Maoist Internationalist Movement MIM History Published in MIM Notes 88, May 1994
October 1, 1993 marked the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Maoist Internationalist Movement's predecessor - the original Revolutionary Internationalist Movement.
May 1, 1994 is the 10th anniversary of the changing of the RIM's name to MIM - after our original name was appropriated. These anniversary dates were consciously chosen in 1983 and 1984 to celebrate the Chinese Revolution of 1949 and International Workers' Day, respectively.
The basic principles which caused the original RIM to form are as valid today as they were 10 years ago. In 1983, the organization announced that anti-imperialism and anti-militarism are the two most important revolutionary principles and that proletarian internationalism is our guiding ideological vision. Since that time MIM has deepened its line considerably.
In 1983-84, the comrades in Peru rejected the Marxist-Leninist unity that the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA was trying to forge internationally.(1) At this time, MIM also made a series of decisive breaks with the RCP, USA, though MIM's members were never members of the RCP, USA - and had no contacts with the Communist Party of Peru.
In 1984, we changed our name to MIM to reflect that while the RCP, USA/RIM might claim its Marxist-Leninist unity internationally: MIM contains the real Maoists. As was typical at the time, spokespeople for the RCP, USA consciously denied that they were Maoist. This reflected the RCP, USA general line as expressed in Revolution #50, 1981 - the infamous Conquer the World, in which Chairperson Bob Avakian eschewed Maoism for crypto-Trotskyism.
The origins of MIM are inextricably bound up with the phenomenon of the RCP, USA. Before 1987, MIM did not assess the RCP as consciously revisionist - even though MIM criticized the RCP for Trotskyite tendencies. To this day, there is confusion as to why MIM founded itself and the difference between the RCP, USA/RIM and MIM. We take our 10th anniversary as an opportunity to explain this difference generally, with emphasis here on the pre-1987 period. The founding documents of the original RIM describe the RIM as a "pre-party." The reason for the "pre-party" label is that these documents were a qualitative advance in the struggle between Maoist elements as yet unorganized into a party - and the RCP, USA - which had not yet adopted its current Maoist veneer.
The founding documents solved two problems simultaneously.(2) They laid down the basis for membership in the original RIM and delineated the relationship of the new Maoist forces to the RCP, USA in practice. Ideological, political and organizational riddles solved themselves simultaneously when a comrade close to the RCP, USA used our document "Manifesto on the International Situation and Revolution" as an application for membership in the RCP, USA. The comrade explained that if the RCP accepted the comrade on the basis of this document - then the other comrades would also commit to joining.
The RCP, USA rejected the application and a decisive break ensued. The issues entailed the nature of vanguard parties, Maoism versus Trotskyism and many smaller matters.
The RCP then raised a number of criticisms of the new-born Maoist forces - which had existed for a long time as an organization named the RADACADS before changing its name to RIM and finally to MIM. Likewise, the new-born Maoist forces criticized the RCP.
The RADACADS had openly worked with various organizations claiming vanguard status - but principally with the RCP. The RADACADS had consciously worked with parties that descended from the Maoist or Maoist-influenced elements of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and had consciously refused to work with Trotskyists or the CP, USA. At RADACADS events, surviving splinters from the SDS could all be found tabling and distributing literature.
Contrary to mistaken impressions circulated by enemies, the foundation of the organization was with a majority of national minorities and a majority of women. This was not by conscious design but through the natural pace of events and the political line promoted by the organization. The RADACADS were leaders in struggles concerning Azania, Central America, the Middle East and anti-militarism. Not surprisingly, the RADACADS attracted the corresponding social base with its line and work.
As time went on, the RADACADS crystallized into more developed poles. Although we can only raise this objection in retrospect - because we did not raise it then - the RCP, USA played a role in dividing the forces within the RADACADS, despite the overall Maoist tilt of the RADACADS from its very foundation.
The clearest Maoist pole within RADACADS defended Mao and the Cultural Revolution and opposed Soviet social-imperialism. This pole constantly had to defend Maoism from attacks by those who associated Maoism with the RCP, USA. Many activists with a solid impression of the RADACADS did not favor the RCP, USA. The clearest Maoist pole within the RADACADS was forced to defend the RCP, USA - and usually pretend that there was no difference between the two. Indeed, the conscious political differences were often not clear enough to say that there was a fundamental ideological difference - though there was clearly an organizational difference.
Conscious struggle and a decisive political break had preceded even the formation of the RADACADS. The question raised was why the new-born Maoist forces did not work with the Revolutionary Communist Party's Youth Brigade (RCYB).
