• Chiang Ching: The Revolutionary Ambitions Of A Communist Leader

  • Zafia Ryan
  • 1993
  • A biography of a revolutionary leader of the international proletariat, documenting her cultural transformations and struggle against the red capitalists in China.

For fifteen years Chiang Ching had been held captive by the revisionists who took power in 1976 and restored capitalism in China, and it was in their ignoble, blood-stained hands that her life came to an end on May 14th, 1991, under very suspicious circumstances.

With the death of Comrade Chiang Ching, the international proletariat has lost one of its finest leaders.

To those who dare to dream of revolution — and even more, who dare to make it — Chiang Ching stands as a powerful example of fearlessly attacking the old and outmoded, of boldly charting the way for the emergence of the new through all the twists and sometimes bloody turns of the struggle to give birth to a new social order. Her lifelong devotion to the communist cause to Mao Tsetung's cause enabled her to make important contributions to the experience and understanding of proletarian revolution. She defended to the roots of her fiery soul the right of the masses to storm the heavens, to challenge tradition in every sphere. She fought for (and clashed head-on with those who didn't) Mao's far-reaching vision of transforming the world from the bottom up and sweeping away classes and all forms of social inequality. Hers was the ideological stand and outlook of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought.

Although she mainly was prevented from playing a public political role until the 1960s, Chiang Ching took big strides in preparation for this by carrying out investigation in the arts and other areas, including the movement for land reform. In the sharp inner-Party struggle after the Great Leap Forward she stepped to the fore to actively help Mao and the revolutionaries launch the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR). She quickly and enthusiastically rose to the heights demanded of her by the tremendous times of the Cultural Revolution, which found her on the front lines injecting forceful political energy and leadership into it, encouraging the rebel youth, and providing practical guidance to people striving to bring about pathbreaking socialist innovations. Chiang Ching rapidly became an indispensable leader of the revolutionary Left.

Her struggle against the revisionists who dominated the important arenas of culture and education paved the way for their overthrow during the Cultural Revolution. She was also instrumental in revolutionizing the arts. She fought to bring women forward both by breaking down the barriers to this and by setting a powerful example herself. As a prominent leader of the Communist Party of China (CCP) during the ten last remarkable years of proletarian rule, she became more embroiled in the fierce class struggle inside the Party, fighting unrelentingly to strengthen the revolutionary character and correct line of the Party under Mao's leadership and to defend and fully implement and consolidate the advances of the Cultural Revolution.

The revisionist camps within the CCP, hoping with every turn in the class struggle and every new realignment of forces to crush Mao's revolutionary line, to restore capitalism and drag China down the road of prostitution to imperialism once again, joined forces after Mao died, and they arrested Chiang Ching and the followers of the Left less than a month later. The capitalist roaders immediately had to suppress opposition. At first they paraded themselves as the true successors of Mao and portrayed Chiang Ching and the Left as the revisionists, the renegades and Mao's enemies. (Just to confuse people, they even put some of their own "bad eggs" on trial with the Four as she and her comrades were called.) They vilified Chiang Ching, launching a vicious campaign to discredit her whole life, backed up with a show of repression and force in order to intimidate her followers from hewing to the revolutionary road in the face of their revisionist coup d'état and usurpation of state power. But she refused to buckle under their dastardly attacks, and in the face of their threats, she defied them to kill her, continuing, along with her revolutionary comrade Chang Chun-chiao, to heroically raise the red flag, to defend the right to make revolution and to expose them and their social system in the historic trial of 1980.

A Rebel Against Tradition

From the time she yanked the binding off her feet as a young girl, Chiang Ching was a rebel. She grew up in a China carved up by the imperialist powers, in the barbarous days of poverty, when, as Mao said, "the trees [were] as naked as the people because the people are busy eating them", and in conditions of feudal oppression in which "peasant women longed to be reborn as dogs so as to be less miserable".[61] The German-held areas of Shantung province, where Li Chin (as she was then named) was born into a poor artisan family in 1914, were taken over by Japan in World War I as a foothold to gain access to all of China. Her father, a wheelmaker, took out his fury at being poor by beating his wife and children, until her mother left him to work as a servant for a landlord. Chiang Ching recalls often being hungry, but luckier than many because she could go to school. She told an interviewer that the class she hated most in primary school was self-cultivation in Confucian morality (or, how to obey authorities), and she was beaten for daydreaming. She remembers her nausea and horror as a child at seeing the decapitated heads of debtors hanging on a pole, and the sounds of executions of thieves who had stolen food ringing in her young ears.[70]

Chiang Ching first became interested in acting when, at the age of 15, she studied at an experimental art theatre school run by the government, having been accepted only because not enough girls had been enrolled. But the school closed shortly afterwards under the pressure of a warlord's army stationed in the town of Tsinan, and she and some of the teachers and students went to Peking as part of a touring theatrical group. It was the Mukden Incident on 18 September 1931, when the Japanese imperialists seized Manchuria, that represented a first political turning point for Chiang Ching. Since a young age she had hated foreign occupation of her country, but now decided she had to take a stand. She soon joined the League of Left-Wing Dramatists (which was led by the Communist Party) in Tsingtao, where she worked as a library clerk at the university, and began to read Lenin.

With friends she formed the Seaside Drama Society which went out to the countryside to put on anti-Japanese plays and popularize the "Soviet" areas that had been set up by the Chinese Red Army. They discovered poverty they had never seen in the cities and realized that more clearly distinguishing between the goals of the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) forces and the Communists was no academic question. Chiang Ching, in reaction to Japanese aggression, supported a line of "total resistance" and began to be known as a "troublemaker" around the university circles she moved in.

Actually Chiang Ching only had a total of eight years of formal education, including five in primary school, although quite frequently she sat in on university classes that interested her. As she describes it she learned the most from "social education", from the school of experience, which for her started in 1933, when she sought out and was later admitted into the then underground Chinese Communist Party. In the turbulent period of the 1930s she had decided that making revolution was much more important than writing poems and essays.

However, when Chiang Ching was sent to do work in Shanghai in the spring of 1933, becoming an active Party member proved much more difficult. Under the domination of Mao's chief political rival, Wang Ming, and his urban insurrectionist line, the Party structure was almost completely dissolved there and opportunism was rife.[1] Many of these CCP leaders, if they were not collaborating directly with the KMT, used the fresh forces attracted to communism from among the hundreds of thousands of left wing intellectuals drawn to the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai to shield themselves from the Kuomintang's regular dragnets.

Chiang Ching's first assignment in Shanghai was with the Shanghai Work Study Troupe. She became a stage actress, performing in numerous progressive plays that called on the people to defend China against Japan. During a later stint as a night school teacher for women workers, she visited many factories and became intimately familiar with the wretched conditions of factory contract labour, especially in the large Japanese-owned textile mills and the British-owned cigarette factories. She was arrested by the KMT (with the "help" of an old friend of hers, who had turned into a renegade from the CCP and joined the secret police) and was held for eight months; at least, she recounted, her jail time taught her some lessons about how to fool her KMT jailers with outward appearances.

Being a film actress in the 1930s in Shanghai meant going up against tradition on every front. It was looked down on, and considered a profession for "loose" and socially radical women. Actresses were targets of widespread personal persecution, with the aim of stirring its victims' feudal "instincts" and driving the women to suicide a frequent result. The renowned revolutionary writer, Lu Hsun, who was very influential in this period and who sympathized with the Communists, was one of Chiang Ching's mentors. He wrote about this problem and the problem of women's emancipation in general in several essays, notably one called "Gossip is a Fearful Thing", which spoke to the unjust slander against women in the performing arts and to misogynist press attacks.[70][2]

In the mid-1930s Mao and the Red Army were winding up the Long March. Chiang Ching became more involved in film acting, mainly in order to eat, and found that it was still totally dominated by Hollywood, with the exception of a few democratic films. She also wrote some articles in the leftist journal Enlightenment. After her kidnapping was falsely reported in the press (to pressure her to commit suicide), she denounced this personal threat in a Shanghai newspaper article, called "My Open Letter". In 1937, not long before the Japanese moved in to bomb Shanghai, Chiang Ching journeyed north to the CCP's Eighth Route Army Headquarters in Sian, where she and many other young radicals asked to go join the Red Army base at Yenan, some 300 mountainous miles away.

Yenan: Mao's Student And Comrade-In-Arms

Although Chiang Ching had joined the Party some years earlier, everything in her story indicates that it was the period in Yenan which represented a real political and ideological leap for her. She attended lectures by Mao Tsetung and joined the Party School while she worked and took classes at the Lu Hsun Academy of Literature and Arts (which among other things trained theatrical troupes to serve at the front). Acting was no longer her main activity arriving during a lull in the war, she also took six months of military training and got down to the business of seriously studying Marxism-Leninism. Mao was keenly interested in questions of culture and went out of his way to seek discussion of art and politics with the new arrivals, and Chiang Ching, for her part, became an avid student of Mao's. In late 1938, she and Mao Tsetung were married. They had one daughter, Li Na, and raised her with another daughter of Mao's, Li Min.

On the wreath of flowers she made for Mao's funeral in 1976, Chiang Ching's dedication read, "from your student and comrade-in-arms". Throughout their 38 years of marriage she characterized her relationship to the Chairman in this way, and though the political storms they faced together were many and diverse, it was during the intense days they lived through in the cave dwellings they shared in Yenan and throughout the last years of the liberation war Mao was leading in China's Northwest that these close bonds were forged.

Foreign visitors describe the radically spirited "war communist" atmosphere of these strenuous Yenan days, when communist leaders mixed easily with the peasants, young and old danced together and soldiers pitched in to grow food, when life was relatively simple and organized around the single-minded purpose of waging a revolutionary war of the people and when fresh green shoots of a new society were beginning to sprout. As one of Mao's slogans charcoaled on the ancient walls of Yenan read: "With a Hoe over One Shoulder and a Rifle over the Other We Will Become Self-Sufficient in Production and Protect the Party's Central Committee!"[70]

It is unclear to what extent the CCP intervened in Mao and Chiang Ching's marriage, but it is widely reported that some of the Party leaders consented to it only if Chiang Ching were not allowed to play a public political role, a situation which was to stifle her initiative many times over the coming years after liberation had been won and the tasks of socialist revolution and socialist construction began in earnest.

Chiang Ching joined a group that set off to do six months of manual labour in the hills of Nanniwan as part of a land reclamation project and self-sufficient community Mao had started in 1939 to encourage production in the area. She also began to serve as Mao's personal secretary, for a time, and attended the famous Yenan Forum on Literature and Art in that capacity.[3] Mao, who always insisted on penning his articles in his own hand, only allowed her to take up this task at a time when disease prevented him from writing, but even in this post she says she was denied full respect by the other men in the CCP leadership. Despite problems battling tuberculosis through the early 1940s, Chiang Ching taught dramatic arts at Lu Hsun Academy and led the production of plays calling on the masses to resist Japanese aggression, which were taken out to the local people and the front.

Chiang Kai-shek bombed Yenan in March 1947, forcing the Party leadership to move out. Chiang Ching served as a political instructor of the Third Regiment in the Northwest theatre, where she says the most difficult years of the liberation war were fought, from March 1947 to June 1949. This is the period which inspired the celebrated new works developed during the Cultural Revolution the Yellow River Piano Concerto and two of the revolutionary operas The Red Lantern and Shachiapang. She remembers the warmth of the masses and their tears of jubilation when Mao and she visited some villages along the march route, as well as the pains they took to protect him by refusing to say his name in public.

Coinciding with Mao's "Double Ten Manifesto" (issued on 10 October 1947) which called on all the people to defeat Chiang Kai-shek and to unite the nation, one of her duties was to organize a campaign to recall past suffering among the troops and to carry out the "three check-ups", which meant overseeing compliance with the Red Army's code of conduct as concentrated in the Three Rules of Discipline and the Eight Points for Attention.[4] Soon afterwards, as Mao's writings popularizing New Democracy spread throughout China, a more general campaign to consolidate the army was begun, partly as a prelude to land reform. Chiang Ching also led a debate group as part of the work of a mobile propaganda unit. Later, as the New Democratic state was being organized in Peking, in the spring of 1949, she joined the Party Secretariat.

Chiang Ching tells of using the time between engagements with the enemy to learn more about the social and political situation of the peasants, as groundwork for launching land reform. One story about the woman question from a coastal province during that period, in which concubinage was common, was revealing. A landlord, who had forced his multiple concubines to do menial tasks like carry him around in a wicker sedan chair and do all the field work, was particularly hated. During land reform, "his" concubines denounced him before the whole community, destroying him; they, in turn, each received a piece of his land to work as their own.

Land Reform And Social Investigation

Chiang Ching's ability to develop her knowledge as a revolutionary critic and to promote a proletarian line on the arts, as well as to lead others in the cultural sphere, was partly rooted in her experience of carrying out bold and extensive investigation in the 1950s as she stubbornly battled the forces who sought to keep her invisible and silent. Along with studying and developing the political and ideological questions involved, her drive to work among the masses, to better know first-hand the conditions and problems faced by the peasants and workers who were fighting to revolutionize society, proved to be of great benefit during the struggle with artists some ten years later over how to portray the revolutionary qualities of these new heroes replacing the landlords and empresses on China's stage, not to mention her being able to take a correct stand in the class warfare raging at the top levels of the Party.

Weakened from the war and suffering from a number of health problems, Chiang Ching was sent to Moscow repeatedly over the next decade for long periods of medical treatment, since most of China's hospitals had been destroyed during the years of war. It seems that Mao's political enemies also saw this as a way of keeping her out of their way; she tells of being refused permission to return to Peking in the late 1950s, even when the Moscow doctors were doing nothing to improve her condition and she was on the brink of death from cervical cancer.

Chiang Ching recalls her elation at news of the bold strike of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) against the lingering British warship, the Amethyst, in April 1949, which she heard on Soviet radio. Shortly after the People's Republic was founded in the autumn of 1949, she returned to Peking and made plans to investigate some rural areas near Shanghai, where land reform was getting underway. Already during the Northwest Campaign she had gained some experience putting Mao's revolutionary agrarian policy into effect leading the peasants to overthrow landlords and to redistribute the land.

After an officially organized trip to the rural areas outside of Shanghai was obstructed by some Party renegades controlling the vast eastern region (seemingly, Wang Ming loyalists who, unknown to the Party, had gone over to the KMT), Chiang Ching was forced to strike out on her own to get to the industrial city of Wusih in Kiangsu province. There she studied the background of the region, the land tenancy system and the local economy before visiting the surrounding countryside. She learned, for example, that peasants were not able to be self-sufficient in food and devoted part of their land to tea and silk production in exchange for rice. And the disruption of production from the Japanese occupation period was still preventing them from getting enough to eat.

A few years later she visited what had been a KMT "model county", where although "women did most of the work", as the men gambled and drank tea, they were not allowed to plough. "So I went and ploughed on my own", she said. Material inequalities between men and women were also more pronounced in the countryside than the cities. Although agrarian reform distributed land to both sexes on the basis of equality, such laws were carried out unevenly. Women often got smaller plots or the worst land, and because of the weight of their oppression, did not fight back. Men often took advantage of this also to refuse to share farming tools, and to leave the worst jobs with lowest pay for women, despite the new government policy of equal pay for equal work established by the Communist Party.

