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Since the heyday of Mao Zedong, there has never been a more crucial time to understand Maosim.

Although to Western eyes it seems that China has long abandoned the utopian turmoil of Maoism in favour of authoritarian capitalism, Mao and his ideas remain central to the People’ Republic and the legitimacy of its communist government. As disagreements and conflicts between China and the West are likely to mount, the need to understand the political legacy of Mao will only become more urgent.

Yet during Mao’s lifetime and beyond, the power and appeal of Maoism has always extended beyond China. Across the globe, Maoism was a crucial motor of the Cold War: it shaped the course of the Vietnam War (and the international youth rebellion it triggered) and brought to power the murderous Khmer Rouge in Cambodia; it aided, and sometimes handed victory to, anti-colonial resistance movements in Africa; it inspired terrorism in Germany and Italy, and wars and insurgencies in Peru, India and Nepal, some of which are still with us today – more than forty years after the death of Mao.

In this new history, acclaimed historian Julia Lovell re-evaluates Maoism, analysing both China’s engagement with the movement and its legacy on a global canvas. It’s a story that takes us from the tea plantations of north India to the sierras of the Andes, from Paris’s 5th Arrondissement to the fields of Tanzania, from the rice paddies of Cambodia to the terraces of Brixton.

Starting from the movement’s birth in northwest China in the 1930s and unfolding right up to its present-day violent rebirth, this is the definitive history of global Maoism.

624 pages, Hardcover

First published March 14, 2019

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About the author

Julia Lovell

26 books119 followers
Julia Lovell has worked at Birkbeck since 2007. Before then, she was Junior Research Fellow at Queens’ College, Cambridge. She completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at Emmanuel College, Cambridge; she also studied for a year at the Hopkins-Nanjing Centre for Chinese Studies. She has translated many works, as well as writing insightful works into the history of China.

She has written articles in the Guardian, the London Times and the Economist on China.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 151 reviews
Profile Image for Dmitri.
191 reviews136 followers
April 4, 2022
After a lengthy and challenging introduction Julia Lovell analyzes Edgar Snow's 1937 'Red Star Over China' and its effects on the international spread of Maoism. Her appraisal of the book's propaganda power is tempered by a critique of it's romanticization. A history of Mao's thought during the developmental years of the Chinese Communist Party is given and then a worldwide tour of Maoist movements. Some examples covered are Ho Chi Minh's Vietnam, the Kmer Rouge of Cambodia and the Shining Path in Peru. Maoism appealed to rural populations in contrast to the Marxist focus on industrialized nations. Its influence continues with Maoist groups in India and Nepal.

Following the 30's and 40's cold war propaganda shaped western views of the red threat. Brain washing fears were a yellow peril to the post war generation and the Korean war introduced a domino theory. It was applied to the Indochina and Indonesia conflicts, more anti-colonial rebellions than communist revolutions. In the 50's CIA experiments with LSD and thought control accompanied by McCarthyism created an atmosphere of paranoia. During the 60's and 70's, when there was less known about conditions inside of China, Maoism became a popular cultural export to left wing elites and third world countries. Lovell shows how Mao was able to effectively further his political goals.

An important point demonstrated in this book was Mao's commitment to world revolution. Many rebels were schooled and funded directly by Beijing. Mao's agrarian based anti-western rhetoric had greater influence in Africa and Latin America than is typically recognized or written about by western historians. In the post-colonial world after WWII these areas were suspicious of US and Soviet intentions. Maoism wasn't a fixed system like Marxism or Leninism. It was flexible enough to be adapted by other cultures and regions but not a unified movement that would result in central control by Beijing. Unlike the Soviet empire it instead sought to exert power by money and ideology.

Is this book a fair assessment of Maoism? What were the aims of Mao, his philosophy and adherents? Lovell supports US and British analyses of the time but criticizes policies that resulted. Mao was actively promoting international revolutions. Engagement in Maoist conflicts, primarily in Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia, left over 20 million people dead. Infamous for his pronouncements of the people's expendability, Mao remains an enigma unresolved. 'It is your right to rebel.' 'Power comes from the end of a gun.' 'Revolution is not a dinner party.' These maxims don't sit well with current powers in either the west or the east. Class struggle is bad, the US and China now likely agree.

British author Julia Lovell introduces this work as a sort of unknown history. "In the west the global spread of Mao's ideas are only dimly sensed." "Why does this book not exist?". Yet the work covers mostly well known events from recent times. Wars were fought in Korea and Vietnam to contain communism. She writes that the record counters the party line of "China's peaceful rise". If you ignore these truisms they don't detract from the book. Lovell writes from a centrist political position. The many 20th century horrors aren't dwelled upon except as needed to describe events. Although not exhaustive, as a survey of worldwide Maoist movements it may be enough for most of us.
Profile Image for Mikey B..
986 reviews363 followers
July 11, 2020
Page 59 (my book)

Somehow, Maoism is the creed of winners and insiders, of losers and outsiders, of leaders and underdogs, of absolute rulers, vast disciplined bureaucracies, and oppressed masses.

Maoism is here to stay, more so with the current economic ascendancy of China. It was said during the 1980s and 1990s that as China was embracing economic capitalism, they would become more like us and embrace political liberalism; it now seems that the world is becoming more like China politically.

In contrast to the Soviet Union, China was a country who liberated itself from imperialist oppression with Mao as the leader. This had a vast appeal to Third World countries who had, like China, been dominated for centuries by European powers.

The start of the cult of Maoism began when an American journalist visited Mao in 1936 and then published his now famous book “Red Star Over China” which was translated into many languages, including Mandarin. Edgar Snow was duped by Mao and his cohorts – the book paints a very rosy picture of a utopian egalitarian communism of Mao’s revolutionaries. Mao edited much of what was transcribed in Edgar Snow’s book and Snow did not see all the hardships and problems that the Chinese communist revolution was enduring. It was true that at this time China was a very fractured state, in civil war with itself and the Japanese invaders. Also, several warlords were vying for territorial power. Over the decades this book influenced many revolutionaries (or would be revolutionaries) the world over. It and the “Little Red Book” became standard reading material for all leftists.

There were several characteristics common to all Mao groups that sprang up over the decades. One was the cultish atmosphere. There was a religious feeling to belonging to a Mao group. Just as in China, dissension or the questioning of the leader was not tolerated. Violence would always be an essential parameter.

One of the main axioms of the Chairman (aka the Great Helmsman) is “Power comes out of the barrel of a gun.”

Pol Pot of Cambodia took Maoism to its extreme end.

This also illustrates another appeal of Mao. His writings and expressions are accessible, simplified, and straight-forward – none of the complex dialectics of Marx and Lenin.

Maoism encourages dictatorship – a leader who is absolute, and ruthless in eliminating anyone perceived as an enemy.

This book examines Mao groups that sprang up in Indonesia, Peru (The Shining Path), Nepal, and India where there is a still a large swath of territory controlled by Maoist groups. The interesting feature of all these Maoists is that they were started and lead by university educated elitists (intellectuals for the most part). They were not poor and disenfranchised. It is similar in Western Europe and North America – however I kind of take issue with the author and feel overall that many who joined are more rebellious than Maoist. The Mao emblem was like a lure for these middle-class Europeans and North Americans (perhaps a similar parallel to joining a motivated religious group).

Page 137
A billion copies of the “Little Red Book” were printed in dozens of languages between 1966 and 1971.

The author also points out that China did play a significant role in foreign countries during Mao’s lifetime, even if China wants to minimize knowledge of this. Many of the “revolutionaries” from abroad made multiple visits to China and became more inspired, but not all.

Page 206 (John Hevi a student in China from Ghana)

“What sort of freedom can Africans expect from the hands of those who keep their own people in such subjection?”

China provided much aid to African countries like Tanzania over the years. This influence of China in Africa goes on to this day – with Africa being used as a resource for China’s vast manufacturers – for more on this see China's Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa by Howard French.

The author interestingly gives us the Vietnam War from the Chinese perspective, and the tensions that existed between China, Vietnam and Cambodia. Vietnam at war’s end minimized the aid provided by China during the long war – and was seen as ungrateful by China. The Vietnamese viewed the Chinese as meddlesome

Page 225

The Vietnamese feared that Indochina would become China’s domino, while the Cambodians and the Chinese were suspicious of Vietnamese ambitions to dominate the region.

Another appeal of Maoism was that it gave women, at times, a significant role.

Page 400 Kamala, a female in Nepal

As an individual disadvantaged by gender, ethnicity, and social class, from one of the most underdeveloped parts of the country, Kamala drew from the Maoist movement organizational, ideological, physical and moral support in her fight for self-realization.

The scope of this book is vast and Maoism and its many offshoots around the world are given a unique coverage.
Profile Image for Horace Derwent.
2,232 reviews171 followers
Want to read
March 9, 2023

"Mao's great talent lay in turning the Chinese people into slaves, while making them feel like they were the masters of the country ... All the world's dictators have studied Mao."


史諾與海倫.福斯特(Helen Foster,又名Nym

Profile Image for Robert Maisey.
142 reviews53 followers
June 10, 2019
This well researched, wide ranging book analyses the spread of Maoism; both as an independently transmitted ideology and as an plank of Chinese Foreign Policy in the mid 20th century. It provides a fantastic, wide lens perspective not only on the Chinese Revolution, but on the decolonizing process in Asia and Africa in general. The chapters on Indonesia and Cambodia, as well as the detailed discussion of the Sino-Vietnamese relationship will be fascinating for anyone seriously interested in this era.

