Tuesday, October 30, 2007


by Thomas Riggins

Philip Zimbardo is the psychologist who carried out the Stanford Prison Experiment [SPE] in 1971. He has published a book about the lessons to be learned from that experiment and others. The book is “The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil”. This article is a review of the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s discussion of the book in the October 19, 2007 issue of the TLS.

The purpose of the experiment was to study the psychological ramifications of isolation on prisoners. One group of college students would spend two weeks 24 hours a day as prisoners while another group played the role of prison guards alternating in eight hour shifts.

“In general,” Zimbardo said, “what all this should create in them [the prisoners] is a sense of powerlessness. We have total power in the situation. They have none. The research question is, what will they do to try to gain power, to regain some degree of individuality, to gain some freedom, to gain some privacy.”

To make a long story short, Zimbardo had to stop his experiment after just 5 days of an intended 14. This is because the “guards” began to humiliate and abuse the “prisoners” (sleep deprivation, for example.) A mini Abu Ghraib type of situation was beginning to develop.

Besides the SPE, Zimbardo also talks about the work of Stanley Milgram, among others, who did experiments on authority. Nussbaum tells us that these experiments showed “that about three-quarters of subjects would administer a shock labeled as seriously harmful to a person who was supposed to be a subject in an experiment on learning, if ordered to do so by the researcher....” These experiments, and others like them, show that average people are capable of cruel and inhumane actions that they would normally never think of doing.

After reviewing the literature, Zimbardo, Nussbaum reports, concluded “that situational features, far more than underlying dispositional features of people’s characters, explain why people behave cruelly and abusively to others.”

With respect to Abu Ghraib itself, Zimbardo says the actions of torture and abuse there were not due to the evil natures of the guards, Nussbaum writes, “but by an evil system ... that virtually ensures that people will behave badly.” It is the system itself that is wrong and has to be attacked and changed, not the ordinary people caught up in it who are tainted by the system rather than tainting it.

Nussbaum doesn’t think much of way the SPE was set up or executed, but she thinks Zimbardo’s conclusions are basically correct, although the evidence for them really comes from other more rigorously conducted scientific research by others.

“Research,” Nussbaum says, “has amply confirmed that people of many different kinds will behave badly under certain types of situational pressure. Through the influence of authority and peer pressure, they do things that they are later amazed at having done, things that most people think in advance they would never themselves do.”

Zimbardo thus makes a plea for “humility” on our part, a plea not to be too judgmental about “bad apples” as we ourselves may very well have acted in the same way were we in the same situation. We should instead “blame the system” and the people who set the system up.

There is a lot to this. We all know that at Abu Ghraib it was the “little fry” who were punished and the “big fry” who actually created the situation and were really responsible, especially Donald Rumsfeld and his ilk, were let off the hook.

Nussbaum tells us that what Zimbardo calls for is “collective responsibility -- not as a total replacement for personal responsibility, but as its necessary concomitant, if people are not to be faced, again and again, with demands to which they are very unlikely to respond well.”

Nussbaum thinks Zimbardo is on the right tract, but that he puts too much emphasis on the situation itself. He should look to the emotional and psychological factors that trigger these cruel and inappropriate responses.
Nussbaum has a point too. And with the Bush administration actively pushing torture as a matter of national policy we are going to see more cases of the kinds Zimbardo writes about.

Nussbaum wants to know what makes so many people “vulnerable” to bad behavior and why do some few end up refusing to engage in it. “Zimbardo should press this question,” she says.

I’m interested in how far up this chain of bad situations goes. If the small fry of Abu Ghraib should be cut some slack and we go up the chain to the big fry, say the Bush-Cheney gang, because they brought the situation into being that allowed for the negative behavior of the small fry to develop, then what about the situation the big fry are in?

They are in a situation that reflects the nature of a class society, where wealth and power are the result of the exploitation of the labor power of masses of human beings, where wars over natural resources and markets are constantly on the agenda due to the structure of the imperialist relations between the the big capitalist countries and the smaller ones (not to mention the fight against all progressive and pro people forces). They act like beasts because their situation is bestial. The logic of the situation calls for the replacement of the capitalist system itself as the ultimate goal if we really want to live in a humane world.

Zimbardo does not call for socialism. Nussbaum says he calls for critical thinking to be at the basis of our educational system-- beginning at the elementary level. “We need a culture of timely whistle-blowers, and we will only get this, he rightly argues, if we encourage Socratic questioning of authority both in the family and in the classroom.”

You can forget that. In 99% of the school districts in this country a teacher wouldn’t last ten minutes if he or she encouraged students to question authority and challenge their parents as well as the school authorities. Most teachers label such students, questioning authority in the classroom, as disruptive and as troublemakers.

The recent tenure fights we have been reading about at major colleges and universities usually are about someone whose ideas or viewpoints are especially challenging to the authority of people in power or to the ideas that the government wants spread among the people.

So contradictory is the reality on the ground in our society to the notion of “Socratic questioning” that the government itself rejects science as its guide because the interests of the capitalist economic system. cannot be justified by science-- i.e., pollution, gobal warming, mass environmental destruction, fossil fuel usage, the poisoning of the oceans, etc., all the result of the workings of our economic system.

