Yang Jisheng. A Chinese academic who has written a book that might do Mao’s memory irreparable damage. Yes, it’s about the Great Famine that resulted from Mao’s absurd and evil schemes. Yang Jisheng - at great personal risk - dug out the archives on a period of human insanity and vileness that ought to be at least as well known as the Holocaust or Stalin’s purges.
Here’s a taster (for want of a better word).
A decade after the Communist party took power in 1949, promising to serve the people, the greatest manmade disaster in history stalks an already impoverished land. In an unremarkable city in central Henan province, more than a million people – one in eight – are wiped out by starvation and brutality over three short years. In one area, officials commandeer more grain than the farmers have actually grown. In barely nine months, more than 12,000 people – a third of the inhabitants – die in a single commune; a tenth of its households are wiped out. Thirteen children beg officials for food and are dragged deep into the mountains, where they die from exposure and starvation. A teenage orphan kills and eats her four-year-old brother. Forty-four of a village’s 45 inhabitants die; the last remaining resident, a woman in her 60s, goes insane. Others are tortured, beaten or buried alive for declaring realistic harvests, refusing to hand over what little food they have, stealing scraps or simply angering officials.
When the head of a production brigade dares to state the obvious – that there is no food – a leader warns him: “That’s right-deviationist thinking. You’re viewing the problem in an overly simplistic matter.”
I have just been out to buy cat food because kitty’s cupboard was bare. Now that is not “right-deviatonist thinking” - that’s arithmetic. You have twelve pouches of cat food and the cat eats twelve pouches then poor kitty then has none and I have to get my boots on. This blog is called “Counting Cats” and at some level little Timmy (who is not exactly a maths professor at Cambridge) has a stronger grasp on arithmetic than a Chinese Communist apparatchik. He at least has a folk conception of zero and will mewl until the situation is ameliorated and because I am not a Communist apparatchik but a reasonable, rational human being so do I.
I increasingly regard Communism as a religion - a bizarrely humanly invented one. It’s the only way I can understand the squaring of “never jam today” with the fact there clearly isn’t any jam, nor was there, nor will there be and jam doesn’t happen by wishing it to be so. I guess what I’m saying is these committed communists (and Yang Jisheng was one in his youth - even when his father starved to death in front of his eyes - another reason Yang Jisheng is a brave man - to challenge everything you were brought up to believe and admit you followed a false prophet for years is intellectually brave).
I say a “bizarrely human invented religion” and I need to clarify what I mean. This is hard. What Communism (in most forms) does is create a quasi-religious mythology that manages - all too often - to get away with the seeming paradox of championing the “ordinary Joe” whilst deifying whatever “Great Leader” lives in the palace. But there is another paradox and it is the conflation of “religion” and “science” (and the scare quotes are there for a reason). The reason of course is that it is neither religion nor science but a load of hokum dressed-up in pseudo scientific terms and expressed in an almost transcendental manner. That is Communism’s power. It touches both the bases of a quasi-mystical “worker’s paradise” where money is too cheap to meter (religion) with what appear to be scientific arguments that this state of affairs is not just desirable and doable but inevitable if only everyone believes enough. Like bringing Tinkerbell back. It’s a heady brew appealing simultaneously to both idealism (of a sort) and a faux rationalism. Do I dare go further and suggest the obvious contradictions here fit with a belief in the dialectic and thesis hitting antithesis as the engine of progress?
I don’t believe that because I can see when the cupboard is bare. As I said so can a relatively simple critter such as the Dear Kitty. Yes, Mao refuted by a cat! No where have I heard that one before? I can also spot intellectual bankruptcy as well as cat food deficits. And it is intellectually bankrupt. Occam’s razor cut’s the throat of Communism. I mean there is either no food because of colossal mismanagement (I also regard such epic mismanagement as actually evil in somewhat the same way I regard homeopathy, quacks, cults and any number of other frauds*). Of course some of the agents are poor misguided souls who like Agent Mulder “want to believe” and some just wish to gain power and stuff and see this as a convenient vehicle and the synergy of faux-science with faux-religion is a powerful vehicle for that. Just get your ouija board out and ask the shade of L Ron Hubbard. Some of course are just thugs and some just terrified of those thugs. Yang Jisheng became neither and for that I salute him.
*Examples of Communist intellectual bankruptcy might include Lysenkoism Or Stalin’s truly bizarre objection to Fermi-Dirac statistics in Quantum Mechanics - Fermions within a system all have to have different quantum states - so they “don’t collectivise” was Uncle Joe’s objection. The idea of Joe Stalin being well-up on cutting edge physics is peculiar enough but what is really weird is that that is bizarrely atavistic as well as showing some (deranged) understanding of physics it is a prime example of someone who would undoubtedly have called himself a materialist objecting to the nature of… matter itself on a spurious quasi-religious “make it so!” basis. There was also a bizarrely vile attempt under Uncle Joe to produce a subservient soldier/worker class (Morlocks?) by attempting (against both any er… conceivable ethics or even brute biological science) to cross humans with gorillas. Deranged science and deranged ideology hand-in-paw. Some women actually volunteered to be (artificially) inseminated with Ape jizz. Seriously. Now that really is pseudo-science allied to some sort of “vision thing”.