Ending a Cultural Revolution Can Only Be Counter-Revolutionary (7/8)

May 10, 2019

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

Ending a Cultural Revolution Can Only Be Counter-Revolutionary (7/8)

Well, you can end a Cultural Revolution without being a counter-revolutionary, I suppose, but not if you do what China did: reverse many of the progressive policies of the Cultural Revolution, and often without the People’s consent.

This series has examined the ground-breaking investigative & scholarly work The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village, by Dongping Han, a former Chinese villager himself. Han hailed from and studied rural Jimo County, interviewing hundreds of locals about the Cultural Revolution (CR) and poring over local historical records. Han was kind enough to write the forward to my new bookI’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China.

Even more than Mao and the Great Leap Forward, Western Propaganda on the CR truly turns black into white. Perhaps no political event – and certainly no successful political event – is so misunderstood, negated and shrouded in misinformation and ignorance… thus this 8-part series!

What Han demonstrates is that the CR was the first effort in Chinese history to empower the average peasant against Chinese officialdom, and the results were spectacular. I keep referring to this handy mathematical summary of mine from Part 1: “You just read about 2 times more food and 2 times more money for the average Chinese person, 14 times more horsepower (which equates to 140 times manpower), 50 times more industrial jobs, 30 times more schools and 10 times more teachers during the CR decade in rural areas.

A rededication to socialism brought more than just economic virtues, but moral ones as well, per Han: “The social vices like official corruption, prostitution, drug abuse, fake products and others that plague Chinese society today were completely absent at the end of the Cultural Revolution.”

But despite the introduction of the Industrial Revolution to China’s rural areas, despite the exponential increases in educational empowerment, despite the fact that the CR represented the first-ever effort to democratically empower rural Chinese against officialdom, despite a decade of generating the irreplaceable human capital upon which China’s 2019 success obviously rests… with the death of Mao China famously turned its back on the CR.

Let’s see what happened, and then discuss why it was a counter-revolution.

CR officials get ousted: meet the new boss, who truly was the old boss

After Mao’s death rebel leaders began to be rounded up. (As I explained in Part 5Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution?: China had, per Han, the “Rebel Red Guard Faction”, which were spontaneous, grassroots “mass associations”, pitted against the “Loyalist Red Guard Faction”, which were status quo-defending, established, “mass organisations”.) From late 1977 to early 1979 Jimo County saw purges, with few rebel leaders keeping their posts.

Who was restored? Those whom held office before the CR.

That was no quick feat, because the CR had been supported by the center and left of the Chinese political spectrum. But by 1983, “Every government office, school, factory and village was ordered to purge former rank-and-file rebels. Officials who had lost their positions at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution brought charges against individual rebels against whom they held grudges.” Han relates this was a prelude to a larger “official gouge” in rural areas in the 1980s and 1990s.

Selfless asceticism from Party officials abiding by the codes of conduct relayed in Mao’s Little Red Book and working in the fields were no longer expected. Corruption and bribery increased, children of officials got cushy jobs instead of spreading night soil, the right to use big character posters (China’s version of a free press, in no exaggeration) was excised from the constitution, Deng’s “manger responsibility” system – which gave them the authority to determine salaries – was installed.

All of that is obviously contrary to the values of the CR and in line with many Western values: no wonder the West hates the CR!

Despite these changes, to sweepingly say that “China abandoned socialism after Mao” is still nonsense because the CCP remained the vanguard party charged with protecting the 1949 revolution; China’s political system did not revert to liberal (bourgeois) democracy; China did not engage in imperialistic wars and etc. and etc. and etc.

There is the desire by many anti-socialists to see a child’s lemonade stand in socialist countries and to run away screaming: “They’ve gone capitalist!” Such absurdity is only in the self-interest of capitalism promoters, of course, but I will deal with this later. There is also a tendency among the most ardent pro-socialists to view any minor regression as proof that socialist has been betrayed and murdered.

The CR had – Han undoubtedly proves via statistics, anecdotes and analysis – brought such incredible life, power, hope and success to China’s rural areas, and the end of collectivization was a negative societal shock. Yes, the collectives had never developed evenly – that’s to be expected – but Han relates that the collectives had indeed worked for Jimo County, and that Jimo citizens opposed disbanding them in favor of the “household responsibility” system. Jimo’s county officials, along with 17 other neighboring counties, had their officials removed for dragging their feet in implementing this change.

Thus, what happened during the Deng era was very similar to the end of the USSR in that it was unexpected, unwanted and not voted on. “There was no state-sanctioned public debate about the merits or shortcomings of either collective farming or the household responsibility system.”

It should be unsurprising that data shows how rural production fell after 1983, when land was divided among Jimo County farmers: what good are huge farming machines on small family plots? How can the use of such machines be effectively coordinated among hundreds of farmers? In some villages they decided it was better to break up the machinery and sell it for scrap. Fights broke out among farmers over who could use the irrigation system, as there was no more collective solidarity. Draft animals were slaughtered to avoid arguments, further decreasing farming productivity. This is all obviously quite sad and a regression in Jimo County and across rural China.

Tiny individual plots – instead of socialist solidarity – naturally led to the need for more manual labor, which meant more children withheld from school to work on the farm: The number of teachers and staff remained the same, but high school students in Jimo County went from 20,000 in 1977 to 5,700 in 1987. This is also due to the reforms of 1978, which re-established key/magnet schools. Many schools were closed in the name of “efficiency”: Han shows how from 1976 to 1987 Jimo’s middle schools went from 249 to 106; they had 89 high schools in 1976, but just 7 in 1993. This is what happens anywhere when the guiding value is not “equality” but “efficiency”; “efficiency”, especially in Western nations, is usually a code-word for, “Because we want to give more tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations.”

Han relates how Jimo’s experience mirrors that of the rest of rural China since the education “reforms”. Textbooks again became standardized nationwide, and were urban-focused (of course). In 1977 the national college entrance exam was reintroduced, and Han relates “…it has once again systematically drained talent from China’s rural areas, in the same manner as before the Cultural Revolution. Talented rural children leave home to go to college and few return. … Instead of being oriented to serve rural development, schools became an avenue to joining the urban elite. … The divorce of school curriculum from rural life has put rural children in a disadvantaged position because it is harder to study subjects that have no connections with their lives.

Some readers will assume that such trends are inevitable – they have not read Part 6: The repatriation of young educated people back to their home villages – to serve those who had truly funded their education in the first place – was a huge factor in training up the human capital which led to the incredible exponential economic growth in rural areas during the CR decade.

The rural enterprises, which had been collectively owned, were now often rented to party officials or managers for a fixed rent or sold outright to them. The CR was designed to benefit the People and the Party – the post-CR reforms benefitted the Party and then the People. This is not terrible, because at least “the Party” is not Western 1%ers, but neither is it superb, egalitarian socialism. Make no mistake: the Chinese Communist Party is alive, well, thriving, secure and economically impregnable – it seems certain they are the most powerful economic force in the world – and much of their wealth was produced during the CR decade.

But, clearly, what the end of the CR meant was: a return to the pre-CR era and Party norms.

But the biggest way it was a “return to the pre-CR era” is not in the economic redistribution, but in a decaying of the other of socialism’s two pillars: political power redistribution.

During the Cultural Revolution decade, village party secretaries had to share decision making power with a number of production team leaders, and their power was checked by a cohesive village population bound together by common public interests….The village party secretaries have gained most from the changes in power relations resulting from the division of land. During the Cultural Revolution decade, village party secretaries had to share decision making power with a number of production team leaders, and their power was also checked by a cohesive village population bound together by common public interests. The division of land eliminated the production team leaders – the most important check on village party secretaries – and also fragmented the village population, concentrating power in the hands of the village party secretaries.”

This is the counter-revolution I am referring to. However, it is a counter-revolution within an already revolutionary society, therefore it is not so very terrible – just as a “right-winger” in a socialist system is still far to the left of a leftist in a Western capitalist system.

Forget about your complaints of the inadequacies of the global political spectrum – the fortunate difference for the Chinese was: a socialist system is fundamentally not predatory in a capitalist sense, and the CR’s gains meant the Party had even more to redistribute than prior to the CR; a regression within a socialist system is infinitely less societally-damaging than regression in a capitalist system.

Han provides proof of this easily-understandable reality and logic: even though rural per capita grain consumption decreased 8% from 1975 to 1985, income increased 700%, far more than inflation (keep in mind that is per capita, not a median). Why? Because economic planning led by a vanguard party is a hell of a lot more effective and sane than relying solely on the “magic of market forces” of the modern neoliberal West (which are really just oligarchical forces). It was only comprehended by relatively few in 1849, but it should be crystal clear to the majority in 2019: management of an industry, factory or business by a socialist party secretary is far, far qualitatively different – in terms of planning, goals, national benefit, etc. – than management by an isolated and self-interested capitalist entrepreneur (not to mention a foreign and self-interested capitalist entrepreneur).

Is there is no freedom without economic freedom: first comes the money, then the democratic empowerment at your job and home? The CR proves rather otherwise – first comes the democratic empowerment then the economic freedom? Frankly, I am not interested in re-arguing if the chicken or the egg came first, because in socialism BOTH ideals are strived for and operate in a dialectic.

On a practical level: Obviously, going from a collective ownership to individual ownership drastically changed the nature of work in terms of job security and safe working conditions. The fragmentation of the collectives has – of course – fragmented the power of farmers; they have the freedom to sell whatever they want, but they lack stability, cohesiveness and solidarity because they are more capitalist.

In 1983, with the dissolution of the collectives, free medical care naturally ceased as well. The “five guarantees” introduced after 1949 – food, clothes, fuel, education and a funeral – were gone. Farmers who gave the best years of their lives to the collective found they were without financial support in their old age.

“Villagers said: ‘xinxin kuku sanshi nian, yi yie huidao jiefang qian’ (we worked hard for thirty years to build up the collectives, but overnight we returned to the status quo before the liberation).” That is from an interview in Jimo Han did in 1990, so one hopes the situation is better for them 30 years later.

Whereas the collective used to pay the tax burden, “The new taxation system in rural China is very regressive. The tax burden is not based on farmers’ income but on the amount of land they farm. Consequently, the bigger a farmer’s income, the smaller the tax burden as a percentage of his income. Vice versa, the smaller a villager’s income, the bigger the tax burden he has to pay as a percentage of his land. … Tax policy, like other aspects of de-collectivization is promoting economic polarization in villages. This, of course, is the intended outcome. Deng Xiaoping himself expressed the view that small segment of the population should get rich first, so that this small segment of the population could lead the whole society towards progress. This was a good reflection of Deng Xiaoping’s elitist mentality.”

Again, it is absurd to say that China is not Communist – the reality is that there is a left and right spectrum in socialist democracy, and that the reversal of the CR was a right-wing move within a socialist revolution, and which did not reverse the socialist revolution.

Negating the Cultural Revolution – China should stop doing the West’s work for them

Han’s final chapter is titled Negating the Cultural Revolution for good reason: not only is the CR totally negated by the West, but the Chinese Communist Party obviously wound back many of its leftist advances despite the obvious success. The reason they did this is probably because leftist advances always undermine those in the 1% in any system. Again, we must reject the typical Western historical nihilism: the 1% in a socialist system is far, far better than the 1% in the neoliberal, neo-imperialist capitalist system.

The final irony regarding Western assessment of the “horrors” of the CR is how incredibly useful they actually were in promoting social good. Mao’s idea that government servants should be fearful of being caught waging corruption… this is somehow a negative thing in the West, and apparently was to Deng as well.

He (Deng) also announced that there would be no more political campaigns, which was like giving the officials a guarantee that they would not be harassed by the masses even if they were corrupt. Many officials slipped into their corrupt old ways very quickly.”

No more anti-corruption campaigns – the West doesn’t have to even make such a statement because capitalism is legalized corruption, after all.

Revolutionary fervor waxing and waning, waxing and waning – c’est la vie – I think it’s clear that in openly revolutionary nations, unlike the conservative nations of the West, such alternations will be more common. The good news is that the tide has turned – anti-corruption campaigns are back during the era of Xi Jinping.

Mao’s near-yearly anti-corruption campaigns, which culminated in a no-holds barred Cultural Revolution, must be examined with this counterview, if they are to be examined with a hint of objectivity and honesty. Of course, to a capitalist anyone persecuted by a socialist is always innocent of any charge….

Given that he wrote such a heckuva book, we should be interested in Han’s final words, which I humbly relate here:

The Chinese government’s official evaluation of the Cultural Revolution serves to underline the idea, currently very much in vogue around the world, that efforts to achieve development and efforts to attain social equality are contradictory. The remarkable currency of this idea in China and internationally is due, at least in part, to the fact that such an idea is so convenient to those threatened by efforts to attain social equality. This study of the history of Jimo County has challenged this idea. During the Cultural Revolution decade and in the two decades of market reform that followed, Jimo has experienced alternative paths, both of which have led to rural development. The difference in the paths was not between development and stagnation but rather between different kinds of development. The main conclusion I hope readers will draw from the experience of Jimo County during the Cultural Revolution decade is that measures to empower and educate people at the bottom of society can also serve the goal of economic development. It is not necessary to choose between pursuing social equality and pursuing economic development. The choice is whether or not to pursue social equality.”

