The May 1st Collective

Ideological Struggle is Class Struggle

First Published: Canadian Revolution No. 5, April-May 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The May 1st Collective is a Marxist-Leninist group in Vancouver


In Canada, the crisis of capitalism is deepening and the spontaneous struggles of the workers are increasing in strength and regularity. However, as we noted in our Basis of Unity:

. . . outright reactionary ideology and other bourgeois ideologies (like social democracy) that conciliate with the bourgeoisie dominate the organisations of the working class movement.

As the conditions of the working class deteriorate, the phony leaders of the working class are increasingly exposed. At a time when the Marxist-Leninist movement finds excellent conditions for the penetration of Marxism-Leninism into the working class, we find the movement weak, divided and ideologically and politically undeveloped. We believe Enver Hoxha’s description of the state of the relationship between Marxism-Leninism and the workers’ movement accurately describes the situation in Canada:

The practical movement of the masses has marched and is marching ahead, whereas the subjective factor, consciousness, their organization and direction, has lagged behind and does not correspond to the tasks of the times. (Hoxha, Report to the 6th Congress of the Party of Labour of Albania, Tirana, 1971, p. 210).

Our central task, therefore, is the advancement of the ’subjective factor’, the struggle to create the conditions for the formation of the proletarian vanguard party.

It is our position that in Canada at this time we are in the first stage of Stalin’s three stages in the development of the party. That is to say, we are in the period of the formation of the vanguard (the party) of the proletariat. And all our energies should be directed toward:

The formation of the vanguard (party) of the proletariat, the uniting of party cadre, the elaboration of program and general tactical principles corresponding to actual conditions in our country. . . This preparatory period is one where cadre form, organize and arm themselves with a clear program and firm tactics. (En Lutte!, The Tasks of the Marxist-Leninist movement: How to build the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party, Canadian Revolution, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 13-14).

In Quebec, the Marxist-Leninist movement has advanced significantly. The differing lines on the way forward are more developed than in English Canada. Marxist-Leninists in Quebec, unlike the rest of Canada, are actively taking the struggle to build the party to the proletariat. In English Canada, the Marxist-Leninist movement is more isolated, in smaller groups, with none capable of systematic intervention in the working class.

The differences between the movement in Quebec and English Canada are not because of different kinds of errors. No, the differences have arisen because of the greater development of the spontaneous struggles in Quebec. This means that the two lines of the two-line struggle in Quebec are precisely the problems we must address. This two-line struggle over the correct way for Marxist-Leninists to fuse communism with the working-class movement is the key to advancing the Marxist-Leninist movement ideologically, politically and organizationally. We in English Canada should actively take up this struggle.

The publication of Canadian Revolution has marked an important public break from our old errors and has been useful in centering debate over the two-line struggle. But, it is not a substitute for the development by Marxist-Leninist groups of their own means of propaganda for carrying the struggle to the proletariat.

The main tendency of Marxist-Leninists in English Canada has been right opportunism. Specifically, it has been marked by economism and amateurism. Only recently have groups even begun to see their central tasks as the struggle to build the party. Marxist-Leninists were content to applaud the just struggle of this union or that group of workers. And, the amateurism which inevitably comes from such a spontaneous view of revolution still persists. Proposals are made with no plan of action, no clear account of purpose or possible results. Security measures are mocked as "uncomradely". As Lenin said of amateurishness:

. . .it denotes a narrow scope of revolutionary work generally, failure to understand that a good organization of revolutionaries cannot be built up on the basis of such narrow activity, and lastly, and most important, it denotes attempts to justify the narrowness and elevate it to a special ’theory’, i.e. bowing to worship to spontaneity on this question too. (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 5, p. 445).

Many Marxist-Leninists still view communist politics the same as they view their open trade union activities in bourgeois democracy. Only when Marxist-Leninists seriously take up the tasks of the time will this amateurism be defeated.

The immersion of Marxist-Leninists in the working class has been the trend. Many Marxist-Leninists have become militant trade unionists and have united very well with advanced workers. But have they advanced the fusion of Marxism-Leninism and the workers’ movement and won over these advanced workers? The answer is no, a thousand times, no! That is to say, the separation of Marxist-Leninists from the workers’ movement has not-been a physical separation but a political one.

As a result, the workers have been left to the CPC, CPC(ML) and various Trotskyist formations who act as tools for the labour bosses and help spread anti-communism. Paterson’s analysis of the reasons for the influence of CPC(ML) is equally applicable to other counter-revolutionary groups:

CPC(ML) has been able to achieve organizational hegemony in English Canada with a bourgeois nationalist line on the national question and a tailist-idealist approach to the trade union struggle precisely because these lines are still dominant among the majority of (would-be) Marxist-Leninists. The criticism which has been advanced here of CPC(ML) must also be understood as a criticism of the M-L movement here in Canada. Too long have we avoided the development of a correct program. Too often have we bowed to spontaneity and sunk into economism. We have liquidated the question of building the party, and we have shied away from the difficult task of actually applying the science of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of Canada. We have, in the M-L movement, been the soil of opportunism out of which CPC(ML) has sprung. Where errors in CPC(ML) have been pointed out, here also lie weaknesses in the M-L movement. It is our task, now, to fight opportunism in our own ranks and initiate the struggle to build the genuine party of the proletariat. (D. Paterson, A reply to CPC(ML)’s call for unity, Canadian Revolution. Vol. 1, No. 2, p. 20)

We must fight and smash revisionism, but in order to do this we must demarcate against opportunism in the Marxist-Leninist movement and carry proletarian ideology to the working class. At present, this means actively taking up the national two-line struggle over methods of party-building.

This two-line struggle, originating in Quebec, is advancing the movement on a national basis. Marxist-Leninist groups across the country are being pushed forward. The purpose of this paper, for example, is to take up the questions involved in the two-line struggle. Originally, the impetus to develop a position on the way to unite Marxist-Leninists came from our opposition to a proposal that Marxist-Leninists in Vancouver form a ’Liaison Committee’. At the time, we opposed the committee because it has no political basis; we saw no purpose in the kinds of debate the proposals advanced. Since then, our position has not changed, but our understanding has deepened. We now see even more clearly that the question of uniting Marxist-Leninists is a question that must be taken up on a national basis. We have therefore tried to develop our position on the national two-line struggle. And, as part of that position, we have responded to the proposals for a Liaison Committee, proposals which we see as a continuance of right opportunism within the Marxist-Leninist movement.

We feel it should be made clear that we consider the proponents of both lines of the struggle , including the proponents of the Liaison Committee (the Vancouver Study Group), as part of the Marxist-Leninist movement. It is precisely because of this that the pressure was so great. The existence of opportunism within the Marxist-Leninist movement is as much a danger as the existence of other forms of bourgeois ideology outside the movement.

Part I – The National Two-Line Struggle

A. Demarcate In Order That We May Unite

The underestimation of bourgeois ideology:

While there is agreement on the main tasks of the period – creating the conditions for the party, uniting Marxist-Leninists, winning advanced workers to communism, and need for a national Marxist-Leninist organization of struggle for the party – there is disagreement on the method of carrying out these tasks. The differences centre around the need for ideological struggle and what ideological struggle is.

CCL(ML) and, as we shall see, the proponents of the Liaison Committee, draw narrow lines around the Marxist-Leninist movement which by definition excludes not only counterrevolutionaries, but also opportunists. In doing so, they commit both a left and a right error, identifying the Marxist-Leninist movement by definition does not build unity and could lead to sectarianism.

(Ideological and organizational) unity cannot be decreed, it cannot be brought about by a decision, say, of representatives; it must be worked for. (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 4, p. 354).

The far more serious error. However, is the complete split they make between the too aspects of the central task of the period – uniting Marxist-Leninists and winning advanced workers to communism – while denying the centrality of ideological struggle to both of these tasks. Seeing ideological struggle as being of secondary or even tertiary importance within the Marxist-Leninist movement reflects an underestimation of bourgeois ideology in the movement, not to mention a refusal to learn from history – even recent history.

Opportunism, even in its counter-revolutionary forms, can have domination over the workers’ movement or even the Marxist-Leninist movement for periods of time. An example of this is CPC(ML)’s hegemony over the Marxist-Leninist movement for a short period. It is not necessary to be part of the Marxist-Leninist movement to dominate it.

In another sense, it is characteristic of an economist view of ideology to over estimate the domination ot bourgeois ideology over the proletariat as they underestimate the capacity of workers to deal with advanced theory (and this view generally coincides with a spontaneist conception of the development of class-consciousness). The other aspect of this view is the tendency to see differences among communists as relatively insignificant and, at any rate, to see them, as MREO-CCL(ML)[1] do as being “qualitatively different”. MREO-CCL(ML) disguise this somewhat by treating ideological struggle within the movement as a mainly subjective phenomena, relating to the personal transformation of the world view of individual cadre, the concretisation of their understanding of political line and the proletarianisation of the organization. Hence, confronted by advocates of the two-line struggle approach, they predictably will respond by saying they are “not afraid of struggle”, which misses the point entirely. “Intense comradely debate” of the kind lauded in the document portraying the exchanges leading to the founding of CCL(ML) is no substitute for a correct understanding of how to conduct the two-line struggle as a class struggle which fuses socialism with the working class movement.

