Foreword by Alliance                                                                                                                                                                                                    Those familiar with Alliance and its views on the current divisions in the Marxist-Leninist movement, will not be surprised that we publish here a viewpoint with which we have disagreements. We have long held that until principled discussions on the basis of fact are held, the dis-unity can not be papered over or resolved. It was to that end that we printed some years back an “Open Letter to Ludo Martens” of the Belgian movement – a committed Maoist [See:http://www.allianceml.com/China/Anti-Martens-a.html]. Regrettably, this received no reply.                                                                                             We have exchanged views with Pratyush – also a committed Maoist – for some time.  We below give his views on the role of Mao. In our forthcoming issue we will offer a reply to comrade Pratyush - a principled Marxist-Leninist. 


Submitted to Alliance by Pratyush


The debate over whether Mao was a Marxist or not is a complex one that is prone to umpteen interpretations and arguments. For his supporters, Mao’s thought epitomizes the next higher stage of Marxism Leninism. On the other end for his opponents Mao is a symbol of revisionism, one who deviated from the Marxism, and thus is not even worthy of being called as a Marxist Leninist leader. Though the subject is very wide, in this paper an attempt is made to understand the role of Mao in his development of the ML movement, in the prevailing objective and subjective conditions of the pre-revolutionary China in particular - and the Third World (also referred as the countries of East) in general. These conditions were quite different from the post feudal post-industrial revolution Europe that formed the back-drop of the works of Marx and Engels.

The emergence of Mao's thought has a history behind it. Marx and Engels had dreamt of a proletarian revolution, that would begin from developed capitalist countries, following which the victorious proletariat would liberate the oppressed people of colonies and semi-colonies. However, revolution did not take the coveted route. Socialist revolution first broke out in a backward predominantly agrarian Russia. Lenin too had expected the Russian revolution to ignite the flame of revolution first in Germany, and then in the other advanced industrialised countries of Western Europe. That too did not come about. Lenin, therefore, emphasised the organic linkage between the Russian revolution and the national liberation struggles of colonies and semi-colonies. He analysed the objective shift of the center of world revolution towards Asia. He said:

Everywhere in Asia a mighty democratic movement is growing, spreading and gaining in strength. The bourgeoisie   there is siding with the people against reaction. Hundreds of millions of people are awakening to life, light and freedom. What delight this world movement is arousing in the hearts of all class-conscious workers, who know that the path to collectivism lies through democracy! What sympathy for young Asia imbues all honest democrats!”.                                                                        
(Forward Asia, Backward Europe)

Therefore the emergence of Mao's thought was no accident. As the axis of revolution moved to the East, the emergence of a revolutionary theory from there was a historical inevitability. It could have been in India or any other country of the East as well. Anyway, it emerged from China, and Mao was the product of this historical inevitability.

The Chinese revolution

Those who argue that Mao created a new distinct ideology different from the Marxism-Leninism have given several arguments to show the so-called Mao’s revisionist steps. The crux of their argument boils down to the following points

·                    The first is based on the class nature of Mao’s revolutionary strategy.                                                
            Can a proletariat revolution be attained in a society/country where there is no real proletariat to speak of, and no bourgeois revolution in place?

·                     Can a peasant-based revolution be a Marxist revolution?                                                                
            Can the peasantry take on the role of vanguard—a role hitherto reserved for the proletariat?                       
    And if this happens can that revolution be called as Socialist? 

·                     Is the class analysis of Mao which gives primacy to the state of mind rather than to the economically determined class; negate the dialectics                 which is the sole of Marxism-Leninism?                                    
            Did Mao by applying this thesis move too far from Marx’s original ideas?

·                     Contribution of Mao in the development of Marxism Leninism.

We will now try to analyse Mao’s role and contribution to the Marxist Leninist movement one by one, though, due to various constraints we will somewhat limit it to examining  the main points.

Role of Economic Conditions

The fabric of Marxism is spun around the economic conditions, as the determinant of social and political change. Marxism is, perhaps above all, an economically deterministic ideology. Negating the importance of economics as the determinant of social and political change, means denying the basic building blocks of Marxism itself. How can class struggle be possible after the revolution, when the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship has removed class divisions? Mao further deviated from the basic premises of Marx by arguing that transforming human thought can be the precursor to economic change (rather than economic change transforming human thought).

