2004 - The experience of practice of Maoism in Bangladesh

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The experience of practice of Maoism in Bangladesh and problems of defending & developing Maoism. Anwar Kabir Secretary, Central Committee, Proletarian Party of Purbo Bangla (PBSP/Bangladesh)

[This article was originally written in Bangla. The following translation is not so much fine. Any way, readers will find the basic understanding from this translation –author.]

The Maoist movement in Bangladesh – like many other countries of the world -- got initiated in the last part of 60's of the last century. This movement emerged through rebellion against the domestic collaborators of Khruschevite revisionism by being influenced by the GPCR of China led by Mao Tse Tung. However, from the very beginning the Maoist movement of this country was numerously splitted. Established by martyred comrade Siraj Sikder our party was an important stream of this movement. Apart from our party, several other important streams were also active from the very beginning. These streams developed later along their own track – as our party also did. Still now, the Maoist movement of our country could not overcome that tendency of slittism. Therefore, the experience of our party in applying Maoism in Bangladesh is partial in the overall context of the movement. The task of considering Maoist movement of this country as a whole has started for a short time. Our party is actively participating in this process. But the synthesis of that process has not been completed. That is why, it is possible on our part to scrutinize mainly our party’s own experiences only -- although we will try to include other teachings of the whole movement in this article as far as it is possible.

  • The history of the Maoist movement of Bangladesh can be divided into three main phases. It’s first phase is the period of high tide of world revolution in the 60's/70's. Maoist movement took its root in this country, and we can say, communist-led first independent revolutionary movement developed in this country during this time. The second phase started after the setback of this revolutionary upsurge, especially after Mao's death in `76, at the time of worldwide total setback of the communist movement. That phase continued to exist till the end of the last century. And the third phase has started from the end of the last century or from the beginning of the current century. Though all the phases can be divided into several sub-phases, it would be better to divide the whole history of the Maoist movement into above-mentioned three main phases in the case of defending Maoism & its realization and development.

In applying Maoism the above-mentioned first phase is the period of accepting Maoism as the ideological basis and the period of initiating a new chapter of communist movement & genuine revolutionary struggle on the basis of Maoism. The main problem during this phase was to accept Mao Tse tung Thought viz., the problem to accept this as the third stage of our internationalist proletarian ideology. Apart from genuine Maoists, many progressive lefts, however, had upheld Mao in that high tidal period, many had said about Mao Thought also, but they hadn't accepted Mao

Tse Tung Thought as the third stage of ideology. This section very soon one after another started to expose themselves as anti-Mao Thought. Even there was huge inequality & weakness of realization among those also, who had accepted Mao Thought as third stage. Therefore, fundamental problem was the problem of accepting Maoism as the third stage of ideology. This was the most main problem in defending & applying MLM during the first phase.

The problem of creative application of MLM was associated with this very matter. On this point, great Lenin long before had mentioned that, Marxism is not a dogma, but a guide action. Mao had deepened this theory by his contribution in philosophy -- in his discussions on particularity of contradiction and epistemology. When we apply the particularity of contradiction in social revolution, we see that, society of each country is different to those of others and every society changes as time passes, although there is basic identity among the societies in a particular historic epoch. So, debate erupted in Maoist movement in our country from the very beginning over the creative application of MLM in the society of Bangladesh. From the very initiation there was a dogmatist trend & deviation in domestic Maoist Movement of bringing exactly the same line as China and India by saying that our society is similar to those countries. This was manifesting itself in political & military lines. Comrade Siraj Sikder fought against that deviation.

But we notice opposite type of deviation in com. Siraj Sikder while he was struggling against the above-mentioned dogmatism and creatively applying MLM. It brought nationalist deviation in his political line what was related to the weaknesses in deep realization of the basic principles of MLM .

So, in the first phase, our Maoist movement could not be freed from both the problems -- on the one hand dogmatism; and empiricism & pragmatism on the other. As a consequence of that, revolution failed – during this phase -- to advance forward towards the successful end despite glorious struggle. In this time, weaknesses remained in realizing and mastering Maoism in a better way. In spite of the effort of accepting & applying Mao's theory of New Democracy & PW, and his philosophical contribution of pre-Chinese revolution period, actually the qualitative & comprehensive development made by Mao during the GPCR was not mastered so much profoundly. Even the question of agrarian revolution in New Democracy couldn't be grasped firmly because of the tendency of nationalist deviation amidst one section, and reformist & economist deviation among others who concentrated on annihilation . At the same time peasant question was taken by some other sections not being ruptured from old economism & reformism.

