Mao the Anarchist, Kind Of
I’ve been doing a small research project on anarchism in Chinese history recently, and I was surprised to learn that Mao Tse-tung briefly flirted with anarchism early in his life before embracing a reformed version of Marxism. I looked into it a bit further, and eventually found this jaw-dropping passage from his 1919 essay, “A Great Union for the Popular Masses,” which I had embarrassingly never even considered reading before:
"As to the actions which should be undertaken once we have united, there is one extremely violent party…. The leader of this party is a man named Marx who was born in Germany. There is another party more moderate than that of Marx. It does not expect rapid results, but begins by understanding the common people. Men should all have a morality of mutual aid, and they work voluntarily. As for the aristocrats and capitalists, it suffices that they repent and turn towards the good, and that they be able to work and to help people rather than harming them; it is not necessary to kill them. The ideas of this party are broader and more far-reaching. They want to unite the whole globe into a single country, unite the human race in a single family, and attain together in peace, happiness, and friendship… The leader of this party is a man named Kropotkin, who was born in Russia."
It’s all just so weird and perfect I don’t even know what to say. An early and later-abandoned distaste for political purges, the treatment of Marx and Kropotkin as rival contemporaries, the lauding of voluntary association, the odd apparent conflation of anarchism with cosmopolitan world government promotion (‘country’ may admittedly be a poor translation here). All when he was only 26.