[This issue of Peking Review is from massline.org. Massline.org has kindly given us permission to to place these documents on the MIA. We made only some formatting changes to make them congruent with our style sheets. Note from massline.org: This article is reprinted from Peking Review , Vol. 9, #18, April 29, 1966, pp. 5-8. Thanks are due to the WWW.WENGEWANG.ORG web site for some of the work done for this posting.]
Following is a translation of a “Jiefangjun Bao” (Liberation Army Daily) editorial of April 18.— Ed.
CHAIRMAN Mao Tse-tung has taught us that classes and class struggle still exist in socialist society. Chairman Mao has said that in China “the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the class struggle between the different political forces, and the class struggle in the ideological field between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie will continue to be long and tortuous and at times will even become very acute.” The struggle to uphold the proletarian ideology and to eradicate the bourgeois ideology on the cultural front is an important aspect of the class struggle between two classes (the proletariat and the bourgeoisie), between two roads (the socialist road and the capitalist road) and between two ideologies (the proletarian ideology and the bourgeois ideology). The proletariat seeks to change the world according to its world outlook, and so does the bourgeoisie. Socialist culture should serve the workers, peasants and soldiers, should serve proletarian politics, should serve the consolidation and development of the socialist system and its gradual transition to communism. Bourgeois and revisionist culture serves the bourgeoisie, landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements and Rightists, to prepare the way for the return of capitalism. If the proletariat does not occupy the cultural position, it is bound to be occupied by the bourgeoisie. This is a sharp class struggle. Since the remnant forces of the bourgeoisie in our country still remain a factor to be reckoned with, since we still have a fairly large number of bourgeois intellectuals, and since the influence of bourgeois ideology is still fairly strong and their methods of fighting us have become increasingly insidious, indirect and underhand, we shall find it difficult to see the struggle that is going on and may fall victim to the sugar-coated bullets of the bourgeoisie or we may even lose our position, if we slacken our vigilance or relax in the least. In this respect, the issue of which will win, socialism or capitalism, is not yet settled. The struggle is inevitable. Failure to handle it properly may give rise to revisionism.
Our People’s Liberation Army, the people’s armed forces created and led by the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman Mao, is the most loyal tool of the Party and the people, and the mainstay of our proletarian dictatorship. It has always played an important role in the revolutionary cause of the proletariat, and it should continue to do so in this great socialist cultural revolution. We must acquire a deeper understanding of the class struggle in the ideological field. We must together with all the people of our country raise high the great red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s thinking and unswervingly carry the socialist cultural revolution through to the end and make the literary and art work of our armed forces play a great role in putting politics first and in promoting the revolutionization of the people.
The past 16 years have witnessed a sharp class struggle on the cultural front.
In both stages of our revolution, the new democratic stage and the socialist stage, there has existed a struggle between two classes and two lines on the cultural front, ie., the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie for leadership on this front. In the history of our Party, the struggles against “Left” and Right opportunism also included struggles between the two lines on the cultural front.
Wang Ming’s line was a bourgeois trend which once played havoc within our Party. In the rectification movement which started in 1942, Chairman Mao first gave a thorough theoretical refutation of Wang Ming’s political, military and organizational lines, immediately following this up with a thorough theoretical refutation of the cultural line represented by Wang Ming. Chairman Mao’s On New Democracy and Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art are the most complete, the most comprehensive and the most systematic historical summaries of this struggle between the two lines on the cultural front; they carry on and develop the Marxist-Leninist world outlook and theory on literature and art.
After our revolution entered the socialist stage, a series of important struggles on the cultural front was waged under the direct leadership of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman Mao Tse-tung, struggles such as the criticism of the film Life of Wu Hsun, the criticism of the book Studies on the “Dream of the Red Chamber,” the struggle against the Hu Feng counter-revolutionary clique, the struggle against the Rightists, as well as the great socialist cultural revolution of the last three years. Chairman Mao’s two works On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People and Speech at the Chinese Communist Party’s National Conference on Propaganda Work are the most recent summaries of the historical experience of the movements for revolutionary ideology and literature and art in China and other countries; they represent a new development of the Marxist-Leninist world outlook and theory on literature and art.