Similarly there was wide weakness on the question of PW. The armed form of struggle was more emphasized than the ideological-political nature & significance of Peoples War. Taking area-wise seizure of power, ie. establishing Base-Area at the centre, and armed struggle as principal, peoples war was not waged as a broad mass-political activities including mass line, mass base, mass struggle, mass organisation etc. and one-sided stress was given on guerilla struggle. On the other hand, through spontaneous activities, armed economist or reformist deviation occurred in new form -- which weakened revolutionary politics. On the one hand, in excuse of concrete reality and speaking of mass insurrection/countrywide expansion, the significance of Base Area in PW was not correctly understood and grasped. On the other hand, serious localist activities developed in the name of area-wise seizure of power, which ocurred spontaneously instead of concentrating in strategic regions with the aim of establishing Base Area.

That is why, we see, during this primary period of accepting Maoism, our movement deviated on some fundamental questions of basic principles of MLM in the name of concrete analysis of concrete situation, or in dogmatist form. Moreover, because of failure of realizing & mastering Maosim in a better way from the highest stage of GPCR, weakness & deviation erupted in fundamental questions including philosophical outlook, party building, class line, mass line, front & methodology. That brought failure in developing an advance Maoist party and revolution.

  • In '76, after the death of Mao, the Teng-Hua clique in China, after capturing power degenerated Chinese party to revisionism. On the other side, Hoxa of Albania waged an all out attack on Maoism in excuse of taking the side of Stalin. In the mean time, setback & ebb came in the worldwide mass upsurge of 60's-70's what took completeness by the above mentioned facts. The Maoist movement fell in a total setback worldwide. The movement of Bangladesh was not free from that too. In reality, in the first phase Maoist revolutionary upsurge in this country got total setback in the 1st half of '75. During the period of new ideological Great Debate, after '76, massive opostasy, degeneration, confusion & frustration covered the country. In face of all types of reactionary, revisionist & opportunist attack, the question of defending Maoism became principal . The main form of which became the question of supporting, taking side & defending the previous Maoist movement & revolutionary struggle. A section of earstwhile Maoists supported Teng-ism against GPCR and imposed the revisionist three world theory on Mao. On the other side, in the excuse of opposing three world theory & Teng-ism, another big portion attacked upon Mao & GPCR. The general targets of attack of both the sides were PPW, GPCR & Maoism. In that critical juncture, a few number of Maoist revolutionaries of our country stood in favour of the theory of PPW & previous armed revolutionary struggle. In the international ideological great polemics, they upheld GPCR & Maoism against Teng-ism & Hoxaism. In that time in course of polarization of genuine Maoist revolutionaries in the international arena, the big part of Maoist movement of our country including our party got united in RIM. That played a great positive role in defending Maoism in national field.

Today while going back to review the 2nd phase history, we see that, higher realization on the teachings of GPCR than the first phase made the Maoists able to defend Maoism. In fact, the struggle to defend Maoism created the necessity of deepening this realization and this line-struggle itself pushed that forward. During this time, Maoists continued to master the contribution of Mao on philosophy (dialectics), socialism (continuing revolution under the proletarian dictatorship), party( development through 2LS) etc deeply. But no qualitative development occurred except some important reforms in previous line on PW. Even on the three above-mentioned questions too, weakness remained in realization & application of Maoism. All these development & weakness -- both were manifested in 80's & 90's in the newer upsurge of Maoist movement of this country. That defended Maoism, defended the Maoist revolutionary heritage of 1st phase, made line development of that and made new revolutionary upsurges too. But this upsurge again fell in setback after going ahead some distance.

