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Maoism, also known as Mao Zedong Thought (mao zedong sixiang 毛泽东思想), is a form of Marxist communist theory, derived from the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong (1893–1976). Developed during the 1950s and 1960s, it is widely applied as the political and military guiding ideology in the Communist Party of China (CPC) from Mao's ascendancy to its leadership until the party was taken over by Deng Xiaoping, who implemented Deng Xiaoping Theory and Chinese economic reforms in 1978. Nonetheless, although not fully adhered to by the government of the People's Republic of China anymore due to the reforms, Maoist parties and groups exist throughout the world, most notably in Peru, India, and Nepal, in the latter of which, the Maoist party won the elections in 2008.[1]

Marxist origins

Template:More footnotes Mao drew information from the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin in elaborating his theory. Philosophically, his most important reflections emerge on the concept of "contradiction" (maodun). These are contained in two major essays: “On contradiction” and “On the correct handling of contradictions among the people”. He adopts therein the positivist-empiricist idea (shared by Engels) that contradiction is present in matter itself (and thus, also in the ideas of the brain). Matter always develops through a dialectical contradiction: "The interdependence of the contradictory aspects present in all things and the struggle between these aspects determine the life of things and push their development forward. There is nothing that does not contain contradiction; without contradiction nothing would exist".[2] Thanks to this development or unfolding, something that was subordinated in the past may become dominant in the present and the future. This should be directly read in the light of the principle of class struggle, Mao said. Furthermore, each contradiction ("class struggle", then: the contradiction holding between relations of production and the concrete development of forces of production) expresses itself in a series of other contradictions, some dominant, others not. "There are many contradictions in the process of development of a complex thing, and one of them is necessarily the principal contradiction whose existence and development determine or influence the existence and development of the other contradictions".[3] Thus, the principal contradiction should be tackled with priority when trying to make the basic contradiction "solidify".

His basic stand on contradiction is founded on Marxist epistemology. The two essays just quoted contain reflections on this issue, but the theme is elaborated further in the essay “On practice. On the relation between knowledge and practice, between knowing and doing”. “Practice” connects "contradiction" with "class struggle" in the following way: Inside a mode of production, there are 3 realms where practice functions: economic production, scientific experimentation (which also takes place in economic production and should not be radically disconnected from the former) and finally, class struggle. These may be considered the proper objects of economy, scientific knowledge, and politics.[4] The three of them deal with matter in its various forms, socially mediated. As a result, they are the only realms where knowledge may arise (since truth and knowledge only make sense in relation to matter, according to Marxist epistemology). Mao emphasizes—like Marx in trying to confront the "bourgeoisie idealism" of his time—that knowledge must be based on empirical evidence. Knowledge result from hypotheses verified in the contrast with a real object; this real object, despite being mediated by the subject’s theoretical frame, retains its materiality and will offer resistance to those ideas that do not conform to its truth. Thus, in each of these realms (economic, scientific and political practice), contradictions (principle and secondary) must be identified, explored and put to function to achieve the communist goal. This involves the need to know, "scientifically", how the masses produce (how they live, think, and work), to obtain knowledge of how class struggle (the main contradiction that articulates a mode of production, in its various realms) expresses itself.

Maoism's political orientation emphasizes the "revolutionary struggle of the vast majority of people against the exploiting classes and their state structures", which Mao termed a "People's War". Usually involving peasants, its military strategies have involved guerrilla war tactics focused on surrounding the cities from the countryside, with a heavy emphasis on political transformation through mass involvement of the lower classes of society.

Maoism departs from conventional European-inspired Marxism in that its focus is on the agrarian countryside, rather than the industrial urban forces. This is known as Agrarian socialism. Notably, Maoist parties in Peru, Nepal and Philippines have adopted equal stresses on urban and rural areas, depending on the country's focus of economic activity. Maoism broke with the state capitalist framework of the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev and dismisses it as modern revisionism, a traditional pejorative term among communists referring to those who fight for capitalism in the name of socialism.

In its post-revolutionary period, Mao Zedong Thought is defined in the CPC's Constitution as "Marxism-Leninism applied in a Chinese context", synthesized by Mao Zedong and China's "first-generation leaders". It asserts that class struggle continues even if the proletariat has already overthrown the bourgeoisie, and there are capitalist restorationist elements within the Communist Party itself. Maoism provided the CPC's first comprehensive theoretical guideline with regards to how to continue socialist revolution, the creation of a socialist society, socialist military construction, and highlights various contradictions in society to be addressed by what is termed "socialist construction". While it continues to be lauded to be the major force that defeated "imperialism and feudalism" and created a "New China" by the Communist Party of China, the ideology survives only in name on the Communist Party's Constitution; Deng Xiaoping abolished most Maoist practices in 1978, advancing a guiding ideology called "Socialism with Chinese characteristics.[5] definition of Maoism (aka Mao Zedong Thought)

A theory and practice which claims to be an advancement of Marxism, developed as a critique of the Soviet Union. While Mao Zedong (1893-1976) valued Stalin as a “great Marxist-Leninist”, he explained Stalin committed some crucial errors:

1) He did not understand dialectics and ended up in metaphysics. He hence sometimes did not understand the demands of the masses. He did not distinguish between the different kinds of contradictions. 2) During the 30’s the regime of Stalin sentenced many innocents to death. 3) He did not conduct democratic centralism within the party good enough. 4) He did not handle the connections with foreign Communist parties well enough, especially his handling of the 1927 events in China.

The result of these errors according to Maoism was that the Soviet Union was governed by a bureaucratic nomenclatura which later was to conduct a “silent counterrevolution” turning the Soviet Union into an imperialist country, not crucially different from the USA.

These are the most distinct components of Maoism:

1) Guerrilla warfare/People’s War: The armed branch of the party must not be distinct from the masses. To conduct a successful revolution the needs and demands of the masses must be the most important issues.

2) New democracy: In backward countries socialism cannot be introduced before the country has gone through a period in which the material conditions are improved. This cannot be done by the bourgeoisie, as its progressive character is long since replaced by a regressive character.

3) Contradictions as the most important feature of society: Society is dominated of a wide range of contradictions. As these are different of nature, they must also be handled in different ways. The most important divide is the divide between contradictions among the masses and contradictions between the masses and their enemies. Also the socialist institutions are plagued with contradictions, and these contradictions must not be suppressed as they were during Stalin.

4) Cultural revolution: Bourgeois ideology is not wiped out by the revolution; the class-struggle continues, and even intensifies, during socialism. Therefore an instant struggle against these ideologies and their social roots must be conducted.

5) Theory of three worlds: During the cold war two imperialist states formed the “first world”; the USA and the Soviet Union. The second world consisted of the other imperialist states in their spheres of influence. The third world consisted of the non-imperialist countries. Both the first and the second world exploit the third world, but the first world is the most aggressive part. The workers in the first and second world are “bought up” by imperialism, preventing socialist revolution. The people of the third world, on the other hand, have not even a short-sighted interest in the prevailing circumstances. Hence revolution is most likely to appear in third world countries, which again will weaken imperialism opening up for revolutions in other countries too.

Maoism as a theory has grown its strongest roots among revolutionaries in the third world, and some of these movements, e.g. the CPN(M) in Nepal and the CPP of the Philippines, are advancing in their guerrilla warfare during the beginning of the 21st century. Western Maoism grew from the 1960s, and some of the movements have had some success in establishing themselves as the main communist parties in their countries. (Transcribed by Mathias Bismo. Available at: Accessed on the 22/12/2010)

And the theory of the new democracy was known to the Chinese revolutionaries from the late 40’s. This thesis held that for the majority of the peoples of the planet, the long road to socialism could only be opened by a ‘national, popular, democratic, anti-feudal and anti-imperialist revolution [the language of the day], run by the communists.'[6]

Maoism in China

Template:Context Template:Politics of the People's Republic of China Since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, and the capitalist reforms of Deng Xiaoping starting in 1978, the role of Mao's ideology within the People's Republic of China (PRC) has radically changed.[7] Although Mao Zedong Thought nominally remains the state ideology, Deng's admonition to seek truth from facts means that state policies are judged on their practical consequences; the role of ideology in determining policy, in many areas, has thus been considerably reduced. Deng also separated Mao from Maoism, making it clear that Mao was fallible and hence that the truth of Maoism comes from observing social consequences rather than by using Mao's quotations as holy writ, as was done in Mao's lifetime.[citation needed]

In addition, the party constitution has been rewritten to give the capitalist ideas of Deng Xiaoping prominence over those of Mao. One consequence of this is that groups outside China which describe themselves as Maoist generally regard China as having repudiated Maoism and restored capitalism, and there is a wide perception both in and out of China that China has abandoned Maoism. However, while it is now permissible to question particular actions of Mao and to talk about excesses taken in the name of Maoism, there is a prohibition in China on either publicly questioning the validity of Maoism or questioning whether the current actions of the CPC are "Maoist."

