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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much Needed History, 7 Sep 2013
This review is from: Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao's Great Famine (Hardcover)
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There was one statement in this book that really captured everything - quite simply it is said that there are no famines in countries that have a free press. It's a shocking thought but it stands up and sent shivers through me as I read it. The implication is that our leaders will steal from us, torture us, starve us and kill us if they think they can do it out of the public eye. Which is exactly what this book is about - the Chinese famine of the late 1950s and early 1960s is arguably the greatest disaster ever visited by humans on each other with a death toll of 30 million. And yet in the West, Hitler and Stalin are more famous villains than Mao who has an arguable claim to be the most prolific mass murderer in our history. And this in the country that gave humanity so much.

It's a heartbreaking read, recited without passion, the ever (fully documented) increasing horror hits home powerfully. And the political leaders do not come out of it well. Perhaps unlike Stalin (and I know this is highly arguable) Mao's disasters were caused by stupidity and vanity where Stalin's were mainly driven by a desire for power at any price, with at least some (perverted) rationality. Mao lounged by the pool certain that he had done nothing wrong while his people died from his ill informed economic and agricultural programmes. He even found a way to blame his and his governments deeds and failures on imagined rightists, persecuting them thoroughly and adding to the pile of corpses.

Almost any book that draws attention to this terrible and important story would be worthwhile but this really does the events it describes full justice. If you care at all about the possibility of a better world you should read it. I'm left quite shaken by how simple and fragile our defences from a Mao style nightmare are - a moribund and bullied journalism in the west is letting governments get away with too much at the moment. This book demonstrates just how much they will try to get away with if they think they have the chance. Highly, highly recommended and likely to motivate you defending your freedoms.
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