Under the socialist model, one death is a tragedy, but millions of deaths are a statistic. An iron fist or failed economics, any brand breeds the same privation and pain, whether it is in the rural fields of Asia or among the decrepit bricks of Europe. No matter where and when socialism is practiced, the experiments plant new burial grounds for the victims of this vile ideology. Mao’s Great Leap Forward was a great leap forward in setting democidal records.
Mao’s Great Leap Forward was a great leap forward in setting democidal records.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the new cool kid on the corner of Socialism Avenue and Communism Street was Maoism. Developed by Mao Zedong, the teachings derived from a blend of Marxist thought and Leninist theory, with a cup of totalitarianism and a touch of evil. Like all other flirtations with socialism, this led to mass murder of between 18 and 100 million people.
There is no more perverse an example of 20th century socialism than Mao’s China and his Great Leap Forward.
Great Leap Forward
After coming to power in 1949, the Communist Party of China sought to transform the Chinese agrarian economy into a modern society that could compete with more industrialized nations in the West. To achieve his vision, Mao employed the hallmarks of socialism, including nationalizing the means of production in manufacturing and farming. Private farming, for instance, was banned.
With a series of five-year plans, Mao believed he could make the Chinese economy rival that of the United States. The fatal conceit, so eloquently explained by economist Friedrich Hayek, took precedence over common sense, property rights, human dignity, and basic economics. Like other central planners around the world, Maoists failed to foresee the unintended consequences of their actions.
One of Mao’s first acts was to collectivize his country’s industrial and agricultural sectors. The policy entailed establishing the people’s commune, townships transformed into production hubs. Peasants were jubilant over the idea – but not for long.
Private cooking was prohibited, stored grains were contributed to the state, and everything owned by a household was given to the commune. The leaders in charge, who analysts say were worse than the tyrannical state officials, would assign jobs to individuals who had little experience in farming or manufacturing. What made matters worse, the basic incentives to work were gone, prompting the state to torture and intimidation to force the people to toil in the fields for 14 hours a day.
Within a year, problems began to surface. Amid the failures of crop experimentation, the first issue was communes artificially boosting their output figures to increase the food quotas assigned to them, which forced groups to sell more grain than what they held in their supply. The false reporting impacted the country’s overall quota system.
But at least these fake commune champions were able to meet Mao in person!
The second was the paucity of farming knowledge. Because workers forced into the field were not experienced in agriculture, crops were not harvested correctly, leading to mass starvation for three years. It didn’t help when the government suddenly shifted and diverted resources from grains into beets and cotton.
Mao believed steel and grain production would be central pillars of economic growth. He forecast that output would surpass the United Kingdom’s within 15 years, causing great excitement among the public for the 6,000 state-run projects between 1958 and 1960. It was impossible for the government to finance this venture.
In another disastrous exhibit of central planning, Mao ordered the construction of small backyard furnaces in every commune to manufacture high-quality steel. This created an environmental catastrophe because peasants chopped down trees and used pots and pans to fuel the furnaces. Not only did this harm nature, but it also took time away from food production in the communes. When Mao learned that large-scale factories would be the only source for reliable steel production, he persisted, not wanting to disrupt worker enthusiasm.
Unable to learn the error of his ways, Mao commenced large-scale irrigation schemes without input from engineers. Before the ambitious initiative even started, Mao realized that lives would be lost, famously telling officials that China “can move 30 billion cubic meters; I think 30,000 people will die.” Water conservancy was abandoned, the irrigation systems were unsuccessful, and an estimated 200,000 villagers died from exhaustion and starvation. Like in Cambodia, the nearby residents referred to these pursuits as the “killing fields.”
The Great Leap Forward could be condensed into this: misdistribution of output, misallocation of resources, and mistreatment of land and labor. Thanks to these socialist trademarks, food shortages, starvation, and subservience to the state became national pastimes.
Life Under Maoism
It should be noted that the widespread suffering the Chinese endured in just the first year could have been ended almost immediately. But Mao did not relent or concede failure. Like any good socialist tyrant, he blamed the lack of success on evil capitalists and quashed dissent by force.
There were two ways people died: by the barrel of a gun and by botched economics.
Mao sent approximately 50 million Chinese to the laogai, a Soviet-style system of 1,000 labor camps that killed about half of the occupants. If not ordered to the labor camps, people were still rounded up by security forces and beaten to death or even eaten. Eventually, if your village did not abide by government mandates, you would fall victim to official state policy: at least one person killed per village.
Should you have survived the state’s wrath, you did not survive public policy. The Great Chinese Famine claimed tens of millions of lives due to starvation, overwork, cannibalism (why do socialist states always resort to cannibalism?), and babies who failed to be born.
To understand what life was like in Mao’s China, The Washington Post reported this horrifying tale:
“When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, local boss Xiong Dechang forced his father to bury him alive. The father died of grief a few days later. The case of Wang Ziyou was reported to the central leadership: one of his ears was chopped off, his legs were tied with iron wire, a ten-kilogram stone was dropped on his back, and then he was branded with a sizzling tool – punishment for digging up a potato.”
For whatever reason, Mao is still held in the highest regard in the world’s second-largest economy and other parts of the globe.
Death by Government
Mao’s Great Leap Forward was a great leap forward in setting democidal records. The official number of deaths by Maoism will never be known – it’s a numbers game at this point – but this Chinese pursuit of a workers’ paradise can add to the ever-expanding tally of socialist fatalities. It’s a tragedy how we never learn from our past, and we continue to enact lethal policies that eradicated previous generations. Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, Stalinism, all the incarnations of socialism wield the same bloody blunt instrument against its people in the name of egalitarianism.
They say that it was the norm to see 100 corpses lying in village after village, with dogs eating the bodies. This is untrue – the dogs had been eaten long before.