In a New Year’s statement for 2020, llco.org stated:
“While we have much to celebrate, we also mourn the loss of a once dear comrade, who passed away earlier this year. Prairie Fire, who was integral to crafting our theory and authored many of our earlier articles, lost his battle with drug addiction this past April. Although he was expelled from our ranks in 2016, we still recognize and honor the important role he played in the formative years of our Organization.”
2019 was certainly a year of loss and transformation for the Maoist movement in the United $tates.(1) While the Leading Light Communist Organization abandoned Maoism as such for its own self-aggrandizing brand shortly after forming, comrade Prairie Fire was someone who we had great unity with over the years. While our knowledge of eir work is somewhat limited, ey was someone who dedicated eir life to building a revolutionary movement.
Prairie Fire spent some time working with the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA) before being won over by the MIM critiques of the RCP=U$A brand of revisionism. Prairie Fire, having been a student of Avakian’s work, wrote some biting critiques of Avakian’s writings for MIM.(2) In its later years, MIM came to promote the It’s Right to Rebel online discussion forum as a place for Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League comrades to organize. Prairie Fire was a lead figure in the IRTR project ideologically and work-wise. MC5, later revealed as Henry Park, would come to consider the IRTR a failure and proof that you cannot out-number the fascists and cops on a public internet forum.
Not long after the IRTR experiment had begun, the original MIM Comrades cell dissolved and the etext.org MIM website was left in the hands of lead theoretician Henry Park. By this time MIM had dropped most of the infrastructure related to the prison ministry into the hands of comrades who would come to form MIM(Prisons). One of those founding comrades came from IRTR.
Once Henry Park was on eir own, eir writings became more erratic, accusatory and difficult to decipher. It was at this time that Prairie Fire began leading the call to disassociate from MIM. Another key point of struggle was MC5’s continued promotion of Mousnonya as the MIM Art Minister. MC5’s failure to denounce Mousnonya, who participated in IRTR, was very concerning for the core membership of IRTR. Comrades could not understand the free reign of creative license that seemed to be allowed to Mousnonya, whose content was inconsistent in its political message. While IRTR was condemned as a failure, swimming with fascists, MC5 hinted at other reasons for the Mousnonya relationship, but we don’t know what those were. Unfortunately, Mousnonya videos are still prominent on YouTube’s search when looking for MIM content.
Most of IRTR’s core membership followed Prairie Fire in denouncing Henry Park as having lost it and went off to form Monkey Smashes Heaven (MSH) and associated projects. These projects eventually put out the Sunrise Statement declaring “Maoism Third-Worldism” as a new, higher stage of historical materialism, intentionally distancing themselves from MIM Thought. Comrades who formed MIM(Prisons) at that same time stood by the MIM legacy and the writings of Henry Park until eir early death in 2011.(3) We put online and continue to host the latest version of the MIM etext.org site that we had a copy of before it was shut down.
At the same time that IRTR was operating, the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement arose in Denver, organizing in alliance with MIM around support for Ward Churchill in eir fight for academic freedom, and anti-war and anti-militarism. As MSH wanted to to go beyond online media and art projects, it morphed into an aspiring vanguard organization called the Leading Light Communist Organization. This group was active in Denver and included 2 comrades from RAIM-Denver on the central committee, with the intent of using the RAIM name and formation as the LLCO-led mass organization.
While MIM(Prisons) criticized the idea that there was a new stage of revolutionary science beyond Maoism, we saw the MSH alliance (and later LLCO) to generally uphold the MIM cardinal principles, even as they continued to find more aspects of MIM Thought and writings that they disagreed with. As the primary theoretician behind LLCO, we know Prairie Fire was a lead force in this continuous distancing from MIM.
Some time after forming LLCO, Prairie Fire decided that eir ideas had again become so distinct that they constituted a new ideology, called “Leading Light Communism.” Without discussion with other central committee members, LLCO abandoned “Maoism Third-Worldism” for “Leading Light Communism” as it continued to move its rhetoric in a direction that MIM(Prisons) found to be sectarian and dogmatic.(4) RAIM comrades in LLCO made a similar assessment, and soon split with LLCO, which in turn denounced RAIM as wreckers. At this point RAIM became a collective focused on a news blog at anti-imperialism.com without a clearly defined ideology. Over the years RAIM would go back to the “Maoist Third-Worldism” identity. As membership changed, RAIM began to come around to the MIM(Prisons) position on a new stage of revolutionary science. In its last years, RAIM was in regular discussions with MIM(Prisons), regarding plans to launch joint projects under the MIM name. As RAIM has since been dissolved, comrades who have followed the MIM(Prisons) and RAIM legacies continue to work towards a reconsolidation of the MIM.
After a struggle with LLCO over its gender analysis in 2014,(5) MIM(Prisons) paid little attention to LLCO as practical alliance had reached an impasse. While the nature of its activity was unclear to us, it seemed focused on leading struggles in the Third World. Essentially, it had gone full circle due to seeing the center of world revolution in the Third World, and it had taken up a Trotskyist strategy of leading Third World organizing from the First World. Prairie Fire had gone back to the ways of Bob Avakian.
According to the recent statement from LLCO, Prairie Fire was expelled from the organization in 2016 for drug use. It was around this time that Prairie Fire reached out to us to notify us that LLCO had been usurped by enemies, and ey was regrouping around a formation called “the Founders.” That was the last we heard from Prairie Fire.
As our movement is in a period of great transition and transformation, we wanted to take this opportunity to document some of this history now that people have passed and organizations have dissolved.
We also wanted to comment on Prairie Fire’s passing because we saw em as a fellow traveler, despite our differences over the years. While eir practice was not really known to us in much detail, we had respect for eir ideas and eir efforts. Certainly more than most organizations out there. So it is sad that we learn of eir passing.
