April 28th, 2015

Check us out here for class of 2015’s final days;


Reagan and the Evil Empire

April 17th, 2015


Have you all seen these before?  They’re called “Word clouds”.  You can cut and paste text and the words will be randomized but also manipulated in size by their frequency.  In other words in Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech, above, he used “God” quite a bit and “communism” rather less so.  I think they are interesting.

Here in Ambrose and Brinkley’s 15th chapter we have a marathon of words.  40+ pages!  Note the 5th edition was published in 1988, the sixth in 1991.  In one of those editions, the 6th I suspect, this chapter was new and a classic case of not having enough historical distance to weed out the significant from the non.  Student in one class lost his book and has newer edition which he says has this chapter much trimmed down.

If I were hunting for terms I might choose Ambrose’s take in the Iran-Contra affair, Lebanon, Grenada and maybe the Falkland Islands.

So what do A&B think of old Ronnie?  Good or bad or somewhere in-between?


Unit 9 Test review

April 15th, 2015

Areas on which the source-based questions will focus are:

  • the struggle for power following the death of Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung), Hua Guofeng (Hua Kuo‑feng), the re-emergence of Deng Xiaoping (Teng Hsiao-p’ing) and the defeat of the Gang of Four
  • China under Deng Xiaoping: economic policies and the Four Modernizations
  • China under Deng Xiaoping: political changes, and their limits, culminating in Tiananmen Square (1989)
  • domestic and foreign problems of the Brezhnev era: economic and political stagnation; Afghanistan
  • Gorbachev and his aims/policies (glasnost and perestroika) and consequences for the Soviet state
  • consequences of Gorbachev’s policies for Eastern European reform movements: Poland—the role of Solidarity; Czechoslovakia—the Velvet Revolution; fall of the Berlin Wall.


Come up with your own question #4, “According to the documents and your own knowledge…?”

List eight (8) solid facts to respond.

Testing the limits

April 13th, 2015


“Breaking a Han Dynasty urn” is the title of the photo taken by the often jailed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.   What do you suppose he intended to say with this photograph?

On to Spence and of course the protests of 1989.  The protests of course don’t fall out of the clear blue sky.  Though the excuse was the death of Deng’s former compatriot Hu Yaobang what was the “real” or longer term reason for the events?

Interesting at the opening of the chapter of how all the changes and reforms in China, like getting rid of the communes, weren’t really seen as completely positive.  China was in a muddle in many ways, and despite economic growth of even recent years, might still be.

There is a lot here.  The Not-Not manifesto is interesting.  The “communist weeds” vs. capitalist seedlings, and a literal return to 100 flowers.

Enjoy your final read of Spence.


Levels of power

April 9th, 2015


image above is Hong Kong

As China enters the 1980s here it appears that China is really entering the world.  The revolution of 1949 appears a convulsive act that required a generation of flitting recovery for the new China to emerge from.  How is this new 1980s China really different from the one in the teens or twenties or even the one that preceded the 1911 revolution? By that I mean not the economy, or the industrial revolution both of which change China enormously, but rather the government.  Look at the bureaucracy.  What really changed?

Now in the 80s, no doubt inspired by full relations with the US and the “West”, China needs lawyers, international law, a solid education system, incentives for workers and even allows the free-wheeling Hong Kong to keep on keepin’ on.

How did all of this come about?  How does China seem to escape the fate of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union of the same time period?  What was really different here?

We are at crunch time for our little class.  I know you all have many exciting things going on and opportunities to look forward to, but the extent to which for the next simple 3 (only) or 4(stretch) weeks you can double down and focus with me on the final units and reviews as they unroll, you will see, and I will see, I think some extraordinary results.

Hang in there.

Redefining Revolution

April 7th, 2015


How is this a redefinition of revolution your might ask?  well, embedding an icon of capitalism into a communist system is pretty revolutionary I think.  Marx would be rolling in his grave.

China’s (Deng Xiaoping’s) desire to modernize in agriculture and industry etc.  saw them get in bed with the United States, and Coca-Cola and Boeing, and then attack a communist nation (Vietnam) in part because of its leanings towards Socialist country #1 the USSR!  Seems like crazy stuff.

What’s really crazy stuff is that Mao was right 70% of the time.  Claims like that make me think of “Lost in Translation” because I find pronouncements like that sort of funny, yet in China I know it was taken with the greatest seriousnesses.

Several fairly radical things are unrolled here. At a meeting in December 1978 Mao is denounced as a supporter of the gang of four, the protests of 1976 are declared properly revolutionary and everyone back to the 1957 anti-rightist movement who had been publicly persecuted, is let off the hook.  Amazing.

Its interesting to me how Spence’s treatment of the four economic zones is different from film’s.  Spence notes they were not immediately successful and required vast government investment.  Its also interesting how he uses the exact same poem used in the film at the end of the democracy wall movement.  You should trace the footnote on the poem. It leads to what looks like an interesting book.

8 more quizzes!


