Trotskyism is the theory of Marxism as advocated by Russian Leon Trotsky. Trotsky identified as an orthodox Marxist and Bolshevik–Leninist. He supported founding a vanguard party of the proletariat, proletarian internationalism and a dictatorship of the proletariat based on working class self-emancipation and mass democracy. Trotskyists are critical of Stalinism as they oppose Joseph Stalin’s theory of socialism in one country in favor of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. Trotskyists also criticize the bureaucracy that developed in the Soviet Union under Stalin.

Vladimir Lenin and Trotsky were close both ideologically and personally during the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, and some call Trotsky its “co-leader”.[1] Trotsky was the paramount leader of the Red Army in the direct aftermath of the Revolutionary period. Trotsky originally opposed some aspects of Leninism, but he concluded that unity between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks was impossible and joined the Bolsheviks. Trotsky played a leading role with Lenin in the revolution. Assessing Trotsky, Lenin wrote: “Trotsky long ago said that unification is impossible. Trotsky understood this and from that time on there has been no better Bolshevik”.[2]

Under Stalin’s orders,[3] Trotsky was removed from power (October 1927), expelled from the Communist Party (November 1927), exiled first to Alma-Ata (January 1928), and then from the Soviet Union (February 1929). As the head of the Fourth International, Trotsky continued from exile to oppose the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. On 20 August 1940, Trotsky was attacked by Ramón Mercader, a Spanish-born NKVD agent, and died the next day in a hospital. His murder is considered a political assassination. Almost all of the Trotskyists within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were executed in the Great Purges of 1937–1938, effectively removing all of Trotsky’s internal influence in the Soviet Union.

Trotsky’s Fourth International was established in France in 1938, when Trotskyists argued that the Comintern or Third International had become irretrievably “lost to Stalinism” and thus incapable of leading the international working class to political power.[4] In contemporary English language usage, an advocate of Trotsky’s ideas is often called a “Trotskyist”. A Trotskyist can be called a “Trotskyite” or “Trot”, especially by a critic of Trotskyism.[5]


  • 1 Definition
  • 2 Theory

    • 2.1 Capitalist or bourgeois-democratic revolution
    • 2.2 Passivity of the bourgeoisie
    • 2.3 Incapability of the peasantry
    • 2.4 The key role of the proletariat
    • 2.5 International revolution
  • 3 History

    • 3.1 Origins
    • 3.2 Trotskyism and the 1917 Russian Revolution
    • 3.3 “Legend of Trotskyism”
    • 3.4 Founding of the Fourth International
  • 4 Trotskyist movements

    • 4.1 Latin America
    • 4.2 Asia
    • 4.3 Europe
    • 4.4 International
  • 5 Criticism
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading
  • 8 External links


The leaders of the Trotskyist Left Opposition in Moscow, 1927 (sitting: Leonid Serebryakov, Karl Radek, Leon Trotsky, Mikhail Boguslavsky and Yevgeni Preobrazhensky; standing: Christian Rakovsky, Yakov Drobnis, Alexander Beloborodov and Lev Sosnovsky)

American Trotskyist James P. Cannon wrote in his History of American Trotskyism (1942) that “Trotskyism is not a new movement, a new doctrine, but the restoration, the revival of genuine Marxism as it was expounded and practiced in the Russian revolution and in the early days of the Communist International”.

According to Trotsky, his program could be distinguished from other Marxist theories by five key elements:

  • Support for the strategy of permanent revolution, in opposition to the two-stage theory of his opponents.[6]
  • Criticism of the post-1924 leadership of the Soviet Union, analysis of its features;[7] after 1933 also support for political revolution in the Soviet Union and in what Trotskyists term the deformed workers’ states.
  • Support for social revolution in the advanced capitalist countries through working class mass action.
  • Support for proletarian internationalism.[8]
  • Use of a transitional programme of demands that bridge between daily struggles of the working class and the maximal ideas of the socialist transformation of society.[9]

On the political spectrum of Marxism, Trotskyists are usually considered to be towards the left. In the 1920s they called themselves the Left Opposition, although today’s left communism is distinct and usually non-Bolshevik. The terminological disagreement can be confusing because different versions of a left-right political spectrum are used. Anti-revisionists consider themselves the ultimate leftists on a spectrum from communism on the left to imperialist capitalism on the right, but given that Stalinism is often labeled rightist within the communist spectrum and left communism leftist, anti-revisionists’ idea of left is very different from that of left communism. Despite being Bolshevik-Leninist comrades during the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War, Trotsky and Stalin became enemies in the 1920s and thereafter opposed the legitimacy of each other’s forms of Leninism. Trotsky was extremely critical of the Stalinist Soviet Union for suppressing democracy and lack of adequate economic planning.[3]


Trotsky (raising hand) with troops at the Polish front during the Polish–Soviet War, 1919

In 1905, Trotsky formulated his theory of permanent revolution that later became a defining characteristic of Trotskyism. Until 1905, some revolutionaries[10] claimed that Marx’s theory of history positioned that only a revolution in a European capitalist society would lead to a socialist one. According to this position, it was impossible for a socialist revolution to occur in a backward, feudal country such as early 20th century Russia when it had such a small and almost powerless capitalist class.

The theory of permanent revolution addressed the question of how such feudal regimes were to be overthrown and how socialism could be established given the lack of economic prerequisites. Trotsky argued that in Russia only the working class could overthrow feudalism and win the support of the peasantry. Furthermore, he argued that the Russian working class would not stop there. They would win their own revolution against the weak capitalist class, establish a workers’ state in Russia and appeal to the working class in the advanced capitalist countries around the world. As a result, the global working class would come to Russia’s aid and socialism could develop worldwide.

Capitalist or bourgeois-democratic revolution

Revolutions in Britain in the 17th century and in France in 1789 abolished feudalism and established the basic requisites for the development of capitalism. Trotsky argued that these revolutions would not be repeated in Russia.

In Results and Prospects, written in 1906, Trotsky outlines his theory in detail, arguing: “History does not repeat itself. However much one may compare the Russian Revolution with the Great French Revolution, the former can never be transformed into a repetition of the latter”.[11] In the French Revolution of 1789, France experienced what Marxists called a “bourgeois-democratic revolution”—a regime was established wherein the bourgeoisie overthrew the existing French feudalistic system. The bourgeoisie then moved towards establishing a regime of democratic parliamentary institutions. However, while democratic rights were extended to the bourgeoisie, they were not generally extended to a universal franchise. The freedom for workers to organize unions or to strike was not achieved without considerable struggle.

Passivity of the bourgeoisie

Trotsky argues that countries like Russia had no “enlightened, active” revolutionary bourgeoisie which could play the same role and the working class constituted a very small minority. By the time of the European revolutions of 1848, “the bourgeoisie was already unable to play a comparable role. It did not want and was not able to undertake the revolutionary liquidation of the social system that stood in its path to power”.

The theory of permanent revolution considers that in many countries that are thought under Trotskyism to have not yet completed a bourgeois-democratic revolution, the capitalist class opposes the creation of any revolutionary situation. They fear stirring the working class into fighting for its own revolutionary aspirations against their exploitation by capitalism. In Russia, the working class, although a small minority in a predominantly peasant based society, were organised in vast factories owned by the capitalist class and into large working class districts. During the Russian Revolution of 1905, the capitalist class found it necessary to ally with reactionary elements such as the essentially feudal landlords and ultimately the existing Czarist Russian state forces. This was to protect their ownership of their property—factories, banks, etc.—from expropriation by the revolutionary working class.

Therefore, according to the theory of permanent revolution the capitalist classes of economically backward countries are weak and incapable of carrying through revolutionary change. As a result, they are linked to and rely on the feudal landowners in many ways. Thus Trotsky argues that because a majority of the branches of industry in Russia were originated under the direct influence of government measures—sometimes with the help of government subsidies—the capitalist class was again tied to the ruling elite. The capitalist class were subservient to European capital.[12]

Incapability of the peasantry

The theory of permanent revolution further considers that the peasantry as a whole cannot take on the task of carrying through the revolution, because it is dispersed in small holdings throughout the country and forms a heterogeneous grouping, including the rich peasants who employ rural workers and aspire to landlordism as well as the poor peasants who aspire to own more land. Trotsky argues: “All historical experience […] shows that the peasantry are absolutely incapable of taking up an independent political role”.[13]

The key role of the proletariat

Trotskyists differ on the extent to which this is true today, but even the most orthodox tend to recognise in the late twentieth century a new development in the revolts of the rural poor, the self-organising struggles of the landless; and many other struggles which in some ways reflect the militant united organised struggles of the working class; and which to various degrees do not bear the marks of class divisions typical of the heroic peasant struggles of previous epochs. However, orthodox Trotskyists today still argue that the town and city based working class struggle is central to the task of a successful socialist revolution, linked to these struggles of the rural poor. They argue that the working class learns of necessity to conduct a collective struggle, for instance in trade unions, arising from its social conditions in the factories and workplaces; and that the collective consciousness it achieves as a result is an essential ingredient of the socialist reconstruction of society.[14]

Trotsky himself argued that only the proletariat or working class were capable of achieving the tasks of that bourgeois revolution. In 1905, the working class in Russia, a generation brought together in vast factories from the relative isolation of peasant life, saw the result of its labour as a vast collective effort and the only means of struggling against its oppression in terms of a collective effort and forming workers councils (soviets) in the course of the revolution of that year. In 1906, Trotsky argued:

.mw-parser-output .templatequote{overflow:hidden;margin:1em 0;padding:0 40px}.mw-parser-output .templatequote .templatequotecite{line-height:1.5em;text-align:left;padding-left:1.6em;margin-top:0}

The factory system brings the proletariat to the foreground […] The proletariat immediately found itself concentrated in tremendous masses, while between these masses and the autocracy there stood a capitalist bourgeoisie, very small in numbers, isolated from the “people”, half-foreign, without historical traditions, and inspired only by the greed for gain.

— Leon Trotsky, Results and Prospects[15]

For instance, the Putilov Factory numbered 12,000 workers in 1900 and according to Trotsky 36,000 in July 1917.[16]

Although only a small minority in Russian society, the proletariat would lead a revolution to emancipate the peasantry and thus “secure the support of the peasantry” as part of that revolution, on whose support it will rely.[17] However, in order to improve their own conditions the working class will find it necessary to create a revolution of their own, which would accomplish both the bourgeois revolution and then establish a workers’ state.

International revolution

According to classical Marxism, revolution in peasant-based countries such as Russia prepares the ground ultimately only for a development of capitalism since the liberated peasants become small owners, producers and traders which leads to the growth of commodity markets, from which a new capitalist class emerges. Only fully developed capitalist conditions prepare the basis for socialism.