Although Lovell is frank in her assessment of Maoism's many terrifying disasters, the book manages to avoid being a boring condemnation-by-numbers of Mao and his policies. It attempts a real look inside the forces that shaped the lives of billions; destroying many in the process, yet paradoxically creating the first Third World superpower. Lovell's background is in Chinese language, culture and especially literature, and the reverence with which she takes her subject, and the depth of her research, sets this book apart from the standard polemical denunciations of Mao and his era.

However, despite the breadth of her knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, China, the same depth doesn't extend to her analysis of communism and she treats Maoism as more of a cultural phenomenon than a political theory. For example, the chapter on Western Europe in 1968 spends a great deal of time discussing Maoist inspired "Marxist-Leninist" splinter groups, but never gets round to explaining what a Marxist-Leninist party actually is. The chapter also lacks any discussion of Eurocommunist and Trotskyist tendencies within the 60's European left, which leaves me feeling like the Maoist angle has been overemphasised - and a serious dissection of 1960s radicalism overlooked. This gap in her analysis is reflected again towards the end, when she paints a picture the Chinese system of government as an unfathomable and opaque monolith, underpinning a few important historical actors, rather than an extensively theorised political system. The final chapter makes a few intriguing observations on the rise of "neo-Maoism" under China's current administration, but tells us very little about how either the Maoist or Post-Maoist state is actually structured.

Lovell's narrative style is colourful and dynamic, and she is not adverse to painting historical "snapshots" in order to illustrate important moments from a humane perspective. Maoism, A Global History is therefore enjoyable, relatively easy to read and provides an invigorating, China centric perspective of the Cold War world. It is, however, much more a book about the Cold War than a book about Maoist ideology and theory, despite the title.
Profile Image for Jamie Smith.
489 reviews77 followers
March 24, 2020
Somehow, Maoism is the creed of winners and insiders, of losers and outsiders, of leaders and underdogs, of absolute rulers, vast, disciplined bureaucracies, and oppressed masses.

It is remarkable how one man can change the course of history, inspiring millions and sparking revolutions across the globe. That man was Edgar Snow, whose 1937 book Red Star over China raised Mao Zedong from an obscure Communist leader, the most junior member of the Chinese politburo, to international prominence as the ideological guru for the downtrodden, disaffected, and marginalized. Mao had been looking for someone to raise his profile, and Snow was carefully groomed for the job, feted and given full access to the leader and his entourage. In exchange he gave up editorial freedom, allowing Mao’s people to review and approve everything he wrote, ensuring that the soon-to-be great leader was portrayed as a military genius and a kindly, compassionate champion of justice, freedom, and peace. In the 1930s, as democracies everywhere faltered under the pressure of dictatorships, and conventional politicians seemed craven and unequal to the dangers ahead, Mao looked like the savior the world was desperately seeing. Snow’s book was translated into dozens of languages and became a key part of the indoctrination of new members in communist movements worldwide.

Mao was indeed a brilliant general whose guerrilla tactics were widely adopted by insurgent movements. He was also ruthless and cruel, murderously purging anyone who might become a rival, and anyone who dared to criticize him or the party. His movement spent much of World War II keeping out of the way of the Japanese, occasionally even collaborating with them, growing opium to fund their operations, and waiting for the war to end. When that came the only surprise was that it took until 1949 to kick Chiang Kai-Shek’s nationalists out of the country. The nationalist movement was so riddled with corruption and incompetence it did not take much of a push for it to collapse.

This book takes a global look at Maoism as it manifested itself in various revolutionary movements, such as in Indonesia, Peru, and India, before circling back to China today. It also looks at how it influenced Western radical movements in the 1960s, sometimes to humorous effect as the pampered sons and daughters of conformist societies leveraged their opposition to the war in Vietnam to adopt a communist ideology they did not understand to further a future that would not have ended they way they expected.

In Communist theory history is just another branch of politics, and historical facts are whatever suits the current party line. Modern China wishes to present itself to the world as the leader of the oppressed nations and peoples. “Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping told the world that China would ‘never seek hegemony’ and almost every foreign policy PR campaign since then has been devoted to arguing China’s status as victim, not activist or aggressor, in international politics.” Even though China was deeply involved in efforts to spread communism around the world from the 1950s through the 70s, providing arms and foreign aid, engaging in subversive efforts to bolster or destabilize governments, and applying pressure to affect political outcomes, that past is inconvenient now that China wishes to be seen as innocent of foreign machinations and neutral in the affairs of other countries, and it has vanished from history books and is vehemently denied by official media.

Similar efforts are underway to re-write China’s internal history. Mao was responsible for some of the bloodiest, most catastrophic political decisions of the 20th century, but you would never know that from seeing how China represents its history today. “The 1959–61 famine that killed tens of millions was described euphemistically as causing ‘serious losses’, while the Cultural Revolution was excused away as merely an error of judgment by a ‘great proletarian revolutionary.’” In addition, “neo-Maoists also repudiated any ambivalence about Mao’s historical record as revisionist conspiracy theories. They defended the 1957 Anti-Rightist Campaign as ‘far more humane than Stalin’s purges’, and furiously refuted any suggestion that tens of millions died as a result of human error in the Great Leap Forward. The persecution of ‘class enemies’ during the Cultural Revolution was ‘completely necessary.’”

The chapters on the influence of Maoism in other countries are particularly interesting. Malaysia was a tragedy; a primarily nationalist uprising was recast by the British authorities as Communist in order to get the support of the United States, and since the small indigenous Communist parties had no military wing they would have been forced to work out a solution with their rivals, so a peaceful outcome was possible. They overplayed their hand, however, resulting in a horrific purge with over a million deaths, all carried out with the enthusiastic support of western governments.

China’s historic rivalry with Vietnam resulted in their backing Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, including large shipments of arms which the Chinese government now denies ever took place. By supporting the genocidal regime of Pol Pot, whose strategy of emptying the cities to create rural communist societies had echos of Mao’s own philosophy, China bears some responsibility for the genocidal catastrophe that followed.

The situation in Peru with the Shining Path is likewise a fascinating story, though painful to watch unfold in its horrific violence. Abimael Guzmán was a brilliant philosophy student who saw Maoist revolution as a way to transform his country, achieve equality, and purge corruption. His devotion to the cause was absolute and uncompromising so long as it was other people’s blood that was getting shed. “The objective was to destroy any alternatives to the party: thus they killed mayors and champions of slum welfare; they demolished rural development projects; they beheaded rival left-wing organisations.’” He was, however, not planning on becoming a martyr himself. “In 1986, Guzmán had instructed [Shining Path] prisoners to sacrifice themselves in order to force the state into a brutal response that would win sympathy and recruits. Now with his own safety at stake, he dissolved the entire movement.”

In India communism was pushed into the trackless forests where they took up the cause of the oppressed indigenous peoples. However, once this region came to be valued as a source for minerals corporations arrived with their private armies of thugs to extort, murder, and expropriate the land. The Indian Maoists seem to have accommodated themselves to the new reality, and now offer protection services to these companies, for a fee.

Maoism also had a complicated and unexpected influence on the countries of the west. When the Soviet Union switched from a doctrine of world revolution to one of co-existence in order to lessen the risk of global nuclear annihilation, Mao opportunistically took on the mantle of continuous revolution. The Soviet Union came to be seen as boring and accommodationist, while China was a dynamic revolutionary movement. “Across Western Europe and the US, Cultural Revolution Maoism stood not just for earnest anti-imperialism but also for youthful rebellion. In each of the countries in which Mao fever took hold, youthful protest movements had personal and local, as well as international, reasons for revolt.”

Eventually the Maoist tide in the west started to recede, partly because by the 70s people were tired of endless protests and partly because information started to reach the West about the scale of death and misery that Mao’s reckless programs had caused. The results of Western experimentation with Maoism were mixed.
[O]ver the long term, enthusiasm for the Cultural Revolution splintered the radical left and assisted neo-conservatives in consolidating power from the 1980s. One outcome of the instability of the late 1960s in the US and parts of Europe was the gradual shifting of consensus in favour of order and established power on the right – paving the road to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher – a trend that has not significantly reversed itself since.

There were, however, some positive developments which helped society move beyond its previously rigid hierarchical boundaries. “Mao-style criticism/self-criticism later blurred into the confessional habits of therapy and self-help. The Cultural Revolution–inspired dissent of the 1960s and ’70s contributed to reforms of secondary and higher education, to make teaching methods and curricula more participatory, more representative, more accountable to diverse communities.”

In China today, with a younger generation that does not have direct memories of Mao’s catastrophes, his reputation has been burnished and he is seen as a George Washington figure, the wise, bold leader of the new nation. Politicians, as always, have been quick to take advantage of this. “[Xi Jinping] has calculated (correctly, it seems) – like Bo Xilai – that there is now enough temporal distance between the present and the memories of bad times under Mao for it to be safe to deploy the helmsman’s fuzzy, father-of-the-nation symbolism. Xi’s big project is the ‘Chinese Dream’ – in English you might call it ‘Make China Great Again’: the restoration of China to its old, pre-nineteenth-century glory.

