Marxism is an all-considering method that must be practiced with one’s entire intellectual approach, and is not just a buffet of techniques: The importance of “Reform Our Study”

There’s something I’ve been trying to put my finger on for a while, about how people find some particular idea that Marx, Lenin, or Mao first fleshed out, and then they argue based on that isolated analysis alone that some campaign of theirs is correct.

But Marxism is not just a way of looking at economics, which people most often reduce it to. They take some of Marx’s insights and then use capitalist-minded methods and perspectives to try to respond to the world.

The other day, a comrade wrote something that quoted Mao’s “Reform Our Study,” and I realized this piece is intended to help people see exactly this error I was trying to put my finger on. Mao writes,

Many comrades seem to study Marxism-Leninism not to meet the needs of revolutionary practice, but purely for the sake of study. Consequently, though they read, they cannot digest. They can only cite odd quotations from Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin in a one-sided manner, but are unable to apply the stand, viewpoint and method of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin to the concrete study of … present conditions and … history or to the concrete analysis and solution of the problems of [our] revolution.

Get this: to practice MLM is to apply the STAND, the VIEWPOINT, and the METHOD of Marx, Lenin, and Mao. People may not even realize it–I know I didn’t, when I first started studying Marxism–but we all have to try to understand that this, and nothing else, is what it means to be MLM.

Their method is all-examining, all-considering. It is staunchly, unadulteratedly proletarian. It is based on seeking truth from facts where, as Mao writes, “‘facts’ are all the things that exist objectively, ‘truth’ means their internal relations, that is, the laws governing them, and ‘to seek’ means to study.”

Now I don’t know that I am quite there yet. I do know for sure that I need to keep studying to further deepen and sharpen my understanding of how Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Gonzalo approached problems. I do my best to be all-sided, to approach a situation looking at all the interconnections within it. But I do know that even I very often see self-declared Marxists treating Marxism (or ML, or even MLM) like a buffet where they can pick and choose articles or quotes or context-dependent positions that seem to justify their current position.

To use that method is to fail to practice Marxism. We cannot just see some aspects of the universe using a few of the methods they used–we have to study them and learn to examine all aspects of the universe using the entirety of the method they used.

This is why we say that the only true Marxists in this day and age are or are on their way to becoming Marxist-Leninists, and the only true Marxist-Leninists are or are on their way to becoming Marxist-Leninist-Maoists. Both Lenin and Mao understood this wholly, and deepened our practice of this entire, complex method.

We have to recognize that we all grow up in this society being given the capitalist-minded stand, viewpoint, and method. The communist movement will transform the world completely. If we intend to assist in this process, we must recognize that Marxism(-Leninism-Maoism) is a complete, all-examining method. Unless we have thoroughly transformed our thinking when it comes to philosophy, political economy, and methods of organization, and how they are part of one interrelated whole, we will fail to practice Marxism and will instead practice capitalist-minded thinking. We will be using some ideas formulated by Marx, but with a practice that can only, regardless of our intentions, perpetuate capitalist relations among people.