To be blunt, this reads like something on Uncyclopedia.
This is so far from being an even handed portrayal of the subject that Ayn-Rand-pedia would be ashamed to have it on their site. I understand that Mao was seriously bad news, but such statements as "... perhaps the most prolific mass murderer in human history" (which is unsourced) don't belong in an encyclopedia unless they're documented. They might belong in a rant by R. Emmett Tyrell (but even he might have balked at calling Mao a "sexual deviant" (unsourced and unsupported) and throwing in that Mao was "probably a sociopath" (unsourced) and "narcissistic" (unsourced)). It's so over-the-top into Mao-is-a-monster that it sounds more like a parody than a serious article.
A little research also indicates some of it was spooned from RationalWiki (though the RA article is rather more even handed).
- The page, as it stands, is also missing any reference to Mao and the environment, which is an area where he had a particularly egregious record. Since the environment is, in some sense, the ultimate "shared possession" of the working class, abuse of the environment should be a significant issue in communist and socialist theory. The main source of information on this seems to be Mao's War Against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China by Judith Shapiro (available on Kindle, and presumably other e-formats). It would probably be possible to glean enough just from the Internet (without spending the time to read the book) to include something about that. Snarglefoop (talk) 07:39, May 30, 2018 (UTC)
Starting a first pass over it
I'm going to try to clean up the wording to remove the value judgements, such as "ruthless communist dictator" rather than something like "ruler", because they don't make the article more convincing; in fact they do the opposite. I'm also attempting to add some sources. I'm not following "proper Wikipedia format" on the sources, since I don't always have the books at hand and a lot of the sources are going to be websites, but at least there should be some indication to the reader that this isn't just a rant. Snarglefoop (talk) 07:15, May 31, 2018 (UTC)
- I have removed the claim about forced abortions. I can't find any indication that Mao had anything to do with a forced abortion policy. Rather, he opposed family planning and outlawed abortion; it was Deng who put through the 1-child policy, several years after Mao's death. Snarglefoop (talk) 07:34, May 31, 2018 (UTC)
- I'm removing this: "His fourth wife, Jiang Qing took control of her husband's care and assisted his death, perhaps sick of his abuse." He died four days after his last heart attack, and I see no evidence that she hurried it along. Furthermore she took a major political hit when he died; if she killed him, she was a fool. I also pulled the bit about him being a "deviant". He fooled around a lot but that's not what people generally mean by a "deviant". Snarglefoop (talk) 09:27, May 31, 2018 (UTC)
- I agree, a disaster. I would remove all the conclusions from the lede and focus on his role as a theorist and leader of the Chinese Revolution. As he got older and the Chinese Party moved past his work he balked, but that, thank God, is more of a footnote. But, then, I am a Deng fan. Fred Talk 12:41, May 31, 2018 (UTC)
- I agree about getting the conclusions out of the lead section. He did accomplish a number of things as well, and a summary of that should also go at the top. He also wrote extensively so, as you said, something on his work as a theoretician should be in there. And then I have a personal ax to grind (with both Mao and Stalin) in that they diverged a significantly from Marx's original goals (to the extent that we can tell what those goals were), and a section on that should go near the top. All the gubbish about Mao's personal life, which is the "meat" of a conventional biography, should probably be little more than a side note here, where we're presumably more concerned with his relationship to Communist theory and practice than anything else.
- In any case I want to finish mopping up what's there -- I still need to go over the 'early life' section and 'great leap forward' section -- and then I'll see about changing round the order and adding some material. And it still needs to be toned down even more -- right now it reads as far more right-wing than Wikipedia's article on him, which seems ... wrong, somehow... Snarglefoop (talk) 15:11, May 31, 2018 (UTC)
The revised version of this section is rather longer than I had intended. However, there was a lot going on, and it has a major bearing on everything that came after in Mao's life, so perhaps it's space well spent.
