Monthly Archives: August 2020

Chapter 23: Out With the Old

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 23
Out With the Old

It wasn’t just people who were being targeted by the Red Guards. It was also Chinese culture. This was, after all, the “Cultural” Revolution.

During the Red August of 1966, newly-ensconced leader Lin Biao gave a speech advocating the destruction of the “Four Olds.” These were: Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas. These were described as having poisoned the minds of the people for thousands of years.

First to fall victim in the Campaign to Destroy the Four Olds were street names and store names. Streets throughout Beijing were renamed, causing confusion to travelers and shoppers. For instance, “E” street was renamed, “Red Guard Road,” and the “Blue Sky Clothes Store” was renamed to “Defending Mao Zedong Clothes Store.”

Intellectuals were thought to be living embodiments of the Four Olds, and they were rounded up, harassed, and forced to endure Struggle Sessions, where they were severely beaten and often killed.

The heads of the figures in this ancient frieze were knocked off by Red Guards. It was originally from a garden house of a rich imperial official in Suzhou. Photo by Udo Schoene. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Old, historic architectural sites were targeted, vandalized, and burned or razed to the ground. Libraries were raided, and books of classical literature were burned. Old Chinese paintings were ripped apart, and Chinese temples were desecrated. In Tibet, Buddhist monks were forced to demolish almost every monastery, many of which had been standing for over a thousand years.

The homes of the wealthy were raided and everything destroyed, especially paintings, books, sculptures, and antiques.

Red Guards raided ancient archaeological sites and smashed priceless relics. In one instance, they raided Ming Dynasty tombs, and dragged the remains of emperors and empresses out, denounced them, and burned them. And the Cemetery of Confucius was attacked and vandalized.

The destruction to the Chinese cultural heritage during this campaign was incalculable. Premier Zhou Enlai, Mao’s most loyal ally, felt appalled at this spoliation. He tried to step in and stop the iconoclasm, but was mostly foiled by Jiang Qing and other ultra-Leftists. Still, he did manage to prevent destruction to a few important historical sites, such as the Forbidden City.

China owes much gratitude to Zhou Enlai for such heroic efforts.

The Cultural Revolution raged on, long past the deposing of Liu Shaoqi. By December 1967, more than 350 million copies of Mao’s Little Red Book of quotations had been printed. Every Red Guard owned one, and they would congregate in study groups to devour and digest the words, while discussing the meaning of Mao’s vague sayings. They found ways to use Mao’s words to justify the Cultural Revolution, and all the death and destruction they were causing.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 24: Cow Sheds .

Chapter 22: Red August

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 22
Red August

Mao’s return to power came with great pain inflicted upon Liu Shaoqi, until he eventually lost his life. Mao had no problem unleashing this kind of pain and suffering. But Liu Shaoqi was just one person. Many, many others suffered as well. Mao released a plague of pain upon his entire nation while usurping power from Liu.

When considering Mao’s legacy, it’s important to consider just how much he cost his country, and how much suffering he put his own people through. The price tag for his sadistic excesses was astronomical, setting China’s economy back for years. And millions upon millions went through hell.

Mao & Lin Biao in Tiananmen Square, surrounded by Red Guards with Little Red Books.

For instance, in August 1966, in what would become known as Red August, over a million Red Guards gathered at a rally in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Mao Zedong and newly-annointed leader Lin Biao mingled with the Red Guards and gave speeches, denouncing enemies of the State that they insinuated had infiltrated the Party.

That’s when the chain-reaction of Mao’s dominoes fell out of control. A red terror swept out of this rally, beginning with a mass slaughter of officials in Beijing, and spreading rapidly to many other areas of China.

Most Red Guards were privileged urban youths. But workers, peasants, soldiers, common criminals, guttersnipes of all varieties, and millions of others occupying the lower strata of society, also joined in on the slaughter and became Red Guards. Yet none of this was necessary. Mao had already returned to power. He could have used this power to disband these Red hooligans and stop the killing. Only someone who enjoys causing pain would allow the killing to continue.

