2003 - The Fight to Establish Maoism
Ajith Naxalbari #02 (June 2003)
It is now more than 20 years since the Communist Party of Peru adopted Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) and almost 10 years since it was adopted by the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM). The initial decade was one of struggle and steady advance within the ranks of the RIM. Following the adoption of MLM by the RIM in 1993, the worldwide struggle to establish it acquired a powerful thrust. Since then, Maoist Parties engaged in People’s War, but outside the ranks of the RIM, have also adopted MLM. This has further sharpened the lines of ideological demarcation and strengthened the struggle to establish Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as the commander and guide of the world proletarian revolution. In a related development, the RIM was further strengthened when the Maoist Communist Centre [at present Maoist Communist Centre India (MCCI)], a party with a decades long history of waging People’s War, joined it. The adoption of MLM has further propelled its participant members to make leaps. The most significant among them was the historic initiation of the People’s War in Nepal by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN (M)] and its rapid advance. New leaps were also seen through the foundation of the Maoist Communist Party, Italy and the Communist Party of Iran (MLM) as well as in the successful 1st Congress of the Maoist Communist Party (of Turkey and North Kurdistan, earlier TKP [ML]), which has made significant progress in the line of the party. The advances made by our party in summing up the past, developing an outline perspective on the military line and tackling the tasks of completing preparations is also a direct product of the struggle to uphold, defend and apply Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, particularly Maoism.
MLM emerged through struggle and continues to advance through struggle against various rightist trends. In India, the CPI(ML) Red Flag (RF) tried to brand RIM’s position on MLM as Lin Piaoism. Unable to put up any substantial argument, it tried to confuse the issue by raising the false charge that RIM was defining Maoism as the Marxism-Leninism of the new era. The fact is that RIM’s document ‘Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism’ clearly states: “...Lenin described the era in which we live as the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution.” (A World To Win, No: 20, page 6, emphasis added.) This fraudulent attack of the RF was quite in keeping with the fraudulent tactics it employed to justify its slide to parliamentarianism. It will be useful to examine the ideological approach guiding these tactics.
The essence of the tactics employed by the RF consists in pitting the initial positions of the international communist movement (ICM) against its advanced grasp achieved later on. Thus the RF tried to hide its parliamentarist revisionism by taking refuge in one sentence of the 1963 General Line Proposal, which speaks about mastering all forms of struggle. (The explicit stand of this document on the necessity of waging armed struggle to seize political power was conveniently kept aside.) More importantly, the RF went on to reject the clarity achieved later on by the Maoist movement, when it firmly established the path of protracted People’s War (or the Chinese path) as the sole path of revolution in semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries. For the RF this was yet another Lin Piaoist sectarian deviation. What we see here is how revisionism handles the development of ideology. It studies the past not to shed light on the present ideological tasks, but to negate the advance of ideology. This approach often appears in various forms in the struggle to establish the new and it is worth paying attention to it.
The RF was well on its way to abandoning the revolutionary road when it tried to attack Maoism. But, significantly enough, we see a similarity between its conclusions and those of the Nepal Communist Party (Mashal) [NCP (Mashal)] or of the section, which was expelled from the MCCI in 2001. In both these cases the era question was sought to be used to obstruct the adoption of Maoism. The argument was that since the era had not changed there could not be any new ‘ism’, or overall development of ideology, after Leninism. One can speak of an overall development of proletarian ideology when it is developed in all the three components of philosophy, political economy and scientific socialism. But, as Mao pointed out, “The basis is social science, class struggle.” (Talks on Philosophy) That is, developments in all the three components have taken place through the continuing role of Marxism in guiding class struggle. If one keeps in mind the ups and downs and the advances made by the ICM since Lenin’s time, one would have no difficulty in grasping that this reality had thrown up the necessity of an overall ideological leap. This is what Mao Tsetung achieved.
Refuting the NCP (Mashal) the Committee of the RIM pointed out, “To maintain that Leninism covers all the contradictions of the era of imperialism and the building of socialism is to ignore the reality and replace it with some preconceived idea in one’s brain. It proceeds from formed definitions, not material developments, and as a result earthshaking events are treated as trivial and not requiring major effort to develop our understanding. This is subjective idealism, not Leninism.” (A World To Win, No: 20, pages 46-47.)