Unity is relative; struggle is absolute:

CCL(ML) and others fail to see ideological struggle as a form of class struggle (a point to be taken up later) which leads them to stress unity at the expense of struggle. They counterpose the formula “unity-criticism-unity” to “demarcate in order that we may unite”. We must demarcate against counter-revolutionary groups outside the Marxist-Leninist movement, they say, and carry on a “protracted and varied” struggle against opportunist tendencies within the movement.

In arriving at this position, they begin by failing to understand the purpose of Lenin’s call to demarcate and go on to misapply Mao’s formula of “unity-criticism-unity”. They argue that when Lenin wrote, “Before we can unite, and in order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation”, that he was only calling for demarcation from a consolidated opportunist (counter-revolutionary) tendency.

Thus, MREQ complains:

If En Lutte! in its eagerness to demarcate itself, feels we are the Bernsteins of Canada, if it feels that we, like the CPC(ML) represent the “bourgeois line within the Marxist-Leninist movement”, it should come out and say so and stop skating around. (MREQ, On the Unity of Marxist-Leninists, p. 14).

Clearly, MREQ-CCL(ML) have great difficulty understanding what it means to struggle against an opportunist bourgeois line, as distinct from the relationship between the groups carrying that line which may be non-antagonistic (until and unless they consolidate around the antagonistic line in a diehard manner). Many comrades, especially those from petit-bourgeois class origins, whose main goal in life is still to ’proletarianise’ themselves rather than to bolshevise the proletariat, take it as a personal affront when they are criticized for carrying a bourgeois line as if that fact alone will put them back in the bourgeois class.

In their Unity document, MREQ says that if En Lutte! would read the rest of the paragraph from which Lenin’s demarcation quote is taken, they would find out what Lenin really meant. However, it is not En Lutte! but they who should read it, for Lenin is quite clear:

But although we shall discuss all questions from our own definite point of view, we shall give space in our columns to polemics between comrades. Open polemics conducted in full view of all Russian Social Democrats and class-conscious workers, are necessary and desirable in order to clarify the depth of existing differences, in order to afford discussion of disputed questions from all angles, in order to combat the extremes into which representatives, not only of various views, but even of various localities, or various “specialities” of the revolutionary movement inevitably fall. Indeed, as noted above, we regard one of the drawbacks of the present-day movement to be the absence of open polemics between avowedly differing views, the effort to conceal differences on fundamental questions. (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 4, p. 355).

Did Iskra intend to give space in its columns to that great comrade of Russian Social Democracy, Edward Bernstein? Of course not! Iskra wanted to eliminate the "discordance and confusion" which prevailed in the movement at that time by clarifying the deepening the struggle through demarcation and open polemics.

Two-line struggle:

While En Lutte! quite properly talks about two-line struggle within the communist movement, MREQ-CCL(ML) generally avoid that formulation. In its place we have two types of ideological struggle. The first, against non-Marxist-Leninists of all types from progressives to counter-revolutionaries, is antagonistic and has as its objective to “destroy them ideologically and politically”. The other, among communists, is non-antagonistic and is reduced to a method to “rectify the errors of Marxist-Leninists”. Among Marxist-Leninists, “all forms of struggle undertaken must lead to political and organizational unity, and thus, must be carried out in a spirit of unity”. (MREQ, Unity, p. 1 – emphasis ours). Somehow the word ideological got lost in their formulation.[2]

As well as not understanding that it is struggle (and not unity) which is absolute in Mao’s formulation of unity-criticism-unity’, CCL(ML) and other proponents of their line go on to apply it dogmatically to the relationship between Marxist-Leninist groups as a rationale for what they call bilateral discussions, but what En Lutte! more accurately terms “diplomatic negotiations”.

En Lutte! correctly points out that diplomatic negotiations is a rejection of the principles of dialectical materialism on the question, that is, the ’uneven development of the struggle of opposites’ which leads to the ’qualitative leap’. En Lutte! correctly sees that through the two-line struggle within the movement, a leading centre will emerge. CCL(ML) sees each small group developing its own complete line and then going on to negotiate with other small groups over who has the correct line.

Moreover, Mao applies the formula ’unity-criticism-unity’ to different situations at different times. In 1942, the method was used to resolve contradictions inside the Party as an alternative to the left dogmatists’ method of "ruthless struggle; merciless blows". Later, in 1957-58 ’unity-criticism-unity’ was used in dealing with the relationship between the Party and the masses as a method of continuing the class struggle under socialism (The Great Leap Forward). In 1966, applying this concept to fight Liu Shao Chi’s right opportunism meant forming fighting groups, but in 1971, to combat Lin Piao’s left opportunism, study groups were formed. The Chinese have used the method of unity-criticism-unity’ since 1927 to resolve many different kinds of contradictions among the people. They did not apply it dogmatically in the same manner in every situation as those who advocate this method would have us do.

Further, Mao certainly did not mean the ’unity-criticism-unity’ formulation to be applied to any situation in such a way as to fundamentally separate the struggle among Marxist-Leninists in the party from mobilizing the masses to participate actively in the struggle. Indeed, the very essence of the formulation is to break down the revisionist narrowing of the concept of class struggle to open antagonistic conflict in pre-socialist societies. The purpose of writing the article in 1957 was to promote an understanding of how class struggle continues under the dictatorship of the proletariat. And, the pre-Liberation examples he refers to, such as the rectification campaigns in the early 1940’s, did not separate struggle among Marxist-Leninists from the struggle of workers and peasants as even a casual glance at books like Fanshen will confirm.

While formally agreeing that “correctness or incorrectness of ideological and political line decides everything”, documents, published by the proponents of this narrow conception of ’unity-criticism-unity’ make it clear that in their eyes, it is ’political’ line that really counts as far as the unity of Marxist-Leninists is concerned.

The struggle to unite all genuine Marxist-Leninists will be complex and protracted. But if we adopt a correct attitude of unity-criticism-unity, struggle to correct our errors, and make questions of political line primary, we will certainly be able to overcome all differences and build the unity necessary to create a genuine Marxist-Leninist communist party in Canada. (CCL(ML) The Struggle for the Creation of the Canadian Communist League (M-L), p. 14).

So long as we have agreement on whether or not grocery clerks form part of the proletariat, surely we can unite. In comparison, the question of bourgeois ideology shrinks to the size of an amoeba in importance. Class struggle can come later.

The caricature which CCL(ML) and others have made of En Lutte!’s line, protesting that they stress ’differences over unity’, poses the difference in perspective between the two lines incorrectly. They say En Lutte!s approach to unity starts from differences rather than “establishing common ground on principles and then moving on to major strategic and tactical questions . . ” However, the essential point to grasp about En Lutte!’s line is that when they talk about ’demarcating in order to unite’ and affirming that ’struggle is absolute while unity is relative’ they are not trying to describe a particular formula for conducting negotiations or debates between Marxist-Leninist groups. They do not confuse ’uniting Marxist-Leninists’ and ’winning advanced workers’ but they do insist that Marxist-Leninists make a central part of their political line the development of a political plan for linking the two.[3]

Ideological struggle is class struggle:

The key link, as the Chinese say, is class struggle. That is what is missing in all of CCL(ML)’s discussions of how to unite Marxist-Leninists and, as we shall see later, the same element is missing in the Liaison Committee proposals. Lenin cites Engels in What Is to Be Done? to reaffirm that theoretical (ideological) struggle is a form of class struggle.

Engels recognizes not two forms of the great struggle of Social Democracy (political and economic), as is the fashion among us, but three, placing the theoretical struggle on a par with the first two. (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 5, p. 370).

Far too many people still retain the economist view that theoretical work is something separate and apart from the practice of class struggle. Engels insisted that people recognize that Marxism is a science; therefore it must be studied. En Lutte! adds that theoretical struggle is the principal form of class struggle which must be promoted at this time, therefore it must be practised. Many comrades see theoretical work as an essentially private undertaking, requiring a temporary withdrawal from the class struggle and the political task of winning people to communism. They see it as a period of ’preparation’ for practice.

This attitude toward the theoretical struggle still prevails in most of the study groups in English Canada that we are aware of, including, to some extent, our own. Public propaganda and polemics are subordinated to the organization of private study and the exchange of position papers between them. This happens even where people recognize, in theory, the necessity of ’public debate’. The public nature of the debate is very restricted. While Canadian Revolution is definitely an advance in that it makes the two-line struggle between organized Marxist-Leninists ’public’ (and equally important, national), it is essentially only public to those people who are already part of that debate.

All of this results in the rather obvious but nevertheless widely tolerated and excused (“we are only a study group after all”) practice of people continuing to act in their ’practical work’ in the same old economist ways.

Even advanced workers who are aware of their general political views do not notice a change in their political outlook despite months and even years of ’private’ study. We are not trying to say that individuals can be blamed for not taking up the tasks that only an organization with a political plan can properly take up (our own individual practice is no better than anyone else’s). And certainly we must avoid the error of trying to act like ’mini-parties’ by each starting our own national newspaper or whatever. Our organization into localized study groups is a contradiction, yes, but it is one that must be addressed from the vantage point of extending the theoretical struggle beyond the narrow bounds of small circles, not simply from the standpoint of uniting more Marxist-Leninists in common study. Lenin noted that this split between the theoretical and ’practical’ struggles was a hallmark of economism:

The fundamental political tendency of Economism (is): let the workers carry on the economic struggle . . . and let the Marxist intelligentsia merge with the liberals for the ’political struggle’. Thus trade unionist work ’among the people’ meant fulfilling the first part of this task, while legal criticism meant fulfilling the second.

