Protracted people's war, Maoism,
Majdur Travail's open letter to Communist Voice,
and a reply


Frank to Majdur Travail: On the question of protracted people's war--

Majdur Travail's open letter in reply: Refuting general crisis theory

Frank's reply to the open letter: The fight against revisionism and opportunism also takes courage

By way of introduction

. The last two issues of Communist Voice carried correspondence between Majdur Travail and, for the Communist Voice Organization, Joseph Green and Frank, concerning the cause of the Maoist RCP's opportunist zigzags. Majdur Travail sees it in RCP's betrayal of Maoism and protracted people's war, while the CVO sees it in the RCP's adherence to Maoism. See

* Majdur Travail: What's wrong with the RCP,USA
* Reply by Joseph Green: the RCP, Maoism, and the Three Worlds Theory,
(Communist Voice, Issue #25, vol. 6, #3, Nov. 27, 2000)


On the history of Maoist opportunism:
* Introduction
* Frank, CVO: The RCP, the theoretical struggle, and the working class
* Majdur Travail: On the discussion in the left
(Communist Voice, issue #26, vol. 7, #1, May 1, 2001)

. This part of the correspondence, which continued until the latter part of December 2000, was friendly. But when Frank went on to give a serious discussion of the issue of protracted people's war with respect to communist work in the U.S., Majdur became abusive. Frank traced how the discussion about protracted people's war came up in the Maoist circles of the early 70s and also showed how the concept of protracted people's war couldn't orient communist work in the U.S. Majdur didn't reply either to the historical account, nor to the specific problems with the plan of applying protracted people's war to the situation in the US, but instead claimed that to raise these issues was to come "very near insulting" Chairman Gonzolo of the CP of Peru ("Shining Path"). He issued his reply to Frank as an open letter to the Communist Voice, and immediately posted it on his web site. However, as of the time this introduction is being written, he did not post either Frank's letter which he denounced, nor Frank's reply to the open letter. Frank, in replying in Majdur, pointed to his evasion of the issues of content in this discussion, and to his misrepresentation of Frank's views. Frank's reply ended by opposing Majdur's sloganeering, saying that

. "My letter to you on PPW [protracted people's war] was entirely friendly and honest. I had hoped it would provoke some thoughtful discussion and reading. But your hostile response is shameful. So I put this to you: the armed struggle against the bourgeoisie, whatever its form, takes courage. But the fight against revisionism and opportunism also takes courage. And to be a proletarian revolutionary one has to take this up. The test of courage for you though is whether you have the courage to face up to yourself and take responsibility for your actions. Do you have the courage to go over and over this letter and honestly answer the many questions in it, or will you run away from it? Do you have the courage to honestly think."

. We are now posting all three of these documents here on the CV web site, both for their interest with regard to the issue of protracted people's war and as a reply to the open letter. A number of typos, misspellings and such have been corrected in the documents as reproduced below. I have also added a title to Frank's reply to Majdur. And note that Majdur's web site is no longer at the ULL given in the Nov., 2000 issue of Communist Voice. Instead it can now be found at or at the mirror site

--Joseph Green


On the question of protracted people's war--
letter from Frank to Majdur Travail, Dec., 2000


Dear Majdur,

On the question of protracted people's war--

. I said I would write you something on this subject but have found it difficult to do so in a way that doesn't take us far afield from the burning question of what is revolutionary work in the mass movements of today. In my view that's in great part do to the nature of the subject itself. It's also due to the fact that I haven't studied what trends like the Communist Party of Peru are actually saying in the struggles of the working class, the mass demonstrations, etc. Thus I've tried to limit myself to drawing a few conclusions from my own experiences in the revolutionary movement here, plus arguing some conclusions I've reached based on study of the protracted people's war in China. I hope you find something useful in my effort


. In our movement, believe it or not, the first and only split in the R.U. was fought out over the question of protracted people's war in the United States. This was around 1972 and I think the documents of the two sides were the content of Red Papers 4. I don't have it so what I say from memory may not be entirely accurate. Nevertheless that ancient struggle might have some relevance to our discussion today.

. In the R.U. the Franklins, Jeff Freed, and some others argued that protracted people's war was the strategy for the American revolution. Since the peasantry was almost nonexistent in this country, and the rural population relatively small, I think they transposed PPW to the cities and romanticized urban guerrilla actions. This tendency in the R.U. went on to form the short-lived Venceremos organization which suffered fiasco when it tried to some extent to implement its strategy.

. In those years many thousands of people had reached the conclusion that revolution was necessary, and that revolution could only come through defending themselves from and defeating the hated armed forces of the state. Many of them had "got guns" for purposes of self-defense, defense of the organizations they belonged to, or in preparation for uncertain eventualities in the class struggle. But even these people did not rally to the "Marxist" Venceremos; nor to the non-Marxist Black Liberation Army or similar groups. One might draw a number of conclusions from this. Among them: (1) had the Venceremos leadership been truly Marxist it would have succeeded, (2) it was on the correct path but made this or that organizational or technical mistake, (3) the masses weren't yet ready for what really is the only path forward.

. If one takes the last position then they're opposing those proponents of people's war who basically say such a war can be started at any time. All that is needed is some courageous and wise people to come along and organize it. But what to do (if anything) to ready the masses if they don't rally to you based on your initial proclamations and actions? One might answer "do more political organizing!", but Venceremos's answer was just to give up political work. In retrospect this doesn't seem that surprising. Leaving their wrong ideas aside for now, the R.U. leadership did come out of S.D.S. with a number of correct criticisms of the sectarianism of the Progressive Labor Party and the anti-working-class viewpoint of the Weathermen. It also had correct things to say against the pro-Soviet revisionists and liberals. It placed itself on the side of defending Marxism-Leninism and organizing a proletarian revolution in the U.S. The problem is that to organize for a proletarian revolution for any protracted period requires a firm belief that the proletariat is revolutionary. The R.U. leaders weren't firm in this regard. The "new left" they had risen from was rife with ideas to the effect that the American workers, at least the white workers (and often the working-class was seen as only comprising white male workers), were all bribed, bought-off and reactionary. The ordinary workers were wrongly identified with the aristocracy of labor (particularly the ultra-chauvinist union bureaucrats of that time). So when the difficulties of actually organizing a communist trend among the workers were posed by the trajectory of the R.U.'s politics there's a certain logic to the idea that some of its leaders might go back to the old S.D.S. ideas (which had never been thoroughly defeated to begin with). I think this is what happened with Bruce Franklin and Venceremos.

. From everything I've heard Bruce was a man with a lot of moral outrage at the crimes of U.S. imperialism in Indochina and against the black people in the U.S. He was very active in speaking out and organizing. He raised the Red Book and the gun on California college campuses and seems to have had a good deal of respect both within the R.U. and outside of it. But when he got into his fight with Avakian the mass movements had already been in decline for one or two or three years while the R.U.'s (then) really rightist and tailist work in the proletariat was only beginning. From his viewpoint this work (especially with the ideas being followed!--Fk) wasn't going to give rise to anything significant in the foreseeable future but the Vietnamese people continued to be slaughtered in their tens of thousands right now, the black people continued to be discriminated against and violently repressed right now. What to do? I think the Franklinites were overcome by feelings of desperation and answered: organize a protracted people's war. Behind this stood a politics (later revealed in the Venceremos newspaper) indicating a return to the S.D.S.'s wrong ideas regarding the American working-class.(1)

. But although Venceremos went back to sharing some of the same views as, for example, the despised Weathermen, it didn't promote the same anarcho-terrorist politics. I believe it still said a proletarian revolution was necessary in the U.S. and that a Marxist-Leninist party was needed to lead it. It was a different trend with its own particular evolution. That evolution may have been in part a rebellion against the economism of the R.U.

