by Jose Maria Sison
Thursday, Nov. 08, 2012 at 5:08 AM
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was reestablished on the theoretical foundation of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought on 26 December 1968. Since 1995, it has officially used the term Maoism as synonym for Mao Zedong Thought. The adoption of the term is due to language alignment in relation to Marxism-Leninism rather than due to any change of meaning or line in relation to Mao Zedong Thought. Since 3 September 1993 in his message to the Symposium on Mao Zedong Thought in Manila, the founding chairman of the CPP has referred to adherents of Mao Zedong Thought as Maoists.
The Communist Party of the Philippine stands by its definition of Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism as the third stage in the development of the theory and practice of the revolutionary proletariat towards the ultimate goal of communism. The ongoing stage of Maoism proceeds from the previous stages of Marxism and Leninism, respecting and upholding the theoretical and practical achievements of each stage, extending and developing them further and making new achievements.
Maoism has arisen thus far as the highest stage in the development of the theory and practice of proletarian revolution by confronting the problem of modern revisionism and putting forward the theory and practice of continuing revolution under proletarian dictatorship through cultural revolution in order to combat revisionism, prevent the restoration of capitalism and consolidate socialism. Among the many great achievements of Mao, the aforesaid theory and practice constitutes his greatest. This inspires hope for a socialist and communist future against imperialism, revisionism and reaction.
Mao is indubitably correct in identifying the revisionism of degenerates in power in socialist society as the most lethal to socialism, and in offering the solution that succeeded in China for ten years before it was defeated in 1976. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the full restoration of capitalism in revisionist-ruled countries in the period of 1989-91 have vindicated Mao´s position on the crucial importance and necessity of the struggle against revisionism and the theory of continuing revolution under proletarian dictatorship.
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) can be regarded as the prototype for the ample realization of the theory of continuing revolution in socialist society, like the Paris Commune of 1871 was the prototype for the proletarian class dictatorship that won victory in the October Revolution of 1917. Proletarian revolutionaries can be confident that they are forearmed with the theory behind the GPCR and the experience gained from it in order to face the challenge of revisionism in socialist societies.
Maoism encompasses the major contributions of Mao to further develop such basic components of Marxism as philosophy, political economy, and social science as first laid down by Marx and Engels in the period of free competition capitalism and the rise of the modern industrial proletariat in the 19th century. Maoism also encompasses Mao´s major contributions to further develop Lenin´s earlier theoretical and practical achievements in developing the aforesaid components and to carry forward the great victory of Lenin and Stalin in socialist revolution and construction in the era of modern imperialism and proletarian revolution.
In philosophy, Mao made a penetrating study of the unity of opposites as the most fundamental law in materialist dialectics. He explained the wave-like alternating and interactive advance of theory and practice, and social practice (i.e., production, class struggle and scientific experiment) as the source of knowledge. In political economy, he based himself on the Marxist critique of capitalism and the Leninist critique of modern imperialism, learned from the Soviet experience in socialist revolution and construction, and put forward a political economy of socialism that sought to improve on the pioneering experience of socialist revolution and construction in the Soviet Union.
In social science, Mao followed the teachings of Marxism and Leninism that class analysis is applied on a class society, that class struggle is the key to social progress and that class struggle in bourgeois society must lead to the class dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie in the attainment of socialism. Mao´s class analysis of the semicolonial and semifeudal society enabled the Chinese Communist Party to win the people’s democratic revolution with the correct program and strategy and tactics, and proceed to the socialist revolution.
Subsequently, his class analysis of Chinese society in the period of socialist revolution and construction showed the correct handling of contradictions in such society. He reiterated the Leninist thesis that classes and class struggle would continue to exist in socialist society, that the resistance of the defeated bourgeoisie would increase 10,000-fold, and that it would take a whole historical epoch for the proletariat to completely defeat the bourgeoisie. He was well grounded in recognizing the threat of modern revisionism in China and the need for the theory of continuing revolution under proletarian dictatorship.
Mao stressed the necessity and importance of working class leadership through the Party and the basic alliance of the working class and peasantry in the new democratic revolution. He posited that the semicolonial and semifeudal society is in chronic crisis, and that the huge peasant population in the countryside serves as the basis for the strategic line of protracted people’s war and establishment of the revolutionary organs of political power even while the reactionary state still sits in the urban areas.
He developed further the Leninist theory and practice of Party building and pushed forward the rectification movement as an educational method through the mass movement for rectifying major errors and strengthening the Party by raising the revolutionary consciousness and capabilities of the Party and the masses. The rectification movement in the Party was the seminal basis for the conception of the cultural revolution in socialist society.
Mao pointed out that the bourgeoisie, after being politically and legally deprived of the private ownership of the means of production, retreats to the cultural realm to survive and make new recruits even among the children of the working people being educated under the socialist system. The cultural sphere can thus become the breeding ground for bourgeois subjectivist ideas, revisionism and retrogression, unless an indefinite series of proletarian cultural revolutions are undertaken.
Mindful of the way modern revisionism arose in the cultural sphere and then the political sphere in the superstructure in the Soviet Union, Mao put forward the theory and practice of continuing revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat through the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. This involves a process of revolutionizing the relations of production and the superstructure through a mass movement led by the proletariat and its party.
I. Development of Maoism in the Philippines
Prior to the reestablishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968, we the proletarian revolutionaries in the Philippines, adhered to the teaching of Lenin that there can be no revolutionary movement without revolutionary theory, and that the first requisite in Party building is ideological building. We applied the revolutionary theory of Marxism and Leninism in the formulation of the basic documents of the Congress of Reestablishment: Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party, Constitution of the Communist Party of the Philippines and Program for a People´s Democratic Revolution.
We read and studied the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, These included the Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital, Wages, Prices and Profit, Anti-Dühring, Critique of the Gotha Program, Civil War in France, What Is to Be Done, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, State and Revolution, Two Tactics of Social Democracy, “Left Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder, Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Foundations of Leninism, Short History of the CPSU, Selected Works of Mao Zedong, the Polemics on the General Line of the International Communist Movement, the little Red Book of quotations from Mao and major documents of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
We sought to understand Marxist-Leninist philosophy, political economy, social science, the history of the international communist movement, and the strategy and tactics of the Russian and Chinese revolutions, the then ongoing Vietnamese revolution and other revolutions. With the aid of theoretical studies, we tried to understand the history and situation of the world, the Philippines and the old Communist Party of the Philippine Islands established in 1930 and merged with the Socialist Party in 1938. We read and studied the documents of the old communist party before and after its merger with the socialist party.
We adopted the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought as the guide to revolutionary action. We considered Mao Zedong Thought as the fruit of the long revolutionary experience of the world proletariat under the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, and as the latest, most comprehensive, most profound and most effective instrument for analyzing the history and circumstances of the Filipino people and for setting forth the tasks to accomplish the people’s democratic revolution in preparation for the socialist revolution.
We sought to integrate Maoism with the concrete conditions of the Philippines and with the concrete practice of the Philippine revolution. In this regard, we applied materialist dialectics and class analysis in summing up and analyzing the history of the Filipino people, defining the basic character of Philippine society and recognizing the need for a people´s democratic revolution. These were clearly stated in the basic documents of the Congress of Reestablishment and would be further developed in the book of Amado Guerrero, Philippine Society and Revolution, first published in mimeograph form in 1969 and subsequently in several more editions and translations to this day.
We were inspired and guided by Mao’s class analysis of the semicolonial and semifeudal society. Thus, we were able to understand the character of Philippine society and clarify the need for the people’s democratic revolution, the class leadership of the proletariat, the basic alliance of the workers and peasants against the joint dictatorship of the comprador big bourgeoisie and landlord class servile to foreign monopoly capitalism, the united front policy, the strategic line of protracted people’s war, and the socialist perspective.
With the aid of Mao´s teachings on the building of the Party, the people´s army and the united front, we were able to sum up and analyze the history of the old Communist Party, We criticized the defective ideological foundation of the merger of the communist and socialist parties and mainly the bourgeois subjectivism and major Right and “Left” opportunist errors of the succession of Lava brothers who became general secretary of the Party. Ultimately, we decided to break away from the old party in 1966 and launched in 1967 what is now known as the First Great Rectification Movement (FGRM) that laid the basis for the reestablishment of the Communist Party in 1968.
