Maoist writer Raymond Lotta’s lecture at the University of Chicago last Tuesday promised to hold potential for two possible kinds of entertainment: enjoyment of a genuinely thoughtful discussion on the merits of a Communist revolution in America, and a more malicious pleasure taken from watching the reaction of the libertarian members of the audience. But the talk failed on both counts.
Lotta’s lecture began with his moderator listing his major works: a smattering of articles for leftist periodicals, a co-authorship of a polemic which is apparently esoteric enough to not appear anywhere on the internet, and his magnum opus, “America in Decline,” a 1984 treatise on the global effects of capitalism. The real kicker, though: he writes his own blog. Astonishingly, the content of his talk was even more questionable than his credentials. He spent an egregious amount of time showing how many of Mao’s more sinister quotes were either fabricated or taken out of context. It was particularly amusing when he pulled up a slide showing the actual text of 1958 speech by Mao to dispel misconceptions about a popular misquotation (“Half a million may well have to die…”) not realizing that earlier on the same page Mao justified the murder of a somewhat smaller number of Chinese citizens. After inconclusively demonstrating that Mao never expressed intent to commit genocide, Lotta moved on to the next point of his lecture about Bob Avakian’s modern Communism without even mentioning the fact that Mao in fact did order the deaths of millions of people. The historical accuracy of the presentation was spotty at best and his points about the benefits of Communism in the modern world fell somewhere between vague and incomprehensible. In short, the presentation can be summed up in Lotta’s own words: “It’s quite amazing what passes for intellectual rigor with regard to Communism.”