. In those days the R.U. didn't have a national newspaper and internal bulletins were a rare thing. It was being built up around local newspapers with names like Stand Up!, People Get Ready!, The Western Front, etc. These papers often didn't even deal with the major practical economic struggles in an area. Instead they centered on whatever was happening in a particular workplace R.U. cadres had gotten jobs in. The major national and international issues confronting the working class were rarely addressed or, if addressed, in a way which treated the readers as very ignorant children. (Naturally, all of this cannot be blamed on the cadres in the local area. The appointed editor of the paper in this area, for example, was only 17 or 18 years old and originated from another city and a non-proletarian family. She was being "led"--that is, misled--by an older and "wiser" individual who couldn't politically overcome the eclecticism of R.U. politics. He instead fell to defending them with emotional appeals.) This was a very demoralizing situation for many of the R.U. members who had come out of various sharp struggles against the war in Vietnam, against the war against the black people at home, struggles of the farmworkers to get organized, etc., with a thirst for revolutionary theory. And, speaking for myself, one wanted to rebel against it. Thus although I disagreed with the protracted people's war orientation and the ideological framework from which it evolved, I actually found the eventual Venceremos newspaper refreshing in that it spoke to issues like the war in Vietnam in a way that wasn't insulting. It also dealt with local struggles (mainly around "community" issues, I believe) in a similar style. (If I remember right, it did overestimate the significance of these local struggles however. I don't remember at all what it advocated in terms of tactics to be pursued in them.)

. At any rate, if the rising of the Venceremos tendency was in part a rebellion against the economism of the R.U., it went in a wrong direction. Rather than fighting to put working-class organizing on a revolutionary-Marxist foundation (whether from inside or outside the R.U.) it just abandoned the fight under the grand slogan of organizing a protracted people's war.

. Bob Avakian attacked the views of the Franklinites in a 52-page document advocating an orientation toward developing a proletarian armed insurrection in the future. He easily won the day. I don't know what the Franklins themselves said in response, but their main supporter in the Northwest relied on "arguments" like "so-and-so of the Black Panther Party said such-and-such" to support protracted people's war. In other words we were just supposed to accept that whatever someone in the Black Panther Party said went. This was slimy opportunism. The individual involved knew very well that members of the Black Panther Party said all kinds of conflicting things regarding armed struggle. He just picked out what he liked and banked on the prestige this organization had gained because of its heroic defense efforts. Ordinary mortals like us didn't dare to consider the issues involved and arrive at our own conclusions.

. A couple of other weaker supporters of PPW (former Weathermen who were already very passive) liked to point out that they'd learned on a trip to the Bay Area that the Avakian supporters (and maybe Avakian himself) didn't even keep guns in their houses! Terrible! This just proved that the whole issue was that the Avakianites weren't serious about revolution! Needless to say, this was hardly withering fire. And it just jumped over the really decisive issue of fighting to put the mass work of the R.U. (and of the whole movement) on a revolutionary footing.

. Avakian's document contained a lot of theorizing on how he thought an armed insurrection would develop in the United States. I don't remember the particulars. No doubt he connected insurrection to the development of a crisis giving rise to a situation where the bourgeoisie could no longer rule in the same old way and the masses refused to live in the same old way. But that in itself is not wrong. The issue is what should communists do to prepare the masses (and their party) for the inevitable armed onslaught to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie. Or, put another way, is their work today oriented toward raising a political army of the proletariat and other oppressed people capable of forming the backbone of the struggle for state power? The Franklinites ran away from the tasks involved in this. And, as I tried to show in my earlier letter, by refusing to fight opportunism on the living political issues of today Avakian and the RCP do too.

. My experience with debates over military strategies for the armed overthrow of the bourgeoisie is that they tend to be very sterile and come to little good. In the conditions which the debate took place in the R.U. there was a broader interest in what was being debated than would be the case today, but even then I think most of those interested sensed (or believed) that we had more pressing and vital issues to be dealing with. I think this was true then, and that it remains true. Further, I don't think we'll win the war with opportunism by trying to prove that trend X represents peaceful-roaders, trend Y represents petty-bourgeois terrorists, trend Z says it's for armed struggle but it's really not, etc., even though these things may be very true. The struggle with opportunism is a lot more complex (and more life-sustaining). With that introduction I would say that to me the Maoist protracted people's war orientation doesn't make any sense for the industrialized countries. (I don't think Mao ever proposed it for such countries, but it still has to be weighed on its own merits and not on whether Mao said or didn't say it applied to such countries.) Perhaps one could substitute the urban petty-bourgeoisie for the peasantry, but this could only be done partially since the weight of the urban petty-bourgeoisie in today's industrialized countries is quite small in comparison to the weight of the peasantry in Chinese society (of either the 1930s or the early 2000s). But even if one did this, setting up "red base areas" would only make the slightest sense if it were applied to the concentrations of proletarians around the big industrial centers, not the petty-bourgeoisie. And the slightest sense only under special circumstances, not as part of a dogmatic schema. For example, we can speculate about possibilities on how an insurrection might develop into a war with the bourgeoisie which became very protracted. Sections of the country (or continent) might be in the hands of the bourgeoisie and other sections in the hands of the proletariat. Thus proletarian "base areas" might exist, but they would be very different than Mao's. Feeding the people and mobilizing them for the war would be the paramount questions. The proletarian leaders would have to press forward with military operations or suffer dire consequences. They would have to consider the international experience of the proletarian movement in armed struggle in devising their plans. And one would think that Mao's military writings would be of some value. But the experience already gained in the actual war itself couldn't get lost in dogmatically trying to apply experiences from other times and other places summed up to the level of theory.

. One could speculate about many other possibilities. Yet our concern today has to be preparatory work: what we do to advance the practical-economic, political, and theoretical struggles of our class. Advancement of the struggles on these fronts is necessary if we're to be in a position to do much when bigger and bigger crises of the capitalist order begin to break out (whether kicked off by environmental crises, wars, or other crises). Advancement of the struggles on these fronts will hasten the predicament of the ruling class, but only hasten it. The breaking out of deep crises in the capitalist order is often caused by factors we have no control over, factors operating independent of our will. Of course one brand of opportunism says "wait for the great days" (the crisis) to keep its trend together to practice non-proletarian-revolutionary activity today. Yet in my view it's also opportunist to try to keep a trend together by promising that just persistence in work will eventually cause such a crisis that the masses of people in their millions will go into the streets to topple capitalism (or a reactionary regime). I think some of the proponents of PPW do this. I also think it's wrong. It overplays the role of the subjective factor (will) and downplays the objective factors. It's somewhat of a self-satisfied formula which acts against really dealing with the actually changing world: hence a formula for not being very political. It also sets activists up for becoming disillusioned when years of persistent work in a period between crises seem to give rise to very little.

. Some of the proponents of PPW more or less openly give the latter voluntarist view. According to them, since this is the era of imperialism and the proletarian revolution all one has to do is begin a people's war and it will through twists and turns eventually succeed. All one has to do is persist, learn warfare through warfare, etc., and victory is assured. But I don't think a study of the successful protracted people's wars of the past century (and there were also many unsuccessful ones), as in China or Eritrea, shows that objective factors (like crises) can be downplayed. The very opposite.

. Take China. The activists who founded the Communist Party of China themselves came out of a mass movement brought into being by a huge political crisis: The bourgeoisie had been strong enough to topple the feudal dynasty but couldn't unite to rule the country. The liberal bourgeoisie of the more industrially developed south and revolutionary democrats (representing the peasantry) organized several governments and many army expeditions to push the democratic revolution forward and unite the country. But a conservative alliance of government officials, landlords and the bourgeoisie of northern China (the more backward part of the country) formed its own government and fought to wipe out the republicans. Warlords often carried the struggle for both sides, with those representing the conservative alliance making pacts with one or another of several imperialist powers who were intervening in China to expand their semi-colonial spheres. This was no ordinary crisis. Millions of people were forced into motion by it. And the civil war brought with it all the "spin-off" crises such a war can bring (mass hunger, dislocation, etc.) Further, issues like the republicans needing mass support and the wide hatred of imperialist exploitation converged to turn what might have been a very small crisis and ultimately defeated strike of Hong Kong seamen into a 6-month-long general strike which affected ports all around the Pacific Rim and ended in a tremendous victory.

