Ghosts of the Maoists

by René Viénet

Publisher Pascal Lorot pulped 1,500 copies of the journal Monde chinois before he distributed an expurgated version of an article by Francis Deron on the massacres of the “Cultural Revolution” and the genocide in Cambodia. Its editor in chief, René Viénet, since resigned, is outraged.

Under the unchanging bridge, the torrent of lies is never the same. Pascal Lorot of Editions Choiseul, after having denied ordering the pulping, had to explain through his lawyers why he had issued the order to pulp.

Fearing an appearance before the TGI,[1] he dared to say that he did it to remove the introduction to an article on a Chinese tomato-growing combine in France, signed by Pierre Gentelle, director of research at the CNRS.[2] Or, rather, to remove an allusion in this introduction to a minister of higher education who had – trapped by an old-fashioned Maoist speechwriter,[3] then the stenographer of the Senate – demanded a “cultural revolution” in French universities.

To eliminate this single sentence, which didn’t even mention Madame Valérie Pécresse by name, Pascal Lorot from Choiseul advanced the idea that he had to delete the entire eight-page-long article by Francis Deron on the cemeteries of Maoism, as well as two images, from the newest version of issue #14. One image depicted Deng Xiaoping at the side of Pol Pot, and the other depicted the head of Deng Xiaoping (with that of the President of the Republic, Liu Shao Qi, who would soon die in a cellar) under the clubs of the Maoist Red Guards.

A lie, made by the lawyers for the judges, along with an accounting that hoped to demonstrate that this amputated and expurgated reprint had allowed Pascal Lorot from Choiseul to realize substantial savings. No chance: the reprint of 136 pages was more expensive than the first and authentic printing of 144 pages. Nevertheless, one cannot ask this Doctor of Economics to count shinbones or skulls.

As a sign of solidarity, the censored article was taken up by the journal Commentaire and, electronically, by Mediapart. Written in a sober and reserved style, the article is a reflection on two large massacres (millions of victims in each case) that claimed to follow Maoism and on the enthusiasm with which the Western intelligentsia initially welcomed these two mass crimes. At the same time, France, the United States and China attended to every need of the Maoist Khmers Rouges, to the point of strengthening their presence at the UN several years later, at a time when the new Cambodian government, supported by Vietnam, had routed them.

Pascal Lorot from Choiseul committed an act of censorship that was rare in France since the execution of Joseph Darnand.[4] No French “militia,” no occupant demanded this action by Pascal Lorot from Choiseul. It was without external constraint, without fear of reprisals against his family, and by investing the money of his associates (who did not protest) that he decided, at great cost, to launch this attack on freedom of expression, this outrage against the author’s moral rights, this donkey’s kick against the millions of the cadavers of Maoism in China and Cambodia.

Nevertheless, Pascal Lorot from Choiseul must have thought that Deng Xiaoping wouldn’t be recognized. Did he only know that Deng Xiaoping died in 1997? Some people even estimate that he was politically dead in June 1989, when he sent tanks in against the peaceful demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. And, even if he were still alive, these two photographs would not make him either hot or cold. Deng never had hang-ups when it came to China’s support for the Khmers Rouges against Vietnam.

Eminent leader of Maoism, then victim of Maoism (he barely escaped death, and his son jumped out of a window when he was in prison), survivor of Maoism, then organizer of Madame Mao’s death sentence, Deng did not hide his old photos in a shoe box. But Pascal Lorot from Choiseul believed that the censorship of Francis Deron would open doors to him and, at the first opportunity, [the people behind them would] make him comfortable. He spent 4,000 Euros to do that: one will never emphasize this enough. What dividends did he expect from this investment? It would take him several days and a lawsuit to understand that he put himself in a very tight spot.

One must wonder what motivates behavior like censorship in peacetime. It is no doubt because one doesn’t sufficiently look into similar behavior during wartime. But the moral dissoluteness with which one can reproach Pascal Lorot from Choiseul is not exceptional.

He is of his time. Several weeks after the pulping of Monde chinois #14, the Opéra de Paris loaned its stage to a presentation of one of Ma Ubu’s favorite ballets: “The Red Detachment of Women.”[5] This Madame Maoist choreography came out of China in a disquieting manner because it had little to do with the original story or the film that was made of it, even if the director, Xie Jin, was extracted from five years in a gulag and forced to validate the whims of the ballet-crazed wife of the President.

In brief: in 2008, in Paris, one saw on the opera-house stage what Jean Yanne had already mocked thirty years previously in Les Chinois a Paris, his parodic film, produced by Marcel Dassault. Several French personalities in attendance applauded this very bad memory of the révo-cul.[6]

One among them said: “What does it matter if an entrechat is white or black, provided it permits us to erase the memory of the Bicentennial Parade” (on 14 July 1989, in Paris, in homage to the victims of June 1989, the Republic paraded around – in front of thirty-three heads of state and two million spectators – a group of Chinese students and their bicycles).[7] It was in the context of these entrechats, in this loss of the most elementary marks, that one must appreciate the pulping of Monde chinois and the censorship perpetrated by Pascal Lorot from Choiseul.

