Mao Zedong on “What to Praise, What to Condemn” (1951)

In the six volumes of Mao Zedong Nianpu (1949-1976) published in Beijing this past December 2013, a number of new texts can be located, and minor mysteries solved. Chronologically organized, the writing in May 1951 is particularly interesting. I located one discussion, on May 19, 1951, where Mao is revealed as the active co-author of Hu Qiaomu of an editorial on the subject of the film Wu Xun (武训传) which was published on May 20, 1951, without attribution in Renmin Ribao. 

Mao decries the lack of familiarity among contemporary Chinese writers with the system of exploitation of the late Qing, and their tendency to venerate and preserve old culture, rather than oppose and destroy it. I was rather struck by this writing, and marked it down for a more detailed translation when I had more time.

Then, in the course of preparing a lecture at Leeds University, in our Brotherton Library, I ran across a short paragraph by Mao on the same topic, dating from 1951, in a small volume of English translations done by the Party back in the late 1950s and published in 1960. Was this the same text? It was indeed an extract from the same editorial, but without any date attached to it other than “1951,” and which appeared to be autonomously written.

The lessons?

1. The Nianpu can answer many questions, but they aren’t necessarily the first time that many of the materials have appeared before; 2. the Nianpu can clear up certain questions about the background and context of previously-published documents; 3. Mao’s collaborative nature as a prose writer is again laid bare — what had been attributed to him alone was in fact written in close mind-melding with Hu Qiaomu; and 4. now that Stuart Schram is gone, it’s up to all of us to pay closer attention to such things.

Sources: Mao Zedong, Mao Zedong Nianpu, 1949-1976, Vol. 1 (Beijing: Zhonggong zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 2013), pp. 343-344.

Mao Zedong, “What to Praise, What to Condemn (1951),” Mao Tse-tung on Art and Literature (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1960), p. 131.

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