MAO TSE-TUNG has departed from the world. For one quarter of a century he helped organize and later led a successful revolutionary struggle, and in the next quarter century he eliminated starvation and brough socialism to the globe's largest nation state. He violently opposed forces that advocated a pragmatic rather than revolutionary approach to modernization, yet today, industrial production is 20 times what it was at the end of the revolution in October 1949, when Mao announced in Peking, "Our nation will never again be an insulted nation. We have stood up."
"A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture," Mao said in his early days of organizing. For 20 years, his army marched across the length and breadth of China, educating and organizing the peasants who were the movement's core. In one year his army marched and fought across 7000 miles of rugged, Kuomintang dominated terrain, losing 90,000 of its 100,000 troops. The Kuomintang also killed Mao's sister and first wife. Only after the Second World War were the communists able to devastate the U.S.-backed forces of General Chiang Kai-Shek, until eventually and finally China's major cities "fell like ripened fruit."
Mao's achievements in the face of enormous opposition are miraculous, but they were never enough to satisfy the communist party chairman or occasion complacency. Even at age 72 he inaugurated a second revolution in China, aimed at "revisionists," whom Mao felt were not true to the goals of socialist revolution. As the personal symbol of China's potential for renewed vigor, Mao swam against the currents of the Yangtze River. When China's agricultural production dropped, he went without meat. Mao did not expect any Chinese citizen to make a sacrifice that he himself could not endure--he was a leader in the purest sense of the word.
And Mao proved that leadership is not of necessity the domination by a small elite over the many. Day to day decisions in China are now made primarily by councils of workers and peasants. University students and government cadres are sent to the country to perform manual labor and learn from the rural workers. While fighting the Kuomintang in the late 1930s Mao said that the communist party's leaders must be the pupils of the masses as often as their teachers. Power did not corrupt the chairman's visions.
Continuous revolution, self-sacrifice, and the "boundless creative power of the masses" are the forces that propelled Mao to personal greatness and regained for China a lost pride, a sense of purpose. They are reminders to those of us who would unabashedly indulge ourselves because the world is better than it was, or leave the tasks of social change to other citizens. "Dare to struggle: dare to win." Those who embody the principles of continued sacrifice and struggle, be they workers, peasants or any oppressed people have fought in Mao's spirit and will ultimately be victorious.