Stalin's Student in Beijing

A new biography highlights Mao's relationship with Moscow.

Mao: The Real Story, by Alexander V. Pantsov and Steven I. Levine, Simon & Schuster, 784 pages, $35.

Along Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street, about half a mile north of Red Square in Moscow, an austere, cavernous building houses the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History. The premises were originally occupied by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism. In the 1930s it was renamed the Institute of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, but—following Khrushchev’s 1956 Secret Speech, which acknowledged some of the dictator's crimes—Stalin's name was dropped. Above the entrance, portraits of Marx, Engels, and Lenin cast in concrete peer into the distance. Inside the building, an air of abandon prevails. When I was there two years ago, several discarded statues of Lenin were gathering dust underneath the staircase. But even though much is still locked away from the prying eyes of historians, in the archives on the third floor a wealth of information on the Soviet Union and its global empire can be found.

Alexander Pantsov, a Russian-born professor of history at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the few to have gained exclusive access to the personal dossiers on Mao Zedong and other top members of the Chinese Communist Party. He teamed up with Steven Levine, a respected historian of modern China, to distill this new material in Mao: The Real Story. An earlier version appeared in Russian some five years ago, but this edition is much more ambitious in scope and content.

The first third of their book follows a rather conventional path, piecing together a history of Mao’s early years from standard secondary sources. The authors claim that they tried to present their narrative "unmarred by political considerations," but they are decidedly sympathetic to their subject—and to the early years of communism in China. They seem in no doubt that revolution was a necessary step in republican China, an extraordinarily thriving era they dismissively characterize as "semi-colonial." Their writing is lively, following the tribulations of Mao's career and his relationships with his wives and children with an eye for the telling detail. Yet somehow, despite their attempts to depict his youthful pride and stubborn obstinacy, Mao the person remains strangely abstract.

The heart of this book is Mao's relationship with Stalin. Here the authors break new ground. The files from the archives amply demonstrate that Mao was a faithful follower of his master in Moscow. He had a good reason: From the start, the Chinese Communist Party was dependent on the Soviets' financial help and political guidance. Stalin personally assisted Mao's rise to power. The relationship between the two was often tumultuous, but once the red flag fluttered over Beijing in 1949, Mao wasted no time in imposing a harsh communist order modeled on the USSR. As the authors point out, "he looked upon Stalin as his teacher and the Soviet Union, which inspired fear throughout the world, as a model to imitate." Mao was a Stalinist attracted to the elimination of private property, all-pervasive controls on the lives of ordinary people, an unlimited cult of the leader, and huge expenditures on the military. Ironically, it was Stalin who constrained the Stalinisation of China by forcing Mao to slow down the pace of collectivisation, fearful as he was of the emergence of a powerful neighbour who might threaten his dominance.

So committed to Stalinism was Mao that he never forgave Khrushchev for his Secret Speech. His dislike of what the Chairman called "revisionism"—that is, de-Stalinisation and a less belligerent attitude toward noncommunist countries—eventually culminated in the Sino-Soviet split, and tensions between both countries became so bad in the late 1960s that Moscow even contemplated an atomic attack against its rival's industrial centres. Yet Stalin’s memory survived unstained. While the Soviets took down their portraits and statues of Stalin, in China he remained officially in favor for decades after his death in 1953. Until a few years ago the tyrant's face could still be seen on the walls of bookshops and classrooms, painted in warm tones. He is revered in China to this day, his reputation defended by an army of fierce censors.

In other respects, the much-vaunted new archival revelations seem rather disappointing. They add nothing, for instance, to our understanding of the Gao Gang affair, when the party leader in Manchuria was accused of an attempted coup and eventually committed suicide in 1954. The references to the Mao dossier in Moscow tend to be relatively trivial, adding detail rather than substance to existing knowledge. And precisely because of the Sino-Soviet split, the documentation for the last 15 years of Mao's life is appreciably more limited, though the authors do a good job at narrating the chaos and paranoia of the Cultural Revolution.

