A talk that I recently delivered at the University of Hamburg, focused on the development of a new socialist political economy late in the Cultural Revolution and how this influenced the Communist Party of Peru.
Alessandro Russo, Cultural Revolution and Revolutionary Culture
Fabio Lanza, The End of Concern: Maoist China, Activism, and Asian Studies
Antonio Díaz Martínez, China: La revolución agraria
Catalina Adrianzén, “Semblanza de Antonio Díaz Martínez”
Peer Moller Christensen and Jorgen Delman, “A Theory of Transitional Society: Mao Zedong and the Shanghai School”
Stephen Andors, China’s Industrial Revolution: Politics, Planning, and Management, 1949 to the Present
Some names from this episode:
Catalina Adrianzén, Peruvian anthropologist in China from 1974-1976
Antonio Díaz Martínez, Peruvian agronomist in China from 1974-1976
Zhang Chunqiao, Leading figure on Maoist left in China
Jiang Qing, Leading figure on Maoist left in China
Welcome to episode 91 of the People’s History of Ideas Podcast.
Recently, I was invited to the University of Hamburg to give a talk and to attend a workshop which was focused on my research on global Maoism. The talk that I gave was titled “Clandestine Transcripts of Revolutionary Globalization: The Shining Paths of Late Cultural Revolution Maoism.” And this podcast episode is going to be that talk, although I’m re-recording it so that we have a little better audio quality.
Before we start, I just want to let you know that this episode is going to be a bit more academic than what I usually go for in this podcast.
OK, let’s get started.
I am going to talk today about two Peruvians who were in China at the very end of the Maoist era. They were Antonio Díaz Martínez and Catalina Adrianzén, both members of the Communist Party of Peru, or more precisely, the particular Communist Party of Peru which became more widely known as the Shining Path, since there were at the time more than a handful of organizations calling themselves the Communist Party of Peru. Díaz and Adrianzén were in China for two years, from 1974 to 1976. After the Shining Path launched its people’s war in 1980, they were both given leading positions, but were also both removed from the action within the first few years. Adrianzén played a leading role in Cusco, and was arrested in 1982. She was brutally tortured and released in the late 1980s, when she joined a good number of other Sendero refugees, including Abimael Guzmán’s parents-in-law, in Sweden. Díaz Martínez was arrested at the end of 1983 in the department of Ancash, a few hundred kilometers to the north of Lima, and was later among the many senderista prisoners of war murdered in the aftermath of a prison rebellion in 1986.
My purpose in discussing their time in China is to make the case that there is a hidden story here about the concrete dynamics of the globalization of Maoism, which is of particular relevance for understanding the Peruvian Shining Path, but which also has some bearing on the various other manifestations of global Maoism in the post-Mao years.
Adrianzén and Díaz were a married couple and took three children with them to China. She was an anthropologist, and he was an agronomist, and both were faculty members at the National University of San Cristóbal de Huamanga, the university in the Andean city of Ayacucho which was the Shining Path’s early stronghold. Aside from her anthropological work, Adrianzén was a committed feminist, and in 1973 she was a co-founder of the People’s Women’s Movement (the Movimiento Femenino Popular), the Shining Path’s mass organization for political activism in and around the women’s movement. Díaz was a bit older and quite accomplished, he was already 41 when he went to China. He had experience in international rural development organizations and in various domestic efforts at rural development, and it was precisely his perception of China’s success at land reform compared to the failures of capitalist development which drew him to China. By the time he went to China, he was teaching classes where the only assigned text was Mao’s little red book.
Now, this thing where Díaz Martínez and a number of other senderista professors only used the little red book of quotations from Mao Zedong and perhaps one or two other texts by Mao as their only textbook is often taken, in a kind of decontextualized way, as just another thing that was ‘weird’ about the Shining Path. I mean, that was certainly my first reaction when I first found out about this. But it wasn’t as weird at the time as I think it seems to most of us now. Firstly, the use of overtly political textbooks from the socialist bloc had been normalized in Peruvian universities after the reformist Velasco military regime normalized relations with the Soviet Union in 1969. The texts became widely available and were very popular because they were the same textbooks being used in Cuba. Of course, the Cuban Revolution enjoyed widespread support on Peru’s campuses.
