A WORLD TO WIN    #23   (1998)


150 Years Ago
-The Battlecry of the Proletariat

Workers of All Countries, Unite!

 In every country, upon meeting representatives of the revolutionary struggle of the workers in other countries, class-conscious proletarians are full of enthusiasm. They want to know everything about the advances and the difficulties of the struggle “over there” and are eager to express their support for their class brothers and sisters.

 Similarly, class-conscious workers who, for whatever reason, have found themselves living or working in other countries, will sense after a certain time a common bond which unites them with the workers where they are living.

 Of course workers, like others, also belong to nations and this also impregnates their consciousness and colours their attitudes. In the case of workers from the oppressed nations, where the struggle against foreign imperialism is at the centre of the revolutionary agenda, this national sentiment and identification tends to be linked to their participation in the revolutionary struggle itself.

 In the imperialist countries, the working class is divided between two “poles”: On the one hand, a strong and influential minority of very privileged workers whose material position and outlook leads them to side with their “own” ruling class in opposition to the workers of other nations and in unity with the imperialist domination of the oppressed countries, and, on the other hand, the mass of workers “with nothing to lose but their chains”, who, with different degrees of class consciousness, hate their imperialist overlords and more readily identify with the proletariat of other countries, including those directly dominated by their own “fatherland”.1

 However strong chauvinism and nationalism may be, it remains true that the reality of proletarians belonging to the same class internationally is stronger still. In short, the workers have more in common with the proletarians of other countries, even those of countries which are oppressing them, than they do with the exploiters and the rich of their “own” countries, even when sections of these classes are participating in the revolutionary struggle against imperialism. The sontaneous sentiments toward internationalism are but a reflection of a deep material reality – the proletariat is a single class with a single class interest of wiping out exploitation and oppression from the face of the earth.

       Despite this, these sentiments toward internationalism, if left to spontaneity, are overwhelmed by an even stronger spontaneous trend toward the bourgeois ideology of chauvinism and nationalism, which is preached by reactionaries and reformists and reinforced by capitalism̓s tendency to pit workers of one country against those of another. Were the workers and oppressed spontaneously able to understand their class position and class mission fully, capitalism would no longer be the stultifying and oppressive system that we know it to be, and there would be no need for a communist vanguard capable of representing the long-term world-historic interests of the working class. In this regard, Marx and Engels set forth the tasks of the communists in the Communist Manifesto: “In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole? ...by this only: I. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.” (from Section II, “Proletarians and Communists”)

 The immense growth of the productive forces which has marked the modern era, with the objective intertwining of the world to a previously inconceivable degree, ties the proletariat together as a class across national borders. However, this growth is taking place in a still very unequal world dominated by rival imperialist states. A handful of nations control the wealth and means of production of the great bulk of the world, while in the imperialist citadels the workers of one country are pitted against those of another in fierce competition between national capitals.2

 In particular, the division of the world between oppressed and oppressor nations is one of the great obstacles to solidifying the unity of the proletariat, and overcoming this division is one of the great challenges to the revolutionary movement. It is largely through solving this problem that genuine internationalism will be forged, as the proletarians in the imperialist countries come to understand and actively support the struggle in the oppressed nations and as the struggle against imperialism in the oppressed nations is infused with the socialist perspective of seeing the battle against imperialism as only the first stage in a revolution aimed ultimately at doing away with classes themselves.

 This understanding of the underlying basis for unity among proletarians – that there is more in common between, say, an Italian worker and an Indonesian worker than there is between either of these workers and a representative of their “own” bourgeoisie – has of course been a fundamental tenet of scientific socialism ever since Marx and Engels penned the mighty call, “Workers of All Countries, Unite!” 150 years ago, in the winter of 1848, in the Manifesto. This resounding call by the founders of communism has a whole series of ideological, political and organizational implications. It means that the struggle in every country must be conducted with the final goal of communism throughout the world clearly in mind. It means that practical means need to be found for the proletarian movement in one country to support revolutionary struggles in other countries. And it also means that the advanced detachment of the proletariat, the communists, must be united organizationally on an international level. It should not be forgotten that the Manifesto itself was prepared as the political statement of the International Workingmen̓s Association, or First International, which Marx and Engels played key roles in forming. From its beginning the communist movement has been, and can only be, an international movement.

 But it can also be said that in the histoy of the international communist movement (ICM), and perhaps particularly in the decades of the new communist movement that arose in opposition to Khrushchevite revisionism, some aspects of the fundamental principles of proletarian internationalism have at times been blurred in the vision of the revolutionary communists.