The Marriage Reform passed in 1950 was mainly to protect women, to give them free choice and the right to divorce. As Chiang Ching described, old practices and traditional ideas are hard to overthrow, and arranged marriages continued in some areas. She went into some villages during this period to help settle divorce disputes and give guidance to local Party Committees to learn to handle these volatile questions and to create public opinion for persuasion rather than tailing the masses' demands for more antagonistic solutions such as death sentences in divorce-type conflicts, for example.

Chiang Ching was eager to take part in the class struggle to transform China's countryside, and in the autumn of 1951 set off with a work team to follow land reform developments in the area of Wuhan, on the Yangtze River. While Mao supported her, others high in the Party apparatus opposed this contact with the masses[5], and had her along with her bodyguards pulled off the train before it reached the countryside. Refusing to give up, Chiang Ching took her bodyguards and with them organized investigation on their own, in a particularly difficult area which had been a KMT stronghold during the long years of people's war and was exceptionally resistant to land reform.[6]

Land reform had its twists and turns. Mao had set the three big mountains feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism and imperialism as targets, which in the countryside meant focusing on the landlord class and local tyrants who ran the organizations of landlords. Working with the community, Chiang Ching's team singled out the 8 to 20% worst offenders and, based on the Agrarian Reform Law, brought them to justice. She recounted the difficulty of restraining the masses' anger, once unleashed against these hated tyrants: occasionally the work team would have to protect them from being beaten to death on the spot, and at times the team itself was attacked physically in the process. The team brought them before the People's Court for sentencing, sometimes to death. Then land and movable property were redistributed, and for this, careful class analysis had to be made. The spontaneous tendency was to broaden the social targets, meaning that middle peasants (who generally had insignificant small plots) were expropriated, or rich peasants were called landlords; but some "right errors" also cropped up, letting landlords completely off the hook. And, Chiang Ching stressed, the stratification varied from one area to another, so the agrarian laws had to be applied differently. In dividing up the landlord's property, the Party team encouraged "broadness of mind" and that each household take only what they needed. She laughingly recollected an image from those days, of waddling landlords who put on so many gowns and suits in order to save as much as they could that they were unable to budge!

In order to carry out the land reform work, Chiang Ching's team studied Marxism-Leninism and tried to follow through on Mao's emphasis on the need to "Get Organized". After land was distributed, they devoted themselves to this task, setting up a new, democratic, local government and organizing elections to peasant associations.

About the time Mao put together the collection of articles, "Socialist Upsurge in China's Countryside", in order to create public opinion in favour of cooperatives in 1955, Chiang Ching also wrote a piece called, "Do the People Get Enough to Eat from Grain Rations?" Detailing individual needs, she argues for grain rationing in the cities, where there was considerable resistance to the reorganization of production in the countryside.

Learning To Go Against The Tide

Chiang Ching used the long intervals she spent recovering from a number of serious illnesses to read widely on a broad range of subjects, focusing on the "main political struggle between the class enemy and ourselves", as she put it. She pored over new books and articles and selected the most important materials for Mao Tsetung to read, indicating what she thought were the key issues. She was assigned to investigate international questions in particular. While he sat at her bedside in the winter of 1953, she kept him abreast of events and read newspapers and telegrams to him.[69][70]

In 1954 she came across an article written by two students criticizing the bourgeois views of a professor who passed as the expert on the eighteenth century historical novel, Dream of the Red Chamber. She showed the article to Mao who had her instruct the People's Daily to reprint it. She began to probe into the story and found that both leading literary journals and the People's Daily had refused to publish it because it was written by "nobodies", and didn't merit rocking the literary boat the same reaction Chiang Ching got from the Central Committee's Propaganda Department. Mao issued a directive hailing the article as the "first serious attack in 30 years" against so-called authorities on the novel.

Chiang Ching had already stirred up a hornet's nest over several other works defending the feudal and old bourgeois classes and brought them to Mao's attention. Among them was Inside the Ching Court, a film about the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 that portrayed the peasantry as ignorant and barbaric, while glorifying the Manchu emperor, who represents the liberal aristocracy. Chiang Ching objected to its circulation and promotion as a "patriotic" film (by Liu Shao-chi, among others), and when Mao saw it, he called it a film of national betrayal.

At the time The Story of Wu Hsun appeared back in 1950 during the land reform movement, she exposed the film's endorsement of bourgeois aspirations and its basic message that preached liberation and social success through education, as well as its conciliatory stand towards the feudal landlords. Wu Hsun was a pauper who carefully saved every bit of cash he could, gaining interest on it from landlords and usurers, until he had enough to buy property and build a school offering free education to poor children. When Chou Yang, Vice Minister of Culture, said he could put up with a little reformism, Chiang Ching flung the door closed, with, "Then go ahead with your reformism!" Although even Mao at first thought she might be wasting her time, she delved into an eight-month-long investigation into the life and legend of Wu Hsun; she wanted to be in a position to launch a thoroughly informed criticism and to begin to attack the pillars and defenders of this bourgeois line in the arts.

In the beginning Chou Yang tried to prevent Chiang Ching from carrying out this project, but when he failed he sent a secretary to be her assistant and to sabotage the work in Shantung province, where Wu Hsun's legend was especially strong. As it turned out, a local landlord was promoting the Wu Hsun model to the people, and the more she dug into the fellow's past, the more she uncovered about his own class origins. She called on the local people to help get to the bottom of this "spirit" of Wu Hsun. She found out he was not only a landlord with several mistresses, but had been promoted to oppose widespread peasant revolts then shaking western Shantung.

She sent back reports to the Chairman, and People's Daily began publishing the results of the investigation; rival "fact-finding" teams appeared, and the debate over the Wu Hsun model became a widespread social question in 1951. Mao himself wrote an editorial for the People's Daily based on Chiang Ching's report, pointing out "the degree of ideological confusion reached in our country's cultural circles! In the view of many writers, history has developed not by the replacement of the old by the new, but by the straining of every effort to preserve the old from extinction, not by class struggle to overthrow the reactionary feudal rulers who had to be overthrown, but by the negation of the class struggle of the oppressed and their submission to these rulers, in the manner of Wu Hsun." He called for a discussion on the film and on essays relating to the Wu Hsun story.[46]

Although unknown to the public, Chiang Ching therefore made contributions early on in this area that was almost totally dominated by bourgeois intellectuals with the backing of high-ranking revisionists in the CCP. While Chou Yang whined that she was "upsetting" the writers and artists, she had in mind a different problem: here were millions of peasants who were making colossal revolutionary efforts to transform agriculture and social relations in the countryside and they had the chance to see maybe one movie or play a year. Was it going to be about glittery emperors and empresses who squashed their rebellions and haughty landlords counting money, or the new actors, the masses of labouring people sacrificing their blood and devoting their lives to change society?

Chiang Ching refused to back off from controversy and, armed with Mao's pathbreaking analysis from the 1940s of art and politics, helped to break up the peace of the sacred spheres that so far had scarcely been challenged, much less transformed, by the revolution, and she used this controversy to expose the outmoded thinking of writers and artists clinging to the "standards" of the past. Together with Mao she encouraged the fresh "nobodies" to upbraid the staid and mouldy "authorities" and began to develop views on promoting proletarian ideology and revolutionary heroes.

These rumblings of thunder in the cultural arena a decade before the spring storms of the Cultural Revolution broke out fully were encouraged by Mao's initiative in 1957 to open the floor to questions directly affecting the superstructure the campaign to "Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend". Mao insisted: we are overtly, not covertly, as often charged, inviting the poisonous weeds to jump out so we can better criticize them. "Class struggle is an objective reality, independent of man's will.... It cannot be avoided even if people want to avoid it. The only thing to do is to make the best use of the situation and guide the struggle to victory."[47]

Attacking The Old Superstructure... And Its Guardians

As the 1950s drew to a close, the political struggle within the Central Committee sharpened up dramatically. The two roads and two lines were becoming increasingly clear to push ahead with socialist construction of the economy and revolutionization of society as a whole, or to stop and "rest", as the bourgeois elements, those veteran Party leaders "stuck" in the first, bourgeois democratic phase of the revolution would have it, and develop capitalism. In addition, Khrushchev's call for goulash instead of communism greatly reinforced the danger inside China.

During the stormy Politburo meetings at Lushan in 1959, Mao wrote to Chiang Ching, sending her the response he had prepared to counter Defence Minister Peng Teh-huai's opposition to accelerating the transition to socialism. Peng was about to be knocked down as the leading representative of the line within the Central Committee that advocated forming a modern army like the Soviet Union's (and opposed creating a people's militia), a line linked to the broadside attack on the cooperative transformation of agriculture in the Great Leap Forward in the name of promoting heavy industry and building up the military.[7] Although Mao tried to stop her, warning that the very intense struggle would be too demanding for her fragile health, Chiang Ching insisted on joining him at the meetings in order to fully understand the situation.

In the early 1960s struggle focused on how to sum up the Great Leap Forward and communization in general. Liu Shao-chi, Mao's chief opponent and the chief representative of those Party officials taking the capitalist road, jumped out more openly, calling for greater monetary incentives for agricultural production, the extension of private plots, more rural (capitalist) fairs and so on. Not coincidentally, Liu began paying visits to Confucius' shrine. Although Mao and the proletarian camp were firmly in command of the Party overall, the bourgeois forces, increasingly concentrated at the top levels of the Party, were strong and energetically creating public opinion for a takeover of power. These revisionists had a strong grip on both the educational system and the arts, areas key to spreading their ideology and influencing the masses.

The Left prepared a counter-attack and began to create their own public opinion for a major offensive against the bourgeoisie in the Party.

Chiang Ching plunged into the political battles alongside Mao. She began publishing articles in her own name in some women's and youth journals, as well as going back out among the masses in 1963 as part of the Socialist Education Movement, Mao's offensive to combat revisionism, bourgeois practices and thinking, which was the precursor to the Cultural Revolution. He called on cadres, artists and writers from the cities to go to the countryside and learn from the masses. At the Tenth Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee meeting in 1962 a decision was made after much struggle to let Chiang Ching challenge the revisionist stronghold of the Peking Municipal Committee presided over by Politburo member and Mayor of Peking Peng Chen (which had responsibility for setting national policy on culture). These were the people who controlled much of China's press, its theatres and cultural circles and who fostered a school of thought (opposing Mao's push to further revolutionize society and promoting nest-feathering in the name of modernization) that was influential among intellectuals in general.

They created a haven for new bourgeois writers like Wu Han, author of the play Hai Jui Dismissed from Office that appeared in 1961, which was a protest against Mao for dismissing Peng Teh-huai as Defence Minister in 1959, covered only by thin analogy to the Ming Dynasty era. They were also the sponsors of the newspaper column "Three Family Village" that satirically attacked Mao and his line.[8] If the revolutionaries criticized the writings or dramatic productions sponsored by this new bourgeoisie, who were actively working to stamp cultural and intellectual life in general with their class outlook, such criticisms were dodged with phoney self-criticisms or counter-articles that touched on secondary points.

This dilemma was magnified by the fact that the Left could not even get much of what it wanted published, and thus had to partially rely on channels within the army, under the command of Lin Piao. Some time later, in early 1966, Mao was moved to call the central Ministry of Propaganda the "Palace of the Prince of Hell" "It must be overthrown! It is to the advantage of despots to keep people ignorant. It is to our advantage to make them intelligent."[25]

Chiang Ching tried to get criticisms of Hai Jui Dismissed from Office written and printed in Peking, but this clique threw a fit and blocked it everywhere. Finally, working quietly under Chiang Ching's and Mao's leadership, a young writer named Yao Wen-yuan, who had become active during the anti-rightest movement following the Hundred Flowers Campaign, wrote a blistering critique of this play. But it was only in Shanghai that it could be printed at first and not until November 1965, when Mao called it the "signal" for the Cultural Revolution. The Peking clique of writers then tried to bury the huge controversy that broke out in academic nuances of history, even resorting to distancing themselves from author (and Vice Mayor of Peking) Wu Han in order to save their own positions.

Revolution In The Peking Opera

A host of bigwig "experts" and defenders of feudal and bourgeois drama and music arrogantly held sway in most all of the arts, opera being among the worst. This dominion over important areas of the superstructure by the new bourgeois elite connected to revisionists in the top ranks of the Party was a reflection of the incomplete transformation of the economic base of society, which, while overall socialist, still had significant capitalist features. The profound truth that Mao enriched that the political struggle to make revolution had to be carried out in the superstructure, in the sphere of ideas, values, customs and culture stared defiantly at both classes, the proletariat and the new bourgeoisie, locked in struggle.

In over a decade of proletarian rule giant strides towards transforming backward, semi-feudal, semi-colonial China had been taken: private ownership had basically been changed through collectivization and the nationalization of industry, and, since China had been wrested out of the claws of foreign domination, the economy as a whole was based on answering people's needs rather than filling imperialist coffers. The onerous cycle of poverty and debt had been broken, and famine and illiteracy had in the main been wiped out. Women began to enter the schools in much larger numbers and to take an active part in productive and political life. At the same time, breakthroughs in many areas were partial or totally blocked by a revisionist line and the oppressive weight of the past. Nowhere was this clearer than in narrowing the "three great differences" between city and countryside, workers and peasants, and manual and mental labour. In 1964 Mao branded the Department of Public Health the "Health Ministry of Urban Gentlemen". In some factories revisionist-led management urged workers to limit political discussions to thirty minutes per day so as not to interrupt production. And, as one aspect of Chang Chun-chiao's penetrating analysis of bourgeois right revealed, in the countryside ownership was still collective and not "by the whole people", a situation that facilitated capitalist tendencies[24]; furthermore the quality of land varied tremendously among the different communes, giving rise to important advantages for some. This contradiction between socialism and the remnants of semi-feudalism plus newborn capitalism was also clearly illustrated by the escalating and difficult struggle to liberate Chinese women, who had begun to be integrated into industry, teaching jobs and lower-level Party and government posts, yet still faced tremendous hurdles of feudal ideas and traditional oppressive roles in the home. Only unleashing the conscious struggle in the superstructure could begin to tear off these ideological shackles and in turn lead to further socialist transformation of the economic base.

The struggle in the arts erupted as a reflection of this. The bourgeois line reduced it to a clash over the issue of too "narrowly" handling questions of art, the pace of "socialist reform", or of the "genius" needed for creation. In reality the struggle posed in a concentrated way the fundamental problem of whether the proletariat was going to seize control of this sphere and make revolution in the superstructure or not. Was the cultural realm going to serve the socialist base or undermine it? The Left was not just preparing an offensive against bad ideas, but against those ideas, beliefs and cultural works that preserved the old oppressive divisions of society. The old Peking opera itself was a stubborn stronghold of the landlord and capitalist classes in the ideological field, whose repertories mainly propagated Confucian virtues of obedience and loyalty. As was to be summed up ten years later, "the selection of Peking Opera as the place to make a breakthrough by the proletarian revolution in literature and the arts is itself a major struggle to criticize the doctrines of Confucius and Mencius; it aims at dismantling the spiritual props on which the reactionary classes have relied for centuries to create a hell on earth."[45]

Chiang Ching carried out a great deal of investigation, visiting many theatre troupes, talking with performers, viewing films and attending plays and operas all over the country. What she found was not socialist innovation highlighting the feats and heroism of the masses, but a stultifying mixture of new revisionism and tedious, oppressive old works that defended privilege and class differences and staged ornate and superstitious traditional characters, or the wholesale imitation of foreign plays by bourgeois writers.

