Day By Day

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Mao's Little Helpers

Yesterday I had lunch with an old friend. He's one of those pointy-headed intellectuals who embraced Marxism early in life and eventually graduated to Maoism by the 1960's when he trumpeted the glories of China's Cultural Revolution. He even traveled to China to make propaganda films for the regime. Nothing since has changed his mind and he views the current success of China's authoritarian system as a complete repudiation of America's decadent capitalism and of Cold War anti-communism. Naturally we argued, and had a great time doing so. Sometimes one of us will take a position in these discussions just to get a rise out of the other, and I suspect that was the purpose behind some of his more outrageous statements. Still intellectual infatuation with Mao, despite all we now know about him, has not been unusual, as is documented in Richard Wolin's devastating study of Western Maoists, "The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s".

It's an important book, not least for what it says about the generation of radicals that came to dominate academic circles at the time when today's leadership was being educated. Check out Jeremy Jennings' review here.

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