Tuesday, July 25, 2006 4:16:56 AM
Interview conducted by Jean-Luc Douin
Journalist on the daily newspaper Le Monde, France
On October 12, 2000 Gao Xingjian (高行健) became the first writer in Chinese to be awarded the Nobel prize for Literature. A victim of the Cultural Revolution in China, this dissident of the Tian'anmen generation, a political refugee in France since 1988, became a naturalised French citizen in 1998.
Novelist and playwright, he lays claim to writing liberated from all the rules. In La Montagne de l'âme [Soul Mountain] (灵山), his masterpiece, he retraces a ghostly journey through the interior of China in the footsteps of Lao Tseu, far from the "world of dust". His narrators alternate "I", "you" and "it", depending on whether they are talking about everyday life, giving an introspective monologue or engaging in philosophical speculation; the use of "we" is banned, because it stands for the idea of mass thought against which the writer has been vaccinated.
Le Livre d'un homme seul [The Book of a Man Alone] (一个人的圣经: its proper translation should be read as "One Man's Bible") is a cry of protest. It tells the story of the massacre of his family, denounces the methods of the Chinese totalitarian regime and the extortions demanded in the days of the group of four. Rather than solitude, the title of the book stresses the importance of individual testimony, the necessity of increasing the number of confessions on many levels.
Label France: How would you describe yourself today -as an exile, as a creative writer?
Gao Xingjian: I think of myself as a citizen of the world. A frail man, who has managed not to be crushed by authority, and who speaks to the world with his own voice.
How did you come to write and to settle in Paris?
In high-school, I was just as good at mathematics as I was at art or writing essays. My mother did not want me to go to the School of Fine Art; at the time, painters lived in great poverty, in servants' quarters. Then one day, by chance, I came across an extract from the memoirs of Ilya Ehrenbourg. In them, he described his life in Paris in the early 1920s, and recounted how he had seen a woman enter a café, place her baby on the counter and slip away, saying she had an errand to do. She never came back. The woman who owned the café demanded an extra tip from all the customers to help raise the child. This story affected me deeply -I wanted to live like that. So I decided to learn French.
I remember too that my French teacher, in China, was also nostalgic about the Paris cafés in the days of his youth. He explained in class what a Paris café was by drawing in chalk on the blackboard a series of women's shoes, with high heels, pointed, or with laces...
At the age of fifteen, having read an anthology of Prosper Mérimée's work, I had a dream. I was sleeping with a woman of marble, beautiful and cold, a statue fallen to the ground in the grass of an abandoned garden, and I lost myself in an exuberant freedom. It is that freedom, what at home they call "decadent", that brought me to France.
...after a few painful episodes!
First I was a translator of classic French authors... until 1966. During the Cultural Revolution I was a Red Guard, then I was sent to the country for ideological re-education. It was there I became aware that I was a writer. It is when you can no longer write that you realise you must write. Literature enables the human being to preserve his human conscience. I was already writing, since adolescence. Poems at first... Then I had to destroy it all. Constantly under surveillance, for fear of being denounced. I started again, hiding my writing under the straw mat I used as a mattress. At the end of the Cultural Revolution, I was able to resume my activities, translating Ionesco and Prévert.
“Literature can only be
the voice of an individual”
My first published book was an essay on the art of the modern novel. I then became a target. I was labelled a "modernist", marginalised, in suspected connivance with Western literature. Guilty of "spiritual pollution". I was shaking the bases of revolutionary realism, and they demanded I make a public self-criticism in the press. I refused. I told myself I had to resist, to write for myself, without the slightest aesthetic constraints even if it meant not being published. This is how I wrote Soul Mountain, which represents what I believe in -an exploration of language in which the individual expresses himself with complete freedom. A mixture of fables, travel notes, annals, notes on daily life... The reverse of what was advocated by the authorities! I spent seven years writing it. I finished it in France. As a challenge. I had been invited here, I stayed here. I earned my living through my painting.
You are actually a painter too. What distinction do you make between your literary expression and graphic expression?
A distinction of sound. I listen. In literature, I hunt words as sounds. In painting, movement comes from the body. I paint while listening to music. I love music. Ever since I was very young I have played the violin and the flute.
In your speech before the Swedish Academy, you stress the role of writing as an attempt to decipher Man.
I really wanted to remind them that the writer is an ordinary man, not a spokesman for the people, and that literature can only be the voice of one individual. Writing that becomes an ode to a country, the standard of a nation, the voice of a party... loses its nature -it is no longer literature. Writers do not set out to be published, but to know themselves. Although Kafka or Pessoa resorted to language, it was not in order to change the world.
I, myself, believe in what I call cold literature: a literature of flight for one's life, a literature that is not utilitarian, but a spiritual self-preservation in order to avoid being stifled by society. I believe in a literature of the moment, for the living. You have to know how to use freedom. If you use it in exchange for something else, it vanishes.
Thursday, July 20, 2006 3:11:26 AM
This Will Not Appear in Taipei Times
Apple Daily (Hong Kong) 2006.07.20
by Bu Da-Zhong (卜大中 ), the principal writer for Apple Daily (Taiwan)Original Chinese Article
Some pro-green scholars cannot stand it anymore and signed a joint public statement to ask President Chen Shui-bian to resign. This created a resonance that was much more powerful than when the pan-blue camp tried to recall Ah Bian. On July 17, Ah Bian was supposed to host a dinner at the Grand Hotel with all the DPP and government senior officials in order to relieve the pressure from the pro-green scholars. But many green legislators elected not to attend because they didn't want to be known as having been patted on the head and pacified (摸頭招安) by Ah Bian. So Ah Bian had to cancel the event. It is easy to imagine Ah Bian's embarrassment.
The pro-green scholars' demand for Ah Bian to step down was more powerful than any recall or no-confidence effort by the blue camp and more damaging to the DPP. The various attempts by the blues to dump Ah Bian were unconvincing. No matter whether Ah Bian was good or bad, corrupt or clean, the blues would have opposed him anyway. There are no rights or wrongs and that is why the blues lack trustworthiness and legitimacy. But now the pro-green scholars have collectively demanded Ah Bian to quit, and it is hard to use those excuses.
All those greens who supported Ah Bian during the election are embarrassed and disappointed and feel that they were let down; they are also scorned at by the blues and feel bad. But Ah Bian thinks that he can still hijack these people to continue on. That is why these people are now angry and want Ah Bian to resign. They hate Ah Bian for being so confident that these pro-green people have nowhere else to go because they cannot turn to the blue camp. This is a terrible feeling and that is why they have come forward to demand Ah Bian to resign.
Over history, whenever political leaders run into crises, they usually seek to divert attention in order to survive. A common ploy is to create a crisis from the outside. But manipulating nationalism is dangerous and can blow up. The 1982 Falklands War is an example. At the time, Argentinian regime of Galtieri was shaky with severe economic inflation and social stability. In order to retain political power, the government inflamed nationalism and attempted to take over the Falkland Islands of the United Kingdom. This led to a war in which Argentina was defeated badly and Galtieri was ousted.
President Chen is now backed into a corner and he is capable of doing terrible things. After meeting with the pan-green bosses several days ago, Ah Bian indicated that the constitutional reform and the renaming of Taiwan are among his goals for the next two years. Why does he want to do these things? First, this is in exchange for the support from the post-independence bosses; second, this is to consolidate the deep-green base; third, this is to take revenge against the anti-Bian elements by making them angry and hurt; fourth, this is to infuriate China and the United States and create an international crisis which will divert attention away from the corruption cases and the pressure for him to resign. The price will be horrendous. Without even having initiated it yet, the stock market index has dropped by 170 points yesterday.
Ah Bian knows that there is no chance that the constitution reform and renaming of Taiwan can get through the Legislature. The 10% public support for these two items will not allow him to do that, but he still insists on moving forward. This is a manifestation of the fear of a trapped animal which intends to treat the people as straw dogs. Still, we can still use our imagination to look ahead.
The constitutional reform and the re-naming of Taiwan seriously go past China's bottom line (becasue they mean Taiwan independence by law) and it will provoke a severe response from China. The United States will take this as a betrayal of Ah Bian's formal promises and take action to sanction Taiwan. The stock market will drop under 3,000 points, the economy will be ruined, society will be in chaos, political storms will be turbulent and the people will be scared. Then Ah Bian can properly declare a state of emergency, impose martial law, arrest opponents, cancel all elections including the 2008 presidential election ...
Alright, this is where we will stop and we don't want to visualize how China will invade Taiwan by force with the tacit approval of the United States ... the independence bosses and the deep-green supporters of Ah Bian often think in self-reinforcing close-minded groupthink and believe that they are right. This causes Ah Bian to think that he is absolutely right and then the tragedy gets out of hand.
Too many tragedies in history occur because people are locked into close-minded loops. Right now, Ah Bian's small close-minded group is moving in that direction. We must prevent this tragedy from happening before the point of no return and that would be for Ah Bian to resign for the sake of Taiwan.
Thursday, July 20, 2006 2:16:52 AM
The Life and Times of Book Idiot Zhou
Zhou Lianchun's transformation from brutal Red Guard to successful entrepreneur is the story of the new China
By John Pomfret
[John Pomfret is The Washington Post's Los Angeles bureau chief. This article is adapted from his book Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China, to be published next month by Henry Holt and Co.]
On a beastly summer day in 1966, in the country-side of northern Jiangsu province, 100 farmers lined up at the threshing ground of Production Team 7 in the Shen Kitchen Commune. The threshing ground doubled as a village square, where chickens and pigs had free rein. Zhou Lianchun, a gangly 11-year-old boy with a shaved head and raggedy cloth shoes, was 12th in line.
Thwack. Thwack. The line moved forward. Thwack. Thwack. It inched forward again.
Zhou reached the front of the line. A middle-aged woman, blood seeping from her nose and ears, faced him on her knees. He pulled back his right hand and, as the others ahead of him had done, smacked the left side of her face -- Thwack -- then slapped her again with his left hand. Thwack. The sweat from her cheeks stung his skin.
Zhou and his neighbors were carrying out party policy. Earlier that spring, on May 16, 1966, the Central Committee of the Communist Party issued a demand for a purge of undesirable influences from abroad and from China's past: capitalism from the West, communist revisionism from the Soviet Union, and what Party Chairman Mao Zedong called "feudalism" from ancient China.
Mao launched what became known as the Cultural Revolution as a way to regain power in the wake of the disastrous Great Leap Forward, his economic program of the late 1950s/early '60s, which had brought China to the verge of collapse. In Zhou Lianchun's region, families were herded off their land onto communal farms, where everyone was forced to eat together in a large dining hall. Private farm plots, the most productive element of the region's agriculture, were outlawed. In a frenzied attempt to increase steel production, the party demanded that all commune members hand in their woks and wheelbarrows to be smelted in backyard furnaces.
One of Zhou's nephews died of starvation; another newborn nephew was abandoned in swaddling clothes at the doorstep of a party committee office and never seen again. Nationwide, during the Great Leap Forward more than 30 million perished of starvation. Zhou and his family survived on weeds, seeds and the runny gruel served at the communal canteen. Whenever they sat down to eat, Zhou recalls, he would cry at the sight of the paltry meal before him.
Born in 1955 in a village near the town of Dongtai not far from the coast of the Yellow Sea, Zhou (pronounced "Joe") is the son of a peasant and a woman the Chinese refer to as a "borrowed belly." Zhou's father had brought her into the house at the urging of his wife after his wife discovered she couldn't have children. Zhou called his birth mother Little Mama and his father's wife Big Mama. Big Mama had bound feet and doted on the boy, buying him books and other gifts.
I am the first foreigner Zhou Lianchun ever met. From 1980 to 1982, we were classmates at Nanjing University, where I was among the first American students to be allowed to study in China after the death of Chairman Mao and China's opening to the West. Years later, we renewed our friendship while I was a correspondent for The Washington Post in China from 1998 until 2004. This is his story as he has recounted it to me.
AS A BOY, ZHOU EXHIBITED AN ENTREPRENEURIAL STREAK, selling radishes and sand crabs, which the Chinese treasure as a delicacy, by age 8. The only fertilizer available in Zhou's region came from human excrement. Collecting it was a popular vocation for boys, akin to a paper route in the United States. In a written account of his life, Zhou recalls his eagle-eyed hunt for excrement: "There's a boy, carrying a spade and a
basket searching along the alleyways of a village. From his concentration, you'd think he had gotten out of bed at the crack of dawn to search for a lost wallet. In reality, he is looking for a pile of [excrement]. And when he finds the steaming mountain of crap, the
expression on his face is as if he has won the lottery."
Zhou was 11 when Mao organized the country's students into the Red Guard and set them loose. Zhou and his Red Guard unit went from village to village beating people who belonged to one of Communist China's five lowest castes: former landlords, rich peasants, counterrevolutionaries, bad elements and rightists.
The middle-aged woman savaged at the village threshing ground qualified as a target. A few days earlier she had stopped her son and another farm boy from fighting by slapping them both. Under the logic of the Cultural Revolution, she was automatically in the wrong, because her family had been labeled "rich peasant," while her son's opponent came from a "poor peasant" family. Zhou's Red Guard committee decided to teach her a lesson. It mobilized the whole production team, about 100 people, to give her a taste of her own medicine -- hundreds of slaps as she knelt in the village square. After the beating, the woman refused to admit she had done wrong.
"Eat [excrement]," she screamed at her assailants.
Zhou was then dispatched to a nearby outhouse to collect excrement in a wooden bucket and dilute it with water. The Red Guard chief took a wooden ladle and poured the runny concoction down the woman's throat. She kept quiet after that.
Over the next weeks and months, Zhou and his gang smashed Buddhist temples, forced monks to walk around with boulders on their backs and garbage cans on their heads, and defaced wall paintings of Buddhist gods, covering them with a coat of red paint. After that dried, an artist arrived and painted portraits of Mao on top.
In their search for counterrevolutionary contraband -- books, photographs, jewelry, knickknacks, anything representing Mao's "Four Olds" (old customs, old culture, old habits and old ideas) -- Zhou's team overturned mattresses, peered inside fireplaces and rooted through vats of preserved vegetables. Zhou remembers being particularly impressed by the bonfires of books. But he did not destroy any of the books in his own home. That was left to his older sister and a cousin, who, in an effort to show the family's revolutionary zeal, ransacked the house, placed the old, bound volumes in piles and lit the pyres themselves. Zhou hid 10 novels from his relatives, wrapping them in a flax bag and stuffing them in an underground vault, where his family stored sweet potatoes for the winter.
Zhou felt immense pride to be a Red Guard and to be playing, as he thought of it, with the big boys. "I did what I was told, and, being 11, I liked it," he says. Never mind, of course, that he had demonstrated counterrevolutionary behavior by hiding those few books. Like all Chinese youth, the first sentence he'd learned in school was "Long live Chairman Mao!" To be carrying out the chairman's orders gave the precocious boy a powerful sense of purpose and self-worth. "The more ruthless we are to enemies, the more we love the people," the team would chant together.
In September 1966, his gang of Red Guards mercilessly beat an old man accused of once having been a landlord. That same day, fearing more torture, the old man killed himself. But the guards weren't finished. They gave the corpse to his three sons, demanding that the boys parade it around the village. Then they told the sons to chop the body into three pieces and place them in pigpens. If any of them had refused, they all would have been dubbed "evil spawn of the feudal class" and destined for persecution.
A primary target of Mao's Cultural Revolution was the family, the last bastion of traditional Confucian culture. For centuries, morality in China was rooted in a veneration for the elderly and the family tree. People didn't disgrace themselves in the eyes of God; they did so in the eyes of their forebears. But Mao was determined to create a new morality. During the Cultural Revolution, brothers were pitted against sisters, children against parents, wives against husbands. People were expected to report on those dearest to them because they alone knew the most private thoughts of their loved ones. China was turned into a society of snitches. The stool pigeon became a hero of the revolution.
Zhou recounts his years in the Red Guard over a lunch of beef noodles in a modern Nanjing coffee shop called Magazine -- a two-story glass-and-faux-marble structure with sofas and waitresses wearing baseball caps. Zhou admits to having no pangs of conscience for what he did. "In China," he says, "no one admits to torturing, and everyone says they were victims. But do the math. If we have so many victims, we've got to have a lot of torturers."
At 15, Zhou was given a group of 11 people on whom to single-handedly undertake "thought work," a euphemism for torture and humiliation. One of those on the list was Big Mama, who, while not his biological mother, was the woman who had raised him as her son.
Zhou took up the task of denouncing his mother without the slightest hesitation. Under the watchful eye of his revolutionary elders, Zhou forced her to spew a Maoist catechism that neither of them quite understood. "The party is always correct. Long live the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Long live Chairman Mao."
This went on for days in the public threshing ground. After each session, Zhou and his mother would return home together. She would cook dinner for him and the rest of the family, never talking about what went on during the daily public humiliation. Zhou never actually hit Big Mama or made her kneel on pebbles or glass. He didn't need to. He had learned how to make her quake with fear using simpler methods -- baring his teeth, using a wild stare.
