Tag Archives: communism

Review of "Mao’s Last Revolution" by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals

This book by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schnoenhals a history of the insane Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. I saw “insane” purposefully. Such actions as the Holocaust and even Cambodia’s “Year Zero” in a way make sense, as they were purposeful applications of an ideology designed to achieve a defined end. Mao’s war against the Communist Party, however, Hitler was more-or-less in charge of the destruction of the Jews, as Pol Pot more-or-less oversaw the destruction of the Cambodians. Mao opted for a less conventional approach. Rival “Red Guard” organizations tested dirty bombs in a series of escalations and even attacked arms shipments intended for the Vietnam War. Mao’s Last Revolution is the story of this madness.

Mao’s Legacy

The Cultural Revolution took place in the context of Soviet “revisionism,” where first Khrushchev and then Brezhnev reformed the soviet system away from a cult of personality to the nondescript party oligarchy it eventually became. Mao feared a similar transformation of the People’s Republic, and identified “Khrushchevs” around him. Immediate threats were the pragmatic Secretary-General of the Communist Party Deng Xiaoping and Mao’s designated successor, Liu Shaoqi. Mao recognized the broader threat as the Chinese Communist Party itself, however, and proceeded to destroy it.

Smash the Liu-Deng Line!

Mao first purged the Mayor of Beijing and the Chief of Staff of the People’s Liberation Army to severe the Party’s links to supporting organizations. Then he proceeded to destroy it. Red Guards were incited to tear down the Party organization, and the Army was then unleashed to tear down the Red Guards. (The self-described Red Terror is told in enough detail that one positively roots for the Army as it mows down “student demonstrators.” The context of Tiananmen has never been more clear.)

Red Guards (Useful Idiots)

Throughout the book specific incidents and anecdotes are elaborated on. The cities of Beijing (radicalized by the presence of Peking and Tsinghua Universities, not to mention the sometimes presence of Mao himself), Shanghai (where the Red Guards were subsumed by the organization of factoryworker-cum-intellectual Wang Hongwen, later one of the Gang of Four), and Wuhan (where Mao might have been deposed). Wuhan is especially notable as the beginning of the misfortunes of Wang Li, a high-ranking but not especially powerful member of the Central Cultural Revolutionary Group. Wang is attacked and tortured by enraged followers of a PLA General that Wang completed peace talks with, later is imprisoned by his fellow Culturally Revolutions, and only released by the Deng government in 1982.

The People’s Liberation Army

Mao, whose Lou Gherig’s disease worsens as the history continues on, is a master politician who is able to place one group against the other. His Red Guards destroy the Party, the People’s Liberation Army (headed by toady Lin Biao) destroys the Red Guards, and the purging of Lin and other top generals in the PLA returns the government to “civilian” rule. Mao’s 5GW is in a brilliant position on his death, with his wife and the rest of the Gang of Four in power behind a hapless toady, Hua Guofeng. Only a rump and discredited band of “survivors,” those kept alive and with nominal party membership by Mao Zedong, remain.

Happily for the fate of the world, Madame Mao is an idiot many times over and provokes a defensive coup by Hua Guofeng which results in Deng Xiaoping’s final, and successful, rise to power. In an epilogue, the authors note that Mao is the last of the “traditional” Chinese rulers (anti-market) and Deng the first of the radicals (pro-market). Deng has now been succeeded by Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, who now “re-envision” Mao’s legacy in what must be a nightmare to the Chairman’s Ghost.

Mao’s Last Revolution is one of the best histories I have ever read, and easily the most readable. Strongly recommended.

"Post-Communism" – Example Political Science Literature Review and Research Design

Note: This is part of an example political science literature review and research design. An abstract and table of contents are also available.

A useful segue between geographic and ex-Communist factors is found in Teune (1995). Teune surveys the rise of local governments relative to centralizing governments, using the declining influence of Moscow over eastern Europe and Russia as examples. In contrast to Williams who sees local differences as a cause for oppression and autocracy, Teune sees local power as very strong and democratic. Territoriality matters, says Teune, “even after the gradual opening of national borders in the second half of the twentieth century and the near encapsulation of the entire world in a single trading system.” Additionally, territorially based localities lean democratic.

The linkage between local government and democracy is based on the proposition that political participation is meaningful insofar as it deals with the familiar, a tenet of the Federalist Papers. Another aspect of this argument is that the incentives for participation are stronger locally than nationally in that visible consequence are more visible and immediate on the local level. There are two supporting propositions for this part of the argument: the larger the political unit, the longer it takes to form a democratic political coalitions; and the larger the unit, the greater the diversity of the groups and individuals required for compromise, the less likely decisive action will be taken at all, frustrating the collective aspirations of the many.” (Teune)

Teune’s argument thus runs counter to the thesis of this study. Elsewhere in this article, Teune combines these factors with technological change and connectivity in a way which implies greater communication with the outside world will retard democratic evolution. Specifically, he argues that the more diverse the influences on a population, the harder it will be to form a governing coalition and accomplish anything meaningful. In Teune’s eyes, this undermines democracy and the intent of the federalist papers. However, Teune’s conclusion here is far from universal; it famously contradicts Madison (1787).

