By Ard Kinera
The 5th of June (2019), founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, José Maria Sison, put forth a text on People’s War in what he define as industrialized capitalist countries. The day after we made public a response to this article, and Sison has replied on the 7th of June.
The reply is quite interesting. While the first text has to be read as a condemnation of the line of People’s War being universally applicable, his second text is kind of a retreat. It is even less clear than the first article on the the question of People’s War. While the question is raised to the level of the title, it is not clearly answered in the article itself. Not directly and beyond doubt that is. It is still impossible to read these texts as anything else than an attack on the universal applicability of Protracted People’s War, but the door is left with a tiny crack open.
We know the extreme flexibility of many opportunists. They are able to wiggle them self through the most narrow cracks, and thus they might pretend there is no contradiction between Sison’s statements and upholding the necessity of People’s War in the imperialist countries. As usual, they pretend ‘two merges into one’ and want nothing more than to run away from the two-line struggle.
Sison attacks the universality of Protracted People’s War
It is necessary to shut the door closed. If Sison does not do this himself, we have to do it for him. In his first text Sison wrote: “the term ‘people’s war’ may be flexibly used to mean the necessary armed revolution by the people to overthrow the bourgeois state” and “what ought to be protracted is the preparation for the armed revolution” and “the revolution cannot win unless the capitalist system has been so gravely stricken by crisis that the ruling class can no longer rule in the old way, the people are desirous of revolutionary change and the revolutionary party of the proletariat is strong enough to lead the revolution”. Even though we have made this more condense, the line put forth is quite clear.
Since Sison is not in the habit of summing up his thoughts, we are forced to do it for him; in his view, People’s War in the imperialist countries is nothing more than the armed revolution, and the war itself cannot be protracted, only the preparations for it. This is a position against the strategy of Protracted People’s War, but he does not clearly state it. If we misread, or as Sison claim, “put every part of his article out its clear context”, he can at any time state clearly his position on the PCP synthesis of Maoism and the understanding of People’s War being universally applicable. It is impossible to read his article as anything else than dismissive of this doctrine, but if it does not represent his real stance, he might correct this at any time.
We know this is not the first time he has dismissed the universality of People’s War, but who knows, he might have changed his opinion…
Dishonest methods of debate
In his short “Follow-up Note” dated 7th of June, Jose Maria Sison writes an “answer” to our text dated 6th of June. Again, Sison does not name anyone or answer anyone directly. Instead he writes:
“Waging protracted people’s war in any industrial capitalist country is not a matter of dogmatically asserting it or putting every part of my article out of its clear context.”
We would state that the question of people’s war, or any other key question in our ideology, neither should be a matter of passive aggressive statements that does not address or even directly quote the ones you call dogmatists. In and of itself it is of no greater importance that Sison answer our text directly, but in the name of intellectual and – more importantly – revolutionary honesty, in the name of Leninist clarity, he should at least briefly name the Communist Party of Peru, quote at least some of their documents, or refer to any one of the documents and statements put forth by other Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Parties and Organizations.
He does not, and it speaks volumes on the methods of Sison.
What is old and what is new?
“For many decades already, I have heard of the notion or threat to wage a protracted people’s war in imperialist countries but to this day I have not seen any Maoist party proclaiming and actually starting it in any imperialist country.” and “In fact, I am not aware of any Maoist party in an industrially developed capitalist country strong enough to lead any armed revolution with the participation of any sizable proletarian masses in the industrial and service sectors of the economy.(…)”
This could be a weighty argument, if it was not for the fact, that neither can he show us any Maoist party not adhering to the strategy of People’s War, and being of such quantity and quality. Even if we expand the period to a hundred years, there is no example of a Communist Party leading armed revolution in the imperialist countries and not adhering to People’s War strategy. The only such struggles, led by Communist Parties, have taken the form of national liberation war, in essence People’s War.
Sison is tired of the “talk” and “notion” of waging People’s War, since he has heard of it in decades (we dare say since the Communist Party of Peru established this as a Maoist prinicple in 1980, as the first only Maoist Party in the World). But he seems to be one of those that are never tired of the protracted legal accumulation of forces, in wait and want of the cataclysm of economical, political and militarily crisis of capitalism, making relations “ripe for revolution”.
