Although the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) is no longer working, it is necessary to undertake a serious discussion on the issue of international unity of Maoist forces.
From the outset, we must admit that it is the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP,USA), who headed RIM’s Committee (CoRIM), who bears the main responsibility for its demise.
Since a few years, the RCP,USA contends that the “new synthesis” produced by its leader Bob Avakian is a development of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism that all Maoist forces should uphold. The RCP,USA has come to consider that there cannot be a viable international revolutionary action without recognition of this so-called synthesis.
Meanwhile, developments of the revolution in Nepal have put into light a number of difficulties, which the international Maoist movement has been unable to face. The Nepalese comrades had hoped that there would have been a debate on the concepts they developed, especially their vision of the revolution in the 21st century. They wanted the movement to be more creative in order to clarify the path of the revolution internationally.
The tactics applied by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (now the Unified Communist Party of Nepal [Maoist]) certainly had an impact on the ideological and political struggle in other countries, especially in the Indian subcontinent. But unlike the RCP,USA, the Nepalese comrades never sought to impose their views on the international communist movement.
It is in practice that the correctness of a concept is validated. If it appears that their conceptions do not suit the
needs of the revolution, revolutionaries of any country must correct their line. If they don’t do so, they will prove
to be non-revolutionaries. What is important if we want to achieve international unity of Maoists is the universal aspect of its basis.
In the history of the international communist movement, various parties often had to live with decisions taken in other countries. By itself, a decision, even if it appears disconcerting, does not mean the party that upholds it has joined the bourgeois side. We must make a thorough analysis of the general line of a given party for assessing what line prevails —the proletarian or the bourgeois one. If most decisions taken by a party reflect a bourgeois line, then we can say it has become revisionist. However, before saying that a party has joined the other side, one must be cautious.
Where it gets trickier is when a communist organization in a given country adopts a position that could have an impact on the internal politics of another party. The alignments of the socialist USSR in regards to China in the 1930s could have posed a problem for Mao and the Communist Party of China, particularly regarding the question of the Kuomintang. Even if the USSR as a country could have had an interest in developing good relationships with the Kuomintang, it never meant that the Communist Party of China should have submitted itself to this bourgeois party. The decisions of a party or even a Communist International should not be understood as serving the interests of one country or one party, but as a general guide to local action. Such action must be undertaken by each party according to the needs of the revolution in their respective countries. Of course, it was necessary to defend the USSR as a socialist homeland at that time, but it should not have
implied that the line of all parties must be in accordance with the needs of that state alone.
Similarly, in the 1930s, the Popular Front policy against fascism did not require communists to halt their independent political activity. After 1935, communist-inspired trade unions and popular movements in Canada and the United States had been completely liquidated, although never had the Communist International asked for it. Opportunism in local communist parties did not necessarily have something to do with a desire from Moscow to impose their own viewpoints. Because they chose to retreat into bourgeois legality and to abandon the revolutionary line, those parties, after the war, had completely ceased to act in
a communist manner. This was not the case of the Communist Party of China, which had kept its independence from the Kuomintang and maintained a revolutionary line.
An international organization is necessary to promote the development of Maoist parties in each country. Such parties must make an thorough analysis of the internal situation of their given country, particularly with regard to class relations and the revolutionary strategy that is required to attain socialism and communism (these two elements being the core of a communist program), and they should then implement this strategy. On its part, the international organization will coordinate the relationships between each national organization, wage joint campaigns and help resolve conflicts that may arise between some parties. In doing so, it will develop its capacity to act as a central leading body, not only at the ideological level, but at the political level too; and it will win its recognition as such.
The experience of more than 20 years of the RIM requires that we make an analysis, even if brief, of its basis of unity, trying to identify its strengths and weaknesses. A basis of unity can be specific about certain details, without being specific on what is essential and universal. Unity may appear on several pages, while passing by what is most important. Conversely, a seemingly simple programmatic basis may be sufficient to unify the movement. At least, there must be some pretty strong proposals —strong enough to create a solid basis of unity.