Maoism was enormously influential, dramatically changing China and affecting millions of lives outside it. It inspired revolutionaries, terrified governments, and seemed for a time like an unstoppable force of history. It was a complicated, often contradictory movement, with no regard for the bloodshed it left in its wake. It would be hard to make sense of the world today without understanding its influence, which makes this book useful for anyone interested in modern history.
Profile Image for Alwynne.
588 reviews603 followers
September 30, 2020
Julia Lovell’s account of the influence and the spread of what the West dubbed ‘Maoism’ (Mao Zedong thought) which took ideas developed by Mao and his circle and blended them with elements of Marxist-Leninist doctrine, which Lovell characterises as a curiously malleable framework, ideal for export. Lovell seeks to survey the history of Maoism’s development, its appeal to the disenfranchised, the impact of its spread, and its persistent legacy. Although Lovell’s sometimes disconcertingly vague on Maoism’s ideological underpinnings and complexities. Lovell’s book’s a conventional one, largely descriptive, there are elements of political and economic analysis but often overshadowed by an over-emphasis on key figures. Although part of the problem here’s the sheer scope of the territory she’s aiming to cover, which doesn’t support attempts at a more nuanced consideration – for example Lovell appears to conflate Marxism – in terms of fundamentals of Marx’s thought – Marxist-Leninism, Stalinism and socialism at various points. Lovell’s Mao seems to almost miraculously rise to power, there’s not a clear enough representation of the numerous forces that contributed to this, or the complex negotiations between Mao and his followers/supporters or wider geo-political issues. But Lovell does strive, not sure she always succeeds, to have a relatively impartial stance on historical events – and certainly there’s not as much overt pro-West bias as in histories like Applebaum’s Iron Curtain

The opening sections – around a quarter of the work – are taken up with a brief overview of the history of Mao’s ascendency and subsequent leadership, intermingled with elements of Soviet policy in the same period and U.S. Cold-War strategies. Unsurprisingly it’s dense, I’m not sure that this level of compression allowed enough space for Lovell’s arguments or provided a lucid portrait of China under Mao, I think if I hadn’t read a number of previous studies, I’d have found it hard to have any real critical engagement with the material.

Given the scale of the work some decisions are puzzling both structurally and in terms of emphasis, Lovell rightly points out the importance of American journalist Edgar Snow’s 1930s Red Star Over China which introduced a particularly flattering version of Mao to the outside world, as well as helped to recruit a generation of bourgeois Chinese youth. The book sold 100,000 copies in Britain alone. However, I’d have preferred an analysis of why Snow’s book was so successful (apart from his unique access) rather than finding out about his wife’s fashion addiction or the colour of his dog. Pankaj Mishra for example has argued that part of the resonance of Snow’s work outside China linked to the construction of Mao as a “Lincolnesque” leader who aimed to “awaken” China’s millions to “a belief in human rights,” introducing them to “a new conception of the state, society, and the individual.” so tying Maoism to a particular strand within American progressivism. There are similar sections, where attempts to enliven the discussion lead to awkward segues or digressions, the details of American brainwashing attempts for example. I’m all for a vivid anecdote but not when they affect the balance or the force of what’s being presented.

The rest of Lovell’s study’s more fragmented, a series of essay-like chapters broken down into the impact of Maoist-inspired movements on Indonesia in the 60s, Vietnam and Cambodia, Peru, India, and the West. Anyone who’s read about Indonesia’s killing fields, the Vietnam War, Pol-Pot’s Cambodia, or any of the other countries included, will immediately recognise that Lovell can only present a brief sketch/snapshot of these movements and events. What Lovell does convey is how a serious consideration of Maoism’s global impact challenges standard cold-war narratives, the ways in which Maoism seemed to open up alternatives to the imperialist policies and ambitions of America, Japan and Europe, aided by the fortuitous coincidence of Mao’s takeover of China during a period of post WW2 decolonisation. And how an established past history of providing training camps for outside revolutionaries and factions, as well as direct aid, undermines China’s official stance on its previous foreign policy or external, international interventions.

Lovell’s Maoism is well-researched, fairly accessible, sometimes fascinating and arguably most effective in shedding new light on China’s past global ambitions – and the present resurgence of support for elements of Mao Zedong Thought – and tracing the connections between seemingly disparate histories. It’s also a reasonable introduction to some of the movements she includes here, Peru’s Shining Path, for example, but it’s by no means a definitive account either of Mao, Maoism or the Maoist-adjacent movements included here.
Profile Image for Darya Silman.
259 reviews72 followers
October 29, 2020
Aim of the book as Julia Lovell puts it herself is to trace the history of Maoism - meaning Mao-influenced ideas and their implementation into revolutionary actions - throughout the 20th century, thus proving that the unbreakable legacy of Mao-era Communist China - conundrum of mistakes, contradictions and achievements - plays a significant role in today's world in general and in modern China in particular. This aim is achieved through the description of revolutions which directly or indirectly were caused by Mao Zedong Thought. Indonesia, India, Peru, Nepal; these are only few battlefields of ideologies represented in the book. By combining purely historical facts with elements of adventure novels Julia Lovell makes the narrative easy to compherend. Richness of material is fascinating; personal contemporary experience is masterfully intertwined with documentary extracts.
The only stand-alone in this stream is the chapter about Mao Zedong Thought's influence in Europe and the US. It seems disjointed and far-fetched leaving the impression that the author had to mention it in order not to ruin her own theory of Maoism's universality. She confesses in the introduction that Mao's ideas were present in the gay rights movement or in feminism movement, but they didn't define the cause and progress of the movements. Readers are left wondering why more important topics associated with direct Maoism like Malayan Emergency, mentioned several times and never fully described, or terrorist activities of The Communist Party of Phillippines were excluded from the book.
Introduction and conclusion form an alien frame of the work. When starting the book I was pushed back by the brighly expressed personal attitudes of the introduction which seemed to dominate over the factual material. One-chapter sketches of revolutions in the very beginning are meant to create an intrigue, yet, they only lengthen the narrative; aims and structure of the book are described later on in an academic language.
In contradiction to the lengthy introduction, short conclusion is based on the experience of author's travels to China and as in fiction the last page of the book is full of questions instead of the answers. Written this way, it doesn't provide the logical summary of the book. Combined with the personal introduction, it leaves an impression that the theory of Maoism's dominion over contemporary politics was formed before the whole research had been done, that the assigned task preceded the choice of material.
The above mentioned points notwithstanding, I recommend this book as a rich source of information on politics and Communism. Some chapters were read by me in one sitting, others took a little effort. I can't not applause the great amount of research in archives done by Julia Lovell.
Profile Image for Sajith Kumar.
588 reviews96 followers
August 2, 2020
The establishment of a socialist state in the Soviet Union in 1917 sidestepped some lines in the theoretical recipe that Marxism had proclaimed for a country’s journey to socialism. Old Russia was not an industrial giant like Britain where Marxism had cut its teeth. Hoisting of a communist regime in China was an even larger aberration from theory since China was a feudal state and the sword that brought victory for the Communists was lowly peasants from the countryside. Mao Zedong coordinated the military effort and anchored the new movement on solid theoretical foundations. Mao’s thought thus acquired a practical legitimacy which even Marx could not claim. Maoism ruled the roost in China and was successfully exported to unstable regions of the world where it triggered civil war and insurrection in its bid to capture state power. Mao died in 1976 and the latter Chinese strongmen purged his economic ideas from the country. The growth of China has been unparalleled thereafter, but with affluence came back grateful remembrance of Mao as the helmsman of the country in its perilous journey through tough times. Maoism is a potent mix of party-building discipline, anti-colonial rebellion and continuous revolution grafted onto the secular religion of Soviet Marxism. It turned a fractious, failing empire into a defiant global power. Julia Lovell is a scholar and prize-winning author and translator on China.

Autocratic ideologies always yearn to obtain a firm footing on the intellectual soil of their opponents by cashing in on their liberal ideas of freedom of expression. Mao and his party were glorified in the skillfully crafted book ‘Red Star over China’, written by the American author Edgar Snow. Lovell describes the strict censoring of the manuscript by Mao’s accomplices. After Snow had completed his English language transcript of his conversation with Mao, it would then be translated back into Chinese for Mao to inspect. He might revise some portions which will then be re-translated into English for public consumption. Moreover, Snow only saw what his communist handlers wanted him to see. He was so minutely guided that he failed to meet a single, uncongenial individual in the communist state in Yanan. Even after the founding of the People’s Republic, Snow was engaged in intensely regulated visits to China. He refuted reports of a famine that we now know killed tens of millions. Establishment and consolidation of the PRC coincided with a global upsurge in decolonization across the world. Mao presented his country as the global headquarters of anti-imperialism.

This book gives a comprehensive coverage of the ways and means through which China exported its homegrown Maoist revolution all over the world. But they did not anchor too much on ideological rectitude. China's own national self-interest or convenience always trumps revolutionary theory when it came to supporting armed insurrections abroad. Political violence supported by China erupted in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Chile, India and Nepal. These are narrated in detail. In the case of Africa, as de-colonization dawned, a host of new states were searching for political and economic models to fast track them into becoming modernized nations. As the years went by, China's focus on Africa also changed. Its presence in Africa today is focused on safe economic returns and political stability rather than on the kind of revolutionary upsurge that Mao cherished. The worst of Chinese revolutions abroad came about in Cambodia in the form of Khmer Rouge. It blatantly imposed slave labour on the ordinary people, with an ambition to turn the Khmers into rice- producing machines who consume no fuel and not too much rice. They abolished all currency and salary distinctions as well as killing millions of its own citizens. They forced people into collective communities like herds of cattle. With the creation of mess halls in such groups, they even abolished family dining in collective farms.

