Maoism is a continuity of Marxism-Leninism-not a radical rupture

Harsh Thakor

Today there is a strong tendency within the International Communist Movement in classifying Maoism as a rupture from Marxism-Leninism and underestimate its continuity. It thus delinks the Leninist roots of Maoism, giving the ideology a new meaning. Rather than emphasising the aspect of continuity and enrichment it virtually throws Leninism into the museum. The chief proponent of this concept has been Comrade Joshua Mouwafad Paul in his work "Continuity and Rupture."

I am reproducing Excerpts of an article by Comrade Red Zeal "Marxism-Leninism Maoism is not just Maoism plus Marxism-Leninism" in blog " Necessity and Freedom " with my brief review below the quoted pieces. The article asserts that equal emphasis has to be placed on the aspect of rupture as to continuity in the development of Maoism. In its view Maoism is as much a rupture as it is continuity from Leninism. I feel we have to respect the points illustrated by the author but point out the glaring weaknesses in underestimating contribution of Stalin and not completely respecting Leninism as an integral part of Leninism. It has rational and scientific overtones but lacks coherent Marxist dialectical clarity bu assessing Maoism to be a separate entity from Leninism in important aspects. No doubt it wishes to strike a balance by also refuting over emphasis on rupture. Still the main theme is that rupture is the essence which in my view is anathemic to ideology of MLM. Such an approach prepares the ground to divorce Maoism from its Leninist roots. It correctly theorizes Maoism as a qualitative leap in development but sadly fails to understand that such a development is not a radical break. Even Leninism was not a break from old ideas of Marxism, even if it was new discovery. Such writers have been affected by the Western classical school ideology. Even chairman Mao's military writings on protracted peoples war are based on Lenin's military line propounded during the period of Soviet Russia Even the Maoist party is no radical break in essence from the Leninist one. Chairman Mao's critique of revisionism in the Great debate and GPCR had its direct root sin Leninism.

"Mechanistic and linear modes of thinking are anathema to Marxism. Yet, in the minds of many, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is a simple extension, an “addition”, to Marxism-Leninism. While Maoism is a development of Marxism-Leninism, it is not simply another “ism” to tack on to the previous two. There is much more here than simple arithmetic. To be clear, I am not speaking of the differences between Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, which has already been covered thoroughly by comrade Ajith, but of the tendency to understand the development of Marxism as solely a cumulative process whereby the new is affixed to the old. This is of prime importance to Marxists, and more specifically Marxist-Leninist-Maoists, because it is through the application of dialectics that one begins to see the ruptures, continuities, and nuances ever-present in the development of proletarian ideology (i.e. Marxism). Without a proper grasp of the real development, contradictions, and syntheses that have propelled Marxism to new heights over the past 150 years it is easy for communists (even some Marxist-Leninist-Maoists) to see each new stage as nothing more than a new bookend to the previous development, like an as yet incomplete conclusion spelled out in a formulaic checklist that differentiates it from the old and justifies its existence. Forgetting that what justifies a leap is not a formal checklist, but the content of said development based in a rupture with the old. In relation to the development of Marxism there are two primary errors, one rightist and one leftist in its deviation. Here we will focus on the rightist error, as it is the basis of seeing Maoism as just another link in the chain of Marxism-Leninism."(Red Zeal)

'The rightist error is rooted in a one-sided understanding of the dialectic of continuity-rupture. This, in the simplest terms, refers to the process by which new developments in revolutionary praxis are simultaneously an outgrowth of previous revolutionary praxis, and thus intimately tied to it, but also by necessity must be a radical break from the old. The rightist error in seeing Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as Marxism-Leninism with the simple addition of Mao stems from an overemphasis on continuity, while simultaneously ignoring the important ruptures from orthodox Marxism-Leninism. Of course, ignoring the ruptures with Marxism-Leninism leaves one with no justification that Maoism is any kind of “ism” or qualitative leap in Marxism. This is because what makes an “ism” is that it is a qualitative development of quantitative historical and practical experience synthesized at a higher level. This is in contrast to what makes something a “thought”, which is a quantitative accumulation of historical and practical experience that remains largely particular in application and unsynthesized. A “thought” requires no rupture from the old as it is merely a “perfection” of orthodoxy standing at the threshold of something new. An “ism” is that something new, it has crossed the threshold of established orthodoxy to carve out a new revolutionary praxis."(Red Zeal)

The above note eclectically assesses that a leap in ideology can only occur with a radical break from old ideologies. Chairman Moa synthesized Leninism to a higher stage in the Cultural Revolution but that was not in essence any radical departure from Leninism. Leninism is a qualitative leap from Marxism but still the fundamentals of Marxism are still intact. If ruptures had been made then Maoism would be an entity of its own and not an integral part of Marxism-Leninism.

'Overemphasis on continuity also ignores the fact that what makes Marxism “scientific” is that it develops through internal criticism and the constant process of the application of the universal to the particular, which then produces new insights that may themselves become universal, and so on in a never-ending spiral. Continuity sees unity and linearity above all else, and therefore refuses to see internal contradiction, which is the motor force of development. All of this must not be misunderstood as a mere theoretical squabble devoid of real world repercussions. This is no hair-splitting. One who sees nothing but continuity in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism cannot hope to truly understand and apply it to their own conditions, simply because it [Maoism] has become nothing more than a formality to only be acknowledged as a leap, but not understood as such.'(Red Zeal)

The misunderstanding above is that trend of continuity does not accept any internal contradiction or criticism. Remember how Lenin applied Marxism in concrete context of Russia and his methodology in discovering imperialism. Leninism was always a continuity of Marxism and at no point of time was a radical rupture from Marxism. Lenin discovered imperialism and the party of the proletariat but they were based on Marx's thesis on capitalism and concept of dictatorship of the proletariat. In fact, what makes Marxism scientific is in essence its feature of continuity as even if developed to higher stages its ideological essence remains.