Overall, by the authors' estimate, Mao was responsible for the deaths of some 40 million of his countrymen. During the Great Leap Forward, from 1958 to 1962, they reckon that 30 to 45 million people died, "many along the roads, famished and emaciated." Over a million perished during the Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976, and here too the authors have no doubt who was responsible: "He was the chief culprit of the senseless and merciless mass terror." Yet they insist on presenting the Great Helmsman as a "multifaceted figure" with a good side. Unlike Lenin and Stalin, the authors contend, Mao not only promoted "radical economic and social reforms, but he also brought about a national revolution in former semi-colonial China and he united mainland China." This lack of moral clarity fatally mars the book.

By choosing the title Mao: The Real Story, the authors invite comparisons with Jung Chang and Jon Halliday's groundbreaking Mao: The Untold Story. Chang and Halliday based their work on an unsurpassed wealth of evidence, including files from the Soviet archives, and many of the conclusions presented by Levine and Pantsov only confirm what Chang and Halliday wrote seven years ago. But Chang and Halliday had a moral compass. The keys to a new, "real" Mao are not in the Russian State Archives in Moscow but in the Central Party Archives in Beijing, and until their doors open to historians, Mao: The Untold Story remains peerless.

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Frank Dikötter, chair professor of humanities at the University of Hong Kong, is the author of Mao's Great Famine, which won the 2011 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. A prequel, titled The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution, will be published by Bloomsbury in September 2013.

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  • The Late P Brooks||

    We need Sharon Presley to tell us Mao was "admirable".

    After all, he meant well.

  • ||

    While I too feel that was a bit over the top, I'm not sure the comparison is warranted, seeing as the other two people didn't kill millions.

  • ||

    The comparison fits aptly, regardless of the level of brutality either performed or advocated.

  • ||

    No, the difference in actual actions means the comparison ISN'T apt. Useful idiots are nowhere near the same as homicidal dictators.

  • sarcasmic||

    But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao...

  • Lord Humungus||

    I hate communists at the same level as rapists, murderers, child molesters, and H&R trolls.

  • Almanian.||

    I don't know how you can compare those others with H y R Trolls, who are truly the spawn of Satan.

    Stalin was no Choney. Mao was no Urine.

  • Zeb||

    I can forgive naive idealists to some extent, but I certainly agree about anyone actually involved in the practice of Communism. I'd say they are worse than rapists and murderers, who for the most part only victimize a very few people.

  • Almanian.||

    Also, that picture always makes me think, "FUCKING MONGORIANS!"

    That is all.

  • Lord Peter Wimsey||

    Could we get some clarification on Mao from Bleeding Heart Libertarians? Perhaps how Mao, while not a perfect libertarian, believed in the eventual dissolving of the state and therefore was pursuing a different path (albeit one strewn with bodies) to the same end as the one we seek. I mean, c'mon, Mao was concerned with social justice, that ought to count for something, right?

  • Loki||

    You forgot the /sarc tag at the end.

  • Zeb||

    Oh, for fuck's sake. It's a magazine, not a manifesto. I think it is OK to write about people who are not perfect libertarians from time to time.

  • Azathoth!!||

    ....like Mao?

  • ||

    No, obviously. I'd ask if you read anything they write, but that's obviously untrue as well.

  • Brutus||

    I know just the buttplug to do it, too.

  • Loki||

    Yet they insist on presenting the Great Helmsman as a "multifaceted figure" with a good side.

    B-b-but, intentions! That's all that really matters. Mao just wanted to promote equality of outcomes misery. Nevermind that Mao-ism, and communism in general, are disasters that only succeeded in spreading misery, death, and corruption on an unimaginable scale. The only thing that matters is they meant well.

  • dave b.||

    They just magically wave away all of the atrocities and say that True Communism has never been tried.

    You can't reason with liberals, since the ideology is infallible and can never be questioned. Everything that (inevitably) goes wrong is always Somebody Else's Fault.

  • sarcasmic||

    Inequality feels wrong. It's not fair.

