A couple of years ago, Maoism was all but forgotten. Few people remember the details, and millions of Americans were born never really hearing the term. Suddenly, with revelations that members of the Presidents inner circle espouse Maoist ideals and even quote Mao that power comes from the barrel of a gun, you may ask yourselfwhats the deal with Maoism? What is it, really? In fact, you may have a few questions about Maoism.
How is Maoism different from communism?
Although Maoists describe themselves as Marxist Communists, there are some substantial differences between Maoism and Soviet Marxism. First, the history is different. Russia was an industrial powerhouse with a largely fading serf system when Lenin hit it bigso Lenin addressed the workers, proletariat, and industrialists; by contrast, China was very much an agrarian society with manufacturing confined to large cities. Hence, Mao initially spoke to the farmers and agricultural workers because thats simply where the audience was.
Secondly, most other communists believe perfection was achieved once the revolution occurred. Maoists take a different approach, and believe that the revolution is always ongoing, and never subject to completion. As a result, anything could be a premise for purges. Colleagues think you went too far? They are corrupt (so powerful is capitalism), and must be removed! Peasants ran out of things to do? Have them start a cultural revolution! Make a mistake? No problem: it was merely the first phase to prepare for the real work! This was a slick idea to keep certain people in power during a constant state of pseudo-revolution. There was always a new threat, a new challenge, to keep peoples minds off how miserable things are. This makes Maoism a real danger, because success depends on the absence of it: the purges, executions, and cruelties are always neverending.
Thirdly, Mao tightly integrated military strategy as a form of progressivism (which other communists never thought to include initially). Hence, Maoists typically arrive, angrily whip up, and organize a small community into a guerilla fighting force (a cadre) to fight the power that allegedly repressed them (whatever it might be; it could even be symbolic). Once this was accomplished and the cadre confident it had some street cred, the cadre was to link up with other emerging cadres and try bigger stunts and larger operations. Finally, enough cadres could be linked together to form a sizeable army. This was in opposition to the original centralized soviet model: Maoist cadres were diffuse, hydra-like animals always popping up, making them much harder to eradicate. Eventually, total control was achieved and only then did power begin to centralize in typical communist form under a cult of personality.
Another facet that continues today in a milder form (but was powerful until the late 1980s) is the concept of self-reliance. Whereas the Soviets frequently and even openly did business with capitalists, China went dark and quiet. The emphasis was on using native raw materials, and one never imported. Never show weaknesses: they would never ask for help or aid in a disaster. China was alone out there in the world, and she was to succeed or fail. As we know, the Chinese discovered this was a pretty lousy way to do business, and even though there are plenty of stubborn examples of self-reliance haunting the Chinese today, they are much more open about doing business with capitalists.
Why did leftists in America embrace it?
Huey Newton, the head of Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was a general neer-do-well when he discovered Maoism. Newton was a rebellious type who read a lot of communist literature, but strongly identified with the Maoist idea of organizing peasants into cadresbut Newton, of course, sought to organize black communities into effective elements of revolution. With Maoism, Newton had a blueprint for action that other communist and radical groups lacked. And by scrubbing the Maoist concepts like cultural revolution and cadres with friendly names like activism and community organizing, black Americans were far more accepting of the recruitment.
Because of the success this had compared to other fizzling left-wing movements, all types of counter-culture freaks and hippies were attracted to this seemingly effective social proactivism. Eventually, the Maoism became known and accepted, and lots of people had copies of Maos Little Red Bookwhich demonstrated clearly how violence and protest and revolution would obviously result in a better life for everyone…everyone except the necessary victims, of course. Remember, at the time, stories of Mao killing millions on goofy whims were ignored as right-wing propaganda. Mao, to them, was just a really cool guy who knew how to get things done.
Why do so many of the Presidents team embrace Maoism?
The initial success of the Panthers at drawing attention to themselves led to Maoist progressivism being adopted by many jealous radical groups. Counter-culture musicians of the time dedicated songs to the Panthers, giving them celebrity status among college campuses. However, the brutality of Maoism is inevitable: Panther member Bobby Seale was eventually arrested for conspiracy to commit murder. His attorney was Charles Garry, who was a friend with leftist law professor Thomas Emersonmentor to Hillary Rodham. Ms. Rodham helped organize local student response to the trial and eventually she herself became readily drawn into the exciting world of the radical progressive leftist.
