Category Archives: Maoists

Western intellectuals and the Maoist tyranny

Communist dictatorships, Dalrymple points out,

were at their most popular among Western intellectuals while they still had the courage of their brutality. Once they settled down to grey, everyday oppression and relatively minor acts of violent repression (judged by their own former standards), they ceased to attract the extravagant praises of those intellectuals who, in their own countries, regarded as intolerable even the slightest derogation from their absolute freedom of expression.

It is as if, he says,

not dreams but totalitarian famines and massacres acted as the Freudian wish-fulfilment of these Western intellectuals. They spoke of illimitable freedom, but desired unlimited power.

Mao Zedong, Dalrymple notes,

was the blank page or screen upon which they could project the fantasies that they thought beautiful.

China

was a long way off, its hundreds of millions of peasants inscrutable but known to be impoverished and oppressed by history; its culture was impenetrable to Westerners without many years of dedicated and mind-consuming study.

Western sinologists,

almost to a man, upheld the Maoist version of the world, some of them for fear of losing their access to China if they did not, and thereby created the impression that Maoism was intellectually and morally respectable. And so perfect conditions were laid for the most willing and total suspension of disbelief.

Mao’s Thoughts

— that is to say, clichés, platitudes, and lies — were treated by intelligent and educated people as if they were more profound, and contained more mental and spiritual sustenance, than Pascal’s.

As so often before,

mere reality as experienced by scores of millions of people was of little interest to intellectuals by comparison with the schemata in their minds and their own self-conception. ‘Let the heavens fall so long as I feel good about myself’ was their motto.

Maria-Antonietta the shepherdess torn to pieces

Leys turns wolf and eats Macchiocchi for breakfast

Sometimes Marxist baloney requires to be countered — and vigorously

Simon Leys, writes Dalrymple,

conveyed his authority—moral and literary—from the first sentence of everything he wrote. He never descended into obscurity and could say the most serious things with a light touch and in the simplest language.

He was a mild-mannered, restrained and courteous man,

as remote from self-advertisement or self-promotion

as it is possible to be, yet he once unaccountably found himself on television, on a talk show called Apostrophes. He was pitted against a conceited Maoist by the name of Maria-Antonietta Macchiocchi, a journalist-politician who had briefly visited China for the Gramsci-founded newspaper L’Unità. Speaking not a word of the language and knowing almost nothing about the country, she had been led by the nose by her guides. Her ignorance did not prevent her from publishing Dalla Cina (1971; 433 pages), which on the subject of the Cultural Revolution was, Dalrymple notes,

full of gushing sentiment. Because of the ideology she espoused, she was utterly credulous and foolish. She believed she was witnessing a dream come true — when she was in the midst of a nightmare involving scores of millions of people and the total destruction of much that was precious. In terms of deaths, the Cultural Revolution was not as bad as the Great Leap Forward, but it was bad enough.

The immensely learned China scholar Leys — who among many other things, produced an outstanding translation of the Confucian Analects — was outraged by people like Macchiocchi and their abominable ideas

because he loved the people and civilisation of China.

Leys rightly regarded Macchiocchi and her kind as

frivolous and ignorant, fundamentally uninterested in that of which they wrote, and using China as a tool in the resolution of their trivial personal psychodramas.

Macchiocchi: mammouth de la bêtise

On the TV show, the presenter asked Macchiocchi to speak first. She prattled about her life having been one of chastity and of devotion: the saints were wedded to God, she to the People. And she would redeem the People; she positively immolated herself day and night for the People.

Rot of such egregiousness, says Dalrymple, was too much for Leys, who remarked:

Je pense que les idiots disent des idioties, c’est comme les pommiers produisent des pommes. C’est dans la nature, c’est normal.

Une certaine idée de la Chine

Leys made clear that what he was saying was nothing personal, it was just that he had to take a stand against all the frivolous idiocies that had been written about Mao and Maoism by Western intellectuals. He had this to say about Macchiocchi’s 433 pages of drivel:

Le problème c’est qu’il y ait des lecteurs pour les prendre au sérieux et là évidemment se trouve le problème qui mériterait d’être analysé. Prenons le cas de Mme Macciocchi par exemple. Je n’ai rien contre Mme Macciocchi personnellement, je n’ai jamais eu le plaisir de faire sa connaissance. Quand je parle de Mme Macciocchi, je parle d’une certaine idée de la Chine, je parle de son œuvre, pas de sa personne. Son ouvrage De la Chine, c’est — ce qu’on peut dire de plus charitable, c’est que c’est d’une stupidité totale, parce que si on ne l’accusait pas d’être stupide, il faudrait dire que c’est une escroquerie.