These Soviet textbooks, politicized as they were, were still usually more obviously topically relevant to the courses they were used for than was Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong. Which brings us to an additional piece of context. There was a widespread international understanding in the late 1960s and early 1970s of the book of Mao’s quotations as a tool that had been used by workers and peasants to not just echo the words of the Chairman, but also to help them articulate their own insights about the world and to begin to enter the terrain of intellectuals and other people who work with their minds and not with their hands. And so outside of China, the book served as kind of a totem of egalitarianism in terms of breaking down the barriers that working people faced in participating in mental labor.
Fabio Lanza documents how this was the case even in the United States in the case of the Concerned Asian Scholars, which included some people who became major figures in the field of Asian history in the United States. So, if this was how the book was being seen by some people even in the United States academy, then all the more so it makes sense that in Ayacucho that Antonio Díaz Martínez would see the book as relevant to his students. The vast majority of students at the university in Ayacucho were the children of peasants and were benefiting from an unprecedented expansion of educational opportunities. For Díaz to hope that Quotations from Mao Zedong could serve the needs of the children of Peruvian peasants similarly to how he and many others understood it to have served as stimulation for Chinese peasants may have been a bit mechanical and dogmatic, but understanding his actions in this light helps to give us an actual, perhaps, relatable context for his actions, which I think is so important when thinking about the Shining Path. Because, especially because of how Sendero has been demonized, which is a direct result of the power relations in shaping narratives that has resulted from their defeat, there is this constant tendency to dismiss them as ‘weird’ rather than to attempt to actually understand the context.
OK, that was a bit of a digression, but I think an illustrative one for thinking about the ways that Shining Path’s ideologues, like Díaz and Adrianzén, used political materials coming out of China, and how they used the Chinese experience more generally. Now, let’s look at how they got to China and what they did there.
Arrangements to go to China were made through the Chinese embassy in Lima. Peru had established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1971, so there was no problem with there not being an embassy to go to. In fact, the Shining Path, and all the other Maoist parties in Peru, all had long-standing relations with the Chinese embassy, and with the informal diplomatic apparatus that was present before the embassy was established in 1971. This was because Chinese magazines like Peking Review and China Reconstructs, in their Spanish-language editions, played an important role in the political work that the Shining Path conducted, and the Peruvian-Chinese Cultural Association (la Asociación Cultural Peruana China) served as a clearinghouse for these materials when they arrived in Lima from China. All the various Maoist groups would converge on this Cultural Association, which predated the establishment of the Chinese embassy but then was associated with the embassy after 1971, and get their materials. So, at the end of every week, the weekly Peking Review issue that arrived (along with whatever else came in), which had been printed the previous week in Beijing, would undergo a 14-hour car trip to Ayacucho.
In Ayacucho, these materials filled a void. They were distributed for free in massive quantities in an environment where most people had little access to world news or popular articles dealing with philosophical and political themes, but where there was a great thirst for knowledge about the wider world, especially among the politicized children of peasants who attended the university that Díaz and Adrianzén taught at. So, this connection that already existed between Sendero and the Chinese embassy was very important in bringing all this Chinese material to Ayacucho and filling this void in the intellectual lives of many people. And of course, this greatly facilitated Sendero’s efforts to build a mass base of support there.
Adrianzén and Díaz each were given two-year work contracts by the Chinese embassy. Díaz went to work with the Spanish-language section of Foreign Languages Press, the main publisher of Chinese propaganda materials, where he mainly polished translations of the Spanish edition of China Reconstructs. Adrianzén was to be a Spanish teacher. In addition to fulfilling the duties associated with their jobs, Adrianzén and Díaz found time to travel extensively, visiting a good number of important institutions and development projects. These trips are documented in a book that Antonio Díaz wrote after the trip, China: The Agrarian Revolution, which was published in 1978.
This book can be read as a public narrative about the transfer of Maoism to Peru. Díaz documents his and Adrianzén’s travels around the country, through which he learns about the various forms of rural development taking place, with an emphasis on how various initiatives associated with economic development went hand in hand with political campaigns to raise the political consciousness of the workers and peasants. Some of the places that they went were standard stops for foreigners who were interested in China’s development. They spent a week, for example, with the Dazhai production brigade of the Dazhai commune in Shanxi province. This production brigade was well-known for having made a poor and mountainous area very productive. They had done this through a massive effort of labor mobilization combined with the effective deployment of creativity and thoughtful organization. The creativity and thoughtfulness, as well as the motivation to engage in heroic self-sacrifice in labor efforts, were credited to the high level of political consciousness and dedication to continuing political study and struggle of the Dazhai peasants.