The police tried to intervene, but then Mao intervened with the police. He instructed the Party to issue a central directive warning them not to interfere. This warning threatened any law enforcement that stood in the way of the Red Guards, with being labeled as counterrevolutionary.

So the police stepped aside and allowed madness to descend upon the country. Thousands of government officials and members of the middle class were hunted down, beaten, and murdered. During the Red August of 1966, 1,772 such people were murdered in Beijing. In Shanghai that September, 704 people committed suicide, and 534 other deaths occurred, related to the Cultural Revolution.

Red Guards rallying in Tiananmen Square, with their Little Red Books, during Red August, 1966.

But this was only the beginning. Millions more would be brutalized and murdered by the Red Guards over the next few years.

An army of 12 million Red Guards ravaged the nation. They were given free rein by the government to travel the country, and could use the railroads without charge, as long as their purpose was to wage revolution. They committed horrible murders and atrocities everywhere they went.

They even turned on each other, splitting into factions and waging armed combat, Red Guard against Red Guard. Small civil wars sprang up in towns and cities of China, as warring sides fought each other for not being pro-Mao enough.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 23: Out With the Old.

Chapter 21: The Fall of Liu Shaoqi

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 21
The Fall of Liu Shaoqi

The Red Guards began arresting members of the establishment suspected of being revisionists, anti-Mao, anti-Cultural Revolution, or anti anything else they supported. They subjected their victims to brutal Struggle Sessions, where they were beaten, sometimes to death.

The country plunged into chaos. The target of the students was the “establishment,” and this worried the hell out of everyone in charge of anything. And among those worried were the heads of state.

State Chairman Liu Shaoqi and Secretary-General Deng Xiaoping were in a swivet, not knowing what the hell to do. They’d been blindsided, and had no idea how or why all of this upheaval was suddenly happening. And so they consulted with the mastermind himself, like chickens running to the fox. They asked Mao for advice.

Based upon the advice Mao gave them, Liu and Deng hastily set up a system of work teams. The work teams were sent to campuses of schools for the purpose of interacting with the Red Guards, restoring order, and re-establishing Party control.

The problem with this was that the members of the work teams were also members of the establishment. And so, by virtue of association, they were suspected by the Red Guards of being counterrevolutionary. The Red Guards didn’t trust the work teams, and suspected that their true purpose was to suppress revolutionary fervor.

It seemed hopeless. So the Communist Party became divided on whether or not to continue with the teams. But Liu insisted on continuing, in order to stop the mass hysteria.

Of course Mao, the fox in the henhouse, didn’t help Liu. Instead he sided with those who were against the work teams. He criticized the work team idea (even though he had suggested it), and on July 24, 1966, he called for the full withdrawal of these teams. This made Liu look suspect. Liu was pro-work teams, but Mao was anti-work teams. So why was Liu for them? people began to ask. Could Liu be a counterrevolutionary himself?

Then on August 5, 1966, Mao upped the ante. He authored his own big-character poster, and titled it, “Bombard the Headquarters.” He rallied people to target the command center of counterrevolution, which he insinuated was the Party establishment led by Liu and Deng. As a result of this poster, Liu and Deng quickly sank in status within the Communist Party, and effectively lost their power.

Lin Biao (left) with Mao Zedong.

Defense Minister Lin Biao, the Mao loyalist who had earlier attacked General Luo Ruiqing, to help pave the way for this coup, was elevated in status and took over Liu Shaoqi’s rank. Lin became the new official leader of China. But in reality, he was supposed to be a puppet who would rubber stamp anything Mao wanted. And so Lin’s rise to power was actually Mao’s rise to power.

Mao once again found himself in charge of China. Lin, as head of state, assumed all the risks, while Mao, pulling strings in the background, enjoyed all the benefits.

With Lin’s installment, Mao’s coup was complete. Well, almost complete. He still had a little more work to do. In 1967, Liu Shaoqi was arrested by Red Guards. They put him through Struggle Sessions, where they beat him regularly. He was denied medication for his diabetes, and denied treatment for pneumonia, which he contracted from his beatings.

