Monthly Archives: July 2020

Chapter 7: The Futian Incident

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 7:
The Futian Incident

Mao turned out to be a scrappy military leader, but he was not very experienced. It was a tough struggle. Over the next few years his forces usually lost to the Kuomintang (KMT), but during this time of conflict in the Jinggang mountains he learned many lessons on warfare. Especially guerrilla warfare. He often learned the hard way, through defeat, but at least he learned.

One of Mao’s famous quotes about guerrilla warfare is, “When the enemy advances, we retreat. When the enemy halts and encamps, we harass him. When the enemy seeks to avoid battle, we attack. Whenever the enemy retreats, we pursue.” Mao eventually won respect as a genius at guerilla warfare, and his relentless tactics have been emulated by Marxist forces throughout the world, including the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.

While Mao fought in the Jinggang mountains, Chiang Kai-shek pressed on with his military campaign against the warlords ruling China. He was highly successful, and by December, 1928, he forced Manchuria to capitulate, and became ruler of a unified China.

Well, mostly unified. He still had Mao Zedong to deal with. Mao and his troops struggled through one defeat after another, with few victories. They endured food shortages and other privations. By 1929, his numbers had increased to 2,800 fighters. This was too many people to keep alive, so in January of that year he realized he had to move to an area where he could feed his troops better. He evacuated the Jinggang mountains and headed to the southwestern region of Jiangxi province.

Li Lisan, the leader of the CPC, began quarreling with Mao. Li thought Mao and his unsophisticated peasant army could not succeed, and ordered him to disband his forces. Mao refused. Then Moscow decided to replace Li with 28 Soviet-educated Chinese Communists, to head the CPC. But the ever-rebellious Mao would not accept their authority, either.

Mao in 1930, at age 36.

The renegade Mao created a provisional Communist government in Southwestern Jiangxi, in 1930. Soon after, a tragedy befell him. Karma, perhaps, for all the fighting he had instigated. In November of that year, his wife and sister were captured by the KMT and beheaded.

Mao was a bigamist, having married another woman six months earlier. Still, this death of the mother of his children must have left him in a particularly nasty mood, and it was no time to trifle with him. He was very likely in the mood for a fight. And a fight is exactly what he got.

In December, just one month after Mao’s wife and sister lost their heads, troops known as the Futian battalion mutinied, accusing Mao of being a counterrevolutionary, and of plotting to surrender to the KMT army. They occupied the town of Yongyang, raised banners proclaiming, “Down with Mao Zedong!” and they appealed to the CPC for help.

This was fucking bullshit as far as Mao was concerned. But it was a delicate situation, requiring delicate strategy to deal with this internal rebellion. In June 1931, Mao came up with a “delicate” idea for handling the dissenters. It was actually quite a cruel idea, which of course he particularly liked. And so it became a strategy he would implement in one form or another, periodically throughout the rest of his life.

He invited the rebels to a meeting, where they could discuss their differences and try to come to a resolution. 200 troops accepted the invitation and showed up. But as soon as they sat down, troops loyal to Mao disarmed them and executed them. After this, dissenters all over Jianxi were rounded up, tortured and executed. This became known as the Futian Incident, and by the time the bloodbath was over, two to three thousand dissenters had been slaughtered by Mao’s loyalists.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 8: The Encirclements.

Chapter 6: Civil War

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 6
Civil War

In 1926, Chiang Kai-shek set off for North China to make revolution. This would become his famous Northern Expedition, and it turned into one hell of a fight. Chiang attacked and defeated warlords, and fought hard and successfully, taking province after province while uniting much of China.

But there was one unexpected result of Chiang’s successes that left the right-wing leaders of his Kuomintang (KMT) feeling unsettled. Peasants were feeling encouraged by Chiang’s victories, and began rising up, attacking and killing wealthy landowners. Senior right-wing members of the KMT didn’t like this because they, too, were wealthy landowners. But left-wing members were quite satisfied and encouraged by this development, as communists don’t care much for landowners. They thought it was just dandy. This led to friction between the left and right wings of the KMT.