More narrowly, Duch (1995) examines the observed behavior of post-Communist in maintaining economic and political development. Specifically, Duch examined how fragile economic progress was in a democratically progressing states. For example, if a new post-Communist democracy experienced steep economic decline, would its democracy level also fall accordingly? Duch’s surprising answer is no:

In the early reform period, perceptions of a declining economy promoted support for both free markets and Democracy in the former Soviet Union. And while there is some evidence in Latin America supporting the association of economic crisis and coups d’etat, the recent wave of democratization in Latin America during a period of economic crisis challenges this economic determinism argument). Political experience of the 1980s indicates that, even in Latin American countries facing serious economic and political crises, citizen attachments to democracy institutions are not undermined by acute economic crisis. Also challenging conventional wisdom, Zimmerman in Sallfeld present European historical evidence for the 1930s suggesting that economic chaos had little direct or indirect effect on the survival of democratic regimes in that period. And while many students of Eastern and Central European democratization have argued that political and economic reforms are seriously threatened by the economic chaos that has accompanied the reform process, the reforms are proving resilient.

Duch’s perspective informs this study. Because economic and political progress do not have to be correlated (that is, democratic progress can continue while economic decline is experienced), both are meaningful dependent variables. More troublesome, it also raises questions of whether the economic deprivation of being landlocked would negatively effect democratic development; if this is true, the central idea of this study is negated.

Mishler and Rose (1994) explore six Eastern European countries: Bulgaria, the old Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Slovenia, as well as Austria to examine the stability of democracy several years after the end of Communism. They use the “New Democracies Barometer,” a “multinational survey of post-Communist countries of central and eastern Europe” to provide a standard gauge of democratic norms in those states. Assuming a strong relationship between economic growth and access to the sea, at least one of Mishler’s and Rose’s findings should support the thesis that landlocked ex-Communist states will have less economic and political development:

Arguably the most cosmopolitan citizens in the survey include the very small number in each country (less than 15% overall) who — whatever other identities they might have — also think of themselves as Europeans. European identifiers are significantly more likely to be Confident Supporters [of parliamentary government] than Hopeful Authoritarians, by a ratio of more than 5:1. These individuals also have higher educations and incomes.

At the same time, however, the lack of statistical significance and widespread support of democracy in many areas imply that the relationship will not be found, as they write:

The data confirms that members of traditional subgroups, including older citizens, residents of smaller towns and rural areas, and those with strong religious ties, are more likely to support the suspension of parliament. However, these relationships are consistently weak and inconsistently significant. Even among groups whose opposition to parliament is strongest, the majority of citizens are Confident Supporters and less than one-quarter are Hopeful Authoritarians. The largest difference in these regards are those associated with church attendance… however, even among frequent church attendees, Confident Supporters outnumber Hopeful Authoritarians by more than 2:1 (52% to 21%).

Besides the Eastern European ex-Communist states, this analysis will also examine the former soviet socialist republics in Central Asia. It is assumed that the trend between connectedness to the sea and development will be further shown here, as the Central Asian states are all landlocked.

As the plight of the Central Asian states were specifically mentioned by Haussman in the comment that inspired this study, seeing whether their economic and democratic development correlates with their landlocked status will be interesting.

Economic, Political, and Legal Reforms After 1989

I think you need to break down the chart…,” by Chirol, tdaxp, 6 May 2005, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/05/05/from_communism_to_war_and_peace.html.

Chirol made some helpful points on my first and second post-Fall of Communism charts, including

I think you need to break the chart down into the three phases Barnett lists for integration:

Political Change
Economic Change
Legal Change

And as he notes, they can come in different orders all based on which is best for the country at the time

Using my old categories of democracy, authoritarian growth, and stagnation a la North Korea, here we go again:


The diagram identifies the three main types of reforms — economic, political, and legal — as well as the three type of “end states” — communist stagnation, authoritarian growth, and liberal democracy. As before, the timeline begins in 1989 with the fall of world Communism

To start off, a state first decides whether to abandon Communist economics. Every nation but Cuba and North Korea abandon economic Communism. Both Cuba and the DPRK enter communist stagnation, and attempt to find other ways to aquire capital

For a post-Communist economy, the next decision is whether to reform politically. Russia, Serbia, and Poland both chose yes to this, and soon had open elections. Vietnam and Laos declines, keeping the one-party “Communist” state, while China violently demured. States that kept the one-party dictatorship entered the authoritarian growth stage, which continues to this day.

