Conference Papers

What did the Cultural Revolution Accomplish?

by Pao-yu Ching

The Struggle from 1969 to 1976 of Mao Zedong and his Political Allies against the Attempts of the Revisionist Forces in the CCP and PLA to Reverse the Socialist New Things and the Revolutionary Internationalist Foreign Policy brought forward by the First Stage of the Cultural Revolution.

author wishes to remain unknown

This paper will address the issue of why Mao’s closest allies (the so-called “gang of four”)  were defeated by the capitalist-roaders in a military coup in October 1976 that was directed by Deng Xiaoping behind the scenes. Between late 1976 and 1978, Deng, Hua Guofeng and their allies in the leadership of the PLA restored capitalism, a result that Mao had warned about from the early days of the Cultural Revolution. This opened the door to the development of state capitalism in China, and in the last decade or more, imperialism.

On the Relationship Between the Working Class and Its Party Under Socialism

by Fred Engst

Productive Exclusivity and the Cultural Revolution

by Cole Huther

Understanding the Violence of the Cultural Revolution and the Function It Served

by Dongping Han

The Radical, Utopian Workplace: Western Economists’ Observations of Socialist China during the Cultural Revolution

by Thomas Lutze

Abstract: A number of Western economists visited China during the Cultural Revolution and wrote about their observations of the workplace; others studied first-hand reports emanating from China, and wrote about their findings on the changing relations of production.  This paper assesses the writings of John Kenneth Galbraith, Paul Sweezy, Joan Robinson, Charles Bettelheim, and E. L. Wheelwright and Bruce McFarlane about Maoist socialism during this period.  Common themes in these works included observations of a radical break in China from both Western capitalist and Soviet models of development; of a new system of incentives (moral, as opposed to material); and of increasing empowerment of the producers (workers) as part of the narrowing of the distinction between mental and manual labor.  These practices were hailed as genuinely socialist, and they embodied, as historian Maurice Meisner has suggested, a Marxian utopian vision of what humanity can achieve.

Brief bio:  Thomas Lutze is Professor of History at Illinois Wesleyan University, where he teaches courses on China, Japan, South Asia and Southeast Asia, focusing on the history of imperialism, war, and revolution. Having completed graduate studies at Cornell University, Peking University, and the University of Wisconsin (Ph.D. 1996), Tom is author of China’s Inevitable Revolution; Rethinking America’s Loss to the Communists, 1946-1949 (2007) and a major contributor to Radicalism, Revolution, and Reform in Modern China: Essays in Honor of Maurice Meisner (2011). After his first trip to China in 1973, Tom has returned more than a dozen times since, most recently in November, 2013, as an invited keynote speaker for the historical conference in Xiangtan, Hunan, marking the 120th anniversary of Mao’s birth.

Everyday Power Relations in State Firms in Socialist China: A Reexamination

by Huaiyin Li

Drawing on interviews with 97 retirees from different cities, this article reinterprets power relations in state-owned enterprises during the Mao era, centering on an analysis of day-to-day interactions between factory cadres and workers and between the elites and the ordinary among the workers.  The main issues addressed in this study include how the cadres exercised their discretion in administrative activities that directly affected workers’ material and non-material interests, such as wage raises, housing allocation, Party membership, promotions, and political awards, to what extent the workers developed personal dependence on their supervisors, and whether or not the workers were split into two antagonistic groups of activists and non-activists.  Without denying the instances of favoritism and personal dependence in cadre-worker relations under certain circumstances, which became increasingly noticeable in the early reform years, this study underscores the constraints of formal and informal institutions on the cadres and questions the validity of the clientelist model in explaining micropolitical realities on the factory floor in Chinese industry prior to the reform era.

two chapters of a book manuscript that examine the Cultural Revolution in factories

by Joel Andres

The first covers the initial period from the spring of 1966 to the fall of 1968, while the second covers the remainder of the Cultural Revolution decade, until Mao’s death in 1976.

