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The Red Book and the Power Structure of Communist

ChinaPropaganda in China during the Cultural Revolution took on many forms;
there were mass Red Guard demonstrations in Tianamen Square in support of Mao
Zedong, pictures of Mao were put up in every conceivable location from
restaurants to the wallpaper in nurseries, and pamphlets and books of Mao’s
teachings were distributed to every Chinese citizen. One of these propaganda
publications Quotations from Chairman Mao which later became known as the Little
Red Book contained quotes from Mao Zedong and was distributed to every Chinese
citizen. The history of the Red Book provides one of the best ways in which to
analyze Chinese propaganda during the Cultural Revolution and see the ways in
which the Chinese government was able to produce and effectively indoctrinate
the Chinese people with Mao Zedong Thought. Official Chinese magazines from the
period of 1967 to 1970 are filled with many pictures of citizens holding,
reading, and memorizing the Red Book. This proposal will trace the rise and fall
of images of the Red Book in the official Chinese publication China
Reconstructs. This proposal will use a graphical analysis of pictures in this
publication from 1966 to 1973 to show that propaganda was not just a tool of the
Communist party but also a reflection of internal power struggles within the
party during the Cultural Revolution.

The Red Book was written several years before it became the object of
national adoration and a tool for the Cultivation of Mao’s personality Cult. The
history of the Red Book and its meteoric rise from a hand book for military
recruits to compulsory reading for all Chinese citizens, is closely tied to its
developer Lin Biao’s rise to power. Lin Biao was born in 1907 and was fourteen
years younger then Mao; he joined the communist party in 1925 and until the
communists captured control of China was at various times in charge of
resistance forces, and armies of communist soldiers. When the communists took
control in 1949 Lin Biao was behind Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Chen Yun,
and Deng Xiaoping in rank (Yan and Gao, 1996: 179). But eighteen years later
during the height of the Cultural Revolution Lin Biao by winning favor with Mao
by publishing and championing the Red Book and the Cult of Mao became second
only to the Chairman in power and position (Ming-Le, 1983: 80).

In 1959 Peng Dehua was dismissed as minister of defense and Lin Biao was
appointed in his place. At an armed forces meeting for high cadres during
September of that year Lin Biao, energetically started promoting the Cult of Mao
saying, “Learning the writings of comrade Mao Zedong is the shortcut to learning
Marxism-Leninism. Chairman Mao’s writings are easy to learn and can be put to
use immediately. Diligent work will pay dividends many fold.” (Yan and Gao,
1996: 182) His references to “shortcut” and “quick dividends” in his speech went
unnoticed at the time as few foresaw the effects of creating a Cult around Mao.

But looking back on the Cultural Revolution and Lin Biao, we can see his using
the Cult of Mao was indeed a shortcut that produced huge dividends both for
himself and for Mao.

Mao to the Chinese people was a symbol sovereignty and the construction
of socialism; to them praise for Mao was fitting with his symbolic role in
society. Starting in 1959 Lin Biao in front of military audiences in order to
help buildup support for the Cult of Mao used such phrases as, “the dire
necessity of acquiring Mao Zedong’s thought,” “to study the writings of Mao
Zedong with questions in mind is to shoot arrows with target in sight,” “we must
arm our minds with Mao Zedong’s thought” (Yan an Gao, 1996: 181). Lin Biao’s
goal of building up both himself and the Cult of Mao lead him in September of
1960 to pass a resolution at the meeting of the Military Commission, which
called for more political education among the armed forces (Yan and Gao, 1996:
181)
Mao Zedong Thought is the compass for the Chinese people’s revolution
and socialist construction, the powerful ideological weapon against imperialism,
and the powerful ideological weapon against revisionism and dogmatism….. raise
high the red banner of Mao Zedong Thought, go further and mobilize the minds of
all officers and soldiers with Mao Zedong Thought, and resolve to make sure that
Mao Zedong Thought, and resolve to make sure that Mao Zedong Thought is in
command in all phases of work… Really learn by heart the Mao Zedong Thought!
Read Chairman Mao’s books, listen to Chairman Mao’s words, follow Chairman Mao’s
directives, and serve as Chairman Mao’s good soldiers!
Shortly after the passage of the resolution by Lin Biao, the fourth
volume of the selected works of Mao Zedong was published. On the occasion of it
being sold to the public Lin Biao wrote an article calling upon all people in
the military to read and study the works of Chairman Mao and dedicate to memory
Mao Zedong Thought (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183).

