Last month we celebrated the 52nd anniversary of India’s longest-running insurgency named after Chairman Mao Zadong. The infamous Chinese Revolution (1966-1977) led by Mao’s Little Red Book has lost all its luster and appeal in China but still remains influential in parts of India. The irony is that Indian Maoists continue to say “China’s Chairman is our Chairman.” Throughout this article we will discuss how the Little Red Book spread through Asia and why is it still reigning parts of our country.
Communism in Asia
In the post-war era, Russia’s (then Soviet Union) communism had a deep influence on Asian countries like China, Vietnam, Mongolia, Thailand, etc. World War II completely ended colonialism in Asia. And the newly independent nations wanted upliftment of the society and new avenues of increased production. They were also apprehensive towards a capitalist economy since that was what led to their colonisation in the first place.
But what really happened was that without proper guidance, communism started failing. Once the US won the cold war, these nations lost hope in the communist picture and capitalism started seeping in. And here’s what followed next…
The Cold War Chronicles
The Little Red Book responded to the deepest anxieties of the postwar period: dissatisfaction with the unfulfilled promises of liberalism, the falling Soviet regime, and despair with the subjugation of developing countries. The book spoke about the era of mass production in Asia resulting in human rights violence; Capitalism as we know it today!
In order to fully recuperate from the destruction of the war, several countries initiated collaborations with Western companies. Industries and factories were set up. Japan and South Korea made friends with the US, thus being the first ones in Asia to reach technological peaks. What followed was a cascading effect of the rich trying to be richer by pushing the poor more down.
During the 60s and 70s, people across Asia resonated with Mao’s ideas. This is because people were disgruntled with the way they were treated by the rich in their own nation. Resources under communism were no longer being distributed equally to the populace. The elite took inspiration from the West; wherein the poor were hired to work in industries and factories at cheap rates. This divide between the elite and labour class is prominent in India, China, and Vietnam. In fact, this year’s Oxfam inequality report revealed that in Vietnam, the country’s richest person earns more in a day that the poorest in a decade. Of course such inequality today is a result of ineffective policies. But the roots lie in the pseudo-capitalist segment that Asian countries are trying to fall in.
In India, revolutionary peasants in Darjeeling have risen in rebellion under the leadership of the Indian Communist Party. The armed wing of the Naxalite–Maoists is called the PLGA (Peoples Liberation Guerrilla Army) and is estimated to have between 6,500 and 9,500 cadres. They control territories throughout Bihar, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh and claim to be supported by the poorest of the rural population, especially the Adivasis. In 2007, it was estimated that Naxalites were active across “half of India’s 28 states” that accounts for about 40 percent of India’s geographical area and is known as the “Red Corridor“
Most of these areas in the Eastern and North-eastern part of the country have a history of poverty and peasant economy. And since the Little Red Book speaks of overthrowing the bourgeois, and the proletariate taking over society, it gives hope and purpose to the poor. They believe attacking border security and police in the state will eventually lead to the fall of the government and bring them to power.
Template for development
The Little Red Book provided a template for social organisation. The idea was that once the government was overthrown, the lower classes would form the government. And as they are aware of the problems of the proletariat, they will resume equal distribution of resources and opportunity. The book provided a vocabulary with which one can challenge the powerful. At the height of China’s Cultural Revolution, the book was a must-have accessory to demonstrate loyalty to the regime. Printing copies for nearly a billion people, China faced an acute paper shortage. But none of it mattered because the People’s Liberation Army was patriotic to the principles of the book.
The template for social development through proletariate rule was laid down by Mao Zedong. And in the desire to achieve such rule, insurgency movements are still ongoing in India, China, and Vietnam. For 60 years, Mao’s Little Red Book has been a bestseller in Asia.