After reading this article you will learn about Mao Zedong:- 1. Life of Mao Zedong 2. Contribution of Mao Zedong to Chinese Society 3. Political Ideas.
Life of Mao Zedong:
Mao Zedong (in Wade-Giles Romanisation it is Mao-Tse-tung) was born on 26 December 1893 at Shaoshan of Hunan Province, China and died on 9 September 1976. He was born in a very poor peasant family.
His family had a small business of rice and pigs and his parents had also a trade of money-lending. His father was quite capable of providing education to Mao but that did not happen.
From the very childhood Mao joined the business of his father and, as a result, Mao was deprived of formal education. Mao had an indomitable thirst for knowledge and this led him to acquire knowledge from different sources.
He began to neglect his father’s business and in his father’s opinion it was an unpardonable act. He began to beat Mao mercilessly. The cruel nature of Mao’s father forced him to leave home.
He travelled several places and this provided an opportunity to be acquainted with revolutionary thought. After some time he returned home and found his father a changed man. This opened his eyes.
He came to believe that any type of protest and resistance had the power to produce results. His father surrendered to his rebellious nature and since then Mao decided to protest any type of wrongdoing.
In 1909 Mao enrolled in a secondary school and completed his studies of that standard. Finally he graduated. It is said that his upbringing enabled him to be acquainted with revolutionary thought along with Buddhism and Taoism.
It is to be noted that the religious aspects of Buddhism did not appeal to him. Its dialectical elements attracted him. The dialectical nature and aspects of Taoism also impressed him. Needless to say that the revolutionary nature of Mao blossomed when he seriously studied the dialectics of Buddhism and Taoism.
Mao’s indoctrination to Marxism began at the age of twenty five when he got a job as an assistant librarian in 1918. In those days the Chinese had no interest in revolutionary thoughts because revolutionary literatures were not available in China. Even the writings of Marx and Lenin were not translated in Chinese.
At the beginning of 1920s some news about the success of Bolshevik revolution of Russia reached China and Mao got access to them. This convinced him that if-the Bolshevik Revolution could overthrow the powerful and autocratic ruler of Russia, a revolution of the same type could do the job in China.
This conviction inspired Mao to make preparations for a revolution. In these circumstances the first task of Mao was to prepare the ground for a revolution. He was of opinion that the social, political and economic conditions of China were ready to welcome a revolution of the Bolshevik type.
“Nationalism emerged as a real force in 1919 with the May Fourth Movement in which there were widespread demonstrations and rioting when it was learned that the corrupt government had agreed to hand over to the Japanese the important province of Shantung in spite of the promises by the Western powers that it should revert to China”.
Nationalism and revolutionary thought began their appearance almost simultaneously. The Western ideas of democracy and parliamentary system failed to appeal to the educated and political conscious people of China.
They thought that Chinese society with all its aspects could be radically changed only by means of revolutionary methods propagated by Marx, Lenin and their followers. Keeping this in mind some people founded the Chinese Communist Party in Shanghai in 1921.
Contribution of Mao Zedong to Chinese Society:
For several centuries China was a stable society. There were very few or no political, social, economic and other upheavals. She was primarily an agricultural country as her land was fertile. Agricultural produce was sufficient to feed the hungry mouths. There were mountains and rivers which provided natural security.
Besides agriculture there were handicrafts which provided part-time employment. China also had an official philosophy Confucianism. Again, she was free from outside political interferences and this was another cause of internal stability. From the standpoint of modern civilization China was definitely a backward country, but her civilization was quite rich.
In the nineteenth century China was confronted with changes and some problems. She came under the administration of the Manchu Dynasty. The rulers imposed their rules and regulations upon the self-sufficient society of China.
The self-sufficient and peaceful China was shattered. Outside connection was at the centre of China’s entry into new world. Foreigners were lured at the natural wealth and resources of China and they began to plunder the resources.
People of China were not prepared to resist foreign invasion and naturally they fell into the grip of foreign powers. Nationalist feeling was not sufficient to resist the foreign invasion. Several incidents took place that placed China on the forefront of world incidents and international politics.