The author offers a clear argument on how the countercultural currents in western nations were so influenced by Maoism. In the 1960s, Soviet communism stood exposed and colorless with Khruzhchev’s disclosure of Stalinist terror. It had also fallen out of favour due to its repression of protests for democratic reforms in Eastern Europe and ossified bureaucracy. The chaos of Maoism appealed to the youth and Black activists of America. They showed little inclination to subject China to the same excoriating criticism applied to their own societies. Unlike in other countries, Lovell glorifies Maoist violence in India. She finds a prominent place to rebel voices like Arundhati Roy who depicts the Maoists as good-hearted, idealistic rebels with beautiful smiles, who laugh a lot and love poetry!

In a way, Mao’s death at the senile age of 83 in 1976 cleared China's unhurdled path to prosperity. Deng Xiaoping, who succeeded Mao to power, revoked his mentor’s theoretical injunctions one by one. In this de-Maoification of China, communes were dissolved, the sale of the Little Red Book was banned and all extant volumes pulped. To Deng, it was irrelevant whether the economic means were capitalist or socialist, provided that the political end of preserving party rule was achieved. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long abandoned the utopian turmoil of Maoism in favour of an authoritarian capitalism that prizes prosperity and stability. With the advent of XI Jinping however, Mao is being rehabilitated in appearances. He re-infused Maoist strategies into China’s national public culture which readily found a receptive audience. People claim to have observed therapeutic properties of Maoist anthems and miracles like prisoners being cured of their criminality by singing ‘read songs’.

This book also examines the reasons for the widespread popularity of Maoism, especially its chaotic Cultural Revolution, to the Western youth and oppressed sections of the society. As usual, rhetoric and individual practice varied widely. Mao famously declared that women can hold up half the sky, but continued his petty womanizing. When the need arose, the party even relied on narcotics to boost up their position. In the 1940s opium trade rescued the Communists from their trade deficit and was generating 40 per cent of the state’s budget. Mao shunned any trace of individuality among his cadres who looked like automatons coming out from the same mould. They were subjected to brainwashing by psychological moves and physical torture. Foreign journalists who visited Yanan in 1945 were surprised at the uniformity of thought among the common folk. The same question asked to twenty or thirty people elicited the same response. Even on questions about love, there seemed to be a point of view that has been decided by meetings.

The parting of ways between Soviet and Chinese communism served to cause a rift in the global socialist movement that might have contributed substantially to the eventual collapse of communism in the 1990s. Maoism essentially differed from Soviet communism in its veneration of the peasantry as a revolutionary force and its inclination to anarchic rebellion against authority. It sought to realize rebellion through state capture and claimed itself as an alternate model to the Soviet one which was too European for the Third World's taste. This huge book analyses Maoism’s ambivalent history and enduring appeal to power-hungry dreamers and dispossessed rebels all over the world.

The size of the book taxes the readers in many ways. Its wide coverage thereby nets a lot of subjects with characteristic lack of depth. At no point do the text raise above the level of journalism. A lot of monochrome plates are included but they are thoroughly ineffective.

The book is recommended only to serious readers of Maoism.
Profile Image for Andrew.
656 reviews187 followers
August 19, 2020
Maoism: A Global History, by Julia Lovell, is a history on the idea and application of Maoism. Maoism is a form of communism that focused on Chairman Mao - founder of the People's Republic of China. Maoism features numerous proverbs and quotes from Mao, all put together into his Little Red Book - Mao's own book of proverbs. From the founding of the PRC up until Deng Xiaoping took power, China sought to export this form of governance throughout the world, promoting revolutionary governments, armies and rebels across the globe. Maoism's history is turbulent and violent. It is intensely focused on armed struggle, a leadership cult, constant revolution, and focuses on mobilizing peasants over workers. This communist ideology was popular in nations with low industrialization, and spread throughout the globe until the excesses and violence of the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution showed the world how twisted Maoism could be. Deng Xiaoping distanced the PRC from this ideology, instead focusing on "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and sought to bring Capitalism back to China in a limited form. Even so, Maoism remains influential in some areas - it is the main ideology of Peru's now defunct Shining Path movement, which fought a grueling, decades long civil war in Peru. The Nepalese Communists were heavily influenced by Maoism as well, and were semi-successful in creating a new shared government in Kathmandu, where they remain one of the countries main political actors to this day. The Indian Nalaxite movement is also Maoist, and has been particularly active in the past decade, fighting a war that is both classist and ethnic against an overbearing Indian state.

This book is one of the few books out there that focuses on this subject. Maoism has long been tarred in the West, both during the hysterical highs of the Red Scare, and up to today due to the brutality of Mao's revolution. The West often portrays Mao and his ideology as meglomaniac, mad, authoritarian and foolhardy. And truth be told, it largely was. But what is often overlooked is its impact on global events. Not so much the clown of communism, Maoism instead had a huge ad influential impact on global events. The Korean and Vietnamese Wars were both heavily influenced by Mao's ideology with its communist counterparts, and the ham-fisted responses against it by the Western bloc. Maoism is the most anti-colonial form of Communism, and was embraced by those fighting anti-colonial struggles. China, int turn, heavily supported regimes that adhered to Maoism (Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Albania, Zimbabwe etc.). It was also responsible influential in mobilizing insurgencies that failed, such as in Indonesia and Malaysia. These revolutions ran out of steam, as they promoted people's war and mobilization of the peasants with little thought for logistical planning or political forethought.

Lovell notes the brutality of Maoism, but also why it was necessary. The excesses of Maoism in China and Cambodia are well know, and in many ways genocidal. Millions died during these massive experiments in economics, warfare and politics, both from direct killings, but also from starvation and poor management. Many of the issues with Maoism stemmed from its reliance on a personality cult to keep power, and its focus on slogans over practicalities. Folksy wisdom may work in some cases, but in most, it is not accurate enough to sustain itself. However, it was also a counterpoint to many injustices. Vietnamese Communists carrying the Little Red Book overthrew a brutal colonial regime. In Indonesia, these communists were killed in their hundreds of thousands by brutal, Western baked militias. In Africa, centuries of colonial suppression that also resulted in the death of millions due to poor planning and brutality had taken their toll, and the radical anti-colonialism and communism found in Mao's ideas were like mana from heaven. The brutality of imperialism and colonialism has had just as much of a negative impact, if not more, than Maoism, and Maoism was also a direct result of the former's brutality.

This is an excellent and detailed, academic account of Maoism as history. It stays firmly away from both the naive rhetoric of communist zealots, and the arrogant and ignorant capitalist/Western rhetoric on communism as a failed political ideology. Instead, Lovell looks at the practical history of Maoism and how it influenced movements across the globe that sought some form of a better life for the poorest in society, regardless of their success or exploitation from unscrupulous actors. Lovell has done an excellent job at showing just how influential this ideology was on global events in the 20th century, and how it still has the chops to influence anti-imperial struggles in India. This was a good read about an ideology that has been marred in violence and death, but also in misinformation and anti-communist rhetoric. Instead, what Lovell has shown is that, regardless of events, Maoism was, and remains, a powerful and important ideology, and one that must be understood well.
Author 4 books102 followers
March 24, 2020
Having read this in the time of the Covid-19 virus, Lovells' introduction was timely, "Like a dormant virus, Maoism has demonstrated a tenacious global talent for latency. It is this history, this aptitude that we will now track across the world" (p. 150).

The story begins with the impact Edgar Snow's romantic classic Red Star Over China: The Classic Account of the Birth of Chinese Communism had around the world, inspiring Maoist movements in Indonesia, Africa, Vietnam, Cambodia, the U.S., Norway, Germany, Peru, India, Nepal... with a chapter dedicated to each geographic center.

China, Lovell writes, was seen as the "patriarch of the global revolutionary family" (p. 140) and her fluid and knowledgeable account of its inception, emergence, and history in each of its victims is both lucid and well documented. The "infatuation" crossed many borders, but underlying almost every history emerge stories of horror and brutality (Africa, Peru, Nepal) despite the well-meaning of many of its early adherents. Many, as the "Maoist movement in Nepal became steeped in gun worship" (p. 404).

Most interesting for me was how "this passion for Mao was in many ways independent of China itself: hardly any of these radicals studied Chinese, or [visited] China" (p. 289); they succeeded through their generous loans, project financing, and the sheer bulk of propagandist literature churned out by the bales. When I was a student studying Chinese in a European country, we were constantly inundated with pro-Maoist magazines, flyers and literature--all free. A travel association arranged trips for us to the PRC to visit communes and the 'liberated countryside'. My colleagues went as poor students yet were given housing and language scholarships (we learned how to say 'dwarf bandits' and 'machine-gun nest' before 'Hello, how are you?), but if you were a Sihanouk or like the Zanzibar Nationalist Party Secretary General Abdulrahman Mohammed Babu, a foreign VIP with China sympathies, you were met on arrival by Mao or Zhao Enlai themselves, escorted in amongst thousands of flag-waving 'citizens', housed in luxury, feasted and feted and sent home with your pockets stuffed with money and promises. (Now I know why so many of our fellow 'exchange' students were Africans.)

