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New Democracy or the New Democratic Revolution is a concept based on Mao Zedong's "Bloc of Four Social Classes" theory in post-revolutionary China which argued originally that democracy in China would take a decisively distinct path, much different from that of the liberal capitalist and parliamentary democratic systems in the western world as well as Soviet-style communism in Eastern Europe. As time passed, the New Democracy concept was adapted to other countries and regions with similar justifications.
The concept of New Democracy aims to overthrow feudalism and achieve independence from colonialism. However, it dispenses with the rule predicted by Marx and Lenin that a capitalist class would usually follow such a struggle, claiming instead to seek to enter directly into socialism through a coalition of classes fighting the old ruling order. The coalition is subsumed under the leadership and guidance of the working class and its communist party, working with the communists irrespective of their competing ideologies, in order to achieve the more immediate goal of a "new democratic order" that the Chinese communists hoped would then lead to full-blown socialism and communism, in spite of the competing class interests of the social classes of the "bloc".
The block of classes reflecting the principles of New Democracy is symbolized most readily by the stars on the Flag of China. The largest star symbolizes the Communist Party of China's leadership and the surrounding four smaller stars symbolizing the Bloc of Four Classes: proletarian workers, peasants, the petty bourgeoisie (small business owners), and the nationally-based capitalists. This is the coalition of classes for Mao's "New Democratic Revolution" as he described it in his works. Mao's New Democracy explains the Bloc of Four Classes as an unfortunate but necessary consequence of imperialism as described by Lenin.
Comparisons with core Marxism
The classical Marxist understanding of the stages of economic and historical development of the modes of production under which a socialist revolution can take place is that the socialist revolution occurs only after the capitalist bourgeois-democratic revolution happens first. According to this, the bourgeois-democratic revolution paves the way for the industrial proletarian class to emerge as the majority class in society, after which it then overthrows capitalism and begins constructing socialism. Mao disagreed and said that the bourgeois-democratic revolution and the socialist revolution could be combined into a single stage, rather than two separate back-to-back stages; he called this stage New Democracy.
Effects of establishment
Once New Democracy has been established in the way Mao's theory outlines, the country is subsequently claimed to be ideologically socialist and working towards communism under the leadership of its leading communist party, and its people are actively involved in the construction of socialism. Examples are the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution for what Mao viewed as the participatory democracy inherent in the New Democracy concept.
According to the theory, the construction continues to happen even as the country itself may maintain and practice many aspects of capitalism, such as a market-based economy (usually called a socialist market economy), for purposes of rapid economic growth. However, it is usually these "lesser evil" aspects of New Democracy that prompts many non-Maoist communists to criticize it as precisely not the way to achieve communism.
Because of New Democracy's nature as an 'intermediate stage', it is considered a stepping-stone to socialism—an essentially two-stage theory of first New Democracy, then the dictatorship of the proletariat ("socialism"). Given that the self-proclaimed ultimate goal of socialist construction is the creation of a stateless, classless and moneyless communist society, adding the New Democratic Revolution as a prerequisite stage arguably makes the whole process of the Revolution a three-stage theory: first New Democracy, then socialism, then communism.
Currently, the Shining Path, the New People's Army of the Philippines, and the Communist Party of India (Maoist) pursue similar actions pursuant to similar ideas, conducting active guerrilla warfare ("people's war") with the intent of establishing New Democracy. In 2006, the Communist Party of Nepal entered the government of Nepal using similar "New Democratic" reasoning and methods. However, it was expelled from the coalition in 2009, and its leader (who had been elected Prime Minister) was deposed, so since then the CPN(M) has oscillated between threatening to return to 'armed struggle' and leading general strikes in Nepal using its still-considerable influence in the Nepalese labour movement.
Some have argued that the "Fast Track Land Reform Program" in Zimbabwe represents the culmination of New Democracy there; these same people usually also say that ZANU-PF remains a genuinely socialist party.
Some criticise New Democracy as class collaborationism or as a stage to replace the dictatorship of the proletariat. Mao completely rejected this, however:
“Firmly establish the new-democratic social order.” That’s a harmful formulation. In the transition period changes are taking place all the time and socialist factors are emerging every day. How can this “new-democratic order” be “firmly established”?… The period of transition is full of contradictions and struggles. Our present revolutionary struggle is even more profound than the revolutionary armed struggle of the past. It is a revolution that will bury the capitalist system and all other systems of exploitation once and for all. The idea, “Firmly establish the new-democratic social order”, goes against the realities of our struggle and hinders the progress of the socialist cause.—Mao Zedong, “Refute Right Deviationist Views That Depart From the General Line” p. 93-94
- Zedong, Mao (1940). On New Democracy. Peking: Foreign Language Press.
- Sherman, Vincent. "New Democracy & ZANU-PF: Zimbabwe's Revolutionary Path". Return to the Source. Return to the Source. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- Mao Zedong "On New Democracy" January 1940 (Selected Works) Official PRC translation.
- Stuart R. Schram, ed., Mao's road to power: revolutionary writings 1912-1949 Vol VII New Democracy, 1939-1941 (Armonk, NY: Sharpe, 2005) pp. 330–369. Translation of the full text, based on 1943 edition, with notes.
- Mao Tse-tung (2003). On New Democracy, Honolulu: University Press of The Pacific, ISBN 1-4102-0564-9.
- “New Democratic Politics and New Democratic Culture (Excerpts),” in Tony Saich, Ed. The Rise to Power of the Chinese Communist Party (Armonk, New York: 1996) 912-929.
- Vincent Sherman (2011). New Democracy & ZANU-PF: Zimbabwe's Revolutionary Path, Return to the Source.