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Little Red Book
Well-aged copy of Mao's Little Red Book (See below for more information.)
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Assignment According to Mao, what were the characteristics of "Chinese" Marxism?

Mao Zedong, or Mao Tse-tung (1893-1976), was both one of the twentieth-century's great revolutionaries and one of the century's worst politicians.
Mao was born on 26 December 1893 in the village of Shao-shan, Hunan Province to the son of a poor peasant who had risen to become an affluent farmer and grain dealer. As a child, Mao attended his village's primary school where he acquired a basic knowledge of the Confucian classics.  As a teenager, he left his family to study at a higher school in a neighbouring county and then at a secondary school in the provincial capital, Ch'ang-sha.
Scarcely had he begun his higher studies, when a nationalist revolution broke out on 10 October 1911 against the Manchu dynasty.  Mao enlisted in the revolutionary army in Hunan and spent six months as a soldier. (Perhaps this was his first realization of his later famous phrase that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.")  At the end of his military service, he drifted from job to job but eventually graduated from the First Provincial Normal School in Ch'ang-sha in 1918.  While at the school, Mao acquired his first experience in political activity by helping with several student organizations, the most important of which was the New People's Study Society.
From the normal school in Ch'ang-sha, Mao went to Peking University. Although he only spent a half year in Peking (working as a library assistant), it was there that he encountered two of the most important influences on his life:  Li Dazhao (Li Ta-chao) and Chen Duxiu (Ch'en Tu-hsiu)--Both later founders of the Chinese Socialist Party (CSP).  Also, while at Peking University, he experienced firsthand the May Fourth Movement of 1919, which began with student demonstrations against the decision of the Paris Peace Conference to give the former German concessions in Shantung Province to Japan (instead of returning them to China).  But the Movement soon evolved into a larger intellectual search for solutions of radical change and modernization. (This meant the adoption of socialism.)
During the summer of 1919, Mao established in Ch'ang-sha a variety of organizations that brought students, merchants and workers together against the government.  His work led him to a belief that Marxism could be the basis of a future revolution.  This determined the future course of his life.
In September 1920 he became the principal of the Lin Ch'ang-sha primary school, and that October he organized a branch of the Socialist Youth League there. He also soon married Yang Kaihui (Yang K'ai-hui), the daughter of his former ethics teacher.  In July 1921 he attended the First Congress of the CSP, and two years later, when the party entered into an alliance with Sun Yat-sen's Kuomintang (Nationalist Party), Mao was one of the first socialists to join the Kuomintang.
In 1924, Mao returned to his native village of Shao-shan for a rest. There, after witnessing demonstrations by peasants, Mao suddenly became aware of the revolutionary potential of the peasantry.  Although born a peasant, Mao had forgotten his heritage until he suddenly had the remarkable insight that peasants, not workers--the traditional object of Marxists--could carry out the revolution.  Mao sought to channel the spontaneity of the Hunan peasants into an organized peasant movement.  But before beginning his work with the peasants, Mao had to flee and return for a year to Canton, where he was the acting head of the propaganda department of the Kuomintang and served at the Peasant Movement Training Institute.
Chiang Kai-shek had become the leader of the Kuomintang after Sun Yat-sen died in March 1925, and although Chiang declared his allegiance to the "world revolution" and wanted to use Soviet aid, he also was determined to remain master of the Kuomintang.  In 1926, he expelled most socialists from responsible posts, and in July, he set out on the Northern Expedition, aiming to unify the country under his own leadership.  In the meantime, Mao returned to Hunan to begin a more detailed investigation of the "peasant movement," concluding that in a very short time several hundred million peasants in China would explode.
But Mao's prediction of revolution hit a snag.  Kai-shek turned against revolution, and in April 1927, he ordered massacres of the Shanghai workers who had delivered the city to him. The Chinese Socialist Party was virtually annihilated in the cities and decimated in the countryside. In the midst of this turmoil (October 1927), Mao led a few hundred peasants to a base in the Ching-kang Shan (Ching-kang Mountains) on the Kiangsi-Hunan border where he developed new tactics of guerrilla warfare, using the the Red Army operating from base areas in the countryside.
In November 1931, Mao led the formation of the Chinese Soviet Republic in a portion of Kiangsi Province. Mao felt that since there was little hope for a worker-led revolution in the cities, the promise of ultimate victory now seemed to reside in the gradual strengthening and expansion of the base areas in the countryside. The Soviet regime soon came to control a population of several million, while the Red Army, grown to a strength of some 200,000, easily defeated the inferior troops sent by Chiang Kai-shek.  When the Red Army proved unable to stand up against Chiang's elite units, in October 1934 the Red Army, Mao and his pregnant wife (He had remarried in 1930 after his first wife was executed by the Kuomintang.) abandoned the base in Kiangsi and set out for the northwest of China on the Long March.
Mao on the Long March
When the some 8,000 troops who survived the perils of the Long March arrived in Shensi Province in northwestern China in the autumn of 1935, events were already moving toward the key phase in Mao's development--war with Japan.  In August 1935 the Communist International, at its Seventh Congress in Moscow, proclaimed the duty of all communists to participate in an anti-Fascist coalition, and in May 1936 the Chinese socialists accepted the proposition of such a united front against the Japanese.  By the time the Japanese began their attempt to subjugate all of China in July 1937, the terms of the cooperation between the socialists and the Kuomintang had been virtually settled.
In the course of the anti-Japanese war, the Red Army broke into small units to work behind the enemy lines.  This allowed the socialists to control vast stretches of the countryside between the cities, and by the time of the Japanese surrender, the Red Army (somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 men) had established effective, grass-roots, political control over a population that may have totaled as many as 90,000,000.
During the early years of the war with Japan, Mao, for the first time since the 1920s, turned to reading and writing.  He read some Soviet writings on philosophy and produced his own interpretation of dialectical materialism ("On Practice" and "On Contradiction").  He also produced the major works that explained his idea of revolutionary struggle. (In 1939, Mao divorced He Zizhen and married a well-known film actress, Lan P'ing, later called Jiang Qing (Chiang Ch'ing).)
Mao also undertook what he called the "Sinification" of Marxism, ie.e, its adaptation to Chinese conditions.  Mao did not have much information on how communism worked in the Soviet Union nor did he possess the ability to read Marx or Lenin in the original.  He did, however, claim to know China, and it was this knowledge of "China" that led to differences between him and a Soviet-oriented faction within the party, culminating in the "Rectification Campaign" of 1942. Technically, the program aimed at giving a basic grounding in Marxist theory to the thousands of new party members, but the real essence of the program was the elimination of what Mao called foreign elements, in other words, Soviet influence.
In March 1943, Mao achieved for the first time formal supremacy over the party, becoming chairman of the Secretariat and of the Politburo. Shortly thereafter, the continuing Rectification Campaign resulted in a purge of elements not sufficiently loyal Mao. The campaign was run by Kang Sheng (K'ang Sheng), later one of Mao's key supporters in the Cultural Revolution.
The purges made Stalin especially suspicious of Mao, and after World War II, Stalin clearly tried to prevent Mao from engaging in a revolutionary civil war against the Kuomintang.  Nevertheless, Mao did lead the Red Army to power, and on 1 October 1949 he declared the establishment of the People's Republic of China.  
Mao Announcing the People's Republic
In December 1949 Mao traveled to Moscow for two months of difficult negotiations leading to a treaty of mutual assistance accompanied by limited economic aid. Soon thereafter, the Chinese found themselves intervening in the Korean War in support of the communist regime in P'yongyang.
Despite the tensions with Moscow, Mao followed many of the policies of the Soviet Union.  For example, a five-year plan was drawn up and put into effect in 1953 (with limited Soviet technical aid), but in 1958, Mao broke with the Soviet model and launched the Great Leap Forward, encouraging the establishment of rural industry and the use of rural labour to create a new agricultural infrastructure.  The "Leap" failed miserably, and, to counter growing intellectual and urban-based opposition, in 1966, Mao--with the support of his wife, Jiang Qing, and key ally, Lin Biao--launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.  The result was again disaster as he destroyed the party and state bureaucracy, paralyzed education and left the economy almost a shambles.
Recovery came slowly, as Mao withdrew from active participation in the government.  Zhou En-lai seemed to emerge as the nation's real leader when relations were reestablished with the United States. After Mao's death on 9 September 1976, a power struggle ensued, and members of the party who had been purged by the Cultural Revolution returned to govern China, including Deng Xiaoping (see Deng Xiaoping).

