Five Minute Polemic №3: In Defense of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism-Gonzalo Thought
There have been three key stages in the development of our present communist ideology: Marxism, Leninism, Maoism. Gonzalo Thought is not the fourth stage in the development of Marxism. And, importantly, no major communist organization or movement to my knowledge maintains that it is. Yet the accusation of treating it as such is commonly used as an attack and a slander against the most ardent of Chairman Gonzalo’s students by others within the International Communist Movement. Indeed, rumors and accusations swirl around anyone within this movement who dares to ardently study Gonzalo’s theories, to comprehend their importance and seek to spearhead their application to the dialectical struggle for proletarian revolution. They are called “cultists,” “Great Man-ists,” “Gonzaloites,” “wreckers,” etc. It is vital, as a clear stride in internal struggle within the ICM toward greater clarification and perfection of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology, to clear away this cloud of disdain and uncertainty. Two questions, then, present themselves:
- What, precisely, is the role of the theories of Gonzalo Thought in the whole of today’s proletarian ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism?
- Why, exactly, is it important?
Only with answers to these questions can the ICM move forward in a clear understanding of the question of Gonzalo Thought and Gonzalo’s role, one of the most essential points of struggle within the ICM today.
As has been stated above, Gonzalo Thought is no “fourth stage.” If it were it would be Gonzaloism, and its followers would not be calling themselves Maoists and espousing firm solidarity with other Maoists, including those of differing positions on the question of Gonzalo’s role- yet they are doing these things, as we will see. Therefore Maoism is still the third and present stage in Marxism’s development, there has been no complete evolution into a fourth stage, as there was when the PCP synthesized Maoism (after all, one will see, Maoists do not go around expressing solidarity with “Marxist-Leninists” antagonistic to Maoism, for to deny the third stage is to fail in upholding the first two). But what, then, is Gonzalo Thought’s role in the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism? Let us quote from some eminent organizations of the students of Gonzalo:
Chairman Gonzalo has contributed to the ideology of the proletariat with his synthesis of Maoism, and through its application as Gonzalo Thought, he has further developed the ideology with numerous other universally valid contributions such as Militarization and Concentric Construction, Great Leadership, Unified People’s War, and more.
-Communist Workers’ Front of Canada, Organizing Committee; “Day of Heroism: Chairman Gonzalo” (https://communistworkers.wordpress.com/2021/06/18/day-of-heroism-chairman-gonzalo/)
…the international proletariat can only have one ideology, and it is our position that this ideology is Marxism-Leninism-Maoism-Gonzalo Thought, principally Gonzalo Thought. Gonzalo Thought is universal, it is the highest expression of the ideology of our class, and thus, it is the principal aspect, while Maoism is the basis. Since we are within the stage of Maoism, which is not yet universally grasped, the task on the international level is to carry out the Campaign for Maoism. But in Switzerland, our basis of unity is already Gonzalo Thought, and thus, the negation of Gonzalo Thought… is revisionism.
-RSS, a predecessor of the Communist Party of Switzerland (Red Fraction), “Death to the Politics of Social Imperialism, Long Live Proletarian Internationalism” (their polemic alleging accusations of revisionism and abuses against the CRF†)
Notice what is clear in both passages: Gonzalo Thought is an expression, a practical application of Marxism, of Marxism in its present-day form of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, within which Maoism is the principal and most critical component. This should be understood to anyone who has read Gonzalo and the PCP’s vital works: all this is is an expression of the theory of Guiding Thoughts. Every revolution produces its guiding thought, its doctrinal plan-of-action for putting socialist revolution into action, and Gonzalo Thought was forged as that of Peru: it emerged dialectically as the resolution of the contradiction between the universal ideas of MLMism and the specific conditions of Peru, under the great leadership of Chairman Gonzalo, in order to apply MLMism in Peru. But it is when the students of Gonzalo assert the usefulness of this system for applying MLMism outside Peru that other Maoists question them. Gonzalo and the PCP, after all, synthesized it for Peru! All the same, a careful examination of the nature of how Marxist thought has developed and continues to develop will reveal they do have a theoretical leg to stand on.
It has been stated above: every revolution has its guiding thought. The application of Marxism to specific material circumstances gives rise to and occurs through the guiding thought for each country. But do not all the explosions of proletarian revolutionary dialectical struggle, across time and around the world, constitute one single vast global revolution, the ongoing world proletarian revolution? And this world revolution has its own large guiding thought of a kind: the united whole of Marxism in its present form. But to understand the nature of this, and how it has developed and continues to develop (and how Gonzalo Thought takes its place as a component of it in the present day), we must turn to Mao’s epistemological theory of how theoretical knowledge develops, as outlined by him in the seminal lecture On Practice. Mao’s epistemology is ingenuous, bridging the gap between the metaphysical reasoning of rationalism and the vulgar materialism of empiricism to forge a theory that is at once rational and scientifically materialist, acknowledging the value of ideas and abstract study while affirming material practice as principal. He teaches us that it is in the material practice of class struggle, of revolutionary praxis, that correct ideological ideas are forged. But these ideas go on to inform further, more advanced practice, which forges more advanced ideas, which inform still more advanced practice, and so on. Thus the relationship between theory and practice is cyclical, but with practice as the principal.
