Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 8, 2011

Bob Herbert rips Obama a new one

Filed under: Obama — louisproyect @ 9:01 pm

Bob Herbert

New York Times Op-Ed January 7, 2011

Misery With Plenty of Company

By BOB HERBERT

Consider the extremes. President Obama is redesigning his administration to make it even friendlier toward big business and the megabanks, which is to say the rich, who flourish no matter what is going on with the economy in this country. (They flourish even when they’re hard at work destroying the economy.) Meanwhile, we hear not a word — not so much as a peep — about the poor, whose ranks are spreading like a wildfire in a drought.

The politicians and the media behave as if the poor don’t exist. But with jobs still absurdly scarce and the bottom falling out of the middle class, the poor are becoming an ever more significant and increasingly desperate segment of the population.

How do you imagine a family of four would live if its annual income was $11,000 or less?

During a conversation I had this week with Peter Edelman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and a longtime expert on issues related to poverty, he pointed out that the number of people in that tragically dismal category has grown to more than 17 million. These are the folks trying to make it on incomes below half of the official poverty line, which is $22,000 annually for a family of four.

No one talks about these families and individuals living in extreme poverty. Certainly not the Republicans who were having a dandy time this week deliberately misreading the Constitution and promising budget cuts and other initiatives that will hurt the poor even more.

If you’re still having trouble deciding whose side the Republicans are on, just keep in mind that the House G.O.P. bigwig Darrell Issa sent a letter to 150 businesses, trade groups and think tanks asking them to spell out which federal regulations they dislike the most. These are lifeguards on the side of the sharks.

Scared to death of being outdone, President Obama and his sidekicks climbed into their spiffy new G.O.P. costumes and promised in humiliatingly abject tones to shower the business world with whatever government largess they could lay their hands on. The first order of business (pun intended) was the announcement that William Daley, the Chicago wheeler-dealer and former Clinton administration official who landed a fat gig at JPMorgan Chase, would become the president’s chief of staff. Mr. Daley was a loud critic of recent financial regulatory reforms and has been obsessed with getting Democrats to be more subservient to business.

read full article

Some comments from NY Times readers on this column:

“… Darrell Issa sent a letter to 150 businesses, trade groups and think tanks asking them to spell out which federal regulations they dislike the most. These are lifeguards on the side of the sharks.”

No matter which party grasps the power, the working majority remain powerless while the capitalist minority rules the world. It is of no use to blame one party on the misfortune and misery of the people and hope the other party would come to people’s help. No any party will do any good. They are as corrupt as any henchman of the capital can be.

Even if the Democrats had taken power of the Capital’s House, nothing would have changed as far as the political corruption, economic monopoly and social regression are concerned. The question is how to convince capital itself that the current mainstream and orthodox political economic policy is not only wrong and detrimental to the working majority but also harmful to the dictatorship of the bourgeois minority.

Capital has taken it for granted that even though the economic crisis could be worse than the Great Depression in the 1930s, recovery has never been far away, time is on their side and patience will pay off. Its trusting to luck ideas keep a blear-eye in front of the danger ahead. Ever since China surrendered three decades, the Soviet Union folded two decades ago, and all-out confrontation ceased, capital started its barefaced onslaught on the working people of the world with candid exploitation and oppression as though there would be no tomorrow. Representative Democracy and profit sharing have died. Global discontentment among the working majority is never higher because of unemployment, bankruptcy, foreclosure, poverty and austerity. Capital as a hegemony is about to slip downward from its power peak.

Global overproduction relative to working people’s affordable demand has been the real cause of the economic crisis. Overproduction comes about from fierce competitions and cost reduction. Automation has made matter worse than better through reducing work force or underemployment or both. The 21th century Innovation is all cost-saving enterprise, especially on human capital. Global accumulation of capital, on the other hand, reaches it new high and entraps into the mire of over-accumulation that overproduction engendered over the past three decades. The profitable investment outlets other than the speculative financial bubble-prone money ports like housing and stock markets become so much rare that lack of outlets has forced capital to invest overseas en mass leading to deindustrialization on a global scale. A permanent global unemployment calamity has arrived and it has been hardly fleeting at all. For some similar viewpoints, see http://endnotes.org.uk/articles/1

Now as though that were not enough, overseas low-cost investment outlets in China, India, Brazil and elsewhere face either inflation or over-investment and unemployment as well. Capital, which looked as invincible as only yesterday, has been on tenterhooks almost daily by crises. Overseas investments may do down the drain if China’s economy falls.