In 1963 a slogan was launched by Mao to ‘Learn from Dazhai in Agriculture.’ This remained the basic slogan for Chinese agricultural policy until Mao’s death in 1976. As a result, large numbers of foreigners also showed up to ‘learn from Dazhai.’ Between 1964 and 1978 25,478 foreigners are documented to have visited Dazhai, coming from 134 different countries, and as members of 2,280 visiting groups. If each group had only stayed for a day, that would be one group about every two and a half days. But many visitors stayed for more than a day, so there was clearly just a constant stream of foreigners coming through Dazhai.
Díaz and Adrianzén spent another week at the Red Flag Canal, a 71-kilometer-long canal that functions as the heart of a 1500-kilometer-long irrigation system. The Red Flag Canal serves what was a very poor region, very mountainous, with bad soil and difficult to irrigate. Similar to Dazhai, the Red Flag Canal was the product of enormous raw effort by large numbers of workers putting in incredibly long hours under difficult and dangerous conditions, combined with remarkable engineering creativity. Once again, both the motivation behind the massive mobilization of labor power for the effort, the long hours put in, and also the considerable mental effort put into figuring out how to make the project work, were credited to the peasants’ high level of political consciousness and internalization of the values of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought.
Díaz and Adrianzén also visited less well-known production brigades and people’s communes, tractor and fertilizer factories, a reservoir built not far from Beijing, and a state farm near Tianjin. Díaz even spent several days at the May 7th Cadre School which people who worked at Foreign Languages Press were sent to study Mao Zedong’s works and reconnect with the agricultural reality of the vast majority of China’s population. May 7th Cadre schools are often described as labor camps, and no doubt many people who didn’t want to go to them experienced this ‘reeducation through labor’ as a harsh punishment. But Díaz at least was quite enthusiastic about it. For a Maoist agronomist like him, there was really little better in life than going and spending the day working in the fields and studying Mao’s works.
So, much of the book is taken up with these travels and descriptions of the various ways in which China was developing its countryside, bettering the conditions of the people, and how this was being accomplished through the heightened political awareness of the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party. And this was portrayed not just as something going on in China, but also as “this is what we can do in Peru if we have a communist revolution in Peru.” The lessons taken from the Chinese experience are all presented in universalizable form, not as something particular to Chinese history or culture or society at all. If you are looking for a book that shows the Shining Path’s vision for the economic transformation of Peru in the wake of a successful seizure of power, this is that book.
So, this is the public transcript of Díaz and Adrianzén’s time in China.
I want to make the case for a hidden transcript here as well. But, since the term ‘hidden transcripts’ has already been taken in order to describe forms of resistance that are much less direct and organized than communist revolution, I chose the term clandestine transcript for the title of this talk.
So, before I move on to say why I think there is a clandestine transcript here, and what its significance is, I want to talk about what was going on in China while Díaz and Adrianzén were working there and traveling around and documenting all the rural progress being made in China.
These were the last two years of the Cultural Revolution decade. The ins and outs of China’s various political shifts after the revolution’s triumph are beyond what we can get into here, but I do want to give just a little context for people who don’t study Chinese history, because otherwise I just don’t think there will be context for understanding either what was going on in China, or what Díaz and Adrianzén took away from their time in China. Basically, when the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949, the basic idea was that this building socialism thing had already been figured out in the Soviet Union, and that with the help of Soviet experts, China could quickly modernize its economy and enjoy the benefits of progress. By 1956 two things had happened. During the early 1950s, the Soviet economic model had shown itself to have a lot of problems and to require quite a bit of modification. Then the real break with Soviet thinking about the nature of socialism and economic modernization began in 1956, when Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered his speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union denouncing Stalin’s legacy (Stalin had died in 1953). The crisis of the socialist bloc heralded by Khrushchev’s speech was soon expressed in revolts in Poland and Hungary. Khrushchev responded to the crisis of socialism by announcing policies of limited openness in society and the promotion of the production of more consumer goods to placate the wants of the masses. Mao, on the other hand, saw this outlook as retreating from socialist values and embracing what was called ‘bourgeois right.’ (I’ll explain how Mao understood this term, ‘bourgeois right,’ in a few minutes here.) Mao saw Khrushchev as responding to crisis by moving backward and embracing the values of the capitalist past, rather than pushing forward into a socialist future, and eventually Mao declared that capitalism had been restored in the Soviet Union.
