Propaganda in China during the Cultural Revolution took on many forms; there were mass Red Guard demonstrations in Tianamen Square in support of Mao Zedong, pictures of Mao were put up in every conceivable location from restaurants to the wallpaper in nurseries, and pamphlets and books of Mao’s teachings were distributed to every Chinese citizen.
One of these propaganda publications Quotations from Chairman Mao which later became known as the Little Red Book contained quotes from Mao Zedong and was distributed to every Chinese citizen. The history of the Red Book provides one of the best ways in which to analyze Chinese propaganda during the Cultural Revolution and see the ways in which the Chinese government was able to produce and effectively indoctrinate the Chinese people with Mao Zedong Thought. Official Chinese magazines from the period of 1967 to 1970 are filled with many pictures of citizens holding, reading, and memorizing the Red Book. This proposal will trace the rise and fall of images of the Red Book in the official Chinese publication China Reconstructs.This proposal will use a graphical analysis of pictures in this publication from 1966 to 1973 to show that propaganda was not just a tool of the Communist party but also a reflection of internal power struggles within the party during the Cultural Revolution. The Red Book was written several years before it became the object of national adoration and a tool for the Cultivation of Mao’s personality Cult. The history of the Red Book and its meteoric rise from a hand book for military recruits to compulsory reading for all Chinese citizens, is closely tied to its developer Lin Biao’s rise to power.
Lin Biao was born in 1907 and was fourteen years younger then Mao; he joined the communist party in 1925 and until the communists captured control of China was at various times in charge of resistance forces, and armies of communist soldiers. When the communists took control in 1949 Lin Biao was behind Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Chen Yun, and Deng Xiaoping in rank (Yan and Gao, 1996: 179).But eighteen years later during the height of the Cultural Revolution Lin Biao by winning favor with Mao by publishing and championing the Red Book and the Cult of Mao became second only to the Chairman in power and position (Ming-Le, 1983: 80). In 1959 Peng Dehua was dismissed as minister of defense and Lin Biao was appointed in his place. At an armed forces meeting for high cadres during September of that year Lin Biao, energetically started promoting the Cult of Mao saying, “Learning the writings of comrade Mao Zedong is the shortcut to learning Marxism-Leninism. Chairman Mao’s writings are easy to learn and can be put to use immediately.
Diligent work will pay dividends many fold.” (Yan and Gao, 1996: 182) His references to “shortcut” and “quick dividends” in his speech went unnoticed at the time as few foresaw the effects of creating a Cult around Mao. But looking back on the Cultural Revolution and Lin Biao, we can see his using the Cult of Mao was indeed a shortcut that produced huge dividends both for himself and for Mao.Mao to the Chinese people was a symbol sovereignty and the construction of socialism; to them praise for Mao was fitting with his symbolic role in society.
Starting in 1959 Lin Biao in front of military audiences in order to help buildup support for the Cult of Mao used such phrases as, “the dire necessity of acquiring Mao Zedong’s thought,” “to study the writings of Mao Zedong with questions in mind is to shoot arrows with target in sight,” “we must arm our minds with Mao Zedong’s thought” (Yan an Gao, 1996: 181). Lin Biao’s goal of building up both himself and the Cult of Mao lead him in September of 1960 to pass a resolution at the meeting of the Military Commission, which called for more political education among the armed forces (Yan and Gao, 1996: 181) “Mao Zedong Thought is the compass for the Chinese people’s revolution and socialist construction, the powerful ideological weapon against imperialism, and the powerful ideological weapon against revisionism and dogmatism… raise high the red banner of Mao Zedong Thought, go further and mobilize the minds of all officers and soldiers with Mao Zedong Thought, and resolve to make sure that Mao Zedong Thought, and resolve to make sure that Mao Zedong Thought is in command in all phases of work.