We issued the basic document of the rectification movement, Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party, both to criticize and repudiate the errors of the Lava revisionist renegades and to proclaim the urgent necessity of waging the people´s war along the general line of people’s democratic revolution against US imperialism and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords. We committed ourselves to building the three great weapons of the revolution, namely, the Party as the advanced detachment of the proletariat, the revolutionary armed struggle on the basis of the worker-peasant alliance, and the united front of patriotic and progressive forces.
We criticized and repudiated the Right opportunist line of Vicente Lava, which was responsible for breaking up the people’s army into small armed teams of only five members under the “retreat for defense” policy in 1942, generating pessimism and passivity during the war of resistance against Japan, subordinating the people’s army to the US strategic plan to reconquer the Philippines and subsequently welcoming reconquest by the US in 1945, echoing the Browderite “peace and democracy” slogan of the Communist Party of the USA, and demobilizing the people’s army for parliamentary struggle within the framework of the 1946 puppet republic.
We criticized and repudiated the “Left” opportunist line of Jose Lava, which called for waging “all-out armed struggle” and “winning victory in two year’s time”, without paying attention to painstaking mass work and land reform, overestimating the so-called “geometric progression” of the people’s army due to the people´s growing hatred for the corruption of the regime of Elpidio Quirino in 1949, basing the main force of the people´s army in a series of isolated camps in the unpopulated areas of the Sierra Madre mountain range, and launching one wave of offensives and ultimately failing to overcome the enemy counter-offensive in a situation that became purely military.
We criticized and repudiated the “Right” opportunist line of Jesus Lava, which consisted of ordering the conversion of the people’s army into “organizational brigades” for legal struggle in 1955, liquidating the Party branches with the “single file policy” in 1957, disconnecting the party leaders from the remaining units of the people’s army, and failing to generate even a legal mass movement. When we the proletarian revolutionaries started to join the old Communist Party in 1962, not a single Party branch existed. We were the ones who formed the Party branches in localities and Party groups in mass organizations in the 1960s.
The First Great Rectification Movement under the guidance of Mao Zedong Thought provided a sound basis for formulating the Program for the People´s Democratic Revolution, and the Constitution of the Communist Party of the Philippines. In preparing the founding of the New People´s Army on 29 March 1969, we drew inspiration from the victorious people´s war in China and the war of national liberation in Vietnam against the US war of aggression in order to formulate the Rules of the New People´s Army. We criticized and repudiated the Taruc-Sumulong gangster clique for usurping authority over remnants of the old people´s army as well as for perpetuating the mentality and practice of roving rebel bands.
The process of reestablishing the CPP was interconnected with the world proletarian revolution and the struggle against imperialism, modern revisionism and all reaction. We upheld Marxism-Leninism against modern revisionism, which was first espoused by Khrushchov and then by his successor Brezhnev. We had an adequately full view of the ideological debate between the Chinese Communist Party and the Soviet Communist Party. We avidly read and discussed the polemics between the two parties. We sided with the Marxist-Leninist anti-revisionist position of Mao and the Chinese Communist Party.
We studied how modern revisionism had developed to dominate the Soviet Union and other communist parties in Eastern Europe and elsewhere and how the danger of modern revisionism had also emerged in China. On such grounding, we welcomed the theory and practice of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. We took a Marxist-Leninist position against modern revisionism not only on the basis of studying the pertinent events abroad but also on the basis of the struggle against the Lava revisionist renegades who were acting under the influence of the Soviet-centered modern revisionism.
Since 1963, we had criticized and repudiated Khrushchov´s bourgeois populist notions of the “party of the whole people” and “state of the whole people” which denied the proletarian character of the Soviet party and state; and his bourgeois pacifist views, such as “ peaceful transition to socialism” which denied the necessity of revolutionary violence against counterrevolutionary violence, “peaceful economic competition” which gave primacy to economic struggle over political struggle and “peaceful co-existence” which was overstated as the general line of the international movement and not simply the policy governing the diplomatic relations of socialist states with other kinds of states, irrespective of ideology and social system.
The Lava revisionist renegades sought to prevent the criticism of the serious opportunist errors of the Lava brothers from 1942 onwards, and used the Khruschovite notion of “peaceful transition” to buttress their position that there must be an indefinitely long period of legal struggle leading to the general offensive in the form of uprisings. The proletarian revolutionaries took the position that the legal mass movement — especially that of the workers and peasants which they had already started to develop — must serve as the basis for organizing the people´s army and starting the people’s war. We argued that the semicolonial and semifeudal society was in chronic crisis and that the countryside and the peasantry could provide the physical and social terrain for building the people´s army and accumulating strength in stages in accordance with Mao´s teaching on the strategic line of protracted people’s war.
We studied how among various ways the Khruschovite revisionists breached the socialist system by decentralizing the economy and making enterprises and collectives autonomous and individually responsible for their cost and profit accounting, and how in contrast the Brezhnevite revisionists subsequently recentralized major enterprises along the line of state monopoly capitalism in order to assure the central authorities of funding and the ability to engage in the arms race. We studied how the socialist system had been built and how the revisionists were dismantling it in the philosophical, socio-economic, political, military and cultural spheres.
The CPP Congress of Reestablishment in 1968 was attended by twelve delegates (with one in absentia) representing around 80 Party cadres and members. These led hundreds of advanced mass activists who were being prepared for Party membership, and most of whom were leading trade unions and mass organizations of urban poor, peasants, women, youth, professionals and cultural workers. The total number of the organized urban mass base nationwide was at least 30,000. Party membership rose by the hundreds from 1968 to 1971, reaching the 2000 level in 1972 and 4000 in 1974. The Party members came mainly from the trade unions, urban poor community associations and peasant organizations, and from the Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth).
The Party established the New People´s Army on 29 March 1969 by combining the proletarian revolutionaries and the good elements of the old people´s army who had broken away from the Taruc-Sumulong gangster clique. The Party central leadership based itself in the second district of Tarlac province where the good remnants of the old people´s army had a mass base of 80,000 in several municipalities. Here the New People´s Army started with 60 Red fighters armed with only nine automatic rifles and 26 inferior firearms. Despite starting from scratch, we were optimistic because of the justness of our revolutionary cause and because we were inspired by Mao´s teaching that we could grow from small to big and from weak to strong.
The Party cadres and the armed propaganda teams spread out to do mass work in the countryside of Tarlac and nearby provinces. They formed the barrio (village) organizing committees as the temporary appointive organs of political power. They established the revolutionary mass organizations of workers, peasants, women, youth, children and cultural activists. Drawing the best elements from the mass organizations, Party branches were established as the leading force in the locality and the barrio revolutionary committees were established as elected bodies and as the relatively stable organs of political power.
The Party led the organs of political power and the mass organizations supported them in undertaking mass campaigns and activities related to mass education, mass organizing, land reform, production, health and hygiene, arbitration, and cultural work. To augment and assist the people´s army, the militia units were formed in the villages and all able-bodied men and women in mass organizations served as self-defense units. When a platoon-size strike force was subsequently formed, it coordinated daily with the local guerrilla units, armed propaganda teams and the militia units.
On the basis of the strong mass base, the New People´s Army was able to launch an increasing number of tactical offensives against the enemy. The offensives were carried out by teams, squads and a platoon-size strike force. Through these offensives the NPA increased the number of its automatic rifles from only nine in 1969 to more than 200 by the end of 1970. The enemy reacted with the 5000-strong Task Force Lawin consisting of army, police and paramilitary forces. Known peasant leaders in every village were assassinated. It became a daily and nightly occurrence for the enemy to raid 5 to 10 villages at every given time with the aim of locating the Party central leadership.
To be continued...
