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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > June 2019 > Politics with bloodshed

Politics with bloodshed

Mao Zedong inspired millions across the world to follow his revolutionary path—with disastrous results, says Isabel Hilton
Mao Zedong poses for a photograph in 1950
© US NATIONAL ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES
Maoism: A Global History by Julia Lovell (Bodley Head, £30)

Long after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, outbreaks of Maoism still bubble up in the most unlikely places. Two recent examples: in February at the University of California at Irvine, a speech by the climate-change writer Bill McKibben was repeatedly interrupted by loud cries of “Bullshit!” The abuse emanated from a handful of people wearing identical T-shirts and intense expressions—Maoist followers of Bob Avakian, founder of the US Revolutionary Communist Party, who wanted a revolution to fix the climate. In 2013, here in the UK, three women who had been held in slavery escaped from a house in Lambeth, south London. It was the residence of Aravindan Balakrishnan, the founder of the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism- Mao Zedong Thought. Balakrishnan was later convicted of rape, child cruelty, sexual assault and false imprisonment. Making world revolution didn’t make it on to the charge sheet.

“Mao relished mutiny for its own sake, even when it was against his Party”

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