It was as devastating as Leys’ comment on Malraux, Barthes and and all the other frauds who thought they had grasped the essence of China:

Ces mammouths de la bêtise qui n’en finissent pas, depuis un quart de siècle, d’étirer leurs pondéreuses caravanes sur les rayons des librairies.

Leys’ ferocious television onslaught on Macchiocchi was, of course, richly earned and necessary, for as Dalrymple observes,

any Chinese who had lived and suffered through those terrible years would suffer a second time if he read the praise lavished on his tormentors by those who were so easily duped by the régime’s flattery machine. Macchiocchi deserved what she got.

A sad fate

Macchiocchi, Dalrymple explains,

never fully recovered from the humiliation that she suffered on that night because Leys was so obviously a man of integrity, intellectual quality, and attachment to the truth that she must have known that what he said was both true and justified.

She lived with this knowledge for another 24 years, dying at the age of 85. You can, Dalrymple supposes,

endure such a humiliation when you are young (though it might deform your character if you are inclined to be so deformed), but you still have time to overcome it by later success. But to live the last quarter of a long life in the shadow of such a humiliation, one that nothing will now erase, is a sad fate indeed.

Barthes in Beijing

By a Western expert

Malraux and friends

Leys delivers the coup de grâce

Infantile but lethal fantasies of the Left

Socialists of the upper crust and their love of faraway génocidaires

The UK left-wing broadcaster Channel 4 has put out a documentary in praise of Sendero Luminoso (‘Shining Path’), the Maoist cocaine-smuggling group of Peruvian mass murderers.

Richard Willoughby-Gott (educ. Winchester and Corpus Christi College, Oxford), the upper-class English journalist, is currently literary editor of the London newspaper the Guardian. A onetime spy for the Soviet Union, Willoughby-Gott describes the documentary as

a magnificent coup de théâtre.

Dalrymple comments:

Theatre is what Latin American guerrilla movements have always been to this type of west European intellectual. All their mind’s a stage, the ideas and concepts merely players. Guilt-laden that they are excluded by their

  • tastes
  • interests
  • inclinations
  • education
  • dress
  • mode of speech

from communion with the common people of their own country, they project their infantile fantasies of union with the people on to distant lands, from whose peasantry they need fear no rejection.

The Wykhamist-Leninists: Richard Willoughby-Gott speaks in praise of the Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez. To his right is Seumas Milne (educ. Winchester and Balliol College, Oxford), the upper-class ‘executive director of strategy and communications’ for the UK’s Labour Party

The need to put Mao Tse-tung Thought before legal niceties

Dalrymple writes that at the height of the Cultural Revolution,

I found it difficult to believe that anyone outside China could take Mao’s Little Red Book seriously. A platitude, after all, does not become an apothegm when a million people wave the volume in which it is contained in menacing synchrony.

Nevertheless, one of Dalrymple’s medical student colleagues

converted to Maoism and threw a brick through a police-station window.

Next morning,

he harangued the magistrate for three-quarters of an hour on the need to put Mao Tse-tung Thought before legal niceties. Eventually, the magistrate leant forward and said, ‘That’s all very interesting, Mr D—, but I’m afraid it’s time for lunch.‘ When the Maoist medical student — now probably an exemplary general practitioner — refused to desist from his harangue, he was carried to the cells below screaming.

To be right before the time is right to be right — unforgivable!

The well-known (except in Flanders) sinologue Simon Leys (Pierre Ryckmans) was, writes Dalrymple,

proud to be Belgian, though he spent more than half his life in Australia.

French universities

despised Leys because of his consistent, but early, anti-Maoism.

Dalrymple comments:

There is no greater sin in academia than to be right before the time is right to be right.

The Mephistophelian superstate

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Jackpot

Dalrymple notes that José Manuel Barroso’s trajectory has been

  1. revolutionary Maoist student
  2. prime minister of Portugal
  3. chief apparatchik of the European Union
  4. vice-president of Goldman Sachs with special responsibility for advising the bank on how to mitigate the effects of Brexit (for the bank, not for Europe)

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 08.57.17The attraction of the EU

for those who are prepared to endure its tedium and its requirement always to speak in langue de bois is evident. It offers a golden reward in exchange for the obliteration of personality, character and scruple. It plays Mephistopheles to a hundred minor Fausts.

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