150. Problems in Reading Mao

I Volume IX

Planning to release the 2nd edition of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong, Volume IX, the Paris-based publishing house Foreign Language Press “discovered some surprises in our endeavour to put out the best text we could.” [i]

They encountered issues of scholarship that are tackled in any intellectual production from the simplest blog to the authority in the field: can the reader trust the text? There are always caveats in any approach to reading that question its reliability, accuracy, value and purpose. Some of the concerns raised in an earlier posting Reading Mao but dealt with in a more focus and informative manner by the FLP editors.

II Authenticity

Despite his charismatic authority and creative Marxism, Mao frequently acknowledged he was no superman and worked with and through others as the collective development of ideas, the collective editing and bureaucratic, as well as personal, approval before publication under Mao’s name illustrated. Many academics drawn to textual analysis and comparison, often preoccupied with the differences between the ‘speaking notes’ and the official version, have commented on this collective production in the evaluation of the work of Mao Zedong. Such collaboration, commonplace if hidden and seldom advertised, produces an intellectual co-operation that lies behind influential work[ii]  as in the critique of Soviet economics attributed to Mao that emerged in 1967. As Timothy Cheek noted these “are Hu Sheng’s notes from Mao’s 1960 study group – Hu Sheng rearranged Mao’s comments and added sub-headings; Mao never reviewed them.” [iii]

Scott Harrison makes available the translated, and Chinese edition of the text. He notes the “standard” Monthly Review English language version many of Mao’s comments to comrades about Soviet economics are not included along with the notes he made while reading the Soviet textbook. This explains why this English language book are so much shorter than even the “Short” Chinese language edition.

Deng Liqun, who prepared the original “Short” Chinese edition, included all of Mao’s comments, but much shorter extracts from the full Soviet texts that Mao was criticizing. Like the attribution to Hu Sheng, Deng Liquin’s text was edited based on his extensive conversations with Mao. 

As with anything published under Mao’s name, Harrison says questions have also been raised about the accuracy of the translations of Mao’s comments in some places. Part of the process of how these texts were produced, basically somebody’s edited notes or minutes of recorded talk and conversations involving Mao, rather than by his hand, serves to illustrate why so much attention was given in the production of officially released work of Mao Zedong.

When Mao spoke publically, he spoke for the party .The gonzo culture of western political reporting with its proliferation of politician’s arbitrary comments, political leaks and ill-thought out boasts was alien to the Chinese political process. The emergence of unauthorised raw texts, uncensored and not necessarily prepared by Mao himself excited sinologists and raised the issue of authenticity and ownership. There is the argument that the only authorised work of Mao Zedong is that released during his lifetime – the first four volumes of Selected Works, the Selected Readings and military essays released by Mao. His best-selling Quotations – The little Red Book of popular culture – was published under the direction and guidance of Lin Biao and like any other text somebody’s political interpretation by selection of the compilations of texts presented.

 Authorised English language edition

Selected Readings           (1971) 1926 -1965

Volume 1                              (1975) 1926-1937

Volume 2                             (1967) 1937- 1941

Volume 3                              (1975) 1941 -1945

Volume 4                             (1969) 1945 – 1949

Volume 5                             (1977) 1949 -1957

On Diplomacy                   (1998) 1938 – 1974

 Some would advise readers to use some appropriate caution with the last two volume, considering that those who produced it were leading China back to capitalism by this time. Those who thought that the Chinese revisionists would not be publishing more of Chairman Mao’s Selected Works (or that they couldn’t be trusted if they did) had attempts to try to determine what might have been produced from the material that had emerged unofficially during the Cultural Revolution. In the publication of four  further (unofficial) volumes of Selected Works, these Indian compilations, partially utilising the work of Stuart Scram, pioneered the popularisation of Mao before what was, mainly consumed by academics, the steady authorised release of material from the post-Mao regime.

                   Unauthorised additions to the published series

Subsequent volumes of Selected Works published in India in the 1990s by Kranti Publications,
Secunderabad, and Sramikavarga Prachuranalu, Hyderabad. Second editions by Foreign Language Press, Paris. 2020/21

Volume 6                             1917 -1946          

Volume 7                              1947 – 1957

Volume 8                             1958 – 1962

Volume 9                             1963 – 1970

Kranti Publications/ Foreign Language Press (Paris) drew upon variety unauthorised sources to continue the series Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung. Other compilations of work attributed to Mao were published by western publishers, notable Mao Tsetung Unrehearsed (1974) 1956 – 1971 compiled and translated by Stuart Schram that utilised the sixiang wansui editions.

Volume 6 of Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, produced by the Indian publishing house, Kranti Publications in 1990, contained a compendium of work dating from 1917-1946 that had not appeared in the Chinese authorised edition. Unfortunately scantly bibliographical source, it nevertheless was stimulating in its selection of material that had been omitted or new material seeped out from China.

This was followed by other volumes: Volume 7 covers the period from the founding of the People’s Republic (October 1949) until the Great Leap Forward (1958) and contains 478 doc­uments, mainly composed of his letters and telegrams , that are not included in the “Official” Volume 5 of the Selected Works that covered this period.

Volume 8  gathers texts documenting a critical and dynamic period in the People’s Republic: 1958-1962 and includes the main documents from the Lushan Meeting in 1959, where the two-lines first emerged in open struggle in party meetings.

Volume 9, originally released in December 1994, covers the next stage in the developments that led to the initiation of the Socialist Education Movement and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution taking the narrative up to 1970.

The editors at Kranti Publications noted

“During the great proletariat cultural revolution a nationwide programme of studying the works of chairman Mao were launched and it was in hightide. Then Mao himself observed: “The Selected Works of Mao, how much of it is mine! It is a work of blood. The struggle in the soviets was very acute. Because of the errors of the Wang Ming line we had to embark on the 25,000 li Long March. These things in Selected Works of Mao were taught to us by the masses and paid for with blood sacrifices”.”[iv]

Long out of print, in 2020/21 these volumes were made available in corrected reprints by the overtly MLM publishing house, Foreign Language Press. When announcing the release of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong Vol. IX, FLP’s editorial team observed the challenge of scholarship in the service of revolutionary advance when it explained the difficulties with sourcing material for those pioneering editors at Kranti Publications.

III Source material

Since his death, any official evaluation of Mao has been framed by the document on party history adopted by the Sixth Plenary Session of the CPC on June 27, 1981. It has more nuances argument than its critics credit but still the bottom line was to draw a line in the mid-1950s and state that anything after that period associated with Mao was ultra-leftist and disastrous for Chinese society.

Basically everything the modern Maoist appreciates in Mao, the politics of the mass line and supervisory mass campaigns , the anti-revisionist stance, radical encourage for anti-imperialists, the Cultural Revolution’s emphasis on ‘continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat’ has been condemned by the Chinese leadership since his death.

However as it turned out, the 1981 Resolution would not end work on Mao’s life. Memoirs by military figures and Mao staff members, biographical studies of senior figures, and selective issue of Party documents added to the knowledge of Mao’s actions and words. Besides Chinese authored memoirs, (amongst them two translated for English-speaking market) Quan Yanchi (1992) and Zhong Wenxian (ed) (1986),[v] work by oversea authors became available: Ross Terrill’s and Philip Short’s biography of Mao were published by Chinese publishing houses.

The fresh attention to Mao was low-key and factual. It stressed his human side, Guangming Ribao ran an article detailing Mao’s grave health problems — including a respiratory ailment due to his smoking — from the spring of 1971 until his death. What was not permitted was any positive evaluation or reference to what had been condemned as Mao’s political leftism.

A powerful “Mao re” (Mao fever) of the early 1990s produced a cultural, good-humoured remembrance of the former leader. Sometimes the use of Mao was commercial, his image on lighters and wristwatches along with the posters, busts and tourist-targeted reproduction copies of Quotations. Such trivial uses will go on being made of Mao image. Sometimes it was superstitious, satiric, or nostalgic. Seldom was it politically.

Another Mao fever that began in 2003. This was the year of the 110th anniversary of Mao’s birth, the publication of a solid official party history biography of Mao, of many films, performances and other events marking the anniversary. On this occasion, Hu Jintao paying lip service said Mao still offered China “precious spiritual wealth.” In forty-eight days, the special website devoted to the 110th Mao anniversary received half a million hits. The thought of Mao remained strong in the mass culture of China, manifest in popular nostalgia if absent from its political and economic policies. It is Mao who still resonates in the spiritually sterile and morally corrupt capitalist society of post-Mao China. How far Maoist nostalgia is reflective and not restorative is another question.

Obviously the source for material by Mao comes from China. All foreign language editions and collections draw upon official and unofficial compilations of texts. There is still no complete Chinese edition of Mao’s works –  Professor Takeuchi Minoru[vi] spent decades producing a Japanese language collection of Mao’s pre-1949 writings in 20 volumes, and Stuart Scram (continued by Timothy Creek) English language series Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings, 1912-49 runs to eight published volumes.[vii]

Many western publications – especially those including texts not found in the first four volumes of Selected Works – draw upon the explosion of material collected and produced during the Cultural Revolution when large unofficial collections of Mao’s papers, popularly title “Long Live Mao Zedong Thought” – the various sixiang wansui editions – contained instructions, letters, talks and quotations seldom checked for authenticity or accuracy without bibliographical conventions. These sixiang wansui volumes from 1967 and 1969 emerged from the Institute of International Relations in Taipei. They were compiled from neibu (restricted circulation)[viii] material captured when Red Guards occupied ministries or other government offices, and raids on homes of leading officials. Many of these texts appear to be lecture notes taken down by anonymous hands.

These raw texts contribute to the party’s historiography and Mao’s role in it but they are very much the product of daily politics. These were treated as largely trustworthy not least when translated and popularised in Chairman Mao Talks to the People by Stuart Schram (in UK published as Mao Tse-Tung Unrehearsed. Talks and Letters: 1956-71). There are still other sources to mine, the little known sources, often non-Chinese sourced that could be traced e.g.  Anna Louise Strong: Three Interviews with Chairman Mao Zedong. [ix]

Not surprisingly there are significant differences and details within the Wansui volumes which provided access to Mao’s unofficial work published without being shaped or polished by consideration or subject to political editing and concerns. The breadth and depth of material reproduced in Taiwan in the early 1970s had previously been unavailable to western scholars and were uneven in quality and indifferent to bibliographical filters and checks.