Re-opening the doors (Spence 22/ 23 in 2nd ed)

April 5th, 2015

Athens 2004 - Athletics - Men's 110m Hurdles Preliminary

OK gang (of more than 4).  Its a race.  We have many hurdles to overcome.  But we can do it.  Put your heads down.  Get the senioritis vaccine and give me one more moth.  ONE MORE MONTH.  That’s all I need, its all you need, to close up this grand game and make us all as proud as a Bucky Badger fan.

In re-opening the doors we have four significant subsections.  There is the US and the Nixon visit, attacking Confucius and Lin-Biao, defining the economy and finally the death of the old guard, Zhou and Mao. You might expect a quiz question from each one and you might be right.

The US Nixon visit is of course hugely important and we have read about it before.  Whats new here is no the invitation of the US ping pong team, or the secret arrival of HK in July 1971 but rather that this began with negotiations under JFK, stopped by his assassination, was renewed in LBJ’s time, but then crushed by the Cultural Revolution and finally begun again by the US, by the opposing political party, of JFK’s even.  In other words all the credit going to Nixon and HK is as misguided as all of the fault levied at their feet for the US role in the war in Vietnam.

The attack on Confucius and Lin-Biao is so convoluted as to be very hard to understand.  Its enough to know that it was a thing, a thing that had become a mass campaign across China by 1974 and was promulgated by those who will become known as the “gang of four”.    Its enough to know thats its an atack on old ways exemplified by the actions of two students who I’m sure you loved, Zhang and Zhong.  In protest over the return to University entrance by examination, Zhang handed in a blank exam.  In protest over the nepotism or corruption of his influential Long March veteran Father making a discrete call to guarantee admission, Zhong resigned from the University.  Cool stuff.  I wonder if each of you would do the same?

In terms of redefining the economy this is super important for understanding subsequent chapters.  Zhou En Lai, though discreetly, Deng Xiaoping and others recognize the need to reach out for foreign (US) technological support.  Others, the “gang of four” vehemently deny this. Hua Guofang, who will succeed Mao, strikes a bit of a middle-ground.  Deng Xiaoping will eventually win and go on to dominate China in the 1980s with his economic reforms and this is very likely to be the subject of your Documents exam, paper #1.

Finally the death of of the old guard, Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong.  Hua Guofang will replace Mao, the gang of four are arrested and the future of China hangs in the balance.

Stay tuned.

We Can’t go on Like This

March 23rd, 2015


No this was not a lover’s warning, this was rather Gorbachev’s assertion, on the eve of taking power, that something was fundamentally wrong.  He believe change had to come, and it came, but not in ways he could have predicted.  In 1988 the state history exams were cancelled because as “glasnost” unrolled, the lies of the soviet textbooks became more and more evident.

Singled out as one of the most oppressive regimes by White, Honecker’s GDR, being depicted in our movie, was a place where Gorby had to muscle in and force some change.  Some of the claims in the film, problems of corruption, prostitution, are supported by White here, as are the existences of the subversive authors and artists who, in White, want to push harder and harder for reforms.

I think its in Pipes, but it might be in Kissinger to come, someone makes the claim the regimes are at their most vulnerable when they begin to institute reforms.  Reforms begin to trickle in and they’re like “salted peanuts” to use Kissinger’s analogy from before.  People want more and more.

Why did change come in the way that it did?  White has some musings on possible answers.  What do you think?

A system in decline and change from below

March 19th, 2015


I remember these streetcars in Prague in 1992 looking very much as they looked here.  The only difference is that in 1992 the occasional streetcar would be painted as a giant ad for M&Ms, or Skittles.  Capitalism was on the march.

In these pages White portrays the entire system in the eastern bloc as on the decline economically, despite enormous gains earlier (after WWII).  One might fairly ask though, if we look at economic growth in the US at the same time, don’t we see a similar story?

I’m no economist but the numbers  of growth in the US are generally under 10% and often under 5%.  What is the difference?  White offer up a few clues.  Did you pick them up?

Secondly, in the chapter on “Change” it is so interesting to read this story now when so much potential change appears to be happening in the world. Is Syria going to turn out like Romania?  Is Ukraine more like Hungary or CZ?  Those sorts of comparisons might provide some really interesting analysis in today’s world.  I’ll try to look for my ’92 visit to Prague pictures tonight.  Maybe I can bring a few in for show & tell.

What was communism and how was its rule established?

March 16th, 2015


Workers were to have “no country”.  No country and no religion.  For a people, like the Polish, who identified so strongly with both, its a wonder socialism was successful at all.  Notice I used the word “socialism” instead of “communism”.  Whats the difference?

Communism remained this ideal, for all but Khrushchev apparently, that would only be realized in the far far future.  It would only be much later the individuals would really receive from society based on their need.  In socialism your needs are provided for but in part based upon the work that you do.

What resonates most in these chapters with the people I think is that claim of no exploitation.  No landlords.  No stock traders.  No one making money off of others money, no billionaires, but no paupers (homeless) either.  This would seem a powerful promise after decades of depression and World War.

A nice perspective is also here from White, of the relative isolation of the USSR.   Completely isolated until WWII but then again largely so by the 1960s when not only were Hungary and Poland feeling a bit independent, we also know that China was clearly out on its own.

Both chapters for tomorrow.  1&2.