Another biography of Mao Zedong appeared in the summer of 2020. This was an English translation of work undertaken by the historians of the Party Literature Research Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and covers Mao’s career in the period, 1893-1949.
The publicity blurb from publishers Cambridge University Press describe it as: “As an extended official account of Mao, and Mao’s thought, this work offers a unique source through which to view the Chinese Communist Party’s portrayal of the transformative events of the twentieth century and Mao’s pivotal role therein.”
This volume, the first of three, is the only biography of Mao written with full access to the Chinese Communist Party Archives to date
Originally published in 2011 in six volumes, the translation is edited by Sheng-chi Shu. It contains an introduction from the western academic Timothy Cheek. He notes,
“This volume comprises the first of three volumes of the English translation of the official Chinese biography of Mao Zedong, Mao Zedong zhuan. The first part was published in 1996 by the CCP Central Committee’s Party Literature Research Office, covering the years from Mao’s birth in 1893 until the start of the People’s Republic of China in October 1949. Jin Chongji (金冲及) is credited as the key editor and main writer of this part.”
Cheek discusses the treatment of Mao and his “living legacy”, framed by what he calls Reform China as ‘the crystallization of collected wisdom in the CCP’, and the political constraints in the historiography involved. Of course the incentive to read is
“The authors have privileged access to Party archives not available to other scholars inside or outside China. It is loaded with information (usually with specific documentary citations) not available in current Western or non-official biographies of Mao.”
So far unread and not bought until its cost is reduced from the retail price £125 – £112 on ebay!
Format Hardback | 1018 pages
Dimensions 160 x 266 x 49mm | 1,740g
Publication date 27 Aug 2020
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Publication City/Country Cambridge, United Kingdom
Illustrations note 3 Maps; 21 Halftones, black and white
The arrests conducted by the Peruvian National Police [PNP} in Lima in early December was targeted at the campaigning prisoner rights organisation, the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef). Movadef was created in 2009, initially as an organization to fight for an amnesty and freedom of political prisoners in Peru. The organisation is regularly referred to as “the political arm of the Shining Path terrorist group” by the Peruvian state.
On December 2, 2020, hours before resigning as the Minister of the Interior, Rubén Vargas had announced the capture of 72 people accused of being linked to the PCP through the “Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef).” According to the government official, Movadef-linked people have been previously arrested for the alleged crime of apology for terrorism, but alleged current investigations show that they are part of the Shining Path structure. The State’s prematurely gloated; this was “historic” because it liquidated the political and military structure of the terrorist group.
The PNP operation “Olimpo” after 4 years of surveillance, infiltration, and investigations included the participation of 1,200 police officers, as well as 98 representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office. It was a multiagency offensive as Olimpo was led by the Anti-Terrorism Division (Dircote), the High Complexity Investigations Division (Diviac), the Peruvian Army Intelligence Directorate, and the Third Supraprovincial Criminal Prosecutor’s Office.
Detainees include members of Amnesty Movement and Fundamental Rights (Movadef) and Fudepp (Front of Unity and Defense of the Peruvian People) set up in 2015 to seek registration with the national Election board. Peru News Agency reported the persons under arrest include former inmates belonging to Shining Path, such as Fernando Olortegui and Victor Castillo. The list also includes Evalisa Cano, a member of the Movadef Base in Downtown Lima, and Carlos Cano Andia, described as a member of the Eastern Detachment of the Popular Guerrilla Army.
The state authorities regarded these civil organisations not simply as apologist for “terrorism”, but as the political operating arm of the Peruvian communists that still seeks the same purposes and objective of the PCP led by the imprisoned Gonzalo/Guzman. The state alleges “they obeyed directives and slogans from the dome led by Abimael Guzmán Reinoso and other members currently in prison.”
In 2017 Interior Minister Carlos Basombrío pointed out that there is evidence that Abimael Guzmán is part of the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights structure, based on documentation seized in prisons in 2014.
“I am one of those who think that Movadef is not a Sendero sympathizing group. It is more than that [a legal arm]. We have abundant documentation, and in the handwriting of Abimael Guzmán, seized in prisons in 2014, which shows that Abimael Guzmán directs Movadef, that is, he is part of the Movadef structure.”
In contrast, Movadef and its activists are condemned by those who claim the name of the the Communist Party of Peru (PCP), specifically The Peru People’s Movement (MPP), who repeatedly asserts it was generated by PCP for the party work abroad. Politically Movadef is labelled an instrument of the Right Opposition Line (ROL), “revisionist and capitulationist rats” dedicated to recycling capitulators and trained repentant guerrillas, with the need to trace a “new path” for the struggle in Peru.
Movadef raised a new characterization of society, pointing out that because of the PCP’s armed struggle, Peru stopped being semi-feudal to become a dependent capitalist country. Obviously, when they characterize Peru as dependent capitalist, the form of revolutionary action can adapt to change, where the centre of said struggle necessarily passes through participation in electoral, constitutional, and bureaucratic life. In 2011 they tried to register as a political party before the National Elections , but they were rejected, closing the door to that route by the Peruvian state. The demand for democratic rights seen by sectarian leftist critics as the same line of abstract democracy and freedom as “opportunists and revisionists Patria Roja.”
Still Movadef campaign that their constitutional rights be respected, and say they are persecuted because they “think differently” or that “they are persecuted for ideas” to defend the life and freedom of Chairman Gonzalo, of those imprisoned who wield Gonzalo Thought.
Former political prisoner Esther Palacios argues in support for “the new grand strategy proposed by its president [Gonzalo] of moving from a political struggle with weapons to a political struggle without weapons and to use all possible forms of struggle within the political struggle. Thus, fight for the fundamental rights restricted or denied by the open dictatorship of Fujimorism imposed by neoliberalism in 1992 and within which the different demo-bourgeois governments continue.
This new stage marks them out as having capitulated, label as traitors and the described as “faithful followers of the Prachanda Path in Latin America”. There are well-rehearsed positions against Movadef’s approach:
— Not only did they go against the People’s War, but claimed the way to solve the fundamental problems of society is through reconciliation, peace, the meeting of classes—they yelled like Kautsky, “there is no longer any room for armed struggle for the solution of class conflicts,” and “that it will be ridiculous … to preach a violent disorder” to change society. They turned their backs on the People’s War, on the revolution, they created their “glass ceiling” that was no more than reform and renewed constitutionalism, and they went against those who support the People’s War.
The thought that Chairman Gonzalo, “the greatest living Marxist-Leninist-Maoist on the face of the earth” could be accuse of being the author of the CIA’s “Peace Letters” and the right-wing opportunist line is repeatedly denied as part of the betrayal of Maoism, Chairman Gonzalo, the party and the People’s War by those who have given up on the revolution.
What remains loudly claimed is that it was in Peru, and precisely with the PCP’s doctrinaire interpretations of Mao and the People’s War that Mao Tse-tung Thought became Maoism, that is, a third and superior stage of Marxism, and not only that, but also its contributions of universal validity of Gonzalo Thought, an obstacle to opportunism and revisionism. Within the international communist movement is voiced the advice they should take Chairman Gonzalo to account for his own conduct of leadership in his own country, his “Left” opportunist line before his capture in 1992 and Right opportunist line soon after his capture. Furthermore, these conflicting opportunist lines have brought about the decline of the people’s war in Peru.
The elevation of Gonzalo Thought, in particular the concept of a militarised party and protracted people’s war, and the characterisation of Maoism places in the shadows those “miserable rats of the right opportunist line (ROL), revisionist and capitulationist,” who claim (with as much authenticity) to be equally inspired and led by Gonzalo to act and group themselves, as “the third instrument of the revolution”, the united front led by the PCP.
Rejecting the hoax is rejecting a presentation of Chairman Gonzalo, dejected, defeated who had generated letters calling for demobilization and entering a “new stage”, of the need to enter a new phase of the struggle marked by reconciliation and, a scenario that involves amnesty, electoral struggle, and struggle for rights in the framework of bourgeois democracy. All this is seen as a denial of the PCP, Gonzalo Thought, the people’s war and consequently of the ideology of the proletariat.
Hence , the flare up at the re-publication of the new edition of the so-called “Peace Letters”, the hoax of the CIA-Peruvian reaction presented by the former Minister of the Interior (of the Minter) Rubén Vargas shortly after the arrests in Lima of Movadef’s activists.
MPP somehow regard the arrests as a CIA operation, “the continuation of the one set up by this spy agency of US imperialism to detain and then infame Chairman Gonzalo, presenting him as the head of the ROL, with the service of these “revisionist and capitulationist rats” to annihilate the leadership of the party and the revolution.
There is a reference point frozen in time that remains fundament for those who honour the name of “Fourth Sword of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.” Two weeks after his arrest, Guzman was presented briefly before television cameras. Wearing a black-and-white striped prison uniform, he was filmed pacing back and forth in what resembled a circus lion’s cage
Guzman took full advantage of the 15 minutes the government gave him. “Here, under these circumstances, some may think that this is a great defeat,” he said defiantly. “They are dreaming. We say, keep on dreaming. It is simply––and nothing more than––a stone along the path. The path is long. We will reach our destination, we will triumph!” Guzman then stridently ordered his organization to continue the armed struggle, which he now described as a patriotic defense of the nation against imminent imperialist intervention.
That defiance remains celebrated.
What is disregarded and discarded from historic memory was another television appearance a year later in December 1993 when Guzman appeared in a video surrounded by all of the imprisoned members of the Central Committee reading out a document signed by them all reiterating request for peace talks with the government. While Fujimori sternly rejected any possibility of negotiating with Shining Path––”winners” of wars do not negotiate – no peace agreement was ever reached, both due to the refusal of the government and the refusal of those who remained in command of the war.
The original media reports in 1993 were that, from jail, Chairman Gonzalo was calling for the Shining Path “guerrillas to suspend the war, and to the government to start peace talks”. It was not a surrender as such but merely a call for negotiations under the pretext that the political period had undergone a major change. Other important jailed PCP leaders began to recruit support for a peace accord. The Peruvian state promoted the so-called “peace accords” by shuttling members of the ROL around from prison to prison to promote it. Still, it seems most of the political prisoners rejected the ROL, under very difficult conditions. The leadership outside the prisons rejected the peace proposal and continued fighting, thus setting up a two-line struggle in the PCP. In 1994 the PCP began to break-up and fall into decline. Critics say that in 25 years those adhering to the “old line” of armed action have stalled and they have never taken even one district, and, even if they do some ambushes, this does not add up to a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist people’s war.
The Movimeento Popular Peru de Alemania – MPP-Germany- operating through an anti-imperialist group based in Hamburg, was the only “PCP” group abroad to accept the “Peace Letters” as genuine and claims to have received phone calls from Abimael Guzman /Chairman Gonzalo instructing it to work for a peace accord in Peru.
These Peace Letters allegedly written by Abimael Guzman were quickly followed in October 1993 by a hundred-page document signed ‘President Gonzalo’ and released by the PCP under the title Asumir y combatir por la Nueva gran Decisión y Definición (‘Accepting and Fighting for the New Great Decision and Definition’) based on a supposedly qualitative change in the political period used to justify this initiative.
Since being imprisoned under harsh isolating security, two manuscripts have been smuggled out that have been largely ignored by those who maintain a protracted people’s war stance. The first publication smuggled out of prison was Guzman’s memoir, De puño y letra, a series of autobiographical manuscripts, letters, and legal arguments compiled by Elena Iparraguirre, his wife and number two in the hierarchy.
Reviewing, when publicly presented on September 12th 2009 at a hotel in Lima, former high profile supporter, Luis Arce Borja saw only betrayal arguing that the Shining Path, since 1993, has become a political party of the counterrevolution after all, objectively, Guzman’s book serves the interests of the government.
