In this post I will be shifting away from a philosophical critique of the supposed innovativeness of Bob Avakian’s ‘new synthesis’ (available here and here) and look at its political implications on the ‘international dimensions’. This of course is particularly important in light of the collapse of the RIM, which Avakian’s ‘new synthesis’ played a considerable part, and contemporary attempts to rebuild a new RIM (for more discussion see my post about it here). Lenny Wolff points to two key texts by Avakian which ground this analysis, “Conquer the World” and “Advancing the World Revolutionary Movement: Questions of Strategic Orientation”, and I hope that in the future (perhaps this summer) to re-read those two texts and provide a more detailed analysis of them, however, for now I plan on dealing with the arguments that Wolff makes in his summation of the ‘new synthesis’. It is interesting, albeit not surprising, that Wolff actually makes no reference in this section of his presentation to either a) the RIM or b) more recent protracted peoples’ wars in Peru, Nepal and India. This is interesting because it is clear that some aspects of the line advanced by Avakian and Wolff are completely theoretically antithetical to the revolutionary attempts in those countries, and because in fact one could find some of the causes for the demise for the RIM in the theses advanced here. However, lets really get into it. “Warp speed, Mr. Sulu. Engage!”
Wolff claims that Avakian, like a number of Marxist theorists around the world (Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt’s Empire being the most famous), “led in deepening Lenin’s analysis of imperialism, and the model that I just laid out also ruptured with what had become the dominant line in the communist movement”. Before I discuss what he claims to have ruptured with, and his brand spanking new theoretical solution, I just wanted to say this grandiose claim is not new and in fact a new theory of imperialism is kind of a holy grail in Marxist theory. However, what is odd is that Wolff’s account of how imperialism functions in the world, which I have not reproduced here but encourage you all to read, is simply a restatement of the classical Leninist view of imperialism; indeed, it does not even benefit from any additional analyses about settler-colonialism or financialization of markets etc. that other theorists have been developing from the 1970’s on. Indeed, simply Wolff claims that
Avakian upheld and deepened Lenin’s understanding that the division of the world between imperialist powers and oppressed nations had given rise within the imperialist powers to a section of the working class, and an even bigger section of the middle class, that not only benefitted materially from the parasitism and plunder of imperialism, but came to politically identify with their imperialist masters.
However, let us give Wolff and Avakian the benefit of the doubt and permit that perhaps the deepening of Lenin’s analysis actually has nothing to do with deepening our understanding of the nature of imperialism itself, as I assumed (and perhaps the task most necessary today, but nevertheless), but simply the manner in which the Leninist theory of imperialism is reconciled with over-accumulationist theories of capitalism in contradistinction to the dominant line. The dominant line that Avakian ruptured with was “a view that imperialism was in a general crisis and was headed straight to collapse”. I would like to quickly explain the dominant line and what I mean by over-accumulationist theories: the reason that imperialism was in general crisis, the dominant line argued, is because there was an over accumulation of capital by imperialists and the incapacity to re-invest their accumulated surplus value in the world market with a greater rate of return on their investment. The imperialists were unable to get a greater rate of return on their re-investment of surplus value because of the devaluation of capital in general due to the excessive amount of capital in the world market, thus leading imperialism into a general crisis. This indeed was a dominant line in the 1970’s, largely because of pronouncements by notable Marxist theoreticians and leaders like Mao Zedong saying so, and was indeed erroneous. It in fact overlooked the capacity of capital to constantly revolutionise itself through revolutions in different aspects of the production process (the digital revolution is one such radical revolution that dealt with the problem of over-accumulation in the late 1980’s and 90’s) through either extensive or intensive means. This dominant line is something that has been a number of parties have rejected, independent of Avakian, although some parties continue to argue that we are in the terminal stage of the general crisis (a position that I find to be too apocalyptic). However, Avakian does not make his intervention here on the plane of international political economy i.e. through a rupturing from over accumulationist theories or by studying the either extensive or intensive means through which over-accumulation can be temporarily resolved, but rather by arguing that, “these wars performed the function of “classical crises” under capitalism: the destruction of the old framework of capitalist accumulation, which had become too fettering, and the forging of a new one.” This truly is baffling, unless I am really missing something here, as there is nothing new about this argument as this is over-accumulation theory 101. However, perhaps Avakian was unable to enrol in over-accumulation theory 201 the following semester, or does not read contemporary Marxist theory journals (what I am saying, of course he doesn’t, they don’t print his speeches after all).
However, Avakian, Wolff and his compatriots feel that this new “innovation” in theory leads Avakian to another insight,
Avakian developed the principle that the class struggle in any particular country was more determined on the international plane than by the unfolding of contradictions within a given country somehow outside of, or divorced from, that context. The revolutionary situation that enabled Lenin to lead the Bolsheviks to seize power arose out of an international conjuncture of world war that radically affected the situation in Russia and enabled a breakthrough to be made; Lenin’s internationalism and his qualitatively deeper grasp of materialism and dialectics enabled him to see this possibility when, initially at least, everyone else in the leadership opposed the idea of going for revolution. Similarly, the Chinese Revolution occurred in a specific international context of World War 2 and invasion from Japan.
Now you can pervert this to mean that you can’t do anything if the international “balance of forces is unfavorable.” That’s not true—and revolution, or even revolutionary attempts, within specific countries can radically affect that balance of forces. But you are playing in an international arena, and you have to understand the dynamics on that level; the “whole” of the imperialist system is greater than the sum of the separate nations that make up its individual parts.
This truly is the first genuinely new argument that Avakian has made (finally!) as I know of no other group that argues this line. First of all, I appreciate that Wolff quickly dispels the most obvious criticism of the line is that it leads to a kind of pessimism which simply pushes revolution always to an undetermined future because the international “balance of forces is unfavourable”, and recognises that revolutions in a given country will actually change the balance of forces, sometimes radically. Furthermore, I do agree that revolutionaries around the world should be cognisant of the fact that they are playing in an international arena and need to understand the dynamics at that level (thus it is telling that organisations like the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the Communist Party of the Philippines have both signed onto international laws regarding the modality of guerrilla warfare). But what I am not sure about, and am truly uncomfortable with, is the first proposition that he establishes i.e. “that the class struggle in any particular country was more determined on the international plane than by the unfolding of contradictions within a given country somehow outside of, or divorced from, that context.” I agree with Avakian that all domestic politics are partially determined by the international plane, indeed, that is the nature of imperialism. But it seems to me that Avakian overstates the case and underestimates the semi-autonomy between domestic and international planes, thus effectively allowing the international plane to simply determine the class struggle in any given country which results in him believing “that the class struggle in any particular country was more determined on the international plane”. There in fact seems to be an unconscious theoretical slip from “more determined” (which I think needs to be contested itself) to simply “determined by”. Indeed, I believe that Wolff in his both of his examples regarding Russia and China overdetermines the role of the international conjuncture in relation to the developing national contradictions partially determined by said international conjuncture. It is very telling for example in Lenin’s “April Theses” that WW1 does not figure as a prominent reason for the transition from the first stage to the second stage of the revolution, rather, the provisional government formed under Kerensky remained part of the imperialist war effort not due to the international situation, but rather due to the capitalist character of the Kerensky government itself!
In rather an omniscient and omnipresent manner Wolff argues that,
So you can’t understand it from “my country out”—and doing it that way is another example of positivism, by the way. And you can’t see internationalism as something that you “extend” to other countries; the whole world has to be your point of departure. You have to come at revolution in “your” country as your share of the world revolution. Communists do NOT represent this or that nation; we’re (supposed to be) about eliminating all nations, even as we know we’re going to have to “work through” a world where there will be nations for a long time yet to come, even socialist nations, and where there will have to be a whole period of first achieving equality between nations in order to transcend them.
I completely agree with Wolff and Avakian that one of the problems with the “my country out” politics is that there develops an over-emphasis on one’s national considerations which can actually lead to a form of reactionary international politics that results in the betrayal of the world revolution, and the associated incapacity to develop the revolution in one’s own country (thus, for example the lack of support for the Greek partisans by the USSR, or the lack of support by the Nepalese Maoists for the Indian comrades). But would like to note that Avakian is hardly the first person to make this point, as entire traditions of Marxism have repeatedly made this point (like the left communists or the Trotskyists, oh oh, I used the L and T words). Furthermore, I agree with Wolff and Avakian that communists ought not represent any given nation, and rather should see themselves as part of a world revolutionary movement, but again fail to see how this is a radical departure from the left communist position for example. I say “omniscient and omnipresent way” because Wolff seems to suggest that communists are actually able to subtract themselves from the particular situation in which they find themselves in the given country in which they live, and universalise themselves through the capacity to see the entire playing board, and then make decisions from that universalist position about their own (sub)national politics. I must admit that I do not completely understand what it means to say that communists should see the whole world as their point of departure, rather, than extending internationalism from one given particular situation to another as concrete internationalism seems to be predicated on the fact that one should be able to give solidarity from one particular situation to another. This was the same problem that the left communists have repeatedly faced in their espousal of the same position. Indeed, it seems to suggest or imply that like a national situation which can in fact be seen as one’s point of departure (so a communist based in Andhra Pradesh is told to go to West Bengal because she is needed there more or to move her battalion to Orissa to provide support to a prison raid there), the RIM should be able to similarly coordinate itself in such a manner, which in fact seems to resuscitate the old Comintern notion of the “world party” in which individual parties in nations were simply national sections of said “world party”. Thus, the CoRIM, constituted in whatever manner, would be better able to understand the conditions in which the Indian revolution will take place regardless of the fact that it may or may not have any Indian comrades on its body, and that comrades from national situations in which the revolutionary class struggle is comparably low (say the USA) are able to fully understand and appreciate the demands and needs of the class struggle in Nepal which is at a much more developed stage. Furthermore, it seems to me that an international body because of its international scope would be unable to appreciate, understandably, how a really micro-level interaction (lets say between class and caste in one village in West Bengal) may have a serious impact on the revolutionary movement in that given district, state, and then the national level as a whole.
The problem I see is that whilst it is laudatory that Avakian and the RCP,USA think that they have been able to fully universalise themselves and are no longer caught inside the four walls of being Americans, and are able to become fully internationally cosmopolitan, that they in fact remain American communists looking from “outside into” the revolutionary movement of a given country which may be radically different from their own. It is interesting to note that Avakian for example does not really draw upon cultural or historical references from the international body in his talks and remains largely within an American idiom (which he undoubtedly knows better). Also, it is interesting to note that despite the fact that Avakian apparently was living in Europe for numerous years due to his self-imposed exile from the USA, he and the team that undoubtedly surrounded him did not contribute to the building of any European Maoist organisations. The problem I am identifying here is the parading of a nationalism under the guise of an internationalism which was exactly the problem with the Comintern and the USSR, in which Stalin paraded the particular national concerns of the USSR as international concerns. Indeed, Avakian and co. seem to believe that to avoid being “mentally landlocked” one should simply push an international outlook that is subtracted from a national situation, but seem to be unaware that this position is the very false Enlightenment position that was advanced by people like Immanuel Kant. Thus, it is much easier to say that our point of departure should be the international and then move towards the national, and much more likely that one is actually simply universalising their national attributes to the international. Thus, if you had asked Stalin about his internationalist policies, I have no doubt that he would have said that he had a world outlook that did not privilege the revolution in the USSR over that of other countries, but in practice we all know this is not how it played out. Indeed, it is these very kinds of assumptions that actually resulted in the collapse of the RIM, and I think it is very important to see how this line actually contains the intellectual seeds for the disastrous line that was followed in the RIM.
And finally I would like to close by dealing with Wolff’s last substantive claim regarding the political implications of the ‘new synthesis’ on the international dimension by examining his claim that,
Avakian developed the principle that the proletariat in power must “put the advance of the world revolution above everything, even above the advance of the revolution in the particular country—build the socialist state as above all a base area for the world revolution.” He also very importantly formulated the principle that revolutionaries have to at one and the same time seek to make the greatest advances possible in building the revolutionary movement and preparing for a revolutionary situation in all countries, while also being alert “to particular situations which at any given point become concentration points of world contradictions and potential weak links…and where therefore the attention and the energy of the proletariat internationally should be especially concentrated.”
