Tag Archives: maoism

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.

Mao’s 3 Stages of 4GW (Now with Tractors?)

The Vietnamese Modification,” by Thomas X. Hammes, The Sling and the Stone, p 59, 12 September 2004.

Second Attack on Iraq Prison in 48 Hours Wounds 5 Iraqis,” by Robert F. Worth, New York Times, 5 April 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/05/international/middleeast/05iraq.html (from Informed Comment).

Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) is a style of fighting inventing by Mao Zedong in which a small but determined force can defeat a militarily overwhelming opponent. The only problem is that it can take decades.

The same tactics were used by America’s enemies in the Vietnam War. When asked how they would defeat us, answered

In February 1951, Ho Chi Minh described how he would defeat the French

Our Party and Government foresaw that our Resistance War has three stages. In the first stage.. all we did was to preserve and increase our main forces. In the second stage, we have actively contended with the enemy and prepared for the general counteroffensive. The third stage is the general counteroffensive.”

In other words

  1. Destabilize the enemy while building up a fighting force. Assassinations, bombings, and the like.
  2. Attempt to control areas where the enemy is weak while building up a fighting force. However, do not fight regular battles.
  3. Use your fighting force to conquer the enemy in regular battles.

In the Summer of 2004, almost all of Iraq was in at least Stage One of Fourth Generation Warfare (4GWS1). No place was safe from terrorism. Much of it, especially Anbar province, was in Stage 2. In these areas citizens knew that when the Americans weren’t on patrols, insurgents would be around. Some of it was in Stage 3. Fallujah, for example, was a defended military installation under the Black Banner.

Bush’s November invasion of Fallujah, combined with the Iraqi elections, altered the correlation of forces in Iraq. Which makes news like this

A suicide bomber driving a tractor blew himself up Monday near the gates of Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad, wounding five Iraqi civilians in the second attack on the prison in 48 hours, officials said.

In the first attack on Abu Ghraib, on Saturday, a force of between 40 and 60 insurgents began a coordinated assault on the prison using suicide car bombs, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. No American service members were killed in the attack, which lasted two hours, but 23 were wounded, 16 of them slightly, military officials said Sunday. Thirteen detainees at the prison were also wounded in the assault, which appears to have been an effort to break the prisoners out.

Over all, the number of insurgent attacks has dropped over the past two months. Last week, the number of recorded attacks per day dropped to below 30 for the first time in a year, an American military official said.

However, the attack on Saturday was the second in recent weeks involving a large body of insurgents, and it was carefully planned. That has led some commanders to wonder whether insurgents may be changing their tactics or husbanding their strength for larger attacks, the official said.

all the more surprising.

Fighting fixed battles is the last stage of 4GW. Fixed should happen when an insurgent force has a rational belief it can win. Current anti-Iraqi behavior is thrice problematic, as

  • Catastrophic defeats, such as the first attack on Abu Ghraib, reveal the poor state of the 4GWS3 warriors
  • Such defeats also lesson insurgent prestige, hampering efforts to claim disputed areas in 4GWS2
  • As the article mentioned, insurgent attacks [total or just on Coalition forces? – tdaxp] overall are down. Using 4GWS1 capital to fight 4GWS3 is like eatin seed corn – it just makes things harder next year

So does the insurgency see a hidden strength? Or is this a last desperate gamble?

Time will tell.

Update: Glittering Eye points to The Fourth Rail, where Bill Roggio notes

[Zarqawi’s] Al Qaeda [in Iraq] obviously believes it will gain some psychological advantage in attacking American and Iraqi bases, but it may want to weight the psychological effects on their own troops after repeated failures. The assault on the prison was a military failure. Al Qaeda in Iraq states ten of the attackers were killed in the raid. They also claim to have breached the walls and overtaken a guard tower, but the US military disputes this account. The US military estimates the attacking force suffered over fifty casualties out of an estimated sixty attackers. Continued military defeats and high casualty rates will sap the will of al Qaeda’s cannon fodder over time.

Bill is right to stress the anti-Iraqi psychological failure above the military failure. It is possible that al Qaeda in Iraq is using 4GWS3 tactics for 4GWS1 purposes, but it seems foolish. It is very expensive in all senses. Bill also links to Rantingprof, who says

Why (tactically) do groups choose terrorism? Because they can’t compete at a tactical level against their opponent. If their big new strategy is to come out and fight in conventional style attacks against the American Army and the United States Marines then this thing is just over.

Good point. However, 4GW insurgents have survived terrible set-backs. The Viet Cong were destroyed in 1968, and the North Vietnamese Army significantly weakened in 1972, but American spinelessness still lost Indochina. If some on the Left (or far Right) gain influence, the same thing may still happen in Iraq. We must prevent that from happening.