. Really learn by heart the Mao Zedong Thought! Read Chairman Mao’s books, listen to Chairman Mao’s words, follow Chairman Mao’s directives, and serve as Chairman Mao’s good soldiers!” Shortly after the passage of the resolution by Lin Biao, the fourth volume of the selected works of Mao Zedong was published. On the occasion of it being sold to the public Lin Biao wrote an article calling upon all people in the military to read and study the works of Chairman Mao and dedicate to memory Mao Zedong Thought (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183).On April 1964 Lin Biao direct the military presses to publish a selection of quotes from Mao in a Little Red Book. The book titled Quotations From Chairman Mao was aimed at providing military recruits a shortened version of Maoist thought (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183). Military recruits before the publication of the Red Book were encouraged to study the Selected Works of Mao Zedong. But this set of books had grown so large (it’s four volumes contained over fifteen hundred pages) many of the military’s recruits who were from peasant backgrounds were unable to read its complicated articles. The Little Red Book in contrast with its hand picked quotes and introduction by Lin Biao was short with easy to read quotes.
Before the publishing of the Red Book the study of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong greatly increased in the military this was in large part due to the encouragement and directives issued by Lin Biao. In 1961 Lin Biao while inspecting a contingent of troops said that the works of Chairman Mao Zedong, were a guide to those in the military, “Every lesson in political education must use the works of Chairman Mao Zedong as an ideological guide.” (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183) Lin Biao also directed the military press to publish sections from the Red Book in the Liberation Army Daily the official publication of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army). The Red Book provided many of the military recruits who were mostly uneducated peasants with a grounding in Maoist thought. The quotes selected in the Red Book such as, ” Carry on the workers struggle, down with rightist revisionism” were sufficient vague as to allow recruits to draw from the Red Book what they wanted to. Lin Biao’s efforts to promote the study of Maoist thought were done to win favor with Mao and increase his position in the party (Tsou, 1986: 49).
Lin Biao’s cultivation of the Cult of Mao Zedong soon earned him Mao’s notice. During a meeting in 1961 Mao applauded Lin Biao’s work in the armed forces saying, “Recently comrade Lin Biao inspected the forces as far down as the company level and showed understanding of a good many things, including the problems of construction among our forces, and he made very good suggestions about various tasks of construction.” (Yan and Gao, 1996: 182) Lin Biao feeling that his work at publicizing Mao’s teachings was paying off redoubled his efforts at promoting Mao Zedong Thought.
He insisted that quotes from Mao Zedong could be used to accomplish tasks within the military and made the Red Book required reading for all in the military (Tsou, 1986:50). In January of 1962 the Part Central held an enlarged work session called a seven thousand person meeting. This meeting was aimed at rectifying the mistakes of The Great Leap Forward, and to promote the economy.A large majority at the meeting criticized Mao Zedong; but Lin Biao who believed that his future was inextricably linked to that of Mao gave one of the lone speeches in support of Mao (Yan and Gao, 1996: 182).
Lin Biao said at the conference that the reason The Great Leap Forward had not a success was because the dictates of Chairman Mao had not been followed closely enough. After the economy started to improve in 1963 and Mao gained back wide support Mao looked back and remembered that Lin Biao was one of the few who had stood by him and did not criticize him during the Party Central meeting. This event shows how Lin Biao was a shrewd political thinker who saw that his future was connected with that of Mao and winning Mao’s approval. By 1962 Lin Biao’s chief tool at achieving this objective was the promotion of Mao Zedong Thought (Dutt and Dutt, 1970: 63).After May of 1961 the Liberation Army Daily followed Lin Biao’s directive and printed selection’s from the Selected Works of Mao Zedong. By May of 1964 with a further directive from Lin Biao the general publication department of the Liberation Army, edited and published the Red Book accompanied by the publication of the selected reader of the workers of Mao suggested by Lin Biao (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183). The Red Book had an inscription on its cover written in calligraphy by Lin Biao that read, “Study Chairmen Mao’s writings, follow his teachings, and act accordingly” (Kraus, 1991: 109). The fact that the inscription on the Red Book was in Lin Biao’s handwriting was significant in that it symbolized the connection between the Red Book, Lin Biao, and the Cult of Mao.