KMT troops rounding up Shanghai Communists, for execution.

In March 1927, while Chiang was still out fighting warlords, left-wingers of the KMT, from Shanghai, tried to strip Chiang of his power and install a left-winger in his place. It seemed Chiang had a new fight on his hands. An internal power struggle against Communists. So in April 1927, he returned from his Northern Expedition and marched on Shanghai. There he viciously turned on the left-wing and arranged for criminal gang members to slaughter 12,000 Communists in what became known as the Shanghai Massacre.

Chiang then began a cruel campaign of purging Communists and Communist sympathizers all over China, in what was called the White Terror. His forces loyal to him were merciless. Over the next year more than 300,000 people were murdered across China, in anti-Communist suppression campaigns. Some historians actually put the number of dead in the millions.

Chiang was quoted to have said that he would rather mistakenly kill 1,000 innocent people, rather than allow one Communist to escape.

Obviously, Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, and the leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC), had greatly misjudged Chiang. They had previously assumed he was sympathetic to communism, and Chiang’s picture had even been hung on walls in public places throughout the Soviet Union. Of course, those pictures came down quickly, and Stalin stopped supporting the KMT.

Chiang Kai-shek was a hard man to read, concerning his political philosophies. Maybe he was a little crazy. He was against big business and capitalism, but he was also against communism. He wasn’t really a fascist, because he never preached the superiority of the Chinese race. But he often behaved like a dictator, even while in theory, trying to establish democracy.

The confusion concerning Chiang’s vision worked against the communists, initially, because it took them by surprise. But it would eventually lead to his downfall and defeat by Mao, and force him to retreat to Taiwan.

The KMT’s murders and massacres during the White Terror had decimated the CPC, reducing its members from 25,000 to 10,000. This marked the split of the left and right within the KMT, and the beginning of a bloody, bitter, and painful civil war in China that would endure for more than 20 years.

The Communists that remained were expelled from the KMT. They were demoralized, and on the ropes. But Mao had an idea. He’d taken notice of the peasant uprisings that followed Chiang’s Northern Expedition, and he realized that peasants had a lot of potential as a fighting force.

Soon the CPC organized an army of peasants, which they called the Red Army, to battle Chiang, and Mao was appointed commander-in-chief. At last an opportunity arrived for Mao to get some blood on his hands.

In August 1927, Mao sent a battalion to attack Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi Province. They were initially successful, but after about five days, KMT forces drove the Communists out.

Then on September 7, 1927, Mao led four regiments to attack Changsha in his home province of Hunan, where the school he had taught at was located. But one of his regiments deserted to the KMT and attacked his own army. Mao fled in defeat to the Jinggang mountains in Jiangxi Province, taking with him about a thousand survivors.

But he’d tasted his first blood. And it might have been his last, because the CPC didn’t like Mao’s inclination for fighting. They criticized what they called his “military opportunism,” and they expelled him from the Party.

But fighters like Mao can’t be rid of that easily. Rather than pack his bags and go home, Mao simply chose to ignore his Communist comrades.

He moved his troops to Jinggangshan City and set up a base of operations. There he won the support of nearby villages and set up a self-governing state. He garnered the support of peasants and began confiscating land from rich landlords. The landlords were executed, giving Mao more of a taste of blood.

He built his forces to 1,800 strong, and established strict disciplinary rules for his recruits. The CPC saw all this and realized Mao wasn’t going anywhere soon. They grudgingly readmitted him to the Party, and put him to work fighting the KMT.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 7: The Futian Incident.

Question: Ears

Cranky Pants and JoyRoses13 are up to no good. They’ve posed a question they want me to post. This question really insults men, and I’m acting like a traitor to my gender for posting it. But what the hell, it’s the first question that’s been submitted in a long time, so why not? I’m desperate. But I’m counting on the men who read this to give us some smartass responses that will show the women a thing or two. Here’s the question:

Chapter 5: Mao and Chiang

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 5
Mao and Chiang

When Mao was 27, Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao established the Communist Party of China (CPC). Mao must have decided this was a good cause that could result in a lot of great fights. He soon set up a branch in Hunan, and on July 23, 1921, attended the first session of the National Congress of the CPC. There were only 12 other attendees, so Mao was in on this good cause early on.