I cannot but agree more with this. One of the biggest problems in the communist movement is that communists have often over-determined their own national problems and considerations to the detriment of the world revolution, and that socialist governments should use their states as a base area for the world revolution. Furthermore, I agree that revolutionaries should seek to make advances in building the revolutionary movement and preparing the revolutionary situation in all countries whilst being alert to particular situations in which the contradictions become sharpened and energies concentrated upon. However, I do not think that these are new principles that Avakian has actually come up with, and thus he cannot claim that they are part of his new synthesis. Just because this principle has not been put into practice time and time again does not mean that Avakian has developed something new, indeed, such principles can be found in the works of Marx and Lenin alike, and was often (but not always) put into practice by Mao. Furthermore, I would like to know why Avakian and the team around him. did not actually practice these politics by helping form revolutionary parties in Europe? I would like to know why the RCP,USA has not actually formed a committee to support the people’s war in India or even participated in the international week in support of the people’s war in India?
In the next post in this series I will deal with the next political implication of the ‘new synthesis’, democracy and dictatorship. The will likely include a discussion of Avakian’s conception of a “solid core with a lot of elasticity”.
I would like to thank JMP for his help in regards to this post and TB for the picture.
The first post in this series dealt with the first two philosophical “contributions” that Avakian supposedly has made to Marxist philosophy and I argued there that I do not think that the “new synthesis” is new at all, and in fact Avakian repeats a number of insights that are in fact old hat to any communist who has decided that he/she will not only read the narrowest reading list possible i.e. something more than simply Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. In this second post I will deal with the remaining two philosophical components of the “new synthesis”: 1) the critique of pragmatism and associated tendencies and 2) the apparently “radical” epistemological gesture of arguing for a conception of “objective truth” in juxtaposition to “class truths”. I must say again that I do not find any of these supposed contributions new either, and to be honest, theoretically underwhelming in the context of the really existing theoretical lacunae in contemporary communist theory.
One of the main things that the “new synthesis” is intended to challenge is the rise of pragmatic and associated idealist tendencies. I am not going to deal with empiricism, positivism and instrumentalism in my critique, not because they are unimportant, but because I think that they remain side issues of the larger critique of pragmatism as a whole and are often employed as component parts of their critique of pragmatism, and also because I think Lenin does a somewhat fair job in Materialism and Empiro-Criticisim. Indeed, I would be interested to see Avakian’s justification as to why we need the “new synthesis” in regards to the aforementioned theoretical tendencies when we already have Lenin’s text, unless Avakian wishes to argue that Lenin’s critique is insufficient and in that case he needs to explain why this is the case.
Wolff’s defines pragmastism as “a philosophy, as I said earlier, that opposes the investigation of the deeper underlying reality in the name of “what works” and which also will maintain that ideas are true insofar as they are useful. This latter point begs the question of “useful for what?” and, more important, actually denies the real criterion of truth—whether an idea corresponds to reality.” This sounds quite deep and I do not think that any communist would actually be opposed to combatting such tendencies. Indeed, it seems to be a real practical and timely philosophical intervention in the world of Marxist praxis, especially in light of the developments in the Nepalese Maoist movement at whom this pragmatist charge is most hurled by the Avakianists, perhaps? However, I still have two major qualms with this argument. First of all, the critique of pragmatism is actually not new to the communist movement. The “Asian Study Group”, a precursor to the Communist Workers’ Party, actually accused the Revolution Union, the precursor to the RCP,USA, in 1974 of engaging in right opportunism, and argued that right opportunism was in fact linked to American philosophical pragmatism. Thus, one could hypothetically say that Avakian is simply reproducing the intellectual gesture pioneered by Jerry Tung some 30 years prior. And this directly relates to my second grievance: I am unclear about how this critique of pragmatism fundamentally differs from Marx’s, Lenin’s and Mao’s attacks on “right opportunism”. Right opportunism means to liquidate one’s own principles and subordinate the working class movement in order to make short-term political gains. I understand that Avakian is fundamentally concerned with how the goal of communism and the necessity of a revolutionary strategy to achieve said goal may be completely dissolved by pragmatic concerns, especially at the level of tactics. However, it seems to me that there must be an element of pragmatic thinking in one’s politics at a tactical level which reflect the material realities in which one is and the limits on one’s possible actions imposed by said material realities, otherwise we would actually be adopting a form of “left opportunism”. Indeed, it seems to me that the pragmatic concerns of tactics have to always be gauged by the goal of revolution and the revolutionary strategy that is being employed in a given country. If the RCP,USA was to eschew any form of pragmatic thinking, I believe that they would unfortunately be akin to a form of political idealism in which the goal/demand of revolution is no longer related to empirical-realities on the ground (perhaps in a manner similar to Badiou’s “Communist Hypothesis”). Thus, although it is right for communist revolutionaries to make the demand for communism and revolution central, however, it would be idealist to assume that just because we want revolution we can make it without having done the prerequisite work necessary such as raising consciousness of the popular masses, building the necessary mass organisations and political structures (united front, dual power etc), building the party, developing the necessary military infrastructure etc. Otherwise, as seen in the case of the Spartacist Uprising, the results can be disastrous and actually push the revolutionary movement back for decades. Indeed, even in the case of Nepal one would need to carefully delineate between the right opportunism that has been employed by the party (and this is across the board), and the pragmatic limitations forced by material circumstances.
I would now like to briefly discuss Wolff’s charge about “apriorism”, and Stalin’s supposed a priori notions about socialism because it once again demonstrates Avakian’s muddle-headed use of philosophy. I would like to make it clear that I do not wish to diminish the disastrous effects of Stalin’s mistakes or act as if they do not exist, however, I think we need to criticise Stalin on the correct philosophical grounds. Wolff writes,
Or let’s take an example of apriorism, as well as positivism. Stalin had an a priori assumption that once agriculture had been mechanized and once production, in the main, had been put under socialized ownership in the ’30s, there would then no longer be antagonistic classes in Soviet society. But struggle nonetheless continued. Since Stalin’s a priori “model” of a socialist society without class antagonisms couldn’t account for this, he was led to conclude that all opposition must be the work of agents for imperialism. The results were grievous, from numerous angles.
Wolff identifies two a priori assumptions in Stalin’s thought at the time: 1) mechanization and communization of agrarian production would result in the achievement of socialism and; 2) that after having achieved socialism there would be no more antagonistic classes, and the class struggle would have ceased. I agree that this resulted in disastrous policies. Thus, he and Avakian argue that “apriorism” is a bad thing. Let us quickly define what a priori means: a priori means to know something prior to experience. Now in the case of socialism, especially in the case of the USSR, all knowledge about socialism was a priori because there had been no experience of socialism yet. Would Avakian and Wolff have preferred that Stalin make no a priori assumptions and hence do nothing to actually determine agrarian policies for the USSR? Or perhaps Avakian and his followers know of a socialist experience that Stalin should have studied which would have allowed him to have a posteriori knowledge of how to relate to agrarian mechanization and its relationship to socialism? Now it is correct to state that after having tested out these assumptions in the course of a 5-year plan or two that Stalin ought to have corrected his a priori assumptions, but it is ridiculous to suggest that Stalin was incorrect to have a priori assumptions. Mao was able to correct these incorrect assumptions because of his a posteriori knowledge (knowledge of something based on evidence or experience) of the USSR, and delineate a different line which included a stronger worker-peasant alliance and the recognition of continued class struggle under socialism. It was not because Mao was some kind of genius who could gaze into a crystal ball about the future, rather it is because he could study the Soviet experience and draw lessons from it. Something that Stalin could only partially have done, and admittedly did not do enough of. Furthermore, Mao also made a series of a priori assumptions like if the peasantry were encouraged to engage in agricultural industrialization on their own voluntary will that they would be able to sidestep the problems that Stalin faced, and this had its own mixed results during the Great Leap Forward. Thus, the problem is not that Stalin made a priori assumptions, as Wolff suggests, but rather that his a priori assumptions were in fact incorrect hypotheses and were rooted in incorrect ideological tendencies like productivism. Ironically, Wolff too make a serious a priori assumption when he claims that he knows that all struggles under socialism will no longer be violent. Should Wolff also be attacked for a priorism? Perhaps, I mocked him in my last post for doing so and perhaps slightly unfairly, but must remind him that since he has no experience of communism (except maybe in his head) that this is an a priori assumption.
On Avakian’s “radical epistemology”
I have to say that I find this point to be the most amusing insofar that the position that there is no “class truths”, but simply “objective truth”, is an old Marxist philosophical chestnut that Avakian thinks if he spits on and rubs anew will shine in such a manner that it will dazzle the reader into agreement. First of all, there is a long-standing tradition from Marx and Engels to Lenin to even contemporary philosophers like Althusser who argue that there is no such thing as “class truth” but simply “objective truth”. Indeed, Marx and Engels were so determined in their conviction about the “objective truth” about dialectics that they tried to demonstrate how the natural sciences like physics operated on the basis of dialectics, and argued that in fact that dialectics gained its scientificity due to the objectivity guaranteed by the natural sciences themselves. Indeed, the entire Althusserian critique of Lysenko is predicated on a notion of truth that is not class-based in nature.
Furthermore, I find Wolff’s quote that, “[the] insights of non-Marxists or even anti-communists can neither be dismissed nor just adopted whole; they have to be critically sifted and synthesized and often recast” to be incredibly funny because a) I do not know what neck of the philosophical and theoretical woods that Avakian and his followers have been hanging out in, but most people I know who are Marxists are more than happy to learn and use insights from bourgeois philosophers, social scientists and philosophers; and b) the RCP,USA’s treatment of contemporary Marxist and non-Marxist thinkers leaves a lot to be desired and actually contradicts Wolff’s own plea for open-mindedness. Regarding point (a) we have someone like Althusser, for example, who drew upon the theoretical insights of people like Bachelard, Lacan etc to produce a truly exciting new philosophical model and epistemological model. However, the same cannot be said for Avakian who does not seem to have read any other Marxist philosopher or social scientist, or deigns not to cite them and their influence. I would be very interested to see Avakian say what he has learned from a number of Marxist and non-Marxist philosophers and social scientists etc. This directly relates to point (b), if one is to actually look at work that the Avakianites have actually produced on contemporary philosophers like Alain Badiou or even the pragmatists, one cannot see any appreciation for their work or what one could actually learn from their work, rather what we experience is complete disdain. Again I completely agree with Wolff that,
There are truths that, in a short-term and more linear sense, run counter to the struggle for communism but which, when taken up in a larger context, and with the method and approach that Avakian is bringing forward, actually contribute to that struggle. This includes the “truths that make us cringe”—truths about the negative aspects of the experience of the international communist movement, and of socialist societies led by communists—but also, more generally, truths that are discovered that reveal reality to be, in certain aspects, different than previously understood by communists, or people more generally.
I completely agree that there is a dogmatic wing to the Maoist movement that is unwilling to take up truths that make us cringe, for example, the truth that there were in fact gulags in the USSR that unfairly imprisoned (hundreds of) thousands of people, or that the Cultural Revolution was a failure in its capacity to change the relations of productions and social relations of society hence allowing for the rise of Deng Xiaoping (again it must be noted that Avakian and his followers continue to adhere to the classic Deng coup model of Chinese history that overlooks all of the inconvenient truths about the Chinese social formation). However, how is any of this new? It is indeed true that the Maoist movement around the world needs to correct their conceptions of what actually happened in the USSR and in China under Mao, and that perhaps some well-trodden truths about how to analyse one’s own society need to be overturned, but none of this is new. This is the meat of what we call criticism/self-criticism. Rather, the main task is actually doing it and I have yet to see from the RCP,USA an equivalent to Bettelheim’s study of “Class Struggles in the USSR” for the developments in China under Mao (and I am sorry Setting the Record Straight is not it, indeed, it actually is more an example of the kind of instrumentalist historical project that we are supposed to be moving away from). I have yet to see from the RCP,USA an honest reappraisal of Trotsky and his relationship to the communist movement. I have yet to see from the RCP,USA an honest appraisal of even its own history that deals with the inconvenient truths about the party’s development and elements of its own political line like that of homosexuality. I have yet to see from the RCP,USA an honest appraisal of its mistaken and ridiculous apocalyptic screeds about the rise of “Christian fascism”. Indeed, it would be a start if Avakian and his followers actually come out and admit that their “new synthesis” is actually not new at all to the majority of us. I completely agree with Wolff when he says,
Because, again, the question here is not only “going for the truth,” but doing so on the basis of a thoroughly scientific, dialectical materialist, outlook and method, and correctly grasping the link between this and the struggle for revolution and ultimately communism—and getting the full richness of what is involved in this. Recognizing the importance of and insisting on pursuing truth in this way—unfettered by narrow, pragmatic, and instrumentalist considerations of what seems most convenient at the time or what appears to be more in line with particular and immediate objectives of communists…pursuing the truth by applying the scientific outlook and method of dialectical materialism in the most sweeping, comprehensive, and consistent way in order to confront reality as it actually is and, on that basis, transform it in a revolutionary way toward the goal of communism
But cannot agree with him when he ends the above paragraph with “this is radically new and represents a key part of the richness of the new synthesis being brought forward by Bob Avakian. This is the full meaning of what is concentrated in his statement that: “Everything that is actually true is good for the proletariat, all truths can help us get to communism.”” The inconvenient truth that Avakian and his followers must come to terms with is that this is not radically new, and is not part of some imaginary “new synthesis”. In fact, all it is, for better or worse is simply a poor reflection of the basic positions of certain trends in Marxist philosophy from the 1960’s and 1970’s like Althusserianism. What is damaging is that unlike the theoretical developments of the time is that we do not see here a real reflection of the theoretical moves that have occurred since then like for example the impasse that was reached by Marxist linguistics by Michel Pecheux; or Marxist theories about consciousness by a whole host of authors like Slavoj Žižek; or Marxist theories of the State by people like Nicolas Poulantzas; or further afield contemporary philosophical debates about materialism in the philosophy of mind or in the contemporary philosophy of physics or biology (I am sorry folks but Dr. Stephen Jay Gould cannot be your answer alone). In sum the “new synthesis” simply does not do the work that is required of any “new synthesis” in the 21st century.
