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Sparks Near the Powder Keg of India

Posted by sorev on 18/10/2009

The following article made it’s way to Social Revolution via Democracy and Class Struggle via the World People’s Resistance Movement via Open Magazine.  Another reprinting of this story can also be found at the Kasama Project, the introduction of which is used here.

We Shall Certainly Defeat the Government

In this interview, taken from the October 17, 2009 issue of Open, Ganapathi, General Secretary of the CPI (Maoist), talks about the party’s work in Lalgarh, its response to the government’s upcoming military offensive, the political situation in Nepal, the defeat of the LTTE, the contradictory nature of Islamist movements in the world today, and the role of the new chieftain of US imperialism.

Comrade Ganapathi

Comrade Ganapathi

At first sight, Mupalla Laxman Rao, who is about to turn 60, looks like a school teacher. In fact, he was one in the early 1970s in Andhra Pradesh’s Karimnagar district. In 2009, however, the bespectacled, soft-spoken figure is India’s Most Wanted Man. He runs one of the world’s largest Left insurgencies—a man known in Home Ministry dossiers as Ganapathi; a man whose writ runs large through 15 states. The supreme commander of CPI (Maoist) is a science graduate and holds a B Ed degree as well. He still conducts classes, but now they are on guerrilla warfare for other senior Maoists. He replaced the founder of the People’s War Group, Kondapalli Seetharaamiah, as the party’s general-secretary in 1991. Ganapathi is known to change his location frequently, and intelligence reports say he has been spotted in cities like Hyderabad, Kolkata and Kochi. After months of attempts, Ganapathi agreed to give his first-ever interview. Somewhere in the impregnable jungles of Dandakaranya, he spoke to RAHUL PANDITA on issues ranging from the Government’s proposed anti-Naxal offensive to Islamist Jihadist movements.

Q: Lalgarh has been described as the New Naxalbari by the CPI (Maoist). How has it become so significant for you?

A: The Lalgarh mass uprising has, no doubt, raised new hopes among the oppressed people and the entire revolutionary camp in West Bengal. It has great positive impact not only on the people of West Bengal but also on the people all over the country. It has emerged as a new model of mass movement in the country. We had seen similar types of movements earlier in Manipur, directed against Army atrocities and Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in Kashmir, in Dandakaranya and to some extent in Orissa, after the Kalinganagar massacre perpetrated by the Naveen Patnaik government.

Then there have been mass movements in Singur and Nandigram but there the role of a section of the ruling classes is also significant. These movements were utilised by the ruling class parties for their own electoral interests. But Lalgarh is a more widespread and more sustained mass political movement that has spurned the leadership of all the parliamentary political parties, thereby rendering them completely irrelevant. The people of Lalgarh had even boycotted the recent Lok Sabha polls, thereby unequivocally demonstrating their anger and frustration with all the reactionary ruling class parties. Lalgarh also has some distinctive features such as a high degree of participation of women, a genuinely democratic character and a wider mobilisation of Adivasis. No wonder, it has become a rallying point for the revolutionary-democratic forces in West Bengal.

Q: If it is a people’s movement, how did Maoists get involved in Lalgarh?

A: As far as our party’s role is concerned, we have been working in Paschim Midnapur, Bankura and Purulia, in what is popularly known as Jangalmahal since the 1980s. We fought against the local feudal forces, against the exploitation and oppression by the forest officials, contractors, unscrupulous usurers and the goondaism of both the CPM and Trinamool Congress. The ruling CPM, in particular, has become the chief exploiter and oppressor of the Adivasis of the region, and it has unleashed its notorious vigilanté gangs called Harmad Vahini on whoever questions its authority. With the State authority in its hands, and with the aid of the police, it is playing a role worse than that of the cruel landlords in other regions of the country.

Given this background, anyone who dares to fight against oppression and exploitation by the CPM can win the respect and confidence of the people. Since our party has been fighting uncompromisingly against the atrocities of the CPM goons, it naturally gained the confidence and respect of the people of the region.

The police atrocities in the wake of the landmine blast on 2 November [in 2008, from which West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had a narrow escape] acted as the trigger that brought the pent-up anger of the masses into the open. This assumed the form of a long-drawn mass movement, and our party played the role of a catalyst.

Q: But not so long ago, the CPM was your friend. You even took arms and ammunition from it to fight the Trinamool Congress. This has been confirmed by a Politburo member of CPI (Maoist) in certain interviews. And now you are fighting the CPM with the help of the Trinamool. How did a friend turn into a foe and vice-versa?

A: This is only partially true. We came to know earlier that some ammunition was taken by our local cadre from the CPM unit in the area. There was, however, no understanding with the leadership of the CPM in this regard. Our approach was to unite all sections of the oppressed masses at the lower levels against the goondaism and oppression of Trinamool goons in the area at that time. And since a section of the oppressed masses were in the fold of the CPM at that time, we fought together with them against Trinamool. Still, taking into consideration the overall situation in West Bengal, it was not a wise step to take arms and ammunition from the CPM even at the local level when the contradiction was basically between two sections of the reactionary ruling classes.

Our central committee discussed this, criticised the comrade responsible for taking such a decision, and directed the concerned comrades to stop this immediately. As regards taking ammunition from the Trinamool Congress, I remember that we had actually purchased it not directly from the Trinamool but from someone who had links with the Trinamool. There will never be any conditions or agreements with those selling us arms. That has been our understanding all along. As regards the said interview by our Politburo member, we will verify what he had actually said.

Q: What are your tactics now in Lalgarh after the massive offensive by the Central and state forces?

A: First of all, I wish to make it crystal clear that our party will spearhead and stand firmly by the side of the people of Lalgarh and entire Jangalmahal, and draw up tactics in accordance with the people’s interests and

Naxalites on the March

Parading Maoists

mandate. We shall spread the struggle against the State everywhere and strive to win over the broad masses to the side of the people’s cause. We shall fight the State offensive by mobilising the masses more militantly against the police, Harmad Vahini and CPM goons. The course of the development of the movement, of course, will depend on the level of consciousness and preparedness of the people of the region. The party will take this into consideration while formulating its tactics. The initiative of the masses will be released fully.

Q: The Government has termed Lalgarh a ‘laboratory’ for anti-Naxal operations. Has your party also learnt any lessons from Lalgarh?

A: Yes, our party too has a lot to learn from the masses of Lalgarh. Their upsurge was beyond our expectations. In fact, it was the common people, with the assistance of advanced elements influenced by revolutionary politics, who played a crucial role in the formulation of tactics. They formed their own organisation, put forth their charter of demands, worked out various novel forms of struggle, and stood steadfast in the struggle despite the brutal attacks by the police and the social-fascist Harmad gangs. The Lalgarh movement has the support of revolutionary and democratic forces not only in West Bengal but in the entire country. We are appealing to all revolutionary and democratic forces in the country to unite to fight back the fascist offensive by the Buddhadeb government in West Bengal and the UPA Government at the Centre. By building the broadest fighting front, and by adopting appropriate tactics of combining the militant mass political movement with armed resistance of the people and our PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerilla Army), we will defeat the massive offensive by the Central-state forces. I cannot say more than this at the present juncture.

Q: The Centre has declared an all-out war against Maoists by branding the CPI (Maoist) a terrorist organisation and imposing an all-India ban on the party. How has it affected your party?

A : Our party has already been banned in several states of India. By imposing the ban throughout the country, the Government now wants to curb all our open activities in West Bengal and a few other states where legal opportunities exist to some extent. The Government wants to use this draconian UAPA [Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act] to harass whoever dares to raise a voice against fake encounters, rapes and other police atrocities on the people residing in Maoist-dominated regions. Anyone questioning the State’s brutalities will now be branded a terrorist.

The real terrorists and biggest threats to the country’s security are none other than Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram, Buddhadeb, other ruling class leaders and feudal forces who terrorise the people on a daily basis.

The UPA Government had declared, as soon as it assumed power for the second time, that it would crush the Maoist ‘menace’ and began pouring in huge funds to the states for this purpose. The immediate reason behind this move is the pressure exerted by the comprador bureaucratic bourgeoisie and the imperialists, particularly US imperialists, who want to plunder the resources of our country without any hindrance. These sharks aspire to swallow the rich abundant mineral and forest wealth in the vast contiguous region stretching from Jangalmahal to north Andhra. This region is the wealthiest as well as the most underdeveloped part of our country. These sharks want to loot the wealth and drive the Adivasi people of the region to further impoverishment.

