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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

We must explain and clarify why Maoism needs to be part of revolutionary theory

By សតិវ អតុ
Just about a week ago I posted an article from Democracy and Class Struggle; 25 Years since Arrest of Chairman Gonzalo : Maoism - On Marxism Leninism Maoism, which I re-titled and reposted as Maoism - On Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as opposed to just plain Marxist-Leninism. To a large extent I think we are writing to a specific audience with such articles. And when I look at what the mainstream press prints on the subject of Mao Zedong (泽东), it looks similar to articles on Adolf Hitler. Mao is described as a mass murder, and each publication includes lots of huge numbers of dead. At times I had to wonder: "Are we writing about the same person." 
The Hundred Flowers Campaign, The Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, all are campaigns run by Mao and all of them are listed in various articles complete with staggering numbers of death and destruction. For example this is from the British newspaper The Guardian:

"Chairman's legacy

The Long March
Mao was among several leaders of a protracted retreat that started in October 1934 and took the communist army 9,000km. Although it ensured the survival of the party, only 20,000 of the 90,000 who started out on the march in Jiangxi province made it to the end in Yanan in Shaanxi. As well as disease, exposure and battles with the Kuomintang, the high rate of fatalities was a result of repeated inner-party purges.

Hundred Flowers Campaign
Emboldened after the early successes of the republic, Mao decided in April 1957 to relax censorship and invite constructive criticism about his rule. "Let a hundred flowers bloom" in the arts, he said. But such was the flood of complaints that the Great Helmsman quickly changed his stance. Within six months, 300,000 intellectuals were either killed, imprisoned, sacked or branded "rightists" in need of political re-education.

Great Leap Forward
Mao was personally responsible for this disastrous attempt to jumpstart the economy by collectivising agricultural production and establishing smelting kilns in every village to match Britain's industrial output in 10 years. The radical experiment started with the attempted abolition of money and private property, and ended with a famine that killed between 30 million and 60 million peasants after the failure of harvests in 1959 and1960.

Cultural Revolution
An aging Mao attempted to build a new political base through the spread of a personality cult. From 1966 devoted students across the country formed Red Guard units, which spearheaded a vicious purge against Mao's opponents - real and imagined. Anything related to the Four Olds - old ideas, old customs, old culture and old habits - was a target. Millions died. When the students threatened to move out of control, Mao used the People's Liberation Army to crush dissent."

The article even bashed The Long March, which is considered, by those Chinese who lived in or near that time period,  a major eventa test of bravery, a challenge that put those who survived this as major heroes. Most Chinese that where alive during that time period or new of it take great pride in that event. It is a major event in which members of the communist guerrilla army suffered great hard ships and horrible weather conditions in order to fight against the Kuomintang. To describe it as the "result of repeated inner-party purges," is a major insult to the people of China and their accomplishments. It is also simply not true. It is an outright lie.
Today's US mainstream media has revised China's history to make one of the most influential person of the last century into a common criminal. Pundits and pseudo-historians have inflated numbers of people killed and denigrated the history of Mao to the point of creating an absurd cartoon.
Clearly, leftists as myself, have almost nothing in common with the Western world's view of a man who's philosophy I and others have relied upon for our political theories.
Consider this explanation of why the Cultural Revolution was waged, by The New York Times:

"What was the Cultural Revolution?
The movement was fundamentally about elite politics, as Mao tried to reassert control by setting radical youths against the Communist Party hierarchy. But it had widespread consequences at all levels of society. Young people battled Mao’s perceived enemies, and one another, as Red Guards, before being sent to the countryside in the later stages of the Cultural Revolution. Intellectuals, people deemed “class enemies” and those with ties to the West or the former Nationalist government were persecuted. Many officials were purged. Some, like the future leader Deng Xiaoping, were eventually rehabilitated. Others were killed, committed suicide or were left permanently scarred. Some scholars contend that the trauma of the era contributed to economic transition in the decades that followed, as Chinese were willing to embrace market-oriented reforms to spur growth and ease deprivation."

Now let's see an explanation from a Maoist web site Democracy and Class Struggle:

"The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in a historical perspective is the most transcendental development of Marxism-Leninism made by Chairman Mao; it is the solution to the great pending problem of the continuation of the revolution under the proletarian dictatorship: “It represents a more profound and wider new stage in the development of the socialist revolution in our country.”

