In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff


We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.







Try Advanced Search


  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...


CultureBlogs
Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
PhilosoBlog
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Gregdotorg
BookSlut
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Cronaca
Plep
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Seablogger
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette


Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Samizdata
Junius
Joanne Jacobs
CalPundit
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Public Interest.co.uk
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
Spleenville
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
CinderellaBloggerfella
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
InstaPundit
MindFloss
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes


Miscellaneous
Redwood Dragon
IMAO
The Invisible Hand
ScrappleFace
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz

Links


Our Last 50 Referrers







« Elsewhere | Main | Basic Fairness Questions »

July 15, 2005

Mao/Marx

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

"Wild Swans" author Jung Chang has published a new biography of Mao, co-written with her husband Jon Halliday. Some memorable details show up in this interview with Chang and Halliday in the Guardian: At one stretch, Mao didn't bathe for 25 years; he had a taste for deflowering peasant virgins; he ordered his own baby to be allowed to die during the Long March. And -- oh yeah -- there's that thing about being responsible for 70 million other deaths too. Chang and Halliday want everyone to to understand that Mao was every bit as evil as Hitler and Stalin. Meanwhile, BBC Radio 4 listeners have voted Karl Marx the greatest philospher of all time.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at July 15, 2005




Comments

Marx. For Christ's sake. That lazy bastard is responsible for more human pain than many dictators thanks to his half-baked utopian BS. [Sigh.]

Posted by: Yahmdallah on July 15, 2005 3:08 PM



I'm still waiting to hear a convincing argument for why Mao, Marx, Guevara, and Lenin are fit subjects for t-shirts and dorm-room posters, but Hitler - not so much.

I just can't quite figure out the approved ranking scheme for mass murderers.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on July 15, 2005 4:46 PM



Well Mao looked so cute. And then there were the shoes and the little outfits. But 25 years without bathing? You must have been able to smell him in Hong Kong!

Posted by: Rachel on July 15, 2005 8:46 PM



Here's a link to John Dolan's review of the Mao book:

http://www.exile.ru/2005-July-01/book_review.html

Posted by: Philip Girvan on July 16, 2005 5:11 AM



Actually, Marx was voted "Greatest Thinker of the Millennium" (though that's still no excuse). Not only were philosophers like Kant, Hume and Nietzsche eligible, but some of the greatest names in the history of science were too. Look at the list at the BBC: Einstein, Darwin and Newton were runners up (and what's the betting Karl would have won Sports Personality of the Year and Masterchef 2005 had he been allowed to enter?). But this raises the question how much of an honour it is to be acclaimed Greatest Thinker in the Opinion of Complete Airheads or The Genocidal Maniac's Philosopher of Choice.

Posted by: J.Cassian on July 16, 2005 12:01 PM



Perhaps the BBC should have listed their contest as the philosopher/thinker most likely to be known and admired by people who vote in stupid contests....

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on July 16, 2005 12:27 PM



Why Marxists in all their forms, from mass-murdering dictators to apologists for mass-murdering dictators, continue to be let off the hook for their treason to, well, to simple human decency as much as anything, escapes me entirely. It's one of the great mysteries of our time, and to solve it would, IMO, require a deep insight into some very deeply buried cultural and religious values of the modern West.

And yet, I myself, a lifelong loather of everything Communist, still can't feel hatred for the kind of Marxist who would apologize for Kim Jong-Il's North Korea, surely one of the most odious regimes in human history and probably the only true slave state in the world today.

Case in point: In the wonderful book on Scrabble, Word Freak, Lester Schonbrunn, a master Scrabble player and old-school Marxist, is an apologist for North Korea (and Milosevic!). And yet...I just couldn't make myself hate him. In fact, I rather liked him. A lot more than I would have if he'd tried to defend 'He Who Is Always Named At Critical Junctures In Passionate Political Arguments'. You know, that Hitler guy.

Why not, I wonder?

Posted by: PatrickH on July 16, 2005 5:42 PM



it's a function of how many movies you've seen.

i'm being serious.

if there was a north korean schindler's list, you wouldn't think the guy was so cuddly. moreover, if there was a north korean schindler's list, cuddly guys would be a lot less likely to defend north korea.

Posted by: ljalkj on July 16, 2005 5:52 PM



PatrickH mentions the ubiquity of Hitler as the comparison in these sorts of discussions. After thinking about his comment for a bit, I started to try to come up with another person, living or dead, that is broadly considered entirely beyond the pale, even for irony, yet was never a member of the NSDAP. I've so far been unsuccessful.

Is there any mass murderer (or group of the same), of whatever political bent, that shares the pariah status of the Nazis? That couldn't be put on a
T-shirt or a poster without expectation of vocal opprobrium from random passers by?

