Cultural Revolution “We’ll return admid triumphant songs and laughter”

We are coming up to the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth, 5 May 1818. That will also be the 50th anniversary of the peak month of the “sixties”, especially marked by the “events of May 1968”. China’s Cultural Revolution was a key inspiration, regarded with extreme hostility by the current regime in China as well as all “authoritative” historians.

I was struck by reading this article in “South China Morning Post” the auththoritative Hong Kong newspaper of record, now owned by Alibaba. As expected the article is totally slanted to express the regime’s hostility to rebellion. So the following excerpts are a “total distortion” of what was actually said under the headline below (especially by omitting illusions about a fake “maoist” removed from the regime’s leadership).

Why are so many Chinese nostalgic for the Cultural Revolution

Tens of thousands of Maoists marched in the Hunan hometown of late leader Mao Zedong on December 26 to mark the 122nd anniversary of his birth….

…Beyond paying their respects to the atheist revolutionary with fireworks, flowers, music and the burning of paper money, many of those in Shaoshan also expressed their nostalgia for Mao’s era, which ended with his death in 1976, and the Cultural Revolution that marked the last decade of his life.

Dai Cheng, 62, led a group of 60 people from Changzhou in Jiangsu, 800km away, to sing revolutionary songs in Shaoshan’s main square that night, as the temperature dropped to four degrees Celsius.

“We will never forget the Mao era. He made us secure throughout our lives. We didn’t need to pay for medicines, education or housing. And there was no corruption,” he said, raising his voice to be heard above the fireworks.

Dai said it was the Cultural Revolution he missed most…

…“They started a coup in 1976 immediately after the death of chairman Mao,” Dai said. “They betrayed communism. They betrayed chairman Mao. They betrayed the Chinese people.”

As he went on, criticising Deng Xiaoping, the mastermind behind China’s post-Mao market economy reforms, some in the crowd applauded and cheered.

“The Cultural Revolution was aimed at uprooting corruption,” Dai said. “Anyone who opposes it is a supporter of corruption.”

May 16 [2016] marked the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution, which Mao reportedly hailed as one of his two biggest achievements but which the Communist Party declared more than three decades ago to have been a “catastrophe”…

While most people in China agree with the party’s verdict that the Cultural Revolution was a catastrophe, a minority nostalgic about it has been gaining influence. That nostalgia has grown beyond its usual supporters – retired or laid-off elderly people who were adversely affected by market reforms – to include younger people, some educated overseas, who were not alive when Mao was in power. That attraction mostly stems from dissatisfaction with today’s China , which they describe as a state with little welfare and a large wealth gap.

Many supporters of Mao’s political teachings call themselves believers in democracy, referring to the form of government during the Cultural Revolution, when many voices were given a say, not just bureaucrats.

“I admire the revolutionary committees during the Cultural Revolution, it was a reform of the government. There’s no more supervision now,” said Li Musen, a former Red Guard leader in Chongqing who later became a vice-director of the city’s governing revolutionary committee. He was 28 when the Cultural Revolution broke out.

A little over two years into the Cultural Revolution, and usually after bloody clashes backed by the military, all 29 provincial-level governments at the time had been replaced by revolutionary committees, with bureaucrats holding only a third of the seats.

Many political scholars have argued that the composition of the committees, where rebels held around half the seats, caused perpetual political instability. But Li disagreed.

“Representatives of the people, military, all had authority,” he said. “Representatives of cadres were endorsed by all. We supervised each other. What about now? The cadres are so paternal.”

Despite the fact that none of the committees were elected, Li, who calls himself a “dissident” who believes in democracy and freedom of speech, argued that they provided more checks and balances.

“In our revolutionary committee, we spoke what was on our minds … when we didn’t agree, we stood by our own opinions,” he said. “I think that should be the normal atmosphere. The different opinions themselves showcase supervision.

“Now the government just cooks up pretexts used to maintain political stability. There’s a complete lack of freedom of speech.”

