*Une traduction en français de ce document sera mise en ligne dans les jours à venir.*
The following document was written by the majority faction of the now defunct Montreal section of the Revolutionary Student Movement. In the narrow circles of Canadian communism, the implosion of the Montreal section of the RSM has been the subject of much talk. The drafting committee of Ligne de Masse is pleased to have received this contribution from comrades of the ex-RSM which offers a global analysis of the problems within the MER-RSM and suggests political solutions to these problems. We deem this document to be an important and well put contribution to the debate. We are all the more delighted to publish this document as the minority faction of the ex-RSM has expressed itself publicly concerning the implosion of the Montreal chapter (On their blog Guiding Toughts), defending what we perceive to be an opportunist line which is causing harm to the Canadian communist movement. Thus, we were eager to obtain further information from the majority faction of the ex-Montreal RSM concerning this minority faction. This information confirms our suspicions of opportunism on their part. To preface this document, we will offer a short summation of the minority faction’s opportunist acts.
From what we know, the minority faction is comprised of three individuals – one of them having now moved to Toronto and being active in the RSM of that city, and two of them still in Montreal. They also seem to have a handful of sympathizers, mostly around the Toronto RSM. From the outset, we see how this is a squabble between tiny groupings. In countries where the communist movement is strong, these kinds of petty quarrels would be irrelevant, but in Canada, it somehow becomes an “event”! To be clear, we will stick to the politically salient facts and make sure to avoid making these people identifiable.
The roots of the Montreal RSM’s implosion can be traced back to the arrival of the individual now based in Toronto into the Montreal RSM, about a year ago. This person (let’s call them “A”) is known on the internet for their downright eccentric position statements (the favourite pop songs of Chairman Gonzalo, leader of the Peruvian CP, the existence of “JMP-Tought” taken from the name of a Canadian Maoist philosopher…). Generally this person’s rhetoric blurs the line between theory and parody, to a point where we wonder if they aren’t secretly situationist. This person was joined by two others, let’s call them “B” and “C”. While B and C stayed in the Montreal-RSM, A quickly moved to Toronto.
Nobody knows what B and C are up to in Montreal. They come from another province, one which is far away, and do not seem to have moved for studies, work or family reasons. From what we know, they might have moved for political reasons, aiming to impose themselves in a region where the pan-Canadian RCP and the RSM were weak. To say the least, this didn’t go as planned.
Yet, things seemed to have “well” begun. B and C quickly imposed their points of view in a project developed by the Montreal-RSM which took the form of a written criticism of the pan-Canadian RCP. This document quickly turned into a weird mish-mash of “principally Maoist” positions, of postmodernism and of blatant demonstrations of ignorance regarding the history of the communist movement in Canada. Simultaneously, B and C began organizing “mass” actions (read: actions with a handful of student activists) in support of the international “principally Maoist” movement. The main problem with these actions was not their international affiliation (for instance, it is correct to support the poor peasants struggles in Brazil) but the total lack of connection with the actual masses of this country.
In their organizational work, A, B and C always suffered from serious shortcomings. The most notable of them was their incapacity to defend their positions in meetings, trainings or mass activities. Their general approach was to never accept face to face confrontation, but to wait after meetings to start debating on social media, unsecured communication lines, etc. This is a form of liberalism. It deserved rectification, but not yet a political rupture. In the same vein, the trio tried to coordinate the public position statements of the RSM in Montreal and Toronto without having the mandate to do so.
What triggered the split between both factions of the Montreal RSM was the expulsion of B from the pan-Canadian leadership of the MER-RSM. For confidentiality purposes, we cannot enter into details here, but let’s just say B was criticized for numerous political errors within the MER-RSM and expelled from his position in the pan-Canadian leadership. B and C then tried to use the Montreal RSM as a support base to resist this collective decision. They wanted the Montreal RSM to not follow the leadership guidelines to expel B from the local section. Doing so, B and C coordinated themselves with A and unfolded their regular brand of internet schemes.
Seeing some people in the Montreal RSM were not taking the bait, B and C coordinated themselves to accuse another militant of the organization to have conspired against them. They accused him of having knowingly and willingly left behind a document incriminating B in the hope that this document be found by the police – thus accusing this militant of being an informer or a cop. Coordinating with them, A began spreading rumours about this same militant to the Communists of Toronto. They accused him of having spoken negatively of the PCR-RCP to ex-members now affiliated with the “PRO-RWP””, a recent split of the RCP… while on the contrary, he was actually encouraging them to settle their problems with the pan-Canadian RCP! These kinds of actions go beyond political mistakes that could be handled with criticism – self criticism. It is sabotage, and it is extremely serious. Such tactics are employed by the state, by the far-right and by all forces hostile to Communism. There is an enormous difference between an honest criticism, even if it is harsh, and sabotage. The actions of A, B and C fell into the second category after the expulsion of B from the pan-Canadian leadership of the MER-RSM.
