Mao in the White House 2

Yesterday the Fox News star Glenn Beck, in the course of a gripping solo performance, showed a video clip of Anita Dunn, the White House Communications Director, telling school children that one of her favorite philosophers, one whom she ‘turns to most’, was Mao Tse Tung, and recommending that they take his advice.

She joins a long line of Western admirers of Mao and Maoism: the sort of people Lenin called ‘useful idiots’.

What sort of man was Mao Tse Tung? What did he think, say, and do? What was the ‘philosophy’ of the man Anita Dunn admires? What made Mao so heroic a figure to her, whose opinions are valued by the president of the United States, that she commends him as a mentor to American school children?

Here are passages – some quoted, some summarized – from the biography Mao, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, published in 2005:

During ‘the Great Leap Forward’, Mao enslaved the ‘entire rural population’, took away from them everything they possessed, and demanded ‘a feverpitch’ of work. He organized them into ‘People’s Communes’, to make slave-driving more efficient. He ‘even toyed with getting rid of people’s names and replacing them with numbers’. His aim was to ‘dehumanize China’s 550 million peasants and turn them into the human equivalent of draft animals.’ … ‘Total control over food gave the state a terrifying weapon. … Undernourishment and overwork quickly reduced tens of millions of peasants to a state where they were simply too enfeebled to work. When he found out that one county was doling out food to those too ill to work, Mao’s response was: “This won’t do. Give them this amount and they don’t work. Best halve the basic ration, so if they’re hungry they have to try harder.”’

Hungry peasants would ‘steal’ their own harvest, and for doing so –

Horrific punishments were widespread: some people [including children] were buried alive, others strangled with ropes, others had their noses cut off. … A child had four fingers chopped off … Two children had wires run through their ears and were then hung up by the wire….

People starved in the cities too … Most urban dwellers could barely survive on the rations they got … People were told to eat ‘food substitutes’. One was a green roe-like substance called chlorella, which grew in urine and contained some protein. After Chou En-lai tasted and approved this disgusting stuff, it soon provided a high proportion of the urban population’s protein.

Nationwide famine started in 1958, peaked in 1960, and lasted until 1961.

People were just driven crazy by hunger. … Some resorted to cannibalism. … One couple strangled and ate their eight-year-old son …

While all this was happening, there was plenty of food in state granaries, which were guarded by the army. Some food was simply allowed to rot. A Polish student saw fruit ‘rotting by the ton’ in southeast China in summer-autumn 1959. But the order from above was: ‘Absolutely no opening the granary door even if people are dying of starvation’.

Close to 38 million people died of starvation and overwork in the Great Leap Forward and the famine, which lasted four years. Mao knowingly starved and worked these tens of millions of people to death. … To the May 1958 congress that kicked off the Leap, he told his audience they should … actively welcome dying as a result of their Party’s policy. … ‘Death,’ said Mao, ’is indeed to be rejoiced over. … We believe in dialectics, and so we can’t not be in favor of death.’

When Mao was in Moscow in 1957, he had said: ‘We are prepared to sacrifice 300 million Chinese for the victory of the world revolution.’

In the single year of 1960, ‘22 million people died of hunger. This was the largest number in any one year in any country in the history of the world.’

In that year Mao told his inner circle:

The goal for now was ‘to propagate Mao Tse-tung Thought’ round the world. … The resulting propaganda campaign brought the world ‘Maoism’. The idea of promoting China’s experience as a model when the Chinese were dying of starvation in their millions might seem a tall order, but Mao was not perturbed: he had watertight filters on what foreigners could see and hear. … Mao could easily pull the wool over most visitors’ eyes. … [When he] told barefaced lies to France’s Socialist leader (and future president) François Mitterrand during the famine in 1961 (‘I repeat it, in order to be heard: there is no famine in China’), he was widely believed. The future Canadian prime minister, Pierre Trudeau came in 1960 and co-wrote a starry-eyed book, Two Innocents in Red China, which did not say a word about famine. Even the former chief of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, Lord Boyd-Orr, was duped. In May 1959, after a trip to China, he opined that food production had risen 50-100 per cent over 1955-8 and that China ‘seems capable of feeding its population well’. Britain’s Field Marshal Montgomery, a much more gullible figure, asserted after visits in 1960 and 1961 that here had been ‘no large-scale famine, only shortages in certain areas’, and he certainly did not regard the ‘shortages’ as Mao’s fault, as he urged Mao to hang on to power: ‘China … needs the chairman. You mustn’t abandon this ship.’

Mao had no problem covering up the famine, and was confident he could promote himself as a credible international leader. For this job he brought in … dependable writer-journalists. …


One of these dependable types was Felix Greene (cousin of the novelist Graham Greene), who made documentary films about China for the BBC in the 1950s. Their message was that ‘nobody starves in Communist China’. These words were repeated like a mantra by Western intellectuals of the left to rebuke all criticism of Mao, and to excuse whatever he ‘had to do’ – the torture, the mass murder, the enslavement of the peasants, rumor of which reached the ears of the West even though hands were clasped over them – as if merely to be kept alive was a favor for which the Chinese should be grateful to their master. But even if it could be counted an achievement so great that it would justify everything, it wasn’t true.

Does Anita Dunn know the truth about Mao?

Which would be worse: that she does not know it and commends him, or that she does know it and commends him?

If the first, should she be speaking to American school children?

If the second, should she be speaking for the president?

  • Jillian4Liberty

    A joke?

    Hey kids, if you work hard and follow your own path, maybe someday you can starve tens of millions of people too! Nah, I'm just kidding.

    What is this country coming to?

  • C. Gee

    It is unthinkable that anyone would give a motivational speech to high schoolers quoting a tip from Hitler on how to stick to the choice you make in the face of opposition. But Mao is just fine, it seems. Dunn's claiming it was a “joke” simply makes her stupidity more obvious.