It is also sad when we hear that a comrade had succumbed to drug addiction. Developing healthy lives in this sick system is a challenge, to say the least. That is why we have comrades currently developing a program for those dealing with addiction and other challenges related to being healthy in an imperialist society that we are struggling against. And we welcome help and input from comrades on this project, as we strive to Serve the People in addressing the effects of this society on the individual. The transformation of the individual is only completed in the individual contributing to the transformation of society.
We post the images of Prairie Fire above to commemorate and remember em. Yet it is not because of eir appearance or life story that we are writing on eir death. We are critical of eir efforts to build a cult of persynality around emself. Promoting eir image and eir persynal history is promoting pre-scientific thinking. We must be real with the people. We must strike a balance between those who see themselves as great, and make great statements, and those who shy from the vanguard role and deny revolutionary truths. We must be clear and honest about what we know, and what we are doing, and what we don’t know, and what we are not accomplishing.
At times it seemed that Prairie Fire was always striving to distinguish emself as having done something new and different, falling into the trap of post-modernism that ey emself condemned. We are not in revolutionary times. We can not have the impact or discover the truths that Mao or Lenin did in our current conditions. We mustn’t strive to be the next Mao or Lenin. We must strive to be humble, dedicated servants of the people; always struggling and striving in the direction of revolutionary transformation of society, as so many millions of people who came before us have done. We are a part of something great. We are doing great things. There is nothing great about us as individuals.
Prairie Fire was a leader. Overall ey led people in the right direction, though at times ey led people away from MIM Thought. We should strive to unite with all who are in agreement with MIM’s three cardinal principles. These are what distinguish us as Maoists, that are moving in the overall direction toward a world without oppression.
Continuity and Rupture: Philosophy in Maoist Terrain
Abbreviations CPC = Communist Party of China MZT = Mao Zedong Thought MLM = Marxism-Leninism-Maoism ML = Marxism-Leninism MIM = Maoist Internationalist Movement PCP = Communist Party of Peru RCP,USA or RCP=U$A = Revolutionary Communist Party, USA RIM(MIM) = Revolutionary Internationalist Movement that later became the Maoist Internationalist Movement RIM(RCP) or RIM = Revolutionary Internationalist Movement that was a sort of international led in practice by the RCP CoRIM = Committee for RIM, the leadership of the international RIM, primarily run by the RCP AWTW = A World To Win, magazine published by the CoRIM GPCR = Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution PPW = Protracted People's War ICM = International Communist Movement, or the collection of communist organizations across the world
This book purports to be a philosophical exposition into the terrain of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, a science that has been forged in revolutionary practice. And as it's title aptly describes, it focuses on the dialectical relationship between continuity and rupture in the development of humyn knowledge through the scientific method. A method which can be applied to society just as it can to oceans or plants. The author counters those who deny this.
Continuity and Rupture is a useful book for understanding the how and why behind how Maoism came to be. But we recommend reading the book with this review to get an alternate history of Maoism in the First World, as well as some strong caveats on the political line presented as Maoism in this book. The biggest issue we will take up in this review is the uncritical presentation of the RCP=U$A-led Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM). The development of Maoism within occupied turtle island can be seen to have started with the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), but to really be consolidated as "Maoism-qua-Maoism" by the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) beginning in 1983. MIM's development of Maoism was explicitly a criticism of and rejection of RCP=U$A politics. It is problematic that this book leaves the RCP=U$A in the position of the prominent Maoist organization in this country as Maoism was being consolidated as an ideology, when that organization struggled against Maoism the whole time and only claimed the label for a period when it served to maintain their influence within the RIM.
In addition to providing a counter-narrative, albeit North America-centric, we will address a number of points where JMP emself seems to lean towards positions of the RCP=U$A and away from the Maoist position.
Maoism as Maoism Rupture
Much of this book deals with the distinguishing of Maoism from Mao Zedong Thought. What distinguishes a 'Thought' from an 'ism' is that a 'Thought' is applying revolutionary science to local conditions and drawing specific conclusions. When a 'Thought' develops understanding that is universally applicable to communists everywhere, that is beyond the previous level of scientific understanding of how to build socialism, it becomes an 'ism'.
Applying the concept of 'continuity and rupture' to historical materialism, the author makes the somewhat controversial assertion that the rupture that established Maoism as a new theoretical stage occurred in 1993. This is controversial because the term "Maoism" existed and was used to describe movements long before then. Our own movement took up the name the "Maoist Internationalist Movement" in 1984. Though the author points out that it is quite common for a scientific term to emerge before its concept is developed.(p.18) The author succinctly distinguishes the earlier and later uses of Maoism:
"Maoism, then, is not simply an addition to Marxism-Leninism (as it was generally understood prior to 1988 under the rubric of Mao Zedong Thought), but a theoretical development of the science that sums up its continuity in the formula Marxism-Leninism-Maoism."(p.23)
Before this time, the author argues that "Maoism" was a word to describe those who looked to China for leadership, and recognized the revisionism of the Soviet Union. It was the historical overlap of these two phenomenon that made this such a heady time for communists. They were simultaneously experiencing the fall of the first great socialist experience, while watching a second great revolution critique that downfall and surpass it by learning from it. As JMP argues, it is these great events that allowed the theory of historical materialism to develop and be synthesized by those who lived through and attempted to build on them.