Mao’s role then turns as a “voluntarist”, who turns Marx on his head by placing the primacy of willed social change as a precondition for economic change.

 There is no denying the fact that there are major differences between Mao and Marx, and even between Mao and Lenin. But Marx, was not only an economic analyst who saw history from the prism of economics; his ideas did revolve around economic exploitation of one class by another. Yet Marx was less of an economic determinist than is often suggested, and he did discuss the importance of willed “cultural” change. By reducing Marx’s ideas to a simple economic determinist ideology, means over-simplifying the thousands of words that he wrote down to one simple idea. This tendency leads to a mechanical interpretation of the words of Marx carrying with it the danger of subjectivism on cost of destroying the entire theoretical foundation of the most profound catalyst that the human history has had till date.

Furthermore, Marx never intended his ideas to be a blueprint for all countries to follow. He was writing about the specific situation in one or two European countries at a specific moment in time. Even Marx toyed with the notion that other forms of oppression (and therefore class conflict) might exist in oriental nations, of which he knew very little about. The important thing here is not following Marx’s exact prescriptions for revolutionary change, but to use his class analysis methodology.

 Thus, if we take the Marxist approach of identifying class conflicts in society, and apply it to the Chinese situation, we arrive at a very different notion of the oppressing and revolutionary classes in China, than when using the same approach to investigate Britain and France in the nineteenth century.

In the 19th century the main oppressing classes in China, were the feudals (landlords, the Kuomintang-Guomindang (KMT) and the Confucian bureaucratic/imperial structure), and the agents of colonialism. It was a country where industrialisation was in infancy. The working class at the beginning of the 20th century was almost missing (the ratio between workers and peasants being 2:100) and they were concentrated at the Shanghai-Wuhuan industrial complex and the Canton Hong Kong area, plus there were around two hundred thousand workers in the Hunan mines

Thus, in the Chinese case, the oppressed class was the peasantry, facing the brunt of decadent feudalism and newly expanding colonial powers. It was therefore entirely Marxist to develop a revolution based on the support of the peasantry and those urban groups which had been alienated by both the foreign colonisers, and the Guomindang’s response to those foreign colonisers. Marx may not have developed a notion of a semi-feudal semi-colonial state, but that was because his main backdrop of analysis was the post industrial revolution Europe where the bourgeoisie had become the ruling class with a briskly expanding Capital. Although the term is not found in Marx’s works, the idea of semi-feudal semi-colonialism emerges from deploying Marxist perspectives given the objective and subjective conditions of China and other colonial countries of Asia and Third world. Whether you see Mao as a Marxist or not essentially depends on your view of Marx and his ideas - was it a blueprint, or merely an approach? An ideology or dogma?

Role of Peasantry in a Socialist Revolution: Can the Peasantry become a Vanguard of Revolution?

Another important point of contradiction cited between Mao and the Marx is on the role of peasantry in a socialist revolution. It is evident that Marx gave primary importance to the proletariat as the vanguard of revolution, which will first free itself then all the other oppressed classes from the Bourgeoisies exploitation.

Who is a proletariat? In the ‘Communist Manifesto’, Marx and Engels said that apart from the industrial Workers….The lower strata of the middle class—the small trades people, shopkeepers, and retried tradesmen generally the handicraftsmen and peasants --- all these sink gradually into the proletariat…Thus, the proletariat is recruited from all class of the population.

The backdrop of Marx and Engels’ analysis was the time when Capitalism had firmly uprooted the last vestiges of feudalism from Europe. Still they considered the peasant question to be a vital one and one which deserves serious theoretical attention by the party of the toiling masses. Engels in 'The Peasant Question in France and Germany' gives us some fundamental ideas of the founder of scientific socialist movement. Engels wrote:

 … The conquest of political power by this party (i.e. the Social-Democratic/Socialist/Worker’s Party which were formed in several European countries -- Author) must first go from the towns to the country, must become a power in the countryside. This party, which has an advantage over all others in that it possesses a clear insight into the interconnections between economic causes and political effects and long ago described the wolf in the sheep's clothing of the big landowner, that importunate friend of the peasant — may this party calmly leave the doomed peasant in the hands of his false protectors until he has been transformed from a passive into an active opponent of the industrial workers? This brings us right into the thick of the peasant question.”