Sure, they were efficient in their brutality, but I think it would be hard to claim that they were more so than Stalin, Pol Pot, the Hutus of Rwanda, .... They were inventive, but not really more so than the North Koreans, or the Romans, or the Hittites, or the Aztecs, or ....

I think I'm coming to believe that people use the myth of a uniquely evil Nazi regime (mostly unconciously) to minimize the evil of other regimes, and reduce the requirement to engage: "Sure, they're bad, but it's not like they're Nazis."

You know, sometimes they were and are. And sometimes they need to be treated the same way.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on July 17, 2005 3:05 AM



The appeal of seeing Nazism as a "unique evil" is that it's a very comforting way of looking at the world. After all, it's been pretty easy to fight the Nazis since World War Two, given they don't exist. (Yes, Nazism still has an appeal to racist thugs but the KKK existed long before Hitler turned up on the scene and Neo-Nazis are hardly likely to come to power anywhere any time soon, whereas the Kim Jong Il is firmly entrenched with concentration camps, secret police and, now, nuclear missiles).

Nazism died as a serious political threat in 1945 along with Hitler. The founder of the Nazi ideology was the same man who put that ideology into practice. With Marxism, it's always been possible to claim that "theory" and "practice" are separate and Marx's ideas were "distorted" by later dictators and it's merely an unlucky coincidence that every time someone tries out Marx's ideas in the real world mass slaughter and famine follow. Marx didn't run any concentration camps himself; the author of "Mein Kampf" did. On the other hand, for this very reason, there has only been one Hitler, while there have been plenty of Stalins, most of them coming to power since World War Two (and Stalin himself was merely a slightly exaggerated version of Lenin).

Supporters of Marxist genocide in the West have been more astute than their Nazi-loving counterparts, who were too honest to make much effort to hide their essential thuggishness. Western Marxists and their fellow travellers have been remarkably successful in insinuating that it's simply "bad taste" to be an anti-communist. Who in polite society wants to be branded a "right-wing lunatic" or a "red-baiter"? If McCarthyism hadn't existed, it would have had to have been invented. Extending "McCarthyism" to mean "any criticism of Communist regimes or their supporters" was a masterstroke, allowing Western Stalinists to bleat on about how their own human rights were being infringed while avoiding any awkward questions that might arise about the hypocrisy of their position (it's a trick that's not been lost on proponents of radical Islam in the West - look at the wide range of offences covered by the term "Islamophobia"). The deaths of tens of millions in Marxist regimes since 1945 is a small consideration when set against the need not to upset social niceties and call out supporters of genocide for what they are.

(Of course, there are other considerations. For instance, how many Nazi academics do you know?).

Posted by: J.Cassian on July 17, 2005 5:24 AM



Very good points J.Cassian. There is also the fact that Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Kim Jong Sung/Il killed massive numbers of their own citizens. Hitler and Saddam violated the terms of the Peace of Westfalia by killing their neighbors, too.

It's all tied up in the divine right of Kings and other such nonsense, and the end of the Hundred Years War. In other words, more than is seemly for a blog comment!

Posted by: David Mercer on July 17, 2005 8:25 AM



J. Cassian,

"...it's a trick that's not been lost on proponents of radical Islam in the West - look at the wide range of offences covered by the term "Islamophobia")..."

I cannot tell you how depressing it is to think that Islamist terrorism is going to get the same kind of moral pass that Marxism has received, and still does. That it will come to be seen as "bad taste" to overtly oppose Islamist theocratic fascism.

I am very, very concerned that you are right about this development.

Posted by: PatrickH on July 17, 2005 9:58 AM



At the end of the day, socialism and communism get a pass because the cognitive elites were sympathetic to the entire enterprise even when they opposed a specific implementation. And the creative and cognitive elites determine how a society represents history as well as good and evil.

One way to see this distortion is to look at how petty (non-officially socialist) tyrants such as Pinochet or Mussolini are portrayed more negatively in movies and novels than the great mass murderers of communism -- most of whom do not appear in movies at all.

A naive visitor to Earth would gather from movies and much academic writing that Cuba under Batista, or Taiwan under Chiang or Chile under Pinochet were worse than Cuba under Castro or Russia under Brezhnev.

Indeed, many leftists find communist China easier to criticize today BECAUSE it is almost capitalist than communist China during the Cultural Revolution when it was unrelentingly evil, but committed to the "dream" of socialist paradise on earth.

Until those who write books, and make movies refocus their opprobrium, the evil of the Reds will always be an abstract, rational and not emotionally salient crime except to those who had to experience those regimes personally.

Posted by: jn on July 18, 2005 11:02 AM



"...it's merely an unlucky coincidence that every time someone tries out Marx's ideas in the real world, mass slaughter and famine follow..."