 In many ways, this was understandable. In the formative years of the new communist movement, during the great struggle Mao waged against Khrushchev and his successors, the revolutionary movement was surging ahead in the oppressed countries, particularly Vietnam, while, for various reasons, the revolutionary struggle in the imperialist citadels was retarded. Furthermore, the Soviet revisionists caused confusion by hoisting the banner of “proletarian internationalism” to justify numerous imperialist crimes such as the invasions of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979. They developed other pseudo-internationalist justifications for social-imperialism such as the “international socialist division of labour” and the “doctrine of limited sovereignty”.

 The leaders of the fight against modern revisionism, the Communist Party of China (CPC), led by Mao Tsetung, were particularly sensitive to the problem of the equality of parties in the ICM, having suffered certain negative experiences in the history of the Chinese revolution when the advice – and even pressure – from the Soviet party and the Third or Communist International (Comintern) was harmful. Leaders of wrong lines such as Wang Ming in the 1930s had used their connections with the ICM to struggle to impose these erroneous positions on the Chinese Party. Today this well-known history is often used as an argument against efforts to regroup the ICM organizationally as well as ideologically and politically.

 Moreover, for the past several decades there has been no communist international, and a viewpoint has taken root that such an International is unnecessary. This view holds that the very existence of an international organization will hinder the development of competent, self-reliant leadership in the different parties, that an international centre will never be able to understand the concrete realities of revolution, and that there is no need or capacity for the international coordination of the proletarian revolutionary movement.

 The dangers and difficulties associated with an international communist organization – and in the final analysis with a new Communist International – are real enough. And it is also true that the division of the world into different states and the fact that the world revolution will pass through revolutions in single states or groups of states means that the world revolution cannot be led in the same way the revolution in a single country is led.

 Nonetheless there must be a “General Staff” of the world revolution, a new Communist International, one which will be capable in a much fuller way than today of uniting the proletarian revolutionary struggles of all countries. The fundamental truth is that the world proletarian revolution is itself a process directed against an international enemy – the world imperialist system and the reactionaries of all countries in league with it. Such an International would arouse revolutionaries from around the world to come to the aid of revolutions in different countries. In response to the crimes of the imperialists and reactionaries, the International will be better able to mobilize and concentrate the international response of the workers and oppressed. Imagine, for example, how much more powerful and coordinated the response could have been to the imperialist crimes in the 1991 Gulf War had a new International existed.

 Most important, however, will be the future International̓s political role. It will spread and fight for Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in every corner of the earth, helping the formation of vanguard parties. The International will provide a vehicle for leading the necessary worldwide summation of experience, discussion and struggle among the communists, which is necessary to advance our collective understanding of making revolution.

 Mao̓s observation that if a party is ot carrying out a correct policy it is carrying out an incorrect policy, and that if it is not carrying out a policy consciously it is carrying out a policy blindly, is true in the international arena as well. Every revolutionary party will necessarily be confronted with the reality of this international dimension of the struggle and must adopt, consciously or unconsciously, a line and policy in relation to it. Furthermore, a party in a single country will necessarily understand this process less fully, less correctly, than an International functioning on the basis of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. To lead the process of world revolution, an International is required.

 Again, this is not to be understood mainly in the sense of the marshaling of forces and the coordination of practical struggle, however important; rather, it is the International̓s role as a political centre that is its defining characteristic. Political lines, like other ideas, do not respect national borders. The great battles of Marxism vs. revisionism have never been confined to a single country and today, with the world more intertwined than ever before, the line struggle in one country necessarily is bound up with and influences developments in others.

 A General Staff of the world revolution will have to take into account the extreme complexities of the revolutionary process. Revolution will be made country by country or by groups of countries, and it will take place unevenly at different rates of development. The new International cannot substitute for the process of integrating the science of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism with the concrete reality of each specific country and of building up a strong and tested leadership in each country capable of directing the revolution to victory. The original slogan of the Comintern, “A world party for the world revolution”, is wrong in so far as it implies that the world revolution will have the same dynamics as the revolution in a single country or be led in the same way. This is why the Declaration of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement stresses the need for a Communist International of a “new type”, which will “serve as an overall guiding political centre”, and for “a form of democratic centralism based on the ideological and political unity of the Marxist-Leninist-Maoists. But it cannot be of the same nature as the functioning of a party in a single state, since the components of such an international organization will be different parties having equality of right and responsibility of leading the revolution in each country in the sense of each party̓s share in the preparation and acceleration of the world revolution.”

 Indeed, it is only in this context of a party̓s share in the world revolution that the question of the equality of parties can be understood. Lenin pointed out that, “There is one, and only one, kind of real internationalism, and this is — working wholeheartedly for the development of the revolutionary movement and the revolutionary struggle in one̓s own country, and supporting (by propaganda, sympathy, and material aid) this struggle, this, and only this, line, in every country without exception.” (“The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution”) Thus the Leninist vision of internationalism is more sweeping in scope than material solidarity against a common enemy, however essential that may be, for the call to make revolution in “one̓s own country” is inseparably linked to the obligation to support “this line and no other” in all other countries. Lenin never respected the “right” of the revisionists to betray the workers of any country. Similarly, Mao said clearly that in the event of capitalist restoration in China, the international communist movement should fight the new bourgeoisie there.