Trotsky agreed that a new socialist state and economy in a country like Russia would not be able to hold out against the pressures of a hostile capitalist world as well as the internal pressures of its backward economy. The revolution, Trotsky argued, must quickly spread to capitalist countries, bringing about a socialist revolution which must spread worldwide. In this way the revolution is “permanent”, moving out of necessity first, from the bourgeois revolution to the workers’ revolution and from there uninterruptedly to European and worldwide revolutions.

An internationalist outlook of permanent revolution is found in the works of Karl Marx. The term “permanent revolution” is taken from a remark of Marx from his March 1850 Address: “it is our task”, Marx said:

[…] to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far—not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world—that competition between the proletarians of these countries ceases and at least the decisive forces of production are concentrated in the hands of the workers.

— Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League[18]



Trotsky in exile in Siberia, 1900

According to Trotsky, the term “Trotskyism” was coined by Pavel Milyukov (sometimes transliterated as Paul Miliukoff), the ideological leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party (Kadets) in Russia. Milyukov waged a bitter war against Trotskyism “as early as 1905”.[19]

Trotsky was elected chairman of the St. Petersburg Soviet during the Russian Revolution of 1905. He pursued a policy of proletarian revolution at a time when other socialist trends advocated a transition to a “bourgeois” (capitalist) regime to replace the essentially feudal Romanov state. It was during this year that Trotsky developed the theory of permanent revolution, as it later became known (see below). In 1905, Trotsky quotes from a postscript to a book by Milyukov, The Elections to the Second State Duma, published no later than May 1907:

Those who reproach the Kadets with failure to protest at that time, by organising meetings, against the “revolutionary illusions” of Trotskyism and the relapse into Blanquism, simply do not understand […] the mood of the democratic public at meetings during that period.

— Pavel Milyukov, The Elections to the Second State Duma[20]

Milyukov suggests that the mood of the “democratic public” was in support of Trotsky’s policy of the overthrow of the Romanov regime alongside a workers’ revolution to overthrow the capitalist owners of industry, support for strike action and the establishment of democratically elected workers’ councils or “soviets”.

Trotskyism and the 1917 Russian Revolution

During his leadership of the Russian revolution of 1905, Trotsky argued that once it became clear that the Tsar’s army would not come out in support of the workers, it was necessary to retreat before the armed might of the state in as good an order as possible.[21] In 1917, Trotsky was again elected chairman of the Petrograd soviet, but this time soon came to lead the Military Revolutionary Committee which had the allegiance of the Petrograd garrison and carried through the October 1917 insurrection. Stalin wrote:

All practical work in connection with the organisation of the uprising was done under the immediate direction of Comrade Trotsky, the President of the Petrograd Soviet. It can be stated with certainty that the Party is indebted primarily and principally to Comrade Trotsky for the rapid going over of the garrison to the side of the Soviet and the efficient manner in which the work of the Military Revolutionary Committee was organized.

— Joseph Stalin, Pravda, November 6, 1918[22]

As a result of his role in the Russian Revolution of 1917, the theory of permanent revolution was embraced by the young Soviet state until 1924.

The Russian revolution of 1917 was marked by two revolutions: the relatively spontaneous February 1917 revolution, and the 25 October 1917 seizure of power by the Bolsheviks, who had gained the leadership of the Petrograd soviet.

Before the February 1917 Russian revolution, Lenin had formulated a slogan calling for the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”, but after the February revolution through his April Theses, Lenin instead called for “all power to the Soviets”. Lenin nevertheless continued to emphasise (as did Trotsky also) the classical Marxist position that the peasantry formed a basis for the development of capitalism, not socialism.[23]

Also before February 1917, Trotsky had not accepted the importance of a Bolshevik style organisation. Once the February 1917 Russian revolution had broken out, Trotsky admitted the importance of a Bolshevik organisation and joined the Bolsheviks in July 1917. Despite the fact that many like Stalin saw Trotsky’s role in the October 1917 Russian revolution as central, Trotsky says that without Lenin and the Bolshevik Party the October revolution of 1917 would not have taken place.

As a result, since 1917 Trotskyism as a political theory is fully committed to a Leninist style of democratic centralist party organisation, which Trotskyists argue must not be confused with the party organisation as it later developed under Stalin. Trotsky had previously suggested that Lenin’s method of organisation would lead to a dictatorship, but it is important to emphasise that after 1917 orthodox Trotskyists argue that the loss of democracy in the Soviet Union was caused by the failure of the revolution to successfully spread internationally and the consequent wars, isolation and imperialist intervention, not the Bolshevik style of organisation.

Lenin’s outlook had always been that the Russian revolution would need to stimulate a Socialist revolution in Western Europe in order that this European socialist society would then come to the aid of the Russian revolution and enable Russia to advance towards socialism. Lenin stated:

We have stressed in a good many written works, in all our public utterances, and in all our statements in the press that […] the socialist revolution can triumph only on two conditions. First, if it is given timely support by a socialist revolution in one or several advanced countries.

— Vladimir Lenin, Speech at Tenth Congress of the RCP(B)[24]

This outlook matched precisely Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. Trotsky’s permanent revolution had foreseen that the working class would not stop at the bourgeois democratic stage of the revolution, but proceed towards a workers’ state as happened in 1917. The Polish Trotskyist Isaac Deutscher maintains that in 1917 Lenin changed his attitude to Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution and after the October revolution it was adopted by the Bolsheviks.[25]

Lenin was met with initial disbelief in April 1917. Trotsky argues that:

[…] up to the outbreak of the February revolution and for a time after Trotskyism did not mean the idea that it was impossible to build a socialist society within the national boundaries of Russia (which “possibility” was never expressed by anybody up to 1924 and hardly came into anybody’s head). Trotskyism meant the idea that the Russian proletariat might win the power in advance of the Western proletariat, and that in that case it could not confine itself within the limits of a democratic dictatorship but would be compelled to undertake the initial socialist measures. It is not surprising, then, that the April theses of Lenin were condemned as Trotskyist.

— Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution[26]

“Legend of Trotskyism”

“Bolshevik freedom” with nude of Trotsky in a Polish propaganda poster, Polish–Soviet War (1920)

In The Stalin School of Falsification, Trotsky argues that what he calls the “legend of Trotskyism” was formulated by Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev in collaboration with Stalin in 1924 in response to the criticisms Trotsky raised of Politburo policy.[27]Orlando Figes argues: “The urge to silence Trotsky, and all criticism of the Politburo, was in itself a crucial factor in Stalin’s rise to power”.[28]

During 1922–1924, Lenin suffered a series of strokes and became increasingly incapacitated. Before his death in 1924, while describing Trotsky as “distinguished not only by his exceptional abilities—personally he is, to be sure, the most able man in the present Central Committee” and also maintaining that “his non-Bolshevik past should not be held against him”, Lenin criticized him for “showing excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work” and also requested that Stalin be removed from his position of General Secretary, but his notes remained suppressed until 1956.[29] Zinoviev and Kamenev broke with Stalin in 1925 and joined Trotsky in 1926 in what was known as the United Opposition.[30]

In 1926, Stalin allied with Nikolai Bukharin who then led the campaign against “Trotskyism”. In The Stalin School of Falsification, Trotsky quotes Bukharin’s 1918 pamphlet, From the Collapse of Czarism to the Fall of the Bourgeoisie, which was re-printed in 1923 by the party publishing house, Proletari. In this pamphlet, Bukharin explains and embraces Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, writing: “The Russian proletariat is confronted more sharply than ever before with the problem of the international revolution … The grand total of relationships which have arisen in Europe leads to this inevitable conclusion. Thus, the permanent revolution in Russia is passing into the European proletarian revolution”. Yet it is common knowledge, Trotsky argues, that three years later in 1926 “Bukharin was the chief and indeed the sole theoretician of the entire campaign against ‘Trotskyism’, summed up in the struggle against the theory of the permanent revolution”.[31]

Trotsky wrote that the Left Opposition grew in influence throughout the 1920s, attempting to reform the Communist Party, but in 1927 Stalin declared “civil war” against them:

During the first ten years of its struggle, the Left Opposition did not abandon the program of ideological conquest of the party for that of conquest of power against the party. Its slogan was: reform, not revolution. The bureaucracy, however, even in those times, was ready for any revolution in order to defend itself against a democratic reform.

In 1927, when the struggle reached an especially bitter stage, Stalin declared at a session of the Central Committee, addressing himself to the Opposition: “Those cadres can be removed only by civil war!” What was a threat in Stalin’s words became, thanks to a series of defeats of the European proletariat, a historic fact. The road of reform was turned into a road of revolution.

— Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: What Is the Soviet Union and Where Is It Going?, p. 279, Pathfinder

Defeat of the European working class led to further isolation in Russia and further suppression of the Opposition. Trotsky argued that the “so-called struggle against ‘Trotskyism’ grew out of the bureaucratic reaction against the October Revolution [of 1917]”.[32] He responded to the one sided civil war with his Letter to the Bureau of Party History (1927), contrasting what he claimed to be the falsification of history with the official history of just a few years before. He further accused Stalin of derailing the Chinese revolution and causing the massacre of the Chinese workers:

In the year 1918, Stalin, at the very outset of his campaign against me, found it necessary, as we have already learned, to write the following words:

“All the work of practical organization of the insurrection was carried out under the direct leadership of the Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, comrade Trotsky…” (Stalin, Pravda, 6 November 1918)

With full responsibility for my words, I am now compelled to say that the cruel massacre of the Chinese proletariat and the Chinese Revolution at its three most important turning points, the strengthening of the position of the trade union agents of British imperialism after the General Strike of 1926, and, finally, the general weakening of the position of the Communist International and the Soviet Union, the party owes principally and above all to Stalin.

— Leon Trotsky, The Stalin School of Falsification, p. 87, Pathfinder (1971).

Trotsky was sent into internal exile and his supporters were jailed. For instance, Victor Serge first “spent six weeks in a cell” after a visit at midnight, then 85 days in an inner GPU cell, most of it in solitary confinement. He details the jailings of the Left Opposition.[33] However, the Left Opposition continued to work in secret within the Soviet Union.[34] Trotsky was eventually exiled to Turkey and moved from there to France, Norway and finally to Mexico.[35]

After 1928, the various Communist Parties throughout the world expelled Trotskyists from their ranks. Most Trotskyists defend the economic achievements of the planned economy in the Soviet Union during the 1920s and 1930s, despite the “misleadership” of the soviet bureaucracy and what they claim to be the loss of democracy.[36] Trotskyists claim that in 1928 inner party democracy and indeed soviet democracy, which was at the foundation of Bolshevism,[37] had been destroyed within the various Communist Parties. Anyone who disagreed with the party line was labeled a Trotskyist and even a fascist.

