Ch'en Pi-Lan

An Interview with Ch’en Pi-lan on the “Cultural Revolution”

Source: World Outlook, July 14, 1967
HTML Markup/Transcription/Proofing: Andrew Pollack
Public Domain: Ch'en Pi-Lan Internet Archive 2005. This work is completely free to copy and distribute. Please cite the Marxists Internet’s Ch'en Pi-Lan Internet Archive if the contents herein are reproduced.

Question: In my interviews with P’eng Shu-tse, who analyzed the situation in China in some detail, I have gotten a fairly clear idea of the origins and subsequent evolution of the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,” the different and contrasting positions of the Maoists and anti-Maoists, and the possible future perspectives of the struggle. In the first stage of the “Cultural Revolution,” the people who were attacked were artists, writers, scholars, and educators. Therefore, I would like to ask you some questions about the differences of opinion on questions of literature, art, education, etc. First of all, may I ask you to describe and analyze the differences between the two factions on these questions, as it seems these differences can be most important and give us a much clearer and better understanding of the general lines and positions of the two contending factions.

Answer: Yes; this is true. If one understands the differences on these questions, one can get a very good idea as to what the general struggle between the two factions is about.

In reality, when Mao launched the “Cultural Revolution” movement, he began by attacking Wu Han’s drama Hai Jui Dismissed from Office, T’ien Han’s drama Hsieh Yao-huan, and Teng T’o’s writings Evening Talks at Yanshan and Notes from Three-Family Village. In other words, Mao began by attacking the leading cadres in the cultural fields, which, of course, gave rise to the name “Cultural Revolution.”

We all know that under Stalinist dictatorial regimes, there is no political freedom, and, under these conditions, there is much dissatisfaction among the people. Dissatisfaction of this kind is usually reflected in literature and art since most artists and writers are very sensitive to the world around them. They observe the daily life of the people and see their plight as well as their hopes and aspirations. Through the means of literature and art, then, they mirror what they have observed—the bad as well as the good. It is for just this reason that Stalinist policies have always severely restricted the cultural fields, in order to keep the bad side from being exposed, including the bureaucratic regime. Literature and art were no longer allowed to reflect the actual reality but became mere propaganda to praise the policies of the bureaucrats as well as them as individuals. It is very clear that such a situation existed under Stalin’s regime; and the policies elaborated by Zhdanov on literature and art are typical examples.

The policies elaborated by Mao in this respect have been in no way different, except perhaps they have been more restrictive and harsher. The result in China has been an almost constant resistance in the field of literature and art to Mao’s policies. The present purge of people in this field is by no means the first, although it is the largest and most serious.

Q: Could you briefly tell us when Mao began to purge these people in the cultural fields and why?

A: Mao’s policy of restricting literature and art began in May 1942 during the Yenan period. It was during this time that Mao made his well-known “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art” which were given in preparation for the purge of a well-known writer. In these long discourses, except for a few quotations from Lenin, whom he cited as his authority, Mao demanded that literature and art serve only the workers, peasants, and soldiers in line with the political policies of the party; and he was against any exposures or satires of his Yenan regime. The writers were only supposed to praise the Communist New Democracy, revolutionary heroes, etc.; and he pointed out that there were many defects in the field of literature and art and that it was necessary to launch a movement in order to purge them.

During this time, there were several writers who had written some articles exposing the real life in Yenan, such as the famous woman writer Ting Ling, who wrote an article entitled “Impressions of the March Eighth Celebration”; the famous poet Ai Ch’ing, who wrote an article entitled “One Should Understand and Respect the Writers”; and Wang Shih-wei, who wrote a series of articles entitled “Wild Lilies.” These last were the sharpest exposure of certain aspects of Yenan. He criticized the lack of democracy and contrasted the privileged life of the bureaucracy to that of the rank and file. These articles attracted much attention among the people and especially among the young Communists. Mao could not tolerate such criticism and for this reason called a meeting to discuss the questions of literature and art where he gave his talks. These meetings and talks not only prepared for the purge which followed; they also laid the foundations for the basic line of Communist Party policy in questions concerning literature and art.

