[Marxism] Further comments on Mao (was Mao: Journey to...)

Jeff Rubard jeffrubard at fusemail.com
Sun Mar 14 17:37:19 MST 2004


> Message: 6
> Date: Sun, 14 Mar 2004 14:02:35 EST
> From: Waistline2 at aol.com
> Subject: Re: [Marxism] Mao: Journey to the . . . Center of the Mind
> To: marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
> Message-ID: <5b.499d15d1.2d86064b at aol.com>
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>
>>Rounding out this week's assessments of the *effective* "Big Three", it
>> is
> my opinion that history's greatest loss (30 million deaths during the
> Great Leap Forward famine) should be the occasion for some
> *self-reflection* with respect to the thought of Mao Zedong, perhaps the
> most "Americanist" of Third-International communists.<
>
> Reply
>
> Jeff, I thought history greatest crime was the 100 million deaths you
> attribute to Stalin in a previous article. Although my continuous scan of
> material on
> the Soviet period tend to reduce this figure by more than 70% - to the
> dismay
> of Robert Conquest.

Yeah, that was "culled" from the "Black Book" and in that article I
was partially attempting to discuss the questionable character of French
historical
materials with respect to addressing the reality of the, uh, world communist
movement (I have an extremely critical review of Furet's *Passing Of An
Illusion*
up on Amazon for the same reason).  But the point here, apart from the
questionable accuracy of available figures concerning Stalinist purges
(relative to Soviet figures concerning the Holocaust, even), is that
Stalinist purges and the famous Katyn massacre did not involve child
deaths, whereas the Cambodian killing fields and the aforementioned
famine both did: and in general when we speak of Asia, we are either speaking
of "great politics" or political education -- I was attempting to give
something
of the "para-political" flavor of Mao's works and even his most insurgent
days.

> It is true that the US State department (in the early 1950s) correctly
> characterized the revolution in China as a radical agrarian revolt, with
> ideological
> communists - Marxists, in the leadership. Some where someone attributed to
> Stalin the saying, "one death is a tragedy, ten million a statistic."

Well, this is questionable for "reasons of state", i.e. motives for occluding
a more revelatory story about the Chinese revolution.  By and large the
"Chi-coms" were, if not extremely urbanized, products of an era when the
*extremely* Europeanized Shanghai was a beau ideal of progress and the
KMT relatively untouchable apart from acts of extreme cruelty perpetrated
upon those further left (which see the Comintern's none-too-brief flirtation
with *them*) -- if the Revolution of '48 was a peasant revolution, this may
have been because that was what "the market would bear", and apart from
the sob-stories about thinking yourself steel mills most American political
watchers have heard the Chinese spent an awful lot of time thinking about
modernizations (in truth, many Soviet plans derived from earlier
scientific and educational reforms  -- but the point of the "Middle Kingdom"
was to make the question of reforming, e.g. the mandarinate, literally
senseless).

> Just curious, who gets the villain of the century award? You do know that
> awards for anything elevates one in history?

Offhand, my vote is actually for Woodrow Wilson: perpertrator of a great
many offenses against freedom in the United States and "imposer" of
unrealistic ideals operating "therethrough" upon a Europe too weak to
stand the thought of the Spartacist League.  To my mind, Wilson was the
man responsible for generating a "short 20th century" many people had --
a time where liberal idealism faced off against right-wing extremism over
the communist's dead body -- and to my eyes, the world cannot stand
another century of "absolute beginners" pulling every sort of lever and
giving only good reasons for this.  But I suppose this is perhaps quite
the unpopular essay, and am simply doing *reportage* with respect to
the contents of my mind (the avoidance of which is the object of the
Maoist "sublation" of Jacobinism).

> Presenting Stalin as a "country politician" was extremely clever and
> insightful. One has to win votes and confidence in the game of politics.
> To win votes
> and confidence the multitude must understand your meaning or rather, your
> meaning must match their conceptions and framework of thinking.

Well, he was, and I will speculate here that the joke was none too: really,
the reassuring message of the mature Stalin was that his public image
represented the cohesion of the Soviet Union as a functioning nation --
in other words, you couldn't tell he was from Georgia.  But perhaps the
horror of Stalinism is also bespoken by this structural "foreshortening"
of Stalin's intellectual influences, and to read still-live elements of US
politics into the understanding of that time may be unfair to both.

> I love theory but it wins no battles.

True enough, but perhaps the power which emanates from the barrel of
a gun is a different quantity from that power which is held by cultural
producers and other elements of civil society -- such that the generally
favorable impression one gets of Red Armies (as opposed to the justice
systems of "actually-existing socialism") may be almost the point entire;
but to go further with this point requires not doing so, the "categorial"
element in Mao's thought.

Jeff Rubard





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