By Jakob Stein
Chairman Gonzalo is known for achieving many things in his life—he is a great revolutionary whose leadership guides the Communist Party of Peru (PCP, Partido Comunista del Perú) and Peruvian people in an armed struggle against exploitation and oppression: the People’s War. When captured in 1992, he became the world’s foremost political prisoner, holding his post with honor for 29 years of inhumane imprisonment and sacrificing his life for the World Proletarian Revolution. However, his towering achievement is the ideological leadership he has given to the people of the world by defining the ideology of the proletariat, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM, or simply Maoism). Maoism is at once universal, meaning it can be applied to the various conditions of all the countries of the world, and invincible, because it will inevitably guide the emancipation of the proletariat through the fight for Communism, leading towards the emancipation of all of humanity.
Through the People’s War in Peru, Chairman Gonzalo applied this universal ideology to the specific conditions of the country, generating what is called “Gonzalo Thought.” This Thought contains certain lessons that people around the world can learn from and apply, referred to by revolutionaries as “the contributions of universal validity of Chairman Gonzalo.”
Both Maoism and Chairman Gonzalo’s contributions of universal validity are currently guiding revolutionaries around the globe to form organizations of the proletariat (Communist Parties) in order to overthrow the old order and create a new world free of exploitation and oppression. The proletariat is the most revolutionary class, because it is the working class, those who have nothing to lose but their chains. As the proletariat, laboring and struggling at the point of production, we are in the position to conquer Power from the bourgeoisie, the owners of capital who rule the world today. Maoism is the only ideology that can guide our class towards humanity’s Communist future where the state, money, and classes are obsolete.
What Is Marxism-Leninism-Maoism?
Chairman Gonzalo, in the document “On Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” by the Communist Party of Peru, stated:
“What is fundamental in Maoism? What is fundamental in Maoism is Power. Power for the proletariat, Power for the dictatorship of the proletariat, Power based on an armed force led by the Communist Party.”
In the proletariat’s struggle for Power, they require weapons, but more explicitly, they need the most advanced ideological weaponry. Maoism is this weapon. As Chairman Gonzalo identified, it is potent because it concentrates on answering the primary question for the proletariat, the question of Power. Chairman Gonzalo put forward that we must apply Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism, because Maoism principally forms the basis for answering the questions of the World Proletarian Revolution today.
Maoism is not simply the addition of new concepts to Marxism, the foundation for the proletariat’s ideology. Maoism further develops the ideology entirely with lessons learned through the class struggle and confronting new problems in the revolution and development of socialism in China under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong, as well as in the People’s War in Peru under the leadership of Chairman Gonzalo.
Maoism was immediately preceded by Marxism-Leninism, which was an advance of Marxism based on the emergence of imperialism and drawing from the lessons of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the construction of the first socialist society in the Soviet Union. It was Joseph Stalin who synthesized the theories of Vladimir Lenin and his application of Marxism to the Soviet Union into Leninism, or Marxism-Leninism. Mao built upon Marxism-Leninism, through his leadership of the People’s War, the development of socialism, and the struggle against the restoration of capitalism in China. These monumental struggles are what Chairman Gonzalo synthesized into Maoism.
To more deeply understand how Chairman Gonzalo established Maoism as the third and superior stage of Marxism one must look at how it advances Marxism in each of its three component parts: philosophy, political economy, and scientific socialism.
Dialectical Materialism: Philosophy of the Proletariat
With regard to philosophy, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is based in dialectical materialism. Dialectics is a philosophical understanding of the world in which nothing is static, but is characterized by opposing forces that are always in motion, always changing. We see dialectics in play in physics, biology, and in society—proletariat against the bourgeoisie, the oppressed nations against the imperialists, and socialism against capitalism. In Lenin’s words, “Dialectics in the proper sense is the study of contradiction in the very essence of objects.”
Materialism, the other half of the equation, is also a philosophical understanding which puts forward the idea that the material world, objective reality, is foundational in people’s understanding of life and the world. Our ideas and culture did not come from an abstract God or fall from the sky; they are directly related to the material reality we live in—from the jobs we work and the bills we pay to the food we eat and the clothes we wear on our backs.