Not long after these discussions and meetings, a special meeting was called to purge Wang Shih-wei. Many of the party’s officials, such as the heads of the Central Propaganda Department and the Organization Department and the president of the Central Research Institute, as well as cadres working in the field of literature and art, and other writers, took part in this meeting. One might wonder why it was of such a serious nature. The reason is simple. Wang joined the party in 1926. This made him an old party member and one of the most important members of the Central Research Institute. Wang had translated into Chinese more than two million words of the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. He was, as well, a very capable writer and was respected by almost everyone, especially the youth. Thus the purge of Wang Shih-wei was a most important event in the Yenan period.

The meeting lasted sixteen days, during which Wang expressed and defended his opinions in the face of vigorous attacks by the leading cadres and officials of the party. There were a number of cultural workers who agreed with Wang’s opinions and sympathized with him. Yet, due to his being condemned as antiparty, anti-Marxist, and a Trotskyist by some of the party leaders, and especially by Ch’en Po-ta—who is now the leader of the present Cultural Revolution Group but who at that time was Mao’s private secretary—who criticized Wang most maliciously, they became fearful and retreated. Nevertheless, Wang, from beginning to end, remained strong in defending his ideas as correct. The meeting finally ended by condemning him as being anti-party, anti-Marxist, and a Trotskyist. He was expelled-from the party, thrown into prison, and tortured. Finally, he acknowledged that he was a Trotskyist; and hence he was killed.

We should take special note of the fact that Wang Shih-wei’s book Wild Lilies has exercised great attraction and has interested many youth, including members and sympathizers of the CCP as well as its youth organization. The book has circulated throughout China by means of handwritten copies passed on and on, time after time. The original copy that I read was borrowed from a sympathizer of the CCP and was of this type. Because of the bravery and boldness of Wang’s resistance against the vicious attacks and his insistence on the correctness of his own position, he became very famous. His name is to be found in most histories of this period.

Q: Were there any other purges after Wang?

A: After the CCP took power in 1949, Mao’s cultural policies were put into effect for the nation as a whole. The first to resist and criticize them was Hu Feng, who was a very famous left theoretician on literature and art. He considered Mao’s “Talks at Yenan” to be mechanistic and therefore he said that “mechanism has controlled literature and art circles for the last ten years ... this ideology of literature and art has been sterilized ... when one speaks they must employ Mao’s thought which causes people more than enough trouble.”

He held that truth is the highest principle of art. He was against what he regarded as the oversimplified policy of having literature and art serve only political ends and was against the limitation of themes as proposed by Mao. Thus he insisted that all writers should have the right to choose their own subjects. The ideas and opinions of Hu Feng, as I have indicated, are, of course, based on principles which everyone should be able to accept. However, from Mao’s point of view, such ideas were out of bounds and in 1955 he began a campaign against Hu Feng and his followers. This campaign lasted several months and was carried out on a national scale.

Not only were Hu Feng’s followers attacked and criticized, but many people in the universities, middle schools, and cultural organizations who only sympathized with him were also attacked and purged. According to reports published at the time, more than 130 Hu-Fengists were imprisoned or put in labor camps. Since that time there has been no news of him or his followers.

Almost immediately after the Hu Feng purge came the “Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend” movement, April to June 1957. It was during this period that a number of Left writers criticized Mao’s policies on literature and art, such as Ting Ling, Ai Ch’ing and Feng Hsueh-feng, the most famous contemporary theoretician of literature and art. These three were all leaders of the party in the cultural fields, especially Ting Ling and Feng Hsueh-feng, who were respectively chairwoman and vice-chairman of the National Association of Literature and Art Workers.

In June, when Mao began to suppress the “Hundred Flowers” movement, they came under attack.

For example, in September a special meeting was held in Peking to purge Ting Ling. There were around one hundred participants in this meeting, including many high officials of the party in the cultural fields, such as the minister and vice-minister of culture, Shin Yen-ping and Chou Yang. This meeting, like the one held in Yenan to purge Wang Shih-wei, lasted sixteen days and was very exhausting for Ting Ling as she was subjected to one attack after another, accusing her of being a rightist and a reactionary. Attacks against her which appeared in the People’s Daily made a connection between her and Wang Shih-wei and accused her of being like him. Shortly after the meeting, Ting Ling, Feng Hsileh-feng, Ai Ch’ing, and many others were imprisoned or sent to “reeducation camps.” As with Hu Feng and his followers, nothing further has been heard about their fate.

Concerning Ting Ling, I should say a few more words. In 1923-24, she was a classmate of mine in Shanghai University where we lived in the same home. We became very close friends, so I know her very well. She had a very strong character and was very democratic minded.