He nearly died, but Jiang Qing finally stepped in and ordered medical treatment for him. She wanted him kept alive as a “living target” for the Ninth Party Congress in 1969. At that Congress, the barely living Liu was denounced as a traitor and enemy agent. Shortly after that, he died in prison. Now the coup was complete. Mao’s power was solidified.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 22: Red August.

Chapter 20: Rise of the Red Guards

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 20
Rise of the Red Guards

Peng Zhen had been State Chairman Liu Shaoqi’s most powerful supporter. With him gone, Liu was now vulnerable, and at Mao’s mercy.

The Politburo also released a statement that had been prepared under Mao’s personal supervision, strongly implying that enemies of the Communist Party had infiltrated the Party. It claimed that these class enemies “wave the red flag to oppose the red flag,” and it prescribed “the telescope and microscope of Mao Zedong Thought” to identify these people. Which of course could be found in Mao’s Little Red Book, which he had made sure was published a few years earlier.

This statement gave a green light to Mao loyalists. And with the Beijing Communist Party in disarray after the dismissal of Peng Zhen, chaos was about to break out in the capital of China.

This chaos erupted nine days later, on May 25, 1966, at Peking University in Beijing. In fact, Peking University came to be known as the epicenter of the Cultural Revolution. The rumbling began when the head of the Philosophy department, Nie Yuanzi, authored a big-character poster that attacked the university’s Communist Party administration.

Big-character posters had been used since the Qing Dynasty. They are handwritten posters using large characters with artistic calligraphy, that are mounted on walls for public display. They’re generally used for propaganda purposes, or for protest.

Nie’s poster had been encouraged by the wife of a Mao loyalist, but it’s suspected that Jiang Qing and Mao himself were the ultimate influence behind it. The poster insinuated that the university’s leaders were trying to undermine the Communist Party, and were engaged in the dastardly practice of revisionism.

Big-character posters being posted on the campus of Peking University.

It was now Mao’s turn to topple another domino. He used his access to the press to endorse the poster and call it “the first Marxist-Leninist big-character poster in China.” This endorsement was like a bombshell. Mao was revered in China, so anything he said was quickly chewed, swallowed, and digested by the masses. Students in schools and universities throughout China interpreted Mao’s words as a signal to revolt against their schools’ establishments.

Soon, big-character posters sprang up on campuses all over the country, denouncing their school administration as revisionist and counterrevolutionary. These posters were plastered everywhere, on sides of buildings, walls, trees, or any other vertical surface that could be found.

By the middle of June 1966, school classes at all levels of education had emptied out all across the country. Students demonstrated en masse, sporting pictures of Mao, chanting slogans, and threatening retribution against all the imagined enemies of communism that had infiltrated the Party.

The students called themselves Red Guards, and were initially denounced by university officials as counterrevolutionaries. But then they wrote a manifesto, and Mao, with his access to the press, ordered that it be broadcast on national radio, and published in the People’s Daily national newspaper. This gave the Red Guards legitimacy, and that is all they needed to wreak havoc upon the nation.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 21: The Fall of Liu Shaoqi.

Chapter 19: The Cultural Revolution Begins

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 19
The Cultural Revolution Begins

Jiang Qing had been an actress in the 1930s and this, along with being Mao’s wife, enabled her to serve as head of the Film Section of the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department in the 1950s. She became an expert in propaganda, and her husband needed such an expert, and one whom he could trust.

Peng Zhen, the most powerful supporter of China’s leader, Liu Shaoqi.

In February of 1965, Mao secretly commissioned Jiang and literary critic Yao Wenyuan to publish a critique of the play, Hai Rui Dismissed from Office. The author of this play was Wu Han, the Vice Mayor of Beijing. Wu’s direct superior was Peng Zhen, who was the First Secretary of the Beijing Communist Party. Peng was a very powerful official within the Communist Party. Not only that, but Peng was State Chairman Liu Shaoqi’s strongest supporter. Liu needed Peng’s support, to remain the leader of China.

A discerning reader may notice by now, that this plot of Mao’s involved a lot of people and moving parts. It was highly complex.