Facing this situation, the majority in the Montreal RSM resolved to expel B. To do otherwise would have been opportunistic, artificial and dangerous. Simultaneously, the majority voted to dissolve the Montreal section. The aim of this was to adopt better methods to accomplish the objectives set by the last MER-RSM congress: go to the masses, do not concentrate on campuses. The struggle against the opportunist minority had exposed the weaknesses of the MER-RSM bureaucracy and the difficulty to take necessary decisions within that framework (For instance, B had to be expelled from the leadership, then from the local section, then from Serve the People, a project initiated by the Montreal section…). C, who hadn’t been expelled from the pan-Canadian RSM, then tried to mobilize their personal identity to accuse the majority of sexism, LGBT-phobia, etc. It was nothing else than a grotesque manoeuvre of identity opportunism, made possible by a Maoist milieu largely concentrated on campuses and social media.
Since then, the minority grouping has initiated an independent work: a blog/ “publishing house”, some “rallies” (of which the participants can always count themselves on the fingers of one hand, literally!) in Toronto and Montreal, and some truly hallucinating texts where we can read that “the proletariat will have its vengeance under a scarlet sky” following this major setback for the movement represented by… the democratic dissolution of a tiny student grouping in Montreal! They identify their blog as a great step forward towards “people’s war until communism”. They identify two main “headquarters of reaction”: the pan-Canadian RCP (!) and the ex-Montreal RSM (!!) allied to a ghost-like and mysterious Maoist organization based in Montreal (!!!). For them, it is these forces that refrain the Canadian proletariat to establish a socialist society. This is pure delirium. As for their strategy, it is clear: build concentrically a militarized communist party… around campuses. Doing so, they struggle against “liquidationism” by… seeking to liquidate the pan -Canadian RCP into a student grouping.
The majority faction sticks to something far less mind-blowing: building the party in the proletariat.
We believe this recap to be enough for now. Let us go on with something far more interesting: the text written by the majority faction of the ex-Montreal RSM regarding the experience of the MER-RSM and the notion of “intermediate organizations”.
A criticism from the comrades of RSM Montreal
The purpose of this text is to provide our criticisms of the organisational problems inherent in the RSM as a consequence of the political confusion related to its identity as a revolutionary organisation, its mandate, and how it intends to carry it out. Firstly, we would like to establish a general understanding of key Marxist principles and concepts that are essential before moving on to our criticism.
Our text will start with a general outline of what we understand by mass work and the mass line. Afterwards, we’ll consider a particular form of mass work, which is through Party generated organisations, notably mass organisations and intermediate organisations, based on the CPI (Maoist) conception found in “Urban Perspective”. Next, we will attempt to qualify the RSM as either a mass organisation or an intermediate organisation based on the definitions we outlined. In our view, the true qualification of an organisation is based on how it manifests itself in practice rather than how the organisations perceive or understands itself. Based on this qualification, we will proceed with our criticism of the RSM. To put it briefly, we believe the RSM currently functions as a pseudo intermediate organisation which, based on this categorization, is prone to commit profound political and ideological errors, namely its political autonomy vis-à-vis the rest of the revolutionary movement, which cannot be rectified lest the organisation reconstitutes itself either as a true intermediate organisation, under the explicit leadership of a revolutionary communist party. To be clear, the objective here is not to claim whether an intermediate or mass organisation is better suited for student organising. We believe both organisational models are necessary, each fulfilling a different role and complementing each other. What we are concerned with, and our main criticism of the RSM, is that any sort of intervention of communists with students and youth, must be done with political and scientific clarity. This means that, whichever organisational form is chosen by communists, it must be done consciously and because it is the most suitable tool to fulfill its specific goal/objective given the concrete conditions.
Vanguard Party and the Masses
The Communist Party is a vanguard party, the most advanced and concentrated political expression of a social class, the proletariat. Revolution however has a mass character as the masses are the “real makers of history”. Without the involvement of the masses in considerable numbers, the vanguard cannot overthrow capitalism and achieve victory. As Lenin explains:
“victory cannot be won by the vanguard alone. To throw the vanguard alone into the decisive battle, before the whole class, before the broad masses have taken up a position either of direct support of the vanguard, or at least of benevolent neutrality towards it, and one in which they cannot possibly support the enemy, would be not merely folly but a crime. And in order that actually the whole class, that actually the broad masses of the working people and those oppressed by capital may take up such position, propaganda and agitation alone are not enough. For this the masses must have their own political experience. Such is the fundamental law of all great revolutions.” (Left Wing Communism – An Infantile Disorder)
Conversely, without the leadership of the Party, the masses’ struggles become eclectic, ineffective, and socialism cannot be established. Since the need for a vanguard to lead the struggle is not a point of contention, we are going to assume that it’s a given at this point.
To achieve victory then, communists must be capable of resolving the contradiction between the vanguard character of the Party and the mass character of the revolution. Lenin correctly identifies this issue as the most pressing matter for Communists internationally:
“The immediate task that confronts the class-conscious vanguard of the international labour movement, i.e., the Communist parties, groups and trends, is to be able to LEAD the broad masses (now, for the most part, slumbering, apathetic, bound by routine, inert and dormant) to their new position, or, rather, to be able to lead NOT ONLY their own party, but also these masses, in their approach, their transition to the new position.” (Left Wing Communism – An infantile Disorder).
