Many books have been written about Mao and the global influence of Maoism. The last of these is Maoism A Global History. The 606-page book, written by British history professor Julia Lovell, was published in 2019.
The name of the book is very attractive, but as you read, you feel a strange state of mind, this kind of feeling comes from the very beginning ‘Introduction’ chapter.
Apart from the ‘Introduction’ and ‘Conclusion’, this book is written under12 titles. The first is “What is Maoism” and the 12th is “Mao-is China.” In this context, what is Maoism, how it has expanded in the past, as well as the resurgence of Maoists in China has been discussed. Discussing the global Maoism, the influence of the “Great Chinese Proletarian Cultural Revolution” in the 1960s is emphasized.
She has mentioned in the ‘Introduction’ chapter that there are books written on the global influence of the Maoist movement, but there is a lack of books to read the whole history in one place. According to her, Maoism: A Global History is the consequence of this lack. As she has said : ” This book aims to bring Mao and his ideas out of the shadows, and recast Maoism as one of the major stories of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”1
Even if she says this, the reader does not feel that way. Although more emphasis has been placed on the history of the past, the history of the past also has not been able to come as a whole. It does not contain a comprehensive discussion of the Maoist movement in some of the countries allied to ‘Revolutionary Internationalist Movement’ (RIM) and Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA). In the current context, global Maoism cannot be complete without discussing the Maoist movements in countries like the Philippines and Turkey.
In ‘Introduction’ she has mentioned, ”Maoism is a body of contradictory ideas that has distinguished itself from earlier guises of Marxism in several important ways.”2 Here, too, Lovell’s perceptive is confusing. There are many inconsistencies in the book not only in terms of territorial influence and expansion of the Maoist movement but also in terms of ideology. Maoism is not a body of contradictory ideas and it is not different from the basic tenets of Marxism, rather it is the development in Marxism, it is the third and higher stage of Marxism. Similarly, to limit Maoism to the term “umbrella” is to shrink its ideological value in a way that minimizes the development of Marxism-Leninism into Maoism and Mao’s contribution to the world Communist movement. Maoism is the today’s Marxism and the guiding principle of the world revolution. It needs to be clear. And only the discussion of global Maoism makes sense.
The Indian Maoist movement is of great importance in today’s Communist movement. Lovell has focused more on explaining the phase of the Naxalbari Peasant Movement. No doubt, the Maoist movement led by Comrade Charu Majumdar has historical significance, but it must be linked to continuity. The unified Maoist movement in India has taken on a new dimension since 2004 and is now a headache not only for Indian expansionism but also for the imperialist powers as a whole. Indian fascism has called the ongoing People’s War in India the biggest challenge to India’s internal security, which also proves the importance of the ongoing People’s War in India.
The book is full of contradictory statements, but a detailed discussion of all the chapters is not possible here. How much Lovell thinks negatively about Maoism and the Maoist movement can be seen in the views on Pol Pot and Comrade Gonzalo. She wants to show that both are people with similar and bad tendencies. Lovell’s statement that “if Gonzalo had been successful in Peru, he would have shed blood by embracing the Khmer Rouge”3, is very objectionable. Matthew Galway’s comment on Lovell’s statement regarding Pol Pot and Gonzalo is logical and based on facts.4 Certainly, Pol Pot had some dogmatist tendencies, he had ideological problems. But it doesn’t make sense to blame Pol Pot alone, excluding the role, conspiracy and genocide of American imperialism. We should not fall into the delusion spread by the proponents of imperialism regarding Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge regime. The Communist movement is to learn from the history of Pol Pot.5 Lovell emphasizes that the influence of the Maoist movement has spread more as terror and emotional impulse than revolution. In fact, she wants to limit Maoism to the theory of impulse and terror rather than the theory of revolution.
Lowell seems to lack the correct knowledge of the history of Maoism and the Maoist movement. Lovell’s interest is focused on the details of events, rather than on the class struggle and ideological question. This book, which seems to have a critical attitude towards the Maoist movement, is not able to provide instructive conclusions. The title Maoism: A Global History is fascinating, but the facts and figures are superficial. No matter how much she tries to be ”neutral”, the book is not free from prejudice.
Some of the references are such as to arouse distrust and disgust towards the Maoist movement among the readers who do not know much about it. This book shows how negativity towards the movement is being created with the help of negative reference materials. In fact, the way she interprets global Maoism shows that her intention is not positive.
Regarding the history of the Maoist movement, Lovell also discusses Nepal’s Maoist movement and rise of Maoists in China. She has said that the Maoists are in power in Nepal, the “neo-Maoists” are rising in China and Xi Jinping is leading China to Maoism. It is true that the Maoist party was formed in China in 2008 and the public opinion in favor of Maoism is growing, but Xi Jinping is not trying to lead China towards the Maoist road, rather than he wants to use the rising power of the Maoists in China to consolidate his power. It’s just his cunning. The Chinese Communist Party and its leaders have followed the path of counter-revolution, not the path of Maoism as Lovell said, and are now practicing social imperialism.. To say that Xi Jinping is on Mao’s path is to fail to understand the character of the Chinese Communist Party and the current Chinese rulers. Also, the context of the Chinese ”neo-left” and Mao’s supporters in China is not the same. The Maoists have carried the flag of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Pro-Maoist leaders, especially large numbers of students, are still in prison. In the case of Nepal, even though the Maoists joined the government during the transition period, only those who betrayed the Maoist movement are now in multi-party parliamentary politics, and the true Maoist revolutionaries are fighting for a New Democratic Revolution. This is the reality of the Maoist movement in Nepal and it needs to be clarified.