Years later, long after he'd become disillusioned with the Communist Party, Zhou returned to his village and did something both unusual and courageous. He undertook a survey of the devastation wrought by his Red Guard team on his village of 2,500. According to his research, his team burned two tons of books, ransacked five Buddhist temples and four Taoist shrines, and chopped hundreds of old carvings -- dragons, phoenixes, gremlins and birds -- from the eaves of ancient courtyard houses. Dozens of his victims had been seriously hurt. Ten people committed suicide following beatings.
And he still wonders: "How do you think a society where that type of behavior was condoned -- no, not condoned, mandated -- can heal itself? Do you think it ever can?"
IT WASN'T UNTIL 1970 THAT THE MAYHEM OF THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION FINALLY ABATED. The following year, schools in Zhou's commune reopened after a five-year hiatus, and Zhou was able to graduate from high school. Lacking any connections to continue his education, he was put to work in the fields.
From 1971 until 1976, Zhou and the other men in his village dredged riverbeds, dug ditches and repaired the commune's irrigation system. In the summer, Zhou worked in bare feet. In the winter, the ice on the San Cang riverbed would pierce his straw shoes and slash his feet. Zhou rose each day at 4 a.m. and, with brief breaks for meals, worked until 9 p.m. Staggering home each night, Zhou felt like a walking corpse. Men on his work team frequently had to be carried away after collapsing from exhaustion and malnourishment.
Zhou's diet consisted mainly of corn, carrots and sweet potatoes, never meat. To this day, he becomes nauseated at a mere whiff of those vegetables. Though still in his teens, Zhou had a reputation as a good laborer and could keep up with the men in his work brigade. But he wanted to stop digging ditches. To do so, he needed someone with influence in the party.
One day in the fall of 1972, the local party chief approached 17-year-old Zhou with a proposition. He wanted to introduce him to a young woman. Party chiefs often played the role of matchmaker.
The party chief told Zhou that if he agreed to court the young woman, he would recommend Zhou for a position that would get Zhou out of the fields.
All in all, it was a remarkable offer. But Zhou eventually learned what had prompted it: The party chief and the young woman were lovers. The party chief was married, and he had promised to find the woman a husband to help cover up his infidelity.
Zhou balked. He loved literature and had devoured whatever novels he could find by Balzac, Tolstoy, Flaubert. He wanted the sort of romance he had read about, not a business deal brokered by a party boss. Zhou told the chief he would not marry the woman. The chief was enraged.
"Little Zhou," he said, wagging his finger at the boy, "you've been reading too much, and you've forgotten how to be decisive. You should know when to act, but you've become a book idiot" -- the Chinese term for a bookworm.
The Book Idiot nickname stuck.
IN OCTOBER 1977, the Shen Kitchen Commune's loudspeakers crackled with a report from the capital: University entrance examinations, which had been suspended since 1966, would be reinstated.
Zhou was determined to pass the college entrance exam, which covered history, geography, mathematics and Chinese. He studied for two months before taking the exam in December 1977. Though he did well in most subjects, he scored only 5 out of 100 in math and failed.
Zhou decided not to take the test again in July 1978. But his elder sister had other plans. One evening early that year she visited and found him reading a translated Russian novel under the wavering light of an oil lamp.
"Why aren't you studying?" she asked.
"I don't want to," Zhou replied.
His sister had brought a suitcase with her. Inside were her high school textbooks, all for Zhou. "I never burned these," she informed her little brother with a smile.
Under her watchful eye, Zhou began to cram again. This time, he aced the test. His score was the highest in the commune.
Zhou's acceptance letter from Nanjing University arrived on October 10, 1978. He packed a small canvas bag of clothes, including a blue Mao suit that had been washed so many times it was bleached white, and a padded cotton jacket he'd worn for five years. At 23, he was leaving the fields at last.
OF ALL THE SOCIAL SCIENCES, the teaching of history was the most strictly controlled and politicized. The communists imposed a crude and monolithic interpretation on China's 3,000-year written history, retelling it as a Marxist fairy tale of endless class struggle and imperialist aggression. There was no room for free-thinking Chinese history majors like Zhou. But privately Zhou opened his heart to several close friends. This country and this system are rotten, he would say, receiving nods of agreement. During one meeting of the history department's Communist Party members and prospective applicants, he let his frustration surface publicly. The secretary opened the meeting, saying the party wanted China's elite to join. One by one, the students chirped in, telling him how eager they were to join, too. Then it came time for Zhou to speak. An excellent student, Zhou had been identified early on as a good party candidate.
"I used to worship party members," Zhou recalls saying in his clear reedy voice. "But during the Cultural Revolution, I noticed that the people entering the party were all relatives of important people. I stopped worshiping them. I stopped wanting to enter the party." Silence descended on the room.
The secretary spoke up and, with perfectly twisted reasoning, offered the students a lesson laced with evasion and threats. "It's natural to have doubts," Zhou recalls him beginning, "but this doesn't necessarily have to shake our belief in Marxism."
The secretary's argument was as simple as it was warped. Look at what the Communist Party had done to China: killed 30 million people during the Great Leap Forward, ruined the lives of millions more during the Cultural Revolution. Despite these disastrous failures, it remains in power. That's proof, he said, of the party's superiority.
Zhou would always remember this argument. No matter what the party would do to China, no matter how many lives it crushed, it would always remain strong enough to rout any challenger. The Communist Party would stay in power because it would do anything to stay in power. That's an argument that Zhou believes to this day.
DURING HIS LAST YEAR AT NANJING UNIVERSITY, Book Idiot Zhou finally entered the Communist Party, swallowing his antipathy in the hope that party membership would result in a better job assignment. It didn't.
To avoid being sent back to the country-side where he'd grown up, he enlisted in the People's Liberation Army. He entered as a lieutenant a month after graduating from the university in July 1982. He awoke on his second day realizing he had made a mistake. "This is going to be a tragedy," he wrote in his diary. "I have to begin my struggle to leave."
It took Zhou four years of maneuvering to win permission to leave the army. Afterward, he landed a low-paying job as a teacher at the Anhui Institute of Finance and Trade in the small, grimy city of Bengbu, just west of Jiangsu province. His subject: Marxism. "For several years, my income was equivalent to nothing," Zhou would write later. By this time, he was married, with twin daughters to support. One daughter was healthy; the other had been born with Down syndrome. "My dinky salary had to support my parents and my family. One child needed medicine and nourishment." He needed more money.
Zhou began to think the unthinkable: going into business. Raised with the conventional view of merchants, who ranked far below government officials and scholars, Zhou had also absorbed communist propaganda describing business owners as "capitalist bloodsuckers." But China's de facto ruler, Deng Xiaoping, was changing the economy -- and changing the country's mind-set.
In just a few years, China had ditched the we're-all-poor-together egalitarianism in favor of a nationwide quest for cash.
Deng devised a new way to describe China's economy, calling it "socialism with Chinese characteristics." From then on, every capitalist-style reform was justified as falling within this deliberately vague, catch-all category. Policymakers were now free to jettison crackpot Marxist economic theory, so long as they didn't discard the one thing the party held dear: its continued domination.
Zhou's colleagues and friends were buzzing with talk about new possibilities. Several of his classmates from Nanjing University had already "jumped into the sea," as the Chinese called starting a business. One graduate student, who'd been tossed out of the university for having too many girlfriends, opened a coffee shop; another bought and sold iron ore; another raised mushrooms in the basement of his apartment building.
In 1987, a high school classmate from Dongtai contacted Zhou with a proposition. The classmate knew of a pharmaceutical factory in Guangzhou that was looking to buy enzymes found in, of all places, human urine. What he needed was a source. Zhou's friend had heard that Nanjing University had the technology to isolate the enzymes and that the chemistry professor in charge of the process was also from Dongtai.
The former classmate asked Zhou to contact the man and work out a deal. The professor agreed to share the technology. Zhou, his classmate in Dongtai and a third man, Sheng Hongyuan, then formed a partnership to open plants to extract these enzymes. Zhou was the only one without capital, so he agreed to establish and manage the facilities in exchange for a piece of the profits.
"It was pretty fitting," Book Idiot Zhou says with a laugh. "I'd made a few pennies collecting turds as a boy. Here I was doing pretty much the same thing."
Within months, Zhou and his partner Sheng had secured contracts to collect urine in Bengbu and other cities. For a fee, local sanitation departments allowed them access to the public toilets. Zhou and Sheng would then organize a platoon of laborers to pedal three-wheeled pedicabs mounted with huge vats to collect the goods each day. For every ton of urine, they would extract 60 grams of a raw material that the pharmaceutical company used to make an anti-clotting heart medicine and 100 grams of a raw material for a medicine that helps dissolve gallstones. Zhou transported the enzymes once a month by bus to Guangzhou. Book Idiot Zhou had jumped into the sea -- of urine.
ZHOU HELD ONTO TO HIS TEACHING JOB, which provided him with a safety net of sorts: an apartment and medical care. Several days a week, he taught Marxist, Leninist and Maoist thought and railed against the exploitation by the capitalist class. The rest of the time he spent as a budding entrepreneur, employing dozens at rock-bottom wages, working the system to enrich himself, his partners and his family. In 1991, Zhou was accepted into a program at Beijing University designed to keep history and politics professors up on the latest trends in teaching Marxism. Zhou spent most of his time setting up a urine-extraction plant. He landed two contracts with the Beijing municipal government to collect urine at 1,000 public toilets. He got to know each public toilet intimately while pedaling his bicycle through Beijing neighborhoods, showing his workers where the collection sites were.
None of his laborers had ever been in Beijing before. Zhou couldn't find urbanites willing to do the dirty work. Most of his workers came from the provinces, farm boys with strong bodies and a willingness to do anything to get out of the fields. Zhou's processing plant -- a bankrupt state-owned factory that he rented from a local party chief -- was south of downtown Beijing, 3 1/2 miles from the nearest toilet. The workers made as many as nine trips a day, seven days a week, earning the equivalent of $50 a month.
One day in January 1992, Zhou discovered that the plant's drainage system was blocked, leaving him with no place to dump several vats of effluent. Zhou had been told that the runoff, mostly ammonia, would harm neither people nor animals, so he discharged the stuff into the ponds of a local fish farm. Zhou spent the Spring Festival holidays dredging thousands of dead fish out of the ponds, leaving a stench on his hands and clothes for months. He reimbursed the owners the equivalent of $2,000 -- a small fortune.
ZHOU'S BUSINESS WAS FAILING. Although the market for enzymes was good, he had so little money that his platoon of 18 pedicabs had dwindled to a squad of five.
Zhou periodically would ask his partner in Dongtai for a share of the firm's profits. Each time, the partner would refuse, saying the business was facing difficulties. Then on a trip to Guangzhou, Zhou asked a representative of the Guangzhou pharmaceutical company how he thought the business was doing. "Not bad," Zhou recalls the representative replying. "We must have made several hundred thousand together." Other than the occasional pittance to cover expenses, Zhou had not seen any money from his Dongtai partner in more than six years.
His experience was typical for many Chinese entrepreneurs. So new to the business of business, the Chinese ripped one another off with mind-boggling regularity. The country's lack of a moral compass only made things worse. Zhou once stored 120 pounds of enzyme at a friend's refrigerated warehouse. The friend sold it and refused to give him any money. Zhou hadn't asked for a contract because to do so would have amounted to an insult. Business is all done on a handshake, yet in China, handshakes are worthless.
Zhou finally went to Dongtai and confronted his partner, demanding that he give Zhou the Beijing portion of the business. The partner relented. Zhou found himself at the end of 1994 the sole owner of his own urine-extraction business in the capital.
Meanwhile, Zhou was growing weary of his job teaching Marxism at the Anhui Institute, and he was increasingly unwilling to toe the party's ideological line. Each year a handful of students, usually those applying for party membership, would express doubts about Zhou's loyalty to the party and to China. One student even delivered a report with statistics on how frequently Zhou was critical of the state.
In 2002, the party secretary at the institute summoned Zhou to his office. "Either you change the nature of your instruction, or you will stop teaching Mao," the secretary warned.
Zhou told the secretary that he did not think that he was particularly anti-party or anti-Mao. The secretary remained unconvinced. He informed Zhou that he was being switched from teaching Maoist thought to teaching business administration.
LAST APRIL, BOOK IDIOT ZHOU RETURNED to his ancestral village, arriving with the air of a conquering hero. He was wearing a tie and driving his freshly washed and polished white Volkswagen Bora. It was the Qingming Festival -- during which Chinese traditionally honor their ancestors -- and Zhou planned to tend to the graves of his parents and grandparents.
With economic reforms, the Shen Kitchen Commune had been disbanded, and Zhou's old production brigade had been renamed Li's Kitchen Village; it was not bad off for a rural backwater. Every courtyard had a motorcycle. Many of the men and women had jobs in factories rather than in the fields. Zhou pointed out people, passing a wizened woman who looked to be in her sixties, but was actually Zhou's age -- 50. "That's a girl I liked when I was a boy," he said. "She was the daughter of a party guy . . . She ended up marrying a local farmer. He gets drunk and beats her now."
Zhou greeted the elderly parents of the first man killed in the village during the Cultural Revolution. A band of Red Guards murdered him because he used to paint portraits of Buddhist saints. Zhou said hello to the mother of the party secretary who had tried to bamboozle Zhou into marrying his lover three decades earlier. The party secretary had died young. "Hello, Professor Zhou," said the old woman, who, at 89, was so bent that she stood barely four feet tall. "Tell my grandson to come home, please."
"I hired her grandson," Zhou explained. "I hired the son of the man who had tried to keep me down on the farm."
Zhou walked the dirt paths of Li's Kitchen, smiling at the sunburned faces of the farmers who greeted him with a mixture of curiosity, envy and respect. He merited all those reactions. Facing bankruptcy in the mid-'90s, he had turned his business around and, by last year, was making more than $60,000 annually. He'd bought himself a sprawling condo in Nanjing, divorced his first wife and married a woman 22 years his junior.
But his success hasn't mellowed his view of the Communist Party. "Let's look at China from the Marxist perspective," Zhou says. "Let's give the Chinese government the benefit of the doubt. Why did the slave society overthrow primitive society? Because its economy was more advanced and it was richer. The same is true for why feudal society overthrew slave society and why capitalist society replaced feudal society. But then we come to Mao. Who was Mao? Who did he represent?"
"Did Mao represent economic forces stronger than capitalism? No. Did he represent anything progressive? No. He represented the most backward forces in China. He didn't even represent the working class. He represented thugs. It wasn't a communist revolution. It was a thug's revolution. That's our real history."
Tuesday, July 11, 2006 4:38:00 AM
by MICHAEL T. KLAREThe Nation
October 24, 2005 Issue
Ever since taking office, the Bush Administration has struggled to define its stance on the most critical long-term strategic issue facing the United States: whether to view China as a future military adversary, and plan accordingly, or to see it as a rival player in the global capitalist system. Representatives of both perspectives are nestled in top Administration circles, and there have been periodic swings of the pendulum toward one side or the other. But after a four-year period in which neither outlook appeared dominant, the pendulum has now swung conspicuously toward the anti-Chinese, prepare-for-war position. Three events signal this altered stance.
The first, on February 19, was the adoption of an official declaration calling for enhanced security ties between the United States and Japan. Known officially as the "Joint Statement of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee," the declaration was announced at a meeting of top Japanese and US officials, including Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Rice. The very fact that US and Japanese officials were discussing improved security links at this time was deeply troubling to the Chinese, given their painful exposure to Japanese militarism during World War II and their ongoing anxiety about US plans to construct an anti-Chinese alliance in Asia. But what most angered Beijing was the declaration's call for linked US-Japanese efforts to "encourage the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait through dialogue." While sounding relatively innocuous to American ears, this announcement was viewed in Beijing as highly provocative, representing illicit interference by Washington and Tokyo in China's internal affairs. The official New China News Agency described the joint declaration as "unprecedented" and quoted a senior foreign ministry official as saying that China "resolutely opposes the United States and Japan in issuing any bilateral document concerning China's Taiwan, which meddles in the internal affairs of China and hurts China's sovereignty."
The second key event was a speech Rumsfeld gave June 4 at a strategy conference in Singapore. After reviewing current security issues in Asia, especially the threat posed by a nuclear North Korea, Rumsfeld turned his attention to China. The Chinese can play a constructive role in addressing these issues, he observed. "A candid discussion of China...cannot neglect to mention areas of concern to the region." In particular, he suggested that China "appears to be expanding its missile forces, allowing them to reach targets in many areas of the world," and is otherwise "improving its ability to project power" in the region. Then, with consummate disingenuousness, he stated, "Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases? Why these continuing robust deployments?"
