– Some comments by a militant
In the tumult of events surrounding the G20 Summit, a certain segment of what is generally referred to as the “far left” found itself denouncing the Black Blocs and other masked militants who carried out apparently illegal acts. Some went so far as to claim that the various actions against the bourgeoisie and its state were carried out by agent provocateurs, even that they were planned by the police itself. One could read this kind of analysis from the pen of Trotskyist authors. The leader of the “Communist Party of Canada,” Miguel Figueroa, took his stand against the Black Block, too, calling for a public denunciation of “anarchists.”
There is certainly nothing surprising about Trotskyists and revisionists accusing militants who take action of being agent provocateurs. Certainly, people who belong or dream of belonging to bourgeioisified trade unions or community groups, are very afraid of seeing the masses act without restraint. Trotskyists and revisionists have always been afraid of revolution. For these cowards, it is better to have some sort of “united front” including people who collaborate openly with the class enemy than a true fighting front made up of revolutionary and truly democratic forces. The fact that so many of their members get jobs in trade unions and community groups certainly doesn’t hurt these groups’ budgets. Being too revolutionary can hurt your job security!
Regardless of what motivates the revisionists and Trotskyists, the important thing to understand is that their political evaluation of the Toronto events is absolutely worthless. I.e., that the police provoked illegal actions in order to justify 1,100 arrests! Would they have put some of their own members in physical danger, simply in order to justify repression? It is certainly possible that the police command made some tactical errors and that the protesters who wanted to go towards the fence took advantage of this. The police objective was to protect the perimeter around the Summit site. They adopted a strategy of deterrence, which amongst other things affected the behaviour of certain protesters.
The protesters’ stated goal was to attack the fence. This action was about attacking a symbol of power, oppression and exploitation. If the police stopped them, then there were other targets – perhaps less significant, but still symbolic – and a segment of the protesters took them by force. The heavy deterrent force employed by the police was not enough to prevent this legitimate expression of those protesters who attacked other targets – mainly police vehicles, media vans, and big chain stores. Small businesses were not attacked, citizens were not hurt, there was no looting. In point of fact, there has been more carnage at certain Stanley Cup riots in Montreal. In 2008, when the Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins, there were 11 police cars that went up in flames.
It is easy to claim that an attack against the fence would have been more meaningful and would have enjoyed greater public support. The political meaning would have appeared more direct and obvious to the masses. We can’t know for sure. What we do know for sure is that the police and the public authorities understood these to be attacks against their power. They understood that this was a political action. No Stanley Cup riot was ever followed by 1,100 arrests!
The police also understood that it was a section of the masses that was rising up. Despite all the intimidation, the radical wing of the protesters carried out “illegal” acts. After the protests had ended, Torontonians who were not a part of any activist networks headed towards the downtown area, partly out of curiosity and partly to join the “party.” Here too, it was a matter of a section of the masses.
If the public authorities and police recognized that a section of the masses was acting politically, then revolutionaries have a duty to defend the political aspect of this action. The savage repression can be explained by the fact that the bourgeoisie suffered a political defeat that afternoon. The Canadian bourgeoisie wanted to show that it allowed “free” demonstrations (because they were orderly and did not bother anyone); it wanted to show that it was a democracy. The whole world saw that a section of the Canadian population was angry enough to defy bourgeois power. The whole world also saw that the Canadian bourgeoisie can be very hard on its opponents. The repression was clearly disproportionate; in fact, the left-wing of the bourgeoisie has even tried to distance itself from the police “excesses.”
As for our Trotskysists and revisionists, it is the excesses of the masses that they have distanced themselves from, by tying them to the police (a conspiracy). These people have never really believed in revolutionary action carried out by the masses. They subscribe to the theory of the innate brilliance of the ruling classes, which the Chinese Maoists denounced during the Cultural Revolution. According to this theory, the masses are too stupid to think for themselves and so they will always be manipulated by one section or another of the ruling class. The vanguard can only emerge from within the ruling class, which will bring revolutionary culture to the ignorant masses.
In fact, for Maoists, in order to be a vanguard, the most important thing is to be able to synthesize the correct ideas of the masses. One must therefore be tied to the masses’ direct revolutionary experiences. At the same time, a correct synthesis must be made with the masses’ indirect experiences, i.e., what is occurring in other countries or what has happened in the past. To do this, it is clear that the vanguard should have a revolutionary culture. On the other hand, if it is not tied to the masses and does not participate in their revolutionary actions, it is in no way a vanguard; without ties to the masses, it is just a petit bourgeois group which takes itself to be an enlightened elite, full of contempt for the people. The vanguard must take action. A revolutionary must also do so.
Accusing the revolutionary masses of being agent provocateurs is a dishonest ploy to cover up one’s own refusal to play a vanguard role. It amounts to situating oneself as an elite that hopes to replace the current elite. One denies the role of the masses, their political positions. One denies their capacity to transform society. One denies the possibility that they can make mistakes or score successes, just as one refuses to admit that the bourgeoisie and its authorities can also make mistakes. The elite is supposedly all-knowing and all-powerful; the only logical response is to hope to join it, as the masses are supposedly stupid and easily manipulated. This is what the Trotskyists and revisionists are: wannabe bourgeois full of contempt for the masses.
