Maoism was founded by Chairman Mao Zedong in China. Maoism was Mao's heavily modified version of Marxist-Leninist Communism. Maoism has many particular doctrines and practices which are not a part of non-Maoist Marxism or traditional Communism. Chairman Mao himself and his teachings, including Mao's Little Red Book, were venerated by Maoists, particularly during the 1960s and '70s.
Maoism remains the official ideology of the Communist Party of China. This belief system is never referred to as "Maoism" in official Chinese Communist publications. In China the official name of Maoism is "Mao Tse-tung Thought." The words "Maoist" and "Maoism" are regarded as derisive by the Communist Party of China, although many other Maoist groups freely refer to themselves as "Maoists."
Although many people mistakenly think that Maoism was a purely Chinese movement, it actually was adopted by people throughout the world. Maoist missionaries introduced Maoism to non-Chinese populations by speaking on college campuses, holding seminars, publishing Maoist books and newspapers, and even talking to people door-to-door.
In 1981, the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party that Chairman Mao helped bring to power officially repudiated the brutality of Mao's Cultural Revolution, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 30 million Chinese citizens. (Millions were executed by Mao's Red Guards, but the majority died as a result of starvation due to famines caused directly by the Revolution.) Maoism was once a popular movement on college campuses and among intellectuals, people with liberal political leanings, separatists, guerrilla groups and others. Mao was viewed by many as a prophet, the herald of a secular form of salvation, whose message and methods would lead to a more peaceful, egalitarian society. Mao's LIttle Red Book was read and promoted as if it was scripture. Maoists actively (and often forcibly) worked to suppress non-Maoist religions in China. Maoism did not officially identify itself as a religion, although sociologists recognize that it functioned as one. Within China, the Communist Party has distanced itself somewhat from the cult of personality that surrounded Chairman Mao. Contemporary Chinese scholars generally believe that Mao did not originally intend to set himself up as an object of religious veneration, but that as he grew older either he or those around him utilized his power and status to tranform Maoism into something beyond Mao's original Marxist ideals.
Since the death of Chairman Mao in 1976 and the reforms of Deng Xiaoping started in 1978, Maoism has declined outside of China. It is now rare to encounter non-Chinese individuals who call themselves Maoists. Small Maoist Communist groups still exist in a number of countries, although they are not at the center of non-Chinese intellectual and artistic life.
Mao Zedong (1893-1976) - Chinese revolutionary leader; founder of Maoism
Jean-Luc Godard - French film director; one of most influential filmmakers in history; devout Maoist
Bob Avakian - (b. 1943) Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party (a U.S. Maoist group); outspoken Atheist writer and lecturer
Carl Dix - national spokesperson for the Revolutionary Communist Party (U.S. Maoist group). He is a black GLBT devout Maoist.
H. Bruce Franklin - Professor of English and American Studies at Rutgers University; leading cultural historian and scholar of science fiction; author of Future Perfect: 19th Century American Science Fiction; Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction; Prison Writing in 20th Century America and many other books; was one of the founders of the Revolutionary Communist Party
C. Clark Kissinger - devout Maoist; National Secretary of Students for a Democratic Society; writes frequently for Revolution, journal of the Revolutionary Communist Party (U.S. Maoist group); activist for Not In Our Name and other political groups