Some readers have described this book as heavy reading; I suspect they weren't yet born when many of the events recounted by Lovell were happening, but for those interested in Chinese history post-1949, every page will call to mind a long-forgotten radio broadcast, or a quickly-glanced over newspaper item. Names will be dredged from the past and the pieces will slowly come together. If you thought Maoism died with Mao and the Gang of Four, you are dead wrong. "A Soviet briefing on the post-Mao Chinese government had it about right: 'the foam has gone down but the beer remains'" (p 429).
Profile Image for Laurent Franckx.
187 reviews76 followers
March 7, 2020
Potential readers should understand what this book is not about: it is not an evaluation of the "merits" of Mao as a military strategist or statesman. Actually, the book isn't even about Mao.
It is in the first place a history of the worldwide impact of Maoist ideology, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. And this story is both fascinating and horrifying. Lovell leads you from Beijing to African states that had recently acquired their independence, to Vietnam, Peru, India, Nepal, Indonesia and even Western European countries.
The paradox is that this global influence almost didn't happen, and Lovell explains why. Most people know that after "The long march", the Chinese communists were more or less finished. So how did they bounce back? One factor that is pretty well known is the role played by the war against Japan. One factor that is less well known (at least to me) is the role played by the American journalist Edgar Snow, who was "smuggled" from Beijing to Mao's lair and was allowed to interview Mao in "depth". Snow's book "Red Star over China" became an international bestseller that propelled Mao to international fame at a time when his leadership was far from secured and was a major inspirational force for communist insurgents all over the world. Moreover, its translation into Chinese convinced numerous young Chinese to join the communist party, the description of which compared very favourably to the profoundly corrupt and cruel regime of Chiang Kai'check.
So why is this so important? Because it was all one big set-up. Snow wasn't a communist, so he wasn't suspect as a source. He had been "invited" by communist co-travellers in Beijing, who led very bourgeois lives and didn't really look like people who intended to install a murderous and repressive regime. When Snow was in Communist territory, all his movements were tightly controlled, to ensure he would only see what the party leadership wanted him to see. His accounts of his interviews with Mao were carefully checked, to ensure that life under communism would be represented as paradise on earth. Mao made sure to hide any authoritarian inclinations.
One can wonder why Snow played Mao's game. One possibility is that, as so many non-communist westerners, Snow really thought communism was basically social democracy on steroids. A more cynical explanation (proposed by Lovell) is that Snow knew that he had an incredible scoop and that he was prepared to embellish reality as the price for international fame. Surely, Snow continued to sing Mao's praise even when dozens of millions of people were starving to death during the "Big Leap Forward".
Unfortunately, this episode turned out to be rather representative for future interactions between Maoism and its privileged guests, who through a combination of pampering during their visits, and being completely sheltered from the reality of living in Maoist China, would quickly become enamored with the Great Helmsman.
The book also sheds a new light on the importance communist regimes attach to health care.
In the 1960s, while China was itself recovering from the Great Leap Forward, China invested massively in assistance to newly independent African countries. One of the key channels was medical aid: Maoists understood how doctors, through the sheer of people they were seeing could play a key role in the dissemination of Maoist propaganda.
However, the irrational attitudes to Maoism were not limited to the fanbase. The chapter on "brainwashing" is for instance completely baffling. It is a word that has become so common that we forget someone actually invented it. And there is a line here that leads almost directly to some secret programmes of the CIA and eventually to Guantanamo Bay.
The father of the terminology is Edward Hunter, a journalist without any academic training in psychology or psychiatry. The idea that Maoism had invented an innovative and particularly effective technique for indoctrinating people was quickly picked up during the Korean War (I suppose a key reason is that people in the West didn't understand that hundreds of thousands of 'volunteers' would just throw themselves in the line of fire of machine guns - little did they know that red armies all over the world have used their machine guns to motivate their soldiers to march to the enemy).
Anyway, the concept really scared governments and several research programs were set up to understand how brainwashing works and how to "unbrainwash" people. This was the time before ethical review committees. The story is so crazy that I link it here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project... .
Obviously, if this how democracies fight totalitarianism, you don't need totalitarianism. At the same time, other research programs showed that there was nothing path-breaking about Maoist indoctrination techniques: they weren't really different from techniques used by the Inquisition, really. But the damage was done. The CIA learned a lot from its study of Maoist techniques and would enthusiastically apply it itself, including in its fight against Al Qaeda...
Next to "brianwashing", the "domino theory" is another Cold War term that is now often derided as a chimaera that caused more than a decade of needless suffering in Vietnam. But Zhou Enlai explicitly justified the war in Vietnam as the starting point for "world revolution" and Mao saw road building in Laos as the stepping stone for road building towards Thailand. With hindsight, the biggest mistake both Americans and Communists made was to assume that Vietnamese Communists didn't have an agenda of their own. Similarly, African revolutionaries were happy to receive training and material help from Beijing, but didn't feel obliged to pursue Beijing's agenda once they were in power.
Two of the most horrifying stories in the book are of course the Killing Fields of Cambodia and the Shining Path in Peru.
In 1994, a rare surviving witness (as interpreter) of a discussion between Mao and Pol Pot revealed that Mao had confided that Pol Pot was implementing the policies Mao would have implemented in China if he hadn't been prevented by reactionaries. After the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and toppled the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot and his acolytes were judged in absentia as (you can't make this up) "a manifestation of the reactionary nature of both the Peking expansionaries and the ... genocidal criminals".
The story of the Shining Path also combines the horrible and the grotesque. When the Shining Path was merely a small sect of Mao-inspired ideologues in the 1970s, the military dictatorship had accumulated a lot of information about them. This information vanished in thin air when elected civilians took over government - exactly when the Shining Path had moved on to the next stage of the 'revolution': a series of gruesome murders intended to provoke a violent reaction from the state.
It's almost as if the Shining Path and the military regime has conspired to ensure that the reaction of the new democracy would be completely inept (which it was). (In the next stage, the Army moved to scorched earth tactics that, not surprisingly, increased the Path's membership)
The comical note is that the turning point came when the Peruvian government started investing in meticulous intelligence work instead of killing and burning. (It's pretty daft, but it took more than ten years of insurgency before Peruvian officers starting reading Mao, forgetting that knowing and understanding the ennemy is a basic principle of the art of war). Anyway, after a while, intelligence figured out that Guzmán was hiding in Lima, and started observing one specific house. Key elements that led to the conclusion that Guzmán hid there were: the specific medications (Guzmán had psoriasis) and the make of the cigarettes bought by the lady of the house. But, the decisive factor was.....the size of the underwear brought home. One does not always need big data.
In conclusion, this is a truly fascinating book. Moreover, it is extraordinarily lively and well written.
At the end of the day, I have to admit I still don't completely understand Maoism's appeal beyond despairing and uneducated peasants. Why are there so many smart and highly educated people who fell into it's traps? Lovell suggests that, often, the leaders were people who were the first in their family to receive a higher education, only to find out that the opportunities for them remained limited. This sounds plausible, but doesn't explain the fascination amongst the Western intelligentsia. I am not sure this mistery will ever be solved.

Profile Image for Carlos Martinez.
338 reviews211 followers
April 17, 2022
"In China and beyond, the rural poor have suffered most at the hands of Mao's theories and practices." Err, they dismantled feudalism, conducted the most comprehensive land reform in history, ended famines, and made education and healthcare available for the first time, so in summary, you're talking nonsense.

Politically a stupid and reactionary book that fails to do the job at hand (which is a shame, because it was a good idea and worthy project). But enough interesting tidbits about Maoism, particularly in India, Nepal and Peru, that it warrants three stars.
Profile Image for Alexis.
672 reviews57 followers
January 21, 2020
This is a really interesting exploration of Maoism less as a philosophy and more as a historical phenomenon across the world. In the US, we're often taught to focus on the USSR as *the* Communist opposition, with China reduced to a secondary player, predominantly in Vietnam and Korea--so we pat ourselves on the back and say "the West won!" after 1989.

What makes this book so good is not just that Lovell shows that this is untrue, but that she does so in a nuanced way. None of the players are reduced to passive victimhood--all have made choices. Maoism had genuine appeal for people, whether or not it lived up to its promises. For itself, China has been an active exporter of ideology (and the power to back it) since before Mao took power. From his time in Yan'an, Mao used journalists to export a vision of himself that was what he wanted them to see: the champion of the peasantry, the man of the earth, of good humor, hard work, anti-imperialism, and equality. It worked. His beliefs--as structured for outsiders--inspired others to follow.

They had reason to. His anti-imperialism was appealing to those people just emerging from colonial rule as in Indochina, Indonesia, and Africa. His exhortations of the peasantry inspired those in deeply unequal societies in Peru and India. China worked to develop those ties--the Belt & Road Initiative is in the news now, but they were training ZANU rebels in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the 1970s and building projects in Zambia.

At the same time, though, Maoism often replicated problems in miniature: the elites, often dominated by men (despite claims to gender equality) dominated the upper ranks of revolutionary movements, talking about the masses as lesser. Naxalite leaders have profited from exploitation of natural resources, even as they criticize the Indian state for the same. Charismatic leaders like the Shining Path's Abimael Guzman led to terror and violence. At its extreme, Maoism led to the killing fields of Democratic Kampuchea and the closed personality cult of North Korea.

The book ends with a disquieting chapter: how Xi Jinping is now taking on the trappings (in a cut rate manner) of the Mao cult, looking to consolidate his power over China and, through economics, to expand his power abroad. Maoism hasn't died.
Profile Image for T.R. Preston.
Author 4 books109 followers
June 1, 2023
A very fascinating book. I have been studying Maoism for years now and yet this book still hit me with facts I was entirely unaware of. A good example being the depth of Maoist influence in Indonesia. That was my favourite section.

It continues to frustrate me how many people have never heard the name Mao Zedong before in their lives. The shockwaves of his impact are still felt nearly everywhere in the world today. Mao cost the lives of untold millions, and yet he served as the symbol of resistance against colonialism and imperialism. He was lionized as a saint but the man was anything but. In order to prevent deaths in our future, we must at least understand what drew so many people to a figure like him. Such cults of personality, even if they begin on the road of good intentions (or perhaps especially) must be studied.