In 1937, Stalin again unleashed what Trotskyists say was a political terror against their Left Opposition and many of the remaining Old Bolsheviks (those who had played key roles in the October Revolution in 1917) in the face of increased opposition, particularly in the army.[38]

Founding of the Fourth International

Trotsky with Vladimir Lenin and soldiers in Petrograd

Trotsky founded the International Left Opposition in 1930. It was meant to be an opposition group within the Comintern, but anyone who joined or was suspected of joining the ILO was immediately expelled from the Comintern. The ILO therefore concluded that opposing Stalinism from within the communist organizations controlled by Stalin’s supporters had become impossible, so new organizations had to be formed. In 1933, the ILO was renamed the International Communist League (ICL), which formed the basis of the Fourth International, founded in Paris in 1938.

Trotsky said that only the Fourth International, basing itself on Lenin’s theory of the vanguard party, could lead the world revolution and that it would need to be built in opposition to both the capitalists and the Stalinists.

Trotsky argued that the defeat of the German working class and the coming to power of Hitler in 1933 was due in part to the mistakes of the Third Period policy of the Communist International and that the subsequent failure of the Communist Parties to draw the correct lessons from those defeats showed that they were no longer capable of reform and a new international organisation of the working class must be organised. The transitional demand tactic had to be a key element.

At the time of the founding of the Fourth International in 1938, Trotskyism was a mass political current in Vietnam, Sri Lanka and slightly later Bolivia. There was also a substantial Trotskyist movement in China which included the founding father of the Chinese communist movement, Chen Duxiu, amongst its number. Wherever Stalinists gained power, they made it a priority to hunt down Trotskyists and treated them as the worst of enemies.

The Fourth International suffered repression and disruption through the Second World War. Isolated from each other and faced with political developments quite unlike those anticipated by Trotsky, some Trotskyist organizations decided that the Soviet Union no longer could be called a degenerated workers’ state and withdrew from the Fourth International. After 1945, Trotskyism was smashed as a mass movement in Vietnam and marginalised in a number of other countries.

The International Secretariat of the Fourth International (ISFI) organised an international conference in 1946 and then World Congresses in 1948 and 1951 to assess the expropriation of the capitalists in Eastern Europe and Yugoslavia, the threat of a Third World War and the tasks for revolutionaries. The Eastern European Communist-led governments which came into being after World War II without a social revolution were described by a resolution of the 1948 congress as presiding over capitalist economies.[39] By 1951, the Congress had concluded that they had become “deformed workers’ states”. As the Cold War intensified, the ISFI’s 1951 World Congress adopted theses by Michel Pablo that anticipated an international civil war. Pablo’s followers considered that the Communist Parties, insofar as they were placed under pressure by the real workers’ movement, could escape Stalin’s manipulations and follow a revolutionary orientation.

The 1951 Congress argued that Trotskyists should start to conduct systematic work inside those Communist Parties which were followed by the majority of the working class. However, the ISFI’s view that the Soviet leadership was counter-revolutionary remained unchanged. The 1951 Congress argued that the Soviet Union took over these countries because of the military and political results of World War II and instituted nationalized property relations only after its attempts at placating capitalism failed to protect those countries from the threat of incursion by the West.

Pablo began expelling large numbers of people who did not agree with his thesis and who did not want to dissolve their organizations within the Communist Parties. For instance, he expelled the majority of the French section and replaced its leadership. As a result, the opposition to Pablo eventually rose to the surface, with the Open Letter to Trotskyists of the World, by Socialist Workers Party leader James P. Cannon.

The Fourth International split in 1953 into two public factions. The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) was established by several sections of the International as an alternative centre to the International Secretariat, in which they felt a revisionist faction led by Michel Pablo had taken power and recommitted themselves to the Lenin-Trotsky Theory of the Party and Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution.[40] From 1960, led by the U.S Socialist Workers Party, a number of ICFI sections began the reunification process with the IS, but factions split off and continued their commitment to the ICFI.[41] Today, national parties committed to the ICFI call themselves the Socialist Equality Party.

Trotskyist movements

Latin America

Trotskyist propaganda in Brazil

Trotskyism has had some influence in some recent major social upheavals, particularly in Latin America.

The Bolivian Trotskyist party (Partido Obrero Revolucionario, POR) became a mass party in the period of the late 1940s and early 1950s and together with other groups played a central role during and immediately after the period termed the Bolivian National Revolution.[42]

In Brazil, as an officially recognised platform or faction of the PT until 1992, the Trotskyist Movimento Convergência Socialista (CS), which founded the United Socialist Workers’ Party (PSTU) in 1994, saw a number of its members elected to national, state and local legislative bodies during the 1980s.[43] The Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL) presidential candidate in the 2006 general elections Heloísa Helena is termed a Trotskyist who was a member of the Workers Party of Brazil (PT), a legislative deputy in Alagoas and in 1999 was elected to the Federal Senate. Expelled from the PT in December 2003, she helped found PSOL in which various Trotskyist groups play a prominent role.

In Argentina, the Workers’ Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores, PRT) lay in the merger of two leftist organizations in 1965, the Revolutionary and Popular Amerindian Front (Frente Revolucionario Indoamericano Popular, FRIP) and Worker’s Word (Palabra Obrera, PO). In 1968, the PRT adhered to the Fourth International, based in Paris. That same year a related organisation was founded in Argentina, the ERP (People’s Revolutionary Army) that became the strongest rural guerrilla movement in South America during the 1970s. The PRT left the Fourth International in 1973.[44] Both the PRT and the ERP were suppressed by the Argentine military regime during the Dirty War. ERP commander Roberto Santucho was killed in July 1976. Owing to the ruthless repression PRT showed no signs of activity after 1977.During the 1980s in Argentina, the Trotskyist party founded in 1982 by Nahuel Moreno, MAS, (Movimiento al Socialismo, Movement Toward Socialism), claimed to be the “largest Trotskyist party” in the world before it broke into a number of different fragments in the late 1980s, including the present-day MST, PTS, Nuevo MAS, IS, PRS, FOS, etc. In 1989 in an electoral front with the Communist Party and Christian nationalists groups, called Izquierda Unida (“United Left”), obtained 3.49% of the vote, representing 580,944 voters.[45] Today, the Workers’ Party in Argentina has an electoral base in Salta Province in the far north, particularly in the city of Salta itself; and has become the third political force in the provinces of Tucumán, also in the north; and Santa Cruz, in the south.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez declared himself to be a Trotskyist during his swearing in of his cabinet two days before his own inauguration on 10 January 2007.[46] Venezuelan Trotskyist organizations do not regard Chávez as a Trotskyist, with some describing him as a bourgeois nationalist[47] and other considering him an honest revolutionary leader who has made major mistakes because he lacks a Marxist analysis.[48]


In Indochina during the 1930s, Vietnamese Trotskyism led by Tạ Thu Thâu was a significant current, particularly in Saigon.[49]

In Sri Lanka, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) expelled its pro-Moscow wing in 1940, becoming a Trotskyist-led party. It was led by South Asia’s pioneer Trotskyist, Philip Gunawardena and his colleague N. M. Perera. In 1942, following the escape of the leaders of the LSSP from a British prison, a unified Bolshevik–Leninist Party of India, Ceylon and Burma (BLPI) was established in India, bringing together the many Trotskyist groups in the subcontinent. The BLPI was active in the Quit India Movement as well as the labour movement, capturing the second oldest union in India. Its high point was when it led the strikes which followed the Bombay Mutiny. After the war, the Sri Lanka section split into the Lanka Sama Samaja Party and the Bolshevik Samasamaja Party (BSP). The Indian section of the BLPI later fused with the Congress Socialist Party. In the general election of 1947, the LSSP became the main opposition party, winning 10 seats, the BSP winning a further 5. It joined the Trotskyist Fourth International after fusion with the BSP in 1950 and led a general strike (Hartal) in 1953.[50][51][52]

In 1964, a section of the LSSP split to form the LSSP (Revolutionary) and joined the Fourth International after the LSSP proper was expelled. The LSSP (Revolutionary) later split into factions led by Bala Tampoe and Edmund Samarakkody. The LSSP joined the “coalition” government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike, where three of its members, NM Perera, Cholmondely Goonewardena and Anil Moonesinghe were brought into the new cabinet.

In 1974, a secret faction of the LSSP, allied to the Militant group in the United Kingdom emerged. In 1977, this faction was expelled and formed the Nava Sama Samaja Party, led by Vasudeva Nanayakkara.

The ICFI/WSWS Supporters Group [53] is working to build the Socialist Equality Party in India.


In France, 10% of the electorate voted in 2002 for parties calling themselves Trotskyist.[54]

In Britain during the 1980s, the entryist Militant group operated within the Labour Party with three members of parliament and effective control of Liverpool City Council. Described by journalist Michael Crick as “Britain’s fifth most important political party” in 1986,[55] it played a prominent role in the 1989–1991 anti-poll tax movement which was widely thought to have led to the downfall of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.[56][57] Several far-left parties in Britain are Trotskyist in orientation, including the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party (not to be confused with the Socialist Party of Great Britain) and the Scottish Socialist Party.

The Socialist Party in Ireland was formed in 1990 by members who had been expelled by the Irish Labour Party’s leader Dick Spring. It has had support in the Fingal electoral district as well as in the city of Limerick. It currently has three elected officials in Dáil Éireann. Paul Murphy, representing Dublin West (Dáil constituency),
Mick Barry representing Cork North-Central (Dáil constituency) and Ruth Coppinger representing Dublin West (Dáil constituency).[58]

In Portugal’s October 2015 parliamentary election, the Left Bloc won 550,945 votes, which translated into 10.19% of the expressed votes and the election of 19 (out of 230) deputados (members of parliament).[59] Although founded by several leftist tendencies, it still expresses much of the Trotskyist thought upheld and developed by its former leader, Francisco Louçã.

In Turkey, there are some organizations which are International Socialist Tendency’s section (Revolutionary Workers’ Socialist Party), Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International’s section (Revolutionary Workers’ Party), Permanent Revolution Movement (SDH), Socialism Magazine (sympathizers of the International Committee of the Fourth International) and several small groups.


The Fourth International derives from the 1963 reunification of the two public factions into which Fourth International split in 1953: the International Secretariat of the Fourth International (ISFI) and some sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). It is often referred to as the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, the name of its leading committee before 2003. The USFI retains sections and sympathizing organizations in over 50 countries, including the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire (LCR) of France, as well as sections in Portugal, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Pakistan.[60]

The International Committee of the Fourth International maintains its independent organization and publishes the World Socialist Web Site.

