Skip to main content

Principally Unprincipled Maoism

One of the characteristics of communism that generally serve to make those of us who identify as communist appear rather silly to the broader public is the alphabet soup proliferation of communist/marxist organizations.  Sometimes the proliferation of multiple commie groups is for principled reasons (significant ideological differences, the degeneration into revisionism of some groups and thus the need for renewal, or even healthy line struggle between multiple organizations), other times it's for the most asinine and unprincipled reasons (an ego split in an organization that is disguised as "political", the arrogant need to resist merging, dogmatism), and generally it's a combination between the two.  Indeed, the continuous emergence of competing communist parties and organizations is so clearly a part of what it means to be a communist that it was hilariously caricatured in Monty Python's 1979 film Life of Brian.

There are times when it is the mark of a healthy counter-capitalist culture to have multiple and competing communist organizations and would-be parties.  Take, for example, the 1970s and 1980s in my social context (Canada) where there were innumerable "M-L Groups" emerging on a monthly basis across the country.  None of these groups were imported from the UK or the US (as the most popular and far less prevalent groups in the late 90s and 2000s would be) but were organically connected to the Canadian class struggle.  Moreover, despite the seemingly annoying frequency with which they multiplied, many of these groups emerged in order to challenge the revisionism of the Communist Party Canada; the vast majority of them began by critiquing the CPC's history and––though it was only natural due to the eventual sectarianism these multiple groups produced for the critiques to be turned randomly against groups that otherwise shared the same rejection of the CPC––these critiques were extremely worthwhile.  And the most significant and largest cross-Canadian M-L Groups from this period, the Workers Communist Party and En Lutte, ideologically benefitted from this proliferation.  Thus, in some ways, the rise of multiple and competing communist groups speaks to a vital culture of anti-capitalism where people in all walks of life wanted to go out and join a revolutionary organization.

At the same time, however, we must admit that the eventual sectarianism hundreds of M-L groupsicles wasn't entirely healthy.  Why would six people, most often university students, whose general ideological commitments weren't wildly different from the Workers Communist Party, and whose difference was based on some obscure theoretical point, decide they were their own "party" who knew more than a party with thousands of members spread across Canada and working in mass orgs?  But a whole bunch of insignificant groups, most of whom had no connection with the Canadian proletariat except in their books and dreams, were claiming they were more legitimate than the WCP even though they generally held the same ideological position.  A healthy multiple line struggle became an unhealthy sectarianism.

In any case, this desire to found a party just for the hell of founding a party has now become a farce in an age where people can put up a web-page and declare that they've arrived as the commanding force of the proletariat in their country.  Recently my comrade BF at Workers Dreadnought wrote about this phenomenon, mainly in the context of a self-proclaimed revolutionary party of Afghani Maoists who do not have any concrete links with the people they claim to lead, who appear to be disgruntled ex-pats founding the "real" party in exile, and whose only existence, as far as their site is concerned, is to attack the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan––which is a legitimate force in Afghanistan––thus confusing people who have no idea what is happening amongst the left in that country.  As BF states, before posting the sectarian statement of the alphabet soup online group in question, "furthermore, it is noteworthy that this online organisation does not attack the Afghanistan Liberation Organisation or RAWA (its women's front), which are actually revisionist organisations and accomplices in the American-lackey regime."  The point being, it is extremely significant that this internet grouplet spends most of its time attacking a legitimate revolutionary organization rather than the revisionist and reactionary forces in their country of origin.  And this is probably because, in order to appear legitimate, it has to definite itself against the only other legitimate communist group in the region, gaining legitimacy through unprincipled delegitimization, and maybe pick up some confused supporters in the process.

(On a side note, BF's complaint about organizations that defined themselves as "marxist-leninist-maoist, principally maoist" is well-founded, despite the grumpity response by an adherent to the Afghani organization he targeted that, in many ways, demonstrated the sectarian confusion of that org.  What the hell does "marxist-leninist-maoist, principally maoist" theoretically mean?  The question is rhetorical: I know how it has been employed, and how some will argue what it means, but the point is that it is actually non-sensical when one grasps maoism as a universal development of revolutionary communist connected to marxism and leninism.  To say "principally maoist" or "principally leninist" or "principally marxist" is really quite silly.)

Of course, the internet "party" that BF has critiqued is not the only "party" guilty of pretending to be more significant than it actually is––that is, pretending to be a party in the first place when its only activities consist of running a website and/or blog, writing articles and polemics, and giving directives to the proletariat of a given country or the world.  The LLCO, for example, appears guilty of this, especially in its tendency to label every revolutionary movement "revisionist" unless it unites under the ideological brilliance of a first world group's website.  Then there are "the Activists" whose internet-primary "party" is kind of a farce of itself.  As BF notes, many of these "organizations" who attack the problems of actually revolutionary organizations "are incapable of grasping what a two-line struggle looks like in an organisation that is not simply comprised of five adolescent men gathering around their mother's kitchen table, and actually has hundreds of thousands of members organised into either the party itself or involved in party-led mass organisations."

Considering that others are doing it, maybe I should name myself a "party" because I have a blog that people actually read!  Coming soon: the Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (principally Maoism) Mayhem Party!


  1. The person repping that "Afghan" group gave a link to a site called "Learn from Chairman Gonzolo" or something like that, and that side had an even more mouthful "ideology": Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Gonzolo Thought, Principally Gonzolo Thought.

    Inspired by this I have taken to describing my own politics as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Yeshitela Thought, Principally Yeshitela Thought.

    1. Lol! MLM-YT(Principally YT): the alphabet soup continues!

      Yeah, the replies to that post on WD were bizarrely dogmatic. They consisted of telling BF "read this on this site" and then, when I pointed out that this wasn't really a good argument and sounded sectarian, they assumed I was also a moderator of WD and reassert the read-this-read-that "argument" as well as agreeing that they were proudly sectarian. It's no wonder that so many people are driven away from the movement...


Post a Comment