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Maoism

Encyclopdia Britannica Article

Chinese (Pinyin) Mao Zedong Sixiang , (Wade-Giles romanization) Mao


Tse-tung Ssu-hsiang (Mao Zedong Thought)
doctrine composed of the ideology and methodology for revolution
developed by Mao Zedong and his associates in the Chinese Communist
Party from the 1920s until Mao's death in 1976. Maoism has clearly
represented a revolutionary method based on a distinct revolutionary
outlook not necessarily dependent on a Chinese or Marxist-Leninist
context.

The first political attitudes of Mao Zedong took shape against a background
of profound crisis in China in the early 20th century. The country was weak
and divided, and the major national problems were the reunification of
China and the expulsion of foreign occupiers. The young Mao was a
nationalist, and his sentiments had been strongly anti-Western and
anti-imperialist even before he became attracted to Marxism-Leninism
about 191920. Mao's nationalism combined with a personal trait of
combativeness to make him admire the martial spirit, which became a
cornerstone of Maoism. Indeed, the army held an important position both
in the process of creating the Chinese revolutionary state and in the
process of nation building; Mao relied on army support in conflicts with his
party in the 1950s and '60s.
Mao's political ideas crystallized slowly. He had a mentality that was
opportunistic and wary of ideological niceties. The Marxist-Leninist
tradition regarded peasants as incapable of revolutionary initiative and
only marginally useful in backing urban proletarian efforts. Yet Mao
gradually decided to base his revolution on the dormant power of China's
hundreds of millions of peasants, for he saw potential energy in them by
the very fact that they were poor and blank; strength and violence
were, he thought, inherent in their condition. Proceeding from this, he
proposed to instill in them a proletarian consciousness and make their
force alone suffice for revolution. There was no significant Chinese
proletariat, but by the 1940s Mao had revolutionized and proletarianized
the peasantry.
For a time after the creation of the Chinese communist state in 1949, Mao
Zedong attempted to conform to the Stalinist model of building
socialism. In the mid-1950s, however, he and his advisers reacted against
the results of this policy, which included the growth of a rigid and
bureaucratic Communist Party and the emergence of managerial and
technocratic elitesaccepted in other countries, especially the Soviet
Union, as concomitants of industrial growth. In 1955 the Maoists speeded

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Maoism

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up the process of agricultural collectivization. After this came the Great


Leap Forward, a refinement of the traditional five-year plans, and other
efforts at mobilizing the masses into producing small-scale industries
(backyard steel furnaces) throughout China. The experiment faltered
through waste, confusion, and inefficient management. In 1966 the party's
leaders, at Mao's instigation, launched the Cultural Revolution, designed
again to quash emerging bourgeois elementselites and
bureaucratsand to harness anti-intellectualism to galvanize popular will.
The party leaders stressed egalitarianism and the value of the peasants'
lack of sophistication; indeed, thousands of city workers were forced to
receive profound class education through agricultural labour with the
peasants.

Thus, Maoism's alternative to growth led by elites and bureaucracies was to


be growth brought about by revolutionary enthusiasm and mass struggle.
Maoism undertook to pit the collective will of human beings against the
customary and rational dictates of economics and industrial management.
The violent excesses of Maoism and its inability to achieve sustained
economic growth in China led after the chairman's death to a new
emphasis on education and management professionalism there, and by the
1980s Maoism appeared to be celebrated mainly as a relic of the late
leader. Outside of China, however, a number of groups have identified
themselves as Maoists. Notable among these are rebels in Nepal, who won
control of the government there in 2006 after a 10-year-long insurgency,
and a collection of groups in India called Naxalites, who have engaged in
guerilla warfare for decades in large areas of that country.

To cite this page:

MLA Style: "Maoism." Encyclopdia Britannica. Encyclopdia Britannica


Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopdia Britannica, 2015.
APA Style: Maoism. (2015). Encyclopdia Britannica. Encyclopdia
Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopdia Britannica.

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