The Red Book and the Power Structure of Communist China

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The Red Book and the Power Structure of Communist China

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

The Red Book was written several years before it became the object of national adoration and a tool for the Cultivation of Mao's personality Cult. The history of the Red Book and its meteoric rise from a hand book for military recruits to compulsory reading for all Chinese citizens, is closely tied to its developer Lin Biao's rise to power. Lin Biao was born in 1907 and was fourteen years younger then Mao; he joined the communist party in 1925 and until the communists captured control of China was at various times in charge of resistance forces, and armies of communist soldiers. When the communists took control in 1949 Lin Biao was behind Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Chen Yun, and Deng Xiaoping in rank (Yan and Gao, 1996: 179). But eighteen years later during the height of the Cultural Revolution Lin Biao by winning favor with Mao by publishing and championing the Red Book and the Cult of Mao became second only to the Chairman in power and position (Ming-Le, 1983: 80). In 1959 Peng Dehua was dismissed as minister of defense and Lin Biao was appointed in his place. At an armed forces meeting for high cadres during September of that year Lin Biao, energetically started promoting the Cult of Mao saying, "Learning the writings of comrade Mao Zedong is the shortcut to learning Marxism-Leninism. Chairman Mao's writings are easy to learn and can be put to use immediately. Diligent work will pay dividends many fold." (Yan and Gao, 1996: 182) His references to "shortcut" and "quick dividends" in his speech went unnoticed at the time as few foresaw the effects of creating a Cult around Mao. But looking back on the Cultural Revolution and Lin Biao, we can see his using the Cult of Mao was indeed a shortcut that produced huge dividends both for himself and for Mao.

Mao to the Chinese people was a symbol sovereignty and the construction of socialism; to them praise for Mao was fitting with his symbolic role in society. Starting in 1959 Lin Biao in front of military audiences in order to help buildup support for the Cult of Mao used such phrases as, "the dire necessity of acquiring Mao Zedong's thought," "to study the writings of Mao Zedong with questions in mind is to shoot arrows with target in sight," "we must arm our minds with Mao Zedong's thought" (Yan an Gao, 1996: 181). Lin Biao's goal of building up both himself and the Cult of Mao lead him in September of 1960 to pass a resolution at the meeting of the Military Commission, which called for more political education among the armed forces (Yan and Gao, 1996:...
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