Tuesday, December 25, 2007


MAO: A LIFE by Philip Short, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2000. 782pp.

Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

THIS is a long review (it runs to about 32,000 words) so I would suggest that you print it out to read. It also appears on my blog (and PAEditorsBlog as well as at NYC INDYMEDIA ) in 16 parts under the title "Everything You Ever Wanted To know About Mao" (1), (2), etc. Comments are welcome.

CHAPTER ONE “A Confucian Childhood”

Short aptly begins with December 26, 1893 in Hunan with Mao’s birth. His mother was a practicing Buddhist and, Short says, was disappointed when the teenage Mao gave up the faith. Her name gives some idea of the status of women at the time, Her name was Wen Qimei “Sister Seven” as girls were not given names, just numbers.

Mao came from a well off peasant family and his father was able to send him to the village school to get a traditional Confucian education. Short tells us that Mao learned three main principles from Confucianism. First, every person and every society “must have a moral compass.” Second, “the primacy of right thinking” which means that one’s thoughts had to be morally right: this was what Confucius called “virtue.” Third, “self-cultivation” was very important. These are not, I think, bad precepts to inculcate in children.

Short says that all his life Mao was influenced by Confucius, Zhuangzi (a Daoist) and Mozi as well as Lenin and Marx. He thinks the Confucian element was “as least as important” as the Marxist.

One of the major influences on his life, according to Mao himself, happened when he was 16 years old. These were the food riots of 1910 in Changsha. There was plenty of food for the people of Changsha but it was all shipped out to other places where it could be sold for more money so the locals all died from famine. People died in droves, sold their children, and even practiced cannibalism to survive. A nice introduction to the capitalist market for the young Mao.

This chapter ends with a discussion of modernism in the 1890s. Chinese were studying abroad and returning to introduce Western ideas into China. Short mentions Kang Youwei who updated Confucianism for the modern world and Liang Qichao who “took Charles Darwin’s thesis ‘the survival of the fittest’ and applied it to China’s national struggle....” Mao’s world was one of ferment.

I should note that “survival of the fittest” was actually the slogan of Herbert Spencer not Charles Darwin. Spencer adapted Darwin’s ideas to society to get a form of “social Darwinism.” Darwin was only interested in biology and his term was “natural selection.”

CHAPTER TWO: "Revolution"

This chapter recounts the events leading up to the overthrow of the Manchus and the swearing in of Sun Yat-sen as the first president of China on 1 January 1912, and the aftermath.

CHAPTER THREE "Lords of Misrule"

After China became a Republic, Mao spent about five years in school in Changsha, the capital of Hunan. He studied to become a teacher. Many of the views he would hold for the rest of his life were formed at this time. He read many books, including Rousseau's Social Contract, Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws, Smith's Wealth of Nations and works by Herbert Spencer, Darwin, Huxley and John Stuart Mill.

It was a Chinese book, however, that was most influential: Si-Ma Guang's Comprehensive Mirror for the Aid of Those Who Govern. Si-Ma Guang was a minister to an emperor in the middle of the Song Dynasty who lived over seven hundred years ago. Mao kept this book and referred to it all his life. Its message was simple. Good and honest men were more important than the laws in ruling the Empire.

He also read the German thinker Paulsen's System of Ethics. Short says Mao retained three main principles from this book, First, the need for a powerful state; second, the centrality of the individual will; third, the ambiguous relationship between Chinese and Western culture.

He published his first article (in New Youth) in 1917 at age 24. He extolled the individual will. The quote from Short shows that Mao was far from Marxism at this time. "Ultimately, the individual comes first... Society is created by individuals, not individuals by society." At this time he also developed a "cardinal principle" that stayed with him the rest of his life. This was to ground "foreign ideas in Chinese reality to establish their relevance." This of course makes sense and is the origin of the later notion of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Mao also reflected on the view (Paulsen's) that cultures go through old age and then decline. "Revolution does not mean," he said, "using troops and arms, but replacing the old with the new." Yet, the basis of classical Chinese thought must be preserved. The future Cultural Revolution will test this idea, but it is 50 years in the future.

Short says "a chilling hint of future ruthlessness" can also be detected at this time. This is Mao's attitude of "focusing on what he considered the principle aspects of [a] problem... and disregarding what was secondary." An example was his support of a local warlord "Butcher Tang" who killed people all over the place in order to enforce "law and order" in his area (i.e., stability). Mao supported Butcher Tang since order was the main need at the time and the mass killings were therefore secondary. Later, however, he changed his mind about Butcher Tang-- but not the principle.

He also developed his life long views on education at this time. Short says he was against rote learning, anti-elitist and pro "open learning" and he supported Kant's dictum that "our understanding must come from the facts of experience." I should note that the future inspiration for The Little Red Book also had "an abhorrence of book-worship."

At this time, when most of the youth and radicals, were against China's traditional culture and only thinking in terms of the advantages of Western culture and science, Mao had a vision that Short calls "astonishingly modern." This was "a synthesis that would reconcile the traditional dialectic of the country's ancient ways of thought with Western radicalism."

CHAPTER FOUR "A Ferment of 'Isms'"

Around the time of Mao's first article (1917) he and a group of his friends in the New People's Study Society left Hunan and went to Beijing. There Mao met Chen Duxiu (1879-1942) one of the two men to later found the CPC (the other was Li Dazhao), but at this time he was the editor of New Youth a magazine that contributed to the future May Fourth Movement. He was the CPC General Secretary 1921-1927 and later became a Trotskyist. Short quotes Mao as having said that Chen (whose view was that before China could become a modern country the old culture had to be completely superseded ) influenced him "perhaps more than anyone else."

In Beijing, Mao came under many influences both from the traditional culture and the new Western ideas penetrating China. He picked up what he later called "old fashioned liberalism" from reading Adam Smith, Herbert Spencer and Thomas Huxley. Another major influence was the Ming Dynasty Neoconfucian Wang Yangming [1472-1529] who, according to Short, "inspired him to link man to society, theory to practice, knowledge to will, and thought to action." This is a little redundant since "theory to practice" is the same as "thought to action." Wang Yangming is sort of a prolegomena to Marxism where the unity of theory and practice is a basic premise.

Another Ming philosopher that Mao liked was Wang Fuzhi [1619-1693], another Neoconfucianist, for whom the world "was in constant flux" and "the mutability of things, driven by the dialectical contradictions inherent in the material world, was the basic principle moving history forward." Engels couldn't have put it any better.

In 1919 Mao was writing about anarchism and later said that at that time he "favored many of its proposals." It is Prince Kropotkin that he has in mind. He thought the followers of Marx were too violent. This is a big improvement in humanism for Mao, as Short notes-- in three years he has moved from Butcher Tang to Kropotkin! Mao is now 25 years old.

On May 4, 1919 a great demonstration of students and workers took place in Beijing to protest the fact that the former German concession of Shandong Province was ceded to Japan by the Versailles Treaty. This was the beginning of the May Fourth Movement which spread throughout many areas of China protesting the weakness of the government and the warlord system. Above all it demanded the modernization of China. Short says this movement "has been regarded ever since as one of the defining periods of modern Chinese history."

Mao was in Hunan at the time, in the capital Changsha. He participated in actions against the local warlord. He started a local paper and in the first issue published an article on the crisis followed up by a long article that became very influential ("The Great Union of the Popular Masses.") He said China had a great future, the youth would be the major agents of change and a practical program was proposed.

Mao became nationally known and Hu Shih [1891-1962]: the philosopher of Chinese liberalism, he ended up in Taiwan after 1948, called the article, according to Short, "one of the [truly] important articles" and that Mao had "exceedingly far-reaching vision and effective and well chosen arguments." Mao was on his way!

But he was not yet a Marxist. Mao told Edgar Snow that he was a Marxist by the summer of 1920, but Short says this was untrue. Actually, Short says, "Mao at that time considered Dewey, 'who taught that 'education is life, school is society', to be one of the "three great contemporary philosophers", along with Bertrand Russell and the French thinker, Henri Bergson."

[Short has 142 pages of end notes to back up his claims, but no bibliography. Practically, this means you can't really check his references unless you want to spend hours searching thru the notes for the first time he cites a source since all subsequent citations are abbreviated. This is a sloppy and inexcusable procedure.]

Later Mao described himself at this time [1920]: "I am too emotional and have the weakness of being vehement." He said he wished he had had time to study Buddhism. His mother, who had died the previous year (his father died soon after) would have been happy had he done so. I cannot help but think the rest of the world might have also benefited if Mao had had a dose of Buddhist compassion along the way. Who knows?

Short says Mao, even after he became a Marxist, never abandoned the influences of his youth. His "thinking developed by accretion... Nothing was ever lost." This meant that when he was older he could think outside the box. He resorted to "metaphor and lateral thinking."

Who can object to a Marxist who tempers his views with knowledge of a wide range of other opinions and outlooks? His "approach to Marxism," Short writes, "when finally he embraced it, was coloured by other, very different intellectual traditions." Including many traditional Chinese motifs. This should bode well. Who wants Johnny one note as a leader?

In June 1920 Hunan's war lord was forced out and a new leader, with more democratic aspirations took over. Because of the general situation in the country Mao as well as most others favored a form of "home rule" for Hunan and its 30 million people.

Mao was a leader in Hunan and wrote articles and gave speeches advocating a government based on the participation of the citizens, and a democratic government in favor of socialism. But Mao didn't really think this type of government was actually possible. Because of a 90 percent illiteracy rate in Hunan he didn't think either a Soviet type revolution was possible, nor a really democratic form of government. His solution was to "create a movement of the educated elite, 'to push things forward' from the outside."

In November of 1920 Mao found himself at a conference in Changsha discussing constitutional government. Both John Dewey and Bertrand Russell attended and gave speeches. So Mao had the opportunity to participate in a conference with two of the three men he considered the most important philosophers of the day. A few weeks later another military leader overthrew the new Hunan government.

Meanwhile, since October Mao had been participating in a Marxist study group. By the end of the year the study group had three "factions" debating each other. Those who wanted to follow Bolshevism, those who favored Kropotkin style anarchism, and those who thought they should just work in education to enlighten the masses.

Mao was leaning towards Kropotkin. He didn't like what he called the "terrorist methods" of the Leninists and thought the education program unrealistic. But "realism" carried the day. With the war lords increasing in power Mao was finally won over to the Russian model. It was, he said, "a last resort."

By the beginning of 1921 Mao and his fellow radicals in Hunan were getting ready to found a new political party based on Marxism. "His conversion," Short says, "was complete." Yet there would remain to the end "an anarchist tincture" to his Marxism.

CHAPTER FIVE "The Comintern Takes Charge"

In July 1921 Mao attended the founding congress of CPC. There were three big problems to solve: what type of party, how to relate to the bourgeoisie and the two governments ruling from Beijing and Canton, how to relate to the Communist International (Comintern).

Despite the objections of Li Hanjun that the Chinese masses were too backward to understand Marxism and a long period of educational work would be necessary before they could be properly organized, the CPC, under the prodding of a representative of the Comintern [Hendricus Sneevliet], adopted a Bolshevik program calling for the dictatorship of the proletariat and the establishment of soviets.

Two other points upset the Comintern representative. They were one, the Congress decided to oppose both existing governments: Beijing as well as Canton. But Sun Yat-sen was running the Guomindang government in Canton which the Comintern considered "revolutionary". Lenin had said that CPs in "backward countries" should, as Short writes, "work closely with national-revolutionary bourgeois democratic movements." Worse was two, "the delegates refused to acknowledge Moscow's supremacy." The new party wanted to be treated as an equal.

The Comintern rep did not make a good impression. Chen Duxiu was elected leader and found that he was told to give weekly reports to the rep who was also giving directions to party members on his own. Chen put up with some of this because Moscow was providing seed money to the new party to help it grow.

Mao did not play a major part at this Congress. The CPC had at this time 53 members, only 10 of whom came from Hunan. In September 1921 the Hunan branch, with Mao in charge, was officially set up.

Mao was 29 years old in December of 1922 and his role as a party leader in Hunan (and labor union organizer) had been outstanding over the last year and three months. But what was true in Hunan was not true elsewhere. In other parts of China the warlords were becoming fed up with communist and union activity. On February 7, 1923 the warlords struck perpetrating a massacre on communist led workers who were about to establish the General Rail Union.

"The February Seventh Massacre" took place in Beijing, Zhengzhou and Hankou. Short reports about forty people were killed and Mao's counterpart, the communist leader in Hankou, was publicly beheaded before the workers. Hunan fell to martial law a few months later, but Mao had already been called to Shanghai to serve on the Central Committee [CC] of the party.

Meanwhile the problem of the party's view of the Guomindang [GMD] was still brewing. The Comintern wanted the CPC to work with the GMD as allies. Far from seeing that organization as "progressive", the CPC viewed it as a reactionary throw back to patriarchal feudalism. Anyway, Sun Yat-sen was not all that impressed with the Marxists. He is quoted by Short has having said there is "nothing new in Marxism. It had all been said 2000 years ago in the Chinese Classics."

However, he changed his mind in the summer of 1922 when his allies turned on him and he was kicked out of Canton "in a palace coup." The CPC was also feeling more pressure to modify its views as well. So in July 1922 at the Second Congress of the CPC the party agreed to, Short quotes the document, "a temporary alliance with the democratic elements to overthrow... our common enemies." Le plus ca change le plus ca le meme chose.

So now, with Soviet help, the GMD inched to the left and reorganized on what ended up being a Leninist model. However, many CPC members did not like this new arrangement with the GMD. Anyway, demoralization had set in after the February Seventh Massacre and the subsequent destruction of the union movements the CPC had built. To top it off, it looked like Li Hanjan had been right all along as the Comintern agents in China themselves said that the CPC had been "fabricated" and "the Soviet system cannot actually be introduced into China, because there do not exist here the conditions for the successful establishment of communism." Well, that turned out to be the case for the Soviet Union as well and we should bear it in mind as we progress through this book and the next 50 years of Chinese history.

At the Third Party Congress the Comintern demanded that all CPC members should also join the GMD. Mao and the Hunan delegates all voted against this but it passed by a slim margin. Mao said that while the GMD was the leading bourgeois "revolutionary democratic faction" the bourgeoisie could not lead the revolution. Nevertheless, the CPC could join it because as time went by the CPC forces would gain in strength. In the end the Congress stated that the GMD was the leading force in the revolution but the CPC should recruit its Left wing members into itself and push the GMD toward the USSR. At this Congress Mao was elected to the nine member CC.

The Third Congress was an educational experience. "Being forced," as Short says, "to accept Comintern instructions and to submit to the will of the majority had confronted [the members] for the first time with the principles of democratic centralism on which all Bolshevik parties had to operate." Following the "united front" line, Mao now joined the GMD.

By the middle of 1924 the CPC saw the GMD as existing in two wings, a right and a left. They would work with the left wing but struggle whole heartily against the right wing. This is not unlike the tactics practiced by many Marxist parties today.

By 1925 the CPC had 994 members. Short tells us up until this time the CPC did not pay much attention to the peasants. Lenin, in 1920, had said it was impossible for poor third world areas to have a workers revolution without an alliance of the peasants. The Second CPC Congress had even declared that they made up "the most important factor in the revolutionary movement" yet the CPC had no interest in leading the peasants. The job of the CPC was to lead the workers.

This is not good thinking! The workers were a speck compared to the mass of peasants, and leaving the peasants thrashing about without CPC leadership meant they were liable to be led by other forces-- not necessarily progressive.

By the Third Congress, under Russian pressure, the CPC had seen the light and now referred to the workers and peasants as the two classes the CPC represented.

Then, Short writes, on May 30, 1925 another country wide outbreak, similar to the May Fourth Movement of 1919, erupted. Japanese guards had shot and killed some strikers at a private plant and people all over the country protested. A British officer in the British Concession panicked and ordered his troops to shoot into a crowd, later in Canton 50 protesters were machine gunned: the fat was in the fire. The country was seething for months.

Mao went underground and did party building, including establishing night schools for peasants. Sun Yat-sen had died in March and out of the leadership struggle Chiang Kai-shek emerged eventually as top dog in Canton-- with a left outlook (at this time), a powerful army, and Russian financing.

At this period, the CPC did not amount to much compared to the power of the GMD, so Mao did not push Marxism in his night schools. Instead, Short points out, "they taught Sun Yat-sen's 'Three Principles of the People'-- nationalism, democracy and socialism."

At this time Mao had no office in the CPC but was an alternate on the CC of the GMD. He went to Canton and became chief of the GMD Propaganda Department. "As a senior official," Short says, " Mao was a man of substance." For the next year and a half, according to the book, Mao worked on two big issues: solidifying the GMD left wing and "mobilization of the peasantry."

At this time he wrote an article advocating a real social revolution led by the GMD left as opposed to, in his words, a "Western-style, middle class revolution" favored by the GMD right wing. He thought all the objective conditions were in place for a revolution of the left except one: "a way to mobilise the masses." He also studied the composition of the population and decided 1% of the people were total enemies, 4% were enemies that could be converted, and 95% of the population were either neutral or pro revolution. The 95% represented the peasants. Where were the workers? This is just great: a proletarian party for a country without a proletariat! Short says that Mao "never wavered" from this analysis.

The middle class "revolution" seems to be the one that Chiang Kai-shek had in mind. The GMD got a lot of support, Short points out, from the landowning families and "violent overthrow of the existing rural order was not part of their agenda."

In March 1926 Chiang staged a "coup", arresting all CPC officers in the army in Canton and getting rid of the major left GMD leadership. Mao thought the CPC was strong enough to thwart Chiang's gambit, but the Comintern rep [Kuibyshev] rejected any such move. He thought Chiang too strong.

Back in October 1925 Mao seemed to be out of the loop. He still held his GMD post and had been out of touch with the CPC leadership (located in Shanghai) for almost a year and he was developing his own ideas about how the CPC should move forward, ideas out of sync with the leaders and the the Comintern line. His idea, for example, of Marxism based "on Chinese conditions" that would rally the rural masses clashed with the official dogma that the "urban proletariat" should be the basis of the revolution.

