Albania’s part in the anti-revisionist establishment of a contact network and expanding the assistance to foreign communist groups everywhere was partly explored in a study by Albanian journalist Ylli Molla, of the help given through political and military training by the Albanian authorities. [i]
Marku‘s academic study noted that, with the collaboration of Jacques Grippa in Belgium, strong ties were established with illegal communist groups in Congo Brazzaville, where Grippa had good connections with the revolutionary groups.[ii]
In late 1966 a meeting was organized in Rome, with the help of the Albanian embassy, and was attended by Congolese members of an illegal group. Secretly these members went to Albania for military and political training.
Speculation is that if it not been for the Chinese support, Albania would not have had the power to finance parties and train illegal groups from four continents. We know that the Albanian party passed on financial contributions from a fund set up as Chinese aid to various Marxist-Leninist groups[iii] . Elidor Mehilli, drawing upon Albanian archives for his study “From Stalin to Mao, Albania and the Socialist World” made the observation that in the early 1960s the
“Albania’s party devised a special hard currency solidarity fund to assist Marxist-Leninists groups around the world. Initially it consisted of 700,000 US dollars. China issued half a million, and the rest came from internal funds. Here was the ruling party of a country that still struggled to feed its inhabitants, projecting itself as a source of revolutionary activism in the Third World and in Western Europe. In 1964, the party Secretariat disbursed money to marginalized Polish Marxist-Leninists; the Belgian Communist Party; the Communist Party of Brazil; the Communist Party of Peru; the Italian Marxist-Leninist paper Nuova Unita; and groups in Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Columbia. Activists in Australia and Ceylon were hired as foreign correspondents for the party daily. Small sums also went to a coterie of Marxist-Leninist characters in Paris and London (the short lived Committee to Defeat Revisionism, for Communist Unity), as well as in Vienna. The United States-based Hammer and Steel received modest contributions as well. Beyond the funds, Albanian officials established direct links with Iranian Marxist-Leninists (the Revolutionary Organisation of the Tudeh Party held its first congress in Tirana in 1965). Indonesian students enrolled in Tirana’s university, and a few Indonesian Communist officials were treated to paid vacations.” [iv]
Albania provided financial aid, political and military training for other militants, employed overseas Marxists on its propaganda work on radio and in print, provided scholarship for foreigners at the Lenin Party School and lecturers on guerrilla warfare and the Albanian experience.[v]
Albania, in coordination with China, did not train these groups with the exclusive goal of a communist revolution. What was most important was to challenge the imperialist, including Soviet power and influence in Africa. The two Congolese states, Congo Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo, were illustrative of this.
Visitors, according to Ylli Molla, were said to include Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (1945 -), Kabila (1939-2001), Amazonas (1912-2002),Omar Bongo, Arafat (1929-2004), Khalil – Abu Jihad (1935-1988).
At the 5th Congress in 1966 there had been a delegation address by the Revolutionary Communist party of Sudan. In 1971, at the Party of labour’s 6th Congress there were 41 parties that either sent a delegation or a message addressed to the congress, No African delegates were listed.
Storm centres of the world revolution may have been in Asia, Africa, Latin America, but publically there was little acknowledgement of African-based fraternal parties. Even in press articles on neo-colonialism in Africa[vi] it mentions no fraternal organisations, although it may have been signalling a sub textual criticism of their Chinese allies as the article looks at US policy and expansionismas the main support of the exploiting colonial system in Africa. Albanian main interest lay in Latin America and Europe in terms of fraternal groups as demonstrated in the aftermath of the 1978 split with the Communist Party of China.
From November 1964 there were regular and sustained foreign language programs broadcasting the Albania’s uncompromising Marxist-Leninist worldview.
The external service Radio Tirana was one of the largest broadcasters in Europe, with a massive megaWatt transmitter operating on 1395 kHz, broadcasting in 20 foreign languages, apart from Albanian targeting Albanians living abroad. These broadcasts were in the following languages: Chinese, Arabic, Turkish, Serbo-Croatian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, Italian, Portuguese, Indonesian, English, French, German, Swedish, Spanish, Persian, Russian, Greek and Bulgarian.
Radio Tirana would broadcast commentaries such as
– “Success of the liberation struggle of the Sarawak people” – “Congo Kinshasa – The liberation struggle is expanding”
– “The flames of the armed struggle of the Mozambique patriots are spreading constantly” – “Guinea-Bissau is resolutely leading the fight against the Portuguese colonialists” (1971)
-” The armed struggle of the patriots of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea -Bissaus records new successes “(1972) -“The two imperialists Super Powers – Sworn Enemies of the Angolan People “
– “The people of Angola are constantly expanding their struggle against the Portuguese colonialists” (1974)
A consequence of the Sino-Albanian split was that Albanian relays of Chinese broadcasts were discontinued from July 1978. The relays consisted of half-hour broadcasts in Czech, English, Hausa (to reach Nigeria), Italian, Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian, and Spanish and Turkish, totalled 91 hours. There were also New China News Agency transmissions in French and Spanish for 54 hours a week.
After the breach with China, the location of main supporters of the Albanian line were in organisations based in Latin America and Western Europe with a core group of twelve organizations begun to hold regular conferences with the goal of building the unity of Marxist-Leninists.[vii]
An African group who sided with condemnation of Mao Zedong Thought was the clandestine Union des communistes du Dahomey founded in 1976, it was listed as the Communist Party of Dahomey, as fraternal delegation at the 8th Congress of the Party of Labour of Albania held in 1981. Renamed Parti Communiste du Bénin, the PCB was associated with the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (Unity & Struggle). It published En Avant printed in Canada and smuggled into Benin. It was only legally recognized on September 1993.
Probably the most successful of organisations allied with the Hoxhaist wing of the 1980s anti-revisionist movement was the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigrai (MLLT) who were at the core of the TPLF.
“At the beginning of 1980 comrade Enver Hoxha’s latest writings managed to find their way to the TPLF. It was a very important event in the history of the development of the (ML) core. Mao Tse-Tung’s thought which hitherto, had been taken as a development of Marxism-Leninism by the Core was mercilessly exposed in comrade Enver Hoxha’s book, Imperialism and Revolution, and set the whole Core reading and re-reading this book.[viii]
There were claims for elsewhere: Upper Volta, Dahomey, Senegal, Angola and elsewhere in Africa of the Marxist-Leninist movement going from relatively simple propaganda activities to active involvement in the struggle against suppression of workers and their unions. The Canadian newspaper IN STRUGGLE! refered to La Flamme published by the Communist Party of Dahomey; ECH-CHOOLA published by the Tunisian Communist (Marxist-Leninist) Group ECH-CHOOLA; Le Protetaire published by the Union of Communist Struggle of Upper Volta, that vied with a rival Marxist-Leninist group , the Voltaic Revolutionary Communist Party. [ix]
[i] Molla, Ylli, Guerrillas made in Albania: the story of Arafat, Kabila, Lula, Amazonas and fighters from 11 countries, who were prepared politically and militarily by Albanian educators (Tirana: Botolarart, 2016)
[ii] Ylber MARKU (2017)Sino-Albanian relations during the Cold War, 1949-1978 : an Albanian perspective
[iii] Elidoe Mehilli (2017) From Stalin to Mao: Albania and the Socialist World. Cornell University press p218.
[iv] Elidor Mehilli (2017) “From Stalin to Mao, Albania and the Socialist World” Cornel University Press p218
Reading a memoir such as this is revealing about what matters to the author as these thoughts of Li recalls his time when the served as personal physician to the Chinese leader, Mao Zedong.
Li claimed that as he served as Mao’s personal physician for the last 22 years of the chairman’s life, that during this time he became a close confidant, although there is a dispute about when he was his personal physician and what kind of access that gave him. His book The Private Life Of Chairman Mao was published in 1994, almost twenty years after Mao died. Its reception into the arsenal of ideological denegation of the Chinese revolutionary experience, typified by the headline impression from the New York Times review, ‘The Tyrant Mao, as Told by His Doctor”, was characteristic of the tone and stance of the majority of press reviews given to the book.
The book was controversial, in part because of just how salacious it is. Dr Li describes an opulent elite lifestyle, diverse details of Mao’s personality, sexual proclivities, party politics and personal habits were included in an account, which according to him, Mao’s private life saw him spend his time conspiring, reading and being sexually promiscuous .
Based on his recollection of journals he had kept, then he had burned during the Cultural Revolution, and a decade later Li began in 1977 to write intermittingly, reconstructed his notes from memory, producing more than 20 volumes of notes. These new notebooks help him write his memoir. Dr Li, who lived in the USA from 1988, had his manuscript made into a book for Random House. Along with the Random House publication, a Chinese language edition was released by the Chinese Times Publishing Company of Taipei.
Hong Yung Lee ‘s critical reading of Dr Li’s book expressed some of the concerns that comes with any critical reading of an account that claims to be privy to Mao at his most unguarded moments. [i]
Li Zhisui claimed he still remembers verbatim conversations with Mao almost 20 years later “(b)ecause Mao’s language was so colorful and vivid and deeply etched in my brain” and, “My survival and that of my family had always depended on Mao’s words; I could not forget them.” [ii]
Hong joins others doubtful of such recollection perfectly-recreated dialogue particularly as he relied on his seventy-something year-old memory for events that happened 20-30 years previously. It just defies belief: what conversations were you having in 1999?
“Li’s source materials, his diaries, were burned in 1966, yet he asks the reader to accept verbatim dialogues as well as minutely observed details of events he could not have personally witnessed.” Hong Yung Lee advises, “Nor can Li qualify as an unbiased observer when it is obvious that he allowed few standards, political or ethical, to interfere with his role as Mao’s physician, confidante, and servant.”
The New York Times reviewer Richard Bernstein judged it presented few new revelations about the political or diplomatic history of Maoist China and observed there may never be absolute corroboration of the book’s intimate, candid account and its many anecdotes.
Evidently China specialists like Professor Andrew J. Nathan (author of the controversial The Tiananmen Papers, and other works) and Anne Thurston, who is a very well-known China academic, had no issue with relying on Dr Li’s book obviously believes that the sources are good and questioned validity misplaced enquiries. Still reliance, particularly when it comes to quoting Mao, is problematic as suggested in a generally positive review when the American Foreign Affairs Magazine[iii], it cautions against using the personal details of the book to draw general lessons on the nation and revolution.
The readability of the story is said to owe much to the editing process overseen by Dr Thurston, yet this story-telling with unsourced quotes and a style and tone that seemed clouded and determined by a growing dislike of the subject in the book’s repetitive emphasis on Mao’s personal habits .The general tenor of an unflattering picture of the Chinese leader, as well as the infighting and internal politics of the CCP, are seen as strengthens in other reviews. Whereas critical engagement may see a diminishing compelling reading as the narrative progresses.
“As Mao Zedong’s personal physician, Dr. Li Zhisui had a uniquely privileged view of the chairman and his often cruel and barbarous government. Dr. Zhisui exposes Mao’s personal flaws and oddities, as well as the true dynamics of his Communist party, which was often divided.”
This reader’s impression is that one learns more about the author than the subject. Individual dairies are the recorded subjective perceptions that provide an angle on events that tells us more about the author then really alters the record of history. Memoirs can be useful in conjunction with other culminated evidence but that requires a far more rigorous approach than employed in the production of Li’s account. He had set out to “rewrite his life story” when he embarked upon and favourable western reviewers thought his book represents a reasonable effort to record his experiences. Given the nature of the book is memoir rather than history, it should be addressed as partial and contested. Clearly that required objectivity to allow some reliability in the account is lacking.
How trustworthy is the colour and details he provides when much of the commentary is not with Mao’s “private life” at all, but rather deals with the situation in China as a whole and its effect on Dr. Li. In offering a portray of life in the elite atmosphere of Group One and Mao’s household, Li ‘s insider view is partial and tempered by his actual role.
Dr Li needed to be reminded of the Hippocratic Oath. His ‘‘back office’ account filled with far from exemplary examples of his own behaviour. The oath is the earliest expression of medical ethics in the Western world, establishing several principles of medical ethics which remain of paramount significance today. In writing his book, he failed to apply the injunction that “I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know.”
Li made for a poor communist. His own account conforms to the evidence of policy differences evolving into two-line struggle within the Party and his responses reliably marks him out as ‘a capitalist roader’ that Mao had warned against, seeing socialism as a means to a limited end: making China rich and powerful (p377). Nor was Li an honest communist, by his own account disillusioned from 1960 onwards, he poses as a confidant of Mao, and amid the political struggles Li’s guiding light seems to have been: “I had to survive, and self-interest required me to remain silent.” (p405) [iv]
With excuse, excuse, justification, excuse, rationalization and half-hearted self-criticism. The overwhelming takeaway is a sense of Dr. Li’s timidity and conventionality:
“”I never said anything roughly or straightforwardly,” Dr. Li continued. ”In other words, if you worked for Mao, you had to disobey your own conscience. You can never say anything as you think it. You have, first of all, to think what Mao will say.”
More than once, the author states,
I had tried to escape from Mao’s circle so many times, and always Mao had pulled me back. Now I was trapped, with no hope of leaving.
However the reality was that staff turn-over over the twenty two years of his service saw others go on to other prestigious posts elsewhere. The reader realises that “so many” escape attempts were really just him asking a superior to transfer him to another post.
His account contains a portrayal of intimacy and engagement that attempts to build the story of someone who, as they say, was inside the room. The narrative of events in Chinese politics offered in the book by and large confirms what has already been known. The author tells his story as if he was an “eyewitness” to many important political events as his personal memories are interwoven with public knowledge.
Frederick Teiwes, an American academic wrote that despite Li’s extensive claims regarding the politics behind the Cultural Revolution, he was actually “on the fringe” of the events taking place in the Chinese government. He went on to criticise the book as being overtly and polemically “anti-Mao”, being “uncritical” in its outlook and being “dependent on the official sources” to create a picture of the revolution. He characterised Li’s book as offering nothing new but “recycling widely available information and interpretations”. [v]
His court history with rival secretaries and officials vying for influence is reminiscent of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius & Claudius the God, an entertainment using a historical backstory. The unfortunate back-cover endorsements are of Li as “Mao’s Boswell”[vi] from The Irish Times, and “as the Tacitus of Modern China”[vii] in the judgement of the eminent historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, aka Lord Dacre, who initially authenticated the faked volumes of The Hitler Dairies for the Sunday Times.[viii]
There is no scholarly foundation or structure for Li’s account. He writes without acknowledgement to source when apparently using official published documents in his account. Dr. Li’s credibility is damaged by the way he narrates certain events, when he is relaying second hand conversation where he was not present. Unsourced use of innumerable quotations, some of which are from Chinese official documents means the distinction is blurred between his own experiences and what became known later or modified in the editorial process, but serves to enhance his political acumen. The notes provided by China scholar, Anne F. Thurston, supplement, rather than substantiate assertions made in the text. There is no bibliography of material that may have been consulted in the reconstruction of the memoirs of the physician.