Almost all of the thousand published copies were seized by the government, and attention turned to repress (apply the apology law) the authors and publishers who collaborated with the publication of ‘De Puño y Letra‘.
Whereas Luis Arce Borja sees it reaffirms once again what he calls the treacherous conduct of Guzman, “who in 1993 agreed to a kind of cemetery peace with Alberto Fujimori and Vladimiro Montesinos”, generally the controversial book was regarded as an apologia for violence as a means to meet political ends but it also places the conflict firmly in the past and calls for national reconciliation.
Dr. Alfredo Crespo, lawyer for Abimael Guzman, in defense of this publication, has said that Gonzalo has ended the “historical process of the armed struggle”. The content reaffirms the approach of Guzman regarding a proposal for a peace agreement made in 1993, and an “amnesty general for all those who participated in the internal war”.
Guzman’s 2014 book, Memories from Nemesis compiles documents and memoirs substantiating the move to struggle without arms.
The merit of this decision from the leader split the organisation, accepted by some and rejected by others – both claiming to uphold Gonzaloist Thought. The repression of the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef) illustrates the state’s views that it is uprooted the underground PCP loyal to Guzman. To acknowledge that raises too many unpalatable issues for its political opponents who chisel the arrests in Lima into their own constructed reality of the overarching narrative of a hoax and CIA conspiracy.
Planning to release the 2nd edition of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong, Volume IX, the Paris-based publishing house Foreign Language Press “discovered some surprises in our endeavour to put out the best text we could.” [i]
They encountered issues of scholarship that are tackled in any intellectual production from the simplest blog to the authority in the field: can the reader trust the text? There are always caveats in any approach to reading that question its reliability, accuracy, value and purpose. Some of the concerns raised in an earlier posting Reading Maobut dealt with in a more focus and informative manner by the FLP editors.
Despite his charismatic authority and creative Marxism, Mao frequently acknowledged he was no superman and worked with and through others as the collective development of ideas, the collective editing and bureaucratic, as well as personal, approval before publication under Mao’s name illustrated. Many academics drawn to textual analysis and comparison, often preoccupied with the differences between the ‘speaking notes’ and the official version, have commented on this collective production in the evaluation of the work of Mao Zedong. Such collaboration, commonplace if hidden and seldom advertised, produces an intellectual co-operation that lies behind influential work[ii] as in the critique of Soviet economics attributed to Mao that emerged in 1967. As Timothy Cheek noted these “are Hu Sheng’s notes from Mao’s 1960 study group – Hu Sheng rearranged Mao’s comments and added sub-headings; Mao never reviewed them.” [iii]
Scott Harrison makes available the translated, and Chinese edition of the text. He notes the “standard” Monthly Review English language version many of Mao’s comments to comrades about Soviet economics are not included along with the notes he made while reading the Soviet textbook. This explains why this English language book are so much shorter than even the “Short” Chinese language edition.
Deng Liqun, who prepared the original “Short” Chinese edition, included all of Mao’s comments, but much shorter extracts from the full Soviet texts that Mao was criticizing. Like the attribution to Hu Sheng, Deng Liquin’s text was edited based on his extensive conversations with Mao.
As with anything published under Mao’s name, Harrison says questions have also been raised about the accuracy of the translations of Mao’s comments in some places. Part of the process of how these texts were produced, basically somebody’s edited notes or minutes of recorded talk and conversations involving Mao, rather than by his hand, serves to illustrate why so much attention was given in the production of officially released work of Mao Zedong.
When Mao spoke publically, he spoke for the party .The gonzo culture of western political reporting with its proliferation of politician’s arbitrary comments, political leaks and ill-thought out boasts was alien to the Chinese political process. The emergence of unauthorised raw texts, uncensored and not necessarily prepared by Mao himself excited sinologists and raised the issue of authenticity and ownership. There is the argument that the only authorised work of Mao Zedong is that released during his lifetime – the first four volumes of Selected Works, the Selected Readings and military essays released by Mao. His best-selling Quotations – The little Red Book of popular culture – was published under the direction and guidance of Lin Biao and like any other text somebody’s political interpretation by selection of the compilations of texts presented.
Authorised English language edition
Selected Readings (1971) 1926 -1965
Volume 1 (1975) 1926-1937
Volume 2 (1967) 1937- 1941
Volume 3 (1975) 1941 -1945
Volume 4 (1969) 1945 – 1949
Volume 5 (1977) 1949 -1957
On Diplomacy (1998) 1938 – 1974
Some would advise readers to use some appropriate caution with the last two volume, considering that those who produced it were leading China back to capitalism by this time. Those who thought that the Chinese revisionists would not be publishing more of Chairman Mao’s Selected Works (or that they couldn’t be trusted if they did) had attempts to try to determine what might have been produced from the material that had emerged unofficially during the Cultural Revolution. In the publication of four further (unofficial) volumes of Selected Works, these Indian compilations, partially utilising the work of Stuart Scram, pioneered the popularisation of Mao before what was, mainly consumed by academics, the steady authorised release of material from the post-Mao regime.
Unauthorised additions to the published series
Subsequent volumes of Selected Works published in India in the 1990s by Kranti Publications, Secunderabad, and Sramikavarga Prachuranalu, Hyderabad. Second editions by Foreign Language Press, Paris. 2020/21
Volume 6 1917 -1946
Volume 7 1947 – 1957
Volume 8 1958 – 1962
Volume 9 1963 – 1970
Kranti Publications/ Foreign Language Press (Paris) drew upon variety unauthorised sources to continue the series Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung. Other compilations of work attributed to Mao were published by western publishers, notable Mao Tsetung Unrehearsed (1974) 1956 – 1971 compiled and translated by Stuart Schram that utilised the sixiang wansui editions.
Volume 6 of Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, produced by the Indian publishing house, Kranti Publications in 1990, contained a compendium of work dating from 1917-1946 that had not appeared in the Chinese authorised edition. Unfortunately scantly bibliographical source, it nevertheless was stimulating in its selection of material that had been omitted or new material seeped out from China.
This was followed by other volumes: Volume 7 covers the period from the founding of the People’s Republic (October 1949) until the Great Leap Forward (1958) and contains 478 documents, mainly composed of his letters and telegrams , that are not included in the “Official” Volume 5 of the Selected Works that covered this period.
Volume 8 gathers texts documenting a critical and dynamic period in the People’s Republic: 1958-1962 and includes the main documents from the Lushan Meeting in 1959, where the two-lines first emerged in open struggle in party meetings.
Volume 9, originally released in December 1994, covers the next stage in the developments that led to the initiation of the Socialist Education Movement and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution taking the narrative up to 1970.
The editors at Kranti Publications noted
“During the great proletariat cultural revolution a nationwide programme of studying the works of chairman Mao were launched and it was in hightide. Then Mao himself observed: “The Selected Works of Mao, how much of it is mine! It is a work of blood. The struggle in the soviets was very acute. Because of the errors of the Wang Ming line we had to embark on the 25,000 li Long March. These things in Selected Works of Mao were taught to us by the masses and paid for with blood sacrifices”.”[iv]
Long out of print, in 2020/21 these volumes were made available in corrected reprints by the overtly MLM publishing house, Foreign Language Press. When announcing the release of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong Vol. IX, FLP’s editorial team observed the challenge of scholarship in the service of revolutionary advance when it explained the difficulties with sourcing material for those pioneering editors at Kranti Publications.
III Source material
Since his death, any official evaluation of Mao has been framed by the document on party history adopted by the Sixth Plenary Session of the CPC on June 27, 1981. It has more nuances argument than its critics credit but still the bottom line was to draw a line in the mid-1950s and state that anything after that period associated with Mao was ultra-leftist and disastrous for Chinese society.
Basically everything the modern Maoist appreciates in Mao, the politics of the mass line and supervisory mass campaigns , the anti-revisionist stance, radical encourage for anti-imperialists, the Cultural Revolution’s emphasis on ‘continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat’ has been condemned by the Chinese leadership since his death.
However as it turned out, the 1981 Resolution would not end work on Mao’s life. Memoirs by military figures and Mao staff members, biographical studies of senior figures, and selective issue of Party documents added to the knowledge of Mao’s actions and words. Besides Chinese authored memoirs, (amongst them two translated for English-speaking market) Quan Yanchi (1992) and Zhong Wenxian (ed) (1986),[v] work by oversea authors became available: Ross Terrill’s and Philip Short’s biography of Mao were published by Chinese publishing houses.
The fresh attention to Mao was low-key and factual. It stressed his human side, Guangming Ribao ran an article detailing Mao’s grave health problems — including a respiratory ailment due to his smoking — from the spring of 1971 until his death. What was not permitted was any positive evaluation or reference to what had been condemned as Mao’s political leftism.
A powerful “Mao re” (Mao fever) of the early 1990s produced a cultural, good-humoured remembrance of the former leader. Sometimes the use of Mao was commercial, his image on lighters and wristwatches along with the posters, busts and tourist-targeted reproduction copies of Quotations. Such trivial uses will go on being made of Mao image. Sometimes it was superstitious, satiric, or nostalgic. Seldom was it politically.
Another Mao fever that began in 2003. This was the year of the 110th anniversary of Mao’s birth, the publication of a solid official party history biography of Mao, of many films, performances and other events marking the anniversary. On this occasion, Hu Jintao paying lip service said Mao still offered China “precious spiritual wealth.” In forty-eight days, the special website devoted to the 110th Mao anniversary received half a million hits. The thought of Mao remained strong in the mass culture of China, manifest in popular nostalgia if absent from its political and economic policies. It is Mao who still resonates in the spiritually sterile and morally corrupt capitalist society of post-Mao China. How far Maoist nostalgia is reflective and not restorative is another question.
Obviously the source for material by Mao comes from China. All foreign language editions and collections draw upon official and unofficial compilations of texts. There is still no complete Chinese edition of Mao’s works – Professor Takeuchi Minoru[vi] spent decades producing a Japanese language collection of Mao’s pre-1949 writings in 20 volumes, and Stuart Scram (continued by Timothy Creek) English language series Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings, 1912-49 runs to eight published volumes.[vii]
Many western publications – especially those including texts not found in the first four volumes of Selected Works – draw upon the explosion of material collected and produced during the Cultural Revolution when large unofficial collections of Mao’s papers, popularly title “Long Live Mao Zedong Thought” – the various sixiang wansui editions – contained instructions, letters, talks and quotations seldom checked for authenticity or accuracy without bibliographical conventions. These sixiang wansui volumes from 1967 and 1969 emerged from the Institute of International Relations in Taipei. They were compiled from neibu (restricted circulation)[viii] material captured when Red Guards occupied ministries or other government offices, and raids on homes of leading officials. Many of these texts appear to be lecture notes taken down by anonymous hands.
These raw texts contribute to the party’s historiography and Mao’s role in it but they are very much the product of daily politics. These were treated as largely trustworthy not least when translated and popularised in Chairman Mao Talks to the People by Stuart Schram (in UK published as Mao Tse-Tung Unrehearsed. Talks and Letters: 1956-71). There are still other sources to mine, the little known sources, often non-Chinese sourced that could be traced e.g. Anna Louise Strong: Three Interviews with Chairman Mao Zedong. [ix]
Not surprisingly there are significant differences and details within the Wansui volumes which provided access to Mao’s unofficial work published without being shaped or polished by consideration or subject to political editing and concerns. The breadth and depth of material reproduced in Taiwan in the early 1970s had previously been unavailable to western scholars and were uneven in quality and indifferent to bibliographical filters and checks.
There was the American government’s publication in 1978 of Collected Works of Mao Tse-Tung (1917-1949) produced by the Joint Publications Research Service[x] based on a ten volume Chinese language edition, Mao Tse-tung Chi that appeared in Hong Kong in 1975 . However any item official published in Selected Works or Selected Readings were not included. Again the main source were the unofficial Red Guard collections Mao Tse-tung Ssu-shiang Wan-sui (Long live Mao Tse-tung thought).