I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Martha.
309 reviews
November 27, 2019
As I've been reading more books on capitalism and its all-too justified critics, I was struck by how most of them tended to entirely focus on the Soviet Union and entirely ignore China, in spite of its size and global importance. I was hoping this book would be the answer to that complaint of mine; it unfortunately wasn't, but it is at least a start.

I was trying to put a finger on what it is about this book that bugs me, and another reviewer on GR said something that struck me as right on the money: it's too much summary, too little synthesis. Two of the three stars this book got from me come from its comprehensive history of different Maoist-affiliated movements (some more tenuously connected than others) over the past seventy years. Don't feel like you know enough about the history of Malaysia, Indonesia, or Nepal? This book has you covered. Want to know if there's ever been armed resistance to the caste system in India? Here's your synopsis. Want to know how Zimbabwe got the backing to topple the racist Rhodesian government? Here's the story.

But that doesn't feel like enough, and at times her treatment of the subject matters feels poorly defended. She starts out with an outline of what she considers Maoism, but from her description of it you'd think it sprung straight from the brain of Mao full-formed like Athena out of Zeus, not gradually developing over the course of his life in response to real-life circumstances. It's pretty well established that his "continuous revolution" theory was Mao's attempt to reinsert himself into the seat of power after more pragmatic voices started to push him out in China. So does it count as essentially Maoist? And while she questions whether Nepali Maoists can be "real" Maoists because they chose to stop their war and try to get elected, somehow Xi Jingpei's cult of personality alone is enough to get him labeled "Mao-ish." What are the standards here? Does there have to be a single "Maoism" or can there be multiple "Maoisms" that developed in response to different situations? A couple of Indian reviews I found contested whether the Naxalites should even be considered Maoist or just their own brand of communist.

She also raises a lot of issues without every answering her own questions. She notices that in many places the Maoist leaders were bougie intellectuals rather than peasants; why did Maoism appeal to them? What did they see in it as a philosophy? The only answer she seems to want to give is that China basically tricked them into thinking it worked in their choreographed trips. Not only does this come close to the yellow-peril "brainwashing" she rightfully dismissed early in the book, she doesn't apply the same criticism to Chinese exposure to America after the opening of the country. They come to America and see how much better everything is here...somehow I doubt those trips included the Appalachians, Flint, or any given Indian reservation. It's just a very shallow take on what motivated these people.

But then again, when she decides to contrast "economic equality" and "economic freedom" as a dichotomy rather one being a necessity for the other, or to use literally one conversation with an urban taxi driver to prove that "equality of opportunity is more attractive than forcible equalizing of outcome"...well, obviously she a capitalist and doesn't understand the psychology of why leftism of any kind is appealing.

Likewise her pearl-clutching over the idea of political violence; admittedly she's British and I'm American and we have different histories, but after researching and writing a paper on John Brown this summer I'm rather inclined to say that, yes, sometimes political violence is absolutely worth it. Sometimes you've exhausted all your other resources and you have to take the risk. And in that situation, a philosophy that gives you concrete strategies to try to fight against an oppressive force can have great appeal, even if it doesn't give you an endgame.

And here we get to the last of her three stars, which is that the bits of analysis I feel this book really does give: that the reason many attempts at implementing post-Cultural Revolution era Maoism have become disasters is become "continuous revolution" along with "power comes from a gun" is a recipe for constant war. There must always be an enemy, always someone to fight. Thus you get purges, genocide, attacks on other rival leftists, and generally never any sense of stability. This is very much counter to Marx's ideal of a peaceful, post-class, harmonious society, and I honestly wish she'd maybe gone into that more, except that as that I mentioned she seems to have some obvious anti-Marxist bias in her writing. I also found her arguments that the Sino-Soviet split played a large part in the downfall of global communism quite compelling and worth considering when people want to think of it as a two-sided capitalism vs communism fight; there were, in fact, three sides (Orwell told us this, but did we listen?).

Hopefully, for all its flaws, this book may get the ball rolling on some actual broader analysis of Chinese communism and its global influence.
Profile Image for Clif.
444 reviews122 followers
January 24, 2020
Hitler, Stalin and Mao were at one time popular, yet all with dedication caused the deaths of millions of their own people. Even today each has admirers in Germany, Russia and China where you would think they would be despised. As generations have arrived that did not know the horrors of the times of their elders, thoughts of national greatness can eclipse the monumentally disastrous events gone by.

To try to understand the popularity of Maoism, or "Maoist Thought" as the author says the Chinese prefer, this is an invaluable book. Rising to power at a time when colonialism was on the way out and peoples around the globe were looking for freedom from it, Mao was an inspiration. He said things in simple language that the downtrodden longed to hear and he offered for proof of his words his success in defeating the forces of Chiang Kai Shek, who was driven to retreat to Taiwan despite the aid of the US, a supporter of capitalist and colonial overlords worldwide. The US notoriously upheld the French re-colonization of Vietnam in which even the hated and defeated Japanese troops of WW2 were employed to help.

Simply put, all eyes were on China, a prostrate country of millions upon millions of people now freed both of monarchy and warlordism and attempting to start from scratch with a system that promised power to the people. To boost the cause, as Mao fought Chiang with inferior forces, he made very good use of a Western journalist, Edgar Snow, who visited Mao in his stronghold and wrote a fawning book, Red Star Over China that galvanized admiration for Mao worldwide.

And this desire to follow the Chinese example was strongly supported by Mao's efforts to supply and support revolutionary movements around the world, even to the extent of impoverishing the Chinese people in favor of foreign aid. Though the American idea of falling dominoes in southeast Asia was overblown, China was indeed out to establish a dominant position as the beacon and leader of communism.

Julia Lovell moves sequentially through the world outside China detailing local histories and personalities that took up the Maoist banner and without exception placed ideology over people. Change had to come and if innumerable individuals had to suffer or perish, the price was well worth paying.

This reader was eager to discover the details of what happened in Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia, Africa and Peru. I have visited Lima and seen the now abandoned machine gun emplacements around the military facilities that were built to hold off the followers of the Shining Path movement by a government that was on the back foot and dealing as much terror as it opposed until the leader of the movement, Abimael Guzman, was captured.

This book is a necessary and very readable guide into the complicated chaos of the mid 20th century which convulsed China and the so-called third world and from which the United States was far removed yet intimately involved as a supporter of the status quo, no matter how heavy handed, cruel and unjust to people. The leftist movement in the US in the 1960's is not overlooked.

Even today in China, Xi Jinping as leader is promoting Mao veneration while going full speed for the capitalist development that Mao despised. Time has a way of whitewashing horror. It is wise that Jews say never again about the holocaust, yet in Israel current practice regarding the native Palestinians betrays that thought. Any and all can fall into a glorification of power and forget the many now anonymous people who cannot speak from the grave. This is why learning about the horrors of the past, in which this book is a valuable source, should not be shunned.

Profile Image for Wang.
145 reviews4 followers
December 24, 2019
I would have approached the topic differently. It talked about maoist movement in different country and then looked at Mao influence in nowadays China, which I think isn't even qualified to be called Maoism. Yes, it's a challenging task, but the author didn't manage to unify all the different aspects of Mao's influence. To call it Maoism, the author neither offered any definitive definition, nor came up with any thesis to explain the difference between Mao's theories/thoughts and the revolutions stemmed from it.

The author used the second chapter to question Edgar Snow's work, but didn't offer any concrete evidence to rebut any of his claims. What she said was that he had ulterior motives. That's the worst academic argument I have ever hurt.

She didn't explored any Mao's theories academically. She just cited all the well-known aphorisms from Mao. If you want to know what Mao's thoughts and theories are systematically, sorry, you won't find it here. For me if you don't treat this subjective seriously, then your Maoism analysis is flawed.

The book ended up being a history of Maoist movements in different countries. There are much better books about each movement I believe. I find author's writing very engaging, but very quite shallow. Citations are very much all over the place. She simply told the story using people's words, a lot of them, when she can.
Profile Image for Luke Pickrell.
37 reviews21 followers
October 17, 2019
The book shines most in its discussion of Maoism outside of China. If anything, the reader is left with an appreciation for the failures of Maoism and the ways in which it differs from the thinking of Marx. For an understanding of the Chinese Revolution and something other than the academic Marxism=communism=Stalinism, read something else ("The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution" by Harold Isaacs comes to mind). The phrase "Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong thought" does a disservice to the former two. And still, as has been said with Lenin and Trotsky, the figures themselves were often better than their followers. Just ask the Red Guard in the United States, I guess, because apparently the DSA is worth physically attacking?
Profile Image for Nilesh Jasani.
988 reviews134 followers
April 20, 2021
Maoism: A Global History takes a simplistic view of what Maoism is/was. Sadly, that is not its biggest flaw. The book fails in separating Mao from Maoism, which leads to a highly erroneous final analysis even if one overlooks some incorrect historical connections.

Ms. Lovell wilfully omits any detailed descriptions of the fundamental tenets of Maoism and what separated its radical left orthodoxy from the other Marxist, communist, and socialist economic schools. If the author had discoursed Maoism's excessive emphasis on rural, agricultural, pre-industrial tendencies (as against the industrial-heavy bias of almost all European economic schools), she would have realized why today's China policies are anything but Maoistic economically.