The strategy of protracted legal accumulation to the brink of crisis and revolution, is an old strategy. It has been, and still is, the totally dominating strategy of “the Left” in Europe. Of all trotskyite, hoxhaite and brechnevite deviating parties and organizations in Europe. Even of all, or almost all, that adhere to “Mao Zedong Thought”, and of the seemingly endless flora and variations of so called revolutionaries.
The Maoist principle that upholds Protracted People’s War, that lifts the asymmetric warfare of the Proletariat and all oppressed masses up from the tactical level to the strategic, that establish in theory the universality of People’s War in each and every country of the World, is only established with the summation and synthesis of Maoism done by Chairman Gonzalo and the Communist Party of Peru. It was only part of doctrine since 1980, and especially since the General Political Line of the Communist Party of Peru was established in 1988. It is thus quite new. And by then it was only one single Party in the World, adhering to this line.
Sison is already tired of this “notion”, but it is not a baseless speculation to make, that for him the synthesis established by the PCP was tiresome from the beginning. We make the assumption, and Sison is free to correct us if this assumption is wrong, that he never viewed the universality of Protracted People’s War as correct or applicable, even when this was new to him. The years passing is not the most important, but the content. And it seems clear that the one that reject the new and cling to the old, is Sison himself.
Sison is painting a picture of People’s War strategy being something old in the imperialist countries, but we know it is not so. Upholding this strategy, and making it part of the general line for revolution, is very new in the imperialist countries. Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) sanctioned it in its statement of 1993, but not wholeheartedly. The revisionist Avakian never adhered to it in a real way, or with the same understanding as the PCP. It is true that the PCP fought for this line since they first adopted it, but it is falsehood to portrait it as something old in the revolutionary movement of the west.
The new is born fragile
Amongst the RIM-parties and the marxist-leninists supporting the People’s Wars, and in the PCP it self, it was several contending lines in the 1990s, and not a clear dominance of Maoism proper. When real Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, principally Maoist, Organizations and Parties are now emerging in the imperialist countries, it is with the characteristics of something new being born. In its youthfulness, it has all the features of the new. It is small, it does not have a long track record, it does not have all the quantitative mass that is the only thing that impress the opportunist – but it has something much more important; it is developing, it is growing, it has the future in a head of it, while revisionism is old, rotten and only ripe for the dust bin.
When we speak of Maoism, and the strategy of People’s War, in the imperialist countries, we must bear in mind the words of Chairman Gonzalo when he speaks of the New Power in the Line of construction of the PCP:
“Comrades, it will be born fragile, weak because it will be new, but its destiny is to develop itself through change, through variation, through fragility, like a tender sapling.”
Sison paints his picture of reality upside down, and confuses the tender light of dawn with the shades of dusk. He might have been seated in the first row, listening to the first tuning of instruments, and now he thinks the show is over, before the orchestra has even begun to perform the prelude.
On the political preparation of People’s War
“There is no protracted people’s war of any kind going on in any industrial capitalist country. (…) No serious preparations for it are being made. (…) It will take at least some years to prepare and to realize the start of such armed revolution of the people.”
We cannot really address the statement of no preparations being made. This might be true. It might not. But Sisons statement clearly shows that if anyone where to make such preparations, they should never tell Sison, since he feels obliged to inform the whole world of any such preparations and the seriousness of them. The other two statements we agree on, at least for the most part. No Maoist Communist Party is leading a Protracted People’s War in the imperialist countries today, and such People’s War would have to be prepared for “at least some years”.
On the content of such preparations of war, the author of this text would refer to the preparations made by the Communist Party of Peru which in short form is presented in the Military Line of the party. We would again refer to the excellent article from the editorial board of the German magazine Klassenstandpunkt, People’s War – The sole path to liberation. We also could refer to some of Lenins texts, amongst them the article Guerilla Warfare where he writes:
“In a period of civil war the ideal party of the proletariat is a fighting party. This is absolutely incontrovertible.” and “Every military action in any war to a certain extent disorganises the ranks of the fighters. But this does not mean that one must not fight. It means that one must learn to fight. That is all.”
This article of Lenin has clear limitations. The Ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism has moved on since 1906. But we emphasize on the point of one must learn to fight. And on the quotation of Mao Zedong stating that one must learn war by waging war.