One such incident was the Opium War that took place in 1840. Japan was an imperialist power and she had an eye on China’s natural wealth. Not Japan alone, several Western powers were quite eager to plunder the resources of China.
At this time the time old internal stability of China was faced with several problems. Neither the people nor the ruler had the ability to fight away.
China was again at the crossroads. There emerged a conflict between Western culture which had already started its invasion into Chinese society and the old or traditional culture and institutions of China. There was a conflict between the two which could not be easily solved.
The Chinese society was divided into two sections. One strongly supported the Western culture and the other was in favour of retention of Chinese culture and civilisation. The solution was not easy and this created problems for all.
Many educated men of China wanted to introduce the Western system of education and mode of living because they thought that the adoption of Western culture could modernize China. They also wanted to import Western science and technology.
When this conflict was at its zenith and the people of China were quite perplexed the lackeys of imperialist power had already started their business of plundering and exploitation.
Various conflicts divided China and there was ill- feeling among various parts. The rulers were incapable of solving the conflict. The foreigners fully utilized this situation. “With no emperor to unify the country only different centres of military remained, controlled by various warlords whose irregular troops battered on the peasantry, destroyed the economic equilibrium of the countryside, and swept aside for ever the imperial bureaucracy.
It was during this chaotic period of “warlord rule” from 1915-1925 that Mao Zedong formed his political opinion. Stuart Schram in his The Political Thought of Mao Tse-tung says “Ideas grow out of history, they also shape history”.
We thus find that at the crossroads of Chinese society the tensions, torture inflicted upon Chinese peasantry and the internal situation considerably influenced by the political ideas of Mao.
Political Ideas of Mao Zedong:
From the sixties to the end of last century the term Maoism was very popular in the Communist World. Along with it there was another term “Thoughts of Mao.” Many people preferred this. Whatever it may be, we must try to know what is Maoism? The term is not properly clarified and explained.
Kolakowski, the erudite scholar on Marxism and allied concepts, defines Maoism in the following words – “Maoism in its final shape is a radical peasant Utopia in which Marxist phraseology is much in evidence but whose dominant values seem completely alien to Marxism. Not surprisingly, this Utopia owes little to European experience and ideas”.
The term Maoism can be treated as the combined product of Mao’s own thought based on the indigenous situation of China. But its root can be traced to Marx’s and Lenin’s thought. Maoism was not the direct product of Marxism. But it is not absolutely alien to Marx’s basic thought and philosophy.
Maoism is not the product of dogmas based on intellectual thought and principles. He liberally borrowed the basic principles of revolution from Marxism and he was also heavily indebted to Lenin who applied Marx’s philosophy in Russia.
So we can say that the application of Marxism started with Lenin and it was subsequently followed by Mao. In a restricted sense, Maoism can be called a continuation of Leninism, but it cannot be called a carbon copy of Leninism and not even Marxism. Maoism, in a sense, is a variation of communism, but it is not aberration from Marxism or communism.
According to COD, Maoism is the communist doctrine of Mao and applied in China. “Mao was one of the greatest manipulator of large masses of human beings in the twentieth century and the ideology he used for the purpose is significant by reason of its effectiveness not in China but in other parts of the Third World”. This is Maoism.
Mao was not a philosopher comparable with Marx and Engels nor did he write volumes of works. Not with standing his interpreters have found out some traces of his philosophy in his limited works. After the formation of the Communist Party of China in 1921 he involved himself in revolutionary activities.
His belief was that the peasants and common people must be well-acquainted with the revolutionary doctrine and for that purpose he wrote several articles and the most important are “On Practice” and “On Contradiction”. “On Practice” was published in July 1937.
The subtitle of this essay is; On the Relation between Knowledge and Practice between Knowing and Doing. Another article On Contradiction was written in August 1937. These two articles constitute the central idea of his philosophy. He wrote these articles during the guerrilla warfare.
Some interpreters of Mao’s philosophy say that he did not write these two articles. During the guerrilla warfare he delivered lectures to the party’s military school at Yenan Kolakowski says that these two articles “constitute almost the whole of philosophical education”.