Mao, the political figure, is completely distinct from Maoism. Maoism is an economic framework he sketched in the later stage of his life, say in the 1960s. Even though the sketch was sketchy, encompassed in a small red book, and open to various interpretations, the author should have contrasted it to other similar schools in a book solely on the topic. This would have helped her discuss why specific types of oppressed worldwide were drawn to it, viz. societies dominated by the primary rather than industrial sectors; rural, as against urban, communities; and less educated or illiterate classes. Marxism was more about industrial labor. Maoism focussed more heavily on the agricultural classes. In a way, Maoists were violently fighting against not only the feudal landlords but also the urban forces that were suppressing the role and importance of the pre-industrial workers and their work.

Let's forget about those who the author tries to brand as Maoists that weren't (Indonesian PKI was more anti-imperial communist than Maoists; Ho Chi Minh was also more nationalist and communist than a Maoist; the Khmers who closed hospital and factories were far more anti-modernist than any Maoist under Mao). The point is that the world over the people who called themselves Maoist like zealots - like the Shining Path or a handful of political parties in India or Nepal - were far fewer than what the author makes it out to be. China was a poor nation with too many problems of its own in those decades. Like other large nations of the era, it tried to influence events just outside its borders in the '50s and the '60s; however, outside the Korean war and a small number of other cases, Mao did not alter or shape the political course significantly anywhere in the world including India.

Maoism under Mao in China had other local hues in the form of the required worship of the Chairman, Chinese nationalism/expansionism, domestic propaganda methods, violence, etc. While some outside China revered Mao as a great intellectual, few leaders anywhere supported a control from Beijing or wanted to be Chinese vassals.

Suppose some within China are celebrating Mao as a great past leader for whatever political or appearance-related reasons. Yet, in almost every case, it has nothing to do with their belief in Maoism. The author makes the mistake of counting many propagandists, violent or power-hungry leaders of past or present that she dislikes as Maoists with every tiny statement they may have uttered praising him as testaments. Many who prefer Mao's political methods in violence or hero-worship or brainwashing - like so many examples one can think of in early twentieth-century Europe or later from the Middle East - are anything but Maoists despite similarities in their political methods, achievements, or ambitions. The same is true about almost every present ruler globally because Maoism is comprehensively anachronistic and outdated in the technology-fuelled, urban world of the present.

The book discusses many lesser-known historic events in detail. Readers will also appreciate the author's detailed research on oft-ignored communities of Eastern India and Nepal (and the Shining Path). A lot more needs to be read and written on Maoism. This book is unlikely to prove to be the final word.

Profile Image for Mason Masters.
95 reviews28 followers
August 20, 2020
Not quite an in-depth look at Maoism, this book nonetheless provides a brilliant history of how the ideas of a peasant from rural China managed to make such an impact across the world, let alone in China. It is also about the repercussions that are still being felt today.

Maoism is an ideology rooted in Marxism-Leninism, but with a more nationalistic touch. It's been an inspiration for revolutions around the world, the perfect mind-tool for citizens who feel cheated by their country. Most interesting is the power Mao's thoughts had on the Boomer generation and their 'soft' Cultural Revolution. All of this puts its mark on modern China and the West.

There are many parallels you can draw between what Maoism advocated and how Western leftists act today. Overall, fascinating political history.
Profile Image for Bookworm.
1,846 reviews58 followers
September 13, 2019
What it says on the cover. Not sure what drew me to the book, other than seeing it was available at the library and that this is the type of book that would be best as a library borrow. At 600+ pages, the author takes us through what it says on the cover: a global history of Maoism through its birth, the role it played in history and shaping the political atmosphere today, the major players, etc.

It was dull. I'll admit that a large problem for me is that I have almost no knowledge of it and so I wonder if this was really the book to start. But I felt it was really difficult to get into and was surprised by the high ratings of it. I felt generally lost and that there's a large amount of knowledge that is assumed on the part of the reader.

It could be this is the type of book that is better utilized in the context with other readings, more for someone who really knows this stuff, is reading it as part of a requirement for a class or paper, etc.

So library borrow was best for me and would recommend unless you need it as a reference or for class.
Profile Image for Katie.
148 reviews
July 8, 2019
Really interesting topic, I felt like I learned a lot about the global scope of Maoist thought, and some of the big differences it had with Soviet philosophy. That said the book covers A LOT, which can make it a little hard to follow.
Profile Image for Titus Hjelm.
Author 18 books81 followers
August 24, 2021
Having read a couple of global histories of communism in recent years, Lovell's book is a very nice addition and expansion to the usual canon. It also shows well how 'Maoism' has always teetered between doctrinaire party politics and a more symbolic labeling to legitimate local politics (and violence). The narrative flows well and there is a nice balance between storytelling and analysis.

My 'beef' with the book is somewhat fringe, but also revealing. Lovell seems to wholeheartedly embrace the idea of 'political religion', often used in connection with socialism and communism (e.g. Slezkine's House of Government). While there are some functional similarities between religion and the veneration of political leaders and/or parties, the concept remains problematic. It is especially so when it is used the way Lovell uses it, that is, as shorthand for 'irrational' and 'crazy'. All the crazy things Maoists said and did must be explained by the fact that they were so entranced by the 'cult' of Mao 'worship'. What makes it worse is that this seems to apply especially to western Maoists. The analogy comes up a couple of times in the exposition of the history of the CCP, but really kicks off in the chapter on Euro and US Maoism. Of course some Maoists used the analogy themselves, but one cannot avoid the uncomfortable sense that it is 'religion' when it affects otherwise rational westerners especially.

This is minor glitch that probably most readers won't even notice. But I sorely wish people would at least try to justify the religion analogy if it needs to be used. Otherwise it obscures more than it explains.
Profile Image for Mustakim.
375 reviews35 followers
October 27, 2022
Finished reading this thick, lengthy introduction to maoism.
The author discussed Mao's philosophy and how it impacted all across the world; its accomplishments, inconsistencies, and ultimately brutality.

Starting in the 1930s in northwest China, it covered in detail Mao's legacy both inside and outside China (including in India, Nepal, Indonesia, Peru, Cambodia, and parts of Europe and Africa), which were all influenced by Mao's revolutionary ideas, and it came to a conclusion with Xi Xinping's ascent to power.

It's the first book I've read on Maoism, so I can't tell about the book's overall authenticity. It appeared to be written from a left-wing liberal standpoint, and tbh the author appeared to be making an effort to maintain neutrality with regard to the information.

A lil bit lengthy(624 pages🙄) but worth reading. Recommended 👍🏻
Personal Rating - 4/5
Profile Image for Jason Friedlander.
112 reviews9 followers
June 29, 2021
Really great and insightful book about the global impacts of Maoism - most of which I had no idea had happened prior to reading this. Truly learned a lot, especially about the impact of Maoism in revolutions in Africa, Peru, the United States, as well as modern day India and Nepal. Highly recommend this for anyone who wants to learn about the extent of how far Maoist ideology and iconography has taken over the globe over the past century.

Plus points too for how accessibly it was written!
Profile Image for Ryan.
51 reviews4 followers
August 16, 2021
Without a doubt, the most tedious and obtuse book that I have ever read. Not just this year, but ever. The entire time I was reading this, it just felt like an enormous waste. So, in order to spare anyone else the agony of reading this, here are the most major issues with it.

1. What is Maoism? Great question! Because it seems that Lovell doesn't know either. While in passing she mentions the differences of Maoist strains of thought, including Mao Zedong Thought (MZT) and Marxist-Leninist-Maoism (MLM), she seems to think they are both the same things. This of course is so far removed from the truth that it would be grounds to stop reading right here if you know anything about these two subjects and the extreme differences that exist between them. Nevertheless, despite revealing this in the first 50 pages, Lovell proceeds to draw zero distinctions between them and what's more, not even touch upon Maoist Third Worldism (MTW), whose absence is felt with great peculiarity.

Lovell does claim that it is hard to provide a historic overview of (her interpretation of) Maoism across the globe, given the secretive nature that Maoist organizations have had to build up, and the scattered/classified nature of many a party's documents. But this is a flimsy defense at best when all three of these major branches of Maoist strands have reams of information written upon them already by representatives of those movements. The fact that she omits an entire branch, and melds the other two together, is completely unacceptable for a book with a goal of covering the global rise of Maoism in the latter half of the 20th century.

2. What is your point? The moment wherein I knew reading this book was a doomed venture was the following passage from pg. 19.

The Australian sinologist Geremie Barme has compared Trump ('the Great Disruptor') with Mao: for his erratic populism, his scorn for the bureaucratic establishment, his predilection for brief, earthy statements...

This is something that I would expect to read in a freshman history paper, not a book that received a round of applause from a host of reviewers like the Times, the Washington Post, and others. At its core, attempting to draw parallels between Mao and Trump is like attempting to compare the sun to a light bulb and one of the worst examples I have seen of establishment politics suffering from Trump derangement. Never have I seen such a clear effort to sell the timeliness of a book then with this bit of the introduction. It is such a jarring transition from what was written up to this point that I had to set the book down and collect myself.

3. Is this REALLY what you want to write? Unsurprisingly with all the issues I've mentioned so far, the the lens with which Lovell has adopted for this is excruciating. First up, we have the famous private account of Mao's doctor Li Zhisui -- this features prominently in the early chapters discussing Mao in China, where an inordinate time is given to his purported grooming habits and sexual appetites. There's a reason why it has received intensive criticism not just by Chinese academics, but by English sinologists as well. Warning bells should be going off in your head at this point at the usage of an account like this one, but it is accepted uncritically. I almost expected to see a resurgence of the dumbest lie ever, which only rags like the SCMP or the Epoch Times would carry, of Mao attempting to sell millions of Chinese women for trade deals reprinted uncritically for this book but I guess even that was a bridge too far for Lovell.