There was the American government’s publication in 1978 of Collected Works of Mao Tse-Tung (1917-1949) produced by the Joint Publications Research Service[x]  based on a ten volume Chinese language edition, Mao Tse-tung Chi that appeared in Hong Kong in 1975 . However any item official published in Selected Works or Selected Readings were not included. Again the main source were the unofficial Red Guard collections Mao Tse-tung Ssu-shiang Wan-sui (Long live Mao Tse-tung thought).

After Mao

Without great fanfare and promotion, and not intended for a mass readership, nevertheless there has been detailed and thematically organized collections of Mao works published. China state publications provide the bedrock of material of work by Mao published in China after his death, and seeded many an academic’s publishing record.

The body of available material expanded through selective official publication of individual items like letters and various thematic volumes which are published exclusively in Chinese language editions, either openly or for restricted circulation (neibu) mainly from the Central Committee supervised Department for Research on Party literature.

The Central Committee’s Research Institute on Party Literature remains responsible for releasing new material. The official publication of Mao’s work had been significant as defining the political orthodoxy. Its release was a carefully choreographed and deliberate statement. This was a function of the Selected Works version published during Mao’s lifetime when revised texts were produced under Mao’s supervision and often with his active participation. Mao’s Selected Works were not simply a historical collection recording what was said at the time. They have been subject to collective editing reflecting their purpose as a political instrument as party orthodox and promotion of ideological training. For instance, Volume V of Selected Writings had only 70 articles from the period 1949-1957 when Western academics identified 750 possible entries for inclusion and actually selected 522 to publish.[xi] Drawn up under the brief tenure of Hua Guofeng, Volume V was quickly suppressed partly because of its “errors” in its stance of upholding the “continuing revolution under the dictatorship of the revolution”.

As with previous work, after Mao’s death the assumption must be that public editions of Mao’s writings are still released to support current party policy. Even though the contents are incomplete and extremely selective in relation to the total corpus of Mao’s work, notable was the lack of appearance of Mao’s more radical advocacy, a shunning of the “ultra-leftist” positions associated with Mao’s later years (seemingly any thought after the aged of 63). [xii]

Back in 1988, Timothy Cheek discussed the massive amount of material released with 23 volumes of talks and writings attributed to Mao, amounting to over 5,500 pages.[xiii] Unlike the hundreds of millions of copies involved in the print run of officially sponsored Mao publications in his life time, and the 28 million copies of Volume V of Selected Work published in 1977-78, these new releases were more modest in number and not as widely circulated beyond the orbit of the sinologist field. Such releases fed new publications of Mao’s writing in English by academic publishers such as The Secret Speeches of Chairman Mao: From the Hundred Flowers to the Great Leap Forward[xiv] .

In all, the release from the 1980s onwards were part of a Chinese party/state sanction scholarly and historicist drive that saw a release of new volumes of Mao’s writings that  specialist libraries like at Harvard (USA) and western academics secured access regardless of their circulation status. Some of the sources referenced by scholars include:

1983 Selected Correspondences of Mao Zedong

1983 Selected Materials regarding Mao Zedong’s Journalistic work

1983 Collected writings of Mao Zedong on the investigations in the countryside.

1986 Mao Zedong Reader in two volume edition published covering 1921-1964 with copious (488) and lengthy end notes.

1986 a collection of 14 articles on Mao’s reading habits was published: Mao Zedong’s Reading Life (Mao Zedong de dushu shenghuo , Sanlian Shudian, Beijing 1986)

1987 a research guide to 14,000 items in two volumes, Index to research on Mao Zedong’s life and works ( Mao Zedong shengping, zhuzuo yanjiu suoyin. Guofeng Daxue Chubanshe, Beijing 1987) was published. A testimony to the interest and extent of material generated around Mao.

1987 A Collection of Mao Zedong’s Comments and Notes on Philosophical Writings is another volume of the series of Mao Zedong’s special works edited by the CPC Central Committee’s Party Literature Research Center (with the cooperation of other units). It is a collection of Mao Zedong’s notes on and extracts from the philosophical writings on Marxism which he studied between the 1930’s and 1960’s. “Most of them have never been published before.[xv]

1987 – 1996 Mao Zedong’s Manuscript since the founding of the People’s Republic (Jianguo yilai Mao Zedong wengao .Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1987-1996). This multivolume collection has three volumes covering the period of the Cultural revolution: Volume 11: January 1964 – December 1965  to Volume 13: January 1969 – July 1976

1991 Draft Writings by Mao Zedong for the Early Period, June 1912-November 1920. Mao Zedong Zaoqi Wengao, 1912.6-1920.11 Changsha: Hunan Chaubanshe.

1993-1999. The Party Literature Research Centre of the Central Committee published the multi-volume ‘Mao Zedong Works’. The first volume appeared in 1993 on the Centenary of Mao’s birth, and Xinhua News Agency announced publication of the 8th volume in July 1999. The multi-volume work contains over 800 pieces not previously published in the Chinese edition of “Selected Works of Mao Zedong”, although only key items from 1966 onwards are included because the Cultural Revolution “launched by Chairman Mao, was a mistake of overall importance”.[xvi]

1993 Mao Zedong’s Military Writings six volumes (Mao Zedong junshi wenji .Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1993).

1994 Selection of Materials by Mao Zedong on Foreign Affairs (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1994) In the former, over five-sixths of the documentation covers the post-1949 period, the last being from his May 25, 1974 talk with former British Prime Minister Edward Heath. An English-language collection of Mao’s writing On Diplomacy was produced by Foreign Language Press in 1998.

1995 A Collection of Reports and Speeches by Mao Zedong to the Seventh Party Congress (Mao Zedong zai qida de baogao he jianghua ji . Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1995).

Also, Nancy Hearst and Tony Saich suggested that (although unseen) a limited circulation 60-volume edition of pre-1949 Mao texts apparently exists.[xvii]

1998 Complete Books of Mao Zedong, 6 volumes (ed) Jiang Jiannong. Mao Zedong Chuan Shu, Shijiazhuang: Hebi Renmin Chubanshe

2013 Mao Zedong Nianpu 1949-1976 of six volumes of previously obscure materials from the central party archives press published to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong, Guangming Daily (23/12/2013) reported the publication of the Mao Nianpu (or Mao Zedong Chronology) (1949-1976). Compiled by the CCCPC Party Literature Research Office, it comprised six volumes and about three million words, covering Mao’s life and achievements during the twenty-seven years from the founding of the People’s Republic of China to his death.

Adam Cathcart commented that in Mao Zedong Nianpu a single editor was responsible for editing the entire Cultural Revolution period, covered in a single volume of 653 pages of text covering ten years (1966-1976), and suggests Mao’s dwindling physical activity could be partially to account for the relative lack of density of the entries. Judicious selection based on the 1981 resolution may leave other writings safely in the archives?

  At the same time, the Chronicle of Mao Zedong (1893-1949) (total three volumes) published in December 1993 has been revised and issued across the country.

IV Turning Mao’s Chinese into English

The reworking on Mao related text, as in the scholarship undertaken by FLP, is a constant feature as in finding the original source of a document that was only available as an excerpt in the 1st edition of the Selected Works Vol. 9 and replace the excerpt with it in the 2nd edition. But there are frustrations too as FLP Twitter account noted: “wish we found this a week earlier. Rab Rab Press, a tiny publisher from Finland, has released in June 2020 a new translation of the last meeting of Mao with Red Guards leaders that corrects so many parts that the JPRS translation one has wrongly translated.”

Foreign Language Press has taken on the challenge with an announcement regarding the future of their work on the Mao’s writings. Work has already begun on Volume X with several hundreds of page of Mao’s writings, interviews, letters and instructions from 1966 to 1976 that have yet to be released in English. They hope to publish in 2021.[xviii]

The readability of the translated work requires an understanding of the nuances of Chinese terms and expressions while ensuring that what is read is both accurate and conveys what was said. A good translation requires more than transliteration in the translation, a good English renderings of Mao’s Chinese, translate into “accuracy and nuance, tone and register.”  These concerns were evident in the 1930s according to this account by Edgar Snow.

In his Red Star over China Snow writes: “Seated next to me was Wu Liang-ping, a young Soviet ‘functionary’, who acted as interpreter during my ‘formal’ interviews with Mao Tse-tung. I wrote down in full in English Mao Tse-tung’s answers to my questions, and these were then translated into Chinese and corrected by Mao, who is noted for his insistence upon accuracy of detail. With the assistance of Mr. Wu, the interviews were then re-translated into English.” In 1979 Wu Liang-ping wrote an additional explanation: “At the request of Mao Tse-tung, Snow compiled the notes on Mao’s revolutionary experience and wrote an account that was, after having been translated into Chinese by Huang Hua, scrutinized and revised slightly by Mao. Huang Hua translated these revisions into English, and returned the draft to Snow.” [xix]

Reviewing the English language series Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings, Brantly Womack judged “they lack the genius of the official Chinese translations. The translations in the official Selected Works of Mao Tsetung are remarkable for their ability to transcend the literal text and to get the original point across better with a different construction or wording.”[xx]

Foreign Language Press alluded to the questions raised on which version of the available texts are more authentic, or more authoritative, in its consideration of using the texts in the collection published as Mao Papers, Anthology and Bibliography Edited by Jerome Chen (1970) . It was also a practical concern as FLP’s second editions of the “Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung” compiled in early 1990s by comrades from Kranti Publications, corrects typographical and formatting errors. In Mao Papers the editor had undertaken his own translation and ignored pre-existing official version of English language published texts. A noted and respected translator of Mao, the sinologist  Stuart Scram (1924 –2012)  noted in his review of the publication of these independent translations – “many of which are highly elliptical and difficult to interpret” – errors in dating and distorting editorial choices .[xxi]  The FLP highlight some of these concerns in Jerome Chen’s use of material that have to be addressed by any compiler of Mao’s writings. [xxii]

This small, if energised MLM publishing house noted in its politically-driven scholarship:

“You can trace our evolution in Mao’s Selected Works: Volume VI is basically a reprint with some corrections of the more obvious typographical errors; Volume VII was much more thoroughly copyedited and we replaced all the Wade-Giles Chinese with pinyin and included an index of names and places; Volume VIII included, in addition to the corrections made in previous volumes, corrections in the sourcing of the texts in particular; and Volume IX… in Volume IX we uncovered a whole host of problems. Texts that were translated incorrectly, placed out of context, chopped up and moved into other texts and dated and sourced incorrectly. The more deeply we dug, the more errors we discovered, and found ourselves irretrievably behind schedule.” [xxiii]

On translating Mao, academic author Thomas Kampen, listed the difficulties the task involves[xxiv]

Many aspects have to be considered:

1) Many of Mao’s speeches were not intended for publication.
2) Many speeches were not based on detailed manuscripts.
3) Many listeners were not from Hunan and were not familiar with his pronunciation.
4) Notes were handwritten and not always legible.
5) The speeches sometimes lasted for several hours (people may have been exhausted).
6) Ambiguity was not always intended; participants were aware of the speeches by other
leaders or RMRB/Hong Qi editorials of the time.

