The legacies of Mao

The legacies of the Mao era


How most people choose to read the Mao era very much depends on their ideological positioning. Some Marxists, especially those of a Leninist persuasion, not surprisingly tend to emphasise the positive outcomes of the Maoist period, either downplaying or ignoring altogether its uglier manifestations. Deng Xiaoping they regard as a ‘counter-revolutionary’ whose capitalist reforms they say have proven disasterous for the majority of the country’s citizens. Enlightenment fundamentalists of the liberal variety, by contrast, privilege the darker side of the Mao era – the more extreme among them denying that anything of value ever resulted from the Chairman’s long reign on power.

While some liberal fundamentalists view today’s capitalist China with optimism, others see the governing of today’s middle kingdom, with its one-party system, as a direct continuation of Mao’s ‘communism’, and so, rather ironically, offer up the same criticisms of today’s China as do their socialist counterparts – both camps highlight the problems of corruption, environmental degradation, failures in the health system, land thefts, etc. – one blaming all of these shortcomings on what it sees as communism, the other on what it sees as a ‘croney’ capitalism.

Both the Mao and post-Mao eras, it will be argued here, should be considered as being historically progressive.


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