In the same section, Lenin notes a ’very peculiar feature of economism’, the fear of publicity.

No, the majority of the Economists look with sincere resentment (as by the very nature of Economism they must) upon all theoretical controversies, factional disagreements, broad political questions, plans for organizing revolutionaries, etc. ’Leave all that to the people abroad!’ said a fairly consistent Economist to me one day, thereby expressing a very widespread (and again purely trade unionist) view; our concern is the working-class movement, the workers’ organizations here in our localities; all the rest is merely the invention of doctrinaires, "the over-rating of ideology". . . (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 5, p. 364).

It is unfortunate, but perhaps not accidental, that MREQ, CMO and COR dwell in their self-criticism on the private discussions between the groups and their differences with En Lutte! on the form these should take, rather than on the public debates over what was the most developed area of Marxist-Leninist political work in the public arena up until recently in Quebec – the line of the CSLO.[4] It is in relation to this application of the generally agreed upon principles (that the central task if party-building, the primacy of theoretical struggle, the need for open communist work, etc.) that the real differences in line between CCL(ML) and En Lutte! came out. We feel that this would also be true if Marxist-Leninists in the rest of the country took up public debates on how to build the party. In a very real way, the conduct of that debate cannot be separated from the repudiation of economism, the detailed exposure of the economist practice that continues in our movement and the ideological assumptions that underly it and rationalize its continuation side by side with ’party-building work among Marxist-Leninists’.

By this we do not mean carrying out a formal ’self-criticism’ which in essence amounts to saying, “Now we see that economism, which according to Lenin means this and that, is bad and we are happy to reject it and put it behind us.”

Marxism-Leninism is good and we must all learn to be good communists. Marxism develops in the struggle against what is anti-Marxist. If the link is not made between developing a positive articulation and demarcation from opportunism (particularly economism) then the debates between Marxist-Leninists, no matter how intense and uncompromising, no matter how concrete and painstakingly factual, will be abstracted into something above and beyond actual contradictions in the material world that can only be transformed by class struggle.

B. Fusing Socialism With The Workers’ Movement

Virtually all trends within the emerging Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada are agreed on the crucial importance of developing revolutionary theory.

The creation and advocacy of revolutionary theory plays the principal and decisive role in those times of which Lenin said, "Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. (Mao, On Contradiction, Selected Readings, p. 116).

It is agreed that we are in ’those times’ in Canada.

The initial break from open economism in English Canada was marked by the appearance of Canadian Revolution which promoted the need to grasp the central task as party-building and the development of unity among Marxist-Leninists on a national basis through struggles over ideological and political line rather than seeking organizational unity through common practice.

In Quebec, the struggle over the CSLO resulting in its self-liquidation extended the demarcation from economism to the systematic rejection of implantation and intermediate organization and the upholding of open communist agitation and propaganda to win the advanced workers to communism as the main form of mass communist work.

In Vancouver, the Western Voice newspaper collective has committed itself to self-liquidation once it has carried out a full public repudiation of the economist line it advanced for four years which promoted the ideas of implantation and intermediate organization. The widespread agreement among Marxist-Leninists that party-building is the central task is expressed in agreement with Lenin’s formulation:

Social democracy does not exist merely to serve the spontaneous working class movement (as some of our present-day ’practical workers’ are sometimes inclined to think), but to combine socialism with the working class movement. (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 4, p. 325).

However, within the movement, there remains substantial disagreement about how to carry out the combination, or fusion, of Marxism-Leninism with the working-class movement. In the first of four articles on party-building, translated in the third issue of Canadian Revolution, En Lutte! cited four main tasks of the first stage of building the party in Canada:

1. The struggle to draw lines of demarcation from bourgeois ideology in the midst of the working class movement: social democracy, nationalism and revisionism, and the struggle against opportunism within the Marxist-Leninist movement;
2. This demarcation .. .cannot be carried out without assiduous work in the study of Marxist-Leninist theory and its application to the analysis of the history and of the current situation in our country;
3. Organizing the largest possible political propaganda and agitation to rally to communism an increasing number of conscious and advanced workers;
4. Regrouping the cadre of the future party "on the scale of the whole country" by working out the “forms of organization responding to the principles of organization of the party” which right now means establishing communist cells and circles of advanced workers and struggling to establish a national Marxist-Leninist organization of struggle for the party. (En Lutte!, Canadian Revolution, No. 3, p. 14).

CCL(ML), on the other hand promotes a somewhat different view of building the party. Although the three groups who formed CCL(ML) were careful to say that they did not uphold the methods they used to achieve organizational unity ’on a higher level’ as a universal model, they clearly feel that this process was a good example of what they mean by promoting the method of ’unity-criticism-unity’ in uniting Marxist-Leninists. They go to great pains in their document, The Struggle for the Creation of the CCL(ML) to portray the transformation of their ideological and political line as the result of a synthesis of views that resulted from the struggle between the three groups.

Thus, for example, CMO’s incorrect line on the principal contradiction was corrected by the MREQ; MREQ’s incorrect position on the ’main secondary contradiction’ was corrected by COR, and COR’s ignoring of the woman question was corrected by the analysis of CMO, etc., etc. This affirmation of the positive aspect of one another’s lines, combined with the negation of the negative aspects, in the true Hegelian spirit of unity-criticism-even better unity, reminds us of the old song: "Accentuate the positive, E-lim-i-nate the negative, Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between". (Sinatra?)

It is apparent, however, that the lyrics don’t exactly fit the music. Their description of events is misleading. The most significant change in formal line of all three groups had nothing to do with their mutual talks whether by ’bilateral discussions’, ’tripartite commissions’, or quadraphonic boogie. The main change which is apparent in the lines put forward in the first two issues of The Forge is their capitulation, at least formally, to the line argued by En Lutte! in the CSLO debates, the question of how to fuse socialism with the working class movement. They attempt to cover up this fact, but only serve to highlight it, by following each point of self-criticism with an attack on En Lutte!, trying to disclaim any link between En Lutte!s line (and especially its ’demarcating’ method of putting it forward) and the change in their own position.

However, these constant ’demarcations’ from En Lutte! do serve the purpose of clarifying some of the differences between the conclusion drawn by CCL(ML) and En Lutte! respectively from the CSLO debates. The main difference is that MREQ-CCL(ML) see the rejection of the ’implantation-intermediate organization’ concept as having no bearing on their conception of how to unite Marxist-Leninists, on party-building, but as being merely a matter of changing their ’tactical line’ governing their ’mass work’, which is neatly compartmentalized in a separate box. Seeing ’uniting Marxist-Leninists’ and ’winning advanced workers to communism’ as separate but equal tasks rather than two aspects of a single task of fusing socialism with the working class movement lead them to have different understandings of the specific purposes and content of communist agitation and propaganda in the first stage of party building. Following from that, they put forward a different organizational line (the relationship of ideological and political tasks to organizational tasks).

We feel these can be summed up in three areas: 1) En Lutte!’s concept of primarily ideological intervention in mass struggles versus CCL(ML)’s approach of political implantation (replacing economic implantation); 2) En Lutte!’s insistence that the principles and application of communist organization are a key part of the two-line struggle, the fight against amateurism being on a par with the fight against opportunism. (This is expressed in their approach to a leading centre and their stress on bolshevisation) versus CCL(ML)’s line on the implantation of the organization and the all-embracing concept of proletarianisation; 3) En Lutte!’s position that the next step in party-building is the development of a national paper (comparable to Iskra), versus CCL(ML)’s efforts to create the national ’vanguard organization’.

Implantation of the organization:

MREQ’s discussion of their change in line on implantation admits that they had:

. . .accorded too much importance to the growing links the organization should have with the masses in order to lead their struggles and relegated communist education (propaganda and agitation) to a secondary position. CCL (ML), The Struggle. . ., p. 35)

by making implantation “an exclusive tactic (the ’tactical line’, as we put it)”. Further, they accept that they also

created a fair degree of confusion by associating the implantation of communist militants in the working class with two questions of principle; the proletarianisation of the Marxist-Leninist organization and the ideological remoulding of its militants. (Ibid, p. 36)

But, having said that, they proceed to defend implantation as the main means of conducting communist agitation and propaganda, thus fundamentally narrowing its scope to areas where the organization is able to implant itself and or lead political struggles. Some people may regard it as an advance over their previous line of subordinating widespread propaganda aimed at winning workers to communism to their ’exemplary communist practice’ in leading economic struggles and the production of shop papers’. We feel that the essence of the old position remains – a plan for conducting widespread propaganda that bows to spontaneity and workerism.

Indeed MREQ’s defence of implantation even resurrects the very argument that En Lutte! attacked CMO for resting its line on intermediate organization on – the supposedly critical ’absence of a strata of communist workers’. And finally, instead of confusing implantation with proletarianisation, MREQ finds something new to confuse it with – the concept of mass line.