And it really was a good cause at the time. Peasants and workers had endured centuries of repression and frequent famine in China. Large landholders and a few other wealthy plutocrats controlled almost all the means of production. The middle class was small. As a general rule you were either very poor or very rich, in an economy that was stacked against ordinary citizens.

The one percent were highly resented by the 99%. Mao sensed this, and smelled blood. He knew when a fight was brewing.

He got busy. He founded the Self-Study University, that made revolutionary literature available to readers. He joined a campaign to fight illiteracy, while ensuring that literacy students read his radical sentiments. But most importantly, he helped labor unions organize strikes.

He led a famous and successful coal miners strike, with the help of Liu Shaoqi and Li Lisan. But they may have come to regret helping him, later in life. That’s because Liu would later become President of the People’s Republic of China, and die as a result of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Li Lisan would also fall victim, being tortured by Red Guards, and officially dying of “suicide” in 1967. No one was immune to Mao’s sadism, not even his long-time friends and allies.

At that time, the Kuomintang (KMT) accepted all political persuasions into its ranks, whether left or right. The goal of the KMT, under the leadership of Sun Yat-Sen, was simply to unite China, while allowing political differences to be resolved through debate and democracy. And so Communists were welcome.

The CPC aligned itself with Sun Yat-Sen’s KMT, and Mao managed to be elected to the KMT’s Central Executive Committee. Mao was an enthusiastic supporter of this organization, and both the left and right factions managed to work together in harmony. Mao and others must have sensed that a united front offered the best chance for defeating the warlords that kept their country divided.

Chiang Kai-shek in 1920.

But in 1925, Sun Yat-Sen died of liver cancer at the age of 58. Unfortunately, Sun’s policy of unity died along with him. General Chiang Kai-shek, who had helped Sun establish the KMT, took over.

Chiang was quite a bit like Mao. He was a man in a lot of pain, who employed cruelty to deal with it. And perhaps less like Mao, he had a bad temper and was known for flying into rages to let off steam.

But one big thing set him apart from Mao. He did not like communism. So as soon as he came to power, he moved to marginalize the KMT’s left-wing faction.

Disunity and fighting was Chiang’s way of going about things. But if he was looking for a fight, he didn’t get one. At least, not this time. Mao and the CPC were not aware of Chiang’s anti-communist sentiments, and so they still supported him. They mistakenly assumed he was pro-communist, because he was anti-capitalist. So they did not tangle.

But soon Mao and the CPC would regret their support.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 6: Civil War.

Chapter 4: A Good Cause

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 4:
A Good Cause

With Consequentialism firmly ensconced in his psyche, all Mao now needed was another good cause. A cause he could fight for, that would justify the infliction of pain. He already had nationalism, and that was becoming an issue again, due to the rise of warlord kingdoms in China. But it wasn’t enough for someone who wants an excuse to fight and hurt others. He needed more.

He became a student/teacher at the First Normal School of Changsha, which was regarded as the best school in his home province of Hunan. And there he found a cause to fight for. He organized protests against school rules.

But then one day he discovered another cause. He joined a society that studied and debated the ideas of Chen Duxiu. Chen was very liberal, and later became one of the first Communists of China. This led to Mao traveling north to Beijing, at age 24, where he took on a job assisting the librarian at Peking University. This librarian’s name was Li Dazhao. Li would also become an early Communist.

Students burning Japanese goods during the May Fourth Movement.

Communism traces its beginnings in China to the May Fourth Movement, which began on May 4, 1919. This was a series of protests and strikes against the Treaty of Versailles, a treaty which ended World War I. This treaty proposed to award territory in the Shandong province of China to Japan. Japan had taken Shandong from the Germans in 1914, near the start of World War I.