    Fixing inequality feels right. Consequences be damned.

    Can't reason with feelings.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Those bad people weren't true Scotsmen Christians communists. Explaining the "no true Scotsman" fallacy to a leftist is a waste of time.

    As though that weren't bad enough, I've heard leftoids credit China's economic rise to Marxism. I guess we're supposed to believe that China is closer to True Marxism (genuflects and crosses self) today than it was under Mao.

  • T o n y||

    Anyone who uses the term "leftist" to describe an American policy or politician, or the even more childish "leftoid" should be ignored forever.

    Get out of the bubble before it's too late.

  • Brutus||

    Why? There are plenty of politicians today who'd thrill at the thought of having the same power as Mao.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Shorter T o n y: "I can't rebut what you've said, so I'm going to use ad hominem attacks."

  • T o n y||

    I said it's not worth rebutting. American liberalism has no more to do with communism than whatever you believe does.

  • Sevo||

    T o n y| 11.27.12 @ 12:16PM |#
    "Anyone who uses the term "leftist" to describe an American policy..."

    ...is a realist, shithead.

  • Virginian||

    Never fails. Terror, suspension of civil rights, mass murder, secret police, and torture in the pursuit of racial purity is the bottomless depravity of human evil. Terror, suspension of civil rights, mass murder, secret police, and torture in the pursuit of economic equality and the destruction of capitalism is simply well intentioned extremism.

    Nothing shows the the true colors of the Left more than how they treat history's worst dictators. Power is the true allegiance, and they believe deep down that the ends always justify the means. The true shame, in their minds, is that all those dead Chinese and Russians died in vain, that the Worker's Paradise never quite worked out.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, the fact that anyone puts Stalin, Mao, etc. in a "not as bad as Hitler" category is sick.

  • kinnath||

    Alexander Pants-Off. Nothing else to add to this conversation.

  • Brutus||

    I caught him in "Buttinski Blowout XIV" a few weeks ago.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Yeah, I had trouble following the article because I kept thinking about him going to bars and announcing himself as Professor Pantsov.

  • T o n y||

    Here's a fun fact about unrestrained capitalism: it leads to so much misery that "people's" revolutions inevitably follow, which swing the pendulum toward brutal forms of communitarianism that also bring much misery. The great success of the US was not about capitalism. It was about putting a few "socialist" restraints on capitalism--guarantees of a decent standard of living even for the losers of capitalism--that allowed it to flourish and for capitalism to survive. Otherwise the people, one way or another, would long ago have ditched it (as is their right, as every pro-revolutionary libertarian would agree).

    The moral is, stop calling minor healthcare reforms evil communism. Such tweaks to the welfare state are necessary to sustain capitalism. The form of capitalism libertarians want inevitably fails and is often replaced by something worse.

  • SugarFree||

    Obvious troll is obvious. And has been feed plenty today already.

  • JW||

    If only everyone used Reasonable...

    Say, I just had a splendid idea for a new law.

  • Virginian||

    It's possible to have a welfare state alongside a free market system. I would not be averse at all to a state run system that provided basic needs. As in, staple foods, dormitory style housing, emergency medical care. Strictly necessities. If that's what we had, I would accept it.

    Except we don't have that. Not even close to that. So stop pretending we have some kind of barebones safety net, and that you are the last one standing in the way of the dismantling of the orphanages and the soup kitchens.

    Your fundamental problem is that you are incapable of having an honest argument about the actual government that exists. You prefer to construct elaborate strawmen, and that ignite them with a big old smile on your face.

  • T o n y||

    Compared to most other decent countries, we do have an inadequate system. (I don't acknowledge the virtue of a bare-bones system--you'll have to explain why that's preferable.) Our lack of universal healthcare is one reason our healthcare costs are double those of other countries.

    Point is we are being outperformed in terms of human well-being by such countries as Sweden and France and those are not overbearing communist states, so neither are we. We aren't even close. Capitalism is doing just fine. It was barely even punished or restrained after wrecking the world's economy.

