Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Marxism-Leninism – Maoism and The New Synthesis of Bob Avakian by Harsh Thakor

This article contains the personal views of Harsh Thakor on the New Synthesis of Bob Avakian and is not the view of Democracy and Class Struggle.

We publish it as a contribution to the discussion of the current role of Bob Avakian and his claimed new synthesis within the International Maoist Movement.

Bob Avakian makes an important contribution in his analysis that dissent is required within a Socialist Society.This was valid as in USSR and even in China in the period of the Cultural Revolution,sufficient scope of debate or dissent was not promoted. This was particularly true when you analyze the attacks on musicians,artists and poets in the G.P.C.R period and the repressions and suppression of dissent in the Stalin era..

I respect Bob Avakian's role in asserting that we have to refute all trends that negate the concept of proletarian dictatorship but simultaneously combat dogmatic trends and be more critical of past mistakes in Socialist Societies in U.S.S.R.and China.

However it is ridiculous to evaluate that Bob Avakian has taken Marxism-Leninism to a higher stage than Mao Tse Tung Thought or Maoism. Mao Tse Tung Thought or Maoism as a higher stage was only established after Mao launched the Cultural Revolution where he implemented his theory of continuous revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Lenin's leading the Bolshevik Revolution and Mao's new democratic, Socialist and Cultural Revolution gave them the right for their thesis to be converted into an ism or higher stage.

In fact the RCP, has declined in the last two decades, not able to establish any headquarters in the working class or building revolutionary mass structures. The concept of solid core with great elasticity hardly defends Lenin and Mao's contributions to the defending of the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat or continuous revolution in a Socialist Society.Without implementing the polemics of Lenin and Mao we will destroy the backbone of the Communist Movement.

The RCP in recent times is hardly supporting the peoples Wars worldwide.It is significant that today the R.C.P., that so staunchly claims to defend Maoism, did not support the International Conference in Hamburg in support of the Peoples War in India.

The R.C.P is critical of forces like the Peruvian Communist party and Comrade Gonzalo for equating Maoism only with Peoples War and other parties worldwide.This is erroneous as the theory of protracted peoples war is a major component of Maoism ,in the third world semi-feudal and semi-colonial societies.

In fact Comrade  Gonzalo recognized all the components of Maoism from Imperialism,to the Peoples War and the theory of Cultural Revolution. Applying 'Maoism" the Sendero Luminoso was able to build up one of the greatest  armed struggles. In the current era the major emphasis is on the component of peoples war's worldwide as Socialist Societies have not been created.

The most important factor is the subjective factor of the re-organization of the proletarian parties worldwide. In fact the Communist Party of Phillipines used Mao’s ideology for their self rectification in armed struggle and so has the C.P.I. (Maoist).

What was of vital importance was the linking of Maoism and the peoples war to the communist party as the vanguard.and the theories of Marx and Lenin. In fact G. N. Saibaba of the RDF India spoke in his interview about incorporating the principles of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution into the Revolutionary Peoples Commitees led by the party in the People's War.

In the past eras of the Communist Movement eras actually took place from the Leninist era itself. Although great strides were made revolutionary democracy was not totally established in the Soviets and there were bureaucratic trends.Although Comrade Stalin defended the Socialist State he violated several Leninist teachings in the implementation of democratic centralism of encouraging debate and dissent.

Comrade Mao attempted to rectify all this in the GPCR but again there was unjust persecution of artists ,writers or intellectuals and the creation of a personality cult. The democratic power within the peoples communes and revolutionary committees was not completely developed.

While countering new left trends that called it a revolt against the party concept we have to recognize that sufficient revolutionary democracy was nor developed or scope for debate and dissent. Revolutionary Socialism has to further develop the concept of providing greater democracy to the mass organizations .

Bob Avakian made an important contribution in his book “Immortal Contribution of Mao-The Greatest Marxist of our time’ and the Revolutionary Communist party (U.S.A.) defended the Gang of 4 and refuted the theory of three worlds advocated by Deng.