Well, that certainly makes the point. Wonder what academics would say?

I also think F Blowhard's line is very funny. It makes me think of the time that a local radio station ran a listener contest for the greatest rock 'n roll hit ever. The winner? "Kung Fu Fighting."

Posted by: annette on July 18, 2005 4:24 PM



I'm a Chinese communist visiting your blog accidentally.In fact,the book of Jung Chang isn't creditable.We all know this book,of course,we can't find this book in China.As Chinese,we know much more about Mao and the history of China after 1949.Of course there is famine and mass death,but less than what you imagine far away. You can only get part of truth through west media.
In fact,today China few person trust Marxism now.Communist Party of China is also leaving away from Marxism.But,during these years,many workers lose their job,many peasant lose land,government stand by capital and do anything to ensure capital profit.The people don't trust government any more and there will be commotion soonest.

Posted by: Ma on July 20, 2005 4:20 AM



"In fact,the book of Jung Chang isn't creditable.We all know this book,of course,we can't find this book in China"

How do you know this if it isn't available in China?

"As Chinese,we know much more about Mao and the history of China after 1949."

Jung Chang is a Chinese who experienced the Mao era first hand.

"You can only get part of truth through west media."

I bet we get a much bigger chunk of the truth than readers and viewers of the Chinese state-controlled media.

"In fact,today China few person trust Marxism now.Communist Party of China is also leaving away from Marxism."

That's good to know. But the Chinese Communist Party has a vested interest in restricting criticism of Mao. Current Chinese Communists might have abandoned all but the last vestiges of Maoism, but there's no getting round the fact it was Mao Zedong who put them into power in the first place. No one voted them in. Once Chinese people start thinking of Mao as one of history's biggest murderers, they might begin to wonder about the legitimacy of his successors in Peking.


Posted by: J.Cassian on July 20, 2005 7:41 AM



J.Cassian, I'm surprised at your naivete.
Why, just one phrase "there will be commotion soonest" should've told you who you're dealing with.
Sigh.

Posted by: Tatyana on July 20, 2005 8:39 AM



You are right,she is Chinese,too.But I can told you,this book is published at Hong Kong and we can read it through wed.So you can see,I say this book isn't creditable based on what we see.Anyway,we can read English,but,can you read or speak Chinese?
Well,sorry for my limited English I can't express very well,but I think I can try to describe China history after 1840.
As well known,there was a war between UK and China.As result,China failed then was obliged to issue an unequal pact at Nanjing with UK.Then China turned to be colony gradually. Foreign capital entered China and destroyed China traditional economic and social model.After several failed wars with UK,France,Russia,Germany,US,Japan,etc,China lost many territory and money.I think colonism is well known so I needn't tell you how it treat Chinese.But during those years,Chinese began to learn about truth of the whole world and wanted independence, freedom and democracy.But governor didn't want to lose their power,their wealth.They care themselves much more than care Chinese people and China future.So,Mao Zedong said there were three moutain pressing on Chinese people:imperialism,feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.How to get indepence,freedom and democracy?Only revolution.Dr Sun Yat-sen,who is regarded as revolution forthgoer by Mao Zedong,organized China National Party and do revolution work for many years.In 1911,Qing dynasty was overthrew by XINHAI revolution.However,China didn't get independence and Chinese didn't have freedom yet.Lots of warlords,who were supported by different foreign power,mastered their own army and domain,had many civil wars until 1930.Many people lost life,family,wealth.After 1930,China National Party united the whole China.But they didn't set a democracy system,didn't give people freedom and peace,didn't make China indenpence.Do you know how much people dies during those years?Do you know how many people sell his son or daughter,his wife?Do you know how many people was arrest or abscondence
or excuted clandestinely,only because they weren't satisfied with government or China situation that time?Do you know how government treated Chinese people with army and secret agent?Do you ever read any book about spy organization of China National Party?
So now I can told you why CPC beated CNP and established PRC in 1949.The reason is CNP lose people's support.In Chinese idiom,we say,the people won't rebel unless government do everything to force the people rebel.In 1931,Japan invaded north-east China.In 1937,Japan invaded all China.But CNP government only dig up the hatchet in 1941,after Japan and US in war.During anti-Japanese war,Chinese people endured huge immolate.However,officials of CNP government defalcated thousand million of dollars.After 8 years war,officials got rich compare with the people's extreme poor.So only 4 year after II war,CPC succeeded.

