Early GPCR, the Rise of New Power and New Ideology Part 4

Early GPCR, the Rise of New Power and New Ideology: Seas are Rising, Clouds and Waters Raging – The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Begins, Maoist China from 1958 to May 16, 1966 (Part 4)

Prairie Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 8: https://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 an 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 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 Eighth 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 help to 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.


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  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., p. 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
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  11. Macciocchi, Maria Antonietta. Daily Life In Revolutionary China (Monthly Review Press, New York, New York USA: 1972), p. 84
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  14. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, USA: 1977), p. 38
  15. “Two Roads Defeated in the Cultural Revolution Part 2: Lin Biao’s Road” (2008). LLCO. Retrieved from: https://llco.org/two-roads-defeated-in-the-cultural-revolution-part-2-lin-biaos-road/
  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. Retrieved from: http://art-bin.com/art/omaotoc.html
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  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
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  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” Retrieved from: http://www.amphilsoc.org/sites/default/files/proceedings/1520404.pdf p 478
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  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

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