The officially published works of Mao have gone through an editorial process and polishing not unknown in western publishing circles where fiction texts receive the blue pencil while maintaining the mythology of the lone writer, and why employ a sub-editor in a newspaper office, who would go without the benefit of peer review in academic study that brings items to the author’s attention? As FLP notes, the source material for unofficial publication of work attributed to Mao are “compilations of documents published in other compilations translated from… Chinese compilations”.

A background case study illustrating the problems suggested to in the endeavour to bring Mao’s work to a wider audience. Just two small episodes illustrates the complexities involved in presenting Mao for professional academics:

Is what you read, what was written – the problem of mistranslation was explored upon in a blog by Leeds University lecture, Adam Cathcart with regard to Mao’s addresses to the Chengdu conference of March 1958 when “Mao gave no fewer than six speeches at the Chengdu meeting — none of which was publicised at the time.”[xxv]

Once you have a translated quote, is it understood and used appropriately with accuracy? The academic response [xxvi]  provoked by the lies and distortion contained in the worldwide best-selling hatchett job on Mao by Jung Chang and her husband, Jon Halliday, was a public condemnation of “poor scholarship” that is discussed quietly online in numerous forums. For instance, Did Mao say let half the people starve? Academic consensus growing that Frank Dikotter, author of a best-selling trilogy on modern Chinese history, got Mao’s quote seriously wrong does not stop it been repeated and reproduced elsewhere. The hunt for the killer quote was dissect and framed within an academic discussion. [xxvii]

The discussion did bring forth a self-criticism from an eminent scholar in the field of Chinese studies, Michael Schoenhals,

“…perhaps you would like to believe that the authors of Mao’s Last Revolution (HUP 2006) can be trusted when, on p. 102, they have Mao saying “the more people you kill, the more revolutionary you are”? Don’t! I was responsible for that translation of Mao’s abstruse remark “越杀人就越要革命” and the translation is wrong. A correct translation …. should read “The greater the number of people murdered, the greater the wish [on the part of the survivors] for a revolution.” A world of difference!”

The evidence of the diversity of material since 1949 might question the need for the translation of every item produced in his life-time, after all it would take an equal amount to read and study it!

Not all entries need equal attention and study as the volumes are full of sleight, single sentences entries, recording comments and letters, diplomatic greetings and observation written by Mao e.g a simple opinion is editorial elevated to be taken as an “Evaluation of the movie “The Song of the Gardener” “ Mao’s comment in November 1974 was:  I think it is a good show.

An explanatory note from the editor explains that prior to this, the “Gang of Four” had criticised the movie “The Gardener” in Hunan in November 1974.[xxviii]

Its inclusion may serve a wider agenda of the Chinese authorities seeking to disassociate Mao from the “Gang of Four” by citing differences in opinion but much further contextual research would be required, and what criteria is invoked in the judgement – artistic, political, politeness ? The numerous occurrence of such entries reinforces the need to evaluate and select what is given prominence in any published work.

The original producers of the unauthorised Volume Six acknowledged the limitations of “the works included in this volume, we have neither the means nor the competence to vouch safe about their authenticity and completeness.” Upfront there were warnings for the reader to be wary – “We fondly hope that much more additional material could come to light enabling us to substantially improve on this” – but in that absence the intention was to “further stimulating the study of Mao’s works.” [xxix]

They pointed out the weakness in that there was poor bibliographic control. ..Except indicating the primary source quoted in the originals, no attempt is made to annotate or edit the texts in any respect or in any manner.” So maybe “Works” is accurate, rather than writings, as much of what is available consists of manuscripts of notes and contemptuous recording by others.

V   Political Interpretation

“No verdict on a man who changed either the course of events or accepted patterns of thought (and Mao changed both) can ever be called final. Many such individuals are re-evaluated, and argued about, decades or even centuries after their disappearance.” Stuart Schram 1982 in a lecture in Hong Kong.

The fashion to paint Mao as one-dimensionally and unremittingly evil was not Deng’s, nor was the idea of maintaining Mao’s legacy: Deng Xiaoping had a different agenda for China’s development that was reformist, state capitalist and market-driven.

In saying that we should use as our guide genuine Mao Zedong Thought taken as an integral whole, I mean that we should have a correct and comprehensive understanding of Mao Zedong Thought as a system and that we should be proficient at studying it, mastering it, and applying it as a guide to our work. Only in this way can we be sure that we are not fragmenting Mao Zedong Thought, distorting or debasing it. We can then see that what Comrade Mao Zedong said with regard to a specific question at a given time and under particular circumstances was correct, and that what he said with regard to the same question at a different time and under different circumstances was also correct, despite occasional differences in the extent of elaboration, in emphasis and even in the formulation of his ideas. So we must acquire a correct understanding of Mao Zedong Thought as an integral system instead of just citing a few specific words or sentences.[xxx]

One approach of the post-Mao leadership was to quote an earlier Mao in contrast to his later self as demonstrated in the Beijing Review article, “Chairman Mao on Mao Zedong Thought”. [xxxi] It sought to establish a legitimatising source and symbol it could use against the Mao that would issue calls to bombard the headquarters against the capitalist roaders. The perspective was reinforced that condemned and shelved Mao’s erroneous thinking. Li Rui, briefly in the mid-1950s, the personal secretary to Mao Zedong on industrial affairs, noted for his criticisms of the Great Leap Forward, so not an unpartisan observer, commented on the wider impact of such thinking: 

As a historical phenomenon, Mao Zedong’s erroneous thinking in his later years also generated considerable worldwide impact.

During the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong Thought was declared to be the “third milestone” in the evolution of Marxism, focusing on this erroneous thinking in his later years. Left-wing parties and groups in some countries not only accepted his theories but also put them into practice. The ways in which the Cultural Revolution was conducted were once followed by radicals in a dozen countries and regions and at one time created a stir, such as the “Red May Storm” in France, the “Khmer Rouge” in Southeast Asia, and the “Shining Path” in Latin America. This indicated that Mao Zedong’s erroneous thinking in his later years already went beyond national boundaries and its study is of international importance. [xxxii]

Political Interpretation in China is hostile to the sentiments expressed worldwide by revolutionaries was voiced by the Australian E.F. Hill:

This is meant to be no more than a note prompted by another note. I adhere to the view that Mao Zedong made a unique contribution to the international cause of Communism and the liberation of mankind. His writings should be deeply studied and independently thought over using the general principles and putting on one side those things peculiarity confined to China.  [xxxiii]

In a 1956 conversation with representatives of some Latin American communist parties, Mao Zedong warns them about mechanically copying the experiences of the Chinese revolution:

“The experience of the Chinese revolution, that is, building rural base areas, encircling the cities from the countryside and finally seizing the cities, may not be wholly applicable to many of your countries, though it can serve for your reference. I beg to advise you not to transplant Chinese experience mechanically. The experience of any foreign country can serve only for reference and must not be regarded as dogma. The universal truth of Marxism-Leninism and the concrete conditions of your own countries–the two must be integrated.” [xxxiv]

 Studying Mao can be a fulltime occupation and the field of scholarship has generated library shelves throughout the world. The official publication of Mao has continued with the specific intent to tame and shape his legacy. The “collective wisdom” created and applied throughout the Chinese Revolution is institutionalise in the party, relativizing his thought away from its dominance as Deng Xiaoping began the de-mythologizing of Mao that keeps him as a symbol.  Whilst the 1987 new material for the Study of Mao Zedong’s Philosophical Thinking was advertised as “something which has great theoretical and practical significance” in Red Flag, little sweeps into party practice.

The process of articulating and systematizing what became known as the Thought of Mao Zedong within China began in the mid-1930s amidst the shift from a rural class-based revolution to a national united front against Japanese imperialism; the application of Marxism to Chinese conditions. It was this intellectual contribution that was the discourse of Western academics when they debated the subject of Maoism.[xxxv] Events moved on, and different interpretations arose…

The analyses of Stuart Schram which stressed Mao’s early immersion in Chinese classical literature, drawing upon Mao’s numerous allusions to these in his talks and writings, developed the notion that Mao’s political philosophy, steeped in Chinese tradition, and his political practice, not least leading a successful peasant-based revolution, was substantially different from orthodox Marxism as sanctioned in the Soviet Union.

In Mao studies a group of radical academics (Richard Pfeffer, Andrew Walder and Mark Selden) engaged in scholarly dispute with the non-Marxist Sinologists Stuart Schram and Benjamin Schwartz in the journal of Modern China 1976/1977 to challenge this evaluation as being based on a rigid understanding of what constituted Maoist canon.

Paul Healy and Nick Knight offer an alternative, Marxist-orientated perspective in studying Mao’s career compared to the atheoretical textual attention of Professor Schram in the volume edited with Arif Dirlik (1997) Critical perspectives on Mao Zedong’s Thought[xxxvi]

The radical argument drew upon Mao’s clearly self-professed allegiance to Marxism, drawing upon the anti-authoritarianism of the Cultural Revolution period as well as the earlier Yenan writings of Mao that resonated with the Marx of  ‘German Ideology’ and the (then) newly emerging body of writings by the early Marx, in particular ‘Grundrisse’. Maoist-inclined intellectuals e.g. David Fernbach and Martin Nicolas provided many of the translations of these works. Mao’s criticism of ’Soviet revisionism’ and articulation of a generative class thesis under socialist state structures drew support from those attracted to an alternative vision from that provided by a Soviet Union that seemed little different from its capitalist Cold War adversaries.