In the next instalment in this series I will deal with the political implications of the new synthesis on the international dimension.
In the last few years the ideological confusion and dogmatism wrought by the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA (RCP,USA) has had a disastrous effect on the international Maoist movement. The negative effect that Bob Avakian’s “new synthesis” has had is disproportionate to the size and importance of the RCP,USA itself, and can be most noticed in the demise of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM). Recently Comrade Surendra of the Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist) [CCP(M)] has commented on articles on this blog and asked:
We are interested to know more about your claim that Bob Avakian had made important contributions during the initial period of the RIM, but that he had got caught in an idealist mess after. This is an important question, and we would like to know more fully how you develop this position. In our opinion, Bob Avakian’s new synthesis is based on a profound and thoroughoing critical analysis and summation of the historical experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the teachings of Marx, Lenin and Mao in general, which has served to crystallize the science of revolution on a new, positive basis. This question has served to split the International Maoist Movement, and should be dealt with seriously. We propose that a Conference of Maoist Parties and Orgnanisations of South Asia be convened so we can identify the main issues and struggle to achieve a higher level of conscious, principled unity through a process of struggle -criticism -transformation, based on MLM. This is the need of the hour.
I have always hoped that I would not have to really waste my time dealing with the idealist mess that is Avakian’s “New Synthesis” however, feel that I must now do so because the CCP(M) is actually rebuilding itself, in the light of the degeneration that party experienced after the death of Com. Shanmugathasan (for whom I have enormous respect, and really hope that a Selected Works volume will be compiled of his work soon), within the ideological walls of the “new synthesis”. Unfortunately a sustained philosophical critique of the “new synthesis” really has not been forthcoming. However, the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan has provided at least a basic critique of the “new synthesis”, and in many respects I agree with their critique but I feel like it does not go far enough and does not actually refute all of the component parts of the “new synthesis”. It can be found here. At the time I wrote about the “new synthesis”,
I must admit that I find the ‘new synthesis’ to be quite underwhelming as many of Avakian’s insights have either been heavily debated in the last 30 years and Avakian’s own insights either a) do not reflect the already existing rich debate (especially in regards to his epistemological rupture with vulgar elements of Marxist philosophy and practice, the nature of truth, or even his re-structuration of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat); b) or are simply wrong in my opinion (his recourse to morality, his erroneous understanding of proletarian internationalism which is grounded in an incorrect understanding of determinations within a given conjuncture, or even his vision of the road to revolution in imperialist countries); c) or are simply unable to actually grasp the new limits of Marxist that have been established in recent years including the appropriation of lessons from Marxist semiotics, anti-psychiatry or psycho-analysis/schizoanalsysis, gender and race analysis, contemporary sciences and maths, the fuller history of communist revolutionary practice and theory etc. Indeed, Avakian’s ‘new synthesis’ is so limited and narrow that it is far too small an intervention into the crisis that Marxism-Leninism-Maoism faces in 1) theory generally; 2) the capture of state-power in imperialist countries; 3) and the successful transition to a Stateless society. It is too little, too flawed and too late.
Nevertheless I have decided that I would deal once again with the “new synthesis”. I plan on doing so by responding to a speech given by Lenny Wolff, author of The Science of Revolution: An Introduction, who was tasked to explain the “new synthesis” in 2008. His speech remains one of the clearest explanations of what the “new synthesis” actually is. It is entitled, “Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: WHAT IS BOB AVAKIAN’S NEW SYNTHESIS? and is available here. Also, one can purchase a CD of the talk itself. When necessary I will also turn to “COMMUNISM: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE; A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA” which has a section dedicated to the “new synthesis” as well. I must note that unlike my analysis of K.N. Ramachandran’s “Our Differences with the Maoist Trend: Genesis and Present Conditions”, I will not be analysing these documents with the same level attention i.e. paragraph by paragraph, rather I will be pointing to the key parts of the speech and sections in the Manifesto, and identifying flaws and contradictions that I see. However, most likely this analysis will be another series of approximately 4-5 posts because there is a lot of points that the “new synthesis” is trying to grapple with and fails at, and also because I want to stop writing 4000 word blog entries which are cumbersome to read. Also, if something comes up I may interrupt the series to cover it, but promise that I will deal with the “new synthesis” comprehensively over the coming weeks. So lets “grapple” with Avakian and the “new synthesis”.
Wolff explains that the “new synthesis” has four basic component parts:
Bob Avakian has identified and deeply criticized weaknesses along four different dimensions of communist philosophy. These concern: one, a fuller break with idealist, even quasi-religious, forms of thought that had found their way into the foundation of Marxism and had not been ruptured with; two, a further and qualitatively deeper grasp of the ways in which matter and consciousness mutually interpenetrate with and transform each other; three, a critique of a host of problems associated with pragmatism and related philosophical tendencies; and four, a radically different epistemology, or way of getting at the truth.
These parts then of course have a series of political and strategic implications, which I will also discuss. In this post I will deal with the first two dimensions of communist philosophy. The first dimension that Wolff addresses is the idealist quasi-religious forms of thought that argues communism is inevitable. He writes, “But communism is not inevitable. There is no “god-like” History with a “Capital H” pushing things to communism. And while communism will bring about an end to antagonistic and violent conflicts among human beings, it will still be marked by contradictions, debates, and struggles—which will be carried out without violent conflict, and which will in fact be a very good thing, since this will continually contribute to the achievement of further understanding and further advances in transforming reality in accordance with the overall interests of humanity.” I agree with Wolff and Avakian that this is truly a quasi-religious idea, however, cannot attribute this “big change” to Avakian as a whole host of Marxist theorists, from the Frankfurt School to the Althusserians/post-Althusserians to the Trotskyist-influenced Political Marxists, had already put forward this critique of orthodox forms of Marxism. However, I am glad to hear that Avakian and his supporters have actually caught up with those of us who have already incorporated this in our thinking and method of work. Furthermore, I would like to even suggest that neither Marx, Engels, Lenin or Mao actually believed that communism was inevitable, and one can find copious writings in their oeuvres that backs up this point. And it is very clear to us all I think that communism is not some end of History in which there is no further development due to contradictions, but what I do find astounding is that Wolff and Avakian take this one step further by writing that these contradictions will be resolved without violence. I think it is very telling that Marx himself never wrote about what communism would like and it is because he realised that the very content of communism would change in relation to the social relations and relations of production that are the outcome of the class struggle, indeed communism can be regarded to be largely an empty signifier (indeed, how can we forget Marx’s difficulties with articulating a post-commodity form of exchange in his critical notes on the Gotha programme). However, Avakian seems to have been gifted with a crystal ball, one which Marx was never privy to, and has decided that any contradictions in communism will be resolved without violence. This is the re-introduction of idealism into the Avakianist ‘new synthesis’.
The second component of the ‘new synthesis’ is that
Avakian has developed a far deeper understanding of the potential role and power of consciousness. Put it this way: to the extent that you do scientifically and deeply grasp the complex and multi-level contradictory character of society, with all its different constraints and its many possible pathways…to that extent, your freedom to act on and to affect that situation is immeasurably magnified.
Previously, the importance of the economic base (that is, the production relations) was not just recognized—but over-emphasized. This was a tendency toward reductionism—that is, reducing complex phenomena to a single over-riding cause, flattening out processes that have different levels to them in a way that doesn’t correspond to and actually distorts reality. Yes, the political institutions, the ideas, the morality of society—in other words, the superstructure of society—all ultimately grow out of its economic relations; this is a foundational insight of Marx.
But these institutions and ideas of the superstructure have a relative life of their own; plus they operate, and affect each other, on a lot of different and interpenetrating levels.
Again I have no issue with what is stated above inasmuch that if one is actually politically conscious than one is far better suited to intervene into a given situation. However, I think it is unfair to claim that Avakian has pioneered this insight when in fact Louis Althusser had made this very insight in the early 1960’s! Althusser in his seminal work Reading Capital explains that there is semi-autonomy between the base and the superstructure, and that relation between the two is not a reflection but rather, has its own historical development and temporality. Just because Avakian only figured this out does not mean that it can be called a “new synthesis”, and perhaps speaks to the ignorance of the Avakianists. The real issue I have with Wolff’s is how he articulates this point, and I think demonstrates how Avakian and his supporters have not actually incorporated this insight into their analysis of the society in which they live in. For example, within the four walls of the essay that I am discussing we can see how this has been employed by the Avakianists in its study of the Bible and its relation to slavery. Indeed, one finds Wolff completely contradicting himself in the section entitled, “Putting the Study of Society on a Scientific Foundation”. What is astonishing is that the relationship that Avakian seems to want to establish to the ideological superstructure in regards to the Bible and its relation slavery contradicts the semi-autoomy that the two are supposed to have from one another. This relationship, for all of Avakian’s emphasis on newness, rests actually on the very outdated and outmoded reflection theory of base-superstructure in which the production relations are simply reflected in the superstructure that he wants to attack. He writes,
For example, the Bible—including the New Testament—was written during an era when an important part of production was carried out through slave relations. That’s why there is no sense anywhere in the Bible that slavery is a horrible crime against humanity—unless it happens to be done to the Israelites in the Old Testament by non-Jewish people. And the Bible was thus easily used by the slave masters of the Old South to justify slavery.
Today, when slavery no longer corresponds to the interests of the dominant class, the political and cultural consensus finds it to be horrible. But the exploitation of the workers by the capitalists, and the casting off of these workers when they can no longer be profitably exploited, is just seen as “the way things are, and human nature”—just like slavery used to be. Like the abolitionists before the U.S. Civil War, but on a much more scientific basis, we need to bring forward that this is NOT human nature any more than slavery was, but is just the result ofcapitalist relations—and we need to bring forward our different and opposed morality, based on a whole different set of production and social relations.
Indeed, it is odd to see that Avakian and his supporters, despite their desire to break from this outmoded way of thought, continue to retain this very analysis. I am not trying to defend the Bible, however, I think that we need to avoid the historicist argument that underlies Wolff’s statement as it simply assumes that there was a theoretical consensus at the time of the Bible’s writing that slavery was acceptable (Domenico Losurdo in his Counter-History of Liberalism effectively argues against a historicist explanation for slavery by showing that the French political theorist Bodin had attacked the notion of slavery a 100 years prior to the liberal defence of slavery by American liberal thought). Indeed, it becomes clear that the authors of the Bible were very aware of the cruelties of slavery when they oppose the ownership of the Israelites as slaves by non-Jews. Wolff does not reflect this nascent critique of slavery in the Old Testament in his analysis of the Bible, slavery or abolition which is incredibly problematic since the Bible itself was used by abolitionists to attack the very institution of slavery, and saw the abolitionists actually used the language regarding the Israelites in the Old Testament to argue against the enslavement of black people in North America. But all of this complexity and contradictoriness is lost in the work of the Avakianists who simply assume that the Bible is simply a reflection of the production relations at the time of its writing, and could simply be used as a justification for slavery. Also, this does not take into account how the Bible was used by the liberation theologists to make a case for socialism in Latin America, and the kinds of united front work that one must do with such elements especially in a country like the USA in which the black liberation church has a profound effect on black consciousness. Again there is a re-introduction of an outmoded package through the back door. Thus, we can see in both cases outlined above that Avakian first claims theoretical advances that are actually not his, and then is unable to theoretically sustain them in concrete analysis,
In the next post in this series I will deal with the two remaining components of Avakian’s “new synthesis”, 1) pragmatism and related philosophical tendencies and 2) Avakian’s “radical advance in epistemology”.