In China, beginning with the Great Leap Forward in 1958, Mao pushed for policies that experimented in combining attempts at rapid economic growth with political campaigns that were intended to raise the political consciousness of the broad masses of people and to promote self-sacrificing attitudes on the part of the people. These efforts were experimental and involved reorganizing the economy and basic institutions of daily life so as to reinforce values of community and a sense of shared purpose in modernizing China as part of participating in the global movement for the liberation of oppressed peoples. If the experience of work and daily life in the Soviet Union had so easily allowed for a restoration of capitalism, Mao was determined to create more clearly revolutionary conditions of life in China which were opposed to the atomized selfishness that characterizes life under capitalism. However, nothing like this had ever been done before, and the first attempt at the society-wide implementation of these experimental ideas led to a massive famine, and less idealistic leaders within the Chinese Communist Party took over the day-to-day affairs of running the state in the wake of the Great Leap famine.
This retreat from radical and experimental policies back to a more pragmatic approach to daily life and economic development in the early 1960s, however, led Mao and other radicals within the Communist Party to fear that China itself was at risk of capitalist restoration. In opposition to this hegemony of the more conservative wing of the Communist Party, Mao initiated a massive political campaign to mobilize the masses to overthrow the capitalist roaders within the Communist Party. This event was known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. At the beginning of the campaign many of the theoretical propositions for how capitalism was being restored and how this could be prevented were quite vague, and the beginning of the Cultural Revolution decade, which lasted from 1966 to 1976, was extremely chaotic, as mass mobilization and much accompanying violence took place outside the established channels and, with the authority of much of the Communist Party thrown into question, there was much room for different initiatives and interpretations for how to respond to Mao’s call to overthrow the capitalists within the Communist Party.
This period of mass mobilization and widespread unrest is what usually comes to mind when people talk about the Cultural Revolution, but it was basically over by the end of 1968. There appears to have been a hope, on Mao’s part, that in the swirl of all the chaotic movement of red guard activity that a new way of conceptualizing socialism would arise which might reinvigorate Chinese society and steer it off the path to capitalist restoration. The unleashing of the red guard movement can be seen as a kind of desperate throw of the dice, or a ‘hail mary’ pass to use a term out of American football. I think this shows through in these comments that Mao made to a visiting delegation from the Albanian Workers’ Party in May 1966, just before the Cultural Revolution was initiated:
“My health is quite good, but Marx will eventually invite me to visit him. Things develop independently of man’s will… Do you know when revisionism will likely occupy Beijing? [Capitalist roaders in the communist party were called revisionists, a term that originates with Lenin’s criticism of Eduard Bernstein for ‘revising the revolutionary heart out of Marxism.’] Those who now support us will suddenly, as if by magic, become revisionists. This is the possibility I place first… When those of our generation die, it is very likely that revisionism will come about… We’re at dusk, so now, taking advantage of the fact that we still have some breath, let us give a bit of a hard time to the restoration of capitalism… In short, we should have in mind two possibilities: the first is that there is a counterrevolutionary dictatorship, a counterrevolutionary restoration. Putting this probability as the first to take place, we are a bit worried. I too am sometimes distressed. To say that I do not think it so and do not feel anxiety would be false. However, I woke up, I called some friends to a meeting, we’ve discussed it a bit and are looking for a solution.”
This solution was the Cultural Revolution. But, by 1968, the situation had degenerated into violent fighting between student factions without much constructive being accomplished. While the figures who were most closely identified with the capitalist road, most prominently Vice Chairman of the Communist Party Liu Shaoqi, had been deposed from office, the mass movement of student rebels had not given rise to new organizational forms or ways of conceptualizing socialist society which might set China firmly on a path to avoid capitalist restoration. At this point, the now in-command Maoist faction of the Communist Party reasserted control over the situation, disbanded the red guards, and set out to restore order throughout the country.
