The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
years ago, in 1966, Mao Tsetung launched the greatest revolutionary
movement ever to be seen on the planet: The Great Proletarian Cultural
Revolution. From one end of China to the other, tens of millions
of people - at first mainly the students and other youth, but quickly
spreading to the workers and peasants as well - rose up in a furious
assault on those "command posts" of society such as education, culture,
and even some organs of state power themselves, which were being
used to reinforce chains of tradition which had taken shape in hundreds
of years of class society.
made this revolution so extraordinary is that it took place under
conditions of socialism and proletarian dictatorship: It was a revolution
aimed at strengthening the rule of the proletariat and people.
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) had been unleashed
by Mao Tsetung himself, but it was never the orchestrated political
demonstrations serving "palace intrigue" that the imperialists and
reactionaries try to claim. It was a revolution because it sought
to overthrow those sections of the state power that had been
usurped by new exploiters and do away with those practices, customs
and ideas which stood in the way of the revolution-s further advance
was Mao-s answer to the historic problem posed by the restoration
of capitalism in the Soviet Union which had taken place in 1956.
How would it be possible for the revolution to continue to advance
toward the classless society of communism? How was it possible to
defeat the "new bourgeoisie" that was arising within the Communist
Party itself? How was it possible to train successors to the revolutionary
cause rather than a pampered new elite?
prior to the Cultural Revolution there had been many struggles in
both China and in the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin against
different revisionist headquarters in the party and against various
bureaucratic and revisionist practices. But Mao summed up that these
previous movements and the simple dismissal from office of revisionists
and renegades could not, in itself, assure the further advance of
the revolution. Mao said in the GPCR they had found a form "to arouse
the broad masses to expose our dark aspect openly, in an all-round
way and from below."
sense, the GPCR was completely unprecedented in the history of the
international communist movement. It was the proof that the revolution
must continue, that achieving a classless society would be a long
bitter battle with many twists and turns, advances and setbacks,
along the way. It went against the previous belief widespread in
the international communist movement that once the dictatorship
of the proletariat had been achieved it would be more or less "smooth
up that, even when the proletariat and the working people had political
power, they would have to periodically arise and knock down those
forces in the socialist society who wanted to stop the revolution
half-way and protect their own privileges. These revolutionary victories
would set the stage for further transformation of society and people-s
course of the GPCR, Maoism emerged as the third stage of Marxism-Leninism.
Through applying Marxism-Leninism to the revolutionary process in
China and especially to the problem of fighting capitalist restoration,
Mao had solved key questions confronting the international communist
movement. He showed why a new bourgeoisie emerged even under conditions
of socialism and why a capitalist restoration was possible. More
importantly, he showed how to fight against such a restoration,
through mobilizing the masses in revolutionary struggle, helping
them temper themselves, training them in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism
and raising their level of understanding in the midst of battle,
defeating the new bourgeoisie and recapturing those parts of the
state and society that had been usurped by the capitalist-roaders.
Mao showed how making revolution was the key to unleashing the productive
forces, especially the most important productive force, the revolutionary
class itself, which even under socialism could be stifled and restricted
by practices and ideas which stood in the way of further advance.
the Cultural Revolution tremendous advances were made not only in
destroying remnants of thousands of years of class society but also
in constructing new practices which foreshadowed and paved the way
for the future communist society. New forms of management were introduced
which involved rank-and-file workers and peasants in the leadership
of factories and collective farms. The reactionary system of entrance
exams for higher education was abolished and instead students were
recommended by workers and peasants after having spent some years
in productive labour. Workers and peasants together made stunning
progress in science and technology. Great works of art were produced
in which heroic images of workers and peasants occupied the stage
previously dominated by portrayals of the reactionary classes. Important
steps were taken to reduce the inequalities in the distribution
of goods that still exist under socialism.
Revolution had been greeted by tremendous enthusiasm all over the
world. It was a flesh-and-blood example of the capacity of the proletariat
to make revolution, change the world and transform the relations
between people. It inspired a whole generation with confidence in
the revolutionary cause and spread Marxism-Leninism-Maoism throughout
the globe. The achievements of the GPCR were so profound that a
large number of scholars, experts in different fields and personalities
from countries all over the world were won to respect and admire
the achievements of the Cultural Revolution and spread the news
ten years, the GPCR was defeated when a reactionary coup d-état
was launched shortly after Mao-s death and the main leaders of the
revolutionary left (including Mao-s widow, Chiang Ching) were arrested.