Though Marx and Engels saw small peasantry as:

“…survivor of a past mode of production,…(Which) is hopelessly doomed.”                                                                                        
Yet they maintained that “The (Peasantry) is a future proletarian.”

Marx and Engels were primarily concerned about the urban proletariats—whom they considered as class which was directly opposing the bourgeoisie. They considered proletariats to be the only class capable of overthrowing bourgeoisie. But the notion that Marx had completely disregarded the role of peasantry in socialist transformation, is one of the several vicious deceits emanating from the Bourgeoisies and Trotskyite revisionist windbags.

To support their theses, the revisionists quote Marx’s passage from THE EIGHTEENTH BRUMAIRE OF LOUIS BONAPARTE”. Here Marx wrote that, in a way, the Bonapartist regime represented the French peasantry, a class that he considered to be an un-formed mass,

"much as potatoes in a sack form a sack of potatoes." He added that "they do not form a class" and since "they cannot represent themselves, they need to be represented," and in this case that vacuum had been unfortunately filled by Bonaparte”                                                                                            
(MECW 11, p. 187).

It its true that Marx wrote this. Yet here he was primarily analysing the role of French peasants at a particular juncture (1851-52) of history. During the revolution of 1848, and in the subsequent events, the French peasantry had not developed a class consciousness and therefore fell into the trap of Bonapartism, as had the liberal democrats. What Marx was talking about, was the emergence of different tendencies among the French peasants, based on their specific class position and the uneven development of their revolutionary consciousness. Marx said:

 But let there be no misunderstanding. The Bonaparte dynasty represents not the revolutionary, but the conservative peasant; not the peasant that strikes out beyond the condition of his social existence, the smallholding, but rather the peasant who wants to consolidate this holding; not the country folk who, linked up with the towns, want to overthrow the old order through their own energies in conjunction with the towns….It represents not the enlightenment, but the superstition of the peasant; not his judgment, but his prejudice; not his future, but his past…”                                                                                       (MECW 11, p. 188).

The above is one of the several paragraphs which Marx wrote to suggest that peasantry may have a revolutionary role to play.

In the CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAM (1875), Marx clearly castigated the Lassallean view of the backwardness of the peasantry and the sole revolutionary potential of proletariats

Marx asserted this point more visibly in his letter to Engels of April 11, 1856, where he wrote of the dialectical relationship between peasant and proletarian struggles, going back to the 16th century peasant uprising in German on which Engels had written one of his best books, THE PEASANT WAR IN GERMANY (published only two years before the EIGHTEENTH BRUMAIRE).

Marx wrote:

"The whole thing in Germany will depend upon the possibility of backing the proletarian revolution by some second edition of the Peasant War. Then the affair will be splendid…”

In 'The Peasant Question in France and Germany' Engels wrote:

“...that we foresee the inevitable doom of the small peasant, but that it is not our mission to hasten it by any interference on our part….…. that when we are in possession of state power, we shall not even think of forcibly expropriating the small peasants (regardless of whether with or without compensation), as we shall have to do in the case of the big landowners. Our task relative to the small peasant consists, in the first place, in effecting a transition of his private enterprise and private possession to cooperative ones, not forcibly but by dint of example and the proffer of social assistance for this purpose. And then, of course, we shall have ample means of showing to the small peasant prospective advantages that must be obvious to him even today.”

So we see that though Marx and Engels did not see the peasantry as the vanguard of revolutionary forces, yet they had not completely annulled the role of peasantry as an ally of Working class.

As said before Marx was analyzing a continent where:

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors", and has left no other nexus between people than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment". It has drowned out the most heavenly ecstacies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom -- Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.” ( ‘The Communist Manifesto’).