Some Notes on K.N. Ramachandran’s, “Our Differences with the Maoist Trend: Genesis and Present Contradictions”, Part 4
In this fourth and final post in the series I intend to deal with the final two sections of K.N. Ramachandran’s polemical essay, “Our Differences with the Maoist Trend: Genesis and Present Conditions” (interested readers can also read post 1, 2 and 3), entitled, “Relation with the state and the ruling class parties” and “How the extremists ultimately help the state”. These sections are perhaps the most polemical part of K.N. Ramachandran’s essay where he in fact suggests that the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is in fact an opportunist and mercenary force that is actually aiding the state. Indeed, K.N. Ramachandran, in what amounts to a perverse comedy, suggests that the CPI(Maoist) is in fact helping the state repress the revolutionary movement (which of course is defined by his own political position), when in fact it is the CPI(Maoist), which has been leading the revolutionary movement, that is being repressed by the state.
Also, I would also like to clarify that I am not affiliated to either the CPI(Maoist) or the Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist) as some mistakenly believe, but rather, am simply a sympathizer of the revolutionary movement in India. This post will not be as long as the earlier posts because I realize that I have perhaps spent too much time on this one essay, and would actually like to start writing about other issues as soon as possible.
Relation with the state and the ruling class parties
THE CPI(Maoist) claim that they boycott all forms of elections as a strategy. But during their three decades of existence they have not succeeded to mobilize the masses for boycotting elections in a single area so far. Even after threatening the voters, bombing the roads and polling booths and occasionally punishing the people brutally, it has not succeeded to enforce boycott anywhere. Even in Dantewada region more than 60% voting take place. Another notable feature is that though in Dantewada the Maoists have succeeded to reduce the strength of once predominant CPI in this region, BJP has emerged as the main force and winning the elections from there continuously.
I think that there are two issues at stake here, 1) whether or not the electoral boycott has actually been successfully applied to any areas and 2) what is the purpose of an electoral boycott. First of all, I think it is partly true when K.N. Ramachandran suggests that the boycott strategy has not succeeded in mobilizing the masses, although I doubt that he could say that this has been the case in a single area in the last 30 years, as there are no areas in which there has been a complete boycott. But there have been numerous areas in which there has been depressed voting and a partial boycott observed. Regarding the 60% number that K.N. Ramachandran tells his readers of is actually untrue as that was simply the first phase of polling which saw a 60% turnout. However, the final turnout for the areas was actually 54%. Furthermore, this is akin to saying that the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] has not been able to truly mobilise the masses through their electoral campaigns as seen through the lack of any electoral victories. Secondly, the purpose of an electoral boycott needs to be explained especially since it is a tactic that has been applied in the context of the European and North American parties as well. The electoral boycott campaign should not be completely evaluated by the number of people that do not engage in the activity of voting as voting patterns often do not relate to real support for any given party, but to actually immediate gains that a voter hopes for which may have nothing to do with their support for the revolutionary movement (so if you immediately need a road outside of your house built and maintained it may make sense to vote for a party that has a party leader in that area who could actually deliver that, knowing that the revolutionary movement is slowly growing. Even K.N. Ramachandran’s party cannot say that they will win enough seats to deliver on said road). Rather, an electoral boycott, like participation of a revolutionary party in the electoral process, is intended to be a method by which to educate the masses about their revolutionary programme. It becomes incumbent then for both the CPI(Maoist) AND the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] who are employing different tactics for the exact same result i.e. the education of the masses about their revolutionary programme, to deliberate whether their respective tactics have been successful. This is apparent if one reads the CPI(Maoist)’s own summation document regarding 2009 (available here):
Another important impact on the polity of the country was the wide-scale boycott by the Party during the recent Lok Sabha elections. Notwithstanding the presence of huge contingents of central and state police forces for over three weeks in the areas under Maoist influence, our Party, PLGA, revolutionary organs of people’s power and mass organizations carried out a mass political propaganda campaign, besides undertaking several tactical counter offensives against the gun-toting enemy forces who were desperately trying to coerce people to vote. Our propaganda campaign was so effective that there was hardly any electioneering by the political parties in Dandakaranya, many parts of Bihar and Jharkhand, West Midnapore, Bankura and Purlia districts and near-total boycott in Lalgarh area of West Bengal; in parts of Malkangiri, Koraput, Gajapati, Ganjam, Rayagada and other districts of Orissa; and other places. Besides, significant educative campaigns were taken in many parts of the country exposing the fake nature of the democratic process which is merely an expensive exercise to give legitimacy to the ruling classes to loot the country and the people.
And it is an open secret that the CPI(ML) People’s War, after calling for boycott canvassed for Chenna Reddy led Congress in 1980s. Later it supported the TDP led by N.T. Rama Rao in the 1990s. In 2006 elections in AP, as the Congress leader Raja Sekhara Rao had promised talks with the Maoists, they supported him. In Bihar MCC used to follow the same path. Lalu Prasad had benefitted from it many times. In Jharkhand during last two state assembly elections Maoists supported The JMM led by Shibu Soren. While doing so they threaten other candidates and do not allow other candidates to campaign in areas where they have influence. It shows that they boycott elections calling the existing parliamentary system as pseudo democratic, but due to their actions they make it more pseudo. The latest instance was Maoists supporting the TMC led by Mamta Banerjee, a constituent of the central UPA government against the CPI(M) led Left Front. In all these cases they have supported the main ruling class parties, after calling for boycott. They never support any force from the left. It is a most opportunist and unprincipled mercenary policy followed by the CPI(Maoist) which has greatly tarnished the image of the communist movement all over the country.
As a reward for the support they give in the elections, the AP chief minister invited Maoists for talks in Hyderabad. As was evident from the beginning to everybody except the Maoists, nothing came out of the talks. But the state machinery used the opportunity to make aerial coverage of the emergence and return of the Maoist team. Within a short time, almost all the Maoist squads and most of the main cadres were wiped out by the Special Forces. Still they do not study anything from these debacles. Their polibureau member Shyam and now Kishen were killed by trapping them using the talks with government as a lollypop.
Firstly, as a force which talks only strategy, what is there to talk with the state at the present stage of their growth? Secondly, after the bitter experience of the AP incident why they refuse to take any lessons? What is coming out of the Kishen killing is that they have great illusions about the ruling class leaders even when they claim to have declared total war against the state. It will be useful if they once go through the military writings of Mao at least to avoid such infantile mistakes.
I have never read in any party summation about these accusations of canvassing for the Congress etc., however, I will give K.N. Ramachandran the benefit of the doubt, especially since it has become very clear that in the context of West Bengal [where the CPI(Maoist) played some role in the election of Mamata Bannerjee] that the CPI(Maoist), and likely its erstwhile component parties, used this very strategy before. However, I think that K.N. Ramachandran is actually confusing two different issues: 1) an electoral boycott that is meant to educate the working class and peasantry about the nature of the bourgeois system; and 2) the use of high politics for gains in the revolutionary movement. K.N. Ramachandran seems to careen from right to left deviations in this mess of a section that I quoted above, and demonstrates that he does not think about tactics and strategy in a properly dialectical manner. Indeed, K.N. Ramachandran suggests that refusing to any participation in the parliamentary process, means that the CPI(Maoist) should eschew any involvement in high politics. This is a logically inconsistent position. Rather, I believe that the CPI(Maoist) should use contradictions within the enemy camp to their benefit, including through precise interventions into the electoral process, and that peace talks could actually benefit the party. Indeed, this is one point in which I differ from some of the pro-Gonzaloist organisations that argue that there can be no pause in the protracted people’s war until socialism and see peace talks as being a right deviation. K.N. Ramachandran, ironically, seems to be close to President Gonzalo – whom he later attacks – insofar that he seems to believe that once a protracted people’s war has been started there can be no attempts for peace talks, and any attempt to do so is actually a tactical mistake. He misreads the problems that the movement faced in the AP peace talks and advocates an ultra-left lesson that could be drawn from that experience i.e. that the party should never engage in peace talks, rather than looking at the actual tactical problem in the AP case which was that they did not make the appropriate security conditions for the delegation’s movement and the movement of squads in the reorganization process. The results of said overture to Mamata Bannerjee needs to similarly be evaluated in the context of its capacity to make gains for the revolutionary movement. There could be at least two possibilities on which gains could have been made: 1) a winning over the low-level cadre and organisers of the Trinamool Congress, who at the village level often work with Maoist cadres, to the CPI(Maoist) and 2) an agreement to a ceasefire or peace talks could give the CPI(Maoist) time to recover and regroup, especially in light of losses that have been inflicted on the party, and demonstrate the CPI(Maoist) is not opposed to peace. This last aspect is something that the CPI(ML)[PWG] and other Naxalite organisations at the time emphasized during the AP peace talks was that the peace talks were meant to educate the masses about the true nature of the Indian State and the revolutionary programme of the party. A simple example of this concrete attempt to educate the masses is that the CPI(ML)[PWG] asked the AP government to sign a statement that they would carry out the land reforms and provisions of the already existing Indian constitution, and the AP government refused to do so thus exposing its nature to the public. It is true that top leaders of the CPI(Maoist) have recently said that perhaps the support for Mamata Bannerjee was a mistake, and if this is indeed find the case the party is responsible for self-criticizing itself and providing a proper summation of the experience so that they can learn from the incident.
How the extremists ultimately help the state
THE experience of the Tamil People’s struggle in Sri Lanka and how LTTE greatly damaged its cause should be an eye opener for all those who have soft-corner for them. Nearer home, in Assam during the two decades when ULFA leadership and cadres were collecting huge sums from the large number of plantation owners, they were getting huge profit as they could deny any wage rise or other benefits to the hundreds of thousands of workers. Wherever Maoists are having influence the MNCs and corporate houses and mining mafias can operate by paying the ‘levy’ to them. Similarly, the presence of the extremists is used by the state as a pretext to increase ‘security forces’ manifold and to deploy them anywhere dubbing even mass movements as extremist ones, to deploy them to all areas in the name of law and order, even to deploy army and impose AFSPA like draconian laws in the name of insurgency for decades and even dare to impose the latest draconian establishment like National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), intensifying the state terror. To facilitate this, if there are no extremists in an area they will create them as the insurgent groups are made by RAW in Manipur. Or they will propagate that the extremist influence is increasing as lot of publicity is given to the Maoists at the state level with the help of the corporate media. In this the Indian state is copying the US authorities, who are the greatest terrorists, but have declared a war against terror!
What a jumble! K.N. Ramachandran has simply picked two very different examples of failed guerrilla movements, and then compared them to what he perceives to be the failures of the CPI(Maoist). First of all, we can all agree that the LTTE, like ULFA, was an incredibly flawed organization and had been reduced to a military-political organization which did not have a clear political programme or mass line [I would like to make it clear that I do not wish to suggest that the demands of the Tamil or Assamese people for national liberation are diminished in any way by the failings of these organisations, but think we must differentiate these organisations from the CPI(Maoist)]. Furthermore, neither organization claimed to be involved in protracted people’s war, and both were using very different understandings of the tactics and strategy of guerrilla war than those of the Maoists (however, K.N. Ramachandran is unable to understand these differences, or chooses not to, because he assumes that his readership is actually incapable of grasping the differences between them). Additionally, both the ULFA and the LTTE, despite some profession of sympathy to socialism, actually did not have a clear revolutionary programme, and were much more narrow nationalist movements. I have already discussed the CPI(Maoist)’s levying of taxes in a previous post and will not repeat the points made there.
But I think the last section of this paragraph, in which K.N. Ramachandran argues that that the presence of a militant force results in state repression, is absolutely ridiculous and boggles the mind and thus needs to be refuted. K.N. Ramachandran is basically using an argument that could be made against any revolutionary movement, and in fact is by the social democratic movement (indeed, one could see K.N. Ramachandran perhaps taking the side of Kautsky against Lenin in the “ultra-Left” position of the Bolsheviks in 1917). Perhaps it gestures towards the peaceful non-militant electoral politics that he intends to take his party towards. Any movement, whether it be the CPI(Maoist) or the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran], if it poses a tangible threat to the state will result in state repression. The more important question is not whether the state will try to repress the movement and how to avoid it (which basically means becoming an organization that actually does not confront the state or capital), but rather, whether the revolutionary forces have created the necessary structures by which to not only survive the state repression, but to also makes gains through the state repression. The evaluation of the CPI(Maoist)’s actions and response to this onslaught is something that they will need to do when this period is over.