The masses were suppressed and pushed back into the position of
wage-slaves. Foreign imperialists were invited to again suck on
the blood of the labouring people. The tremendous achievements of
the Cultural Revolution were systematically attacked and reversed.
Inequalities grew by leaps and bounds. Economic imbalances, dislocations
and crisis took place, such as the massive growth of an unemployed
"migrant" population numbering in the tens of millions. In short,
capitalism, with all of its horrors, was restored.
the imperialists, revisionists and other reactionaries have worked
overtime to distort, slander and bury the memory of the GPCR. They
have taken advantage of the defeat in China to repeat and even magnify
every preposterous lie the new capitalist rulers of that country
not surprising that the reactionaries the world over call the GPCR
"terrorist", "a nightmare", "mass hysteria", and so forth. For the
reactionaries, there is no thought more nightmarish than that of
millions of their former victims daring to rise up and take control
of every sphere of society, no idea more "strange" than that ordinary
workers and peasants can help run universities or transform the
ballet, no vision more "utopian" than moving in the direction of
a classless society.
is decried as "terror" by the bourgeoisie, in fact the Cultural
Revolution was living proof of Lenin-s famous statement that the
proletarian dictatorship "is a million times more democratic...
than the most democratic bourgeois republic". Indeed, never in world
history was such a broad section of the masses drawn into every
aspect of political and cultural life. Mass debates, lively struggle
and penetrating criticism were features of everyday life among the
masses in their millions in China. And the Cultural Revolution showed
that the proletarian dictatorship was not an impediment for such
democracy, on the contrary it was the condition which made
such democracy possible. Similarly, we have seen that it is the
bourgeois dictatorship of Deng Xiao-ping and the bourgeoisie in
China who gun down protestors at Tienanmen Square and have instituted
a climate of terror and fear all across China in order to enforce
the world over, the GPCR will always remain, like the Paris Commune
and the October Revolution, a platform of victory in the world revolutionary
experience from which the proletariat has drawn its most precious
lessons and from which it prepares to leap even higher in the future
in its struggle for communism.
it is to consider the GPCR as something that is of significance
only after achieving state power. Certainly, the GPCR does represent
the highest experience that the proletariat has yet achieved on
the front of carrying forward the socialist revolution under conditions
of proletarian rule. But in order to be able to launch the GPCR,
and in the course of leading it forward, Mao was forced to develop
every aspect of Marxism-Leninism - its philosophy, political economy,
revolutionary strategy and tactics, and so forth.
forward the whole history of the international communist movement.
But we know that no construction is ever made without destruction,
and in order to carry forward the revolutionary heritage Mao also
was forced to develop a penetrating criticism of those errors that
had come to mark the international communist movement under the
leadership of Stalin. Today, when some forces are again trying to
denigrate Mao-s contributions under the cover of defending Stalin-s
mistakes, it is more important than ever to be firm in our grasp
of Mao-s qualitative development of all aspects of our ideology.
time when the international communist movement is confronting the
major two-line struggle which erupted in the Communist Party of
Peru, it is particularly necessary to have a firm grasp on Mao-s
teachings concerning the two-line struggle in the party. It was
in the course of the GPCR that the Maoist understanding and approach
to these problems took its full form and Stalin-s erroneous idea
of the "monolithic party" was rejected.
we study the October Revolution it is not simply or mainly to learn
from Lenin's masterful tactics or the particular practice of insurrection
- although these are indeed very important. In studying October
we can see the movement of the class in its millions, the complexity
of how the revolution advances amidst turbulence and contradiction,
and the relationship between these movements of millions and the
"dry theoretical disputes" that Lenin waged against opportunism
and revisionism of his day. Studying October is part and parcel
of understanding Leninism.
when we study the GPCR, it is not out of abstract historical interest,
not even mainly as a kind of "preparation" for the different struggles
we will be faced with in the future when we have political power
once again. We study the GPCR because through it every feature
of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is illustrated and takes on new vibrancy
and meaning. It is because without the GPCR we would be depriving
ourselves and the proletariat of this most important treasure house
of revolutionary experience. Without absorbing and building upon
the lessons of the Cultural Revolution, we will never obtain political
power, let alone defend it and use it to advance toward communism.
It would mean depriving ourselves of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism itself.