Still he had not lost hopes of the peasantry joining hands with the proletariats. Marx towards the end of his life, came to perceive that conditions were not necessarily the same for peasants in other countries particularly Russia. Whereas, the French peasantry had developed a strong individualist tradition which discouraged collective action, the Russian peasants retained a strong communal tradition that centered around the ancient mir. For this and other reasons, Marx expressed a cautious optimism concerning the revolutionary potential of the Russian peasantry. And as it turned out what was true for the Russian peasantry was even truer for the peasants of China, Vietnam, and other Asian countries.

Due to their pragmatism, certainly the urban workers developed a class character more profound than the peasants, yet we cannot say that peasants as a whole never revolted against the prevailing condition. Numerous examples can be cited, from past and not so distant past where peasantry played a pivotal role in leading a mass upsurge. In 1857 the first Indian revolt against imperialism in the entire British Empire was led by the peasants. Similarly in entire Asia and Africa peasants had time to time revolted against the tyranny of colonial-feudal regimes. All these revolts


It is commonly believed that Lenin like the other Russian Marxists had ignored the peasant element in Russia, but his slogan of “Peace, Land, Bread,” used to pacify peasants in the Ukraine suggests otherwise. When examining the revolutionary potential of the peasants, it is equally relevant to refer to the role of the revolutionary proletariat. On the alliance between proletariat and peasantry Lenin said:


“our principal and indispensable task is to strengthen the alliance of the rural proletarians and semi-proletarians with the urban proletarians. For this alliance we need at once, immediately, complete political liberty for the people, complete equality of rights for the peasants and the abolition of serf bondage. And when that alliance is established and strengthened, we shall easily expose all the deceit the bourgeoisie resorts to in order to attract the middle peasant; we shall easily and quickly take the second, the third and the last step against the entire bourgeoisie, against all the government forces, and we shall unswervingly march to victory and rapidly achieve the complete emancipation of all working people. ”.


Lenin was the first Marxist leader and thinker to study the revolutionary potential of the peasants in the less developed backward countries like Russia, and the countries of the East where the proletariat was still in infancy and the society and economy had not completely changed to Capitalist mode of production.

In the face of much criticism by early Russian Marxists who, according to Esther Kingston-Mann, were “rooted in denial of…sociological insights,” (See Lenin and the Problem of the Marxist Peasant Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983) - Lenin formulated an ideology that featured the peasantry as a revolutionary ally. Some analysts like Vera Broido suggest that Lenin was a mere opportunist who recognized the “desperate and dangerous” mood of the peasantry and “harnessed it to his advantage.” Lenin would have recognized the peasantry to represent the “sphinx of all the Russias” (Turgenov) who, if on your side, would assure your victory. Esther Kingston-Mann defends Lenin, by saying his “opportunism” had not

“invalidated his real political insights or defined the overall character of his theory and practice.”

(Lenin and the Problem of the Marxist Peasant Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983)

Lenin was careful not to overlook the peasant question, which
Stalin referred to as the ‘national question.’ Lenin believed the peasantry to be a potential revolutionary ally to the workers because of its antagonism to feudalism, and saw the peasantry as a tool to resolve the contradiction between industrial workers and feudalism.

Lenin saw the peasantry as a petty bourgeoisie whose main concern was to attain private plots of land, and although it was capable of revolutionary action, leadership could only lie in the hands of an urban proletariat. Only under the leadership of the cities could they hope to achieve the abolition of feudalism, the nationalization of land, and the establishment of a provisional revolutionary government. Lenin summarizes his perspective when speaking of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1905:

“…the real ‘possibility of holding power’ -- namely, in the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, in their joint mass strength, which is capable of outweighing all the forces of counterrevolution.”