Mao further developed Marxist philosophy by establishing the law of contradiction as the only fundamental law of dialectical materialism. The law of contradiction is the basis for everything else in dialectical materialism. Everything in the world is a unity of opposites, made up of either a single pair of opposites or multiple pairs that give each thing their identity. “Dark” is only relevant because of its relationship with “light”; the same is true for “positive” and “negative,” “man” and “woman,” and “proletarians” and “capitalists.” Furthermore, everything can transform into its opposite through struggle, and understanding this process drives the understanding of making revolution itself. This law of contradiction can be applied to anything and everything in society, and Mao did this in politics, economics, military strategy, culture, and within the Communist Party itself. It is the basis for all of Mao’s other contributions.
Another major contribution to Marxist philosophy was Mao’s application of the law of contradiction to the theory of knowledge. Simply put, theory and practice are in contradiction with one another—people can only test and improve their ideas through practice and vice versa . This is a key lesson for revolutionaries fighting for socialism across the world. We can see how Mao testing Marxist-Leninist theory in China and Chairman Gonzalo’s application of Maoism to the Peruvian Revolution allowed them to discover new things which improve our understanding of how to fight for Power.
Maoist Political Economy
It is Mao’s criticisms of socialist construction in the Soviet Union that Chairman Gonzalo says are most important for understanding how Mao developed the political economy of socialism. Mao applied the law of contradiction to analyze the shortfalls in the first attempt to create a socialist economy, and changed the way socialists look at the relationship between a society’s economic base and its superstructure. The economic base refers to the forces of production and the materials and resources needed to produce. The superstructure is composed of everything else in society—ideas, culture, laws, art, etc … and the institutions that represent these.
Maoism identifies that the economic system and the relations between its opposing forces create the basis for our understanding of society—US imperialist culture is a reflection of the ruling class’s values, which puts them and their desire for wealth above the needs of the people. Mao’s contribution, however, showed that with a correct political line and by mobilizing the people around these progressive ideas, the people are in a better place to change the economic base. In other words, we cannot create a society free of exploitation and oppression simply by producing more or changing the rules around how we produce things. In order to change society and have it stick we must put politics in command of economics, utilizing the people’s fervor for revolution in order to change the economic basis of society, embodied in the slogan, “grasp revolution and promote production.”
For the Third World, Mao’s theorization of a form of capitalism he termed “bureaucratic capitalism” is critically important, and one which Chairman Gonzalo masterfully applied to Peru and in doing so developed it further. Mao explained that bureaucratic capitalism is a malformed version of capitalism which holds certain aspects of semifeudalism in place, and is subservient to imperialist countries. In such a society, poor peasants in the countryside are tethered to the land as their only livelihood, oppressed and ruled by massive landowners according to backward ideas from feudal times; and the capitalism that does develop in the cities is born sick, and is stunted by the presence of foreign imperialists who don’t care to create a self-reliant economy.
When Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels established Marxism, they did so in the midst of great ideological struggles over different concepts of socialism stamped with the marks of various classes. Many of these came from the middle classes and were utopian, i.e., they were not based in material reality and instead in idealism, the position that ideas shape reality rather than the other way around. In contrast, Marxism put forward a conception of socialism based in dialectical and historical materialist analysis of history, and addressing the reality of the proletariat’s entrance onto the stage of world history. Because of its basis in a scientific analysis, rather than a metaphysical approach, the third component of Marxism is referred to as scientific socialism.
In the arena of scientific socialism, Mao’s biggest lessons are in how to capture Power and keep it in the hands of those who want to develop a society free of oppression and exploitation—keeping it out of the hands of the bourgeoisie who wish to restore capitalism. He knew that the workers and other oppressed masses could only seize Power through a violent overthrow of the existing State, and Mao emphasized that revolutionary violence is a law without any exception in time or place. Building on Mao, Chairman Gonzalo exclaimed, “Damn the words of traitors. Everything was won in fact through revolutionary violence.”
Mao applied the law of contradiction to military theory, creating the military strategy of the international proletariat—the People’s War. This contains a multitude of lessons, but most critically it teaches that it is the masses of people who are decisive in warfare, not superior weaponry, surveillance, or technology. The working class in the US can defeat the most advanced military in the world by mobilizing the masses, mainly workers ourselves, and relying on them as a source of combatants, resources, intelligence, and most importantly, the kind of bravery that only comes in a life-or-death struggle for their future.
