Excerpt from

Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism

An Interview with Bob Avakian

A Champion of the "Free World": A Mass Murderer on a Horrific Scale

BA continues: Also, since we're talking about Winston Churchill—which we weren't right now [Laughs], but whom I did mention earlier—lest people think that, when I referred to him as a reactionary pig, I was just engaging in a gratuitous attack or quaint and obsolete revolutionary rhetoric, it is an actual fact that Winston Churchill was a mass murderer on a horrific scale. We're always told about how Winston Churchill came to the United States in 1946 and made his famous speech about how an "iron curtain" had descended over Eastern Europe, etc., etc. And he's always upheld in this way as a great leader of the "free world"—maybe not as great as the American presidents, but nevertheless a great leader of the "free world." Meanwhile, during the course of World War 2, as a result of conscious decisions made by Winston Churchill, millions of people in India were starved to death during that war. And then after that war, when there was the massive uprising—the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya among the Kikuyu people—Winston Churchill oversaw the massive uprooting and sending to concentration camps of literally hundreds of thousands of the Kikuyu people, who were tortured on a mass scale and murdered in the thousands and thousands and thousands, all with Churchill's knowledge and firm approval.

So, once again, it is no exaggeration or hyperbole to refer to Winston Churchill as a reactionary pig. In fact, that doesn't get anywhere close—and I've only cited two examples of many that could be cited of the great and towering crimes against humanity that this "great opponent of the 'iron curtain' and leader of the free world" committed in the name of freedom and the western way of life.

Brooks: I wanna follow up on one part of that—which is that, as you're talking, it's kind of striking me: the contradiction between, on the one hand, Churchill, one of the key imperialist rulers, and actually millions of people starved as a result of his very conscious and deliberate policy, and that's not talked about; and then I know there's a lot of complexity to it, but people always have these slanders or talk about the Great Leap Forward in China and things like that, and claim that Mao was responsible for all kinds of deaths in relation to that. And I know there's complexity in relation to that, but whatever happened was happening in the context of actually trying to overcome starvation and misery and poverty, and yet Mao's always accused of causing all these deaths, while people like Churchill, who actually—this was a matter of conscious and deliberate policy—millions of people died and that's not ever talked about. That's one thing that strikes me as you were talking.

BA: Well, there is this book—of course this book doesn't get a lot of publicity, and it doesn't get promoted by the powers-that-be—there is this book, Churchill's Secret War, by Madhusree Mukerjee, and there is also the book, Imperial Reckoning, about Kenya, by Caroline Elkins, and these books do get into some of these crimes.* The decisions by Churchill regarding India that Mukerjee focuses on were made in the context and for the purpose of waging World War 2 on the part of Britain, as part of the alliance with the United States—and the Soviet Union, by the way. But they were conscious decisions based on the idea, frankly, that the lives of Indians were much less important than maintaining stability at home in Britain, and making sure that the people of Britain didn't suffer on anything like the scale that people in India did. The British people had to make sacrifices in the war and suffered some hardships, but that was nothing like the level at which people were subjected to mass starvation in India.

These were conscious decisions that Churchill made. And conscious decisions do have to be made when you're up against real contradictions. But then we have to ask the question: What values and outlook did these decisions reflect? And, in Churchill's case, they reflected explicitly—because he was an open national chauvinist, an open racist, to put it simply—they reflected the orientation that the lives of Indians were not worth nearly as much as those of English people—and that, again, stability in England was far more important than what happened in India, and specifically what happened to the people of India—and if a few million people in India had to starve to maintain stability in England during the war, and to wage the war effort, so be it.

And, with regard to Kenya, the orientation was: England must hang on to Kenya—and, anyway, those people are just "savages"—this was the outlook, explicitly, of Churchill and his inner circle of advisors: this Mau Mau uprising was an uprising of "savages," who deserved to be treated like "savages," like subhumans. And they were treated that way. Again, hundreds of thousands were rounded up, put in literal concentration camps, systematically tortured in these concentration camps, and killed in the thousands and thousands.

