“Third Worldism,” epistemology, art, socialism

“Third Worldism,” epistemology, art, socialismhqdefault


1. It is always an honor to speak with you. Many people identify you as a “Third Worldist,” one term that is floating around is “Maoist.” Do you apply these to yourself?

Do we uphold a revolutionary theory and practice that emphasizes the poorest people, those who suffer the most, the exploited and oppressed, in a word, the Third World? Obviously, yes. Probably the most famous line from Karl Marx is when he states, “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.” If we are honest, we have to admit that people in the First World, generally speaking, have far more to lose than their chains. They have the whole consumerist lifestyle of the First World. They have the comfort of living in prosperous, stable, modern First World societies. If we applied Marx’s criteria honestly, wouldn’t he too be described as a Third Worldist? After all, on the whole, where are the people who have nothing but their labor to sell reside? Where do those who “have nothing to lose but their chains” live? Today, they live, almost exclusively, in what people describe as the Third World. Do we acknowledge the contributions past revolution geniuses? Karl Marx was a Leading Light. Yes. Vladimir Lenin was a Leading Light. Yes. Mao Zedong was a Leading Light. Yes. Just like any real scientist should, we take what is good and toss the bad in all things, including the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist tradition. However, labels can obscure some important things. These labels make it sound as though what we are is just old dogma with a Third Worldist twist. This is not the case at all. What we’re doing is much more profound. What we are doing is unprecedented. Leading Light Communism is far more advanced that anything that has come before. From the standpoint of making revolution, nothing is greater than all-powerful, awesome, glorious Leading Light Communism.

Let’s put this into context. Here’s a little history. It is funny to think that in April of 1969, Lin Biao, Mao’s greatest general, closest comrade-in-arms, chosen successor, heir apparent announced “revolution is the main trend in the world today” at the Ninth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. During the Cultural Revolution, and here I mean the real Cultural Revolution from 1965 to 1969 or 1971 at the latest, the people’s war line really held that humanity was so close to worldwide victory that Lin Biao went so far as to say Mao Zedong’s theories constituted a new stage of final confrontation between the people’s forces and capitalism, Mao Zedong Thought was Marxism for the current epoch, when capitalism was heading for worldwide collapse, and socialism for worldwide victory. Part of this outlook is to see global empire as teetering. Everyone was commanded to push the system over. Thus the will to launch people’s war was seen as one of the main ways we distinguish between real Marxism versus revisionism. We agree with Lin Biao on this. There is a widespread phenomenon of First World yappers pimping off people’s wars but not lifting a finger to actually help. We call them “cowardly lions.” It is a major form of revisionism today. So during the Cultural Revolution, Lin Biao and those supporting people’s war were calling for forces in every corner of the world to launch revolutionary wars immediately in order to topple imperialism. This is not unlike Che’s call to the tricontinental: “two, three, many Vietnams.” The idea is that because imperialism had become so bogged down, so weakened, a mass offensive by people in every corner of the world could topple it. Obviously, things didn’t work out this way. And this support for people’s war cost the Chinese. The Chinese were openly calling for the overthrow of almost every regime in the world, both East and West. It meant diplomatic isolation. How things have changed today.

Obviously, as things progressed from the 1960s into the 1970s, the Chinese were very wrong about the strength and resilience of empire. Mao and the rightwing of the Chinese Communist Party began to move China into an alignment with the West in the 1970s. Lin Biao, the major voice for the people’s war line, was almost certainly murdered in 1971. The Chinese state of the 1970s began to downplay people’s war and move more toward traditional diplomacy and reconciliation. It is a bit ironic too since Mao, in part at least, justified his original break with the Soviet revisionists based on his rejection of the revisionist line of “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism. Well, Mao’s foreign policy of the 1970s toward the West was not unlike Khrushchev’s. Just as the Soviet Union and the West had jointly sold out Latin America, so too the Chinese now jointly worked with the West. Perhaps one of the most famous cases is that China was the first regime to recognize Pinochet’s bloody coup. I recall reading that the Chinese embassy, unlike others, shut its doors to students, workers, and activists seeking sanctuary from the deathsquads in Chile. Bangladesh is another example. Mao allied with Pakistan and the West, even as Pakistan waged a systematic genocide there. These are some of the blemishes on Mao’s record. Now, of course, Mao was one of the greatest revolutionaries, Leading Lights, of all time, but we have to be honest here.

In any case, my point is to say things have changed so much. Things look very different. Today, the revolutionary movement is at an impasse. There are no socialist states. Soviet socialism fell even before the final collapse of the Soviet Union. And China began to slide into capitalism in the 1970s. Today, China is the workforce that produces all the goodies, all the consumer products, for the United States and much of the First World. China’s workforce is an exploited proletariat serving First World appetites.  So bad are things that not long ago, book after book was published on the “pax Americana,” “the global, liberal victory,” “the end of history,” “the end of the age of the big idea,” “the death of communism,” and so on.

Our outlook is just not some slightly tweaked Maoism. The problems of the revisionist movement, including Maoism, are much deeper than their political economy. First Worldism, the belief that the First World contains a significant proletariat, that it is revolutionary, is a symptom of a deeper problem. Similarly, continuing to wrap oneself in the vocabulary, icons, and symbols of the past, the Maoist era, the Soviet era, stems from this same problem. Accusations of “tankyism” are traded back and forth between dogmatists. There is a lack of scientific thinking, not just at the peripheries of these movements, but also at the cores. This is reflected in the way they do political economy, yes. But it is also reflected in the way they approach history. This is reflected in their lack of deep cultural analysis, their inability to speak intelligently on art and aesthetics. It is reflected in their blissful ignorance of the incredible advances of the ongoing scientific revolution, discoveries in brain and cognitive science, the green revolution in agriculture, the new discoveries in biology, physics, information technology, and so on.

It is rather funny to me that many dogmatists think that they are so advanced scientifically because they embrace dialectical materialism, yet for them, Lenin was the last word on agitation and propaganda, as though modern marketing, which draws of a large body of psychological research, has nothing to say to revolution. No wonder so many lefty trends are getting beaten by Islam. There is also an impasse in military thinking, which is why the Maoist model isn’t working as it once did even though there are a few movements here and there that have run out of steam, stalemated, or on their last leg. None are really winning or even advancing. This all stems from a deeper epistemological issue. It stems from dogmatism. It stems from lack of innovation, lack of genuine science, lack of adaptation. The world changes, so must we if we are to really win. For some people, preservation of dogma is more important than victory. For some people preservation of their orthodox “communist” identity is more important than the people. For us, it is different. We absolutely reject all dogma. Leading Light Communism is all about science.

We cannot stress this enough. Leading Light Communism is not just about political economy. It is about a complete revolution in all areas of revolutionary science. Our knife cuts much deeper than just economics. Leading Light Communism is about putting the revolutionary movement — in all its aspects — on an elevated scientific footing. This is why we say we have one leader: the Leading Light of truth. This is also why we are having discussions about how to craft a proper low science openly. In addition to high science, all revolutions have used low science. We are the first, as far as I am aware, to speak completely openly about the myth making, to invite those who are capable into a broad public discussion of the topic, rather than just constructing the low science behind closed doors. Ironically, we have been accused of being “cultist” for popularizing a discussion that has mostly been kept secret. If anything, we are the ones explaining to the masses how these things work, and asking them to engage in their own liberation in that sphere. Others pretend the problem of motivating and simultaneously elevating a population can be mocked away, or others are ostriches who put their head in the sand. What do they have to show for their approaches? In any case, the new breakthrough of the Leading Light is so profound in its simplicity and depth. We are about really winning, really putting science in command.  We are elevating the science at all levels, yet  are doing so in a way that preserves the revolutionary heart of Marxism. We are really talking about creating a new stage of revolutionary science, arming with masses with the best ideological tools available, the best weapons,  in order to make revolution, to reach Leading Light Communism.

There is a difference between the First World and Third World here too. Many in the Third World have not yet made contact with the Leading Light. If a man is dying of thirst and all he has is dirty water, he will drink it. However, if given the pure water alongside the dirty, he will choose the pure, unless there is something else in play. In time, the pure water will flow everywhere.

We have already won the ideological battle. It is lonely at the top. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, you need very long legs to jump from peak to peak. The Bolshevik revolution was a peak. The Maoist revolution was peak. So, here we are, at the beginning of the next wave, at another peak. Most do not have those kinds of legs. Most people are still in the past, in a valley working their way to the next peak. Looking down on the ideological dessert, and it is barren. The battle at the level of high science is won. Sure, there are still mopping up operations. Unlike so many of the hypocrites in the revisionist left, we really do put politics in command.

2. “Politics in command” comes from the Chinese revolution? Can you explain a little about “Politics in command?”

Yes. Mao famously stated:

“The correctness or otherwise of the ideological and political line decides everything. When the Party’s line is correct, then everything will come its way. If it has no followers, then it can have followers; if it has no guns, then it can have guns; if it has no political power, then it can have political power. If its line is not correct, even what it has it loses.”

Revolution is not just some blind endeavor. it is not an accident. Joseph Stalin once said that the people will row the boat to the shores of communism, with or without leadership. Some believe our victory is somehow woven into the fabric of nature itself, that our victory is contained in the deterministic motion of atoms, that it is inevitable. This is often associated with productionist and technological-determinist tendencies that ended up serving counter-revolution. Some tendencies saw communism as inevitable, no matter what. They thought that the advance of science and technological progress would simply serve up prosperity without conscious intervention by revolutionary leadership, without conscious, constant, continuous efforts to direct the revolutionizing of power and culture. Historically speaking, these two tendencies fought it out as a battle between counter-revolution are revolution. China’s Cultural Revolution is a good example of this fight between communists and the new capitalist class. Revolution is not inevitable, nor is it served up by technology alone. Revolution is something that is achieved by a very specific course of action. Ideology is absolutely necessary. Revolutionary science is necessary. Politics is necessary. Leadership is necessary. Without leadership, without science, without the politics of truth, our boat will row forever in circles. Great leadership of the people armed with all-powerful, awesome, glorious Leading Light Communism  is required for to realize our great destiny. We are a movement of the best of the best, warrior geniuses from every corner of the Earth. Together, we are the sword of destiny on Earth to rid the world of all suffering, exploitation, oppression, poverty, rape.

Specifically, “Politics in command” is a slogan that arises in the army during Lin Biao’s “Four First” policy to turn the army into a school of Mao Thought and model for all of society. Those policies were implemented right after the fall of Peng Dehuai around the end of the Great Leap. Remember that Lin Biao was one of the few who rallied to Mao’s defense at the Lushan conference when Mao came under criticism for the errors of the Great Leap. Lin Biao had said the problems of the Great Leap resulted from not adhering closely enough to Mao’s thoughts. Lin Biao would come to be the main spokesman and embodiment of Maoism during the Cultural Revolution. He was the high priest of the Mao cult while also being depicted as the great warrior: Mao’s best student, Mao’s closest comrade in arms, China’s greatest genius general, Mao’s hand-picked successor.

There is a vagueness in the expression, so it was later changed. Think about it. Now, politics is always in a command in a sense. Think of the person who works harder in order to buy more consumer products. In such a case, politics is indeed in command of his actions, albeit the politics are of a stupid, un-revolutionary variety. Politics is not always revolutionary politics. For this reason, as time went on, when the slogan continued to be popularized as part of the effort to popularize Lin Biao and his army, but the slogan was changed to “Mao Zedong Thought in command!”

Today, communists say “science in command!” or “Leading Light in command!” This means that we must put aside individualism, ego, petty distractions, dogma. Don’t get caught up in petty drama. Don’t let anyone bait us. The yappers will yap. The liars will lie. They literally do not matter. We know who we are. We know our hearts are pure. The great breakthrough has been made, revolutionary science has advanced and continues to do so under the banner of the Leading Light. It doesn’t matter that these ideas happen to be articulated by myself. The point is they are here now. The masses deserve the best. No weapon is more powerful than the Leading Light of truth. Back in It’s Right To Rebel (IRTR) days, the Central Committee declared that the principal task was to spread the high science globally, especially the Third World. Well, that is exactly what Leading Light has done with almost no support from our critics and with inept wrecking campaigns. One wonders how much they have done to advance concrete struggle?

3. You have criticized dogma. Can you elaborate a little? What makes one theory more scientific or better than another? What makes Leading Light better than dialectics, for example?

One metaphysical misconception that many have is that truth is “out there” in some ultimate, spooky sense. According to such a view, the job of science to codify or match itself up with the world itself. On this view, an ideal science would be the one that replicated or reflected so-called “the book of nature” perfectly. On this model, a good theory is one that reflects nature as closely as possible, one that replicates truth in an ultimate sense. This is a view of truth, theory, and science shared by numerous different philosophic traditions, including the dialectics found in the revolutionary tradition. According to this dogma, dialectics is a kind of foundational super science. Particular scientific claims, theories, or disciplines are correct insofar as they are extensions of dialectics, which purports to correspond to the way the world really is, purports to be a kind of “book of nature.”

Such a view is silly for a couple reasons. Firstly, what an impoverished “book of nature,” a handful of vague descriptions or laws. It should be rather obvious that all the diverse sciences do not reduce to nor depend on dialectics. Physicists, biologists, linguists, hydrologists, chemists, all get along fine without reading Georg Hegel. When you are very ill, you do not usually ask your physician if he understands Hegel’s Logic before accepting his medical advice. If you were suffering from a tumor, who would you trust to deal with it, the surgeon who has years of medical school or the literary critic who has mastered Hegel? Those who practice science are able to do their work blissfully ignorant of Hegel. This should tell us that there is something fishy about the self-important claims of dialectics.

Secondly, numerous inaccurate conceptions, about theories, science, language, and truth underlie such a model. Dialectics does not correspond to nature for the simple reason that no theories do. Here, I mean in the “book of nature” sense. Theories, science, are not about matching up a collection of claims with the world. Theories are tools. It does not make sense to ask if a saw is true in some ultimate sense. It does not make sense to ask if a screwdriver matches up more with the “book of nature” than the hammer. Theories are tools to manipulate the world, not get us in touch with the world behind the world. Although Marx did not fully realize this, perhaps he began to move in this direction when with his comment that philosophers have only interpreted the world, but the point is to change it. We do not need to understand truth as correspondence with some objective fact nor as cohering with some super science that does so. Instead, we should understand truth in a more contingent, an intersubjective sense. When we say a particular theory is better than another, we are saying it is a better tool than its competitor. And, science is a set of lingusitic and, sometimes, non linguistic tools that are distinguished from other tools, say the creation of poetry or literature, because science is about prediction and explanation. This can even apply to literary criticism.

A science of literature, even revolutionary science of literature, is possible. Probably the best place to jump into this high-level discussion are authors like Aristotle, Northrop Fry, maybe  Georg Lukacs, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, maybe even Stanley Cavell, Paul de Man, or Julia Kristeva. We should not limit ourselves to what should now be seen as low-level Maoist discussions during the Cultural Revolution. A good dose of modernism, formalism, textualism, New Criticism plus people who who have a complex understanding of how cultural objects work in the power struggle, not the cartoonish Maoist polemics criticizing all art for not living up to the clarity of Maoist allegories, which are not unlike medieval morality tales. Although Maoist polemics might be a good start, they are a terrible place to end up. I’m not saying I agree with all these critics on everything. I’m just saying that might be a place to look for understanding literature. There are other tools out there besides science.

In terms of self expression, science may not be as useful as poetry or art. In any case, dialectics is not science for the same reason poetry isn’t. Dialectics does not predict nor does it really explain in an informative manner. Then there is Richard Rorty. He was a champion of postmodernism and liberalism. He pushed the idea that discourse was so contingent that there is no point in making any complex moral or political appeals. He once stated he would have been happy with Hegel had Hegel remained with the space of the Phenomenology of Spirit, avoiding the more metaphysical drive of the Logic. He would have been happier with Hegel had Hegel simply remained an ironist who only claimed to be expressing himself, not out to describe the real world behind the world. Lucky our choice is not simply between postmodern yapperism and metaphysical yapperism, between postmodern liberalism and metaphysical pseudo-revolutionism.

Just as other sciences are tools, so too is revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism. This is why we call Leading Light Communism a weapon that must be placed into the hands of the oppressed. Leading Light Communism is a package of scientific advances in numerous areas. Leading Light Communism predicts and explains social motion today far better than any of its competitors. It better predicts and explains the past, present, and future. It is fine to say Leading Light Communism is about truth, but “truth” understood in a more contingent, although just as compelling manner. This is not unlike how Immanuel Kant understood that our knowledge about the world was mediated by epistemic conditions. Think Kant’s forms of intuitions and transcendental categories, or how early Hegel, Marx, or Nietzsche understood that historical context affected our experience of the world, or Sigmund Freud’s view of the unconscious. This is a point about language too. Although there is a lot to be said for what we are discovering about language through brain and cognitive science and through Noam Chomsky’s “Cartesian linguistics” respectively. There is also another dimension of language, Ludwig Wittgenstein explored  how our view of the world was tied to language games. There is also J. L. Austin,  language understood as speech acts, whose determination as unhappy or happy, is very much dependent on wider social expectations and practices. This doesn’t degrade truth or claims to truth, it just puts them in a context. Phenomenologically speaking, truth is still experienced as compelling as it ever was, but that doesn’t mean it must be taken on its “own” terms so to speak. In this respect, both Edmund Husserl’s and Rene Descartes’ privileging of special access of the meditating subject to truth and the claims such a subject makes are exactly wrong. Rather, truth is something that only makes sense in reference to ourselves, our communities, goals. Revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, is about developing tools that predict and explain in order to save the world, to end all oppression, to create a healthy, heroic, fun, flourishing society that exists in harmony with the Earth. All-powerful, awesome, glorious Leading Light Communism is about forging the ideological weapons for the poor, the workers, the farmers, the intellectuals, the ordinary people so that we can conquer the future that the capitalists have stolen from us. Our future is our own, for our children, for our children’s children.

4. You talk about truth being intersubjective, contingent, and so on. Are there times when truths collide?

Of course. This makes for great art. Some of the best art is art that straddles, problematizes, or moves between worlds, so to speak. Ludwig von Beethoven is an example of a person with one foot in the world of the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and another in the world of Richard Wagner. William Shakespeare too is a kind of collision of our contemporary era with the past. He was very ahead of his times, so to speak.

Sophocles’ Antigone is a great example. It is a conflict between two worldviews, two moral codes, two societies. On the one side, there is Antigone, who has to burry her fallen brother’s body because it is commanded by the moral law as she experiences it. Such a law is experienced as demanding obedience from Antigone. She is obliged to bury her brother. At the same time, Creon, the ruler of the city and her uncle, declares he not be given the burial rights, that he be left to rot, because her brother had died betraying the city. You have a collision of two moral orders, the morality of the family and clan versus the morality of the city. Sophocles does a wonderful job of portraying the phenomenology of obligation in the character of Antigone. She is so compelled to bury her brother that she faces death herself at the hands of Creon. Similarly, Creon is willing to kill Antigone, his own blood, to protect the city. At the same time, both their actions are portrayed as very much connected to their individual position within a wider community. For Antigone, it is her family or clan. For Creon, it is the city. The text documents a clash of values that must have happened in numerous societies over and over as they transformed from clan and family based to more cosmopolitan, city and state, orders.

Although the idea of the social contract is as least as old as Plato’s Republic, where it is rejected by Socrates, its rise to prominence at the beginning of capitalism is very much connected to the bourgeoisie. Contracting is part of bourgeois life. The projection of the social contract onto universe, onto history, as a way by which to legitimate, to measure, the status quo is very much part of the ideology of ascending capitalism, the rising bourgeoisie as it battles against other reactionary social classes, especially those of  leftover from the feudal era. Today, the bourgeoisie does not bother justifying itself this way. As Vladimir Lenin pointed out, the bourgeoisie is no longer playing a progressive role. Capitalism is now decadent, in decline. The capitalists do not feel the need to justify their order by reference to such complex ideological constructs. Capitalism is just a given, human nature. The capitalist ideology today when compared to the Enlightenment is the difference between the ascending bourgeoisie and decadent bourgeoisie. It is the difference between Beethoven and Beyonce. It is the difference between Rousseau and Cheetos.

On another point, it is a misconception that the high art of the past, the high art of the earlier bourgeoisie, is the main form of capitalist art today. Classical music, for example, is not the music of the capitalism or even the capitalist overlords. Ordinary pop is the music of capitalism. Classical music is similar to modernist art in this respect. It is not easily understood. It usually requires more education to develop an appreciation for it. It is an art that requires thinking, which is something that is required as the bourgeoisie ascends, as the bourgeoisie challenged the old, traditionalist order. Today, the main form of capitalist culture is an art that requires very little effort by its listeners and viewers. Pop art. Advertising. Capitalism in decline is not about thinking. Heroic reorganization of the social order no longer occupies the bourgeoisie or its culture today. Rather, it is about consuming and not asking why. Thus art that provokes people to think, even if its origin is itself the bourgeoisie of the past, ends up being a kind of resistance against the dominant culture. This is something that Adorno saw, but the point really goes back to Kant in some ways.

At the height of the Cultural Revolution, Maoists criticized art that did not put class struggle and revolutionary themes to the forefront. The Maoist art was very similar to medieval allegories, morality tales with no ambiguity. The good characters were all good, representing the proletarian line. The bad characters were all bad. Maoists openly argued against what they called “middle characters.” Everything was very clear. Even the lighting in Jiang Qing’s model operas reflected this. The hero was fully illuminated, the light source was not directly on the villain, making him shady, literally. Maoist art sought to replace much of the old art that was deemed reactionary. Even though some of the Maoist art was genuinely good, much of it looks cliche because they were trying to fill the cultural void that was left when they got rid of much the old culture. A few decades of artistic production was trying to fill the a void that had been filled by art produced over thousands of years. Also denounced in this period was art for art’s sake, including formalism. It was denounced because it did not overtly represent class struggle. And this was equated with not aiding the class struggle. The Maoist view is incorrect.

The mistake is in thinking that art for art’s sake, formalism, has no class content or that it has reactionary class content. Art for art’s sake, formalism, experimentation often serves the proletariat. Think of it as akin to scientific discovery. Formalist art helps us discover new ways that the proletariat can express itself. It creates new genres that can then be filled with more overt proletarian content. Experiment is what created all the great genres of art and music. If only capitalist societies engage in such experiment that produces new genre, socialism will look boring, unexciting, a drab world where art is not much different from a political lecture. Do we really want a socialism that lacks all color, that lacks all cultural diversity? A socialism that only can express itself in the most one-dimensional, didactic way will not carry us over to Leading Light Communism. We need a culture that provokes the masses to think, not just absorb. The brains of the masses should not be seen as empty vessels that we pour culture into. Rather, we need a culture that provokes the masses to become actors themselves, and to do this, we need an art that is difficult, that requires thought. We need an art that challenges people to think in new ways. It is a mistake to think formalism is necessarily tied to empty gestures in support of the capitalist status quo. The experience of art should elevate the viewer, or in the case of music, the listener. Thus formalism, art for art’s sake, can serve proletarian ends even if its themes are not explicitly political. This is a kind of view sometimes associated with Kant, among others. Maoists may have criticized Confucianism. Although their art portrayed activity on the part of the masses, the didacticism of their style still encouraged that mental passivity in some ways.

In any case, my point is that collisions happen in all kinds of way all the time. Right now, a higher level of revolutionary science has articulated itself. It is called “Leading Light Communism.” It is a package of scientific discoveries in all areas of revolutionary science. It is an all-round, all-powerful, awesome, glorious advance over everything that has come before. What we are doing is unprecedented and dangerous, which is why there has been so much push back not only from the capitalists, but also from their useful idiots, the revisionist blockheads, identity politicians, dogmatists.

5. You spoke of a socialism that embraces artistic discovery in the same way it should it should embrace scientific discovery. What other virtues are bound up with Leading Light Communism?

A new take on a very old question. For many philosophers the question of the good city was very much tied to the question of the good man. From Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, and even Marx, the city was reflected in the man and vice versa. Probably the most famous example here is Plato’s Republic. But, Marx also sees how capitalism alienates people from their labor, from their world, from themselves. For Marx, overcoming that alienation was part of the revolutionary project. To get things right required changing both the experience of the self and the experience of the broader society.

In Phaedrus, Socrates famously uses the allegory to the chariot to describe the tripartite nature of the soul. The chariot is driven by two horses. Then there is the black horse. It represents the crass appetites, material gain. There is the white horse, it represents “thymos,” sometimes translated as “spiritedness.” This white horse is recognition, victory. Then there is the charioteer, reason or wisdom. Plato uses this metaphor to describe the human soul. Human souls are conflicted, but in each individual a different aspect of the soul wins out. So, in the Republic, Plato divided humanity into different types of people: the bronze souls, the silver souls, the gold souls. We don’t need to buy into Plato’s concept of class or even his particular interpretation of the good city to understand that different values or desires drive different societies. Marxists have long understood that capitalist societies produce certain kinds of souls, a certain sets of values, certain ways of looking at the self and world. Maoists even used to say that not having revolutionary politics was like not having a soul.