However, the basic problem had not been solved. Even if some individuals had been dismissed, what would prevent, as Mao put it to the Albanian delegation, “Those who now support us … suddenly, as if by magic, becom[ing] revisionists”? The thinking here was not that Mao’s supporters were just hiding their true feelings and biding their time for when they could come out of the woodwork and get on the capitalist road. Rather, the main idea here was that there was something about the economic system of socialist society, as a transition period between capitalism and communism (and therefore containing elements of both systems), which constantly generated a new bourgeoisie within the Communist Party itself, precisely because the Communist Party was in control of the economy and reproduced within socialism many of the functions of the capitalist class in capitalist societies.
This was the basic premise of Mao and his closest followers. But it had only been articulated in fits and spurts, particularly in Mao’s reading notes on Soviet economic texts. The thinking was not totally consistent and was rather tentative in its most radical conclusions about the potentially counter-revolutionary role of the Communist Party within socialist society. As the Cultural Revolution entered a relatively more placid phase, one of the main tasks for the Maoist left was to more fully flesh out a new political economy of socialism. The idea of capitalist restoration in socialist countries was a thesis in need of a proof. All the chaos and violence of the first years of the Cultural Revolution needed to be justified and explained in a better articulated and more thorough way. Mao’s reading notes were a starting point, but only that. So, the process of articulating a new theory about socialist political economy began under less-than-ideal circumstances. It was meant to justify what had already been done.
On the other hand, the actual process of formulating this new socialist political economic theory as it unfolded over several years took on a character which seems, to me, to more resemble a genuine search for truth than a cynical ploy to justify what had already been done. The work was undertaken by economists in Shanghai, many of whom were connected with the Institute of Political Economy at Fudan University, with the later addition of a team from Tianjin which had independently started working on the same problems. Zhang Chunqiao, who had worked in the propaganda and media apparatus of Shanghai before rising to national leadership positions during the early phase of the Cultural Revolution, was the link between this effort and the national Communist leadership, and he actively participated in the effort. Ever since his appointment in 1950 as managing director of the New China News Agency East China branch, Zhang had been an advocate for prioritizing egalitarianism over other goals, such as more narrowly developmentalist aims, in the Communist Party’s formulation and communication of ideology and policy.
The first draft of the “Political Economy of Socialism” was completed in 1972, and the manuscript went through four revisions. The fifth draft was in press on October 6, 1976, when Zhang Chunqiao and the other Maoist leaders were arrested, just weeks after Mao Zedong’s death. That fifth draft was confiscated from the press and never saw the light of day. As a rule, important policy discussions are held behind closed doors in China, with decisions and policies being presented only once a conclusion has been reached. This makes the publication and discussion process that occurred around the various drafts of the “Political Economy of Socialism” quite unusual. Each draft was published in limited runs and circulated for comment. As a result, it is possible to trace the changes in conceptualization through various drafts, which shows the direction in which this thinking was developing.
The first draft contained many contradictory notions, with ideas inherited from Stalin’s Economic Problems of Socialism in the Soviet Union and from Soviet economics texts sitting side-by-side with ideas derived from Mao’s critical notes on those texts. For example, commodity production was, per Stalin, presented in this first draft as something qualitatively different under socialism than under capitalism because, well, just because it was socialism after all. This was the sort of circular logic that characterized much Soviet thinking. On the other hand, reflecting the political need to identify some source of a new bourgeoisie within socialist society to bear out Mao’s comments about there being a capitalist class generated within the Communist Party, the draft grasped at straws for identifying some source of a new bourgeoisie that was not rooted in commodity production, essentially abandoning an economic explanation for how a new bourgeoisie might be generated anew under socialism by pointing to the continuing ideological influence of capitalism and relatively marginal activities such as the black market. After all, peasants who surreptitiously carried on some sideline production hardly explained how leaders at the highest level of the Communist Party had become political representatives of capitalist relations of production.