In Lenin’s address “To the Rural Poor” (1903), we find the first formulation of a Marxist policy on the Peasant question. He called the peasantry to realize their need for political and civil liberty, to be aware of the materialistic reasons for their poverty, and to finally recognize the urban workers as a body with similar goals. However, Lenin never let go of his fundamental belief that workers were the central revolutionary force in Russia, and only accepted the peasantry as an ally led by the proletariat in the bourgeoisie-democratic phase in history:

“…all Russian workers and all the rural poor must fight with both hands and on two sides; with one hand – fight against all the bourgeois, in alliance with all the workers; and with the other hand – fight against the rural officials, against the feudal landlords, in alliance with all the peasants

On the question of Revolution in the colonial country Lenin had warned communists not to place an over-emphasis on the strength of the proletariats. He said “
"…there can be no question of purely proletarian movement,' where, 'There is practically no industrial proletariat." (See Alliance-ML at http://www.allianceml.com/AllianceIssues/All-5table.htm)

Stalin, when addressing the People's of the East had distinguished by 1925: "at least three categories of colonial and dependent countries":

"Firstly countries like Morocco who have little or not proletariat, and are industrially quite undeveloped. Secondly countries like China and Egypt which are under-developed industries and have a relatively small proletariat. Thirdly countries like India, which are capitalistically more or less developed and have a more or less numerous national proletariat. Clearly all these countries cannot possibly be put on a par with one another."
(J.V.Stalin. "Political Tasks of the University of Peoples of the East." May 18. 1925. Reprinted San Francisco, 1975 in: J.V.Stalin. Marxism and the National Colonial question. P.317-8)

Mao made the peasantry an invincible ally of Working Class.

It is interesting to note that on the day of Lenin’s death, January 24, 1924, the First National Congress of the Guomindang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) included the peasantry in their strategy for national liberation.

China was not industrialized and still had some elements of feudalism; Mao described it as “semi-feudal.” The next step should have been for the people to free themselves by establishing capitalism. China was not completely without capitalism, but the country was not a fully-developed, industrial society with a revolutionary, industrial proletariat that formed the majority of the population. However, Mao did not even want such a capitalist system like the one necessary in Marxism. In his 1940 work On New Democracy, Mao wrote, “We must never establish a capitalist society of the European-American type…”.

Mao placed the end of feudalism at the time of the Opium War in China - recognizing, however, that China was not ready to have a proletarian, socialist revolution. Mao believed that two revolutions were necessary before China could be considered communist.  First, the peasants, workers, and the petty and national capitalists, a combination of China’s proletariat and bourgeoisie, would unite in an anti-imperialist, nationalist revolution.  They would remove the foreigners, feudal landlords, and the bureaucratic capitalists, people who controlled the economy for their own profit, established monopolies, and took state property for their own use. The proletariat would support the bourgeoisie in a nationalist revolution, though pushing for the rights of the proletariat and intending to take over later in a proletarian socialist revolution.

The development of communism in China before 1949 was a long and laborious process. The first important transition of its development happened after the "Autumn Harvest uprising," when Mao withdrew to the province of Jiangxi and created the very first Soviet.

After its creation in 1921, the CCP was totally under the Soviet’s influence. Overall we have to recognize that firstly, with the emergence of communism in China, for the first time, the notion of equality, democracy or Keming (revolution) were introduced to Chinese elitists, among them the president
Sun Yat-sen and his young wife. President Sun admired very much the Soviet organization and how its revolution proceeded, as a result, the early infrastructure of KMT had a direct influence of Lenin’s organizational thinking. When Chen Duxiu was the head of the CCP, he regarded the labor unions as the first priority. Yet with the brutal suppression from warlords, it was a predominant need for the young movement to form a union front with the KMT, as the Comintern had suggested. As the result, the CCP grew rapidly and its influence overshadowed that of the KMT. In 1927, Chiang Kai-shek organized the "white terror" in order to eliminate the entire communist organization; this was the first decline for CCP. Presumably, the idea of taking power in collaboration with KMT became unrealistic. As ordered by Moscow, Qu Qiubai replaced Chen, and Qu carried the new policy of organize urban insurrection. At the time, the CCP was weaponless, with the failure of this policy, members who had survived the "white terror" became even fewer.

Mao turned to the state of the peasantry as early as 1925, when he was assigned to Hunan, his home province, to organize peasant movement. He was convinced that within the peasantry, there was an enormous revolution potential. For Mao, to understand the peasantry was to understand the majority of people, which he qualified as "mass line." Mao believed that it is strategic to have the peasants’ support, because once peasantry was on the CCP’s side it would detest the potential to takeover China against the KMT.

