Sunday, October 23, 2005

Mao's Legacy

Nicholas Kristof’s review of ‘MAO The Unknown Story’ by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday in The New York Times, starts as follows:

‘If Chairman Mao had been truly prescient, he would have located a little girl in Sichuan Province named Jung Chang and "mie jiuzu"- killed her and wiped out all her relatives to the ninth degree. But instead that girl grew up, moved to Britain and has now written a biography of Mao that will help destroy his reputation forever.’

They are still out there, the fellow-travellers, the real, imagined, the neo- and the deeply committed Maoists, and some do not hide their admiration for the Great Leader. Some of them are working in academics. Others are politicans or journalists. I know a couple of them.

Kristof writes: ‘This biography shows, though, that Mao was something of a fraud from Day 1.’

His review is a devastating read in its own right – I expect the read of this book to be a long trip into hell.

Kristof: ‘This is an extraordinary portrait of a monster, who the authors say was responsible for more than 70 million deaths.’

Still, at the end of his raving review, Kristof cannot suppress the old habit of trying to find some kind of balance, which is a perverted addiction of Western intellectuals who can make abstractions of even millions of innocent deaths:

‘I agree that Mao was a catastrophic ruler in many, many respects, and this book captures that side better than anything ever written. But Mao's legacy is not all bad. Land reform in China, like the land reform in Japan and Taiwan, helped lay the groundwork for prosperity today. The emancipation of women and end of child marriages moved China from one of the worst places in the world to be a girl to one where women have more equality than in, say, Japan or Korea. Indeed, Mao's entire assault on the old economic and social structure made it easier for China to emerge as the world's new economic dragon.’

Indeed, Hitler created the German Freeway and introduced pensions for the elderly. Stalin turned Russica into an industrial state.

You never heard of Willem Drees. He was as gray-ish bourgeois technocrate who transformed post-war Holland into a modern nation without extermination camps, without famine, without killing whole ‘classes’ of people. His contributions to his country are taken for granted because it was normal what he tried to achieve: create more wealth, security, safety, freedom.

Giving Mao his dues for developments that could have occurred without the suffering of so many people, is sickening, especially coming from a man like Kristof, who is a fine journalist and commentator.

Read the review here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Leon,

I would consider this column one of your best colums thusfar. The reason for this lies in your successful effort to uncover the way many left-sided intellectuals still think about former (communist)-dictators. The essence of your column also reflects the many pronunciations of left-sided people in the Netherlands after the murder on Fortuyn. A lot of times I've heard in the media or within my working-environment the sound that 'our country needs a dictator' or 'a dictator will fix the problem' or 'the democracy is dead'. Like they've forgotten the horrible crimes against humanity commited by dictators ...


Jorgen Eijt

2:26 AM  

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