Due to housing overproduction, housing crisis rivals the Great Depression. Housing price in 2010 dropped $1.7 trillion over last year when it shed $1 trillion or at a falling rate of 63% and a total drop of $9 trillion since 2006. “The U.S. housing market is now down around 25 percent from its peak in 2006. (During the Great Depression, home prices fell 25.9 percent in five years.) Housing bubbles are now bursting in China, France, Spain, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, and many other regions.” (December 29, 2010, “Underneath the Happy Talk, Is This As Bad as the Great Depression?”) .

Due to over-accumulation of capital, “Indeed, top economists such as Anna Schwartz, James Galbraith, Nouriel Roubini and others have pointed out that while banks faced a liquidity crisis during the Great Depression, today they are wholly insolvent. Insolvency is much more severe than a shortage of liquidity.”

“So many Americans have been jobless for so long that the government is changing how it records long-term unemployment.

‘Citing what it calls “an unprecedented rise” in long-term unemployment, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), beginning Saturday, will raise from two years to five years the upper limit on how long someone can be listed as having been jobless.’ “The two-year limit has been used for 33 years.”

Darrell Issa, William Daley, Barak Obama and their ilk – the right-wingers – now put on their tax cut hawk facemasks, shift the financial burden of tax cut on social programs and scoop more lucre for their masters and themselves. The strategic plan of their class welfare is not only to starve the beast but, most importantly, also to starve the working class.

* * *

Scrooge asked, have they no prisons, no workhouses? America should bring back the workhouse for the poor. It worked for 19th century England, why not for 21st century America—the greatest, richest country in the world. We already have a large section of our citizens in prison, the better to take away their vote. Now we need to further the process of making the poor into indentured servants to work off their debt to society for food and shelter. We keep creating new poor people with our policies, especially sending jobs overseas, and letting major illness drive people into bankruptcy. These two policies alone should in future, create whole new classes of poor for us to exploit. And probably, these policies will continue and intensify with the increasing right wing turn of our politics and media. As the generations go by, the descendents of formerly middle class Americans will join the ranks of the poor, and provide even more fodder to be used. These people will be called irresponsible and unambitious. Not too bright. Otherwise they would keep themselves out of the pit of poverty. Oh well, they must not deserve much help then. Probably education would be wasted on them anyway. I guess god helps those who help themselves. What’s on TV tonight and what’s for supper?

* * *

I am still trying to figure out exactly what President Obama’s function is. Under his stewardship, the presidency of the United States seems to have devolved into being the chief public relations front man for Wall Street and the military industrial complex. He is in never-ending campaign mode and uses the charm offensive to try to fool at least some of the people into thinking he’s on their side. It turns out he never was, and he never will be. The man is a monumental fraud. Had he chosen Lloyd Blankfein as his chief of staff I wouldn’t have been at all surprised. I am just baffled about why he calls himself a Democrat.

The only time I ever heard Obama utter the word “poverty” was in an address he gave to the United Nations last year. Of course, he was referring to the poverty of third world countries, not ours. He occasionally puts in a token appearance at a soup kitchen with the family around the holidays, right before they jet off for their latest exotic vacation. Most of their charity seems aimed only at military families. The fact that one out of six Americans is now below the poverty level just doesn’t mesh with his road trip spinning of the economic recovery. It’s an inconvenient truth.

Right before the holidays. Obama had a secret meeting with the CEO of Walmart as part of his outreach to businesses. Soon after, Walmart cut the Sunday $1 pay differential for its associates in a cost-saving move. Apparently, discussion of how to improve workers’ lives was not on the Oval Office agenda that day.

The irony is that Tea Party bigotry is giving Obama perfect cover, It’s easy to be the shadow Corporation President when half the country thinks you’re a Kenyan socialist giving away the store to people who are too lazy to work. He and his Wall Street cronies must have a lot of laughs on the golf course over that one. Stay tuned for country club photo ops with John Boehner to get that bipartisany glow. They’re all just one great big happy family living in their own gated-community world.