The Communist Party of Brazil (Red Faction) has written a new article on the militarization of the Communist Parties, and this article has been translated and publiciced in Dem Volke dienen. They have also made public other important articles on the topic.
We know these articles and excerpts are not sufficient, but it is a beginning, and there is much more to be read and said on the question, and more importantly; there is more to be done. The whole of the General Political Line of the PCP, and the complete body of work of Chairman Gonzalo, should be studied by revolutionaries today. It is stated that the strategy of People’s War is established mainly by Mao Zedong, and his works must be studied. And, as the PCP has stated, the experiences of armed struggle in Europe should be studied, analyzed and synthesized. We would especially amongst these emphasize the protracted war of independence fought in Ireland. This war in its modern form has been waged without stop for over one hundred years, with its ups and downs, with its flow and ebb, with its victories and defeats, but never stopping. The traitors in the Sinn Fein-leadership tried once again to liquidate it in the 1990ths, but still the war is continuing! In a industrialized, advanced, capitalist country, subjugated by one of the most powerful imperialists in the world.
We uphold that the universality of People’s War was established in the People’s War of Peru, and that the question in the imperialist countries is not to establish the doctrine, but to apply it creatively on the specific conditions in the specific countries. The theory cannot make any more significant leaps solely in the realm of theoretical science, but it must do so in the midst of People’s War.
It is a very common way of debating, a method we have often encountered, to demand every minor question, even the most remote and hypothetical, to be answered before one can act on the information we already got. Have we not met a seemingly endless thread of questions on how every aspect of life will be organized in the future communist society? As if the bourgeoisie had every such question of capitalism sorted out, before they led the charge on the Bastille! Sison has similar demands, and also he distort the whole problematic. It is posed like there is something completely different to wage war in imperialist countries than in the oppressed countries. Like war have no universal laws, and like a gun works in a different way in Europe than in Asia.
Ofcourse one has to put emphasis on to the specific conditions of specific countries. There is qualitative differences between a country like England and the country of the Philippines. Sison might actually also have pointed to some of these, as they are obvious.
On the practical preparations of People’s War
“A people’s war of whatever duration and scale is possible in the industrial capitalist country country only after a period of preparations of ideological work, political education and mass work, party and mass organizing, clandestine accumulation of arms, politico-military training and Bolshevik style penetration of the reactionary armed forces. Such preparations or suggestions thereof should not be disdained or begrudged.”
We would claim that none has disdained or begrudged preparations of this character, at least not us ourselves. Though we do not blindly accept the “clandestine accumulation of arms” suggested by Sison. The People’s War of Peru, and the People’s Wars in other countries, have not been preceded by such, and neither by the “penetration of the reactionary armed forces”. The seizure of weapons have mainly been part of the People’s War in its initiation and development, and not its preparation.
The same is to be said by the penetration of the armed forces. But one must also emphasize on the concrete situation of the Russian armed forces during the First World War being completely different from the imperialist armies of Europe and Northern America today, and thus the military line of penetration cannot be applied in a “bolshevik style”, at least not without a great deal of adjustment to the concrete conditions.
And in this question one must apply the doctrine of the PCP when they state the generated organisms as being principal and the penetration of other organizations as being secondary. The penetration of the reactionary armed forces is secondary to generating the People’s Army under the sole leadership of the Militarized Communist Party.
The importance of combating confusion and understanding war as “politics with bloodshed”
The question of preparations before the People’s War, and the first stage of it, are easily confused, with or without ill will. If one denies, or just do not take into account, the protractedness of the People’s War, one can “postpone” it to the distant future where all objective conditions are “ripe”. If one does not understand the bloodshed of war, if one is not clear on the military aspect, one might negate the war for protracted preparations without any real prospect of waging war. One might even, as we have experienced in Norway, and maybe also Italy, develop a right opportunist line that portrait the protracted preparations as part of the People’s War itself. It is similar to experiences in several European countries, where adherents to Mao Zedong thought or even Maoism, have dressed the political activities in the vocabulary of war. In itself not an error, but it becomes an enormous error if this negates the bloodshed and confuses the very concept of war with just simply politics.
