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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Drifting Towards Maoism

Excerpts from my latest book, The Journals Of A
21 Century Schizoid Man;

-សតិវ អតុ
This is a fictional book, yet it does include some journals I wrote while considering my own personal background. Names have been changed to protect old friends;

From, Drifting Towards Maoism;

Some background;

Since the 1960s, after World War II, the US set out to destroy any credibility to the new socialist governments of Asia, or “Kampoochia.” The idea was to mix what Americans think of Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Kim Il Sung and later, Pol Pot as nothing more than mass murderers, who are all just the same.
These countries did not come up with the kind of liberal democracies people were used to in the west, but they also didn’t create corporate leaders and economic giants that the western leaders expected and planned to rely on. Also, the idea that the poor and working class people were ever equal in value to the people of wealthy classes seemed like, what Satanism is to Christianity, to our leaders in the US and much of Western Europe.
In the US, we lived in a society that believes in corporate leaders who run the economy and a socialist system was just not in tune with such a society.

Chile-Salvador Allende—Marxist democracy

My first lesson that it was not just about democracy was the Chilean Regime of Salvador Allende. He was elected in 1970 and called for mild socialist reforms. So why was so much attention given to this government by US President Richard Nixon or Henry Kissinger? After all, there was less political liberty in Cuba. Chile did improve its relations with Cuba.
But Nixon and Kissinger seemed obsessed with getting rid of the government in Chile. It finally took a violent coup by a Military Dictator Augusto Pinochet, to overthrow the democracy and restore the captains of industry back to power in Chile. To do this, Pinochet outlawed all political parties, closed all branches of the government leadership and set himself up as an absolute dictator.  A large number of people jailed or murdered to restore all of this just didn’t seem to bother Nixon or Kissinger.

So was the cold war really about democracy or was it mainly capitalist control of the economy. Experience eventually taught me it was the latter. Democracy was not a contradiction to socialism. In fact the opposite might be true.
It was during my days at Kansas University, when I lived there in the 1970s, that I met some members of the Iranian Student Association. I read Mao Zedong’s  (毛泽东)Five Essays on Philosophy. It was Asghar, one of the Iranian students I met, that I got to know, who taught me a lot about Maoism..
I began to study other Maoist writings in my spare time. Asghar and I enjoyed discussing Maoism and other Marxist ideas when we had the time.

As I read some more books on Mao I realized he was interested in including democracy and involving the people in his revolution. After a while I realized he was one of the best Marxist writers who ever ran a country.

I realized that Mao did believe in democracy, even though the system was also a dictatorship. But it was not a complete dictatorship. It had many aspects of democracy. There were even party factions and debates among them. So once again I realized that Marxism does not contradict democracy. In fact, in reality, the more I studied US democracy the more I realize this is not a very democratic country at all.
In a country of inexperienced revolutionaries, such as Mao, who had just won control of China, through a bloody civil war, it was easy to for western scholars and politicians to throw out numbers of dead people and make it look Mao was just a mass murderer, such as Adolf Hitler.
But those who took the time to look at what was really going on saw something completely different. Since he came to power through a bloody revolution, Mao has been portrayed as a mass murder that supposedly killed at least 10 million people. How or why he supposedly killed all these people is rarely explained by those who make such claims. I learned a long time ago that his main crime was caring about the common people and not setting up captains of industry, as was expected by all the major western leaders, especially in the US.

If human rights are really the difference between capitalism and socialism there are plenty of examples of human rights violations by the capitalist US and other western governments. There’s the Bombing of Dresden, World War II, done only to punish the German people. The US has been the only country to drop atomic bombs on an enemy nation, Japan.
Native American Indians were not considered citizens of the United State of America until 1924. They were here before any Europeans came. They were here before the founding of this country about 1776 and yet it was almost 200 years before the country they lived in granted them citizenship.
Slavery had to be ended by one of the bloodiest wars in US history, with an estimated death told of 750,000 people on both sides.
President Abraham Lincoln ordered General Ulysses Grant to use a slash and burn approach to areas the Union Army took control of. The policy included looting and burning people’s homes and farms, destroying everything capture by the Union Army that could not be taken and used. By today’s standards that would be considered war crimes.
Black people didn’t get their civil rights to vote and equal treatment until the 1960s. In parts of the country we had legal lynch laws, that allowed crowd to lynch anyone they felt was doing something outrageous. The overwhelming numbers of people lynched were Afro-Americans. The last person lynched was in 1968.
So when it comes to human rights, the US and its western allies are often “calling the kettle black.” The US and other western countries have had their own share of human rights abuses.

