In 2022, the Maoist Collective of Russia (MCR) and Russian Maoist Party (RMP) started a discussion on various problems of Russian and world communist movement, including our understanding of Maoism and political line of communist parties today. MCR opened the discussion and published their first article on their Telegram channel which is now defunct. The article can be found on their website and it was also published on Communist International website (our response which we sent them was never published). Later MCR published a response to our response, to which we didn't asnwer. The reasons were that we believed we already touched the most important issues and also because MCR openly proclaimed that the goal of the polemics was not to reach a mutual understanding and theoretical and organisational unity of Maoist forces but to made members of RMP to criticise their 'revisionist leadership', most likely in order to split RMP and later join MCR (in this, they were unsuccessful). After that, the discussion died down by itself. We are publishing our polemics in English now because it does touch important issues and could be interesting for foreign comrades considering the ongoing discussion after the formation of a Communist League. Some paragraphs of the article below are now outdated, like the conclusion where we offer MCR a united front and mention American Gonzaloists (their organisation 'Tribune of the People' is now defunct).
Gonzalo’s cult of personality
The main complaint of the MCR against us is that we do not accept Maoism as the third stage of Marxism. This is not true. Like them, we believe that Maoism is the next stage in the development of Marxism. What we do not accept is the line («thought», whatever you like) of Chairman Gonzalo (Abimael Guzmán). We treat him with respect as an outstanding theoretician and practitioner of Maoism, and at the same time we criticize him for his mistakes.
In short, the main mistake of Gonzalo and modern Gonzaloists is that they consider it possible and necessary to start a people’s war in any country, including developed capitalist countries. José Maria Sison analyzed this topic in detail in a debate with the Norwegian group Tjen Folket. There can be no universal way of revolution for all times and peoples. Revolution is an absolute principle, that’s true, but developed capitalist countries need a socialist revolution, less developed countries people’s democratic or new democratic revolution, and each country needs its own approach. Hence, for example, the “thought of Gonzalo” and the “path of Prachanda” appeared, but both turned out to be unsuccessful, because they were left and right deviations, respectively. Sison, therefore, has always protested against the «thought of Sison» — this is both immodest and risky, although it was he who developed the theory of the Philippine revolution, founded the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines (in fact, recreated it from the pitiful state into which the once powerful Philippine Communist Party had turned by 1969) and the New People’s Army (NPA).
The MCR, despite all this, treats Sison with disdain and accuses him of opportunism. Regardless of our own disagreements with Sison, we do not agree with this treatment of him. No one denies the merits of Gonzalo, but nevertheless he lost the people’s war in Peru (although he later drew the right conclusions from his mistakes). Sison and his comrades started a people’s war in 1969, much earlier than Gonzalo (1980), and the guerrilla struggle in the Philippines continues to this day, while in Peru the people’s war has long been «on pause» (of course, we do not believe that it ended completely and irrevocably). This fact cannot be ignored.
Why is the Gonzalo line is not the line of the world Maoist movement? Because: 1) none of the really waging people’s war parties accepts it (in Peru now one cannot speak of a people’s war, although it is possible that there are some small armed groups there); 2) Gonzalo’s line was largely erroneous (see above), 3) Gonzalo himself made self-criticism (most likely, this is true).
The question of the so-called peace letters, in which Gonzalo made a self-criticism, is connected with the issue of MOVADEF, which the MCR considers right-wing opportunists. The split in the CPP took place precisely over the question of peace letters. Those who accepted them later founded MOVADEF, those who refused are trying to continue the armed struggle. What is MOVADEF today? This is a powerful mass organization that is engaged in real economic and political struggle, works among the masses, having learned from the failure of the people’s war. Moreover, the underground CPP (the faction which founded MOVADEF), has never renounced the people’s war in principle (they do not openly talk about this though). Our sympathies are on the side of MOVADEF, which is being repressed by the Peruvian authorities. Let us note that the other faction of the CPP, which is quoted by the MCR, does not inspire much sympathy. The very language of the document there they talk about “Miriam the rat” etc. speaks for itself.
The text written by the MCR contains a lot of glorifications of Gonzalo, which look out of place and make a bad impression. In the modern practice of the Communists, the cult of personality has long been abandoned, and rightly so. In addition, while exalting Gonzalo as the “father” of Maoism, the contribution of such theorists as Jose Maria Sison, Charu Mazumdar, Ibrahim Kaypakkaya, Siraj Sikder and others, people’s wars in India, the Philippines, Turkey, is completely ignored.
After reading article by MCR, one might think that there was nothing but Peru, or that everyone else learned from the CPP. In fact, the people’s war in Peru is interesting precisely because it began later than others and in an extremely unfavorable period, after the defeat of socialism in China. This does Gonzalo credit and, perhaps, contributed to the fact that he began to promote the theme of making Maoism into a separate stage, in order to theoretically substantiate the possibility and necessity of continuing the struggle in the new conditions. At the same time, Gonzalo was not alone in this: in 1980, the people’s war in India actually resumed, which continues to this day, and in 1996, under its influence, the people’s war began in Nepal.
