Hitler Or Mao?

Posted on November 13, 2012


I just read an article that made me think about political figures today.
Despite the first few lines of the piece left me puzzled; my anger slowly faded when I reached the bottom and I finally understood Laurence Rees’s view. Thank God he is not an idiot.

Hitler is one of the most popular historic people and there are plenty of articles, books, profiles, biographies that attempt at analyzing his charismatic personality.
Shouting violent political ideas to a crowd of civilians, bewildered and angry, humiliated by the losses following the end of the WWI, does not mean to have charisma, nor a great personality.
It means just shouting.
People who experience a phase of uncertain transitions are, unfortunately, the most gullible  the most needy of someone able to build a future of prosperity and wellness and are, therefore, ready to follow the first prominent figure who catches their attention.
Hitler was nothing great, he was made of common senses: he was poor and hated rich people, he was heterosexual but condemned gays and, ironically, he was, allegedly,  Jewish.
He was a charlatan with no talents, the only luck he had ( be careful, LUCK) was the crowd he was talking to: weak, confused, scared, turned nasty.
Laurence Rees is cleverly advising us to learn, as long as it’s possible, from the past as many countries, nowadays, are experiencing the same sense of confusion, mistrust, frustration that Germany experienced 80 years ago.
And we do not want another Hitler.
In my opinion, the greatness of a leader is not visible if we look at the crowd he was able to amuse during his golden years: I strongly believe a great politician must be judged only after his death.
When Hitler died people, abruptly ( surprisingly?) stopped loving him, apart from a bunch of real followers.
Take Mao Zedong; hated, loved, criticized, worshiped, he was able to unite the whole China.
He was a leader with extreme views, he made tens of faux pas, wrong choices-extremely wrong choices-, he surrounded himself by wrong people who, at the end, simply betrayed him; he turned his leadership into a dictatorship, which in any shape and in any case is unacceptable.  I give this.  BUT, as events must always be analyzed deeply, in the case of Mao there is a big BUT.
Have you ever heard about Cultural Revolution?
That is one of the most significant changes occurred in the Chinese History.
However, in order to understand it, do not fail where many journalists do: you have to get rid of any Western view.
China is a country that develops with its own rules at its own pace and it is not possible to understand its changes you understand the basis conditions first.
For centuries the Chinese population was subdued to the government will, with Mao himself a free criticism to the leadership was not allowed, the Hundred Flowers Campaign is the best example of the Machiavellian censorship applied in those years.
Started when the economic system was still suffering, the Cultural Revolution was the result of the collision between two different currents of thoughts: the revolutionary line and the revisionist line.
In order to resolve this contrast, it was necessary, according to Mao, to fight the ancient mandarinal behavior.  It was essential, therefore, to work on the population in order to create a social base which, in the future, would have been able to rebel to any form of subjugation.
When Mao understood he was powerful enough, he decided to start reforming the whole cultural world, but “cultural” was just a name behind which laid a massive purge, at all levels, in the government and, subsequently, in all sectors of society.
It is right during this period that China assisted to the creation of students and workers’ associations and soon, students, workers, farmers were able to express their opinion and the political party was there to listen to them; everyone accused of capitalism was eliminated ( never intended in a physical sense); and the Chinese population slowly gained a collective voice that allowed it to get rid of a condition of subjection, learning that overthrowing a regime is, sometimes, essential in order to progress.
I can not deny that the Cultural Revolutions led to many dramas as well, such as families constrained to emigrate to work in camps, such as important figures in political, economic and academic field who lost their jobs and their prestige and, most of them, therefore committed suicide.
It is also true that focusing so much on the creation of a mass conscience, scarified the economy and it is undeniable that many people, especially students, turned violent and the whole country fell into a civil war that only the Army could end.
“Wild swans” is one of the most famous accounts ( despite sometimes there is a lack of sources to double check ) of the hard times during the Cultural Revolution.
However, with The Cultural Revolution Mao laid the foundations for a future civil society which means : the mutual collaboration among the different sectors of a society, a keen participation by the citizens to the public sphere, the presence of pluralism, freedom of opinion and debate and Chinese people were not willing to abandon such achievements even after Mao died ( see what happened during the Tienanmen event).
Go to China today (I went) and you will see everywhere a statue or a poster of Mao in each house, restaurant, shop and when you ask Chinese people why, after more than 50 years he is still present in their life, they simply answer: “70% of his actions were good”.
Mao, still today, is remembered for his contribution to the developments of a society, Hitler is remembered only for the unlucky events that his madness led to. He is not adored, nor even respected.
Mao is.
In a turbulent era such the current one, where many economies are weak and people desperate, a person like Hitler is likely to gain power and that could mean war, more poverty, more desperation and new burdens our children will have to carry.
Take out his mistakes, his obsession and his dictatorship, a Mao would be a better alternative.

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