Military Strategy Magazine - Volume 8, Issue 1

Volume 8, Issue 1, Summer 2022 8 [xiii] Pondering Clausewitz’s potential influence on Mao it is possible to contradict his oft-cited maxim that ‘political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’.[xiv] Mao undoubtedly approved of revolutionary violence ‘whereby one class overthrows another’.[xv] ‘Only with guns can the world be transformed’, he wrote.[xvi] His injunction about power growing out of the barrel of a gun was, though, issued principally in order to reiterate the necessity of retaining political control over the means of violence as the following sentence reminded his audience at the Sixth Plenary Session of the Communist Party’s Sixth Central Committee in November 1938: ‘Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party’.[xvii] In fact, if we accept that there is an overlap between Clausewitz’s thinking about the result in war never being final and war as a continuation of politics with Mao’s contentions regarding the continuous struggle between contradictions, then it suggests, logically, that political power does not only grow out of the barrel of a gun, as a Mao’s phrase might suggest, but rather that it grows out of the passions, fears, and moral beliefs held within the minds of individuals. This reading, moreover, would seem to fit more accurately with Mao’s understanding of the cognitive sources of revolutionary struggle, as stated in his 1937 tract, On Practice, where he maintained: ‘Cognition starts with practice and through practice it reaches the theoretical plane, and then it has to go back to practice’.[xviii] Mind Control Given Mao’s interest in unlocking the revolutionary potential of collective action, it followed that controlling the mind was the key to unleashing the power of mass resistance. Maoist ideas opened the strategic possibility of exerting control over the private sphere as a tool of struggle and revolt. Mao’s ruminations on how the interior world could be instrumentalised towards revolutionary emancipation offer a systematic philosophy of the human mind as both perfectible and perfectlymalleable. TheMaoist conception proceeds methodically from the assumption that under capitalism and imperialism the mind is polluted by cultural accretions requiring permanent rectification and purification if the collective will of the masses is to be made strategically useful. Maoism seeks purification for a purpose, to make control of the interior realm strategically instrumental. Mao emphasised that the final stage of cognition was ‘the leap from rational knowledge to revolutionary practice’. Having ‘grasped the laws of the world’, Mao stated, ‘we must redirect this knowledge to the practice of revolutionary class struggle and national struggle’.[xix] The imperative for revolutionaries in this respect was, first and foremost, not to wage violent struggle, but to ‘reconstruct their own subjective world, that is, to remold their faculty of knowing; and to change the relations between the subjective and external worlds’. Finally, he added: ‘When the whole of mankind of its own accord remolds itself and changes the world, that will be the age of world communism’.[xx] What Mao Should Be Remembered For When analysts consider Mao’s contribution to strategic thought they tend to focus on his three-stage theory of people’swartowinpower.Arguably, though,hismostoriginal and influential contribution lies in his understanding of the latent power that can be instrumentalised through mind control. As Apter and Saich state, Mao’s goal ‘was nothing less than the generating of new modes of power: the power of discourse’.[xxi] Tracing the evolution of Maoism in theWest, it is possible to perceive how 1960s radicals began to redirect their thinking towards Mao’s ideas on cognition and the generation of ‘alternative’ modes of power. As disillusion with the armed struggle set in during the early 1970s, radicals moved to embrace other methods. As Collier and Horowitz noted of the Maoist inspired Black Panthers: ‘The Party no longer seemed to believe now that power grew out of the barrel of a gun but from community organizing’.[xxii] By adopting such means, the Panthers were not abandoning Mao’s tenets but rather moving towards his position on cognition as a means to elevate the revolutionary spirit by reshaping the external environment. As the era of violent ‘direct action’ subsided in the course of the 1980s, Maoist ideas of social control and thought reform gained currency in activist circles. Bill Tupman, a Marxist scholar explained in 1991: ‘The young revolutionary has only the one place to run to. Maoism gives people something to do: Trotskyismwas about waiting around and selling newspapers. I see it coming back in a big way’.[xxiii] Channelling the Maoist appeal to ‘do’, finds its expression across the modern campus Left with academics asserting that universities should act ‘as missionaries, teaching new ideas’ that ‘enable active citizenship and even inspire some to take up activist roles’.[xxiv] The instrumentalization of the socially re-constructed mind toward activist roles, and committed towards waging cultural warfare, is pure Maoism in action. In its applied ‘critical theory’ guise, it focuses on ‘controlling discourses, especially by problematising language and imagery it deems theoretically harmful’, in a manner that leads to the scrutiny, rectification and policing of thought.[xxv] This social activist mindset percolates from the universities to the wider professional and business world beyond. From schools to media services, to multinational corporations, ‘Organizations and activist groups of all kinds announce that they are inclusive, but only of people who agree with them’.[xxvi] In his 1937 tract, ‘On the correct handling of The Strategy of the Mind: Maoism and Culture War in the West David Martin Jones and M.L.R. Smith