Ajith on the universality of the theory of protracted people’s war

For a number of years there has been a contradiction in the communist world movement on whether or not the theory of protracted people’s war is a universal theory. Organizations and people who describe themselves as followers of “Gonzalo’s thinking” or who in other ways are closely linked to the line originating from Gonzalo in Peru, refer to the theory of protracted people’s war as a universal theory that also applies in imperialist and capitalist countries such as Norway. Revolusjonære Kommunister (Revolutionary Communists in Norway) have previously criticized this idea in Notes to the founding declaration of the International Communist League (ICL).

By Reidar Knutsen

The reason I bring up Ajith’s position on this question is that he was a key theorist in the now defunct RIM ((For more info on RIM: https://bannedthought.net/International/RIM/index.htm)).

In 2003, Ajith writes:

RF went on to reject the clarity achieved later
on by the Maoist movement, when it firmly established the path of protracted People’s War (or
the Chinese path) as the sole path of revolution in semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries.

The fight to establish Maoism

In 2006 he writes:

Let us examine a specific issue, the theory of People’s War. Even while Mao Tsetung Thought was upheld, for a long period, the dominant trend was to see this as something specific, relevant and applicable solely to the semi-feudal, semi-colonial countries. Shades of this continue to exist among Maoist parties, even today. Yet, the founder leaders of the new Marxist-Leninist parties in the 1960’s were quite clear about the universality of People’s War. The writings of Comrade Charu Mazumdar are an example. So how can we explain the emergence of the mistaken view that restricts People’s War to oppressed nations? This was a deviation. It was not challenged until the forceful presentation of Maoism as the new stage of Marxism-Leninism and the universality of People’s War by the PCP.

https:// www.bannedthought.net/Nepal/Worker/Worker-10/worker10xx.htm

We see that in the course of these three years, Ajith changes his opinion from thinking that protracted people’s war only applies to semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries, to that it also applies to fully capitalist and imperialist countries. This is quite a startling change and one would think that Ajith had very good arguments for this changed opinion. However, the 2006 article contains neither any self-criticism of previous positions, nor any in-depth analysis of the theory of protracted people’s war itself. Nor does it say anything about why the theory is wrong, when the theory itself says that it does not apply to capitalist and imperialist countries ((
The theory of PPW consists of multiple texts from Mao. One of the most central one is «Why Is It That Red Political Power Can Exist in China», in this text Mao writes:

The long-term survival inside a country of one or more small areas under Red political power completely encircled by a White regime is a phenomenon that has never occurred anywhere else in the world. There are special reasons for this unusual phenomenon. It can exist and develop only under certain conditions.

First, it cannot occur in any imperialist country or in any colony under direct imperialist rule, but can only occur in China which is economically backward, and which is semi-colonial and under indirect imperialist rule.vii

See more on this in: Notes to the founding declaration of the International Communist Association (IKF))) , and the article has no thorough analysis and explanation of why the theory can nonetheless be applied to capitalist and imperialist countries, and how it should be adapted in this case. To summarize: These are quite startling claims considering that they:

  1. Break with the theory itself
  2. Have never been tested in practice

Claiming that a theory is universally valid when it has not been tested in practice breaks with the Marxist theory of knowledge which states that the validity of a theory must be tested in practice.

There are several people who have tried to create a slightly more in-depth theory as to why the theory of protacted people’s war should also apply for imperialist countries ((See e.g.:

None of these theories are based on any deeper analysis of the concrete reality, but rest on logical shortcuts such as the argument that the theory of protracted people’s war must work for imperialist countries, since there has been no revolution along the lines of the “October road” ((By the “October road” is meant the long-term accumulation of strength, and then revolution carried out in the form of armed rebellion led by the Communist Party primarily in the big cities, following the pattern of the revolutions in Russia in 1917.)), after the revolutions of 1917 in Russia. Or by flattening Mao’s theory of protracted people’s war to include only the essence of this theory (which is described as war driven by the people), and in that way removes all content from the theory of protracted people’s war, so that this term is completely equated with the term “revolution” as used for revolutions modeled on Russia 1917.

Revolutionary Communists have written a separate paragraph about the alleged universality of the theory of protracted people’s war in the article “Notes on the Founding Declaration of the International Communist League (ICL)“. Many others have also written about why the theory of protracted people’s war does not apply to imperialist countries ((See e.g. Maoist Communist Union, “Prolonged people’s war is not a universal strategy for revolution – Part 1“)). I will therefore not repeat the arguments for this here, but rather encourage readers to read these texts.

Ajith’s 2003 article is analytical and good, while the 2006 article is rhetorical and lacks analysis of the concrete reality. It is not easy to know what kind of real justification Ajith has for the claim in 2006 that the theory of people’s war also applies to capitalist and imperialist countries. What is certain, in any case, is that the article lacks a justification that provides coverage for the claim. Ajith is still an active Marxist theoretician with great authority among many communists. It would therefore have been useful if he came up with an explanation of what he thinks today regarding this question and why.

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