Most characteristic of this preaching [of the Great Leap Forward] was its utopianism, the promise of a bright future just in the offing, "three years of suffering leading to a thousand years of happiness." -- Franz Schurmann writing in Ideology and Organization in Communist China
Comrades, you can't make it up. Can you say "campaign blunder"? Or is it a blunder? Is it deliberate? The socialist mind at work in campaign mode?
The Obama campaign has picked a portion of one of the most infamous socialist slogans of 20th century history to use as its own new campaign slogan.
"Forward" is the new Obama slogan, Team Obama borrowing boldly from none other than the late Communist Party of China leader Chairman Mao.
Mao's slogan? "The Great Leap Forward."
Rather than describing this myself, let's take a tour of various descriptions of this wonderful, Communist slogan.
The Great Leap Forward (simplified Chinese: 大跃进; traditional Chinese: 大躍進; pinyin: Dà yuè jìn) of the People's Republic of China (PRC) was an economic and social campaign of the Communist Party of China (CPC), reflected in planning decisions from 1958 to 1961, which aimed to use China's vast population to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a modern communist society through the process of rapid industrialization and collectivization. Mao Zedong led the campaign based on the Theory of Productive Forces, and intensified it after being informed of the impending disaster from grain shortages.
Chief changes in the lives of rural Chinese included the introduction of a mandatory process of agricultural collectivization, which was introduced incrementally. Private farming was prohibited, and those engaged in it were labeled as counter revolutionaries and persecuted. Restrictions on rural people were enforced through public struggle sessions, and social pressure. Rural industrialization, officially a priority of the campaign, saw "its development … aborted by the mistakes of the Great Leap Forward."
The Great Leap ended in catastrophe, resulting in tens of millions of excess deaths. Estimates of the death toll range from 18 million to 45 million, with estimates by demographic specialists ranging from 18 million to 32.5 million. Historian Frank Dikötter asserts that "coercion, terror, and systematic violence were the very foundation of the Great Leap Forward" and it "motivated one of the most deadly mass killings of human history." In contrast, journals such as the Monthly Review have disputed the reliability of the figures commonly cited, the qualitative evidence of a "massive death toll", and Mao's complicity in those deaths which occurred.
The years of the Great Leap Forward in fact saw economic regression, with 1958 through 1961 being the only years between 1953 and 1983 in which China's economy saw negative growth.
If you prefer the video version of the Great Leap Forward, here's a video summary. At 5:08 in the video the film tells us that the Great Leap Forward resulted in famine and starvation for the Chinese people.
Perhaps one of the most interesting video takes on The Great Leap Forward is from a PBS series called Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism.
Not only is the film well done, it was posted (in segments) on YouTube in 2009 by one "CE Hitchens." That's right -- the late Christopher Hitchens, the one-time left-winger who, in the years after 9/11, developed a profound antipathy for the totalitarian left.
At 5:24 in the Hitchens post (linked here) the segment on Mao and the Communist takeover of China begins, with a discussion of Mao's promise of "the iron rice bowl" -- life-long economic security. There was a price, as the film makes vividly clear.
At 7:22, Dr. Merle Goldman, a Professor Emerita of History at Boston University and an author of several works on China, introduces the segment on The Great Leap Forward. The segment continues here in another Hitchens post, with Dr. Goldman saying of the Great Leap Forward:
"It is estimated that this utopian idea led to the death of 30-40 million Chinese peasants."
The film's narrator picks up after that, saying:
A century earlier Karl Marx had dreamt of the final stage of socialism. A society of complete human fulfillment where a person might hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon and write poetry in the evening. He called it Communism. In Russia and China the word had come to mean something very different.
Now. Let's work our way through some of the thinking that was behind "The Great Leap Forward" and see if there are any similarities to the people who have now chosen "Forward" as their slogan.
• Poetry and Artists: Think of that last quote, the one from the film's narrator talking about the final stage of socialism enabling people to spend their time writing poetry -- and how this utopian idea, a fundamental building block of the Great Leap Forward, had wound up wreaking havoc on the Chinese people.
Where have we heard this recently? And from whom?
That's right. Here in this clip of Nancy Pelosi when she was Speaker of the House and busy jamming Obamacare through the House. Said Pelosi:
Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or, eh, a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance, or that people could start a business and be entrepreneurial and take risk but not [be] job-locked because a child has asthma or someone in the family is bipolar. You name it. Any condition is job-blocking.
• Submission and Control: The narrator of the film says this about the Great Leap Forward's promise of economic security and the "iron rice bowl":
But the price was submission. The party would soon control everything. The books people read. The clothes they wore. Even who they married. And how many children they had.
Submission. The party controls what people read. The clothes they are to wear.
What battles over submission and control have we been fighting in this country recently?
-- Controlling your health care: Obamacare: Here's Michigan Democrat John Dingell talking about the need to "control the people" with health care.
-- Controlling what you listen to on the radio: Getting Rush Limbaugh off the air: Here's a video from the left-wing group Change.org demanding Rush be removed from radio.
-- Controlling gas prices: Halting oil drilling -- deliberately refusing to drill for oil, thus raising prices.
-- Controlling who wins and who loses: The Chevy Volt.
-- Controlling by Class Warfare: And of course, last but certainly not least is the idea of controlling Americans by class warfare -- pitting the rich against the middle class against the poor. As President Obama displays in this highlight reel.
As if this weren't bad enough, here's those pesky National Socialists of Germany (aka the Nazis) with one of their favorite Hitler Youth marching songs, titled "Vorwärts! Vorwärts!" -- translation: Forward! Forward!
One could go on and on and on here.
Suffice to say, politically speaking this is one of the dumbest moves any campaign, much less the campaign of a candidate who is regularly accused of being socialist, could ever come up with.
Unless, of course, this slogan is in fact a genuine reflection of the Obama campaign's thinking.
You would be justified in thinking that if once-professed Communist Van Jones didn't wind up on the Obama White House staff by accident, choosing an Obama campaign slogan long identified with every socialist nightmare in the history of the 20th century isn't an accident either.
Once upon a time there was another president running for re-election. With an entirely different slogan. His campaign even used the word "forward" in its famous commercial -- but in an entirely different setting, with an entirely different meaning.
It was called "Morning in America." And it closed by asking, "Why would we ever want to return to where we were, less than four short years ago?" A particularly pointed question right this minute as the similarities between the Jimmy Carter-era over which Reagan triumphed -- and the Obama-era of today -- are stark.
The difference between a Reagan slogan and an Obama slogan lifted from Chairman Mao could not possibly be clearer.
Perhaps the real slogan for Americans in 2012 should be:
Back to the Future.