So this idea of reforming the education system’s approach to critical thinking is a bit utopian, but should nevertheless be fought for because it is a way to organize and educate masses of people. Zimbardo also wants us to be educated in personal responsibility and respect for others. All three of these things, by the way, the system claims to be doing as it is.

Nussbaum is all for these changes. She brings up the work of Daniel Batson who has shown that the compassion we all need to work on is linked to trying to understand other people’s existential situations “with vivid imagination.” She ends by saying we should hope that Zimbardo’s book will “stimulate a critical conversation that will lead to more sensible and less arrogant strategies for coping with our shared human weaknesses.”

I will also end with a hope. The hope that compassion and human understanding of the Other will lead to the rapid repudiation of the Iraq war and to reconciliation in Afghanistan, will lead to end of the blockade and isolation of the Cuban people, will lead to the end of the hatred and vile way many of our fellow citizens feel about the millions of hard working undocumented immigrants living in our country, and finally, that the Republicans will give up all the political ploys they use to further racist policies and agendas in the country. This may be to hope for too much, but at least it is something to struggle for.

Thomas Riggins is the book review editor of Political Affairs and can be reached at pabooks@politicalaffairs.net.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Thomas Riggins

Recently I have heard and read a lot of criticism of China for not supporting the sanctions against the military dictatorship in Myanmar that the US tried to get the UN to impose. However, the real purpose of the sanctions was not to target Myanmar but to get at China.

The Chinese want a pipeline across Myanmar to bring oil overland to China so that they can bypass the Straits of Malacca which is presently the route for much of the oil on its way by ship to China. If the US should close the straits it could cripple the Chinese economy. The trans Myanmar pipeline is China's answer.

The sanctions the US proposed to the Security Council called for the suspension of any NEW pipelines for Myanmar but allowed Chevron and Total S.A. [headquarted in Paris, Total is the 4th largest oil company in the world] to continue to operate in the country free of sanctions. Russia, India and Indonesia, among others, were also against the sanctions. The Russian veto would have killed them alone.

The criticism of China is misplaced.

from PAEditors Blog

Thursday, October 25, 2007


by Thomas Riggins

The philosopher Jerry Fodor is rightfully upset with some of the nonsense coming out of Academia disguised as science and dressed up in arguments purportedly derived from Darwin’s theory of evolution. Lots of nonsense put forth under the guise of “evolutionary psychology” is a good example. Here complex behavioral patterns of humans today are explained as inherited traits from our animal past or traits that we evolved when we were hunter gathers on the African savannah.

As an example, capitalism, for instance, is often justified, or explained, as a part of “human nature” [as is war, male supremacy, and “innate” racial differences in intelligence] inherited from our remote past. These claims, among others, have led Dr. Fodor to question Darwin’s theory that the mechanism driving evolution is “natural selection”.

This article will look at his arguments as presented in “Why Pigs Don’t Have Wings” from the 18 October 2007 issue of The London Review of Books. I will try to establish that his arguments against natural selection are not convincing and are based on a mechanical interpretation of Darwin that is a characteristic of contemporary Western thought. That when Darwin is read dialectically, as he was by Marx and Engels (Cf. Engels’ Dialectics of Nature) the objections to natural selection as the main motor of evolutionary change evaporate.

Fodor tells has that natural selection “purports to characterize the mechanism not just of the formation of species, but of all evolutionary changes in the innate properties of organisms.” An organism’s phenotype [“the inventory of its heritable traits, including, notably, its heritable mental traits “ is an adaptation to its environment.

The rub here is “mental traits.” Physical traits can be mapped on the genome and have some basis in material reality. This is much harder to do with so called mental traits. Most all of the current nonsense about evolutionary explanations of human behavior based on inherited mental traits is the result of idle speculation concerning hypothetical genes that could, maybe, be responsible for the behaviors in question. At most, however, we can only discuss the capacities that humans have inherited. The vast majority of specific behaviors are better explained by external causes, mostly of cultural and historical origin, which have nothing to do with an organism's phenotype. Nor did Darwin, I think, suggest otherwise.

Adaptation works this way. Organisms are living in an environment and competing for food and reproductive success. Some type of genetic mutation comes along [a cosmic ray zaps one of its genes say] that gives the organism a slight edge in finding a mate and reproducing. More babies carrying the new gene show up in the next generation, etc (providing the gene is inheritable). Eventually all the organisms have the new characteristic: a new species. This is very simple, but you get the idea. It doesn’t have to be a new species. It could be a gene for eye color and so you just have variation within a species, for example.

Now Fodor says that Darwin’s theory has two components. The sequence of changing phenotypes, we can see the connection phenotypically, genetically, that puts baboons in our family tree. No doubt about that. But how did that happen? It is the answer “by natural selection” that he wants to question. No, he is not a creationist. He is looking for a purely scientific answer, not mysticism, to replace natural selection because he sees flaws in that explanation. Flaws that I will attempt to show do not exist.

Fodor reports that there is something that “ails” us a species living in the contemporary world. Marxists agree and attribute it to our economic arrangements-- i.e., capitalism and its logical consequent of human exploitation for profit which leads to imperialism and war. Fodor says the Darwinists explain the problem by saying we inherited a mind adapted for life 30,000 years ago and is unequipped to live in the complex world of today. He will attack natural selection because he thinks this Darwinist answer is wrong.