On April 1964 Lin Biao direct the military presses to publish a
selection of quotes from Mao in a Little Red Book. The book titled Quotations
From Chairman Mao was aimed at providing military recruits a shortened version
of Maoist thought (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183). Military recruits before the
publication of the Red Book were encouraged to study the Selected Works of Mao
Zedong. But this set of books had grown so large (it’s four volumes contained
over fifteen hundred pages) many of the military’s recruits who were from
peasant backgrounds were unable to read its complicated articles. The Little Red
Book in contrast with its hand picked quotes and introduction by Lin Biao was
short with easy to read quotes. Before the publishing of the Red Book the study
of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong greatly increased in the military this was
in large part due to the encouragement and directives issued by Lin Biao. In
1961 Lin Biao while inspecting a contingent of troops said that the works of
Chairman Mao Zed ong, were a guide to those in the military, “Every lesson in
political education must use the works of Chairman Mao Zedong as an ideological
guide.” (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183) Lin Biao also directed the military press to
publish sections from the Red Book in the Liberation Army Daily the official
publication of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army). The Red Book provided many of
the military recruits who were mostly uneducated peasants with a grounding in
Maoist thought. The quotes selected in the Red Book such as, ” Carry on the
workers struggle, down with rightist revisionism” were sufficient vague as to
allow recruits to draw from the Red Book what they wanted to. Lin Biao’s efforts
to promote the study of Maoist thought were done to win favor with Mao and
increase his position in the party (Tsou, 1986: 49).

Lin Biao’s cultivation of the Cult of Mao Zedong soon earned him Mao’s
notice. During a meeting in 1961 Mao applauded Lin Biao’s work in the armed
forces saying, “Recently comrade Lin Biao inspected the forces as far down as
the company level and showed understanding of a good many things, including the
problems of construction among our forces, and he made very good suggestions
about various tasks of construction.” (Yan and Gao, 1996: 182) Lin Biao feeling
that his work at publicizing Mao’s teachings was paying off redoubled his
efforts at promoting Mao Zedong Thought. He insisted that quotes from Mao Zedong
could be used to accomplish tasks within the military and made the Red Book
required reading for all in the military (Tsou, 1986:50).

In January of 1962 the Part Central held an enlarged work session called
a seven thousand person meeting. This meeting was aimed at rectifying the
mistakes of The Great Leap Forward, and to promote the economy. A large majority
at the meeting criticized Mao Zedong; but Lin Biao who believed that his future
was inextricably linked to that of Mao gave one of the lone speeches in support
of Mao (Yan and Gao, 1996: 182). Lin Biao said at the conference that the reason
The Great Leap Forward had not a success was because the dictates of Chairman
Mao had not been followed closely enough. After the economy started to improve
in 1963 and Mao gained back wide support Mao looked back and remembered that Lin
Biao was one of the few who had stood by him and did not criticize him during
the Party Central meeting. This event shows how Lin Biao was a shrewd political
thinker who saw that his future was connected with that of Mao and winning Mao’s
approval. By 1962 Lin Biao’s chief tool at achieving this objective was the
promotion of Mao Zedong Thought (Dutt and Dutt, 1970: 63).

After May of 1961 the Liberation Army Daily followed Lin Biao’s
directive and printed selection’s from the Selected Works of Mao Zedong. By May
of 1964 with a further directive from Lin Biao the general publication
department of the Liberation Army, edited and published the Red Book accompanied
by the publication of the selected reader of the workers of Mao suggested by Lin
Biao (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183). The Red Book had an inscription on its cover
written in calligraphy by Lin Biao that read, “Study Chairmen Mao’s writings,
follow his teachings, and act accordingly” (Kraus, 1991: 109). The fact that the
inscription on the Red Book was in Lin Biao’s handwriting was significant in
that it symbolized the connection between the Red Book, Lin Biao, and the Cult
of Mao. Both of these publications were published in large quantities and
distributed among the armed forces. There now was a fervor for the studying of
works by Mao in military ranks, illiterate soldiers were able to recite long
passages from memory and military troops studied the Red Book during their
breaks. With such a backdrop Lin Biao recognized that the time was right for
increasing his position within the party. The cultivation of the Cult of Mao had
support from Mao Zedong and when he started the Cultural Revolution in August of
1966 Mao saw that Lin Biao’s thought education in the military could be applied
to the whole nation (Rodzinski, 1988:96).

