The concluding volume--following Mao’s Great Famine and The Tragedy of Liberation--in Frank Dikötter’s award-winning trilogy chronicling the Communist revolution in China.
After the economic disaster of the Great Leap Forward that claimed tens of millions of lives from 1958–1962, an aging Mao Zedong launched an ambitious scheme to shore up his reputation and eliminate those he viewed as a threat to his legacy. The stated goal of the Cultural Revolution was to purge the country of bourgeois, capitalistic elements he claimed were threatening genuine communist ideology. Young students formed the Red Guards, vowing to defend the Chairman to the death, but soon rival factions started fighting each other in the streets with semiautomatic weapons in the name of revolutionary purity. As the country descended into chaos, the military intervened, turning China into a garrison state marked by bloody purges that crushed as many as one in fifty people.
The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962–1976 draws for the first time on hundreds of previously classified party documents, from secret police reports to unexpurgated versions of leadership speeches. Frank Dikötter uses this wealth of material to undermine the picture of complete conformity that is often supposed to have characterized the last years of the Mao era. After the army itself fell victim to the Cultural Revolution, ordinary people used the political chaos to resurrect the market and hollow out the party’s ideology. In short, they buried Maoism. By showing how economic reform from below was an unintended consequence of a decade of violent purges and entrenched fear, The Cultural Revolution casts China’s most tumultuous era in a wholly new light.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was an interesting book. I only had a vague knowledge of the cultural revolution before reading this. The author did a good job of incorporating stories of individual experiences while presenting the overall picture of what was happening. He used many resources that have recently become available. This is the third book in a trilogy about China during Mao's lifetime. I read it slowly to absorb everything and contrast what was in the news and going on in my life at the time. The United States was focused on Vietnam War and we got little information out of China as this revolution took place.
A worthy final instalment ofn the people's trilogy. I found it quite refreshing that the book put a lot of focus on the impact of the Cultural Revolution on the general population and how they tried to get on with their lives while all this was going on. As in the other two books, the all-pervasive violence and how it tears families, friends and the social fabric apart is just beyond words.
I also liked the way the book makes it absolutely clear as it progresses that the whole exercise was a way for Mao to purge his enemies from the party and how he controlled it completely and almost on a whim. It also added at least to my understanding of why there has been no all-out condemnation of the Cultural Revolution: the fact that huge numbers of people were both victims and perpetrators as the fortunes of the different groupings shifted throughout the period.
All in all, it is an easy, vivid read with lots of detail and facts that completes the trilogy in a very...
The end of a griping trilogy on the history of communist China. One of the most astounding quotes was 'communism is actually nothing more than a continual series of purges.' The Politburo and Central Committe, communism ruling bourgeois class, is continually seeking to create an atmosphere of continual crisis. Mr. Dikotter very ably shows how communism is only for the benefit of the ruling class. The common citizens are nothing more than the replaceable ' cogs in the mechanism. '
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