JMP goes on to say that the GPCR itself was not enough to forge Maoism as Maoism, but it was the People's War in Peru that made this a possibility. It is unclear why the Peruvians would be in a unique situation compared to other revolutionary movements of their time. For any of us to move forward, and incorporate the lessons of what China did, we would have to come to some conclusions about what Maoism is. We have no reason to believe that MIM founders relied on the PCP to come to the same major conclusions on what the correct lessons were. We see MIM actively struggling to defend the main points of Maoism in its struggles with the RCP=U$A before and after founding MIM. And many others grasped the significance of both the GPCR and the coup in China in which the capitalist roaders took power, which are central to distinguishing Maoism as a new stage and to distinguishing those who understand it.
"And though, in 1981, these same Peruvian revolutionaries began to think of the possibility of Maoism (in a document entitled Towards Maoism), it was not until they had reached the apex of their revolutionary movement that they declared the 'universal validity' of Maoism as a 'third stage' of revolutionary science. Hence the supposedly controversial claim that Maoism did not exist before 1988: it did not exist as a properly coherent theoretical terrain."(p.xviii)
At times it seems JMP is arguing that a stage can only be summed up after moving on to the next stage. For instance ey argues that Leninism was only summed up by the Chinese Maoists, and now Maoism was only summed up by the Communist Party of Peru (PCP). Or at the very least it can't be summed up without the practical application in a protracted revolutionary struggle that at least approaches taking state power.
"The overall point, here, is that revolutionary theory develops through class revolution, specifically through world-historical revolution, and that there have only been three world-historical communist revolutions."(p16) and "...the Chinese Revolution was the first Marxist-Leninist revolution because the Communist Party of China under Mao was operationalizing (and theorizing) Leninism."(p29) and so "The new theoretical terrain emerges when this struggle passes beyond the limits of the previous terrain and begins to produce a new stage of struggles according to its assessment, synthesis, and decision of universality."(p30)
This gets to shaky ground when JMP argues that the apex of the PCP struggle was achieved prior to establishing socialism in Peru but still asserting that new theoretical terrain can only emerge when the struggle begins to produce a new stage of struggle. The PCP certainly contributed significantly to the ICM in both the practical fight in Peru and the ideological exposition and defense of Maoism in the global movement. But we do not see the PCP as having produced a new stage of struggle, past the limits of the previous terrain. The practice that revealed the validity of Mao's theories was that of the Chinese people, not the Peruvians.
JMP admits, "Obviously there are other interpretations of Maoism that do not declare fidelity to this historical narrative".(p.2) And ey later cites MIM as one example of this. We provide our historical narrative in this review. But one of the reasons given by JMP for choosing the RIM(RCP) story over MIM is that MIM is made up of "organizations based at the centers of capitalism, specifically the U.$."(p.47-48), while going on to say that MIM would not disagree with the PCP conception of Maoism as a new ism. Calling an idea "white" or "First Worldist" can be a shortcut for explaining ideological differences, but JMP is not drawing ideological differences here. This line of thought is a divergence from the scientific method ey prevents throughout this book.
JMP on MIM
JMP's coverage of MIM Thought in this book is limited to one footnote. As mentioned above, it is a footnote where ey seems to acknowledge MIM as one of the exceptions, one of the other examples of Maoism as Maoism and not just Mao Zedong Thought, that was separate from the RIM(RCP). Ey acknowledges MIM's rejection of the RIM "experience," as we explain briefly below. Ey correctly goes on to say that MIM's Maoism would not disagree with the PCP Maoism adopted by the RIM.
What we take issue with in this footnote is JMP's branding of MIM Thought as "Maoism Third-Worldism." This term was coined in the Sunrise Statement published in 2007, after the original MIM had collapsed, 24 years after its founding. For our part, MIM(Prisons) rejected the term Maoism Third-Worldism, while generally allying ideologically with those taking it up. We, agreeing with JMP, said that there could be no higher stage of revolutionary science without a practice that surpasses socialist China during the GPCR. We asserted that the question of exploiter vs. exploited countries was just basic Marxist economics, and not new theory. And we warned our comrades of ceding the terrain of Maoism to the revisionists.
Below we have produced a timeline of events related to both the use of the term "Maoism" and the ideological development of the MIM and the PCP. Later we will go deeper into some of the ways MIM addressed things that JMP leaves as open questions for the movement.
We are not claiming that the below represents all the Maoist forces, rather we are putting MIM history into the context of the history that JMP upholds as defining Maoism for us. We also start with some notes from China on the formulation of Maoism as a higher stage of revolutionary science. In one PCP document online(1) the authors say that they were waiting for the Chinese to declare and define Maoism, but once the coup took place in 1976, then the Peruvians saw it as their task to take on.(2)
The point of all of this is not to say "we were the first," or to fight over what year Maoism was established as we know it today. It is to challenge a narrative that puts the RIM and the RCP=U$A at the center of this development, when both organizations were dripping with revisionism. That's not to imply that all parties in the RIM were revisionists. But it is clear that the PCP put out all the documents listed below and struggled to get the RIM to accept their line on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism over many years. JMP does not state that the RIM improved on the existing definition coming from the PCP, but that RIM forced its meaning by adopting the statement. From here, we don't see the great importance of that adoption. What is clear, is that the development of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in occupied Turtle Island took the form of a rejection of and struggle against the RCP=U$A, and the RIM that it led.
Another date worth mentioning is 1956, which is when the bourgeoisie within the party took the USSR down the capitalist road to the point of causing a rift in the ICM. This provided the conditions that allowed for the lessons that defined Maoism as a higher level of understanding of how to proceed towards communism. MIM founders said you cannot talk about Maoism prior to this event. And in 1956, the Chinese, led by Mao, began addressing the question of the bourgeoisie within the party that develops under the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is at the core of what Maoism teaches us about pushing socialism to new, higher levels than we've reached so far.
By 1969, the CPC was still using the term Mao Zedong Thought for reasons of internal political struggle, yet they were applying the principles of MZT externally, implying that it had universal application and was really an 'ism.'