Also during the “Hundred Flowers” movement, we should take notice of the position taken by Shen Yen-ping. In a meeting called by the Central United Front Department on May 16, 1957, Shen Yen-ping expressed his own views on literature and art. He said, “In regard to literature and art, it must be considered a special field. By .only depending on some of the party’s basic texts and without any special knowledge in this field,. it is impossible to resolve concrete problems concerning literature and art.... What then should be done? There is the short road which is dogmatism and commandism.” It is very clear that Shen was criticizing the whole apparatus of the cultural department. Shen considered that in literature and art, there existed a “general phenomenon” of “monotony” and “repetitiousness.” He explained that the “sickness” of repetition was due to reducing everything to formulas and to the lack of variety in themes. In short, these sicknesses were due to not carrying out the policy of the “Hundred Flowers” movement.

All the criticisms of Shen Yen-ping no doubt implied that Mao’s policies on literature and art restricted the creative initiative and freedom of the writers; hence the monotonous and repetitious works which were devoid of any liveliness or creativity.

Q: Since Shen Yen-ping was the minister of culture, that is, the highest leader in the cultural field, why is it that he spoke out against Mao’s policies and why was he not purged with the others?

A: In order to answer this question, it is necessary to give a short resume of Shen’s personal history. He joined the CCP in 1921 and at that time he was already the author of several articles and the editor of the large magazine, Novel. After the defeat of the revolution of 1927, he left the CCP. However, he continued to write and published several books under the pen name of Mao Tun, some of which became very celebrated and he himself became very well known. It was for this reason that he became minister of culture after the CCP took power in 1949. He held this post until January 1965 when he requested that he be allowed to retire.

As to the reasons why he criticized Mao’s policies and why he was not purged, we must note that first of all, his speech was made during the peak of the “Hundred Flowers” movement; second, Shen was not a member of the party; and, third, the Ministry of Culture was really controlled by Chou Yang. According to some recent reports, however, Shen has been arrested in the current purge. It is most probable that he was arrested because of the position he expressed in his speech of 1957. During the 1925-27 revolution, I had quite a bit of personal contact with Shen, and so I also knew him very well. He was an extremely cautious man and most likely, in my opinion, he has probably not made any criticism of Mao’s policies since 1957.

Q: Since you said that it was really Chou Yang who controlled the Ministry of Culture and since Chou Yang himself has recently been attacked, what were his ideas and did they conform with those of Shen Yen-ping?

A: Chou Yang’s opinions on literature and art are not only similar to those of Shen Yen-ping, they are much more profound. If we turn only to the article by Yao Wen-yuan, recently published in the Red Flag, no. 1, 1967, “On the Counterrevolutionary Double-dealer Chou Yang,” attacking Chou Yang, we can see what his position is. For example, Yao Wen-yuan very clearly states:

Chou Yang, like Hu Feng, repeatedly advocated the propaganda that “the highest principle of art is truth,” and he was against the “oversimplification and vulgarization,” the conditions placed on writers, and the role of literature as propaganda. Chou Yang considered that “dogmatism” and “sectarianism” and the harsh attitude towards artists and writers has seriously restricted their freedom....

As to the “question of making literature and art serve politics,” there was narrow, one-sided, and incorrect understanding. [Consequently, Chou advocated that] “there should be no limits on subjects and that we should help people see the diversity of the world, the laws of history, and the complex nature of life. . . . Regardless of the subject, it can reflect the spirit of the present period.”

In another article, Chou Yang is quoted as saying:

It is better to describe the intellectuals, technicians, and others from the point of view of the proletariat. However, the working class should not be sectarian; that is, it should not only write about the workers and peasants. The idea that proletarian literature is only about workers .and peasants is not correct.”

Chou Yang was especially against literature and art serving only politics. He also said, “The writers should not only write about current affairs and should not follow the policy put forward today and, then follow a different policy that might be put forward tomorrow.” Commenting on this article in Wen Hui Pao, the Hong Kong liberal Ming Pao Monthly concluded:

In a word, Chou Yang considered that writers should write what they themselves see and according to what they themselves feel, even if what they see and feel does not correspond to the ideas and policies of the party. The writer must be loyal to the facts, to the truth, and to the objective conditions, and write freely what he believes.

Therefore, Chou Yang advocated assuring freedom in the sphere of writing.

