Basics of Leftist Ideology

The leftist ideology believes that all existing social and state structures in an elitist or capitalist society are exploitative by nature and this exploitation can be ended only through a revolutionary change through violent means. The ideological basis for violent movements was first provided by Marx and Engels through their Communism / Marxism ideology. It was later supported by Lenin (via Leninism) and Mao Zedong (via Maoism). It would be better to have a look at key features of these ideologies first.

Marxism

Marxism is basically a radical type of socialism, which advocates the removal of the capitalist bourgeois elements via a violent class struggle.  It emphasized the advancement of people’s social and economic life by establishing a classless society through armed revolution. It was rooted in the anti-imperialist struggle and supported armed revolution in order to achieve political transformation.

This ideology supports violent struggle because as per Marx capitalists would never permit socialism to succeed. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels outlined their ideas in a 23-page pamphlet called The Communist Manifesto in February 1948.

In their manifesto, Marx and Engels argued that human societies have always been divided into warring classes. In their own time, these were the middle-class “haves” or employers, called the bourgeoisie and the “have-nots” or workers, called the proletariat. While the wealthy controlled the means of producing goods, the poor performed backbreaking labor under terrible conditions. This situation resulted in conflict.

According to Marx, Socialism was a historical inevitability, due to the inherent contradictions of capitalism. All societies passed through six historical stages viz. primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, socialism and finally communism.  Each historical stage corresponded to a particular level of technology and a particular system of class relations. In his words, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” According to them, the process works as follows:

  • Technology gradually increases society’s capacity to generate wealth, but the dominant social class would be unwilling to adopt these new technologies.
  • Gradually, a new social class would emerge, which controlled the most dynamic productive forces. This new class would grow to resent the “old order”, which it saw as hindering further progress.
  • In the end, the new class would rise up and overthrow the old, establishing new institutions more to its liking.
  • Once again the forces of production and the social relations of production would be in harmony, propelling the economy forward until a new contradiction emerged.

The manifesto further said that the Industrial Revolution had enriched the wealthy and impoverished the poor. They predicted that the workers would overthrow the owners: “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite.”

Marx believed that the capitalist system, which produced the Industrial Revolution, would eventually destroy itself. Factories would drive small artisans out of business, leaving a small number of manufacturers to control all the wealth. Consequently, the large proletariat would revolt, seize the factories and mills from the capitalists, and produce what society needed. Workers, sharing in the profits, would bring about economic equality for all people. The workers would control the government in a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” After a period of cooperative living and education, the state or government would wither away as a classless society developed. Marx called this final phase pure communism.

According to Marx, communism is a form of complete socialism in which the all means of production would be owned by the people and the private property would in effect cease to exist. All goods and services would be shared equally.

Thus, Marx explained the rise of capitalism as a conflict between the bourgeoisie and proletariat. Marx believed that the industrialised nations of Europe were ripe for socialist revolution by the middle of the 19th century. But socialism itself would not be the end of the historical process, because society would still be unable to produce enough to meet all humanity’s material needs. Exploitation and inequality would only be eliminated under communism, a system in which there would be no poverty, no crime, no money and no government.

Maoism

Maoism originated in China as a form of Communist theory; derived from political ideals of Mao Zedong. It was widely applied as the political and military guiding ideology of the Communist Party of China till 1977-78.  Maoism teaches to capture State power through a combination of armed insurgency, mass mobilization and strategic alliances. Its key argument was that even pre-capitalist nations could stage socialist revolutions, by mobilising the peasantry rather than the working class. Mao asserted that the capitalist stage of development could be by-passed altogether. The process of bypassing the capitalist stage of development was called the “Protracted Peoples War”.

Further, the Maoist ideology glorifies violence and argues that ‘bearing of arms is non-negotiable. The military strategy of Maoists is to engage in a guerrilla war focussing on surrounding the cities from countryside with heavy emphasis on political transformation through the mass involvement of lower classes of the society.

In summary, Maoism is to mobilize a large part of rural / landless peasants and overthrow the established institutions. This is no longer an ideological movement but a terrorism that denies democracy to tribals and instils a fear among them.

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