In On Practice Mao said, Marxists regard man’s activity in production as the most fundamental practical activity, the determinant of all his other activities. Man’s knowledge depends mainly on his activity in material production, through which he comes gradually to understand the phenomena, the properties, and-the laws of nature.
In a classless society every person, as a member of society, joins in common effort with other members and enters into definite relation of production. On the other hand, in all class societies, the members of different social classes also enter into definite relations of production.
The class struggle exerts a profound influence on the development of man’s knowledge. In all class societies man lives as a member of a particular class. Every kind of thinking is stamped with the brand of a class.
In this analysis of Mao there is very little that can be branded as new. However, what he said has been endorsed by many Marxists. Man earns knowledge and experience from practice.
Again knowledge guides man and here lies the importance of philosophy. Kolakowski observes that the Chinese fought against imperialists without proper knowledge and guidance. The philosophical knowledge enabled them to act properly.
Mao’s article On Practice has another importance on this point Mc Lellan says. “On Practice married the Theses on Feurbach with a crude, inductive natural scientific method and denied that Marxism had any ontological basis or underlying metaphysic.”
Mao did not like book learning and his aversion to book learning is clear in this article. He says, the dialectical materialist theory of knowledge places practice in the primary position. Human knowledge cannot be separated from practice. Practice is always higher than knowledge.
The importance of knowledge does not depend on subjective idea but on the social practice. Naturally practice is more important than precept. Practice is always higher than knowledge. According to Mao, the Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism has two outstanding features.
One is the class nature or structure of society and the other is its practicality. A theory is always dependent on practice. He also said ‘that Marxism emphasizes the importance of theory because it guides action. Mao put both theory and practice under the same umbrella. One cannot be thought without the other.
On Contradiction reveals another aspect of Mao’s philosophy. On Contradiction it has been said that Mao wrote this article to free the party from the dogmatic thinking that was prevalent at the beginning of the thirties of the last century. The context of this article was the subject of a lecture delivered by him at the Anti-Japanese Military and Political College.
He has said that the objective of the study of philosophy should be the eradication of dogmatist thinking.
Explaining the nature and contents of materialist dialectics Mao makes the following comment:
The metaphysical world outlook holds that in order to understand the development of a thing we should study it internally and in its relations with other things, in other words, the development of things should be seen as their internal and necessary self-movement while each thing in its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it.
He continues,”The fundamental cause of a thing is not external but internal”. The reasons of development lie in the contradictions within the thing. Without contradiction a thing cannot develop.
Whenever there is contradiction there is movement and movement means progress. Hence contradiction, movement, and progress are inter-related.
“Contradiction is universal and absolute. It is present in the process of development of all things and permeates every process from beginning to end”.
Mao further observes that the question is one of kinds of different contradictions not of the presence of contradiction. Everywhere there is contradiction and it is the vital cause of progress. Mao borrowed this concept from Engels.
Later on Lenin developed the concept. “Contradiction is present in the process of development of all things; it permeates the process of development of each thing from beginning to end. This is the universality and absoluteness of contradiction”.
Mao has also said that since there are different kinds of contradiction, these can be settled in different ways. For example, the contradiction between proletariat and bourgeoisie is resolved by the method of socialist revolution.
Whereas the contradiction between the great masses of men and the feudal system is settled by the method of democratic revolution.
Again, there is a type of contradiction between colonies and imperialist powers and this type of contradiction is generally resolved by national liberation movement. Sometimes contradiction is found between workers and peasants.
The collectivization and mechanisation can settle this contradiction. Mao has talked about other types of contradiction and he has also suggested how these can be resolved. This indicates that he had deep and clear knowledge about contradiction.
Mao further writes, The productive forces, practice and the economic base generally play the principal and decisive role; whoever denies this is not a materialist. But it must be admitted that in certain conditions, such aspects as the relations of production, theory and the superstructure in turn manifest themselves in the principal and decisive role.
When it is impossible for the productive forces to develop without a change in the relations of production, then the change in the relations of production plays the principal and decisive role. When the superstructure obstructs the development of the economic base political and cultural changes become principal and decisive.