But this is not Darwin’s answer at all. It is modern misinterpretation of Darwin that has arisen as a refection on the modern world in societies which, due to the class nature of science and education, do not fundamentally challenge the prevailing order [TINA] and thus reject ab initio a Marxist reading of evolution.

What ails humanity is for Darwinists, according to Fodor, "that the kind of mind we have is an anachronism; it was selected for by an ecology that no longer exists." This being the case, Fodor says, "if the theory of natural selection turned out not to be true, that would cut the ground from under the Darwinist diagnosis of our malaise."

Fodor is right about that. But it is wrong to think that natural selection has provided us with an anachronistic "mind". The so called Darwinists who argue that way are very far from Darwin or any scientific understanding of the human brain.

What natural selection has provided us with is a brain with the capacity to adapt the organism to many different social and cultural climates. It is no more the product of events 30,000 years ago on savannas then it is of modern industrial societies. As far as anyone can say it also has the capacities to adapt to future social and cultural conditions as yet unimaginable. There is no need to reject natural selection "to cut the ground from under the Darwinist diagnosis" because the characterization given by Fodor, while maintained by many social "scientists" and some shallow schools of "evolutionary psychology", is a totally unscientific version of "Darwinism."

But suppose as a matter of fact natural selection is still incorrect. Fodor says it has two problems that might undermine it: one is conceptual, the other is empirical ("more or less.") Let's look at these two.

I must admit, I don't really see the conceptual problem. Here is what Fodor says it is. Natural selection can be seen as holding that "environments select creatures for their fitness; or you can say that environments select traits for their fitness." But I wouldn't say that environments "select" anything. Organisms ("creatures") are born into environments and their ability to survive and reproduce depends on the traits they have. If a frog has a mutation giving it three legs it may not live to reproduce. If it has a mutation making it resistant to a virus that infects and kills frogs that trait may allow it to reproduce better than other frogs.

Is not it confusing to talk of "forces of selection," as does Fodor.? "These forces must select individual creatures on the one hand, but on the other they must select traits" since it is phenotypes ("bundles of heritable traits") "whose evolution selection theory purports to explain."

This whole discussion of a "conceptual problem", of a mechanical contradiction invalidating natural selection, is itself a conceptual problem [a category mistake], or better a terminological one. Let's get rid of needless metaphysical entities such as "environments making selections". and "forces." Next, consider that "phenotypes" are not real existing separate entities. They are intellectual abstractions that we as scientists or philosophers use to describe the workings of our theoretical explanations for what we find in nature. Only the organisms exist.

I think, therefore, that the conceptual problem is bogus. I will therefore skip over the rest of the conceptual discussion, which concerns itself with Venetian, architecture, Darwin's analogy between selective breeding techniques and natural selection (and Adam Gopnik's New Yorker article about the same), and associated problems with metaphors such as God and Mother Nature.

Let us now turn to the empirical problem. It is not so much a problem as an "issue" for Fodor. He starts by saying that as a matter of fact some new empirical explanations for evolution are being proposed that do not base the mechanism of change on natural selection. He says he can't discuss all of these new ideas but will give us a "feel" for two of them.

First, Fodor points out that "phenotypes don't occur at random"-- i.e., for me that means we don't group organisms together arbitrarily. We group them together because of the similarity we see, or think we see, between organisms. Because, for example, all the animals we see in what we call the cat family are more similar to each other in ways than they are to organisms we classify as members of the dog family we conclude they have an evolutionary connection and their membership in the same family is non-random.

Fodor says the nonrandomness of the phenotypes is due to the nonrandomness of the environment. He tells us the "theory of natural selection in a nutshell" is if the nonrandomness we see between phenotypes [i.e., organisms] and their environments isn't due to God, "PERHAPS [my emphasis] it is a reflection of the orderliness of the environment in which the phenotypes [i.e., the organisms-tr] evolved." In other words a fossil fish may indicate that there was a watery environment, and a fossil bird would suggest an environment conducive to flight.

But, Fodor says, "this is not the only possibility." "External environments are structured in all sorts of ways, but so too, are the insides of the creatures that inhabit them" [natural selection may have something to do with this-- tr]." There is another possibility, an alternative to the view that phenotypes [our mental constructions based on knowledge of real organisms-tr] reflect the environments they evolve in, "namely that they carry implicit information about the endogenous structure of the creatures whose phenotypes they are."

"Whose" is a possessive and we should remember that it is organisms that "possess" phenotypes not the other way around. But let us grant "phenotypes" the same ontological status as organisms. Fodor has not really put forward an alternative view. This view, by the way he refers to as "Evo-Devo" (evolutionary-developmental theory).

Darwin's theory of natural selection regarding an organism's response to the environment, and evo-devo, the organism's internal structure are two sides of the same coin. They are not alternative explanations, but, as Marxist dialectics would have it, they are a unity in difference.

Gene theory developed after Darwin. So now we know that the mechanism by which natural selection's response to the environment, takes place is by changes in the genetic make up of the organism. How, or what, causes the genes to change is another question. Fodor has a reduction to biochemistry down to quantum mechanics ("for all I know."

