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.
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.
Categories: Series (History): The Cultural Revolution