Another major reason for the current offensive by the ruling classes is the fear of the rapid growth of the Maoist movement and its increasing influence over a significant proportion of the Indian population. The Janatana Sarkars in Dandakaranya and the revolutionary people’s committees in Jharkhand, Orissa and parts of some other states have become new models of genuine people’s democracy and development. The rulers want to crush these new models of development and genuine democracy, as these are emerging as the real alternative before the people of the country at large.

Q: The Home Ministry has made preparations for launching a long-term battle against Maoists. A huge force will be soon trying to wrest away areas from your control. How do you plan to confront this offensive?

"From two to three states, the movement has now spread to over 15 states, giving jitters to the ruling classes."

"From two to three states, the movement has now spread to over 15 states, giving jitters to the ruling classes."

A: Successive governments in various states and the Centre have been hatching schemes over the years. But they could not achieve any significant success through their cruel offensive in spite of murdering hundreds of our leaders and cadres. Our party and our movement continued to consolidate and expand to new regions. From two or three states, the movement has now spread to over 15 states, giving jitters to the ruling classes. Particularly after the merger of the erstwhile MCCI and People’s War in September 2004 [the merger between these groups led to the formation of the CPI (Maoist)], the UPA Government has unleashed the most cruel all-round offensive against the Maoist movement. Yet our party continued to grow despite suffering some severe losses. In the past three years, in particular, our PLGA has achieved several significant victories.

We have been confronting the continuous offensive of the enemy with the support and active involvement of the masses. We shall confront the new offensive of the enemy by stepping up such heroic resistance and preparing the entire party, PLGA, the various revolutionary parties and organisations and the entire people. Although the enemy may achieve a few successes in the initial phase, we shall certainly overcome and defeat the Government offensive with the active mobilisation of the vast masses and the support of all the revolutionary and democratic forces in the country. No fascist regime or military dictator in history could succeed in suppressing forever the just and democratic struggles of the people through brute force, but were, on the contrary, swept away by the high tide of people’s resistance. People, who are the makers of history, will rise up like a tornado under our party’s leadership to wipe out the reactionary blood-sucking vampires ruling our country.

Q : Why do you think the CPI (Maoist) suffered a serious setback in Andhra Pradesh?

A : It was due to several mistakes on our part that we suffered a serious setback in most of Andhra Pradesh by 2006. At the same time, we should also look at the setback from another angle. In any protracted people’s war, there will be advances and retreats. If we look at the situation in Andhra Pradesh from this perspective, you will understand that what we did there is a kind of retreat. Confronted with a superior force, we chose to temporarily retreat our forces from some regions of Andhra Pradesh, extend and develop our bases in the surrounding regions and then hit back at the enemy.

Now even though we received a setback, it should be borne in mind that this setback is a temporary one. The objective conditions in which our revolution began in Andhra Pradesh have not undergone any basic change. This very fact continues to serve as the basis for the growth and intensification of our movement. Moreover, we now have a more consolidated mass base, a relatively better-trained people’s guerrilla army and an all-India party with deep roots among the basic classes who comprise the backbone of our revolution. This is the reason why the reactionary rulers are unable to suppress our revolutionary war, which is now raging in several states in the country.

We had taken appropriate lessons from the setback suffered by our party in Andhra Pradesh and, based on these lessons, drew up tactics in other states. Hence we are able to fight back the cruel all-round offensive of the enemy effectively, inflict significant losses on the enemy, preserve our subjective forces, consolidate our party, develop a people’s liberation guerrilla army, establish embryonic forms of new democratic people’s governments in some pockets, and take the people’s war to a higher stage. Hence we have an advantageous situation, overall, for reviving the movement in Andhra Pradesh. Our revolution advances wave-like and periods of ebb yield place to periods of high tide.

Q: What are the reasons for the setback suffered by the LTTE in Sri Lanka?

A: There is no doubt that the movement for a separate sovereign Tamil Eelam has suffered a severe setback with the defeat and considerable decimation of the LTTE. The Tamil people and the national liberation forces are now leaderless. However, the Tamil people at large continue to cherish nationalist aspirations for a separate Tamil homeland. The conditions that gave rise to the movement for Tamil Eelam, in the first place, prevail to this day. The Sinhala-chauvinist Sri Lankan ruling classes can never change their policy of discrimination against the Tamil nation, its culture, language, etcetera. The jingoistic rallies and celebrations organised by the government and Sinhala chauvinist parties all over Sri Lanka in the wake of Prabhakaran’s death and the defeat of the LTTE show the national hatred for Tamils nurtured by Sinhala organisations and the extent to which the minds of ordinary Sinhalese are poisoned with such chauvinist frenzy.

The conspiracy of the Sinhala ruling classes in occupying Tamil territories is similar to that of the Zionist rulers of Israel. The land-starved Sinhala people will now be settled in Tamil areas. The entire demography of the region is going to change. The ground remains fertile for the resurgence of the Tamil liberation struggle.

Even if it takes time, the war for a separate Tamil Eelam is certain to revive, taking lessons from the defeat of the LTTE. By adopting a proletarian outlook and ideology, adopting new tactics and building the broadest united front of all nationalist and democratic forces, it is possible to achieve the liberation of the oppressed Tamil nation [in Sri Lanka]. Maoist forces have to grow strong enough to provide leadership and give a correct direction and anti-imperialist orientation to this struggle to achieve a sovereign People’s Democratic Republic of Tamil Eelam. This alone can achieve the genuine liberation of the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka.

Q: Is it true that you received military training from the LTTE initially?

A: No. It is not a fact. We had clarified this several times in the past.

Q: But, one of your senior commanders has told me that some senior cadre of the erstwhile PWG did receive arms training and other support from the LTTE.

A: Let me reiterate, there is no relation at all between our party and the LTTE. We tried several times to establish relations with the LTTE but its leadership was reluctant to have a relationship with Maoists in India. Hence, there is no question of the LTTE giving training to us. In spite of it, we continued our support to the struggle for Tamil Eelam. However, a few persons who had separated from the LTTE came into our contact and we took their help in receiving initial training in the last quarter of the 1980s.

Q: Does your party have links with Lashkar-e-Toiba or other Islamic militant groups having links with Pakistan?

A: No. Not at all. This is only mischievous, calculated propaganda by the police officials, bureaucrats and leaders of the reactionary political parties to defame us and thereby justify their cruel offensive against the Maoist movement. By propagating the lie that our party has links with groups linked to Pakistan’s ISI, the reactionary rulers of our country want to prove that we too are terrorists and gain legitimacy for their brutal terror campaign against Maoists and the people in the areas of armed agrarian struggle. Trying to prove the involvement of a foreign hand in every just and democratic struggle, branding those fighting for the liberation of the oppressed as traitors to the country, is part of the psychological-war of the reactionary rulers.

Q: What is your party’s stand regarding Islamist jihadist movements?

A: Islamic jihadist movements of today are a product of imperialist—particularly US imperialist—aggression, intervention, bullying, exploitation and suppression of the oil-rich Islamic and Arab countries of West Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, etcetera, and the persecution of the entire Muslim religious community. As part of their designs for global hegemony, the imperialists, particularly US imperialists, have encouraged and endorsed every war of brazen aggression and brutal attacks by their surrogate state of Israel.

Our party unequivocally opposes every attack on Arab and Muslim countries and the Muslim community at large in the name of ‘war on global terror’. In fact, Muslim religious fundamentalism is encouraged and fostered by imperialists as long as it serves their interests—such as in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, and Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan.

Q: But what about attacks perpetrated by the so-called ‘Jihadis’ on innocent people like it happened on 26/11?

A: See, Islamic jihadist movements have two aspects: one is their anti-imperialist aspect, and the other their reactionary aspect in social and cultural matters. Our party supports the struggle of Muslim countries and people against imperialism, while criticising and struggling against the reactionary ideology and social outlook of Muslim fundamentalism. It is only Maoist leadership that can provide correct anti-imperialist orientation and achieve class unity among Muslims as well as people of other religious persuasions. The influence of Muslim fundamentalist ideology and leadership will diminish as communist revolutionaries and other democratic-secular forces increase their ideological influence over the Muslim masses. As communist revolutionaries, we always strive to reduce the influence of the obscurantist reactionary ideology and outlook of the mullahs and maulvis on the Muslim masses, while uniting with all those fighting against the common enemy of the world people—that is, imperialism and particularly American imperialism.

Q : How do you look at the changes in US policy after Barack Obama took over from George Bush?

