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Goutham asked: What is the core difference between Marxism and Maoism, and how both are different from Gandhian Socialism?

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  • Adil Rasheed replies: There is no core difference between Marxism and Maoism and the latter has more to do with the revolutionary strategy and practical applicability of Marxist ideas, particularly in the Third World countries.

    To Karl Marx, the modern capitalist state is not democratic as it protects the capitalist elite, who own means of production (the tools and machinery used for making various products). According to Marxism, the ownership of the means of production should be with the collective working class (the ‘proletariat’) and not with capitalists (the ‘bourgeoisie’), as decisions of the latter are invariably driven by selfish interests and are against the larger good of society.

    In fact, Marxism believes that it is inevitable that the working class would gradually conduct violent revolutions around the world and replace the capitalist order with a socialist one. Once this ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ (or collectivist rule of the working class) establishes socialism globally, it would then transform itself into a stateless, classless and moneyless communist utopia.

    When it comes to Maoism, the term refers to a particular set of ideas and strategies used by Mao Zedong (founder of People’s Republic of China) for spreading Marxism to non-industrialised and feudal societies of the Third World. Maoism has inspired the Shining Path movement in Peru, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the New People’s Army in the Philippines, etc.

    One of the main strategies of Mao was the ‘Protracted People’s War’. This strategy refers to long term guerilla warfare wherein the communist party bases itself mainly in rural areas of a country to set up liberated ‘red bases’ where it provides education, healthcare and implements land reforms. As these ‘red areas’ grow they eventually surround and take over cities, if not the entire country. ‘The New Democracy’ concept of Mao opposes ‘Old Democracy’ of bourgeoisie-run parliaments and counts peasants and even small merchants/petty bourgeoisie along with the Marxian proletariat among the revolutionary classes. ‘The Mass Line’ dictum signifies the leadership’s drawing of their narrative directly from the masses, whereas Mao’s term ‘Cultural Revolution’ stands for the elimination or synthesising of past capitalist or traditional culture into the progressive, proletariat culture.

    Contemporary Maoists oppose seeking support of First World workers, as they believe they have been bought off by the Western bourgeoisie leadership. Thus, the real proletariat is now left in Third World, and the movement has turned staunchly against neo-liberal imperialism and opposes all forms of capitalist/democratic governments.

    For its part, Gandhian socialism differs from Marxian/Maoist socialism on several counts. Being transcendentalist and not materialist, Gandhian socialism is averse to physical coercion or violence to bring about social, economic or political change and seeks social cohesion as opposed to the Marxian dialectic of evolutionary class struggle. Gandhian socialism is anti-imperialist, opposes unbridled urbanisation and industrialisation at the expense of rural development and through its concept of ‘trusteeship’ urges the capitalist class to regard its excess wealth as a trust to be used for the welfare of the poor and downtrodden. Gandhian socialism is also averse to centralised planning and seeks to make villages self-sufficient both in administrative and economic terms. It opposes discrimination along class, caste or religious basis and is close to values of libertarianism, environmentalism and pacifism.

    Posted on January 30, 2019