Q: If Chou Yang, disagreed with Mao’s policies, why was he allowed to remain as vice-minister of culture, being in fact the real head of the ministry, to carry out Mao’s policies?

A: This is an important question and it is very necessary that it be answered. Under the personal dictatorship of Mao, many leaders and cadres of the party disagreed with his policies, but nevertheless they were forced to carry out Mao’s decisions. Chou Yang was only one of many such cadres and leaders. He often found himself in a contradictory situation, that is, not believing in Mao’s policies and even speaking and writing about his differences, but nevertheless forced to carry out Mao’s line in practice. For example, before the purge of Hu Feng in 1955, during a discussion meeting on Hu Feng’s case, Chou Yang said, “Hu Feng’s general political position is in agreement with the party.” In other words, Chou Yang did not want the case of Hu Feng to become too serious. When Mao ordered Hu Feng to be purged as a reactionary, Chou was obliged to carry out his orders.

In 1957, when Ting Ling, Feng Hstieh-feng, Ai Ch’ing, and the others were attacked, Chou Yang was forced into the same contradictory position as in the case of Hu Feng. It was for this reason that Yao Wen-yuan accused him of being a “double-dealer” or “two-faced counterrevolutionary.” In reality, then, under the pressure of Mao, many cadres were obliged to carry out policies with which they did not agree. This reflects the contradiction between Mao and the cadres of the party of which the present crisis is only a culmination, reaching the point of explosion.

Q: Can Chou Yang’s opinions be considered as exemplary for most of the cadres in the cultural fields?

A: Yes, it seems as though Chou Yang’s opinions reflect most of those of the rank and file. For example, the two other vice-ministers of culture, Hsia Yen and Lin Mo-han, as well as the secretary of the party group heading, the All-China Federation of Literature and Art Circles, Yang Han-sheng, all shared the same opinions as Chou Yang. Yang Han-sheng’s opinions were even more radical than Chou’s, however, and it was for this reason that he has been subjected to harsher criticism than many of the others.

Q: Could you give us some idea of Yang Han-sheng’s opinions?

A: Yes, I can, but first I should give you a few details about his personal history. Yang Han-sheng was also a classmate of mine at Shanghai University in 1923-24. He was at that time a member of the party and was a very active participant in the revolutionary movement. After the defeat of the revolution in 1927, he remained in Shanghai and was active in the underground, and it was during this time that I had much contact with him and his wife. Beginning in 1928, he wrote several novels and afterwards became a very important party cadre in the cultural work of the party.

Because he remained loyal to certain traditions of the party during the second Chinese revolution, he disagreed with the many restrictions which Mao placed upon writers and artists and criticized them very harshly. For example, in 1962, at a meeting of playwrights and actors in Canton, he said:

The party’s policy on literature-and art [that is, Mao’s policy] is equal to ten ropes binding the hands and feet of writers. These ten ropes prove to be five obligations: (1) one must write about important subjects; (2) one must write about heroes and outstanding figures; (3) one must participate in collective writing; (4) one must finish his work in a certain amount of time; (5) one must always have the OK from the party leadership. From these five obligations arise five prohibitions: (1) to write about the contradictions among the people, especially between the masses and the leaders; (2) to write any satirical dramas; (3) to, write any tragedies; (4) to write about the defects and failures of a hero; (5) to write about the weaknesses of any of the party’s leaders. All of this leaves a writer in despair and makes it difficult for him to write, and even when he does write, his work is only repetitious.

In conclusion, he advocated that “it is necessary to do away with all restrictions and to break out of all limitations. We must respect the rule of creativity, that is, freedom for the writers.”

Yang Han-sheng was severely attacked by the Maoists for the above opinions as well as for many other things. In 1957, Yang and T’ien Han went to the USSR for the anniversary of the October revolution. While they were there, they saw many plays, such as The Infinite Perspective and The Bluebird. These two dramas were exposures of the personal cult of Stalin and the purges of his opponents. They portrayed Stalin’s rule to be “like that under the tsars,” and pointed out that “the USSR no longer needs the period of terror.” When Yang Han-sheng and T’ien Han returned to China, Yang said that the actors of the USSR were very “bold”; “we are very timid. We should make the utmost effort to reform, to be bold and creative.” For these things, the Maoists accused Yang of being a “counterrevolutionary revisionist”; yet, in reality, he was only expressing agreement with the de-Stalinization taking place in the Soviet theater. It was this which Mao could not tolerate.

