In this discussion on the whys and wherefores of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution”, I will not be wanting to condone the crazed killings by a rampant mob. At the same time, I am not of such a naïve nature to believe that mammoth shifts in politico/socio direction in a short period of time in any state will be done with a soft hand inside “kid” gloves. Recent actions in the Middle East by many Western/Asiatic military powers have demonstrated the sometimes callous nature of political expediency. Though I do doubt the numbers of victims recorded specifically against Mao’s Cultural Revolution on the logic that there being no accurate account save western propaganda, and the depressing fact that around 7-10 million were killed in the civil war, the number tossed about of 8 million would surely result in total war again on a grand scale, with all civic production at risk or even shut down completely, resulting in the overthrow of the government anyway. The number used may well have included natural attrition and other calamities (famine, natural disasters etc) that arose from the degree of chaos that a recovering population from the war years (2nd and Civil) could well have suffered regardless.
The fact that the Chinese Communist Government stabilized and thrived through those times finding food clothing, shelter and employment for over 1 billion citizens and has now become the largest economy in the world would in itself demonstrate a popular loyalty to a social system beyond what could be enforced in any country by any military in any epoch of history. I doubt that if one was to strip the shirts off the keen Chinese tourists who frequent our cafes, universities and estates, you will find the unmistakable welts of a Communist Party lash. You have to admit, for all the supposed chaos; something worked!
The difference between an action set in train by most western countries and Mao’s China is a difference of arithmetic. Most western countries had as many as approx 200 million persons to worry about, whereas China had and now has many more than one billion people. Our country has a degree of trouble containing the “political enthusiasm” of around twenty four million. And most of them politically pig-ignorant!
To govern, contain and manage that many people demands a more firm and even severe administration … especially after still recovering from both a brutal foreign invasion and a particularly brutal civil war and having to deal with many agents provocateurs and saboteurs from an irate and vengeful enemy just off-shore being financed and protected by the major western military power.
Mao had his hands full keeping a displaced population stable and compliant enough to do the central government’s bidding. As I wrote; the simple arithmetic of population numbers forced their hand. We have all seen how swift an agitated football crowd becomes an out of control unruly mob in a very short period of time.
There are several ways a government can be destabilized. The most subtle is by moving people of biased accreditation or of biased influence quietly into high positions of authority and bureaucratic control with as little attention and un-noticable placement as possible. There are only two types of persons that can be used to achieve this and they are both of the professional class; highly educated and high-status.
The highly educated are advantaged by having a broad over-view of civic and political needs via a (presumed) thorough reading of history and societies. But unfortunately, as education makes its indelible mark on a intelligent mind, it also creates a degree of isolation from those of the general populace around it lacking in such opportunity, that it must civically manage and draw up policy for … The next stage is that once it does by necessity distance itself from that which it must make rules and policy for, so it can with ease by that nature evolve into an elite clique that exercises a power aloof from the powerless. The elite quickly becomes a cabal for its own security which soon becomes a tyranny and then, if not interrupted, a dynasty/party of control. We have seen or heard of this step by step procedure with certain types of management.
One can easily view such cliques and structures evolving and growing in the workplace factory-floor or in committees or even in simple public blogs. Such cliques of power in a population of over a billion people is more than just annoyance, it is deadly. I am reminded that China lost; circa 10 million people in the civil war and its wash-up. There could not be a chance to allow for that to happen again.
There is an old adage that; ‘The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world’. I will add another truth to that one in that; “The hand that instructs acumen with the abacus and slate rules the state”.
Mao used the power of “mob rule” to instigate his “continuous revolution” and it was as successful in a social objective as it was destructive of some of the intellectual elite. As much as a glacier carves spectacular valleys, the icy surface glimmering like a thousand dawns rising, its massive force is grinding all beneath it to a fine powder.
Yes, it was all about power: Mao’s holding onto power through his preferred elite. As an individual he was vulnerable, but as leader of the sole power base, he was invulnerable as long as he held a tight rein on the obvious sources of rising discontent: The un-corralled intelligentsia.
The Roman writer Pliny The Younger, when governor of Bythnia implored his emperor Trajan to permit the incorporation of a fire brigade for such emergencies as required. The emperor dis-allowed it on the grounds that the forming of and regular meeting of such groups only leads to trouble and dissent as he had seen in the past. Indeed, it was common practice in the capital; Rome to find a centurion on every street corner to prevent the illegal gathering of five or more persons, having learned that it only takes one armed and trained legionnaire to “contain” a hundred unarmed civilians, the Roman authorities were able to leave little to chance.
The “containing” and directing of one billion people takes more than chance. It would take an iron fist in a chain-mail gauntlet if and when trouble arose. We have seen here the swift movement of regal power when Whitlam was removed from office by an intelligentsia unashamed to use crude, vulgar methodology and raw power to achieve its end. How then can we condemn a state such as China from keeping a firm grip on its many provinces with its many challenges?
The West is now governed by those elite cabals of both education and wealth. There can hardly be one “free-state” that has as its leader a person elevated by high morals or deserving merit. All is factional. All is economical. All is principle. All is negotiable.
Perhaps, if it keeps on going down the current path of climate destruction … All is lost.