This is an archive of the former website of the Maoist Internationalist Movement, which was run by the now defunct Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika. The MIM now consists of many independent cells, many of which have their own indendendent organs both online and off. MIM(Prisons) serves these documents as a service to and reference for the anti-imperialist movement worldwide.
This is an archive of the former website of the Maoist Internationalist Movement, which was run by the now defunct Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika. The MIM now consists of many independent cells, many of which have their own indendendent organs both online and off. MIM(Prisons) serves these documents as a service to and reference for the anti-imperialist movement worldwide.
Maoist Internationalist Movement

Notes on the term "Maoism"


*An example from the PCP (Peruvian comrades) calling Maoism the third and superior stage of Marxism-Leninism
*Turkish comrades on Maoism (1998)

Our name established in 1984 is the "Maoist Internationalist Movement," but the first word has a long history, behind it, so long, that the choice of one word concentrates a huge political struggle, the most important one of our times in the international communist movement. [This work is incomplete, so you can help out if you want by sending in your analysis and historical references.]

In August 1948, while preparing his speech for the opening ceremony of North China University, Comrade Wu Yuzhang decided to use "Maoism" [Mao2 Ze2dong1 zhu3yi4] instead of "Mao Zedong Thought" [Mao2 Ze2dong1 si1xiang3] and to proclaim that "studying Maoism is of primary importance." He sent Comrade Mao Zedong a telegram to ask for his advice. In reply, Comrade Mao Zedong wrote: "That sort of phrasing is quite inappropriate. There is no such thing as Maoism. Don't say 'studying Maoism is of primary importance.' You must rather urge the students to study the theory of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin as well as the experience of the Chinese revolution. Here 'the experience of the Chinese revolution' includes the various little booklets written by Chinese communists (Mao Zedong among them) and the documents of all the lines and policies established by the Party Central Committee."

In 1955, at a nationwide conference of intellectuals, some comrades again suggested changing "Mao Zedong Thought" to "Maoism." Comrade Mao Zedong did not approve of this suggestion. He said: "Marxism-Leninism is the trunk of the tree; I am just a twig." ( )

This sort of statement and the continued use of the phrase "Marxism-Leninism" for a historical period has caused much confusion in our own ranks--especially now in 2005 when people go back and quote from Chinese history selectively and not by looking at the whole history.

In 1955, the Soviet leader Khruschev had not yet publicly denounced Stalin, who died in 1953. Thus to say that there is a "Maoism" in 1955 would hinge that notion on Mao's contributions to the theory of People's War. Some would say that Mao's idea of "new democracy" was also a development of Marxism-Leninism, but MIM has held the position that that particular idea fell well within the range of previous statements by Lenin. What is more, the Soviet Union had also had extensive military experience in World War II, which probably deserved synthesis as well. Hence, there is a good case for saying as Mao did that up till 1956, there was no "Maoism" yet.

It's important to understand that the center of gravity in the world communist movement's split between revisionism and scientific communism comes down around 1955. By this I mean that the revisionists in China continue to quote from the 1950s before Mao developed the struggle against revisionism through polemics with the Soviet Union and the Cultural Revolution. In India as well, there has been division along these lines, where some continue to uphold the Liu Shaoqi line and oppose as "Lin Biaoism" the elevation of Maoism as the next and higher stage of Marxism-Leninism. This is all tied together in the battle against Chinese revisionism, so it's important to reject the Chinese revisionists' claims that the "Golden Age" was Mao's leadership before the Great Leap (1958-1960).

While these issues cause historical debate and organizational splitting in India, of course in the majority-exploiter countries the subject has a treatment closer to farce. We have one joker now calling himself a "great Maoist leader" who before jumping on the bandwagon and calling himself "Maoist" in 1993 claimed simultaneously to oppose Kim's revisionism in Korea and Castro's in Cuba while criticizing the Lin Biaoists who in the 1960s were the ones to make official a basis for opposing Korean and Cuban revisionism. However, that is getting ahead of the story.

The reason there is "Maoism" today is a new problem not faced by Lenin. To be sure, Lenin had learned of cases where reactionaries defeat revolutions as in the Paris Commune or Hungary. Lenin even mentioned the creation of a "new bourgeoisie" in the government of socialism. The idea that imperialists could attack from the outside or that a civil war could go one way or another was not new to Lenin and hence anything along these lines probably cannot serve as a claim for the existence of Maoism as the third and superior stage of Marxism-Leninism. Khruschev changed all that.