Actually, the new-born forces had worked with a number of organizations - but principally the RCYB. A period of strong unity with the RCYB gave way on the issue of El Salvador.
The official RCP position was that the FMLN was "not objectively anti-imperialist" and that it "struck no blows against U.S. imperialism."
While the RCP admitted that the masses in oppressed countries always rise up against imperialism, it held that without a vanguard party formed on Marxist-Leninist principles, the masses could land no blow. This was a sticky point within the RCP itself and the RCP was not always clear on whether or not the masses could land any blows spontaneously. For this reason, the words "objectively" and "are not anti-imperialist" and "strike no blows" were very important.
The RCP gave as reasons for the "strike no blows" assertion that the FMLN was not led by a genuine vanguard party and was influenced by Soviet revisionism. The role of Soviet revisionism was emphasized because - in practice - the RCP believed the FMLN was led by a party, a revisionist party.
The new Maoist forces did not disagree that the FMLN was influenced by Soviet revisionism or, more importantly, that Soviet revisionism was fatal. When the new Maoist forces asked to go over this question in detail, the RCP obtained some FMLN/FDR documents for discussion. In this crucial discussion, the RCP comrade attacked as revisionism those aspects of the documents that were correct. In particular, the new Maoist forces defended the need for a new democratic revolution against imperialism and semi-feudalism.
In contrast, the RCP was not sure that El Salvador needed a revolution against semi-feudalism and criticized the documents for talk about capitalism and the necessity of a two-stage revolution. The RCP was more perceptive on the question of imperialism, however, than were the new Maoist forces. The RCP correctly labeled the conflict as a disagreement over the principal contradiction in the world. The RCP view was that the principal contradiction between U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism ruled even in El Salvador. The RCP seemed to soften this view at times, while honestly asking us: "How can you expose U.S. imperialism while simultaneously attacking Soviet revisionism?"
The key to this lies in objective versus subjective conditions. In other words, MIM was saying that despite subjective leaders like the FMLN, the masses were landing anti-imperialist blows, because the masses were objectively revolutionary in El Salvador. In contrast, the RCP could not imagine objectively revolutionary conditions existing without a motivational subjective factor. This is a kind of 19th century philosophical idealism which says that the conditions are not revolutionary unless there is a Marxist there to perceive them as revolutionary - and form the vanguard. In essence, the RCP was saying that, "You can't support the FMLN and the Salvadoran people against U.S. imperialism without supporting Soviet revisionism."
Some time after the break on the question of El Salvador, the RCP summed up the new Maoist forces as having a line that the oppressed nations versus imperialism was the principal contradiction. The RADACADS did not deny this, but at the same time, to be quite frank about our theoretical weaknesses, the RADACADS were not clear on this point and openly debated the question, while the RCP had a worked out position and correctly labeled a practical difference. The RCP also correctly stated that this difference should not be considered a big deal and the Maoist forces agreed to co-exist.
The real tell-tale difference between the RADACADS and the RCP was that many activists considered the RADACADS to be substantially more involved in leading and influencing mass movements. RADACADS people also received the compliment of speaking more concretely than the RCP. Even those who swore they would never join any organization like the RCP - because of their reputation for sectarianism and dogmatism - quickly joined the RADACADS and the original RIM and took up leading roles.
The biggest weakness that the RADACADS had was not being able to put together the nature of the white working class and the question of imperialism and the principal contradiction. This worked itself out in practice.
One of the things that slowed down the developing break between the new Maoist forces and the RCP was that the RCP frequently lost itself in the mists of formalism and it was difficult for the RADACADS comrades to pin down the RCP. For quite some time, the main question appeared to be the necessity of a vanguard party. Whenever the RADACADS raised a political issue, the RCP would retort: "You must not understand the need for a vanguard party."
This got so bad that one comrade in the most Maoist pole of RADACADS said we should join the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) en masse, "Because, at least, I can understand what they are saying!" This was a joke, because the PLP used simplified language like "bosses." (PLP had informed RADACADS that they were deemed "centrist" forces by the PLP.)
The RADACADS labored for a while under the illusion that maybe they had not tried hard enough to understand the RCP. But practice quickly proceeded and the differences became more and more difficult to cover up. The new Maoist forces were to learn their differences with the RCP principally through practice. In retrospect, it is clear that some Trotskyists masquerading as Leninists with a confused respect for Mao were the ones who did not understand these real differences. After the fall-out over El Salvador, the RADACADS formed and its comrades resumed work with the RCP from something of a distance - but in some ways on a larger and more diverse scale. The RADACADS held a quick succession of political education lectures and demonstrations over a period of years. Many events came off in a matter of days, and created a large impression.