Although under Chou Yang new theatres had been set up, the old works persisted, as did the existence of local opera companies performing stuffy, glamourous feudal operas to very meagre audiences. But also new revisionist art was produced, combining tradition with "new theatre". It eclectically blended things together with the effect of preserving evil, negative heroes (one of the hallmarks of Peking Opera) and the old styles and melodies, while preventing the emergence of distinct revolutionary themes and heroes with new artistic forms. For example, plays appearing during the agrarian revolution of the Great Leap Forward featured feudal empresses suddenly showing compassion for the peasant masses they ruled over; the liberation war was the springboard to promote love themes, and under the banner of "realism and naturalism", the masses would be portrayed as tired and shabby, hardly inspiring heroic images.

Chiang Ching's findings in part prompted Mao's famous denunciation of the Ministry of Culture as a "Ministry of Emperors and Princes, Generals, Mummies, Gifted Scholars and Foreign Beauties... if they don't change, we'll rename them."[41] Chiang Ching began work to transform the Peking Opera investigation started in 1961, "we took action" in 1963. The Mayor of Shanghai, Ko Ching-shih, was one of the few to support Chiang Ching's drive to replace the feudal demons and monsters of the stage with revolutionary dramas featuring the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers. Artists were called on to carry the class struggle into these spheres and develop new socialist repertories. Studying Mao's Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art, a small number of pioneers under Chiang Ching's lead sharpened their tools of criticism and began both to expose the old works and to vigourously struggle with artists and writers to revise the scripts and to write new ones.

In the space of a few years, some 37 new and revised operas and plays were developed, including the first model works. To create good modern plays Chiang Ching had initiated the method of three-in-one combinations in the arts, linking Party cadres, playwrights (who were sent to live among the peasants, soldiers and workers to better understand the experience they were to convey), and revolutionary masses, who watched and criticized in order to improve the actual productions.

For example, Chiang Ching saw a performance of a Huai Chu (folk) opera in 1963 and proposed adapting it to the Peking Opera, On the Docks, which became one of the first plays set in the socialist period. It was originally composed with the help of the Shanghai dock workers, who were very excited: "In the old days we were just coolies, we had no right to watch from the audience, let alone go on stage." But the Shanghai Peking Opera Theatre was a stronghold of the revisionist line in the arts, and its writers immediately began to modify the script, trying to dilute its internationalism and raise "middle characters" to the main roles. The dock workers were furious. "Every one of our families has a history of bitter suffering.... When it comes to the revolutionary cause of the Party we veteran workers are alive, ready and decisive. Your opera makes us stupid and sluggish.... We will never approve such an opera!"[68]

In March 1965, Chiang Ching led the reorganization of the cast and scriptwriting, recreating the story of Shanghai's advanced dockers who struggle to load a ship with wheat destined for the national liberation struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America, but encounter sabotage by a backward worker, who has support from revisionists in the Party. The real-life revisionists again counter-attacked, calling this version poor artistically, and criticizing the strong role played by the woman Party leader (who leads the struggle to uncover the plot and get the shipment out on time) as "unrealistic". They tried to block its performances. More struggle followed. Chiang Ching stressed internationalism to encourage the troupe: "The oppressed people all over the world are longing to see our operas on revolutionary contemporary themes. We should have the highest aspirations and resolve to serve the needs of the Chinese people as well as the oppressed people of the whole world."[26] Two years later, after the fires of the Cultural Revolution had focused the struggle between two lines in the political arena, the opera was completed and presented on the 25th anniversary of the Yenan Forum.

Besides entering into the line struggles over theme and content and over the artists' need to remould their outlook as well as to learn about the lives of the classes they were representing on stage, Chiang Ching also paid close attention to artistic form and the all-important unity between revolutionary political content and perfecting artistic form. She personally went into the theatres to encourage innovation and to struggle with the performers themselves about how to change everything from their acting and posture to the lighting, props, costumes, colour, music, dance and singing to reflect a different class stand. No more wailing like in the old opera. Women cried standing, turning their grief into anger. Instead of covering their mouths when they smiled, as in feudal society, they laughed outright with joy and determination. Militant fists replaced the weak, delicate "orchid finger" gesture of aristocratic China.

Much of Chiang Ching's investigation was revealed in her speech to the Peking Opera Festival, held in the summer of 1964, which brought together 5000 representatives from opera companies in the provinces and cities, under the uneasy watch of the revisionist cultural hierarchy. New revolutionary operas created in the midst of the sharp struggle in the realm of culture were performed, including such works as Raid on the White Tiger Regiment, set during the Korean War, and Shachiapang, which emphasizes the close relationship between the army and the peasant masses during the guerrilla war against the Japanese (also made into a symphony). Experiences in waging class struggle against the revisionists, who keenly opposed this process of transformation, were exchanged. New shoots of socialist society were springing into being.

In this first public appearance Chiang Ching asks the assembled artists: "Shall we serve this handful [of landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements, Rightists and bourgeois elements], or the 600 million [workers, peasants and soldiers]?... The grain we eat is grown by the peasants, the clothes we wear and the houses we live in are all made by the workers, and the People's Liberation Army stands guard at the fronts of national defence for us and yet we do not portray them on the stage. May I ask which class stand do you take? And where is the artists' 'conscience' you always talk about?" She says that the "foremost task" is to create revolutionary heroes, and calls for fostering some "pace-setters", for producing "some historical operas which are really written from the standpoint of historical materialism and which can make the past serve the present". She insists on the importance of developing new plays, by creative writing and by adaptation.[26]

Behind the scenes Chiang Ching's (and Mao's) political enemies laid a scheme for how to coopt this growing movement that they could not openly oppose. They had to go along with the festival, for example, but at the time they tried to sabotage preparations of the operas for it and afterwards revised Chiang Ching's speech before publication. The original version did not appear in print until three years later, in May 1967, the first time that Chiang Ching's instrumental role in revolutionizing the Peking Opera was broadly made public.

Some time later, in 1965, Chiang Ching directly confronted Peng Chen, Mayor of Peking, about helping to proletarianize the arts, pursuing what had already been started with works like the ballet White-Haired Girl in Shanghai: so wouldn't he like to give her authorization to work with a Peking Opera troupe to begin such reforms there? He haughtily refused, tearing out of her hands the opera score she had brought to show him.[70] Preoccupied by the pursuit of fame and fortune, Deng Xiaoping was more philistine in his attitude towards reforming the opera: "I'll raise both hands and vote yes as long as I don't have to watch any of them!" he was heard to say. His equally broad-minded revisionist chum Tao Chu[9] announced he'd rather play mahjong with Deng than have to watch revolutionary operas.[68]

As things heated up at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, these revisionist chieftains made gestures of rectification to save their positions of authority, but before long they began to trip and fall in the early seizures of power during the GPCR.

Uncovering villains and exposing their preservation and encouragement of the old order was only a part of the work to be done. To fully give rein to the fresh and new rising t smash and replace the old, the masses had to be unleashed to demand and to participate in the creation of revolutionary works of art that reflected their proletarian class interests, and this was totally linked to the battle emerging in every area of society to strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat. These skirmishes between two lines in the arts announced even bigger storms to come, where culture and the superstructure in general became an important arena of the class struggle in the sweeping ten-year battle of the Cultural Revolution.

Cultural Revolution Leader

Although things broke loose in the realm of culture with the Left's stinging counterattack against the play Hai Jui Dismissed from Office, the issue at the heart of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was political power itself. Whether China would stay on the socialist road and the people would transform the society from top to bottom and move towards the elimination of classes and class differences altogether, there and throughout the world, depended upon the crucial question of who would win out in the struggle for power: the revolutionary communists in the Communist Party leading the proletariat to exercise its dictatorship in every sphere of society, or the new bourgeoisie the encrusted bureaucrats and conservative Party leaders who stopped making revolution long before and were now squarely opposed to the advance of the socialist revolution and actively working to steer China down the road of capitalism.

Seeing clearly that this was what was at stake, Mao put everything on the line to lead the struggle to consolidate the political power of the proletariat in the only way that he could relying on the masses and arousing them to overturn the revisionists high in the Party from below and in an all-round way. Needing a revolutionary headquarters to organize and lead this revolution within the revolution, he created the Cultural Revolution Group (CRG), with Chen Po-ta at its head, and brought forward Chiang Ching to be first deputy leader, along with Chang Chun-chiao, a revolutionary Party leader from Shanghai.

Chiang Ching courageously shouldered the challenges and responsibilities given to her in the midst of the rising waters of sharp class struggle; she not only swam with determined strokes against the powerful and swift revisionist current, but in this tremendous revolutionary upheaval, for which no previous road had been charted in the world, she rose to the occasion to play a crucial and leading role throughout the GPCR. Undoubtedly this will be remembered as her greatest contribution. It is certainly this most unpardonable sin, of helping the masses to strengthen their grip on political power and her close identity with the Cultural Revolution overall, that earned her the complete enmity and vilification of the bourgeoisie around the world.

One of her first tasks as part of the committee assigned to draft documents for the Cultural Revolution was to write a circular to counter Peng Chen's revisionist February Outline Report on socialist culture that sought to derail and defuse the Cultural Revolution.[10] The sharpness of the line struggle in its top ranks became known throughout the Party, as the May 16th Circular (several times revised by Mao, according to Chiang Ching) names "those like Khrushchev who nestle beside us". Soon, with the appearance of the big character poster at Peking University in May 1966, which Mao wholeheartedly supported, the floodgates of the Cultural Revolution were flung wide open.

Chiang Ching became rapidly involved in the opening salvoes, going to Peking University and other schools in July 1966 to talk to the students and to listen to the debate raging there. She soon uncovered the counter-revolutionary role of work teams that were smothering the students' rebellion. In late July, the CRG dissolved these teams that had been sent out by Liu Shao-chi and Deng Xiaoping to spread confusion about the Party centre's line on the upsurge. The two-month hold on power by the revisionists in Peking (while Mao was away), who through "encirclement" and "white terror" sought to deflect the struggle away from themselves and to "restore order", was short-lived. These leading people, who "puff up the arrogance of the bourgeoisie and deflate the morale of the proletariat", became the targets of Mao's famous big character poster of August 1966, the dazibao called "Bombard the headquarters!", encouraging the fires of revolt to spread far and wide, but especially to aim right at those taking the capitalist road in the Party's top ranks, where the class struggle was concentrated.

One of the things that will always be remembered about Chiang Ching was that she, like Mao, was strongly associated with the youth. But in her position as part of the CRG (which in effect had been delegated political leadership of the Cultural Revolution by the Central Committee), she was able to play a different role than Mao, going on the spot and sometimes directly entering the fray to boldly and energetically support the rebellion of the youth. She brought greetings from the Chairman, which encouraged them greatly in the heat of the complex struggle of contending lines and programmes, and she helped to distinguish the threads of class struggle in society related to the struggle inside the Party itself. She and the other members of the CRG met with delegations of students, workers, soldiers, peasants, teachers and artists to battle out questions that came up sharply in the course of the Cultural Revolution, including what methods to use, whom to target, how to deal with divisions and factionalism, how, in short, "to demarcate sharply between the enemy and ourselves", as Chiang Ching frequently put it, but how at the same time to unite the masses and build alliances to carry forward the revolution.

Among the youth and students, for example, the left-sounding but right-in-essence call to castigate everyone from a privileged or conservative family background caused considerable confusion at first. Chiang Ching convinced the youth to change their slogan, "a hero begets a hero, a reactionary's son is a rotten egg", to "if parents are revolutionaries, their children should follow in their path; if parents are reactionaries, their children should rebel".[67][69]

The Red Guards made their momentous entry into Peking in August and September of 1966, foreshadowing the participation of the workers and peasants in the movement shortly afterwards and signaling that this Cultural Revolution was shaking loose all of society. Chiang Ching began to speak in public, urging the massive rallies of youth, especially, to take history into their hands. Promptly becoming known in her military cap and uniform, she appeared at seven out of the eight receptions of Red Guards by Mao. She also addressed university and middle school teachers, artists and cinematographers, as well as the 100,000 PLA soldiers who came to support and oversee the millions of youth who flocked to Peking in the next few months, many on foot. Throughout the autumn she sponsored performances of the model operas for the Red Guards and in late November delivered an important speech on the cultural revolution and the sharp class struggle within the Peking Opera and on other artistic fronts to 20,000 literary and art workers.

Speaking to the Red Guards, Chiang Ching called on them to pull out the top capitalist roaders in the Party, to wipe out the four olds of ideology, culture, custom and habits, and to carry out the process of struggle-criticism-transformation, in accordance with the revolutionary headquarter's main document issued to lead the Cultural Revolution, the Sixteen Points.[11] "I'm sure you'll do a good job", she told them.[28]

For the revolutionaries had the job of not only sharpening the struggle against the Right, guiding it to victory, but in the process strengthening the Left and bringing forward new revolutionary blood and leaders into its ranks. "I ask you, if the Left doesn't unite and grow stronger, will it be able to wipe them out?" "No!" the crowd of young Red Guards thundered back to her.[30]

In January 1967, as worker and peasant delegations joined the convergence of students and youth exchanging revolutionary experience in the capital, Chiang Ching addressed leaders of the Red Guards, whose responsibility it was to manage the crowds that were now being encouraged to return home. This was a complicated task, for it required a high political level of the youth in order to both bolster the political enthusiasm and drive of those who genuinely came to the capital looking for revolution, and at the same time to struggle with these masses to spread the revolution in their local regions. The massive numbers even became a burden on the city's resources, but this had to be handled correctly. (It should be noted that adding to this burden was the intention of some local revisionist authorities, who tried to get the "rebels" out of their hair with pay hikes or free train tickets to Peking to air their complaints.) "If the people who come to Peking from outside need to take power, we must mobilize them to go back home and take power there", Chiang Ching directed the Red Guards.[33]

At a meeting of the CRG in late December 1966, representatives from a rebel workers' group denounced the contract labour system. They said it divided the workers, encouraged revisionism by developing a "hotbed" for the restoration of capitalism, and stifled the revolutionary activism of the masses. "This system was instituted after Liu Shao-chi's report on his inspection made in various parts of Hopei province in 1964", the representatives said. When they also described efforts in some places to break the fighting spirit of the workers by switching from contract labour to regular workers, Chiang Ching told them not to fall for this: "What you want is revolution!" She ordered the Minister of Labour and trade union federation secretary to come immediately to the meeting and answer the angry workers. Asked what they did all day long, they said, "our responsibility is to educate and organize the workers". Chiang Ching grew furious and retorted, "You don't work for them, you don't serve them, you don't report to the Central Committee, nor do you solve problems. Have you any quality of a Communist at all?... Contract workers are also proletarians and revolutionaries. How did you big-shot ministers treat the workers? If things should go on like this, what future is there for our workers?"