 It is the democratic-centralist form of organization that is best suited to the proletariat̓s revolutionary struggle. This is as true on a world scale as it is in a party in a single country, even if the application of democratic centralism is different in the two instances. Actually, most of the arguments against a Communist International could be made against the need for a vanguard party in any country. t the level of a country, it is also true that the central leadership cannot substitute itself for the initiative of those on a lower level, and that the correctness of the line and policies the centre advances must be drawn from the experience of the party as a whole and based on its up-and-down leadership structure. Likewise, these policies must be tested, refined or ultimately rejected based on the experience of implementing them in practice on the lower levels.

 This process of democratic centralism is consistent with the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist understanding of the relationship of theory and practice and the role of the masses as the makers of history. It is a vehicle through which the advanced understanding of the party and the masses is concentrated and systematized, as expressed in line and policy, which can then be returned to the lower ranks of the party and the masses and used to transform the world.

 The social-democrats and anti-communists of different stripes have long claimed to have found the “origin of communist tyranny” in the Leninist organization of the party itself, as expressed most sharply in What Is to Be Done? They claim that the conspiratorial organization of the Party, its need for strict discipline, its hierarchical structure, all carries within it the seed of “dictatorship”. Of course, the critics are correct in so far as the Leninist party structure does indeed foreshadow the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, which means dictatorship over the relative handful of exploiters and oppressors and the corresponding freedom and democracy for the vast majority of society who exercise this dictatorship. Lenin stressed that the proletarian dictatorship is incomparably more democratic than bourgeois democracy and that it is the capitalist ruling class which must disguise its dictatorship of a small minority over the masses as “democracy for all”. Yet life teaches again and again that it is really only democracy for the capitalist class itself.

 Without democratic-centralist organization, it is impossible for the proletarian line to dominate in the revolutionary movement, and leadership is inevitably handed over, consciously or unconsciously, to the representatives of other classes. The proletariat, which is effectively excluded from real participation in political and intellectual life under capitalist society, requires a form of organization that can give expression to its experience and opinions. To do this requires a system of committees and other collective organs that can use Marxism-Leninism-Maoism to develop lines and polices to change the world.

 It is the bourgeois-democratic form of organization which, while hoisting the banner of the absolute equality of individuals, actually leaves the proletariat a voiceless and passive spectator unable to assert its class interests, led about by orators and manipulators exercising their “freedom” from the supervision and control of the proletariat. How many times have we seen “democratic” organizations of the workers, be they simple trade unions or even revolutionary organizations in the oppressed countries, change course on the decision of a small group of non-accountable leaders and betray the interests of the rank and file? Indeed, the repeated betrayals, the inability to match words and deeds, the lip-service to one class and the real service to another — all this has bred no small degree of cynicism among the proletariat in different countries.

 Yes, our critics will respond, but you communists also have had your betrayers, you also have built political parties which claimed to be revolutionary instruments of the proletariat and which ended up betraying their interests. And, of course, this is true. The revisionist reversals in the Soviet Union and in China were done in the name of the party of the working class. The very structures that the proletariat had created and built up were turned into oppressive machines to once again enslave the proletariat and guarantee the rule of a new bourgeoisie.

 Mao Tsetung and the revolutionaries in the Communist Party of China spent great efforts to understand this problem and to find solutions for it. Mao understood from studying th reversal of the Soviet Union after Stalin̓s death that no organizational form alone can ensure that the interests of the workers and peasants will guide, and that no set of rules will ensure that Marxism-Leninism-Maoism will prevail. Mao had seen that the Soviets, the system of workers̓ councils that had been forged in the October Revolution, could become an instrument of a new bourgeoisie.

 But this does not mean that the proletariat is indifferent to questions of form, that any form is equally suitable to both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. On the contrary, a real proletarian organization must necessarily suppose real proletarian democracy. It must assure the link between theory and practice, between words and deeds, and provide a vehicle for the experience, aspirations and class interests of the workers and other sections of the oppressed to dominate. Again, the experience of the class struggle has shown t-hat such a form can be none other than the democratic-centralist organization first conceived and elaborated by Lenin as a fighting machine for preparing and waging the October Revolution.

 The struggle between Marxism and revisionism is also expressed in a struggle over the line on organization. Revisionism always seeks either to replace the system of democratic centralism with another system and/or to transform the democratic-centralist system into an empty shell hiding the real organizational control of a handful opposed to the genuine interests of the proletariat. The vigorous vanguard party of Mao was linked by a million threads to the proletariat and labouring masses and actively fought to sum up their experience in making revolution and concentrate their interests. It has nothing in common with the bureaucratic machinery of oppression and theft that the “Communist” Party of China has become under the leadership of the new rulers.