  • Virginian||

    So, more and more free shit. Even though that has bankrupted every country that's ever tried it. Do you even know how to add and subtract?

  • Brutus||

    I don't acknowledge the virtue of a bare-bones system--you'll have to explain why that's preferable.

    Moral hazard.

  • Virginian||

    He doesn't know what that is Brutus.

    What constantly amazes me about the Left is how little they comprehend the arguments of their political opponents. They're constantly fighting strawmen, they never ever stop misrepresenting, misleading, and outright lying about what other people believe.

    I understand the premises, logic, and conclusions of the Left. I reject them, but I understand them. The Left can't even give a fair hearing.

  • T o n y||

    You mean if old people are given subsidized healthcare they just might get sick?

  • Calidissident||

    Capitalism wrecked the world economy? Institutions like the Fed, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the FHA, etc all had nothing to do with it?

  • T o n y||

    Not remotely as much as you or the ex-cheerleaders on FOX News you get your information from think.

  • Calidissident||

    Fox News thinks the Fed played a role in the economic crisis? Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, citizen! The notion that our financial system is anything close to a capitalistic free market is laughable

  • John C. Randolph||

    The great success of the US was not about capitalism.

    As always, Tony is 180 degrees out of phase with reality.

    -jcr

  • MJGreen||

    Ahh yes, that era of unrestrained, Chinese capitalism leading into the 1940s...

  • Doctor Whom||

    Not to mention that libertopia known as Tsarist Russia.

  • mtrueman||

    It was more British capitalism. Ever been to Hong Kong or Shanghai?

  • Sevo||

    T o n y| 11.27.12 @ 11:51AM |#
    'Here's a fun lie...'

    Thanks, shithead.

  • Calidissident||

    The states that became communist were ones that had more or less precapitalist societies before the revolution. Tsarist Russia and pre-Mao China weren't libertarian capitalist paradises

  • mtrueman||

    China was integrated into world markets. So was the Belgian Congo, though they managed to avoid communism. Both were capitalist, but pre-industrial societies. On the other hand, North Korea was more industrialized than the South, and for decades, the wealthier half of the peninsula. It's hard to make generalizations.

  • Calidissident||

    Being involved in markets is not the same thing as being capitalist. At least that's not what the people on this forum mean. Economic freedom was low in imperial China and the period after. North Korea became communist because they were "liberated" by the Soviet Union

  • mtrueman||

    Economic freedom was very high in Imperial China for the capitalists, and they had a long series of treaties to prove it. They were given concessions in many Chinese cities where they could conduct business as they saw fit, even indulge in opium trafficking.

    North Korea became communist because the North was a hot bed of communist inspired anti-Japanese agitation. When Japan fell, the communists filled in the vaccuum. It's not all that different from how the communists took over China. The Soviet Union played a role in both cases, but the communist success was largely due to local opposition to Japanese occupation.

  • Calidissident||

    "Economic freedom was very high in Imperial China for the capitalists, and they had a long series of treaties to prove it. They were given concessions in many Chinese cities where they could conduct business as they saw fit, even indulge in opium trafficking."

    Once again, you show that you have no idea what I or other libertarians mean when we say "capitalism" and "economic freedom."

    "North Korea became communist because the North was a hot bed of communist inspired anti-Japanese agitation. When Japan fell, the communists filled in the vaccuum. It's not all that different from how the communists took over China. The Soviet Union played a role in both cases, but the communist success was largely due to local opposition to Japanese occupation."

    The USSR played an essential role. It's not a coincidence that virtually all the countries it liberated from the Axis powers became communist, and virtually none liberated by the Allies did (*I use the word "virtually" because I'm not 100% on the history). And in any case, North Korea was far from one of the most advanced capitalist economies in the world at the time

  • mtrueman||

    North Korea was more advanced industrially than South Korea, as I said. You mustn't underestimate the Korean tendency to seek out foreign powers to support one region on the peninsula against another. That's been a constant for thousands of years.

    My apologies for having no idea what you mean by capitalism and economic freedom.