In this phase, in defending Maoist movement, very important thing was on the one hand defending revolutionary line, and developing that on the other. When after the defeat of 1st phase, the main task was to fight back the liquidation of rejecting Maoism, at that time a puritan trend regarding 1st phase emerged as a strong trend in Maoist movement. It went on saying that our line was correct, so there is no question on that; struggle has got setback because of enemy repression, absence of leadership or betray or deviation/weakness of application. That trend continued to raise 1st phase-line as the same level or near-about form of ideology. That thinking manifested itself in the name of teachings of SS or teachings of CM. In that situation, the revolutionary Maoist movement had to on the one hand defend the revolutionary contribution of SS/CM/1st phase, and on the other hand, had to take up the task of overcoming the incompleteness/weakness/deviation. But the above mentioned puritan-line remained & still exist as a strong trend in our Maoist movement. This has widely lagged behind ideologically & politically in a futile attempt to repeat the old defeated-revolution, or became Maoism of mere words in a dogmatic way -- being isolated from revolution. However, as the advancing trend had developed revolutionary line through sum up 1st phase, movement got re-newed motion; and the line had raised to a new higher level. Though, further later, after the defeating-end of this 2nd phase, we can say today that the above-mentioned sum up could not rupture from past line and as a result had created some new weakness also. Consequently, development of a comparative correct line that is able to make revolution in this country remained incomplete. And besides the frustration, confusion, degeneration, betray that resulted from re-setback of revolution, massive split also developed in Maoist movement. Maoist movement of this country has entered to the new century with this situation -- when the question of higher realization of MLM, question of learning politely and creatively from the advance international experiences & ideas, and the question of developing the line to a new higher level has been resolutely raised. On that basis reorganising Maoist movement and revolutionary struggle is essential. In this way, Movement has entered to the 3rd phase.

The ongoing phase, in fact, has started from the beginning of the last decade of last century, when our party began to rupture from the past in the case of specific line of people's war (PW) of this country, and adopt the formulation of Maoism -- although still there was weakness in case of higher realization of Maoism & there was also some backward conception of mere formulation-change in case of adopting Maoism instead of Mao-Thought. This phase has become more clear at the end of last century and beginning of this century. So, the time is not yet ripe to take final evaluation of this phase. But, some new experiences on the part of our party can be mentioned here in case of defending MLM.

In past also, one stream was present which upheld the past teachings & experiences (among which exist some serious negative aspects also) of application of MLM in this country as like the ideology of the party. This is now appearing in new form. This not only hindered the summation of our movement on the basis of MLM, but weakens MLM too. Even it brings nationalist conception – though not consciously.

The deviation of giving one sided emphasis only on armed form in revolutionary struggle in past Maoist movement of our country is now expressing itself in some theoretical line which roughly subordinate MLM to armed struggle (AS) or PW. That is, it considers armed struggle as the only criteria for MLM-ist. In this way, it weakens MLM seriously.

Historical weakness of Maoist Movement of this country on Base-Area question is now expressing in different form from some of the groupings. Wrong realization of correct policy of coordinating insurrection with protracted people's war (PPW) is weakening the fundamental line of area-wise seizure of power. In this case also, the question of defending MLM is expressing through supporting of the Maoist theory of PPW.

Another stream also exists which weakens the task of developing the specific line suitable for this country, in the name of taking the side of the general truths of MLM & international experiences, and which negates the practical revolutionary struggle for the creative application of those, ie. fusion of those with the domestic situation. This lower-down the struggle of defending MLM to a petty-bourgeoise intellectual theory-discussion matter.

Besides these – another stream also exists which supports Maoism in one hand & on the other hand, carry on the old economist-reformist deviation. It still has not understood the task of initiating PW as soon as possible in countries like ours as a strategic question.

For defending Maoism, it is now important to struggle with the above-mentioned deviations side by side fighting the revisionist streams, which are now weak theoretically, and in subjective strength, in this country and are broadly exposed through their tailing behind the bourgeoisies.

  • In defending & applying Maoism viz. in developing revolutionary line in MLM-ist movement of this country in the previous time, some of our summations can be done in the following way 

When we speak of defending MLM, at that time the first important thing is its correct realization. Because without realization its application is not possible. Speaking of accepting MLM and being MLM-ist is not the same, what can be seen very often.

But this realization again is related to its application. The meaning of which is that realization of the doctrine can only be deepened through revolutionary practice and it becomes possible to defend it also. MLM is at first science of revolution, and as Mao said, we can achieve the idea about the taste of pear by only eating that, i.e., we can achieve actual knowledge about MLM the doctrine of revolution, only by making revolution. Thus it can be defended.

