Mao Zedong, widely known as Chairman Mao, was a communist revolutionary and founding father of the People’s Republic of China.
Being forced to work for his family, Mao revolted against parental authority and continued studying where he became exposed to new ideas of political and cultural reformers such as Liang Qichao and Sun Yat-sen. He later traveled to Beijing and worked at a library in one of the city’s universities where he came across Communist literature and started educating himself about Marxism.
Mao helped to organize a number of collectives with the aim of talking about the rights of students, workers, merchants etc. He also referred to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in his writings during the same period. But it was not until 1921 that he fully committed to Marxism as the philosophical basis of the revolution in China.
In 1921, Mao became a founding member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and in July of that year, he attended the First Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, together with other Communist groups in China and two delegates from Moscow-based Comintern (Communist International).
In 1923, CCP aligned with the Kuomintang Nationalist Party (KMT) to defeat the warlords who controlled Northern China. During the winter of 1924-1925, while visiting his native village of Shaoshan, Mao witnessed the stirring of political consciousness as a result of shooting of several dozen Chinese peasants by foreign police in Shanghai.
This led to Mao’s recognition of the revolutionary potential inherent in the peasantry. Until then Mao, as well as his other comrades, adopted the traditional Marxist view of workers’ revolution. Though he was working with the urban proletariat, the year 1925 changed his mind where he looked towards the rural proletariat as the source of China’s regeneration. This led to a theoretical rupture in the traditional Marxism. Since then, Mao channelized the spontaneous farmers’ protests into a network of peasant associations.
After the death of Sun Yet-sen in 1925, Chiang Kai-shek became the leader of KMT and since 1927, he started an anti-communist propaganda in China. Joseph Stalin’s strategy for carrying out a revolution in alliance with the KMT collapsed and CCP was annihilated. Few Communists, peasants along with Mao fled to South East China. Mao, them started constructing the Red Army. An armed military of CCP would revolt against the KMT as opposed to an unarmed mass of peasants. Mao and Zhu De, the commander in chief of the Red Army developed guerrilla warfare tactics from the base areas in the countryside. But in 1934, KMT surrounded them. This led Mao to leave their base in South East China. He led his followers on a 6,000 miles journey to North West China to establish a new base. This journey is famously known as the ‘Long March’.
Shortly after the ‘Long March’, the CCP and KMT became temporary allies to defeat Japan during 1937-1945. During 1936-1940, Mao devoted himself to writing. During this period he produced his own philosophies. He wrote his own reflections of Dialectical Materialism of which the best-known essays are “On Practice” and “On Contradiction” and still holds an important place among the most revered Marxist literature. He also wrote on his own experience of revolutionary struggle and his vision of how the revolution should be carried forward.
After World War II, civil war broke out between CCP and KMT. The People’s Liberation Army, a successor of the Red Army took the Nationalist capital of Nanjing in 1949. The People’s Liberation Army became victorious and on Oct. 1, 1949, Mao founded the People’s Republic of China.
Post-victory, Mao and other Communist leaders set out to reshape the Chinese society. Means of production were owned by the state and Chinese farmers began to form small collectives.
To introduce a more Chinese form of communism, Mao launched the ‘Great Leap Forward’ Campaign in 1958. This economic strategy aimed at mass mobilization of labor to improve agricultural and industrial production.
In 1966 Mao launched a socio-political movement famously known as the ‘Cultural Revolution’ which aimed to remove impure capitalist elements from the Chinese Society. The movement went on for 10 years and re-imposed thoughts of Mao as the dominant ideology within the party.
While the two policies have been criticized by his detractors but his supporters see such policies as the reason why the Chinese state is considered one of the most powerful countries in the world independent and far from West-dominated.
His health started deteriorating since the early 1970s and he passed away on Sept. 9, 1976.
Mao was a fierce leader, theoretician, and a committed Communist whose legacy surpass the boundaries of China. His theories and revolutionary vision have been adopted by many societies in the later period to rebel against unjust administrations. Till today, Mao is remembered throughout the world for his contributions to Marxism and revolutionary theories.