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December 19, 2011



How fat's the son and heir? I wouldn't want his death to be a setback for my project of having, for symbolic purposes, as many corpulent leaders as may be possible. (It was something of a blow when the fat guy didn't get the Greek job.)

Mentioning Mao allows me to thread-derail with a question that's been bugging me for a while: does the term Maoism get used in China itself, and if so, what does it mean? (I asked this on Twitter not long ago and no less than Keith Flett was kind enough to Retweet, but answers came there none.)


Oh, this is very good, though the amusing bit appears to have disappeared from the page concerned. (Via @bensixesq.)


Outside of the (highly neglected and dusty) Marxism departments of various universities and the far left, Cultural Revolution was wonderful, fuck Deng types? Hardly ever, in my experience. In nearly three years of editing, I think I've seen it used once, in a historical context. It's always "socialism" or "Marxism."

I remember my editor excising a comment about chubby dictators from my first manuscript with the comment "So many of them are rather thin ..." Kim Jong-un is average-sized, but he's young, the layers may yet come.


It was always Mao Zedong Thought in the old days; not too sure what the overtones of that were intended to be.


思想 (sixiang, thought/ideology) as opposed to 主义 (zhuyi, belief/ideology), yes. My Chinese is nowhere near the level I could tell you the proper connotations, though. Paging Brendan ...


Hitchens on Kim Jong Il

I feel like I ought to win a prize for remembering this.


No, Kim III is quite heavy, although in a babyfaced, cherubic kind of way. After "eccentric elderly transsexual", the DPRK will now try a "giant Maoist toddler" look for their tyrant — straight out of the Chinese poster art.

gastro george

When I heard the first reports of the spontaneous wailing, I was reminded of Princess Di ...


Wailing for sure, but I don't actually see very much weeping (apart from the very last interviewee).

Or am I missing some cultural nuance?


On his God Is Rubbish book tour Hitchens took to comparing Heaven to North Korea.
I think the same comparison is strongly encouraged in Pyongyang, just with a slight tweak of emphasis.


Hmm, you're right, Jong-un is quite chubby. Which Kim am I thinking of? There's a slim-ish one.

You can't beat Mao Xinyu though - http://www.ministryoftofu.com/2011/03/the-major-genreral-genre-how-chinese-make-fun-of-maos-grandsons-senseless-talk/


Re: 思想/主义 -- the idea was that Mao and co. were on a clearly subordinate footing with their 思想 ("Thought"), which was to be taken as commentary on/interpretation of the 主义 ("Ism") laid down by Marx and Engels. Interestingly -- well, maybe -- the downward progression continued with Deng Xiaoping, whose take on the Ism/主义 only rates a 理论 ("Theory"), but was reversed by the ever-modest Jiang Zemin, whose Three Represents are a 重要思想 ("Major Thought").
Hu Jintao's Scientific Outlook on Development/科学发展观 is "一种方法论" ("a methodology"), according to the Baidupedia page. which calls it a "major strategic thought for the Communist Party of China" (中国共产党的重大战略思想) and "one of the guiding thoughts" of the CPC." (Apologies for the Chinglish, but I wanted to keep 'thought' in there to reflect the 思想 in the Chinese.)

For what it's worth, juche is a Thought/思想 too, at least in Chinese, though I believe the DPRK's official translation has it as Juche Idea, which I predict here and now will reappear as an ironic DPRK-kitsch meat market club called "Juicy Idea" in the Pyongyang of 2020.

Barry Freed

Better than famous last words, I'd really like to know the last thing he looked at when he kicked it.

belle le triste


^^^or similar

nick s

Wailing for sure, but I don't actually see very much weeping

Isn't mass wailing part of the audio-visual whatnot when visiting Daddy Kim's resting place? Speaking of which, I hope Pyongyang bought a couple of spare glass coffins back in 1994 and kept them in storage, because I doubt you can get them on short notice these days.


The Chinese footage had plenty of weeping. In fact, one of my colleagues was tearing up a little, and said "I'm not sad about Kim, but I can't watch other people cry and not start crying myself."


I console myself with the knowledge that Vacuous Havel is dead too and completely overshadowed by the passing of the Dear Leader.

One death is as weighty as Mt Tai. The other is as light as a feather.

john b

Blimey, there I was assuming that Havel was one of the few post-communist leaders who everyone (except possibly the graceless far-right git who replaced him) basically liked. Any idea which particular school of thought Anon represents?


I don't think trolling is a school of thought.