Q: Wu Han, Teng T’o, and T’ien Han are some of China’s most famous writers who not only have been among the first to be attacked but also among those who have been the most severely attacked by the Maoists. Have they ever expressed their opinions on literature and art?

A: Wu Han, Teng T’o, and T’ien Han have, of course, differences with Mao’s policies, but these have never been expressed openly as far as I know. They have, however, written plays and articles in which they have indirectly criticized Mao’s policies and his personal cult and dictatorship. The two plays, Hai Jui Dismissed by Wu Han and Hsieh Yao-huan by T’ien Han, which use historical plots in order to criticize Mao and his policies, are good examples. Teng T’o also wrote many articles in which he indirectly attacked the policy of the People’s Communes as well as Mao’s infallibility. But this was explained in your interview with P’eng Shu-tse, and so it is not necessary for me to repeat it. Here, I would only like to point out that even those who attacked Mao indirectly could not be tolerated by Mao.

Q: Were any of the leaders in the cultural fields, such as Chou Yang, against any of Mao’s other policies?

A: Almost all of those who disagreed on questions of literature and art were also in disagreement with Mao’s overall policy. Since the leaders and cadres working in the cultural fields have frequent contact with writers and artists working directly with the masses, they learn from them the feelings and aspirations of the masses. For example, in a meeting held in Dairen, August 1962, of writers from all over the country, the overwhelming majority of them expressed their dissatisfaction with and criticized the “Great Leap Forward” policy and especially the People’s Communes, as well as Mao’s policies on literature and art. They felt that “the life of the peasants is getting worse and worse,” and “the general line is the psychology of an upstart.” Similarly, “the Great Leap Forward is like a stimulant,” and “the People’s Communes are adventurism.” Chou Yang himself said, “The Great Leap Forward represents subjective idealism.” Again, “the People’s Communes have been established too early.” He even said, “It is good to let the peasants have their own plots,” and he advocated “opening the free market” in the countryside.

The criticisms of the “Great Leap Forward” and the People’s Communes by Chou Yang and the other writers are echoes of the criticism advanced by P’eng Te-huai in 1959. Therefore, in a meeting of the All-China Federation of Literature and Art Circles in June 1964, Mao made an address in which he said that

in the past fifteen years, these associations and most of their publications [a few were said to be good] had for the most part failed ... to carry out the policies of the party ... and failed to reflect the socialist revolution and construction. In recent years, they had even verged on revisionism. If they did not take serious steps to remold themselves, sooner or later, they were bound to become organizations of the Hungarian Petofi Club type.”

From what Mao said, it is clear that he feared the intellectuals in the cultural fields and it is easy to understand why he began the Cultural Revolution and a purge of all those who opposed him. Mao feared an actual development such as the Hungarian revolution of 1956 in China itself, started by similar groups as the Petofi Club and it is for this reason that he began his purge by singling out these cadres in the fields of literature and art.

Q: Why is it that many of the famous educators such as Lu P’ing, president of Peking University, Li Ta, president of Wuhan University, K’uang Ya-ming, president of Nanking University, etc., have been purged? Did they have differences, and possibly refused to carry out Mao’s policies in education?

A: These educators were against Mao’s policies on education. But this is a complicated and difficult question. It would make it much clearer if I would first outline Mao’s attitude toward education.

Since the CCP took power in 1949, Mao has based his educational policies on the principle that “education must serve politics.” Mao often stressed the idea that “students and professors should remold their thought.” Mao compelled the students to attend political lectures and to participate in political discussions and physical work. In other words, his policy was to make Communists out of all the students and to get them to accept and support the party’s policies. The learning of other subjects, Mao does not regard as being important; or, at best, it is only a secondary consideration. Because of such policies, the standards of education have greatly diminished.

In the “Great Leap Forward” program of 1958, Mao put forward the idea of an “educational revolution.” He stressed the idea that “education must be accompanied by productive work.” Under this slogan, the professors as well as the students were sent to the countryside to participate in the work of the People’s Communes, while others were sent to work in the factories, still carrying on their political studies and activities. These conditions led to almost a standstill in the students’ regular studies. This was the situation in 1958-59.