To Beijing, these comments must have been astonishing. No one threatens China? What about the US planes and warships that constantly hover off the Chinese coast, and the nuclear-armed US missiles aimed at China? What about the delivery over the past ten years of ever more potent US weapons to Taiwan? But disingenuousness aside, Rumsfeld's comments exhibited a greater degree of belligerence toward China than had been expressed in any official US statements since 9/11, and were widely portrayed as such in the American and Asian press.
The third notable event was the release, in July, of the Pentagon's report on Chinese combat capabilities, The Military Power of the People's Republic of China. According to press reports, publication of this unclassified document was delayed for several weeks in order to remove or soften some of the more pointedly anti-Chinese comments, to avoid further provoking China before George W. Bush's November visit there. In many ways the published version is judicious in tone, stressing the weaknesses as well as the strengths of China's military establishment. Nevertheless, the main thrust of the report is that China is expanding its capacity to fight wars beyond its own territory and that this effort constitutes a dangerous challenge to global order. "The pace and scope of China's military build-up are, already, such as to put regional military balances at risk," the report states. "Current trends in China's military modernization could provide China with a force capable of prosecuting a range of military operations in Asia--well beyond Taiwan--potentially posing a credible threat to modern militaries operating in the region."
This annual report, mandated by Congress in 2000, is intended as a comprehensive analysis, not a policy document. However, the policy implications of the 2005 report are self-evident: If China is acquiring a greater capacity to threaten "modern militaries operating in the region"--presumably including those of the United States and Japan--then urgent action is needed to offset Chinese military initiatives. For this very reason the document triggered a firestorm of criticism in China. "This report ignores fact in order to do everything it can to disseminate the 'China threat theory,'" a senior foreign ministry official told the American ambassador at a hastily arranged meeting. "It crudely interferes in China's internal affairs and is a provocation against China's relations with other countries."
While much of this was going on, the American public and mass media were preoccupied with another source of tension between the United States and China: the attempted purchase of the California-based Unocal Corporation by the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). This attempt received far greater attention in the media than did the events described above, yet it will have a far less significant impact on US-Chinese relations than will the Pentagon's shift to a more belligerent, anti-Chinese stance--one that greatly increases the likelihood of a debilitating and dangerous military competition between the United States and China.
What lies behind this momentous shift? At its root is the continuing influence of conservative strategists who have long championed a policy of permanent US military supremacy. This outlook was first expressed in 1992 in the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) for fiscal years 1994-99, a master blueprint for US dominance in the post-cold war era. Prepared under the supervision of then-Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and leaked to the press in early 1992, the DPG called for concerted efforts to prevent the rise of a future military competitor. "Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival...that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union," the document stated. Accordingly, "we [must] endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power." This has remained the guiding principle for US supremacists ever since.
In this new century the injunction to prevent the emergence of a new rival "that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union" can apply only to China, as no other potential adversary possesses a credible capacity to "generate global power." Hence the preservation of American supremacy into "the far realm of the future," as then-Governor George W. Bush put it in a 1999 campaign speech, required the permanent containment of China--and this is what Rice, Rumsfeld and their associates set out to do when they assumed office in early 2001.
This project was well under way when the 9/11 attacks occurred. As noted by many analysts on the left, 9/11 gave the neoconservatives a green light to implement their ambitious plans to extend US power around the world. Although the shift in emphasis from blocking future rivals to fighting terrorism seemed vital to a large majority of the American people, it troubled those in the permanent-supremacy crowd who felt that momentum was being lost in the grand campaign to constrain China. Moreover, antiterrorism places a premium on special forces and low-tech infantry, rather than on the costly sophisticated fighters and warships needed for combat against a major military power. For at least some US strategists, not to mention giant military contractors, then, the "war on terror" was seen as a distraction that had to be endured until the time was ripe for a resumption of the anti-Chinese initiatives begun in February 2001. That moment seems to have arrived.
Why now? Several factors explain the timing of this shift. The first, no doubt, is public fatigue with the "war on terror" and a growing sense among the military that the war in Iraq has ground to a stalemate. So long as public attention is focused on the daily setbacks and loss of life in Iraq--and, since late August, on the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina--support for the President's military policies will decline. And this, it is feared, could translate into an allergy to costly military operations altogether, akin to the dreaded "Vietnam syndrome" of the 1970s and '80s. It is hardly surprising, then, that senior US officers are talking of plans to reduce US troop strength in Iraq over the coming year even though President Bush has explicitly ruled out such a reduction.
At the same time, China's vast economic expansion has finally begun to translate into improvements in its net military capacity. Although most Chinese weapons are hopelessly obsolete--derived, in many cases, from Soviet models of the 1950s and '60s--Beijing has used some of its newfound wealth to purchase relatively modern arms from Russia, including fighter planes, diesel-electric submarines and destroyers. China has also been expanding its arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles, many capable of striking Taiwan and Japan. None of these systems compare to the most advanced ones in the American arsenal, but their much-publicized acquisition has provided fresh ammunition to those in Washington who advocate stepped-up efforts to neutralize Chinese military capabilities.
Under these circumstances, the possibility of a revved-up military competition with China looks unusually promising to some in the military establishment. For one thing, no American lives are at risk in such a drive--any bloodletting, should it occur, lies safely in the future. For another, there has been a recent surge in anti-Chinese sentiment in this country, brought about in part by high gasoline prices (blamed, by many, on newly affluent car-crazy Chinese consumers), the steady loss of American jobs to low-wage Chinese industrial zones and the (seemingly) brazen effort by CNOOC to acquire Unocal. This appears, then, to be an opportune moment for renewing the drive to constrain China. But the brouhaha over Unocal also reveals something deeper at work: a growing recognition that the United States and China are now engaged in a high-stakes competition to gain control of the rest of the world's oil supplies.
Just a decade ago, in 1994, China accounted for less than 5 percent of the world's net petroleum consumption and produced virtually all of the oil it burned. At that time China was number four in the roster of the world's top oil consumers, after the United States, Japan and Russia, and its daily usage of 3 million barrels represented less than one-fifth of what the United States consumed on an average day. Since then, however, China has jumped to the number-two position among the leading consumers (supplanting Japan in 2003), and its current consumption of about 6 million barrels per day represents approximately one-third of America's usage. However, domestic oil output in China has remained relatively flat over this period, so it must now import half of its total supply. And with China's economy roaring ahead, its need for imported petroleum is expected to climb much higher in the years to come: According to the Department of Energy (DOE), Chinese oil consumption is projected to reach 12 million barrels per day in 2020, of which 9 million barrels will have to be obtained abroad. With the United States also needing more imports--as much as 16 million barrels per day in 2020--the stage is being set for an intense struggle over access to the world's petroleum supplies.
This would not be such a worrisome prospect if global petroleum output can expand sufficiently between now and 2020 to satisfy increased demand from both China and the United States--and in fact, the DOE predicts that sufficient oil will be available at that time. But many energy experts believe world oil output, now hovering at about 84 million barrels per day, is nearing its maximum or "peak" sustainable level, and will never reach the 111 million barrels projected by the DOE for 2020. If this proves to be the case, or even if output continues to rise but still falls significantly short of the DOE projection, the competition between the United States and China for whatever oil remains in ever diminishing foreign reservoirs will become even more fierce and contentious.
The intensifying US-Chinese struggle for oil is seen, for instance, in China's aggressive pursuit of supplies in such countries as Angola, Canada, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Venezuela. Until recently China derived very little of its petroleum from these countries; now it has struck deals with all of them for new supplies. That China is competing so vigorously with the United States for access to foreign oil is worrisome enough to American business leaders and government officials, given the likelihood that this will result in higher energy costs and a slowing economy; the fact that it is seeking to siphon off oil from places like Canada, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela--which have long sent a large share of their supplies to America--is the source of even greater concern, particularly if it results in a permanent shift in the global flow of oil. From a strategic perspective, moreover, US officials worry that China's efforts to acquire more oil from Iran and Sudan have been accompanied by deliveries of arms and military aid, thus altering the balance of power in areas considered vital to Washington's security interests.
Initially, discussion of China's intensifying quest for foreign oil was largely confined to the business press, but now, for the first time, it is being viewed as a national security matter--that is, as a key factor in shaping US military policy. This outlook was first given official expression in the 2005 edition of the Pentagon's report on Chinese military power. "China became the second largest consumer and third largest importer of oil in 2003," the report notes. "As China's energy and resource needs grow, Beijing has concluded that access to these resources requires special economic or foreign policy relationships in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, bringing China closer to problem countries such as Iran, Sudan, and Venezuela." Again, the implications of this are obvious: China's growing ties to "problem states" constitute a threat to US security and so must be met with countermoves of one sort or another.
Two trends have thus joined to propel this new swing of the pendulum: a drive to refocus attention on the long-term challenge posed by China and fresh concern over China's pursuit of oil supplies in strategic areas of the globe. So long as these two conditions prevail--and there is no repeat of 9/11--the calls for increased US military preparation for an eventual war with China will grow stronger. The fact that Bush has seen his job-approval rating plummet in the wake of Hurricane Katrina might also tempt the Administration to play up the China threat. While none of this is likely to produce a true rupture in US-Chinese relations--the forces favoring economic cooperation are too strong to allow that--we can expect vigorous calls for an ambitious US campaign to neutralize China's recent military initiatives.
This campaign will take two forms: first, a drive to offset any future gains in Chinese military strength through permanent US military-technological superiority; and second, what can only be described as the encirclement of China through the further acquisition of military bases and the establishment of American-led, anti-Chinese alliances. None of these efforts are being described as part of an explicit, coherent strategy of containment, but there is no doubt from the testimony of US officials that such a strategy is being implemented.
Elements of this strategy can be detected, for example, in the March 8 testimony of Adm. William Fallon, Commander of the US Pacific Command (PACOM), before the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It's certainly cause for concern to see this continuing buildup [by China]," he noted. "It seems to be more than might be required for their defense. We're certainly watching it very closely, [and] we're looking at how we match up against these capabilities."
To counter China's latest initiatives, Fallon called for improvements in US antimissile and antisubmarine warfare (ASW) capabilities, along with a deepening of military ties with America's old and new allies in the region. With respect to missile defense, for example, he stated that "an effective, integrated and tiered system against ballistic missiles" should be "a top priority for development." Such a system, in all likelihood, would be aimed at China's short-range missiles. He also called for establishment of a "robust and integrated ASW architecture" to "counter the proliferation of submarines in the Pacific."
Note that Fallon is not talking about a conflict that might occur in the central or eastern Pacific, within reach of America's shores; rather, he is talking about defeating Chinese forces in their home waters, on the western rim of the Pacific. That US strategy is aimed at containing China to its home territory is further evident from the plans he described for enhanced military cooperation with US allies in the region. These plans, encapsulated in the Theater Security Cooperation Plan (TSCP), were described by Fallon as "one of the primary means through which we extend US influence, develop access and promote competence among potential coalition partners."
Typically, the cooperation will include the delivery of arms and military assistance, joint military maneuvers, regular consultation among senior military officials and, in some cases, expansion (or establishment) of US military bases. In Japan, for example, PACOM is cooperating in the joint development of a regional ballistic missile defense system; in the Philippines it is assisting in the reorganization and modernization of national forces; in Singapore--which already plays host to visiting US aircraft carriers--"we are exploring opportunities for expanded access to Singaporean facilities." And this is not the full extent of US efforts to establish an anti-Chinese coalition in the region. In his March testimony Fallon also described efforts to woo India into the American orbit. "Our relationship with the Indian Integrated Defense Staff and the Indian Armed Services continues to grow," he noted. "US and Indian security interests continue to converge as our military cooperation leads to a stronger strategic partnership."
All this and much more is described as an essentially defensive reaction to China's pursuit of forces considered in excess of its legitimate self-defense requirements--"outsized," as Secretary Rice described the Chinese military in a recent interview. One can argue, of course, about what constitutes an appropriate defense capacity for the world's most populous nation, but that's not the point--what matters is that any rational observer in Beijing can interpret Fallon's testimony (and the other developments described above) only as part of a concerted US campaign to contain China and neutralize its military capabilities.
Chinese leaders are no doubt fully aware of their glaring military inferiority vis-à-vis the United States, and so can be expected to avoid a risky confrontation with Washington. But any nation, when confronted with a major military buildup by a potential adversary off its shores, is bound to feel threatened and will respond accordingly. For a proud country like China, which has been repeatedly invaded and occupied by foreign powers over the past few centuries, the US buildup on its doorstep must appear especially threatening. It is hardly surprising, then, that Beijing has sought modern weapons and capabilities to offset America's growing advantage. Nor is it surprising that China has sought to buttress its military ties with Russia--the two countries held joint military exercises in August, the first significant demonstration of military cooperation since the Korean War--and to discourage neighboring countries from harboring American bases. (Uzbekistan asked the United States to shut down its base at Karshi-Khanabad after a meeting of the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization in July.) But even if defensive in nature, these moves will provide additional ammunition for those in Washington who see a Chinese drive for regional hegemony and so seek an even greater US capacity to overpower Chinese forces.
This is all bound to add momentum to the pendulum's swing toward a more hostile US stance on China. But that outcome is not foreordained: Future economic conditions--a sharp rise in US interest rates, for example--could strengthen the hand of those in Washington who seek to prevent a breach in US-Chinese relations. These figures argue, for example, that Beijing helps keep US interest rates low by buying US Treasury bonds and that China represents an expanding market for US cars, aircraft and other manufactured goods. But the pursuit of ever more potent weapons on each side could prove to be a self-sustaining phenomenon, undermining efforts to improve relations.
The debate over China's military power and the purported need for a major US buildup to counter China's recent arms acquisitions will become increasingly heated in the months and years to come. As always, it will be fueled by claims of this or that Chinese military advance, often employing pseudo-technical language intended to exaggerate Chinese capabilities and discourage close scrutiny by ordinary citizens. If this trend persists, we will become locked into an ever expanding arms race that can only have harmful consequences for both countries--even if it doesn't lead to war. Questioning inflated Pentagon claims of Chinese strength and resisting the trend toward a harsher anti-Chinese military stance are essential, therefore, if we want to avert a costly and dangerous cold war in Asia.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006 2:05:08 AM
Chapter 3: The Cultural Revolution
China: Whose Revolution?
by Charlie Hore
Published as a pamphlet by the Socialist Workers Party
(Britain) in November 1987.
[The Chinese Revolution was one of the most momentous events of the 20th century. For a quarter of the human race it seemed to open the way to eradicate the roots of poverty and famine, to build a better society.
But whose revolution was it? Few socialists today look to China for inspiration. The illusions of “Maoism” have been systematically shattered. The Cultural Revolution has been revealed as a major disaster. Today China is becoming more and more part of the world system it once seemed to want to overthrow.
Beneath the hopes of the millions and the rhetoric of their leaders, was the “socialist” nature of the Chinese state ever more than a myth? In this pamphlet Charlie Hore looks at the past and the present in order to set out what the Chinese experience has to offer for socialists.]The “cultural revolution” ... was responsible for the most severe setback and the heaviest losses suffered by the party, the state and the people since the founding of the People’s Republic.
This assessment, made by Mao’s heirs, would in the 1960s have been heresy for most people on the left. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was seen as an integral part of the wave of protests and rebellions that swept the world in the late 1960s. Students in Beijing and Shanghai, like their counterparts in London, Paris, Rome, Berlin and elsewhere, were on the march against the conservatism and bureaucracy of the older generation. Their revolt was seen as clear proof that China could avoid the degeneration of the revolution that had occurred in Russia under Stalin.
In reality, the Cultural Revolution was a bloody and vicious power-struggle inside the ruling class, in which millions of Chinese were persecuted and jailed and hundreds of thousands died. Mao took the struggle onto the streets for one simple reason: if it had been confined to the ruling class, he would have lost. The only “cultural” aspect of the Cultural Revolution was its pretext.
In 1959 and 1961 the deputy mayor of Beijing wrote two plays about an honest and courageous sixteenth-century court official who attacked the emperor for his cruelty and indifference to the peasants’ poverty. The allusion to Mao was obvious. In late 1965 Mao decided to counter-attack. He found that not a single newspaper in Beijing would print his article. It was eventually published in an obscure Shanghai literary journal. On this flimsy basis, Mao ordered the start of a new campaign.
His enemies could not just ignore this, so they moved to lead the campaign in order to render it harmless to them. In doing so, they fell into the trap that Mao had set for them. For in May 1966 he savaged the work that they had produced and called for a nation-wide uprising against “those persons in power taking the capitalist road”. In a slogan that rang round China, he declared: “It is right to rebel!” (The irony of this – that rebellion is justified when the ruler allows it – was lost on most people at the time.)
At bottom the argument was over the division of power inside the ruling class. Was Mao to be a dictator over the ruling class as a whole, or simply one of its senior members? Mao’s enemies inside the ruling class had been trying to diminish his power ever since the Great Leap, by turning him into a figurehead who had no real control over the day-to-day running of society. But in doing so they built up Mao’s moral authority as the leader of the revolution, which he was able to turn against them.