Although Mao Zedong Thought is still listed as one of the four cardinal principles of the People's Republic of China, its historical role has been re-assessed. The Communist Party now says that Maoism was necessary to break China free from its feudal past, but that the actions of Mao are seen to have led to excesses during the Cultural Revolution.[citation needed]

The official view is that China has now reached an economic and political stage, known as the primary stage of socialism, in which China faces new and different problems completely unforeseen by Mao, and as such the solutions that Mao advocated are no longer relevant to China's current conditions. The official proclamation of the new CPC stand came in June 1981, when the Sixth Plenum of the Eleventh National Party Congress Central Committee took place. The 35,000-word "Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People's Republic of China" reads:

"Mao Zedong is the Chinese people's savior!", an old slogan painted on the brick wall of a Chinese Buddhist Temple

"Chief responsibility for the grave 'Left' error of the 'cultural revolution,' an error comprehensive in magnitude and protracted in duration, does indeed lie with Comrade Mao Zedong . . . . [and] far from making a correct analysis of many problems, he confused right and wrong and the people with the enemy. . . . Herein lies his tragedy."[8]

Both Maoist criticsTemplate:Who outside China and most Western commentatorsTemplate:Who see this re-working of the definition of Maoism as providing an ideological justification for what they see as the restoration of the essentials of capitalism in China by Deng and his successors.

Mao himself is officially regarded by the CPC as a "great revolutionary leader" for his role in fighting the Japanese and creating the People's Republic of China, but Maoism as implemented between 1959 and 1976 is regarded by today's CPC as an economic and political disaster. In Deng's day, support of radical Maoism was regarded as a form of "left deviationism" and being based on a cult of personality, although these 'errors' are officially attributed to the Gang of Four rather than to Mao himself.[citation needed] Thousands of Maoists were arrested in the Hua Guofeng period after 1976, with prominent Maoists sentenced to death.[citation needed]

Maoism outside China

From 1962 onwards, the challenge to the Soviet hegemony in the World Communist Movement made by the CPC resulted in various divisions in communist parties around the world. At an early stage, the Albanian Party of Labour sided with the CPC. So did many of the mainstream (non-splinter group) communist parties in South-East Asia, like the Burmese Communist Party, Communist Party of Thailand, and Communist Party of Indonesia. Some Asian parties, like the Workers Party of Vietnam and the Workers Party of Korea attempted to take a middle-ground position.

The Khmer Rouge of Cambodia is said to have been a replica of the Maoist regime. The Communist Party of Kampuchea (Cambodia), better known as the "Khmer Rouge", identified strongly with Maoism, and is generally labeled a "Maoist" movement today.[9][10] Maoists, however, are quick to point out that the CPK strongly deviated from Marxist doctrine, and that the few references to Maoist China in CPK propaganda were critical of the Chinese.[11]

In Africa, Siad Barre's regime in Somalia is often cited as being pro-Maoist, as it sided with the People's Republic of China during the Sino-Soviet split and, as such, China provided support to the regime during its war with the pro-Soviet nations of Ethiopia, Cuba and South Yemen.

In the west and south, a plethora of parties and organizations were formed that upheld links to the CPC. Often they took names such as Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) or Revolutionary Communist Party to distinguish themselves from the traditional pro-Soviet communist parties. The pro-CPC movements were, in many cases, based among the wave of student radicalism that engulfed the world in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Communist Party of India (Maoist) is a Maoist political party in India which aims to overthrow the government of India.[12] It was founded on September 21, 2004, through the merger of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) People's War and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCC). The merger was announced to the public on October 14 the same year. In the merger a provisional central committee was constituted, with the erstwhile People's War Group leader Muppala Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathi as General Secretary. It is currently proscribed as a terrorist organization by the Indian government for organizing mass killings in furtherance of their ideology.

