ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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1989 Student Movement in China

Arup Kumar Sen IN his his article, 'Legacy of Deng Xiaoping' (EPW, March 29-April 4), Nirmal Kumar Chandra offers his assessment of significant ovents in post-Mao China. He has rightly pointed out that the Cultural Revolution (CR) initiated by Mao ''was declared a fiasco" in the discourse of Deng Xiaoping, Deng himself was a victim of the CR. The spectre of the CR haunted the Deng Regime: "There are numerous tifa regulations by which those who write about the CR must abide in order to make it past the party censors, and official history in particular is very much a matter of building a narrative out of a strictly defined reservoir of 'correct tifa', There are tifa regulations that govern even the most minute details. The very name Great Cultural Revolution, for example, is the subject of one rule laid down by the Central Propaganda Department in its 1984regulations governing the writing of words and figures, which stipulated that the 'Great Cultural Revolution' must be put in quotation marks..."1 The above observation was made in 1989. Chandra has drawn our attention to the significant fact that two positive aspects of the CR have got recognition in the political discourse sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party in 1996. But it should be noted that the CR is not treated as an organic clement of Maoism by the present leadership in China: When the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mao was celebrated in December 1994, for example, television was filled with long documentaries and semi-fictional reconstructions of his life, and photo displays and similar exhibits were mounted throughout the country. But the years of the CR, among the most dramatic and far- reaching in their impact on Chinese society, were all but ignored, being virtually skipped over, as if the decade from 1965 to 1975 or so did not really occur. This attempt to ignore the recent past, in favour of earlier more acceptable periods, certainly corresponds with much of the popular sentiment, especially among intellectuals and professionals. For the latter, the CR is widely seen as an era best forgotten, or spoken of only as one of loss and suffering.2 As early as 1957 Mao realised that "the working class must have its own army of technical cadres and of professors, teachers, scientists, journalists, writers, artists and Marxist theorists" for building socialism.3 This statement reminds us of the famous Marxist philosopher, Antonio Gramsci. who made a distinction between traditional and organic intellectuals. In the context of his discussion of the hegemony of a social class, Gramsci noted: "One of the must important characteristics of any group that is developing towards dominance is its struggle to assimilate and to conquer 'ideologically' the traditional intellectuals, but this assimilation and conquest is made quicker and more efficacious the more the group in question succeeds in simultaneously elaborating its own organic intellectuals."4 MAO AND SOCIALIST CONSTRUCTION The CR posed a challenge to the division between manual labour and intellectual labour prevailing in the Chinese factories. Prior to this revolution, "thousands of innovations" suggested by workers had been ''blocked by technicians who viewed them as inconsistent with the scientific and technical concepts they had been taught". One of the outcomes of the struggle waged in China during the CR had been the formation of three-in-one combination teams, "teams charged with technical questions and consisting of workers, technicians and cadres".5 Mao did not follow Stalin in the process of developing socialism in China. He strongly criticised Stalin in the late 1950s: "Stalin emphasised only technology, technical cadre.

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