Since this week marked the 70th anniversary of the “People’s Republic” (communist government which is neither a Republic nor for the people) of China, it is an excellent time to re-read Lew Rockwell’s classic essay “The Horrors of Communist China.”
Read the article here with excerpts below:
It is a scandal that few Westerners are even aware, or, if they are aware, they are not conscious, of the bloody reality that prevailed in China between the years 1949 and 1976, the years of communist rule by Mao Zedong.
How many died as a result of persecutions and the policies of Mao? Perhaps you care to guess? Many people over the years have attempted to guess. But they have always underestimated. As more data rolled in during the 1980s and 1990s, and specialists have devoted themselves to investigations and estimates, the figures have become ever more reliable. And yet they remain imprecise. What kind of error term are we talking about? It could be as low as 40 million. It could be as high as 100 million or more. In the Great Leap Forward from 1959 to 1961 alone, figures range between 20 million to 75 million. In the period before, 20 million. In the period after, tens of millions more.
As scholars in the area of mass death point out, most of us can't imagine 100 dead or 1000. Above that, we are just talking about statistics: they have no conceptual meaning for us, and it becomes a numbers game that distracts us from the horror itself. And there is only so much ghastly information that our brains can absorb, only so much blood we can imagine. And yet there is more to why China's communist experiment remains a hidden fact: it makes a decisive case against government power, one even more compelling than the cases of Russia or Germany in the 20th century.
The first stages of rebellion occurred in the only way permissible: people began to criticize the government for being too soft and too uncommitted to the communist goal. Ironically, this began to appear precisely as moderation became more overt in Russia. Neo-revolutionaries in the Red Guard began to criticize the Chinese communists as "Khrushchev-like reformers." As one writer put it, the guard "rose up against its own government in order to defend it."
During this period, the personality cult of Mao reached it height, with the Little Red Book achieving a mythic status. The Red Guards roamed the country in an attempt to purge the Four Old-Fashioned Things: ideas, culture, customs, and habits. The remaining temples were barricaded. Traditional opera was banned, with all costumes and sets in the Beijing Opera burned. Monks were expelled. The calendar was changed. All Christianity was banned. There were to be no pets such as cats and birds. Humiliation was the order of the day.
Thus was the Red Terror: in the capital city, there were 1,700 deaths and 84,000 people were run out. In other cities such as Shanghai, the figures were worse. A massive party purge began, with hundreds of thousands arrested and many murdered. Artists, writers, teachers, scientists, technicians: all were targets. Pogroms were visited on community after community, with Mao approving at every step as a means of eliminating every possible political rival. But underneath, the government was splintering and cracking, even as it became ever more brutal and totalitarian in its outlook.
Finally in 1976, Mao died. Within a few months, his closest advisers were all imprisoned. And the reform began slowly at first and then at breakneck speed. Civil liberties were restored (comparatively) and the rehabilitations began. Torturers were prosecuted. Economic controls were gradually relaxed. The economy, by virtue of human and private economic initiative, was transformed.
Having read the above, you are now in a tiny elite of people who know anything about the greatest death camp in the history of the world that China became between 1949 and 1976, an experiment in total control unlike anything else in history.
Don't tell me that we've learned anything from history. We don't even know enough about history to learn from it.