In the Maoist movement of Bangladesh, those who have played the vanguard role in the revolutionary practice of the application of Maoism, have played vanguard role in its realization & defense. Without waging revolutionary practice, without connecting theory with this, and without incorporating with its necessity, realization & defense of MLM can't be done.

But in relation with this, a mechanical & one sided idea, tendency, deviation & stream exists historically in the revolutionary Maoist movement of this country, what is still strong. We have line, and the only problem is in its application -- such type of vulgure pragmatism actually discards the dynamism of line. As a result, that makes defence of MLM difficult by making hindrance to the development of line. The development of line is sum up of experiences & synthesize. This brings in the importance of theoretical work. That is why, the importance of theoretical work in defending Maoism is vital, what has widely been neglected in different trends in Maoist movement in this country. Weaknesses in developing lines by summing up own revolutionary experiences, learning from international experiences and deepening theoretical study & research are related to the above-mentioned problem.

Application of MLM is creative, not mechanical or dogmatist. It has been mentioned before that, societies of different countries of the world are of different specificities -- their history, heritage, socio-economic condition, culture & geography are different. Time continuously flows, and each of the societies is also regularly changing with the passing of time. Therefore, universal general doctrine of MLM can be applied in different countries only creatively. In this way, as Mao says, MLM takes particular shape through revolutionary application in different countries that manifest itself in specific program, strategy & tactics etc. of revolution of each country.

Like other countries, in Maoist movement of Bangladesh, dogmatism has caused big damage to MLM. The effort to defend MLM in dogmatist way fails to do that. This trend does not incorporate theory with the particularity of revolutionary practice. As a result, general discussion of theory/MLM becomes isolated from reality which do not resolve the specific debate, and never makes any higher synthesis. In this way it fails to develop line.

But, the creative application of MLM, of course, is complex & arduous. That makes the risk of deviation from the principles of MLM also, which again always exists as a fundamental problem in struggle of defending MLM.

So, we see, defense of MLM is connected to the correct realization of MLM; and the realization of MLM is connected to its creative application. Defense of MLM, and its creative application is a contradiction. Its correct handling is very much important for defense & development of MLM. MLM can’t be defended in dogmatist & mechanical way; again creative application of MLM can't occur by being derailed from the basic principles of MLM. This is why, in order to defend & apply MLM, it is very much important to know & take the side of its basic principles, connecting these theories to revolutionary practice and making creative development of that through concrete analysis of the concrete reality.

By coming at this point, the problem arises that what do we mean by principles of MLM, deviation from which means deviation from MLM? And what do we mean by creative application & development of that? The debate between these two is endless, which can be resolved only through the development of world revolution and reaching to communism. Here, from our experiences,we can put forward in short some of our ideas on making development of MLM.

  • MLM is science, that is, science of revolution, which is developing like all other sciences. Actually, without developing, MLM cannot maintain its living character as science of revolution. For this very reason, once Marxism had developed to ML, and later to MLM. This is why, as Maoist, what we should recognize is that MLM compels to develop in course of & for the sake of world revolution firstly through resolving newer problems of world revolution ; secondly by summing up the limitations, weakness & deviations of past proletarian revolutions. These two are again inter-related problems.

But the main problem of defending MLM is the problem of its proper realization & correct application, not the problem of development of it, although their relation is dialectical. We do not make revolution to develop MLM, rather MLM develop through revolution. That means, we do not first develop MLM, then make revolution; rather start revolution on the basis of MLM and MLM develops for the sake of revolution through carrying it forward. Of course, this development of MLM does not occur spontaneously or automatically. It has to be made through summation & synthesis of experiences of revolution in course of arduous thinking, research & debate. But what is especially important is that, only the application of MLM for resolving the problems of revolution, can make develop that. Because when we speak of the development of MLM, we say about no other thing but MLM.

But it has been discussed before, and the experience of Maoist revolutionary movement of our country is that, without development the revolutionary line can't be defended. Defense & development is a contradiction. Correct handling of it determines whether correct development of line will occur & through it revolution will be defended; or in the name of development, deviation from revolution will occur & at last revolution will fail. The same is applicable to the universal ideology of MLM. Only the development of MLM can defend MLM. But the resolution of the question is important of how can that development occur and how will we look at that. Problem of development and problem of deviation from principle are often confusal.