This qualification is equally applicable to the section expelled from the MCCI. They argued that, “As there are two stages of developments of capitalism, no third stage is there, so in case of Marxism there cannot be any third stage of its development.” (Quoted in the MCCI’s article “Take a Correct Position in the Debate on Maoism”, page 1.) In this case, the development of ideology is linked solely to economic stages!
Yet another common feature of both the NCP (Mashal) and this section is their so-called defense of Stalin. Both of them reject Mao’s criticisms on Stalin. They argue that his contributions are nothing more than a continuation of Stalin’s positions. Finally, both of them conclude that Mao’s contributions are only equal to Stalin’s. Thus, they have ended up negating their own previous position of considering Mao Tsetung Thought as a new stage! Or rather, they have only succeeded in exposing that their earlier adherence to Mao Tsetung Thought was really covering up deep-rooted revisionism. One sees here yet another variant of the revisionist tactics of pitting the old against the new. Beyond that, their attack on Maoism, quite close to Enver Hoxha’s attack, raises an important question. How should we grasp the rupture/continuity dialectic in the development of proletarian ideology?
Mao Tsetung no doubt inherited and applied the contributions of Stalin. We particularly stress Stalin’s contributions in the struggle against anti-Leninist currents on international questions, building socialism and specific questions of the Chinese revolution. Moreover, he played a leading role in the ICM in the struggle to defend Stalin from the vile attacks of Krushchevite revisionists. But, and this was the key aspect, he did this by rupturing from outmoded ideas as well as real errors of Stalin. The continuity with Stalin’s revolutionary legacy, or more broadly with the Marxist-Leninist legacy, was possible precisely because of this rupture. This is what paved the way for the development of the new, higher and third stage of proletarian ideology. On the other hand, in the name of defending Stalin, Enver Hoxha clung to his errors and ended up as a renegade. This has also been the inevitable trajectory followed by the NCP (Mashal). The section expelled from the MCCI can be expected to trail it, especially since they have taken to slandering the People’s Wars in Peru and Nepal as ‘left’ adventurism; a regular refrain of the RF and the NCP (Mashal). This discussion helps us to understand how their metaphysics complements their idealism in the question of ideology.
For a long time before its expulsion from the RIM, while claiming to uphold Mao Tsetung Thought, the NCP (Mashal) had nursed a line, which was essentially rightist. Maoists accept the theory of People’s War as an all round development of proletarian military science. But, for the NCP (Mashal) it was mere tactics. While Mao talks about continuous revolutionary situation existing in semi-colonial countries, the NCP (Mashal) was keen on imposing Lenin’s analysis of revolutionary situation related to capitalist countries. All of these were, for long, essential aspects of the NCP (Mashal)’s line. Sharp exposure of these rightist positions took place only after the CPN (Maoist) [then NCP (Unity Centre)] adopted MLM and developed the revolutionary line. In fact, this rupture from the longstanding rightism within the Maoist movement of Nepal paved the way for the People’s War and its rapid advance. On the other hand, despite its legacy of standing up against Teng revisionism, the NCP (Mashal)’s attack on Maoism rapidly opened the doors for its degeneration into a tool of the reactionaries.
These experiences bring us to an important question raised by the struggle to establish Maoism. Apparently, the adoption of Maoism is only a matter of terminology. Yet, in the two instances seen above, it led to much stirring up and brought out the revisionist sludge hiding behind the banner of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. It revealed sharp differences, within the RIM, the Nepali movement and the MCCI, over what exactly is understood as the universality of Mao’s contributions. It posed sharp questions over what is grasped by claiming them to be a new or higher stage. Inevitably, these differences were of a vital nature affecting all aspects of a Party’s line and practice. What was apparently a mere question of change in terminology turned out to be something of great ideological significance. If this is not grasped as such, the adoption of Maoism will remain a mere formality. Let us not forget that the sharpening of the battle against revisionism can never be the automatic product of a new term in itself.
