Friday, August 3, 2007

Through A Glass Dimly

Americans have never understood Mao. Maybe the closest we've come was the statement that Mao's forces were "agrarian reformers". Yes, they were, but not in the sense that was meant by that statement.

Mao believed that to put China back together, it would be necessary to harness the power of the peasantry, and that the only way that could be done was to break the power of the gangster landlord and warlord classes, and to break the hold on the people of superstition and religion. Nothing in there about democracy.

Meanwhile, Americans spun for themselves the pleasant fantasy that democracy would inevitably follow the development of a stable middle class. This made it possible for us to support dictators around the world on the assumption that they would eventually create a prosperity that would lead to democracy.

Mao understood the possibility that an industrialized China could be a dictatorship by the factory managers and state apparatchik That's why he proclaimed the Cultural Revolution- which failed. Hey presto, dictatorship.

It should surprise nobody that China has assumed essentially the form which it had for about 2000 years. The anomaly was the Revolution of Sun Yat Sen and the pathologies developed between 1850 and 1950. Mao's restoration of things as they had been incorporated some elements of the coming century and arguably did no worse than contemporaries at sketching the ways to meet the challenges of the future.

The future may include democracy in China. That, however, was not what Mao was about.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hey, presto... You made me all nostalgic for Vonnegut.