The 1976 draft of the manual had changed considerably. In this draft, which we know only from the substantial excerpts which were published in order to be subjected to public criticism after the arrest of the Gang of Four, socialism is presented as a transitional society with elements of both the capitalist past and the hoped for communist future. Essentially, the thesis this draft put forward was that unless a constant struggle were waged to restrict what was called ‘bourgeois right,’ that capitalist relations would reassert themselves throughout society and the socialist society would fall back into capitalism, with the leaders of the Communist Party who controlled the economy and who failed to restrict bourgeois right becoming a new capitalist class, regardless of their consciousness of this fact or not. ‘Bourgeois right’ was an expansive term as used in the text, and essentially referred to all the oppressive social relations that remained in society. Just like under capitalism, commodity exchange, that is the exchange of items of apparently equal value, served to disguise unequal relations between people as equitable relations between things. In a major break with prior theory, the Shanghai group now contended that collective or state ownership did not fundamentally alter the character of commodity production and exchange. Basically, the text goes back to Marx’s insights on commodity fetishism from the first chapter of Capital and argues that everything that Marx said about commodity production and the law of value in Capital applies to socialist society as well, and that therefore unless there is a constant struggle to restrict, narrow, and eventually do away with all the manifestations of ‘bourgeois right,’ that a socialist society will go backward to capitalism rather than forward to communism.
So, between 1972 and 1976, there was a pretty serious radical rethinking of socialist political economy that took place, at least among those sections of the Communist Party associated with Zhang Chunqiao.
Now, at this point you might be wondering. What does this have to do with Catalina Adrianzén and Antonio Díaz Martínez?
Well, it is clear, both in Díaz’s account of his time in China and in Shining Path documents produced later that this whole process of rethinking socialist political economy had a deep effect on Díaz, Adrianzén, and on the Shining Path leadership more generally. This is because of a campaign that was launched in December 1974 by Mao Zedong, and which went all through 1975, which encouraged mass study of various issues related to socialist political economy and which saw a number of efforts to popularize some of the ideas being generated by the group which was revising the manual on the political economy of socialism. This campaign was called the “movement for the study of the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat.” One of the questions that Mao asked the masses of people to consider and debate as part of this campaign was the question: “Why did Lenin speak of exercising dictatorship over the bourgeoisie?”
The point of this campaign was once again to activate masses of people in considering how a new bourgeoisie was developed under socialism, and how this could be stopped. This campaign saw lots of workers at factories having meetings to discuss these issues and various experiments in giving greater control to workers over their workplaces. Another attempted innovation of this campaign was to train a large cohort of workers to enter China’s diplomatic corps as part of an effort to cut back on the way that the division between mental and manual labor affected society overall. A major article by Zhang Chunqiao which was meant to summarize and capture some of the main ideas being developed by the group working on the political economy of socialism was published and widely promoted. And this article, which is titled “On Exercising All-Round Dictatorship Over the Bourgeoisie,” is specifically cited numerous times in Díaz’s account of his time in China.
In terms of Chinese history, this campaign is most remarkable as representing a kind of high-water mark for the coherent articulation of a radical Maoist vision for reshaping Chinese society. It had little long-lasting effect, since everything implemented during this campaign was reversed after Mao’s death, and even while the campaign was going on it was resisted by a substantial majority of the cadres of the Communist Party. But from the standpoint of global Maoism as it took shape in the post-Mao years, this campaign has lived on as a vision for what socialist society should look like. One of the claims of post-Mao global Maoists that many people find confusing is the contention that the Cultural Revolution in China represents the highest achievement of human civilization. Most people hear this and they think of something like students chucking Molotov cocktails at each other from behind barricades made of classroom desks that students sit at, and it seems like a very odd thing to consider the high point of human civilization. But in reality, what these post-Mao Maoists are referring to is this period, best captured by the various reforms which were attempted during the movement for the study of the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
For example, already in 1977, when Abimael Guzmán wrote an article meant to define the main aspects of Marx, Lenin, and Mao’s contributions to the development of Marxism, he cited several paragraphs verbatim from Mao’s directive launching the movement for the study of the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Although these policies had been repudiated in China, the Shining Path saw itself as their continuator. And later, in 1990, in the most definitive political statement of the Shining Path at the height of its strength, the document titled “Elections, No! People’s War, Yes!” also quotes several paragraphs from Mao’s directive, making clear once again the centrality of this campaign to the Shining Path’s vision of the society that it hoped to construct in Peru.
So, it’s clear that this campaign had a big effect on Díaz and Adrianzén, and through them and through the Chinese propaganda produced for international consumption that this campaign influenced the Shining Path more generally and in particular its top leader, Abimael Guzmán. So why speak of a clandestine transcript in the globalization of Maoism here? Isn’t the mere existence of this campaign and the way in which it was highlighted in the media during Díaz and Adrianzén’s time in China enough to explain the transfer of ideology to Peru from China?