21 Comments »

  1. Not sure about China, personally; Mao was pretty irresponsible with the poor considering the famine that resulted from the Great Leap Forward:
    http://www.socialistvoice.ca/?p=383

    Comment by Jenny — January 8, 2011 @ 10:44 pm

  2. Jenny you’re either an incorrigable ignoramus or a glutton for punishment. If it wasn’t for Mao organizing The Long March, probably the single greatest act of human organizing in history, Chinese women would probably still be getting feet bindings. It would almost certainly look like its neigbor India, with tens of millions starving, rampant peasant suicides, and workers defecating in the streets. Because of Mao Chinese woman for the 1st time in their history were given affirmative action priority in Universities. Sure many of those gains have been wiped out during this capitalist turn after Mao’s death, but not all of them, including having earned a seat on the UN security council.

    Like somebody here told you last Spring when you went off on some tangent critiquing socialist revolutions in China & Russia, why don’t you sctually try reading and comprehending the enormous social forces at work from within & without during these world historic slave revolts before you start critisizing them so naively.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 8, 2011 @ 11:39 pm

  3. Another thing Jenny. I know you voted for this disgusting monster Obama so you’re sensative to defend him but it takes either unmitigated gall or abject ignorance to come on a Marxist forum and compare Obama’s rude handling of the poor, a creature of the banks & the Pentagon, to the way Mao treated the poor, the organizer of The Long March and socialist revolutionary that positively affected billions of toilers (inevitable mistakes notwithstanding). By contrast Obama grinds the increasing masses of poor under his iron heel consciously, as part of his mission to shore up capitalism in decline, the quid pro quo for the banksters that got him elected.

    You, Jenny, always manage to encapsulate everything filthy, rancid, disgusting and intellectually dishonest about anti-communist social democrats.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 9, 2011 @ 12:05 am

  4. Jenny, why must you go off on fucking tangents? You really are obtuse.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 9, 2011 @ 12:10 am

  5. Karl,

    Hi hope you are well.

    I certainly appreciate the way you bring the facts out. In the United States there has been so much brainwashing that most people cannot think objectively and honestly. Like almost everything in this world there are shades of gray. Some would like to paint things black and white or make them light and darkness.

    The capitalists will heap such criticism on Lenin, Mao and Fidel while totally ignoring what was going on under Chang Kai Shek, Batista and the Czar. Then they will point to the
    ruined econmic situation ignoring the fact that the capitalists did their best to destroy these movements and the adverse conditions were directly as a result of that antagonism.

    Then the capitalists will point to the wonderful things in their own countries forgetting that every single right and benefit start from the Bill of Rights on was only achieved by the struggle of the common man against the ruling powers. Nothing was handed over to the worker, it was fought for in battle.

    If the capitalists had their way they would own everything and the rest of humanity would be slaves for their pleasure. That is the axiom of the New World Order.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — January 9, 2011 @ 2:47 am

  6. Dear John:

    It’s always heartening to know that Socialism in the USA, as steeped as this country is in religiosity from as far back as the Purtitans & Quakers, will not be accomplished without the faithful like you whose eyes & ears cut through the crap of bourgeois propaganda. Cats like you cannot help but sprinkle a little sweetness on all the bitterness out there.

    Happy New Year to you & yours!

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 9, 2011 @ 3:09 am

  7. Life expectancy under Mao went from 39 years to almost 70, per the UN. But yeah, he was worse than Stalin, or something. Chinese life expectancy relative to the world has declined in the post Mao era, for instance the ‘failed state’ of Mexico has a higher one.

    Comment by purple — January 9, 2011 @ 8:04 am

  8. Minqi Li disemboweled the Mao-as-Satan critique is his book.

    Comment by purple — January 9, 2011 @ 8:06 am

  9. Good points purple. I used to think that Jenny was just some obtuse ignoramus member of the DSA who likes to walk into to pizza parlors even though she hates pizza. But now I’m convinced it is some cointelpro sock puppet, for only police spies are capable of blurting out such stupid, incongruous nonsense.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 9, 2011 @ 8:29 am

  10. Hello,

    Hope all are well. I was having a discussion with my boss at work regarding the Russian and Chinese Revolution. He commented saying how excessive the amounts of deaths there were. He also commented on how few deaths there were in the American Revolution.

    I ignore the American Revolution part knowing if I compared percentages of population his theory would collapse. Instead I pointed out my understanding that the Russian Revolution was relatively bloodless and that it was the Russian Civil War was what made the death count rise. Apparently my boss was ignorant of there even having been a Russian Civil War. When I told him United States troops participated in it he was amazed.

    As far as Mao my studies have not really developed much so I am asking for help. I told my boss the China was raped and brutalized by occupying powers. This was something he really can not grasp. If one understand the true nature of Imperialism than one must understand the instrinsic evil. Yet as far as what happened under Mao I am uncertain.

