Propagand 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 aCult 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 inMaoist 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 workat 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 SelectedWorks 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 distributedamong 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 veryimportant.
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 musicbecame 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 theywould 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 RevolutionLiu 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 Lin Biao (Dutt and Dutt, 1970: 80).
Mao rightly saw that the best way to provide both direction for the Red Guards and to make himself immune from their attacks upon party official would be to foster a personality Cult. Thus under the guidance of Lin Biao who after Liu Shaoqi was removed; become the successor to Mao Lin Biao helped foster a personality Cult for Mao. Lin Biao used the same types of techniques that he used in the army to help foster this Cult of Mao. Lin Biao used the same organization to disseminate propaganda that he had devised for the Army. Lin Biao continued to head the army till his death in 1971 but his role wasexpanded as he became the high priest of the Cult of Mao (Yan and Gao, 1996: 334).
The reading of the Red Book was encouraged by both Mao, party directives written by Lin Biao, Chen Boda, and Kang Sheng who during the Cultural Revolution became Mao’s closest advisors. All three of these advisors worked tirelessly to promote the Cult of Mao because they saw it as their way to curry favor with Mao Zedong and their efforts met with whole hearted approval. Mao in an interview near the end of the Cultural Revolution commented that Krushchev could have avoided loosing his power if he had created an appropriate Cult for himself (Yan and Gao, 1996: 313). Mao relied on the power of propaganda to enlarge his Cult during the Cultural Revolution. The Red Book became his most powerful weapon. Quotations from the Red Book replaced the usual front page section entitled today’s important news in the People’s Daily.
Various other newspapers and journals increased their coverage of Mao Zedong printing his speeches, pictures, and quotes. Some even retold stories of his days fighting the Japanese and the KMT (Yan and Gao, 1996: 215). The major newspapers in June of 1966 started writing editorials and stories encouraging the public to study the thought of Chairman Mao by reading . On June 6 both the Liberation Army Daily and the People’s Daily simultaneously published a front page article calling on the Chinese people to study Mao Zedong Thought and reading Selected Works of Mao Zedong.
The headline read, “Raise high the Great Red Flag of Mao Zedong, Carry to the end the great proletariat revolution. ” (Yan and Gao, 1996: 215) It was no coincidence that the Liberation Army Daily and the People’s Daily both carried the same story about increasing Mao Zedong thought study. It symbolized the rise in power of Lin Biao who with the start of the Cultural Revolution and the expulsion of Liu Shaoqi had increased his power within the communist party. Lin Biao’s ideas of education and indoctrination into Maoist thought had with the publishing of the story in the People’s Daily in June of 1966 moved from the army to all of China. From this point on until he lost favor with Mao in 1970 Lin Biao became the cheerleader of the Cult of Mao directing the national frenzy that enveloped China with its adoration of Mao Zedong (Dutt and Dutt, 1970: 80). Under the leadership of Lin Biao the leading newspapers in China printed stories urging readers to read the works of Mao.
As of yet the only books available to the public was the four volume long Selected Works of Mao Zedong; the Red Book had not yet become available to the pubic. In the fall of 1966 the People’s Daily published such headlines as, ‘Mao Zedong thought is the red sun within our bosom,” and stories in newspapers were filled with such lines as, “Chairman Mao’s books are not gold, but are more precious then gold; not steel, but stronger then steel. ” (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183) Picturesfrom this time depicted happy Chinese citizens reading pamphlets by Mao such as the, “Man Who Moved The Mountain. ” But as of yet the number of pictures in 1966 that pictured Red Books was limited and only included members of the armed forces.
But the stories in the newspapers and other propaganda put out by the government such as radio broadcasts stirred up a great fever in support of Mao and the study of Mao Zedong Thought. On August 12 following the Eleventh Plenum of the Eighth party congress copies of The Selected Works of Mao Zedong were distributed at major universities before they wereshut down to prepare for the Cultural Revolution. During the rest of 1966 newspapers reported daily on the sale on The Selected Works of Mao Zedong. The government lowered the price of the set of books to two yuan so that every person could posses a copy of the Selected Works. Sales were brisk then starting in January of 1967 Lin Biao made Quotations From Chairman Mao available to the public.