How do communists ensure this contradiction is handled correctly? Through propaganda alone? Of course not. While propaganda is extremely important, it is of itself insufficient to genuinely engage the masses at the level that is necessary for any chance at success in carrying out revolution:
“As long as the question was (and in so far as it still is) one of winning over the vanguard of the proletariat to Communism, so long, and to that extent, propaganda was in the forefront… But when it is a question of practical action by the masses, of the disposition, if one may so express it, of vast armies, of the alignment of ALL the class forces of the given society FOR THE FINAL AND DECISIVE BATTLE, then propaganda habits alone, the mere repetition of the truths of “pure” Communism, are of no avail. In these circumstances one must not count in thousands as the propagandist does who belong to a small group that has not yet given leadership to the masses; in these circumstances one must count in the millions and tens of millions. In these circumstances we must not only ask ourselves whether we have convinced the vanguard of the revolutionary class, but also whether the historically effective forces of ALL classes – positively of all the classes of the given society without exception – are aligned in such a way that everything is fully ripe for the decisive battle.”(Left Wing Communism – An Infantile Disorder)
Mass work and the Mass line
To answer our own question then, the contradiction between the vanguard character of the Party and the mass character of Revolution is resolved through the correct application of the Mass line. The mass line is a method of leadership which guides mass work and the other tasks of the Party in advancing revolution. Among other things, the mass line is how the Party translates its political line into an objective force in society, it is how we transform theory into a material force, as Marx would put it. Through the mass line the Party assumes its leadership role and organizes the masses into a fighting force capable of guaranteeing the triumph of revolution. The mass line is how we guarantee the qualitative leap from the relatively small propagandist groups, which Lenin mentions, into a party capable of exerting concrete political leadership over the masses and push forward the revolution.
In this sense, mass work is not simply any political work among the masses or simply participating in reformist or militant struggles. For mass work to be truly effective, it must be guided by the mass line, and therefore communists must be exercising some degree of political leadership over the masses in a given context, and must relate the mass work back to the political line of the Party. As the Communist Party of the Philippines puts it:
“Mass work is so important for the party’s successful leadership of the revolution. The foundation of the revolutionary strength of the Party and the revolutionary movement is laid down through this work. The essential work is carried out in the three principal tasks—the formation of the Party, the waging of the armed struggle, and the formation of the national united front. The effective leadership of a proletarian party can be gleaned from the effectiveness of its mass work.” (On Mass Work)
In the Filipino context, all mass work must somehow relate back to one of the three principle objectives: formation of the Party, waging of armed struggle, formation of the United Front. To do so, cadres must engage with the masses and:
“make them understand the line of the Party, and to put into practice in their actions the policies and struggles which the Party launches in accordance with this line. The political line is the basic standard which decides whether we err in our work.”
Now that we have established what mass work and the mass line is, the question remains how do you engage in mass work? There is a variety of way communists can engage in mass work but here we are only going to concern ourselves with mass organisations and intermediate organisations, specifically those generated by the Party.
The distinction between political and organisational autonomy
Before continuing any further, we think it pertinent to outline the substantial difference between political autonomy vs. organisational autonomy.
Political autonomy is the freedom of an organisation to determine its political line, that is to say to determine the political positions that it will defend and promote. It is inherently linked to the strategy employed by the organisation as well. In the “Foundations of Leninism”, Stalin defines strategy as:
“the determination of the direction of the main blow of the proletariat at a given stage of the revolution, the elaboration of a corresponding plan for the disposition of the revolutionary forces (main and secondary reserves), the fight to carry out this plan throughout the given stage of revolution”.
When we say that an organisation should submit to the political line of the Party, it means that this organisation must make the political line of the Party its own line and should not deviate independently from it. Organisations which submit to the political line of the Party are in fact the manifestation of the Party’s line in a specific topic, section, issue etc. and are therefore best understood as an extension of the Party than a totally distinct organisation. However, this is not to say that the relationship between the Party and the organisation is unilateral. The organisation, by nature of its specificity or specialization, becomes the expert in whatever field it organizes and therefore informs the Party, through social investigation, when it establishes or modifies the political line. However, the Party always has a final say on the general orientation of the organisation.
Organisational autonomy on the other hand means that the organisation’s day to day functions independently of the Party’s machinery (Propaganda, treasury, recruitment, tactics, actions etc.). The Party sets the line, the general strategy and the scope, the organisations puts it into practice and has organisational and tactical autonomy as to how it proceeds with its work. Referring back to Stalin, he defines tactics as:
“the determination of the line of conduct of the proletariat in the comparatively short period of flow or ebb of the movement, of the rise or decline of the revolution, the fight to carry out this line by means of replacing old forms of struggle and organisation by new ones, old slogans by new ones, by combining these forms etc […] Tactics pursues less important objects, for their aim is not the winning of the war as a whole, but the winning of some particular engagements or some particular battles, the carrying through successfully of some particular battles, the carrying through successfully of some particular campaigns or actions corresponding to the concrete circumstances in the given period of rise or decline of the revolution. Tactics are a part of strategy, subordinate to it and serving it.”
