The Chinese Intelligentsia during the Hundred Flowers and Anti-rightist Movement After the coming to power of the CCP and the formation of the People’s Republic of China, thorough and drastic changes began to take place in China. A country which had been founded on a mixture of Confucianism and a very spiritual lifestyle, with ancestor worship and even praying to the god of a particular object, which had went through various revolutions and changing’s of the guard, began to follow the influence of a Red Giant. The theories of Communism which were developed through a collaboration of Marx and Engels began to penetrate China through the Soviet influence. The sweeping changes that were introduced by Mao Zedong and his party would influence China in every aspect, and attempt to eradicate the old ways, which were consider to be corrupted and no longer represented what was right for the country as a whole. The CCP changed the way the government was set up, changed the way foreign relations were handled, re-evaluated the economic policies of the country, and, possibly more drastically, attempted, arguably successfully, to control and change the way people thought. The anti rightist movements of the 50 s and 60 s attempted to do just that.
These movements followed on the heels of what was known as the Hundred Flowers. The Hundred Flowers slogan was “Let a hundred Flowers Bloom, a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend.” The movement which had started in the spring of 1956 was a movement that was began by the party to do several things. The main theme behind the movement was to welcome criticism of the party by the intellectuals of the country, and was considered a good way for the party to prove that it cared about the people, was interested, and listening to what they had to say. According to Teiwes: Lu (Ting-i) argued the victory of socialist transformation and a fundamental change in the political outlook of intellectuals created conditions for the Hundred Flowers. He held that free discussion and independent thinking were necessary to avoid academic stagnation and declared the imposition of narrow, doctrinaire restrictions on intellectual life the “bitter enemy” of true Marxism Leninism. (219) Mao was under the impression that Communism was so perfect that intellectual criticism would not be hurt, but benefit the attitudes in the country.
Mao travelled the length and breadth of China during the 1950’s. The massive amount of support that he got where ever he went convinced him that he was in touch with the people. He took this opportunity to give some greater freedom of expression to his people and he encouraged constructive criticism of how he and his party were transforming china into a proletarian state. He also gave ...
This was a major change in the way this type of thing had been handled previously. The Communist party had been very adamant in keeping down what they called counter-revolutionary forces prior to coming into power. This movement was different however in that prior movements had come from the peasantry, and this movement was allowing for the intellectuals to come to the forefront. The party members who promoted the program expected only minor criticisms and were not really anticipating anything drastic from this new openness. The intellectuals themselves felt similarly, as Teiwes writes: Despite considerable caution on the part of intellectuals, the new atmosphere did result in significant debates in a number of academic fields – e. g.
, on hereditary, the periodization of history, the role of Marxism-Leninism in philosophy, and socialist realism in literature. Moreover, in journalism changes included a more lively style, greater space devoted to free discussion, the encouragement of professionalism including Western style pursuit of the full story, and greater use of Western news sources, at least in restricted publications. (220) In the political realm, there was even room for other parties, such as the democratic parties of China. Unfortunately the Hundred Flowers movement was short lived. The intellectuals, after cautiously testing the waters, burst through the damn, and the party had more to deal with than they had expected. Teiwes writes that the movement was a failure for multiple causes: The Hundred Flowers was based on the assumption that non-Party intellectuals, despite their ideological backwardness, were basically in sympathy with CCP goals and could be counted on to make positive contributions to even so sensitive an affair a Party rectification.
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Since their differences with the Party were “contradictions within the people,” there were no fundamental clashes of interest and few conflicts which could not be settled by persuasive methods. But bourgeois intellectuals as a group had been grievously violated, and their relations with Party cadres were marked by mutual mistrust. (273) The Hundred Flowers movement had given the intellectuals of China the courage to stand up and be heard, even when it was criticizing the party. However, when the Party realized just how much and how strongly there was criticism, they quickly reversed their stance on the issue, and suddenly those people who had spoken out where labeled as rightists and considered enemies of the state. The rightist movement in China showed a return to the old ways of the Party. Mao, having started the initiative of the Hundred Flowers, was also at the forefront of the anti-rightist movement.
Mao attempted to show the Hundred Flowers movement as a trap designed specifically by him to catch the party’s enemies. However, Teiwes points to the fact that it’s is not likely that the blooming of the Hundred Flowers was originally set up as a trap, but that after it became clear that a counterattack was necessary on the party of the CCP against these intellectuals, the criticism continued for a time allowing the CCP to target these intellectuals in turn (278).
The Hundred Flowers was probably one of Mao’s greatest mistakes while leading the party for so many years. The contradictions of the two movements were great, as they seem to be exact opposites of each other, both coming from the same leader, and it seems as if Mau was aware of his mistake: Even more striking was his turnabout concerning the press, not only in terms of general principles but also in that Mao chose to launch his most bitter attack on Wen-hui pao which had been one of the most faithful implementers of his “blooming and contending” policy, and whose criticisms he had praised as “beneficial” in April. Whatever his leadership colleagues or victimized intellectuals may have thought of such protestations, it appears that Mao was not above political expediency in an effort to escape responsibility for the Hundred Flowers miscalculation.