The rebel workers then took over the trade union headquarters and sealed off the offices of the Ministry of Labour and those responsible for distribution of labour throughout the country. Chiang Ching proposed a mass "accusation-criticism-repudiation meeting" and the drafting of a CRG circular declaring that all contract and temporary labourers must be permitted to participate in the GPCR and that anyone dismissed because of this would be reinstated with pay.[31]

Seizing Power

Following the example of the mighty 1967 January Storm in Shanghai a movement to seize local political power from the capitalist roaders and to organize new organs of leadership swept the country. Chiang Ching enthusiastically supported this and popularized this completely new experience the proletariat was gaining. New three-in-one combinations brought together revolutionary Party cadre, revolutionary representatives from the army and representatives from the revolutionary masses to make up the newborn centres of power, called revolutionary committees.

During this phase of the GPCR Chiang Ching's leadership concentrated in large part on implementing the vital line developed by Mao and the CRG of building great alliances to seize power, setting up revolutionary committees and carrying out the process of struggle-criticism-transformation.

After one of the main bastions of the revisionist power-holders, the Peking Municipal Committee (closely associated with the old Propaganda Department of the Central Committee and the old Ministry of Culture), was finally overthrown, Chiang Ching presided over the celebration of the founding of the Peking Revolutionary Committee. She said that the behind-the-scenes bosses of the Peking clique are the handful of top Party persons in authority taking the capitalist road. "For 17 years, they have been putting forward and stubbornly persisting in a bourgeois reactionary line. The proletarian revolutionary line represented by Chairman Mao has been developed in the struggle against this line", whose influence on the political, economic, ideological and cultural fronts must be thoroughly wiped out, planting in its place the great red banner of Mao Tsetung Thought.

Chiang Ching linked the changes that needed to be carried out in Peking to the overall task of the Cultural Revolution and pointed to the need to launch a mass movement to carry out the process of struggle-criticism-repudiation and transformation, alongside the forging of an alliance to seize power. "The task of struggle, criticism and repudiation and transformation in the various departments and the work of criticizing and repudiating the top Party persons in authority taking the capitalist road are not mutually exclusive and can be combined." She explained that each can give strong impetus to the other and bring about a fuller and deeper exposure and criticism of the top capitalist roaders; she reminded people that all this requires studying Mao's works well and carrying out thorough investigation. She said it is essential for the socialist revolution and socialist construction to carry through the struggle, criticism and repudiation and transformation in the various organizations and departments successfully. "It is a major task, crucial for the next hundred years."[36]

In one of her speeches to a delegation from the faction-torn province of Anhwei, Chiang Ching struggles vigourously with the two factions to unite and form a great alliance so that power can be seized and revolutionary committees created. Only then "shall we have people to lead us. And the revolution cannot proceed without leaders!" She warns against the strong foul wind already "being stirred up with the object of dissolving all revolutionary committees set up with the approval of the Central Committee", and that in the present "excellent situation we should be alert against this. Naturally there may be some reversals but we should not be afraid of them." Reversals of power are a normal thing. And besides, the situation throughout the country is uneven, but unevenness is also normal.[38]

Twists And Turns Of Revolution

There are two things that really drive the bourgeoisie mad the masses making revolution and revolutionary leaders in power supporting and leading them. While it is not uncommon for the bourgeoisie to attribute all of the violence of the Cultural Revolution to Chiang Ching's "personal" energetic support of the revolutionary masses, a close look at her role shows that overwhelmingly she fought rigourously to uphold Mao's orientation that the handful of capitalist roaders high in the Party could be toppled without violence. This was objectively true because the revolution was indeed within the revolution it took place under the dictatorship of the proletariat, whose primary function is to suppress the enemies of the working class and the people. This is quite the opposite from the situation in China today, where a new Communist Party must be formed to lead the masses to violently overthrow the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie that has been established there since 1976.

So, although armed suppression of the leading capitalist roaders was not necessary because the proletariat was in command, at the same time Mao did not shrink from the fact that once the masses were fully aroused to make revolution and bring about sweeping political changes, some things were certain to get out of hand. Neither was he surprised, as occurred repeatedly in the GPCR, that lines opposing that of the Centre emerged, fanning violence so as to sidetrack the main political struggle. "In the cataclysmic changes that have developed over the past year there has naturally been chaos everywhere. There is no connection between the chaos in one place and that in another. Even violent struggle is very good, because once contradictions are exposed they are easily solved. The losses in this great cultural revolution have been minimal and the achievements huge."[51]

In the heat of the summer of 1966 when the Cultural Revolution was just getting off the ground Chiang Ching struggled against an ultra-left tendency to want to attack the capitalist roaders and their supporters physically and avoid the much more difficult process of ideological and political struggle that the Left was calling for. "Struggle by force can only touch the skin and flesh, while struggle by reasoning things out can touch them to their very souls."[29]

In part the turn towards violent clashes was spontaneous and an expression of the sharp class struggle: workers fought verbally but also in the streets over seizing power from the municipal committees in at least eight different provinces in early 1967. The army was also called in to assist the workers and Red Guards in these seizures and to help restore order. At the same time, forces of the Right in some areas openly advocated violence by distorting certain slogans or by inciting the masses to focus their attack on smaller capitalist roaders in order to divert attention away from themselves. The slogan, "Drag out a handful in the army", was taken quite literally in some areas, for instance, and applied everywhere the Right could get away with it, including at times seizing weapons from the regular troops. Chiang Ching exposes this line:

"Let us not fall into the trap. The slogan is wrong. Because the Party, government and the army are all under the leadership of the Party. We can only talk about dragging out the handful of Party capitalist roaders in authority and nothing else. Were we to do otherwise, that would be unscientific, and the result would be that we got the wrong people everywhere, and almost all military districts would be raided, without distinguishing good from bad. Even if some comrades, a minority of comrades, some individual comrades in our army committed serious errors, they need not be dealt with in such a way...."

Chiang Ching then goes on to say that youth of course like action, but that it was also necessary to "exercise your minds", to carry out the harder process of struggle-criticism-transformation. Travelling around from place to place appeals to youth, but they may not know the particular conditions everywhere and may make mistakes. "You must believe in the local masses and must not do the things which they should do themselves, just as we cannot make revolution on your behalf. All we can do is consult with you and give guidance."[38]

In fact, it was not always so clear how to handle the contradictory nature of the violence produced by the revolutionary zeal of the masses and the intensity of the situation without acting as a brake on the revolutionary momentum that was righteous and necessary for the process of transforming society and for the proletariat to exercise its dictatorship, including in the realm of fully recapturing political power itself. If in revolution there is disorder and excesses, both of which Mao took responsibility for, it is also objectively true that recognizing and correctly handling them cannot always be accomplished until some of the smoke clears. At the same time, some forces take advantage of this for their own opportunist reasons. Within the CRG group itself, which Chiang Ching helped to lead, some elements (such as Chen Po-ta) openly embraced the use of force, and people followed their example, especially after the provocation and mutiny by military units supporting the Right in the city of Wuhan in 1967. These CRG leaders, later identified as ultra-"leftist", whose goal was to create chaos and turn it to their advantage, could not be removed until some time later. The Right also organized violence among a section of the Red Guards it had turned against the CRG.[12] Chou En-lai, on the other hand, who always had a wide Rightist streak despite his alliance with Mao, and who often appeared in public with the Left, played a very centrist role and always stressed calm and restoring order, while accusing the "anarchists" of continuing civil war.

Chiang Ching consistently advocated attacking and overthrowing the enemy ideologically and politically, and called for restraint by the masses whose anger was fully aroused. In her speeches she pointed out that Liu Shao-chi had been dragged from power without force of arms. However, when arms were issued "for defence" to certain Red Guard units and rebel forces against rightist strongholds of the PLA, she went along with this. Her well-known slogan, "Attack by reason, defend by force", was not promoted because it tended to confuse the dividing line between the two, and ended up encouraging the use of arms among other sections of the people as well, which didn't solve the kind of contradictions arising among groups and organizations of the masses. Who was to know exactly where defence ended and attack began? In September 1967 Mao arrived back in Peking after visiting a number of regions, and shortly afterwards a circular was released forbidding further arms from being seized.[40]

"It's Easy To Make Revolution Against Others And Hard To Make Revolution Against Oneself."

During the Cultural Revolution Chiang Ching developed a close relationship with the revolutionary masses, who came to wildly appreciate her as a revolutionary leader of the Party. Observing a meeting he attended, a Soviet sinologist described the animated crowd, which "kept bursting into applause": "After Chen Po-ta, Kang Sheng, and Li Hsueh-feng, whose speeches I am completely unable to remember, since they so skillfully said nothing of interest, the floor was given to Chiang Ching, who in her green military uniform and hat never stopped moving. Her speech set the room on fire.... "You are the revolutionary new generation', she said. "You are the ones who must carry on the revolution. You must take it further. We, the older generation, are leaving, and as we go, we give you our revolutionary traditions. Chairman Mao is leaving China to you. The state will be in your hands. The school of the Cultural Revolution is a great school!' The effect was immediate. From the moment that the leaders departed, the meeting continued without let-up. Speakers replaced one another, everyone trying to outdo the other by his enthusiasm...."[68]

By her own example Chiang Ching roused others to dare to be like her, to dare to put all they had on the line for the political rule of the proletariat, as she had, to refuse to give in to the shrewd and calculating counter-revolutionaries, and especially to be clear on the enemy, so as to carefully differentiate between top capitalist roaders in the Party and those simply under their influence who were ideologically weak and easily manipulated to oppose their own fundamental interests. She was artful at combining revolutionary confidence in the masses and disdain for the enemy with practical leadership to guide the handling of complex and multiple contradictions erupting everywhere as the people waged struggle to seize power from the capitalist roaders.

Addressing delegations from all over and from diverse sections of society, she stressed the need to strengthen the ideological outlook of the proletariat, to encourage bold criticism and self-criticism, to wrestle with opposing ideas and stand firm in the face of difficulties. Chiang Ching urged the veteran revolutionaries to stay young politically, and to let themselves be tempered by the fire of the youth who were breaking new ground for the proletariat. She encouraged the youth to temper themselves in the struggle too, and to look beyond age and outward characteristics in order to deeply grasp political line and act in accordance with the correct line.

For example, to help create conditions for the masses to take power, in part by struggling against factionalism which arose sharply in several places, the CRG played an important role bringing together leaders and delegates of opposing factions in order to help solve problems and assist them in distinguishing serious disagreements from secondary ones. And, like Mao (who had said that the premises for the great alliance are destroying self-interest and becoming devoted to the people along with carrying out healthy struggle), Chiang Ching linked closely the question of outlook to the possibility of uniting to form great alliances:

"Comrades, if you think what I have to say is useful then let's try to implement it. We must become revolutionaries of Mao Tsetung Thought and not members of this group or that faction. The factional mentality is a petit-bourgeois trait; it is the mountain-stronghold mentality, departmentalism, or anarchism in its most serious form.... It is good that both sides make self-criticism.... In this way we shall sit down and talk and seek agreement over the major issues while preserving differences over minor ones. Uniting on the main points, that is revolution, the GPCR.

"...Whether you stand on the side of the proletarian revolutionary line led by Chairman Mao or on the side of the line taken by the capitalist roaders is a question of big right or big wrong. On this premise, if you are all struggling against the top Party person in authority taking the capitalist road (or, in Anhwei, against the small clique led by Li Pao-hua on the capitalist road) is there any reason for being unable to unite and for not uniting? If we judge from your factional character I think that you work for yourselves and not for the revolution, the people and the proletariat.

"...You must make high demands on yourselves and on your own group and not on others. If you quarrel, fight, wage armed struggle, and seize weapons, you cannot keep your heads cool and cannot distinguish between right and wrong....It is easy to make revolution against others, but hard to make it against oneself."[38]

Mao addressed this from another angle: the possibility of keeping political power itself. Speaking about the Cultural Revolution in March 1967, he summed up that the main task is to seize power from those taking the capitalist road, but, he says, "this is by no means the goal. The goal is to solve the problem of world outlook; it is the question of eradicating the roots of revisionism." Otherwise, he argued, how can the GPCR be considered a victory? In other words, without political power, socialist transformation could not take place, but without increasingly remoulding ideological outlook, it would be impossible to hold onto power.

When Mao declared that the working class must lead in every sphere of society, including in all aspects of culture and the superstructure, he especially targeted education and the arts. He made the pointed remark, knowing it would offend some and infuriate others, that intellectuals had basically not abandoned their bourgeois outlook. "Please consider whether or not this view is out of date", he asks rhetorically.[52]

Breaking With Old Ideas

The arena of culture, in which Chiang Ching continued to give leadership, was a major battlefield exactly because of this problem of outlook. Big advances and hard-fought victories had been won in creating new proletarian art but everywhere the political and ideological struggle had to be pushed further. Speaking at a Peking Forum on Literature and Art in November 1967, Chiang Ching points out that the unevenness of the GPCR in the propaganda and cultural units was a reflection of the laws of class struggle. Some still need to form great alliances, while others have done so, but haven't yet made a success of revolutionary three-in-one combinations and need to carry out more widespread debate and criticism, and to solve cadre problems. "Has the movement been carried out deeply and thoroughly?" she asks. "I think not. For the enemy is very shrewd; he has many companies of actors. After you dispose of one company he will turn up in yet another. So I feel there must be a penetrating investigation and study of the literary and artistic circles. We should be steady, accurate and harsh towards our enemy."

Several questions are raised in this forum: whether enough works are being produced, how to popularize them and to raise standards, whether model works are the "peak" of national art. But from each angle Chiang Ching returns to hit at the chief obstacle to fully unleashing the revolution in the arts: "The central task now is still to combat self-interest and repudiate revisionism, and to organize the revolutionary troops. Otherwise, it would be impossible to produce things really serving socialism and really suitable for the needs of workers, peasants and soldiers. To combat self-interest and repudiate revisionism is a difficult matter." She agrees that it is fine to send small teams to the countryside and factories to popularize the works, as a forum participant has suggested, but insists there is no point in going there if it is just to escape from struggle.

Similarly, in responding to those "impatient ones" who believed that not enough new operas have been produced, she says it is understandable, but argues that if they are done crudely, "people will strike us down". At the same time, she calls on the artists to get organized and to get down seriously to producing and reforming more works. She defends the eight model works which have "cleared the stage and screen of emperors and generals and the bourgeoisie", as well as the beginning achievements in reforming ballet and symphony, for, despite shortcomings, they have created a "shock and sensation" in the world.[39]

Tremendous breakthroughs had been made between 1963 and 1965 in the socialist transformation of the arts, with Chiang Ching and a small group of comrades leading the charge. However, until all of society was engaged in the battle for political power in the GPCR, the problem of forming troops to carry out this transformation on a broad scale could not be solved. Nor could the vital problem of making the new revolutionary culture available to the masses in a deep and widespread way throughout the country. In 1967 this began to change, and, among other things, plans were developed to put the model works out in a film version so as to make them more accessible all across China, extensive popularization was carried out through the PLA cultural units, and the work of the popular and innovative mobile cultural teams was greatly expanded.