The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) was founded in 1974 and now has sections in over 35 countries. Before 1997, most organisations affiliated to the CWI sought to build an entrist Marxist wing within the large social democratic parties. The CWI has adopted a range of tactics, including working with trade unions, but in some cases working within or supporting other parties, endorsing Bernie Sanders for the 2016 U.S. Democratic Party nomination and encouraging him to run independently.[61]

In France, the LCR is rivalled by Lutte Ouvrière. That group is the French section of the Internationalist Communist Union (UCI), with small sections in a handful of other countries. It focuses its activities, whether propaganda or intervention, within the industrial proletariat.

The founders of the Committee for a Marxist International (CMI) claim they were expelled from the CWI when the CWI abandoned entryism. The CWI claims they left and no expulsions were carried out. Since 2006, it has been known as the International Marxist Tendency (IMT). CMI/IMT groups continue the policy of entering mainstream social democratic, communist or radical parties.

Currently, International Marxist Tendency (IMT) is headed by Alan Woods. The list of Trotskyist internationals shows that there are a large number of other multinational tendencies that stand in the tradition of Leon Trotsky.


Trotskyism has been criticised from various directions. In 1935, a Marxist–Leninist named Moissaye J. Olgin published a book entitled Trotskyism: Counter-Revolution in Disguise in which he argued that Trotskyism was “the enemy of the working class” and “should be shunned by anybody who has sympathy for the revolutionary movement of the exploited and oppressed the world over”.[62] The African American Marxist–Leninist Harry Haywood, who spent much time in the Soviet Union during the 1920s and 1930s, stated that although he had been somewhat interested in Trotsky’s ideas when he was young, he came to see it as “a disruptive force on the fringes of the international revolutionary movement” which eventually developed into “a counter-revolutionary conspiracy against the Party and the Soviet state”. He continued to put forward his following belief:

Trotsky was not defeated by bureaucratic decisions or Stalin’s control of the Party apparatus—as his partisans and Trotskyite historians claim. He had his day in court and finally lost because his whole position flew in the face of Soviet and world realities. He was doomed to defeat because his ideas were incorrect and failed to conform to objective conditions, as well as the needs and interests of the Soviet people.[63]

Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski wrote: “Both Trotsky and Bukharin were emphatic in their assurances that forced labour was an organic part of the new society”.[64]

The way Trotskyists organise to promote their beliefs has been criticised often by ex members of their organisations. Tourish, a former member of the Committee for a Workers’ International, asserts that these organisations typically value doctrinal orthodoxy over critical reflection, have illusions in the absolute correctness of their own party’s analysis, a fear of dissent, the demonising of dissenters and critical opinion, overworking of members, a sectarian attitude to the rest of the left and the concentration of power among a small group of leaders.[65]

Some left communists such as Paul Mattick claim that the October Revolution was totalitarian from the start and therefore Trotskyism has no real differences from Stalinism either in practice or theory.[66]

In the United States, Dwight Macdonald broke with Trotsky and left the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party by raising the question of the Kronstadt rebellion, which Trotsky as leader of the Soviet Red Army and the other Bolsheviks had brutally repressed. He then moved towards democratic socialism[67] and anarchism.[68] A similar critique on Trotsky’s role on the events around the Kronstadt rebellion was raised by the American anarchist Emma Goldman. In her essay “Trotsky Protests Too Much”, she says: “I admit, the dictatorship under Stalin’s rule has become monstrous. That does not, however, lessen the guilt of Leon Trotsky as one of the actors in the revolutionary drama of which Kronstadt was one of the bloodiest scenes”.[69] Trotsky defended the actions of the Red Army in his essay “Hue and Cry over Kronstadt”.[70]


  1. ^ Lenin and Trotsky were “co-leaders” of the 1917 Russian Revolution. “Revolutionary in Name Only”.
  2. ^ Trotsky, Leon. “Leon Trotsky: The Stalin School of Falsification (The Lost Document)”. cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  3. ^ ab “Stalin banishes Trotsky – Jan 11, 1928”. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  4. ^ “The Transitional Program”. Retrieved November 5, 2008.
  5. ^ Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus (1993).
  6. ^ cf for instance, Trotsky, Leon, The Permanent Revolution (1928) and Results and Prospects (1906), New Park Publications, London, (1962)
  7. ^ Trotsky, Revolution Betrayed, 1936
  8. ^ What is Trotskyism (1973) Ernest Mandel
  9. ^ Trotsky, Leon. The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of The Fourth International (1938).
  10. ^ O’Callaghan, Einde (1934). “A Letter on Russia by Karl Marx”. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  11. ^ Trotsky, Leon, Results and Prospects, p 184, New Park publications (1962)
  12. ^ Trotsky, Leon, Results and Prospects, pp 174–7, New Park publications (1962)
  13. ^ Trotsky, Leon, Results and Prospects, p 204–5, New Park publications (1962).
  14. ^ Many would put, for instance, the Committee for a Workers’ International in this category of orthodox Trotskyists. See for instance Che Guevara: A revolutionary fighter. Archived 13 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 7 October 2007.
  15. ^ Trotsky, Results and Prospects, p. 183, New Park (1962)
  16. ^ Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, (‘July Days’: Preparation and beginning) p519, Pluto Press (1977)
  17. ^ Trotsky, Leon, Results and Prospects, p 204–5, New Park publications (1962). Trotsky adds that the revolution must raise the cultural and political consciousness of the peasantry.
  18. ^ Marx, Karl; Engels, Friedrich (March 1850). “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League”. Marxist Internet Archive. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  19. ^ Trotsky, Leon, My Life, p230 and 294, Penguin, Harmondsworth, (1971)
  20. ^ Milyukov, The elections to the second state Duma, pp91 and 92, is quoted by Leon Trotsky in 1905, Pelican books, (1971) p295 (and p176)
  21. ^ Trotsky, Leon, 1905, Pelican books, (1971) p217 ff
  22. ^ This summary of Trotsky’s role in 1917, written by Stalin for Pravda, November 6, 1918, was quoted in Stalin’s book The October Revolution issued in 1934, but it was expunged in Stalin’s Works released in 1949.
  23. ^ “Peasant farming continues to be… an extremely broad and very sound, deep-rooted basis for capitalism, a basis on which capitalism persists or arises anew in a bitter struggle against communism.” Lenin Economics and Politics in the era of the dictatorship of the proletariat, October 30, 1919, Collected works, Vol 30, p109
  24. ^ Lenin, Report on the substitution of a tax in kind for the surplus-grain appropriation system, Tenth Congress, March 15, 1921, Collected works, vol. 32, p. 215. This speech, of course, introduced the New Economic Policy (NEP), which was intended to reinforce the basis of the second of the two conditions Lenin mentions in the quote, the support of the peasantry for the workers’ state.
  25. ^ Deutscher, Isaac, Stalin, p285, Penguin, (1966)
  26. ^ Trotsky, Leon, History of the Russian Revolution, p332, Pluto Press, London (1977)
  27. ^ See also Deutscher, Isaac, Stalin, p 293, Penguin (1966)
  28. ^ Figes, Orlando, A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891–1924, p802, Pimlico (1997). Figes, at Birkbeck, University of London, is one of the UK’s leading modern Russian historians
  29. ^ Lenin, Collected works, Vol 36, pp593–98: “Stalin is too rude and this defect […] becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post […] it is a detail which can assume decisive importance.”
  30. ^ Trotsky, Leon, The Stalin School of Falsification, pp89ff, Pathfinder (1971)
  31. ^ Trotsky, Leon, The Stalin School of Falsification, pp78ff, Pathfinder (1971)
  32. ^ Trotsky, Leon, The Stalin School of Falsification, Foreword to the Russian edition, p xxxiii, Pathfinder (1971)
  33. ^ Serge, Victor, From Lenin to Stalin, p. 70, Pathfinder, (1973).
  34. ^ Serge, Victor, From Lenin to Stalin, p70 ff, Pathfinder, (1973)
  35. ^ Deutscher, Isaac, Stalin, p381, Pelican (1966)
  36. ^ Trotsky, Leon, Revolution Betrayed, pp5 – 32 Pathfinder (1971)
  37. ^ “One of the most important tasks today, if not the most important, is to develop this independent initiative of the workers, and of all working and exploited people generally” Lenin, ‘How to organise competition’, Collected Works, Volume 26, p. 409
  38. ^ Rogovin, Vadim, 1937: Stalin’s Year of Terror Mehring Books, 1998, p. 374. Also see the chapter ‘Trotskyists in the camps’: “A new, young generation of Trotskyists had grown up in the Soviet Union…lots of them go to their deaths crying ‘Long live Trotsky!’ ” Until this research became available after the fall of the Soviet Union, little was known about the strength of the Trotskyists within the Soviet Union.
  39. ^ “The USSR and Stalinism”. Marxist Internet Archive. December 1948 – January 1949. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  40. ^ Cannon, James P. “The Revolutionary Party & Its Role in the Struggle for Socialism”.
  41. ^ North, David (2008). The Heritage We Defend. Mehring Books. pp. Sections 131–140. ISBN 978-0-929087-00-9.
  42. ^ Alexander, Robert J., International Trotskyism, 1929–1985: A Documented Analysis of the Movement, Duke University Press (1991)
  43. ^ “History of the PSTU”. Archived from the original on 13 August 2007. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  44. ^ “POR QUÉ NOS SEPARAMOS DE LA IV INTERNACIONAL, PRT Argentina. Junta de Coordinación Revolucionaria (JCR) Agosto de 1973” (PDF). Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  45. ^ “Atlas Electoral de Andy Tow”. Archived from the original on 6 July 2012.
  46. ^ Nathalie Malinarich. BBC News, Chavez accelerates on path to socialism. Retrieved 19 June 2007.
  47. ^ Declaración PolÃtica de la JIR, como Fracción Pública del PRS, por una real independencia de clase (Extractos) – Juventud de Izquierda Revolucionaria. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  48. ^ Sanabria, William, La Enmienda Constitucional, Orlando Chirino y la C-CURA. Archived 18 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  49. ^ Richardson, A.(Ed.), The Revolution Defamed: A documentary history of Vietnamese Trotskyism, Socialist Platform Ltd (2003).
  50. ^ Ervin, W E, Tomorrow is Ours: The Trotskyist Movement in India and Ceylon, 1935–48, Colombo, Social Scientists Association, 2006.
  51. ^ Y. Ranjith Amarasinghe, Revolutionary Idealism & Parliamentary Politics – A Study Of Trotskyism In Sri Lanka, Colombo (1998).
  52. ^ Leslie Goonewardena, A Short History of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party. Retrieved 19 June 2007.
  53. ^ “ICFI/WSWS Supporters in India hold public meeting on danger of world war”. World Socialist Web Site. International Committee of the Fourth International. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  54. ^ The combined Trotskyist vote was 2,973,600 (10.44%) compared to 1,616,546 (5.3%) in 1995.
  55. ^ Crick, Michael, The March of Militant, p.2
  56. ^ “BBC ON THIS DAY – 14 – 1990: One in five yet to pay poll tax”.
  57. ^ Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (1993) pp.848–9
  58. ^ “Who is my TD?”. Who is my TD?. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  59. ^ [1]. Diário da República, 1ª série — Nº 205 (20 October 2015). Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  60. ^ “Fourth International”. International Viewpoint. 5 August 2016.
  61. ^ Saunois, Tony (1 April 2016). “Bernie Sanders campaign – an opportunity to build a new party of the 99%”. Committee for Workers International. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  62. ^ Olgin, Moissaye J. 1935. Trotskyism: Counter-Revolution in Disguise. New York: Workers Library Publishers. Chapter Fourteen.
  63. ^ Haywood, Harry. 1978. Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist. Chicago: Liberator Press. Chapter Six.
  64. ^ Kołakowski, Leszek. “The Marxist Roots of Stalinism”, 1975; reprinted in “Is God Happy? Selected Essays” (2013, NY: Basic Books).
  65. ^ “Tourish: Introduction to Ideological Intransigence, Democratic Centralism and Cultism”.
  66. ^ Mattick, Paul (1947). “Bolshevism and Stalinism”.
  67. ^ Mattson, Kevin. 2002. Intellectuals in Action: The Origins of the New Left and Radical Liberalism, 1945–1970. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002. p. 34.
  68. ^ Memoirs of a Revolutionist: Essays in Political Criticism (1960). This was later republished with the title Politics Past.
  69. ^ “Trotsky Protests Too Much – The Anarchist Library”.
  70. ^ Trotsky, Leon. “Hue and Cry Over Kronstadt”.

