Ch'en Pi-Lan

The New Developments in the Chinese Situation

Written: 1969
Source: International Information Bulletin, Number 8, May 1969. Published as a fraternal courtesy to the United Secretariat of the Fourth International by the (US) Socialist Workers Party
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.

Before discussing the draft resolution on China, I should like to provide the comrades with certain materials which should help them to understand the present situation. I will limit myself to the period between April and July, 1968, during which huge clashes took place throughout China and to the important events since last September. (We have dealt with the important previous events in a series of interviews. See especially the interview “The Relationship and Differences Between Mao Tse-tung and Liu Shao-chi,” Internal Bulletin of the United Secretariat, No. 8, Vol. 1968; or International Information Bulletin published by the SWP, January 1969, Part 2.)

Since Mao organized the Red Guards to seize power in early January 1967, no part of China has been spared the spectacle of huge and brutal clashes between the different factions and tendencies. It is specifically these clashes which characterize the dramatic and new stage in the so-called cultural revolution. The high point of these sanguinary events took place between April and July, 1968, mainly in the provinces of Kwangsi, Kwangtung, Yunnan, Tibet, Sinkiang, and Fukien. The scale of these clashes could in reality be considered as a local civil war. For example, in Kwangsi, the Red Guards were divided into two different groups. One called itself “The 22nd of April Rebel Army,” the cadres of which were composed of students, a few workers and some army units, and was under the direct leadership of the Cultural Revolutionary Group in Peking. The other referred to itself as the “Kwangsi United Rebel Headquarters,” the cadres of which were composed mainly of workers and peasants, army units, party functionaries, and students. This latter group was organized and controlled behind the scenes by the first Kwangsi provincial secretary, Wie Hue-tsing, as well as by a top army commander. The struggle between these two groups reached the crucial state in a clash during May in Wo Chuo. The most modern weapons were used—from modern rifles and machine guns to heavy artillery and tanks—by both sides, which left thousands of dead and wounded from each group. According to reports published in the Angry West River Tide (Si Kiang Lu Chow) put out by “The 22nd of April Rebel Army” group, their side suffered several thousands killed and wounded, more than 3,000 captured, of whom 317 were executed. They also reported that over 2,000 homes were destroyed. Similar battles also took place in other Kwangsi cities, such as Lanlin, Liuchow, and Kweilin, as well as in those provinces I noted earlier. For example in the province of Yunnan, the Kunming (capital of the province) army commander Tang Fu-jen said on July 3, 1968, in his personal report to Mao in Peking that over 30,000 had been killed throughout the province of Yunnan. Mao replied that he estimated the number to be closer to 80,000. “According to the local papers,” Mao said, “160,000 were killed. This is perhaps exaggerated. I would judge that at least 80,000 have been killed.” (People’s Daily.)

As a result of the serious situation I have just described, Mao was forced to take certain measures to alleviate his precarious position. First, on July 3, 1968, an emergency order was published, and then on July 24, an emergency appeal was issued. These demanded immediate cessation of all struggles between the different Red Guard and workers’ groups. At the same time, army detachments from Peking were sent to such areas as Kwangsi, Yunnan, Fukien, and Sinkiang in order to intervene in the struggle. It was only in this way that Mao was able to put a stop to the local civil-war situation. Mao also demanded that the revolutionary committees be established in the five remaining provinces of Kwangsi, Yunnan, Tibet, Fukien, and Sinkiang, as well as in their principal cities.

Here we should point out first that the so-called revolutionary committees were either directly controlled or dominated by army officials, and secondly that the leaders of the different participating groups included many of Mao’s opposition, to whom Mao was forced to make concessions. Formally, then, the struggle between the opposing groups, under the signpost of the so-called cultural revolution, was thus terminated. The activities of all Red Guard and workers’ groups ceased; the students returned to the schools and the workers and peasants to their jobs.

Due to the above serious struggles, Mao saw that not only were the student Red Guards no longer useful to him, but that they actually threatened his own position. Therefore, last September he began to take certain measures to purge the dissident elements among the students. First he demanded that the revolutionary committees throughout the country establish “workers’ Mao Tse-tung’s thought propaganda teams” with those worker elements who were loyal to Mao. These teams were then sent into the schools and colleges along with army units in order to carry out “the tasks of struggle-criticism-transformation” and a “revolution in education” (Peking Review, No. 44, 1968, p. 12). Whereas Mao began by purging the party with the students, he now used certain worker elements to purge the students. These so-called worker propaganda teams entered the schools and colleges under the protection of the army and replaced the normal curriculum and instructors. The classrooms were transformed into discussions of the students’ own history, ideas, and experiences—especially those during the so-called cultural revolution—self-criticism and criticism of others. At the same time the members of the “workers’ propaganda teams” gave lectures on Mao’s thought and led the teachers and students in discussions of Mao’s thought. This is what the Maoist propaganda refers to as the “educational revolution.” Such a situation has created much discontent and aroused much resentment on the part of many teachers and students who, nevertheless, are powerless in face of the army which protects the propaganda teams. The atmosphere and position of many of the teachers and students are intolerable.

This “struggle-criticism-transformation” movement is in reality a mass purge in the schools and colleges. Thousands of students and teachers have been sent to work in the countryside, factories, mines, and even to desolate frontier regions. The Chinese specialists in Hong Kong estimate that at least two million students and teachers have been subjected to this fate.

The purge in the schools, however, only reflects the purge being carried out by Mao in Chinese society as a whole. These same “workers’ propaganda teams” have been sent into “all spheres of the superstructure.” That is, Mao’s loyal followers have gone into all the cultural organizations, government, and administrative offices, etc., in order to carry out the so-called struggle-criticism-transformation movement, i.e., to purge those elements who were against Mao’s so-called cultural revolution and even those who did not actively participate in it. Most of these people made up the cadres of the old party or youth. Their fate has been the same as the students and teachers I described earlier. The estimation in Hong Kong is that around six million of the old party cadres have been dismissed and sent to the countryside, frontier regions, etc.

The purges being carried out by Mao have two essential purposes. One is to drive out the student and teacher oppositions in the schools and colleges in order to obviate struggles both inside and outside the schools and colleges. The second is to purge all those who are now loyal Maoists in the different organizations, the administrative offices, the government offices, etc., not only to obviate struggles, but also to open the way for the Ninth Congress, that is, reestablishing the Chinese Communist party under Mao’s absolute control. In the long run, of course, such policies as Mao is carrying out in China’s educational institutions cannot be successful, because they destroy education itself. There also exists a very good possibility of those banned elements organizing the masses, with whom they have been ordered to work, against Mao and his faction.


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