[Marxism] Hatchet job on Mao lacks veracity

Tony Lawless lifesunquietdream at msn.com
Sun Oct 9 17:20:19 MDT 2005

Since I have political respect for Phil Hearse, I was very surprised to see 
his positive review of the Chang and Halliday book in IV and on the ISG 
website. But I have noted a tendency since the late 90s for the Fourth 
International to distance themselves more sharply from the history of 
actually existing socialism to the point where it appears now that the the 
FI thinks there is nothing to be learned from the history of these 
societies. In essence, if not yet in theory, the FI appears to be drawing 
closer to the International Socialist Tendency's views. I think this is a 
major error, but it has the temporary benefit of allowing you to say "that's 
not what we mean by socialism". Or as Michael Lowy would say, in a pithy, if 
mistaken, way: How can something die if it has not yet been born?

By the way, since one of the major targets of this Halliday book is the 
Cultural Revolution as an unremitting history of evil, I want to offer a 
factual defence of one positive upshot of that process:

In South Korea, it is common, particularly outside Seoul, for undergraduate 
male students to turn their heads away when smoking in front of older 
professors. This is done as a sign of Confucian respect. A Chinese graduate 
student studying in Korea once told me that he was greatly surprised when he 
first saw this. The reason? "The Cultural Revolution ended that sort of 
thing in China," he said.


IV Online magazine : IV369 - July-August 2005
Mao in Question

Mao - The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Jonathan Cape, 
London 2005, £25.
Phil Hearse

Thirty years ago this book would have been dismissed as a work of 
anti-Communist fantasy, not just by people in the Communist movement, but by 
most of the left and even many liberals. But since the death of Mao Tse-tung 
in 1976, and especially since the defeat of the ‘Gang of Four’ and the 
coming to power of Deng Xiao-ping in 1978, much more of the real story of 
Mao and the Chinese Communist Party in the struggle for power and exercising 
power has become known. Little of this story reveals Mao, Maoism or the 
Chinese Communist Party in a positive light.

Jung Chang, author of the best-selling Wild Swans, and Jon Halliday, 
formerly the East Asian expert of the New Left Review editorial board, spent 
10 years researching and writing this book. Their sources are not just 
written records and memoirs, but hundreds of interviews with participants, 
in China itself and internationally.

If even 20% of the facts about the modus operandi of the CCP and Mao [1] 
presented in this book are true (and that’s an absolute minimum) it is going 
to force many leftists - even those who were always critical of Mao and 
Maoism - to re-evaluate their views.

It seems obvious now that many of the opinions expressed in the pre-1976 
period, even by critical Marxists, let alone Maoists and liberal Mao 
groupies like Edgar Snow and William Hinton [2], were wildly optimistic 
about the regime in general, its attitude to the popular masses, its alleged 
‘egalitarianism’ and the supposedly radical and revolutionary forces within 
sections of the student youth and workers during the Cultural Revolution.

However, while constructing an irrefutable charge sheet against Mao, Jung 
Chang and Jon Halliday are unable to build their own explanatory framework 
for why the Chinese Communist Party took power in 1949 and what the basic 
social forces at work were. Thus they inadvertently make Mao seem not just 
evil, but a Machiavellian political genius of unparalleled proportions.


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