My path towards socialism started when I was 18. I had grown up in a poor family, my parents were working multiple jobs but we were still living in poor housing and unable to ever get ahead financially. Growing up I had always heard that here in the USA the hardest workers were rewarded by their hard work by moving up the "ladder" and thus achieving "the American dream".
Before I even became a teenager I knew the American dream was a lie. My dad never was home except to sleep, then he was off to another job. By the standards of "the American dream" we would have been millionaires, but we weren't and we never got our heads above the water. We never even made it to the "middle class". This helped me come to the realization that capitalism was a system of exploitation and inequality at a very young age.
I became a socialist after a trip I took to the south west. While down there I saw things that I never would have believed existed in the US. I went to lunch lines where I ended up giving all the food I had with me in my back pack to a guy who was living out of his car with his 9 year old child. This touched me deep down in a place I didn't know exited inside myself and I had to help them even if all I could offer was some deer jerky. I cried later that night because there was not more I could do for these people.
I also saw things such a shanty towns and people living in 3rd world like conditions. One thing I couldn't help but notice was that I was the only person that was white in that whole shanty town. People living in the worlds most gluttonous country should not be living in houses made out of gardening sheds and trash metal etc. After talking to some of the residents of this place One person told us he works for dollars a day sometimes his whole family only making 10 to 15 dollars a day. But because they were here "illegally" they couldn't report their conditions. Not to mention that there was a whole family (grandpa, grandma, mom, dad, uncle, aunt, sisters brothers all living in the same "house" (more like makeshift sheds.)
Seeing these kind of injustices on the people living in these conditions to me pointed to something very obvious; that there was a problem with the system and not just specifically the US government. After going on an education binge about politics and different kind of economic systems I realized that there were two problems facing the world; capitalism and imperialism. I then set out to find a system (if there was one) that could correct the problems that the world is facing.
From Independent to democratic Socialist to Marxist
I didn't jump right into revolutionary politics. I was a democrat supporter before I was 18 and at the age of 18 I started reading about socialism but still was in the "communism is bad" camp but at this time I saw socialism and communism and two completely different things. After looking different types of socialism up on the internet I became a democratic socialist. Because that is what MLK declared himself and at this time I was deeply inspired by MLK. I stayed in that camp for around a year and a half. Then I started learning about Che Guevara and reading his diaries which helped me compile a reading list which included Capital volume 1 and the Communist Manifesto and these two readings helped convert me to Marxism.
Once again like most of my advances in theory it was because of CHE's writings and speaches that encouraged to read Lenin's main works. Imperialism; the Higher form of Imperialism, What is to be Done etc. These readings struck me as pure common sense.
This is what lead me to eventually through self education and research become a self proclaimed Marxist. As one could imagine it didn't take me long to tie together imperialism and capitalism as soul mates after reading Lenin's works. I soon would come to call myself and uphold Marxist Leninism as the furthest advance in communist theory.
From M-L to M-L-M
When I first stared on the road to socialism, Maoism was still a bad word to me. The way I understood Maoism was that one person took power and exploited the masses to their benefit. I thought it to be a "capitalist state" idea. I also had the influence of some Trotskyist in my ear telling me that Maoism was only Stalinism. Which now I realize that they only wanted to scare me away from Maoism and for me to join their org. Once again it was the way CHE acted during the Cuban revolution and the rules he made for his army that were so close to that of Mao's rules. After reading about how and why he favored Chinese styled socialism I was inspired to read about Maoism. CHE had been in trouble for speaking out against the USSR socialism in favor of the Chinese (at the time Maoist) form of socialism.
About 2008 I tried to learn whatever I could about Chairman Mao. It was very hard to find anything that wasn't severely anti-Mao in my library and or book stores. So I tried to do some self research and asked people not only about Mao but about Maoism as an idea. Then one of my brothers sent me a link to the little red book. I was captivated by the whole book and was appalled that anyone had ever told me that Mao never contributed to the furtherance of socialism. Well that was just the beginning.
I started reading more and more (On New Democracy, Serve the People, on Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party,) then I was sent a link that would change my life forever. It was the most helpful thing I have ever applied to my actions and ideas up til that point. It explained the mass-line and how to apply it to everyday situations. Although this is not the 100% correct way to apply the mass-line, it is a good starting point for any beginner Maoist.
(this is the link I was sent) http://freedomroad.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=705%3Athe-mass-line-what-it-is-and-how-to-use-it&catid=182%3A21st-century-socialism&Itemid=235&lang=en
Ive since been growing my knowledge about my local population and interjecting revolutionary ideas and actions whenever possible. I have had a great success with this tactic. I now understand the class divisions more clearly then I ever did. My work has been more effective than in the past and Maoism inspires me daily to struggle forward.
I now have the strongest faith in the poor proletarian classes to be the ones to carry the masses to the proletarian revolution. I believe in communal democracy, I am now a Maoist!