The book exposes Mao’s appetite for narcotics, young women and fatty pork, his addiction to sleeping pills, his adherence to esoteric Taoist sexual practices, and his reluctance to bathe or brush his teeth.
New Delhi: The 2021 Sukma-Bijapur ambush attack carried out by the Naxalite-Maoist insurgents from the Communist Party of India (Maoist) against Indian security forces on 3 April 2021 at Sukma-Bijapur border in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, leading to the killing of 22 security personnel and 9 Naxalites, was the worst for Indian security forces fighting the Naxalite-Maoist cadres. The Naxalite-Maoist insurgency has been intractable, despite innumerable measures taken, including the carrot-and-stick approach, by various Indian governments for their rehabilitation. Whenever there is unabated violence, the security forces go hammer and tongs on the Maoist-Naxalites who are also well armed and trained. There is no peaceful solution and the problem appears uncontrollable and expensive.
An innovative strategy that could be explored is to expose the hero the Maoist-Naxalites and Communists (MNCs) deify. The central figure that stirs them is that of China’s revolutionary leader Chairman Mao Zedong (Mao Tse Tung), the man who started the Cultural Revolution and specifically targeted “Five Black Categories” (landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements, and rightists), “capitalist-roaders in the Party” (cadres) and “reactionary academics” (teachers and other intellectuals). Over 2.95 million Chinese were reportedly massacred by Mao’s Red Guards, and he justified the killings “as a necessary feature of rebellion, and the suffering of victims as acceptable collateral damage” (WALDER, Andrew G. 2009, Fractured Rebellions: The Beijing Red Guard Movement, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Page 149). In his political text “Problems of War and Strategy”, Mao Zedong wrote “Every Communist must grasp the truth: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
Mao was determined to build a militarised one-party state, worshipful of him as its supreme leader, he also championed an anarchic insubordination, telling the Chinese people that “it is right to rebel” (The Guardian, “Maoism marches on: the revolutionary idea that still shapes the world” by Julia Lovell, March 2019).
A plethora of such inspired phrases, coined by Mao Zedong, have provoked many who aspire for brute power, to unleash mindless violence against all whom they perceive as stumbling blocks in their ambition. The Maoist-Naxalites in India are also motivated into doing gory violence and reckless killings, as they want to establish their rule. In addition to the Maoist-Naxalites, Mao Zedong is a hero for all hues of Communists, and Urban Naxals.
Many nations display an amazing zeal to deify their leaders, weave incredible stories of their valour, grit and determination, and in the process make generations of its citizens venerate and idolise leaders who were but ordinary mortals, with their own weaknesses and eccentricities. In the process, a larger-than-life image is assiduously built up, cultivated and propagated to instil fanatic national pride and overawe enemies. A leader nonpareil is a historical necessity for every nation, many have built up a collection of supposedly invincible leaders over a span of centuries. If India showcases M.K. Gandhi, Russia projects Lenin and Stalin, America has Abraham Lincoln, and China’s iconic strongman is Chairman Mao Zedong.
Mao Zedong emerges in historical texts as a Marxist theorist, soldier, and statesman who led China’s communist revolution. His powerful statements like:
“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”.
“The world is ours; the nation is ours; society is ours. If we do not speak, who will speak? If we do not act, who will act?”
“Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.”