. I could go on and on in this vein but the point has already been made: the deep political crisis of the Chinese bourgeoisie from 1911 through 1926-27 brought millions of people into motion. This allowed the Communist Party of China to make tremendous advances in organizing the masses. It rapidly grew in numbers and influence, and forged an alliance with the revolutionary democrats. But in 1926-27 the Chinese bourgeoisie in good part overcame this crisis by uniting around Chiang Kai-shek. The left was repressed and slaughtered, and a period of hard times for the CPC was ushered in. Even with the most correct of political lines the CPC would have still been in for a period of hard times brought on by the new objective conditions. Mao Tse-tung recognized these conditions. He said there would be "soon be a high tide of revolution" but had to back up and explain that no one could say how soon (which was very true). He opposed breaking up into guerrilla bands but things had gotten so bad that holding onto red political power in the southern base areas was no longer possible. Thus he, Chu The, et. al, opted for the retreat to northern China (the Long March).

. Not long after the heroic Long March, Mao spoke of it as a manifesto, propaganda force and seeding-machine. It was all these things and more. But how far these effects would have gone if the relatively stable situation in the enemy camp continued for a few more years is speculative. The Red political power in the south had been defeated and that could have happened to Yenan too. As it was, a major new crisis arose which propelled the masses into motion and caused the bourgeoisie to adopt new courses. This was Japanese imperialism's invasion of China. The CPC vastly expanded its prestige, the liberated areas under its control, and the Red Army during the eleven-year war of resistance. Yet Chiang Kai-shek's government still ruled most of the country and had such powerful backers as U.S. imperialism. In 1945 the liberation of the entire country was still not possible, and when it did become possible this was not just because the Maoists persisted in their military and political work. New economic and political crises arose which propelled people into motion and into struggle against the government: (1) the bourgeoisie inflated the currency to deal with its financial problems and the masses suffered as a result, (2) to keep in good standing with his imperialist patrons Chiang had to release various Japanese war criminals which had been caught. These acts resulted in unprecedented open mass struggles in the still-dominant White areas. Chiang tried to wipe out the new movements but couldn't. The CPC supported them and thereby gained more support.

. As we know, in China the strategy of protracted people's war under "Marxist-Leninist" leadership resulted in a tremendous victory for the masses. In Eritrea the same strategy applied by leaders who didn't claim to be Marxist-Leninists (and weren't) resulted in another great victory. In both cases the leaders applied this strategy to democratic liberation wars which had begun some years earlier, and the main force they organized was the peasantry. And in looking at what the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front did in the liberated areas during the struggle, one finds that it was quite similar to what the CPC did: organize the masses against the more backward feudal economic and social relations, carry out land reform, organize the masses into self-help associations to deal with health-care and education, etc. The content of the activity was very similar although the phrases associated with its conduct differed. (But in the practical work among the people this difference may not have been that great. The EPLF said it was leading a revolution and implied that this revolution was only the first stage of a greater revolution. It associated itself with "socialism", by which it meant state capitalism, etc.)

. In Eritrea, once liberation was achieved a number of reforms of benefit to the people were made, but the implication that these were stepping-stones to a socialist revolution was dropped. More, the slogan of "unity of the people" was used to oppose independent organization and struggle of the working-class: the most fundamental step in achieving socialism. But what about China? Here we had a party in power which said it was Marxist-Leninist and which enjoyed great popular support. According to Marxism-Leninism the completion of a bourgeois-democratic revolution sets the stage for new and even fiercer struggle, now directly between the proletariat and bourgeoisie for power (with both classes contending to lead the peasantry). How did Mao see this most fundamental question? Decades later, during the factional struggle with Teng, he made general statements about socialism being an era of sharp class struggle, etc., but immediately after liberation he was striking a different note.

. In 1949 the CPC achieved power but there was no way it could have immediately organized socialist production. Hence, while presiding over a capitalist economy the issue was to organize the struggle to overcome capitalist relations of production. And, since it was a predominantly peasant country, this struggle was sure to be long and complex. In On the People's Democratic Dictatorship (June 30, 1949) Mao spoke to these issues. There he speaks of the future time "to realize socialism, that is, to nationalize private enterprise" (which of course could only be a step toward socialism and not its realization) but the whole emphasis is on blunting independent proletarian initiative with illusion-mongering about the bourgeoisie. The compradors are denounced but it's said "not to worry" about the national bourgeoisie: "When the time comes to realize socialism, that is, to nationalize private enterprise, we shall carry the work of educating and remoulding them a step further. The people have a powerful state apparatus in their hands--there is no need to fear rebellion by the national bourgeoisie." But that's not all. "Our present policy is to regulate capitalism, not destroy it. (Fine, the conditions do not yet exist for its destruction.) But the national bourgeoisie cannot be the leader of the revolution (to regulate capitalism?), nor should it have the chief role in state power (implying it has some role). The reason it cannot be the leader of the revolution and should not have the chief role in state power is that the social and economic position of the national bourgeoisie determines its weakness(?!); it lacks foresight and sufficient courage and many of its members are afraid of the masses." Never mind that the Chinese bourgeoisie since the time of Sun Yat-sen always, as a class, favored regulating capitalism. Never mind that this class is spontaneously, daily, hourly, and on a mass scale becoming stronger all the time. Never mind that if this class has some role in state power its going to use this growing strength to fight for the "chief role".

. Well, Mao said a lot of things during his life and I could be misinterpreting his words, not understanding their context, etc. So let's go forward to 1956. Now (in On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People) he says the "socialist system has only just been set up; it is not yet fully established or fully consolidated. In joint state-private industrial and commercial enterprises capitalists still receive a fixed rate of interest on their capital, that is to say, exploitation still exists. So far as ownership is concerned, these enterprises are not yet completely socialist in characters." (But complete state ownership wouldn't mean they were necessarily socialist in character either, nor that exploitation didn't exist.) "Some of our agricultural and handicraft producers' co-operatives are still semi-socialist, while even in the fully socialist co-operatives certain problems of ownership remain to be solved." (So it's becoming clear that Mao's idea of "fully socialist" is not the same as Marx's, Engels' and Lenin's.) He also says "socialist relations of production have been established and are in harmony with the growth of productive forces", "the socialist system was basically established last year", and that there's a "socialist economic base". In fact he's all over the map trying to put a socialist label on what actually existed: a capitalist economy with state enterprises, joint state-private enterprises, and private enterprises. The issue of effecting a transition to socialism remained and this necessarily meant advancing the class struggles of the proletariat against the exploiters, the enemy, the bourgeoisie.

. But On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People is a big polemic against this idea. Seven years after the compradors had either fled to Taiwan or remained on the mainland and had their holdings appropriated, he still has plenty to say against them (in short: they're the enemy). But the national bourgeoisie (now China's very real capitalist class) is included "within the ranks of the people". He admits that this is an exploiting class but goes on and on about how the contradiction between exploiters and exploited has a non-antagonistic aspect in addition to an antagonistic aspect. When he comes to the section on industrialists and merchants the whole emphasis is that the contradiction with them is a non-antagonistic. Through its correct policies the CPC is leading them to change their views, remould themselves, etc., through study. "Such study should be on a voluntary basis. When they return to the enterprises after attending study groups for some weeks, many industrialists and merchants find that they have a more common language with the workers and representatives of the state share-holdings, and so there are better possibilities of working together. They know from their personal experience that it is good for them to keep on studying and remoulding themselves. The idea that study and remoulding are not necessary reflects the views not of the majority of the industrialists and merchants but only a small number." (This is incredible. If its really true that only a small number of these good gentlemen refuse to go to study groups it's only because they don't yet see the value of learning a better "language" through which to effect their capitalist slave-driving, increase the value of the overall share-holdings (and thus their share of them). )

. This is not the end of it however. The bourgeoisie also has political parties through which it fights for its class interests (although Mao doesn't even breathe the last eight words). He asks: "Why should the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois democratic parties be allowed to exist side by side with the party of the working class over a long period of time?" The answer? "Because we have no reason for not adopting the policy of long-term coexistence with all those political parties which are truly devoted to the task of uniting the people for the cause of socialism and which enjoy the trust of the people."

