Reaching Out: Global Maoism


begin with a quote“The World’s Revolutionary People Love to Listen to Radio Peking”


1966.  Overseas listeners, Peking Review reported in the hyperbole of the time,

listen attentively to the voice of Mao Tse-tung’s thought being broadcast from Peking. They say that they love listening to the Peking broadcasts and they regard this as being as important as eating.”

Radio Peking Peking Review #51 December 16 1966.

selected readings

Throughout the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese media outlets would carry reports quoting foreign friends as testimony that “We, the oppressed people, place on China our hope for the victory of the world revolution”. China’s propaganda, thus, espouses both a nationalist and an internationalist spirit.

How did Maoism reach such a global audience at a time and when China’s withdrawal of diplomatic missions marked an inward period? It still reached out and found willing political tourists, its messages beamed across the airwaves and propaganda was airmail worldwide as demonstrated in Evan Smith’s survey “Peking Review and global anti-imperialist networks in the 1960s” and  in  Cagdas Ungor’s  ‘Reaching the Distant Comrade: Chinese Communist Propaganda Abroad (1949-1976). The word and the deed inspires vanguard aspirations in others, for example, as discussed in Megan Ferry’s article China as Utopia: Visions of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in Latin America. Modern Chinese Literature & Culture Vol.12 No.2 (Fall 2000) pp236-269


Frequent articles appeared that informed the Chinese people that the world shared their love and admiration for the Chairman. This material supported China’s claim as the legitimate inheritor of Marxist-Leninist Thought and China as the world leader of revolutionary Marxism as enhanced by Mao. The main themes, expressed through the articles headlines, emphasized the international relevance and revolutionary advance that Mao Tse-tung’s Thought had as an ideological “spiritual atom bomb”.  As People’s Daily editor argued “Mao Tse-tung’s Thought [was a] Beacon of revolution for the World’s People”

“People throughout the world, and particularly the Asian, African and Latin American peoples, are passing through different stages of revolutionary struggle. They see in the brilliant example of the Chinese revolution their own future and firmly believe that Mao Tse-tung’s thought is the guide to world revolution. The revolutionary people in different countries earnestly desire to grasp Mao Tse-tung’s thought and to apply Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s revolutionary theories to their revolutionary struggles. Mao Tse-tung’s thought is having an even greater and more profound influence throughout the world, and the world revolution will win still greater victories.”

[Peking Review #24 June 10th 1966]

There were frantic efforts to support the phenomenal propaganda in the struggle to build the dissemination and distribution of knowledge. Often formulaic in tone incorporated textual and visual propaganda – China Pictorial and China Reconstructs alongside Peking Review, the revolutionary images in posters and papercuts, and whilst not unique to any one political Mao sketchtendency the use of iconographic embolismic images to signal political allegiance resonates into the contemporary world. Mao idolised in a doctrinaire way, at the expense of a revolutionary engagement, to be ‘on message’

Circulated by overseas groups and radical bookshops, not only as an act of solidarity but , as the 1977 slogan for London-based New Era Books put it, as “a propaganda weapon to build the revolutionary party” as it sold the ideology of the Chinese revolution as its own.

Chinese publications market internationally the unambiguous idea of revolutionary leadership and ideology rooted in the Chinese experience and achievement – at that time its highest expression was the Cultural Revolution.

The radical rhetoric of Ch’en Po-ta (1904–1989 : Chen Boda) personal research assistant and secretary to Mao Zedong, editor of the party journal Red Flag, Politburo member ludicrously denounced at the 10th Party Congress in 1973 as a ‘revisionist secret agent’ for his associations with Lin Biao, promoted all those elements associated with contemporary Maoism. The report delivered by Lin Piao in 1965 “Long Live the Victory of the People’s War!” championed the global peasantry taking on the industrially developed world recasting the world revolution in third wordlist terms.

Mao's Gang of Four

Figure 1 Mao’s Gang of Four: Zhou, Lin, Chen, Kang

Julia Lovell, Maoism A Global History (Bodley Head 2019) challenges the side-lining of global Maoism and its enduring appeal beyond China. Adherents outside China took seriously the message that China was the political centre of world revolution. For some militants it proved also to be its military and technical centre through the training they received.