The RADACADS summed up that their experiences were drawing forth thousands of people as well as the attention of numerous revisionist and more genuine forces - yet RADACADS lacked a consolidated organization. The questions that pressed to be answered continually became more advanced; and those claiming themselves as vanguard organizations seemed unable to capitalize on the work that the RADACADS was doing so closely with them.
The RADACADS concluded that the RCP had a problem in understanding the mass line relationship between the vanguard and the masses. When the RADACADS and elements of sympathetic organizations renamed themselves the RIM, the suspicion that the RCP was stuck in formalism and Avakianist mysticism was quite strong.
As described above, the RIM comrades went to the RCP after years of joint work and told them that they were definitely not agnostic and wanted to join or form the vanguard party. Even then, the RCP comrades said that the RIM still did not understand the need for a vanguard party. On the other hand, the RCP spokesperson said that the application would be evaluated and that it had some merits.
When the RCP came back with their response another decisive break ensued. Criticism number one was that the document did not recognize the RCP, USA as the vanguard. Criticism number two was that the RIM's criticisms of Trotsky were really criticisms of the RCP! (To which MIM says, "If the shoe fits, wear it!") Criticism number three was a series of opportunist doubts raised that the comrade was a cop for making the application.
The RIM responded that if the RCP accepted the principles in the written document - then certainly the RCP was the vanguard party. If not, the RIM hinted, then the RIM was the vanguard. This point still causes confusion here and internationally. MIM believes there is a vanguard in every society - even if it does not consciously recognize itself as such. The vanguard is simply the scientifically most advanced element. It exists materially. Failure to recognize this truth creates excuses for agnosticism and liquidationism on an idealist basis - which amounts to criticizing reality with ideas only.
The RIM consciously set out to test: who is the vanguard? Should the new Maoist comrades struggle within the RCP or form their own party? The founding documents of the RIM answered this question. By writing these documents and using them as a test, MIM's predecessor, the RIM, followed Mao, who said: "Ideological and political line is decisive."
A symbolic example of the basic difference between the two organizations was in how they conducted their work on the street. While RADACADS/RIM was supposedly soft on party-building, it was RADACADS/RIM that did the most on the street to demarcate Marxism-Leninism-Maoism from Trotskyism and other revisionist variants.
The RCP line was that it did not know what its actual differences with other organizations were - and that it was up to concerned individuals to find out for themselves. Despite this agnosticism, RCP comrades intervened in one instance to physically remove a RIM comrade from conflict with the Spartacist League at a literature table. The RCP referred to us as "Spart-killers" and laughed - because it was RIM practice to stand up to the Sparts and repel their ideological nonsense in front of the masses.
After a certain number of political defeats, the Spartacist League learned not to confront the RIM on the street - a lesson that MIM must teach such revisionists anew from time to time. But to this day, MIM maintains that the majority of RCP members do not comprehend the dividing line differences between Trotskyism and Maoism.
After the break over the membership application, the RCP started treating the RIM as half enemy, half friend. It started telling the RIM some lies for the first time (of notice) and it indulged in formalist cop-baiting.
Nonetheless, relations continued and some joint work was done with RCP organizations, under their own names, and RIM, under its own name. Then the RCP consciously stole the RIM name for its international mutual aid society.
After MIM hoisted its current name and declared itself as the Maoist vanguard in North America, the RCP's formalism and anger eventually cooled down and overtures at substantive unity were made.
Seeds of further division
MIM observed that the RCP's relationship to the masses was formalist and obscurantist. Even on MIM's weakest point at the time - the nature of the white working class - there were telling differences in practice.
Some time after the original RIM's break with the RCP in 1983, the two sides had come together again to discuss deep differences. One thing the RCP did not like was the way RIM's founding documents ended: "Neither before nor after the revolution will RIM wait for class relations to change. RIM will not even wait for the proletariat itself. 'Workerism' - worship of the workers whatever they do - and 'economism' - waiting for economic conditions to dish up revolutionaries on the silver platter, especially through wage struggles - are not only not ways of advancing the revolutionary line now, they are also good ways to blow a revolutionary opportunity."(3)
The RCP said, "We'd like to see you say that shit to the workers!" The RCP also had us pinned as seeing "youth as a class," which we denied. Ironically, the RIM had previously criticized the RCP newspaper for having nothing to say about the workers' struggles - nothing concrete at all. In response, an RCP comrade made one of his better statements: "You're right; we should [have something to say], only to criticize them!"
