Evaluating the Cultural Revolution in China and its Legacy for the Future

Download 455.14 Kb.
Date conversion03.05.2016
Size455.14 Kb.
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   12

Evaluating the Cultural Revolution in China and its Legacy for the Future

By the MLM Revolutionary Study Group in the U.S. (March 2007)

"at the meeting of a mass pledge"

The big-character poster reads "A Letter of Pledge." The banner above reads "promote production by making revolution." Workers' Art Group, Shanghai Steel Factory No. 1



How the Cultural Revolution Affected the Revolutionary Movement in the U.S.



Some Questions Raised by the Cultural Revolution



Prologue to the Cultural Revolution



The Course of the Cultural Revolution



Theoretical Underpinnings of the Cultural Revolution



Achievements of the Cultural Revolution



Revolution in the Superstructure of Socialist Society


Revolutionary Culture


Education: “Red and Expert”


Collective Values and internationalism



The Liberation of Women



Narrowing and Overcoming Class Differences and Inequalities


Workers Transform Their Factories


Peasant Empowerment and Learning from Dazhai


Health Care and “Barefoot Doctors”



The Obstacles that the Cultural Revolution Faced, and its Shortcomings



Conceptualizing Socialist Society



Some Important Understandings of the Nature of Socialist Society



The Role of Mass Organizations



Dissent and Mass Debate



The Hundred Flowers and Anti-Rightist Campaigns of 1956-57



The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) on Multi-Party Competition



The Communist Party of India (Maoist) on Socialist Society



Summing Up




Selected Bibliography


Note: This paper is meant to be read in conjunction with a paper presented to a conference held in Hong Kong in June 2006 on the 40th Anniversary of the Cultural Revolution.

This paper is titled “Chinese Foreign Policy During the Maoist Era and its Lessons for Today”—by the MLM Revolutionary Study Group. Please write to mlm.rsg@gmail.com for a copy.

A. How the Cultural Revolution Affected the Revolutionary Movement in the U.S.
Even before the Cultural Revolution was launched in the mid-1960s, many in the U.S. were surprised and inspired by the example of the people of the world’s most populous country successfully driving out the Japanese invaders and the U.S.-backed regime of Jiang Kai-shek. In the anti-war and Black liberation movements, political activists learned of the mass movement of hundreds of millions of Chinese peasants that collectivized agriculture within several years. Comparisons between the advances made by socialist China and imperialist-dominated, poverty-stricken India were common among ‘60s radicals. Moreover, students who rebelled against being trained as white collar bureaucrats and for “ugly American” roles were attracted to the Chinese concept of being “red and expert” because of this concept’s insistence that revolutionary moral and political commitments were not only compatible with developing professional expertise, but were essential to it.

In 1963, weeks before the civil rights March on Washington, the revolutionary Black nationalist Robert F. Williams1 was in China, where he called on Mao Zedong.

At his request, Mao issued an important internationalist statement in support of the Afro-American people’s struggle, which concluded: “The evil system of colonialism and imperialism grew on along with the enslavement of the Negroes and the trade in Negroes; it will surely come to its end with the thorough emancipation of the black people.”

In 1968, after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mao reiterated his support, and stated that “the Afro-American struggle is not only a struggle waged by the exploited and oppressed Black people for freedom and emancipation, it is also a new clarion call to all the exploited and oppressed people of the United States…. It is a tremendous aid and inspiration to the struggle of the people throughout the world against U.S. imperialism.” Mao called on “the workers, peasants and revolutionary intellectuals of every country and all who are willing to fight against U.S. imperialism to take action and extend strong support to the struggle of the Black people of the United States!” 2 This stance had a tremendous effect on the New Communist Movement (NCM) in the U.S.

In the early 1970s, leading members of the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords Party visited socialist China, and eventually nearly all of the groups making up the NCM sent delegations to visit the People’s Republic in the early 1970s. Leaders of the newly emerged women’s liberation movement visited China and were struck by the slogan that "women hold up half the sky," and that one of the first laws passed by the new government banned forced marriages and gave women the right to divorce. One of the members of the early Revolutionary Union3 who had spent many years in China and had become a student Red Guard there, and others with personal ties to China helped bring stories from the upheavals of the Cultural Revolution back to the U.S. Delegations of intellectuals also brought back news of developments during the Cultural Revolution.4

In the late 1960s and early 70s, the Panthers and the Lords sold Chinese revolutionary literature and applied many Maoist principles to their own work, including promoting revolutionary internationalism in the pages of their newspapers. In 1966, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton raised money to buy shotguns for the Panthers’ anti-police patrols by selling Mao’s Red Books on the University of California at Berkeley campus for $1 each.