26 December 1893, Mao was born.
10 October 1911, nationalist revolution begun in China by Sun Yat-sen.
1919, May Fourth Movement.
September 1920, Mao organized a branch of the Socialist Youth League in his school.  Married Yang Kaihui (Yang K'ai-hui), the daughter of his former teacher.
July 1921, Mao attended the First Congress of the Chinese Socialist Party (CSP).
1923, when the CSP entered into Sun Yat-sen's Kuomintang (Nationalist Party), Mao joined also.
May 1926, Chiang Kai-shek expelled most socialists from the Kuomintang.
July 1926, Chiang Kai-shek launched the Northern Expedition to unify the country under his leadership.
November 1926, Mao returned to Hunan where he began his investigation of the peasant movement.
October 1927, Mao led a small group of peasants to a base in the Ching-kang Shan (Ching-kang Mountains) on the Kiangsi-Hunan border to begin a new type of revolutionary warfare in the countryside.
1930, Mao's wife was executed by the Kuomintang, and he married He Zizhen (Ho Tzu-chen), with whom he had been living since 1928.
November 1931, Mao proclaimed the Chinese Soviet Republic, in a portion of Kiangsi Province.
1935, The Long March.
July 1937, full-fledged Sino-Japanese War began.
1939, Mao divorced He Zizhen and married a well-known film actress, Lan P'ing (Jiang Qing or Chiang Ch'ing).
March 1943, Mao became chairman of the Secretariat and of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party.
1 October 1949, Mao proclaimed the People's Republic of China.
December 1949, Mao traveled to Moscow for two months of negotiations leading to a peace treaty.
1953, first Chinese five-year plan.
1958, the Great Leap Forward.
1966, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
13 September 1971, death of Mao's heir-apparent Lin Piao, allegedly in an airplane crash.
9 September 1976, Mao died.
11 October 1976, Mao's closest associates (the Gang of Four) arrested.  (Officials did not want another "cultural revolution.")  They were convicted, no death sentences were carried out.