The narrative provides Li’s political analysis with accompanying insight to personal motivation and Olympian character judgements on those around him. Schizophrenia crops up as a diagnosis for people he does not like among the many rocky relationships he reports upon. Yet how reliable can Li’s personal assessments of how Mao handled the personalities and disputes of the party members that surrounded him and Li relationships with those he easily describes as the hypochondriac Jiang Qing, and the physically (and possibly mentally) unstable Lin Biao?
If Mao repeatedly tells you to read an article and pay attention to important national issues it is hardly an endorsement of your political acumen and far from being an endorsement of being a trusted confident, especially when Li states more than once that, “Mao never really trusted me again.” After Mao discovered he was being secretly recorded in his household, and was hence wary of the loyalty of his personal staff according to Li. However that staff were not replaced enmasse. Would Mao really repeatedly ask his doctor to take on the responsibilities of political secretary? I don’t know, but why would he trust Li’s political nonce? There are incidents recalled by Li that suggests his own unwitting agency in China’s national politics such as the recommendation of a Peking Opera to Mao that inadvertently sparks the involvement of Jiang Qing in cultural politics (p402). The narrative is peppered with such self-aggrandisements
A view from his literary collaborator is that,
“Dr Li was not an easy subject. In my experience, older Chinese men rarely are. Their sense of status gets in the way, and the quality of self-reflection somehow shuts off. He was not a storyteller. He was discursive, rambling, self-pitying, often refusing, whether deliberately or stubbornly, to understand the thrust of my questions. He was not greatly concerned with accuracy, insisting that this was his book, based on his memories. Leave it to the historians to correct, he said. He was contemptuous of American China scholars, whom he claimed never to have read. They do not understand China, he said. Nor, he alleged, did most Chinese. The monopoly on truth was Li’s. “ (Thurston) Hong Yung Lee observed, ”His accounts are conspicuous for their absence of meaningful self-criticism. Sure he occasionally says he should have done something differently, but he doesn’t ever seem sincere. “
Li Zhisui’s memoirs are an act of revenge. He despises the others in Mao’s personal staff, code named Group One, ‘uneducated peasants’ who had served Mao so well, and he is determined to expose their guilt. Yet Li served Mao no less well and was often guilty of the same offences of which he accused them, the gifts, the specially arranged shopping sprees in the midst of a nationwide depression, the elaborate banquets in the midst of famine commented Dr.Thurston. While attributing motive and positions to people, there is no discussion of the clash of ideals, the policy differences and the disagreements over national priorities that are often assumed to have shaped the contours of Chinese politics. Instead there is the lazy meme of the Imperial Court, Mao reduced to the figure of emperor surrounded by nothing more than selfish personal ambitions and lust for political power. Li’s place of boundless decadence, licentiousness, selfishness, relentless toadying and cutthroat political intrigue is familiar in classical and imperial literature. Subsumed in that general picture are the good deeds done without fanfare, that other accounts may highlight: aspects of Mao’s private life that includes use of his own wealth to build a swimming pool, financial gifts to other people’, refusal of family privileges, a sceptical reception of official reports, embarking upon study and fact-finding tours, all these pepper the text.
Others who worked with Mao and numerous academics have contradicted these mostly negative depictions of Mao. Many consider Mao was a more complicated persona and the book as lacking context, picking and choosing quotes, disregarding contrary evidence, and being otherwise incessantly biased towards depicting Mao in a bad light.
Those who for the most part wanted to believe the worst about Mao’s private life, may uncritically accept this depiction of Mao although numerous people who also worked in proximity to Mao have written challenging Li’s story stating that the book was anything from an exaggeration to simply being false, rebuttals in which they believe that much of it was fabricated by Li himself and by his English language translators.
The original manuscript was written by Li, translated from his native Chinese into English by Professor Tai Hung-chao, and then edited by China scholar Dr Anne F. Thurston. She was well suited [ix]to the collaboration and wrote of her engagement with the project focusing, not uncritically, on Li as “a retainer in Mao’s court”. [x]
The disputes and criticism of the publication process, the alterations to the Chinese version of the book, are covered by Q.M. DeBorja and Xu L. Dong rebuttal to Random House’s 1994 biography of Chairman Mao. On the matter of translating, one instance, in the English edition, Li is recorded as saying “During our talk in Chengdu…” whereas in the Chinese edition, the literal translation is “Mao stated in his speech at the Chengdu meeting…” obviously these statements actually have different meanings.
Publication of his account provoked indignation in Chinese language responses that did not circulate as widely in the English speaking world. It did not produce the academic attention of the 2005 biography Mao: The Unknown Story written by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday [xi]. There was Manufacturing History – Sex, Lies and Random House’s Memoirs of Mao’s Physician by Q.M. DeBorja and Xu L. Dong [xii]. This shreds Li’s account, challenged on many of the allusions and details he produces. It raises criticism of the discrepancies between the different languages editions produced (with some episodes excluded from the Chinese language edition published in Taiwan excused on the grounds of cultural and political sensitivities).
Also challenging Li’s account, a Chinese language book published in Hong Kong, Lishi de Zhenshi: Mao Zedong Shenbian Gongzuo Renyuan de Zhengyan (The Truth of History: Testimony of the personnel who had worked with Mao Zedong), were people who had known Mao personally: his personal secretary Lin Ke, his personal doctor from 1953 to 1957, Xu Tao and his chief nurse from 1953 to 1974, Wu Xujun. As set out in detail on Wikepedia, they argued that Li did not only not know Mao very well, but that he presented an inaccurate picture of him in his book. Several people have questioned the authenticity of the book. A statement protesting that many of the claims made in Li’s book were false was issued soon after its publication, signed by 150 people who had personally known or worked with Mao. They were not as easily believed as Dr. Li.
Overall, repetitive in salacious detail, it becomes something of a slog to finish Li’s tale. Now read once, returned to the bookshelves to remain untouched.
[ii] The Private Life of Chairman Mao. Arrow Books 1986 p.xvii
[iii] Published By: Council on Foreign Relations. Vol. 73, No. 6 (Nov. – Dec., 1994), pp. 150-154
[iv] Even his literary collaborator Anne F. Thurston entitled an article on the subject “The Politics of Survival: Li Zhisui and the Inner Court “. The China Journal, No. 35 (Jan., 1996), pp. 97-105
[v] The Tragedy of Lin Biao: Riding the Tiger during the Cultural Revolution 1966-1971 (1996) 179-180 cited on Wikepedia.
[vi] Referencing James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson
[vii] Referencing the classical study Histories by the barrister-historian Tacitus, writing some thirty years after the events he describes.
[viii] He had second thoughts before publication, the concerns of eminent historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, aka Lord Dacre, about the diaries’ authenticity were over-ridden by newspaper owner Rupert Murdoch with the immortal words: “Fuck Dacre. Publish”. Trevor-Roper did not keep quiet about his doubts. “I regret that the normal method of historical verification has been sacrificed to the perhaps necessary requirements of a journalistic scoop,” he said. When the forgery was exposed, proprietor Rupert Murdoch is supposed to have shrugged, “We’re in the entertainment business”. The Sunday Times retained 20,000 of the 60,000 new readers it acquired when it published its “scoop”.
[ix] Focused on political reform in China, Dr Thurston was the author of “a study of the Cultural Revolution based on interviews with people who had been its victims. The book that resulted—Enemies of the People: The Ordeal of China’s Intellectuals during the Great Cultural Revolution—is still my favorite.”
Other works include
A Chinese Odyssey: The Life and Times of a Chinese Dissident (1991)
Don’t Force Us to Lie: The Struggle of Chinese Journalists in the Reform Era
China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC
Enemies of the People: The Ordeal of the Intellectuals in China’s Great Cultural Revolution, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987
with Gyalo Thondup, The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong: The Untold Story of My Struggle for Tibet (2015)
I often describe myself as the China counterpart to the narrator in Iris Murdoch’s novel, The Philosopher’s Pupil, who says “my role in life is listening to people’s stories.” My role in life is to listen to Chinese people tell their stories—and then to relate those stories here in the West in a way that makes sense to both us and the storytellers themselves.
From her 2005 CV while Associate Professor on the China Studies Program, The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
[x] The Politics of Survival: Li Zhisui and the Inner Court, The China Journal Volume 35 Jan.1996
[xi] Was Mao Really a Monster: The Academic Response to Chang and Halliday’s “Mao: The Unknown Story” (London: Routledge 2010)
Died aged 70 at Chichester, West Sussex on October 12, 1995.
Long gone, Gerald Ian Greig has faded in the consciousness of many but he played his part in maintaining an obsessive rabid anti-communism that poisoned political life in Britain. A sympathetic obituary noted, “Greig was identified by those unsympathetic to his views as a fully paid up member of the ”reds under the bed” school of thought.” His professional life ending as Deputy Director of the Foreign Affairs Research Institute, a right-wing “think tank” policy group that focused on the communist threat, and his written output would only substantiate that characterisation.
Born in West London, October 26, 1924, he travelled the route of public school, army, and political journalism familiar in many upper middle class life stories. [i]
In 1942, upon leaving the incubator of Chandos House at Stowe independent school in Buckingham, Greig was commissioned at the age of 18 in a cavalry regiment seeing service in Holland after the D-Day landings. He remained in the Army after the war and time spent in Palestine was said to have stimulated “his lifelong fascination with terrorism and its methods.”
After a spell as a Conservative constituency, he went into journalism. His informal political contacts were on the right of Britain’s political right. Much of his written output under the name ‘Ian Greig’ had sources drawn from a reading of public documents and statements published by communists, what is described as “official reports of western Governments” (including the briefing reports of the small circulation newsletters) and “the statements of defectors who actually took part in the events described”.
In 1961 he was a founding organiser of the Monday Club, a hard right pressure group, separate organisational from the Conservative Party but populated with its members, and others from the Far Right. The thirty-six year old Greig served as Membership Secretary until 1969.
The Monday Club was a reaction (and reactionary), dubious about the rapid decolonisation of Africa foreshadowed in Macmillan’s ”wind of change” speech to the South African Parliament, which illiberal Tories saw as the last straw. The club stated that Macmillan had “turned the Party Left” and attracted Conservatives who looked for leadership to the Marquis of Salisbury.
They were in that racist colonialist way disparaging about the former colonies’ ability to rule themselves satisfactorily and worried about the opportunities this offered the communists to further their strategic aims. Ian Greig’s Monday club opposed what it described as the “premature” independence of Kenya, and the breakup of the Central African Federation, which was the subject of its first major public meeting in September 1961. It was fundamentally opposed to decolonisation, and defended white minority rule in South Africa and Rhodesia. Or as the obit in the Glasgow Herald politely put it: The group published papers on South Africa and Rhodesia and remained well disposed to the Smith regime after it declared UDI in 1965.
The soft-pedalling of Greig’s opinions continued with a reference that:
Certainly he shared the views of those like retired General Sir Frank Kitson that more should be done to prepare the armed forces to cope with terrorism.
In fact Ian Greig was a former Senior Executive of the Institute for the Study of Conflict,[ii] a right-wing propaganda group established by Brian Crozier in 1970. It ran until 1989 and produced a series of reports on terrorism, guerrilla war, union activism and other topics. Institute offered professional and authoritative-sounding analyses, both for the general public and for more specialised audiences of academics, policy makers, police officials, and military commanders. It provided respectability to right-wing and repressive policies, primarily through its dissemination of academic presented studies.[iii] It also developed connections with other right-wing organisations and offered training on ‘subversives’ to police and the military.
His life was spent around the networks of power, lobbying, public relations and the communications activities that operate as keyboard warriors in the shadows, away from accountability the various “think tanks” of AIMS and Common Cause and others were outlets for his work. Greig’s prolific published themes reflected the anxieties of a section of the western political class as seen in an incomplete bibliography of books and briefings compiled from Foreign Affairs Publishing – postal address one-time above the shops at Arrow house, 27-31 Whitehall, SW1A 2BY. These were reviewed in foreign affairs journals, bought by the university’s libraries (see Trinity College Library Dublin) and included on undergraduate reading lists even today, and of course, digitalised.
The first to gain attention was The Assault on The West published in 1968 / 14 editions published between 1968 and 1974 in English and Chinese (Taipei: Youth Cultural Enterprise (1974))
Greig’s book The Assault on the West (1968) spelled out the dangers which he believed insufficiently alert western democracies faced from expansionist Communism aided by those engaged on internal subversion. It carried an approving preface by a close friend of Sir Alec Douglas-Home who shared his political views on the dangers of Communist expansion.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (1903 -1995), served as Foreign Secretary then Prime Minister from October 1963 to October 1964. Narrowly defeated in the 1964 UK general election, Douglas-Home resigned the party leadership in July 1965. Noted for his forcefully expressed anti-communist beliefs, Home’s description of it as “a careful and detailed analysis of the multifarious ways in which they deal in subversion” reflects the cold war mentality that there was only one side as the problem. The focus on a grand narrative of expansion and subversion discounted western policies, the rhetoric of roll back and containment, and actions that created conditions for international mistrust and tension. The imperialist self-interest in his anti-communist crusading was subtly acknowledged:
The advertised aim of this “study of communist political warfare techniques [was] to present a general survey of the strategy and tactics employed by International Communism in its bid for world domination…..The main thrust of the communist offensive is now being centred upon attempts to gain control or influence over the developing countries of Asia, Africa and South America in which areas of the world the West’s vital sources of raw material lie.”
Work that followed reflected the angst of the age when resistance and liberation at home and abroad threatened the status quo, when linking arms and running down the Strand was an act of sedition.
Today’s Revolutionaries: a study of some prominent revolutionary movements and methods of sedition in Europe and the United States
14 editions published between 1970 and 1971 in 3 languages
Subversion: Propaganda, Agitation and the Spread of People’s War (1973)
5 editions published in 1973
The Communist Challenge to Africa: an Analysis of Contemporary Soviet, Chinese and Cuban Policies (1977) Foreign Affairs Publishing now Richmond, Surrey based. 26 editions published in 1977
Lord Chalfont’s endorsement in the book reflects part of the nexus of interlocking like=minded people and groups on the anti-communist landscape that sought to bolster and underpin the ideological authority that defended the West by attacking the East. He agrees that “many Western observers have come to the conclusion, reached some time ago by Chinese foreign policy experts, that the Soviet Union is engaged upon a programme of global expansion – that the Russians are, in effect, the new imperialists.” [A topic for a different posting]
According to the distorted and selective worldview of people like Greig, the West’s rush to decolonize left an open door for the world’s new colonizing super-power – Russia. When Russia and, to a lesser extent China, moved through that door, the stage was set for the chaos and bloodshed that has become part and parcel of life on the continent. Written to make it plain that “foreign Communism is using the “liberation” of Africa as a stepping stone to its self-proclaimed goal of world domination.” South Africa, South West Africa and Rhodesia are clearly obstacles on the way to this goal – obstacles that Moscow would very much like removed – which was why, in the face of the national liberation armed struggle such racist white minority rule was defended by so many in Greig’s Monday Club and beyond.