Today’s liberal capitalism is not only a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, but its whole culture reflects the limited outlook, the dulled ambition, the crass consumerism of the bourgeoisie. It’s not even traditionalist fascism of the past. The white horse, the thymos, the ambition, the desire for recognition, that drives warrior classes in earlier societies, has been tamed, channeled into safe directions. A whole host of fantasy lives is provided to occupy one’s leisure time. All kinds of identities, sub-cultures, fantasies. Herbert Marcuse, borrowing from Martin Heidegger, talked about the rise of techne weighing down on the individual, turning him into a one-dimensional cog in the modern social machine. Capitalism may be a society of cogs, but in the First World, the cogs are bombarded with entertainment, disco lights, toys, fashion, pop music. They are provided with all kinds fantasies to keep them occupied,  substitutes so that thymos is not realized in a way that threatens the system. They can play wizards in a coven. They can act a Civil War general.  They can be a rampaging barbarian in a video game. This taming also affects those who claim to be revolutionaries in the First World. They can even play Bolshevik or Maoist. All kinds of diversionary pseudo-radical politics channel individuals in safe directions: revisionism, lifestylism, anarchism, and identify politics. The quest for truth and artistic creation becomes just part fantasy play and the exchange of the all-mighty dollar. It becomes just another stage provided by capitalist culture where expression can work itself out in a safe manner. In the Manifesto, Marx wrote that capitalist exchange undermines all traditional relationships, even religion and the family. Capitalism profanes everything holy. The crass consumerism and banality of the dark horse drives the souls of the First World.

Contrast the crass consumption and banality of the First World to that of socialism. In socialism, Thymos was channeled in a positive direction, was a part of those great social experiments. Men and women were heroic warriors. For example, a big part of the whole Maoist model, at least as conceived by Lin Biao, was to have all of society “learn from the People’s Liberation Army,” to have all of society embody the ethos of the people’s warrior. Duty, heroism, sacrifice, honor, loyalty were portrayed in the revolutionary images. Ordinary men and women as heroes, but also as men and women. Past socialism did not fail to elevate thymos, its failure was to truly elevate science alongside it in a real way. We see this failure in many places. For example, Soviet socialism rejected natural selection, embracing Lysenko’s Lamarckian foolishness. With almost no debate, Maoists rejected sensible environmental and population planning as “Malthusian.” All kinds of mistakes were made when science was pushed aside for dogma with a scientific pretense fueled by thymos. Leading Light Communism is about promoting and elevating thymos, the white horse, but with science truly in command, as charioteer. Humanity will flourish when science is truly in command, and when the individual is allowed a certain amount of freedom, fun, pleasure, but without the unsustainable, consumption of capitalism. The scientist, the philosopher, the warrior, the worker, the farmer, the caregiver, the artist and musician, the dancer must all be allowed to flourish. Only a truly scientific socialism with a rich, experimental culture  will be able to elevate people to cross the bridge to Leading Light Communism.

The capitalist soul is shared by most First World activists, even those who consider themselves revolutionary or radical. And, here, identity politics is part of the First Worldist, liberal package. You have a First World activist culture that claims to be anti-capitalist, but stamps out real leadership. Anyone who is capable who sticks up their head is immediately shouted down and called out. These First Worldists share the same liberal revulsion for thymos. Now, granted, the objective conditions for revolution do not exist in the First World. Obviously, we know this. We have explained this again and again. Even so, more progress ought be possible. C. S. Lewis stated, in a very different context:

“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue… We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

Although it would never get to first base, imagine what the revolution of these First World activists would look like. It would be the socialism of dunces and cowards. If somehow it were to succeed, think of the kind of society it would produce: a socialism of dunces without aspiration or real intellect. It would be a socialism that reflected their empty souls. It would lower the bar just as today’s capitalist society does. Real revolution is not made by destroying what is the best in people. It is not made by knocking great people down. It is made by raising people up, including the brightest lights. The goal is not to get rid of leadership, or simply to declare everyone a leader by fiat, but rather to make everyone capable of truly being a leader. The goal is not to get rid of genius, but to acknowledge it, and to produce as many geniuses as possible. Real socialism is about creating a society where the conditions are in place to allow as many people to flourish, to become great, as possible. Theirs is the fake socialism of fools, which despite its rhetoric promotes the same stupefying soul as capitalism. By contrast, ours is a revolution of genius, of heroism, of creativity, of proletarian and military discipline and sacrifice. We are Leading Lights.

Brief statement on the attacks on Charlie Hebdo by Islamists

Brief statement on the attacks on Charlie Hebdo by Islamistsparis-charlie-attack-013-0844b064623bdd20e55ab585c1909b015540df12-s800-c15


Recently, several Islamist gunmen attacked the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The style of the Charlie Hebdo magazine is an irrevent one that attacks religion in general, but also is seen as bigoted for its targeting of Muslims and migrants. Twelve people were killed and 11 wounded. Three of the dead were police. According to reports, some of the gunmen had connections to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. One woman suspected of being involved in the planning of the first attack is thought to have fled to Islamic State territory in Syria. Yemen’s top al Qaeda leader Sheikh Nasr al-Ansi has claimed responsibility for the first attack. In what was probably a copycat incident that followed, a Jewish market was held hostage by at least one gunman who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS). This second attack killed four people. All or most of the attackers appear to have been killed. Information is still coming in. In a video, the Yemeni leader did mention various crimes of the West, but the emphasis was on defending the honor of Muhammad. The choice of target would confirm that the main motivation was defending the religion, not Western crimes against the Third World. Sheikh Nasr al-Ansi stated, “We claim responsibility for this operation as revenge for the Messenger of Allah.” (1) At the height of the attack, one of the attackers is heard yelling something to the effect of “God is great! We will avenge the Prophet!” The attack seems to mainly be in retaliation for comics that depicted Muhammad in embarrassing ways. The second incident, the one on the Jewish market, appears to an unorganized attack by a lone man, a so-called “lone wolf.” In a video he made prior to his death, he does discuss, albeit briefly, attacks on the Middle East, especially bombings against the Islamic State, as the reason for his action.

The attacks have been followed by a large “I am Charlie” campaign where many people are expressing their solidarity with the slain cartoonists. Reactionary world leaders attended a rally against terrorism that included: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The US Obama administration made statements of solidarity. The rally in France was reportedly attended by two million. It is described as the largest since the liberation of Paris in World War 2. The issue is being framed as one of free speech versus Islamist barbarism. The attacks have caused a backlash of liberal and traditionalist outrage against Muslims and migrants. The “I am Charlie” campaign is fueling some of the most reactionary tendencies in Europe.

Of course attacks on free speech should be condemned. The murder of people over depictions of religious figures is wrong. However, there should be no mistake the “I am Charlie” campaign is not really about freedom of speech. The French state has continually restricted free speech, both left and right. Recently, rallies in support of Palestine were banned. There is the famous 1983 case of pseudo-historian Robert Faurisson who was convicted in France for denying the holocaust on Iranian television.  Since the Charlie marches, France has opened 54 cases against people for supposedly expressing support for terrorism, including one comedian who merely mocked the Charlie events on facebook. (2) France has a long history of placing restrictions on all kinds of speech that upsets its social-democratic, imperialist consensus. Noam Chomsky, the famous linguist and anti-imperialist, has been highly critical of France’s record on free speech. Two years ago, Chomsky criticized Charlie Hebdo’s portrayals of Muslims as racist. Chomsky pointed out that had such portrayals been of Jews, they would not be tolerated. Chomsky said, “Freedom of speech in France is complete fakery and fraud.” (3) All should be skeptical over France’s crocodile tears. The liberal imperialists and traditionalist anti-migrant forces will use the banner of freedom of speech to silence their opponents, especially anti-imperialist opponents. Those who are making the most noise about “Charlie” and “freedom” are some of the biggest hypocrites around. All of the reactionary world leaders who marched have far more blood on their hands than the attackers.

Empire will gain, one way or another, from the attacks. The motivations of the attackers appear to be very reactionary, in-line with the barbarism of right-wing radical Islamist groups, which, ironically, have been supported by imperialism in various underhanded ways. The radical Islamist trends are very much manipulated by the intelligence agencies of the Gulf Arab states, which are themselves a part of the First World. For decades, these radical Islamist forces have received military aid from the imperialists, including France, Israel, and the United States. The West, including France, has blood on its hands for its role in bringing these forces to power in many places, but especially in Syria and Libya. These forces are proxies and semi-proxies of these First World states that inflict horrors on their Third World neighbors. There is a kind of blowback when Empire supports these kinds of forces because Islamist forces are highly-ideologically motivated despite being empowered by the Empire. The recent attack on Charlie Hebdo is blowback. The violence Empire itself inflicts on the Third World pouring over into its own borders. It is a case of, as Malcolm X said, “the chickens coming home to roost.” These attacks will surely be manipulated by Empire to serve its own ends, be it by giving the Islamists more or less leash.

Both Hezbollah and Hamas, which are genuine resistance movements, much different than al Qaeda and the Islamic State, issued statements anticipating the imperialist backlash. Hassan Nasrallah of the Lebanon’s Hezbollah made a good point when he stated that “extremists are more offensive to Islam than cartoons.” He went on to say:

“The behavior of the takfiri groups that claim to follow Islam have distorted Islam, the Koran and the Muslim nation more than Islam’s enemies … who insulted the prophet in films… or drew cartoons of the prophet…” (4)

Hamas also condemned the “justification for killing innocents.” They condemned opportunist attempts by Israel to compare the attacks on the cartoonists to their resistance against Zionist occupation. (5)

The issue is not about Islamist barbarism versus Western freedoms. Rather, it is two very reactionary  forces trying to manipulate public opinion. In the end, Third World people and migrants end up paying the price. All over the world the imperialists are committing mass murder on a daily basis, often, but not always, working hand-in-hand with radical Islamists, who are often Empire’s proxies or semi-proxies. On the same day that reactionary world leaders marched for the 12 killed in France, thousands were killed by the Islamist Boko Haram in Baga, Nigeria. Millions die from imperialist wars every year. Millions die from imperialist policies. Yet there is no marching against that.  First World lives are considered to be worth more than Third World lives. This reflects the sad state of the world. Neither Empire nor Islam is the answer. Real, true, all-powerful Leading Light Communism is the way forward.

Was Mao really born on the 26th of December?

Was Mao really born on the 26th of December?maosun1-300x217


Around this time, every year, we see people celebrating December 26th as the day of Mao’s birth. Whole groups, like the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines, celebrate this day not only as the day of Mao’s birth, but also as the anniversary of the founding of their own organizations. It always struck me how close this day was to the day that Christians celebrate as Christmas, as the day of Jesus’s birth. Christmas is celebrated just a day earlier, December 25th. Is it just coincidence that both Mao and Jesus share almost the same birth day?

It is no secret that Jesus’s birth was placed around or on the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. The winter solstice had long been a holy day for pre-Christian religions. Christians have a long history of appropriating elements of pagan religions in order to win converts. Jesus often is represented as the light, the sun. For example, in John 8, he states, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So, both Jesus and the sun, both the light that nourishes the world, is born on the solstice. But, it is not just Jesus who has been represented as the sun. In the twentieth century, as Mao’s cult of personality reached religious proportions, Mao too was portrayed as the sun. Over and over, Mao’s head was portrayed with the sun behind it shining down to nourish sunflowers, which represent the masses. This was a recurring theme in Maoist art. “The East is Red,” the unofficial anthem of Maoist China, uses this imagery:

“The east is red, the sun is rising.

From China comes Mao Zedong.

He strives for the people’s happiness,

Hurrah, he is the people’s great saviour!

(Repeat last two lines)

Chairman Mao loves the people,

He is our guide

to building a new China

Hurrah, lead us forward!

(Repeat last two lines)


The Communist Party is like the sun,

Wherever it shines, it is bright

Wherever the Communist Party is

Hurrah, the people are liberated!

(Repeat last two lines)

(Repeat first verse)”


How reliable were birth records in the late 1800s and early 1900s in a rural China dominated by warlords and colonial forces? Given that the Chinese Communist Party often rewrote its history in a very mythologized way, could it be that Mao’s birthday was made to correspond to the winter solstice? It could be a big, happy coincidence that the sun of the Chinese revolution just happened to be born on the solstice, but it is at least as likely that the December 26th date is a later fabrication. If it is indeed a later invention, then it just shows the religious extremes of Mao’s cult of personality at its height. It is also worth noting that other cults of personality have fabricated information about the births of their leaders. For example, the Kim family cult in northern Korea has created a myths that the Kim family is linked to Tangun, the mythological progenitor of the Korean people. As part of this, the northern Korean cult has sought to link the Kims to Mount Peaktu. The question of Mao’s actual birth day is a question that will require more research to settle. In any case, Mao was a great, if flawed, revolutionary who deserves to be honored not as an infallible sun, but as a real hero who changed the lives of hundreds of millions of people for the better. In this sense, the real Mao, warts and all, is better than any myth.

Early GPCR, the rise of New Power and new ideology Part 8

Seas are Rising, Clouds and Waters Raginge3-712_detail

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Begins,  Maoist China from 1958 to May 16, 1966

Read Part 1 here: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-1/

Part 2: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-2/

Part 3: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-3/

Part 4: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-4/

Part 5: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-5/

Part 6: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-6/

Part 7: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-7/

Part 8: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-8/


“May 16th Circular”

Debates had been raging about the direction of China’s culture since at least the Socialist Education Movement. Since at least the early 1960s, the Maoist sought to retain their influence in culture as their influence in the day-to-day running of the economy and state waned. Maoist intellectuals battled with their revisionist opponents in philosophy, literature and art. But it was the struggle over Wu Han’s play Hai Rui Dismissed from Office that would become a national debate, that would shake power in the Party, and develop into the stronger movements of the Cultural Revolution. Wu Han’s play is probably not as important as it has become in official histories and myth making. Numerous debates like this occurred between Maoists and their opponents. It just happened that the Maoists were able to capitalize on this debate due to the revisionist abuses of power. Had Wu Han’s play not been the focal point of the struggle, surely another document would have.

In the Cultural Revolution period, usually lower-tier figures foreshadowed the fall of higher figures. Just as Wu Han’s fall foreshadows the fall of Peng Zhen, Lu Dingyi, and Luo Ruiqing, so do does the fall of Peng Zhen, Lu Dingyi, and Luo Ruiqing foreshadow the fall of top revisionists State Chairman Liu Shaoqi and Vice-chairman Deng Xiaoping. Later, lower-level Maoists foreshadow the fall of higher ones. Wang Li, Guan Feng and Qi Benyu fall, then Chen Boda, then Lin Biao. This is a pattern that is repeated again and again on both the right and left, within both the capitalist and proletarian headquarters. With the falling of the second-tier revisionists, with the fall of the Group of Five, the stage had been set for the next phase of the Cultural Revolution. The ball was in motion by Mao, but eventually it would get out of even his control in the hot summer of 1967.

Already by May 1966, big-character posters criticizing the “black line” and denouncing “freaks and monsters” were popping up in factories, but they had not erupted onto the streets yet. Beijing was filled with rumors of the power struggle. (1) It was in this climate that the Maoists issued the May 16th “Circular of the Central Committee” to formally rebut the policies around Peng Zhen and the “February Outline.” The “May 16th Circular” specifically names Peng Zhen as the main culprit holding back the struggle for socialism in culture:

“The outline report by the so-called ‘Group of Five’ is actually an outline report by Peng Zhen alone. He concocted it according to his own ideas behind the backs of Comrade Kang Sheng, a member of the ‘Group of Five’, and other comrades. In handling such a document regarding important questions which affect the overall situation in the socialist revolution, Peng Zhen had no discussion or exchange of views at all within the ‘Group of Five’. He did not ask any local party committee for its opinion; nor, when submitting the outline report, did he make it clear that it was being sent to the Central Committee for examination as its official document, and still less did he get the approval of Comrade Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Central Committee. Employing the most improper methods, he acted arbitrarily, abused his powers, and, usurping the name of the Central Committee, hurriedly issued the outline report to the whole party.”


“Party committees at all levels must immediately stop carrying out the ‘Outline Report on the Current Academic Discussion made by the Group of Five in Charge of the Cultural Revolution’. The whole party must follow Comrade Mao Zedong’s instructions, hold high the great banner of the proletarian Cultural Revolution, thoroughly expose the reactionary bourgeois stand of those so-called ‘academic authorities’ who oppose the party and socialism, thoroughly criticize and repudiate the reactionary bourgeois ideas in the sphere of academic work, education, journalism, literature and art, and publishing, and seize the leadership in these cultural spheres. To achieve this, it is necessary at the same time to criticize and repudiate those representatives of the bourgeoisie who have sneaked into the party, the government, the army, and all spheres of culture, to clear them out or transfer some of them to other positions. Above all, we must not entrust these people with the work of leading the Cultural Revolution. In fact many of them have done and are still doing such work, and this is extremely dangerous.”

The “May 16th Circular” goes on to make various criticisms of the handling of the Cultural Revolution under the leadership of Peng Zhen and his Group of Five. For example:

“Proceeding from a bourgeois stand and the bourgeois world outlook in its appraisal of the situation and the nature of the current academic criticism, the outline completely reverses the relation between the enemy and ourselves, putting the one into the position of the other. Our country is now in an upsurge of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which is pounding at all the decadent ideological and cultural positions still held by the bourgeoisie and the remnants of feudalism. Instead of encouraging the entire party boldly to arouse the broad masses of workers, peasants, and soldiers, and the fighters for proletarian culture so that they can continue to charge ahead, the outline does its best to turn the movement to the right. Using muddled, self-contradictory, and hypocritical language, it obscures the sharp class struggle that is taking place on the cultural and ideological front.”

Numerous other specific criticisms are made. One thing that is striking about the May 16th Circular is that it widens the scope of and intensifies the Cultural Revolution. No longer is the movement merely limited to the academic realm or cultural realm, rather, it is an all out class war between the proletariat and bourgeoisie:

“Those representatives of the bourgeoisie who have sneaked into the party, the government, the army, and various cultural circles are a bunch of counter-revolutionary revisionists. Once conditions are ripe, they will seize political power and turn the dictatorship of the proletariat into a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Some of them we have already seen through, others we have not. Some are still trusted by us and are being trained as our successors, persons like Khrushchev, for example, who are still nestling beside us. Party committees at all levels must pay full attention to this matter.”  (2)

A little over a year later, in June, 1967, these battles in culture would be summed up:

“In the 17 years since the founding of New China, the soul-stirring class struggles that have taken place one on the heels of another on the literary and art front are centered on political power. Backed to the hilt by the top Party person in authority taking the capitalist road, the group of counter-revolutionary revisionists on the ideological and cultural front — such as Lu Dingyi, Zhou Yang, Ji Yanming, Xia Yan, Lin Mohan and Peng Zhen, ringleader of the counter-revolutionary revisionists of the former Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese Communist Party — carried out activities in drama, cinema, fiction and theory on literature and art which were all aimed at creating public opinion for the overthrow of the dictatorship of the proletariat. On the other hand, the struggle waged by the proletarian revolutionary fighters of the literary and art front under the leadership of the great leader Chairman Mao has been aimed at eliminating public opinion for counter-revolutionary revisionism and consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat.” (3)

The tone and content of the “May 16th Circular” signaled that big struggles and purges were on the horizon. It was a battle cry. May 16th, 1966 is seen by many as the real start of the Cultural Revolution. It was also a call to the masses. May 16th entered into myth. It is a day that would continue to inspire revolutionaries throughout the decade.

Peng Zhen was disgraced and his Group of Five dissolved.  A few weeks later, it was announced that the Beijing Municipal Committee was to be reorganized. No mention was made of Peng Zhen in the June 3 announcement from the Central Committee. However, before that, as Peng Zhen’s Group of Five was dissolved, a new Central Cultural Revolution Group (CCRG) was appointed to lead the Cultural Revolution at an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau in May. This new group was made up of  a majority of Maoists. It was headed by Chen Boda, Mao’s long time secretary, ghost writer, and  a long-time Maoist. It included the junior intellectuals around him in Beijing: Wang Li, Qi Benyu, Guan Feng, Lin Jie and Mu Xin. Its deputy head was Jiang Qing. It included intellectuals from her circle in Shanghai: Zhang Chunqiao and Yao Wenyuan. Powerful members from the security services, Kang Sheng and Xie Fuzhi, also participated in the new group. Eventually, the CCRG would  function as a stand-in Politburo, yet another form of New Power. (4) Another related group that was formed around the same time, at an enlarged session of the Politburo on May 24, 1966, was the Central Case Examination Group (CCEG) whose initial task was:

“…to further examine the anti-Party activities and irregular inter-relationships of Peng Zhen, Lu Dingyi, Luo Ruiqing, and Yang Shangkun. The CCEG would transform from its original mandate to a permanent institution operating as a kind of intelligence agency and secret police that served those aligned with Mao. Another form of institutional New Power to be used against the revisionists. According to Wang Li, it was technically under the Politburo Standing Committee, but in reality was “directly accountable to the Chairman.”

It would work in conjunction with the CCRG and Lin Biao’s military. The CCEG’s membership overlapped with both the CCRG and Lin Biao’s officers. The high military involvement is reflected in that 789 soldiers were at one time or another employed by the CCEG. The CCEG was a multi-layered bureaucracy with three offices at the top. Wang Dongxing, the new director of the General Office headed one. General Yang Chenwu, Lin Biao’s acting Chief of Staff, and Xie Fuzhi, the Minister of Public Security, headed the others respectively. Zhou Enlai was a Mao loyalist, although opposing the leftist line, he also maintained links with these leading bodies. Zhou Enlai chaired the CCEG’s meetings. Wang Li recalls that even though Zhou Enlai “involved himself in all of its activities,” his relationship to the CCEG was “unclear from the outset.” Kang Sheng was especially active in the CCEG, personally taking charge of hundreds of investigations. Other members of the CCRG took charge of cases and received regular reports on major cases. Mao himself also received regular reports. (5) These groups, along with Lin Biao’s Maoists in the army, would direct the course of struggle over the next few years. They, along with Lin Biao’s re-organized army and mass movements, would serve as the growing Maoist New Power within the shell of the old institutions and society.

At this point, in mid-1966, the revolution remained primarily cultural. Many elites who had fallen were associated with high culture. Announcing the new Maoist direction, Red Flag, edited by the Maoist Chen Boda, published “Long Live The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” The editorial stated:

“Comrade Mao Zedong has scientifically summed up the historical experience of international proletarian dictatorship and put forward the theory of contradiction, class and class struggle in socialist society. He constantly reminds us that we must never forget class struggle, never forget to bring politics to the fore, never forget to consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat, and that we must adopt various measures to guard against the usurpation of leadership by revisionism and the restoration of capitalism. He points out: ‘In order to overthrow a regime, it is first necessary to lay hold of the superstructure and ideology and to make good preparations for public opinion.’ This applies to the revolutionary class as well as the counter-revolutionary class… Comrade Mao Zedong is precisely proceeding from this basic viewpoint when he class on us to launch the class struggle for the ‘promotion of the proletariat and the destruction of the bourgeoisie’ in the ideological sphere.”(6)

It was being called “a revolution in the superstructure” as part of wider struggle. Chen Boda’s magazine alluded to the fact that the cultural struggles were the first step. More and more, the Maoist press, both civilian and military, raised the issue the “fundamental question in revolution is the question of power.” (7) Most people understood something very significant was on the horizon.


