The following is the keynote speech given by an activist during Serve the People – Norway’s summer camp in 2016 for the study subject “MLM – Party and Ideology”. Some parts have been edited for print.
A: Maoism is Today’s Marxism
Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) was formulated in the 1980s, not by Mao or the Chinese communists who lived in his time, but by revolutionary communists waging people’s war in Peru, and later internationally by the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) and the parties waging people’s war in the Philippines, Nepal, Turkey, and India.
Prior to this, there were several who claimed to be building on “Mao Zedong Thought”. However, this is not the same as MLM. They recognized Mao as a great revolutionary leader and his thoughts as a creative expression of Marxism-Leninism in the specific case of China, but they did not speak of Maoism as a new and higher stage of Marxism.
We say that Maoism IS Marxism today. Maoism is not a “Chinese Marxism”—it is today’s Marxism for today’s world. Marxism must develop in order to be Marxism. It cannot become rigid like some religious dogma. Just as Leninism was Marxism yesterday, Maoism is Marxism today. Today, pre-Maoist Marxism is rigid dogmatism that belongs to another time.
B: Three points about what Maoism is and what it is not
1) Maoism is not about Mao as an individual. It is not a cultivation of Mao’s character. Mao and his name are symbols for the third stage of development of revolutionary science for the proletariat. This is why Mao’s personal life is nowhere near central when we discuss Maoism. What is central is the political development and future of our ideology.
Stalin claimed that theory only becomes a material force when the masses seize it, make it their own, and use it to change reality. This is also the case for Maoism. It was not until the masses took Mao’s teachings in the struggle against Soviet revisionism, in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and later in other people’s wars that it became a material force. Material forces are the only reason MLM is of interest to the proletariat.
We do not display Mao’s face as some object for worship, but rather as a symbol for an ideological direction and to openly show who we are and what we stand for.
2) Maoism’s core is the line for establishing proletarian political power, red power, through protracted people’s war and cultural revolution. The question of political power, the dictatorship of the proletariat, is the key question in Marxism, in Leninism—and in Maoism.
Maoism offers new concepts for Marxism’s teachings on proletarian power:
The protracted people’s war is the proletarian political-military strategy for liberating areas from the bourgeoisie’s control and building red power and socialism there.
Proletarian cultural revolution must continue under socialism, all the way to communism, in order to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat in all areas.
The mass line as a method, standpoint, and perspective—based the fact that it is the people and the people alone who are the driving force of changing history and the application of this fact in our work.
The three tools; the party, the front, and the army, as a proletarian necessity for carrying out people’s war, building the new worker’s state and grasping political power.
This clear formulation is fundamentally new content that lifts ML to MLM—and distinguishes MLM from all the other tendencies that call themselves revolutionary and Marxist. It provides a general line for the development of the proletarian struggle all the way from capitalism’s vale of tears to a communist world.
This line does not give us ALL of the answers, but it provides us with the theoretical tools we need to find the answers from the biggest questions to the smallest concerns.
3) MLM is a science, and like every other science, it must be tested against experiment and it must develop according to new facts. This is precisely how the current form of MLM was established. A former politician of Rødt [Red Party, a parliamentary party in Norway] once told me that naming ideologies after people was an old European priestly tradition. But this is not true. Within several scientific disciplines, this is the norm. We speak of Newton’s Law and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. We speak of Darwinism and a stone statue of Darwin sits in front of the natural history museum in London.
When MLMs are given flak for using people’s names and faces, it is nothing but rhetoric. People must be encouraged to focus on the political content we offer, on Maoism’s strategy and Maoism’s line. When we present the Five Great Teachers and speak of MLM, it is a fundamentally honest approach where we allow people to see us for who we truly are. We make it possible for people to genuinely research what it is we stand for, by understanding what we base ourselves on and why. This is a scientific approach to politics—in stark contrast to the bourgeoisie and other opportunists, who are most often notorious liars who deceive and knowingly or otherwise obscure the source of their thoughts and theories.
MLM is a tool for revolutionary practice, and it has proven itself to be a reliable resource. In a number of countries, it has been Maoist people’s wars that have shown themselves to be the most advanced revolutionary struggles of our time.
The world is constantly changing. Marxism was developed in the 19th century. Leninism was formulated in the 1920s. We have had nearly 100 years of class war, revolutions, counterrevolutions, cultural revolutions and people’s wars since Lenin—and it has been over 150 years since Marx and Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto. Yet, there are those who can suggest that we need to “return” Marxism to Marx, or that Marxism-Leninism stopped developing in 1922. This is a dogmatism that fails to take into account the huge leaps that the people have taken since then—nor does it take into account the failures. We should not accept these ideological errors if we are serious about crushing capitalism.
C: Can we be in a hurry for a long time?
Serve the People – Norway has phrased our main objective in the following way: we must create the conditions for establishing a true communist party in Norway. Such a party will serve and lead the proletariat and all the people in their struggle against capitalism and imperialism.
We live in exciting times. People are rebelling in France against worsened working conditions and labour laws, Brits want to leave the EU, the bourgeoisie themselves are fearing serious crises in the near future, Ukraine is in a low-intensity civil war, Syria is being torn to pieces by war and imperialism, Libya is constantly being bombed by NATO planes, politicians in the West have record-low approval ratings, the old parties are losing their influence and votes, thousands of Western youth are becoming jihadists for ISIS—the world burns and the world still cries out for revolution. It will never stop!
They will continue until the proletariat stops it. Nobody else will. And we can only do this with a scientific revolutionary political line and a real communist party in the leadership. But perhaps we need to break with two dangerous ideas—the first one, that says that we have plenty of time, and the second one that says that we will win a quick victory. Perhaps we should insist that despite the fact that we have extremely little time—not a second to lose—it will still take a very long time to motivate, mobilize, and organized the proletariat over and over again for revolution and communism. Maybe MLM is a resource that can help us to remain in a hurry over an extended period of time.
This task will be extremely difficult! It will not be easy! Even the best tools in the world demand blood, sweat and tears if they are to be used to create anything on the order of what we want to create. But without these tools, it would be impossible to reach our goal, a goal that is worth all the exhaustion and struggle: a communist world built on the ashes of capitalism.