Some friends will definitely ask: how can you criticize the Maoists when they are shedding so much blood, when their leaders are also killed? How can you criticize them when they are waging a war against the state? Of course, we have respect for the sacrifice of the cadres of CPI(Maoist). That is why we condemned the killings of Shyam and Kishen, and many others like them in the past. Mao has repeatedly advised that we should not waste even a drop of blood, avoid unnecessary sacrifice. But even after more than three decades of their practice, the CPI(Maoist)leadership is not prepared to make an evaluation of their practice so far. In the first wave of left adventurism almost all the ML parties which emerged in 1960s suffered severe setbacks and disintegrated. Later, almost all the Maoist groups in different parts of the world like the Shining Path of Peru were wiped out. The Maoists in Philippines is almost stagnant. In Nepal they succeeded to play a leading role in overthrowing the monarchy only when they changed their line and took mass line. In India, whatever may be the claims of the Maoist leaders and the propaganda of the state, they are a dwindling force. Not only that, all the former socialist countries have degenerated to capitalist path and the ICM is facing a severe setback. Without taking these aspects in to consideration, and the momentous changes that have taken place during the post-Second World War decades in to consideration, just by waging few squad actions in such a big country like India with more than 1.25 billion people and with such organized and centralized oppressive state machinery, how can the revolution be led forward? If the CPI(Maoist)leadership, impervious to all these factors, continue its suicidal path, can anyone justify them?
We are of the view that the leadership should be ruthlessly criticized and they should be asked to change their line if they want to contribute towards revolutionary advance. We are criticizing the CPI(M) leadership more fiercely, as revisionism is still the main danger in the communist movement. The task before the communist force is to take lessons from the past, reorganize the Party and lead the People’ Democratic Revolution forward mobilizing all the revolutionary classes and sections for it. We appeal to their cadres to come out of this anarchist politics and join the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist camp.
There are some things in this last and closing statement that I will not address: namely K.N. Ramachandran’s tired polemic about ‘squad actions’. K.N. Ramachandran has repeated this line like a mantra for decades and is not apt to change anytime soon. However, I do not think that it is fair to claim that the CPI(Maoist) has made no evaluation of its work in the last three decades, any close observer of the CPI(Maoist) knows that this is not true, and I am confident that a summation document will be produced when the time is appropriate. Whether or not such document will be circulated publicly I do not know. Furthermore, the fact that the party has not disintegrated and has grown, with more areas of work than it did three decades ago, demonstrates its successes. Indeed, failures and setbacks have occurred, and will occur again, but that does not mean to suggest that the party has not learned from its mistakes and this is in fact part of the revolutionary process. As Mao Zedong famously said, “Fight, fail, fight again, fail again, fight again . . . until their victory; that is the logic of the people, and they too will never go against this logic. This is another Marxist law.” All revolutionary movements make mistakes; the question is whether they can learn the appropriate lessons. Indeed, if we were to be terrified of making mistakes than we would be unable to do anything, it would petrify the movement. But, we could ask K.N. Ramachandran who is so proud of his four decades in the ML movement where is his summation of his work and practice. Indeed, why does he feel that he remains a marginal politics both on a national level, and in most regional politics as well?
Finally, the failures of the Shining Path have to be understood in their own context as they have much to do with the situation in Peru, the personal authority invested into the figure of President Gonzalo, the urban strategy that was employed (indeed, if something can be said about the similarities between Peru and India is that leaders tend to be far more vulnerable in urban spaces, and often are arrested there – like the recent arrest in Kolkata of Rama Krishna and four other comrades), and their treatment of their support bases in light of state repression. Regarding the situation in the Philippines, K.N. Ramachandran is simply making stuff up. Indeed, the people’s war in the Philippines has grown steadily, albeit more slowly than some had hoped, with the development of new guerrilla fronts and the growth in the revolutionary mass movement. In the case of Nepal, K.N. Ramachandran demonstrates once again his own revisionist attitudes when he refers to the current politics of the UCPN(Maoist), which they earlier attacked, as being “mass line” when in fact it can be better described as a liquidation of the revolutionary movement.
Thus, in closing I would like to appeal the comrades of K.N. Ramachandran’s in India and if he has any sympathizers abroad to abandon the liquidationist, reformist and demagogic politics of K.N. Ramachandran and join the revolutionary Maoist movement around the world.
Some Notes on K.N. Ramachandran’s, “Our Differences with the Maoist Trend: Genesis and Present Contradictions”, Part 3
This is the third part in a 4 part series on K.N. Ramachandran’s polemical essay, “Our Differences with the Maoist Trend: Genesis and Present Contradictions”. Readers can find part 1 and 2, here and here respectively. When I sat down to write this post I thought that I would not have much to say because I had not read the new book that K.N. Ramachandran’s faction has produced on neo-colonialism and Indian political economy. However, I was surprised to find that besides the title of the section that K.N. Ramachandran actually has little to say about either the ‘agrarian program’ or ‘neo-colonialism’ which are the two points in his ideological agenda that are supposed to demarcate his analysis from that of the CPI(Maoist). Thus, I apologise to my readers about the length of this post because what K.N. Ramachandran talks about needs discussion and comment, especially as he often attacks the international Maoist movement.
Agrarian program in neo-colonial phase
UNDER this concept, Marxism is reduced to a dogma. Marxist classics are reduced to idols. So the Maoists indulge in idol worshipping and do not find any need for analyzing the reasons for the degeneration of all the erstwhile socialist countries to capitalist path or the degeneration of most of the erstwhile communist parties to revisionism. Abandoning Bolshevik style of Party and class/mass organization building, relying only on the supremacy of the squads and their fire power, it has reduced revolution to a game of heroes. If Lenin taught “Revolution is the festival of the masses” and Mao declared “Masses, masses alone are the creators of history”, according to the Maoists it is the heroes who create history.
It refuses to look around and see the vast changes taking place around them internationally and in India. So, even when the proletariat and the masses are revolting in US or Greece or Italy or elsewhere, the Maoists in these countries are only interested in whiling away their time, speculating how to start guerilla warfare there. They fail to analyze how the people’s upsurges broke out in North Africa and in West Asia and what should be the approach of the Communist forces towards them. In spite of the further intensification of the corporatization of agriculture following the second generation green revolution, bringing vast changes in the agricultural field in India, they still call it semi-feudal and still uphold the principal contradiction as the one between feudalism and the masses of the people. They mechanically repeat that the resolution of this contradiction will resolve all contradictions and lead to capture of political power.
I completely agree with K.N. Ramachandran that Marxism should not be reduced to a dogma, nor Marxists classics reduced to idols. Furthermore, I completely agree that many, if not most, Marxists, whether they be Trotskyists (in relation to Lenin and Trotsky) or Maoists (in relation to Lenin, Stalin and Mao) engage in idol worship and hence do not see the need to understand the reasons for the degeneration of socialism in the former socialist countries to capitalism. Indeed, the works of Charles Bettelheim in regards to the USSR, especially “Class Struggles in the USSR” Volumes 1 and 2 (on the development of socialism and state capitalism in the USSR from 1917-1930), serve as an important starting point from which to reconsider the development of socialism in the USSR. Unfortunately, similar work does not exist for the USSR from 1930 onwards (unfortunately Bettelheim’s own work on this period was plagued by a form of Kautskyism and do not reflect the Maoist methodology he had employed earlier), and no such work exists for the Chinese experience. Perhaps some enterprising PhD student will write such a work for us, and we will all be most grateful. However, I find it ironic that K.N. Ramachandran of all people is the one making this claim inasmuch that his faction has never provided such an analysis of the USSR or China, and rather uncritically defends Stalin against “modern revisionism”. Indeed, the only reconsideration of the socialist experience that K.N. Ramachandran has made in this essay is that of the Cultural Revolution, and seems to suggest to me that K.N. Ramachandran is preparing and innoculating his cadre for a break from Mao Zedong himself. Furthermore, K.N. Ramachandran’s turn from this insight about the need for reconsideration of the socialist experience in former socialist countries to his polemicisation against those who abandon Bolshevik Party-organisation and mass organisations in favour of “squad actions” is odd, inasmuch that they do not seem logically connected. However, they are connected because K.N. Ramachandran is engaging in a two-step dance which is meant to confuse his reader and his cadre alike. Lets examine this two-step dance: first of all he is repeating his old canard that the CPI(Maoist) is actually not engaging people’s war, but rather in a form of “heroic” guerrilla struggle that can be attributed to armed struggles experiences like the RAF or Red Brigades and; second his compunction to advocate for the need to attack idol-worship of Marxist classics is meant to lay the ground for his own departure from people’s war strategy for India, in favour of “Bolshevik” insurrectionism (this will become more apparent with his idealization of the Arab Spring).
K.N. Ramachandran now turns to broaden his attack against not only the Maoist movement in India but internationally, because his attack is not simply against the Maoist movement at home but also abroad (indeed, it is in the context of the formation of the ICOR, and his close political ties to the MPLD). Indeed, K.N. Ramachandran turns his sights to the Maoist movement in North America (apparently K.N. Ramachandran is ignorant about actual ideological and political developments in the Maoist movement in North America because he opts to attack the Maoist organisations in the US and Greece which actually do not advocate a guerrilla strategy, rather, than for example the French, Canadians and the Italian organisations; perhaps, someone should tell K.N. Ramachandran that Canada is not a part of the USA, and Italy and France are different countries than Greece). Most devastatingly, K.N. Ramachandran seems ignorant of the fact that the Maoist or pro-Maoist forces like the KOE, ARAN and ARAS have actually been deeply involved in the uprisings in Greece, and are some of the largest organised groups in the Greek uprisings. Furthermore, K.N. Ramachandran himself does not actually examine the causes for the uprisings in those countries (which in the case of the Middle East include severe state repression of the mass movements in those countries for the last decade, dictatorial rule and economic hardships for the people with high unemployment and shortages in basic consumer goods in both Greece and the Middle East), but rather opts to attack the Maoist trend for having not done this analysis for him. Furthermore, K.N. Ramachandran overlooks the role of the Islamist movement in the Arab Spring, and the spontaneous nature of the the uprisings in the Middle East, North Africa and across Europe, and North America. However, it will soon become apparent that K.N. Ramachandran, for all of his comments in favour of Bolshevik organising, simply is engaging in a form of worship of spontaneity. Then K.N. Ramachandran simply once again turns his sights back, in his confused superficial and dizzying argumentation style, back to the Indian situation and suggests that there has been a second “Green Revolution”. I would be very interested to learn more about this idea. When did it occur? Who organised it? What were the class interests behind etc? But unfortunately K.N. Ramachandran does not provide any of these answers, and only raises the issue so that he can appear to the novice as being a deep-thinker of the Indian conjuncture, and can once again advance his claim that the basic contradiction between feudalism and the masses of people is simply outmoded and has been replaced. Perhaps, K.N. Ramachandran has come to believe, like the Trotskyists and Communist League of India (Marxist-Leninist), that Indian agricultural production has become a capitalist one and thus the basic contradiction today is between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. I just do not understand why he does not simply come out and say it. Indeed, it becomes apparent to all and sundry that K.N. Ramachandran believes that India is a neo-colonial capitalist country.
In CPI (Maoist) documents the word neo-colonialism is repeated many times. But, as they have not put forward any analysis of transformation that has taken place in the forms of imperialist exploitation during the post-Second World War period, the transformation of colonial forms to neo-colonial forms of plunder, it is evident that similar to what was done in the 1970 Program, they are using neo-colonial and semi-colonial words synonymously. Their analysis that India is a neo-colonially dependent semi-colonial country borders absurdity. They fail to evaluate the transformation that has taken place in the imperialist plunder and domination during the post- Second World War period from colonialism to neo-colonialism.
It is indeed true that the CPI(Maoist) uses the term neo-colonialism, K.N. Ramachandran’s hobby horse, many times interchangeably with semi-colonialism. However, the fault is not theirs alone, as Mao Zedong himself used the same terms as synonyms. Indeed, Mao clearly explains that semi-colonialism is the informal colonial influence that colonial powers had over China. However, besides calling the CPI(Maoist)’s position ridiculous he does not explain why this is the case. Indeed, is it not possible that despite the formal decolonisation of India by the British i.e. a relationship of colonialism (not semi-colonialism), and the informal assertion of colonialism (i.e. neocolonialism or semi-colonialism) by the Americans in India that the basic characteristic of Indian class relations remains structurally unchanged especially in relation to a colonial power? Indeed, K.N. Ramachandran is trying to assert that that there is a major gulf between the two terms, but does not provide an explanation of what these differences are and what implications they have on Indian agrarian relations. It is easy to polemicise against others and possible weak spots in their analyses, but far more difficult to actually explain one’s own position and it is clear that K.N. Ramachandran is unable to do so.