This is pointless as far as the theory of natural selection is concerned. The organism either adapts to its environment and successfully reproduces itself or it becomes extinct. So when Fodor says, it is "an entirely empirical question to what extent exogenous variables are what shape phenotypes; and it's entirely possible that adaptationism [natural selection] is the wrong answer" he is way off base. The inner and the outer (genome and environment) are two aspects of the same thing-- the living organism.

Now Fodor asks a very strange question. Granted that when we ask Darwin why two phenotypes (organisms) are similar this can be explained by common ancestry. But what if you ask "why is it that some phenotypes don't occur, an adaptationist explanation often sounds somewhere between implausible and preposterous." If you ask, that is, why some sort of organism did NOT evolve natural selection can't give a satisfying answer. How would natural selection explain why there are no pigs with wings?

Fodor says they lack wings "because there is no place on pigs to put them." You would have to "redesign pigs radically" to have them have wings. Natural selection won't let you go back "and retrofit feathers" [of course mammals don't need feathers to fly]. For Fodor, this means there are constraints "on what phenotypes can evolve that aren't explained by natural selection." This is just so wrong.

Natural selection explains perfectly well why pigs don't have wings. Again it is pigs, not "phenotypes" that lack genes for wings. Lets look at the real question. Why do bats have wings. Bats and pigs are both mammals and they at one time shared (with many other kinds of animals) a common ancestor. The common ancestor to bats and pigs, et al, was a much more generalized animal to any of its many descendants.

Natural selection says that mutations with positive adaptive (reproductive) values that happened to the common ancestor and its offspring gave rise to all of its descendants different mutations leading to different adaptations to the many possible environments which these animals could live in. Bats have wings and pig's don't because the organisms that eventually turned into bats and pigs had genetic changes that allowed them to exploit different parts of our common earthly environment.

Fodor's question doesn't really make sense. Why don't pigs have wings is the same as asking why didn't pigs become bats. Or why are there pigs? Natural selection also answers the related question as to why horses don't have a single horn on their foreheads.

Fodor calls this kind of speculation "channeling." But all the restraints that have been placed on pigs to prevent them from flying have been channeled by the operations of natural selection. How would natural selection take place in order to result in a flying mammal? It is to the bat genome, not the pig genome that we should look. So much, I think, for the "feel" of the first alternative to natural selection. It really ends up supporting natural selection.

Let us look at Fodor's second alternative and get a "feel" for it as well. Fodor thinks that evolutionary traits that come about by natural selection are supposed to enhance fitness. So if a suite of traits shows up in the evolutionary record that doesn't enhance fitness, something must be wrong with the theory of natural selection.

He discusses a forty year experiment to breed tameness into silver foxes. The experiment was successful and after thirty generations of inbreeding a strain of very tame foxes was the result. But besides tameness the foxes had many other new traits as well-- floppy ears, short curly tails, short legs. etc.

He thinks this is evidence against adaptationism (natural selection). He says, "the ancillary phenotypic effects of selection for tameness seem to be perfectly arbitrary. In particular, they apparently aren't adaptations; there isn't any teleological explanation-- any explanation in terms of fitness-- as to why domesticated animals tend to have floppy ears [cats?]."

In the first place these foxes did not come about by natural selection, but by deliberate breeding. All tame foxes were bred by human design so any "ancillary" traits were bred also (who knows if they would have survived by unaided natural selective processes.

In the second place, natural selection's main point is that positive traits that further reproductive success will tend to be propagated, negative traits that hinder reproductive traits will tend to be eliminated, and neutral traits may or may not be eliminated. A neutral trait like floppy ears, associated with a positive trait like tameness (in the experiment) will get a free ride as a neutral trait even without a positive adaptive function.

There is nothing strange or mysterious about this. It is standard operating procedure in Darwin's theory of natural selection. Although Fodor definitely would not agree, the floppy ears and other reproductively neutral traits are flukes.

I think nothing in his article poses either conceptual or empirical problems for the theory of evolution by means of natural selection as proposed by Darwin. As far as evolutionary psychologists and sociobiologists are concerned, let them come up with specific genes located in the human genome for the characteristics they claim humans exhibit as a result of living in a primitive savanna like environment in the prehistoric origins of the species. The springs of human behavior are not frozen in the past.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Thomas Riggins

Some reflections on the current Turkey/PKK standoff in Northern Iraq. If Turkey wants to end PKK attacks it might try, as a first measure, extending full citizen and human rights to the Kurdish population of Turkey. The Kurds are not allowed to freely use their language. A people's culture and traditions can not be preserved and respected if the state persecutes them with regard to the use of their national language.

Turkey should end efforts at forced assimilation of Kurdish children to "Turkishness" and other efforts at cultural genocide. Turkey should also end policies of violent repression of peaceful manifestations of Kurdish nationalism.

Where there is smoke there is fire. National minorities do not rise up and rebel unless the state engages in unfair repressive policies. If the Turkish state is serious about wanting social peace and ethnic harmony it will begin serious negotiations with the PKK and other national and ethnic opposition groups to make Turkey a nation it which all of its citizens have equal rights [and not the equal right to only be "Turkish"] and that all national groups have equal rights and equal treatment-- not just the Kurds but also Armenians and Pontic Greeks among others.

