it will continue to undermine the revolutionary movement.
“Independence”: a Cover for Liberalism: There are large numbers of people, who have been politically active for many years, who consider themselves to be part of an “independent left”. These people have either never joined, or are no longer members of, any existing political party. In some cases they have remained “independent” for good reasons, i.e. because of serious political differences with all existing groups; for other people, it has been a case of hard-core individualism (which also, means that they would not join a group even if they did agree with it).
Although it is a healthy sign that so many revolutionary militants have stayed out of groups with incorrect political lines, it is not good that these people have not attempted to build a correct alternative. It is important to understand why they have not, since their mistakes are another very important reason why a genuine Marxist-Leninist Party remains to be built.
The whole concept of an “independent” left must be challenged, because it is essentially a cover for liberalism vis-a-vis incorrect political trends, and an avoidance of the responsibility of taking correct initiatives.
Many “independent leftists” elevate their lack of defined political positions to a virtue. Those who do carry “lines” are lumped together as “vanguardist”, and often no attempt is made to determine the differences between this or that group’s position. By remaining seemingly aloof from groups or defined lines, these people assume that they carry no responsibility for the present weak state of the revolutionary movement in Canada. In fact, this is far from the truth.
To begin with, there is no such thing as not having a political position. It is not possible to be ’non-denominational’ in the field of politics. “In a class society, everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking without exception is stamped with the brand of a class.” (Mao TseTung, “On Practice”.) Although one’s political lines are perhaps not clearly formulated, all forms of social practice are governed by definite thoughts or ideas. It is not possible to act, in human society generally, and in ’left’ political practice in particular, except on the basis of political lines.
Since these is no genuine revolutionary party (as all “independent leftists” must agree) giving correct leadership to the movement, it is necessarily true that leadership of some sort is being given by other political tendencies. Or in the absence of any explicit political leadership, it is then traditional forms of bourgeois ideology that are holding sway. In short, when a correct line is not being followed, then clearly an incorrect one must be. Further, each political line either advances the struggle or it holds it back. There is no other alternative.
It is not good enough to sit back smugly and condemn all political tendencies alike, including the Marxist-Leninists who are just beginning to organize themselves. A position must be taken in favour of or in opposition to existing political positions. Incorrect positions will not be defeated (as they must be) unless they are actively struggled against. As Mao TseTung said, “Everything reactionary is the same; if you don’t hit it, it won’t fall.” This holds true not only for reactionary institutions and classes, but also for objectively reactionary political trends that stand in the way of proletarian revolution, including those that maintain a ’left cover’. This last statement is one that many “independent leftists” take exception to. While bemoaning the lack of a revolutionary party, and railing against the “dogmatism” and “sectarianism” of the existing left groups, they are not willing to make a clear break with them in theory or practice. Those who do openly attack the ideological and political basis of these groups, are themselves attacked for being sectarian. The objective effect of this kind of ’liberalism’ is that incorrect political trends continue to hold unchallenged sway over most progressive activity and mass struggles. This is possible only because there is a vacuum of genuine revolutionary leadership. An important reason why it has not developed is that most “independent leftists” have not addressed themselves to how it will be built, and on the basis of what political line. And so, in any number of political situations, ”independent leftists” are forced to choose their leadership from among a series of bad alternatives, each one worse than the one before.
There is no alternative but to begin the struggle for a new Party. There is no question that this task will be a long and difficult one. It is necessary, in the struggle to build a new Communist Party, to define the precise nature of disagreements with other major political tendencies. It is not enough to criticise the surface phenomena, that is, the sectarian tactics of this or that group on a particular occasion. We must thoroughly grasp the ideological and political roots of those errors (useful examples of this kind of work are D. Paterson’s article in Canadian Revolution Vol. 1 No. 2 on CPC-ML and MREQ’s, “CPC-ML, A Caricature of Communism). We must carefully study the history of the revolutionary movement to understand the effects of certain political tendencies historically. These questions are neither abstract or irrelevant to the present political situation. There are so-called revolutionary tendencies which have proven – in the history of struggles in other countries, and in the practice of the present-day movement – that they are, in fact, counter-revolutionary. If a political trend consistently carries out activity that is contrary to the interests of the working class, they can only be regarded as counter-revolutionary and “enemies of the people”, despite their ’left’ cover.
Trotskyism, for instance, had played this role historically. While continually proclaiming the “revolutionary leftism” of their own positions, insisting that it is they alone who are advancing the cause of “proletarian revolution”, and attacking all those who disagree with them as “Stalinists” and “bureaucrats”, Trotskyists have consistently opposed those concrete measures that would in fact make proletarian revolution possible. A thorough analysis of Trotskyism’s historical role is not possible within this article, but a few historical examples can help to explain our position.
Good examples of Troskyists’ opposition to concrete revolutionary measures are to be found in their role in national liberation struggles around the world. Take first the opposition of Trotskyists in Albania to the formation of a National Liberation Front to halt the advance of the Italian Fascist invaders during World War II. The Albanian communists were correctly advocating and leading an independence struggle which united all patriotic people against the main enemy at that time. The Trotskyists, on the other hand, even as the enemy was invading, called for a “proletarian revolution”; but later, they collaborated with the reactionary “Balli kombe’tar”, a nationalist alliance that opposed the Communist-led National Liberation Front. We see another example of Trotskyists’ counter-revolutionary politics in their opposition to the Chinese Communist Party’s “National United Front” policy, which involved an alliance with the Kuomintang government forces against the Japanese Imperialists. And yet another example in Vietnam:
where Ho Chi Minh, the great leader of the Vietnamese revolution, was finally compelled to have the Trotskyist forces wiped out for their actual counter-revolutionary opposition to the liberation struggle. And, more recently, with regard to the Vietnam War, scores of Trotskyist groups around the world actually opposed the signing of the Paris Peace Accords as a “sell-out by the Stalinist leadership”, while millions of progressive people actively supported the Vietnamese people’s call for the implementation of the treaty.
Space does not permit a more thorough expose of Trotskyism, or other counter-revolutionary trends, at this time. But, the essential point is that clear lines of demarcation must be drawn between revolutionary and non-revolutionary political trends within the ’left-wing’ movement. This must be done through ideological struggle, and in political practice. It is an essential part of the struggle to develop a correct revolutionary policy in every country. All those people who now consider themselves to be part of the “independent left” have a responsibility to define their agreements and disagreements with various political trends. If those differences are ones of a fundamental and not strictly tactical nature, then they have a responsibility to join with other communists in creating a genuine revolutionary party in Canada.
The various rationales for not taking up this task must be abandoned. The fact that many political parties have made serious mistakes in the past, is all the more reason why we should struggle hard to create a genuine Communist Party. The cynicism of the “old hands”, who sit safely and smugly back and watch while others make mistakes, has nothing in common with a revolutionary outlook. The reasons these intellectuals give for not joining in the process of party-building, vary like night and day: “a new party must not come from theoreticians, but from the working class”; or, alternatively, “what’s needed is a solid theoretical base – you people are fumbling around.” It is certainly true that both solid revolutionary theory, and a base in the working class, are essential aspects of a Communist Party. But these attacks are generally not constructive criticisms designed to advance the building of a new party; rather, they are made from a disdainful attitude of superiority. This cynicism does nothing to overcome the immense difficulties facing the Communists; it only ensures the continued isolation of the petit-bourgeois intellectuals from the revolutionary and working class movements.