As a result, they like their counterparts in the imperialist countries, fail to analyze the reasons for the present recurrent meltdown of international finance capital, the speculative character of which is reaching its peak. They still repeat that like in the colonial days, now also imperialism is maintaining and using feudalism as its social base, when with the penetration of capital-market forces and technology imported by the MNCs, vast changes are taking place in the agrarian sector leading to its devastation in new forms, with hundreds of thousands of the poor and marginal peasants committing suicide, and millions displaced from their land and occupation for the sake of neo-liberal projects. Instead of utilizing feudalism, by and large, as its social basis during the colonial days, it is systematically transforming and integrating the agrarian sector to the international finance capital system. Still their whole strategy hinges on anti-feudal tasks, as proved in their Program and tactical line. But as they refuse to recognize the vast changes that have taken place in the agrarian sector under neo-colonization and have no agrarian program based on it and mass organization of the peasantry, practically nothing is done to advance the agrarian revolution with “land to the tiller” slogan. As a result, though it speaks about feudalism as the principal target, its activities are reduced to squad actions in the forest areas far away from the real peasantry.
K.N. Ramachandran once again shifts terrain in his confused argumentation style to the economic meltdown without any explanation of the connection between the preceding paragraph and the current one. He then again switches tack to discuss the Indian conjuncture and the question of the feudal base. Indeed, I cannot but feel that K.N. Ramachandran is simply engaging in a “throw the kitchen sink” strategy in hope that at least some of the points he superficially raises will actually get through and strike a blow. However, let us try and follow him through the myriad of confused paths, much like the urban planning of Delhi, that is his mind. It is clear that there is a logic here that is clear to K.N. Ramachandran, if no one else, and perhaps if nothing else these notes will help him edit his essay in a manner that makes his style of argument clearer to those who will hazard to read his essay. First of all, K.N. Ramachandran seems to be ignorant of what different Maoist groups have said about the current economic crisis, and I would suggest that look at for example the (n)PCI’s analysis of the crisis (also, I have heard that Jose Maria Sison is intending to do some work on the question as well). K.N. Ramachandran seems to want to argue that the economic meltdown and the crisis within imperialism has necessitated the integration of the agrarian sector into international financial system. This would appear to most as a very penetrating analysis and indeed possibly something novel, however, what actually is demonstrated is that he seems to not understand what “semi-feudalism” actually is. No Maoist would not suggest that the agrarian sector has not been effected by international financialisation; semi-feudalism does not meant that the agrarian sector remains absolutely outside of the international capitalist system, but rather, that the relationship between that international financial sector is mediated through a feudal landowning class (indeed, Jose Maria Sison in Philippine Society and Revolution repeatedly points out that the largest landlords actually are part of the comprador bourgeoisie who are directly in touch with the international financial system! Interested readers can read my review of this book here). Because K.N. Ramachandran seems incapable of making his argument clearly, he then decides to polemicise aganst the CPI(Maoist) for not having an agrarian program (which is not true) and having no mass organisations amongst the peasantry (which is also not true, and was actually negated earlier when he spoke about his own faction’s involvement in the campaign launched by the CPI(ML)[PWG] and CPI(ML)[PU]’s peasant organisations, see the first post in the series). It is true that the CPI(Maoists) people’s liberation guerrilla army does not engage in actions in the plains where much of the agricultural land is, but this is because of geography and the effect that it has on the armed struggle. This does not mean to suggest however, that the CPI(Maoist) is not engaged in the peasant struggle against feudalism, rather, it does it through other forms of struggle. But of course, K.N. Ramachandran cannot recognise this reality because it would once again undermine his earlier contradictory argument that the CPI(Maoist) only engaged in one form of struggle i.e. armed struggle. Indeed, K.N. Ramachandran’s argument is akin to Gandhi’s three monkeys: don’t see reality, don’t listen to reality, and do not speak about reality.
From the analysis of the present world and Indian situation put forward by CPI (Maoist) it is difficult for anyone to explain why the present mass upsurges are taking place. Same is the fate of the Maoist fringe groups in the imperialist countries in Europe and North America also. As a result, even when big mass movements emerge in different areas and when they get an opportunity to influence any of them as happened in the Lalgarh area of W. Bengal, they reduce it to an area for deploying their guerilla squads and to organize few actions like the derailing of Gyaneswari Express which killed many and inconvenienced millions for nearly two years, as the railway department stopped plying trains through that route in the night in the name of lack of security.
In Chhattisgarh, the Maoists are calling the forest areas of Dantewada district as their liberated area. After visiting it Jan Myrdal has written a book “Red Star Over India” actually ridiculing himself and the good intellectual work he had done earlier, a mechanical imitation of the great book “Red Star Over China” written by Edgar Snow. But contrary to what is reported by the petti-bourgeois intellectuals who blindly support the Maoists, what is happening there is a different story. When the earlies Congress government tried to privatize the Shivnath river and later when the BJP government declared a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Rajnandgaon district a powerful mass movement was organized under the initiative of CPI(ML) due to which the latter’s implementation was truncated and the latter had to be abandoned. Similar mass movements are taking place against other neo-liberal projects also. But in Dantewada, a corporate group like Essar has constructed a more than 200 km long pipeline to loot the rich iron ore of that area. The same is the case of other so-called Maoist controlled areas in Jharkhand, Lalgarh in Bengal and Odisha-AP border areas also. Instead of mobilizing the masses and throwing out the MNCs, corporate houses and mining mafias, often Maoists are serving as their mercenaries after taking huge sums from them. The Communist Parties built under the guidance of the Communist International based on Bolshevik principles had a great tradition of building the Party surrounded by the class and mass organizations. They collected money from the people and the mass organizations besides the levy from the party members and sympathizers.
But the method of ‘levying’ adopted by the Maoists under coercion, especially when they are in the infantile stage of their growth has corrupted their own cadres. Combined with the sectarian practice of ‘money actions ‘ followed by many groups and splinter factions in many areas corruption has become rampant among these sections including the Maoists as there is no accounting of the money collected or no principles are followed in collection. In areas of AP and some other states, money is demanded to become cadres. The spirit of depending on the masses is alien to many of them. Maoists are justifying it in the name of huge amounts required to purchase sophisticated arms and to maintain hideouts. But whatever may be the justification this practice has led to a deterioration of communist values among the cadres.
Since this post is becoming incredibly long I will deal with only some of the things that K.N. Ramachandran brings up here. It is not clear how K.N. Ramachandran’s analysis better explains the present mass upsurges around the world either. Also, it is interesting to note that K.N. Ramachandran does not at any point mention either the spontaneous nature of these revolts, and the nascent forms of organisation that played differing revolts in the uprisings (of course here I am influenced by Antonio Gramsci’s idea in The Prison Notebooks that spontaneous worker’s revolts always has some nascent organisation which must merge with the communist party). Indeed, Maoists in Europe and North America do not believe that they either live in semi-feudal or semi-colonial situations, and thus I am not sure how any deficiencies in their analysis of the Indian situation effects their effectivity in their own conjuncture. Furthermore, I think that K.N. Ramachandran actually is completely unaware of what Maoist forces in North America and Europe are actually doing, and so I would advise him to keep in mind Mao Zedong’s famous directive, “No investigation, no right to speak”. The Maoist movements in Europe, especially in Italy, Norway, and Greece have been incredibly involved in the struggles of the people in their respective countries. Indeed, it is CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran]’s partner in Europe, the MLPD, that have adopted an erroneous line that has resulted in their complete marginalization both electorally (as seen by their performance in the last elections) and politically (the fact that they have no active presence in the current German Left, and have largely become a nostalgic party) in the German conjuncture. Furthermore, K.N. Ramachandran seems to be ignorant of the fact that the RCP(Canada) in North America, the only Maoist party in North America, has been incredibly active in many struggles and has actually been growing from strength to strength! I will allow Jan Myrdal to respond to his slanderous attacks against him, but will suggest that if K.N. Ramachandran wishes to win people over to his side that he treat them with more respect. But I am glad to hear that the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] has been building a mass movement against the privatization and SEZ’s.
I will finally address the last two points that K.N. Ramachandran raises. First of all, I think that K.N. Ramachandran is simply ignorant, as am I, about how much money is being collected from party members, sympathisers and mass organisations, and unless he has some special information does not know what portion of the CPI(Maoist)’s monies come from their own support base. He is simply using demagogic argumentation to make his polemic seem sharper than it is. Now regarding the taxing of MNC’s, corporate houses and mining mafias, I think that K.N. Ramachandran is unable to actually really think through his proposition that the Maoists should simply kick them out, which if done prematurely is actually an ultra-Left error. So lets think through this: 1) if they kick out these entities then the people living in these areas will simply not have any source of income by which to purchase basic commodities that they need, thus despite their exploitative presence they do provide much needed employment. Indeed, kicking out these economic entities without providing the necessary economic infrastructure to sustain the population would actually be harmful to the population (which K.N. Ramachandran is so worried about) and the capacity to do so would mean that those areas would no longer simply be guerrilla zones, but would be elevated to base areas which the Maoists are trying to build, but hitherto have been unable to and; 2) if the MNC’s etc cannot be kicked out of the areas at this stage because the necessary economic infrastructure does not exist to create a completely parallel economy in all areas then the question arises what is to be done with them? The Maoists have answered this through two methods: a) they have built mass organisations which allow the people in these areas to actually win better wages and working conditions, thus choosing a method of struggle that is appropriate to their areas and through which they can build a mass base of support and b) through taxation of these exploitative entities by which to fund the party and its activities.
Much more could be said about the points that have raised but, I think that I will leave others to say them. The next and final post in this series will deal with “Relation with the state and the ruling class parties” and “How the extremists ultimately help the state”.
Some Notes on K.N. Ramachandran’s, “Our Differences with the Maoist Trend: Genesis and Present Contradictions”, Part 2
This is the second post in a series that will examine and comment on K.N. Ramachandran’s recently published article, “Our Differences with the Maoist Trend: Genesis and Present Contradictions”. Part 1 is available here and discusses the history of the Indian Maoist movement from 1972 till the mid-1990’s. In this post I will deal with the second part of the essay entitled, “Mao Tsetung Thought or Maoism?” This debate of course has been a long-running one with a number of organisations/parties refusing to accept Maoism, and continuing to adhere to Mao Zedong Thought.
Mao Tsetung Thought or Maoism?
BUT its merger with the Maoist Communist Center (MCC) and formation of CPI (Maoist) led to its 2004 Congress adopting more dogmatic positions, including the acceptance of Maoism in place of Mao Tsetung Thought, as its ideological guideline. The differences between these two concepts are basic. According to the understanding upheld by the Marxist-Leninist forces, Mao developed the theory and practice of People’s Democratic Revolution based on the teachings of the Communist International and applied it in the concrete conditions of China successfully. Mao later led the socialist revolution in China in the concrete conditions there. During the course of his long revolutionary practice, he developed the understanding about the dialectical approach towards Contradictions in a given situation. He developed the ideological-political struggle against the capitalist roaders who had usurped power in Soviet Union through the Great Debate documents, and in the course of the struggle against the capitalist roaders within the CPC developed the concept of Cultural Revolution, the theory and practice of developing class struggle under the dictatorship of the proletariat, based on the Marxist-Leninist teachings. The Cultural Revolution had reached a peak by 1967 with the removal of Liu Shaochi and Deng Tsiaoping from all positions of authority and people’s communes as centers of people’s political power were coming up all over China challenging the authority of the capitalist roaders.
It is by summing up these contributions of Mao, the Marxist-Leninist stream which had emerged at the international level in the course of struggle against the capitalist roaders who had usurped power in socialist Soviet Union and degenerated it to a social imperialist power, colluding and contending with US imperialism for world hegemony, had put forward Mao Tsetung Thought as their guiding ideology.
But with the publication of the book: Long Live the victory of People’s War, by Lin Biao in 1966, a sectarian line started coming to dominance in China, which was ‘waving the red flag to destroy the red flag’. While claiming to uphold Cultural Revolution, it suppressed the mass upsurge developing as a part of it based on Mao’s call, using the military. In the course of the tortuous class struggle developing in this period, the correctness of the Leninist teaching that the right and left deviations are two sides of the same coin and both ultimately serve the imperialists and their lackeys was being proved once again.
