Six Ways They Try to Bamboozle You About the Cultural Revolution in China and One Big Reason You Need to Dig Deeper and Get the Truth

May 23, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |



May 2016 marks 50 years since Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution in China. This was a breakthrough in dealing with a world historic problem of communist revolution—how to prevent counterrevolution under socialism, even by those who claim to be socialist. For 10 years the Cultural Revolution involved hundreds of millions in a struggle to prevent the restoration of capitalism. Then in 1976, after Mao died, a reactionary coup brought back the capitalist system that has been oppressing the Chinese people ever since. Fifty years later, the Cultural Revolution still infuriates, and threatens, the representatives of the old order, and in the last week there were renewed efforts to paint this period as an unmitigated horror show. Here’s some of what they’re saying—and how they’re trying to get you to think:

1. They run—and in fact the New York Times solicited—endless first-hand stories from people about how they or their families purportedly suffered during the Cultural Revolution, and give big reviews to books claiming to tell even more of these accounts. OK, then, where are the stories and books from those who joined with and fought on the side of Mao during the Cultural Revolution and still uphold it? And yes these people DO exist and DO want to tell their stories. (See books by Dong Ping Han and Mobo Gao; interview with Wang Zheng.) As Bob Avakian has pointed out, you might as well judge the Civil War by reading sad journals from Confederate generals, or slave owners who lost their plantations. Beyond that, there’s a bigger problem involved in resting everything on memoirs and (usually unverified) first-hand accounts, which can only ever tell part of the story and cannot in themselves shed light on the larger social forces and political dynamics in play. (See “What’s Wrong with ‘History by Memoir’?“ and a response.)

2. As long as we’re on the subject of “first-hand” stories, where are the requests from the New York Times for “first-hand stories” from people from Vietnam, or Laos, or Iraq, or Indonesia, or El Salvador to talk about how THEY suffered from what the U.S. did to them? Literally four million people died in Indochina directly from U.S. invasion and bombing, and this still goes on today with unexploded cluster bombs blowing up and killing little children who pick them up. Yet very few, if any, such books and stories find publishers or audiences, or if they do, it is nothing on the scale of the almost industrial production of the books that are reviewed in the Times and other publications week after week, and especially now. And why do you suppose that is?

3. We’re told, “Mao was a madman who killed millions in an insane lust for power.” Putting aside the fact that most of the numbers about “victims” of the Cultural Revolution are inflated and unsubstantiated, again as BA has pointed out, this is like saying Lincoln was a “mass murderer who killed 700,000 people in the Civil War”—without ever saying what was actually being fought over in the Civil War: the existence of slavery in the U.S.! Similarly, the Cultural Revolution was over whether China would remain on the socialist road or revert to capitalism—and unfortunately, the wrong side won!

4. We’re told, “Even the Chinese Communist Party today says that the Cultural Revolution was a terrible mistake.” Yes, very interesting: now that China has become the country Mao warned against—a cesspool of brutal exploitation and oppression with a culture of naked me-first-ism mixed with reactionary nationalism—they warn against the very initiative, the Cultural Revolution, Mao undertook to prevent that. Why would that be surprising? And why do you suppose that both the Chinese Communist Party and the U.S. imperialist rulers agree on this? Could it be that both preside over exploiting, oppressive capitalist societies, societies in the process of destroying the planet with no way out of that, and they both don’t want people to believe any other radical alternative exists—namely socialism and communism? Remember: The same people telling you this capitalist system of war, inequality, massive starvation, and environmental destruction is the “best of all possible worlds” are the same ones lying to you about the Cultural Revolution.

5. “Yes, but if everybody says this is true, it must be true.” Brilliant! Prevent anyone with an opposed point of view from speaking on this, repeat the same lies over and over, if possible more outlandishly each time, and then say that “everyone knows this is true.” Hey, guess what? Back before the 1960s, “everybody” in America—at least nearly every white scholar and person—“knew” that Reconstruction, the brief period right after the Civil War when Black people had some democratic rights, had been a “disaster.” It was only as a result of the battles of millions of people in the ’60s and the way that people were moved to dig into the real truth about this country, and the dogged work of a new generation of scholars, that the truth about Reconstruction began to be fully brought out: that this was actually a positive period whose main fault was that it did not go far enough in endowing Black people with political rights and power.

6. Apparently, from the way the Cultural Revolution is being covered, we are to believe that “the world was doing great back then, America was the champion of freedom, and people all over just wanted the ‘democracy’ that America had.” Well, what else was going on when one-quarter of humanity in the Cultural Revolution were building a socialist society aimed at getting rid of class society and doing away with oppression throughout the world? Aside from the USA’s genocidal wars in Vietnam and the rest of Indochina, its orchestration of brutal military coups in Indonesia and Chile that resulted in the murders of perhaps over a million people between them, its invasion of the Dominican Republic, and other international atrocities, Black people were waging a tremendous struggle just to be treated like human beings, to be given basic civil rights. Women were dying of back-alley abortions, denied the basic right to control when and if they had a baby and fighting back against these and other abuses. From Palestine to southern Africa to Latin America, from India to Detroit and Mississippi and Paris, people were rising up all over the world, and many of them were looking to China and Mao for inspiration and political guidance. This was fine and liberating, and none of this is imaginable in the same way without that inspiration.

And the One Big Reason to Dig For the Truth...

Knowing the TRUTH about the Cultural Revolution in China has everything to do with knowing about and being able to fight for a whole different, liberating world. And you can’t know the truth without getting deeply into Bob Avakian—what he’s brought forward about why this revolution was fought, what Mao was trying to do in leading it, what was pathbreaking and farseeing in this monumental and unprecedented struggle, and what were the shortcomings and mistakes and things we need to change and do better on, and advance much further beyond... There’s a lot to get into here, and a way to get into it. The best places to start are here and here.



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