Jose Maria Sison Founding Chairman Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) International League for People's Struggle (ILPS)
Cultural Revolution: Mao proclaimed that capitalist ideology, liberalism, and other bourgeois cultures are not fully removed from society through socialist revolution and that class struggle against these detrimental features of capitalism are continued in one form or another throughout the socialist stage of development. Maoism states the method for dealing with bourgeois culture is through “cultural revolution,” in which, according to their theory, the masses are mobilized to spread communist ideology in order to reduce capitalistic or feudalistic culture.
However, the cultural revolution turned out to be an ultra-left disaster for Mao. Beginning in 1966, it was more of a tribute to the cult of Mao than to spreading communism. All of Mao’s words and teachings were expected to be understood and followed without question, and as a result production and economic activity declined, workers too busy engaging in appraisal of Mao Tse-Tung thought. Because class consciousness was not reached, the masses, many of whom were mere youth, frequently became excessively violent, opportunistic, and acted more in favor of adventurism than communism. Mao essentially let Party control loose itself to the hands of the cultural revolution, and even began to remove Party officials in opposition to the revolution such as Liu Shaoqi, who was originally to be named as Mao’s successor.
The cultural revolution underwent three primary stages. The first stage was the “anti-intelligence” stage in which the youth spread to combat the intelligentsia. In order to remove what was inherently perceived as “bourgeois education,” lessons in school were stopped to large extents and the focus of all daily activity shifted to the cultural revolution and praising Mao’s brilliance.
It was then in the second phase of the cultural revolution in which Mao claimed that the bourgeoisie was within the Party itself and that the Party’s administration must be overthrown. As a result, terror and violence broke out on large scales, without any control from the Party because quite simply, the Party was liquidated. Mao also failed to realize that he himself let the bourgeoisie exist within the Party, choosing to allow revisionists and “capitalist roaders” such Xiaoping to remain in power, and to allow the bourgeoisie to control communes as managers, allowing the bourgeoisie to receive 25% of profits from workers. Four out of seventeen members of the Politburo, including Mao, survived the cultural revolution. These members were seen as enemies of the people for their opposition.
Next, in the third stage of the cultural revolution Mao finally realized the nature of the beast. He began to divide the masses into smaller groups and send them to the countrysides, shifting the power into the peasantry. This then allowed for the peasantry to become a more dominant force in numerous aspects of China’s infrastructure, including agriculture and science, and the peasantry even began to control the labor of the youth groups that had once been active in the cultural revolution. Mao also is noted for utilizing the military in 1967 to further gain control of the situation, as he often did when feeling threatened. Even with the obvious failures of the cultural revolution, Mao still stubbornly promoted it and it was not until 1976, Mao’s death, when the cultural revolution truly ended. Mao claimed to officially have ended the cultural revolution in 1969 but in reality it was extended much longer.
Then after Mao’s death, the Gang of Four were perceived as counter-revolutionaries and were removed from power and jailed by Guofeng and Xiaoping, who were ironically enough spared and chosen as successors by Mao himself. Market capitalism then began to restore itself in China, and whatever socialistic bases Mao had developed began to crumble. We see therefore that the cultural revolution was never an instrument of achieving socialism, or the dictatorship of the proletariat. The cultural revolution exposed the revisionism of Mao; at no point where the teachings of Marx or Lenin followed or spread during the cultural revolution. It remained not a revolution, but a ten-year-long student riot.
In Imperialism and Revolution by Enver Hoxha, Hoxha states that the very name of “cultural revolution” was inaccurate. “In our Party’s opinion, this name was not accurate, since, in fact, the movement that had burst out in China was a political, not a cultural movement. But the main thing was the fact that neither the party nor the proletariat were in the leadership of this ‘reat proletarian revolution’. This grave situation stemmed from Mao Tse-Tung’s old anti-Marxist concepts of underestimation of the leading role of the proletariat and overestimation of the youth in the revolution. Mao wrote: “What role did the Chinese young people begin to play since the ‘May 4th Movement’? In a way they began to play a vanguard role – a fact recognized by everybody in our country except the ultra-reactionaries. What is a vanguard role? It means taking the lead… Thus the working class was left on the sidelines, and there were many instances when it opposed the red guards and even fought them. Our comrades, who were in China at that time, have seen with their own eyes factory workers fighting the youth. The party was disintegrated. It was liquidated, and the communists and the proletariat were totally disregarded. This was a very grave situation.”
Of course in reference to Hoxha, Maoists like to whine that Hoxha himself supported the cultural revolution and saw Mao as a great Marxist-Leninist. In those regards Hoxha clearly responds: “Our Party defended the fraternal Chinese people, the cause of the revolution and socialism in China, and not the factional strife of anti-Marxist groups, which were clashing and fighting with one another, even with guns, in order to seize power.
The course of events showed that the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was neither a revolution, nor great, nor cultural, and in particular, not in the least proletarian. It was a palace Putsch on an all-China scale for the liquidation of a handful of reactionaries who had seized power.
Of course, this Cultural Revolution was a hoax. It liquidated both the Communist Party of China, and the mass organizations and plunged China into new chaos. This revolution was led by non-Marxist elements, who have been liquidated through a military putsch staged by other anti-Marxist and fascist elements.”
Hoxha then states: “In our press Mao Tsetung has been described as a great Marxist-Leninist, but we never used and never approved the definitions of the Chinese propaganda which described Mao as a classic of Marxism-Leninism, and “Mao Tsetung thought” as its third and higher stage. Our Party has considered the inflation of the cult of Mao Tsetung in China to be incompatible with Marxism-Leninism.”
When Hoxha himself carried out a cultural-revolution it occurred in a much different, and much more successful manner than the Chinese revolution as well. Finally, in regards to the notion of class struggle continuing to exist in socialism, it was never Mao who developed this idea, and Maoists continually like to give credit where it is wrongly due. It was not Mao, but Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin who formulated this idea.
New Democracy: Maoism states that socialism can only be built through collaboration of several classes and parties via new democracy; a new democratic regime with such wrongful misconceptions based on “coexistence” and non-Marxist teaching. New democracy undermines the vanguard Marxist-Leninist party, undermines the proletarian dictatorship, and allows the bourgeoisie to remain in power. Dictatorship of the proletariat let alone socialism can never exist without strong leadership from the vanguard party; such political pluralism of Maoism is therefore detrimental to socialism.
Alliance with the bourgeoisie is alliance with anti-Marxism, and this alliance does nothing to strengthen socialism. New Democracy and Maoism inevitably conclude that bourgeois ideology exists eternally and therefore should be given the possibility to “blossom like a hundred flowers.” And of course as it turns out, Mao’s attempts of new democracy never caused beautiful flowers to grow, but merely to “enable the bourgeois wasps to circulate freely and release their venom (Hoxha).” In fact, Mao’s allowance of bourgeois into the CCP was one of the reasons for the cultural revolution. Combining the cultural revolution and new democracy we see cycles in Maoism. First there is a period of “great harmony” then great disorder, then the cycle repeats, given the incorrect and revisionist nature of Maoism. Maoism’s theories of revolution (e.g. new democratic stages of development) therefore boil down to metaphysics rather than dialectical materialism of Marxism. Mao treats the revolutionary process as an endless process, and as a result it’s no wonder there are the occasional quasi-Trotskyist Maoists that are able to demonstrate just how perverse Maoism is capable of being. Maoism does not realize the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Instead Maoism attempts to form itself on the basis of petty-bourgeois ideology; “class collaboration” in what can only be described as a “hybrid state.”
Marxism-Leninism seeks a well disciplined and educated vanguard party to educate and lead the people, but attempting to give the petty-bourgeois this position is merely liberalism. Stalin noted that the Communist Party is the most advanced detachment of the proletariat, and so denying the Party their true influence results in failure.
Three Worlds Theory: According to Mao, the USA and the post-Stalin Soviet Union represented the first world, imperialist states. The second world represented other, lesser imperialist states in their spheres of influence and the third world represented all non-imperialist countries. The first and second world exploit the third world through imperialism. The entire conception of the Three Worlds Theory was merely justification for Mao’s attempt to gain control over the third world countries surrounding China. Some Maoist Third Worldists even extended this further and claim that there can be no proletariat in the “first world,” which merely leads to ultra-leftism and radically false perceptions of class struggle. The “Maoist Third-Worldist” perception of the Three Worlds says that the working class of the “first world” are “bought off” by the bourgeoisie and raised by imperialism, and thus according to Maoist Third-Worldists, socialist revolution can not occur in the first world or imperialist countries; there is no proletariat in the imperialist countries.
