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Mao: The Real Story av Alexander V. Pantsov

Mao: The Real Story (urspr publ 2007; utgåvan 2013)

av Alexander V. Pantsov (Författare), Steven I. Levine (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1423186,055 (3.43)8
This major new biography of Mao uses extensive Russian documents previously unavailable to biographers to reveal surprising details about Mao's rise to power and his leadership in China.
Titel:Mao: The Real Story
Författare:Alexander V. Pantsov (Författare)
Andra författare:Steven I. Levine (Författare)
Info:Simon & Schuster (2013), Edition: Reprint, 784 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek


Mao: The Real Story av Alexander V. Pantsov (2007)


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New biography of Mao - reliant upon opened Soviet archives. The title seems to be a direct refutation of the 'cartoonishly evil' portrayal of Jung Chang's [b:Mao: The Unknown Story|9746|Mao The Unknown Story|Jung Chang|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320566075s/9746.jpg|1879340], and instead they're aiming for a 'complex multifaceted titanic evil'.

Mao's early life is already covered in great detail by other biographies, and the book does a fair treatment of the whole process. Stern father, love of reading, education in the cities. The young Mao was well aware of the corruption and instability of China in his era, and was a ravenous reader of history. He likely imagined himself to be one of the Great Men of History.

He was not committed to Marxism until the early 1920s, when news of the Soviet Union became more widespread, and he became one of the first delegates of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1921. From then on, his life became a tremendous political juggling act. The fledgling CCP was dependent upon funds from the Comintern, and there was a tremendous degree of political infighting among various factions, who had to try to toe the Bolshevik line as well as guarantee survival against the corrupt military government.

After the Chiang Kai-Shek took over the country, the CCP was surprised to learn that the Soviets were more interested in supporting his party, the Guomindang, (GMD) against the Japanese. After Chiang launched a purge against labor unions and communist-sympathizers in the cities, Mao was the only one to realize than an independent army was necessary. He worked vigorously in this manner, forming a Soviet in the Jiangxi provinces, and writing fiery screeds for the revolution:

"A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another. A rural revolution is a revolution by which the peasantry overthrows the power of the feudal landlord class. Without using the greatest force, the peasants cannot possibly overthrow the deep-rooted authority of the landlords which has lasted for thousands of years. The rural areas need a mighty revolutionary upsurge, for it alone can rouse the people in their millions to become a powerful force!"

His early Red Armies were something out of [b:Outlaws of the Marsh, Vol. 1-4|158778|Outlaws of the Marsh, Vol. 1-4|Shi Nai'an|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1172274466s/158778.jpg|540222] - bandits, prostitutes, secret societies, the lowest-classes of people, ethnic minorities. They were among those who had the most to gain from Mao's forceful land distribution schemes.

In 1934, the Guomindang decided enough was enough, and launched a final assault of the Chinese Communists. Thus the mythical Long March began. Out of 80,000 which began the march, some 8,000 had survived to rest and recover in the northern hamlet of Yan'an. By some miracle, Mao had managed to win a strategic retreat. He gathered the remnants of the party around himself, and those within the party who had opposed him were either submissive to him or utterly beaten (one such opponent managed to lose 20,000 men in Sichuan province, then tried to expel Mao after his catastrophe).

The next few years were a place to rest and rebuild. Tell Western journalists sympathetic stories and finagle aid from the Soviets. Flirt with women, write poetry, and coordinate guerrilla warfare against the Japanese.

The CCP was particularly successful in the anti-Japanese war. The Guomindang had began a full retreat to a few key cities (Chengdu and Chongqing) in the interior, and had all but given up the possibility of a counterattack. By contrasts, the CCP was able to infiltrate the countryside near Japanese-held cities and hold large swathes of territory.

The narrative of the Chinese Civil War is often said solely to be the result of superior Communist guerrilla training and demoralized and incompetent GMD leadership. They place a curious and interesting emphasis on Soviet support - on how much support he would indeed give to Mao, for fear that he would suddenly become independent of Soviet demands, like another Tito. The Soviets began their work on building up spies and informers. Liu Shaoqi, one of Mao's closest men, was a Soviet informer.

Mao was a subservient and loyal follower to Stalin, even sending troops in the Korean War against the demands of his populace. His first economic plans were centralization and mass industrialization on the Stalinist line. Using the faithful and disciplined cadres built up over the past twenty years, he began a purge of warlord and feudal influence from the countryside, an built something like the first effective unified governance over China in centuries.