A: Firstly, one would be living in a fool’s paradise if one imagines that there is going to be any qualitative change in American policy—whether internal or external—after Barack Obama took over from George Bush. In fact, the policies on national security and foreign affairs pursued by Obama over the past eight months have shown the essential continuity with those of his predecessor. The ideological and political justification for these regressive policies at home and aggressive policies abroad is the same trash put forth by the Bush administration—the so-called ‘global war on terror’, based on outright lies and slander. Worse still, the policies have become even more aggressive under Obama with his planned expansion of the US-led war of aggression in Afghanistan into the territory of Pakistan. The hands of this new killer-in-chief of the pack of imperialist wolves are already stained with the blood of hundreds of women and children who are cruelly murdered in relentless missile attacks from Predator drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And, within the US itself, bail-outs for the tiny corporate elite and attacks on democratic and human rights of US citizens continue without any change.

The oppressed people and nations of the world are now confronting an even more formidable and dangerous enemy in the form of an African-American president of the most powerful military machine and world gendarme. The world people should unite to wage a more relentless, more militant and more consistent struggle against the American marauders led by Barack Obama and pledge to defeat them to usher in a world of peace, stability and genuine democracy.

Q: How do you look at the current developments in Nepal?

A: As soon as the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN(M)] came to power in alliance with the comprador-feudal parties through the parliamentary route in Nepal, we had pointed out the grave danger of imperialist and Indian expansionist intervention in Nepal and how they would leave no stone unturned to overthrow the government led by CPN(M). As long as Prachanda did not defy the directives of the Indian Government, it was allowed to continue, but when it began to go against Indian hegemony, it was immediately pulled down. CPN-UML withdrew support to the Prachanda-led government upon the advice of American imperialists and Indian expansionists. We disagreed with the line of peaceful transition pursued by the UCPN(M) in the name of tactics. We decided to send an open letter to the UCPN(M). It was released in July 2009.

We made our party’s stand clear in the letter. We pointed out that the UCPN(M) chose to reform the existing State through an elected constituent assembly and a bourgeois democratic republic instead of adhering to the Marxist-Leninist understanding on the imperative to smash the old State and establish a proletarian State. This would have been the first step towards the goal of achieving socialism through the radical transformation of society and all oppressive class relations. It is indeed a great tragedy that the UCPN(M) has chosen to abandon the path of protracted people’s war and pursue a parliamentary path in spite of having de facto power in most of the countryside.

It is heartening to hear that a section of the leadership of the UCPN(M) has begun to struggle against the revisionist positions taken by Comrade Prachanda and others. Given the great revolutionary traditions of the UCPN(M), we hope that the inner-party struggle will repudiate the right opportunist line pursued by its leadership, give up revisionist stands and practices, and apply minds creatively to the concrete conditions of Nepal.

Q: Of late, the party has suffered serious losses of party leadership at the central and state level. Besides, it is widely believed that some of the senior-most Maoist leaders, including you, have become quite old and suffer from serious illnesses, which is also cited as one of the reasons for the surrenders. What is the effect of the losses and surrenders on the movement? How are you dealing with problems arising out of old age and illnesses?

A: (Smiles…) This type of propaganda is being carried out continuously, particularly by the Special Intelligence Branch (SIB) of Andhra Pradesh. It is a part of the psychological war waged by intelligence officials and top police brass aimed at confusing and demoralising supporters of the Maoist movement. It is a fact that some of the party leaders at the central and state level could be described as senior citizens according to criteria used by the government, that is, those who have crossed the threshold of 60 years. You can start calling me too a senior citizen in a few months (smiles). But old age and ill-health have never been a serious problem in our party until now. You can see the ‘senior citizens’ in our party working for 16-18 hours a day and covering long distances on foot. As for surrenders, it is a big lie to say that old age and ill-health have been a reason for some of the surrenders.

When Lanka Papi Reddy, a former member of our central committee, surrendered in the beginning of last year, the media propagated that more surrenders of our party leaders will follow due to ill-health. The fact is that Papi Reddy surrendered due to his loss of political conviction and his petty-bourgeois false prestige and ego. Hence he was not prepared to face the party after he was demoted by the central committee for his anarchic behaviour with a woman comrade.

Some senior leaders of our party, like comrades Sushil Roy and Narayan Sanyal, had become a nightmare for the ruling classes even when they were in their mid 60s. Hence they were arrested, tortured and imprisoned despite their old age and ill-health. The Government is doing everything possible to prevent them from getting bail. Even if someone in our party is old, he/she continues to serve the revolution by doing whatever work possible. For instance, Comrade Niranjan Bose, who died recently at the age of 92, had been carrying out revolutionary propaganda until his martyrdom. The social fascist rulers were so scared of this nonagenarian Maoist revolutionary that they had even arrested him four years back. Such is the spirit of Maoist revolutionaries—and power of the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism which they hold high. When there are serious illnesses, or physical and mental limitations to perform normal work, such comrades are given suitable work.

Q: But what about the arrests and elimination of some of your senior leadership? How do you intend to fill up such losses?

A: Well, it is a fact that we lost some senior leaders at the state and central level in the past four or five years. Some leaders were secretly arrested and murdered in the most cowardly manner. Many other and state leaders were arrested and placed behind bars in the recent past in Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Haryana and other states. The loss of leadership will have a grave impact on the party and Indian revolution as a whole. We are reviewing the reasons for the losses regularly and devising ways and means to prevent further losses. By adopting strictly secret methods of functioning and foolproof underground mechanisms, by enhancing our mass base, vigilance and local intelligence, smashing enemy intelligence networks and studying their plans and tactics, we hope to check further losses. At the same time, we are training and developing new revolutionary leadership at all levels to fill up the losses.

Q: How do you sum up the present stage of war between your forces and those of the Indian State?

A: Our war is in the stage of strategic defence. In some regions, we have an upper hand, while in others the enemy has the upper hand. Overall, our forces have been quite successful in carrying out a series of tactical counter-offensive operations against the enemy in our guerrilla zones in the past few years.

It is true that our party has suffered some serious leadership losses, but we are able to inflict serious losses on the enemy too. In fact, in the past three years, the enemy forces suffered more casualties than we did. The enemy has been trying all means at their disposal to weaken, disrupt and crush our party and movement. They have tried covert agents and informers, poured in huge amounts of money to buy off weak elements in the revolutionary camp, and announced a series of rehabilitation packages and other material incentives to lure away people from the revolutionary camp. Thousands of crores (1 crore = 10millions)of rupees have been sanctioned for police modernisation, training and for raising additional commando forces; for increasing Central forces; for training Central and state forces in counter-insurgency warfare; and for building roads, communication networks and other infrastructure for the rapid movement of their troops in our guerrilla zones. The Indian State has set up armed vigilante groups and provided total support to the indescribable atrocities committed by these armed gangs on the people. Psychological warfare against Maoists was taken to unheard of levels.

Nevertheless, we continued to make greater advances, consolidated the party and the revolutionary people’s committees at various levels, strengthened the PLGA qualitatively and quantitatively, smashed the enemy’s intelligence network in several areas, effectively countered the dirty psychological-war waged by the enemy, and foiled the enemy’s all-out attempts to disrupt and smash our movement. The successes we had achieved in several tactical counter-offensive operations carried out across the country in recent days, the militant mass movements in several states, particularly against displacement and other burning issues of the people, initiatives taken by our revolutionary people’s governments in various spheres—all these have had a great impact on the people, while demoralising enemy forces. There are reports of desertions and disobedience of orders by the jawans posted in Maoist-dominated areas. Quite a few have refused to undertake training in jungle warfare or take postings in our areas, and had to face suspension. This trend will grow with the further advance of our people’s war. Overall, our party’s influence has grown stronger and it has now come to be recognised as the only genuine alternative before the people.

Q: How long will this stage of strategic defence last, with the Centre ready to go for the jugular?

A: The present stage of strategic defence will last for some more time. It is difficult to predict how long it will take to pass this stage and go to the stage of strategic equilibrium or strategic stalemate. It depends on the transformation of our guerrilla zones into base areas, creation of more guerrilla zones and red resistance areas across the country, the development of our PLGA. With the ever-intensifying crisis in all spheres due to the anti-people policies of pro-imperialist, pro-feudal governments, the growing frustration and anger of the masses resulting from the most rapacious policies of loot and plunder pursued by the reactionary ruling classes, we are confident that the vast masses of the country will join the ranks of revolutionaries and take the Indian revolution to the next stage.

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Why China Went Capitalist

Posted by sorev on 30/08/2009

The following was lifted from the Kasama Project‘s webpage (who lifted it from the MLMRSG).  The original article can be found here or here.

Why did the Chinese Communist Party turn into a capitalist party so quickly once Mao died?

