A Users' Guide to Marxism: Maoism

Socialism 2017

August 15, 2017

More than a generation ago, many revolutionaries looked to the Peoples Republic of China under Chairman Mao Zedong as an example of a society that was moving towards socialism—and that offered inspiration for changing their own societies. China’s revolution in 1949 did not bring workers’ to power, however, but cemented in power a top-down party committed to using China’s state to emulate the industrialization achieved under Stalin’s Russia. Maoism invoked extreme voluntarism—that idea that to overcome China’s historical economic poverty, miracles of self-sacrifice and economic mobilization were necessary. This meant squeezing China’s workers and peasants to embark on overblown schemes like the Great Leap Forward—which produced disastrous famines and hardship, and eventually led to Mao’s downfall. But not before Maoism had its impact on the international left, producing elitist parties claiming to be “vanguards” that alienated most people on the left, and which dissolved to leave political confusion in their wake. This talk will examine the continuing legacy of Maoism.

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