Superbly put. An ending worth committing to memory.

Capitalism only chooses between stagnation and development – it would rather tolerate Lost Decades, as in the current Eurozone, rather than do something that China and Iran did: effectively shut down the country to honestly discuss national problems and to democratically agree on solutions which benefit the 99%. Capitalism is the alexithymic shark which must keep moving, or it dies.

China, with their renewed emphasis on corruption and equality, did not die nor implode. Iran, despite all the hot and cold war against them, remains firmly revolutionary domestically, admiringly anti-imperialist inernationally, and far more socialist in inspiration and practice than any Western nation. Even with the current US threat of $0 in oil sales (anything to stop Muslim democracy) there is seemingly no indication of a domestically counter-revolution of 1979’s ideals.

The Eurozone and the European Union desperately need a Cultural Revolution to democratically grapple with the structures they set in place decades ago which have created such rising economic inequality. That appears unlikely – these nations are not socialist-inspired.

This is why phrases like “social equality” contain no economic component in the West; use that phrase in the West and people will assume you are talking about racism or homophobia – they will never think you are referring to Marxist economic ideas or the idea of class.

A pity for them….

The Cultural Revolution empowered China’s poorest (rural peasants) and that created economic growth: a correlation for the West would be for those in the US to give vast sums of money and power to their Black underclass – such an idea seems impossible; the same goes for the Muslim underclass in France. Critically, both of these neo-imperialists view the exclusion of the poor from the hallways of power as absolutely fundamental to the success of their respective nations: “Blacks/Musulmans in power? Never/Jamais! They don’t have the right values/ Ils ne partagent pas les mêmes valeurs.” You hear this openly in these societies all the time – these underclasses are just “free-riders” on the genius of the dominant racial/ethnic capitalist class and cannot (should not!) contribute significantly to society.

Such prejudice is no different than a Chinese person in 1965 who thought China could become a safe, thriving superpower by ignoring their rural underclass. Such prejudice is no different from those who are against the Yellow Vests in France.

Han’s study proves such ideas are false: Chinese empowerment of the poor generated human capital, which generated economic capital, which generated national success.

Perhaps the best Blacks and Muslims in the West can do is to wait for the Chinese to take over one day? Or, just maybe, the White rural underclass of the West will wise up and learn from socialist-inspired nations like China, Iran, Cuba and others? I’d start with re-examining China’s Cultural Revolution.

We don’t need to demonise Deng: He may have been on the right of the spectrum of socialist ideology, but he was still also a revolutionary socialist. On the global political spectrum, Deng was still far, far to the left of any supporter of antiquated liberal democracy.

What is a political revolution, after all? It is a cultural revolution

Political revolution is a cultural movement which becomes rooted over generations; it is not just a changing of the leaders – it goes even deeper than just changing the laws.

What needs to be understood about countries with socialist revolutions is their humanity: Revolutionary fervor waxes and wanes. During the CR the “left-socialist” line was predominant, whereas afterwards it was the “bourgeois-socialist” or “right-socialist” line.

Mao repeatedly pushed the “left socialist” line, which stressed loyalty to the collectives, local empowerment and reducing urban dominance to spread equality among the mass of the country (the rural areas). After Mao the so-called “bourgeois right socialist” line of Deng Xiaoping (which is still Maoism!) came to prominence, and my main point here is this: Deng had been around forever – he was in the Long March – so it’s not as if he was some newcomer who brought in brand new ideas in 1976.

“Every farmer and every politician in China knew where Deng Xiaoping stood regarding agricultural policies in late 1970s,” reminds Han.

Right-wing socialism was not something new – it had always been around, it simply had lost popularity… just as any political party (left or right) does in a Western society. Just as people do not wage endless war (except the US war on terror), people do not wage endless revolution – people tire, and that allows less-revolutionary elements to come to the fore.

Han clarifies this exactly: “Deng had the power to do whatever he wanted. But more important, he was supported by the persistence of traditional philosophies and the practices that had been challenged during the Cultural Revolution, and by people who stood to benefit by the restoration of the old ways, or thought they would.”

Show me the country or society where radical changes continued without end? There are none. Even the Revolution of Islam splintered into status quo and revolutionary sects: Sunni and Shia. It’s not as if all Shia have been unceasing revolutionaries since the assassination of Imam Ali in 661 AD, either. Revolutionary spirit waxes and wanes, and maybe this is even a necessary thing? I don’t know….

But it impossible to argue with Han’s conclusion: “The take-off of the rural economy in Jimo began not with market reforms, I have shown, but rather during the Cultural Revolution decade. Agricultural production more than doubled and a network of rural factories were established which fundamentally transformed the county’s rural economy in less than 10 years. Jimo’s story is not unique.”

Han’s assessment there – based on facts, dollars and data – is undoubtedly accurate, but only half the story: China is where it is today because the CR created the greatest wealth there is – human capital. That is socialism’s primary stated goal: allowing the realization of an individual’s potential.

By taking the Chinese peasant and stripping him of all the backwardness, retardation and disempowerment we all associate with the term “peasant”, China created its modern, intelligent, advanced workforce, whom nobody calls “peasant” anymore. China remains intensely committed to lifting up their lowest of the low – absolute poverty is about to become effectively totally eradicated after a 5-year plan led by Xi – but the CR did this en masse by reversing the existing priority of city over country in a nation which was 80% rural.

Indeed, how could Xi eliminate absolute poverty across the continent of China in just 5 years? He couldn’t – he is standing on the shoulders of massive efforts since 1949, and the CR is one of those strong, yet unappreciated, shoulders.

The CR has much to teach us today, but are we willing learn? That is the question of the next and final part of this series, which focuses on the flamingly obvious yet totally ignored parallels between China’s Cultural Revolution and France’s ongoing Yellow Vest movement.

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This is the 7th article in an 8-part series which examines Dongping Han’s book The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village in order to drastically redefine a decade which has proven to be not just the basis of China’s current success, but also a beacon of hope for developing countries worldwide. Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

Part 1 – A much-needed revolution in discussing China’s Cultural Revolution: an 8-part series

Part 2 – The story of a martyr FOR, and not BY, China’s Cultural Revolution

Part 3 – Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China?

Part 4 – How the Little Red Book created a cult ‘of socialism’ and not ‘of Mao’

Part 5 – Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution?

Part 6 – How the socioeconomic gains of China’s Cultural Revolution fuelled their 1980s boom

Part 7 – Ending a Cultural Revolution can only be counter-revolutionary

Part 8 – What the West can learn: Yellow Vests are demanding a Cultural Revolution

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of Ill Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

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How the socioeconomic gains of China’s Cultural Revolution fueled their 1980s boom (6/8)

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

How the socioeconomic gains of China’s Cultural Revolution fueled their 1980s boom (6/8)

There are almost too many socioeconomic gains for me to list… and yet the idea that China’s Cultural Revolution (CR) represented not gains but regression is dominant in the West.

The Chinese know better, and that’s why I’m discussing Dongping Han’s indispensable academic and investigative book: The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village. Han intensely examined rural Jimo County, where he grew up, interviewing hundreds of locals about the CR and poring over local historical records. Han was kind enough to write the forward to my brand-new bookI’ll Ruin Everything you Are: Ending Western Propaganda in Red China. I hope you can buy a copy for yourself and your 300 closest friends.

When I ended Part 5 the Rebel Faction Red Guards (who wanted a People’s dictatorship) had, over the course of three years, democratically bested the Loyalist Faction Red Guards (who wanted to maintain a Party dictatorship) – a new generation of revolutionaries had been fostered and were now taking over. What did their time in power produce?

“Since the beginning of the Great Leap Forward, the Chinese Government had been talking about eliminating the three gaps: between urban and rural areas, between mental and manual labor, and between workers and farmers. … It was only during the Cultural Revolution that some students took it so seriously that they adopted it as a concrete goal of the struggle.”

What’s certain is that it’s very hard to have a revolution in power and culture in just one generation; Iran tried to speed up their revolutionary timeline by implementing the world’s second and only other Cultural Revolution just one year after ousting the Shah, whereas China waited 15 years.

The 1949 Revolution installed the collectives, which earned total Western capitalist-imperialist enmity for promising the “five guarantees (wu bao)” – food, clothes, fuel, education for children and a funeral upon death. This was a revolutionary and unprecedented social security system for rural Chinese. However, the social safety net for urbanites was much, much better, which inspired justified resentment.

However, we cannot only discuss the first pillar of socialism – redistribution of wealth; the second pillar – redistribution of power – was almost totally absent in Chinese village life 15+ years after their revolution. This is made apparent by the fact, related by Han, that it was not until spring 1967 that a mass meeting was held in Jimo to discuss the collective local planning and goals for the farm year. “This simple act turned villagers from passive followers into active participants.”

I refer back to my mathematical summary of the CR decade’s gains from Part 1: “You just read about 2 times more food and 2 times more money for the average Chinese person, 14 times more horsepower (which equates to 140 times manpower), 50 times more industrial jobs, 30 times more schools and 10 times more teachers during the CR decade in rural areas.

We can only understand these massive, unprecedented gains in rural areas when we accept that the CR was only able to create it only via local empowerment of worker/citizens. After grasping that, it becomes easier to accept Han’s primary, and revolutionary, assertion: that China’s post-1980s boom rested on this explosion of economic and human capital in the rural areas, which represented 80% of the country in 1980.

Revolutionary gains in education for rural areas

The idea that the CR persecuted intellectuals is totally false – the CR created them, via 30 times more schools and 10 times more teachers. An “intellectual” does not only mean someone with 2 PhDs – an everyday person’s standards are much lower, and they were certainly much more sensibly lower in 1960s rural China. Han’s research thus describes a stunning great leap forward in rural education which occurred across the entire continent of China, a total inversion of the usual Western propaganda.

Why was China so backwards in 1966 that children were not going to school? Was it because of 17 years of CCP rule? This is what the Mainstream Media would have you believe… as if in the pre-socialist era the same widespread lack of education didn’t exist. No, the backwardness should be attributed to their “Century of Humiliation” as colonial victims. Beyond colonialism, why did this not happen in 1600, 1700 or 1800? The answer is – the advent of socialism. The basic building materials were all available locally – the communes built all the high schools collectively – what was needed was to cut out the capitalist view of economics and to institute the local empowerment of socialist democracy. The resources for building schools did not come from heaven, nor foreign banks – villages collectively pooled their resources and worked together, i.e. socialism.

Where did they get the teachers? There were huge advertising efforts to get educated teachers to return to their hometown – i.e, socialist culture, as opposed to individualist culture. “This policy, unpopular among many government schoolteachers, turned out to be a windfall for Jimo’s joint village middle schools.” Something like this is anathema to the West. It is a denial of absolute freedom, I agree, but it is also the promotion of equality. Socialism insists that one MUST give back; the West says “give back… if you feel like it”, and then their culture encourages them to not feel like it.

The schools also ended the absurd, elitist, anti-intellectual emphasis on passing tests – this policy was only necessary when spaces were so very few. But in the CR era,“All primary school graduates from the seven villages would automatically enter the middle school without any examination.” The capitalist celebration of “academic competition” exists only to cover the fact that their state refuses to create enough schools for all the applicants.

In 1968 Mao did something which in 2019 remains incredibly radical: he proposed that workers and farmers get involved with education, i.e., he fought against technocratic elitism in education. This necessarily creates a revolution in the curriculum, and it is an undeniably democratic one.

From the standpoint of traditional Chinese beliefs, allowing these less-educated farmers and workers to lead the educational reforms was outrageous. How could the less-educated lead the better educated? Fundamentally, this was a philosophical question. The criticism reflected the arrogance of the Chinese educated elite, and their narrow mindset towards knowledge. While these workers and peasants had no formal education, what they did have was practical knowledge and a different perspective on education. They braved the traditional bias and prejudice in Chinese schools and society because they felt they had a mission in education reforms. … In the face of jesting and ridicule, they did not back down. They continued to work with students and teachers.”

As Han relates, peasants won respect by working with the students. That’s revolutionary, and that’s how you decrease the cultural urban-rural divide – sustained contact (even if forced).

Gone were the textbooks made by a few educational elite in Beijing – locals created new curricula and textbooks, in proof that socialism is “central planning” but “local control and local implementation”.

How did the curriculum change? Practical math such as bookkeeping and accounting was introduced; students learned agricultural science by working with farmers; applied science was advanced by studying small-scale machines and engines like those found in rural industries and farms. Instead of physics, machines and pumps were studied; practical over analytical. Given their poverty, this practical knowledge would have huge and immediate effects in nascent rural industries and post-Great Leap Forward re-collectivised farms. This is really the socialism-isation of science – bringing science to the masses. It is the opposite of the capitalist demand for breakthroughs and growthBecause China was full of socialist revolutionaries, the popular changes in education were not as we would expect in a Western version – which would wind up being a curriculum of something akin to “Business MBAs for everyone” – but were obviously geared towards promoting thoughts and actions which were collectively useful, and not just individually profitable.