The Chinese were outraged by this proposal. Shandong is an important and strategic coastal province that juts out into the Yellow Sea. It’s the birthplace of Confucius, and holds special historical and cultural meaning to the Chinese.

Due to popular pressure from the May Fourth Movement, the Chinese ambassador to France refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles, and this necessitated a separate peace treaty with Germany. It was settled in 1922, with the Nine-Power Treaty. This treaty returned Shandong to China, but allowed Japan to maintain its economic dominance of the province, and of its railway.

This was mostly a symbolic victory for China, as the Nine-Power Treaty was virtually impossible to enforce. But the May Fourth Movement, itself, marked a major shift in Chinese intellectual thought. Intellectuals became disillusioned with the Western democratic model, which they believed had let them down, and many shifted radically to the left.

Intellectuals who were already leftists, such as Mao’s friends, Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao, began to seriously study Marxism. In 1921, they both co-founded the Communist Party of China. These two Marxists greatly influenced and radicalized Mao, so that he too began to take Marxism seriously.

Mao soon moved back to his home province of Hunan, where he began writing articles for a liberal magazine. But the governor of Hunan, Zhang Jingyao, was no liberal, and was not amused. He tried to suppress his writings, and this gave Mao a new cause to fight for. Revolution. Mao locked horns with the governor, and agitated for his overthrow. He organized a general strike, which was successful, and from that he managed to secure some concessions from Governor Zhang.

But Mao was a wily man and he realized that victory is not always a safe thing. He became fearful of reprisal from Zhang, and worried he wouldn’t be able to win anymore fights against him. So he fled back north to Beijing.

To his surprise, he discovered that he’d become something of a hero to local revolutionaries in Beijing, who’d been reading his writings. This gave Mao an idea. He realized he could use his hero status to make his fight against Zhang more winnable. So he began soliciting assistance from his admirers, for overthrowing Zhang.

Around this time, the famous revolutionary, Sun Yat-Sen, had established the Kuomintang (KMT). This was an armed political party that sought to establish a united, nationalist government in China. The Chinese government had devolved into rulership by warlords, that had divided China into something that resembled a loosely organized network of small kingdoms. Sun Yat-Sen founded the KMT in 1919, to resist this kind of rule, and unify the country.

Mao was introduced to General Tan Yankai, of the KMT, and learned he was plotting to overthrow Zhang. This dovetailed nicely with Mao’s own cause, so he assisted Tan by organizing students. And together, with Tan’s troops and Mao’s students, Zhang was forced to flee, in June 1920.

This was Mao’s first big success at revolution.

Now Mao had cachet. He was rewarded for his efforts with an appointment to a lucrative job as headmaster of a school. He got married, but unlike most people in such a cushy situation, he decided not to settle down. No, he just wasn’t satisfied. Pain is never-ending, and so Mao looked for more causes to fight for, where he could enjoy letting off steam and making others feel his pain.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 5: Mao and Chiang.

Chapter 3: Consequentialism

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 3:

Puyi, the last emperor of China.

Revolutionaries knew they couldn’t count on the Qing dynasty to keep foreigners out, so they plotted and planned to overthrow it. And they debated among themselves what to do with China if they succeeded at revolution.

The prevailing argument was to keep China whole, combining all its many ethnicities into a united Chinese nation. This argument was known as Chinese nationalism. And as Mao became aware of Chinese nationalism, he decided to support this view. He thought it was a good cause.

That good cause would soon see battle. In 1911, the Xinhai Revolution broke out against the Qing dynasty, and Mao took up arms to fight for it. But he never saw any action. The last emperor of China was overthrown on February 12, 1912, and the Republic of China was created. And so, after six months of quiet revolutionary service, it was back to civilian life for young Mao, without ever having fired a shot.

Now what the hell could he do? He was out of good causes. So at eighteen years old, he decided to pursue his education. But this didn’t work out so well. Turns out, Mao wasn’t so good in school. He dropped out of a police academy, a soap production school, a law school, an economics school, and a middle school.

