The Problem of Leadership

Asumir writes, "We have problems with numbers 1 and 3 (proletarian leadership and strategic centralization)."

It is obvious that communist parties face the "problem of leadership" when they lose their leaders in the midst of fierce class struggle, especially leaders of the stature of Chairman Gonzalo. This is not a new phenomenon, and the international communist movement (ICM) needs to deal with it better. Undoubtedly, today the problem of leadership is one of the challenges that faces the leadership of the PCP. However, we believe the "solution" implied by Asumir and explicitly put forward by the prisoners' article is wrong. We believe such a "solution" would lead to temporarily putting an end to the existence of the vanguard itself or would greatly harm its ability to continue.

The experience of the ICM has shown that every time a crisis breaks out in the movements as a result of setbacks, a tendency arises in favour of liquidating the achievements. It has been especially difficult for the movements to withstand the loss of their main leaders. Perhaps our experience...will help to shed light on some of the questions involved in the debate with the Asumir line.

Union of Communists of Iran (Sarbedaran) (UICS)

...We must point out that our experience was different in many important ways from the situation our comrades are facing in Peru today, and this must be taken into account. The most important difference and, in fact, a crucial one, is that the PCP, under the leadership of Chairman Gonzalo, had firmly established Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and had successfully applied MLM to the concrete conditions of Peru, thus developing a correct and comprehensive ideological and political line. But in our case, the blow of the enemy came at a time when major questions of ideological and political line were pending resolution: most important of all, our organization was suffering from a centrist line on Mao Tsetung Thought, a disease that the UIC had caught in the aftermath of the coup in China and during the traitorous attacks of Enver Hoxha against Chairman Mao.

Therefore for us it was not just restructuring our organization, its links with the masses and its practice, but ideological and political restructuring as well. Of course, we had just overthrown a right opportunist line of tailing the bourgeoisie before the blows of the enemy hit our organization. The initiation of armed struggle against the Islamic Republic (September 1981 to June 1982) under the name of the Sarbedaran Uprising (in the city of Amol) was a result of this rupture. Although this uprising was defeated, its initiation shook the whole country, drove the enemy wild, and gained the lasting love and respect of the revolutionary masses throughout Iran. This rupture established both the centrality of revolutionary warfare for the seizure of power and the decisiveness of proletarian leadership in the revolutionary process.

The defeat of the Amol uprising led to the loss of our key leadership and a major portion of our fighting force. The nationwide assaults of the enemy against the organization--which was mainly based in the major cities of the country--started several months later (in the summer of 1982). As a result of the defeat of the uprising, the right opportunist wing had gone on the offensive and the organization was in a state of disarray when the enemy started to attack the organization. In these assaults, which had been carefully prepared through months of intelligence work, the enemy succeeded in capturing the whole leadership (which was based in the capital, Teheran) and the major portion of our cadres, dismantling most of the organizational structures and links with the masses.

This happened almost one year after the regime had purged itself from internal rival forces and had gone on a bloody nationwide campaign of capturing and executing the communists, mass activists, and revolutionaries, as well as crushing all of the mass movements and their gains in the revolution and all forms of opposition. This whole bloody episode once again glaringly demonstrated that the people have nothing without an army of their own.

After the capture of the leadership, a group of the most daring comrades (of the left) who had not been in the central leading bodies (such as the Politburo or the Standing Committee) stepped forward and took the responsibility for leading. Since the centre had been wiped out by the enemy and the organizational structures were disintegrated, they formed a new centre. Driven by their communist convictions and their sharp class sense of what needed to be done, they moved in, picked up and hoisted the red flag, and rallied the remaining comrades around it.

The most immediate task was to contain the blows of the enemy and save as many people as possible in a short time, and on that basis regroup. Some initial summation was done of the existing situation, and directives were issued for this.

Soon the main obstacle was liquidationism, which became rampant after some of the imprisoned UIC leaders capitulated ideologically and politically and denounced our ideals and struggles--these people were mostly from the right opportunist wing, but also included some with a better political history. While the Islamic Republic's torture chambers and dungeons were full of the heroic resistance of our comrades, the regime's propaganda machine was running full blast about "communist repentance" and totally blacked out the communist resistance. In short, in addition to direct assaults, the enemy was trying to eat away at our forces in this way too. It put our people out of operation in two ways: first, by directly striking at us, through arrests and executions, and second, by using the capitulation of some fellow travelers and broken people to demoralize and confuse the forces of revolution. On the other hand, the perseverance and daring of the new leadership, along with the heroic "resistance until death" of many of our beloved leaders and comrades in prison, was an inspiring, driving source of strength for regrouping and restructuring--it really raised confidence and high morale among both the masses who supported us and within our forces.