We emphasize again that it is of the utmost importance that all revolutionary militants seriously take up the question of creating a new Communist Party. It will not happen over-night, or by the efforts of a handful of people. It will only be built through achieving the widest possible unity of Marxist-Leninists across the country, through applying Marxism-Leninism to concrete conditions and advancing a revolutionary strategy, and through building firm roots in the working class. Taking up the task is nothing more than an initial step in the right direction. We will surely make mistakes, and we will have serious disagreements. But, it is essential to take that initial step now, to define the problems to be solved, and then to set about solving those problems.
Before elaborating our position on party-building, we should clarify that we do not think a Communist party can be created immediately. There are definite tasks that Communists must undertake now, however, in order to lay the basis for the later creation of that party. To build a new Communist Party is the central task for Marxist-Leninists in Canada at this time. This means that our political work in the present must be directed towards the realization of that goal in the future.
One essential pre-condition for building a Communist Party is the existence of a pre-party Marxist-Leninist organization. Communists must be organized at the highest possible level at all times if they are to successfully carry out the tasks before them. The creation of a Marxist-Leninist organization is on the immediate agenda. Later in this paper, we will outline our position as to the political basis on which this organization should be built. However, we wish to clarify from the outset, that it is essential that it be a Marxist-Leninist organization which takes up the tasks of party-building – not a loose collection of individuals.
In an earlier section of this paper, (Part I – Why is a New Communist Party Necessary in Canada?) we outlined what a Communist Party is. We will repeat the major points of this definition, because it is the characteristics of a genuine Marxist-Leninist Party that must be our guide in defining HOW that party will be built.
A Communist Party must:
– be armed with the theory of Marxism-Leninism,
– have firm roots among the masses of the people,
– be well-disciplined,
– use the method of criticism and self-criticism. Further, it must be:
... a militant party, a revolutionary party, one bold enough to lead the proletarians in the struggle for power, sufficiently experienced to find its bearings amidst the complex conditions of a revolutionary situation, and sufficiently flexible to steer clear of all submerged rocks in the path to its goal. (Stalin, Foundations of Leninism, P. 102-103)
And finally, the Communist Party is the “advanced detachment” and the “organized detachment” of the working class, but, to be this, it must also be an “inseparable part of the working class.” (expressions are from Stalin, op. cit.)
In order to build such a Communist Party in Canada, Marxist-Leninist organization must carry out the following tasks:
a) Define the revolutionary strategy for Canada based o concrete analysis of concrete conditions, developed through the application of Marxism-Leninism in Canada;
b) Build principled unity step-by-step among Marxist-Leninists in Canada and Quebec, through struggle over fundamental questions of ideology and political line;
c) Develop revolutionary links with the masses, and especially sink roots in the working class.
Qualitative advances on all three of these fronts are essential pre-conditions for the creation of a new Party. We emphasize again that the actual process of HOW THE PARTY IS BUILT is inseparable from WHAT KIND OF PARTY WE DESIRE TO BUILD.
To be a Marxist is to recognize the necessity for concrete analysis of concrete conditions. But, Marxists’ study of reality differs from that of bourgeois academics: our purpose is not simply to understand the world, but to change it. We concrete investigation primarily to resolve the question “what are our friends and who are our enemies.” It is this question that a revolutionary strategy must answer, and then tactics must be developed that are consistent with that strategy.
To determine the direction of the main blow, the allies of the proletariat in the revolutionary struggle in Canada, and the particular course that our struggle must follow, we must can fully analyse: the main contradictions in Canada and the principal contradiction; the main contradictions shaping the world today; the role of the principal mass working-class organizations, the trade unions and the mass movements of the working class; and, the struggles of non-proletarian strata of the population.
By employing the Marxist-Leninist method, we must determine not only the main contradictions in Canada which propel this society forward, but in particular, the principal contradiction. A Mao TseTung stated,
There are many contradictions in the process of development of complex thing, and one of them is necessarily the principal contradiction whose existence and development determine or influence the existence or development of the other contradictions. (“On Contradiction”, Selected Readings, P. 110, Peking 1973)
Among Marxist-Leninists in Canada and Quebec, there are a least three positions that we are aware of on this question. Then are comrades who argue each of the following formulations: that the principal contradiction is that between U. S. Imperialism and the Canadian people; that it is between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie (both Canadian); and, that it is between the Canadian proletariat on the one hand, and U.S. Imperialism AND the Canadian bourgeoisie on the other. (We are presently consolidating our own position, trying to determine which of the last two formulations is correct – see Vol. 1 Nos. 1 & 2 of Canadian Revolution, articles on Imperialism and Canadian Political Economy.)
There are concrete steps that must be taken to resolve this central question. We must first grasp firmly what a contradiction is, and how a principal contradiction is determined, in order to apply this method in our situation. We must understand the basic features of capitalism i.e. imperialism in this era, and analyse Canadian political economy within this framework. We must analyse the major class forces in Canada. In particular, we must understand: the relative power of the Canadian and American bourgeoisies, and the influence each exerts vis-a-vis the Canadian state, the instrument of bourgeois rule which the Canadian Revolution must overthrow. It is the principal contradiction in a society which determines the CHARACTER of the revolutionary struggle, e.g. is it a struggle directly for proletarian revolution? or is it initially a national liberation struggle, and at a later stage, a struggle for socialism? But, it is an error of one-sidedness to look only at the principal contradiction, and not the other main and important contradictions in a society. For instance, in Canada, while the struggle is fundamentally a proletarian struggle, it would be a serious error to ignore the question of U.S. Imperialism in Canada, the oppression of the Quebec nation and the native peoples, the oppression and super-exploitation of the female population, and the particular position of national-minority and immigrant peoples in Canada. The revolutionary strategy while based on the principal contradiction, must also direct the struggle against all forms of oppression and exploitation.
The Chinese Communist Party outlines the main contradictions in the world today as being the following four:
– between Imperialism and Social-Imperialism on the one hand, and the oppressed nations and peoples on the other;
– Between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in the capitalist and revisionist countries;
– Between Imperialism and Social-Imperialism and among the capitalist countries and groups;
– Between the Socialist countries on the one hand, and Imperialism and Social-Imperialism on the other.
This analysis of the main contradictions in the world is closely related to their view that:
The world today actually consists of three parts or three worlds, that are both interconnected and in contradiction to one another. The United States and the Soviet Union make up the First World. The developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and other regions make up the Third World. The developed countries between the two make up the Second World. (Teng Hsiao Ping, Chinese Vice-Premier, “Speech to the United Nations,” April 1974)
While we consider this analysis to be fundamentally correct, it would be incorrect to discontinue our analysis there. To understand the major forces shaping world history in the 1970’s is a very difficult and complex problem. It requires continual study and investigation on the part of Marxist-Leninists in every country. The Chinese position is not a dogmatic formula to be applied identically in every country. We must analyse Canada’s specific relationship to the “two Super-powers” which makeup the First World, to other monopoly capitalist and revisionist countries of the Second World, and to the Third World nations struggling for independence from all forms of Imperialism and Social-Imperialism. We must define the precise relationship between the “united front against the Super-powers” which is developing on a world scale, and the proletarian revolution in Canada. The resolution of these problems does not lie in mechanically applying the experiences of other countries to our struggle. We must analyse the particular role that Canada plays within the world today, by applying Marxism-Leninism scientifically to our own situation. Marxist-Leninists in several other Second World countries are seriously divided on precisely this question (i.e. the relationship between the struggle against the Super-powers and the internal proletarian struggle) which has important implicaČtions for revolutionary strategy.
