Great Leap Forward
|Great Leap Forward|
|A Great Leap Forward propaganda poster.|
The Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) was a campaign to nationalize industry and agriculture in China, instituted by Chinese dictator Mao Tse-tung, which included collectivizing farmland. Peasants were forced to produce steel in backyard furnaces to raise China's steel output. The whole ill-conceived venture resulted in widespread famine, economic disaster and what modern Chinese history now refers to as Three Years of Disasters. As estimates vary, the Communist inspired democide was believed to result in the deaths of at least 45 million people. Deng Xiaoping claimed the death toll to be 16 million, while the lowest estimate is 8 million. 
According to the far left online encyclopedia Wikipedia, "The name Forward carries a special meaning in socialist political terminology. It has been frequently used as a name for socialist, communist and other leftwing newspapers and publications." Mao decided to use the Forward slogan in his great experiment to modernize New China under the precepts of Democratic Socialism. Mao chose to model New China's socialist economy after that of the Soviet Union. The Soviet model called for capital-intensive development of heavy industry, with the capital to be generated from the agricultural sector of the economy. The state would purchase grain from the farmers at low prices and sell it, both at home and on the export market, at high prices. In practice, agricultural production did not increase fast enough to generate the amount of capital required to build up China’s industry according to plan. Mao Zedong (1893-1976) decided that the answer was to reorganize Chinese agriculture by pushing through a program of cooperativization (or collectivization) that would bring China’s small farmers, their small plots of land, and their limited draught animals, tools, and machinery together into larger and, presumably, more efficient cooperatives. The Great Leap Forward was a program to nationalize industry and agriculture.
Mao promoted a policy of disposing of "rightist" opponents and sharing the wealth in state-run cooperatives. Since steel was the matter guns and tanks were made of, Mao declared the party's priority to overtake the United States and Great Britain in steel and agricultural output in 15 years. Two liberal New Deal economists, Frank Coe and Solomon Adler, were recruited as advisers.
The program included the establishment of large agricultural communes containing as many as 75,000 people. Peasants were forced to produce steel in open furnaces at the expense of food production. 60% of the steel produced was substandard and useless. Corruption was rampant, with local party officials reporting inflated steel and agricultural output numbers to please their central party bosses. Famine set in; people resorted to eating tree bark and dirt, and in some areas to cannibalism. Farmers who failed to meet grain quotas, tried to get more food, or attempted to escape were tortured and killed along with their family members via beating, public mutilation, being buried alive, scalding with boiling water, and other methods.
45 million people died in the social experiment. According to the Japanese Wikipedia, "It is the socialist policy with the highest number of casualties in the world." In 2009 Prof. Chen Lin of the Beijing Foreign Studies University said of Solomon Adler,
"Sol Adler, as well as two other friends of China, Jack Service and Frank Coe, confronted the Joseph McCarthy persecution. So Sol left the US to stay in the UK. During this period, he visited China many times and in various ways introduced New China to the outside world. His book The Chinese Economy in 1957 won worldwide acclaim. In 1962, when the Chinese people were facing great difficulties at home and abroad, Sol Adler resolutely decided to come and settle in China. He said, "I have come to settle in China for three reasons: First, I have all along had great trust and confidence in the Chinese people and their leaders; second, I have all along had unshakable faith in the cause of socialism; and third, I hope to stay in China for as long as possible and work for world peace and the friendship between the Chinese people and the peoples of the world. I want to devote my whole life to the cause of socialism.".
Chinese historical revisionism now refers to The Great Leap Forward as The Three Years of Disasters. Mao's successor Deng Xiaoping claimed the death toll to be only 16 million, one-third the actual number of victims. The Great Leap Forward remains the greatest prime example of the failure of socialist economic planning
- Frank Dikötter, Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962 (Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2010), ISBN 0802777686, p. 325
- Mao: The Real Story by Alexander P. Pantsov with Steven I. Levine, pg. 472
- "There have been at least two radical-left publications named “Vorwaerts” (the German word for “Forward”). One was the daily newspaper of the Social Democratic Party of Germany whose writers included Friedrich Engels and Leon Trotsky. It still publishes as the organ of Germany’s SDP, though that party has changed considerably since World War II. Another was the 1844 biweekly reader of the Communist League. Karl Marx, Engels and Mikhail Bakunin are among the names associated with that publication....Vladimir Lenin founded the publication “Vpered” (the Russian word for “forward”) in 1905." President Barack Obama adopted the motto for his 2012 presidential election campaign.
- Johnson, Matthew D.. "The Revolutionary, A film by Irv Drasnin, Lucy Ostrander and Don Sellers", Asian Educational Media Service, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, October 21, 2013. “Matthew D. Johnson is Assistant Professor of East Asian History at Grinnell College. His research and teaching cover modern China and East Asia, political communications and propaganda, and United States-China relations. "The Revolutionary offers a window onto a unique individual and a unique perspective on the Mao-led Communist Party, particularly during the latter’s Cultural Revolution phase. The second is that it insinuates that Maoist China was closed to Americans during the Cold War. Writers Edgar Snow and Anna Louise Strong, both of whom visited and, in Strong’s case, lived in China after 1949 also enjoyed access to China’s top leaders and played important roles as bridges between the Communist Party and U.S. As did W. E. B. Du Bois and Robert F. Williams – African-American intellectuals and leaders whose roles in transnational U.S.-China relations has been overlooked by historians on both sides. Members of the CPUSA visited China during the early 1950s and again during the Cultural Revolution, and a handful of journalists also arrived there on the eve of Great Leap Forward. Other U.S. foreign experts employed by the PRC included former Treasury officials Frank Coe and Solomon Adler."”
- Becker, Jasper, Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine, Macmillan (1998), ISBN 0-8050-5668-8, ISBN 978-0-8050-5668-6, pp. 290-299
- Epoch Times Staff, Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, The Epoch Group, Broad Book USA (2005), ISBN 1-932674-16-0, ISBN 978-1-932674-16-3, p. 47
- China Daily, Sol Adler, a soulful friend (China Daily) Updated: 2009-09-05 07:39
- Mao: The Real Story, by Alexander P. Pantsov with Steven I. Levine, pg. 472.
- Rectification in Yan’an—Creating the Most Fearsome Methods in Persecution, "The rectification movement in Yan’an was the largest, darkest and most ferocious power game ever played out in the human world"