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The Cambridge History of China, Volume 15, The People's Republic, Part 2, Revolutions within the Chinese Revolution, 1966-1982

The Cambridge History of China, Volume 15: The People's Republic, Part 2: Revolutions Within the Chinese Revolution, 1966-82 - Roderick MacFarquhar, John King Fairbank The final chapter deals with Taiwan - it is a brief, serviceable account of the political/economic origins of modern Taiwan. In closing, this is a useful volume.

Ch. 4, by MacFarquhar, deals with the transition -- the fall of Lin Biao, the rise of the Gang of Four, Mao's final descent, death -- the death of Zhou Enlai earlier in that year -- and the rehabilitation, second fall, and final rise of Deng Xiaoping... one of the most remarkable men of the 20th century. This chapter is brilliant - the writer has a deep grasp of history, its inner sense of tragedy, and of course a full grasp of the details of the subject -- and this chapter alone is worth the (great) weight of the volume. There is a fascinating footnote, where he describes how he was present at the "introduction to the nation" of Wang Hongwen, which was made at a party in honor of Cambodia's Prince Sihanouk. Wang was the Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin of Mao's succession plans -- plucked by obscurity to become leader of the nation, only to prove himself a cipher -- and MacF. describes how he witnessed the utter confusion on the part of the Party cadres who didn't know what to make of his presence at this event. But the main thing in this chapter is the discussion of Zhou and Deng.... It is also an excellent corrective to Philip Short's (in his great biography of Mao) view of Zhou as a sychophantic cipher. This is one point where I think Short has it completely wrong. I'm going to skip now to the last chapter, dealing with Taiwan fro 1949-1982.

Ch. 2, a conventional history of the first phase of the Cultural Revolution -- written in 1991 -- by an author who admits that as recently as 1980 he thought of it as an idealistic, counter-cultural expression of Mao's "noble vision". Obviously, not the brightest bulb, this guy... Next up will be Roderick MacFarquhar's account of the rise and fall of the Gang of Four, and the rehabilitation, ascension, and early program of Deng Xiaoping (ch. 4)

The first paper in the CHOC (15,2) deals with Mao's thought from 1949 through the Cultural Revolution -- and so with the ideological development that led to the lunacy of that period. The paper presents a coherent and fascinating picture of Mao's transformation from a relatively orthodox Marxist-Leninist (until the mid-1950's) to a thinker who espoused the primacy of superstructure over base, of culture/politics over economics, of the subjective over the objective -- an absolute inversion in every way of orthodox Marxism. For Mao (as for Mussolini) -- the fundamental law of nature was flux -- to his opponents (who were purged) who claimed that "two combines into one", Mao opposed the dogma that "one divides into two" (ad infinitum -- it led him to postulate that the electron itself would be infinitely divisible…).

The reason I find this so interesting is that it accords with the general thesis that I've been pounding the table on that Maoism has more to do with fascism -- the fascism of Mussolini, of the "developmental dictatorship"…, and, indeed, with the Italian futurists of this period… than with Marxism as we generally know it.

Viewed in this light, the revolutions in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia (Morales) take on a new light…. As with Mussolini, and even with Hitler, Mao aimed to transform -- first and foremost -- the individual, giving priority to the psychological and the ideological, rather than the socio-political (which would follow) -- again, a complete inversion from Marx for whom the cultural and the intellectual are mere superstructures, merely functions of the economic and material base.

While I grew up in the shadow of the Cold War, and was taught that the critical event of the 20th cen. was WWII -- I've since come to believe that the critical event of the century was rather WWI and the inter-war period in Europe -- and that the fundamental "problem" of the century was not communism, but fascism...; And that it is fascism that will prove, in various guises and shapes, to be the fundamental "problem" of the 21st century -- as the global population explosion continues to crash inexorably into resource constraints

Fascism, of course -- and for good reason -- has a bad odor -- it showed its hand nakedly once -- and so it does not consent for the most part to use its own name -- but ever appears under ever-shifting and ever-different labels. As such, one must learn to recognize the beast that lurks beneath the tags..., because while the names will change, the anatomy will ever remain the same.


(I am reading part II of vol. 15, which deals with the Cultural Revolution -- though one long chapter is devoted to Taiwan. The book is enormous -- over 1,000 pages -- and contains a set of long monograph-length chapters by diverse authors. I plan to read 3 or 4 of them. The first paper, by Stuart Schram, deals with Mao's thought -- his ideological development from a quasi-orthodox Marxist-Leninism, to the radicalization of the Cultural Revolution -- and the chapter is fascinating -- clear as a bell -- and nuanced. It also reads very well. Chapter two deals with the political events of the C.R., and is called "The Chinese State in Crisis". I have great hopes for this book.

The volume is edited by John King Fairbank, whose history of 20th cen. China is one of the best things I've read on the topic: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/582471.The_Great_Chinese_Revolution_1800_1985
Fairbank was quite old when he wrote this book, and it took me 30 pages or more before I caught his voice and the rhythm of his thought. But once I did, I understood why he is the dean of 20th cen. Sinologists. It's a really superb book.)