As for the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) and the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party of the USA, Bob Avakian, their importance is greatly exaggerated. They played a certain positive role, it is true, especially in organizing an international campaign to support the people’s war in Nepal. Alas, Avakyan turned out to be a sectarian who did more harm than good, and in the end, he ruined RIM he once helped to found. Undoubtedly, RIM contributed to the development of Maoism into a separate stage of Marxism. But the largest Maoist parties (and they were never members of the RIM) accepted the MLM without their direct participation and far from immediately (this process has not yet been completed). If we look at the current programs of the CP of India and the CP of the Philippines, they speak of MLM, but without the specific features that distinguish Gonzalo’s MLM.
In other words, MLM today means MLM as it is understood in the programs of the largest Maoist parties and the RIM document of 1993. They are close to the ideas of Gonzalo, but this does not mean that the world Maoist movement accepted Gonzalo’s «thought».
MCR in their polemics attacks feminism considering it to be a bourgeois ideology. The issue is complicated especially in Russian conditions. Anti-feminism in our country is not ‘revolutionary’ but a manifestation of right-wing ideology, nationalism that has not been completely outlived. The line of real Maoists, and not just another «Russian socialist» (in simple words, fascists) in the women’s issue, is not that there is no patriarchy, but that the struggle against patriarchy should be connected with the class struggle.
Of course, there is bourgeois feminism that seeks to obscure the class nature of the exploitation of women. We stand for proletarian feminism, which considers the oppression of women based on gender to be associated with capitalism and class society. Without their destruction it is impossible to end the oppression of women.
American Gonzaloists, resolutely refusing to be called feminists, are trying to separate themselves in this way from bourgeois feminism. How correct this is in the conditions of the United States, we will not judge, but in the conditions of Russia, an extremely patriarchal, macho country, where feminism is under constant fire from the conservative and repressive Putin’s regime, joining the devastating criticism of “femki” (derogative term for feminists) means helping the reaction.
Questions of the international line — MLPD and ICOR
The chapter “Issues of the International Line” in the MCR polemic begins with a critique of the party program of the MLPD, although in this program the question of violence is actually posed quite correctly and in a Marxist way. The MCR did not understand the essence of what MLPD wrote and are trying to find fault with the wording, because this is “not according to Gonzalo”. Well, yes. But the MLPD does not deny either revolutionary violence or the vanguard role of the party. They have it differently formulated, in their own words.
MCR simply did not understand the words about the “party of the masses” in the MLPD program. It is clear from the context that they meant the masses of the working class, and not the reformist petty-bourgeois party.
As for ICOR, yes, it is not a Maoist organization. The problem is that there is no Maoist international organization today. Attempts to create it, which the Gonzaloists are now undertaking, do not make sense, because without the participation of the strongest Maoist parties at the moment, such ‘Communist International’ will not be viable. Therefore, it is better for us to be in the ICOR, and at the same time develop contacts with the Maoist parties outside it.
Questions of the international line – CP of Philippines
The CPP «does not follow the principle of concentric construction and postpones the agrarian program until the seizure of power.» This is not true. The NPA has been implementing the agrarian revolution for a long time, there are many documents about this, for example, a peasant’s memoirs about his path in the revolution which we translated.
It is very strange that people who praise the people’s war refer to the comrades from Germany who never fought it, and not to the comrades from the Philippines who have been fighting it since 1969.
As for Sison’s statements about «socialist» Cuba and the DPRK, he does this clearly from considerations of a united front, but we agree that he is wrong here. The CPP is generally characterized by a certain… let’s say not opportunism, but omnivorousness in the spirit of Ho Chi Minh, whom they consider one of their teachers (which, by the way, the Maoists do not). Therefore, despite the polemics against Tjen Folket, they published a generally positive text on the death of Gonzalo (which we translated and published on our social media).
Security Issues and Practice
The claims of the MCR against us in terms of security stem from the general political line. If we are going towards the starting of a people’s war, then yes, one must, among other things, focus on security. If one strives to become a “mass party” so unpleasant to them, then one must conduct open political agitation, which is incompatible with security. To say more precisely, here we need a separation of legal and illegal work. But this is a topic for a separate discussion. In general, we consider the claims of the MCR to us about non-observance of secrecy to be partly fair.
We do not agree with the Gonzaloists, but we are ready to cooperate with them, as with all other communist and democratic forces. We respect the Tribune of the People for their work among the masses (they regularly write about the problems of the working people in the USA, help strikes, etc.) and we hope that the MCR will follow this path in our country.