Many issues in this book are confusing in the case of Nepal as well as in the case of other countries. In the context of the Nepal’s People’s War, the role of Mohan Baidya ‘Kiran’ has been downplayed and Baburam Bhattarai’s and his wife Hisila’s role has been given more importance. Intentionally Lovell has covered up Baburam’s right-wing and pro-Indian tendencies. Most of the sources of reference material are associated with Baburam supporters and opponents of the People’s War. It is natural that the interviews with the opponents of the Maoist movement present a negative picture of the People’s War. Attempts have been made to present the Maoist cadres and the entire People’s War in a negative way. The discussion of the Nepal’s People’s War presents a very negative picture, for example page 405-406 can be taken. It seeks to convey the message that Maoist cadres are those who loot people’s property, kill them and force them to work. Take, for example, the construction of the road Holeri to Thawang. The killings and terror perpetrated by the fascist government, the inhumane nature of state terrorism have been given very little space, it seems that there has been no interest in it and the shortcomings of the Maoists have been exaggerated.
The comments made regarding road construction are very objectionable. During the People’s War, construction work was started as a part of the Maoist Party-led road construction campaign. In the book, it is said that the people were forced to work, starved and economically exploited. The leaders and cadres of the party, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), local People’s government participated in the road construction. At the call of the Party, the villagers voluntarily participated in the road construction. It is worth mentioning here that expressing their commitment to the Proletarian Internationalism, cadres of the fraternal parties also had participated. Lovell’s statement is based on the misinformation spread by the opponents, who were/are against Maoist movement and road construction.
She has also said that the Maoist party had used the “widespread experience of terror tactics” to gain majority in national election in 2008. This is another false statement by Lovell. Likewise, Prachanda wanted to kill Baburam Bhattarai alive by burying him in a pit do not match the facts. As she has said ” Bhattarai faced real possibility that the armed revolution that he had supported with all his intellectual energies would consume him in a Stalinist purge. ‘Prachanda could have (had me) killed,’ he later recalled matter-of-factly. ‘We were prepared for that…’ He told me later, there were some people who wanted to bury mee alive.'”6 This is an expression far beyond reality. Lowell has become Baburam’s spokesperson rather than a freelance writer here. This kind of writing raises the question not only of the source of information, but also her intention itself. This kind of delusion creates disillusionment and confusion not only in the context of the Maoist movement in Nepal, but also Maoist movement as a whole.
Lovell has called Baburam Bhattarai “brains of the movement”. This is also a wrong and ridiculous statement. It has been wrongly analyzed that the People’s War was waged under the leadership of Prachanda and Baburam. The truth is that Baburam is a right-wing opportunist and time has shown that he worked for Indian expansionism under the cover of the Maoist. Now he has announced that he is no longer a Marxist. It must be clear that Kiran and Prachanda are the main leaders of the Nepal’s People’s War. Even though Prachanda has betrayed the revolution now, Kiran, a senior leader and ideologue of the Nepalese Maoist movement, is still fighting for the New Democratic Revolution.
Lovell also said that Baburam’s PhD thesis helped in analyzing the situation of Nepali society and made it easier for the Maoist movement to move forward. What s ridiculous assessment! It is known to all that there is not the slightest truth in this. Similarly, Lovell says that first Kiran separated from Prachanda and then Biplav separated, this is also not true. The Biplav group split from the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist formed under Kiran’s leadership. Biplav led group is now advocating the misleading slogan of ‘post-imperialism’ and ‘unified revolution’. In fact, in the name of ‘unified revolution’ this group is practicing ‘post-Maoism’.
To praise Baburam, Lowell has used a number of baseless materials. She has used people like CK Lal and those who have a negative view of Nepal’s People’s War. Truthful analysis requires official and truthful content. The correct approach seeks the correct reference material. Lovell has interviews and information with Maoist opponents like CK Lal, Khagendra Sangraula and right-wingers like Baburam Bhattarai, Hisila Yami and Surendra Karki (Ram Karki?). Lowell did not consider it necessary to keep in mind that Sangraula had written a novel against the Nepal’s People’s war. As well she as used books by Prashant Jha, Deepak Thapa, Aditya Adhikari, Michael Hutt and David Kellner. These sources and books are not able to present an accurate picture of the Maoist movement and the ten-year People’s war in Nepal. Michael Hutt, who is said to have knowledge of Nepal and Nepali literature, is more interested in exploring negativity about the Nepali People’s War. Michael Hutt is a man with a negative attitude towards Marxism and Nepal’s People’s War. Hutt has given Lowell enough guideline to write a history of Nepal’s People’s War.