It is true that a formal checklist comparing Mao Tsetung 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 Tsetung 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 emphasising that nothing new is added, will fail to mobilise the whole Party and lead it in carrying out this rupture. The task of actualising this grand potential for a vigorous ideological rectification, for achieving a better grasp of MLM, will be done in a partial manner. Even worse, it will be left to spontaneity.
One of the strengths of the RIM’s 1993 document on MLM is that it addresses this squarely. The RIM had emerged from the consistent worldwide ideological struggle against Teng-Hua revisionism and Enver Hoxha’s dogmato-revisionism. Its 1984 Declaration had correctly stressed Mao Tsetung’s qualitative development of Marxism-Leninism and affirmed that he had raised it to a new stage. Yet, despite these advanced ideological positions, it was quite clear that the adoption of MLM was not a mere matter of changing terms. The experience of parties in the RIM, which had adopted MLM, clearly pointed out the ideological significance of this change. This was summed up in the following words, “... the use of the term ‘Mao Tsetung Thought’ in our Declaration reflected a still incomplete understanding of this new stage. In the last nine years our movement has been engaged in a long, rich and thoroughgoing discussion and struggle to more fully grasp Mao Tsetung’s development of Marxism. During this same period the parties and organisations of our Movement and RIM as a whole have been engaged in revolutionary struggle against imperialism and reaction. Most important has been the advanced experience of the People’s War led by the Communist Party of Peru, which has succeeded in mobilising the masses in their millions, sweeping aside the state in many parts of the country and establishing the power of the workers and peasants in these areas. These advances, in theory and practice, have enabled us to further deepen our grasp of proletarian ideology and on that basis take a far-reaching step, the recognition of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as the new, third and higher stage of Marxism.” (A World To Win, No: 20, page 4, emphasis added.) Yes, this further deepening of our grasp of proletarian ideology is exactly the key issue in adopting Maoism. It must be adopted on that basis and on that basis alone if it is to illuminate the way forward and defeat revisionism.
The struggle for Maoism has once again thrown up a longstanding issue within the ICM. Are ‘ism’ and Thought one and the same? Is the difference between them merely a matter of better expression? And how do they relate to line and the lessons of a specific revolution? The debate on such questions is only shaping up. So the views offered below are necessarily preliminary.
The 7th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), held in 1945, stated that Marxism-Leninism and the Thought of Mao Tsetung was its guiding ideology. It also said that this Thought is specific to China. But even a quick survey shows us that many major contributions of what is now established as Maoism had already been developed and tested over long years of revolutionary practice. The theory of New Democratic revolution, People’s War, concept of bureaucrat capitalism, mass line, development of party concept, united front theory and ideological rectification, apart from Mao’s philosophical contributions, are some among them. All of these were developed through struggle against right and ‘left’ opportunism, Trotskyism and dogmatism. In particular, Mao’s creative application of Marxism-Leninism was closely related to a bitter struggle against mechanical copying of Russian experiences. And we know that the international sources of this deviation were the Comintern and Stalin. This raised a complex problem. Quite rightly, Stalin was considered as the authoritative international leader in that historical period. Some of the basic views put forward by this leadership on the world revolution in general and the Chinese revolution in particular were correct and had to be upheld. At the same time, there was also some wrong thinking and views, which had to be rectified. Hence, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that the term ‘Thought of Mao Tsetung’ emerged from the necessity faced by the CPC to draw attention to and clearly establish the distinct ideas guiding it, as compared to the prevailing, accepted, thinking dominating in the ICM. Whatever that may be, what is more important is the nature of Mao’s contributions at that time itself. They were already having a universal character. In fact, they represented, and still represent, the one and only correct Marxist understanding about the path of revolution in colonial, semi-colonial countries. (The ICM acknowledged this only 4 years later.) Moreover, Mao’s contributions already represented an advance in the Marxist-Leninist understanding on party, party building, united front and mass line. All of these are valid for both types of countries, that is imperialist and oppressed nations. (As we know, this was established in the ICM only after the Maoist revolt against Khrushchevite revisionism in the 1960’s.) Thus, when the CPC used ‘Thought’ in 1945 and said that it is specific for China, this already represented a substantial qualitative development of Marxism-Leninism, tested through practice and having universal significance.