Leading Lights have always emphasized the need to advance revolutionary science, to update Marxism to today’s realities. One of the discoveries of the Leading Light is how, within the history of socialism, looking at the world through the lenses of the police is connected to the revisionist Theory of the Productive Forces. The idea that socialism is simply a perfectly-rational machine that produces prosperity tends to lead to a police state. Because when the machine fails to produce as it should, as it will always fail to meet the perfectly-rational machine ideal, people will look for explanations for its failure outside of socialism itself. They will see socialism’s problems not as part of the transitory nature of socialism itself. Rather, they will look for infiltrators and saboteurs, outsiders. And this requires an ever-widening police state. Later Maoists would begin to introduce a concept of “New Bourgeoisie” to explain the reactionary interests of the bureaucracy. Thus later Maoists would not only delink the concept of class from the traditional Marxist conception of “relation to the means of production,” just as Leading Lights have done so in its analysis of the reactionary nature of the global bourgeoisie, which includes First World workers. Similarly, Leading Light has advanced the concept of the global, new proletariat delinked from the point of production. However, it is important to note that at this early stage, Maoist theory had not advanced to this point. Even though Maoists were calling on criticism and mass actions, their conception of counter-revolution was often still that of infiltration by outsiders who had “sneaked” into the socialist machine to sabotage it. This is reflected in the language of the “May 16th Circular” itself, which is inherited from the Bolshevik, especially Stalinist, conception of counter-revolution. Even though the Cultural Revolution had begun, Maoism was not yet Maoism in its best, fully developed, sense. In fact, the whole idea that the Chinese Maoists ever fully broke from the Stalinist tradition is a later-day, post-Chinese Maoist myth. By the end of Mao’s life, the Maoist concept of counter-revolution and how to fight it would still be a muddled one, a mix of traditional outlooks inherited from Stalin and the emerging more intellectual, more scientific, structural analysis that claims counter-revolution is a product of incomplete revolution, of the transition itself, of socialism. The traditional Maoist narrative emphasizes the role of the Red Guards and mass movements, which is often connected to the  leaders of the CCRG. However, latter-day Maoist mythmaking often fails to mention the key role played by CCEG, which was tightly controlled by the security forces, its methods more in line with the traditional Stalinist approach. Similarly, they leave out Lin Biao’s military’s role as an instrument of New Power and its role as a kind of praetorian guard protecting the Maoists and the mass movements. Although the Cultural Revolution did contain a great deal of unintended, spontaneous events, it is a mistake to think that the fall of high-ranking revisionist figures was only a result of the mass movements. The reality is they they were highly coordinated and planned. 


  1. Han Suyin, Wind In The Tower (Little, Brown And Company, USA: 1976) pp. 271-272
  2. “Circular of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China May 16, 1966” in Chinese Politics edited by Myers, James T., Domes, Jurgen, and von Groeling, Erik (University of South Carolina Press, USA: 1986) pp. 220-226
  3. Great Truth, Sharp Weapon” Beijing Review no. 23 (June 2, 1967) p. 17
  4. Jin Qui The Culture of Power (Stanford University Press, California, USA: 1999) p. 57
  5. Schoenhels, Michael “The Central Case Examination Group” in The China Quarterly, no. 145 (March 1996) pp. 89-100
  6. “Long Live The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (Hung Chi Editorial No. 8, 1966)” in Chinese Politics edited by Myers, James T., Domes, Jurgen, and von Groeling, Erik (University of South Carolina Press, USA: 1986) p. 226
  7. Esmein, Jean The Chinese Cultural Revolution (Andre Deutsch Limited, Great Britain: 1975) p. 64

Early GPCR, the rise of New Power and new ideology Part 7

Seas are Rising, Clouds and Waters Raging


The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Begins,  Maoist China from 1958 to May 16, 1966

Read Part 1 here: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-1/

Part 2: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-2/

Part 3: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-3/

Part 4: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-4/

Part 5: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-5/

Part 6: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-6/

Part 7: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-7/

Part 8: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-8/


Coup Versus Coup

As the struggle intensified, as the Cultural Revolution took its course, conflict spread into the military and security forces. Although Defense Minister Lin Biao controlled the army center, his power was not absolute. There were still powerful high-ranking officers at the center who opposed him and powerful generals who had created their own  “independent kingdoms” in the provinces, out of the reach of Lin Biao. Mao remained in Hangzhou, away from the capital. The situation through April and May was very tense in Beijing, according to observers. Peng Zhen traveled with many armed bodyguards. And ten officers, sympathetic to the Beijing establishment, were posted to each of his offices for protection. (1) There was a threat of coup. Later, looking back, Mao told Albanian guests how nervous he was in this period of reorganization of the state and military establishment in Beijing:

“We transferred two divisions of garrison troops [to Beijing]..[that is why] you can now wander around Beijing and so can we.” (2)

One of Defense Minister Lin Biao’s main opponents at the center was the military’s Chief of Staff Luo Ruiqing. Luo Ruiqing, representing the professional officers, had a background more in policing than as a field commander. (3) He was part of the revisionist echo chamber within the military. Luo Ruiqing came under criticism for saying that military training and political training should receive equal status, whereas Lin Biao valued political education more. Even though Luo Ruiqing gained his position with the earlier fall of Peng Dehuai’s ally Huang Kecheng in 1959, he nonetheless echoed, albeit more quietly, some of Peng Dehuai’s concerns about the Maoist line. Luo Ruiqing leaned more toward professionalization, not ideological education. In addition, like Peng Dehuai, Luo Ruiqing sought global alignment with the Soviet imperialists. The conflict in global outlooks came to fruition in 1965 when two position papers were published. Luo Ruiqing in The People Defeated Japanese Fascism and They Can Certainly Defeat US Imperialism Too suggested possible reconciliation between China and the Soviet imperialists against the United States. Luo Ruiqing’s suggestion of a united front against the United States was contrary to Lin Biao’s position in Long Live the Victory Of People’s War! Lin Biao’s global people’s war outlook sought Third World unity led by communists against an imperialist bloc, West and East, that had become, more or less, united. Lin Biao saw little possibility of playing one imperialist against the other.  Although both papers advocated people’s war, the understandings of people’s war were very different. Lin Biao’s understanding of people’s war was offensive, not merely defensive as Luo Ruiqing’s. Luo Ruiqing saw people’s war as a tool to defend China from imperialist aggression. However, for Lin Biao, people’s war, on a worldwide scale, was the way to bring about socialist and communist revolution everywhere, it was not merely a tool to defend against imperialist attacks. For Lin Biao, global people’s war was a strategy for global victory. (4)

Over a period of time, Luo Ruiqing had been thwarting Lin Biao’s efforts at politicization of the military. He did so by amending directives, adding qualifications, etc. While nominally upholding the politicization, Luo Ruiqing worked to undermine it behind the scenes. A series of denunciations appeared of unnamed people who held “purely military views” and “one-sidedly stressed the suddenness and complexity  of modern warfare… [and] assert the system of Party committees will impede the better judgement and concentration of the command.” (5) Earlier, in 1965, at Lin Biao’s prompting, Mao wrote in Luo Ruiqing’s case “everyone should be on the alert against those who have no faith in, but feign compliance with, bringing politics to the fore, and who disseminate a set of eclecticism.” Luo Ruiqing was accused of eclecticism. And, as tensions rose in the capital, it became more and more important for the Maoists to control the army’s central command. As the struggle widened, Luo Ruiqing was accused of plotting to overthrow Lin Biao as Defense Minister. From March 4 to April 8, 1966,  Lin Biao’s wife Ye Qun, Wu Faxian, and other officers criticized Luo Ruiqing as a “bourgeois conspirator” and “careerist.” They also accused him of wanting Lin Biao to step down, a suggestion Luo Ruiqing had made on occasion. Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, and Peng Zhen initially tried unsuccessfully to defend Luo Ruiqing during a series of “working group” sessions in March of 1966. They failed to save his career. In despair, Luo Ruiqing made a failed at suicide attempt on March 18, 1966. He ended up severely injured. The suicide attempt only added to the perception that he was guilty. On April 24, Mao approved his formal dismissal. In Luo Ruiqing’s place, general Yang Chengwu, a Maoist loyalist, became head of the General Staff of the military, although this would not be confirmed publicly until June 9, 1966. The fall of Luo Ruiqing severed yet another important link between the old Party bureaucracy and Lin Biao’s military. Thus the Maoists further consolidated their base in the military as the conflict came to ahead in the capital. (6) (7) (8) (9)

More important changes were made. A shadow fell on Yang Shangkun, head of the Central Committee General Office. Yang Shangkun was very close to Deng Xiaoping. He was one of Deng Xiaoping’s key deputies. (10) He was accused of having installed listening devices in Mao’s office in order to collect information for Peng Zhen. He was also accused of maintaining close ties to Luo Ruiqing. Yang Shangkun was removed as head of the General Office. Later, in 1968, Deng Xiaoping would admit “political responsibility for handling of the bugging devices installed by Yang Shangkun in an untimely and sloppy fashion.” Red Guards would repeat the charges in later phases of the Cultural Revolution. Although, in 1980, the revisionist regime denied any bugging had ever taken place. The case was deemed a “frame up” perpetuated by the Maoists. However, the accusations should not be so easily dismissed. In the context of an escalating power struggle involving troop movements, rival centers of institutional power, and widely differing ideologies, it is likely that the revisionists would seek to gather intelligence on their Maoist opponents. It is possible that he was removed because he was in the way. Perhaps the Maoists needed someone handing the paper trail that they could fully trust. Wang Dongxing, director of the Central Bureau of Guards, who arranged for Mao’s personal security took over as head of the General Office. Or it could be all of the above factored into his fall. In any case, Yang Shangkun became linked to the revisionists. He was replaced by Wang Dongxing, whose politics were not fully Maoist, but whose loyalties were to Mao. (11)

Yang Chengwu rise and Luo Ruiqing’s fall made it easier for Lin Biao to control the situation on the ground in the capital. Similarly, the Maoists gained from the fall of Yang Shangkun. Yang Chengwu, prior to his transfer to the Ministry of Defense in the Great Leap years, had been the Beijing garrison commander. (12) Lin Biao ordered troops commanded by those loyal to himself into Beijing prior to reorganization of the military there. Yang Chengwu played a role, increasing Lin Biao’s military presence in Beijing. This was done to prevent a possible mutiny or coup by those loyal to the revisionist Party bosses in Beijing or to the fallen Luo Ruiqing. One observer notes that “the support of a significant part of the army under Marshal Lin Biao, without which it is doubtful whether [the Maoists] could have taken Beijing.” (13) From January to March 5, 1966, Lin Biao secured temporary support from the leadership of the All-Chinese Federation of Trade Unions. From mid-January onward, they published letters from soldiers and articles in favor of the army leadership. (14) (15)

The security threat was one reason that Mao stayed away from Beijing and the center of Chinese politics. Mao remained at his retreat in Hangzhou. He continued to stay behind the scenes. (16) However, from March 17 to 20, Mao convened a session of the Standing Committee of the Politburo in Hangzhou. He made a sharp criticism of the “February Outline” and the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee. In Shanghai and Hangzhou, Mao and Lin Biao, supported by the PLA, the Federation of Trade Unions and the Tao Zhu’s Central-South China Regional Bureau, called for a “revolutionary storm.” Tao Zhu, a subordinate of Lin Biao and personal relation of Jiang Qing, would later fall under Maoist criticism. Later, he would try to shield the revisionist bureaucracy, but for now he threw his weight to the Maoists.  (17) (18)

On April 18, 1966, Lin Biao’s Liberation Army Daily ran a headline: “Hold Aloft the great red banner of Mao Zedong’s Thought! Take an active part in the Great Socialist Cultural Revolution!” The same issue of Liberation Army Daily contained an militant editorial:

“Chairman Mao Zedong has taught us that classes and class struggle continue to exist in socialist society. He has said that in China ‘the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the class struggle between different political forces, and the class struggle in the ideological field between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie will continue to be long and tortuous and at times will even become very acute.’ The struggle to foster what is proletarian and liquidate what is bourgeois on the cultural front is an important aspect of the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, between the socialist road and the capitalist road, between proletarian ideology and bourgeois ideology. The proletariat seeks to change the world according to its own world outlook, and so does the bourgeoisie. Socialist culture should serve the workers, peasants, and soldiers, should serve proletarian politics, and should serve the consolidation and development of the socialist system and its gradual transition to Communism. Bourgeois and revisionist culture serves the bourgeoisie, serves the landlords, rich peasants, counterrevolutionaries, bad elements and Rightists, and paves the way for the restoration of capitalism. If the proletariat does not seize hold of cultural positions, the bourgeoisie is bound to do so. This is a sharp class struggle.” (19)

Mao and Lin Biao had been working as close allies since the Jiangxi Soviet in the 1930s. Lin Biao had returned to politics as a Maoist appointment to the position of Defense Minister in 1959. Lin Biao had defended and pushed Maoist policies even in the face of the problems of the Great Leap. Once again, here at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, Mao and Lin Biao solidified their alliance publicly. Mao issued a famous letter on May 7, 1966 to Lin Biao approving of his work in the army. This came to be known as “the May 7th Directive.” Mao agreed that “So long as there is no world war, the armed forces should be a great school… In this great school, our army men should learn politics, military affairs and agriculture.” Mao encouraged participation of the army in Communes like Daqing oil field. Thus Mao shored up his alliance with Lin Biao, agreeing to send Lin Biao’s recommendations to all military regions. (20)

The Maoists had momentum. Liu Shaoqi was no longer able to protect his allies in Beijing. By May 4, the headlines became even more militant: “Never forget class struggle!” It stated:

“We must make great efforts to promote the proletarian ideology and eradicate the bourgeois ideology in academic work, education, journalism, art and literature, and other spheres of culture.” (21)

On May 8:

“Deng Tuo Is Keeper Of Anti-Party, Anti-Socialist Black Inn Of San Jia Chun.” (22)


“Deng Tuo is the keeper of the San Jia Chun Inn which he himself and Wu Han and Liao Mosha established. He is a leader of the small handful of anti-Party, anti-socialist elements.”


“Open fire on the evil anti-socialist and anti-Party line!”

Chen Boda used his influence in the media world to increase the attack, as did Zhang Chunqiao and Yao Wenyuan in Shanghai. (23) From April 9 to 12, 1966, at a meeting of the Central Committee Secretariat has chaired by Deng Xiaoping. Chen Boda and Kang Sheng returned to publicize Mao’s latest views of the struggle. Kang Sheng delivered a presentation on Peng Zhen’s recent errors in dealing with Wu Han, while Chen Boda examined Peng Zhen’s entire career. Chen Boda accused him of errors and crimes going back decades. After this meeting, Peng Zhen disappeared from public life. His “Group of Five in charge of the Cultural Revolution” was dissolved. Individual members of the group, such as head of the Xinhua News Agency and chief editor of People’s Daily Wu Lengxi, who had been a member of the Group of Five, fell. (24) That same month, Mao began the process of formally revoking Peng Zhen’s “February Outline.” Mao instructed an enlarged Politburo in Hangzhou on April 19 to adopt a new a new document to direct the Cultural Revolution. This new document would become known as the “May 16th Circular.” Others, besides Peng Zhen, would soon fall. Mao asked the meeting to “solve the problem of Peng, Luo, Lu, Yang [Shangkun].” At this point, they had not formally been purged, although they had all been relieved of their positions. (25) (26) Liu Shaoqi arrived at the meeting two days late after an extended four-week tour of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Burma. He was not able to intervene directly on behalf of his allies. (27) The timing of the meeting was probably not coincidental. On May 18, 1966, the Party leadership would meet again. Mao was absent. Lin Biao was the first to speak. He stated that the accusations against Peng Zhen, also applied to two other members of the Group of Five: Lu Dingyu and Yang Shangkun. He also linked them to Luo Ruiqing. He accused them not only of being class enemies with counter-revolutionary ideas, but he also alleged that there  there was a very real threat of a coup. Just as Mao had voiced concerns about the possibility of a coup earlier. Now Lin Biao  gave a speech on May 18, 1966 that discussed the history of coup d’etat in China. (28) Their fates were sealed, although it would take time to become official. The official dismissal would be announced later on June 9, 1966. At that time, Maoist Yang Chengwu would be named as “acting Chief of the General Staff,” officially replacing Luo Ruiqing. In his speech of May 18, 1966, Lin Biao stated, “the Great Cultural Revolution, which is now taking place, is a great and serious movement.” (29) The forms of struggle were quickly changing. President Liu Shaoqi and Vice-chairman Deng Xiaoping would disassociate themselves from their former allies to avoid tarnishing themselves. When Peng Zhen protested, both Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping were unmoved. They said that Peng Zhen’s errors amounted to carrying out a line opposed to Mao and the Party. They tried to wash their hands of the situation. (30) (31) The top revisionists chose to sacrifice knight to save a queen, but the game was far from over.

The Struggle Gets Personal

The ideological struggle became personal. Peng Zhen’s ally Lu Dingyi, head of the Propaganda Department, was also accused of opposition and personal persecution of Lin Biao and his family. This is one of the stranger episodes of the Cultural Revolution. Although political debates should take place on the high plane of ideological struggle, they usually do not. The fight for power is not simply a high-ideological struggle. In these conflicts, every weapon usually comes out of the armory. Yan Weibing, the Deputy Section Chief in her husband Lu Dingyi’s Propaganda Department, had begun to write anonymous letters to members of Lin Biao’s family since 1960. The letters described Ye Qun as a sexually loose woman who had affairs with other men and women. The letters also described Lin Biao as a cuckold. By accident, in 1966, Ye Qun discovered the author of the letters. On April 28, Yan Weibing was arrested as a “counter-revolutionary element.” On May 6, Lu Dingyi was put under house arrest for his counter-revolutionary efforts in connection to the struggles in culture, persecution and censorship of Maoists, and persecution of Lin Biao’s family. On the day of Lu Dingyi’s self-criticism, each attendant of the meeting reportedly found a handwritten note from Lin Biao testifying to Ye Qun’s virginity at the time of marriage and her faithful character. The note said that Yan Weibing’s counter-revolutionary letters contained nothing but slanderous rumors. Lu Dingyi denied knowledge of his wife’s harassment. Reportedly, Lin Biao confronted him asking him how it could be the case that he did not know? Lu Dingyi reportedly quipped, “Aren’t there quite a few husbands who don’t really know what their wives are up to?” Lin Biao reportedly threatened to kill him on the spot. This incident is often used as evidence that the Cultural Revolution should be merely seen as nothing more than personal vendettas, often bizarre ones at that. However, it is not uncommon that sex and personal issues get used by counter-revolutionaries. Mao reportedly acted against subordinates when they leaked information about his sex life to those who would become his enemies: Peng Zhen and Yang Shangkun. (32) There is a whole history of reactionaries using everything they can to sabotage their opponents. Sex and gossip has long been used against revolutionary movements. Intelligence agencies have whole departments dedicated to psychological profiling and waging psychological warfare. In the United States, the state’s Counter-Intelligence Program or Cointelpro attacked revolutionaries with such methods in the 1960s and 1970s. Since serious politics is the realm of science, the cowardly, weak, petty, and stupid often think that that the only way to take down a Leading Light is to resort to such tactics. Sometimes the personal is an easy target for wreckers and psyops. Lies and gossip can be sophisticated form of counter-revolutionary power struggle then just as they are now. (33)

The gloves were off. Two institutional powers confronted each other: Lin Baio’s military and the Maoist networks versus the revisionist Party establishment. Two poles of authority confronted each other: Mao, Lin Biao and the cult versus the Party establishment. Two ideologies confronted each other: Mao Zedong Thought versus revisionism. The struggles were growing bigger and bigger. The Cultural Revolution was far from over.


  1. Domes, Jurgan The Internal Politics of China 1949-1972  (Praeger Publishers, USA: 1973) pp. 15
  2. Jin Qui The Culture of Power (Stanford University Press, California, USA: 1999) p. 57
  3. Charles, David “The Dismissal of Marshal Peng Tu-Huai”  in China Under Mao: Politics Takes Command edited by MacFarquhar, Roderick (MIT Press, USA: 1966) p. 21
  4. Lansky, Mira Beth “‘People’s War’ and the Soviet Threat: the Rise and Fall of a Military Doctrine” in Journal of Contemporary History vol 18, no 4, Military History (October, 1983) pp.623-625
  5. Lansky, Mira Beth “‘People’s War’ and the Soviet Threat: the Rise and Fall of a Military Doctrine” in Journal of Contemporary History vol 18, no 4, Military History (October, 1983) p. 623
  6. Barnouin, Barbara and Yu Changgen Ten Years of Turbulence (Kegan Paul International, England: 1993) pp. 68-70
  7. Shambaugh, David “Deng Xiaoping: The Politician” in The China Quarterly no. 135 (Cambridge University Press, Spetember 1993) p. 469
  8. Dietrich, Craig, People’s China Third Edition (Oxford University Press, New York, New York USA: 1998) p.172
  9. Domes, Jurgan The Internal Politics of China 1949-1972  (Praeger Publishers, USA: 1973) p. 153
  10. Shambaugh, David “Deng Xiaoping: The Politician” in The China Quarterly no. 135 (Cambridge University Press, Spetember 1993) p. 471
  11. MacFarquhar, Roderick and Schoenhals, Michael. Mao’s Last Revolution (Bellnap Press of University of Harvard Press, USA: 2006) pp. 36-37
  12. Charles, David “The Dismissal of Marshal Peng Tu-Huai”  in China Under Mao: Politics Takes Command edited by MacFarquhar, Roderick (MIT Press, USA: 1966) p. 30
  13. Hunter, Neale Shanghai Journal (Beacon Press, Boston, USA: 1969) p. 26
  14. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) pp. 52-53
  15. Domes, Jurgan The Internal Politics of China 1949-1972  (Praeger Publishers, USA: 1973) pp. 155
  16. Domes, Jurgan The Internal Politics of China 1949-1972  (Praeger Publishers, USA: 1973) p.156
  17. Jin Qui The Culture of Power (Stanford University Press, California, USA: 1999) p. 80
  18. Chan, Anita, Rosen, Standley, Ungerm Jonathan “Students and Class Warfare: The Social Roots of the Red Guard Conflict in Guangzhou (Canton)” in The China Quarterly no 83 (September, 1980) p. 431
  19. “Infiltration of Bourgeois Elements” in The Chinese Cultural Revolution (Monthly Review Press, New York:1968) edited by Fan, H.K. pp. 35-36)
  20. “Mao Tse-Tung’s Letter To Comrade Lin Piao (‘May 7’Directive)” in Chinese Politics edited by Myers, James T., Domes, Jurgen, and von Groeling, Erik (University of South Carolina Press, USA: 1986) pp.188-189
  21. “Never Forget Class Struggle (Chieh Fang Chen Pao, Editorial, May 4, 1966)” in Chinese Politics edited by Myers, James T., Domes, Jurgen, and von Groeling, Erik (University of South Carolina Press, USA: 1986) p. 205
  22. “Teng T’o Is Keeper Of Anti-Party, Anti-Socialist Black Inn Of Sanchia Ts’un” in Chinese Politics edited by Myers, James T., Domes, Jurgen, and von Groeling, Erik (University of South Carolina Press, USA: 1986) p. 211
  23. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 52
  24. MacFarquhar, Roderick and Schoenhals, Michael. Mao’s Last Revolution (Bellnap Press of University of Harvard Press, USA: 2006) p. 474
  25. Barnouin, Barbara and Yu Changgen Ten Years of Turbulence (Kegan Paul International, England: 1993) pp. 63-64
  26. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 51
  27. MacFarquhar, Roderick and Schoenhals, Michael. Mao’s Last Revolution (Bellnap Press of University of Harvard Press, USA: 2006) p. 34
  28. Jin Qui The Culture of Power (Stanford University Press, California, USA: 1999) p.i 73
  29. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 56-65
  30. MacFarquhar, Roderick and Schoenhals, Michael. Mao’s Last Revolution (Bellnap Press of University of Harvard Press, USA: 2006) p. 33
  31. Domes, Jurgan The Internal Politics of China 1949-1972  (Praeger Publishers, USA: 1973) pp. 157-159
  32. Li Zhisui The Private Life Of Chairman Mao (Random House, New York, USA: 1995) p. 335
  33. MacFarquhar, Roderick and Schoenhals, Michael. Mao’s Last Revolution (Bellnap Press of University of Harvard Press, USA: 2006) pp. 34-35

Early GPCR, the rise of New Power and new ideology Part 6

Seas are rising, Clouds and Waters Raginge39-563-300x208

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Begins,  Maoist China from 1958 to May 16, 1966

Read Part 1 here: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-1/

Part 2: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-2/

Part 3: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-3/

Part 4: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-4/

Part 5: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-5/

Part 6: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-6/

Part 7: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-7/

Part 8: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-8/



Yao Wenyuan Opens Fire Against Revisionists, the Approaching Storm

As the Cultural Revolution approached, parallel institutions were emerging within Lin Biao’s military as its spread Mao Zedong Thought to the broader society.  These new institutions would play a big role in the battle against the Party bureaucracy, which had become dominated by revisionists. Similarly, although all sides sought to appropriate Mao’s words and image, two kinds of authority came into conflict. On the one side, there was the revisionist Party bureaucracy. The authority of the Party was used as a way to convince the masses to defer to the bureaucracy, the local cadres, upward through the chain of command, even when obedience did not serve the interests of the masses. Deference upward, through bureaucratic layers, was very old in Chinese culture. Such obedience was a hallmark of Confucianism. On the other hand, a cult around the personalities of Mao, and to a lesser extent, Defense Minister Lin Biao were promoted in the military and its parallel institutions. The Mao cult had existed for some time, even since the time of the people’s war. However, now, the cult began to grow massively and take root in across all parts of society. Through the Cultural Revolution, the cult became a way to trump Party authority. The Party no longer could claim to be the only interpreter of Mao. The Party no longer had a monopoly on authority and legitimacy. The cult, along with the dissemination of Mao’s works, especially “the little red book,” gave individuals themselves the ability and courage to question, and, ultimately, rebel against the Party. The cult, with all the problems that arise from it, was a kind of “Protestant” rebellion that democratized revolutionary authority. The cult was a battering ram that any individual could wield against the bureaucracy at any level.