By the first half of 1926 the CPC was trying to disengage from the GMD and function independently. Stalin, now running the China show from Moscow, had other ideas. He insisted, and the CPC complied, that the Russian-GMD cooperation be strengthened and the the GMD still be seen as the leading "revolutionary" force. The Comintern rep assigned to the GMD as an advisor [Mikhail Borodin 1884-1951] is quoted by Short as having said it was the fate of the CPC "to play the role of coolie in the Chinese revolution." Short says that until March 1926 the Russian advice to the CPC was "well-intentioned, well informed, and frequently more realistic than the views of the inexperienced [CPC] leaders in Shanghai. "But then the CPC became a pawn in the game being played in the CPSU between Stalin, Trotsky, and the moderate Bukharin"

Meanwhile, Mao toiled away at his GMD job. In the summer of 1926 the GMD sent off a big expedition from Canton to go north and overthrow the warlords and unite all of China under the GMD. Mao published an article in a GMD journal in which he maintained that "the peasants had to be liberated and the power of the landlords smashed." He said the peasant struggle was the real revolutionary struggle while the class struggle of the urban proletariat was only centered on building trade unions. This opinion was so unorthodox, Short points out, that the article was left out of the Collected Works when they started coming out in the 40s and 50s.

As 1926 moved along the party was more and more conflicted about the 'United Front" with the GMD. The Russians insisted on it while the CPC thought it should be looking out for its own interests. But as the GMD armies started to achieve more and victories in their drive to unify China, victories fueled by the peasantry, the CPC leadership began to see the importance of the peasants for the future revolutionary transformation of China. Mao was called to Shanghai in November and made Secretary of the CC's Peasant Movement Committee.

In early 1927 Mao toured many rural areas studying the conditions of the peasantry, he then wrote one of his most famous articles: "Report on the Peasant Movement in Hunan." It was, Short says, "a brilliant intellectual tour de force.... based on meticulous field research."

Mao defended the peasants, who were revolting against the feudal system, from criticism by the left GMD and some elements within the CPC who thought they were getting too violent. For those of us who go to bed every night with full tummies, Mao's report reminds us what is at stake in a revolution. "A revolution is not like inviting people to dinner... [it is] an act of violence whereby one class overthrows the power of another... If the peasants do not use extremely great force, they cannot possibly overthrow the deeply rooted power of the landlords, which has lasted for thousands of years... To put it bluntly, it is necessary to bring about a brief reign of terror in every rural area... the wrong [of feudalism] cannot be righted without doing so." Mao was about to begin riding the tiger.

Short writes that the lessons learned by Mao put forth in this report stayed with him all his life. "Revolution, he now understood, could not be micromanaged. In any revolutionary venture, there would always be excesses, just as there would always be those who lagged behind."

Short''s bourgeois background begins to intrude in this section of his book and prevents him from grasping what is at issue. He says this analysis reflects "class hatred" that is "aimed at men who were enemies not because of what they did, but because of who they were." This is of course completely wrong. It is precisely because of their actions, brutalizing the peasants, overtaxing them, taking their crops and food to support themselves in luxury, it a word exploiting them beyond all tolerable limits, that provokes class hatred and drives men and women to the extreme that leads to revolutionary violence that, unfortunately, once unleashed, is hard to control.

Meanwhile, Stalin had changed his mind about the peasant struggle. In December the Seventh Plenum of the Comintern declared, "The fear that the aggravation of the class struggle in the countryside will weaken the antI-imperialist front is baseless...." It also described the past policy as "a profound mistake." [Too bad Chiang Kai-shek wouldn't agree.] The stage was set for a change of policy by the CPC. Mao's article appeared soon after. It was now early 1927 and Mao was 33 years old.

CHAPTER SIX "Events Leading to the Horse Day Incident and its Bloody Aftermath"

On April 12, 1927 GMD [Guomindang] forces allied with the Shanghai underworld unleashed a major attack on the CPC [Communist Party of China] and affiliated organizations in Shanghai. About 400 people were killed and more hundreds wounded and imprisoned. The next day, after a general strike failed and protesters were shot down in the street (including many women and children from the textile factories), Chiang Kai-shek was in complete control of the city.

The CPC was taken by surprise by this attack, although evidence that Chiang was planning it was not that hidden had anyone been looking for it. Why hadn't the CPC leadership seen it coming? Short's answer is, "that, in 1927, the CPC was so wedded to the alliance with the bourgeoisie that it could not conceive of a revolution without it."

On April 12 Mao and Wang Jingwei were in Hankou on GMD business. Wang, an old ally of Sun Yat-sen, was the top civilian leader of the GMD and a rival of Chiang, he was also a friend of Mao. Mao was working with the GMD Land Committee and getting ready for the Fifth Congress of the CPC (Short barely mentions the Fourth Congress which took place in early 1926). Short also says a new Comintern rep was also on the scene [M.N.Roy], one "more sympathetic to the agrarian revolution" than previous reps, especially Borodin. The CPC leader, Chen Duxiu was soon to arrive in Hankou as well.

On the afternoon of the 12th the news from Shanghai arrived causing an existential crisis. The party's Central Bureau was in session for the next six days trying to figure out what to do. Borodin and Roy "gave radically differing advice."

According to Short, Borodin and Chen Duxiu wanted to put the struggle against Chiang on hold, make a "strategic retreat" and start up the Northern Expedition again (the military attacks on the non-GMD warlords) by joining with GMD forces that were getting a lot of Soviet aid. After getting rid of the warlords and with a beefed up allied GMD military command Chiang could then be reckoned with.

Roy rejected his fellow Comintern rep's plan. Short quotes him as saying it was "a betrayal of the peasantry, of the proletariat... and the masses." The Revolution "will either win as an agrarian revolution or it will not win at all." Borodin's plan was equivalent to "collaborating with the very forces of reaction that are betraying the revolution at every step."

How could two reps of the Communist International take such contrary positions? Short says it was because Stalin's program for China had been contradictory. Borodin represented the view that the communists had to be allied with the "progressive" bourgeoisie [always an elusive beast] and Roy, newly arrived, supported the new emphasis on the agrarian revolution.

Zhou Enlai and others had different plans. Some felt they should attack Chiang with help from sympathetic "left" GMD forces. The meetings were going nowhere. The Bureau finally sided with Roy, but Borodin then went to the GMD leader Wang Jingwei and Wang proclaimed that the Northern Expedition would start up again.

Meanwhile Mao, who supported Roy, wasn't even at these meetings. Chen Duxiu had broken relations over the Hunan peasants reports and Mao was no longer on the CC. He tried to pass a resolution when the Fifth Congress met, in favor of his agrarian revolution theories, but it was defeated. He was also replaced as Secretary of the CC Peasant Committee but allowed to stay as a member.

Meanwhile the right-wing GMD forces were gaining in strength and consolidating their power. This provoked countermeasures and fighting and riots were breaking out all over the place between the right and left.

Short says that on May 21, 1927 ("The Day of the Horse" on the traditional calendar) the military commander in Changsha took action. Reaction had come to Hunan. By the end of May and the beginning of June over 10,000 people had been killed. The violence spread to neighboring provinces. The White terror was rampant throughout China. Over 300,000 died by the time the violence ended. Peasants were beheaded, disemboweled, had their eyes and tongues ripped out, women were wired together through pierced breasts and hacked to bits. This was all done by the landlords and gentry to the peasants in the villages. This may explain the excesses later on when the peasants finally got the landlords in their power.

The "Horse Day Incident" and its aftermath was, Short remarks, "a turning point" for the CPC. A lesson was learned and never forgotten. It boiled down to violence must be met with violence.

Now two major new events happened. Stalin sent orders to the CPC telling it to step up the agrarian revolution, to raise an independent army, and to restructure the GMD Central Executive Committee. In the new situation in China none of these proposals could be carried out. As Short says, Stalin's orders "might as well have come from another planet."

Both Borodin and Roy, as well as a third Comintern agent (Voitinsky, ostensibly a news reporter) all concluded that Stalin's ideas would be impossible to carry out.

Roy then made a big mistake. He showed Stalin's missive to the left wing GMD leader Wang Jungwei, perhaps hoping it would make him more radical in order to secure Soviet aid and more CPC support. It had the opposite effect. It drove him back into the arms of Chiang Kai-shek.

Yet, Stalin's telegram to the CPC had one lasting effect. The leadership realized that an independent military force was necessary. GMD generals couldn't be trusted. Stalin had "sowed the seed from which, in the months that followed, the Chinese Red Army would grow." That army is arguably still today the largest military force in the world that is independent of the control of international monopoly capitalism.

By July 1927 the CPC leadership was at its wit's end. It felt the GMD-CPC "united front" was about to end, yet it could not think of what to do about it. It passed resolutions affirming the leading role of the GMD and offering to serve under GMD supervision. Short calls this a "craven resolution." Two lines emerged: one, the communists would join the GMD army to show they were not a threat to the unity policy [this was just asking for it] and two, go hide up in the mountains and build an independent military force.

Meanwhile, Stalin was upset that Chen Duxiu had rejected his orders as "impractical" and Chen was forced out of the leadership. By the end of the summer, however, the CPC-GMD united front was at an end, the Russian advisors to the GMD had been sent packing, Mao and the other leaders were underground, the Comintern agents were gone. By the end of 1927 the left-GMD was also kaput and Wang Jingwei was an exile in Europe. Things were looking pretty good for Chiang Kai-shek and the rightists. By year's end Mao turned 34 years old.

CHAPTER SEVEN "Out of the Barrel of a Gun"

This chapter begins with the July 15, 1927 rupture between the CPC and the GMD. The new party leaders are tasked to construct a peasant army by orders that have come from Moscow. A new Comintern agent was on the scene to advise the Chinese comrades [Besso Lominadze].

The party began to build its own military force and to plan for a big insurrection of the peasants in Hunan for the Autumn of 1927. There was a new de facto party leader, Qu Qiubai (1899-1935), Chen Duxiu was definitely out as leader, having been accused of "Menshevism" [ a term used, as Short notes, 'to denote any form of right-wing opposition or advocacy of class reconciliation." It is now arguably an outmoded term, as are "Trotskyism" and "Stalinism". All three terms now function as substitutes for having to think about complex political problems].

A major problem for the party was what the relationship should be between the newly established military force and the mass movement of workers and peasants. In August Mao put forth the following thesis. He noted that Sun Yat-sen relied on the military for his rise to power, while the CPC relied only on the mass movement of the people. Chiang Kai-shek "rose by grasping the gun." The CPC still had no real understanding of the importance of a military force although it was beginning to dawn on the leadership. Mao concluded, "From now on we should pay the greatest attention to military affairs. We must know that political power is obtained out of the barrel of a gun."

The Politburo [as the Central Bureau now called itself] thought that "gun-barrelism" "did not quite accord" with its views. "The masses," Short writes,"were the core of the revolution; the armed forces, at most, auxiliary." This doesn't really conflict with Mao's views. Without mass popular support guns are ultimately useless, as the US found out in Vietnam and is learning all over again in Iraq.

Over the next few months the CPC planned an uprising of the peasants in south China. Mao was supposed to draw up plans for taking over Hunan and helping the revolt spread to other provinces. A rag tag army was put together around a nucleus of seasoned GMD troops who defected to the communists. Mao realized, however, that the forces were insufficient for such a large undertaking. He went against party discipline and focused on just taking Changsha, the capital of Hunan.

To make a long story short, all the attempts at insurrection, not only in Hunan under Mao, but in all the other south China locations, ended in fiascos. Mao led his forces further south to find a safe refuge. Other leaders in the field hightailed it to other locations (Zhou Enlai ended up in Hong Kong).

The Politburo met in Shanghai in November and purged itself. Mao was left on the CC but kicked out of the Politburo. Meanwhile the right GMD forces and hostile warlords (not all were hostile) killed thousands of party members. Short says so many were being killed that to "save bullets, groups of them were roped together, taken out to sea on barges and thrown overboard."

Nevertheless, the CPC became more and more sure that its theories regarding mass uprising were correct. Why did they become more radical and not more defeatist? Short says, "the underlying reason was frustration with the failed alliance with the Guomindang, which caught up the Party's leaders and rank and file alike in a furious spiral of ever-increasing radicalization."

The party that in May 1927 boasted 57,000 members now ended the year with about 10,000 left. It was a bad year for the communists. Four different power centers were now developing, each with its own concerns and agenda, yet all working for the same objectives. Short calls it "a quadrilateral struggle" between the Comintern and Stalin, the provincial party leaders, the Shanghai Politburo, and the communist military leaders out in the country side. They conflicted "over two key issues: the relationship between rural and urban revolution; and between insurrection and armed struggle."

On September 25, 1927 Mao's ragtag army was attacked, the divisional commander was killed, and Mao found himself actually in charge. After the attack, what remained of the "army" met up at Sanwan, a village near the Jinggangshan mountains.

From what had been a division, Mao was able to salvage a single active regiment. Mao laid down two basic rules for his army which made it unique in the China of his day. First, it was to be a volunteer army solely (no impressment) and second, all civilians were to be treated with respect and humanity. The soldiers, Short writes, were ordered to "speak politely; pay a fair price for what they bought; and never take so much as 'a solitary sweet potato' belonging to the masses." No looting, raping, marauding, burning, killing, etc. This is how Mao thought an army should behave. Short remarks that, "this was a genuinely revolutionary concept." Who can doubt that Mao expressed real humanistic values (in so far as one can talk about such values respecting any military) at this time.

By early 1928 Mao had made contact with other bands of fighting men, mostly peasant militias, and increased his army to two regiments, and won a significant victory over a GMD battalion sent to take over Xincheng a town about eight miles north of Mao's base, at this time Maoping, in Jiangxi Province. After the battle Mao astonished the GMD prisoners by giving them a choice: money to go home on or joining his army. Many, Short says, stayed. Once news of the battle, and the aftermath, got out the GMD decided Mao definitely had to go. Greater forces began to be collected to get rid of him.

Meanwhile, back in Shanghai, the party leader Qu Qiubai was supportive of Mao's activities, but Zhou Enlai, in charge of military affairs, was not. He thought Mao too independent and that he relied on military actions more than mass mobilization. Zhou Lu, from the Hunan provincial leadership, was sent to tell Mao he was being removed as the leader in his area. Short points out, by the way, that the repression of the CPC was so intense, and so many senior experienced cadres had been wiped out, that leaders in the field, like Mao, often found themselves officially subordinate to inexperienced younger men who had no idea what was going on.

Zhou Lu arrived at Mao's base in March of 1928 and told him he had been removed from the Politburo, the Hunan Provincial Committee, and expelled from the party [this last was not true]. Mao remained as divisional commander of his forces but Lu now represented the party. To say that Mao was upset is to put it mildly.

While this was going on at Mao's base, another armed force, under the command of Zhu De [1886-1976], had relocated to SE Hunan. Zhu was attacked by GMD forces and Mao's troops came to the rescue. Zhou Lu was captured and executed by the enemy. The albatross around Mao's neck was gone.

By April Zhu and Mao were working together at their base area in Jinggangshan. By summer they controlled an area with a population of a half million people. The Zhu-Mao army was now 8000 strong. Zhu was commander of the army, Mao was the party rep. It began to be referred to as the "Red Army."

Mao had always advocated moderate military policies. The Shanghai leadership had removed him and sent out the ill fated Zhou Lu because they thought, following the views of Zhou Enlai, that Mao was not fighting enough. They thought "his work was 'too right-wing', he had been told. He was 'not killing and burning enough, [and] not carrying out the policy of '"

Mao didn't agree at all with these kinds of policies. At a local congress which was called for the area where the Zhu-Mao army was in charge, he gave a speech in which he said: "in order to kill people and burn houses there must be a mass basis ... [not just] burning and killing by the army on its own." This seems like such common sense one wonders how Mao could ever have been condemned for such views. Unbeknownst to Mao, back in Shanghai, the Politburo had changed its mind and was now having similar thoughts. By June 1928 the party had accepted Mao's theories.

The Sixth Party Congress was held in Russia. The Congress decided that China was not experiencing a "revolutionary high tide." A war of attrition was what was needed, and in this period, it was the peasantry, not the workers, which was leading the revolution. Mao, who remained in his base area, thought this was the "correct theoretical basis" upon which to build the Red Army.

In October there was a local Congress in the base area. One of its statements was, "In the past the Party organs were all individual dictatorships, autocracies of the Party secretary; there was no collective leadership or democratic spirit whatsoever." I must say, this was not a problem confined to to the CPC, nor has it been completely overcome in some parties even today. The Congress said that Mao was "among the main offenders." Nevertheless he kept his position as chief political officer to the Red Army.

The military situation perked up towards the end of 1928 and the army was on the move. "A new kind of warfare began," Short says, "no longer the defense of fixed positions, but flexible guerrilla war."

For the first three months of 1929 Zhu and Mao were without any contacts with the rest of the party. Short says this allowed them to devise their own plans. Back in Shanghai after the Sixth Congress, the new General Secretary was a non entity Xiang Zhongfa. The real de facto power lay with Zhou Enlai and Li Lisan.

The Shanghai leadership received negative reports about the conditions facing the Red Army and sent out orders that it should disperse into small units and hide out in villages in the countryside until better times. Mao and Zhu were told to come to Shanghai. But, by the time the orders arrived there had been a reversal of fortune and after some victories the Red Army was riding high. Mao and Zhu remained in the field. The sub text was more about the CC's desire to concentrate on the urban proletariat.

Things had looked bad for the Red Army ever since it had to leave its base in Jinggangshan and adopt guerilla techniques, but by mid 1929 things were looking up. Mao thought the GMD was about to be on the ropes in his area [Jiangxi and parts of Fujian and Zhejiang]. At this time Mao told the CC "the revolution in semi-colonial China will fail only if the peasant struggle is deprived of the leadership of the workers; it will never suffer just because the peasant struggle develops in such a way as to become more powerful than the workers."

The worse the better? I ask this because of Short''s following sentence. "Mao's personal belief in dialectics as the motive force of history, in which the blackest part of the night always comes just before dawn, had been strengthened in the traumatic months following the abandonment of Jinggangshan, when the Red Army has appeared on the verge of collapse, only to pull itself together and emerge from the ordeal stronger, and in a more favorable position, than before."

This will be a theme in Mao's life and in the struggle with comrades who will differ with his views in the future. It can, I think, be understood as the difference between a dialectical view of struggle, where reverses are natural, and a pragmatic outlook that aims towards incremental advancement of the struggle and fears set backs (a mechanical outlook).

Now the Red Army was split into two groups. Mao thought it time to set up another base, Zhu wanted to continue guerilla tactics. A vote was taken and Mao won. However, more of his comrades began to think of him as an "autocrat" "Now", Short says, " as on Jinggangshan the previous autumn, complaints were heard about his 'patriarchal style of rule', "the dictatorship of the Secretary' and 'excessive centralization of power'."