On the other hand, if all Turkey wants to do is oppress and exploit its national minorities then by all means choose the George Bush option and throw your military against them. You will eventually reap the whirlwind.
from PAEditorsBlog

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Thomas Riggins

According to the New York Times (10-18-07) , Ye Xiaowen, the director general of China's State Administration for Religious Affairs called the giving of the Congressional Gold Medal to Tenzin Gyatso (the 14th Dalai Lama) "a farce."

Was it a farce? President Bush was on hand and called the DL, "a man of faith and sincerity and peace." Well we know something of the "faith" of the President, and his "sincerity" as well, and his attitude about "peace". What did the DL think of being praised by a war monger responsible for the cruel and senseless deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, especially when many, if not most, were women and children. Did the DL speak up for peace and denounce this senseless war? Did he rebuke the President in the name of humanity, of the Buddha of Compassion, did he make a plea to end the killing?

What did he think when the Congress gave him a standing ovation and praised him for his "humanitarian achievements." The same Congress that funds Bush and his immoral slaughter of the Iraqi people. The same Congress that is complicit, along with President Bush, of killing, maiming and destroying the Iraqi nation to the same, if not to a far greater degree than his supporters allege the Chinese have done to Tibet. He doesn't even want independence from China, so he must know how far, far more terrible are the actions of his hosts.

So how did this "good man", this "man of peace" react when he was paraded before these criminals and war enablers, these hypocrites and blood stained agents of oppression and conquest? He "beamed and bowed." A farce? You tell me.

from PAEditorsBlog

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why the Democrats Have Problems with their Base

Online at: http://politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/6009/1/290/

By Thomas Riggins

10-17-07, 9:32 am

The Friday New York Times (10-12-07) has an interesting article by David M. Herszenhorn (“Party’s Liberal Base Proves Trying to Democrats Back in Power’). It is remarkable that an article like this appears but not one about a disjunction between the Republicans and their base. Maybe later.

The focus of the article is on the Congressional Democrats who came back to power as a result of the 2006 elections. Now that Dems are back in control of Congress why do they, seemingly unlike their Republican counterparts, have problems with their base?

Both parties are heavily dependent on corporate funding and are unduly influenced by lobbying groups which represent conservative forces allied with big business and the military-industrial complex (MIC). The Democrats also have support from unions, environmental groups, much of the gay community and organizations supporting liberal causes of various sorts.

Until recently the country has been run basically by a bipartisan consensus forged during the Cold War. On issues of national defense and foreign policy the two parties were in tandem on anti-communism and building up the military at the expense of domestic programs. The Democrats, however, did try to defend and create domestic programs that would marginally help the poor and the working class, but not at the expense of the overall bipartisan consensus.

When the Republicans took over both houses of Congress during the Clinton years, they effectively cut the Democrats out of decision making process and ran the legislative branch as an ultra-right one party monopoly. They passed many reactionary bills and engaged in symbolic gestures, tying up the business of the House and Senate, even when they knew they could not muster the votes to achieve their objectives.

The most egregious example was the farce of the Clinton Impeachment which was staged even though the Republicans lacked the necessary votes in the Senate to remove Clinton from office. Nevertheless “theatre” was important for them in two ways. To bolster their bona fides with their base and to signal to the most reactionary elements of the MIC that they were truly their hired hands.

So what is the problem with the Democrats? Herszenhorn’s article opens with a dispute between Rep. Barney Frank (the openly gay Mass. Dem.) and gay rights organizations over his removal of “gender identity” coverage from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. As a result, while gay men and lesbians would be protected in their jobs, transsexuals and transgendered people apparently would not.

Frank’s rationale is that the bill would not pass without the change. The NYT says that there is “almost no chance” that Bush would sign the bill so the whole exercise is symbolic. Frank thinks it is better to have a flawed bill presented to the President than a politically correct bill defeated by the conservatives. “This is a moment of truth for responsible liberals in the Democratic Party.” he says.

But to put forward a “non-discrimination” bill, which won’t become a law in any case, and which leaves out a significant portion of people who need its protection, just to curry the votes of some reactionaries who will be more than happy to appear “open minded” with respect to a bill that is dead in the water in any case, is, I think, political cowardice. It is similar to putting forth a civil rights group but leaving out a particular minority because it is politically expedient.

When a bill is not going to become a law anyway, the base has a right to have its representatives stand up for principle. Its has a right to see who supports non-discrimination and who only opportunistically will vote for a watered down bill to curry, hypocritically, political favor.

Just as important as people’s right to know where every one stands on this issue, is the issue of the Iraq war and what the Democratic base can rightfully demand of the Democrats in Congress. It is pretty clear that the 2006 election returned the Democrats to power with a mandate to get us out of Iraq. It is also clear that the Democratic Congress is not fully acting on that mandate and is making unprincipled concessions to Bush and his supporters. Why is this the case?

The Congressional Democrats say they are just being realistic and can't do more on the war. But they do have the power of not send spending bills to the floor and could halt all funding for the war if the President does not agree to set firm withdrawal dates. There is a threat that Lieberman could defect to the Republicans and the Senate would revert to Republican control. But the House could still end the war by refusing to let funding out of committee.

An even greater reason for their inaction is, I fear, their intimate connection with the MIC. American corporations are making billions out of this war. It is not just weapons supply, but there are contracts for clothing, uniforms, construction, vehicles, private security firms, food supply, recreation, etc., and don't forget the big oil firms and their satellite industries. Without support and backing from the MIC most, though not all, members of Congress could not raise the funds necessary to run their election and re-election campaigns and this leads, ultimately, to the excuse for tempered behavior and bipartisanship.