  • Calidissident||

    I mean a system based on free and voluntary economic exchange and private property rights. Just because some rich Westerners could do business in China doesn't mean the Chinese economy was capitalist or free market, let alone industrialized

  • Calidissident||

    "Here's a fun fact about unrestrained capitalism: it leads to so much misery that "people's" revolutions inevitably follow, which swing the pendulum toward brutal forms of communitarianism that also bring much misery."

    Really? Please give me some examples of unrestrained capitalism leading to brutal communitarianism

    And do you realize that the reasons that societies such as the US and Great Britain (among others) were poor in the 1800's was not because of unrestrained capitalism, but because poverty was the natural state of man for all of history up until that point? And that capitalism was what finally started to alleviate that misery? Serf farmers in the Middle Ages weren't exactly living the good life until capitalism came along and ruined everything

  • mtrueman||

    I remember hearing that men and women living in band societies, living by hunting and gathering, had more leisure time than any other human societies since.

    To say that poverty in the victorian era was 'natural' is odd. This was the time of the Industrial Revolution, and new manufacturing processes were introduced that made food, clothing etc in unheard of abundance. Reconciling the plenty and poverty that existed side by side as 'natural' indicates to you that you need to think this through a bit more.

  • Calidissident||

    Well there wasn't a whole lot to do with that leisure time was there? Say what you want about them (and we used to have a huge troll here who glorified the primordial good old days) but hunter-gatherers, such as those even today in the Amazon and Africa, generally aren't regarded as wealthy societies. And in any case, band societies were not what predated the industrial revolution

    As to your second paragraph, you are making my point. The industrial revolution was the time period where societies began to get rid of mass poverty. Obviously, it wasn't going to happen overnight, but the narrative that the industrial revolution impoverished everyone and then only when government set up the welfare and regulatory states did the incredible prosperity of the modern age sudddenly appear out of thin air is completely false

  • mtrueman||

    'there wasn't a whole lot to do with that leisure time'

    Why do anything? It's called leisure time for a reason, after all.

    'generally aren't regarded as wealthy societies'

    By whom? We don't regard them as wealthy because they don't have a lot of things in their pockets. Maybe they'd look at our busy schedules and our compulsion to fill in time with "a whole lot of things to do" and question our wealth.

    I think the industrial revolution took place over a long period of time and it encompassed the entire globe. It's still happening today, and there are more people on earth today living in abject poverty ($US1 per day per person) than at any other period in world history. I don't know how this fits into your narrative but I'm not sure how government welfare and regulation fits into it.

  • Bill||

    Huge population increases over the last 200 years and many fewer famines except in communist or autocratic countries or in civil wars. Wonder why that is? Stalin, Mao, Polpot - all created mass famines, yet you want to complain that there are too many people now able to stay alive on a dollar a day?

  • Sevo||

    "you want to complain that there are too many people now able to stay alive on a dollar a day?"

    Uh, it's worse than that.

  • Sevo||

    Bill,
    What I was getting at is that mtrueman is lying. Flat out lying.

  • mtrueman||

    "Stalin, Mao, Polpot - all created mass famines"

    I'm aware of this, it's even mentioned in the article.

    I'm also aware that there have never been so many people living in abject poverty as there are today. Apparently, calidissident isn't aware of this. He wrote about the "incredible prosperity of the modern age."

    Instead of trying to sell me on the shortcomings of 20th century communism, why not take him to task for his glossing over poverty in the 21st century? When did libertarians become such apologists for the status quo?

  • Calidissident||

    WTF are you talking about? You are creating a bunch of strawmen, use "clever" sophistry, and then try to criticize other people for being naive or whatnot.

    People generally do stuff with their leisure time. Options are pretty limited in hunter gatherer societies. And as far as poverty again, quit with the word games, you know what I'm saying. If you wanna argue the superiority of the hunter gatherer lifestyle, fine. But let's not pretend such societies aren't deprived of material wealth and are generally considered to be poor. Whether their leisure time is worth the tradeoff isn't the point. And again, why did you even bring up band societies? The pre-industrial societies of Europe and America weren't band societies.