Posted by: Ma on July 21, 2005 1:36 AM



As I told you yesterday,I'm a communist.In China,leftist is divided to several clique.Some support Mao Zedong,some support Trotsky,some support Marx,etc.All leftists are against CPC's control.All lestists think CPC betray communism,betray working class,betray Chinese people,betray national benefit.CPC made China lose her independent factory system which established after 1949,make state property embezzled by government officials and capitalist,make ten millions of workers lose their job without any indemnification.Many retired workers haven't any income.Many young girls are obliged to do prostitution to make money.In country,many peasants have very low income.In 2003,all Chinese peasant income is USD433.18 per person,including cash receipts USD354.23 per person.In another word,one Chinese peasant's expenditure is about USD1 per day.How poor our peasants are!That's why?The reason is price of farm product is cheap but price of agricultural means of production is high.If a peasent goes to city to make money,he often find he can't find a good job and there isn't anyone can help him at all.They do most hard and filthy job with little payment.Even so,they often can't get salary in time.But,in China,you can see most baronial building,most expensive cars,most scrumptious food in the world,highest consumption bars,etc.Maybe there is the most gap between rich and poor of the world in China.

That's the reason why many Chinese miss Chairman Mao.I'm a Marxist.I read original work of Marx.I also don't like Chairman Mao too much.I admit there were many error and crimes caused by Stalin,Mao Zedong.In fact,most Chinese know and admit it.But,Mao spent all his life to make China independence,make China strong,make workers have job,peasant have doctors and teachers.Although there isn't paradise from 1949 to 1976,but now,for common person,it's so close to hell.If you live in China,you can feel how strong the people miss Chairman Mao,although CPC try their best to make people forget him.

Thank you very much to see my comment.My English is limited so maybe some words and sentence isn't correct enough to read.Sorry.But please remember you don't understand Chinese so you can't know China directly.All information from second hand isn't creditable enough.As you know,Chinese media is control by state.However,government can't control internet.We can know many truth or spread our idea through internet.And,what's most important,all leftists of China is studious young man.thanks again.

Posted by: Ma on July 21, 2005 8:32 AM



Yeah, right, whatever you say. I'm sure old Mao has just been misunderstood. Marxism is clearly the way forward in China. Look how successful it's been elsewhere. Just lay off Stalin, will you? If you can't speak Georgian you can't condemn him.


Posted by: J.Cassian on July 21, 2005 11:33 AM



"But,Mao spent all his life to make China independence,make China strong,make workers have job,peasant have doctors and teachers."

Just this part along I'm going to tear apart.

Right. Mao spent his life to make china independent but he modeled everything he did off of the Soviet Stalinist system.

Right. Mao tried to make China strong by killing all of the landowners and capitalists so that China would have no experts to modernize.

Right. Mao made sure that all of his workers had a job. This is soemtimes called slave labor. Especially when more than 30 million are killed during collective farming.

Right. Peasants had doctors and teachers. If peasants had doctors during Mao's rule, then maybe so many would not have died mercilessly during the Great Leap Forward and the cultural revolution. Teachers? All brutal dictatorships have "education". It's usually called indoctrination.

Let's face it. Chian today is so much less oppressive and so much more prosperous than during Mao's reign. During Mao's reign, China was either under an ironfisted rule with mass murder or under chaos (The cultural revolution) where millions died again. Deng Xiaoping, although brutal, managed to get China back on its feet and raise the standard of living. Is there nay other explanation of why Shanghai looks almost exactly like modern American cities?

Deng Xiaoping succeeded because he followed the principles of Sun Yat Sen, who wished to modernize China.

Posted by: RepBast1984 on July 29, 2005 4:07 AM



"But,Mao spent all his life to make China independence,make China strong,make workers have job,peasant have doctors and teachers."

Just this part along I'm going to tear apart.

Right. Mao spent his life to make china independent but he modeled everything he did off of the Soviet Stalinist system.

Right. Mao tried to make China strong by killing all of the landowners and capitalists so that China would have no experts to modernize.

Right. Mao made sure that all of his workers had a job. This is soemtimes called slave labor. Especially when more than 30 million are killed during collective farming.

Right. Peasants had doctors and teachers. If peasants had doctors during Mao's rule, then maybe so many would not have died mercilessly during the Great Leap Forward and the cultural revolution. Teachers? All brutal dictatorships have "education". It's usually called indoctrination.

Let's face it. Chian today is so much less oppressive and so much more prosperous than during Mao's reign. During Mao's reign, China was either under an ironfisted rule with mass murder or under chaos (The cultural revolution) where millions died again. Deng Xiaoping, although brutal, managed to get China back on its feet and raise the standard of living. Is there nay other explanation of why Shanghai looks almost exactly like modern American cities?

Deng Xiaoping succeeded because he followed the principles of Sun Yat Sen, who wished to modernize China.

Posted by: RepBast1984 on July 29, 2005 4:08 AM






Post a comment
Name:


Email Address:


URL:


Comments:



Remember your info?