Apparently, Mao was too damned independent for classroom learning. He discovered that he’d have to go it alone, and pursue a self-education.

So he spent a lot of time in libraries, studying books on classical liberalism. This is how he discovered the philosophy of Consequentialism. Consequentialism is the ethical theory that the consequence’s of one’s conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of the conduct. In other words, the end justifies the means.

This was right up his alley, and with no teacher to dissuade him by pointing out the drawbacks, Mao embraced Consequentialism whole-heartedly. Consequentialism gave him the excuse to do whatever he wanted, just as long as he could justify that it was for the greater good.

He liked the idea of doing whatever he wanted. He had a cruel streak, which he acquired from his father. He was a young man in a lot of pain, as many young men are. In fact we all suffer, whether young or old, male or female. But how we deal with our pain and suffering differs from person to person.

Had Mao stuck with his mother’s Buddhism, he might have learned how to deal with his pain without being cruel to others. Buddhism teaches that suffering is caused by craving, and that by letting go of craving, one frees oneself from suffering. Buddhism prescribes an Eight-fold path for letting go of craving, that involves following precepts and disciplining the mind through meditation.

Apparently, Mao didn’t care much for the Eight-fold path, and so he chose a different path. And it seems it was the path of his father. And this path was the path of causing pain to relieve pain.

Mao’s father relieved his pain by beating him. In this manner, he let off pent-up steam that had been building up inside, and found relief. This is not an uncommon way to handle pain. Many people have learned that letting off steam by being abusive to others, helps them to feel better.

But letting off steam can lead to more problems. People who are abused sometimes rebel and retaliate. At the very least, they become distant, leading to a sense of loneliness in the abuser’s relationships. And property can be destroyed when one flies into a rage, so it can be expensive.

Another problem is that letting off steam can become addictive. It feels pleasurable, which can lead to letting off steam more and more often. Also, causing small amounts of pain can get old, with a loss in the pleasurable effect. And so one must progress to crueler and more sadistic methods to achieve the same enjoyment.

But letting off steam seems to have been the path for dealing with pain that Mao chose. It was the path laid out by his father, and when Mao killed millions, he was merely following in his father’s footsteps. His father would likely have done the same if he’d had the opportunity. But Mao did find the opportunity. And he found it through pursuing a good cause, and by using Consequentialism to justify the means with the end.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 4: A Good Cause.

Chapter 2: The Boxer Rebellion

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 2:
The Boxer Rebellion

Mao was six years old when the Boxer Rebellion broke out, in the year 1900. He probably had no interest in it at that time, but it must have influenced him later in life as he became more politically aware.

At that time, China was in danger of being broken apart by foreign imperialism. It was loosely held together by the Qing dynasty, but popular support for this dynasty was weak, due to its ineffectiveness at resisting foreigners.

These foreigners included Americans, British, French, Germans, Italians, Russians, and Japanese. Yes, us imperialist pigs were at it again, messing around with a part of the world that couldn’t resist our bullying. And we did things that left many Chinese feeling angry and upset.

The British were the first to mess with China. They forced the Chinese to accept the import and sale of opium. Before the British came along, there was no drug problem in China, and opium was practically unheard of. But now, widespread addiction ravaged the populace, leading to many personal and family tragedies.

Two Opium Wars had been fought in the 19th century by the Qing dynasty against the British and French, in order to rid the nation of the opium trade. But they were defeated by superior military technology. This greatly weakened the Chinese government, and made the country more vulnerable to foreign influence.

The Chinese had proudly followed three different religions for thousands of years, prior to the arrival of foreigners. These were Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. But such faiths appalled Christian foreigners, and they insisted upon establishing missions to convert the Chinese to Christ and save their souls. This was highly resented by traditionalist Chinese.

And the foreigners had greedy eyes out for the ownership of territory. All of the foreigners competed against each other, jockeying for position, while planning to carve China up into separate colonies. Many Chinese felt wary and worried about this, and wanted to avoid being at the mercy of foreign rule.