The period before the Cultural Revolution provides some very important
insights into the development of the Red Book and of Lin Biao’s connection to
the Red Book. In the period before August of 1966 the Red Book was not read by
those outside of the military. A graphical analysis of pictures before 1967
shows that the Red Book was not a widely used method of propaganda as it did not
appear in many pictures and the pictures it did appear in were of soldiers in
the PLA. Although studying Maoist thought was important during the period prior
to the Cultural Revolution in society as a whole it was not very important.

There are several reasons: First, there was no reason to Cultivate the Cult of
Mao Zedong Thought during this time, Mao prior to 1966 was not trying to lead
any mass movements in which he would need popular support. The Great Leap
Forward and the anti-rightist campaign’s came during times in which Mao was
powerful within the party so he did not need wide spread support outside of the
central command. Second, Mao prior to the Cultural Revolution was more
interested in promoting communist economics then ideology. Mao promoted The
Great Leap Forward which was not a ideological campaign but instead an economic
campaign to promote industrialization (Rodzinski, 1988:74). And in the period
from 1961 to 1965 Mao was chiefly concerned with getting the economy back on
track following the disastrous Great Leap Forward. But by 1966 the economy of
China was back on track and Mao had once more gained back the support of the
central leaders of the communist party.

The Cultural Revolution launched in 1966 lasted depending on the author
until 1971 or 1976 and was initiated by Mao Zedong to renew the spirit of the
Chinese Revolution. Fearing that China would develop along the lines of the
Soviet model and concerned about his own place in history, Mao threw China into
turmoil in a monumental effort to reverse what Mao saw as a rightist movement
within China.

During the 1960’s tensions with Russia increased and Mao became
convinced that the Russian Revolution had stalled and become rightist, Mao
feared that China was following the same path (Yan and Gao, 1996: 7). Mao
theorized that to keep China from becoming social stratified and elitist the
process of continuos revolution had to be initiated by the government. To Mao
the Cultural Revolution that he initiated had four goals: to replace party
members with leaders more faithful to his thinking; to reenergize the Chinese
Communist party and Purge the rightists; to provide China’s youth with a
revolutionary experience; and to change society such that specific systems such
as education, healthcare, and cultural systems such as opera and music became
less elitist (Mitchell and Kua, 1975: 465).

Mao launched the Cultural Revolution at the Eleventh Plenum of the
Eighth Central Committee in August 1966. In the following weeks Mao shut down
the schools in order to allow young people to take part in the revolution
(Mitchell and Kua, 1975: xii). Mao also established a national mobilization of
the countries youth. They were organized into Red Guard groups and encouraged to
attack all tradition values, symbols, and leaders who were rightist or bourgeois.

Mao believed that the attacks would both provide the youth with a revolutionary
experience thus continuing the cycle of continuos revolution and they would
strengthen the party by removing the rightist elements. Mao also saw the
Cultural Revolution as a way to strengthen his own political base because the
Red Guards acted to remove all who opposed Mao Zedong. The movement quickly
escalated; intellectuals party officials, teachers, and the elderly were both
physically attacked and verbally abused made to wear dunce caps in the streets
and to denounce themselves. Temples, restaurants, and all signs of old values
were ransacked by the Red Guard youths. The Cultural revolution put middle
school and high school students in charge of the nation and like a version of
Lord of the Flies the nation fell into anarchy and paralysis
The Cultural Revolution also lead to changes within the structure of the
communist party. Before the Cultural Revolution Liu Shaoqi was Mao Zedong’s
designated successor, but during the early stages of the Cultural Revolution
Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping and many others who Mao deemed as being rightists were
removed from the party. In their place Mao installed those who had been most
loyal to him in the past; one of those men was Lin Biao (Dutt and Dutt, 1970:
80).