However, its further development was not mere addition. In the course of leading socialist revolution and the struggle against modern revisionism Mao Tsetung took proletarian ideology to new heights. In particular, it achieved an all-round development and made a grand leap through the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR). The GPCR itself gave a powerful push and paved the way for declaring this through the 9th Congress of the CPC. A major part of the Congress report is a systematic exposition explaining what is new in Mao Tsetung’s theory of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. The term ‘Thought’ was retained. But its universality, its role in achieving the third milestone in the development of proletarian ideology, had to be proclaimed and established. The 9th Congress report declared that Mao Tsetung had brought Marxism-Leninism to a higher and completely new stage. It sanctioned the term Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. The process by which the ‘Thought’ of 1945 attained the heights of a completely new stage by 1969 is clear enough. Also clear is the difference between the ‘Thought’ of 1945 and that of 1969. Even though Mao Tsetung’s contributions had achieved a universal character by 1945, this was far surpassed by the heights attained through the GPCR. It really merited the term Maoism. This much is evident from its contents and the role it played in advancing the ICM. One can only surmise that the CPC refrained from adopting Maoism due to the particular situation existing in the ICM at that time. Some have tried to use the 1973 10th Congress report’s clarifications on the era and Leninism to argue that the term ‘Thought’ was retained precisely for these reasons. But this logic goes against the recognition of the completely new stage, sanctioned by the 9th Congress and maintained later on.
This review leads us to conclude that ‘ism’ and ‘Thought’ must be distinguished from each other. While ‘Thought’ is also universal, ‘ism’ should be understood as an all round development of ideology, which takes it to a new stage. The difference is not one of more or less universality, but of more or less all round development that marks the leap to a new stage. Aided by this understanding we can proceed to examine the process by which the application of a revolutionary line gives rise to development of proletarian ideology.
‘Line’ is specific to a country and party. It is a particularity. But, if it is formulated through creative and correct application of MLM, this particularity contains the universality of MLM. It reflects this universality. In the course of its formulation, application, testing through practice and development it will give rise to a new grasp of MLM. It may also generate new concepts or contributions. The laws of revolution expressed by MLM are universal. But, as Lenin pointed out, every law ‘freezes’ reality. It is incomplete, relative. Therefore, the application of MLM laws or principles to chart out the course of revolution in any country also calls for enriching, developing, the conceptual understanding of those laws. Otherwise it would be cutting the feet to suit the ‘shoe’ of laws. This is the point about creative application. In fact, creative application of MLM precisely calls for such conceptual leaps in grasping the universal laws established by MLM. And thus, through its application in unraveling and handling the specific laws of a particular revolution, the universal laws of MLM themselves become more complete, more capable of grasping the complex, contradictory, motion of the whole human society. Even if the development of a revolution only gives rise to a new grasp of MLM, this still would be a qualitative development. It would still hold out lessons for every contingent of the ICM. Some revolutions may achieve even more and generate new concepts or contributions. But, the point to stress, is that all of this is possible even while there is only a ‘line’ and not yet a ‘Thought’. Or, in other words, a new ‘Thought’ is not a necessary condition for new contributions that enrich our ideology.
As stated at the beginning of this discussion on ‘ism’, ‘Thought’ and line, these views are quite preliminary. More study and debate is necessary to clinch the issue. At any rate, this whole debate holds out the promise of the ICM arriving at a deeper grasp of the whole process of development of proletarian ideology. This won’t be merely a matter of definitions or criteria to judge ‘ism’ from ‘Thought’ or line. It will give a tremendous boost to the contingents of the ICM in carrying out their tasks through creative application of MLM.
