A revolution best forgotten

CHINA is marking the 40th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution. But the Asian giant isn’t demonstrating any excessive patriotic fervour usually associated with such national events. Which is not surprising considering the bloody history of the Cultural Revolution Mao Tse Tung inflicted on his unfortunate country and its people. Doubtless, this had been a revolution that is best forgotten. That is what the Chinese people and the governing Communist Party have been trying to do all these years.

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Thu 18 May 2006, 11:01 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:20 PM

But today as China revisits the Cultural Revolution of May 1966, it would do well to confront the reality of this nightmarish and most devastating part of its recent history. Mao had launched the Cultural Revolution essentially to strengthen his grip on the party and the country. The campaign did strengthen Mao’s stranglehold on the Communist party and China. The Cultural Revolution played a crucial role in unifying the vast and largely ungovernable country.

However, China and its people have had to pay an immense and bloody price for this achievement. There was little ‘cultural’ about the Cultural Revolution. Not only Mao used it to eliminate all potential threats to his leadership in the party, but he sent hundreds of thousands of innocent and ordinary people to their death. Everyone with some semblance of education or ‘culture’ was denounced as a ‘reactionary’ or ‘counter revolutionary’ condemning him or her to a painful death or equally torturous imprisonment. Mao even denounced Deng Xiaoping, his lieutenant and the architect of modern China, as "the number one revisionist toeing capitalist line." It’s a different matter though that Deng indeed proved Mao right by introducing path-breaking economic reforms which led to the current phenomenal growth of modern China. The Communist party and Chinese society were ideologically ‘cleansed’ of writers, artists, teachers, journalists and ordinary political activists in a pogrom akin to what happened to Jews in Czarist Russia and Hitler’s Germany. The Muslims in Sinkiang and other parts of the country too suffered a great deal with the rest of the Chinese people.

This is why it is important for the current leadership of China to acknowledge this appalling part of its history and all its excesses. This wouldn’t bring justice to Mao’s victims but it will certainly help China to face its future and avoid past mistakes.

Of course, China has indirectly acknowledged the disastrous path chosen by Mao when it broke away from his legacy under Deng Xiaoping when he took over in 1977. It was only thanks to Deng’s extraordinary vision of market reforms with a degree of state control that allowed China to emerge as an economic superpower of our times. In doing so, Deng departed from Maoist legacy and socialist ideals of the party. Now China must take another crucial step: It must disown the Cultural Revolution and put Mao’s ghost to rest.

More news from