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Ss 201 - the Influence of Russian Communism on Mao Zedong Ideology

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Gabi Forman

SS201

Professor McGrath

12/4/2015

The Influence of Russian Communism on Mao Zedong Ideology

Although Mao Zedong aimed to expel all foreign influence from China, the irony was that it played an enormous influence on Mao’s philosophy. The same Marxist philosophy that served as a vehicle for the Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution in Russia thirty years prior, would lay the foundation for Mao’s revolution. At the core of Maoist ideology was the very same distain for the western capitalism and imperialism that Marx generated and Lenin thrived on. Yet while China would look to Marx and Lenin for groundwork, Mao would mold their philosophies into his own. It was Mao’s application of Marxist-Leninist philosophy into a unique Chinese context that would help him form a revolution and construct his vision of socialism.

Mao appealed to many of the same elements and fundamental revolutionary aspirations of Orthodox Marxism as Lenin and the Bolsheviks did. For one, at the root of both Orthodox Marxism and Mao’s philosophy was class-consciousness. Both Mao and Marx believed that class struggle, in which the upper classes and landowners were overthrown, would make way for a socialist revolution and then inevitably lead to a ‘dictatorship of the masses’ which for Mao would be the peasant masses. After years of civil war and chaos under Chiang-Kai-Shek, the Marxist idea that dramatic change could be achieved with the energy of the masses appealed greatly to Mao and his people too. To many, Mao’s campaign towards socialism could be regarded as a type of heroism rescuing China from Chinag Kai Shek’s failed imperialism. This is not far fetch from Lenin’s appeal after the collapse of Tsarism in Russia. In fact, a lot of the same rudimentary concepts of revolution as in the Bolshevik Revolution would apply. Mao employed the same mass mobilization and populism as Lenin did. Further, Mao’s idea of having a vanguard of revolutionaries also ran parallel to Leninist philosophy. Just as Marx did, Lenin believed that the masses should be the face of the revolution, but as opposed to Marx, he believed a group of educated revolutionaries should lead those masses. To Lenin, the masses were unfit to lead the revolution as they lacked the class-consciousness necessary to do it. Mao would agree. Mao and the CCP would be the vanguard fighters for the peasant masses, just as the Bolsheviks were the vanguard fighters for the proletariat masses.

Mao also adopted Marx’s idea of collectivization. In direct opposition to capitalism, Mao believed in the collective ownership of the means of production. His Agrarian Reform Law (1950) would call for the redistribution of private property to the masses.[1] Private ownership would be completely eliminated and transferred into state hands. As many as five million landlords would be executed and their land redistributed to poor peasants.[2]1 

        While Marxist philosophy played a tremendous role in shaping Mao’s revolution, a lot of it could not be applied to China. Mao would need to develop Marxism to meet China’s needs. China’s strong rural base, absence of an urban proletariat, and further an exceedingly backwards economy made it hard for Orthodox Marxism to adhere to a Chinese context. Mao quickly realized that for a socialist revolution to work in China it would have to be, at least to some extent, on their own terms. Ninety percent of China’s population consisted of peasant farmers. So having urban workers as the face of the revolution would not make sense. Instead, Hunan peasants would become the face of the revolution. The speed of revolution in which Mao would advocate for was also much faster than what Marx propagated. Marx believed in a two- stage revolution where Capitalism would precede Socialism. His ‘Two Stage Theory’ held that a “bourgeois democratic revolution paved way for an industrial proletariat class”. Mao’s ‘New Democracy’ on the other hand, advocated for an immediate transition to a socialist state. To Mao, the capitalist stage was neither necessary nor beneficial. Instead, entering directly into socialism would serve China’s best interest.

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