    As for your last paragraph and your second post, you're totally misunderstanding my argument. Nowhere did I deny that the IR took place over time or that it is complete everywhere, or that there is no poverty in the world. In fact you're only helping my argument; the places where poverty is most prevalent are the places where the industrial revolution is in its earliest stages. My argument was with regards to the history of the IR in Europe and North America primarily and the history of those places before the IR. Many leftists, such as Tony, seem to believe that capitalism created mass poverty during the industrial revolution (ignoring history before the IR) and then only when government created the welfare/regulatory state did we see mass prosperity

  • mtrueman||

    Calidissident, you ask why I brought up hunter gatherer societies. It's because you said that poverty was the natural state of man for all of history. I disagreed with that. The hunter gatherers had more time at their own disposal - in some ways they can be considered more wealthy than most of us modern folk.

    I think we probably agree on a lot of the features of the industrial revolution. I urge you caution though. Waving away the poverty it brings in tow in it's early stages, is exactly the same attitude that Maoists and Stalinists had to the suffering that came in the wake of their social engineering.

    You want to totally transform the economic and social underpinnings of an entire society? You'll be in good company. Just prepared to unleash a whole lot of suffering. At least in the short run.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    They just magically wave away all of the atrocities

    Those eggs won't break themselves.

  • Brutus||

    Waiter! My omelet? I've been waiting 95 goddamn years!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Point is we are being outperformed in terms of human well-being by such countries as Sweden and France

    Unsubstantiated assertion is unsubstantiated.

  • mtrueman||

    There are differences between the policies of Stalin and Mao, and there's nothing to be gained by pretending they don't exist. Stalin did reverse the land part of the Bolshevik's 'Land, Bread, and Peace' promises, but Mao saw to it that vast amounts of land were given over to China's peasants. He was carrying on the policies that had seen him rise to the top of the party long before the liberation. The Marriage Act, which freed women from servitude, also is considered to be positive - rather than an example of the party exercising all pervasive control over the lives of Chinese, the Marriage Act meant, for the first time in Chinese history, unprecedented freedom in personal life. Stalin was the consummate bureaucratic operator, but Mao got to his position by giving the Chinese what they wanted.

    An unlimited cult of the leader is probably accurate for Stalin, but not for Mao. The Party structure in China was much stronger, and Mao could never ignore it. Rivals like Deng were kept at arm's length, but there was never the purging characteristic of Stalin, a man who today remains responsible for the deaths of more Communists than any American president. Zhou Enlai stayed at the heart of Chinese power till the end and was so popular, so revered by the people that the government was afraid of the outpouring of grief on the occasion of his funeral. Stalin would never have tolerated such a rival for public affection. This cult of leadership of Mao had its limits.

  • Sevo||

    "but Mao saw to it that vast amounts of land were given over to China's peasants."

    Bullshit.
    --------------------------
    "Mao got to his position by giving the Chinese what they wanted."

    Bullshit.
    --------------------------
    "Rivals like Deng were kept at arm's length, but there was never the purging characteristic of Stalin,"

    Bullshit.
    --------------------------
    "This cult of leadership of Mao had its limits."

    Yeah, in that infinity is hard to visualize.

  • mtrueman||

    Glad that we agree on the importance of the Marriage Act in assessing Mao.

    "hard to visualize"

    Don't try to visualize. You'll get dazzled by the false appearances. The Chinese Party has always been rife with factions, and under constant turmoil and rivalry. It's no different today. Mao never had the iron grip on the party that Stalin had. Don't be a stooge for Gang of Four propaganda.

  • Calidissident||

    Just because his grip might not have been AS ironclad as Stalin's doesn't mean there wasn't a huge personality cult around Mao, or that his opponents within the party had nothing to fear

  • mtrueman||

    The personality cult around Mao was largely a phenomenon of the Cultural Revolution, where Mao and those around him mobilized millions of young people to fend off criticism from party members for his blunders in the Great Leap Forward campaign. Now some high ranking party members suffered dreadfully, but it was nowhere near the scale of the purges under Stalin; those purged under Stalin were killed, whereas most of Mao's opponents in the party made a come-back, while Mao was still still alive and still the nominal head of the party. China, even under Mao was a collective leadership, quite different from Stalin's rule.