Further reading

  • Alex Callinicos. Trotskyism (Concepts in Social Thought) University of Minnesota Press, 1990.
  • Belden Fields. Trotskyism and Maoism: Theory and Practice in France and the United States Praeger Publishers, 1989.
  • Alfred Rosmer. Trotsky and the Origins of Trotskyism. Republished by Francis Boutle Publishers, now out of print.
  • Cliff Slaughter. Trotskyism Versus Revisionism: A Documentary History (multivolume work, now out of print).
  • David North In Defense of Leon Trotsky, Mehring Books, 2010.

External links

  • Trotskyism at Encyclopædia Britannica
  • “Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line”.
  • “The Leon Trotsky Internet archive”.
  • “The Lubitz TrotskyanaNet”.
  • “Trotskyist archives in the United Kingdom”.


Traditional Chinese 毛澤東思想
Simplified Chinese 毛泽东思想
Literal meaning “Mao Zedong Thought”

Chairman Mao Zedong

Maoism, known in China as Mao Zedong Thought (Chinese: 毛泽东思想; pinyin: Máo Zédōng sīxiǎng), is a communist political theory derived from the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong, whose followers are known as Maoists. Developed from the 1950s until the Deng Xiaoping reforms in the 1970s, it was widely applied as the guiding political and military ideology of the Communist Party of China and as theory guiding revolutionary movements around the world. A key difference between Maoism and other forms of Marxist-Leninism is that Mao said that peasants should be the bulwark of the revolutionary energy,[1] led by the working class in China.


  • 1 Origins

    • 1.1 The modern Chinese intellectual tradition

      • 1.1.1 Iconoclastic revolution and anti-Confucianism
      • 1.1.2 Nationalism and the appeal of Marxism
    • 1.2 The Yan’an period (November 1935–March 1947)
    • 1.3 Mao’s intellectual Marxist development
  • 2 Components

    • 2.1 New Democracy
    • 2.2 People’s war
    • 2.3 Mass line
    • 2.4 Cultural Revolution
    • 2.5 Contradiction
    • 2.6 Three Worlds Theory
    • 2.7 Agrarian socialism
  • 3 Maoism in China
  • 4 Maoism after Mao

    • 4.1 China
    • 4.2 Internationally
  • 5 Maoism’s international influence

    • 5.1 Afghanistan
    • 5.2 Bangladesh
    • 5.3 Belgium
    • 5.4 Ecuador
    • 5.5 India
    • 5.6 Iran
    • 5.7 Palestine
    • 5.8 Portugal
    • 5.9 United States
    • 5.10 Spain
    • 5.11 Turkey
    • 5.12 Maoist organizations
  • 6 Criticisms and interpretations

    • 6.1 Populism
    • 6.2 Nationalism
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
  • 9 Further reading
  • 10 External links


This article is part of a series on the
Politics of China
National Emblem of the People's Republic of China (2).svg
  • Other countries
  • Atlas

The modern Chinese intellectual tradition

The modern Chinese intellectual tradition of the turn of the twentieth century is defined by two central concepts: iconoclasm and nationalism.[2]

Iconoclastic revolution and anti-Confucianism

By the turn of the 20th century, a proportionately small yet socially significant cross-section of China’s traditional elite (i.e. landlords and bureaucrats) found themselves increasingly skeptical of the efficacy and even the moral validity of Confucianism.[3] These skeptical iconoclasts formed a new segment of Chinese society, a modern intelligentsia whose arrival—or as historian of China Maurice Meisner would label it, their defection—heralded the beginning of the destruction of the gentry as a social class in China.[4]

The fall of the last imperial Chinese dynasty in 1911 marked the final failure of the Confucian moral order and it did much to make Confucianism synonymous with political and social conservatism in the minds of Chinese intellectuals. It was this association of conservatism and Confucianism which lent to the iconoclastic nature of Chinese intellectual thought during the first decades of the 20th century.[5]

Chinese iconoclasm was expressed most clearly and vociferously by Chen Duxiu during the New Culture Movement which occurred between 1915 and 1919.[5] Proposing the “total destruction of the traditions and values of the past”, the New Culture Movement was spearheaded by the New Youth, a periodical which was published by Chen Duxiu and was profoundly influential on the young Mao Zedong, whose first published work appeared on the magazine’s pages.[5]

Nationalism and the appeal of Marxism

Along with iconoclasm, radical anti-imperialism dominated the Chinese intellectual tradition and slowly evolved into a fierce nationalist fervor which influenced Mao’s philosophy immensely and was crucial in adapting Marxism to the Chinese model.[6] Vital to understanding Chinese nationalist sentiments of the time is the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed in 1919. The Treaty aroused a wave of bitter nationalist resentment in Chinese intellectuals as lands formerly ceded to Germany in Shandong were—without consultation with the Chinese—transferred to Japanese control rather than returned to Chinese sovereignty.[7]

The negative reaction culminated in the 4 May Incident which occurred on that day in 1919. The protest began with 3,000 students in Beijing displaying their anger at the announcement of the Versailles Treaty’s concessions to Japan, yet rapidly took a violent turn as protesters began attacking the homes and offices of ministers who were seen as cooperating with, or in the direct pay of the Japanese.[7] The 4 May Incident and Movement which followed “catalyzed the political awakening of a society which had long seemed inert and dormant”.[7]

Yet another international event would have a large impact not only on Mao, but also on the Chinese intelligentsia: the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Although the revolution did elicit interest among Chinese intellectuals, socialist revolution in China was not considered a viable option until after the May 4 Incident.[8] Afterwards, “[t]o become a Marxist was one way for a Chinese intellectual to reject both the traditions of the Chinese past and Western domination of the Chinese present”.[8]

The Yan’an period (November 1935–March 1947)

During the period immediately following the Long March, Mao and the Communist Party of China (CPC) were headquartered in Yan’an, which is a prefecture-level city in Shaanxi province. During this period, Mao clearly established himself as a Marxist theoretician and he produced the bulk of the works which would later be canonized into the “thought of Mao Zedong”.[9] The rudimentary philosophical base of Chinese Communist ideology is laid down in Mao’s numerous dialectical treatises and it was conveyed to newly recruited party members. This period truly established ideological independence from Moscow for Mao and the CPC.[9]

Although the Yan’an period did answer some of the questions, both ideological and theoretical, which were raised by the Chinese Communist Revolution, it left many of the crucial questions unresolved; including how the Communist Party of China was supposed to launch a socialist revolution while completely separated from the urban sphere.[9]

Mao’s intellectual Marxist development

Mao’s Intellectual Marxist development can be divided into five major periods: (1) The Initial Marxist Period from 1920–1926; (2) the formative Maoist period from 1927–1935; (3) the mature Maoist period from 1935–1940; (4) the civil war period from 1940–1949; and (5) the post-1949 period, following the revolutionary victory.

  1. The Initial Marxist Period from 1920–1926: Marxist thinking employs imminent socioeconomic explanations and Mao’s reasons were declarations of his enthusiasm. Mao did not believe that education alone would bring about the transition from capitalism to communism because of three main reasons. (1) Psychologically: the capitalists would not repent and turn towards communism on their own; (2) the rulers must be overthrown by the people; (3) “the proletarians are discontented, and a demand for communism has arisen and had already become a fact”.[10] These reasons do not provide socioeconomic explanations, which usually form the core of Marxist ideology.
  2. The Formative Maoist Period from 1927–1935: in this period, Mao avoided all theoretical implications in his literature and employed a minimum of Marxist category thought. His writings in this period failed to elaborate what he meant by the “Marxist method of political and class analysis”.[11] Prior to this period, Mao was concerned with the dichotomy between knowledge and action. He was more concerned with the dichotomy between revolutionary ideology and counter-revolutionary objective conditions. There was more correlation drawn between China and the Soviet model.
  3. The Mature Maoist Period from 1935–1940: intellectually, this was Mao’s most fruitful time. The shift of orientation was apparent in his pamphlet Strategic Problems of China’s Revolutionary War (December, 1936). “This pamphlet tried to provide a theoretical veneer for his concern with revolutionary practice”.[12] Mao started to separate from the Soviet model since it was not automatically applicable to China. China’s unique set of historical circumstances demanded a correspondingly unique application of Marxist theory, an application that would have to diverge from the Soviet approach.
  4. The Civil-War Period from 1940–1949: unlike the Mature period, this period was intellectually barren. Mao focused more on revolutionary practice and paid less attention to Marxist theory. “He continued to emphasize theory as practice-oriented knowledge”.[13] The biggest topic of theory he delved into was in connection with the Cheng Feng movement of 1942. It was here that Mao summarized the correlation between Marxist theory and Chinese practice; “The target is the Chinese revolution, the arrow is Marxism–Leninism. We Chinese communists seek this arrow for no other purpose than to hit the target of the Chinese revolution and the revolution of the east”.[13] The only new emphasis was Mao’s concern with two types of subjectivist deviation: (1) dogmatism, the excessive reliance upon abstract theory; (2) empiricism, excessive dependence on experience.
  5. The post-1949 period following the revolutionary victory: the victory of 1949 was to Mao a confirmation of theory and practice. “Optimism is the keynote to Mao’s intellectual orientation in the post-1949 period”.[14] Mao assertively revised theory to relate it to the new practice of socialist construction. These revisions are apparent in the 1951 version of On Contradiction. “In the 1930s, when Mao talked about contradiction, he meant the contradiction between subjective thought and objective reality. In Dialectal Materialism of 1940, he saw idealism and materialism as two possible correlations between subjective thought and objective reality. In the 1940s, he introduced no new elements into his understanding of the subject-object contradiction. In the 1951 version of On Contradiction, he saw contradiction as a universal principle underlying all processes of development, yet with each contradiction possessed of its own particularity”.[15]


