First Published: Canadian Revolution No. 5, April-May 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The following letter has been distributed by the four members of the Bolshevik Tendency who formerly were members of the CR collective, accompanying some of the 436 copies of Canadian Revolution they stole from our printer on the afternoon of January 21, 1976.
The CR collective considers the theft a counter-revolutionary act, intended to sabotage CR financially and organizationally, and has distributed a letter to subscribers appraising them of the details of the action and our response. The claim, made in a later meeting with CR representatives, that the issues were theirs by “right” of proportional strength in the collective, is entirely invalid The collective’s position has always been that members are entitled to one free copy only of each issue, the rest sold to Finance the Journal.
We reprint the letter distributed by the Bolshevik Tendency in order to make some further comment on their actions and on the charges they have made.
The Bolshevik Tendency has split from the main body of Canadian Revolution. We have taken the position that an opportunist trend has consolidated itself in the Journal collective, a trend which can only obstruct the central task of building a Communist Party in Canada. This trend has taken 3 forms primarily.
1. Originally the Journal was a coalition of people who came together because they agreed to the necessity for a forum for debate as a precondition for the building of a Marxist-Leninist party in Canada. Yet, despite the fact that there has been no ideological struggle within the Journal over the burning questions which face our movement, the opportunist members are seeking to build their unity around the common practice or task of producing the Journal. This is opposed to the Leninist view that Marxist-Leninist political unity is built through ideological struggle leading to the drawing of “firm and definite lines of demarcation” against bourgeois ideology.
2. The Journal is seeking to claim to be providing “leadership” to the Marxist-Leninist movement on burning questions, despite the fact that there has been no ideological struggle within the Journal collective on these questions and there is no political basis for any principled Marxist-Leninist leadership.
3. The Journal is moving in the direction of curtailing its ability to carry on the practical aspect of the debate, because it has taken a liberal position on the way polemics should be conducted inside the Marxist-Leninist movement. The form of polemic objected to in the Journal is typified in the article, Nationhood or Genocide: The Struggle of the Native People Against Canadian and American Imperialism in this issue (No. 4). The leading editorial of this issue specifically comes out against this article for its methods of struggle. We take this to be an implicit attack on the way Lenin carried on merciless struggle against opportunism in all its forms, “leaving nothing unsaid”.
We regard what has happened in the Journal as a two-line struggle and a class struggle. We see it as a split between two groups rather than as a departure from the Journal collective. However, at this stage we do not think it is unprincipled to continue to submit articles and letters to Canadian Revolution, and we intend to do so ourselves to some extent. If you have any letters you wish to send to Canadian Revolution in response to our article, we encourage you t0 do so.
We win be continuing to write material on the Journal and many other subjects. Some of this may be published in the Journal but much of it will not be. We encourage friends and comrades to keep in touch with the Bolshevik Tendency by writing to (address omitted – see second last paragraph – Editors), whether in response to Nationhood or Genocide win relationship to any other issues.
The Bolshevik Tendency
In the first place, we should make it clear that in our view the Bolshevik Tendency members on CR have voluntarily withdrawn from the CR collective and are no longer members of it, despite their view that there only exists a “split” within the collective between them and the rest of us. They have ceased to be members on the basis of (1) withdrawal from participation in Journal production; (2) non-payment of monthly dues – both points having been previously agreed to unanimously as basic conditions of CR membership –, and (3) refusal to participate in elections for the editorial board, which was adopted by majority vote as a further condition of membership. If they wish to again become members of the CR collective, they will have to reapply through the normal procedure like anyone else.
Further, we do not intend to publish in CR any material from the Bolshevik Tendency until they have returned to us the copies they have stolen or payment in lieu thereof, plus money owed by them for back dues and copies of previous issues they have distributed. On the basis of their counter-revolutionary action, one-half of the Journal collective considers they should be placed outside the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement until such time as they make full self-criticism for their action. The remainder of the collective feels such an assessment would require further analysis of their political line.
(A clear distinction must be made, however, between the Bolshevik Tendency and political positions which they hold, which may be shared by people within the Marxist-Leninist movement. Articles submitted containing such positions will naturally be judged on the same basis as any other submission.)
We now come to the charges of opportunism contained in the Bolshevik Tendency letter, to which we would like briefly to reply.
Concerning (1), it is the view of the CR collective that the main area of ideological struggle is not within the Journal collective itself, but within the Marxist-Leninist movement as a whole, the pages of the Journal being simply one forum of the movement. Further, that a higher level of unity can and has been reached (for example, our new Basis of Political Unity and Working Priorities published in this issue, and the working resolutions passed concerning methods of struggle among Marxist-Leninists which were summed up in the editorial of issue No. 4), by means of internal ideological struggle over the role of the Journal. To refuse to enter into any kind of agreements on points of a secondary nature (such as producing the Journal) in order to more fully present to the movement for debate major ideological questions, is sectarianism in the extreme.