In Khruschev's restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union, we have a case where there was no civil war apparent and no imperialist invasion. In fact, Stalin had held power in relative stability for about 30 years.

The response of the international communist movement divided into three parts: 1) denial and thus revisionism; 2) ineptitude; 3) development.

Those in camp one are now finally on the defensive, because Gorbachev made it obvious that capitalist restoration is possible by the leaders of the party itself. It is only the totally brain-dead still hoping that Russia is a "deformed workers' state" in 2005 or that Gorbachev was a real communist. Mao was right: it could happen without civil war or outside invasion and the important thing to understand is that this statement separates him from the vast majority of other leaders in the communist movement at the time and this is another reason we must now elevate Maoism as the third and superior stage of Marxism-Leninism, as a matter of our scientific responsibility today.

In the second camp we have the inept ranging from Castro and Kim to Hoxha. Hoxha was the least inept in this camp while Castro and Kim made considerably more compromises with the revisionist camp. Even so, Castro flip-flopped and stated he noticed something had changed with Gorbachev as did Kim Jong Il. They were rather late, but their followers were not totally brain-dead, just 90%. The best in the lot, Hoxha realized that Khruschev had changed something and he knew it was a departure from Marxism-Leninism. What was not so good was Hoxha's explanation for how it happened.

Stalin had told us that parties in power have enemies inside. Trotskys arise. The imperialists bribe various party members. Yet, here was Khruschev, the very leader of the Soviet Union who restored capitalism. The question arises whether the old approach to this question was adequate. Hoxha answered "yes," Mao "no."

So, we should not laugh, but Hoxha claimed there was an appropriate Stalin line without the benefit of hindsight that Mao had to handle this question. We are supposed to picture that the KGB should have handled Khruschev, not to mention Gorbachev. We should treat Khruschev as just another Amerikan-bribed infiltrator according to non-Maoists who noticed something wrong with Khruschev.

For Maoists this is no where near adequate. How should we picture this? First the KGB sends teams of investigators to find out how much the Amerikans bribed Khruschev. Next they arrange to bribe him back to the Soviet side and serve as a double agent? Perhaps the KGB should arrest the leader of the party? We're quite sure that Stalin agreed with Mao that the party must command the gun, and he said so when he rejected a particular military commendation because it implied that the leader of the party was not already the leader of the Soviet military. So to leave it to the KGB, this would be a precedent fraught with difficulty at a wider political level, not to mention continuous and shady coups. This is another reason Mao found the whole Lin Biao disaster so distressing. If Stalin himself could not leave leaders in place to prevent capitalist restoration, then why do we think a subdepartment of the KGB is going to arrest Khruschev (and even if succeeding in that) and then prevent capitalist restoration themselves? As Molotov himself said, "we purged and purged" and still "it's complicated." Obviously, genuine communists faced with this situation needed more help from the masses and that is why there needed to be a Cultural Revolution.

No, preventing revisionist leadership is not something for the KGB/NKVD alone. This is something where we have to ask how the party put itself in this position and find the roots of Khruschev's support. Mao was the only one to do this and that is the real reason we have to name Maoism as the third and superior stage of Marxism-Leninism.

When we picture the KGB bribing Khruschev sufficiently to stay on the Soviet side, we come closer to understanding the problem. Even on bourgeois terms, narrow-minded and imperfect leaders of powerful countries do not hanker for a condo in Miami, especially not so much that they would give up the prestige of their own independence. Leaders of powerful countries can usually arrange their own privileges if they have a mind to being corrupt, so they would not need Amerikan bribes.

One could respond that Khruschev was the kind of joker who just revelled in widespread corruption without any particular rationale. Then the question becomes why he would have support. How did he get to be party leader? Certainly others had to know this and now we are talking about a more widespread problem. Furthermore, even if Amerikans bribed Khruschev to restore profit to command in the Soviet economy, it would not explain why others actually carried out his economic plans.

Today when there is a general bourgeois ethos in Russia, if someone wants to say that the whole Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Putin governments were just line items in the State Department, NSA and CIA budgets, we can imagine such a large operation. It is possible within Uncle $am's budget for "intelligence." The problem comes in saying that is what happened under Stalin with people like Khruschev at his side ready to pounce for capitalism. Khruschev could not denounce Stalin and change the direction of the economy without internal support. Hence we have to look for the material bases of the bourgeoisie in the party and stop living in denial that there was a bourgeoisie in the party, though it sounds unpleasant. The reality of capitalist restoration is what is really unpleasant, not science, not Mao the messenger.

