Politics, Philosophy, Polemics

Archive for the ‘China’ Category

Mao’s Murders

In Book Review, China, Far Left, Marxism on January 5, 2014 at 12:27 PM

This is  a cross post. It was originally published on Harry’s Place on January 5th 2014, 12:20 pm

The most memorable historical book I have read in the last few years is Frank Dikötter’s Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62 about the manmade famine responsible for tens of millions of deaths in Communist China. (I reviewed the book here).  Dikötter has recently had published the prequel: The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-57. It reads like a horror story but sadly it is true.

What is shocking in the book is how many ingenious ways the Communists found of murdering people.  They had a lot of practice doing so because as Dikötter explains, “the first decade of Maoism was one of the worst tyrannies in the history of the twentieth century, sending to an early grave at least 5 million civilians and bringing misery to countless more.” With an obvious allusion to Daniel Goldhagen’s description of the Nazis, Dikötter labelled many of Mao’s communist henchmen as “willing executioners.”  Even if the Killing was not carried out with gusto, it went on. For as one party official explained to members: “You must hate even if you feel no hatred, you must kill even if you do not wish to kill.” But Mao deemed that the people enjoyed killing. He stated: “The people say that killing counter-revolutionaries is more joyful than a good downpour.” And there is evidence backing up the “willing executioner” label.  Dikötter reports on a twenty year old woman who felt “proud and happy” watching a dozen victims be executed in the wake of a rally she had helped organise.

Mao installed and encouraged a reign of terror and relished in the violence. He declared that they would “sweep all the imperialists, warlords, corrupt officials, local tyrants and evil gentry into their graves.” But it was not necessarily the case that those deemed wealthy or landlords were either.  Ordinary farmers were killed. “Some victims were knifed, a few decapitated. Chinese pastors were paraded through the street as ‘running dogs of imperialism’, their hands bound behind their backs and a rope around their necks.”  Bombed, starved to death, beaten to death, shot, tortured, buried alive, dismembered, throttled to death, strung up from trees, chopped up, hair pulled out, ears bitten off, urinated on, forced to wear dunces caps, stripped and exposed to the cold in winter, trussed up, hung from beams, buried up to the neck and torched, stabbed to death with bayonets, decapitated, choked to death with wire, stoned, forced to sit on their haunches with a kettle of boiling water on their heads, flogged, hanged,  forced to cut out their own tongue, knees broken and sodomised. It is not surprising that the party noted that the suicide rate was “incessant.”

People froze to death hiding from the Communists. It was not enough just to kill those deemed landlords, family members and anyone else they might have thought would seek revenge for the killings were also killed. Indiscriminate beatings were common place. In Pingyi county a local official proclaimed, “from now on we should kill somebody at every one of our meetings.”  Elsewhere, merely looking suspicious was sufficient to be thrown in prison.  One candid report noted that in west Sichuan, “there are extremely few people sentenced to a term of five or more years, as some comrades feel that if a prisoner is given a long sentence, he might as well be killed to save time.”  Nor did they hesitate to “beat one to scare the many.”

Children did not escape. Some even under the age of ten were tortured, crippled or maimed for life with some tortured to death. Other children were given away because “the majority of workers lacked food.”

One foreigner who escaped China wrote in her diary, “Don’t let anyone fool you about Communism.” These are wise words. If there is a lesson for the modern day it is this: when communists of all stripes demonstrate in London against government policy and chant “Hang the Tories from the lampposts,” believe them. That is exactly what they will do if they ever get in power.

Dikötter’s book is a worthy read for anyone interested in history and a must read for anyone interested in Communist history. I await his next book on Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

“I am going to annihilate you”: Five Books on Marx and Marxists

In Cambodia, China, Marxism, Stalin, Trotskyism on May 7, 2013 at 7:13 AM

Phil at A Very Public Sociologist reminds us that Sunday would have been Karl Marx’s 195th birthday. This, he believes, is something well worthwhile commemorating. The way he has done so is to list his five favourite books on Marx and Marxism.  He challenges us to also list books that have had an impact. What better way for me to do that in “honour” of this birthday than to also list five book on Marx and Marxism. For the sectarians I should clarify that: five books on Marx and people who claimed to be Marxist.

