2006 - Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought are not the same
The Worker, #10, May 2006
Ajith CPI (ML) Naxalbari
Over the past decades, the Maoists have gained significant achievements through ideological struggle and revolutionary practice in establishing Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) as the commander and guide of world proletarian revolution. This is seen in two interrelated aspects. More than ever before, waging People’s War or actively preparing to launch it is now recognized as the central task of a Maoist party. In turn with this, the polarization within the broad Marxist-Leninist movement that emerged in the 1960s, between genuine communists and various trends of right opportunism, has also sharpened. Right opportunism, centrism and dogmato-revisionism are increasingly forced to reveal their counter-revolutionary essence.
The space for concealing this under the flag of Mao Tse-tung Thought is being steadily cut down. Earlier, right opportunist trends had tried to block the adoption of MLM by raising the bogey of Lin Piaoism and creating confusion over the era question. That has failed. Those who tried this have now been forced to show their true colors by deviating from MLM and the revolutionary road even more explicitly. Yet right opportunists have not given up. Some have now turned to accepting Maoism without making any decisive break from their past. For such people, MLM is nothing more than a convenient sail to pick up, now that their own ones are in tatters. It is a law of revolution that revisionism and other alien trends will adopt new forms with each advance of class struggle. Therefore, such an opportunist adoption of MLM is not surprising.
But Maoists certainly have the responsibility of countering such opportunist tactics. Unfortunately, a wrong understanding persisting within the Maoist ranks is becoming a hurdle in this struggle. It is also giving some room for such right opportunist tactics. What is this erroneous understanding? It is the thinking that MLM and Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought are one and the same. The change in terminology from Mao Tse-tung Thought to MLM is certainly a more precise and scientific explanation of Mao’s contributions. It is also necessary in order to draw a sharper line of demarcation from modern revisionism. But, if we fail to make it clear that MLM and Mao Tse-tung Thought are not the same, adopting MLM becomes merely a matter of change in terminology. Room is left for the new trend of right opportunism mentioned above. What is the source of this erroneous thinking?
It emerges from a formalist view of the whole issue. As explained in an earlier article, “It is true that a formal checklist comparing Mao Tse-tung Thought and Maoism will not reveal anything new. But that is hardly the point and we must be alert to avoid this trap of formalism held out by the opponents of Maoism. Mao Tse-tung Thought and Maoism are not the same. There is something new here. Something new of great ideological importance is achieved by adopting Maoism. And this newness is not so much in the word as such. It resides in the rupture from an incomplete or fractured understanding of the universality of Mao’s contributions taken as a whole and in the leap to a qualitatively higher, better, deeper grasp of our ideology. Evidently, any reasoning, which harps on emphasizing that nothing new is added, will fail to mobilize the whole Party and lead it in carrying out this rupture. The task of actualizing this grand potential for a vigorous ideological rectification, for achieving a better grasp of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, will be done in a partial manner Even worse, it will be left to spontaneity.”
The founder leaders of the new Marxist-Leninist parties founded in the 1960’s had made the adoption of Mao Tsetung Thought as the new, third and higher stage of Marxism-Leninism the cornerstone of the rupture from revisionism. They had applied this ideology to build revolutionary line and guide practice. All the Maoist parties existing today derive their origins from such leaps. But from there to the present adoption of MLM was not a straight line. We need not get into a detailed account of this whole process. But it is quite clear that this advance was achieved by struggling against tendencies, which worked against a firm grasp of the universality of Mao Tsetung’s contributions.
It is a struggle that remains to be completed. Let us examine a specific issue, the theory of People’s War. Even while Mao Tsetung Thought was upheld, for a long period, the dominant trend was to see this as something specific, relevant and applicable solely to the semi-feudal, semi-colonial countries. Shades of this continue to exist among Maoist parties, even today. Yet, the founder leaders of the new Marxist-Leninist parties in the 1960’s were quite clear about the universality of People’s War. The writings of Comrade Charu Mazumdar are an example. So how can we explain the emergence of the mistaken view that restricts People’s War to oppressed nations? This was a deviation. It was not challenged till the forceful presentation of Maoism as the new stage of Marxism-Leninism and the universality of People’s War by the PCP.
The Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) and its participant parties accept that “Mao Tsetung comprehensively developed the military science of the proletariat through his theory and practice of People’s War.” and that this is “… universally applicable in all countries, although this must be applied to the concrete conditions in each country…”. Evidently, this is one of the issues where “a still incomplete understanding” of the new stage attained through Mao’s contributions was rectified through the adoption of Maoism. But was this merely restating what was said in the 1960s? No, it reflected a deeper, fuller grasp. And it was based, at that time, on the lessons of the advanced experience gained through the People’s War in Peru, which in turn were guided by an advanced grasp of Mao’s contributions, and more specifically, the theory of People’s War. This grasp has been further enriched through the People’s War in Nepal, particularly in its integration of armed insurrection tactics, such as political intervention at the central level, with the protracted People’s War.
Today, to speak of accepting the universality of People’s War while refusing to recognize and take lessons from this advanced grasp is meaningless. To adopt Maoism and deny the contributions in understanding made by these People’s Wars would be an incomplete understanding of the universality of Maoism. Why does this happen? In the ’60s, Comrade Charu Mazumdar wrote, “… today, when we have got the brilliant Thought of Chairman Mao Tsetung, the highest stage of the development of Marxism-Leninism, to guide us, it is imperative for us to judge everything anew in the light of Mao Tsetung Thought and build a completely new road along which to press ahead.”5
The adoption of Maoism calls exactly for this sort of ‘judging and building anew’. It demands a fresh look at the whole question of ideology and its development in general and of Mao Tsetung’s contributions in particular. To do this in a meaningful and comprehensive manner it must be linked to a thorough evaluation of the party’s line and practice. And it must learn from the fresh, advanced, experiences of the international proletariat. For some parties it will be a matter of carrying out a decisive break from basic deviations and regaining the revolutionary road. For others, already in revolutionary practice, it will be a matter of rectifying specific issues. What is common is the task of ideological-political rectification. This is the essential point in ‘judging and building anew’. It is missed when Maoism and Mao Tse-tung Thought are declared the same and the issue is reduced to one of adopting a better expression.
The adoption of Mao Tse-tung Thought in the 60’s was a matter of rupturing from revisionism and building a new party on fresh foundations. When that has already been done, when the rupture from revisionism was further consolidated and sharpened through decades of revolutionary armed struggle, does the adoption of Maoism again call for ideological-political rectification? The experiences of the international communist movement and in India give a clear reply to this.
Persistence on the path of People’s War certainly provides a powerful basis for identifying and rectifying mistakes. But whether this rectification is done at the very roots in a comprehensive manner or whether it is limited to correcting certain positions, is not something guaranteed by revolutionary armed struggle alone. It cannot be verified by immediate practice also because the outcome of this difference in approach will be revealed only in the long run. This is principally a matter of being firm and persistent in ideological struggle. It is a matter of fully applying ‘line is principal’. It is a matter of steeling the party and the masses in the decisiveness of this Maoist teaching for now and for the protracted revolution all the way up till communism.
Moreover, even if the adoption of Maoism is only seen as a better expression sharpening the demarcation with revisionism, doesn’t this also call for ideological-political rectification? “Fight self, repudiate revisionism” was an important call of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Modern revisionism within the broad Marxist-Leninist movement tries to spread its poison by presenting a distorted or fractured vision of the teachings of Mao Tsetung. To repudiate and destroy this, Maoists must sharpen their own ideological grasp, particularly their grasp of the universality of Maoism. Both these tasks are inseparably linked. If our own ideological sharpening, rectification, is kept aside under the plea that we have been Maoists all along, then the fight against modern revisionism will be weakened.
To quote from a PCP document, “…it is vital and urgent to analyze Maoism again, aiming to define more and better its content and meaning, guided by the judgment that to hoist, defend and apply Maoism is the essence of the struggle between Marxism and revisionism in the present.” Earlier we mentioned that taking a fresh look at our ideology also involves learning from the fresh, advanced, experiences of the international proletariat. How do we judge whether it is advanced or not? Verification in practice is no doubt the criterion. But how this is understood has become an important issue in the struggle over whether or not the experiences of the People’s Wars in Nepal and Peru represent an advanced grasp.