Absolutely crucially, this is how the Cultural Revolution created the human capital on which the 1980s boom was based: how could the post-1980s boom occur without literate workers? Creating this human capital – via a decided emphasis on elevating the rural citizen – is the ignored or denied central achievement of the CR. No more would “rural” equal “wasteland of human potential”, and the West – still wracked by an urban-rural divide in 2019 – has much to learn here.

“There was a tendency during the Cultural Revolution to elevate physical labor above academic learning, and as a result many students were assigned too much physical labor. The mix of academic and physical labor, however, varied greatly from place to place and from time to time. … The goals of these activities were to increase the school’s annual income and to develop a love for physical labor in the students.” Yes, Chinese schools engaged their students in money-making activities in order to help raise school funds.

If there’s one thing which separates men from boys and women from girls it is the capacity for hard work – if you cannot work hard and learn to enjoy it… be prepared for an unsatisfying life, because decadence is always ultimately unsatisfying to humans. The idea that Western schools would not teach this seems insane, but it is not taught. Furthermore, this work-instead-of-more-sitting is something which boys would love – to get out of the strict classroom confines and get moving. Anyways, Han relates that in the first half of the 1970s at high schools we are talking about just 6 hours per week of non-academic time, or about 1/7th of overall school time. Personally, I have absolutely no idea how leaders will create policies which are sympathetic and respectful to the working class unless they have spent ample time working alongside them….

Again, these well-rounded high schoolers would be the human capital that created the explosion in rural development, up to and including today, and that should be obvious to all.

Han cites a former teacher: “He cited three major achievements of the educational reforms in Jimo. First, rural schools built during the educational reforms trained large numbers of local youth in practical industrial and agricultural skills and knowledge, which has long-term impacts on the development of rural areas. Economic development in Jimo relied on this practical knowledge. Second, the educational reform began to alter the views of teachers who had previously looked down upon farmers. When they were obliged to participate in some forms of manual labor, they learned to respect villagers and other working people. Third, it empowered villagers. Farmers no longer viewed the educated elite with mystic feelings because they knew the educated teachers better after working with them.” These are all universal issues, I am sure: it was the CR’s aim to fix them, and that is incredibly revolutionary and democratic.

Han on the suspension of university in 1966, which Western urban, elitist, technocratic reporting loves to focus on: “From the perspectives of the individuals whose dreams of going to college were shattered, this reform of the college entrance examination system was deeply disappointing. But from the perspective of rural development, this reform measure, not unlike a blood transfusion for a sick patient, brought knowledge and skills that revived rural areas. … Every student had to work in rural areas or in a factory for at least two years before becoming for eligible. Academic performance was not a sole criterion in the selection of candidates for college. Students also had to prove themselves as good farmers or workers before going to college. Starting in 1976, college students from rural areas were required to go back to their original villages after graduation to serve the villagers who sent them to college.”

This is a drastically different perspective than the usual “broken dream” reporting of the West regarding the CR, no?

It is also a drastically different admission standard: good grades AND good working ability, versus the West’s good grades AND tons of money (or influential parents AND tons of money).

It is also a drastically different philosophy: public funds in their small town paid for the schooling of these fortunate Chinese graduates since their childhood, therefore they must return “to serve the villagers who sent them to college”. There is absolutely nothing like this in the capitalist-individualist West, even though “public funds in their small town paid for…”.

Han relates that an average of 85 people returned to each village in Jimo County. “These students became the new teachers, medical personnel, and skilled workers and technicians on which rural development depended. The reform of the college entrance system and the movement of encouraging education urban out to go to rural areas broke the vicious circle in Chinese education.” (emphasis mine)

Han also specifies how these educated urban youth served as a very real cultural and social bridge between the urban and rural areas, which is precisely what is lacking in modern Western countries and a key reason for their huge urban/rural divide. Again, denying someone their individual right (especially the right of a White middle/upper class person, the type most likely to attend college in their nations) is anathema in the West, but we see how very, very socially necessary and productive it was.

I think that Han’s view – which is relating the common villager’s view – should be shattering in terms of perception of these key “radical” reforms of the CR, which is why I am happy to relate them.

The benefits are so obvious and so broad, I’m sure many Westerners will wonder how they can apply it in their non-socialist systems… they likely cannot, because they will be accused of being “socialists”.

A revolution in rural economy, and thus the national economy, and thus the global economy

Let’s not forget that the CR’s open emphasis on the rural over the urban (revolutionary in itself, and unappreciated by the USSR) was also ordered by any conception of democracy: While China was 56% urban in 2015 it was only 20% urban as late as 1980. The USSR’s emphasis on the primacy of a vanguard party over a People’s democratic dictatorship certainly did not keep socialism flag’s flying after 1991.

It is no exaggeration to say that the CR brought the Industrial Revolution to rural China – it was truly that important.

“During the Cultural Revolution agricultural production more than doubled, but just as impressively rural industry went from ‘negligible’ to 36% of Jimo’s economy. The latter is due to the same developments: political culture which changed to empowerment, collective organization and rapid improvement in education which permitted the intelligence required to understand and adopt modern techniques.”

It is not a difficult formula, nor does it absurdly rely on “market magic”….

In the early 1960s Han relates there were just 10 rural industrial enterprises which employed 253 people; by 1976 there were 2,557 enterprises (2.5 per village) which employed 54,771 people. “More importantly, the educational reforms had provided the local industries with educated youth who had acquired technical know-how while in school.”It’s not just a question of technology, but the people who can run them.

I think that readers in developing countries should be amazed and inspired. Foreign investment (and unequal alliances with foreign corporations) is the West’s solution to such problems, but the real solution to building an effective industry which can fuel local development is local education and empowerment.

Han relates how from 1966 to 1976 farmers, often with simple tools, built more reservoirs and other irrigation projects than all those built prior to and after the CR combined. Where would China be in 2019 without all of the CR’s economic development? This also shows that a key catalyst for such changes is socialist-inspired revolutionary cooperation, commitment and selflessness. In the West the only way such collective actions and fervor happens is during defensive wartime, which is proof of capitalism’s quotidian disregard for the lives of their citizens. Han relates how when a business had grown big enough the village took it over – this, too, is anathema in capitalism, of course.

Who did the CR free the most? Women and children, who were liberated from the tedious chore of grinding and mills, because in 1965 rural Jimo still processed their grain in the old –fashioned way. “Most farm work was mechanized by 1976.” The CR decade saw an 1,800% increase in tractors, 3,500% increase in diesel engines, 1,600% increase in electric motors, 700% increase in mills, 5,100% increase in grinders and a 13,200% increase in sprayers – all in just 10 years. These are video game numbers. Let’s compare this to the (still totally underreported) Eurozone “Lost Decade” of 0.6% economic growth from 2008-2017.

For readers in developing countries with significant rural populations – this must seem like an incredible revolution… well, it was. The implications for the CR on India – which is 70% rural – should be obvious, fascinating, well-studied and adopted by them.

The increase came despite the worst and longest drought in Jimo in several decades – 1967-1969 – so in many ways the CR succeeded where the Great Leap Forward failed.

In these 10 years, Jimo suffered no less serious and no fewer natural disasters than in previous decades. There were altogether four serious droughts, four serious floods, four wind disasters, nine hailstorms and three serious insect disasters. Nevertheless, agricultural production steadily and rapidly increased.

The CR also marked a return to grand, collective economic projects – this had not been tried since the Great Leap Forward. The big difference this time was: production decisions were not handed down by high-level authorities. This success was the direct result of the increased socialist democratic empowerment of the CR:

After the baptism of the Cultural Revolution, farmers refused to follow policies from above blindly, unless they were convinced that these policies would advance their living standards.” Han relates how, when it came to Party experts: “But farmers did not have to listen to them. In fact, there were cases of farmers driving away outside cadres.” Such a thing prior to the CR appears to have been impossible.

It should be clear: the CR was the Great Leap Forward 2.0 – China had learned from the mistakes, and improved. We can fairly say that their Belt and Road Initiative is a Great Leap Forward 3.0, and one which is so great it is incorporating most of Eurasia.

We can see the transition from a China where the vanguard party was everything – like industrial workers in 1917 Petrograd – to a better socialism, because it democratically empowered worker/citizens. It should be no surprise that it worked so well – socialism is something which simply must evolve and grow because it is so very new – treating 19th century Marx as though he was a divine apostle is false, absurd and a guarantee of failure. Conversely, capitalism-imperialism has had 300 or 3000 years (depending on your definition) to grow, and it is not surprising that it has culminated into its most heartless, most inequality-producing format – neoliberal capitalism.

Whereas the Great Leap Forward was a hysterical-with-happiness effort to wipe away more than a century of imperial and/or fascist retardation, locals in Jimo calmly and collectively decided what they needed – the fruits are China’s impressive status in 2019.

A revolution in rural medical care, which appeared for the first time

Again, this is the human capital built up during the CR which produced the 1980s boom. Sickness and infirmity – both your own and that of your children, family and friends – is not just personally debilitating but damaging to the economy.

The CR led to the denunciation of the urban-only medical care program, which was an improvement from the pre-1948 days, but clearly not the finished goal of socialist revolution. “Mao denounced the people’s hospitals aschengshi laoye yiyuan (hospitals for urban lords only).”

Thanks to the CR’s refreshing of the collective mentality: “Each villager paid fifty cents annually to the village clinic, which would then provide villagers with rudimentary free medical care for a whole year. By 1970, 910 villages – 93 percent of all villages – had set up their own village clinics and all had rudimentary medical insurance policies for villagers. The rural ‘barefoot doctors’ who staffed village clinics were mostly returned educated rural youth, who had received rudimentary medical training while in high schools.” It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s better than the previous witch doctors – who were often publicly shamed for the tragedies caused by the false claims of voodoo – and Han notes the “barefoot doctors” worked under the supervision of real doctors.

“If a villager fell ill and needed to be hospitalized, the village would try to pay for his or her medical bills. If the village could not pay, the commune would help. If the medical bills became too big for both village and commune, the hospital would waive the charges. … To be sure, the rural cooperative medical system was of low quality. … But it was the best system of medical care villagers in Jimo had ever had and it provided villagers with important services and peace of mind.”

Again, human capital was created and preserved, allowing Chinese humans to flourish in the 21st century.

A revolution in cultural respect, not a revolution of cultural violence

In an anecdote which shows how gender equality is far more advanced under socialism than capitalism (of course, as is ethnic equality), Han relates an anecdote of twin brothers who abused their wives getting shamefully paraded, but also their mother because she was believed to be the instigator of the abuse.

Han also discusses something the West’s art mavens love to decry with far greater fervor than the continued existence of human poverty: how cultural treasures were lost at the start of the CR, which attacked the “four olds”: old thoughts, old culture, old traditions and old habits.

Han relates how it was the superstitious funeral and wedding ceremony shops which were the main victims in Jimo – in many ways the CCP was trying to replace the old polytheism with communism.

But what Han explains is that as the CR progressed, and rural students were given more funds, time and consideration, rural students began to enjoy subsidized travel outside of their village. For many this was the first time poor rural students had ever had an opportunity to widen their vision of the world, and they immediately realised the error of naively destroying genuine cultural artefacts.

“In Jimo County, the Cultural Revolution took a dramatic turn after young people returned from trips to Beijing where they gained new perspectives. The independent mass associations emerged (Rebel Red Guard Faction), and destruction of the si jiu (four olds) stopped after students returned from their travels.”

It seems the lesson was very quickly learned – the “four olds” should be regarded as quaint relics, and even worth protecting as part of China’s cultural heritage, but they should no longer be feared and thus destroyed, because idols have no power (which was the message of Abraham and monotheism). That point of view seems difficult to grasp when the “four olds” are lorded over you your whole life, and you think that they are all-dominating instead of being paper tigers.

This is very reminiscent of the trips sponsored by the Iranian Basij: poor young people are given their first chance to travel outside of their village or town, and the result amazingly broadens their perspective.

Such trips also accentuates class consciousness by revealing disparities between town and country: “They were humbled to some extent, but they also felt indignation over the gap in the living standards between the rural and urban areas.”

Not only were new relationships formed, but genuine political intelligence about China’s current situation was increased among rural minds.

It was during these trips that Lan Chengwu and his comrades learned about the widespread corruption among rural cadres. The outrages of village tuhuangdi (local emperors) who stole collective grain, slept with other people’s wives and suppressed those who dared to challenge them angered Lan and his comrades and fired their determination to sustain the Cultural Revolution. Today, official historical accounts emphasize the disruptive impact of chuanlian on the national transportation system.”

