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

Seas are Rising, Clouds and Waters Raging

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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/

(llco.org)

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)

Again:

“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.”

And:

“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.

Notes

  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
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