Again, we analyse this question for the purpose of developing a revolutionary strategy. As proletarian internationalists, we understand that “friends and enemies” must be determined on a world scale, while recognizing that the Canadian Revolution will be made primarily by relying on its own forces. The Canadian working class and people must be won to actively support the socialist countries in which the working class has achieved power, and to support the struggles of all oppressed and exploited classes and peoples around the world. In order to build proletarian internationalism in this country, we must regard world analysis as a serious task.
The unions are the broadest mass organizations of the working class. They have developed as the principle economic defence weapon of the working class in its struggle against capitalist exploitation. A correct attitude towards the trade unions is essential if Communists are to raise the “class consciousness and fighting capacity” of the working class.
This is a question on which there have been sharp disagreements historically. In What is to be Done?, Lenin polemicized against the Economists who would confine the unions to the narrow daily reform battles of the workers, and who considered ’political’ questions to be outside of the scope of the unions. And in Left-Wing Communism, he argued against an ultra-left approach which would abandon the ”reactionary” trade unions to the opportunists in favour of establishing independent ”pure” revolutionary unions, free of any influence of bourgeois ideology.
Marxist-Leninists have historically opposed both these views. They have maintained that communists should work wherever the masses are found, and especially in their class organizations, in order to conduct revolutionary education and to lead the actual struggles of the masses. But, to say this alone does obviously not suffice. We must analyse the particular nature and role of the trade unions in Canadian society. We must determine how the dominant ideology (social-democratic, essentially bourgeois ideology) will be defeated, and the unions brought under the influence of proletarian ideology. We must understand the particular contradiction between International (i.e., American) unions and Canadian unions, especially as it is reflected in the independent Canadian union movement. These and other questions are necessary to resolve if we are to do agitation, propaganda, and organizing work in the heart of the working class and its organizations.
Outside of the trade unions themselves, there exist other movements of the working class. The majority of the working class is, as yet, not unionized; some significant efforts are being made towards unionization among some previously unorganized sectors. But, aside from the question of unions, movements have also developed on other fronts: defence against the erosion of workers rights won years ago through bitter struggle; movements of injured workers; struggles for equality of women workers; defence of immigrant and national minority workers against racist and national chauvinist attacks; and so on. These mass movements, and the contradictions from which they arise, must be understood. Communists must grasp all the forces that are shaping the objective situation in which they operate. Through the application of Marxism-Leninism, and the thorough analysis of the concrete situation, correct revolutionary strategy and tactics can be developed that correspond precisely to the needs of the Canadian situation.
Although the working class is the only class whose interests are fundamentally opposed to those of the bourgeoisie, other classes and strata of the population are oppressed by the rule of monopoly capital. This is true in Canada and throughout capitalist society in general. It is the task of the working class and its Communist party not only to support but also to lead all struggles against capitalist oppression and exploitation. As Lenin argued in What is to be Done?,
All events of social and political life that affect the proletariat either directly as a special class or as the vanguard of all the revolutionary forces in the struggle for freedom should serve as subjects for political propaganda and agitation. . . . For it is not enough to call ourselves the “vanguard”, the advanced contingent; we must act in such a way that all the other contingents recognize and are obliged to admit that we are marching in the vanguard.” (p. 82-83)
“... We must . . . (be) able to guide all the manifestations of this all-round struggle, able at the right time to “dictate a positive programme of action” for the aroused students, the discontented Zemstvo people, the incensed religious sects, the offended elementary school teachers, etc. etc.” (p. 85) (emphasis Lenin’s) (from chapter on “The Working Class as Vanguard Fighter for Democracy”, Moscow edition, 1969)
It is only by taking up the struggles of other classes and strata that the working class and its Communist Party will win them to support proletarian revolution. While the ’New Left’ was entirely isolated from the working class, many revolutionaries have ignored everyone but the working class in recent years. It is correct, especially in the initial stages of building a party and a revolutionary movement, to focus the primary attention in mass work within the working class. But, it is a serious error to ignore all other strata of the population. Two important facts have been forgotten by those people who would ignore this: firstly, that non-proletarian strata will not come to support proletarian revolution unless they are WON to support it; and secondly, the majority of revolutionary militants have themselves come from classes other than the working class.
But, in order to win these valuable allies to the proletarian struggle, it is necessary to first determine who they are. This is a serious question for class analysis. What is the actual make-up of the petit-bourgeoisie in Canada? What is its position and role in Canadian society today? What are its contradictions with the monopoly capitalists and with the working class? What is the position and role of those strata of workers outside the industrial proletariat? What is the particular strategic role of the industrial proletariat itself? These and many other questions must be answered in order to develop a revolutionary strategy that can “Unite all who can be united against the main enemy.”
There is at this time a great deal of political activity among strata outside of the working class; but, by and large, it has little connection to the working class, much less is it led by the working class. This important work is being done on many fronts:
– among the student population,
– against racism and political repression,
– in solidarity with anti-imperialist struggles in the Third World,
– on the cultural front,
– in China-Canada Friendship Associations,
– among women,
– among progressive medical workers and lawyers, and so on.
All of these areas of work must be incorporated as part of a revolutionary strategy, and must be led by the working class and its Communist Party. The objective role and position of various strata of the population, as well as the actual struggles and movements that exist at this time, must be the subject of thorough scientific analysis. Only in this way will we be able to build the unshakeable alliances necessary to achieve proletarian revolution in Canada.
The preceding questions of analysis are essential to the development of a revolutionary strategy and correct tactics. The existence of such a strategy is a necessary pre-condition to the creation of anew Communist Party, capable of leading the working class and all oppressed strata of the population towards revolution.
For a Communist Party to come into existence, it is necessary that principled unity be established among the broadest possible revolutionary forces across the country. A party will not be built by Marxist-Leninists in just one city; it must unite all genuine communists on a state-wide basis, i.e. in Canada and Quebec. The creation of the Party will signify a qualitative advance on the front of Marxist-Leninist unity, as well as in other areas.
By “principled unity” we mean two things: first, that the unity is on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, the revolutionary theory and ideology which has been proven correct through 100 years of the class struggle; and secondly, that Marxism-Leninism must be concretely applied to develop a political line to govern the Canadian situation. Questions of ideology and political line are the only correct basis on which Communists must unite.
In a pamphlet of the MREQ, what this means is more clearly defined:
. . . Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao TseTung are great leaders of the international proletariat. In their writings they have summed up the experience of the revolutionary movement around the world. They have also explained general principles which serve to guide revolutionaries in their work. Communists base themselves on the teachings of these great leaders precisely because they have proven correct through years of practical experience ... on the basis of these general principles, communists must analyse the concrete conditions in which they find themselves in order to understand the tasks they must undertake, and to elaborate correct strategy and tactics to lead the revolutionary movement to victory.. . . One further point should perhaps be emphasized; by political line we do not just mean some abstract text or document which gives a good analysis of a situation.