We must also seriously think about our capacity to apply in practice the various elements that form our basis of unity. The capacity for an international body to apply decisions depends of course on the resources of member organizations, but also on who will take the leadership. We can assume that some parties have a better understanding of the basis of unity (because they have a better experience in the concrete class struggle) and that logically, they should assume a leadership role. But this leadership must be enough strong to take into account the various national contexts and respect the independence of each party. An international organization should not be the playground of a single or a few parties.
RIM’s initial basis of unity
In its 1984 founding Declaration, the RIM presented itself as the center of world revolution and gave itself the
task of developing new communist parties where there was none. The signatories of the Declaration had taken six commitments:
- establishing an international journal;
- training new Marxist-Leninist parties and strengthening existing ones;
- undertaking joint and coordinated campaigns;
- implementing policies and measures adopted by international conferences;
- to the extent of their abilities, applying and helping financing the tasks related to the improving of communists’ unity;
- constituting an embryonic political center to provide leadership within the overall process of building the ideological, political and organizational unity of communists.
What has worked best among those commitments was certainly the launching of the A World to Win magazine. Regarding the other commitments, there were some victories, but no more. The RIM played an active role in the establishment of Maoist parties in the Indian subcontinent, including Nepal. In India, the RIM helped to resolve the fratricidal conflict between the Maoist Communist Centre and the CPI(ML) People’s War. In this regard, the role played by RIM parties and other parties within the CCOMPOSA (the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia) has been beneficial. That being said, the merger between the two formerly rival organizations (the MCC and the People’s War group) did not benefit the RIM because the new party thus created —the Communist Party of India (Maoist)— never joined the international organization.
The last major campaign led by the RIM to have positive results was that for the release of Chairman Gonzalo of the Communist Party of Peru in the 1990s. This campaign had an impact in Nepal, where important events for saving the life of Abimael Guzmán were organized. While a significant democratic movement had begun to challenge the monarchist regime, there was a need for the genuine Maoist forces to organize in order to lead that movement to a higher level. The Nepalese comrades thus benefited from this international campaign to strengthen themselves. Subsequently, as we know, the CPN (Maoist) launched a powerful people’s war, which had a significant impact on the internal political situation and ended the monarchy.
For us, a center of world revolution, even in an embryonic form, should aim to exercise an ideological and, especially, political leadership on the movement. Through international campaigns, by promoting unity of the revolutionaries in each country, by helping the various Maoist forces to coordinate themselves, by resolving conflicts, etc., an international organization must come to exert such leadership; otherwise it is doomed to atrophy.
An international journal must be a collective organizer. The line that appears in it must be linked with the political activity of the international organization. If this link is tenuous, the journal won’t be fully useful, even if its ideological line may seem correct. Similarly, if the international organization focuses solely on the journal and forgets its other political duties, it will only become a single ideological center. We believe that this was one of the biggest problems facing the RIM.
The coverage of the people’s wars led by parties participating in the RIM in Peru, Turkey and Nepal by the A
World to Win magazine concretely helped to popularize these revolutions. But generally speaking, RIM was often seen as being only an ideological center, which was not conducive to the emergence of Maoist parties in each country. This gave the impression that this organization was not playing an effective political role.
It is clear that within the RIM, there were forces whose political experiences were different. Between a party leading a people’s war and another one whose main activity was to condemn George W. Bush and “Christian fascism” with the objective of “creating public opinion” for revolution, there were necessarily different approaches as to what the RIM should do. Waging people’s war obliges a party to link ideological and political struggle. This is not necessarily the case with a merely ideological condemnation of Christian fascism.
To know what organizations will exercise effective leadership on an international grouping, including one in an
embryonic stage, is of paramount importance. Logically, organizations that lead people’s war should exercise the leadership role. But this did not happen in the RIM. The most active organizations in its initial building had no experience of people’s war. After Mao’s death, the Communist Party of China upheld a completely revisionist line, including drawing counter-revolutionary conclusions of the already controversial Three World Theory. The RCP,USA then stepped in as a defender of Mao’s revolutionary legacy, rightly criticizing the Albanian line, which camouflaged a form of revisionism in spite of its bombast and high professions of Marxist-Leninist faith. Thanks to Bob Avakian and the RCP,USA, Mao’s revolutionary legacy was still on the agenda to guide the revolutionary forces.The people’s wars waged by Maoist parties in Peru, India,
Nepal, Turkey and the Philippines showed the powerfulness of Maoism.
