From Revolutionary to Dictator, who does Muammar Gaddafi resemble the most?

By He Qinglian on August 24, 2011
(translated by krizcpec)

After the 2011 “Jasmine Revolutions” in MENA, the “Club of Tyranny” formed by the world's dictators has lost several of its members.

“Dictators” typically mean those leaders who obtain the highest power in authoritarian or totalitarian regimes. Looking back at the way they rose to power, one would find something interesting: although some became leaders of their countries through democratic elections first and realized dictatorship after their cabinets were formed; even more of them, however, headed for dictatorship through the revolutionary road. From revolution leaders to dictators, these people didn't seem to need any change in the way they thought and acted. The only difference was whether or not they had powers in their hands.
Many of the dictators of Asian, African and Latin American countries were loyal fans of Mao in earlier years. This “great accomplishment” was proudly shown by He Mingxing in his article, “ The Spread of Mao Zedong's writing around the world—the huge cultural heritage the 'Red Century' had bequeathed to the contemporary China (毛泽东著作在世界的传播——‘红色世纪’留给当代中国的巨大文化遗产)”. He listed out one by one the revolution leaders that had been influenced by Mao's thoughts. Among those listed, revolution leaders turned government leaders in Ethiopia, Benin, Madagascar, Ghana and other countries called on their peoples to study Mao's writings so as to learn from the experience of revolutionary victory of China. As a result, almost every one in these countries has a copy of Mao's monographs, like On Practice (《实践论》) and On Contradictions (《矛盾论》).

Among these leaders, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana could be seen as an exemplar of learners of Mao's writings.

Yet Mr He Mingxing is not willing to mention that most of these revolution leaders later became dictators and brought about great disasters to their countries. The author might also not be aware that, compared to dictators that were not fans of Mao, dictators who worshiped Mao were more brutal and inhuman in their iron fist governance.

This article would cite Muammar Gaddafi, who has become a hot topic of late, as an example. This strongman who is about to come to an end in politics is in many ways very very similar to Mao Zedong.

First, Muammar Gaddafi is a worshiper and practitioner of Mao Zedong's concept, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”. He did not only imitate the daredevil courage of Mao Zedong and start a coup; but also remember by heart the teaching of Mao, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”, and employed the rule of violence on his people. Mao would hold onto the post chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission despite having been confined to bed as a result of paralysis for years, his grip on the military power did not lessen a bit. Likewise, being a Colonel, Muammar Gaddafi has held military power tightly in his hand; no other task or duty has come to his mind.

Second, Muammar Gaddafi admired deeply the way Mao Zedong made his people idolize him and imitated it as closely as he could. Mao Zedong liked people to address him as “the Sun”, to chant to him “Long Live Chairman Mao”. At one point he became so aggressive that he wanted to compete with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for the leadership role in the World Revolution. After that ambition had failed, Mao scaled down his target to acquiring the leadership position for the Third World Revolution and became feverish about “the export of revolution”. Similar to Mao, Muammar Gaddafi has a strong sense of personal heroism. He is good at making his people loyal to him. He has never been content with being a leader just of the country of Libya and often carried out all sorts of stunts to sprint for the throne of the leader of the Arab world.

In 2008, Muammar Gaddafi summoned a group of African tribal leaders and demanded them to address him respectfully as the king of kings.

Third, both Muammar Gaddafi and Mao are thinkers. To this day “Mao’s thoughts” are still said to be “the precious cultural wealth of the Chinese people”, and are “the gems CCP contributed to the world revolution”. Yet as much as Muammar Gaddafi wants to become a great thinker, he only managed to publish a single Green Book, an imitation of Mao’s little red book, Quotations from Chairman Mao. The reason? Muammar Gaddafi is not as well-read as Mao; and understandably, he doesn’t have as large a pool of talented subordinates as Mao did. After all, with China’s huge population, there are more talents correspondingly; whereas the total population of Libya is no bigger than that of a large province in China, it is quite natural that fewer talents are working under Muammar Gaddafi.

In 1975, 1976, and 1978 (1981?), Muammar Gaddafi published respectively the three parts of the Green Book. From then on, all school-age children in Libya must study this book in school. To illustrate his ideal design of democracy and people's livelihood, Muammar Gaddafi put forward in the Green Book the “Third International Theory” which is neither Capitalism nor Communism. Muammar Gaddafi favors Rousseau's doctrine of popular sovereignty, and advocates “direct democracy”, believing that individuals do not need to retain their rights, which should be fully entrusted to the state, and let the state exercise those on their behalf. And the Green Book decides that the country’s highest authority is the General People's Committee. 

As for the value of this book, “in Libya, What The Green Book by Muammar Gaddafi is to the Libyan people was what the Quotations from Chairman Mao once was to the Chinese people, a treasured book which each and every Libyan has a copy”, so it is stated right at the beginning in “The Parallels of the Green Book and Mao’sThoughts”, a special program by Hong Kong’s Phoenix Television, a broadcaster with profound Chinese background which has sent Anthony Yuen to conduct a one-on-one interview with Muammar Gaddafi.

 That program went on saying that: “Green is in the hearts of Libyans a symbol of hope and life, their national flag is filled entirely by the color green, which is also the core of their national emblem; in Tripoli's streets, buildings, doors and windows are mostly painted in different shades of green. Muammar Gaddafi even outlined in the Green Book the ideal he strove for—turning desert into oasis, and said to his people that 'only through self-reliance can Libya have a bright future'.”

If because of Anthony Yuen's bad reputation he does not have enough authority to liken the Green Book by Muammar Gaddafi to the Little Red Book by Mao Zedong, then there would be no such problem for Wuhan University, which is among the best of universities in China. 
On April 27-28, 2007, that university held a "Symposium on Muammar Gaddafi 's thinking". In the welcoming speech delivered on behalf of the university, vice-secretary of CPC School Committee Luo Yuting said, “Muammar Gaddafi is an important leader of the Arab countries, an old friend of the Chinese people who has contributed to the development of relationship between China and Libya. He is also a renowned thinker.”

It was precisely this close imitation that helped Muammar Gaddafi achieve his “great cause” in life. But, both Mao Zedong and Muammar Gaddafi are belligerent in nature. This has made it certain that Mao Zedong, the person who ruled hundreds of millions of Chinese people, looked down on the world and had been quoted as saying that “all reactionaries are paper tigers”, would not have liked much the rebellious Muammar Gaddafi. 

Based on this, some in China said, as signs of Muammar Gaddafi's defeat are shown this year, that Mao and Gaddafi were at loggerheads with each other, and they could not get together. As a result, before Chairman Mao's passing, no headway had been made in improving the bilateral ties between China and Libya, and diplomatic relations couldn't even be established. They denied that Muammar Gaddafi is among “the good pupils of Chairman Mao”.

Comments like this are somewhat snobbery in that they judge people merely by one criterion: whether or not they have been successful. And since Gaddafi has failed, they refused to recognize him as someone who is in both thoughts and actions strikingly similar to Mao. That is not quite right.

My conclusion is: while Pol Pot learned and gave full play to the ruthless, inhuman brutality of Mao Zedong; Muammar Gaddafi has been the most thorough learner of Mao, from thoughts to actions. However, both Pol Pot and Muammar Gaddafi are not of Chinese descend, and had not read the twenty-Four histories. They could never have learned the trick to put up the pretense of a benevolent leader and conceal their true nature of a tyrant.