The analysis must be translated into practice – into revolutionary work – in order for the organization to test the correctness of its perception of reality, see the concrete results of its work and rectify its errors. ... In other words, correct work style and a correct attitude towards the masses are also part of an organizations’s overall political line. (CPC-ML, A Caricature of Communism, Montreal, June 1975)
If we examine the manner in which political groups (e.g. CPC-ML), and some groups of Marxist-Leninists, have attempted to build unity, we can see many mistakes that must be avoided. In one of CPC-ML’s newspapers, we find the statement: ’’ There can be no political line other than the decisive task facing the revolutionary organization. The revolutionary organization can only be built around this decisive task.” We can see the effects of implementing such a line if we examine CPC-ML’s practice of “uniting Marxist-Leninists.” More often than not, new people join that party on the basis of agreeing to one or another “decisive task”. Examples in past years have been: ”Advance the Resistance Movement!” or “Establish the Centralized Organs of the Party!” But never does CPC-ML build unity around an actual political line, that is, an analysis and strategy developed on the basis of Marxism-Leninism applied to concrete conditions. Neither a statement of the “decisive task”, nor simple-minded mimicry of the experience of the Chinese Revolution, will substitute for a correct Marxist-Leninist line. In fact, they are just the opposite!
Although the particular form has been different, similar mistakes have been made by Marxist-Leninists (including ourselves) in attempts to unite in recent years. These attempts – which have all failed – have focussed on building unity on the basis of “common practice” or “common study”, neither of which had clear politics in command. It was thought that the “sharing of experience”, or alternatively, “mutual study” could eventually evolve the unity necessary to form a Marxist-Leninist organization. We are familiar with the pitfalls and inevitable failure of this approach from first-hand experience. The question of political line continually crops up: it is unavoidable – and so it should be. It is not possible to carry out any political work except on the basis of a political line. But, when political contradictions have arisen in the course of practice, because there have been no principled methods established for resolving them, the recriminations have been bitter indeed. More potential unity has been destroyed than has ever been realized by using this method.
The same problems arise in attempts to build unity through “common study”. There are essentially only two ways of conducting study; the style of bourgeois academics who analyse the world only for the sake of philosophizing; and the Marxist style of analysing the world in order to change it. Unless study is approached with concrete problems in mind, it is necessarily academic. But, in order to resolve concrete problems, it is necessary to proceed from a common ideological framework. We do not argue against setting up study groups for the purpose of gaining a grounding in Marxist-Leninist classics – this is often useful and necessary. But it is quite a different thing for revolutionary militants, who have political lines and are engaged in political practice, to study ’labour history’ or ’political economy’ separate from struggle over political line. This method has proven that it can result only in subjectivism and further division.
In order to build genuine unity among Marxist-Leninists, it is necessary first to draw a clear line of demarcation between ourselves and right and ’left’ opportunism. “Unity is a great thing and a great watchword.’ But what the workers’ cause needs is the unity of the Marxists and not the unity of the Marxists together with the enemies and falsifiers of Marxism” (Lenin). In our situation, this means struggling against not only historically-discredited trends such as revisionism and Trotskyism, but also against revisionism and counter-revolution in its newer forms. It is particularly important to defeat trends like CPC-ML, the major group in Canada which claims to support China and uphold Marxism-Leninism. Such groups serve only to confuse the working-class and sincere militants as to what Marxism-Leninism really is, and to obscure the need to create a genuine Communist Party because one does not exist. Such groups must be openly and systematically exposed. The contradiction between Marxism-Leninism and such trends is an antagonistic one.
However, the method of struggle that must prevail within the Marxist-Leninist movement is fundamentally different. Mao TseTung defines the difference this way:
This democratic method of resolving: differences among the people was epitomized in 1942 in the formula ’unity-criticism-unity’ To elaborate it means starting from the desire for unity, resolving contradictions through criticism or struggle and arriving at a new unity on a new basis. , . . The ’left’ dogmatists had resorted to the method of ’ruthless struggle and merciless blows’ in inner-Party struggle. This method was incorrect. In criticising ’left’ dogmatism, we discarded this old method and adopted a new one, that is one of starting from the desire for unity, distinguishing between right and wrong through criticism or struggle and arriving at a new unity on a new basis. . . . The essential thing is to start from the desire for unity. For without this desire for unity, the struggle is bound to get out of hand.... Or in other words, ’learn from past mistakes to avoid future ones and cure the sickness to save the patient. We extended this method beyond our Party, (emphasis Mao’s) (“On The Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People,” Selected Readings, p. 439-440, Peking 1971)
Struggle must be sharp and continuous within the Marxist-Leninist movement, in order to defeat all right and ’left’ deviations. However, a basic distinction must be made between “friends and enemies” and between antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions. The Marxist-Leninist method of struggle must proceed, as Mao did, from the “desire for unity” and according to the method of “unity-criticism-unity”.
The struggle for unity in the new Communist movement is just beginning. All of the organizations, study groups, collectives and most individuals involved are young and inexperienced. Many people have changed from previously-held positions already, or are in the process of changing. No one group has as yet proven itself to be the correct centre of leadership. In the process of building unity and testing lines in practice, such leadership will emerge. The new Communist movement must strive to build the widest possible principled unity, to lay the basis for a new Communist Party. We must defeat all tendencies towards “seeking hegemony” and narrow “group mentalities”. All communists must put the necessity for one unified Marxist-Leninist Party before their own subjective interests.
A Communist Party’s strength must lie in its firm roots in the working class. It must be composed of the most advanced elements of the working class, and it must be capable of winning the masses of workers to a revolutionary position by showing that it truly represents their interests.
Marxist-Leninists in Canada at this time are by and large isolated from the working class and the masses of people. The primary reason that scientific socialism has not been fused with the working class lies in the revisionist Communist Party of Canada’s betrayal of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian revolution. The economism which has characterized the practice of many Marxist-Leninists in recent years is an important reason why the isolation of revolutionary theory from the working class has not been overcome. The new Communist movement must address itself with the utmost seriousness to this problem: what steps must be taken now to ensure that a new Communist Party will have firm roots among the masses?
In mass work, as in study, analysis, and debate, Communists must define their priorities in light of the central task. We can not define party-building as central among Marxist-Leninists, and then define something else as being most important in mass practice. Within Communists’ work in the workers’ movement at this stage, the principal task is to win the most advanced workers to Communism, and specifically to win their active participation and support in the creation of a new Communist Party.
The masses in any given place are generally composed of three parts, the relatively active, the intermediate and the relatively backward. The leaders must therefore be skilled in uniting the small number of active elements around the leadership and must rely on them to raise the level of the intermediate elements and to win over the backward elements. (Mao TseTung, “Concerning Methods of Leadership”, Selected Readings, p. 288-9, Peking 1971)
Uniting with the most advanced workers is integral to the creation of a new Party, a Party which will then be able to take up the task of uniting the vast majority of workers in revolutionary struggle. By the ’most advanced workers’ we refer both to those workers who have a relatively high degree of political consciousness, and are open to communism, but who are not consolidated ideologically and politically, and to those working class militants who have demonstrated their opposition to class collaborationism through their leadership in the workers’ political and economic struggles. It is these workers who must form the basis of the new Communist Party, joining with revolutionary militants from other classes to win over broader sections of the working class.
In order to win these workers to communism, REVOLUTIONARY PROPAGANDA AND AGITATION PLAY THE CENTRAL ROLE. Communists must conduct constant political exposures on the questions facing the working class and all classes under capitalism. This work must show that the short term and immediate struggles can not and must not be separated from the long term goal of proletarian revolution. It must consist both of agitation, which combines communist analysis with a call to action on a particular question, and propaganda whose primary function is revolutionary education. Particularly at this stage, when the communists are largely divorced from the workers’ movement, it is only through agitation and propaganda that advanced workers will be consolidated and come to support the creation of the new Party. At a later stage, when the Party exists, the principal task in mass work would be different; Communists would then define their principal task as leading mass struggles to win mass support for the Communist program.
