Carolina Meadows residents were recently exposed to previously unfamiliar and intriguing background information on the late Chinese Premier Mao Tse Tung. The occasion in April was jointly sponsored by Thoughtful People and World Affairs. It featured a lecture in the auditorium by one-time UNC history professor and author Steven Levine. The subject was Levine’s new book, Mao: The Real Story, co-authored with Alexander Pantsov and scheduled for publication by Simon and Schuster in October.
Pantsov, a Russian, researched the book in Moscow at the Soviet Communist Party archives which have not long been open to the public. These files, in addition to containing a wealth of information on Soviet Communism, include considerable documentation on the early years and subsequent development of the Chinese Communist Party. The collection contains fifteen volumes on Mao alone and specific communications between Stalin and his successors with Mao.
In his lecture, Levine focused on three commonly accepted myths concerning Mao and the Chinese Communist revolution. The exhaustive research of the Soviet Communist archives and the resulting Mao:The Real Story proved the myths to be fallacies.
Myth one: Mao was a unique Communist, independent from Soviet Communism, who by virtue of his brilliance and dedication to the cause accomplished a stunning victory over the Nationalists in the Chinese civil war.
Reality was the Chinese Communists were subordinate to the Soviet Communists who established the ground rules and provided the vital funding. The Chinese could not have functioned without this support and if they had attempted to do so they would have been dropped from the Communist International.
Myth two: The Chinese Communist Party came to power through land reform promises which stimulated a powerful peasant revolution.
Reality was tens of millions of Chinese peasants were dispossessed and had absolutely nothing. They were so discontented that they were willing to go with the Chinese Communists simply on the basis that anything would be better. Land reform had little to do with it.
Myth three: Mao was a creative philosopher, brilliant thinker, poet, and great military strategist with a clear vision of a Utopian society.
Reality was Mao was neither creative nor brilliant, his poetry was mediocre, he wrote only one book and two articles and Stalin directed his military activity. He wanted to make China a major power, but had no idea of what kind of society and how to get there. He made huge mistakes, but by the time the people realized this Maoists had accrued so much power that he was relatively secure.
This was a powerful lecture, followed by a stimulating Q and A session.
By John Modisett