Why was it so easy for Deng and supporters to kick out the “Gang of Four”, Mao’s closest supporters and most “left” among the leadership?

Why was there no mass rebellion against this among the members of the Party?

Why did the “cadre” – full-time Party officials – go along with this swift move back to capitalist production, distribution, and property relations?

How was it that Deng himself had so much support among the Party cadre that he was able to control the Party behind the scenes and then, in a couple of years, openly take over? Along with Liu Shaoqi Deng had been one of the main targets of the GPCR.

The proximate roots of the overthrow of Chinese communism lie in the question of “cadres” that arose again and again during the Cultural Revolution.

One side – ultimately, it was Mao’s side – in the GPCR claimed that the vast majority of the Party cadres were either “good” or reformable. Here are some quotations:

The “Sixteen Points” of August 8 1966, one of the basic statements of the GPCR, stated that most cadre were good. Point Eight reads:

8. THE QUESTION OF CADRES

The cadres fall roughly into the following four categories:

(1) good;
(2) comparatively good;
(3) those who have made serious mistakes but have not become anti-Party, anti-socialist rightists;
(4) the small number of anti-Party, anti-socialist rightists.

In ordinary situations, the first two categories ( good and comparatively good ) are the great majority.”

Badiou has noted, though superficially, incompletely, the problem with this statement.

“First of all, it is held, as if axiomatically, that in essence the party is good. Point 8 (“The Question of Cadres”) distinguishes four types of cadres, as put to the test of the Cultural Revolution (let us remember that in China, a “cadre” is anyone who dispenses authority, even if minimal): good, comparatively good, those who have made serious mistakes that can be fixed, and lastly “the small number of anti-Party and anti-socialist Rightists.” The thesis is then that “the two first categories (good and comparatively good) are the great majority.” That is, the state apparatus and its internal leadership (the party) are essentially in good hands, which renders paradoxical the recourse to such large-scale revolutionary methods.”

-Alain Badiou, “The Cultural Revolution: The Last Revolution?” Positions 13:3 (2005), 492.

A common way of stating this in GPCR documents is that only a “handful” of cadres are bad and must be removed.

Lin Biao speech October 1, 1966

“Today, we are celebrating this great festival amid an upsurge of the great proletarian cultural revolution. This is a great revolution, an entirely new and creative revolution carried out after the seizure of political power by the proletariat. Its aim is to overthrow through struggle the small handful of persons within the Party who are in authority who have taken the capitalist road,…” –

“June 1, 1966, Chairman Mao decided to publish in the press the first Marxist-Leninist big-character poster in the country, posted first in Peking University. This kindled the raging flames of the great proletarian cultural revolution and set in motion the mass movement which has as its main target for attack the handful of persons within the Party who are in authority and are taking the capitalist road….”

“It is a fact that in our army there are a handful of persons in authority taking the capitalist road and an extremely few diehards clinging to the bourgeois reactionary line …. ” (209)

“This great cultural revolution means precisely the arousing of hundreds of millions of people to liberate themselves and to seize power from the handful of people within the Party who are in authority and are taking the capitalist road.” (212)

“The handful of representatives of the bourgeoisie are vicious and dare to bully people to such an extent precisely because they still have power!” (213 – Peking Review, January 27, 1967).

“is entirely wrong to adopt a policy of opposing everything, casting out everything and striking down everything. It should be noted that some of the leading cadres are on the side of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line and are resolved to wage a struggle against the handful of persons in authority in the Party taking the capitalist road. We must have full confidence in these cadres and fight side by side with them. As for the leading cadres who have swerved or made errors in line, we should also unite with them to fight together, so long as they are willing to mend their errors and return to the Party’s correct line and to Chairman Mao’s line.” – People’s Daily Feb. 2 1967 (216)

“The firm implementation of the great alliance of the proletarian revolutionaries and the solidarity of the broad masses of people are the most important conditions for achieving victory in the struggle to seize power from the handful of persons in power in the Party who are taking the capitalist road. At a time when the great proletarian cultural revolution has entered a stage of launching a struggle to seize all power from the handful of persons in power in the Party who are taking the capitalist road,…” – Red Flag editorial (217)

“Only by doing so will it prove helpful to the greatest extent in isolating and attacking the handful of persons within the Party who are in power and taking the capitalist road,…” — ibid, 218.

“3) Sufficient importance must be attached to the role of revolutionary cadres in the struggle to seize power. The leading cadres who uphold the proletarian revolutionary line are the precious wealth of the Party. They can become the backbone of the struggle to seize power and become the leadership in the struggle to seize power. These leading cadres have, for considerable time in the past, waged a struggle against the handful of persons within the Party who are in authority and taking the capitalist road. They are now appearing before the masses, openly indicating before the masses that they are on the side of the proletarian revolutionaries, integrating with the revolution- ary masses, and fighting together with them. Workers, peasants, revolutionary students and revolutionary intellectuals must believe in them.” ibid, 218

“The overwhelming majority of cadres in general in the Party and government institutions are good and want to make revolution. The proletarian revolutionary rebels among them are the main forces for seizing power within their respective units.” ibid, 219.

“…renegades, special agents, counter-revolutionaries and diehard capitalist-roaders who have managed to sneak into the revolutionary ranks are but a handful. This should be our basic estimate of the cadre ranks.

– People’s Daily May 13, 1967, CQ Jl-Sp ‘68 p. 184.

Many more such quotations about “handfuls” can be found.

Many statement, like some of those quoted above, go far beyond merely stating that most cadre are good or reformable, to insist that cadre must be in the leadership of the GPCR.

“..the revolutionary leading cadres rise together with the masses in the struggle to seize power from the handful of those within the Party who are in authority and are taking the capitalist road, the revolutionary mass organisations must support them. They must see that the revolutionary leading cadres have acquired comparatively richer experiences in struggle, are more matured politically and possess greater organisational strength. It is quite advantageous to the struggle for seizing and grasping power to have them participate in the core leadership. As for cadres who have committed errors, we must deal with them correctly and must not knock them down. Regarding those inexcusable anti-Party and anti-socialist elements and those who persistently refused to reform and failed to undergo reform after being educated repeatedly, we must allow them to repent and encourage them to redeem their crimes with meritorious deeds.” – ibid, 218.

If cadre are in the lead, then the masses are not in the lead. The masses are to follow the cadre.

The Left

Why was there so much insistence from the Party leadership that “most cadre are good”, even that “cadres should lead”, and that only a “handful” or an “extremely few diehards” were “persisting in the bourgeois reactionary line?”

The answer is: because there was a mass movement – a number of mass organizations – that were claiming the opposite of this: that most of the Party cadre were reactionary.

The statement “Whither China?” by the Shengwulien organization is the expression of the Left – derided as the “ultra-left” by the Party leadership and cadre and that often described itself as such, as “ultra-left” – is the best known statement that draws this conclusion.

“The rule of the new bureaucratic bourgeoisie must be overthrown by force in order to solve the problem of political power.

“Facts as revealed by the masses and their wrath told people initially that this class of “Red” capitalists had completely become a decaying class that hindered the progress of history, and that the relations between them and the people in general had changed from relations between the leaders and the led to those between the rulers and the ruled, the exploiters and the exploited, from the relations of revolutionaries of equal standing to those between the oppressors and the oppressed. The special privileges and high salaries of the class of “Red” capitalists was built on the basis of the oppression and exploitation of the broad masses of the people. In order to realize the “People’s Commune of China”, it was necessary to overthrow this class …

“We really believe that ninety per cent of the senior cadres should stand aside, that at most they can only be objects to be educated and united. This is because they have already constituted a decaying class with its own particular “interests”. Their relation with the people has changed from the relation between the leaders and the led in the past to that between exploiters and the exploited, the oppressors and the oppressed. Most of them consciously or unconsciously yearn for the capitalist road, and protect and develop capitalist things. The rule of their class has completely blocked the development of history … However they (the bureaucrats) hit back at and carry out counter-reckoning against the revolutionary people with increasing madness, pushing themselves nearer and nearer the guillotine. All this proves that no decaying class in history would voluntarily make an exit from the stage of history.

“In the new society of the Paris Commune type this class will be overthrown.”

We also know of this Left position by the attacks of its enemies.