The RCP,USA acquired a high credit in the international Maoist movement. It had played a central role in gathering the revolutionary forces who claimed to still be inspired by Mao, but also in defending the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the revolutionary leadership of the so-called “Gang of Four.” The presence of the RCP,USA in RIM’s leadership was therefore justified.
Although it eventually joined it, the Communist Party of Peru (Partido Comunista del Perú, PCP) played a less
active role in building the RIM. Yet, the people’s war in Peru was attracting the eyes of the world. It helped the
RIM improve its credibility. But for various reasons, the PCP never held a leadership position within the RIM.
The PCP was one of the first organizations to uphold Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as the science of revolution.
After Marxism, Marxism-Leninism had played a crucial theoretical and practical role in the progression of the proletarian revolution. But here, we came to a point where Marxism-Leninism revealed its insufficiency. Some organizations that claimed to follow Marxism-Leninism were not at all revolutionaries; some were even practicing the worst forms of parliamentary cretinism. Marxism-Leninism was the official ideology of political regimes that called themselves communists, but were in fact building state capitalism.
In 1993, through the struggle waged by the PCP, the RIM finally recognized Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. In Canada, the late “Action Socialiste” group (forerunner of the current Revolutionary Communist Party) came to this conclusion one year later. The fact the PCP was leading a people’s war had led the group to analyze the theoretical basis of this party, which served to guide its revolutionary activity. Those who link practice with theory always acquire more credibility.
After the events following the capture of Chairman Gonzalo and its negative impact on the RIM, the people’s war in Nepal and the involvement of its leading party at the international level played an important role in the development of the RIM. The CPN (Maoist) had made a thorough analysis of the experience of the PCP and it succeeded in creatively applying MLM to the reality of Nepal, where social relationships were still heavily imbued with feudalism.
The domestic political necessities in Nepal have brought the party to stop people’s war. Clearly, it was this people’s war that made the Maoists an unavoidable political force in that country.
How could the people’s war be deepened and carried until the conquest of power? How to build the new people’s power not only among the peasantry but also in urban areas? After the suspension of people’s war, Maoist forces in Nepal have undoubtedly developed their influence in the cities where as of 2006, implementation was delaying compared to what was happening in rural areas. The party’s youth wing has also developed considerably. Reactionary currents now accuse the latter of continuing the people’s war by other means.
It is a fact that at the international level, the stance of the Nepalese comrades could be seen as problematic, especially for those organizations that were being impressed by the military aspect of that revolution —a kind of romantic vision of the revolution probably reflecting the weaknesses of their own political line: the armed struggle in a poor country is always “sexy”, you know. However, displaying a cavalier attitude should be avoided when criticizing a party like that of Nepal, which has managed to bring the revolution to a step not seen since the defeat of socialism in China.
After the Maoists had signed a peace agreement with the major bourgeois parties, the revisionists in India have argued that by “rallying the parliamentary system,” the Nepalese Maoists had “finally understood” —a not-sosubtle way of telling Indian Maoists they should do the same. But the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is strong enough and has not been fooled by this call from the revisionists. If it had depended on external positions (from another party or an international organization), it could have been a problem for them; but that was not the case.
As for the RIM, which has not been able to rally the CPI (Maoist) after the merger between the MCC and the People’s War group, the internal stance from the comrades in Nepal seemed to be a problem. The Nepalese people’s war served as a beacon for the RIM. The most revolutionary forces within it relied on the people’s war in Nepal and perhaps they were counting on the political weight of the CPN (Maoist) to advance their position.
The public criticism the Communist Party of India (Maoist) has made towards the CPN (Maoist) can certainly be understood, given the impact the actions of one can have on those of the other. The criticisms of other Maoist organizations, whose practice don’t show they are actually leading revolutionary action on the ground, seem rather distressing. How have these organizations used the example of the Nepalese people’s war to build up forces to then unleash a true people’s war in their respective countries? If there had been tangible progress by revolutionaries elsewhere, the people’s war in Nepal would have been less isolated and the possibilities of conquering power by the revolutionary masses better. When fires are lit everywhere, chances of success are greater.