This emerging split between the Maoists and revisionists was reflected geographically also. Whereas the revisionists were entrenched in the national government and Party bureaucracy in Beijing, many, but not all, of the top Maoists were from outside the capital. It was from Shanghai that the Maoists would begin to maneuver. Mao himself was away from the capital, he placed himself outside the storm in the capital. Away from Beijing, at Hangzhou, Mao delivered a speech for a conference on December 21, 1965. Mao pushed for confrontation. He declared there is no such thing as a “policy of concession.” He declared that reactionaries will always use concessions to launch attacks against revolutionaries. He began to push for Maoist approaches to be extended throughout society, including academia and the arts. Mao called on professional philosophers to go to the factories and countryside in order to transform themselves and the masses. Mao criticized the Party’s handling of the arts:

“The Department of Arts must be reformed. If it is not reformed, can it produce philosophers? Can it produce writers? Can it produce historians? Today, philosophers are incapable of writing anything philosophical; writers are incapable of writing novels; and the Department of History is incapable of carrying out historical studies. What they all write concerns nothing but emperors, kings, generals and prime ministers…”

Mao went on to criticize education. In preparation for future struggle with revisionists, capitalist roaders, he told leftists that they must go beyond their own circles and make contact with the masses. They must take care to explain the works of revolutionary science to the masses as preparation for the offensive to come. (1) As Mao made made declarations from outside the capital, Lin Biao’s military continued to promote Mao Zedong Thought and the politicization of society as a way to push against the revisionist layers of the Party in the months to come. On January 24, 1966, the army published a speech by general Xiao Hua, General Political Department of the People’s Liberation Army: “Hold High the Great Banner of The Thought of Mao Zedong, And Resolutely Implement The Five Point Principle Of Bringing Politics To the Fore.” (2) Also “Let Us Be Armed With The Thought Of Mao Zedong And Become Proletarian, Revolutionary Fighters In Literature And Art” (3) The official Cultural Revolution was about to begin.

While the Maoist efforts of the army were spreading, the struggles in culture had yet to mobilize people broadly. In a way, the Cultural Revolution had already been going on for some time in the army and cultural circles. Our concept of the Cultural Revolution suddenly beginning on November 10, 1965 is somewhat contrived. The date is rather arbitrary, part of later myth making. An ex-Red Guard, who was a middle school student at the time, recalls:

“We had been hearing things about a revolution in culture and art since 1964. We sometimes discussed this in our spare moments. It seemed to be a dispute among experts that did not concern us directly.” (4)

Soon this would all change. The Cultural Revolution was about to escalate.

When does the Cultural Revolution Begin?

There is some confusion about the dates — the beginning, end, and duration — of the Cultural Revolution. Some loosely refer to the last decade of Mao’s life from 1965 or 1966 to 1976 to be the “Cultural Revolution decade.” The Chinese revisionists in their official Party history continue to count the entire last decade of Mao’s life as the “Cultural Revolution.” In reality, there had been Maoist efforts since the Great Leap that continued until the fall of the Gang of Four on October 6, 1976. However, when most people think of the Cultural Revolution, they think of the incredible mass movements that, for the most part, took place between 1966 and into 1968, when Mao helped to end them. Another case could be made that the Cultural Revolution was about remaining on the socialist road, moving toward communism. With this in mind, it is important to note that forward, revolutionary momentum was ending before the fall of Lin Biao in 1971. Chen Boda, a key Maoist theorist, was purged in 1970 as Mao shifted rightward. A final blow is landed with the fall of Lin Biao and the loss of the army, “pillar of the dictatorship,” with all its might, to the revisionists. Thus the march forward to communism ends, the “Cultural Revolution” ends, with the final defeat of Lin Biao on September, 13, 1971. After that, it is all decline with no hope of rejuvenation. But again, officially, by 1970, it was already over. The Chinese held the view that the Cultural Revolution was not ongoing after April 1, 1969, that the radical period had ended with the conservative turn as Mao began shifting rightward. It was only later, in 1974, that Mao surprised everyone by announcing “The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is already in its eighth year.” (5) Thus Party history was rewritten, revising the previous assessment that the Cultural Revolution’s end was marked by the Ninth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in April 1, 1969. In any case, most histories mark Yao Wenyaun’s polemic against Wu Han as the beginning of the Cultural Revolution even though there were numerous similar polemics and debates that had been going on for years. In a way, our concept of the Cultural Revolution as having a definite beginning and end is somewhat contrived, based on later myth making. Maoist efforts had been going on since the aftermath of the Great Leap and they continued to go on even after the Ninth Congress in April of 1969, continued to go on after Lin Biao’s death in 1971, and even continued to go on through the 1970s. Exact dates are not all that important.

Leaders and Historical Narrative

Every Marxist is aware of the idealist nature of “the great man theory of history.” Yet it is difficult to write political history without reference to leaders. Fall of individuals at the top represent changes in underlying social forces whose reversal cannot be pinpointed to an exact date. The rise and fall of individual leaders represents shifts within society. It is not that any individual leader alone determines whether socialism continues or not, but rather that the fates of individual leaders are determined by complex underlying processes. It is not that the death of Lin Biao, the death of Mao, or the fall of Chen Boda and his allies or the Gang of Four cause the reversal of socialism, but rather that the shifting fortunes of socialism become reflected at the top. Contrary to the “great man theory” that Marx criticized, in the final analysis, individuals alone do not make history, “all history is the history of class struggle.” Thus this is a history of the rise of New Power against Old Power, a history of institutional conflict. It is also a history of the struggle between contending ideologies and culture. Even so, the story really can’t be fully told without reference to the political struggles between leaders, which reflects the struggles between middle cadres, which reflects the struggle between lower cadres, which reflects struggles within the population itself. Thus this chapter begins with the fall of Wu Han, a revisionist leader in the cultural establishment.

Wu Han and Others Fall

Wu Han was a prominent historian and Vice-mayor of Beijing under Mayor Peng Zhen. They were closely allied with other revisionists like Lu Dingyi, alternate member of the Politburo and member of the Central Secretariat and head of the Central Committee Propaganda Department. And, most of all, they were allied to President Liu Shaoqi and Vice-chairman Deng Xiaoping. Peng Zhen, Lu Dingyi, and Wu Han were leading figures in the cultural establishment. They set cultural policies. They acted as censors and patrons. At times, they personally penned political works lampooning the Maoists. Yao Wenyuan’s attack on Wu Han would be part of a chain reaction that would unleash an whirlwind that would shake the entire system, and eventually culminate with the fall of the entire clique, including top revisionist, capitalist President Liu Shaoqi. The confrontations began as small conflicts in the cultural and academic world, but they would grow bigger and bigger. Just as most conflicts between the Maoists and revisionists go back to the Great Leap, so to does the confrontation between Yao Wenyuan and Wu Han.

In 1959, faced with inflated economic figures during the Great Leap, Mao viewed the classical opera Tablets of Life and Death. The opera describes peasants who suffer under Ming Dynasty officials who confiscate their land. Hai Rui, the emperor’s advisor, is the protagonist who speaks truth to power. When Hai Rui intervenes on the behalf or the peasants, he is unjustly dismissed from office by an autocratic and capricious emperor. The hero suffers for standing for truth and siding with the people. In April 1959, the Seventh Plenum of the Central Committee stated that participants should “learn from Hai Rui’s uprightness and tenacity.” Wu Han’s first published reference to Hai Rui occurred just two days after Defense Minister Peng Dehuai’s return from the Soviet Union on June 15, 1959. Peng Dehuai was a well-known critic of Maoist policies. Wu Han began speaking of Hai Rui in the context of calls for bolder discussion of the Great Leap. In 1961, at the tail end of the Great Leap, Wu Han published his play Hai Rui Dismissed From Office. (6) (7) (8) In the play, he touches on the same themes as an earlier opera on the same topic. Wu Han writes:

“…Hai Rui, then, in 1566, concerned with the problems of the times, questioned the emperor and demanded from him reforms. He said in his memorial, ‘In your early years you may have done a few good deeds. But now? You speak only of the ways of prolonging life… You live only in the Western Garden… Officials have come to graft, and generals have grown weak, and peasants everywhere have risen… The country has been devastated with you for a long time, a fact known by all officials of the inner and outer courts… So set on cultivating the tao, you have become bewitched; so bent upon dictatorial ways, you have become dogmatic and biased.”  (9)

Like the original, Wu Han’s remake praises Hai Rui for his honesty and steadfastness in the face of the emperor’s cruelty. However, the political winds had shifted by 1965. No longer was the story seen as a warning about false reports. Rather, it was now widely seen as a thinly disguised allegorical criticism of “emperor” Mao’s dismissal of then Defense Minister Peng Dehuai in 1959 over the old Defense Minister’s attacks on the Great Leap. The play was written in 1961, the same year that the tide had turned against the Maoists, the year that Peng Dehuai was requesting rehabilitation. (10) The parallels would have been obvious to many whether they were intended by Wu Han or not. Many saw return of the land in the play as allegorical support for de-collectivization and privatization. (11) In addition, Peng Dehuai is said to have referred to himself as Hai Rui at Lushan where Maoist policies came under attack, where Liu Shaoqi and the revisionists began rising. When he was requesting rehabilitation, Peng Dehuai reportedly said, “I could no longer be silent. I wanted to be Hai Rui.” (12) Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife, was one of the first to express criticism over it. At the end of 1965, when Mao was politically strong enough to publicly criticize Wu Han’s play, Mao reportedly remarked:

“The crucial point about the play is ‘dismissed from office.’ The Jiaqing emperor dismissed Hai Rui from his office. In 1959 we dismissed Peng Dehuai from his office.” (13)

The Maoists sought writers for the campaign against Wu Han’s work. Jiang Qing sought out Li Xifan, a literary critic in Beijing who worked at the People’s Daily. He declined to lead off the new campaign, perhaps fearing Wu Han’s powerful connections to top officials Peng Zhen and Deng Xiaoping. After approaching other writers in Beijing unsuccessfully, she relied on Ke Qingshi, Mayor of Shanghai at the time. He had supported Mao during the Great Leap. Before he died in 1965, Ke Qingshi introduced her to both Zhang Chunqiao and Yao Wenyuan. The latter was a literary critic who was relatively unknown, but had taken up the Maoist cause in academic debates in previous years. Jiang Qing would become their political patron. All three would play a big role in the coming years.  (14) They would come to form a Shanghai clique, and eventually be denounced, along with Wang Hongwen, as part of  the  “Gang of Four” in the 1970s.

The beginning of the official Cultural Revolution would come to be marked with the publication of Yao Wenyuan’s criticism of Wu Han on November 10, 1965. “On the New Historical Play Hai Rui Dismissed From Office” was a Maoist collaboration originally written in secret. Yao Wenyuan’s text reads:

“Should we follow the example of ‘return of occupied land’? Our villages have realized the socialist system of collective ownership and established the great People’s Communes. Under these circumstances, who is to ‘return the occupied land’? The People’s Communes? On the other hand, to whom should the land be returned? To the landlords? Or to the peasants? It is the 500 million peasants who are advancing with determination alone the socialist road should ‘learn’ such ‘return of occupied land’?”


“The Hai Rui in the play is fabricated by Comrade Wu Han to publicize his own points of view.” (15)

To take on such powerful figures in the establishment could result in prison or even assassination. When Peng Zhen learned of the article, he sought to censor key passages. After failing, he sought to prevent the article’s publication entirely, even in Shanghai. According to later Red Guard publications, Peng Zhen left Beijing to visit Shanghai in this period. Thus he understood the danger to his power. The tables had recently turned in Shanghai because the Maoist mayor Ke Qingshi had recently died. He was replaced with revisionist allies of Peng Zhen and Wu Han. (16) (17) Aside from a few leading figures of the cultural and political establishment, at the time, Yao Wenyuan’s criticism was not seen as especially important within the broader population. This is partially because Yao Wenyuan’s criticism of Wu Han did not occur in a vacuum. It occurred amidst a vast debate in literature and art. One witness reports that “it was neither more nor less significant than any of a dozen other debates and campaigns the preceding year.” (18) Other similar articles by Qi Benyu, Guan Feng, and Lin Jie appeared criticizing the work. (19) Another recalls that “no one thought this particular controversy was very serious. It was only art and literature, after all.” (20) At the time, this uneventful event will become more important as the Cultural Revolution unfolds and the narrative is shaped. Later, Mao, looking back, would remark that the time had come for a “monkey king” to brandish his “golden cudgel against Peng Zhen’s imperial court.” (21) It was time to create disorder in heaven, to shake up the establishment.

Peng Zhen was a Party bigwig. Peng Zhen had a long-standing and close relationship with Deng Xiaoping going back at least to the 1950s when they worked closely on the Secretariat together. Peng Zhen was appointed second in command to Deng Xiaoping at the First Plenum of the Eighth Party Congress. (22) They collaborate in their political work. They made inspection tours together. Their families were close to each other. Deng Xiaoping discharged important duties to Peng Zhen, especially in legal and security matters. Peng Zhen frequently appeared in public and made speeches. He  was often the face of the regime abroad. Peng Zhen correctly recognized, long before others, that the struggle over Wu Han’s play was just the beginning of a much wider movement against the rightists and revisionists. Peng Zhen correctly saw a danger in the campaign. Instead of trying to oppose it directly, Peng Zhen reacted to the controversy with a sophisticated maneuver. He tried to limit the scope and impact of the discussions only to the literary world. To aid him, Peng Zhen called on Lu Dingyi, head of the Propaganda Department.

Lu Dingyi used his influence to limit the publication of Yao Wenyuan’s polemic. He managed to limit the publication of the article to mostly newspapers and magazines in eastern China. Peng Zhen ordered Beijing book stores not to carry it. The Maoists had to rely on alternative distributions networks. Jiang Qing and Zhang Chunqiao could exert some authority in Shanghai through their local networks. Chen Boda’s Red Flag, the Party’s theory journal, connections would be helpful. The propaganda apparatus of Lin Biao’s military, especially the General Political Department and the military’s cultural forums, also played a role supporting the Maoist campaign. Zhang Chunqiao used his authority as the political commissar of the Nanjing military district. Mao also used his personal clout. When the revisionist obstructed the spread of Yao Wenyuan’s article, Mao personally intervened to order the Shanghai printing press to issue a pamphlet version to be distributed throughout the country through the Xinhua book stores. Mao then ordered Zhou Enlai to to have the article published nationally. On November 30th, 1965, Yao Wenyuan’s critique was finally published in Beijing Daily. However, its publication was accompanied by a preface, approved and revised by Zhou Enlai, stressing that the debate was merely an academic one, underplaying its political import. Zhou Enlai’s preface in the People’s Daily stated:

“[The] correct approach to Hai Rui Dismissed from Office was to consider how to look at historical figures and plays and how to study history…”

The debate spread. Another newspaper, Beijing Daily, took its lead from Zhou Enlai’s moderate tone that echoed Peng Zhen’s earlier tactic. However, Liberation Army Daily, paper of Lin Biao’s military, contrary to the Party establishment, stated categorically that Wu Han’s play is “an anti-party, anti-socialist and anti-Mao Zedong Thought poisonous weed which should be criticized.” The Beijing establishment came to Wu Han’s aid. Several authors using many pseudonyms made criticisms of Hai Rui, but still drown the political debate in academic discussion. (23)  The articles were very careful to keep the discussion theoretical, not concrete and political. In mid-December, 1965, writing under the pen name of Xiang Yangsheng, Deng Tuo, a colleague of Peng Zhen published an article “From Hai Rui Dismissed from Office to the Problem of Inheritance of Moral Values.” This article argued that the debates had no political relevance. Under a pen name, Li Qi, head of the Beijing Party Propaganda Department, attacked Wu Han only for his historical analysis. Other writers from the Propaganda Department, under the pen name Fang Qiu, debated the ideological trend that the play represented. Articles designed to divert attention from the political and concrete issues dominated the pages. At the same time, they were able to prevent the publication of several other articles attacking Wu Han’s politics. Qi Benyu’s “The Reactionary Nature of Hai Rui Dismissed from Office” was censored by the revisionist establishment. (24) (25) (26)

Initially, the controversy blew over to a large extent. Wu Han eventually published a mild self-criticism on December 27th, 1965. The self-criticism by Wu Han goes into great detail in showing how he had inaccurately portrayed Hai Rui as a historical figure. Wu Han also states that in the course of the debates, he made more and more errors. He stated that more errors were used to cover up earlier ones. However, only a few paragraphs of long the self-criticism address the play’s allegorical attack on Mao. Wu Han mosstly brushes aside the heart of the issue:

“In that year, as was pointed out by Comrade Yao Wenyuan, there sprang up in society ‘the wind of individual farming’ and there was vociferous clamoring for ‘reopening of misjudged cases,’ ‘redressing of grievances’ and ‘return of land’ to mark the objective existence of class struggle. Under such a circumstance, what would be the effect of the release, staging and publication of the Dismissal of Hai Rui on the reading public and audience?… [T]hey naturally would link the play with this or that trend.” (27)

Peng Zhen then sent Wu Han off to a rural commune to participate in the “Four Cleanups” campaign. This was, all things considered, a rather light punishment, a slap on the hand. In February, 1966, Yao Wenyuan’s criticisms were dismissed as “gossip.” At the same time, Peng Zhen was now investigating the Maoist critics in order to depose them, including searching for “incriminating materials” on Guan Feng. Peng Zhen convened a team, his “Group of Five,” to issue a final verdict and close the Cultural Revolution debate. Two dissented, including Kang Sheng. The final verdict sought to keep the struggle limited to academic circles by deflecting the political implications. The verdict was that “expert study” of Hai Rui would be made at Beida University.  (28) (29) Thus the issue was to be closed and the Cultural Revolution was to be tamed just as the earlier Socialist Education Movement had been.

Because of the conflicts in culture, people were already beginning to talk of a “Cultural Revolution,” although the term would not become widespread until April, 1966. Already at the beginning of 1966, there was a mostly revisionist “Group of Five in Charge of the Cultural Revolution” that included Peng Zhen, Lu Dingyi, Chao Yang, Wu Lengxi, and Kang Sheng. Only Kang Sheng could be considered a Mao loyalist. All of the others were associated with Peng Zhen, the rightists and revisionists. The “Group of Five” was dominated by critics of the Maoist line; it was dominated by those who politically aligned closely with the top revisionist, President Liu Shaoqi. A question arises: Why was Peng Zhen and his team put in charge of the campaign to revolutionize the superstructure, to revolutionize and debate culture? Many speculate that Mao put Peng Zhen in charge knowing that he would make errors that would lead to his downfall, which is exactly what happened. Another, more probable explanation, is that the revisionists were the ones who already controlled the cultural establishment. Mao’s influence in the Party was simply limited. So, it makes sense that the a Party hierarchy dominated by President Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping would maneuver their own people to run the campaign, thus thwarting any Maoist effort, which is what initially happened. In February, 1966, Peng Zhen issued a “Outline Report on the Current Academic Discussion Made by the Group of Five in Charge of the Cultural Revolution” or “February Outline.”  This document was to serve as the official guide for debates ranging on a number of cultural works at the time, but was meant to be a kind of guide to the Cultural Revolution generally. Once again, it stressed the academic nature of the debates. The “February Outline” claimed “that no link existed between Wu Han and Peng Dehuai.” (30) (31) The report also warned against “arrogance” and condemned “scholar tyrants who are always acting arbitrarily and trying to overwhelm people with their power.” This was a transparent allusion to Yao Wenyuan and other Maoist critics. The “February Outline” sought to take control of the debate, recommending that “criticism and repudiation by name-calling in the press should be conducted with caution and with the approval of the leading bodies concerned.” (32) Although the report adopted Maoist verbage, it directed debates away from Maoist conclusions. The report was popular among the Party establishment and hierarchy. The press echoed the report’s conclusions. For now, Peng Zhen and the revisionists appeared to win.

Other confrontations occurred in in this period. In February, Liu Shaoqi blocked a report from Hupeh province. The plan advocated mechanization funded by the People’s Communes themselves. In other words, Liu Shaoqi was blocking an effort to shift power back to the People’s Communes, an effort to undermine Maoist self-sufficiency. At the same time, a Japanese Communist Party delegation had visited Beijing. There they met Peng Zhen. They issued a joint communique pushing for unity of action between the Chinese and Soviets in fighting the United States in Vietnam. Peng Zhen declared “both revisionism and dogmatism must be fought,” a tacit criticism of the Maoists. This worked its way through the Politburo into the joint declaration. Away from the capital, in Hangzhou, Mao was angered by the declaration. Mao insisted that it should have emphasized “a united international front against American imperialism and Soviet revisionism.” (33) This echoed an earlier incident when Khrushchev was deposed, the Soviet ambassador visited China to assess the situation. Peng Zhen was highlighted as having made overtures to Brezhnev in the press in November, 1964. In his toast at the ambassadorial reception, he carefully avoided criticizing the Soviets. He made sure to leave the door open for reconciliation. The Chinese press, following Peng Zhen’s lead at the time, stressed that Khrushchev had been the problem, not the Soviet Union. This was very different than the militant line against revisionism associated with Mao and Lin Biao. It is a stark contrast to the militant global people’s war outlook being advanced by Lin Biao. (34)

In January, the army’s General Political Department had concluded twenty days of meetings making “a serious study of important instructions given by the Central Committee of the Communist Party and Chairman Mao Zedong on the building up of the army and its political work.” Concluding reports were made by general Xiao Hua, Director of the General Political Department and general Yang Chengwu, Deputy Chief of the General Staff. Both were Maoists, close to Lin Biao. A great emphasis was made of the mass upsurge in the creative application of Mao Zedong‘s work. The report stated, “…on all aspects of the work of the whole army and putting Mao Zedong’s Thinking in command of everything.” (35) The Maoist made another important move through the military. From February 2 to 20, 1966, the Maoists initiated an art forum, another dual institution to challenge the Party. It was led by Jiang Qing under the auspices of Lin Biao’s army. This forum was important in Jiang Qing’s further rise to early prominence as a cultural authority. This forum was part of the offensive against Peng Zhen’s line. Just as the army’s media was going against the Party, so too was its cultural efforts. After the conference, on March 22nd, 1966, Lin Biao described the reason for the focus on art in a “Letter to Members of the Standing Committee of the Military Commission of the Party Central Committee”:

“The last 16 years have witnessed sharp class struggle on the front of literature and art and the question of who will win out has not yet been settled. If the proletariat does not occupy the positions in literature and art, the bourgeoisie certainly will. This struggle is inevitable. And it represents an extremely broad and deep socialist revolution in the realm of ideology. If things are not done properly, revisionism will prevail. We must hold high the great banner of Mao Zedong’s Thought and unswervingly carry this revolution through to the end.” (36)

Chen Boda, Zhang Chunqiao and Yao Wenyuan drafted a summary of the forum that was issued on April 10, 1966: “Summary of the Forum on the Work in Literature and Art in the Armed Forces with which Comrade Lin Biao Entrusted Comrade Jiang Qing.” The official conclusions of the forum were very different than those of Peng Zhen and the Group of Five’s “February Outline.” Rather than limiting the scope of the Cultural Revolution, the report from the army forum widened the scope. The conclusions of the army forum were not merely academic, but stressed the political implications of culture. According to the forum, the cultural debates had political, concrete implications. Cultural struggle is power struggle. The document stated that “the last sixteen years have witnessed sharp class struggles on the cultural front” and that “we have been under the dictatorship of a black anti-party, anti-socialist line which is diametrically opposed to Chairman Mao’s Thought.” (37) This forum was a launching off point for renewed offensive against Peng Zhen and the “Group of Five.” On April, 18, 1966, Liberation Army Daily ran an editorial “Hold High the Great Banner of the Thought of Zedong and Take an Active Part in the Great Socialist Cultural Revolution.” This article further described the culture debates as a fierce class struggle. The article claimed that struggle in culture was so important that the fate of the socialist system itself was in the balance. At the same time, Yao Wenyuan continued his agitation against Wu Han, calling him “part of the Guomindang.” In May, 1966, Chen Boda threw Red Flag, the Party’s theory journal, into the battle. (38)

The struggle hit other allies of Peng Zhen and Wu Han in the anti-Maoist elite. In the tail end of the Great Leap, in February of 1961, Deng Tuo published a column “Evening Chats at Yanshan” in the Beijing Evening News. In October, Wu Han, Teng Tuo and Liao Mosha, all holding high positions in the Beijing Municipal Committee, had published a column “Notes from the Three Family Village.” The columns were social criticism thinly disguised as ancient anecdotes and foreign fables. Of the writers, Deng Tuo’s criticism of Maoist policies was the sharpest. Deng Tuo had castigated the idea of reaching communism through the People’s Communes as “substituting illusion for reality.” (39) Deng Tuo was the editor of People’s Daily. He was secretary for culture and education in the Beijing Party Committee. He also collaborated on articles with Peng Zhen and Lu Dingyi. Deng Tuo played a role, along with Peng Zhen, in persecuting those who opposed the Party. After the Maoist era, he would be praised as a model comrade by Deng Xiaoping. He was a Party man whose conception of Party loyalty, like other revisionists, corresponded to Confucian authoritarianism. Deng Tou had advocated the virtues of the elite scholar-official of the Confucian tradition that deferred to authority. He had always been a rightist, favoring united front policies over socialist pushes. As early as 1954, Deng Tuo stood with Liu Shaoqi against Maoist efforts to speed up collectivism. He also opposed the Hundred Flowers campaign in 1957. He criticized the Maoist emphasis on politics by cadres and in the art world. He would criticize the Three Red Banners along revisionist lines. In place of the Maoist emphasis on struggle and transformation, he emphasized industry and development. His positions were consistent with those raised earlier by Peng Dehuai at Lushan in 1959. (40) On May 11th, 1966, Qi Benyu, who had earlier been banned from the pages of major periodicals by the Beijing elite, published “On the Bourgeois Position of the Beijing Daily and Front Line.” Yao Wenyaun’s “Concerning Notes from Three Family Village: The Reactionary Character of Evening Chats at Yanshan and Notes from Three-Family Village” also criticized Wu Han, Deng Tuo, and Liao Mosha. Jiang Qing, writing under the pen-name Gao Ju attacked Deng Tuo too. As Peng Zhen’s allies came under attack, they were forced to make self-criticisms. However, like Wu Han’s self-criticism, the self criticisms were disingenuous. The self-criticisms were being used as a way to deaden the offensive. The self criticisms admitted the least significant errors in order to avoid taking responsibility for the real errors of attacking class struggle, attacking social experiment, defending Peng Dehuai’s and the Soviet’s criticisms of the Maoist policies of the Great Leap. The self criticisms were not genuine, but merely a tactical move to survive the coming storm. The Maoists claimed that life-and-death issues were at stake. Yao Wenyuan began to refer to the allies of Peng Zhen as out-and-out bourgeois reactionaries:

“Wu Han and Jian Bozan (Vice-rector of Beida University) are members of the Party, but in reality they are still part of the Guomindang (reactionaries). The bourgeois academic authorities must be criticized on these grounds. We should form the young people ourselves, without the fear that they will offend against the so-called ‘King’s laws’. Their articles must not be withheld.” (41)

The writings of Peng Zhen’s allies were said to be the “most vicious attacks on the Party, socialism, and Mao Zedong Thought” and they were “poisonous fog and blinding dust.” (42) The second-tier figures of Wu Han, Deng Tuo, and Liao Mosha were openly being portrayed as the revisionist “black line” in the media. Shanghai Liberation Daily published “Open fire on the anti-party, anti-socialist black line” by  the pseudonym Gao Ju. Guan Feng published a similar attack in Guangming Daily.  In the three month period from the beginning of the year through march only 90 articles appeared attacking Wu Han, in April 4,000 appeared criticizing Wu Han and his associates. (43) The tide shifted in favor of the Maoists.

