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Mao Zedong Thought

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Strengthen the study of Marxism-Leninism Mao Zedong Thought, ca. 1951

Strengthen the study of Marxism-Leninism Mao Zedong Thought, ca. 1951

Mao Zedong Thought (Mao Zedong sixiang, 毛泽东思想), one of the pillars of the ideological complex that supports the People's Republic, is based on the official writings of Mao. The printed versions of the extensive Mao texts, however, have always taken the form of collections of selected writings (xuanji, 选集). This means that many of them have been chosen for political reasons and that their contents may have been altered by editors to make them fit the political circumstances of the moment. As a result, over time Mao Thought has existed in various versions and constellations, depending on the political priorities as they existed at specific moments.

Long live great Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, 1971

Long live great Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, 1971

Mao was a prolific writer all his life. The use of his writings as a repository of ideological truth evolved after he attained power over the Party in 1935. In the Yan'an period (1937-1947), Mao had the time and the opportunity to study the writings of Marxism-Leninism in translation, to adapt them to the Chinese circumstances and to develop his own brand of sinified Marxism. As a result, the term Maoism started to appear in party publications in 1942. A front-page article in the Jiefang ribao (Liberation Daily, 解放日报) in 1943 by Wang Jiaxing, the Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission, was the first locus where Mao Zedong Thought was mentioned.

Chairman Mao's writings are like the sun, 1964

Chairman Mao's writings are like the sun, 1964

Read Chairman Mao's writings to become a red successor, 1965

Read Chairman Mao's writings to become a red successor, 1965

Maoism as the new ideology of the CCP was formalized in 1945, when the new party constitution was drafted. The preamble of this document stated that the Party functioned under the great leadership of Mao Zedong Thought. In the 'Report on the Revision of the Party Constitution' delivered by Liu Shaoqi at the time, Mao Thought was presented as 'Chinese Communism', 'Chinese Marxism' and the 'Sinicization of Marxism'. Liu called on all party schools, party propaganda sections, general propaganda training groups and party publications to use Mao's Thoughts as a foundation and teaching material and to disseminate Mao Thought in a huge wave of study. All this clearly was a continuation of the personality cult that had seen its origins in the mid-1940s.

The more we study, the brighter our hearts will become, 1964

The more we study, the brighter our hearts will become, 1964

With Mao's writings having been elevated to the status of a canon of the new PRC, they had to be made available to the population at large. The decision to edit Mao's considerable body of writings of political theory and military tactics resulted in the publication of the Selected Works in three volumes, covering the history of the Chinese Communist Movement to the end of the war against Japan in 1945. These volumes appeared in the years 1951-1953.

Study the revolutionary spirit of Daqing, hold high the great red banner of Mao Zedong Thought, to struggle for the realization of the third Five Year Plan!, 1966

Study the revolutionary spirit of Daqing, hold high the great red banner of Mao Zedong Thought, to struggle for the realization of the third Five Year Plan!, 1966

Mao himself actively participated in the editing process of the first edition of his three-volume Selected Works. He was assisted by many others, presumably also by his exegist and chief propagandist Chen Boda. In the process, as the famous Mao-scholar Stuart Schram has concluded, the wording of the texts was altered, passages were deleted or altered, and belated additions were inserted, thus making it extremely difficult to assume that even a single sentence of the printed version was identical to the original without recourse to what Mao had originally written.

Warriors love reading Chairman Mao's books most, 1966

Warriors love reading Chairman Mao's books most, 1966

A fourth volume, covering the period 1945-1949, was published in 1960. As the personality cult gathered steam, and political conflicts became more frequent and acute, a clear need was felt for more recent writings of the Chairman. Early in the Cultural Revolution, the Party Central Committee therefore decided to edit further volumes of the Selected Works. Zhou Enlai and Kang Sheng were given the task by Mao in 1969 to start the work needed for the compilation of a Volume V.

Make revolution all one's life, read Chairman Mao's books all one's life, 1965

Make revolution all one's life, read Chairman Mao's books all one's life, 1965


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