Little Red Book, Big Red Ideas: A Global History of Maoism, Part 2


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This week, in part 2 of a special two-part edition of ChinaEconTalk, Jordan interviews Professor Julia Lovell, author of the recently published book on Mao’s international legacy entitled Maoism: A Global History. In this episode, Lovell recounts the ways in which Maoism truly started going global in the 1950s and 1960s. With some prompting courtesy of the Chinese government’s propaganda machine, self-described Maoist groups sprang up in Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Western Europe, and even the U.S. Lovell explains how groups around the world interpreted the works and words of Mao in various ways and with varying results — from Black Panthers hosting study sessions of Mao’s Little Red Book in the U.S. to members of the Shining Path who espoused a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology as they committed acts of guerrilla warfare in Peru.

Quotes to listen for on this week’s episode:

21:19: Lovell describes the “counterculture craze” of the 1960s in Western Europe and the U.S., and the appeal of Maoism to such groups. “Student protestors, for example, who were dissatisfied with their universities and with their governments identified — or misidentified — Mao’s Cultural Revolution as a youth protest, and adopted its slogans such as ‘To rebel is justified’ (造反有理 zàofǎn yǒulǐ) or ‘Bombard the headquarters’ (炮打司令部 pàodǎ sīlìngbù) in their own revolts and demonstrations… Many Western radicals felt solidarity with Mao’s China, which was America’s number one detractor through this time. And this really followed the logic of ‘My enemy’s enemy is my friend.’”

34:13: Lovell tells the story of one of Mao Zedong’s generals, operating under the pseudonym of Mafaxian, who was sent to Zambia in an effort to recruit and indoctrinate lieutenants loyal to the political and militaristic precepts of Maoism. His mission was ultimately a failure, with Mafaxian feeling “embittered” toward the end of his years-long tenure. Lovell explains how this oral history is a “perfect grassroots example of how limited the possibilities of China’s ability to export its model were, despite the huge amounts of generosity and largesse.”

This podcast was edited and produced by Jason MacRonald.