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Maoism

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Template:Communism Maoism or Mao Tse-tung Thought (Chinese: 毛泽东思想, pinyin: Mo Zdōng Sīxiǎng), is a variant of Marxism-Leninism derived from the teachings of Mao Zedong (18931976). In the People's Republic of China (PRC) it is the official doctrine of the Communist Party of China. Since the reforms of Deng Xiaoping started in 1978, however, the definition and role of Mao Tse-tung's ideology in the PRC has radically changed.

It should be noted that the word "Maoism" has never been used by the PRC in its English-language publications except derisively: "Mao Tse-tung Thought" has always been the preferred term. Likewise, Maoist groups outside China have usually called themselves "Marxist-Leninist" rather than Maoist. This is a reflection of Mao's view that he did not change, but only developed, "Marxism-Leninism". The word "Maoist" has been used either as a pejorative term by other communists, or as a descriptive term by non-communist writers. However, some Maoist groups, believing that Mao's theories were substantial additions to the Marxist canon, call themselves "Marxist-Leninist-Maoist" or simply "Maoist"; for example, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), who distinguish themselves from the much more mainstream Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist).

Outside the PRC, the term Maoism was used from the 1960s onwards, usually in a hostile sense, to describe parties or individuals who supported Mao Zedong and his form of Communism, as opposed to the form practised in the Soviet Union, which the parties supporting Mao denounced as "revisionist." These parties usually rejected the term Maoism, preferring to call themselves Marxist-Leninists. Since the death of Mao and the reforms of Deng, most of these parties have disappeared, but various small Communist groups in a number of countries continue to advance Maoist ideas.

Contents

Maoist theory

Unlike the earlier forms of Marxism-Leninism in which the urban proletariat was seen as the main source of revolution, and the countryside was largely ignored, Maoism focused on the peasantry as a revolutionary force which, he said, could be mobilized by a Communist Party with "correct" ideas and leadership. The model for this was of course the Chinese Communist rural insurgency of the 1920s and 1930s, which eventually brought Mao to power. Furthermore, unlike other forms of Marxism-Leninism in which large-scale industrial development was seen as a positive force, Maoism made all-round rural development the priority. Mao felt that this strategy made sense during the early stages of socialism in a country most of whose people were peasants.

Unlike most other political ideologies, including other socialist and Marxist ones, Maoism contains an integral military doctrine and explicitly connects its political ideology with military strategy. In Maoist thought, power comes from the barrel of the gun, and the peasantry can be mobilized to undertake a "people's war." This involves guerrilla warfare using three stages. The first stage involves mobilizing the peasantry and setting up organization. The second stage involves setting up rural base areas and increasing co-ordination among the guerrilla organizations. The third stage involves a transition to conventional warfare. Maoist military doctrine likens guerilla fighters to fish swimming in a sea of peasants, who provide logistical support.

Maoism emphasizes revolutionary mass mobilization, village-level industries independent of the outside world (the Great Leap Forward urged each and every Chinese to melt down industrial pots and pans to smelt their own iron from scratch), deliberate organizing of mass military and economic power where necessary to defend from outside threat or where centralization keeps corruption under supervision, and strong control of the arts and sciences.

A key concept that distinguishes Maoism from other left-wing ideologies is the belief that the class struggle continues throughout the entire socialist period (as a result of the fundamental antagonistic contradiction between capitalism and communism). Even when the proletariat has seized state power through a socialist revolution, the potential remains for a bourgeoisie to restore capitalism. Indeed, Mao famously stated that "the bourgeoisie [in a socialist country] is right inside the Communist Party itself", implying that corrupt Party officials would subvert socialism if not prevented. This was the main reason for the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, in which Mao exhorted the public to "Bombard the [Party] headquarters!" and wrest control of the government from bureaucrats (such as Liu Shaoqi) perceived to be on the capitalist road.