 The point of all this is that the fundamental questions of line and approach that require a democratic-centralist organization in a given country also require a Communist International of a new type, capable of leading the overall process of the world revolution while taking into account the complexity of this process and the fact that revolution, in the main, is made country by country (or by groups of countries). If in the international arena there is no strong proletarian centre, if instead there are “many centres” or “no centre”, then non-proletarian and opportunist lines will come to dominate. An International must be forged for preparing and waging revolution, in every country and on a world scale. If it is not built with this purpose, it will fail Lenin̓s definition of proletarian internationalism and end up like the Second International, a fig-leaf to hide the real nature of parties and organizations that had long given up revolution and internationalism.

 Some of the arguments made concerning the dangers posed by an International are that it could be dominated by a “Father party”, that its central leadership could rely on heavy-handed means to deal with disputes with member parties, or that it could fall into the practice of substituting the preconceived or ill-informed opinions of the central leadership for the necessary living application of a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist line in a given country. But simply refusing a Communist International cannot solve these concerns, however legitimate they may be. On the contrary, a correctly functioning international organization, and especially a Communist International of a new type, will be in the best position to consciously apply Marxism-Leninism-Maoism to dealing with the problem of the relationship between the “part and the whole”, that is, the revolutionary struggle in a given country and the overall worldwide advance of the world proletarian revolution. It will have the organizational structure best able to concentrate the advanced experience of the whole international proletariat, to allow the widest discussion and debate among the revolutionaries of every country, to promote and assist, without stifling or disfiguring, the development of revolutionary leadership in every country.

 Experience has shown that the absence of international organization is no guarante whatsoever against the slavish following of others. For example, it is well known that during the 1960s and ̓70s a great many parties uncritically adopted the positions of the Communist Party of China. The high prestige of the CPC under Mao̓s leadership, earned in the course of arduous struggle against revisionism and in building socialism, was overwhelmingly a positive factor in helping to generate a new generation of revolutionaries and new Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organizations all over the world. But this did not negate the need for each party to itself examine the vital questions of revolution, especially since there was an objective difference between the role of China as a socialist state and the task of pushing the revolution forward in specific countries. Furthermore, there were also errors of that period, some no doubt initiated or exacerbated by the capitalist-roaders in the CPC who were to take power after Mao̓s death. All too often the errors of the CPC, such as Deng Xiao-ping̓s “Three Worlds Theory”, were blindly taken up and championed by pro-China organizations the world over.

 The widespread adoption of Deng̓s “Three Worlds Theory” was mainly a reflection of wrong ideological and political influences on the part of those who took it up, including the continuation of some wrong tendencies from earlier stages of the ICM. However, the fact that there was no international structure to carry out the debate and discussion on this and other vital questions of the time only made it more difficult to “stand up” to the misuse of the prestige of the Communist Party of China. Similarly, it turned out that most forces in the ICM were ill-prepared to deal with the situation that presented itself in 1976 when, following on the heels of Mao̓s death, Deng Xiao-ping and Hua Kuo-feng arrested Mao̓s closest followers, overthrew Mao̓s line and began the mad dash to capitalist restoration, whose effects we are seeing in all their hideous features today. Again, no organizational form could have assured that the revolutionary line would have triumphed on an international level — indeed, it would be quite naive to think so. Yet there can be little doubt that such an organizational form would have strengthened the forces who refused to accept the counter-revolution in China and would have facilitated their efforts to establish contact with each other and fight back against Deng and his band of capitalist usurpers.3 Ultimately, these efforts achieved fruition with the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement in 1984, but this process would no doubt have been quicker and more forceful had an international organization of the Maoist forces existed previously.

Current Efforts to Regroup the ICM

 In the last few years since the collapse of the USSR and its bloc, the international situation has undergone great changes. These changes and the more general turmoil in world affairs have been reflected within the international communist movement as well.

 In particular, in addition to the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, there have been a number of other projects aimed at providing some kind of vehicle for the unity of different parties and organizations which declare their allegiance to Marxism-Leninism.

 The reasons for this phenomenon are multiple. Certainly, the desire of the masses to unite with their class sisters and brothers in other countries is one important factor encouraging the different initiatives toward communist unity. The shock of the collapse of the Soviet Union also served as a “wake up call” for some forces who, although previusly having been part of the Maoist movement, had increasingly diverged from their origins and found themselves strongly attracted to what the Soviets tried to portray as the “socialist camp”.

 Now that a number of initiatives are being proposed to the communist forces – and before taking a brief look at one of these – it is important to consider closely the question of unity. What is the purpose of unity, what is the basis for such unity, and how is it linked to the past, present and future of the international communist movement?