The chief contribution of Mao in the field of political thought is his idea about revolution. But it is unfortunate that he has not systematically analyses the various aspects of revolution. In On Contradiction he observes that a revolution is generally caused by the internal contradictions that exist in a society.
In a bourgeois society there are contradictions or conflicts among the classes particularly between the two main class’s bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The contradictions assume such nature that these cannot be reconciled by adopting the normal procedures. The result is that the contradictions continue to plague the society.
The ills of the society can be removed by a revolution. He has said that the conflict between working class assumes such nature and dimension that it cannot be resolved by normal procedures.
Revolution is the only way. Similarly, there are conflicts between imperialist powers and colonies. The conflicts can be settled by countrywide agitation which is revolution.
In his concept of revolution Mao has invited the idea of contradiction. Borrowing Marx’s and Lenin’s idea he says that in every bourgeois society there are contradictions and when the roots of contradictions have gone to the depth of the society, naturally they cannot be easily resolved.
The only way is revolution. In his theory of revolution Mao has borrowed Lenin’s views and practically he has very little originality. Lenin emphasized the irreconcilability of antagonism between classes and only a revolution can provide a solution.
Repeating Marx’s idea of revolution Mao says that in every bourgeois society there are various types of contradictions and only revolution can remove contradiction. But there is a difference between bourgeois revolution and “proletarian revolution”.
The latter changes the society from top to bottom while the former changes it superficially. It can be called cosmetic surgery. Hence a proletarian revolution is necessary for an overall change of society.
Mao has also emphasized the importance of party in a revolution. The success of revolution primarily depends upon a well-organized party structure. Party is really indispensable for a revolution.
He once said to lead the revolution to success or victory a political party is necessary. But a party must follow its own line and must be dependent on the general mass. Party is the vanguard of masses. He also said that the party must not detach itself from the common people.
In On Contradiction Mao said that the contradictions or conflicts prepare the ground for a revolution and it is the duty of the leaders to inspire the people for revolution, because mere existence of contradiction can never be a cause of revolution. At the right moment people will utilize the contradictions in their own favour.
Mao has said that the antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is the main cause of hostility and this hostility will finally lead to revolution. Hence it is the duty of the leaders to use the antagonism.
He once said, “Revolution or revolutionary wars are inevitable in class society and that without them it is impossible to accomplish any leap in social development and to overthrow the reactionary classes and therefore impossible for the people to win political war”.
Like Lenin, Mao believed that antagonism between the hostile classes could not be settled without war, that is, revolution. The exploited class must be prepared to take arms. On nature of revolution Mao’s view is still remarkable.
He said; A revolution is not a dinner party or writing an essay or painting a picture or doing embroidery, it is not to be so refined, so leisurely and gently, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous.
A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another. This constitutes the central idea of Mao’s theory of revolution. According to Mao a revolution must be violent because the capitalists and reactionary elements will not accept the reasonable demands of the proletariat.
Into his concept of revolution Mao included another technique and it is guerrilla warfare or to launch a sudden attack against the enemy. His theory of revolution also includes all sorts of conspiratorial practices. The chief objective of Mao’s revolution is to defeat the enemy from behind.
In war he did not allow ethics, principles etc. to intervene because he knew that all these would hinder the success of a revolution. The guerrilla warfare and conspiratorial practice do not mean that he lost faith on the use of arms. His belief was that the use of technique depends upon the situation. According to Mao the chief objective in war is to defeat the enemy and naturally the selection of technique depends upon the situation and also the strength of the enemy.
Class struggle is also another technique of revolution. But Mao differed from Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin on the concept of class. All of them have spoken about class in the background of capitalist society. But Mao viewed the idea in the light of China whose main class was peasantry. Hence in Mao’s class struggle the peasants must play the leading role.
According to Mao the peasants, the lumpen proletariat and industrial workers must combinedly launch a revolution against the bourgeoisie and all the reactionary forces. All these must be well-prepared to attack the bourgeoisie. But in revolution there is no place of adventurism.
