The struggle against the new course initiated by the Soviet Union led to ideological division and political splits from the late 1950s in the international communist movement that remained until the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. Whilst the CPSU saw its leadership increasing diminished by dissident and autonomous behaviour among those institutionally aligned to Moscow, from these disputes arose an anti-revisionist trend associated with the ruling parties of Albania and China that did not materialise on an organisational basis with a “Beijing Centre” to rebuild and lead component sections .
Components of this pro-China trend as the anti-revisionists were more commonly labelled, were never as formalized and homogeneous as the pro-Soviet tendency. At an early stage, the Albanian Party of Labour sided with the CPC. Only one Western classic communist party came out as anti-revisionist, the Communist Party of New Zealand. Many of the mainstream (non-splinter group) communist parties in South-East Asia, like the Burmese Communist Party and Communist Party of Thailand. The pro-CPC movements were, after the initial split from the Moscow-line Communist Parties, in many cases, based amongst the wave of student radicalism that engulfed the world in the 1960s and 1970s. The anti-revisionist struggle was inspiration for newly re-established parties like in the Philippines and elsewhere.
Whereas the various streams of Trotskyism had unsuccessfully attempted to construct their version of the 4th International from the 1940s to the present day, it was not until the pivotal year 1977 that Albania’s ruling communist party serious attempt was made to rally an alternative international movement. It was in the following decade that there were three substantive attempts to co-ordinate the international alignment of a fractious and diverse maoist constellation of organisations, one of which was self-consciously described itself as “the embryonic centre of the world’s Maoists” until its demise towards the end of the first decade of the new century.
A new communist movement had arisen in the 1960s in opposition to Soviet endorsed revisionism. In its formative years during the polemical exchanges on the general line of the international communist movement, regardless of Albania’s vocal and strident challenges against modern revisionism, the ideological leadership belonged to the Communist Party of China led by Mao Zedong. In the struggle against Khrushchev and his successors, the CPC were sensitive to the problem of the equality of parties. The Chinese leadership had suffered in the progress of the Chinese Revolutions the negative experiences of advice and pressure from the Soviet Party and Comintern, an intervention repeated by Wang Ming’s contributions during the 1960s.
This well-known history is offered as an argument against efforts to institutionalise the emerging anti-revisionists organisationally as well as ideological and politically. Despite fraternal aid and assistance, expression of solidarity and internationalism provided to friendly parties and funding via Albania, the mantra of self-reliance was over-riding. When the Albanian party was manoeuvring at its Fifth Congress in 1965 to consolidate the supporting Marxist-Leninists organisations into a more institutional arrangement, the CPC did not support the move regardless of the pending mass upheaval unleashed in the Cultural Revolution.
From the 9th Congress in 1969, the Communist party of China ceased its practice of inviting fraternal delegates from other parties to its congresses. Unlike the Albanian party who cultivated such visits. The practice of sending delegates to other fraternal parties’ gatherings was also discontinued. It could be argued that despite China supporting some revolutionary forces financially and through training in other countries in the 1960s and the early 1970s, the global impact was not ideological but largely through lower-key, cultural dissemination. As the intensity of the Cultural Revolution waned in China bi-lateral visits were resumed however in the 1970s these included an eclectic range of invitees and clearly no moves were from Beijing to revive a (Maoist-orientated) communist international.
There were a number of considerations that questioned the need for such an arrangement:
- Such a centre would never be able to understand the concrete realities of revolution in each country
- It would hinder the development of competent, self-reliant leadership in the different parties
- On a practical level there was no capacity for the international coordination of the revolutionary movement, certainly neither Albania or China had the financial or personnel resources to sustain such an international
- The unspoken objection was the experience of the Comintern itself whereby its policies became identified with the needs of the Soviet Union.
Obviously during the 1960s and 70s a great many organisations uncritically adopted the positions of both the Albanian and Chinese policies, not a bad thing if agitating around the issue of natural justice for Albania over its confiscated gold reserves held in Western nations, however the negative side could be (and was) the lack of independent examination of the vital questions of revolution, especially since there was an objective difference – and all too obvious – in the role of China as a developing socialist state and the tasks of pushing the revolution forward in specific countries. In terms of foreign policy this was starkly seen when the “three World theory” was taken up and championed by supportive-China organisation while others, in the light of Albanian opposition that further divided criticism of China’s foreign policy by the error of denouncing Mao Zedong Thought to follow the Albanian baton.
