C: Joe Wong / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Mao’s Woke Red Guards

The recent ‘disinviting’ or cancelling of veteran writer and feminist Mary Kenny from an official University of Limerick women’s event says a lot about the culture of Irish university campuses in 2023.  This was particularly so as the cancelling happened in the run up to International Women’s Day.

Opinions, other than those approved by the self-appointed arbiters of the woke movement, are now likely to find themselves quickly side lined or even cancelled. For the record, Mary Kenny’s crime appears to have been that she might offend the feelings of trans activists. However, Kenny appears to be in good company as it seems she shares the same views as JK Rowling and the majority of the public.

Alas, that was not good enough for some purple-rinse Gang of Four trans activists in UL who deemed that their fellow students should not be exposed to views that differ from their own.

The parallels between the woke movement and Mao Zedong’s infamous Red Guards appear to grow by the day. For those who may be unaware of them, the Red Guards were Mao’s youth movement who were the boots on the ground for many of his most disastrous policies during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution which lasted from 1966 to Mao’s death in 1976.

Young and idealistic they may have liked to see themselves but Mao’s Red Guards were also responsible for some appalling acts of thuggery which resulted in an unknown number of deaths. The Cultural Revolution was meant to be about reinvigorating the revolution but it quickly descended into a purge directed against anyone who was perceived as standing in the way of the revolution. Those at particular risk from the Red Guards included anyone who was educated.

Yet, for left leaning Irish students of the 1960’s and 70’s, a portrait of Mao along with fellow socialist patron saint and revolutionary Fidel Castro formed part of the essential décor of most student bedsits in revolutionary Rathmines. What these dreamers never knew or what they never wanted to admit to themselves was that Mao’s Cultural Revolution created absolute havoc in China.

These days, the Irish left either down plays the disaster that was Mao’s communist China or explains it away as not being ‘real socialism’. However, the tendency for most other socialist experiments around the world to end in a similar loss of human rights and economic meltdown would suggest that such countries are the norm rather than the exception.

The thing about Mao’s infamous Red Guards was that they operated in a hot house environment where dissent or even the airing of other views was not allowed. They may have started off by preaching about noble ideals such as equality and tolerance but they quickly became little more than a mob of brainwashed young thugs depriving others of what they themselves were supposedly espousing.

There are shades of Mao’s Red Guards in the cancelling of Mary Kenny from an official UL event. Indeed, the trend of attempting to silence those with an alternative view to your own seems, if anything, to be growing.

A recent anti-immigration and asylum fraud protest in Cork is a case in point. What made this different was that a counter protest was scheduled for the same venue and at the same time.  Scheduling a counter protest in this way was at best mischievous and at worst an attempt to intimidate and close down those with a different view.

This was all the more so as the counter protest wasn’t some peaceful silent affair but consisted largely of shouting terms like ‘fascist’ and ‘racist’ at everybody else although in this case, it would seem more like the counter protestors who were behaving like fascists.

This wasn’t some ragbag of Antifa supporters – it also included two TDs.  Whatever people think about an anti-immigration protest, in a free society people should be free to assemble and protest peacefully. It’s a principle that most people would expect anyone elected to Dáil Eireann to respect.

There are many historical echoes of self-righteous zealots depriving others of their rights. The curious thing is that this curbing of the right to free speech and free assembly of others is often done in the interests of high motives such as equality and tolerance. Yet, these are often the very people who take it upon themselves to deprive others of these same rights.

A bit like Mao’s Cultural Revolution, liberal Ireland seems increasingly obsessed with vague and tangential ideals. The recent announcement of a referendum to insert a clause about gender equality into the Irish constitution following on from the deliberations of the distinctly Maoist-sounding and totally unrepresentative ‘Citizens Assembly’ is a case in point. Meanwhile, the dysfunction in housing, health and a myriad number of other areas in Irish life continues apace.

Are Ireland’s woke left today’s Red Guards? Paragons of idealism and reason they may like to see themselves but that’s no excuse for an increasingly intolerant attitude to anyone who disagrees with them. Perhaps Mao’s infamous Red Guards serve as a cautionary warning from history to all that those who mouth high principles do not always live by those same principles.

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