Chen Yun, one of Mao's successors, and a key man in the Deng government, summarizes the next years thus: "If Mao had died in 1956, he would have been immortal. If he had died in 1966, he would have been a great man. But he has died in 1976."

After Stalin died, Mao was less enthused about closer ties with the Soviet Union. He believed that Khrushchev was a 'weak' leader and snubbed him on numerous occasions, and was horrified at his denunciation of Stalin in 1956. After seeing the backlash and Hungarian Uprising in Eastern Europe, he began the Hundred Flowers campaign in earnest, hoping for modest criticism about development. When it backfired, he imprisoned anyone who dared speak out.

In response to Khrushchev's boast to surpass the US, Mao began his Great Leap Forward, to surpass the Soviet Union. He began with a manic energy, convinced that he would bring about a new society. We all know how that went. Then in 1966, when the country had recovered and could feed itself again, he began the Cultural Revolution, a 'permanent revolution'. Cheering crowds, Little Red Books, mass purges. Again this story is familiar.

He passes on in 1976, a drooling husk, almost completely alone. Factions squabble over his empire. The Gang of Four, leaders of the Cultural Revolution, eventually lose out to Deng the reformer, and we see China now.

How could he do all this, without any major strikes against him? How else all totalitarian systems work - fear. Even when he was bedridden, he still crushed coups and opposition movements with a few angry words. 8,000 were left at the end of the Long March, and these were hacked away into a few dozen by 1976. The years of revolution instilled in him paranoia and bloodlust - then not unjustified, but once he was safely in power, revolution becomes tyranny. "China has stood up!" cheered Mao, and then it staggered down again, and then Deng brought it up again - a China so different, so prosperous, and raw capitalist that Mao would not recognize it. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
authors believe Chinese people would have been better off w Chang Kai Shek and the Dragon Lady
  daleriva | Jan 27, 2013 |
This biography was first published in Russia in 2007 without benefit of subtitle hype. But no American publisher would settle for the sober announcement that Alexander V. Pantsov's access to the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History has resulted in a nuanced study of Mao Zedong (1893-1976) that supersedes previous biographies.

The evidence of Mao's faithfulness to Stalin right up to the Soviet dictator's death in 1953 is especially striking. Of course, there were tensions between the two leaders, and even distrust, but in the main Pantsov and Levine provide a detailed exposé of Communist solidarity that strikes yet another blow at certain American Cold War historians, who have generally wanted to present Mao as his own man. In other words, there was considerable truth to the idea that communism was monolithic -- no matter how much it may have seemed to vary from one country to another.

Perhaps because Pantsov and Levine are so focused on getting their man right, they do not step away from their narrative enough to appreciate that in certain respects Mao is now an irrelevance. Without saying so, China's subsequent leaders have repudiated Mao's ideas of radical reform, which led to the disastrous, famine-producing Great Leap Forward (1958-61) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) that caused a political chaos that China has yet to fully overcome. Still, their biography of Mao goes a long way toward elucidating contemporary China and Chinese leaders' insistence on one-party rule as the only way to perpetuate long-lasting political, economic and cultural change.

For better or worse, China seemed to have not had a good alternative. The portrait of Chiang Kai-shek in this biography is devastating: Although he inflicted severe losses on the Communists in 1936, ultimately his rule succumbed to them in 1948, when they triumphed using guerrilla war tactics and a call -- not for socialism, or communism, or Stalinism, but for a "New Democracy" that would destroy the power of corrupt generals and government officials. Communists claimed they would elevate the fighting spirit of the country's soldiers and build a prosperous economy that the nationalist Chinese government could not deliver. In the end, Mao's promises were unfulfilled -- or rather their fulfillment was much delayed, until his death and the country's turn toward a market economy. ( )
1 rösta carl.rollyson | Jan 5, 2013 |
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To the memory of my grandfather, Georgii Borisovich Ehrenburg (1902 - 1967), a Russian Sinologist, one of the first biographers of Mao Zedong, and the author who inspired me greatly. -- Alexander V. Pantsov
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Historical figures merit objective biographies.
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This major new biography of Mao uses extensive Russian documents previously unavailable to biographers to reveal surprising details about Mao's rise to power and his leadership in China.

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