How far were Mao’s agricultural policies responsible for the scale of the great famine in China, 1958-65?
Mao introduced collectivisation in 1956, two years before the beginning of the great famine. It lasted between the years of 1958 and 1961, where millions of peasants and industrial worker died due to a severe lack of food. Most historians argue that the scale of the famine was due to the agricultural reforms introduced by Mao in the Great Leap Forward, but Mao blamed other factors.
Collectivisation involved the peasants joining together to farm collectively rather than individually. They then had to share the food produced with the rest of the community, as opposed to just their ...view middle of the document...
China was heavily influenced by the work of the Soviet Union, especially Lysenko’s ideas as Mao aspired for China to be similar to them, meaning he assumed the policies they followed must work. However, the plants couldn’t grow in these conditions, causing huge famine and lack of food. The introduction of the theory was Mao’s fault, as he shouldn’t have believed such a ridiculous theory, let alone adopted the policies. Separately, Lysenkoism and Collectivisation were disastrous, but when put together the results would be dangerous, and be the main cause of the massive scale of the famine. Both policies were introduced by Mao, suggesting that the policies he introduced were responsible for the scale of the famine. The peasants were obliged to follow collectivisation, despite the dislike felt towards it, due to the fear of being purged if they didn’t. If the families had been allowed to farm in the traditional way, they wouldn’t have followed Lysenko’s ideas, and the crops would have survived and the famine would have been avoided, suggesting that Mao’s policies were responsible for the scale.
However, the failure of Lysenkoism wasn’t entirely Mao’s fault; although he shouldn’t have followed the inevitable failings of the policy, China was heavily influenced by Soviet scientists, such as Lysenko. They were influenced into believing that his theories were right and he could do no wrong. This propaganda would have led Mao to believe the policies would benefit the county. The peasants were also influenced into believing that Mao could do no wrong, so many believed that the new policies would save them, rather than send them further into famine.
Although collectivisation and Lysenkoism formed the basis of the famine, there were other factors that contributed to the entire scale. Mao refused to face the facts, and was determined to stay in power. When presented with a report on the genocide in Tibet, Mao dismissed it as a ‘collection of lies and distortions’ as it criticised the PRC. He was informed of the extent of the deaths and the extent of which people were dying due to his new policies; around 15 million peasants died; he was adamant that his policies were not to blame, and it was other external factors causing the scale of the famine. He blamed bad weather, uninformed local officers and greedy peasants. He had the chance to accept he was wrong and rectify failed aspects of the agricultural reforms but he was sure so he was right that he continued to let people die rather than accept he was wrong. This was in fitting with previous campaigns as he fired anyone who apposed him, for example Peng Dehuai. This was not a policy of agricultural reform, instead Mao’s ignorance and pride contributing to the millions of deaths.
A factor that was entirely out...