A U.$.-centered Timeline of 'Maoism'
1938 - Chen Boda and others began pushing the study of Mao's writings(3)
1945 - VII Congress agreed that the CPC was guided by Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought(3)
1948 - Wu Yuzhang used "Maoism" in a draft speech instead of MZT - Mao said ridiculous(3)
1955 - Mao again opposed "Maoism" adoption among intellectual conference(3)
1956 - Kruschev denounces Stalin, Mao's critique of bourgeoisie in CPSU and theory of productive forces begins, addressing questions that Lenin never faced (MIM said can't talk about Maoism before this)(3)
1966 - Lin Biao says Mao has elevated Marxism-Leninism to a new stage(3)
- launching of Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) in China
- Gonzalo's Red Faction within PCP took up Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought(4)
1969 - 9th Party Congress in China - difference between MZT and Maoism a formality, as Deng and Liu Shaoqi resisted "Maoism" as a new stage, the CPC began applying MZT to global situations/outside China(3)
1969 - PCP took up Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, with reconstitution under leadership of Gonzalo(4)
1976 - PCP denounced coup in China and declared "To be a Marxist is to adhere to Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought.", later indicating that they were waiting for Maoists in China to declare "Maoism" before this(2)
1979 - PCP: "Uphold, defend, and apply Marxism-Leninsm-Mao Zedong Thought!"(4)
1980 - PCP launched People's War with slogan "Uphold, defend, and apply Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism!" - only ones defending Maoism as such(4)
1980 - RCP, USA get 13 communist parties to sign statement upholding Marxism-Leninism
- MIM predecessor RADACADS is working/struggling with RCP,USA over questions of Maoism (dates unknown, pre-1983)
1981 - PCP: "Towards Maoism!"(4)
1982 - PCP "took Maoism as an integral part and superior development of the ideology of the international proletariat"(4)
1983 - RIM(MIM) founded as Maoist group in response to RCP,USA failure to take up or uphold Maoism, founding document "Manifesto on the International Situation and Revolution" discusses Mao, the GPCR and the Third World War(5)
1983 - RCP went to PCP with ML statement from 1980 and PCP rejected it because it failed to uphold Maoism.(2)
- RCP was agnostic over who better Mao or Lenin w/ RIM(MIM), upholding theory of productive forces and did not understand that a new bourgeoisie formed within the Chinese CP(7)
1984 - RIM(RCP) founded among groups RCP brought together in 1980, this time upholding Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought(2)
1984 - RIM(MIM) became MIM, stating "RCP consciously stole the RIM name for its international mutual aid society"
- by this time MIM was distributing pamphlets on the guerilla war in Peru
1986 - PCP responds to RIM founding statement on MLMZT and becomes a participant(6)
- MIM puts out a theory piece on the PCP that addresses Gonzalo's line on the militarization of the party, while it is agnostic on this line it calls out RCP,USA leader Avakian for rejecting it as well as rejecting the lessons of the GPCR as universal (MIM Theory 2 (old school))
1987 - "MIM made the question of the non-revolutionary, bourgeoisified white working class a dividing line question in practice for U.S.-based Maoists." and began distributing J. Sakai and H.W. Edwards books(7)
- MIM releases "Third Draft of Criticism of the RCP" exposing RCP revisionism and stating that "the RCP has yet to concretely show what it is that is concretely happening in China in our own lifetimes."
1988 - JMP claims Maoism begins to exist here, this is the year the PCP released their Fundamental Documents with the most in-depth definition of Maoism in relation to philosophy, political economy and scientific socialism
1990 - "MIM formed a Central Committee with supervisory powers over the various branches and empowered by the membership to run the day-to-day work such as the party's monthly newspaper MIM Notes" and put out What is MIM? and most of the content therein
1990 or 1991 - line on non-revolutionary labor aristocracy majority appears as 3rd Cardinal Principle in MIM Notes
1992 - Gonzalo captured
- MIM concludes that RCP,USA is revisionist party(7)
1993 - RIM releases statement upholding Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (AWTW #20 1995), correcting 1984 statement as being "incomplete", recognizes bourgeoisie within party
1996 - RCP,USA first public response to MIM via CoRIM/AWTW
1997 - MIM response to RCP,USA - continue to condemn their seeing question of ending armed struggle as a "two line struggle", their putting campaign to save Gonzalo over People's War, criticize the international in general, and recognize that CoRIM is RCP,USA(8)
2002 - MIM declared 3rd Cardinal Principle applies to Third World comrades as well
2006 - cell of remaining original MIM Comrades disbands/website & MIM Notes cease
2007 - MIM(Prisons) forms
- sunrise statement released — declaring Maoism Third Worldism a new theoretical development (orgs separate from MIM/MIM(Prisons))
The Revolutionary Internationalist Movement
Stalin and Mao both justified the dissolution of the Third International (Comintern) by stating a Comintern was only appropriate for simpler times. (9) The history of the Chinese revolution and its relationship to the USSR proved the correctness of Stalin's decision to dissolve the Comintern in recognition of the uneven development of nations in their path towards socialism and the need for each nation to forge that path for themselves. Neither of them get into the details of what makes the relationships between countries so much more complicated by the 1940s. However, we can insert the ideas of theorists like Walter Rodney and Samir Amin to explain that most countries are actually underdeveloped to enable the development of the imperialist economies as one good reason.
The question of the role of European countries vs. colonial countries was one of great concern to the Bolsheviks leading up to and throughout their time in power. And while their ideas varied at different times, ultimately the theories of Lenin and Stalin around nation proved correct and important to the colonial countries. Trotsky, meanwhile, continued to look to Europe, and was so stuck on a revolution happening in Europe right away that he gave up on his own revolution in Russia. This idea remains with Trotsky's followers today and meshes well with the national chauvinism of the oppressor nations.
