The Mandate of Heaven: Marx and Mao in modern China (IS Books)

The Mandate of Heaven: Marx and Mao in modern China (IS Books)

Nigel Harris

Language: English

Pages: 307

ISBN: 1608464652

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


For radicals in Europe and North America, the anti-imperialist—and Chinese—revolutions continued the great task of 1789, 1848, and 1870, the “bourgeois revolution” in Marx’s terms, and the creation of nations that would release the energies and unity of purpose to create new worlds of prosperity and freedom. The nationalist focus led to an emphasis on autarkic development—the nation, it was said, already possessed within its own boundaries all the requirements and resources to match the accomplishments of global civilization.

The overthrow of empire in the 1950s and 1960s—of which the coming to power of the Chinese Communist party in 1949 was a important part—seemed to augur a new era in world history, one in which the majority of the world’s population secured liberation. There was perhaps a sense in which this was true, but the reality for the majority was far removed from this giddy hope. And in the case of the ordinary Chinese, the newly “liberated” regime proved far more brutal and exacting than those that it had replaced (which also attained high standards of brutality and injustice). In China the great famine of 1958–62 was only the most spectacularly cruel and gratuitous product of that new order.

For the former inhabitants of the old empires, national liberation turned out to be not liberation of all, but the creation of a new national ruling class, as often as not exploiting its position at home to make fortunes then smuggled abroad.

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companies. By its work, this new stratum is often collectively organized in large-scale units, unlike the petite bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century. Above all, it is propertyless; it has no more realistic opportunity to own part of the means of production than the manual working class. Objectively, it has nothing to sell but its labour power, although in some cases it has greater access to the control of part of the means of production. Objectively, such a stratum is part of the working

and others, in Mao Zedong et al., China: the March Towards Unity, New York, May 1937, p.75 38.  United Press interview with Bo Gu (Qin Bangxian), Chongqing, 8 November 1938; cf. the slogan, “Let us support General Chiang to lead in the anti-Japanese war”, cited in China Today, Shanghai, July 1937 39.  “Comrade Chang Hao’s [Lin Yuying, uncle of Lin Biao] error at that time [during a course of lectures at Yan’an University, February 1937] was to consider the national anti-Japanese front to be a

with the students’ great Cultural Revolution” (23 August and 7 Sept. 1966).75 Throughout the first phase, there were hints by Mao of a party conspiracy to stifle the Cultural Revolution, based upon the link between the work teams and the party centre. The evidence for a conspiracy is little more than that the centre, like Mao, wished to protect production from being disturbed by student activities. But Mao was now responding to an audience whose expectations pushed and pulled him in other

co-operativization and State procurements. In Jiangxi, he said, the people who complained were cadres, a third of whom were really “well-to-do peasants, or formerly poor and lower middle peasants who had become well-to-do peasants”.133 The disturbances led to no slackening in the pace of accumulation, but Mao henceforth stressed the need to watch peasant welfare. The peasants must be looked after, then “the mouth of the bourgeoisie will have been stopped up”. “Like us, the peasants have to eat

revolution in industrialized Europe, the temporary slowly became the permanent, the “retreat” became rationalized as an advance. The spirit of the régime’s “armed bodies of men” changed, and whether the commanders were former workers or Tsarist officers, their minds were slowly reshaped to accord to their real social life, that of an elite. One old Bolshevik recalls: “They [the Red Army commanders] became members of the new officers’ group, and no agitation whatsoever, nor beautiful speeches

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