In June of 1929 the Red Army had a Congress to try and work out the differences between Mao's way and Zhu's way. Most of delegates were upset with both of them and Chen Yi [1901-1972] was elected to chair. The result was that the Front Committee (the body responsible for the running of the Red Army and areas it controlled) was reorganized. Zhu stayed as commander of the army, Mao as Party Representative, but Chen Yi became the Secretary. Mao was again, as Short puts it in "eclipse."

Mao basically retired to the sidelines after this, but by November, after much back and forth between the Politburo [hereafter PB, but Short causes confusion by still using the old term "Central Bureau" and PB interchangeably], the Front Committee, and a military fiasco that cost the Red Army a third of its forces, the Party decided they needed Mao back. Mao played hard to get because this time around he wanted his political authority to be more firmly based. Finally, after several entreaties, he returned as Front Committee Secretary.

Mao now proceeded to make the Front Committee over in his own image. A Conference took place on 29 December 1929. It began the first of what would later be called "rectification campaigns." The purpose was "to dig out the roots of different mistaken ideas, discuss the harm they had caused and decide how to correct them." Mao, Short writes, "had the main role in deciding which ideas were 'mistaken', and which 'correct'.

The main theme was directed against Zhu and his supporters. It was an important moment. What was at issue was the relation between the military power and the political power of the party. Mao thought the military had to be subordinate to the political leadership. Short quotes a slogan Mao came up with in 1938 but which aptly describes what this Conference was all about: "the Party commands the gun: the gun shall never be allowed to command the Party."

At this time, it seems to me, Mao was completely in the right. Zhu's army was positively feudal in some respects. Here is how Short describes Mao's complaints. There was "rampant" corporal punishment and brutality, men were beaten to death, three soldiers killed themselves due to the horrible conditions, prisoners were abused, deserters shot, and the Red Army abandoned its sick and wounded soldiers to die. All of this was totally against Part policy as Mao had outlined it when the army was first being set up. It is pretty obvious that Mao had every right to try and rectify this situation, one that Zhu De (a former warlord himself) had let get out of hand.

On the political front, Mao thought that the signs of revolution were everywhere in the air. The view was not shared (yet) by the PB back in Shanghai. Mao disagreed with them. He thought that the "contradictions in Chinese society in general, and between the warlords in particular, were growing so acute that 'a single spark can start a prairie fire' -- and this would happen 'very soon.'"

This was something the leadership didn't see. It would be like saying a Third Party under Bloomberg would win the '08 election and change forever the two party control of US politics, or that Dennis Kucinich would be the next president because the American people are so alienated from the mainstream Republicans and Democrats over the war and domestic policies of the status quo. Still, as Short says, the PB was about to change its mind.

At about this time, the Russians had declared they thought there was "a rising red tide" in China. This allowed Li Lisan [1899-1967], who at this time agreed with Mao's ideas, to get the PB to reverse itself and call for the kind of revolutionary actions sought for by Mao. Mao was very pleased when he got the news early in 1930.

There was a big problem, however, about all this. Li interpreted the "rising red tide" to mean revolution by the proletariat in the cities and Mao by the peasants in the countryside. The PB kept urging Mao and Zhu to draw up plans to attack and hold big cities. Mao and Zhu ignored the orders and continued to slowly build up their base area on the Jiangxi-Guangdong border.

Zhou Enlai went of to Moscow for several months leaving Li in charge in Shanghai. Here the "Li Lisan line" developed. Li proclaimed that, Short is quoting Li, the flexible tactics of guerilla war were "no longer suited to modern requirements ... now that we need to take key cities... [Zhu and Mao] must change their ways... using the countryside to encircle the city... [was] highly erroneous [and the idea that] rural work comes first, and urban work second" was wrong.

In sum, Li thought in terms of a national uprising to take over the whole country, Mao thought in terms of starting out with a few provinces and building from there. Li must have been smoking something for he sent off a CC missive stating that China "is the place where the volcano of the world revolution is most likely to erupt [and maybe] set off the world revolution and the final decisive class war worldwide....".

Li then ordered Zhu and Mao to take the capital of Jiangxi province [Nanchang] and march on to take Wuhan [ the capital of Hubei ]. They had to obey and march north. They knew this was a fool's errand. Short quotes a poem Mao wrote at the time:

A million workers and peasants rise eagerly together,
Rolling up Jiangxi like a mat, striking straight at Hunan and Hubei,
Yet the "Internationale" sounds a melancholy note,
A raging tempest falls upon us from the heavens.

They dilly dallied in the field and made symbolic gestures against Nanchang, knowing full well the GMD was still to strong to take on frontally.

Meanwhile Stalin had flipped out when he got wind of Li's plans and the Comintern sent Li a letter stating that "no nationwide revolutionary high tide had yet appeared [the CPC is not able] to overthrow the rule of the GMD and the imperialists... [But while] it cannot dominate China, it can take control of a number of major provinces." Mao 1, Li 0.

In late summer and early autumn the Zhu-Mao forces were joined by other units of the Red Army and had some major battles and successes in the field. They even managed to hold on to a mid sized city for six weeks. They were becoming a bigger and better force.

Zhou Enlai and Qu Qiubai were back in Shanghai and Li was in deep trouble. Stalin found out in October that Li had thought about starting an insurrection in Manchuria to provoke a war between Russia and Japan, to hasten the world revolution no doubt. This was the last straw.

The Comintern said the Li Lisan line was "anti-Marxist, anti-Comintern, un-Bolshevik, [and] un-Leninist..." Time for Li to get a new job. He went to Moscow, repented his sins, and disappeared from the scene until 1945.

Now Chiang Kai-shek decided to wipe out the Red Army bases in Jiangxi by encircling them with the largest force of GMD troops ever used, up to that time, against the Red Army, 100,000.

On October 30, 1930 Mao explained his response to Chiang's threat at a Front Committee meeting. He "outlined for the first time the principle of 'luring the enemy in deep.'" This was protracted war. Mao said, "Lure the enemy deep into the Red Area, wait until they are exhausted and annihilate them."

By late December the Red Army had retreated deep into Jiangxi pursued by Chiang's forces. Chiang was in the capital Nanchang when suddenly the Red Army attacked and annihilated his 18th Division under Zhang Huizan, capturing Zhang in the process. Chiang's 50th Division saw what happened and tried to flee but was caught and trounced as well (January 3, 1931). As a present to Chiang, Zhang's head was floated on a board down the Gan River to Nanchang [I'm not too sure this was kosher.]

Mao was riding high, but Short says, "It was too good to last." The PB sent Xiang Ying out to Mao's base to take charge. The CC wanted to be in control. The Front Committee was abolished and Xiang took over all Mao's posts. But Mao had the army behind him, so he retained most of his de facto power while Xiang "assumed the appearance of power." [Hmmm, what happened to the party will control the Army not the other way around? What did Zhu think?]

Meanwhile back in Shanghai Pavel Mif (Stalin's "China specialist") had arrived to "to expose and denounce the disgraced Li Lisan." [Being a party General Secretary has its risks.]. By the time Mif was through the Party leadership was reorganized. Short tells us the Gen Sec, Xiang Zhongfa, stayed put, as did Zhou Enlai ("not for the last time, by deftly switching sides-"- actually Zhou rides the tiger to the end. Qu Qiubai was out and Xiang Ying stayed in the PB but lost his big post on the Standing Committee which he had when he went out to Mao's base.

But "the key appointment" was a new actor on the stage-- 26 year old Wang Ming [1906-74] "who was catapulted to full Politburo membership without having previously been even a member of the Central Committee." He was the leader of a band of returned Chinese graduates from Sun Yat-sen University in Moscow. Mif had been the Rector. Other of these students were put in charge of various CC departments. They were known as "the '28 Bolsheviks', 'Stalin's China Section'., or simply the 'Returned Students'," they would be running the show for the next four years.

The news of all this reached Mao's base area in March of 1931. Mao was put back in control as Secretary of the new General Front Committee and as Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee. Zhu was still commander in chief. Short says all this happened not for love of Mao but for distrust of Xiang Ying because of his association with Li Lisan.

And now, Chiang Kai-shek was back. This time he had 200,000 troops and was still intent on encircling the Reds and wiping them out. But Mao and Zhu were on a roll. By the end of May 1931 Chiang's forces were in full retreat with 30,000 of his troops "put out of action." From now on the party gave Mao and Zhu "a free hand" with respect to military tactics.

Chiang was like Freddy Krueger-- he keeps coming back. By the end of June he was ready again, this time with 300,000 troops! Chiang was personally in command this time and, Short says: "In the next two months, the Red Army came close to total destruction."

One must note that Chiang had 300,000 troops against a Red Army numbering around 20,000. By a daring escape from encirclement the Red Army avoided destruction. Chiang was prevented from going after them again because rivals in the GMD had made an alliance with northern warlords and set up a government in Canton to rival his own in Nanjing. He had to pull his troops back and go after them, thus the Red Army would live to fight another day.

Japan then invaded Manchuria on September 18, 1931 further diverting Chiang's attention. "But," Short writes, "he had unfinished business in Jiangxi . He and the communists both knew that in due course he would return." Mao was now 38 years old.

CHAPTER EIGHT "Futian: Loss of Innocence"

In this chapter Short begins by trying to explain the brutality of the CPC at this time (late 1920, early 30s). One can understand, if not condone, the behavior involved. Short says the "model of intra-party strife" was based on the struggle in the Soviet party between Stalin and Trotsky, and later between Stalin and Bukharin. [But this actually preceded such violence in the USSR].

Also, the outrageous violence that the GMD unleashed against the communists and radical peasants influenced the CPC. The communists faced, "White terror in the cities (where, from mid- 1927 on, communists were mercilessly hunted down and killed); White terror in the countryside (where warlord soldiers and landlord militias routinely torched villages suspected of harbouring communist sympathisers); and the constant threat, in the Red areas, of nationalist encirclement and destruction."

The White Terror spawned the Red Terror. The nicey-nicey rules of engagement originally drawn up by Mao were being more and more ignored. Worse still, revolutionary violence (another term for the Red Terror) began to be directed inwards as well.

In his 1926 Hunan report, according to Short, Mao had said, terror "was indispensable to the communist cause, and Red execution squads must be formed 'to massacre the landlords and the despotic gentry as well as their running dogs without the slightest compunction.' But the use of terror should be directed exclusively against class enemies." Our existential conditions in 21st Century industrialized countries makes it almost impossible to comprehend the situation in China at this time which led to these kind of tactics. Are there places in the world today, however, where they would still apply?

In 1930, according to Short, the "flash point" came whereby these tactics, applied externally against the "White Terror" were to be used within the CPC against "anti-party elements." Mao gave a speech in which he said local branches of the party in the rural areas had been infiltrated with landlords and rich peasants, some of whom were in leadership positions.

The real problem, according to Short, was that many local communists did not like outside communists arriving in their areas and telling them what to do. Also they did not like harsh tactics because, due to the large extended families of those times, they had relatives on both sides.

Mao called them "mountaintop-ists"-- i.e., people who put local interests above the national interests of the party, and "they had to be brought into line." So at a meeting of the Jiangxi Front Committee, the local south-west Jiangxi party was put under new leadership. A young man from Hunan was put in charge, Liu Shaoqi (1898-1969). Many years later he became "the top party person taking the capitalist road" and was murdered in prison by being denied his life saving medicine.

Now a terrible step was taken. Party leaders out of favor were demoted or expelled, but there was an "unwritten rule against killing Party comrades." But by a "secret directive" Mao ordered the execution of the top four local party leaders he had deposed ("as an example to others.") This should never have happened, I think, because secret activities not approved by the Front Committee violates inter party democracy. [Also killing people, for political reasons, is not a good way to build a new world of justice and equality.]

Why did Mao do it? Because he thought "that communists who obstructed the policies that the Party laid down, whatever their reason for doing so, had become part of 'the enemy' ['objectively counter-revolutionary' whatever their subjective intentions] and should be treated as such."

To students of Kant [ the only thing that counts is the good will ], among others, to kill people this way is monstrous. But Mao wasn't a Kantian. Short points out that the courts and trials are beside the point. "Since their guilt was political, the judicial process was irrelevant except as theatre, to educate the masses."

As Mao put it, "they should be openly tried and sentenced to death by execution." This is what is meant by a "show trial." This is one of the worse developments of classical 20th Century underdeveloped world communism and should never be practiced again. China was, however, lacking in any strong tradition of judicial independence. Modern China is still struggling with this problem but at least the leadership is aware of it.

Liu Shiqi went about carrying out purges of the local party's other leaders and many members. Also in 1930 the mysterious AB-tuan shows up. This was a "right-wing clique within the Guomindang." AB-tuaner began "showing up" everywhere. By October 1930, 1000 members of the 30,000 members in the south-west Jiangxi local had been executed for being part of the AB-tuan. While the scale is not Pol Potish, it certainly looks like fear and paranoia were gripping the Party leadership. Li Lisan was the party leader at this time and, ironically, the greatest purges will be against his followers when he falls from Grace. Outside of the executions of the original "Four Great [local] Party Officials", Short says Mao's role in this Pol Potish extension of inter-party violence "is uncertain." While he was actually present in the area with the Red Army few people were killed as AB-tuan. Other leaders seem to have been the primary agents of the "blood-purge"-- (mid-summer 1930).

But by October Mao had joined the purge whole heartedly. Liu Shiqi had been replaced by Li Wenlin and the new leadership in Jiangxi, according to Short, "ordered 'the most merciless torture' to ferret out AB-tuan members, warning that even 'those people who seem very positive and loyal, very left-wing and straightforward in what they say' must be doubted and questioned."

Since people will say anything under torture, it is no surprise to find out that the number of people being killed as "enemy agents" began to climb. It was a miniature Pol Pot witch hunt. Mao bought into it and said it was necessary to "intensify the purge still further."

All this was going on at the same time the GMD armies were trying to wipe out the Red Army (as described in the last chapter). Mao's plan, you may remember, was to "lure the enemy in deep." Naturally, all of the villages and peasants in the way objected to this plan as the GMD would wipe them out. These were the people who became "objective counter-revolutionaries" for contesting Mao's plan. Thousands were killed, including 2000 officers and men in the army itself-- many for questioning the need to to kill so many people. Those chosen by history are first made mad!

"The purge grew into a bloodbath," Short writes, "in which [Mao's] opponents perished. The stage was set for 'the Futian events." What were these events? Short tells the following story.

In early December 1930 the small village of Futian was being used as the HQ of the Jiangxi Provincial Action Committee. On December 7th Li Shaojiu (a "murderous thug"), "a member of Mao's political staff" arrived in town with a band of troops and names of three members of the provincial committee said to be members of the AB-tuan.

All the names were gotten under extreme forms of torture. All three members (plus five additional members found with them) were tortured and made to confess that they were AB-tuan members. They were not immediately put to death but kept alive on the basis of an order approved by Mao which read, "Do not kill the important leaders too quickly, but squeeze out of them [the maximum] information ... [Then], from the clues they give, you can go on to unearth other leaders." Sounds like a memo from Donald Rumsfeld!

I will note here the CPC did some self correcting as it stated a year later, after an internal investigation, that, "All the AB-tuan cases were uncovered on the basis of confessions. Little patience was shown in ascertaining facts and verifying charges... Torture was the only method of dealing with suspects who resisted. Torture ceased only after confession." And the CPC investigators knew how to get the job done. The report states that, "The worst method was to nail a person's palms to a table and then to insert bamboo splints under the fingernails." I imagine a lot of people confessed to being AB-tuan.

However, what the soldiers did to the wives of some of the suspects was just as bad: "they cut open their breasts and burnt their genitals." The Red Army had come a long way from the "humanistic" rules I mentioned,in an earlier entry, that Mao promulgated at its founding.

After Li Shaojiu moved on to hunt for victims at a new location, friends and soldiers of the imprisoned Front Committee members attacked their guards and freed them. They sent an appeal to the Party leadership to get rid of Mao and clear their names. The Party stood by Mao.

Meanwhile, Mao defeated Chiang Kai-shek's first encirclement attack. Mao's stock went up. The "suspects" held out until March 1931, then turned themselves in, "having been assured, or so they believed, that they would be treated with clemency."

Many were then killed. (one of them, a young man in his early 20s was beheaded). Short suggests they were innocent, their real crime being they were associated politically with the Li Lisan line (Li had been removed by this time) and that a bloody factional purge was carried out under the guise of fighting the class enemy (i.e., GMD agents). The revolution eats its own.

Short says the Returned Students leadership in Shanghai lumped "together all forms of opposition under a generic AB-tuan label." It seems there was no loyal opposition, just traitors. As a result, Short writes, "the purge resumed more ferociously than ever." This was, however, a "China thing," not a "CPC thing" since the GMD and the warlords carried on their own purges and blood baths. This was a reflection of the existential conditions in China and the level of social development of the combatants.

At this time, according to a later CPC investigation, the Jiangxi Political Security department acted on the premise "that it was better to kill a hundred innocent people than to leave a truly guilty one at large." Hardly a policy to win friends and influence people.

In the third encirclement campaign the remnants of the troops that had rescued the "suspects" (it was the 20th Army) was called to come back and help fight off Chiang's attack. They did so, but Mao had most of the officers executed and dispersed the regular soldiers into other units. There was no more 20th Army.

By the end of the year, after the death of tens of thousands of people, the purge, and Mao's part in it, slackened off. It didn't end, however. From 1932 through 1934, 80 to 100 people a month were being shot for being AB- tuan, Social Democrats, or "reformists." This was a new moderate policy! The Party was against "unorganized" killing. Executions now had to be approved by higher Party bodies, they could not just take place on the spot.

I read Short's book on Pol Pot and this "Futian" purge sounds just like the kinds of thing the Khmer Rouge did. Here is a quote from the head of East Futian security on how to deal with a suspect: "You force him to confess, then he confesses, you believe him and you kill him: or, he does not confess and you kill him." These alternatives don't look very good. If this is going on in the "liberated zones", which the peasants are flocking to, what could Chiang have been doing? We shall soon see.

The reasons for the purges were, Short says, always the same. "They were always about power-- the power of individual leaders to enforce their will, and to ensure that followers followed."

This horrible chapter is drawing to an end. Short ends it by trying to explain what was the cause of this inhuman barbaric slaughter of men, women and some children as well. "Inhuman" seems not to be the right word as we humans have been acting this way since the git-go.

Short says, "The way in which the [CPC] leadership was transformed from an idealistic, ineffectual coterie of well meaning intellectuals" who "in exceptional times" carried out "an exceptional slaughter of men and women [tens of thousands!] who later proved to be perfectly loyal" was largely due to "the situation within China itself."