 It is well known that the history of the international communist movement has been replete with numerous divisions, great debates, conflicting agendas, etc. In fact, we can even go so far as to affirm that, in essence, the history of the ICM has been the history of repeated two-line struggles between revisionism and Marxism. (This observation is in keeping with the Maoist understanding of the philosophical principle that “one divides into two”.)

 The unity of the proletariat has never been achieved by trying to hide the differences in the communist movement. Rather, it has been built by drawing clear lines of distinction on the major questions facing the movement at any one time and uniting the revolutionary communists and the advanced workers in a resolute struggle against revisionism and opportunism.

 No one should forget the great struggle that Lenin waged against the social-chauvinists of the Second International who held that the workers should support their own bourgeoisie in the First World War. At the beginning of that great struggle, Lenin and the Bolshevik Party and the few other genuine revolutionary elements in the Second International such as Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht of Germany were lonely voices barely heard amidst the chorus of “leaders” singing the praises of their own bourgeoisie. Even among those sections of the Second International who balked at open support for the bourgeoisie of their own countries, Lenin̓s revolutionary position of “turning the imperialist war into a civil war” was ridiculed by the learned leaders such as the centrist Karl Kautsky, who held that it was impermissible to break with the right-wing social-chauvinists.

 Despite this seeming isolation, Lenin went on to lead the successful October Revolution which not only established the first lasting proletarian regime but awakened an immense wave of sympathy and support from among workers in the capitalist countries and the oppressed peoples of the colonial and semi-colonial world.4 On the heels of the October Revolution, splits took place in virtually all the old Socialist Parties between the rotten right-wing leadership and the revolutionary workers inside the parties. Communist Parties were established and united in the new Communist International, the Third International, founded in 1919.

 Why was Lenin̓s line able to so quickly have such resounding success, going from a small minority to a mighty current represented in a new International? It was because the dispute between Lenin and the revisionists, opportunists and centrists of his day was not just a dispute over some minor terms or empty slogans or theories. This line dispute was itself the concentrated expression of class interests. Lenin̓s line represented the interests of the proletariat in doing away with the horrors of capitalism and the first imperialist world war it had spawned. The revisionist line represented the interests of a small privileged section of the proletariat (known as the labour aristocracy) which benefited to a certain extent from the superprofits of the imperialist system wrung out of the oppressed nations and peoples. This labour aristocracy was well represented in the workers̓ organizations, their parliamentary representations, mutual-aid societies and so forth. And it was this upper section of the workers who abandoned their lip service to socialist convictions and rushed to the side of the bourgeoisie at the first whiff of gunpowder.

 Underneath this “colossal heap of garbage” was the basic proletariat, which had no stake at all in preserving the imperialist system. In most countries the representatives of this reolutionary trend were small, disorganized and persecuted. But when the October Revolution exploded on the world scene in 1917, the workers the world over, and especially those in the belligerent countries who were still being ordered to slaughter one another in the course of the world war, recognized the October Revolution as their revolution. The more class-conscious among them quickly embraced Leninism.

 In other words, the Communist International was not formed simply because Lenin was successful in making revolution. The class struggle of the proletariat, including the internal struggle in the capitalist countries between the two wings of the working class — the revolutionary proletariat and the labour aristocracy— together with the intensification of the misery of the masses of people in the belligerent countries all provided a strong material basis for a genuine communist line, the line that Lenin was fighting for and represented. Lenin succeeded in making the October Revolution because his internationalist line represented the interests of the masses of the proletariat, not only on the general level, but in very immediate terms as well, including their pressing need to get out of the slaughter of World War I. While this revolutionary basis was particularly strong in Russia, it was by no means limited to there. There is good reason to believe that had a strong revolutionary line and organization been present in other countries, revolution may have succeeded in more than just the former Tsarist Russia. 5

 Those who hold that first a revolution must be successful and only then can an International be formed are missing fundamental lessons of Lenin̓s struggle against the revisionism of the Second International. That struggle was far from being an “impediment” to the practical revolutionary struggle for power, something that could be “put on hold” while awaiting practical advances. From the moment Lenin analyzed the betrayal of the Second International in 1914, he re-doubled his fight not only for a correct revolutionary line in his “own” country, but on behalf of the world proletariat in its international organizations. Indeed, the two battles were inseparable, and in that sense Lenin̓s fight against the Second International was one of the very conditions for October̓s success.

Mao̓s Great Struggle against Modern Revisionism

 Beginning with Khrushchev̓s “secret speech” in 1956 that contained an all-out attack on Stalin and on the dictatorship of the proletariat that Stalin represented, Mao Tsetung initiated and led a great international battle against what came to be known as “modern revisionism”.