“Recently, a sort of so-called ‘new trend of thought’ prevails in society. Its principal content is to distort the major contradiction of socialist society into one between the so-called ‘power-holders’, i.e., the ‘privileged persons’ who hold ‘property and power’ and the masses of the people. It demands an incessant ‘redistribution’ of the social property and political power under the proletarian dictatorship. The new trend of thought has equated the current GPCR with a conflict for wealth and power ‘within a reactionary ruling class’. It has equated the headquarters of Mao/Lin with that of Liu/Teng/Tao. It has branded all leading cadres as privileged persons and thrust them all into the position of objects of revolution.” (CNS, No. 188. Quoted at http://www.wengewang.org/read.php?tid=4420 )

Official statements make clear the fact that the official insistence that “most cadres are good” is in direct opposition to the Left position that most cadres needed to be overthrown.

“…[R]enegades, special agents, counter-revolutionaries and diehard capitalist-roaders who have managed to sneak into the revolutionary ranks are but a handful. This should be our basic estimate of the cadre ranks….The outstanding revolutionary cadres who have gone through the trials of the struggle of the classes and lines can then be placed in key positions where they will be able to give full play to their role of backbone in the revolutionary three-way alliance. . . .

Only by setting out from such a basic estimate will it be possible to avoid Right or extreme “Left” errors in handling the cadre question. …It will also prevent us from regarding the cadre ranks as thoroughly rotten — a view which suspects all and overthrows all, and ruthlessly smashes cadres down for any error committed, no matter how minor it may be (FE/2783).”

– People’s Daily May 13, 1967, China Quarterly Jl-Sp ‘68, 184.

Jiang Qing, a member of the Cultural Revolutionary Group around Mao, attacked this “ultra-left” in a speech in Anhui on September 5 1967:

“It looks as if they come out in the guise of either extreme “leftists” or rightists who oppose the Central Committee headed by Chairman Mao. This is quite impermissible and they are doomed to failure. At present if you take Peking as an example you have this kind of thing. I call it a thing because it is a counter-revolutionary organisation. It is really called the “May 16th” group. They don’t have a very large membership. On the surface they are young people and these young people have been misled. They are a minority of bourgeois elements and are filled with hatred against us; but these are only individuals. The vast majority are young people and they are using the instability of young people’s ideology. The real manipulators behind the scenes are very bad people. This “May 16th” group appeared first of all under the guise of extreme “leftists.” They concentrated their aim against the Prime Minister [Zhou Enlai, attacked by the Left as the defender of the reactionary cadre] and in fact they collected material about us to send abroad. Naturally we are not scared. Why should we be frightened by this? You can go and sell it if you like. If you have had a good meal and feel like doing something and don’t want to do revolution, no matter what you do, we are not scared. From the point of view of the rightists, at the end of January and February there was an atmosphere of opposition to the proletarian cultural revolution. At present this atmosphere is one of “leftism.” They are opposing the Central Committee. This is the guise of extreme “leftists ” who are opposing the Prime Minister….

– CQ Oct-Dec 1967, 212.

The Shanghai Commune was perhaps the main high point of Left influence. Mao had praised the Paris Commune. In February 1967 editorials appeared in Red Flag praising it and the efforts to form a Chinese Commune. Like the Paris Commune, its leaders were to be subject to immediate recall. In fact Zhang Chunqiao took control of it with the support of the Beijing-based Cultural Revolution group.

Zhang made the founding speech of the Shanghai Commune on February 5 1967. A week later he and Yao Wen-yuan went to Beijing where Mao explained to them that the Commune was a bad idea. Other cities wanted to form Communes. As in Marx’s day, direct recall of officials proved to be a popular idea! Mao suggested that power be vested instead in “three-in-one” committees, or “three-way alliance” – the Army, Party cadre, and “revolutionary rebels” like Wang Hongwen.

This was spelled out in the pamphlet “On the Revolutionary Three-in-One Combination.” This document repeats over a dozen times the formula that “only a handful” of cadres were reactionary. The “three-in-one” committee idea was specifically intended to counter the Left.

“In some localities, a few persons have proposed that “all persons classified as leading cadres should stand aside”. This view is devoid of class analysis. It counterposes the masses to all cadres. It does not direct its spearhead against the handful of persons in authority taking the capitalist road but against the great number of cadres. It therefore runs counter to the basic spirit of the 16-point decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party concerning the great proletarian cultural revolution, to the general orientation of the struggle and to Mao Tse-tung’s thought. To act in this way is objectively helping the class enemy. Those comrades who committed such mistakes unconsciously should immediately correct them. It is dangerous for them to persist in their own view. All revolutionary cadres should welcome the comrades guilty of such mistakes, as soon as they correct them, and in no circumstances should retaliate against them.” – http://www.marx2mao.com/Other/RTOC68.html

Before long the “hunt” was on for Leftists. Yang Xiguang, author of “Whither China?”, was singled out for special attack and went into hiding. According to Yang he was safe as long as he remained in his home province, but was turned into the police when he left it. He spent 10 years in prison. Dongping Han discusses the persecution of former “rebels” under Deng in the late ‘70s and ‘80s (“Negating the Cultural Revolution,” in The Unknown Cultural Revolution. MR Press, 2008).

Who Was Right? Who Was Wrong?

Were Mao and his high-level supporters correct when they insisted that the Party cadre were 90% good, “wanted to make revolution”, and those “on the capitalist road” were “a small handful”?

Or was the “ultra-Left” correct when they wrote, quoting Shengwulien,

“We really believe that ninety per cent of the senior cadres should stand aside, that at most they can only be objects to be educated and united. This is because they have already constituted a decaying class with its own particular “interests”. Their relation with the people has changed from the relation between the leaders and the led in the past to that between exploiters and the exploited, the oppressors and the oppressed. Most of them consciously or unconsciously yearn for the capitalist road, and protect and develop capitalist things. The rule of their class has completely blocked the development of history …”

In historical hindsight it is obvious. The “ultra-Left” were right. Mao was wrong.

The same Party cadre who, with Mao’s support, retained power in the Party supported the overthrow of the “Gang of Four” as soon as Mao died; then supported Deng’s swift reversion to open capitalism.

My point is not to say that the so-called “ultra-left” – really, the Left – were “correct” in all respects. But they were correct about the BIG issues.

A new Communist Party was needed. “Whiter China?” stated:

“The July 1st editorial of 1967 raised the question of Party building. During the violent class struggle in July and August, a very small number of “ultra-Leftists” put forward the demand that the “ultra-Left should have its own political party… To make revolution it is necessary to have a revolutionary party.”

“As a result of the practice of struggle having gained rich experience and entered a higher stage, the maturity of the political thinking of the revolutionary people of China has also entered a higher stage. A new trend of thought (called “ultra-Left trend of thought” by the enemy), including “overthrow of the new bureaucratic bourgeoisie”, “abolition of bureaucratic organs”, “thorough smashing of the state machine”, etc. wanders among the revolutionary people like a “spectre” in the eyes of the enemy.”

Yang Xiguang’s statement saw the future of China very accurately:

“The 9th National Congress of the Party about to be convened is not expected to be able to thoroughly settle the question of where the Chinese Communist Party is going. The political party that is produced in accordance with the provisions promulgated by the Centre for rehabilitation, regulation and rebuilding of the Party (if such a party can be formed) will necessarily be a party of bourgeois reformism that serves the bourgeois usurpers in the revolutionary committees.”

This is, in fact, precisely what happened.

“Whither China?” also pointed to the fact that the roots of this bourgeois restoration went back to the very foundation of the Chinese People’s Republic:

“To really overthrow the rule of the new aristocracy and thoroughly smash the old state machinery, it will be necessary to go into the question of assessment of the past 17 years…. The real revolution, the revolution to negate the past 17 years, has basically not yet begun, and that we should now enter the stage of tackling the fundamental questions of China’s revolution …”

The Cult of Mao Was the Achilles’ Heel of the Left

A glaring contradiction in “Whither China?” is the insistence of its authors that Mao was on their side, the side of the Left.

Yet Mao had come out against the Shanghai Commune. Mao had supported the “three-in-one” committees that the Left recognized as window-dressing, a form of rule in which the revolutionary forces – supposing they actually got representation at all – would be second in every way to the old cadre and the Army. And “political power flows from the barrel of a gun.” Ultimately it was the command of the Army that held state power under this system.

“Why did Comrade Mao Tse-tung, who energetically advocated the “commune”, suddenly oppose the establishment of “Shanghai People’s Commune” in January? That is something which the revolutionary people find it hard to understand.

“Chairman Mao, who foresaw the “commune” as a political structure which must be realised in the first cultural revolution, suddenly put forward “Revolutionary committees are fine!” (“Whither China?”)

In order to “explain” Mao’s actions “Whither China?” has recourse to a strained and very economic-determinist view of Mao’s actions. It suggested that Mao was choosing a “zig-zag path” because history must proceed that way.

