Chapter 12: First, the Landlords

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 12
First, the Landlords

Communism is established in countries as a dictatorship of the proletariat, when following pure Marxist doctrine. Dictatorships can only survive by suppressing their opposition. So there’s a measure of instability that comes with communism.

Mao Zedong was now the leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). But in order to maintain his leadership he would have to keep fighting for the “good cause.” And again, the end always justified the means, as far as this bloodthirsty tyrant was concerned.

The founding of the PRC in 1949 gave Mao the perfect excuse to unleash his cruelty upon the masses. He claimed he needed to secure the dictatorship of the proletariat.

At first he focused on landlords.

Even before the communists won, rich landlords found themselves under increasing threat, as evidenced by this photo of a farmer confronting a landowner in 1946.

Landlords had long been criticized and condemned by Chinese Communists as a major cause of poverty for peasants. So now that the PRC had been established, they were in some deep shit kind of trouble. Mao claimed that during the civil war, landowners had their chance to see the error of their ways, and that those who had not yet corrected their “excesses” would have to be dealt with.

But Mao felt reluctant to arrest landowners, and imprison or execute them at the hands of the state. He preferred landless peasants to do at least some of this dirty work. He wanted them to actively take part in the purging process, rather than be passive observers. He reasoned that in this way, ordinary folks would tie themselves to the revolution, wet their hands with blood, and thus become co-conspirators with him.

He made it clear to the people that landlords had no protection from the law, and that the state would not step in to interfere with any retribution anyone wanted to exact upon those who owned land. And that’s all the peasants needed to hear.

What followed was a bloodbath at the hands of mobs all over China. Landlords were hunted down, condemned by vigilantes, and executed in a variety of cruel ways. Some were buried alive, others were dismembered or strangled. The lucky ones were shot.

Struggle sessions became popular at this time. In these events, a landlord was put on display before a mob, while a speaker humiliated him or her by accusing the victim of many despicable crimes against the people, whether real or imagined. Then the victim would be thrown to the mob to be beaten, often to death.

Scholars estimate that up to five million people were executed by mobs in China, between 1949 and 1953. Millions more were sent to labor camps, where many perished. Mao’s pain was manifesting on a mass scale, and many millions were coming to understand him, under the cruelest circumstances possible.


Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 13: Killing Campaigns.

23 comments

  • I wonder if landlords in the U.S. are getting worried about tenants not paying, and not being able to evict them…

    Liked by 1 person

  • Eric Hoffer, in The True Believer” wrote that, “Mass movements can occur and spread without belief in God, but not without belief in a devil.” He felt that “foreigners” were the most frequent “devils”. In civil conflicts however, landlords seem to be a common stand in (especially if they can be labeled as “foreign”). Land redistribution schemes are a quick way to provide plunder for masses of poor fighters without actually having to do or produce anything… almost a hallmark of incompetent and corrupt leadership. Inevitably ends up resulting in agricultural collapse… Soviet Ukraine, North Vietnam, Cuba, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Venezuela, soon Namibia… and China of course.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s interesting. I guess landlords would be an easy target, since the land is already there for the taking. Maybe that’s why politicians in the U.S., on both the left and right, are all for eviction moratoriums right now. They get to look like heroes, and to hell with the landlords, who most people don’t like anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  • So did Mao really feel less guilty by getting others to do his dirty work! “Dismemberment, strangulation…” what happened to the large feather?

    Liked by 2 people

  • This link goes to a very lengthy article on the US today, and makes for interesting perspectives …especially with you doing this series on China.

    https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/political-commentary/covid-19-end-of-american-era-wade-davis-1038206/

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, it’s very lengthy. I skimmed through most of it. Basically, the message seems to be, America is doomed. We’re going down the toilet, and China will be the next overmaster of the world.

      Maybe so. Who the hell knows? Everyone was saying the stock market was doomed, back in March, and now it’s back to near pre-Covid heights.

      If there’s one thing I’ve learned, predicting things like politics or the economy is very iffy business. I’ve dabbled in prediction myself, usually with mixed results, and rarely with great results.

      So I feel skeptical about this article, or about any other predictions of America’s demise or future greatness. I think we’ll all just have to wait and see.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree that predicting the future is a risky business, but one can certainly recount recent history and draw some reasonable conclusions.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Trump seems corrupt in a number of ways, and corruption does weaken any nation. So yes, we can expect some bad karma from that. On the other hand, I think we still have a robust media and checks and balances in our government, that can prevent him from going to an extreme. I wouldn’t count America out so quickly, even if Trump is reelected.

          Liked by 1 person

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