Agitation and propaganda can take many forms: newspapers, leaflets, meetings, films, theatre, and so on. But the most important of these is a national communist newspaper. Only such a newspaper can fully address itself to the task of building class consciousness, in that this consists of a knowledge of the relationships between and among all classes and the state, and the necessity to overthrow the bourgeois state and establish the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. For this consciousness to develop, workers must be exposed to more than an analysis of a particular factory, union, or region. They need exposure to Marxist-Leninist agitation and propaganda on questions of importance to the entire struggle in Canada and around the world.
Local newspapers, brochures, etc. are also important and useful for building class consciousness, that is, communist exposes of particular conditions or analyses of particular struggles. However, these forms are limited because they can not fully address the important political questions of the day. They are necessarily limited in their political scope and their ability to rally advanced workers to communism.
Communist agitation and propaganda must be conducted through all possible means of reaching advanced workers: at plant gates, in mass organizations, through union work, at demonstrations, etc. It must not be restricted to particular contacts that Communists have already established in this or that workplace. It must be used to draw out advanced workers whenever and wherever that can be done.
One important means of conducting agitation and propaganda in the heart of the working class is through the tactic of implantation, i.e. the integration of communist militants with the working class in factories and other workplaces. At this stage, implantation is important for a number of reasons: (i) From a position within the working class itself, Communists can do effective work beginning to merge Marxism-Leninism with the working class. They can use the daily struggles and experiences of the workers to show the need for proletarian revolution. The working class can and must be won the understand that Marxism-Leninism is an invaluable weapon in their hands,, the science with which they can distinguish friends from enemies, determine correct methods of struggle against the bosses and the state, and achieve their eventual emancipation. Communists must show this by conducting agitation and propaganda and by giving actual leadership to the workers’ struggles. They must explain and prove that it is only the Communist program which can abolish the system of capitalist exploitation. The labour bureaucrats and revisionists who are presently leading workers’ struggles into dead-ends, must be exposed by the leadership of Marxist-Leninists.
Furthermore, one way of determining who the advanced workers are in order to unite with them is to be among the workers and part of their struggles. This is especially important now because, while many politically conscious workers are disillusioned with the existing ’left’ sects, they are also cut off from the new Marxist-Leninist forces. It is essential to prove to those workers, in words and in deeds, that only organization based on Marxism-Leninism can provide revolutionary leadership to the class struggle, (ii) Implantation is also a means of learning from the masses. A Marxist-Leninist organization must thoroughly grasp the actual conditions and struggles of the working class in order to do effective work. Communist leadership must always be according to the method of “from the masses, to the masses”. This means:
. . . take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go back to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own. . . . (ibid. p. 290)
It is through applying the MASS LINE, the Marxist-Leninist method of leadership, that Communists will be able to develop the most effective forms of agitation and propaganda. This METHOD OF LEADERSHIP must be applied at all stages of a Party’s work in order to learn from the masses.
(iii) A third reason why implantation is important is as one means of proletarianization of the revolutionary organization, that is, of adopting the outlook of the revolutionary proletariat. This will not be accomplished primarily by sending militants into the working class, but rather by adopting a proletarian line and recruiting workers to the Communist organization and the Communist Party. However, in the initial stage of building a Communist Party, when there are very few workers among the Marxist-Leninist forces, and when many militants have little knowledge or experience of the working class, implantation can play an important role. Communists must adopt the interests of the working class as their own; they must be willing to sacrifice all for the revolutionary cause. The integration of revolutionary militants from other classes with the working class is one means of achieving this re-education.
Historically many communist movements have understood the importance of sending their cadre to integrate with the masses. The Cellule Ouvriere Revolutionnaire (C.O.R.) refers to the Vietnamese example in an article on “Implantation” in the newspapermen/Star (Summer 1975).
In Vietnam, in 1926-27, at the beginning of their Marxist-Leninist movement and before the creation of a Marxist-Leninist Party, “The Vietnam Revolutionary Youth Association developed vigorously. To carry out the association policy, members who were originally petty-bourgeois intellectuals became proletarians by going to work in mines, factories, plantations, where they engaged in propaganda, worked among the masses, organizing and leading the workers’ struggle, awakening the working class to their historic mission, at the same time educating themselves to become true revolutionaries.” (An Outline History of the Vietnam Workers Party, Hanoi, 1970, p. 12)
The principal purpose of Implantation is to conduct agitation and propaganda to win advanced workers to communism, but the aspect of proletarianization of the Marxist-Leninist forces is also important.
This does not mean that all members of a Marxist-Leninist organization must always be implanted in the working class as a matter of principle. On the contrary, in order to develop the agitation and propaganda tools that the organization needs, and to carry out other aspects of Communist work, it is essential that not all of the militants be confined by the demands of such work. And, implantation will become less important as a tactic for winning advanced workers as more and more workers are recruited to the organization.
To sum up then, implantation should be regarded as an important tactic at this stage of the struggle: to educate and advance the workers on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, and to learn from the accumulated knowledge and experience of the workers. It must be carried out by a Marxist-Leninist organization on the basis of its political line, as one way of building revolutionary links with the masses.
We have elaborated three major tasks that Communists must undertake at this time to lay the basis for the creation of a Marxist-Leninist Party. These are, once again:
– concrete analysis of concrete conditions in Canada, through the application of Marxism-Leninism, in order to define the revolutionary strategy for our country;
– building principled unity among the broadest possible Marxist-Leninist forces in Canada and Quebec;
– developing links with the masses, especially with the working class.
These tasks are ALL ESSENTIAL – none of the three can be ignored. They are also inter-related tasks, i.e. advances on one front are connected with advances on the others. The creation of a genuine Communist Party depends on qualitative advances being made in all three fields. That party must have a revolutionary strategy; it must unite all genuine revolutionaries across the country; it must unite the most advanced workers and have firm roots in the working class. These tasks must be taken up now by all revolutionary militants. The first step towards accomplishing them is the creation of a Marxist-Leninist organization. It is only such an organization that can hope to achieve success in accomplishing these difficult and protracted tasks. (Our position on how this organization should be created appears at the end of this paper).
Agreement to the necessity to build a new Communist Party does not imply agreement as to HOW that party will be built. In fact, among Marxist-Leninists in Canada and Quebec who agree that party-building is the central task, there exist serious disagreements as to the steps involved in that process. These disagreements must not be regarded with cynicism and despair; rather, the struggle between opposing lines is an important part of the struggle to create a new Party. It is in the struggle against right and ’left’ deviations that a genuine Marxist-Leninist Party will be created.
There have been ’two-line struggles’ on any question of importance throughout the history of the revolutionary movement. These struggles are essentially conflicts between the interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, as reflected in different political lines in a given situation. This is not to say that at any particular point there are only two positions, or that anyone is arguing a correct position. Clearly it is possible for there to exist any number of lines on a question – and all of them could be wrong. But, at any particular point, there is one line that will advance the interests of the working class, and other lines will not. Every struggle between correct and incorrect ideas is therefore essentially a class struggle.