The party that played the leading role in the RIM —the RCP,USA— has never really considered the possibility of waging people’s war on its own territory. To a certain extent —and this remains to be showed— this could be explained by specific reasons linked to the reality of the United States. However, the RCP,USA has never seriously thought about what meant, in practice, the recognition of people’s war universality.
Until recently, the RCP,USA has been one of the most important ideological pole within the international Maoist movement. It recognized the need of cultural revolutions under socialism and still identifies itself —at least officially— with Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
The tasks that were undertaken by the RIM’s member organizations appeared quite valid. At the same time, it has suffered from a lack of will to bring about real political leadership to the movement. We believe this weakness is related to a faulty understanding of the principle of universality of people’s war and its practical application.
What basis of unity?
The basis of unity of any group should be as specific as possible. Yet, at the international level, it is clear that national realities are very different. Some countries are still heavily steeped in pre-capitalist relations of production, with a large peasantry. There are imperialist countries where national issues were not resolved. Countries spread over large areas, others not. Some have strong revolutionary traditions, others not. And so on.
This had consequences at the organizational level. The failure of the Third International was partly the result of
the notion that it was for the proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries and that of the “socialist homeland” to lead the world revolution. This notion was not convincing, especially in the colonized nations, where what was happening in Europe didn’t suit the situation. Of course, the main leaders of the International tried to take these differences into account. But the fact remains that notions that may be valid in Europe were not necessarily valid in India and China.
The stance of the Communist Party of China, who would not initiate the establishment of a new international grouping after the split with Moscow in 1963, can be attributed to mistrust in relation to a kind of global party that is supposedly clairvoyant in everything. Still, the example of a “revolutionary model” and bilateral relations are not always enough to create cohesion between revolutionary forces at the international level.
The RIM has never really set on what would be the optimal organizational form of a new international grouping. In its 1984 Declaration, it raised the question: “The concept of world party and the resultant over-centralisation of the Comintern should be evaluated so that appropriate lessons from that period can be drawn as well as from the positive achievements of the First, Second and Third Internationals. It also is necessary to evaluate the overreaction of the Communist Party of China to the negative aspects of the Comintern that led them to refuse to play the necessary leading role in building up the organisational unity of the Marxist-Leninist forces at the international level.”
The organizational basis of unity depends on the ideological and political one. That basis must be universal both in principle and in practice. Within the RIM, there have been advances in the recognition of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as the science of revolution. In assessing the experience of Socialist China, the Marxist-Leninist movement understood that class struggle was continuing under the proletarian dictatorship, requiring the unleashing of numerous cultural revolutions.
The Communist Party of Peru said: “What is fundamental in Maoism? Power is fundamental in Maoism. Power for the proletariat, power for the dictatorship of the proletariat, power based on the armed force led by the Communist Party. More explicitly, this is 1) power under the leadership of the proletariat in the democratic revolution, 2) power for the dictatorship of the proletariat in the socialist and cultural revolutions, 3) power based on the armed force led by the Communist Party, conquered and defended through people’s war.” (On Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, First Congress of the Communist Party of Peru)
RIM’s 1993 Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism statement meanwhile stated: “Lenin said, ‘Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat.’ In the light of the invaluable lessons and advances achieved through the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution led by Mao Tsetung, this dividing line has been further sharpened. Now it can be stated that only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat and to the recognition of the objective existence of classes, of antagonistic class contradictions, of the bourgeoisie in the Party and of the continuation of the class struggle under the dictatorship of the proletariat throughout the whole period of socialism until communism. As Mao so powerfully stated, ‘Lack of clarity on this question will lead to revisionism.’”
It is clear to us that as a science of revolution, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is universal. This is not the case with “Gonzalo-Thought” or “Prachanda Path,” let alone Bob Avakian so-called “New synthesis.” If Gonzalo-Thought and Prachanda Path succeeded is supporting the initiation and progression of protracted people’s war in Peru and Nepal, they have not showed conclusive on the question of conquering power, nor of establishing and building socialism. There is a need for concretely analyzing the situation in light of MLM and to define the revolutionary strategy that applies in every country of the world.