Only one Western classic communist party sided with CPC, the Communist Party of New Zealand. Under the leadership of CPC and Mao Zedong, a parallel international communist movement emerged to rival that of the Soviets, although it was never as formalized and homogeneous as the pro-Soviet tendency.

In the United States, the Black Panther Party, especially Huey Newton, was profoundly influenced by Maoist thought.

After the death of Mao in 1976 and the resulting power-struggles in China that followed, the international Maoist movement was divided into three camps. One group, composed of various ideologically nonaligned groups, gave weak support to the new Chinese leadership under Deng Xiaoping. Another camp denounced the new leadership as traitors to the cause of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. The third camp sided with the Albanians in denouncing the Three Worlds Theory of the CPC (see Sino-Albanian Split.)

Che Guevara, though initially praising the Soviet Union prior to, during and shortly after the Cuban Revolution, later came out in support of Maoism, and advocated the adoption of the ideology throughout Latin America. The pro-Albanian camp would start to function as an international group as well,[13] led by Enver Hoxha and the APL, and was also able to amalgamate many of the communist groups in Latin America, including the Communist Party of Brazil and Marxist-Leninist Communist Party in Ecuador. Later Latin American Communists such as Peru's Shining Path also embraced the tenets of Maoism.

The new Chinese leadership showed little interest in the various foreign groups supporting Mao's China. Many of the foreign parties that were fraternal parties aligned with the Chinese government before 1975 either disbanded, abandoned the new Chinese government entirely, or even renounced Marxism-Leninism and developed into non-communist, social democratic parties. What is today called the "international Maoist movement" evolved out of the second camp – the parties that opposed Deng and claimed to uphold the legacy of Mao.

Maoist organizations

Today, there is no consensus on who does and who does not represent Maoism. Various efforts have sought to regroup the international communist movement under Maoism since the time of Mao's death in 1976.

One notable organization was the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM). RIM was founded in 1984 and included such notable organizations as the Communist Party of Peru (PCP), also known as "Sendero Luminoso" or "Shining Path," the then Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), now known as the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) UCPN(M), and the Revolutionary Communist Party USA (RCP(USA)). Today, the RIM appears to be defunct or near defunct. The magazine associated with the RIM, A World To Win, has not published an issue since 2006, though A World To Win News Service still publishes regularly on the internet.[14] In addition, many of the one-time RIM organizations have become increasingly critical of each other. This has resulted in many public splits. For example, recently the RCP USA has criticized the UCPN(M) as revisionist after the UCPN(M) abandoned its people's war for the parliamentary road. In addition, Red Sun, a web page that claims to be affiliated with some faction the Communist Party of Peru, has criticized both the UCPN(M) and RCP USA. Another movement that has criticized the UCPN(M) is the Communist Party of India (Maoist) -- although they were never formally a RIM member, the CPI(Maoist) was formed out of three organizations, some of which were RIM members, at conferences organized by RIM.[15][16]

Another effort at regrouping the international communist movement is the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO). Two notable parties that participate in the ICMLPO are the Marxist Leninist Party of Germany (MLPD) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). The ICMLPO seeks to unity around Marxism-Leninism, not Maoism. However, some of the parties and organizations within the ICMLPO identify as Mao Zedong Thought or Maoist.

Other trends have sought to lead international Maoism. The Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) was founded in 1983 and largely dissolved by 2009. Although smaller than the ICMLPO and RIM, MIM's main influence was in intellectual and literary circles. Even though MIM dissolved organizationally, MIM-influenced efforts continue to exist. The Maoist-Third Worldist movement and the Leading Light Communist Organization, which was founded between 2007 and 2009, continues its efforts to spread its distinct form of Maoism through its print journal and online webpage Monkey Smashes Heaven. The Maoist-Third Worldist movement holds that there is no first world proletariat, that the first world "working class" is a bought-off, bourgeoisified labor aristocracy that aligns with imperialism against the masses of the third world, and claims to have developed Marxism to a new, fourth stage. Monkey Smashes Heaven takes a positive view of Lin Biao, a view not shared by others claiming to be Maoist. The Maoist-Third Worldist movement has published materials in English, Chinese, Tagalog, Czech, Greek, Macedonian, French, and Spanish.

