Black Like Mao: Red China and Black Revolution is an excellent study and read about social justice movements posted at The Kasama Project.
From The Kasama Project:
“How black radicals came to see China as a beacon of Third World revolution and Mao Zedong thought as a guidepost is a complicated and fascinating story involving literally dozens of organizations and covering much of the world — from the ghettos of North America to the African countryside….It is our contention that China offered black radicals a ‘colored’ or Third World Marxist model that enabled them to challenge a white and Western vision of class struggle — a model that they shaped and reshaped to suit their own cultural and political realities.”
We are posting the piece, Black Like Mao: Red China and Black Revolution by Robin D.G. Kelley and Betsy Esch, in four parts. This piece was first published in Souls, Vol. 1, No. 4, and was re-published in the book Afro Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections between African Americans and Asian Americans. A printable PDF is available.
Due to its length, we are presenting this as four separate posts.
Excerpted from Black Like Mao:
Mao’s China, along with the Cuban revolution and African nationalism, internationalized the black revolution in profound ways. Mao gave black radicals a non-Western model of Marxism that placed greater emphasis on local conditions and historical circumstances than on canonical texts. China’s Great Leap Forward challenged the idea that the march to socialism must take place in stages, or that one must wait patiently for the proper objective conditions to move ahead.
For many young radicals schooled in student-based social democracy and/or antiracist politics, “consciousness raising” in the Maoist style of criticism and self-criticism was a powerful alternative to bourgeois democracy. But consciousness-raising was more than propaganda work; it was intellectual labor in the context of revolutionary practice. “All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience,” Mao said in his widely read essay “On Practice” (1937). This idea of knowledge deriving dialectically from practice to theory to practice empowered radicals to question the expertise of sociologists, psychologists, economists, etc., whose grand pronouncements on the causes of poverty and racism often went unchallenged. Thus in an age of liberal technocrats, Maoists — from black radical circles to the women’s liberation movement — sought to overturn bourgeois notions of expertise. They developed analyses, engaged in debates, and published journals, newspapers, position papers, pamphlets, and even books. And while they rarely agreed with one another, they saw themselves as producers of new knowledge. They believed, as Mao put it, that “these ideas turn into a material force which changes society and changes the world.”
Ideas alone don’t change the world, however; people do. And having the willingness and energy to change the world requires more than the correct analysis and direct engagement with the masses: instead, it takes faith and will. Here Maoists have much in common with some very old black biblical traditions. After all, if little David can take Goliath with just a slingshot, certainly a “single spark can start a prairie fire.”