Monday 25 September 2017

'Slave case' Maoist ideology led to genocide and terror

Mao Zedong's teachings inspired some of the 20th Century's worst dictators and terrorists

Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

THE impenetrable philosophy of Maoism, which was apparently at the centre of the alleged enslavement case in London, was espoused by only a tiny minority of mainly academics in the 1960s and 1970s in Britain and Ireland. The predominantly middle-class teachers and students who adhered to the philosophy in college later almost entirely turned their backs on their student beliefs.

The three women said to have been held in 'invisible handcuffs' in London are possibly the victims of one of the last adherents to the leftist cult, a little like the Japanese soldiers who hid out in jungles on Pacific islands for years after the end of the Second World War.

The tactics promoted by Mao, however, inspired some of the worst revolutionary movements of the late 20th Century and continue, in some parts, to inspire terrorist activity.

Mao's creed that the revolutionary must "swim among the people as a fish swims in the sea" is the central tenet of most of the revolutionary and terrorist movements of the second half of the last century. The Provisional IRA adopted the tactic from the outset.

With revolutionary zeal, its young members set about purging Catholic working-class areas of elements seen to be collaborationist or in any way counter to the IRA.

Dozens of young women who were accused of fraternising with off-duty British soldiers were publicly beaten, tarred and feathered. The low point in this purge came in December 1972, when Jean McConville was chosen as a target because she had gone to the assistance of a British soldier shot and injured near her home in the lower Falls Road.

Mrs McConville, a recently widowed mother of 10 children, was also a Protestant and therefore an outsider in west Belfast, whose murder would have little consequences in the otherwise entirely Catholic area.

The murder and disappearance were designed to create the conditions in which the IRA 'fish' could swim in the sea of support in west Belfast. The friendly 'sea' that Mao and other revolutionary socialists were mindful of could not be created by appeals to people's better nature but by terrorism and fear.

In its worst manifestation, Maoism was used to create a climate of total subjugation in the People's Republic of China in the decade from 1966, when Mao ordered the removal of all capitalist, traditional and cultural elements of society. The revolution meant the removal of all perceived bourgeois elements of society, followed by the enforced removal of all student and other urban youths to labour in the countryside. The total toll from murder and starvation remains unknown but is often put as high as 30 million.

The same Maoist 'revolution' was instigated in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 when Pol Pot decided to similarly purge Cambodian society. An estimated 1.7 million people were killed.

Maoist groups sprang up across South America and in regions of Africa and Asia.

The Shining Path, Sendero Luminoso, in Peru was one of the more notorious guerrilla groups inspired by academics who proposed a Chinese-Cambodian model. Sendero, like most of the other Maoist revolutionary armies, disappeared after the capture of its leader, the university lecturer Abimael Guzman, in 1992.

Farc, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, was one of the few Maoist revolutionary armies to remain into the 21st Century, mainly because it was able to fund itself from cocaine. It was also assisted with training by the Provisional IRA for a reputed fee of $28m (€20.5m).

Che Guevara was one of the adherents of Maoist thought and action. In his written works he strongly advocated the murder and terrorising of peasant communities in order to create the 'sea' of support.

While elements of the Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein leant towards the Maoist philosophy, the 'Republican Movement', as it termed itself, never moved to the point where it sought to purge all Catholic society in Northern Ireland of non-supporters.

Throughout the 30 years of the Troubles, the Catholic population voted overwhelmingly for the moderate SDLP.

The Provisional IRA did adopt some Guevarist/Maoist tactics in the 1970s when it began murdering businessmen. Since then, the IRA has become defunct and Sinn Fein has lost most of the vestiges of leftism.

Up to about a decade ago Sinn Fein's and the IRA's stated aim was to establish a '32-county socialist republic'. This phrase is last thought to have been used publicly by Gerry Adams in the mid-1990s.

In June 1989, Sinn Fein sent a delegation to take part in a 'world youth festival' in Pyongyang after the party had sent a message of solidarity to the North Korean government. Yet within five years, Gerry Adams was attending St Patrick's Day receptions in the White House and establishing a fundraising arm, Friends of Sinn Fein, with offices in Manhattan, close to the centre of American capitalism, Wall Street. Sinn Fein delegates stay in luxurious hotels during their frequent visits to the US and rub shoulders with Irish-American business leaders.

Gerry Adams even held an annual St Patrick's Day lunch at upmarket Manhattan restaurants. In 2007 he was joined by senior figures from Lehman Brothers just before the company's collapse presaged the Wall Street – and subsequently global – economic crisis.

Yet less than a decade earlier, An Phoblacht was regularly carrying articles extolling the virtues of the Castro regime in Cuba and in the 1990s Sinn Fein sent a full-time representative to the country – Niall Connolly, who was subsequently arrested in Columbia along with two IRA members who had been training the Maoist Farc army.

Unlike the south London micro sect, Sinn Fein embarked on a path that most others who held revolutionary extremist views in the late 20th Century followed, opting into mainstream life and burying their former extremist views.

While Sinn Fein opted for conventional democratic policies, the IRA drifted, as did many of the revolutionary armies around the world, into criminality, particularly in south Armagh.

The fact that Gerry Adams has remained the undisputed leader of Sinn Fein for 30 years has, however, some resonances in the Maoist/ socialist tradition, where the cult of the personality has often flourished.

Writing in the Guardian last week, the former revolutionary socialist figure, Tariq Ali, described the Maoists of the Sixties and Seventies as micro groups who, even then, were regarded as bonkers by other leftist groups.

He wrote that the Maoist-type groups also tended to attract dominant male leaders and evolve personality-cult characteristics.

"What always struck me even then as slightly odd was that, regardless of the political complexion of a sect, the behavioural patterns of its leaders were not so different.

"Even those most critical of Stalinist style and methods tended to reproduce the model of a one-party state within their own ranks, with dissent limited to certain periods and an embryonic bureaucracy in charge of a tiny organisation." He referred to these groups in which "clandestinity and iron discipline were felt to be necessary".

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