New Democracy

The theory of the New Democracy was known to the Chinese revolutionaries from the late 1940s. This thesis held that for the majority of the people of the planet, the long road to socialism could only be opened by a “national, popular, democratic, anti-feudal and anti-imperialist revolution, run by the communists”.[16]

People’s war

Holding that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”,[17] Maoism emphasizes the “revolutionary struggle of the vast majority of people against the exploiting classes and their state structures”, which Mao termed a “people’s war”. Mobilizing large parts of rural populations to revolt against established institutions by engaging in guerrilla warfare, Maoist Thought focuses on “surrounding the cities from the countryside”.

Maoism views the industrial-rural divide as a major division exploited by capitalism, identifying capitalism as involving industrial urban developed First World societies ruling over rural developing Third World societies.[18] Maoism identifies peasant insurgencies in particular national contexts were part of a context of world revolution, in which Maoism views the global countryside would overwhelm the global cities.[19] Due to this imperialism by the capitalist urban First World towards the rural Third World, Maoism has endorsed national liberation movements in the Third World.[19]

Mass line

Contrary to the Leninist vanguard model employed by the Bolsheviks, the theory of the mass line holds that party must not be separate from the popular masses, either in policy or in revolutionary struggle. To conduct a successful revolution the needs and demands of the masses must be the most important issues.

Cultural Revolution

The theory of the Cultural Revolution states that the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat does not wipe out bourgeois ideology—the class-struggle continues and even intensifies during socialism, therefore a constant struggle against these ideologies and their social roots must be conducted. Cultural Revolution is directed also against traditionalism.


Mao drew from the writings of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin in elaborating his theory. Philosophically, his most important reflections emerge on the concept of “contradiction” (maodun). In two major essays, On Contradiction and On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People, he adopts the positivist-empiricist idea (shared by Engels) that contradiction is present in matter itself and thus also in the ideas of the brain. Matter always develops through a dialectical contradiction: “The interdependence of the contradictory aspects present in all things and the struggle between these aspects determine the life of things and push their development forward. There is nothing that does not contain contradiction; without contradiction nothing would exist”.[20]

Furthermore, each contradiction (including class struggle, the contradiction holding between relations of production and the concrete development of forces of production) expresses itself in a series of other contradictions, some dominant, others not. “There are many contradictions in the process of development of a complex thing, and one of them is necessarily the principal contradiction whose existence and development determine or influence the existence and development of the other contradictions”.[21]

Thus the principal contradiction should be tackled with priority when trying to make the basic contradiction “solidify”. Mao elaborates further on this theme in the essay On Practice, “on the relation between knowledge and practice, between knowing and doing”. Here, Practice connects “contradiction” with “class struggle” in the following way: Inside a mode of production, there are three realms where practice functions: economic production, scientific experimentation (which also takes place in economic production and should not be radically disconnected from the former) and finally class struggle. These may be considered the proper objects of economy, scientific knowledge and politics.[22]

These three spheres deal with matter in its various forms, socially mediated. As a result, they are the only realms where knowledge may arise (since truth and knowledge only make sense in relation to matter, according to Marxist epistemology). Mao emphasizes—like Marx in trying to confront the “bourgeois idealism” of his time—that knowledge must be based on empirical evidence.

Knowledge results from hypotheses verified in the contrast with a real object; this real object, despite being mediated by the subject’s theoretical frame, retains its materiality and will offer resistance to those ideas that do not conform to its truth. Thus in each of these realms (economic, scientific and political practice), contradictions (principle and secondary) must be identified, explored and put to function to achieve the communist goal. This involves the need to know, “scientifically”, how the masses produce (how they live, think and work), to obtain knowledge of how class struggle (the main contradiction that articulates a mode of production, in its various realms) expresses itself.

Mao held that contradictions were the most important feature of society and since society is dominated by a wide range of contradictions, this calls for a wide range of varying strategies. Revolution is necessary to fully resolve antagonistic contradictions such as those between labour and capital. Contradictions arising within the revolutionary movement call for ideological correction to prevent them from becoming antagonistic.

Three Worlds Theory

Three Worlds Theory states that during the Cold War two imperialist states formed the “first world”—the United States and the Soviet Union. The second world consisted of the other imperialist states in their spheres of influence. The third world consisted of the non-imperialist countries. Both the first and the second world exploit the third world, but the first world is the most aggressive party. The workers in the first and second world are “bought up” by imperialism, preventing socialist revolution. On the other hand, the people of the third world have not even a short-sighted interest in the prevailing circumstances, hence revolution is most likely to appear in third world countries, which again will weaken imperialism opening up for revolutions in other countries too.[23]

Agrarian socialism

Maoism departs from conventional European-inspired Marxism in that its focus is on the agrarian countryside, rather than the industrial urban forces—this is known as agrarian socialism. Notably, Maoist parties in Peru, Nepal and the Philippines have adopted equal stresses on urban and rural areas, depending on the country’s focus of economic activity. Maoism broke with the state capitalist[dubious ] framework of the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev, dismissing it as revisionist, a pejorative term among communists referring to those who fight for capitalism in the name of socialism and who depart from historical and dialectical materialism.

Although Maoism is critical of urban industrial capitalist powers, it views urban industrialization as a prerequisite to expand economic development and socialist reorganization to the countryside, with the goal being the achievement of rural industrialization that would abolish the distinction between town and countryside.[24]

Maoism in China

In its post-revolutionary period, Mao Zedong Thought is defined in the CPC’s Constitution as “Marxism–Leninism applied in a Chinese context”, synthesized by Mao and China’s “first-generation leaders”. It asserts that class struggle continues even if the proletariat has already overthrown the bourgeoisie and there are capitalist restorationist elements within the Communist Party itself. Maoism provided the CPC’s first comprehensive theoretical guideline with regards to how to continue socialist revolution, the creation of a socialist society, socialist military construction and highlights various contradictions in society to be addressed by what is termed “socialist construction”. While it continues to be lauded to be the major force that defeated “imperialism and feudalism” and created a “New China” by the Communist Party of China, the ideology survives only in name on the Communist Party’s Constitution as Deng Xiaoping abolished most Maoist practices in 1978, advancing a guiding ideology called “socialism with Chinese characteristics”.[25]

Maoism after Mao


Shortly after Mao’s death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping initiated socialist market reforms in 1978, thereby beginning the radical change in Mao’s ideology in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).[26] Although Mao Zedong Thought nominally remains the state ideology, Deng’s admonition to “seek truth from facts” means that state policies are judged on their practical consequences and in many areas the role of ideology in determining policy has thus been considerably reduced. Deng also separated Mao from Maoism, making it clear that Mao was fallible and hence the truth of Maoism comes from observing social consequences rather than by using Mao’s quotations as holy writ, as was done in Mao’s lifetime.[citation needed]

Contemporary Maoists in China criticize the social inequalities created by the revisionist Communist Party. Some Maoists say that Deng’s Reform and Opening economic policies that introduced market principles spelled the end of Maoism in China, although Deng himself asserted that his reforms were upholding Mao Zedong Thought in accelerating the output of the country’s productive forces.

In addition, the party constitution has been rewritten to give the socialist ideas of Deng prominence over those of Mao. One consequence of this is that groups outside China which describe themselves as Maoist generally regard China as having repudiated Maoism and restoring capitalism and there is a wide perception both inside and outside China that China has abandoned Maoism. However, while it is now permissible to question particular actions of Mao and talk about excesses taken in the name of Maoism, there is a prohibition in China on either publicly questioning the validity of Maoism or on questioning whether the current actions of the CPC are “Maoist”.

Although Mao Zedong Thought is still listed as one of the four cardinal principles of the People’s Republic of China, its historical role has been re-assessed. The Communist Party now says that Maoism was necessary to break China free from its feudal past, but it also says that the actions of Mao are seen to have led to excesses during the Cultural Revolution.[citation needed][27]

The official view is that China has now reached an economic and political stage, known as the primary stage of socialism, in which China faces new and different problems completely unforeseen by Mao and as such the solutions that Mao advocated are no longer relevant to China’s current conditions. The official proclamation of the new CPC stance came in June 1981, when the Sixth Plenum of the Eleventh National Party Congress Central Committee took place. The 35,000-word Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China reads:

Chief responsibility for the grave ‘Left’ error of the ‘cultural revolution,’ an error comprehensive in magnitude and protracted in duration, does indeed lie with Comrade Mao Zedong… [and] far from making a correct analysis of many problems, he confused right and wrong and the people with the enemy… herein lies his tragedy.[28]

Scholars outside China see this re-working of the definition of Maoism as providing an ideological justification for what they see as the restoration of the essentials of capitalism in China by Deng and his successors, who sought to “eradicate all ideological and physiological obstacles to economic reform”.[29] In 1978, this led to the Sino-Albanian split when Albanian leader Enver Hoxha denounced Deng as a revisionist and formed Hoxhaism as an anti-revisionist form of Marxism.

Tiananmen with a portrait of Mao Zedong

Mao himself is officially regarded by the CPC as a “great revolutionary leader” for his role in fighting against the Japanese fascist invasion during the Second World War and creating the People’s Republic of China, but Maoism as implemented between 1959 and 1976 is regarded by today’s CPC as an economic and political disaster. In Deng’s day, support of radical Maoism was regarded as a form of “left deviationism” and being based on a cult of personality, although these “errors” are officially attributed to the Gang of Four rather than being attributed to Mao himself.[30] Thousands of Maoists were arrested in the Hua Guofeng period after 1976. The prominent Maoists Zhang Chunqiao and Jiang Qing were sentenced to death with a two-year-reprieve while some others were sentenced to life imprisonment or imprisonment for 15 years.