Short says that the main reason was the civil war between the CPC and GMD in which "no rules were honored." In 1931 the head of the PB Security Service defected to the GMD and turned over lists of names resulting in the capture and killing of thousands of communists, including Xiang Zhongfa [1880-1931] the head of the Party since 1928.

Zhou Enlai ordered the turncoat's entire family exterminated. Only a small boy was saved because the man assigned to do the killing couldn't bring himself to kill a small child. In order to enforce discipline Zhou also ordered the killing of dozens of CPC members whom he thought lacked discipline.

O tempora, O mores, we are not hearten to read that, "The Guomindang was just as barbarous." The GMD went to areas where the CPC was located and killed all the able bodied men in a program known as "draining the pond to catch the fish."

While the CPC was killing its own, the GMD was just killing anyone who later might be a potential recruit to the CPC-- i.e., poor peasants in the country side. They killed 100,000 villagers in Hubei and 80,000 in Henan. On the Hunan-Hubei border, the GMD killed so many villagers that only 10,000 remained from a population of one million. "Twenty years later, ruined villages and human bones were still scattered through the mountains."

This was the environment the CPC lived in, and the young idealists of a few years before, including Mao, either adapted or perished. It was, in fact, typical of Chinese history. "The vortex of blood and fear," Short writes, "in which the communist struggle was played out was the fruit of this legacy."

Mao was conflicted. He still held to the ideals, discussed in a previous chapter, about how the Red Army should act, yet realized "iron discipline" was needed. He saw communism as a "moral force" not just a way to attain power. There was a contradiction between torture and murder of innocent people, including some children, to make others obey and the concept that your philosophy is a "moral force for China's renewal."

Mao turned to dialectics, especially "the unity of opposites" to try and understand [justify?] the Party's actions. What could you do against an enemy such as the GMD? He concluded the purges were necessary, but regrettable, due to the circumstances, and, Short says, "in future better avoided." Amen to that!

CHAPTER 9 "Chairman of the Republic"

On November 7, 1931 in SE Jiangxi the Chinese Soviet Republic was set up with its capital at Ruijin. Mao was the head of state with the title "Chairman." However, in January 1932 he had a big fight with members of the PB over the significance of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Most of the PB thought it was to facilitate an invasion of the USSR. Mao disagreed. Tempers flared and Mao requested "sick leave" and isolated himself in an old temple on Donghuashan Hill around five miles from Ruijin.

Meanwhile, against Mao's advice, the Party decided to attack and occupy a big city, in this case it was Ganzhou. It was a fiasco and Mao was called back by the leadership to give his advice. Mao basically got his way again. One of the major reasons was the fact Zhou Enlai threw his support to Mao at this time and "personal chemistry" developed between the two men which was to last over the next four decades.

The biggest problem for Mao was the tension between his political vision and that of the Shanghai "Returned Student" PB leadership. By July 1932 the Shanghai PB was really down on Mao for not implementing its decisions regarding the taking of big cities. But Mao and the field commanders knew that the Red Army was not ready to take on the big cities.

This impasse was broken by Zhou Enlai, Short says. Zhou told the PB he would personally go to the field to get an offensive underway against the big cities in northern Jiangxi but Mao should be given back his old title as "General Political Commissar." Short refers to Zhou as "the eternal deal- maker."

The offensive got underway, but Mao and Zhu De, with Zhou's support, called it off in order to retreat and build up the Red Army. This led to a big split in the PB and Mao found himself sidelined (October 12, 1932) from military matters for the next two years. But he was still Chairman of the Republic and had administrative functions to perform.

He also gave advice to Luo Ming, the acting secretary of the Fujian CPC, whom he met by accident. It was military advice. Chiang was getting ready for a Fourth Encirclement Campaign and Mao discussed his old guerrilla tactics. Luo Ming liked what he heard and started using Mao's tactics in Fujian.

This infuriated the leader of the Returned Students, Bo Gu (not be confused with Gu Bo-- Mao's former secretary) who immediately denounced the "Luo Ming line" and began a purge of all Mao supporters he could find. This was not a blood purge, they were just being denounced and isolated. As Chairman, Mao was too high ranking to denounce.

Short points out how ironic it was that the Returned Students were against Mao and thought they were following the Moscow line, while in fact it was Mao that Stalin backed. Since 1928, Short says, "Mao was the only major Chinese leader who was consistently in agreement with Stalin on all three of the key issues in the Chinese revolution: the primary role of the peasantry, of the Red Army and of the rural base areas. In the Kremlin, this did not go unnoticed." [Trivia: Mao's favorite novel was "The Dream of the Red Chamber."]

As head of state of the Chinese Soviet Republic Mao turned his attention to civil affairs and the economy. "The key economic issue," Short writes, "was land reform. In rural China, the possession of land gave life: if you had fields, you could eat; without fields, you would starve. Among a nation of 400 million, 90 per cent of whom were peasants, land redistribution-- taking from the rich and giving to the poor-- was the primary vehicle carrying the communist revolution forward, the fundamental point of divergence between the [CPC] and the Guomindang."

This was seventy years ago, we know the GMD will lose because the peasants didn't support it. Even today we see robust Maoist movements in areas with vast peasant populations. The same problems often elicit the same solutions. There are Maoist movements in Nepal as well as India fueled by the peasants desire for land redistribution. Even the dysfunctional "Shining Path" quasi-Maoist movement in Peru based itself on peasants.

Mao was very radical about land reform, according to Short. Mao favored a system of equal distribution, "an identical share" of land for every mouth. All the land was owned by the state and assigned according to the size of the family. Everyone got something and even the poorest could live.

But Mao's views were considered too moderate by the Returned Student leadership. The peasants were classified as rich, middle, and poor. Mao's plan had provided land for all. But the Returned Students, under the influence of Stalin's "anti-kulak campaign" decided that rich peasants would have all their land taken and be given nothing. This all became moot anyway as the Chinese Soviet was ultimately taken over by the GMD.

But before the Chinese Soviet Republic fell, Mao instituted some practices which became characteristic of Chinese Communism, according to Short. Mao, along with Deng Fa his chief of Political Security, was determined to eliminate all "alien class elements" from the state. Lists of suspects were drawn up, "denunciation boxes" were set up in the villages so anyone could put in the name of a "class enemy."

The names of non existent organizations were made up (by the leadership) and then people were accused of being members. This was an excuse to haul in large groups for questioning. Mao also ordered, that when someone was "obviously guilty," the procedure should be, as Short puts it: "they should be executed first and a report made later."

These terrible behavior patterns were not due to Communism. The GMD did the same, even killing people for "disturbing the peace." This type of "law" was inherited from the Chinese Empire, "from which the social controls of both the communists and the nationalists [GMD] stemmed." The purpose of "law" was for political control, not to protect people as individual's with rights and freedom. The ideals of Marx and Engels were taking root in alien soil.

Elections were required for committees, delegations, congresses, etc. The voting age was 16. Men and women both voted and women were guaranteed 25% of the posts. The Soviet also enacted a law to give women complete equality with men in the rights of marriage and divorce.

"This democratic marriage system." Mao stated, "has burst the feudal shackles that have bound human beings, especially women, for thousands of years, and established a new pattern consistent with human nature." If this was the only thing the CPC ever did, it would deserve the undying gratitude of a freed humanity.

Even though Mao was being kept away from the military struggle, his influence remained. Short reports that in the spring of 1933,Chiang's fourth attempt at encirclement was beaten back by the Red Army led by Zhou Enlai and Zhu De "using tactics broadly similar to those Mao had argued for."

In September 1933, Chiang began encirclement campaign number five. As the fighting intensified, "political paranoia resumed." Execution squads went out to the battles to kill suspected disloyal troops and officers. Personally, I can't understand how an army can operate in this way, but it did.

Short says Mao's "land regulations were abandoned" and the Party carried out a "pogrom" killing off thousands of rich peasants and landlords. The poor and moderate peasants saw their interests being protected and supported the Party.

In May of 1934 the Party leadership (without Mao) realized that Chiang was getting too strong and that the communists might have to abandon their base area and Soviet Republic. Mao was on sick leave, this time for real, in any case. In October the Red Army abandoned the base area to the GMD, crossed the Gan River and withdrew to the west.

CHAPTER 10 "In Search of the Grey Dragon: the Long March North"

After the GMD had forced the CPC and the Red Army out of their base area in Jiangxi the nationalists thought that the communist movement was finally overcome.

January 1935 found the communist HQ at Zunyi in Guizhou. Short says it was at this time that Mao first attained "a dominant position in the Party." The loss of the base area and retreat of the Red Army had finally convinced a majority of the top leaders that Mao's ideas had been right all along and it was a mistake to have excluded him from military affairs for so long.

When the Red army halted at Zunyi it was about 30,000 strong-- having lost 50,000 men in the three months since the base area was abandoned. Morale wasn't exactly high.

By Spring of 1935 Short says, the Red Army was once again the "Zhu- Mao Army." Chiang was breathing down the Red Army's neck and by deft strategy Mao was able to extricate the army from certain destruction, escape across the Upper Yangtse, and find a safe haven in the town of Huili in Sichuan (May, 1935).

The army had been reduced to 20,00 men but Mao had saved it and from then on he was never challenged again by the military leaders or the Party leaders with the army.

We have talking about this army unit as if it were the only communist army in the field. That really wasn't the case. This unit was officially called the First Front Army. We have concentrated on it because it was the one associated with Mao. But in the north of Sichuan was the Fourth Front Army led by Zhang Guotao (1897-1979 in Canada, defected to GMD in 1938).

The March to the West now became the Long March as Mao's forces set off from Huili to link up with Zhang Guotao. But Chiang's forces were now in hot pursuit. To escape the Red Army made a forced march to a town called Luding on the Dadu River which was in flood. The only way to cross the river was at this town.

The town was taken by assault and the Red Army crossed over to the east bank of the Dadu River and thus, once again, escaped from Chiang's forces. Short says this battle and crossing became legendary. "Failure would have meant the Red Army's annihilation."

After heroic efforts Mao's troops finally linked up with the Fourth Front Army (June, 1935). Now the problem was, who is going to run the show: Mao or Zhang? Mao wanted to go north to Ganzu, Zhang wanted to go west. The PB worked out compromises that seemed to settle the rivalry in Mao's favor and the combined armies started moving north. But, Short says, "The stage was slowly being set for what Mao would call, years later, 'the darkest moment of my life.'"

The biggest problem in going north was getting thru a large swampy grassland. Mao's group, after much suffering, made it through, but Zhang and his Fourth Front Army turned back and headed south. So the Red Army (First Front Army) was on its own again. It now had only 10,000 troops left.

On September 21, 1935 the army reached Hadapu, in Gansu, and they learned that there was a communist controlled area in nearby Shensi province. The army decided to march east towards Shensi. The Long March finally ended when they reached Wuqi in Shensi (October, 1935). Many had perished, the army was now down to 5000. And, Short writes, in this area "Mao would spend the next twelve years."

Meanwhile, Japan had intensified its conquests in China. Chiang and the GMD did not seem to be doing enough to oppose the Japanese. Mao was also thinking about Japan and the struggle that would have to be waged against it. Short quotes a poem he wrote around this time:

High on the crest of Liupan Mountain,
Our banners flap idly in the western breeze.
Today we hold fast the long cord,
When shall we bind the Grey Dragon [Japan]?

In December 1935 the PB met at Wayaobu in the new base area and devised a new political action plan, abandoning the leftism of the Returned Students for more pragmatic policies. This was in line with the Comintern's new polices of the united front.

The new policies were designed to appeal to a broader mass of the Chinese people. "The 'Workers', Peasants' and Soldiers' Soviet Republic,'" Short says, "would be renamed 'the Soviet People's Republic', to signify that all citizens had a place in it."

Instead of a "closed door" policy towards other classes, an "open door" policy would be implemented. Mao said "Closed doorism just 'drives the fish into deep waters and the sparrows into the thickets', and it will drive the millions upon millions of the masses ... over to the enemy's side."

Now Mao entered into a semi "United Front" with a nearby GMD army led by Zhang Xueliang (the Young Marshal, he was in his 30s), the North-East Army. This alliance was possible because Mao convinced Zhang that they should be fighting the Japanese invaders not each other. Zhang would not openly defy Chiang but would help the Red Army as best he could.

This allowed Mao to go on a military expedition to recruit more troops. He was able to get his army back up to 20,000 men. But "Zhang Guotao was still in Sichuan, and the bulk of the Red Army was with him."

In the summer of 1936 Zhang's Fourth Front Army was joined by another Red Army unit, the Second Front Army which had formed in 1935 in Hunan. Zhang did not want to unite with Mao's forces. He even set up a rival CPC leadership and expected Mao and the PB that was with him to be subservient to his new leadership.

Unfortunately for Zhang, Chiang's forces caught up with him and he was pulverized. He finally gave in to the legitimate PB and brought what was left of his army North to merge with Mao's First Front Army. (December 1936). But Zhang was finished as a major leader.

While on the one hand, Mao had been dealing with Zhang, on the other he and the CPC had also been trying to get Chiang to agree to an anti- Japanese front. Throughout China, as well as within the GMD, people were objecting to Chiang's policy of "internal pacification first, resistance to Japan second."

Short points out, that by April 1936, Mao was pushing a new line: Japan and Chiang were no longer equal enemies. Mao now maintained, as quoted by Short, "Our stand is to oppose Japan and stop the civil war. Opposing Chiang Kai-shek is secondary."

In June 1936 the Red Army had to give up Wayaobu and retreat to Bao'an, an even more remote area. For the rest of 1936, the CPC agitated for united resistance to Japan. In December Chaing gave his answer. It was to be a Sixth Encirclement effort to wipe out the Red Army.

Zhang Xueliang pleaded with Chiang to allow the North-East Army to fight Japan instead. Chiang, now with his HQ in Xian in Shensi province, said no. Then, the unthinkable happened. Zhang used his men to arrest Chiang and hold him prisoner at the HQ of the North-East Army.

The CPC thought Chiang should be put on trial for starting the civil war and for not fighting the Japanese. But this was not Zhang's plan. He only wanted to get Chiang to drop the civil war and unite all the patriotic forces (including the communists) against Japan.

Meanwhile, in Chiang's capital, Nanjing, the sentiment was for a peaceful solution. Zhou Enlai was sent to Xian to explain the CPC's position to Zhang: a trial and the establishment of a big unified anti-Japanese base in the north east, and a united front government in Nanjing.

Eventually a deal was cut for a united front between the CPC, Chiang, Zhang and the government in Nanjing. But it was illusory. Zhang went back to Nanjing with Chiang (he ended up in prison and then house arrest from which he was only freed in his 90's on Taiwan).

Back in Nanjing, Chiang resumed his plans to wipe out the Red Army. He only abandoned those plans in July 1937 when the Japanese attacked in force taking Beijing, and attacking Shanghai. Events forced Chiang to cooperate with the CPC.

The Red Army got a new name: "Eighth Route Army of the [GMD] National Revolutionary Army." The party "was back on centre stage," legal, and, Short says, "For Mao, the highroad to power was open." Mao was now 43 years old.

CHAPTER 11 "Yan'an Interlude: the Philosopher is King"

In the summer of 1937 the leadership of the CPC had settled down in its new HQ at Yan'an in Shensi province. Here it would remain for the next ten years. Short tells us that "the myth of 'the Yan'an Way'" [i.e., the type of communist theory that Mao developed there] along with the Long March would become "one of the most enduring emblems of the system [Mao] was to create." He had two major tasks, according to Short. First, he had to build up his power as a leader and, second, he had to develop his own version of Marxist thought, or least put his "personal stamp" on Marxist theory.

There doesn't seem to be anything objectionable in Mao's theoretical work at this time, as reported by Short. Back in 1925 "he had called for 'an ideology produced in Chinese conditions'." This appears to be a reasonable demand. In 1935, at Wayaobu he got the PB to support a flexible sort of Marxism to be applied "to 'specific, concrete Chinese conditions', and condemned 'leftist dogmatism', meaning slavish adherence to Moscow's ideas." Again, this seems quite sound.

In early 1936 he maintained the CPC ought to, in his words, "run things by itself, and have faith in its own abilities." Short writes that he declared "Soviet and Chinese policies coincided... 'only where the interests of the Chinese masses coincide with the interests of the Russian masses.'" There should not, I think, be a contradiction between the two interests.

Later in the Fall of 1936 in "Problems of Strategy in China's Revolutionary War," he maintained that mechanically copying the Soviet experience ("cutting the feet to fit the shoes") would lead to defeat. Short says Mao, by "affirming the primacy of indigenous experience" was "consciously laying the groundwork for the idea of Marxism in a national form." Even so, dialectics should tell us that there is no necessary contradiction between internationalism and nationalism within the communist movement.

Short gives Mao credit for breaking "new ground" by "arguing that the particular and the general were 'interconnected and inseparable', which later provided a theoretical basis for contending that general Marxist principles must always exist in a particular national form."

At this time his two famous essays "On Practice" and "On Contradiction" were also written. "On Practice" can be "summed up in the aphorism, 'Practice is the criterion of truth'." This is nothing new, it goes back to Engels at least.

In "On Contradiction" he argued "it was necessary in any given situation to determine what was the principal contradiction, and which was its principal aspect." [In practice this has proved very difficult to do!]

Short thinks that Mao "cut loose from Stalinist orthodoxy" when he maintained that the superstructure can independently also react on the economic base and the productive forces and is not totally determined by them. Mao said, "In general, the material determines the mental. [But] we also, and indeed must, recognize the operation of mental on material things." But this is perfectly orthodox and can be found in Marx and Engels, especially in some of their letters.

1937 wasn't just spent on philosophy. Political and military battles were also being fought. Wang Ming, the Soviet trained leader, was pushing Stalin's line that the Japanese must be opposed by CPC unity with the GMD. Mao's view was that cooperation was possible without co-optation but Wang and other Soviet trained members of the PB were not concerned with the problem of co-optation. They seemed to favor unity at any cost.

Meanwhile the Japanese invasion continued unabated. Mao now wrote two works (1938) that have become classics. He argued in his "Problems of Strategy in Guerilla War' that when a small powerful nation attacks a weak large one, then most of the territory of the weak nation will be overrun. This was the case with Japan and China.

Just the opposite is happening in Iraq. There a powerful large nation has invaded a weak little nation (a specialty of the US military which only seems able to win against countries the size of Panama or smaller) but it controls almost nothing outside of the Green Zone, a few streets, sometimes, in Baghdad and some out lying sparsely populated areas. It is, in fact, bogged down.

This can be explained by the theory put forth by Mao in his second work: "On Protracted War" in which he said the fight against the invader would be long and difficult but, as Short put it, Mao thought the "people's determination to fight for their homes, their culture and their land would ultimately prevail." In did in China, as we know, and also in Vietnam, and appears to be succeeding in Iraq as well.