A resistance organization formed in North China, called the “Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists.” It was a spiritual and martial arts movement started by ordinary villagers, that practiced magic and propagated the belief that their magic could make them impervious to bullets and other weapons.

They called themselves Yihetuan, or “the militia united in righteousness.” But the foreigners just called them Boxers, which was the British term for anyone who practiced martial arts. In June 1900, the Boxers spontaneously rose up against foreign legations in Beijing. This would become known as the Boxer Rebellion.

Boxers executed in neck towers, where stones beneath their feet were slowly removed, causing strangulation.

These fuckers meant business. Their goal was to exterminate all foreigners in Beijing, as well as the rest of China. They massacred thousands of foreigners, including many missionary families, and nearly succeeded with their rebellion. But they were finally driven back when reinforcements arrived to rescue the remaining besieged foreigners.

It’s certain they would have succeeded had they actually been impervious to bullets, as they imagined they were. But they weren’t, and many died from gunshot wounds. Many more were rounded up and executed after the rebellion was put down.

But although they failed, the rebellion helped solidify Chinese nationalism. It encouraged would-be revolutionaries, and signaled the beginning of the end of thousands of years of imperial Chinese rule.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 3: Consequentialism.

Chapter 1: Buddhism and Beatings

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 1:
Buddhism and Beatings

What would you do if you knew that the child you were raising would become the most prolific murderer of all time? If you were Mao Zedong’s father, Mao Yichang, I’m guessing you’d kill him. But if you were his mother, Wen Qimei, you might try harder to turn him into a good person.

I don’t know if Mao’s father actually tried to kill him, but at times it may have seemed like it. Mao Yichang was a cruel man, and a strict disciplinarian, and he often beat his son severely. Wen, on the other hand, was a practicing Buddhist. She tried her best to protect her son from the cruel hand of his father.

Wen used the teachings of Buddhism to try to convince the elder Mao to temper his rage and go easy on their son. Sadly, she was largely unsuccessful. She also used Buddha’s teachings to convert Mao to Buddhism. This may have been her best hope, but eventually it too fell flat, because when Mao was a teenager he left the religion.

Mao Zedong’s childhood home.

He was born on December 26, 1893, into a life of privilege and hardship. His family was rich, and from that came the privilege. But his father was mean, and from that came the hardship. They lived the peasant farmer life in a rural area of Hunan Province, in China.

Mao became an avid reader, between beatings and work on the farm. And from his reading he cultivated a political consciousness. He found a good cause to fight for. Perhaps the Buddhism he learned from his mother inclined him toward finding a good cause. But if so, then maybe his father’s beatings inclined him toward fighting for his cause using the most sadistic means possible.

Revolution was in the air, in Mao’s young life. In fact, revolution would hang in the air throughout his life. In his young days, the Qing dynasty held power over China. But it was tenuous power, corrupted and weakened by foreign influence, and left vulnerable to attack by those who sought political change.

And many did.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 2: The Boxer Rebellion.

Preface: Millions?

This is the second installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To start at the beginning, click this link.


Cultural Revolution propaganda poster, featuring Chairman Mao.

Millions with a question mark. That’s one way to describe the Cultural Revolution. Historians can’t agree on how many died as a result of it, but a few low estimates actually go below a million, to hundreds of thousands.

Most estimates seem to range from 1.5 million to as high as 20 million. That’s quite a spread of tormented souls calling from the grave for accountability. We’ll never know anything close to the exact toll, because many deaths went unreported, or were covered up by local authorities.

Also, China did a piss-poor job of keeping accurate statistical records at that time, and the Chinese government has not allowed scholastic access to what archives it maintains, concerning this tragic event. But from what many scholars have gleaned from the evidence they’ve been able to access, it seems millions were killed in China.

And millions more died abroad, because the Chinese exported their Cultural Revolution to the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. With Chinese funding, Pol Pot and his supporters murdered nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population, or 1.5 to 2 million people. Those targeted for death were considered to be enemies of the revolution, similar to those targeted in China during the Cultural Revolution.