 This struggle led to a major split in the international communist movement between its revolutionary wing led by Mao and the Communist Party of China and the revisionist parties that followed the baton of Khrushchev and the Soviet party. Although this struggle did not lead to the formation of a new Communist International, it did lead to the formation of an international Maoist movement with vanguard organizations in a large number of countries. On the basis of the impulsion of Mao̓s struggle against modern revisionism and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Maoist parties were formed which took upon themselves the preparing and launching of people̓s wars. The heroic launching of the armed struggle in India, the Philippines, Turkey, Bangladesh and other countries by Maoist revolutionaries is testament to the far-reaching impact of the great split in the ICM. The formation of an international Maoist movement also helped spur on the evolutionary struggles of the oppressed peoples against imperialism which were then sweeping the globe, including the heroic struggle of the Vietnamese people.6

 The great struggle against modern revisionism pitted two major parties, the CPC and the CPSU, against each other, each of which held political power in the name of the working class. However, in the case of Khrushchev and his successor, this claim was but a thin coat of red paint covering the rule of a new bourgeoisie.

 Thus, even more sharply than Lenin̓s struggle against the revisionists of his day, the Great Debate in the communist movement reflected differing and opposing class interests, and from this flowed the intensity and the irreconcilability of the struggle.

 At stake was nothing other than the goal of building a classless society — communism. In the USSR and the East bloc as a whole, this goal was proclaimed in much the way that priests promise an eventual kingdom of god on Earth, but this religious incantation of the revisionists was just as divorced from the society they were presiding over as “brotherly love” is from the hell-holes of capitalism.

 Maoism stood for continuing the revolution, for ensuring that, step by step, the ideological, political and economic conditions were being created for a society in which human labour was no longer a commodity to be bought and sold, where the division of labour between town and country, worker and peasant, and mental and manual labour was being steadily reduced. Maoism represented the interests of the workers and peasants in fighting to maintain their rule over society and preventing the fruits of socialism from being usurped and perverted by new exploiters. These principles came alive to people all over the world when they saw tens of millions of workers, peasants and revolutionary intellectuals rising up in China in the Cultural Revolution to advance society further on the path toward communism.

 Revisionism, especially revisionism in power such as in the USSR or the other East European countries, stood for a completely different agenda. In these societies nothing was done to break down the division of labour or the other “birthmarks” inherited from the capitalist system. On the contrary, the new rulers fought to protect and defend the very inequalities that benefited them. The goal promoted for the workers was not to remake the world but rather to achieve a “fair share” for a lifetime of enriching others. This outlook is the same one that has always marked reformist trade unionism and revisionism in every country. Long ago Marx had called on the workers to reject the slogan “A Fair Day̓s Wage for a Fair Day̓s Work” and inscribe on their banner the revolutionary slogan “Abolition of the Wage System”.

 To demand, as some did at the time, that there be unity between Maoism and Soviet-style modern revisionism is just as senseless as demanding unity between the exploiter and the exploited. Unity between revolutionary Marxists and die-hard revisionists cannot exist for long, and where it appears to exist it is simply preparing to explode.

 Now that the Soviet Union and its bloc have collapsed, some forces are saying that the “old disputes” should no longer be an obstacle to the unity of the communists. This viewpoint is spelled out quite clearly in the “Proposals for the Unification of the International Communist Movement” prepared by the Workers Party of Belgium (PTB) and the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks (AUCPB) of the former Soviet Union for one of the PTB̓s annual May First Seminar (see p. 28). It is worth citing a passage from the section of the Proposal called “The former divisions between Marxist-Leninist parties can be overcome”.

 “Today, as a result of the restoration of capitalism under Gorbachev, the ʻpro-Soviet̓ tendency crumbled into innumerable tendencies. In the sixties, a ʻpro-Chinese̓ tendency emerged but split into various tendencies after Mao̓s death. There has been a ʻpro-Albanian̓ tendency... and a ʻpro-Cuban̓ tendency, mainly in Latin America. Some parties, finally, maintained an ʻindependent̓ position vis-à-vis th tendencies mentioned.

 “Whatever one̓s opinion about the correctness or necessity of these splits at a certain point in history, it is nowadays possible to overcome these divisions and to unite the Marxist-Leninist parties, which are divided into different currents.”

 First we should note that, according to the Proposal, capitalism was restored in the USSR under Gorbachev, that is, some time after 1984! Maoists have always held that a new bourgeoisie captured power in the USSR in 1956 and restored capitalism at that time. Although the Proposal speaks repeatedly of “Khrushchev revisionism” it passes in relative silence over the long period of Brezhnev̓s rule in the USSR when, as Mao analyzed, the Soviet Union had been thoroughly converted into a social-imperialist country challenging the US bloc for world domination.

 This “minor problem” of the nature of the USSR cannot be swept under the rug, as the Proposal would like to do.