Both the Japanese, and now the US, seem covered by this quote from Mao's work:

The so-called theory that 'weapons decide everything' [is]
...onesided... Weapons are an important factor in war, but,
not the decisive factor; it is people, not things, that are de-
decisive. The contest of strength is not only a contest of
military and economic power, but also a contest of human
power and morale...

Wang Ming, again angling for power, rejected Mao's tactics. This split the PB down the middle. The issue was the defense of Wuhan from Japanese attack. Mao wanted to disperse to the countryside because he thought the city could not be held. Wang Ming wanted to hold the city and called on the population to defend it. However, the struggle between Wang and Mao would soon be over and Mao would be the winner. A Comintern statement in September 1938 settled the issue: "in order to resolve the problem of unifying the Party leadership, the [CPC] leadership should have Mao Zedong as its centre." It was signed by Dimitrov. Wuhan fell to the Japanese the next month.

The Sixth Plenum of the CPC was also held at this time. Mao gave several speeches, quoted by Short. The following are, I think, particularly interesting ideas that Mao put forth:

"[The] sinification of Marxism-- that is to say, making sure that its every manifestation has an indubitably Chinese character-- is a problem which the whole Party must understand and solve without delay." [The Party is still working on this one!]

"Every communist must grasp this truth: 'Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.' ... We are advocates of the abolition of war ... but war can only be abolished through war. In order to get rid of the gun, it is necessary to take up the gun."

Does that sound Orwellian? Or is it dialectics? Mao, Short says, understood the world by means of "reasoning by opposites, analysing the innate contradictions which, in his words, 'determine the life of all things and push their development forwards.'" Mao was also trying to reconcile Marxist dialectical thinking with some traditional forms of Chinese philosophy.

In November of 1938, due to increased attacks from the Japanese, Mao et al moved to the caves at Yangjialing some three miles to the north of Yan'an. It was at this time he also married the last of his wives-- Jiang Qing.

Over the next few years the struggle against the influence of Wang Ming intensified. This struggle became known as the Yan'an Rectification Campaign. This campaign was to inculcate the notion that Marxism must be adapted to Chinese reality, failure to do was labeled as "Subjectivism." "By the time it ended," Short says, "Mao would no longer be the first among equals. He would be the one man who decided all-- a demiurge, set on a pedestal, towering above his nominal colleagues, beyond institutional control."

This is a bit too much. No one is that powerful without the support of, and the ultimate possibility of, "institutional control." If Mao had too much power it speaks of the backward social conditions in China at the time, the lack of a democratic culture, and the difficulties of a two pronged attack on the Party coming from the GMD and the Japanese.[Similar conditions explain Stalin's power as well.] The CPC intrusted Mao with so much authority because his policies had proved to be correct where others claiming leadership had failed miserably. Short himself says that by 1941 under Mao's guidance the Party was prospering, while under the guidance of Wang Ming and his faction "it had come to the brink of destruction."

Mao also had the right idea in this 1941 campaign, i.e., to rectify subjectivism by fighting wrong ideas, not the people holding the ideas. That is, to fight the sin not the sinner. Mao was for "curing the sickness to save the patient" not "the harsh struggle and merciless blows" of the past. Good intentions, but not always lived up to.

Mao was against "book learning" Marxism. He stressed the importance of being able to read and practically apply Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of China. Reading Marxist books and reciting "every sentence from memory" of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin was worthless. Its too bad he didn't remember this before the Little Red Book was disseminated!

"We have some comrades who have a malady," he wrote, "namely that they take foreign countries as the centre and act like phonographs, mechanically swallowing whole foreign things and transporting them to China." This is still a problem. Many Maoist sects today do just this, mechanically applying the ideas of Mao, which were in large measure historically conditioned by time as well as place (i.e., mid 20th century China), to the problems of the world today. This also goes for Trots still living in 1917 Russia.

An important issue arises out of the Rectification Campaign. In the past the CPC had used fear and repression to make sure its line was adhered to. Mao realized that this was an incorrect policy for Marxists. As Short puts it, Mao adopted Confucius view of "the force of virtuous example" as the proper way to influence people to follow the party line. "The masses are the real heroes," Mao wrote.

This contrasted with Confucius who said the mass of the people "may be made to follow a course of action, but they may not be made to understand it." The dialectic between these two views explains a lot of the turmoil and violence ot revolutions.

"All correct leadership," Mao wrote, "is necessarily 'from the masses, to the masses.' This means : take the ideas of the masses [raw, unfiltered?] [and] then through study, turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas, then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and ... test [their] correctness in action ."

Lenin thought that the ideals of socialism had to be imported into the masses from the outside. This agrees with Confucius. But he also thought the masses could understand them as well. Mao agrees with this ["through study", etc.]. Whence the Gulag? Either large segments of the masses have failed to understand and embrace the imported ideas (Stalin) or the party has failed to propagate and explain properly (Mao). But in practice both Mao and Stalin fell back on the "enemy agents and class enemies" explanation. This was the serpent in the garden of Marxism: only for Marxists the Fall was the result of not eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The case of Wang Shiwei is instructive. The Rectification Campaign called for inner party debate to correct problems. Wang, all the evidence shows that he was loyal party member, wrote a satire about the privileges that party leaders had (better food, etc.,). This was a very popular essay,but the leadership didn't appreciate it. Wang ended up denounced as a GMD spy and he and his supporters imprisoned. Also 40,000 members were expelled from the party and thousands were tortured and made to confess that they were enemy agents. It was all a farce. Mao's theories may have been correct but the "people" turned out to mean "the leaders." This may be the fate of revolutions in historically underdeveloped regions.

Wang was an intellectual and there was a great deal of hatred towards his "class" among the leadership with a peasant background. Mao ordered no killing this time around (not wanting a repeat of the AB-tuan fiasco of 1930). Mao ordered that Wang not be freed and not be killed. He stayed in jail from 1942 until 1947. In 1947 the communists left Yan'an. Before they left the local leader, He Long, had Wang killed with an ax. Revolution is not a tea party.

History is so unpredictable. As Short points out, in 1943 Chiang Kai-shek brought out his book, "China's Destiny". The author, seeing himself as the true ruler of China, didn't have a chapter about his ending up only ruling Formosa (Taiwan.) The same year Stalin abolished the Comintern (to please his allies in W.W. II). This meant that the CPC was now an independent party. This year also gave birth to the term "Mao Zedong Thought" and to Mao's "Selected Works." Mao's personality cult was also growing, evidenced by the song "The East is Red":

The East is Red, the sun rises.
In China a Mao Zedong is born.
He seeks the people's happiness.
He is the people's Great Saviour.

It would have been impossible, I believe, while Lenin was alive, for such a song about the leader to have been circulated in the Soviet Union.

Short tells that by 1944 W.W.II was nearing its end-- Italy was out of it and Germany and Japan were in retreat before the Soviets and Americans respectively. On July 22 of that year "the first and last overt attempt (until the early 1970s) to establish official lines of communications with the Chinese communists took place." This when the "Dixie Mission" began with the landing of a US plane at Yan'an.

The purpose of the mission was to broker an agreement between the GMD and the CPC. The CPC was willing to cooperate and be moderate. Mao had already put forth the ideals for a "New Democracy" stating that the "immediate goal was nor Soviet-style communism, but a mixed economy." Mao even thought about dropping the word "communist" because he said, "it might be more appropriate to call ourselves a Democratic Party." This was because he thought that, as Short says, "the United States was 'the suitable country' to aid China's modernization."

Stalin, by the way, had earlier told the US that the Chinese were "margarine communists"-- a view he held as he doubted the CPC represented real communism and he doubted that Mao's views were "orthodox." Short says his opinions also "fitted well with his efforts to further a" peace accord between the GMD and CPC.

Meanwhile, at Yalta the US and the USSR decided China should be a "buffer" between their two spheres of influence-- the Pacific Ocean on the one hand, and North-East Asia on the other. This is what Short says, ( two "dominated" areas) but if China is a "buffer" what is left of "North-East Asia"-- just territory that is already part of the Soviet Union in the first place (plus Korea). So Stalin is really putting China as a "buffer" between the USSR and the growing American Pacific "Empire" which will be centered in Japan. The real point, however, is that the Dixie Mission was put into play because Stalin agreed not to give any aid to the CPC in its fight with the GMD. This was all before the USSR declared war on Japan.

The CPC agreed to try and work things out peacefully with the GMD, but Mao was skeptical about Chiang's real sincerity. He might have been taking Oliver Cromwell's advice: "Trust in God but keep your powder dry."

On August 9, 1945 the USSR declared war on Japan. Zhu De ordered all the Red Army forces to take the surrender of Japanese forces who tendered it. Chiang, however, demanded that the Japanese should only surrender to GMD forces. Mao and the CPC naturally called upon Stalin for some support against Chiang's position.

What happened next caught the CPC off guard. On the 15th of August, just a few hours before the surrender of Japan, Molotov and the GMD "signed a treaty of alliance." Stalin, Mao thought, not for the first time, had stabbed the CPC in the back with respect to the GMD. The CPC had been sold out, says Short, "for Russia's national interests." Those two A bombs on Japan may have had something to do with it.

By November the Civil War was waging again, due to the GMD's unquenchble desire to get rid of the CPC, and with US backing. Stalin was now worried about his relations with the US, Short says, and decided to try and make a good impression on Washington.

The Soviet Union now told the CPC it "must withdraw from all major cities and communications routes within a week." In north China where there was now a Russian military presence, Peng Zhen, the CPC leader in the area was told by a Russian commander, Short quotes him,"If you do not leave we will use tanks to drive you out." Communists that were trying to stop the advance of the GMD forces by sapping the rail lines were told they would be disarmed by the Russians if they did not stop. The Sino-Soviet split may have its origins a little earlier than the 1960s it seems.

Peng Zhen was furious: "The army of one Communist Party," he said, "using tanks to drive out the army of another? Things like this have never happened before." They would happen again-- most notably when the Chinese Army in the 1970s actually attacked the Vietnamese (and was repelled). Russian tanks were also used against the Hungarians and the Czechs. They who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind. But this time there was nothing the CPC could do. They obeyed the Russians.

Mao was stuck. The USSR-Chiang Treaty blocked the war to overthrow the GMD while the GMD could still attack the CPC and left him trying to get approval for actions the Soviets did not want to support. What to do?

President Truman to the rescue! The US Congress did not want to get involved in a Chinese civil war and wanted Truman to withdraw. Congress had grit in those days and Presidents were concerned about following the Constitution. Truman's new policy was to halt the hostilities between the CPC and the GMD and to get the Soviets out of Manchuria (which they occupied after the Japanese surrender.)

Under US pressure a ceasefire between the GMD and CPC was signed on 1-10-1946. The Soviets had agreed to turn over their areas in Manchuria to the Chinese government's troops and Chiang called a political conference of all the Chinese parties to work out future policies. But things didn't go Chiang's way. The Communists, moderate GMD elements, and other liberal groups had a majority and Chiang lost control of the conference. The conference then proposed a coalition government with the CPC , in which the GMD could have no more than 50% of the ministers, and an elected national assembly. Hmmmm. Communists and Capitalists working together as equals for the good of the people. Not possible! One side has got to outflank the other.

Mao, however, was happy and said that "a new era of peace and democracy has arrived." He rebuked the comrades who doubted that oil and water could mix. Mao gave a banquet and toasted Truman for contributing to "Chinese-American friendship."

It is interesting to note how Mao appeared to an AP reporter who was present, John Roderick. Roderick thought Mao had "an air of self-confidence and authority just short of arrogance" and gave an impression of leadership "which must have emanated from men like Alexander the Great, Napoleon and Lenin." He forgot Caesar.

Meanwhile, Chiang had no intention of sharing power with the CPC. The Cold War had begun, Churchill had given his "Iron Curtain" rant in Fulton, Missouri and Chiang persuaded Truman that the GMD must expand its territory to prevent a Communist takeover. The GMD attacked and the civil war was on again.

By the spring of 1947 the GMD forces were closing in on Yan'an and Mao and his forces had to flee. But Mao wasn't worried. They could have Yan'an he said and then quoted Confucius (The Analects): " 'If a thing comes to me, and I give nothing in return, that is contrary to propriety.' We will give Chiang Yan'an. He will give us China."

CHAPTER 12 "Paper Tigers"

For the first six months after the civil war resumed at the end of WW II the GMD made advances, but by 1949 the GMD had to abandon China proper and retreat to Taiwan. The beginning of this chapter describes the military and social factors that led to this massive GMD defeat. Basically the People's Liberation Army (PLA)-- the new name for the Red Army, won due to the incompetence of the GMD officers, including Chiang, the cruelty of their recruitment methods (forced impressment of soldiers) and the worthlessness of their cause (the maintenance of class oppression of the peasants who made up 90% of the population).

Chiang had more troops and he was being supported with money and material by the US (ever the friend of fascist dictators and against the popular masses) and yet he lost. Short says "Mao relied on the 'collective will of the masses', And that "was more than enough."

At this time Mao made his "paper tigers" comment. "All reactionaries are paper tigers." This isn't the case that the tigers don't have claws. It is because the masses ultimately determine history. The desire for freedom and human emancipation are stronger than the weapons of the repressors. Hitler and Johnson were paper tigers in this respect, and Bush too is one.

Mao underestimated the power of the A bomb-- he called it "a paper tiger" because people not weapons decide "the outcome of a war." But a weapon than can destroy humanity deserves a little more respect. But no sensible tiger would attack an animal that it knows will also kill it.

On October 1, 1949 the People's Republic of China was proclaimed. It was to be 'a people's democratic dictatorship.' How, you might ask, can there be such a thing as a "democratic dictatorship"? Is this not a contradiction? How can the same thing be a gas and a solid (water)? Without an understanding of dialectics, especially the unity of opposites, it is difficult to understand. Lenin's "dictatorship of the proletariat" as a democratic measure causes similar confusions.

Short quotes from Mao's 1949 "On the People's Democratic Dictatorship":
"[The reactionaries say:] 'You are dictatorial.' Dear Sirs, you are right, that is exactly what we are ... Only the people are allowed the right to voice their opinions. Who are 'the people'? At the present stage in China, they are the working class, the peasant class, the petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie. Under the leadership of the ... Communist Party, these classes unite together to ... carry out a dictatorship over the lackeys of imperialism -- the landlord class, the bureaucratic capitalist class and the GMD reactionaries and their henchmen -- to suppress them and [ensure] they behave properly ... The democratic system is to be carried out within the ranks of the people ... The right to vote is given only to the people and not to the reactionaries. These two aspects, namely democracy among the people and dictatorship over the reactionaries, combine to form the people's democratic dictatorship."

Progressives should meditate on these words. Is the CPC today acting in their spirit? Did the implosion of the Soviet Union result from the failure of the CPSU to properly carry out the democratic system "within the ranks of the people?" Mao also said, "We should be capable not only of destroying the old world. We must also be capable of creating the new." Aye, there's the rub.

In late December 1949 thru the middle of February 1950 Mao visited with Stalin in Moscow. On Valentines Day a "Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance" was signed between the two communist powers. The future of the world communist movement would depend, on whether this was a binding commitment or a pie crust.

Was there sincerity and mutual respect between the two leaders? There seems to have been on Mao's side at the time. But Short writes that "Stalin, for his part, remained convinced that Mao was an ersatz communist, a Chinese version of the nineteenth century Russian peasant leader, Pugachev." In 1958 Mao said in a speech, "He mistrusted us. He thought our revolution was a fake."

Fake or not, the Soviets and Chinese would be forced to rely upon each other when, a few months after Mao's return from Moscow the Korean War began (25 June 1950). Mao knew it was coming as Stalin had given his ok to Kim Il Sung to reunite Korea by force IF the Chinese approved. Six weeks before the war Kim had told this to Mao. Short says the Chinese were not all that supportive as they were planning to invade Taiwan and this Korean adventure would disrupt their own plans for unifying their country. Since, as Short points out, 100,000 Koreans had fought with the Chinese in Manchuria, how could China refuse to support their efforts to kick out the imperialists occupying the south of Korea, especially after Stalin had agreed to the plan. China, as Short puts it "acquiesced."

This is not the place to discuss all the intrigues around the Korean war and the aftermath of the invasion. Suffice to say that things began to go badly for the Koreans after the American intervention (under the fig leaf of the UN), Stalin reneged on his promise to provide air support to the Koreans (he didn't want a confrontation with the US), and China was left holding the bag and had to bail the Koreans out by a military intervention.

Meanwhile, the CPC was trying to bring about land reform in the countryside to improve the lot of poor peasants. It met fierce resistance from the landlord class. In 1950, 3000 party workers were killed in the rural areas. Mao unleashed the peasants against the landlords. Within six months 710,000 people (most linked to the GMD) "were executed or driven to suicide." Another 1,500,000 were sent to "reform through labour" camps. We must remember that the GMD acted exactly the same way when it controlled areas (except they didn't set up camps, they just shot you).

Mao differed from Stalin in the way the landlord class was eliminated. Stalin had used the state security organs (this terrorized both sides), but Mao let the peasants loose to attack and judge their own oppressors. Throughout China the people themselves took action against the exploiters. When land reform was completed in 1952 1 to 3 million members of the landlord class (no one knows for sure) had been killed. That kind of class hatred is hard for Americans to imagine. The nearest I can think of is how Nat Turner felt about his oppressors, or how the Haitian slaves acted in their independence struggle against the French planters.

At any rate, "the landlords as a cohesive class, which had dominated rural society since Han times [i.e., for over 2000 years], had simply ceased to exist." The Revolution, the overthrow and abolishing of one class by another, was not a fake."

Next the cities had to be purged: " 'to cleanse our society', as Mao put it, 'of all the filth and poison left over from the old regime.' " Short lists the three big campaigns that Mao devised:

1. The Three Antis (against corruption, waste, and bureaucratism [they need another one of these]).

2. The Five Antis (against bribery, tax evasion, fraud, embezzlement, and revealing of 'state secrets' [they could redo at least four these also]).

3. A "thought reform movement' was also launched to rid the intellectuals of ractionary ideas.

Short doesn't approve of any of these movements, but they were perhaps inevitable given the horrid treatment of ordinary peasants and working people by the ancien regime, the threat posed by GMD elements still loyal to Chiang on Taiwan, and the Korean War raging. Now, 1952, Mao declared, Short writes, "The bourgeoisie ... was no longer to be regarded as an ally of the proletariat." There has been some backsliding of late in this regard.