Everyone immediately wanted to buy it. Group study sessions of the bookbecame common. At many Red Guard rallies during the next several years Red Guard troops set whole pages of the book to song (Yan and Gao, 1996: 248). Lin Biao ordered the presses of China to print millions of copies of the Red Book and distribute them to the public. The Chinese media encouraged the reading of the Red Book by printing stories extolling the virtues of those who committed the book to memory.
(Yan and Gao, 1996: 249) Granny Liu spent days and nights studying the works of Chairman Mao. When she forgot, she called other to teach her. Granddaughter Yuhzen slept with her and would thus be awakenedten times a night. Even though the granddaughter could not sleep well, Granny Liu would say endearingly to her, “Yuhzen, one more word you can teach granny is one more measure of loyalty to Chairman Mao and one more bullet for Liu Shaoqi.
“. . . .
Granny Liu also eagerly disseminated Mao Zedong Thought. For more than sixty years she, had not known how to sing. Now, learning from her daughter and granddaughter, she sang every where. .
. . Proudly Granny Liu said, “This old women can’t really handle a tune. But what I sing is my feeling for Chairman Mao. When I disseminate Mao Zedong Thought, the more I sing the younger I get.
“Thus from January of 1967 to Lin Biao’s death and the end of the Cultural Revolution everyone in China it seemed wanted to be a Granny Liu; a person who worked for the greater glory of Mao Zedong and China. The Red Book provided the Chinese people both with a basic although cryptic introduction to Maoist thought and it also provided them with a connection to their leader. Lin Biao was able to successfully indoctrinate the entire nation not just in an idolization of Mao but also in a frenzied studying of his quotes. The period from 1966 to 1971 is marked by Chinese publications filled with pictures of Chinese citizens studying theRed Books on communes, in fields, in classrooms, at rallies, and at ad-hoc study groups that met from along the Pearl River in the south of China to the plains of Tibet. The number of pictures in China Reconstructs of people holding Mao books increased from just a trickle prior to 1967 to almost fifty percent of all at the Height of the Cultural Revolution.
Along with this upward trend in the number of Mao books was an increasing number of flattering articles about Lin Biao. One article in 1968 called him both a valiant fighter for the revolution and a loyal follower of Mao. The irony of this quote was probably missed by most readers at the time but looking back it was Lin Biao who created the Cult of Mao to further his own goals within the communist party and not Lin Biao’s goals of helping Mao. The percentage of pictures of the Red Book and articles about Lin Biao during this time reflected not just the frenzy over the Cult of Mao in China but also the power of Lin Biao it was through his work that the Red Book became a talisman for the Chinese people. Chinese citizens read the Red Book because of the appeal and aura that surrounded it.
The Red Book connected individual Chinese citizens with their leader. It enabled the average citizen who would never meet Mao in their lifetime to possess a piece of him and his words. During the Cultural Revolution Mao became a god in the eyes of the Chinese people no criticism of him could be tolerated, nor the slightest deviation from his instruction permitted. Every word he uttered was taken as truth he became in effect a living Buddha, and like Buddha his writings became like sutra’s. His quotes like passages from the sutra’s were memorized, chanted, set to song, and reproduced on billboards and on the beams of houses.
(Rodzinski, 1988:121) The Red Book became during the Cultural Revolution a holy sutra carried by every citizen everywhere and studied endlessly. Some would say that the Red Book became the bible of the Cultural Revolution but this theory has several flaws. First, if this is true then the Mao would be the Jesus Christ of his time, but Mao unlike Jesus reached unquestioned power during his lifetime and unlike Jesus had no one above him; Mao was god not the son of god in China. Second, the Red Book is not parallel to the bible in its symbolism. The bible is not committed to memory by most Christians unlike the sutras whichBuddhists learn long passages from. Mao followed in the footsteps of the Buddhist framework of religious organization.
Under the Cultural Revolution Buddhism and Confucianism were wiped out, Red Guards destroyed Buddhist temples and tortured monks; but in this religious vacuum Mao placed himself as Buddha and his writings as Sutra’s. The Red Book during the Cultural Revolution provided a semblance of structure and unity in the chaos of the time. Even though rival Red Guard factions frequently clashed and the nation was thrown into turmoil the Red Book acted as a bond between the Chinese; they were all followers of Mao even as their nation dissolved into anarchy. The Red Book provided a framework in which for people to criticize others and also a bond between citizens, the party, Red Guards, and Mao. The study of the Red Book also provided a de-facto type of education while the schools were shut down.