Now that this has been said, we can further establish that each revolutionary campaign waged in the history of the ICM constitutes the putting into material practice of the whole body of ideological truths that make up Marxism (or made it up at the time)- thus, in each explosion of dialectical class struggle that occurs this whole is added to, further forged into a stronger and sharper tool for the masses’ shaping of history. Therefore each application of Marxism, each country-level guiding thought, contributes to the whole. The synthesis of Marxism-Leninism had its roots in Lenin and the CPSU’s application of Marxism to the material specifics of the Russian Empire and subsequently the USSR, that of Maoism had its roots in Mao and the CPC’s application of Marxism-Leninism to China (i.e. Mao Tse Tung Thought). But even when there is not a qualitative leap to a whole new stage in development, every guiding thought, every specific application of MLMism, still makes its contribution to the growth of the whole of MLMist thought. Witness, for instance, the work of Comrade Kaypakkaya on the national question in Turkey. Certainly this is specific to the application of MLMism to Turkey; it forms a part of the ongoing Turkish revolutionary struggle’s guiding thought. And yet Maoists the world over have read The Kurdish National Question and found lessons applicable to their own countries- and in this sense some element within the specifics of Kaypakkaya’s thoughts for Turkey has clearly been contributed back to the universal whole. Of course the original totality of “Kaypakkaya Thought,” if you will, was forged in and for the material conditions of Turkey’s situation, but the universal applications clearly exist and constitute a new addition (however small) to the universal ideological guiding thought of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist communist thought.
It is, then, perfectly logical that there could exist such a contribution, a country-level guiding thought whose universal aspect has in turn become a noteworthy addition to the whole of communist philosophy, significant enough to be named and upheld specifically and principally, even while acknowledging that Maoism remains the present and highest stage in the development of Marxism. Indeed, we can look back in communist history and find a significant precedent; before the universal contributions of Mao were adjusted, studied, and clearly understood by the PCP under Gonzalo to be a qualitative leap to a third and higher stage of development (meaning that from that point on the only up-to-date communist ideology was that of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism), the most advanced communists within the Marxist-Leninist ICM were those who upheld the manifestation in universal application of China’s new and radically important guiding thought, Mao Tse Tung thought, as a crucial addition to communist ideology even while continuing to accept that the core of that ideology was Marxism-Leninism. This was the era of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought. And so it is today with Gonzalo Thought, as is acknowledged in the above quotation from the RSS: Maoism remains the heart of present communist thought, the key set of theories we must uphold and apply worldwide, and all who can agree on this are comrades in the Maoist ICM. But, in applying these ideas, the manifestation in universal application of Gonzalo Thought theories (e.g. the militarization of the party, the clear understanding of guiding thoughts, etc.) is demonstrably valuable and must not be ignored- as has been proven by the effective application of these theories in Peru (where they originated as a country-level guiding thought), but also in Ecuador by the highly advanced and important revolutionary movement being led by the PCE-SR, which has developed strong mass organizations and is steadily preparing to launch People’s War.
These, then, are the facts: the students of Gonzalo are not denying the central role of Maoism, not putting Gonzalo in place of Mao, not forming a cult, not telling people (as the Canadian revisionist Moufawad-Paul once claimed!) that Gonzalo is the only communist thinker one should read, not falsely championing a new stage of development beyond Maoism, and not attacking any other genuine Maoists. All genuine communists today, very much including the students of Gonzalo among organizations like CWF-OC or PCE-SR, agree that Maoism as a set of dynamic revolutionary ideas is the essential central component of present-day communist thought, the “third and highest stage” of its development. But nonetheless, they uphold as useful in applying this ideology the universal application of the theories of Gonzalo Thought. And indeed, since these ideas are so directly of use in applying MLMism in the present day, they are upheld as specially principal in practical application (this is why the CWF-OC has at times described their line as “principally Gonzalo Thought,” though as far as I can tell this is more a flourish of language than a distinct ideological current˚). None of this is incompatible with Maoism, just as pre-Maoist era Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought was not incompatible with MLism but indeed was its most advanced manifestation. It would be absurd to have then thrown about such slander as accusations of “cultism” or “Great Man-ism,” and it is absurd now.
Having elucidated the line taken on the question of Gonzalo Thought’s role by the students of Gonzalo, and the historical and theoretical precedent for its existence, or the reasons it is logical and compatible with their being genuine Maoists and communists, I must now justify the thesis that their line is an especially principled one, that their position is correct. Why is it so important to emphasize in theory and practice the universal application of Gonzalo Thought?