Earlier, we had mentioned the all round development and grand leap achieved through the GPCR. To be more precise, “...it was in the crucible of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution that our ideology took a leap and the third great milestone, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, fully emerged.” (Quoted from RIM’s document on MLM, A World To Win, No: 20, page 9.) This is worth stressing and grasping deeply, especially in the context of vicious revisionist attacks on the GPCR. It is also necessary in view of the continuing confusion spread by neo-revisionists like the NCP (Mashal) who present the GPCR as nothing more than a matter of continuing class struggle in socialist society, go on to argue that this was already conceived by the great leaders of the proletariat and thus negate the ‘new’ in the GPCR. In the quotation cited above the key words are ‘leap’ and ‘fully emerged’. The GPCR was no doubt a continuation of class struggle in socialist society. But more than that it was the highest pinnacle achieved by world proletarian revolution. And this came out of some new, path breaking study made by Mao Tsetung on the contradictory character of socialist society. Taking lessons from the experiences of the Soviet Union, he came to the clear conclusion that the question of ‘who has won’ (the proletariat or the bourgeoisie) has not yet been settled. He went on to identify who the bourgeoisie is in socialist society, their roots and the center of their power. He also worked out how to fight them and uproot them. This was the cutting edge of the leap in ideology in all its three components. A comparison of the summation made in the 9th Congress report with further heights attained through the struggle against Lin Piao and Teng’s rightist wind makes it amply evident that this leap took shape over the whole course of the GPCR, right up till the death of Mao Tsetung and the capitalist coup. This is why it is necessary and correct to say that this leap ‘fully emerged’ through the GPCR. It reminds us of the need to take up a deep study of the whole of Maoism as it developed through the GPCR and warns us against lowering our sights.
In this context it is necessary to insist that this leap also contains the outstanding analysis of the diverse aspects of class struggle in socialist China, made by Mao Tsetung’s genuine followers. Among them, the sharp exposition of the material roots of capitalist restoration seen in the works of Chang Chun Chiao and Yao Wen Yuan merit special attention. (‘On Exercising All-round Dictatorship Over the Bourgeoisie’ by Chang Chun Chiao and ‘On the Social Basis of the Lin Piao Anti-party Clique’ by Yao Wen Yuan. Though Yao later capitulated his work remains as an important contribution.) Mao Tsetung had observed “...China is a socialist country. Before liberation, she was much the same as a capitalist country. Even now she practices an eight-grade wage system, distribution according to work and exchange through money, and in all this differs very little from the old society. What is different is that the system of ownership has changed.” (And Mao Makes Five, Page 211). He also said, “Our country at present practices a commodity system, the wage system is unequal, too, as in the eight-grade wage scale, and so forth. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat such things can only be restricted. Therefore, if people like Lin Piao come to power, it will be quite easy for them to rig up the capitalist system. That is why we should do more reading of Marxist-Leninist works.” (Ibid, page 209). Starting from this, Chang Chun Chiao and Yao Wen Yuan went on to pinpoint how the continued existence of bourgeois right provides the soil for engendering the new bourgeoisie, why this soil has to be continuously dug away and why this has to continue all the way uptill communism since bourgeois right can only be restricted during socialism. These expositions armed the Maoists with a deep insight into the danger of capitalist restoration and were of immense help in quickly understanding what was happening in China after the coup. Furthermore, the struggle led by comrade Chiang Ching against Hua Kua Feng’s line of pushing modernisation (as opposed to class struggle) as the key to advance the socialisation of agriculture also needs mention, since Hua is still considered by some as a genuine, if weak, element.
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.” (‘Party’s Call to Students and Youth,’ from The Historic Turning Point, Volume 2, Page 36, emphasis added.)
This crucial direction is again seen in the 1993 document of the RIM where it says: “From the higher plane of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism the revolutionary communists could grasp the teaching of the previous great leaders even more powerfully and even Mao Tsetung’s earlier contributions took on deeper significance. Today, without Maoism there can be no Marxism-Leninism. Indeed, to negate Maoism is to negate Marxism-Leninism itself.” (A World To Win, No: 20, Page 9, emphasis added.)
Yes, today the key to grasping proletarian ideology is grasping Maoism firmly. To say this does not in anyway separate it from the integral whole of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Rather, it is imperative to put stress on Maoism in order to sharpen the struggle against revisionism and all other alien thinking. We must uphold, defend and apply Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, particularly Maoism.