The problem of "getting over the hump" in the world revolution can be expressed in two aspects: First, "getting over the hump" in terms of breaking through and carrying out the seizure of power nationwide in a particular country, whether the road is protracted people's war or armed insurrection followed by civil war. And second, "getting over the hump" in terms of the strategic alignment--and "encirclement" --in the world--that is, making the leap to where the socialist states and the international proletariat have the upper hand strategically in the world, getting to the point where we have them on the run, where they are encircled.
In other words, how do we get to the stage where we can start going for the whole thing--in particular countries and on a world scale?
Thank Yous from Mao Tsetung
Speaking about this problem of getting over the hump, Mao once made a very interesting comment--one of his classically provocative comments--to make an important point. He said, "We have to thank the Japanese for invading [China]." What did he mean? He didn't really mean that they should send a letter to the Japanese imperialists and say "Thanks." There were horrendous things done to the masses of Chinese people by the Japanese imperialists, and Mao was not ignoring all that. But he was making a profound and strategic point: when the Japanese invaded, and in turn through fighting this invasion, the Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army were able to gain initiative and influence broadly in society.
I recall reading or hearing about a conversation in that period of the Anti-Japanese War in China--a conversation between one of the generals of Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (KMT) army and General Stillwell, an American who was assigned to be the liaison between the American army and the armies of China, particularly the army of Chiang Kai-shek. And Stillwell was kind of pulling out his hair and getting very frustrated and expressing concern over the fact that there was not enough oil and salt in the areas that were controlled and held by the KMT. And the KMT general answered Stillwell: "No problem--you have to understand we'll be conceding more and more territory to the Japanese, so we won't need as much oil and salt!" This is what I call a kind of "losers logic" or a "defeatist dialectic." It's not that you never tactically concede territory, but this KMT general was expressing a strategic notion of just giving up more and more territory, essentially sitting out the fight and in fact letting the communists resist the Japanese occupying army, and then planning for the KMT to step in and steal the fruits of victory.
This was the KMT's strategic orientation. It reflected the fact that increasingly the communist forces were the main ones who were actually fighting the Japanese occupiers in China. And, at the end of World War 2, through a combination of a favorable international situation and their accomplishments in the anti-Japanese war, it became possible for the Communist Party to be in a position to move to actually get over the hump and seize nationwide power--through determined struggle over the next few years. And this is what Mao meant when he said, "We should thank the Japanese for invading," because by invading they actually created the conditions which the Communist Party was able to transform into a great deal of freedom. Through this war, the revolutionary forces, led by the Party, were able to advance to the point where they then had the basis to go all out to seize nationwide power through the war to defeat Chiang Kai-shek and the imperialists behind him.
Seizing Nationwide Power
Is Not An Easy Thing
But we have to take note of the fact that this kind of thing has so far not been that common an experience for the international proletariat and the international communist movement as a whole. What I am saying is that in Third World countries, even where a protracted people's war gets "on the map" and makes some important initial gains, the more you advance, the more the other side digs in and hits back, determined to prevent you from getting the upper hand and then going on to seize power nationwide.
So, in this context, as we have seen for example in Peru, it's not surprising that bad lines come up in connection with these contradictions, particularly at crucial junctures and in the face of severe counter-attacks from the enemy, or even when attacks from the enemy are combined with a situation where great advances can be made through struggle if necessity is transformed into freedom. And it's difficult to handle the contradiction correctly--finding the ways to continue to advance, and to make leaps, toward the nationwide seizure of power, without over-reaching beyond what is possible at a given point, and at the same time not settling in to just "being on the map" and being a force without straining at the limits to make breakthroughs toward the goal of seizing power nationwide. This again is a very acute contradiction that continually poses itself. It is one expression of the difficulty of "getting over the hump."
Now, to talk about difficulties is not to say it can't be done, but it is to emphasize that it can only be done by recognizing and transforming the necessity which poses itself. It's to emphasize the need to actually dig concretely into how the situation is posed and struggle this through in the particular circumstances of the revolutionary struggle.
In the imperialist countries, we may find ourselves wanting to do things we can't yet do--things we can't do short of going over to the all-out struggle for the seizure of power. Still, no matter how much we may be impatient to do them, we have to wait; but more than that, we have to work and struggle in the appropriate ways to advance things toward our strategic objectives. But there is the danger with all of this--that because we can't yet "get over the hump" and actually fight all-out for the seizure of power, we will stagnate, or worse degenerate. This is the contradiction that poses itself in a different way--in terms of the road to power in an imperialist country such as the U.S.--than it does in a Third World country where the road to power is protracted people's war, with military struggle the main form of struggle from the beginning to the seizure of countrywide power.