Mao calculated that if he could discredit Wu, the playwright and Vice Mayor, then Wu’s direct superior, Peng, would also be discredited. By taking down Peng, who was Liu Shaoqi’s strongest supporter, Liu would lose much of his support within the Party, and be vulnerable. Liu could then be taken down. This would be a complicated coup, and many dominoes would have to fall correctly, but Mao had set those dominoes up carefully.

Yao, the literary critic working with Jiang Qing, was instructed by Mao to write a critique accusing Wu, the playwright, of attacking Mao. So in Yao’s article, he claimed that the play Wu wrote, about a Ming Dynasty civil servant who was purged from office after criticizing the emperor, was actually a political allegory. He claimed that the honest civil servant symbolized General Peng Dehuai, who had criticized Mao’s Great Leap Forward, and then was subsequently purged by Mao. And he alleged that the corrupt emperor in this play, symbolized Mao.

Yao’s article left Peng Zhen feeling very nervous. Pay careful attention to some dominoes Mao had set up, and you’ll understand why.

Mao had recently appointed Peng to be the head of a “Five-Man Group” commissioned by Mao to study the potential for a Cultural Revolution. The writer of the play, Wu, had been under Peng’s direct supervision when the play was written. This implicated Peng as a co-conspirator in the attack on Mao, and made him vulnerable to the accusation of being a counterrevolutionary.

And now the plot thickens: Peng knew that the Cultural Revolution would be all about persecuting those suspected of being counterrevolutionaries. He worried that he would become a target of the very campaign he was helping Mao to set up. Peng also had some control over the publication of Yao’s article that critiqued Wu’s play.

So Peng decided to forbid the publication of Yao’s article in any major newspaper under his control. This included the nationally distributed People’s Daily. He only allowed publication in a few, small, locally distributed newspapers. He hoped it would go unnoticed and be quickly forgotten.

Meanwhile, Mao pushed over a few more dominoes. He went after those he expected to come to Peng’s defense. As Chairman of the Communist Party, he was able to fire Yang Shangkun, who was a senior leader of the Central Committee, on bogus charges of spying on Mao. He replaced him with a staunch Mao loyalist.

Mao then had his loyal ally, Defense Minister Lin Biao, accuse the chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army, General Luo Ruiqing, of being anti-Mao. Luo was denounced and dismissed. This ensured that the rest of the military command would be loyal to Mao.

The next domino was the sacking of the Propaganda Department chief, Lu Dingyi, who was a Peng ally. This helped to isolate Peng, and gave Mao unrestricted access to the press.

Now Peng was in Mao’s crosshairs. Peng’s Five-Man Group had recently issued a report that claimed the Hai Rui play was merely an academic discussion, and had nothing to do with politics. But at a high-profile meeting of the Politburo, Mao got two of his supporters, Kang Sheng and Chen Boda, to call bullshit on this. They brought Yao’s damning article to the Politburo’s attention, they showed how Peng had tried to suppress this article, and they claimed that this was evidence that Peng had revisionist tendencies.

Revisionist was one of the most damning names you could call a Communist. It’s used for people who try to revise the interpretation of Karl Marx’s writings to satisfy capitalist motivations.

Without Peng’s allies to come to his defense, the Politburo was convinced, and Peng was deposed from office. Then on May 16, 1966, the Politburo released an official document condemning Peng, disbanding his Five-Man Group, and replacing it with a new committee, called the Cultural Revolution Group (CRG).

Chen Boda was named Chairman of the CRG, with Jiang Qinq as Vice-Chairman. Other members included Kang Sheng and Yao Wenyuan. With Peng out of the picture, the CRG could go after Liu Shaoqi, leader of China, without any interference.

These actions by the Politburo are often cited as the official start of the Cultural Revolution.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 20: Rise of the Red Guards.