Mao also improved our understanding of how enemies of the development of socialism emerge from within the movement for socialism and the Communist Party itself. He saw this in the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union, completed shortly after the death of Stalin, and had to deal with similar enemies within his own Party and government. These people wanted to seize control of the socialist State and its economy in order to reverse the gains for workers and peasants in the interest of enriching themselves and their allies.
Mao understood that only the masses of people, the most powerful force in the world, could fight the bourgeoisie’s attempt to drag society backwards. With this in mind, he launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR), the largest mobilization of people in the history of the world, in order to bombard the Party’s headquarters and expose those who were attempting to steer the country back into capitalism and pull them out of their positions of authority. The GPCR was the highest point of socialism this world has seen to date, and it relied on the common people, developing their political consciousness and inspiring them to fight, continuing the socialist revolution even while the Communist Party was in power, grasping that an essential part of a revolution is the ongoing transformation of the people themselves.
Cultural revolution is the indispensable answer to how to continue advancing towards Communism under socialism, unleashing the power of the masses to uproot the lingering bourgeois ideas in society. Chairman Gonzalo theorized that it will take many successive cultural revolutions under socialism until Communism is reached. Communism itself must be understood as a system that the entire world enters together after this long process of revolution, which is why the the PCP raised the slogan: People’s War Until Communism! While the path is prolonged, Maoism is the reason to be optimistic, because it teaches that the masses are infinitely capable of reaching this goal.
Maoism: The Invincible Weapon
Maoism is true because it is based on a scientific understanding of how the world works and has been proven in practice over the course of many years within socialist revolution and construction, and because it is true, it is all-powerful. It is all-powerful because it can never be fully defeated and all setbacks can be overcome. Maoism is not simply a set of effective strategies one can pick and choose, but the only course forward for the emancipation of the world’s people, led by the proletariat, the last class in history.
There is much more to understand about Maoism, and this overview has only scratched the surface, but this should not be reason to feel hesitant to take on the task of learning it. At the heart of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the importance of putting ideas into practice, and this starts with the essential principle of Maoism, that it is right to rebel. Everyone is capable of joining the fight for revolution and seeing for oneself the truth of these ideas. The fact is that these theories have been tested and proven in the fires of rebellions and revolutions which have mobilized and liberated millions across the world.
During the time before Chairman Gonzalo synthesized the lessons of Maoism into a cohesive doctrine, the International Communist Movement did not have a clear way to apply them to their own conditions or even know whether they could be applied outside of China. It was through the practice of struggling against the opportunists, those who sought the path of least resistance,within the Communist Party of Peru, winning the revolutionaries to his line, and reconstituting the Party, and fighting the People’s War in Peru that Chairman Gonzalo was able to take the myriad teachings of Mao and create the universally applicable and unified ideology of Maoism.
Beginning in the 1980s, Chairman Gonzalo and the PCP initiated the international ideological struggle to define and universally recognize Maoism as the third and superior stage of the ideology of the proletariat, and the need to apply it to revolution across the world. Then and still today, many who claim the mantle of Communism refuse to recognize this universal nature, saying that Mao’s theories are only applicable to China or in the nations oppressed by imperialism. Still others deny Maoism in order to preserve their own status, which leads to their parties and organizations degenerating and ultimately losing their revolutionary character. This is expected—as Chairman Gonzalo said, “As what is new and Marxism have always advanced through struggle, Maoism will impose itself and be acknowledged.” Today, we see the International Communist Movement increasingly united around Maoism and the teachings of Chairman Gonzalo, as they continue to struggle ideologically and politically to create a New International Organization of the Proletariat united around Maoism.
While Chairman Gonzalo is physically gone, he is as present as ever. His immortal leadership lives on, not only in the ongoing People’s War in Peru but across the world as revolutionaries wield the weapon of Maoism he has given us in order to defeat the old world and build a new one in its place. Chairman Gonzalo’s life may have been taken by the reactionary Peruvian State and the US imperialists who pull its strings, but his ideas will never die, and they can never be taken from the people no matter how hard our enemies may try. It is now the task of revolutionaries across the world to learn, apply, and propagate Maoism as the only course forward, teaching it to other workers and oppressed masses so they can crush their enemies and advance together towards the shining Communist future.
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