Thursday, April 14, 2005

The CCP and History III

It is estimated that 20 million people died in the famine that accompanied the Great Leap Forward. China's population was about 500 million at the time. Mao Zi Dong, Chairman of the CCP, had become enamored of the agricultural theories of one Trofim Lysenko, a Soviet quack scientist. Peasants were soon forced to adopt "close-planting" methods, and were told to dig huge trenches in the ground instead of conventional plowing of the top crust of the earth. Meanwhile, peasants were forced to donate their agricultural tools to "back-yard steel furnaces". The result was, quite likely, the greatest famine in history. Most of the facts about the famine were unknown to the outside world at the time, and the truth about what had happened only started to come together in the early eighties. (Jasper Becker's book "Hungry Ghosts" is the authoritative book on the famine). How does the Communist Party deal with all this in their textbooks? Ross Terrill writes: "The main text for middle school history in China... 中國歷史 ("Chinese History"), which like all textbooks in China is a party-state book...does not mention the Great Leap Forward famine."

Peng De Huai was a top military leader and a hero of the Revolution, but he was also from peasant stock and he knew what was going on in the countryside. He implored Mao to change his policies and for his trouble he was purged, imprisoned and ritually humiliated in the Cultural Revolution until his death.

This is the Chinese state's approach to history. Today, Mao Zi Dong and Peng De Huai are comrades again on China's Renminbi. It is as if Nazi Germany had refashioned itself as a modern authoritarian state, and placed Hitler and Oskar Schindler on their money, beaming and looking bravely into the future. This is the regime that lectures Japan about not learning from history.

The truth is the Communist Party of China cannot come clean about its past. The underpinning of the doctrine of single party rule is that the ruling party has a right to a monopoly on power solely by virtue of having a monopoly on the truth. When the KMT began too concede that it had committed grave errors and injustices, it did not necessarily mean that it had to disband, but it did mean that it would have to take its place as merely one flawed, fallible party among several. If the Communist Party has any ideology that it really believes in anymore, it is simply to see that that day never comes in China.