3. The Cultural Revolution:
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is an innovation which Mao made to cleanse the Chinese society particularly the superstructure from the bourgeois ills. Towards the middle of the sixties of the twentieth century Mao saw that the superstructure of the Chinese society was in the grip of bourgeois influences and ills.
Though the base that is the economic structure of China was socialist the superstructure that is institution, art, literature, law and numerous organizations were heavily influenced by capitalist thought and philosophy.
According to Mao this was an undesirable development and it must be checked at any cost. He thought that this type of superstructure had enough power to influence as well as control the base on its way.
In order to stop this process Mao called a new type of revolution which is called Cultural Revolution. Its sole aim was to free the Chinese society from all the undesirable elements and to set up a pure communist society in China.
“Formally the Cultural Revolution began in the summer of 1965. But it properly began in August 1966 in the universities with a mass campaign to eliminate what were seen as “Rightists”, to re-emphasize the importance of Mao’s thought, to lessen specialization, and substantially to restrict the role of examinations”. Hence the Cultural Revolution is not a political revolution.
According to Mao and his followers, the revolution of 1949 freed China politically. But cultural freedom was badly needed. In order to guide the Cultural Revolution a Central Committee of China’s Communist Party was formed on 8 August 1966. The Central Committee adopted certain decisions.
These may be stated in the following way:
1. The Cultural Revolution touches people to their very souls and constitutes a new stage in the development of socialist revolution in our country. The bourgeoisie is not completely overthrown and its remnants are still there and it is continuously trying to stage a comeback and gather forces.
It is also trying to impose its ideas, principles, customs, culture and habits upon the people. If this at all happens that will pose a great danger to the Chinese society. That attempt must be destroyed and Cultural Revolution will do that task.
2. Mao was firm that since it is a revolution it will meet resistance from several corners, particularly from the bourgeoisie, and it is the duty of the people to scuttle that mischievous attempt.
3. It is the conscious behaviour and education of the people that can foil the mischievous attempt and therefore it is the duty of the party to educate the people about the ill-designs and motives of the bourgeoisie. People must adopt ruthless and strong measures. It is also to be noted that a revolution is never refined.
4. People will launch an attack against the ultra-reactionary and revisionist forces. At the same time, Mao’s thought shall be propagated among the masses of people.
5. People must know the nature of contradictions and they will act in accordance with them.
6. It is the purpose of the Cultural Revolution to reform, transform, and, if necessary, remove the old methods and system of teaching. It is necessary to overhaul the whole educational system to the tune of socialism.
7. In order to fight the reactionary forces it is imperative to hold aloft the thoughts of Mao. By doing this the entire superstructure of Chinese society can be rebuilt. It was necessary because the growing influence of bourgeoisie was weakening the socialist superstructure of Chinese society. In the sixties Mao felt this and for that reason he called for a Cultural Revolution.
4. The Great Leap Forward:
Another important aspect of Mao’s political thought is The Great Leap Forward. In the late fifties and early sixties it gained wide publicity. It was a pet view of Mao that the economic development advanced in “waves” rather than gradually. That is, development all on a sudden appears like a great storm.
Being guided by this conception “Mao pre-empted the Second Five Year Plan by launching the frantic economic drive that came to be known as Great Leap Forward” Mao emphasized the decentralization of planning and he believed that this will help the “Leap”.
The leap consisted in the advancement of small scale and local industries and development of agriculture. Again, the development of agriculture will ultimately help the large scale industries.
Mao toured the length and breadth of China and arrived at the conclusion that the local and surplus labour must be properly mobilized and utilized for the general development of the economy.
It is necessary to mobilize the unused resource and unemployed masses for the economic progress and, for that purpose, decentralization of planning was essential.
In his opinion this decentralization of planning will help the leap. Mao did not support the Soviet type of centralized planning. This is called Mao’s approach decentralisation and radicalisation of the whole planning process and system.
He reorganized the whole planning system with a view to producing iron and steel goods at the local levels with the help of materials available at the local levels.