Promoting revolution, the CPC’s International Liaison Department globalisation of Maoist thought under Kang Sheng oversaw the provision of revolutionary ideas, strategies, money and weapons to revolutionary insurgencies; he met worshipful western Maoists in Beijing and funnelled cash through Albania, and according to Lovell’s reading of secondary sources, provided intelligence to the communists in Cambodia .

China provided Radio stations – Voice of Thailand/Malaysia set in southern China and championed anti-imperialism defiance of colonialism through the institutions of Nanjing Military Academy – guerrilla training –for Zanla’s outstanding military leader Josiah Tongogara and the Tanzania camps with Chinese instructors, and Beijing’s Yafeila Peixun Zhongxin – the Asian, African and Latin American training centre near the Imperial Summer Palace – Lovell suggests its graduates include Saloth Sar and Abimael Guzman. There was Soviet precedent: the Communist University for the Toilers of the East in the Soviet Union had trained activists from the region, among them Ho Chi Minh.

“October 1949 may prove more significant that October  1917”

images (1)

“the thought of Mao is the most powerful ideological weapon to defeat the enemy, and Mao Tse-tung is the Lenin of the present era.”

Mao Tse-tung’s Thought Lights the Whole World”. Peking Review #15 1967 p17

Common sentiments expressed were that Mao was “the greatest Marxist-Leninist of our time”,Chairman Mao has carried Marxism-Leninism forward to an entirely new stage”, as for Mao Tse-tung Thought: “It is living Marxism-Leninism at its highest. Standing in the forefront of our epoch” in fact “a work of genius”. Back in 1966, the only thing it wasn’t called was “Maoism”.

The Brilliance of Mao Tse-tung’s Thought  Peking Review, Vol. 9, #27, July 1, 1966

The Brilliance of Mao Tse-tung’s Thought Illuminates the Whole World Peking Review #24 June 10th 1966

“Mao Tse-tung’s Thought – Beacon of Revolution for the World’s People” Peking Review #25 June 17th 1966

Chairman Mao is the Red Sun in the Hearts of the People of the World’, Peking Review, 22 July, 1966

The World’s Revolutionary People Ardently Love Chairman Mao Peking Review September 23 1966

The Hearts of the World’s Revolutionary People Are With Chairman Mao Peking Review #42 October 14 1966

The Radiance of Mao Tse-tung’s Thought Shines Far and Wide Peking Review #44 October 28th 1966

The World’s Revolutionary People Hail China’s
Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Peking Review Vol. 9 No 40  Sept. 30, 1966

Mao Tse-tung’s Thought Guides Advance Of World’s Revolutionary People Peking Review #50 December 9, 1966

Mao Tse-tung’s Thought Guides Advance of World’s Revolutionary People Peking Review #49 December 2nd 1966

The Hearts of the World’s Revolutionory People Are With Chairman Mao Peking Review #43 October 21, 1966

The Hearts of the World’s Revolutionary People Are With Chairman Mao Peking Review #42 October 14, 1966

One of the points hammered home in Julia Lovell’s “Maoism: a global history” was demonstratively obvious at the time:

“Maoism contains within it ideas that have exerted an extraordinary tenacity and ability to travel, that have put down roots in terrains culturally and geographically far removed from that of China.”

The transnational dimensions of the revolutionary visions that came out of China in the 1960s/70s have an enduring appeal still seen in the revolutionary hotspots in the contemporary world but still people talk in terms of the theme of ‘global Maoism’ in the absence of coherent institutional structures or programmatic unity. Lovell argues that the global spread and importance of Mao and his ideas in the contemporary history of radicalism are only dimly sensed as existing secondary material fails to synthesis and explain the legacies of Maoism throughout the world. Her engaging narrative aims to recast Maoism as one of the major stories of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. However this is not an account by a Marxist sympathiser or Maophile:

Maoism in this book is an umbrella word for the wide range of theory and practice attributed to Mao and his influence over the past eighty years. … this term is useful only if we accept that the ideas and experiences it describes are living and changing, have been translated and mistranslated, both during and after Mao’s lifetime, and on their journeys within and without China.

mao wave

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