Any idea which particular school of thought Anon represents?

Yugoslavia bores, of course.


Maybe s/he's Slovakian (but in that case, s/he really ought to be grateful for the 'Velvet Divorce').


Anon's a Klausian, of course. Havel may seem saintly to outsiders, but if you're on Vaclav Klaus's side, he's little short of a betrayer of the nation. Small countries, bitter politics.


We're all small countries compared to China.


"Pick on someone your own size. God's bigger than all of us".

Barry Freed

A troll no doubt, but that Mt. Tai reference leads me to wonder if there are North Korean 50 centers.

john b

"Drink shoshu like it's your birthday".

Igor Belanov

Anon does have a bit of a point. For all his activities encouraging a civil society in communist Czechoslovakia, Havel was a bit vacuous in power.


This, from Michael Parenti has been circulating on the internet:

Havel called for efforts to preserve the Christian family in the Christian nation. Presenting himself as a man of peace and stating that he would never sell arms to oppressive regimes, he sold weapons to the Philippines and the fascist regime in Thailand. In June 1994, General Pinochet, the man who butchered Chilean democracy, was reported to be arms shopping in Czechoslovakia - with no audible objections from Havel.

Havel joined wholeheartedly in George Bush's Gulf War, an enterprise that killed over 100,000 Iraqi civilians. In 1991, along with other [e]astern European pro-capitalist leaders, Havel voted with the United States to condemn human rights violations in Cuba. But he has never uttered a word of condemnation of rights violations in El Salvador, Columbia, Indonesia, or any other U.S. client state.

In 1992, while president of Czechoslovakia, Havel, the great democrat, demanded that parliament be suspended and he be allowed to rule by edict, the better to ram through free-market "reforms." That same year, he signed a law that made the advocacy of communism a felony with a penalty of up to eight years imprisonment. He claimed the Czech constitution required him to sign it. In fact, as he knew, the law violated the Charter of Human Rights which is incorporated into the Czech constitution. In any case, it did not require his signature to become law. in 1995, he supported and signed another undemocratic law barring communists and former communists from employment in public agencies.


Skidmarx, I also hear that he kicked a puppy in the face once.


My general rule with Michael Parenti is that he says something is true, I assume without extraordinary evidence that it is false. One of the few, true, anti-Americans.

Oddly I have the inverse rule with his son, who is a fine journalist.


Is he speaking the truth, though?


In June 1994, General Pinochet, the man who butchered Chilean democracy, was reported to be arms shopping in Czechoslovakia - with no audible objections from Havel.

This is daft. Pinochet was a repressive butcher in the 1970s, but he had left the Presidency four years ago by June 1994. Was democratic Chile meant to do without an Army or something as their punishment for having a peaceful transition to democracy? And a quick google turns up the fact that Ariel Dorfman doesn't remember this episode quite the same way.

It's also not obvious to me what "fascist regime in Thailand" he's referring to or what was particularly bad about the Phillippines since Marcos had been gone for three years before Havel took over.

And finally, with respect to the Czech lustration laws, not only is Parenti very much distorting Havel's record (he opposed and campaigned against the lustration act, but "signed" it because he was President and it had been passed by the legislature), but he is rather eliding the reasons why the Czech political sphere might have had a bit of a scunner against "former communists".

I think Cian's Michael Parenti rule is looking pretty good.


To Parenti's credit however, he did write this in a book several years ago, rather than as a reaction to Havel's death so he's wrong but he's not a shit. To Havel's credit, it seems like this is the only source that anyone could find to be nasty about him.

Dan Hardie

'But he (Havel) has never uttered a word of condemnation of rights violations in El Salvador, Columbia, Indonesia,'

This is a flat-out lie by Parenti, since Havel did actually make a number of condemnations of the Indonesian government's murderous behaviour in East Timor and did a lot to help the newly independent Timorese government.

Barry Freed

Well that's his book on Julius Caesar and Ancient Rome stricken from my reading list. Has anyone here read it? I think it was up for a Pulitzer actually.

(I must confess that I really dig his nasally New York voice, it's classic and of a time and you just don't hear them like that anymore).


Book Summary. Ceasar good. Senate bad. Ceasar man of the people, senate plutocrats.

So if you like heavy handed, didactic, old-skool marxist history with zero nuance and total certainty about HOW THE WORLD WORKS - boy, hae I got a great for you. If on the other hand you like nuance and ambiguity - meh, not so much.

This is based upon a quick skim in Books a Million, so usual caveats apply.

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