These four brilliant works form an important part of the great thinking of Mao Tse-tung; they represent the highest peak of today’s Marxist-Leninist world outlook and theory on literature and art; they are the supreme guide for our work of literature and art, enough to serve our proletariat for a long time.
In the 16 years since the founding of our People’s Republic, there exists in our literary and art circles an anti-Party, anti-socialist black line running counter to Mao Tse-tung’s thinking. This black line is a conglomeration of bourgeois and modern revisionist ideas on literature and art, and of what is called the literature and art of the 1930s. These views are represented by such theories as those of “truthful writing,” “the wide path of realism,” “the deepening of realism,” “middle characters,” “compounding the spirit of the age,” and of opposition to “subject matter as the decisive factor” and opposition to “what smells of gunpowder.” Most of these ideas have been repudiated in Chairman Mao’s Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art. In the field of films there are people who advocate “discarding the classics and rebelling against orthodoxy,” in other words discarding the “classics” of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Tse-tung’s thinking and rebelling against the “orthodoxy” of the people’s revolutionary war. This reactionary bourgeois and modern revisionist trend has influenced or controlled much of our literature and art so that when we look at post-liberation works about the people’s war, the people’s armed forces and other military subjects, we find only a small number of good or basically sound works truly praising our revolutionary heroes, serving the workers, peasants and soldiers, and serving socialism; many works are somewhere in the middle; while some are anti-Party, anti-socialist poisonous weeds. Some works distort the historical facts, concentrating on the portrayal of erroneous lines instead of the correct lines; some describe heroic characters who violate discipline, or create heroes only to make them die in an artificially tragic ending. Some works do not present heroic characters but only “middle” characters who are actually backward, vilifying the image of the workers, peasants and soldiers; in depicting the enemy, they fail to expose the class nature of the enemy as exploiter and oppressor of the people, and even go so far as to prettify him. Then there are other works concerned only with love and romance, pandering to low tastes, claiming that “love” and “death” are eternal themes. All such bourgeois, revisionist trash must be resolutely opposed.
The struggle between the two lines on the literary and art front in the society is bound to be reflected in the armed forces, for these do not exist in a vacuum and cannot be an exception to the rule. Our armed forces are the chief instrument of the proletarian dictatorship. Without the people’s armed forces led by the Party our revolution could not have triumphed, there could be no proletarian dictatorship or socialism, and the people would have gained nothing. Inevitably, then, the enemy would try by every means to sabotage us from all sides; and inevitably they would use art and literature as a weapon to corrupt us. We must be very much on our guard against this. However, not everybody shares this view. Some claim that the problem of the direction of literature and art in our armed forces is already solved, that what remains is mainly the problem of raising our artistic level. This mistaken view is most pernicious and is not based on concrete analysis. In fact, some of the literature and art of our armed forces are taking the right direction and have reached a comparatively high artistic level; some are taking the right direction but the artistic level is low; some have serious defects or mistakes in both the political orientation and artistic form; and some are simply anti-Party, anti-socialist poisonous weeds. During the great upheavals in the class struggles on the literary and art front since liberation, some literary and art workers in the army have failed to pass the test, committing minor or serious mistakes. This shows that the literary and art work in the armed forces has also been influenced to a greater or lesser degree by the anti-Party, anti-socialist black line. We must in accordance with the instructions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and Chairman Mao Tse-tung, take an active part in the great socialist revolution on the cultural front, thoroughly eradicate this black line and completely liquidate its influence on the armed forces. After we are rid of this black line others may appear, and the struggle must go on. This is an arduous, complex, long-term struggle which will take dozens of years, perhaps centuries. It is vital for the revolutionizing of our armed forces, for the future of our revolution and for the future of the world revolution that we unswervingly carry the great socialist cultural revolution through to the end.
