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Cultural Revolution - Phase 1

From the initiation of the "cultural revolution" to the Ninth National Congress of the Party in April 1969.

Mao apparently felt himself to be increasingly at odds with many leading members of the Chinese regime. He feared their practical, hard-headed solutions would lead to a society like that of the Soviet union - one he believed was fat and slothful in pursuing a revolutionary ideal. He even came to believe that they were starting to treat him like a "revered elder" whose advice was sought but not acted upon.

Mao's answer to these problems was an attempt to rekindle the "revolutionary" fervor that had helped bring him to power. He had apparently developed an almost mystic faith in the power of permanent revolution conducted by mobilized and indoctrinated masses, and sought by this means to counteract growing cyncism and prevent Soviet-style revisionism from infecting China. Having decided that the party machinery had gotten stodgy and could not be counted on to maintain revolutionary spirit and policies ater he was gone, Mao set out in late 1965 to purge the Party leaders so that he could replace them with more reliable, more revolutionary successors.

The convening of the enlarged Political Bureau meeting of the Central Committee of the Party in May 1966 and the 11th Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee in August of that year marked the launching of the "cultural revolution" on a full scale. These two meetings adopted the May 16 Circular and the Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China Concerning the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution respectively. They launched a struggle against the so-called anti-Party clique of Peng Zhen, Luo Ruiqing, Lu Dingyi and Yang Shangkun and the so-called headquarters of Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. They wrongly re-organized the central leading organs, set up the "Cultural Revolution Group Under the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party" and gave it a major part of the power of the Central Committee.

Red Guards and other similar factions earnestly carried out Mao's instructions to "bombard the headquarters" of the Party in search of hidden capitalists who had supposedly infiltrated the core of the CCP, and by obliterating the "Four Olds" - any ideas, culture, customs, and habits prevalent in China before the 1949 Communist Liberation.

In June 1966, Chen Boda (one of the leaders of the Cultural Revolution) wrote an editorial Sweep Away All Monsters and Demons in the Peoples Daily, and as it circulated, Red Guards in many places started dragging out those who they thought fit that description.

Mao soon spoke out against some of the methods that were employed in this. Mao was not against sharp class struggle for power he led it, and initiated it, over and over. He was not against exposing capitalist forces, or organizing mass denunciations, or bringing forward people to speak their bitterness in public. These were all important parts of the experience of Maoist revolution. But he argued (during the cultural revolution) that the specific forms of public humiliation and punishment developed by peasants during the Chinese land reform were not appropriate forms to emulate and promote because they did not correspond to the kind of political culture we wanted to create, and the kinds of objectives that were so important for a consciously socialist movement.

For several months during 1967 Communist China's diplomacy was characterized by an extraordinary degree of irrationality. In Peking, foreign embassies were violated and their personnel abused. Abroad, Chinese diplomatic personnel staged provocative demonstrations and went out of their way to insult host governments. The purpose was to bring the benefits and therapeutics of Communist.China's "cultural revolution" to foreign policy and the foreign policy establishment. It was as though the Chinese, in their dealings with foreigners, were seized by a kind of madness; for a time Peking's usual non-diplomacy - or at best sami-diplomacy - gave way to outright anti-diplomacy. Mao's projection on the international scene of his cult was a kind of peasant ultra-Stalinism which was an innovation on the domestic practice of the former Soviet dictator.

The diplomacy they implemented had a revolutionary logic or rationality. It apparently was viewed by Mao as a means to apply pressure to certain "unfriendly" governments to attain concessions or to retaliate for anti-Chinese actions. Beyond Mao's special view, however, this diplomacy was in fact illogical and irrational. The beatings of diplomats, invasion of embassy grounds, and export of Mao's cult aroused nationalistic sensitivities abroad, and the adverse international reaction has been as harmful to Peking's foreign policy a6 Mao's 1958 blunders had been to domestic policy.

Mao's Little Red Book of quotations was essentially the "Bible" of the Cultural Revolution, and people were expected to read it daily, in an almost ritual fashion. In addition to creating Maoist literature, the Red Guards and other propaganda teams also wrote new music in exaltation of Mao Zedong's glory or urging people to study his instructions. Popular songs including "Sailing on the Seas Depends on the Helmsman", "Let's Study the Sixteen Points", and "We are Chairman Mao's Red Guards", frequently blared through loudspeakers in city streets because few people had radios at home.