“Is it reasonable that a liberal and anti-Communist minister can eulogize several million murders, the stoppage of courses for ten years in all of China, and episodes of cannibalism?”[8]

In the pages of Le Figaro and Libération, one notes the sighs of Madame Valérie Pécresse concerning the relatively mild violence of the moment – dreaded more than felt – in French universities.[9] If the minister of the universities had better ghostwriters for her harangues at the French Parliament, she would no doubt have given the “cultural revolution” as the model for her reforms (quite insufficient concerning the autonomy and freedom of the universities). She truly did not account for what would certainly be her own fate if, responding to her wishes, President Mao lept up from his crystal preserve and once again played the music that ruined China and, in particular, its universities, between 1966 and 1976, by torturing and then executing many teachers. And not a few government ministers.

Is it reasonable that a minister, who presents herself as liberal and anti-Communist, could eulogize several million murders, the stoppage of courses for ten years in all of China, episodes of cannibalism, and the assassination of Madame Bian ZhongYun, deputy principal of the best high school in Peking, by her own high school students, among other infamies?

This was the second [political] murder committed during the révo-cul. Let us dwell for several moments on this murder, which was so exemplary of the millions that followed. The torture lasted a full day: turds forced into her mouth, beaten on her entire body with studded planks. It was 5 August 1966. Thirteen days later, Song BinBin, one of the little killers, selected from among the others, mystically raised the armband of the Red Guards higher than the elbow, which was where President Mao wore his. It was Mao himself who suggested to him that he change his name from BinBin (“gentle and modest”) to Yao Wu (“goes to war”).

The episode of BinBin, who spectacularly raised his armband higher than Mao’s elbow, was broadcast globally by the television stations and put a number of Maoists in France into ecstasy. In the erotology of Maoist students at the Ecole Normale Supéreure, the progressive fantasies progressed from the elbow to the fist. To understand university-based Maoism in France (among its Catholic-Maoists, in particular), an essential fact is their taste for blood, cruelty by proxy, book burning – old habits. In the cellar of the Museum of Montauban, the chains on the Episcopal torture bed are not rusty, and yet no one has ever polished them.

The episode of Mao receiving an armband from Song BinBin remains alive in the photographs in many books, but does so without proper explanation. It is the subject of a good article by Xu Jun Eberlein in Monde chinois #12. It is the subject of an admirable 68-minute-long DVD inserted into Monde chinois #14 – the delivery of which Pascal Lorot from Choiseul interrupted. The DVD by Hu Jie will thus be re-released, with subtitles in Chinese, English and French, within the covers of a book that will consist of transcriptions of the soundtrack of the film into these languages.

We hope that Madame Valérie Pécresse will comment upon it in the pages of Le Figaro or Libération, and at the European Parliament, so as to correct her admiring allusion to the révo-cul (and its massacres) before the Senate and the National Assembly. She could even offer the DVD to the media libraries in the high schools and universities.

Heine wrote that the historian is a prophet who looks backwards. A Chinese historian has explained that history is a mirror that allows us to see the future. To divine the future of China, and Europe’s relations with it, we should always look over our shoulders at what took place in China under Maoism and in Cambodia under the rule of the Maoist Khmers Rouge.

The most famous quotation by [Heinrich Heine,] that friend of Marx – “Where one has burned books, one will end up burning people” – has served as a final paper topic in all Europe’s high schools ever since Heine’s books were themselves thrown into the fire by the Nazis, who went on to reduce to cinders several million Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and democrats.

When Pascal Lorot from Choiseul puts forth his candidacy for a teaching position at the Institut d’études politiques de Paris, one must hope that the jury will ask him why, back in 2008, he pulped “Cimetieres du Maoism.” It is feared that the little man [piédouche] will only respond that it was because he had no matches on him that day and because his printer had a fear of fire.

René Viénet is the founder of the “Bibliotheque asiatique,” a collection that first published Simon Leys in 1971, Révo. cul. dans la China pop., etc. He is the director of the films La Dialectique peut-elle casser des briques? Chinois, encore un effort pour etre révolutionnaires! and Mao par lui-meme. He published the first Western editions of the writings of Chinese dissidents (Li YiZhe in 1976, then Wei Jing Sheng) before he moved to Asia in 1979. In the meantime, he was twice expelled from the CNRS because of the aforementioned books and films about China, a subject on which – for thirty years – he has delivered the best diagnostics by being a fulfilled industrial representative, after long battles with Maophiliac academic Sinology.

Francis Deron worked on the famous anthology Révo. cul. dans la China pop. in 1974 and the completion of the film Chinois, encore un effort pour etre révolutionnaires! Thereafter he was the conspicuous Peking-based correspondent of the AFP, then for Le Monde for almost 15 years. He is the author of very good books about China, and since 1975 has observed the contemporary history of Cambodia, in particular, as the Bangkok-based Southeast Asia correspondent for Le Monde. He will soon publish Le Proces des Khmers rouges (Gallimard, April 2009). His article, communicated to Monde chinois in Spring 2008 as a review of the French translation of Massacres of the Cultural Revolution (Buchet-Chastel), was an essay in the study of comparative massacres.

[1] Tribunal de grande instance.

[2] Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

[3] English in original.

[4] A French soldier who became a leader of the Vichy collaborators with Nazi Germany. He was executed as a traitor on 10 October 1945.

[5] First staged in China in 1964, and based on a film released in China in 1961.

[6] A neologism for the “cultural revolution,” this phrase was designed to associate it with an obscenity unprintable in "respectable" newspapers (the French word for "ass").

[7] This would appear to be a note by the publisher of this article, and not its author.

[8] This is the sentence that was censored.

[9] A reference to the anti-CPE demonstrations of 2008.

(Published in Médias #21, June 2009. Translated from the French and footnoted by NOT BORED! 17 July 2012.)

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