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Maoism, variably and officially known as Mao Zedong Thought ( ), is a variant of Marxism derived from the teachings of the late Chinesemarker leader Mao Zedong (Wade-Giles Romanization: "Mao Tse-tung"), 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 inception of Deng Xiaoping Theory and Chinese economic reforms in 1978. It is also applied internationally in contemporary times. Maoist parties and groups exist throughout the world, with notable groups in Peru, India, and Nepal. Notably, in Nepal they won the country's first free elections in 2008.

The basic tenets of Maoism include revolutionary struggle of the vast majority of people against the exploiting classes and their state structures, 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 the mass involvement of the basic people of the 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 locus of economic activity.

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". The ideology survives in name today on the Communist Party's Constitution; it is described as the guiding thought that created "new China" and a revolutionary concept against imperialism and feudalism.

Maoism broke with the state capitalist framework of the Soviet Unionmarker 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. The critic Graham Young claim that Maoists see Joseph Stalin as the last true socialist leader of the Soviet Union, although allowing the Maoist assessments of Stalin vary between the extremely positive and the more ambivalent. 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'

Maoism in 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. 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 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 CCP 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. 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 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."

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 CCP 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. Thousands of Maoists were arrested in the Hua Guafeng period after 1976, with prominent Maoists sentenced to death.

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 Communist Party of Kampuchea (Cambodia), better known as the "Khmer Rouge," identified strongly with Maoism, and is generally labeled a "Maoist" movement today.

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 amongst the wave of student radicalism that engulfed the world in the 1960s and 1970s.

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 Sovietsmarker, 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.)

The pro-Albanian camp would start to function as an international group, led by Enver Hoxha and the APL, and was able to amalgamate many of the communist groups in Latin America, including the Communist Party of Brazil.

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.

Maoism today

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 Communist Party of Nepal Maoist, now known as the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (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 in years. 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.

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 smaller currents also exist. 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, which was founded between 2007 and 2009, continues its efforts to spread its distinct form of Maoism through its journal Monkey Smashes Heaven. The Maoist-Third Worldist movement, which was influenced by MIM, 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. The Maoist-Third Worldist movement has published materials in English, Chinese, Tagalog, Czech, Greek, French, and Spanish. Another effort is the Kasama Project (KP), a recent split from the RCP USA. Even though KP split from RCP USA, it has continued to publish some RCP USA materials. KP has been highly critical what they describe as the dogmatism and cult of personality of RCP USA. KP describes itself as seeking to radically re-imagine contemporary revolutionary politics. KP has published articles in English, Farsi, Spanish, and other languages.

Military strategy

Mao is widely regarded in China as a brilliant military strategist even among those who oppose his political or economic ideas. His writings on guerrilla warfare, most notably in his groundbreaking primer On Guerrilla Warfare, and the notion of people's war are now generally considered to be essential reading, both for those who wish to conduct irregular revolts and for those who oppose them.

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 Chinamarker 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.

See also

External links


Selected organizations

Committee of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties from around the world



  2. Xinhua: Constitution of the Communist Party of China
  3. 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
  4. Political Philosophy from Plato to Mao, by Martin Cohen, page 206, published 2001 by Pluto Press, London and Sterling VA ISBN 0745316034
  5. UC Berkeley Journalism - Faculty - Deng's Revolution
  9. 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
  10. On Guerrilla Warfare

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