When we try to place ourselves in the shoes of Chinese Marxists in the 1930s, we have some internal disagreement and uncertainty at MIM. One analysis holds that the May 4th movement succeeded in introducing the concept of "-ism" China-wide. Another analysis holds that in their position, the Chinese comrades going into the remote countryside and speaking with uneducated peasants might say the "thoughts of Buddha" or the "thoughts of Mao" to use a form of expression that there could be no question people would understand. Rather than getting to the absolute bottom of the origin of "Mao Zedong Thought," we thought it important to publish on our web page what we do know.

Closely related to this question is Mao's statement in the 1930s that there is "no Marxism that is not concrete." For Mao, there was no such thing as Marxism in the abstract. It either applied in conditions in China or did not exist at all in China. This had a lot to do with defeating Wang Ming and the Trotskyists who tried to say that their connection to historical figures in Moscow or training there made their theories correct. Likewise, ten years ago, we had some jokers in Australia trying to say that their connection to supposedly prestigious Peruvians in New York City made them vanguard leaders. Other similar types say that signing a joint resolution with multiple countries' parties makes them right about concrete issues.

So Mao correctly fought a key battle against dogmatism; although by MIM standards, we would say such a battle was of life-and-death importance but still a lesser challenge than faced in the majority-exploiter countries where we have people calling exploiters "exploited." Much as they were complete misleaders, even Wang Ming and the Chinese Trotskyists all pointed to people in China who were exploited, so the question of friends and enemies was not as botched in China as we have in Trotskyism or dogmatism in the majority-exploiter countries today. Whereas in China, failure to follow Mao led to an inept pursuit of the exploited's interests, in the majority-exploiter countries, the Trotskyists not on imperialist payroll do not even pursue the exploited's interests to begin with. They do not oppose exploitation, so it's important to understand that the question never goes to the strategic level in the majority-exploiter countries. It's a question of ideology and goals and the duty of the communists in the majority-exploiter countries is to shine the light on the enemy and keep the target in sight for the whole world.

According to one historian named Raymond F. Wylie, Mao's thought was not really on the map even among his eventually closest followers until 1938. At that time, Chen Boda and others started a persistent effort to have comrades study not just Marx, Lenin and Stalin but also Mao. Wang Ming also preserved centralism on that question. Contrary to the 28 Bolsheviks of similar mind as Wang Ming and the Trotskyists, the new party history also stressed the advances at meetings of January 1935, and not the role of returned students in January 1931 at the fourth plenum as previously taught in party history.

From the 1930s through the 1950s, it would not be wrong to consider Mao's thought to be just a part of Marxism-Leninism. With the Khruschev restoration of capitalism came the basis for change and a more radical impulse developing Marxism-Leninism to a new stage.

Finally, at the 9th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Mao's comrades elevated Mao's importance relative to Marxism-Leninism. From that time onward, the genuine Maoists knew that the difference between Mao Zedong's Thought and "Maoism" was semantic. All that remained was implementation which faced resistance especially from Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping.

No longer was "Mao Zedong Thought" reserved to discussion of China's conditions. Newspaper articles appeared that said that revolutions in other countries "depended on Mao Zedong Thought." Thus whatever the origins of the term, it was clear that practitioners regarded Mao Zedong Thought as a universal development of Marxism-Leninism. There could hardly be better proof than the restoration of capitalism in several countries.

Having advanced so far, it's not surprising that during or soon after the "9th Party Congress" the Maoists of China "blew it." The unity of those who knew that revisionism had to be defeated by Maoism fell apart. After earning the main credit for elevating Mao's thought as the official line of the Chinese Communist Party, according to Raymond F. Wylie in addition to the 10th National Congress of the Communist Party of China documents, Chen Boda and Lin Biao actually proposed a report naming the principal contradiction within China as between the socialist system and backward forces of production, thus again paving the way for the "theory of productive forces" and Zhou Enlai's "Four Modernizations" that served as Deng's ideological backbone. Oddly enough, they did this while proposing further advances in economic organization, thus maintaining their "ultra-left" credentials. By MIM's standards, it seems that Chen Boda had become "erratic," because it is hard to see how these ideas fit together with his other ideas. If this is true, and if reports by Lin's son are true, by 1969 Mao was surrounded by leaders who simply wanted modernization of the productive forces and less internationalism--"China's rightful place in the world" as any respectable bourgeois would put it. Only the "Gang of Four" remained in opposition to the "theory of the productive forces." At the 10th Party Congress, Zhou Enlai announced the dispatch of Chen Boda and Lin Biao and also condemned the theory of productive forces he himself was peddling inside the party. With the death of Mao and the arrest of the "Gang of Four," Chen Boda and Lin Biao remained in disgrace and thus there were no erratic or consistent Maoists left to block the way and the bourgeoisie won the day. Deng Xiaoping came to power and told the world that he based himself on Zhou Enlai's programs for the productive forces.

