Red faces as Beijing denies Mao's secretary penned 'Little Red Book'


“THE LITTLE Red Book” of quotations from communist China’s founding father Chairman Mao Zedong was a must-have in China in the days when Red Guards roamed the streets looking for any signs of ideological wavering.

It was also the revolutionary tome of choice for every western Marxist-Leninist hipster on campus back in the 1960s and 1970s. Billions of copies were sold during the Cultural Revolution, that violent period of ideological upheaval in the 1960s and 1970s that tore China apart.

But did the great helmsman actually put down the “Thoughts of Chairman Mao” himself, or did he use a ghost writer?

Its strident aphorisms established a cult of personality around Mao Zedong so powerful that the current leadership of China is still trying to shake it off.

Lately there has been a flurry of rumours online that some of Mao’s writings were not written by Mao himself, but by his secretary, Hu Qiaomu, and others.

They say two reports detailing the ghostwriters’ activities were filed with the Central Committee in 1993 and in 1995.

So vocal have the sceptics become that a spokesman for China’s ideological heavyweights – the Party Literature Research Centre, the Party History Research Centre and the Party School of the Central Committee of Communist Party – has denied the rumours.

The spokesman said Mr Hu had spoken on many occasions of how Mao would help him edit the articles and how he had learned his poetic style from the chairman.

Mao is a revered figure here, and his face gazes impassively at Tiananmen Square from the Forbidden City. He adorns every banknote.

However, there is acceptance of the malign role he played in organising Stalinesque purges, causing famine with the disastrous agricultural experiment known as the Great Leap Forward, in which millions died, and in orchestrating the Cultural Revolution, which began 45 years ago and in which many of today’s leadership suffered.

Even though Mao was largely responsible for the excesses of those years, the official line is that his legacy is 30 per cent bad, 70 per cent good. After all, his party is still in power: it celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.

Those who grew up in the Mao era find it impossible to believe their idol might not be the true author of the writings that were the doctrine of their upbringing.

“I can’t believe it. No, no, no,” said a Mr Chen (60). “If it is true, then I will be really disappointed. Everyone in my generation loves him, he is like the whole of our soul. This must be mistake, really.”

Perhaps the last word should be from the Beatles, in Revolution: “But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow.”

Mao authorship controversy: whose lines are they, anyway?

“ALL OUR cadres, whatever their rank, are servants of the people, and whatever we do is to serve the people. How then can we be reluctant to discard any of our bad traits?”

“THE SOCIALIST system will eventually replace the capitalist system; this is an objective law independent of man’s will. However much the reactionaries try to hold back the wheel of history, eventually revolution will take place and will inevitably triumph.”

“THE RUTHLESS economic exploitation and political oppression of the peasants by the landlord class forced them into numerous uprisings against its rule . . . It was the class struggles of the peasants, the peasant uprisings and peasant wars that constituted the real motive force of historical development in Chinese feudal society. People of the world, unite and defeat the US aggressors and all their running dogs! People of the world, be courageous, and dare to fight, defy difficulties and advance wave upon wave. Then the whole world will belong to the people. Monsters of all kinds shall be destroyed.”