The Chinese Communist Party speaks of the “bourgeois reactionary line” and the “proletarian revolutionary line” to indicate that political positions objectively serve one class or another. At every stage of development of the Chinese Revolution, there have been fundamental differences. The C.P.C. refers to “ten major struggles between the two lines” which have occurred in the first 50 years of the Party’s history. These differences have involved the most fundamental question: whether to continue the revolutionary struggle or capitulate to the enemy. These two-line struggles have taken place both before and after the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and will continue until all classes have disappeared.
The documents of the Tenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China point out that struggles against incorrect lines have been carried on since the birth of the communist movements. They state that Engels rightly said:
The development of the proletariat proceeds everywhere amidst internal struggles.. . . And when, like Marx and myself, one has fought harder all one’s life against the alleged socialists than against anyone else (for we only regarded the bourgeoisie as a CLASS and hardly ever involved ourselves in conflicts with individual bourgeois), one cannot greatly grieve that the inevitable struggle has broken out. . . . (Frederick Engels, “Letter to August Bebel”, October 28, 1882, quoted in the Documents of the Tenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, p. 15)
Furthermore, the history of the communist movement shows that one line has often grown up in opposition to another line, in order to defeat it. Correct lines have often developed in the struggles against incorrect lines. But also, one incorrect line has often been opposed by yet another incorrect line. These ’zigzags’ usually obscure the original error, and reveal a misunderstanding of its nature.
Chairman Mao has constantly taught us: It is imperative to note that one tendency covers another. The opposition to Chen Tu-hsiu’s Right opportunism which advocated “all alliance and no struggle” covered Wang Ming’s ’Left’ opportunism which advocated “all struggle, no alliance. “The rectification of Wang Ming’s ’Left’ deviation covered Wang Ming’s Right deviation. The struggle against Liu Shao-chi’s revisionism covered Lin Piao’s revisionism. There were many instances in the past when one tendency covered another and when a tide came, the majority went along with it while only a few withstood it. (Ibid. P. 18-19)
We have stated earlier that right opportunism has been the principal error in the Marxist-Leninist movement in recent years, and that it continues to be the main danger. In addition, it is the main danger in the revolutionary movement in the long-term. However, while recognizing this, we must not close our eyes to opportunism of a ’left’ variety. Particularly at this time, we must be on guard against an ’over-reaction’ to the errors of the recent period. Despite the fact that some tendencies have a ’left cover’, we must remember that all errors are “right in essence” in that ALL errors retard the development of the revolutionary struggle. In this section of the paper, we will address a certain line within the communist movement which constitutes a harmful ’left’ deviation, a deviation which we feel must be struggled against and overcome.
In Canadian Revolution Vol. 1 No. 1, in the article by D. Stover and N. Perri entitled “Why Building the Party is the Principle Task”, strong attacks are launched against the economist lines and practice of comrades engaged in ’workplace-organizing.’ It is indeed true that that practice has been characterized by right opportunism and economism. We have detailed a great deal of this in PART 2 of this paper as well.
But Stover and Perri fail to grasp the fundamental nature of those errors; they reveal this by the serious errors they themselves make on a number of questions. While they quote Lenin extensively, (and attack those who might criticise this extensive quotation) this is not proof that the essence of a problem had been grasped. We have shown earlier how our incorrect positions have been “substantiated” by the selective use of quotations.
Polemics against right opportunism and economism are extremely useful and important. (Our own discussions with other comrades on these questions have been invaluable in grasping our mistakes.) But, they are especially useful if a correct line is counter-posed to the incorrect one. Only in this way will the real nature of the problem be understood, and a correct position be adopted for the future. Stover and Perri fail to pose a correct alternative to economism. They are not able to do so because (despite extensive writing on the questions), they fail to understand two very basic questions: what class struggle is, and the role of the Communist leadership. On the basis of misunderstanding these two questions and their inter-relationship, they make serious errors on the question of implantation.
We will address both of those questions by explaining the errors made by Stover and Perri in their articles on ’party-building’. We do this for the purpose of exposing serious ’leftist’ errors in the new Communist movement, not to single out two individuals for attack. We will also refer to related positions held by other Communists in Ontario and Quebec, positions that we are familiar with mainly through discussion with those comrades.
Stover and Perri’s article reveals a lack of understanding of both the objective and subjective factors that will bring about revolution. They fail to understand that the inherent contradictions in capitalist society mean that class struggle OBJECTIVELY exists, independent of human will. They also do not understand the role of Communist leadership (as part of the SUBJECTIVE factor) in the development of the class struggle. Both these points are essential to grasp because it is the combination of the two factors that makes revolution possible.
Contrary to what Stover and Perri claim, class struggle does exist whether or not a Communist party exists and whether- or not the working class is conscious of its existence. Class struggle is, simply, the opposition or antagonism between groups having a different relationship to the means of production (i.e. classes). As Marx and Engels stated in the Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” (Selected Works, Marx and Engels, p. 35, Moscow 1970) and “Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of opposing and oppressed classes.” (Ibid. p. 45)
It is true, as the authors say, that “they (communists in the workplaces) did not find a class which was yet “for itself,” that is, that the working class in Canada is not yet ’class-conscious’. However, it is NOT true, as they go on to say, that “they did not find a class yet engaging in class struggle”. (emphasis ours) This statement reveals a lack of knowledge of a most basic principle of Marxism: CLASS STRUGGLE DOES EXIST INDEPENDENT OF HUMAN WILL. Contrary to what bourgeois idealism holds, class struggle is not manufactured by Communists. It has existed in all previous societies, and it is the motive force of this society. Marxist materialism holds that the antagonism between classes, from which class struggle inevitably arises, is the OBJECTIVE BASIS for revolution. The role of a Communist Party, while indispensable, is nevertheless a component of the SUBJECTIVE FACTOR in making revolution.
In order for Communists to give correct leadership, they must understand the objective conditions in which they live. Without grasping the nature of the class struggle at a given time, the role of the Communists in advancing that struggle can not be correctly defined. Stover’s and Perri’s errors on the question of class struggle necessarily mean that they can not provide that correct direction. This is apparent in their article.
While economism and implantation are attacked at great length, little or nothing is said about the way in which Communists should carry out mass work. While Stover and Perri are able to quote Lenin extensively on the need to “fuse socialism with the working class movement”, they show themselves incapable of applying this (correct) principle in the conditions of the class struggle in Canada. They state: “It is only with a party that we can have ’revolutionary practice’. It is only with a party that we can engage in successful class struggle or in non-empiricist scientific experiment”. Does this mean that no practice advances the revolution until the party is built. What about the practice of building the party? And, how will that party be built?
Stover and Perri seem to deny a very important aspect in the struggle to create a new Communist Party, that of building links with the masses. As we have said earlier, this is one of three essential tasks that Communists must undertake now. Stover and Perri’s formulation of “putting forward a correct program of propaganda and agitation and the carrying out of that program”, as one of the three steps in party-building, does not adequately address itself to this problem. How will that agitation and propaganda be conducted?
How will links with the masses be assured. The authors have nothing to answer these questions in their paper.
The solution to economism and right opportunism is not to build a party on shaky ideological and political grounds and isolated from the masses. Communists must implement a correct political line in the practice of the class struggle (assuming that it exists). Class struggle will not advance to a higher ’class-conscious’ level except through workers analysing their experiences on the basis of scientific socialist ideology. It is precisely the role of Communists (as Stover and Perri vehemently argue) to accomplish this merger. But this will not happen through abandoning the daily struggles to the social-democrats and revisionists. Communists’ methods of leadership must combine propaganda as to the final aims of the struggle with leadership to the daily struggle and mass movements. To ignore this is to abandon that leadership to the opportunists and revisionists. Marxist-Leninist propaganda must take up the problems and experiences of the masses in order to raise the consciousness of those realities to a higher level. It must make use of these experiences in order to propagandize as to the final aim of proletarian revolution. And, communists’ leadership must be in WORDS AS WELL AS DEEDS, that is, they must attempt to apply their knowledge and experience to lead the actual struggles of the masses. The opportunists can lead those struggles only into dead ends; the task of communists is to advance them towards proletarian revolution.