I include that last sentence because it shows how far to the socialist right China’s official line is today when compared with the CR decade, which is the subject of the 7th part in this series. Many Iranians similarly chafe at the subsidized trips for Basiji members, but they, too, miss the many revolutionary benefits for poor members.

The essential economic dialectic of the Cultural Revolution must be revived in 2019

“The Cultural Revolution educational reforms provided the rural areas with a large number of educated youth. While in school they learned what was useful for the rural areas, and when they returned to their home village upon graduation they could make good use of what they had learned. … Without the large number of educated youth arrived from the cities, agricultural experiments and mechanization in rural areas would have been unimaginable. … Unlike their illiterate predecessors, the newly educated young farmers had the conceptual tools to modernize production.”

This is the human capital on which China’s post-1980 economic boom surely must be based on, and that is the essential achievement of the Cultural Revolution. By applying socialism’s elevation of the average person, instead of capitalism’s elevation of the exceptional, China has become a superpower.

Han demonstrates – conclusively, impressively and crucially – that, “The building of rural industry in Jimo County, however, began as a result of the Cultural revolution and was already well under way before the onset of Deng’s rural reforms.”This is why Han’s book is so crucial, and especially for developing countries with high rural populations.

China’s socialist/collective mentality increased education and Socialist Democratic changes, whereas the Western-pushed Liberal Democratic changes have never produced the same kind of spectacular results in neo-imperialised countries.

Finally, the “forced repatriation” of educated rural people and some urbanites clearly provided the most vital catalyst for China’s rural renewal, and thus national renewal; it was the indispensable “blood transfusion”, in Han’s words. This policy will never be pushed by the individualist West, but it should be of great interest to more sensible countries.

China’s Cultural Revolution era was so economically and democratically successful that the West simply must ignore it or distort it. It stands in total contrast to the Western-dominated, neo-imperialist neoliberal model, a model which has proven to only increase inequalities and discontents in their nations.

China’s rural areas did not need Western banker investment or instruction to tap into their human potential – does your nation?

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This is the 6th article in an 8-part series which examines Dongping Han’s book The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village in order to drastically redefine a decade which has proven to be not just the basis of China’s current success, but also a beacon of hope for developing countries worldwide. Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

Part 1 – A much-needed revolution in discussing China’s Cultural Revolution: an 8-part series

Part 2 – The story of a martyr FOR, and not BY, China’s Cultural Revolution

Part 3 – Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China?

Part 4 – How the Little Red Book created a cult ‘of socialism’ and not ‘of Mao’

Part 5 – Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution?

Part 6 – How the socioeconomic gains of China’s Cultural Revolution fuelled their 1980s boom

Part 7 – Ending a Cultural Revolution can only be counter-revolutionary

Part 8 – What the West can learn: Yellow Vests are demanding a Cultural Revolution

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of Ill Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution? (5/8)

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution? (5/8)

In Part 3 of this 8-part series I answered the question raised by that part’s title: Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China? To recap: China wanted something which the Eurozone has none of: participatory economic planning. China also wanted much more participatory democracy (political empowerment) at the local level and to move even further away from an all-controlling, imperious central state.

But why did this require a decade-long Cultural Revolution (CR)? The answer to that question is: all Red Guards, promoted to install the CR, weren’t all red!

This article will explain something never even hinted at in Western (faux) histories of China: the differences between the two Red Guard factions – the one on the left of the spectrum of socialist political thought, and the one on the right side of the spectrum.

This explains why the primary victims of the Red Guards were… the Red Guards! But that likely needs further explanation….

These party differences were so deep, so broad, so ingrained and so fiercely held that China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is perhaps best conceived of as “China’s Socialist Civil War”. The CR truly was China’s center and left against their right-wing… but we must remember that “right-wing” in a socialist context is still far, far to the left of the “right-wing” in a capitalist context. Of course, China also had some unrepentant “Western right-wing” citizens who refused to adopt socialism who were also involved.

But we live in a world today where many disbelieve in the concept of a hard and scientific “political spectrum”. Many refute any sort of standardization of political thought, as if a person’s political ideas could be so incredibly unique that they defy labeling of any sort, despite the obvious hindrance to understanding and solidarity this belief can’t help but create. Given this widespread error, we should not be surprised that the Western Mainstream Media has no interest at all in fully describing the Chinese spectrum of battling forces during the CR; for them the CR is divided into murderous savages (the Party, the government, students) and totally-innocent victims (usually professors, intellectuals, and those forced to shovel manure instead of constantly talking it).

I will soon explain how Red Guards were the greatest victims of the CR, but to do so I must first dispense with the Western idea that China’s CR was some sort of power-struggle and byproduct of a Mao-cult, as opposed to being a truly democratic event.

The CR’s democratic bonafides are are proven by the fact that there was massive popular involvement. Conversely, the Eurogroup – which decides the economic policies of the Eurozone – is not democratic because there is extremely limited involvement in decision-making.

This is verified in The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village by Dongping Han, who was raised and educated in rural Jimo County, China and is now a university professor in the US. Han interviewed hundreds of rebel leaders, farmers, officials and locals, and accessed official local data to provide an exhaustive analysis of seeming unparalled objectivity and focus regarding the Cultural Revolution in China. Han was kind enough to write the forward to my brand-new bookI’ll Ruin Everything you Are: Ending Western Propaganda in Red China. I hope you can buy a copy for yourself and your 300 closest friends.

“These mass associations (definition coming shortly) were formed largely in the spirit of free association, and enjoyed tremendous independence and freedom. They cut across clan and family lines. It was common for people from the same clan and same family to join different associations. People came together because of their political views. With few exceptions, all of the adult population belonged to one mass association or another.” (emphasis mine)

The Chinese Socialist Civil War showed the one indispensable hallmark of producing a true & successful revolution: universal political participation. In Russia in 1917 or in Iran in 1979, everybody – and I mean everybody – talked politics all the time.

It should not be surprising that the opposite is true: in hugely reactionary cultures like the US or the UK serious political discussion is verboten among friends and family. This is the reason why far-right thinking dominates in these countries – conservatism and traditionalism go unopposed. However, in China the far-right had been (quite properly) banned in 1949; therefore, the CR was a battle among “Chinese right-wing socialists”…which shows how very much more advanced and evolved Chinese political discussion and culture is compared with Anglophone countries, where right-wing elements still are allowed to confuse, distort and champion horrid ideas.

The “mass associations” which Han refers to needs his explanation:

I personally feel there is a need to distinguish between mass organizations and mass associations. The former term would be applied to the organizations like the militia, the Communist Youth League, women’s association, workers’ unions and the official Red Guards which were set up by the CCP and were official in nature. The latter term would refer to the independent Red Guard groups formed largely in the spirit of free association. … Both the rebels and the defenders of the Party leaders were called Red Guards. The rebels were called zaofan pai (rebel faction) while the defenders were known as the baohuang pai (loyalist or royalist faction)….”

This distinction is the essence of the CR: the conflict was between those who were pushed by Mao to criticize the Party in a never-before seen manner – the Rebel Faction (associations) – and those who opposed such criticism and changes – the Loyalist Faction (organizations); both were “Red Guards”, however.

Essentially, the Loyalist Faction Red Guards didn’t know what they were getting into when they started the new CR, as they soon found themselves under attack.

Why the Cultural Revolution was totally different to China, from the Chinese perspective

Han relates in detail and in real-time how the CR came to Jimo County: who were the “rebel leaders”, who were the criticized Party members, who fought back against the CR, and how it evolved from what could have been just another “anti-rightist campaign”, like in 1957, or yet another of near-yearly “anti-corruption campaigns”, into something wholly new – a CR.

Let’s start at the beginning:

“At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, the CCP had total control of Chinese political and economic life. …(the CCP) held the reins of power at each level.”

But what Mao and his supporters wanted was to provoke was something which was previously banned as “anti-party thought” – independent criticism of Party authorities. (Such criticism is widespread in Iran – the critics have not succeeded in persuading Iranians to abandon their revolution, however.)

The democratic bonafides of the CR are further strengthened by the fact that those who openly criticized the government were not punished, but given power. That is a very rare phenomenon. But we are skipping ahead – the first rare phenomenon is that poor rural people were given platforms to explain where their Party-led society had failed, and where the empowerment created by socialist revolution had not yet reached.

“It (the CR) differs from all the previous political campaigns because for the first time in the CCP’s history it circumvented the local party bosses and stressed the principle of letting the masses empower themselves and educate themselves.” (Han’s emphasis)

This is the revolution within a socialist revolution provided by Maoism – only installing a vanguard party is not enough to achieve on-the-ground, democratic socialism.

The first two months of the CR (June-July 1966) saw attacks on the “Four Olds” –in essence, attacks on outdated, repressive and capitalist customs, cultures, habits, and ideas. This was led by the Loyalist Faction Red Guards, to be distinguished from the Rebel Faction Red Guards who came to power later.

“Of course, from the point of view of local party officials, campaigns to destroy the four olds and attack landlords, capitalists and political enemies were convenient ways to divert attention from themselves and protect themselves from attack.” So in this way the first couple months of the CR was a really just a “pseudo-CR”, because it was led by many of the corrupt cadres themselves.

But what stopped this “pseudo-CR” was the August 1966 Mao-faction drafted “16 Points”, which boldly and correctly proclaimed as its headline: “A New Stage in the Socialist Revolution”. The 16 points is briefly summarized here, but to recap: capitalism is essentially a negative societal habit, and if this habit is not broken wherever it is found within a socialist society then it will lead to the unwanted restoration of capitalism-imperialism. Thus, the CR requires vigorous refutation and discrediting of proven anti-socialist thought and influence.

Crucially, the 16 Points, “…made the distinction between the Communist party as an institution and party bosses as individuals in a definitive manner, and which stressed that the targets of the Cultural Revolution were the capitalist roaders inside the Party.” (Han’s emphasis)

Capitalist roader” is, I feel, a rather inelegant but common English translation of this supremely important Maoist phrase. What it refers to is: a person who wants to get off the road of socialism and return to the road of capitalism-imperialism. It is not an effective translation because it lacks the necessary implication of betraying socialism’s already-acquired advances. “Capitalist re-roader” would be better, but also inelegant. However, one of the beauties of socialist jargon is its refusal to be elegant at all!

What we can also do is to call the capitalist roaders something more accurate – “anti-empowerment roaders”. Or we could call them “king-roaders”, for Muslim countries still oppressed by monarchies, and “CEO-roaders” for the Western republics suffering from bourgeois/West European/Liberal Democracy’s promotion of neoliberal ideals.

Let’s put the 16 Points in China’s historical context:

In a very real way we can say that after 17 years the CCP had definitely established themselves as the dominant and accepted political force in the country – no more Kuomintang, no more foreign powers, far fewer rightists – and thus they could “relax” their grip… by risking a healthy, re-dedicating CR to start focusing on improving the Party’s control rather than just cementing the Party’s control.

It is simply unrealistic politics to imagine that all revolutions don’t have this “consolidation phase”. I would contend that the Iranian Revolution is nearing the end of their consolidation phase; if the US had honored the JCPOA treaty – and if European nations had the courage to honor their word – the Islamic Revolution would have become totally legitimized domestically, and Iran would have to come up with a “New Stage in the Iranian Islamic Revolution” and their own “16 points”. Instead, a totally desperate US has just gone nuclear, by banning anyone from buying Iran oil. Iran’s enemies are as close to war as they can possibly get with that move, simply because they don’t want Iranian Islamic Socialism to spread any more than they want Socialism With Chinese Characteristics to spread.

Indeed, Iran is in a situation we can compare to China in 1963. People act like China was always an equal with the West, as they have been in the 21st century – back then China was still banned from the World Trade Organisation, under US sanctions which would not be lifted until Nixon in 1971, and watching the US wage war on its neighbors & set up nearby military bases. Revolutionary fervour is often imposed rather than chosen – Mao rejected Soviet revisionism and laxity because China did not have the leeway, options and power that the USSR had. If the incredibly belligerent decision of banning Iranian oil actually takes hold, we should thus not be surprised if Iranian “hard-liners” promote a 2nd Iranian Cultural Revolution as a result – indeed, how can socialist-inspired nations relent when compromise is certain death and disgrace? How can we say that China’s CR failed when it obviously convinced the West to call off their Cold War? Regarding Iran, all I can say is: Iranian Cultural Revolution II is far, far, far more likely than the eruption of an unpatriotic civil war which aims to ally itself with the US. LOL….

At this point in China’s CR history, Han elaborates the very essence of the unheard & the unreported point of view of the Cultural Revolution:

“After the ‘16 points’ was publicized, it became very difficult for individual party leaders to use ‘party leadership’ as a shield against criticism. … The ‘chaos’ that attacks on the local party leaders would cause was the price Mao was willing to pay in order to create opportunities to empower the masses. … The ‘16 Points’ and Mao’s support liberated the suppressed rebels throughout China. It also took away the sacred veneer from local ‘dictators’ whom ordinary people called ‘tuhuangdi’ (local emperors) and subjected them to mass criticism. … Former rebel leaders in Jimo like Lan Chengwu and Wang Sibo say that Mao called his 1966 revolution ‘cultural’ because he wanted to cultivate a more democratic political culture in order to eradicate the tuhuangdi phenomenon.”

