Criticizing Hai Rui
Dismissed from Office
ON NOVEMBER 10, 1965, Shanghai's Wenhui bao prominently ran an article by Yao Wenyuan entitled "Criticizing the New Historical Drama Hai Rui Dismissed from Office" (Hai Rui baguan). 1 Toward the end of the article, Yao wrote,
What is the real intent of this big-character poster about a play called Hai Rui Dismissed? What effect does it have on us Chinese of this socialist age? To answer this question, we must look into the background of this piece of work. We all know that, in 1961, after economic difficulties caused by three years of natural disasters and amidst the high tide of repeated anti-Chinese agitation perpetrated by imperialists, various reactionaries and modern revisionists, "cow demons and snake spirits" (niugui sheshen)2 had whipped up "going-it-alone" and "reversal-of-verdicts" movements. They sang the praises of the so-called superiority of "going it alone," asking for the return to economic individualism, demanding the return of lands (tuitian). In all, they want to tear down the people's communes and resurrect the evil rule by landlords and rich peasants.... That is why they shout such slogans as "Redress unjust imprisonment," in hopes that those representatives of their interests would come out to represent them in the fight against the dictatorship of the proletariat, to take up their grievances and "reverse verdicts" so that they may return to positions of power. "Return the fields" and "redress injustice" are the main points in the struggle of the capitalist class against the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialist revolution.... Hai Rui Dismissed is not a fragrant flower (xianghua), but a poisonous weed (ducao). Even though it was published and staged only a few years ago, the literature in praise of it has continuously appeared as well as many other similar writings. Its influence is great and its poison widespread. If we do not clean it up, it will be harmful to affairs of the people.
But because the Wenhui bao's principal readers consisted mainly of those from cultural circles and because of publishing restrictions, the article had little influence.