The criticisms began to trickle down as debates heated up, especially into 1966. The debates even reached the schools in some places. One person who was a child at the time recalls a song:

“Wu Han Deng Tuo Liao Mosha
one stem three black melons
beat beat beat
we will resolutely overthrow them” (44)

Teachers encouraged their students to participate in the debates. Students were told to take out their notebooks and “open fire” on the revisionists. Participating in the debates that were occurring in the papers gave youth a sense of “importance.” A writer who was a  middle-school student at the time recalls:

“At the end of April, it seemed to us that all literary, art, and some university students were in the midst of repudiating Wu Han and The Three-Family Village. The newspapers were full of it. We simply assumed that the two-year stream of criticism had reached a peak. We speculated that the conflict might turn into a movement involving students at our level, but it was only an idea. The meeting came as a complete surprise. Such things were rare, especially on such short notice. When the principal told us that our school was about to begin participation in the Cultural Revolution by launching a movement to repudiate Wu Han and The Three-Family Village, I was amazed. It was completely unexpected. Although Chen did not cite any specific directive, we all realized that he must have had some sort of authorization from higher levels. He would never have dared to mobilize us on his own. We likewise assumed that other schools would be doing the same thing… We were very much in the dark, but still in an excited frame of mind. Within a very short time, the whole school was buzzing…

The principal first called our attention to the numerous accounts of the criticisms of The Three-Family Village. He accused Wu, Deng, and Liao of using their positions to attack the Party and of seeking the restoration of capitalism. He cited the high tide of criticism to show that conditions were excellent for a counterattack against the bourgeois line and emphasized our responsibility to unite, criticize, and defend the Party and the nation.

Each of us was to write big-character posters containing accusations and denunciations of revisionists. We were also suppose to write analyses of the present situation stating our opinion on its causes and how it could best be rectified. Finally, we were to write essays summarizing our experiences and what we had learned.”

He continues:

“At first, big-character posters were fun. We would write our individual posters together and exchange ideas about the best kinds of criticisms. There was a kind of competition to see who could write the best one. However, we knew nothing about Deng, Wu, or Liao; they seemed distant and few of us had even read their essays. All of our information came from the newspapers. We just copied phrases and accusations from them and incorporated them into our posters. Discussions of our essays were the same. We read the newspapers, saw what lessons we were expected to learn,m and got ideas of how the case should be treated. We then wrote these ideas into our own essays. There was nothing else we could do. All we knew was what appeared in the news and we could only say that something was good or bad. We wanted to criticize in a deep way but could not do so.” (45)

Another person recollects:

“Such activities were a lot of fun, and a welcome break from the aimless life at home… I was sorry when our meetings were over. In Changsha city, though, the wave of criticism was still mounting, and we heard more and more about a ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’ that was to expose the reactionary capitalist stand of the academic authorities who opposed the Party and Socialism. It was all extremely confusing…” (46)

The battles in culture continued and widened in scope. The Cultural Revolution became louder and more intense. Peng Zhen and his associates now came under heavy criticism for the “February Outline,” censorship of articles criticizing Wu Han, harassment of Qi Benyu, and Peng Zhen’s poor, overall leadership of the Cultural Revolution. Criticisms were made against Peng Zhen’s ally Lu Dingyi, alternate member of the Politburo and member of the Central Secretariat and head of the Central Committee Propaganda Department. Earlier, in March,1966, Mao himself stepped in and attacked the propaganda department headed by Lu Dingyi:

“Wu Han has published so many articles, without having to seek anyone’s permission. But when it comes to Yao Wenyuan, permission has to be asked. Why is this so? Articles from the Left are suppressed, while the great despots of the academic world are protected… the department of propaganda has become the court of the king of hell; but the little devils must now be released.” (47)

From Mao’s statement, a slogan was born: “You must overturn the King of Hell and set all the little devils free!” This slogan meant that the top leaders should be criticized by the lower cadres. (48) Mao sought to unleash a wave of criticism of the Party and cultural elite from below. The Propaganda Department had opposed Maoist pushes since the Great Leap. They had allied with President Liu Shaoqi and Vice-chairman Deng Xiaoping. Revisionist control of the Propaganda Department had prevented the Maoists ability to go through normal Party channels. It was Lin Biao’s military, an emerging New Power, not the Party, that was the main vehicle for Mao Zedong Thought. While the Party’s official channels had been undermining Mao Zedong Thought, Lin Biao was promoting it through the army’s General Political Department, media, and culture work. As Lu Dingyi opposed the spread of the cult of personality around Mao, the General Political Department promoted the cult as a pole of authority. (49) Lu Dingyi was now accused of opposition to Mao Zedong Thought and the Cultural Revolution. Peng Zhen’s lower-ranking allies began to fall. The storm was not over. It had only just begun.


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  3. People’s Daily editorial (February 27, 1966)
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  8. Barnouin, Barbara and Yu Changgen Ten Years of Turbulence (Kegan Paul International, England: 1993) pp. 51-52
  9. Milton, David and Nancy Dall The Wind Will Not Subside (Pantheon Books, USA: 1976) p. 110
  10. Daubier, Jean  A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Vintage Books, Random House, Inc. USA: 1974) pp. 31-32
  11. Milton, David and Nancy Dall The Wind Will Not Subside (Pantheon Books, USA: 1976) p. 111
  12. Fisher, Tom “The Play is the Thing” in the Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs no 7. (January, 1982) pp. 11-14
  13. Clark, Paul The Chinese Cultural Revolution (Cambridge University Press, New York, New York, USA: 2008) p. 20
  14. Barnouin, Barbara and Yu Changgen Ten Years of Turbulence (Kegan Paul International, England: 1993) pp. 53-54
  15. Fisher, Tom “The Play is the Thing” in the Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs no 7. (January, 1982) p. 4
  16. Robinson, Joan The Cultural Revolution In China (Penguin Books, Great Britain:1970) pp. 51-52
  17. Hunter, Neale Shanghai Journal (Beacon Press, Boston, USA: 1969) p. 21
  18. Milton, David and Nancy Dall, The Wind Will Not Subside (Pantheon Books, USA: 1976) pp.113-114
  19. Fisher, Tom “The Play is the Thing” in the Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs no 7. (January, 1982) p. 21
  20. Rittenberg, Sidney and Bennett, Amanda The Man Who Stayed Behind  (Simon and Schuster, USA: 1993) p. 296
  21. Milton, David and Nancy Dall, The Wind Will Not Subside (Pantheon Books, USA: 1976) p. 120
  22. Shambaugh, David “Deng Xiaoping: The Politician” in The China Quarterly no. 135 (Cambridge University Press, Spetember 1993) p. 469
  23. Barnouin, Barbara and Yu Changgen Ten Years of Turbulence (Kegan Paul International, England: 1993) pp. 55-57
  24. Daubier, Jean  A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Vintage Books, Random House, Inc. USA: 1974) pp. 34-35
  25. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) pp. 46-50
  26. Barnouin, Barbara and Yu Changgen Ten Years of Turbulence (Kegan Paul International, England: 1993) pp. 55-57
  27. “Self Criticism On Dismissal Of Hai Jui” in Chinese Politics edited by Myers, James T., Domes, Jurgen, and von Groeling, Erik (University of South Carolina Press, USA: 1986) p. 159
  28. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) pp. 48-49
  29. Han Suyin Wind In The Tower (Little, Brown And Company, USA: 1976) p.  269
  30. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 50
  31. Daubier, Jean . A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Vintage Books, Random House, Inc. USA: 1974) pp. 35-38
  32. “Let Us Be Armed With The Thought Of Mao Tse-Tung And Become Proletarian, Revolutionary Fighters In Literature And Art (Jen Min Jih Pao, Editorial, Peking, February 27, 1966)” in Chinese Politics edited by Myers, James T., Domes, Jurgen, and von Groeling, Erik (University of South Carolina Press, USA: 1986) p. 196
  33. Han Suyin Wind In The Tower (Little, Brown And Company, USA: 1976) p. 269
  34. “Comrade Peng Chen’s Speech” Beijing Review no. 46. (November 13, 1964) p. 9-10
  35. Milton, David and Nancy Dall The Wind Will Not Subside (Pantheon Books, USA: 1976) p. 117
  36. “Comrade Lin Piao’s Letter to Members of the Standing Committee of the Military Commission of the Party Central Committee” Beijing Review no. 23 (June 2, 1967) p. 9
  37. Barnouin, Barbara and Yu Changgen Ten Years of Turbulence (Kegan Paul International, England: 1993) p. 60
  38. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 52
  39. Byung-joon Ahn “Adjustments In The Great Leap Forward And Their Ideological Legacy, 1959-62”  in Ideology and Politics In Contemporary China edited by Johnson, Chalmers (University of Washington Press, USA: 1973) pp. 285-286
  40. Cheek, Timothy “Deng Tuo: Culture, Leninism and Alternative Marxism in the Chinese Communist Party” in The China Quarterly no 87 (September, 1981) pp. 470-485
  41. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 50
  42. Barnouin, Barbara and Yu Changgen Ten Years of Turbulence (Kegan Paul International, England: 1993) p. 62
  43. Dittmer, Lowell Liu Shao-ch’i and the Chinese Cultural Revolution (University of California Press, USA:1974) p. 75
  44. Bennett, Gordon and Montaperto, Ronald N. Red Guard: The Political Biography of Dai Hsiao-ai (Doubleday, USA:1971) pp. 34 -35
  45. Bennett, Gordon and Montaperto, Ronald N. Red Guard: The Political Biography of Dai Hsiao-ai (Doubleday, USA:1971) p. 34-37
  46. Liang Heng and Shapiro, Judith Son of the Revolution (Vintage books, Random House, USA: 1983) pp. 40-42
  47. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 50
  48. Liang Heng and Shapiro, Judith Son of the Revolution (Vintage books, Random House, USA: 1983) pp. 40-42
  49. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 226

Early GPCR, the rise of New Power and new ideology Part 5

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The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Begins,  Maoist China from 1958 to May 16, 1966

Read Part 1 here: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-1/

Part 2: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-2/

Part 3: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-3/

Part 4: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-4/

Part 5: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-5/

Part 6: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-6/

Part 7: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-7/

Part 8: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-8/



Maoists Versus the Cultural Establishment, the Early Struggles

At the end of the Great Leap Forward, Mao’s power had diminished. Mao’s star had waned while the star of President Liu Shaoqi had risen. After the Great Leap, Mao played little role in the Communist Party in 1960 and 1961. In this adjustment period, Liu Shaoqi and Vice-Chairman Deng Xiaoping continued to develop an alternative economic program to challenge the Maoist one. As the Maoists build up their base in the military under the leadership of Defense Minister Lin Biao, the revisionists within the Party and state bureaucracies sought to transform their economic readjustment into a comprehensive reform, which ultimately aimed at restoring capitalism. (1) The Party bureaucracy also launched an ideological and cultural offensive, encouraging public criticism of Maoist doctrines. A wave of criticism of the Maoist economic model, especially “The Three Red Banners” of the Great Leap, erupted. Economists and the cultural intelligentsia who criticized Maoist policies were now protected by elites associated with Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Highly placed Party elites acted as patrons to anti-Maoist critics. Many of those Party elites themselves joined the anti-Maoist fray. Mayor of Beijing Peng Zhen, Director of the Party’s Propaganda Department Lu Dingyi, and Deputy Director of the Propaganda Department Zhou Yang played important roles in this effort. The vanguard of these critics was head of the Propaganda Department of the Beijing Urban Committee Deng Tuo, Vice-Mayor of Beijing Wu Han, who was also a historian and dramatist, and the head of the United Front Department and Beijing Urban Committee Liao Mosha. This group, especially Deng Tuo, published a satirical column in the Beijing Evening News and the Beijing fortnightly Frontline. These essays lampooned and sharply criticized Maoist radicalism. They were later compiled as “Notes from the Three-Family Village” and “Evening Talks at Yanshan.” A recurring theme is the ridicule of Maoist terminology, what Deng Tuo called “trumpet blowing.” Deng Tuo writes:

“A neighbor of mine has a child who in recent times, mostly in imitation of the great poets, composed a lit of empty talk. Recently he wrote ‘Ode on Wild Grass’ which is nothing but empty talk. His poem runs as follows:

Heaven is our Father,
Earth is our Mother,
Sun is our Wetnurse,
The East Wind is our benefactor,
The West Wind is our Enemy.
We are a tuft of grass,
Some like us,
Some hate us,
No matter — we don’t care,
We keep on growing.

What kind of poem is that? I would really worry about the future of the child if he composed nothing but things like that day after day.” (2) (3)

These critics were joined by Luo Gengmo and Sun Yefang, economists who claimed that the Maoist model was a step backward. Sun Yefang stated that “Politics in command” was “idealism and a disavowal or at least underestimat[ion] of economic laws.” The economists also criticized the People’s Communes,  Maoist “empty talk” and “hot air.” Sun Yefang’s Economic Research Institute advocated “opening free markets extensively.” He was quoted as saying, “Suppose there are speculative activities, what is the harm? At worst the speculators are allowed to make some money.” Years later, as the Cultural Revolution begins, in mid-1966, Sun Yefang will be accused of denying class struggle and of having accepted “the black wares of Khrushchev’s revisionism lock, stock and barrel.” (4) It was during this backlash against Maoist thought when Wu Han composed his infamous play Hai Rui Dismissed from Office, which was said to contain a criticism of Mao and  an allegorical defense of ex-Defense Minister Peng Dehuai. A few years later, debate over Wu Han’s play will mark the Maoist pushback that will become the official start of the Cultural Revolution. Also, in July of 1960, the leading philosophical historian Feng Youlan defended Confucius and his philosophies. At the time, Feng Youlan was criticized only by a few of his students, a year later, this debate and similar ones would spread into academia as the Maoists fought back. (5) Although the debates did not explode into mass campaigns, they foreshadow the Cultural Revolution. These and other debates were early skirmishes in a war that would explode into life-and-death struggles a few years later. Many of those who participated in these debates would be key figures in the struggles of the Cultural Revolution. On one side of the debate there was the Maoist concept of power struggle and class dictatorship. On the other side, stood revisionists, some advanced Chinese nationalism and the Confucian concept of social harmony, others liberalism. All revisionists advanced the idea of class compromise.

Confucianism and Liberalism in Culture and Philosophy

As a result of the Sino-Soviet split, an anti-Soviet feeling was pervasive amongst the Chinese elite. Chinese writers and policy makers sought ways to justify their ideas and policies that did not rely on the language of the Soviets. Some sought to fill the ideological vacuum left by the Soviet revisionists with their own conceptions. They sought to channel the pervasive anti-Sovietism into rehabilitation of traditionalism and nationalism, sometimes Confucianism, sometimes liberalism, while at the same time ultimately moving away from communism toward capitalism. Mao sought to combat this trend by renewing class struggle with his Tenth Plenum decree in September 24, 1962, which had stated:

“Now then, do classes exist in socialist countries? Does class struggle exist? We can now affirm that classes do exist in socialist countries and that class struggle undoubtedly exists. Lenin said: After the victory of the revolution, because of the existence of the bourgeoisie internationally, because of the existence of bourgeois remnants internally, because the petty bourgeoisie exists and continually generates a bourgeoisie, therefore the classes which have been overthrown within the country will continue to exist for a long time to come and may even attempt restoration.” (6)

By sponsoring academic debates on the merits of traditionalism, the revisionist establishment sought to undermine the implementation of Mao’s decree. The revisionists used scholarly debates about history as a way to attack Maoism. They pointed to Chinese nationalism and traditionalism as an alternative to Maoist radicalism. Defying Mao’s call for social revolution, they emphasized social unity. This effort to rehabilitate Confucianism sought to lay the groundwork to incorporate traditional Chinese conceptions of social unity into the Party ideology. Rehabilitating Confucius was an important step in jettisoning Mao’s concept of the primacy of class struggle. There had always been those in the Party who downplayed social revolution and emphasized social unity. By the early 1960s, with Mao weakened, those who emphasized social unity, at the top represented by Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, gained the upper hand. A month after Mao’s call for more class struggle, Zhou Yang and the Historical Research Institute held a conference that became a platform for revisionist, traditionalist views. After the forum, the participants marked the occasion by going to Qufu, Confucius’ hometown, to visit the Confucian ancestral temple. (7)

Historian Liu Jie advanced the idea that China’s history could not be explained by the scientific categories of Marxism. He claimed class struggle did not govern Chinese historical development. Instead, he said that the Confucian concept of “jen,” humanism or love of mankind, allowed differing classes to live in peace in the feudal era and could do so in the present era too. In other words, class contradictions in China are not antagonistic as they are elsewhere. Class contradictions can and should be mediated by Confucian social unity. According to his view, classes did not oppose each other, but worked together for the greater good in the unique case of the Chinese nation. Some at the conference suggested that Marxism and Confucianism were similar or could be combined. There was an effort to conflate the two ideologies in order to make Confucianism acceptable. This was an effort to smuggle revisionism into Marxism. In his New History of Chinese Philosophy, earlier published in 1961, philosopher Feng Youlan stated that jen was a universal ethic for all times and all classes. Wu Han was one of the boldest and most outspoken advocate of traditionalism. Under the pen name “Wu Nanxing,” Wu Han published two articles in 1962: “On Morality” and “More On Morality.” The articles were on the inheritability of values and other topics. Wu Han advocated incorporating not only jen to the current politics, but other traditional values too. Wu Han advocated feudal notions of loyalty, filial, piety, honesty, diligence, and courage. In addition, he advocated certain values of bourgeois society, including democracy and the profit-motive. So that he would not be misunderstood, in another article, he underscored that obedience to authority should not be to a single leader, but to the Party as a whole. Thus he sought Confucian obedience to the top Party establishment, a kind of aristocracy dominated by revisionists. A Confucian cult of the Party aristocracy as a whole was advanced as a way to oppose the rival cult of Mao. (8) This was in direct opposition to the Maoist efforts to use the army to set up a pole of authority, in the form of the Mao cult, outside the normal Party establishment.

Connected to the Confucian debates were debates over historical figures from Chinese history. Many sought to refute the reviews of Wu Han, Liu Jie, Feng Youlan and their allies. Many who would become Maoist leaders during the Cultural Revolution took part in the Maoist counter-attack. Younger authors led by Guan Feng, Qi Benyu, Yao Wenyuan, Lin Youzhi, and Lin Jie criticized the revisionists. In August of 1963, for example, Qi Benyu published “Comment on Li Xiucheng’s Autobiography.” In this article, Qi Benyu argued against the grain that the last general of the Taiping rebellion against the Manchu Qing dynasty should not be viewed as a hero because he had surrendered. Qi Benyu used history as a way to discuss the present, a common Maoist tactic. Qi Benyu argued against any suspension of revolution. He argued against those who would capitulate as the last general of the Taipings had. Those who abandon class struggle should never be regarded as heroes. Later, this idea that class struggle, revolution, must be continuous would play a key role in the Cultural Revolution. Qi Benyu’s insistence on the importance of class struggle was directly opposed to the notions of traditional social unity being peddled  by the revisionists. In September, 1963, Zhou Yang organized a meeting at the Institute of Modern History. Prominent figures, including Wu Han, Deng Tao, Jian Bozan, and Hou Wailu criticized Qi Benyu’s view. Attacks and counter-attacks were made back and fourth. This was not just a conflict between the Party’s cultural establishment against younger upstart Maoists, the conference was an effort to ideologically undermine Mao’s policies, an effort  to undermine the intellectual justification for increased class struggle. It was an effort to undermine Maoist radicalism in general.