Since September 1962, when Chairman Mao at the Tenth Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee of the Party called upon the whole Party and the entire Chinese people never to forget classes and class struggle, the struggle to uphold the proletarian ideology and eradicate the bourgeois ideology on the cultural front has further developed.
The last three years have seen a new phase in the great socialist cultural revolution. The most outstanding example of this is the emergence of Peking operas on revolutionary, contemporary themes. Those working to reform Peking opera, led by the Central Committee of the Party and Chairman Mao and armed with Marxism-Leninism and Mao Tse-tung’s thinking, have launched a heroic and tenacious offensive against the literature and art of feudal class, bourgeoisie and modern revisionism. This attack has radically revolutionized Peking opera, formerly the most stubborn stronghold, both in ideological content and artistic form, and this has started a revolutionary change in literary and art circles. Peking operas with revolutionary, contemporary themes like The Red Signal Lantern, Shachiapang, Capturing the Tiger Mountain and Raid on the White Tiger Regiment, the ballet Red Detachment of Women, the symphony Shachiapang and the sculptures Compound Where Rent Was Collected have all won favour with the broad masses of workers, peasants and soldiers, and enthusiastically acclaimed by Chinese and foreign audiences. This unprecedented achievement will have a profound, far-reaching impact on our socialist cultural revolution. It effectively proves that even the most stubborn stronghold, Peking opera, can be taken by storm and revolutionized, that foreign classical art forms like the ballet, symphonic music and sculpture can also be remoulded to serve our purpose; and this should give us even more confidence in revolutionizing other forms of art. At the same time these successes deal a powerful blow at various conservatives and at such views as the “box-office value” theory, the “foreign currency value” theory and the theory that “revolutionary works cannot go abroad.”
Another outstanding feature of the great socialist cultural revolution in the past three years is the widespread mass activities of workers, peasants and soldiers on the ideological, literary and art fronts. Workers, peasants and soldiers are now writing many fine philosophical articles which express Mao Tse-tung’s thinking in a practical way; they are also producing many fine works of literature and art to praise the great victory in our socialist revolution, the big leap forward on various fronts of our socialist construction, our now heroic characters, and the brilliant leadership of our great Party and our great leader Chairman Mao. The flood of poems by workers, peasants and soldiers which appears on wall-newspapers and blackboard news, is especially noteworthy as both in content and form these poems represent an entirely new age.
During these few years there have been very healthy developments in the cultural work of our armed forces too. Since Comrade Lin Piao took charge of the affairs of the Military Commission of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, he has paid great attention to literary and art work and given us many important instructions. The Resolution on Strengthening Political and Ideological Work in the Armed Forces passed at the enlarged meeting of the Military Commission in 1960, clearly specifies that literary and art work in the armed forces “must be closely linked with the tasks and ideological situation of the armed forces, to serve the cause of upholding proletarian ideology and eradicating bourgeois ideology, consolidating and improving the fighting strength.” Most of our literary and art workers in the armed forces have put politics first, have creatively studied and applied the works of Chairman Mao, lived with the basic armed units or in the countryside and factories, taken an active part in the socialist education movement, linked themselves with the workers, peasants and soldiers, further steeled themselves and remoulded their ideology, and raised their level of proletarian consciousness. As a result they have produced some good plays like On Guard Beneath the Neon Lights, excellent novels like Song of Ouyang Hai, and some fairly good reportage, soldiers’ songs, music, dances and works of fine art. A number of promising writers have emerged.
Of course, these are merely the first fruits of our socialist cultural revolution, the first step in a long march of ten thousand li. In order to safeguard and improve on this achievement, to carry the socialist cultural revolution on to the end, we must go all out for a long period of time. The literary and art workers of our armed forces must do their best to make a worthy contribution.
To create a new socialist literature and art, we must produce good models, and leading comrades must see to this themselves. Only when we have good models and successful experience in producing them will our arguments prove convincing, and will we be able to consolidate the position we have occupied.