Chiang Ching had frequently addressed meetings or rallies of artists and writers during the early phases of the Cultural Revolution, challenging them to fully participate in its overall tasks, as well as to make revolution in their units. Yet it appears that it was not until the spring of 1967 that the Party was really able to unleash an offensive to develop the debate over culture among the broad masses, going into the sharp two-line struggle to transform the arts and popularizing the successful experience led by Chiang Ching in revolutionizing Peking Opera in particular. Numerous articles and essays appeared in the press and theoretical organs. The important summary of the 1966 Forum on Art and Literature in the Armed Forces was also released to the public along with some brief statements by Mao on those questions. The new model operas were given special prominence, with Mao and other central leaders attending performances. And Chiang Ching was given the honour of presiding over the 25th anniversary celebration of the Yenan Forum, where new model works were performed.

Early on the Left had paid close attention to fully bringing the PLA into the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution. This had the advantage of strengthening the Left's line among the masses of soldiers, raising their political and ideological level, and enabling them to see the two-line struggle and class struggle in the army as well as in society. Amid other responsibilities, Chiang Ching was appointed cultural advisor to the PLA in February 1966 and advisor to a Cultural Revolution Group set up within the army one year later.

Under Chiang Ching's leadership on the cultural front, major questions of line in developing proletarian arts were struggled out and new works were created and produced. Conferences on creative writing were held and special attention was paid to the raising of an "army" of literary and art critics. Some of the "cultural" fruits of the Cultural Revolution overall and of the Left's line in particular could be easily seen within the PLA in the late 1960s, as the soldiers began to participate on a qualitatively different level in political and cultural activities ranging from political study to writing, producing and performing skits and operas, to organizing forums and amateur arts festivals in local PLA units throughout the country.

New Rounds Of Struggle

Although back in December 1964 she had attended the National People's Congress as a representative from her home Shantung province, Chiang Ching fully came into her own as a political leader during the Cultural Revolution. This was made "official" only at the Ninth Party Congress in 1969 when she was elected to the Politburo of the Central Committee. From that time on her responsibilities drew her increasingly into the political struggles of the Party's top leadership, and she was able to contribute in her own right to strengthening the position of the Left in these struggles.

In the later years of the Cultural Revolution China was actively engrossed in carrying out more thorough socialist transformation in the economy, health care, the arts and culture, especially the old educational system, including through building and strengthening the revolutionary committees. These were changes that hit hard at both the material and political underpinnings of capitalism and made it possible for the proletariat to extend its rule to new spheres. They also reflected the profound ways in which relations among people carrying out production were being recast, reaching into and opening up a future when new social relations in all realms of society have relegated the exploitative and oppressive ones that human history has mainly known to encyclopedias on primitive man in the era of social classes.

This myriad of new things included, among many others: workers, peasants and soldiers enrolled in the universities, the educated youth went to the countryside and Party cadres participated in productive labour; workers took part in administration and the reform of old rules and regulations, variations of three-in-one combinations were implemented in every domain, including for technological innovations in the factories and rural areas and for scientific achievements in general; the slogan red and expert, or politics leading professional skills, combined people armed with a correct political understanding and those with specialized knowledge; women were brought into Party posts and three-in-one leadership combinations, as were older masses, whose rich experience was combined with the energy of the youth; mass movements in science and technology were sponsored, model cultural works were developed and became the property of the masses, poetic and colourful revolutionary literature sprang up, the widespread study of Marxist theory was organized; a network of free or nearly free health care clinics with barefoot doctors trained from among the peasants was set up to serve the countryside.

Some opposed these "socialist new things", as they were called, which emerged as part of overthrowing the Right. Many of its leading representatives holding important Party posts had been replaced. However, even some who pretended to be Mao's closest comrades, like Lin Piao, began to thwart these innovations of the Cultural Revolution.

As early as his July 1966 letter to Chiang Ching, Mao warns that, "Certain of our friend's ideas greatly disturb me", referring to the way in which Lin Piao was promoting Mao almost like some kind of holy force. "It is all exaggerated", he wrote her.[59] She also recalled the Chairman's extreme annoyance at Lin Piao's stupid refrain in 1959 when he had just been promoted to defence minister, "One of Mao Tsetung's sentences equals 10,000 sentences."[13]

Chiang Ching sums up briefly that Lin Piao, who in the aftermath of overthrowing the capitalist roaders led by Liu Shao-chi was named Mao's successor at the Ninth Party Congress, tried to usurp the leadership of the Party, state and military. Besides publishing in Mao's name (and heavily "editing" his works into "Lin Piao Thought", as she put it), he created great chaos by stirring up fighting, brandishing arms and putting on pointless displays of military force. Chiang Ching also describes the extravagant style of his personal life, his Confucian zeal "to become an official and get rich".[70]

Coming at the time the Central Committee was preparing its case against Lin Piao, which Chiang Ching was instrumental in putting together, this account is mainly anecdotal, but nonetheless revealing. This traitor, as she calls him, had nestled close to Mao, and thus his brutish stab at power profoundly shook both the Party and society just as the gains of the GPCR and nationwide unity were being consolidated, and in the context of the growing military threat by the Soviet Union. Of the ten major two-line struggles in the CCP in its history (up until 1972), Chiang Ching said the most serious was with Lin Piao.

Lin Piao had been closely associated with the Left in the mid-1960s when they needed allies to get their views disseminated and to bolster their offensive against the Right and against the danger of capitalist restoration. At the time, Lin Piao played an important role in carrying out socialist education in the military, rectifying Peng Te-huai's line (of "modernizing" the army by relying on advanced technology, as did the Soviet revisionists). But Lin Piao and his supporters also used the occasion to build a tighter base of support and to glorify Mao, and even Chiang Ching to some extent, as icons they hoped to knock down. Lin Piao wanted to use the army to restore order, and by 1967-1968 he was already saying production should be above political struggle.

By the Ninth Party Congress in 1969 Lin's fully rightist programme had become clear: the principal contradiction was said to be between the advanced socialist system and the backward productive forces the same Chinese goulash line as that of Liu Shao-chi, defeated years before. He considered the socialist new things as obstacles to the masses getting "food and fuel", and although he was outwardly opposed to Chou En-lai's capitulation to the U.S. imperialists (since Lin preferred the "bad socialists" of the USSR), he actually shared much in common with Chou's more "moderate" but essentially rightist modernization aims, his surrender to imperialism, etc. Lin also resisted Mao's efforts to re-establish the full leading role of the Party and to curtail that of the army.[55]

At this time intense struggle over the international situation heated up within the CCP leadership. In 1970 Mao agreed (with Chou, but for different reasons) to an opening with the West, creating an alliance between the Left and centrist Chou forces (primarily the "old guard" of the Party centre and the military hierarchies) against Lin. Politically defeated, Lin Piao continued to organize his coup and assassination plans against Mao, all of which ended instead in his flight to the USSR and death in a plane crash in September 1971. He waved the red flag to defeat it. On one side it was red, but on the other was a black skull and crossbones, Chiang Ching remarked bitterly.[70]

Lin Piao's downfall considerably strengthened Chou En-lai's position. The circumstances required the Left to do what Chou advocated bring back Rightists knocked down in the Cultural Revolution to fill the posts left by the Lin Piao forces, including in the army. Deng Xiaoping was even brought back, and if by day these Rightists made self-criticisms and promised to uphold the Cultural Revolution, by night they overall gained in strength. The Left faced the necessity of digging further at the roots of the revisionism of Lin Piao, and while organizationally not as strong, politically they had the freedom to arm the masses about the rightist essence of his line, while exposing secondarily his ultra-"left" cover and his idealist "geniuses make history" line. Even though the Right had gained in strength, at the Tenth Party Congress in 1973 the Left upholding the Cultural Revolution and the socialist new things, as well as their line of "Grasp Revolution, Promote Production" were overall politically victorious. Chiang Ching was re-elected to the Politburo, but on the Standing Committee only Chang Chun-chiao was fully in Mao's camp.

Chiang Ching speaks of the positive effect of the study organized among cadres to repudiate Lin Piao's line, and the evident raising of the political level of the masses and their conscious ability to act as they more systematically took up Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought in this period.

The Left launched the Campaign to Criticize Lin Piao and Confucius in 1974. Confucian doctrine also preached restoration of the old (slave) order, capitulation to foreign aggressors and blind obedience for the masses, who had only the right to be ruled over. By historical allusion this campaign targeted Deng Xiaoping, (Confucius) and secondarily Chou En-lai, whose centrist program was the bandwagon for the rise of the Right.

The Last Great Battle

Chiang Ching began to collide again with the revisionist line in culture, which endorsed imitating Western models in the name of becoming "modern" and sought to degrade proletarian art such as the new revolutionary operas and other cultural achievements of the Cultural Revolution. Wherever this line held sway, it began to reverse the line of these works or to introduce new revisionist ones. In the context of Chou's push for an opening to the West, numerous foreign orchestras were invited to China, most likely at his initiative. This was only one of the fronts on which there was mounting tension between the Premier and Chiang Ching, as there was a growing offensive by the Right on the cultural front and an emboldened political offensive overall between 1973 and 1975. It is not that the Left opposed foreign symphonies visiting China as such, but they demanded that it be clear for what political purpose they were being welcomed. A penetrating article on "absolute music" was published about that time, challenging the premise that this music had no meaning or class content and was above place and time, with rich examples from history and the development of class society. It argued that such a view tried to disguise the bourgeois class character of these untitled instrumental pieces, although some techniques of classical music could be critically assimilated.[25]

(It is important to note that as the number of international visitors mushroomed during this same period, Chiang Ching frequently received foreign heads of state and delegations and presided over numerous international sporting exchanges and other public events.)

The tenth anniversary of the revolution of Peking Opera in 1974 featured articles and celebrations upholding new socialist culture and rather openly polemicizing against those who judge as "improper" putting heroic workers and peasants on stage and who clamour for a return to the days where princes and emperors had their proper place there instead!

At the same time new works appeared popularizing the socialist transformation in various spheres, feats in agricultural production, the model developments in industry, such as the Taiching oilfields and socialist new things like barefoot doctors. There were some minor differences among the Left over which works to approve, and how high standards should be. Chiang Ching argued strongly against compromising on high standards either politically or artistically, and due to her knowledge of the cultural world, was able to recognize and criticize nuances and veiled allusions that others missed. In addition, it seems that Mao approved some films which Chiang Ching had objected to on various points; this is significant only in that it became wildly exaggerated when the Right took power and arrested the Four, and dragged this out as "proof" that Mao didn't approve of Chiang Ching, and other such ridiculous charges.

Chiang Ching and the Left also exposed and temporarily aborted the film debut of Hua Kuo-feng, who had filmed a light opera about education called Song of the Gardener which extols the virtues of wise teachers and likens them to refined flower cultivators.[62] Such glossy opposition to politics interfering with young people's studies contrasts markedly with a film produced under the Left's revolutionary line in this period, Breaking With Old Ideas. This film vividly portrays the class struggle in society over who gets to go to school and the difficulty of going up against both rigid traditional teachers and a curriculum more suited to bourgeois education than to the needs of the masses in transforming society. Although the film is set during the Great Leap Forward, these themes prove just as relevant for the 1970s, and the film became indeed a lasting work of universal significance. Together the students and Party leaders overthrow the academic snobbery and irrelevance of the old ways, winning over many vacillators in the process.

This arose in the midst of sharpening class struggle in the Party between two lines and two roads. A number of revisionists had been restored to key positions. And in January 1975 at the Fourth National People's Congress, while the Left again won out politically, the Right's organizational position and initiative continued to grow. The Left called for strengthening the revolutionary committees at all levels, while Chou En-lai laid out a plan to modernize China by the year 2000 (by depending on imperialism, restoring capitalism and fueling class differences). This was echoed by Hua Kuo-feng's project to mechanize agriculture in the same rightist political vein. Chiang Ching, who had been following the developments of the Tachai agricultural brigade closely,[14] was reported to have labelled Hua's report "revisionist" at a "Learn from Tachai Conference" in October 1975, where keen struggle erupted. The report was actually part of the rising rightist wind and attempted to divert the central question of whether revolution would lead the overall development of the economy.[60]

Mao and the Four had responded with a campaign to study and reinforce the dictatorship of the proletariat, pointing out that although ownership was in the main socialist, there were many holdovers from capitalism, such as the commodity system, graded wage scales and material inequalities. Bourgeois right material and social privileges based upon the unequal value of the labour power of different individuals and their different requirements to maintain their families had not been eliminated. In the summer of 1975, Mao called for criticism of the historical novel The Water Margin, exposing the modern-day Sung Chiangs (the character who capitulates to the Emperor after having first joined the peasant rebels) to focus the aim on traitors Deng and Chou and others like them.

This two-line struggle broke out in education shortly afterwards, over whether revolutionizing education held back production; some teachers at Tsinhua University wrote to Mao complaining of the "lowering of academic standards", in fact accurately referring to the deterioration of bourgeois standards. Mao called for a mass debate, and the Four actively helped to carry this out, with Chang Chun-chiao playing an especially key role. His now famous point was probably made in this struggle: "Bring up exploiters and intellectual aristocrats with bourgeois consciousness and culture, or bring up workers with consciousness and no culture which do you want?" The Right twisted this to mean he said workers did not need culture, dropping of course his reference to culture serving the bourgeoisie.[60]

The struggle continued to sharpen up against Deng Xiaoping, long the open representative of the rightest pole in the CCP characterized by his motto, "black cat, white cat, who cares, as long as it catches mice"; his views were concentrated in his General Programme of taking the "three directives" (instead of and to negate proletarian class struggle) as the key link.[15] After Chou's death in January 1976, the Left's ability to more thoroughly expose Deng (without Chou to protect him) was heightened, and they seized the initiative. However, they were not strong enough to get Chang Chun-chiao appointed Premier in the struggle for succession. (In addition to Chang Chun-chiao's key role in the Cultural Revolution as a member of the CRG, and in Shanghai, where the powerful January Storm swept away the old revisionist officials he had developed as a key leader in the Party overall. He was the author of pathbreaking theoretical articles such as "On Exercising All-Round Dictatorship Over the Bourgeoisie",[24] and was instrumental in the Shanghai political economy study group as a whole, which authored important works making a class analysis of the economic laws under socialism and of its contradictory nature.) While blocking Deng, the Left had to settle for Hua, who was not a prime figure of the rightest front and had no strong personal following.

