The legends of Mao Tse-Tung say he was born into a poor peasant family,
but he was actually born on the 26th of
December, 1893, in the home of a fairly well-to-do peasant in Hunan. Mao placed his humble origins in the fact his father was
born poor and made his own money.
Even so, Mao did not escape village life until the age of 17
when he went to middle school in Changsha, the capital of
Hunan. That year, 1911, the revolution led by Dr Sun Yat-Sen overthrew the imperial government and Mao became caught up
in the political instability. He left his studies at the school and after a period in a revolutionary army he began to study at a
Hunan Provincial library on his own.
Instead of becoming a teacher at the completion of his course in 1918
he went to Peking and became a poorly paid assistant
in the university library. There he found two allies, the library chief Li Ta-chao, and a professor of literature, Chen Tu-hsui, who
were radical Marxists and later founded the Chinese Communist Party, the CCP.
In 1920 Mao became principal of a primary school in Changsha,
where in his spare time he helped set up the Changsha
branch of the Communist Party. In 1921 he was one of 12 delegates at the ‘First Congress’ of the Communist Party at a time
when national membership of the party totaled 57, and he became the CCP’s General Secretary for Hunan.
Aged 56, Mao now was Chairman of the most powerful political party to
have existed to date. While he was not always the
only leader in power - he shared eminence with Chou En-lai, Lin Piao and Liu Shao-chi - the central theme of the intense
ideological work carried out amongst the people was the exaltation of Mao himself.
In the first years of the Communist regime, conservative
estimates of the number killed for voicing their opinions of the
Communist party stand at around 3 million; hostile estimates are much higher. Dissenters were taken prisoner, executed or told
‘You are sick, comrade’, and subjugated to formidable brainwashing procedures.
In 1964, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, better
known as The Little Red Book, was published. It was compiled
by the young Army Marshal Lin Piao. It contains hundreds of excerpts from Mao's writings and speeches, covering most
communist philosophy. In 1966 it began a huge wave of slogans, quotes and mottos in what has been called the Cultural
Revolution, almost certainly started by Mao himself in an attempt to regain the leadership.
Mao is one of three peasants in Chinas history who has risen to rule
its billion or so people in a single lifetime. He destroyed
Nationalist power, unified China and oversaw the greatest social reform in manes history. He is recognized as a leader in
Marxist doctrine, and his theories have been acclaimed in many third world unindustrialised nations.
Mao will be remembered as a socialist, a poet, a military strategist
and ruthless ruler. He has earned his place among the
most powerful rulers of the world.