Sometimes I hang out with Maoists. But like many in this group I am not a Maoist myself (uphold Deng!). This makes it kind of hard to ask them tough questions because I dont want to sound like an idiot or some kind of wrecker that causes trouble among the Maoists but I would like to ask some questions. One tough question is the question of child soldiers.

Moaists in the Philippines and in India have been accused of using child soldiers for quite some time. Maybe im wrong but among communists it seems kind of specific to Maoists. But I have never even one time heard a Maoist bring this up much less try to give rationalization or explanation.

Now I know better than to just trust HRW and take them at face value, so I always figured its at least possible that there is more going on here. Does anyone here have anything to say about communists, especially Maoists, and child soldiers? Have you heard a Maoist respond to this issue? Do you have any insight to the issue of child soldiers?

Okay so I’m not sure about India, but in the Philippines the NPA has a minimum age requirement of 18- that’s a year older than the official military in the Philippines which allows 17 year olds to join. I know he’s a Maoist but Marxist Paul recently did a great video on the movement in the Philippines and while there are real critiques, this one is just imperialist propaganda.

Just like principled Maoist reject the imperialist propaganda surrounding Xinjiang, we should reject imperialist propaganda about left revolutionaries of any stripe. Real Marxist critique is where it’s at.

I dont have a readily available line on child soldiers that is beyond skin deep, but I bring this up because it is not as obvious to me that the child soldiers accusation is false/propaganda in the way the Xinjiang accusations are. Child soldiers are rarely brought up at all. Academics are the only people in my life even bringing it up. Just seems like it should be discussed more than it is, especially among Maoists or anyone fixated on protracted people’s war.


I know he’s a Maoist but Marxist Paul

Marxist Paul is a maoist? Why does he call himself a Marxist then?

I will try my best not to express bias one way or another, but full disclosure, I am a former Maoist and as of now don’t really know exactly where I stand since I am not fully convinced any particular ~ism is suitable to the material conditions here inside the imperial core… yet. If you want more on this, feel free to ask. Now to the question and my best attempt at an answer:

Maoists still consider themselves Marxists, which is why they label themselves MLM (Marxist - Leninst - Maoist).

The way to think about it is roughly like this:

In physics, Newton is often credited as a sort of founder, much like Marx is credited as the founder of Communism. Then you have other physicists contribute to the science, adding on to it and amending the mistakes of predecessors, leading up to Michio Kaku or Hawking or Penrose or Hooft or what have you of today.

The same with Marxism. Marx’s analysis, while a great foundation, was not enough to explain the material conditions in Russia, so Lenin and company added to the science by including their own analysis. Then China happened, and the contributions of Marx, Lenin, and others weren’t enough to explain the material conditions adequately in China, so Mao and company added their own analysis.

Just as in certain circumstances in physics it is best to invoke principles of Newtonian physics to best analyze a certain physical problem, while in other circumstances principles of Einsteinian “Relativity” or Kaku’s “String Theory” might be best applied, so too in Marxism do we often invoke principles laid out in the foundational “Marx” original analysis, while sometimes Lenin has the best answer, and sometimes Mao.

I hope this helps answer your question as to why Maoists still refer to themselves as Marxists.

EDIT: Didn’t see the [BANNED] thing and that this comment was made one month ago. Whoops. Well then hopefully this helps anyone else looking for answers to this question.

Child soldiers = not good. That’s about the extent of my insight. Don’t use child soldiers. It’s a pretty simple rule that any communist guerilla army should be able to follow.

I don’t know if Maoist guerillas have a pattern of using them, as you said western “human rights” groups are prone to doing anti-communist propaganda for the imperialists.

There is of course also the question where exactly you draw the line as to what constitutes “child soldiers”. If it’s anyone under 18 then arguably a lot of armies in history have used them, teenagers still under 18 would frequently join armies under false pretenses. The Soviets for sure probably had some 16 and 17 year olds fighting for them in the Great Patriotic War.