Then the question is: besides the outlook that infused this, what was the objective? In both cases—and this is very pronounced in the Kenya example—it was maintaining the interests of British imperialism, in other words, maintaining oppressive domination and exploitation. Maintaining, in the case of Kenya, colonial rule, at the cost of all the things I've described: the massive torture, the mass murder—the rounding up and subjecting to torture in concentration camps of hundreds of thousands of people, all to maintain an oppressive and exploitative system.

Radically Different Systems: Radically Different Outlooks and Objectives, Radically Different Results

BA continues: Now, on the other side, not only with the Great Leap Forward in China, but also with the experience in the Soviet Union under Stalin, there were errors made, and they did have real consequences. It does seem to be the case that—although not on the scale of this tremendous exaggeration that continually escalates—there was starvation, in the early 1930s in the Soviet Union, or during the Great Leap Forward, from the late 1950s to the early years of the 1960s, in China. There was a loss of life. There was dislocation. Now, part of the objective context for this, in China during the Great Leap Forward, is that there were severe droughts. This also occurred in conjunction with the fact that the Soviet Union was basically attempting to set the terms for how socialism would be built in China; it was supplying some aid, but the terms of that aid were basically that socialism in China had to be built along the lines of the Soviet model, in order to utilize the aid that was being provided.

Mao had summed up that going along on that model was not going to lead to the positive outcome that needed to be striven for; that, in fact, this would work against actually developing socialism in China, and that it would work against the conscious activism of the people themselves being unleashed to transform the economic, social, and political relations, especially in the countryside of China. When, therefore, Mao set out to lead things in a different direction—and the Great Leap Forward was one key expression of that—the Soviets pulled out their aid. This occurred at the same time as there were several years of severe droughts in China. And that—combined with, yes, mistakes and dislocations—did lead to a significant number of people suffering severe malnutrition or even starving. The point is, however—and this is reflected in how you posed this question—unlike Churchill and the imperialists, this was done as part of developing a mass movement to overcome the conditions of privation for the masses of people. Privation they had suffered, not with the beginning of the communist regime, but for decades and centuries and even millennia going back in China, where the mass of the peasantry, making up the overwhelming majority of the population, was continually in conditions of severe malnutrition and there was mass starvation repeatedly. And, very quickly, when the experience was scientifically sifted through in the Great Leap Forward, and when mistakes were recognized and corrected, they actually overcame these severe problems and, for the first time in the history of China, they actually solved the food problem by the mid-1960s. In other words, while there was still some hardship, people had enough to eat in order to be able to be healthy. And that had never happened before in the history of the masses of peasantry in the countryside in China.

And that, all along, was the objective with Mao. It wasn't to wring wealth out of the peasantry, to feed an elite class, so to speak. In fact, that was one of the criticisms that Mao had of the Soviet model of socialism: that it, in a sense, took too much from the peasants in order to develop heavy industry at a breakneck pace. Mao felt that, while it was important to develop heavy industry, if you did it by, in effect, taking too much away from the peasantry, and subjecting the peasantry to too much hardship, that was actually gonna, first of all, cause suffering—unnecessary suffering—and, second of all, it was gonna actually undermine developing a well-balanced and articulated socialist economy in which there were healthy relations between agriculture and industry and they were mutually reinforcing each other in a positive way, so that the economy could grow in a balanced and proportionate way.

So, that was the objective. And, along with that, the objective was to mobilize the masses of people themselves to overcome and transform the oppressive and exploitative relations which had been inherited, if you will, from the old society—which had been carried over and still remained in significant aspects. That was the purpose of the Great Leap Forward. Now, in some ways it succeeded, and in some ways there were serious errors, but they learned from that, and went forward, and they not only solved the food problem, but also, by the mid-'60s, they made tremendous strides in transforming those oppressive and exploitative relations, particularly in the countryside, where the great majority of Chinese people lived, as well as in terms of the workers in the urban factories, and so on.

So, again: completely different world outlooks, completely different objectives, and very different results, in terms of the actual effect for the masses of people and their actual role in society.


* Madhusree Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War, the British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II (Basic Books, New York, 2010); and Caroline Elkins, Imperial Reckoning, The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya (Owl Books, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2006) [back]

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