By 1984, MIM held a confused duality of views: 1. That the white workers were exploited - a view rarely acted on - except in vague ways - because of the confusion shared with the RCP about "economism"; 2. That the RCP had Trotskyist tendencies; and that maybe the principal contradiction was between the oppressed countries and imperialism.
It was not until 1987 that the pieces really started to come together with MIM's study and circulation of Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat, by J. Sakai, and Labor Aristocracy: Mass Base for Social Democracy, by H.W. Edwards. In accord with this new spiral development in theory, MIM made the question of the non-revolutionary, bourgeoisified white working class a dividing line question in practice for U.S.-based Maoists.
Looking back - on this 10th anniversary of our founding - we see that the most ironic struggle the original RIM had with the RCP concerned the class nature of the new bourgeoisie formed under socialism in the Soviet Union, China, Albania, etc.
In an argument over this point, the original RIM discovered that an RCP spokesperson did not know who Liu Shaoqi was!(4) This argument did much to persuade the RIM that the RCP was not on any real Maoist footing. In discussions with an associate in 1983, one RIM comrade said, "If they are going to force us to choose between Lenin and Mao: who are you going to pick?" Our associate (not a RIM member, but active in RCP circles) replied, "I don't know about that." The RIM comrade continued, "Don't you think you would pick Mao?"
In a subsequent series of arguments, MIM learned that the RCP held the productive forces as principal under socialism and that the RCP had no idea that inside the Party leadership under socialism a "new" bourgeoisie was created through the various components of "bourgeois right," the division of labor, and other internal contradictions. The RCP believed it was class remnants from the old system and the external force of imperialism that created the bourgeoisie in the party.
One irony of these old struggles from the early 1980s is that in 1993, Raymond Lotta, a theoretician for the RCP, criticized a conference of Maoist parties held in Germany, principally with regard to its lack of a line on the "new bourgeoisie." On the other hand, Avakian's recent works still support the constantly recycled RCP productive forces and external causation theories. Meanwhile, the RCP has also adopted the label "Maoist" under pressure from the Shining Path, and we believe--though unacknowledged--MIM's continued existence and growth.
While the RCP has moved forward on a number of issues, it stands confronted on many other issues that remain unresolved. The touchstone unresolved issue between the RCP and MIM is the nature of the Amerikan working class.
In 1992, after years of struggle, MIM finally concluded that the RCP is, in reality, a revisionist party--a Trotskyist blend. The RCP has proven unable to resolve the key ideological and political issues confronting it and has not benefited from articulate, organized explanations over the years. These issues range from the RCP's absurd, anti-proletarian line against homosexuality to their continued, patently erroneous stance on the principal contradiction the world.
On the international scene, comrades should cast aside the RCP slogans and rhetoric and carefully study recent RCP writings on the role of democracy under socialism; the "revolutionary" nature of the bourgeoisified working classes; the political economy of super-profits; the basis for the emergence of a new bourgeoisie in the party under socialism; the ideological tailing after pseudofeminist movements; and the theoretical liquidation of the role of revolutionary nationalist movements in the new-democratic revolution.(5)
Unlike some imperialist countries' parties that claim the banner of Mao, the RCP has no excuse for its dogmatism. Material reality- -practice--including struggle with MIM--has shown the RCP a number of correct analyses that it has consciously rejected. In some countries, RCP-like parties and affiliates are actually the most advanced elements available. Founding vanguard parties on correct principles in those societies is a struggle dawning on the horizon as Maoism continues its modern resurgence.
In more objectively revolutionary societies, the vanguard parties are more advanced in practice than MIM. As MIM enjoys its 10th anniversary, it resolves for the new year to become an increasingly international force and a political factor in the imperialist countries for the advancement of internationalism on the touchstone questions: the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and China; upholding the lessons of the Cultural Revolution; and the political economy of the imperialist country working classes.
Notes: 1. El Movimiento Comunista Internacional/El Movimiento Revolucionario Internacionalista, El Pensamiento Gonzalo, Central Committee, Communist Party of Peru, 1991, p. 318-324. English translation available from MIM for $2. 2. Founding documents available in What Is MIM? $2. 3. What Is MIM? p. 4. 4. Liu was the leading revisionist proponent of the capitalist road in China, before he was purged during the Cultural Revolution. 5. Order MIM's The RCP Study Pack, revised 1994, $15.
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