 Second, we note that the Proposal argues that these divisions can be overcome because they are mere historical disputes. At first glance it may appear that the Proposal is simply appealing to pragmatism – why dispute over the “sex of the angels” when the angels are no longer on the scene?

 Actually, the Proposal is not being honest here. Some of these historical “divisions” are not called into question by the Proposal, for example, the struggle of Comrade Stalin against Trotsky and Bukharin. These are in fact the struggles from the pre-1956 period that the Proposal wants to use as a reference point. Other more recent “historical disputes”, such as “the invasion of Czechoslovakia”, “the liquidation of the tendency around Chang Ching in 1976... the line of Deng Xiaoping in the early 1980s and so on” are treated, in the words of the Proposal, as “real differences exaggerated to the point of antagonism and split”. (Excerpts reprinted on p. 30)

 Thus, the authors of the Proposal are most definitely concerned with history: They understand quite well that these disputes are very much connected with vital questions of line. Indeed, the Proposal includes its own “history” of the ICM in which, “Until 1956, [the ICM] maintained its revolutionary orientation and its unity; its strength and its influence in the world never ceased to increase. In order to reappear on the world scene as a significant current, the International Communist Movement must claim this common history.”

 In other words, the high point of the international communist movement was in 1956, before Khrushchev̓s revisionism and “sectarianism and ultra-leftism” led to the disintegration of its strength. While this political evaluation is presented as a fundamental rock upon which to rebuild the ICM, it is also asserted that “different opinions in the International Communist Movement on the merits of Mao Tsetung will remain for a certain time...”.

 Why is it that the struggle against “social-democratic and Trotskyist ideologies is a condition for the development of the Marxist-Leninist movement”, as the Proposal would have it [italics added], while such questions as the “merits” of Mao Tsetung should not interfere with the “duty to maintain the unity of the International Communist Movement”? It is because the Proposal, which writes with such feigned humility of the need to carry out scientific discussion, seeking truth from facts, etc., has, in fact, already concluded that Mao̓s leadership of the struggle against modern revisionism, his analysis of the restoration of capitalism and the development of social imperialism in the Soviet Union, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, etc., were, at best, mistaken.

 Maoists too uphold and defend all the great accomplishments of the international communist movement, including the building and defence of socialism in the USSR under the leadership of Lenin and Stalin. But we also uphold Mao̓s penetrating analysis of the contradictions of socialist society, his summation of the errors and weak points of Stalin, and the line he developed, largely on this basis, for carrying the rvolution forward. Indeed, Mao̓s understanding of socialist society in theory and his practice of leading the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution is not simply his most important single contribution, it concentrates Mao̓s qualitative development of the proletarian revolutionary ideology, its stand, viewpoint and method. It is nothing less than the lynchpin of Maoism.

 This is why any effort to “unite the communist movement” without reference to Mao means uniting against Maoism. And, in fact, this is precisely what the PTB/AUCPB Proposal and the PTB Seminar are trying to do. While the Seminar doors are flung open to a wide variety of forces, including rabid opponents of Maoism as well as some genuine revolutionaries, it is the forces of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement who are excluded.7 This shows once again that “pluralism”, or the practice of tolerating what appears to be widely divergent views, often disguises real suppression of a genuine proletarian revolutionary position.

 It is because the authors of the Proposal oppose Mao̓s analysis of socialism and oppose his leadership of the socialist revolution in China that they can dismiss so contemptuously the question of the events in China after the death of Mao Tsetung. Here again the authors̓ professed agnosticism and openness is actually a cover for a clear line. The PTB supported the overthrow of Mao̓s line by Hua and Deng̓s coup d̓état and since then they have supported the Chinese revisionist rulers through thick and thin – the destruction of socialist agriculture, the campaign “to get rich is glorious”, the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square, and so forth. At a conference in India in 1995, Nina Andreeva, the leader of the AUCPB, declared that those, such as RIM, who criticize the Chinese revisionists do so because they have “no experience in building socialism”.8 In fact, we do have experience in building socialism, and specifically we have the experience of the Cultural Revolution and the tremendous impetus that it gave to developing socialism in all spheres. We do not want the experience of the kind of “socialism” that marked the USSR for the last thirty years of its existence or of the “socialism” practised in China today.

RIM as the Embryonic Centre of the World̓s Maoists

 When the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement was founded in 1984 it represented a great step in putting a halt to the crisis that was engulfing the Maoist movement internationally and in establishing a new level of ideological, political and organizational unity. The formation of RIM had the merit of taking place on a clear ideological and political basis, expressed in the Declaration of RIM. In particular, it regrouped the core of the Maoist forces who had fought against the revisionist betrayal in China while upholding Mao̓s development of Marxism-Leninism to a new, third stage. In this way, RIM sharply demarcated from the other tendencies which had developed out of the previous Maoist movement, in particular the pro-China tendency and the pro-Albania tendency which had rejected Mao Tsetung Thought.