Following Mao’s death in September 1976 , the arrest of leftist in the leadership was seen as a reactionary coup and betrayal of Mao Zedong Thought by some. The RCP, USA emerged as the leading element of these unreconstructed Maoist trend, although strong represented, if not widely known, in Latin America.
The following year proved decisive for the original anti-revisionist movement as there were further splits over China’s foreign policy, the international Maoist movement was divided into three camps. One group, composed of various ideologically nonaligned groups, gave weak support to the new Chinese leadership under Deng Xiaoping. Another camp denounced the new leadership as traitors to the cause of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. The third camp sided with the Albanians in denouncing the Three Worlds Theory of the CPC.
The Albanian intervention saw a consolidation of some forces around the Party of Labour of Albania with a series of regional rallies and joint statements supported by the PLA and delegations of the ML organisations participated in conferences in Albania as Radio Tirana informed the world about the strengthening threads of this new international constellation. (See Albania Builds An International)
Maoism, without Mao or China
The decade of the 1980s saw confusion, disorientation and collapse of seemingly strong parties in North America and Europe and the maoist stronghold of south East Asia. Many of the foreign parties that were fraternal parties aligned with the Chinese government before 1975 either disbanded, abandoned the new Chinese government entirely, or even renounced Marxism-Leninism and developed into non-communist, social democratic parties. There was also the most successful development to date of maoist origin, the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement [RIM]. It demonstrates that what is contemporary seen as the “international Maoist movement” evolved out of the organisations that opposed Deng and claimed to uphold the legacy of Mao Zedong.
In the autumn of 1980, a communique signed by 13 non-ruling maoist organisation was addressed “To the Marxist-Leninists, The workers and The Oppressed of All Countries” quickly followed by a position paper prepared jointly by the leaders of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Chile and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA led by Bob Avakian. This laid out the basic principles for the unity of Marxist-Leninists and the line of the International communist movement.
It was in March 1984 that a second congress of seventeen organisations from fourteen different countries adopted the founding declaration of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement [RIM] which adhered to Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.
RIM presented itself as “the embryonic centre of the world’s maoist” although absent from its ranks were major parties engaged in armed revolution (like in the Philippines and India). It regrouped a core of parties who were initially characterised as pro-Gang of Four and against the revisionist betrayal in China, maintaining a Late Maoism focus on the value of the Cultural Revolution. Indeed, in December 1993, under Peruvian influence, RIM formally adopted Marxism-Leninism- Maoism and “advanced further still in the direction of a communist international of a new type” [AWTW #23 1998 p74]
How far they were sharply demarcated from other tendencies which had developed out of the previous maoist movement? On the Struggle to Unite the Genuine Communist Forces looked at the principles and forces that RIM was looking towards in its unity drive [AWTW #30 (2004)].
January 1985 saw, “on the same side of the barricade” but not an official publication of RIM (in all but name), the relaunch of “A World to Win”. Two previous editions had appeared, the first contained an article by Sri Lankan veteran Leader, Sanmugathasan, entitled “Enver Hoxha Refuted”.
RIM included such notable organizations as the Communist Party of Peru (PCP), also known as “Sendero Luminoso” or “Shining Path,” the Communist Party of Nepal Maoist, later known as the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN(M)), the Union of Iranian Communist (Sarbedaran), but not the Communist Party of the Philippines (nor the Communist Party of India (Maoist) founded in Sep 2004) .
Towards a renewed solidarity and many conference of Marxist-Leninist Organisations
The 1990s was a busy decade that saw a repolarization of the international communist movement with rekindled interest in the need to regroup and coordinated communist parties in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact alliance. There has been a number of projects aimed at providing some kind of vehicle for unity of different organisation which self-declare their Marxist-Leninist commitment.