It is true that revolution in third world countries does in fact weaken imperialism, as actually noted by Stalin and Lenin, but the belief that only the third world countries are capable of revolution, that the proletariat is merely a second-rate force, and especially the belief that there is no “first world” proletarian force is absurd.
The Three Worlds Theory is merely a counter-revolutionary and chauvinist theory that divides class struggle and is anti-Marxist. Marx stated that the only true division of capitalist society is the exploiting and exploited; the Three Worlds Theory ignores the Marxist analysis of exploitation. The very claim that there are “three worlds” is inherently racist and based on metaphysics; capitalistic reactionary belief. Mao’s Three Worlds Theory is blind to class struggle because it judges countries and even people in relation to bourgeois political concepts and economic development.
“To divide the world in three means failure to recognize the characteristics of the epoch, to impede the advance of the proletariat and the peoples towards the revolution and national liberation, to impede their struggle against American imperialism, Soviet social-imperialism, capital and reaction in every country and in every corner of the world. The theory of ‘three worlds’ advocates social peace, class conciliation, and tries to create alliances between implacable enemies, between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the oppressed and the oppressors, the peoples and imperialism. It is an attempt to prolong the life of the old world, the capitalist world, to keep it on its feet precisely by seeking to extinguish the class struggle. But the class struggle, the struggle of the proletariat and its allies to take power and the struggle of the bourgeoisie to maintain its power can never be extinguished. This is an irrefutable truth and no amount of empty theorizing about the “worlds”, whether the “first world”, the “non aligned world”, the third world, the nonaligned world, or the umpteenth world, can alter this fact. To accept such a division, means to renounce and abandon the theory of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin on classes and the class struggle” (Enver Hoxha, Imperialism and Revolution).
People’s War: Maoism states that in order to achieve a successful revolution, the vanguard must be aware of the needs of the masses, and their needs must be factored into how the revolution takes place. By meeting the needs of the people, the revolution therefore becomes a revolution by, and for the people. According to Mao, people’s war, often as guerrilla warfare, undergoes three stages. In the first stage, the revolutionary forces begin mobilizing in remote areas in order to establish its base. Once the movement is able to gain more momentum, it continues to establish other bases throughout the area, its influence is spread throughout the countryside, gaining support through reforms and revolutionary activity. The third stage is then to capture small cities, then larger cities, then finally take on the entire country and the bourgeoisie, all meanwhile backed by the masses.
Historically, and even in more modern situations, people’s war has relied extensively on the peasantry. The proletariat is the only force capable of fully leading the revolution; the peasantry is a valuable ally, but Hoxha criticized Mao’s conception of a peoples war for cementing power for the peasantry and not the proletariat. The Marxist-Leninist approach of revolution therefore is an uprising that occurs simultaneously with the cities and countryside. Hoxha furthermore stressed that the people themselves train in using weapons in order to defend the country, and therefore military ranks were abolished, arms were distributed, and so forth.
“In accord with the concrete conditions of a country and the situations in general, the armed uprising may be a sudden outburst or a more protracted revolutionary process, but not, an endless one without perspective, as advocated by Mao Tsetung’s ,”theory of protracted people’s war”. If you compare the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin on the revolutionary armed insurrection with Mao’s theory on -people’s war-, the anti-Marxist, anti-Leninist, anti-scientific character of this theory becomes clearly apparent. The Marxist-Leninist teachings on the armed insurrection are based on the close combination of the struggle in the city with that in the countryside under the leadership of the working class and its revolutionary party. Being opposed to the leading role of the proletariat in the revolution, the Maoist theory considers the countryside as the only base of the armed insurrection and neglects the armed struggle of the working masses in the town. It preaches that the countryside must keep the city, which is considered as the stronghold of the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie, besieged. This is an expression of distrust in the working class, the negation of its hegemonic role. While adhering unwaveringly to the teachings of Marxism-Leninism on the violent revolution as a universal law, the revolutionary party of the working class is resolutely opposed to adventurism and never plays with armed insurrection. In all conditions and circumstances, it carries out an unceasing revolutionary struggle and activity in various forms, in order to prepare itself and the masses for the decisive battles in the revolution, for the overthrow of the rule of the bourgeoisie with revolutionary violence. But only when the revolutionary situation has fully matured does it put armed insurrection directly on the order of the day and take all the political, ideological, organizational and military measures to carry it through to victory” (Enver Hoxha, Imperialism and Revolution).
Mass Line: The mass line makes analysis of what the people need, what is on their minds, and so forth, and then takes those needs and gives a Marxist approach in order to help the masses understand their class interests. The mass line theory is indeed Marxist, but the problem is that Maoists seem to attribute the theory in it’s entirety to Mao. All Marxists have supported the same ideas, and the very idea of going to the masses can be attributed as early on as Marx himself.
Maoism was part of a broader movement in the twentieth century of what might be called “bourgeois revolutions with red flags,” as in Vietnam or North Korea.
To understand this, it is important to see that Maoism was one important result of the defeat of the world revolutionary wave in 30 countries (including China itself) which occurred in the years after World War I. The major defeat was in Germany (1918–1921), followed by the defeat of the Russian Revolution (1921 and thereafter), culminating in Stalinism.
Maoism is a variant of Stalinism.1
The first phase of this defeat, where Mao and China are concerned, took place in the years 1925–1927, during which the small but very strategically located Chinese working class was increasingly radicalized in a wave of strikes. This defeat closed the 1917–1927 cycle of post–World War I worker struggles, which included (in addition to Germany and Russia) mass strikes in Britain, workers councils in northern Italy, vast ferment and strikes in Spain, the “rice riots” in Japan, a general strike in Seattle, and many other confrontations.
By 1925–1927, Stalin controlled the Communist Third International (Comintern). From the beginning of the 1920s, Russian advisors worked closely with the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) of the bourgeois revolutionary Sun Yat-sen, (leader of the 1911 overthrow of the Manchu dynasty) and with the small but important Chinese Communist Party (CCP), founded in 1921.
The Third International provided political and military aid to the KMT, which was taken over by Chiang kai-shek (future dictator of Taiwan after 1949); the Comintern in the early to mid-1920s viewed the KMT as a “progressive anti-imperialist” force. Many Chinese Communists actually joined the KMT in these years, some secretly, some openly.
Soviet foreign policy in the mid-1920s involved an internal faction fight between Stalin and Trotsky. Trotsky's policy (whatever its flaws, and there were many) was for world revolution as the only solution to the isolation of the Soviet Union. Stalin replied with the slogan “Socialism in One Country,” an aberration unheard of until that time in the internationalist Marxist tradition. Stalin in this period was allied with the right opposition leader Nikolai Bukharin against Trotsky; Soviet and Third International policy reflected this alliance in a “right turn” to strong support for bourgeois nationalism abroad. Chiang kai-shek himself was an honorary member of the Third International Executive Board in this period. The Third International advocated strong support for Chiang's KMT in its campaign against the “warlords” closely allied with the landowning gentry.
It is important to understand that in these same years, Mao Zedong (who was not yet the central leader of the party) criticized this policy from the right, advocating an even closer alliance between the CCP and the KMT.
In the spring of 1927, Chiang kai-shek turned against the CCP and the radicalized working class, massacring thousands of workers and CCP militants in Shanghai and Canton (now known in the West by its actual Chinese name Guangzhou), who had been completely disarmed by the Comintern's support for the KMT.2 This massacre ended the CCP's relationship with the Chinese working class and opened the way for Mao to rise to top leadership by the early 1930s.