. "Allowing" the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois democratic parties (which are different, and must be treated differently) to exist for at least some time during the transition to socialism may be the preferable course, depending on what they each do. Besides this, early in the transition the proletariat may not have the strength to not allow them to exist in some form anyway. But why, seven years after a great democratic revolution allegedly led by a Marxist-Leninist party applying Marxist-Leninist tactics, do bourgeois parties still "enjoy the trust of the people"? Shouldn't Mao have written "trust of some people" with an elaboration on the politics of this trust? Well, only if he were a Marxist. These parties enjoyed trust, whatever its extent, in good part because the CPC had been all along telling the masses to trust them by fostering illusions about them, i.e., these parties really can be "truly devoted to the task of uniting the people for the cause of socialism". And not only are these parties to "be allowed to exist" but there's going to be "mutual supervision" between them and the CPC. "Of course, the advice and criticism exchanged by the Communist Party and the democratic parties will play a positive supervisory role only when they conform to the six political criteria given above." (Note that "bourgeois and petty-bourgeois democratic parties" has now been replaced with "the democratic parties".) These criteria include the following: "They should be beneficial, and not harmful, to socialist transformation and socialist construction; They should help to consolidate, and not undermine or weaken, the people's democratic dictatorship; They should help to consolidate, and not undermine or weaken, democratic centralism."

. To go to socialism hand in hand with the bourgeoisie is the essence of what's said. It's a utopian dream. By "socialism" Mao Zedong really meant state capitalism. The predominant sections of the Chinese bourgeoisie, including Chiang's, also favored the state-capitalist forms (which Chiang implemented on Formosa). But I think there was a great gulf between Mao and these fine gentlemen. Mao led a great peasant revolution which they trembled in fear of and repeatedly tried to crush. His vision was one of a benevolent state capitalism which would be controlled by the people and serve them. This utopian vision, or "peasant socialism", was the pillar around which the protracted people's war was organized.

. As a revolutionary, Mao had many great merits. I would venture to say that one of these is that he was the best representative of peasant socialism which the world has yet seen. It would follow that he wouldn't be concerned with protracted Leninist political work (political agitation, for example) to win the proletariat away from the politics and ideas of the bourgeoisie and to a proletarian revolutionary viewpoint. He might favor agitation among the workers, but from an entirely different framework. This ideological framework sought to reconcile the bourgeoisie and proletariat, both of which were seen as essential in achieving the utopia.

. Returning to the question of protracted people's war: It seems to me that as a strategy for revolution, whether in China, Eritrea, Southeast Asia or elsewhere, this comes from a petty-bourgeois viewpoint. This is not to say at all that the military writings of Mao, Giap, or others have no value to the working class. Nor is it to say that working-class parties shouldn't support peasant revolts when they arise, strive to assist and lead them, etc. It is to say that we should not prettify the politics around which these revolts are organized and led. Further, if operating in countries with large peasantries, we should make our own independent preparations for an armed uprising of the proletariat (which is concentrated in or around the cities).

. This cuts against the idea of surrounding the cities from the countryside, "rotting" them as the Vietnamese used to say, and eventually (hopefully), "forcing" an insurrection there too. It's more like basing ourselves on the proletariat and sticking with it despite and against white terror; and when the political conditions exist for an insurrection . . . launching it and spreading it to the countryside. Of course one of the political conditions would be what is going on in the countryside. And if a people's war(s) had developed there, especially one we had work and influence in, so much the better. But such work would have to be kept in perspective, and the decisive political work with the proletariat in and around the cities not abandoned. (From my incomplete study of the history of the CPC in the 20s I've concluded that it really did abandon work in the cities. I've heard a lot of Maoists explain this by saying this was necessary because the conditions of murderous white terror there made it impossible to do anything. But my study shows that the CPC had already begun to step by step abandon a proletarian revolutionary orientation and was searching for another. The group which eventually coalesced around Mao and the strategy of protracted people's war solved the problem of orientation.)

. Whether peasant or proletarian, no revolution can be led by people without tremendous willpower. Yet will acts within specific historical conditions which cannot be changed by willed action alone. We, for example, cannot will into existence a big crisis of the bourgeoisie. And if a big crisis breaks out, we can't will into being a mass movement. (In the early 80s, for example, the bourgeoisie dealt with its economic crisis with a big offensive against the wages and conditions of the working-class. Communists and many others called for resistance and organized resistance. And, over a period of time, a number of important struggles were fought. But despite these efforts a mass resistance movement didn't develop) We can use our collective willpower to try to advance work in solving various theoretical problems which have been handed down by to us by history however (like what is proletarian socialism, what happened to the revolutions of the last century, how is imperialism developing, and others), as well as theoretical issues confronting the mass struggles that continually erupt. We can set our wills to developing revolutionary agitation, to finding ways to get more united among ourselves and with the masses, to keeping an anti-revisionist trend alive, etc. But there's no guarantee that the living breathing us will have a lot of success. We want it, certainly, but there are many factors acting against us.

. You write of protracted people's war as a "tactic". I've never seen it approached this way and don't know your thinking on it. But I don't see why the issues of "things being done very quickly" and internal transformation of revolutionaries has to be connected to PPW as either a strategy or tactic. For example, I don't think any thoughtful person believes a really mass revolutionary movement is going to develop overnight. Both in the 30s and the 60s it took several years for the mass movements to take off, and a movement capable of mounting a proletarian revolution is going to have to be much more profound than these movements were. During the period of build-up, the masses are going to get experience in street battles with the police or troops; and to defend their ability to organize, to defend their organizations, to defend their struggles, arms are going to have to be used. That was the experience of the workers' movement of the 30s, the African-American movement of the 60s, and many other movements in this country. (Even during the 1970s coalminers were forced to defend their picket lines with guns during a hard-fought strike.) Marxist revolutionaries (hopefully organized into a party) will naturally be involved in all these preparatory battles--trying to lead them forward, politically summing them up, summing up the "military" experience, etc. I don't see how any revolution can come about separate from the masses (and the party) going through this school, and the party should use it as both a political and military school.

. So you see, I think there's going to be a lot of engagement with the enemy, in fact I think there has to be before a successful insurrection can be launched. But the main thing as far as internal transformation is concerned is how the engagements are summed up. Marxist-Leninist analysis and theory seems to me to be the most powerful weapon in this regard.

. Lastly, I think we have to take the position that the peaceful development of the revolution serves us best. We want to stay more or less legal as long as possible and we want the masses to be able to mount big demonstrations or other actions more or less legally for as long as possible. This serves our ability to agitate and organize on a mass scale and generally serves the mass struggle. Nevertheless, we have no illusion that peaceful development can go on and on and even take certain minimum measures today to ensure that we'll be around in the future. Also, in our agitational work among the masses we try to draw lessons about the nature of the state based on their present experiences summed up in light of the experience of international working class.

. Well, there are some ideas for you to mull over on Christmas. (I can't think of a better time to be thinking about such subjects.)

Best wishes,


(1) I don't know the history of M.I.M., but it bases itself on many of these same ideas, "updated" to today's conditions. However, I think it's more rotten politically than Venceremos was in its day. For example, I don't think Venceremos would have come out against the anti-WTO protests. The most r-r-revolutionary M.I.M does.

