Mao: Crazy or not so Crazy? Discuss.

Monthly Review has one of those articles on its webiste that makes you sit up and take notice. It’s title: Did Mao Really Kill Millions in the Great Leap Forward?

My immediate response: well, yes, he did. But I think it’s always good to question immediate responses, and the author Joseph Bell does a good job of showing that a lot of the sources relied upon for famine statistics have a distinct anti-Communist bias.

Unfortunately I don’t have the energy to wade through all the analysis of grain production figures and the thousands of words of justification, so I have no idea whether Bell is convincing in his ultimate argument that many of the Great Leap Forward policies were actually good for China. Indeed, I got a distinctly uncomfortable feeling as I read about the wonders of flood defenses and terracing in a period when many people were starving, even if it’s not quite as many as we have been told.

Kudos to Bell and the Monthly Review, however, for having the balls to take on a subject that most people on the left would quite understandably prefer to pretend never existed. If anyone has the energy to read the whole of Bell’s article and work out whether he’s really got his facts together, please let me know.