  • Sevo||

    "Now some high ranking party members suffered dreadfully, but it was nowhere near the scale of the purges under Stalin;"

    Bullshit.

  • Sevo||

    mtrueman| 11.27.12 @ 2:47PM |#
    "Glad that we agree on the importance of the Marriage Act in assessing Mao."

    No we don't. That was propaganda; lip service to extract the same slave efforts from the other sex.
    Mao was a murderous liar, period.
    ------------------------------
    "hard to visualize"
    Don't try to visualize. You'll get dazzled by the false appearances. The Chinese Party has always been rife with factions, and under constant turmoil and rivalry. It's no different today. Mao never had the iron grip on the party that Stalin had. Don't be a stooge for Gang of Four propaganda."

    Yeah, all that 'Little Red Book' stuff was just an invention.

  • mtrueman||

    "Yeah, all that 'Little Red Book' stuff was just an invention."

    Yes, it was an invention credited to Lin Biao, one of Mao's toadies, who thought it would be useful in the struggle against the Capitalist Roaders during the Cultural Revolution. The scale of these intra-party squabbles is truly breathtaking. You go to China today and speak with anyone of a certain age, and chances are they will have played a part in it. Don't let your squeamishness over the deeds of Mao keep you from delving into the details. It's worth the effort.

  • Sevo||

    "Yet they insist on presenting the Great Helmsman as a "multifaceted figure" with a good side."

    Trains, clocks; you know.

  • mtrueman||

    Trains? Clocks? There were large parts of pre-liberation China that had seen neither of these. It's easy to underestimate the extent of the squalor and backwardness of China before Mao. Mao never got the trains to run on time. He couldn't even implement day light savings time without causing chaos. But the Chairman did see to it that a rail network was constructed, characteristically at great cost to human life, as you can imagine.

  • Sevo||

    That sound was the point sailing by:
    Il Duce; now do you get it?

  • mtrueman||

    I understood the first time. Thanks for taking the trouble to clarify anyway.

  • Sevo||

    mtrueman| 11.27.12 @ 11:11PM |#
    "I understood the first time. Thanks for taking the trouble to clarify anyway."

    You're welcome. I'll be happy to call you on further lies.
    Are you an apologist for 'communism' in general? Just hoping that people won't think so badly of that thug Mao and his reign?
    What is it that causes you to lie as you do?

  • mtrueman||

    I'm not apologizing for communism. I'm not hoping that people won't think badly of Mao. I'm simply hoping to fill in some detail that might give readers some idea how Stalin and Mao were different. It's rather interesting to me. There may be others who share my interest in history and politics. If you ever get around to reading up on history, you won't have to go too far before you come across some pretty unsavoury characters, though Mao and Stalin are admittedly extreme even for history books. If you don't share my interest in history, I understand.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Yet they insist on presenting the Great Helmsman as a "multifaceted figure" with a good side.

    When you're on the left, the mass murder of tens of millions is a mere peccadillo.

  • Sevo||

    See mtrueman, above:
    Mao only killed a few more million than Stalin, and it wasn't as bad, somehow...

  • mtrueman||

    No, Sevo, you've misunderstood. I'm not saying that Mao wasn't as bad as Stalin, or vice-versa. I'm saying that they were different in many ways and if you want to understand Mao and that period of Chinese history, you should be aware of the differences. Certainly Mao learned a lot from Stalin, but I've tried add something here that was missing in the article. If you have anything to add yourself, or correct any mistakes I've made, you are welcome to. Otherwise, please don't mischaracterize what I've said here. You owe me that much.

  • Sevo||

    mtrueman| 11.27.12 @ 8:27PM |#
    "No, Sevo, you've misunderstood."

