From Marx to Lenin to Mao

काठमाण्डु टुडे २०७० पुष ११ गते ४:५७ मा प्रकाशित

On 26 December 2013, revolutionary Maoist organizations and their mass bases in the world especially in India, Philippines and the newly awakening Maoist left in China are celebrating the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong who was one of the most outstanding proletarian revolutionary leader to have left his mark in the 20th century after the demise of great Lenin in 1924. If Marx were to be considered the first great beacon of proletarian revolution in human history, Lenin should be the second and Mao the third. On this traditionally auspicious historic occasion to celebrate Mao’s 120th birth anniversary, let us try and recapture and review the milestones the theory and practice of proletarian revolution has taught us so far from the time of Marx to Lenin and then to Mao and hopefully – beyond.

In an excerpt taken from a letter Karl Marx wrote in 1852 to J. Weydemeyer in New York, he asserted, “… Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists, the economy of the classes. What I did that was new was to prove: (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production (historische Entwicklungsphasen der Production), (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat,(3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society … ”.  (downloaded from )

The above excerpt briefly and succinctly summarizes what can be considered the three basic points or tenets of Marxist theory and practice in the realm of social science and political economy whereby he claimed to have successfully proven and predicted the following:

(1)  The existence of classes is an extremely recent and conditional social phenomenon in the evolution of human society since the emergence of humankind on planet earth as far back as half a million years ago or so. Class society did not exist for the overwhelming duration of human existence on mother earth until at the most 5,000 to 6,000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and China. Classes arose conditionally when the mode of production in human society necessitated the division of society into a class of patriarchal slave owners imposing their class rule or dictatorship over another class comprising the vast demographic majority of slaves who are considered their private property to be bought and sold or disposed of according to whatever and whenever they had deem fit. Such social division also marked the origin of the patriarchal family, private property and the nation-state superstructure or country. Ancient slave society lasted about 2,000 to 3,000 years until the class dictatorship of slave owners was replaced by the advent of the class dictatorship of feudal land owners lording over the vast majority of land-tiling peasantry in human society especially in China, India, the Mediterranean and the rest of Medieval Europe. Therefore class struggle – being part and parcel of class society – became the necessary motive force behind historical changes from one era to another.

(2)  The current capitalist historical era began emerging in Europe with the establishment of the world’s first bourgeois republics in flourishing cities such as Florence and other strategically located city states in the Italian peninsula known for being the hub of inter-regional trading between European feudal monarchies and other feudal monarchies in western Asia and northern Africa. It also gave rise to the world’s first great Bourgeois Cultural Revolution better known as the Renaissance which laid the ideological and political foundation for the spread of bourgeois democratic values to other parts of Europe and then the world over thereby putting capitalism center stage in the post-feudalism historical era. In the abovementioned letter to Weydemeyer, Marx predicted on the basis of materially concrete historical evidence that class struggle would provide the impetus for the modern-day capitalist class dictatorship to reach its historical limits no less than previous class dictatorship in ancient and medieval history and hence, the current capitalist bourgeois class dictatorship would also be eventually replaced by the newly arisen proletariat working-class dictatorship ushering in a new historical era – socialism. In March 1871, Marx historic prediction came true when the proletariat armed insurrection in Paris succeeded in establishing the world’s first proletariat working-class regime or dictatorship known as the Paris Commune which lasted only three months before the combined armed forces of the French and German capitalist bourgeois rulers drowned it in blood.

(3)  From the inevitable historical class struggle between the ruling capitalist bourgeoisie and the subjugated proletariat working class in our modern historical era, Marx predicted that the realization of the proletariat working-class dictatorship or the arrival of the socialist era is merely a historical transition from the capitalist era to the communist era whereby all social class divisions along with the patriarchal family, private property and nation states or countries in human society would be rendered obsolete leading to the realization of a classless society or communism among humanity on planet earth again.

(Further and more detailed elaboration and substantiation of the three basic tenets of Marxist political-economic theory and practice – which Karl Marx had developed together with his political and ideological soul-mate, Frederick Engels – can be freely downloaded from the abovementioned Marxist Internet Archive website.)