. Regarding S.D.S.: it actually had a lot of different political tendencies in it. Some of these essentially hated the working-class while others had a progressive standpoint. The fact that one summer this organization actually had a campaign for its members to get proletarian jobs for the summer and spread their ideas among the workers seems to reflect the latter. But this is not to imply that the leadership didn't remain in the hands of elements with an anti-working-class ideology. (Return to text)

Refuting general crisis theory


Proletarians of all countries, unite!

Refuting the "General Crisis Theory" . . . Uphold Peoples War:
A Letter [from Majdur Travail] to the Communist Voice

29 Dec. 2000

Dear Comrade [Frank],

"With regard to scientific socialism, it is enough to point to people's war, since it is with Chairman Mao Tsetung that the international proletariat has attained a fully developed military theory, giving us then the military theory of our class, the proletariat, applicable everywhere."

Chairman Gonzolo, PCP(SL)


. Thank you for writing. I'm sorry that you have to spend so much time formatting your documents in order to get them to me and I appreciate your effort. The brief history about the Revolutionary Union and Venceremos that you have written for me is very interesting. But as you go on I found your article slightly manipulative.

. You have attempted to make it seem that you have thought of everything and there is simply no way out of the tiny box you have created for yourself. We might as well, then, accept that we can do nothing. I reject these defeatist notions. I find it interesting that you admit that you have not studied the revolutionary wars of PCP(SL) and CPN-Maoist yet you have set yourself above them and suggest that what these parties are doing simply isn't possible and that they are bound to fail. Karl Marx himself has assured us that the proletariat will inevitably win its struggle against the bourgeoisie. Even if we were to lose a war against reaction today the Proletariat will inevitably win. This is what we mean by twists and turns in the revolution. You have treaded very near insulting Chairman Gonzolo's "Speech from The Cage" where he calls his own capture merely "a bend in the road". And negated Marx's statement,

"You will have to go through 15, 20, 50 years of civil wars and international conflicts, not only to change existing conditions, but also to change yourselves and to make yourselves capable of wielding political power." --Karl Marx

. As if Chairman Gonzolo, the greatest living Marxist, has much to learn from you and Joseph Green. It seems particularly bold since you have no revolutionary actions of your own. I was also surprised to learn that you believe that the revolutionary movement is at low ebb when Chairman Gonzolo's analysis says that we are in the high tide of revolutionary activity.

. I also find it interesting how you noted that Venceremos had failed to launch a Peoples War because others stood on the sidelines instead of helping out, yet you failed to mention that you counted yourself among those on the sidelines. But, I reject characterization that these things are simply started and other people jump in, it so pedantic. You also chide what you call Mao's military theory as "dogmatic formulas" yet go on systematically applying apply several to wars which you also claim to know nothing about. E.g., you say,

"[they] transposed PPW to the cities and romanticized urban guerrilla actions. This tendency in the R.U. went on to form the short-lived Venceremos organization which suffered fiasco when it tried to some extent implement its strategy."

. We are not school children and we are quite aware [of] Blanquistism and Focoismo. Our strategy goes much deeper than that to the point of changing peoples character and world outlook and bonding them to a community--the Party--an unshakable torch that lights the path of peoples war. In a word, is communist and seeks to develop communist relations between the members to each other and to the Party and from the Party to the outside world--i.e., the public.

. The following is prehaps one of the most blatant "dogmatic formulating" I've seen in a long time. In fact, its insulting.

"Perhaps one could substitute the urban petty-bourgeoisie for the peasantry, but this could only be done partially since the weight of the urban petty-bourgeoisie in today's industrialized countries is quite small in comparison to the weight of the peasantry in Chinese society (of either the 1930s or the early 2000s)."

. You go on by imputing that we believe that we can "start a revolution at anytime". As if revolutions are there of the taking and we only need people to take them up. "[Those] who believe that [peoples war] can be started at anytime". As if we were blind puppies sniffing around and in the dark we hit on something "peoples war can be started at any time." As if I were so naive.

. Revolutions, of course, cannot be started at "anytime", that's why we demand that an anti-revisionist party, if it is to call itself such a thing, prepare for such an event so that when the time comes we are ready to initiate a peoples war on behalf of the proletariat, with the understanding that such a war is necessarily a "protracted war," thus a "protracted peoples war"!

"we can speculate about possibilities on how an insurrection might develop into a war with the bourgeoisie which became very protracted."

We're talking about initiating a peoples war, not an insurrection. It is here that the revisionists of this epoch lead the working-class astray. They continue to proffer the general crisis theory and the so-called armed insurrection that goes along with it, because is alleviates the responsibility of actually preparing, in a material sense, for such a war. Underlying their philosophical peregrinations is the fact that they have renounced "revolution is an act of violence."

. Beginning with the general crisis theory, revisionist logic takes its ultimate course. In one moment, we are asked to rest our hopes on the mythological general crisis which is to take place at sometime in the future, as Frank said at sometime "after [you and I] are breathing." Capitalism does after-all go through crises doesn't it? Never mind the fact that there have been several crises in the United States, within the communist epoch, which have not lead to an insurrection, communist or otherwise, e.g., the Great Depression, but there have also been others.

. This doesn't bother the revisionist at all for in the next moment he renounces the possibility of preparing for the general crisis since his powers of imagination have glorified it at some distant time long "after [you and I] have stopped breathing". That is to say, the very essence of materialism slips away for not only will revolution NOT be a material fact in our life times, but the preparation, in a material sense, will also be a non-fact since we simply imagine that the preparations will be made "when the time comes" which will not exist in our lifetimes.

. It is, then, really nothing at all for this logic to careen downward to the next moment when [the] revisionist, who is also an idealist, may simply denounce political parties who are in engaged in Peoples War, e.g. PCP(SL) and CPN-Maoist on the grounds that the "time hasn't come" and offer several excuses

(1) the conditions are different
(2) they are impatient and can't wait for a truly revolutionary "situation"
(3) if they, PCP(SL) and CPN-Maoist, were right they would have won by now!

. The fact that you have denounced political parties who are engaged in peoples war and admit "you haven't even studied them" is really tied to your renouncement of Maoism, then peoples war, then armed struggle in general (you say, "at this particular time . . . in [your] life time") which is exactly what makes you a revisionist, since as a communist you are obligated "to support every out break of rebellion"--Communist Manifesto

. In order to make your revision possible you equivocate between the words "general crisis of capitalism" and "revolutionary situation" That is, to say, you make these words equivalent when they do not describe the same thing. A general crisis of capitalism is the "revolt of modern productive forces against the modern conditions of production. . . Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, etc."

. The general crisis that comes out of the "general crisis of capitalism" takes the form of "They direct their attacks not against the bourgeois conditions of production, but against the instruments of production themselves; they destroy imported wares that compete with their labor, they smash machinery to pieces, they set factories ablaze, they seek to restore by force the vanished status of the workman of the Middle Ages." Just like the WTO demonstrations in Seattle which you hold to be so advanced and just like Chomsky whom you dislike. In a word Anarchism. But this is precisely the turn of events that the CVO sees as the revolution, if only it were bigger! A revolutionary situation is what we need in order to initiate the war. Not that we can initiate it and complete it in one day!

. It may well be, that the Three Worlds Theory is wrong, put into practice in the United States, by Bob Avakian, it comes out as racism, sexism and homophobia. It also may well be that China under Mao still had State Capitalism, I in fact do not know. It may well be that we need a more serious analysis of State Capitalism, what gives rise to it, how it may be combated. A theory like the one Joseph Green presented in his recent essay "Labor Money and Communist Planning"--a very important essay.

. Nevertheless, you have chosen to pursue a theory of what communism is like after the revolution and forsaken the theory of what leads up to it. You say that we need an independent working-class movement and we do, but not for the reason you believe we need it. It is important not just that we do things, but that we understand our own roles in what we do.

