One of the things I often think about a lot is how it is possible for thinking and sensitive people, artistic people, aware people, or well – just people, to still feel favorably about communism. To still be communists, or so far left, that they are essentially the same thing. How can this be possible, when so many millions have been murdered in the countries that have been communist, and when those countries have inevitably, in time, become extremely poor, become in effect, starving death camps or dysfunctional, grim labor camps? I don’t understand it. And, the information about these places, the stark truth, has been around for awhile although more comes to light as time goes on and archives are opened. Here, a writer and researcher delves into previously unseen Chinese archives revealing the horrors of Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” where so many starved and were abused and murdered. This speaks for itself, in this passage from The Independent By Arifa Akbar, Arts Correspondent:
“Mr Dikötter is the only author to have delved into the Chinese archives since they were reopened four years ago. He argued that this devastating period of history – which has until now remained hidden – has international resonance. “It ranks alongside the gulags and the Holocaust as one of the three greatest events of the 20th century…. It was like [the Cambodian communist dictator] Pol Pot’s genocide multiplied 20 times over,” he said.
Between 1958 and 1962, a war raged between the peasants and the state; it was a period when a third of all homes in China were destroyed to produce fertiliser and when the nation descended into famine and starvation, Mr Dikötter said.
His book, Mao’s Great Famine; The Story of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, reveals that while this is a part of history that has been “quite forgotten” in the official memory of the People’s Republic of China, there was a “staggering degree of violence” that was, remarkably, carefully catalogued in Public Security Bureau reports, which featured among the provincial archives he studied. In them, he found that the members of the rural farming communities were seen by the Party merely as “digits”, or a faceless workforce. For those who committed any acts of disobedience, however minor, the punishments were huge.
State retribution for tiny thefts, such as stealing a potato, even by a child, would include being tied up and thrown into a pond; parents were forced to bury their children alive or were doused in excrement and urine, others were set alight, or had a nose or ear cut off. One record shows how a man was branded with hot metal. People were forced to work naked in the middle of winter; 80 per cent of all the villagers in one region of a quarter of a million Chinese were banned from the official canteen because they were too old or ill to be effective workers, so were deliberately starved to death.”