The first point Marx had summarized about what he had claimed to have successfully proven and predicted in social science and political economy captures – within one short paragraph – the most basic overall framework of what can now be termed “historical materialism in a nutshell”. It provided an easily discernible historical roadmap for future generations of outstanding proletarian revolutionary leaders such as Lenin and Mao to chart the protracted and tortuous course of the revolutionary struggle of the working class and multi-national working peoples in their respective countries – Russia and then China.

The short-lived Paris Commune uprising featured in the second point of Marx summation provided him with a golden opportunity to analyze the successes and shortcomings of the world’s first successful proletarian uprising. Marx analysis provided an indispensable reference for future generations of proletarian revolutionary leaders in Europe such as Lenin and his Bolshevik party comrades to figure out ways and means to overcome such shortcomings in order to successfully launch their proletarian armed insurrections in major cities of former Czarist Russia such as Petrograd and Moscow to enable the working class to seize state power and establish a viable and sustainable proletarian class regime later to be known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Lenin summed up the shortcomings of the Paris Commune briefly:

“The Paris Commune was the dictatorship of the proletariat, but this dictatorship was weak and incomplete. The Communards lacked the fundamentals—a Marxist proletarian party, discipline, organisation, a clear understanding of the aims of their struggle, and an alliance with the peasantry. The Commune committed a number of serious errors. It did not venture to confiscate the tremendous assets of the French bank and showed hesitance in dealing with counter-revolutionary agents and accessories, saboteurs, spies and the slanderous campaign in the bourgeoise press. The Commune paid too little attention to military training.”

The first thing Lenin set out to rectify was to call for the establishment of a proletarian vanguard party requiring very tight and cohesive organizational discipline that would be able to withstand heavy state repression with a clear vision of what it would take to launch a successful revolution to seize political power which he had painstakingly outlined in his classic pamphlet entitled “What is to be Done?” published in 1902. He fought tooth and nail with anarchist and other liberal bourgeois tendencies among revolutionary-minded comrades in what was then known as the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party which included not just the working class but also anti-monarchist petty bourgeois elements. He stressed the primary importance of party organizers identifying advance elements among the working class, win them over to party line, cultivate and train them to be full time party organizers to go among ordinary workers to steer the working class struggle toward proletarian revolution to seize political power. Lenin’s “What is to be Done?” pamphlet later became a standard manual for the Marxist-Leninist party organizations formed all over Asia and other parts of the world after Lenin and his comrades established the Third Communist International or Comintern in 1919 to promote world proletarian revolution and spread proletarian internationalism among rank and file soldiers sent by the Euro-American-Japanese imperialist alliance to intervene in the bloodily brutal civil war between Red and White Russians lasting about five years from 1917 until 1922.

In the midst of WW1, Lenin updated Marx searing exposure of capitalism by showing that parasitic monopoly financial capitalists have replaced the dominating role of productive industrial capitalists to push world capitalism to its highest stage which he called imperialism whereby a handful of industrialized capitalist countries from Europe such as Britain, France, Germany and Russia and from the northern Pacific such as USA, Canada and Japan have completed the division of the capitalist world market among themselves after four centuries of post-Renaissance global colonial expansion to seize the land, natural and labor resources  of pre-capitalist nations and peoples in Africa, Asia and what is now known as Latin America to expand the power and influence of the capitalist market of the respective colonial ruling countries globally. Hence, the only way to re-divide the world market among the handful of imperialist countries is to form temporary alliances among themselves to launch wars against one another on a global scale. World War 1 was the most succinct manifestation of Lenin’s update on the highest stage of capitalism – imperialism.

Based on his update on imperialism, Lenin fought strenuously against the spontaneous nationalist tendency among many social democratic comrades in the Second International to support the war effort of their ruling bourgeois governments in their respective imperialist countries such as Britain, France, Germany and other European countries; he called for turning an imperialist war to re-divide the world market into a revolutionary civil war to overthrow capitalism. Only Lenin’s Bolshevik party faction in the then RSDLP successfully implemented his proletarian revolutionary line which laid the foundation for the success of the proletarian armed insurrection spearheaded by his party faction in October 1917 to seized political power in the midst of World War 1 when the tide of the war turned against Russian forces at the battle front. This was preceded by an earlier convergence of an economic crisis with a qualitative change in the mood among broad sections of the people from supporting the war to opposing the war hence precipitating a political crisis in February 1917 whereby the Czar was forced to abdicate and relinquish power to an elected provisional government ending several centuries of feudal monarchy in Russia.

