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This is the famous/infamous "Little Red Book" that has been a handbook of far-left political activists around the world. It's also essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Chinese history in the 20th century and Chinese society today. Having just had the opportunity to stroll through Tiananmen Square, I can state without hesitation that Mao's influence is still a powerful force in modern China. The collection of quotations is organized into chapters on specific subjects such as "Class and Class Struggle", "The People's Army", "Serving the People", and "Criticism and Self-Criticism".
My first impression of Mao's writing was how much he loved to categorize. Mao had to fit everything into its own little box, and he had plenty of boxes to go around. He would invent subcategories for his categories, distinguishing the "industrial proletariat", "semi-proletariat", "petty bourgeoisie", and "middle bourgeoisie". As an organizer, Mao seems in love with the very act of organizing, and he feels the need to explain and lay out his organizational schemes for his audiences.
The Little Red Book also contains a fair amount of practical military and political strategy, the former clearly influenced by Sun Tzu, who is actually quoted at one point.
Interestingly, a great number of quotes are devoted to the qualities of humility, self-criticism, and mercy. Mao repeatedly admonishes soldiers against looting and mistreatment of prisoners, just as he warns officers against the use of corporal punishment on their troops. Knowing the history, it is easy to feel a sense of irony reading these statements, as Mao clearly refused to accept criticism of himself during his long reign.Read more ›
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Mao-Zedong was the leader of China's Communist Revolution. He was a man of many faces; soldier, military strategist, politician, revolutionary, poet, fugitive, and leader. This book is a collection of quotes gleaned from his speeches, writings, and interviews over several decades. Mao's utterances must be read two ways. The first is as exhortations of the ideal. The second is as justification for what was actually done. Mao seems to encourage dissent and analysis as the basis for revoutionary improvement on the one hand, but the record reveals that his rule was as an iron dictator. Equally, he exhorts the faithful to achieve stability, but history shows his ill-fated Red Guard movement nearly tore China apart. I could go on at some length, but I leave the reader to make his or her own choices from the vast panoply of available material. I do not believe this is a work that can or should be read without some prior knowledge of Twentieth Century Chinese history. The book is important for understanding the Chinese world view as we enter dubiously into the 21st Century. For that reason, I recommend it.
Well, maybe not the most read (although still read very much), but probably the most red. Puns aside, this book is a very important read for us today. I think the best way to show this is to make the kind of list that Mao likes to. 1. It contains the central doctrine of a superpower. 2. It is written by a great conqueror and a successful military and civic dictator. 3. It teaches us practicable and useful rules for working with or against others. 4. It indoctrinates the reader with noble ideals. 5. It teaches us about modern Chinese thought and culture. 6. It helps us understand communism: a very influential movement in history. 7. It contains a strong model of rhetoric, proven effective! I am not a communist, and I am strongly opposed to communism, but by looking past the communism I was able to get a lot of knowledge and wisdom out of this book about other things, such as concepts of social motivation and organization, and also of strategy, and of course a persuasive rhetorical model. Mao was very conversant with the Chinese classics such as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Lao Tzu, Confucius and the Art of War. His book of quotations is clearly modelled on the pithy, aphoristic writings of the classical Chinese philosophers and strategists. In a guarded way, I feel that Mao has written a book of that tradition and of that status. It is clearly styled after the great Chinese classics and is even more relevant than them for us today who are interested in these classics since Mao actually put his philosophies and principles to the test on a grand scale and was successful at least in his objectives of taking and keeping power, and he is closer to us in time than they are.Read more ›
While Mao no doubt had a profound impact on China, it was not for his originality of thought, but for the manner in which he promoted Marxism-Leninism. The only significant change he made in the philosophy was his realization that for communism to work in China, the Proletariat had to be interpreted as the peasantry. Mao's "Little Red Book" was a necessity in the creation of the mystique of Mao, and the cult of Maoism. This was not so much because of the ideas presented, but because the manner in which the were presented to the public, not only in the book itself, but through various other means of propaganda. Therefore the book as an item could be valuable to own for anyone interested in the study of Mao, but only as a tool in his mystique. Granted the book does provide some insight into Maoism, its most profound impact was based on its existence, and Mao would best be studied through his actions rather than through his writings.
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