The early years of this century saw intellectual ferment among self-identifying Maoist focusing on the ideological judgements behind terminology issues – to use Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism.[xxxvii]  That extended contention in recent years has swivelled to encompass a contention that basically Mao Zedong was not even a maoist. One current associated with the positions of the chairman of Partido Comunista del Peru (CPP), Chairman Gonzalo , argues that it needs someone like Gonzalo to systematize and formulate the universal lessons learned from the revolutionary struggle in China led by Mao, critics ask in what way have CPP and Gonzalo systematized and formulated Mao’s thinking questioning whether a few authoritative text produced by the PCP suffice as the basis for such an assertion when contested by other Maoists. [xxxviii]

 “For most Maoists, the practices and lessons learned from the Cultural Revolution are the cornerstone of the development of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought to Maoism. The launching of the GPCR was Mao’s response to the emergence of a new bureaucratic capitalist class in the Party under socialism. He believed that the only way to win the struggle for socialism was the elevated consciousness of the masses and their ability to rectify the Party: to target the real enemies of the dictatorship of the proletariat within the Party leadership itself. In the end, the masses were unable to accomplish this, in spite of—as you can read in the many documents in this volume—all of his efforts to enable them to do so.”[xxxix]


VI      Related Posts

Reading Mao Zedong


Reading More About Mao


Volume 1 of Selected Works


Volume 4 of Selected Works


Appreciating Mao



Global Maoism





[i] Announcing the upcoming release of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong Vol. IX December 26, 2020

[ii] Mao Zedong; Moss Roberts, trans. (1977). A Critique of Soviet Economics. New York: Monthly Review Press

[iii] Timothy Cheek, The ‘Genius’ Mao: a treasure trove of 23 newly available volumes of post-1949 Mao Zedong texts. The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs 19/20, 1988.

[iv] Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung Volume 9 (1993) Kranti Publications

[v] Quan Yanchi (1992) Mao Zedong Man, Not God. Translated by Wang Wenjiong and English text edited by Gale Hadfield. Paperback: 213 pages. Foreign Languages Press.  9787119014456 and Zhong Wenxian (ed) (1986) Mao Zedong: Biography – Assessment -Reminiscences. 238 pages. Foreign Languages Press .083511886X

[vi] Mao Zedong Ji (Collected Writings of Mao Zedong) edited by Takeuchi Minoru. 10 volumes. (Tokyo: Sososha 2nd ed. 1983) + Mao Zedong Ji: Bujuan (Supplement to Collected Writings of Mao Zedong ) edited by Takeuchi Minoru. 10 volumes. (Tokyo : Sososha 1983-1986)

[vii] See https://emaoism.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/nick-knight.pdf

[viii] Neibu – The concept of restricted circulation based on political criteria is a much discussed source by western academics who are less forthcoming about the private government briefings and seminars, the newsletters of restricted circulation based on financial criteria, and research products from the financial markets circulated by connections and restricted access to archives that all contribute to the ecology of information circulation in the west.

[ix] The China Quarterly, No. 103 (Sep., 1985), pp. 489-509

[x] The Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) was a United States government defense-funded organization that was absorbed into the monitoring service, Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS).

[xi] Michael Y.M.Kau and John K Leung, The Writing of Mao Zedong, 1949-1976 : Vol 1 September 1949-December 1955 (1986) New York: M.E. Sharpe:   Vol 2 January 1956- December 1957 (1992) New York: M.E. Sharpe

[xii] See Li Rui (1996) An Initial Study on Mao Zedong’s Erroneous “Left” Thinking in His Later Years. Chinese Law & Government, 29:4, 6-11

[xiii]Timothy Cheek, The ‘Genius’ Mao: a treasure trove of 23 newly available volumes of post-1949 Mao Zedong texts. The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs 19/20, 1988

[xiv] The Secret Speeches of Chairman Mao: From the Hundred Flowers to the Great Leap Forward edited by Roderick MacFarquhar, Timothy Cheek, and Eugene Wu.  Harvard University, 1989

[xv] Noted Shi Zhongquan in Hongqi [Red Flag] No 17, 1 Sept 1987 pp 3-9

[xvi]  “All volumes of ‘Mao Zedong Works’ published.” Xinhua News Agency July 1st 1999.

[xvii] Newly Available Sources on CCP History from the People’s Republic of China in New perspectives on state socialism of China (eds) Timothy Cheek and Tony Saich. 1997

[xviii] Announcing the upcoming release of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong Vol. IX.   December 26, 2020

[xix] https://emaoism.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/52-republication-of-mao-zedongs-autobiography/

[xx] Brantly Womack, Mao before Maoism. The China Journal No.46 July 2001:95-117. His 1977 Ph.D. thesis at the University of Chicago was published in 1982: Foundations of Mao Zedong’s Political Thought, 1917-1935 Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii. Subsequently published by China Renmin University Press (2006) translated as Mao Zedong Zhengzhi Sixiang de Jichu (1917–1935) 毛泽东政治思想的基础 (1917–1935).

[xxi]  The China Quarterly 46 June 1971: 366-369

[xxii] For detail criticism see “Announcing the upcoming release of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong Vol. IX.”   December 26, 2020 

[xxiii] Announcing the upcoming release of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong Vol. IX.   December 26, 2020 

[xxiv] https://networks.h-net.org/node/3544/discussions/99266/looking-great-leap-smoking-gun-document   December 9, 2015

[xxv] See https://adamcathcart.com/2019/01/07/mistranslating-mao-in-chengdu-1958/

[xxvi] Gregor Benton and Lin Chun (Editors) (2010) Was Mao Really a Monster? The Academic Response to Chang and Halliday’s Mao: The Unknown Story Routledge

[xxvii] See: Looking for Great Leap “smoking gun”.https://networks.h-net.org/node/3544/discussions/99266/looking-great-leap-smoking-gun-document

[xxviii] Manuscripts of Mao Zedong since the founding of the state vol.13 Jan. 1969-July 1976

[xxix] Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung Volume 6 ,  Kranti publications 1990  [Publisher’s Note]

[xxx] Speech at the Third Plenary Session of the Tenth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. July 21, 1977.  Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, Volume II 1975-1982.   See also, Deng Xiaoping (1960) Correctly Disseminate Mao Zedong Thought https://emaoism.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/1960-correctly-disseminate-mao-zedong-thought/

[xxxi]  Beijing Review, #2, Jan. 14, 1980, pp. 23-26 or https://emaoism.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/chairman-mao-on-mao-zedong-thought/

[xxxii] Li Rui (1996) An Initial Study on Mao Zedong’s Erroneous “Left” Thinking in His Later Years, Chinese Law & Government, 29:4, 6-11

[xxxiii] https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/australia/hill-mao.htm

A more extended and argued piece can be found in the work of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Chile, Evaluation of the Work of Mao Tsetung [published in Revolution, Journal of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Vol. 5, No. 1, January 1980].

[xxxiv] https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-5/mswv5_54.htm

[xxxv] See: What is Maoism? A Symposium, Problems of Communism, September 1966 Issue and the earlier disagreements voiced in the pages of The China Quarterly: Karl Wittvogel, “The Legend of Maoism” China Quarterly Nos 1-2 (1960) and Benjamin Schwartz, “The Legend of the ‘Legend of Maoism’” China Quarterly No.2 (April-June 1960).

[xxxvi] Dirlik (1997) New Jersey: Humanities Press. See: ‘Mao Zedong’s Thought and Critical Scholarship’ pp3-20

[xxxvii] See J. Moufawad-Paul, Critique of Maoist Reason FLP 2020

[xxxviii] PCP articles found in Collected Works of the PCP 1968-1987 FLP 2016. Drawing a line of demarcation in 21st Maoism, the veteran Philippine Marxist, Joma Ma. Sison, in an interview spoke critically on  those taking such positions in  the contemporary world communist movement. Published by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, 18 November 2019 https://ndfp.org/questions-on-mao-zedong-thought-maoism/

[xxxix] Announcing the upcoming release of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong Vol. IX.   December 26, 2020

In the battle for the unity of the MLM communist movement….

Drawing a line of demarcation in 21st Maoism, the veteran Philippine Marxist, Joma Ma. Sison, in an interview spoke on the theme of Mao Zedong Thought / Maoism and the contemporary world communist movement.

Published by the NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC FRONT OF THE PHILIPPINES, 18 November 2019 https://ndfp.org/questions-on-mao-zedong-thought-maoism/

Interviewer: Prof. Regletto Aldrich D. Imbong (RADI)

1. RADI: In a recent publication of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) entitled “Anniversary Statements (1992-2017),” I found out that it was only during the 26th anniversary of the CPP in 1994 that the term Maoism appeared (not in 1992 and 1993, as far as the said publication is concerned). Previous statements, like the “Rectify Errors, Rebuild the Party,” in 1968 merely mentioned Mao Zedong Thought, despite the fact that Chairman Gonzalo of the Communist Party of Peru in 1983 supposedly affirmed the universality of Maoism. Can you please enlighten me with the CPP’s appreciation of Maoism and the seemingly delayed upholding of the CPP of Maoism’s universality?

JMS: The adoption of the word Maoism, instead of Mao Zedong Thought, by the Communist Party of the Philippines is a matter of transcription and symmetry alongside the terms Marxism and Leninism. It is a reaffirmation of the earlier CPP recognition of the great contributions of Mao (under the rubric of Mao Zedong Thought) to the development of Marxism-Leninism in philosophy, political economy, party building (especially the rectification movement), the people’s war and the proletarian cultural revolution in socialist society.

In the course of his leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese revolution, Mao together with his Chinese comrades had the modesty of being averse to glorifying himself by the term Maoism. In the literature of the Chinese CP, you will find summary references to his contributions in ideology and policy as “Mao’s thinking” and “Mao’s thought”. It was only in the course of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution that “Mao Zedong thought” graduated to “Mao Zedong Thought (with a capital T).

By that time, the CPC had already acclaimed Mao Zedong Thought as representing the third stage in the development of the universal revolutionary theory of the proletariat. Thus, it is false to say that Gonzalo was the first to sum up or synthesize the teachings of Mao or his theory and practice as constituting the third stage in the development of Marxist theory and practice. The foundation for the Marxist theory and practice of people’s war was already established in the Leninist stage when the October revolution of 1917 shifted from the cities to the countryside in the civil war and war against foreign intervention.

