Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Building for the Mao Memorials

Unprecedented Campaign Sweeps Country

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First Published: Revolution, Vol. 3, No. 13, October 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The political work to build the Mao Tsetung Memorial Month, particularly the big Memorial Meetings in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area, represents the greatest campaign of open communist propaganda in the U.S. in decades–perhaps ever, if one takes into account its qualitative as well as quantitative aspects. The campaign boldly proclaimed the necessity and inevitability of proletarian revolution to the masses of people in the U.S. It was a clarion call to revolutionaries who want to mobilize the masses to overthrow the bourgeoisie and transform society. It forcefully upheld the most advanced revolutionary experience of the international working class, China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and the immortal contributions of Mao Tsetung to the theory and practice of proletarian revolution.

At a time when Mao Tsetung and the Cultural Revolution are coming under attack, at a time when the revisionist rulers in China have entombed his body in a massive sarcophagus while they trample on all that he stood for, millions of people throughout the U.S. saw striking posters declaring him the greatest revolutionary of our time. At a time when the U.S. bourgeoisie is extolling the revisionist takeover in China, crowing that even in China, for a generation a beacon and bastion of world revolution, “moderates” had now come to power to undo what Mao had done and using this to spread cynicism and demoralization among the masses about the possibility of carrying through the revolution to build a new type of society–precisely at this point, revolutionaries stepped forward to uphold Mao’s revolutionary banner.

From coast-to-coast over a hundred thousand large posters announcing the Memorial Meetings were plastered on walls, bridges and telephone poles. Hundreds of thousands of leaflets, explaining the role of Mao, the so-called “gang of four” and other revolutionaries in China were passed out at factories, schools, shopping centers and in the communities. From Atlanta to Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, giant pictures of Mao Tsetung dramatically appeared on billboards, proclaiming the slogans of the campaign and calling on people to attend the Memorial Meetings.

It was not a matter of promoting and taking out Mao Tsetung as some sort of religious icon, any more than the hatred and derision directed at him by the imperialists and revisionists has been simply aimed at Mao as an individual. What they detest and what the working class and revolutionary people of the world cherish is what Mao Tsetung was, what he represented: a relentless revolutionary, an implacable opponent of all those, whether the old exploiting classes or the new bourgeois elements that grow up under socialism, who try to prevent or divert the working class from carrying out its historic mission of eliminating the basis of the exploitation of man by man and achieving classless society.

Storm of Controversy

The campaign generated a storm of controversy. All over the country the bourgeoisie was forced to comment on the campaign while trying to slander and ridicule it. “Mao alive, causing trouble in San Jose,” read a story on the massive postering campaign in San Jose, California. “Mao Posters Making Greenville Folks Curious” said an AP dispatch from South Carolina. “Maoists warned not to paste posters on state’s property” announced a Schenectady, N.Y. newspaper and “Schenectady woman fighting to keep Mao’s Spirit Alive.” Similar stories appeared in the bourgeois press from Seattle to El Paso and West Virginia.

Among the masses of people the campaign struck a responsive chord. As Party cadre and members of the Mao Tsetung Memorial Committee took literature tables into the communities and college campuses and did street corner agitation, they found many people eager to discuss what was going on in China and the question of revolution in the U.S. At hundreds of plant gates where photo displays on Mao’s contributions to the liberation of the people in China and the struggle to continue the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat were set up, workers checked out the display carefully and peppered Party and committee members with questions.

Particularly in Black communities many people were encountered who not only knew of Mao and identified him with the revolutionary aspirations of the people, but often would recall the mass upsurge of the ’60s and say that they still had a copy of the Quotations of Mao Tsetung at home which they had bought when the Black Panthers were promoting Mao.

On more than one occasion, people out building for the Memorial Meeting met ex-prisoners who told of discussion groups in the joint where people incarcerated by the capitalist system had studied Mao. And time and again they met people from among the masses who expressed the sentiment that something was obviously very different now in China than when Mao was alive–and that it didn’t smell very good. One worker, for example, said that while he didn’t know a lot about China or communism, he knew that Mao was one heavy revolutionary. He expressed disgust at the “moderates” now in power in China and as he put it: “All this talk about ’moderates and moderation’ in China now.. . Hell, I know one thing, ’moderate’ is the last thing you could call revolution and communism.”