The facts for that section are generally straightforward so, after some initial reading in a couple different sources and a little verification of the squishier details (like his relationship with his father, or that quote about being "better than the commoners", which refers to his life when he was around 17 and was spending most of his time reading philosophy and natural science in the public library), I just pulled the dates and names from Wikipedia. Snarglefoop (talk) 05:03, June 1, 2018 (UTC)
- In Chinese terms, rich peasant background. Fred Talk 05:29, June 1, 2018 (UTC)
- Yes, that sounds exactly right.
- The problem I had with the word "wealthy", used alone, is that for modern readers, I think it may carry implications that are not correct in this context. Notably, someone who is wealthy frequently inherited much of the wealth; in a farming society, they frequently inherited the land. In Yichang's case, what land there had been had been sold off by his father. Furthermore, "wealthy" is often taken to mean "independently wealthy", as in not needing to work, and that, too, is not correct in this case.
- I'm tempted to say he would have been a member of the petite bourgeoisie, if such a class had existed in China at that time. Snarglefoop (talk) 06:06, June 1, 2018 (UTC)
- And he was said to have been bullied and teased for being a hayseed when he got to Changsha -- he was a rich peasant but still a peasant. Snarglefoop (talk) 06:09, June 1, 2018 (UTC)
The Great Leap Forward
As a minor point of interest, it's certainly not a "physiological impossibility" to manufacture steel in a backyard furnace. I've been present during such an operation. A "pocket blast furnace" was used -- it was about the size of a whiskey barrel, as I recall. Certainly it was smaller than a typical residential hot water heater. And, if I recall correctly, the "blast" was provided by bellows -- no electric motor involved. (It was out in the middle of a field.) So, while it's not something you want to do untrained, and I dare say it's rather dangerous, it certainly can be done. Snarglefoop (talk) 06:49, June 1, 2018 (UTC)
- Traditional African method. Really cool, but the product is not acceptable in commerce. Fred Talk 09:14, June 2, 2018 (UTC)
- Supposedly most of the steel produced by that method in the GLF ended up in "secret" landfills, because it was too low grade for industrial use. Presumably that means the carbon content was too high, thus making it too brittle -- it requires major air injection to burn it out, as I understand the process. However, I'm not going to claim that in the article itself unless I can find something believable in the way of a source; there are too many people willing to just make stuff up about Mao (and other historical figures, of course) to take unsourced claims at face value. Snarglefoop (talk) 16:05, June 2, 2018 (UTC)
What Really Happened?
I thought this was simple and obvious until I started researching it. Here's a link to an apologist; the author may be totally BSing, but he none the less has some points that will need to be checked: Did Mao really kill millions in the Great Leap Forward?
The idea that there really wasn't a major famine, relatively few people died, and that there's been a conspiracy to show Mao in the worst possible light, like most conspiracy theories, is slippery and a bit hard to pin down. My initial guess it that it's just as bogus as all the other "denialist" CTs. However, the fact that there obviously was such an effort on the part of (at least) some Western government agencies makes it harder to easily dismiss the claim. I'm afraid it's gonna take some work. Snarglefoop (talk) 17:40, June 1, 2018 (UTC)
- Mao did not kill anybody, but he may well have engaged in a massive social-economic experiment that had disastrous results. Fred Talk 09:17, June 2, 2018 (UTC)
- For sure. I knew an ex-pat whose parents lived through the Cultural Revolution. This was decades ago; from what I remember, she said that one of her relatives, who was a teacher, committed suicide after his home had been raided for the fifth time, and his papers, books, and general possessions destroyed, just because he was educated. She got pretty upset about it when the topic came up. Snarglefoop (talk) 16:05, June 2, 2018 (UTC)
Upon re-reading this section