Some comrades hold to the view that workers are capable of leading their own strike struggles and solidarity movements in a militant fashion, and they ask “Who are we to think that we have anything to offer? The workers can solve their immediate problems.” The answer, it seems, is that petit-bourgeois intellectuals are capable of producing communist propaganda as to the final aims of the struggle, and they should put their abilities to work in this manner – at least until some later point sometime after a party exists. But, the class struggle should be left to the workers, who, after all, can handle it better than we “petit-bourgeois leftists” could ever hope to. What is this but spontaneism in ’left’ clothing? It is absolutely wrong to say that the day-to-day struggles are being handled “just fine”, and that communists can neglect them. The history of the revolutionary movement indicates otherwise. It is precisely the role of Communists to integrate Marxism-Leninism with the workers’ movement. An approach which in practice denies this can only serve to perpetuate the isolation of the Communists from the working class, be it in the form of right or ’left’ spontaneism.
These same comrades are quick to point out that it will, at some point, be the role of Communists to lead mass struggles, but that point is not now. We agree that the principal task in mass work at this stage is to win advanced workers to communism. But, simply to state this begs the questions of how that will be done most effectively, and what the secondary tasks are in mass work at this stage. While leadership to mass struggles is not the principal task of the communists now, it is nevertheless an important way of influencing the most advanced workers and larger sectors of the working class. Communists leadership must always combine the “general with the particular”, the issuing of general calls with thorough-going particular leadership.
Just as Stover and Perri seem to equate the defeat of right opportunism with the creation of a new Party, so they also falsely equate ’economism’ with ’implantation.’ To do this is to set up a ’straw man’ for the sake of scoring points. It is not a principled method of debate to attack the tactic of implantation on account of the errors made by those who have carried it out.
Stover and Pern attack the people who have been ’implanted’ in the working class in the following manner:
... To absolve themselves of liberal guilt feelings, they sacrifice their petit-bourgeois life to go among the working class; in fact, some of these people are quite explicit that they consider this process a personal sacrifice for the sake of the revolution. They did not see this as a form of petit-bourgeois Christianity and saw even less that the workers were not in the market for it. And so, they went into the workplace, looking for the working class everywhere but finding it nowhere. That is, while finding a class “in itself”, they did not find a class which was yet “for itself”; while finding a class whose members engaged in occasional spontaneous outbreaks of battle against the bourgeoisie, they did not find a class yet engaging in class struggle. ...
This quote is very revealing as to the authors’ line on implantation and ’links with the masses’, despite a later token statement that implantation will be useful in the future. They attack implantation for all the wrong reasons, and then apparently see fit to “throw the baby out with the bath water”: i.e., the economists have erred in implantation, so we had better steer clear of it!
When implantation has been carried out by genuine Communist organizations historically, it has certainly not been to absolve their cadre of “petit-bourgeois guilt.” Rather, it has been to conduct agitation and propaganda among the masses, and to re-educate the revolutionaries themselves. It has been done on the basis of a political line in order to achieve definite results. True, this has not been the case in Canada in recent years. However, it would be more correct to explain the previous period in the way that Cellule Ouvriere Revolutionnaire does in their article on ’Implantation’ in the journal Red Star.
In Canada, the first militants of the “new” Communist movement to go and work in factories, did so without any Marxist-Leninist theory, with only a willingness to transform themselves. As a result of this lack of theory, they inevitably developed economist and trade unionist positions. Unfortunately, some of these militants never corrected their positions and only transformed their first weakness into a revisionist political line. . . .
It is not the desire of communist militants to link up with the working class, to proletarianize their ideology, or even to make “personal sacrifices”, that ought to be attacked. It is the incorrect lines that those militants have carried (or in the absence of defined positions, the tailing of opportunist lines) which must be understood and defeated. These errors are not avoided by refusing to ’dirty one’s hands’ in the daily economic struggles. Neither are they tied up with implantation per se. It is true that we must continually be on guard against rightist tendencies in our practice which put off Communist agitation and propaganda and the recruitment of working class cadre until some future far-off date. But certainly not by avoiding the practice in which these errors might arise.
Yet Stover and Perri imply that economism is inevitable if Communists insist on “close organic contact with the proletarian struggle”. They quote this phrase of Lenin’s out of context to bolster their argument. (In What Is To Be Done?, Lenin was arguing against the line of the economists who maintained that “nation-wide political exposures” would threaten their “close organic contact with the proletarian struggle.” He was certainly not against close links with the masses per se.) But Stover and Perri go on to use many similar quotes to back up their incorrect position. We quote:
“... .we have not encountered any evidence whatsoever that these great Marxist-Leninists (Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao) ever worked at a working class job. . . . Who, then, are the great Marxist-Leninists: our great above-mentioned leaders, or our present-day Economists?
. . . Lenin explained that one reason socialist consciousness comes from outside the sphere of employer-employee relations is that “workers have to work in a factory as if on a chaingang, and neither time nor possibility remains for them to become socialists.”
. . . We hear so much from the economists about “practice” (more on this later), and so we say to them: One has only to look at your “practice” to find the source of your errors.
. . . Note that Lenin does not see the Party as being formed out of the struggles in the workplace by the most advanced leaders of workplace struggles. It may strike the Economists as dreadfully ultra-leftist, but according to Lenin the Communist party is formed by polemical and theoretical struggle among the most advanced elements of the SOCIALIST movement and by the establishment of a central post for all elements of the movement.
In all of these passages the authors are attempting to substantiate their own errors on the basis of Marxism-Leninism. But, time and time again, they fail to do so.
The economism which Stover and Perri attack so vehemently will not be defeated by avoiding implantation. It must be actively opposed – and thereby defeated – in theory and practice, and most importantly in the course of those struggles where it holds unchallenged sway, i.e. within the working class itself and its trade union organizations. An Albanian communist, Filip Kota, writes of the influence that Marxist-Leninist forces are having within the working class of the capitalist countries:
with their political platform and their concrete and systematic activity with the base, the new revolutionary forces, which are continually growing and being consolidated in fierce class battles, are training the proletariat, educating it politically and ideologically, organizing and launching it in political and economic battles against the bourgeoisie, capitalism, imperialism and their agents within the worker and trade union movement. . . . It is only by militating within the ranks of the working class that the new forces will have ail the possibilities to fight with success against both reformism and revisionism in the trade union movement. (emphasis ours) (Two Opposing Lines in the World Trade Union Movement, Ibid. p. 163-164
The working class must be won to eventually support a Communist program; advanced workers must be won now to take part in the creation of a new Communist Party. We have argued earlier that ’implantation’ is an important tactic in accomplishing these things. There are two further reasons for which Stover and Perri seem to dispute this. As we have quoted, they say that none of the greatest revolutionary leaders ever worked at a working class job. We agree that the test of a Marxist-Leninist is not whether she/he puts in 40 hours a week of wage-slavery. But, the test of a Marxist-Leninist organization is its ability to advance the struggle for a proletarian party and the struggle for proletarian revolution. In order to do this, the cadre of such an organization (the cadre of a future Communist Party) must be tested and steeled in the course of class struggle. One method of accomplishing this is the integration of those cadre into the working class.