Parts of guerilla warfare might be applied in all realms of politics. We might find similarities to this, when Sun Zus eternal work “Art of War” is re-written and adopted for the use of stock brokers and business people. This is also true for the Proletarian Military Strategy. Many of the laws and concepts of this might be applied in political strategy as well. But we must emphasize the thesis of Clausewitz that war is the continuation of politics by other means, and the truth of Mao Zedong that politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed. The political work, part of preparing for People’s War, is not war, it is simply politics.
The strategy of universality of People’s War is not a question of simply changing the definitions and words while one continue the old practice of protracted legal accumulation of forces. The question of People’s War is a matter of accepting that in all countries, the revolution will take the form of Protracted People’s War, developed from its limited, undeveloped and unadvanced beginning, but still developed as warfare proper, and not simply as the endless “preparation” trough legal political work, primarily, as we have seen in practice, through elections, trade unions and NGO-work.
In the preparations for People’s War, everything must be for the People’s War. We know the practice of Parties and Organizations with the same position as Sison. We know that the talk of armed revolution is mere talk. We know they do not even study military theory. We know they only play lip service to revolution. We know this to be true, even though many of them have no ill will, no sinister agenda, they are only “trapped” in the ideological framework of revisionism and especially dogmato-revisionism. They might talk the talk, but they do not walk the walk. Sison take the part of a crass judge, when he make the claim “notions” have been upheld for decades without even any serious preparations, but what really deserves a crass judgement is the track record of the acumulationists. They do not adhere to Maoism as it was defined for the very first time, they do not have a real answer for how to make revolution, they can only fall back to the century old practice of protracted legal struggle in the confines of parliamentarism and trade unionism.
Also, no war of the masses can be fought without propaganda, or without ideological and political schooling. The question of line is the most important, and secondly the question of a solid organization to bring the line into practical life, and key in this the question of cadres. The question of propaganda is essential to create popular opinion and also bring more people into the organizations, but this cannot only be propaganda against imperialism and capitalism, it must also be propaganda for the People’s War. This cannot be done if the question is confused by the revolutionaries themselves by constantly leaving the door half-open for every imagined possibility or allways postponing the question of war, that is revolution.
Sison advocates right opportunist stagism counter to the Communist Manifesto
“It is only a “Left” opportunist, a fake Maoist or even an agent provocateur who has disdain for the lasting admonition of the Communist Manifesto to win the battle for democracy against the bourgeois class dictatorship and who clamors for proclaiming and starting a people’s war in an industrial capitalist country without the necessary preparations of the subjective forces and the favorable objective conditions that I have mentioned.”
One might say “the cat is out of the bag”. Sison double down and smear others with “fake Maoist” and even “agent provocateur”, without any basis for such claim. Again, his wording is sinister. He speaks of “misrepresentation” in his first paragraph, but clearly everyone that has read our former article has seen no claim that People’s War should start “without the necessary preparations”(!). His claims of others disdain for the Communist Manifesto is also completely sinister.
Sison wrote in his first text:
“Even if the material foundation for socialism exists in capitalism, the proletariat must first defeat fascism, thus winning the battle for democracy, before socialism can triumph.”
In the context, this can only be read as Sison advocating a form of stageism. The thesis being, and we know it very well from many right opportunist but also many a honest revolutionary, that in order to prevent revolution the bourgeoisie will apply fascism and then the first stage of struggle become the democratic struggle against fascism, winning this, before entering the stage of socialist revolution. But this has nothing to to with the Communist Manifesto, where Marx and Engels writes:
“We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.”
Marx and Engels thus claims the necessity of establishing the proletarian dictatorship as precondition to win the “battle of democracy”. To raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class is to establish socialism, and thus this is winning the battle of democracy. Penetrating further into this question, it is revealed how Sision has fallen into stagism of a non-Marxist type. It is similar to the anti-monopoly coalition strategy proposed by the Moscow revisionists and their satellites in Europe. This strategy is simply summarized as the first stage being the coalition against monopoly capital and wrestling the power from their hands(!), and then in the second stage waging socialist revolution against capitalism. This is the programmatic line of the revisionist “Communist Party” of Norway, and it is not so different in essence from the Sison line of firstly winning the battle of democracy (by defeating fascism) and then secondly “socialism can triumph”.
