For the Ffestiniog Railway's use of the word "deviationist", see Ffestiniog Railway#The Llyn Ystradau Deviation.

A deviationist is a person who expresses a deviation: an abnormality or departure. In Stalinist Communism deviationism is an expressed belief which is not in accordance with official party doctrine for the time and area. Accusations of deviationism often led to purges. Forms of deviationism included revisionism, dogmatism, bourgeois nationalism, and rootless cosmopolitanism.

For example, Mao Zedong in a 1953 speech referred to both "left" and "right" deviationists.[1] Years later, in 1976, the so-called Gang of Four would strike out against "rightist deviationism".[2]



Also known as "social fascism" and the "theory of the Permanent Revolution." Named for its founder, Leon Trotsky believed that Lenin's pre-1917 idea of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" needed to be re-worded to emphasize the importance of the proletariat's leadership in such an alliance, because the peasantry were dialectically less capable of leadership. In order to finish a socialist revolution, the revolution would have to be world-wide. This is in sharp contrast to Joseph Stalin's idea of "socialism in one country;" Trotsky felt that if a socialist nation-state was isolated, it would soon be destroyed by outside imperialist forces. Trotsky emphasized the importance of soviets (independent councils of workers) and the idea that a communist society will be a "workers' democracy."

Accordiing to Trotskyite doctrine,[3] the Soviet Union became a "degenerated workers state" and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) as "bureaucratic centralist." Trotskyites considered the Soviet degenerated workers state still as "revolutionary workers' state" or "proletarian dictatorship." As such, the Soviet state was "historically progressive" in relation to "reactionary capitalism." Hence it was the duty of revolutionists in all nations, even if they were opponents of Stalin and his regime, to defend the Soviet Union against any "imperialist" state, including their own fatherland. Another revolution was necessary however to unseat the Stalinists, who would destroy the workers state until it became fully capitalist.


Communist Party USA (CPUSA) had always received directives and funds from the Soviet Union via courier. Moscow's most effective control had been through Comintern representatives.[4]

Browder accepted the Hitler-Stalin pact of August 1939 without hesitation. Comintern did find it necessary to fine-tune the CPUSA’s stance. Immediately after the Pact, Georgi Dimitrov, chief of the Comintern, sent a ciphered message to Browder explaining that the CPUSA’s line supporting the Pact was not fully correct because while it broke with President Franklin Roosevelt’s policy of supporting Britain, France, and Lend-Lease aid, it failed to take the additional step of breaking with FDR’s domestic policies as well. Browder and the CPUSA immediately made the required changes in its policies, and in 1940 the CPUSA did its best to oppose FDR’s reelection to the presidency.[5]

World War II reduced the direct organization ties of CPUSA to Comintern and drastically reduced the volume of communications. Postal communications was less reliable and often delayed and subject to government inspection. International cable traffic was routinely reviewed by war-time security officials. Travel to the USSR became increasingly difficult. In 1940 the Voorhis Act was passed imposing regulatory requirements on domestic American organizations with foreign government ties. To avoid the Voorhis Act, in November 1940, CPUSA, with Comintern permission, severed its official membership in the Communist International, and the last officially designated CPUSA representative in Moscow left in 1941.[6]

Browder developed the doctrine of indefinite collaboration with capitalism and the Harry Bridges doctrine of postwar extension of the no-strike pledge.

The wartime coalition gave Browder the vision of an Americanized Communist Party working with other American parties to solve the urgent questions facing the Nation. To this end he began a policy of naturalizing the party, relaxing its discipline, and moderating its sectarianism. He transformed the wartime tactic of national unity into a postwar strategy and argued the possibility that progressive capitalism, to save itself, would embark on policies favorable to the workers at home and to the Soviet Union abroad.

In April 1945, however, Jacques Duclos of the French Communist Party, formerly high in the Comintern, published a repudiation of Browderism.[7] Publication of the attack by the New York World-Telegram panicked the CPUSA into drastic action against Browder and he was unceremoniously expelled in February 1946.


Titoism is a form of Leninism based on the regime of Marshal Josip Broz Tito post-World War II in Yugoslavia. While formerly heading a Comintern liberation movement, after the war Tito broke with Moscow and insisted Yugoslavia was to be non-aligned with neither NATO nor the Warsaw Pact. Tito called for "national unity" and "self-management" which enabled Yugoslavia to form relationships independent of the superpowers with other governments during the Cold War.