The next phase of the CCP was the so-called “Third Period” of the Comintern, which was launched in part in response to the debacle in China. In the Soviet Union, Stalin turned on the Bukharinist “right” (there was in reality no one more reactionary than Stalin) after having finished off the Trotskyist left.3 The Third Period, which lasted from 1928 to 1934, was a period of “ultra-left” adventurism around the world. In China as well as in a number of other colonial and semi-colonial countries, the Third Period involved the slogan of “soviets everywhere.” Not a bad slogan in itself, but its practical, voluntarist implementation was a series of disastrous, isolated uprisings in China and Vietnam in 1930 which were totally out of synch with local conditions, and which led to bloody defeats everywhere.
It was in the recovery from these defeats that Mao became the top leader of the CCP, and began the “Long March” to Yan'an (in remote northwestern China) which became a central Maoist myth, and reoriented the CCP to the Chinese peasantry, a much more numerous social class but not, in Marxist terms, a revolutionary class4 (though it could be an ally of the working-class revolution, as in Russia during the 1917–1921 Civil War).
Japan had invaded Manchuria (northeast China) in 1931 and the CCP from then until the Japanese defeat at the end of World War II was involved in a three-way struggle with the KMT and the Japanese.
After the Third Period policy led to the triumph of Hitler in Germany (where the Communist Party had attacked the “social fascist” Social Democrats, not the Nazis, as the “main enemy,” and even worked with the Nazis against the Social Democrats in strikes), the Comintern in 1935 shifted its line again to the “Popular Front,” which meant alliances with “bourgeois democratic” forces against fascism. Throughout the colonial and semi-colonial world, the Communist Parties completely dropped their previous anti-colonial struggle and threw themselves into support for the Western bourgeois democracies. In Vietnam and Algeria, for example, they supported the “democratic” French colonial power. In Spain, they uncritically supported the Republic in the Spanish Revolution and Civil War, during which they helped the Republic crush the anarchists (who had two million members), the independent left POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista, a “centrist” party denounced at the time as “Trotskyist”) and the Trotskyists themselves. These latter forces had taken over the factories in northeastern Spain and established agrarian communes in the countryside. The Republic and the Communists crushed them all, and then lost the Civil War to Franco.
In China, the Popular Front meant, for the CCP, supporting Chiang kai-shek (who, it will be recalled, had massacred thousands of workers eight years earlier) against Japan.
In the Yan'an refuge of the CCP in these years and through World War II, Mao consolidated his control over the party. His notorious hatchet man Kang Sheng helped him root out any opposition or potential rivals with slanderous rumors, show trials and executions. One memorable case was that of Wang Shiwei. He was a committed Communist and had translated parts of Marx's Capital into Chinese. Mao and Kang set him up and put him through several show trials, breaking him and driving him out of the party. (He was finally executed when the CCP left Yan'an in 1947 in the last phase of the civil war against Chiang kai-shek.)
Mao's peasant army conquered all of China by 1949. The Chinese working class, which had been the party's base until 1927, played absolutely no role in this supposed “socialist revolution.” The one-time “progressive nationalist” Kuomintang was totally discredited as it became the party of the landed gentry, full of corruption, responsible for runaway inflation, and commanded by officers more interested in enriching themselves than fighting either the Japanese (before 1945) or the CCP.
The first phase of Mao's rule was from 1949 to 1957. He made no secret of the fact that the new regime was based on the “bloc of four classes” and was carrying out a bourgeois nationalist revolution. It was essentially the program of the bourgeois nationalist Sun Yat-Sen from 25 years earlier. The corrupt landowning gentry was expropriated and eliminated.
But it is important to remember that “land to the peasants” and the expropriation of the pre-capitalist landholders are the bourgeois revolution, as they have been since the French Revolution of 1789. The regime for this reason was genuinely popular and many overseas Chinese who were not Communists returned to help rebuild the country. Some “progressive capitalists” were retained to continue running their factories. After the chaos of the previous 30 years, this stabilization was a breath of fresh air. The People's Liberation Army also intervened in the Korean War to help Kim il-sung fight the United States and the United Nations forces. But it is also important not to lose sight of the fact that the Korean War was part of a war between the two Cold War blocs, and that what Kim implemented in North Korea after 1953 was another Stalinist “bourgeois revolution with red flags” based on land to the peasants. (North Korea went on to become the first proletarian hereditary monarchy, now in its third incarnation.)
We also have to see the Chinese Revolution in international context. Stalinism (and Maoism is, as mentioned earlier, a variant of Stalinism) emerged from World War II stronger than ever, having appropriated all of eastern Europe, winning in China, on its way to power in (North) Korea and Vietnam, and had huge prestige in struggles around the colonial and semi-colonial world (which was renamed the Third World as the Cold War divided the globe into two antagonistic blocs centered on the United States and the Soviet Union).
There is no question that Mao and the CCP were somewhat independent of Stalin and the Soviet Union. They were their own type of Stalinists. They were also a million miles from the power of soviets and workers' councils that had initially characterized the Russian and German Revolutions, on which basis the Comintern was originally founded in 1919. That is a thorny question that is too complex to be unraveled here. But from 1949 until the Sino-Soviet split in 1960, the Soviet Union sent thousands of technicians and advisors to China, and trained thousands more Chinese cadre in Soviet universities and institutes, as had been the case since the 1920s. The “model” established in power in the 1950s was essentially the Soviet model, adapted to a country with an even more overwhelming peasant majority than was the case in Russia.
World Stalinism was rocked in 1956 by a series of events: the Hungarian Revolution, in which the working class again established workers' councils before it was crushed by Russian intervention; the Polish “October,” in which a worker revolt brought to power a “reformed” Stalinist leadership. These uprisings were preceded by Khruschev's speech to the twentieth Congress of world Communist Parties, in which he revealed many of Stalin's crimes, including the massacre of between five to ten million peasants during the collectivizations of the early 1930s. There were many crimes he did not mention, since he was too implicated in them, and the purpose of his speech was to salvage the Stalinist bureaucracy while disavowing Stalin himself. This was the beginning of “peaceful co-existence” between the Soviet bloc and the West, but the revelations of Stalin's crimes and the worker revolts in eastern Europe (following the 1953 worker uprising in East Germany) were the beginning of the end of the Stalinist myth. Bitterly disillusioned militants all over the world walked out of Communist Parties, after finding out that they had devoted decades of their lives to a lie.
Khruschev's 1956 speech is often referred to by later Maoists as the triumph of “revisionism” in the Soviet Union. The word “revisionism” is itself ideology run amok, since the main thing that was being “revised” was Stalinist terror, which the Maoists and Marxist-Leninists by implication consider to be the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” There were between 10 and 20 million people in forced labor camps in the Soviet Union in 1956, and presumably their release (for those who survived years of slave labor, often at the Arctic Circle) was part of “revisionism.” For the Maoists, the Khruschev speech is often also identified with the “restoration of capitalism,” showing how superficial their “Marxism” is, with the existence of capitalism being based not on any analysis of real social relationships but on the ideology of this or that leader.
Khruschev's speech was not well received by Mao and the leaders of the CCP, whose own regimented rule of China was becoming increasingly unpopular.5 Thus the regime launched a new phase, called the “Hundred Flowers” campaign, in which the “bourgeois intellectuals” who had rallied to the regime, recoiling from the brutality of the KMT, were invited to “let a hundred flowers bloom” and openly voice their criticisms.
The outpouring of criticism was of such an unexpected volume that it was quickly shut down by Mao and the CCP, who began to characterize the Hundred Flowers campaign as “letting the snakes out of their holes” in order to “smash” them once and for all. Many critics were arrested and sent off to forced labor camps.
Internationally, however, Maoism began to become an international tendency, becoming attractive to some people who had left the pro-Soviet Communist Parties after Khrushchev's speech. This was a hard-core ultra-Stalinist minority (who felt, for example, that their own country's CP had not supported the Soviet invasion to crush the Hungarian Revolution forcefully enough). By the early 1960s, in the United States, Europe and around the Third World, these currents would become the “Marxist-Leninist” parties aligned with China against both the United States and Soviet “social imperialism.”
In China itself, the regime needed to shift gears after the disaster of the Hundred Flowers period. There was growing tension at the top levels of the CCP between Mao and the more Soviet-influenced technocratic bureaucrats, who were focused on building up heavy industry. This was the factional situation that led to the “Cultural Revolution” that erupted in 1965.