The Party therefore sets the strategy and the objectives. The organisations that are politically subordinate have the duty to carry out this strategy in whatever field their work in. They have organisational and tactical autonomy to figure out how to carry through the strategy.
Mass organisations vs. Intermediate organisations
1) Mass Organisations
In our opinion, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) provides the most complete definition on mass organisations in their text Urban Perspective CPI (Maoist). For our Indian comrades, mass work must seek to mobilize the broadest possible sections of the masses into struggle. This is in accordance with the conception of mass line and mass work which we outlined previously since, to be a serious fighting force, communists must exercise political leadership over the masses and must be capable of mobilizing the masses in the millions and not in the few thousands. Mass work must be carried out in this perspective. Thus, mass organisations, from the CPI (Maoist) viewpoint, must seek to be as wide and open as possible:
“The party organisation should be secret, the more secret the better. Whereas mass organisations should be open, the wider, the better.” (Urban Perspective)
How wide and open a mass organisation is will of course depend on the concrete conditions. The CPI (Maoist) divide mass organisations into three categories, each playing a different role and being more or less suitable depending on objective conditions: Secret revolutionary mass organisations, open and semi-open revolutionary organisations, and open legal mass organisations.
We fundamentally agree with these categories. However, for the sake of clarity and for our context, we would rename the secret revolutionary mass organisations into intermediate organisations. This is especially important in our political context because we believe a major issue in the movement is in clearly distinguishing between open mass organisations and intermediate organisations, what their roles are and how they should operate.
Mass organisations can be revolutionary or legal, open or semi-open, Party generated or organically generated. Organically generated are those who are formed organically in society through the political struggle of the masses and are mostly open and legal (trade unions, student orgs, tenant unions, community groups etc.). Here we are going to focus on Party generated mass organisations, since it is the category that most directly concerns the RSM.
Party generated mass organisations are those mass organisations which have been created by the Party to intervene and lead the masses in a specific struggle, economic or geographical sector, etc. A Party generated mass organisation can be open or semi open, legal or revolutionary. When they are revolutionary, they ostensibly have some link to the Party, in which case the political line of the mass organisation should be subordinate, at least to a degree, to the political line of the Party, while maintaining organizational autonomy. This is something that has never been controversial in the communist movement and is justified by the fact that a Party generated mass organisation with any sort of association to the Party will inevitably be considered the voice on the Party on a specific matter. For example, when Red Guards were still active in the U.S., they would often base their criticism of the PCR-RCP on the actions and positions taken by the RSM. This in itself is not inherently wrong since to an outsider the RSM was the Party’s most public display of mass work and so it is only natural that the RSM’s line is equated to the PCR-RCP’s line when in fact the RSM maintains a relatively large political autonomy, meaning the two lines cannot be considered the same. So, although the Red Guards were factually wrong in making this sort of arguments, to then defend ourselves as saying “we have political autonomy” is its own form of error. But we will talk about this more later on.
Open legal mass organisations on the other hand do not maintain any direct link with the Party. As such, they can have political and organisational autonomy. Furthermore, because of their legal and open nature, they will by definition seek to organise and mobilize sectors of the masses who do not yet hold revolutionary ideas or have class consciousness. As such, the politics they defend and the positions they take in the mass organisations will often times be different from the line of the Party, and that is acceptable.
Regardless of what shape the mass organisation takes, the principle guiding it should be to be as wide, open and broad as possible, given the concrete conditions (intensity of class struggle, repression, capacity etc.) in order to build the broadest mass base for the Party and the revolutionary movement. Criteria for membership in a mass organisation should be as basic and wide as possible, given the conditions. As such, mass organisations are generally organised around a program, a campaign, a specific sector (geographical, economic, social etc.) or around a concrete issue as opposed to organising based on ideological affinity.
For example, a mass organisation in the form of a tenant’s union in a building block: Adherence to this organisation should not be based on adherence to socialism, understanding the mass-line, basic understanding of MLM etc. Adherence to this mass org should essentially be: 1) tenancy in the building block 2) agreement with the basic goal of the organisation, i.e. participating in a rent strike, resisting evictions etc. The role of tying in the mass organisation to the broader revolutionary movement, of raising the class consciousness of the masses, understanding and promoting the need for revolutionary politics is the role of the communists ENGAGED IN THE MASS ORGS and cannot be a prerequisite for participating in the mass organisation itself. Otherwise you are simply organising the vanguard of the masses and not the masses themselves. Despite all the criticism and errors associated with the General Assemblies campaigns that the RSM undertook years ago, these were much more akin to what an attempt at actual mass work looks like. In fact, in OttawaU, it was the most successful attempt by the local RSM in mobilizing and organising students on a mass base for a specific political struggle and not based strictly on one’s pre-existing affinity to revolutionary politics.
