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Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
1966-76

Students and teachers returning to high schools across the country in September 2020 found some changes to history textbooks and teaching materials on the topic of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). The changes blurred the role of late supreme leader Mao Zedong in instigating and sustaining a decade of political violence and social turmoil in a bid to eliminate his political rivals, describing instead a decade of "arduous exploration."

In the new school year of 2019, the new textbook was first used in six provincial regions, including Beijing and Shanghai. The textbook will be adopted by all regions in the Chinese mainland by 2022. Previously, there were several different versions of history textbooks. Some talked more about the Cultural Revolution and some less, but all of them were based on the unified syllabus.

In the history textbook for high school freshmen published by the People's Education Press under the Ministry of Education, namely the "Outline of China and World history," the definition of the Cultural Revolution is still exactly from the decision concerning the historical questions about the event at the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the CPC. "The Cultural Revolution did not in fact constitute a revolution or social progress in any sense, nor could it possibly have done so. It was initiated by a leader laboring under misapprehension and capitalized on by counter-revolutionary cliques, leading to domestic turmoil that brought catastrophe to the Party, the country and the whole people," it read.

The Cultural Revolution had its origin in a wide range of complex factors, but Mao Tse-tung unquestionably played the central role in setting off the upheaval. In an attempt to break with the Russian model of Communism and to imbue the Chinese people with renewed revolutionary vigor, Mao launched (1958) the Great Leap Foward. The program was a failure, and Mao withdrew temporarily from public view. The failure of this program also resulted in a break with the Soviet Union, which cut off aid. Mao accused Soviet leaders of betraying Marxism.

After the failure of Great Leap Forward, in 1960 Mao Zedong ceded control of China's government to three respected members of the CCP: Liu Shaoqi, an opponent of the Great Leap Forward, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping. Liu, Zhou, and Deng were to repair China's economy and increase agricultural production.

Mao retained his chairmanship of the Communist party politburo. A campaign to reestablish Mao's ideological line culminated in the Cultural Revolution (196676).

But by 1966 Mao believed the Chinese revolution - his revolution - was running into the sands. Revolutionary enthusiasm and elan had been lost. Bureaucratic buck-passing and inertia were growing. Technical experts were vying with "revolutionary'" generalists for authority in making decisions. The problems of modernizing a huge, over-populated and backward country were growing rather than decreasing.

The "cultural revolution, " which lasted from May 1966 to October 1976, was responsible for the most severe setback and the heaviest losses suffered by the Party, the state and the people since the founding of the People's Republic. It was initiated and led by Comrade Mao Zedong. His principal theses were that many representatives of the bourgeoisie and counter-revolutionary revisionists had sneaked into the Party, the government, the army and cultural circles, and leadership in a fairly large majority of organizations and departments was no longer in the hands of Marxists and the people; that Party persons in power taking the capitalist road had formed a bourgeois headquarters inside the Central Committee which pursued a revisionist political and organizational line and had agents in all provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, as well as in all central departments; that since the forms of struggle adopted in the past had not been able to solve this problem, the power usurped by the capitalist-roaders could be recaptured only by carrying out a great cultural revolution, by openly and fully mobilizing the broad masses from the bottom up to expose these sinister phenomena; and that the cultural revolution was in fact a great political revolution in which one class would overthrow another, a revolution that would have to be waged time and again.

These theses appeared mainly in the May 16 Circular, which served as the programmatic document of the "cultural revolution, " and in the political report to the Ninth National Congress of the Party in April 1969. They were incorporated into a general theory-the "theory of continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat" - which then took on a specific meaning.

The Communist Party of China's (CPC) official newspaper condemned the Cultural Revolution 50 years after it began, calling it "a mistake... that can not and will not be allowed to repeat itself." China has learned its lessons from the decade of tumult between 1966 and 1976 and is now determined to avoid any social unrest that would disrupt national progress, according to the commentary in the 17 May 2016 edition of the People's Daily.

"The Cultural Revolution was a major detour in the development path of the Party and the nation," it said. Since introducing the reform and opening-up policy more than 30 years ago, "the nation has been growing stronger and stronger and people's living standards have been improved markedly," according to the commentary.

"The historical lessons from the the Cultural Revolution must be firmly kept in mind" in this context, it said. "The Chinese people have never been so close to realizing the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," it went on, urging the CPC and the public to "dispel all disturbances" to ensure the goal is achieved.

The "cultural revolution," which lasted from May 1966 to October 1976, was responsible for the most severe setback and the heaviest losses suffered by the Party, the state and the people since the founding of the People's Republic. It was initiated and led by Comrade Mao Zedong.

