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Maoism was considered synonymous with Mao Zedong Thought (also known as Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought) from the 1960s onwards—when many anti-revisionist Marxist organisations sided with China following the Sino-Soviet split—until 1988, when the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) formalised Marxism–Leninism–Maoism as a new and higher stage of Marxism–Leninism. This caused a split in the Maoist movement, with the adherents of Mao Zedong Thought leaving the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) and congregating around the International Conference of Marxist–Leninist Parties and Organizations.
Building on the theory of the vanguard party by Vladimir Lenin, the theory of the mass line outlines a strategy for the revolutionary leadership of the masses, consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and strengthening of the party and for the building of socialism. The mass line can be summarised by the phrase "from the masses, to the masses". It has three components (or stages) as follows:
These three steps should be applied over and over again, reiteratively uplifting practice and knowledge to higher and higher stages.
People's war, a Maoist strategy for revolution, holds the following:
In a joint document released in 1998, several communist parties affirmed the difference between the specific strategic line of protracted people's war and the more general (and universally applicable) people's war. Protracted people's war is identified as being a specific application of the concept of people's war to countries with a large population (or majority) of peasantry and involving encircling the cities from base areas of communist control in the countryside.
The issue of applying people's war to fully industrialized first world nations is the subject of much debate. Many organizations, such as the RIM and the Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada, have put forward that much of a hypothetical people's war in the first world would take place in urban areas.
The theory of New Democracy holds that the national-bourgeois in semi-feudal and semi-colonial countries has a dual character in that although it is an exploitative capitalist force, it can also (though not always) side with the proletariat against colonialism, imperialism and the comprador-bourgeoisie (whose existence is due to imperialism).
The role of the national-bourgeoisie as a progressive asset in the proletarian struggle to overthrow imperialism is of course never guaranteed and will eventually turn on the proletariat when the anti-imperialist situation progresses. The Balli Kombëtar in Albania in 1943 and the Kuomintang in China in the 1920s are examples of this. These national bourgeois forces temporarily allied with the proletariat of their countries (the Party of Labour of Albania and the Communist Party of China, respectively) for the overthrow of imperialism but eventually turned on the proletariat once they felt their long-term existence in the new society would be threatened.
Much like the New Economic Policy in Russia, New Democracy is conceived of as a necessary (but temporary) stage for the long-term development of socialism, or in this case for the construction and consolidation of socialism in the first place. Maoism holds that the national-bourgeois in the New Democratic stage must always be firmly under the command of the proletariat and they must be firmly dispensed with as soon as the national situation allows (in other words, when the contradiction between feudalism and the masses is no longer the primary contradiction of the nation, or when the bourgeois-democratic revolution is at a sufficiently advanced stage) for an outright dictatorship of the proletariat.
Maoists draw heavily from the experiences and lessons of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which sought to eradicate the bourgeois that arose within the vanguard party itself and to transform all aspects of the social superstructure. The catchphrase "class struggle continues, and is intensified, under socialism" is frequently used.
Maoists hold the primacy of the relations of production over the productive forces, criticise Joseph Stalin's line that bourgeois influence under an advanced stage of socialism is primarily due to external forces (to the almost complete exclusion of internal forces) and strongly reaffirm the base-superstructure dialectic (that the conscious transformation of the base on its own is not enough, but the superstructure must also be consciously transformed).
Maoists state that there are two kinds of countries, namely imperialist-capitalist ones on one side and oppressed semi-colonial and semi-feudal countries on the other. In the oppressed countries, there is a bureaucratic capitalist bourgeoisie submitted to imperialism. According to this concept, in some oppressed countries the ruling class tries to be expansionist.
Canadian writer J. Moufawad-Paul discusses the distinction of Marxism–Leninism–Maoism in his 2016 work Continuity and Rupture. Moufawad-Paul takes the commonly accepted Marxist–Leninist–Maoist perspective on the historical development of Maoist philosophy stating that Maoism—as it has developed contemporaneously—did not emerge until 1988 with its synthesization by the Communist Party of Peru, more commonly labelled as the Shining Path.
Perhaps the most notable Marxist–Leninist–Maoist international was the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM). RIM was founded in 1984 and included such organizations as the Communist Party of Peru (PCP), also known as "Sendero Luminoso" or "Shining Path"; and the then Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), now known as the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) UCPN(M). Today, the RIM appears to be defunct or near defunct. The magazine associated with the RIM, A World to Win, has not published an issue since 2006, though A World to Win News Service still publishes regularly on the Internet. In addition, many of the one-time RIM organizations have become increasingly critical of each other and this has resulted in many public splits.