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(Teiwes, 281) During the Anti rightist movement attempts were made to re-educate and weed out these intellectual trouble makers, and leaders in both the Democratic and Communist parties were attacked and labeled as rightists. The mind-set behind this movement is very similar to the witch-hunting of the United States for Communist splinter-cells in the years of McCarthyism following the Second World War. The ways these movements effected the population of China is difficult to see from an outsider’s perspective, but Jung Chang gives a very good account of how her parents were affected during both the Hundred Flowers and Anti-rightist movements of Mao’s China in her book Wild Swans. The book follows the progression of Jung Chang’s family including her birth, her mother’s birth, etc.
There is a chapter devoted to the Anti-rightist movement titled China Silenced. This title expresses very poignantly the feeling that was left the people of China after the movement was over. According to Jung Chang: The lesson was harsh and clear: criticism of any kind was not going to be tolerated. From that point on people stopped complaining, or speaking up at all.
A popular saying summed up the atmosphere: “After the Three Antis no one wants to be in charge of money; after the Anti-rightist Campaign no one opens their mouth. (218) In her book Chang describes exactly how broad this category was of intellectuals that were criticizing the Party: Anybody with any education at all was referred to as an “intellectual.” Under the Communists, who based their policies on class categories, “intellectuals” became a specific, if vague, category, which included nurses, students, and actors as well as engineers, technicians, writers, teacher, doctors, and scientists. (212) The author’s mother, who was an official in the Sichuan government, was one of the Party officials to take the slack of some of these intellectuals. She was labeled as favoring particular schools with money. (Chang, 213) All and all, Chang states that the liberalism of the Hundred Flowers only lasted about a year. “According to Mao, they were to “say whatever they want to stay, and to the full.” (Chang, 213), and also “Mao had explicitly guaranteed that there would be no reprisals for speaking up.” (Chang, 214) However, the reality of the matter was quite different.
Born on May Fourth: The New Culture Movement and its Influence on Early Communist Rhetoric by Vincent Galvin History 131 Professor Lee 18 December 2001'As long as there shall be stones, he seeds of fire will not die.' Lu Xun, December 1935 On May Fourth 1919 over three thousand Beijing intellectuals met in Tiananmen Square to protest the results of the Paris Peace Treaty. The protesters disagreed ...
When it was all over roughly 550, 000 people were considered rightists, whose lives were ruined. (Chang, 218) A quota had been set up from a statement Mao had made, that roughly 1 to 10 percent of all intellectuals were rightists, and this lead to a 5 percent quota that had to be met, by officials, in cleaning up their bureaus. This was very difficult for people, being forced to find these so called rightists. But people who refused to comply with the quota system were labeled as rightists themselves, and removed from office, such as Mr.
Hau who had been a Party secretary of a research institute. (Chang, 215) The author’s mother was forced to do the same in her own office, but luckily some 100 plus students were labeled rightists in her area and graciously given to her quota. However her superior was not happy with her non-enthusiastic approach to the new system, and would have no doubt labeled her a rightist, had he not been labeled one himself. (Chang, 216-217) The movement got out of control, and people were labeled as rightists for reasons that were in no way related to their political persuasion: Among the categories of rightists were “lots-drawing rightists”, people who drew lots to decide who should be named as rightists, and “toilet rightists”, people who found they been nominated in their absence after they could not restrain themselves from going to the toilet during the many long, drawn-out meetings. There were also rightists who were said to “have poison but not released it”; these were people who were named as rightists without having said anything against anyone. When a boss did not like someone he could say: “He doesn’t look right,” or “His father was executed by the Communists, how can he not feel resentful? He just won’t say it openly.” A kindhearted unit leader sometimes did the opposite: “Whom should I nail? I can’t do that to anyone.
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Say it’s me.” He was popularly called a “self-acknowledged rightist” (Chang, 218) The penalties were steep as well. One of Chang’s father’s employees was sent for three years in a gulag where many other prisoners died from the manual labor. “His crime was a single remark to the effect that China’s reliance on the Soviet Union should not be “absolute.” At the time the Party was proclaiming it should be.” (Chang, 217) In the end of the movement the millions of intellectuals in China, which had been through so much already, were tired and worn, and decided perhaps it was better to keep their opinions to themselves. It would take years for them to find their voice again. Not, only did this movement silence millions, but it was also the moment for many Chinese, when the cracks in the party started to show. The man who had been revered as a god, had made a mistake, and people started to question themselves and their beliefs.
Jung Chang’s mother was one of these individuals who began to question the Communist party and its methods, however not openly. Her husband however would not question it. Their relationship is a microcosm of the country. The people who saw the fissures forming were afraid to say anything, but the blind followers of the party where afraid to listen: One day, when she ventured some critical comments about the situation and got no response from him, she said bitterly, “You are a good Communist, but a rotten husband!” My father nodded. He said he knew. (Chang, 219) Works Cited Chang, Jung.
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. New York: First Anchor Books, 1992. Fu-Sheng, Mu. The Wilting of the Hundred Flowers. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Inc, 1963.
Teiwes, Frederick. Politics and Purges in China. New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1979..