Rep. Adam H. Putnam (chairman of the House Republican Conference) makes the interesting comment that new Democrats in the House, "who actually won seats in districts that voted for Bush, in conservative- moderate districts, having nothing in common with Code Pink or MoveOn" and have contradictions with the liberals who gave the time and money to win the 2006 elections.

"The base turns on them in every single case," Putnam said, "So at some point they have to stop falling into the trap of constantly playing to the base and try to solve problems." This doesn't even make sense. If you are playing to your base why would your base turn on you? For Putnam, "solving problems" means, forget why you were elected (to oust the Republicans) and start compromising on the issues you were elected to address.

And its not just gay issues or the war. The Democrats are joining the Republicans in all sorts of reactionary alliances. The article reports that, "To the delight of Republicans" tensions that the Congressional Democrats have with their base "has also played a role in a host of other issues, including a fight over increased fuel economy standards in the energy bill, and demands for more spending on environmental programs in the farm bill."

Its nice to know, with all we now know about global warming and its relation to gas and co2 emissions from cars, that the Republicans are "delighted" to vote AGAINST increased fuel economy standards, and the Democrats, no doubt to honor their own Al Gore on his recent Nobel Peace Prize for fighting for the environment, are joining with the them. Its always profits before people with the big industries.

In the case of fuel economy Speaker Pelosi was supposedly "thwarted" by fellow Democrat John D. Dingell who was against reduced pollution from auto emissions because organized labor "tied to the auto industry" was also against them. There is some truth to this as the UAW has opposed some fuel efficiency standards because they think they would cost auto workers their jobs. This is a case where neither side's first concern is the environment. It is hard to see, however, how the Speaker could have been "thwarted" had she really been determined.

The Democratic base was also disappointed when Ms. Pelosi left "most of the subsidies intact" in the federal farm subsidy program. This is a program that favors large corporate agribusiness and no doubt "delighted" the Republicans once again.

So, the reason Democrats in Congress have problems with their base is that, unlike the Republicans, they really have two bases. The Republicans are based in the MIC and the right conservative forces which the MIC spawns. The Democrats are also based in the MIC and to a lesser degree with right anti-communist forces allied with the MIC, but they also have a large base of liberals and TINA "progressives" who seek to use the party to make basic reforms in the capitalist system.

On the stump many Democrats have to appeal to this latter base for votes, but once in office they are dependent on the former for the funds and influence necessary for re-election. If the Democrats are to play any progressive role in the coming years they will need to be pushed to the left by mass actions. As it stands today, the Party may be over confident with respect to the 2008 elections. If the Congressional Democrats fail to satisfy their liberal base, the base that put them in office in 2006, they may be in for a nasty reality check in 2008.

Monday, October 15, 2007


MAO: A LIFE by Philip Short, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2000. 782pp. [Part 13]
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

This is an important work. Over the next few weeks I will be making entries one chapter at a time (there are sixteen). Comments are invited, especially from anyone who has read the book and wants to critique my take on a chapter, but anyone is welcome to comment.

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.

from PAEditosBlog

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


MAO: A LIFE by Philip Short, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2000. 782pp. [Part 12]
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

This is an important work. Over the next few weeks I will be making entries one chapter at a time (there are sixteen). Comments are invited, especially from anyone who has read the book and wants to critique my take on a chapter, but anyone is welcome to comment.

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."

[from PAEditorsBlog]

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


by Thomas Riggins

Seymour Hersh is back with another New Yorker article (“Shifting Targets: The Administration’s plan for Iran,” issue of October 8, 2007). It seems that the Iran plan has changed a bit since his last article, six or seven months ago,appeared.[An article about it is in the blog archives] Hersh isn’t sure that Iran will be attacked, but there is certainly a hugh military build up taking place. Since there is no real evidence that Iran is making the Bomb, the new rationale for attack is that Iran is attacking us!

Here is a quote from Bush in August of this year: “Shia extremists, backed by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi people ... I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.”

Hersh’s article makes it clear that Bush is just fabricating these charges to con the American people into supporting his policies. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki (who is kept in power by American troops) has given the lie to Bush’s allegations by stating that Iranian and Iraqi relations were “improved to the point that they are not interfering in our internal affairs.” It seems its only Bush who is interfering in Iraq’s “internal affairs” [leaving the war out of account] by, for instance, keeping the really murderous Blackwater mercenaries in theatre and paying off this ultra-right Republican corporation will millions in tax payer money.

The President’s supporters can only try to build support for his policies by the most outlandish and even stupid arguments. Norman Podhoretz, a notorious right wing hack who is always given media coverage, is quoted by Hersh as writing that Iranian President Ahmadinejad is “like Hitler ... whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it ... with a new order dominated by Iran.” Podhoretz thinks we must attack Iran, and, he gets to meet with Bush!