. I can't help but believe that someone who imagines his/her self in this independent working-class movement sees it at a form of protest against the government. They are pre-occupied with media "spin" with attracting attention therefore scheduling events to coincide with rush hour etc., because they are "speaking out" and are obsessed with the idea that someone hear them and acknowledge their effort. But this is quite the opposite of how we see working-class movements, demonstrations, strikes, pickets, etc. The average worker in this type of activity see's themselves as "making a statement", or "speaking truth to power", etc. The more radical elements believe that they can cause a problem of one sort or another for the system which will cause the State to make some form of concession. You said,

"The issue is what should communists do to prepare the masses (and their party) for the inevitable armed onslaught to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie."

. I reject the notion that we a preparing an "armed onslaught", a once and for all type of action. What we intend is a peoples war which is necessarily protracted. For revolutionaries who follow your line, one must think of a general massing of the people to the point where "all hell breaks loose" and the powers that be are overrun and are forced to capitulate. Revolutions can happen this way, e.g. the Phillippines, Indonesia, and Iran--the problem is that you cannot obtain a communist system, at least at this time, by the pursuit of these "general crisis". Instead, you get Corazon Aquino, Sukarno, and the Ayatollah Khomeini respectively.

. For our part, however, we do not see a demonstration, or the like, as SAYING anything in particular at all, especially to the State. The entire episode is intended to work inwardly on the participants, to move inwardly to the mind and soul of the activist themself. Whatever, if anything, the State hears from what we say during this activity is irrelevant. The building, therefore, of a working-class movement is intended to transform the conscious of the individual participants, to transform them into the international proletariat, a communist, and a revolutionary fighter, a member of a Party which is capable of, and eventually will, conquer the bourgeoisie. These activities train the activist politically, steel their will and bond them to the community--their Party. These activities, then, are political training and we participate in them in order to train the masses along a revolutionary political line and to build the Party which will launch armed struggle against the bourgeoisie and will conquer the State on behalf of the proletariat.

. By the same token we must dismiss the current popular belief among the left parties that we will be able to build an organization so big that eventually the system will fall down by itself. And similarly, with the most blatant heresy that "things can be done very quickly . . . when the time comes" which negates the possibility of making preparations for the tasks ahead. We treat the peoples war as a stage along the way, one that strikes real blows against the bourgeoisie unlike the illusory gains of the working-class movement. But still peoples war is seen as something which transforms our character and the Party itself and eventually makes the proletariat capable and indeed worthy of wielding state power. In the first part our activities are primarily inward in the second they take on both an inward as well as an outward form.

. Therefore, we simply ask "Is revolution an act of violence or not?" If it is, then we set this thing out in front as a goal to which we hope to achieve in our lifetimes. Revolution is what we need, peoples war is the way of getting it. Building a Party and preparing to initiate a Peoples War is what needs to be done, so that is what we shall do.

Frank: The fight against revisionism
and opportunism also takes courage



[Mid-Jan. 2001]

Dear Majdur,

. I had hoped my letters to you would provoke some thoughtful exchanges. Unfortunately you didn't give my letter on protracted people's war much honest thought. Lets look at your response paragraph by paragraph.

. You say I created a tiny box because I'm apparently filled with defeatist notions and want people to accept that we can do nothing. Nonsense. I want people, including yourself, to accept that we can do a great deal--and accept this not on the basis of me or someone else having said it, but because it conforms to an accurate appraisal of the present situation which they themselves are capable of making. More, as you know, I support the Communist Voice Organization through writing and distributing articles and agitation (as well as in other ways). Is this doing nothing? If you think that, then I challenge you to show me how this work doesn't help raise the political consciousness of those it reaches. Does it aid them in reaching revolutionary conclusions or not? If there is to be a violent revolution to utterly destroy capitalism is not this type of political work absolutely necessary, or not?

. In your second paragraph you go on to say that I "suggest" that what the Communist Party of Peru and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) "are doing simply isn't possible and that they are bound to fail". Really? I didn't even write about these parties. I did touch on the protracted people's war led by the EPLF in Eritrea to show that PPW can be embraced as a strategy by forces which are clearly non-proletarian and non-Marxist, and that these forces can lead protracted people's wars to victory in this era. (You ignored my discussion of the EPLF.) Hence, if I suggested something, it's that it very much is possible for forces like the PCP(SL) and CPN (Maoist) to win power, as well as obviously non-Marxist forces like the Oromian Liberation Front. But then the question will be, what will be done with the power? On this question I argued that Mao (and thus Maoism) worked to put a damper on the proletarian class struggle when in power. His conception of socialism was a benevolent state capitalism built hand-in-hand with the good and patriotic national bourgeoisie. (You also ignored this discussion.) Thus, (and I didn't raise this question) if the PCP is to represent the interests of the proletariat it must oppose in practice Maoist ideas on what is to be done once the victories on the battlefield are won. More, if today it is really preparing the working class for seizing power it must oppose in practice the Maoist ideas on revolutionary agitation. If it doesn't, it will leave the workers defenseless when facing the politics of the liberal bourgeoisie and revolutionary democrats.

. Now it's quite possible to oppose Maoism in practice while thinking one is upholding it. That's facilitated by its eclecticism. The anti-revisionist trend which the CVO comes from did this for a number of years. But we eventually saw that to consistently represent the interests of the working class we had to oppose Maoism. If the PCP(SL) is to consistently represent the interests of the Peruvian working class it too must split from Maoism. That is my honest and humble opinion. If it offends you there's not much I can do about it. But better than getting offended would be to actually study what Joseph, Pete Brown, myself and others have said regarding Maoism. Research the question further and then begin to make up your own mind.

. Your second paragraph concludes by lecturing that I don't understand that the revolution has twists and turns. I've "treaded very near insulting Chairman Gonzolo's 'Speech from the Cage' where he calls his own capture merely 'a bend in the road'", etc. Here you're fighting a phantom of your own creation. All of my letters to you have been dealing with twists and turns, ups and downs, etc., in the revolutionary movement. So does the "What is Communist Voice?" statement which is carried in each issue of that journal. So have Joseph's letters to you. So why have you conjured up this phantom?

. Your fourth paragraph is incredible. Just like the petty-bourgeois nationalists (and just like their revisionist and opportunist tails which we have been dealing with for decades) you jump up to oppose what Joseph or I might say by appealing to a higher authority, someone who is really fighting, someone who has "actions", etc. Well, the TPLF, EPLF, SWAPO, Sandinistas, FMLN, National Liberation Front of Vietnam, Irish Republican Army, Al Fatah, etc., etc, etc., all had or have their actions. But what were (or are) the varying politics of these organizations? What class or classes do these politics fundamentally represent and how should the working class deal with them? Are we just supposed to bow our heads in awe, not think, zip our lips because some group has "actions"? What would happen to the struggle against bourgeois nationalism, petty- bourgeois nationalism, revisionism and opportunism if that happened?

. And what is the issue you're appealing to a higher authority over? "I was surprised to learn that you believe that the revolutionary movement is at a low ebb when Chairman Gonzolo's analysis says that we are in the high tide of revolutionary activity." But how could you be surprised about my view? This view is consistently given by everyone in our trend and repeated in many different ways in Communist Voice. Your "surprise" makes me even wonder if your letter is meant for me or someone else. But the issue is your view Majdur, not what Gonzolo said (and you don't tell me when he said this, or in reference to what countries). Do you really think "we are in the high tide of revolutionary activity" in the United States today? If you do, I can only politely ask what kind of fantasy world are you living in?

. Your fifth paragraph absurdly infers that I'm some kind of coward because I "failed to mention that (I) counted (my)self among those on the sidelines" in reference to Venceremos. But didn't I write that "I disagreed with the protracted people's war orientation and the ideological framework from which it evolved"? Didn't I give you some indication of the nonsense this trend was immersed in when I recounted the "arguments" its Northwest defenders resorted to? (And one of these people was a bigshot in the R.U.). No, I wrote these things, and you read them. So I ask you, why would I want to "help out" an organization I disagreed with, and an organization which was in fact revisionist?