Regarded as Mao’s most important achievement to constitute the third stage of the development of Marxist theory and practice was not his theory and practice of protracted people’s war but that of continuing revolution under proletarian dictatorship through cultural revolution to combat revisionism, prevent capitalist restoration and consolidate socialism. (Considered as the first stage in the development of Marxism was the formulation of its fundamental principles and critique of free competition capitalism by Marx and Engels. And the second stage of Leninism was the further development of Marxism by Lenin in the era of modern imperialism and proletarian revolution).

Before Mao died, he had achieved all theoretical and practical contributions that he was capable of in order to achieve the third stage in the development of Marxism. But the CPC called this the stage of Mao Zedong Thought. In the early years of the GPCR there was even an overenthusiastic notion within the CPC that after the solution of the problem of modern revisionism “imperialism was heading towards total collapse and socialism was marching towards world victory. But Mao himself cautioned in 1969 that it would take another 50 to 100 years to reach that desired goal.

Soon after Mao’s death in 1976, the Dengist counterrevolution overthrew the proletariat in China. The Chinese state and CPC changed their class character. But they have continued to refer to Mao Zedong Thought formally and ritualistically, despite the official condemnation of the GPCR as a total catastrophe and the full-blast capitalist restoration and teaming up of China with US imperialism in promoting neoliberal globalization.

It is to the credit of Gonzalo that he took the initiative in 1983 to use the term Maoism, instead of Mao Zedong Thought, by way of posthumously showing a higher appreciation of Mao at least for some of his great accomplishments and for acclaiming Mao’s theory and practice as third stage in the development of Marxist theory and practice. But it is absurd to assert that because of Gonzalo’s “synthesis” he is responsible for making Maoism “universal” or that the universality of Maoism is reduced to the “universality of protracted people’s war” and the prescription for a “militarized party.”

As I have earlier pointed out, Mao himself constituted in his own lifetime Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism by making great contributions to the development of Marxism-Leninism in philosophy, political economy, party building (especially the rectification movement), the people’s war and the proletarian cultural revolution in socialist society. Mao Zedong Thought has gained universal significance long before Gonzalo called it Maoism. The universal significance of Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism does not depend in any way on Gonzalo who has not really summed up all the great achievements of the great Mao.

The worshippers of Gonzalo use his coinage of the term Maoism to evaluate him as the greatest Maoist after Mao. They should take him to account for his own conduct of leadership in his own country, his “Left” opportunist line before his capture in 1992 and Right opportunist line soon after his capture. These conflicting opportunist lines have brought about the decline of the people’s war in Peru. And the mystique about him as being responsible for “synthesizing” Maoism should not be used as an ax against those who continue to wage people’s war. Kautsky did not prove himself any better than Lenin when he protested that Lenin’s ideas were not Marxism but Leninism. He was the first among all people to utter the term Leninism against Lenin himself.

2. RADI: In the same 1994 anniversary statement mentioned in the previous question, the latter equated Mao Zedong Thought with Maoism (as stated, Mao Zedong thought OR Maoism), a criticism which is likewise charged by Dem Volke Dienen in First Critical Remarks about the Role of the Communist Party of the Philippines in the International Communist Movement (see http://www.demvolkedienen.org/…/2726-first-critical-remarks…). You have given the explanation that “there is no difference in content between Mao Zedong Thought and Maoism” in an interview by the New Culture Magazine of the Communist Construction Union of Brazil. For the Dem Volke Dienen, however, if both Mao Zedong Thought and Maoism were terms having the same content, there would be no difference as well in either saying Marxism or Marx Thought, or Leninism or Lenin Thought. However, the “ism” in Maoism has to be distinguished as it means the systematization and closed development of all the three components of Marxism “to a higher level and to a higher truth” and not merely as an individual contribution of a Chinese communist. What is your response to this critique?

JMS: I had the good fortune of being in China in August 1966, when the GPCR was just beginning and Mao was being evaluated, appreciated and defended against his detractors and in relation to his great Marxist-Leninist predecessors. I had very enlightening conversations with members of the CPC Central Committee and the highest responsibles of the CPC Higher Party School. They summed up the great achievements of Mao under the term Mao Zedong Thought, such as the following:

a. In philosophy, Mao elaborated on and developed Lenin’s identification of the unity of opposites (divide into two) as the most fundamental law of materialist dialectics. He did so in such essays as On Contradiction, On Practice, Where Do Correct Ideas Come From? and On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People. He applied materialist dialectics in gaining higher knowledge from the dialectics of theory and practice, in carrying out the new democratic revolution through people’s war and undertaking socialist revolution and construction.

b. In political economy, Mao had the advantage of learning positive and negative lessons from Stalin’s policy of socialist industrialization and agricultural cooperation, the revisionist reversal of socialist revolution and construction and leading self-reliant socialist revolution and construction by using the basic and heavy industries as the lead factor, agriculture as the base ofthe economy and light industry as the bridging factor under conditions of imperialist blockade, revisionist betrayal and other adversities.

c. In social science, Mao developed further the theory and practice of the new democratic and socialist stages of the Chinese revolution. But his most important achievement in social science was in recognizing the problem of modern revisionism and the continuing fact of classes and class struggle in socialist society and in adopting solutions. He put forward a series of campaigns to uphold, defend and advance socialism, such as the anti-Rightist campaign, the Great Leap Foward. the socialist education movement and ultimately the cultural revolution as he faced greater resistance of the revisionists and capitalist roaders.

d. In party building, Mao adopted and developed further Leninist teaching on building the proletarian vanguard party. He excelled at developing the rectification movement as the campaign for educating the Party cadres and members in Marxist-Leninist theory and practice, as the method for identifying the errors and weaknesses and for saving the patient from the disease and and as the way for the Party to better serve the masses, mobilize them, let them acquire power and come under their supervision.

e. In people’s war, Mao had already demonstrated how the toiling masses of workers and peasants could defeat an enemy that was superior in military equipment and trained personnel through the strategic line of protracted people’s war by encircing the cities from the countryside in semicolonial and semifeudal countries. By winning the new democratic revolution through people’s war, the revolutionary proletariat and the people gain the power to proceed to socialist revolution.

f. The theory and practice of continuing revolution under proletarian dictatorship through the GPCR was regarded as the greatest epoch-making contribution of Mao. It was aimed at combatting modern revisionism, preventing capitalist restoration and consolidating socialism. Even as the GPCR would be defeated by the Dengist counterrevolution, it still confirms and explains how socialism can be subverted and destroyed from within. Such a lesson will guide the forthcoming socialist revolutions.

Before, during and after the founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the foregoing six components of Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism were already acknowledged and propagated in CPP publications and grasped by CPP cadres and members. What the Gonzaloites are doing is to tear apart Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism and exaggerate protracted people’s war as prescription for all countries under all circumstances and require militarization of the party as the principal or essential elements of Maoism. This is not Maoism but a grotesque Gonzaloite distortion of Maoism.

In other articles, I have already pointed out that the Gonzaloites have well proven themselves as mere charlatans by claiming that protracted people’s war can be done in industrial capitalist countries and by not doing any single armed tactical offensive anywhere for decades to prove their point. The militarization of the party is an anti-Maoist notion which runs counter to the principle that the Party, as the ideological and political leading force, commands the gun. In its Second Great Rectification Movement, the CPP opposed and defeated the “Left” opportunists who wanted to subordinate the Party to the army.

3. RADI: Contemporary leftist philosophers like Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek, and Jodi Dean affirm the communist idea (although they have various interpretations of this idea) but strikingly glaring among them is their divergences in terms of the question of political organization which can be commonly described as a clear surrender of the Leninist vanguard party. Badiou, for example, a self-proclaimed Maoist and an heir to the May of 1968 of France, argues for a “politics without a party.” Dean, on the other hand, argues for the necessity of a party but a party in an international level, not anymore the traditional state-bound communist party of the past that clearly claim as its aim the seizure of political and state power from the bourgeoisie. What is your insight in relation to the question of political organization in winning the struggle for communism and what was Mao’s or Maoism’s important contribution to this problem?

JMS: It is absurd for Badiou to argue for “politics without a party”. He is intellectually and practically a subjectivist and anarchist who seeks to disorganize the masses and lead them to the predominance of bourgeois parties and the bourgeois state. He is out of the world of class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Definitely, he is not a Maoist even if he proclaims himself to be a Maoist.

The first great socialist state would not have been established had there been no Bolshevik party to lead the toiling masses of workers and peasants in overthrowing the reactionaries and seizing political power. Without the CPC, the Chinese proletariat and people would not have succeeded in winning the new democratic and socialist stages of the Chinese revolution.

Jodi Dean is somewhat better than Badiou in recognizing the need for a revolutionary party. But while being internationalist, the proletarian revolutionary party has to win the revolution within national boundaries. For Lenin and the Bolsheviks to win the Great October Socialist Revolution, they had to oppose the social pacifism and social chauvinism of the Second International. 

It is relevant to recall that the Third International or Comintern tried to run a world party with local communist parties as national sections. But came 1943 the Comintern had to dissolve itself because it could not communicate and instruct or advice the CPs who were engaged in the bitter anti-fascist wars. Consequently, the principles of equality, independence and mutual support and cooperation were adopted in the comradely relations of communist and workers’ parties.

In the bitter struggles against the well-organized bourgeoisie and imperialist powers, the proletariat as the leading class in the revolution must have a political party. It must have an ideological, political and organizational line to defeat the enemy. It must grow in strength by being intimately linked to the toiling masses. It must arouse, organize and mobilize them in their own best interest. The mass base generates the mass activists and the best party cadres and masses. The party can defeat the enemy and win the revolution only with the participation and support of the masses.

We can learn from Mao and Maoism how to build the Party ideologically, politically and organizationally, how to do social investigation and mass work, how to arouse, organize and mobilize the toiling masses and how to avail of the people’s war and the united front to reach and mobilize the masses in their millions. Mao taught us how to use the rectification movement in order to correct errors and shortcomings and thereby further strengthen the Party. He insisted on the mass line of mobilizing the masses and gaining strength from them from one stage of the revolution to a new and higher stage.

