This document was circulated within the Party in advance of its 4th Congress, where many of the contradictions in the current line struggle within the Party came to a head. It is published here to give context for the ongoing line struggle.
There currently exists a contradiction within the Revolutionary Communist Party. In the process of preparing for this Congress, the contradiction has made itself apparent. We welcome the opportunity provided by the Congress to debate this line and to unify the Party around a better perspective and better style of work. The resolution of this contradiction will allow us to become truly integrated with the masses.
This contradiction currently centres around three political questions: Proletarian Feminism and the Trans Question; the Mass Line, Mass Organizations and the Small Movements; and Workplace Organizing. We believe the positions put forward by the FFPR Montreal and by the Montreal chapter on these questions to reflect erroneous perspectives which have held back the Party’s growth and expansion and we intend to debate them at the upcoming congress. It is our contention that the differences over these political questions constitute a single contradiction, a line struggle, between the ideas of the old leadership group on the one hand and newer styles of work that have been advanced in the last half-decade on the other.
Proletarian Feminism and the Trans “Question”
The politics of the document put forward by the Comrades from the FFPR Montreal are non-Maoist, mechanistic, Marxist Feminism – a relic of the 1970s heavily influenced by petty-bourgeois Radical Feminism. The FFPR in Montreal has substituted Proletarian Feminism for Radical Feminism, changing only its name but not its content. In so doing, they have not only missed out on an important advancement in the struggle against capitalism and patriarchy, they have actually sided against trans people. Communists are supposed to be tribunes of the oppressed. However, comrades adopting this perspective have made themselves complicit with gender-based oppression of trans comrades.
It would be a mistake to treat the oppression of women in general as identical to the oppression of trans people. The two are different in character and in the dynamics internal to them. That difference does not negate the existence of systematic oppression of trans people, nor the ways in which the two are related, overlap and reinforce one another. A feminism which does not take this into account, and worse one which reduces trans people to practitioners of a postmodern subjectivism, holds itself back from an important avenue of struggle against patriarchal oppression. Such a line would also unjustly preclude us from organizing any potential trans comrades, not to mention anyone sympathetic to the struggles of trans people, who are disproportionately poor and working class, and their allies.
The error here does not just pertain to trans people. One of the great advances of MLM is identifying that ideas can become a material force when they are put into practice. It also identifies the need for the continuation of class struggle under socialism, not least of all against the ideas of the old society, which remain partially intact among the people and, when practiced, become a material force which can undermine the new society. When the document specifies argues that: “the very idea that the proletariat can take power and leave in place the oppression of women is nonsense,” it fails to integrate an MLM perspective on building socialism. To imagine that sexism would not be reproduced under socialism is not only a fantasy, it is against the historical experience of building socialism. The FFPR fails to integrate the advancements made both by MLM and Proletarian Feminism in understanding the question of women’s oppression. It gives the impression, intentionally or not, that we do not think we will have to struggle against gender-based oppression after establishing socialism. Proletarian women and trans people will surely see this as a grievous error, one which will often preclude them from rallying to the party.
The Mass Line
At the last congress, the CC identified in its assessment of the previous work that, particularly in Montreal: “It is like if we were not able to grasp and apply the through meaning of the direction we nevertheless stand for with a lot of conviction in the Chapter 13 of our Programme (“Unleash the fury of the masses as a mighty force for the revolution”) and like if we are paralysed by the thoughtless fear of economism. This prevents us from really act as a people’s vanguard.”
Lest we forget that the Party, despite proclaiming itself the Vanguard, has been virtually absent from all of the major struggles of the Canadian working class in recent years. We here can include: Occupy, The Maple Spring, Idle No More, and Black Lives Matter. While our practice is improving, we should be a leading force in these movements. We are not.
We believe that our failure to engage the masses concretely is due to a fear of economism inherited from the worst practices of the Marxist-Leninist movement of the 1970s. This same fear of economism has produced a style of work which has cut the Party off from the masses. In practice, organizations and campaigns which should have a mass or intermediate character are conceived of as subordinate units of the Party, organizationally subordinated to the Party, rather than groups which should have their own internal democracy and where the Party should exert political leadership. In our internal documents these mass organizations are referred to as “small movements,” which we believe constitutes an erroneous conceptualization of the role of mass organizations vis-à-vis the Party.