Beyond those who died in China, millions more were left crippled for life, mostly due to beatings from Red Guards. Millions were imprisoned on baseless, trumped up charges, and forced to endure hard labor. And millions lost their livelihoods, and were unceremoniously fired from their posts in universities, government, and even the Communist Party itself.

Nobody of any level of importance, prestige, or position of authority was safe during the Cultural Revolution. Top Party officials, including the president of China, Liu Shaoqi, were arrested, beaten, and imprisoned. Top generals were sacked and publicly humiliated, and sometimes murdered.

But low level authorities were also targeted. Teachers, mayors, landowners, supervisors of workers, heads of small departments, and anyone else who rose even slightly above the average prestige of a peasant, found themselves vulnerable to attack.

Civil war broke out in parts of China, resulting in even more deaths. A red hysteria swept the nation, pitting pro-Maoist factions against each other. Violence broke out everywhere. The hysteria that sought to persecute so-called counterrevolutionaries was so widespread, that every Chinese citizen was in some way affected by the Cultural Revolution.

For ten years this revolution ground on, until it finally ended with Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, and the arrest of the Gang of Four. In fact, the Cultural Revolution was instigated by Communist Party Chairman Mao, and facilitated by the Gang of Four, which included Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing.

But why? Why would Mao do this to his own people? The Cultural Revolution set China back economically, intellectually, and politically for many years. It weakened China in many ways, though some have argued that there were some benefits. What was Mao’s motivation? Those meager benefits at the cost of all those lives?

To understand the Cultural Revolution, it helps to go back in history to the events that led up to it. It helps to study the life history of Mao Zedong, and it’s also useful to learn about the rise of communism in mainland China.

We’ll start with Mao first, and follow his inimical rise to absolute power, his fall from power, and his diabolical scheme to regain power through the complex machinations of the Cultural Revolution.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 1: Buddhism and Beatings.

Introduction to The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao

This is the first installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao. This will be somewhere around a 40-part series that will be posted about every other day, except those times when I’m on a vacation, hiding out from the law, or otherwise distracted. It will likely carry us into October. I know, it’s history, which is nothing more than old news, but I hope I’ve brushed off enough dust to keep it interesting for everyone.

The Peace Sign was designed in 1958, for the British nuclear disarmament movement. It was adopted by anti-war hippies in the Sixties.

I grew up in the Sixties, an era of peace, love, and flower children. I was pretty young, so I didn’t get a chance to participate in all the protesting going on. I had no draft card to burn, I wasn’t allowed to grow my hair long, and I was scared to death to drop acid, smoke a joint, or do any other kind of drugs. Not that I had an opportunity.

But there was that time I helped my siblings harbor a couple of Vietnam War deserters. They hid out in our garage loft, and my mother never had a clue. We thought that was far out. And yes, I did learn all those corny cool slogans, like “far out,” “groovy,” and, well, “cool.”

There was a lot of shit going down in the Sixties. It was a youthquake. Young people were rebelling against the establishment like never before. Hippies were living in communes, smoking joints, and turning into Jesus freaks. Old stodgy attitudes were on their way out, and being replaced by fresh new ideas that promoted free love and free thought. It was a revolution, in a sense. A cultural revolution.

Well, we weren’t the only ones. Because while we were getting in the groove in America, more than 7,000 miles away another cultural revolution was taking place in the People’s Republic of China. And it was actually called the “Cultural Revolution.” But unlike the peace, love, and flowers in our hair that we got to experience, their Cultural Revolution was some heavy shit.

It was downright scary for many people. And for good reason, because a lot of folks died.

We didn’t have much of an idea what was really happening in China at that time. Some thought that whatever it was, it must be wonderful since it was tagged with such a high-minded label: “Cultural Revolution.” Some hippies even imagined that they liked Chairman Mao, and they carried around pictures of him. But nobody had any idea what Mao was really like.

