J. Moufawad-Paul on Maoism

J. Moufawad-Paul (JMP) has written two works upholding Maoism as the only viable revolutionary doctrine in the world today. These are The Communist Necessity: Prolegomena to Any Future Radical Theory (2014) and Continuity and Rupture: Philosophy in the Maoist Terrain (2016). JMP has summarised his general position in the form of a syllogism:

Proposition1. Historical materialism is a “science” that holds class struggle as its primary law of motion.

Proposition 2. If we take this law of motion seriously we must also take world historical revolutions seriously.

Proposition 3. There were only two world historical socialist revolutions, Russia and China, and there are reasons to accept them as “world historical”.

Proposition 4. This science, like any science, must develop according to ruptures in continuity with its laws of motion.

Proposition 5. Revolutionary theory progressed through Leninist and Maoist turns because it is only world historical revolutions that permit development.

Conclusion 1. Maoism is thus the most advanced development and to reject this is to reject historical materialism’s law of motion.

Conclusion 2. Maoism is not the end of the sequence but another opening; the questions it raises must be solved by another world historical revolution.

http://www.redspark.nu/en/imperialist-states/jmp-the-argument-of-continuity-and-rupture/

JMP aims to achieve a conceptual clarification rather than a detailed historical analysis in his presentation of Maoism.

MOVEMENTISM

In The Communist Necessity JMP criticises and rejects what he calls movementism, i.e. the strong tendency by people who desire radical change to seek it not by means of joining and actively participating in a revolutionary party but by becoming involved in broad-based one issue campaigns. In Britain these include the Stop the War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the green movement. Experience shows that these movements do not succeed in achieving their main objectives and pose no serious threat to the rule of capital. Neither do they give rise to new revolutionary organisations.

In trying to relate to struggles in the wider world outside of the imperialist countries leftists gravitate towards movements which do not situate themselves in the Marxist-Leninist tradition such as “21st. Century Socialism” in Venezuela and the Zapatistas in Mexico. What they avoid is giving any sort of support to those engaging in serious revolutionary armed struggles such as the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the New People’s Army (Communist Party of the Philippines).

In fact there have been only two socialist revolutions of world historical significance, the Russian and the Chinese revolutions. That is, they have had great and enduring impacts in the world beyond their countries of origin. But most leftists reject and try to bypass these qualitative breakthroughs and the theory and practice arising out of them; Leninism and Maoism. Indeed, most leftists, especially Trotskyites, specifically reject these great historical breakthroughs. (See JMP’s critique of Trotskyism at http://www.revolutionarypraxis.org/?cat=131)

COMMUNISM

JMP emphasises the importance of the concept of communism. He distinguishes between a word and the different meanings it may have. (In other words, a signifier can have several signifieds.). Some people try to avoid taking up the concept of communism as it has emerged out of actual revolutionary struggles conducted under the auspices of Leninism and Maoism. Instead they revert to earlier, utopian conceptions of ‘communism’ or devise their own versions which are unrelated to the practical attempts there have been to move towards communism. Instead of taking as their starting point the experiences of the communist movement up to now, with all its achievements and shortcomings, these people want to begin again by ignoring the historical experience of class struggle up to now.

For JMP communism is not simply a possibility or choice but a necessity. Given the dialectic of capitalist development there is no concretely viable alternative to communism in the sense of human beings achieving a qualitatively higher state of existence. But communism is not inevitable and can only come about as a result of the working class and its allies consciously taking up the revolutionary fight for it.

CONTINUITY AND RUPTURE

JMP points out that Marxist theory and practice has developed through a process of continuity and rupture. There is a continuity in the path of development through Marxism (as primarily expressed through the thought of Marx and Engels), Leninism (as expressed through Lenin’s thought) and Maoism (as expressed through the thought of Mao). The same basic principles are present throughout these distinct stages, e.g. the primary importance of class struggle. At the same time there have been ruptures in the sense that aspects of the previous stage of Marxism have been radically modified or discarded. For example, Leninism asserted that proletarian revolution does not necessarily have to come first in the most developed capitalist countries. This was a rupture with the position held by Karl Kautsky and other Second International Marxists. Leninism was first summed up by Stalin in his The Foundations of Leninism (1924). Leninism did not spring fully formed from the consciousness of one person but is the expression of the whole body of theory and practice generated out of the revolutionary upheaval of the Russian revolution. Given its worldwide impact, the Russian Revolution can truly be described as “world historical”.

The same is true of Maoism. It arose out of Leninism but made some qualitative advances. Mao’s analysis, development and application of the concept of contradiction is one such instance. The concept and method of the mass line is another. Again, this qualitative development of Marxism was not the unique creation of one person but the outcome and expression of a world historical revolutionary movement involving tens of millions of people.

