The distinguished French critic Jean Francois Revel, in his 1977 work "The Totalitarian Temptation," argued that many intellectuals put on ideological blinders when dealing with Marxist regimes. Because reality had to reflect their idyllic abstract model, philosophers, historians and biographers — people Lenin called useful idiots — denied the criminal policies and the violation of human rights of Stalin and Mao.
When Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s "The Gulag Archipelago," which revealed the horrors of Stalin’s labor camps, was published in 1973, the European left, in unison, accused him of being a “rightist, a believer in the religious values of the worst kind of Slavic obscurantism.” His testimony, Revel wrote, “was treated as the hallucinary projection of the author’s own feeling.”
Nevertheless, thanks to Solzhenitsyn and Anne Applebaum, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Gulag: A History and the efforts of the French intellectuals who compiled The Black Book of Communism: Crimes Terror, Repression," the horrendous crimes of Stalin have been documented and exposed the wishful thinking of Western dupes.
However, the extent of the brutal crimes of Mao, who died in 1975, were kept under wraps for years. As recently as 2000, a critically acclaimed biography of Mao by long time correspondent for The Economist, Philip Short, had this to say about Mao’s legacy:
"The overwhelmingly majority of those whom Mao’s policies killed were unintended casualties of famine. The others — three or four million of them — were the human detritus, of his epic struggle to transform China . . .
"China’s landlords were eliminated as a class (and many of them were killed in the process); but they were not exterminated as a people, as the Jews were in Germany. Even as his policies caused the deaths of millions, Mao never entirely lost his belief in the efficacy of thought reform and the possibility of redemption. ‘Heads are not live chives’, he said. ‘They do not grow back again . . .’
"What was achieved at the cost of such bloodshed and pain? He freed China from the straitjacket of its Confucian past . . .
"Revolution has more to do with tearing down the old then with painstakingly constructing the new. Mao’s legacy was to clear the way for less visionary, more practical men to build the shining future that he could never achieve."
Talk about ideological blindness! Mr. Short is delusional!
Fortunately, since 2005, scholarship based on previously classified documents refutes him. The first, "Mao: The Unknown Story" (2005) by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday proved Mao was a ruthless terrorist who was responsible for the deaths of 70 million Chinese.
Since then the two volumes published of Frank Dikotter’s planned trilogy on Mao’s regime have built on Chang’s work.
Released in October, "Dikotter’s The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957," traces the post-World War II Civil War (1946-1949) and the first years of “liberation” under Mao.
To advance his cause to defeat nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, “Mao,” writes Dikotter, “promised anything.” He even conned Army Gen. George Marshall, President Truman’s special envoy to China in 1946, into believing he and his followers were “agrarian reformers keen to learn from democracy.” He solemnly swore that “Chinese democracy must follow the American path.”
His actions proved otherwise. To expedite victory, Mao ordered a siege on the City of Changchun in Manchuria to take no quarters and to turn it into a “city of death.” Out of a population of 500,000 at least 160,000 died of starvation and disease. Fearing similar fates, other major cities, including Beijing surrendered without much of a fight and Chiang and his remaining forces fled to Taiwan in December 1949.
Immediately after declaring the “People’s Republic of China,” Mao abandoned all his promises to Western powers and ordered “quotas of people who had to be denounced, humiliated, beaten, dispossessed and killed” in villages across the mainland. At least 2 million were liquidated.
One year later the great terror “designed to eliminate all the enemies of the party” commenced with death quotas that resulted in the murdering of over 2 million.
Between 1952 and 1956, business owners were denounced and their private enterprises confiscated. Farmers were stripped of their land, live stock and tools and placed on a starvation diet. In 1957, Mao turned against the intellectuals and sent a half million to his gulags.
The first “decade of Maoism,” Dikotter concluded, “was one of the worst tyrannies in the history of the twentieth century, sending to an early grave 5 million civilians and bringing misery to countless more.”
Dikotter’s "Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe 1958-1962," published in 2012, documents that “coercion, terror and systematic violence were the foundations of the Great Leap Forward” that led to 45 million people dying unnecessarily between 1958 and 1962.
Approximately 8 percent of deaths were due to torture and tens of millions starved to death due to the failure of radical collectivization of China’s farms. Contrary to Mr. Short’s claim, the casualties were intended.
During the period China “descended into hell,” Mao revealed himself to be “obsessed with his own roll in history, often dwelling on past slights . . . and, above all, insensitive to human loss.”
Historians like Philip Short, who have referred to the early years of Mao’s regime as “golden age” or “honeymoon period,” Dikotter concludes, “have sometimes confused the abstract world presented by propaganda with the complicated individual tragedies of revolutions, burying all too readily into the gleaming image that the regime so carefully projected to the rest of the world.”
Hopefully, the revelations of horrendous crimes committed in the name of ideology convinces today’s high-minded modernists to remove their blinders and to accept Catholic historian Christopher Dawson’s notion that “a completely secularized civilization is inhuman in the absolute sense — hostile to human life and irreconcilable with human nature itself.”
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the porta uthority of N.Y. and N.J., is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact." He also is a columnist for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read more reports from George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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