Mao's doctrine is best summarized in the Little Red Book of Mao Zedong, which was distributed to everyone in China as the basis of revolutionary education. This book consists of quotations from the earliest days of the revolution to the mid-1960s, just before the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.

Maoism after Mao

Since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, and the reforms of Deng Xiaoping starting in 1978, the role of Mao's ideology within the PRC has radically changed. 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 and the role of ideology in determining policy has 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.

In addition, the party constitution has been rewritten to give the pragmatic ideas of Deng Xiaoping as much prominence as those of Mao. One consequence of this is that groups outside China which describe themselves as Maoist generally regard China has 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 Communist Party of China 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. 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.

Both Maoist critics outside China and most Western commentators 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 Chinese communist party 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 Communist Party of China 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.

Although these ideological categories and disputes are less relevant at the start of the 21st century, these distinctions were very important in the early 1980s, when the Chinese government was faced with the dilemma of how to allow economic reform to proceed without destroying its own legitimacy, and many argue that Deng's success in starting Chinese economic reform was in large part due to his being able to justify those reforms within a Maoist framework.

Some historians today regard Maoism as an ideology devised by Mao as a pretext for his own quest for power. The official view of the Chinese government was that Mao did not create Maoism to gain power, but that in his later years, Mao or those around him were able to use Maoism to create a cult of personality.

Both the official view of the Communist Party of China and much public opinion within China regards the latter period of Mao's rule as having been a disaster for their country. The various estimates of the number of deaths attributable to Mao's policies that have been offered remain highly controversial. For more discussion of this period, see the article Cultural Revolution.

At the same time, even this period is largely seen both in official circles and among the general public as preferable to the chaos and turmoil that existed in China in the first half of the twentieth century. Among some people there is nostalgia for the idealism of revolutionary Maoism in contrast to the corruption and money-centeredness some see in current Chinese society. Many also regret the erosion of guaranteed employment, education, health care, and other gains of the revolution that have been largely lost in the new profit-driven economy. On December 24, 2004, four Chinese protesters were sentenced to prison terms for distributing leaflets entitled "Mao Forever Our Leader" at a gathering in Zhengzhou honoring Mao Zedong on the anniversary of his death. Attacking the current leadership as "imperialist revisionists", the leaflets called on lower-level cadre to "change (The Party's) current line and to revert to the socialist road." The Zhengzhou incident is one of the first manifestations of public nostalgia for the Mao era to make it to the international press, although it is far from clear whether these feelings are isolated or widespread.

In the West, Maoism is remembered as one of the more violent manifestations of the 1960s wave of student-led radicalism. Major ideological disputes among the Western groups that continue to uphold Maoism are common. For example, the Maoist Internationalist Movement regards the white working class in the First World as a non-revolutionary "labor aristocracy", whereas the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA) claims that all but a minority of white workers in countries such as the US have revolutionary potential.

In Europe, several parties that were created in the 1960s and '70s under the influence of Mao Zedong Thought continue to support his ideas. Among the most active are the Workers Communist Party (Norway), the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany, the Maoist Communist Party (Turkey-Northern Kurdistan), the Communist Organization of Greece, and several others.

However, the strongest Maoist parties exist outside the Western world, mainly in Latin America (for example, the Revolutionary Communist Party of Argentina) and in Asia (several Indian parties, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the Communist Party of the Philippines, etc.).

In general, Maoist movements outside China are strongly opposed to the current Chinese government, which they see as having hopelessly strayed from the principles of Maoism.

Military strategy

The military aspects of Maoist theory have garnered much more universal respect than his political or economic ideas. Mao is widely regarded as a brilliant military strategist even among those who oppose his other ideas. His writings on guerilla warfare and the notion of people's war are now generally considered to be essential reading, both for those who wish to conduct guerilla operations and for those who wish to oppose them.

As with his economic and political ideas, Maoist military ideas seem to have 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 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.

See also: Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong

External links

General

Maoist parties (listed alphabetically)

Revolutions

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