Mao's Last Revolution

By Roderick Macfarquhar; Michael Schoenhals | Go to book overview
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2
The Siege of Beijing

In mid-March 1966, Mao began his final assault on the party organization in the capital. At an expanded PSC meeting in Hangzhou, Peng Zhen heard the Chairman describe Wu Han and another distinguished Marxist intellectual as anti-party and no better than members of Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Party. He criticized the People's Daily as semi-Marxist and warned the Central Propaganda Department not to suppress young revolutionary intellectuals— among whom he evidently included Guan Feng and Qi Benyu—hinting that it might be dissolved like the Rural Work Department in 1962. When Mao lashed out at the editor-in-chief of the People's Daily by describing his paper as no more than 30 percent Marxist, one member of his audience later claimed to have sensed that Mao was unhappy with far more than simply one or two highly placed propaganda officials.1 Mao also attacked Peng Zhen for running an "independent kingdom" because a certain Shanghai opera could not be staged in Beijing; in fact, arrangements for its staging were already in hand, but Peng said nothing because, he later explained to Zhou Enlai, he did not want to contradict the Chairman to his face.2

On March 31, Peng Zhen got worse news. Kang Sheng informed him and Zhou Enlai that Mao had told him (Kang), Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, and others in three conversations between March 28 and 30 that Peng Zhen, the Propaganda Department, and the Beijing Party Committee had shielded bad people while suppressing leftists. If this continued, these organizations should all be dissolved. Peng defended himself by insisting that he had not "shielded" Wu Han but only wanted to allow a hundred flowers to bloom, a Maoist policy that the February Outline had mentioned but the Forum Summary had not. Peng finally began to retreat, offering to revise the February Outline. Zhou Enlai, seeing the way the wind was blowing, telephoned the Chairman to express his "total agreement" with his instructions and began preparations for a meeting of the Central Committee Secretariat to criticize Peng.3

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