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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 socialism 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 Karl Marx 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." This was a view actually shared by Vladimir Lenin who had broken with the Mensheviks over the idea that the working class could organize and lead the "Democratic Revolution" in an underdeveloped country like Russia where the objective conditions for socialism did not yet exist. The Chinese communists hoped that the working class in a similar fashion could then build 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.
Marx himself is often misunderstood on this topic as he did not postulate that strictly only after a bourgeois society has formed, a socialist revolution would become possible. Instead, most notably in a letter to Vera Zasulich, Marx suggested a form of revolutionary change in Russia at the time that is very much akin to Mao's thesis of New Democracy:
In dealing with the genesis of capitalist production I stated that it is founded on "the complete separation of the producer from the means of production" (p. 315, column 1, French edition of Capital) and that "the basis of this whole development is the expropriation of the agricultural producer. To date this has not been accomplished in a radical fashion anywhere except in England... But all the other countries of Western Europe are undergoing the same process" (1.c., column II).
I thus expressly limited the "historical inevitability" of this process to the countries of Western Europe. And why? Be so kind as to compare Chapter XXXII, where it says:
The "process of elimination transforming individualised and scattered means of production into socially concentrated means of production, of the pigmy property of the many into the huge property of the few, this painful and fearful expropriation of the working people, forms the origin, the genesis of capital... Private property, based on personal labour [...] will be supplanted by capitalist private property, based on the exploitation of the labour of others, on wage labour" (p. 341, column II).
Thus, in the final analysis, it is a question of the transformation of one form of private property into another form of private property. Since the land in the hands of the Russian peasants has never been their private property, how could this development be applicable?
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.
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 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 and finally 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 Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) 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 and 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, but Mao completely rejected this by saying:
"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
- Lenin: The Revolutionary-democratic Dictatorship Of the Proletariat and the Peasantry V.I. Lenin - https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/apr/12b.htm
- MECW, Volume 24, p. 346.
- 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.
- 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.