Mao rightly saw that the best way to provide both direction for the Red
Guards and to make himself immune from their attacks upon party official would
be to foster a personality Cult. Thus under the guidance of Lin Biao who after
Liu Shaoqi was removed; become the successor to Mao Lin Biao helped foster a
personality Cult for Mao. Lin Biao used the same types of techniques that he
used in the army to help foster this Cult of Mao. Lin Biao used the same
organization to disseminate propaganda that he had devised for the Army. Lin
Biao continued to head the army till his death in 1971 but his role was expanded
as he became the high priest of the Cult of Mao (Yan and Gao, 1996: 334). The
reading of the Red Book was encouraged by both Mao, party directives written by
Lin Biao, Chen Boda, and Kang Sheng who during the Cultural Revolution became
Mao’s closest advisors. All three of these advisors worked tirelessly to promote
the Cult of Mao because they saw it as their way to curry favor with Mao Zedong
and their efforts met with whole hearted approval. Mao in an interview near the
end of the Cultural Revolution commented that Krushchev could have avoided
loosing his power if he had created an appropriate Cult for himself (Yan and Gao,
1996: 313).

Mao relied on the power of propaganda to enlarge his Cult during the
Cultural Revolution. The Red Book became his most powerful weapon. Quotations
from the Red Book replaced the usual front page section entitled today’s
important news in the People’s Daily. Various other newspapers and journals
increased their coverage of Mao Zedong printing his speeches, pictures, and
quotes. Some even retold stories of his days fighting the Japanese and the KMT
(Yan and Gao, 1996: 215). The major newspapers in June of 1966 started writing
editorials and stories encouraging the public to study the thought of Chairman
Mao by reading . On June 6 both the Liberation Army Daily and the People’s Daily
simultaneously published a front page article calling on the Chinese people to
study Mao Zedong Thought and reading Selected Works of Mao Zedong. The headline
read, “Raise high the Great Red Flag of Mao Zedong, Carry to the end the great
proletariat revolution.” (Yan and Gao, 1996: 215) It was no coincidence that the
Liberation Army Daily and the People’s Daily both carried the same story about
increasing Mao Zedong thought study. It symbolized the rise in power of Lin Biao
who with the start of the Cultural Revolution and the expulsion of Liu Shaoqi
had increased his power within the communist party. Lin Biao’s ideas of
education and indoctrination into Maoist thought had with the publishing of the
story in the People’s Daily in June of 1966 moved from the army to all of China.

From this point on until he lost favor with Mao in 1970 Lin Biao became the
cheerleader of the Cult of Mao directing the national frenzy that enveloped
China with its adoration of Mao Zedong (Dutt and Dutt, 1970: 80).

Under the leadership of Lin Biao the leading newspapers in China printed
stories urging readers to read the works of Mao. As of yet the only books
available to the public was the four volume long Selected Works of Mao Zedong;
the Red Book had not yet become available to the pubic. In the fall of 1966 the
People’s Daily published such headlines as, ‘Mao Zedong thought is the red sun
within our bosom,” and stories in newspapers were filled with such lines as,
“Chairman Mao’s books are not gold, but are more precious then gold; not steel,
but stronger then steel.” (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183) Pictures from this time
depicted happy Chinese citizens reading pamphlets by Mao such as the, “Man Who
Moved The Mountain.” But as of yet the number of pictures in 1966 that pictured
Red Books was limited and only included members of the armed forces. But the
stories in the newspapers and other propaganda put out by the government such as
radio broadcasts stirred up a great fever in support of Mao and the study of Mao
Zedong Thought. On August 12 following the Eleventh Plenum of the Eighth party
congress copies of The Selected Works of Mao Zedong were distributed at major
universities before they were shut down to prepare for the Cultural Revolution.

