By a commentator for Tjen Folket Media
One of the contributors of Tjen Folket Media has written two articles on people’s war where they, under the signature of Ard Kinera, have engaged in a polemic with José Maria Sison. The debate touches on one of the most central questions of the two-line struggle in the international communist movement and Kinera as such goes right into it.
On June 5, José Maria Sison published a text where he takes up the subject of people’s war in the “industrialized capitalist countries”. The text can be found on his own website:
The next day, Tjen Folket Media was able to publish an answer to Sison, signed by Ard Kinera. This answer can be found in English on Tjen Folket Media’s English pages:
Sison wrote a quick and brief answer to this, where he neither mentioned the criticism, nor addressed the author – or even any other Maoists – directly:
On July 26, Tjen Folket Media published an answer to this second text from Sison, and again the answer was signed by Ard Kinera:
In terms of page count and subjects, this is not some great polemic. However, the ideological contradiction is one of the most central within the international communist movement, and is a burning and decisive question for revolutionaries in all imperialist countries. It has to do with how to make revolution in these countries, and from a Maoist standpoint, it has to do with the only way to communism.
Furthermore, the articles are engaged in the two-line struggle in the international communist movement. They go directly into the question of uniting the communist world movement anew, and for the first time in a long time.
The first article by Ard Kinera has been translated to German and Spanish by Maoists in other countries. The second article has also been translated to Spanish. The English articles have also been published by Dem Volke dienen, New Epoch, and Struggle Sessions.
Who is Sison?
José Maria Sison led the reconstruction of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on December 26, 1968. The party immediately initiated a protracted people’s war in the Philippines. The people’s war continues to this day, with the goal of new democracy and socialism. All Maoists in the world hail the people’s war and the revolutionaries who have spilled their blood in this revolutionary struggle.
Today, Sison lives as a known political asylum seeker in the Netherlands, where he has lived since 1987. He has been the chairman of the international mass organization, ILPS, for many years, and in its Second Congress, which also marked the party’s 50th anniversary, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) passed a resolution that José Maria Sison’s texts and lifework have a special place in the party and awarded him their highest honors.
Criticism of Sison
Sison has earlier been publicly criticized by Maoists in Germany and Brazil. His line, as it was espoused under his leadership in the ILPS, is hereby identified as a rightist line.
Communist Party of Brazil (Red Fraction): On the incidents of the 1st of May in Berlin, internationalism and the two lines struggle for the unity of the International Communist Movement
Expressions of this rightist line can be seen when Sison, as the chairman of the ILPS, wrote an obituary for Fidel Castro, who is referred to as a great revolutionary who led Cuba towards socialism and communism. The international communist movement has for 50 years revealed Castro and the Cuban regime as revisionist. Cuba was a semi-colony under Soviet social imperialism. Cuba is a bureaucrat-capitalist country, not a socialist country.
Sison declares in an interview that it was unfortunate that revolutionary China under Mao’s leadership condemned the revisionists in Cuba. He says that the communists in the Philippines supported China against the Soviet Union, but that they did not go against the Cuban regime, which took party for the Soviets. And he says that he and the ILPS have a good relationship to the “Communist Party” of Cuba to this day.
This is just a single example. In an article on social imperialist China, Ragnar V. Røed has earlier criticized Sison’s statements on China, where imperialist China (and Russia) were portrayed as positive counterweights towards the US.
On People’s War in Imperialist Countries
The question of protracted people’s war is today a decisive question in the international communist movement. The leftist line is fighting to unite the movement again. This leftist line is especially expressed in the five meetings of Maoist Parties and Organizations in Latin America. Of these, the Communist Party of Brazil (Red Fraction) has distinguished itself as particularly advanced and leading.
These, and a number of other Maoists, among them Norwegian Maoists, declare that there will be held an international Maoist conference for reorganizing the international communist movement. They also declare that the movement must be united around two points in particular:
- That Maoism is the third and highest stage of Marxism, the proletariat’s only and true ideology.
- That people’s war is universally applicable as the proletariat’s only military strategy in all countries of the world.
This comes to expression in a number of statements from Maoist parties ad organizations, for instance in the statement on May 1 in 2018 and 2019, along with statements on the occasion of the imprisonment of Gonzalo in 2018 and the Day of Heroism, June 19, 2019. In connection to these, and other exceptionally important statements, we must also mention two other central documents:
Statement from the Fifth Meeting of Maoist Parties and Organizations in Latin America: Thesis on the international situation and the tasks of the International Communist Movement (2017)
Article from the Communist Party of Brazil (Red Fraction): Combat liquidationism and unite the ICM under Maoism and the People’s War About the C(M)PA critique of the Joint Declaration of 1 May 2018 (2019)
These are documents that comment on and are a part of the struggle for uniting the international communist movement through the two-line struggle. The two-line struggle is an expression for class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. It is a historical law of development that communist parties – and thereby also the international communist movement – must develop itself through two-line struggle. This is how the Communist Party of Peru has shown it in the Line of Construction of the Three Instruments of the Revolution:
The Party is a contradiction where the class struggle expresses itself as the two-line struggle between the right and the left.
It is the two-line struggle that propels the development of the Party, its just and correct handling requires that the left must impose itself.
The leftist line’s standpoint is that people’s war is a part of the synthesis of Maoism. This synthesis was consummated in the midst of and throughout the people’s war in Peru. It happened when Mao Zedong Thought was applied to the particular conditions in Peru by the Communist Party of Peru and Chairman Gonzalo. Right in the middle of the furnace of revolutionary struggle where Gonzalo Thought was forced, Maoism was confirmed, declared, and synthesized as the third and highest stage of our class’s ideology.
