'We're Fans of Mao and Stuff Like That!' San Francisco Commies Gather to Celebrate 60th Anniversary of People's Republic of China.

Whatever you say, comrade
Where in the world, you may wonder, do people still avow unqualified love of Mao Zedong, the late Chinese dictator? Even the current leaders of the communist state he founded have come to revile policies -- among them government-created famines and political purges -- which today are blamed for the death of more than 40 million Chinese over the last two decades of Mao's reign.

The answer -- and believe us when we say we wish devoutly for a world in which this came as more of a surprise -- is San Francisco. Today, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, a group of self-described Bay Area revolutionaries gathered with a table chock full o' Maoist propaganda at Portsmouth Square, on the outskirts of Chinatown. There they sought to explain to passersby that things REALLY went wrong in Chinese history when Mao died and his, er, revolution ended.

"The terrible situation that exists today is that China is no longer revolutionary," said Reiko Redmonde of Berkeley's Revolution Books, an organizer of the gathering. "There's a whole new generation that knows nothing about revolution or communism." (In case you're wondering, Redmonde is not related to the executive editor of San Francisco's left-wing political organ, Tim Redmond of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. But she said he has spoken at her bookstore.)

Insert your own pun here
Redmonde said that Westerners and younger generations of Chinese have been sold a misleading account of Mao's years in power. She disputed historians' estimates of the tens of millions of his own people he killed, asserting instead that life expectancy doubled under his leadership, and that feudal practices such as infanticide were halted. "Mao actually saved lives in China," she said. "We're fans of Mao and stuff like that," she added.

We listened politely to Redmonde's rationalizations of all things Mao, but came away unconvinced. Mao's Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, documented by innumerable firsthand observers and historians, will likely always be ranked by reasonable people among the greatest atrocities of 20th Century totalitarian governments. We'd like to poke fun at people who still worship at the altar of Mao in 2009, but the truth is that this shit just ain't funny.

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