Mao Zedong, aka Mao Tse-tung, was the revolutionary commander
who led China from feudalism to Communism. He began as the son
of a poor peasant who (ironically, from a communist point of view)
Mao identified the need for revolution in that the Chinese government ruled by oppressing the
poor - either directly, or else by protecting the feudal landlords.
He recognized that in China, peasants had to carry the revolution,
since they vastly outnumbered the industrial workers. Furthermore,
the revolution could not succeed through peaceable means, since the
government was armed and prepared to subdue revolutionary activity.
Though he had some early failures, Mao eventually raised and trained
an army of 45 000 - bolstered by a further peasant militia of around
200 000 - that protected a communist region from more than a million
government troops in the early 1930s. However, by 1934, the position
was encircled. The Communist army had no choice but to retreat - the
famous Long March, which only ten percent of the army survived.
For the most part, Mao kept his Communist army out of the Sino-Japanese War,
which seriously weakened the government army. Throughout 1949, Mao cleared
away the government's armed resistance to his revolution. On October 1, 1949,
Mao declared the People's Republic of China, stating "The Chinese People
have stood up."
After taking power, Mao set to work on land reform. The landlords' holdings
were seized and parted out to the peasants, finally freeing them after 2 000
years of the feudal system. In a fascinating twist, the members of landlord
families often received parcels of land to farm alongside the peasants.
Mao, it seems, was overwhelmed by the task of governing China. I think this
is understandable: it grew from 550 to 900 million people under his stewardship.
His first Five Year Plan worked reasonably well - its aim was to industrialize
China and end its dependence on the USSR. However, Mao's Great Leap Forward was
tremendously damaging to China, and his Cultural Revolution is very controversial.
I think there is no doubt that Mao was a better revolutionary than he was a
Whatever crimes Mao committed, he was a flexible thinker and, in fact, an idealist -
at least when he was in the field. Mao realized that Lenin's type of communism would
not work in China, so he developed Maoism. Today, revolutionaries generally prefer
Maoism to Leninism. Furthermore, Mao won China because his armies treated the civilians
better than the government troops did. Mao respected the peasants in a way that no one
else in power, it seems, can manage. That's how he won China.
The essence of Maoist philosophy centers around a self-sufficient village. Faced with
carbon footprints and pricey oil, we are proposing self-sufficiency today in North
America. We have arrived at Mao's basic premise, from a totally different reference
frame. When one solution sits at a crossroads of two totally different ways of life, you
have to believe there's some validity there.