In fact, we don’t expect any better from these cretins. Their role in history has always been to sow confusion and to turn the masses away from revolution. What’s sadder is to see honest militants adopting this conspiracy theory. On the website of the newspaper Basics, we see the article “LET IT BURN: Police complicity in Saturday destruction,” which implies that the police provoked the property damage. In another article, “BASICS Statement on G8/G20 and TCMN”, the newspaper editors reaffirm their disagreement with the Black Bloc’s tactics, while not going so far as to accuse them of being agent provocateurs. Nevertheless, not recognizing the political dimension of the protesters’ attacks on bourgeois targets helps maintain the dominant discourse that differentiates between “good” and “bad” protesters.
In his “Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan,” Mao adopted a very different approach. He did not set out with the idea of pedantically teaching revolution to the supposedly backward peasant masses. On the contrary, he learned from them. Instead of starting with his mind made up about the correct level of revolutionary action for the masses, he was inspired by their acts, including those that could appear excessive (see below).
When we speak of a mass line, we are talking about accompanying the masses in their revolutionary actions. Revolutionary action necessarily calls into question power and class relations in a specific geographic area. Certain trade union strikes and actions by grassroots groups can become revolutionary actions, if they call into question power and provide an opportunity to organize the people’s camp. Otherwise, they remain mere negotiations between different parts of the system. When the work of trade unions or community groups does not go beyond the economistic level, it does not constitute a revolutionary mass line.
In English Canada, the revolutionary aspect of communist ideology has been discredited by the Trotskyists and revisionists. It is therefore imperative that we work to connect communism and revolution. At the moment, proletarians who are interested in revolution see communists as people who run in elections and get hardly any votes, or “pests” who just sell their newspapers that do nothing to bring about the revolution. The proletariat is not really interested in debates on the evils of Stalin, or the quarrels between different Trotskyist sects.
Maoists working in English Canada should distance themselves from this kind of boring and opportunist activity. Simply distributing a mass newspaper, even if it puts forward ideas that are occasionally correct, is totally insufficient. Trotskyist and revisionist contamination has completely tamed the so-called far left. Wild wolves who allow themselves to be trained become calm little dogs in just a few generations.
There exists a potential to revolt amongst the people in English Canada. Amongst the thousands of workers who lost their jobs in 2008 and 2009, many are angry at the capitalists and the governments who work for them. They’re not interested in little discussion groups that never do anything! This lack of interest is in no way a sign of political backwardness. On the contrary, if those who claim to be the vanguard aren’t, it is because they fail to establish any real connection to the masses who are interested in revolutionary action. The latter scored a victory in Toronto, but most of those who claim to be “communists” spat on them. Such a defeatist attitude will certainly not inspire proletarians to organize for revolution.
To convince the masses in English Canada that communism and revolution go together will require a broad campaign of ideological decontamination to wipe out Trotskyist and revisionist ideology. Maoists in English Canada should take on this operation. While it is certainly true that the surrounding ideological scene is infectious, in deepening the ideological struggle it will be possible to free it from its opportunist tendencies. The battle of Toronto and the subsequent debates have proven once and for all that right-wing opportunism remains the principal threat facing the communist movement.
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The Question of “Going Too Far”
Supreme in authority, the peasant association allows the landlord no say and sweeps away his prestige. This amounts to striking the landlord down to the dust and keeping him there… People swarm into the houses of local tyrants and evil gentry who are against the peasant association, slaughter their pigs and consume their grain. They even loll for a minute or two on the ivory-inlaid beds belonging to the young ladies in the households of the local tyrants and evil gentry. At the slightest provocation they make arrests, crown the arrested with tall paper hats, and parade them through the villages, saying, “You dirty landlords, now you know who we are!” Doing whatever they like and turning everything upside down, they have created a kind of terror in the countryside. This is what some people call “going too far,” or “exceeding the proper limits in righting a wrong,” or “really too much.” Such talk may seem plausible, but in fact it is wrong. First, the local tyrants, evil gentry and lawless landlords have themselves driven the peasants to this. For ages they have used their power to tyrannize over the peasants and trample them underfoot; that is why the peasants have reacted so strongly. The most violent revolts and the most serious disorders have invariably occurred in places where the local tyrants, evil gentry and lawless landlords perpetrated the worst outrages. The peasants are clear-sighted… Secondly, a revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another… Proper limits have to be exceeded in order to right a wrong, or else the wrong cannot be righted. Those who talk about the peasants “going too far” seem at first sight to be different from those who say “It’s terrible!” as mentioned earlier, but in essence they proceed from the same standpoint and likewise voice a landlord theory that upholds the interests of the privileged classes. Since this theory impedes the rise of the peasant movement and so disrupts the revolution, we must firmly oppose it.