Greig’s dire warning continued in numerous articles, through the Foreign Affairs Research Institute newsletter and in East-West Digest, of the threat to the West. Throughout 1977 churning out
East-West Digest: ‘Some recent developments affecting the defence of the Cape route’
Foreign Affairs Research Institute paper: ‘Moscow’s control over Mozambique and Angola’.
Foreign Affairs Research Institute paper: ‘Barbarism and communist intervention in the Horn of Africa’ by Ian Greig.
Foreign Affairs Research Institute paper and East-West Digest: ‘The need to safeguard NATO’s strategic raw materials from Africa’.
Foreign Affairs Research Institute paper: ‘The escalating Soviet and Cuban involvement in Africa’ by Ian Greig.
Africa: Soviet Action and Western Inaction (1978)
Iran and the lengthening Soviet shadow (1978)
The Ultra-Left Offensive Against Multinational Companies: Moscow’s Call for World Trade Union Unity (1979) 9 editions published between 1978 and 1980
The continuing crisis in Iran (1979) with James Philips
The security of Gulf oil (1980)
The need to respond to Soviet military pressure in the Third World (1980)
Soviet bloc activities in Africa (1980)
The emerging nature of the Soviet grand design(1980)
A new shadow falls on the Gulf (1981)
They mean what they say : a compilation of Soviet statements on ideology, foreign policy and the use of military force (1981) 7 editions published in 1981
East Germany’s continuing offensive in the third world (1982)
The extent of Soviet support for African “liberation movements” revealed: report to the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 1982.
Soviet global power projection at the third world (1982)
The police under attack (1986) published by AIMs for Industry , an anti-trade union group , associated with Michael Ivens, in defence of free enterprise and freedom, publishers of the red scare material like Reds under the Bed, Aims of Industry (January 1974)
Terrorism: a brief survey of the extent and nature of the threat from terrorist groups in Europe [and] in the Middle East (1987) published by Common Cause
The Second World War and Northern Ireland (1990) published by Friends of the Union founded in 1986 by 16 Tory MPs and eight peers to maintain the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The organisation was wound up in 2006
Greig’s career across the gamut of right-wing causes marks him out as yesteryear’s shadow warrior upholding the Unionist cause, he wrote several pamphlets on Northern Ireland, some dealing with the influence of ultra-left groups.
[ii]) Its history and operations quite exposed, and studied eg Michaels, J. H. (2014). The Heyday of Britain’s Cold War Think Tank: Brian Crozier and the Institute for the Study of Conflict, 1970–79. In Transnational Anti-Communism and the Cold War (pp. 146-160). Palgrave Macmillan
iii) Including Bertil Haggman’s 1975, Sweden’s Maoist “subversives”: a case study. Conflict studies, no. 58
The Peruvian authorities’ legal offensive in December has precedents, there were arrests in a 2014 state crackdown that saw 28 leaders and other activist arrested and some charged with terrorist and drug offenses. The organisation survived and continued to agitate for the rights of prisoners….
“Arrests in Lima” returned to the issue of the Peace letters and Movadet that regarded them as genuine and the beginning point for a recalibrated analysis of political tasks for Peruvian communists.
In the “Chairman’s Politics?” reference was made to announcements and texts issued in the name of the PCP, reflecting support for the strategic reorientation of Movadet that others labelled the Right Opportunist Line ROL. The authenticity and authorship remains uncertain but the coherence of the argumentation suggests a genuine commitment to what they regard as their Chairman’s politics. The earlier four part series, “To keep our red flag flying in Peru” provided an introductory overview with:
Part 1 – providing sources, both word and web, on the Peruvian struggle
Part 2- An annotated chronology of events
Part 3 – Commentary on the solidarity activities generated after Guzman’s arrest
Part 4 – Documents and texts reproduced of varying viewpoints and analysis.
An unsourced claim in a NorwegianTjen Folket Media article, argued: Fujimori wished to execute Gonzalo upon his arrest in September 1992, but the Yankee imperialists insisted that this was not tactically advisable. Instead, they needed to use Gonzalo against the people’s war.
Whilst acknowledging the existence of the letter, without accepting it had been authored by Chairman Gonzalo, and recognising the effect of splitting the PCP and causing “enormous confusion and defeatism in the ranks” its analysis is not taken seriously.
Denounced as a hoax, the position of an unarmed struggle, the analysis of the changed strategic repercussion and arguments to step back from the internal war was quickly dismissed as a betrayal of the revolution.
Loyalists saw such an agreement with a Peace Accord as a means to preserve the Party. That that, what became identified as the ROL, could have originated in the deliberations of Chairman Gonzalo and be criticised as such, had the consequences of militants actually using Gonzalo against Gonzalo.
The militants decided that the armed revolutionary struggle could be continued without the physical governance and decisive political leadership in the conduct of the war of Chairman Gonzalo to guide and direct it. They represented his legacy by drawing on his past instructions and analysis. The loyalists in upholding the Head of the Party followed the new direction attributed to him. These mutually antagonistic wings eventually saw the two-line struggle establish separate organisations both sharing and defending a common heritage, both appealing to the authority of Gonzalo thought for their actions.
A proponent, at different times, of both lines comrade Nancy described it thus:
“This struggle is the most decisive in the history of the Party because a sinister line, the right-wing opportunist line, the bourgeois split line of revisionist essence whose core is a bourgeois military line, opposes the correct course of the class and is the most dangerous line in the history of the Party, therefore that bourgeois split line must be crushed and the split bloc that carries it must be overthrown.”
Whereas the appearance of new collections by Guzman was welcomed with, ‘long live President Gonzalo’s publication! Unwrap the new moment of unarmed political struggle guided by the Gonzalo Thought strategic, specific and main ideological weapon for the Party!’, from militants there is a generally a silence about the words spoken or attributed to Guzman ever since Chairman Gonzalo’s benchmark “Speech from the Cage” on September 24, 1992:
“We are here in these circumstances. Some think this is a great defeat. They are dreaming! We tell them to keep on dreaming. It is simply a bend, nothing more, a bend in the road! The road is long and we shall arrive. We shall triumph! You shall see it! You shall see it!“
What is reflected in the MPP – Germany site is, in internet terms, a dissident view of the split in the PCP post-1993. Less is heard internationally from the loyalist PCP than overseas-based supporters of protracted people’s war.
Even though the forces that continued the fight has been diluted by political defections in the leadership and rank-and-file desertion, the position of the militants have remain basically the same, expressed again in this 2012 interview with comrade Laura:
“In September 1992, there was the arrest of President Gonzalo and our Party tested in a thousand fights and supported by the undefeated ideology of the proletariat, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Thought Gonzalo, had to face this challenge; in difficult times arise all kinds of monsters, breastfed and sheltered by imperialism, mainly American, as are the revisionists of the “peace agreement” sheltered in Movadef; these wretched traitors threw into the world, with unbridled efforts, supposed peace, pacification and dialogue, the stupidest idea to poison the class, the masses.”
As the militants tried unsuccessfully to maintain the impetus of the people’s protracted war unleashed a decade earlier, the Gonzalo loyalists new direction kept them in opposition to the Peruvian state as they campaign to shift its hostility and fight its suppression of its civil rights agenda.
Figure 1MOVADEF activists in Lima with a picture of Chairman Gonzalo.
Of Movadef, the organization plays the role of combatting the people’s war by using Gonzalo against Gonzalo according to other self-declared Gonzaloist militants. This criticism is dismissed by the Movadef activists loyal to the imprisoned Guzman and campaigning for amnesty for other PCP militants. Without denigrating the past struggles, speaking in defence at three major state trials of Guzman/ Gonzalo, Head of the Party and revolution, and in defence of the 1980-1992 Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Gonzalo thought people‘s war, in defence of the Peruvian revolution , they are arguing from a minority position that the
“ struggle for the political solution of the problems derived from the war has guided the general policy of the PCP since 1993 and corresponds to the current development of the contradiction between revolution and counter-revolution that has led to a situation in which neither party can defeat the other definitely. Although the political solution is a necessity for the people, the nation and Peruvian society as a whole, from the beginning there was opposition both from the reaction and within the Party itself, leading to the need to impose it in a long and complex struggle, which continues until now. Part of this campaign is the fight for the freedom of political prisoners, and the clarification of human rights violations at the time of the internal war.”
Voicing the position of supporters of the new direction, who assumed they were applying the just and correct call of Chairman Gonzalo, were two (historic) website , the Movimiento Popular Peru – Alemania – Some of their documents were linked in the previously posted THE CHAIRMAN’S POLITICS. More recent postings purporting to being issued in the name of the Central Committee, Communist Party of Peru, and published under the imprint of Ediciones Bandera Roja, can be found at Partido Comunista del Perú 1928 – 2016 (pcp71028.blogspot.com).More documents are available, mainly in Spanish-language editions, with some English and French translations available. Including Guzman’s declaration that “I have nothing to do with Tarata. When will you understand?”
There has been a red thread running through modern revolutionary nationalism that traces its legacy to James Connolly. The latest incarnation , operating mainly throughAnti Imperialist Action Ireland , Irish Socialist Republicans draw consciously upon the Irish revolutionary tradition seeking first to complete the unfinished revolutionary tasks of 1916.
It is the perspective proclaimed by James Connolly
“If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle., unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts will be in vain. England will still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs”
For National Liberation & Socialist Revolution
Anti Imperialist Action Ireland describes itself as an all Ireland Socialist Republican mass organisation.
“Our position is that Ireland is both a colony and a semi-colony. It is a colony in that the British government forcibly occupy six counties of Ireland while maintaining indirect control of the remaining 26 counties.”
Adhering to the position made popular since the Belfast Agreement of April 1998, that “The British have worked for decades to move Republicans to a constitutional rather than a Revolutionary position.”
Operating at the margins of the broader republican nationalist continuum, the Irish Socialist Republicans maintain a minority left communist maximalist position echoing intransigent pronouncements expressed in the Republican movement in the past.
Reformism, Revisionism and Electoralism are the tools of our enemies to keep our class exploited and oppressed and must be rejected….“The only dealings Revolutionary Irish Republicans should have with the British government is to dictate terms of a British withdrawal.”.
As a class-based organisation, AIA is looking to build upon that Irish revolutionary tradition based on working class militancy and the perspective of what William Morris saw as “when class-robbery is abolished, every man will reap the fruits of his labour.” (forgive the aged gender pronoun) That overtly socialist foundation to its republican politics distinguishes the AIA current from the reformist and bourgeois elements in the nationalist continuum.
Play your part in finishing the business of 1916.
AIA, formed winter 2017, argues the issues directly facing the Irish working class flow from partition and British imperialist occupation, this the primary contradiction in Ireland and dictates the struggle for national liberation (the end to partition of the Six Counties) and Socialist Revolution is primary.
We build on the revolutionary tradition and ideology of Irish Socialist Republicanism, first laid down by James Connolly, as the inextinguishable lamp to guide the feet of the Irish Workers to victory. With Connolly, we follow the Irish Citizen Army and uphold the idea that the Working Class must have our own fighting and political organisations. Like the Citizen Army we hold that there is ‘but one ideal – an Ireland ruled, and owned, by Irish men and women, sovereign and independent from the centre to the sea, and flying its own flag outward over all the oceans.’
What began as a small organisation with a core of experienced activists has developed, in that short space of time, into an All Ireland Socialist Republican Mass Organisation, with a growing membership of Revolutionary Youth across the country. [Macradh- ISR Youth established at Easter 2019] A new generation born after the Good Friday surrender learning the ‘Fenian Faith’ from veterans of the struggle.
ISR boasts having an organised presence in every city in the Occupied Six Counties…. As Irish Socialist Republicans, as Irish Marxist Revolutionaries, for ultimate victory over British imperialism we understand that it is necessary to continue to engage our forces within the class struggle and we must see this struggle to its bitter end.
To smash the class system we need to build a united broad front of militant left republicans, socialists and solid community activists, we continue to unite with those progressives and the masses who have committed to fight imperialism.
Key priorities for Irish Socialist Republicans
The organisation identifies three sectors to concentrate work on:
Irish Socialist Republicans reiterate our commitment to waging the class struggle and combating and resisting the enemies of the working class, be it the exploitative employers, landlords, or imperialist vultures that prey on our communities. Throughout the course of 2021 we will step up our activism to resist evictions, build revolutionary trade unions and fight for Public Housing.
Our activists played a leading role in the fight against Britain’s Far Right in Ireland and their efforts to gain a foothold for fascism in our Country…..extend solidarity to all who mobilised under the leadership of Anti Fascist Action Ireland and we look forward to standing beside you….. uphold the tried and tested policy of no platform. ……
ISR are working for an Anti Imperialist Broad Front to lead the struggle for Nationalist Liberation and Socialist Revolution…..All Ireland Anti Fascist Resistance
It has begun to spread its message in social media with postings as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism Ireland on Facebook, and traditional print medium through stickers and production of the bi-lingual magazine The Socialist Republican. This aims to encourage discussion and debate among the Republican Base and to act as a resource for Revolutionary theory and practice. The first edition of a self-advertised MLM Theoretical Journal , An Ghrian Dhearg appeared in 2020 with a main feature on “Lessons from Loughgall”.[i]
The organisation acknowledges its engagement in public activity such as
To mark the 40th Anniversary of the launch of the 1980 Hunger Strike, Anti Imperialist Action renamed Merrion Road in Dublin that houses the UK Embassy, as Bóthar Breandan MacAodha/ Brendan Hughes Road, and the annual ongoing Poppy Watch Patrols whereby Anti Imperialist Action members confiscated “Brit Imperialist Poppy Wreaths”, as in Bray, County Wicklow, and burned them.
Campaigning on working class issues …
Anti Imperialist Action in Dublin have launched a new Revolutionary Housing Action Campaign and like the Land League of old, we are fighting for the 3F’s: Fair Rents 2. Fuck Evictions and 3. Funding Public Housing
And for political rights….
Stop the Extradition of Liam Campbell Campaign. In May 2009, he was arrested following the issue of a European Arrest Warrant at the behest of the Lithuanian authorities, where he was wanted in connection with a gun running plot which saw his brother Michael arrested. Campbell remained in prison for four years and was released in 2013 following the decision of Belfast Recorders Court to deny Campbell’s extradition to Lithuania.
Commemorating Ireland’s rich revolutionary history with
Pickets honouring Ireland’s patriotic dead e.g. Annual candlelit vigil for Vol. Kevin Barry at the GPO, grave-side commemorations and remembrance for former patriotic fighters for Ireland. It planning includes this year’s 40th anniversary of the Hunger Strike campaign.