Chapter 18: Madame Mao, Jiang Qing

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 18
Madame Mao, Jiang Qing

The Socialist Education Movement was only the beginning for Mao, because it only persecuted intellectuals, and could not reach as high as State Chairman Liu Shaoqi. Liu was the one who had taken power from Mao, and so he was Mao’s prime target. To get at Liu, Mao knew he had to up his game of continuous revolution. And that is why he masterminded the Cultural Revolution.

He began setting up the Cultural Revolution in a way that one might stand up a row of dominoes, where when the first domino is knocked over, the others rapidly fall in a chain-reaction. Chain-reactions run the risk of getting out of control, but that was not much concern for Mao. His biggest desire was to return to power, and he needed some chaos to bring that about.

But he also needed help with this conspiracy, and from someone he could trust. So he turned to Jiang Qing. Jiang Qing was Mao’s fourth wife. Of all his wives, she was the most devious, cruel, and vindictive. Jiang’s character had been a perfect fit for Mao’s, when he married her nearly 30 years before.

His first wife had probably not been a good fit, since she and Mao had not done the fitting. It was an arranged marriage, and his father had made the arrangement. Her name was Luo Yigu. She was Mao’s cousin, and he married her when he was just 13 years old, over his protestations. He resented the marriage, never lived with Luo, and soon abandoned her.

Fortunately for him, but unfortunately for his wife, Luo died of dysentery in 1910, making Mao a widower at age 16. This freed him up to marry whomever he wanted. The experience turned Mao against arranged marriages and made him something of a feminist for the rest of his life.

His second wife was Yang Kaihui, and this marriage with her was mutually consensual. They wed in 1920, when Mao was 26, and they had three children together. But in November 1930, Yang was captured by Kuomintang (KMT) forces. She was tortured for a month and then beheaded in front of her eight-year-old son.

You might conclude this made Mao a widower again. In a sense it did, of course, but in another sense it did not.

That’s because although Mao was a feminist, he was also a womanizer. In the late-1920s he battled alongside a female guerrilla fighter named He Zizhen, who was a tough lady, whom he must have come to admire very much. She was so tough, she was also known as the “Two-Gunned Girl General.” They fell in love, and He bore a child with him in 1929. In May 1930, he married He. This while still being married to her (Yang).

In other words, Mao was a bigamist, so his status of being a married man did not change with the death of Yang, six months into his bigamy.

Although the beheading of Yang was tragic, it worked out conveniently for Mao. He was already married to He, and now he didn’t have to go through a nasty divorce with Yang, and all the scandal of bigamy revelations that would entail.

He and Mao were quite amorous, as evidenced by all the children they had. Altogether, He had six children with him. But this did not increase the size of Mao’s family much, because all but one died young or were separated from their parents, during the wild, tumultuous war years of the 1930s.

During the Long March, He was wounded in the head by shrapnel, and she was sent to Moscow to recover. But in 1937, while He was away, her husband decided to play. He (Mao) met the actress Jiang Qing, and began a dalliance with her.

This was a cause for concern among Communist leaders. Mao was 45 years old, and Jiang was only 23, and their vast age difference was considered licentious. Besides, even though Jiang was a member of the Communist Party, her lavish lifestyle prior to meeting Mao was criticized as being too bourgeoisie. And finally, Mao was still married to He. This was officially considered immoral, and not a good example to set for the proletariat.

Jiang Qing and Mao, with their daughter, Li Na, in 1943.

But Mao worked out a compromise with his fellow leaders. He (Mao) would marry Jiang in a small, private ceremony. But because he was still married to He, she (Jiang) could not be seen in public with him. Also, Jiang was forbidden to participate in politics for 20 years.

They married on November 28, 1938. They had one child together in 1940, named Li Na. And true to their word, Jiang stayed out of politics for 20 years. In fact a little longer than 20 years. As the first lady of China she was often referred to as Madame Mao. And Madame Mao abstained from political involvement until Mr. Mao got her involved in his twisted plot to regain power, in 1965.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 19: The Cultural Revolution Begins.