With this highlighted early on, you begin to see a pattern in all the chapters that Lovell has painfully laid out for you. This is not so much a history as it is a lurid recounting of misadventures, wrong turns, and at times insane framing of Cold War events. It takes real skill to talk about the Years of Lead in Italy and ONLY talk about the Red Brigades instead of the (US-funded) fascist organizations with ties to the military and upper echelons of Italian political leadership. Yet somehow Lovell defies all odds in managing to do that.

Genuinely do not read this book. I picked it up as used for 10$, and it would have been better for me to burn that money myself because it could have provided a brief bit of warmth rather than this steaming pile of excrement.
Profile Image for Marks54.
1,336 reviews1,154 followers
November 15, 2019
Lots of people try to make a difference in their lives - or at least hope to make a difference. The exhortation to do so is a well established staple of the self-help literature. Social psychologists have made much of an individual’s need for achievement. And yet, it seems difficult to make a difference - or even to come to conclusions about what making a difference actually means. Most academics and intellectuals, even highly published ones, fade into obscurity quickly, if they ever really emerge from it. Celebrity is fleeting and public figures that are remembered past their immediate time are rare.

...and then there is Mao. While he died in 1976, there continue to be biographies of him written in multiple languages. Many are hagiographies. Some, like June Chang’s 2006 biography are about as critical as one could imagine a biography to be. To this day, unless something has changed recently, Mao’s picture remains on display in Tiananmen Square, even though the PRC has embraced a state controlled capitalism and has grown to be the second largest economy in the world; even though the PRC has given up the spread of worldwide revolution and embraced a state interest foreign policy rooted in China’s imperial past. It is really not an issue whether Mao made a difference, but rather what that difference was and remains. Going after this with another Mao biography seems a bit like a fool’s errand, given the existing field of competitors.

Julia Lovell, a British historian, has instead done a biography of Maoism. What is that? It’s the aggressive exporting of revolutionary ideology and the fomenting of revolutionary movements around the world motivated by the ideas and example of Mao. The story begins with Edgar Snow and “Red Star over China” in the 1940s and continues onto the Communist victory in 1949 and the growth of the PRC for nearly three decades afterwards. The principal chronology here is well known and frequently reported and Professor Lovell does a good job in discussing it. This includes not just the Korean War and the split with the USSR but also the various disasters associated with the PRC, including the Tombstone famine, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution. The includes, of course, the history of the Indochina Wars and French and US involvement.

What is fascinating about the book are the details she provides regarding the different Maoist movements around the world that are less well publicized. The chapters that I found the most interesting in this regard were those on the Shining Path movement in Peru, and the Maoist movements in India and Nepal. There is also good material on the history with Cambodia and Pol Pot.

This is not a light read. The story is long and detailed, but Lovell provides a good picture of Maoist foreign policy. She is not a passive observer, either, and is harshly critical of Maoism and its spread. This is not a matter of ideological biases but more a stark recognition of the huge human costs of Maoism, borne both by the Chinese at home and lots of other interested and disinterested parties abroad. History has not proven kind to these movements and Lovell’s case is persuasive.

An intriguing aspect of the book is that of continuities or discontinuities between the Maoist era and subsequent developments after the death of Mao and the ascent to power of Deng. On the surface, it is hard to imagine a sharper discontinuity in national history and policies, but Professor Lovell notes continuities in Maoism in motivating the continued dominance of the Communist Party in China. Maoism is also relevant in understanding the rise of Xi Jinping as General Secretary and in the general maintenance of state control over what has been the most rapid industrial growth in recent history. This should give pause to anyone wishing to make facile judgments about free markets in world politics, but the case of China has been a head scratcher for a long time. Lovell’s book is a welcome addition to the literature that sheds some new light. It is well worth reading.
61 reviews4 followers
May 11, 2020
This book is, ironically, not a great introduction to Maoism as a political philosophy. Lovell's chapter entitled "What is Maoism?" - while doing a decent job of providing an overview of some of the historical events that shaped Mao's thinking - is pretty cursory and inchoate and is one of the book's weaker chapters. Granted, the "Maoism" that was adopted and put into practice by various groups overseas was itself usually a simplified, a-historical version which could probably be pretty succinctly summed up, it would have been nice to see a more serious attempt to explore Maoist thought rather than a quick, anecdote-filled narrative built around a few famous Mao quotes. If you're interested in learning about the intellectual underpinnings of Maoist thought (or "Mao Zedong Thought" to the die-hards) and how Maoist thinking shaped policy within the PRC, see (among others) Origins of the Chinese Revolution by Bianco, Mao's China and After by Meisner, or China Under Mao by Walder.

As a global history of Maoist inspired/supported movements, this book works much better and contains a lot of really interesting stuff. While there is little or no new scholarship here (save for some interviews conducted in India and Nepal to flesh things out a bit, this book is primarily a synthesis of other scholars' work) it's really interesting seeing all of these histories compared and contrasted together like this. In Lovell's words: "In this book, I have argued that Maoism has been underestimated as a global phenomenon. I have sought to re-centre its ideas and experiences as major forces of the recent past, present, and future" - in this endeavor I would say she succeeds. Aside from outlining the histories of several Maoist (inspired) movements, Lovell makes a compelling case to view the Cold War as not only being driven by US-Soviet rivalry, but, in addition, by a Sino-Soviet rivalry which compelled the USSR to dramatically increase its engagement in developing countries along with its anti-US stance so as to not be outdone by the PRC. As someone who had never really considered this dynamic of the Cold War I found it quite compelling. Lovell also does a good job of drawing attention to the internationalist aspect of what she calls "High Maoism" (i.e. Maoist thinking during the Cultural Revolution) which was something I had not seriously thought about before.

Another area where I thought this book succeeded was in demonstrating how aggressive the PRC was under Mao in exporting revolution abroad and interfering in other nations' affairs. As Lovell writes: "China does not want to illuminate its desire for leadership of the world revolution during the Maoist period, a time when it exported not only ideology...but also the harder currencies of revolution - money, weapons, and training for global insurgencies," Lovell does a good job of highlighting aspects of the (at times, very un-Maoist) foreign policy of the PRC under Mao that are less commonly considered, and brought to my attention several major historical moments and interventions that I was unaware of and which were extremely interesting.

Lovell has a tendency to overstate her case at times. Did the Sino-Soviet Split directly lead to the collapse of the USSR? Were Maoist thought and the Sino-Soviet rivalry the primary engines of the Vietnam War? For sure they were factors, but, contrary to Lovell's project of "re-centering" Maosim in world history, studying some of these places on their own terms often suggests that these conflicts may have been a long time coming, and if it hadn't been Maoism, it would have been something else. A fact Lovell herself seems to recognize at moments, for instance: "Listening to her, I got the feeling she would probably have found other ways of rebelling, even if the Maoists had not come to her village."

In sum, a great book if you want a series of digestible histories of Maoist-inspired/movements and a history of Maoist foreign policy, a not-so-great book if you're looking to understand Mao's thinking and "Mao Zedong Thought."
Profile Image for Andrew Carr.
471 reviews96 followers
February 14, 2020
Recently I was talking politics with a friend who suggested the Cold War resulted as it did since the Communists in the USSR/CCP gave little support beyond their borders. I gently pushed back citing cases of Chinese fighters in Korea, or Russian pilots in Vietnam and weapons in the Middle East. After reading this book, I should have pushed back much much stronger.

Though it is CCP lore that China under Mao had little interest in the world beyond its borders, Julia Lovell shows that Maoist ideas, rhetoric, emotional, financial and physical support were instrumental in many countries during the Cold War. Lovell charts the extensive catalogue of crimes, instability and mass human rights abuses which flowed around the world from Mao. Virtually every country in Southeast Asia had extensive CCP meddling and the examples across Africa, Europe and the America's are also numerous.

One value of this book is to be reminded of the importance of personality cults. The ideological nature of the Cold War (and the West's post-war explanations of what the war was about) have tended to obscure their significance. Yet from the very first Pharaoh's of Egypt, personality-driven-regimes have often been a fundamental way to create and cement power. With the decline of ideology, we are seeing more and political orders built on personality these days, from Obama and now Bernie on the left, to the giant of them all the mania around Donald J. Trump.

As Lovell herself notes, there is something of a Maoist element to Trump's people. Not in any way to predict they would have similar effects, but they share a rather strange place on the ideological spectrum. A strong desire for control and centralisation by the state while acting in ways that fundamentally impair and weaken the state's institutions and capacity.

The final chapter on the actions of neo-Maoists today in China nicely pairs with Jude Blanchette’s book 'China's New Red Guard'. Lovell provides some detail on the actions of modern maoists, while Blanchette offers insight into how they think about mao's legacy in China and the relationship with the party. Notably while Lovell sees some eco's of Mao in Xi's approach she ultimately argues that ‘compared to Mao era the cult of Xi is pale and unconvincing’.

The only really downside to this book is that it is about 1/3rd too long. Some chapters simply don't know when to end (such as the introduction) and others don't make a great deal of sense in the broader narrative, even if they are interesting and well written (such as great detail on the mass killings of communists in Indonesia in 1965).

Overall, it's easy to see why this book has been so well regarded and if you're interested in both a better sense of how the Cold War played out (I'll be sending a copy to my friend), as well as the kinds of challenges we may increasingly face today, this is a very useful read.
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