Static demonstration solidarity with Pickets in support of Irish and International Political Prisoners, take solidarity action on the streets on campaigns highlighted by Maoists worldwide: release of Comrade Amhad Sa’adat, the imprisoned General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, of Chairman Gonzalo, the leader of the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) of Leonard Peltier of the American Indian Movement and of Georges Abdallah, the Lebanese Communist. [ii]
Leaning to Maoism
Their publications and social media utterances are peppered with maoist terminology and references and more overt advocacy that identifies a current of thinking with militant republican nationalism last seen in Cork in the 1960s.[iii]
For ultimate victory against our enemies we have initiated the correct policies and have put in place well planned militant Marxism – Leninism – Maoism as our scientific revolutionary ideology that has proven correct in many parts of the world.[iv]
Connections to developing MLM resources e.g. Its activities and statements reproduced on Maoist website like the news site, Redspark [v] and the related publishing house, Foreign Language Press produced a collection of speeches “Revolutionary Writings” by Seamus Costello, the INLA Chief of Staff assassinated October 1977 by the Official IRA, in its “Colorful Classics” Collection.[vi]
AIA reciprocates the signs of solidarity reproducing statements and reports from the Maoist environs on its website, such as the 2020 international 1st of May declaration “Proletarians of all countries, unite! Cast away the illusions and launch into fight!”, published on a German Gonzaloist site. This call to arms aimed squarely at the Maoist milieu.[vii] Furthermore its public association tends to be linking to the more Gonzaloist tendencies articles e,g the MLM internet review, Communist International.
[i] Available to purchase from An Culturlann 216 Falls Rd, Belfast BT12 6AH Price: £2.50
The arrests conducted by the Peruvian National Police [PNP} in Lima in early December was targeted at the campaigning prisoner rights organisation, the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef). Movadef was created in 2009, initially as an organization to fight for an amnesty and freedom of political prisoners in Peru. The organisation is regularly referred to as “the political arm of the Shining Path terrorist group” by the Peruvian state.
On December 2, 2020, hours before resigning as the Minister of the Interior, Rubén Vargas had announced the capture of 72 people accused of being linked to the PCP through the “Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef).” According to the government official, Movadef-linked people have been previously arrested for the alleged crime of apology for terrorism, but alleged current investigations show that they are part of the Shining Path structure. The State’s prematurely gloated; this was “historic” because it liquidated the political and military structure of the terrorist group.
The PNP operation “Olimpo” after 4 years of surveillance, infiltration, and investigations included the participation of 1,200 police officers, as well as 98 representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office. It was a multiagency offensive as Olimpo was led by the Anti-Terrorism Division (Dircote), the High Complexity Investigations Division (Diviac), the Peruvian Army Intelligence Directorate, and the Third Supraprovincial Criminal Prosecutor’s Office.
Detainees include members of Amnesty Movement and Fundamental Rights (Movadef) and Fudepp (Front of Unity and Defense of the Peruvian People) set up in 2015 to seek registration with the national Election board. Peru News Agency reported the persons under arrest include former inmates belonging to Shining Path, such as Fernando Olortegui and Victor Castillo. The list also includes Evalisa Cano, a member of the Movadef Base in Downtown Lima, and Carlos Cano Andia, described as a member of the Eastern Detachment of the Popular Guerrilla Army.
The state authorities regarded these civil organisations not simply as apologist for “terrorism”, but as the political operating arm of the Peruvian communists that still seeks the same purposes and objective of the PCP led by the imprisoned Gonzalo/Guzman. The state alleges “they obeyed directives and slogans from the dome led by Abimael Guzmán Reinoso and other members currently in prison.”
In 2017 Interior Minister Carlos Basombrío pointed out that there is evidence that Abimael Guzmán is part of the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights structure, based on documentation seized in prisons in 2014.
“I am one of those who think that Movadef is not a Sendero sympathizing group. It is more than that [a legal arm]. We have abundant documentation, and in the handwriting of Abimael Guzmán, seized in prisons in 2014, which shows that Abimael Guzmán directs Movadef, that is, he is part of the Movadef structure.”
In contrast, Movadef and its activists are condemned by those who claim the name of the the Communist Party of Peru (PCP), specifically The Peru People’s Movement (MPP), who repeatedly asserts it was generated by PCP for the party work abroad. Politically Movadef is labelled an instrument of the Right Opposition Line (ROL), “revisionist and capitulationist rats” dedicated to recycling capitulators and trained repentant guerrillas, with the need to trace a “new path” for the struggle in Peru.
Movadef raised a new characterization of society, pointing out that because of the PCP’s armed struggle, Peru stopped being semi-feudal to become a dependent capitalist country. Obviously, when they characterize Peru as dependent capitalist, the form of revolutionary action can adapt to change, where the centre of said struggle necessarily passes through participation in electoral, constitutional, and bureaucratic life. In 2011 they tried to register as a political party before the National Elections , but they were rejected, closing the door to that route by the Peruvian state. The demand for democratic rights seen by sectarian leftist critics as the same line of abstract democracy and freedom as “opportunists and revisionists Patria Roja.”
Still Movadef campaign that their constitutional rights be respected, and say they are persecuted because they “think differently” or that “they are persecuted for ideas” to defend the life and freedom of Chairman Gonzalo, of those imprisoned who wield Gonzalo Thought.
Former political prisoner Esther Palacios argues in support for “the new grand strategy proposed by its president [Gonzalo] of moving from a political struggle with weapons to a political struggle without weapons and to use all possible forms of struggle within the political struggle. Thus, fight for the fundamental rights restricted or denied by the open dictatorship of Fujimorism imposed by neoliberalism in 1992 and within which the different demo-bourgeois governments continue.
This new stage marks them out as having capitulated, label as traitors and the described as “faithful followers of the Prachanda Path in Latin America”. There are well-rehearsed positions against Movadef’s approach:
— Not only did they go against the People’s War, but claimed the way to solve the fundamental problems of society is through reconciliation, peace, the meeting of classes—they yelled like Kautsky, “there is no longer any room for armed struggle for the solution of class conflicts,” and “that it will be ridiculous … to preach a violent disorder” to change society. They turned their backs on the People’s War, on the revolution, they created their “glass ceiling” that was no more than reform and renewed constitutionalism, and they went against those who support the People’s War.
The thought that Chairman Gonzalo, “the greatest living Marxist-Leninist-Maoist on the face of the earth” could be accuse of being the author of the CIA’s “Peace Letters” and the right-wing opportunist line is repeatedly denied as part of the betrayal of Maoism, Chairman Gonzalo, the party and the People’s War by those who have given up on the revolution.
What remains loudly claimed is that it was in Peru, and precisely with the PCP’s doctrinaire interpretations of Mao and the People’s War that Mao Tse-tung Thought became Maoism, that is, a third and superior stage of Marxism, and not only that, but also its contributions of universal validity of Gonzalo Thought, an obstacle to opportunism and revisionism. Within the international communist movement is voiced the advice they should take Chairman Gonzalo to account for his own conduct of leadership in his own country, his “Left” opportunist line before his capture in 1992 and Right opportunist line soon after his capture. Furthermore, these conflicting opportunist lines have brought about the decline of the people’s war in Peru.
The elevation of Gonzalo Thought, in particular the concept of a militarised party and protracted people’s war, and the characterisation of Maoism places in the shadows those “miserable rats of the right opportunist line (ROL), revisionist and capitulationist,” who claim (with as much authenticity) to be equally inspired and led by Gonzalo to act and group themselves, as “the third instrument of the revolution”, the united front led by the PCP.
Rejecting the hoax is rejecting a presentation of Chairman Gonzalo, dejected, defeated who had generated letters calling for demobilization and entering a “new stage”, of the need to enter a new phase of the struggle marked by reconciliation and, a scenario that involves amnesty, electoral struggle, and struggle for rights in the framework of bourgeois democracy. All this is seen as a denial of the PCP, Gonzalo Thought, the people’s war and consequently of the ideology of the proletariat.
Hence , the flare up at the re-publication of the new edition of the so-called “Peace Letters”, the hoax of the CIA-Peruvian reaction presented by the former Minister of the Interior (of the Minter) Rubén Vargas shortly after the arrests in Lima of Movadef’s activists.
MPP somehow regard the arrests as a CIA operation, “the continuation of the one set up by this spy agency of US imperialism to detain and then infame Chairman Gonzalo, presenting him as the head of the ROL, with the service of these “revisionist and capitulationist rats” to annihilate the leadership of the party and the revolution.
There is a reference point frozen in time that remains fundament for those who honour the name of “Fourth Sword of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.” Two weeks after his arrest, Guzman was presented briefly before television cameras. Wearing a black-and-white striped prison uniform, he was filmed pacing back and forth in what resembled a circus lion’s cage
Guzman took full advantage of the 15 minutes the government gave him. “Here, under these circumstances, some may think that this is a great defeat,” he said defiantly. “They are dreaming. We say, keep on dreaming. It is simply––and nothing more than––a stone along the path. The path is long. We will reach our destination, we will triumph!” Guzman then stridently ordered his organization to continue the armed struggle, which he now described as a patriotic defense of the nation against imminent imperialist intervention.
That defiance remains celebrated.
What is disregarded and discarded from historic memory was another television appearance a year later in December 1993 when Guzman appeared in a video surrounded by all of the imprisoned members of the Central Committee reading out a document signed by them all reiterating request for peace talks with the government. While Fujimori sternly rejected any possibility of negotiating with Shining Path––”winners” of wars do not negotiate – no peace agreement was ever reached, both due to the refusal of the government and the refusal of those who remained in command of the war.
The original media reports in 1993 were that, from jail, Chairman Gonzalo was calling for the Shining Path “guerrillas to suspend the war, and to the government to start peace talks”. It was not a surrender as such but merely a call for negotiations under the pretext that the political period had undergone a major change. Other important jailed PCP leaders began to recruit support for a peace accord. The Peruvian state promoted the so-called “peace accords” by shuttling members of the ROL around from prison to prison to promote it. Still, it seems most of the political prisoners rejected the ROL, under very difficult conditions. The leadership outside the prisons rejected the peace proposal and continued fighting, thus setting up a two-line struggle in the PCP. In 1994 the PCP began to break-up and fall into decline. Critics say that in 25 years those adhering to the “old line” of armed action have stalled and they have never taken even one district, and, even if they do some ambushes, this does not add up to a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist people’s war.
The Movimeento Popular Peru de Alemania – MPP-Germany- operating through an anti-imperialist group based in Hamburg, was the only “PCP” group abroad to accept the “Peace Letters” as genuine and claims to have received phone calls from Abimael Guzman /Chairman Gonzalo instructing it to work for a peace accord in Peru.
These Peace Letters allegedly written by Abimael Guzman were quickly followed in October 1993 by a hundred-page document signed ‘President Gonzalo’ and released by the PCP under the title Asumir y combatir por la Nueva gran Decisión y Definición (‘Accepting and Fighting for the New Great Decision and Definition’) based on a supposedly qualitative change in the political period used to justify this initiative.
Since being imprisoned under harsh isolating security, two manuscripts have been smuggled out that have been largely ignored by those who maintain a protracted people’s war stance. The first publication smuggled out of prison was Guzman’s memoir, De puño y letra, a series of autobiographical manuscripts, letters, and legal arguments compiled by Elena Iparraguirre, his wife and number two in the hierarchy.
Reviewing, when publicly presented on September 12th 2009 at a hotel in Lima, former high profile supporter, Luis Arce Borja saw only betrayal arguing that the Shining Path, since 1993, has become a political party of the counterrevolution after all, objectively, Guzman’s book serves the interests of the government.
Almost all of the thousand published copies were seized by the government, and attention turned to repress (apply the apology law) the authors and publishers who collaborated with the publication of ‘De Puño y Letra‘.
Whereas Luis Arce Borja sees it reaffirms once again what he calls the treacherous conduct of Guzman, “who in 1993 agreed to a kind of cemetery peace with Alberto Fujimori and Vladimiro Montesinos”, generally the controversial book was regarded as an apologia for violence as a means to meet political ends but it also places the conflict firmly in the past and calls for national reconciliation.
Dr. Alfredo Crespo, lawyer for Abimael Guzman, in defense of this publication, has said that Gonzalo has ended the “historical process of the armed struggle”. The content reaffirms the approach of Guzman regarding a proposal for a peace agreement made in 1993, and an “amnesty general for all those who participated in the internal war”.
Guzman’s 2014 book, Memories from Nemesis compiles documents and memoirs substantiating the move to struggle without arms.
The merit of this decision from the leader split the organisation, accepted by some and rejected by others – both claiming to uphold Gonzaloist Thought. The repression of the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef) illustrates the state’s views that it is uprooted the underground PCP loyal to Guzman. To acknowledge that raises too many unpalatable issues for its political opponents who chisel the arrests in Lima into their own constructed reality of the overarching narrative of a hoax and CIA conspiracy.
Planning to release the 2nd edition of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong, Volume IX, the Paris-based publishing house Foreign Language Press “discovered some surprises in our endeavour to put out the best text we could.” [i]
They encountered issues of scholarship that are tackled in any intellectual production from the simplest blog to the authority in the field: can the reader trust the text? There are always caveats in any approach to reading that question its reliability, accuracy, value and purpose. Some of the concerns raised in an earlier posting Reading Maobut dealt with in a more focus and informative manner by the FLP editors.
Despite his charismatic authority and creative Marxism, Mao frequently acknowledged he was no superman and worked with and through others as the collective development of ideas, the collective editing and bureaucratic, as well as personal, approval before publication under Mao’s name illustrated. Many academics drawn to textual analysis and comparison, often preoccupied with the differences between the ‘speaking notes’ and the official version, have commented on this collective production in the evaluation of the work of Mao Zedong. Such collaboration, commonplace if hidden and seldom advertised, produces an intellectual co-operation that lies behind influential work[ii] as in the critique of Soviet economics attributed to Mao that emerged in 1967. As Timothy Cheek noted these “are Hu Sheng’s notes from Mao’s 1960 study group – Hu Sheng rearranged Mao’s comments and added sub-headings; Mao never reviewed them.” [iii]
Scott Harrison makes available the translated, and Chinese edition of the text. He notes the “standard” Monthly Review English language version many of Mao’s comments to comrades about Soviet economics are not included along with the notes he made while reading the Soviet textbook. This explains why this English language book are so much shorter than even the “Short” Chinese language edition.
Deng Liqun, who prepared the original “Short” Chinese edition, included all of Mao’s comments, but much shorter extracts from the full Soviet texts that Mao was criticizing. Like the attribution to Hu Sheng, Deng Liquin’s text was edited based on his extensive conversations with Mao.
As with anything published under Mao’s name, Harrison says questions have also been raised about the accuracy of the translations of Mao’s comments in some places. Part of the process of how these texts were produced, basically somebody’s edited notes or minutes of recorded talk and conversations involving Mao, rather than by his hand, serves to illustrate why so much attention was given in the production of officially released work of Mao Zedong.
When Mao spoke publically, he spoke for the party .The gonzo culture of western political reporting with its proliferation of politician’s arbitrary comments, political leaks and ill-thought out boasts was alien to the Chinese political process. The emergence of unauthorised raw texts, uncensored and not necessarily prepared by Mao himself excited sinologists and raised the issue of authenticity and ownership. There is the argument that the only authorised work of Mao Zedong is that released during his lifetime – the first four volumes of Selected Works, the Selected Readings and military essays released by Mao. His best-selling Quotations – The little Red Book of popular culture – was published under the direction and guidance of Lin Biao and like any other text somebody’s political interpretation by selection of the compilations of texts presented.
Authorised English language edition
Selected Readings (1971) 1926 -1965
Volume 1 (1975) 1926-1937
Volume 2 (1967) 1937- 1941
Volume 3 (1975) 1941 -1945
Volume 4 (1969) 1945 – 1949
Volume 5 (1977) 1949 -1957
On Diplomacy (1998) 1938 – 1974
Some would advise readers to use some appropriate caution with the last two volume, considering that those who produced it were leading China back to capitalism by this time. Those who thought that the Chinese revisionists would not be publishing more of Chairman Mao’s Selected Works (or that they couldn’t be trusted if they did) had attempts to try to determine what might have been produced from the material that had emerged unofficially during the Cultural Revolution. In the publication of four further (unofficial) volumes of Selected Works, these Indian compilations, partially utilising the work of Stuart Scram, pioneered the popularisation of Mao before what was, mainly consumed by academics, the steady authorised release of material from the post-Mao regime.
Unauthorised additions to the published series
Subsequent volumes of Selected Works published in India in the 1990s by Kranti Publications, Secunderabad, and Sramikavarga Prachuranalu, Hyderabad. Second editions by Foreign Language Press, Paris. 2020/21
Volume 6 1917 -1946
Volume 7 1947 – 1957
Volume 8 1958 – 1962
Volume 9 1963 – 1970
Kranti Publications/ Foreign Language Press (Paris) drew upon variety unauthorised sources to continue the series Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung. Other compilations of work attributed to Mao were published by western publishers, notable Mao Tsetung Unrehearsed (1974) 1956 – 1971 compiled and translated by Stuart Schram that utilised the sixiang wansui editions.
Volume 6 of Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, produced by the Indian publishing house, Kranti Publications in 1990, contained a compendium of work dating from 1917-1946 that had not appeared in the Chinese authorised edition. Unfortunately scantly bibliographical source, it nevertheless was stimulating in its selection of material that had been omitted or new material seeped out from China.
This was followed by other volumes: Volume 7 covers the period from the founding of the People’s Republic (October 1949) until the Great Leap Forward (1958) and contains 478 documents, mainly composed of his letters and telegrams , that are not included in the “Official” Volume 5 of the Selected Works that covered this period.
Volume 8 gathers texts documenting a critical and dynamic period in the People’s Republic: 1958-1962 and includes the main documents from the Lushan Meeting in 1959, where the two-lines first emerged in open struggle in party meetings.
Volume 9, originally released in December 1994, covers the next stage in the developments that led to the initiation of the Socialist Education Movement and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution taking the narrative up to 1970.
The editors at Kranti Publications noted
“During the great proletariat cultural revolution a nationwide programme of studying the works of chairman Mao were launched and it was in hightide. Then Mao himself observed: “The Selected Works of Mao, how much of it is mine! It is a work of blood. The struggle in the soviets was very acute. Because of the errors of the Wang Ming line we had to embark on the 25,000 li Long March. These things in Selected Works of Mao were taught to us by the masses and paid for with blood sacrifices”.”[iv]
Long out of print, in 2020/21 these volumes were made available in corrected reprints by the overtly MLM publishing house, Foreign Language Press. When announcing the release of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong Vol. IX, FLP’s editorial team observed the challenge of scholarship in the service of revolutionary advance when it explained the difficulties with sourcing material for those pioneering editors at Kranti Publications.
III Source material
Since his death, any official evaluation of Mao has been framed by the document on party history adopted by the Sixth Plenary Session of the CPC on June 27, 1981. It has more nuances argument than its critics credit but still the bottom line was to draw a line in the mid-1950s and state that anything after that period associated with Mao was ultra-leftist and disastrous for Chinese society.
Basically everything the modern Maoist appreciates in Mao, the politics of the mass line and supervisory mass campaigns , the anti-revisionist stance, radical encourage for anti-imperialists, the Cultural Revolution’s emphasis on ‘continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat’ has been condemned by the Chinese leadership since his death.
However as it turned out, the 1981 Resolution would not end work on Mao’s life. Memoirs by military figures and Mao staff members, biographical studies of senior figures, and selective issue of Party documents added to the knowledge of Mao’s actions and words. Besides Chinese authored memoirs, (amongst them two translated for English-speaking market) Quan Yanchi (1992) and Zhong Wenxian (ed) (1986),[v] work by oversea authors became available: Ross Terrill’s and Philip Short’s biography of Mao were published by Chinese publishing houses.
The fresh attention to Mao was low-key and factual. It stressed his human side, Guangming Ribao ran an article detailing Mao’s grave health problems — including a respiratory ailment due to his smoking — from the spring of 1971 until his death. What was not permitted was any positive evaluation or reference to what had been condemned as Mao’s political leftism.
A powerful “Mao re” (Mao fever) of the early 1990s produced a cultural, good-humoured remembrance of the former leader. Sometimes the use of Mao was commercial, his image on lighters and wristwatches along with the posters, busts and tourist-targeted reproduction copies of Quotations. Such trivial uses will go on being made of Mao image. Sometimes it was superstitious, satiric, or nostalgic. Seldom was it politically.
Another Mao fever that began in 2003. This was the year of the 110th anniversary of Mao’s birth, the publication of a solid official party history biography of Mao, of many films, performances and other events marking the anniversary. On this occasion, Hu Jintao paying lip service said Mao still offered China “precious spiritual wealth.” In forty-eight days, the special website devoted to the 110th Mao anniversary received half a million hits. The thought of Mao remained strong in the mass culture of China, manifest in popular nostalgia if absent from its political and economic policies. It is Mao who still resonates in the spiritually sterile and morally corrupt capitalist society of post-Mao China. How far Maoist nostalgia is reflective and not restorative is another question.
Obviously the source for material by Mao comes from China. All foreign language editions and collections draw upon official and unofficial compilations of texts. There is still no complete Chinese edition of Mao’s works – Professor Takeuchi Minoru[vi] spent decades producing a Japanese language collection of Mao’s pre-1949 writings in 20 volumes, and Stuart Scram (continued by Timothy Creek) English language series Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings, 1912-49 runs to eight published volumes.[vii]
Many western publications – especially those including texts not found in the first four volumes of Selected Works – draw upon the explosion of material collected and produced during the Cultural Revolution when large unofficial collections of Mao’s papers, popularly title “Long Live Mao Zedong Thought” – the various sixiang wansui editions – contained instructions, letters, talks and quotations seldom checked for authenticity or accuracy without bibliographical conventions. These sixiang wansui volumes from 1967 and 1969 emerged from the Institute of International Relations in Taipei. They were compiled from neibu (restricted circulation)[viii] material captured when Red Guards occupied ministries or other government offices, and raids on homes of leading officials. Many of these texts appear to be lecture notes taken down by anonymous hands.
These raw texts contribute to the party’s historiography and Mao’s role in it but they are very much the product of daily politics. These were treated as largely trustworthy not least when translated and popularised in Chairman Mao Talks to the People by Stuart Schram (in UK published as Mao Tse-Tung Unrehearsed. Talks and Letters: 1956-71). There are still other sources to mine, the little known sources, often non-Chinese sourced that could be traced e.g. Anna Louise Strong: Three Interviews with Chairman Mao Zedong. [ix]
Not surprisingly there are significant differences and details within the Wansui volumes which provided access to Mao’s unofficial work published without being shaped or polished by consideration or subject to political editing and concerns. The breadth and depth of material reproduced in Taiwan in the early 1970s had previously been unavailable to western scholars and were uneven in quality and indifferent to bibliographical filters and checks.
There was the American government’s publication in 1978 of Collected Works of Mao Tse-Tung (1917-1949) produced by the Joint Publications Research Service[x] based on a ten volume Chinese language edition, Mao Tse-tung Chi that appeared in Hong Kong in 1975 . However any item official published in Selected Works or Selected Readings were not included. Again the main source were the unofficial Red Guard collections Mao Tse-tung Ssu-shiang Wan-sui (Long live Mao Tse-tung thought).
Without great fanfare and promotion, and not intended for a mass readership, nevertheless there has been detailed and thematically organized collections of Mao works published. China state publications provide the bedrock of material of work by Mao published in China after his death, and seeded many an academic’s publishing record.
The body of available material expanded through selective official publication of individual items like letters and various thematic volumes which are published exclusively in Chinese language editions, either openly or for restricted circulation (neibu) mainly from the Central Committee supervised Department for Research on Party literature.
The Central Committee’s Research Institute on Party Literature remains responsible for releasing new material. The official publication of Mao’s work had been significant as defining the political orthodoxy. Its release was a carefully choreographed and deliberate statement. This was a function of the Selected Works version published during Mao’s lifetime when revised texts were produced under Mao’s supervision and often with his active participation. Mao’s Selected Works were not simply a historical collection recording what was said at the time. They have been subject to collective editing reflecting their purpose as a political instrument as party orthodox and promotion of ideological training. For instance, Volume V of Selected Writings had only 70 articles from the period 1949-1957 when Western academics identified 750 possible entries for inclusion and actually selected 522 to publish.[xi] Drawn up under the brief tenure of Hua Guofeng, Volume V was quickly suppressed partly because of its “errors” in its stance of upholding the “continuing revolution under the dictatorship of the revolution”.
As with previous work, after Mao’s death the assumption must be that public editions of Mao’s writings are still released to support current party policy. Even though the contents are incomplete and extremely selective in relation to the total corpus of Mao’s work, notable was the lack of appearance of Mao’s more radical advocacy, a shunning of the “ultra-leftist” positions associated with Mao’s later years (seemingly any thought after the aged of 63). [xii]
Back in 1988, Timothy Cheek discussed the massive amount of material released with 23 volumes of talks and writings attributed to Mao, amounting to over 5,500 pages.[xiii] Unlike the hundreds of millions of copies involved in the print run of officially sponsored Mao publications in his life time, and the 28 million copies of Volume V of Selected Work published in 1977-78, these new releases were more modest in number and not as widely circulated beyond the orbit of the sinologist field. Such releases fed new publications of Mao’s writing in English by academic publishers such as The Secret Speeches of Chairman Mao: From the Hundred Flowers to the Great Leap Forward[xiv] .
In all, the release from the 1980s onwards were part of a Chinese party/state sanction scholarly and historicist drive that saw a release of new volumes of Mao’s writings that specialist libraries like at Harvard (USA) and western academics secured access regardless of their circulation status. Some of the sources referenced by scholars include:
1983 Selected Correspondences of Mao Zedong
1983 Selected Materials regarding Mao Zedong’s Journalistic work
1983 Collected writings of Mao Zedong on the investigations in the countryside.
1986 Mao Zedong Reader in two volume edition published covering 1921-1964 with copious (488) and lengthy end notes.
1986 a collection of 14 articles on Mao’s reading habits was published: Mao Zedong’s Reading Life (Mao Zedong de dushu shenghuo , Sanlian Shudian, Beijing 1986)
1987 a research guide to 14,000 items in two volumes, Index to research on Mao Zedong’s life and works ( Mao Zedong shengping, zhuzuo yanjiu suoyin. Guofeng Daxue Chubanshe, Beijing 1987) was published. A testimony to the interest and extent of material generated around Mao.
1987 A Collection of Mao Zedong’s Comments and Notes on Philosophical Writings is another volume of the series of Mao Zedong’s special works edited by the CPC Central Committee’s Party Literature Research Center (with the cooperation of other units). It is a collection of Mao Zedong’s notes on and extracts from the philosophical writings on Marxism which he studied between the 1930’s and 1960’s. “Most of them have never been published before.” [xv]
1987 – 1996 Mao Zedong’s Manuscript since the founding of the People’s Republic (Jianguo yilai Mao Zedong wengao .Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1987-1996). This multivolume collection has three volumes covering the period of the Cultural revolution: Volume 11: January 1964 – December 1965 to Volume 13: January 1969 – July 1976
1991 Draft Writings by Mao Zedong for the Early Period, June 1912-November 1920. Mao Zedong Zaoqi Wengao, 1912.6-1920.11 Changsha: Hunan Chaubanshe.
1993-1999. The Party Literature Research Centre of the Central Committee published the multi-volume ‘Mao Zedong Works’. The first volume appeared in 1993 on the Centenary of Mao’s birth, and Xinhua News Agency announced publication of the 8th volume in July 1999. The multi-volume work contains over 800 pieces not previously published in the Chinese edition of “Selected Works of Mao Zedong”, although only key items from 1966 onwards are included because the Cultural Revolution “launched by Chairman Mao, was a mistake of overall importance”.[xvi]
1993 Mao Zedong’s Military Writings six volumes (Mao Zedong junshi wenji .Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1993).
1994 Selection of Materials by Mao Zedong on Foreign Affairs (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1994) In the former, over five-sixths of the documentation covers the post-1949 period, the last being from his May 25, 1974 talk with former British Prime Minister Edward Heath. An English-language collection of Mao’s writing On Diplomacy was produced by Foreign Language Press in 1998.
1995 A Collection of Reports and Speeches by Mao Zedong to the Seventh Party Congress (Mao Zedong zai qida de baogao he jianghua ji . Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1995).
Also, Nancy Hearst and Tony Saich suggested that (although unseen) a limited circulation 60-volume edition of pre-1949 Mao texts apparently exists.[xvii]
1998 Complete Books of Mao Zedong, 6 volumes (ed) Jiang Jiannong. Mao Zedong Chuan Shu, Shijiazhuang: Hebi Renmin Chubanshe
2013 Mao Zedong Nianpu 1949-1976 of six volumes of previously obscure materials from the central party archives press published to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong, Guangming Daily (23/12/2013) reported the publication of the Mao Nianpu (or Mao Zedong Chronology) (1949-1976). Compiled by the CCCPC Party Literature Research Office, it comprised six volumes and about three million words, covering Mao’s life and achievements during the twenty-seven years from the founding of the People’s Republic of China to his death.
Adam Cathcart commented that in Mao Zedong Nianpu a single editor was responsible for editing the entire Cultural Revolution period, covered in a single volume of 653 pages of text covering ten years (1966-1976), and suggests Mao’s dwindling physical activity could be partially to account for the relative lack of density of the entries. Judicious selection based on the 1981 resolution may leave other writings safely in the archives?
At the same time, the Chronicle of Mao Zedong (1893-1949) (total three volumes) published in December 1993 has been revised and issued across the country.
IV Turning Mao’s Chinese into English
The reworking on Mao related text, as in the scholarship undertaken by FLP, is a constant feature as in finding the original source of a document that was only available as an excerpt in the 1st edition of the Selected Works Vol. 9 and replace the excerpt with it in the 2nd edition. But there are frustrations too as FLP Twitter account noted: “wish we found this a week earlier. Rab Rab Press, a tiny publisher from Finland, has released in June 2020 a new translation of the last meeting of Mao with Red Guards leaders that corrects so many parts that the JPRS translation one has wrongly translated.”