Elections were held to set up Russia’s first popularly elected Duma which even grass-level workers, peasants and soldiers were able to elect their Soviet or Council representatives to sit in the provisional government led by a liberal bourgeois politician, Aleksandr Kerensky. Lenin hurried back to Russia to take part in the revolution with the help of Swiss communist Fritz Platten. During the train journey home, Lenin wrote his famous April Theses which later serves as the Bolshevik party program for launching a socialist armed revolution to overthrow capitalism in Russia as the first step to sparking other proletarian armed revolutions in Europe.

Once in power, Kerensky bowed to the pressure of other imperialist allies such as Britain and France to again whip up the spontaneous patriotic feelings among the masses to continue pursuing the war against Germany. Bolshevik party members in the Duma spoke openly against the war and were put in prison on charges of being German agents; Lenin had to go into hiding and his party was forced to go underground. As casualties among Russian forces in the battle front mount along with the hardship the war was causing the urban workers and rural peasantry, desertion became rife among rank and file Russian soldiers who were basically either workers and or peasants. Underground Bolshevik party member worked feverishly among ordinary soldiers to aid and abetted them to leave the battle front and go home to turn their guns against their capitalist rulers – the Kerensky regime. Bolshevik party members were implementing Lenin’s line of turning an imperialist war into a revolutionary civil war.

When the historic opportunity ripened for the proletarian to seize political power in October 1917, the working class under the leadership of the Bolshevik party was able to rise to the occasion of launching a successful revolutionary insurrection to overthrow the ruling power of the bourgeois Kerensky government to establish the ruling power of the popular workers-peasants Soviet councils in major Russian cities such as Petrograd and Moscow as the first step to seizing power nationwide. All the other parties in the Second International renege on their undertaking to turn an imperialist war into a revolutionary civil war in Europe. This led Lenin to see through the entrenched revisionism of leading members of the Second International and he decided to form the Third Communist International also known as Comintern in 1919 to promote revolution all over the world especially in Asia and in particular the then fledgling Republic of China whose people were in the throes of pushing their democratic revolution from the old bourgeois democratic stage – led by Sun Yat Sen’s generation who successfully overthrew the 2,000-years-old feudal monarchical system in China in October 1911 – to what Mao Zedong would later term as the new democratic stage which would complete the democratic revolution to set the stage for socialist revolution in China. Lenin accurately predicted the likelihood of a successful proletarian revolution in China under the leadership of a communist party; he did his utmost to channel resources and effort through the Comintern in helping a new generation of Chinese revolutionaries such as Li Dazhao and Mao Zedong to form the Communist Party of China in 1921.

By 1923, Lenin’s health began to fail him after he suffered the first stroke in May 1922; he had barely survived an assassination attempt in August 1918 when an anarchist mixing among ordinary workers shot him three times not long after he finished his speech to a gathering of workers in a factory to uplift the fighting spirit of the working class to overcome the hardship involved in defending the fruits of their 1917 October revolution. Although this assassination attempt failed, it must have weakened Lenin considerably as the years went by. Lenin’s outstanding revolutionary leadership was cut short in January 1924 when he died of a stroke at the age of 53; he had only seven years to find out how to lead the working class to build their socialist regime from the ashes of five years of a tortuously ruinous civil war against the White Russian counter-revolutionary forces and their international backers comprising all the major imperialist countries from Europe, northern America and even Japan.

One of Lenin’s last words dictated to his wife, Krupskaya stressed the need for a cultural revolution to restructure and remake the party, the socialist state super-structure and economic base to better serve the needs of the vast majority of the working masses. The party no longer has to be an underground organization always on the lookout for the heavy hand of the bourgeois state secret police; incumbency requires the party to be more open and be subject to the supervision of the working masses. The state superstructure and other organizations and institutions inherited from the old bourgeois system has to be remade and restructured to meet the needs of the vast majority of the working masses instead of just for a privileged minority. Had Lenin been not seriously wounded by three near fatal gunshots in August 1918, he would likely be able to live normally to a ripe old age of say 70 like some of his party peers and would have most likely launched a cultural revolution by the early 1930s especially when the world capitalist market hit rock bottom during the Great Depression. The working class in the world would not have to wait for more than 30 years for Mao to launch their world’s first Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1966.