* Different streams, different venues, different organisations, different multilateral attempts to coalesce forces around a common position. A partial listing
Brussels annual May Day seminars
Pyongyang Declaration April 1992
Stuttgart Conference of 9 Marxist-Leninist parties from Europe September 1992
Mao Centenary Essen 1993 – General Declaration on Mao Zedong Thought
International Emergency Committee to Defend the Life of Dr Abimael Guzmán (IEC) September 1993
European multilateral meeting of ML parties November 1993
Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism! The Revolutionary Internationalist Movement declares that Marxism-Leninism-Maoism must be the commander and guide of the world revolution. December 1993
Moscow Stalin today seminars 1994
Quito ICMLPO founding August1994
PTB Unity Proposals May 1995
Unity & Struggle No.1 July 1995
Sochi Statement at Anti-Imperialist Convention India, Socialist Unity Centre of India May 1995
Ischia Conference (journal “International Struggle / Marxist-Leninist”) March 1995
Leningrad Declaration November 1997
2nd Conference “International Struggle / Marxist-Leninist” London 1997
International seminar on Mao and People’s war December 1998
Nine party declaration on formation of Co-ordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) June 2001
From 1993 the annual May Day Communist Seminars organized in Brussels by the Party of Labour of Belgium proved successful in attracting a wide audience from many different political heritages as the PTB increasingly diverged from their origins as part of the Maoist anti-revisionist Marxist Leninist movement. (Although there are exceptions as reportedly the RCP, USA were disinvited from the 1997 seminar and while Bill Bland was invited to Brussels in 1995 he was denied speaking rights.) Such projects set aside the clear lines of distinction drawn in the historic line struggles waged by the CPC and PLA against revisionism. The argument is that revisionism in power collapsed, so “old disputes” should no longer be an obstacle to co-ordinating forces of organisations on the same side of the barricade:
“Whatever one’s 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.”
[Proposal from Parti Du Travail of Belgium and the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks (AUCPB)] See also:
1995 | Ludo Martens | On certain aspects of the struggle against revisionism – For the unity of all communists, in defence of proletarian internationalism
The ideological diversity attracted representatives of ruling parties from North Korea and Cuba to the Brussel meetings and while some parties became more vocal in support for the positions of Cuba and North Korea, neither ruling parties could construct a substantial international group recognising an authorative ideological leadership, while Vietnam was seldom mentioned.
Even the small pro-Albanian forces were regrouping after the demise of their state sponsor but failed to unite in a single international alignment. One can set aside the individual call of Wolfgang Eggers , in December 2000 for the foundation of the new Communist International (Marxist-Leninist) in the name of the KPD (ML) and accompanying “19 Theses” dismissed by Canada-based Hari Kumar because “Your approach lacks either common-sense or persuasive power or psychological insight, or, frankly, anything that can commend it”. The path towards a new communist Marxist-Leninist International by essentially old style Stalinist and Hoxha supporters was explored by Kumar (Alliance (ML) Issue No.19 1996)
The journals “International Struggle / Marxist-Leninist” and “Unity & Struggle” aimed to provide a common political platform for a new ML international that proved to have its strength in Latin America but still a divided tendency. There were 15 parties at the conference of Marxist-Leninist parties held in Quito in 1994, but only 12 approved the decision to continue the conferences and publication of an international review (Unity & Struggle). Two years earlier, one of the largest components of the Hoxhist trend, the CPdo B – Communist party of Brazil – had decided to abandon the idea of reorganising the pro-Albanian forces in order to maximise its relations with the broader defined Communist forces including the Communist Party of China. The International seminar on problems of Revolution in Latin America initiated by the Quito conference has drawn from Maoist and Guevarist tendencies to discuss revolutionary strategies.
Elsewhere on the political margins effort at regrouping the international communist movement was the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO) in 1988, the first of a series of conferences attracting around two dozen organisation, as the Marxist Leninist Party of Germany (MLPD) sought unity .It published the “International Newsletter”.. However, some of the parties and organizations within the ICMLPO identify as Mao Zedong Thought or Maoist.
This grouping metamorphosed into ICOR in October 2010 on an anti-imperialist, anti-revisionist and anti-Trotskyite platform as a union for practical cooperation and a form of organization of international cooperation and coordination for the activity of the revolutionaries of the world, and for mutual support in class struggle and party-building. It has about 51 Member in total.
The founder-leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines was involved in a non-party international broad front, the ILPS – International League of People’s Struggles, a broad international anti-imperialist and democratic mass formation emulated by the smaller World People’s Resistance Movement that seems to lasted as long as RIM did.