Therefore Mao launched the country in 1958 on the so-called “Great Leap Forward,” in which Soviet-style heavy industry was to be replaced by enlisting peasants in small industrial “backyard” production everywhere. The peasants were forced into the “People's Communes” and set to work to catch up with the economic level of the capitalist West in 10–15 years. Everywhere pots, pans and utensils as well as family heirlooms were melted down for backyard small kilns to produce steel, at killing paces of work. The result was a huge drain of peasant labor away from raising crops, leading to famine by 1960–1961 in which an estimated 10–20 million people starved to death.6
The debacle of the Great Leap Forward was also a terrible blow to Mao's standing within the CCP. It represented an extreme form of the kind of voluntarism, at the expense of real material conditions, which had always characterized Mao's thinking, as summed up in his famous line about “painting portraits on the blank page of the people” (some Marxist!).7 The Soviet-influenced technocrats around Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping basically kicked Mao upstairs into a symbolic figurehead, too important to purge outright but stripped of all real power. Thus the battle lines were drawn for what became, a few years later, the “Cultural Revolution.”
The “Cultural Revolution” was Mao's attempt at a comeback.8 It was a factional struggle at the top level of the CCP in which millions of university and high school students were mobilized everywhere to attack “revisionism” and return Mao to real power. But this factional struggle, and the previous marginalization of Mao that lay behind it, was hardly advertised as the real reason for this process in which tens of thousands of people were killed and millions of lives were wrecked.9 China was thrown into ideology run amok on a scale arguably even greater than under Stalin at the peak of his power. Millions of educated people suspected of “revisionism” (or merely the victims of some personal feud), including technicians and scientists, were sent off to the countryside (“rustification”) to “learn from the peasants,” which in reality involved them in crushing forced labor in which many were worked to death. “Politics was in command,” with party ideologues and not surgeons, in charge of medical operations in Chinese hospitals—with predictable consequences. Schools were closed for three years in the cities—though not in the countryside (19660–1969)—while young people from universities and high schools ran around the country humiliating and sometimes killing people designated by the Maoist faction as a “revisionist” and a “Liu Shaoqi capitalist roader” (Liu Shaoqi himself died of illness in prison). The economy was wrecked. In 1978, when Deng Xiaoping (who also performed hard rural labor during these years) returned to power, Chinese agricultural production per capita was no higher than it had been in 1949.
In such a situation, where revisionist rule was to be replaced by “people's power,” things got out of hand with some currents who took Mao's slogan “It is right to rebel” a bit too far, and began to question the whole nature of CCP rule since 1949. In these cases, as in the “Shanghai Commune” of early 1967, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) had to step in against an independent formation that included radicalized workers. The PLA was in fact one of the main “winners” of the Cultural Revolution, for its role in stamping out currents that became a third force against both the “capitalist roaders” and the Maoists.
(During all this, Kang Sheng, the hatchet man of Yan'an, returned to power and helped vilify, oust and sometimes execute Mao's factional opponents, as he had done the first time around.)
Perhaps the most interesting case of things “going too far,” along with the brief Shanghai Commune, before the army marched in, was the Shengwulian current in Mao's own Hunan province. There, workers and students who had gone through the whole process produced a series of documents that became famous throughout China, analyzing the country as being under the control of a “new bureaucratic ruling class.” While the Shengwulian militants disguised their viewpoint with bows to the “thought of Mao tse-tung” and “Marxism-Leninism,” their texts were read throughout China, and at the top levels of the party itself, where they were clearly recognized for what they were: a fundamental challenge to both factions in power. They were mercilessly crushed.10
Further interesting critiques to emerge from the years of the Cultural Revolution were those written by Yu Luoke, at the time an apprentice worker and, later, the manifesto of Wei Jingsheng, a 28-year-old electrician at the Beijing Zoo on the “Democracy Wall” in Beijing in 1978. Yu's text was, like Shengwulian's, diffused and read all over China. It was a critique of the Cultural Revolution's “bloodline” definition of “class” by family background and political reliability, rather than by one's relationship to the means of production. Yu was executed for his troubles in 1970. The Democracy Wall, which was supposed to accompany Deng Xiaoping's return to power, also got out of hand and was suppressed in 1979.
Mao's faction re-emerged triumphant by 1969. This included his wife, Jiang Qing, and three other co-factioneers who would be arrested and deposed as the “Gang of Four”11 shortly after Mao's death in 1976.12 This victory, it is often overlooked, coincided with the beginning of Mao's quiet outreach to the United States as a counterweight to the Soviet Union. There was active but local combat between Chinese and Soviet forces along their mutual border in 1969 and, as a result, Mao banned all transit of Soviet material support to North Vietnam and the Viet Cong, a ban which remained in effect until the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Mao received US President Nixon in Beijing in early 1972, while the United States was raining bombs on North Vietnam.
This turn was hardly the first instance of a conservative foreign policy at the expense of movements and countries outside China. Already in 1965, the Chinese regime, based on its prestige as the center of “Marxist-Leninist” opposition to Soviet “revisionism” after the Sino-Soviet split, had encouraged the powerful Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) into a close alliance with Indonesia's populist-nationalist leader, Sukarno. It was an exact repeat of the CCP's alliance with Chiang kai-shek in 1927, and it ended the same way, in a bloodbath in which 600,000 PKI members and sympathizers were killed in fall 1965 in a military coup, planned with the help of US advisers and academics. Beijing said nothing about the massacre until 1967 (when it complained that the Chinese embassy in Jakarta had been stoned during the events). In 1971, China also openly applauded the bloody suppression of the Trotskyist student movement in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). In the same year, it supported (together with the United States and against Soviet ally India), Pakistani dictator Yaya Khan, who oversaw massive repression in Bangladesh when that country (previously part of Pakistan) declared independence.
In 1971, another bizarre turn in domestic policy also took place, echoing Mao's fascination with ancient dynastic court intrigue. Up to that point, Lin Biao had been openly designated as Mao's successor. The Maoist press abroad, as well as the French intelligentsia which at the time was decidedly pro-Maoist, trumpeted the same line. Suddenly Lin Biao disappeared from public view, and in late 1971 it was learned that he, too, supposedly Mao's closest confidant for years, had been a capitalist roader and a deep-cover KMT agent all along. According to the official story, Lin had commandeered a military plane and fled toward the Soviet border; the plane had crashed in Mongolia, killing him and all aboard.13 For months, western Maoists denounced this account, published in the world press, as a pure bourgeois fabrication, including what Simon Leys characterized as the “most important pro-Maoist daily newspaper in the West,” the very high tone Le Monde (Paris), whose Beijing correspondent was a Maoist devotee. Then, when the Chinese government itself confirmed the story, the Western Maoists turned on a dime and howled with the wolves against Lin Biao. Simon Leys remarked that these fervent believers had transformed the old Chinese proverb “Don't beat a dog after it has fallen into the water” into “Don't beat a dog until it has fallen into the water.”
This was merely the beginning of the bizarre turn of Maoist world strategy and Chinese foreign policy. The “main enemy” and “greater danger” was no longer the world imperialism centered in the United States, but Soviet “social imperialism.” Thus, when US-backed Augusto Pinochet overthrew the Chilean government of Salvador Allende in 1973, China immediately recognized Pinochet and hailed the coup. When South African troops invaded Angola in 1975 after Angolan independence under the pro-Soviet MPLA, China backed South Africa. During the Portuguese Revolution of 1974–75, the Maoist forces there reached out to the far right. Maoist currents throughout western Europe called for the strengthening of NATO against the Soviet threat. China supported Philippine dictator Fernando Marcos in his attempt to crush the Maoist guerrilla movements in that country.