World War 1 provided the historic opportunity for the proletariat in Russia led by their vanguard party to seize political power in October 1917. For nationalist revolutionaries such as Sun Yatsen in China, it tore off the pretension and hypocrisy of Euro-centric liberal bourgeois rhetoric stressing the importance of freedom and democracy for all except for those subject to their colonial rule and or targeted for colonial subjugation. The Chinese people especially those from the younger generations were outraged by the blatant betrayal of their national interest and sovereignty when imperialist Japan was rewarded with German colonial concessions in northern China during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference to end WW1. Only the fledgling proletarian republic in Russia openly renounced holding onto the colonial concessions held by the former Russian empire and were willing to render assistance to Sun and his party comrades to set up a new military academy in summer 1924 to train officers in leading a planned military campaign against northern Chinese warlords to reunify China – then fragmented into dozens of regional warlord regimes after the 1911 revolution – under a central government with a central military command.

Whole new generations of Chinese revolutionaries disillusioned by liberal bourgeois ideology during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference began turning politically leftward to embrace Marxist-Leninism aided and abetted by the Commintern under the keen leadership of Lenin who also predicted accurately that the eye of the revolutionary storm in the world had shifted from Europe to China and Marxist-Leninist literature channeled through the Comintern began spreading surreptitiously like wild fire among new generations of Chinese intellectuals from Lu Xun’s to Mao’s generation and right until the Red-Guard generation who were instrumental to helping Mao sparked off the GPCR in 1966.

In May 1919, an ongoing anti-imperialist and anti-feudal cultural movement then known as the New Cultural Movement among young intellectuals led by their teachers all over the major cities of China broke out into open nationwide rebellion in almost every Chinese university and college campuses whereby young students went outside their campuses to agitate among the popular masses to oppose the blatant betrayal of Chinese national interest and sovereign rights at the Paris Peace Conference. Hence what started out as an anti-feudal and anti-imperialist cultural movement among intellectuals – which began in 1915 over the 21 demands imposed by the then Great Imperialist Nippon on China – became a full-blown cultural revolution when it spread beyond college and school campuses to influence even ordinary urban working people nationwide.

The cresting of the New Cultural Movement in May 1919 turned it into a massive nationwide cultural revolution which then became known as the May Fourth Movement laying the ideological foundation pillar for the founding of the Communist Party of China in July 1921, according to CPC official party line. The founding members of the CPC included older intellectuals such as Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao in their 40s and 30s and younger ones such as Mao Zedong, He Shuheng Dong Biwu and Zhang Guotao in their 20s who were leading elements in the May Fourth Movement and the earlier New Cultural Movement. They were also founding members of various communist and or socialist study groups formed in Chinese major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Changsha and Guangzhou soon after the May Fourth Movement. A Comintern representative arrived in Shanghai in early summer 1921 to contact Chen Duxiu who was asked to organize a founding congress to establish the Communist Party of China. Chen then wrote to various Marxist study groups inside and outside China to invite them to send representatives to attend a founding congress.

After the founding congress of the CPC in July 1927, representatives went back to their respective provinces and localities to establish party branches among the working class to ensure the party is backed up by a proletariat mass base. Mao and He went back to their native Hunan provincial capital of Changsha where they had been involved in student activism since they first entered Changsha Hunan First Normal College more than a decade ago. There Mao and his party comrades set out to form the largest and most cohesive provincial party branch in the CPC which would provide many of the core party and military leaders of the armed revolution in 1927.

The 1917 armed revolution in Russia started out in the city just like the Paris Commune Uprising and building on the historical lessons summed up by Marx and Lenin, spread to the rural areas eventually leading to a full blown civil war engulfing the whole country. While the 1927 armed revolution in China may have started in the city of Nanchang in late July but it was quickly suppressed along with other attempts at urban armed uprisings along classic Marxist-Leninist line. Only the Autumn Harvest Uprising which Mao was sent to lead in the rural area near the village where he was born and spent his early teenage years took a different track from the classic Marxist-Leninist urban armed uprising framework which dominated the thinking of most central leaders in the fledgling CPC. Mao’s rural upbringing, his familiarity with militant peasant struggle for land in the rural area near his home village and the long history of peasant uprisings in China enabled him to see a new form of armed revolution suitable for a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country such as China which was then subjugated and fragmented into independent regional warlord states by all the major imperialist powers from Europe, USA and Japan. He later summed up his military strategy graphically as “villages surrounding the cities”.