    However from a society which told me blacks and lazy, Indians are savages and America is a defender of freedom; things that were outright lies on all three accounts, I simply refuse to believe anything that is told to me.

    As far a Jenny goes, perhaps my dear it would serve us all well if you would articulate your points and put them in your own words and experiences. That would benefit us all.

    Regarding COINTELPRO which is supposedly over, Pete Seeger has a line about company informants. Allow me to paraphrase, “Don’t worry they’ll get by on what they steal from blind men’s cups.”

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — January 9, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

  11. TO CONTINUE THE DIGRESSION
    At a minimum, marxism should let us look at contradictions without blinking: for instance, that between, on the one hand, the epic heroism of the Chinese Eighth Route Army, etc., in struggling against the Japanese imperialists, and the epochal defeat of landlordism and capitalist fascism in China; and on the other hand, the genocidal incompetence of Mao during the Great Leap Forward during which 15-20 million peasants died. As Tariq Ali says in the latest issue of NEW LEFT REVIEW, “The awful consequences were unintended, unlike the famines in British colonial times in Ireland and Bengal; but this was no consolation for the families of those who perished” (http://www.newleftreview.org/?page=article&view=2874). Analogies to the communist-aggravated famine in North Korea (one megadeath?) are relevant. Ali is reviewing Rebecca E. Karl’s new book, MAO zEDONG AND CHINA IN THE TWENTIETH-CENTURY WORLD, which looks to be worth a look.

    Now back to Bob Herbert! A great column–Frank Rich, whose uncharacteristically stupid and content-free column is graced by the great “Obreagan” picture–draws the comparison only on the abstract grounds of his “comeback” from earlier defeats in Congress. Herbert, on the other hand, says “Our government officials, from the president on down, are too busy kissing the bejeweled fingers of the megarich”: a sentence that one can imagine encounter in Black Agenda Report, or even Worker’s World. Herbert’s column seems to have been pushed back into the hard-to-access archive rather quickly.

    Comment by Jim Holstun — January 9, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

  12. Dear John: Your boss doesn’t know shit from fat meat.

    The American Revolution accounts for 200 million lives, that is, 100 million Africans in 300 years of slave trading plus a hundred million Indians completing Manifest Destiny. The American Civil War, which accounted for more American deaths than WWI, WWII, Korea & Vietnam combined was actually an extension of the American Revolution, that is, it completed it.

    The Russian Revolution managed to take a country devastated to virtually nothing as a result of WWI, where practically the only working machine was a captured British tank, to an industrial capacity 2nd only to the USA in only 70 years.

    The Chinese Revolution, without which China would look virtually identical to its neighbor India, managed to put a nation of over a billion Brown people to the seat of the UN Security Council, a table of white men.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 9, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

  13. Also, it may be a good sign (file under “grasping at straws”) that a moderately attentive reader (me) didn’t notice at first the break between Herbert’s words and Proyect’s: the three little asterisks. Time to start a campaign: Proyect for regular featured NYT columnist!

    Comment by Jim Holstun — January 9, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

  14. Jim H. I read the WW press quite a bit and disagree that the phrase “busy kissing the bejeweled fingers of the megarich” sounds like their prose, because it doesn’t, as they’d never use a words like “bejeweled” (which smacks of petite-bourgeois envy) or “megarich” but rather words with more class content like “the bosses, bankers & landords”.

    That aside I do agree Herbert’s article was excellent and timely. I guess it’s been pushed back to the archives so quickly for the same reason that you see Eugene Robinson’s mug all over MSNBC news (that guy’s never met an Obama policy he didn’t support) and not Herbert’s, who’ll probably never get TV air time again after that op-ed.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 9, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

  15. Ho hum, Jim Holstun. I’ve written a few columns for the BAR that employ the very hyperbole you find so offensive. But since I’m only an amateur writer, I’m willing to bet whatever weird gods there are will forgive me my stylistic sins long before the apologists for this mayhem we live with in this country is through roasting in the pit.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux Perez — January 9, 2011 @ 7:26 pm

  16. Michael,

    I don’t find it offensive–I find it welcome, particularly seeing it in the New York Fucking Times! I like “boss” too, and think academic leftist discourse would be mightily improved if writers would employ that perfect Anglo-Dutch monosyllable instead of “neoliberal capitalist managerial class,” or whatever. OED:

    Pronunciation: /bɒs/
    Etymology: < Dutch baas master (older sense ‘uncle’), supposed to be related to German base female cousin, Old High German basa ‘aunt’…. (Show More)

    Thesaurus »

    a. An orig. American equivalent of ‘master’ in the sense of employer of labour; applied also to a business manager, or any one who has a right to give orders. In England at first only in workmen's slang, or humorously, = ‘leading man, swell, top-sawyer’; now in general use in Britain.
    [a1649 J. Winthrop Hist. New Eng. (1908) I. 166 Here arrived a small Norsey bark‥with one Gardiner, an expert engineer or work base [= Du. werk-baas], and provisions.]
    1653 F. Newman et al. Let. May in E. Hazard Hist. Collections (1794) II. 236 From our Place of Residence at the Basses house in the Monhatoes.
    1806 W. Irving Let. 26 May in P. M. Irving Life W. Irving (1862) I. xi. 138, I had to return, make an awkward apology to boss, and look like a nincompoop.
    1813 Ld. Yarmouth Let. 12 Dec. in E. Taylor Taylor Papers (1913) vii. 98 There are some peasants watching, one of whom has frightened the boss with an alarm of a sortie.
    1822 J. Flint Lett. from Amer. 9 Master is not a word in the vocabulary of hired people. Bos, a Dutch one of similar import, is substituted.
    1830 J. Galt Lawrie Todd I. iii. ii. 185 The overseer of the roads‥could give me employment as a Boss, or foreman.
    1868 W. Whitman To Working Men (Rossetti) 102 Were I to you as the boss employing and paying you, would that satisfy you?
    1870 M. Bridgman Robert Lynne II. ix. 187 We shall have one of the head bosses of the medical profession down here.
    1936 G. B. Shaw Millionairess Pref. 106 A born boss is one who rides roughshod over us by some mysterious power that separates him from our species and makes us fear him.
    1936 G. B. Shaw Millionairess Pref. 128 Clearly we shall be boss-ridden in one form or another.
    1937 ‘G. Orwell’ Road to Wigan Pier viii. 157 The accent and manners which stamp you as one of the boss class.
    1962 Listener 16 Aug. 238/1 Most people make mistakes when they start a new job, and it is irritating for the boss.

    Comment by Jim Holstun — January 9, 2011 @ 7:47 pm

  17. I am as mystified as you as to Obama’s function. I am even more mystified that so many liberals I know buy into it, and accept the excuse of the week as to why he can’t do anything except implement capital friendly and militaristic policies.

    As for Mao, he had his flaws, even the CCP acknowledges it. The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution were disasterous. But I have no doubt that he will be remembered positively on balance by the Chinese people because he liberated the country from Western imperialism and presided over the country’s economic modernization. Interestingly, according to Asia Times Online, some of the people around Hu’s anointed successor are openly insisting upon a return to Maoist values in public life.

    Comment by Richard Estes — January 9, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

  18. Karl,

    Hi hope you are well.

    I recall one time that I was discussing Nat Turner with a well to do European man. The scene was at a garage sale when I walked up with my African American wife. The man hosting the garage sale never heard of Nat Turner. When I told him that he was a slave who led a revolt he shuddered in horror. Excuse my bluntness but my thoughts were “This man is a fucking asshole. I’d like to work that pale ass to death in hard physical labor, feed him shit food, rape his mother and then sell him on the auction block and then see how he likes it.” Instead I made some more polite conversation. This man was ignorant beyond compare.

    I believe in the Communist values because of the teachings of the Bible. “Love of money is root of all evil”, “You cannot serve God and mammon”, “Where your treasures lie so does your heart”, “He with two tunics gie to him that has none”,”If you seek to be perfect sell all that you have and give to the poor and then come follow me”. I could go on with over a hundred scriptures easily. I cannot think of one that supports capitalism. It is funny about the last one. Everyone says they want to be close to God but very few actually give up all their material possessions!

    Therefore as a Lover of God I cannot give up on any individual. At one point in my poor, misinformed life, I was a robot of the state. I recall high school history where I advocated a the policy of nuclear first strike and killing babies in Vietnam. I am glad that multitudes have helped me along the way and still I need more help.

    You would not believe the sheer stupidity some people demonstrate. I have had people argue that one can keep Christ’s command to “Love your enemy” and still kill them on the battlefield. Even blow up innocent civilians as well. I wish to God I was joking but I am not!!

