[Marxism] Question: Maoism and Confucianism?

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Thu Apr 29 11:24:48 MDT 2004

Arlyn Cyncad wrote:
> I have a specific question about Maoism. 

The term "Maoism," I believe, negates everything that marxists of other
times and places can learn from Mao and the history of the Chinese
Revolution. That is, at least up to the latter years of Mao's life,
"thought" as in Mao-thought meant something rather different from the
"ism" in Marxism-Leninism. (I've often thought there would be a gain for
marxists if "Lenin thought" were to replace "Leninism" in our own
political thought.) The "ism" (or the Chinese equivalent of it) lays
claim to a sort of universalism (at least over a major historical
epoch), transcending borders. "Thought" in the theory and practice of
the CPC was the manifestation within the specific conditions of the
Chinese revolution of the 'universal' principles of marxism. This may
have had its origin in the particular need both to 'swear allegiance' to
the Comintern under Stalin and also to maintain political independence
to respond to Chinese conditions. But Mao apparently took it seriously
at least as late as the early '70s, when he inquired of a visiting u.s.
physicist if American scientists distinguished between thought and
theory. A few years ago when I mentioned this on another list, someone
from MIM or RIM claimed that at some point the CPC had changed this. It
makes sense to me, however, and I think gives a better grip on the
events of the Chinese Revolution and on reading Mao's works than does
the assumption that there is some theory called "Maoism."

>I've heard
> tell that Mao adopted, or infused Marxism with
> Confucianism.  Could anyone explain to me how/why this
> was done, if this is indeed the case?

I have no particular knowledge of this; some capitalist scholars,
however, have attempted to treat Mao as just one more Chinese Emperor,
and that could lead to associating his thought with the Confucian

> Also, what are the basic premises of Maoism as opposed
> to, say, Trotskyism?  In other words, how is Maoism
> different from Trotskyism?

I don't think this is a useful question. Small groups on the margins of
the left are apt to drift towards various forms of left opportunism,
resulting in a determination to keep _their_ brand of marxism unsullied.
(Someone once remarked that right opportunists treat enemies as friends;
left opportunists treat friends as enemies.)

It is worthwhile (I think) reading Mao extensively and intensively, but
I think one goes astray in looking for some general theory there. For
example, the United Front, which was central to Mao's revolutionary
thinking, makes little sense shifted to a nation in which peasants are
not a large majority.


P.S. The disasters that can accompany following "Maoism" rather than
studying Mao thought are manifested in the "Theory of the Three Worlds,"
a Chinese attempt to extend the practice of the Chinese Revolution to
the global revolution, with the Soviet Union idenfied as playing the
role that the Axis had in the 1930s and 1940s. You can see a sort of
echo of that silliness in the slogan John Lacny is throwing around on
other lists as he pushes his ABB position: "People of the US, unite and
defeat the Bush regime and all its running dogs!" Trace that back and
you will find that the original named the Japanese invaders of

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