Making Advances or Getting Thrown Back
The other "hump," in the world arena, is the fact that socialist countries have so far emerged and for a certain historical period are very likely to emerge one or a few at a time. So, in grand strategic terms socialist countries and, more broadly, the international proletariat and the international communist movement will be faced with a situation where it is necessary to change the world alignment of forces or face the prospect of socialist countries going under after a certain point.
This doesn't mean there is some sort of mechanical mathematical or arithmetic equation where if you don't get more and more of the world in a given period of time, then the socialist country, or countries, that exist at the time (if there are any socialist countries right then) will inevitably go under. But there is a contradiction when a socialist country is in a situation of being encircled; and that also interacts with the internal contradictions within the socialist society. And, at a certain point, if further advances aren't made in the proletarian revolution worldwide, these things will turn to their opposites and the conditions will become more favorable for capitalist restoration within the socialist country.
This doesn't mean capitalist restoration automatically kicks in after a certain point, or that it will automatically occur at all. But it means that things will begin to turn into their opposites and the conditions for capitalist restoration will become more favorable. So, in that dialectical materialist sense, it's one way or the other: make further advances and breakthroughs in the world revolution or be thrown back, temporarily.
Historically, as we know, we've not yet gotten to the point where on the world scale we can tip the balance in our favor. We want to put these muthafuckers on the run, but we haven't gotten to that point yet. We want them squirming and trying to figure out how they are going to deal with the problem of being encircled by the international proletariat. But we will have to go through stages to get there. We're still in the phase before that, where fewer international factors are on our side and in our favor. We need to discuss these problems with people, with the masses, very bluntly. This does not mean that our historic mission--the world proletarian revolution, the advance to communism, worldwide--is impossible; that is not at all the case. But it does mean that real difficulties, real contradictions, have to be dealt with, in carrying out this historic mission.
Revolution or Dire Distress
Some people now, including bourgeois analysts, are full of dire predictions--foreseeing a big mix and mess, a melange of revolution and crime all over the world--in places from Brazil to Africa. And the truth is that, if and where the proletarian revolution does not advance, there will be truly dire things happening--particularly from the point of view of the masses of people. Here, again, what stands out very sharply is the tremendous importance--as a material force and as a beacon--of the people's war in Peru, as well as the people's war that has just been launched in Nepal and in general people's wars led by an MLM vanguard. This holds out the other road for the masses of people, the road away from disaster and toward liberation, for the great majority of humanity. This is not an abstract intellectual thing--it is very real.
So in a world-historic way we should say to people: "Look, don't be taken in because those imperialists, who are temporarily bigger and stronger than we are, jumped on us a few times and managed to bring down what we had created--that is, the socialist countries. Imperialism is not creating better conditions for children in the Third World. They are dying by the thousands every day under imperialist rule and the system of imperialist accumulation. This system is not making a better world for the vast majority of humanity. Just the opposite. It is making the nightmare it has already created even worse, and this will continue until we break through with our revolution and then, finally, "get over the hump" and finish off imperialism and all systems and relations of exploitation and oppression.
This is not a matter of blind faith. This world is a bloody mess, and revolution will require a lot more bloody mess. And we shouldn't try to hide this from people. But there is great, well-founded hope for revolutionary change. In other words there is an historical and material basis for the advance to communism, worldwide--and it is definitely worth it. More than that it is the most liberating thing in the history of humanity.
The profound point that is made clear by historical materialism, by all of MLM, is that, regardless of setbacks and reversals in the world proletarian revolution; and regardless of the particular changes, even very significant changes, that are made in bourgeois society and in the world under imperialist domination--regardless of developments in communication and more generally in technology; regardless of certain dramatically new features in the economy in particular countries and globally; regardless of changes in the superstructure corresponding to these technological and economic changes--regardless of all that: the basic nature and the fundamental contradiction of this system will remain the same and the need for revolution led by the proletariat and the revolutionary transformation of society in accordance with the outlook and interests of the proletariat will continually assert and re-assert itself.
The need for this revolution will find expression not only as a general historical and political trend but also very sharply in the anguish and the outrage of the great majority of the world's people in resistance, which will cry aloud the objective need for proletarian revolution and the advance to communism, worldwide and will dramatically illustrate the potential for this world-historic leap. This will continuously reassert itself, until finally it is transformed into a material reality, until we catapult over these humps and continue, on a new plane, toward the goal of communism. The role of the conscious vanguard forces, within particular countries and on a world level, is precisely to grasp this underlying material reality and motion, to recognize and seize on the diverse ways it continually and repeatedly reasserts itself and to develop this into the most powerful material force of masses of people fighting ever more consciously and determinedly for the final goal.