After the death of Mao in 1976 and the resulting power-struggles in China that followed, the international Maoist movement was divided into three camps. One group, composed of various ideologically nonaligned groups, gave weak support to the new Chinese leadership under Deng Xiaoping. Another camp denounced the new leadership as traitors to the cause of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. The third camp sided with the Albanians in denouncing the Three Worlds Theory of the CPC (see Sino-Albanian split).

Though initially praising the Soviet Union prior to, during and shortly after the Cuban Revolution, Che Guevara later came out in support of Maoism and advocated the adoption of the ideology throughout Latin America.[citation needed] The pro-Albanian camp would start to function as an international group as well[31] (led by Enver Hoxha and the APL) and was also able to amalgamate many of the communist groups in Latin America, including the Communist Party of Brazil and the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party in Ecuador. Later, Latin American Communists such as Peru’s Shining Path also embraced the tenets of Maoism.

The new Chinese leadership showed little interest in the various foreign groups supporting Mao’s China. Many of the foreign parties that were fraternal parties aligned with the Chinese government before 1975 either disbanded, abandoned the new Chinese government entirely, or even renounced Marxism–Leninism and developed into non-communist, social democratic parties. What is today called the “international Maoist movement” evolved out of the second camp—the parties that opposed Deng and said they upheld the true legacy of Mao.

Maoism’s international influence

Maoist leader Prachanda speaking at a rally in Pokhara, Nepal

From 1962 onwards, the challenge to the Soviet hegemony in the world communist movement made by the CPC resulted in various divisions in communist parties around the world. At an early stage,[citation needed] the Albanian Party of Labour sided with the CPC. So did many of the mainstream (non-splinter group) Communist parties in South-East Asia, like the Burmese Communist Party, Communist Party of Thailand and Communist Party of Indonesia. Some Asian parties, like the Workers Party of Vietnam and the Workers Party of Korea attempted to take a middle-ground position.

The Khmer Rouge of Cambodia is said to have been a replica of the Maoist regime. According to the BBC, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) in Cambodia, better known as the Khmer Rouge, identified strongly with Maoism and it is generally labeled a Maoist movement today.[32][33] Maoists (and Marxists generally) contend that the CPK strongly deviated from Marxist doctrine and the few references to Maoist China in CPK propaganda were critical of the Chinese.[34]

In the west and south, a plethora of parties and organizations were formed that upheld links to the CPC. Often they took names such as Communist Party (Marxist–Leninist) or Revolutionary Communist Party to distinguish themselves from the traditional pro-Soviet communist parties. The pro-CPC movements were in many cases based among the wave of student radicalism that engulfed the world in the 1960s and 1970s.

Only one Western classic communist party sided with the CPC, the Communist Party of New Zealand. Under the leadership of the CPC and Mao Zedong, a parallel international communist movement emerged to rival that of the Soviets, although it was never as formalized and homogeneous as the pro-Soviet tendency.


The Progressive Youth Organization was a Maoist organization in Afghanistan. It was founded in 1965 with Akram Yari as its first leader, advocating the overthrow of the then-current order by means of people’s war.


Purba Banglar Sarbahara Party is a Maoist party in Bangladesh. It was founded in 1968 with Siraj Sikder as its first leader. The party played a role in the Bangladesh Liberation War.


The Sino-Soviet split had an important influence on communism in Belgium. The pro-Soviet Communist Party of Belgium experienced a split of a Maoist wing under Jacques Grippa. The latter was a lower-ranking CPB member before the split, but Grippa rose in prominence as he formed a worthy internal Maoist opponent to the CPB leadership. His followers where sometimes referred to as “Grippisten/Grippistes”. When it became clear that the differences between the pro-Moscow leadership and the pro-Beijing wing were too great, Grippa and his entourage decided to split from the CPB and formed the Communist Party of Belgium – Marxist–Leninist (PCBML). The PCBML had some influence, mostly in the heavily industrialized Borinage region of Wallonia, but never managed to gather more support than the CPB. The latter held most of its leadership and base within the pro-Soviet camp. However, the PCBML was the first European Maoist party that was officially recognized as a sister-party of the CPC by Beijing.[citation needed]

Though the PCBML never really gained a foothold in Flanders, there was a reasonably successful Maoist movement in this region. Out of the student unions that formed in the wake of the May 1968 protests, Alle Macht Aan De Arbeiders (AMADA) or All Power To The Workers, was formed as a vanguard party-under-construction. This Maoist group originated mostly out of students from the universities of Leuven and Ghent, but did manage to gain some influence among the striking miners during the shut-downs of the Belgian stonecoal mines in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This group became the Workers’ Party of Belgium (WPB) in 1979 and still exists today, although its power base has shifted somewhat from Flanders towards Wallonia. The WPB stayed loyal to the teachings of Mao for a long time, but after a general congress held in 2008 the party formally broke with its Maoist/Stalinist past.[35]


The Communist Party of Ecuador – Red Sun, also known as Puka Inti, is a small Maoist guerrilla organization in Ecuador.


Communist Party of India (Maoist) is the leading Maoist organisation in India. Two major political groupings owing allegiance to Mao Tse Tung’s ideas — Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) People’s War and Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) — merged on on 21 September 2004 to form Communist Party of India (Maoist).


Union of Iranian Communists (Sarbedaran) was an Iran Maoist organization. UIC (S) was formed in 1976 after the alliance of a number of Maoist groups carrying out military actions within Iran. In 1982, the UIC (S) mobilized forces in forests around Amol and launched an insurgency against the Islamist Government. The uprising was eventually a failure and many UIC (S) leaders were shot.


The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a Maoist political and military organization. The DFLP’s original political orientation was based on the view that Palestinian national goals could be achieved only through revolution of the masses and people’s war.


The flag of FP-25

Maoist movements in Portugal were very active during the 1970s, especially during the Carnation Revolution that led to the fall of the fascist government the Estado Novo in 1974.

The largest Maoist movement in Portugal was the Portuguese Workers’ Communist Party. The party was among the most active resistance movements before the Portuguese democratic revolution of 1974, especially among students of Lisbon. After the revolution, the MRPP achieved fame for its large and highly artistic mural paintings.

Intensely active during 1974 and 1975, during that time the party had members that later came to be very important in national politics. For example, a future Prime Minister of Portugal, José Manuel Durão Barroso was active within Maoist movements in Portugal and identified as a Maoist. In the 1980s, the Forças Populares 25 de Abril was another far-left Maoist armed organization operating in Portugal between 1980 and 1987 with the goal of creating socialism in post-Carnation Revolution Portugal.

United States

In the United States during the late 1960s, parts of the emerging New Left rejected the Marxism espoused by the Soviet Union and instead adopted pro-Chinese communism.

The Black Panther Party, especially under the leadership of Huey Newton, was influenced by Mao Zedong’s ideas. Into the 1970s, Maoists in the United States, e.g. Maoist representative Jon Lux, formed a large part of the New Communist movement.

The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA is also a Maoist movement.


The Communist Party of Spain (Reconstituted) was a Spanish clandestine Maoist party. The armed wing of the party was First of October Anti-Fascist Resistance Groups.


Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist–Leninist (TKP/ML) is a Maoist organization in Turkey currently waging a people’s war against the Turkish government. It was founded in 1972 with İbrahim Kaypakkaya as its first leader. The armed wing of the party is named the Workers’ and Peasants’ Liberation Army in Turkey (TIKKO).

Maoist organizations

Various efforts have sought to regroup the international communist movement under Maoism since the time of Mao’s death in 1976.

Another effort at regrouping the international communist movement is the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO). Three notable parties that participate in the ICMLPO are the Marxist–Leninist Party of Germany (MLPD), the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and Marxist–Leninist Communist Organization – Proletarian Way. The ICMLPO seeks to unity around Marxism-Leninism, not Maoism. However, some of the parties and organizations within the ICMLPO identify as Mao Zedong Thought or Maoist.

Criticisms and interpretations

Maoism has fallen out of favour within the Communist Party of China, beginning with Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in 1978. Deng believed that Maoism showed the dangers of “ultra-leftism”, manifested in the harm perpetrated by the various mass movements that characterized the Maoist era. In Chinese communism, the term “left” can be taken as a euphemism for Maoist policies. However, Deng stated that the revolutionary side of Maoism should be considered separate from the governance side, leading to his famous epithet that Mao was “70% right, 30% wrong”.[36] Chinese scholars generally agree that Deng’s interpretation of Maoism preserves the legitimacy of Communist rule in China, but at the same time criticizes Mao’s brand of economic and political governance.

Critic Graham Young says that Maoists see Joseph Stalin as the last true socialist leader of the Soviet Union, but allows that the Maoist assessments of Stalin vary between the extremely positive and the more ambivalent.[37] Some political philosophers, such as Martin Cohen, have seen in Maoism an attempt to combine Confucianism and socialism—what one such called “a third way between communism and capitalism”.[38]

Enver Hoxha critiqued Maoism from a Marxist–Leninist perspective, arguing that New Democracy halts class struggle, the theory of the three worlds is “counter-revolutionary” and questioned Mao’s guerilla warfare methods.