Without great fanfare and promotion, and not intended for a mass readership, nevertheless there has been detailed and thematically organized collections of Mao works published. China state publications provide the bedrock of material of work by Mao published in China after his death, and seeded many an academic’s publishing record.
The body of available material expanded through selective official publication of individual items like letters and various thematic volumes which are published exclusively in Chinese language editions, either openly or for restricted circulation (neibu) mainly from the Central Committee supervised Department for Research on Party literature.
The Central Committee’s Research Institute on Party Literature remains responsible for releasing new material. The official publication of Mao’s work had been significant as defining the political orthodoxy. Its release was a carefully choreographed and deliberate statement. This was a function of the Selected Works version published during Mao’s lifetime when revised texts were produced under Mao’s supervision and often with his active participation. Mao’s Selected Works were not simply a historical collection recording what was said at the time. They have been subject to collective editing reflecting their purpose as a political instrument as party orthodox and promotion of ideological training. For instance, Volume V of Selected Writings had only 70 articles from the period 1949-1957 when Western academics identified 750 possible entries for inclusion and actually selected 522 to publish.[xi] Drawn up under the brief tenure of Hua Guofeng, Volume V was quickly suppressed partly because of its “errors” in its stance of upholding the “continuing revolution under the dictatorship of the revolution”.
As with previous work, after Mao’s death the assumption must be that public editions of Mao’s writings are still released to support current party policy. Even though the contents are incomplete and extremely selective in relation to the total corpus of Mao’s work, notable was the lack of appearance of Mao’s more radical advocacy, a shunning of the “ultra-leftist” positions associated with Mao’s later years (seemingly any thought after the aged of 63). [xii]
Back in 1988, Timothy Cheek discussed the massive amount of material released with 23 volumes of talks and writings attributed to Mao, amounting to over 5,500 pages.[xiii] Unlike the hundreds of millions of copies involved in the print run of officially sponsored Mao publications in his life time, and the 28 million copies of Volume V of Selected Work published in 1977-78, these new releases were more modest in number and not as widely circulated beyond the orbit of the sinologist field. Such releases fed new publications of Mao’s writing in English by academic publishers such as The Secret Speeches of Chairman Mao: From the Hundred Flowers to the Great Leap Forward[xiv] .
In all, the release from the 1980s onwards were part of a Chinese party/state sanction scholarly and historicist drive that saw a release of new volumes of Mao’s writings that specialist libraries like at Harvard (USA) and western academics secured access regardless of their circulation status. Some of the sources referenced by scholars include:
1983 Selected Correspondences of Mao Zedong
1983 Selected Materials regarding Mao Zedong’s Journalistic work
1983 Collected writings of Mao Zedong on the investigations in the countryside.
1986 Mao Zedong Reader in two volume edition published covering 1921-1964 with copious (488) and lengthy end notes.
1986 a collection of 14 articles on Mao’s reading habits was published: Mao Zedong’s Reading Life (Mao Zedong de dushu shenghuo , Sanlian Shudian, Beijing 1986)
1987 a research guide to 14,000 items in two volumes, Index to research on Mao Zedong’s life and works ( Mao Zedong shengping, zhuzuo yanjiu suoyin. Guofeng Daxue Chubanshe, Beijing 1987) was published. A testimony to the interest and extent of material generated around Mao.
1987 A Collection of Mao Zedong’s Comments and Notes on Philosophical Writings is another volume of the series of Mao Zedong’s special works edited by the CPC Central Committee’s Party Literature Research Center (with the cooperation of other units). It is a collection of Mao Zedong’s notes on and extracts from the philosophical writings on Marxism which he studied between the 1930’s and 1960’s. “Most of them have never been published before.” [xv]
1987 – 1996 Mao Zedong’s Manuscript since the founding of the People’s Republic (Jianguo yilai Mao Zedong wengao .Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1987-1996). This multivolume collection has three volumes covering the period of the Cultural revolution: Volume 11: January 1964 – December 1965 to Volume 13: January 1969 – July 1976
1991 Draft Writings by Mao Zedong for the Early Period, June 1912-November 1920. Mao Zedong Zaoqi Wengao, 1912.6-1920.11 Changsha: Hunan Chaubanshe.
1993-1999. The Party Literature Research Centre of the Central Committee published the multi-volume ‘Mao Zedong Works’. The first volume appeared in 1993 on the Centenary of Mao’s birth, and Xinhua News Agency announced publication of the 8th volume in July 1999. The multi-volume work contains over 800 pieces not previously published in the Chinese edition of “Selected Works of Mao Zedong”, although only key items from 1966 onwards are included because the Cultural Revolution “launched by Chairman Mao, was a mistake of overall importance”.[xvi]
1993 Mao Zedong’s Military Writings six volumes (Mao Zedong junshi wenji .Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1993).
1994 Selection of Materials by Mao Zedong on Foreign Affairs (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1994) In the former, over five-sixths of the documentation covers the post-1949 period, the last being from his May 25, 1974 talk with former British Prime Minister Edward Heath. An English-language collection of Mao’s writing On Diplomacy was produced by Foreign Language Press in 1998.
1995 A Collection of Reports and Speeches by Mao Zedong to the Seventh Party Congress (Mao Zedong zai qida de baogao he jianghua ji . Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1995).
Also, Nancy Hearst and Tony Saich suggested that (although unseen) a limited circulation 60-volume edition of pre-1949 Mao texts apparently exists.[xvii]
1998 Complete Books of Mao Zedong, 6 volumes (ed) Jiang Jiannong. Mao Zedong Chuan Shu, Shijiazhuang: Hebi Renmin Chubanshe
2013 Mao Zedong Nianpu 1949-1976 of six volumes of previously obscure materials from the central party archives press published to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong, Guangming Daily (23/12/2013) reported the publication of the Mao Nianpu (or Mao Zedong Chronology) (1949-1976). Compiled by the CCCPC Party Literature Research Office, it comprised six volumes and about three million words, covering Mao’s life and achievements during the twenty-seven years from the founding of the People’s Republic of China to his death.
Adam Cathcart commented that in Mao Zedong Nianpu a single editor was responsible for editing the entire Cultural Revolution period, covered in a single volume of 653 pages of text covering ten years (1966-1976), and suggests Mao’s dwindling physical activity could be partially to account for the relative lack of density of the entries. Judicious selection based on the 1981 resolution may leave other writings safely in the archives?
At the same time, the Chronicle of Mao Zedong (1893-1949) (total three volumes) published in December 1993 has been revised and issued across the country.
IV Turning Mao’s Chinese into English
The reworking on Mao related text, as in the scholarship undertaken by FLP, is a constant feature as in finding the original source of a document that was only available as an excerpt in the 1st edition of the Selected Works Vol. 9 and replace the excerpt with it in the 2nd edition. But there are frustrations too as FLP Twitter account noted: “wish we found this a week earlier. Rab Rab Press, a tiny publisher from Finland, has released in June 2020 a new translation of the last meeting of Mao with Red Guards leaders that corrects so many parts that the JPRS translation one has wrongly translated.”
Foreign Language Press has taken on the challenge with an announcement regarding the future of their work on the Mao’s writings. Work has already begun on Volume X with several hundreds of page of Mao’s writings, interviews, letters and instructions from 1966 to 1976 that have yet to be released in English. They hope to publish in 2021.[xviii]
The readability of the translated work requires an understanding of the nuances of Chinese terms and expressions while ensuring that what is read is both accurate and conveys what was said. A good translation requires more than transliteration in the translation, a good English renderings of Mao’s Chinese, translate into “accuracy and nuance, tone and register.” These concerns were evident in the 1930s according to this account by Edgar Snow.
In his Red Star over China Snow writes: “Seated next to me was Wu Liang-ping, a young Soviet ‘functionary’, who acted as interpreter during my ‘formal’ interviews with Mao Tse-tung. I wrote down in full in English Mao Tse-tung’s answers to my questions, and these were then translated into Chinese and corrected by Mao, who is noted for his insistence upon accuracy of detail. With the assistance of Mr. Wu, the interviews were then re-translated into English.” In 1979 Wu Liang-ping wrote an additional explanation: “At the request of Mao Tse-tung, Snow compiled the notes on Mao’s revolutionary experience and wrote an account that was, after having been translated into Chinese by Huang Hua, scrutinized and revised slightly by Mao. Huang Hua translated these revisions into English, and returned the draft to Snow.” [xix]
Reviewing the English language series Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings, Brantly Womack judged “they lack the genius of the official Chinese translations. The translations in the official Selected Works of Mao Tsetung are remarkable for their ability to transcend the literal text and to get the original point across better with a different construction or wording.”[xx]
Foreign Language Press alluded to the questions raised on which version of the available texts are more authentic, or more authoritative, in its consideration of using the texts in the collection published as Mao Papers, Anthology and Bibliography Edited by Jerome Chen (1970) . It was also a practical concern as FLP’s second editions of the “Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung” compiled in early 1990s by comrades from Kranti Publications, corrects typographical and formatting errors. In Mao Papers the editor had undertaken his own translation and ignored pre-existing official version of English language published texts. A noted and respected translator of Mao, the sinologist Stuart Scram (1924 –2012) noted in his review of the publication of these independent translations – “many of which are highly elliptical and difficult to interpret” – errors in dating and distorting editorial choices .[xxi] The FLP highlight some of these concerns in Jerome Chen’s use of material that have to be addressed by any compiler of Mao’s writings. [xxii]
This small, if energised MLM publishing house noted in its politically-driven scholarship:
“You can trace our evolution in Mao’s Selected Works: Volume VI is basically a reprint with some corrections of the more obvious typographical errors; Volume VII was much more thoroughly copyedited and we replaced all the Wade-Giles Chinese with pinyin and included an index of names and places; Volume VIII included, in addition to the corrections made in previous volumes, corrections in the sourcing of the texts in particular; and Volume IX… in Volume IX we uncovered a whole host of problems. Texts that were translated incorrectly, placed out of context, chopped up and moved into other texts and dated and sourced incorrectly. The more deeply we dug, the more errors we discovered, and found ourselves irretrievably behind schedule.” [xxiii]
On translating Mao, academic author Thomas Kampen, listed the difficulties the task involves[xxiv]
Many aspects have to be considered:
1) Many of Mao’s speeches were not intended for publication. 2) Many speeches were not based on detailed manuscripts. 3) Many listeners were not from Hunan and were not familiar with his pronunciation. 4) Notes were handwritten and not always legible. 5) The speeches sometimes lasted for several hours (people may have been exhausted). 6) Ambiguity was not always intended; participants were aware of the speeches by other leaders or RMRB/Hong Qi editorials of the time.
The officially published works of Mao have gone through an editorial process and polishing not unknown in western publishing circles where fiction texts receive the blue pencil while maintaining the mythology of the lone writer, and why employ a sub-editor in a newspaper office, who would go without the benefit of peer review in academic study that brings items to the author’s attention? As FLP notes, the source material for unofficial publication of work attributed to Mao are “compilations of documents published in other compilations translated from… Chinese compilations”.
