Monday, May 16, 2016

Reflections on the Chinese Cultural Revolution at 50

 Old communist leaders don't fade away but go on one last genocidal slaughter for ideological purity before departing this mortal coil

Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Mao Zedong
 Old Communists are not like old soldiers. They do not fade away.  Elderly communist leaders before they depart this mortal coil usually engage in mass killing toward the end of their lives. Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union towards the end of his tenure in power arrested over a million people, appeared to have been preparing one last massacre before his sudden death in 1953  but Mao Zedong in the twilight of his power in 1966 was able to carry out one last sustained campaign of mass killing.

Chinese red guards waving their copies of Mao's little red book
 Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution in China that began ten years of bloodshed that would claim millions of lives.  First generation dictator Mao Zedong was 72 years old at the time and the communist regime had been in power 17 years and fears began to arise of reformist bourgeois elements that would change the nature of the regime. On May 16, 1966 the communist party May 16 Notification warning that the party had been infiltrated by counter-revolutionary “revisionists” who were plotting to create a “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.”

This led to Mao calling for the creation of a "new man" Deutshe Welle reported in a Q&A on the Cultural Revolution that:
According to the Sinologist Oskar Weggel, this "new person" was supposed to be a "selfless communal being in a society free of domination, which had always wandered like a ghost through human utopias." To attain the goal, Mao called for the destruction of the "Four Olds" - old ideas, culture, customs and habits. Mao Zedong's ideas were supposed to replace them.
In reality it appears that there was an internal power struggle within the Chinese Communist Party that drove Mao to launch the cultural revolution because of elements that sought minor revisions to maintain the regime in power. The Globe and Mail provided more details on the terror that unfolded:
Students tortured teachers and beat them to death. Workers attacked one another with screwdrivers devised into spears. Temples and libraries were razed. Millions of people were banished to the countryside for “re-education.”
Red Guards targeting unlucky old man
The students organized into Red Guards that were to "sweep away all monsters and demons!” as a People's Editorial demanded. The communist party journal, The Red Flag, celebrated the slaughter
“The Red Guards have ruthlessly castigated, exposed, criticized and repudiated the decadent, reactionary culture of the bourgeoisie … landing them in the position of rats running across the street and being chased by all”
Although the circumstances in Cuba are different the escalating violence and call for continued ideological purity has a familiar ring. Back in 2011, Raul Castro issued a call to "popular" violence against counter-revolutionary elements at the VI Communist Party Congress Raul Castro:
"It is necessary to make clear that we will never deny our people the right to defend their Revolution. The defense of the independence, of the conquests of Socialism and of our streets and plazas will still be the first duty of every Cuban patriot."
Some policy makers and commentators believe that change in Cuba would best be carried out by those in power. One hopes that a review of other communist dictatorships and first generation leadership will disabuse them of that notion. Fidel Castro at the VII Communist Party Congress earlier this year was calling for another Russian revolution to occur.

To put it more succinctly Fidel Castro is no Gorbachev.

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