Both of these publications were published in large quantities and distributed among the armed forces. There now was a fervor for the studying of works by Mao in military ranks, illiterate soldiers were able to recite long passages from memory and military troops studied the Red Book during their breaks.With such a backdrop Lin Biao recognized that the time was right for increasing his position within the party. The cultivation of the Cult of Mao had support from Mao Zedong and when he started the Cultural Revolution in August of 1966 Mao saw that Lin Biao’s thought education in the military could be applied to the whole nation (Rodzinski, 1988:96). The period before the Cultural Revolution provides some very important insights into the development of the Red Book and of Lin Biao’s connection to the Red Book.
In the period before August of 1966 the Red Book was not read by those outside of the military. A graphical analysis of pictures before 1967 shows that the Red Book was not a widely used method of propaganda as it did not appear in many pictures and the pictures it did appear in were of soldiers in the PLA.Although studying Maoist thought was important during the period prior to the Cultural Revolution in society as a whole it was not very important. There are several reasons: First, there was no reason to Cultivate the Cult of Mao Zedong Thought during this time, Mao prior to 1966 was not trying to lead any mass movements in which he would need popular support. The Great Leap Forward and the anti-rightist campaign’s came during times in which Mao was powerful within the party so he did not need wide spread support outside of the central command. Second, Mao prior to the Cultural Revolution was more interested in promoting communist economics then ideology.
Mao promoted The Great Leap Forward which was not a ideological campaign but instead an economic campaign to promote industrialization (Rodzinski, 1988:74). And in the period from 1961 to 1965 Mao was chiefly concerned with getting the economy back on track following the disastrous Great Leap Forward. But by 1966 the economy of China was back on track and Mao had once more gained back the support of the central leaders of the communist party.The Cultural Revolution launched in 1966 lasted depending on the author until 1971 or 1976 and was initiated by Mao Zedong to renew the spirit of the Chinese Revolution.
Fearing that China would develop along the lines of the Soviet model and concerned about his own place in history, Mao threw China into turmoil in a monumental effort to reverse what Mao saw as a rightist movement within China. During the 1960’s tensions with Russia increased and Mao became convinced that the Russian Revolution had stalled and become rightist, Mao feared that China was following the same path (Yan and Gao, 1996: 7). Mao theorized that to keep China from becoming social stratified and elitist the process of continuos revolution had to be initiated by the government. To Mao the Cultural Revolution that he initiated had four goals: to replace party members with leaders more faithful to his thinking; to reenergize the Chinese Communist party and Purge the rightists; to provide China’s youth with a revolutionary experience; and to change society such that specific systems such as education, healthcare, and cultural systems such as opera and music became less elitist (Mitchell and Kua, 1975: 465). Mao launched the Cultural Revolution at the Eleventh Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee in August 1966.
In the following weeks Mao shut down the schools in order to allow young people to take part in the revolution (Mitchell and Kua, 1975: xii). Mao also established a national mobilization of the countries youth. They were organized into Red Guard groups and encouraged to attack all tradition values, symbols, and leaders who were rightist or bourgeois. Mao believed that the attacks would both provide the youth with a revolutionary experience thus continuing the cycle of continuos revolution and they would strengthen the party by removing the rightist elements. Mao also saw the Cultural Revolution as a way to strengthen his own political base because the Red Guards acted to remove all who opposed Mao Zedong. The movement quickly escalated; intellectuals party officials, teachers, and the elderly were both physically attacked and verbally abused made to wear dunce caps in the streets and to denounce themselves.Temples, restaurants, and all signs of old values were ransacked by the Red Guard youths.
The Cultural revolution put middle school and high school students in charge of the nation and like a version of Lord of the Flies the nation fell into anarchy and paralysis The Cultural Revolution also lead to changes within the structure of the communist party. Before the Cultural Revolution Liu Shaoqi was Mao Zedong’s designated successor, but during the early stages of the Cultural Revolution Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping and many others who Mao deemed as being rightists were removed from the party. In their place Mao installed those who had been most loyal to him in the past; one of those men was Li …