Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong

Also known as Chairman Mao, was a Chinese communist revolutionary and founding father of the People’s Republic of China, which he ruled as an autocrat styled the Chairman of the Communist Party of China from its establishment in 1949, until his death in 1976. His Marxist-Leninist theories, military strategies, and political policies are collectively known as Maoism or Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.

Mao Zedong was born in the Hunan Province, China, into a relatively prosperous family of peasants. He was a guerrilla communist leader who fought a civil war for twenty-two years in order to conquer the most populated country in the world and then led it for another twenty-six years in a special type of communism, marked by his personal touch. Mao received a good education, studying the Chinese classics. Between 1911 and 1912, Mao was a soldier in the nationalist army. Later, he moved to Beijing, where he came into contact for the first time with the revolutionary ideology. In 1918 and 1919, Zedong studied Marx and Engels while working as a library assistant at the Beijing University and became a devoted political activist.

Mao began to depend on the Chinese peasants, who later became staunch supporters of his theory of violent revolution. This dependence of rural people rather than the urban proletariat to instigate violent revolutions, distinguished Mao from his predecessors and contemporaries. Mao Zedong himself came from a peasant family, and so he has cultivated a reputation among farmers and peasants, thus converting and integrating them to Marxism.

In 1931, Mao Zedong conquered a part of Jiangxi and founded the Chinese Soviet Republic. His peasant guerrillas transformed then in the Red Army and Mao became the de facto leader of a rebel state. In 1934, Chiang Kai-Shek, who fought hard to destroy the local warriors and unite the country, has decided to eliminate this last enclave of resistance. He surrounded the separatist republic with 700.000 people, resulting in Mao’s lose of half of the people. The remaining 100.000 pierced the lines of the nationalists fled to northeast. Over the next two years, they traveled almost 10.000 km in the famous “Long March”, up to Yan’an, on the border with the Soviet Union, where they were safe. Mao consolidated his position in the party.

In 1937, Mao’s Communists retained an uneasy peace with the Nationalists during the Second World War. Both sides fought against the Japanese invaders. Mao was more active, acting from his base at Yan’an. After the Second World War was over, Mao broke the peace with the Nationalists after the Japanese surrendered and the civil war resumed. During the war years, the communists had become stronger, so it took only four years to push Chiang Kai-Shek over the Strait of Formosa, in Taiwan. Mainland China was now in the hands of Mao. After the end of the Second World War, the US continued to support Chiang Kai-Shek, who was now ready to fight against the People’s Liberation Army led by Mao Zedong in the Chinese civil war for the control of China. US support was an aid to defeat communism worldwide. Also, the Soviet Union provided quasi-secret support to Mao (as a neighbor, being more than just a military ally, in order to avoid an open conflict with the US) delivering weapons to the Communist Party of China, although relevant Chinese sources recently indicated that the Soviet “deliveries” were not as great as previously believed, and have fallen steadily in a short time, not reaching the promised aid.

In 1960, the rivalry between China and USSR, a rivalry for the leadership of the communist world, has sparked a Sino-Soviet rift. The communist nomenclature tried to marginalize Mao, and he answered in the late 1960’s with the launch of the Cultural Revolution, when the Red Guards went crazy. Revolution torn China’s society apart and millions of people have terribly suffered or died. Mao, now old and suffering from Parkinson’s disease, has encouraged the development of a personality cult. His image with his famous peasant tunic appeared everywhere, as well as all sorts of inscriptions with quotations from his speeches. On 9 September 1976, Mao Zedong died in Beijing, China. He once said: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

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