The Communist Party of India (Maoist) is a political party which aims to overthrow the government of India. It was founded on 21 September 2004 through the merger of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) People's War and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCC). The merger was announced to the public on 14 October the same year. In the merger a provisional central committee was constituted, with the erstwhile People's War leader Muppala Lakshmana Rao (alias Ganapathi) as General Secretary. It is currently proscribed as a terrorist organization by the Indian government.
It is claimed by the Kangleipak Communist Party (Ibungo Ngangom) that Manipur (Kangleipak) was annexed by the Union of India under the guise of Manipur Merger Agreement of 1949. According to this group, which follows a fusion of Marxism and Maoism as its main ideological line, the merger of Manipur with the Union of India was in blatant contradiction of relevant international law as the then king of Manipur no longer had the authority to sign the agreement following the establishment of a democratically elected government. "Moreover, the then king signed the merger instrument only under duress, or more precisely, at gunpoint and so the so-called Manipur merger agreement was null and void from the very beginning", claims Ibungo Ngangom, the group's chairman. The group is currently at war with the Union of India and its express primary goal is not only to have Manipur secede from India, but also to bring about a communist state in Manipur through the scientific socialism of Karl Marx.
Many significant Maoist groups exist across Latin America, including the Communist Party of Ecuador (Red Sun), the Communist Party of Chile (Red Fraction), the Communist Party of Brazil (Red Fraction), the Revolutionary Nucleus for the Reconstitution of the Communist Party of Mexico, and the Maoist Organization for the Reconstitution of the Communist Party of Colombia.
The Communist Party of Peru was a guerrilla insurgent organization in Peru. It was founded in 1928, and was reconstituted in 1978 with Abimael Guzmán as its leader. The Communist Party of Peru fell into crisis after the capture of Guzmán and much of the party leadership in 1992. Within a decade the military operations of the PCP had collapsed, with what remained of the party having been driven underground and splintered into several factions claiming to be the continuators of the party.
The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), a national communist party with a revolutionary background, is a follower of Marxism–Leninism–Maoism, and the Party has also developed its own guiding thought, Marxism–Leninism–Maoism–Prachanda Path, which was developed taking Nepal's political, sociological and geographical constraints into consideration.
The Communist Party of Nepal is another Marxist–Leninist–Maoist party in Nepal. It claims that the UCPN(M) is a revisionist organization and is continuing the People's War against the UCPN(M) government.
In the Philippines, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its New People's Army (NPA) has been waging a People's War since 1968. Its strength peaked during the dictatorial rule of Ferdinand Marcos and was the main bulk of the opposition against the dictatorship. However, it suffered setbacks and stagnancy until it carried out the Second Great Rectification Movement. It maintains nearly 100 active guerrilla fronts throughout the Philippines today and is considered by the military as the main threat to national security.
The Revolutionary Communist Party was previously a Marxist–Leninist–Maoist political party in the United States. The RCP participated in the founding conference of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement on 12 March 1984. The RCP signed the "Declaration of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement" and supported the RIM's declaration "Long Live Marxism–Leninism–Maoism!" on 26 December 1993 which recognized "Marxism–Leninism–Maoism as the new, third and higher stage of Marxism". However, today the RCP uses the term "New Synthesis of Communism" to describe its ideology, although they still call themselves Maoists.
Because of this, the RCP has been accused of "revisionism" by several Maoist groups, such as the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada and the Maoist Red Guards movement in the United States.
On August 6, 2017, the Maoist Communist Party Organizing Committee was officially founded under the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism adapted to the conditions of the United States of America. 
“Partido Comunista do Brasil na clandestinidade, desenvolve há 20 anos, liderado por sua Fração Vermelha, por meio de duras lutas de duas linhas, o processo de sua reconstituição enquanto verdadeiro e autêntico partido comunista marxista-leninista-maoista, partido comunista militarizado."
This whole process takes us to the second period, that of the Reconstitution of the Party. This is, in sum, a struggle against revisionism. It is a period that we can clearly see beginning to unfold with a certain intensity in the beginning of the '60s. This process leads the members of the Party to unite against the revisionist leadership and, as I have said before, to expel them in the IVth Conference of January 1964. The process of reconstitution continues to unfold in the Party until 1978-1979, when it ends and a third period begins, the period of Leading the People's War, which is the one we are living in now.