Eight million students, called the Red Guards, shouted slogans from Maos little red book. There were perhaps two or three million Red Guard with a hard core of four to five hundred thousand. The rest followed from fear.

They spilled forth attacking things foreign, things old, and those they hated, clashing with the army and workers organizations. Thousands who had been deemed traitors by the Red Guard were executed. There was strong opposition to the Red Guard among the people and the military. Most Chinese people had lived under the former regime. They were traditionalists; almost conservatives. Even after China became a communist state, many people still followed Confucian decorum privately. Confucianism not only stresses deference to one's parents, elders, and superiors, but also mutual respect between individuals. However, during the Cultural Revolution and other campaigns such as the Anti-Rightist Movement, everything changed. The Red Guard had gone so far as to accuse the widow of Sun Yat Sen, which was a major blunder because she was greatly respected even within China.

At times, there were factional clashes in city after city which put hundreds in their graves and thousands in hospitals. As these periods' of violence and chaos in the cities rose to a peak that seemed to bring China to the brink of civil war, the army was called in to restore order and given sufficient leeway to bring about a short period of quiet.

Comrade Mao Ze-dong's personal leadership characterized by "Left" errors took the place of the collective leadership of the Central Committee, and the cult of Comrade Mao Zedong was frenziedly pushed to an extreme. Lin Biao, Jiang Qing, Kang Sheng, Zhang Chunqiao and others, acting chiefly in the name of the "Cultural Revolution Group," exploited the situation to incite people to "overthrow everything and wage full scale civil war."

Around February 1967, at various meetings, Tan Zhenlin, Chen Yi, Ye Jianying, Li Fuchun, Li Xiannian, Xu Xiangqian, Nie Rongzhen and other Political Bureau Members and leading comrades of the Military Commission of the Central Committee sharply criticized the mistakes of the "cultural revolution." This was labelled the "February adverse current," and they were attacked and repressed.

The "January typhoon" in 1967 was followed by the February and March "reversal of the correct verdicts." The bloody summer of 1967 was followed by a much longer and calmer fall and winter. In May 1968 Mao disbanded the Guards fearing civil war. Since the spring and summer of 1968 when violence again rose to a peak almost equal to the dreadful summer of 1967, relative calm fell on the scene.

Vigilante groups organized by military provincial authorities cracked student heads with a vengeance, and many old scores were apparently settled by officials previously under Red Guard attack. The students were no longer being treated as the apple of Mao's eye, and many have been sent down to the countrystde to army-run state farms.

Comrades Zhu De and Chen Yun were also wrongly criticized. Almost all leading Party and government departments in the different spheres and localities were stripped of their power or re-organized. The chaos was such that it was necessary to send in the People's Liberation Army to support the Left, the workers and the peasants and to institute military control and military training. It played a positive role in stabilizing the situation, but it also produced some negative consequences.

Three important bodies - the police, the prosecution and the courts - took Liu Shao-ch'i's side in the cultural revolution. The president of the Supreme Court committed suicide; his colleagues disappeared from the political scene. Public discipline and probity, once the pride of the regime, deteriorated and petty crime flourished in major Chinese cities.

There were endless disputes over which old party members were to be "rehabilitated" and which Cultural Revolution activists were to be absorbed into the party. To add to the continuing confusion, remnants of rival Red Guard groups renewed their factional fighting from time to time.

In 1968, Mao decreed that all urban youth from middle school age to college age were to be reeducated in rural areas by hardworking peasants. He acknowledged that the Red Guards were getting out of control, and because the schools had already been shut down for two years, decided that hard labor could help discipline them. It was a way to solve the unemployment problem as well since the students were not in school or working. Called the send-down policy, this was something that hardly any teenager, regardless of their class background, could escape. The campaign to send large numbers of city residents to the countryside was still in full swing in 1970. Almost fifteen million people had already been affected.

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Page last modified: 28-12-2017 18:37:13 ZULU