K.N. Ramachandran correctly identifies the correct practice of Mao Zedong in China, and the important role that Mao Zedong played in the revolutionary movement. Indeed, few can be dismissive of the role that Mao Zedong played in the revolutionary movement in China, and those who do are either plagued with dogmatism or sectarianism. However, there is something insidious in his statement which is not readily apparent to the reader. It took me a little while to figure out what exactly troubled me about his statement, but reading these paragraphs 2-3 times I think I have identified the problem. K.N. Ramachandran does not fully appreciate the contributions that Mao Zedong made to Marxist-Leninist theory and practice, and in fact minimises them. JMP from M-L-M Mayhem! and I had a long series of posts entitled, “The Three-Headed Beast” (which have now been nicely archived for all to read) that attempts to more fully delineate some of these theoretical contributions (I also recommend people read Bob Avakian’s “The Immortal Contributions of Mao Zedong”, which despite his recent collapse into a morass of idealism was a good book, and the 1993 RIM document entitled, “Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism”). If one carefully reads K.N. Ramachandran’s statement Mao Zedong simply enriched the theory of people’s democratic revolution as taught by the Comintern, pushed forward the ideological-political struggle against the revisionists in the USSR and China, and the “Cultural Revolution” was the only truly novel concept that Mao had. Nowhere does he mention Mao’s contributions like the concept of ‘protracted people’s war’, the nascent new class analysis of socialist societies which is intrinsically tied to a richer and deeper understanding of revisionism, the notion of ‘mass line’ etc. Mao, for K.N. Ramachandran, is simply standing on the shoulders of giants, but is not a giant himself. Indeed, thus Mao Zedong’s contributions remain that of a ‘Thought’, rather than an ‘-ism’. Mao Zedong’s contributions, whilst important, are not of the same qualitative value as those of Marx or Lenin. I full-heartedly agree with K.N. Ramachandran that the high water mark for the Cultural Revolution was 1967 with the development of the mass movement, the formation of people’s communes (as imperfect as they were) and the formal removal of Deng Xiaoping, Liu Shaoqi and other capitalist roaders from their positions in the CPC. And I definitely do agree that the Lin Biao line, which over-emphasised the role of the military and suppressed the mass movement at the orders of Mao Zedong himself was an left deviationist line, and needed to be combatted.
This book characterized the state and society in all Asian, African and Latin American countries as semi-colonial, semi-feudal, similar to pre-revolutionary China. It started advocating that the era of Leninism, the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution which was upheld by the Marxist-Leninist forces until then is over, and a new era of ‘total collapse of imperialism and worldwide victory of socialism’ had emerged, with Mao Tsetung Thought as the Marxism-Leninism of the new era. The Chinese Path of people’s war, which Mao and the CPC leaders had repeatedly explained till then as a practice developed in the unique conditions of China was put forward as the strategic line applicable for all these countries. Following Naxalbari Uprising, the Beijing Daily published the article: Spring Thunder over India advocating this line.
While this article gave tremendous enthusiasm to the Communist Revolutionaries (CRs) in India who were fighting against the neo-revisionist line of the CPI(M) leadership, it contained an approach which negated the concrete conditions developing in the Asian-African-Latin American countries under neo-colonization imposed by the US led imperialist camp after the Second World War. Refusing to make a concrete analysis of Indian situation, it was mechanically followed by all sections of the CRs in India. In the 9th Congress of the CPC in 1969, this sectarian, left adventurist line of Lin Biao came to dominance in China as reflected in the basic documents adopted by the Congress. In the Constitution of the CPC, Lin Biao was upheld as the heir to Mao also. Under the sway of this adventurist line, all sorts of formulations like ‘armed struggle as the only form of struggle’, ‘class/mass organizations are highways to revisionism’, ‘the more you read the more foolish you become’ etc emerged, leading to the set backs and disintegration of the newly emerging ML movement all over the world within a very short time.
The 10th Congress of the CPC in 1973 rejected these formulations. But the centrists led by Chou Enlai who had come to dominance by this time did not put forward any analysis about how such an adventurist line come could to dominance, since they also had played a role in the suppression of the people’s upsurge against the capitalist roaders along with the Lin Biaoists. They soon opened the way for the return of the capitalist roaders to positions of power also. Using these developments as a pretext, a handful of the ‘Lin Biaoists’, who are mainly surviving in Bengal under the leadership of Mahadev Mukherjee and few others had rejected the 10th Congress, and upheld the 9th Congress of the CPC, and advocated the new era theory. But they were also still upholding Mao Thought.
I do not have major objections to K.N. Ramachandran’s grievances with the Lin Biao line. Indeed, I think that the line that Lin Biao advocates in the document is wrong and had disastrous effects on the movement, especially the idea of global people’s war. However, I think one should be clear for clarity’s sake that Lin Biao does not argue in this document that this is an era of the total collapse of imperialism (at least I cannot find such a statement in the version of the pamphlet I consulted). Rather, Lin Biao argues that the October Revolution and the Chinese Revolution marked the beginning of a new era for oppressed countries as the world balance of forces had changed. Lin Biao writes, “The victory of the Chinese people’s revolutionary war breached the imperialist front in the East, wrought a great change in the world balance of forces, and accelerated the revolutionary movement among the people of all countries. From then on, the national liberation movement in Asia, Africa, and Latin America entered a new historical period.” Lin Biao was correct in that the Chinese Revolution did open up a new historical period (note: not era) that changed the balance of forces for oppressed people’s around the world through the provisioning of material and ideological support, especially in light of the USSR’s social imperialism and political-ideological revisionism. Furthermore, Lin Biao ends his pamphlet with a much more provisional statement than what K.N. Ramachandran suggests, Lin Biao writes, “it is possible that the whole structure of imperialism will collapse”. This is a qualitatively different statement than the one that K.N. Ramachandran attributes to Lin Biao in the context of this document. Furthermore, K.N. Ramachandran argues that that Lin Biao argued that the countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia were “semi-feudal and semi-colonial” which negated the particular conditions of their own countries [this all part and parcel of K.N. Ramachandran’s argument that semi-colonialism no longer exists and has been replaced by neo-colonialism, which I will not deal with here as I have not read the new book that his faction has produced on the question, and will thus overlook the accusations that K.N. Ramachandran makes about the applicability of this formulation to Indian conditions and the blind obedience of communist revolutionaries in India to this formulation]. However, Lin Biao in the document does not make such a strong statement and argues, “The basic political and economic conditions in many of these countries have many similarities to those that prevailed in old China. As in China, the peasant question is extremely important in these regions. The peasants constitute the main force of the national-democratic revolution against the imperialists and their lackeys.” Indeed, no where does he say that these conditions exist in all countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa, and instead argues that they share similarities especially in regards to the role of the peasantry in the revolutionary struggle. However, it is true that Lin Biao’s line resulted in the development of an erroneous line in the revolutionary movement in India in which comrades eschewed study, or the need for mass organisations etc. I have no issues with the last paragraph quoted above.
Internationally it was Gonzalos, the chairman of the Communist Party of Peru, known as the Shining Light, who had put forward Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and Gonzalos Thought as its guiding ideology in early 1980s. The Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), formed in 1984, soon adopted Maoism as its guiding ideology. But in India the ‘credit’ for upholding Maoism for the first time goes to the Maoist Communist Center (MCC), ardent followers of the 1969 CPC line. This sectarian concept was adopted by PWG and PU, it seems, as a sacrifice for their unity with MCC. In Latin America, though some ML organizations uphold the concept ‘Maoism’, their explanations show that they do not accept the RIM’s line of explanation about it.
In short, Maoism, as advocated by the CPI (Maoist), is nothing but an aberration, a deviation from the basic understanding about Marxism-Leninism. Presently, UCPN (Maoist) of Nepal, in spite of still upholding Maoism in name, has basically changed its practice and has criticized the CPI (Maoist) for its sectarian line. Again, it is reported that because of the sectarian approach of the ‘front organizations’ of CPI (Maoist), they are now expelled from the International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS) led by the Communist Party of Philippines, which is also upholding Maoism, but practicing mass line to a great extent. With the considerable weakening of the RIM and its constituents, presently the CPI (Maoist) has become the main flag bearer of this sectarian concept.
It is indeed true that the formulation of “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” came from the Peruvian Communist Party, under the leadership of Abimael Guzmán, and that it was at the insistence of the PCP that the RIM adopted Maoism as the third stage of Marxism-Leninism. I am not sure which Latin American organisations K.N Ramachandran has in mind, but would be interested in reading their ideological documents. However, K.N. Ramachandran is wrong to suggest that the Maoist Communist Centre’s use of Maoism was that of the 1969 Lin Biaoist variety. Indeed, in 2003 when the Maoist Communist Centre of India merged with the CPI(ML)[2nd CC] [a pro-Lin Biaoist organisation], the CPI(ML)[2nd CC] was required to withdraw their support for Lin Biao as an ideological condition for the merger. If indeed the MCC was an ardent supporter of Lin Biao, and the merger with CPI(ML)[People’s War] was based on the opportunistic appropriation of this Lin Biaoist line, then why did the MCCI make such a demand? Furthermore, K.N. Ramachandran, perhaps opportunistically, assumes that his readers will simply assume that the MCC’s line since 1969 was “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” because of their name and do not have access to documents of this erstwhile organisation. However, if a reader simply looks at the 1996 “Note for the Readers” which was attached to their publication “Red Star” Special Issue 2 in which they republish 2 1969 documents from Dakshin Desh they clearly write that, “Mao-Tse-Tung Thought is the Marxism-Leninism of the present era” and never use the formulation Maoism in the 1969 documents. I would hazard to guess that the MCC only adopted Maoism as their ideological line after they had joined the RIM. Furthermore, in the issue of the internal theoretical magazine of the CPI(Maoist) issued immediately after the merger of the CPI(ML)[PW] and MCCI, the organisation explains that the CPI(ML)[PW] had already basically accepted Maoism in practice and ideological, and that the change in ideological terms reflected this fact. Thus, it was not a case of opportunism but rather, the acknowledgement that the CPI(ML)[PW] had already come to understand, unlike K.N. Ramachandran, the full scope of Mao Zedong’s contributions to theory and practice.
I do not know what criticisms by the UCPN(Maoist) K.N. Ramachandran is referring to, but must note that it is not extraordinary that the relationship between the UCPN(Maoist) and the CPI(Maoist) have become tense in the context of the current developments in Nepal. Furthermore, it seems to me that K.N. Ramachandran here is endorsing the Bhattarai line, which he seems to approve of, which is quite interesting and perhaps should serve as a note of caution to his own supporters. Regarding the case of the ILPS, I do not think one can simply blame the split on the ILPS on the CPI(Maoist) and its “front organisations”, and think that one should take seriously the concerns that G.N. Saibaba and others (most of whom are not Maoist in any case) had regarding the functioning of the ILPS (to read the documents of the split please find them here). It seems that K.N. Ramachandran is opportunistically using the split in the ILPS to decry the CPI(Maoist), once again, for sectarianism, which has become a running canard of his and one that he has used as a narrative device through out this article. Finally it is true that with the demise of the RIM and the troubling developments in Nepal, the CPI(Maoist) has held aloft the banner of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and I think that they should be commended for this. But this of course is a matter of difference between K.N. Ramachandran and I.
In the third part of this series I will briefly deal with the section entitled, “Agrarian program in neo-colonial phase”. However, I will make a few comments about this section because of the emphasis on the problem of neo-colonialism which I have repeatedly stated I will not deal with until I read the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran’s] new book on the matter. I would be very pleased if he or someone would like to send me a copy of this book to review. I must also note that the final post of this series will deal with two sections of his essay, not one, as I had said earlier. I did not notice that there was a section following this one entitled, “Relation with the state and the ruling class parties”. Readers will have to unfortunately wait till next one for the next two posts because I will be unable to write them in the coming week due to work obligations.
Some Notes on K.N. Ramachandran’s, “Our Differences with the Maoist Trend: Genesis and Present Contradictions”, Part 1
As you all know the Indian ML/Maoist movement is incredibly divided with a number of competing factions co-existing and claiming to be the true inheritor of the legacy of the Naxalbari movement. One of the most prominent of these factions is the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)[K.N. Ramachandran] which has formed a number of State committees across India. The CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] is an organisation that is the latest manifestation of the CPI(ML)[Red Flag] that split from the CRC,CPI(ML) [the CRC,CPI(ML) was a member of the RIM until it left Marxism-Leninism and dissolved itself]. The CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] is one of the founders of the ICOR along with the MLPD in Germany and has departed from the conventional Marxist-Leninist analysis of India as being a “semi-colonial” state, instead arguing that India is a “neo-colonial state”. The CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran for many years has also polemicised against the CPI(Maoist) and has accused it of an “anarchist line” and an over-emphasis on “squad actions”. Unfortunately some around the world have confused the two organisations and believe them to be one and the same. Recently, K.N Ramachandran has written another such polemic against the CPI(Maoist) entitled, “Our Differences with the Maoist Trend: Genesis and Present Contradictions“. In the coming four posts [including this one] I thought I would share some notes and comments on the article and some disagreements I have with the document [which is quite long]. The first part [the one that you are currently reading] will be on the history of the revolutionary movement until the formation of CPI(Maoist) in 2004; part 2 will deal with the section entitled, “Mao Tsetung Thought or Maoism?”; part 3 with “Agrarian program in neo-colonial phase” and; finally part 4 will deal with “How the extremists ultimately help the state”. I must note that this is not the response of any organisation and hope that the CPI(Maoist) will also respond to the charges that K.N Ramachandran makes.