In 1988, the Communist Party of Peru declared that the most important part of Gonzalo Thought was this synthesis – the definition and summary of Maoism for the first time as a third and higher stage of the proletariat’s ideology: Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism. And in the document “On Marxism-Leninism-Maoism”, they write:
The People’s War is the military theory of the international proletariat; in it are summarized, for the first time in a systematic and complete form, the theoretical and practical experience of the struggles, military actions, and wars waged by the proletariat, and the prolonged experience of the people’s armed struggle and especially of the incessant wars in China. It is with Chairman Mao that the proletariat attains its military theory […] its principles, laws, strategy, tactics, rules, etc. masterfully established. It is, therefore, in this fabulous crucible and on what was established by Marxism-Leninism that Chairman Mao developed the military theory of the proletariat: The People’s War.
And further, they write:
A key and decisive question is the understanding of the universal validity of people’s war and its subsequent application taking into account the different types of revolution and the specific conditions of each revolution. To clarify this key issue it is important to consider that no insurrection like that of Petrograd, the anti-fascist resistance, or the European guerrilla movements in the Second World War have been repeated, as well as considering the armed struggles that are presently being waged in Europe. In the final analysis, the October Revolution was not only an insurrection but a revolutionary war that lasted for several years. Consequently, in the imperialist countries the revolution can only be conceived as a revolutionary war which today is simply people’s war.
Norwegian Maoists have joined this conclusion and united themselves to the leftist line in the international communist movement. This is the position that Ard Kinera defends in the polemic with Sison. In his articles, Sison claims that that which must be protracted in the imperialist countries is the principally legal accumulation of forces. He claims that it is impossible to develop the armed struggle in these countries before the revolution has great support from the proletariat and before the ruling class and capitalism is in a deep crisis.
In other words, Sison is against the line for people’s war in all countries. He does not recognize this as a part of Maoism, and not as a universal proletarian military strategy. This strategy builds on the dialectic law of development that the more complex develops out of the less complex, that the advanced develops out of the less advanced, and that all that is large was once small. Moreover, Mao maintains that one learns war by waging war, and that without a people’s army, the people have nothing. There can be no people’s war that is not protracted, as it is in the very nature of politicizing, mobilizing, and organizing the masses that it takes a long time, and that it must happen through and during the war itself, and not principally in a protracted legal precursor to it.
In its entirety, Sison’s position is a rightist position. He claims that he joins Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, but nowhere does it appear that he claims this is any different from Mao Zedong Thought as the CCP formulated it in its 9th Party Congress in 1969.
Instead, Sison in reality holds to the concept that the people’s war is the way to revolution in the third world only – only in semi-feudal and semi-colonial countries oppressed by imperialism. This is an old dogma. The people’s war has correctly enough shown that it is indefatigable in these countries. But “the other way” that applies for imperialist countries has never proven victorious. Sison joins this way, which can be summarized as follows:
- A protracted and principally legal accumulation of forces through political struggle, particularly in unions, popular organizations, and parliamentary work, all the way until the revolutionary movement has grown “strong enough” and has “broad support among the proletariat”, led by a communist party.
- A crisis in society, which follows not only from the activity of a strong revolutionary movement, but principally as a result of deep economic crisis, war (likely world war), and a revolutionary crisis in which, in accordance with Lenin’s criteria, the “rulers cannot rule in the old ways any longer and those that are ruled over do not allow themselves to be ruled in the old ways”, which make conditions “ripe for revolution”.
- An armed revolution led by the communist party, implemented when these two points have been satisfied. Only then begins the establishment of “double power” and typically only after successful uprisings in the urban centers that thereafter spread from there to the rest of the country.
In the communist movement, this is referred to as the “October Way” or the “Russian Way” and is typically brought up in contrast to the Chinese Way, with protracted people’s war. The Communist Party of Peru declared in 1988 that even the Russian Revolution in retrospect must be understood as a people’s war that developed itself through several stages and throughout two decades.
Sison attempts to give this model (accumulation-crisis-revolution) a Maoist “twist” by writing a bit about the preparations for the armed revolution. For instance, he recommends stockpiling weapons, which he claims is relatively easy in “industrialized capitalist countries” (!), and to establish proletarian shooting clubs. But at last, he rejects that a people’s war can be initiated and developed from a low, limited level, because it will be immediately crushed by “the enormous army” that exists in the imperialist countries.
Ard Kinera is hard on Sison’s standpoint in the articles and maintains, for instance, that people’s war is the only way to make proletarian revolution, that one must build a people’s army through people’s war, and rejects the claim that it is possible to build proletarian shooting clubs within the framework of the bourgeois legality in all the imperialist countries.
Ard Kinera maintains that Sison’s standpoint is not Maoist, but that it is identical to the “strategy” that is advocated by false “Marxists” and “Marxist-Leninists” in the imperialist countries, a “strategy” that, in summary, means dealing only with normal legal political work to build strength in the anticipation of “the great crisis”. This is the same model that Western revisionists have adapted for over a century, and which has never led to anything more than reformism.
The polemic between Sison and Kinera touches a decisive question for revolutionaries. It has to do with the core of the question of political power: namely in resolving the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie with revolutionary war: the only way to socialism and communism.
More on people’s war
Tjen Folket Media has published a number of texts that deal with this question. This list will be updated as English translations become available:
Why Maoism – What is Maoism? (2018)
When the Enemy Studies Mao (2018)
MLM for Red Power (2016)
The Revolution Will Not Come (2015)
Why Boycott the Election? (2017)