mao-thought on war and political struggle

Chris, London 100423.2040 at
Sun Apr 14 16:32:19 MDT 1996

Michael Luftmensch raises a question in his post of Friday April 12th.

Really two: the role of people's war v. other forms of non-violent
struggle within a country, and the policy of the Chinese Party about
nuclear weapons internationally.

Rather than concentrating on whether Michael is a Marxist or not, I shall
side-step this question. Since Adolfo, as a thoroughgoing anti-revisionsist,
is sure that I am not a marxist either, that it easy for me to do, and saves

[Generally it is rather futile on this list having arguments about
who is more marxist than whom, though it can be taken for granted that
that the writer usually thinks he is, (occasionally she). However
Michael's attitudes to solidarity and his seeking out and interpreting
sources of information, from an analytical point of view, seem to me to
be marxist in spirit. ]

Mao's positions may seem contradictory because really on reflection, they
*should* be contradictory. This is about how popular forces of the working
people can rise to political control of their country and the world, when
the exploiting classes control more powerful weapons. It is a contradiction
in reality.

Although Mao*ists* may emphasise slogans about people's war,
power coming out of the barrel of a gun, and atomic weapons being
paper tigers, any serious application of the strategy of the Chinese Party
is consistent with wider marxist strategies about emphasising the political -
political consciousness, political education, political organisation.

A "people's war" along Maoist lines, is a highly political form of activity.
It does militarily strange things like releasing most rank and file enemy
soldiers. And having communists take only one third of the places on
revolutionary decision making committees.

Where a maoist or maoan strategy differs from some social democratic or
"revisionist" strategies, is that it declares it will not be intimidated by
the possibility, indeed the probability, that at some stage the
enemy will put the bayonet on the negotiating table.

This determination may often be counterproductive and "Maoists" then
easily get stereotyped and stereotype themselves as dangerous
members of some alien cult, able to talk only in idioms that belong to the
culture of some other civilisation.

But a more serious application of this approach would require great attention
to the other aspect of the contradiction: Not only
despising the enemy strategically, but taking the enemy seriously tactically.
Indeed this partly explains why a maoist strategy is so often criticised by
other marxists for compromising with middle elements, national bourgeoisie, etc.

In response to Michael's post took the opportunity of looking again at
Mao's talk with
Anna Louise Strong in August 1946, three years before liberation.
Its comments about the atom bomb are made to a sympathetic
journalist and do not stress all the precautions the party would
make to avoid nuclear war, but make clear that the Chinese would
not be deterred by the blackmail of the use of nuclear weapons in
carrying out their own revolution. Similarly they forced the US to
a standstill in Korea despite the threat of nuclear weapons.

"Paper tigers" is an idiom probably familiar in China but strange outside.
Mao also in the interview with Strong, makes his famous remark too
about millet and rifles, towards the end.

The notes added by the Chinese editors stress just how much aid the US
gave Chiang Kai-Shek to try to stop the success of the Chinese revolution.:

"The US White Paper admitted that US aid was equivalent to 'more than
50% of the monetary expenditures' of the Chiang Kai-Shek government
ans was of 'proportionately greater magnitude in relation to the budget of
that government than the United States has provided to any nation of Western
Europe since the end of the war.'" Thus the editors claim that the US
equipped 45 KMT divisions.

Mao comments to Anna Louise Strong:

"Chiang Kai-Shek and his supporters, the US reactionaries, are all paper
tigers too. ...

We have only millet plus rifles to rely on, but history will finally
prove that our millet plus rifles is more powerful than Chiang
Kai-Shek's aeroplanes plus tanks. Although the Chinese people still face
many difficulties and will long suffer from hardships from the joint attacks
of US imperialism and the Chinese reactionaries, the day will come when these
reactionaries are defeated and we are victorious. The reason is
simply this: the reactionaries represent reaction, we represent progress."

Clearly the reactionaries are better armed. The shining-eyed nature of Mao's
remark is about confidence in the ultimate ability of oppressed people to
resist and defeat oppression, if necessary with the use of inferior arms.

In a long footnote to the interview with Strong, overall, the Chinese
editors have a lengthy quotation from Mao in 1958, explaining the dialectical
nature of his remarks about nuclear weapons having dual aspects, made at
a time when this was particularly controversial in the developing
ideological conflict with the Soviet Union.

The Private Life of Chairman Mao by his cynical doctor, Zhisui Li, has a
passage illuminating the issue of the nuclear umbrella at a time when
Mikoyan had visited for talks 1957. Zhisui has a pacifist line on nuclear
weapons and may not be the best source for Mao's views overall but
he quotes Mao (from memory?):-

 "Mikoyan told me, too, that the Soviet bombs were enough for both
our countries," he said.

"'The Soviet nuclear umbrella can cover us all.' But the Soviet Union wants to
control us," he insisted. "That's why they don't want us to have the bomb.
The fact is they can never control us. The Soviet Union is worried that we
don't listen to them. They're afraid we might provoke the United States.
But w're not afraid of getting into trouble with other countries. I will
definitely develop the atom bomb. You can count on it. Nobody should
try to restrict us. Nobody should try to intimidate us. No one
can lord it over us."

The Chinese policy on war and peace, including nuclear weapons, is
more fully laid out in various position papers in the Polemic on
the General Line of the International Communist Movement. As far as I
can see, it was about not being intimidated by nuclear blackmail, to negotiate,
and support the peace movement in the imperialist countries, and particularly
to persist in people's war in third world countries.

Because it did not attempt to contend with the US in terms of parity of
nuclear weapons, it would have been less vulnerable to being outfinanced
by Reagan than Brezhnev's policy in the 1980's which led to the economic
collapse of the Soviet Union.

Chris B. London.

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