Implantation is a correct tactic in the concrete conditions of our country (a separation between Marxist-Leninists and the workers’ movement, the absence of a strata of communist workers, etc.) when the Marxist-Leninist organization must win the most advanced workers to communism. It reflects an understanding of the fact that communists, who by their agitational and propaganda work are the educators of the proletariat, must themselves learn from the masses, applying the mass line to be good teachers. CCL(ML), The Struggle. . ., pp. 35-36).

En Lutte! makes short work of the argument regarding the number of ’communist workers’. They point out that the Bolshevik strategy in Russia was not dependent on a pre-existing strata of communist workers (see Against Economism, pp. 34-38); but even if it had been, implantation was not the means of changing that situation. The question can be quite simply reduced: is it the task of communists to make advanced workers into communists through widespread agitation and propaganda and the establishment of cells and circles, or is it their task to make communists into advanced workers so that they can make up for the absence of workers’ leaders who are also communists?

Tasks and stages of building the party:

MREQ’s insistence on using the word ’implantation’ to describe their new understanding of basic organizational line is at best confusing. They argue that:

The proletarianisation of the organization consists not in the implantation of its members in the working class but in the implantation of the organization itself; that is, in the fact that the organization rallies and has in its ranks a growing number of workers. CCL(ML), The Struggle. . ., p. 36).

This seems to indicate that CCL(ML) favors passing directly to the stage of factory cells. Whatever is intended by their formulation, it is obvious that it is still making up for a ’strata of communist workers’.

On the other hand, En Lutte!’s organizational line correctly links the forms of organization to the tasks of the stage of party-building which we are in. That is, they see the formation of communist cells with attached workers’ circles. As the work of communists develops and progresses, our task will be to build true communist workplace cells as a fundamental basis of the organization and the future party. The Marxist-Leninist organization will concentrate on the first step, while the widespread development of true factory cells will be the task of the party. Obviously, this line is tied to the need to carry ideological struggle to the working class to win workers to communism as a necessary step toward building the party.

It is in leading this struggle, in spreading these analyses and in propagating these objectives in a widespread and systematic way that we will be able to recruit revolutionary cadre who will found the party. Moreover, it is in arming these cadres with a clear strategic line and firm tactics that they will be able to rally the advanced elements to communism . . (En Lutte!, Canadian Revolution, No. 3, p. 14).

Because the tasks at this stage are primarily to win workers to communism, the primary method of intervention in working class struggles should be ideological intervention.

Because for communists, intervening in workers’ and peoples’ struggles means firstly to make proletarian ideology triumph.. .communists must not, in the realization of their activities, try to attain, primarily, immediate economic or democratic objectives, but rather the spreading of Marxism-Leninism, the winning over of workers and other progressive elements to proletarian ideology* Bringing about the merger of Marxism-Leninism and the workers’ movement is a struggle, a struggle opposing proletarian and bourgeois ideology, a struggle at the very heart of workers’ and peoples’ struggles, which are becoming more and more numerous. . .So the struggle for the merger of Marxism-Leninism and the workers’ movement at the moment in our country constitutes the highest, most revolutionary form of class struggle. (En Lutte!, Against Economism, pp. 20-21).

This formulation stresses propaganda as the “principal form of mass work” for communists in this period of “preparation for struggle to build the party”.[5] The propaganda is carried out in a form which corresponds “to the most advanced level of consciousness” and is not lowered to suit the level of consciousness of the most backward elements.

This insistence that the content of communist agitation and propaganda appropriate to the objectives specified by the central task, the stress on the ideological aspect of intervention, does not mean that communists should remain passive or withdrawn from the day-to-day struggle. Rather it means that the form of intervention is limited by the tasks of the first stage to primarily ideological intervention i.e., giving ideological leadership. (For a full explanation of En Lutte!’s attitude on specific forms of leadership, see Against Economism, pp. 43-49).

Nor does En Lutte!’s stress on the ideological aspect of intervention mean that they relegate the development of communist organization to a secondary task. This point is often missed by those who attack En Lutte!’s line and even by those who support the general line. It is probably based on a superficial grasp of the approach of promoting “ideological struggle ahead of organizational unity”, by considering

. . .organizational activity as a particular and autonomous activity of communists . . These conceptions mechanically separate and isolate from one another, agitation-propaganda, and struggles, organization and finally . . the forms and means by which communists can link to the masses. (En Lutte!, Against Economism, p. 39).

The separation of these tasks promotes amateurism, by which is meant both the persistence of localism in political outlook and organizational forms and the lack of a means to develop and properly train advanced workers and other progressive elements as professional revolutionaries. It is the twin enemy, along with opportunism. Lenin stressed the intimate connection between the two in The Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra:

The principal feature of our movement which has become particularly marked in recent times, is its state of disunity and its amateur character, if one may so express it. . Among wide circles an ideological wavering is to be seen, an infatuation with . . the so-called ’economist’ trend, and what is inseparably connected with it – an effort to keep the movement at its lower level, to push into the background the task of forming a revolutionary party. (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 4, p. 352).

En Lutte!, quite correctly, sees certain aspects of this trend within the Marxist-Leninist movement in Canada.

For those Marxist-Leninists who are politically active at this time in limited local groups or in groups specialising in a particular form of intervention, it is becoming more and more obvious that the organizational state of communists is holding back considerably the potential of communist propaganda, agitation and organization. (En Lutte!, Canadian Revolution, No. 3, p. 17).

The differences between CCL(ML) and En Lutte! on these questions are closely connected with their different views of how to develop a ’leading centre’ which we examine in the next section.

C. Advancing The Central Task: The Leading Centre

Every question ’runs in a vicious circle’ because political life as a whole is an endless chain consisting of an infinite series of links. The whole art of politics lies in finding and taking as firm a grasp as we can of the link that is least likely to be struck from our hands, the one that is most important at the given moment, the one that most of all guarantees its possessor the possession of the whole chain. (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 5, p. 502).

For CCL(ML) the key link is to unite as many non-opportunists as possible through the process of ’unity-criticism-unity’ over political line, and as happened, move immediately to the formation of a national Marxist-Leninist Organization which can act as a “leading centre” in the struggle for the creation of the party.

Unity can only be founded on correct political line based on Marxist-Leninist principles, and that once such unity has been achieved, there is a responsibility to translate it on the organizational level. (CCL(ML), Struggle ... p. 16).

If it takes the unity of three groups in Quebec to form the Marxist-Leninist Organization, one can only suppose that the addition of three more groups in English Canada would justify the creation of the Party!

En Lutte!, on the other hand, stresses the unevenness in Marxist-Leninist groups and holds that the advancement from one stage to another is marked by a qualitative leap. Rather than demarcating from just counter-revolutionaries and consolidated opportunist lines, we must intensify the two-line struggle among genuine Marxist-Leninists by developing the polemic and ideological struggle in the ranks of the Marxist-Leninist movement and in front of the conscious workers.

In practice, this comes down to saying that the creation of the organization should be politically justified, as the grouping of those who share a clearly formulated line which is publicly known and which distinguishes itself from those of the other groups and organizations also calling for the unity of communists. (En Lutte!, Canadian Revolution, No. 3, p. 20).

The differences between CCL(ML) and En Lutte! over the organization of Marxist-Leninists relates to their differences over the question of ideological struggle. For En Lutte! the intensification of the two-line struggle is essential because it is through this struggle and the taking of this struggle to the class-conscious workers that a leading centre will emerge; that is, the group which forms one pole in the struggle and advances that line to the highest level. On the other hand, CCL(ML) views the consolidation of Marxist-Leninists into an organization through the process of ’unity-criticism-unity’ as the first task, preceding and separate from the winning of advanced workers to communism; intensification of the two-line struggle is in contradiction to their position and they must oppose it.

It is our position that unity will not be built in the Marxist-Leninist movement through struggle among a number of groups at the same level of development, but rather that unity will come about through the rallying of Marxist-Leninists to the group which is putting forward the ideological, political and organizational line which best advances the central task of the period. In this way, the leading centre, the most advanced group, will force the entire movement to move forward. That is, the movement as a whole will move the level of the most advanced, instead of the entire movement developing at the level of the ’lowest common denominator’.

Stages: the qualitative leap

We therefore oppose the model advanced by CCL(ML) for uniting Marxist-Leninist groups and support the method put forward by En Lutte! to create the subjective conditions necessary to found the Marxist-Leninist organization, "to lay the foundations of the Party among the proletariat". This method is contained in four tasks:

1. Upholding open polemics and stressing ideological struggle, to demarcate in order to unite;
2. Making the struggle for a correct application of democratic centralism, the Bolshevik principles of organization, a central part of the ideological struggle over line;
3. Taking the lead in the field of communist organization which in the short term means to "transform our organizational bases into true communist cells, to which communist workers’ circles must be attached", which facilitates greater proletarianization; and
4. Developing a newspaper of communist propaganda, agitation, and organization – presumedly of the Iskra type which discussed "all questions from a definite point of view" and also "gave space in (its) columns to open polemics between comrades". (Lenin, Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra, Collected Works, Vol. 4, p. 355).

CCL(ML)’s view of the development of the Marxist-Leninist organization and then the party appears to be that of a series of plateaux, of degrees of deepening of concrete analysis and formal unity around it – from small group to organization to party, that communist groups should take on all the tasks of the party to the extent that they are able, albeit with ’priorities’ guiding the allocation of resources. Thus, a group in Toronto has formulated the principle which we think summarises CCL(ML)’s position: “Communists must be organized at the highest level possible at all times if they are to successfully carry out the tasks before them” (emphasis ours).