In the above, the reason I cite Wylie and not just the 10th Party Congress documents alone is that if there are any areas to be further investigated they would be how the Maoist unity fell apart in 1969-1970 and what Zhou Enlai's role was--whether Deng Xiaoping misreported that in any way. That's another way of saying we are cross-checking the above paragraph from a number of angles, including bourgeois historians.

As we have said many times before, the truth is the truth no matter who says it. In this case, Lin Biao eventually staged a coup against Mao, but before that he blazed the trail and said on March 11, 1966: "Mao Tse-tung's thought reflects the objective laws of the domestic and international class struggle; it reflects the fundamental interests of the proletariat, of the working people. Mao Tse-tung's thought has not grown spontaneously from among the working people; it is rather the result of Chairman Mao's inheriting and developing with great talent the ideas of Marxism-Leninism on the basis of great revolutionary practice. It has summed up the new experiences of the international communist movement and elevated Marxism-Leninism to a completely new stage." Similar remarks come from Lin in the little red book Quotations.

From that time onwards, genuine communists the world around treated Mao's thought as containing universal truth as officially sanctioned by the Communist Party of China. Whether it was called "Mao Zedong Thought" or "Maoism" the important thing was whether people treated it as something universally true, and not just Marxism-Leninism applied to China. In this regard what Mao said about the Soviet Union was key.

Now we should say there is no "Marxism-Leninism-Maoism" that is not concrete. There is no "Marxism-Leninism-Maoism" that is not integrated with a country's conditions. Deng Xiaoping and Kim Il Sung did not want that, because they wanted the 1950s status quo of "Marxism-Leninism," which amounted to downplaying the struggle against capitalist restoration. Kim's Juche tends in a rather subjectivist- empiricist direction by not upholding anything universal at all and thus it can be hard to tell apart from Deng's line sometimes. If people use the term "Maoism" to mean Marxism-Leninism applied in Chinese conditions, then the term "Maoism" is as watered down as any other. So what is important is understanding the relationship between the universal and the particular and to give Maoism its proper universal accord.

At the 9th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the only party in power mentioned by name as genuine Marxist-Leninist was the Albanian one. The congress openly condemned Brezhnev. This set Mao at odds with Castro, who had nothing to contribute to the struggle against the restoration of capitalism. Later, Kim succeeded in getting Mao's government in 1975 to name Kim as not departing from "Marxism-Leninism" without needing to carry out a struggle against the bourgeoisie in the party in Korea. That remains something of a puzzle to this day. If that line is correct it would only be because northern Korea is not really in the socialist stage, because of the reunification problem.

It is revisionists of various stripes trying to return the discussion of Mao to the 1950s status quo. It is a way of downplaying the struggle against Khruschev revisionism, downplaying the Cultural Revolution and even denying the multiple capitalist restorations that have occurred just as Mao said. The beneficiaries of such an approach are Khruschev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, Deng Xiaoping, Kim Jong Il, Ho Chi Minh and Castro.

HC123 filed a research report for this article.
The leading dictionary of classical Chinese does not list _zhu3yi4_ ('-ism'). That means that it is almost certainly a recent term, not much older than the end of the nineteenth century. Another dictionary states that it commonly corresponds to English _-ism_ as in _socialism_ and _individualism_, which it lists with the corresponding Chinese words.

The word _shugi_ (_zhu3yi4_ in Chinese) was created by Fukuchi Gen'ichiro (1841-1906) as a translation of the English word _principle_. It would have spread from Japan to China, as did _she4hui4_ 'society' (also popularized by Fukuchi) and numerous other words.

So it's about a hundred years old, and it was devised to express a Western concept.