What is the subject matter of principles of MLM? This is a wide & complex subject, and always is an fertile arena of hot debate. In spite of that, the fundamental basics are important which are the sources of all principles. MLM is the science of proletarian revolution, philosophy of which is dialectical materialism. Therefore, the irrefutable basic principle of MLM is to work for establishing classless society communism worldwide. Proletarian revolution is a world revolution; proletarian class is an international class whose interest is identical worldwide ; therefore in ideology, politics & organism internationalism is the fundamental aspect of its ideology. And, as MLM is the science of revolution so that is established on the basis of the principle of violence viz., revolutionary dictatorship. But, the resolution of these basic principles is not at all simple. For more than long hundred & fifty years, Marxism has been developed through fighting against innumerable erroneous thinking, ideas, policy, tactics etc. which has been ultimately concentrated in theoretical struggle. Therefore, during this long period, the treasure of Marxism has been enriched by many important theories which has established the basic principles of MLM. This is why, to defend MLM means to support & take side of its fundamental theories and develop MLM on that basis.

But theory also is not eternal; many theories are not final and theory is of developing characteristics. Many apparently correct theories break down in course of times & situation. It becomes necessary to change it for the sake of its basic outlook. On the other side, incompleteness remains in basically correct theory, even sometimes some erroneous aspects lie in that. Therefore, new theories not only enrich the treasury of MLM, but sometimes raise basic theory to higher stage by negating old theory.

So, as Mao taught us, on development of MLM we must "pull down the lot from the head and set the machine in motion". Revolutionary Maoists must dare to think, have to be vanguard in waging research & debate by putting ahead the necessity of advancing proletarian revolution and resolving the problems of that. Revolutionary line, theory, doctrine is that which will advance international interest and world revolution of the proletariat for the sake of proletarian class. Its final solution is possible in the furnace of revolutionary practice, though primarily it is resolved through theoretical debate & struggle.

During the imperialist era, proletarian revolution is taking the domestic form. Therefore the task of developing MLM starts through carrying out revolution of particular country as a part of world revolution. But the concrete experience of concrete country and the internationalist ideology are not the same. There exists a contradiction here too. MLM is a doctrine & ideology of international character. This is why, it is very much important how the particular experiences develop this general ideology. Generalization from particular is a long coursed matter, which can proceed only through the complex process of synthesis & generalization.

On the other hand, MLM can't develop nationally, because that is international, and that can't develop domestically for a particular country until it develops as general theory of international sphere.. It is directly related to the internationalist character of our ideology.

The creative application of MLM in each successful revolution enrich the experience, knowledge & armoury of the international proletariat. But even it is so, there is no guarantee that general lessons of international significance will come. And if some lessons of international significance come, that obligatorily does not make development of our universal ideology. That means, the creative application of MLM in a particular country or some lessons of international significance erupted from that, and the development of MLM is not the same. Because, MLM is an universal proletarian ideology that is manifested in its theories. So, development of MLM means the development in these theories, what is of qualitative character. The role of such new theoretical contributions that enrich MLM, can be said quantitative development in the context of MLM. Because, in that case too, MLM immediately does not reach to new stage until as a whole that is raised to qualitatively new stage in all its three basic components.

  • After the setback of communist movement worldwide in '76, almost 30 years have passed when there is no socialist country in the world. After the total setback of revolutionary movement of 60's/70's various changes have occurred in world situation. Some of the most important things of those are -- collapse of Soviet-led imperialist bloc and emergence of US-led unipolar imperialist camp, massive penetration of imperialism in third world countries especially through "globalization", “liberalization" & "privatization", massive development & change in technology, communication and transport system including computer -- etc. All these have brought different new thinking in the rank of revolutionary Maoists in case of functioning of imperialism, socio-economic change of third world, strategy & tactics of revolution etc.