The terms “Maoist” and “Maoism” came into use during the nineteen sixties following the Sino-Soviet split to refer to those communists who agreed with the Communist Party of China in characterising the Soviet Union and its internal and external political lines as “revisionist”. The organisations and parties which were formed with this political orientation called themselves “Marxist-Leninist” and proclaimed their guiding ideology as “Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tse-tung Thought”. In America these groups, such as the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA came to be called the “New Communist Movement”. JMP does not consider that these organisations were “Maoist” in a fully meaningful sense. Rather they adhered to Marxism-Leninism as it had developed in the international communist movement during the Lenin and Stalin periods. Mao Tse-tung Thought was seen as supplementary to Marxism-Leninism with some useful additions applicable to imperialistically dominated countries but not as a distinct qualitative development in Marxist theory and practice.

JMP claims that the explicit recognition of Maoism as a qualitatively new advance on Marxism-Leninism came in 1988 with the issuing of a statement to this effect by the Communist Party of Peru (Sendero Luminoso). This was followed in 1993 by the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) issuing its statement Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism! http://www.revolutionarypraxis.org/?cat=130. In this RIM statement the qualitative advances which Maoism has brought to revolutionary ideology are summed up as follows:

Mao Tsetung greatly developed the proletarian philosophy, dialectical materialism. In particular, he stressed that the law of contradiction, the unity and struggle of opposites, is the fundamental law governing nature and society.”

This may seem unremarkable at first sight but Mao rigorously applied the dialectical method of analysis to concrete political situations and action in a much more rigorous way than had his predecessors. For example, see his On New Democracy. The conceptual distinctions Mao made in applying dialectical analysis enable much more definite and precise conclusions to be drawn from examining any particular matter than was the case hitherto.

He developed the understanding of the mass line: “take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action”.”

To some extent it may have been the case that the communist movement during the time of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin took this approach but not in such a conscious systematic way as was done during the course of the Chinese revolution.

Mao said, “politcal power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Mao Tsetung comprehensively developed the military science of the proletariat through his theory and practice of People’s War. Mao taught that people, not weapons, are decisive in waging war.”

In the past many communists saw People’s War as appropriate for less developed, imperialistically dominated countries, e.g. the Philippines. They did not see it as universally applicable as a necessary part of revolutionary struggle in all countries. In the case of Northern Ireland Sinn Fein/IRA waged a long-term people’s which was within the largely urban context of an advanced capitalist society. The model of People’s War has superseded the model of sudden, spontaneous insurrection which was inherited from the experience of the Russian Revolution.

Mao Tsetung led the international struggle against modern revisionism led by the Khrushchevite revisionists.”

The analyses by Mao and his comrades of the sources of revisionist ideas in the Soviet Union and in the People’s Republic of China advanced our understanding of this reactionary ideology and how to combat it.

Mao taught that the system of ownership is decisive in the relations of production but that, under socialism, attention must be paid that public ownership is socialist in content as well as in form. He stressed the interaction between the system of socialist ownership and the other two aspects of the relations of production, the relations between people in production and the system of distribution.”

Hitherto communists had assumed that ownership and control of the economy by a socialist state was a guarantee that the material needs of the masses would be taken care of and that capitalist deviations could not occur. Mao pointed out that the experience of the degeneration of the Soviet Union and the struggle against the capitalist roaders in China showed that the issue of socialist ownership is more complex.

Today, without Maoism there can be no Marxism-Leninism. Indeed, to negate Maoism is to negate Marxism-Leninism itself.”

This proposition is precisely the main point that JMP is making. Those who try to avoid the significance of Maoism or reject it altogether have shown in practice that they are unable to even get out of the starting gates of the revolutionary project e.g. the Trotskyites.

DOGMATO ANTI-REVISIONISM

There are some communists who claim to be anti-revisionist but do not go beyond the theory and practice of the International Communist Movement as it developed during the time of Lenin and Stalin. JMP calls these elements dogmato anti-revisionists. In Britain the most prominent representative of this trend is the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist). This organisation claims to adhere to Marxism-Leninism and even upholds the thought of Mao in a critical and qualified way. But as far as they are concerned the apogee of communist ideology was that practised under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. The term “Stalinists” is often bandied about among leftists, especially Trotskyites and anarchists, to refer to anyone they don’t like. The CPGB(M-L) really is openly and unashamedly “Stalinist”. They won’t broach any criticism of anything Stalin said or did and see no need to develop Marxism any further.

This is absurd and just as absurd are people who think that Mao had the last word to say and see no need to develop revolutionary theory and practice further. The serious limitations of the political line of the CPGB(M-L) are revealed by the fact that it claims that China is progressing along the socialist road! Which planet are these people living on? Additionally the CPGB(M-L) asserts that Cuba, North Korea (DPRK) and Venezuela are all on the socialist road. Their identification with these regimes gives them a sense of their own significance when in reality they are pretty insignificant. Although it claims to be revolutionary, in actual practice the CPGB(M-L) operates in much the same way as other leftist organisations in Britain, habitually going through to same road of ineffectual dead left rituals which achieve little if anything. The CPGB(M-L) is firmly locked within the bounds of bourgeois legality and this is so for other “Marxist-Leninist” organisations in other countries, e.g. MLPD (Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany). These organisations certainly have continuity with the Marxist-Leninist tradition but have shown themselves to be incapable of any rupture so as to raise the revolutionary struggle to a higher level.