En Lutte! states in contrast that:

The Organization that we are working to create will not be a party. It will not therefore be able to take on the tasks of the party. (En Lutte!, Canadian Revolution, No. 3, p. 22).

They have pointed out that CCL(ML)’s formulations serve to confuse what tasks need to be carried out, in what specific way, and subordinate to what particular objectives. Tasks must be set according to the conditions in each stage of development. At this time, we are in the preparatory stage of party-building. Therefore, to take on the tasks of the party, at this time, actually detracts from the central task. No, we must set our tasks and carry them out in such a way that our development moves qualitatively from one stage to the next. Thus, by qualitative leaps, the movement will develop into the Marxist-Leninist organization and the organization will be able to create the party.

Ideological struggle and political line:

Although MREQ-CCL(ML) call for in-depth debate of the theoretical foundations of positions, their understanding of uniting around ideological and political line is essentially that people should unite around a range of positions (what else is their small booklet for?) especially around a line on the principal contradiction and on trade union work.

This approach fails to recognize that the concrete situation in our movement, just as in the period of Iskra in Russia, dictates that the aspect of ideological demarcation must be primary in the method for developing political line. Apart from the question of carrying struggle through open polemics “in full view of all Marxist-Leninists and class-conscious workers”, this involves two things.

First, stressing the correspondence of developed positions with the scientific and tested principles of Marxism-Leninism. An example of the failure to do this generally is the debate on the principal contradiction that has gone on for years, which has been a battle of statistics and isolated bits of historical data rather than concentrating first and foremost on methods and principles of Marxist-Leninist analysis of classes and of imperialism. Special effort must be made to articulate and expose in detail opportunist distortions of these principles so that debate can build on a solid foundation. The main danger is still empiricism.

Second, to stress the ideological aspect also means to approach questions of political line with a view to how it relates to the accomplishment of the central task, and to combatting the main opportunist trends, right opportunism and economism. It will not serve the qualitative advance of the movement if an empiricist approach to the principal contradiction serves to promote a line which turns out in retrospect to be more or less correct (formally) if the exposition of the line is so fuzzy that its application serves to rationalise an opportunist practice. For example, even if CPC(ML)’s line on the principal contradiction were right (and it is not) it has mainly served to justify the liquidation of the fundamental line that the revolution in Canada is a struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

En Lutte! has correctly stressed the ideological aspects – the demarcation of a Marxist-Leninist line from an opportunist line – over the question of how to build the party.

We are convinced of the absolute necessity to openly pose and debate all theoretical, strategic, tactical and organizational questions which confront the Marxist-Leninist movement in our country . . .During the present period, the search for unity should be raised to and maintained at the level of principle. But never should this unity mask differences. On the contrary, the clear statement of positions, the demarcation between positions, the public airing of differences, is a corollary principle to that of the search for unity between Marxist-Leninists. The unity we are seeking is a principled unity on the fundamental questions in relation to strategy – the principal contradiction; tactics – general principles, the central task of the present period (rallying the vanguard of the proletariat to communism) and the Leninist principles of organization. (En Lutte!, Canadian Revolution No. 3, p. 23).


In Canada, at this time, we are in the preparatory period in the development of the party and our work must be directed toward the accomplishment of the objectives of this stage: winning the vanguard of the proletariat to communism and elaborating a programme and general tactical principles.

The immediate task is to unite Marxist-Leninists and win the class-conscious workers to communism. These are not two separate tasks, but two aspects of the central task, which will only be accomplished through intensification of the ideological struggle, the struggle to demarcate Marxism-Leninism from opportunism and make proletarian ideology prevail in the workers’ movement.

The struggle against opportunism is also a struggle against amateurism, for it is not just bourgeois ideas but also non-Marxist forms of work and organization which hold back the development of the movement. Ideological struggle must be seen and carried out as a form of class struggle, the main form of class struggle for Marxist-Leninists at this time.

Through the intensification of the two-line struggle, a leading centre will emerge. Marxist-Leninists will rally to this centre because it is putting forward the most correct line which will best lead us to the accomplishment of the tasks at each stage which, in turn, will move qualitatively toward the accomplishment of the central task of the period – the creation of the vanguard proletarian party in Canada.

Part II – Liaison Committee – Continuance of Right Opportunism

The proposal for Marxist-Leninists in the Vancouver area to form a Liaison Committee continues the backwardness of the Marxist-Leninist movement. It is a totally economist position that only maintains the primitiveness of the Marxist-Leninist movement. In the sense that it comes during the struggle against economism in the Western Voice, and after the publication of Canadian Revolution it represents a step backwards to a year ago. It totally liquidates the central task, party-building, by putting forward an incorrect central task. The basis for any unity must at least contain formal recognition (and that’s not enough) of the central task. Surely it isn’t too much to ask that a group make a proposal that serves to advance the central task.

What is the line put forth in this “apolitical” proposal. It clearly puts organizational unity ahead of ideological and political unity. It says unite on the lowest common denominator and somehow the larger number of people will be better. Instead of advancing a plan giving a political basis to the unity that would mark an advance from the isolated study circles, it proposes we have the same study circles, only larger, and still doing aimless study, isolated from the working class and not advancing toward the creation of the party.

The proposals see the struggle for unity of Marxist-Leninists as some undirected spontaneous discussion and research of positions instead of a proposal offering a concrete and politically justified plan for unity.

These proposals were put forward and defended primarily by one group in Vancouver. They have been the main proponents of the line which we feel it is necessary to expose as a continuance of right opportunism within the Marxist-Leninist movement. Although different groups in Vancouver supported, or did not oppose, the Liaison Committee proposals in any concrete way, we have not attempted to include their positions in our analysis. It is primarily the line of the proponents of the L.C. proposals with which we are concerned. Hopefully, this position paper will stimulate debate and struggle so that the positions of all the groups can become clear.

For, the struggle around the Liaison Committee is part of the national two-line struggle. And by taking up the struggle on a national basis we will all be able to see our errors locally.

A. A Different Line On The Central Task

The position argued in the Liaison Committee proposals utterly confuses the question of the central task of Marxist-Leninists in Canada. En Lutte! expressed what surely is almost universally agreed to as the correct formulation of the central task: “To bring about the conditions for the creation of an authentic communist party, a Marxist-Leninist type party, in our country”. It is agreed that we are in the first stage of building that party, “the period of the formation of the vanguard (the Party) of the proletariat, the period of uniting the cadres of the Party”, in which education, principally open communist agitation and propaganda, is “the principal form of activity” and that the main objective of that activity is “to win the vanguard of the proletariat (advanced workers) to communism”. (En Lutte, Tasks . . ., p. 13).

We have studied both versions of the Liaison Committee proposal very carefully. Nowhere is there even a glimmer of an indication that the proponents of the L.C. grasp the essential features of the central task expressed by En Lutte!. What we find instead is contradiction after contradiction which remains unresolved. Over and over again we find a political argument put forward that would support one conclusion which is quickly followed by a proposal that is completely contrary to it. Comrades, if there is two-line struggle in your group it is your duty to resolve it, not to present both to the rest of the movement so that other Marxist-Leninists can have a free choice!

A few examples: Recognizing the clearcut domination of the Marxist-Leninist movement by right opportunism, this group dedicates itself to resolutely combat all possible ’left’ deviations; alarmed by the primitiveness of communist organization (small group mentality) which restricts the ability of communists to do widespread communist agitation and propaganda, they take a principled stand against democratic centralism; excited by the prospect of a national two-line struggle symbolized by the appearance of Canadian Revolution and the announced intention of Quebec Marxist-Leninists to publish national newspapers, they concoct a ’modest proposal’ which puts local unity first; determined to demarcate between “Marxist-Leninist methods of work and opportunist methods”, they suggest that we unite around everything but our line on party-building, the method of accomplishing the central task.[6]

But there is a method in this madness. There is a consistent error which allows the "peaceful coexistence" of these two lines in the same proposal. The L.C. proponents are, in practice, arguing a different line on the central task.

The Liaison Committee is proposed as a means of building theory and developing political line, starting from an "acceptance" of Marxism-Leninism, and as a step forward in consolidating an ill-defined “Marxist-Leninist movement”. That is exactly what is proposed as a ’basis of unity’ for the Liaison Committee. And they wonder why their discussions with other study groups have “bogged down” in confusion over just what “purpose” such a committee could possibly serve that isn’t already served by the existing study groups!

Nowhere is there any discussion of how to demarcate from opportunism in our own ranks in order to unite, of how to conduct the theoretical struggle as a (two-line) class struggle through open polemics “which absolutely must be intensified” so that a principal "orientation and a leading centre emerges" (En Lutte!, CR No. 3, p.20), of how to develop the practical means of carrying out communist agitation, propaganda and organization to win advanced workers to communism; in short, of how to take up as a practical political task the building of the proletarian party step by step. Rather, we are left with the pious hope that:

Our differences can be worked out together in a concerted effort to develop theory and practice to build the working class revolutionary movement. (Nature and Purpose of Liaison Committee).