In the context of the problems of imperialist penetration, development of technology, change in classes & transformations in agriculture in our country, our party has specified our whole economy including agriculture as “imperialist depended distorted capitalism”, instead of 'semi-feudalism'. This has created wide debate in Maoist movement. This is true that, still we haven't been able to place this line-position on a good theoretical basis. But our party assume that important changes have occurred in principal contradiction ( contradiction between feudal land lord class & the peasants), class orientation in rural areas(especially feudal land lord class), & the central question of program (seizure of land of feudal land lords & distributing those lands to the tillers) – which were the classical Maoist lines. Though we think that the stage of revolution is New Democratic, rural area is the main arena, peasants is the main force, and 'land to the tillers” -- these should continue. Whatever the final conclusion on this question may be in our country & worldwide Maoist movement, strongly this position is being expressed in Maoist movement of this country that now existing situation is not like China of 40's or India of 60's; and we have to very much emphatically analyze imperialist penetration in the whole economy including agriculture and the transformations created by that (which is related with the functioning of imperialism world-wide), and we have to raise the Maoist line to a higher level in our country.

Likewise, on strategy, the discussions going on among the Maoists in our country is related to the research & debates in the international arena. Even in the 60's & 70's, com. CM & com. SS said about simultaneous armed struggle in rural and urban areas, and they applied that. Com. SS applied countrywide armed struggle & armed general strike and he strongly raised about armed insurrection. Of course in that period, and even till last part of last century in long period of Maoist struggle the question of Base Area has been neglected in this country, what in our opinion, acted as a big reason behind not developing a successful people's war. In spite of that, we assume simultaneous armed struggle in both rural & urban areas, countrywide people's war, intervention in national politics & tactical program, connecting insurrection with protracted people's war etc as very much important. In this case, we consider the experiences of PW of Nepal with very much importance. It is also our idea that, revolution can't be successfully carried forward in today's changed situation by taking & applying Chinese experience conservatively & traditionally, although we think that PPW and Rural Base should be continued firmly as strategy. But it needs development in the light of above-mentioned subjects. Moreover our party firmly thinks that, this development is related to imperialist penetration in 3rd world & as a result, new changes in socio-economic conditions – computer, technology etc. are several manifestations of that only. Although it is disputed whether the economy will be characterised as "semi feudal" or "imperialist depended distorted capitalism ".

Apart from the above mentioned discussed points, the fundamental question that is knocking the door of world proletariat is the question of proletarian dictatorship. Real possibility of victory of the proletarian revolution in Nepal has been created, which may again carry world proletariat into the experience of dictatorship of proletariat after a long period of time. In the last century, despite the great, glorious & huge advancement in the socialist states under the proletarian dictatorship, a few time have passed when immediate after the absence of especially main leadership, revolution defeated. The question of summing up this has been raised. What Mao had initiated during the GPCR, must be carried forward and developed. But this question of development is of MLM, of revolution, i.e. proletarian dictatorship and proletarian internationalism; nothing opposite.

  • Therefore, revolutionary Maoists must have to face these questions with free mind. Mao said, Marxism is wrangling-ism. As Maoists, we must have to be brave to carry debate on newer questions for the sake of proletarian world revolution. And, only in that course, line of revolution will develop, revolution will win & advance and development of our ideology will also occur. Certainly theoretical work will have to be advanced and development of theory will also occur. But that should be done by standing on fundamental theoretical base of Marxism; by preserving the valuable & historical teachings which were bought by huge sacrifice,labour & blood of revolution of one & half century. In the name of creative application or development of Marxism, its basic truth is often rejected, or deviation from that occurs what acts as the basis of rejection of revolution totally later on. Ennumerable times in the history of one hundred & fifty years of Marxism, it has been seen. Many times it has been seen in the history of Maoist movement of Bangladesh too, revolution has been rejected in the name of correcting error of line. On the other hand, revolution could not be defended without developing line. Rather, through dogmatism that became reformism or intellectual theory-discussion divorced from revolutionary practice, or even vulgar revisionism. This is why, the correct handling of this contradiction is very much important. And that only can be done by not in any way deviating from proletarian class interest & class character, proletarian internationalism, revolution viz., proletarian dictatorship and the final goal of world-wide communism. And, if deviation happens, it can be done by developing polite & brave, self-reviewing & self-critical spirit to rectify it as soon as possible.

World is changing constantly. Regular development & up-grading of theory is needed in accordance with that. That can be possible by taking part in revolutionary transformation of the world for the sake of world proletariat, by making Marxist summation of experiences and by taking that again in revolutionary practice. Only after numerous rotation in that course, knowledge about a concrete question can achieve completeness.

-- November, '04