DEVELOPING MAOISM

JMP sees the qualitative advance to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) as arising out of the practice of waging people’s war by the CPP (Sendero Luminoso), the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN(M) and the Communist Party of India (Maoist). These parties have shown in practice the universal validity of people’s war. It is also true that the first two parties, after tremendous advances, suffered serious setbacks and defeats. In the case of the CPP(SL) the capture of its leader, Chairman Gonzalo, and its Central Committee led to a major split in the Party and great diminution of the armed struggle. The CPN(M) fought a very successful people’s war which resulted in the first really free elections in the country and the formation of a national government led by the Party. But then its two main leaders, Prachanda and Bhatterai, abandoned the struggle to create a New Democratic regime and claimed that only a bourgeois republic was possible. The Nepal People’s army was disbanded and the Maoist party split.

In actual practice Maoism has in these two cases shown that it has some major shortcomings. JMP emphasises the necessity of rupture in the successive stages in the development of Marxism. The above two cases strongly suggest that there needs to be a radical rupture with respect to the inflated role and position of leaders in revolutionary parties. Lenin, Stalin and Mao were all elevated to occupy a demigod-like position. This was especially so with Mao. As we have seen in the cases of Stalin and Mao, the socialist systems in the Soviet Union and People’s China started to rapidly degenerate and disintegrate following the deaths of the great leaders. In Peru and Nepal the abandonment of revolutionary lines by Gonzalo and Prachanda brought about confusion within and the collapse of their parties. On a much smaller scale the elevation of Bob Avakian into a guru type status in the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA has brought about the discrediting and isolation of that organisation.

Some people say that it is necessary to have prominent, clearly visible leaders with whom the masses can identify. But we have seen in the cases of Gonzalo and Prachanda that this can lead to confusion and collapse when such leaders abandon the revolutionary political line they hitherto espoused. Also this position takes a somewhat patronising attitude towards workers and peasants. Are they not capable of forming an allegiance to a particular political doctrine as opposed to a particular leader? It is encouraging to note that the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which is conducting a people’s war at a high level, has a more collective style of leadership. Part of the development of Maoism should be a rupture with the creation and elevation of great leaders. It‘s time for the communists to grow up!

JMP writes, “Maoism is not the end of the sequence but another opening; the questions it raises must be solved by another world historical revolution.” These are some of the issues on which the Maoists need to take up and develop coherent political lines by means of a unity of theory and practice:

The nature of socialism and communism There have been two major attempts at socialist transformation, in Russia and in China. In the light of both the positive and negative aspects of these experiences we need to develop a more concrete, detailed conception of socialist transformation. This is necessary both to inspire people to take up the struggle for revolutionary change and so that when we are able to overthrow the rule of capital we have a clear vision of where we are heading.

Analyse the impact of new forces of production The main ones are quantum physics, information technology and molecular biology. These are bringing about rapid and large-scale changes in contemporary capitalism and revolutionaries need to understand them so as to enhance our capacity to resist and undermine the capitalist order. In particular we need to engage with the increasing importance of IT and develop ways of resisting its oppressive aspects while attacking and undermining capitalism through disrupting its IT systems.

Changes in class structure The class structures of both the developed and less developed countries are undergoing considerable changes. Indeed, the proletariat (working class) is becoming internationalised to a considerable extent and so are the bourgeoisie (capitalist class). A thorough examination of these developments is necessary in order to effectively stimulate class struggle. We need a global class analysis and increasingly should take revolutionary action on an international basis rather than a national one.

The quality of life While there are still vast numbers of absolutely poor people in the world, it is also the case that nominal material living standards in the more developed capitalist countries are rising. However whether or not this really constitutes a real enhancement in the quality of people’s lives is highly questionable. For example, a significant part of this apparent rise in income is spent on purchasing and running cars necessitated by people’s need to travel to work as a result of the decline in public transport. Part of the classical socialist critique of capitalism was that under this oppressive system people are restricted and diminished in the quality of their personal relationships and in the expression of their creative capacities. We need to explain that socialism and communism are not simply about having more but living differently.

The environment The contradiction between human societies and our natural environment is becoming increasingly antagonistic. If present ecological trends continue then the action of human beings on the planet is likely to bring about the extinction of a large part of humanity and the reversion to earlier stages of social development, e.g. feudalism. The Maoists need to take this issue much more seriously than they have done so far, further develop Marxist analysis of the environment and engage in methods of practical struggle to oppose environmental degradation.

These are just some of the major issues with which Maoists need to urgently engage. JMP has done us a vital service by drawing attention to the qualitative break which constitutes Maoism and the urgent need to develop it in both theory and practice.

Harry Powell 21/09/17