This is the crucial evolution of socialism: away from the Party dictators and jingoistic loyalists, and towards the “rebels”, who should also be considered synonymous with “true socialists” and “true revolutionaries of empowerment”.

In many ways this encapsulates why the West essentially ends modern Chinese history with 1966 – to them, China always remained a “totalitarian” system with absolutely zero local democratic empowerment. Han agrees that the previous system was – in an genuine but certainly not complete sense of the word – “totalitarian” (centralized and dictatorial), but he shows that the CR specifically fought to change this reality; it was even led by the “totalitarians” themselves.

The West has remained stuck in their false mindset by misinterpreting and not discussing the CR. They have refused to tell the truth and do not even try to understand the CR. Again empowering Chinese and Iranian-style socialism, and not empowering their domestic leftists, are their malign motivations.

Han demonstrates that the CR represents a fundamentally-positive and democratic evolution in the quality of their socialist democracy. This evolution facilitated an explosion in rural-dominated China’s rural economies, industries and schooling and lay the foundation, taught the skills and started the industries which fueled their post-1980 economic success. Modern China’s success cannot be understood without grasping this evolution created specifically by the CR because it fundamentally changed the entire country, even if revolutionary fervour inevitably waned some with the arrival of Deng Xiaoping.

The CR was so intense, so thorough and so very democratic (China being 80% rural at the time), that it cannot be ignored by anyone who wants to grasp modern China; failure to understand the CR also means that one’s politics are stuck in the ‘60s, and certainly that is a fair assessment of the West – they have totally regressed to the right politically, culturally and economically since then. This link is never discussed.

Which Red Guards fought which Red Guards and why?

Now that the background running up until 1967 is laid, we can properly understand the fighting that came after. Without this fighting, the CR would have been just another “anti-rightist campaign”. The fighting was the result of the creation and state protection of totally-grassroots groups, which Han called “mass associations”; these mass associations sat in opposition to “mass organizations”, which represented the CCP status quo.

“With the issuing of ’16 points’, the official Red Guards organized under the auspices of local party leaders dissolved very quickly. Independent rebel associations began to appear,” and these are Han’s “mass associations”. In Jimo County a dozen new, independent Rebel Red Guard associations emerged through the spontaneous democracy guarded by the Mao-faction and the army (the left and center).

Han notes how the Chinese Constitution had always protected free assembly, but that it was never really permitted; these associations were the first time rural peasants could create unified groups which served as a challenge to Party domination. Han relates the universal political participation, and how political debate between associations was constant and transparent. This not only allowed the mastery and tweaking of political ideas, but it empowered the peasant masses by allowing them to speak publicly for the first time ever. These are the kinds of things which prove the CR’s democratic bonafides, but which the West cannot accept nor popularize. Indeed, how can the CR be undemocratic when it fostered, protected and promoted new grassroots institutions? What is more democratic than spontaneous grassroots organizations? We see here the truly revolutionary nature of the CR.

Each village Han studied had roughly three to five new mass associations, and he related how widespread the democratic participation was down to the household level. “The major difference between them was whether or not to overthrow the old village party bosses.”

Therefore, the CR was essentially a massive referendum on the performance of individual civil servants.

If you were a good boss, who maybe was in charge of some small town’s only mill or granary or whatever, everyone in that small town surely knew you were good…. because that’s how small towns are – they know your personal business. And such good bosses kept their jobs (and kept in line). But if you were a tuhuangdi who siphoned off the profits to buy presents to seduce married women, everyone in that small town already knew it – because that’s how small towns are – and you’d be exposed and publicly shamed. Public shaming is an Asian thing, perhaps, but I certainly see it as just punishment. I note that Han does not record that any such person died as punishment in Jimo County.

Han relates how workers and farmers joined the Rebel Faction out of dissatisfaction with local Party leaders. These Rebel Faction Red Guards (associations) were supported by the left-wingers in the Chinese Socialist Democratic System (Mao and those who thought like him), whereas the Loyalist Faction Red Guards (organizations) were the status quo-preserving establishment. All were Red Guards, though.

The Rebel Faction Red Guards were joined by idealistic students, and now the two sides began to really fight it out against the Loyalist Faction Red Guards. Many might assume that the army tipped the balance, but that’s not the case:

“The army was called upon to support the revolutionary leftists by the center. But since there was no concrete criterion for a revolutionary leftist, it was really up to the soldiers in the fields to decide who they wanted to support.”

Even though Mao, the center, and the left called for the army to support the Rebel Faction Red Guards, Han reveals yet another democratic bonafide of the CR: the army was not manipulated for political reasons, but was allowed to freely choose their own side. Therefore, if the right wing in China’s socialist spectrum was overwhelmed in the CR decade, and if the army did not intervene to prop them up, the only reason is because many in the People’s Liberation Army were genuine leftists themselves, i.e. democracy prevailed.

When the dust cleared, the Red Guards (Rebel Faction) beat the Red Guards (Loyalist Faction)

As expected, in the early years of the CR the Rebel Faction Red Guards initially faced much local official persecution for denouncing people like Police Chiefs for poor performance, capitalist-roading and abuse of authority. People talk about the CR as if there was no give-and-take of abuse, imprisonment and mistreatment, but of course the Loyalist Faction had many levers to pull and obstacles to throw up despite the opposition of Mao way over in the capital.

So when we talk about the violent excesses of the CR, we must keep in mind that the CR’s victors had to overcome much initial official repression. Revolutionary payback is usually not a bouquet of flowers with a thank-you card.

But the primary reason there was so much anger was likely because prior to the CR there simply, “…were no regular channels for ordinary villagers to air their opinions and grievances against the Party authorities.” It’s not that Chinese Socialism had failed, but that equality was not universal due to a clear urban/rural divide. The CR was essentially a rural explosion which demanded that equality. It is not for nothing the very first big character poster – the Chinese version of a free press back then, and that is no exaggeration at all – attacked the educational inequalities at China’s top university and demanded that the doors be opened wider to rural students. The Yellow Vests are doing the same… but less coherently, which should be expected – Westerners are not as intellectually politically advanced & experienced as the Chinese in 1964.

The Yellow Vests are essentially demanding a Cultural Revolution

In the end, the CR was about demanding that second pillar of Marxism – redistribution of power – for rural areas; the CR was China dealing with it’s rural/urban divide, whereas the West is only starting to come to grips with their divide with Brexit, the Yellow Vests, the “basket of deplorables”, etc.

“Some villagers say that before the Cultural Revolution villagers felt shorter before party leaders, and always nodded to them first when they met on the street. After the Cultural Revolution ordinary villagers no longer felt diminished before the village leaders and such leaders often greeted ordinary villagers first when they met on the street.”

Such “who greets whom first” etiquette is a classic small-town concern, LOL.

But it is a real concern, and public servants simply must address public concerns – that is their primary job. Public servants who expect to be feted like social superiors are clearly not “of” or “for the People”.

We can see why the Western 1% is so fearful of a CR occurring locally – capitalism is all about venerating the “Great Man”, whom we should be thanking for giving us the opportunity to work for peanuts.

The CR is supposed to be so bloody, but Han does not list any deaths in Jimo County as a result of CR violence. Han says with only a few exceptions the corrupt party leaders were rehabilitated. Heck, the CCP allowed Pu Yi, “the Last Emperor” to be rehabilitated and live his life out in peace, so why not the local emperors? It is capitalist legal systems which prioritize useless and unequal punishment over rehabilitation, not socialist systems.

The idea that 500,000 to 2 million people died in the CR is a number which seems to be invented by Western imaginations, because how many of these claimants did the in-depth study Han did… and yet Han reports zero deaths?

Considering this was both a revolution and a civil war, should such a deal toll stand as proof of the CR’s inherent immorality? Does anybody do that for the US Civil War, which cost 600,000 lives? Of course not. The big difference between the two is: nobody in the West does the work Han did and proves that the CR led to huge increases in economic, political, medical, educational, social and democratic empowerment. Time will show that the CR freed the Chinese rural slaves, in a very genuine sense. Maybe they weren’t freed enough, but neither were US Blacks, who went from slaves to Jim Crow… but these are undoubtedly two civil wars with positive overall results.

By the time local party organizations began to function again in late 1969, after almost three years of dormancy, the political culture had already changed.

Han recounts their characteristics and practices, and how they replaced the old structures, and my margin notes read “democracy” over and over and over and over.

The number of party members doubled in Jimo County from 1965-1978 (the year Deng took office), but this was not the error of Krushchev, who let in a bunch of ideologically-suspect Soviets in order to dilute the power of the Stalinist wing – China opened its doors to their true revolutionaries who made their bones during the CR decade.

In a very important sense, even if Deng’s more right-wing socialist line came to the fore in the 1980s, and even if there would be a purge of Rebel Faction leaders during the Deng era, the cadres and citizens pushed to the left during the CR (as Dongping Han seems to have been) have helped ensure that China has not at all fully switched to the capitalist road.

The CR undoubtedly brought untold wealth, progress and empowerment for rural areas (as I briefly related in Part 1). Trumpeting these achievements is verboten in the West, but is the focus of the next part in this series.

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This is the 5th article in an 8-part series which examines Dongping Han’s book The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village in order to drastically redefine a decade which has proven to be not just the basis of China’s current success, but also a beacon of hope for developing countries worldwide. Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

Part 1 – A much-needed revolution in discussing China’s Cultural Revolution: an 8-part series

Part 2 – The story of a martyr FOR, and not BY, China’s Cultural Revolution

Part 3 – Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China?

Part 4 – How the Little Red Book created a cult ‘of socialism’ and not ‘of Mao’

Part 5 – Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution?

Part 6 – How the socioeconomic gains of China’s Cultural Revolution fuelled their 1980s boom

Part 7 – Ending a Cultural Revolution can only be counter-revolutionary

Part 8 – What the West can learn: Yellow Vests are demanding a Cultural Revolution

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of Ill Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

How the Little Red Book created a cult ‘of socialism’ and not ‘of Mao’ (4/8)

April 17, 2019

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

How the Little Red Book created a cult ‘of socialism’ and not ‘of Mao’ (4/8)

What is Mao’s Little Red Book, first published in 1964 at the start of the Cultural Revolution? In 2019, I think we have to look at it in three ways:

The Little Red Book was a work of journalism. This means it sought to impart knowledge which was specific to its exact time, and as a response to the needs of its particular moment. Were you to read a report of mine from 2009, of course it would not be considered as relevant, hip and accurate were it to be directly applied to the situation in 2019… but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hit the nail on the head the day it was published. Mao’s Little Red Book served an immediate need for immediate decision-making, much like journalism does.

Secondly, the Little Red Book was essentially of code of conduct. It was aimed at workers in the government and preached an ascetic program of socialist officialdom. I.e., it was moral instruction for civil servants, telling government workers to be good workers.

Thirdly – and this is the source of the Little Red Book’s greatest social impact during the CR and the reason it is immortal – it was able to be used as a very real weapon of democratic empowerment for China’s lowest classes against bad civil servants.

This series examines The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village by Dongping Han, who was raised and educated in rural Jimo County, China, and is now a university professor in the US. Han interviewed hundreds of rebel leaders, farmers, officials and locals, and accessed official local data to provide an exhaustive analysis of seeming unparalled objectivity and focus regarding the Cultural Revolution (CR) in China. Han was kind enough to write the forward to my brand-new book, Ill Ruin Everything you Are: Ending Western Propaganda in Red China. I hope you can buy a copy for yourself and your 300 closest friends.

Han does something which Westerners never do without total derision, total ignorance of its contents, and a general disinterest in the aims of socialism to begin with: he fairly discusses the impact of Mao’s Little Red Book. Han writes with his characteristic modesty and refusal to exaggerate:

“Fundamentally speaking, yang banxi (the model Beijing operas) and Mao’s quotations served important social functions. They promoted a democratic, modern political culture and established a highly demanding, though loosely worded, code of official conduct. They called on Communist Party members to accept hardship first and enjoyment later. They required government officials to think about the livelihood of the masses. They denounced high-handed oppressive behavior and promoted subtle persuasion in dealing with difficult persons. … They set up good examples for the officials to emulate, and, more importantly, they provided the ordinary people with a measuring stick of good official conduct.”

Providing a new measuring stick – is that not what Revolutions are all about?

“To the outside world and to the educated elite, songs based on Mao’s quotations and yang banxi constitute a personality cult carried to the extreme. But in a way this cult served to empower ordinary Chinese people. Ordinary villagers used Mao’s words to promote their own interests. What some outside observers don’t realize is that Mao’s works had become a de facto constitution for rural people. More importantly, this de facto constitution became an effective political weapon for ordinary villagers.”