 On this initial firm political and ideological basis, it was possible for RIM to establish an embryonic organizational structure and for it to justly claim to represent the embryonic centre of the world̓s Maoist forces. In fact, in those years, the main tendency of communist forces outside of RIM was to run rapidly away from any identification with the revolutionary line of Mao Tsetung and the experience of carrying out proletarian revoltion and socialist construction in China under Mao̓s leadership. In particular, the experience of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, personified in the leadership of Chang Ching, Chang Chun-chiao and other heroes who had been violently overthrown by the capitalist-roaders in China, was misunderstood or even rejected and vilified by most of the former Maoist forces.

 In the period since 1984, RIM has continued to advance. The most important development has been the adoption of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism by RIM in December 1993. This decision resulted from a long process of debate and struggle inside RIM as well as from advances being made in applying Maoism in the practice of making revolution – most notably in Peru, where the Communist Party of Peru, a participant in RIM, has been leading a genuine People̓s War, but also in other countries as well.

 As the political and ideological unity of RIM increased with the adoption of the document Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism!, appropriate organizational measures were taken to further solidify RIM and to enable RIM to advance further still in the direction of a Communist International of a new type, based on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.

 Of course, there have always been genuine Maoist forces outside RIM. Over the past few years in particular, as part of the intensified repolarization of the international communist movement, a number of parties and organizations have demonstrated a rekindled interest in the need to unite the Maoist forces worldwide. To uphold RIM as the embryonic centre of the world̓s Maoists does not at all mean taking a “hands off” attitude toward these forces. Together, the whole Maoist movement must and will advance further in the direction of the New Communist International, which will, in a qualitative way, represent the unity of the whole world̓s Maoist forces. But this process of advance and unification will take place on the basis of a line – it must be led, it cannot be otherwise.

 There is no doubt that the struggle for a new Communist International will be protracted and complex. There are a number of important questions still to be summed up from the earlier international experience, positive and negative, of uniting communists internationally. The class struggle and international developments are constantly posing new problems for resolution. The revolutionary communist forces are still relatively weak, and our experience in waging revolutionary struggle is, with a few exceptions, still rather limited. Our organizational unity cannot outstrip the level of ideological and political unity obtained. Today we see both the need for a common platform for the world̓s proletarian revolutionaries as well as the difficulties in forging such a General Line for the international communist movement. All of this is reason to march ahead boldly but carefully in the struggle to unite the Marxist-Leninist-Maoists of the world. The interests of the international proletariat demand nothing less.

 “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKERS OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!” 


1 During the Vietnam War, for example, one very significant development was the widespread identification of large sections of proletarians in the United States, especially Black proletarians, with the Vietnamese liberation fighters.

2 The current trend toward “globalisation” is an expresson and an intensification of both of these tendencies of the imperialist epoch – to tie the world closer together, strengthening the basis and need for proletarian internationalism, and to intensify inequality and thus heighten the basis and need for national liberation struggles against imperialism.

3 The struggle was further complicated by the treacherous role played by the Party of Labour of Albania and its leader Enver Hoxha. He opposed the new rulers of China following Deng̓s coup but he focused his attention almos solely on the criticism of the “Three Worlds Theory”, ignoring the most essential questions involved in the struggle in China, which he thoroughly misunderstood. Soon he launched a vicious opportunist attack on Mao Tsetung himself. Hoxha also benefited from the lack of an international structure of the ICM in his effort to erect Albania as the centre of the ICM.

4 The Paris Commune in 1871 was the first attempt of the proletariat to seize political power. But the Commune was short-lived – it lasted only 90 days – and the movement was still immature.

5 Indeed, important attempts at revolution were made in Europe after the October Revolution. In particular, there was the Spartacus Rebellion in Germany led by Leibknecht and Luxemburg and the short-lived workers republic in Hungary led by Bela Kun.

6 The revisionists always tried to use the struggle in Vietnam as a reason requiring the “unity of the communist movement ”, by which they meant that the struggle against modern revisionism had to cease and desist. This position was also furthered by the Vietnam Workers̓ Party̓s own centrism around the vital questions of those times. In reality, however, it was the consistent stand in support of the Vietnamense people̓s struggle by the Maoist movement, and especially revolutionary China itself under Mao̓s leadership, that created the most favourable external conditions for that struggle to advance, including by encouraging the more revolutionary elements in Vietnam to struggle on to a victorious conclusion.

7 In 1996 AWTW was “disinvited” from the Seminar at the last minute. Similarly, in 1997, the Revoutionary Communist Party USA was “disinvited” at the last minute because of its participation in RIM.

8 The Conference organized by the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Janashakti organization in Hyderabad.