The "Little Red Book"

As I was typing up that title, it reminded me of the children's book The Little Blue Engine, or little golden books, or other little kids' books, but the Little Red Book associated with Mao's cultural revolution of the 1960s was actually no laughing matter to millions of Chinese.

The real title of the book was Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung (or Mao Zedong), published from about 1964 until the leader's death in 1976.  The book contained quotations from him that ranged over his long career that had begun in the mid-1920s and was organized according to important themes like unity, discipline, communists, etc.  According to wikipedia, somewhere between 5 and 6.5 billion copies of the tiny book were published. (That's a lot of money!)

In China, as part of the Cultural Revolution that was directed against intellectuals, young members of the communist party, acting as Red Guards, were charged with the task of weeding out parasite intellectuals and subversives.  They used the book and the quotations in the book in that process.  So, if you were living in China in the 1960s, then you had to have a copy of the Little Red Book, carry it with you at all times and know its contents if you wanted to avoid bad things happening to you.

If you lived anywhere else in the world in the 1960s, I'm guessing that you might also have heard of the Little Red Book, especially if you had radical or left-leaning tendencies.  You probably also knew that Mao was the "author;" and you claimed to know something about what was in the book--although in all probability you never bothered to open it other than to rifle the pages.  I tried to read it some years ago and found it to be pretty much like anything that Stalin had ever written; dry, boring and unreadable.


WWW sites
There are many sites that include the works of Mao:
Compton's Encyclopedia Online has a nice picture and a short article, and Mao Zedong is a short biography of the Chinese leader from biography.com.
Chairman Mao Badges (*.pdf) provides illustrations of Mao badges from the Cultural Revolution, and Badges of Chairman Mao Zedong is an essay and analysis (by Bill Bishop) of the Mao badges.
Mao's mausoleum (wikipedia), and view his former residence (or try a CNN special).

Other websites


Recommended Books
Mao has been the subject of many studies, not all of them good.  Among the best are:
  • Geremie Barmé, Shades of Mao:  The Posthumous Cult of the Great Leader (Armonk, NY, 1996)
  • Eric Chou, Mao Tse-Tung:  The Man and the Myth (1981)
  • Jerome Ch`en, ed., Mao Papers, Anthology and Bibliography (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1970)
  • Ross Terrill, Mao: A Biography (1980)
  • Edgar Snow's books:  Red Star over China (1938) and The Long Revolution (New York, 1972]
  • Stuart Schram's books:  Mao Tse-Tung (1966), The Political Thought of Mao Tse-tung, rev. ed. (New York, 1969] and Mao Zedong, a Preliminary Reassessment (New York, 1983)

Related Events
China 1949
Great Leap Forward
Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

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