"Marxism-Leninism-Maoism preserves and recaptures the revolutionary core of both Marxism and Leninism, which were severely warped by a mechanistic Stalinist orthodoxy, by seeing its own development as one that has progressed by leaps, starts and stops, and a shedding of the incorrect through ruthless self-examination and criticism of everything existing. It must be briefly said, as it is beyond the scope of this article, that the main deviations of “Stalinism” are the social-democratic understanding of the State, the erasure of class struggle from the socialist period, the primacy of the productive forces in the advance towards communism, its bourgeois understanding of law, the failure to distinguish between different types of contradictions (and therefore the failure to handle each type correctly), the failure to ingrain the Party with the masses through the mass line, its inability to understanding the interplay between the base and superstructure and how one transforms the other, and the inability to formulate a theory of bureaucracy/state bourgeoisie and to produce a means to combat it through the masses themselves. These are of course are only some of the distortions of a “Stalinized” Marxism-Leninism, but they are precisely the key ones that necessitated a radical rupture in the form of Maoism. Seeing nothing but continuity preserves these errors, it brushes them under the rug, only to inevitably be resurrected again in theory and practice."

The erroneous understanding above is mixing Stalinist errors with Leninist ideology. Stalin made aberrations but that did not detract to weaknesses in Leninism itself and thus there was no need for a radical rupture from Leninism. Lot of the discoveries of Maoism like even revolutions under the dictatorship of the proletariat had their roots in Leninism itself .The Maoist party was not a seperate entity but enriched the Leninist party concept. Any correction of the aberrations of Stalinism cannot be equated from making a radical break with ideas of Leninism.

Quoting chairman Joma Sison "Maoism as further development of Marxism-Leninism is not simply a mechanical addition. There is substantial advancement of Marxism-Leninism by Maoism. He developed ML philosophy (deeper penetration into the law of contradiction), political economy (socialist economy that improved on the Soviet model), social science (continuance of class struggle in socialist society), Party building (rectification movement to cure the illness and save the patient) and people's war (more protracted than those in Soviet history). But the advancement of ML made by Maoism to make it the third stage is the theory and practice of continuing revolution under proletarian dictatorship through Cultural Revolution in order to combat revisionism, prevent capitalist restoration and consolidate socialism. I do not agree with the word "rupture" because of its meaning of separation or break from a precedent. Einsteinian physics is an advance on Newtonian physics without having to violate or invalidate the latter. Newtonian physics remains valid for building houses and bridges. Maoism is not possible without its precedents in Marxism and Leninism. Stalin followed basically Leninist teachings on the principles of socialist revolution and construction. There are many things that Stalin did perfectly well despite being the pioneer in actually building a socialist society through rapid industrialization and collectivization and mechanization of agriculture. But Mao would have the advantage of coming later, observing what Stalin had done and using Leninism and his own theorizing and judgment he would put forward a much improved line of building basic and heavy industries as lead factor, developing agriculture as the base of the economy and bridging the first two with light industry to provide immediately the consumer goods and light producer goods for the masses."

Whatever its ideological flaws, dogmatism or sectarianism in light of Gonzalo thought I salute the Gonzaloite Struggle Sessions blog for defending the essence of continuity of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Consistently it has confronted vilification of Stalin and refuted accusations of personality cult of Stalin and Mao. It has published classical essays on 'The real enemies of Marxism' and on 'Post Modernism. "Reproducing an excerpt from an article by Struggle Sessions refuting Maoism being a rupture advocated by Joshua Moufawad Paul in 'Continuity and rupture. ‘Has relevance in defending essence of continuity.
“If anything, their dogmato-revisionism is a rupture from Marxism-Leninism and not the other way around. To be charitable, we could assume he means that there are somewhere adherents to Mao Zedong Thought who are still convinced that ML could not possibly reach a higher stage. These people still calling themselves Maoist seem to already indict themselves as confused. Either way, it is not so much that these types believe that Marxism-Leninism cannot be developed into a new stage, but that they contest that is has been, in the form of Maoism. So who is it that insists revolutionary science cannot develop further? Certainly, even MLM could develop to another stage, a fourth and higher stage. This would require a serious development in all three component parts of Marxism, though. This overall development is the criterion used to evaluate an ideology when considering whether or not it is a new and higher stage. The criterion of rupturing is just reinventing the wheel–this time without spokes or tires."

"Breaking from “claims” that were never really claims made by the International Communist Movement generally is hardly a “rupture with Marxism-Leninism.” In fact, if you go back to the point in time when Marxism was synthesized (mainly by comrade Stalin) into Marxism-Leninism, there was absolutely no need to frame this new and higher stage as “a rupture with Marxism.” This is because Marxism-Leninism was clearly a development of and an enrichment of Marxism. It was not the emergence of revisionism that Stalin was “rupturing from” but new objective developments that, when incorporated into the ideology, advanced its three component parts–Marxist political economy, scientific socialism, and Marxist philosophy. It is the Trotskyites—not Marxist-Leninists—who claim that Stalin’s synthesis was a rupture with Marxism. Likewise, when MLM was synthesized, mainly by Gonzalo, there was no insistence that it was a rupture with Marxism-Leninism ideologically, but again an enrichment of it, and recognition of its overall development into a new and higher stage on the basis of new discoveries correlating with the objective conditions.

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Apr 21, 2020

Harsh Thakore

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