    Sometimes we must make small steps. The Damascus road experiences are few and far between. So in this context I come to person more knowledgable asking about Mao and China and the truth of what happened. You have given excellent answers before regarding the Soviet Union. Things that I have not considered before. It is a strength to allow yourself to be vulnerable. To admit that your most prescious leaders, were but human beings and there is always room for improvement.

    Avoiding unpleasant things or deception will never prosper. Ultimately the truth will come out.

    You see it is a battle for the minds. Like the man at the garage sale I could never have won an argument. It would have been pointless to cast my pearls before swine. However if that invidual and I were contending to influence another I would not have hesitated to tear his idiotic thoughts to shred, though in as gentle a matter as I could.

    You see the oppressor tells people like my boss, look at how many people died under Mao. Bad Mao, Bad Mao. They ignore things. For example the excellent response about the foot bindings of woman and the ability for woman to go to college!! (Compare that to Japan. Also we give China no praise for doing this but we criticize Muslims in Afghanistan for making the woman less than equal.) See here how this truthful statement has empowered me! Maybe I may never be able to help my boss at all. But when he starts to talk to my coworkers I want as much ammunition to blow him out of the water! And I do not want to be caught be suprise by some distant fact.

    Karl never be afraid to tell the truth even if you loose the momentary advantage. I gaurentee that in the long run it will hasten the victory that both you and I seek!!

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — January 10, 2011 @ 1:22 am

  19. “Jenny you’re either an incorrigable ignoramus or a glutton for punishment. If it wasn’t for Mao organizing The Long March, probably the single greatest act of human organizing in history, Chinese women would probably still be getting feet bindings. It would almost certainly look like its neigbor India, with tens of millions starving, rampant peasant suicides, and workers defecating in the streets. Because of Mao Chinese woman for the 1st time in their history were given affirmative action priority in Universities. Sure many of those gains have been wiped out during this capitalist turn after Mao’s death, but not all of them, including having earned a seat on the UN security council.”

    At first, yes:

    http://www.socialistvoice.ca/?p=383
    http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=185&issue=110

    Comment by Jenny — January 10, 2011 @ 1:39 am

  20. And if he really did actually care about the poor*, Mao wouldn’t have worked them to death in order to catch up to the USSR’s industrialization.

    From the ISJ article:
    For Mao the imperative was to build a modern industrial economy able to compete with the rest of the world, and from 1953 onwards the CCP began a ruthless programme of ‘primitive accumulation’ from the peasantry to achieve this. Chang and Halliday are good on why the peasants were being squeezed (though they quote almost no figures), and they give an excellent account of the Great Leap:
    The four-year Leap was a monumental waste of both natural resources and human effort, unique in scale in the history of the world… Mao first worked everyone to the bone unrelentingly, then took everything—and then squandered it. Mao demanded a fever pitch of work, using non-stop ‘emulation’ drives to make people vie with each other. Undernourished and exhausted men, women and children were made to move soil at the double, often having to run while carrying extremely heavy loads, and in all weathers, from blazing sun to freezing cold (pp451-452).

    There was a brutal economic rationale behind all of this. The material resources available to the CCP were insufficient to reach the growth targets they had set, and so they tried to replace non-existent resources with sheer hard labour. In the cities this petered out quite quickly—machines run for double shifts simply wore out twice as fast, and workers couldn’t keep awake. But in the countryside it carried on for a long time, ratcheted up and up by officials at all levels simply lying about output yields. And it ended with the worst famine ever seen in 20th century China (though the scale of it was successfully hidden until after Mao’s death). The authors quote a death toll of 38 million, which is over-reliant on official figures, but well within the believable range.23″

    Yes, it was great the first few years with women getting to go to universities, the elimination of landlords and the defeat of the Japanese army, but that’s one side of the story. It’s like a slightly more successful version of the Afghanistan war: Sure oppressors were done away with, but at what cost? But never mind, I’ll fuck off.

    *And if this is to be believed, he discriminated against the Tibetan poor in particular, negotiating with the Lamas rather than the peasants:
    http://www.marxist.com/china-tibet-world-economy.htm

    Comment by Jenny — January 10, 2011 @ 6:32 am

  21. Do you ever think about what you write about? Or are you just a hack regurgitating garbage you read and believe without accounting for the zillions of factors that led to Mao’s failures?

    Comment by Joshua — January 12, 2011 @ 3:16 am


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