Foreign Language Press has taken on the challenge with an announcement regarding the future of their work on the Mao’s writings. Work has already begun on Volume X with several hundreds of page of Mao’s writings, interviews, letters and instructions from 1966 to 1976 that have yet to be released in English. They hope to publish in 2021.[xviii]
The readability of the translated work requires an understanding of the nuances of Chinese terms and expressions while ensuring that what is read is both accurate and conveys what was said. A good translation requires more than transliteration in the translation, a good English renderings of Mao’s Chinese, translate into “accuracy and nuance, tone and register.” These concerns were evident in the 1930s according to this account by Edgar Snow.
In his Red Star over China Snow writes: “Seated next to me was Wu Liang-ping, a young Soviet ‘functionary’, who acted as interpreter during my ‘formal’ interviews with Mao Tse-tung. I wrote down in full in English Mao Tse-tung’s answers to my questions, and these were then translated into Chinese and corrected by Mao, who is noted for his insistence upon accuracy of detail. With the assistance of Mr. Wu, the interviews were then re-translated into English.” In 1979 Wu Liang-ping wrote an additional explanation: “At the request of Mao Tse-tung, Snow compiled the notes on Mao’s revolutionary experience and wrote an account that was, after having been translated into Chinese by Huang Hua, scrutinized and revised slightly by Mao. Huang Hua translated these revisions into English, and returned the draft to Snow.” [xix]
Reviewing the English language series Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings, Brantly Womack judged “they lack the genius of the official Chinese translations. The translations in the official Selected Works of Mao Tsetung are remarkable for their ability to transcend the literal text and to get the original point across better with a different construction or wording.”[xx]
Foreign Language Press alluded to the questions raised on which version of the available texts are more authentic, or more authoritative, in its consideration of using the texts in the collection published as Mao Papers, Anthology and Bibliography Edited by Jerome Chen (1970) . It was also a practical concern as FLP’s second editions of the “Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung” compiled in early 1990s by comrades from Kranti Publications, corrects typographical and formatting errors. In Mao Papers the editor had undertaken his own translation and ignored pre-existing official version of English language published texts. A noted and respected translator of Mao, the sinologist Stuart Scram (1924 –2012) noted in his review of the publication of these independent translations – “many of which are highly elliptical and difficult to interpret” – errors in dating and distorting editorial choices .[xxi] The FLP highlight some of these concerns in Jerome Chen’s use of material that have to be addressed by any compiler of Mao’s writings. [xxii]
This small, if energised MLM publishing house noted in its politically-driven scholarship:
“You can trace our evolution in Mao’s Selected Works: Volume VI is basically a reprint with some corrections of the more obvious typographical errors; Volume VII was much more thoroughly copyedited and we replaced all the Wade-Giles Chinese with pinyin and included an index of names and places; Volume VIII included, in addition to the corrections made in previous volumes, corrections in the sourcing of the texts in particular; and Volume IX… in Volume IX we uncovered a whole host of problems. Texts that were translated incorrectly, placed out of context, chopped up and moved into other texts and dated and sourced incorrectly. The more deeply we dug, the more errors we discovered, and found ourselves irretrievably behind schedule.” [xxiii]
On translating Mao, academic author Thomas Kampen, listed the difficulties the task involves[xxiv]
Many aspects have to be considered:
1) Many of Mao’s speeches were not intended for publication. 2) Many speeches were not based on detailed manuscripts. 3) Many listeners were not from Hunan and were not familiar with his pronunciation. 4) Notes were handwritten and not always legible. 5) The speeches sometimes lasted for several hours (people may have been exhausted). 6) Ambiguity was not always intended; participants were aware of the speeches by other leaders or RMRB/Hong Qi editorials of the time.
The officially published works of Mao have gone through an editorial process and polishing not unknown in western publishing circles where fiction texts receive the blue pencil while maintaining the mythology of the lone writer, and why employ a sub-editor in a newspaper office, who would go without the benefit of peer review in academic study that brings items to the author’s attention? As FLP notes, the source material for unofficial publication of work attributed to Mao are “compilations of documents published in other compilations translated from… Chinese compilations”.
A background case study illustrating the problems suggested to in the endeavour to bring Mao’s work to a wider audience. Just two small episodes illustrates the complexities involved in presenting Mao for professional academics:
Is what you read, what was written – the problem of mistranslation was explored upon in a blog by Leeds University lecture, Adam Cathcart with regard to Mao’s addresses to the Chengdu conference of March 1958 when “Mao gave no fewer than six speeches at the Chengdu meeting — none of which was publicised at the time.”[xxv]
Once you have a translated quote, is it understood and used appropriately with accuracy? The academic response [xxvi] provoked by the lies and distortion contained in the worldwide best-selling hatchett job on Mao by Jung Chang and her husband, Jon Halliday, was a public condemnation of “poor scholarship” that is discussed quietly online in numerous forums. For instance, Did Mao say let half the people starve? Academic consensus growing that Frank Dikotter, author of a best-selling trilogy on modern Chinese history, got Mao’s quote seriously wrong does not stop it been repeated and reproduced elsewhere. The hunt for the killer quote was dissect and framed within an academic discussion. [xxvii]
The discussion did bring forth a self-criticism from an eminent scholar in the field of Chinese studies, Michael Schoenhals,
“…perhaps you would like to believe that the authors of Mao’s Last Revolution (HUP 2006) can be trusted when, on p. 102, they have Mao saying “the more people you kill, the more revolutionary you are”? Don’t! I was responsible for that translation of Mao’s abstruse remark “越杀人就越要革命” and the translation is wrong. A correct translation …. should read “The greater the number of people murdered, the greater the wish [on the part of the survivors] for a revolution.” A world of difference!”
The evidence of the diversity of material since 1949 might question the need for the translation of every item produced in his life-time, after all it would take an equal amount to read and study it!
Not all entries need equal attention and study as the volumes are full of sleight, single sentences entries, recording comments and letters, diplomatic greetings and observation written by Mao e.g a simple opinion is editorial elevated to be taken as an “Evaluation of the movie “The Song of the Gardener” “ Mao’s comment in November 1974 was: I think it is a good show.
An explanatory note from the editor explains that prior to this, the “Gang of Four” had criticised the movie “The Gardener” in Hunan in November 1974.[xxviii]
Its inclusion may serve a wider agenda of the Chinese authorities seeking to disassociate Mao from the “Gang of Four” by citing differences in opinion but much further contextual research would be required, and what criteria is invoked in the judgement – artistic, political, politeness ? The numerous occurrence of such entries reinforces the need to evaluate and select what is given prominence in any published work.
The original producers of the unauthorised Volume Six acknowledged the limitations of “the works included in this volume, we have neither the means nor the competence to vouch safe about their authenticity and completeness.” Upfront there were warnings for the reader to be wary – “We fondly hope that much more additional material could come to light enabling us to substantially improve on this” – but in that absence the intention was to “further stimulating the study of Mao’s works.” [xxix]
They pointed out the weakness in that there was poor bibliographic control. ..Except indicating the primary source quoted in the originals, no attempt is made to annotate or edit the texts in any respect or in any manner.” So maybe “Works” is accurate, rather than writings, as much of what is available consists of manuscripts of notes and contemptuous recording by others.
V Political Interpretation
“No verdict on a man who changed either the course of events or accepted patterns of thought (and Mao changed both) can ever be called final. Many such individuals are re-evaluated, and argued about, decades or even centuries after their disappearance.” Stuart Schram 1982 in a lecture in Hong Kong.
The fashion to paint Mao as one-dimensionally and unremittingly evil was not Deng’s, nor was the idea of maintaining Mao’s legacy: Deng Xiaoping had a different agenda for China’s development that was reformist, state capitalist and market-driven.
In saying that we should use as our guide genuine Mao Zedong Thought taken as an integral whole, I mean that we should have a correct and comprehensive understanding of Mao Zedong Thought as a system and that we should be proficient at studying it, mastering it, and applying it as a guide to our work. Only in this way can we be sure that we are not fragmenting Mao Zedong Thought, distorting or debasing it. We can then see that what Comrade Mao Zedong said with regard to a specific question at a given time and under particular circumstances was correct, and that what he said with regard to the same question at a different time and under different circumstances was also correct, despite occasional differences in the extent of elaboration, in emphasis and even in the formulation of his ideas. So we must acquire a correct understanding of Mao Zedong Thought as an integral system instead of just citing a few specific words or sentences.[xxx]
One approach of the post-Mao leadership was to quote an earlier Mao in contrast to his later self as demonstrated in the Beijing Review article, “Chairman Mao on Mao Zedong Thought”. [xxxi] It sought to establish a legitimatising source and symbol it could use against the Mao that would issue calls to bombard the headquarters against the capitalist roaders. The perspective was reinforced that condemned and shelved Mao’s erroneous thinking. Li Rui, briefly in the mid-1950s, the personal secretary to Mao Zedong on industrial affairs, noted for his criticisms of the Great Leap Forward, so not an unpartisan observer, commented on the wider impact of such thinking:
As a historical phenomenon, Mao Zedong’s erroneous thinking in his later years also generated considerable worldwide impact.
During the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong Thought was declared to be the “third milestone” in the evolution of Marxism, focusing on this erroneous thinking in his later years. Left-wing parties and groups in some countries not only accepted his theories but also put them into practice. The ways in which the Cultural Revolution was conducted were once followed by radicals in a dozen countries and regions and at one time created a stir, such as the “Red May Storm” in France, the “Khmer Rouge” in Southeast Asia, and the “Shining Path” in Latin America. This indicated that Mao Zedong’s erroneous thinking in his later years already went beyond national boundaries and its study is of international importance. [xxxii]
Political Interpretation in China is hostile to the sentiments expressed worldwide by revolutionaries was voiced by the Australian E.F. Hill:
This is meant to be no more than a note prompted by another note. I adhere to the view that Mao Zedong made a unique contribution to the international cause of Communism and the liberation of mankind. His writings should be deeply studied and independently thought over using the general principles and putting on one side those things peculiarity confined to China. [xxxiii]
In a 1956 conversation with representatives of some Latin American communist parties, Mao Zedong warns them about mechanically copying the experiences of the Chinese revolution:
“The experience of the Chinese revolution, that is, building rural base areas, encircling the cities from the countryside and finally seizing the cities, may not be wholly applicable to many of your countries, though it can serve for your reference. I beg to advise you not to transplant Chinese experience mechanically. The experience of any foreign country can serve only for reference and must not be regarded as dogma. The universal truth of Marxism-Leninism and the concrete conditions of your own countries–the two must be integrated.” [xxxiv]
Studying Mao can be a fulltime occupation and the field of scholarship has generated library shelves throughout the world. The official publication of Mao has continued with the specific intent to tame and shape his legacy. The “collective wisdom” created and applied throughout the Chinese Revolution is institutionalise in the party, relativizing his thought away from its dominance as Deng Xiaoping began the de-mythologizing of Mao that keeps him as a symbol. Whilst the 1987 new material for the Study of Mao Zedong’s Philosophical Thinking was advertised as “something which has great theoretical and practical significance” in Red Flag, little sweeps into party practice.
The process of articulating and systematizing what became known as the Thought of Mao Zedong within China began in the mid-1930s amidst the shift from a rural class-based revolution to a national united front against Japanese imperialism; the application of Marxism to Chinese conditions. It was this intellectual contribution that was the discourse of Western academics when they debated the subject of Maoism.[xxxv] Events moved on, and different interpretations arose…
The analyses of Stuart Schram which stressed Mao’s early immersion in Chinese classical literature, drawing upon Mao’s numerous allusions to these in his talks and writings, developed the notion that Mao’s political philosophy, steeped in Chinese tradition, and his political practice, not least leading a successful peasant-based revolution, was substantially different from orthodox Marxism as sanctioned in the Soviet Union.
In Mao studies a group of radical academics (Richard Pfeffer, Andrew Walder and Mark Selden) engaged in scholarly dispute with the non-Marxist Sinologists Stuart Schram and Benjamin Schwartz in the journal of Modern China 1976/1977 to challenge this evaluation as being based on a rigid understanding of what constituted Maoist canon.
Paul Healy and Nick Knight offer an alternative, Marxist-orientated perspective in studying Mao’s career compared to the atheoretical textual attention of Professor Schram in the volume edited with Arif Dirlik (1997) Critical perspectives on Mao Zedong’s Thought[xxxvi]
The radical argument drew upon Mao’s clearly self-professed allegiance to Marxism, drawing upon the anti-authoritarianism of the Cultural Revolution period as well as the earlier Yenan writings of Mao that resonated with the Marx of ‘German Ideology’ and the (then) newly emerging body of writings by the early Marx, in particular ‘Grundrisse’. Maoist-inclined intellectuals e.g. David Fernbach and Martin Nicolas provided many of the translations of these works. Mao’s criticism of ’Soviet revisionism’ and articulation of a generative class thesis under socialist state structures drew support from those attracted to an alternative vision from that provided by a Soviet Union that seemed little different from its capitalist Cold War adversaries.
The early years of this century saw intellectual ferment among self-identifying Maoist focusing on the ideological judgements behind terminology issues – to use Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism.[xxxvii] That extended contention in recent years has swivelled to encompass a contention that basically Mao Zedong was not even a maoist. One current associated with the positions of the chairman of Partido Comunista del Peru (CPP), Chairman Gonzalo , argues that it needs someone like Gonzalo to systematize and formulate the universal lessons learned from the revolutionary struggle in China led by Mao, critics ask in what way have CPP and Gonzalo systematized and formulated Mao’s thinking questioning whether a few authoritative text produced by the PCP suffice as the basis for such an assertion when contested by other Maoists. [xxxviii]
“For most Maoists, the practices and lessons learned from the Cultural Revolution are the cornerstone of the development of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought to Maoism. The launching of the GPCR was Mao’s response to the emergence of a new bureaucratic capitalist class in the Party under socialism. He believed that the only way to win the struggle for socialism was the elevated consciousness of the masses and their ability to rectify the Party: to target the real enemies of the dictatorship of the proletariat within the Party leadership itself. In the end, the masses were unable to accomplish this, in spite of—as you can read in the many documents in this volume—all of his efforts to enable them to do so.”[xxxix]
[ii] Mao Zedong; Moss Roberts, trans. (1977). A Critique of Soviet Economics. New York: Monthly Review Press
[iii] Timothy Cheek, The ‘Genius’ Mao: a treasure trove of 23 newly available volumes of post-1949 Mao Zedong texts. The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs 19/20, 1988.