A background case study illustrating the problems suggested to in the endeavour to bring Mao’s work to a wider audience. Just two small episodes illustrates the complexities involved in presenting Mao for professional academics:
Is what you read, what was written – the problem of mistranslation was explored upon in a blog by Leeds University lecture, Adam Cathcart with regard to Mao’s addresses to the Chengdu conference of March 1958 when “Mao gave no fewer than six speeches at the Chengdu meeting — none of which was publicised at the time.”[xxv]
Once you have a translated quote, is it understood and used appropriately with accuracy? The academic response [xxvi] provoked by the lies and distortion contained in the worldwide best-selling hatchett job on Mao by Jung Chang and her husband, Jon Halliday, was a public condemnation of “poor scholarship” that is discussed quietly online in numerous forums. For instance, Did Mao say let half the people starve? Academic consensus growing that Frank Dikotter, author of a best-selling trilogy on modern Chinese history, got Mao’s quote seriously wrong does not stop it been repeated and reproduced elsewhere. The hunt for the killer quote was dissect and framed within an academic discussion. [xxvii]
The discussion did bring forth a self-criticism from an eminent scholar in the field of Chinese studies, Michael Schoenhals,
“…perhaps you would like to believe that the authors of Mao’s Last Revolution (HUP 2006) can be trusted when, on p. 102, they have Mao saying “the more people you kill, the more revolutionary you are”? Don’t! I was responsible for that translation of Mao’s abstruse remark “越杀人就越要革命” and the translation is wrong. A correct translation …. should read “The greater the number of people murdered, the greater the wish [on the part of the survivors] for a revolution.” A world of difference!”
The evidence of the diversity of material since 1949 might question the need for the translation of every item produced in his life-time, after all it would take an equal amount to read and study it!
Not all entries need equal attention and study as the volumes are full of sleight, single sentences entries, recording comments and letters, diplomatic greetings and observation written by Mao e.g a simple opinion is editorial elevated to be taken as an “Evaluation of the movie “The Song of the Gardener” “ Mao’s comment in November 1974 was: I think it is a good show.
An explanatory note from the editor explains that prior to this, the “Gang of Four” had criticised the movie “The Gardener” in Hunan in November 1974.[xxviii]
Its inclusion may serve a wider agenda of the Chinese authorities seeking to disassociate Mao from the “Gang of Four” by citing differences in opinion but much further contextual research would be required, and what criteria is invoked in the judgement – artistic, political, politeness ? The numerous occurrence of such entries reinforces the need to evaluate and select what is given prominence in any published work.
The original producers of the unauthorised Volume Six acknowledged the limitations of “the works included in this volume, we have neither the means nor the competence to vouch safe about their authenticity and completeness.” Upfront there were warnings for the reader to be wary – “We fondly hope that much more additional material could come to light enabling us to substantially improve on this” – but in that absence the intention was to “further stimulating the study of Mao’s works.” [xxix]
They pointed out the weakness in that there was poor bibliographic control. ..Except indicating the primary source quoted in the originals, no attempt is made to annotate or edit the texts in any respect or in any manner.” So maybe “Works” is accurate, rather than writings, as much of what is available consists of manuscripts of notes and contemptuous recording by others.
V Political Interpretation
“No verdict on a man who changed either the course of events or accepted patterns of thought (and Mao changed both) can ever be called final. Many such individuals are re-evaluated, and argued about, decades or even centuries after their disappearance.” Stuart Schram 1982 in a lecture in Hong Kong.
The fashion to paint Mao as one-dimensionally and unremittingly evil was not Deng’s, nor was the idea of maintaining Mao’s legacy: Deng Xiaoping had a different agenda for China’s development that was reformist, state capitalist and market-driven.
In saying that we should use as our guide genuine Mao Zedong Thought taken as an integral whole, I mean that we should have a correct and comprehensive understanding of Mao Zedong Thought as a system and that we should be proficient at studying it, mastering it, and applying it as a guide to our work. Only in this way can we be sure that we are not fragmenting Mao Zedong Thought, distorting or debasing it. We can then see that what Comrade Mao Zedong said with regard to a specific question at a given time and under particular circumstances was correct, and that what he said with regard to the same question at a different time and under different circumstances was also correct, despite occasional differences in the extent of elaboration, in emphasis and even in the formulation of his ideas. So we must acquire a correct understanding of Mao Zedong Thought as an integral system instead of just citing a few specific words or sentences.[xxx]
One approach of the post-Mao leadership was to quote an earlier Mao in contrast to his later self as demonstrated in the Beijing Review article, “Chairman Mao on Mao Zedong Thought”. [xxxi] It sought to establish a legitimatising source and symbol it could use against the Mao that would issue calls to bombard the headquarters against the capitalist roaders. The perspective was reinforced that condemned and shelved Mao’s erroneous thinking. Li Rui, briefly in the mid-1950s, the personal secretary to Mao Zedong on industrial affairs, noted for his criticisms of the Great Leap Forward, so not an unpartisan observer, commented on the wider impact of such thinking:
As a historical phenomenon, Mao Zedong’s erroneous thinking in his later years also generated considerable worldwide impact.
During the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong Thought was declared to be the “third milestone” in the evolution of Marxism, focusing on this erroneous thinking in his later years. Left-wing parties and groups in some countries not only accepted his theories but also put them into practice. The ways in which the Cultural Revolution was conducted were once followed by radicals in a dozen countries and regions and at one time created a stir, such as the “Red May Storm” in France, the “Khmer Rouge” in Southeast Asia, and the “Shining Path” in Latin America. This indicated that Mao Zedong’s erroneous thinking in his later years already went beyond national boundaries and its study is of international importance. [xxxii]
Political Interpretation in China is hostile to the sentiments expressed worldwide by revolutionaries was voiced by the Australian E.F. Hill:
This is meant to be no more than a note prompted by another note. I adhere to the view that Mao Zedong made a unique contribution to the international cause of Communism and the liberation of mankind. His writings should be deeply studied and independently thought over using the general principles and putting on one side those things peculiarity confined to China. [xxxiii]
In a 1956 conversation with representatives of some Latin American communist parties, Mao Zedong warns them about mechanically copying the experiences of the Chinese revolution:
“The experience of the Chinese revolution, that is, building rural base areas, encircling the cities from the countryside and finally seizing the cities, may not be wholly applicable to many of your countries, though it can serve for your reference. I beg to advise you not to transplant Chinese experience mechanically. The experience of any foreign country can serve only for reference and must not be regarded as dogma. The universal truth of Marxism-Leninism and the concrete conditions of your own countries–the two must be integrated.” [xxxiv]
Studying Mao can be a fulltime occupation and the field of scholarship has generated library shelves throughout the world. The official publication of Mao has continued with the specific intent to tame and shape his legacy. The “collective wisdom” created and applied throughout the Chinese Revolution is institutionalise in the party, relativizing his thought away from its dominance as Deng Xiaoping began the de-mythologizing of Mao that keeps him as a symbol. Whilst the 1987 new material for the Study of Mao Zedong’s Philosophical Thinking was advertised as “something which has great theoretical and practical significance” in Red Flag, little sweeps into party practice.
The process of articulating and systematizing what became known as the Thought of Mao Zedong within China began in the mid-1930s amidst the shift from a rural class-based revolution to a national united front against Japanese imperialism; the application of Marxism to Chinese conditions. It was this intellectual contribution that was the discourse of Western academics when they debated the subject of Maoism.[xxxv] Events moved on, and different interpretations arose…
The analyses of Stuart Schram which stressed Mao’s early immersion in Chinese classical literature, drawing upon Mao’s numerous allusions to these in his talks and writings, developed the notion that Mao’s political philosophy, steeped in Chinese tradition, and his political practice, not least leading a successful peasant-based revolution, was substantially different from orthodox Marxism as sanctioned in the Soviet Union.
In Mao studies a group of radical academics (Richard Pfeffer, Andrew Walder and Mark Selden) engaged in scholarly dispute with the non-Marxist Sinologists Stuart Schram and Benjamin Schwartz in the journal of Modern China 1976/1977 to challenge this evaluation as being based on a rigid understanding of what constituted Maoist canon.
Paul Healy and Nick Knight offer an alternative, Marxist-orientated perspective in studying Mao’s career compared to the atheoretical textual attention of Professor Schram in the volume edited with Arif Dirlik (1997) Critical perspectives on Mao Zedong’s Thought[xxxvi]
The radical argument drew upon Mao’s clearly self-professed allegiance to Marxism, drawing upon the anti-authoritarianism of the Cultural Revolution period as well as the earlier Yenan writings of Mao that resonated with the Marx of ‘German Ideology’ and the (then) newly emerging body of writings by the early Marx, in particular ‘Grundrisse’. Maoist-inclined intellectuals e.g. David Fernbach and Martin Nicolas provided many of the translations of these works. Mao’s criticism of ’Soviet revisionism’ and articulation of a generative class thesis under socialist state structures drew support from those attracted to an alternative vision from that provided by a Soviet Union that seemed little different from its capitalist Cold War adversaries.
The early years of this century saw intellectual ferment among self-identifying Maoist focusing on the ideological judgements behind terminology issues – to use Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism.[xxxvii] That extended contention in recent years has swivelled to encompass a contention that basically Mao Zedong was not even a maoist. One current associated with the positions of the chairman of Partido Comunista del Peru (CPP), Chairman Gonzalo , argues that it needs someone like Gonzalo to systematize and formulate the universal lessons learned from the revolutionary struggle in China led by Mao, critics ask in what way have CPP and Gonzalo systematized and formulated Mao’s thinking questioning whether a few authoritative text produced by the PCP suffice as the basis for such an assertion when contested by other Maoists. [xxxviii]
“For most Maoists, the practices and lessons learned from the Cultural Revolution are the cornerstone of the development of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought to Maoism. The launching of the GPCR was Mao’s response to the emergence of a new bureaucratic capitalist class in the Party under socialism. He believed that the only way to win the struggle for socialism was the elevated consciousness of the masses and their ability to rectify the Party: to target the real enemies of the dictatorship of the proletariat within the Party leadership itself. In the end, the masses were unable to accomplish this, in spite of—as you can read in the many documents in this volume—all of his efforts to enable them to do so.”[xxxix]
[ii] Mao Zedong; Moss Roberts, trans. (1977). A Critique of Soviet Economics. New York: Monthly Review Press
[iii] Timothy Cheek, The ‘Genius’ Mao: a treasure trove of 23 newly available volumes of post-1949 Mao Zedong texts. The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs 19/20, 1988.
[iv]Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung Volume 9 (1993) Kranti Publications
[v] Quan Yanchi (1992) Mao Zedong Man, Not God. Translated by Wang Wenjiong and English text edited by Gale Hadfield. Paperback: 213 pages. Foreign Languages Press. 9787119014456 and Zhong Wenxian (ed) (1986) Mao Zedong: Biography – Assessment -Reminiscences. 238 pages. Foreign Languages Press .083511886X
[vi]Mao Zedong Ji (Collected Writings of Mao Zedong) edited by Takeuchi Minoru. 10 volumes. (Tokyo: Sososha 2nd ed. 1983) + Mao Zedong Ji: Bujuan (Supplement to Collected Writings of Mao Zedong ) edited by Takeuchi Minoru. 10 volumes. (Tokyo : Sososha 1983-1986)
[viii] Neibu – The concept of restricted circulation based on political criteria is a much discussed source by western academics who are less forthcoming about the private government briefings and seminars, the newsletters of restricted circulation based on financial criteria, and research products from the financial markets circulated by connections and restricted access to archives that all contribute to the ecology of information circulation in the west.
[ix]The China Quarterly, No. 103 (Sep., 1985), pp. 489-509
[x] The Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) was a United States government defense-funded organization that was absorbed into the monitoring service, Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS).
[xi] Michael Y.M.Kau and John K Leung, The Writing of Mao Zedong, 1949-1976 : Vol 1 September 1949-December 1955 (1986) New York: M.E. Sharpe: Vol 2 January 1956- December 1957 (1992) New York: M.E. Sharpe
[xii] See Li Rui (1996) An Initial Study on Mao Zedong’s Erroneous “Left” Thinking in His Later Years. Chinese Law & Government, 29:4, 6-11
[xiii]Timothy Cheek, The ‘Genius’ Mao: a treasure trove of 23 newly available volumes of post-1949 Mao Zedong texts. The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs 19/20, 1988
[xiv]The Secret Speeches of Chairman Mao: From the Hundred Flowers to the Great Leap Forward edited by Roderick MacFarquhar, Timothy Cheek, and Eugene Wu. Harvard University, 1989
[xv] Noted Shi Zhongquan in Hongqi [Red Flag] No 17, 1 Sept 1987 pp 3-9
[xvi] “All volumes of ‘Mao Zedong Works’ published.” Xinhua News Agency July 1st 1999.