His principal theses were that many representatives of the bourgeoisie and counterrevolutionary revisionists had sneaked into the Party, the government, the army and cultural circles, and leadership in a fairly large majority of organizations and departments was no longer in the hands of Marxists and the people; that Party persons in power taking the capitalist road had formed a bourgeois headquarters inside the Central Committee which pursued a revisionist political and organizational line and had agents in all provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, as well as in all central departments; that since the forms of struggle adopted in the past had not been able to solve this problem, the power usurped by the capitalist-roaders could be recaptured only by carrying out a great cultural revolution, by openly and fully mobilizing the broad masses from the bottom up to expose these sinister phenomena; and that the cultural revolution was in fact a great political revolution in which one class would overthrow another, a revolution that would have to be waged time and again.

The "cultural revolution" was defined as a struggle against the revisionist line or the capitalist road. There were no grounds at all for this definition. It led to the confusing of right and wrong on a series of important theories and policies. Many things denounced as revisionist or capitalist during the "cultural revolution" were actually Marxist and socialist principles, many of which had been set forth or supported by Comrade Mao Zedong himself. The "cultural revolution" negated many of the correct principles, policies and achievements of the 17 years after the founding of the People's Republic. In fact, it negated much of the work of the Central Committee of the Party and the People's Government, including that of Comrade Mao and the arduous struggles the entire people had conducted in socialist construction.

The confusing of right and wrong inevitably led to confusing the people with the enemy. The "capitalist-roaders" overthrown in the "cultural revolution" were leading cadres of Party and government organizations at all levels, who formed the core force of the socialist cause. The so-called bourgeois headquarters inside the Party headed by Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping simply did not exist. Irrefutable facts have proved that labelling Comrade Liu Shaoqi a "renegade, hidden traitor and scab" was nothing but a frame-up by Lin Biao, Jiang Qing and their followers. The political conclusion concerning Comrade Liu Shaoqi drawn by the 12th Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee of the Party and the disciplinary measure it meted out to him were both utterly wrong. The criticism of the so-called reactionary academic authorities in the "cultural revolution" during which many capable and accomplished intellectuals were attacked and persecuted also badly muddled up the distinction between the people and the enemy.

Nominally, the "cultural revolution" was conducted by directly relying on the masses. In fact, it was divorced both from the Party organizations and from the masses. After the movement started, Party organizations at different levels were attacked and became partially or wholly paralysed, the Party's leading cadres at various levels were subjected to criticism and struggle, inner-Party life came to a standstill, and many activists and large numbers of the basic masses whom the Party has long relied on were rejected. At the beginning of the "cultural revolution, " the vast majority of participants in the movement acted out of their faith in Comrade Mao Zedong and the Party.

Except for a handful of extremists, however, they did not approve of launching ruthless struggles against leading Party cadres at all levels. With the lapse of time, following their own circuitous paths, they eventually attained a heightened political consciousness and consequently began to adopt a sceptical or wait-and-see attitude towards the "cultural revolution, " or even resisted and opposed it. Many people were assailed either more or less severely for this very reason. Such a state of affairs could not but provide openings to be exploited by opportunists, careerists and conspirators, not a few of whom were escalated to high or even key positions.

In the cultural revolution, rightist party officials were widely taken to mass meetings for denunciation and public humiliation. Sometimes they were forced to wear dunce caps, or have their heads shaved, or their faces painted with a big X. In one case Lius wife was forced to wear a slinky cocktail dress and a huge pearl-like necklace at a rally publicly reenacting and mocking her non-revolutionary outfit worn on a foreign trip.

Mao opposed these methods (within the cultural revolution he had unleashed), but they were widely taken up imitating the methods of peasants in land reform of cutting landlords down to size, speaking bitterness, and demonstrating how profoundly power relations had changed. Mao argued that it was one thing for peasants to do that after the guns of civil war had just stopped and the old society needed to be uprooted, but another thing for the Communist Party itself to adopt this as a method of struggle and criticism twenty years later.

Lin Biao, as Mao's "close comrade in arms", was a strong supporter of the Cultural Revolution. He displaced Liu Shaoqi in 1966 as the second-ranking member of the Communist Party of China, a position that made him Mao's heir. Lin Biao, Jiang Qing and others, were placed in important positions by Comrade Mao Zedong. They rigged up two counter-revolutionary cliques in an attempt to seize supreme power and, taking advantage of Comrade Mao Zedong's errors, committed many crimes behind his back, bringing disaster to the country and the people. Strangely, after 1969, Mao seemed to turn against Lin and his supporters.

The "cultural revolution" can be divided into three stages.



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Page last modified: 13-09-2020 17:13:42 ZULU