People learned to readin study groups while learning the Red Book’s quotes. In these ways the Red Book was valuable in that it created a type oforder out of the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. One of the fascinating things about the Red Book was that nearly ever Chinese citizen possessed one but only a few of them could read it. This was one of the things that made the Red Book so popular was that it created with the idea that the Chinese populace was educated while many remained illiterate. This was one of the reason study groups were formed; so that a reader could read the Red Book to a group of illiterate peasants who would then memorize long passages so that they could feign literacy.
In many places all other books but those by Chairman Mao were banned. Reading in Chinese society was heldin high esteem even under communism and the idea of each citizen being a scholar was an appealing idea to both the peasants and served the purposes of Lin Biao who saw that the more widely the Cult of Mao and Mao Zedong Thought was spread the more his power would increase. But by 1970 the end of the Cultural Revolution had begun. Many within the party believed the Cultural Revolution had gone to far, destroyed to much, and were scared that they would become the next party member to be openly criticized by Red Guards. Lin Biao’s success in promoting the teachings of Mao made him the successor to Mao starting in August of 1966 but his role was formalized in at the Ninth Party Congress convened in April of 1969 (Ming-Le, 1983: 49). After this Lin Biao tightened the grip of the military on Chinese Society.
Lin Biao maneuvered to take advantage of the Sino-Soviet Border clashes in the spring of 1969 to declare martial law. Lin Biao quickly encountered opposition to his growing power. Mao himself became concerned about what he saw as a successor to eager to assume power, and starting in the fall of 1970 Mao maneuvered to limit the power of Lin Biao (Ming-Le, 1983: 47-52). In August of 1970 a national conference was held called the Second Plenum which was a conference of people chosen at the 1969 national conference to decide national policy. The Second Plenum was held in Lushan and chaired by Mao Zedong.
At this conference Lin Biao maneuvered to make himself president of the republic. His clique of followers which included Chen Boda circulated such statements as, “Lin Biao is an uncommon genius he is one of the great teachers like Marx,and Lenin and Mao” (Ming-Le, 1983: 50) Lin Biao saw that holding the office of the presidency which became vacant after the death Liu Shaoqi in 1969 was a tool by which he could assume control over China and fulfill his lifetime ambition. On August 25, 1970 Mao convened the conference and upon hearing of Lin Biao’s plan destroyed it in a matter of two days. Mao did this in three ways. First, he sentenced Chen Boda to self-examination, this was a clear warning to Lin Biao to stop his grab for power.
Second, Mao threatened the members of the conference by saying that he would leave if they brought up the issueof the presidency. Third, Mao wrote in a public letter called, “Some Views of Mine,” a criticism of those who claim but do not really understand Marxism. This letter was clearly speaking about Lin Biao although it did not say so directly. The conference at Lushan was a turning point for Lin Biao is symbolized his fall from the graces of Mao because of what Mao perceived as his impatience to become president.
Mao was able to effectively eliminate Lin Biao as a threat by joining forces with Zhou Enlai and by isolating Lin Biao’s assistant Chen Boda. (Yan and Gao, 1996: 309) By January of 1971 Lin Biao was no longer in Mao’s clique of advisors and Mao further distanced himself from Lin Biao and his work at creating a cult of Mao by saying in December of 1970 that he felt the cult created around him had grown to large (Yan and Gao, 1996: 313), what happened between then and Lin Biao’s death in September of the year is the object of much speculation. The official Chinese government’s story is that Lin Biao died on September 13, 1971, in an airplane crash in Mongolia as he was fleeing to the Soviet Union after having plotted unsuccessfully to overthrow Mao. According to this account during the whole of 1971 Lin Biao was organizing a coup among military officers.
This account is very much in doubt and their is much speculation that Lin Biao after falling out of favor with the party leadership was assassinated by communist party (Ming-Le, 1983:228). This has been reinforced by Mongolian reports in 1990 that say that Lin Biao a was not on the plane that crashed in 1971.