Maoist, n., adj.
/mow"iz euhm/, n.
the political, social, economic, and military theories and policies advocated by Mao Zedong, as those concerning revolutionary movements and guerrilla warfare.
[1950-55; MAO (ZEDONG) + -ISM]

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Variation of Marxism and Leninism developed by Mao Zedong.

It diverged from its antecedents in its agrarian focus: Mao substituted the dormant power of the peasantry (discounted by traditional Marxists) for the urban proletariat that China largely lacked. The Maoist faith in revolutionary enthusiasm and the positive value of the peasants' lack of sophistication as opposed to technological or intellectual elites fueled the Great Leap Forward of the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and '70s. The disastrous consequences of both upheavals led Mao's successors to abandon Maoism as counterproductive to economic growth and social order. Maoism was embraced by insurgent guerrilla groups worldwide; under the Khmer Rouge it became Cambodia's national ideology.

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Chinese  (Pinyin) Mao Zedong Sixiang 

      (“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 nation 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 1919–20. 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 (peasant) 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 elites—accepted in other countries, especially the Soviet Union, as concomitants of industrial growth. In 1955 the Maoists speeded up the process of agricultural collectivization. After this came the Great Leap Forward (q.v.), 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 (q.v.), designed again to quash emerging “bourgeois” elements—elites and bureaucrats—and 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 led after the Chairman's death to a new emphasis on education and management professionalism, and by the 1980s Maoism appeared to be celebrated mainly as a relic of the late leader.

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Universalium. 2010.

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