If we’re talking like clear cut cases where it’s not at all in the grey zone then i don’t know, but considering that some Maoist guerillas like the Shining Path have a… less than stellar reputation, i would not be surprised if others also resorted to similarly immoral methods. My guess is this is the result of insufficient/incorrect application of the Mass Line.

It’s an indication that you have failed to win over the people. If you’re recruiting successfully from a broad base of popular support then you don’t need to resort to such desperate measures.

Kind of like terrorism. Winning armies don’t do it.

I agree at best it seems like a loser thing to do. Something that would harm a revolution’s connection to the people. Obviously ive never been in any position close to armed struggle, so what do I know? I have no dogmatic position to take, I certainly dont blame the Soviets. But it just seems weird that its not talked about more.

I think it becomes a lot less clear of a situation when the conditions are bad enough for PPW. I’m not saying India or the Phillipines are as bad as Palestine, but just look at Palestine. The median age in Gaza is about 18-19, meaning about half of the people literally being genocided are children. A massive amount of these people never even can become adults because they are killed by the IDF at age 6 for throwing a stone at a tank.

In that situation would the bad guy really be the one giving some 14-16 year old a gun to defend himself against IDF goons?

Maybe one could draw the line between child and young soldier with puberty. No matter one’s age, if their body isn’t physically and hormonally mature they shouldn’t be enrolled

First, here are some disclaimers! I do not support the use of underage peoples in war or work or whatever. Honestly, war is abominable, though sometimes necessary to defend the working class from oppressors. Even “normal” war killing between grown adults is a terrible thing, but sometimes there is no other choice.

Here is my best insight regarding the involvement of people under 18 in war:

For starters, we should differentiate between someone close to 18, like a 16 or 17 year old, being involved in war, and say… a 6 year old. The age of 18 is semi-arbitrary and was set by the west as the age of adulthood/voting/die-for-your-imperial-masters-if-things-are-still-mostly-stable-domestically, but the actual physical difference between a 17 year old and 18 year old, or even a 16 year old and 18 year old, is mostly negligible, physically anyway. This is why in many places even in the west the age of consent is often set to 15 or 16, usually with the caveat that if one of the participants in that relationship is older, they must not exceed a certain age gap. Even in the US, if someone graduates high school early, they can often join the military at 17. So including those ages as “child soldiers” means basically everyone everywhere has child soldiers.

Now, when participants in war have children, as in 6 year olds, or 9 year olds, 10 year olds, or other “very fucking young” people, involved in the violence, there is a lot of nuance that is necessary. For one, while many comrades on here referred to it as a “loser strategy”, I don’t think “loser” is as accurate as “desperate”, which is often the case in a revolution.

Revolutions are almost always a form of “asymmetric warfare” and “insurgency” with specific definitions. Asymmetric warfare is a war strategy employed when one or more participants VASTLY overpowers their adversaries, such as when the US was fighting against Vietnamese communist forces, or more recently Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The US had more fighting personnel, more industry, more financing, higher technology levels, and allies with similar conditions, meanwhile the Vietnamese, Al Qaeda, and Taliban were poorly armed, trained, equipped, fed, and had very little civil infrastructure to rely on. Also, state actors can also engage in asymmetric warfare if their adversary is in a “superior” position, often employing such tactics in tandem with conventional warfare tactics. Inversely, particularly with insurgent revolutions, if an entity which started off utilizing asymmetric warfare from the disadvantaged position begins to gain the upper hand, they will tend to transition to more conventional methods of warfare.

A group entity is considered an “insurgency” when the group aspires to replace the existing government - including colonial governments - with one of their own or one they support. Al Qaeda wanted the US and Western influence out of the areas in which they operated (they wanted to eject existing colonial governments) and replace it with a government with their version of Islam and their cultural values at the fore (though with Al Qaeda, it didn’t need to be “them” specifically, just one with their values). With the Taliban, they wanted the US and company out and they wanted to replace that colonial government with a Taliban government. The Vietnamese Communists wanted the French and US out and their government in charge. Even the US war for independence was an insurgency; the USian entities wanted Britain out to be replaced by their own government.