Similar debates raged in the field of aesthetics and philosophy. Zhou Gucheng, a professor at Fudan University in Shangahi, advanced theories of aesthetics and culture that de-emphasized the role of conflict, instead emphasized culture’s role as a space where different class interests merged and unified to form a “spirit of the age.” Yao Wenyuan sought to refute his position in “A Brief Discussion of the Problems of the Spirit of the Age” in 1963. Yao Wenyuan agreed that society was complex and ridden with contradictory class outlooks. However, he disagreed that there was a deeper unity that constituted a “spirit of the times.” Yao Wenyuan argued that antagonistic interests cannot form an integrated spirit. In the present epoch, Yao Wenyuan argued, it was the proletarian that represented the common spirit and hope for humanity, not a combination of the spirits of all classes. (9) Yang Xianzhen, a theorist trained in the Soviet Union, claimed that the dialectic was part of Chinese tradition. He pointed to traditional conceptions of yin and yang, which were opposites that formed a deeper unity. His implication was that social conflicts dissolve in the unity. In practice, this lent itself to compromise and class collaboration, which the Maoists found objectionable. (10) Yang Xianzhen had also been a critic of the Maoist policies during the collectivization drives in the 1950s and the Great Leap. He had emphasized the importance of economy and technology over ideology in his earlier work. Later, this kind of idea would be named the Theory of the Productive Forces. These theories — with their emphasis on technology and de-emphasis of class conflict and ideology, rejection of the special  role of the proletariat, and elevation of social unity and traditionalism — were part of the revisionist package. At the time, in academia and cultural circles, pre-Marxist Hegelianism was being combined with liberalism and traditional Chinese feudal ideas in order to lay a theoretic basis for counter-revolution. Instead of emphasizing social unity, the Maoists themselves raised the obscurantist slogan that “Everything tends to divide itself into two.” The implication was that antagonistic contradictions in society were irreconcilable. They could only be resolved through struggle, through revolution. (11) On September, 11 1964, still referring to the professor as “comrade,” Red Flag, the Party’s theory journal edited by Maoist Chen Boda, published a polemic against Yang Xianzhen stating that the debate was “a struggle between two world outlooks — the proletarian world outlook and the bourgeois world outlook.” The article criticize the concepts and the “distorted picture” of “comrades Yang Xianzhen, Ai Hengwu and Lin Jingshan.” The Maoists correctly saw the danger, but could not carry the struggle further at the time. (12)

Socialist Education, Arts and the Peasantry

In 1963 through 1964, as the Socialist Education Movement was peaking, using similar arguments as those used in the aftermath of the Great Leap, Zhou Liangxiao in People’s Daily downplayed the significance of the peasantry in the past and, by implication, present class struggle. He stated “it is wrong to regard peasant wars as giving rise to a new social system.” He went on to state that “in feudal times peasants did not oppose all forms of exploitation. The equality they desired was to throw off the landlords in order to make profit or to become small property owners.” (13) Zhou Liangxiao’s last point is one made by Mao himself. This kind of consideration is the whole reason for Mao’s theory of New Democracy. Even so, the reason that authors chose to raise this issue at this juncture was to criticize those Maoists who sought to mobilize the current peasantry, under Maoist leadership, for further socialist transformation. The limited peasant ambitions of the past were being used to criticize those who sought to make further social revolution in the present. Not only did these authors fail to recognize that the peasantry of the 1960s was not the peasantry of the past, but they also failed to understand the transformative power of communist ideology and leadership. State power also significantly changes the equation. The Maoists, by contrast, saw a vast “poor and blank” peasantry as a force that could be unleashed to push the revolution forward. To point to the conservative nature of past peasant movements was not only a criticism of those who sought another leftist advance, but also a criticism of past Maoist efforts during the Great Leap a few years before. By contrast, Maoists saw the masses as a source of strength. They emphasized the importance of mass line. “From the masses to the masses,” Mao famously stated. The flow of information goes both ways. Not only were the masses the engine of revolution, but could also be a source of leadership to the Party bureaucracy. This was a tacit challenge to the authority of the Party bureaucracy by the Maoists.

In December of 1963, Mao specifically referred to the arts. Mao stated that what was true in art applied to cultural generally. He pointed to class struggle as the key link in culture. Even before the rectification, the media reported:

“Those who contend that art and literature have nothing to do with politics are in reality allowing art and literature to serve the politics of the bourgeoisie.”


“Our works of art must be heart-stirring ideologically and of commanding artistry. What are needed are works of art and literature that are a great unity of ideas (content) and artistry (form), that is, a unity of healthy, revolutionary ideological content with the finest possible artistic form.” (14)

By the end of 1963, the attacks and counter-attacks were mostly over without much fallout. The debates remained in academic and literary circles. As the debates faded, Mao issued a stronger statement on June 27, 1964. A rectification was launched in response. However, those charged with implementing it were those opposed to Maoist policies, including President Liu Shaoqi, the Mayor of Beijing Peng Zhen and the Propaganda Department, the very revisionists who had been sponsoring the anti-Maoist writers and scholars. As a result, the campaign was dead in the water. It neither resulted in serious purges nor remolding campaigns. The rectification never translated into slogans or formulas that could be grasped by the masses. Instead, the issues seemed obtuse and scholarly. Little effort was made to popularize the debates. Personalized targets were mostly treated leniently, being referred to as “comrade” throughout. Zhou Yang was able to shelter his cultural apparatus and allies from most Maoist attacks. Zhou Yang was also able to shelter his spheres of influence from infiltration by Lin Biao’s military, which was the main voice of the Maoist line and had been developing parallel institutions of influence. The blunted nature of the offensive is reflected in the October, 1963 publishing of the first five volumes of a new history of ancient China under Wu Han’s direction. In 1964, Feng Youlan’s New History of Chinese Philosophy came out, a work which had been criticized by the Maoists. And Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai held receptions for the revisionist philosophers and historians, including Wu Han and Feng Youlan, in January, 1964. In the mild rectification that followed, Zhou Gucheng was given some attention, but was not a main target. Less important, Soviet-trained ideologues here hit as a diversion: Yang Xianzhen and Feng Ding. Mao once remarked that there was “one soldier” and “one civilian,” whose criticisms were in close harmony. The soldier in question was Peng Dehuai, who had already fallen during the Great Leap. The civilian was Yang Xianzhen, who headed the Central Party School. (15) Yang Xianzhen had circulated criticisms of Maoist efforts during the Great Leap at the same time as Peng Dehuai and the Soviet Union were launching their attacks. (16) He was a harsh critic of false reporting of bumper harvests during the Great Leap. “[W]e can do without sputniks like that,” Yang Xianzhen stated. (17) He also criticized Maoist experiments in youth liberation and the popularization of advanced culture:

“[T]hey organized a huge philosophy lecturers regiment of some ten thousand people. First I heard that the youngest philosophy lecturer was only six years old, and I thought to myself this child must be a real genius. Then I heard that there was even a five year-old lecturing in philosophy. They had things like philosophical clapper talk, philosophical rice sprout-songs, and philosophical crosstalk. They had a whole mess of weird things like that. Perhaps it is one step forward, one step back and that becomes the unity of opposites…” (18)

He criticized Maoist efforts to popularize the creation of art, to break down the traditional distinction between art and work:

“There were ‘geniuses’ everywhere. In one place they claimed everyone’s a poet… In Beijing, a worker caused an accident by walking away from his machine to write poetry, setting the factory on fire and causing damages worth 700,000 Yuan. That was really highly prized poetry… One soldier spent 48 hours writing poetry; when he had finished he was unable to get up, and had to be carried away on a stretcher.” (19)

Yang Xianzhen had longstanding connections to the Soviet Union, including heading up the China Department of the Soviet Union’s Foreign Language Press in the thirties. Both Peng Dehuai and Peng Zhen had connections to Yang Xianzhen, Peng Zhen even looked to him as an ideological authority. Yang Xianzhen  was a big critic of Maoist ideologue Chen Boda. Chen Boda criticized those who “stressed the past while slighting the present.” Yang Xianzhen was very critical of Chen Boda’s efforts to elevate Maoism. It was on Maoists like Chen Boda and Kang Sheng, not Mao himself, that Yang Xianzhen blamed for failures during the Great Leap. (20) Thus even a revisionist like Yang Xianzhen knew it was not wise to criticize Mao directly.

Feng Ding was another who was hit by the mild rectification. He was accused of advocating social darwinism in contrast to the Maoist and military promotion of Lei Feng, a humble soldier of poor origin. Shao Zhaunlin also was criticized for his underestimation of the revolutionary potential of the peasantry, a position that ran counter to the Maoist efforts to turn the Socialist Education Movement into a revolutionary campaign in the countryside. At the same time, unlike previous rectifications, many of the critics, in this case Maoists, came under criticism also. As Qi Benyu was censured in 1963, Yao Wenyuan was censured in 1964 for his earlier comments on Zhou Gucheng’s work. In addition, some of the ideas of the anti-Maoists that were upheld in some of the criticisms themselves. All of this created a mixed, muddled message. In 1965, the rectification was over with one exception. Where Jiang Qing had personally intervened, in Beijing Film Studios, Peking Opera, and the Institute of Fine Arts, the rectification continued. Zhou Yang would call her continued rectification efforts dogmatic and exaggerated at the end of February, 1965. He would continue to obstruct her efforts to revolutionize film and opera. Mao was dissatisfied with the campaigns and rectification because they failed to achieve a victory for the Maoist line. They never turned into a wide-scale mass movement. They never developed into real power struggles. The rectification remained superficial. This is one reason Mao would go outside normal Party channels to launch his next offensive, the Cultural Revolution. Mao would turn to Lin Biao’s military, which had developed its own parallel structures, and to the masses themselves through the cult of personality.  (21)

Revolution in Opera, Cinema

The Chinese communist movement can trace its origins to the New Culture Movement and May Fourth Movement of the early part of the twentieth century. Mao described his own ideas during this time in an interview with Edgar Snow:

“At this time [1918-1919] my mind was a curious mixture of ideas of liberalism, democratic reformism and utopian socialism. I had somewhat vague passions about ‘nineteenth century democracy.’ Utopianism and old-fashion liberalism, and I was definitely anti-militarist and anti-imperialist.” (22)

This was a period when Chinese intellectuals began looking beyond Chinese traditions for the answers to social and economic problems. The May Fourth Movement was a nationwide protest in 1919 by intellectuals and students against the treatment of China by Western powers under the Versailles Treaty. The weak response of those representatives of Chinese tradition, including the Chinese state, to imperialism pushed more intellectuals to search for new answers to the ills facing China. This stimulated intellectual creativity. Many of these intellectuals looked beyond China. Many turned to Marxism. Mao and other communist leaders were marked by the struggles of this period. The rejection of traditionalism, the emphasis on culture, the iconoclastism of this period would come to shape the Maoist movement in the decades to come. The Maoist movement has its origins in the history of Chinese struggles, but also in the universal aspects of revolutionary science discovered by the Marxists and expanded by Maoists. (23)

Karl Marx’s view of our social world was that it was in constant change. All things are in motion; nothing is static. Echoing a long tradition going back at least to Heraclitus, there is no stepping outside the river of life and experience. Inequality and class society has divided our experience of the world. Work is separate from play is separate from art is separate from philosophy. By contrast, under Leading Light Communism, life becomes whole again. Because of the elimination of class, the empowering of the masses, work, play, art, and philosophy all merge as the masses all take part in the building of a new, egalitarian, Leading Light Communist world. Alienation no longer exists. The contradiction between mental and manual labor no longer exists. The distinction between work and artistic creation no longer exist as they do in the bourgeois epoch. All of humanity is empowered to create themselves and create the new, Leading Light Communist society. However, Leading Light Communism, the end of all oppression, is very far off. Before Leading Light Communism, there is a long journey of class struggle passing through capitalism and socialism. In class society, society should be seen a causal nexus divided into the base and the superstructure, between economics and culture. The base is the productive forces and relations of a society, technology and resources and how power is organized. The superstructure is all non-economic parts of our world: culture, the legal system, ideology, our conceptions and experiences of ourselves, etc. These two realms form a whole. Mao offered the platitude that art is the product of the relation of the human brain to a given society. (24) Culture, including art, is marked by its origin in a given time and place. All art,  even that which claims to be apolitical, is both marked by its historical and social origins. Lu Xun, the most famous of China’s progressive writers, said “All literature is propaganda.” (25) All art plays a role in class struggle. According to the Maoists, what Mao says of art is true of all forms of the superstructure, of culture generally. China, as one of the most ancient civilizations, has cultural traditions going back millennia. In the sea of culture and art, most was not geared to the masses. China’s culture and art were marked by its origins, by feudalism, capitalism, and imperialism. Mao sought to overcome this:

“Not only do we want to change a China that is politically oppressed and economically exploited into a China that is politically free and economically prosperous, we also want to change the sway of the old culture into an enlightened and progressive China under the sway of a new China. Our aim in the cultural sphere is to build a new Chinese national culture.” (26)

There had been an unprecedented flourishing of the arts since the People’s Republic was declared in 1949. By the 1960s, Beijing had more theatres than New York. In Shanghai alone there were seventy professional companies working in a dozen theatrical forms. (27) In 1964, Jiang Qing states that “according to a rough estimate, there are 3,000 theatrical companies in the country (not including amature troupes and unlicensed companies).” (28) From before, but especially since liberation, efforts to update and innovate culture gained momentum. After the founding of the People’s Republic, the modernization of art accelerated and intensified, more overtly political and contemporary themes were adopted in all art, but especially in Peking Opera.

Peking Opera, an introduction

One of the most famous and distinctly Chinese forms of culture can be found in the numerous works of classical Chinese theatre. At the center of modernizing efforts was this rich tradition:

“Opera had presented perhaps the biggest challenge to Chinese cultural modernizers throughout the twentieth century. The Communists after 1949 continued this work. A relatively young artistic form (having only several centuries of history) and one distinct from the high culture of scholar-officials, Chinese musical theatre was an actor-centered art. Its transmission of stories, music, and singing styles from the past was by old-style master-student training. All these features made opera seem the most resistant to modernizing of all forms in the Chinese cultural heritage. Waves of modernizers, from the reformists or iconoclastic intellectuals of the May Fourth era in the second through fourth decades of the twentieth century through the Communist revolutionaries with equally totalistic rejections of the past, all denounced ‘feudal’ thinking that opera purveyed.” (29)

Peking Opera would come to play a special role in the efforts to modernize and revolutionize culture. Though it is called “Peking Opera,” it is not confined to Beijing. It is performed all over China. It is the most popular and considered the finest form of the more than 250 variations of Chinese theater. Peking Opera, as the most popular and sophisticated of Chinese theater, became one of the main centers of the Maoist revolution in the art and culture. Of the art that would emerge from the Cultural Revolution, the revolutionary Peking Operas are the most famous. They would come to symbolize the Cultural Revolution itself.

Peking Opera’s origin can be traced back centuries to older forms. Peking Opera was forged over centuries. The themes of classic operas and other works were feudal ones that did not relate to ordinary workers, peasants, and soldiers. Art forms matured in feudal times often reflected that reactionary society:

“Emperors, empresses, concubines, despots, court beauties, seducers, monsters, spirits, and imperial heroes people its stories; deceit, trickery, violence, exploitation, submission and servility mark its plots; questionable themes and superstition abound.” (30)

In addition, there were numerous works influenced by foreign high art, works influenced by the imperialism, capitalism, liberalism, and individualism of the West. Even into the 1960s, the state of the Chinese art world, including Peking Opera, often did not promote communist consciousness, according to the Maoists. Maoists did not see opera as it currently existed as playing a positive role in the class struggle. Instead, it often reproduced those values of the societies from which it originated. According to the Maoists, such art encouraged docility, servitude, and individualism. It tended to encourage either feudal, traditionalist authoritarianism or liberal, individualist capitalism.

In the period after the Great Leap, the power and influence of the Maoists was weakened. The revisionists were growing. Thus the revisionists sought to rehabilitate and promote the old art as part of their own cultural offensive. Mao had sounded the alarm on December 12,  1963:

“The social and economic base has changed, but the arts as part of the superstructure, which serve this base, still remain a serious problem.” (31)

The revolution in Peking Opera was initiated in the early 1960s, the period after the Great Leap, but prior to the Cultural Revolution. Jiang Qing’s charge to revolutionize Peking Opera was part of the Maoist response. In 1964, she stated:

“[T]here are well over 600 million workers, peasants and soldiers in our country, whereas there is only a handful of landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements, Rightists and bourgeois elements. Shall we serve this handful, or the 600 million? This question calls for consideration not only by Communists but also by all those literary and art workers who love their country. The grain we eat is grown by the peasants, the clothes we wear and houses we live in are all made by the workers, and the People’s Liberation Army stands guard at the fronts of national defence for us yet we do not portray them on the stage. May I ask which class stand you artists do take? And where is the artists’ ‘conscience’ you always talk about?” (32)

Behind all the artistic growth and innovation was a struggle between two lines in art. Looking back, one observer writes:

“Theatre (and cinema) from the time of Liberation up to the Cultural Revolution was mainly under the direction of those within the Communist Party who were ‘weeded out’ during 1966-70 as ‘revisionists.’ A great many people had been honestly mistaken or simply fooled or confused by such leadership, which preached one line (Marxism-Leninism-Maoism) and practiced another (liberalistic, middle-class, revisionist). The Cultural Revolution sought to dig out the bourgeois elements and cement the cracks that had appeared during the building of Chinese socialism. A vast process of education and reeducation had no eliminated deeply ingrained feelings of self-promotion, monetary incentive, and a tendency even on the part of persons who truly believed in the new society to rebuild a class with privileges above and beyond the ordinary people, the proletariat… ‘Weeding out’ in most cases meant temporary retirement for criticism and reeducation. The Chairman himself said the majority of people were good.” (33)

Mao’s question, raised at the Yenan Forum in 1942, of “For Whom?” gained ever greater importance as Peking Opera was being revolutionized, as the Cultural Revolution approached. There were those, often young Maoist radicals, who pushed for revolution and modernization. They were met by those in the establishment and Party hierarchy who resisted with traditionalism and liberalism. Line struggles were becoming center stage. On the stages, reaction fought the Maoist line. In the specialist journals, two lines wrangled. Institutionally, the Maoist military battled with Party establishment. Jiang Qing’s 1964 convention and the revolution in Peking Opera were a sign of things to come. All of these struggles foreshadowed the Cultural Revolution.

Peking Opera as a Model for Society

The Maoists stated “cultural revolution both destroys and creates. The leaders must personally take charge and bring forth good models.” Just as the revolution in the military promoted model heroes and model companies, the revolution in Peking Opera focused on the creation of models. Praise was heaped on the best of the works that came out of the 1964 opera convention, in which Jiang Qing played a key role. These works that combined “revolutionary realism and romanticism” were held up as models to be emulated. (34) New methods, involving mass line, were endorsed. Jiang Qing purposed a collectivist method for producing art that blended art and life. She recommended applying a kind of mass line to the production of arts:

“When the play was written, many leading members of the Guangzhou military command took part in the discussions on it, and after it had been rehearsed, opinions were widely canvassed and revisions made. In this way, as a result of constantly asking for opinions and constantly making revisions they succeeded in turning out in a fairly short time a good topical play reflecting real life struggle… It will be difficult for some time yet to write plays specifically for Peking opera. Nevertheless, people have to be appointed right now to to the job. They must first be given some special training and then go out to attain experiences of life… In creative writing, new forces must be cultivated. Send them to work at the grassroots level and in three to five years they will blossom and bear fruit.” (35)

The revolution in Peking Opera was the most visible of all the transformations that occurred in the post-revolutionary Chinese art world. The revolution that occurred in Peking Opera affected other forms of art. The striking, exaggerated poses from Peking Opera were used in other forms of art. They were used on official art and on leaflets and posters made by students and workers during the Cultural Revolution in the coming years. These operas and similar models are some of the most memorable from the era. They were not only to be models for other artists to emulate, but also models to help people live good lives. The masses were suppose to live as the heroes the art portrayed, as they were to emulate the model soldier Lei Feng. Just as Lin Biao’s military was a kind of model for the whole of society, so too were the protagonists of opera and art. Art and life merged.

This process of merging art and life was aided by the adoption of realistic and historical subjects. It was also aided by the focus on the experience of the masses and the elevation of the masses as protagonists. For International Women’s Day in 1963,  the play, Women Fliers, was released based on the real-life story of China’s first woman pilot. One of the original pilots commented:

“It took us back a dozen years.. It was hard for young women like ourselves who came from different cities and villages just like those girls on stage — but we had pledged, like them, that ‘We will fly!’ and we did.” (36)

Art confirmed the Maoist slogan that “the masses are the real heroes.” Art was to relate to and elevate the masses. Foreshadowing Leading Light Communism, people were to work on themselves and their society as artistic creations. This was part of the creation of a whole new humanity. This ideal was expressed as “the combination revolutionary realism and revolutionary romanticism.”(37) The art was not the simple realism of some strands of bourgeois tradition. It was not simple realism with proletarian subjects. The art did not simply mirror reality as some bourgeois traditions advocate. Paintings should not aspire to simply be photographs just as plays should not mimic life as seen by the ordinary, uninformed observer. Instead of mirroring reality as seen by the unpoliticized, the art sought to capture the truth of reality in motion, reality as struggle, as seen through the lenses of class struggle. In other words, revolutionary art sought to capture the world as it really is, as it exists before it is obscured by ignorance and false consciousness. Maoist art sought to provoke people to see the world as shaped by contending social forces, bursting at the seams. Mao states that “life as reflected in works of literature and art can and ought to be on a higher plane, more intense, more concentrated, more typical, nearer the ideal, and therefore more universal than actual everyday life.” (38) These models were morality tales, not unlike medieval allegories. The heroes were all good. The villains were all bad. The hero was center stage, with the light directly on him. The villain was off-center, shady. Thus the inner natures of the protagonist and antagonist becomes visible and obvious. This staging was part of bringing what was often obscured in everyday life to the surface. Thus, according to the Maoists, the operas, with their stark conflicts and characters, rendered the world more accurately than the obscured, everyday experience. One observer described a revolutionary Peking Opera Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy:

“As lights dimmed the curtains parted on a semi-ballet, semi-acrobatic, dance depicting a PLA (People’s Liberation Army) pursuit detachment forcing its way forward in a blizzard. The illuminated signs at the sides of the proscenium identified the scene:  ‘Winter, 1946, somewhere in Northeast China, a forest deep in a snow-covered mountain.’ Snow whirled, a huge crimson flag reeled in the music-howling gale; actor-dancers leaped and sprang through the storm; biting cold seemed to pour out across the footlights. I sat up straight at the breath-taking pace and energy.

Stage right, an orchestra of some twenty musicians, both men and women, using a combination of Chinese and Western instruments, remained scrim-screened but visible during the play, pinpointing a gesture, emphasizing a mood, underscoring a text — and in full accompaniment when arias or dances took over. (In old Peking opera the musicians — at that time, usually seven or eight players — used to sit on the stage in full view.) Unobtrusively the orchestra becomes part and parcel of the action. The conductor assumes particular importance as he punctuates striking moments with a sharp ‘tac’ produced by clapping together two pieces of wood, a time-beater called a pan.

The scenery was a blend of ‘revolutionary realistic-revolutionary romantic,’ the term Chinese use to describe the new style… Costumes today are realistic, though not to extremes — if a character is supposed to be poor and dirty, the idea is conveyed by neat patches and splashes; landlords are convincingly but not lavishly well-clothed. Gone is the sumptuousness of the past, when even beggars wore rags of silk and satin on stage. ‘Revolutionary romanticism’ modifies straight realism and is apparent in carefully controlled color and design; it is an idealized or symbolized heightening of reality.

Actors use an extraordinary amount of unrealistic make-up, particularly the young men, who point up revolutionary goodness and health by startling rosy faces and upswung black-painted brows. The Chinese, however, are accustomed to exaggeratedly painted stage faces and don’t seem the least surprised by pink-cheeked heroes or yellow-green villains. Make-up was an ancient and complicated art in classic Peking opera, by means of which characters could be immediately categorized as they stepped on stage. Color played an important role: red, for example, was traditional for honest. The more heroic the heroes looked the better; the worse the wicker, the better. So it has been for centuries.  Revolutionary Peking opera has considerably toned down what used to be a technique of enormous importance.