Theory rather than just history

For many of us, Mao was among the most important Marxist theoretician in the 20th century. Unlike other Marxist theoreticians, he had run a country for many years and led a successful revolution, so he had actual experience to rely on, rather than just theory.
No leader is perfect, but I think there is little doubt among many of us that he was one of the best leaders the 20th century had to offer. He is still liked and respected in China today for his contributions to the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Many Chinese people still look up to him, with respect and admiration today.
His theories have spread across most of Asia today, parts of South America, and parts of Europe. Even in the US there is a revival of Maoism in various forms. There are many US web sites and blogs that are expressing pro-Maoist views. Many of these people can now get in touch with each other and hold dialogs as to how we can change this country. The Kasama Project is one blog that is actually Maoist, but trying to build dialog between various left trends to try and look at strategies for this new century. One of their main goals is studying ways of spreading our influence and appeal to the common man, who in this country is little more than a consumer oriented wage slave.
Mao the leader and the real story

Mao did make some mistakes and one lead to a famine. The Great Leap Forward was designed to boost agriculture, modernize industry and normal things a new government would want to do. However, bad weather and the neglect of agriculture caused one of the worst famines in the country’s history.
Yet, did the US offer any food aid? No. They were hoping to starve Mao into submission. Other countries, such as Canada, did help out and the nation was saved.
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976 has been portrayed as Mao just going after his enemies. This event is never explained in schools, or the hundreds of anti-cultural revolution books that have been so trendy in the late 20th and 21st century.
Right now it is very popular to write and sell books that slam the Cultural Revolution. The Kasama Project listed some of these books, some time ago; The Red Guards' Path to Violence: Political, Educational, and Psychological Factors, by Jing Lin; Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now, by Jan Wong; and Blood Red Sunset: A Memoir of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, by Ma Bo. It seems such books were the only modern ones to be found in book store shelves over the last few decades.

The Cultural Revolution was an attempt to fight against class-ism. Over all, it was not a success. But I look at it as I look at the civil rights movement in the US. People were attacked by fire hoses in the winter; dogs were released to attack peaceful demonstrators. Some civil rights workers were murdered.
And most of all, there were those southern white folks who opposed civil rights because they would lose privileges they were used to having, but would have them no longer.
I see the Cultural Revolution a lot as I see our own Civil Rights Movement. One of the main goals of the campaign was to empower the powerless. Part of that was to try and get the different classes to bond. This was done by sending educated intellectuals and people from the military to isolated farms where people did hard labour for a living. The idea was for people from different classes to bond. They were supposed to learn from each other. It was no different than trying to integrate people of different races. Many people, who complain about it, were inconvenienced because they had to interrupt their careers or college studies and go spend time with peasants who have no choice but to do hard manual labour their whole lives. Many of such peasants would probably have loved to go to college. But at that time it wasn’t possible for many of them to do that. Many of the people who complained about going to the country side are no different from the US Southern Whites who just didn’t want their privileged lives interrupted.
There were other aspects of the Cultural Revolution, such as promoting art, operas and films that focused on common people and common soldiers rather than people of leadership positions and war stories starring generals. It was a complicated campaign and overall, it really didn’t work. Mistakes were made, but reading the anti-Cultural Revolution books flooding our book store shelves will not explain any of the actual causes or aims of that campaign. They are anti-Mao propaganda pure and simple.
Maoism today really doesn’t depend so much on Mao as a leader. People read his theories about politics and political power and it makes sense to them. It is a political philosophy.

We are still a minority here, but I think that a revolutionary situation is coming to the US. Besides our own groups there is the Occupy Movement, the black bloc, anarchists and other Marxist tendencies, all wanting serious change in this country. The most important thing is not to impose a philosophy I really believe in on others, but to obtain real change in this country. If it means working with other groups, with other ideas, then so be it. We are living in desperate times and such times call for desperate measures.


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