Rebellions and Revolutions: China from the 1800s to the 1980s

By Jack Gray | Go to book overview

16
THE GREAT PROLETARIAN CULTURAL REVOLUTION, I

The Socialist Education Movement, 1963-1965

Between 1962 and 1965 Chinese politics appeared to be stable. The Great Leap had been ended and the damage repaired. The rate of economic growth had increased satisfactorily. Progress in agriculture under the new policies was especially gratifying, so that even though these new policies had begun simply as an improvised response to the threat of hunger, their success disposed some of China's leaders to accept them for the future. The oblique reassertion of left-wing views at the tenth plenum of the Eighth Central Committee in September 1962 passed virtually unremarked in the West. Yet, behind the façade of national unity that China presented to a hostile world the issues of the Great Leap period were still alive. A new process of polarization had begun as the right wing sought to protect its policies and its position against renewed left-wing manœuvres.

Most of the details of this muted struggle came to light only in the revelations of the Cultural Revolution. The revelations were heavily biased against those in power, but when they are compared with the public record of the years concerned it becomes clear that the substance of the accusations was true, even if the implications which the left drew from the facts are a matter of opinion. The struggle was not, as the Red Guards and their mentors insisted, one between good and evil, socialism and capitalism, but between two equally sincere and tenable views of how to give communism a human face. These two views, implicit in the whole history of socialism, were now to work themselves out in China.

The first stage was a Socialist Education campaign in the countryside. Its aim was simple: to restore collectivization, damaged by the disasters following the Leap. However, the first experimental work done in the villages soon revealed that the malaise was far deeper than had been known. Corruption among grass-roots rural cadres was rampant. The focus of the movement was therefore switched from the restoration of collectivized agriculture to the rectification of the village leadership. In February 1963 a draft resolution of the Central Committee on 'Some Problems in Current Rural Work', written by Mao himself, was circulated, indicating that the Socialist Education Movement would concentrate on the administration of collective accounts, communal granaries, public property, and work points (the 'four clean-ups').

This resolution, the 'Early Ten Points', changed not only the aim of the

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