“Revolution must progress along a zigzagging way. It must go through a prolonged course of “struggle-failure-struggle again-failure again-struggle again till final victory”.

“… the wise supreme commander Comrade Mao Tse-tung once more made a big retreat after September, in disregard of demands by impatient revolutionaries for victory. A political situation of bourgeois usurpation of power came about with the establishment of revolutionary committees or preparatory groups for revolutionary committees.

“Chairman Mao’s rousing call, “Arm the Left!” was an intensive concentration of the courage of the working class. But the September 5 order completely nullified the call to “arm the Left”. The working class was disarmed. The bureaucrats again came back to power …

Shengwulien suggests that somehow Mao did not openly support the Left because the people were not ready for it:

“Revolutions often take various reformist, unthorough roads. It is only when all panaceas are proved useless that the revolutionary people would resolve to follow the most painful and most destructive, but also the most thorough and revolutionary road. The struggle in the transition period of revolutionary committees will inevitably disillusion the masses about the panacea of bourgeois reformism which they love so much. Chairman Mao says: “Buddhist idols are set up by the peasants. When the time comes the peasants will throw away these idols with their own hands. There is no need for others to do it too soon.” In the not far distant future the revolutionary people will surely smash to pieces with their own iron hands the newborn red political power which they have secured with their own blood and lives …”

In reality Mao never supported the Left. Mao played a centrist role. He opposed the open reversion to capitalism, but never dismissed those who, like Deng, were its main proponents.

Understanding Mao’s centrism is key to understanding why the GPCR was basically decided by 1967. With the left in defeat and centrism, in the form of Mao and the “Gang”, in charge, China’s policies began to move to the right. This is most obviously seen in “ping-pong diplomacy” and then “Nixon in China”. Mao and Zhou warmed up to the USA when the US imperialists were still bombing the hell out of Vietnam and funding the South Vietnamese fascists to the hilt.

This isn’t the place to review all the contradictions in China’s political history between 1968 and Mao’s death. Certainly many left initiatives remained. Mao placated the right and smashed the “ultra-left” but never let the right seize power completely. His leadership, including the “Gang”, was centrist, meaning: right in essence but with a left cover.

During this time the pro-capitalist right was consolidated. There is no way Mao’s policies could have been so quickly reversed, capitalism so swiftly re-established and with so little opposition from within the Party, unless the Right became thoroughly consolidated while he was still alive. These were those Party cadres that Mao had insisted were “mainly good” and that the “ultra-left” had correctly viewed as the enemy.

The “ultra-left” could not see past the “cult of Mao.” They could not see Mao’s centrist role – that he actually opposed them and supported the cadre; that he opposed a Paris Commune kind of state in which Party cadre would have to win election from the working class or be deposed.

Something similar had happened in the USSR during Stalin’s lifetime. Khrushchev would not have been able to take over the Party and country so swiftly, and then Gorbachev able to restore capitalism in the name of “back to Lenin”, “back to ‘real socialism’”, if the roots of this reversal did not reach far back into the Stalin and even the Lenin years.

So the “cult” of Mao helped mislead and defeat the “ultra-left” and reinstall the Right. Maybe that is why Mao’s body still lies in state in Tienanmen Square, as Lenin’s does in Red Square.

Lesson: Criticize the “cult”, criticize Mao’s writings, criticize Maoism.

No truths are true forever. No leader is “always right.” Mao was a great leader. Under his leadership the Chinese Revolution was won and the Chinese People’s Republic established. He also initiated the GPCR, without which the mass “ultra-Left” movement would never have come into being.

At the same time Mao’s failure to support the Left and conciliation of the Right – of which Deng is just the most obvious example – guaranteed China’s reversion to capitalism once he had passed from the scene.

The “cult” of Mao facilitated that. It was a disgusting display of adulation, idolatry, lack of criticism, mass manipulation, cynicism. Even if Mao had represented the Left the “cult” would have been bad, like the “cult” around Stalin had been bad, because it disempowered the masses.

The “cult” of Mao stands in the way of the critical assimilation of the lessons of the Chinese Revolution. As long as Mao and his writings are regarded as “beyond criticism” any attempt to understand why the Chinese Revolution was reversed is condemned to go around in a circle. In that way it serves a similar purpose to the “cult” around Stalin. Khrushchev, who had risen to the leadership of the USSR by participating in this “cult” (along with lots of other Party cadre) then attacked it. Likewise Deng began the criticism of Mao’s legacy.

If “everything had come out all right”, if China had gone on to progress in a communist direction after Mao’s death, then we’d have to conclude that Mao’s judgment that “90% of the cadre being basically good” was basically correct. After all, “90% of the cadre” are more than enough to determine which direction the Party is going to take. Instead, China moved sharply towards capitalism immediately Mao died. This could not have happened without the support of “90% of the cadre”.

So Mao and the others were wrong. The “ultra-left” were correct. A new communist party was necessary. And it was necessary not in 1976, when Mao died, but long before Mao died. It was necessary, at the latest, when the “ultra-left” recognized the need for it.

I don’t fault the “ultra-left” like the Shengwulien, the May 16 group, and others we know little about. They achieved a lot. It would have been very hard to reject Mao during the GPCR, no matter how necessary we can now see that this was. The “ultra-Left” did not have the benefit of hindsight. They could not know what we now know, thanks in part to their experience.

But today, we ourselves have no such excuse.

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The Students, United, Wage Cultural Revolution!

Posted by sorev on 30/08/2009

The following essay focuses on the effect that students had in constructing the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. Our focus in this section on the GPCR is to draw the attention of comrades towards the concept of Social Revolution; that is to say, a revolution which attacks the very basic social relations of society in order to change them. The Social Revolution Party considers the GPCR to have been such an attempt. Furthermore, comrades should note that the role of students in the mass struggle is important. It is possible to change the world.

I. Introduction

…in the last fifty days or so some leading comrades from the central down to the local levels have acted in a diametrically opposite way [to Marxism-Leninism]. Adopting the reactionary stand of the bourgeoisie, they have enforced a bourgeois dictatorship and struck down the surging movement of the great cultural revolution of the proletariat. … How poisonous! Viewed in connection with the Right deviation in 1962 and the wrong tendency of 1964 which was ‘Left’ in form but Right in essence, shouldn’t this make one wide awake?1

It was with these words, written in early August of 1966, that Mao Zedong officially marked the beginning of the great proletarian Cultural Revolution. After months of unrest in much of China, particularly amoungst students and young workers, Mao latched himself onto a growing movement and in doing so provided the legitimacy required in order for the blossoming revolution to become a truly national phenomena throughout China. One of the most controversial periods in the history of modern China had been born.

rossoquote1The Cultural Revolution is considered by many historians to have begun around August of 1966, however the end point remains more ambiguous.2 Historians are generally divided into two camps in regards to the ending point of the Cultural Revolution; some consider the Cultural Revolution to have ended in December of 1968 with the destruction of the Red Guards and the establishment of the Down To The Countryside campaign,3 whereas others, including the official line of the Communist Party of China, believe the Cultural Revolution envelopes the drama surrounding the Gang of Four and comes to an end with the abolition of the Down To The Countryside campaign in 1977. While not mattering greatly within the scope of this paper, I fall into the former camp.4

It goes without saying that the interpretation of such a controversial event in the history of China is also greatly disputed. Though unfortunately not within the scope of this paper to argue, it is my conviction that the Cultural Revolution was a legitimate and honest struggle for socialism within China4. The Cultural Revolution attacked most of the old state institutions that existed within China, and specifically went after party bureaucrats who had become entrenched within the post-1949 Chinese state. The Cultural Revolution saw attacks on bourgeois forms of education, saw the creation of workers’ and students’ councils, saw the arming of said councils and the formation of the Red Guards, and ultimately saw the establishment of the Shanghai Commune in 1967.5 This is the historical bias from which I will approach the subject matter being discussed. However, the Cultural Revolution provides only the backdrop on which the events discussed in this paper occur. The main intent of this paper is to show how the student movement in China was instrumental in constructing the Cultural Revolution. The power of the student movement in China during the time leading up to and during the Cultural Revolution exists as a shining example to student and worker struggles everywhere, and indeed the Cultural Revolution needs to be re-evaluated within this light if we are to have success within the student movement in Canada. Particular attention will be paid to the experience of students at Peking University, and Tsinghua University. In the end, it will be proven that the student movement in China was instrumental in constructing the great proletarian Cultural Revolution.