In Beijing Mao got what he wanted – the removal of his enemies from their positions of power – almost at once. But to repeat this in the provinces it was necessary to take the battle onto the streets. This was the real role of the famous “Red Guards”.
From August 1966 onwards Red Guard groups were set up among students and school-students across the country. Trapped in a demeaning and stifling education system, Mao’s appeal to rebellion struck a chord with them. They moved quickly from attacking their teachers and the school authorities to attacking the local bureaucracy. Unpopular officials (and in the cities most officials were unpopular) were dragged out of their offices, paraded through the streets wearing dunces’ caps or signs hung around their necks, and forced to denounce their “crimes” at mass kangaroo courts.
The terror quickly extended to take in far wider targets. Anything which could be taken to be “bourgeois” or “feudal” culture was to be destroyed. Libraries were burnt, temples and museums containing priceless works of art were ransacked. Anyone who had received a Western education or even had family in the West became an “object of struggle”.
The personality cult of Mao was taken to extremes never seen even in Stalin’s Russia. He was described as “the red, red sun in our hearts”; not being able to recite selections from his Little Red Book was proof of disloyalty. Every family was expected to start the day by bowing to his portrait, just as they used to bow to the family gods. And when he allegedly swam the Yangtse River (four times as fast as the world record for the distance) hundreds of Red Guards died in attempts to emulate him.
The education system came to a complete halt as millions of students headed for Beijing in the hope of catching a glimpse of Mao, or set off on imitation “long marches” across country to “revolutionary shrines”. All this was often described by observers as “mass lunacy”, yet there was a rational core to it. Mao and his followers needed to whip the students and others up to such a fever pitch in order to guarantee their unquestioning obedience. As one directive to the navy put it, “We must carry out the instructions of Chairman Mao, even when we do not understand them.” (my italics)
Yet by late 1966 the disruption had reached such a pitch that Mao was forced to move to wind the movement down. This proved impossible – the situation had gone completely beyond his control.
For the local bureaucrats had not taken the attacks lying down. A few could defy Mao openly. The governor of the far western province of Xinjiang, for instance, dealt with students demonstrating against him by having them gunned down in the streets. (Two years later he was appointed the head of the “Revolutionary Committee” set up to mark the end of the Cultural Revolution.)
Most local officials, however, responded by declaring their undying loyalty to Mao, organising their own groups of Red Guards and accusing those who attacked them of being themselves “counter-revolutionaries”. Warring gangs of hundreds and sometimes thousands began to multiply. The city of Wuhan in central China had at least 54 such gangs; one encounter between them left 250 dead and at least 1,500 wounded.
On the campus of Beijing’s prestigious Qinghua university, battles were fought out with home-made rifles and mortars. In the city of Changsha, one group who had failed to dislodge their rivals from a building in the city centre returned with anti-aircraft missiles! They blew away not only their opponents but also the entire building.
By the summer of 1967 large parts of China were spiralling towards all-out civil war. One former Red Guard described Changsha at the time as: “... absolutely terrifying. Bullets whistled in the streets, and the roar of a motorcycle or the wail of a siren meant violence and tragedy. The gateways of many units [workplaces] had broad white lines drawn across them, and armed guards waited on the other side to shoot anyone who stepped across without permission. There was a 9 p.m. curfew and no one wanted to go out during the day unless he had to; there were many reports of the deaths of innocent vegetable buyers by stray bullets. People criss-crossed their windows with tape to prevent their shattering as the city shook with explosions and gunfire, and at night the sky flashed light and then dark with the passing of rockets.” 
But a deeper threat than even civil war had emerged for the ruling class: the reappearance of the Chinese working class as an independent force in Chinese politics. Many of the Red Guard groups set up by local bureaucrats had been based on factory workers. From the end of 1966 these workers started to stage strikes and demonstrations for their own demands – over wages, working conditions and hours, and against managerial privileges.
The strike wave started in Shanghai in December 1966, where it lasted over a month. In the spring and summer of 1967 it spread to cover industrial workers all over China, sometimes through rail- workers (who were in the vanguard of the strike wave from the start) but more often as independent reactions to the appalling conditions faced everywhere. Each individual strike was usually of short duration, with workers going back when they had won their key demands, and there were few reports of any co-ordination of strikes beyond city level (the most notable exceptions being the rail workers). Yet as one group of workers went back, another would come out.
With the party and state machines both paralysed, the only force which Mao could rely on to restore order was the army. Yet while the armed forces could be counted on to break strikes and shoot down demonstrations, they could not be relied on to take orders from Mao. Many local army commanders had close ties to the local officials who had been attacked by the Red Guards, and were loath to take orders from the people who they saw as responsible for the chaos of the past 18 months.
The extent of this problem was graphically demonstrated by the mutiny of the Wuhan army command in July 1967. Two senior Cultural Revolution officials were sent from Beijing to arbitrate in what had become a particularly bloody feud between rival Red Guard groups. When they arrived,, they were kidnapped by the local army chiefs. Mao had the city ringed with paratroops, and a major shooting war was narrowly averted. Yet the punishment meted out to the rebels was considerably less severe than that of their victims.
The reasoning behind this was simple. The need to restore order was considerably greater than the need to do away with Mao’s opponents inside the ruling class. To restore order Mao needed the armed forces, whose leaders at provincial level were invariably associated with his opponents. So from the summer of 1967 onwards the army started to take control of local governments, colleges and factories, and enforce an end to the fighting between Red Guard groups. As the army consolidated its authority in each province, a local “Revolutionary Committee” was set up to mark the end of the Cultural Revolution in the area. These were dominated by the armed forces, but also relied heavily on the local officials who only a year earlier had been dragged through the streets as “counter-revolutionaries”. Red Guard involvement was either token or non-existent.
The response of many Red Guard groups was to conclude that the “persons in power taking the capitalist road” were more widespread than they had assumed, and to fight the new authorities. 1968 thus saw not an end to the fighting, but rather an intensification of it. For many of these groups, stepping up their struggles simply meant descending further into gangsterism. But others moved sharply to the left, and at least one developed a revolutionary socialist analysis of China, arguing that the problem was not one of individuals, but of a “Red capitalist class”.
Shengwulian, as the group became known , achieved national fame in March 1968 with the publication of their manifesto, Whither China?. They stated that “... the basic social contradictions that gave rise to the great proletarian cultural revolution are contradictions between the rule of the new bureaucratic bourgeoisie and the mass of the people. The development and intensification of these contradictions decides that society needs a more thorough change – overthrow of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, thorough smashing of the old state machinery, realisation of social revolution, realisation of a redistribution of assets and power, and establishment of a new society – People’s Commune of China.” 
The group went on to argue that the new “Revolutionary Committees” were a sham, that the army had become a force for counter-revolution, and that the immediate task was arming the workers.
The response of the state was to increase the repression. From the end of 1968 wholesale deportations of young people to the countryside began, in an attempt to break the Red Guards. Personally ordered by Mao, these deportations gave the local officials, now returning to their offices after having been disgraced, the chance to take their revenge on their tormentors. By the mid-1970s something like 17 million people (roughly 10 per cent of the urban population) had been deported.
There were worse things than deportations. In the southern province of Guangxi the repression caused around 100,000 deaths and destroyed most of the town of Wuzhou. Similar massacres took place in a number of other provinces, particularly Guangdong and Inner Mongolia.
The Cultural Revolution was formally wound up at the Ninth Congress of the CCP in April 1969. Skirmishes with Russian troops on the northern border the previous month seem to have been the final factor that caused the various factions to call a halt. But serious disorders were to continue for some time in the outlying provinces, and it was not until 1971 that the ruling class re-established complete control.
The extent of these disorders can be seen from an order sent from Beijing to the province of Shaanxi in July 1969. This explicitly forbade the hiding, exchanging or transportation of arms; the use of state workshops to make arms for personal use; the sabotaging of road and rail communications; the looting of banks; and the organising of strikes. Strikers were given guarantees that there would be no victimisations if they returned to work inside a month.  Clearly it was impossible for the bureaucracy to break all strikes by force.
Clearly, too, the violent opposition to the ruling class was not the work of a “handful of bad elements” but rather a mass activity. Though their fear of opposition from below could temporarily unite all factions inside the ruling class, the destruction caused by the Cultural Revolution, and the fact that it had solved none of the divisions, meant that the faction-fighting was only postponed to another day.
In the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, two fundamental problems faced the ruling class. Both posed major challenges to Mao’s strategy for developing the Chinese economy.
The first was the task of rebuilding the party and state machines. Restoring the shattered confidence of the army of lower officials who ran these would be an uphill task. Mao’s strategy of keeping them on their toes through a programme of constant – and contradictory – campaigns would be directly counter-productive. What the officials now returning to their offices wanted was peace and quiet, and a leadership in Beijing that knew its own mind two years running.
The second problem was the economy. It was obvious that a long period of liberal economic policies was required simply to repair the damage done during the past few years, just as it had been after the “Great Leap”. But to a section of the ruling class – represented first by Zhou Enlai and then by Deng Xiaoping – a deeper challenge to orthodoxy was necessary.
One of the major victims of the Cultural Revolution had been Chinese science and technology. In four years not one student had graduated, while the majority of Chinese scientists had spent those years cleaning out pigsties or planting rice. Mao’s strategy of catching up with the rest of the world economy through developing as a “siege economy” was now clearly unworkable.
Yet with the onset of the world economic crisis in the 1970s, and the real threat of a war with the USSR – military tensions on the northern border had been growing steadily since the March 1969 clashes – the pressure to compete was greater than ever. Now Zhou Enlai was arguing that this could only be done by opening the economy to Western capitalism, particularly the USA and Japan, in order to get advanced plant and technology. Such a strategy was bound to arouse the opposition of those who had come to power during the Cultural Revolution.
Above all the factions stood the enigmatic and devious figure of Mao, increasingly senile but still capable of playing one faction off against another to maximise his power. It was clear to his opponents that he had no coherent strategy for the 1970s – but it was equally clear that no faction could impose their will on the ruling class as a whole until he died.
The next six years were to see a series of increasingly complex and vicious faction fights develop, as each group jockeyed for temporary advantage against the others. Lin Biao, Mao’s chosen successor, was murdered together with members of his family; Deng Xiaoping rose to power, was deposed, and rose again. Yet the decisive break in this chain came not from within the ruling class, but from a revolt on the streets which was the most important challenge to the regime since its foundation – the “Tiananmen riots” of April 1976, when in Beijing alone more than 100,000 people took part in pitched battles with police, militia forces and the army.
The spark for the riots was provided when wreaths commemorating Zhou Enlai, who had died the previous year and who was revered as the only man capable of mitigating Mao’s excesses, were removed from a monument in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing. As the police moved in to break up crowds who gathered to demand the return of the wreaths, fighting broke out. It quickly spread to the whole square, drawing in larger numbers as more police and militia were rushed to the square to contain the fighting. The riot lasted the whole day, with police cars and stations being burnt, soldiers forced to retreat under hails of stones and militia barracks being wrecked. It was only broken up late at night, when hundreds of people remaining in the square were beaten to death as the police finally “restored order”. Similar revolts were reported from the cities of Hangzhou, Nanjing, Zhengzhou, Kunming and Guiyang, and in the provinces of Anhui and Guangxi. 
The extent of the panic inside the ruling class can only be guessed at. The Beijing riots took place less than a mile from the closed quarter of the city where the top rulers lived – and where Mao lay on his deathbed. They closed ranks at once against this threat from the streets. Deng Xiaoping was held responsible for the riots, and instantly disgraced. A massive repression started, with more than 100,000 people arrested in Beijing alone.
But Deng’s disgrace was to be short-lived. Whether or not he had planned the riots, it was obvious that they had been mass demonstrations in his support and against Mao’s closest supporters, the group known as the “Gang of Four”.  The conclusion drawn by most of the bureaucracy was that the “Gang” would have to go. Deeply unpopular with even the most hard-line of Mao’s supporters (who knew a sinking ship when they saw one), the “Gang” clung to power only through Mao’s support. And in September 1976 Mao died.
A month later the “Gang” were arrested at gunpoint, and the by now ritual denunciations followed: they had been for years agents of Western capitalism, implacably opposed to Mao and all he stood for, yet responsible for all the crimes of the Cultural Revolution. The propaganda machine they had built up during the Cultural Revolution, and which they had used to such effect on their enemies, now turned exactly the same torrent of lies and abuse on them.
As one Canadian Maoist, defending the arrests, admitted: “... the official People’s Daily used the same language to describe the Four and their crimes as it had used to condemn Deng Xiaoping not many months before. One could be forgiven for thinking that sometimes the articles were simply reruns with appropriate name changes made to take care of new circumstances.’ 
With Mao dead and his closest supporters in jail, the stage was clear for the “modernising” faction of the ruling class, led by Deng Xiaoping, to establish their dominance over the ruling class as a whole. By 1978 Deng had removed all the remaining effective opposition, and set about systematically demolishing Mao’s economic strategy. The siege economy was to be abandoned in favour of an opening to Western and Japanese capitalism, and the development of “market socialism”, as the only way to pull China out of the stagnation and poverty that was Mao’s legacy.
10. Resolution on CCP history 1949-1981 (pamphlet, Beijing 1981) p.32.
11. Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro, Son of the revolution (London 1984) p.133.
12. This was a shortened version of their name, which translates in full as the Hunan Provincial Proletarian Revolutionary Great Alliance Committee. Shengwulian literally means Province-Proletarian-Alliance.
13. Quoted from extracts published in International Socialism 1:37, June/July 1969, p.27. The document can be found in full in The Seventies (editors), The revolution is dead – long live the revolution (Montreal 1977) pp.153-70.
14. See Simon Leys, The Chairman’s New Clothes (London 1977) p.205.
15. According to a report in China News Analysis (Hong Kong, 4 June 1976) drawn from various provincial radio broadcasts.
16. The “Gang of Four” had risen to national prominence as some of Mao’s closest supporters during the Cultural Revolution. They were: Jiang Qing, Mao’s fourth wife; Yao Wenyuan, a journalist who became Mao’s leading intellectual hitman; Zhang Chun-qiao, former CCP boss in Shanghai; and Wang Hongwen, a former works policeman promoted as a token “model worker”.
17. Neil Burton, in Neil Burton and Charles Bettelheim, China after Mao (New York 1978) p.11.
Monday, July 10, 2006 8:56:38 AM
By Simon Barnes
The Times July 10,2006
PEOPLE SAY THAT THE ENGLISH ARE obsessed with the idea of greatness. That’s not such a bad thing to be obsessed with, in my view. Put the very, very good here and the great there — and ponder. What divides them? Why do we withhold greatness from one and bestow it so willingly on another?
When it comes to football, at least, I think I have the answer. Scan a player for possible greatness and ask: does he score goals? Good. Does he make goals? Good again. But now for the question that actually matters: does he make teams? Has he created a great international team in his own image, by the brilliance of his play and the force of his mind?
If the answer is yes, then we are in very rare company — the rarest of the rare. Pelé, obviously, Franz Beckenbauer, Diego Maradona. Me, I’d throw Johan Cruyff in there. I know he hasn’t got a World Cup on his CV, but he should have. But that’s the level at which we are arguing.
On, then, to Zinédine Zidane. And no argument, none whatsoever. A great footballer. If anyone has been in any doubt about that, this last hurrah at his last World Cup, in which every game he plays might be his last, has destroyed it, reminding us of all the ways in which his greatness was expressed. As ever, his presence on the pitch makes the team as a whole better and also makes every individual on his own play better.
The more shame that his last action on the pitch was to walk off it in response to a red card. It was given for a headbutt that — uncharacteristically for something that Zidane intended — actually missed its target. Thus a great actor also missed his own exit: and it is a warning to us all not to make gods of footballers, or of any other form of human. But Zidane still left us something worth remembering: a slide-rule pass. The cliché is long out of fashion, but I have always liked the way it combines the idea of immense precision with the actual action of a person using a slide rule. And the slide-rule pass was always Zidane’s greatest contribution to the movement of a football match.
He was the great geometrician, a master of angles with an uncanny ability to match the weight of his pass to the speed of the receiver. This is a hard enough thing to calculate in figures, even with the help of a slide rule. But that calculation was Zidane’s forte; at lightning speed and often with a pirouette, the ball coming free at some unexpected moment, at an unexpected angle, splitting open the opposition defence as if it were an oyster shell.
Many of Zidane’s moves would have looked flash if performed by anyone else. But they were never performed for themselves, always in the context of the search for victory. Zidane was a player with an immense sense of style, but style was always remorselessly subjugated to content. He never played the virtuoso for the sake of it, it was a temptation he was immune to.
Always severe and serious, but with that strange sense of detachment. It was as if he were well aware of the absurdity of football and, for that matter, of life. All the same, he could still see no point in giving these absurdities anything less than his best. He played with a wonderfully Gallic sense of cool, as if he had a Gitanes in his mouth even as he turned, swivelled and passed.