Some petty bourgeois intellectuals have the high flown disdain for nation-states and political parties. But these are progressive products of history in relation to the backward conditions of colonial and feudal domination. And for the proletariat to defeat the bourgeois states and parties, it must create the socialist state under the leadership of the proletarian revolutionary party. Before the classless communist society can be achieved, socialist states and communist parties are needed to fight and defeat imperialism and the local reactionary classes

I need not comment on Slavoj Zizek because you do not raise any specific point about him. You do not have to. He is a chameleon and charlatan who poses as a philosopher, flip-flops from pro-Stalin to anti-Stalin statements and plays with phrases like a child playing with his toys. I suggest that you look into how Noam Chomsky describes him. 

4. RADI: Alain Badiou interprets the Great Cultural Proletarian Revolution (GPCR) as a novelty as it is the first revolution to happen in a socialist state in the same way that the Paris Commune was the first revolution to happen in a capitalist state. However, in his reading of the GPCR, Badiou reinforces his stand of the “politics without a party” as the Communist Party of China then (and now) became intertwined with state power, the machinery which he claims must be abolished rather than seized. In this way, his notion of emancipatory politics advances the claim of a politics “at a distance from the state,” claiming that restrain rather than seizure should now be the model of contemporary political procedures. What is the correct Maoist view concerning the relation between the party and the state? Can we say that the Mass Line constituted a significant contribution to this problem?

JMS: There would have been no GPCR as a “novelty” for Badiou had there been no CPC that established a socialist society that was being subverted by the capitalist roaders and that needed the GPCR to combat the capitalist roaders and consolidate socialism. The Dengist counterrevolution defeated the GPCR precisely because the revisionist or capitalist roaders were able to retain and eventually enlarge their power and authority within both the Party and state.

As shown in the examples of the Soviet Union and China, when the ruling party of the proletariat is undermined by modern revisionism and the capitalist roaders, the character of the state changes from socialist to capitalist. In the first place, no socialist state and society can ever arise and develop if there were no revolutionary party of the proletariat that leads the people’s army and the masses in overthrowing the bourgeois state.

During the GPCR, the most extensive kind of democracy arose, with Mao rallying the masses of Red Guards and the people to bombard the bourgeois headquarters in the Party and state and calling on the Party and the People’s Liberation Army to support the Left. Under the leadership of the CPC, revolutionary committees arose to lead the masses in communities, factories and farms. But in the course of the class struggle, the Rightists and the ultra-Leftists also generated an anarchy of factions behind which the capitalist roaders maneuvered to retain their positions in the CPC and state in collaboration with the Centrists in order to defeat the GPCR ultimately.

It is in accordance with Maoism or the teachings of Mao that the CPP has strengthened itself ideologically, politically and organizationally and has built the mass movement as its and at the same time the local organs of political power as the embryos of the future people’s democratic state. The sum of these local organs of political power may be considered the provisional revolutionary government of the workers and peasants. These organs of political power can be formed only because there are the Party, the people’s army, the mass organizations and the united front that support and enable them.

5. RADI: In my dissertation, I argue that contemporary communist hypothesis must consider three terms, each of which are dialectically related with each other: party, state, and mass movement. I argue further that the possibility of communism could only be if the nature of the party is “a party in scission,” that is, a party which, while utilizes state power to suppress reaction, also immerses itself with the mass movements. What is Maoism’s greatest lesson to the question of political organization (a question which Lenin brilliantly answered in What is to be Done)? Did Maoism modify, in one way or another, the question of vanguard leadership (especially if we take into account the lessons of the GPCR)?

JMS: You are on the correct track by considering the party, the state and mass movement, each of which are dialectically related to each other. Even if only one of these is lacking or is weak, it is impossible to achieve the full development of socialism, which is the precondition to communism. If there is no genuine communist party, there can be no socialist revolution and no socialist state to establish. 

If there is no socialist state, there is no way to promote the forces and factors of socialism and pave the way to the communism. Without the class dictatorship of the proletariat, there is no way to suppress reaction and to prevent the bourgeoisie from re-emerging and taking power. A ruling communist party or socialist state cannot survive and progress without relying on the mass movement.

Mao adhered to the Leninist concept of a vanguard party representative of the proletariat as the most advanced political and productive class that is most interested in socialism. In the course of the new democratic and socialist stages of the Chinese revolution, Mao and the CPC had ample time and opportunity to develop the CPC as the leading force and the various types of forces that brought about the Chinese socialist state. 

In an all-round way, the CPC benefited from the line of relying and trusting the masses and constantly arousing, organizing and mobilizing them in communities and work places in the course of fighting the enemy and building a socialist society. The Party was in the lead and at the same time at the core of mass formations. In both ways, it drew strength from the masses.

It is also pertinent to mention that, after the death of Lenin, Stalin and the CPSU carried forward Leninism in Party building, mass mobilization and in socialist revolution and construction. He built a powerful socialist state that could defeat fascism and subsequently challenge US imperialism and the world capitalist system. He carried out well the Leninist task of promoting the building of communist parties in many countries through the Comintern.

The Chinese revolution would not have won victory and would not have established the Chinese people’s democratic state (gliding into the socialist state) if not for the vanguard role of the Chinese Communist Party, the mobilization of the masses, the use of the people’s army to destroy the reactionary state and the readiness of the people to build further as the new democratic government the local organs of political power established in the course of people’s war.

130. Research Note~ Albanian Attitude towards the Cultural Revolution

In the Western commentaries of the 1960s, when Chinese and Albanian interests coincided in their struggle against Soviet revisionism, much was framed in terms of Albania being a bridgehead for the Chinese in Europe as if Albania was a springboard, the European outpost of Mao’s revolutionary policy and Chinese penetration of the European based communist movement.

An article from the influential British think-tank Royal Institute of International Affairs reflecting this narrative was “Albania: A Chinese Satellite in the Making?” by Anton Logoreci ([i]), while Newsweek could headline an article “Albania: Mediterranean Maoists”[ii]  and they reflected the lack of attention paid to the internal dynamics of People’s Republic of Albania and that Western approach devalued the actual value and experience of the Albanian revolution and its achievements in the poorest of the European countries. demonstration

Clearly Albania was the strongest supporter of China not only within the international communist movement, but in efforts to break the American quarantine of the People’s Republic. In concluding that Albania was fully committed to ideological and economic dependence on China, it underestimated the domestic roots of Albania policy and its independent motivation of Albanian national survival and pride in those achievements and its chosen path. For all the references to Stalinist Albania, that Stalin remained an irremovable reference point for Hoxha, was overshadowed in the narrative of the “Mediterranean Maoists”. The “deal” was seen as unequivocal ideological support of the Albanian leadership on the part of Mao’s China as accompanied by substantial material aid; even in the aftermath of the break down in the alliance, western commentators would argue the break with China left Albania with no foreign protector as if that was a prime diplomatic concern.

Albania did became a major recipient of Chinese foreign aid, receiving huge economic and military assistance. China could never materially satisfy the exorbitant requests for full industrial plants, massive amounts of equipment, and military aid. The total assistance from China to Albania amounted to ten billion renminbi. It was, according to a Chinese estimate, equivalent to 6 billion US dollars then. [iii]

“Sometimes our Albanian friends had too big an appetite for Chinese assistance,” Fan CHENGZUO told an international seminar.[iv]

It was the political relationship that had brought the two together, that shared anti-revisionist stance, and it was political divergence that saw the collapse of the relationship. As an alliance it was ideologically based, party propaganda, in turn, Albania lauded China as the crucial factor in the building of socialism. The shared opposition to modern revisionism did not mean a shared understanding of its causes nor its avoidance. There was an emerging explanation coming out of China that was accelerated during the Cultural Revolution that the Albanian party were reluctant to endorse in practice whilst eventually rhetorically supporting the events in China.

In the Sixties, Zhou Enlai, Politburo member Kang Sheng, deputy premier Li Xiannian, and leading Cultural Revolution activist Yao Wenyuan all made similarly highly publicized visits to Albania.

Symbolical of that relationship was seen in 1964 when Zhou Enlai stayed in Albania for an unprecedented nine days


1964 Premier Chou Enlai in Tirana 

Peking Review #1  January 3, 1964 & Peking Review #2 January 10, 1964

1964 Zhou in Albania-a memoir


“Memorandum of Conversation, between Comrade Zhou Enlai and Party and State Leaders of Albania, 27-29 March 1965,” March, 1965, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Central State Archive, Tirana, AQPPSH-MPKK-V. 1965, D. 4. Obtained for CWIHP by Ana Lalaj and translated for CWIHP by Enkel Daljani. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/117704


Zhou Enlai also paid a visit to Albania from June 24 to 28, 1966

1966 hoxha_conversation_with_chou_en_lai_entry in his Political Diary.


Memorandum of Conversation between Albanian Labor Party Delegation and the Chinese Communist Party Leadership,” October 12, 1967, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Central State Archive, Tirana, AQPPSH-MPKK-V. 1967, L. 19, D. 20. Obtained by Ana Lalaj and translated by Enkel Daljani. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/117694

Memorandum of Conversation between comrade Enver Hoxha and a delegation of Chinese Red Guards (led by Yao Wenyun) , July 08, 1967. National Archives of Albania (AQSH), F. 14/AP, M-PKK, 1967, Dos. 43, Fl. 1-18. Obtained and translated by Elidor Mëhilli. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/117303

Zeri I Popullit editorial, The Albanian Edition of “Quotations From Chairman Mao tse-tung” – A Great and Precious Gift From the Fraternal Chinese People, reproduced in Peking Review #44 October 27, 1967  PR1967-44

In June 1966, Zhou Enlai visited Albania. Shortly before he landed in Tirana, Zëri I Popullit (People’s Voice), published on its third page an article that for the first time reported on the Cultural Revolution. Zhou Enlai in his visit had had a long conversation with Hoxha, aimed at finding the roots of revisionism as a phenomenon. Zhou went back to the early stage of Stalin’s rule and tried to convince Hoxha that Stalin was not infallible as he had thought, but now Hoxha stated that ‘he [Zhou] did not convince us at all.”[v]

Still the outward appearance was very different:


For both sides, when it comes to describing the bilateral relationship between China and Albania, expressions such as “unbreakable,” “arm-in-arm,” and “growing with each passing day” no longer cut it; better expressions include “strong as steel and pure as crystal,” “advancing from climax to climax,” and even direct quotations from poetry like“ long distance separates no bosom friends.” We who were responsible for drafting speeches at that time were all racking our brains to come up with better phrases or expressions.[vi]

Later was exposed (after the breach in the relationship) the disconnect between the public utterances and supposed entries into Hoxha’s private diary at the time, his increasing sceptical views on China and its relationship with Albania.[vii]

There is no evidence that the Chinese sought to impose their Cultural Revolution on the Albanians, as Hoxha accused them in his later published accounts.