. You next say you "reject (the) characterization that these things are simply started and other people jump in, it(s) so pedantic." Pardon me, but I wasn't characterizing anything in my letter. Nor was I attributing any particular view to you or anyone else. (In fact in your previous letter you had only vaguely defended PPW as a "tactic".) I was attacking certain views that I know for sure some of the proponents of protracted people's war hold (or held if they've since departed from the revolutionary movement). One of these views is precisely that one starts a war (in conjunction with agitation and propaganda) and more and more people just join in.

. To continue, you write the following:

"You also chide what you call Mao's military theory as 'dogmatic formulas' yet you go on systematically applying several to wars which you also claim to know nothing about. E.g., you say,
'[they] transposed PPW to the cities and romanticized urban guerilla actions. This tendency in the R.U. went on to form the short-lived Venceremos organization which suffered fiasco when it tried to some extent implement its strategy.'"

. I challenge you to answer the following series of questions regarding this: Does not Mao's Military Writings deal with military theory? So what's the purpose of your writing "what you call Mao's military theory"?

. Where did I ever write that Mao's military theory consisted of dogmatic formulas? What I attacked was the dogmatic application of Mao's military theories by others in a paragraph dealing with future possibilities.

. What are the several Maoist theories which I systematically apply to several wars? And I would particularly like for you to show me where I apply them to wars you charge I "claim" to know nothing about. The sentence you quote from me as an example just isn't an example of systematic application of Mao's military theory at all. It's merely a statement of fact.

. Next you adopt the posture of being personally offended. I insult your intelligence, impute things to you, etc. (Meanwhile you've changed from writing "I" in reference to yourself to writing "we". Wow! Now I've not only insulted Majdur, imputed things to him, etc., but I committed these crimes against an entire political trend!) But it's all false.

. Remember, in your previous letter to me you wrote that you thought "in a tactical sense the theory of protracted people's war is a superior military maneuver". Since I'm only familiar with PPW as a strategy for revolution in countries with large peasantries, and had never seen it put forward either as a "tactic" or a "military maneuver" in reference to any country, your actual views on PPW mystified me. Thus I couldn't impute anything to you because I didn't know you were actually upholding PPW as a strategy for revolution in the industrialized countries. More, since this strategy doesn't make sense to me in the industrialized countries I had to start with such basics as red base areas and see how they would work here. And I came up with a hypothetical case. But you brush my discussion off as "dogmatic formulating" and "insulting", while you, who apparently knows so much about how PPW would work in the U.S., still haven't given me even the basic outlines of what you're talking about.

. For example, maybe you're talking about an underground army in and around the cities. That would make sense to me at a certain point, and after preparatory work had been done in individual struggles. But what would it do, and how would it be organized? Well, it seems to me it would assist the workers and other oppressed people in defending their organizations and struggles against violent repression (which would also include offensive actions). It would act both with guns and without them, depending on the situation. (In other words it would be nothing like the George Jackson Brigade, i.e., "support" strikes by bombing capitalist establishments while being totally on the sidelines of the workers' actual struggles and political motion.) It would also be mobilized for completely non-military duties to assist the development of working-class politics and organization. The party would strive to organize and lead it, and it would be based in the factories and other places of concentration the party was organizing in (there's no better place to learn whom we're dealing with). From there it could be slowly spread. But I don't see how the building up of such red militias (or whatever you want to call them) fit into a strategy of PPW. I would think one would build them with the idea that they would go to form the backbone of an insurrectionary army. On the other hand, it would seem that if your strategy was protracted people's war (without red base areas) you would want to use them to launch a permanent shooting war with the police and army, before an insurrectionary situation had developed, and unsure of when one was going to develop. That would raise a couple of obvious problems for the struggling working class (the overwhelming majority of which would not be in the people's army). First, the state would use the shooting-war as an excuse for enforcing more police-state measures against all of the workers and poor. That is the ability of the party and class to organize would be hampered further than it already was. Secondly, it would necessarily remove a lot of people from the kind of duties I outlined above (and from this angle weaken the struggle to politically organize the workers for socialism). More generally, both of these problems would curtail the ability of the working-class to mount a big surprise attack and seize power when a revolutionary crisis did come.

. I don't see how an underground army organized on the basis of PPW ideas could grow to such strength that it could smash the bourgeois state by itself. In underground conditions and under a state of siege it just couldn't mount the numbers. It's more likely that it would devolve into guerrilla action-groups, more-or-less on the sidelines, and acting on "behalf" of the working class, e.g., substituting themselves for the working class. These might last for decades (the bourgeois-nationalist I.R.A. has), but for the working class to seize power it would still have to go through a period of intense open struggle with the bourgeoisie (its political and military school). It would still have to build up its defense organizations, militias, etc. If it didn't do this it wouldn't be able to birth the political strength, organization and forces necessary for smashing the bourgeois state and becoming the ruling class.

. But you refrain from discussing such issues. (And my ideas are only tentatively put forward to begin with.) I'm just supposed to accept that "revolution is what we need, people's war is the way of getting it". I already know the first; but the second is merely an assertion. If I say it doesn't make any sense to me then you accuse and abuse, huff and puff with self- righteousness, write absurd nonsense, but you still don't say anything on how the strategy of protracted people's war would work in the industrialized countries. That makes one wonder if you have anything of any depth to say on the subject.

. Back to your letter chronologically.

. You identify PPW with anti-revisionism, and insurrection with revisionism. This is what I mean by nonsense. Lots of revisionist forces have "prepared in a material sense" PPWs, and led them to victory (as in Namibia and Mozambique). And anti- revisionists led the workers in a successful insurrection in Russia in 1917. So what does it prove one way or the other?

. At the beginning of page 2 you begin railing against "general crisis" theory. Of course I didn't write of a general crisis in my letter so your later accusation that I "equivocate between the words 'general crisis of capitalism' and 'revolutionary situation'" is entirely made up. But you don't let what I actually said get in your way. I committed the horrible sin of writing, in a discussion on will-power, that there "was no guarantee that the living breathing us will have a lot of success" (in accomplishing several definite revolutionary tasks confronting the movement which I listed). "We want it, certainly, but there are many factors acting against us." Put another way, this is merely saying that will acts within objective parameters, or that there are objective limits on what will alone can achieve. More, it contains an expression of determination. But beginning from this you concoct an absurd schema which ends by saying I renounce armed struggle in general and am a revisionist!

. Well, that's one way to avoid thinking about and discussing the issues I raised in my letter: sling mud and run away. Any party built with this kind of morality isn't going to represent the working class.

. But the brazen absurdities continue. In the same paragraph you charge that I have "denounced political parties who are engaged in people's war". (Could you please show me where?) You allege that this "is exactly what makes you a revisionist, since as a communist you are obligated 'to support every outbreak of rebellion'". It's a nice quotation from Marx, but you're distorting it. There's support and "support". I, for example, supported the protracted people's war of the Eritrean people for many years. First and foremost by struggling to build up the revolutionary movement in my own country. Secondly, by popularizing the struggle of the Eritrean people among the American workers and other progressive sections of the people. Thirdly, by small financial contributions. And fourthly, by engaging in the ideological struggle on questions confronting the Eritrean movement.

. The latter was of prime importance because the petty-bourgeois nationalist party leading the people's war misled the masses on what socialism is, and even spread the view that the Soviet Union was the friend and strategic ally of the Eritrean people. (This was at a time when the USSR was actively backing and participating in the colonialist war to drown the rebellion of the people in blood!) More, the EPLF leadership used intimidation tactics and demagogy against Eritrean activists who opposed its views, and banned their literature from the liberated zones. (Part of its demagogy was "we're fighting the war . . . how dare you disrupt our efforts by raising these 'intellectualist' issues!".) Hence, if one were to really support the PPW of the Eritrean people he or she had to defy the petty-bourgeois nationalist intimidation tactics and stand up to tell the truth to the masses right in front of the EPLF leaders. That was Marxism. That was supporting the liberation war. That was being a "vanguard fighter for democracy". And that was what myself and others did--Eritrean and American. It was our proletarian internationalist duty.