2) Intermediate organisations (secret revolutionary mass organisations)
According to the CPI (Maoist), secret revolutionary mass organisations, or what we refer to as intermediate organisations, operate clandestinely and propagate the Party’s revolutionary line among the masses:
“They propagate the central task drawn up by the Party at any given time, secretly organize the masses into struggles and directly serve as the base for recruitment for the Party and the people’s war. These mass organisations are built clandestinely and conduct secret propaganda. They are built are a clear-cut and explicit revolutionary programme. Acceptance of the aims of revolution and willingness to work secretly are thus minimum criteria for membership”.
We believe intermediate organisation is a more correct term for this category of organisation because it fulfills a fundamentally different role than the mass organisations discussed in the previous section. Furthermore, the Indian’s definition of a SRMO is somewhat closer to the PCR-RCP’s definition in “Communist Methods of Mass Work” found in Arsenal 9, albeit it remains heavily undertheorized and differs greatly from the Indian’s definition, most notably in regards to the political autonomy of the intermediate organisation. We will deal briefly with these differences in the next section. Whereas the previous category of mass organisations is mostly intended to organise and mobilize the masses for struggle, the intermediate organisation’s primary goal is propagating the Party’s line and serving as a recruitment pool for the Party. By its very definition, this sort of organisation cannot and should not aspire to have a mass membership since its criteria are essentially: adherence to the Party line and willingness to work clandestinely. Furthermore, the term ‘intermediate’ better reflects its transitional nature since this category of organisation serves as an intermediate between the mass level and the cadre level. Members of an intermediate organisation are ostensibly being formed to become cadres at some point. In short, intermediate organisations function somewhat like pseudo-cadre organisations in the goal of forming future cadres while conducting the Party’s work in a specific sector. It somewhat recreates most important features of cadre work, (democratic centralism, collective discipline, security culture) to prepare future cadres for Party work once they’re deemed ready. Of course, these organisations have no autonomy in political or strategic matters since they function to a certain degree as an extension of the Party, albeit they generally maintain organisational and tactical autonomy.
The most well-known example of what we would consider an intermediate organisation is the Communist Youth of a Party. The Communist Youth are politically subordinate to the Party but maintain organizational autonomy. They are exclusively concerned with the youth, whether workers or students, and are in charge of promoting, applying and developing the Party’s line on the youth. Referring to the Youth wing of the Party, Mao describes the following way:
“The Youth League must co-ordinate its activities with the Party’s central tasks, but in doing so it must have its own independent activities and take the characteristics of youth into consideration […] The Youth League organisations should give consideration to the characteristics of youth and have their own sphere of work, but at the same time they should submit to the leadership of the Party committees at the corresponding levels. This is nothing new but something of long standing and has always been a tenet of Marxism. This is to proceed from reality.” (Mao: The Youth League in its work must take the characteristics of the youth into consideration, Selected Works: Volume 5, p. 95).
Membership to the Communist Youth is dependent on accepting the Party’s political line and to conduct work that is more clandestine and secret than at the regular mass level. Finally, Communist Youth function as well as a recruitment pool for the Party since it can evaluate the worth of future cadres through their involvement and work within the Communist Youth. Other types of intermediate organisations can exist, although which ones are relevant or necessary in our current context, we do not have the capacity nor the intention of answering. Our main concern is with the RSM.
RCP’S conception of intermediate organisations
As we mentioned previously, the concept of intermediate organisation remains very undertheorized in the Canadian context. The only text that deals specifically with the RCP’s understanding of intermediate organisation is found in Arsenal 9’s Communist Methods of Mass Work:
“What about those individuals that are more politically advanced than the mass organizations, but are not yet willing or able to join the Party? Here we insert another type of organization, which can be called an “intermediate organization”. Intermediate organizations have a higher level of political unity than a mass organization generally does, for instance they may be consciously anti-capitalist. However, intermediate organizations generally do not require agreement on a unified revolutionary strategy. In our current Canadian context intermediate organizations are especially important: while there are a number of parties that have set themselves the task of becoming the vanguard of the Canadian proletariat, no party (including our Party) has yet achieved this. As such, there is not a vanguard organization to which new communists will “naturally” flock. An intermediate organization allows new communists to get involved in political work with a lower level of commitment than party membership would entail, but still under the political leadership of the party. Intermediate organizations are themselves transitory; as the class struggle develops and a singular vanguard emerges, the utility of intermediate organizations decreases. Similarly, as the political level of the masses is raised, intermediate organizations should be subsumed into mass organizations.
What should be the relationship between the party, mass organizations, and intermediate organizations? First and foremost, the party must exercise political leadership over the mass organizations and transitional organizations within its fold. While mass organizations and intermediate organizations may be initiated by the party, they must themselves be autonomous organizations and internally democratic. Party members and supporters must be involved in mass organizations and intermediate organizations, but they must not act in a commandist way inside of these organizations: commandism here could be seizing leadership positions and pushing a political line ahead of the political level of the organization’s membership. In turn, the party must incorporate the perspectives advanced by mass and intermediate organizations, and synthesize the correct perspectives into its own political line. In short, there must be a constant dialogue between party and mass organization, with neither overstepping the other in terms of importance: a revolution is impossible without the masses or without the leadership of the vanguard.”