The Albanians rejected the main ideological driver of the Cultural Revolution the issue of existing class antagonism under socialism, and in their own activities the Albanians insisted that the loss of party control was unacceptable. There were no calls to ‘Bombard the Headquarters’ appearing on Tirana’s walls.

“Albania, instead, maintained that the main purpose of the revolution had been the removal of the exploitative classes, and of the bourgeoisie as a class. Without this, the communists would have not considered their historical task of liberating the proletariat as accomplished. Perhaps, Shehu maintained, what was let was only the remnants of the bourgeoisie, and therefore not the class as an entity still able to challenge the political power of the communists” [viii]

After all, conditions in Albania were radically different from China’s. Albania’s specific context as an underdeveloped country, which did not precipitate the emergence of a strong bourgeoisie or its subsequent development into a powerful class.

There were differences in practices: unlike in China, the Albanian ‘Ideological and Cultural Revolution’ was less disruptive, mainly serving the ‘further’ consolidation of what Albanian leaders called the total socialist revolution.

The old idealist ideology of the exploiting society still has deep roots and exerts a powerful and continuous influence. When we speak of this influence, it is not just a matter of «a few remnants and alien manifestations that appear here and there», as it is often wrongly described in our propaganda, but the influence of a whole alien ideology which is expressed in all sorts of alien concepts, customs and attitudes, which are retained for a long time as a heritage from the past, have social support in the former exploiting classes and their remnants, in the tendencies to petty-bourgeois spontaneity, and are nurtured in various forms by the capitalist and revisionist world which surrounds us. [ix]

With no ‘revisionists’ to contend with, it addressed more practical goals and intensified policies that had already been in place since the establishment of communist rule such as female emancipation, and the eradication of religious beliefs. The campaign was carried out always under Hoxha’s control and did not cause turmoil, as in launching it, he had warned that ‘our party is not an arena where the class struggle will manifest. It is the party itself who leads the class struggle, it does not allow groups of revisionists within it.

The Albanian view of class struggle within the country was that

It is waged against the remnants of the exploiting classes, overthrown and expropriated, but who continue to resist and exert pressure by every means, first and foremost, through their reactionary ideology, as well as against new bourgeois elements, degenerate revisionist and anti-Party elements, who inevitably emerge within our society. It is also waged against bourgeois and revisionist ideology which is retained and expressed in various forms and degrees of intensity, as well as against the external pressure of imperialism.[x]

The propaganda rhetoric papered over Chinese differences with the Albanian vision of class struggle which acknowledged class struggle is reflected within the Party, however targeted the crimes of bureaucrats rather than a regenerative class enemy.

On July 8, in fact, Hoxha received a delegation of Red Guards and showered them with ihoxhae001p1praise, told the Red Guards that Mao was “a shining ideological and political beacon” for the international communist world. Albania asked for and were gifted 100,000 volumes of the Little Red Book.

Between the two sides, there were frequent high-level contacts and a broad range of cooperation; there was also a steady flow of large amounts of assistance from China to Albania; and the two countries piled on each other high praises and constantly exceeded reception and other official protocols for each other. [xi]

Shehu and mao

Visiting China, Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu spoke declaring that the Albanians,

“We hold that one’s attitude towards China’s great proletarian cultural revolution is the touchstone for distinguishing between Marxist – Leninists and revisionists and opportunists, and between genuine revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries.”  The Albanian party and people, he concluded, had “consistently supported the great proletarian Cultural Revolution and will support it to the end.” [xii]

It was Mao Tse-tung’s that proclaimed [xiii] 

Beacon quote

A sentiment echoed in the Marxist-Leninist movement internationally.

See also When Enver Was A Maoist https://wordpress.com/post/emaoism.wordpress.com/753



[i] The World Today Vol. 17, No. 5 (May, 1961), pp. 197-205

[ii] Newsweek August 14, 1967

[iii] Estimate from Fan Chengzuo, graduate of Tirana University in 1957, served as an Albanian translator for Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, and was appointed as the Ambassador to Albania from 1986 through 1989. Quoted in Sino-European relations during the Cold war and the rise of a multi-polar world- A Critical Oral History, Edited by Enrico Fardella, Christian F. Ostermann, and Charles Kraus (2015) Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

[iv] Fan Chengzuo’s recollections are contained in Xiaoyuan Liu and Vojtech Mastny, eds.,China and Eastern Europe, 1960s– 1980s: Proceedings of the International Symposium: Reviewing the History of Chinese – East European Relations from the 1960s to the 1980s (Zurich: Center for Security Studies, 2004), p. 184

[v] Quoted in Ylber Marku (2017) China and Albania: the Cultural Revolution and Cold War Relations, Cold War History, 17:4, 367-383

[vi] Fan Chengzuoin Sino-European relations during the Cold war and the rise of a multi-polar world- A Critical Oral History, Edited by Enrico Fardella, Christian F. Ostermann, and Charles Kraus (2015) Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

[vii] Explored in Elidor Mëhilli’s chapter on “Mao and the Albanians” in Cook (2014) Mao’s Little Red Book: A Global History . Cambridge University Press.

[viii] Quoted in Ylber Marku (2017) China and Albania: the Cultural Revolution and Cold War Relations, Cold War History, 17:4, 367-383

[ix] Enver Hoxha (1982) Selected Works IV February 1966-July 1975. Tirana: the < 8 Nentori> Publishing House p164 See for a hostile view: Pano, “The Albanian Cultural Revolution ”Problems of Communism, 23, 4, 1974: 44-57

[x] Enver Hoxha (1982) Selected Works IV February 1966-July 1975. Tirana: the < 8 Nentori> Publishing House p165

[xi] Fan Chengzuo in Sino-European relations during the Cold war and the rise of a multi-polar world – A Critical Oral History, Edited by Enrico Fardella, Christian F. Ostermann, and Charles Kraus (2015) Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

[xii] Peking Review October 27th, 1967:18

Mehmet Shehu met Mao Zedong on September 30, 1967, and on October 12, 1967. For the Albanian records of conversation, see Ana Lalaj, Christian F. Ostermann, and Ryan Gage, “‘Albania is not Cuba’: Sino-Albanian Summits and the Sino-Soviet Split,” Cold War International History Project Bulletin Issue 16, Spring 2008

[xiii] Peking Review #46 November 11, 1966: 5

Related posts:

Re-tuned to Radio Tirana

The PLA on Modern Revisionism

63. Friendship and Solidarity with Socialist Albania

Friendship and Solidarity with Socialist Albania, part two

33. Enver Praises Mao (1973)

Tirana builds an Internationale (1)

Lin Biao


Reading a Norwegian critique of ‘Third worldism’ sparked the curiosity to return to source. The publishers Routledge have reprinted (under a Revivals series label) a collection of documents from China on The Lin Biao Affair. 9781138203921

This anthology reproduces the information given by the party leadership as well as ‘Project 571’ and the speeches and writings of Lin Piao between 1965-1970.Included is Mao’s interpretation of events, available here online .

While in the late Mao period, there was the nation-wide Campaign to Criticize Lin Piao and Confucius: the common western complaint was about the thread-bare-ness of the official account of the Lin Biao incident.

The post-Mao leadership’s offensive against the Cultural Revolution’s ultra -left saw the shackling together in the 1980 Trial of the Lin Biao and Jiang Qing “Counter-Revolutionary Cliques”.

Subject to varying academic interest in journal articles, the Lin Biao affair has received scant attention since his demise. For a long time the standard text available was a popular Penguin paperback, The Rise And Fall of Lin Piao (1976 ) by Jaap Van Ginneken  that relied extensively on high level Chinese documents.

Subsequently books have echoed the revisionist stance of the sceptically received, The Conspiracy and Death of Lin Biao (1983) by Yao Ming-Le  and Stanley Karnow . Translated from a Chinese manuscript  smuggle out to the West, this account (regard as  great political fiction?) chronicles the events surrounding the death of Lin Biao, Mao’s chosen successor killed in a plane crash while fleeing after an attempted coup. Alternative edition published under the more explicit title The Conspiracy and Murder of Mao’s Heir.

The siniologist Frederick C Teiwes & Warren Sun, The Tragedy of Lin Biao: Riding the Tiger during the Cultural Revolution (1996)  offer an interpretation which radically undermines the standard view of Lin Biao presenting him as someone basically uninterested in power or even politics, who was thrust into leading positions and the successor role by Mao against his wishes.

While The Culture of Power: The Lin Biao Incident in the Cultural Revolution (1999) by ,  Qiu Jin daughter of the former commander-in-chief of the Chinese air force, who served under Lin and, along with thousands of others, was imprisoned as a result of the purges that followed Lin s death, intriguingly speculates that Lin was unaware of the “plot” against Mao, since he was extremely ill, but it was rather something concocted by his “princeling” son and wife.

The true “reversal of verdict” on Lin Biao has taken place on the leftist margins associated with Third Worldism which critics see as an ideological variety of Lin Biaoism – if singularly based on the text of Long Live the Victory of People’s War!.

In 2006 the Spanish group Gran Marcha Hacia el Comunismo (Long March Towards Communism) called for a reassessment of the Lin Biao affair in the document “Acerca de la Cuestión de Lin Piao” (On the Question of Lin Piao) .

In its maoist phase, what was to become LLCO published in 2008 a study, Two Roads Defeated in the Cultural Revolution, Part 2: Lin Biao’s Road and the document, “The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.”

There was a small revival of interest as internet distribution made available the arguments summarised by N. Brown’s Long Live the Revolutionary Spirit of Lin Biao! posted at Anti-Imperialism.org in December 2013.

These were answered in a flurry of counter-reaction of ideological criticism from internet Maoists-identifying commentators, and from the Gonzaloist trend.

LLCO: an Extended Footnote

On the Internet even the marginal can be on somebodies favourite list even if little known outside the orbit of their own ego. Not all individual commentators should be categorised together or warrant the attention they receive; their value may be entertainment rather than thought provoking. But sometimes you cannot but follow the white rabbit down the hole…..