But it was not what he did that was the key to his greatness, it was what he was. It was his presence that made the fin de siècle France team the greatest in the world, one of the greatest ever. You can’t win the World Cup without a proper striker, they said. You can if you’ve got Zidane in your team, with his conductor’s baton and his slide rule and his falconine profile and his Gitanes ablaze. And just to prove that it was no fluke, he led the France team to victory in the European Championship two years later.
The defining picture of that triumph of 1998 was the hands holding aloft that monumentally ugly trophy, hands of every shade of colour that human pigment can come up with. It was a victory for a nation unified by un sang impur.
And at the heart of it, Zidane, with his North African blood and his hooked bill of a nose and an almost ecclesiastical air about him, with his widow’s peak of stubble and his tonsure.
Martin Johnson, the England rugby union captain in the World Cup triumph of 2003, said that he never set himself up to be a leader. It was just that people tended to follow him, demonstrating that the true gift of leadership is the ability to inspire “followship” in everyone else. That was always something that Zidane was able to do. Zidane was what David Beckham aspired to be and fell short of. No shame for Beckham there. Both reached for the stars; Zidane got there, Beckham didn’t. Alas, poor David, Zidane really was the best footballer in the world. Zidane really did function as the inspiration of a great team. Zidane really did win the World Cup. Draw a line between Beckham and Zidane, then. On the one side, very, very good; on the other, indisputably great.
See, it’s easy to tell the difference when you know how, isn’t it?
Z-LIST A FALLEN IDOL
Full name: Zinédine Yazid Zidane.
Date of birth: June 23, 1972. Place: Marseilles.
Height: 185cm. Weight: 78kg.
Clubs: Cannes (1988-92), Bordeaux (1992-96), Juventus (1996-2001), Real Madrid (2001-2006).
International caps: 108. Goals: 31.
First cap: Aug 17, 1994 (France v Czech Republic).
Honours: Juventus: Inter-Continental Cup (1996), European Super Cup (1996), Italian League (1997, 1998). Real Madrid: Champions League (2002), European Super Cup (2002), Spanish league (2003). France: World Cup (1998), European Championship (2000), World Cup runner-up (2006). European player of the year: 1998. World player of the year: 1998, 2000, 2003.
DID YOU KNOW?
Named one of his sons Enzo after the former Uruguay striker, Enzo Francescoli.
The first male model to be used by Christian Dior.
In 2001, became the world’s most expensive player when he moved from Juventus to Real Madrid for a fee of £45 million.
Sunday, July 9, 2006 1:17:51 AM
Source: One-Dimensional Man
Herbert Marcuse, written in 1964
Introduction to the First Edition
Does not the threat of an atomic catastrophe which could wipe out the human race also serve to protect the very forces which perpetuate this danger? The efforts to prevent such a catastrophe overshadow the search for its potential causes in contemporary industrial society. These causes remain unidentified, unexposed, unattacked by the public because they recede before the all too obvious threat from without - to the West from the East, to the East from the West. Equally obvious is the need for being prepared, for living on the blink, for facing the challenge. We submit to the peaceful production of the means of destruction, to the perfection of waste, to being educated for a defense which deforms the defenders and that which they defend.
If we attempt to relate the causes of the danger to the war in which society is organized and organizes its members, we are immediately confronted with the fact that advanced industrial society becomes richer, bigger, and better as it perpetuates the danger. The defense structure makes life easier for a greater number of people and extends man's mastery of nature. Under these circumstances, our mass media have little difficulty in selling particular interests as those of all sensible men. The political needs of society become individual needs and aspirations, their satisfaction promotes business and the commonweal, and the whole appeals to be the very embodiment of Reason.
And yet this society is irrational as a whole. Its productivity is destructive of the free development of human needs and faculties, its peace maintained by the constant threat of war, its growth dependent on the repression of the real possibilities for pacifying the struggle for existence - individual, national, and international. This repression, so different from that which characterized the preceding, less developed stages of our society, operates today not tram a position of natural and technical immaturity but rather from a position of strength. The capabilities (intellectual and material) of contemporary society are immeasurably greater than ever before - which means that the scope of society's domination over the individual is immeasurably greater than ever before. Our society distinguishes itself by conquering the centrifugal social forces with Technology rather than Terror, on the dual basis of an overwhelming efficiency and an increasing standard of living.
To investigate the roots of these developments and examine their historical alternatives is part of the aim of a critical theory of contemporary society, a theory which analyzes society in the light of its used and unused or abused capabilities for improving the human condition. But what are the standards for such a critique?
Certainly value judgments play a part. The established war of organizing society is measured against other possible ways, ways which are held to offer better chances for alleviating man's struggle for existence; a specific historical practice is measured against its own historical alternatives. From the beginning, any critical theory of society is thus confronted with the problem of historical objectivity, a problem which arises at the two points where the analysis implies value judgments:
1. the judgment that human life is worth living, or rather can be and ought to be made worth living. This judgement underlies all intellectual effort; it is the a priori of social theory, and its rejection (which is perfectly logical) rejects theory itself;
2. the judgment that, in a given society, specific possibilities exist for the amelioration of human life and specific ways and means of realizing these possibilities. Critical analysis has to demonstrate the objective validity of these judgments, and the demonstration has to proceed on empirical grounds. The established society has available an ascertainable quantity and quality of intellectual and material resources. How can these resources be used for the optimal development and satisfaction of individual needs and faculties with a minimum of toil and misery? Social theory is historical theory, and history is the realm of chance in the realm of necessity. Therefore, among the various possible and actual modes of organizing and utilizing the available resources, which ones offer the greatest chance of an optimal development?
The attempt to answer these questions demands a series of initial abstractions. In order to identify and define the possibilities of an optimal development, the critical theory must abstract from the actual organization and utilization of society's resources, and from the results of this organization and utilization. Such abstraction which refuses to accept the given universe of facts as the final context of validation, such “transcending” analysis of the facts in the light of their arrested and denied possibilities, pertains to the very structure of social theory. It is opposed to all metaphysics by virtue of the rigorously historical character of the transcendence. The “possibilities” must be within the reach of the respective society; they must be definable goals of practice. By the same token, the abstraction from the established in - situations must be expressive of an actual tendency-that is, their transformation must be the real need of the underlying population. Social theory is concerned with the historical alternatives which haunt the established society as subversive tendencies and forces. The values attached to the alternatives do become facts when they are translated into reality by historical practice. The theoretical concepts terminate with social change.
But here, advanced industrial society confronts the critique with a situation which seems to deprive it of its very basis. Technical progress, extended to a whole system of domination and coordination, creates forms of life (and of power) which appear to reconcile the forces opposing the system and to defeat or refute all protest in the name of the historical prospects of freedom from toil and domination. Contemporary society seems to be capable of containing social change - qualitative change which would establish essentially different institutions, a new direction of the productive process, new modes of human existence. This containment of social change is perhaps the most singular achievement of advanced industrial society; the general acceptance of the National Purpose, bipartisan policy, the decline of pluralism, the collusion of Business and Labor within the strong State testify to the integration of opposites which is the result as well as the prerequisite of this achievement.
A brief comparison between the formative stage of the theory of industrial society and its present situation may help to show how the basis of the critique has been altered. At its origins in the first half of the nineteenth century, when it elaborated the first concepts of the alternatives, the critique of industrial society attained concreteness in a historical mediation between theory and practice, values and facts, needs and goals. This historical mediation occurred in the consciousness and in the political action of the two great classes which faced each other in the society: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In the 'Capitalist world, they are still the basic classes. However, the capitalist development has altered the structure and function of these two classes in such a way that they no longer appear to be agents of historical transformation. An overriding interest in the preservation and improvement of the institutional status quo unites the former antagonists in the most advanced areas of contemporary society. And to the degree to which technical progress assures the growth and cohesion of communist society, the very idea of qualitative change recedes before the realistic notions of a non-explosive evolution. In the absence of demonstrable agents and agencies of social change, the critique is thus thrown back to a high level of abstraction. There is no ground on which theory and practice, thought and action meet. Even the most empirical analysis of historical alternatives appears to be unrealistic speculation, and commitment to them a matter of personal (or group) preference.
And yet: does this absence refute the theory? In the face of apparently contradictory facts, the critical analysis continues to insist that the need for qualitative change is as pressing as ever before. Needed by whom? The answer continues to be the same: by the society as a whole, for every one of its members. The union of growing productivity and growing destruction; the brinkmanship of annihilation; the surrender of thought, hope, and fear to the decisions of the powers that be; the preservation of misery in the face of unprecedented wealth constitute the most impartial indictment - even if they are not the raison d'etre of this society but only its by-product: its sweeping rationality, which propels efficiency and growth, is itself irrational.
The fact that the vast majority of the population accepts, and is made to accept, this society does not render it less irrational and less reprehensible. The distinction between true and false consciousness, real and immediate interest still is meaningful. But this distinction itself must be validated. Men must come to see it and to find their way from false to true consciousness, from their immediate to
their real interest. They can do so only if they live in need of changing their way of life, of denying the positive, of refusing. It is precisely this need which the established society manages to repress to the degree to which it is capable of “delivering the goods” on an increasingly large scale, and using the scientific conquest of nature for the scientific conquest of man.
Confronted with the total character of the achievements of advanced industrial society, critical theory is left without the rationale for transcending this society. The vacuum empties the theoretical structure itself, because the categories of a critical social theory were developed during the period in which the need for refusal and subversion was embodied in the action of effective social forces. These categories were essentially negative and oppositional concepts, defining the actual contradictions in nineteenth century European society. The category “society” itself expressed the acute conflict between the social and political sphere - society as antagonistic to the state. Similarly, “individual,” “class,” “private,” “family” denoted spheres and forces not yet integrated with the established conditions - spheres of tension and contradiction. With the growing integration of industrial society, these categories are losing their critical connotation, and tend to become descriptive, deceptive, or operational terms.
An attempt to recapture the critical intent of these categories, and to understand how the intent was cancelled by the social reality, appears from the outset to be regression from a theory joined with historical practice to abstract, speculative thought: from the critique of political economy to philosophy. This ideological character of the critique results from the fact that the analysis is forced to proceed from a position “outside” the positive as well as negative, the productive as well as destructive tendencies in society. Modern industrial society is the pervasive identity of these opposites - it is the whole that is in question. At the same time, the position of theory cannot be one of mere speculation. It must be a historical position in the sense that it must be grounded on the capabilities of the given society.
This ambiguous situation involves a still more fundamental ambiguity. One-Dimensional Man will vacillate throughout between two contradictory hypotheses: (1) that advanced industrial society is capable of containing qualitative change for the foreseeable future; (2) that forces and tendencies exist which may break this containment and explode the society. I do not think that a clear answer can be given. Both tendencies are there, side by side - and even the one in the other. The first tendency is dominant, and whatever preconditions for a reversal may exist are being used to prevent it. Perhaps an accident may alter the situation, but unless the recognition of what is being done and what is being prevented subverts the consciousness and the behavior of man, not even a catastrophe will bring about the change.
The analysis is focused on advanced industrial society, In which the technical apparatus of production and distribution (with an increasing sector of automation) functions, not as the sum-total of mere instruments which can be isolated from their social and political effects, but rather as a system which determines a priori the product of the apparatus as well as the operations of servicing and extending it. In this society, the productive apparatus tends to become totalitarian to the extent to which it determines not only the socially needed occupations, skills, and attitudes, but also individual needs and aspirations. It thus obliterates the Opposition between the private and public existence, between individual and social needs. Technology serves to institute new, more effective, and more pleasant forms of social control and social cohesion. The totalitarian tendency of these controls seems to assert itself in still another sense - by spreading to the less developed and even to the pre-industrial areas of the world, and by creating similarities in the development of capitalism and communism.
In the face of the totalitarian features of this society, the traditional notion of the “neutrality” of technology can no longer be maintained. Technology as such cannot be isolated from the use to which it is put; the technological society is a system of domination which operates already in the concept and construction of techniques. The way in which a society organizes the life of its members involves an initial choice between historical alternatives which are determined by the inherited level of the material and intellectual culture. The choice itself results from the play of the dominant interests. It anticipates specific modes of transforming and utilizing man and nature and rejects other modes. It is one “project” of realization among others.
But once the project has become operative in the basic institutions and relations, it tends to become exclusive' and to determine the development of the society as a whole. As a technological universe, advanced industrial society is a political universe, the latest stage in the realization of a specific historical project - namely, the experience, transformation, and organization of nature as the mere stuff of domination.
As the project unfolds, it shapes the entire universe of discourse and action, intellectual and material culture. In the medium of technology, culture, politics, and the economy merge into an omnipresent system which swallows up or repulses all alternatives. The productivity and growth potential of this system stabilize the society and contain technical progress within the framework of domination. Technological rationality has become political rationality.
In the discussion of the familiar tendencies of advanced industrial civilization, I have rarely given specific references. The material is assembled and described in the vast sociological and psychological literature on technology and social change, scientific management, corporative enterprise, changes in the character of industrial labor and of the labor force, etc. There are many unideological analyses of the facts - such as Berle and Means, The modern Corporation and Private Property, the reports of the 76th Congress' Temporary National Economic Committee on the Concentration of Economic Power, the publications of the AFL-CIO on Automation and Maior Technological Change, but also those of News and Letters and Correspondence in Detroit. I should like to emphasize the vital importance of the work of C. Wright Mills, and of studies which are frequently frowned upon because of simplification, overstatement, or journalistic ease - Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders, The Status Seekers, and The Waste Makers, William H. Whyte's The Organization Man, Fred J. Cooks The Warfare State belong in this category. To be sure, the lack of theoretical analysis in these works leaves the roots of the described conditions covered and protected, but left to speak for themselves, the conditions speak loudly enough. Perhaps the most telling evidence can be obtained by simply looking at television or listening to the AM radio for one consecutive hour for a couple of days, not shutting off the commercials, and now and then switching the station.
My analysis is focused on tendencies in the most highly developed contemporary societies. There are large areas within and without these societies where the described tendencies do not prevail - I would say: not yet prevail. I am projecting these tendencies and I offer some hypotheses, nothing more.
1. The terms “transcend” and “transcendence” are used throughout in the empirical, critical sense: they designate tendencies in theory and practice which, in a given society, overshoot” the established universe of discourse and action toward its historical alternatives (real possibilities).
2. The term “project” emphasizes the element of freedom and respon sibility in historical determination: it links autonomy and contingency. In this sense, the term is used in the work of Jean-Paul Satre.
Saturday, July 8, 2006 10:34:55 PM
Source: Eros and Civilization, A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud
Herbert Marcuse, written 1955
With a New Preface by the Author, published by Beacon Press, Boston, 1966
Political Preface 1966
Eros and Civilization: the title expressed an optimistic, euphemistic, even positive thought, namely, that the achievements of advanced industrial society would enable man to reverse the direction of progress, to break the fatal union of productivity and destruction, liberty and repression — in other words, to learn the gay science (gaya sciencia) of how to use the social wealth for shaping man’s world in accordance with his Life Instincts, in the concerted struggle against the purveyors of Death. This optimism was based on the assumption that the rationale for the continued acceptance of domination no longer prevailed, that scarcity and the need for toil were only “artificially” perpetuated — in the interest of preserving the system of domination I neglected or minimized the fact that this “obsolescent rationale had been vastly strengthened (if not replaced), by even more efficient forms of social control. The very forces which rendered society capable of pacifying the struggle for existence served to repress in the individuals the need for such a liberation. Where the high standard of living does not suffice for reconciling the people with their life and their rulers, the “social engineering” of the soul and the “science of human relations” provide the necessary libidinal cathexis. In the affluent society, the authorities are hardly forced to justify their dominion. They deliver the goods; they satisfy the sexual and the aggressive energy of their subjects. Like the unconscious, the destructive power of which they so successfully represent, they are this side of good and evil, and the principle of contradiction has no place in their logic.
As the affluence of society depends increasingly on the uninterrupted production and consumption of waste, gadgets, planned obsolescence, and means of destruction, the individuals have to be adapted to these requirements in more than the traditional ways. The “economic whip,” even in its most refined forms, seems no longer adequate to insure the continuation of the struggle for existence in today’s outdated organization, nor do the laws and patriotism seem adequate to insure active popular support for the ever more dangerous expansion of the system. Scientific management of instinctual needs has long since become a vital factor in the reproduction of the system: merchandise which has to be bought and used is made into objects of the libido; and the national Enemy who has to be fought and hated is distorted and inflated to such an extent that he can activate and satisfy aggressiveness in the depth dimension of the unconscious. Mass democracy provides the political paraphernalia for effectuating this introjection of the Reality Principle; it not only permits the people (up to a point) to chose their own masters and to participate (up to a point) in the government which governs them — it also allows the masters to disappear behind the technological veil of the productive and destructive apparatus which they control, and it conceals the human (and material) costs of the benefits and comforts which it bestows upon those who collaborate. The people, efficiently manipulated and organized, are free; ignorance and impotence, introjected heteronomy is the price of their freedom.