In brief, the RCP understands intermediate organisations as situated somewhere in between mass organisation and the Party. It further recognizes, at least implicitly, that the intermediate organisation seeks to organise communists that do not yet at the stage of being directly integrated into the Party structure. The RCP also recognizes the need for the Party to exercise political leadership over the intermediate organisation although it also emphasizes the need for these organisations to be internally democratic and autonomous. The RCP does not mention what the specific role or objective of the intermediate organisation is and how it differs from mass organisations in general aside from providing a structure for communists to organise outside of mass organisations. It does not either explain how the Party concretely exercises political leadership over the intermediate mass organisation aside from indirectly through mass participation of cadres in the organisation.
The first criticism we would like to state is that the RCP seems to treat intermediate and mass organisations as essentially the same aside from the political level of members in the former. As a result, we believe there is a theoretical confusion as to the distinctive role and nature of both type of organisations. Based on what we stated in the previous section, the intermediate organisation is fundamentally different from the mass organisation in that it’s fundamental purpose and nature is completely distinct. In that sense, it is in our opinion, a mistake to treat the two organisational models and their relation to the Party as essentially the same.
Intermediate organisations serve mainly two purposes: promoting and defending the Party line in a specific sector and training communists into future cadres. As such, the intermediate organisation is better understood as an extension of the Party rather than a wholly distinct organisation. To allow the intermediate organisation to develop with full political autonomy is to de facto allow for a pseudo-communist party to develop outside the reach of the Party. This is an ultra-democratic error with deep consequences on all levels (ideological, political, strategic etc.) and inevitably manifests itself in a deepening divide between the two organisations, which is what we are currently witness within the RSM.
The RSM: Mass or Intermediate organisation?
The short answer, and the main substance of our criticism is that the RSM tries to be both, and neither. Of course, this criticism cannot be exclusive to the RSM as an organisation, the RCP shares some responsibility as to the organizational and political confusion of the RSM.
On paper, the organisation has presented itself as a mass organisation, where ideological affinity was not a prerequisite for membership, and whose purpose is to organize and mobilize students for struggle. It is a Party generated organisation, since it was an initiative of the PCR-RCP, but it maintains almost total political and organisational autonomy from the Party. The RSM entertains and defends lines that are distinct to the Party, to the point where it has recently clashed with the Party’s political line regarding some specific subjects. Based on these observations then we would qualify the RSM as a mass organisation.
However, in the RSM’s recent history, there’s been a growing momentum for the RSM across Canada to reconstitute itself as an intermediate organisation rather than a mass organisation. In practice, we would tend to agree that the RSM behaves more similarly to an intermediate organisation, albeit with heavy limits. For one, the resolutions on Security Culture and Plain Living and Hard Struggle tend towards a professionalization and a higher level of discipline and secrecy characteristic of an intermediate organisation as described above.
Furthermore, it has been the experience of comrades that generally, the RSM has been incapable of mobilizing students on a mass base and on the basis of their conditions as students. Instead, most people mobilized by the RSM already have a pre-existing affinity with Communism, the RCP, or revolutionary politics in general. If the RSM is indeed a mass organisation, then its standard for recruitment is de facto too high for any sort of mass and wide participation of the student and youth in our current conditions. As such, the de facto recruitment practice of the RSM tends towards an intermediate organisation which, as we have seen before, minimally requires an adherence to revolution and willingness to work clandestinely to some degree.
Finally, as a Party generated organisation, the RSM has always been viewed as the public face of the Party, which is not an incorrect assumption, unless one understands to what degree the Party has limited influence in how the RSM determines its political line. It has also been viewed as the go-to organisation for people who want to be recruited into the Party. Thus, the RSM functions as an intermediate organisation in this sense.
Overall, having defined both types of organisations and then considered the case of the RSM, we would qualify the RSM to be an intermediate organisation rather than a mass organisation which, by the nature of the sector it is involved in (i.e. the youth in general, particularly students) it has always functioned as a proto-youth organisation for the RCP in the same vein as Communist Youth’s have in the past with other Communist Parties throughout history.
Having reached this conclusion then, we’re immediately confronted with one glaring problem: the political autonomy of the intermediate organisation RSM vis-à-vis the Party.