We should have the courage to blaze new trails, to uphold what is new — socialism, and to establish what is distinctive — the proletariat. The basic task of socialist literature and art is to strive to create heroic characters of workers, peasants and soldiers armed with Mao Tse-tung’s thinking. Chairman Mao has pointed out: “If you are a bourgeois writer or artist, you will eulogize not the proletariat but the bourgeoisie, and if you are a proletarian writer or artist, you will eulogize not the bourgeoisie but the proletariat and working people: it must be one or the other.” So the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie on the literary and art front centres on which class to eulogize, which class to portray heroes from, and men of which class to place in the ruling position in works of literature and art. Here lies the demarcation line between the literature and art of different classes.
The fine qualities of the heroic characters who have appeared among the workers, peasants and soldiers nurtured by Mao Tse-tung’s thinking are the epitome of the proletarian class character. We should go all out to create heroic images of workers, peasants and soldiers. We should create types and not restrict ourselves to real persons and real events. Chairman Mao has said: “Life as reflected in works of literature and art can and ought to be on a higher plane, more intense, more concentrated, more typical, nearer the ideal, and therefore more universal than actual everyday life.” This means that our writers must concentrate and sum up material from life accumulated over a long period to create various kinds of typical characters.
To create heroic characters successfully, we muse adopt the method of combining revolutionary realism with revolutionary romanticism, not the critical realism and romanticism of the bourgeoisie.
Writers in the armed forces should make it their glorious task to depict revolutionary wars, propagate Chairman Mao’s idea of the people’s war, and create heroic characters in revolutionary wars. When we write about revolutionary wars, we must first be clear about the nature of the war — ours is the just side, the enemy’s is the unjust side. Our works must show our arduous struggle and heroic sacrifice, but must also display revolutionary heroism and revolutionary optimism. While depicting the cruelty of war, we should not elaborate on the horrors of war. While depicting the arduousness of the revolutionary struggle, we should not elaborate on its sufferings. The cruelty of a revolutionary war and revolutionary heroism, the arduousness of the revolutionary struggle and revolutionary optimism are the unity of opposites, but we must be clear which is the principal aspect of the contradiction; otherwise, if we put the emphasis wrongly, the trend of bourgeois pacifism may arise. While depicting the people’s revolutionary war, whether it is primarily guerrilla warfare supplemented by mobile warfare, or whether it is primarily mobile warfare, we must correctly show the relationship between the regular forces, the guerrillas and the people’s militia, the relationship between the armed masses and the unarmed masses under the leadership of the Party.
It is no easy matter to produce good models of proletarian literature and art. Strategically we must despise this task, but tactically we must take it seriously. To create a fine work is an arduous process, and the comrades in charge of this work must never adopt a bureaucratic or casual attitude towards it but must work hard, sharing the satisfactions and hardships of the writers. They must as far as possible get their material first hand. They must not be afraid of failure or of mistakes. They should allow for failure and mistakes and let people correct their mistakes. They must rely on the masses, get the opinions of the masses and refer back to the masses, undergoing repeated practice over a long period to make the work better and better, and striving to integrate a revolutionary political content with the best possible artistic form. In the course of practice they must sum up their experience in good time, gradually grasping the laws of various forms of art. Otherwise they will fail to produce good models.
There are many important revolutionary historical themes and contemporary themes which urgently require us to organize their portrayal in a planned, systematic way, and by so doing to train a backbone force of truly proletarian writers and artists.
The socialist cultural revolution must overthrow certain things and establish others; for if certain things are not thoroughly overthrown, others cannot be truly established. To carry out the socialist cultural revolution and create a new socialist literature and art, we must emancipate our minds and overcome superstition.