Maoism had had a certain serious impact on New Left forces in the West in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Unraveling the factional differences among these groups would take us too far afield, and most of them had faded away by the 1980s. But “Maoism,” as interpreted in different ways, was important in Germany, Italy, France and the United States. Some groups, such as the ultra-Stalinist Progressive Labor Party in the United States, saw the writing on the wall as early as 1969 and broke with China in that year. Most of these groups were characterized by Stalinist thuggery against opponents, and occasionally among themselves.14 Their influence was as diffuse as it was pernicious; ca. 1975, there were hundreds of “Marxist-Leninist” study groups around the United States, and hundreds of cadre had entered the factories to organize the working class. By the mid-1970s, three main Maoist groups had emerged as dominant in the US left: the Revolutionary Union (RU) under Bob Avakian (later renamed the RCP), the October League (OL) under Mike Klonsky, and the Communist Labor Party (CLP). To really understand some of the differences between them, one needed to know their relationship to the old “revisionist” Communist Party USA. The more moderate groups, such as the October League, hearkened back to Earl Browder's leadership during the Popular Front years. More hard-line groups, such as the CLP, looked to the more openly Stalinist William Z. Foster. These and other smaller groups fought ideological battles over the proper attitude to take toward Enver Hoxha's Albania, which for some (after China's pro-US turn) remained, for them, the sole truly “Marxist-Leninist” country in the world. One small group trumpeted the “Three 3's: Third International/Third Period/Third World.”
In Germany, New Left Maoism was on the ascendant after 1968, a process which it gingerly termed the “positive overcoming of the anti-authoritarian movement” of that year. A major current was the KPD (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands), which fought against the much larger DKP (Deutsche Kommunistische Partei, the pro-Soviet party, which itself still barely accounted for 1 percent of the vote in German elections). Out of the KPD came a multitude of smaller “K-Gruppen,” with poetic names such as KPD-ML Rote Heimat (Red Homeland, with distinct populist overtones of “soil”). Only the DKP had any influence in the working class, with its infiltration of the trade unions; it was content to sit back after 1972 when the Social Democratic government of Willy Brandt issued its “radical decree” and came down hard on the K-Gruppen, much as the Italian Communist Party (PCI), with 25 percent of the vote in the 1976 elections, not only sat back while the Italian government criminalized the entire far left as “terrorists”; it actively helped the government in the suppression of the far left after the Red Brigades kidnapped and executed the right-wing politician Aldo Moro in spring 1978, as he was on his way to sign the “historical compromise” which would have allowed the PCI to join the Christian Democrats in a grand coalition.
In France, Maoism never had the clout of the much larger main Trotskyist parties (Lutte Ouvriere, the Ligue Communiste Revolutionaire and the Organisation Communiste Internationaliste, all of which are still around today, in the latter two cases under different names). Most of the Maoist “Marxist-Leninist” groups had been discredited by their manipulative role during the May–June 1968 general strike, such as one which marched to the barricades on the night of the most serious street fighting (pitting thousands of people against thousands of cops), announced that the whole thing was a government provocation, and urged everyone to go home, as they themselves proceeded to do. But in the spring of 1970, one small ultra-Stalinist and ultra-militant Maoist group, the Gauche Proletarienne (Proletarian Left), momentarily recruited Jean-Paul Sartre to its defense when the government banned it, following some spectacular militant interventions around the country. Sartre, who had over the previous 20 years been successively pro-Soviet, pro-Cuba and then pro-China, saved the GP from extinction, but it collapsed of its own ideological frenzy shortly thereafter. (It notably produced two particularly cretinous neo-liberal ideologues after 1977, Bernard-Henry Levi and Andre Glucksmann, as well as Serge July, editor-in-chief of the now very respectable daily Liberation, which began as the newspaper of the GP.) Former French Maoists turned up in the strangest places, such as Roland Castro, a fire-eating Maoist in 1968, who became an intimate of Socialist President Francois Mitterand, and was appointed to a leading technocratic position.
Maoism in Britain again had next to no influence, whereas both the Trotskyist Socialist Labor League (SLL) and the IS (later SWP), at their 1970s peaks, had thousands of members and a serious presence in the working class.
In Japan, finally, the most advanced capitalist country in Asia, Maoism (as in Britain and in France), had no chance against the large, sophisticated New Left groups in the militant Zengakuren, which not only had no time for Maoism but not even for Trotskyism, and which characterized both the Soviet Union and China as “state capitalist.” (Only the small underground, pro-North Korean “Red Army” could in any way have been characterized as Maoist.)
In 1976, as mentioned earlier, the Maoist Gang of Four, who up to Mao's death had been at the pinnacle of state power, were arrested, jailed and never heard from again, as the “revisionists” headed by Deng Xiaoping returned to power and prepared to launch China on the road to “market socialism,” or “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” beginning in 1978.
This bizarre ideological period finally ended in 1978–79, when China, now firmly an ally of the United States, attacked Vietnam and was rudely pushed back by the Vietnamese army under General Giap (of Dien Bien Phu fame). Vietnam, still allied with the Soviet Union, had occupied Cambodia to oust the pro-Maoist Khmer Rouge, who had taken over the country in 1975 and who went on to kill upward of one million people. In response to China's attack on Vietnam, the Soviet Union threatened to attack China. For any remaining Western Maoists at this point, the consternation was palpable.
As elsewhere in different forms, the Maoists in the United States did not go quietly into that dark night. Many of those who went into industry or otherwise colonized working-class communities rose to positions of influence in the trade union bureaucracy, such as Bill Fletcher of the Freedom Road group, who was briefly a top aide to John Sweeney when the latter took over the AFL-CIO in 1995. Mike Klonsky of the October League traveled to China in 1976 to be anointed as the official liaison to the Chinese regime after the fall of the Gang of Four, but that did not prevent the OL from fading away. The RCP sent colonizers to West Virginia mining towns, where they were involved in some wildcat strikes (some of those strikes, however, were against teaching Darwin in the schools). The RCP also supported ROAR, the racist anti-busing coalition, during the crisis in Boston in 1975. Bob Avakian, in 1978, with four other RCP members, rushed the podium when Deng Xiaoping appeared at a press conference in Washington with Jimmy Carter to consummate the US-China alliance; they were charged with multiple felonies and Avakian remains in exile in Paris to this day. In 1984 and 1988,15 Maoists of different stripes were deeply involved in Jesse Jackson's run for the presidency, giving rise in 1984 after Jackson lost out to the “Marxist-Leninists for Mondale” phenomenon.
Members of the Communist Workers Party (CWP) suffered a worse fate, when in 1979 members of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina (where they had organized in several textile towns) fired on their rally, killing five of them. But during Occupy Oakland in the fall of 2011, it emerged that no less than Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, as well as some of her key advisors, and high-level members of the Alameda County Labor Council, were former members of the selfsame CWP.
More recently, former members of the RCP who had their fill of Avakian's cult of personality formed the Kasama network, which now has a much larger, if more diffuse influence, at least on the internet.
On a world scale, Maoists recently joined a coalition government in Nepal, and various groups, some reaching back to the 1960s or even earlier, continue to be active in the Philippines. The Indian Naxalites, who were stone Maoists in the 1970s before they were crushed by Indira Gandhi, have made something of a comeback in poor rural areas. The Shining Path group in Peru, which was similarly crushed by Fujimori, has made a steady comeback there, openly referring to such groups as the Cambodian Khmer Rouge as a model.
To conclude, it is important to consider the post-1978 fate of Maoism in China itself.
For the regime which, since 1978, has overseen nearly 35 years of virtually uninterrupted and unprecedented economic growth, averaging close to 10 percent per year over decades, with the methods of “market socialism,” Mao Zedong remains an indispensable icon of the ruling ideology. In officialese, Mao was “70 percent right and 30 percent wrong.” The “wrong” part usually means the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, although serious discussion and research on those events remains largely if not wholly taboo.
