On Stalinist leader worship

2 06 2011

I saw recently an interview with Santiago Roncagliolo, author of the 2007 book, La Cuarta Espada (“The Fourth Sword”) about the life and times of Abimael Guzman, the imprisoned leader of the Maoist group, el Sendero Luminoso. According to the interviewer, senderista literature often stated that the head of “Presidente Gonzalo” (Guzman’s nom de guerre) contained 10,000 years of human history. The author then states that during the height of their guerilla war, the leader could only be represented a certain way: in jacket without tie, never with a gun, and so on. This sort of reminded me of North Korean children’s textbooks that used to state that the Great Leader Kim Il-sung had no need of going to the bathroom to discharge his waste. Of course, Lenin’s embalmed corpse and Stalin hero-worship were always the object of much Western snickering during the Cold War, and rightly so. A recent article in the Economist also speaks about the rather ironic revival in China of Maoist orthodoxy and hero worship.
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