While Lenin creatively applied Marxist revolutionary theory and practice to successfully launch a proletarian revolution in an imperialist country thus giving rise to what was later known as Marxism-Leninism, it was Mao who further developed Marxism-Leninism to successfully launch a what he had coined as a new democratic revolution to set the stage for launching a socialist revolution in China which is part of the vast majority of semi-feudal, colonial and or semi-colonial countries in the world subjugated by a handful of imperialist countries. Mao had found the key to making revolution in the vast majority of subjugated countries in the world; his party supporters in the CPC started calling it “Mao Zedong Thought” in the late 1940s. Lenin may have mentioned specifically about the need for a proletarian cultural revolution just before he died in 1924 but again it was Mao who had the chance to apply in practice in 1966 what Lenin had only the chance to talk about. Mao had found the answer to what his surviving leftist comrades, supporters in the CPC and other parts of the world have claimed during the cultural revolution that such proletarian cultural revolution is the key to “continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat or socialism until classless society or communism is finally achieved in human society” which is the answer to point (3) Marx had claimed to have proven in his 1852 letter to Weydemeyer .  In the early 1980s, supporters of “Mao Zedong Thought” in the world started calling the answer Mao had worked so hard all his life so have found – “Maoism” putting Mao alongside Marx and Lenin.

During the 1970s, Mao very briefly summed up his lifetime achievements by taking credit for doing two things; the first was “inviting Chiang Kaishek to Taiwan which was by and large acceptable to most (of his old party comrades)” and the second was “launching the cultural revolution which was supported by not many (of his old party comrades) and opposed by quite a few”. He praised many of his old party comrades for their enthusiasm in fighting to overthrow the “three great mountains” comprising imperialism, bureaucrat comprador capitalism and feudalism in China during the new democratic revolution but he chastised them for their lack of enthusiasm in exposing and fighting to suppress the spontaneous proliferation of bourgeois rights and freedom during the socialist stage of the revolution soon after the completion of the democratic revolution in 1949. He even questioned their sincerity in saying they uphold the socialist revolution when they “don’t even know where the bourgeoisie are”. Mao exposed their hidden agenda to restore capitalism by saying: “the bourgeoisie are right in the party; they are those in position of authority in the party who are taking the capitalist road.”

In 1966, Mao launched the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution after several previous mass movements such as the Socialist Education Movement to expose the capitalist roaders in the party such as Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping who were trying to restore capitalism under the guise of socialism and in the name of the communist party. Several months before Mao died in September 1976, he even issued an open warning to the Chinese people that “the capitalist roaders are still on the capitalist road”. His warning unfortunately became a harsh reality soon after he died when the capitalist roaders in the party center and the military high command successfully launched a military coup in October 1976 to decapitate the Maoist left; capitalism was soon restored as soon as Deng became the supreme leader of the capitalist “reform and opening up”. Mao may have sounded rather ironic and ambivalent in taking credit for launching the GPCR but it was also his greatest and final lifetime contribution to the revolutionary theory and practice of the proletarian class in the world. He fought till his last breath against the capitalist roaders who were trying their utmost to reverse the achievements of the GPCR.

During a talk with an Albanian delegation in 1967, Mao specifically pointed out to delegation members that while overthrowing the capitalist roaders may have been the principal task of the GPCR but the objective is change the thinking and world view of humankind which has been so heavily conditioned and dominated by at least 5,000 years of class society.  He estimated that it would take at least 10, 20, 30 or even more proletarian cultural revolutions to achieve the objective of winning humankind over to communism in theory and practice. The bourgeoisie in the world know this is possible and have been doing their very utmost to demonize Mao and the GPCR to prevent the people especially among the young and restless from discovering the answer to ridding humanity of all forms of exploitation that have been causing so much miseries and sufferings among exploited and oppressed peoples and classes since the advent of the patriarchal state, family and private property.

This 26th December marks the 120th  birth anniversary of Mao Zedong, let us redouble our effort and resolution to arm the long suffering proletariat and working people of the world with the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism now that capitalism has been reeling from one crisis to another with no end in sight but it final downfall.

Long Live the Proletariat!

Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism!

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