We are at this moment in a pivotal time in the history of the ICM. There may not be any presently existing socialist or New Democratic states in the world, but the seeds of critical future developments in the world proletarian revolution are germinating all around us: in Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador, Bhutan, Peru, Turkey, the Philippines, India, and here in the USA. It is thus also entirely natural that we are seeing, in the same moment, the growth of significant non-antagonistic ideological contradictions within the ICM (as I have written on before). Now, it is of vital importance that we do not let these contradictions become antagonistic- which fortunately, we may say, does not seem to be happening very much, all correspondence I have had with members of revolutionary organizations that describe their ideology as MLMism-Gonzalo Thought (admittedly not a great amount) has shown they maintain solidarity with other Maoists. But at the same time, we should not be so fixated on the idea of unity as to ignore differences and contradictions of ideology and not try to resolve them through friendly discussion and debate between revolutionaries and organizations- this would be unprincipled, would be liberalism! We must acknowledge when particular sections in the ICM show themselves to be especially correct or especially mistaken, and must learn from these observations. It was Mao who told us to let a thousand flowers bloom, to let many approaches to Marxist study and practice flower and see which is best- and if we apply this to the question discussed herein, we will see that the students of Gonzalo have shown themselves to be among the most principled, progressive, and theoretically advanced Maoists in the ICM at the present time.
In Canada, a country where the development of genuinely progressive socialist forces in society has long been stunted by the influence of revisionists like Moufawad-Paul, the CWF-OC (who recently had their first national conference) have reawakened the once-sleeping dragon of the radical youth and proletariat.
In Switzerland, the RSS, the CPS(RF), and The Red Flag have led the charge toward a scientific Marxist understanding of the queer question, criticizing incorrect views like the mistaken thesis that the oppression of queers is nothing more than a contradiction among the people, or the actively harmful reactionary line that “nonbinary identity is rooted in postmodern ideology” and promoting a genuinely progressive, scientific, and dialectical materialist viewpoint.
In Ecuador, a young communist movement has flowered and grown rapidly thanks to its connection to the PCP and their Gonzalo Thought. All over the world, the lessons of the universal applications of Gonzalo Thought are proving a progressive force in the ICM.
Now, of course, students of Gonzalo- as any revolutionary- make mistakes, sometimes quite grievous ones, for instance The Red Flag’s apparently baseless accusations of liquidationism against the MPP and Comrade Laura, and these mistakes should most definitely be criticized for the good of the continuing ideological development of the ICM. But dismissing them all as “cultists” or opportunists on the basis of these mistakes by a few must be seen as a form of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as it were. Especially now, in an era when Gonzalo and his contributions are under continual attack from revisionist outside influences on the ICM like Sison, Winston, and Moufawad-Paul, it is vital that communists unite around defending and applying Maoism as he synthesized it, with the universal application of People’s War, and his useful further contributions to Maoist ideology- recall that Sison said in his On The Philosophy of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism
it is absurd to assert that because of Gonzalo’s ‘synthesis’ he is responsible for making Maoism ‘universal’ or that the universality of Maoism is reduced to the ‘universality of protracted people’s war’ and the prescription for a ‘militarized party.’
This is an absurd attack, a screed against one of the most essential thinkers in Marxist history from a man who obfuscates the scientific history of Marxism’s development and, absurdly, denies elsewhere in the text the distinction between Mao Tse Tung Thought as a guiding thought for China and Maoism as a fully realized universal third stage in the development of communist thought˙. It is vital to defend the forward march of ideological and practical development from such attacks, which obfuscate its nature and as such get in the way of its progress, delaying the arrival of communism just as Sison’s own fetish for peace talks has done with its damage to the People’s War in the Philippines. And while Maoists the world over have rallied to it, none have been more correctly ardent in this defense than the students of Gonzalo. In this sense, uniting behind the guiding thought of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism-Gonzalo Thought is perhaps the future of the Maoist ICM and its ideological unity.
LONG LIVE MARXISM-LENINISM-MAOISM! UPHOLD THE UNIVERSAL APPLICATIONS OF GONZALO THOUGHT!
† The publication that brought this polemic to a wide audience, The Red Flag, no longer has an internet presence (hence the Web Archive link)- we can only hope this is not a grim portent for the movement in Switzerland.
˚In just the same way, the phrase “principally Maoism” as used by the PCP and many other communist organizations does not refer to anything different than “just” Maoism; it simply describes the nature of Maoism as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism’s principal component stage in the present era.
˙I call this absurd because it is simply and objectively ahistorical: everywhere in the theoretical texts that defined socialist China Mao Tse Tung Thought is spoken of as an essential ideology for China, and the global communist tradition that is spoken of remains Marxism-Leninism. While “Maoism” as a term may have been occasionally used interchangeably with “Mao Tse Tung Thought” during this time, it is not until the 80s that we find the concept of Maoism as a distinct and universal development of Marxism analogous to Leninism, and the resultant concept that the three parts of modern Marxism together- Marxism-Leninism-Maoism- constitute the only true and up-to-date communist ideology in the present era. And we find it first in the literature of the PCP, and that of the Red Line in the RIM which it embodied, under the leadership of Gonzalo (the same place where, years later, we find the first mentions of Gonzalo Thought as a guiding thought for Peru which would subsequently manifest its universal aspect as a useful addition to MLMism).