FOLLOWING the murder of com. Koteshwar Rao in a fake encounter by the state forces as a part of the state terror unleashed against the people under the ‘Operation Green Hunt’, we had issued a press statement on 25th November itself, the day on which the news came out in the newspapers. We had severely condemned this murder. At the same time we had criticized the approach of CPI(Maoist) on the question of ‘peace talks’ with such a reactionary government which is indulging in fascist suppression of the people of the country to intensify neo-colonization, and in the present condition of their organizational development and balance of forces. In that statement we had requested the leadership of the CPI(Maoist) “to take lessons from these erroneous steps which have caused grievous losses, to re-examine their line and to join with the revolutionary forces to mobilize the masses for putting an end to this hated, anti-people ruling system”.
In continuation to this statement, issuing their own statements the CPI (ML) state committees in many states have organized meetings condemning the murder of com. Koteshwar Rao in fake encounter and appealing to all progressive democratic forces to condemn it. While appreciating these steps taken by the CPI (ML), some friends as well as supporters of CPI(Maoist) have raised a criticism why on such an occasions also we are raising our criticism of the CPI(Maoist) line. So we consider that it is our duty to explain the history of the genesis and growth our differences with the CPI(Maoist). Earlier when com. Shyam and com. Rajkumar, and recently com. Azad were killed in fake encounters also we had issued similar statements, condemning the state action, while appealing to PWG and then CPI(Maoist) leadership to re-examine the line they are pursuing. We consider that though CPI (Maoist) is claiming that it is working for the overthrow of the reactionary Indian state, it is pursuing an anarchist line which is harming themselves as well as the revolutionary movement as a whole. In this context, we consider that it is important to explain the genesis and development of our differences with it to avoid any misunderstandings.
It is truly commendable that the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] has condemned the false encounter in which numerous comrades have been killed and have organised meetings to do so as well. There are two elements in this document that of course stick out: 1) K.N Ramachandran’s claim that India is “neo-colonial” rather than “semi-colonial” [I will not discuss this particular issue because I know that the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] has published a book on this issue and would like to read it before passing any judgement on it] and 2) that the CPI(Maoist) is following an “anarchist” line which is harming themselves and the revolutionary movement as a whole. The charge of “anarchism” and hurting the larger revolutionary movement here, as K.N. Ramachandran notes, is an old one and was applied to the erstwhile CPI(ML)[People’s War Group] [until it merged with the MCC to form the CPI(Maoist)].
Both, the present CPI(ML) as well as erstwhile CPI(ML) People’s War and Party Unity [both of which became part of CPI(Maoist) later] share the heritage of the ideological-political struggle waged by the Communist Revolutionaries (CRs) against the revisionist line of CPI and neo-revisionist line of CPI(M) leaderships under the leadership of com. Charu Majumdar from 1964, and the Naxalbari Uprising with “land to the tiller” slogan which brought agrarian revolution and revolutionary seizure of political power back to the agenda of the Indian people.
After the severe set backs leading to the disintegration of the CPI (ML) from 1971, like CPI (ML) People’s War formed in 1973 and CPI(ML) Party Unity formed after 1977, the Kerala state committee of the CPI(ML) reorganized in 1973 was also basically upholding the 1970 Eighth Congress line. All of them including the CPI(ML) Liberation were called Pro-Charu Majumdar, anti-Lin Biao section. When the publication of the monthly, Mass Line, was started from 1973 calling for unity of all ML forces basically upholding the 1970 line, articles and poems of com. K.G. Satya Murthy and of the leaders of Revolutionary Writers Association (AP) or Virasam, were published in it till it was banned and so its publication was suspended during emergency. Due to the atmosphere of suppression prevalent then, the unity efforts could not be continued till the emergency was revoked, when large number of leading comrades who were in jail came out.
During 1978-79 first contacts were established with the two, and unity talks were held. The CPI(ML) Kerala SC had denounced the capitalist roaders who had seized power in China after the death of Mao and their ‘Theory of Three Worlds’ in 1977 itself and it gave great significance to taking a correct stand on this question as one of the important points for unity of the Marxist-Leninist forces. As a result, its unity talks with the then Bhojpur group, which later became CPI (ML) Liberation, could not advance, as it was upholding the new Chinese leadership and its ‘TTW’( as it is doing even today). In spite of the unity on other questions, the unity talks with both PWG and Party Unity also failed as they were also not ready to take a stand on these important questions then. It was at that time com. S.A. Rawoof, one of the leaders of the PWG, dissociated with it for not condemning the capitalist roaders in China and for the statement of com. Kondappally Seetharamiah calling for a “suspension of armed struggle”. The CPI(ML) Kerala SC held discussions with com. Rawoof, both decided to merge and the CRC-CPI(ML) was formed in October,1979.
In spite of it, our discussions with both PWG and PU continued. Comrades K.V. Ramana Reddy (KVR) and Varavara Rao of RWA participated in the founding conference of People’s Cultural Forum in Kerala in 1980. At the mass fronts’ level relations of CRC-CPI(ML) with PWG and PU continued, though the differences on the approach towards structure and character of class/ mass organizations, and on pursuing the mass line had increased.
This is the first truly interesting statement that K.N. Ramachandran makes because it tells a history of the CPI(ML)[PWG] and CPI(ML)[PU] that differs from the history of those erstwhile organisations that has been published elsewhere and in internal party histories of said organisations. K.N. Ramachandran claims that the CPI(ML)[PWG] was formed in 1973 and Party Unity in 1977, however, the CPI(ML)[PWG] claims that they were only formed in 1980 and CPI(ML)[Party Unity] dates its own foundation to 1982. This disparity is odd and needs to be explained. Indeed, perhaps K.N. Ramachandran has confused himself because in 1972 the Central Organising Committee, CPI(ML) was formed. The COC, CPI(ML) was the organisation from which the CPI(ML)[PWG] and CPI(ML)[Party Unity] would later emerge from, due to the collapse of said organisation due to ideological differences. I will take for granted that K.N. Ramachandran knows his own organisation history and will thus only state that when he simply says CPI(ML) in Kerala State Committee was reorganised he means his faction, which by no means can be simply called the CPI(ML) as it was one of many small factions at the time. Thus. whenever, the reader sees CPI(ML) they should in fact read CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran]. Also, it is interesting to note that K.N. Ramachandran does not address similar attempts for unity talks in the context of the emergency period that were called by the COC, CPI(ML) or those of the opportunist CPI(ML)[S.N Singh], and seems to simply adopt the mantle for his own faction as those who want unity, which ironically is nothing but an act of sectarianism. I do not know whether the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] did try to unite with the CPI(ML)[Liberation], and the precursors to the CPI(ML)[PWG] and CPI(ML)[Party Unity] [which were still being reorganised in light of the collapse of the COC,CPI(ML)], and have found no mention of such talks in PWG documents, but will give him the benefit of the doubt. It is true however, that at this time that the CPI(ML)[PWG] did uphold the Three Worlds Theory [something that they would later self-criticise for], but have found no reference to any support for the post-Mao Dengist regime. Regarding Rawoof [or Rauf], he would later split from the CPI(ML)[Red Flag] [the previous name for the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran]] in 2000 to form with the Maoist Unity Centre, CPI(ML) the CPI(ML)[Naxalbari]. Whether or not the CRC, CPI(ML) and the CPI(ML)[PWG] and CPI(ML)[PU] continued to work together at the level of mass organisations is something I do not know and will thus again give K.N. Ramachandran the benefit of the doubt.
After CRC-CPI (ML) was reorganized as CPI (ML) Red Flag in 1987, the unity talks and joint activities at mass front level with them further strengthened. During 1991-94 period, three rounds of top level unity talks were held with PWG which ultimately failed due to differences on approach towards (a) neo-colonization and the changes taking place in relations of production in the agrarian front under it,(b) towards Three World Theory,(c) towards Bolshevik style party building, (d) towards building of class/mass organizations and (e) towards utilization of all forms of struggle, as PWG stuck to its sectarian positions including upholding armed struggle as only form of struggle. Still, along with the cultural organizations of PWG and PU, the cultural front of Kerala also joined in the formation of the All India League of Revolutionary Culture (AILRC) in 1990 and this association continued till 1995, till it became inactive due to the sectarian approach of PWG. Com. KVR continued to write in Red Star, organ of the CPI(ML) Red Flag till 1995.
I have never heard or seen any documents from the PWG that suggest that they were ever pursuing unity talks with the CPI(ML)[Red Flag], however, again I will give K.N. Ramachandran the benefit of the doubt. I also cannot speak to point (a) raised above, however, can state that in 1991 the CPI(ML)[PWG] did rectify its own erroneous position towards the Three World’s Theory and thus find point (b) to be puzzling. I must note that I have not found any mention of such discussions in the self-critical report published by the CPI(ML)[PWG] in the wake of the merger with the CPI(ML)[PU]. I am not sure what K.N. Ramachandran means by point (c) and (d), however, must note that the PWG had self-criticised itself in 1980 for not having had a proper approach to party-building and mass organisations, and sought to rectify this. This of course leads to directly to point (e) which is completely wrong. In 1980 the CPI(ML)[PWG] had self-criticised itself (by itself I must note I mean the previous decade as first the undivided CPI(ML) and then the COC, CPI(ML)) for placing a one-sided emphasis on armed struggle and argued that armed struggle must be used in areas that were prepared for such struggle, and that other forms of struggle were in fact to be used in areas where it was not. Thus, it is actually K.N. Ramachandran who is being sectarian for consistently insisting that the CPI(ML)[PWG] argued that armed struggle is the only form of struggle between 1991-1994 when the CPI(ML)[PWG] had stated that this was not the case in 1980 itself! I have not read about the controversy regarding the All India League of Revolutionary Culture (AILRC) and cannot thus comment on this matter, however, must admit that I am not willing to simply accept K.N. Ramachandran’s version of events as this entire narrative thus far is simply constructing an old tired narrative of CPI(ML)[PWG] being a sectarian organisation, and the CPI(ML)[Red Flag/K.N. Ramachandran] being the patient communist organisation.
And when All India Joint Action Committee of Revolutionary Organizations of Workers (AIJACROW) was formed and it organized a parliament march against imperialist globalization in 1992, the first parliament march against imperialist globalization, the trade unions in Maharashtra under the political leadership of PWG also joined in this. In the peasant rally organized by PWG in Warangal in 1994, Red Flag comrades participated. Later, an open polemic was started in the publications, People’s March of PWG and Red Star on the ideological-political questions on which there were basic differences. From these instances it can be seen that even when there were basic differences on many questions, both sides were continuing contacts and holding even open polemics on them. The relations between the two were not antagonistic. CPI(ML) Red Flag had welcomed the merger of PWG and PU hoping that it will lead to a rethinking on the ideological-political line as PU always had more inclination towards mass line.
This paragraph makes some of the contradictions in K.N. Ramachandran’s narrative abundantly clear. On one hand K.N. Ramachandran would have us believe that the CPI(ML)[PWG] believes that armed struggle is the only form of struggle, but now admits that the CPI(ML)[PWG] had built trade unions in Maharashtra and was involved in a march against imperialist globalisation! This quite clearly and abundantly suggests thats the CPI(ML)[PWG] actually did recognise the need for economic struggles through the medium of trade unions and was actively involved in building them. This is a far cry from only being engaged in armed struggle! It is nice to hear that the CPI(ML)[Red Flag/K.N. Ramachandran] welcomed the merger of the PWG and PU to form the CPI(ML)[People’s War], but am not sure what K.N. Ramachandran means by the PU being more predisposed towards “Mass Line”. Indeed, it seems clear to me at least that the CPI(ML)[PWG] was actively involved in applying the mass line to their activities in the form of trade unions and peasant struggles and rallies!
My next post will pick up from where I have left off, and discuss “Mao TseTung Thought or Maoism?”.