The political genealogy of the Leading Light Communist Organization is in various small, mostly Maoist North American groups, with much of the core idea goes back to the mid-1990s from early shaping experiences with MIM, It’s Right to Rebel “think tank” experience and web journal, Monkey Smashes Heaven. There was political work in Mexico, without really establishing deep roots, along the way. There was a fifteen year development as “the best of the best, warrior geniuses” developed “Maoist-Third Worldist” positions as “the new line we were creating.” From Denver USA the first group calling itself Leading Light Communist Organisation was formed in 2010. Bibliographical background, mostly an unverifiable account was supplied in an interview with fellow LLCO member in 2017.

Internet criticism on Redditt of LLCO that “long story short, the Leading Light Communist Organization really has nothing besides a nice website” had the unsatisfyingly self-serving reply from a supporter of the clandestine organization, “Prairie Fire” that “I doubt any answer I give will satisfy you. If you don’t see the light, you don’t see it. The advanced do see it.”

Eventually the anonymity of “Prairie Fire” gave way to the self-aggrandisement that saw the self-publishing website Lulu carry the endorsement that:

Brennen Ryan, “Leading Light,” “Prairie Fire,” “El Hector,” is one of the most important theorists of revolution in our age. His works span many topics ranging from political economy to epistemology to environmentalism to history to aesthetics. He has been described as “the Marx of the present epoch.”

Stalwart  and founder-leader of the Leading Light Communist Organization, Brennen Ryan’s self-identifying revolutionary genius is based on thin ground: he has put into the public domain a couple of pieces of secondary research work largely hung around the line struggles in Maoist China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, principally Seas are rising, Clouds and Waters Raging, but more generally produces writings of a preacher’s revivalist tone with bald assertions that soon become ritualistic frequent. However, the emphasis of self-cultivation – to live according to our best selves – speaks with a voice that seemingly has an audience in Bangladesh and Ghana, and has a friend in fellow sensation-in-his-own-mind Jason of Maoist Rebel News (so far not prosecuted under the Trade Description Act).

Brennen’s analysis, rooted in the idea of the global rich versus the global poor, built upon a sense that the world is deeply unjust and is informed by an analysis of the class struggle in China in the Sixties particularly when

“Lin Biao died in 1971. China’s support for people’s wars around the world is replaced by an opportunistic, nationalist calculation not unlike the Soviet revisionist one. China begins aligning with the Western imperialists. This nationalist opportunism is sometimes associated with a doctrine called “Three Worlds Theory,” but the theory was really just window dressing for the practice.”

Brennen said of Seas are rising, Clouds and Waters Raging, “the book traces the development of not just the Cultural Revolution ideology of the Maoists, but also the dual institutions that allowed the Maoists to bypass and challenge the traditional, bureaucratic chains of command. Once examined closely, it is hard to imagine how the Cultural Revolution could have happened without Lin Biao.”

A position not dissimilar to some bourgeois scholars of the Cultural Revolution, who also acknowledge – as did Mao – that there was no masterplan that unraveled and the accidental nature of the developments driven by the mass movements involved. And he is not the first to raise the point that “Obviously there is a lot of deception going on in the post-Lin Biao Maoist narratives.”

“There are a couple reasons I have focused on Lin Biao in my work. The first reason is that Lin Biao was a revolutionary. He represented some of the best of the Maoist era. He symbolized the Cultural Revolution and worldwide people’s war. That’s good stuff. Secondly, I view Lin Biao as a kind of barometer. How you view Lin Biao really reflects whether you are stuck in the dogma of police narratives and metaphysics or whether you have genuine scientific potential. If you are afraid to question dogma, then you are not very useful to the proletariat. If you are comfortable with dogma, injustice, police narratives, etc., then, again, you are not really leadership, vanguard, Leading Light material.”

His message contains reasonable, logical and pertain observations like

“We cannot reform our way to revolution. Revolution is a deep, fundamental reorganization of all of society, it means disempowering the reactionary classes. It means empowering the revolutionary classes” and

The next wave of revolution is not going to be made by dogmatically repeating the past. We need to learn from the past, but also go beyond it. Those who are stuck in the past really do a disservice to the masses”


Brennen argues in the same vein as earlier Third worldist trends that extended the concept of a Labour Aristocracy to embrace all working people geographically located in the Global North regardless of their local relationship to the means of productions and actual standard of consumption in a “Global Class Analysis” that echoes Lin Biao’s “global countryside” that opposed a “global city.” Leading Light’s line is not that there is no proletariat in the First World countries. Rather that there is no significant proletariat in the First World countries.

“In fact, the last century of revolution has taught us that revolution will happen in the weakest links of the system, on the edges of global economic power. Lenin’s prediction that the storm center of world revolution moving eastward came to past. Mao spoke of the east wind prevailing over the west wind. Today, the entire world economy is a single entity. Understanding the question of friends and enemies, Mao’s first question requires a class analysis that is truly global. It is not just First World capitalists who are reactionary enemies, but most people in the First World. Ordinary people in the First World have far more to lose than their chains. They have wealth, privileges, houses, cars, electronics, security, leisure, opportunities, mobility. They have access to capital. They have social wealth, infrastructure, land, modern institutions. Ordinary people in the First World do not have a class interest in revolution.”

Amongst the sensible soundbites there are the messianic expression of a medieval true believer in revelatory truth.

“After much difficulty, we continue to assemble the greatest revolutionary minds and hearts alive. The most thoughtful, the most daring, the most caring will be with us. We are Leading Lights, the warriors, the martyrs. We are the Leading Light, the organization of the new type to initiate the Global People’s War, to purge the world of all suffering, so that a new humanity and land will flourish. Our future is our own because we have the science, the leadership, the organization, the loyalty, the discipline, the daring, the courage to really win. There is an oath, a command that we have written on our souls: One Earth. One people. One organization. One leadership. One life to give. My life for the masses, for the land, for the Leading Light.”

Like the Avakianists and their “New Synthesis,” Brennen claims that Leading Light Communism represents a new breakthrough in revolutionary science, one that makes previous ones obsolete. The appeal of Maoism said to be that it romanticises guerrilla struggles in the third world in a pseudo-intellectual rhetoric which suggest a shallow understanding of what constitutes Maoism. So they claim to transcend their ideological roots in Maoism and regard those who still have an identification with it as part of the ideological opposition. Brennen sees the left as stuck in dogma. In 2011, writing as Prairie Fire he criticised the experienced Communist Party of the Philippines as

“armed revisionists. While they may be landing some blows against imperialism, they are not communists. Besides being completely dead intellectually, they are crude dogmatists, especially Jose Maria Sison.”

He is equally dismissive and critical of the newly emerged radical First-World based Maoists and Gonzaloist trends:

“The idea that Maoism is some kind of “third, higher stage” is not a new idea. Many Maoists today think this “new stage” stuff is from Gonzalo in Peru. It isn’t. Before Gonzalo was talking this way, India’s Charu Majumdar was. And Charu Majumdar just got it from his contemporaries in China. The idea goes back to Maoist discourse that was popularized in the mid and late 1960s. The “new stage” idea is specifically from Lin Biao. It is mentioned over and over in such obscure texts as the original introduction to Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong. Yes, the “red book.” It is even in Lin Biao’s “Report to the Ninth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party” in 1969. The inability to deal with history honestly is part of the comical nature of Maoism today.”

brennen ryan

I think of Maoism a lot like Maoists once used to think of Hoxhaism, as “dogmatic revisionism.” I see it as a dead trend and a dead end.


LLCO has produced a body of literature to substantiate its Third Worldist political orientation. The Maoist adjective now dropped.

A free introductory booklet, Forward! breaks down the basics of Leading Light Communism. It addresses many of the most frequently asked questions, and advises that “All new cadre and supporters should familiarize themselves with these answers. These answers are the beginning of knowledge, not the end. Keep advancing. Prove yourself. Follow the Leading Light all the way. Be the Leading Light.”product_thumbnail

Publish in various languages, illustration is AVANTE: Questões Frequentes parte 1: O que é a Luz Guiadora?” is Frequently Asked Questions of LLCO in Portuguese.

Other publications include the Leading Light magazine that focuses on a main topic. See https://llco.org/study/

Leading Light 1:  The General Line
Leading Light 2:  Science In Command
Leading Light 3:  Orientation
Leading Light 4:  Revolutionary History
Leading Light 5:  Practice

Available in various languages including Bengali e.g.

A theoretical publication, Monkey Smashes Heaven saw two issues consisting of reprints of web-based articles attributed to “Prairie Fire”. In addition there are

Casting Pearls 2015 Lulu. By Prairie Fire

We are proud to announce the publication of Casting Pearls: philosophy, science, art, revolution by Leading Light Commander Prairie Fire. This work outlines some of the biggest breakthroughs in contemporary revolutionary science, product_thumbnail (3)Leading Light Communism. This volume also contains important, significant, unpublished materials. All over the world, the revolutionary movement is discovering the importance of science once again. From Bangladesh to Brazil, from Myanmar to Germany, from India to Canada, from Mexico to Russia, from the Philippines to the United States the masses are waking up. It is a must read for all those who seek a better world.

By whatever name he goes by, Brennen is offering the world an answer. He is confident and full of self-belief similar to other American leaders whose ideas and practice of leadership stem from privilege and entitlement. So far less people have bought into the version of LLCO that is being marketed via the world wide web.

“I embrace the best in all the Leading Lights of the past. In that sense, I am a Marxist, a Leninist, a Maoist, and a Lin Biaoist. However, that is not all that I am. Not only do I embrace what is the best in the revolutionary tradition, I embrace the most advanced breakthroughs today. I am a Leading Light Communist, a revolutionary scientist. Truth, as best as it can be understood, is my great leader.”

“…as Leading Lights, we are condemned to lead. We carry the world on our shoulders. We need to understand the past, but if we are to have victory, we must go beyond it. Elevate the science. Advance the science. Science. Science. Science. Leading Light Communism is the key to the future, our great destiny.”

Unverified Afternote

The website Soviet Broadcast posted this item:

April 20 2019, 11:12 AM

For those unaware former figurehead of the LLCO Prairie Fire (Hector) passed away on April 18th due to a heroin overdose.