The last stage is whether to have substantive legal reform — the question of if a rule a law is established. Poland and Czechia chose yes, Russia and Serbia chose no. States that don’t quickly face organized attempts to remove the government. These can be convention armed warfare, seperatist movements, Islamic insurgencies, etc. If there is a war, the only known resolution is that the post-Communist regime must lose, and reenter the political reform stage (possibly under international occupation). Without an armed resistance, liberal networks will form which will overthrow the government in a “color revolution.”

I think the most controversial aspect of this chart would be it does not allow for legal reforms to come before political reforms. While some might argue that Chinese legal progress amounts to “importing rule-sets they could now create internally,” this is questionable. The important aspect of legal reform isn’t just better commercial laws — it is the rule of law. China has established a successful regime based on corruption and bribery horizontal control through side payments.

My chart is historical, not speculative. Every path has been completed by at least one state, while states not yet at an end-state can be seen to be on the path. Personally, I believe China will become a liberal democracy. But it’s closest analogue — Wilhelmine Germany — aborted its growth to launch a World War. Hopefully we will be more lucky this time.

The chart is available in Adobe Acrobat, JPEG, and OpenOffice.org 1.9 beta formats.

Evolution from Communism

Chirol at Coming Anarchy is busying graphing the collapse of Communism. Here’s a different model.

Slide 1:


Slide 2:


What’s happening?

The process begins 1989, when functioning Communist Cores existed. The largest of these was the Soviet Union and its satellites, but the Communist Cores extended into China, Korea, and other states. The states in the Cores were tied together through industrial exchange and foreign aid

After the collapse, every Communist state faced a basic question: stay with Communist economics or not? Answering yes were Cuba and North Korea. These Communist states still needed money, and so the next question was how to acquire capital. Cuba opted for peaceful links with Europe and eroticommunism, while North Korea chose its Army-First Juche Idea “threaten to kill everyone” plan.

If a state ditched Communist economics, they still were faced with a Communist/authoritarian political structure. The next question was whether to liberalize politically or maintain “Communist” politics. Keeping the old ways were “communist” China and Vietnam. Both of these states are going through an unsteady process of liberalization while maintaining the authoritarian regime.

Even if a state ditches Communist politics, the journey is still not over. The necessary reforms are painful, and states may continue or ditch reforms policies. Most eastern European states continued on, becoming functioning democracies.

Those states that ceased reforming had to return to repressing their people. The next question is one of competency and execution: were the states effective or ineffective at repression. Those that weren’t engaged in counter-effective repressions or encouraged wars to unify their people. These regimes fell, and their people (such as in Ukraine and Serbia) are now back at the “Maintain Reforms” stage.

On the other hand, Russia is an effective repressor. States like Russia have backslid into the “Communist politics” stage, becoming authoritarian regimes. Will they maintain authoritarianism and grow like China, or ditch authoritarianism and try again?

The only method known to work for creating a full democracy is No to Communist Economics -> No to Communist Politics -> Maintain Reforms. Any other path is speculative in this context.

The chart I created is also available in >PDF and >ODG [OASIS / OpenOffice 2.0] format.

From Communism to War and Peace

Chirol has written a new post-Communism diagram at Coming Anarchy. I responded to his old diagram with one focusing on politics and economics. Here’s one focusing on connectivity, nationalism, and authoritarianism


As with the last post, the process begins 1989, when functioning Communist Cores existed. The largest of these was the Soviet Union and its satellites, but the Communist Cores extended into China, Korea, and other states. The states in the Cores were tied together through industrial exchange and foreign aid

In this diagram, the first choice a Communist state has after the fall of Communism is further disconnect from the world or not? The only state saying yes to this is North Korea, which has lived with its Juche peace ever since.

For countries that desire to reconnect to the world, the next question is whether to embrace nationalism or not. Many states, such as Serbia and China, chose nationalism. For these nationalists ex-Communists, authoritarianism developed naturally. The next choice is vital: is there a war or insurgency? If there is, like in Serbia, the continues until the government faces strategic despair and the people revolt. Once the will to win is gone, peace and democracy rise.

If there is no war, the authoritarian state grows into the outside world. This is the situation enjoyed by Vietnam and China.

The post-Communist non-nationalist can choose whether or not to be authoritarian. Those states saying no in the early nineties included Poland, Czechia, and Latvia. These places immediately enjoy peace and democracy.

However, some of these non-nationalists chose to embrace authoritarianism. Ukraine, Georgia, and Uzbekistan were classic examples of this. The next choice is made for them: does the state face an Islamic insurgency? Those that do find themselves in a very long struggle. Those that don’t will face populations that try to build liberal networks. When these states have peaceful revolutions, like Ukraine and Georgia, they become peaceful democracies. Others, such as Cuba and Belarus, are not yet at this stage.

You can see full versions of the chart by left-clicking on them. Otherwise, you can download them in Adobe Acrobat or OpenOffice.org 1.9 beta format.