Maoism, by Julia Lovell

"Maoism: A Global History," by Julia Lovell, (Alfred A. Knopf: New York), $37.50 hardback.

Mao Zedong, the towering revolutionary leader of China, influenced the world. Julia Lovell, renowned writer on China for major magazines and news outlets, noted author, and professor of modern Chinese history at the University of London, makes this assertion clear and understandable.

Maoism, the belief in the constant revolutionary power of the rural masses, has changed the world over the past 80 years. This period is well-studied in this comprehensive text which assesses the world through the lens of the effects of Maoism.

Unlike Marxist theory which contended that the revolution would come from the mobilized toiling masses of the urban proletariat, the Chinese revolution evolved from the rural areas surrounding the cities. Finding virtue in the peasant uprisings, Mao came to the belief that from such would spring revolution around the world. This led to the Great Leap Forward, the horror of modern China.

Mao's idea was to industrialize his nation by mobilizing the countryside. To do so he caused a monumental famine, largely unseen by city dwellers. Food sent to the cities was also sent around the world, the better to foment revolution in third-world countries. While millions of Chinese peasants starved, the propaganda against U.S. and Western imperialism drew many revolutionaries around the world to philosophical Maoist banners.

Mao separated himself from revisionist Soviet communists. He saw them as enemies of constant revolution. He denounced the Soviets as collaborators with the hated Western enemy through their policy of peaceful coexistence. Influence with communist parties around the world hung in the balance.

The break between revolutionary China and more cooperative Soviet Russia was real. Korea, Vietnam, Laos and especially the fanatical, Mao-embracing Cambodian communists were greatly motivated by Chinese revolutionary thought. 

Lovell is thorough, conscientious and easy to read. If you seek background on what seems a myriad of nationalist movements around the world over the past eight decades, you will do well to seek her book. An intense, honest, and comprehensive study of such a mammoth subject is rendered understandable, clear and convincing.

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