In December 1998 an international seminar on Mao and People’s War on the initiative of the CPI(ML) , Communist Party of the Philippines and, the Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist-Leninist , People’s War group saw 27 organizations represented in support of the practice of people’s war and the politics of new democracy. An invitation was extended to the Communist Party of Peru who did not attend. A short-lived website and international bulletin, Vanguard was established but no further international gatherings were sustained. The intention was to publicise the articles and news reports of Marxists-Leninist-Maoist parties, an ambition that found its expression in the present day Redspark website.
The Maoist-Third Worldist movement, a much smaller current of thought began to appear from 2007, but soon splintered and (as with the line of “new synthesis”) took on a messianic claim having supersede its Maoist origins.
These moves in the ML milieu were not in isolation as other leftist currents as seen in the Anti-Imperialist camp, a coalition of activists from different perspectives, initiated 2001, and in the period of retreat, steps taken towards the cooperation and coordination of the Moscow orientated Communist and Workers’ Parties saw the Greek party , KKE play a central role in organising international gatherings and the publication of “International Communist Review” started in 2014.
The latter half of the 21st century’s new decade saw RIM near defunct as many of the one-time RIM organizations have become increasingly critical of each other. The intensified tensions within RIM were not unrelated to the setback of the capture of the Peruvian revolutionary leader Guzman.
Disagreements has resulted in many public splits with the RCP USA condemning the UCPN(M) as revisionist after the Nepalese party abandoned its people’s war for parliamentary participation. Only in turn for the RCP USA to be criticized by many of RIM’s surviving members for attempt to foist a “new synthesis” and the undisputed leadership of Bob Avakian upon the international communist movement. Due to growing internal problems and differences RIM ceased functioning around 2007, though there was apparently never any public announcement that the organization was disbanding.
Starting around 2012 there have been efforts by some parties and organizations around the world, to try to resurrect a new internationalism, of re-establishing a RIM mark 2, or else some new international Maoist organization. This took the form of projects and networks advertised on the internet like the Maoist Road blog . The emergence of a Gonzaloist trend in the second decade of the century saw a minor constellation coalesce on the basis of a prescriptive exclusivity that had a sense of theatre without sustained impact.
Aftermath: “old Disputes” & internationalism
Different Leftist currents exist for a reason, and that heritage has a legacy in that each current offers contending analysis and perspectives. So when one speaks about Khrushchev’s revisionism and the restoration of capitalism under Gorbachev and avoids the Brezhnev period when analysis inspired by Mao suggests that the Soviet Union had been thoroughly converted into a “Social Imperialist” entity. Disputes about the class nature of the Soviet Union is passed over and differences retained in the interests of pragmatic unity. Taking an agnostic stance on the merits of previously secured historical clarity is not attributed to other Leftists currents that would argue for an earlier date for the degeneration of the revolutionary project; outside the big tent are Trotskyists, left communists and anarchist currents. The Proposals were that such divisions can be overcome because they were now mere historical disputes as if those past judgements made were immaterial and without consequences or legacy : so what Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan, Three World Theory, The Cultural Revolution, military role in Poland, Hoxha’s denunciation of former ally, Mao.
The drive for internationalist solidarity that means the unity of views and actions may be for some a form of revolutionary nostalgia, sentimentally privileging the past at the expense of present concerns and the emotional reconstitution and preservation of revered histories. Against them is a past limiting progressive potential of a greater left unity, the idea of many forces on “our side” of the barricades facing a greater enemy. However these “old disputes” involved political positions that were and are important: if they were wrong, mistaken or right affects subsequent decisions and notions of solidarity that the new internationalism represents. Drawing a line under the past may seem an attractive proposition in the face of a “common enemy”; not so attractive if they are strategically regarded as accomplices of that enemy. It is a different matter of co-operating and co-ordinating with co-thinkers than that of tactically working in alliance with a diverse (and often temporary) coalition of forces. Reserving judgement can disguise the suppression of genuine revolutionary positions. It may well be that the drive for a new internationalism is based on the realistic foundation that the possibility of hegemonic leadership by one trend on the political left is no longer possible, and that the Pandora box of the broad movement, contrasting perceived sectarianism and ultra-leftism against the tolerance and pluralism of divergent views, is the authentic way forward. If that is the case such unity, without reference to Mao, means uniting without Maoism as it is understood by its most vocal proponents.