In fact, this is what all the opponents of Maoism do, not just Lovell. Leaving aside Li Onesto’s book Dispatches from the people’s war in Nepal most of the books written by foreign authors do not contain correct descriptions of Nepal’s ten-year People’s War. Apart from the Party Documents, the books that present the true picture of Nepal’s People’s War are Deepak Sapkota’s Ten Years of Upheavel (2066 BS) and Rishi Raj Baral’s Nepali People’s War (2069 BS). These writers are soldiers of various fronts in the ten-year People’s War.
In the name of global Maoism, it is clear that Lovell is trying to create confusion about the entire Communist Movement. Her emphasis in each chapter is on negativity. Her ideological tendency and intention can be assessed by using many terms like “Stalinist Terror”, “Maoist Terror”, “bloody Cultural Revolution”, ”horror of the Cultural revolution”. In fact, Maoism: A Global History is a book based on bad intentions with a fascinating title. Not only in the context of the Nepal’s People’s War, but also in the context of the discussion of global Maoism, Lovell’s greater interest is focused on the search for negativity and she is interested in selecting similar references.
She has read Edgar’s book, Red Star over China, from top to bottom, and has used the writings of some Western intellectuals with critical views of the Maoist movement as a source of material. But she is not interested in studying Mao’s official documents and the documents of Maoist writer. As a result, her statements are contradictory and negative.
The list of reference materials used by Lovell is long. In writing each chapter, she has used the reference material very carefully and cleverly. She has used as many negative reference materials as possible. One of the important aspects of Mao’s contribution and the global significance of Maoism is the “Great Debate” between China and Soviet Russia. This is a very important ideological struggle waged by Mao. But instead of discussing such ideological-political aspects, Lovell’s interest is focused on distorting Mao’s image. In fact, this book is an example of deceptive writing. It is natural to be rewarded with this kind of book by the anti- Communist agencies.
Where there is no need, she has repeatedly discussed the books of Li Zhisui’s The Private Life of Chairman Mao: The Memoirs of a Personal Physician (1994), Jung Chang and Holiday’s, Mao: The Unknown Story (2005) and Frank Decotter’s The History of Chinese Must Devasting Catastrophe (2010). But the books that have been published to refute such misleading books like Manufacturing History: Sex, Lies and Random House Memoirs of Maoist Physician (1995), Mobo Gao’s The Battle for China’s Past : Mao and Cultural revolution (2008), Dongping Han’s The Unknown Cultural Revolution (2008) and the book Was Mao Really a Monster?: The Academic Response to Chang and the Halliday, are not mentioned anywhere. Particularly, Mobo Gao’s books are very important in this regard, but Lowell has dismissed them all. It is not enough to just describe the events, the main thing is the attitude towards it and in this regard Lovell’s intention is bigotry. We must keep in mind that the key question is outlook and intention of the writer.
Opponents have been campaigning for the disfigurement of images since the time of Marx and Engels. Especially in the case of Stalin and Mao, they have been presented in a negative way. Such acts are carried out in the imperialist scheme of disfiguring the image of Communist politics and revolutionary leaders. Lovell’s frequent references to of Li Zhisui Jung Chang and Holiday, and Frank Decotter make it clear that she wants to draw the reader’s attention to their writings. The inherent negativity towards Maoism has worked in this aspect. In this sense, Maoism: A Global History is a history book with a focus on business objectives and propaganda.
Written in the style of journalism, this book has some positive terms and sentences. Especially in the ‘Conclusion’ she has tried to be something positive. As she has mentioned: ”I have argued that Maoism has been underestimated not just as Chinese but also as a global phenomenon. I have sought to re-center its ideas and experience as major forces of the recent past, present and future that have shaped—and are shaping—the world, as well as China.” To say so is more compelling than her wish, because it is the living truth of today. The main thing is the essence of the book and she has not been able to be positive about it.
Although China has taken the road of counter-revolution after Mao; the Maoist movement has not ended, this is continuing worldwide. The principles of the Paris Commune are Eternal. The proletariat will always raise the banner of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and the International will resound. People’s wars are still waging in India, the Philippines and Turkey, and the Maoists are continuing the class struggle not only in the ‘Third World’ countries but also in various ‘First World’ countries in the specific situation of their countries. As far as the Maoist revolution in Nepal is concerned, the Communist Nucleus, Nepal and the Nepal Communist Party (Revolutionary Maoist) are fighting for the New Democratic Revolution. And at the same time, the Maoist revolutionaries of the world are active in building a new center of revolutionaries—a new International.
The Maoist movement is a universal truth of today. As long as there is imperialist oppression and capitalist inhumanity, the banner of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism will continue to rise and the proletarian struggle will continue. This is the truth whether one accepts it or not.
- Julia Lovell, Maoism A Global History (London: Vintage, 2020), 7.
- Ibid, 8.
- Ibid, 4.
- See, Matthew Galway, “Review of Maoism: A Global History by Julia Lovell,” PRC History Review, No. 23 (August 2020): 1-8.
- For the detail study, see, F. G. ‘What went wrong with the Pol Pot regime’, A World To Win, 25 (1999).
- Lovell, Maoism A Global History, 409-410.