Daily Archives: July 9, 2021

Revolutionary Moments

This is the season to reread Edgar Snow’s “Red Star over China”, the classic work on the birth of the communist movement in China. Alongside John Reid’s “Ten Days that Shook the World”, the gripping eyewitness account of the Bolshevik Revolution, Snow’s book was compulsory reading in the first flush of revolutionary enthusiasm as university students. Then, inevitably, time took its toll.

There is a famous work titled The Anatomy of Revolution (1939) by the American historian of France Crane Brinton that outlines the uniformity of four major political revolutions – the English Revolution of the 1640s, the American, the French, and the 1917 Russian Revolution. Brinton concluded how revolutions followed a life cycle from the Old Order to a moderate regime to a radical regime, to Thermidorian reaction. 

He likened the dynamics of “revolutionary movements” to the progress of fever. Brinton’s book appeared a full decade before the Chinese Revolution. However, although much water has flowed down the Yangtze since the “Thermidorian reaction” set in, there is still keen delight in the precarious notions the Revolution left behind in China, which are both dramatic and didactic and inspire animated discussion. 

Without doubt, the Communist Party of China (CPC), whose centennial fell on July 1, has a great deal to celebrate. It took almost three decades after the Revolution of 1949 for the CPC to realize that development, not ideology, is the hard truth. 

In Deng Xiaoping’s words, “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice.” Those poignant words signaled that China was changing course and embarking on a radically new development path required to meet the country’s actual conditions at that point in time. Deng’s reform and opening up in 1978 unshackled China from the ideological straitjacket. 

Read more at China’s Communist Party has much to celebrate

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