Chinese blogger-journalist Ran Yunfei (冉云飞) has spent a large part of his life researching the stories of those painted, purged and persecuted as right wing elements during China's Cultural Revolution; unable to have the stories published in any official media, he's turned to his own well-known blog. Early last month Ran gave a talk in a Chengdu teahouse—hotspots for grassroots discussions in pre-Communist China—the transcript of which he then posted on his blog in four installments. Here is the second:
What needs to be pointed out is that in part of this lecture can be seen some criticism of Chongqing
‘s cultural redevelopment. I bring this up in every situation. Skyscrapers keep popping up all around Chongqing, but the same can't be said of culture. By not strenghtening culture (different from the Communist Party
‘s so-called spiritual civilization, different from the disgusting screwing up of increasing the GDP), you won't win people's authentic respect. But seeing a succession of rightists’ joint-signed letters coming out of Chongqing calling for the Communist Party's compensation for their losses, Chongqing citizens’ courage has won them my respect.
I can say this: around the 25th of June, 1949, the People's Daily
published Mr. Chen Yuan's letter ‘An Open Letter to Mr. Hu Shi,’ the significance of which was rather large. Many people saw it as Mr. Chen Yuan's individual surrender and capitulation to the Communist Party, a way to demonstrate good faith to the Communist Party. But my understanding is different. I see it only as using Mr. Chen Yuan to deliver a hidden message, a latent threat. It tells you that a great historian like Mr. Chen Yuan, in sending an open letter to Mr. Hu Shi, is also saying the Communist Party is good and ‘if you little worms know what's good for you, you won't take yourselves so seriously and listen to those who know what's really going on.’ Another implication is that those of you left over must resist, but a futile resistance it will be. That's why there is so much significance to actions like this, primarily a symbolic significance. To put it plainly, it's a ‘don't say I didn't tell you so’ kind of hint, that the Communist Party already warned you. If you happen to be too thick-skulled to get the message, don't blame us. That's why in 1950
a large group of intellectuals seemed like they had changed into completely different people. Mr. Fei Xiaotong
, for example, who had a very quick response. And Fei Xiaotong, as you know, was a very famous sociologist prior to 1949, a very famous liberal intellectual. His criticisms at the time of the Kuomintang
were also quite rabid. Here in my hand I have a copy of Fei Xiaotong's book “Discussing University
,” which talks about changing universities to adapt to the new regime. Really just like two different people. That took place in 1950. And what about those people who in 1950 wrote about their own changes in thinking? Of course back in the Kuomingtang days they still retained some appearance of intellectuals, like Chen Yuan, Fei Xiaotong, Feng Youlan
, Pan Guangdan
, Li Jinghan, etc. Chen Yuan took part in the Xinan Land Labor Reform Group. He was a Xinan Land Labor Reform Group leader, taking part in reform through land labor reform in Dayi County. Mister [Liu] Shahe saw him there in Dayi Country, and when he came back went on to write essays glorifying labor reform. I've collected more than a few of the series on intellectuals who took part in reform labor.
What I mean to say is that practically with the first wave of reforming through land labor, large numbers of intellectuals had already had the piss frightened out of them. A few of them might have have stronger bodies, maybe they managed to hold it, but in the end, 1957, all of them had been shaken out. It can be said thus: all intellectuals had given up by 1957, such people no longer even existed. Even Liang Shuming had opposed Mao Zedong
since 1953, but in the end went silent as well. And Liang Shuming was really cool. A book came out recently, “Will This World Be Well Again?