II. The Experience of Students at Peking University

The origins of the Cultural Revolution at Peking University can be traced back to the after-effects of the largely failed Great Leap Forward. Despite the fact that one of the main goals of the Great Leap Forward was to extend quality education to the Chinese masses, particularly peasants, by the time 1965 arrived the Chinese education system was still extremely stratified. According to Victor Nee:

At the top were all of the elite schools… Their students were to become China’s future leaders, scientists, and professional men. Below the elite schools were the general full-time schools, which were to train middle level technicians, engineers, and teachers, most of who were destined for positions in the countryside. At the bottom were the part-time schools… which were there to provide a minimal education for China’s future peasant and working classes…6

Such a hierarchy of education ran completely contrary to the ideals of the Chinese Revolution of 1949, and “threatened to perpetuate structures which could only reinforce the social values of traditional China.”7 It was in response to the relative stagnation of progress within China’s education system that Mao initiated the Socialist Education Campaign in 1962. The aims of the Socialist Education Campaign (SEC) were three-fold. First, the SEC wanted to ensure that graduates of China’s best schools would go to the countryside and use their skills there. Second, the SEC encouraged students to go on work-study programs into the countryside in order to counter the spontaneous restoration of capitalism within small villages.8 And third, the SEC hoped to increase the enrolment of working class and peasant students within the elite schools.

Initially the SEC was limited to the countryside, but slowly and surely the SEC made its way into China’s cities. In 1964 the campaign was officially adopted at Peking University and a work-team arrived in rder to expose those within the university administration that were allegedly taking “the capitalist road.”9 The university administration, in particular the chair of Peking University’s Party Committee, Lu P’ing, was quick to criticize the work-team and actively organized for their removal. Working with the Beijing Municipal Committee, a close ally to Lu P’ing, “struggle-meetings” were organized that denounced the SEC work-team and attempted to force the work team to engage in self-criticisms. When the work-team refused to submit to criticism, they were removed from Peking University and 80 members of Peking University’s faculty who had sided with the work-team’s criticisms of the administration were forcibly removed from campus to await trial inside of the International Hotel in Beijing. This group of radical academics was to become known as the International Hotel Group.10

Meanwhile, the play Hai Jui Dismissed from Office, written in 1961 by famed historian Wu Han, was beginning to stir-up new controversy. Despite initial positive reception from Mao, various prominent leftists within China felt that the play was in fact a thinly veiled critique of Mao and his dismissal of old army bureaucrats. Mao, responding to pressure from his base of support within China, brought up the idea of criticizing Wu Han at a Central Committee meeting in October of 1965. Fearing that the renewed criticism of Wu Han would empower opponents of Peking University’s Party Committee,11 Lu P’ing organized for nearly two-thirds of the students at Peking University, particularly those students who were not members of the Communist Party, to be sent to the countryside. Under the guise of fulfilling the goals of the SEC, Lu P’ing had managed to isolate most of Peking University’s students from both the International Hotel Group and the new leftist criticisms of Wu Han.

Attempting to regain popularity amoungst the remaining students remaining at Peking University, Lu P’ing called a meeting of Party members in early May of 1966 where he encouraged the academic criticism of Hai Jui Dismissed from Office. Following this initial meeting, Lu P’ing began to organize public meetings where he echoed his encouragement of academic criticisms of Wu Han’s play. Lu P’ing had however seriously over-estimated his support within the Party at Peking University, and when various revolutionary elements within the Party began calling for a political criticism of Wu Han himself12, a call echoed by those faculty that still remained at the rossoquote2International Hotel, Lu P’ing began to realize that his control over Peking University was slipping.

Finding an opening in which the Party Committee and administration of Peking University could be attacked, the International Hotel Group began preparing a big-character poster criticizing Lu P’ing’s role in suppressing criticisms of Wu Han. The poster, entitled “What Have Sun Shuo, Lu P’ing, and P’en P’ei-yun Done in the Cultural Revolution?”,13 almost immediately began to garner support from the students still left at Peking University and within hours the walls of the school were covered in other posters criticizing the administration.14 The administration’s reaction was fierce, and in mobilizing the Communist Youth League (CYL),15 it was able to effectively shut down any meetings held by leftist dissenters and install a “reign of terror”16 at Peking University.

rossoquote3Lu P’ing’s victory was short-lived. On June 1st, 1966, Mao made a special request that the text of the International Hotel Group’s big-character poster be broadcast across Beijing;17 he would later go on to suggest that the particular poster was “China’s first Marxist-Leninist big-character poster.”18 Following the broadcast, a meeting was held at Peking University in which the leadership of the International Hotel Group was able to make a series of statements. The result was that even those students that had initially supported Lu P’ing and the Party Committee found themselves on the side of the leftists.

Throughout the following day, parades of revolutionaries from around Beijing – university students, high-school students, workers, peasants, Party cadres, etc. — made their way to the gates of Peking university in order to join the student rebels. P’eng P’eiyun, Sung Shuo, and most importantly Lu P’ing were all dismissed from office. The two thirds of Peking University students that had been sent to the countryside under the auspices of the SEC returned to the campus of Peking University filled with revolutionary vigour from their work-study experience, and the International Hotel Group was regraciated into the life of Peking University.

At the same time as celebrations were being carried out over the victory at Peking University, a new Municipal Committee had been formed. Attempting to restore order at Peking University, a work-team was dispatched in order to put down the leftist uprising. The work-team immediately closed the gates of the university and began a series of “struggle-sessions” that sought to denounce the leftists. While this initially worked, on June 7th posters criticizing the work-team appeared on the campus of Peking University. The renewed sense of struggle gradually galvanized the majority of the student population against the Municipal Committee’s work-team, and upon Mao’s recomendation,19 a delegation from Mao’s inner-circle was sent in order to inspect the climate at Peking University. The delegation was quick to issue criticism of the work-team for two main things. First, the delegation criticized the work-team for “not encourag[ing] the active participation of the revolutionary students and teachers of the whole University in carrying out the Cultural Revolution,”20 and second for failing to establish a new representative body at the university. Following an official report the work-team was immediately disbanded on July 26th, , 1966, and those students that had been dismissed for attacking the workteam were reinstated at Peking University. Peking University was renamed New Peking University; an institution which was reorganized and modelled after the Paris Commune of 1871. Attempting to network with others across China who were swept up in the revolutionary overthrow of the old post-revolutionary China, a Cultural Revolution Committee was formed on September 13th with one of the leaders of the International Hotel Group at its head.

The Cultural Revolution was in full swing at Peking University, built almost exclusively by the students.

III. The Experience of Students at Tsinghua University

If the students at Peking University reserved the right to claim the first rumblings of the Cultural Revolution, then the students at Tsinghua Univeristy, also in Beijing, reserved the right to claim the most intense conflicts during the Cultural Revolution. Immediately after Mao requested that the big-character poster of the International Hotel Group be broadcast on June 1st, 1966, students at Tsinghua University wasted no time in laying siege to their own university administration. For ten days, between June 1st, 1966 and June 10th, 1966, the students of Tsinghua University effectively turned their university into one of the key battle-grounds of the Cultural rossoquote4Revolution by launching intense criticisms of not only conservative professors, but also of those in high positions within the Party.21 The reaction of the Party bureaucrats within Tsinghua University’s Party Committee and the Beijing Municipal Committee was incredibly quick and severe. A work-team was formed and arrived on the Tsinghua Campus on June 10th in order to restore a sense of order and to ensure that criticisms of those in high positions in the Party were quickly silenced. Despite being received positively on their arrival,22 it was soon clear that the work-team was not there to aid the rebels. On June 13th, 1966, a mass meeting was held where Yeh Lin, the organizer of the work-team, laid out a twofold plan to restore order at Tsinghua University. Yeh Lin’s program amounted to: all department- and university-level cadres [being] suspended and [being] ordered to report in groups for study. … all students [being] called upon to return to their classrooms for a major campaign of self-and-mutual criticism.23 It became clear to the students that the goal of the work-team was to break up the blossoming student movement in order to prevent them from effectively waging the Cultural Revolution. Unfortunately for the work-team, the students of Tsinghua University were not ready to capitulate and resistance to the “white-terror”, as the period of the work-team was later to be known, began without much delay. On June 23rd a student named Kuai Ta-fu, who was to become one of the main student leaders at Tsinghua University, issued a poster known as “What’s this all about, Comrade Yeh Lin?” which viciously criticized the work-team. The work-team responded by calling a public meeting on June 28th in order to denounce Kuai as a counter-revolutionary.

