New Fragments from Mao in the Cultural Revolution

In December 2013, scholars of the history of the PRC were given a shot in the arm via the publication of Mao Zedong Nianpu, 1949-1976, consisting of six volumes of previously obscure materials from the central party archives press (党文献出版社) in Beijing with respect to Mao Zedong. Links to some of my previous translation efforts in this text, mostly focusing on the early 1950s, are included at the end of the post.

What does this new collection say about the Cultural Revolution? In sum, a lot, but not as much as it could. The whole event is covered in a single volume of 653 pages of text covering ten years (1966-1976), and Mao’s dwindling physical activity could be partially to account for the relative lack of density of the entries. One editor was responsible for editing the entire Cultural Revolution period. But this is stuff that would have excited old Stuart Schram greatly, and even in the first few pages there is much to think about.

The volume begins with an editorial description of Beijing on 1 October 1966, the 17th anniversary of the PRC, with over 1.5 million people participating in the parade. 3000 representaives of worker-peasant-soldier corps (gongnongbing) and minority and Red Guard groups as well. At noon, Mao descended into the crowds, and stayed down on the edge of Tiananmen for six hours. This was the fourt time he had done so, according to the editors.

Mao’s remarks from the evening fireworks are relayed, his statements to E.F. Hill, an Australian communist (Marxist) leader who had broken for Mao in 1964. Historian Chen Jian says Hill “frequently visited Beijing” during the Cultural Revolution, and publications like Peking Review reciprocated his support.

However, it appears that this particular conversation has never been previously published. In it, Mao tells the Australian:

You must go to the universities to take a look. In the universities there are leftists, rightists, and moderates (zhongjianpai). The leftists and rightists are both a minority; the moderates are the most numerous. We have bundled away very many intellectuals from the old society. [Translator’s note: It is unclear that if by “bundled away” (baoxialai) Mao means that the intellectuals have been sidelined, protected, or simply removed temporarily.] They could not acknowledge [the existence of] the workers and rural masses, could not acknowledge people who were born into working or rural origins. We still use them; if we didn’t use them, we couldn’t publish newspapers, and broadcasts would not go out. There are also many of them in the literary and artistic spheres. To change them all will take a very long time.

Then, while waving at the demonstrators, Mao further stated:

Imperialism and revisionism fears the students, and we have a few cadre who also fear them. (We don’t need to fear them, in fact, because our environment is so good.) We have some cadre who don’t want to make revolution: the central committee has them, the central political bureau has them, the provincial secretaries have them, the local committee party secretaries and county party secretaries all have such people. They are so scared that they want to send troops out to suppress the students. But the PLA cannot be deployed like this, and the workers and farmers will come to stand beside the students.

Apart from the ongoing intimidation intended for every level of state, if this last comment doesn’t evoke and presage the student demonstrations and societal response of the heady days of spring 1989, I don’t know what does. Perhaps it would be a good time (is it ever a bad time?) to revisit Rana Mitter’s A Bitter Revolution.

Source: Mao Zedong Nianpu (A Chronology of Mao Zedong), Vol. 6, 1966.10-1976.09, entry for 1 October 1966, pp. 1-2. [Translated by Adam Cathcart.]



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