Given the above, we must question whether the idea of a communist international fits into Maoism today. JMP actually states "that it is false internationalism to establish an international communist party."(p.239) Yet ey upholds the RIM experience, that MIM saw as an incorrect practice. The USSR dominated the Third International as a large socialist entity with state power. The RIM was dominated by the RCP=U$A by virtue of its resources from being in an exploiter country. While both power dynamics proved undesirable, the USSR had certainly earned their leadership role. At the same time the influence and power of the Comintern was much greater than the RIM.
As MIM began to reach outside of U.$. borders it came to define itself as
"the collection of existing or emerging Maoist internationalist parties in the English-speaking imperialist countries and their English-speaking internal semi-colonies, as well as the existing or emerging Maoist Internationalist parties in Belgium, France and Quebec and the existing or emerging Spanish-speaking Maoist Internationalist parties of Aztlán, Puerto Rico and other territories of the U.$. Empire."
While we currently have no parties in our movement, we still do not claim to provide organizational leadership outside of imperialist countries. That is not to say MIM does not involve itself in struggles in the Third World, as was clear in its work in combating the Committee of the RIM's (CoRIM) efforts to slander the People's War in Peru.
If the RIM were a group of parties coming together to define Maoism, that might be a fine project. But the truth is that the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) had already defined Maoism and had to push the rest of the RIM to accept it. With the capture of the PCP leadership, the CoRIM went on to promote the idea that there was a two-line struggle over peace negotiations within the PCP, and that Gonzalo had authored a peace letter. Not only is the idea of disarming the communist party the literal definition of revisionism, there is probably no party to date that has made this more clear than the PCP of the 1980s. For years MIM published articles exposing this wrecking work, led by the RCP=U$A, as working right into the hand of the CIA/Fujimori regime.
Putting that atrocious activity aside for a moment, JMP's treatment of the RIM as a monolithic whole acts as a way to sneak in the obviously revisionist RCP=U$A. RCP revisionism is spelled out clearly in the original MIM comrades' writings from its very founding to its very last days. Even many former RIMers have critiqued the RCP's role in hindsight, though this was not until after the RCP had openly rejected Maoism again. JMP alludes to the RCP=U$A and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as examples of Maoists gone revisionists. Yet both of these organizations were criticized as Trostkyist prior to the RIM statement on Maoism.(10) Certainly revisionism will emerge from the genuinely Maoist movement, but these examples just serve to include revisionists in the genuine ICM.
Just as the RCP=U$A used its resources to have undue influence in the ICM, the PCP's real street cred served to legitimize the RCP=U$A on its home turf once the PCP joined the RIM. While the RCP=U$A long ago removed itself from the milieu of "Maoism" and its influence has waned greatly (the RIM having faded away), this action by the PCP had lasting negative impacts on the development of Maoism and revolution in the United $tates.
To identify Maoism as a new stage, JMP identifies several universally applicable advances on Marxism-Leninism. Ey distinguishes between those elements that primarily define Maoism, and elements of revolutionary theory that, while advances of Maoism, are not universal aspects applicable in every context.
"Maoism is universally applicable because: class struggle continues under the dictatorship of the proletariat (socialism is a class society), the revolutionary party must also become a mass party and renew itself by being held to account by those it claims to represent (the mass-line), the struggle
between the revolutionary and revisionist political lines will happen within the revolutionary party itself, and that the strategy of people's war rather than unqualified insurrection is the strategy for making revolution. To these insights we can add: a further elaboration of the theory of base-superstructure where it is understood that, while the economic base might be determinate in the last instance, it is also true that this last instance might never arrive (a point made by Althusser, following Marx and Engels) and thus we can conceive of instances where the superstructure may determine and/or obstruct the base; the theory of New Democratic Revolution, which applies universally to the particular instances of global peripheries (universal in the sense that it applies to every so-called 'third-world' context) and explains, for the first time in history, how regions that are not capitalist by themselves and yet are still locked within a system of capitalist exploitation (that is, regions that are the victims of imperialism) can make socialism; and a further anti-colonial development of 'the national question'..."(p15)
MIM's founding documents in 1983 contain the first three points, as they voiced support for PPW in Peru. So it seems that MIM had grasped the universal points of Maoism as defined by JMP before 1988.
"Maoism, which has been promoted as a new theoretical stage of revolutionary communism, is not primarily defined by the theory of New Democracy since a new stage of communism should exhibit universal aspects that are applicable in every particular context."(p248)
We agree with many of JMP's universals about Maoism. But we would argue that points like New Democracy do not need to apply universally to all contexts to be universally true. The universality of a political line is found in its correctness for the phenomenon to which it applies. Imperialism is a contradiction of imperialists versus oppressed nations. Just as there is no imperialism without national oppression, there is no imperialism where New Democracy does not apply.
Our difference from JMP on this may also stem from eir different understanding of what New Democracy is. Ey repeatedly stresses that New Democracy is necessary to develop the productive forces within a semi-feudal country as a prerequisite to socialism. On the contrary, New Democracy was an answer to and rejection of the old line that leaned heavily on the Theory of Productive Forces. This line was common among the Bolsheviks, and never really fully grappled with until the Chinese did so.