It makes no sense to talk about liberation to free men and we are free if we do not belong to the oppressed minority. And it makes no sense to talk about surplus repression when men and women enjoy more sexual liberty than ever before. But the truth is that this freedom and satisfaction are transforming the earth into hell. The inferno is still concentrated in certain far away places: Vietnam, the Congo, South Africa, and in the ghettos of the “affluent society": in Mississippi and Alabama, in Harlem. These infernal places illuminate the whole. It is easy and sensible to see in them only pockets of poverty and misery in a growing society capable of eliminating them gradually and without a catastrophe. This interpretation may even be realistic and correct. The question is: eliminated at what cost — not in dollars and cents, but in human lives and in human freedom?
I hesitate to use the word — freedom — because it is precisely in the name of freedom that crimes against humanity are being perpetrated. This situation is certainly not new in history: poverty and exploitation were products of economic freedom; time and again, people were liberated all over the globe by their lords and masters, and their new liberty turned out to be submission, not to the rule of law but to the rule of the law of the others. What started as subjection by force soon became “voluntary servitude,” collaboration in reproducing a society which made servitude increasingly rewarding and palatable. The reproduction, bigger and better, of the same ways of life came to mean, ever more clearly and consciously, the closing of those other possible ways of life which could do away with the serfs and the masters, with the productivity of repression.
Today, this union of freedom and servitude has become “natural” and a vehicle of progress. Prosperity appears more and more as the prerequisite an d by-product of a self-propelling productivity ever seeking new outlets for consumption and for destruction, in outer and inner space, while being restrained from “overflowing” into the areas of misery — at home and abroad. As against this amalgam of liberty and aggression, production and destruction, the image of human freedom is dislocated: it becomes the project of the subversion of this sort of progress. Liberation of the instinctual needs for — peace and quiet, of the “asocial” autonomous Eros presupposes liberation from repressive affluence: a reversal in the direction of progress.
It was the thesis of Eros and Civilization, more fully developed in my One-Dimensional Man, that man could avoid the fate of a Welfare-Through-Warfare State only by achieving a new starting point where he could reconstruct the productive apparatus without that “inner-worldly asceticism” which provided the mental basis for domination and exploration. This image of man was the determinate negation of Nietzsche’s superman: man intelligent enough and healthy enough to dispense with all heros and heroic virtues, man without the impulse to live dangerously, to meet the challenge; man with the good conscience to make life an end-in-itself, to live in joy a life without fear. “Polymorphous sexuality” was the term which I used to indicate that the new direction of progress would depend completely on the opportunity to activate repressed or arrested organic, biological needs: to make the human body an instrument of pleasure rather than labor. The old formula, the development of prevailing needs and faculties, seemed to be inadequate; the emergence of new, qualitatively different needs and faculties seemed to be the prerequisite, the content of liberation.
The idea of such a new Reality Principle was based on the assumption that the material (technical) preconditions for its development were either established, or could be established, in the advanced industrial societies of our time. It was self-understood that the translation of technical capabilities into reality would mean a revolution. But the very scope and effectiveness of the democratic introjection have suppressed the historical subject, the agent of revolution: free people are not in need of liberation, and the oppressed are not strong enough to liberate themselves. These conditions redefine the concept of Utopia: liberation is the most realistic, the most concrete of all historical possibilities and at the same time the most rationally and effectively repressed — the most abstract and remote possibility. No philosophy, no theory can undo the democratic introjection of the masters into their subjects. When, in the more or less affluent societies, productivity has reached a level at which the masses participate in its benefits, and at which the opposition is effectively and democratically “contained,” then the conflict between master and slave is also effectively contained. Or rather it has changed its social location. It exists, and explodes, in the revolt of the backward countries against the intolerable heritage of colonialism and its prolongation by neo-colonialism. The Marxian concept stipulated that only those who were free from the blessings of capitalism could possibly change it into a free society: those whose existence was the very negation of capitalist property could become the historical agents of liberation. In the international arena, the Marxian concept regains its full validity. To the degree to which the exploitative societies have become global powers, to the degree to which the new independent nations have become the battlefield of their interests, the “external” forces of rebellion have ceased to be extraneous forces: they are the enemy within the system. This does not make these rebels the messengers of humanity. By themselves, they are not (as little as the Marxian proletariat was) the representatives of freedom. Here too, the Marxian concept applies according to which the international proletariat would get its intellectual armor from outside: the “lightning of thought” would strike the “naiven Volksboden.” Grandiose ideas about the union of theory and practice do injustice to the feeble beginnings of such a union. Yet the revolt in the backward countries has found a response in the advanced countries where youth is in protest against repression in affluence and war abroad.
Revolt against the false fathers, teachers, and heroes solidarity with the wretched of the earth: is there any “organic” connection between the two facets of the protest? There seems to be an all but instinctual solidarity. The revolt at home against home seems largely impulsive, its targets hard to define: nausea caused by “the way of life,” revolt as a matter of physical and mental hygiene. The body against “the machine” — not against the mechanism constructed to make life safer and milder, to attenuate the cruelty of nature, but against the machine which has taken over the mechanism: the political machine, the corporate machine, the cultural and educational machine which has welded blessing and curse into one rational whole. The whole has become too big, its cohesion too strong, its functioning too efficient — does the power of the negative concentrate in still partly unconquered, primitive, elemental forces? The body against the machine: men, women, and children fighting, with the most primitive tools, the most brutal and destructive machine of all times and keeping it in check — does guerilla warfare define the revolution of our time?
Historical backwardness may again become the historical chance of turning the wheel of progress to another direction. Technical and scientific overdevelopment stands refuted when the radar-equipped bombers, the chemicals, and the “special forces” of the affluent society are let loose on the poorest of the earth, on their shacks, hospitals, and rice fields. The “accidents” reveal the substance: they tear the technological veil behind which the real powers are hiding. The capability to overkill and to overburn, and the mental behavior that goes with it are by-products of the development of the productive forces within a system of exploitation and repression; they seem to become More productive the more comfortable the system becomes to its privileged subjects. The affluent society has now demonstrated that it is a society at war; if its citizens have not noticed it, its victims certainly have.
The historical advantage of the late-comer, of technical backwardness, may be that of skipping the stage of the affluent society. Backward peoples by their poverty and weakness may be forced to forego the aggressive and wasteful use of science and technology, to keep the productive apparatus à la mesure de l'homme, under his control, for the satisfaction and development of vital individual and collective needs.
For the overdeveloped countries, this chance would be tantamount to the abolition of the conditions under which man’s labor perpetuates, as self-propelling power, his subordination to the productive apparatus, and, with it, the obsolete forms of the struggle for existence. The abolition of these forms is, just as it has always been, the task of political action, but there is a decisive difference in the present situation. Whereas previous revolutions brought about a larger and more rational development of the productive forces, in the overdeveloped societies of today, revolution would mean reversal of this trend: elimination of overdevelopment, and of its repressive rationality. The rejection of affluent productivity, far from being a commitment to purity, simplicity, and “nature,” might be the token (and weapon) of a higher stage of human development, based on the achievements of the technological society. As the production of wasteful and destructive goods is discontinued (a stage which would mean the end of capitalism in all its forms) — the somatic and mental mutilations inflicted on man by this production may be undone. In other words, the shaping of the environment, the transformation of nature, may be propelled by the liberated rather than the repressed Life Instincts, and aggression would be subjected to their demands.
The historical chance of the backward countries is in the absence of conditions which make for repressive exploitative technology and industrialization for aggressive productivity. The very fact that the affluent warfare state unleashes its annihilating power on the backward countries illuminates the magnitude of the threat. In the revolt of the backward peoples, the rich societies meet, in an elemental and brutal form, not only a social revolt in the traditional sense, but also an instinctual revolt — biological hatred. The spread of guerilla warfare at the height of the technological century is a symbolic event: the energy of the human body rebels against intolerable repression and throws itself against the engines of repression. Perhaps the rebels know nothing about the ways of organizing a society, of constructing a socialist society; perhaps they are terrorized by their own leaders who know something about it, but the rebels’ frightful existence is in total need of liberation, and their freedom is the contradiction to the overdeveloped societies.
Western civilization has always glorified the hero, the sacrifice of life for the city, the state, the nation; it has rarely asked the question of whether the established city, state, nation were worth the sacrifice. The taboo on the unquestionable prerogative of the whole has always been maintained and enforced, and it has been maintained and enforced the more brutally the more the whole was supposed to consist of free individuals. The question is now being asked — asked from without — and it is taken up by those who refuse to play the game of the affluents — the question of whether the abolition of this whole is not the precondition for the emergence of a truly human city, state, nation.
The odds are overwhelmingly on the side of the powers that be. What is romantic is not the positive evaluation of the liberation movements in the backward countries, but the positive evaluation of their prospects. There is no reason why science, technology, and money should not again do the job of destruction, and then the job of reconstruction in their own image. The price of progress is frightfully high, but we shall overcome. Not only the deceived victims but also their chief of state have said so. And yet there are photographs that show a row of half naked corpses laid out for the victors in Vietnam: they resemble in all details the pictures of the starved, emasculated corpses of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Nothing and nobody can ever overcome these deeds, nor the sense of guilt which reacts in further aggression. But aggression can be turned against the aggressor. The strange myth according to which the unhealing wound can only be healed by the weapon that afflicted the wound has not yet been validated in history: the violence which breaks the chain of violence may start a new chain. And yet, in and against this continuum, the fight will continue. It is not the struggle of Eros against Thanatos, because the established society too has its Eros: it protects, perpetuates, and enlarges life. And it is not a bad life for those who comply and repress. But in the balance, the general presumption is that aggressiveness in defense of life is less detrimental to the Life Instincts than aggressiveness in aggression.
In defense of life: the phrase has explosive meaning in the affluent society. It involves not only the protest against neo-colonial war and slaughter, the burning of draft cards at the risk of prison, the fight for civil rights, but also the refusal to speak the dead language of affluence, to wear the clean clothes, to enjoy the gadgets of affluence, to go through the education for affluence. The new bohème, the beatniks and hipsters, the peace creeps — all these “decadents” now have become what decadence probably always was: poor refuge of defamed humanity.
Can we speak of a juncture between the erotic and political dimension?
In and against the deadly efficient organization of the affluent society, not only radical protest, but even the attempt to formulate, to articulate, to give word to protest assume a childlike, ridiculous immaturity. Thus it is ridiculous and perhaps “logical” that the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley terminated in the row caused by the appearance of a sign with the four-letter word. It is perhaps equally ridiculous and right to see deeper significance in the buttons worn by some of the demonstrators (among them infants) against the slaughter in Vietnam: MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR. On the other side, against the new youth who refuse and rebel, are the representatives of the old order who can no longer protect its life without sacrificing it in the work of destruction and waste and pollution. They now include the representatives of organized labor — correctly so to the extent to which employment within the capitalist prosperity depends on the continued defense of the established social system.
Can the outcome, for the near future, be in doubt? The people, the majority of the people in the affluent society, are on the side of that which is — not that which can and ought to be. And the established order is strong enough and efficient enough to justify this adherence and to assure its continuation. However, the very strength and efficiency of this order may become factors of disintegration. Perpetuation of the obsolescent need for full-time labor (even in a very reduced form) will require the increasing waste of resources, the creation of ever more unnecessary jobs and services, and the growth of the military or destructive sector. Escalated wars, permanent preparation for war, and total administration may well suffice to keep the people under control, but at the cost of altering the morality on which the society still depends. Technical progress, itself a necessity for the maintenance of the established society, fosters needs and faculties which are antagonistic to the social organization of labor on which the system is built. In the course of automation, the value of the social product is to an increasingly smaller degree determined by the labor time necessary for its production. Consequently, the real social need for productive labor declines, and the vacuum must be filled with unproductive activities. An ever larger amount of the work actually performed becomes superfluous, expendable, meaningless. Although these activities can be sustained and even multiplied under total administration, there seems to exist an upper limit to their augmentation.
This limit would be reached when the surplus value created by productive labor no longer suffices to pay for non-production work. A progressive reduction of labor seems to be inevitable, and for this eventuality, the system has to provide for occupation without work; it has to develop needs which transcend the market economy and may even be incompatible with it.
The affluent society is in its own way preparing for this eventuality by organizing “the desire for beauty and the hunger for community,” the renewal of the” contact with nature,” the enrichment of the mind, and honors for “creation for its own sake.” The false ring of such proclamations is indicative — of the fact that, within the established system, these aspirations are translated into administered cultural activities, sponsored by the government and the big corporations — an extension of their executive arm into the soul of the masses. — It is all but impossible to recognize in the aspirations thus defined those of Eros and its autonomous transformation of a repressive environment and a repressive existence. If these goals are to be satisfied without an irreconcilable conflict with the requirements of the market economy, they must be satisfied within the framework of commerce and profit. But this sort of satisfaction would be tantamount to denial, for the erotic energy of the Life Instincts cannot be freed under the dehumanizing conditions of profitable affluence. To be sure, the conflict between the necessary development of noneconomic needs which would validate the idea of the abolition of labor (life as an end in itself) on the one hand, and the necessity for maintaining the need for earning a living on the other is quite manageable (especially as long as the Enemy within and without can serve as propelling force behind the defense of the status quo). However, the conflict may become explosive if it is accompanied and aggravated by the prospective changes at the very base of advanced industrial society, namely, the gradual undermining of capitalist enterprise in the course of automation.
In the meantime, there are things to be done. The system has its weakest point where it shows its most brutal strength: in the escalation of its military potential (which seems to press for periodic actualization with ever shorter interruptions of peace and preparedness). This tendency seems reversible only under strongest pressure, and its reversal would open the danger spots in the social structure: its conversion into a “normal” capitalist system is hardly imaginable without a serious crisis and sweeping economic and political changes. Today, the opposition to war and military intervention strikes at the roots: it rebels against those whose economic and political dominion depends on the continued (and enlarged) reproduction of the military establishment, its “multipliers,” and the policies which necessitate this reproduction. These interests are not hard to identify, and the war against them does not require missiles, bombs, and napalm. But it does require something that is much harder to produce — the spread of uncensored and unmanipulated knowledge, consciousness, and above all, the organized refusal to continue work on the material and intellectual instruments which are now being used against man — for the defense of the liberty and prosperity of those who dominate the rest.
To the degree to which organized labor operates in defense of the status quo, and to the degree to which the share of labor in the material process of production declines, intellectual skills and capabilities become social and political factors. Today, the organized refusal to cooperate of the scientists, mathematicians, technicians, industrial psychologists and public opinion pollsters may well accomplish what a strike, even a large-scale strike, can no longer accomplish but once accomplished, namely, the beginning of the reversal, the preparation of the ground for political action. That the idea appears utterly unrealistic does not reduce the political responsibility involved in the position and function of the intellectual in contemporary industrial society. The intellectual refusal may find support in another catalyst, the instinctual refusal among the youth in protest. It is their lives which are at stake, and if not their lives, their mental health and their capacity to function as unmutilated humans. Their protest will continue because it is a biological necessity. “By nature,” the young are in the forefront of those who live and fight for Eros against Death, and against a civilization which strives to shorten the “detour to death” while controlling the means for lengthening the detour. But in the administered society, the biological necessity does not immediately issue in action; organization demands counter-organization. Today the fight for life, the fight for Eros, is the political fight.
Thursday, June 22, 2006 8:13:31 PM
Source: World Outlook, July 14, 1967
Proofing: Andrew Pollack
Public Domain: Ch'en Pi-Lan Internet Archive 2005.
[Chen Pilan was born in 1902 in Huang-pei village, Hubei province. She joined the Young Socialist League and the Chinese Communist Party as a student in Wuhan in 1922. In 1924 she was chosen by the CCP Central Committee to attend the University of the Toilers of the East in Moscow, returning to China in August 1925. She took part in the revolutionary upheaval of 1925-27, first in Henan, then, toward the end of 1925, in Shanghai. From October 1925 to April 1927 she was a member of the Standing Committee of the CCP's Shanghai Regional Committee, secretary of the regional committee's women's bureau, and editor of Chung-kuo fu-nu (Chinese Women). She helped organize the Shanghai Women's Association's participation in the March 1927 Shanghai workers' insurrection. (She left Shanghai to attend a party conference in Wuhan a few hours before Chiang Kai-shek's anticommunist massacre on April 12.)
Ch'en was a founding member of the Chinese Trotskyist movement in 1929. She carried out clandestine work in Shanghai under the Japanese occupation during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-45). In 1946 she was elected to the Political Bureau of the Communist League of China, the Chinese section of the Fourth International. She was editor of the League's magazine, New Voice, from May 1945 until she and P’eng Shu-tse were forced to go into exile in December 1948, and from then until her death she was a leader of the Chinese Trotskyists in exile and of the Fourth International.]
