Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century
Mao: The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, 1966-1970 Its relation to a Culture of Peace for the 21st Century


Marx and Engels:
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Civil War in France


Theory of History

Marx and Engels:
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Violence and the Origin of the State

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

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What is to be done?


The State and Revolution

Lenin: War Communism

The Cultural Revolution

Left-Wing Communism

The American Revolutions

The French Revolutions

On Workers Control

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Militarization of Labor

Russian Revolution

The Women's Question

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Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Mao and Fidel:
Fall of the American Empire

Man and Socialism in Cuba

Hall and Winston:
Fighting Racism

National Liberation and Culture

Cabral: National Liberation and Culture

Nkrumah: Neo-Colonialism

From 1966 until his death in 1976, Mao Tse Tung launched and encouraged the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China.

Having become frustrated with the communist bureaucracy of China at the time, Mao encouraged young people, especially students, to criticize the country's leadership. This was consistent with his teachings about criticism and self-criticism, published in 1966 as part of his quotations, best known as the "Little Red Book": "Conscientious practice of self-criticism is still another hallmark distinguishing our Party from all other political parties. As we say, dust will accumulate if a room is not cleaned regularly, our faces will get dirty if they are not washed regularly. Our comrades' minds and our Party's work may also collect dust, and also need sweeping and washing. The proverb "Running water is never stale and a door-hinge is never worm-eaten" means that constant motion prevents the inroads of germs and other organisms. To check up regularly on our work and in the process develop a democratic style of work, to fear neither criticism nor self-criticism, and to apply such good popular Chinese maxims as "Say all you know and say it without reserve", "Blame not the speaker but be warned by his words" and "Correct mistakes if you have committed them and guard against them if you have not" - this is the only effective way to prevent all kinds of political dust and germs from contaminating the minds of our comrades and the body of our Party."

One can find both positive and negative assessments of the Great Proletarian Revolution, but all agree that it was a time of great turmoil in China with many conflicting groups of the Red Guards and many public officials run out of office. On the positive side, millions of young people went into the countryside and worked with the peasants. Although Mao apparently never referred to the cultural revolution called for in 1923 by Lenin, insofar as the students helped reconnect urban and rural China, they promoted one of the goals that Lenin had hoped to achieve.

Acknowledging that criticism could increase conflict, Mao attacked "liberals" as those who seek a peace that is the absence of conflict: "We stand for active ideological struggle because it is the weapon for ensuring unity within the Party and the revolutionary organizations in the interest of our fight. Every Communist and revolutionary should take up this weapon. But liberalism rejects ideological struggle and stands for unprincipled peace, thus giving rise to a decadent, philistine attitude and bringing about political degeneration in certain units and individuals in the Party and the revolutionary organizations."

Although encouraging the conflict of the cultural revolution, Mao stopped short of encouraging violence. In his dialogue with the student Wang Hai-Jung, he asked if a Red Guard had killed anyone: "Well, so long as he doesn't kill people, we should not dismiss him, nor should we send him away for labour reform." And, further along he says, "There can be teachers in opposition. Only they should not kill."

Mao also stopped short of allowing the Communist Party to be weakened by the cultural revolution. He emphasizes in the chapter on The Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People: "Words and actions ... should help to strengthen, and not discard or weaken, the leadership of the Communist Party."

Leaving aside the question of how the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution affected the development of socialism in China, it must be said that perceptions of the Chinese cultural revolution inspired many young revolutionaries in the West during the 60's and 70's.

If we insist that conflict be distinguished from violence, then we may consider Mao's call for a cultural revolution to support that of Lenin who considered it "radical modification in our whole outlook on socialism." Such a cultural revolution may be taken up again as part of the revolutionary strategy for the 21st Century.

To take part in a discussion about this page, go to the Forum on Writings of Mao Tse-Tung on the Discussion Board:

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Revolutionary socialist culture of peace

Culture of War

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Culture of Peace

Education for nonviolence and democracy

Sustainable development for all

Human rights vs exploitation

Women's equality vs patriarchy

Democratic participation vs authoritarianism

Tolerance and solidarity vs enemy images

Transparency vs secrecy

Disarmament vs armament

Revolutionary leadership

Revolutionary organization

Proletarian Internationalism

National Liberation

Guerrilla Warfare


Agent Provocateurs

Communication systems

Psychology for revolutionaries

Capitalist culture of war

Socialist culture of war

Winning Conflict by Nonviolence

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