Rodham and her crew felt that writings of leftist mastermind Saul Alinsky were good, but that he was weak. By coupling Maoist organization structure to Alinskys plan for execution, you had a much stronger plan of action. Obama followed Alinsky, but not apparently Mao: Rodham-Clinton and Obama never even met until both were involved in politics. However, the eerie parallels of their pre-political years made their meeting practically inevitable.
Rodham and Obama were independently fans of leftist mastermind Saul Alinsky. Although Alinsky did not espouse Maoism directly, the mixing of Alinsky worshippers with the Maoist crowds (both were community organizers, of course) has resulted in many of President Obamas acquaintances being familiar withif not openly supportive ofMaoist principles.
Is it still in vogue in China?
Officially and unofficially, both yes and no. Unfortunately, its worst elementscruel oppression, no sense of responsibility to outsiders, and frankly no reluctance to punish innocent people with the guilty, remain. Interestingly, one of the core principles of Maoist thoughtthat the revolution means continuous evolutionis what transformed a perpetual 1940s country into the 21st Century. China embraced technology, trade and finance, and luxuries to a degree that would have horrified Mao. But Maoists deep involvement in capitalism does not make them hypocrites in their own eyes rather, embracing capitalism is merely what the ongoing evolution of revolution requires. There is no paradox, and no dilemma; only loopholes that get you out of anything.
Bluntly, Mao was secretly despised by his subordinates; when he died, the massive popularity of Mao among the peopleas well as the massive investments in putting his name and image everywhereput the succeeding leadership in a bind…until they figured out that all the hate, venom, rage, and barbarism could be blamed on four convenient scapegoats (the Gang of Four). Maos image as a great leader was salvaged, sanitized, re-purposed, and restored.
Is it in vogue anywhere?
Truly, it is easy to speak of Maoism in the past tense; however, Maoism remains quite active in Chinaalthough it takes a bit of careful study and word substitution to replace the new words with the familiar old ones. Maoism took hold in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge came to power. Although Cambodia is a refreshingly different country today, strong Maoist elements remain active and influential. A modified form of Maoism still thrives in Việt Nam today (although the waning influence of Hồ Chí Minh replaced Mao as the visionary icon, Việt Nam continues to emulate Chinas market reforms and reluctantly profitable embrace of capitalism).
An equally modified form exists today in North Korea, when Kim Il Sŏng did what Koreans often do: take something from the Chinese and repudiate any implication that its non-Korean. Mao was chucked out, Kim elevated himself to godhood, and translated all the Maoist ideas into Korean folk terms. The devestating isolationism known as ju che is simple a translation of self-reliance. But, like most things in North Korea, lifeand whatever subsequent Maoist reforms followedstopped in 1950.
Today, Maoists in Peru (the Shining Path) attempt to use the same agrarian arguments used by Mao against the Andean farmers, and the violence is obviously horrific. Likewise, and in many respects as equally unlikely as Peru, we find Maoism in Nepal. Although it is evolving into a uniquely ugly Nepalese animal, many of the familiar words and terms are quite obvious.
Why should we be concerned about Maoist thought?
Americans should not be concerned about Maoist thoughtbut with those espousing it. Heck, pick up a copy of Maos Little Red Book (or read a copy for free on the web), and see for yourself. Like most manifestos, it rambles and rewinds its arguments so that premises and conclusions become one and the same. It is both inane and insane at the same time, and might even be funny had it not resulted in millions of deaths by those who took it seriously.
And the danger is in those who believe this nonsense. When Anita Dunn glibly claims Mao as her favorite political philosopher, she hopes to downplay the nightmare that Maoism provides. But substitute Hitler (who killed a mere tenth of the people Mao did for many of the same reasons) into her quote, and you immediately see the danger.
Similarly, when Ron Bloom espouses destruction of free market capitalism at the barrel of a gun, you see he is quoting Mao directly (Problems of War and Strategy, Selected Works, II, 224), and Maos comments were not symbolic but literal.
But is enjoying or quoting the words of Mao the same as being Mao? The reader may find many Obama supporters dismissing the danger of two close advisers espousing Maoism. Therefore, the reader should ask the supporters in turn: Provide one example where Maoismin either government, business, or educationdid not eventually result in horror and poverty for the average person.
And when you see American newspaper editorials beside themselves with envy over China, and disgustingly whitewashing the effects of Maoism in action, you realize that anyone who seriously considers Maoism a valid option is someone providing a great leap forward down a shining path, but a dark and hellish one.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.