This will again help the large scale industries and, in this way, China’s progress will get sufficient encouragement. This will serve several purposes planning will be decentralised, small scale industries will be encouraged and advancement will be like waves.
5. ‘Hundred Flowers Bloom’ Theory:
In May 1956 Mao gave a slogan:
“Many a hundred flowers bloom, and a hundred schools of thought contend”. The campaign was launched by the Communist Party of China in 1956. The time is interesting. In the same year the 20th Congress of Soviet Communist Party was also convened. Mao adopted a strong party domination and collectivization.
In numerous cases this approach of Mao met with strong disapproval and sometimes strong criticism. The intellectuals and various sections of society strongly felt the need of necessary freedom.
Mao at the same time felt that the separation of the intellectuals and educated masses of men from the general administration and governmental affairs was not producing favourable results. Their cooperation was strongly felt.
Mao once said “you may ban the expression of wrong ideas, but the ideas will be there. On the other hand, if correct ideas are pampered in hot-houses and never exposed to the elements and immunized against diseases, they will not win out against erroneous ones. Therefore, it is only by employing a method of discussion, criticism, and reasoning that we can really foster correct ideas and overcome wrong ones, and then we can really settle issues. Dogmatic criticism settles nothing. We are against poisonous weeds of any kind, but we must carefully distinguish between what is really a poisonous weed and what is really a fragrant flower”.
In the same article:
“On Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom, Let a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend and Long Term Coexistence and Mutual Supervision”.
Mao said; “Different forms and styles in art should develop freely and different schools in science should contend freely. We think that it is harmful to the growth of art and science if administrative measures are used to impose one particular style of art or school of thought and to ban another”.
One should not settle the question of right and wrong in art and science arbitrarily and whimsically. While imposing restriction upon the art or science utmost caution must be adopted
The eighth Party Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in September 1956 (only a few months after the Twentieth Party Congress of CPSU). In this party congress there was a strong current of constructive criticisms which deal with various activities of party leaders. The activities regarding collectivization came under strong criticisms.
It was observed that there was over-hastiness in several fields, especially collectivisation. The abnormal growth of the power of bureaucracy also came under severe criticism. All these criticisms came mainly from party leaders who are renowned intellectuals and university teachers.
All these were due to Mao’s doctrine of let hundred flowers blossom. Formerly many leaders could not tolerate criticism. But after Mao’s declaration of hundred flowers blossom these persons welcomed all the criticisms.
In the same article Mao said:
1. Words and actions should help to unite, and not divide, the people of our various nationalities.
2. They should be beneficial, and not harmful, to socialist transformation and socialist construction.
3. They should help to consolidate, and not undermine or weaken, the people’s democratic dictatorship.
4. They should help to consolidate and not undermine or weaken democratic centralism.
5. They should help to strengthen, and not discard or weaken, the leadership of the Communist Party.
6. They should be beneficial, and not harmful, to international socialist unity and the unity of the peace-loving people of the world. The purpose of these restrictions, we believe, was not to restrict the freedom of thought and expression.
The right to freedom of thought and expression was primarily meant to allow all kinds of people, particularly intellectuals, to freely culture art, literature and various sciences. We can call it a type of liberalism.
We know that Mao was all along a pragmatist. In some cases his dogmatism surfaced, but on many issues he adopted the path of pragmatism. The present article was published in February 1957.
The age of Republic of China was just eight years and by this time Mao and his other close comrades came to realize that excessive restrictions would go against the interest of socialist constructions. It is generally said that man learns more from the criticisms than from the eulogy.
In former Soviet Union party and bureaucracy practically controlled both the policy-making process and general administrations. The harmful consequences were strongly felt towards the end of seventies and beginning of eighties of the last century.
The tangible result was the adoption of perestroika and Glassnost. But all these dismally failed to save the Soviet system. We believe that the Maoist liberalism was not sufficient for the free thought and freedom in the intellectual world. We, however, treat the hundred flowers bloom-theory as a warning to the attempt to control everything.