There is no doubt that longtime China analysts in the West are flummoxed by such a positive, democratic analysis.

Just like journalism, we can only judge the true worth of the Little Red Book by accepting the judgment of the local masses. It’s easy to imagine that non-Chinese, especially properly educated ones, may view the Little Red Book as unnecessary instruction… but this was decidedly not the case in 1964 China for the average person. When “ability to increase the empowerment of the average person” becomes our measuring stick, then our assessment must change…but for this type of focus – which is egalitarian and communal, as opposed to individualistic – we need people like Han and not Harvard professors.

“Scholarly critics of the Cultural Revolution dismiss the study of Mao’s works as blind submission to Mao’s words as the final authority. That is very true. It is true that few people in China ever, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, subjected Mao’s work to any theoretical scrutiny, which is sad indeed. However, critics sometimes forget the social context of Chinese society in the mid-1960s, and the most urgent needs of ordinary people at that time. For the illiterate and powerless villagers, it was not the business of the day to subject Mao’s works to theoretical scrutiny, but to use Mao’s words as a weapon to empower themselves against official abuses and to overcome their traditional submissive culture.”

Again, Mao’s Little Red Book is a superb piece of urgently-needed journalism which created a code of conduct that people from the disempowered classes could immediately use as a democratic weapon.

What are we supposed to do with such an analysis of Mao’s Little Red Book? Are we to tell Professor Han – with all his research, personal background, knowledge and ability to provide context – that his point of view is less informed and intelligent than that of Western journalists and academics? This is why Han’s book is revolutionary: those who read it can either accept it and change their “measuring stick” of the CR, the Little Red Book and many other things Chinese socialist… or they can be fairly denounced as reactionaries who believe that upholding illogical but traditional thought – which only supports an obviously unequal status quo – is more important than the use of honesty, reason and moral fairness.

Han, not being a journalist as I am, is not at all prone to such indignant accusations, LOL.

Mao’s problem is that he was both a genius politician and a genius thinker. His double genius, and his incredible ineffectiveness at his chosen tasks, have inspired such awe and loyalty that the popularity of the Little Red Book is assumed in the West to be solely a product of a “cult of personality” for Mao instead of its amazing democratic utility.

I have never heard of a “cult of personality” applied to a Westerner. I’d like to discuss this with you sometime in France – we can go to the tiniest of villages and meet at Place du Charles de Gaulle, which is at the intersection of Avenue Charles de Gaulle and Rue Charles de Gaulle, and catty-corner from Allée Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle, I note, did not even produce an equivalent of the Little Red Book, and thank God for that – it would surely have been based merely around the grandeur of France, i.e. petty nationalism.

The ideas, beliefs and sayings of Mao compiled in the Little Red Book were obviously so dear and so accepted by the Chinese people that the Book’s popularity became proof of brainwashing to anti-socialists. However, to socialists the Book was obviously something much more: it was a necessary tool of empowerment.

Dismissing the Little Red Book shows that one either hasn’t read it, or is a loud-mouthed reactionary

For Han, schoolchildren using the Little Red Book to teach political empowerment to their illiterate parents is not the source of amusement, nor is it trivial, nor is it authoritarianism-cloaked-in-leftism – it is real leftism in action, and incredibly suited for its time and place. We can debate its academic/theoretical quality regarding socialist political theory, but Han relates how it was a superb tool of democracy against bad governance.

“I would argue that one reason why ordinary villagers made such an effort to study Mao’s works and why they could recite Mao’s quotations and other lengthy works at that time is because they gained power by doing so.”

That certainly seems logical: a low-level Party official might commit the Little Red Book to superficial memory, but why would an “ordinary villager” take the time out of their busy farming day to do so? This is a question which will endlessly flummox Westerners, and to the point where they resort to the most absurd fear-mongering: “Oh, they must have feared the gulag if they didn’t learn it.”

During the public forums for which the CR is known for, imagine a corrupt cadre being confronted publicly with Mao’s injunctions, such as:

However active the leading group may be, its activity will amount to fruitless effort by a handful of people unless combined with the activity of the masses. (Page 251)

This surely was used by Chinese peasants to compel Party cadres to include the democratic will when creating local policy, but to make cadres work in the fields (and that truly happened during the CR decade, and en masse).

If, in the absence of these movements, the landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements and monsters were allowed to crawl out – while our cadres were to shut their eyes to this and in many cases fail to even differentiate between the enemy and ourselves… the Marxist-Leninst Party would undoubtedly become a revisionist party or a fascist party and the whole of China would change its color. (Page 79)

These are honestly the two first passages I randomly turned to in my copy of the Little Red Book. Why are they so good? Because The Little Red Book is a “Greatest Hits of Mao Zedong” – it’s the best thoughts from his speeches, writings and interviews from over decades. I truly just turned at random again, and this is something de Gaulle would have hated (I knew it’d be easy to write this article):

“But we must be modest – not only now, but 45 years hence as well. (I.e., the year 2001, as this was written in 1956.)We should always be modest. In our international relations we Chinese people should get off great-power chauvinism resolutely, thoroughly, wholly and completely.”

Fake-leftists condemn Mao as a tyrant, yet his words were beloved by the masses because they were so empowering, clear-hearted and universal. It should be clear that his works were not memorized in a rote form as a way to pass a civil service test – they were learned by heart because they were so very intelligent yet so applicable. The reality is that during the CR decade old Chinese peasants who had just learned to read were waving the Little Red Book in the faces of shamefaced, younger Party cadres.

Han provides us fascinating, accurate, local insight into the impact, need for and democratically empowering motivations behind the Little Red Book. We should be able to see why the Cultural Revolution would not have spread far and wide within China without it.

The reality is that Chinese peasants in 1965 were leap years ahead of Westerners, from a mental-political perspective – that’s what 16 years of socialism will do for somebody:

“To many Western scholars, Mao’s Cultural Revolution-era messages were extremely ambiguous. Andrew Walder, for instance, has written: ‘It takes an extraordinary amount of energy and imagination to figure out precisely what Mao really meant by such ideas as ‘the restoration of capitalism’ or ‘newly arisen bourgeoisie.’ However, to Chinese people, even to the illiterate villagers, these terms were not so hard to grasp. Due to China’s leap ahead in political modernity, and some subsequent obstacles, capitalism’s restoration meant incomplete land reform for farmers, and the new bourgeoisie were the Party leaders who acted very much like the old landlords.”

Such sentences from Walder-types are constant when reading Anglophones discuss socialism: they adore to subtly but clearly express their belief that – at its base – socialism is just a childish fantasy, without any grounding in logic or reality.

These cynical notions take one very far in the West. Walder won a Guggenheim fellowship and taught at Harvard and Stanford despite being far stupider than the average Chinese peasant (by his own admission). It’s incredible that someone who cannot understand those two simple terms would rise so far in the realm of political science academia; it is not surprising that such a person would produce obviously anti-China and anti-socialist works such as China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed. Han’s work explains why the CR was in fact a re-railing of socialist revolution…but I do not think he will get a Guggenheim Fellowship for his efforts, sadly.

The reality is that until we learn to prioritize local/native studies and views we will always have great difficulty in understanding foreign cultures. Yet when it comes to socialist-inspired countries native voices are totally excluded in the allegedly-free press/free thought-loving West.

“Today farmers still say that, ‘Chairman Mao said what ordinary villagers wanted to say (shuo chu liao nongmin de xinli hua).’”

For those many Westerners who envision Mao burning in Hell, I think he’s pretty happy where he is because that is an extremely meritorious legacy for any politician – being a conduit for the ordinary People.

Conversely, ex-French President Francois Hollande was recently asked if what the French say about current President Emmanuel Macron is true: that he is the “president of the rich”. Hollande, who was bitterly derided by the decidedly not witty Nicolas Sarkozy as “Mr. Little Jokes”, responded: “No, he’s not. He’s the president of the super-rich.” (Where was this great analysis when you were charge, Francois?)

De Gaulle could never say what ordinary villagers wanted to say…unless they were French villagers – his political ideology was based on petty, blinkered French nationalism; he could never have united scores of European ethnicities, whereas Mao did (and still does) unite 56 officially-recognised ethnicities.

Macron is capitalist, De Gaulle was imperialist – both should not write even very little books, and of any color.

The Little Red Book remains a source of amusement in the West, but it’s not as if they understand it. And it’s not as if ever-surging, ever-united China needs Western acceptance in 2019.

Han has helped prove that the legacy of the Little Red Book will be that it enabled a new worship and devotion to the tenets of socialism (with Chinese characteristics) – Mao was merely the conduit of thoughts much larger than his person.

It is unfortunate that the West continues to build and worship their ignorant cult of anti-Mao, rather than understanding how the Little Red Book increased democracy and empowerment.

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This is the 4th article in an 8-part series which examines Dongping Han’s book The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village in order to drastically redefine a decade which has proven to be not just the basis of China’s current success, but also a beacon of hope for developing countries worldwide. Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

Part 1 – A much-needed revolution in discussing China’s Cultural Revolution: an 8-part series

Part 2 – The story of a martyr FOR, and not BY, China’s Cultural Revolution

Part 3 – Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China?

Part 4 – How the Little Red Book created a cult ‘of socialism’ and not ‘of Mao’

Part 5 – Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution?

Part 6 – How the socioeconomic gains of China’s Cultural Revolution fuelled their 1980s boom

Part 7 – Ending a Cultural Revolution can only be counter-revolutionary

Part 8 – What the West can learn: Yellow Vests are demanding a Cultural Revolution

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of Ill Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China? (3/8)

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China? (3/8)

Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China? (3/8)

In every modern revolution the winners owed their victory to the poor, and China in 1949 was no exception. Iranians call 1979 the “Revolution of the Barefooted” for this same universal reason.

(The reason is universal because any major political change not led by the poor cannot possibly be a “revolution”, but is merely a “coup”, “takeover” or “regime change”.)

I call these revolutions “Trash Revolutions”, even though the adjective is derogatory, because in the English language “trash” gets right to heart of it: the taking of political power by and for the lowest class of society.

Trash Revolutions are the best… but not all Trash make great revolutionaries.

This was the case in China, where by the mid-1960s many in the Chinese Communist Party lost their willingness to identify with the poor and to share in their hardships – thus, they had lost the most important two traits which had propelled them to victory.

The adults in the room, unlike the hardcore capitalists eager to criticize socialist societies at the first pause for breath, understand that the mere proclamation of socialist victory does not translate into an immediate paradise of equality and opportunity. This article seeks to explain why a retrenchment of revolutionary asceticism, a second so-called “cultural” revolution, was needed in already-Red China.

(Iranians agreed that a no-holds barred Cultural Revolution was so necessary in the “postmodern” era that the world’s second (and only other) state-sponsored Cultural Revolution was launched just one year after booting out the Shah: political modernity requires a massive mental shift on the individual level, and thus a massive cultural shift on the societal level. But this article does not seek to preach to the Iranian choir….)

This series examines The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village by Dongping Han, who was raised and educated in rural Jimo County, China and is now a university professor in the US. Han interviewed hundreds of rebel leaders, farmers, officials and locals, and accessed official local data to provide an exhaustive analysis of unparalled objectivity and focus regarding the Cultural Revolution (CR) in China. Han was kind enough to write the forward to my brand-new bookI’ll Ruin Everything you Are: Ending Western Propaganda in Red China. I hope you can buy a copy for yourself and your 400 closest friends.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss’ – The Who… and the pre-CR CCP

Of course, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was not remotely the same as the fascist Kuomintang nor the emperor – only a dimwitted political nihilist would make such a claim… but neither had they perfectly exemplified the Chinese concept of the “Heavenly Mandate”.

After 1949 the CCP apparently thought that rural residents would be easily bought off with land, farm implements, houses and furniture while they prioritized urban areas. But despite increases in quality of life, the rural-urban divide remained glaringly in evidence and stood as galling proof of inequality, creating major domestic discord. For example, urban residents got free medical care, paid holidays, paid sick days and pensions, whereas peasants had none of these things. Maybe it is true that China, only beginning to dig itself out of the muck they were wedged in thanks to their century of colonial humiliation, could not afford to give these things to the mass majority of their citizens (China was 82% rural as late as 1964), but pro-urban sectarianism is going to be resented and certainly needs a remedy soon.

Thus the CR (and the Yellow Vests).

But at the same time that Nikita Khrushchev (Soviet leader 1953-64) had thrown open the gates to Communist Party membership – drastically weakening the ideological purity of the “vanguard party”, a key component of socialism, and in order to drown out the non-revisionist Stalinists – China had closed their ranks. Those CCP members who were there in 1949 could certainly be trusted, but many were proving to be greatly without socialist merit.

“Without new blood, the old party members were able to monopolize village power. The Communist political structure in the rural areas gave the village party secretary supreme authority….Their control of the village seemed complete.”