Maoism mixes orthodox Stalinism with populism. Named after its originator Mao Zedong, the ideology relies on militant, insurrectionary and populist strategies in movement organizing (People’s Wars, Cultural Revolution, Peasant Uprising, etc). Once in power, however, Maoists tend to install a traditionally corrupt Stalinist regime — bureaucratic, totalitarian, militaristic, and dictatorial. Like Stalin, Mao’s China relied on Five-Year Plans, the best-known of which was the Great Leap Forward," later renamed the "Three Years of Disasters." Maoists also believe that the world socialist revolution will begin in the "Third World."[8]

The Maoist strategy for world revolution is based on the global version of the strategy employed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which led to Mao's victory in 1949. The analogy went like this: through "peoples war" the CCP forces who controlled the countryside of China encircled the cities of China, isolated the foe, and destroyed it piecemeal. The logic followed that the countryside of the world as a reaction to the super-exploitation suffered at the hands of the city of the world would become united and defeat the latter, and in the process establish a world socialist order.

This grand design would come about not through the struggles of working classes in revolutionary fervor inside the advanced capitalist countries as prescribed by Marx, but through the vehicle of national liberation struggles of the colonial and former colonial peoples of the Third World.

This view of the CCP contrasted sharply with the view of Moscow whose ideology was in line with orthodoxy of historical materialism of Marxism's early prophets, that is socialist societies must be preceded by capitalist societies, which would provide the material basis for a socialist economy. This orthodox theory of Marxism relied heavily on a dialectical "force of history" that would inevitably bring about the "objective conditions" necessary for a proletarian revolution to succeed. Any ideological concepts running counter to this thesis, that is, any formulations which called for skipping stages of historic development were considered in the orthodox view as adventuristic and counter revolutionary.[9]

Maoist deviationism inspired students and other young people who looked to the Chinese Red Guards as a model of activism.[10] While some of these young activists were drawn to the Progressive Labor Party (PLP), the full flowering of American Maoism would not come until the proliferation of new groups such as the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Weather Underground (WUO), Black Panthers (BPP) and the Communist Party (Marxist–Leninist) (CP-ML) after 1969.

Other types of deviationism

The term has also been used with respect to other ideologies.

In 2002 the Religious Affairs Minister of Brunei used the same term to describe what he considered to be incorrect, non-mainstream Islamic teachings.[11]

The Ffestiniog Railway found another use for the word "Deviationists", for the gang of voluntary enthusiasts who formed the construction gangs to build its deviation after part of its route was flooded for a reservoir.


  1. ^ Mao Zedong, Refute Right Deviationist Views That Depart From the General Line, June 15, 1953. Online at Accessed online 2009-10-11.
  2. ^ Criticize Rightist Deviationism (1976),, International Institute of Social History. Accessed online 2009-10-11.
  3. ^ James Burnham, The Managerial Revolution, Indiana University Press, Bloomingham 1966, p.v.
  4. ^ Louis Budenz, Men Without Faces: The Communist Conspiracy in the USA, Harper and Brothers, New York, 1948, pp. 4-5, 55, 68-69, 78-81. pp.15-16, 66, 79-80, 89-92 pdf
  5. ^ Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Kyrill M. Anderson, The Soviet World of American Communism, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998, pp. 71–84.
  6. ^ Klehr, Haynes, and Anderson, The Soviet World, pp. 87–88.
  7. ^ Jaques Duclos, On the Dissolution of the Communist Party of the United States,. Published in Cahiers du Communisme, April 1945. Reprinted in William Z. Foster et al. Marxism-Leninism vs. Revisionism. (New York: New Century Publishers, Feb. 1946), pp. 21-35 in original.
  8. ^ The Red Encyclopedia: A Communism and Communists Reference Guide,. Hosted by the linefeed group, San Fransisco, CA. Retrieved March 19, 2010.
  9. ^ Foreign Influence - Weather Underground Organization (WUO). FBI Chicago Field Office Report, August 20, 1976. Section I. Ideology D. Influence of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought, Page 57 in original (p. 20 pdf).
  10. ^ Paul Costello, U.S. Anti-Revisionism Third Wave, 1960-1970, Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line. Marxist Internet Archive. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
  11. ^ Beware Of Deviationist Teachings, Warns Religions Minister, 23 October 2002,; reproduced on, The Baha'i Faith Index. Accessed online 2009-10-11.

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