People’s War has a universal character and is part of Mao’s immortal contributions. The RIM officially recognized this. That being said, there remained a lot of disagreements on its practical application. For some, the protracted people’s war would apply as such only in countries dominated by imperialism, and as long as the people’s war will not win there, it will be difficult to make a revolution in any imperialist country. This is a mechanical application of Mao’s idea.
For us, the people’s war can only be protracted. And it necessarily has to be waged in a given national situation. It is the duty of each Maoist party to prepare and initiate people’s war on its own territory. It would be unacceptable to ride on the success of people’s war in other countries, while avoiding taking any risk in ones’ own country.
Will all parties eventually succeed in initiating and waging people’s war? That we do not know. But working to
prepare the initiation of a people’s war will ensure that all parties are working to gather forces for waging armed struggle. It is understandable that Trotskyist sects or revisionist parties that only go by legal activity, selling newspapers or making entryism in unions or reformist parties, will never mobilize or gather forces for the revolution. If a party takes part in militant mass actions; if it inspires itself from revolutionary action of a new type; and if it does not confined itself to simple radical critique of all other currents but acts specifically towards the revolution, then it will accumulate strength.
Several parties claim to uphold the October 1917 model. If this was really true, then they would have prepared for unleashing an uprising. But they believed that to make the insurrection happen, they had to engage in a long and painstaking legal work. By merely concentrating in legal activity, did they prepare people for the revolutionary struggle? Others agreed with the necessity of doing illegal or “secret” work, though separated from their legal activity. Marx and Engels explained in the Manifesto that communists do not hide their opinions. If you recruit people only from a legal perspective and they are taught only a few days before the insurrection that they will have to take part, many will be inclined to delay the insurgency in order to prepare more perfectly, consequently frustrating those who were engaged in illegal activity.
The party must be clear: its purpose is to lead the people’s war. Of course, in the imperialist countries, this will take a quite different form than what has been done in China, Vietnam, Peru, and Nepal and now in the Philippines and India. There have been experiences of armed struggle in imperialist countries. Some were limited to armed propaganda. Think of what happened in Belgium with the “Cellules Communistes Combattantes” or in Germany with the Red Army Faction. Others more akin to what one defines as people’s war. Here, one can think of the anti-fascist resistance in Italy and France during World War II. Italian experience of the 1970s, although we can’t say it was people’s war, must also be learnt from. In each country, there are different contradictions, and only an MLM analysis will define the contours and direction the protracted people’s war will take.
Being clear on a common strategic perspective —People’s War— can only increase the cohesion of a new international organization. There may be differences in how it will be waged in each country. But a minimal agreement on the fact that we must engage in armed struggle and that such struggle is linked with the destruction of the bourgeois state and the establishment of a new power is essential for cementing an international grouping. The fact that all parties are committed to at least try to launch a people’s war creates a serious basis for discussion between them. To proclaim themselves as the greatest revolutionaries in the world and in the same time sharply criticizing those who have led or are leading the people’s war (while never
themselves putting their hands in the dough) does not create a real basis for debate.
To summarize, the basis of unity of a new international grouping should recognize: 1) MLM as the science of revolution, 2) the continuation of class struggle under socialism, which necessitates the waging of cultural revolutions, and 3) the universality of protracted people’s war, not only in principle but also in practice. To support these three points, it would be useful to agree on a new analysis of the current international situation that may provide a minimal programmatic basis.
The application of this basis of unity
At this stage, the idea of a centralized world party seems premature. With the development of revolutionary
struggles in various countries, discussions will take place on the possibility or the need to establish an international organization similar to the Comintern. Meanwhile, it is the duty of all parties that lead a people’s war to help establishing an international framework that could support the emergence of new people’s war in other countries. If the international activity of those parties only consists of trying to win some support at the democratic or diplomatic level, this will be detrimental for proletarian internationalism and for their own revolution too. The attitude from other parties who refrain from engaging in people’s war while surfing on what is going on in other countries also runs counter to their internationalist duty.
