PORTRAIT OF A REVOLUTIONARY: MAO TSE-TUNG by Robert Payne

PORTRAIT OF A REVOLUTIONARY: MAO TSE-TUNG

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Robert Payne published his first biography of this resolute Chinese prime-mover in 1950. Since then, many new facts have come to light, and the current work is a complete revision, greatly expanded. Mao has always been a devoted scholar who knows the facts of his country's history even if he may not completely divine their meaning. His roots, Payne believes, ""are to be found in the mechanistic philosophy of the 19th Century, and it is from Spencer, rather than from Marx, that he derived the belief that the individual must be sacrificed to the state...By sheer will power Mao made himself the technician of revolt. Carefully, over a long period of years, he prepared himself for the role he desired to play, and...he realized that he possessed qualities his adversary could never acquire."" Chiang Kai-shek, even in the days when Mao thought it might be possible for the Kuomintang and the Comintern to work together, could never really decipher the inner workings of the Red leader's imagination, or see the vast scheme of political and economic change Mao wished to bring about on the land. ""In China, where personal relations acquire a complexity unknown to the West, the duel between Mao and Chiang was essentially personal, but at the same time it was a duel between two opposed facets of the Chinese mind."" Nearly a score of Mao's poems appear in translation here, as well as an explanation of his attitude toward ""social realism"" in the arts. His significant writings are analyzed in their own right and by comparison to those of other Communist leaders. ""For Americans, there is little comfort to be derived from contemplating his career"", Payne warns. ""The long-enduring affection of Americans for the Chinese has turned to bitterness...but bitterness will not help us."" It is not absolutely clear whether Payne would admit Red China to the U.N., but he advises that ""The attempt to understand the new China must be made, before it is too late."" A chronological table accompanies this well-written portrait.

Pub Date: Dec. 4th, 1961
Publisher: Abelard-Schuman