Chiang Ching was active in this struggle and again played a very public role, which annoyed Deng Xiaoping. In an attempted show of strength, the Right instigated the counter-revolutionary Tienanmen riots in April 1976 in order to attack Mao and his policies under the signboard of paying tribute to Chou En-lai and his line of "modernization". But the revisionists openly targeted Chiang Ching instead, with their cheap Confucian label of "Empress Dowager" (the feudal ruler who put down the 1900 Boxer Rebellion and historically more resembled the bloody Deng regime that massacred students and workers in 1989). After this reactionary display had been put down by the PLA and people's militia, it was reportedly Chiang Ching's task to organize the removal of the memorial wreaths from the square an act the Right was deeply offended by and later tried to use against her.[16]

Deng was knocked down from all his posts for staging the riots, and Mao and the Left accelerated the dictatorship of the proletariat campaign, directing the fire at him and the right deviationist wind. It was at this time that Mao made his famous statement, "You are making socialist revolution and don't know where the bourgeoisie is it's right in the Communist Party. The capitalist roaders are still on the capitalist road."This was the heart of the question, and the offensive of the Left with the "Five", Mao and the Four, its political core stung the Right badly, often provoking open confrontations between the two headquarters within the Party, including strikes, sit-ins and the toppling of ministers, though as much as possible the revisionists tried to block the campaign and the developing mass movement.[60]

Mao's Death And The Capitalists' Coup

On September 9th, 1976, Mao Tsetung died. As the masses in China, alongside millions in every country throughout the world, mourned this immeasurable loss, the revisionists in China rejoiced and prepared their takeover. With "official" successor Hua Kuo-feng at their head, and based upon the portions of power they had already seized, including within the armed forces, they were able to mount a military coup d'état within a month of Mao Tsetung's death, and arrested the Four and their close supporters. Proletarian rule came to an abrupt and brutal end in China, bringing back like a rude wake-up call Mao's warning in his 1966 letter to Chiang Ching of the possibility of the Right using some of his words to stage an anti-Communist coup d'état in China after his death but also assuring her that they would know no peace.

In fact many knew it was the end of the revolution and saw right through the barrage of political propaganda, and for this reason the coup was presented alongside gleaming gun barrels, as if to illustrate another important point of Mao's. The mass media announced that the Four were the "real revisionist Right", that they, especially Chiang Ching, were KMT renegades, that these Four Chiang Ching, Chang Chun-chiao, Yao Wen-yuan, and Wang Hung-wen along with a goodly number of their comrades, were actually enemies of Mao; it was even fancied that Mao would have supported this clampdown against "counter-revolution". The low political level of the invective revealed the magnitude of the coup-makers' quandary and, in a desperate need to consolidate power, they quickly supplemented it with an even lower, that is gutter-level, slur campaign, filled with the wildest personal slander they could think of as well as insignificant incidents they exaggerated into mad fairy tales.

These modern-day Confucians, working at the same time to tighten tradition's chains with the rumour mill they generated, chose to most savagely victimize the woman, Chiang Ching. As the Chairman's wife she was also supposed to suffer and bear the responsibility for all the "evils" China had ever experienced, ancient or modern, but especially during the Cultural Revolution. For these capitalist roaders, the worst of these "evils" was, of course, having to endure almost 30 years of Mao leading the masses to revolutionize the society they wanted to get rich off of and, related to that, their failure to unseat Mao and his revolutionary comrades from the centre of power long before.

Yet people resisted. In many ways. One of the major accusations at the historic 1980-81 "trial" would be that of plotting an armed rebellion in Shanghai against the coup d'état. Chang Chun-chiao and others had a strong political following in this city, forged through the sharp struggle and important changes of the Cultural Revolution. Shanghai was famous for the January Storm, when millions of workers, joined by peasants and students, seized back power from the revisionist-led Municipal Party Committee in 1967. In August 1976, as expectations of a showdown in the Party grew, arms and munitions were handed out to the million-strong Shanghai militia that had been set up by the Shanghai Municipal Revolutionary Committee several years earlier.

After news of the Four's arrest filtered out, detailed plans were laid to block the harbours and airports, to shut down the press and radio, to launch work stoppages and demonstrations and mobilize the militia men and women, along with the garrison command of Shanghai. An older Communist leader, Zhu Yong-jia, a close comrade of Chang Chun-chiao and head of the writing group of the Shanghai Party Committee, rallied the revolutionaries to prepare for action, calling on them to "do a Paris Commune. If we cannot keep up the fight for a week, five or three days would suffice to let the whole world know what's happening...." In other words, this rebellion would be a declaration that a revisionist coup in China had taken place and that it was being actively resisted by revolutionaries. Most reports are based on Hong Kong newspapers and even accounts by the revisionist press itself, so details of the plan are scanty.

The rebellion was delayed when the leaders were purposely called to Peking, and it seems the revolutionaries lost the initiative for the full-scale uprising they planned as the coup-makers swept into the city to prevent it. Nonetheless, there was reportedly armed fighting in some militia units on October 13th, one week after the Four were arrested, and as soon as word of the arrests spread on October 10th, thousands of people gathered every day at key headquarters to see what actions the leaders would take. Zhu had correctly pointed to the crucial need for "quick, decisive action drawing wide support" not only in Shanghai but throughout the country.[63][65] For a number of reasons the leadership failed to move at the critical moment. This underlines even more the importance of the decisive, unwavering stand of defiance of Chiang Ching and Chang Chun-chiao.

Despite the smokescreen put up by Hua that he was acting on Mao's behalf, on the streets of China, among many of the masses, a five-finger salute behind officials' backs was common, needing no verbalization: Mao and the Four were the revolutionaries being overthrown. A foreign observer in Shanghai during the coup reported that conversations and movements were tightly controlled, and that tension was extremely high among the people. Official posters of the Central Committee denouncing the Four were stripped from the railway station walls in Nanjing.[62] Undoubtedly many other stories have yet to see the light of day, as the counter-revolutionaries clamped down quickly and brutally, arresting and jailing known sympathizers of the Left, many of whom were executed.

The coup in China represented a tremendous blow to the peoples of the world and the international proletariat as a whole. Revolutionary China was a beacon to hundreds of millions of people who yearned to liberate themselves. For ten incredible years, the GPCR led by Mao and the revolutionary headquarters inside the Party had prevented this reversal of proletarian power and the restoration of capitalism by unleashing the conscious activism of the masses. For ten long years, breathtaking strides were being made by history's formerly forgotten and downtrodden, breaking new socialist ground for the international proletariat. In the course of all this, the revolutionary science was developed to a qualitatively new level and became recognized as Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. New organizations and parties based on this ideology sprang into being all over the world.

To see history's most radical and far-reaching transformation of society under proletarian rule snatched away by the arrogant handful of bourgeois reactionaries inside the Communist Party usurping power for their own narrow get-rich aims was indeed unbearable. At the same time, in the very depth and breadth of the socialist revolution, Mao had laid the basis for Marxist-Leninists to pick up the weapons he enlarged and sharpened to understand both the nature of this reversal and how to continue to chart the way forward. This was not an easy task it required sharp struggle over summing up the nature of socialist society and Mao's contributions to the science as well as the events in China themselves. Yet, fired in no small way by Chiang Ching and Chang Chun-chiao's courageous stand, many Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations not only refused to abandon the course of revolution in the face of the Chinese revisionists' betrayal and the simultaneous anti-communist ideological offensive by the international bourgeoisie, but succeeded in making qualitative advances in turning around the crisis in the international communist movement and forging an embryonic international centre based on this understanding, represented today by the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement.

After the arrest of the revolutionary headquarters, the regime carried out waves of purges in the Party, and in 1977 executions began in earnest. Within two years of the coup, revolutionary committees had been abolished, and entrance exams and privilege (benefiting primarily Party officials' children) became the criteria for access to higher learning. Films and other works produced under Chiang Ching's leadership were revised or banned outright. The revisionists brought back the pre-Cultural Revolution version of the ballet White-Haired Girl, for example, featuring its central love theme. Infanticide against baby girls returned as capitalism put a premium on male offspring. As the waiting foreign vultures like Coca Cola and Mitsubishi pounced to set up new markets in China, production began to accommodate imperialism's needs and was boosted through bonuses and greater wage differentiation. In short, capitalism was restored with a vengeance. All this in a climate of heavy repression, toeing the official line, and the shutting off of the political struggle which had guided and promoted socialist construction for more than 20 years.

The Twentieth Century's Most Notorious Trial: "I Am Happy To Pay Chairman Mao's Debt!"

For four years Chiang Ching and her comrade Chang Chun-chiao were imprisoned without any official charges. Hong Kong papers claim Hua tried to get her to confess for two years, to which Chiang Ching scoffed, "I dare you to release me!" In 1978 Hua was replaced by the real figure pulling the strings, Deng Xiaoping. As a special revenge, Deng put arch-revisionist Peng Chen (of the old Peking Municipal Committee, knocked down in the Cultural Revolution) in charge of interrogating her before the 1980 trial. In one of her statements at the trial Chiang Ching says that while in prison she prepared herself physically for the trial, so that she could do her best in court to defend the Cultural Revolution. "Every day at the cock's crow, I got out my sword", referring to a well-known general readying himself for battle.

The revisionists' primary tactic was to reverse the verdict on Lin Piao, brand him an ultra-leftist, and try the ten defendants as one "clique". They threw in some old military generals who had plotted as part of the Right against Mao in the early 1970s, just to confuse the political lines even more. It is reported that the pre-trial arraignment film had to be shot three times because Chiang Ching's unpredictable outbursts made "unsuitable" public viewing. Asked if she wanted a lawyer, her reply sharply exposed the kangaroo court: Only if he took the Ninth and Tenth Party Congresses as the political basis for the defence! Request denied.... Chiang Ching announced that she would defend herself.[63]

She prepared a 181-page statement slamming the revisionists with their own indictments: if the Left "framed up" veteran leaders, what are you doing now? What's wrong with the Cultural Revolution overthrowing the capitalist headquarters of Liu Shao-chi and company and restoring the true face of the Party? She got right to the heart of the matter: "I'm not going to admit to any crimes, not because I want to cut myself off from the people, but because I'm innocent. If I have to admit to anything, I can only say I lost in this struggle for power.

"You have power now so you can easily accuse people of crimes and fabricate false evidence to support your charges. But if you think you can fool the people of China and worldwide, you are completely mistaken. It is not I but your small gang who is on trial in the court of history."

This is exactly what her testimony did in the trial itself, which started November 20th, 1980, and went into January 1981. Unlike Wang Hung-wen and Yao Wen-yuan, who capitulated before the court, admitting everything they were charged with in exchange, they hoped, for a lighter sentence, Chang Chun-chiao remained defiantly silent (except when he rejected the indictments), refusing to recognize the court of some 35 judges and its jeering, hand-picked spectators and televised spectacle. Chiang Ching showed nothing but contempt for her would-be executioners and boldly turned the fire of interrogation right back at them: "Most of the members of the court present, including your president Jiang Hua, competed with each other in those days to criticize Liu Shao-chi. If I am guilty, how about all of you?"

She drew out clearly the link between her actions and Mao's revolutionary line, again silencing her judges, who of course could not prove otherwise and were reduced to telling her to "shut up" again and again. "Since you won't let me speak", Chiang Ching would then retort, "why don't you put a clay Buddha in my chair and try it instead of me. I was Chairman Mao's wife for thirty-eight years.... I followed Mao's line and the Party's line. What you are doing now is asking a widow to pay her husband's debt. Well I'll tell you, I am happy and honoured to pay Chairman Mao's debt!" And in one dramatic moment, she repeated a well-known statement of Mao's that true revolutionaries are bound by neither heaven nor law. The authorities could stand no more. As she was dragged from the room she shouted, "It's right to rebel! Down with the revisionists led by Deng Xiaoping! I am prepared to die!" Shaken, the revisionists postponed their frame-up for a few days to decide what to do.

Chiang Ching's actions inspired people throughout China and everywhere, as even reactionaries there have admitted. Around the world, support demonstrations and meetings were held, from Sri Lanka, where the Chinese embassy was attacked, to the U.S., Paris and London. An ad signed by 2000 people to "Save Chiang Ching" was published in the French daily, Le Monde. A new leap was forged in the international communist movement at the First International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations, which started the process of regrouping the Maoists worldwide, helping to lay the foundation of RIM in 1984.

The regime (Deng's Politburo) agonized for nearly a month before announcing the death sentence against Chiang Ching and Chang Chun-chiao. The revisionists were unsure which would do themselves more harm executing these two revolutionaries, or letting them live as two of the world's foremost political prisoners. They were given two years to "confess". When she heard the word "death", Chiang Ching yelled out, "It's no crime to make revolution!"

Chiang Ching was held in the centuries-old prison of Quin Cheng, and spent many of her 15 years there in isolation. When she refused to cooperate with the authorities, she was denied food or exercise, or was beaten by guards. Much of this time she had no right to speak except under interrogation. The only person she was allowed to see was her daughter Li Na.

In prison Chiang Ching sewed dolls with her name on them, making them "useless" for sale, and refused to write the monthly self-criticisms required of political prisoners. A 1983 New York Times article reported that she defied her jailers to "chop off her head" in written slogans slashed across her cell walls. She demanded to meet with Deng Xiaoping, who refused, and she wrote political position papers exposing the revisionist regime. She reportedly also asked to present her views in an open debate at the Twelfth Party Congress in the summer of 1982. In 1983 Chiang Ching's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. There were reports of leaflets appearing on the streets of Peking and Shantung, supporting the Cultural Revolution and denouncing the capitalist roaders in power, said to be written by her and smuggled out.

On the outside, a message was clandestinely published in China and sent to Marxist-Leninists abroad in late 1980. It hailed the heroic stand of Chiang Ching and Chang Chun-chiao as well as entering into some of the problems of political line which held back revolutionaries from acting decisively at the moment required to carry through the armed uprising after the coup in 1976. It calls on the people to judge the four years of bourgeois dictatorship they have lived under and vows to put power back in the hands of the proletariat. Later Japanese sources confirmed its wide and bold circulation in China, along with some open agitation on the streets.[17]

Mao's Wife And Comrade For 38 Years

Significantly, Mao made sure he accomplished two more things before his death on September 9th, 1976. He met with the Politburo and in July wrote a letter to Chiang Ching. At the meeting he rebuked the Right for hoping he would die soon so they could get on with their plots, and at the same time warned that both the U.S. and USSR must be fought. His lines to Chiang Ching contain a challenge with a self-critical edge, urging her to firmly take hold of the political baton. "You have been wronged. Today we are separating into two worlds. May each keep his peace. These few words may be my last message to you. Human life is limited, but revolution knows no bounds. In the struggle of the past ten years I have tried to reach the peak of revolution, but I was not successful. But you could reach the top. If you fail, you will plunge into a fathomless abyss. Your body will shatter. Your bones will break."[18]

Among his last words aimed squarely at the revisionist power holders who wanted to create a rift between them, were "Help Chiang Ching raise the red flag".

The Chinese revisionists dredged up whatever they could, inventing when necessary, to try to show that Mao and Chiang Ching were on opposite sides at the end of Mao's life. This is patently untrue and merely an awkward stab at trying to use Mao's tremendous prestige to help mask their own fascist deed of October 1976, which, in order to succeed, meant undermining, confusing and attempting to neutralize the revolutionary masses who loved and supported both Mao and Chiang Ching.

If Mao, on the other hand, instructed people on his deathbed to help Chiang Ching raise the red flag, it is because he thought she was one of the few left in the top ranks of the CCP who could do so![19]

The plain truth is, Mao supported Chiang Ching and she supported and was led by Mao throughout the entire time they made revolution together, though affirming this is not to be naive and pretend such strong unity came without any struggle. But it was struggle to advance the tremendous revolutionary wave they were part of, the historic nature and earthshaking importance of which they both firmly grasped, and for which they assumed great responsibility to lead forward.