During the rest of 1966 newspapers reported daily on the sale on The Selected
Works of Mao Zedong. The government lowered the price of the set of books to two
yuan so that every person could posses a copy of the Selected Works. Sales were
brisk then starting in January of 1967 Lin Biao made Quotations From Chairman
Mao available to the public. Everyone immediately wanted to buy it. Group study
sessions of the book became common. At many Red Guard rallies during the next
several years Red Guard troops set whole pages of the book to song (Yan and Gao,
1996: 248). Lin Biao ordered the presses of China to print millions of copies of
the Red Book and distribute them to the public. The Chinese media encouraged the
reading of the Red Book by printing stories extolling the virtues of those who
committed the book to memory. (Yan and Gao, 1996: 249)
Granny Liu spent days and nights studying the works of Chairman Mao.

When she forgot, she called other to teach her. Granddaughter Yuhzen slept with
her and would thus be awakened ten times a night. Even though the granddaughter
could not sleep well, Granny Liu would say endearingly to her, “Yuhzen, one more
word you can teach granny is one more measure of loyalty to Chairman Mao and one
more bullet for Liu Shaoqi.”….Granny Liu also eagerly disseminated Mao Zedong
Thought. For more than sixty years she, had not known how to sing. Now, learning
from her daughter and granddaughter, she sang every where….Proudly Granny Liu
said, “This old women can’t really handle a tune. But what I sing is my feeling
for Chairman Mao. When I disseminate Mao Zedong Thought, the more I sing the
younger I get.”
Thus from January of 1967 to Lin Biao’s death and the end of the
Cultural Revolution everyone in China it seemed wanted to be a Granny Liu; a
person who worked for the greater glory of Mao Zedong and China. The Red Book
provided the Chinese people both with a basic although cryptic introduction to
Maoist thought and it also provided them with a connection to their leader. Lin
Biao was able to successfully indoctrinate the entire nation not just in an
idolization of Mao but also in a frenzied studying of his quotes.

The period from 1966 to 1971 is marked by Chinese publications filled
with pictures of Chinese citizens studying the Red Books on communes, in fields,
in classrooms, at rallies, and at ad-hoc study groups that met from along the
Pearl River in the south of China to the plains of Tibet. The number of pictures
in China Reconstructs of people holding Mao books increased from just a trickle
prior to 1967 to almost fifty percent of all at the Height of the Cultural
Revolution. Along with this upward trend in the number of Mao books was an
increasing number of flattering articles about Lin Biao. One article in 1968
called him both a valiant fighter for the revolution and a loyal follower of Mao.

The irony of this quote was probably missed by most readers at the time but
looking back it was Lin Biao who created the Cult of Mao to further his own
goals within the communist party and not Lin Biao’s goals of helping Mao. The
percentage of pictures of the Red Book and articles about Lin Biao during this
time reflected not just the frenzy over the Cult of Mao in China but also the
power of Lin Biao it was through his work that the Red Book became a talisman
for the Chinese people.

Chinese citizens read the Red Book because of the appeal and aura that
surrounded it. The Red Book connected individual Chinese citizens with their
leader. It enabled the average citizen who would never meet Mao in their
lifetime to possess a piece of him and his words. During the Cultural Revolution
Mao became a god in the eyes of the Chinese people no criticism of him could be
tolerated, nor the slightest deviation from his instruction permitted. Every
word he uttered was taken as truth he became in effect a living Buddha, and like
Buddha his writings became like sutra’s. His quotes like passages from the
sutra’s were memorized, chanted, set to song, and reproduced on billboards and
on the beams of houses. (Rodzinski, 1988:121) The Red Book became during the
Cultural Revolution a holy sutra carried by every citizen everywhere and studied
endlessly. Some would say that the Red Book became the bible of the Cultural
Revolution but this theory has several flaws. First, if this is true then the
Mao would be the Jesus Christ of his time, but Mao unlike Jesus reached
unquestioned power during his lifetime and unlike Jesus had no one above him;
Mao was god not the son of god in China. Second, the Red Book is not parallel to
the bible in its symbolism. The bible is not committed to memory by most
Christians unlike the sutras which Buddhists learn long passages from. Mao
followed in the footsteps of the Buddhist framework of religious organization.

Under the Cultural Revolution Buddhism and Confucianism were wiped out, Red
Guards destroyed Buddhist temples and tortured monks; but in this religious
vacuum Mao placed himself as Buddha and his writings as Sutra’s.