“, conversations between Liang Shuming and American professor Ai Kai. Liang's education isn't very high, he's the same age as Mao Zedong. The basic knowledge of his early education wasn't very high; he hasn't even read the China studies classics
. That's why I feel Mr. Liang Shuming's academic contributions are certainly not hight. But Mr. Liang's contribution of personal moral character in the 20th century, I feel, is enough to make the majority of intellectuals blush with shame. This person opposed Mao Zedong, opposed many things. During the criticizing Lin Biao
campaign, this person opposed the criticizing of Lin Biao and Confucius. He's nothing like his student Feng Youlan. Although Mr. Feng Youlan is worth feeling sympathy for, worth forgiving. But such an intellectual, compared to Mr. Liang, scores a little low in personality. As I was reading Mr. Liang's book, I posted a review here on my blog. Mr. Liang has one famous photograph, ‘When the eyes are full of the despicable, the mouth is closed
.’ That photograph is one of my favorites. Just happens this photograph is the cover photo on his book. That's why I wrote a post called ‘In an autarchy, daring to grow up into someone like this is not easy
.’ If you think about it, since the 1950s, how many people exhibit moral behavior like Liang Shuling's? Don't even say you could have published your opinions. If you even had the wrong look at the wrong time, then you would have been guilty. Especially so if you had the slightest appearance of shadiness. If you came off looking disdainful, that would be a mistake on top of a mistake. That's why in fact in 1957, some intellectuals had no courage to raise their opinions left at all.
The Communist Party's approach to reforming intellectuals at the time was to use a carrot and a big stick. The carrot was to give you some leeway, but at the same time a pole was set up to deter some people, showing them that if they don't do as they're told, this is how they'll get it. Another way was to give some intellectuals some practical benefits; as long as you do as I tell you, then I'll give you carrots. This carrot-and-stick tactic was used repeatedly from 1949 until 1957, through the labor reforms and other major anti-right and -counterrevolutionary campaigns. Many right wingers and their parents were killed in the ‘Three Antis’ and ‘Five Antis’ campaigns. Mr. Liu Shahe
‘s parents died this way, killed by the Communist Party's guns. That's why after their parents were killed, many intellectuals definitely had pain in their hearts, the kind that pierces through your heart, the worst kind. I've known Mr. Shahe for roughly twenty years now, and I've never heard him talk about this. You can see how deep the pain runs down through his heart. I can talk about many things with him, but if he won't take the initiative to bring this up, I definitely won't. I know that inside he has extremely concealed and painful things. During the ‘Three Antis’ and ‘Five Antis”, when landlords and feudal tyrants were attacked, when the so-called land bandits were taken out, the tactics used by the Communist Party were the same ones used in the earlier purges of the Kuomintang. First was the purging of the Kuomintang, second was purging the landlords and feudal tyrants, and then the ‘Three Antis,’ the ‘Five Antis,’ public-private joint operations, rectification of the industrialists and merchants, and then came the intellectuals known most for their free speaking. This point, if you look closely, was done carefully in steps. First the military were taken care of, then the economy and then finally, the intellectuals. It all went down step-by-step, definitely did not spring up suddenly. The first Five Year Plan
saw reform of public-private joint enterprises and capitalists. Whether it's the anti-Americanism in supporting Korea or attacking the ‘bandits’ and ‘tyrants,’ including taking out undercover Kuomintang spies, all this took place pretty much before 1957. Also in 1956 was the Hungarian incident, including Stalin's death and Khruschev's report, an international situation. In addition, in its first phase the Communist Party regime had already secured power over the military, in politics and over the economy. But there were still many intellectuals holding it, the last of the piss still hadn't been shaken out. Fine, in 1957 they tried a new method to draw these people out, the so-called open trap.