China in the Mao era also struck Li as a much fairer society, where the most skilful technicians earned more than the factory director. “Deng said let some people get rich first,” he said. “It turned out to be letting the cadres get rich first.”

Some younger supporters of the Cultural revolution are attracted by the idealism of a movement they never experienced.

Li Beifang, 38, who holds a master’s degree in anthropology from the London School of Economics and Political Science, is considered a leading Maoist intellectual born in the post-Mao era.

Born two years after the Cultural Revolution ended following Mao’s death, and in the same year the Communist Party kicked off market reform and opening up to foreign investment, Li became a leftist while studying at Peking University.

“I realised that what’s more important than knowledge is stance and affection. Who do you place your heart closer to? The powerful and the rich, or the bullied and compromised people?” he wrote of his reasons for becoming a Maoist in a preface to a book published last year.

Like many supporters of Mao and his political teachings, Li Beifang applauded the Cultural Revolution as Mao’s attempt to create an egalitarian utopia….

“Without such an attempt, the human race’s imagination about future forms of society will be exhausted, “ Li Beifang said of the Cultural Revolution in a panel discussion in Beijing in August. “Yes, it was aimed at a utopia and its failure was no surprise. But how could the human race not have a utopia … [we] would lose direction of where to go and end up trapped in nihilism.”

Li Beifang said a vacuum of belief was to blame for widespread materialism in China, another common belief among Maoists.

“After the Cultural Revolution ended, the mental vacuity made problems generated by reform and opening up even worse,” he said, adding that the Cultural Revolution was not successful because it harmed the interests of too many senior cadres.

Li Beifang declined an interview request, citing the sensitivity of discussing the topic with media outside of mainland China.

His nostalgia for utopian Maoism is shared by Zhou Jiayu, 71, a former Red Guard leader in Chongqing who once rose to the top leadership in Sichuan province.

“Like the Paris Commune, it failed and its spirit will always be there,” Zhou said. “The spirit of the Cultural Revolution is rebelling and revolutionising towards inequality and injustice. I miss the unsparing dedication to the revolution. I miss the equality and fraternity between people.”

Each Ching Ming grave-sweeping festival, Zhou visits a cemetery where some 400 Red Guards from his faction are buried. “They gave their lives for their beliefs. They had a sublime goal,” he said. “Before they were hit, they were all chanting slogans like ‘Long live chairman Mao, long live the Cultural Revolution’.”

As Mao wrote in a poem “We’ll return amid triumphant songs and laughter”.

8 thoughts on “Cultural Revolution “We’ll return admid triumphant songs and laughter”

  1. Barry, could you also fix link to embed video in this post? Instead of the actual video at:

    Why are so many Chinese nostalgic for the Cultural Revolution? | South China Morning Post
    http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/1970331/why-are-so-many-chinese-nostalgic-cultural-revolution

    I still see my request text:

    [original link above has a great video which should be displayed here but I don’t know how – was able to download it to Android tablet, even in HD, but could not see a link to embed – take a look]

    Then just delete this comment.

    Like

      • I couldn’t find it on youtube. I checked the SCM stuff there. However, there’s a very similar clip making the 40th anniversary of Mao’s death. Would that suffice?

        Like

      • There seems to be some confusion. 1. I have successfully downloaded the original file from SCMP. Therefore you can. 2 It does not need to be embedded (although that is better), just needs a link to it somewhere, anywhere on the internet, including files in your WordPress file area.
        3. You have found a similar file on Youtube so can could provide a link to it in a comment or embed it and then I could comment on whether it is similar enough – redolant of “songs and laughter”. (SCMP has American style “marching girls” with drums!)

        Like

      • Or 4. I could upload my copy to your files area (3GB!) and embed it so it is up to you to remove it if problem was doubts about using bandwidth or possible complaints from SCMP (or delete the initial request text and all these comments). I have just done that on assumption you are simply confused above.

        Like

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