Mao’s Famine Debunked

Okay I’m doing my single most requested video of all time. Dealing with the absolute lie that is Mao killed tens of millions with a famine.

This subject has come up again with the public statements by Frank Dikötter and Jasper Becker where he claims “researched archives” and determined X amount of people were killed by Mao’s famine. It is also coming up because of the new book Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Great Famine.

It doesn’t really take a whole lot of research to see on the surface what is so blatantly obvious about these so-called works. First I will tackle the subject of promoting the idea of Mao being a mass murderer.

There’s a culture of claiming Mao deliberately killed X amount of people. I say X amount of people because it just keeps changing every time a new “study” is done on it. Did people die during this time from a lack of food? Yes of course people did. But it is always portrayed in anti-Maoist media (no surprise) that it was intentional. Famines are not intentional, no one actually tries to cause these things anywhere. To actually say it was done on purpose shows blatantly they are portraying it as genocide and not a famine.

So off the bat we already know they are lying and trying to portray it as something it is not.

Besides, if the pro-capitalist mouth pieces that make this claim were so honest and fair, they would no doubt acknowledge the deliberate act of the British killing 30 million people in India with an intentional famine and 10 million in the Bengal Famine of 1943. They would judge themselves by the same standard right?

Then there are the deaths of 120 million in India from the development of capitalism alone from 1947 to the 1990s. And the Irish potato famine the killed 1.7 million with actually deliberate actions by British landlords to make it worse by demanding the potatoes not feed starving people and go to England instead.

One of the promoters of this famine line is Nicholas Kristof who wrote:

‘Based on a decade of meticulous interviews and archival research, this magnificent biography methodically demolishes every pillar of Mao’s claim to sympathy or legitimacy.’

The problem is that Nicholas Kristof is a proven liar. He along with Sheryl Wudunn wrote a book claiming that capitalism has created equality for women in China. Even coining the phrase “women hold up half the sky”. But this is a complete fabrication, it was the Cultural Revolution that gave women rights, acknowledged them as human beings, allowed them to ask for divorces, be able to have ownership of their children and so forth. The phrase, “women hold up half the sky”, existed in China for a long time, but it was Mao who popularised it.

We already know the anti-Mao propagandists are complete liars and proven so. Now I will deal with the context of the whole incident. Context is left out of all anti-Communist propaganda.

* * *

First, the changes to the system brought about in the communism revolution were not only positive, but necessary for the continued existence of China. As they anti-Mao propagandists faithfully always leave out, there was a endless, historic sequence of famines and natural disasters that had tortured Chinese people under feudalism. These constant famines ended with the revolution.

The revolution gave one the greatest increases in life expectancy ion history. This took place between 1950 and 1980.

Second, four people were running China. Two groups, rightists and Maoists. Chairman Mao as the leader of country and the Communist Party were with Lin Bao. Deng Xiaopeng and Liu Shaoqi composed the right wing faction of the government. This is not at all like the propaganda line where Mao ran everything, its physically impossible to do.

It is important to note is that both sides wanted to collectivize; the rightists wanted it because it would improve production of food. Maoists wanted it because it would help forward the masses’ social consciousnesses towards a socialist/communist world. The mistake was putting such a task in the hands of capitalist roaders like Deng Xiaopeng and Liu Shaoqi. So even from the beginning right wingers, pro-capitalists were in charge of the food program, but of course the communist gets the blame.

Now what caused the actual failure of the food program in the Great Leap Forward is a mix of things. People refusing to co-operate, a great deal of people lying about how much grain was actually produced (to make themselves look better), a ton of weather disturbances and human error. As usual human error is the only one any one writing about the subject ever mentions.

When it all happened it was national news in China despite the lie that it was covered up. Deng Xiaopeng and Liu Shaoqi adamantly declared that it was 70% natural disaster and 30% human error. Mao and Lin Bao on the other hand said it was 70% human error and 30% natural disaster. Lin Bao himself said it was from not following a correct Maoist line. In reality, the Maoists, including Mao himself were the most critical of the entire event.

There were huge heated and angry debates that took place over the failure of the food program. this was all over the country factions were divided between the Maoists and the pro-capitalists. Red Guard factions loyal to the pro-capitalists were attacking Red Guard factions loyal to Mao and vice versa.

In response as a political power play, Liu Shaoqi used this disaster to rally people against Mao and force him out as the leader of the country. Mao actually lost power over the Chinese government and was kicked out. This is another important fact that is never repeated when speaking about the Great Leap Forward. Its always stated that Mao was an absolute dictator and had supreme power over everything. Before Mao was pushed out he managed to get Peng Pwai purged from the government and Lin Bao as leader of the military.

Now in 1962 to 1966, Liu Shaoqi is the leader of the country but Mao is the leader of the Communist Party. It was at this time that Mao instituted the “Bombard the Headquarters” criticism movement that placed criticism on the people who were actually in charge of the disaster. After many up risings in the country Liu Shaoqi led the military in and threw the pro-capitalists out of power and re-installed the Maoist cadres.