By 1953, with the truce in the war, China was unified (except for Tibet and Taiwan) behind the CPC, and, as Short says, the war [and, I would add the three campaigns, again carried out by the masses not the security apparatus] had "produced a sense of regeneration and national pride which forced grudging respect even among those who otherwise had little sympathy for the new regime." And, forcing the Americans back across the 38th parallel and retaking the North from them before halting (they could have forced them out of Korea entirely but the cost was deemed too great), showed, for the first time, that the US was a paper tiger.

CHAPTER 13 "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"

This chapter begins with Short telling us that "Economics were not Mao's strong point." This would lead to lots of problems. Short indicates that economic policies were based on political considerations. This looks a lot like Bush II and his view that he could make his own reality!

Short gives two examples. The New Democracy writings (capitalism encouraged, mixed economy, plus cooperatives and self-sufficiency for the Red Army) were predicated on the political needs of the united front and the struggle against Japan. Short points out that Mao insisted, in 1951's takeover of Tibet, that the Red Army produce its own food. The political motivation was not to provoke the Tibetans into rebellion.

Historically, the Chinese had come not to trust other countries and to be self-sufficient on the local and provincial levels as well as nationally. Mao realized his weakness in economic theory, as well as the CPC's, and Short quotes him as saying, on the eve of victory, "We shall have to master what we do not know. We must learn to do economic work from all who know how, no matter who they are ... We must acknowledge our ignorance, and not pretend to know what we do not know." Well, I take it back, this is completely unlike Bush II.

The Chinese turned to the Soviets for guidance, following the model of Five Year plans based on heavy industry. One big difference between Mao and Stalin , however, was in the collectivization of agriculture. Instead of forced collectivization of the peasants, Mao followed a program of a slower voluntary method. At least in the beginning.

In 1953 Mao thought socialism would be achieved by 1968 in the urban areas and by 1971 in the countryside. Happy optimist. Now the Chinese see it as sometime in the next century! Capitalists were still around in 1953. They had a role to play in the transition and were permitted to keep 25% of their profits.

Here, in the early period, the seeds of all the disruptions of the later years were sown, according to Short. In 1951 Bo Yibo (finance minister) and Liu Shaoqi were against rapid collectivization. Gao Gang (PB and in charge of Manchuria) argued for rapid collectivization (Mao agreed) to check what Gao called the "spontaneous tendency of the peasants towards capitalism."

Mao came out against Bo and "right-opportunist deviations" maintaining that "the question of the socialist road versus the capitalist road must be clarified." But what about the need for detours when the road becomes too rough and needs some repairs, or hasn't been laid down properly? What of the tension between objective reality and the desire for a quick transition to socialist institutions?

Mao also had too much power. He had been given the power "to overrule the rest of the Secretariat [of the PB]" back in 1943 as an emergency measure in the war with the GMD and against the Japanese. Now, after the revolution "he was arrogating to himself blanket authority over everything: his colleagues were allowed to do nothing without his explicit accord."

Collectivization problems developed in 1953. In the countryside the peasants were, as Short says, rushed into co-ops, the poor and the better off alike, socialism was seen as everyone "eating out of one big pot." The idea of sharing had not caught on. The well-off peasants killed their animals rather than share with the poor peasants [shades of Soviet collectivization!].

Then in 1954 floods ruined the summer harvest, food riots broke out (as the Party was still collecting the same quota as if nothing had happened). The riots woke Mao up. In January 1955 he instituted a two steps forward one step back policy which he called a "three-word scripture: 'Stop, contract, develop.'"

A few months later Mao and the CPC thought it was time to ramp up collectivization again. Mao thought "peasant resistance," Short writes, "had been overstated." The problem was, Short quotes Mao: "The peasants want freedom, but we want socialism."

An interesting quote, but Short makes it very difficult to check it out. He has zillions of footnotes and references (and no bibliography-- a shocking omission that devalues the usefulness of the book). This quote is sourced by "Teiwes and Sun, p. 42." The quote comes from their book on agriculture in China. But so what? Where did they get it from? Is it from an official record, gossip, someone's memoirs? Some of Short's "Mao quotes" have to be taken on faith. I think Short is an honest scholar, but his bourgeois perspective may induce him to accept as real "Mao quotes" some that come from less than 100% reliable sources. I will use [SW] if the quote comes from the Selected Works.

In any event, Deng Zihui (who was in charge of the collectivization efforts) thought it too soon to ramp up the movement again. He thought that Mao didn't think that all the material conditions for running such a big movement had to be in place before launching it. You launch a co-op movement with the peasants you have not the peasants you want.

By December 1956, 97% of the peasants were in collectives. Mao had pushed through the socialization of agriculture, originally planned to have been completed in 1971, way ahead of schedule. Would this be a Pyhrric victory? We shall see. We should note, however, this "success" had the consequence that "Mao, and other leaders" now believed that "given the will to succeed, material conditions need not be decisive." Is Bush II a Maoist?

Now it was time to get rid of the capitalists in the cities. The mixed economy, supposed to last into the 1960s, was to be replaced by "socialism." "Our aim," Mao said, "is to exterminate capitalism, obliterate it from the face of the earth and make it a thing of the past [SW]." Easier said than done. The China of today is, perhaps, the result of this rush to skip over historically necessary stages.

By January 1956 the private urban economy had been "converted to joint state-private ownership." Now even more advanced goals were to be achieved. As short says, "another gravity-defying leap forward" was in the making. Well, anyone can make a great leap but can they land where they want to.

1956 also saw Khrushchev's revelations of the crimes of Stalin at the 20th Congress of the CPSU. This not the place to rehash this, but I will go over how the Chinese reacted to the revelations. Mao was of two minds over the criticism of Stalin. In one sense, he said, it "destroyed myths, and opened boxes. This brings liberation ... [allowing people to] speak their minds and to be able to think about issues." But Stalin was not 100% wrong in all the things he did. He was "a great Marxist, [a] good and honest revolutionary" who had made some major mistakes.

An editorial in the People's Daily is quoted by Short: " Whatever the mistakes ... the dictatorship of the proletariat is, for the popular masses, always far superior to ... the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie ... Some people consider that Stalin was wrong in everything: this is a grave misconception ... We should view Stalin from an historical standpoint, make a proper and all-round analysis to see where he was right and where he was wrong and draw useful lessons therefrom. Both the things he did right and the things he did wrong were phenomena of the international communist movement and bore the imprint of the times."

The relationship of the USSR and China had changed. Mao now saw a relationship of equality developing. Khrushchev and the new leadership didn't have the star power of Stalin-- they were a "neophyte Soviet leadership." The problem was that the Soviets still treated the Chinese as second class communists and acted the "elder brother" to the CPC. This would bring, Short says, "Beijing and Moscow, before the decade was out, to the point of no return."

1956 also saw problems for the USSR in Poland and Hungary. There were riots in Poland and Wladyslaw Gomulka became the communist leader over the the objections of the Soviets. Worse, from their point of view, Imre Nagy became the leader in Hungary. The Chinese supported Poland because they thought each country had a right to develop communism in its own way. But when Hungary decided to leave the Warsaw Pack, the Chinese supported Russian intervention because they viewed Hungary as counterrevolutionary. "The mess the Soviet leaders had made in their own European backyard," Short writes, "further lowered them in Mao's estimation."

I hate giving big long quotes, but this is an important statement about the happenings of 1956 which Mao gave to the CPC Central Committee in November of that year. Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20, so we must ask if subsequent events prove Mao's analysis correct (not to say that he is not subject to an "et tu Mao?". Short quotes him as follows:

"I thinks there are two 'swords': one is Lenin and the other Stalin. The sword of Stalin has now been discarded by the Russians ... We Chinese have not thrown it away. First we protect Stalin, and second, at the same time we criticize his mistakes ...

"As for the sword of Lenin, has it not also been discarded to a certain extent by some Soviet leaders? In my view, it has been discarded to a considerable extent. Is the October Revolution still valid? ... Khrushchev's report at the 20th Congress of the CPSU says it is possible to seize state power by the parliamentary road, that is to say, it is no longer necessary for all countries to learn from the October Revolution. Once this gate is opened, by and large Leninism is thrown away ...

"How much capital do [the Russians] have? Just Lenin and Stalin. Now [they] have abandoned Stalin and practically all of Lenin as well-- with Lenin's feet gone, or perhaps with only his head left, or with one of his hands cut off. We on our part stick to studying Marxism-Leninism and learning from the October Revolution. [SW]" Where would one find those swords today in China?

In January 1957 Zhou Enlai visited Moscow. Short reports that four areas of disagreement became apparent between the Russians and the Chinese. They were:

1.) Over the role of Stalin. The Chinese thought he was 70% good and 30% bad. The Russians were much more negative. I note that this 70/30 split is how Mao is evaluated in the China of today.

2.) The Chinese rejected the "parliamentary road to socialism." One notes that as of 2007 the only countries in the world governed by communist parties are those in which revolutions took place. While not conclusive, it does suggest that the Chinese may have had a point. However, the Chinese were the first, almost, to say each party should be free to find its own path with respect to its own national conditions.

3.) The Chinese rejected the concept of "peaceful coexistence." The Chinese position was (People's Daily editorial)-- "The imperialists are always bent on destroying us. Therefore we must never forget ... class struggle on a world scale." Are Chinese policies today the product of amnesia or are they simply inscrutable?

4.) A philosophical problem! The Russians did not like Mao's use of the dialectical concept of "contradiction." Although contradiction was at the heart of the dialectical process, Stalin had rejected it and Soviet thinkers had avoided it [this was part of his 30% bad]. The Russians wanted one line for the world communist movement. The official announcement at the conclusions of the talks with Zhou read (with Russian insistence): "There have been are no essential contradictions ... in the relations between socialist states. Even if in the past there were shortcomings they are now being rectified and eliminated." Imry Nagy was certainly "eliminated."

The Chinese nevertheless still believed in contradictions. Short quotes a People's Daily editorial published only a month before Zhou's trip to Moscow. There are "contradictions in socialist countries between different sections of the people, between comrades within the Communist Party, [and] between the government and the people" and "contradictions between socialist countries, [and] contradictions between Communist Parties." The Russians and the Chinese were living in different worlds.

Another problem the CPC faced in the early 50s was how to handle "counterrevolutionary elements" inside the country. In a famous essay of 1957 by Mao "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People" he argued that people should be free to criticize the party and that education and discussion should be used to defend the party's ideas not "crude methods." After all, as Short points out, there were 12 million proletarians in China vs. 550 million petty bourgeoisie (peasants, small traders,shopkeepers, students, etc.) There were bound to be a lot of confused and even hostile ideas.

This essay came in the middle of a campaign launched in 1956 that is known by the title "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend." There were two reasons for this campaign. First, was a dearth of scientists, engineers and other creative thinkers which was holding up development. Mao didn't want to discourage new ideas that might help the revolution. Second, the anti-Stalin reaction in the USSR led the CPC to give up blindly following the Soviet model. Chinese intellectuals were to be free to experiment. At least that was Mao's intention at first.

Mao also thought that the reason for the disturbances in Eastern Europe was the fact that "bureaucratism" had led to a contradiction between the communist parties and the people. Also the parties had failed to get rid of the leftover counterrevolutionaries. Mao thought the counter- revolutionaries were under control in China but that bureaucratism and alienation from the masses were not under control. How could the party fulfill the wishes and needs of the masses if the masses feared to speak up?

So, Mao thought that "in China workers should be allowed to strike because 'this will be helpful in solving contradictions among the state, the factory directors and the masses', and students should be allowed to demonstrate. 'They are just contradictions, that's all. The world is full of contradictions.'" The 100 Flowers movement had two components or goals: making the party and the people closer and letting the people feel free to bring up their frustrations with the CPC.

Mao got a lot of flack from conservative elements in the party, especially from the PLA, over these ideas. The conservatives thought counter- revolutionary elements would make a comeback and run amuck. Mao rejected this criticism.

The intellectuals, however, were in no mood to trust Mao. They had been burned too many times before. And they were right. Mao really had two positions. People should speak up and be given the freedom to do so, but ultimately they must see their errors and come around to the views of the CPC.

"To Mao's dialectical mind." Short says, " these were just two sides of the same coin. 'In a unity of opposites,' he explained, 'there is always one aspect that is primary and another secondary.' The problem was, with Mao, which was which could change." The velvet glove was simply a better method than the stick. The Soviets knew only the stick and now they were having big problems in Eastern Europe. Their denial of contradiction would ultimately prove fatal.

The quotes from Mao, provided by Short, are positively democratic in spirit and any communist leader, even today, could stand behind them. "In the past we fought the enemy along with the people. Now, since the enemy is no longer there ... only the people and we remain. If they don't argue with us when they have grievances, who can they argue with? ... If we ... do not allow [this], our nation will be sapped of its vitality ... We must brace ourselves and let them ... The Communist Party has to let itself be scolded for a while." I believe if this had been the attitude in the USSR and Eastern Europe the Soviet block would still be in existence.

"The 'Hundred Flowers'," Short writes, "was the most ambitious attempt ever undertaken in any communist country [Cuba excepted, tr] to combine a totalitarian system with democratic checks and balances." It turned into a fiasco due to the paranoia of Mao and the CPC.

Mao was startled to find that many people were alienated from the party in the same manner as he said the people in Hungary and, to a lesser extent, in Poland had become. The gist of the complaints was that the CPC had become "a new bureaucratic class which monopolised power and privilege and had alienated itself from the masses." It was not the "masses", however, making the criticisms. It was mostly the intellectuals and better educated.

Mao changed from seeing blooming flowers, as Short notes, to seeing noxious weeds. The CPC now thought a Rightist counterrevolution must be at work and that a purge was needed. In the end 520,000 people were sent off to prison and labor camps. These people were being punished "solely for their ideas." The victims were "hundreds of thousands of loyal citizens who had taken the Party at its word."

Short says it was a "tragedy" because Mao really "did want the intellectuals to 'think for themselves.'" He really wanted, in his own words, "the creation of a political environment where there will be both centralism and democracy, both discipline and freedom, both unity of purpose and personal ease of mind and liveliness."

The problem was that Mao was so sure of his thought and way of viewing Marxism that he could not believe, after people were given such a great amount of freedom, that they would not end up agreeing with the party. If they didn't it must be for sinister reasons.

At least there was no physical violence and shootings. Mao wanted to overcome those extremes from the days before the CPC had state power. After the fact he realized he had over reacted to the 'Hundred Flowers' and said he was "confused by false appearances." But the damage was done. "The very people whom Mao needed most to build the strong, new China he had been dreaming of since his youth had been definitively alienated."

After the failure of the 'Hundred Flowers', Short reports that Mao reverted to the idea of mass mobilization as the way to advance, and this gave rise to the "Little Leap Forward" in early 1956. The Little Leap failed because the targets were set too high. Mao had to retrench, but in the fall of 1957 he was ready to try again.

Mao decided that economics should take a backrest to politics. This was a big mistake and very un-Marxist as it meant taking a formation in the superstructure as more primary that what was going on in the base. This was actually a form of Idealism.

This was a time of unbridled optimism. The Russians were saying that they would overtake the US in fifteen years [fat chance] and Mao proclaimed that "I think we can [say] that we have left the Western world behind us ... I say that we have left them behind us once and for all."

In January of 1958 Mao put forth the theory of "uninterrupted revolution." He thought, according to Short, that socialism was already constructed in China ["collectivisation of the means of production"] and now it was time for a political, ideological and technological leap forward. Unfortunately, Mao's idealism came to the fore. He said "When we study a problem we must subdue the [facts] by [adopting] a viewpoint, and activate the affair at hand with politics." This is a little too much like Bush 2's people saying we can make our own reality!

It was on this basis that the Great Leap Forward was officially launched in 1958. Short points out that modern science, as understood in the West, had no tradition in China and was a recent import. And Mao "freely admitted" he did not know anything about it or about modern technology based upon it. He had a triumph of the will attitude. "In a country," Short says, "with a tradition of scientific and industrial expertise, the targets advanced in the Great Leap would have been dismissed as the idle dreams they were."

But a people, a nation, has to learn by doing. The risk for Marxism in China is, too many non or un-Marxist attempts to skip stages and leap into the "communist" future could lead to a disbelief in Marxism itself because of the failures of its incorrect applications.

Short quotes an article Mao wrote two years before the Great Leap Forward to show his mental state at the time. "China's 600 million people have two remarkable peculiarities; they are, first of all, poor, and secondly blank. That may seem like a bad thing, but it is really a good thing. Poor people want change, want to do things, want revolution. A clean sheet of paper has no blotches, and so the newest and most beautiful words can be written on it, the newest and most beautiful pictures can be painted on it."

Short calls this hubris, thinking 600 million people could be molded "like putty." He is not far wrong, I fear, and as he points out, catastrophe "was not long in coming."

Meanwhile relations with the Russians were turning sour. In 1957 Khrushchev offered to help the Chinese develop nuclear weapons and even to give them "a sample atom bomb." However, Mao's attitude towards nuclear war was not reassuring. In case of such a war he speculated that even if half of humanity was destroyed the half that was left would beat imperialism "and the whole world would become socialist." Not a very politic speculation.

Mao made these comments at the Conference of World Communist Parties (Moscow, November 1957) attended by representatives from over 60 countries. Short says the Soviets began to have second thoughts about giving Mao the bomb. But, he says, "the technology agreement had been signed."

Another big problem was that the Chinese were still only a few years away from their revolutionary victory and were still hot to press on with world revolutionary activities against US imperialism and its allies. The Russians were trying to prevent nuclear war and promote peaceful coexistence under the impression socialist economic development would eventually out strip the West. To Mao, Short writes, "this was a betrayal of the international communist movement and the revolutionary cause it was pledged to promote." Nevertheless, outward amity was maintained. The world was as yet unaware of the deepening fissure.

By 1959 problems with the Great Leap Forward were impossible to ignore. The grain harvest was faltering. The Chinese peasants had been building backyard furnaces to make pig iron for steel to overtake the West. This movement was forsaken as most of the product was worthless. The peasants resented being pushed too much and found life in the communes too restrictive. Mao had to admit, "Just as a child plays with fire ... and knows pain only when it is burnt so, in economic construction, we declared war on nature, like an inexperienced child, unfamiliar with strategy and tactics." Well, live and learn.

In 1959 Khrushchev also told Mao that the Soviets were going to renege on the nuclear agreement. No bomb for Mao. Later that year he went to Beijing for the 10th Anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic. It was also to make a last ditch effort to patch up the alliance.