[iv]Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung Volume 9 (1993) Kranti Publications
[v] Quan Yanchi (1992) Mao Zedong Man, Not God. Translated by Wang Wenjiong and English text edited by Gale Hadfield. Paperback: 213 pages. Foreign Languages Press. 9787119014456 and Zhong Wenxian (ed) (1986) Mao Zedong: Biography – Assessment -Reminiscences. 238 pages. Foreign Languages Press .083511886X
[vi]Mao Zedong Ji (Collected Writings of Mao Zedong) edited by Takeuchi Minoru. 10 volumes. (Tokyo: Sososha 2nd ed. 1983) + Mao Zedong Ji: Bujuan (Supplement to Collected Writings of Mao Zedong ) edited by Takeuchi Minoru. 10 volumes. (Tokyo : Sososha 1983-1986)
[viii] Neibu – The concept of restricted circulation based on political criteria is a much discussed source by western academics who are less forthcoming about the private government briefings and seminars, the newsletters of restricted circulation based on financial criteria, and research products from the financial markets circulated by connections and restricted access to archives that all contribute to the ecology of information circulation in the west.
[ix]The China Quarterly, No. 103 (Sep., 1985), pp. 489-509
[x] The Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) was a United States government defense-funded organization that was absorbed into the monitoring service, Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS).
[xi] Michael Y.M.Kau and John K Leung, The Writing of Mao Zedong, 1949-1976 : Vol 1 September 1949-December 1955 (1986) New York: M.E. Sharpe: Vol 2 January 1956- December 1957 (1992) New York: M.E. Sharpe
[xii] See Li Rui (1996) An Initial Study on Mao Zedong’s Erroneous “Left” Thinking in His Later Years. Chinese Law & Government, 29:4, 6-11
[xiii]Timothy Cheek, The ‘Genius’ Mao: a treasure trove of 23 newly available volumes of post-1949 Mao Zedong texts. The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs 19/20, 1988
[xiv]The Secret Speeches of Chairman Mao: From the Hundred Flowers to the Great Leap Forward edited by Roderick MacFarquhar, Timothy Cheek, and Eugene Wu. Harvard University, 1989
[xv] Noted Shi Zhongquan in Hongqi [Red Flag] No 17, 1 Sept 1987 pp 3-9
[xvi] “All volumes of ‘Mao Zedong Works’ published.” Xinhua News Agency July 1st 1999.
[xvii] Newly Available Sources on CCP History from the People’s Republic of China in New perspectives on state socialism of China (eds) Timothy Cheek and Tony Saich. 1997
[xx] Brantly Womack, Mao before Maoism. The China Journal No.46 July 2001:95-117. His 1977 Ph.D. thesis at the University of Chicago was published in 1982: Foundations of Mao Zedong’s Political Thought, 1917-1935 Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii. Subsequently published by China Renmin University Press (2006) translated as Mao Zedong Zhengzhi Sixiang de Jichu (1917–1935) 毛泽东政治思想的基础 (1917–1935).
A more extended and argued piece can be found in the work of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Chile, Evaluation of the Work of Mao Tsetung [published in Revolution, Journal of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Vol. 5, No. 1, January 1980].
[xxxv] See: What is Maoism? A Symposium, Problems of Communism, September 1966 Issue and the earlier disagreements voiced in the pages of The China Quarterly: Karl Wittvogel, “The Legend of Maoism” China Quarterly Nos 1-2 (1960) and Benjamin Schwartz, “The Legend of the ‘Legend of Maoism’” China Quarterly No.2 (April-June 1960).
[xxxvi] Dirlik (1997) New Jersey: Humanities Press. See: ‘Mao Zedong’s Thought and Critical Scholarship’ pp3-20
[xxxvii] See J. Moufawad-Paul, Critique of Maoist Reason FLP 2020
[xxxviii] PCP articles found in Collected Works of the PCP 1968-1987 FLP 2016. Drawing a line of demarcation in 21st Maoism, the veteran Philippine Marxist, Joma Ma. Sison, in an interview spoke critically on those taking such positions in the contemporary world communist movement. Published by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, 18 November 2019 https://ndfp.org/questions-on-mao-zedong-thought-maoism/
Shelia Fitzpatrick (2015) On Stalin’s Team: the years of living dangerously in Soviet politics. Princeton University Press
After watching the funny slanderous film satire, The Death of Stalin, went to the “books to read” shelf. The academic Shelia Fitzpatrick had ventured into biography to research and write an engaging study “On “Stalin’s Team”, the inner circle who made the revolution to build socialism in the Soviet Union. Largely portrayed as grey meritocratic bureaucrats, these old Bolsheviks and civil war veterans were pioneering communists engaged in the first offensive to construct without precedent a new society. For the minute of that heroic endeavour one looks to the multi-volume work of E.H.Carr and R.W.Davies, the portrait drawn by Fitzpatrick focuses on the relative stable leadership team led by Stalin, and on its members’ relationships with him and each other.
Here were men with vast individual responsibilities in the government structure combining to make an effective team that worked closely with Stalin, “whom they both feared and admired but also constituted his social circle.” Here is an account of this inner circle and their families, the working wives and children, behind the rumour mill and whispered accusations (not all untrue) that emerged in popular western entertainments as in Armando Lannucci’s scripted film. *
The totalitarian paradigm of western Cold War scholarship with its Yes-men and non-entities drawn up for home consumption is reflected in the film The Death of Stalin with its caricatures and exaggerations based on the French graphic novel La Mort de Staline. All reminiscent of the earlier 1983 British television film Red Monarch, another comedy in the same style, that looked at the interplay between Stalin and his lieutenants, particularly Beria, during the last years of Stalin’s rule. That was inspired by The Red Monarch: Scenes From the Life of Stalin (1979), a collection by the former KGB agent turned dissident, Yuri Krotkov. He defected to the West in 1963 and repeated stories heard; even to the often repeated speculation that Stalin’s death was not entirely natural.
The texture offered by Fitzpatrick is of a more rounded portrayal of lives and their concerns – the cultural patronage, sectional interests and team involvement in foreign affairs – however it does not stray far from the linguistic signalling of Stalin as dictator. She speaks of “Stalin’s sadistic instincts”, and works in almost every Moscow rumour mill product, suggesting a Polish lover for Stalin as an aside. The accuracy sought in conveying life at the top does not preclude repeating the “folklore legends” that inform film scripts and western accounts alike. There are the less than empathetic observations:
“Though many would like to believe that Stalin was behind it [Kirov’s murder], no hard evidence of his involvement has been found, and in the nature of things there can never be definite proof of his non-involvement.”
The theatre of the Moscow Trials, and “the mechanism of terror” – accusations, denunciation and arrest, torture, confessional evidence and trial – feed the conspiracies narratives that dominate the purges of State and party apparatus. Its consequences included those close to the leadership team members, Kalinin’s estranged wife, Molotov’s beloved Polina was not spared, nor Stalin’s own relatives. It is this episode that is generally presented as the only reality of the Soviet experience to western readers and Fitzpatrick tries to contextualise the thinking that saw the purges as another battlefront to safeguard the development of soviet society.
After the June debacle when Nazi Germany invaded, the leadership, particularly Stalin and Molotov, mostly stayed defiant in Moscow as the Germans reached the northern Moscow suburbs of khimki. They staged the usual October Revolution parade in Moscow. Stalin led the war effort, the rest ran the economy that sustained the soviet war machine.
Fitzpatrick comment that “the war years showed a reversion to the pattern of the early 1930s, a “collective leadership” coexisting with Stalin’s defacto dictatorship, in which various members had their own defined areas of responsibility. Within these areas, they were not just allowed but required to exercise initiative.”
Her account takes one on through the war, post-war reconstruction and the period of the aging leader to the affirmation (without Beria) of a collective leadership until Khrushchev’s assertion of prominence. In covering various episodes of Soviet history that contribute to the national legends there is an account of who was up, a candidate member or inner circle, who had the ear of the leader and who was fading in the leadership in a coverage familiar to any observer of western political elites.
Stalin’s last years are framed more in psychological terms, the loneliness of old age and reaching for that loosely used attribute of paranoia. There is less about the task of post-war reconstruction and more pieces of intrigues and survival tactics drawing on murky and self-serving recollections. Still a partial account, colourful with personal detail and unsubstantiated conjecture, observes the Soviet leadership team relationship with Stalin as if he were “a father with dementia”.
Suspicion that is said to characterised Stalin’s last years find expression in the anti-Semitism accompanying the dissolving of the Jewish Anti-fascist Committee in winter of 1948, followed by the purge in the Leningrad Affair and the spurious Doctor’s Plot of January 1953 that was subject of collective repudiation after Stalin’s death.
At least, it is stated “there is no evidence”, again less emphatically, “it doesn’t seem likely that Stalin was murdered by the team, though once he had been stricken, they certainly didn’t knock themselves out trying to keep him alive.”
So perhaps a cultural consensus with the fiction of the imaginative film makers after all.
The beginning point, on a “very unpleasant, theoretical question”, lay on a bedrock position that didn’t think it was meaningful “to consider the Khmer Rouge a left organization.”
He argued, So the beliefs, programs and plans of the Khmer Rouge were completely at right angles to Cambodian reality. Which is why it all got so bloody.
This edited synopsis of exchanges on a List discussion has conflate various postings that appeared in the original exchange for the sake of clarity in treatment of themes. It had the adversarial form against the misconceptions and the factual inaccuracies in the contribution of principally one member. There were differences in the various responses however the spirit of enquiry rather than dogmatic assertion characterised such differences. As true of most internet-based exchanges, no unanimity or consensus was reached.
So what then was the nature of the Khmer Rouge regime?
It was not a workers state of even the most deformed possible nature, as a workers state, even deformed, defends the *social interests* of the working class in sociological terms. They were modernizers not primitivists, with a vision of some sort of socialism sometime in the future, except starting on a purely agrarian primitive-communist basis. But that is simply wrong and impossible. I would characterize the Khmer Rouge as a failed attempt at creating a bureaucratic collectivist society, as per the notions of Burnham and Shachtman.
“Angka” had clearly taken on the features of a new ruling class, with absolutely no roots among these workers forced into workshops at gunpoint, and by then damn little roots among the peasantry. …”Angka” was simply an alien oppressor exploiting the workers and peasants and killing them when they complained, or if even suspected of complaining.”
Countering a lot of the automatically quoted “facts” and presenting a nuanced view of the Khmer Rouge and Democratic Kampuchea should not be taken as being sympathetic to the Khmer Rouge. As one bloggerexplained, challenging the narrative based on the facts we all believe we know about the Khmer Rouge like the eyeglasses = death fact doesn’t make you a pol potist!
“ I am the owner of the site The Eyes of the Pineapple. I am not pro-Khmer Rouge, or a ‘sympathiser.’ I merely want to present a better understanding of the Cambodian revolution, how it came to be, looking at pre-war and pre-revolutionary Cambodian society, Vietnam, international politics and the reasons why it failed so rapidly. I do counter some so-called ‘facts’ of the movement and DK regime, but not to excuse or deny what happened there. Rather to help people understand WHY what happened, happened in the way it did.”
“ I am critical of both vulgar non-communist interpretations of the revolution (Communists are by default bad, and so unsurprisingly Communists do bad things), as well as the old Marxist-Leninist left who have tried to, at times inaccurately, place and explain the DK regime’s failings in the framework of their own political understanding (it was the fault of US imperialism, it was Maoism’s fault, it was the revisionism of the Khmer revolutionaries that was at fault – insert the suffix ism here). I am not a Maoist either. “
“ A lot of it is about trying to make sense of the peasant social forces, moved to action by the spread of a major war, but not interested in socialism after it, …. I counter the assertion that they were primitivists, for example. They were in my view modernisers, aiming for the rapid development and industrialisation of the country. That was the point of their rural infrastructural programme – a Khmer version of ‘war communism’ was used for developing the productive forces needed for building a modern, industrialised society in a compressed time-scale. But it all ended in failure, with rapid structural collapse.”
[Incidentally On the now defunct Eyes of the Pineapple internet site, there was discussion on the 1971 Chinit River: Third Congress of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, on Soft drinks and cigarettes the industrial sector of the ill-fated DK economy, Pol Pot’s Abandoned Airport and Pol Pot’s forgotten steel mills amongst other topics.]
“The Khmer Rouge were not a working class party. In a very literal sense. The tiny Cambodian working class was pretty much exterminated by them.”
Now Maoism in general does move in that direction, wanting to base itself on the peasantry but not the working class. But in power Mao didn’t wipe out the working class
I would be extremely surprised if the image I have, which I thought was universal and taken for granted, of extreme CPK hostility to the working class is inaccurate.
That all factory workers were killed is as false as the claim that anyone who wore glasses, or had soft hands was singled out for execution.”
Back tracking slightly, the argument is refined: “ I was exaggerating a bit in commenting that they had a line of killing all workers. But … evacuated the cities thereby deproletarianizing those who were not killed… they drove out *everybody,* evacuating the cities 100%.”…So the Cambodian proletariat, such as it was, was literally destroyed as a social class. If that is not deproletarianization I don’t know what is.”
When question on where that notion came from, the reply was: My understanding was that it was 100% evacuated, and that Everybody Knew That…. And no, I don’t recall where this idea came from. Kiernan perhaps, or maybe it was just general opinion 30 years ago.
Phnom Penh was not 100% evacuated.
As to why it was evacuated, a very material factor was raised:
There was a report to the US Congress from the Office of the Inspector-General of Foreign Assistance in March of 1975 which was before FUNK took over Phnom Penh. An excerpt is:
“In Phnom Penh, there are between one and two million refugees in a city that had a pre-war total population of about 375,000. The added hundreds of thousands of destitute victims has proven a burden with which relief programs cannot cope. . . . Almost the totality of those refugees entering Phnom Penh and the provincial capitals for protection were farmers from the neighbouring countryside. The impact of this influx of farmers into urban areas and away from the productive farm areas had great economic impact, reducing the agricultural production of the country to the point where instead of being a substantial exporter of rice, fruit, fish and livestock. Cambodia has become a massive importer of rice. . . “
“Cambodia: An Assessment of Humanitarian Needs and Relief Efforts,” Inspection Report, March 12, 1975, in Congressional Record, March 20, 1975, Vol. 121, 94th Congress, 1st Session, pp. 7891-7894
So, this US congressional report, made before FUNK took over Phnom Penh, seems to be in contradiction to what you’re saying. You’re saying the cities were evacuated (they weren’t) whereas the US congressional position was that the cities were being filled with a starving influx of millions of peasants from the countryside (due to the US bombing campaign) – thus FUNK taking power hadn’t “evacuated the cities” but sent recent refugees back to their farms. This also isn’t “deproletarianizing” as the refugees were not proletarian, but farmers who had recently fled their farms. As the US congressional report said “this influx of farmers into urban areas and away from the productive farm areas had great economic impact, reducing the agricultural production of the country to the point where instead of being a substantial exporter of rice, fruit, fish and livestock. Cambodia has become a massive importer of rice”, sending the farmers back to their farms to farm would seem to be sensible thing.
Another contributor noted… Yeah, the depopulation of Phom Penh, regardless of the incredibly bumbled fashion it was done, was initially a desperate move to re-establish agriculture after the refugee crisis, in part fuelled by “free” American food aid, had de-agriculturalized Cambodia in an attempt to destroy the revolution and concentrate, artificially, populations in the cities (a similar strategy was attempted by the US in el Salvador, with less success).