What was the situation that presented itself? As stated in the Decision of the Communist Party of China on the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution states: “Although overthrown, the bourgeoisie still tries to avail itself of the old ideas, culture, habits and ways of the exploiting classes in order to corrupt the masses and to conquer the minds of the people in its endeavors to restore its power. The proletariat must do exactly the opposite: It must deal merciless, frontal blows to all the challenges by the bourgeoisie in the ideological arena and change the spiritual composition of the whole society using its own new ideas, culture, habits and ways. Our present aim is to crush, through struggle, those who occupy leading posts and follow the capitalist road, to criticize and repudiate the reactionary bourgeois ‘authorities’ in the academic fields, to criticize and repudiate the ideology of the bourgeoisie and other exploiting classes, and to transform education, literature, and art and the rest of areas of the superstructure that do not correspond to the economic base of socialism, in order to facilitate the consolidation and the development of the socialist system.”

These explanation don't match. Through the eyes of the mainstream Western press the history of Chinese communism is strictly limited to power struggles and bloody purges. Nothing else has any meaning to the Western pundits. To be blunt The New York Times explained nothing at all about the Cultural Revolution and why it was waged. 
Probably the biggest oversight on the part of Western thinkers is that the Maoists of today don't really rely on the leadership of the man for their inspirationthey rely on the philosophy that the man developed. This is why so many people around the world still find Maoism important. Mao developed a school of philosophy and that philosophy includes a rather complete system. In other words it is the books he wrote that makes him so important to those of us who call are selves Maoists.
Politicians and pundits in the West can never accept the idea that a non-capitalist non-white man philosopher can have anything of value to offer the reader. They are biased and because of their inaccurate representations of Mao and his philosophy, many people the world over miss out on studying it. From The Guardian:

"According to a confidant of Mao - a retired senior member of the Communist party- it is this refusal to confront and reassess the darkest episodes of China's past that is preventing the country from achieving its potential in the future.
In a rare interview, Li Rui, Mao's personal secretary during the Great Helmsman's most murderous period in power, told the Guardian that the biggest problem facing modern China was its inability to face up to history.
Few people know the horrors it contains more intimately than the 88-year-old, whose outspoken views have taken him in and out of the centre of power in Beijing and the political wilderness of gulags in freezing Heilongjiang province."

Many people in the west don't even realize that such a Maoist school of philosophy exists. Since Mao is not counted among the Western thinkers, such as Plato, Jean-Paul Sartre or Ayn Rand, the West refuses to even consider Maoism as a real philosophy.
Maoism is a very complete philosophy. It includes simple suggestions as to how people can live better in the world, such as:

Do you doubt this conclusion? Facts will force you to accept it. Just try and appraise the political situation or guide the struggle without making any investigation, and you will see whether or not such appraisal or guidance is groundless and idealist and whether or not it will lead to opportunist or putschist errors. Certainly it will…."

The whole point of this is just to warn people to investigate situations in the flesh, themselves, rather than rely only on books or written materials to get information on various situations. It is simple but good advice. But other writings are more profound. They explain how to understand political power—how it works and how to use it. Most political people are familiar with the quote: "All political power comes from the barrel of a gun." Over the years a lot of people have criticized that quote as if he was saying something sinister. But former President Ronald Reagan, our own Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and other right-wing Republicans have endorsed that view even if they don't say so outright. In Kansas the Republican party has pushed for loser gun laws that allow citizens to carry guns anywhere. No one believes more in the power of a gun than the Republican gun owners and such groups as the NRA.
The philosophy of Mao contains a lot of writings on issues dealing with China, but most of it is universal in possible application. As with Sartre's Being and Nothingness, which is considered a complete philosophy, Mao's ideas are also considered that way by those who follow him. And Mao wrote many books, almost an encyclopedia of political theory.  
As I wrote earlier this month in an article called Maoism - On Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as opposed to just plain Marxist-Leninism. It would appear at first glance that I was strongly opposed to just plain Marxist-Leninism. Most Maoists strongly oppose revisionism. The simple definition is that of non-Maoist, Marxist-Leninists of the old fashion, or for old and past types of M-Ls. For example, from the Red Guards Los Angeles:

"Opportunism vs Maoism: St. Louis Revolutionary Collective as a Lesson for the US Maoist Movement
The following is a joint statement from Kansas City Revolutionary Collective (KCRC), Red Guards Los Angeles (RGLA), Tampa Maoist Collective (TMC), Queen City Maoist Collective (QCMC), Red Guards Austin (RGA), and Revolutionary Association of Houston (RAH). This statement details the ongoing struggle to seek revolutionary principles and practice from Saint Louis Revolutionary Collective (STLRC). We hope to be able to dispel rumors, half-truths, and outright lies. This document is an effort to go into detail and give nuance to what we identify as the misguided practice and ideological errors of STLRC with specific focus on the leader of STLRC. While this document is quite long, we felt it was necessary to go into these errors as thoroughly as possible so as to not leave anything up to the imagination or discard any crucial analysis. We hope that comrades in St. Louis who oppose the right-opportunist revisionist line and ideology of the leader of STLRC will hold him accountable, struggle against his liberalism, and seek principled unity with the broader movement."

This is an example of an attack by Maoist groups against a revisionist organization. In this case, there is reasons why such an attack was needed against a Marxist-Leninist group. It brings up an important issue I have had with Maoist groups.  

The following quote is by Democracy and Class Struggle:

Nevertheless, while Marxism-Leninism has obtained an acknowledgment of its universal validity, Maoism is not completely acknowledged as the third stage. Some simply deny its condition as such, while others only accept it as “Mao Tse-tung Thought.” In essence, both positions, with the obvious differences between them, deny the general development of Marxism made by Chairman Mao Tse-tung. The denial of the “ism” character of Maoism denies its universal validity and, consequently, its condition as the third, new, and superior stage of the ideology of the international proletariat: Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism, that we uphold, defend, and apply.

As an INTRODUCTION, in order to better understand Maoism and the necessity to struggle for it, let us remember Lenin. He taught us that as the revolution advanced to the East it expressed specific conditions that, while they did not negate principles or laws, were new situations that Marxism could not ignore, upon the risk of putting the revolution in danger of a defeat. Notwithstanding the uproar against what is new by pedantic and bookish intellectuals, who are stuffed with liberalism and false Marxism, the only just and correct thing to do is to apply Marxism to the concrete conditions and to solve the new situations and problems that every revolution necessarily faces. In the face of the horrified and pharisaic “defenses of the ideology, the class, and of the people” that revisionists, opportunists and renegades proclaim, or the furious attacks against Marxism by brutalized academicians and hacks of the old order who are debased by the rotten bourgeois ideology and blindly defend the old society on which they are parasites.

For some Maoist persons and groups it is important to fight against revisionism. But to what extent? In some countries, such as those in the Middle East, there are few Maoist groups that hold any power. They are quite small compared to all the groups around them. For example in Iraq there are the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist - Revolutionaries of Iraq. they are a good group, but not large enough to be recognized by our own US military as a serious  player on  the world stage. They are a good group, but they are small. There is nothing wrong with supporting them, but compared to the other actors in the theatre of the Iraq war and the war with  Islamic State or ISIS, they are just barely noticed. However there is the Kurdistan Workers' Party/ Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê or as they are known, the PKK. This group has an area they control and they are putting up serious resistance to ISIS.
The PKK is based their movement on Murray Bookchin, a secular theory based on collectivism. According to an article in a mainstream publication called WSJ:

"INJAR MOUNTAIN, Iraq—Nine years ago, Zind Ruken packed a bag and left her majority-ethnic-Kurdish city in Iran, escaping a brutal police crackdown and pressure to marry a man she’d never met.
Now the 24-year-old is a battle-hardened guerrilla, using machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades to fight Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq.
She has deployed to reverse their advances on self-governing Kurdish communities. Last summer, she says, she helped rescue Kurdish-speaking Yazidis besieged on Sinjar Mountain. Her unit has fought Islamist insurgents and conventional armies in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq—countries where an estimated 30 million Kurds live.
Ms. Ruken’s journey provides a glimpse behind the remarkable rise of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, the cultlike Marxist-inspired group she fights for and whose triumphs against Islamic State have helped it evolve from ragtag militia to regional power player."

