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Still Waiting For Some Honest Critiques of Continuity and Rupture

So far, all the critiques of Continuity and Rupture, when they have been expressed, have been little more than straw-person representations of that book's arguments. Nearly a year ago I posted The Argument of Continuity and Rupture that clarified and reasserted the book's argument, pointing out how nobody outside of the Maoist camp who took issue with my claim that Maoism was the accomplishment of historical materialism had succeeded in providing a counter-argument. I summarized the book's main argument in this regard, demanding that it be engaged with, and received no response aside from outright dismissal. Such is the state of thought amongst the non-Maoist "Marxist" tendencies. Since then, however, there has been some buzz within the Maoist camp about the book's claims, most of which seem to be throwaway comments on social media, that reinforce the reasons why I wrote the book to begin with: there is the need for philosophical consensus within the terrain of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.

To be clear, the two major complaints against Continuity and Rupture within the broad Maoist camp have done little more than demonstrate that those making these complaints have either: i) not the read the book and are making up reasons, for whatever reason, why they are opposed to what they think it means; ii) have read it and are either being dishonest or have very poor reading skills. Although these two complaints are undermined by an honest reading of the book, and anyone who cares about actually engaging with a text could not be side-tracked by these readings, I'm going to engage with them here because I feel that the open misrepresentation of my book is in fact damaging to the overall argument (the primacy of MLM) that I was putting forward.

So what are these two complaints? The first is that I reject the theory of the vanguard party in favour of Luxemburg's theory of the mass party. The second is that my conceptualization of "rupture" is a post-modern deviation that undermines the fact that Maoism is complete "continuity" with Marxism-Leninism. Both complaints reveal a refusal to read the actual text, a weird attitude to create a made up "right opportunism" in the interest of whatever local political concerns.

1: Mass Party or Vanguard Party

I do not accept Luxemburg's theory of the Mass Party and never have. My position has always been that the Leninist theory of the Vanguard Party is one of the developments of the science, and in fact I claimed this in Continuity and Rupture. What I did argue in this book is that diffusion of the theory of the vanguard party through Maoism––or the Maoist Party of the New Type––means that the vanguard party is in fact a mass party because of the theory of the mass-line. The claim I made, in every instance where I used the term "mass party" was against the definite article of The Mass Party, which is the Luxemburgist and anti-Leninist definition of the party, because I intentionally used the indefinite article of a mass party. "The revolutionary party must also become a mass party." (15) And then: "The party seeds itself into the masses, trying to pull in those that are most aware of the need to end capitalism, and thus becomes a mass party." (199) And finally: "This theory is not about turning a party into an armed cabal that is forced to operate only clandestinely and divorced from the masses, but is about building a mass party that will develop in its ability to challenge state power without having to agitate and take hold of an insurrection." (211)

So only three points in the entire book where the two words "mass party" were used and, in each case, according to the indefinite article. The intention being, as anyone who is capable of honestly reading a text can and should attest, that the theory of the vanguard party, especially refracted through Maoism, is capable of becoming a party for the masses (i.e. a "mass party") thus undermining, implicitly, Luxemburg's theory of the mass party. Considering how much I have written on the necessity of the theory of the party of the avant-garde it is either dishonest or ignorant that three passages that used two words were represented as being opposed to Lenin's conception of the party. And yet entire erroneous critiques are written on this deletion of articles. The point of Maoism is the following: only the vanguard party attached to the theory of the mass-line can be properly mass. Theories of "the mass party" will never produce an actual mass party because, just like Draper's impoverished conception of "socialism from below", the can't succeed in engaging the masses.

2: The problem of "rupture"

Again a problem of actually reading the text, not to mention a failure of dialectical thought: Continuity and Rupture should be criticized for talking about "rupture" when Maoism is "not a rupture from Marxism-Leninism but its continuity." Considering that most people who have made this claim admit to not having read the book I am somewhat loathe to engage with it… And yet, since they keep repeating this critique without any consideration of what I wrote it is necessary to dispel the misrepresentation.

First of all, the title of the book and the entire interplay of continuity and rupture was inherited from the exchange of polemics between the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan [CmPA] and the US Revolutionary Communist Party [RCP-USA] where, against the revisionism of the latter the former asserted: "rupturing from 'elements that are wrong, one-sided and unscientific,' and weeding out the previous wrong understandings of Marxism… first of all requires emphasizing the foundation of a correct, comprehensive and scientific kernel. Without this axiomatic understanding, Marxism cannot save its scientific kernel. In other words, a firm emphasis on the scientific kernel scientifically means a firm emphasis on the continuation of the science." (166-167) The point, here, was that in order to establish a continuity with revolutionary science, in each and every period of revolution, it is necessary to rupture from revisionist elements. That is, the guiding thought of "rupture" is not about rupturing from the science as previous laid but, primarily, a rupture from the revisionist elements that attempts at this science have accrued.