However from the mid 1980’s it dominated the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement ,trying to impose it’s line upon it. Finally it destroyed the unity in the International Communist imposing it's line on fraternal parties.

Above all it could hardly build class mass organizations and created a huge cult of Bob Avakian.The weakness was that the wrong trends of the R.C.P, were not attacked from a Marxist-Leninist viewpoint but forces veering towards revisionist tendencies.Com.Scott in his massline blog has done invaluable work in his criticisms on the mass line.

I recommend readers to read MLM Mayhem's views on the New Synthesis. Although ' Workers Dreadnought' makes a sound criticism but  advocates the multi-party system and the 'new left' ideas of Charles Bettleheim and, Louis Althusser and is even more critical of Lenin, Stalin and Mao. (Identifying Avakian's ideas with the rigidity of Lenin and Mao)

We are not in the stage of the Communist Movement where can find alternatives to the teachings and of Comrades Marx. Lenin and Mao.

We may take the criticisms of the New Left but cannot substitute their ides to the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist polemics. Concepts of multi-party system have to be refuted. Today some positive trends have taken place from forces within the former R.I.M. being critical of the New Synthesis like the Maoist Communist Party of Afghanistan and of Indra Mohan Basanta of the C.P.N.(Maoist).

The concept of the further democraticizing of the Leninist vanguard party and greater democracy to the mass organizations has to be developed. Com.Ajith of the C.P.I.(M.L.) Naxalbari makes a sound refutation elaborating that Lenin and Mao already made attempts to facilitate debate..

In fact Avakian’s New Synthesis has laid the foundations for revisionist tendencies. He explained how by rejecting the concept of the Institutionalised Party structure revolutionary democracy itself will be undermined and the Socialist State would be destroyed.

Qutoting Com Ajith "Any state represents the political power of the ruling class; its means of imposing its class interests. Precisely for this reason, we cannot extend the criticism on monolithic concept of party to the state. It is by its very nature monolithic. State power cannot be decentralised. In fact, this argument on ‘decentralising power’,picked up by Venu from Gandhi, was a sharp example of idealist views on the state. The state, by its nature, also necessitates some institution that guarantees the continuation of this class interest.

The institution of monarchy in feudalism and permanent bureaucracy and army in capitalism are examples. But such institutions,‘standing above’ society as an alienated force,are not acceptable to the proletarian state since it has the task of giving back this alienated power to society. Yet, being a state, it can’t avoid having an institution that guarantees (or strives to guarantee) the continuation of the proletariat’s class interest. The solution necessitated by circumstances,and later on theorised, has been the overall commanding position of the party within the state system in socialism; the institutionalised leading role of the party in the dictatorship ofthe proletariat. There is no point in wishing away this lesson of history.

Recently, views have been advanced on incorporating the principle of allowing dissent, of allowing positions advocated from non-communist positions, in socialist society. They call for the active involvement and initiative of wide sections if they don’t adhere to the communist ideology,or may even object to aspects of the party’s line and policy. This is correct. But, for all the claims being made, there is really nothing new in this.

Similar ideas on allowing opposing ideas to contend are already well contained in Mao’ work pioneering work ‘On Handling Contradictions Among the Masses’, where the philosophical and political basis is argued out. It laid the basis forhis famous call “Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom,Let a Hundred Thoughts Contend.”

The limits in actually implementing these policies are also a part of the historical experiences of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They have to be addressed concretely. That is, not just at the level of approach and method but also in terms of the state system. Ideological struggle was not sufficient to drive back the Rightist offensive that opened up during the late 1950’s in China while letting a hundred flowers bloom. They had to be backed up by exercising proletarian dictatorship.

This was facilitated by the leading position of the party in the state system. Let us recollect Rosa Luxembourg’s criticism against the Bolsheviks for suppressing dissent. She certainly had a point in drawing attention to the stifling of political life under conditions where opposition is suppressed. But, in the given conditions, sticking to this as a matter of principle would have led to the destruction ofthe new born proletarian state.