Mao’s policies and their results aroused much dissatisfaction among the professors, teachers, and students. For example, Li Ta said:

The Educational Revolution has destroyed the educational process. The fundamental courses have been torn asunder. The quality of education has been lowered, the methods of teaching. and studying have been disorganized. All the schools controlled by the party have become anarchic. The relations between teachers and students, between the young and old, and between the masses and the party have worsened to the greatest degree.

He also said, “The Educational Revolution in 1958 caused a very bad situation. It destroyed the activities of the intellectuals and hampered their self-respect.”

The crisis described by Li Ta represents the common opinion of the overwhelming majority of educators, professors, teachers, and students. Li Ta was one of the founding members of the CCP and was one of the twelve who attended the founding congress in 1921. He was elected to the Central Committee of the party and became the head of the Central Committee’s Propaganda Department. Sometime afterward, he left the party because he disagreed with the decision that the members of the CCP should join the Kuomintang, although he remained a Marxist. He translated many Marxist books and propagandized the ideas of Marxism in many of his own articles. It is evident that he helped the Marxist movement when he was outside the party.

Since he was a professor and had studied education from a Marxist point of view, including the educational system in the USSR, he became very well known as a Marxist educator. This was why the CCP, after taking power, appointed him as the president of Wuhan University. It was because of his profound knowledge as an educator that he realized the dangers of Mao’s educational policies and criticized them very severely.

Mao’s policy of “educational revolution” met with bankruptcy following the. failure of the “Great Leap Forward.” At the beginning of 1960, Mao was no longer able to maintain his policies and so he temporarily sat back while Liu Shao-ch’i and Teng Hsiao-p’ing took on the responsibility of dealing with the situation. Educational policies, then, were somewhat changed and corrected. First of all, the Central Educational Department published the “Sixty Points of Higher Educational Reforms.” The chief reforms were aimed at encouraging the students to study in their special fields and to make sure that they had the necessary time to do so. The students were supposed to participate in physical work and political activities; however, these things were not supposed to interfere with or be done during the time set aside for study and class. A regular system of teaching and studying was to be reestablished as well as a disciplined relationship between the students and professors. In order to raise the- quality of education, examinations were also to be reinstituted. Many of the students were to be encouraged to take up studies in the scientific fields as well as foreign languages. The schools were no longer supposed to interfere in the love life of the students, nor were they supposed to apply any other inappropriate pressures. Attention was also to be brought to the health of the students and to their welfare in general.

The Peking municipal government, headed by P’eng Chen, carried out these new reforms very enthusiastically and-elaborated a series of concrete measures to implement them. For example, it was stated that

students and teachers should not be demanded to learn politics too quickly, nor should any time be taken away from their regular studies for political activities. The teachers must know and teach their subjects as well as possible and the students must learn their lessons as well as they can. The use of abstract political ideas and terms, empty preaching, and long political reports must be avoided.

The president of Peking University, Lu P’ing, from 1961 completely abandoned the “educational revolution” policy and turned the university into an experiment for the new education reforms. He lowered the amount of time required for physical labor and political activity and made sure the students had adequate time to study their particular subjects. Hence the students of Peking University were much better off after 1961-62.

Lu Ping also advanced the slogan, “Learn from the USSR,” that is, China should also try to copy some of the educational policies in some of the Western countries; and he advocated inviting the old professors who had been expelled in the past years to return to their teaching posts. Li Ta, K’uang Ya-ming and many of the other educators carried out similar reforms. Thus the universities and colleges succeeded in returning to normal and constructive educational practices. This educational reform, in the eyes of Mao Tse-tung, was an absolute negation of his own policies of “education serving politics” and “education combined with productive labor,” and he considered it to be a “revisionist educational line” or the “restoration of bourgeois educational policies.” With this he deliberately prepared to purge those who were responsible for these reforms.

On June 13, 1966, Mao published a notice in the name of the Central Committee of the CCP and the State Council. This document is a concrete manifestation of the purge in the educational field and contains two major points:

1. All universities and middle schools were ordered closed for six months in order to “carry out thoroughly the Cultural Revolution.” In reality, this meant to “carry out thoroughly” a purge in all the universities and middle schools. Following publication of the notice, there was a furious struggle and all Mao’s opponents in the universities and middle schools came under attack and were purged.

