This week saw the rapid rise and fall of a seemingly baffling phenomenon, namely the grassroots construction of a giant Mao statue in central China, followed by its quick destruction. According to The Guardian, spontaneous acts of “Mao-worship” are taking place all over the country – even Henan, where one of the worst Mao blunders took place, as millions died from the incredibly incompetent Great Leap Forward initiative in the 50s.
The Chinese authorities are not pleased with a native Maoist revival, which may seem strange considering the fact that China is still ruled by a nominally Communist party.
Nevertheless, the authorities are understandably alarmed; the last thing that the police state wants is a revival of genuinely revolutionary fervor. It drives home the fact that the CCP is nothing other than a name – the new rulers of China can call themselves Scientologists, or the Vegetarian Party, or IRA Far East Chapter. The reality is that China is state-driven and controlled hyper- capitalism. Marxists need not apply.
This self-directed Maoism amongst the Chinese civilian populace also reveals an interesting, subjective take on Mao himself. Mao is a symbol, not a historical figure. And that symbol represents justice and fairness in an increasingly unfair, unjust China.
I don’t have a Mao badge on my bag because I’m into Mao-the-man; Mao himself made some catastrophic decisions which resulted in the deaths of unthinkable numbers of Chinese. But Mao, the symbol, represents something entirely different from the man, at least for myself and any other Westerner who is still willing to take on the sketchy legacy and the real potential of Maoism.
This is also the case with these outbursts of Mao fans in China; what Mao (or even the image of Mao) represents is not identical to blind hero worship. There is a growing level of discontent in China, as the masses struggle with the harsh, unfeeling realities of a manic form of capitalism. Mao is a symbol of a counter-active force, and this is what is usually missing or misunderstood by Western observers of the Cultural Revolution; while there was blind hero worship on display, I do not believe Mao was actually worshiped as a Judaeo-Christian God.
The situation in China is getting desperate for the vast majority of this equally vast country. While the instances of Maoism might seem to be inexplicable, I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised.