Worshipping a mass murderer

Who was the worst mass murderer in recorded history?  Many people would instinctively answer “Hitler” – and they would be wrong.  Stalin was certainly worse in this regard; he was responsible for about twenty million deaths (mere statistics, in his view).  I am speaking here of civilian deaths, not military ones.  But even Stalin probably does not take first prize amongst mass murderers.  By most accounts, the man responsible for the most civilian deaths was Mao Zedong.
One disturbing aspect of the above ranking is that the number one murderer is also the only one who is still held in high regard by his victims’ survivors.  Most Russians despise Stalin.  The vast majority of Europeans loath Hitler.  Certainly Pol Pot is not held in high regard amongst Cambodians.  Yet the personality cult of Mao is still alive and well in China.  If most Chinese spit upon his memory, they can only do so secretly because, officially, he is still a god.
I once visited China and, behaving like the typical “ugly American” I was quite outspoken about my disdain for certain things.  I told Chinese, to their faces, that I’d nicknamed Beijing “Mucus City” because everybody smoked and spat their mucus upon the street so that pedestrians must watch where they step.  I was almost arrested for photographing a pathetic amputee beggar clinging to the leg of a passerby.  My tour guide was confused when I told him Mao was the last “emperor”.  He replied, “no.  He was not an emperor; he was Chairman Mao.”  I retorted, “if he wanted you dead, you were dead.  He had absolute power and even had concubines.  How was he different from an emperor?”  The tour guide had apparently never thought of that; he stood there dumbfounded with no answer.  When street vendors tried to sell me “The Sayings of Mao”, I told them, “I do not like Mao”.  It is a wonder I was not arrested.
Perhaps I should have been less outspoken, while in China, about my distaste for Mao and cigarette mucus – well, at least about the mucus.  It is, arguably, a good thing to show your dislike for a brutal dictator who brought about the deaths of tens of millions of people.  Could it be that most Chinese are unaware of his crimes?  I could only imagine the pain and anger of those Chinese whose families and friends were murdered by Mao’s ruthless regime, but who must see him adored publicly.

I also wonder about those street vendors who sell “The Sayings of Mao”.  How many of them were orphaned because of Mao?  There is a certain irony in this situation.  What would a true communist say about his books being sold on the free market in the streets?  Perhaps, at some level, those vendors see this as a small measure of revenge.

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7 Responses to Worshipping a mass murderer

  1. Bay Area Guy says:

    It is a wonder I was not arrested.
    Lol! Yeah, that did take some guts.
    But what you said regarding Chinese attitudes towards Mao is spot-on. One of my professors of Chinese history (from China) said that “Mao made many mistakes, but he was still a hero who united China.”
    Well, perhaps the Chinese just don’t care about life as much, seeing as how there are 1.3 billion more where that came from.

  2. Doug Whitman says:

    In 2001, most of the young Chinese that I met in Shanghai, a modern, capitalistic city, laughed at Mao. We made fun of him all the time, and I kept telling my guests that they “lacked revolutionary fervor.” I asked one young lady her name, and she and everyone laughed as she said it — it was very long. They told me that she had been born during the height of the Cultural Revolution, and her parents had named her “Striving to Carry Forward the Will of the People.” Every single person I met in Shanghai was a capitalist. They all had their day jobs, and in the evenings were working on their personal businesses. All wanted to work for European companies located in China. The Chinese are smart and natural-born capitalists. Mao is spinning in his grave.

  3. Annoyed says:

    Stalin is still loved in Russia by the communist parties, ironically on the other end Russia has quite a large neo-National Socialist movement.
    If you win you will always be deemed a hero regardless of what you have done.

  4. Doug Whitman says:

    It is interesting that Mao, Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini, were all Socialists or Communists.

  5. Eddie says:

    Russians actually love Stalin despite tens of millions he killed and tortured and Vladimir Putler, whose grandfather was Stalin’s cook, promotes him as great and effective manager who possibly made a few minor mistakes resulting in deaths of about 3 million civilians.
    I am not sure where you get the Russian death figure of 20 million (Robert Conquest book, perhaps?) but this number is certainly low. Death statistics are hard to come by in Russia but here is one site with statistics that may be close to reality.

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