The Red Book during the Cultural Revolution provided a semblance of
structure and unity in the chaos of the time. Even though rival Red Guard
factions frequently clashed and the nation was thrown into turmoil the Red Book
acted as a bond between the Chinese; they were all followers of Mao even as
their nation dissolved into anarchy. The Red Book provided a framework in which
for people to criticize others and also a bond between citizens, the party, Red
Guards, and Mao. The study of the Red Book also provided a de-facto type of
education while the schools were shut down. People learned to read in study
groups while learning the Red Book’s quotes. In these ways the Red Book was
valuable in that it created a type of order out of the chaos of the Cultural
Revolution.

One of the fascinating things about the Red Book was that nearly ever
Chinese citizen possessed one but only a few of them could read it. This was one
of the things that made the Red Book so popular was that it created with the
idea that the Chinese populace was educated while many remained illiterate. This
was one of the reason study groups were formed; so that a reader could read the
Red Book to a group of illiterate peasants who would then memorize long passages
so that they could feign literacy. In many places all other books but those by
Chairman Mao were banned. Reading in Chinese society was held in high esteem
even under communism and the idea of each citizen being a scholar was an
appealing idea to both the peasants and served the purposes of Lin Biao who saw
that the more widely the Cult of Mao and Mao Zedong Thought was spread the more
his power would increase.

But by 1970 the end of the Cultural Revolution had begun. Many within
the party believed the Cultural Revolution had gone to far, destroyed to much,
and were scared that they would become the next party member to be openly
criticized by Red Guards. Lin Biao’s success in promoting the teachings of Mao
made him the successor to Mao starting in August of 1966 but his role was
formalized in at the Ninth Party Congress convened in April of 1969 (Ming-Le,
1983: 49). After this Lin Biao tightened the grip of the military on Chinese
Society. Lin Biao maneuvered to take advantage of the Sino-Soviet Border clashes
in the spring of 1969 to declare martial law. Lin Biao quickly encountered
opposition to his growing power. Mao himself became concerned about what he saw
as a successor to eager to assume power, and starting in the fall of 1970 Mao
maneuvered to limit the power of Lin Biao (Ming-Le, 1983: 47-52).

In August of 1970 a national conference was held called the Second
Plenum which was a conference of people chosen at the 1969 national conference
to decide national policy. The Second Plenum was held in Lushan and chaired by
Mao Zedong. At this conference Lin Biao maneuvered to make himself president of
the republic. His clique of followers which included Chen Boda circulated such
statements as, “Lin Biao is an uncommon genius he is one of the great teachers
like Marx, and Lenin and Mao” (Ming-Le, 1983: 50) Lin Biao saw that holding the
office of the presidency which became vacant after the death Liu Shaoqi in 1969
was a tool by which he could assume control over China and fulfill his lifetime
ambition. On August 25, 1970 Mao convened the conference and upon hearing of Lin
Biao’s plan destroyed it in a matter of two days. Mao did this in three ways.

First, he sentenced Chen Boda to self-examination, this was a clear warning to
Lin Biao to stop his grab for power. Second, Mao threatened the members of the
conference by saying that he would leave if they brought up the issue of the
presidency. Third, Mao wrote in a public letter called, “Some Views of Mine,” a
criticism of those who claim but do not really understand Marxism. This letter
was clearly speaking about Lin Biao although it did not say so directly. The
conference at Lushan was a turning point for Lin Biao is symbolized his fall
from the graces of Mao because of what Mao perceived as his impatience to become
president. Mao was able to effectively eliminate Lin Biao as a threat by joining
forces with Zhou Enlai and by isolating Lin Biao’s assistant Chen Boda. (Yan and
Gao, 1996: 309) By January of 1971 Lin Biao was no longer in Mao’s clique of
advisors and Mao further distanced himself from Lin Biao and his work at
creating a cult of Mao by saying in December of 1970 that he felt the cult
created around him had grown to large (Yan and Gao, 1996: 313), what happened
between then and Lin Biao’s death in September of the year is the object of much
speculation. The official Chinese government’s story is that Lin Biao died on
September 13, 1971, in an airplane crash in Mongolia as he was fleeing to the
Soviet Union after having plotted unsuccessfully to overthrow Mao. According to
this account during the whole of 1971 Lin Biao was organizing a coup among
military officers. This account is very much in doubt and their is much
speculation that Lin Biao after falling out of favor with the party leadership
was assassinated by communist party (Ming-Le, 1983:228). This has been
reinforced by Mongolian reports in 1990 that say that Lin Biao a was not on the
plane that crashed in 1971.