    Well:
    "Mao saw to it that vast amounts of land were given over to China's peasants."
    "Mao got to his position by giving the Chinese what they wanted."
    "Now some high ranking party members suffered dreadfully, but it was nowhere near the scale of the purges under Stalin;"
    I don't see any misunderstanding in calling those claims bullshit.
    You seem to hope that a distinction absent a difference between Stalin and Mao is enough to give you claims currency. Yes, there are nuanced differences; Mao's life was far more luxurious compared to the average Chinese than was Stalin's compared to the average Soviet. So what? They were both murderous thugs who deserve condemnation far beyond what is commonly meted out to Hitler rather than any sort of recognition.
    If you have a point to make here, it's yet to be visible.

  • mtrueman||

    "They were both murderous thugs who deserve condemnation far beyond what is commonly meted out to Hitler rather than any sort of recognition."

    You are trivializing history. I doubt very much that even one person died at the hands of Stalin, Mao or Hitler. All the killings were done by huge numbers of underlings, motivated by some crackpot pseudoscience. Putting a single hateful face or two or three on these calamities might make them easy to digest for the squeamish, but it does nothing to help us understand them. Hitler was a failed artist and Mao and Stalin were ruthless political operators. Condemn away, but it does little to help us understand the 20th century. It won't help you from trouble that lies ahead, either.

  • Sevo||

    mtrueman| 11.28.12 @ 12:13AM |#
    "They were both murderous thugs who deserve condemnation far beyond what is commonly meted out to Hitler rather than any sort of recognition."

    "You are trivializing history. I doubt very much that even one person died at the hands of Stalin, Mao or Hitler."

    You are showing dishonest sophistry. Pretty sure being a frustrated artist isn't part of the problem, nor are Mao or Lenin/Stalin proximate causes; all four were simply murderous thugs who gained governmental power.
    'helping from trouble that lies ahead' is not difficult at all; reduce the power of the government, and murderous thugs will be unable to order mass killings.
    Yes, I'll condemn murderous thugs, and yes they deserve it regardless of whether they made the trains run on time.
    And I'll keep working on reducing gov't power.

  • mtrueman||

    By all means keep your eye on government power. But none of these people gained power alone or even with the help of government. They gained power by offering and giving their people just what they wanted. Mao's famous quote is that he was a fish in the sea. That he turned out to be a shark is beside the point.

  • Sevo||

    mtrueman| 11.27.12 @ 7:59PM |#
    "...there are more people on earth today living in abject poverty ($US1 per day per person) than at any other period in world history."

    Economic liberalization (not what socialists mean) has reduced global poverty by leaps and bounds over the last several decades.
    Now you've proven yourself to be a lying asshole. That's enough. Go suck canal water, dipshit.

  • Sevo||

    mtrueman| 11.27.12 @ 7:42PM |#
    "Economic freedom was very high in Imperial China for the capitalists,"
    Lie.

    "there are more people on earth today living in abject poverty ($US1 per day per person) than at any other period in world history."
    Lie.

    "Mao saw to it that vast amounts of land were given over to China's peasants."
    Lie.

    "Now some high ranking party members suffered dreadfully, but it was nowhere near the scale of the purges under Stalin;"
    Lie.

    "I remember hearing that men and women living in band societies, living by hunting and gathering, had more leisure time than any other human societies since."
    Well, since you 'remember' it, that part isn't a lie, liar.
    Go away, asshole.

  • Sevo||

    Why not here as anywhere else:
    "Workers raise 1st section of new Chernobyl shelter"
    From the link:
    "Suma Chakrabati, [...] called Tuesday "a very significant milestone, which is a tribute to the ongoing commitment of the international donor community, and an important step towards overcoming the legacy of the accident."
    Uh, "overcoming" that legacy would have meant applauding the death of the Soviet Union, not some bandaid.
    http://www.sfgate.com/business.....069524.php

  • ||

    Why not here as anywhere else:
    "Workers raise 1st section of new Chernobyl shelter"
    From the link:

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