Comrades reading this who might disagree with our position may ask, Who are we, the now dissolved RSM-Montreal, to make such a bold claim that would require at the very least a restructuring of the entire organisation or at most the reconstitution of the RSM into a proper Youth organisation of the Party? To this we answer, it is not only us that defend this position, it is a position which has been unanimous in the Communist movement for over a century now, from the days of the Comintern, the Bolsheviks with Lenin, and of the Chinese communists with Mao, even in Peru with the Shining Path, the absolute subordination of the youth organisation to the political leadership is imperative for the growth of the revolutionary movement, for the Party, and for Communism:
“When the Communist International was established, along with Communist parties in each country, this changed the role of the revolutionary youth organisation in the proletarian movement as a whole. Both their economic situation and their distinctive psychological profile make the worker youth more receptive to Communist ideas. They display greater enthusiasm in revolutionary struggle than the adult workers. But the role of vanguard, in the sense of independent political activity and leadership, is assumed by the Communist parties. If the Communist youth organisation continued to exist as a politically independent and leading organisation, this would result in the emergence of two Communist parties competing with each other, differing only in the age of their members.” (3rd Congress of the Communist International – Resolutions: The Communist International and the Communist Youth Movement)
We would like to emphasize the last sentence because it is exactly what the RSM is currently undergoing. The political autonomy of the RSM has allowed for the emergence of a faction which upholds, defends and promotes a line which is against that of the Party. For example, the latest statement by the RSM in honour of IWWD is a blatant display of this absurdity, going so far as to label the Party that founded it as ‘revisionist’ and an ‘obstacle’ to be disposed of by the working class… The fact that certain people defend or uphold a line different from that of the Party is not in itself a bad thing. The fact that they do it within the RSM, a Party generated organisation, is a major issue.
What we are witnessing today is, in fact, the very reason why the Third International made it mandatory that youth organisations be subordinated to the Party, considering the fact that otherwise develops a secondary communist organisation which inevitably defines its own political line, distinct from that of the Party, and progressively drifts further away from the Party, leading to the emergence of two Communist Parties. This is absolutely unacceptable to all communists. Those who hold a different line can have their own organisations. But it is absolutely unacceptable that they would try to constitute a fraction within a youth organisation that direct links to the PCR-RCP to sow division. We prefer to quote the Comintern resolution at length since it outlines the issue in a much clearer way than we ever could:
“5.) The relationship of the Communist youth organisation to the Communist Party is fundamentally different from that of the revolutionary youth organisations to the Social Democratic parties [before and during the War]. The common struggle to carry out rapidly the proletarian revolution requires strong unity and strict centralisation. Political leadership can be exerted only by the Communist International, at the international level, and its national sections in each country. The Communist youth organisation has the duty of subordinating itself to this political leadership, in terms of programme, tactics, and political instructions, and of integrating itself into the common revolutionary front.
The Communist youth organisations must take up all political and tactical issues that arise within their ranks. They must work within the Communist Party of their country – and never against it – in the spirit of adopted decisions. In the event of a serious disagreement between the Communist Party and the Communist youth organisation, the latter has the right to appeal to the Executive Committee of the Communist International. In giving up its political independence, the youth organisation does not lose its organizational independence, which is indispensable for educational purposes.
6.) One of the most immediate and important tasks of the Communist youth organisation is to vigorously clear away all remnants in its ranks of the ideology of its political leadership role, left over from the time when it was completely autonomous. The youth press and the entire organisational apparatus of the Communist youth organisation must be vigorously utilised to fully imbue the youth with the feeling of being a soldier and responsible member of the one Communist Party.
The Communist youth organisation must devote all the more attention, time, and work to this task as it begins to win broader layers of young workers and become a mass movement.
7.) The close political collaboration of the Communist youth organisation with the Communist Party must also find expression in a firm connection between the two organisations. It is absolutely necessary for the party and youth organisations to establish ongoing reciprocal representation at the leadership, regional, district, and local level, right down to the Communist cells in factories and trade unions, and including strong reciprocal representation at all conferences and congresses. This will make it possible for the Communist Party constantly to influence the youth’s political line and activity and to support the youth, while the youth, for their part, will be able to exert an effective influence in the party.”
In brief, the Comintern resolution recognizes the duty of all youth organisations to submit to the political leadership of the Party. It also recognizes the need for the youth organisation to maintain organisational independence from the Party. The resolution also highlights the necessity to integrate and coordinate the Party and the youth organisation at all instances, whether local, regional, national etc. This allows not only for the Party to maintain a close influence on the youth’s political line, but also allows for the youth to have some influence on the Party since the work of both organisations is coordinated while simultaneously recognizing the Party’s supremacy.
In essence, our criticism of the RSM can be summarized in the following way:
- To the extent that the RSM recognizes itself as an intermediate organisation, it must reconstitute itself in order to more clearly outline its own understanding, its goals and objectives, and its relation to a revolutionary communist party.
- The reconstitution should aim at fulfilling the role of an intermediate organisation correctly and more efficiently:
§ propagating and defending the Party line in relation to student issues and youth issues more broadly.
§ Serving as a pre-cadre organisation which consciously works to train, educate and form communists that will go on to do mass work amongst the masses.
§ Coordinate and take charge of mass work among students and proletarian youth, whether fractional or through setting up mass organisations.
§ Be willing and organisationally capable of carrying out clandestine and semi-clandestine work in addition to legal work.
§ Serve as a link between the student and youth in general and the broader revolutionary movement and ensure that the leadership of the working class through the Communist Party is not challenged within its organisation.