And when did this open trap begin? Many books now don't say clearly, like Mssrs. Zhu Zheng's, Ye Yonglie
‘s, Hu Ping's, etc. Some say it started around May or June, and I can't confirm exactly when, but in my hand now I have a copy of one of the earliest article criticizing rightists (although I can't say that this is the
earliest), Xie Chunting's ‘Denounce Sun Haibo's Anti-Historical Science and Marxist-Leninism-opposing Lies
Normal University Journal, Issue 1). I don't know if this university journal is monthly or bi-monthly, let's just say it's a seasonal journal. I looked for a date but there was none. If it's monthly, then that would make it January. If bi-monthly, then it would have been February. If it's seasonal, then it would have come out in March. Let's just say it's seasonal and that the criticism started in March. In other words, the criticisms were already appearing in print. And there were a lot more in April. Like historian Bai Shouyi
‘s essay ‘Historical Data's Disguise
‘ (Beijing Normal University Social Sciences Edition, Issue 2). And then there was Liu Chunfan's ‘Expose Li Hongzhe's Anti-Marxism Crimes and Ploys
‘ (Historiography Journal, Issue 2), as well as Nie Shouzhi's ‘Denounce and Refute Right Winger Jin Antai's Reactionary Historical Views
‘ (Historiography Journal, Issue 2). Everybody knows that March and April saw a call for people to let it all out, and can't we see here that March and April were a complete letting out? Looking at the materials that I've collected, although the exact date of the start of the anti-right movement, one at least knows that by March and April there were anti-right articles appearing. No need to say what then happened in May, just that there was all the more. Within the materials I just brought are detailed records. Friends can also look it up on the internet. Mid-May came an article from one Xiao Ya called ‘On “The Making of Special Materials: Discussions with Mr. Zhang Naiqi
“‘ (Daily News). One can see at this time Mao Zedong was still insisting that people must speak out openly, inviting intellectuals to give their suggestions, to say what they thought. But in this case some newspapers weren't abiding by Mao Zedong's discipline, were already exposing his covert plan. This was a very interesting turn; from this once could see the holes in his plan, that he in fact was concealing his intentions to ‘get’ the intellectuals. Thinking of the future, he started going at it openly. But by this time it was already quite in the open.
At the beginning of June, especially prior to June 8, when the well-known People's Daily article ‘Why is this?‘ came out. Mr. Xiao Sai, with us here today, also wrote a book entitled ‘Why?‘; as well I've heard of a website overseas also called ‘Why is this?.’ I haven't seen this website. Perhaps it also deals with researching the right wing. If you read carefully this People's Daily editorial, is it a straight question? Or a hypothetical question? Or a rhetorical question? Its headline, ‘Why is this?’, let me tell you, is very clear in its intent. Completely clear. He was never asking for you to explain. He asks why this is, because in his mind he completely understands. He poses this question from standing in a position of command. The topic he puts forward doesn't need any students, because his isn't a test question, because he has only one extremely specific undoubtable and arbitrary answer. He already knows. He asks ‘why,’ is only to indicate an especially strong attitude. He knows you're not smarter than him. This kind of headline was used very often later, including during the Cultural Revolution and in other places as well. It was with this line of questioning that the real anti-right movement went into effect. This is the third point I mentioned, the context of anti-right thinking.
Fourth, the anti-right movement's several courses. I thought June 8 was a watershed for the anti-right movement. The process leading up to the publishing of the anti-right ‘Why is this?‘ article in the People's Daily was a slow fermenting one, a process of drawing snakes out from their holes. But even before this some newspapers were already anxiously criticizing and judging the right wing. They moved quite quickly, their nose for politics was quite sensitive. As we today do research on Mao Zedong's method of drawing snakes from their holes, we see there were some holes Mao wasn't able to plug up, appears the steps weren't all in sync. From this one gets a sense that what Mao carried out was a true to form dirty trick, a classic self-questioning. However he would pose a question to you, call you rise up, this was all just a guise. That's why I saw this was a watershed. The second phase, according to the materials I have here in my hand, suggest that all of 1957 was a year of anti-right activity. In fact, I can say this: that right wing-criticizing speech, books, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, I fear were printed by the inside (I've labelled all the right wing materials I've collected by printing numbers, format, number of pages, etc.). Many people feel these labels are useless, but I just tell them, ‘Ran Yunfei sometimes gets some strange ideas in his head.’ I joke and say that if you take all these various kinds of right wing-criticizing materials, including tabloids and drawings, illustrated storybooks and novels, all of which I've collected, you can calculate how many tons of paper in total were used in criticizing the right wing. You might think it silly, or that my line of thinking is strange, but in the end you will get a basic conclusion. The entire anti-right movement which started in 1957 had already begun winding down with the large-scale movement of 1959. How many tons of paper were used in this time to criticize the right wing can be calculated. From printing numbers, from format, the number of tons of paper used in the rectification of intellectuals can also be worked out. This topic could very easily be used for doctoral research. Because your line of though is very odd. You see, the Communist Party used x tons of paper in the rectification of intellectuals. This alone can make much more of an impression that anything you could ever say, right? Today I'm only trying to give everybody something to think about, something everyone could go and do. A very meaningful act.
