When, writing in Bloomberg News, George Walden begins his review of a new book on the colossal Mao-manufactured famine that was among the most hideous atrocities of the twentieth century, he does so in a curiously forgiving way:
When Julie Nixon Eisenhower met Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing in 1976, she wore a Mao badge — and thought it fun. More recently, the Archbishop of Canterbury [Rowan Williams] lamented the loss of a China that, under the chairman, had “guaranteed everyone’s welfare.”
After “Mao’s Great Famine,” Frank Dikotter’s chronicle of how that regime killed at least 45 million people in what he calls the greatest man-made famine the world has seen, no one will have any excuses for modish Maoism.
That’s too kind. No-one had had much of an excuse before, either. The horrors of Maoism have been well-known for decades, and the famine the Chairman created has been well chronicled (a good starting point is Jasper Becker’s brilliantly furious Hungry Ghosts from 1996).
One shouldn’t perhaps make too much of Julie Eisenhower’s fashion faux pas (Mao, after all, was, like the badge that bore his face, in some sense a Nixon family trophy), but the case of Rowan Williams is something else altogether different. All too often this over-promoted, and somewhat malevolent, parson is treated as a good-hearted holy fool. He is anything but. Williams, who has described himself, with sly self-deprecation, as a ‘bearded lefty’ is in reality an unpleasantly hard line ideologue. He would have known perfectly well about the hecatombs of Chinese communism (if you look at Williams’ words in their original context you can see that he is specifically referring to the time before the Cultural Revolution, in other words to a time that included the great famine), but this revolting prelate either didn’t care – or he felt that it was an inconvenient truth that could not be allowed to muddy the image of the egalitarian ‘social justice’ he is always so busy promoting.