Mao saw “masses” as “peasants, workers or proletarians”. Mao argued that:

 "the basic method of leadership is to sum up the views of the masses, take the results back to the masses so that the masses give them their firm support and so work out sound ideas for leading the work on hand."

This sounds a sage governmental decision, trying to minimize the social gap between the rulers and ruled. He firmly believed that the correct leadership can only be developed on the principle of "from the mass, to the mass." What feared Mao was the C.C.P would not link the leadership with the masses, and if so, the C.C.P will lose its legitimacy of being a revolutionary movement from the Chinese people, and for this purpose, the party’s cadres need to participate in the labor production.

On the class unity of the working masses Mao echoes same idea as that of other Lenin where he says:

“The people's democratic dictatorship is based on the alliance of the working class, the peasantry and the urban petty bourgeoisie, and mainly on the alliance of the workers and the peasants, because these two classes comprise 80 to 90 per cent of China's population. These two classes are the main force in overthrowing imperialism and the Kuomintang reactionaries. The transition from New Democracy to socialism also depends mainly upon their alliance. The people's democratic dictatorship needs the leadership of the working class. For it is only the working class that is the most farsighted, most selfless and most thoroughly revolutionary. The entire history of revolution proves that without the leadership of the working class revolution triumphs. In the epoch of imperialism, in no country can any other class lead any genuine revolution to victory. This is clearly proved by the fact that the many revolutions led by China's petty bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie all failed....”                                                                            
(From Mao Zedong (Mao Tse­tung), Speech "In Commemoration of the 28th Anniversary of the Communist Party of China, June 30, 1949," in Selected Works, vol. 5)

Role in Development of Marxism Leninism

Now we discuss Mao’s philosophical thinking, which he used to further the philosophy of Marxism Leninism. According to Marx and Engels, communism was the next stage after capitalism, which was the stage after feudalism, in economic development. Engels said that serfs in feudalism were very different from the proletariat because the serf used an “instrument of production, a piece of land,” and gave up part of his or her product or labor and kept the rest to survive.  The proletariat used instruments of production that were completely controlled by the bourgeoisie, and they had to depend on the bourgeoisie to give them part of the profits of what they produced.

In feudalism, the serfs could free themselves by getting into the owning class: they could move to the city and become “handicraftsmen,” buy the property that they worked from the lord, overthrow the lord.  Proletarians could become free by abolishing private property and class differences.  Hence, feudalism goes to capitalism, and capitalism goes to communism.

The concept of two stage of revolution

Mao gave more concrete shape to Lenin’s concept of two stage revolution for the backward countries in the post-1917 era.

Lenin, while opposing Trotskyite and other such deviations, clearly stated that revolutions cannot skip stages according to the whims of any party, but will develop according to laws inherent in the socio-economic system. The task of the revolutionary is to discover those laws and act accordingly. So, in Russia, the struggle against Tsarist autocracy went through democratic revolutions in 1905 and February 1917 and then the socialist revolution in October 1917.

Mao repeatedly pointed out that the contradiction between capitalism and socialism is far from resolved. This struggle will go on for many years to come may be a few hundred years, and thus the question: ‘who will win?’ - is yet to be resolved. The then Kruschevite revisionist Soviet leadership claimed that socialism can only grow into developed socialism and then into communism. Mao completely negated this theory as a bundle of. This was yet another major contribution of Mao in the field of Marxist philosophy and theory.

Mao gave a tangible shape to the relation between knowledge and practice, between knowing and doing. He detailed the process of cognition from lower to higher levels and its transformation of reality through practice.

"Discover the truth through practice, and again through practice verify and develop the truth. Start from perceptual knowledge and actively develop it into rational knowledge; then start from rational knowledge and actively guide revolutionary practice to change both the subjective and the objective world. Practice, knowledge, again practice, and again knowledge. This form repeats itself in endless cycles, and with each cycle the content of practice and knowledge rises to a higher level. such is the whole of the dialectical-materialist theory of knowledge, and such is the dialectical-materialist theory of the unity of knowing and doing."

That is the essence of the works of Marx. Let us all remember that Marx gave primacy to practical work in place of academic thinking.