Rejecting Class by Accepting Revisionist Understandings of Class: The Case of Shengwulian

by Abraham Zamcheck

In 1968, the ultra-left group Shengwulian stated, “contemporary China is the focus of world contradictions and the center of the storm of world revolution.” Today in defining the contours of study of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Shengwulian’s politics is at the center of a battle to reject China’s revolutionary past. The group’s effective renouncing of the dictatorship of the proletariat is aligned to many scholars today who profess belief in a supposed “alternative modernity” but one which effectively upholds capitalist relations. In this paper I will focus on the relationship of Shengwulian’s politics to scholarship on the GPCR. The role of progressive academics from the 1960s to the present reflected a shift away from engagement with the communist project towards a yielding of turf to departmental politics and the bourgeois ideological apparatus.  In the 1960s, many academics were either sympathetic to the Chinese Revolution, or they took the political trajectory of the movement and its premises seriously, even if they disagreed. They saw that the revolutionary struggles of the GPCR were not simply “discursive” or “performative” practices. This was not accidental. Their focus was result of a strong contingent of leftists in academia. These people were often directly involved in the national liberation struggle of the Vietnamese people against US imperialism. Even those who were unabashedly “part of the establishment” had to take the political contours of the Sino-Soviet split seriously, following the interests of the US state. Others had direct ties with revolutionaries in China dating to the anti-Japanese period, or to the Chinese civil war. This proximity forced those more conservative scholars, (i.e. Bernard Cohen/John Fairbanks) to be rigorous in their analysis and to grapple with actual lines on the ground.  Post 1976, academics have largely abandoned rigorous investigation of the contours of the Chinese Revolution. They have largely disregarded the politics of the GPCR and the revolutionary politics that have continued in the world since (i.e. India, Turkey, Peru, Nepal as the most prominent examples). A few today uphold the aims of the GPCR, but state that it could not have succeeded. Many support the rightist academic trend that questions 1976 or 1978 as “dividing lines.” This is related to the supposed innovative academic “blurring” of 1949 as a dividing line, i.e. CCP/KMT are said to represent efforts at “state-building as such.” There is a cross-over between the right wing of academia/official CCP narrative/Chinese mainstream academics’ narrative of the “ten lost years” / “ten years of horror” and so-called progressives who view the GPCR as a failure, but a failure that possibly contains some kernels of truth, i.e. the “salvage project” approach.  In support of this framework, an ultra-left line has been used to negate the principle of the need for a DoP and for a revolutionary organization to support this development. Many in this camp claim to retain revolutionary credentials in the process by highlighting support for Shengwulian, a group the Maoist center during the GPCR opposed. The implication of Shengwulian’s argument that the party in 1967 constituted a red bureaucratic class—rather than constituting an organization whose leadership could be seized in favor of such an emerging formation—is intimately connected to the rejection of the necessary dialectic between revolutionary organizations and mass political participation. Those who reject this necessity often advocate for “horizontalist” approaches today. The paper and presentation will highlight the inter-relation between these political and academic approaches, and point to areas for further research and exchange.

The Cultural Revolution and Its Reversal: Implications for Population Health

by Richard David

The attempts during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 to extend social equality to levels never previously achieved in any society, and the subsequent reversal of political direction in China leading to extremes of inequality, are among the 20th century’s most important events. Viewed from a health perspective, they have had – and continue to have – profound effects on population health, both in China and in other countries. It is acknowledged by Western experts that the period 1949 to 1976, characterized by socialist policies and mass mobilizations in China, saw the most dramatic increases in life expectancy ever recorded in any large population. A significant component of this increase was the remarkable reduction in infant mortality, which was closely associated with expanded rural education. In the decades since the mid-1970s Chinese health statistics have continued to improve, but at a slower rate. The slowed trajectory of improvement has occurred despite huge expenditures that have increased access to advanced techniques for much (but not all) of the country’s population. These overall trends in health improvement, during the socialist period and the subsequent “reform and opening up” period, will be discussed in light of recent research on income inequality in developed countries and the impact of social stress on chronic diseases.

The Altered Historic Memory:  The Case of Ding Ling’s Experience During the Cultural Revolution

author wishes to remain unknown