Westerners and anti-socialists portray Mao (and Stalin) as something like the apex of all corruption on earth, which is flatly contradicted by actual Chinese historical fact. A 1951 anti-corruption campaign found (a Western Liberal Democracy-like) 64% of 625 cadres in eastern Jimo County guilty of corruption. Now we can rationalise that just two years of peace following decades of horrific war is not enough time to to terminate wartime insanities and to inculcate proper socialist habits and, but Mao is so revered in China precisely because he absolutely did not tolerate such poor governance of the People.

“After the Communists took power, Mao Zedong was a curse to corrupt officials in his government…. Before the Cultural Revolution there was an anti-corruption campaign almost every other year. Still, without a radical change of the political culture which would empower ordinary people, all of Mao’s efforts to curb official abuse fell short.”

It must be said that it was not “all of Mao’s efforts” – Mao was simply the figurehead of this broad anti-corruption party of the CCP, or in Western terms an anti-corruption “faction”.

But, again, sayin’ it (proclaiming socialist revolution) and doin’ it (implementing, practicing and protecting socialist revolution) is just a different thing, with just as much difference as “night” and “day”:

“In a sense, the Communists built a new house on the ruins of the old with the new Revolution, but the air of the old society still permeated this new house. With the old culture largely intact, the new communist leaders who replaced the old oppressors of the village, ‘slide into certain habits well-known to traditional upholders of ‘law and order’”.

The CCP had done a lot of redistribution of wealth, but the two pillars of Marxist thought simply cannot exist independently: redistribution of wealth is nothing without a concomitant redistribution of power and control over politics/workplaces. But the CCP did not really derive their power from politics and workplaces – they derived their power from the battlefield and human hearts.

“The CCP cadres who ruled rural areas after 1949 did not derive their power from villagers. They were not elected by the villagers…. Consequently, commune and village leaders were more inclined to please their patrons than respond to villagers’ needs and aspirations.”

The clear problem here was that villagers lacked control over their local village leader to make him or her implement their democratic will. This is exactly why a primary demand of Yellow Vests to Macron is to implement regular “RICs”, Citizens’ Initiative Referendums.

There is no doubt: everybody wants and needs local decision-making; but socialism is not anarchism – socialism contains the non-paradox of a central organizer and planner overseeing local independence.

It was precisely this lack of local control which led to some of the problems of the Great Leap Forward: the desire by village leaders to please the central organizer despite the advice and knowledge of the local population, as I described in my book in the most simple human terms possible. This failure to implement Marxism’s second pillar is truly the hardest part of socialism – anyone can write a check – and when socialism has collapsed it has been because of this failure.

Collectivization is good and more productive than capitalism, but only alongside Socialist Democracy, which did not fully exit pre-CR

In order to quickly prove that socialist collectivization is just as effective in promoting overall economic development as individualist capitalism, I quote myself from Part 1 – this summarizes the differences between rural China in 1966 and after the Cultural Revolution in 1976:

You just read about 2 times more food and 2 times more money for the average Chinese person, 14 times more horsepower (which equates to 140 times manpower), 50 times more industrial jobs, 30 times more schools and 10 times more teachers during the CR decade in rural areas.

Collective farming and control in rural areas – enormously impressive economic, industrial, agricultural and educational results during the CR: end of that discussion.

Han puts these numbers into context by honestly relating the successes and failures of collectivization from the previous era, 1949-1964:

“In essence, the collective farming was a form of mutual insurance designed to make up for the absence of other forms of social insurance.” Let’s remember that urban Chinese had many social insurance guarantees peasants did not.

In practical terms: the rural collective (which comprised all that which had been nationalized: plows, oxen, farm tools, land, etc.) was the social arbitration of limited resources, with the goal of egalitarianism amid increased efficiency.

Capitalists will say: “The exceptional Chinese farmer was shortchanged and denied his right to excel and live in a superior fashion!”

Yes. But there is no debate about how the collectives of the pre-CR era ended the very real poverty the average rural person was threatened with via every storm cloud:

Substantial social security guarantees were embedded in the collective distribution system in Jimo. No matter whether a villager could work or not, the collective undertook to provide him and his family with ‘five guarantees’, (wu bao) – food, clothes, fuel, education for his children and a funeral upon death…. The collective, thus, provided a de facto institutional retirement plan for villagers. The government had put some thought into this unique social security system in the villages.”

So even though urban peasants had it better, let’s not pretend that the 1949-1964 era did not greatly stabilise and better the life for the average Chinese farmer. Certainly Trash around the West – especially Blacks and Native Americans in Western countries – were not guaranteed any of these things in the era of 1949-1964.

Good, Mr. Mao, but not great. Major failures were still easy to spot, and Han’s book relates them.

Like in education: In Jimo County in 1950 48% of area children were enrolled in primary schools, and by 1956 that figure was just 56%. Per Han, 65% of these schools did not even have chairs or tables. From 1949 to 1966 Jimo County produced 1,616 high school graduates out of 1,011 villages; half of them left the county in a huge “brain drain”. The rural-to-urban brain drain remains a major, major plague on rural Western areas today, and that may be the biggest problem – the massive flight of human capital from rural areas to urban ones.

Medical care was not provided either. Han relates how villagers often relied on dangerous and often deadly witch doctors, and he relates how these witch doctors would soon be among those shamefully paraded during the Cultural Revolution and even beaten by the families of their still-grieving victims. The idea of witch doctors may be very hard for developed countries to imagine, but this was a very real phenomenon which only the modern CR exposed as a sham and then replaced with true doctors. (I would imagine that a worried parent could often rather have a witch doctor than no doctor….)

Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-red China? Because the record of the pre-CR era was mixed, or rather, it was unfinished. The CR needs to be seen as “re-collectivization” of an already “collective society”.

Such a retrenchment requires not only 20th century socialist ideas, but also intense patriotism and not mere “nationalism”. Iran was able to have a CR of their own largely because they wanted a re-collectivisation of what Iran “was” – and it included Kurds, Arabs, Jews, etc – thus, “Neither East nor West but the Iranian Republic”. China’s CR was not asking Soviet technicians to come and fix things (nor ones from the IMF, nor Brussels, nor Esperanto-speaking Trotskyist theoreticians) – it was asking Chinese peasants; Iran was asking the average poor, hijab-wearing Iranian woman, humble-living mullahs and the many barefooted what good governance should be.

France in 2019 lacks both modern socialist ideas (its emphasis on RICs as some sort of Godsend is one proof) and all-embracing patriotism. However, so did China and Iran at one point.

The Great Leap Forward didn’t end the desire for collectivization and empowerment, thus the CR

As we all know, capitalism is not patient – they demand mercilessly quick results from socialism or else will start shoveling massive denigration. Socialism, however, cares not: Han relates that the collectives were all about taking the long-term view, the very opposite of capitalism’s “get rich quick” ethos. Yes, young people worked harder than older people in the collective, but when they were sick or got old they moved to the easier jobs; couples with six children took more rice than childless couples, yes, but when the kids grew up their work supported the old childless couple. This is the “collective” mentality, and it enrages the Arizona rancher.

The CR cannot be understood without just a bit of fair, objective knowledge of the Great Leap Forward (GLF). It is pathetic that celebrated faux-historians like Frank Dikotter top Wikipedia pages with claims like “coercion, terror, and systematic violence were the foundation of the Great Leap Forward“, when the GLF was undoubtedly motivated by altruistic desires to cooperate on ambitious projects which aimed to improve the nation. Briefly, from Han:

“When discussing the Great Leap Forward in China, many people see only the food shortages and other negative consequences. They do not understand that the goal of the Great Leap Forward partly was to improve infrastructure in the countryside. The reservoirs built during the Great Leap Forward benefited the rural areas for decades to come. These infrastructure improvements are why farmers who suffered most during the Great Leap Forward have always viewed it with ambiguity other than completely condemning it.”

That is based on his years of his interviews with farmers – it is not based on the judgment of some hack journalist writing an article 10,000 kilometres away who has no idea about anything Chinese other than egg foo young, and who knows even less about socialism.

Because capitalism can never present socialism as an ideology which can adapt and evolve (much as the 1%ers in capitalist societies were able to successfully evolve capitalism into its modern form: neoliberal globalism), but which is an ideology as frozen as as Soviet gulag, they can never even bring up this fact as a mere possibility: By the mid-1960s China had learned from the failures of the Great Leap Forward, and thus regained their appetite and ambition for big collective projects.

But not so big….

What the GLF taught China was that the 2nd pillar of socialism (local control) really is vital for success. Bigger is not always better: combining 50 villages was just too unwieldy to create individual worker empowerment. Collectives were thus reduced to roughly one-third of the village (30-40 households). This obviously made a world of difference, given the fantastic economic, industrial, agricultural and educational success of the CR for rural China (i.e., China).

The Great Leap Forward, while having other successes, helped prove that socialism is essentially locally-based, and thus is not intended to be the totalitarian steamroller non-socialists caricaturize it as.

So it’s that second, less-publicised pillar of socialism which was the Achilles’ heel of China’s first-generation collectives:

“The main weakness of rural collective organisation was political: ordinary members were not politically empowered and were dependent on village and commune officials. The Communists had not fundamentally changed the rural political culture of submission to authority and had not significantly remedied the lack of education in the countryside. Collectivisation had made ordinary villagers more dependent on officials by placing economic decisions in the hands of the collective while failing to really empower villagers to take part in the decision-makingprocess. This was not only a political problem: without solving this problem, possibilities for real rural economic development would remain untapped.” (emphasis mine)

But it’s all development which remains untapped without socialist democracy and socialist education. Yes, socialism needs specifically-socialist education to succeed, just as capitalism needs a steady diet of gangster rap, mafia movies and sexual advertising to sway their minds – the collective mentality must be taught.

Capitalists may have local empowerment, but it is purely individual – it totally lacks the power of solidarity. This is the fundamental difference between the two: in capitalism, one seeks to dominate over all. Socialists, on an individual level, have had revolutions of the mind whereas fearful capitalists are simply working out of habit, tradition, instinct, resentment and fear.

Western liberal democracy mistakenly assumes that their often-federalist systems sufficiently grant local control, but they do not at all grant local control to the average, powerless person; they only grant control to the local factory owner, the local agricultural corporation, the local media baron, etc. This hypocrisy is never admitted; it is papered over by constant exhortations that YOU should make yourself the owner, baron, etc.

“Fukua feng (exaggeration of production) became a serious problem during the Great Leap Forward because the commune members were not politically empowered to check the wrongdoings of the commune and village leaders. In this sense, the Great Leap Forward failed not just because its overall design and rationale were flawed, but also because China’s political culture at the time was out of sync with the new production relationships introduced by the agricultural collectivization.” (emphasis mine)

You don’t have to make your analysis of the Great Leap Forward more sophisticated, but if you want to – voila.

The CR sought to re-sync these relationships in Chinese Collectivization 2.0.

What good is implementing the first pillar of Marxism without creating the second pillar? How can China introduce socialist rule of law and expect success, when workers have not been educated and trained in empowerment?

Once China got these relationships remedied, that is when China began to take off economically, and that is essentially the thesis of Han’s entire book. The proof of the correctness of his thesis is the CR’s era staggering human and economic development that he demonstrated.

By illustrating that the empowerment of the CR decade produced the rural industry, agricultural boom, and the educated workers who laid the foundation for the continued economic success of China into the 1980s and beyond, Han shows how the CR proves that socialism is not merely high taxes on the rich but an entirely new culture.

Already-Red China realized this, and thus their center and left united to support the CR.

Black-hearted Western capitalists realize this too – why do you think they will never permit any good (or even objective) talk about the CR? That would only empower the types of cultural changes Western leftists and Yellow Vests actually want and need.

When when we compare China’s meteoric success (starting from the start of the CR era!) with the Great Recession, the subsequent (but never admitted) Lost Decade in the Eurozone, and the wiping out of the 1980-2009 socio-economic gains of the Western middle class, there is no doubt: the Socialist Democratic has more efficiency, production, capability and morality than the Liberal Democratic model.

For many Western capitalist-imperialists it will take a furious Cultural Revolution right in their faces to accept this reality. But, clearly, Mao and the left wing of CCP understood this long ago.

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This is the 3rd article in an 8-part series which examines Dongping Han’s book The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village in order to drastically redefine a decade which has proven to be not just the basis of China’s current success, but also a beacon of hope for developing countries worldwide. Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

Part 1 – A much-needed revolution in discussing China’s Cultural Revolution: an 8-part series

Part 2 – The story of a martyr FOR, and not BY, China’s Cultural Revolution

Part 3 – Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China?

Part 4 – How the Little Red Book created a cult ‘of socialism’ and not ‘of Mao’

Part 5 – Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution?