A further argument seems to be the question of time and resource priorities, and whether implantation is the best use of an organizations’ energies at this time. Again we would respond that it is not a matter of all cadre being implanted, but of an organization becoming proletarianized and developing links with the masses. This is not a quantitative question but a qualitative one. We will draw on an example from the history of the Albanian communist movement to illustrate this point.
The earliest years of that Communist movement were marked by great disunity. There were organized Trotskyist groupings within several of the fledgling Communist cells. Most of these groups were founded by intellectuals, and they maintained their isolation from the masses and their petit-bourgeois composition for some time. Through patient work by some of the Communist groups, participating in the legal workers’ associations and distributing communist literature among the masses, influence was developed among broader sections of the people. But, serious differences remained with some so-called Communist who argued the “theory of cadre”, i.e. that communists should shut themselves up in their cells and engage primarily in their own theoretical education, because the conditions were not yet ripe for anything else. But, the correct tendency, (which later went on to help found the Albanian Communist Party) argued that Communists should be building links with the masses immediately, in order to unite with the most advanced workers and peasants to form a Communist Party. These Albanian comrades developed the legal workers organizations, trade unions, associations of patriotic secondary school students, and so on, which all played an active role in the revolutionary struggle, under the leadership of the Communists.
At one point, upon the advice of the Comintern, all of the existing Communist groups were in fact dissolved:
With regard to the Communist organizations, the Comintern proceeded from the fact that the old cells were detached from the masses and shut in their own shell and, as such, they were incapable of carrying out the new line. Therefore, they and their leading forums should be temporarily dissolved and re-organized on a party basis after having established sound foundations among the masses by working through the legally authorized associations. . .(History of the Party of Labour of Albania, p. 52, Tirana, Albania, 1971)
These groups were re-united organizationally later, but only when they had purged themselves of all opportunist deviations and developed actual revolutionary activity among the people. It was after the fascists had invaded, and the national liberation struggle under Communist leadership was developed to a high level, that a single unified Communist party was finally formed.
We do not cite this historical example for the purpose of suggesting an identical process of party-building in Canada. The particular conditions existing in Albania at that time necessitated a certain method of building the party. We have already outlined the steps to party-building in Canada as we see them. However, we can learn a lesson from the importance that the Albanian communists placed, from a very early stage, on developing firm links with the masses. Theirs is an example that Stover and Perri would do well to heed.
We have not examined all aspects of the ’leftist’ tendency that the Stover and Perri article represents. That will have to be the subject of ongoing debate and struggle within the new Communist movement. We have focused on their article in particular because, while it attacks (rightfully so) economism as the principal danger in the movement, the alternative that it poses is not a correct one. Such errors can seriously retard the development of the revolutionary movement. We must continue to be on guard against all right and ’left’ deviations in our midst. We must struggle against all such tendencies according to the method of “unity-criticism-unity”.
The most immediate problem that must be tackled is that of building a Marxist-Leninist organization. It is only this organization which can take up the tasks we have outlined towards the creation of a new Party. Some Marxist-Leninists in cities in English-speaking Canada are now beginning to be organized into study groups and collectives. In ’Quebec, in particular in Montreal, Marxist-Leninist groupings are already forming into larger organizations. These developments are important ones. They signify the growing seriousness of many revolutionary militants, and the desire to develop Marxist-Leninist leadership to the class struggle in Canada.
However, there are still large numbers of serious communists who are quite separate from any collective process of study, debate, and mass work. And, the groupings of Marxist-Leninists which do exist (in English-speaking Canada at least) are not consolidated on the major questions facing our movement.
We have stated earlier that we see a new Communist Party coming into being on a state-wide basis, i.e. Canada and Quebec. It will unite the broadest possible revolutionary forces across the country into one single unified party. But, before that party is created (and as a condition for its creation), the Marxist-Leninists in different cities and regions must be organized at the highest level possible in each situation. A party will not be formed put of loose associations of individuals who are united for the first time with the creation of the party.
The level of development of Marxist-Leninist forces varies – and will continue to vary – in different parts of the country. In some places, democratic-centralist organizations will develop, While study groups and collectives will exist in others. The formation of national organization does not require that the Marxist-Leninist forces have all developed to the same level – some areas will be more advanced than others. However, Marxist-Leninists must at all times strive to achieve higher levels of ideological and political unity, and resulting organizational unity. Study circles and discussion groups must orient themselves towards solving concrete problems. Only in this way will political lines – and organizational means of implementing them – be developed. Democratic-centralist organization, employing a division of labour, explicit leadership, scientific methods of work and criticism-self-criticism, is the only effective way of carrying out revolutionary work. We must strive to build a Marxist-Leninist organization because only such a formation can take up the tasks involved in creating a new Communist Party.
However, while the creation of a Marxist-Leninist Organization is an immediate necessity, it must also be formed on a principled basis. Communists must always unite on the basis of political line, and a common ideological outlook. They must also agree on the correct methods of leadership and methods of work for accomplishing their tasks. At this particular time we would argue that Communists should unite on the basis of the following:
A) General agreement that Marxism-Leninism, as summed up chiefly by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, is the revolutionary theory which will guide the working class in its struggle to overthrow capitalism and build socialism and communism; demarcation of Marxism-Leninism from right and left opportunism.
B) A general analysis of the world situation, i.e., the main contradictions shaping today’s world, and the division of the world into three worlds or three parts; Canada’s position within that world context.
C) An analysis of the main contradictions and the principal contradiction in Canada.
D) Agreement on the necessity to build a new Communist Party in Canada, and the actual tasks involved in creating that party.
– A tactical line to govern Communist work in the working class, i.e. how to conduct agitation and propaganda, the role of implantation, etc.
– A tactical line on work among other strata of the population.
E) Agreement to methods of leadership and methods of work for carrying out the organization’s tasks.
While we feel these are the key questions to build unity on at this time, we are aware that serious disagreement will continue to exist on many questions. The creation of a Marxist-Leninist organization is not the conclusion of struggle on any question. Differences will continue to exist, and they must be dealt with based on the ’desire for unity’, through the method of principled struggle.
On some of these points of unity, clear positions are already held by Marxist-Leninists in different cities. These positions should be summed Up, circulated and debated, and unity advanced to a higher level. Some other questions will require more extended study, investigation and debate. However, this work must be oriented towards solving these specific problems. Until correct political lines do exist and can be united on, the most important task of Canadian communists is to develop these lines.
The road to the creation of a new Communist Party will be a ’long and arduous’ one. The struggle against right and ’left’ deviations will be continuous. The obstacles in our path will be many. The new Communist movement in Canada is very young and inexperienced.
We put forward this position on party-building as one contribution to the debate within the revolutionary movement at this time. The question of the steps towards creating a new Communist Party is a central one for all revolutionaries in Canada. We welcome hearing from any comrades who have criticisms or disagreements with our views. We would urge that those views also be put forward in the pages of this journal, in the spirit of “ unity-criticism-unity”.
One final point: while we, of course, bear full responsibility for the views put forward in this paper, we would like to indicate that debate and struggle with many comrades, in Southern Ontario and especially in Quebec, has been extremely important in the development of our positions. We look forward to receiving the responses of these and other comrades to this paper.