Certainly, it is important to carry out theoretical work and develop political line at this time. But this is true for specific reasons. The Marxist-Leninist movement faces subjective conditions which are comparable to those in Russia described by Lenin as the Iskra period (c. 1900), where “the principal feature of our movement, which has become particularly marked in recent times, is its state of (ideological) disunity and its amateur character” where:

Before we can unite, and in order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation. Otherwise our unity will be purely fictitious, it will conceal the prevailing confusion and hinder its radical elimination. (Lenin, Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra, CW, Vo. 4, p. 354).

The theory and political and ideological lines are certainly very undeveloped in our movement. In order to carry out the central task of the period, the building of the proletarian vanguard party, it is necessary to do these things. But, such work must be carried out as part of a general plan which is directed towards the accomplishment of the central task.

The failure to subordinate all work to the central task is not simply an error of omission by the proponents of the Liaison Committee. Rather it is part of the opportunism which still exists within the Marxist-Leninist movement that absolutely must be "radically eliminated" through “open polemics between comrades”. This opportunism pervades the L.C. documents in the forms of spontaneism, economism and amateurism.

B. Underestimation Of The Twin Enemies: Amateurism And Right Opportunism

To begin with, the L.C. proponents make the same error as CCL(ML) in underestimating the strength of right opportunism within the movement. Right opportunism is, by definition, seen as dominant only in openly counter-revolutionary groups:

Our unity is our support for the struggle towards the dictatorship of the proletariat which is presently expressed by our rejection of opportunistic deviations to the right or ’left’ (e.g., Social Democracy, Trotskyism. CPC(ML)). (NPLC)

The right opportunism within the movement is primarily seen as having existed in the past amongst those who are now embracing Marxism-Leninism:

The Marxist-Leninist movement in Vancouver is emerging from a period when right opportunism was the dominant trend. This took many forms including economism, support for social-democratic and revisionist groupings, bourgeoisies nationalism and passivity towards the task of party-building. (Proposal for a Liaison Committee).

Thank goodness those awful days are over, although we are sure that the L.C. proponents would insist, like CCL(ML), that the stubborn ’remnants’ of that opportunism must always be vigilantly guarded against!

Both the L.C. proposals are filled with formal recognitions of the fact that right opportunism, particularly economism, has been the main block to self-defined communists taking up the task of building the party. But what kind of opportunism does the proposals actually fight against in paragraph after paragraph?

We place prime importance on the groups maintaining good communications so that we can, if at all possible, avoid sectarian errors and the development of small-group mentality. (NPLC).
It is necessary to get away from “groupism” and “sectarianism” which was prevalent in the past development of the "left". (Minutes, L.C. meeting, September 29,1975, p.3)
To invoke democratic centralism at this early stage within the movement is placing security before politics in an extreme manifestation of ’small-group mentality’. (NPLC).

So what is the real danger in their view? Creeping up on the unsuspecting like “post-perspiration wetness”, packing more destructive power than a toothpaste without ’sect appeal’, threatening to restrict the freedom of (our) movement worse than the 18-hour girdle, what is the new Bad Guy on the horizon now that Right Opportunism is leaving town? Why it is none other than ....Small Group Mentality and Left Opportunism!

We feel that the L.C. proponents have a completely erroneous interpretation of what En Lutte! means by fighting the amateurism and organizational backwardness and localism expressed by small group mentality. We agree that sectarianism and dogmatism are forms of ’left’ opportunism which must be struggle against whether they are dominant or not. However, they are not by any means the main danger at present and only a serious underestimation of the continuing prevalence of right opportunism in our movement could lead someone to treat them as if they were. We would like to know just what concrete analysis their position is based on that leads them to stress the danger posed by the “groupism and sectarianism which was prevalent in the past development of the left”. Could they be talking about the small-group mentality of groups like the Western Voice whose "groupism" was a direct function of its liberal insistence on demarcating only against openly counterrevolutionary groups while protecting its ’broad united front’ from the ’sects of petit-bourgeois Marxists’ who promoted dogma rather than ’practice’? Surely we can expect that there will be at least some connection between the dominant ideological deviations in our movement and the organizational line of groups seeking to protect those deviations. Given that right opportunism is the dominant ideological deviation, we feel that any concrete analysis will confirm that small-group mentality does not at present take the ’sectarian’ form that protects ’left’ errors but rather is generally of a nature that serves to perpetuate right opportunism and economism.[7]

In the L.C. proposals, the underestimation of right opportunism leads to advancing an opportunism and amateurish method of unity. That is, since opportunism is not seen as a main danger within the movement, the desire for unity takes precedence over the need for struggle. Since it is felt that there are no serious ideological differences, the Marxist-Leninist groups should proceed towards unity:

We felt that the various groups had enough unity to allow us to operate on this level. We feel that this is possible as our areas of disagreement are not antagonistic. (NPLC).

The implication is clearly that any differences which may exist are specific points of theory or practice. Since there are no ideological differences, it is only logical that we should unite to iron out these differences.[8] This approach, quite simply, liquidates the need to carry out conscious and organized struggle against opportunism.

Opportunism is bourgeois ideology whether it exists inside the movement or out. The struggle against it is, therefore, a class struggle – the main locus of class struggle at present. We must arm ourselves with the science of Marxism-Leninism, the ideology of the proletariat, to defeat bourgeois ideology wherever it exists. It is a life-and-death struggle, in that failure to carry it out means the failure to accomplish the central task.

C. The Fight Against Opportunism Must Be Linked To The Fight Against Amateurism

When ideological struggle is not organized as class struggle, amateurish methods of organization prevail. Specifically, in the case of the L.C. proposals, this takes the form of denying the necessity of organizing along communist lines. Democratic centralism applied within the limits of our tasks and capabilities should be seen as a method of organization which helps communists to carry out their tasks. But the L.C. proposals see democratic centralism as an ultra-left deviation:

However, we are opposed to a method of debate that would consist of each group presenting a line that is upheld by each member of the group in a democratic centralist manner. Only when we are dealing with forces outside the M-L movement is it necessary. To invoke democratic centralism at this early stage within the movement is placing security before politics in an extreme manifestation of ’small group mentality.’ (NPLC).

What does it mean to say that democratic centralism is only necessary when dealing with our enemies, to reduce it to an ominous form of security mechanism that restricts ’freedom of criticism’, ’a necessary evil’ only when you are prepared to sacrifice open struggle and democracy in order to present a united face to the enemy? The proponents of the L.C. have a completely incorrect understanding of what democratic centralism is. It is not a "necessary evil", a structure forced on revolutionaries due to the conditions of repression in Tsarist Russia or Japanese-occupied China. This is a widespread, yet thoroughly revisionist, social-democratic notion. Democratic centralism (as opposed to conspiratorial forms of organization which are necessitated by conditions of repression but which even then must be strictly subordinated to the principles of democratic centralism) is the highest expression of proletarian democracy, the form of decision -making and struggle that the proletariat seeks to establish and constantly to strengthen in its own organizations, first and foremost in the Party, and is a method of resolving contradictions among the people and enforcing the dictatorship of the proletariat. Democratic centralism will no longer be necessary when democracy is no longer necessary; that is, in the final phases of the withering away of the proletarian state, the last steps of the transition from socialism to communism – certainly not in the period of the transition from capitalism to socialism, in the first stage of building the bolshevik party of Canada.[9]

As well as showing a lack of understanding of the principles of democratic centralism, the approach put forward in the L.C. proposals promote amateurish methods of work. The development of ideological and political line will not take place through “free and open debate” but through struggle over lines as they develop step-by-step. To propose a method of work that would ensure:

...that discussion is ongoing and open and does not take place solely on the basis of fixed political positions.(PLC)

is to propose that the methods of work and organization of the Marxist-Leninist movement remain at the level of a debating society. We are firmly convinced that "arguing fixed political positions" that can be systematically attacked and defended is the only way to clarify “the depth of our existing differences” in “full view of all (Canadian Marxist-Leninists) and class conscious workers”, the only way to get to the ideological roots of our errors, the only way to ensure that our respective positions do not remain “fixed” in their vagueness and confusion over basic principles.[10]

D. The Fusion Of Marxism-Leninism With The Working-Class Movement

This failure to carry out tasks as part of the class struggle leads to a complete separation of the Marxist-Leninist movement and the working-class movement. That is to say, the efforts of Marxist-Leninists are concentrated on developing political line and ’uniting Marxist-Leninists’. But since these are not seen as part of the class struggle, they are carried out in isolation from the workers. This approach is carried to absurd lengths in the L.C. documents. The working class is not even mentioned except in one reference to the “working-class revolutionary movement”. There is not even a vague hint that ’winning advanced workers to communism’ is an aspect of the central task, that it has any relevance in developing the methods for struggle to build the party. Since the movement is carrying its name, we can only hope that the working class will be invited at some point in the future.

These proposals would have the Marxist-Leninists unite to develop political line. When the political lines are ’ready’ they can be taken to the working class. This approach is strictly economist: ideological and political struggle for the Marxist-Leninists, while the workers carry on their economic struggles unaware that such intense struggles over the nature of their party even exist.[11]

It sets up two distinct tasks, uniting Marxist-Leninists and winning workers to communism. This approach is doomed to failure as they are not separate tasks one of which must be subordinated to the other, but two aspects of the same task -fusing Marxism-Leninism with working-class movement. Neither aspect can be realized without seeing that ideological struggle is the key. The unity of Marxist-Leninists around developing ideological and political line can only be carried out through a process of identifying and demarcating from opportunism. And, workers cannot be won to communism without ideological struggle being organized as a class struggle carried out in front of and including the working class, especially the advanced workers who are "aspiring to socialism".