We must overcome our superstitious reverence for what is called the literature and art of the 30s. At that time the Left-wing literary and art movement followed in politics Wang Ming’s “Left” opportunist line; organizationally it practised closed-doorism and sectarianism; and its theory of literature and art was virtually that of such Russian bourgeois literary critics as Belinsky, Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov, bourgeois democrats of tsarist Russia who had bourgeois, not Marxist, ideas. The bourgeois-democratic revolution is one in which one exploiting class opposes another. Only the socialist revolution of the proletariat is the revolution that finally destroys all exploiting classes. So we must not take the ideas of any bourgeois revolutionary as our guiding principle in our proletarian ideological or literary and art movements. There was good literature and art in the 30s too, that was the militant Left-wing literary and art movement led by Lu Hsun. But towards the end of the 30s some Left-wing leaders, influenced by Wang Ming’s Rightist capitulationist line, abandoned the class standpoint of Marxism-Leninism, and put forward the slogan of “national defence literature.” That was a bourgeois slogan. It was Lu Hsun who put forward the proletarian slogan, “Popular literature of the national revolutionary war.” Some Left-wing writers and artists, notably Lu Hsun, also advocated that art and literature should serve the workers and peasants and that workers and peasants should create their own literature and art. However, no systematic solution was found for the basic problem of how to integrate literature and art with the workers, peasants and soldiers; because the great majority of these men were followers of bourgeois nationalism and democracy, some of whom failed to pass the test of the democratic revolution, while others have not given a good account of themselves in the test of socialism.
We must overcome blind reverence for Chinese and foreign classical literature. The classical art and literature of China and those of Europe (including Russia) have exercised a considerable influence on literary and art circles in our country, and some people looked on them as models and accepted them in their entirety. But Chairman Mao has taught us that “Uncritical transplantation or copying from the ancients and the foreigners is the most sterile and harmful dogmatism in literature and art.” Things belonging to the ancients and to foreigners should be studied too, and refusal to do this would be wrong; but we must do so critically, making the old serve the present and foreign things serve China.
As for the relatively good Soviet revolutionary literature and art which appeared after the October Revolution, that too must be analysed and not blindly worshipped or, still less, blindly imitated. Blind imitation can never become art. Literature and art can only come from life which is their sole source. This is proved by the whole history of ancient and modern art and literature, both Chinese and foreign.
All leading personnel of literary and art work as well as artists and writers must practise democratic centralism, support the practice of “letting all people have their say” and oppose the practice of “what I say counts.” We must take the mass line and keep putting politics first. In the past, writers sometimes produced a piece of work and, turning a deaf ear to the opinions of the masses, forced the leadership to nod in approval. This way of doing things is very bad. The cadres in charge of literature and art should always bear in mind these two points in dealing with creative work in literature and art: first, they must be good at listening to the opinions of the masses; secondly, they must be good at analysing these opinions, accepting those which are right and rejecting those which are wrong. There are no perfect works of art and literature, but if one is fundamentally good we should point out its shortcomings and errors so that they can be corrected. Bad works should not be hidden away, but brought out for the appraisal of the masses. We must not be afraid of the masses but should have firm faith in them, for they can give us much valuable advice. And they will help those whose ideas are confused to improve their powers of discrimination.
We must advocate revolutionary, militant, mass criticism of literature and art, break the monopoly of literary and art criticism by a few “critics” (those going in a wrong direction and whose arguments arc weak). We must place the weapon of literary and art criticism in the hands of the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers, integrating professional critics and critics from among the masses. We must make this criticism more militant, combating unprincipled vulgar praise. We must reform our style of writing, encourage the writing of short, readable articles, transform our literary and art criticism into daggers and hand-grenades and learn to handle them effectively in 200-metre close combat. Of course we must at the same time write some longer, systematic articles of greater theoretical depth. We must present the facts and reason things out, not use jargon to frighten people. This is the only way to disarm those so-called “literary and art critics.” Critics must give warm support to works which are good or fundamentally sound, while pointing out their shortcomings in a helpful manner. And principled criticism must be made of bad works. In the theoretical field, mistaken views on literature and art which are fairly typical must be thoroughly and systematically criticized. We must not mind being blamed for “brandishing the stick.” When some people accuse us of roughness and crudity we must make our own analysis. Some criticisms we make are basically correct but are not convincing enough because their analysis is inadequate and they produce too little evidence. This should be corrected. Some people who start by accusing us of being rough and crude drop the charge when they gain a better understanding. But when the enemy condemns our correct criticisms as rough and crude, we must stand firm. We must have regular art and literary criticism, because this is an important method of waging the struggle in the literary and art field and an important way for the Party to lead literature and art. Without correct literary and art criticism we cannot maintain a correct line in literature and art, or produce a greater variety of good work.