Chapter 17: The Little Red Book

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 17
The Little Red Book

During the time of the Socialist Education Movement, Mao worked on another facet of his Machiavellian plot to regain power. He used his influence as Chairman of the Communist Party to have a book published, entitled, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung. It contained quotations from his speeches and writings, given over his lifetime. It was bound in a red vinyl wrapper over cardboard cover, was pocket-sized, and became known as the Little Red Book.

The Little Red Book.

It was first printed in January of 1964, and contained 25 topics and 267 quotations, and was distributed to troops in the People’s Liberation Army. It was the brainchild of Lin Biao, a sycophant of Mao who would later be elevated to the top leadership of China during the Cultural Revolution. Lin had recently replaced General Peng Dehuai as Defense Minister. Peng, as you may recall, had been purged for criticizing Mao’s Great Leap Forward.

“Study Chairman Mao’s writings, follow his teachings, and act according to his instructions,” Lin Biao admonished in a prefaced endorsement leaf. This page would later be removed after Lin allegedly attempted to assassinate Mao in 1971.

The Little Red Book expanded several times over the next year, with the final version containing 33 topics and 427 quotations from Mao. Top priority was given to its publication, shoving aside all other works-in-progress, including publication of The Complete Works of Marx and Engels.

The goal was to print and distribute enough copies so that 99% of the population could own and read this book of Mao’s quotes. Over a billion copies were printed between 1966 and 1969. It was exported also, and by May 1967, it could be found in bookstores in 117 countries, with 20 translations in 35 versions.

As of today, some estimate that over 6.5 billion copies have been distributed throughout China and worldwide. This is likely an exaggeration, but if accurate the Little Red Book could be the Most Read Book in history, pushing the Bible into second place.

The Little Red Book became very popular. This was not just because of all the press and promotion it received. It was mainly because every Chinese citizen was expected to own a copy, study it, and carry it on their person at all times. This was never an official requirement, but those who did not do this ran the risk of being labeled a capitalist-roader, or counterrevolutionary, or a revisionist, or something else that could get them into deep trouble.

The Little Red Book was part of Mao’s plan to establish a Cult of Personality, where he would be worshiped like a living god. With Mao elevated to god-like heights in the minds of the people, anything he said would be believed without question, and everything he wanted would be granted. And that’s because his adoring masses would make sure it was granted.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 18: Madame Mao, Jiang Qing.

Poor Brad

This is not a poetry blog. It’s a serious blog for smartasses. It’s where smart asses chase unicorns. So we read serious quotes, and we learn about serious, but unique things, such as Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution. We may even make a few serious comments. But then, inevitably, things devolve into smartass comments, from the likes of Jim, Joan, Jason, and, hey why do so many smartasses have names beginning with the letter J?

No wait, three of our regular smartasses have names beginning with C: Cranky Pants, Carolyn, and Colin. Carolyn is at Nuggets of Gold, and Colin is at A Dog’s Life . . . And Mine . . . And Yours! I always treat Carolyn with the utmost respect, and never get smartassy with her. So does Colin, though sometimes I can tell what a strain that is on him, to hold back.

Carolyn, on the other hand, is a perennial smartass. And with grammar and syntax issues. There’s nothing like a smartass with grammar and syntax issues to try the souls of other smartasses bloggers, who know English as a first language.

But if that may seem tough for us, I wonder just how difficult it is for poor Brad, Carolyn’s husband. He has to live with her. Apparently, Colin has wondered the same thing, even to the point of writing a poignant poem, lamenting the trials of poor Brad.

Colin is a deeply thoughtful poet, who has even published his own book of poetry, called Just Thinking. I suppose Colin was just thinking about poor Brad, when he was inspired to compose the following jeremiad, in honor of the poor man.

Like I say, this is not a poetry blog, but rather it’s for smartasses. But this one time, I’m making an exception to the rule. I’m posting Colin’s verses so we can seriously mourn the trials and tribulations of poor Brad, and provide the much-needed empathy this poor man needs.

And if any smartasses out there feel moved and inspired to compose their own verses about poor Brad, you are very welcome to leave them in the comments.