To save our forces, we had to smash the liquidationist trend in theory and practice. In theory, to show the filthy bourgeois ideology and interests behind all that, and in practice, to persevere in restructuring the organization under the continuous and ruthless fire of the enemy. This quote of Lenin became our credo: "We are marching in a compact group along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by the hand. We are surrounded on all sides by enemies, and we have to advance under their almost constant fire. We have combined voluntarily, precisely for the purpose of fighting the enemy, and not to retreat into the adjacent cesspool.... And now several among us begin to cry out: let us go into this marsh!..." (What Is To Be Done?, FLP, p. 30) Our leadership upheld to the comrades that to keep our red flag aloft, we must nourish it with our blood.

The liquidators in essence wanted to liquidate our right to rebel, our right to have a communist organization and persevere on the road of revolution. To do this effectively, they were mocking our communist ideology and revolutionary spirit, attacking our achievements and underestimating our potential and abilities, in order to dissuade us from re-taking the "defeated road." The defence of our revolutionary heritage and achievements was key to defeating this liquidationist trend in its right and sometimes even "left" forms; we vigourously defended our communist identity, our organization and its basically correct history, and especially the rupture with the right opportunist line and in defence of the subsequent heroic struggle of Sarbedaran. While we recognized our mistakes as much as we could grasp them at that time, we refused to go on an orgy of self-criticism in the face of the liquidationists.

The organization defeated the liquidationist trend and united around a revolutionary line and strong communist convictions. The convening of the Fourth Conference of the UICS was the culmination of this period. But this was not the end of the process of struggle for reorganization.

A whole period of revolution and our line and practice going into it had to be summed up and the way forward charted. The fact that UICS still had not settled accounts with the long overdue key questions of ideological and political line--questions of MLM and the Strategy--was compounding this process. Without uprooting ideological and political problems, neither could the task of fighting liquidationism and revisionism be completed, nor could a correct summation of our line and practice during the most tumultuous years of the country be presented, and the future course charted.

In this process, we lost new layers of our leadership two more times in "search and destroy" assaults of the counter-insurgency police, who never gave up the task of totally uprooting UICS. Lack of continuity of the leadership really harmed our development--we learned the crucial necessity of preserving leadership the hard way.

Resurrecting our organization's internationalist traditions was one of the strongest points in this process. It was essential in fighting against revisionism and liquidationism and in the process of reconstruction overall. Many revisionist and bourgeois forces were trying to lure us in order to enlist the name of Sarbedaran in their fronts, and to do this they were using our liquidators too. Our response was to shut our ears to them and open them to our international comrades. Joining RIM took another internal struggle and was a very important leap. This was decisive in our ideological and political development. This brought to us the accumulated theoretical and practical experiences of our class worldwide, including the freshest experience--the PCP and the People's War under its leadership.

We carried out reorganization in close conjunction with striving hard to turn our theories into practice and to increase our material force, and this was the only way to develop an ideologically-politically correct and steeled organization.

At last we united firmly around Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and the strategy of people's war--surrounding the cities from the countryside--and around building an organizational structure that was overall derived from this line and in the service of implementing it. This is the highest ideological-political and organizational unity ever arrived at in the long life of our organization. The emergence of this new organization was the greatest leap in the process of forming the proletarian party in Iran--the process which is coming to a conclusion. ...


Undoubtedly, the current loss of leadership presents the revolutionary process in Peru and its vanguard with great difficulties. It is not easy to develop leaders. Losing experienced leaders is a setback in our revolutionary efforts. Therefore, protecting leadership from the enemy's attack is one of the most important tasks. This is crucial for maintaining the continuity of the revolution. At the same time, in class war this can happen anytime. We should prepare for it beforehand by developing strong collective leadership, Maoist successors, ready to boldly shoulder the leading responsibilities. We believe the principle that war can be learned through waging warfare applies in this problem too--leadership can be learned through leading.