Like with the peasant revolution=maoism canard, the view that somehow Phom Penh was this sprawling proletarian citadel that the peasant-chauvinist murdered and de-proletaraized by the millions is simply not true, and ignorant of how Phom Penh functioned in the years before the KR arrived.
This depopulation was a desperate attempt to actually *save* lives by creating a sufficient harvest in the face of impending doom. It failed, this is true, but the initial intent was not deproletarization, but re-peasantization of refugees in order to produce food so people wouldn’t die because there was no longer foreign aid.
That doesn’t mean that once this steps were set in motion, a whole bunch of ugly shit (and pie in the sky dreams of Sorbonne Université educated “advisors”) then came up. But on the question of the depopulation, the trot tropes, reactionary retellings and the liberal lies are wrong.
I hold no sympathy with the degeneration of DK, and in general break with anti-revisionism on this question (ie the Vietnamese acted mainly out of internationalism, not proxy imperialism – although it wasn’t as altruistic as some also argue), but there is a lot of highly inaccurate stuff that contradicts even bourgeois sources at the time that many in the left take as truth.
“The theoretical basis of the Khmer Rouge had a strong component of Fanonism as opposed to Marxism or even Maoism.”
Response from the owner of the now defunct [http://padevat.info ] site, The Eyes of the Pineapple, was firstly that
“Fanon had no influence, indirect or otherwise, at all on Khmer Rouge thinking. I also think you fundamentally misunderstand Maoism regarding the peasantry too. “
More than one contributor had made the basic point that Fanonism is meaningless in the context of Cambodian peasant violence, and the need to acquaint yourself with the history of the Cambodian Communist movement.
They argued that “Khmer Rouge violence, which was as much to do with not only regional intra-party political and military divides, as it was an empowered peasantry against an enemy whose bases were the towns. And both things can’t be viewed in complete abstraction from what was generally happening in Cambodia during the 1970s.
There is no correlation whatsoever between Fanon’s work and the line of the CPK, unless you are simply drawing a parallel between any two sets of figures you use the terms “violence” and “politics” in the same sentence.
Again, the argument shifted: “Did Saloth Sar derive his ideas directly from Fanon? No. I don’t think one will find references to Fanon in his famous dissertation*….. Anyway, these ideas were in the air at the time….Fanon’s ideas, right or wrong, were highly applicable to Cambodia. I think it is irrelevant whether or not Fanon had direct influence, parallel situations create parallel ideas” .
Saloth Sar did not produce a dissertation, famous or otherwise. It was Khieu Samphan who wrote a thesis on the Cambodian economy and industrial development.
Although he cited Ben Kieran as a secondary source used, the valid criticism was that his position was derived from “second-hand and inaccurate interpretations of it to bolster your argument”.
His argument was undermined by being dismissive of assessing the (conflicting) academic research, in believing “life is too short to read Samphan’s dissertation”. In a nutshell, his politics “support the official Spartacist position that Mao’s victory in 1949 meant the creation at that point of a bureaucratically-deformed workers’ state in China”.
As for Pol Pot’s Kampuchea, frankly I think your factual information here only proves my point. Whatever theoretical notions for the future the CPK had, in practice they destroyed what little industry existed, emptied Pnom Penh and other cities, and forced the workers at gunpoint to become serfs of Angka in the rice fields, and sometimes in brand new small industries as well. Not at all what happened in the Soviet Union or Mao’s China. “
At first, Samphan thesis was seen as influential by western academics, and back in 1976 the bi-monthly Indochina Chronicle gave an overview of Khieu Samphan’s 1959 doctoral thesis, and presented in abridged form the first chapter of Laura Summer’s translation.
British academic Laura Summers had this to say about Samphan’s thesis, and CPK policy:
“The other important historical point to note when reading this particular work–not his only one– by Samphan is that he was trying to explain why Cambodia had NOT industrialized. The research was inspired by what is known in development studies as dependency theory. In the west, this tradition is usually associated with Andre Gunder Frank, or in the Francophone-African worlds, Samir Amin, one of Samphan’s tutors in the University of Paris. Aidan Foster Carter and others refer to this sociological tradition as “neo-Marxist” partly because it makes use of some Marxian language and concepts (e.g. class conflict) in spite of departing very fundamentally from defining elements of Marxist analysis (e.g. Samphan’s work might be described as a study of the relations of international trade–this is not a Marxist study–or not a very rigorous study– of the means of production and relations of production in Cambodia). He is conscious of what that involves but not interested in doing what Hou Yuon and Hu Nim did (because they produced quite solidly Marxist studies on different subjects). Part II of Samphan’s recommends state intervention in the economy of a social democratic character and lots of technocratic fixing, including state investment in infant industries and import controls to protect national producers from foreign competitors. The thesis was not a blueprint for the CPK, not least because its author wasn’t even a member of that party until 1971 (and got himself in trouble soon afterwards for being in favour of joining the talks in Paris and negotiated an end to the war according to reports at the time). But in 1975 and 1976, when everyone was scratching their heads trying to figure out what was going on inside Cambodia, a number of us could see in his student dissertation how such radical, separatist, economic nationalism could emerge from the mounting, excruciating legacies of colonial, royalist (feudal if you wish) and imperialist incubation. Cambodia was a cauldron full of contradictions, if you like, and the collective fantasizing or hubris of the militarists were just symptoms of the confusion, bottled up ambitions and weaknesses of essentially poorly organized forces.”
Another contributor stated Samphan’s dissertation had no influence whatsoever on Communist Party of Kampuchea policy. Samphan’s influence in the CPK was marginal anyway, compared to others who had a Marxist-Leninist, Vietnamese-trained cadre background. Stephen Heder’s excellent study Cambodian Communism and the Vietnamese Model will be illuminating in tracing the Marxist-Leninist, Vietnamese-trained politics of the Khmer Communists.
It used dependency theory then fashionable among some academics – It was also a study on why Cambodia had not industrialised as much as finding a path to future industrialisation. For that it proposed reformist, capitalist, and technocratic measures. Pol Pot’s ambitions to industrialise Cambodia did not amount to the same thing, with regards to the proposed reforms found in Samphan’s dissertation.
Samphan was only brought in to do some work on structuring the new economy in DK because of his past experience in partially nationalising industries, as a member of the National Assembly in the years of Sihanouk’s Sangkum government. He was late into the maquis – among the second movement of radicals who left for the countryside in 1967, and was not a member of the Party at the time he disappeared. His candidacy for membership officially ended in 1971 when he became a full member of the Communist Party of Kampuchea.
He wasn’t that influential in formulating DK government policy, and nor was his thesis. This policy formulation came more from Vietnamese-trained cadre, including the more influential Nuon Chea, who was well-versed in Marxism-Leninism as filtered to him through study while in the Thai Communist Party and later his membership of the ICP and related organisations in Cambodia.
Someone raised the suggestion to read the Yale University monograph Pol Pot Plans the Future, which contains English translations of CPK documents, on economic planning, indeed their Four-Year Plan to Build Socialism in All Fields. I’m sure you’ll find some congruity with the above and Samphan’s doctoral thesis
He repeats the error : “My impression at least is that the relationship between head of state Khieu Samphan’s concept of modernizing Cambodia and party leader Pol Pot’s is that Samphan’s dissertation is the reformist class-collaborationist version and PP’s the revolutionary version of pretty much the same thing.”
The infrastructural development undertaken by the Democratic Kampuchea government, as the first stage of a comprehensive economic plan, never formally launched, but sometimes referred to as the Super Great Leap Forward, should not be viewed in a linear fashion with the Great Leap Forward in China. It diverges from it to a significant degree, despite the inspiration and rhetoric.
The ambition of Cambodian Communists to outdo not only the Vietnamese Stalinists – from who they borrowed heavily in the formative years and after 1975 – and both Stalin and Mao with the ‘building of socialism’ – to outdo them at a ‘revolution from above,’ and a great leap forward respectively.
There was little in the way of industrial development in the country pre-war, apart from small-scale light industries established during the Sangkum years. Industry was ‘neglected’ only up to a point, in that the first priority was the building of infrastructure needed for agricultural development. There was tentative industrial activity in DK, however, and Phnom Penh had thousands of workers labouring in those small-scale light industries, refurbished by Chinese and North Korean aid and technicians. The rural focus on enlarging agricultural production was to create huge surpluses for export, which in turn would bring in the revenues to be ploughed into the economy. That was the path to a more large-scale industrial development, however unrealistic, and was the first stage they never got beyond.
But repeats a framing that has already been challenged:
Whatever theories of future industrialization that one might find in CPK documents, in practice they deurbanized the country and destroyed what very little industry existed.
The condemnation is free of context of the global south, and a society emerging from war or material consideration of what could be accomplished by the regime in its three years and eight months and twenty-day existence.
More than once challenged that as somewhat uninformed about the reality of CPK policy, the ideological factors that composed their line, and the concrete circumstances of Democratic Kampuchea within the overall framework of Marxism in ex-Indochina.
The theoretical background to the KR is not simply Maoism, nor is it the GPCR period. It was a complex mixture of factors in the Southeast Asian region – the experience of the Indochinese Communist organizations (after all Nuon Chea was trained in the Thai party), and the long years of guerrilla struggle in Cambodia contributed much more to the ideological formation of “Angkar” than simply an imported Maoism.
There are many reasons for not simply dropping the CPK into a pre-fabricated schema of the Sino-Soviet split: the role of the Vietnamese party in training pre-DK cadres (which of course had to be denied later once the Vietnamese party became the major enemy), and the influence of the PCF (during their time in France, many leading DK cadres were close to the party.
“Did the “CPK” have a similar idea in theory? Probably not. But they certainly had an extreme version of the same idea in practice, and praxis makes perfect, as we Marxists say.” He excuses his poor formulations and opinions that drew criticism as “a piece of bad polemic.”
“Mao saw the peasantry not the proletariat as the basis of the Chinese Revolution, and Pol Pot took that to its logical conclusion I suppose
An American contribution laid into the sloppy theoretical assertions regarding attitude towards the peasantry during the Chinese revolution:
“One key point is that Maoism never established the peasantry as the universal revolutionary subject. It established as the revolutionary subject under the conditions of China at the time the revolution was waged. In particular it identified the annihilation of the organized industrial workers at the hand of the Kuomintang and the Japanese as a class annihilation, which meant only the peasantry had the objective capacity and the subjective will to rise against reaction.
This experience opened the door of marxism to places who shared china’s reality of a weak industrial proletariat, or in which the peasantry had a revolutionary role to play as a class in itself, rather than an “ally”.
In fact, more often than not, peasant-led revolutions were led by pro-Soviet (Latin America and Africa were -and still are in some cases – full of peasant led revolutions led by non-Maoist forces), not Maoist, forces, and many Maoist movements (in particular some mildly successful ones like the Maoists in Bloco in Portugal, the German MLPD, the PTB in Belgium and the AKP(ml) in Norway) had explicit industrial workerist orientations (and while some have abandoned strong links to maoism, they were strongly workerist in their peak as ml and mlm periods.
The Hoxhaist groups PCMLE and Bandera Roja (which are Maoists in origin) were also heavily workerists (and got criticized for this both by vulgar maoism and pro-Cubans), yet became hugely successful (in different ways).
In the USA the only group that appealed to the peasantry (in the form of Farmers) was the trotskyist SWP. Even when going to the rural heartland, NCM forces explicitly appealed to miners and farmworkers (proletarized agricultural workers) not farmers (industrialized peasants). The entire NCM was characterized by an understanding that the peasantry was not a force in the USA, and this was encouraged by Mao, who always spoke of workers and proletarians in the USA not peasants.
So it is a vulgarization of Maoism to say that it merely substitutes the industrial workers with the peasant. More correct would be to say it doesn’t make a fetish out of the industrial workers, unlike Trotskyism and left-communism, or sees peasants as simply allies creating a rear-guard for the industrial workers in the countryside, as pro-soviet ML does.
Now, this perspective might be a correct or incorrect one, but it is important not to debate against a strawman.”
The term Khmer Rouge was originally a pejorative term coined by Sihanouk and “the CPK did not even announce its existence until late September 1977, immediately prior to Pol Pot’s visit to China.
Those who question the easy Maoist designation given to the Khmer Rouge because of the obvious international alignment [explainable on geo-political terms] argue that
“The KR in DK was not following a new democratic program, a key factor of maoist state building. It had no national democratic front or such other party-led patriotic organization. It didn’t follow the mass line.”……” their version of Maoism (if it can be called that) was developed after they took (and lost) power, not in their origins and guiding politics during the revolutionary upsurge. As correctly noted, the PCF and the Vietminh probably had much more to do with the DK coming to existence than Mao and the CPC.”
This is partly countered by reference to the period May 1970 to September 1977 when FUNK , the Cambodian resistance’s public face was entirely that of the “national democratic front or such other party-led patriotic organization. Sihanouk even remained the (titular of course) head of state for about a year after April 1975.” Openly declaring its existence in 1977, some judgements and opinions expressed by the CPK (in power) over Mao’s death and the absence of any ideological solidarity shown with the arrested Gang of Four that some see as motivated by the alliance with the Chinese state.
It was suggested that the Khmer Rouge were not Maoist in the sense that their paradigm was not China or the Chinese revolution [but] in that they developed their theories and policies based on how they viewed Cambodian society and were first and foremost Cambodian nationalists (chauvinists might well be an appropriate description), but the influence on them of the Chinese revolution, not least of aspects of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, cannot reasonably be denied.
Another contribution argued: I do not negate the many similarities, in particular with the Great Leap Forward, of many of the CPK policies. I just think they pale in the face of the more appropriate comparison with war communism in the Soviet Union, and in the pan-Indochina ideas of the Vietminh and the Pathet Lao. A popular front does not equal a national democratic front (I feel weird saying this out loud), and the FUNK was more like a popular front up until the CPK hegemonized… ie more soviet than maoist. And DK was more like (soviet) war communism than great leap forward.
A few years back, Amber Rudd resigned as Home Secretary in the midst of the controversy over the government’s treatment of those known as the Windrush generation, and their relatives with its “hostile environment” policies designed to deter illegal immigration.
On Rudd’s watch, an extreme right-wing group, National Action, was proscribed as a terrorist organisation. Announcing the ban, then Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “National Action is a racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic organisation, which stirs up hatred, glorifies violence and promotes a vile ideology, and I will not stand for it.”
“It has absolutely no place in a Britain that works for everyone.”
Migrants from Commonwealth countries, who were encouraged to settle in the UK from the late 1940s to 1973, were, by the same government, being wrongly declared illegal immigrants and targeted by state bodies for deportation in a systematic denial of their citizens’ rights.
The effect was similar to policies National Action advocated: Only they did not have the Home Office, police, border force and Department for Work & Pensions to implement the policies.
The target of a mainly young, small band of immature activists from the far right of the political spectrum, with their political stunts and inflammatory behaviour eventually drew the attention of the guardians of the state. That it was the state that organisationally smashed the far right National Action reflects the dominant social democratic morale that can be recalibrated if thought required.
2020 saw a series of criminal cases involving activists involved with the legally banned National Action .