In a 1996 speech titled, “The Historical Meaning of the Cultural Revolution and its Impact on the U.S.,” historian Robert Weil explained:
Huey Newton in his book To Die For The People talks about many sources of influence on the party: Fidel, Che, Ho, the guerrillas in Angola and Mozambique. But Mao and the Cultural Revolution keep coming through as a kind of guiding or most significant influence, to the extent that, at the time of the Attica Uprising in upstate New York, they were asked by the inmates to negotiate with Rockefeller and Oswald, the head of the prisons. And they in turn called for Mao Zedong to serve as the negotiator between the inmates and the authorities, all the way from Nixon down to Oswald. [Laughter]

You know, we laugh, and we should laugh, but I think it’s important to realize how strong this influence was. And that the Panthers, in turn, became in many ways the group that introduced the concepts of Mao and the Cultural Revolution to many other parts of the movement, such as the Asian American movement.5

Beyond those who were fortunate enough to go to China, beyond those who were specifically influenced in the ways I just talked about, I think that the ideas of the Cultural Revolution became almost a part of the atmosphere of what people were breathing in this country in that period.
Another of the people I talked to before I came here had a particularly good insight into that. He said, among the different influences in the sixties—and it would certainly be a mistake to reduce all of this in any way to Mao or to China—but that of all of those influences, Mao in particular, and the lessons of the Cultural Revolution in general, were the best at summarizing and universalizing and globalizing the struggles of the 1960s.

Think about all of the key ideas that came out of that period, primarily through Mao and the impact of his words: “Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win,” “Overcome All Difficulties,” “Seize the Day, Seize the Hour”—which the Panthers turned into “Seize the Time”—“To Rebel is Justified,” “From the Masses, To the Masses,” “Combat Liberalism,” “The People and the People Alone are the Motive Force of World History.” These became ideas which people reoriented their entire lives around.6

B. Questions Raised by the Cultural Revolution

The Cultural Revolution in China was unprecedented in history. Never before had so many millions of people of all classes and social strata thought about, talked about, and struggled over how to deepen the revolutionary process in a socialist society. The struggle was often exhilarating, as indicated by the experience of two U.S. teachers in China:

When we returned to Peking…we entered a dramatic and colorful world that had become a political festival of the masses….[T]he campus was almost deserted after ten o’clock in the morning as students and teachers disappeared into their intense study sessions, organizational meetings, and perusal of Cultural Revolution editorials and documents. Everywhere on the walls of buildings, thousands of big-character posters stared out at us. We were now to live amid a sea of language, a lively world of large blue, red, and yellow ideographs…
And it was not only the students who participated in this orgy of writing and reading. Shop clerks, workers, office employees, and bus drivers somehow carried on their work while following the same basic routine as the students. It was a most impressive sight—the population of a country which only twenty years before had been 80 per cent illiterate conducting a national debate through the written word…The formidable organization of the Chinese Communist Party, built up methodically over the decades, had been suddenly overturned and replaced by a communications and organizational network which embraced millions of ordinary citizens in a decision-making apparatus of their own. In the evenings, thousands of mass meetings occurred simultaneously throughout the capital. There the latest political developments were discussed, analyzed, and acted upon.7
As inspiring as the Cultural Revolution was to the people of China and to millions in other countries, its defeat and rollback in the years following Mao's death have left many activists with some important questions.

  • How is it possible for the masses of working people in a socialist country to continue the revolutionary process and defeat attempts at capitalist restoration?

  • What were the obstacles faced by the Cultural Revolution? Even with its theoretical breakthroughs and many practical achievements, why was the Cultural Revolution eventually defeated?

  • Were the campaigns against intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution justified? Why was there widespread, at times violent, factional struggle during these years?

  • What lessons does the Cultural Revolution have for anti-imperialists and revolutionaries in the 21st century who are looking to the next wave of socialist revolutions?

The methodology we will use is to first discuss the challenges facing socialism in

China, including contending forces in the Chinese Communist Party, during the Cultural Revolution and the period immediately preceding it. We examine the political line of Mao and other revolutionaries in the CCP, their goals, and the great achievements of the Cultural Revolution, particularly its most advanced experience. At the same time, we look at the “bigger picture,” including the substantial obstacles faced by the Cultural Revolution, its shortcomings, the reasons for its defeat, and new concepts of socialist society that are being considered by revolutionaries in many countries.

  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   12

The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2016
send message

    Main page