[xvii] Newly Available Sources on CCP History from the People’s Republic of China in New perspectives on state socialism of China (eds) Timothy Cheek and Tony Saich. 1997
[xx] Brantly Womack, Mao before Maoism. The China Journal No.46 July 2001:95-117. His 1977 Ph.D. thesis at the University of Chicago was published in 1982: Foundations of Mao Zedong’s Political Thought, 1917-1935 Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii. Subsequently published by China Renmin University Press (2006) translated as Mao Zedong Zhengzhi Sixiang de Jichu (1917–1935) 毛泽东政治思想的基础 (1917–1935).
A more extended and argued piece can be found in the work of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Chile, Evaluation of the Work of Mao Tsetung [published in Revolution, Journal of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Vol. 5, No. 1, January 1980].
[xxxv] See: What is Maoism? A Symposium, Problems of Communism, September 1966 Issue and the earlier disagreements voiced in the pages of The China Quarterly: Karl Wittvogel, “The Legend of Maoism” China Quarterly Nos 1-2 (1960) and Benjamin Schwartz, “The Legend of the ‘Legend of Maoism’” China Quarterly No.2 (April-June 1960).
[xxxvi] Dirlik (1997) New Jersey: Humanities Press. See: ‘Mao Zedong’s Thought and Critical Scholarship’ pp3-20
[xxxvii] See J. Moufawad-Paul, Critique of Maoist Reason FLP 2020
[xxxviii] PCP articles found in Collected Works of the PCP 1968-1987 FLP 2016. Drawing a line of demarcation in 21st Maoism, the veteran Philippine Marxist, Joma Ma. Sison, in an interview spoke critically on those taking such positions in the contemporary world communist movement. Published by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, 18 November 2019 https://ndfp.org/questions-on-mao-zedong-thought-maoism/
Totally understandable given the ravages inflicted by the Covid global pandemic, the launch of a new global alliance, the Anti-Imperialist Anti-Fascist United Front (AIAFUF), or simply United Front, was suspended in an announcement from the ILPS in June 2020. The launch of the organisation “will probably take place in early 2021”. The initial registration period for the Front be extended and international formations have until January 31, 2021.
Whereas other initiatives are directed to co-thinkers in the world communist movement, this an initiative of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) and the International Coordination of Revolutionary Parties and Organizations (ICOR) and allies, incorporates a wide range of forces, drawing on non-party affiliated associations including individual membership for the party-less militant, in a united front political association.
Drawing upon their own experiences in their respective organisations, the structure in becoming envisaged is that the United Front shall be a movement of allied organizations without democratic centralism and a costly and expensive apparatus, so not a new Comintern-type arrangement. However a serious engagement in the international project of communication, co-operation and co-ordination.
In her statement of the 10th anniversary of ICOR, the ICOR Main Coordinator Monika Gärtner-Engel attributes some of the sustainability and growth of the co-operation and co-ordination of some 60 ICOR member organisations worldwide to fundamental principles;
“In the face of many remaining differences among the revolutionaries of the world, common organization on the basis of ideological-political core questions: revolutionary overcoming of the capitalist/imperialist system; perspective of socialism/communism; necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat; leading role of the working class; a clear dividing line to revisionism, anarchism and Trotskyism.” ICOR, 6 October 2020
[Speaking at the unveiling of the first Lenin statue in West Germany in June, Gabi Fechtner nee Gärtner-Engel, leader of the MLPD since April 2017, stated, “To make it clear: I am neither a Stalinist nor a Maoist – the same goes for the entire MLPD. But we defend the achievements of socialism – and also the representatives of socialism, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao.”
Having posted before that the internet is awash with initiatives to rally to the red flag of revolutionary communism, it is no surprise that there are wide divergences within the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist tendencies from analysis to political terminology that cleaves distinct approaches for those self-identified as Maoist.
The initiative of AIAFUF differs from the distinct if parallel ideological offensive by a handful of organizations make up of a very small fraction of self-identifying Maoists worldwide to try to impose a new idealistic definition of Maoism on all parties fighting for communism in the world. This camp led by the Communist Party of Brazil (Red Fraction) [PCB) regards the AIF as an eclectic front with revisionism and opportunism. They see “the problem in the international communist movement is not primarily related to the fact that Maoism is not formally recognized, but rather to the way some conceive it”.
Simply put: Chairman Gonzalo has hoist higher the flag of Maoism and if that contribution – “the universal validity contributions of the Gonzalo Thought” – is not acknowledged, absolved and actioned, then you are not a Maoist. That definition excludes the Maoist organizations leading the most advanced revolutionary movements today, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the Communist Party of the Philippines. Even political opponents will argue that:
“Currently there are four people’s wars that exist today, in Peru, in Turkey, in India and in the Philippines. They are the axis in the proletarian world revolution. In the international communist movement, the red banner for uniting the movement under Maoism and people’s war is being raised.”
Establishing, as demonstrated by the various historical attempts by international Trotskyism, a small network of international alliances with organizations and groups does not reproduce the influence or effect of the original Comintern. The failure to seriously address the only international Maoist movement that has existed to date, and explain the experience of the RIM, simply in terms of the revisionist positions developed by Avakian and betrayal of the Nepalese revolution, hampers the difficulties in restructuring a supportive internationalist structure through an ideological struggle over the definition of Maoism on the basis that it will give a new impetus to the global proletarian revolution.
The Maoist road grouping suggests, “CoRIM became arrogant and with its subjective evaluations and sectarian attitude created obstacles and harms to the International Maoist movement. It is important that a summation of its experiences will include a review of its ideological, political positions in its Declaration of foundation.” (emphasis added)
The paused attempt to achieve a large unified international conference of all the MLM Parties and Organization saw a joint proposal dated last April, signed by the Committee for Building the Maoist Communist Party, Galicia, Spanish State, Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan, Communist Worker Union (MLM) – Colombia and the Maoist Communist Party – Italy to act as the promotors to convene the Unified International Conference with bilateral and multilateral meetings. The Committee proposed is not a new International Organization neither the Organising Committee of the International Conference but an attempt to move the process forward amidst the pandemic.
So far engagement in a disembodied ideological struggle has strengthen the self-isolation of currents within “global Maoism” from each other, and brought out the sectarian rhetoric from the prominent to the marginal:
“Defend Marxism-Leninism-Maoism Against Gonzaloite Revisionism!” was the position advanced in April 2020 from the American Organizing Committee for a Maoist Communist Party (MCP-OC). It argued “the defeated people’s war in Peru represented the creative application of MLM to the Peruvian conditions; this alone does not constitute a new ‘Thought,’ any more than the petulant hooliganism of our comrades in Austin might be called ‘Com. Dallas Thought’!”
The consequences may well prove correct Canadian critics of all the “participant” in this internationalist architectural drive; they comment that,
“recent events have confirmed that not only are the idealistic and the true Maoists not part of the same movement, but that this scenario will never happen. Indeed, the political options defended on both sides are so divergent that they are unassimilable to each other.” [Maoism as in itself: against the idealism of the “mainly Maoist” current. Iskra January 26, 2020]
However these critics are unlikely to be invited by any of the proposed international conferences as, by definition, they exclude themselves in their quirky argumentation that
“the Chinese cultural revolution, although a highly positive experience and one with fundamental lessons, has a lesser importance that the experience of more than twenty years of armed struggle and united front preceding the seizure of power in 1949. We say that it is mainly – if not almost entirely – in the experience of the prolonged people’s war in China that Maoism finds its material origin, and only in a secondary way in the cultural revolution.”
This, a marginal position, reverses the roots of Maoists for the last half century and predates (and negates) consideration of the cultural revolution as the greatest and most original contribution of Mao to the development of Marxism-Leninism in order to combat modern revisionism, prevent the restoration of capitalism and consolidate socialism. It is a position that dismisses the struggles over Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, Maoism and continuity and rupture that has drawn the contours of 21st Century Maoism.
The first known use of Maoism was in 1950 according to Merriam-Webster.
Drawing a line of demarcation in 21st Maoism, the veteran Philippine Marxist, Joma Ma. Sison, in an interview spoke on the theme of Mao Zedong Thought / Maoism and the contemporary world communist movement.
Interviewer: Prof. Regletto Aldrich D. Imbong (RADI)
1. RADI: In a recent publication of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) entitled “Anniversary Statements (1992-2017),” I found out that it was only during the 26th anniversary of the CPP in 1994 that the term Maoism appeared (not in 1992 and 1993, as far as the said publication is concerned). Previous statements, like the “Rectify Errors, Rebuild the Party,” in 1968 merely mentioned Mao Zedong Thought, despite the fact that Chairman Gonzalo of the Communist Party of Peru in 1983 supposedly affirmed the universality of Maoism. Can you please enlighten me with the CPP’s appreciation of Maoism and the seemingly delayed upholding of the CPP of Maoism’s universality?
JMS: The adoption of the word Maoism, instead of Mao Zedong Thought, by the Communist Party of the Philippines is a matter of transcription and symmetry alongside the terms Marxism and Leninism. It is a reaffirmation of the earlier CPP recognition of the great contributions of Mao (under the rubric of Mao Zedong Thought) to the development of Marxism-Leninism in philosophy, political economy, party building (especially the rectification movement), the people’s war and the proletarian cultural revolution in socialist society.
In the course of his leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese revolution, Mao together with his Chinese comrades had the modesty of being averse to glorifying himself by the term Maoism. In the literature of the Chinese CP, you will find summary references to his contributions in ideology and policy as “Mao’s thinking” and “Mao’s thought”. It was only in the course of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution that “Mao Zedong thought” graduated to “Mao Zedong Thought (with a capital T).
By that time, the CPC had already acclaimed Mao Zedong Thought as representing the third stage in the development of the universal revolutionary theory of the proletariat. Thus, it is false to say that Gonzalo was the first to sum up or synthesize the teachings of Mao or his theory and practice as constituting the third stage in the development of Marxist theory and practice. The foundation for the Marxist theory and practice of people’s war was already established in the Leninist stage when the October revolution of 1917 shifted from the cities to the countryside in the civil war and war against foreign intervention.
Regarded as Mao’s most important achievement to constitute the third stage of the development of Marxist theory and practice was not his theory and practice of protracted people’s war but that of continuing revolution under proletarian dictatorship through cultural revolution to combat revisionism, prevent capitalist restoration and consolidate socialism. (Considered as the first stage in the development of Marxism was the formulation of its fundamental principles and critique of free competition capitalism by Marx and Engels. And the second stage of Leninism was the further development of Marxism by Lenin in the era of modern imperialism and proletarian revolution).
Before Mao died, he had achieved all theoretical and practical contributions that he was capable of in order to achieve the third stage in the development of Marxism. But the CPC called this the stage of Mao Zedong Thought. In the early years of the GPCR there was even an overenthusiastic notion within the CPC that after the solution of the problem of modern revisionism “imperialism was heading towards total collapse and socialism was marching towards world victory. But Mao himself cautioned in 1969 that it would take another 50 to 100 years to reach that desired goal.
Soon after Mao’s death in 1976, the Dengist counterrevolution overthrew the proletariat in China. The Chinese state and CPC changed their class character. But they have continued to refer to Mao Zedong Thought formally and ritualistically, despite the official condemnation of the GPCR as a total catastrophe and the full-blast capitalist restoration and teaming up of China with US imperialism in promoting neoliberal globalization.