In practice, the expansion of the RSM – an intermediate organization with its own internal democratic structure and where the Party wields tremendous political influence, and indeed where most of the organizational leadership is made up of Party supporters – has allowed the Party to expand across the country in a way that would have been impossible by other means. This has allowed us to rally comrades who would not have joined the Party from the outset, and to win them to our perspectives by applying them to concrete political questions.
In this way we have gone from having no presence in the Prairies or the Maritimes just two short years ago, and now have both RSM chapters and RCP OC’s in Halifax, Charlottetown, and Saskatoon. This is without considering the other cities in Ontario where similar processes happened – Sudbury and Peterborough.
The development of the RSM shows our perspective to be correct. Initially formed in 2012 in Montreal to respond to the Maple Spring, the initial incarnation of the RSM was a failure. Comrades from Ottawa advanced a criticism that the level of political unity required to join the RSM was too high: there was no reason why someone would get involved in the RSM and not the Party. It was only after the style of work advanced in Ontario was adopted by the comrades of the RSM in Montreal in 2014-2015 that the RSM grew and became self-sustaining. The methods advanced by the old leadership group in Montreal were incapable of drawing new forces into the orbit of the party, and they were incapable of conceiving how organizations could exist under the political rather than organizational leadership of the Party.
We believe that the “Short thesis on the construction of the small-movements” is an affront to a Maoist understanding of the mass line. Instead of synthesizing and building on the experiences of the Party’s expansion throughout Canada, the document harkens back to the former, incorrect conceptions and methods of work. Particularly egregious are the theses which state that the creation of a centralized RSM was an accident not to be repeated (#10), that the “small movements” are used to avoid line struggle internal to the Party (#17), that the internal democratic structures of the “small movements” constitute a breach of democratic centralism (!!!) (#19), and that the Party has had difficulty recruiting from and exercising political leadership over chapters of “small movements” (#27). We think that this entire resolution is incorrect, and we urge comrades to vote against it. It is only through a correct understanding of the mass line that we can actually concretize our politics and expand.
The same fear of economism identified above manifests itself in the conception of how workplace organizing fits into the process of building the revolutionary movement, and here combines with an incorrect understanding of labour history to produce a perspective which precludes a potentially fruitful area of mass organizing.
It is true that when workplace struggles stop short of abolishing capitalism – which undoubtedly is the vast majority of them – what’s left is at best a reform, an economic gain for the proletariat. Workplace struggles are not unique in this regard, though – any struggle, for example the struggle to prevent the racist PEGIDA from organizing will ultimately result in a gain for the proletariat which is not total. This is obviously not enough to preclude that kind of work, provided it is carried out correctly, in a way which build the objective forces of the revolutionary movement and increases the subjective appreciation of the situation among the workers being organized. The decisive factor here is the presence of the party and the revolutionary united front as active participants in the struggle, and the recruitment of the organized workers to the revolutionary movement.
Furthermore, while it is true that the current unions are yellow unions, are class collaborative unions, it is incorrect to say that unions are necessarily class collaborative in nature. The fundamental site of class conflict under capitalism is still the workplace: it is the location where surplus value is literally pumped out of the working class. In the process of production, struggles over the appropriation of surplus value (conscious or not) spontaneously arise. Unions are not signs of class collaboration, but rather represent the organized manifestation of the natural spontaneous class struggle that emerges out of the process of production itself.
The proposal put forward in “On revolutionary or “red” unionism” actually represents the worst of all possible choices on this question. It limits intervention in workplace struggles to propaganda actions, and effectively cedes the leadership of workers-as-workers to reformists and revisionists. The conditions for concerted workplace organizing are better than they have been in years, and the reformists are unable to capitalize on these conditions: there is no reason why we should not.
The communist movement in Canada had a great deal of success historically in organizing workplaces, even during a time when labour unions were formally legalized. The idea that legal unions are necessarily class collaborative is not born out by history: unions were legalized in Canada in the late 1800s, and the decisive shift towards reformist unionism did not begin until 1945 with the passage and embrace of the Rand Formula.
It is possible, at this early stage in the development of the RWM, that workplace organizing is not the most viable course of action, but at the same time, to preclude it at this early stage would be an error as well. In any case, the arguments presented against this do not do justice to the history of communist union organizers in Canada or to the position in favour of workplace organizing as it’s been presented.
We believe that the disagreement over the positions presented here constitute a contradiction within the Revolutionary Communist Party, between the ideas of the old leadership group, and new practices. We urge comrades to break with these old ideas, and embrace new ideas and practices which will carry the party forward as we advance in our current stage of the plan.