A great leap backward – John Gittings
From the Guardian, via A Glimpse of the World:
Fifty years ago this month, when China was finally at peace after decades of war, Mao Zedong launched a new revolution in the countryside – for reasons that are still highly controversial. Mao insisted that the peasants wanted more and bigger cooperatives; they were a “blank sheet of paper” on which beautiful socialist words could be written. China could not mark time in the transition to socialism, or else it would go backwards.
Mao’s impatience in that July of 1955 set in train a tragic sequence of events which led first to the people’s communes and the Great Leap Forward of 1958-61. The failure of the Great Leap amid serious famine encouraged his critics to speak out, and led in turn to the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) when he sought to crush their “revisionism”. Finally, reacting against the last two turbulent decades of Mao’s life, his successors have jettisoned socialist policies, moderate as well as extreme, and embraced capitalism in all but name.