It is to the credit of Gonzalo that he took the initiative in 1983 to use the term Maoism, instead of Mao Zedong Thought, by way of posthumously showing a higher appreciation of Mao at least for some of his great accomplishments and for acclaiming Mao’s theory and practice as third stage in the development of Marxist theory and practice. But it is absurd to assert that because of Gonzalo’s “synthesis” he is responsible for making Maoism “universal” or that the universality of Maoism is reduced to the “universality of protracted people’s war” and the prescription for a “militarized party.”
As I have earlier pointed out, Mao himself constituted in his own lifetime Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism by making great contributions to the development of Marxism-Leninism in philosophy, political economy, party building (especially the rectification movement), the people’s war and the proletarian cultural revolution in socialist society. Mao Zedong Thought has gained universal significance long before Gonzalo called it Maoism. The universal significance of Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism does not depend in any way on Gonzalo who has not really summed up all the great achievements of the great Mao.
The worshippers of Gonzalo use his coinage of the term Maoism to evaluate him as the greatest Maoist after Mao. They should take him to account for his own conduct of leadership in his own country, his “Left” opportunist line before his capture in 1992 and Right opportunist line soon after his capture. These conflicting opportunist lines have brought about the decline of the people’s war in Peru. And the mystique about him as being responsible for “synthesizing” Maoism should not be used as an ax against those who continue to wage people’s war. Kautsky did not prove himself any better than Lenin when he protested that Lenin’s ideas were not Marxism but Leninism. He was the first among all people to utter the term Leninism against Lenin himself.
2. RADI: In the same 1994 anniversary statement mentioned in the previous question, the latter equated Mao Zedong Thought with Maoism (as stated, Mao Zedong thought OR Maoism), a criticism which is likewise charged by Dem Volke Dienen in First Critical Remarks about the Role of the Communist Party of the Philippines in the International Communist Movement (see http://www.demvolkedienen.org/…/2726-first-critical-remarks…). You have given the explanation that “there is no difference in content between Mao Zedong Thought and Maoism” in an interview by the New Culture Magazine of the Communist Construction Union of Brazil. For the Dem Volke Dienen, however, if both Mao Zedong Thought and Maoism were terms having the same content, there would be no difference as well in either saying Marxism or Marx Thought, or Leninism or Lenin Thought. However, the “ism” in Maoism has to be distinguished as it means the systematization and closed development of all the three components of Marxism “to a higher level and to a higher truth” and not merely as an individual contribution of a Chinese communist. What is your response to this critique?
JMS: I had the good fortune of being in China in August 1966, when the GPCR was just beginning and Mao was being evaluated, appreciated and defended against his detractors and in relation to his great Marxist-Leninist predecessors. I had very enlightening conversations with members of the CPC Central Committee and the highest responsibles of the CPC Higher Party School. They summed up the great achievements of Mao under the term Mao Zedong Thought, such as the following:
a. In philosophy, Mao elaborated on and developed Lenin’s identification of the unity of opposites (divide into two) as the most fundamental law of materialist dialectics. He did so in such essays as On Contradiction, On Practice, Where Do Correct Ideas Come From? and On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People. He applied materialist dialectics in gaining higher knowledge from the dialectics of theory and practice, in carrying out the new democratic revolution through people’s war and undertaking socialist revolution and construction.
b. In political economy, Mao had the advantage of learning positive and negative lessons from Stalin’s policy of socialist industrialization and agricultural cooperation, the revisionist reversal of socialist revolution and construction and leading self-reliant socialist revolution and construction by using the basic and heavy industries as the lead factor, agriculture as the base ofthe economy and light industry as the bridging factor under conditions of imperialist blockade, revisionist betrayal and other adversities.
c. In social science, Mao developed further the theory and practice of the new democratic and socialist stages of the Chinese revolution. But his most important achievement in social science was in recognizing the problem of modern revisionism and the continuing fact of classes and class struggle in socialist society and in adopting solutions. He put forward a series of campaigns to uphold, defend and advance socialism, such as the anti-Rightist campaign, the Great Leap Foward. the socialist education movement and ultimately the cultural revolution as he faced greater resistance of the revisionists and capitalist roaders.
d. In party building, Mao adopted and developed further Leninist teaching on building the proletarian vanguard party. He excelled at developing the rectification movement as the campaign for educating the Party cadres and members in Marxist-Leninist theory and practice, as the method for identifying the errors and weaknesses and for saving the patient from the disease and and as the way for the Party to better serve the masses, mobilize them, let them acquire power and come under their supervision.
e. In people’s war, Mao had already demonstrated how the toiling masses of workers and peasants could defeat an enemy that was superior in military equipment and trained personnel through the strategic line of protracted people’s war by encircing the cities from the countryside in semicolonial and semifeudal countries. By winning the new democratic revolution through people’s war, the revolutionary proletariat and the people gain the power to proceed to socialist revolution.
f. The theory and practice of continuing revolution under proletarian dictatorship through the GPCR was regarded as the greatest epoch-making contribution of Mao. It was aimed at combatting modern revisionism, preventing capitalist restoration and consolidating socialism. Even as the GPCR would be defeated by the Dengist counterrevolution, it still confirms and explains how socialism can be subverted and destroyed from within. Such a lesson will guide the forthcoming socialist revolutions.
Before, during and after the founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the foregoing six components of Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism were already acknowledged and propagated in CPP publications and grasped by CPP cadres and members. What the Gonzaloites are doing is to tear apart Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism and exaggerate protracted people’s war as prescription for all countries under all circumstances and require militarization of the party as the principal or essential elements of Maoism. This is not Maoism but a grotesque Gonzaloite distortion of Maoism.
In other articles, I have already pointed out that the Gonzaloites have well proven themselves as mere charlatans by claiming that protracted people’s war can be done in industrial capitalist countries and by not doing any single armed tactical offensive anywhere for decades to prove their point. The militarization of the party is an anti-Maoist notion which runs counter to the principle that the Party, as the ideological and political leading force, commands the gun. In its Second Great Rectification Movement, the CPP opposed and defeated the “Left” opportunists who wanted to subordinate the Party to the army.
3. RADI: Contemporary leftist philosophers like Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek, and Jodi Dean affirm the communist idea (although they have various interpretations of this idea) but strikingly glaring among them is their divergences in terms of the question of political organization which can be commonly described as a clear surrender of the Leninist vanguard party. Badiou, for example, a self-proclaimed Maoist and an heir to the May of 1968 of France, argues for a “politics without a party.” Dean, on the other hand, argues for the necessity of a party but a party in an international level, not anymore the traditional state-bound communist party of the past that clearly claim as its aim the seizure of political and state power from the bourgeoisie. What is your insight in relation to the question of political organization in winning the struggle for communism and what was Mao’s or Maoism’s important contribution to this problem?
JMS: It is absurd for Badiou to argue for “politics without a party”. He is intellectually and practically a subjectivist and anarchist who seeks to disorganize the masses and lead them to the predominance of bourgeois parties and the bourgeois state. He is out of the world of class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Definitely, he is not a Maoist even if he proclaims himself to be a Maoist.
The first great socialist state would not have been established had there been no Bolshevik party to lead the toiling masses of workers and peasants in overthrowing the reactionaries and seizing political power. Without the CPC, the Chinese proletariat and people would not have succeeded in winning the new democratic and socialist stages of the Chinese revolution.
Jodi Dean is somewhat better than Badiou in recognizing the need for a revolutionary party. But while being internationalist, the proletarian revolutionary party has to win the revolution within national boundaries. For Lenin and the Bolsheviks to win the Great October Socialist Revolution, they had to oppose the social pacifism and social chauvinism of the Second International.
It is relevant to recall that the Third International or Comintern tried to run a world party with local communist parties as national sections. But came 1943 the Comintern had to dissolve itself because it could not communicate and instruct or advice the CPs who were engaged in the bitter anti-fascist wars. Consequently, the principles of equality, independence and mutual support and cooperation were adopted in the comradely relations of communist and workers’ parties.
In the bitter struggles against the well-organized bourgeoisie and imperialist powers, the proletariat as the leading class in the revolution must have a political party. It must have an ideological, political and organizational line to defeat the enemy. It must grow in strength by being intimately linked to the toiling masses. It must arouse, organize and mobilize them in their own best interest. The mass base generates the mass activists and the best party cadres and masses. The party can defeat the enemy and win the revolution only with the participation and support of the masses.
We can learn from Mao and Maoism how to build the Party ideologically, politically and organizationally, how to do social investigation and mass work, how to arouse, organize and mobilize the toiling masses and how to avail of the people’s war and the united front to reach and mobilize the masses in their millions. Mao taught us how to use the rectification movement in order to correct errors and shortcomings and thereby further strengthen the Party. He insisted on the mass line of mobilizing the masses and gaining strength from them from one stage of the revolution to a new and higher stage.
Some petty bourgeois intellectuals have the high flown disdain for nation-states and political parties. But these are progressive products of history in relation to the backward conditions of colonial and feudal domination. And for the proletariat to defeat the bourgeois states and parties, it must create the socialist state under the leadership of the proletarian revolutionary party. Before the classless communist society can be achieved, socialist states and communist parties are needed to fight and defeat imperialism and the local reactionary classes
I need not comment on Slavoj Zizek because you do not raise any specific point about him. You do not have to. He is a chameleon and charlatan who poses as a philosopher, flip-flops from pro-Stalin to anti-Stalin statements and plays with phrases like a child playing with his toys. I suggest that you look into how Noam Chomsky describes him.
4. RADI: Alain Badiou interprets the Great Cultural Proletarian Revolution (GPCR) as a novelty as it is the first revolution to happen in a socialist state in the same way that the Paris Commune was the first revolution to happen in a capitalist state. However, in his reading of the GPCR, Badiou reinforces his stand of the “politics without a party” as the Communist Party of China then (and now) became intertwined with state power, the machinery which he claims must be abolished rather than seized. In this way, his notion of emancipatory politics advances the claim of a politics “at a distance from the state,” claiming that restrain rather than seizure should now be the model of contemporary political procedures. What is the correct Maoist view concerning the relation between the party and the state? Can we say that the Mass Line constituted a significant contribution to this problem?
JMS: There would have been no GPCR as a “novelty” for Badiou had there been no CPC that established a socialist society that was being subverted by the capitalist roaders and that needed the GPCR to combat the capitalist roaders and consolidate socialism. The Dengist counterrevolution defeated the GPCR precisely because the revisionist or capitalist roaders were able to retain and eventually enlarge their power and authority within both the Party and state.
As shown in the examples of the Soviet Union and China, when the ruling party of the proletariat is undermined by modern revisionism and the capitalist roaders, the character of the state changes from socialist to capitalist. In the first place, no socialist state and society can ever arise and develop if there were no revolutionary party of the proletariat that leads the people’s army and the masses in overthrowing the bourgeois state.
During the GPCR, the most extensive kind of democracy arose, with Mao rallying the masses of Red Guards and the people to bombard the bourgeois headquarters in the Party and state and calling on the Party and the People’s Liberation Army to support the Left. Under the leadership of the CPC, revolutionary committees arose to lead the masses in communities, factories and farms. But in the course of the class struggle, the Rightists and the ultra-Leftists also generated an anarchy of factions behind which the capitalist roaders maneuvered to retain their positions in the CPC and state in collaboration with the Centrists in order to defeat the GPCR ultimately.
It is in accordance with Maoism or the teachings of Mao that the CPP has strengthened itself ideologically, politically and organizationally and has built the mass movement as its and at the same time the local organs of political power as the embryos of the future people’s democratic state. The sum of these local organs of political power may be considered the provisional revolutionary government of the workers and peasants. These organs of political power can be formed only because there are the Party, the people’s army, the mass organizations and the united front that support and enable them.
5. RADI: In my dissertation, I argue that contemporary communist hypothesis must consider three terms, each of which are dialectically related with each other: party, state, and mass movement. I argue further that the possibility of communism could only be if the nature of the party is “a party in scission,” that is, a party which, while utilizes state power to suppress reaction, also immerses itself with the mass movements. What is Maoism’s greatest lesson to the question of political organization (a question which Lenin brilliantly answered in What is to be Done)? Did Maoism modify, in one way or another, the question of vanguard leadership (especially if we take into account the lessons of the GPCR)?
JMS: You are on the correct track by considering the party, the state and mass movement, each of which are dialectically related to each other. Even if only one of these is lacking or is weak, it is impossible to achieve the full development of socialism, which is the precondition to communism. If there is no genuine communist party, there can be no socialist revolution and no socialist state to establish.
If there is no socialist state, there is no way to promote the forces and factors of socialism and pave the way to the communism. Without the class dictatorship of the proletariat, there is no way to suppress reaction and to prevent the bourgeoisie from re-emerging and taking power. A ruling communist party or socialist state cannot survive and progress without relying on the mass movement.
Mao adhered to the Leninist concept of a vanguard party representative of the proletariat as the most advanced political and productive class that is most interested in socialism. In the course of the new democratic and socialist stages of the Chinese revolution, Mao and the CPC had ample time and opportunity to develop the CPC as the leading force and the various types of forces that brought about the Chinese socialist state.
In an all-round way, the CPC benefited from the line of relying and trusting the masses and constantly arousing, organizing and mobilizing them in communities and work places in the course of fighting the enemy and building a socialist society. The Party was in the lead and at the same time at the core of mass formations. In both ways, it drew strength from the masses.
It is also pertinent to mention that, after the death of Lenin, Stalin and the CPSU carried forward Leninism in Party building, mass mobilization and in socialist revolution and construction. He built a powerful socialist state that could defeat fascism and subsequently challenge US imperialism and the world capitalist system. He carried out well the Leninist task of promoting the building of communist parties in many countries through the Comintern.
The Chinese revolution would not have won victory and would not have established the Chinese people’s democratic state (gliding into the socialist state) if not for the vanguard role of the Chinese Communist Party, the mobilization of the masses, the use of the people’s army to destroy the reactionary state and the readiness of the people to build further as the new democratic government the local organs of political power established in the course of people’s war.
An accelerated publishing programme saw the first webinar from Foreign Language Press now available on Youtube and includes the web launch of two new titles: J. Moufawad-Paul offers an exacting analysis of the different trends that emerged out of the victory, development, and ultimate defeat of the Chinese revolution, exploring maoism after Mao in his Critique of Maoist Reason. Also discussed in the presentation is number 19 in the Colourful Classic series , a reprint of the 1975 A New Outlook on Health with an introduction that contextualise the issues in healthcare policy in the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic , including the addition of some detailed footnotes. The footnotes provide more current statistics and some updates about how healthcare and the US economy has changed in the past forty plus years.
A brief history of the development of the publishing endeavour is also provided by Chris Kistler in the internationally organized Zoom webinar.
The next webinar is on Sunday, August 30, North America: 9:00PM EST/6:00PM PST featuring two titles in the New Roads series.
Like Ho Chi Minh! Like Che Guevara! focuses on the Ethiopian communist movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Ian Scott Horst’s – whose principle contribution made EROL’s national section on Ethiopia such a valuable online legacy to the struggle in the region – provides an historical treasure trove of first hand accounts and narratives from the actors themselves documenting the heady, complicated and ultimately tragic events of that revolution.
A collection of writing from the imprisoned K. Murali (Ajith) confronts and counters Brahmanism, an ideological linchpin of the Indian ruling class, is also featured
Other titles, including corrected reprints of the additional selected Works of Mao Zedong originally published in India by Kranti Publications, are available from its webshop http://flpress.storenvy.com/
2020 began with reports from Maoist Road of a successful International preparatory meeting held in Italy in January before the lockdown.
Arguing for a method of unity-struggle-unity and against the spirit of faction and division, the PCm has striven through the Maoist Road sharing of information and campaigns and other avenues, for organizations “to arrive at the widest possible unity of the MLM movement”. [i]
There discussions were developed regarding the conditions, the need and possibility of holding a Conference grandly envisaged as a Unified International of Marxist Leninist Maoists of all countries.
The main organising sponsor the PCm Italy issued a message that spoke of
“The battle for the unity of the MLM communist movement, the struggle between the two lines within it, the definition of a common platform, the organized form with which to continue this work require, as we know, a prolonged work which demands preparatory meetings, new bilateral and multilateral meetings, as well as the exchange of documents, initiatives aimed at the masses, on the tortuous but luminous path of the realization of a Unified International Conference of the communist movement MLM that wins over the fragmentation, surpassing the effects of the collapse of the Rim and responds to the need to unify MLM on the basis of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, on the basis of a critical-self-critical assessment of the general experience of the RIM and other attempts to formation of an international organization.”
Internet commentator, Harsh Thakor [ii] (coincidentally after interviewing exiled Philippine communist Jose Maria Sison) was not so circumspect arguing comrades must make a distinction between the positive practice of Communist Party of Peru (PCP) under Chairman Gonzalo and the most sectarian interpretation, naming Gonzaloists like RGA groups in America, some of which are now defunct , the German Committee Red Flag associated with Dem Volke Dienen website and those around Tjen Folket Media. He references Kenny Lake’s critical exploration of the debate around the universality of protracted people’s war (PPW) [iii], and the scathing criticism in Andy Belasario in PRISM blog, On the so-called University of Protracted People’s War and the “the dubious genius of a Gonzalo….his flip-flop from “Left” opportunism to Right opportunism, which has caused the people’s war to decline and nearly total defeat in Peru”. [iv]
Even before the enforced pause brought about by Covid 19, the conditions for convening the unified international conference have been absence with 2020 the year of alternative planning for separate developments on the unitary road in the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist tendencies.
Sison is involved in a big call for the new decade in what was set to be a year of competing “internationals”. Issued jointly at the end of December 2019, after months of discussions and exchanges between the International Coordination of Revolutionary Parties and Organizations (ICOR) and the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), two international anti-imperialist formations, the organisations entered the fray inviting others to join them in part of a new global alliance: The Anti-Imperialist Anti-Fascist United Front (AIAFUF), or simply United Front. [v]
What is envisaged is that the United Front shall be a movement of allied organizations without democratic centralism and a costly and expensive apparatus, so not a new Comintern-type arrangement. A challenging timetable was set with the promise that “The Front will be launched before the end of June 2020.”
The problems of establishing and agreeing a general orientation involved in uniting on a common platform was illustrated in an article ‘Maoism as in itself: against the idealism of the “mainly Maoist” current’ from the Canadian PRC-RCP – the Quebec Continuator group – that lays into the Communist Party of Brazil (Red Fraction), Struggle Sessions group, the Maoist Communist Party in France (despite its ambivalence), and domestically swipes at “intellectual revisionist Joshua Moufawad-Paul”. Factional fighting and name calling are milestones on the road to demarcation but can the direction of travel be to a unitary destination? The conclusion in the reassuringly-named ISKRA is hard to reject:
“Currently, there is no, such a thing as an international Maoist movement per se. What exists are Maoist parties and organizations with more or less strong links between them, and in many cases without links at all. For a movement to exist, there must be unity, even if it is relative: common objectives, regular exchanges of experience, close collaboration and solid organizational links. If there is no unity at all, there is no movement. In history, the only time that an international Maoist movement actually existed was when the Internationalist Revolutionary Movement (RIM) was in place. Ironically, this experience, the partisans of the idealist tendency reject it under the pretext that the RIM defended a “disjointed and eclectic” conception of Maoism. The PCB (FR) declared last year that “in today’s world, unlike the founding or existence of the RIM, a revitalized international communist movement has flourished and developed”. This is a mind-blowing statement totally disconnected from the real world situation.” [vi]
Indeed dismissive of the whole engagement in the international project of communication, co-operation and co-ordination – they were never members of RIM – the Canadian group reflects a fundamentalist stance that
If we want Marxism to once again become a powerful weapon in the hands of the popular masses, we will have to put an end once and for all to literary leftism and petty-bourgeois pseudo-Maoism. That said, it is in the material world, and not in the world of ideas, that the idealist and postmodern currents will be swept away. It is through real practice, and not through an endless ideological struggle to reach the purest concepts, that the problem that these idealist currents represent will be resolved.
It is not likely they will be engaged in the debates and manoeuvres or overblown rhetoric on the road to establishing a durable structure for international relations with like-minded comrades. The advice from the Maoist era was clear: “the CPC, to its credit, refused a hegemonic role…and constantly drummed into overseas Maoists the need to think independently about their own conditions” [vii]
Its National Publications Centre assisted in other Spanish language publications of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Chile produced by its Ediciones Marxista-leninistes publishing house in Toronto. One such text was the collection, “50 issues of EL PUEBLO clandestinely” covering the years 1974-1977 of the Chilean paper. There was also the use of material from ANCHA, monthly of the Chilean Anti-Fascist News Agency, produced by the external section of the Frent Del Paeblo (People’s Front) established by the RCPC.
However the relationship faded as the RCPC, although aligned with the anti- three worlds position of the Albanian party, gradually moved away as Albanian criticism expanded to encompass condemnation of Mao Zedong. The organisation’s paper, El Pueblo carried its view in the article “Comrade Mao Tsetung was a great Marxist-Leninist and a great internationalist” (#101 October 1978). Such an appreciation differed from the trajectory in Enver Hoxha’s book Imperialism and the Revolution , first published [in Albanian] in April 1978 for distribution within the PLA, then multi-language editions distributed internationally in the December.
The Chilean party did not become part of the Albanian grouping but joined with the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) led by Avakarin in efforts to establish an international alignment of Maoist parties who rejected the successors of the Mao Zedong as they drew up a joint declaration with the RCP setting forth, “Basic Principles for the Unity of Marxist-Leninists and for the Line of the International Communist Movement.” The RCP-Chile played an important formative role in the regroupment of Maoists after 1976 (according to one participant)
“presenting a form of communist thinking and politics that was marked by its both creative and fiercely revolutionary character. A few of the RCP-Chile’s writings have been broadly available. In the crucial period around 1980, the RCP-Chile (and its leading figures in post-coup exile in Europe) actively helped regroup Maoists internationally, in the project that would give rise to the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement.” [i]
The RCP run Chicago publishing house, Banner Press took on Chile: An Attempt at Historic Compromise and published its English language edition in November 1979. The book was made available in the U.S. in conjunction with a nationwide tour by the author being sponsored by El Frente del Pueblo, a mass organization of the Chilean resistance abroad as well as in Chile. It helped pave the way to the U.S. tour by Jorge Palacios with the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA actively building support for the tour.
The favourable RCP, USA review of “an excellent Marxist analysis” notes: “The book documents in painful detail the efforts of the CP to restrain and derail the mass movement of the workers and the oppressed, all the while protecting the bourgeois state and other reactionary institutions from the attack of the masses. As Palacios points out, this was a policy which the CP had pursued for many decades and for which it was rewarded by being allowed to be one of the few Communist Parties in Latin America that enjoyed a long period of legal, open activity…. While An Attempt At Historic Compromise correctly concentrates on unmasking the falsifiers of Marxism and the revisionist CP, it also serves as excellent material exposing the U.S. imperialists’ crimes and intrigues in Chile.” [ii]
An academic review thought that,
“This is by no means a scholarly work. There is no pretense to objectivity. This should not deter scholars from using Palacios’s work, however, in order to learn still more of the inside story of recent Chilean political history. As an inside view, it is quite valuable.” [iii]
And indeed, there is a section in the book where Jorge Palacios also discusses the views and activities of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Chile all during this period. The account Palacios provides found expression in English, French and Spanish editions.