Therefore, any proposals for political or organizational unity should include methods of propaganda and agitation to involve the working class in the class struggle.

E. Liquidating The Central Task By Bowing To Spontaneity And The ’Even’ Development Of Backwardness

This capitulation to opportunism, the failure to carry out the ideological struggle within the Marxist-Leninist movement and the working-class movement would effectively liquidate the central task of the period, establishing the conditions for the creation of the party of the proletariat.

The lack of clarity on the central task and the different aspects of advancing the central task at each stage leads to putting organizational unity ahead of political unity. That Marxist-Leninists should unite “at the highest level possible” is the line of the L.C. proposals:

We do not see, therefore, that the liaison committee itself represents a significant advancement toward political unity in the Vancouver area. Its purpose is to provide and plan the means through which we can achieve that unity. (NPLC)

That is, we should unite organizationally at the highest level possible in order to advance political unity. Unite in order to unite!

This opportunist line on organization has a spontaneist effect. If all the Marxist-Leninists would unite (locally) into one organization, or pre-organization (or is it a modest pre-organization, pre-party so that it will not be ’restricted’ unduly by democratic centralism?), something is bound to happen; the movement will develop somehow. There is no need to get ’bogged down’ with agreement on even the most basic principles which guide our approach to building the party!

But this line of uniting organizationally on the ’highest level possible’ is transparently in practice a formula for uniting around the lowest common denominator, a line of even development, of levelling, which is in fundamental contradiction to the concept of developing a leading centre.[12]

Any program for party-building must be based on a clear understanding of the differences between Marxist-Leninist methods of work and opportunist methods. We are opposed, therefore (the logic is phenomenal) to the inclusion of a position on party-building as of the basis of unity on the liaison committee (isn’t it conceivable that this means that there is no basis for uniting then).There is not sufficient unity or clarity between various study groups for such an element of program to have real meaning at this time. (PLC).

We are all relatively undeveloped, they are saying, “the boundary lines between Study Groups are somewhat arbitrary”, so we should unite.[13] Unity around backwardness!

Once again this comes from a failure to see the central task as guiding all other tasks. The Liaison Committee proposals, would set out a number of theoretical tasks aimed at developing political line. When these political lines are developed, struggle would take place and higher levels of unity could be ’forged’. What the proposals fail to take into account is that the development of political line is just one of several tasks which are all subordinated to the central task.

The consequence of this spontaneity in approaching how to conduct the ideological struggle, the mechanical notion that "political line development must precede any development of organizational line", means to treat organization as if it were not a political question (or at best relegated to a distant secondary one), to fail to recognize that the political line on organization is at the very heart of the debate on party-building. To bow to spontaneity in organizational matters does not just mean that we put up with rudimentary forms of communist organization in order to stress the ideological struggle; it means to tolerate, to promote, the hegemony of bourgeois forms of organization which restrict the scope and distort the character of the political and ideological struggle.

Rather than uniting around backwardness in order to develop political line, the Marxist-Leninist movement will build unity around ideological and political lines through sharp struggle. And, this struggle will not take place between groups which are equally backward or equally developed. Objectively, within the Marxist-Leninist movement there are different levels of development. Obviously, the groups in Quebec are more advanced than the groups in English Canada at this time. Unity between the groups will come about precisely because of the unevenness of development. Amongst the groups, a leading centre will emerge, a group that can put forward the most correct ideological and political line to advance the central task of the period. All other groups .including the most backward, will have to struggle over the lines that are put forward by the leading centre. Thus, instead of the entire movement being brought down to the level of the most primitive group, the leading centre will force the struggle to higher and higher levels.[14]

So, unity is not achieved through a number of equal groups carrying out a series of equal tasks. Rather it is achieved through the leading centre forcing struggle over aspects of advancing the central task.

This means that the change in the movement to the formation of the national Marxist-Leninist organization or from the Organization to the Party will be a qualitative change which will move us forward qualitatively closer to our objective of carrying out the proletarian revolution. It is not simply a matter of doing more and more of the same things in a more thorough way. At each stage of development, the specific tasks and the aspects of carrying out these tasks will change. Thus, if in order to carry out the central task we need to set up a national newspaper, to develop communist cells capable of using it as a means of widespread communist agitation and propaganda and to develop study circles of advanced workers around these cells, we would carry out the tasks step-by-step in terms of a definite plan. We would not run in three directions at once trying to do all tasks equally. We would not try to set up factory Cells directly if we had not laid the groundwork for that with study circles, propaganda work, etc. Failure to recognize this will result in forms of unity which are unable to carry out the tasks necessary to advance the central task.


So, it is in this sense that the proposals of the Liaison Committee would effectively liquidate the central task of the period. The form of unity put forward is not advanced as part of a general plan to promote the building of the party. It puts forward a narrow and incorrect definition of the central task which has the effect of underestimating right opportunism and elevating backwardness in organisation, amateurism to a point of principle. It fails to see “uniting Marxist-Leninists” and “winning advanced workers to communism” as aspects of a single task of fusing Marxism-Leninism with the working class movement. It therefore advances fundamentally economist methods for developing political line which does not understand how the party must be built through organising the ideological and political struggle as a class struggle conducted in full view of Marxist-Leninists and class-conscious workers.


We see the struggle to build the proletarian vanguard party in Canada as a class struggle. The main form that this class struggle takes, at present, is the theoretical struggle to develop ideological and political line, to take up the theoretical struggle as class struggle, to “extend the bounds of our agitational-propaganda and organisational work” (Axelrod) we feel that Marxist-Leninists across the country should actively take up the questions involved in the two-line struggle over party-building.

In order to do this, we see it as necessary that all Marxist-Leninist groups still organised as study groups re-organise themselves along communist lines. This does not, of course, mean that each group should act as a mini-party. But, it does mean that all tasks, study or otherwise, should be seen as part of the struggle to accomplish the central task of the period. All work should be subordinated to building the party.

In this way, it will be possible for the groups to begin combining the tasks of “uniting Marxist-Leninists” and “winning advanced workers to communism” which will of necessity be limited but which can certainly begin by the publication and widespread distribution of open polemics.

We also feel that the struggle to develop unity around ideological and political (including organisational) line be linked to the primarily ideological task of demarcating Marxism-Leninism from opportunism, particularly economism. All debates should focus on questions which are central to this demarcation. We urge all groups to publicly examine and criticise the economist lines that have been and are still dominant in our “practical” work. And, we should develop the structures on a national level to propagate these analyses. In the Vancouver area, it is possible to use the Western Voice as a secondary, but important, means of ensuring that these documents reach as many advanced workers and progressive intellectuals not yet aware of the Marxist-Leninist movement as possible.

All Marxist-Leninist groups should develop their activities on a national basis. This means the national publication and circulation of positions as they are developed step by step. Also, it means gearing tasks, study, etc. to questions and issues which are of a national character. That is to say, national two-line struggle should be actively promoted so that a leading centre can emerge as one pole of that debate.

At present, we feel that the development of a leading centre is best served by the creation of a national communist newspaper. And, we also feel that at present, such a paper should be under the editorial direction of En Lutte!


[1] We use references to both MREQ and CCL(ML) documents at all points where we feel such references are useful to the argument we are making. We recognize that MREQ no longer exists but we do feel that unless a specific line has been repudiated, it continues to be carried by the new organization.

[3] For Mao’s views on those who would subordinate struggle to unity in principles, we need look no further than the very same article from which MREQ-CCL gets all its Quotes about “unity-criticism-unity”, On The Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People, (Selected Readings, p. 443), where he paraphrases Lenin thus: “Between the opposites in a contradiction there is at once unity and struggle, and it is this which impels things to move and change. Contradictions exist everywhere, but they differ in accordance with the different nature of things. In any given phenomenon or thing, the unity of opposites is conditional, temporary and transitory, and hence relative, whereas the struggle of opposites is absolute.” And, of course, in On Contradiction (op. cit., p. 93): “Opposition and struggle between ideas of different kinds constantly occur within the party; this is a reflection within the party of contradictions between classes and between the old and new in society. If there were no contradictions in the party, and no ideological struggles to resolve them, the party’s life would come to an end.” Further, as Paterson points out in A Reply to CPC(ML)’s Call to Unity: “To disunite from revisionism, opportunism and counter-revolution is a good thing. There is no principle attached to unity in the abstract. Unity is only desirable insofar as it facilitates the advancement of the correct line for proletarian revolution. Similarly, compromise is a tactic for carrying out of a concrete program. It never means the liquidation of struggle. It cannot, therefore, be its dialectical opposite;...Marxist-Leninists recognize that struggle is absolute and unity is always relative. The absence of struggle and its dialectical opposite, is opportunism. To cease to struggle for the implementation of a correct political line for one minute is to yield to opportunism and for that one minute to participate in the sabotage of the revolution. That is why struggle is absolute. Unity is relative to struggle. Where unity is principled and facilitates struggle for the implementation of correct political line, it must be promoted and built. But unity is always subordinate to struggle for the development and implementation of a correct political line and must never interfere with or retard that struggle.” (Paterson, A Reply..., CR 2, p. 8).

