Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another Chapter in the Bloody History of Communism: Mao's Great Leap to Famine

Mao's Great Leap to Famine
Published: December 15, 2010

HONG KONG — The worst catastrophe in China’s history, and one of the worst anywhere, was the Great Famine of 1958 to 1962, and to this day the ruling Communist Party has not fully acknowledged the degree to which it was a direct result of the forcible herding of villagers into communes under the “Great Leap Forward” that Mao Zedong launched in 1958.

To this day, the party attempts to cover up the disaster, usually by blaming the weather. Yet detailed records of the horror exist in the party’s own national and local archives.

Access to these files would have been unimaginable even 10 years ago, but a quiet revolution has been taking place over the past few years as vast troves of documents have gradually been declassified. While the most sensitive information still remains locked up, researchers are being allowed for the first time to rummage through the dark night of the Maoist era.

From 2005 to 2009, I examined hundreds of documents all over China, traveling from subtropical Guangdong to arid Gansu Province near the deserts of Inner Mongolia.

The party records were usually housed on the local party committee premises, closely guarded by soldiers. Inside were acres of dusty, yellowing paper held together in folders that could contain anything from a single scrap of paper scribbled by a party secretary decades ago to neatly typewritten minutes of secret leadership meetings.

Historians have known for some time that the Great Leap Forward resulted in one of the world’s worst famines. Demographers have used official census figures to estimate that some 20 to 30 million people died.

But inside the archives is an abundance of evidence, from the minutes of emergency committees to secret police reports and public security investigations, that show these estimates to be woefully inadequate.

In the summer of 1962, for instance, the head of the Public Security Bureau in Sichuan sent a long handwritten list of casualties to the local boss, Li Jingquan, informing him that 10.6 million people had died in his province from 1958 to 1961. In many other cases, local party committees investigated the scale of death in the immediate aftermath of the famine, leaving detailed computations of the scale of the horror.

In all, the records I studied suggest that the Great Leap Forward was responsible for at least 45 million deaths.

Between 2 and 3 million of these victims were tortured to death or summarily executed, often for the slightest infraction. People accused of not working hard enough were hung and beaten; sometimes they were bound and thrown into ponds. Punishments for the least violations included mutilation and forcing people to eat excrement.

One report dated Nov. 30, 1960, and circulated to the top leadership — most likely including Mao — tells how a man named Wang Ziyou had one of his ears chopped off, his legs tied up with iron wire and a 10-kilo stone dropped on his back before he was branded with a sizzling tool. His crime: digging up a potato.

When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, the local boss, Xiong Dechang, forced his father to bury his son alive on the spot. The report of the investigative team sent by the provincial leadership in 1969 to interview survivors of the famine records that the man died of grief three weeks later.

Starvation was the punishment of first resort. As report after report shows, food was distributed by the spoonful according to merit and used to force people to obey the party. One inspector in Sichuan wrote that “commune members too sick to work are deprived of food. It hastens their death.”

As the catastrophe unfolded, people were forced to resort to previously unthinkable acts to survive. As the moral fabric of society unraveled, they abused one another, stole from one another and poisoned one another. Sometimes they resorted to cannibalism.

One police investigation from Feb. 25, 1960, details some 50 cases in Yaohejia village in Gansu: “Name of culprit: Yang Zhongsheng. Name of victim: Yang Ecshun. Relationship with Culprit: Younger Brother. Manner of Crime: Killed and Eaten. Reason: Livelihood Issues.”

The term “famine” tends to support the widespread view that the deaths were largely the result of half-baked and poorly executed economic programs. But the archives show that coercion, terror and violence were the foundation of the Great Leap Forward.

Mao was sent many reports about what was happening in the countryside, some of them scribbled in longhand. He knew about the horror, but pushed for even greater extractions of food.

At a secret meeting in Shanghai on March 25, 1959, he ordered the party to procure up to one-third of all the available grain — much more than ever before. The minutes of the meeting reveal a chairman insensitive to human loss: “When there is not enough to eat people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.”

Mao’s Great Famine was not merely an isolated episode in the making of modern China. It was its turning point. The subsequent Cultural Revolution was the leader’s attempt to take revenge on the colleagues who had dared to oppose him during the Great Leap Forward.

To this day, there is little public information inside China about this dark past. Historians who are allowed to work in the party archives tend to publish their findings across the border in Hong Kong.

There is no museum, no monument, no remembrance day to honor the tens of millions of victims. Survivors, most of them in the countryside, are rarely given a voice, all too often taking their memories with them to their graves.

Frank Dikötter is a professor at the University of Hong Kong, on leave from the University of London. His books include “Mao’s Great Famine.”

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Reductio Ad Nativitatum

The Ghost of Christmas Past

In recent years I have been struck by the fact that types of music and great musicians who were once huge eventually fade away to the point that you never hear them on the radio or in other public forums, except at Christmas. It is now almost the only time you will hear traditional Protestant hymns -- even in many Protestant Churches. You even hear old Latin hymns, like "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."

Pop musicians fare no better. Perry Como, for example, is almost never heard anymore, except at Christmas time. As time goes on, more musicians join the legions of the ghosts of Christmas past. The Beach Boys will soon only be remembered for their "Little Saint Nick"... which is certainly not the best song they ever produced. John Lennon, who once said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ, will ironically only be remembered for his song "And so this is Christmas" ... also, not the best song he ever sang. The day will no doubt come when the only Beyonce songs you will hear will be from her Christmas albums.

Believe it or not, Burl Ives really did sing something other than "Holly Jolly Christmas":

It's nice to hear these old and otherwise forgotten sounds from the past at least once a year, but it is a shame that all else is eventually forgotten.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Bloody History of Communism

In Dostoyevsky's prophetic book "The Possessed" he vividly unmasked the evil face of socialism. Among other things, one of the characters advocated the "hundred million heads theory", which was that to make real progress in the establishment of a socialist utopia, 100 million heads would have to roll. At the time, I am sure many criticized Dostoyevsky for being over the top. As it turned out, he underestimated how bloody they would actually be.

Every time socialist utopians have attempted to establish their utopias they have in fact established hells on earth. The Communists killed about 100 million people in China alone, and it has only ceased to be less of a hell hold to the extent it has departed from Communism.

To watch the additional parts, double click on the video to go to youtube.

The video is done by a Muslim Group, and so ignore the occasional insertion of their beliefs, but the footage tells the story.

See also these videos of the desecration and destruction of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow:

One of thousands of Church so desecrated and destroyed.