So this group is fighting against ISIS for a leftist cause. They are not Maoist, but they are fighting against the imperialist power of Turkey.
We have to admit that ISIS in Iraq and the Taliban, fighting in Afghanistan, have put up an amazing resistance to US imperialism. But we have nothing in common with what they want to do. There are people in those parts of the world who believe they will gain some sovereignty to their nation state and maybe the control of their resources. But ISIS and the Taliban want to create a right-wing theocracy based on Islam. They have executed people for belonging to the WRONG branch of Islam. They would no doubt want to kill a Marxist or a Maoist.  They have noting in common with any kind of Marxism. So for this part of the world, the PKK offers some relief from religious persecution.
Here in the US it is my belief that we need unity of the left as much as possible. There are some Marxist-Leninists we can work with in coalitions of for individual issues. For example there are some members of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) that are willing to work with Marxists or Maoists. There are some DSA members who are straight up democratic socialists or liberals who we have nothing in common with. I would argue that some DSA members want to help break down the barriers between the US public and the word Socialism. Socialism is still a bad word for many people here in the US. For example, in a recent DSA meeting in Wichita:

"Other actions the group discussed include educational outreach, ways to educate people as to what socialism really is and how to reach public educational facilities.
A discussion was held on promoting socialist candidates. The group agreed we will all support Democrat James Thompson and Brandon Johnson, but we are not sure at what point we want such candidates to endorse us as a group since socialism is still a dirty word."

I think it makes sense to work with a group that wants to break down the stigma of socialism. A friend of mine, who used to be a member of the Socialist Workers Party, wrote to my blog to respond to this:

"The Midwest Is Red: May Day message of the Kansas City Revolutionary Collective
Each year I try to post and repost May Day messages from parties and organizations around the world. This message was posted by the Kansas City Revolutionary Collective. I have not met these folks yet, but this group is in Kansas City which is a 3 ½ hour drive from my home town. This is the closest Maoist organization to me and I hope to make a trip up to Kansas City to meet these folks sometime soon." 

My Friend said this:

"Bill Bolinger said...
I have been opposed to capitalism most of my life. I have studied almost everything I could find of a "revolutionary writings and thought"! I was in the Socialist Workers Party from 1976- 1985. I can not see you organization having any chance to attracting but few people! We did not either through people were surprised that we were not larger because the saw us so many places! Unless a movement arising from the legitimate struggle of the people and from their organization I do not believe it will be effective. Many have bought into various claims of the system but the dissatisfaction is the greatest I have seen since the 1960's! Few people have any method to figure out what to do because of lifelong indoctrination of the system! Bill Bolinger"

He was being honest. It is hard to get through to people with that life-time of indoctrination of the capitalist ideology and the hatred of socialism and communism that the average American goes through during their early educational years.
One problem we have as Maoists is that we sometimes have narrow minded revisionist who are as hard on us as the political right is.
In May 2016 I wrote an article, Young Trotskyists on the internet—they are REAL ANNOYING, about some of the attitudes of young Trotskyists and their comments, on Facebook,  about Maoism. Examples included:

“The author (of an article called Maoism as Anti-Eurocentrism, by Redzeal) either is ignorant of, or lying about, the anti-Eurocentrism of the early Comintern and its continuation by Trotskyists. What's more I find it hard to take seriously an analysis which upholds Maoism as anti-Eurocentrist when Mao demanded that a billion Chinese act like idiots and worship him as an infallible deity. Plus, how anti-Eurocentric was Mao's betrayal of third world revolutions when it conflicted with his diplomatic goals?”

And some earlier comments said it all:

“I don’t consider Maoism to be Marxist.”


“Mao was not a Marxist and China is just another state capitalist excuse for being commie.”

Clearly there are those revisionists we can't work with at all. They are under the influence of ​petit bourgeois libertarianism. They are useless and we should attack them as if they were right-wing.
I think it is important to clarify that I have a huge hatred of capitalism and all it has done for me and others. Someday a philosopher may come along and provide us with a better idea than Maoism. It is more important for me to oppose and try to destroy the capitalism order of things rather than promote any ideology. But it is important to have ideas, ideology and something we can put our beliefs into. I find Maoism the most important philosophy I have ever encountered. That is not to say there are no other good philosophies out there that can be useful to us. I don't recommend that anyone avoid other philosophies. There are many that I find interesting and useful, including the works of Rosa Luxemburg, Antonio Gramsci and Epicurus. But Maoism stands out as the best philosopher and people around the world have adopted him as their main ideology. We must defend and explain what Maoism is and why we need it.

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