[3] En Lutte!’s criticism of CSLO for not linking uniting Marxist-Leninists and winning advanced workers is excellent: “Thus in its latest document, Contribution du Comite de Coordination pour le Congres du CSLO, the C.C. of the CSLO states: En Lutte!s position on the CSLO demonstrates an “incorrect conception of the creation of the party” and hastens to add: “But we do not have to get involved in those questions!" And the members of the C.C. come from a communist group which claims that the struggle for the party is the central task. Who can understand this bizarre dialectic, the dialectics of “water-tight compartments”; each question in its own time and a time and a place for each question? A strange “dialectic” which strangely recalls the bourgeois manner of dealing with political questions: unemployment is a thing; the domination of underdeveloped countries by rich countries is another; unions are there to negotiate collective agreements; while politics is the business of governments and parties.... The refrain of bourgeois ideology that everything must stay in its own “box” is well known. What communists should know very well is that dialectical materialism teaches one to make connections between things, and Leninism teaches one to (apply) tactics by taking strict account of strategy and to always put secondary tasks at a particular stage in correct relation to the central task.

[4] The CSLO is the Committee to Support Workers’ Struggle, formed to organise communist and progressive forces in support of the militant 1973 Firestone strike in Joliette, Quebec. En Lutte! was an active member, as were MREQ, COR and CMO (the three Quebec M-L groups who have now joined to become CCL(ML)). Differences developed when CSLO was changed into a permanent organisation. This is the two-line struggle over economism which is referred to in En Lutte!’s text Against Economism.

[5] This does not mean that propaganda and agitation are qualitatively different, but only a difference in method. For a full discussion, see En Lutte!, Tasks... p. 14-15.

[6] The L.C. proponents might complain that we have distorted their position. After all, didn’t their second proposal firmly reject any implication that might have been drawn by readers of their first proposal that they saw the liaison committee as a vehicle for conducting the actual two-line struggle replacing in any way the existing study groups? Did they not make perfectly clear that “the primary function of the committee will be to develop mechanisms for political discussion and debate within the M-L movement”? The problem for us is that no matter how clear you make that distinction we just don’t see it. It isn’t there. The point is that, if the debate over “mechanisms” means anything more than agreeing to a series of marxist-leninist “forums for the vanguard”, then the debate over mechanisms is the main content of what our political lines on party-building should be about.

[7] It seems to us that this crusade against “left opportunism” expresses an over-reaction to the left opportunist tendency to seek organizational hegemony (of course the main example of this is the counterrevolutionary and fundamentally rightist CPC(M-L), They bend over backwards in both liaison committee proposals to avoid any accusation that they are making the same error. Thus in the second proposal they identify two things which were “blocking full participation in the movement in Vancouver”: the lack of formal adherence to Marxism-Leninism as the basis of unity of their study group and a distrust that their hidden objective was to create a local organization under the organizational hegemony of their group. But this misses the point. If that is their worry they can relax. One of their weak points is certainly not that they have sought to give too much leadership, organizational or otherwise, to developing the open ideological struggle on a national basis. They seem to think that sharp ideological struggle and exercising leadership by putting forward and defending clear political lines (“fixed political positions”) is the same as seeking organizational hegemony. What other justification could there be for putting forward ’modest’ proposals that are kept carefully separate from their (private) views on party-building – proposals that they assure us (and surely this is taking liberalism to a ridiculous extreme) are not a “point of principle” with them but could be replaced with any other proposal tomorrow “in order that we may proceed”.(NPLC)

[8] When we talk about “ideological” differences which the main L.C. proponents tend to ignore, we are not talking only, or even primarily, about the degree to which there are differences in political line between groups. That may or may not be true. Until open ideological struggle begins, that is pure speculation. What we are criticizing rather is their underestimation of the need to struggle around (the ideological aspect of ideological and political line, their underestimation of the necessity for a “radical elimination” of the bourgeois ideology (opportunism) which plagues the entire movement to one degree or another, a task which must be taken up in order to be able to develop correct lines. (Refer also to the last page of the “Demarcate in Order to Unite” section on page 6 of this paper (in CR, see page 30)for our understanding of what it means to struggle against a bourgeois line which is antagonistic using methods of struggle that treat sincere comrades in a non-antagonistic manner.

[9] See Mao On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People, Selected Readings, especially pp. 432-444. For Engels’ discussion of democracy as a form of state, of class dictatorship, see Lenin’s State and Revolution, Collected Works, vol. 25, page 397.

[10] On the separate question of security, we cannot emphasize too strongly that it is a pressing political question that has direct effects on our ability to promote open debate and struggle. Right now the state of our movement’s laxness in security matters combined with our political isolation from advanced workers makes us open to the police and closed to the proletariat. We must recognize that closing ourselves to our enemies and opening ourselves to our friends (which does not mean telling people things that they do not “need to know”), based on a rigorous understanding of who our real friends and real enemies are, are mutually supportive aspects of the same struggle to bolshevize our movement.

[11] The primary aspect of this separation of the “uniting of marxist-leninists” from the task of “winning advanced workers to communism” is, as is stated here, the failure to organize the struggle over line as a class struggle and to carry it to the proletariat. But our characterization of this position as economist should not be misunderstood as a criticism of the proponents of the L.C. or of other Marxist- Leninists in Vancouver for neglecting the immediate interests of the proletariat, of leaving the spontaneous economic struggle of the workers in that “physical” sense. No, rather we feel that they, like ourselves, continue to be withdrawn from all forms of class struggle as communists, and that they combine the separate activities of doing “communist work among the communists” and “trade union work among trade unionists” rather well.

[12] This group “... has sought to apply Marxism-Leninism since it was founded but only recently have all its members reached a level of understanding and agreement which could give concrete meaning to a proclamation of adherence to Marxism-Leninism.” (PLC). This statement, and others that have been made like it, are the key to what they really mean when it talks about excluding party-building from the basis of unity of the L.C. because “there is not sufficient unity or clarity between various study groups for such an element of program to have a real meaning at this time”. What they are saying is that there is “not sufficient” evenness. Of course, a study circle attached to a communist cell has as its main immediate objective to bring every member up to a common level, the level of being able to actively participate in the political struggle as communists. But the existing study groups do not have a party or communist cells of a Marxist-Leninist organization to guide their work. The natural logic of evenness, the mentality of leveling, of going at the pace of the slowest, of spontaneity and narrow localism, all of this is inevitably dominant when a study group tries to address political tasks. Unless this contradiction is dealt with first and foremost, as a contradiction which must be resolved in order to resolve any other contradictions, then a study group cannot pretend to be addressing the central task and it cannot expect to be able to do anything more than perpetuate small group mentality. “Study group mentality”, the anti-dialectical ideology of evenness, which becomes a justification for maintaining ideological confusion in the form of a developing concensus and organizational amateurism, is the principal form of small group mentality in Vancouver at present.

[13] “Since the study groups were not formed on a basis of unity of political line... individuals may have more unity with members of other groups than with members of their own group... (T)he boundaries between the study groups are somewhat arbitrary. ” (WLC). So what? Are they so pathologically committed to “evenness” that they want to extend the ridiculous idea of levelling even further? Should we begin to grade individuals on their study so that we can establish, proper levels for individuals who have “more in common”? Frankly, we cannot escape the conclusion that all this talk about arbitrariness is largely a projection of, and a rationalization for continuing, this group’s own backwardness. What has been and what is arbitrary is the existence of study groups with no defined political tasks, structures, and plant to carry those tasks out, the absence of any practice of ideological struggle as open two-line) class struggle. To the extent that this arbitrariness exists there is no basis for uniting. If no group (in its majority) is prepared to end that arbitrariness then the duty of those individuals (having struggled to win the majority in their group to end it) is to unite with the other individuals also in a minority in their groups and form a new group (on clear political lines) which is not arbitrary. Certainly they would not compound the problem by merging the groups so that a single majority dominates a single minority united in submission to arbitrariness!

[14] Localism is a very important part of the “small group mentality” which has to be systematically struggled against. Whatever the LC’s proponents’ intentions are, the practical result of their proposals would be to strengthen localism. Nowhere in the two L.C. proposals do they explain how their proposal would advance the national two-line struggle and develop unity on a country-wide basis. We insist that this must be the primary consideration even if it means tolerating some local disunity in order to give special emphasis to developing the means to conduct the two-line struggle. Establishing the proper structures and methods to carry this out will not happen spontaneously–it will definitely be more time-consuming and difficult than to do the same things within a local perspective. We certainly intend to make special efforts to broadly distribute our public documents as a first step. And we categorically reject the position advanced by the MREQ that local organisations should be established first on the spurious grounds that this will enable us to move ahead faster – in what direction? This is precisely the logic contained in the L. C. Proposal (although so much time is spent stressing backwardness that this point tends to get lost in a cloud of pessimism). By this we do not mean to oppose in principle the merger of groups if it truly helps to advance the national struggle, to accomplish the central task, to strengthen demarcation. We agree that when this kind of thing occurs it will most likely be on a local basis – otherwise the national organisation would be built haphazardly. But that will be a byproduct of taking up the central task, of promoting the two-line struggle. It will not precede that struggle.