Lenin says that in the face of big crises some people bend and others--the majority--become steeled. This is true in the present case too. We have confidence in the PCP and are optimistic that in this process it will become even more steeled. Our confidence and optimism has a strong material basis: generally, because the PCP is an ideologically strong party which has been steeled in 13 years of the highest form of revolution; and, specifically, the resiliency that the PCP has brought into play in the face of such a big loss has surprised both friend and foe and has greatly elated the international proletariat. The PCP has a large reservoir of experience and cadres; it has a developed line for the revolution in Peru; it has strong ideological and political ties with the ICM, and there is RIM which can concentrate the whole experience of the ICM--including the best internationalist traditions of the Comintern--and make this available to the PCP. It is disturbing that Asumir does not see this tremendous potential and achievement.

Now in the case of the PCP, if it were true that leadership does indeed have the problems that are claimed in the documents under discussion, even in such a case the proposal they make is not only not a solution, it is in fact dangerously wrong.

When main leaders are lost, it is indeed difficult and will take time to bring forward new leaders with a correct and unswerving ideological and political line, capable of vigourously applying MLM to the ever-emerging contradictions of the revolution and leading it forward. But again, this problem can only be surmounted by taking a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist approach. Strong communist leadership can only be forged in the process of solving, in theory and practice, the problems of the revolution. Correct ideological and political line is decisive for this process. What is the key problem for the leadership of the PCP to solve today? Is it how to end the war in the most orderly fashion? No. From an MLM point of view, the key problem is how to preserve the People's War and develop it under the new conditions through twists and turns. The real leaders are the ones who rise to this occasion undauntedly. These comrades will become even more tested in the heat of surmounting new problems and advancing the revolution. They will be even more capable of leading real victories and advancing to final victory. These leading comrades must be supported and preserved. There is no other route--this is the only correct one; the rest is marshland.

The prison article says that there can be no Gonzalo Thought without the person of Gonzalo! Does this mean that without Chairman Gonzalo, the basic line for revolution in Peru that developed under his leadership can no longer be carried out? What if Comrade Gonzalo had not been arrested and had died of natural causes? Probably these people would have demanded that the war be led by "divine" sources. This is not serious; it is like a religious disorder. It goes against the materialist conception of the process of development of leaders and of their role. Chairman Gonzalo is a product of the class struggle internationally and nationally, and specifically of the PCP. This can be seen clearly in his interview with El Diario in 1988. This does not mean that the revolution in Peru and the ICM do not need him in their front ranks. On the contrary, they do; and it was the recognition of this vital truth that led RIM to put out an urgent and powerful call to the Maoists and revolutionary masses around the world to "Move Heaven and Earth to Defend the Life of Chairman Gonzalo," and to declare the international importance of this task. Today, RIM is calling upon all Maoist parties and organizations to persevere in this crucial campaign. But the point is that the proletariat cannot and should not become paralysed in the face of its setbacks; rather, it sums up and learns its lessons and continues the revolution.

Here we think it is useful to stress two relevant aspects of the question of leadership. On the one hand, it must be recognised that the revolution in its course gives rise to a group of party leaders and to top individual leaders. Experience has shown that it takes time and political-ideological struggle to establish such a fact. On the other hand, the relation between collectivity and individual responsibility must be seen correctly. While the role of the top leaders has been important and at times decisive in the history of our class and in the life of communist parties, they themselves are the product of collective struggle, and it is this collectivity that is the principal aspect overall.

Once again, we do admit that a difficult and complex task has fallen upon the shoulders of the PCP's leadership, but we are confident that the PCP comrades are able to overcome this difficulty and carry out this task. The fact that the recent loss does not coincide with a completely new spiral of revolution in Peru, but has occurred in the midst of the unfolding of the same one, gives ample room and time for new leadership to develop its capabilities and strengths further and to get prepared for future challenges. This does not mean that today the leadership of the Party does not need to make a correct appraisal of the new situation, to identify new contradictions and provide solutions for them; of course it does, because revolution gives rise to contradictions all the time. But contrary to the approach of Asumir and the prison article, this must be done by vigourously applying MLM and the Party's basic line. In short, we believe that the heart of the matter in solving the problem of leadership is to be able to preserve the proletarian class character of the People's War, to maintain it as a material force, and on that basis to develop it towards victory as a red base area for the world proletarian revolution. As Marx said, here is the rose, dance here!