"Revolutionary movements at the center of global capitalism (that is, movements that manifest within completed capitalist modes of production) will not pursue New Democracy since the problem New Democracy is meant to address has nothing to do with the capitalist mode of production where the economic infrastructure necessary for building socialism already exists." JMP goes so far as to say, "...the fact that there is no significant peasantry or a national bourgeoisie with some sort of "revolutionary quality" at the centers of capitalism means that the entire possibility of New Democracy in these regions is patently absurd."(p.244)
It is certainly true that the French, for example, do not need to wage a New Democratic struggle. Yet, it is a surprising line to see from someone living within occupied Turtle Island, where the national question of the internal semi-colonies is so prominent. The New Democratic revolution in China was all about uniting the nation against foreign occupation to regain the sovereignty of their territory and the self-determination of China. It is the semi-colonial character, rather than the semi-feudal, that is warranting a New Democratic revolution. Mao did not mention the development of the productive forces in eir essay "On New Democracy." Ey does talk about developing capitalism, but not as a prerequisite for socialism. Rather it is speaking to the national ambitions of the bourgeois forces at the time. In that essay ey alludes to the conditions of the development of capitalism in China allowing for the May 4th Movement to develop as it did in 1919. And ey is clear that the era of New Democracy only emerged with the October Revolution that marked the establishment of the first dictatorship of the proletariat. This was because the contradictions within imperialism as well as the subjective development of the first socialist state, meant that bourgeois revolution had become impotent and irrelevant.
JMP's idea that the productive forces are not developed enough today just isn't true. What happened is they were developed off the sweat and blood of the oppressed nations and put in the exploiter countries to benefit others. Certainly the question of economic development after liberation for the under-developed nations is one of importance. But the Chinese proved that this internal economic development does not need to preclude the march towards socialism. Mao butted heads with Stalin on this very question within China, and Mao was proven correct.
In occupied Turtle Island, it is MIM line that plebiscites must be held within the internal semi-colonies to determine the path they take after revolution, and that such plebiscites require full independence to be a true representation of the will of each nation.(11) Such a New Democratic stage would be even more abbreviated here, again because it will be a political question and not an economic one.
Strategy of Protracted People's War
JMP places a lot of emphasis on strategy. A party is not Maoist, ey argues, if that party is not engaged in the strategy of making revolution. This is a fair point when we consider the importance of tying theory with practice. Sitting behind a book or computer or desk and theorizing about revolution does not make for a revolutionary party. But we would replace "strategy" with "practice" in eir argument. We can disagree on the best strategy, which should come from our political line. But whatever line and strategy we adopt must still be put into practice. Results come only from actions, and we can only test our analysis by putting it into practice and witnessing the results.
When JMP argues that the strategy of Protracted People's War (PPW) is universal, we counter that this is only true in the sense that we can describe New Democracy as universal. Elements of PPW are certainly universal, but we have no peasantry nor a proletariat of significant size in imperialist countries in which to base this PPW. "Here also is a theoretical gauge for those organizations who would now name themselves Maoist: if they are not actively attempting to pursue revolution, to strategize a method based on their particular contexts for overcoming capitalism, then it does not appear as if the name, due to its concept, should logically apply."(p180)
Of course we agree with JMPs focus on criticizing reformism and spontaneous insurrection via union organizing. But ey does not address those of us who see socialism most likely being imposed from the outside in this country. If revolution breaks out at the weakest links first, won't it break out in the heart of imperialism last? And at that point, how will revolution occur in a country of former exploiters and oppressors surrounded by a socialist world? There is work to be done in the First World to combat and undermine imperialism, and prepare the people of those countries for socialism the best we can. MIM also said from its very beginning that armed struggle becomes a reality within the United $tates as it becomes militarily over-extended. But the form that such a revolution will take is far less clear than what we can generalize from history for the Third World periphery.
To the extent that there is a two-line struggle within Maoism around the question of the universality of PPW, there is a two-line struggle around revolutionary strategy in the First World. JMP poses the debate as one of insurrection vs. PPW. But in searching out positions in this debate we did not see anyone claiming Maoism and also arguing that insurrection is somehow more appropriate for the First World. Those who have objected to the JMP/PCP line on PPW seem to lack any acknowledgement of the different class structures within the imperialist core countries. They might mention conditions not being ripe, but the implication is that they will ripen and there is a mass base to take up the struggle. For MIM, this is a question of cardinal principles that distinguishes Maoists from others. To try to talk about PPW in the First World while not having a materialist understanding of the class structure is a backwards approach.
We can argue that both New Democracy and Protracted People's War are certainly important parts of Maoism, but are also continuities with Leninism. In other words, the development of these concepts by Mao and the Chinese people would not necessarily warrant the consolidation of a new "ism", a new stage of revolutionary science. It is MIM's first 2 cardinal principles, which defined our movement since 1983, that really distinguish Maoism as a rupture from previous practice in building socialism.
Class and the Party of a New Type
While we disagree with JMP on the class composition of the First World, eir discussions of class in relation to the vanguard party we found quite useful. Working in a very wealthy and privileged country, we often encounter people who are unsure of their role and right to lead. We also encounter many oppressed nationals who don't trust white people, and wimmin who don't trust men. In other words, we encounter identity politics. Chapter 3 was a well-done and sobering response to such takes.
JMP addresses the question of how an outsider could provide the proletariat with the truth,
"How can this party be aware of proletarian politics if it comes from outside? Because this is the politics derived from a scientific assessment of history and society that permits us to understand the meaning of "proletariat" as a social class. It is also a politics that, in its clearest expression, has learned from the history of class struggle, particularly the two great world-historical revolutions in Russia and China, and so can bring the memory of revolution to those who have been taught to forget."(p.122)
Ey addresses the contradiction of the more privileged being the first to make the analysis of one's society that is necessary to build a vanguard party: "If the most oppressed and exploited remained incapable of making the same analyses then counter-revolution would remain a significant danger." (p.119)
"the party of the new type is that party, then, that keeps leadership structures, and thus the unity of theory and practice, but understands such leadership as one that will also be led by the masses, seeks to transform everyone in society into leaders, and thus has its "top-down" aspect balanced by a "bottom-up" conception of organization." (p.202)
Where We Are In the History of Theory
In JMP's timeline and understanding of the relationship between theory and practice, we are currently in a stage of distinguishing Maoism, and elucidating its meaning. The lines have been drawn, but are still poorly understood as Maoism has not risen to prominence since the fall of Chinese socialism. Though it remains one of the most active bases of anti-imperialist practice, and certainly the most active within the broader collection of those identifying as communists. As we have stated before, JMP agrees that to go beyond Maoism theoretically requires a practice that goes beyond China. In our founding documents, MIM(Prisons) applied this criticism to things like "The New Synthesis," "Maoism Third Worldism" and later "Leading Light Communism."