Now, granted that Iran is not the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, but the idea that Iran is out to dominate the world is so ridiculous that Podhoretz has only succeeded in making a fool out of himself. Unfortunately, it appears that he has the ear of another fool as Hersh quotes him as saying “Bush is going to hit” Iran. As I said, Hersh isn’t sure about this. He writes, “I was repeatedly cautioned, in interviews, that the President has yet to issue the ‘execute order’ that would be required for a military operation inside Iran, and such an order may never be issued.” Lets hope Bush keeps his head.

By the way, this article throws some light on the Gen. Petraeus “Betray Us”
flap. If the general lies to the Congress to create a pretext for attacking Iran, then “Betray Us” or “Betray U.S.” would be an appropriate nickname.
Well, here is what he told Congress. Hersh quotes him as saying Iran is waging “a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.”
But we saw above that the leader of the Iraqi state says that Iran is not interfering in Iraq. Petraeus out and out lied to the Congress and the American people. He should be stripped of his stars and dishonorably discharged before his actions cause the death of more American soldiers and Iraqi civilians.

This article points out that all the main charges against Iran that Bush is harping about (and that his tin pot general mostly repeats)-- trying to get the Bomb, supplying the “enemy” with weapons, and sending agents into the country are all dubious and unproved.

Hersh gives three reasons for the shift away from emphasis on Iran's nuclear ambitions to its providing weapons to the insurgents fighting the U.S. 1.) the American people are not buying the nuclear threat hype, 2.) our intelligence agencies insist that Iran is at least 5 years away from making a bomb [if that is what they are up to], 3.) it seems "that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq." It seems to me that this last reason is the biggest reason motivating Bush and his supporters.

Hersh points out that "The crux of the Bush Administration's strategic dilemma is that its decision to back a Shiite-led government after the fall of Saddam has empowered Iran, and made it impossible to exclude Iran from the Iraqi political scene."

It was the decision to invade and occupy Iraq in the first place, I think, that was flawed That decision was made by people profoundly ignorant of the history and the nature of the countries and peoples of the region. It was also made by people who are arrogant and have not even learned from our own history. Ignorance and arrogance go together. President Bush should check out Proverbs 16:18. As we all know, after Korea, Gen. MacArthur reputedly said the US should never get involved in a land war in Asia. Then followed the disaster in Vietnam and now Iraq.

One of Hersh"s sources tells him one reason Bush is bogged down and losing in Iraq is his failure to do the things that could help him succeed, such as engaging positively with Syria and Iran (as was proposed by the Iraq Study Group). Another points out that the type of bombing plan the Pentagon would engage in, if ordered by Bush, can't work without good intelligence on which targets to hit. The U.S. has no such reliable intelligence. Attacking Iran will further complicate the situation for the U.S. in Iraq and just make a bigger mess for whomever has to clean up after Bush is out of office.

Everyone should try to get a copy of Hersh's article to read. I have only presented a few of its high lights. The article itself gives ample evidence that the case against Iran is very weak and mostly contrived. Pressure has to be increased on the Congress to try and rein Bush and his generals in before they can create an even bigger catastrophe in the Middle East. Congress can stop them, it simply lacks the courage and will to do so. So the people must apply the pressure to shore up our so-called representatives. Congress should go on record now that Iran cannot be attacked without its explicit consent. The war powers must be taken back and reside in the Congress as intended by the Founders.

[originally from Political Affairs on-line]

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Thomas Riggins

Who doesn't remember the scandalous murders of 17 "apparently unarmed Iraqis" [New York Times 10-05-07] in Haditha two years ago by American marines run amok? The "apparently unarmed" civilians include at least seven "apparently unarmed" women and children. Now the military is investigating itself. ["Investigator Said to Find Case Against Marine Weak" by Paul von Zielbauer, ibid.]

The military investigator assigned to the case has been recommending that murder charges be dismissed against the troops he has been assigned to investigate. One of the reasons the case is "weak", according to the New York Times is "that murder charges against marines could harm the morale of troops still in Iraq."

By that logic no murder charges should ever be brought against rogue elements in the military. Not only that, but this reasoning could lead to an increase in illegal killings as the troops get the message that they will not be held accountable for murder.

This will also increase resentment against the troops and lead to more American casualties. Lets just get the troops out ASAP and put an end to Bush's cowboy war fantasies.
from PAEditorsBlog

Why Can't They Just Say It?

Headlines, the New York Times 10-4-07 "Secret U.S. Endorsement of Severe Interrogations."
Why can't 'The newspaper of record' just put it out there: "Secret U.S. Endorsement of Torture."
If we beat around the Bush we will end up never finding out the truth. Oh, I forgot, the Mets lost.
[Thomas Riggins, from PA Editors Blog]

Friday, October 05, 2007


Thomas Riggins

11 Long term health insurance companies, including the three biggest [Genworth Financial, Conseco, and Penn Treaty), have been asked by Congress why so many policies of the elderly are being "mishandled."

According to the New York Times there are procedures "that make it difficult, if not impossible, for some policy holders to be paid." Some people suspect that the companies are more interested in profit than in the well being of the policy holders. It has even been claimed that the companies have no intention of honoring their health policies, they only want the money and deliberately reject claims on bogus charges.

Complaints by the elderly have risen 92% in the last six years, and when independently reviewed the majority of claim denials have been overturned and the companies had to pay.