Similar emphasis — stressing good and bad — affects staging and lighting. Good people always take a prominent place on stage, singled out by light; villains and ne’er-do-wells — even when the scene is theirs, and even when occupying the stage alone — are kept off center and in dim light. This is skillfully done…”

She continues:

“Heroes in socialist China have little in common with capitalist-grown varieties. Model revolutionaries are people revered by the masses for having led — and often lost — lives dedicated to service beyond the call of socialist duty, and who are meant to be emulated in daily life. They are not apart from ordinary citizens. They may have flashed to recognition in one heroic, if prosaic, moment, perhaps dying in an attempt to save state property — as in the case of a young national hero whose young life was swept away in a raging flood as he endeavored to rescue some vitally important telephone poles. Communist youth are taught to go beyond — to be the first to do the dirtiest jobs, to brave the utmost danger, to volunteer ahead of others, to be living examples of courage, hard work and truth. Adoration of movie stars, prize fighters, pop signers, baseball players, cosmonauts, is inconceivable in today’s China. Heroism is hitched to political and ideological performance…” (39)

In 1964, Jiang Qing’s avant-garde drama troupe took Beijing’s traditional scene by storm with the Festival of the Peking Opera on contemporary themes. She was later credited with the conference, although at the time, she was not featured as prominently as others, including her opponents at the conference, in the media. This reflects the hold that her revisionist opponents had on the media. More than 50 discussions were held over a five week period of the convention. Various resolutions promoting innovation were passed. Versions of four of the five modern Peking Operas in the eight model performances of the Cultural Revolution were presented at the 1964 conference. Sparks Amid the Reeds became Shajiabang. Taking the Bandit’s Stronghold became Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. The Red Lantern, The White Haired Girl, and Red Detachment of Women, the first full-length revolutionary ballet, made their debut. (40) One witness comments:

“Take the case of the Peking Opera. Thanks largely to the efforts of artists such as Yu Huiyong (who committed suicide after he was arrested by the post-Mao regime) the model Peking operas had some amazing achievements in those years. The artistic technique and skills in music, acting, and language developed at that time were the highest of their kind and have not been surpassed since. According to Zhang Guangtian, a playwright and director who has made a huge impact on the stage in recent years, model Peking Operas created during the Cultural Revolution were not only revolutionary in content but also in artistic form, a revolution equivalent to the Anhui Troupe’s performance in Beijing about two hundred years ago. Zhang argues that the characteristics of the performing art of Peking Opera, i.e., the formalism and style of simplification and concision, were raised to their highest level during the Cultural Revolution. Zhang further argues that by making use of Western wind and string instruments and by combining them with traditional Chinese musical instruments, and by wedding the art of Western ballet with that of the Peking Opera, the model Peking Operas not only developed a theoretical framework for managing change and continuity in the Chinese theater, but they also tried to counter the seemingly unstoppable tide of Western cultural imperialism.” (41)

Even as late as 1999, in the revisionist era, Chinese critics praised some of the modernizing work of the 1964 conference. They noted the watchability of many of the operas that were presented. Contemporary critics note their lively, innovative plots that reflected the richness of modern life. (42)  However, many Party elites at the time, especially those allied to Liu Shaoqi and Peng Zhen, disparaged the works. They actively worked to prevent the new works from catching on. For example, after The Lakeside Village had been shown in Beijing, Peng Zhen ordered the troupe dispersed in order to prevent it being performed elsewhere. (43)


In another move, in order to promote their line against the revisionists, the Maoists went straight to the masses. The Maoists used their sway at the grassroots level. Mobile cinema teams, like traveling opera troupes, would travel across the country to bring the message straight to the people. A report, published in the media in 1963, echoes Jiang Qing’s conclusions:

“Mobile cinema teams, usually of three members, are no less welcome in the villages than the theatrical troupes. In Xuchang Country, each team has two pushcarts and a bicycle — one man to every two wheels. They pull the carts with the movie projectors themselves, traveling in the daytime and giving shows at night. It is hard work. Teams serving the mountain areas have an even tougher job — they have to carry all their equipment up and down the steep mountain paths. But when a good film is shown and the peasants enjoy it, the members feel so well and rewarded that they forget all their weariness. This was told us by many teams… They especially like battle films with plenty of drama giving a clear idea of who is the enemy and who finally wins out. These include such films as Guerrillas on the Plains, A Red Detachment of Women, The Long March, and The Red Guards of Lake Honghu.” (44)

Later, one witness recalled:

“I witnessed an unprecedented surge of cultural and sports activities in my own home village, Gao Village. The rural villagers, for the first time, organized theater troupes and put on performances that incorporated the contents and structure of the eight model Peking Operas with local language and music. The villagers not only entertained themselves but also learned how to read and write by getting into the texts and plays. And they organized sports meets and held matches with other villages. All these activities gave the villagers an opportunity to meet, communicate, fall in love. These activities gave them a sense of discipline and organization and created a public sphere where meetings and communications went beyond the traditional household and village clans. This had never happened before and it has never happened since.” (45)

In the lead up to the Cultural Revolution, in 1964, a rectification campaign was launched in art and literature. Although the campaign nominally favored the Maoists, it mostly floundered. Even so, the Maoists were able to get some exposure. That year, as part of the campaign, several films came under criticism in the press: Jiangnan in the North, Early Spring in February, The Lin Family Shop, and Stage Sisters. They came under Maoist attack for their pluralism and liberalism. (46) Those who were charged with carrying out the rectification were the same Party officials who had opposed the Maoists. Even so, the Maoists continued to push forward in those areas they held more sway, especially in opera and film. They very much link themselves to Lin Biao’s efforts to transform the army as a model for society. (47) A few years later, at the onset of the Cultural Revolution, Lin Biao would hold a forum on culture in the military in February 1966 in Shanghai, which he would specifically “entrust” to Jiang Qing. Lin Biao would also instruct his army “in culture, listen to comrade Jiang Qing.” As the Cultural Revolution approached, the lines were being drawn in all areas of society, including the art world.

Old, reactionary forms of culture were left behind as the revolution advanced. New, proletarian forms like Jiang Qing’s operas, filled some of that void. They would be center stage throughout the Cultural Revolution period. Two visions of the future were beginning to collide. On the one side, a radicalized vision of society was being promoted by the military through Lin Biao’s efforts and by Maoist critics, artists, and intellectuals, especially Jiang Qing’s efforts in opera and film. On the other side, was an effort to downplay power struggle, to overemphasize social unity, traditionalism, nationalism, the role of technology, and even the reintroduction of capitalism. This conflict, in various forms, had a long history in the Party, but it would explode in what came to be known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.


  1. Domes, Jurgan The Internal Politics of China 1949-1972  (Praeger Publishers, USA: 1973) p. 123
  2. ibid. pp. 124-125
  3. Byung-joon Ahn “Adjustments In The Great Leap Forward And Their Ideological Legacy, 1959-62”  in Ideology and Politics In Contemporary China edited by Johnson, Chalmers (University of Washington Press, USA: 1973) p. 249
  4. “Comment On Sun Yeh-Fang’s Reactionary Political Stand And Economic Program (Hung Ch’i [Red Flag], No. 10, 1966)”  in Chinese Politics edited by Myers, James T., Domes, Jurgen, and von Groeling, Erik (University of South Carolina Press, USA: 1986) pp. 69-81
  5. Domes, Jurgan The Internal Politics of China 1949-1972  (Praeger Publishers, USA: 1973) pp. 124-125
  6. Mao Zedong “Speech At The Tenth Plenum Of The Eight Central Committee” Selected Works of Mao Tes-Tung Vol 8. http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-8/mswv8_63.htm
  7. “Round the Week” Beijing Review no. 50 (December 14, 1962) p. 4
  8. Goldman, Merle “The ‘Cultural Revolution’ of 1962 -64” in Ideology and Politics In Contemporary China edited by Johnson, Chalmers (University of Washington Press, USA: 1973) pp. 220-225
  9. ibid. pp. 230-232
  10. ibid. p. 241
  11. ibid. p. 233
  12. “New Polemic On The Philosophical Front… (by a Hongqi [Hung Ch’i] Correspondent) (Peking Review, No. 37, September 11, 1964)” in Chinese Politics edited by Myers, James T., Domes, Jurgen, and von Groeling, Erik (University of South Carolina Press, USA: 1986) pp. 106-112
  13. Goldman, Merle “The ‘Cultural Revolution’ of 1962 -64” in Ideology and Politics In Contemporary China edited by Johnson, Chalmers (University of Washington Press, USA: 1973) p. 239
  14. Chen Li “Revolutionary Art And Literature: Their Educative Role” Beijing Review no. 27 (July 5, 1963) pp. 23-25
  15. Schoenhals, Michael “Yang Xianzhen’s Critique of the Great Leap Forward” Modern Asian Studies, Vol 26, No. 3 (Cambridge University Pres: July, 1992) p. 591
  16. ibid. p. 592
  17. ibid. p. 602
  18. ibid. p. 602
  19. ibid. p. 602
  20. ibid. pp. 593-607
  21. Goldman, Merle “The ‘Cultural Revolution’ of 1962 -64” in Ideology and Politics In Contemporary China edited by Johnson, Chalmers (University of Washington Press, USA: 1973) pp. 225-254
  22. Dirlik, Arik “The New Culture Movement Revisted: Anarchism and the Idea of Social Revolution in New Cultural Thinking” Modern China, Vol. 11, No. 3 (July, 1985) p. 253)
  23. Sullivan, Lawrence and Solomon, Richard H.  “The Formation of Chinese Communist Ideology In The May Fourth Era: A Content Analysis of Hsin ch’ing nien” in Ideology and Politics In Contemporary China edited by Johnson, Chalmers (University of Washington Press, USA: 1973) pp. 117-118
  24. Mao Zedong “Talks At The Yenan Forum on Literature and art,” Peking Review no. 22 (May 26, 1967)
  25. Karol, K.S. The Second Chinese Revolution (Hill and Wang, USA: 1974) p. 135
  26. Mao Zedong “On New Democracy” in Selected Works Of Mao Tse-Tung
  27. Snow, Lois Wheeler China On Stage  (Random House, New York, USA: 1972) p. 13
  28. Chiang Ching “On The Revolution Of Peking Opera” (Foreign Language Press, People’s Republic of China: 1968) p. 2
  29. Clark, Paul The Chinese Cultural Revolution (Cambridge University Press, New York, New York, USA: 2008) p. 11
  30. ???? FIND ????
  31. Mao Zedong “Comments on Comrade K’o Ching Shih’s Report” (December 12, 1963) http://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/classics/mao/sw9/mswv9_08.html
  32. Chiang Ching “On The Revolution Of Peking Opera” (Foreign Language Press, People’s Republic of China:1968) p. 2
  33. Snow, Lois Wheeler China On Stage  (Random House, New York, USA: 1972) p. 7
  34. Clark, Paul The Chinese Cultural Revolution (Cambridge University Press, New York, New York, USA: 2008) p. 24
  35. Chiang Ching “On The Revolution Of Peking Opera” (Foreign Language Press, People’s Republic of China: 1968) p. 4
  36. “Women Fliers” Beijing Review no. 11 (March 12, 1965) p. 27
  37. Clark, Paul The Chinese Cultural Revolution (Cambridge University Press, New York, New York, USA: 2008) p. 13
  38. Mao Tse-tung “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art” (May, 1942) https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-3/mswv3_08.htm
  39. Snow, Lois Wheeler China On Stage  (Random House, New York, USA: 1972) pp. 28-34
  40. ibid.
  41. Mobo Gao The Battle for China’s Past: Mao and the Cultural Revolution (London, Pluto Press: 2008) p. 427
  42. Clark, Paul The Chinese Cultural Revolution (Cambridge University Press, New York, New York, USA: 2008) pp. 16-18
  43. Robinson, Joan The Cultural Revolution In China (Penguin Books, Great Britain:1970) p.  49
  44. “Cultural Life In Rural Hunan” Beijing Review no. (April 16, 1963) p. 26
  45. Mobo Gao The Battle for China’s Past: Mao and the Cultural Revolution (London, Pluto Press: 2008) pp. 427-428
  46. Clark, Paul The Chinese Cultural Revolution (Cambridge University Press, New York, New York, USA: 2008) p. 19
  47. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 44

Early GPCR, the rise of New Power and new ideology Part 4

Seas are rising, Clouds and Waters RagingChinese-Red-Guard-with-Red-book

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Begins,  Maoist China from 1958 to May 16, 1966

Read Part 1 here: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-1/

Part 2: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-2/

Part 3: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-3/

Part 4: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-4/

Part 5: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-5/

Part 6: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-6/

Part 7: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-7/

Part 8: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-8/


Revolutionizing the People’s Liberation Army: Ideological Revolution, New Power, Shifting Vanguard

Peng Dehuai and Revisionism

As the Great Leap Forward ran into difficulties, one of its biggest critics was Defense Minister Peng Dehuai. He came forward to criticize its policies as petty-bourgeois, ultra-left fanaticism run amok. Peng Dehuai largely agreed with the Soviet criticism of Maoist economic policies. Since at least the death of Stalin in 1953, the Soviet Union had been moving toward more liberal economic policies. The Soviet Union had been downplaying ideology, class struggle, social experiment, and the idea of actually reaching real communism for a long time. The Soviet Union began reversing many of the gains of socialism,  including the introduction of traditionalism in culture, a technocratic style of governance, and a capitalist approach in economics. (1) At the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in February, 1956, Nikita Khrushchev said:

“Because not all as yet realize fully the practical consequences resulting from the cult of the individual, [or] the great harm caused by violation of the principle of collective Party direction and by the accumulation of immense and limitless power in the hands of one person, the Central Committee considers it absolutely necessary to make material pertaining to this matter available to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Allow me first of all to remind you how severely the classics of Marxism-Leninism denounced every manifestation of the cult of the individual.” (2)

De-Stalinization in the Soviet Union was a package of policies. Criticizing the cult of personality was a big part of this package. At the same time that the Soviet revisionists were criticizing the cult, so too was Peng Dehuai. (3) As a result of the political struggles about the failures of Great Leap, even though Mao and the Maoists would lose control of the day-to-day running of the Communist Party and state, they scored a key victory. They were able to remove Defense Minister Peng Dehuai from power in 1959. Mao-loyalist Lin Biao replaced him as Defense Minister, as head of the military. Lin Biao and his military would come to play a key role in the Maoist return to power during the Cultural Revolution.

This was in the climate when Soviet and Chinese relations had soured. At the time, the revisionist Soviet Union was advancing an idea of coexistence with the imperialists. The Soviet Union sought and end to revolutionary confrontation with imperialism. The Soviets had given up on global revolution. As the Maoists were talking more and more about the importance of class struggle, the Soviet revisionists favored peaceful competition and debate between opposed social systems and classes, between capitalism and socialism. (4) It was in this context that the Soviets tried to extend their power over China. When the Soviets wanted China to cede Naval ports to its fleet, Mao described his response:

“‘Suppose I give you the whole China coast and all our ports?’ Mao paused, waiting to deliver the punch line. ‘Khrushchev just looked at me puzzled and then he said: ‘But if you do that, then what will you do’ And I said: ‘Me? Oh, I would just go back to Yanan and be a guerrilla leader again and organize guerrilla warfare. But I just want to remind you that historically we Chinese have always driven aggressors into the sea, and we will drive you into the sea as well.’” (5)

Anti-Khrushchev jokes were told in China:

“[A man is] is sentenced to ten years and two days for running through the streets shouting ‘Khrushchev is an idiot!’ Why such a bizarre sentence? the prisoner asked. ‘Two days for slandering our leader, and ten years for revealing state secrets’ replies the judge.” (6)

Thus both the Soviet revisionists and then Defense Minister Peng Dehuai adopted a capitulatory, social-democratic tone. More and more, Maoists perceived this as a struggle between revolution versus counter-revolution, socialism versus capitalism. Parallels between Khrushchev’s and Peng Dehuai’s politics were not just limited to economics and leadership, but similarities also extended to military policies. Peng Dehuai’s economic views were parallel to his military views. Peng Dehuai was part of the trend to move the military away from its revolutionary roots towards becoming a fighting force in the mold of imperialist armies. Peng Dehuai moved the military towards professionalization, specialization, and over-reliance on technology. In itself modernization is not objectionable, but the revisionists depoliticized the military, turning it into a traditional, professional military cut off from the masses. The revisionists sought a military that did not involve itself in wider society, production, politics, or culture. This was opposed by the Maoists within the military led by Lin Biao, “China’s greatest general” and Mao loyalist.

Lin Biao and His Army as Model for Society

Karl Marx emphasized the importance of the monopolization of systematic violence as a key aspect of the state. In emphasizing the state as the monopolization of sanctioned violence, Marxists have often described the state as “armed bodies of men.” The Maoists stressed the importance of the army to the revolution by calling it “a pillar of the dictatorship of the proletariat.” Lin Biao would call the army under his leadership as an “unbending pillar.” (7) Lin Biao’s promotion to Defense Minister in 1959, replacing Peng Dehuai, resulted in a revolution within the military. Maoists had always emphasized that their military was made up of peasants and workers, even though they acknowledged the need for a division of labor between those in the military and those who are not. However,  the Maoists favored an approach of integrating the military as much as possible with the masses. On one side, civilians were mobilized into work brigades and militias organized for production, but also for national defense. On the other side, Lin Biao would further integrate the military into civilian areas of society like production, cultural, and education. This was part of the Maoist emphasis on people power, but it was also seen as a way to prevent the military from becoming disconnected and above the people. Maoists held that the military ought aid in production and other areas of life, especially when it is not at war. Soldiers ought work alongside the masses, especially in the fields. Involving the military with the masses is a way to lessen contradictions that arise from the division of labor between the military and people. In traditional societies, the military becomes cut off and disconnected from the people. The military often becomes part of a ruling caste or subservient to a ruling caste that is over and above the people. Traditional militaries are tools of oppression. Maoists worried that separation of the military from the people under socialism would aid counter-revolution and the restoration of capitalism. A military disconnected from the masses would become a new capitalist class or become subservient to one. Thus replacing Peng Dehuai with Lin Biao as Defense Minister was a key victory for the Maoists and their fight to prevent counter-revolution. Interestingly, this was the second time Peng Dehuai had been replaced by Lin Biao. Earlier, in 1946, Mao had assigned Lin Biao to replace Peng Dehuai as General Secretary of the Party Committee in the Northeast. (8)  Lin Biao’s prestige as a military genius, war hero, and “China’s greatest general” added to the popularity of the Maoist cause. Among the Chinese revolutionaries, only Mao himself played a more significant role than Lin Biao in the Chinese revolution. Lin Biao and his military would play a key role in the struggle for state power between communists and capitalists. Lin Biao’s policies put the military on a Maoist footing and also provided the Maoists an institutional base outside the Party and state to launch the Cultural Revolution.

As early as 1959, in his speech “March Ahead Under The Red Flag Of The Party’s General Line And Mao Zedong’s Military Thinking,” Lin Biao states:

“Either socialist or capitalist ideology must dominate the minds of people. Therefore, in the transition period, the struggle to enhance proletarian ideology and liquidate bourgeois ideology remains vital at all times in building up the army. The political and ideological struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie rises and ebbs, rises again and ebbs again, like the tides; it is far from over to this day and will now end until class are finally and completely liquidated.” (8)

The Yanan era, after the Long March when Mao Zedong set up their base area, was seen as a heroic, almost mythological, golden age of the revolution. The Maoists of the Great Leap and Cultural Revolution sought a return to the Yanan spirit to keep the revolution alive. According to one historian, “The character of a People’s Army was re-established by altering the nature of its authority from authoritarian/hierarchical to democratic/communal.” (9) A guerrilla asceticism was promoted, a kind of barracks egalitarianism. Equality, democracy, and a spirit of altruism were promoted. Even before Lin Biao, a General Political Department directive in September 20, 1958 required every officer spend one month out of the year as an ordinary soldier. Many of the old guard opposed this move not only because it removed their privilege, but also made them venerable. Those with rank lacked standing once deprived of command. Lin Biao enforced this directive and expanded it. By February 1959, over 150,000 officers were reportedly doing their stints as privates. (10) Later, during the Cultural Revolution, this kind of rotation of authority would be enforced on all of society. Furthermore, in 1961, with the “Regulations Governing The People’s Liberation Army’s Work At The Communal Level,” Lin Biao called for the elimination of outward sign of rank within the military. Within a few years, ranks and insignias were abolished. (58) Generals and privates appeared as equals. Work became more evenly distributed throughout the military. One observer writes:

“No more ranks: generals would share the life of the common soldier and participate in the most menial tasks.” (11)

Connected to this egalitarian push was the introduction in 1960 of the Three-Eight work style, an approach to work dedicated to the people, a style of work that brought the military closer to the masses. (12)  This was described by the slogan “Three Sentences Eight Characters.” The “Three Sentences” advocated for a correct political orientation, hard work, and simple life, and flexibility in strategy and tactics. The “Eight Characters” represented the Chinese terms for unity, earnestness, energy and vitality. (13)

Like in its Yanan days, the military was to participate in other areas of social life. It was to become a production force. Troops were now to participate in economic construction when not fighting. They would work alongside peasants and workers, thus increasing the bond between the military and the masses. Lessening social divisions, including the division between between soldier and producer, is an important part of the withering away of the state. It is an important part of eliminating the traditional distinctions. It helps society move closer toward communism. Conscription was abolished in 1965 by Lin Biao, just ten years after it had been introduced by the old Defense Minister, Peng Dehuai. This further added to the Yanan spirit, further democratizing the military. (14) The professional officers saw their new Defense Minister’s romanticization of the guerrilla and his reforms as dangerous to their standing. They also saw them as dangerous to the country’s defense in the modern world.

In a major, early break with the revisionists, Lin Biao implemented his Four Firsts policy as part of the politicization of the military, returning the military to its Maoist roots. The Cultural Revolution slogan “politics in command,” which later became “Mao Zedong Thought in command,” originated out of this period of 1959 to 1960. The Four First policy stated:

“1) As between man and weapons give first place to man; 2) as between political and other work giving first place to political work; 3) as between ideological and routine tasks in political work, giving first place to ideological work; and 4) in ideological work as between ideas in books and living ideas currently in people’s minds, giving first place to living ideas currently in people’s minds.” (15)

In other words, Marxism was not a dogma, but a living science. The resolution also detailed how to educate the masses to make Party branches strong “bulwarks” for combat. Just like in the Yanan days, the military would be an instrument of learning, in addition to fighting. (16) (17) Lin Biao sought to transform the military, and later society as a whole,, into “a great school of Mao Zedong Thought.” (18) He emphasized the importance of politics, ideology, Mao’s thinking, in the day-to-day:

“We must emphasize politics. Our army is an army in the service of politics… and politics must guide the military and day-to-day work.” (19)

This campaign would shore up loyalty to the Maoist line within the military, especially among the rank and file. As the confrontation between the Maoists and revisionists approached, the rank-and-file troops, who were drawn mostly from the peasantry, would prove important allies to the Maoists.

At Lin Biao’s behest, the military’s General Political Department under general Xiao Hua edited and issued the famous “little red book” of Quotations of Chairman Mao Zedong to soldiers as part of politicization. Distributed to the army in 1964, this armed ordinary soldiers with a basic level of political education. The “little red book” would be issued with forwards and quotations from Lin Biao. In his famous forward, Lin Biao claimed that Mao’s theories represented a “new stage” of revolutionary science:

“Comrade Mao Zedong is the greatest Marxist-Leninist of our era. He has inherited, defended and developed Marxism-Leninism with genius, creatively and comprehensively and has brought it to a higher and completely new stage.” (20)

Lin Biao also wrote the introduction to the first edition of the four-volume Selected Works of Mao Zedong in 1960. In his introduction, Lin Biao states that the victory of the Chinese revolution is the victory of Mao Zedong Thought. (21)

Later, the “little red book” and the emphasis on intense study and application of Mao’s theories would go far beyond the army. Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong was distributed, with an introduction from Lin Biao, throughout society at the end of 1966 onward. (22) Red guards and rebel workers would wave their “little red books” as a sign of their revolutionary passion in the years to come. Even top leaders, from Jiang Qing to Zhou Enlai, were shown in the media waving the “little red book.”