Of course, there are countries where conditions are more favourable for revolution. Yes, there are weakest links within the world imperialist system. Without going into a detailed analysis, it is understandable that in a large country like India, where part of the bourgeoisie plays an imperialist role and where there are many democratic issues unresolved and various internal contradictions, conditions are better for waging people’s war.
Supporting people’s war currently going on can help to develop a revolutionary party in a given country. We already referred to the role the campaign to defend the life of Chairman Gonzalo played in building the revolutionary movement in Nepal. The great uprising of May 1968 in France was preceded and certainly prepared by the important movement in support to the Vietnamese people that spread for a few years in that country. Without this movement, there may have been some radical protests but only in schools and universities.
It is legitimate for parties leading people’s war to engage in democratic work with mass organizations, even with reformist parties in imperialist countries. That’s understandable when the avowed aim of a movement is to establish a New Democracy, which by definition does not exclude the national bourgeoisie and seeks the abolition of precapitalist social relations. This can also be explained by the need to use inter-imperialist contradictions in favour of the revolutionary movement. But this is not contradictory with joining an international grouping that would bring the various parties to recognize the universality of people’s war. Not to aim for the development of people’s war elsewhere in the world would lead to a narrow nationalist line harmful to the revolution.
There is of course a difference between “exporting revolution” and supporting the organization of revolutionary
forces in other countries. It belongs to the oppressed masses of each country to define what will be the course of the people’s war. Asking the oppressed masses of a country to carry out alone the weight of the world revolution and to sacrifice themselves for others is unacceptable. Deciding that the masses of another country must or must not engage in people’s war only to serve the interests of the movement of one’s own country is equally unacceptable. By contrast, helping the vanguard nucleus of a given country to organize people’s war on its territory is an internationalist duty.
Beyond a discussion between the highly centralized or decentralized character of an international grouping, what matters most is the political line. Upholding proletarian internationalism and recognizing the fact that it is up to the masses of each country to lead their movement should be basic principles. Also, given the fact that Maoist basis of unity focuses on developing people’s war in each country, it would be inappropriate for a few organizations to use the international movement for their own goals at the expense of the pursuit of protracted people’s war.
It is therefore necessary to consider establishing a new genuinely internationalist grouping that will leave room
for parties and organizations that lead people’s war or are really interested in developing it. The know-it-all will not have significant weight in such organization. The Communist Party of the Philippines and the Communist Party of India (Maoist) both have the duty to take part in such new grouping and ensure their invaluable contribution will serve the development of the world revolution. As for the RCP,USA, if it wants to still play a role at the international level, it should recognize the universality of people’s war in principle and in practice. Based on our reading of Bob Avakian’s “New Synthesis,” we think they are moving away from Maoism and people’s war.
The sometimes-chauvinistic attitude of the RCP,USA has greatly hindered the development of the RIM. The
RCP,USA used the RIM to promote itself instead of focusing on the development of new parties in other countries. Apparently, it did not want to see new parties that could question its political line and its “great leadership.” The parties that led people’s wars have not played the leadership role they deserved within the RIM, perhaps because they regarded the RIM as the creature of the RCP,USA, or they simply did not have sufficient resources to do so.
The basis of unity we suggest revives the meaning of proletarian internationalism. The masses of each country are called upon to develop people’s war. There must be an equal relationship between each organization. The parties that are the most advanced, those who lead or aspire to lead people’s war, will exert leadership on the international grouping. Discussions should take place within the organization with frankness and camaraderie. The grouping must wage joint campaigns; it must have its own propaganda tools and aim to develop new organizations where there are none.
The six commitments of the RIM initial basis of unity remain valid for an international grouping of Maoist forces. The establishment of an international magazine such as Maoist Road, which could serve as a forum for exchange and discussion between Maoist parties and organizations, is a step in the right direction. On the flip side, we must think about a basis of unity enough strong to maintain cohesion among the various parties and develop new parties where none exist, while leaving flexibility to parties whose national realities are specific.
In short, we believe that in addition to unity towards MLM as a science of revolution and the need for recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat and cultural revolutions under socialism, the question of the universality of people’s war must be considered as a basis of unity for a new international grouping.
The Revolutionary Communist Party