Saturday, October 1, 2011

Modern-day Maoists worry Chinese authorities

A group of Maoists commemorating the 35th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s death in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan was violently broken up by police. Chinese authorities have no patience for these Mao-lovers, who seem to have forgotten the former communist leader’s authoritarian streak and retained only the idyllic vision of a fairer society. One Chinese Maoist gives us his account.

The unrest occurred on September 9, when several dozen Maoists gathered in Taiyuan, chanted revolutionary slogans and delivered inflammatory speeches based on Mao’s Little Red Book. At the end of the demonstration, police tried to arrest the leader of the movement. Other protesters rallied to protect him, shouting “Long live Chairman Mao!” Nine people were arrested, but the organiser managed to escape. Most participants were active members of the website “Utopia”, the biggest leftist forum on the Chinese Web.

For this new generation of Maoists, the Chinese Communist Party has betrayed their leader’s roots by succumbing to capitalism and world trade. As a result foreign companies have been allowed to run amok in China, exploiting the country’s low-paid workers and wreaking havoc on the environment. In today's China, where disparities between groups are rapidly growing, Maoists are attracting an ever-growing following among the poor and working classes, which have been hard hit by unemployment and inflation. Their growing popularity, however, has also drawn the wrath of local authorities.

Though he has been gone for over 30 years, Mao’s legacy is still controversial. His supporters mainly remember the progress made under his rule, from 1949 to 1976 – rapid industrialisation, improved literacy, lower death rates… Yet they overlook the era’s darker chapters.

Mao imposed a Soviet-style rule on China, with a one-party system and economic collectivism. His vision of a ‘great leap forward’ is widely considered to have had catastrophic effects, leading to one of the biggest famines in the country’s history. In 1966, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution to ‘purge’ the party of its ‘political enemies’. Overall, Mao’s rule is believed to be one of the deadliest periods in Chinese history, with an estimated 50 to 70 million deaths. more