This was one part of a broader effort by the Maoists to use the army as a vehicle to politicize broader society with a new communist way of living. As part of an attempt to create a new communist morality and new communist humanity, the military also promoted Mao’s “three standing articles,” later to be designated “the three constantly-read articles.” “Serve the People,” “In Memory of Norman Bethune,” and “The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains” were widely disseminated and read, first within the army, then more broadly. Lin Biao issued an instruction that these articles, stressing sacrifice, determination and proletarian morality, be “studied at all levels. We must apply what we study so as to revolutionize our thinking.” (23) The military placed great stress was placed on the importance of ideology in uniting the masses to reach communism:

“China is a great socialist state of the dictatorship of the proletariat and has a population of 700 million. It needs unified thinking, revolutionary thinking, correct thinking. That is Mao Zedong’s thinking. Only with this thinking can we maintain vigorous revolutionary enthusiasm and a firm and correct political orientation.” (24)

Lin Biao instructed:

“Read Chairman Mao’s works, listen to his words, do as he instructs and become a good soldier of Chairman Mao.” (25)

Just as the army as a whole was to be the model to inspire all of society, the army promoted exemplar companies and individuals for others to emulate. As part of this, the army, along with the Communist Youth League and the Chinese Trade Union, promoted the model-hero Lei Feng who aspired to “serve the people” and be the humble “bolt that never rusts.” Lei Feng was a bit different from Stakhanovite model heroes of the Soviet Union. Lei Feng was less concerned with excelling as a producer and more concerned with aiding his comrades, doing good deeds and heroic acts, and being reliable. (26) He was said to be a soldier from a poor family whose family had suffered terribly before liberation. He expressed his love of the revolution by answering the call of duty in humble ways. He died in his prime when a telephone pole fell on him while serving the people. Lei Feng and stories and sayings from his diary were promoted. (27)  The promotion of Lei Feng was part of the promotion of the guerrilla ethos, the long marcher, the Yanan spirit. The sacrificing, humble spirit of the soldier, the guerrilla, was the model for the new, socialist humanity. Passages from Lei Feng’s diary that emphasized that the whole of one’s life should be about liberation. Lei Feng stated, “Man is happiest when he contributes everything of himself to the cause of liberating humanity.” (28)  “I live so that others may live better.” He declared, “I will stop the enemies bullets with my body.” Films and art was made emulating Lei Feng and other PLA heroes. The media reported, “in the two years since Lei Feng died, his name has become a household word.” Lei Feng “attained immortality in the unlimited cause of service to the people.” (29) Lei Feng is only the best known of many model heroes. Lei Feng aspired to be “the bolt that never rusts.” Although altruistic and disciplined, Lei Feng was limited, too one-dimensional. Wang Jie, another model hero, appeared a year after Lei Feng. Wang Jie was presented as more sophisticated than Lei Feng. Whereas Lei Feng recalled his good deeds, Wang Jie analyzed his behavior using Maoist methods. Wang Jie’s attitude toward Mao Zedong Thought is not as emotional and simplistic as Lei Feng’s. As a character, Wang Jie is more conscious of his own remolding through experience and study.  Other army heroes, such as Ouyang Hai, made appearances also. (30)

The media also promoted model army companies like “the Good Eighth Company.” The Good Eight Company was ordered to guard Nanking Road in May 1949. The reactionaries had hoped that the people’s troops would secum to the city’s charms and vices. Where real bullets failed, the reactionaries hoped “sugar-coated bullets” would succeed in corrupting the company. After troops began to slip, the company’s instructor, Liu Renfu reportedly ordered the company to the Museum of the History of the Shanghai Working-Class Movement. He taught them about the long history of the anti-imperialists struggle, especially the May 30th Movement. He showed the troops how workers had shed their blood on the road they were to guard. Another soldier, mess officer Ge Shiqi, chose to volunteer his extra time to make repairs to company gear. Thus he saved the company money. Another officer Liu Yunyan wore his shoes three years, an example of frugality. “Small matters though these were, they were in the fine tradition of the proletariat — a tradition of plain living and hard struggle.” Company-commander Zhang Jibao responded to complaints about walking 10 kilometers a day: “the more often you walk it, the shorter it gets.” Instructor Zong Zhiliang gave his money to his family and bought a pencil: “With this pencil I shall learn to read and write in the army. You keep the rest of the money; you need it!” Instructor Wang Jingwen taught others to weave quilts. Private Wu Zailing seeing an old man with child who had lost his train fare decided to pay their way. Such model behavior was attributed to the high level of political education of the company.  (31)

“To fulfill this arduous task [building socialism], we need thousands upon thousands of outstanding ‘good eight companies,’ not only in the army, but also in all our factories, enterprises, People’s Communes, schools, government and people’s organizations.” (32)

The story of “the Good Eight Company” was dramatized in “On Guard Beneath Neon Lights,” which was a phenomenal stage success:

“It describes more than just a struggle between one P.L.A. company and a counter-revolutionary gang. It is a microcosm of the post-liberation struggle between the forces of the reactionary bourgeois ideas and the revolutionary proletarian outlook.” (33)

The army initiated and threw itself into the “mass upsurge in the creative study and application of Mao Zedong’s works, regarding Chairman Mao Zedong’s works as the highest instructions on all aspects of work of the whole army and putting Mao Zedong’s thinking in command of everything.” (34) A campaign to “Learn from the People’s Liberation Army” was promoted throughout society. The campaign for “the Creative Study and Application of Chairman Mao’s Works in the Liberation Army” increased:

“Under the personal leadership and continuous guidance of Comrade Lin Biao, and surrounded by his profound concern, the cadres and fighters of the whole army, in the course of struggle, study and apply what they study, and, in particular, make the utmost effort in application. Making ideological remolding and transformation of their world outlook the key link, they have raised their proletarian consciousness to an unprecedented level. Countless good people and good deeds have come to the fore; heroes and model persons keep emerging.”  (35)

Cult, Society, Army, Dual power

The Party had elevated Mao Zedong Thought and embraced a Mao cult for many decades, especially since the 1940s. (36) Mao portraits had been featured prominently since at least the Zunyi Conference in the mid-1930s. (37) The earliest usage of the term “Mao Zedong Thought” was in 1943. (38) As early as the Seventh Party Congress in 1945, Liu Shaoqi had exalted Mao. Mao himself is reported to have supported his elevation to cult object in November, 1956. In discussing the policy of “Walking on Two Legs” at the onset of the Great Leap, Mao said:

“What is wrong with worship? The truth is in our hands, why should we not worship it?… Each group must worship its leader, it cannot but worship its leader.”

According to Mao, this was the “correct cult of personality.” Ke Qingshi, Mayor of Shanghai, began promoting Mao. (39) At an enlarged meeting of the Central Military Committee on August 7, 1959, Liu Shaoqi again exalted Mao. (40) The cult of personality had a long history in the Party. However, Mao’s position had been reduced after the Great Leap. It was Lin Biao’s military that would elevate Mao’s image and spread Mao Zedong Thought to new heights in the following years. Mao’s theories and the cult became intertwined in the politicization of the military and society. Not only was there increased promotion of Maoist theories, but increased promotion of Mao and Lin Biao themselves. Mao began to be extolled as a genius on par with Marx and Lenin. Lin Biao played a key role, along with other Maoists, in the rise of Mao Zedong Thought, but also in the rise of the Mao cult. The Mao cult would reach epic proportions during the Cultural Revolution years. All the Maoists, but especially Lin Biao, had a big hand in this. It was also promoted by general Yang Chengwu who argued that Marxists had always recognized the genius of proletarian leaders like Mao. Lin Jie argued that the establishment of Mao’s absolute authority was necessary for the Party’s discipline. (41) He became notorious for over-the-top praise of Mao. At the most extreme, people were instructed to follow Mao’s instructions whether they understood them or not.

A cult around Lin Biao arose alongside the Mao cult, especially within the military. The cult was promoted especially by general Xiao Hua, a leftist, a Maoist and Lin Biao loyalist who would play a key role in turning the army into an independent Maoist bastion separate from the normal chains of Party authority. The army began referring to Lin Biao’s “leadership thought,” which obviously echoed “Mao Zedong Thought.” (42) People were instructed to learn from Mao’s strategic thinking, and Lin Biao’s tactical thinking. (43) Xiao Hua would advise, “We must all learn from Comrade Lin Biao.”(44) A book of Quotations from Lin Biao, echoing Mao’s “the little red book,” would be published up until the Defense Minister’s demise in 1971. (45) Lin Biao himself would be held up as a kind of model hero for the masses to emulate. In 1966, for example, Xiao Hua stated:

“Comrade Lin Biao has always implemented Mao Zedong’s Thought and carried out his correct line most faithfully, firmly and thoroughly. He is Chairman Mao’s closest comrade-in-arms, his best student and the best example in creatively studying and applying Chairman Mao’s works. We must all learn from Comrade Lin Biao.” (46)

Besides Mao himself, it was Lin Biao who personified the Cultural Revolution.

The cults of Mao and Lin Biao would later be used against the Party and state bureaucracies that had slid into revisionism. The cults created an alternative pole of authority. It gave people a simple, low-level ideological basis from which to launch attacks against the Party and state. This was part of the process of delegitimizing the old authority and creating a new one. This was matched by the push for independence from the old chains of command in which the old Party had authority. The General Political Department within the army had been restored. Although this Party-organization-within-the-PLA was officially dependent on the Party through the Military Commission of the Central Committee, the General Political Department extended its influence and grew independent of the Party bureaucracy. It would become an independent organ. Later, in 1966, at a national conference general Xiao Hua further broke the military from Party control:

“The system of dual leadership by the military command and the local Party committees — under the guidance of the Central Committee of the Party — must be enforced.”

This meant that the General Political Department made up of Lin Biao’s loyalists, which Lin Biao had been strengthening since he took over as Defense Minister, was ready to take over the job of the Communist Party bureaucracy within the army. Lin Biao’s Maoist base within the military was asserting its independence in preparation for the struggles against the Party and state bureaucracy to come. This was part of a dual power that was developing against the revisionist power in the Party and state machinery. (47) (48)

People’s War, Foreign Policy

Lin Biao’s Maoist emphasis also played a role in the international polemics raging since the Sino-Soviet split. The military’s ideological revolution would come to play a role in shaping revolutionary strategy globally, also in Chinese foreign policy. The Maoists presented themselves as an orthodoxy that was loyal to the revolutionary spirit of Marx and Lenin against revisionist capitulation of the Soviet Union and others. In the famous 1963 polemic, “More on the Differences Between Comrade Togliatti and Us in March,” Red Flag’s editorial department quoted Lenin:

“In every war, victory is conditioned in the final analysis by the spiritual state of those masses who shed their blood on the field of battle. This comprehension by the masses of the aims and reasons of the war has immense significance and guarantees victory.”  (49)

At the heart of Defense Minister Lin Biao’s efforts was a return to the roots of the Chinese revolution in people’s war. For Lin Biao, not only was remembering people’s war important for making revolution in China, but Lin Biao sought to spread people’s war globally, universally. Lin Biao’s approach was very different than the old Defense Minister Peng Dehuai. Peng Dehuai had recommended moving toward conventional war based on the Soviet example. He retained links to Moscow even as relations soured. Similarly, in 1965, Luo Ruiqing, who rose to become the Chief of the General Staff of the military after the purge of Peng Dehuai’s people, suggested a Sino-Soviet reconciliation against the United States in “The People Defeated Japanese Fascism and They Can Certainly Defeat US Imperialism Too.” Although Luo Ruiqing advocated people’s war, his concept was very different from Lin Biao’s. Luo Ruiqing saw people’s war as a defensive war to defeat imperialism’s attacks. By contrast, Lin Biao transformed people’s war into offensive war, a proactive, universal strategy to be implemented on the global level. In 1965, Lin Biao made his famous speech “Long Live the Victory of People’s War!” that would be the basis for Maoist revolutionary strategy globally during the Cultural Revolution:

“Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.” (50)

Defense Minister Lin Biao thus expanded Mao’s concept to the entire world. People war, on a global scale, was not just a way to defeat imperialism in China, but a way to make socialist and communist revolution for all of humanity. Thus Maoist thought was not merely applicable in China, but the entire world. Lin Biao transformed the army into a base for the most radical thinking on foreign policy. The Maoists not only revolutionized China, but also sought to spread their revolution globally through people’s war. At a time when the revisionist Soviet Union was declaring peaceful coexistence with imperialism, when the Soviet Union was abandoning its efforts to spread revolution, the Maoists, especially Lin Biao, took command of the world communist movement. The elevation of Mao Zedong Thought to a “new stage” of Marxism and the universalization of people’s war meant that the Maoists were declaring their role as vanguard of the international communist movement. Whether one upheld these ideas was the diving line between true communists and fakes. Thus Lin Biao further elevated Maoist thinking to ever new heights. (51) By contrast, the revisionists had no ambition to manage or ideologically influence a new communist movement globally. The revisionists had no such ambition to liberate humanity. For the revisionists, foreign communists were simply pawns to achieve nationalist foreign-policy goals.


In those years after the Great Leap and leading up to the Cultural Revolution period, the Maoists began shifting their focus to the cultural realm. Lin Biao and his military played a key vanguard role in this. Many previous Marxists viewed the superstructure, or culture, as merely a kind of reflection of the base. They tended to see culture as an epiphenomenon of economics.  It other words, economics determined or caused culture in a very strict sense, and not the other way around. Maoists questioned this reductionist model as too simplistic. Instead, Maoists saw culture as playing a much more important role in the direction of society. Maoists saw the relationship between base and superstructure, between economics and culture, as much more complex. Culture, in a sense, is society’s program. For thousands of years, people have been taught that some are better than others: rich better than the poor, whites better than blacks, men better than women, the old better than the young, etc. Culture has not only reflected unjust social division, but has had a role in creating and hardening those divisions. Thus culture is an important battlefield in the struggle for communism. If class war is not continually waged in the cultural field, reactionary ideas spread and harden. These reactionary ideas eventually help the rise of a new bourgeoisie; they help to reverse the revolution. In addition, reaching communism, ending all oppression, requires that the revolution become self-perpetuating without a division of labor that requires leadership distinct from the masses, whether it takes the form of  vanguard Party or state. To reach Leading Light Communism, the just organization of society has to become so entrenched in the people that sharing, altruism, and science become second nature in people. In other words, culture generally has to play the role currently played by vanguard organizations and revolutionary states. Maoists sought to advance in a real way toward communism. Thus Maoists were aware the importance of culture. This emphasis on culture was in contrast to the overemphasis on production found in the Soviet experience. This is part of why the Maoist revolution was an advance over the Soviet revolution.

The military would become a big part of the cultural preparations for the Maoist offensives of the Cultural Revolution period. On December 12, 1963, Mao wrote:

“Problems abound in all forms of art such as the drama, ballads, music, the fine arts, the dance, the cinema, poetry and literature; the people engaged in them are numerous; and in many departments very little has been achieved so far in socialist transformation. The ‘dead’ still dominate in many departments. What has been achieved in the cinema, new poetry, folk songs, the fine arts and the novel should not be underestimated, but there, too, there are quite a few problems. As for such departments as the drama the problems are even more serious. The social and economic base has changed, but the arts as part of the superstructure, which serve this base, still remain a serious problem. Hence we should proceed with investigation and study and attend to this matter in earnest. Isn’t it absurd that many Communists are enthusiastic about promoting feudal and capitalist art, but not socialist art?” (52)

This instruction along with Mao’s “Talks at the Yanan Forum on Literature and Art” would continue to be circulated up to and throughout the Cultural Revolution period. Mao further began to speak out against the “popes” of culture within the Party prior to the Cultural Revolution:

“They have acted as high and mighty bureaucrats, have not gone to the workers, peasants and soldiers and have not reflected the socialist revolution and socialist construction. In recent years, they have slid to the right down to the brink of revisionism.” (53)

An important part of revolution, of seizing power, is building public opinion. The military sought to popularize Mao’s works beyond itself. The military threw itself into mass campaigns to popularize Mao’s works. The military under Lin Biao’s direction would also help revolutionize the arts in the years leading up to the Cultural Revolution. This would further eliminate divisions of labor in society. Lin Biao would play a key role in elevating Mao’s wife Jiang Qing and her efforts to revolutionize culture. Lin Biao placed her in charge of cultural policy in the military. The military sponsored conferences on culture and the arts. Lin Biao instructed his troops to “listen to Jiang Qing in cultural matters.” Jiang Qing would become an unofficial minister of culture within the military. It is from this position, outside normal Party channels, that she would launch her revolution in the arts. Jiang Qing’s early conferences in art would be “entrusted” to her by Lin Biao.  Why it was “entrusted” to her by Lin Biao was something of a mystery at the time. Big struggles were coming in culture. And Lin Biao’s military was to play a key role. (54)

The revolution in the military affected everything from how power was distributed to culture to how to think about the world revolution. This is because the Defense Minister’s efforts were not simply about revolutionizing the army, but making the army a model of revolutionary society itself, of taking revolution beyond the military to the whole of society. People’s Daily on February 1, 1964 editorialized that “The Whole Country Must Learn From the PLA.” (55) Similar stories would echo throughout the early Cultural Revolution. The military was seen as a model, a school, a production and fighting force.  Social problems and production problems were to be seen in military terms. The Cultural Revolution itself would be seen as a kind of people’s war to reach communism. As the Cultural Revolution advanced, Defense Minister Lin Biao would later impose the army’s barracks egalitarianism, the Yanan-guerrilla ideal, fighter-educator-producer ideal, far beyond the military, but to society itself. Reaching communism required a society united by revolutionary science. At the time, this meant a society unified by Mao Zedong Thought.

Lin Biao’s Army’s Dual Power, New Power, New Ideology

The military, at least those parts loyal to Defense Minister Lin Biao, was the institutional base the Maoists used to launch their assault on the Party and state bureaucracy during the Cultural Revolution. Lin Biao’s military was a kind of red zone within political territory corrupted by revisionists. The Party, at least not at its top bureaucratic levels, no longer represented the vanguard. The vanguard role of preparing the masses ideologically and pulling society toward communism was more and more played by the military, and later, the Cultural Revolution Group, not the traditional Party. Dual power, New Power, alternative, parallel institutions were arising within the military to challenge the Party and state. The Army’s General Political Department disseminated Maoist ideology when the Party’s cultural elites and Propaganda Department were obstructing it. Similarly, the military’s media was at the forefront of spreading the Maoist line and vision. It was the military, not the Party and state bureaucracies, that had a vision of radical reorganization of society to reach communism. It was also the military, through Lin Biao’s “Long Live The Victory Of People’s War!,” that originated the most advanced thinking about how to spread the world revolution and what role China’s foreign policy should play in the process. In addition, the military’s institutions were displacing normal Party ones as the cultural vanguard through the work of Jiang Qing, who was working as a kind of cultural minister to the army. From this liberated institutional space, the Maoists would launch the Cultural Revolution. Maoist theory emphasizes the role of building public opinion in order to seize power. Not only was the military at the forefront of building public opinion, but it was at the forefront of building an alternative, parallel power to sideline the Party’s bureaucracy in order to implement the radical vision of the Maoists.

The role of Defense Minister Lin Biao and the military should not be underestimated in unleashing the Cultural Revolution. This is why some scholars have tried to characterize the Cultural Revolution itself as a struggle between coup and counter-coup. However, such a simple characterization is a mistake. The People’s Liberation Army was not a bourgeois military. It was an army of the people that aimed at revolution and communism. And the Cultural Revolution would unleash a huge mass movement that, along with the New Power within the army. This aimed at reaching communism. Not only did Lin Biao helped set the stage, he used the muscle of the military to create a protective bubble so that the mass movements could run their course. His Maoist praetorian guard held back, as best as they could, those who would suppress the chaos that would be unleashed by the red guards and rebel workers. As the mass movements ran their course, as the Party and state were torn apart, the army, “the pillar of the dictatorship of the proletariat” with its New Power would come to fill the power vacuum. This will be seen at the Ninth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in April of 1969 where the army was present in force, where Lin Biao was formally designated as the successor to Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party. There is no creation without destruction, and the People’s Liberation Army under Lin Biao would play a key role in both. As we march the glorious road to Leading Light Communism, we must study the works and practices of the Leading Lights of history, like Mao and Lin Biao, and today’s Leading Lights. The best way to honor past heroes is by telling their history honestly, which helps us push history forward. Serve the people truth, not fiction. Based on a higher synthesis of the past and present, the new Army of the Leading Light will destroy the darkness of oppression and ignorance.



  1. “Comments on Soviet Women, Traditionalism, Revisionism” (LLCO.ORG: July 28, 2014) http://llco.org/comments-on-soviet-women-traditionalism-revisionism/
  2. Khrushchev, Nikita “Speech to 20th Congress of the C.P.S.U.” (February 24-25, 1956) https://www.marxists.org/archive/khrushchev/1956/02/24.htm
  3. Jin Qui The Culture of Power (Stanford University Press, California, USA: 1999) pp. 19-20
  4. “Whence The Differences: A Reply To Thorez And Other Comrades” Beijing Review no. 9 (March 1, 1963) p. 99
  5. Rittenberg, Sidney and Bennett, Amanda The Man Who Stayed Behind  (Simon and Schuster, USA: 1993) p. 274
  6. ibid. 268
  7. Woodward, Dennis. “Political Power and Gun Barrels” in China: the Impact of the Cultural Revolution edited by Brugger, Bill (Harper & Row Publishers: USA:1978) p. 75
  8. Lin Biao “March Ahead Under The Red Flag Of The Party’s General Line And Mao Tse-tung’s Military Thinking” (Foreign Language Press, People’s Republic of China: 1959) p. 7
  9. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 37
  10. Joffe, Ellis “The Conflict Between Old And New In The Chinese Army” in China Under Mao: Politics Takes Command edited by MacFarquhar, Roderick (MIT Press, USA: 1966) p. 52
  11. Macciocchi, Maria Antonietta Daily Life In Revolutionary China (Monthly Review Press, New York, New York USA: 1972)  p. 84
  12. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 37
  13. Joffe, Ellis “The Conflict Between Old And New In The Chinese Army” in China Under Mao: Politics Takes Command edited by MacFarquhar, Roderick (MIT Press, USA: 1966) p. 52
  14. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977)  p. 38
  15. “Two Roads Defeated in the Cultural Revolution Part 2: Lin Biao’s Road” (LLCO, 2008)
  16. Jin Qui The Culture of Power (Stanford University Press, California, USA: 1999) p. 75
  17. Dietrich, Craig People’s China Third Edition (Oxford University Press, New York, New York USA: 1998) p. 172
  18. “In Resolute Response To Comrade Lin Piao’s Call, Carry To A New Stage The Mass Drive For Creatively Studying And Applying Chairman Mao’s Works” Beijing Review no. 42 (October 14, 1966) p.12
  19. Corr, Gerard H. The Chinese Red Army (Schocken Books, New York: 1974) p. 141
  20. Quotations From Chairman Mao Zedong. http://art-bin.com/art/omaotoc.html
  21. Jin Qui The Culture of Power (Stanford University Press, California, USA: 1999) pp. 74-75
  22. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 38
  23. “Comrade Lin Piao’s Call to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army: Carry the Mass Movement For The Creative Study and Application of Chairman Mao’s Works To A New Stage” Beijing Review no. 42 (October 14, 1966) p.7
  24. Milton, David and Nancy Dall The Wind Will Not Subside (Pantheon Books, USA: 1976) p. 118
  25. Uhalley, Stephen A History of the Chinese Communist Party (Hoover Pres) p.134
  26. Karol, K.S. The Second Chinese Revolution (Hill and Wang, USA: 1974) p. 114
  27. Dietrich, Craig, People’s China Third Edition (Oxford University Press, New York, New York USA: 1998) p. 167
  28. Goldman, Merle “The ‘Cultural Revolution’ of 1962 -64” in Ideology and Politics In Contemporary China edited by Johnson, Chalmers (University of Washington Press, USA: 1973) p. 249
  29. “Lei Feng” Beijing Review no. 11 (March 12, 1965) pp. 28-29
  30. Milton, David and Nancy Dall The Wind Will Not Subside (Pantheon Books, USA: 1976) pp. 88-89
  31. Kuo Ma-Hu “The Story of The ‘Good 8th Company’” Beijing Review no. 21 (May 24, 1963) pp. 24-26
  32. ibid.
  33. “On Guard Beneath Neon Lights” Beijing Review no. 20 (May 17, 1963) p. 27
  34. Milton, David and Nancy Dall The Wind Will Not Subside (Pantheon Books, USA: 1976) p. 117
  35. “New Upserg In The Creative Study And Application Of Chairman Mao’s Works In The Liberation Army” Beijing Review no. 42 (October 14, 1966)  p.13
  36. Wylie, Raymond F. The Emergence of Maoism (Standford University Press, USA:1980)
  37. Mittler, Barbara “Popular Propaganda: Art and Culture in Revolutionary China” http://www.amphilsoc.org/sites/default/files/proceedings/1520404.pdf p 478
  38. Kamphen, Thomas “Wang Jiaxing, Mao Zedong and the ‘Triumph of Mao Zedong Thought’ (1935-1945)” in Modern Asian Studies vol 3, no. 4 (Cambridge University Press: 1980) p. 720
  39. Dikotter, Frank Mao’s Great Famine (Walker Publishing Company, New York, USA: 2010) p. 19
  40. Jin Qui The Culture of Power (Stanford University Press, California, USA: 1999) p.19
  41. Young, Graham “Mao Zedong and Class Struggle in Socialist Society” in The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs no. 18(University of Chicago Press: July 1989) p. 65
  42. Lewis, John Wilson “China’s Secret Military Papers”  in China Under Mao: Politics Takes Command edited by MacFarquhar, Roderick (MIT Press, USA: 1966) p. 60
  43. Rittenberg, Sidney and Bennett, Amanda The Man Who Stayed Behind (Simon and Schuster, USA: 1993) p.285
  44. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise and Fall of Lin Piao (Avan Books. USA: 1977) p. 99
  45. Han Suyin Wind In The Tower (Little, Brown And Company, USA: 1976) p. 341
  46. “Comrade Lin Piao’s Call to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army: Carry the Mass Movement For The Creative Study and Application of Chairman Mao’s Works To A New Stage” Beijing Review no. 42 (October 14, 1966) p. 6
  47. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) pp. 35-38
  48. Corr, Gerard H. The Chinese Red Army (Schocken Books, New York: 1974) p. 148
  49. “More On The Differences Between Comrade Togliatti And Us” Beijing Review no . 10 and 11 (March 15, 1963) p. 25
  50. Lin Piao “Long Live The Victory Of People’s War! (Foreign Language Press, China)
  51. Domes, Jurgan The Internal Politics of China 1949-1972  (Praeger Publishers, USA: 1973) p. 153
  52. “Comrade Lin Piao’s Letter To Members Of The Standing Committee Of The Military Comission Of The Party Central Committee” Beijing Review no. 23 (June 2, 1967) p. 9
  53. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p .44
  54. Ma Jisen The Cultural Revolution in the Foreign Ministry of China (Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong: 2004) p. 6
  55. “The Whole Country Must Learn From The PLA (Jen Min Jih Pao Editorial, Peking, February 1, 1964)” in Chinese Politics edited by Myers, James T., Domes, Jurgen, and von Groeling, Erik (University of South Carolina Press, USA: 1986) p. 95