There was another consequence in the appearance of the Banner Press edition as it was the focus of a letter from Joseph Green, for the leadership of COUSML, the Central Organization of U.S. Marxist-Leninists, to their fraternal comrades in the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist). Dated December 1st1979 raised their astonishment and register protest at
…. the recent action of the CPC (M-L) in selling the rights to the book by Jorge Palacios entitled Chile: An Attempt at “Historic Compromise” to the utterly corrupt and rotten to the core American neo-revisionist and “three worlder” sect known as the so-called “Revolutionary Communist Party of the U.S.A.” ….was carried out without consultation with us. Indeed, it was carried out without even notifying us. It in fact amounted to a violation of the most elementary norms of fraternal relations between parties. ….” [iv]
In their exposition of some of the issues involved in the sale of the rights of the book by Palacios to the “RCP, USA.”, the aggrieved comrades argued that Hardial Bains led CPC (ML) had failed to foresee the difficulties that have come up in this question of the selling of the rights to the Palacios book involve a major tactical blunder as well as a violation of principles.
The points these slighted comrades made were that the Palacios tour had great significance. With it, RCP of Chile unilaterally and by surprise, broke its relations with the COUSML in a very unprincipled manner and publicly concluded an alliance with the “RCP, USA.”. Although the reason behind the break was clearly understood:
“… it has broken relations with us because we stand for carrying the struggle against Chinese revisionism through to the end, because we have denounced Mao Zedong Thought, and because we defend socialist Albania.”
“Instead of carefully sorting out the issue of Mao Zedong Thought, it has instead gone onto a very dangerous anti-Marxist path…..We are in no hurry to come to a final conclusion on the RCP of Chile, and we hope that they desist from the path they have taken. It would be a pity and a loss to the international movement if this Party which has shed its blood in the struggle against reaction, does not stop and reconsider this very dangerous and slippery inclined slope that it has set foot on.”
Joseph Green told his Canadian allies they did not regard the selling of the rights to the book as just a run-of-the-mill business dealing related to the routine commercial operations in the book and pamphlet trade which are part and parcel of the operation of the National Publications Centre. They saw it first and foremost as a political act.
With the rights to the Palacios book in the hands of CPC(M-L) it had been “a definite thorn in the side of the “RCP, USA” a political embarrassment for them, instead COUSML faced the aftermath of the action of the Chilean party, its “unprincipled dropping of relations with us and the establishment of relations with the “RCP, USA” and what that signified”.
“….the “RCP, USA’s” publishing of this book was used as a way to make it appear that the “RCP, USA,” which in actual fact had never done any work at all for the support of the resistance movement of the Chilean people, was actually a supporter and enthusiast of the solidarity movement.”
“Helping the “RCP, USA” to find a way to promote itself internationally, especially among certain forces in Latin America which are still considering the question of Mao Zedong Thought and which have respect for the RCP of Chile, although they do not presently follow the position of the RCP of Chile.”
“…. furthermore the CPC(M-L) puts itself in the apparent position of having worked with the “RCP, USA,” even though only on this transaction, even though for the present apparently neither the “RCP, USA” nor you yourself wish to publicize this particular transaction.”
COUSML complained this act violated the elementary norms of fraternal relations which were to deteriorate and eventually broken off.
“You did not even notify us about it. Finally it came up in discussions in early November between our two Parties because our delegate, asked you a direct question about how the “RCP, USA” got the lights to the book.
To us, this lack of consultation is truly astonishing.”
…. Our two Parties may not always agree on certain tactical issues, but that does not give you the right to unilaterally undertake actions such as the selling of the rights to the Palacios book that affect us first and foremost and undermine our stands and struggle.”
… This question of consultation and cooperation is important in itself in the strengthening of the relations between our two Parties. But it is also important in particular in the question of the struggle against revisionism and opportunism.”
[i] Mike Ely of the now defunct Kasama project (2007-2013) highlighted the theoretical work of Chile’s Revolutionary Communist Party as they summed up their experiences in the Allende years, the Pinochet coup, and the international communist movement. These essays are from the period of the late 1970s to 1981 when the RCP of Chile was seeking to help regroup the international communist movement, and thinking through the implications of events in China in the post-Mao period. Kasama, thanking those who did the work of making this material available and Rosa Blanc, provided pdfs in Spanish of several issues of the organization’s theoretical journal Causa Marxista-Leninista.
Tron Øgrim (1947–2007) was, during the 1960s and 1970s, the International Secretary and political ideologue of the Norwegian AKP(m-l), Arbeidernes Kommunistparti (marxist-leninistene). He left the organisation in 1984. He died on May 23rd 2007. Still fondly remembered.
BEWARE fifteen years have passed, these rough working notes are digests of internet postings & email musings, “was there, remember some of it. [This] only very rapid jottings of the type I would never publish – more like talking in the bus…” So not fair to attribute this as a source to Tron, not a quote but more or less what he said as it is an edited version of what Tron was understood to be saying, and he can’t be held responsible for any misinterpretation and the linguistic tiding up. Links and Italics are added working notes otherwise the rest derives from my man in the north. Postings were largely date from 2003/4 and gathered here ( and download) as notes on
False flag operations are familiar tools of counter-insurgency strategy, undertaken by the state and its NGO allies, to discredit, disrupt and destroy progressive and radicals’ campaigns and movement. Even the accusations raised can have a disproportionate effect as seen in the aftermath of the arrest of the Peruvian leader Chairman Gonzalez, Abimael Guzmán. The fragmentation of the movement and its support base – domestically and internationally – were around political lines that coalesced on whether the call for a “Peace Accord” was seen as a state-sponsored hoax or a strategic call that was a rupture with the previous orientation of waging Protracted People’s War in Peru.
Figure 1 A defiant Elena Albertina Iparraguirre Revoredo, also known as Comrade Míriam, stands in prison stripes facing reporters and military in 1992
No doubt it was in the interest of the beleaguered Peruvian state to encourage the confusion and divisions within its revolutionary opponents, however that call could still be a genuine response to changed circumstances. There are well-rehearsed arguments from “brain-washing” to CIA manipulation, employed by those unwilling to accept that Guzman was the source for this strategic direction , however there did emerge those professing loyalty to the leadership of Chairman Gonzalez that mobilised politically in support of that alleged position. Less was heard of these forces in the non-Spanish speaking world as the line that it was a hoax received more support in the active international solidarity network, and rarely reported in the Left-wing media, in the absence of a solidarity network the silence descend with the desertion of the Avarkian-led supporters and disintegration of RIM. Political opponents argue they were inspired by the Right Opportunist Line within the PCP but still the campaign in support of the imprisoned Guzman, incarcerated in the maximum security prison of the naval base of Callao, on the island of San Lorenzo, off the coast of Lima, found expression within Peru through the activity of his defense team, a civil, peaceful successor movement overshadowing the PCP as its “political wing”, the Movimiento por Amnistía y Derechos Fundamentales (MOVADEF – The Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights), from its initials in Spanish.
Figure 2 Members of MOVADEF hold a poster of Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman during a protest in front of the Justice Palace in Lima on, July 25, 2012
Movadef denies being the political arm of the Shining Path.
Led by lawyers and Movadef’s co-founders, Manuel Fajardo and Alfredo Crespo, works for the release of the imprisoned senderistas, including the leader Abimael Guzmán. Introducing his new movement at a conference, Crespo said that it was made up of “leaders of social organizations, intellectuals, the families of jailed subversives, and artists, amongst others.” Elsewhere, Crespo described the movement as 30 percent ex-convicts, and 70 percent “young people.” He said that their political causes included the fight for labour rights, the protection of children, and freedom of expression.
Authorities have identified two organizations they suspect of being legal extensions of the Shining Path: principally (MOVADEF), a group of families of imprisoned guerrillas, and Conare, a union committee of radical teachers.
They chant slogans in support of Guzmán, saying he is a political prisoner who should be freed. They deny that terrorism existed in Peru, of around 650 still detained Movadef says they are political prisoners who fought to liberate the poor, and complain that history books side with the winners of the war. Establish in 2008, local media claimed in 2011 MOVADEF received $179,000 from Shining Path’s Huallaga Valley cell to establish itself as a political movement by establishing 60 support committees across the country and, after organizing as a political party, obtaining registration to allow its participation in elections (El Comercio [Lima], April 11). MOVADEF filed papers with Peru’s Jurado Nacional de Elecciones (JNE – National Jury of Elections) seeking registration as a legitimate political party and describing its ideology as “Marxism-Leninism-Gonzalo thought.” MOVADEF claimed to have mustered more than 350,000 signatures to support its political registration effort (Diario La Primera [Lima], January 23, 2012). The electoral authority denied the registration.
“What’s appropriate for today is a political fight without arms. We don’t think this is the right moment for an armed fight,” Alfredo Crespo, Guzman’s lawyer and a Movadef leader, arrested in the 2014 state crackdown that saw 28 leaders and other activist arrested and some charged with terrorist and drug offenses. Alfredo Crespo, also allegedly acted as Guzmán’s intermediary with Shining Path field commander Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala (a.k.a. Camarada Artemio) before his arrest in 2012. Asked if he had sworn off violence, Crespo said: “This (unarmed) moment could last for quite a while. Besides, violence has always existed in Peru. Look at who applies violence now – the state!”
“A key question is whether the group is in fact being used as a “front” by the Shining Path. One argument that supports this theory is a string of recent armed actions carried out by the guerrillas. On January 31, hours before Movadef renounced its effort to register as a political party, Shining Path guerrillas made an incursion into the town of Campanilla, in the region of San Martin. In an action reminiscent of the days of the conflict, although without hurting anyone, some 50 armed guerrillas arrived in trucks, rounded up the population and forced them to attend a political rally. This lasted about an hour and a half, while the guerrillas made speeches arguing for a “political solution” to the conflict.
They painted some 200 houses with the hammer and sickle, and distributed flyers around the area, calling for a ceasefire with the government and a general amnesty. Hours later, at 3:30 a.m. on February 1, armed guerrillas entered the town of Pucayacu, also in San Martin, and distributed more flyers. The next day, three more villages in the district of Campanilla were targeted, with guerrillas putting up banners calling for a general amnesty.
These actions, coinciding with the withdrawal of Movadef’s appeal, have been interpreted by some as propaganda work on behalf of the political movement. The Shining Path faction responsible is based in the Huallaga region of northern Peru, not far from where the attacks took place, and is considered to be the more ideological branch, and to be closer followers of Guzman. Peruvian analyst Jaime Antezana has argued that the incursions and the political party are both part of a new tack being taken by the guerrillas. He told RPP Noticias that the Shining Path’s new strategy was to strengthen the position of Movadef in order to promote Guzman’s “Gonzalo Thought” ideology, and try to bring about an amnesty to get him out of prison. For Antezana, the relationship between Movadef and the Shining Path is “straightforward, direct, and umbilical.” He presented documents to the Peruvian media which he said were issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Peru – Shining Path (PCP-SL) in 2009, ordering the creation of a party to take part in elections, saying that “since 1993 the party has been living a new and fourth stage of the political struggle, without arms.”
Tried for the third time since his arrest in1992, this time for the 1992 Tarata car bombing in Lima in which 25 people died, Guzman’s attorney, Alfredo Crespo, said before the sentencing that Guzman believes lower-level rebels carried it out without his knowledge. On 11 September 2018, Guzman was sentenced to a second life term in prison.
Condemnation issued in the name of the PCP, reflecting support for the strategic reorientation others labelled Right Opportunist Line, continues to find expression on internet sites. The authenticity and authorship remains uncertain but the coherence of the argumentation suggests a genuine commitment to what they regard as their Chairman’s politics.