Maoism, variably and officially known as Mao Zedong Thought is a variant of Marxism derived from the teachings of the late Chinese 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 organizations exist in Peru, India, and most prominently, Nepal. Its basic tenets include a revolutionary struggle of the vast majority of people termed a People's War involving peasants, and its military strategies essentially involved guerrilla war tactics focused on surrounding the cities from the countryside with a non-professional, popular armed forces.
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 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 generally discredits the socialist framework of the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev and dismisses it as Communist revisionism. Some critics 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. whereas some political philosophers have seen in Maoism an attempt to combine Confucianism and Socialism - what one such called 'a third way between communism and capitalism'
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 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:
"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 CCP 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 CCP 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.
Many 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. This is reflected in a strain of Chinese Neo-Leftism in the country that seeks to return China to the days after Mao but before Deng; for more on that current's beliefs, see its article.
Some Western scholars argue that China's rapid industrialization and relatively quick recovery from the brutal period of civil wars 1911-1949 was a positive impact of Maoism, and contrast its development specifically to that of Southeast Asia, Russia and India. While others see it as catastrophe for the environment, with Maoism specifically engaged in a battle to dominate and subdue nature.
From 1962 onwards, the challenge to the Soviet hegemony in the World Communist Movement made by the CCP resulted in various divisions in communist parties around the world. At an early stage, the Albanian Party of Labour sided with the CCP. 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.
In the west and south, a plethora of parties and organizations were formed that upheld links to the CCP. 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-CCP 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 CCP, the Communist Party of New Zealand. Under the leadership of CCP 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.
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 CCP (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.
During the 1980s two parallel regrouping efforts emerged, one centered around the Communist Party of the Philippines, which gave birth to the ICMLPO, and one that birthed the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, which the Shining Path communist guerrilla group and the Revolutionary Communist Party USA played a leading role in forming.
Both the International Conference and the RIM tendencies claimed to uphold Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, although RIM was later to substitute that ideology with what they termed 'Marxism-Leninism-Maoism'.
Today, Maoist organizations, grouped in RIM, have their greatest influence in South Asia. They have been involved in violent struggles in Bangladesh and, until recently, Nepal. The Nepalese Maoist militant struggles have ended and the Maoists have peacefully negotiated to become the majority party in the newly formed republic. There are also minor groups active in Afghanistan, Peru and Turkey.
In Peru, several columns of the Communist Party of Peru/SL are fighting a sporadic war. Since the capture of their leadership, Chairman Gonzalo and other members of their central committee in 1992, the PCP/SL no longer has initiative in the fight. Several different political positions are supported by the leadership of the PCP/SL.
In India, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) have been fighting a protracted war. Formed by the merger of the People's War Group and the Maoist Communist Center ("notorious for its macabre killings") originating from the 25 May 1967 peasant uprising., they have expanded their range of operations to over half of India and have been listed by the Prime Minister as the "greatest internal security threat" to the Indian republic since it was founded.
Maoism has also become a significant political ideology in Nepal. The Maoist insurgency has been fighting against the Royal Nepalese Army and other supporters of the monarchy. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), a RIM member, has conditionally halted its armed struggle and is participating in an interim government, including in elections for a national assembly.
Mao is widely regarded 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 guerrilla 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.
Committee of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties from around the world