The Three-Headed Beast: An Inter-blog Dialogue – My Response

I would like to first thank JMP from M-L-M Mayhem! for starting this debate and dialogue. Just quickly to give some background, both of us agree that there exist few, if any, spaces for meaningful dialogue about issues that plague the Maoist movement, and communist movement more generally, especially around the issues of theory. Originally I suggested that the dialogue take place in the context of a correspondence between the two of us, however, this dialogue between blogs will allow others to participate (and we do want people to participate and not remain idles spectators). Indeed, there seems to have been a strong anti-intellectual current within the Maoist movement, and again the Communist movement more generally, which deems theory to be the purview of bourgeois intellectuals sitting in their armchairs. However, we must remind those individuals or organizations of Lenin’s famous maxim, “Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement” (Lenin 1973: 28). Furthermore, we both agree that revolutionary theory is not simply the purview of a few revolutionary “leaders” and that theoretical work must be carried out by all in the Party/organization or indeed the Party/organization will become mired in dogmatism and sectarianism, something that has become all to apparent in our current age. I found JMP’s first volley to be one that I largely agreed with, but there is one issue, and I think that this was the main thrust of his essay, that must be explored more fully: the problem of a coherent Maoist science (I use science here in contradistinction to ideology due to my own, much to the chagrin of JMP, fidelity to Althusser) and indeed if there is a coherency in Maoism. JMP writes,

In this inter-blog dialogue, we would like to suggest that there is a definite coherency to the Maoist development of Marxist theory. Moreover, I think we would both agree (here I can only speak for myself, but I’m certain BF is on the same page!), that the inverse claim, that Maoism lacks theoretical coherence, is plagued by the same Eurocentrism of those who would focus predominantly on Mao’s biography. Incapable of properly comprehending, let alone coherently developing, the theory of a brilliant European man such as Marx, this position implicitly argues, Mao’s theory can be anything we want it to be. Thus we are given a smorgasbord Mao where we can pick and choose the writings we like.

I agree with JMP that there is a theoretical coherence to Maoism and that any claims otherwise are partially plagued by an Eurocentricism which deems Mao a ‘peasant-theorist’ unlike Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Hoxha or whomever is your theoretical substitute. However, I think that the problem remains that Maoists world over have yet to fully comprehend a) the coherency of Maoist thought and; b) the implications of such a coherency on not only practice, but a retheorization and reassembly of Marxism in toto. I do not wish to argue that JMP and I have actually arrived at such a coherent analysis for I think that neither of us would argue that, such a task would be too large for simply two-people to do, but this blog tries to start that process. I would like to make one thing clear: a coherent analysis does not suggest that there should be no differences in opinion, for it is part of the Marxist epistemological process (starting with Marx, although I know that some American comrades would prefer to see this as a marked contribution by Avakian) to grasp with differing perspectives and ideas, from within and without Marxism. I agree with JMP that Maoism cannot be simply relegated to a few key carefully selected texts from Mao’s oeuvre which are cited ad nauseum nor to a series of quotations from The Quotations of Mao Tse-Tung (also known as the Little Red Book), but to a much larger corpus of Mao’s texts, many of which have yet to be translated in English or are not easily available.

But, I would like to expand this object of study, Maoism, to not only include the works of Mao but also his contemporaries such as Liu Shao-Chi, Lin Biao, Chen Boda and many others (many with whom I disagree), but also to the works of other theorists such as  José Carlos Mariátegui and Abimael Guzman (Peru), Charu Mazumdar (India), Ibrahim Kappakaya (Turkey),  Nagalingam Shanmugathasan (Sri Lanka), Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam), Jose Ma. Sision (Philippines) amongst so many others. Furthermore, any coherent Maoism must take into account not only the written word, but the experiences of the numerous revolutionary attempts around the world, and I do not simply mean those experiences which have defined global events: May ’68 in France or the USA, Russia, China and Vietnam, but also the smaller attempts in places like England, Ireland, Sri Lanka etc where the movement may have remained marginalized, but also may have key insights into Maoist theory and practice. Thus, perhaps an important component of Maoism is the displacement of Mao being our single theoretician and revolutionary China being the single storm-center for revolution, in the way that Stalin attempted to place himself and the USSR at the center of the socialist bloc. This intentional displacement necessarily means that Maoism does not experience a cutting off, an ending point, with the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 but rather, needs to include the events and theories that have been developed in in 33 years since his death. This means we must grapple with, and not simply denounce without giving careful and explicit reasons, the theories and experiences that have marked our current situation. This includes the Three Worlds Theory, Prachanda Path, Avakian’s ‘New Synthesis’, Bettleheim’s analysis of bureaucracy, the brutal genocide under the Khmer Rouge, the collapse of the revolutionary struggle in Peru and the restoration of capitalism in Russia, China, Vietnam, Cuba amongst others. But also, those outside the conventional Maoist worldview like the contemporary Bolivarian revolutionary movement in South America. Maoism is a living science and thus cannot remain within confined to a period between 1949-1976 in China. I know that some will disagree and see that there are no similarities between the Bolivarian revolution of Venezuala (I have myself said this) and the Chinese or Russian revolutions, but that means to hermaneutically seal Maoism and advocate a kind of purity that insures that  Maoism is dogmatically limited to a narrow series of processes and slogans. Maoism must be a lived series of actions, events and theories that emerge immanently from a particular social formation, yet are able to grasp an universal dimension and truth: the need for revolution so that we can break the capitalist chains that bind us all.

Finally I think that we should also be forthright about errors that have been made by people like Mao. Indeed, any coherency in Maoism should recognize that Mao himself was not always coherent nor correct. Thus, we should carefully re-examine whether pivotal movements in communist history were actually carried out in the way that we as Maoists would have liked. Many will say, “Hindsight is 20-20” however, that is no excuse, we must learn from the past so that we do not commit the same mistakes in the future. Thus, we need to be critical of how we acted and thought before. Thus, how do we deal with contradictions amongst the people and within the Party. For far too long Maoists have attempted to remain in a self-imposed bubble, which has been only to our detriment. There is a reason why the revolutonary movements in Nepal, India, Philippines are so exciting, it is because they have actually attempted to grapple with these problems and questions and have arrived at their own unique answers and solutions. Let Hundred Flowers Bloom and Let a Hundred Schools Compete!

I now turn it over to JMP and his blog M-L-M Mayhem! to take this discussion where he wishes.


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