6. New Democracy—Definition and Nature:
An important aspect of Mao’s political ideas is his conception about democracy. This he explained in his widely read and discussed article On New Democracy published in January 1940. When Mao wrote this article China was not a republic and more particularly a communist state.
Hence by new democracy he meant democratic China would no longer be oppressed (politically) and exploited economically. When China would be politically free she would make continuous and untiring efforts to be economically prosperous.
In Mao’s view political freedom and economic prosperity would lay the foundation of new democracy. But for these two a revolution is indispensable. After revolution China will set up a democracy.
Explaining the nature of new democracy Mao makes the following observation:
“The historical characteristic of the Chinese revolution lies in its division into two stages, democracy and socialism, the first being no longer democracy in general, but democracy of the Chinese type, a new and special type, namely New Democracy”. The question is how can this be achieved? It can be achieved through revolution the Chinese revolution.
The revolution of China will have two stages in the first stage the colonial, semi-colonial and semi-feudal forms of society will be transformed into an independent democratic society. But this does not mean a new democracy.
The Chinese revolution is a continuous process. This democratic society will be transformed into a socialist society. Hence the new democracy will be a combination of democracy and socialism. This will come through revolution.
Mao claims that his concept of democracy differs from the so-called bourgeois democracy. He says – “The so-called democratic system in modern states is usually monopolized by the bourgeoisie and has become simply an instrument for oppressing the common people”
Mao’s main emphasis is on British-American system of democracy where only the bourgeoisie plays the dominant part and this is a small fraction of the entire population. Naturally, this cannot be called real democracy.
According to Mao, the bourgeois democracy consists of a very small section of people and it is concerned with the welfare of this small section. His claim is that the democracy envisaged by him will be basically different from bourgeoisie democracy.
The New Democracy of China will represent all sections of people and it will be managed or controlled by the revolutionary class of entire mass. It will be based on universal and equal suffrage.
Explaining the nature of New Democracy, Mao further maintains that this democracy is characterized by universal suffrage and democratic centralism. He says – “The state system, a joint dictatorship of all revolutionary classes, and the system of government democratic centralism—these constitute the politics of New Democracy, the republic of New Democracy”.
The new democracy will also emphasize the economic aspects of China. New Democracy of China will be the owner of all big banks and the big industrial and commercial enterprises. Railways, airlines and other public utility concerns shall be managed by the Chinese government. The state enterprises will be of socialist character.
The economy will develop along the line of regulation of capital and equalization of land ownership.
New Democracy: Ends and Means:
The new democracy envisaged by Mao in both an end as also a means. It is an end in the sense that continuous and serious efforts shall be made to achieve or establish such a type of democracy. The purpose of the Chinese revolution was to free the land from all sorts of oppression and colonial rule.
The economy, politics, and culture of China were fully controlled by the bourgeoisie and lackeys of foreign rulers. The revolutionary masses, after a protracted war, will ultimately remove the foreign rulers and indigenous oppressors as well as their supporters.
After doing this the revolutionary masses will finally establish a new people’s government which will be democratic in all manifestations. Hence the objective of revolutionary masses shall be to achieve democracy by hook or by crook. In this sense, new democracy or, in general, democracy is an end.
But Mao is not satisfied with the achievement of democracy. He thinks that it must be used as a means a means to be used to attain further nobler goals. Let us quote few words from his noted essay Contradictions among the People:
“Marxism teaches us that democracy is part of the superstructure and belongs to the category of politics. That is to say, in the last analysis, it serves the economic base.
The same is true of freedom. Both democracy and freedom are relative, not absolute, and they come into being and develop in specific historical conditions”. There shall exist a unity between democracy and centralism.
Also, there shall exist a unity between freedom and discipline. All these finally constitute the concept of democratic centralism. In democratic centralism people will enjoy extensive democracy and freedom. But at the same time they have to keep within the bounds of socialist discipline
Mao proceeds to discuss the objectives of new democracy in its role in establishing a socialist culture. Mao knew that there was an incongruity between socialist state and bourgeois culture.
According to Marx, culture is an important part of superstructure and the capitalists build up the culture in order to strengthen the superstructure because superstructure generally provides protection to the base which is economic structure of society.