When her political enemies and international critics paint her as "without a single virtue" and as plotting out of pure self-interest to "steal Mao's throne", as they say, their main point is that Mao should never have had power anyway. But close behind is that certainly no woman should dare to stand up tall, to be ambitious one of their big and often-echoed charges against Chiang Ching and have the audacity to fight for revolutionary political power! And since many are not easily fooled by their logic that revolutionary ambitions to lead and serve the people are a "lost cause", these critics and political enemies with their narrow Me-First outlook try to prove that her ambition was merely "personal". From there it is a short dive to probing into the marriage, and in this the feudal and decadent bourgeois specialists have a lot in common. With their chauvinist noses they rummage through empty closets looking for dirty laundry, since for them a woman's merits should ultimately be judged on the basis of her individual relations, especially with men.

One thing is no secret. Chiang Ching never had a moment's peace since she married Mao. But personal "peace" was not what Chiang Ching was about. She courageously fought to play a crucial role in the history-making battles shaking China, but she did have to fight to play that role. Undoubtedly in the 1940s and 1950s, Mao's strongly anti-feudal sentiments against the custom of little family fiefdoms becoming centres of power prevented him from personally promoting Chiang Ching within the Party. While it seems some of the CCP leaders insisted she be kept out of the public eye, as Chiang Ching developed into a revolutionary communist in Yenan, Mao supported her activities and correct line, and years later, very obviously chose to bring Chiang Ching forward to take up leading responsibilities to prepare for what was to develop into the Cultural Revolution. He did this knowing she would face even more trouble and come under direct fire as a public figure defending his political views. It must be said at the same time that he certainly recognized the urgency of bringing more women forward to play leading roles, and overall strongly encouraged this within the Party.

As for Chiang Ching, hers was a lifetime of rebellion and going against the tide of women's oppression against feudalism and tradition, against chauvinism and the "woman's place" in society, against the Confucian sanctity of the home and the hypocritical ritual of blaming the wife for the husband's faults. As the Chairman's wife, this meant endlessly enduring the petty rumour-mongering and backbiting as well as the vicious attacks of his political enemies who dared not directly attack him.

This also had repercussions in their personal lives. On one occasion back in the 1950s these same enemies apparently took advantage of Chiang Ching's absence during a treatment for cancer to take away from her one of Mao's children from a previous marriage whom she raised as her own and had grown especially fond of.[70]

Throughout her political life Chiang Ching forcefully and continuously encouraged women to come forward and struggled with others over this. In the arts she fought against the male-dominated theatre not just the playwrights, directors and musicians, but on the stage itself the actors were all men to bring forward women as proletarian artists, and she wrote and revised revolutionary heroines into the new scripts. A central theme of a number of the model works she led is women throwing off the stifling yoke of the old days to follow the Party's call to take up revolution. One of the first things she eliminated was the degrading feudal tradition of male actors impersonating women. And, in the real-life struggles of the Cultural Revolution, she constantly paid attention to the role the women were playing, and encouraged the advanced to shoulder more responsibilities.

But Chiang Ching also struggled hard on this front within the Party leadership.[20] For the CCP was a product of Chinese society emerging overwhelmingly as a force in opposition to its oppressive nature and although qualitatively different and representing the future of total emancipation, it was not entirely free from this overall semi-feudal and colonized social fabric, heavily laden with backward notions on women, the family, and relations between men and women. These were habits and ideas the Party as a whole fought against and, especially, proved bankrupt by first actively engaging women in the liberation war[21] and then, after liberation, by proceeding to tear down oppressive barriers to women participating in production on as equal a footing as possible to men, bringing them into the Party and carrying out political education to develop women cadres and leaders. Men were struggled with ideologically to share household responsibilities. Central eating facilities, nursery schools and child care, for example, were set up to free women from stifling household work as part of the Great Leap Forward and the movement to establish communes.

Formal socialist policies are very important in setting guidelines, but ultimately how fast and how thoroughly the inequalities between men and women can be reduced in the process of building socialism is linked to the revolutionary transformation of people's outlook and to women themselves stepping forward to rebel against the old ways and fighting to bring alive the new and higher forms of "holding up half the sky" that proletarian power for the first time in history makes possible.

At the same time, the question of women developing as leaders in China was closely related to the two-line struggle itself inside the Party. The revisionists (and bourgeois statesmen, with their Thatchers or Aquinos for that matter) never objected to women leaders who preach enslavement, even the modern variety, and taking the capitalist road, such as Liu Shao-chi's wife, Wang Guang-mei.[22] But women leaders who arouse the masses for all-around liberation and not just for superficial bourgeois equality for a minority, that is something else altogether, and that is in no small part the resistance Chiang Ching ran into from the veteran leaders of the Right.

Chiang Ching was a powerful model in this regard. As a communist leader she fought for the cause of total emancipation until she died, and by this alone pulled many women (and men) to their feet. And not just in China. But no one should assume that as a woman, or as Mao Tsetung's wife, this was an easy accomplishment.

Murdered Until Proven Otherwise

Chiang Ching was ripped away from us after fifteen years of enduring the Chinese regime's dungeons. In addition to the foul stench emanating from those in Peking's high quarters who withheld the announcement of her death until the anniversary of the 1989 Tienanmen massacre, three weeks later, is the very suspicious description of this as "suicide". Again relying on Confucian nonsense to try to pass this ancient "tradition" off to the world as an act of final defiance of authority, the regime tried to wash its hands of the whole affair.

Needless to say, their blood-stained hands look ever bloodier, and until proven otherwise, everything points to them as the instruments of Chiang Ching's death. She has never given in to difficult conditions or personal attack and has always fought to drag rats like those running China today into the light of day and to put the question of seizing power back on the table. Reports of a last "testament" by Chiang Ching, which the regime has apparently tried to deny, claim this is one of its key points. Another one is said to be denouncing them for the Tienanmen massacre and predicting that their rule will be short-lived.

Her suicide is also contested by scholars and other "China watchers", according to reports published in several Hong Kong newspapers.[23] For one thing, her daughter Li Na visited her a week before her death, and reported her to be in good health and better spirits than before, partly because she had been moved to relatively more spacious quarters within the prison. Secondly, Chiang Ching's every move was followed on remote control monitors. She had announced she would write an autobiography, according to these sources, and was furious that the authorities had taken away the memoirs she had written. These accounts also make mention of a poem one of her guards recently wrote for her, which excited her and moved her to work on together with him until the prison found out and discharged him back to his home village.

Even in her death, the Chinese rulers had a big problem. A Hong Kong magazine notes the appearance of 16 different protest signs all over Peking, including a slogan posted on the gates of a primary school that read, "Long Live the Victory of Chairman Mao's Revolutionary Line! Down With Deng Xiaoping's Phoney Communist Party!" On the side of a hotel, they reported a military-style portrait of Chiang Ching, with the words, "Chairman Mao, We Will Always Remember You". In what must have resembled stormtroopers trying to stomp out sparks here and there, the Deng Xiaoping police then banned the sale of any books or materials about Chiang Ching, or even old photos, and raids were to be carried out to confiscate any such items. Television and radio were forbidden to play any selections from the revolutionary operas and ballets.[65]

Dare To Be Like Chiang Ching!

The loss of Chiang Ching is a momentous loss: she, who never abandoned Marxism-Leninism Mao Tsetung Thought and in fact lent her life and passion to strengthening it, who confidently and uncompromisingly stood with Mao and with revolution. She was a leader who had represented the international proletariat in power, and gave enormous inspiration and courage to communists and revolutionaries around the world, who also refused to abandon revolution when socialist China was being strangled by the bourgeoisie inside the Communist Party. In this sense, her stand and that of Chang Chun-chiao's reflected the truth that the Cultural Revolution and the experience in China as a whole had taken world proletarian revolution a twist higher in the spiral of its development. How different from 1956 when Stalin died and no leading CPSU members stepped forward to defend the red flag, to hold it high out of the muck and mire of the Soviet revisionists' seizure of power! And how astute Mao was, encouraging her again just months before his death to strive to take the revolution all the way, knowing that as high as the stakes were, so were the risks.

The role Chiang Ching decided to play should by no means be taken for granted. The history-making epoch she was part of did objectively take revolution higher to the highest peak that the international proletariat has achieved to date. But at the same time individuals can be decisive in furthering or obstructing this cause (or being plain irrelevant). This GPCR produced a Chiang Ching, and a Chiang Ching who did not waver, whose firmness and determination gave inspiration and courage to millions worldwide who watched and judged the revisionist debacle. A Chiang Ching who ridiculed her jailers, prosecutors and China's ruling counter-revolutionaries and filled even them with awe at her resilience and stand. She threw the political grenade back in their faces, seizing the occasion not to "clear her name" but to expose even more what stuff these revisionists are made of. She became a very dangerous woman for them and for the bourgeoisie in general. The whole world saw an unrepentant communist confess only to the "crime" of following Mao Tsetung to make revolution.

Her life reflects a strategic confidence in the masses and in the ultimate justness and victory of the communist cause, a sense of having given fully to the mounting of the proletariat onto history's stage, even if in this round we were temporarily pulled off that stage. What attitude one adopts and what role one decides to play in the face of obstacles and even great setbacks can assume qualitative proportions. Whether it is a long-term, spiral-like view of defeating the enemy, or one of compromise to obtain some kind of self-seeking, immediate rewards to avoid death, unpleasant conditions of imprisonment and so forth all this is a crucial reflection of one's attitude towards the science and ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. Compare Chiang Ching's attitude and responsibility towards the world's oppressed and revolutionary masses, towards the making of history itself, with that of Wang Hung-wen and Yao Wen-yuan, who had made contributions to the Cultural Revolution, but who floundered and crashed ideologically when put to a very crucial test of their class stand and willingness to sacrifice.

The enemy call Chiang Ching an aspiring empress, for their own tyranny and rule thrive on demolishing revolutionary heroism; her outlook was the opposite of that of their bourgeois (and feudal) dynasties. She acted on behalf of the international proletariat and not for herself; she defiantly spit on all the enemy's schemes in order to deflate their arrogance, to reveal the emptiness of their historical cause at a time when disappointment and demoralization in the wake of the enormous loss from the overthrow of the revolution in China was widespread. With confidence, she was heard to remark after the trial, "I have accomplished what I set out to do!"

Comrade Chiang Ching's vision of a society without barbarous class divisions and social inequalities, just like the spectre of the masses consciously wresting political power, in no matter what country, chills the blood of the oppressors everywhere, and they despise her for it. As for the sour and mainly sensationalist chorus of attacks on her from bourgeois journalists and academic mouthpieces, hitched to the fashionable refrain these days of the "collapse" of communism what we have to say is, the contempt is completely mutual! Summing up this historic period that left big scars on an injured bourgeoisie around the world, while enabling the international proletariat to soar to new heights, will continue to be a battle between the two sides. But more than that, we can, and will, scale even greater heights in the years to come.

Like Mao before her, Chiang Ching is not an easy model to live up to, but she has handed the political baton on to us, their successors. She has helped us to raise the red flag.


  • [1] In this struggle Wang Ming was influenced by the Comintern, which insisted that the Chinese should follow the Soviet model rather than charting the path of people's war in the countryside. Wang Ming ran the underground Shanghai Party operation mainly from Moscow between 1931 and 1935, returning to China in 1937.
  • [2] Around Lu Hsun especially was concentrated a sharp struggle over the correct orientation for art, which divided cultural figures long after the civil war. He vehemently opposed the nationalists' line of "national defence" with his own slogan: "people's literature for national revolutionary war", a slogan which Mao adopted.
  • [3] Held in May 1942, this was a forum of several days of sharp and wide-ranging debate. A basic line was hammered out by Mao on the relation of art and politics in front of crowds who had walked from miles around, spilling out of the lecture hall into the streets to hear him, including specifically the many people in the arts who had come to Yenan to join the revolution.
  • [4] The Three Rules of Discipline are 1) Obey orders in all actions, 2) Don't take a single needle or piece of thread from the masses, 3) Turn in everything captured. The Eight Points: 1) Speak politely, 2) Pay fairly for what you buy, 3) Return everything you borrow, 4) Pay for anything you damage, 5) Don't hit or swear at people, 6) Don't damage crops, 7) Don't take liberties with women, 8) Don't mistreat captives.
  • [5] Notably Chou Yang of the Ministry of Culture, because of her exposures of his fleet of revisionist writers.
  • [6] The Party led land reform but relied on the masses to carry out expropriation or redistribution and sent teams into various areas to arouse them for that purpose. While this had already been started in areas where the liberation army passed through even before 1949, areas which were under KMT control until liberation remained relatively backward and conservative until this process of arousing the peasants could be organized.
  • [7] The Great Leap Forward spread into a mass upsurge in 1958, especially in the countryside, as peasants began to rely on themselves to develop small, light industries to serve agriculture (such as local mills and backyard steel smelting), to establish larger collective farms with greater public ownership as well as People's Communes. The ensuing struggle in the CC that accused Mao's policy to "go all out, aim high to achieve greater, faster, better and more economic results in building socialism" of bringing ruin on the economy led to Mao's famous statement, "The chaos caused was on a grand scale and I take responsibility," referring in part to the difficulties and excesses that were a secondary aspect of the tremendous advances and new breakthroughs resulting from the masses' conscious initiative. Shortly afterwards, Soviet technicians and aid were suddenly withdrawn, causing a severe jolt to the Chinese economy, followed by a series of natural disasters, both of which escalated the line struggle over socialist construction and over taking a different path than the Soviet Union.
  • [8] One of these anti-Mao writers, Liao Mosha, a co-author with Wu Han of the "Three Family Village" column, whom Chiang Ching had known in her days among radical writers and artists in Shanghai, was brought forward to testify at her trial, accusing her of KMT relations he himself probably maintained. She was removed from court for "abusing the witness" the "famous writer" with her continual interruptions of his testimony about being unjustly harassed in the Cultural Revolution.[63]
  • [9] Tao Chu was a prominent figure in the Party's propaganda work and argued, among other things, that writers should also explain the shortcomings of the people's communes. Yao Wen-yuan answered this by saying, "There is a song called The People's Communes Are Fine. Is it necessary to modify this title with another sentence 'the people's communes have shortcomings'?"[56]. In the Cultural Revolution caricatures appeared on the walls humourously exposing the capitalist roaders in the Party under fire: one of these in February 1967 depicts Tao Chu setting up an insurance office to protect revisionists.[58]
  • [10]The Sixteen-Point Decision calls the GPCR a new stage in the socialist revolution. It targets those in the Party taking the capitalist road, and calls for criticism and repudiation of the reactionary bourgeois academic "authorities", the ideology of the bourgeoisie and all other exploiting classes, and for the transformation of education, literature and art and all other parts of the superstructure so as to facilitate the development of socialism. It emphasizes that whether the Party dares to boldly arouse the masses will determine the GPCR's outcome, and insists on the fact that the masses must liberate themselves and educate themselves in the movement, and it hails the new forms of organization being developed by them; the Decision calls for reasoning things out in the course of debate and not using force.
  • [11] Chiang Ching had been given the responsibility (back in 1962) when the Left was preparing their public opinion for a showdown, to draft a document, which later became known as the May 16th Circular, setting a basic policy for a proletarian line on the arts. It was first published in the Party journal Red Flag as "The Intellectuals' Way Forward".[70]
  • [12] One of these, the United Action Committee, was composed of the sons and daughters of Party officials upholding the Right, and for a short time in 1967 singled Chiang Ching out for attack in its posters and materials.
  • [13] In a document of the Lushan meetings in 1970, Mao responds with his well-known ironic humour towards his enemies: "One sentence equals one sentence. There is one matter on which I have spoken six sentences but which have come to nothing, not even one-half a sentence." Here Mao was referring to Lin Piao's repeated demand to restore the position of head of state, vacated by Liu Shao-chi, so that he himself, preferably, could occupy it, which Mao wanted no part of.[70]
  • [14] In the mid-1960s Mao had approved of Tachai as a model brigade for the nation because it had surmounted natural disasters and obstacles to reach high yields by mobilizing the masses against revisionism and bourgeois ideology in general.
  • [15] The three directives developing the national economy, promoting stability and unity and studying the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat were all separate instructions of Mao's in 1974, which Deng combined into one whole as a guide to modernization. Mao remarked in 1975 or 1976, "What!'Take the three directives as the key link'! Stability and unity do not mean writing off class struggle; class struggle is the key link and everything else hinges on it."[60][64]
  • [16] Asked about the event during her trial, Chiang Ching retorted, "I was not responsible for the suppression of the Tienanmen incident. You can ask the Minister of Public Security at that time to come act as my witness", referring to none other than Hua Kuo-feng himself.
  • [17] The underground messages were signed by the "Chinese Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) Central Committee", and printed January 1981. Several months later, this same group wrote a pamphlet denouncing the revisionists' "summation of Mao" approved at the "Sixth Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee" in June 1981 and called for revolutionaries to "don battle gear" in the struggle to overthrow the revisionists in power.[53][54]
  • [18] This last phrase he had used in a letter to her 10 years earlier as the Cultural Revolution unfolded, referring to the risk he too faced in his all-out bid to continue the revolution and prevent the restoration of capitalism.
  • [19] One unconfirmed report from a Hong Kong newspaper cites Chiang Ching declaring in court that the, "With you in charge, I'm at ease" quote by Mao, referring to the compromise candidate of Hua Kuo-feng as his successor, had several more characters that were suppressed: "If you have any questions, ask Chiang Ching."
  • [20] For example, she told representatives of Szechwan (a backward area and former KMT stronghold) where disturbances had broken out during the early years of the Cultural Revolution: "Today we bombarded you, tomorrow you may bombard us"; she pointed out that women comrades had done good work and told these representatives not to be so feudalistic "Why not recruit some women generals!"[70]
  • [21] Both the ballet Red Detachment of Women (1964) and the film Island Militia Women (1976) were based on historical events.
  • [22] Another of Chiang Ching's "towering crimes" was to have harassed chief capitalist roader Liu Shao'chi's wife, Wang Guang-mei, herself a firm and active Party revisionist ally of her husband.
  • [23] These articles quote a Chinese professor who argues, "It is impossible for Mao's widow Chiang Ching to kill herself." In speculating about why Deng Xiaoping won't succumb to his own illnesses as long as Chiang Ching is still alive, he adds, "Because Chiang Ching knows best Deng's undersides. Only Chiang Ching understands best why Mao purged Deng back then, and knows best how Deng, after Mao's death, unseated Hua Kuo-feng and grabbed the supreme power of the party, the state and the army." He accuses the authorities of foul play and regrets that "precious historical materials" along with Chiang Ching's sole ability to set history's record straight are "buried for good". (The articles are from Cheng Meng and Sing Tao, both extreme right anti-Deng Xiaoping publications. The person quoted here has published his views against the Cultural Revolution.)
  • Primary Sources