But I extended this germinal understanding of continuity and rupture to recognize the ways in which a simplistic continuity of "Marxism-Leninism" is not merely quantitative but is theoretically qualitative: that the science develops according to important revolutionary breaks that, in their breaking with the stasis of previous period because of world historical revolutions, establish better understandings of the science that are in fact proper conceptualizations of the continuity of this science.

It is entirely weird, in my opinion, for Maoists to assume that there is such a thing as an unqualified continuity without the ruptural moments of revolution. Revolutions break from the state of affairs and prove things in their breaking. But only the revolutions that are able to connect their breaks to the continuity of revolutionary science can speak with the voice of universality. This is why the PCP was significant: it broke from the claim that there could be no further iteration of revolutionary science from "Marxism-Leninism" because of some poor assumptions about the science (which I critique in Continuity and Rupture), and thus to declare "Maoism" as a third stage of the science was indeed a rupture from theoretical barriers in thought. In making this rupture a proper continuity with the science was established and we can only understand this continuity because of the ruptural moment of the People's War in Peru and its influence upon the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement [RIM]. The RIM position was thus a ruptural position because it broke from claims that there could be nothing more than Marxism-Leninism, that a third stage of the science was somehow foreclosed, and in breaking from this simplistic idea established scientific continuity.

The point being, and what I reinforced at every point in the book, rupture is the process through which continuity is established… and, vice versa, continuity must be a rupture from all revisionist codifications and barriers. To complain that the moment of rupture doesn't figure into theoretical development is to also claim that "evolution" is more important than "revolution". Once we admit that theoretical development is tied to class struggle then we must reject any theory that treats this development as a passive organic growth rather than one the proceeds according to struggle. And it is only through the ruptural moments of struggle that we are truly in continuity with revolutionary science that, at its core, proclaims class struggle as the motive force of history.

Let's be very clear: when the PCP initially declared Maoism as a third stage of revolutionary science they did so to intentionally rupture from the ways in which Marxism-Leninism had reached an impasse in their social context. The rupture was monumental and completely reoriented the field of the science that, taken up by the RIM, declared that anything short of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism was revisionism. Rupturing from the limits of bad practices and theoretical limitations was, in fact, the establishment of revolutionary continuity. Yes, it was clear that Maoism was the continuation of Marxism and Marxism-Leninism, but it could only proclaim this continuity by breaking from revisionist limits.

Now there is, of course, a way in which "rupture" is declared that is not in continuity with revolutionary science. I'm pretty sure that these misrepresentational critiques of Continuity and Rupture are premised on this conception of rupture… But this is a conception that I clearly rejected. Indeed, I called the obsession with rupture at the expense of continuity "unscientific" because:

The logical result of a position that emphasizes rupture at the expense of continuity is the presumption that history lacks clarity and revolutionary moments… cannot be understood as revolutionary if there is nothing continuous with which to judge their revolutionary credentials. Emphasizing continuity means that every rupture [which I previously classified as dependent on "world historical revolutions"] is part of an unfolding science. No science develops according to unqualified ruptures that erupt from a cognitive abyss to annihilate the history to which they belong. (168)

Just as a theory of revolution that rejects rupture altogether is a theory of quantitative evolutionary development rather than qualitative revolutionary development, a theory of revolution that is based only on rupture is incoherent because it lacks a scientific basis. But I digress: clearly the complaints about "rupture" are premised on a refusal to read what I actually wrote which, sadly, proves some of my other claims, in this book, about the problem of dogmatism.


There are indeed problems with Continuity and Rupture. Being the first attempt to philosophically think the theoretical terrain of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism it is only this: a first attempt. My hope was to provide some patterns that would contribute to later and better interventions upon this field of revolutionary truth while demonstrating, by recourse to the argument, that Maoism is the proper inheritor of the terrain of historical materialism. It is strange that some cadre who associate with this terrain have gone out of their way to misrepresent the project. Or maybe it's not so strange: I did recognize the lingering spirit of dogmatism, the way in which this attitude can overdetermine cadre, and the results of this recognition are clear. Even still, if Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the current nomenclature of the new science my hope is that it can produce not only new scientists but new philosophers––both of whom emerge from the broad masses.