China's Cultural Revolution, 1966-1969: Not a Dinner Party

By Michael Schoenhals | Go to book overview

F. The Economy

With a determination similar to that of the Western political scientist who insists that capitalism and "better times" invariably pave the way for democracy, so Mao Zedong had declared on the eve of the Great Leap Forward that skillful manipulation of the political levers of communism would create, without fail, an economy double-digiting toward relative comfort for all (xiao kang). In the Cultural Revolution he was quoted as saying: "Magnificent ideological and political flowers will inevitably bear bountiful economic fruit--such development is entirely in accordance with the laws."1 The trick, according to the Chairman, was not to "grasp" (zhua) the economy directly, but to "promote" (cu) it through the intermediary of a radical revolution of the superstructure.

Once that revolution got under way, the substance of Mao's mediated development of the economy found its expression in unusual ways. When Red Guards first confiscated from "bourgeois" households in Beijing and Shanghai--and handed over to the state--more than five million U.S. dollars, this was described by Kang Sheng as a major event in the "class struggle in the economic realm."2 Document 49 hints at what happened to the money and how, involuntarily, the "class enemy" ended up strengthening the hard currency reserves of the PRC.

The new Revolutionary Committees came down hard on all forms of market-related economic activities (Document 50). There was to be no competition, and the forces of "capitalist restoration" were to be quelled by force, once and for all. Then--so the theory had it--increasingly rapid economic development would follow with law-bound

____________________
1
See below, Document 52. The remark originally appeared in a People's Daily editorial entitled "To Oppose Waste and Conservatism Is the Central Task of the Rectification Movement at Present," published on 18 February 1958.
2
Kang Sheng tongzhi zai Urumqi jiejian Xinjiang daxue geming shisheng shi dejianghua ( Comrade Kang Sheng's Speech at a Meeting in Urumqi with Teachers and Students from Xinjiang University) ( 15 November 1966), in Joint Editorial Group, ed., Shouzhang jianghua xuanbian (Selected Speeches by the Leadership) (N.p., 1967), p. 36.

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