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  • [25] Chao Hua. "Has Absolute Music No Class Character?". Peking Review (9) 1974. Reprinted in Lotta.[60]
  • [26] Chiang Ching. Most of these speeches are reprinted in two collections. * marks those reprinted in Chung-Hua-min & Miller[57] and ** marks those found in CCP Documents of the GPCR[66].

    -. July 1964. "On the Revolution in Peking Opera", FLP, Peking, 1968. A collection of articles, including one cited about On the Docks by Hsieh Wen-ping, "A Fierce Struggle for Control of the Peking Opera Stage", pp 30-33.
  • [27] -. February 1966. "Summary of the Forum on Literature and Art in the Armed Forces with which Comrade Lin Piao Entrusted Comrade Chiang Ching", Peking Review, May 1967.*
  • [28] -. 6 August 1966. Speaking to Two Groups of Red Guards, Current Background, 26.6.66, American Consulate General, Hong Kong. Cited in Chung Hua-min pp 146-47.
  • [29] -. 28 November 1966. "Chiang Ching Speaks at Peking Cultural Revolution Rally of Literary and Art Workers", Hsinhua News Agency-English, Peking, 3.12.66.*
  • [30] -. 17 December 1966. Speech at the Workers Stadium in Peking. Published in Red Guard of the Capital, 21.12.66.
  • [31] -. 26 December 1966. "Minutes of Talks of the Leading Comrades of the Cultural Revolution Group of the Central Committee of CCP at Interview Granted the Representatives of the All-China Red-Worker Rebels General Corps". Reprinted by Liaison Office of Revolutionary Rebels of the Economic Institute of Peking stationed in the Ministry of Labour, 4.1.67.*
  • [32] -. 10 January 1967. "Speech Delivered by Chiang Ching at a Reception Given to the Representatives of Red Guards at People's Assembly Hall", published by Red Guards in Peking, 18.1.67.*
  • [33] -. 17 January 1967. Speech to Peking Red Guards, in Dongfanghong (The East is Red), organ of the Peking Polytechnic Institute, 21.1.67.
  • [34] -. 1 February 1967. "Comrades Chiang Ching and Chi Pen-Yu's Talks with the Representatives of the Revolutionary Masses of the Central Documentary Films Studio and the August 1 Movie Studio".*
  • [35] -. 27 March 1967. "Chiang Ching Speaks at Congress of Red Guards of Peking Middle Schools", Peking Kuangming Daily, 27.3.67.*
  • [36] -. 20 April 1967. "Chiang Ching Speaks at Inaugural Meeting of Peking Revolutionary Committee" (edited version), Hsinhua News Agency, English, Peking, 20.4.67.*
  • [37] -. 3 July 1967. "Instructions on the Symphony Shachiapang", from Kuang-ung Wen-i Chan-pao, 5.7.67,*
  • [38] -. 5 September 1967. "Important Talk Given by Comrade Chiang Ching on Sept. 5 at a Conference of Representatives of Anhwei Who Have Come to Peking". Printed by the Great Preparatory Committee of People's Automobiles, Red Flag, Municipal Communications and Transport Department. Released with 9.9.67 Circular of CCP/CC and both are reprinted in CCP Docs.*
  • [39] -. 9 & 12 November 1967. "Talk of Comrade Chiang Ching", Issued as a Document of the CCP/CC, in Chung-fa, No. 354 13.11.67.**
  • [40] Chinese Communist Party, "Order of the CCP Central Committee, the State Council, the Central Military Commission and the Central Cultural Revolution Group Concerning the Prohibition of the Seizure of Arms, Equipment, and other Military Supplies from the PLA", (5 September, 1967), Chung-fa No. 288 (67).**
  • [41] -. Ninth Party Congress documents. Peking: FLP, 1969.
  • [42] -. Chinese Literature. Nos. 2-1969, 6-1972, 3-1974, 10-1976, Peking.
  • [43] CCP Documents of the GPCR, 1966-1967. Hong Kong: Union Research Institute, 1968. Contains some key speeches of Chiang Ching.
  • [44] Documents of the CCP/CC, Sept. 1956-April 1969, Vol 1. Hong Kong: Union Research Institute, 1971.
  • [45] Chu Lan. "A Decade of Revolution in Peking Opera". Peking Review (31) 2.8.74; Reprinted in Lotta [60]
  • [46] Mao Tsetung. "Give Serious Attention to the Discussion on the Film The Life of Wu Hsun", 20 May 1951. In Jerome Chen's The Mao Papers (1970), pp 78-79.
  • [47] -. "Wen Hui Pao's Bourgeois Orientation Should be Criticized". (July 1957), Selected Works of Mao Tsetung, Vol. 5, p 454 (FLP: Peking, 1975). Also cited in Avakian's MIC, p 230.
  • [48] -. "The Intelligence of the People". 11 February 1966. in Chen, p 103.
  • [49] -, Letters from Mao to Chiang Ching, July 1966 and July 1976. Both widely reprinted. 7.66 in Han Suyin's Wind in the Tower, p 319; 7.76 in Manchester Guardian 7.11.76
  • [50] -. "Mao's Latest Instructions". A selection of Mao's remarks between 1966 and 1969 made by editors Wheelright & McFarlane, in The Chinese Road to Socialism, London: Pelican, 1973.
  • [51] -. "Mao Tsetung Analyzes the Cultural Revolution". An unofficial collection of Mao's remarks from 1967 as appendix in Daubier, p 309.
  • [52] -. "Talk to the Albanian Military Delegation". (May 1967) in AWTW No. 1, 1985.
  • [53] Chinese Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) Central Committee. "Statement by Shanghai Revolutionaries on the Restoration of Capitalism in China", Shanghai, January 1981. Reprinted inAWTW, No. 14. Message smuggled out abroad, translation by the Revolutionary Worker newspaper.
  • [54] -. "Persevere to the End in the Struggle Against the Counter-Revolutionary Capitalist Roaders", Shanghai, August, 1981. In this pamphlet the underground revolutionaries respond to the revisionist CCP 6th Plenum of the 11th Central Committee Report and its "summation of Mao Tsetung". Reprinted in RW, 4.9.81.
  • Secondary Sources

  • [55] Avakian, Bob. The Loss in China and the Revolutionary Legacy of Mao Tsetung. Chicago: RCP Publications, 1978.
  • [56] -, Mao's Immortal Contributions. Chicago: RCP Publications, 1979. (Communes are fine, p 218.)
  • [57] Chung Hua-min & Miller, Arthur. Madame Mao, A Profile of Chiang Ching. Hong Kong: Union Research Institute, 1968.

    Contains several speeches by Chiang Ching. (Slogan "children-parents" p 146)
  • [58] Daubier, Jean. A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. New York: Vintage, 1974. (Tao Chu caricatures, p 135)
  • [59] Han Suyin. The Wind in the Tower, Mao Tsetung and the Chinese Revolution 1949-1976. Herts: Triad Panther, 1978. ("children-parents" slogan, p 327.) For liberation war see her Morning Deluge (1893-1954) (1972).
  • [60] Lotta, Raymond (ed.). And Mao Makes Five. Chicago: Banner Press, 1978. Contains introduction on last battle of 1973-76 and reprints of key documents from the Left and the Right. (Tachai p 35; Chang Chun-chiao & culture p 36; for Deng and 3 directives, see Cheng Yueh's "A General Program for Capitalist Restoration", reprinted p 274.)
  • [61] Malraux, André. Anti-Memoirs. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1968. Interview with Mao Tsetung.
  • [62] Masi, Edoarda. China Winter. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1982. Original title: Per la Cina, 1978. (for Song of the Gardner p 178; posters stripped down p 175)
  • [63] New World Press. A Great Trial in Chinese History. Peking, 1981. Chinese revisionists' rendition of the trial. (Liao Mosha p 53; the armed rebellion, pp 25, 191-93 is one of their major charges. Chiang Ching's defence, p 26)
  • [64] Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. "Revisionists are Revisionists and Must Not Be Supported; Revolutionaries are Revolutionaries and Must Be Supported", in Revolution and Counter-Revolution (Report on China by Bob Avakian, Chairman). (For 3 directives vs class struggle as key link, see especially pp 23-42.)
  • [65] Revolutionary Worker, Voice of the RCP,USA, Chicago. "The Shanghai Rebellion 'Plot'", 30.1.81; "Walls Salute Chiang Ching", 11.8.91, citing 7.91 issue of Cheng Ming, Hong Kong.
  • [66] Robinson, Joan. The Cultural Revolution in China. Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1969.
  • [67] Sing Tao, Hong Kong, 7.6.91 (right-wing newspaper) p 3.
  • [68] Tai, Dwan. Chiang Ching. Hicksville, NY: Exposition Press, 1974. (Docks pp 102-3. Also see Peking Review 25.8.67) (Deng & Tao Chu vs opera, p 99; Soviet observer of Red Guard meeting, p 124, citing Zhelokhovtsev, A. The Cultural Revolution Seen by a Soviet.)
  • [69] Wilson, Dick. Mao, The People's Emperor. London: Futura Publications, 1979. (reading to Mao and convalescing, p 392)
  • [70] Witke, Roxanne. Comrade Chiang Ching. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1977. (Chiang Ching describing her early childhood, heads on pole, pp. 49-51; her "social education", p 62; Chiang Ching on Lu Hsun, p 138; Yenan wall slogans p 167 citing The Red Flag Waves, 16, p 134; Chiang Ching denied respect p 186; Chiang Ching tells concubines and hated landlord story p 210; Moscow and health p 271; Chiang Ching on her Wusih experience, pp 227-29; Chiang Ching on divorce practices, p 230, pp 251-53; Chiang Ching's description of land reform, pp 244-248; "Do People Eat Enough" p 264; keeping abreast, p 260; Chiang Ching's investigation into Wu Hsun, pp 238-243; May 16th Circular, p 517; Chiang Ching recounts Lin Piao affair, pp 365-67 (see Doc. 12 of the CCP/CC (68) for Mao's original remarks); women generals p 354; son, pp 164-65.)

    Because it is based on the account of her interviews with Chiang Ching in 1972, this book by academic historian Roxanne Witke seems to be the most informed available source in English about Chiang Ching's early life, and consequently it has been used extensively for this part of the article. A word of caution: her book is sprinkled with the poison of her thoroughly bourgeois outlook that leaders make history as individuals and only out of self-interest. However if one can manage to cast aside Witke's annoying parenthetical interruptions and her summations that generally stand things on their head, one can glean quite a bit about Chiang Ching's remarkable life from Chiang Ching herself (or what she might have said) through the parts in which Witke lets her speak. Nonetheless, it can in no way be honestly maintained that Witke fulfilled her promise to Chiang Ching to do a book on the history of the revolution mainly from Chiang Ching's point of view. And, it is highly unfortunate that someone who fails to grasp the class struggle in China and has as much distaste for revolution as Witke does (areas she assumes are as incomprehensible to her reading public as to herself) should have taken on Chiang Ching's story. Witke also waited to publish her book until after Mao's death and Chiang Ching's arrest, lending her voice to the prescribed anti-communist liturgy performed by the international bourgeois media and some academicians that presumptuously aimed to put the seal of death on Maoist revolution after the coup d'état of 1976.

    This violation of Chiang Ching's trust by the "moderate" Witke displayed in the 1977 biography turned into rabid revolutionary-bashing and base rumour-mongering about Chiang Ching's personal life in Witke's articles after her death in 1991, as though Witke willingly surrendered any credibility as a serious source today.