Marx believed that he could study history and society scientifically and discern tendencies of history and the resulting outcome of social conflicts. Some followers of Marx concluded, therefore, that a communist revolution is inevitable….Consequently, most followers of Marx are not fatalists, but activists who believe that revolutionaries must organize social change.”                                     
From Wikipedia Encyclopedia on Karl Marx at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx )

That is the dynamics of Marxism which sets it apart from the other political thinking. Bourgeois intellectuals distort Marxism alleging that it is nothing but economic determinism. But Marx and Engels had very clearly explained the dialectical relations between base and superstructure. Mao visibly pointed out, in his analysis of contradictions, the dialectical relations between these and also the decisive role that superstructure play in some situations:

"The principal aspect is the one playing the leading role in the contradiction. The nature of a thing is determined mainly by the principal aspect of a contradiction, the aspect which has gained the dominant position.

"But this situation is not static; the principal and the non-principal aspects of a contradiction transform themselves into each other and the nature of the thing changes accordingly………

"Some people think that this is not true of certain contradictions. For instance, in the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production, the productive forces are the principal aspect; in the contradiction between theory and practice, practice is the principal aspect; in the contradiction between the economic base and the superstructure, the economic base is the principal aspect; and there is no change in their respective positions. This is the mechanical materialist conception, not the dialectical materialist conception. True, the productive forces, practice and the economic base generally play the principal and decisive role; whoever denies this is not materialist. But it must also be admitted that in certain conditions, such aspects as the relations of the production, theory and the superstructure in turn manifest themselves in the principal and decisive role."

Mao analysed in detail how exactly a socialist country may transform itself back into capitalism. He opined that class struggle exists in socialist society too and there remains a bourgeoisie. This bourgeoisie organises itself within the communist party, and capitalist roaders emerge from within the Party headquarters. Later on events in Soviet Union have corroborated his analysis. Socialism's retreat to capitalism and the capturing of Party headquarters from within by capitalist roaders occurred in Russia in exactly the way Mao had predicted. And this is the basic reason for the growing attraction towards Mao's thought particularly after Soviet collapse.


There is no denying the fact that during his course of revolutionary sojourn Mao certainly committed some major mistakes.                                   
But who does not?  Did not Marx’s prophesy of revolution being in advanced European country prove wrong?                                                                                      
Or did not Lenin’s analysis that the Bolshevik revolution would be followed by a world revolution prove to be wrong?                                                                         
But that does not negate their contribution to the advancement of human history.

Mistakes are committed by those who dare to act and not by those who only speak. That is why today we follow path shown by Marx and not Proudhon; that of Lenin not of Kerenski. All leaders have committed mistakes and it is natural when one is cruising in the vast un-chartered water of social transformation against the most crook and powerful mode of production and exploitation. The mistakes committed by Mao should not overshadow his contributions nor should it eclipse his colossus thought which gave the Marxist-Leninists of the third world a new weapon of analysis to struggle against the feudal-capitalist-imperialist enemy.

Furthermore, if Mao is not a Marxist, then what about Lenin and the Soviet revolution?                                                                                         
Where did Marx talk about imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism?                                                                                                                 
Marx argued that revolution would occur in the most advanced capitalist nations, so what does Lenin’s conclusion - that it can occur in the weakest links of the international capitalist chain - mean?                                                                                                                                                  
And where did Lenin find his justification for an elite group of revolutionaries leading a revolution of an undeveloped proletariat in the works of Marx?                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
The answer is that Lenin applied basic Marxist approaches to the specifics of the Russian situation to develop an understanding of the revolutionary situation in a specific and unique case study.                                                                                                                                         

And if Mao denies economic determinism, then what about the policies adapted in the New Economic Policy in the Soviet Union to build the economic base that Marx said was a pre-requisite for developing revolutionary consciousness in the proletariat?                                                                  

Surely, once Lenin had done this, and still remained a Marxist, then anything that Mao was doing was in exactly the same vein?

Lenin and Mao shared fundamental similarities in terms of their assessment of the revolutionary potential of the peasants, yet Mao held a more profound belief in the peasantry and their transformation into a revolutionary army.

