An acclaimed historian revaluates Maoism, analysing both China's engagement with the movement and its legacy on a global canvas. 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 history of global Maoism.
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.
... 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.
... 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.