"This is a pattern of ERROR not typically found in other lines of health- related insurance" according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The joke is the use of the word "Error". There is no "error", in my opinion, but a deliberate abuse of the elderly to make them suffer and die so the companies can make big bucks. But that's the free market for you.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


by Thomas Riggins

One of the best arguments for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq can be based on our own self-interests. The fact that we are murdering and killing Iraqis and destroying their country and culture does not seem to impress the political class in the US. Only a few Congress people even seem to be aware of it. The way the Senate stumbled over itself in defending Gen. Betrayus is a case in point.

So here is an argument calculated to appeal to our own self-interest. We want to have an army we can depend upon and an officer corps we can respect. The Iraq war shows we have neither. This is fairly well known to those who have been following the war and know the type of men and women who are willing to serve as officers under Bush. Not only do they care more about advancing their careers than their duty, but they use the regular troops, the grunts and GIs, as pawns for their career advancement, even turning them into common murderers when it suits their purposes.

I am in no way disparaging the common soldiers and national guard troops, but the officer corps is, I think, totally corrupt from Betrayus on down and needs to be purged in conjunction with the impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

I submit as evidence the following article from the New York Times of 9-28-07 which shows in microcosm what is happening in a larger scale throughout the military, namely, officers ordering and pressuring the troops to kill noncombatants, then covering up for themselves and holding the soldiers responsible for the misdeeds. The article, by Paul von Zielbauer, is entitled “Testimony in Court-Martial Describes a Sniper Squad Pressed to Raise Body Counts.”

According to the NYT, Army Field Manual 23-10 says that “A sniper must not be susceptible to emotions such as anxiety or remorse.” The sniper is also taught to “calmly and deliberately” kill people including people who are not threatening him. These are also the characteristics of a socio-pathic serial killer, so what type of training has the military cooked up that we don’t know about? The snipers are going to be under a lot of pressure because human beings (excepting psychopaths and sociopaths) cannot be made immune to the emotions of anxiety and remorse.

There was a court-martial in Iraq last week of a sniper accused of killing innocent Iraqis (he was found not guilty of murder but of planting evidence -- most likely following orders). The following information came out in the proceedings. Snipers testified they "were pushed beyond limits by battalion commanders eager to raise their kill ratio against a ruthless enemy." Of course, both sides are "ruthless" with respect to one another. But "eager to raise their kill ratios" should tell you the army will be killing a lot of civilians to get these ratios up so the officers can look good to their superiors.

The article notes that at a separate hearing in July a soldier testified that snipers sensed "an underlying tone" of, as the Times reports, "disappointment from field commanders seeking higher enemy body counts." The soldier said, with respect to not killing enough people, "It just kind of felt like, 'What are you guys doing wrong out there?'". The troops are trying to do their jobs-- engage the enemy. The officers don't want that-- they just want bodies.

This is Catch 22. The insurgency is supposed to be going down, so there should be less insurgents around to kill, but the officers reputations, in their minds (and in the 'kill 'em all' culture of the Pentagon), depend on killing more people. What to do?

How are they going to look good by killing more people if there are less bad guys around? A simple solution. They can entrap innocent civilians, kill them, get credit for being outstanding officers, and blame the grunts if something goes wrong. Some day they may even get four stars! Why the Senate may even pass resolutions condemning American citizens for questioning and disrespecting their military overlords.

Here is what the battalion commanders decided to do. They would plant "bait" consisting of "fake explosives and detonation wires" around an area [of course they knew curious civilians and poor people scavenging for scrap would be lured towards this bait] then anyone picking up the bait could be killed and the US Army would get the credit (the officers involved, that is) for killing "the enemy." We have already been told that "real" insurgents don't depend on scraps to make their explosives, they come ready made from Iran. It seems whole countries can be set up just as easily as poor Iraqis.

The officers also "sought less restrictive rules of engagement--- to legalize the combat killing of anyone who made a soldier 'feel threatened' [i.e., any Iraqi from 8 to 80], for example, instead of showing intent or actions...." This shows that killing for the sake of killing was the goal of the officers, not anything remotely related to "legitimate" warfare. Well, not just for the sake of killing, but to make the officers look good an extra ribbon or two for all that blood couldn't hurt your career prospects. How many careers were made by killing Vietnamese peasants , how many war heroes were made by bombing people from 50,000 feet. Why can't Iraqi workers and peasants blood serve the same purpose? What better way to live up to Duty, Honor, Country?

Now that this is out in the open we can expect the blame to fall on this or that rogue GI, the officers will circle the wagons, the war will go on, new techniques of baiting and fishing for men will be devised, and exposed, until this criminal war is brought to an end. Its going to be up to the American people to do this as quickly as possible and not wait for the Iraqis to drive us out. There has been too much blood shed already, the blood of our troops and the Iraqis, too much blood shed for oil and the career goals of thugs with stars and eagles on their shoulders.

Thomas Riggins is the book review editor of Political Affairs and can be reached at pabooks@politicalaffairs.net

Monday, October 01, 2007


MAO: A LIFE by Philip Short, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2000. 782pp. [Part 11]
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

This is an important work and the editor's blog is a good place to discuss it as a preliminary to a review article for PA. Over the next few weeks I will be making entries one chapter at a time (there are sixteen). Comments are invited, especially from anyone who has read the book and wants to critique my take on a chapter, but anyone is welcome to comment.

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.

from PAEditorsBlog