Part 6 – How the socioeconomic gains of China’s Cultural Revolution fuelled their 1980s boom

Part 7 – Ending a Cultural Revolution can only be counter-revolutionary

Part 8 – What the West can learn: Yellow Vests are demanding a Cultural Revolution

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of Ill Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

The Essential Saker II

The story of a martyr FOR, and not BY, China’s Cultural Revolution (2/8)

April 04, 2019

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

The story of a martyr FOR, and not BY, China’s Cultural Revolution (2/8)

Actually talk to rural people in China and you can certainly learn of martyrs FOR the Cultural Revolution; talk to disgraced party elites, abusive factory bosses, tyrannical schoolteachers, smug technocrats, pagan witch doctors or parasitic monks, and you get stories of those martyred BY the Cultural Revolution.

Welcome back to the first day of journalism school! “One person’s ‘terrorist’ is another person’s ‘freedom-fighter’”. I am not spouting nonsense such as “all truth is relative”, but simply pointing out that perspective shapes opinion (it does not control fact).

The fact is that you have likely never heard a story of a Chinese person who died in order to support their Cultural Revolution (CR).

Nor have you ever heard of the CR’s beneficiaries – indeed, you likely imagine there were none, except for a power-mad Mao Zedong.

If you have heard anything on the CR – and many have not – you only heard stories from the CR’s victims. The reason for that is: if you are reading this in the West, your media has an informal ban on any pro-socialist story. Anyone who believes that unwritten censorship exists has never worked in the media. (And a pro-socialist story would, after all, empower the leftists in the West and they certainly can’t have that.)

The informal ban is separate from, but compounded by, an informal promotion of anti-socialist notions: for example, the 2015 winner for best novel at the Hugo Awards (given to the best in science fiction), was The Three-Body Problem by Chinese author Liu Cixin. The book was even promoted by Barack Obama, and it should be obvious why: the first 25 pages are a rehashing of the same old “the CR was an unholy terror” perspective. Considering the book is about scientists, perhaps such a perspective is somewhat accurate… but China is not full of 1 billion scientists. Democracy means there are losers in policies – socialist democracy ensures those losers are the 1%.

(Overall, I found the book to be rather boring “video gamer” escapism, as well as effective (and totally unsubtle) anti-socialist propaganda. Unsurprisingly, Amazon is spending $1 billion on a TV adaptation. For me, the only truly interesting passage described Euler’s three body problem in physics and astronomical theory –now there was something to meditate upon, finally. My point is: if the book was 400 pages of gamer escapism and 25 pages of pro-CR historical analysis…Obama ain’t pluggin’ yer book.)

Similarly, no one is plugging Dongping Han’s truly revolutionary and eminently readable book, The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village. The key word there is “village” – not too many top scientists working there, perhaps, but there are a lot of people who greatly benefitted from the CR decade (1966-76). I gave a brief overview and a few knockout punch data sets in Part 1, and this 8-part series is dedicated to popularizing Han’s book and his undeniably confirmed thesis: the CR’s educational reform, which became approved following changes to political culture, produced an explosion in rural economic development and rural human capital, and thus China’s economic boom actually came before Deng’s reforms in 1978. This series is also a roundabout way to popularize my new bookI’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China, to which Han graciously contributed the forward.

Yes, if one was a Chinese science nerd who insisted that they were infinitely smarter than a villager/peasant and thus deserving to rule oppressively in a technocracy… then one likely had a tough time during the CR. This is an old, already told, and often retold story – and I am sympathetic – but it’s time for a new story, for balance and accuracy.

Revolution is bloody, but not as bloody as what leads up to a revolution

Han relates a CR story and an analysis which you have most likely never heard. I will retell it briefly:

Yu Jiushu was a villager in Jimo County (the source of Han’s scholarly investigative work, as well as the place of his youth and formative years). During the Great Leap Forward Yu was recruited as a factory worker. The factory failed, causing him to lose his job and forcing his return home. The leaders of his village, during this era of shortage, refused to give him his grain ration on the grounds that he had forgotten his grain ration papers. Yu was forced to share his ration with his mother. Yu’s mother committed suicide to avoid the starvation of both her and her son.

The average Westerner would stop right there and say, “Isn’t this terrible?” Yes, of course it is.

A Western capitalist and Liberal Democrat would likely continue: “See how socialism only causes problems and deaths?”

Han disagrees: He gives a surprising, tough, 100% necessary analysis which shows why Widow Yu was a martyr FOR, and not a martyr OF, the Cultural Revolution.

“No doubt the village party leaders’ behavior was outrageous, and should be condemned. But should not Yu Jiushu be partly responsible for what happened? He and his mother did not have to put themselves through such suffering in the first place. They could have fought for their legal rights, but their ignorance of the law and their culture of submissiveness failed them.”

Han is showing us that a lack of rural education and a culturally-fostered fear towards officialdom is what doomed Widow Yu; it was not the inherent tyrannies of “socialism” or “big government”. Instead, Han shows, and in a clear rejection of political nihilism, that there WAS an obvious solution and vaccine to such ills: rural empowerment and education.

The Cultural Revolution cannot and will never be understood, much less appreciated and learned from, without grasping that rural empowerment was its absolute priority and goal – this really cannot be stressed enough.

How can anyone effectively fight for their rights when they have no schooling, precarious work and precarious social status? One can either provide the Western capitalist answer – have the brains and nerve of the elite 1% (or their connections) – or one can revamp the system in favor of the illiterate and poor, which is the socialist solution (and the CR’s solution).

How do you improve an unequal society? You drastically change it

In Jimo County Han shows that in 1956 only 66% of Jimo children were enrolled in school. That was up from 48% a year after China’s liberation in 1950. Good, but hardly a socialist miracle. The reason it wasn’t higher was because after 1949 economic resources were prioritized for urban educational needs, and not places like historically impoverished Jimo County.

But, by prioritising rural empowerment, during the CR decade that figure soared to 99%. By the end of the CR decade (1966-76) poor and rural Jimo County had more than 30 times more schools and more than 10 times more teachers (see part 1). Yes, urban colleges were temporarily shuttered during the CR, but it was largely in order to devote resources to rural areas, finally. It can’t be repeated enough, because it is contrary to modern Western nations: China’s rural population was 82% of the overall population in 1964, therefore this new rural focus was perfectly in keeping with democratic ideals.

But education is not enough – the political system must explicitly promote and defend the involvement of the 99%.

Chinese peasants were not historically apolitical – there are too many cases of uprisings to say that, even though this is exactly what many Western academics lazily claim about China – but the CR was undoubtedly the very first time they were ever empowered politically. “The fact that Mao and other Cultural Revolution leaders saw the need to involve common villagers, most of whom were illiterate and were considered ignorant by the educated elite, was in itself revolutionary and democratic.” It is precisely this refusal to involve common villagers which betrays one as a fake-leftist in the West.

Education and political support is still not enough – cultural changes must be forced through despite guaranteed resistance from those sectors which have refused to accept the People’s revolution.

“The major theme of the campaign was to criticize the elitist mentality in Chinese culture. It promoted Mao’s idea that the masses are the motive force of history and that the elite are sometimes stupid while working people are intelligent. These were not empty words. Villagers toiled all year round, supplying the elite with grain, meat and vegetables, but they were made to feel stupid in front of the elite. They did not know how to talk with the elite, and accepted the stigma of stupidity the elite gave to them.”

This elitist idea combated by Mao and his supporters – that rural Trash are stupid – is something which simply must be remedied in the West… or else Western society can never be whole, nor peaceful, nor empowered, nor efficient. Indeed, this series is an effort to show that Deplorables – or Gilets Jaunes, in French – must be empowered in Western nations along the same lines as Chinese Trash was during the CR.

Truly, at the heart of the CR is an idea of humility: our culture has become bad, and needs major changes. Western capitalist-imperialist nations simply do not permit such a trait: try telling such a thing to a typical jingoistic Frenchman, American, Britisher, Spaniard, etc. Yet everyone knows these countries (neo-imperialists) are arrogantly telling other countries what to do. Iranians use “arrogance” and “imperialism” synonymously for this obvious reason.

Because of the West’s (self-interested, leftist-repressing) laser-focus on the tragic, emotional, sensational aspects of these types of CR stories Han related – by failing to progress to Han’s more useful analysis of what can be done to prevent the reoccurrences of these types of negative and deadly social experiences – the Western analysis of the CR will always remain ultimately reactionary because it implicitly rejects the need for social changes; it thus preserves a status quo which is so very unequal for the 99% but especially rural dwellers.

Keeping capitalism-imperialism and condemning socialism is not the answer; reforming and improving socialism is. Socialism can be improved, despite its detractors – the CR stands as proof of this.

Han’s analysis likely seems cold to many Westerners, just as the West’s paralysis by over-emotional/nihilistic analysis may seem too hot to Han.

But Han’s view appears in keeping with the Chinese worldview, which emphasizes personal responsibility far more than in the Western or the Islamic worlds. The Chinese worldview is not Abrahamic, after all – there is no God pulling the strings: YOU are responsible, and shame is your portion when YOU fail. I note that their most sacred book, the I Ching, is essentially a book of social conduct in which only YOU are responsible for failing to cope with or failing to predict the inevitable vicissitudes of life. Embracing personal shame is all over the I Ching, LOL! Quite sorry to report that to the many Western lapsed Christians who dream of some sort of shame-free society/never-ending bacchanalia….

Socialism is thus very much in concordance with this ancient Chinese world view, as it stresses that YOU are responsible for changing our world for the better. (There is no logical reason why socialism and theism cannot be combined with the exact same goal of social and personal empowerment, like in, for example, Iranian Islamic Socialism, but that is another subject.)

How many more widows would have committed suicide to feed their children without the Cultural Revolution?

“In the final analysis, officials abused their power in part because the abused let them get away with it time and time again.”

Changing this reality of official over-empowerment in China truly necessitated a Cultural Revolution, and the CR worked expressly towards this socialist democratic goal.

Over-empowerment of government officials – from kings to French President/Jupiter Emmanuel Macron to Barry Dronebama – is exactly what socialism fights against, yet capitalist-imperialist propaganda accuses socialism of that which their system is far more guilty! Just 39 delegates signed the US Constitution; Nearly 75% of Cubas entire population helped draft their new constitution. Macron is going to write major new unemployment system reforms entirely on his own, ending 30+ years of union involvement, just as he’s done in other areas since taking office. The list goes on and on.

In the 1960s the Chinese left and center, as well as their youth, united behind implementing this idea of worker/citizen cultural empowerment expressly against the prevailing official empowerment. This same combination of forces, however, failed across the West despite having similar goals: No Western systems were drastically altered during the 1960s.

“Of course, the existence of such a legal system is important. But legal codes alone cannot solve any problem if the political culture and mentality of the ordinary people remains unchanged. Here, education to empower the ordinary rural residents is key.” Han is stressing that socialism is a way of life, a mentality, a worldview – capitalism is the same; one can change the law, but what good is it when the law is not enforced or the can be bought around in the courts, as in Liberal Democracies?

And this leads us to the next part of this series: Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China? Short answer: in order to change China’s culture but NOT their socialist democratic legal code & system, which were established in 1949.

To finish with the story: All remember Shahida Widow Yu.

She was not Muslim but she certainly was a martyr against injustice. Han sensibly does not foolishly ignore the reasons of her death in order to leap to emotionalism and sensationalism, as a Western capitalist-imperialist journalists and academics would, but honors and elevates her to show exactly why the Cultural Revolution was necessary – to prevent such inhuman damage, more rural Chinese martyrs, and a cultural system which kept the entire Yu family disempowered, hungry and filled with tragedy.

The idea that China’s Cultural Revolution was some sort of bloody warmongering resulting from Mao’s political power struggles is what the West wants us to believe, and that’s because such a view inherently glorifies capitalism and denies any positive attributes or outcomes to socialist ideas in any nation, including their own.

The reality of the Cultural Revolution – as demonstrated by Han’s book and seconded in this series – was actually unprecedented development and success in the rural areas. It was the creation of this human capital (that most valuable capital) as well as economic capital which set the stage for the post 1980s economic boom in China.

The story of Widow Yu is a story of rural oppression and marginalization, and it is no different from the capitalist debt-provoked suicide of a French farmer which occurs every two days.

Their demises were caused by systems which were/are insufficiently socialist, and thus incredibly disempowering and unequal for rural citizens in both feudalism and Liberal Democratic/West European systems.

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This is the 2nd article in an 8-part series which examines Dongping Han’s book The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village in order to drastically redefine a decade which has proven to be not just the basis of China’s current success, but also a beacon of hope for developing countries worldwide. Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

Part 1 – A much-needed revolution in discussing China’s Cultural Revolution: an 8-part series

Part 2 – The story of a martyr FOR, and not BY, China’s Cultural Revolution

Part 3 – Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China?

Part 4 – How the Little Red Book created a cult ‘of socialism’ and not ‘of Mao’

Part 5 – Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution?

Part 6 – How the socioeconomic gains of China’s Cultural Revolution fuelled their 1980s boom

Part 7 – Ending a Cultural Revolution can only be counter-revolutionary

Part 8 – What the West can learn: Yellow Vests are demanding a Cultural Revolution

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of Ill Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red ChinaHis work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

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