Lenin’s position on exercising the dictatorship of the proletariat through the party was a shift from his earlier position that acceded to the possibility of the opposition coming to government by winning a majority in the Soviet. It was forced by the fierce struggle against the danger of counter-revolution.

In a different context and in relation to the question of involving the masses in running the state, Mao too had to rule out the Commune.

Yet, the elective principle of the Paris Commune in forming new organs of power had been one ofthe cardinal points of the ‘16 point Circular’ that guided the GPCR. This indicates a real contradiction a communist party in power will have face, the contradiction between its orientation and its concrete application in different circumstances.

It emerges from the contradiction between the unique task the proletarian state has of creating conditions for its own extinction and what it has in common with all states as an instrument of coercion. Both these aspects must be addressed.

The commanding position of the communist party is indeed a decisive control over political power, in the sense that other parties are excluded from control over decisive instruments of the state. This is true even when power is exercised by drawing more and more of the masses into running the state and conditions for its final withering away are being promoted. The attendant dangers are also apparent. Apart from the new and old bourgeois elements that will make their way into the ruling communist party, the rotten baggage and bureaucratism inevitably engendered by any institutionalised role will also push away from the goal of advancing to communism.

Both Lenin and Mao were aware of this and tried to develop structures and methods to tackle it.

We must make further advance in this direction for two reasons. Proposals on allowing other political parties to compete with the communist party for government power do not square with the bitter lessons of history.

Capitalist roaders, inevitably linked to imperialism, will get to power. Similarly, rotating sections of the party allows for checking bureaucratisation. But what about the line of those exercising power or those due for their turn? Should those with a badline also get their turn, as a matter of principle?  And who gets to control the army?  With regard to the socialist state system the crux of the matter is the institutionalised leading role of the communist party. As mentioned earlier, this was a product of circumstances.

There is nothing in Marxism which says that this is the only solution.But, so long as those circumstances continue to exist, Marxism must insist on one thing- the new alternative must be capable of dealing with the compulsions that made such a role for the communist party in the socialist state system necessary.

All the forms of proletarian rule known till now, the Commune,Soviets and Revolutionary Committees, were thrown up by the tumultuous advance of the revolutionary masses making history. This will be true of the future also. The defeats suffered by socialism have inspired Maoists to scale new heights. The new wave of revolution will certainly throw up newer and better forms of the dictatorship of the proletariat, more advanced than the Soviets and the Revolutionary Committees.

It will create new forms better able to exercise the all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie by drawing in the masses into running the state and arming them to create a sea of armed masses.

Main flaws in the New Synthesis

1 .It attempts to incorporate the ideas of liberal philosophers like Rousseau, John Stuart Mill and bourgeois-democratic leaders like Thomas Jefferson to combine with the ideology of Marx,Lenin and Mao.

2. R.C.P does not put Marxism-Leninism Maoism in it’s constitution. Here the R.C.P’s view on the party as a vanguard is well illustrated. It displays looseness in grasping Leninist party leadership.

Quoting the R.C.P.: In most future socialist countries, especially formerly oppressed countries, there will still be profound differences between town and countryside. In every country there will be a remaining chasm between mental and manual labor, and the contradiction between men and women will be a defining feature of society. All of these distinctions are part of the remaining basis for the revolution to be reversed and Mao paid great attention to how to handle these problems. Handled correctly, these same contradictions can be part of the motor through which society advances. It won't do to simply wish these problems and contradictions away.

This is related to Avakian's criticism of the establishment of an official ideology in the socialist country, as was the case in both the USSR and China, whose 1975 constitution stated," Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought is the theoretical basis guiding the thinking of our nation." In fact, in past and no doubt future socialist revolutions as well, large sections of society, including vast numbers of potential supporters of the socialist system – for example, many who uphold religious beliefs – cannot be said to share the communist ideology, and to claim otherwise is both false and harmful. Furthermore, insisting that society as a whole swear allegiance to communist ideology when many or most are not yet won over makes it less possible to unleash and embrace the energy and thinking which can, in a multifaceted and non-linear way, contribute to advancing toward communism.

