The Cultural Revolution began fifty years and six months ago, in May 1966. Paul Berman writes of Mao’s admirers in France and America:
The flower of French intellectual life—Sartre, Foucault, and many others—aligned themselves with the Maoist cause in the various ways…
…the Maoists established a political base at the École Normale Supérieure, which is the elite college where Louis Althusser provided philosophical guidance (beginning with Lenin’s mad slogan: “Marxist theory is all-powerful because it is true”).
Maddening rather than mad, as any piece of circular logic. A greater affront to public sanity was the Maoist takeover of a great university. Mao remained en vogue among Parisian students and their learned mentors even as he was crushing the Red Guards, the thuggish youngsters who had outlived their usefulness as professor-beaters, in 1967-68.
Soviet propagandists, Europe-watchers and Sinologists were not taken in by that Occidental Maophilia. Starting from the Damansky island incident in 1969, Moscow feared a Chinese invasion more than war with NATO and had little sympathy for Mao’s Western adepts.
A Soviet journalist reported from Paris that student protesters had the slogan “Marx is God, Marcuse his prophet, Mao his sword.” It may have been invented in Italy, but the Marx-Marcuse-Mao triad was in currency among the new left in France and Germany. No doubt it incensed the Soviets, whose only trinity was Marx-Engels-Lenin.