JMP presents our current state in an inspirational way, saying that other radical theories (for example, Foucault's) filled the space as Marxism-Leninism was in retreat, but that those theories have now shown their short-comings, while Maoism is being consolidated and maturing.
On the constructive side of this development, JMP proposes that Maoism, unlike Marxism-Leninism, has the capacity to address the issues that these other theories tried to address, and obviously do it better. This is one place where the lack of discussion around MIM Thought really jumps out. We don't know how much and what MIM writings JMP has read, but ey has read some. MIM Thought provided communists with a new framework around gender that offers explanations to so much of the milieu around that topic that often trips people up.
MIM Thought Ahead of the Curve
While MIM Thought's most important tenant is the raising of the labor aristocracy in the imperialist metropole question to a dividing line question, this line is very much a continuity with Marxism dating back to Marx and Engels themselves. In contrast, MIM's gender line is only present in tiny breadcrumbs in the past. And in reading "Clarity on what gender is" by MC5, you can see it addressing some of the very things Foucault addressed in eir The History of Sexuality. MC5 echoes (or perhaps accepts) Foucault's history that says sex, through sexuality, ceased being about controlling labor power (or biopower as Foucault called it) and became a self-affirming value of the bourgeoisie in the 20th century. This timeline might correspond to when we see the popularization of the gender aristocracy among the general populace of the imperialist metropole — which has today spread even further throughout the world through the U.$.-dominated superstructure (culture). MIM, like Foucault, addressed the lack of revolutionary content of the so-called "sexual revolution." MIM even finds health status to be central to gender today, something Foucault discussed in the modern bourgeois thinking around sex and biology related to the vigor and hegemony of their class.
MIM, however, poses some materialist explanations for the evolution of gender through history, unlike Foucault, who only tells us how the ideas around sex evolved within different institutions of power over time. And unlike most "Marxist" attempts at discussing gender and sex, MIM very intentionally looked for what gender was, independent of class and nation. MIM addresses issues of alimony, high paid prostitution, celebrity rape cases, patriarchy within homosexual relationships and other hot-button issues in the realm of gender in the contemporary imperialist society. In doing so they always clearly distinguished their line from that of the Liberals, post-modernists, and class reductionists.
So when JMP makes a call for Maoism to address oppression related to sex, race, disability, etc, we wonder why ey poses this as if it is a task that is yet to be begun. We believe MIM Thought has provided much insight and guidance in these realms already that should be enough to counter almost any of the talking points from the alt-right to the post-modern radicals.
Applying MLM/MIM Thought
And so we end with some ideas of where our ideological struggle must continue today. We must continue to distinguish ourselves along lines of the fundamentals of Maoism and the application of MIM Thought to our current conditions simultaneously. We must draw hard lines between us and the revisionists, while offering better explanations than the Liberals and post-modernists. In doing so, we will court the scientific thinkers who abstain from bourgeois politics with disgust. And by employing the mass line to continuously improve our understanding and analysis, we can mobilize all who stand against oppression in these imperialist countries.
This is a quick response to Rashid's recent response to us titled, "MIM (Prisons) Preaches Logic but Practices Petty Bourgeois Opportunism (2016)." Rashid is the Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter, which we have a history of both work and struggle with. While we appreciate the time ey has put into responding to us, we continue to find eir responses to be largely unhelpful. Here we give some comments on this document, section-by-section. It won't be too useful until you've at least read Rashid's latest article, but you should probably also read 100 Reasons Why Rashid Needs to STFU About MIM(Prisons), which is a line-by-line response to Rashid's essay "MIM or MLM?". In Rashid's article above ey says ey is only responding to our article Study Logic, Don't End Up Like Rashid. The section headers below all come from Rashid's latest polemic.
We Got MIMP’s Line All Wrong
If you read our full response you'd see examples of this, for example Rashid wrote:
"MIMP maintains the position that there is no First World proletariat as one of their 'cardinal points' and declares anyone who even 'consciously disagrees' with it their enemy.(1)16 Which is problematic and anti-Maoist on several points. First it demonstrates that MIMP determines friends and enemies not by class but rather by one’s willingness to blindly and uncritically accept whatever they say. And not only must one not speak out in disagreement, they must not even disagree in conscious thought. Even the liberal bourgeois doesn’t take thought policing this far! The U.S. constitution is even interpreted by its bourgeois courts to protect one from punishment for their beliefs(2). We need only go as far as the quote at the beginning of this article to see that Maoists don’t repress contrary views, not even those of actual enemies and reactionaries(3). But MIMP opened their polemic contending that they 'cannot forgive'(3) us for daring to disagree with their class analysis of Amerika and VLA line. But let’s look at the PB.
And we responded previously:
MIM(Prisons): 1. No, this is a lie. See the note number 16, and please tell us where is the word “enemy.” Rashid is looking at the criteria to join the United Struggle from Within, and extrapolating that to who we consider enemies. 2. Whoa, MIM(Prisons) is PUNISHING people for their beliefs? That's amazing! Maybe instead of punishing prisoners we should start punishing the mailroom staff who censor our materials for being “gang related.” Or maybe we should start punishing the cops who shoot oppressed nation people dead in the streets. To say we have the power to punish anyone is ridiculous. This is liberal anti-communist propaganda. 3. Did we hurt your feelings? What is the punishment we are exacting on you?