. Either one takes this stand or one ultimately capitulates to revisionism and opportunism (and perhaps even becomes its mouthpiece). Of course in rotten petty-bourgeois circles, among the "left" liberals, among notorious revisionist trends like the WWP, etc., such a stand is blasphemy: "How dare you criticize these third world leaders! You should be fawning before them like us!". They take this stand because their solidarity is with the opportunist misleaders, and against the masses. We take the opposite stand because our solidarity is with the masses.

. Hence one can support an outbreak of rebellion and oppose misleadership in the rebellion. That's the bounden duty of proletarian internationalists. The logic of what you write is that since I allegedly denounced political parties engaged in people's war I can't possibly support the rebellions themselves. This logic leads to capitulation in front of revisionist or opportunist misleadership. But of course I didn't denounce either the Communist Party of Peru or the CPN (Maoist) in my last letter, nor have I in this one. Perhaps though you think the opinions I gave above re: the PCP and Maoism are "denouncing". If so, then Lenin's public expressing of views regarding other parties in the CI, his criticisms of their views, etc., should also be characterized as "denouncing". But better than worrying about whether I have denounced whomever, it would be better to honestly consider and discuss the issues that trouble you.

. The way you finish off your discussion of crises contains more rare jewels.

. I've already pointed out that I did not "equivocate between the words 'general crisis of capitalism' and 'revolutionary situation'". But in "clarifying" this question to me it appears that it's you who have a problem with words. You quote Marx from the Communist Manifesto (but give no citation) where he's talking about commercial crises (over-production crises) and define this as "a general crisis of capitalism". Then you write of "the general crisis that comes out of 'the general crisis of capitalism'". This general crisis, according to you, is described by another uncited quotation from Marx. What Marx is talking about (directing "their attacks...against the instruments of production themselves", etc.) is the first stage of "various stages of development" the proletariat goes through. You "forgot" the later stages he describes because you wanted to make a point (which I'll come back too). In other words you dishonestly misquoted Marx.

. So the point you wanted to make is that the anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle were "just like" Marx's portrayal of the first stage of the proletarian movement. Unbelievable. Were you even there? Wasn't the predominant opportunist force misleading the masses the trade union officials? And didn't Marx explain (150 years ago!) that the trade unions arose at a later stage of the historical development of the proletariat. But why continue with the obvious . . . .

. To you the anti-WTO demonstrations were "Anarchism". Then you charge that the CVO saw "the turn of events . . . as revolution". Apparently you think that you can wildly shout anything and people will believe you. If you actually read CV Vol 6, #1 you would find an article by me polemicizing against this very idea in a section dealing with the explicitly anti-capitalist section of protesters. In fact it's absurd to draw this conclusion from any of the many things we wrote for (or about) on the anti-WTO events.

. My time and patience are both running out so I will raise just a few more points.

. ". . .just like Chomsky whom you dislike." But what's your criticism of Chomsky? Have you ever read a critique of him comparable to Mark's?
. "It may well be that the Three Worlds Theory is wrong. . . . It also may well be that China under Mao still had State Capitalism. . . .". This is avoiding issues I raised. I haven't been dealing with the theory of three worlds at all; I've been dealing with MTT on the issue of the struggle against bourgeois or opportunist politics, and on the issue of socialism. The issue isn't that China "still had state capitalism" under Mao, but that Mao advertised state capitalism as socialism. Further, he preached that socialism would be attained hand-in-hand with the bourgeoisie. Those are pretty fundamental questions, and I gave you references to some places where Mao put forward this anti-Marxist nonsense.
. "Nevertheless, you have chosen to pursue a theory of what communism is like after the revolution and forsaken the theory of what leads up to it." We do not forsake this, and my first letter to you was dealing with a decisively important issue in this theory.
. "For revolutionaries who follow your line, one must think of a general massing of the people to the point where 'all hell breaks loose' and the powers that be are overrun and forced to capitulate. Revolutions can happen this way, e.g., the Philippines, Indonesia, and Iran the problem is that you cannot obtain a communist system, at least at this time, by the pursuit of these 'general crisis'. Instead, you get Corazon Aquino, Sukarno, and the Ayatollah Khomeni respectively." Incredible.

. In the Philippines there was no revolution at all. The liberals just rode the back of a mass upsurge against Marcos to power. The masses were politically split, with the dominant trend supporting Aquino. The petty-bourgeois Bayan had some good things to say regarding organizing the workers, and a certain critique of Aquino, but it also maintained certain illusions in her. The CPP, whose armed struggle had helped bring about the political crisis of the bourgeoisie, was in turn thrown into crisis by the new developments. Although part of it continued to fight, it had a difficult time dealing with the liberals. Some of its agitation fostered illusions in them, and some of its main leaders went over to openly supporting Aquino. The very small Marxist forces had only just begun to organize among the workers.

. In Iran the monarchy was overthrown in a mass upsurge, but again the issue was that the masses were politically split by various political ideas. There was no independent political trend of the working class capable of leading the masses in completing the democratic revolution and to begin the tasks of organizing a socialist revolution. There was armed struggle: people's war in the country-side and an armed insurrection of the toilers in the capital. But the masses fighting were under the influence of a lot of non-proletarian trends: the clerical reactionaries, the liberals, the petty-bourgeois groups who fought in the countryside while being led by the nose by the liberals, the pro-Soviet Tudeh party, other pro-Soviet revisionists who organized some armed struggle by the peasantry. There were also small groups which had begun the struggle against revisionism and were active among the workers and peasants. But that's the whole point: they were too small to do much (and later at least one of them abandoned anti-revisionist struggle altogether).

. So I would conclude from the Philippine and Iranian experiences that the working class needed its own politics and organization. It needed Marxism-Leninism and a M-L party. Until it has these , crises will come and crises will go, including revolutionary crises, but it won't be capable of taking advantage of a crisis to lead an insurrection. This sets political tasks: carrying the ideological struggle against revisionism forward so as to lay the basis for either founding of a party of the working class (or carrying the struggle of present M-L organizations forward), revolutionary agitation and propaganda among the oppressed, etc., etc. But of course you "reject" an armed onslaught. Instead you put forward phrases about material preparations for a PPW. You want to strike "real blows against the bourgeoisie unlike the illusory gains of the working-class movement". (You seem to have no embarrassment over the fact that the latter would be sweet music to every anarchist's ear.) But demanding that one be pro-PPW (especially when you give no idea of what you think such a war would be like in the industrialized world) at this stage of the revolutionary movement is just sectarianism. (And note how the discussion between us over the political tasks of revolutionaries, political affairs, etc., gets drowned out in this "valiant" struggle over military questions of the future.)

. My letter to you on PPW was entirely friendly and honest. I had hoped it would provoke some thoughtful discussion and reading. But your hostile response is shameful. So I put this to you: the armed struggle against the bourgeoisie, whatever its form, takes courage. But the fight against revisionism and opportunism also takes courage. And to be a proletarian revolutionary one has to take this up. The test of courage for you though is whether you have the courage to face up to yourself and take responsibility for your actions. Do you have the courage to go over and over this letter and honestly answer the many questions in it, or will you run away from it? Do you have the courage to honestly think.

. I'll be your friend, and we can talk about the political path forward. But first you have to take steps to repudiate the bad methods in your letter. They're typical of sectarian brawlers in revisionist and opportunist circles. We must oppose them in the revolutionary movement.



Back to Marxism, misc., how to order CV

Last changed on May 19, 2001.
http://www. flash. net/~comvoice
e-mail: comvoice@flash. net