For most of us, the details of the Cultural Revolution were sketchy. And in many ways, it remains a mystery. Books have covered it, but very few have been written by those who bore the brunt of it. And the Chinese government refuses to allow access to its archives, so that investigative journalists can answer many of the questions the world has wondered about.

But in spite of this, some information has escaped. And for those diligent enough to research this strange era of Chinese history, much of the mystery can be resolved.

Some information can be found on the internet. I know, because I’ve been googling and reading. I’ve been grabbing bits of info here, and dabs of it there, analyzing it, throwing out that which seems too suspect to believe, and then putting the rest together to form the best picture I can.

I got interested in the Cultural Revolution while watching the news, and growing alarmed at all the bullshit that’s been going on lately. I’m no longer the young, rebel-at-heart of the Sixties. Now I’m in my sixties, and a long-standing member of the establishment. Now when I see people marching, rioting, burning, and looting, I get downright unsettled. I don’t mind the marching, but the rioting, burning, and looting kind of puts me in survival mode.

I’ve noticed some parallels between the 1960s and 2020. Young people are marching and calling for change. They’re demanding justice and equality. And they’re calling the police the same vile names, like “pigs” and “bacon.”

But there are some differences. For instance, the cops seem to be using a lot more restraint these days, than they used on the hippies in the days of yore. The media coverage seems to also be much kinder on protesters. And members of the establishment seem to be rolling over like never before, throwing their support behind outrageous demands, such as the call to defund police departments.

It feels a bit unnerving for old guys like me. And what’s even more unnerving is that those who dare speak anything even slightly critical of the Black Lives Matter movement, run the risk of losing their careers, or being targeted for violence. In fact, to say something as seemingly anodyne as “All Lives Matter” is to invite a level of censure and condemnation that borders on hysteria.

And I don’t remember the iconoclasm we’re witnessing these days. The toppling of statues, including those of Grant and Lincoln, is foreign to my memory of the Sixties. It makes no sense. It seems like madness.

But then again, so did the Cultural Revolution of China. This is why I’ve turned to if for answers. I’m seeing sinister parallels. I’m seeing political correctness taken to the point of persecutorial nitpickiness. I’m seeing intolerance on the part of those who demand tolerance. I’m seeing the opposite of peace, love, and flowers, yet in the name of peace, love, and flowers.

It’s piqued my curiosity. And so I’ve turned to China’s past to learn about our potential future.

So far, I think we can feel grateful we’ve never experienced a movement nearly as dangerous and deadly as China’s Cultural Revolution. Although we seem to be heading down that road, thankfully we’ve only made it a short distance.

I’ve written a long series of posts about the Cultural Revolution. About as long as one of Marco Polo’s famous journeys. Yeah, I guess maybe I got a little carried away. In fact I got so carried away that I went all the way back to the birth of Mao Zedong, in 1893, and to the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.

We’re going to learn a thing or two, not just about the Cultural Revolution, but also about the life of Mao Zedong, the Chinese Civil War, China in general, and much more.

I’ll be posting my series every few days over the next few months. I hope the reader will see what I mean, when I draw parallels from what happened in China to what’s starting to happen now in the U.S.A. We seem to be going through a bit of our own Cultural Revolution, and I want us to learn from China’s tragedy.

I believe that no matter how wonderful the message and cause may seem, there is danger in any movement. The ideals of today can quickly morph into disasters tomorrow. I think that regardless of how much we may admire a cause, it’s important to remain wary, lest we get so caught up in the crusade that we do things we regret later.

It can be easy to harm others in the passionate heat of the “greater good.” And it’s common for people to create monsters that turn on them and devour them. We must be careful.

The Cultural Revolution stands as a prime example of the dangers of any social movement. As our country continues through its current era of turmoil, I hope people will be circumspect enough to learn from history, and avoid taking things too far. Only then can we make progress without wounds, scars, and backlash erasing every benefit activists may struggle so hard to achieve.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Preface: Millions?

« Older Entries