Not mentioning "USW" doesn't mean you didn't confuse aspects of USW with our study courses. And again, you misstated MIM(Prisons)'s line as well. You go on in your latest essay,
"They implicitly admit [that their membership is petty-bourgeois, white, Amerikan settlers], but accuse us of playing identity politics for bringing it up, which is odd and hypocritical; since it is they who charge this group to be enemies..."
That would only be hypocritical if we subscribed to identity politics and didn't understand statistics, neither of which are true. So yeah, you're still playing into identity politics with this very statement, and you don't understand how we look at things differently.
"MIMP then argues that we shouldn’t base the correctness or incorrectness of a position on who stated it. Curiously — and again self-contradictorily — their entire polemic from title to text emphasizes 'Rashid' as who said this and that..."
Uh yeah, you wrote the article we were criticizing. We didn't say it was right or wrong based on who you are or whether you were right or wrong in the past, as you imply that we should do later in your article. Your attempts to prove your grasp of logic here are not panning out too well.
The rest of this section cites old Marxist texts in an attempt to refute our line. We already addressed this as dogmatic and non-dialectical. If you are as familiar with our work as you claim, you'll know that we have plenty of quotes on our side too.
Are We Fishing for Information on MIMP’s Members?
There's some good counter examples to critique our position on security brought up here. But since Rashid approaches this from a completely antithetical class analysis of our conditions, there is no point in having a debate with em on this topic. Of course Rashid would propose an organizing strategy that is the same as those who were successful in revolutionary situations because ey believes we are in a potentially revolutionary situation in the United $tates.
"The masses’ right to know those who presume to lead them and represent their interests, and to supervise them is a 'people’s tactic.' Hiding from the people while claiming to represent their interests without their say so and supervision is an elitist 'pig tactic.' Especially, as MIMP doesn’t dispute that it’s absurd and an insult to the people’s intelligence for them to act as if they believe that the pigs don’t know who they are."
We must ask Rashid, "right to know" what? Most of our work is quite public, and we get so much feedback from the masses on it that we struggle to keep up with it all. But Rashid seems to feel that they need to know what we look like, where we live, what TV shows we watch, in order to fully judge us as leaders. Our position is the complete opposite, that we must train the masses to judge people on political practice and line, and to ignore those other things. Those other things are what lead people to be seduced by misleadership for subjective reasons.
And we've addressed the "pigs already know everything" line as being incorrect elsewhere. In short, they don't know everything, so them knowing something is not a reason to disregard security. Second, if you're good at security, the pigs that know stuff are not the kind of pigs that are going to attack you until you start to wield some real power.
Do We Know MIMP’s Political Line?
Are we still fighting over the "rags" line? All we did is state that we thought "lumpen" usually translated to "rags" and not to "broken" as Rashid claimed. Nowhere do we put that forth as our definition of lumpenproletariat. We stand by the article in question addressing the labor aristocracy as being more correct than Rashid in defining proletariat, when we quoted Marx as calling them those "who have nothing to lose but their chains."
It's funny that Rashid wants to keep claiming that we have not printed eir articles in our newsletter. Yet ey has not shown us any newsletter where ey has printed our articles. And we'd wager that we've distributed more copies of their previous article "MIM or MLM?" (with our comments inserted) than the NABPP-PC has distributed of that same article.
MIMP’s Mass Work... Or Lack Thereof
We could hypothesize that we do more mass work than the NABPP-PC based on our having members in the free world. But we don't really know their practice in all that detail. So we don't talk shit about it. And again, we don't even agree on a definition of the masses, so what's the point of debating who does more "mass work"?
First of all, people change, that's dialectics. Their politics change. You could be a great Maoist theoretician and then start promoting all kinds of revisionism. It happens. It is metaphysics, and promoting a cult of persynality to argue otherwise. Secondly, the study pack on Dialectical Materialism by Rashid that we've distributed in the past was a basic overview of the topic. It does not demonstrate an application of dialectical materialism in analyzing the real world. As far as the praise ey pulls from our review of Defying the Tomb, it should be noted that the following paragraph reads:
"Rashid's book is also worth studying alongside this review to better distinguish the revisionist line of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC) with the MIM line. While claiming to represent a dialectal materialist assessment of the world we live in, the camp that includes the NABPP-PC, and Tom Big Warrior's (TBW) Red Heart Warrior Society have dogmatically stuck to positions on the oppression and exploitation of Amerikans that have no basis in reality. We will take some space to address this question at the end, as it has not been thoroughly addressed in public to our knowledge."
We wrote that five years ago, and it has been even longer that we have openly considered the NABPP-PC to be revisionist. So our more recent critiques of Rashid's writings are consistent with our long-held position on their work. With this latest essay it seems maybe we were wrong that Rashid wasn't familiar enough with our work to write eir previous critiques, ey just insists on misrepresenting us and then calling us opportunists when we only agree with some of the things ey has said.
We opened this can of worms of critiquing each others' methods with the idea that we'd use it as a teaching moment for our readers. And studying logic is certainly useful. But going back and forth about how the other side is illogical maybe isn't. The main issue here, the dividing line question between MIM(Prisons) and the NABPP-PC is the labor aristocracy question. And we've given up debating that point with them unless they put forth an actual analysis of real world economics, and not dogmatism. So if you want to understand our line there, don't spend your time studying these articles, instead check out our resources on the labor aristocracy. Or, if you're looking for some lighter reading on the topic, MIM's white proletarian myths page is a good place to start.