As Avakian has put it, the vanguard party will have to lead a dialectical process that will require it to repeatedly go "to the brink of being drawn and quartered" while still fighting through on the need for continuing revolutionary transformation. In this same light, Avakian has also insisted on the need to encourage dissent under socialism and correctly incorporate the principle enunciated by John Stuart Mill "on the importance of people being able to hear arguments not just as they are characterized by those who oppose them but as they are put forward by those who strongly believe in them.''4

3. It shows it’s negative feelings towards the peoples wars and linking of the ideology of Maoism .In fact protracted peoples war was an important component of Maoism.

The new synthesis hardly analyses the concept of the mass line.

4. It's solid core with lot's of elasticity expresses moral adherence to a multi-party system. In fact Ajith of C.P.I(M.L.)Naxalbari ‘s arguments vividly illustrate this. Although correct on the transition of Socialism in Communism it undermines the theory of peoples war as a component of Maoism.

Quoting the R.C.P.: The proletariat, unlike the bourgeoisie, is open about its intention of establishing a dictatorship – it does not need to hide that reality since its rule is in the interests of the great majority of the society, whereas the bourgeoisie, whose rule is only in the interests of a relative handful, must always hide its dictatorship as the “will of the people”, etc.

Within the framework of the institutionalized leading role of the proletarian party what role contested elections and so forth might play under different conditions needs to be concretely examined. This is another reflection that in modern society only the bourgeoisie or proletariat can rule society and that other classes and strata can participate in the state power only to the extent that they do so under the hegemony of one class or the other.

There is no reason to argue, as Ajith does, that under socialism all “other parties are excluded” if some parties are willing to work together in a state apparatus whose nature is in a fundamental sense determined by the leadership of the party of the proletariat. In fact, the “institutionalized leadership of the party” is a requirement, a necessary constraint, that makes it possible to at least envision various forms of political competition, including in the form of some contested elections – all to make potentially richer the involvement of the masses in critical thinking, increasingly becoming political and ideological masters of society. Here again we have to recognize that the proletarian state, led by the party of the proletariat, if it is going to carry forward the transition from socialism to communism, has the responsibility to bring into being a wholly different kind of society, full of ferment and tumult, where dissent and critical thinking are not only tolerated but fostered.

The other point to be stressed here is that under conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat the state will also not be “monolithic”. It is not possible to have an institutionalized leading role of the party (, without facing the consequences that where capitalist roaders are in command and their line is leading this will have a material effect on the nature of the socialist society. In fact, this was the case in the USSR and Mao’s China: where and to the extent that the capitalist roaders held power, the dictatorship of the proletariat was undermined. The nature of the state is not monolithic but is determined by which class, the proletariat or the new bourgeoisie, and which line commands the main levers of the party and state.

The institutionalized leading role of the party is a sine qua non without which socialist transformation is impossible. But the leading role of the party, by itself, is no magic solution. In both the USSR and the People’s Republic of China the leading role of the party was “institutionalized” but this could not prevent the party itself from being seized by the capitalist roaders.

5. Avakian has usurped the theories of Marx and Lenin on the relationship of theory with practice and drifts into idealism.

He is critical of social practice being the basis of truth.

It virtually negates the role of the proletariat,delinking scientfic ideas and philosophy from the proletariat.