He did not succeed. The Chinese thought the Russians put their own national interests first and the interests of the world communist movement second. They certainly didn't seem to care about the national desires of their Chinese comrades. Khrushchev felt the same about the Chinese. This was a clash of civilizations! "The basis," Short says, "for a fraternal relationship simply no longer existed." World imperialism, led by the U.S., could only cheer.

The split became more public in 1960. The Russians pushed peaceful coexistence, the Chinese rejected it. "As long as imperialism existed," Shorts says the People's Daily editorialized in April (Lenin's 90th birthday), "wars would occur; peaceful competition was a fraud, perpetrated by 'the old revisionists and their modern counterparts.'" Khrushchev for his part called Mao "an ultra-Leftist, an ultra-dogmatist and a left revisionist." So take that!

The Russians then withdrew all their aid from the Chinese, and took out all their technical experts so that "Factories were left half-built; blueprints torn up [really vile, so the Chinese could not help themselves on their own]; [and]research projects abandoned." This was really hostile and uncalled for on the part of the Soviets.

This was particularly bad timing as the Great Leap Forward was tanking and natural disasters were piling up on the Chinese. The Russians, Short writes, "inflicted enormous economic damage at a time when China was least able to deal with it." Meanwhile more than one third of China's cultivated land was suffering under "the worst drought for a century." Then floods wiped out half as much again of cultivated land. About half of the cultivated land was out of service. Nature and the Great Leap together brought about famine. "It was the worst human disaster ever to befall China." There was cannibalism and the peasants swapped children before eating them-- "to avoid eating their own."

Between 1959 and 1961 25 million people, according to Short, starved to death, a little over 4% of the population. Short says it was the worst ever, but the Taiping Rebellion does seem to have been worst in terms of the percentage of people killed. and if the natural disasters are taken into account, the Great Leap Forward runs neck to neck with the great 1870 famine under the Qing Dynasty. At any rate the CPC policies were off the wall and shows what can happen when you ignore science and think that political will power can substitute for economic reality.

A costly lesson indeed. Mao, short says, "set aside once and for all the idea of making China a great economic power, never to concern himself with it again."

CHAPTER 14 "Musings on Immortality"

Short says it took five years to get more or less back to normal after the failure of the Great Leap Forward [GLF]. Short tends to place most, if not all the blame, on Mao personally. This is too simple. Not only was there a collective leadership, but the ideas that motivated Mao were widely shared by all the cadres in the CPC.

Short indicates that everyone who attacked or criticized Mao was purged or punished but gives examples of leaders who still spoke out. He gives the example of Peng Zhen who at a1962 discussion of the failures of the GLF in the PB's Standing Committee said the top leaders had to take responsibility. "Mao himself, Peng went on, was not immune from mistakes." It was Mao who thought communism would come about in "three to five years" and "it would be 'odious if he did not make a self-criticism'" [even had he been "only one-thousandth part mistaken"-- a precautionary qualification perhaps.]

If Mao was as big a tyrant as Short implies Peng would never have expressed himself in this manner. That Mao complied shows that his power was based on the principle of being the first among equals, a position he attained by correctly guiding the CPC to power in the dark days of the Civil War and war with Japan.

Mao said: "Any mistakes that the Centre has made ought to be my direct responsibility, and I also have an indirect share of the blame because I am the Chairman of the Central Committee. I don't want other people to shirk their responsibility. There are some other comrades who also bear responsibility, but the person primarily responsible should be me."

Short says there was a sense "that a page had been turned" both in the PB and on down to the regional level that "moderate, pragmatic policies" were now going to be possible.

Mao now "retired" from daily control of affairs, leaving Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping "in sole charge of Party and state matters." Some big pragmatic changes were happening. Some of the restrictions of collectivization were being relaxed. Communal mess halls were a thing of the past, and about 20% of the peasants were back to individual farming [the 'household responsibility system.']. Many peasants preferred the HRS and Liu and Deng thought it might help increase agricultural production. "It doesn't matter," Deng said in the summer of 1962, "if the cat is black or white; so long as it catches the mouse, it is a good cat." [an old Sichuanese proverb Short tells us.]

Liu and Deng also sought to ease the international situation by reducing tension with India [over a border dispute], the USSR, and to a lesser extent with the U.S. [over Taiwan]. Mao did not like these new developments, according to Short. He thought the three top leaders were weak on imperialism (and revisionism) and on maintaining an anti-capitalist stance at home.

He was opposed to the HRS, collectivization was the way to socialism, and he did not want China to emulate Yugoslavia "by abandoning," Short reports, "its socialist economy." The problems nationally and internationally were linked. Class struggle continues under socialism and "the capitalist class can be reborn" as we see from the example of the Soviet Union.

"In our country," Short quotes him from a CC meeting in 1962, " we must ... admit the possibility of the restoration of reactionary classes. We must raise our vigilance and properly educate our youth ... Otherwise, a country like ours may yet move towards its opposite."

In 1963 Mao declared that only class struggle could prevent revisionism. Two new campaigns were launched: in the countryside the "Four Cleanups" (against poor production team accounts, granaries, housing, the allocation of work points), in the cities the "Five Antis" ("against embezzlement, graft, speculation, extravagance and red tape").

Without resolute struggles, Mao said, "the day would not be too far off" when the CPC became revisionist and the "whole of China would then change colour. We must nip [the] counter-revolution in the bud." Liu Shaoqi was put in charge. Mao watched. At first he and Liu thought that 5% of the peasants needed to corrected but soon they concluded that 33% of the production teams in the countryside were under the influence or control of counter-revolutionary forces.

One of the reasons for this, Short says, was that so many local leaders had been purged in previous campaigns that there were few local cadres left whose loyalty was incorruptible. Too many local officials were "flawed." [ I should point out that today when we read about abuses and corruption in China, especially against the peasants and the rural population, resulting in strikes and demonstrations, the perpetrators are almost always corrupt local cadres of the CPC who fail to carry out the directives of the CPC central authorities.]

To solve this problem, Short says, "Liu Shaoqi unleashed, in September 1964, the most sweeping purge of rural Party organisations ever undertaken in China." Thousands died. It looked like the bad old days were back. It seems to me that Mao and Liu were too eager for a "quick fix" instead of doing the long term and hard work necessary to train and educate the rural cadres and bring them up to acceptable Party levels.

At any rate, Mao approved of Liu's method and "he and Liu," at the end of 1964, "seemed closer in their thinking than at almost any time since the younger man had become Mao's heir apparent." At least that's how it looked on the surface. Lin Biao was waiting in the background.

One the reasons Mao was standing back and letting Liu, and others, run the show, was his belief that it was necessary to let the upcoming leaders who would eventually replace him have real time leadership opportunities.
In the Soviet Union, he thought, the "inheritance of Marx and Lenin had been squandered," according to Short, "all because of Stalin's failure to groom revolutionary successors to carry on his cause."

Very revealing if true. This implies that it is leaders that are the most important factor, despite all the "learn from the people" rhetoric. No, it was Stalin's failure to allow real inner party democracy to develop and his over reliance on force and violence to achieve his ends that was responsible for the squandered inheritance. Mao would ultimately do the same.

By the summer of 1964 Mao was actually beginning to have doubts about Liu. This was due to an indiscreet remark by Deng Xiaoping to a diplomat from Sri Lanka that somehow got back to Mao. With reference to the Five Antis, also known as the Socialist Education Movement, Deng mentioned "that he hoped Mao would not notice what" he and Liu "were doing because if he did he would surely disapprove."

It seems that Liu was actually doing what I accused him (along with Mao) of not doing--i.e., wanting to substitute education for force in the rural purge than taking place. "Liu wanted to use the movement to make the Party in the rural areas a reliable, disciplined instrument to enforce orthodox Marxist-Leninist economic policies. Mao wanted to combat revisionism by unleashing the energies of the masses."

In October of 1964, Khrushchev was removed from power in the Soviet Union. The reasons given were that he was "ruling by personal whim and imposing 'hare-brained schemes' on the long-suffering Russian people." In November the Chinese made overtures to the Russians to see if the split could be healed but the Russians rejected the offer. The Communist world, Short says, "shattered into two unequal and irreconcilable halves."

Mao now saw himself and China as the true center of the world revolution. And, Short points out, Mao thought "Revolutionary zeal was in inverse proportion to affluence." The U.S. and the West were non-revolutionary because they were so well off. Third world people were more revolutionary and progressive because they were so poor. When in the West, Mao said, "living standards fall, their people will become progressive."

Mao also concluded that "if China became prosperous it would cease to be revolutionary." Mao wanted to keep the revolutionary spirit alive. He began to see Liu and Deng Xiaoping as revisionist technocrats intent at building up the economy at the expense of revolutionary élan.

"In order to make China a realm of 'Red virtue'", Short writes, "in which class struggle would transmute human consciousness, generating a revolutionary continuum that would shine out like a beacon to the peoples of the world, Liu, and those like him, together with the orthodoxy they represented, would have to be swept aside."

Mao had made up his mind to start up a great new revolutionary movement against "revisionism" with the help of his wife Jiang Qing. Liu and other top leaders had no inkling they were about to be washed away in a great new Red tide.

CHAPTER 15 "Cataclysm"

Having decided that a new rectification movement was necessary, Mao sent his wife, Jiang Qing, to Shanghai to lay the ground work for the new struggle. This is a truly Byzantine plot as it unfolds in Short's book and I will only go over the highlights.

The target of Mao's plot was Liu Shaoqi, the head of state and the putative successor of Mao himself. To remove him from the scene will take a complicated plan.

Peng Zhen was First Secretary of the Beijing Party and "deputy head of the Central Committee Secretariat, the core of the [CPC's] national machine." One step above Peng was Liu. One step below him was Wu Han an historian and Beijing deputy mayor. He was also a playwright and wrote "The Dismissal of Hai Rui." Hai was an official under the Ming Dynasty who defended the peasants against the imperial system.

Jiang Quing went to Shanghai [February, 1965] to get the literary critic Yao Wenyuan [later along with Jiang one of The Gang of Four] to attack the play as a secret attack on Mao by a cabal of capitalist roaders. The article was published in the paper Wenhuibao in Shanghai [November, 1965]-- the first shot of The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR).

Meanwhile, throughout 1965 and early 1966 Mao had been arranging his forces and little by little isolating his targets. Peng Zhen sensed that he might be the real target behind the critique of Wu Han and had, since he was the head of a "cultural revolution group" formed by the CC to fight revisionism in the arts, helped formulate what came to be called the "February Outline" [1966]. This stated that there was a great battle going on between "Mao Zedong Thought" and bourgeois views but that the battle was to be fought by the clash of ideas and not by "political means" [i.e., purges].

However, by April Peng had become isolated and Mao decided to purge him since he was judged to be really too bourgeois for his position due to the way he had conducted himself concerning Wu Han's play. Peng and a few of his top associates were removed from power for "taking the capitalist road."

By the middle of May Peng et al were out, the "cultural revolution group" he headed was dissolved and a new one created by the CC was led by Chen Boda [1904-89, in1969 became #4 in the leadership, purged 1970) (how brief is glory).

So, by Spring 1966, Mao had set up the mechanism to begin a great purge of capitalist roaders (the Cultural Revolution) "put in place a headquarters to direct it " [the new group headed by Chen] which bypassed "the Politburo and mainstream Party chain of command."

Since Liu and Deng were the real targets, as well as their allies on the CC and PB, it was necessary to mobilize forces outside of their control if they were to be brought down. The students, from the mid-level through the university level, had many complaints. Mao turned to them for support [as well to millions in the countryside] against the "party bureaucrats." "In retrospect," Short writes, "it is hard to understand how Liu and Deng could have misjudged so fundamentally Mao's intentions."

The reason Liu, Deng and others were caught, not off guard, but by being blindsided was that the idea Mao "had decided to unleash the masses against the Party itself was too far-fetched for any in the Politburo to believe."

Now the plot thickens. The students having been stirred up began their own revolutionary movement (encouraged by Chen Boda) against authority. They began taking over universities all over China, but especially in the Capital. Liu, the Head of State, consulted with Mao, and he and Deng then sent in Party "work teams" to restore order and dampen down the student protests.

For those of you who were around and politically active in July 1966, who can forget the great picture, in all the papers, of Mao's heading bobbing up and down as he swam around, near Wuhan, in the Yangtse River. This was to show that, at 72, the Chairman was still fit. A "metaphor," as Short says, "for throwing himself back into the fray."

In August, Mao called a plenum of the CC to lay down the basis for carrying out the GPCR. He criticized the "work teams' being sent to the universities which he called "an act of suppression and terror." Liu was getting attacked for doing what he thought Mao had approved. He made a self criticism.

By the time the plenum ended there was a new PB reflecting Mao's wishes. Liu had been replaced in second place by Lin Biao as "Mao's sole deputy, with the title Vice-Chairman." The Premier, Zhou Enlai, remained # 3 but the Head of State, formerly ranked # 2 , Liu Shaoqi was now # 8, behind his aide, Deng at # 6.

At the end of the plenum there was a rally for over a million Red Guards (the youth of China) who had come to Beijing. When Mao appeared the crowd went wild, his mere presence triggered "scenes of delirium among the young people" reminiscent of old newsreels from Germany in the 30s. Right cat, Left cat it makes no difference if it catches the mice.

The Red Guard them pledged to eliminate all Mao's enemies and destroy all manifestations of the nine "black categories"-- i.e., landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements [rather broad], Rightists, traitors, spies, capitalists, and "stinking intellectuals." Young people all over China went on rampages of violence. murder, and torture killing old people and young. In some places the victims ranged "from a six-week old baby (the child of a 'reactionary family') to an old man in his eighties."

There is nothing one can really say. The GPCR was one of those great outbursts of human cruelty and violence that transcends religion, cultures or politics and reveals a side to the species that can only lead to despair. It's a black spot on Mao's reputation and that of his followers that can never be washed away. Mao even condemned people who had potted plants in their homes, or who kept birds, dogs or cats as pets: "legacies of feudalism."

Like some others in history, the Red Guards particularly disliked books.As a young man Mao had said "all the anthologies of prose and poetry published since the Tang and Song dynasties [should] be burned. Now was the time. Here is an eye witness account of what happened in the city of Amoy (one of many such incidents) in September of 1966:
"All the books that had been removed from the city libraries ...
were there -- the yellow, the black, and poisonous books. Most
of them were old hand-sewn volumes. 'The Golden Lotus' ... 'The
Romance of the Three Kingdoms', 'Strange Tales from a Chinese
Studio'-- all awaited burning. Shortly after 6 p.m., 50 kilograms of
kerosene were poured on the piles, which were then set afire.
The flames leapt three stories high ... [They] burned for three days
and nights."

Short says that later, "old books were sent to be pulped. In this way, many unique copies of Song and Ming dynasty texts were lost for ever." And this can't be blamed on the Japanese-- it was self inflicted. Its lucky for the great heritage of Chinese art that Chiang took the national art museum's collection to Taiwan with him when he fled.

As the movement grew, the Chinese press began to laud the miracle working power of Mao's "Little Red Book" [which no one dreamed of burning]. Reports were published of "how medical workers armed with it had cured the blind and the deaf; how a paralytic, relying on Mao Zedong Thought, had recovered the use of his limbs; how , on another occasion, Mao Zedong Thought had raised a man from the dead." This last one even tops Oral Roberts! Too bad they didn't send a copy to the Lenin mausoleum.

But was this really getting rid of the Old to bring forth the New. This was not something Mao just thought up. It was an exaggerated form of Emperor worship which had a long history in China. The GPCL was in reality a recidivist revival of the worst aspects of the very feudal and exploitative culture the revolution was supposed to have overthrown. The author of "On Contradiction" was now unmindful of the unity of opposites. The dead hand of the past was truly weighing heavily on the present.

Zhou Enlai put it succinctly: "Whatever accords with Mao Zedong Thought is right, while whatever does not accord with Mao Zedong Thought is wrong." That's the thesis. We know what the antithesis is. Today we see the synthesis working itself out.

Nevertheless, Short points out that both in the CC and the Party, radical supporters of the GPCR were in the minority. The radical students who made up the Red Guards were used to attack provincial party leaders and as they increased in numbers began to replace the party with Red Guard organizations.

This culminated with the Shanghai party committee being replaced by the Red Guards who wanted to rule Shanghai as a commune based on the model of the Paris Commune. Short says this was the logical outcome of the whole GPCR, which was to give power directly to the masses. But Mao was not willing, when push came to shove, to actually get rid of the Party and let the masses rule through direct democracy "with free elections and unrestricted political activity."

"There must be a Party somehow," Mao said. "There must be a nucleus, no matter what we call it." The Shanghai Commune was not to be, the model of the Paris Commune was given up [February, 1967]. This was the high tide of the movement. Since the Commune was the logical end point of the ideology of the GPCR and it had been rejected, the GPCR could only retrogress. Short says Mao was in "ideological retreat" and the movement now was one of "raw power" between Mao and the moderates of the Party grouped around Liu and Deng.

Meanwhile, different factions of the Red Guards began fighting one another, and the GPCR committees started to attack some of the old cadres in the PLA. Mao could no longer (after Feb. 1967) trust the PB and it became defunct. Instead he ruled through an enlarged Standing Committee of the PB and through the Cultural Revolution Group now run by Zhou Enlai.

In August of 1967 the Red Guards decided it was time purge the PLA of capitalist roaders. No emperor in his right mind attacks the Praetorian Guard. As he had in February with respect to the Shanghai Commune, Mao again put his foot down. The PLA would not be drawn into the political struggle. By this time too, ultra-left units in the Red Guards were attacking other Red Guards and had also burned down the British Legation and attacked other foreign missions. Mao was angry about this because it looked like China could not "meet its international obligations."
He thus wanted to keep the PLA as a "disciplined force".

While all of the above was going on, the movement to get rid of Liu Shaoqi was also intensifying. In May, 1967 Liu's book "How to be a Good Communist" was attacked in the press as "a big anti-Marxist-Leninist and anti-Mao-Zedong Thought poisonous weed." Short quotes Mao himself as saying it was "a deceitful work, a form of idealism opposed to Marxism-Leninism." It, is of course, a perfectly orthodox Marxist work, and shows how low Mao could stoop in his efforts to defame one of his comrades who had the temerity to differ with him over how to best execute agreed upon goals to establish socialism.

By August, Liu was forced to resign as Head of State and he was placed under house arrest. The Central Case Examination Group was building up a case against Liu (completely fabricated.) This group was under the control of Mao but was formally chaired by Zhou Enlai (the Tallyrand of the CPC) but actually run by Kang Sheng.