We would like to nuance our criticism by adding that, despite our exclusive focus on the shortcomings of the RSM, we believe the PCR-RCP does share a part of the blame since it is not enough for the RSM to be willing to submit to the political leadership of the Party. We believe that part of the deviation in the RSM is also a result of a vacuum in the leadership of the Party in regard to the RSM. The Party must also be willing to fulfill its historic role and take on the responsibility of being the political leader of its generated organisations. We therefore urge the PRC-RCP to also reconsider and rectify its role as vanguard in action, to take the initiative and to openly engage in a dialogue with the RSM so as to rectify the organisations errors and deviations.
Comrades might be wondering how these changes can come about in reality. We do not hold the ultimate answer to this question. We believe it is up to the two organisations to hash this out, but we believe the Comintern and Mao offered good insights into what this might look like: the integration and coordination of both organisations at all levels, down from the local to the national, delegations of each organisation to each others’ congresses etc. Of course, this raises questions of clandestinely, secrecy, security that must be considered by the Party.
Finally, comrades might also be left wondering why we don’t simply advocate for the reconstitution of the RSM into a proper mass organisation, with a much lower level of political unity and with the goal of mobilizing the student and proletarian youth, which would also allow for a greater political autonomy of the organisation. We do not reject the need for mass organisations of students and youth. However, given that the communist party should by definition focus the brunt on its organisational and mass work specifically in the working class, the work that relates to students and youth not organised on the basis of their class position should be relegated to the youth organisation thereby ensuring that the political line of the communist party is spread and defended among the youths without requiring that the Party dedicate too much energy and capacity in doing it itself.
Furthermore, there is another simple reason which justifies the need for an intermediate organisation centered on the youth: The youth in general are the communists of tomorrow. It is therefore imperative that the Party has an intermediate organisation which would fulfill the role of forming communists as early as possible so as to integrate them as full cadres once the they are prepared to do so. To leave young communists at a mass-level and to integrate them too quickly into the Party, especially when the majority of their organizing experience is not specifically among the proletariat, can lead serious deviations such as the one the Party has experienced in the past few years (ie. Liquidationists, and the ‘Principally Maoists’).
Students and the youth in general are not a social class. They are at best a transitory social category. Students and youths organised not based on their social class but as youth cannot be, nor will they ever be, capable of assuming the political leadership of the movement. That role is reserved exclusively for the working class. Therefore, a youth organisation like the RSM cannot possibly exercise political autonomy since, as Marxists understand, political leadership is always exercised by a social class, and unless it submits to the political leadership of the working class, of the Communist Party, then it inevitably drifts towards the political leadership of the bourgeoisie. This however does not undermine in the least the importance of doing political work among the youth for obvious reasons, namely that they will be the proletariat and the communists of tomorrow. However, for the time being at least, they are not. As such, the role of the youth organisation should be foremost to train, educate and teach communism. As Lenin says:
It is the task of the Youth League to organize its practical activities in such a way that, by learning, organising, uniting and fighting, its members shall train both themselves and all those who look to it for leadership; it should train Communists. The entire purpose of training, educating and teaching the youth of today should be to imbue them with communist ethics. (The Task of the Youth Leagues)
Before any student or youth can advance communism, they must first learn communism. This of course is done through political work within the youth organisation, under the guidance of the Party. In our experience with the RSM, organising communist students inevitably attracts mostly students of petty-bourgeois background, who have an ideological affinity with communism or revolutionary politics in some shape or form. There is nothing wrong per se of organising petty-bourgeois students who like communism. There is something wrong if they have complete autonomy in determining the political line of the organisation. The intermediate organisation should serve as a training ground for these students to correct their ideological deviations, have a firmer grasp on what it means to be a communist, both in the theoretical and practical sense, and to be connected with the broader revolutionary movement. Only after some time and after proving themselves, the Party will then integrate them into full fledge cadre.
As a final comment, we would like to re-emphasize that we do not believe that intermediate organisations are somehow better than mass organisations. Intermediate organisations, just like mass organisations, are organisational models to be used by the Party to build revolution. As with everything in life, some tools are better suited for certain scenarios. We believe that in the context of the communist youth and students; the intermediate youth organisation is best suited in organising them on that basis.
In the case of the working class however, we would generally be against setting up intermediate organisations between the Party and the proletariat, namely because the role of organising and mobilizing the working class should be that of the Party exclusively. Furthermore, it is generally more difficult to mobilize a worker based on sympathy for communism. Generally, workers will only support communism after they’re convinced of the Party’s leadership trough mass work (i.e. Mass line). However, once a worker supports communism, they are generally much more prepared and suitable for direct membership to the Party. This also avoids unnecessary and superficial bureaucratic barriers between the Party and the proletariat. Finally, it is also a way for the Party to delegate the work that does not directly involve organizing the proletariat as a class for itself, allowing it to focus its efforts mainly in organizing within the proletariat on a class basis. For these reasons, we believe that intermediate organisations would not be suitable to that specific situation. We also think it wise to refrain from commenting on the suitability of intermediate organisations for organizing other social categories that are not social classes, such as women, oppressed nations etc. For now, we would limit ourselves to saying that the youth organisation is an intermediate organisation that is universally effective and necessary.