Quoting the R.C.P.(U.S.A.):It also needs to be pointed out that the "criterion of practice," as commonly understood by much of the Maoist movement (and as D'Mello promotes it in his article), is founded on a narrow and impoverished definition of "practice" – as immediate and direct experience, with theory only an empirical generalization of such practice. Social practice does not just consist of the experience of one's own immediate struggle – there is the importance of the experience, "practice," of the struggle internationally and historically. Here, too, it is worth remembering that the practice of the GPCR and the Soviet and Chinese revolutions more generally remains far and away the most important experience from which to examine previously existing understanding and to develop new theory.xvi

xvi Avakian has characterized the dynamic between theory and practice this way: "proceeding at any given time on the basis of our theory and line, as determined collectively and through the structures, channels and processes of the party; extracting lessons from our practice and raising these up to the level of theoretical abstraction, but also drawing from many other sources (including the thinking and insights of others), and applying the scientific outlook and method of communism, dialectical materialism, to repeatedly synthesize all this to a higher level, in the development of and through the wrangling over theory and line – which is then returned to and carried out in practice, on what should be a deepened and enriched basis. And on...and on...and on...." (Quoted in Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2008), p. 16.

Furthermore, revolutionary theory does not develop only from the experience of the proletariat itself, even when understood in its broadest sense. There are still other sources knowledge, such as the natural sciences, whose discoveries and advances do and must contribute to an overall scientific, revolutionary communist world view. For example, understanding the uncertainty principle in physics or recent advances in mathematics can help correct linear mechanical materialism, thus contributing to a more correct, dialectical and more scientific understanding of the laws of nature and society, and in particular, the relationship between necessity and accident, contingency and causality.

Isn't Marxism itself the product of a great deal of human knowledge accumulated in numerous spheres of activity?"45 On the one hand this seems obvious, including because of Lenin's well know article on the "Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism."46 Unfortunately, however, more often than not a pragmatist and empiricist epistemology has gone unchallenged in the Maoist movement, often hiding behind a wrong interpretation of Mao's statement that "practice alone is the criterion of truth."

6.It substitutes the core ideology of Marx, Lenin and Mao with ideas of the new synthesis claiming that it is a new stage of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism which it has no basis for.

In an essay refuting Bernard d'Mellow's work on Maoism it defends the proletarian dictatorship concept and that of the vanguard party by continuosly referring to the New Synthesis and not to Marx, Lenin or Mao.

Positive points

Although there is no structure created, it is an effort to combat dogmatism and promote the need for debate and dissent within Socialist Societies and stands at least morally for the dictatorship of the proletariat against bourgeois democratic or New Left trends by defending the concept of the vanguard party.

In an essay refuting Bernard'D'Mellow's writings on Maoism, it defends Marx, Lenin and Mao as proletarian Revolutionaries and not radical democrats as described by D'Mellow.

Quoting an essay in journal Demarcations

In opposition to the new synthesis of Avakian there have been two "mirror opposite" responses from some of those who have been part of the international communist movement.

The first response is a conception of communism which clings largely uncritically, in a quasi-religious and dogmatic way, to previous socialist experience and communist theory, or at least sections of it, rejecting a scientific approach to summing up the past and further advancing communist theory.

The second response openly rejects Marxism, or renders it unrecognizable, and reaches back to the 18th century and the proclaimed democratic and egalitarian ideals and social models of the emerging bourgeois epoch, to philosophers and political theorists like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson. In some cases, they discard the very term communism; in other cases, they affix the label "communism" to a political project that situates itself firmly within the bounds of bourgeois-democratic principles.

Such forces reject real scientific analysis of the contradictions of the socialist transition, and applying bourgeois-democratic criteria, distance themselves from the unprecedented breakthroughs in human emancipation represented by the Bolshevik and Chinese revolutions. In the main, the second conception buys into the bourgeois verdict that the socialist societies in the Soviet Union and China in the 20th century were essentially bureaucratic, authoritarian, and fatally flawed – and rejects what some of its adherents term the "party-state" framework, that is, the need to seize state power and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat as the transition to communism, and the need for the leadership of a vanguard party throughout this whole process.

I recommend readers to read

Here Ajith of C.P.I.(M.L.) Naxalbari makes critical comments on the question of the New Synthesis.

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