However, it is absurd to consider that this unity achieved around the task of producing the Journal is in any way an attempt to achieve political unity on any other basis or to restrict ideological struggle around lines in the movement. We fully recognize that major ideological differences between groups and individuals on the collective exist, which we know will only be settled through application of the various lines among the masses.
At the same time (and this concerns point 2 raised in the Bolshevik Tendency letter) to reject that any kind of ideological leadership from the CR collective is possible, is to sink into liberalism. Our view is that the CR collective does provide a certain amount of leadership to the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement; that “leadership” being manifested in the priorities we choose in publishing and soliciting articles – the views outlined in our statement of Working Priorities. This leadership is by no means “dictatorship” or seeking hegemony for a unified political position (which needless to say does not exist among collective members) – it is simply an assessment, done on a Marxist-Leninist basis, in consultation with other Marxist-Leninists across Canada who can and do criticize us in letters to the Journal, of what “leadership” is necessary. To do otherwise, we repeat, is to act not as Marxist-Leninists but as liberals.
The above extended example is only one instance of many where the Bolshevik Tendency’s consistent practice of being left in form, right in essence, was manifested within the Journal collective. We will not tax the reader’s patience by pointing out further examples, beyond making a short comment on point 3 of their letter.
Readers will decide for themselves whether the method proposed in the editorial of CR No. 4 for conducting struggle within the Marxist-Leninist movement is a principled one, and whether our comments in this context on the Nationhood or Genocide article are correct. However, the crux of the question, which prompted the Bolshevik Tendency to undertake their counter-revolutionary action of January 21, was the manner of applying these principles to inter-collective struggle.
The Bolshevik Tendency, for a considerable period of time, had been engaging in methods of struggle which they themselves admitted were obstructionist, in order to prevent the implementing of policies supported by the majority of collective members, after their proposals on questions had been rejected. These majority policies the Bolshevik Tendency considered “opportunist”.
When the majority of collective members made it clear the Bolshevik Tendency’s obstructionism would no longer be tolerated – by putting restrictions on the length of debate (the Bolshevik Tendency calls this curtailing debate) and adopting majority-minority decision-making procedures, in order for the Journal to be able to implement decisions made – at this point the Bolshevik Tendency saw that “an opportunist trend consolidated itself’ and they left the Journal rather than continuing to struggle in a principled manner, trying to sabotage it as they departed.
The Journal collective feels that they are the opportunists: in areas such as opposing an editorial board composed of members elected by majority vote; in urging concensus decision-making rather than majority vote; and in remaining in the Journal collective only long enough to have the publication of their article subsidized by the Marxist-Leninists throughout Canada who support CR, then stealing copies of the Journal which they are distributing on their own behalf.
We think their professed support for the continued existence of CR is totally hypocritical in view of their action in trying to sabotage it. We call on all supporters of Canadian Revolution to reject any contact this group or individual members attempt to make with them claiming to represent CR, and for any persons who receive free copies of issue No. 4 from them to please return them to us or send us payment for them.
One final point – we omitted the addressed published in the final paragraph of the Bolshevik Tendency letter, because it is that of a native comrade who is not a Bolshevik Tendency member and was put forward without his permission. We therefore feel it would only serve a negative purpose to repeat it.
In trying to sabotage CR and discredit it in front of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement, the Bolshevik Tendency has only succeeded in discrediting themselves. We therefore leave the final words on this question to a member of that group, who sent us this letter following their departure:
Dear Sirs: (sic)
You have won the battle to stifle debate and avoid sharp political struggle within this Journal. Now (with the departure of die Bolshevik Tendency), you can practice your censorship without being forced to engage in any political struggle. Being afraid of political struggle, you can clutch on to your economism – Worker’s Unity (Toronto) and your opportunism – Toronto Communist Group. Your politics will degenerate into the confused liberal politics of your past, with your inability to learn from the historic lessons of Marxism-Leninism. It is for this reason that you cannot actively apply the methodology of Marxism-Leninism that you will fail.
Unless you can reverse this trend, your Journal will not be able to lead the struggle to promote M-L debate in Canada. Your bankrupt politics will be exposed sooner or later. You will not be able to hide and disguise your politics forever. If you cannot learn from the political mistakes of your past, you will ultimately be lead to defeat by your bankrupt politics.
Yours in the destruction of all revisionism
Wayne Choma, Winnipeg