The years of 1970 to 1971 were also marked by the winding down of the
Cultural Revolution as schools were reopened and Red Guard groups disbanded. It
is a historic irony that Lin Biao who gave Mao so much power by building up his
cult following was in the end a victim of the power that he created for Mao when
he tried to gain control of the presidency in 1970. The death of Lin Biao in
1971 brought to China a silent liberation from the Cult of Mao. The people
discovered that the person that they had for so long recognized as the high
priest of the Maoist Cult and Mao’s most loyal supporter was in fact a Janus
faced person who was in fact planning to overthrow Mao. Lin Biao’s two-faced
appearance awakened in the Chinese public a distrust in politics and a feeling
of deception in the Cult of Mao. The death of Lin Biao marked the end of the
mass rallies in Tianamen Square and the end of the Cultural Revolution’s crazed
delirium (Yan and Gao, 1996: 335).

The fall of Lin Biao is closely connected with the end of the Red Book.

After Lin Biao fell from the inner circle of Mao newspapers stopped publishing
accounts of Lin Biao’s genius and stopped also publishing pictures of the Red
Book. A graphical analysis of pictures during this period shows a sharp decline
in the number of pictures of the Red Book following December of 1970. This
closely correlates with the demise of Lin Biao as a member of Mao’s inner circle.

By the time Lin Biao died in September of 1971 barely any pictures of Lin Biao’s
Red Book were published in place of pictures of the Red Book and slogans urging
education in Mao Zedong Thought; were tractors, workers in factors, and farmers
plowing fields. All around China images of Lin Biao and his calligraphy were
destroyed (Kraus, 1991: 111) On of the most telling pictures is that of the
Albanian Nation Basketball team in 1972 being received by Mao in Beijing the
accompanying story says that the Albanians received Chinese handicrafts from
their hosts. In a nearly identical article published in 1967 the Albanian
Basketball team is pictured meeting Chairman Mao and Lin Biao and the
accompanying story says they received copies of the Red Book translated into
Albanian. These two articles show the tremendous transformation that took place
in China during the intervening years between the articles.

The rise and fall of Lin Biao is inextricably connected with the rise
and fall of his Red Book. When Lin Biao first became head of the army in 1959 he
saw that if he wanted to rise in power he could do this only by currying favor
with Mao Zedong; to this end he promoted Mao Zedong Thought within the army and
later throughout China. Lin Biao built up the Cult of Mao Zedong Thought through
a combination of playing on the needs of the Chinese people during a time of
chaos by publishing the Red Book and by extolling the virtues of memorizing
Mao’s quotes in newspapers. The story of Lin Biao is the fascinating story of a
man who rode the production of propaganda to great heights but his story also
provides an insight into propaganda and what it tells us about China. Pictures
in China Reconstructs from 1966 to 1974 show that propaganda was not just a tool
of the Communist party but also a reflection of internal power struggles within
the party during the Cultural Revolution. When Lin Biao gained power so did the
number of images of the Red Book and when Lin Biao lost power the number of
images of his Red Book dropped to nearly zero. Propaganda during the Cultural
Revolution was not just a way for the communist party to control the people but
it also was a reflection of individuals power within the party. The history of
Lin Biao meteoric rise and demise is told not only in the history books but also
in ascent and fall of his most prized piece of propaganda the Red Book.


References:
Dutt, Gargi and Dutt, V.P. (1970) China’s Cultural Revolution. India: National
Printing Works.


Kraus, Richard (1991). Brushes With Power: Modern Politics and the Chinese Art
of Calligraphy. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Kua, Michael (1975). The Lin Piao Affair. New York: International Arts and
Sciences Press.


Ming-Le, Yao (1983). The Conspiracy and Murder of Mao’s Heir. London: Collins.


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