The second phase mentioned above was from June 8, 1957 until the end of December, 1959, when things pretty much came to a close. The fiercest was 1957 and 1958, these two years. The criticisms were especially cruel. During the second half of 1957 virtually everyday something could be seen in the newspaper. People's Daily
, Guangming Daily
[zh], Xinhua Daily
[zh] as well as Ta Kung Pao
[zh], Wen Wei Po
[zh] and other various regional publications. These newspapers all published anti-right article after anti-right article. And in every sort of academic journal could be found extremely fierce and intense criticism of rightists. Here in my hand I have materials showing Chinese Traditional Medicine groups’ criticisms of rightists, from historiographical groups, from literature groups, business groups, street affairs groups, from labor farms and from Buddhist groups; all sorts of materials criticizing and condemning rightists. Regarding Buddhist groups’ criticisms of rightists, I have the first batch of information: many of the Chengdu Buddist Associations’ monks’ self-criticism letters, admission of guilt statements, patriotic pledges, challenge letters, big-character posters, etc. From Chengdu city's Daci Temple, Wenshu House, Shijing Temple, Zhaojue Temple, Baoguang Temple, Caotang Temple….these temples’ materials. Altogether I've collected upwards of several hundred kilograms worth, including a lot of things regarding the right wing. Here I've spread out only a part, because I haven't finished going through it all yet. You can see on my blog what I've written about rightists in the Buddhist world, the letters of guarantee and self-criticism these rightists wrote. These monks wrote inside of having to plant two hundred kilograms of leaping pumpkins and how many revolutionary thoughts they had to report each month, in the end is signed ‘XXX
, rightist.’ I've put this up on my blog. From this you can see how all-out the Communist Party could be when it wanted to do something. Not a space was left untouched. Even the so-called Buddhist holy places couldn't escape it, with the nuns forced to study like everyone else. The Taoists in Dujiangyan Taoist Temple also underwent reform. So you could say, of everything on God's earth, nothing was left out.
It's hard to imagine the scope and depth this movement reached. At the time it also involved many students and youth. How could students be labelled right wing, you ask? At that time Mr. was just in his teens, as were He Xinghan, Zhou Keqin and Yuan Yongqing, all of whom were labelled student rightists. The youngest right winger at the time is still not clear, but I've come in possession of information of one fifteen year-old, cast as a right winger at just fifteen years old. The oldest I haven't checked, I imagine there were also sixty to seventy year old old fogeys. Of course, this was in the Communist Party's sights. I think if I could work some of these statistics out, like the area it covered, the age range it affected, the occupations and types of speech it targetted, and the ways they were dealth with. For example, Liu Shahe, prior to the Cultural Revolution, was sent out to Pheonix mountain to raise pigs, and then to where I live right now, Dacisi road, to watch over the vegetables growing there. Among these were two work units that were not that bad to him, letting him watch over that pile of toxic old books, as well as the Culture Union's reference room and library. This was actually a success for him and let him read many ancient books. And Zeng Boyan spent his labor reform time in [scenic] Mabian. Speaking of the most famous labor reform farm is Mr. Yang Xianhui
‘s writing ‘A Record of Events at Jiabiangou
,’ but in fact these kinds of labor reform farms were everywhere, not just in Jiabiangou. Doing time in labor reform farms were the well-known Mr. Gao Ertai
and Mr. Zeng Boyan, as well as many other lesser-known people. From these aspects you can see Its controlling strength, the area It covered, and the how very long Its purges went on for.