So while there may be a clear and real distinction between Marx and Mao, the key link lies in Lenin’s reinvention of Marxism to fit the Russian situation. If Lenin can reinterpret Marxism, then surely Mao can reinterpret Leninism. Only very few authors would disregard Lenin as being a Marxist. Some authors example, argues that once Lenin “compromised” Marxism and tried to “fabricate the entire missing industrial base”, then the path to Mao’s deviations and a new Maoist ideology were clearly set in place. Mao was convinced that he was right and convinced that his was the correct Marxist approach. While it is true that Mao wanted power, he did not just want power for its own sake. He was also motivated by ensuring that his correct Marxist ideas were followed, and if people got in the way and relied on inappropriate Russian models, then these obstacles had to be removed.

Most important for this study, Mao had to argue that his ideas were the correct Marxist ideas in competition with those Chinese and other leaders of Third World who instinctively and ideologically looked to Moscow for their inspiration. Unable to dominate the specifics of policy making on a day-to-day level within the party-state bureaucracy, Mao’s major way of reasserting himself in the political arena was to maintain the importance of ideology on the political agenda. By continually keeping the ideological debate alive, and by continually emphasising the correct Marxist approach of seeking truth from facts and asserting the primacy of the Chinese experience, Mao could reassert his views over and above those of his colleagues, and use the Marxism debate as a tool to attack his opponents. Defending his ideas as the correct interpretation of Marxism in the Chinese and Oriental case was a crucial component of Mao’s political strategy.

For those people who still analyse the world from prism of dogmatic Marxist perspective the word of Lenin on the method to be adopted by communist revolutionaries should act as an eye opener where he said:

But the doctrine of Social-Democracy must not be taught from books alone; every instance, every case of oppression and injustice we see around us must be used for this purpose. The Social-Democratic doctrine is one of struggle against all oppression, all robbery, all injustice. Only he who knows the causes of oppression and who
all his life fights every case of oppression is a real Social-Democrat. How can this be done? When they gather in their town or village, class-conscious Social-Democrats must themselves decide how it must be done to the best advantage of the entire working class.”

Marx asserted
philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point however is to change it and Mao definitely as Marxist-Leninist tried to change it.



1.                   Fredrick Engels, “The Principles of Communism,” section 8,  in Selected Works, Vol. 1, trans. Paul Sweezy [Book Online] Moscow, USSR:  Progress Publishers, 1969. available from http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/11/prin-com.htm; Internet.

2.                   Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte; at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/index.htm

3.                   Mao Zedong, “The Economy of New Democracy,” in On New Democracy, as quoted in Mao Zedong Reference Archive, http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/works/1940/01.htm;

4.                   Mao Zedong, “Economy.”

5.                   Mao Zedong ‘Introducing the Communist’,

6.                   Mao Zedong ‘Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party’ and

7.                   Mao Zedong ‘On New Democracy’ (all written in 1939/40) gave this Leninist concept a more concrete scientific shape in his concept of new democratic revolution.

8.                   Mao Tse Tung A Selected Works"; 1960, Peking.

9.                   Mao Zedong "Chinese Revolution and Chinese Communist Party" Vol 2.

10.               Mao Zedong "The Tasks Of The CCP In the Period Of The Resistance To Japan"; May 1937; Vol 1.

11.               Mao Zedong "On Policy"; December 1940; Vol 2.

12.               Mao Zedong "On Coalition Government"; April 1945; Vol 3.

13.               Mao Zedong "Chinese Revolution and Chinese Communist Party"; Vol 2

14.               Mao Zedong "On New Democracy"; Vol 2.

15.               Mao Zedong "Chinese Revolution and Chinese Communist Party"; Vol 2.

16.               Mao Zedong "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People'; February 1957; Vol 5.

17.               Mao Zedong "The Only Road For the Transformation of Capitalist Industry and Commerce"; September 1953; Vol 5.

18.               "On the Draft Constitution of People’s Republic of China"; Vol 5.

19.               Alliance ML http://www.allianceml.com/AllianceIssues/All-5table.htm

20.               Collected works of Lenin, Mao and Stalin at http://www.marxists.org/