* * *

Now about the actual deaths that occurred:

Upon first glance, if we just go down the population column, we may think we see 15 million “dead” in 1960 and 1961. Maoist Internationalist Movement warns that if comrades had no other data or knowledge of the Great Leap, then that might be a good conclusion–and show some integrity not to second-guess it. However, in this case, the Deng Xiaoping regime gave us the birth rate and death rate data too, so now we have to ask whether those 15 million missing in 1960 and 1961 might be missing simply because there were not enough births to keep up with the deaths. Based on everything both the bourgeois media and communists said, the Great Leap was a period of great tumult and political dedication in which we have every reason to believe births declined. It turns out that 1960 is the only year that Deng’s data shows a loss of population caused by deaths exceeding births. That loss is 3 million people, not 15 or 30 million as Banister, Dikötter or Becker later came up with. In 1960 the natural loss of population was 4.57 per 1000. Multiply that out by about 650 million and we get about 3 million more deaths than births.

With a mistake of a mere 10 million people “missing,” there would be no natural growth rate data to report indicating a loss of life in the “Great Leap” even in the Deng Xiaoping data–because most of the original famine story depended on a story of projected births, and now, ignoring internal migration, something we will talk about in the next section. If we look at the data for 1950 above, we see that it is almost “too perfect,” in the sense that it implies zero net emigration or immigration into China. So then the question arises whether the statisticians correctly counted immigration and emigration or whether they in some cases inferred deaths when there were none. Do the local officials really go check to see that someone is buried or do they fill in with inferences when there is a break down administratively?

However, readers may be surprised to know that we agree with Banister, that if these Deng Xiaoping figures were correct, there is great merit to using the 1957 death rate and figuring out how many deaths then occurred from combined natural disasters and policy disasters. If there were no emigration out of China, then we would need to explain the deaths of 15 million people over these years after 1957–just as Banister says in her lower end estimate of the dead, the one we find most reasonable given what she knows. If 10 million are from the breakdown in the statistical agency, then given that Liu Shaoqi admitted that 30% were from the natural disasters, Mao would be left with almost 0 blame. On the other hand, we could also ask how likely it was that 15 million deaths spread out over four years would be something that any other alternative leader could have avoided and if they avoided some deaths, would some of their policies have created even more deaths in other categories? MIM would say so, particularly of the Liu Shaoqi line in health care and agriculture.

* * *

In conclusion I’d like to say that the whole claim of a famine is massively blown out of proportion. It uses missing context, deliberately twisted numbers and outright lies.

Besides, the most deliberately ignored fact regarding the Great Leap Forward was the fact that it was attempted again from 1968 to 1971. And that time it went off perfectly and accomplished everything it was supposed to do. This is why China is a superpower today. This second attempt was called the “Flying Leap Forward”, it was done entirely under a Maoist principal. So Mao was actually right, and it may not have happened if they had followed a Maoist line.

This is scholarly work defending a position with real life examples and real sources. This is quite different than some loser on YouTube repeating verbatim some article from The Guardian acting like they know something. They know nothing because they’ve done no work on the subject. They just stand there babbling like cultist repeating what a Guardian article said pretending they know how the world works.

Sources (look actual real sources!):

“The Battle for China’s Past” by Mobo Gao
(A very good resource, this guy was actually there during the revolution and the Great Leap Forward)

Felix Greene, A Curtain of Ignorance (London: Jonathan Cape, 1965), p. 158.

Judith Banister, China’s Changing Population (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987), p. 304.

11 thoughts on “Mao’s Famine Debunked

  1. New review of Frank Dikotter’s book by economist and well known scholar of famine Cormac O’Grada:

    While O’Grada buys the greatest famine history bs, he is pretty scathing of Dikotter’s book and ‘analysis’:

    From the review:

    “In style and approach it recalls Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s controversial Mao: The Unknown Story”

    “reads more like a catalogue of anecdotes about atrocities than a sustained analytic argument.”

    “weak on context and unreliable with data”

    “more reminiscent of the tabloid press than the standard academic monograph”

  2. The most ridiculous thing is; even if we accept all of Dikotter’s ‘facts’ and ‘figures’ at face value, the average annual mortality of 27.6/1000 (Dikotter’s figure) during the GLF, was a lot less than the figure in pre-revolutionary China (38/1000 according to Banister), less than that of urban Hong Kong in the 1930s (32/1000), and about the same as the crude mortality in India under the British, just before independence.

    So even if Dikotter is right with his ‘facts’ (and he most definitely is not), the GLF period in China, the period with the highest mortality, was no worse than India under the British right at the end of their rule!

    And only slightly higher than that of India and Indonesia at the same time. (23 & 24/1000 respectively).

    Dikotter is a charlatan.

  3. Pingback: Why the Socialist Alternative is a Tool of Capitalism | Australian Communist

  4. Ed Note: A series of comments were removed due to the insistence that; due to a misunderstood statement and complaining over the spelling of Deng Xiaoping (of which I found 3 different spellings, 2 from Chinese websites) means the article is wrong. At no point did the comments actually refer to deaths or policy, they were of a hostile provoking nature.

    • I do not understand why you mention Red Guard factions, as they did not exist before 1966?

      • I confused the dates. The Red Guards did fight over this later when trying to fight reactionary elements. Many people blamed different people for it.

  5. What do you say to people that claim Mao caused the famine by killing sparrows?

  6. I write a preface for an Mobo Gao’s book, published soon in French. I wish contact Wayne for further information on this comment about the GLF. How?
    By advance thanks.

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