Mao says; “A given culture is the ideological reflection of politics and economics of a given society. There is in China an imperialist culture which is a reflection of imperialist rule or partial rule, in the political and economic fields. This culture is fostered not only by the cultural organisation run directly by the imperialists in China but by a number of Chinese who have lost all sense of shame”.
Keeping this in mind Mao decided to build up a new culture which will foster the socialist culture. It is believed by all Marxists that there are gulf of differences between socialist culture and capitalist or imperialist culture.
If a socialist culture is not built up the imperialist or capitalist culture in a socialist state will contaminate the entire socialism. The new democracy aims at establishing a new economy and new politics.
Along with it, a new culture will be set up. According to Mao there is a friendly alliance between the imperialist culture and the semi-feudal culture in China. This alliance is quite dangerous for the entire Chinese society.
In order to save China, this alliance must be destroyed and a new socialist culture will be built up. New Democracy will have to do the job.
Mao beautifully says:
“There is no construction without destruction, no flowing without damming and no motions without rest, the two are locked in a life and death struggle”.
Factors that Influenced Mao‘s Ideas:
The thoughts of more or less eminent persons are largely influenced by factors they encounter or incidents they have studied with interest and Mao is not an exception. He once said “Today’s China is an out-growth of historic China”.
Society, history, peasantry, culture, civilization, internal situation, China’s relation with foreign powers all these separately or combined influenced the political philosophy of Mao Zedong.
He also studied the heroic activities of Washington, Napoleon, revolutionary activities of Lenin and, above all, Marx’s works. He thoroughly studied the past history of China and fully acquainted himself with the miserable political and economic conditions of Chinese people in general and the peasantry in particular.
We know that from the very beginning of the nineteenth century the intervention of foreign powers especially America and Japan began to change China’s internal situation and this change was not for better but for worse. This disturbed Mao’s mind and he thought that the influence of foreign powers must be resisted at any cost. But he was convinced that the task is not easy.
Above all what is required is to arouse the nationalist feeling of the Chinese people, particularly peasants. China was chiefly an agricultural land and peasants constitute the largest portion of population. Naturally, in every revolutionary function the peasants must participate.
He put a great emphasis on the opinion of the people. He studied the Bolshevik Revolution of Russia and the lesson he gathered from it is that without wholehearted participation of the largest section of the people a revolution could never be successful.
Particularly, the revolution process of Russia put a great positive mark on his thought. He gathered the experience that the people of China were mentally prepared to greet a revolution. But what they required was a bold and dynamic leadership.
Lenin was indebted to Marx; and Mao was indebted to Lenin. Mao was convinced that if Lenin could bring about a revolution in Russia by adopting Marx’s principles it is possible for him to change China through revolution.
Russia was a semi-feudal state and China was primarily an agricultural country. Mao did not pay too much importance to this difference. His main concern was how to convince the Chinese peasantry of the basic aspects of Marx.
The people of China must be convinced that only a revolution was capable of changing the economic situation and emancipating the people from exploitation. Stuart Schram said (Thoughts of Mao) “Mao’s debt to Lenin 15 obvious”. Like Lenin, Mao believed that political consciousness does not emerge spontaneously. That is, like Lenin, he had no faith or very little faith on the idea of spontaneity.
The people of China must be indoctrinated to revolutionary, ideology and philosophy and this must be preceded by protracted propaganda and continuous efforts. The common people must be convinced that only through a revolution they can achieve emancipation.
Like Lenin he also laid great emphasis on the role of a political party based on the philosophy of Marx. At the age of 28 Mao wholeheartedly engaged himself in the organisation of a party. Under his leadership Socialist Youth League was formed in 1921.
The formation of Socialist Youth League was quickly followed by the formation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and it was founded in Shanghai in 1921.
There were thirteen founder members and Mao was one of them. Like Lenin, Mao was pragmatic. Both Lenin and Mao were convinced that without a revolution a radical change of society is impossible. From 1921 right up to the 1949 revolution, Mao’s sole objective was to free China from feudalism and colonial menace.