2. Almost all opponents were attacked by the students as they carried out Mao’s orders, resulting in the purge of such people as Lu P’ing; Li Ta; K’uang Ya-ming; P’eng Kang, president of the University of Communications in Sian; Ho Lu-ting, president of the Music College in Shanghai; and Chiang Nan-tsen, president of Tsinghua University in Peking. As for the professors, the purge is difficult to estimate; however, from all reports, it seems as though the number would run into many thousands.

The People’s Daily held that the most important question was to see “whether we shall pass on Mao Tse-tung’s thought from generation to generation.” This is comparable to the religious attitude towards the Bible, and Mao’s “cultural revolutionary educational” reforms come close to paralleling the educational methods of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages.

Q: What, in your opinion, will be the outcome of the “Cultural Revolution”? That is, what do you think will be the overall influence and effect of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” on Chinese culture?

A: Mao’s purge has included almost all those cadres working in the Central Propaganda Department, the Central Cultural Ministry, the All-China Federation of Literature and Art Circles, the All-China Union of Stage Artists, National Federation of Film Workers, and the National Federation of News Workers, as well as writers, musicians, painters, educators, professors, etc., who are the embodiment of China’s culture. To purge them means to destroy China’s culture. I will only point out here two indisputable examples of what Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” means concretely to Chinese culture.

1. Since Mao launched the “Cultural Revolution” in May 1966, most writers have not dared to write anything. The publication of most cultural magazines has stopped, film-making has almost come to a standstill; the publication and republication of many books of foreign origin and even many by Chinese authors has been terminated; many cinemas and theaters have ceased to operate. In other words, almost all cultural activities no longer exist.

2. Since all the middle schools and universities were closed in June 1966, not one university has reopened and it was only last March that a part of the middle schools began to reopen in such places as Peking and Tientsin. Even before the “Cultural Revolution” and Mao’s purge, there was a great lack of teachers and professors; now, of course, there are even fewer. The worst part is that from the elementary schools to the universities there is a chronic shortage of textbooks, since almost the whole printing establishment has been given over to printing the works of Mao Tse-tung. For example, in the last half year, fifteen million Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung have been produced, each containing four large volumes, as well as eighty million Quotations from Mao Tse-tung. In addition to this, another eighty million copies of the. Selected Works have been scheduled for publication this year. Nearly all other books, therefore, such as textbooks, literature, and even the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin have ceased to be printed. Generally, then, I can say that not only have cultural activities stagnated since Mao launched his “Cultural Revolution,” but China’s culture is being destroyed to the point of disaster.

Finally, I would like to say that the “Proletarian Cultural Revolution” is theoretically absurd. When the proletariat takes power in a country, its greatest task is to overthrow the remaining capitalists in the world and complete the socialist revolution. Before the world capitalist class has been destroyed, it is impossible to construct a real proletarian culture. However, after the world socialist revolution has been completed, the proletariat itself will begin to disappear; that is, classes and, of course, class antagonisms will begin to disappear. It is at this point, then, that socialist culture will begin naturally to establish itself. Therefore, it is in no way necessary to establish a proletarian culture. Mao’s launching of the “Cultural Revolution” is not only theoretically absurd, it is also foolish from a practical point of view. The socioeconomic base in China is so backward that there are many areas which remain in a state of primitive production. As for culture, the majority of the peasantry remain illiterate along with almost half the working class. If under these conditions, to launch a “proletarian cultural revolution” in order to establish “Four News”—new culture, new ideas, new habits, and new customs—does not display ignorance, then it reveals illusions and foolish idealism.

If Mao really intended to raise the cultural level of the workers and peasants, he should have started by eliminating the illiteracy of the masses. In order to achieve this, it would, first of all, be necessary to increase the standard of living of the masses, that is, increase their pay and decrease their hours. of work. It would be necessary to let them have time and energy to study and to participate in cultural activities. Mao’s policy is, however, just the contrary, demanding that the workers and peasants work longer hours with no improvement in their living standards. Mao’s recent campaign against “economism” and his refusal to grant any concessions to the working class show his attitude quite clearly; that is, the working class should serve only as instruments of production in the interests of the bureaucracy.

In reality it can be said that Mao utilized the label of “proletarian” only in order to rationalize his attack and to purge his opposition under the accusation of “taking the capitalist road.”

However, we can see that Mao has not attacked the real capitalist and bourgeois elements still existing in China. This in itself is enough to prove that Mao’s “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” is nothing more than a purge which he is. carrying out in order to maintain his own bureaucratic rule and personal cult.


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