Our position is that fascism can only be defeated in the midst of People’s War, and winning the battle of democracy and thus winning the battle of state power, can only be done by and through the socialist revolution, that is the People’s War, and not in some pre-stage to this.
More on the necessity of Militarized Maoist Communist Parties and Protracted People’s War
We agree, and every revolutionary would, that People’s War must be prepared by ideological, political and organizational work and politico-military training. Just as we agree that revolutionaries must apply both the open and legal as well as the clandestine and non-legal forms of struggle and methods of developing the revolutionary struggle. But guided by Maoism, we adhere to the doctrine of revolutionary war being the highest form of class struggle and the sole way of taking power. This must demand the full attention of the communists to the military question, to preparing and developing People’s War. It cannot be treated, like every right opportunist in reality does, as the last point on the agenda, the last thought added as if it was almost forgotten.
Further, it demands a Communist Party organized for the sole purpose of waging People’s War. It is impossible for a Party organized in total legality, to develop any clandestine and non-legal forms of struggle. To propose for such a legalist organization to take up non-legal forms of struggle, is in reality the work of an agent provocateur. Sison is spewing such words against the Maoists, but with his policy of not naming names nor referring to documents, he can talk about “the pitfalls of “Left” and Right opportunist, the fake Maoist or the Agent”, with the slippery style of not accusing anyone and having to prove anything. It is again a form of intellectual dishonesty which exposes Sison himself more than any other.
To be clear, to be Maoist is to adhere to the universality of Protracted People’s War. It means to defend and apply this strategy, principally applying it. To apply People’s War one must apply the universally applicable contributions of Chairman Gonzalo, especially the concept of the Militarized Communist Party and the concentric construction of the Party, the Army and the Front-New State. The Communist Party is core and centre, it is the highest form of Proletarian class organization, and it has to be militarized to be able to lead a People’s War.
The Communist Party of Peru writes in its Military Line:
“The third moment (1980 to the present). The Party begins to lead the People’s War. Its military line is formed with the “Application and development of the Road.” This third moment has four milestones: 1) Definition; 2) Preparation; 3) Initiation; and 4) Development of the guerrilla war.”
The same is universal for every People’s War. It must firstly be defined, then prepared, then initiated, then developed. To clearly define it, one must wage two-line struggle against all old opportunism. As the PCP refers to Engel’s thesis in the Mass Line of the Party:
“In a country with such an old political and workers’ movement, there is always a colossal heap of garbage inherited by tradition that must be cleaned step by step.”
The theory of protracted legal accumulation is part of this colossal heap of garbage. It has to be swept away by the broom of Maoism. As all old traditions, it will reappear in new forms, even take the form of “Maoism”. This has been a characteristic of the development of the proletarian ideology every step of the way. Revisionism was rebranded as Marxism, and has later been rebranded as Marxism-Leninism. And today it is rebranded as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Why should it be any different today?
It should not, it could not, it has to be this way. So this is nothing to be afraid or surprised of. We are in favor of active ideological struggle, we fear it not, as we do not fear revisionism. Even when it is attempted to smuggle it into the movement, or when comrades blindly introduce it because they have not understood its revisionist content and are mesmerized by its shiny and polished surface.
Finally, none amongst the newest and youngest Maoist organizations should be arrogant in this matter, for have we not been struggling with such questions ourselves? The communist attitude is fearless in the two-line struggle, but at the same time humble. Reaching new highs, one must be careful not to, as we say, “pull the latter up after us”. We must not condemn or behave arrogantly against comrades or friends or masses, who are now where we was a short time ago while we believe we have moved further.
As the Communist Party of Brazil (Red Fraction) has quoted from Chairman Mao – we must have two hands when we deal with these questions. On the one hand we struggle against the incorrect lines, on the other hand, we wish all honest revolutionaries to join us if they do away with former mistakes.
Insight needs to be conquered, unity must be conquered, for the newborn, every breath and heartbeat is fought for. Life is struggle, and so the struggling movement is living, vibrantly, and the movement that shys away from struggle to promote unprincipled unity is dying and decaying.
Forward to the unification of the International Communist Movement under Maoism and People’s War!
Define, prepare, initiate and develop People’s War in each and every country!
People’s War until Communism!