Email from China

I just received this from a friend who is in Shanghai at the moment:

Hi Kez,  Reading of Mike’s experience** in Shanghai during the CR and being here now brought a wry smile to my face. Mao can now only be seen at the trash/back street markets. All reference to the revolution (ie 1949 – 1970’s) has been wiped. This is particularly noticeable in any formal presentation – museums/histories of Shanghai’s development etc – of Shanghai’s progress from village/city/ from the distant past through the 19th and 20th centuries. The revisionists are not just wiping the CR and Mao, but the revolution itself. The myth being created is one of gradual continuity from the past (poverty, albeit very harmonious poverty, where people  live without stuff, to now where stuff is becoming available in ever increasing amounts and where harmony makes even more sense) through to the future. There is something of Tory conservatism to it; Mao is being replaced by Burke. Will be back in a week – Sunday I think so I’ll fill youse in then.

I did a quick google  for stuff about New Year in Shanghai,  and found that there’s a place called The Mao Club. The blurb for the New Year party there reads as follows:

The biggest countdown party lands at Club Mao Friday Dec 31st 2010 on the

one day where Mao will be packed in the early hours!!Sexy mash up hip

hop/Electro by DJ Razor, and House by DJ Liam who is specially flying in

all the way from Australia.

Full 10 quality drinks deal from 10pm til 2:30am! 2 floors full and banging! Countdown with us hard style and

usher in 2011 December 31st 10pm only …@ MAO

(I don’t think Mao would have had any problems with a bit of  “sexy mash up hip hop” !  )

It’s not surprising  that the authorities are working so hard to push the “harmony theme” and delete the whole idea of revolution from the historical record, but it contradicts reality.   In 1949, Mao said “the Chinese people have stood up”, and they had!   I can’t see the Chinese people forgetting that.   They’re now undergoing a tumultuous and painful  transition toward modernity, under an authoritarian, oppressive “communist party”,  nothing harmonious about it.

It’s often thought that The Left is all about harmony –  more so,  nowadays.   But even in the past, I think that many on the Left had the idea that “once we had socialism” there would no longer be any fierce struggle – or that the struggle would be limited to a struggle with nature, rather than struggle between people/different social forces.  Bogdanov proposed something like that in his science fiction novel “Red Star – the first Bolshevik Utopia” ( first published in 1908) .

But I can’t see how any dynamic, developing and exciting    society could be a harmonious one. That’s a fundamentally conservative idea which is always pushed by those who have something to gain from things remaining the same.
I was sort of glad to read that silly blurb from the Mao Club, it doesn’t suggest that what people want is a quiet harmonious life in which nothing much happens.   I assume it’s a club that’s only affordable to the (relatively) well off , but at the same time it suggests that in China, “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned’ and that the lid can’t be kept on it, no matter how much the authorities preach harmony,   Confucian respect for authority,  and so on.

** reference is to Mike Hyde’s recently published book “All Along the Watchtower

All Along the Watchtower (cover)

3 Responses to “Email from China”


  1. 1 Steve Owens
  2. 2 tomb
  3. 3 byork

    Steve, how bizarre. Imagine anyone demanding that a hundred flowers bloom in North Korea under the ‘theocracy’ there? “Maoism” must be the most misunderstood political philosophy along with Marxism. It brings to mind the oft-quoted claims of P. J. O’Rourke to have been a Maoist back in the 1960s. This apparently meant doing lots of drugs and booze and engaging in empty sloganeering and Yippie type activity that one could only inevitably grow out of. No evidence of concrete analysis of concrete conditions – ‘the living soul of Marxism’. My favourite Mao works back then were ‘On Practice’ and ‘On Contradiction’ – and his ‘Investigation into the Peasant Movement in Hunan’. PS – Anyone interested in Mike Hyde’s book may be interested in this too: http://latrobeuniversitybulletin.com/2013/03/04/bluestone-college-reunion-recalls-70s-student-protests/

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