Question: In my interviews with P’eng Shu-tse, who analyzed the situation in China in some detail, I have gotten a fairly clear idea of the origins and subsequent evolution of the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,” the different and contrasting positions of the Maoists and anti-Maoists, and the possible future perspectives of the struggle. In the first stage of the “Cultural Revolution,” the people who were attacked were artists, writers, scholars, and educators. Therefore, I would like to ask you some questions about the differences of opinion on questions of literature, art, education, etc. First of all, may I ask you to describe and analyze the differences between the two factions on these questions, as it seems these differences can be most important and give us a much clearer and better understanding of the general lines and positions of the two contending factions.
Answer: Yes; this is true. If one understands the differences on these questions, one can get a very good idea as to what the general struggle between the two factions is about.
In reality, when Mao launched the “Cultural Revolution” movement, he began by attacking Wu Han’s drama Hai Jui Dismissed from Office, T’ien Han’s drama Hsieh Yao-huan, and Teng T’o’s writings Evening Talks at Yanshan and Notes from Three-Family Village. In other words, Mao began by attacking the leading cadres in the cultural fields, which, of course, gave rise to the name “Cultural Revolution.”
We all know that under Stalinist dictatorial regimes, there is no political freedom, and, under these conditions, there is much dissatisfaction among the people. Dissatisfaction of this kind is usually reflected in literature and art since most artists and writers are very sensitive to the world around them. They observe the daily life of the people and see their plight as well as their hopes and aspirations. Through the means of literature and art, then, they mirror what they have observed—the bad as well as the good. It is for just this reason that Stalinist policies have always severely restricted the cultural fields, in order to keep the bad side from being exposed, including the bureaucratic regime. Literature and art were no longer allowed to reflect the actual reality but became mere propaganda to praise the policies of the bureaucrats as well as them as individuals. It is very clear that such a situation existed under Stalin’s regime; and the policies elaborated by Zhdanov on literature and art are typical examples.
The policies elaborated by Mao in this respect have been in no way different, except perhaps they have been more restrictive and harsher. The result in China has been an almost constant resistance in the field of literature and art to Mao’s policies. The present purge of people in this field is by no means the first, although it is the largest and most serious.
Q: Could you briefly tell us when Mao began to purge these people in the cultural fields and why?
A: Mao’s policy of restricting literature and art began in May 1942 during the Yenan period. It was during this time that Mao made his well-known “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art” which were given in preparation for the purge of a well-known writer. In these long discourses, except for a few quotations from Lenin, whom he cited as his authority, Mao demanded that literature and art serve only the workers, peasants, and soldiers in line with the political policies of the party; and he was against any exposures or satires of his Yenan regime. The writers were only supposed to praise the Communist New Democracy, revolutionary heroes, etc.; and he pointed out that there were many defects in the field of literature and art and that it was necessary to launch a movement in order to purge them.
During this time, there were several writers who had written some articles exposing the real life in Yenan, such as the famous woman writer Ting Ling, who wrote an article entitled “Impressions of the March Eighth Celebration”; the famous poet Ai Ch’ing, who wrote an article entitled “One Should Understand and Respect the Writers”; and Wang Shih-wei, who wrote a series of articles entitled “Wild Lilies.” These last were the sharpest exposure of certain aspects of Yenan. He criticized the lack of democracy and contrasted the privileged life of the bureaucracy to that of the rank and file. These articles attracted much attention among the people and especially among the young Communists. Mao could not tolerate such criticism and for this reason called a meeting to discuss the questions of literature and art where he gave his talks. These meetings and talks not only prepared for the purge which followed; they also laid the foundations for the basic line of Communist Party policy in questions concerning literature and art.
Not long after these discussions and meetings, a special meeting was called to purge Wang Shih-wei. Many of the party’s officials, such as the heads of the Central Propaganda Department and the Organization Department and the president of the Central Research Institute, as well as cadres working in the field of literature and art, and other writers, took part in this meeting. One might wonder why it was of such a serious nature. The reason is simple. Wang joined the party in 1926. This made him an old party member and one of the most important members of the Central Research Institute. Wang had translated into Chinese more than two million words of the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. He was, as well, a very capable writer and was respected by almost everyone, especially the youth. Thus the purge of Wang Shih-wei was a most important event in the Yenan period.
The meeting lasted sixteen days, during which Wang expressed and defended his opinions in the face of vigorous attacks by the leading cadres and officials of the party. There were a number of cultural workers who agreed with Wang’s opinions and sympathized with him. Yet, due to his being condemned as antiparty, anti-Marxist, and a Trotskyist by some of the party leaders, and especially by Ch’en Po-ta—who is now the leader of the present Cultural Revolution Group but who at that time was Mao’s private secretary—who criticized Wang most maliciously, they became fearful and retreated. Nevertheless, Wang, from beginning to end, remained strong in defending his ideas as correct. The meeting finally ended by condemning him as being anti-party, anti-Marxist, and a Trotskyist. He was expelled-from the party, thrown into prison, and tortured. Finally, he acknowledged that he was a Trotskyist; and hence he was killed.
We should take special note of the fact that Wang Shih-wei’s book Wild Lilies has exercised great attraction and has interested many youth, including members and sympathizers of the CCP as well as its youth organization. The book has circulated throughout China by means of handwritten copies passed on and on, time after time. The original copy that I read was borrowed from a sympathizer of the CCP and was of this type. Because of the bravery and boldness of Wang’s resistance against the vicious attacks and his insistence on the correctness of his own position, he became very famous. His name is to be found in most histories of this period.
Q: Were there any other purges after Wang?
A: After the CCP took power in 1949, Mao’s cultural policies were put into effect for the nation as a whole. The first to resist and criticize them was Hu Feng, who was a very famous left theoretician on literature and art. He considered Mao’s “Talks at Yenan” to be mechanistic and therefore he said that “mechanism has controlled literature and art circles for the last ten years ... this ideology of literature and art has been sterilized ... when one speaks they must employ Mao’s thought which causes people more than enough trouble.”
He held that truth is the highest principle of art. He was against what he regarded as the oversimplified policy of having literature and art serve only political ends and was against the limitation of themes as proposed by Mao. Thus he insisted that all writers should have the right to choose their own subjects. The ideas and opinions of Hu Feng, as I have indicated, are, of course, based on principles which everyone should be able to accept. However, from Mao’s point of view, such ideas were out of bounds and in 1955 he began a campaign against Hu Feng and his followers. This campaign lasted several months and was carried out on a national scale.
Not only were Hu Feng’s followers attacked and criticized, but many people in the universities, middle schools, and cultural organizations who only sympathized with him were also attacked and purged. According to reports published at the time, more than 130 Hu-Fengists were imprisoned or put in labor camps. Since that time there has been no news of him or his followers.
Almost immediately after the Hu Feng purge came the “Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend” movement, April to June 1957. It was during this period that a number of Left writers criticized Mao’s policies on literature and art, such as Ting Ling, Ai Ch’ing and Feng Hsueh-feng, the most famous contemporary theoretician of literature and art. These three were all leaders of the party in the cultural fields, especially Ting Ling and Feng Hsueh-feng, who were respectively chairwoman and vice-chairman of the National Association of Literature and Art Workers.
In June, when Mao began to suppress the “Hundred Flowers” movement, they came under attack.
For example, in September a special meeting was held in Peking to purge Ting Ling. There were around one hundred participants in this meeting, including many high officials of the party in the cultural fields, such as the minister and vice-minister of culture, Shin Yen-ping and Chou Yang. This meeting, like the one held in Yenan to purge Wang Shih-wei, lasted sixteen days and was very exhausting for Ting Ling as she was subjected to one attack after another, accusing her of being a rightist and a reactionary. Attacks against her which appeared in the People’s Daily made a connection between her and Wang Shih-wei and accused her of being like him. Shortly after the meeting, Ting Ling, Feng Hsileh-feng, Ai Ch’ing, and many others were imprisoned or sent to “reeducation camps.” As with Hu Feng and his followers, nothing further has been heard about their fate.
Concerning Ting Ling, I should say a few more words. In 1923-24, she was a classmate of mine in Shanghai University where we lived in the same home. We became very close friends, so I know her very well. She had a very strong character and was very democratic minded.
Also during the “Hundred Flowers” movement, we should take notice of the position taken by Shen Yen-ping. In a meeting called by the Central United Front Department on May 16, 1957, Shen Yen-ping expressed his own views on literature and art. He said, “In regard to literature and art, it must be considered a special field. By .only depending on some of the party’s basic texts and without any special knowledge in this field,. it is impossible to resolve concrete problems concerning literature and art.... What then should be done? There is the short road which is dogmatism and commandism.” It is very clear that Shen was criticizing the whole apparatus of the cultural department. Shen considered that in literature and art, there existed a “general phenomenon” of “monotony” and “repetitiousness.” He explained that the “sickness” of repetition was due to reducing everything to formulas and to the lack of variety in themes. In short, these sicknesses were due to not carrying out the policy of the “Hundred Flowers” movement.
All the criticisms of Shen Yen-ping no doubt implied that Mao’s policies on literature and art restricted the creative initiative and freedom of the writers; hence the monotonous and repetitious works which were devoid of any liveliness or creativity.
Q: Since Shen Yen-ping was the minister of culture, that is, the highest leader in the cultural field, why is it that he spoke out against Mao’s policies and why was he not purged with the others?
A: In order to answer this question, it is necessary to give a short resume of Shen’s personal history. He joined the CCP in 1921 and at that time he was already the author of several articles and the editor of the large magazine, Novel. After the defeat of the revolution of 1927, he left the CCP. However, he continued to write and published several books under the pen name of Mao Tun, some of which became very celebrated and he himself became very well known. It was for this reason that he became minister of culture after the CCP took power in 1949. He held this post until January 1965 when he requested that he be allowed to retire.
As to the reasons why he criticized Mao’s policies and why he was not purged, we must note that first of all, his speech was made during the peak of the “Hundred Flowers” movement; second, Shen was not a member of the party; and, third, the Ministry of Culture was really controlled by Chou Yang. According to some recent reports, however, Shen has been arrested in the current purge. It is most probable that he was arrested because of the position he expressed in his speech of 1957. During the 1925-27 revolution, I had quite a bit of personal contact with Shen, and so I also knew him very well. He was an extremely cautious man and most likely, in my opinion, he has probably not made any criticism of Mao’s policies since 1957.
Q: Since you said that it was really Chou Yang who controlled the Ministry of Culture and since Chou Yang himself has recently been attacked, what were his ideas and did they conform with those of Shen Yen-ping?
A: Chou Yang’s opinions on literature and art are not only similar to those of Shen Yen-ping, they are much more profound. If we turn only to the article by Yao Wen-yuan, recently published in the Red Flag, no. 1, 1967, “On the Counterrevolutionary Double-dealer Chou Yang,” attacking Chou Yang, we can see what his position is. For example, Yao Wen-yuan very clearly states:
Chou Yang, like Hu Feng, repeatedly advocated the propaganda that “the highest principle of art is truth,” and he was against the “oversimplification and vulgarization,” the conditions placed on writers, and the role of literature as propaganda. Chou Yang considered that “dogmatism” and “sectarianism” and the harsh attitude towards artists and writers has seriously restricted their freedom....
As to the “question of making literature and art serve politics,” there was narrow, one-sided, and incorrect understanding. [Consequently, Chou advocated that] “there should be no limits on subjects and that we should help people see the diversity of the world, the laws of history, and the complex nature of life. . . . Regardless of the subject, it can reflect the spirit of the present period.”
In another article, Chou Yang is quoted as saying:
It is better to describe the intellectuals, technicians, and others from the point of view of the proletariat. However, the working class should not be sectarian; that is, it should not only write about the workers and peasants. The idea that proletarian literature is only about workers .and peasants is not correct.”
Chou Yang was especially against literature and art serving only politics. He also said, “The writers should not only write about current affairs and should not follow the policy put forward today and, then follow a different policy that might be put forward tomorrow.” Commenting on this article in Wen Hui Pao, the Hong Kong liberal Ming Pao Monthly concluded:
In a word, Chou Yang considered that writers should write what they themselves see and according to what they themselves feel, even if what they see and feel does not correspond to the ideas and policies of the party. The writer must be loyal to the facts, to the truth, and to the objective conditions, and write freely what he believes.
Therefore, Chou Yang advocated assuring freedom in the sphere of writing.
Q: If Chou Yang, disagreed with Mao’s policies, why was he allowed to remain as vice-minister of culture, being in fact the real head of the ministry, to carry out Mao’s policies?
A: This is an important question and it is very necessary that it be answered. Under the personal dictatorship of Mao, many leaders and cadres of the party disagreed with his policies, but nevertheless they were forced to carry out Mao’s decisions. Chou Yang was only one of many such cadres and leaders. He often found himself in a contradictory situation, that is, not believing in Mao’s policies and even speaking and writing about his differences, but nevertheless forced to carry out Mao’s line in practice. For example, before the purge of Hu Feng in 1955, during a discussion meeting on Hu Feng’s case, Chou Yang said, “Hu Feng’s general political position is in agreement with the party.” In other words, Chou Yang did not want the case of Hu Feng to become too serious. When Mao ordered Hu Feng to be purged as a reactionary, Chou was obliged to carry out his orders.
In 1957, when Ting Ling, Feng Hstieh-feng, Ai Ch’ing, and the others were attacked, Chou Yang was forced into the same contradictory position as in the case of Hu Feng. It was for this reason that Yao Wen-yuan accused him of being a “double-dealer” or “two-faced counterrevolutionary.” In reality, then, under the pressure of Mao, many cadres were obliged to carry out policies with which they did not agree. This reflects the contradiction between Mao and the cadres of the party of which the present crisis is only a culmination, reaching the point of explosion.
Q: Can Chou Yang’s opinions be considered as exemplary for most of the cadres in the cultural fields?
A: Yes, it seems as though Chou Yang’s opinions reflect most of those of the rank and file. For example, the two other vice-ministers of culture, Hsia Yen and Lin Mo-han, as well as the secretary of the party group heading, the All-China Federation of Literature and Art Circles, Yang Han-sheng, all shared the same opinions as Chou Yang. Yang Han-sheng’s opinions were even more radical than Chou’s, however, and it was for this reason that he has been subjected to harsher criticism than many of the others.
Q: Could you give us some idea of Yang Han-sheng’s opinions?
A: Yes, I can, but first I should give you a few details about his personal history. Yang Han-sheng was also a classmate of mine at Shanghai University in 1923-24. He was at that time a member of the party and was a very active participant in the revolutionary movement. After the defeat of the revolution in 1927, he remained in Shanghai and was active in the underground, and it was during this time that I had much contact with him and his wife. Beginning in 1928, he wrote several novels and afterwards became a very important party cadre in the cultural work of the party.
Because he remained loyal to certain traditions of the party during the second Chinese revolution, he disagreed with the many restrictions which Mao placed upon writers and artists and criticized them very harshly. For example, in 1962, at a meeting of playwrights and actors in Canton, he said:
The party’s policy on literature-and art [that is, Mao’s policy] is equal to ten ropes binding the hands and feet of writers. These ten ropes prove to be five obligations: (1) one must write about important subjects; (2) one must write about heroes and outstanding figures; (3) one must participate in collective writing; (4) one must finish his work in a certain amount of time; (5) one must always have the OK from the party leadership. From these five obligations arise five prohibitions: (1) to write about the contradictions among the people, especially between the masses and the leaders; (2) to write any satirical dramas; (3) to, write any tragedies; (4) to write about the defects and failures of a hero; (5) to write about the weaknesses of any of the party’s leaders. All of this leaves a writer in despair and makes it difficult for him to write, and even when he does write, his work is only repetitious.
In conclusion, he advocated that “it is necessary to do away with all restrictions and to break out of all limitations. We must respect the rule of creativity, that is, freedom for the writers.”
Yang Han-sheng was severely attacked by the Maoists for the above opinions as well as for many other things. In 1957, Yang and T’ien Han went to the USSR for the anniversary of the October revolution. While they were there, they saw many plays, such as The Infinite Perspective and The Bluebird. These two dramas were exposures of the personal cult of Stalin and the purges of his opponents. They portrayed Stalin’s rule to be “like that under the tsars,” and pointed out that “the USSR no longer needs the period of terror.” When Yang Han-sheng and T’ien Han returned to China, Yang said that the actors of the USSR were very “bold”; “we are very timid. We should make the utmost effort to reform, to be bold and creative.” For these things, the Maoists accused Yang of being a “counterrevolutionary revisionist”; yet, in reality, he was only expressing agreement with the de-Stalinization taking place in the Soviet theater. It was this which Mao could not tolerate.
Q: Wu Han, Teng T’o, and T’ien Han are some of China’s most famous writers who not only have been among the first to be attacked but also among those who have been the most severely attacked by the Maoists. Have they ever expressed their opinions on literature and art?
