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  Wikipedia: Maoism

Wikipedia: Maoism
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Maoism or Mao Zedong Thought (Chinese: 毛澤東思想, pinyin: Mo Zdōng Sīxĭang), also called Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM), is an ideology derived from the teachings of Mao Zedong. In the People's Republic of China (PRC) it has been the official doctrine of the Communist Party of China since the Cultural Revolution of the mid-1960s, although since the reforms of Deng Xiaoping the term has had little meaning in practice.

Outside the PRC, Maoism was a term, 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 these groups denounced as "revisionist." These groups 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.

Political background

From the advent of the PRC in 1949 until the late 1950s, the Chinese Communist regime practised the orthodox or Soviet model of Communist development. Mao first broke with Soviet practice during the Great Leap Forward of 1959. When this proved an economic disaster and led to attempts to remove Mao from power, a formal split with the Soviet Union developed, partly over issues of Communist practice but mainly over issues of international relations and power politics. Mao used this split as a means of reinforcing his own power within China, then elaborated a theoretical justification for the split, alleging that capitalism had been restored in the Soviet Union by Nikita Khrushchev's regime.

This split then spread to the international Communist movement, leading to a formal rupture in 1961-63. Only three Communist parties completely supported Mao's position: those in Albania, Indonesia and New Zealand. In most other Communist parties, groups of Mao supporters either resigned or were expelled, and were soon dubbed "Maoists." They formed small "Marxist-Leninist" parties, supported and often funded by China. The Indonesian party was destroyed in the 1965 military coup in Indonesia, and the Albanian party broke off relations with China after Mao's death. None of the other Maoist parties were ever of any political consequence.

In the anti-Vietnam War protest movement of the 1960s (for which see The Sixties), Maoist student groups played a prominent role in several countries, mainly because of their willingness to resort to violence. These groups, despite their overwhelmingly middle-class student composition, were marked by strident rhetoric about the dictatorship of the proletariat, extreme sectarianism towards "revisionist" and Trotskyist Communists, and a perverse cult of Stalin and of Stalin-era slogans (such as "social fascist" and "kulak") and figures such as Beria.

In the developing world (then usually called the Third World), the term Maoist was applied to the Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia, the New People's Army in the Philippines, the Shining Path guerilla organisation in Peru, the Indian Naxalites and various other revolutionary groups and movements. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) described itself as Maoist for many years but is today an orthodox democratic socialist party despite its title. The only substantial organisation currently identifying itself as Maoist is the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which is conducting a rural insurgency against the government.

Maoist theory

Unlike earlier forms of Marxism-Leninism in which the urban proletariat was seen as the only source of revolution, and the countryside was largely ignored, Maoism focused on the peasantry as a revolutionary force, which, it was theorised, could be mobilised 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 tended to distrust urban industrialisation in favor of distributed rural industrialisation (in the case of China) or active deindustrialisation, in the case of the Khmer Rouge regime. In both cases these policies proved impractical and indeed economically disastrous.

Although Mao Zedong Thought is still listed listed as one of the four cardinal principles of the People's Republic of China, the death of Mao and the rise of Deng saw a large relaxation in ideology. In the official ideology of the Communist Party of China, Maoism was necessary to break China free from its feudal past, but the actions of Mao are seen to have lead 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.

Mao himself is officially regarded 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 recognised to have been an economic and political disaster. In Deng's day, supporters of radical Maoism was regarded as a form of "left deviationism" and being based on a cult of personality, although these errors were 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 1980's, when the Chinese government was faced with the dilemma of how to allow economic reform to proceed without destroying its own legitimacy, and many see Deng's success at starting Chinese economic reform was in large part due to his being able to justify those reforms within a Maoist framework.

Some historians outside of China today regard Maoism as an ideology devised by Mao as a pretext for his own quest for power. Most Chinese today regard the latter period of Mao's rule as having been a disaster for their country, and estimates of the number of deaths attributable to Mao's policies range into the tens of millions. At the same time, even this disastrous period is largely seen as preferable to the chaos and turmoil that existed in China in the first half of the twentieth century, and 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.

In the west, Maoism is remembered as one of the more violent manifestations of the 1960s wave of student-led radicalism, and lingers on in the rhetoric of groups such as the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA). In some developing countries Maoist ideas still have some attraction to the more authoritarian wing of the radical movements. In general, Maoist movements outside of China are strongly opposed to the current Chinese government, who they see as having hopelessly strayed from the principles of Maoism.

See also: Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong


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