Scores of letters were received from people around the country who had seen the posters and who wanted more information about the Memorial Meetings, Mao and the RCP. One woman wrote from Southern California: “I noted your sign on the bus seat in front of a bus stop this morning and was overwhelmed by the article, can you send me some information on Mao Tsetung.” Another letter, from Birmingham, Alabama asked for information regarding the meetings and said: “All of your posters in this area have been torn down. You might notify your people to replace these.”

Getting Out the Word

And no question about it, the postering was clearly a part of the class struggle. The opportunist sycophants of the Chinese revisionists, the U.S. bourgeoisie and their agents, and all stripes of petty reactionaries were incensed at this bold campaign to uphold Mao, the Cultural Revolution and the revolutionaries in China. People paid by the Kuomintang, police, and the Moonies, and those like the CPML or the Mensheviks who split from the RCP, as well as various independent slime, crept round with scrapers and cans of spray paint to deface and tear down the posters. But even this tended to backfire on them, creating more interest among many people who saw literally thousands of defaced posters and asked: Why are these posters being ripped up when hundreds of others hang on poles and walls for months and years?

In one incident in San Jose, members of the Memorial Committee had been out postering and discovered a religious freak who had been tailing behind them, spraying over the posters. They confronted him and a heated argument ensued. As this jerk was yelling that the Committee and Party members were completely isolated from the people, a young Chicano Vietnam veteran stepped up and told him: “Look, my people have been oppressed for 200 years in this country. We are forced to go to Vietnam and fight and when we come back what do we get except unemployment and more oppression. What these people are doing is right!” When the religious nut continued to rail against the posters and Mao, the vet became so angry he stepped up and punched him in the face.

In Portland, Oregon, where a billboard company that had agreed to put up the advertisements for the Memorial Meetings refused when they saw the content, and in Boston where the city transit officials at first refused to put ads in the subways, the Memorial Committee mobilized demonstrations and press conferences and forced them to back down.

Taking the campaign out so widely and thoroughly among the masses helped create a certain climate of opinion among advanced workers, consciously revolutionary-minded people and those who had interest in China on one level or another that the developments there were essential issues that cannot be ignored or swept under the rug. And increasingly it became clear to more and more that the Mao Tsetung Memorial Meetings would be major events, presenting a serious and documented expose of the revisionist takeover in China.

This was demonstrated effectively at the U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association Convention held in San Francisco the week before the Mao Tsetung Memorial Meeting. The careerists and opportunists who have entrenched themselves firmly in the executive offices of this once important organization and who, following the lead of their business partners in Peking, have set out as some opposing them put it to make it a modern, powerful tourist agency before the year 2000, were bound and determined to prevent any serious discussion of the revisionist coup at the convention. As the article on the convention in this issue of Revolution describes, they failed.

Opportunists Boycott

At first the various revisionist and opportunist groups, like the CPML and their friends the Mensheviks tried simply to ignore this campaign to defend Mao and his revolutionary legacy. But as they saw that it was actually becoming a broad mass issue and whether or not to go to the meetings was an important question for many, they began to move actively to try to dissuade people from attending, to boycott these meetings because “they would only build the RCP.” Of course they would like nothing better than to see the party of the working class disappear–and didn’t want Mao’s line propagated.

In New York, where 1100 people attended the Memorial Meeting on September 9, for months the Mensheviks had been telling people that the RCP had ceased to exist. But what they feared most was that large numbers of honest, revolutionary-minded people and those who had developed a keen interest in revolutionary China would come to hear a clear and straight for analysis of Mao’s line and the reactionary coup pulled off after his death. Since they have proved themselves unable to do anything but parrot the latest revisionism appearing in the pages of Peking Review and incapable of presenting a coherent political defense of Hua, Teng and Co.’s wholesale attack on Mao and Mao Tsetung Thought or a political response to the line of the RCP, they wanted to insure that as few people as possible heard what the Party had to say, most particularly their own cadre.

Chinese Revisionists Fear Exposure

The revisionists in China were most worried and also a bit more astute in assessing the significance of these events from the beginning. When the Chinese Performing Arts Troupe appeared in the San Francisco Bay Area in August with its raggedy act of Monsters, Ghosts and Talents, the RCP and the Memorial Committee greeted them with signs, leaflets and banners proudly hailing Mao Tsetung and the lessons and achievements of the Cultural Revolution. In one amusing incident, as the bus carrying the troupe pulled up in front of the theater the actors applauded the people outside holding up a banner of Mao with the slogan upholding Mao and the Cultural Revolution–until the banner was translated for them. When this part on the achievements and lessons of the Cultural Revolution was read they quickly stopped applauding.