A: Wu Han, Teng T’o, and T’ien Han have, of course, differences with Mao’s policies, but these have never been expressed openly as far as I know. They have, however, written plays and articles in which they have indirectly criticized Mao’s policies and his personal cult and dictatorship. The two plays, Hai Jui Dismissed by Wu Han and Hsieh Yao-huan by T’ien Han, which use historical plots in order to criticize Mao and his policies, are good examples. Teng T’o also wrote many articles in which he indirectly attacked the policy of the People’s Communes as well as Mao’s infallibility. But this was explained in your interview with P’eng Shu-tse, and so it is not necessary for me to repeat it. Here, I would only like to point out that even those who attacked Mao indirectly could not be tolerated by Mao.
Q: Were any of the leaders in the cultural fields, such as Chou Yang, against any of Mao’s other policies?
A: Almost all of those who disagreed on questions of literature and art were also in disagreement with Mao’s overall policy. Since the leaders and cadres working in the cultural fields have frequent contact with writers and artists working directly with the masses, they learn from them the feelings and aspirations of the masses. For example, in a meeting held in Dairen, August 1962, of writers from all over the country, the overwhelming majority of them expressed their dissatisfaction with and criticized the “Great Leap Forward” policy and especially the People’s Communes, as well as Mao’s policies on literature and art. They felt that “the life of the peasants is getting worse and worse,” and “the general line is the psychology of an upstart.” Similarly, “the Great Leap Forward is like a stimulant,” and “the People’s Communes are adventurism.” Chou Yang himself said, “The Great Leap Forward represents subjective idealism.” Again, “the People’s Communes have been established too early.” He even said, “It is good to let the peasants have their own plots,” and he advocated “opening the free market” in the countryside.
The criticisms of the “Great Leap Forward” and the People’s Communes by Chou Yang and the other writers are echoes of the criticism advanced by P’eng Te-huai in 1959. Therefore, in a meeting of the All-China Federation of Literature and Art Circles in June 1964, Mao made an address in which he said that
in the past fifteen years, these associations and most of their publications [a few were said to be good] had for the most part failed ... to carry out the policies of the party ... and failed to reflect the socialist revolution and construction. In recent years, they had even verged on revisionism. If they did not take serious steps to remold themselves, sooner or later, they were bound to become organizations of the Hungarian Petofi Club type.”
From what Mao said, it is clear that he feared the intellectuals in the cultural fields and it is easy to understand why he began the Cultural Revolution and a purge of all those who opposed him. Mao feared an actual development such as the Hungarian revolution of 1956 in China itself, started by similar groups as the Petofi Club and it is for this reason that he began his purge by singling out these cadres in the fields of literature and art.
Q: Why is it that many of the famous educators such as Lu P’ing, president of Peking University, Li Ta, president of Wuhan University, K’uang Ya-ming, president of Nanking University, etc., have been purged? Did they have differences, and possibly refused to carry out Mao’s policies in education?
A: These educators were against Mao’s policies on education. But this is a complicated and difficult question. It would make it much clearer if I would first outline Mao’s attitude toward education.
Since the CCP took power in 1949, Mao has based his educational policies on the principle that “education must serve politics.” Mao often stressed the idea that “students and professors should remold their thought.” Mao compelled the students to attend political lectures and to participate in political discussions and physical work. In other words, his policy was to make Communists out of all the students and to get them to accept and support the party’s policies. The learning of other subjects, Mao does not regard as being important; or, at best, it is only a secondary consideration. Because of such policies, the standards of education have greatly diminished.
In the “Great Leap Forward” program of 1958, Mao put forward the idea of an “educational revolution.” He stressed the idea that “education must be accompanied by productive work.” Under this slogan, the professors as well as the students were sent to the countryside to participate in the work of the People’s Communes, while others were sent to work in the factories, still carrying on their political studies and activities. These conditions led to almost a standstill in the students’ regular studies. This was the situation in 1958-59.
Mao’s policies and their results aroused much dissatisfaction among the professors, teachers, and students. For example, Li Ta said:
The Educational Revolution has destroyed the educational process. The fundamental courses have been torn asunder. The quality of education has been lowered, the methods of teaching. and studying have been disorganized. All the schools controlled by the party have become anarchic. The relations between teachers and students, between the young and old, and between the masses and the party have worsened to the greatest degree.
He also said, “The Educational Revolution in 1958 caused a very bad situation. It destroyed the activities of the intellectuals and hampered their self-respect.”
The crisis described by Li Ta represents the common opinion of the overwhelming majority of educators, professors, teachers, and students. Li Ta was one of the founding members of the CCP and was one of the twelve who attended the founding congress in 1921. He was elected to the Central Committee of the party and became the head of the Central Committee’s Propaganda Department. Sometime afterward, he left the party because he disagreed with the decision that the members of the CCP should join the Kuomintang, although he remained a Marxist. He translated many Marxist books and propagandized the ideas of Marxism in many of his own articles. It is evident that he helped the Marxist movement when he was outside the party.
Since he was a professor and had studied education from a Marxist point of view, including the educational system in the USSR, he became very well known as a Marxist educator. This was why the CCP, after taking power, appointed him as the president of Wuhan University. It was because of his profound knowledge as an educator that he realized the dangers of Mao’s educational policies and criticized them very severely.
Mao’s policy of “educational revolution” met with bankruptcy following the. failure of the “Great Leap Forward.” At the beginning of 1960, Mao was no longer able to maintain his policies and so he temporarily sat back while Liu Shao-ch’i and Teng Hsiao-p’ing took on the responsibility of dealing with the situation. Educational policies, then, were somewhat changed and corrected. First of all, the Central Educational Department published the “Sixty Points of Higher Educational Reforms.” The chief reforms were aimed at encouraging the students to study in their special fields and to make sure that they had the necessary time to do so. The students were supposed to participate in physical work and political activities; however, these things were not supposed to interfere with or be done during the time set aside for study and class. A regular system of teaching and studying was to be reestablished as well as a disciplined relationship between the students and professors. In order to raise the- quality of education, examinations were also to be reinstituted. Many of the students were to be encouraged to take up studies in the scientific fields as well as foreign languages. The schools were no longer supposed to interfere in the love life of the students, nor were they supposed to apply any other inappropriate pressures. Attention was also to be brought to the health of the students and to their welfare in general.
The Peking municipal government, headed by P’eng Chen, carried out these new reforms very enthusiastically and-elaborated a series of concrete measures to implement them. For example, it was stated that
students and teachers should not be demanded to learn politics too quickly, nor should any time be taken away from their regular studies for political activities. The teachers must know and teach their subjects as well as possible and the students must learn their lessons as well as they can. The use of abstract political ideas and terms, empty preaching, and long political reports must be avoided.
The president of Peking University, Lu P’ing, from 1961 completely abandoned the “educational revolution” policy and turned the university into an experiment for the new education reforms. He lowered the amount of time required for physical labor and political activity and made sure the students had adequate time to study their particular subjects. Hence the students of Peking University were much better off after 1961-62.
Lu Ping also advanced the slogan, “Learn from the USSR,” that is, China should also try to copy some of the educational policies in some of the Western countries; and he advocated inviting the old professors who had been expelled in the past years to return to their teaching posts. Li Ta, K’uang Ya-ming and many of the other educators carried out similar reforms. Thus the universities and colleges succeeded in returning to normal and constructive educational practices. This educational reform, in the eyes of Mao Tse-tung, was an absolute negation of his own policies of “education serving politics” and “education combined with productive labor,” and he considered it to be a “revisionist educational line” or the “restoration of bourgeois educational policies.” With this he deliberately prepared to purge those who were responsible for these reforms.
On June 13, 1966, Mao published a notice in the name of the Central Committee of the CCP and the State Council. This document is a concrete manifestation of the purge in the educational field and contains two major points:
1. All universities and middle schools were ordered closed for six months in order to “carry out thoroughly the Cultural Revolution.” In reality, this meant to “carry out thoroughly” a purge in all the universities and middle schools. Following publication of the notice, there was a furious struggle and all Mao’s opponents in the universities and middle schools came under attack and were purged.
2. Almost all opponents were attacked by the students as they carried out Mao’s orders, resulting in the purge of such people as Lu P’ing; Li Ta; K’uang Ya-ming; P’eng Kang, president of the University of Communications in Sian; Ho Lu-ting, president of the Music College in Shanghai; and Chiang Nan-tsen, president of Tsinghua University in Peking. As for the professors, the purge is difficult to estimate; however, from all reports, it seems as though the number would run into many thousands.
The People’s Daily held that the most important question was to see “whether we shall pass on Mao Tse-tung’s thought from generation to generation.” This is comparable to the religious attitude towards the Bible, and Mao’s “cultural revolutionary educational” reforms come close to paralleling the educational methods of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages.
Q: What, in your opinion, will be the outcome of the “Cultural Revolution”? That is, what do you think will be the overall influence and effect of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” on Chinese culture?
A: Mao’s purge has included almost all those cadres working in the Central Propaganda Department, the Central Cultural Ministry, the All-China Federation of Literature and Art Circles, the All-China Union of Stage Artists, National Federation of Film Workers, and the National Federation of News Workers, as well as writers, musicians, painters, educators, professors, etc., who are the embodiment of China’s culture. To purge them means to destroy China’s culture. I will only point out here two indisputable examples of what Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” means concretely to Chinese culture.
1. Since Mao launched the “Cultural Revolution” in May 1966, most writers have not dared to write anything. The publication of most cultural magazines has stopped, film-making has almost come to a standstill; the publication and republication of many books of foreign origin and even many by Chinese authors has been terminated; many cinemas and theaters have ceased to operate. In other words, almost all cultural activities no longer exist.
2. Since all the middle schools and universities were closed in June 1966, not one university has reopened and it was only last March that a part of the middle schools began to reopen in such places as Peking and Tientsin. Even before the “Cultural Revolution” and Mao’s purge, there was a great lack of teachers and professors; now, of course, there are even fewer. The worst part is that from the elementary schools to the universities there is a chronic shortage of textbooks, since almost the whole printing establishment has been given over to printing the works of Mao Tse-tung. For example, in the last half year, fifteen million Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung have been produced, each containing four large volumes, as well as eighty million Quotations from Mao Tse-tung. In addition to this, another eighty million copies of the. Selected Works have been scheduled for publication this year. Nearly all other books, therefore, such as textbooks, literature, and even the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin have ceased to be printed. Generally, then, I can say that not only have cultural activities stagnated since Mao launched his “Cultural Revolution,” but China’s culture is being destroyed to the point of disaster.
Finally, I would like to say that the “Proletarian Cultural Revolution” is theoretically absurd. When the proletariat takes power in a country, its greatest task is to overthrow the remaining capitalists in the world and complete the socialist revolution. Before the world capitalist class has been destroyed, it is impossible to construct a real proletarian culture. However, after the world socialist revolution has been completed, the proletariat itself will begin to disappear; that is, classes and, of course, class antagonisms will begin to disappear. It is at this point, then, that socialist culture will begin naturally to establish itself. Therefore, it is in no way necessary to establish a proletarian culture. Mao’s launching of the “Cultural Revolution” is not only theoretically absurd, it is also foolish from a practical point of view. The socioeconomic base in China is so backward that there are many areas which remain in a state of primitive production. As for culture, the majority of the peasantry remain illiterate along with almost half the working class. If under these conditions, to launch a “proletarian cultural revolution” in order to establish “Four News”—new culture, new ideas, new habits, and new customs—does not display ignorance, then it reveals illusions and foolish idealism.
If Mao really intended to raise the cultural level of the workers and peasants, he should have started by eliminating the illiteracy of the masses. In order to achieve this, it would, first of all, be necessary to increase the standard of living of the masses, that is, increase their pay and decrease their hours. of work. It would be necessary to let them have time and energy to study and to participate in cultural activities. Mao’s policy is, however, just the contrary, demanding that the workers and peasants work longer hours with no improvement in their living standards. Mao’s recent campaign against “economism” and his refusal to grant any concessions to the working class show his attitude quite clearly; that is, the working class should serve only as instruments of production in the interests of the bureaucracy.
In reality it can be said that Mao utilized the label of “proletarian” only in order to rationalize his attack and to purge his opposition under the accusation of “taking the capitalist road.”
However, we can see that Mao has not attacked the real capitalist and bourgeois elements still existing in China. This in itself is enough to prove that Mao’s “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” is nothing more than a purge which he is carrying out in order to maintain his own bureaucratic rule and personal cult.
Thursday, June 22, 2006 12:24:40 PM
by Minxin Pei
[Minxin Pei is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of China’s Trapped Transition.]
Communist China has experienced a monumental capitalist revolution in the last two decades, with an economy that is now six times bigger than it was 20 years ago. A minor player in the global economy in the 1980’s, China today is the world’s third largest trading power. But if these stunning economic statistics make you think that so much capitalist development must also have brought more democracy to China, think again.
Most Westerners believe in a theory of liberal evolution, according to which sustained economic growth, by increasing wealth and the size of the middle class, gradually makes a country more democratic. While the long-run record of this theory is irrefutable, China’s authoritarian ruling elite is not only determined to hold on to power, but it also has been smart enough to take adaptive measures aimed at countering the liberalizing effects of economic development.
Thus, for all its awe-inspiring economic achievement, China has made remarkably little progress in political liberalization. Indeed, judging by several key indicators, progress toward democracy in China has stalled, despite unprecedented economic prosperity and personal freedom.
For instance, in the mid-1980’s, Chinese leaders seriously discussed and later drew up a blueprint for modest democratic reforms. Today, the topic of political reform is taboo. Nearly all the major institutional reforms, such as strengthening the legislature, holding village elections, and building a modern legal system, were launched in the 1980’s. Since the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989, however, not a single major democratic reform initiative has been implemented.
Instead of democratic transition, China has witnessed a consolidation of authoritarian rule – the strengthening of a one-party regime through organizational learning and adaptation. Since 1989, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been pursuing a two-pronged strategy: selective repression that targets organized political opposition and co-optation of new social elites (the intelligentsia, professionals, and private entrepreneurs).
This strategy emphasizes the maintenance of an extensive law enforcement apparatus designed to eliminate any incipient organized opposition. Huge investments have strengthened the People’s Armed Police (PAP), a large anti-riot paramilitary force whose specialty is the quick suppression of anti-government protests by disgruntled industrial workers, peasants, and urban residents. Frequent deployment of the PAP is a major reason why the tens of thousands of collective protests that occur each year (74,000 in 2004 and 86,000 in 2005) have had a negligible impact on China’s overall stability.
To deal with new emerging political threats, such as the information revolution, the Chinese government has spent mightily on manpower and technology. A special 30,000-strong police unit monitors and screens Internet traffic, advanced technology is deployed to block access to overseas Web sites considered “hostile or harmful,” and Internet service and content providers, both domestic and Western, must comply with onerous restrictions designed to suppress political dissent and track down offenders. The regime has even conducted multi-agency exercises to test whether different government bodies could cooperate closely to keep “harmful information” off the Net during an emergency.
Having learned from the collapse of the Soviet Union that a bureaucratic ruling party must co-opt new social elites to deprive potential opposition groups of leaders, the Communist Party has conducted an effective campaign of expanding its social base. The urban intelligentsia and professionals have been pampered with material perks and political recognition, while new private entrepreneurs have been allowed to join the Party.
This strategy of pre-emptive political decapitation has produced enormous dividends for the Party. In the 1980’s, its principal adversaries were the urban intelligentsia, who constituted the backbone of the pro-democracy movement that culminated in Tiananmen Square. Today, the mainstream of the Chinese intelligentsia is an integral part of the ruling elite. Many have joined the Party and become government officials, and a large percentage enjoy various professional and financial privileges.
Predictably, the intelligentsia, usually the most liberal social group, is no longer a lethal threat to party rule. Worse, without support from this strategic group, other social groups, such as workers and peasants, have become politically marginalized and rudderless.
Although the Party’s carrot-and-stick approach has worked since 1989, it is doubtful that it will retain its efficacy for another 17 years. To the extent that China’s authoritarian regime is by nature exclusionary (it can only incorporate a limited number of elites), the co-optation strategy will soon run up against its limits, and the Party will no longer have the resources to buy off the intelligentsia or keep private entrepreneurs happy.
At the same time, selective repression can contain social frustrations and discontent only temporarily. As long as much of Chinese society views the current political system as unjust, unresponsive, and corrupt, there will always be a large reservoir of ill will toward the ruling elites.
When things go wrong – as is likely, given mounting social strains caused by rising inequality, environmental degradation, and deteriorating public services – China’s alienated masses could become politically radicalized. And, unlike past protests, which have usually been allied with students or members of the intelligentsia, popular disaffection might not have the virtue of rational leaders with whom the government could talk and negotiate.
So it may be premature for the Party to celebrate the success of its adaptive strategy. China’s rulers may have stalled democratic trends for now, but the current strategy has, perhaps, merely delayed the inevitable.
Copyright Project Syndicate, 2006.
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