225 Communist Revolution in China

225 Communist Revolution in China - The Making of the...

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The Making of the People's Republic of China (ch1) A hundred and eight years after the storming of the Bastille, Henry Kissinger famously asked Mao’s comrade and deputy Zhou Enlai whether he thought the French Revolution had been a success. Zhou is said to have replied, “It’s too soon to tell.” 1. Marxism and the Peasantry: From "Rural Idiocy" to the Anti-Kulak Campaigns Marx did not know what to do with the peasantry. They did not fit well into his schema of proletarians vs. bourgeois. No matter how poor and downtrodden, Marx could not imagine that they would play a leading role in making the revolution. They were too uneducated, too isolated, and too attached to their land (or covetous of having their own land). At one point Marx referred to the peasantry as a "sack of potatoes," emphasizing what he perceived to be their individualism and their dogged pursuit of their own self-interest. His famous phrase for country life in The Communist Manifesto was "rural idiocy." In sum, Marxism was conceived for an urban, industrial world: it had little sympathy or appreciation of the complexities of the agricultural world. Destruction of rural society by urban industry was, he believed, a necessary prelude to social revolution. As we have seen, the Bolsheviks inherited this attitude toward the peasantry. They envisaged revolution as being made by workers; the new Soviet state was at least putatively a "workers' state." Stalin's single most ruthless campaign was directed against the kulaks ("middle peasants") of the Ukraine and elsewhere. These individuals, with their traditions of communal solidarity and individual self-preservation had no place in Stalin's plans for a future Russia. Stalin and his successors collectivized agriculture, trying as much as possible to make it conform to an industrial model. 2. The Chinese Reinvent Marxism One of the great ironies of the success of Marxist revolutions in the twentieth century is that they took place exclusively in nations with large rural populations and small working classes. Following the Soviet and Chinese models, they are seen not as ways of capturing the industrial complex built by modern economies, but of building modern economies. The key to their success has been less the strength of the working class than the weakness of the upper classes. While the Bolsheviks began the Revolution with an appeal to the Russian peasantry--they promised them land and peace--it was Mao Tse Tung and the Chinese Communists who developed a strategy for coming to power and plans for a post-revolutionary society which placed peasants at the forefront. They were seen as having no culture to interfere with the revolutionary project and
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no property to fear losing which might hold them back. The sometime poet Mao wrote that peasants were blank sheets of paper on which beautiful words could be written. Early Chinese Communists questioned orthodox Marxist obsessive focus on the working classes.
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This note was uploaded on 12/10/2009 for the course HIST 151 taught by Professor Hunziker during the Spring '07 term at UNC.

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225 Communist Revolution in China - The Making of the...

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