And the third phase of the anti-right movement was from 1959 to 1980, during which time although there were no large-scale purges, but among the rightists a few retained that label. A better sounding label, but a form of control nonetheless. Their actions were comparatively freer, and they received a little assistance in life. Although those who remained labelled still hadn't realized real freedom, remained under suspicion. Because the labelled-rightists was only a change in name. Just because you no longer wear that ‘hat’ doesn't mean that ‘hat’ isn't still there. If they had a bad day and wanted you to put it back on, then they'd give it to you. You can see that the Communist Party's way of going about things had some really impressive results. If he was unemployed, he wouldn't say unemployed, he'd just say out of work. But those out of work might in their whole lives never have another chance to find another job. He still wants to control you, but through labels, if you're obedient, respectful and submissive. If one day you're not, then I'll just give you the hat back. Just like Tang Seng and Sun Wukong
, put the hex back on you at any time. From 1959 until 1980 in China there were just the two ways of dealing with rightists: using ‘the hat’ or not. Aside from them were the biggest rightists who were still being purged like Zhang Naiqi who until March or April 1962 maintained that his being labelled a rightist was a mistake and went on to file a complaint at a Political Consultative Conference
session, which led to the National Reconstruction Association's 1963 passing of the ‘Decision to Revoke Zhang Naiqi's Membership
From 1959 until 1980, in Hong Kong and Taiwan there appeared several books researching the right wing, including several rightists’ memoirs. There were many rightists who, after having their label downgraded, gained the chance to go to Hong Kong and Taiwan to visit their families. Some settled down there and didn't come back; a lot of who went to visit their families didn't come back either. Some people, when abroad, looked back on their careers as rightists. This information can't be found on the mainland, but I must have good luck, and killer data collection kung fu, because I have all these books here. Like Hong Kong's Zilian publishing house's early December, 1966 edition of ‘[Memories of a campaign in which the Communist Party called for people to put forth their ideas of political reform, ideas for which people were then persecuted]’ (Prospect Series 8), in which there was an essay called ‘Lingnan Put Forth Mostly Comedy
,’ ‘Shantou City's Rationed Putting Forth
,’ ‘South China University of Technology Puts Forth a Magazine
,’ ‘Memories of the Guangzhou Business Circle's Ten Thousand-person Struggle
,’ ‘Guangdong Province and City Democrats’ Posthumous Putting Forth
,’ ‘Shaanxi Normal University's Putting Forth Movement
,’ ‘Recording Minority Classmates’ Putting Forth
,’ ‘Kunming City's Putting Forth Movement
,’ ‘Wearing a Hat, I Write My Memoirs
,’ articles like these. The value of these articles cannot be doubted. All these people escaped from their right wing status and flew out from near death. But in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, as in the early stages, the right wing was again dragged out and criticized, and all the things from before were dug out. You see from the internal document declassified and published in March 1971 from the Tibet
Autonomous Region and the Tibet Military Region Revolutionary Mass Criticism Group, ‘The Great Red Flag Raises Mao Zedong Thought: Thoroughly Criticizing Ultra-Rightist Habitual Counter-revolutionary Crimes
‘ that although large-scale criticisms had stopped, a large number of these sporadic criticisms still existed. I won't get into it in too much detail here.