The revisionists in China, of course, were not at all amused at any of this–particularly the leaflets passed out at the performances pointing out the differences between what was being presented on the stage and the revolutionary cultural performances developed under Mao’s line and the leadership of his wife Chiang Ching. They had long since targeted the RCP as an “enemy line” in the U.S. and set about a vicious campaign of intimidation to keep people from attending the Memorial Meetings. In the Chinese communities in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, tremendous pressure was put on overseas Chinese and foreign students. The word was put out that anyone who attended might well risk forsaking any future trips to China to visit family and friends or returning to “make a contribution to the motherland” someday.

In other petty actions, China Books and Periodicals, which has long viewed itself as “China’s distribution arm” in the U.S., has gone all out to prevent anyone they consider to be associated with the RCP from obtaining quantities of Marxist-Leninist books, flatly refusing to sell them these books. The Party and its supporters have long been the major outlet for the distribution of this literature among the masses, but China Books, of course, is not at all interested in the distribution of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought, instead basing their business on expensive art and tourist books and trinkets. While they cannot openly stop distributing the Marxist classics at this point, China Books would rather keep them entombed on their shelves than let revolutionaries get their hands on them and take them out to the masses.

Supporters of the revisionists in San Francisco’s Chinatown have also tried to mount a boycott of Everybody’s Bookstore, for years the center of Marxist-Leninist classics, books on the Asian-American movement and Party literature in that community. And Hong Kong publishing companies tied to China for which Everybody’s has been a distributor of magazines and newspapers have recently cut off shipments without notice–along with a cutoff by the official Chinese publishing house, Guozi Shudian. Once again, unable to silence Marxist-Leninists politically, they resort to capitalist methods of economic blackmail.

But despite all the lame and ineffectual efforts of the Hua-Teng gang and their stooges in the U.S., the Mao Tsetung Memorial meetings were carried off quite successfully and had a great impact. In fact, in San Francisco’s Chinatown the line of the RCP on China has become a major, if not the major, political question being discussed among progressive minded people. And while many people are not yet united around this line, there is great interest in studying it further.

Other Meetings Held

Throughout the rest of the month of September, after the two major Memorial Meetings, a series of meetings were held in cities all over the country to explain further and go deeper into the Party’s position and to carry the defense of Mao, the Four and the revolutionaries in China to still more people. These meetings were marked by lively discussion and struggle, as people strived to get a deeper understanding of the developments in China and Mao’s revolutionary line. And in several areas smaller-scale Memorial Meetings were built at which the Party speech delivered in New York and San Francisco was delivered. Denver, Albuquerque, Tucson, Arizona, and St. Louis were the sites of some of these meetings.

A memorial meeting was also held in Hawaii on September 24 which was attended by over 100 people. In Hawaii, as elsewhere, the campaign to build the meeting involved a sharp struggle against class enemies. At the University of Hawaii the campus administration, while claiming that they had nothing against the revolutionary politics of the RCP, used the excuse of “illegal postering” to ban the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade from the campus and extend the ban to any literature associated with the Party.

These attacks helped the Party and the Mao Memorial Committee to raise real questions among the students and faculty about what the RCP had to say on China that was so feared by the administration. And the ban was defied as the Committee, the RCYB and the Party carried out a militant and “illegal” march on campus, carrying copies of Mao’s red book and chanting slogans such as “Up with the Gang of Four!” and “Mao Makes Five!”

Over a decade ago Mao Tsetung said that if the revisionists and reactionaries in China should ever seize power, it was the duty of Marxist-Leninists throughout the world to stand with the people of China to expose and oppose them. The Party has taken this duty seriously and has built the Mao Memorial Month along with other revolutionary-minded people as boldly and broadly as possible.

This duty will not end with the Memorial Month. The scale of the past months of concentrated political work was clearly demanded by the great significance of the reversal in China. The events of the month as well as the campaign to build them have boldly and clearly raised the banner of Mao and Mao Tsetung Thought and have played a key role in rallying significant numbers of people around this banner.