The meeting resulted in an embarrassing failure for the work-team and posters began to surface that criticized the work-team’s commitment to not only the Cultural Revolution, but socialist revolution and Maoism in general. The work-team, reeling from criticisms, was thrown into disarray24. Rumours had been circulating that Liu Shao-chi’s wife, Wang Kuang-mei, was secretly in charge of the work-team.25 In order to hold the work-team together, Wang Kuang-mei was forced to step into the open at the June 28th mass meeting in order to ensure the work-team and the students of Tsinghua University that the workteam had the full confidence of the Party, particularly Liu Shaochi and Mao. Wang Kuang-mei’s appeal worked in that the workteam began to refocus itself, but the students of Tsinghua University were not convinced. The following day another series of posters criticizing the work-team appeared on campus.

In response to their waning influence, the work-team began a campaign directed entirely at Kuai Ta-fu known as the “Pull Out Kuai” campaign. Once again students did not respond and the resistance against the work-team further intensified. Everything came to a head when on July 22nd, 1966, Mao returned from southern China and wasted no time in questioning the purpose of the work-teams. Indeed, Mao had been a firm supporter of the student rebels and in reply to their queries wrote this: Red Guard comrades of Tsinghua University Middle School:

“I have received both the big-character posters which you sent on 28 July as well as the letter which you sent to me, asking for an answer. The two big-character posters which you wrote on 24 June and 4 July express your anger at, and denunciation of, all landlords, bourgeois, imperialists, revisionists, and their running dogs who exploit and oppress the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals and evolutionary parties and groupings. You say it is right to rebel against reactionaries; I enthusiastically support you. I also give enthusiastic support to the big-character poster of the Red Flag Combat group of Peking University Middle School which said that it is right to rebel against the reactionaries; and to the very good revolutionary speech given by comrade P’eng Hsiao-meng representing their Red Flag Combat Group at the big meeting attended by all the teachers, students, administration and workers of Peking University on 25 July. Here I want to say that I myself as well as my revolutionary comrades-in-arms all take the same attitude. No matter where they are, in rossoquote5Peking or anywhere in China, I will give enthusiastic support to all who take an attitude similar to yours in the Cultural Revolution movement. …” 26

This letter, which was printed on August 1st but would have undoubtedly been received by the students at Tsinghua University beforehand, proved that Mao did not endorse the work-team and on July 29th a mass meeting was held where the work-team was denounced and forced to withdraw from Tsinghua University.27 The question then arose as to how best re-organize Tsinghua University after the fall of work-team’s 50 day reign. Two different lines emerged amoungst the students. The first sought to rehabilitate old and reactionary faculty in order to allow the university to return to normal. The second, headed by Kuai Ta-fu, wanted nothing to do with the old faculty and instead suggested that only revolutionary faculty should be allowed to teach. On August 8th, 1966, the latter organized themselves into a group known as the 8-8s, and the following day, the former organized themselves into a group known as the 8-9s.28 Following two weeks of active campaigning against one another, the 8-9s appealed to the university administration for help. On August 23rd, 1966, they received the support of Chian Nan-hsiang,29 effectively throwing the 8-9s into the ruling circles of Tsinghua University and silencing the 8-8s.30

Despite the fact that the 8-9s had administrative support, the 8-8s continued to campaign and gradually gained more support from the students at Tsinghua University. The 8-8s were effectively waging an up-hill battle until October 6, 1966, when Mao hosted another meeting of the Red Guards in Beijing. At this meeting Mao directly endorsed all those who were struggling against the old, reactionary order which provided a massive boom to the 8-8s and effectively put them on the offensive at Tsinghua University.31 In the days following, the 8-9s found themselves losing support to the 8-8s to the extent that they felt forced to burn their seal and flag, and in early November of 1966 the 8-9s merged with the 8-8s to form the Chingkangshan Regiment headed by Kuai Ta-fu. Kuai, due to his unchanging, and eventually correct stance throughout 1966 and 1967, became a national icon for students everywhere to emulate.

Throughout most of November and December of 1966 the Chingkangshan Regiment began consolidating their power at Tsinghua University and organizing their own cadre. Due to the Chingkangshan Regiment’s prestige throughout China, as early as January of 1967, other universities began appealing to the Chingkangshan Regiment for help in fighting their own manifestations of the Cultural Revolution. The Chingkangshan Regiment sent delegates to various universities around China, particularly in outlying regions. It was through these delegations that the cadre of the Chingkangshan Regiment learned the necessity of seizing power in order to effectively wage Cultural Revolution; indeed, their comrades in China’s outlying regions were not fortunate enough to have sympathetic administrations and had been forced to take over their universities in order to simply publish material. As a result, in mid-January of 1967 the Chingkangshan Regiment seized power at Tsinghua University and deposed the administration.32 The Cultural Revolution had become firmly established at Tsinghua University.

IV. Conclusion

As has been demonstrated, it was the students in China that jump-started the Cultural Revolution. Initially it was student revolt, and student-based challenges to entrenched bureaucrats within the Chinese Communist Party that led to the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution at Peking University. Following Mao’s support for the rebels at Peking University, the students at Tsinghua University began struggling, and intensified their struggle to the point that they managed to extend the Cultural Revolution to other institutions around China. In this way, the student movement in China was instrumental in constructing the great proletarian Cultural Revolution.

End Notes
1. Mao Zedong, “Bombard the Headquarters – My First Big-
Character Poster”, Peking Review, August 5, 1966
2. An, MAO TSE-TUNG’S Cultural Revolution , 22.
3. Nee, The Cultural Revolution at Peking University, 74.
4. My conviction rests upon the entire body of work written by the anti-revisionist school of Marxist thought, of which only an infinitely small amount was used in the preparation of this paper. Though this school of thought is certainly open to criticism, focusing too much on Mao`s role within the context of the Cultural Revolution proper detracts from the overall series of events.
5. An, MAO TSE-TUNG’S Cultural Revolution, 28.
6. Nee, The Cultural Revolution at Peking University, 38.
7. Ibid, 39
8. This spontaneous restoration of capitalism included: “increase in private plots, excessive sideline occupations, rural free markets, the tendency amoung better-off peasants to “go it alone”, and the re-emergence of rich peasants.”. Ibid, 42.
9. Ibid, 42.
10. Ibid, 43.
11. Wu Han was also the deputy mayor of Beijing, and therefore sat on the Beijing Municipal Committee. The Municipal Committee had, of course, been a staunch ally of Lu P’ing’s while Lu P’ing sought to sieze control of Peking University from the SEC work-team in early 1965.
12. As opposed to a purely academic criticism of his play. Academic criticisms focused solely on the historical merits of Hai Jui Dismissed from Office, whereas political criticisms of Wu Han sought to uncover the class nature of Wu Han’s deviancy from revolutionary ideals.
13. P’eng P’ei-yun was the Party Committee of Peking University’s vice-secretary, and Sung Shuo was a member of the Municipal Committee’s Universities Department. Ibid, 54.
14. Ibid, 54.
15. The CYL was organizationally conservative, as the leadership
was tied directly to Lu P’ing’s administration.
16. Ibid, 57.
17. The request was made in a document written by Mao that criticized Liu Shao-ch’i, the then-Chairman of the Communist Party of China and one of the main targets of the Cultural Revolution. Ibid, 57.
18. Mao Zedong, “Bombard the Headquarters – My First Big- Character Poster”, Peking Review, August 5, 1966
19. Mao had recently returned from Shanghai only to find the budding Cultural Revolution in disarray due to the intrigues of the work-team. Nee, The Cultural Revolution at Peking University, 61.
20. Ibid, 66.
21. Hinton, 100 Day War: The Cultural Revolution at Tsinghua University, 44.
22. It was believed that the work-team was being sent by Liu Shao-chi in order to aid the rebel students. While, as it was later found out, the work-team was sent by Liu Shao-chi, it was most definitely to put down the Cultural Revolution. Liu was to later become one of the prime targets of the Cultural Revolution.
23. Ibid, 45.
24. Ibid, 51.
25. Indeed, the reason for the poster “What’s this all about, Comrade Yeh Lin?” was that a female member of the work-team pretended to be Wang Kuang-mei in order to gather confessions from students.
26. Mao Zedong, “A Letter To The Red Guards Of Tsinghua University Middle School”, Long Live Mao Tse-tung Thought, August 1, 1966.
27. Hinton, 100 Day War: The Cultural Revolution at Tsinghua University, 68.
28. Ibid, 69.
29. Chian Nan-hsiang was the president of Tsinghua Univerisity.
30. Ibid, 74.
31. Ibid, 96.
32. Ibid, 106.

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