Poor Brad

by Colin Chappell

So many years ago
He found himself a bride
Her parents were so glad
At last now she was going
At last she was leaving their home
Everyone was happy… poor Brad.
Her sisters were delighted
That she was getting wed
It was no secret they were glad
They stifled their smiles
As she walked down the aisle
They couldn’t help thinking… poor Brad
He suffered her humor
Put up with her quirks
And then a child they had
Dizzy with excitement
Illogical as ever
Carolyn was a challenge… poor Brad
A second child followed
Much to Carolyn’s delight
And Brad was, once again, a Dad.
“Dizzy Lizzy” was confused
Puzzled and rather perplexing
But our thoughts go out to poor Brad.
So many years have now gone by
So much time has passed
Was it really all that bad?
Well by all accounts
At least from what we hear
All we can say is …poor Brad!
Now over 20 years later
We just shake our heads
She’s obviously quite mad!
We’ve known her for almost two years
And she does have really nice kids
But… we just have to say… poor Brad
Brad is surely a martyr
Suffering the confusion
It really is quite sad
For Carolyn, being so short
If she asked what we thought… we’d say (while looking down)
It’s alright for you… but… poor Brad!

Chapter 16: Continuous Revolution

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 16
Continuous Revolution

He’d lost his job as State Chairman, and was no longer in control of China. But Mao continued in his position as Chairman of the Communist Party. At that time, this was just a ceremonial role with inconsequential power.

However, Mao was charismatic and wildly popular with the Chinese people, so he found ways to leverage his popularity, combined with his role as Party Chairman, to wield a little more power than he would otherwise have.

Mao proposed the idea of perpetual, permanent, or continuous revolution. He claimed to be worried that an elite minority had taken power at the top of Chinese government and society, and that they were unresponsive and out of touch with the will of the people.

He reasoned that continuous revolution was the only way to preserve Communist ideals and prevent bureaucrats from putting China back on a road to capitalism. He called such bureaucrats, “capitalist-roaders.” By waging continuous revolution, Mao argued, those in power would be subjected to a continuous purity test. This would weed out those who did not keep communism and the interests of the people foremost in mind.

But in order to get his continuous revolution going, he had to find a starting point. With that in mind, he reasoned that first he had to go after the thinkers, philosophers, and writers of China. The intellectuals. They influenced opinion, and he needed to ensure they would not get in his way, in his quest to retake his former leadership.

In 1963, Mao announced there were capitalist-roaders among the intellectuals within the Communist Party, that were trying to poison minds. He claimed they were revising fundamental Marxist teachings to make them appear to favor capitalism.

The populace, who loved and respected Mao, became alarmed.

Intellectuals such as Ji Xianlin, professor at Peking University, were forced to participate in the Socialist Education Movement. Later, Ji was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution.

And so Party leaders decided to do something about this, and began the Socialist Education Movement. In this movement, intellectuals were removed from schools, universities, or wherever else they lived and worked, and were sent to the countryside to be reeducated by peasants.

They were forced to work on farms, and also spend time in self-criticism sessions. Peasants led these sessions, and required them to examine their hearts and uncover any counterrevolutionary sentiments they might be harboring. They had to confess these sentiments to the group they were in, criticize themselves, and accept criticism from others.

Conditions and punishments were sometimes harsh for the intellectuals, and from 1963 to 1966, over 70,000 perished. More than five million others were persecuted to various degrees.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 17: The Little Red Book.

Chapter 15: Peng Dismissed From Office

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 15
Peng Dismissed From Office

By April 1959, it had become apparent to Party officials that the Great Leap Forward was a clusterfuck of catastrophic proportions. Mumblings among Party officials led to Mao stepping down as State Chairman of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Liu Shaoqi, Mao’s puppet replacement.

Mao’s hand-picked successor, First Vice-Chairman of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Liu Shaoqi, replaced him. Together, Liu and CPC General Secretary Deng Xiaoping were put in charge of fixing Mao’s mess. But they were mere puppets. Mao was still calling all the shots, from behind the scenes.

