Until now no one has written a book about the phenomenon of Maoism. This has been gloriously rectified (as Maoists might put it) by Julia Lovell ... a history that is revelatory and instructive, without ever being dull. Indeed in retrospect, while some of it is still scary, a lot of the material here is full of a dark humour ... One of my favourite chapters in the book is also the closest to home. It’s the part where Lovell describes how Maoism appealed to people in the western democracies ... As Lovell shows in this beautifully written and accessible book, atrocity and absurdity were always Maoist bedfellows.
... highly readable ... I am wary of any tendency among academics to play down the Chairman’s wrecking activities. I was glad to see little sign of it here ... The most impressive sections of Ms. Lovell’s book are well-researched accounts of Maoism in Indonesia, Cambodia, Africa, South America and India ... Ms. Lovell’s account of the Maoist cult in Europe is sound, and damning ... She might have said more about Maoist dupes in British academia, of whom there were plenty ... entertainingly written and beautifully produced but not without flaws. Ms. Lovell rightly notes that China provided foreign aid in order to compete with Russia for global revolutionary leadership, but she makes bold claims about its extent, seeming to suggest that this extravagance in part explains the Chinese penury of the 1970s ... Today, Ms. Lovell suggests, Xi Jinping is China’s most Maoist leader since Mao, as he seeks to turn residual adulation of the Helmsman to his own benefit. I know what she means, but there is a difference: Xi and those around him are far smarter and better informed than the insular, irrational, overpraised, stupendously self-defeating Chairman. Which makes today’s China all the more formidable.
... exceptional ... Lovell has produced a work which may well be the most harrowing, fascinating and occasionally hilarious book on the subject thus far ... This is a book of almost constant pin-pricking...By looking at revolutions inspired by Mao in Cambodia, Peru, Vietnam, Indonesia, Korea, Zimbabwe and many other places, this work recalibrates an old story of the 20th century being dominated by the democratic West and the Soviet Union ... For a history so deeply sad and so enlightening, it ought to be mentioned that this account is also very well written. Some academic works can be terribly turgid, but this is smooth and cautious, almost wily in how the awful and the unbelievable are counterpointed. In looking at Maoism with wider eyes, the one thing that struck me about the various villains and revolutionaries was that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as plagiarism. The same slogans are repeated with a kind of hypnotic genuflection.
Julia Lovell provides...a richly detailed and wide-ranging account of the emergence of Maoism and its evolution as a political force ... Paradoxically, as Lovell makes clear, despite such rampant killing, as well as China’s generally woeful economic performance under Mao, this was also the era of the greatest soft power—its ability to influence others through its political ideals or culture—that the country has enjoyed in modern times. What, then, was Maoism? Despite Lovell’s thorough treatment of the Mao period, the answer proves somewhat elusive. This is the result not of a defect in her analysis but of the difficulty of defining the ideology of a charismatic, totalitarian leader driven by frequently shifting whims ... Lovell’s account...is as much a portrait of Mao as of the shapeshifting phenomenon of Maoism[.]
Of the ongoing struggles. Maoism shows empathy for India’s 'Naxalites' fighting together with the 'untouchables' ... The discussion of Maoism in the West is weaker ... Lovell at times gets sidetracked by the farcical cults ... Lovell has nonetheless produced a remarkable tome—606 pages—that will underpin the further shores of Maoist studies for the future.
Nonetheless, the link drawn between Maoism as an ideology and the revolutionary movements in her case studies—except, to an extent, in the case of the African continent or Cambodia—is tenuous ... However, she has introduced considerable context for the relationships between China and Vietnam, Cambodia etc. In the case of India too, Lovell, like many scholars, errs in describing left-wing extremism as drawing inspiration from Maoism ... The distinction between communism and Maoism gets obfuscated ... Lovell's book nevertheless shows how Mao contributed significantly to communism and left his indelible imprimatur on the world.
[An] important and timely study of Maoism as a global phenomenon ... Lovell shows that although Maoism originally focused on mobilizing poor agrarians, its appeal in the West was largely confined to upper- and middle-class intellectuals ... Less convincingly, Lovell claims that Maoism deserves some credit for eroding the social and cultural conservatism that resisted the movements for civil rights, gay rights, and women’s rights in the West. Even her admittedly loose definition of Maoism is stretched too far for that claim ... The West needs to overcome its amnesia with respect to Maoism’s global ambitions. Lovell’s study of Maoism as a global history could not be more timely.
Ms Lovell explores the startling role played by Edgar Snow in creating the Mao myth more than a decade before Mao seized power in 1949 ... No other journalist had enjoyed such access ... Ms Lovell’s descriptions of these (and other) global strands of Maoism are well-researched and colourful. She concludes her book by examining Mao’s afterlife in China itself. This is where the creed’s importance is most starkly evident ... Ms Lovell’s book offers a valuable reminder that, under Mao, China wanted to be the leader of a global revolution.
In her masterful and hugely ambitious global history of Maoism, Julia Lovell begins by using Mao’s own words to try to triangulate a definition of the term ... Lovell goes on to trace the various mutated forms of Maoism in a diverse range of countries where it inspired physical uprisings ... it feels right that Maoism returns us to China in its final chapter, as the well-spring of a political ideology oft-dismissed or derided in terms of its international influence which, Lovell persuasively demonstrates, has in fact played a significant and continuing role in shaping thought and action across the world.
Lovell’s book contributes to a fuller picture of the Cold War, too often depicted simply as a struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union ... as Lovell shows, China enthusiastically joined the United States, the USSR, Cuba and some east European states in the geopolitical competition of the era ... Yet while Lovell challenges some aspects of conventional wisdom, she risks inadvertently reinforcing others – in particular, the assumption that Maoism was a coherent movement, single-mindedly committed to violent revolution, directed by foreign powers manipulating a motley crew of fanatics ... Lovell certainly discusses the diversity of Maoism, but her book sometimes implies it was more coherent than it really was, while overemphasising the roles of Beijing and Mao himself. And although Lovell does examine the social contexts in which Maoism emerged, these are rarely in the foreground, so readers do not always get a real sense of why the ideology’s highly diverse forms appealed at particular times and in very different societies.
... an exciting, alternative history of the 20th century that deviates from the well-rehearsed narrative that relays between Washington and Moscow ... Commendably, Maoism demonstrates how far 'the global south' forged its own destiny — for good or ill — outside of western or Soviet puppet-mastery ... Histories of Marxism overflow with stodgy debates about the means of production, but Lovell leavens this with colourful vignettes ... It isn’t lost on Lovell that Maoism relied on bourgeois intellectuals for leadership...But she doesn’t examine why this is the case ... while Lovell highlights Maoism’s salvific belief in violence, she too briskly skims over what is today most pertinent about this idea.
[Lovell's] knowledgeable depiction of events in Peru is particularly vivid and grisly. Lovell’s experience as a renowned sinologist brings authority to her compelling, if sometimes dense, argument. The rift between Russia and China is explained in painstaking detail, though it is tangential to the book’s main thrust. Finally, events in China today bring Lovell’s account full circle.