  1. Leopold  Schwarzchild, The Red Prussian: The Life and Legend of Karl Marx, (Pickwick Books, 1986)

In this book, originally published in Britain in 1948, one can get a true sense of the type of man Marx was. The following few sentences are extracted from pages 68-69 and are based on an account provided by Marx’s assistant, Carl Heinzen:

[Marx's] most pleasing trait was his appreciation of good wine. Every evening they repaired to the inn to drink; and then, as they emptied one bottle after another, Marx became gay, jovial, and natural. When he was in a good mood, he amused himself time and time again with the same joke. He would say suddenly to someone at the table: “I am going to annihilate you,” and say it over and over again, enjoying himself tremendously.

  1. Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution, (Vintage, 1990)

In this ground-breaking monumental study, Richard Pipes provides a convincing argument why the Russian Revolution was not a class uprising as Leninists would have people believe, but a coup d’état where a small minority with the use of terror and mass murder took control of government. The following short extract is from page 833:

On August 8 [1918, Trotsky] ordered that, for the protection of the railroad line from Moscow to Kazan, concentration camps be constructed at several nearby localities to isolate such “sinister agitators, counterrevolutionary officers, saboteurs, parasites and speculators” as were  not executed “on the spot” or given other penalties…. [On August 9, 1918, Lenin] ordered that mutinous “kulaks” be subjected to “merciless mass terror”- that is executions – but “dubious ones incarcerated in concentration camps outside the cities.”

  1. Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2007)

Strictly speaking this is three books, as this magisterial work comprises three volumes. For the purpose of this list I count it as one entry. This report of life and death in the Soviet prison system that began under Lenin and substantially expanded under Stalin is chilling. Millions died under Stalin of which a substantial number of people were killed via the judicial system. The short extract below is from page 564 of that first volume:

General-assignment work – that is the main and basic work performed in any given camp. Eighty percent of the prisoners work at it, and they all die off. All. And then they bring new ones in to take their places and they again are sent to general-assignment work. Doing this work, you expend the last of your strength. And you are always hungry. And always wet. And shoeless. And you are given short rations and short everything else. And put in the worst barracks. And they won’t give you any treatment when you’re ill.

  1. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Unknown Story, (Jonathan Cape, 2005)

This highly acclaimed biography of the Chinese leader is superbly researched. The death and destruction wrought by Mao brought Communist killings to a new high. Chang and Halliday document the evidence against this Communist monster. The extract below is from pages 456-458:

Close to 38 million people died of starvation and overwork in the Great Leap Forward and the famine which lasted four years….Mao knowingly starved and worked these tens of millions to death…. Death, said Mao, “is indeed to be rejoiced over… We believe in dialectics, and so we can’t not be in favour of death.”…. “Deaths have benefits,” he told the top echelon on 9 December 1958. “They can fertilise the ground.”….When he was in Moscow in 1957, he had said: “We are prepared to sacrifice 300 million Chinese for the victory of the world revolution.”

  1. John Barron and Anthony Paul, Peace with Horror: The Untold Story of Communist Genocide in Cambodia, (Hodder and Stoughton, 1977)

This was the first book that came out detailing the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. It is largely based on eye-witness accounts. The killings started as soon as the Khmer Rouge got to power with the forced exodus of the population from the cities to the countryside. The extract below is from page 116:

The killing during the great exodus was all the more terrifying because so much of it was unpredictable and pointless. A former truck driver, Thiounn Kamel, was swept up in the throngs pushed out of Phnom Penh on National Highway 1. “When I couldn’t move because of the crowd, I stopped on the side of the road. That time there was a truck loaded with armed Khmer Rouge. When their truck also couldn’t move, they just shot at the people to clear the way and killed some of them. It was savage.”

From the Vaults: Mao the Trotskyist

In China, From the Vaults, Trotskyism on February 16, 2012 at 7:32 AM

The extract that I copy below from a British newspaper article amused me:

Chinese are called Trotskyist

Mark Frankland
The Observer, October 13, 1963, p1.

Moscow October 12

A VETERAN MEMBER of the Soviet Communist Party and onetime aide and friend of Lenin today attacked the policies of the Chinese Leadership as “a Trotskyist attempt at a revision of Leninism on an international scale.”

Writing in the government paper Izvestia, the 80-year-old Yelena Stasova said that the battle against the Chinese leadership “must be waged with all the implacability and consistency with which Lenin and the whole party conducted it in the period of the struggle against Trotskyism.”

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