The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), a national communist party with a revolutionary background, is a follower of Maoism, although it is believed that the party has developed its own ideology, Prachanda Path, which was developed taking Nepal's political, sociological and geographical constraints into consideration. Still, this party is believed to have taken Maoism as its doctrine as its name suggests.

In the USA the Kasama Project (KP), was initiated by former RCP USA members critical of what they viewed as the dogmatism and cult of personality of RCP USA. KP describes itself as seeking to radically re-imagine contemporary revolutionary politics. It is deeply influenced by Maoist thought, in particular as developed by the RCP USA, but claims members who arrive from other traditions, such as anarchism. KP has published articles in English, Persian, Spanish, and other languages.

Military strategy

His writings include On Guerrilla Warfare, where he lays out his ideas on guerrilla warfare.[17]

As with his economic and political ideas, Maoist military credo seems to have a more relevance at the start of the 21st century outside of the People's Republic of China than within it. There is a consensus both within and outside the PRC that the military context that the PRC faces in the early 21st century are very different from the one faced by China in the 1930s. As a result, within the inner circle of the People's Liberation Army there has been extensive debate over whether and how to relate Mao's military doctrines to 21st-century military ideas, especially the idea of a revolution in military affairs.

Critique and interpretations

Maoism has fallen out of favour within the Communist Party of China, beginning with Deng Xiaoping's reforms in 1978. Deng believed that Maoism showed the dangers of "ultra-leftism", manifested in the harm perpetrated by the various mass movements that characterized the Maoist era. In Chinese Communism, the term "left" can be taken as a euphemism for Maoist policies. However, Deng stated that the revolutionary side of Maoism should be considered separate from the governance side, leading to his famous epithet that Mao was "70% good, 30% bad". China scholars generally agree that Deng's interpretation of Maoism preserves the legitimacy of Communist rule in China but at the same time criticizes Mao's brand of economic and political governance.

Critic Graham Young claims that Maoists see Joseph Stalin as the last true socialist leader of the Soviet Union, but allows that the Maoist assessments of Stalin vary between the extremely positive and the more ambivalent.[18] Some political philosophers, such as Martin Cohen, have seen in Maoism an attempt to combine Confucianism and Socialism - what one such called 'a third way between communism and capitalism'.[19]

See also


  2. Mao Tse Tung, "On contradiction", Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Foreign Language Press, Peking, 1967, p. 75, or
  3. Mao Tse-Tung, "On contradiction", Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tse-Tung, op. cit., p. 89, or
  4. Cfr. Mao Tse-Tung, "On practice. On the relation between knowledge and practice, between knowing and doing", Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tse-Tung, op.cit., p. 55: "Man's social practice is not confined to activity in production, but takes many forms --class struggle, political life, scientific and artistic pursuits; in short, as a social being, man participates in all spheres of the practical life of society. Thus man, in varying degrees, comes to know the different relations between man and man, not only through his material life but also though his political and cultural life (both of which are intimately bound up with material life)", or
  5. Xinhua: Constitution of the Communist Party of China
  6. Amin, Samir (October 2009). "The Countries of the South Must Take Their Own Independent Initiatives". The Third World Forum. Retrieved 2011-01-07. 
  7. UC Berkeley Journalism - Faculty - Deng's Revolution
  9. "Khmer Rouge Duch trial nears end". BBC News. 2009-11-23. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  12. Ridge, Mian (2009-10-29). "Maoists' hijacking of Indian train reveals new audacity". The Christian Science Monitor (The Christian Science Monitor). Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  13. ROMA OF THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Author: Judith Latham DOI: 10.1080/009059999109037. Published in: journal Nationalities Papers, Volume 27, Issue 2 June 1999 , pages 205 - 226
  17. On Guerrilla Warfare
  18. Graham Young, On Socialist Development and the Two Roads, The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, No. 8 (Jul., 1982), pp. 75-84, doi:10.2307/2158927
  19. Political Philosophy from Plato to Mao, by Martin Cohen, page 206, published 2001 by Pluto Press, London and Sterling VA ISBN 0745316034

External links


Selected organizations


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