Such strong statements electrified the imaginations of many budding leaders and rebel groups, across the world, and made him a hero for all those aspiring to initiate revolutions to grab power. Through his writings and sayings Mao Zedong enunciated an insurgency doctrine—“protracted people’s war” to capture State power through a combination of armed insurgency, mass mobilization, strategic alliances, propaganda, and disinformation. “Maoism” as a doctrine appealed to many power seekers in Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. The Maoists have been India’s biggest internal security threat, for decades. They operate in mineral-rich territory in the east and south of the country known as the “red corridor,” which has shrunk over the years because of heavy operations against them. India’s Maoist insurgency, which started in the 1960s, has claimed over 10,000 lives, of security forces, many villagers and small-time politicians. “China’s Chairman is Our Chairman” is the slogan of India’s Maoists, and they are active in the forest belt of Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha and some remote regions of Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. They are well armed and carry AK-47 assault rifles, rocket launchers, and under barrel grenade launchers, to attack security forces. Their tactics is adopted from the 16-character phrase, coined by Mao: “When the enemy advances, we retreat. When the enemy halts and encamps, we harass them. When the enemy seeks to avoid battle (becomes tired), we attack. When the enemy retreats, we pursue.” This strategy is in full display in the Galwan valley ongoing skirmishes between Indian and Chinese armies.
The Maoist doctrine became a convenient medium for China to exert its global influence to threaten and destabilize many governments. John Quincy Adams, American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, and diarist, who served as the 6th President of the United States from 1825 to 1829, referencing to demands from the imperial Chinese court, that British envoys to the throne, should knock their heads on the earth nine times, to signal their reverence for the Emperor, had argued, to battle China’s “boasted superiority above every nation on earth.” This arrogance of China still continues as they seek to dominate every nation on the earth. For this purpose, every guerrilla, Naxalite and terrorist movement anywhere on the earth is instigated, promoted and motivated using the slogan “Power flows from the barrel of a gun”.
But history has strange ways of exposing the shallowness of exaggerated heroes. The world got to see the hidden side of Mao in “The Private Life of Chairman Mao”, a 1994 book written by Dr Li Zhisui, Mao’s personal physician for nearly 22 years. The book exposes Mao’s appetite for narcotic drugs, young women and fatty pork, his addiction to sleeping pills, his adherence to esoteric Taoist sexual practices, and his reluctance to bathe or brush his teeth. More revelations came in “The New Emperors: China in the Era of Mao and Deng” by Harrison E. Salisbury and “The Claws of the Dragon: Kang Sheng” by John Byron and Robert Pack, which provide the most detailed and personal accounts of the chaos, cruelty and corruption that Mao Zedong’s reign inflicted on the Chinese people.
After Mao Zedong`s Communists took over China in 1949, one of their first campaigns was to eradicate the widespread opium addiction raging in China. Mao used totalitarian state control to crack down on opium addiction. Tens of thousands of Chinese suspected to be peddlers were executed and addicts were simply left to die. Journalist Edward Hunter, in his article “Brain-washing Tactics Force Chinese into Ranks of Communist Party,” in the Miami Daily News in September 1950, described how Mao Zedong’s Red Army used terrifying ancient techniques to turn the Chinese people into mindless, Communist automatons. He called this hypnotic process “brainwashing,” a word-for-word translation from “xi-nao”, the Mandarin words for wash (xi) and brain (Nao). Hunter alerted the world about the gross human rights violations and warned about the dangerous happenings in China. Drug dealers were simply executed without any trial. Mao is famous for saying that he was subject to neither “law nor god.” He had no qualms about consuming narcotics for his own satisfaction. Mao lived a lonely life and suffered from insomnia, which drove him to seek nightly doses of sleeping pills, and became addicted to opium and morphine. In 1925, Mao commenced barbiturate therapy for his insomnia. He gradually developed drug tolerance and late in life took vast doses of drugs as a barbiturate-dependent. He utilised his sleeplessness to study history and interpreted and used history to build the present and, in a way, embody that story. He identified with bloodthirsty emperors, and his inspiration was Qin Shi Huangdi (221-106 BC), the founding emperor of the Qin dynasty, which lasted almost 2,000 years, and who began to build the Long City (the Great Wall). According to tradition, this emperor attained immortality due to his obsession with having sex with thousands of young virgins. Mao was greatly inspired by the lifestyle of this emperor and made him his inspiration.
To be continued in Part 2
Dr G. Shreekumar Menon is former Director General, National Academy of Customs Indirect Taxes and Narcotics.