UKIP and the politics of Mao

My A-level students are sitting their exam on twentieth century Chinese history this afternoon.  It is an extraordinary topic, dominated by the figure of Mao Zedong.  Mao may have started with great ambition and ideals for his country, but most remember him now as the power-crazed lunatic who led China into the Great Leap Forward (deaths 40 million, though many estimate higher) and the Cultural Revolution (deaths around 1 million, and a devastated Chinese educational and cultural landscape).

One of the incidents I hope my students will recall is Mao's reaction to some criticism levelled against him by an old and trusted colleague. When Peng Dehuai, then the defence minister and head of the army, dared to broach some criticisms of Mao's plans for what proved to be the disastrous Great Leap Forward, he was greeted by a storm of abuse.  Mao took him to task in front of the Communist elite, gathered at a conference in Lushan, blasted him for his temerity in launching such obviously unjustified and personal attacks, and had him removed from all his party jobs and sent into internal exile.  But then, Mao had become the Commmunist Party's only big cheese by this time and was tempted to see any criticism of him or his policies as a bid for power.  Although he had stood down from the presidency, he decided the party needed him to stay on as leader.  Paranoia would later drive him to creating the bizarre and costly Cultural Revolution.  But at least he stayed in office as Communist leader until his death.

On a separate issue, I'm hoping my politics students are noting the shenanigans within UKIP.  Nigel Farage has shown that a determined leader can really hold on to power, although it's a shame that two of his most senior allies, who broached some criticism last week, have now 'resigned' their posts. Farage reigns triumphant it seems.

Don't know why those two unrelated issues crept into my mind.  Must be the exam season effect.


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