I'm not prepared with a final version of the Great Leap Forward as yet -- a lot went on, leading up to it, during the First Five Year Plan, during the Leap, the civil war, and the cultural revolution -- and it's going to take a while to put together a reasonable summary of the events. However, I just re-read this section as it stands, and it's basically a work of pure fiction. Consequently I'm going to nuke it and put in a few sentences as a place holder for the time being. Snarglefoop (talk) 06:37, June 2, 2018 (UTC)
- Here a useful perspective: https://monthlyreview.org/commentary/did-mao-really-kill-millions-in-the-great-leap-forward/ Fred Talk 17:47, June 2, 2018 (UTC)
- <grin> Thanks. In fact I have that in my list of references; it was when I found that article that I realized this wasn't as easy as it looked. If I can't decide whether he or the Black Book people are more likely to be correct, I'm just going to have to roll up both of those points of view in the article, probably by dropping out the numbers and just discussing the broad strokes of the GLF. Snarglefoop (talk) 17:53, June 2, 2018 (UTC)
For a look into what was happening in the villages after the Revolution take a look at Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village. by William Hinton. The party led a redistribution campaign. And tried, sometime unsuccessfully, to keep peasants from settling scores. Fred Talk 23:05, June 2, 2018 (UTC)
- Thanks. When I saw your post, I took a look at the Wikipedia article on it; it sounds worthwhile. I will see about getting a copy. Snarglefoop (talk) 04:36, June 3, 2018 (UTC)
- I'm part way through it; it's fascinating. Thanks much for the recommendation. And by the way a complete copy of the 1966 edition is available on Google Books, at:
- Snarglefoop (talk) 06:14, June 7, 2018 (UTC)
With the round of changes this afternoon, I'm pretty happy with the introductory section. At this point, most of what's needed is expansion, and some reorganization of the sections. The reorg will take some thought. Some of the expansion still needed is pretty obvious, on the other hand. This is obviously not going to be done right away. I'll probably pull the 'Stub' tags off the article, but leave the box directing comments to the Talk page there for now. In the event we get additional active editors (hahah) it'll make it easier to coordinate efforts.
Items remaining on the Todo list include:
- "Rise to power" section is as it was to start with, and is essentially empty.
- Chinese civil war needs to be written (and Yr Chronicler needs to learn something about it first)
- Cultural revolution needs a section (and see comment on Civil War -- this is proving very educational)
- More on the Great Leap Forward is needed, along with more analysis of the costs (primarily in human life and welfare) as well as an attempt at connecting the dots between the GLF and the current state of Chinese industry (if they are related).
- A section on the revolution and the first 5yp -- the GLF was the second five year plan and lots had already happened
- It wouldn't be complete without at least a brief mention of the Long March
- Some level of analysis of the impact of Mao's policies on the environment. This is where we'd discuss the sparrows, the "war on nature", the Three Gorges Dam, and stuff like that.
- An attempt at evaluating the impact of the revolution and Mao's leadership on the quality of life of the proletariat. That is, after all, the whole point of Communism; if the hereditary landlords in Europe hadn't been idle scum Marx would never have written "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need".
- An analysis of land reform and land ownership, before the revolution, during collectivization, during decollectivization, and in the aftermath of the LUR's and Liu's remarks last year, which imply they're being converted from 70 year leases to perpetual leases.
- A section contrasting Stalin's methods with Mao's, both with respect to collectivization, and with respect to the Cultural Revolution.
- A section contrasting the results in China with the results in the USSR. The USSR produced the world's best assault rifle, but China is now producing the world's fastest supercomputers. What happened? (Not sure we can answer that but it would be interesting to try.)
Of course, this list contains enough stuff to fill several books. I plan to flesh out the skinniest of the sections, add a little bit on the missing pieces of the timeline (before and after the GLF), add a little analysis, and then probably move on to some other things I wanted to work on, coming back to this later as time permits. And who knows, maybe someone else will come along who's willing to put some time in it (and not just throw a rant down on the page and call it done). Snarglefoop (talk) 04:36, June 3, 2018 (UTC)