But there was one troublemaker who was not so easily manipulated. A year earlier, General Peng Dehuai, head of the National Defense Ministry, dared to speak out against Mao’s economic policies. In April 1958, during a tour of Guangzhou Province, he openly criticized Mao by saying, “The Chairman talks all the time about more, faster, better, and more economical results. That is annoying. What does he want with chanting these liturgies all the time?”

In the fall of 1958, Peng toured more of China and found mature crops going unharvested, due to farmers busying themselves with steel production using primitive backyard furnaces. He encountered serious food shortages, starving peasants, and angry elders. He became so concerned that he composed this poem:

Grain scattered on the ground,
Potato leaves withered,
Strong young people have left to make steel,
Only children and old women reap the crops,
How can they pass the coming year?
Allow me to raise my voice for the people!

The Communist Party held a conference in July 1959, called the Lushan Conference. Mao opened the conference by encouraging Party members to criticize and offer opinions on the government’s mistakes and shortcomings. Peng, who was boiling over with opinions, fell for it. He composed a letter to Mao that criticized the policies of the Great Leap Forward.

Most of the Party leadership agreed with Peng. But then Mao had the letter circulated among the attendees of the Lushan Conference, and then criticized the letter, and attacked Peng. Mao threatened that if the leadership sided with Peng, he would split the Party, retreat into the countryside, and lead a peasant rebellion against the government.

The leadership capitulated in the face of this threat, and turned against Peng. He was formally condemned, and forced to issue a self-criticism, where he admitted he had made “severe mistakes.” Later, he privately confessed to Premier Zhou Enlai, regarding his self-criticism, “For the first time in my life, I have spoken out against my very heart.”

A few months later, Mao replaced Peng as Defense Minister with one of his lackeys, Lin Biao, who would later rise to become the leader of China during the Cultural Revolution.

But he didn’t stop there, with this general. In 1966 his wife, Jiang Qing, had Peng arrested by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. In fact, Peng was one of the first major public officials to be persecuted by Jiang Qing and her Cultural Revolution Group.

Peng had been a national hero. He had participated in the Long March. He had fought hard against Japanese occupation. He had defeated the Kuomintang (KMT) in northwest China during the civil war, against long odds. He had even saved Mao from being taken prisoner, when he defeated the KMT in the Battle of Shajiadian. He had directed China’s war effort during the Korean War. And now, this national hero who had given so much of himself for the Communist revolution, had become a prisoner.

Peng Dehuai in 1966, suffering public humiliation during a Struggle Session.

Peng was publicly humiliated during Struggle Sessions, falsely accused of many crimes against the people, and tortured. He died in prison in 1974, at age 76, from the effects of years of torture, and from an order by Mao to deny him medical treatment.

In 1959, shortly after the purge of Peng Dehuai, Wu Han, the Vice Mayor of Beijing, wrote a play entitled Hai Rui Dismissed from Office. Wu Han was not just Beijing’s Vice Mayor. He was also a historian, and this play was a historical account of a Ming Dynasty official who was purged and imprisoned by the emperor for having criticized him.

The play was a popular hit, and was even praised by Mao. But then critics began to interpret it as an allegory for Peng Dehuai’s dismissal from office by Mao. And in 1962, Peng Dehuai was stupid enough to write another letter to Mao, where he wrote, “I want to be a Hai Rui!”

This effrontery pissed the hell out of Mao. But it also gave him an inspiration.

Even though Liu Shaoqi had taken his job as State Chairman in 1959, Mao remained the de facto chair, and any decisions made by Liu had to be cleared by him. Liu was merely a puppet. But in 1961, Liu managed to maneuver Party leadership enough to strip Mao of these de facto powers. And with Mao pushed out of the way, Liu was now the undisputed head of China.

This didn’t set well with the megalomaniac Mao. He liked power, and wanted it back. It gave him a way to spread his pain to the masses, and he did not enjoy giving that up. Then he received the letter from Peng Dehuai, declaring that he wanted to be a Hai Rui. And from this letter, Mao devised a sinister, twisted, highly complex plot to oust Liu Shaoqi and retake control of China. This would culminate in the Cultural Revolution.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 16: Continuous Revolution.

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