As a result, a rose-tinted nostalgic view of Maoism and the Cultural Revolution has become de rigeur in the so-called Chinese New Left.16 There have even been echoes of Maoism in the recent fall of top-level bureaucrat Bo Xilai, former strongman of Chongqing with a decidedly populist style which led some of his opponents to warn of the dangers of a “new Cultural Revolution.” Given the impossibility, in China, of frank public discussion of the entirety of Mao's years in power (and before), and the small fragments of information available to the young generations about those years, it is hardly surprising that currents opposing the appalling spread of social inequality and insecurity since 1978 would turn back to that mythical past. This hardly makes such a turn less reactionary and dangerous. Everything that happened after 1978 had its origins in the nature of the regime before 1978. There was no “counter-revolution,” still less a transformation of the previously existing social relations of production. Once again, Maoism reveals its highly idealist and voluntarist conception of politics by a focus on the ideology of top leaders, as it previously did with Khruschev's 1956 speech and thaw. China from 1949 to 1978 was preparing the China of 1978 to the present. Even those pointing to the “shattering of the iron rice bowl,” the No. 1 ideological underpinning of the old regime, ignore the practice of significant casualized labor in the industrial centers in the 1950s and 1960s. Until a true “new left” in China seriously rethinks the place of Maoism in the larger context of the history of the Marxist movement, and particularly its origins in Stalinism and not in the true, defeated world proletarian moment of 1917–1921, it is doomed to reproduce, in China as in different parts of the developing world, either grotesque copies of Maoism's periodic ultra-Stalinism (as in Peru) or to be the force that prepares the coming of “market socialism” by destroying the pre-capitalist forms of agriculture and engaging in forced, autarchic industrialization until Western, or Japanese and Korean, or (why not?) Chinese capital17 arrives to allow the full emergence of capitalism.
Originally posted: October 15, 2012 at Insurgent Notes
1. The term “Stalinism” is used here throughout to describe a new form of class rule by a bureaucratic elite that, in different times and different situations, fought against pre-capitalist social formations (as in China) or against Western capitalism. Some, myself included, see Stalinism as “state capitalism”; a smaller number, influenced by the theory of Max Schactman, see it as “bureaucratic collectivism.” Orthodox Trotskyists call Stalinist regimes “deformed workers' states”; the Bordigists simply call it “capitalism.” Marxist-Leninists see such regimes as…socialism. This is a huge debate which has taken place ever since the 1920s but one could do worse than read Walter Daum's The Life and Death of Stalinism, which, while defending a variant of the Trotskyist view, argues that the Soviet Union and all its “offspring” were state capitalist. Outside those countries where a Stalinist regime has state power, I use the term “Stalinist” to describe those forces which are fighting to establish one, or apologists for one or another version of “real existing socialism.” 2. All this is recounted in detail in Harold Isaac's book The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution, first published in 1934 and republished many times since. Readers should be cautioned that Isaacs, a Trotskyist when he wrote the book, later became a “State Department socialist” and toned down the book with each reprint, but later editions still tell the essential story. 3. These three factions arose after Lenin's death in 1924: the Trotskyist left advocating export of the revolution and an intense industrialization policy based on strong extraction of a surplus from the peasantry; Bukharin argued for “socialism at a snail's pace” with a much laxer attitude toward petty producer capitalism by the peasants, and Stalin “wavering” in between. On this, see the review of the book of John Marot in the current issue of IN. 4. To put it in a nutshell: the historical trajectory of peasants under pre-capitalist conditions has shown itself in most cases to be toward private small-plot cultivation. In such conditions, as in Russia, they can be the allies of a proletarian revolution, in which the “democratic tasks” of socialist revolution by the workers combine with those of the bourgeois revolution (land to the peasants). There is a bourgeois mode of production (capitalism), there is a transition to the communist mode of production in which the working class is the ruling class (socialism); there is no “peasant mode of production,” which limits the historical role of peasants to being allies of one dominant class or another. 5. See for example Ygael Gluckstein's early book Mao's China (1955), particularly the chapter entitled “The Regimentation of the Working Class.” Gluckstein (who later became better known under his pseudonym Tony Cliff, leader of the British International Socialists and then renamed the Socialist Workers' Party) was the first person to systematically analyze China as a form of state capitalism. 6. Some estimates run as high as 35 million. Past a certain point, the exact figures are not so important as the unmitigated disaster caused by the policy. 7. Apparently neither Mao nor any other member of the CCP had read Marx at the time of its founding in 1921. They emerged out of the many ideological influences current in East Asia before World War I: socialism (vaguely understood), anarchism, Tolstoyan pacificism, and Henry Georgism, among others. “Voluntarism” as the term is used here refers to such episodes as the Great Leap Forward, or the (above-mentioned) characterization of the Soviet bloc as “capitalist” based on Khruschev's speech, or the (more idealist) definition of class in the Cultural Revolution not by an individual's relation to the means of production but by their family background or “revisionist” ideas. For background on the voluntarist ideologies current at the time of the founding of the CCP, cf. Maurice Meisner, Li ta-chao and the Origins of Chinese Marxism; on Mao's voluntarism inherited from his early reading of Kant, cf. Frederic Wakeman, History and will: Philosophical Perspectives of Mao Tse-tung's Thought 8. The most important analysis of the Cultural Revolution in these terms is Simon Leys's Chairman Mao's New Clothes, published in French in 1969 and translated into English a few years later. Leys also wrote brilliant books on the cultural desert created by Maoism in power, both before and after the Cultural Revolution: Chinese Shadows, The Burning Forest, and Broken Images. His work is required reading for anyone nostalgic for the Cultural Revolution today. 9. Some flavor of these events is described by the liberal academic Song Yongyi. His book on the massacres of the Cultural Revolution is unfortunately only in French and in Chinese. He also edited an Encyclopedia of the Cultural Revolution which is dry and academic. 10. For Shengwulian's most important statement (1968) see their text “Whither China?” 11. The Gang of Four came to be seen as the leaders of the Cultural Revolution towards its end. The original central organ that was directing things both openly and behind the scenes was comprised of 10 people. Among these were Kang Sheng, Chen Boda, Jiang Qing, Yao Wenyuan, Wang Li and others. 12. Once again, the books of Simon Leys, cited above, are all beautiful portraits of the ideological and cultural climate in China up to 1976. One curious book, to be read with caution but useful nonetheless, is by Dr. Li Zhisui, The Private Life of Chairman Mao (1994). Li was Mao's personal physician from 1956 to 1976 and lived most of those years in the elite Beijing compound with other top party personnel, and traveled with Mao wherever he went. The English translation of the book was greeted with media-driven sensationalist focus on accounts of Mao's voracious sexual appetite for beautiful young women, which actually makes up a minor theme. Its real interest is the portrait of the comings and goings of the top CCP leaderships during the last 20 years of Mao's life, their rises and their downfalls. It also recounts Mao's deep reading in Chinese dynastic history, the so-called “24 dynastic histories” covering the years 221 BC–1644 AD. Mao's fascination was above all with court intrigue. According to Li, he had the greatest admiration for some of the “most ruthless and cruel” emperors, such as Qin Shihuangdi (221–206 BC), who founded the short-lived Qin dynasty. Qin ordered the infamous “Burning of the Books” and executed many Confucian scholars (p. 122). Another favorite was the Emperor Sui Yangdi (604–618), who ordered the building of the Grand Canal by massive conscripted labor, during which thousands died. 13. But another account surfaced, of which an English translation was published in 1983: Yao Ming-Le, The Conspiracy and Death of Lin Biao. It purports to be a pseudonymous account written by a high-ranking CCP member who was assigned to develop the cover story of Lin's flight and death. According to Yao, a struggle to the death between Mao and Lin had been underway, and Lin was plotting a coup to overthrow and kill Mao. The plot was discovered, and Lin Biao was arrested and executed. No less a skeptic of sources coming out of China than Simon Leys, in his book The Burning Forest, argues that Yao's account agrees with other known facts 14. For a full account, see Max Elbaum's book Revolution in the Air, which purports to see these groups as the “best and the brightest” to emerge from the American 60s. For a short course, see my polemical review of Elbaum, “Didn't See The Same Movie.” 15. This foray into Democratic Party politics is enthusiastically recounted in Max Elbaum's book cited above. 16. See the article of Lance Carter on the Chinese New Left in Insurgent Notes No. 1. 17. Chinese investment in Africa in recent years, aimed first of all at the procurement of raw materials, has taken on serious dimensions; already some African leaders are warning of a “new colonialism.” On the level of high comedy, Western leaders have the effrontery to solemnly warn China “not to exploit Africa's natural resources.”
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