Part of the fourth point is from 1980 until now. Prior to 1979 began the rehabilitation of the right wing, like Mr. Liu Shahe's return to normal in 1979. 1980 saw the beginning of large-scale rehabilitations straight until now. But what is the situation now? For sure, most of the rightists have been rehabilitated. There are several types of post-rehabilitation treatments. The first is awaiting a ‘rehabilitation certificate,’ which I hear exist, in fact I have one here with me. The second is some people received some wage subsidies, but these subsidies are hundreds of thousands of miles away from being able to compensate them for their losses. Their children were hurt, as were their families, as was society, right? This is all uncountable. I can say this, post-1980 right wing research still basically hasn't started, and overseas right wing research isn't very clear; compared with that of the Cultural Revolution, overseas research into the right wing is definitely much weaker. We know many people overseas are researching the Cultural Revolution, like Wang Youqin, Song Yongyi
, etc, as well as those well-known researchers, including the mainland's Mr. Xu Youyu
‘s. There's also those who were Red Guard
s at the time, including the memoirs of those who rebelled against their superiors’ orders. For example, the memoirs of Chongqing worker-rebel Li Musen, which have been published now by inner-party magazine ‘Past Events
.’ The publication of these memoirs was extremely good. I read a section; this memoir was put together by Chongqing literary history researchers.
As for this city Chongqing, as I was in the midst of writing up my studies record for February, said that I've now been drawn back to Chongqing's countryside. But I don't quite agree that Chongqing serves as my hometown; I often say I'm just a Sichuaner. First off, I abhor the extremely evil Three Gorges Project
, it's because of this project that Chongqing was drawn up. I don't recognize these kinds of administrative region-splitting; I'm sick and tired of it. Secondly, most people say Chongqing citizens are both honest and straightforward and strong-willed and overbearing. I don't think this is anything special. I once said that any city ought to have its own culture, own cultural scene. I also jokingly said that Chongqing don't tell me that not only can't you come up with a writer like Mr. Shahe, but you can't even come up with come up with a young writer like Ran Yunfei! Although I am a Chongqing native, but if I hadn't come to Chengdu, I wouldn't have the cultural mood that I do today. Because although I have the disposition of a Chongqing native, and the temper, my energy is that of a Chengduer's cultural energy. I say this not to point out that Chongqing has not cultural resources, has nothing that can be researched. Just that up until now I haven't seen anything worth looking into from Republic-era
Chongqing. When Chongqing was the capitol, bookstores, publishers, scholars and universities were abound; a deep foundation for Chongqing's culture had been set, but what does Chongqing have worth researching? Nothing.
That's why, coming back, I say our research must start from basic knowledge. You could say that right wing research is just like Chongqing natives’ attitude towards research on the city; like a cucumber before it sprouts, compared with its research on the Cultural Revolution, it's quite fragile. That's why I hope people start paying more attention. Because the current intellectuals are not enough. With the tough fortunes since 1949 like labor reform, intellectuals being purged, the Three Antis, the Five Antis, the Hu Feng incident
, right wing reactionary speeches, the folk song movement, the steel production, the catastrophic great famine from 1959 to 1961
, and many more. Just like the recent ‘Sichuan Contemporary History Must Be Recorded
,’ in which former provincial deputy party secretary Liao Bokang released a lot of information, which shows how many Sichuanese victims there were. Not long ago, well-known history, culture, geography and demographics scholar Mr. Cao Shuji wrote an article called ‘1959 to 1962: Sichuan Population Research
,’ which can be found at the ‘Heaven Watch Tea Hut
‘ BBS. Everyone should go check it out; you're Sichuanese, above all you need to love Sichuan, need to go research Sichuan's tragedies of the past. Only then can you increase your research to all of China's tragedies. Similarly, above all go research Sichuan's right wing and increase the nation's right wing research. We need to do the work in paving the road for all future right wing research. Mr. Xie Yong said it best, doing the basic work makes research easier for other researchers, provides them with a lot of material, numbers and information. Not only do we need to do a lot of evaluation in our research, more importantly we need to do some rather thorough collecting of information. I hope my ‘Right Wing: Knowledge, Testimony and Records
‘ can win everyone's help and attention. Finally, thank you everyone! (applause)