Judging this mainly in terms of immediate advance or setback or of the level of armed struggle and repression would be a wrong application of the practice criterion. Similarly, to minimize these lessons as those of small countries with weak states and so on is also wrong. In both these views, ideology is glaringly missing. Without it, the criterion of practice gets reduced to empiricism. The dialectic of universality and particularity is broken. One important lesson of the struggle to establish MLM was a deeper grasp of Mao’s observation that, in the development of proletarian ideology, “The basis is social science, class struggle”. Backed by rich experiences of revolutionary class struggle, ideology can develop. New, deeper, advanced grasp of existing theories can emerge. New concepts can be developed. Whether this is so, must be judged principally on the basis of MLM. No doubt, the lessons of a particular revolution cannot be mechanically applied elsewhere.
But that is true of MLM itself. If the lessons of a particular revolution stand the test of MLM, if they show a new way of knowing and doing, then those lessons must necessarily be upheld and applied. And that too is a test of a party’s adoption of MLM. What is lost by turning away from a conscious grappling with this advanced grasp? To give a specific example, a couple of years back, the undivided CC of the CPI (ML) Janasakthi had come out with a review document. This document identified the reason for the setbacks they faced as the failure to take up tactical counteroffensives. What is instructive for us is the fact that this ‘rectification’ could be put forward without any rapture whatsoever from the ‘phase theory’ of CP Reddy line (a variation of the Nagi Reddy line). In fact, the whole document itself was an eclectic effort to combine two into one?the right opportunism of CP Reddy with Charu Mazumdar.
But why is it instructive? The prominent trend within the Maoist critique of the ‘phase theory’ has always targeted the failure of the Janasakthi to take up armed struggle against the state. This was also projected as the crux of ‘phase theory’. It was contrasted to the growth of the revolutionary movement led by Maoists who persisted in armed struggle and raised it to the level of a Peoples’ War against the state. This comparison made in the context of the experiences in India is certainly useful in exposing this anti-Maoist theory. But this singular emphasis on one form of manifestation of the ‘phase theory’ was also a distraction from probing further and pin-pointing its negation of the dynamism of war, which is the real essence. It weakened the criticism against ‘phase theory’. It allowed room for such manoeuvres like the one made by the Janasakthi leadership to pass off as rectification.
One reason for this was the failure to examine the whole issue from the vantage point of insights from new, advanced grasp and experiences of People’s War, instead of being limited to the experience in India. In the particular instance of the Janasakthi, a group of comrades who seriously tried to review their past from precisely this vantage point succeeded in achieving rapture, unlike other sections that still flounder at various depths of the Nagi Reddy morass. This led these comrades to arrive at the firm position that correct grasp of Maoism, more than just adopting it, is the key question in the unification of the Maoists in India into a single party, into a party based on MLM and united with the RIM. Today, when right opportunism pays lip service to MLM in order to hitch on to the ongoing unification process of genuine Maoists, this development is of great significance. It once again stresses the vital importance of deepening our grasp of MLM, particularly Maoism, and struggling against views that blur the distinct leap achieved through adopting Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in the place of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought.
Contributed by CPI(M-L)Naxalbari
Notes“It is well known that when you do anything, unless you understand its actual circumstances, its nature and its relations to other things, you will not know the laws governing it, or know how to do it, or be able to do it well.” — Mao Tsetung, Problems of Strategy in China’s Revolutionary War, SW-1
- See: ‘The Fight to Establish Marxism-Leninism-Maoism’ in NAXALBARI No: 2.
- In India, the CPI (ML) Red Flag is a sharp example. In its recent split one charge raised by a faction was about the other ‘deviating’ from their common position of purging Maoist positions, such as 2 line struggle, from their line!
- ‘The Fight to Establish Marxism-Leninism-Maoism’, NAXALBARI; No:2.
- ‘Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism’, 1998 Edition, page 59. (this is the 1993 document of RIM and not the one mentioned by Ajith.)
- ‘Maoism. On Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.’, from ‘CPP and Mao Tsetung’, 1987, emphasis added.
- ‘Talks on Philosophy’.
- ‘First economic struggle, then armed resistance to defend economic gains and then armed struggle for political power’, this is the perspective of this anti-Maoist theory. For criticism of the ‘phase theory’, see ‘Repudiation of the CRC, CPI (ML)’s Views on Military Line’, Spring Thunder, No: I (republished in ‘A World to Win’, No: 26).