So, revolutionaries almost always find themselves at a disadvantage at first. They lack funding, infrastructure, membership, and other cogs which allow them to conduct warfare “as equals”. They usually start off “desperate” and stay as such for the bulk of the war. This leads them to use desperate tactics, and this is especially true when fighting an enemy like the US who has no qualms about killing innocents, often openly justifying or bragging (see the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) about it.

For example, there were children fighting against the Amerikkkans on the side of the Communists during that war. However, the Amerikkkans were massacring village after village after village, men, women, children, and even livestock. So entire villages had to defend themselves at all costs, because the cost was going to be everything if they lost. Children can’t go to school or have a fulfilling childhood if they are being killed in systematic genocide. However, as the Communists gained ground and started pushing the Amerikkkans out, there were fewer and fewer child soldiers, and by time the Vietnamese could declare victory, their forces looked very much like conventional forces and conducted themselves as such (they were using less boobytraps, wooden bullets, etc.). They had the means to do so.

That said, a grand majority of insurgencies, communist or not, do not use the very young kind of children, since even from a strategic perspective they can’t provide much assistance, not to mention the moral implications or the impact “forcing” children into war when it isn’t necessary can have on a cause and its chances of success. It is usually in circumstances like what I described with Vietnam in which the young kind of children become involved, and in that case I feel it says more about the US and company than it does about the Vietnamese communists.

Now, I’m going to repeat my disclaimer since it may have been forgotten after reading this.

I do not support the use of underage peoples in war or work or whatever. War as a whole is abominable, though sometimes necessary to defend the working class from oppressors. Even “normal” war killing between grown adults is a terrible thing, but sometimes there is no other choice.


Comrades have made excellent points in this thread. I do not know but do not think the NPA or the Indian Maoists are using child soldiers.

Something that must be considered regarding human rights accusations about “recruiting” child soldiers is the fact that oftentimes throughout history imperialist forces were killing anyone and everyone. When the Americans invaded the Philippines they gave the order to murder anyone over 13. “Human rights organizations” in the U.S., if they existed at the time, would point out examples of said 13 year olds fighting for their lives against an overwhelming and brutal force as “child soldiers”, all the while forgoing criticizing their own militaries for murdering children, armed or unarmed. A modern example is in Afghanistan, Libya, Palestine and Iraq. A common trope pointed to by Human Rights NGOs and soldiers’ orgs was that “terrorists” would give children grenades and the children would run into platoons of soldiers. There are two ways to look at this.

  • The terrorists are violating international law and abusing these childrens’ human rights by making them fight. Why don’t their standing armies only recruit military aged men? What savagery!
  • The “standing armies” of these nations don’t actually exist. Either they never existed, they’ve functionally been wiped out, or they are compradors fighting on behalf of the invaders. The invaders are murdering and raping everyone and anyone including children, blowing up schools and hospitals. This is asymmetrical warfare fought by starving and desperate people against an overwhelming force willing to forgo human rights in any suicidal bid in protecting their homes and nations. It’s not right, but war is hell, especially when you have no guns or military.

The first line is pushed by media and NGOs. The second line is closer to the truth. Invaders often show no quarter even to children. The nations they are invading are often underdeveloped. Children are starving and scared. They, and possibly the adults around them, feel they have no option but to fight.

This is not to excuse or attempt to argue in favor of using child soldiers, it is an attempt to understand why they may appear. There are very clear cut cases of terrorist groups like Kony’s “Liberation Army” recruiting child soldiers basically for shits and giggles, because children are easily malleable and controllable. There are also not-so-clear cut cases of desperate peoples resorting to desperate measures.

I have never seen any news report on CPI Maoist recruiting child soldiers.

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