Kang Sheng (1898-1975) was a Beria type who had been on the PB since 1935 and served as, Short says, Mao's "hatchet man" both in Yan'an and during the GPCR.. He was posthumously expelled from the CPC for "political crimes." But this time he was trumping up charges against comrades close to Liu in order to discredit him. Charges that "Mao, Zhou Enlai, Kang himself and the rest of the leadership" knew were false, but were expedient.

It should be noted that the majority of Chinese communists were not GPCR enthusiasts and that Kang was able to carry out Mao's wishes only because, in the last analysis, he had the PLA behind him. In order to get "evidence" Kang relied on torture to force comrades to denounce others.

Some statistics of what went on:
Hebei- 84,000 arrested, 2955 "executed, tortured to death, or committed suicide."
Guangdong- 7200 arrested, 85 beaten to death.
Yunnan- 14,000 party members (cadres) executed.
Inner Mongolia- 350,000 arrested, 80,000 beaten and maimed for life, 16,000 killed.

All this, and much more is described in the book, to build cases against Liu and people who might support him. "None of these cases," as Short points out, "had any basis in fact." This by the way, is an important fact for progressives today to be aware of. Most importantly so that they can avoid involvement with groups that praise and the support the GPCR as some sort of principled Marxist revolutionary struggle.

You can be sure Marx, Engels and Lenin would have been disgusted to think that this movement was carried out in their names. Perhaps Mao's rating should be 30/70 instead of 70/30. Terror and torture, not against class enemies, but against your own people and class were the hallmarks of the GPCR.

Towards the middle of 1968 Mao decided to restore some order. By this time, Lin Biao was his heir and China was basically under the control of the PLA (i.e., a military dictatorship). The army was used to put down warring factions of the GPCR throughout China. By September the core of the old CPC had been "smashed" and it was time to consolidate the Red Guard bands and committees together with what was left of it into larger groups (the better to control them).

Short quotes Zhou Enlai: "We have finally smashed the plot of the handful of Party persons in power, taking the capitalist road." It was time to begin winding down the more extreme elements in the GPCR.

In October of 1968 the 12th Plenum of the CC was held in preparation for the next Party Congress. There were not enough CC members left after all the purges to make a quorum so Mao just added extra delegates, PLA officers and Red Guard leaders as necessary. Liu was definitely gone by now.

Mao was a moderating influence at this Plenum. He protected what was left of the old guard from the more radical faction and even prevented any attacks on Deng Xiaoping (whom he had always liked). Short points out that Deng had never been personally attacked (i.e., by name) during the height of the GPCR. Mao had once said that Deng "has a great future ahead of him." Although he was later arrested, as we shall see.

The Ninth Congress was held in April 1969. Only 20% of the delegates were party veterans from the old CPC. The Congress was held to ratify the new leadership and officially end the GPCR. "Officially," Short writes, " the Cultural Revolution had been an outstanding success. Mao was credited with raising Marxism-Leninism 'to higher and completely new stage' [new, yes-- I don't know about 'higher'-- tr], creating a guiding philosophy for 'the era when imperialism is heading for total collapse and socialism towards worldwide victory.' I remember reading Peking Review in those days, compare it to the Beijing Review of today to see how accurate this assessment may be.

Liu Shaoqi died towards the end of 1969 as a result of being denied proper medical care after contracting pneumonia (he was kept in a cold unheated room and not allowed to be hospitalized). After Mao died Liu was rehabilitated for being the good communist that he was.

CHAPTER 16 "Things Fall Apart"

We are now coming to the end game. The minor pieces have been swept from the board and the major pieces remain be to carefully paced around the King. After the Ninth Congress (1969), Short tells us, that in the PB there were two antagonistic players with about equal support-- namely Lin Biao and Jiang Qing.

They had basically the same politics, so their struggle was over raw power, "to win the Chairman's favour." Mao thought he could control the situation, but, as Short will explain, the rivalry between Lin and Jiang "would blow apart all Mao's carefully laid plans to ensure that his policies survived him."

Short now tells us how Lin Biao fell from power. After Liu Shaoqi was removed from the scene there was no one who was "Head of State. "Lin tried to get Mao to take that post. Mao got it into his head that Lin was trying "to kick him upstairs" into a ceremonial post and trying to take the actual ruling of China himself.

In August 1970 at a CC plenum, Lin gave a speech praising Mao as a "genius." The next day Chen Boda, an ally of Lin, attacked Zhang Chunqiao, an ally of Jiang Qing for being covertly against "Mao Zedung Thought." Chen then proposed Mao for Head of State with Lin as deputy Head of State.

This however backfired, as Mao considered Zhang as one of his allies, not simply the ally of his wife. He denounced Chen (who was soon purged) and definitely refused to become "Head of State." In fact the post was abolished. "In formal terms," Short writes, "Lin himself emerged unscathed." But, Short says, he made a big mistake not to have "made a groveling self-criticism" to Mao about how his allies, led by Chen, could have acted the way they did.

Mao became suspicious of Lin and decided to reduce some of his power as Defense Minister. By August of 1971 Mao was ready to act. He took a special train to Wuhan and stopped along the way to talk to political and military leaders about the Chen Boda affair of the previous year. He suggested that Lin Biao was also partially responsible for the factional fight
Chen had tried to start.

Word of these meetings got back to Lin and his followers in September. Lin's son Lin Liguo was active in convincing his father that they should flee to the Soviet Union before he ended up like Liu Shaoqi! So Lin and some of his family fled in a military aircraft which was only partially fueled!

The flight was reported to Mao but he ordered the air force to do nothing. "The skies will rain;" he said, "widows will remarry; these things are unstoppable. Let them go."

They got as far as Mongolia before the fuel ran out, then the plane crashed and everyone was killed, Lin, his son and wife, his driver and another five people. Sic transit.

Short is a little hard on Mao in the aftermath of all this. He tries to read Mao's mind, a risky procedure for any biographer. All we know is that Mao became very depressed and was bed ridden for two months "with high blood pressure and a lung infection." Short says this was "psychosomatic." and he was really just unable to handle the fact that Lin and fled instead making obeisance to him. Short himself, later makes remarks that indicate that Mao's illness was far from self induced. He says for instance that Mao was suffering from "congestive heart failure" and a few months later when he passed out it was due to his still infected lungs. Neither of these are "psychosomatic."

Mao was, however, in a funk. First Liu and now Lin. It seemed to be bad news for anyone Mao chose to succeed him. Throughout the Party and in the country, except for zealous Red Guard youth, Short says the fall of Lin produced a "general cynicism." What changed the situation was the announcement that President Nixon was going to visit China-- this "after" as Short says, "twenty years of unblinking hostility."

I'm not going to go over all the backdoor dealings that led up to this meeting. It began, as some of you might remember, with Ping Pong Diplomacy, when a US Ping Pong team was invited to China (a thaw) and culminated with Nixon's trip in February 1972.

The trip resulted in two major changes in the world configuration of forces. It signaled that China had come of age as a world power and was going to be integrated into the world system (it eventually replaced Taiwan on the UN Security Council, veto and all) and it meant the end of Mao's phantasy that China would be a beacon unto the nations as the new world revolutionary center.

Nixon, who knew what he was doing, wanted to be open with China because he knew the US was going down in Vietnam and he hoped friendship with China would slow down or prevent other dominoes from falling! Short quotes from an article Nixon wrote a year earlier where he said the US should deal with China "as a great and progressing nation, not as the epicentre of world revolution." And this is what has come to pass.

A telling moment in the meeting between Mao and Nixon is recounted by Short. Mao said to Nixon, "People like me sound like a lot of big cannons. For example, things like 'the whole world should unite and defeat imperialism..." -- after this comment both Zhou Enlai and Mao "laughed uproariously." The giant Red Star over China was becoming a white dwarf.

Mao was also thinking of a new successor. Past experience would indicate this was not an enviable job. He decided on Wang Hongwen (who ended up in the Gang of Four), a 39 year old CC member from Shanghai "whose General Headquarters had engineered the Cultural Revolutions first 'seizure of power' almost six years before."

Mao also realized that he had better start "rehabilitating" the "old guard" if he wanted to have stability and experienced people handling the country after he was gone. So he brought back "the number two Party person taking the capitalist road"-- Deng Xiaoping -- as a vice-premier.

In 1973 the 10th Party Congress took place. This Congress put into motion Mao's plan for a "mix of radicals and veteran cadres to rule China" when he departed. Wang Hongwen was ranked #3 after Mao and Zhou Enlai. Later he put Deng in charge of the PLA. His grand plan was to have Deng run the government and Wang the Party with Wang having ultimate authority. Short says that Mao's plan was finally in place by the summer of 1974 but "again it would turn out to be a house of cards."

Now another bout of factional struggle broke out. Mao, Short says, was trying to do the impossible by melding together the radicals and the veterans. The symbolic union of this plan was the partnership between Wang and Deng. "The fatal flaw in the logic of Mao's arrangements," Short writes, "came from the tension inspired by his contradictory impulses towards radicalism and reason."

To use a crude dialectical analogy, the opposite trends symbolized by Wang and Deng were not really transcended in the new synthesis represented by the Tenth Congress. The synthesis was really held together by the force of Mao's authority so it was artificial, and exterior rather than an immanent synthetic growth and reconciliation from within the Party. Now Mao's health was failing, he was to be in a bad way for the last two years left to him. Whenever his hand was relaxed due to his ailments the two groups represented by Wang and Deng "grew into warring factions."

A month before the opening of the Tenth Congress, Mao had opened an initiative for a big campaign to attack Confucius. Ostensibly this was really to attack the remaining followers of Lin Biao. It was claimed that Lin Biao was an admirer of Confucius and, Short says, "of the feudal landlord system that the sage extolled in his writings." [Historical note: Confucius did not leave behind any writings nor did he "extol feudalism. What we actually know about his thought comes from the Analects, a work compiled by his followers-- Cf. my "Confucius: A Marxist Dialogue" archived on my blog or at PAEditors Blog.].

Short thinks that Zhou Enlai was the real target and that Mao was following the Chinese precept of "pointing at the locust tree in order to revile the mulberry." Confucius was not really the problem, nor was Lin. It appears that the real instigator of this movement was Jiang Qing and her manipulating of Mao.

Jiang Qing accused Zhou of "being impatient" to replace Mao. Mao thought this ridiculous and, Short says, told Zhou and Wang Hongwen that it was Jiang Qing who was impatient to be rid of him. Zhou was very sick with cancer and was beyond plotting against Mao. Since the 30s he had been loyal to Mao in any case. Probably due to his illness Zhou gave up his foreign minister role to Deng Xiaoping. Meanwhile, the struggle against Confucius "became a full-fledged national movement."

But Jiang Qing used this movement for her own factional purposes, which were to undermine Zhou and keep Deng from getting too much influence so that she might assume the real power after Mao was gone. Mao figured this out and struck back.

Short recounts that at the PB meeting of 17 July 1974 he stated that Jiang Qing "does not represent me, she only represents herself." He also attacked his nominal successor Wang Hongwen, who was a weak reed and instead of staying above the factional struggles had joined with Jiang Qing. Mao denounced Wang for being "in a small faction of four people." This was the origin of the famous "Gang of Four" [Wang Hongwen, Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao and Yao Wenyuan.]

After this meeting, the Gang of Four, instead of learning from Mao's rebuke, redoubled its efforts to undermine Zhou and Deng. Mao began to think of Wang, his number 2, as a fool. As a result he promoted Deng and gave him more authority, saying he was "a person of extraordinary ability with a firm ideological standpoint." After January 1975, the CC meetings were no longer chaired by Zhou [too sick] or Wang [Mao was going to dump him] but by Deng [but not for long!].

Nevertheless,Mao still dreamed of a unified leadership. So he wanted one of the radicals to have power too, as "a counterweight to Deng." Wang was a fool, so he was out. Jiang Qing "was the kiss of death" as too many of the rank and file were against her. Yao was too inexperienced. That left Zhang Chunqiao, so he "was appointed Second Vice -Premier [Deng was First] and head of the PLA General Political Department.

Since it was obvious Zhou was very sick and on his way out, the anti-Confucius movement tapered off. Instead the Gang of Four concentrated on Deng. Mao, however, wanted a united party and a program to modernize China to prepare for the 21th Century. He and Zhou, Short writes, drew up a program "for modernising agriculture, industry, defense and science and technology before the end of the century, so that our national economy will be ... in the world's front rank."

Deng and his allies went to work to get this new program off the ground and up and running. His work was attacked by the Gang of Four as "empiricism" -- "a code-word for Deng's emphasis on solving practical problems rather than giving attention to politics and ideology."

Mao, who wanted unity in the Party now, attacked the anti-empiricists as "dogmatists" and stated that both sides were examples of Revisionism. He also soon realized that Zhang would not be a good sucessor so he decided on a more neutral figure, Hua Guofeng.

Meanwhile, the Gang of Four kept up its anti-Deng struggle. At this time, Deng made a slip. The message Mao was getting was that once he was gone Deng would renounce the Cultural Revolution.

So Mao asked Deng to give a report and judgment of the CR. Deng thought it was 70% correct and 30% wrong (Short says this was his usual formula in evaluating things [very mechanical it seems]). He "politely declined' the assignment. Mao surmised that Deng did not want to go on record saying anything really positive about the CR.

This led to Mao's opinion that "the capitalist-roaders are still on the capitalist road." By the end of 1975 Deng had not lost his positions, but "for all practical purposes ... had been stripped of his responsibilities."

[It is interesting to note that Deng did eventually come to power, reject the Cultural Revolution and, many think, firmly put China on the capitalist road. Yet the road he took fulfilled Mao's program to put China in the front ranks of the world's powers. What road China is on is a matter of dispute.]

In early January 1976 Zhou Enlai died. There was a spontaneous out pouring of grief from the Chinese people that took Mao and the Gang of Four leadership by surprise. A low key funeral had been planned but the people staged unofficial demonstrations of grief. On Jan. 15 Deng gave the official eulogy "but it was to be his last public appearance."

In April, Hua Guofeng became First Vice-Chairman of the CPC and the Premier of China. It was obvious that Mao was failing (he died five months later) and the Gang of Four was not happy with the idea of the chairmanship going to Hua. Short says, however, that it was the "arrogance and stupidity" of Jiang Qing which would ultimately lead to the downfall of the Gang.

Mao died on September 9, 1976. The journey of a thousand li that had begun on December 26, 1893 was over. It had lasted 83 years, 8 months and 14 days.


Short's epilog is a mixed bag. It was written around eight years ago in 1998 or 1999 so some his ideas about "capitalism" in China may be dated. But to the point.

About a month after Mao's death Hua Guofeng arranged to have the Gang of Four arrested and removed from power. Within two years Deng had been both rehabilitated and had ousted Hua from power.

Short says Mao was correct in his view of Deng Xiaoping. Deng "was a 'capitalist-roader all along -- and the moment he was in a position to do so, he began dismantling the socialist system Mao had built and putting a bourgeois dictatorship in its place. There was indeed a bourgeois class within the Communist Party and the country did indeed 'change its political colour.'

The problem with this assessment is that at the time of Mao's death and Deng's rise to power, there was no bourgeoisie in China capable of coming to power. Neither Deng nor any other CPC leaders or functionaries owned the means of production in China-- which were basically state owned or owned by communes. In terms of a Marxist understanding a bourgeois dictatorship in China would have been impossible. Even today, while a bourgeois class has come to exist in China, it is far from having control of the state apparatus.

Deng and the CPC embarked on a program to modernize China simply because the anarchy of he Cultural Revolution (and the general backwardness of the country) had left the economy in shambles. Socialism requires an advanced modern economy to have any chance of ultimate success. The CPC under Deng made a quite orthodox decision to open up China and use the market (ultimately controlled and directed by the state) to overcome feudal backwardness. This was a process initiated by Mao himself when he invited Nixon to visit.

In 1981 the CPC rendered a verdict on Mao's role. It was the same verdict he himself had rendered on Stalin-- i.e., he was 70% correct and 30% wrong in what he had done. Short spends a lot of time going over the question of how many people died as a result of Mao's policies. The numbers who died under Hitler, Stalin, and Mao are compared.

These numbers are all contentious and ultimately meaningless and unverifiable. Great historical transformations are not the result of this or that individual. Revolutions and wars are like hurricanes and earthquakes. They break out as a result of forces and pressures that build up over time and are ultimately independent of the human will. Is Lincoln responsible for all the deaths of the Civil War? Is President Johnson, this one foolish individual, the cause of all the deaths from the Vietnam War?

Neither Stalin, Mao nor Hitler ever personally killed anyone.[It is actually obscene to compare Hitler with Mao or Stalin]. Would their policies have been possible without the mindset of the people who followed their leadership and shared their values: a mindset created by the previous history of Russia, China and Germany and the development of capitalism and imperialism. Is Adam Smith responsible for all the deaths due to the transformations brought about by the wars over markets and resources waged by the invisible hand?

These two sentences from Short point up the confusions. Mao's "rule brought about the deaths of more of his own people than any other leader in history." "The overwhelming majority of those whom Mao's policies killed were unintended casualties of famine." The fact they were unintended, Short says, "puts him in a different category from other twentieth-century tyrants."

Individual leaders must of course accept responsibility for their actions. But the contexts that they are forced to confront cannot be ignored. That is why when all is said and done, Short is correct to conclude that, "A final
verdict on Mao's place in the annals of his country's past is still a very long way off."

This view is the view of most of the Chinese themselves. It is echoed in the special issue of Beijing Review of October 5, 2006 on the 30th anniversary of Mao's death ["Mao Today: How does his legacy still influence China?"]

His legacy is really "in flux." One article tells us how "the little red book" is used by the new Chinese capitalists for inspiration! One was able to get market share from foreign capitalists "by adopting Mao's military tactic of 'using the countryside to encircle cities.'" It seems many Chinese companies urge their workers to study Mao for his "spirit of rebellion" and innovative thought. This information comes from a section entitled "Mao as business guru." If US corporations want to remain competitive, I suggest their CEO's start reading Mao at once!

Elsewhere the article says the poor read him because they want to regain the social benefits lost in recent years. A university professor is quoted: "Mao is still the most popular among the farmers, many of whom face growing hardship 'Through holding memorial activities for Mao, the farmers hope the gap between urban and rural areas will narrow.'" Mao as a god!

I will conclude with a quote from Gao Hua of Nanjing University: "Mao's phenomenon is the outcome of China in a transitional period, from an imperial country to a republic . At the turn of the new century, China is facing new challenges , which requires new thinking and new systems. So all the reflections on Mao should be future-oriented."


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