To carry out a thoroughgoing socialist cultural revolution we must re-educate the cadres in charge of literature and art and reorganize the ranks of writers and artists. As far back as during the struggle on the Chingkang Mountains, under the direct leadership of Chairman Mao and the brilliant guidance of the resolutions of the Kutien Conference, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army set up a red contingent of writers and artists. During the War of Resistance to Japanese Aggression, as our Party and army gained in political and military strength, our contingent of writers and artists made great headway too. In the base areas and in the armed forces, we trained a considerable number of revolutionary literary and art workers. Especially after the publication of the Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art, they held to the correct line, integrated themselves with the workers, peasants and soldiers, and played a positive role in the revolution. But after the liberation of the whole mainland, when we entered large cities, some people were unable to resist the corrupting influence of bourgeois ideas, with the result that they dropped behind our advance. And the literary and art workers who joined the army at this time brought with them the influence of various bourgeois views on literature and art. A small number of them were never remoulded at all, but clung stubbornly to the bourgeois stand.
Our art and literature are a proletarian art and literature, an art and literature of the Party. What distinguishes us above all from other classes is the principle of the proletarian Party spirit. We should realize that the spokesmen of other classes also have their principle of Party spirit, and a very strong one too. In our guiding principles governing creative writing, just as in our organizational line and in our style of work, we must abide firmly by the principle of the proletarian Party spirit and combat corruption by bourgeois ideas. We must clearly draw a line between us and bourgeois ideas; we must never tolerate any peaceful coexistence with them.
The literary and art workers in our armed forces have various problems, but for the majority of them, the question is to acquire a deeper understanding and to receive more education and to attain a higher level. We must regard Chairman Mao’s writings as our highest instructions, seriously study and grasp his teachings on art and literature, and pay special attention to putting them into practice and creatively applying what we learn to our thinking and actions, so that we really master Chairman Mao’s thinking. We must carry out Chairman Mao’s instruction and “for a long period of time unreservedly and wholeheartedly go among the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers, go into the heat of the struggle, go to the only source, the broadest and richest source,” to integrate ourselves with the workers, peasants and soldiers, remould our thinking, raise the level of our political consciousness and wholeheartedly serve the people of all China and the whole world, with no thought of fame or profit, unafraid of hardships or death. We must make it our life-time endeavour to study Chairman Mao’s works, work for the revolution and remould our thinking. Only so can we carry out Comrade Lin Piao’s instructions and be ready to pass any stiff test with flying colours in our thinking, our life and our professional skills. Only so can our literary and art work better serve the workers, peasants and soldiers, serve socialism, and help to consolidate and raise the fighting strength of our armed forces.
A new upsurge of the great socialist cultural revolution has taken shape and is now assuming the form of a mass movement. This great revolutionary tide will wash away the filth of all the old bourgeois ideas on literature and art, ushering in a new epoch of socialist, proletarian art and literature. Confronted with this excellent revolutionary situation, we should be proud to be thoroughgoing revolutionaries. Our socialist revolution is a revolution to eliminate exploiting classes and all systems of exploitation once and for all, to root out all the ideas of the exploiting classes which are injurious to the people. We must have the confidence and courage to do things never previously attempted. We must raise still higher the great red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s thinking and, under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Party, Chairman Mao and the Military Commission of the Party’s Central Committee, take an active part in the socialist cultural revolution, unswervingly carrying it through to the end, striving to create a new socialist literature and art worthy of our great country, our great Party, our great people and our great army.
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