Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’s 50th anniversary and its Current Relevance

By Ajay Roy

[This article was originally published in the Bengali alternative media
Mongoldhoni and presents a certain appraisal of the Cultural Revolution.]

May 16, 2016 marked 50 years since the start of Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

After the negative experiences of capitalist restoration in USSR in 1956 (after Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953, revisionist Khrushchev clique rose to power in the Soviet Union) and the initial negative experiences in China, Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was launched under the leadership of Mao Zedong. Millions and millions of people were mobilized and engaged in a struggle against the forces within the Chinese Communist Party that favored the restoration of capitalism.

The masses were given the ‘right to rebel’ against the specially privileged bureaucracy within the party and within the state. ‘Bombard the headquarters’ became one of the main slogans. Cultural Revolution means communist party should be closely interlinked with the masses. This is the mass line as formulated by Mao Zedong.

In fact, New Democratic Revolution in China was a national, popular, democratic, anti-feudal and anti-imperialist revolution, led by the proletariat.

Serious debate was also carried out during 1956 in the Chinese Communist Party. Revisionists like Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping wanted to consolidate capitalism. But, Mao Zedong and his supporters opposed it and tried to go forward towards socialism. After the Great Leap Forward, Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was launched. Cultural Revolution prevented the capitalist restoration in China for a decade and consolidated dictatorship of the proletariat. The idea of putting politics in command was followed.

Instead of following the Soviet model which prioritized one-sidedly the development of the productive forces – the Cultural Revolution stressed on the importance of open-ended interrelations among and between the forces of production, the relations of production, and the superstructure. People’s democracy was also greatly expanded. Steps were taken to reduce differences arising from the division of labour between town and village, manual and mental labour, and management and employees. The participation of workers in management and party cadre in productive labor was encouraged. Mass supervision was also introduced during the Cultural Revolution.

Cultural Revolution tried to eradicate bourgeois ideology and foster proletarian ideology. It took the initiative to thoroughly dig out the ideological roots of revisionism and firmly implant MLM ideology. In the course of the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong’s ideology emerged as the third stage of Marxism-Leninism. Proletarian Cultural Revolution took measures to clean up all the rubbish left over by the old society.

It aimed at breaking old ideas, customs and habits of the exploiting classes, fostering new ideas, culture, customs and habits of the proletariat. In fact, this revolution promoted the revolutionization of people’s minds.

Socialist construction was strengthened. Agriculture and industries witnessed tremendous developments. Significant progress was also made in the field of science and technology. It was an era when much infrastructure was built. Health care and education were greatly expanded. Cultural Revolution also helped in strengthening the struggle against revisionism in various communist parties around the globe. But the revisionist, reactionary and imperialist forces are still conducting disinformation campaigns to distort and destroy the real history of Cultural Revolution.

During the Cultural Revolution, certain new institutions like Red Guards (people’s militia) and people’s committees were also created in order to expand people’s democracy. However, several different problems had arisen. According to a section of communists, much more preparation was needed for that revolution. It was necessary to build the institutions appropriately. Too much dependence on the youth also led to more complications. Moreover, there were tendencies towards ultra-leftism and personality cult among some sections. As a result, it was blown out of proportion in some cases. Rightist revisionists who were under attack, took advantage to sabotage and organized fake Red Guards to confuse the people. But during the period of Mao Zedong the Proletarian Cultural Revolution was not always directly implemented. Mao Zedong was almost bedridden, and immediately after his death in 1976 counter-revolutionary coup d’état was carried out under the leadership of revisionists like Teng-Hua. Capitalism was restored in China through the so-called ‘reform’ process. But it doesn’t negate the historic lessons of the Cultural Revolution rather it reinforces Mao Zedong’s teachings that classes and class contradiction exist in the entire socialist society.

So it’s necessary to continue the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat through Cultural Revolution. Many Cultural Revolutions will be needed on the path to communism by establishing and developing socialism in
the long-term.

At present, capitalism with Chinese characteristics is established in China in the name of so-called ‘socialist market economy’. The most negative environmental and socio-economic features of capitalism are now manifested in the country. Poverty and inequality have reached shocking levels. According to a new report of Peking University, one-third ofChina’s wealth is owned by the richest 1 percent of households, while the poorest 25 percent account for only 1 percent of wealth.

Unemployment and insecurity increased. Education and health care services have deteriorated. The rate of workers’ wages is also very low. Both thedomestic and foreign big capitalists are taking advantage of this situation to make arbitrarily large profits. But it is noteworthy that working people, especially leftists are now using Cultural Revolution methods in their struggle against the new capitalist rulers of China.

It is necessary to draw lessons from both positive and negative experiences of Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and try to practice them within the revolutionary parties and within the mass organizations. For example, democratic centralism along with mass line should be properly applied to cope with bureaucratic centralism. The policy of one divides into two also applies to communist party. There is always a conflict between proletarian and non-proletarian tendencies within every communist party. So two-line struggle should be appropriately conducted with the aim of unity-struggle-transformation.

Imperialist aggression is currently underway in different parts of the world. Neoliberal globalization is paving the way for brutal exploitation and plundering of the world’s natural resources and labour power resulting in social instability and environmental destruction.

Poverty and inequality have also reached high levels. According to figures from Oxfam, the richest 1% now have more wealth than the rest of the world’s population combined. Meanwhile, US imperialism and its allies are conducting war and genocide in various countries. Reactionary forces are also fueling divisions among the toiling masses.

Capitalism is in long-term crisis. The principal contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed nations and peoples is intensified.Consequently, the contradictions between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie as well as the contradictions among the imperialist countries have also been increased. In the meantime, the golden jubilee of Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is being celebrated in different parts of the world.

The toiling masses are struggling against imperialism, feudalism and capitalism. Their radical section is drawing lessons from Cultural Revolution and trying to use these experiences in a creative way in the light of the specific conditions in their own countries while opposing both revisionist and doctrinaire deviations. They are fighting in order to advance the world proletarian revolution. This proves the contemporary relevance of Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Source: sanhati