Some say Mao departed from Leninism not only in his near-total lack of interest in the urban working class, but also in his concept of the nature and role of the party. For Lenin, the party was sacrosanct because it was the incarnation of the “proletarian consciousness” and there was no question about who were the teachers and who were the pupils. On the other hand, for Mao this question would always be virtually impossible to answer.[39]

The implementation of Maoist thought in China was arguably responsible for as many as 70 million deaths during peacetime,[40][41] with the Cultural Revolution, Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957–1958[42] and the Great Leap Forward. Some historians have argued that because of Mao’s land reforms during the Great Leap Forward, which resulted in famines, thirty million perished between 1958 and 1961. By the end of 1961, the birth rate was nearly cut in half because of malnutrition.[43] Active campaigns, including party purges and “reeducation” resulted in imprisonment and/or the execution of those deemed contrary to the implementation of Maoist ideals.[44] The incidents of destruction of cultural heritage, religion and art remain controversial. Some Western scholars saw Maoism specifically engaged in a battle to dominate and subdue nature and was a catastrophe for the environment.[45]


Mao also believed strongly in the concept of a unified people. These notions were what prompted him to investigate the peasant uprisings in Hunan while the rest of China’s communists were in the cities and focused on the orthodox Marxist proletariat.[46] Many of the pillars of Maoism such as the distrust of intellectuals and the abhorrence of occupational specialty are typical populist ideas.[6] The concept of “People’s War” which is so central to Maoist thought is directly populist in its origins. Mao believed that intellectuals and party cadres had to become first students of the masses to become teachers of the masses later. This concept was vital to the strategy of the “People’s War”.[6]


Mao’s nationalist impulses also played a crucially important role in the adaption of Marxism to the Chinese model and in the formation of Maoism.[47] Mao truly believed that China was to play a crucial preliminary role in the socialist revolution internationally. This belief, or the fervor with which Mao held it, separated Mao from the other Chinese communists and led Mao onto the path of what Leon Trotsky called “Messianic Revolutionary Nationalism”, which was central to his personal philosophy. German post–World War II Strasserist Michael Kühnen, himself a former Maoist, once praised Maoism as being a Chinese form of national socialism.[48]

See also

  • Asiatic mode of production
  • Cult of personality
  • Deng Xiaoping Theory
  • History of the People’s Republic of China
  • Marxism–Leninism
  • Marxism–Leninism–Maoism
  • New Left in China
  • Three Represents
  • Scientific Outlook on Development
  • Xi Jinping Thought


  1. ^ Meisner, Maurice (Jan–Mar 1971). “Leninism and Maoism: Some Populist Perspectives on Marxism-Leninism in China”. The China Quarterly. 45: 2–36 – via JSTOR.CS1 maint: Date format (link) .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  2. ^ Meisner, Maurice. Mao’s China and After. New York: Free Press, 1999. pp. 12–16.
  3. ^ Meisner, Maurice. Mao’s China and After. New York: Free Press, 1999. p. 10.
  4. ^ Meisner, Maurice. Mao’s China and After. New York: Free Press, 1999. p. 11.
  5. ^ abc Meisner, Maurice. Mao’s China and After. New York: Free Press, 1999. p. 14.
  6. ^ abc Meisner, Maurice. Mao’s China and After. New York: Free Press, 1999. p. 44.
  7. ^ abc Meisner, Maurice. Mao’s China and After. New York: Free Press, 1999. p. 17.
  8. ^ ab Meisner, Maurice. Mao’s China and After. New York: Free Press, 1999. p. 18.
  9. ^ abc Meisner, Maurice. Mao’s China and After. New York: Free Press, 1999. p. 45.
  10. ^ Lowe, Donald M. The Function of “China” in Marx, Lenin, and Mao. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966. p. 109.
  11. ^ Lowe, Donald M. The Function of “China” in Marx, Lenin, and Mao. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966. p. 111.
  12. ^ Lowe, Donald M. The Function of “China” in Marx, Lenin, and Mao. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966. p. 113.
  13. ^ ab Lowe, Donald M. The Function of “China” in Marx, Lenin, and Mao. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966. p. 117.
  14. ^ Lowe, Donald M. The Function of “China” in Marx, Lenin, and Mao. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966. p. 118.
  15. ^ Lowe, Donald M. The Function of “China” in Marx, Lenin, and Mao. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966. p. 119.
  16. ^ Amin, Samir (October 2009). “The Countries of the South Must Take Their Own Independent Initiatives”. The Third World Forum. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  17. ^ “Quotations From Chairman Mao”. Peking Foreign Languages Press. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  18. ^ Alexander C. Cook, “Third World Maoism” in A Critical Introduction to Mao. Cambridge, England, UK; New York, New York, USA: Cambridge University, 2011. p. 290.
  19. ^ ab Alexander C. Cook, “Third World Maoism” in A Critical Introduction to Mao. Cambridge, England, UK; New York, New York, USA, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 289–290.
  20. ^ Mao Tse Tung, “On contradiction”, Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Foreign Language Press, Peking, 1967, p. 75, or
  21. ^ Mao Tse-Tung, “On contradiction”, Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tse-Tung, op. cit., p. 89, or
  22. ^ Cfr. Mao Tse-Tung, “On practice. On the relation between knowledge and practice, between knowing and doing”, Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tse-Tung, op.cit., p. 55: “Man’s social practice is not confined to activity in production, but takes many forms—class struggle, political life, scientific and artistic pursuits; in short, as a social being, man participates in all spheres of the practical life of society. Thus man, in varying degrees, comes to know the different relations between man and man, not only through his material life but also though his political and cultural life (both of which are intimately bound up with material life)”, or
  23. ^ Maoism Glossary of Terms, Encyclopedia of Marxism
  24. ^ John H. Badgley, John Wilson Lewis. Peasant Rebellion and Communist Revolution in Asia. Stanford, California, USA: Stanford University Press, 1974. p. 249.
  25. ^ “Xinhua: Constitution of the Communist Party of China”. Archived from the original on 17 October 2011. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
  26. ^ “UC Berkeley Journalism -Faculty – Deng’s Revolution”. Archived from the original on 4 January 2009. Retrieved 22 August 2007.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  27. ^ “Exploring Chinese History :: Culture :: Philosophy :: Maoism”. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  28. ^ “China the Four Modernizations, 1979-82”. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
  29. ^ S. Zhao, “A State-Led Nationalism: The Patriotic Education Campaign in Post-Tiananmen China”, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 1998, 31(3): p. 288.
  30. ^ For a newest expression of the official judgment see 中国共产党历史第二卷下册,中共中央党史研究室著,中共党史出版社,第二八章对”文化大革命”十年的基本分析(History of China Communist Party, Vol. 2, Party History Research Centre (November 2010), Chap. 28 Analysis on Cultural Revolution).
  31. ^ Latham, Judith (19 August 2010). “Roma of the former Yugoslavia”. The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity (of Nationalities Papers). 27, 1999 (2): 205–226. doi:10.1080/009059999109037. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  32. ^ “Khmer Rouge Duch trial nears end”. BBC News. 23 November 2009. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  33. ^ [1] Archived 29 November 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  34. ^ “What Went Wrong with the Pol Pot Regime”. Archived from the original on 10 August 2011. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
  35. ^ D., VAN HERREWEGEN, De verdeeldheid van radicaal-links in Vlaanderen: De strategische -en praktische breuklijnen tussen AMADA, de KPB en de RAL tussen 1969-1972, Unpublished masterpaper, Department of History, 25–29.
  36. ^ “70 per cent good, 30 per cent bad”.
  37. ^ Graham Young, On Socialist Development and the Two Roads, The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, No. 8 (July 1982), pp. 75–84, doi:10.2307/2158927.
  38. ^ Political Philosophy from Plato to Mao, by Martin Cohen, p. 206, published 2001 by Pluto Press, London and Sterling VA
    ISBN 0-7453-1603-4.
  39. ^ “Meisner, Maurice. Mao’s China and After. New York: Free Press, 1999. p. 44.
  40. ^ Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Untold Story (Jonathan Cape, 2005) p. 3.
  41. ^ policy autumn 06_Edit5.indd Archived 16 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  42. ^ Teiwes, Frederick C., and Warren Sun. 1999. ‘China’s road to disaster: Mao, central politicians, and provincial leaders in the unfolding of the great leap forward, 1955-1959. Contemporary China papers. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe. pp. 52–55.
  43. ^ MacFarquhar, Roderick. 1974. The origins of the Cultural Revolution. London: Published for Royal Institute of International Affairs, East Asian Institute of Columbia University and Research Institute on Communist Affairs of Columbia by Oxford University Press. p. 4.
  44. ^ Link, Perry (18 July 2007). “Legacy Of a Maoist Injustice”. The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  45. ^ Judith Shapiro, Mao’s War Against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China, 2001, Cambridge University Press, p. 306,
    ISBN 0521786800.
  46. ^ Meisner, Maurice. Mao’s China and After. New York: Free Press, 1999. p. 43.
  47. ^ Meisner, Maurice. Mao’s China and After. New York: Free Press, 1999. p. 42.
  48. ^ Lee, Martin A. The Beast Reawakens: Fascism’s Resurgence from Hitler’s Spymasters to Today, 2013. p. 195.

Further reading

  • Marxism in the Chinese Revolution by Arif Dirlik.
  • Rethinking Mao: Explorations in Mao Zedong’s Thought by Nick Knight.
  • The Function of “China” in Marx, Lenin, and Mao by Donald Lowe.
  • Li Ta-chao and the Origins of Chinese Marxism by Maurice Meisner.
  • Mao’s China and After by Maurice Mesiner.
  • The Political Thought of Mao Tse-Tung by Stuart Schram.
  • Mao Tse-Tung, The Marxist Lord of Misrule. On Practice and Contradiction by Slavoj Zizek.
  • Gregor, A. James and Maria Hsia Chang. “Maoism and Marxism in Comparative Perspective.” The Review of Politics. Cambridge University Press for the University of Notre Dame du Lac on behalf of Review of Politics. Vol. 40, No. 3, July 1978. pp. 307–327. Available at Jstor.
  • Meisner, Maurice. “Leninism and Maoism: Some Populist Perspectives on Marxism-Leninism in China.” The China Quarterly. Cambridge University Press on behalf of the School of Oriental and African Studies. No. 45, January – March 1971. p. 2–36. Available at Jstor.
  • Steiner, H. Arthur. “Maoism or Stalinism for Asia?” Far Eastern Survey. Institute of Pacific Relations. Vol. 22, No. 1, January 14, 1953. p. 1–5. Available at Jstor.
  • Lee Feigon, “Mao, A Reinterpretation” Ivan R. Dee, Publisher.
  • Mao Tse-Tung Unrehearsed by Stuart Schram (Pelican).

External links

.mw-parser-output .refbegin{font-size:90%;margin-bottom:0.5em}.mw-parser-output .refbegin-hanging-indents>ul{list-style-type:none;margin-left:0}.mw-parser-output .refbegin-hanging-indents>ul>li,.mw-parser-output .refbegin-hanging-indents>dl>dd{margin-left:0;padding-left:3.2em;text-indent:-3.2em;list-style:none}.mw-parser-output .refbegin-100{font-size:100%}

  • Maoism at Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • Guiding thought of revolution: the heart of Maoism international project.
  • Mao Internet Library.
  • The Encyclopedia of Marxism Mao Zedong Thought.
  • The Encyclopedia of Marxism Mao’s life.
  • Monthly Review January 2005 Text of the leaflets distributed by the Zhengzhou Four.
  • World Revolution Media Maoist revolutionary film, music and art archive.
  • Batchelor, J. Maoism and Classical Marxism, Clio History Journal, 2009.
  • A new economic study says China could grow more quickly by 2036 if Chairman Mao’s policies were brought back. Business Insider. 10 August 2015.