It might be, but I don’t think so, and here’s why.
When we look at the movement for the study of the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the efforts to formulate a new socialist political economy in light of all of the changes in China since the death of Mao, I think that the significance of that campaign looks much clearer than it actually looked at the time for most people. Inside China, the significance of the campaign really only registered with those who were in the circles of political influence of those who were actively involved in promoting it. When the Gang of Four were arrested in October 1976, there was much less resistance to the change in order than one would expect if the campaign had really landed with the Chinese populace. In Shanghai, the workers and intellectuals directly allied with Zhang Chunqiao mobilized militia units to resist the coup. One worker, Ma Zhenlong, clearly demonstrates how he had internalized the politics of the period when he declared that “From my childhood I had to work to make ends meet. It was the Cultural Revolution that liberated me. I’m going to carry through no matter what the consequences.” But, despite these declarations from the mass base that had been directly cultivated by Zhang Chunqiao, the popular support was simply not there to resist the overthrow of the Gang of Four.
Similarly, the arrest of the Gang of Four caused much more confusion among international supporters of the Chinese Revolution than one would expect had the propaganda activities of the mid-1970s really been internalized. As one woman who I interviewed explained, she had been aware of Mao’s statements about the possibility of a capitalist restoration in China, but had, at the time, thought of those statements as “good old Mao, he’s always saying things to keep us on the revolutionary road.” It was the job of old papa Mao to keep his followers vigilant. But the idea that the Chinese people would allow the revolution to be reversed was just too incredible to really actually believe. And so, when the Gang of Four were arrested, and the radical domestic policies were all quickly reversed, it created a lot of confusion and cognitive dissonance for foreign supporters of the revolution. Many, particularly in Latin America, followed Enver Hoxha back into the comfortable womb of Stalin Era Marxism and renounced the Cultural Revolution while also refusing to support China’s new rulers.
Very few foreign Maoists quickly identified what had happened as the beginning of a capitalist restoration. So few, in fact, that I think it is much more likely that those who did draw this conclusion had adopted their politics not only through reading about these policies in Chinese propaganda texts and by watching the campaign play out around them while they were in China. Just as the only people in China who responded to the October 6 coup by attempting to resist it were those who were organizationally tied to the Gang of Four, I suspect that those foreign Maoists who saw the arrest of the Four as signaling the beginning of a capitalist restoration had probably enjoyed some form of sustained contact and intellectual exchange with forces close to Zhang Chunqiao and the other members of the Gang of Four during their time in China.
Just as research on the internationalization of Maoism has overturned the earlier idea that Maoist ideas were just ‘in the air’ of the 1960s and shown that well-organized and extensive organizations and networks formed the material basis for launching those ideas ‘into the air,’ I believe that further research will show that the incorporation of late Cultural Revolution political economy as a cornerstone of post-Mao global Maoism will have been based on a conscious and organized effort on the part of the Gang of Four to promote their ideas among foreigners visiting China.
And there is some preliminary evidence for this already. One interview I conducted with someone who traveled with a delegation to China in the 1970s reported that the Chinese minders of the group that she was with clearly argued with each other repeatedly over what the group should do. Should they go spend time at Dazhai and work in the field with the Iron Girls, or should they spend a week on a cruise through the Yangzi gorges? She later learned that the radical tour guide, who argued for letting the tour go and work in the fields of Dazhai, was an interpreter closely associated with Jiang Qing, who was Mao’s wife and one of the Gang of Four. And it is also known that Zhang Chunqiao paid particular attention to spending time with foreigners earlier in the Cultural Revolution.
But more research is needed in order to either confirm or disproove this hypothesis. And, if it is confirmed, to flesh out the character of the exchange. A Chinese colleague who was recently working in the Shanghai Municipal Archives recently took some time to look around there for me and confirmed that there is material there on Zhang Chunqiao’s interactions with Latin Americans. And another Chinese historian has indicated that there may also be material in Nanjing, where some Shining Path members, including Abimael Guzmán, received military training, although it is unclear if any of that training occurred during the 1970s. Abimael Guzmán, for example, was there in 1965. But others did come later. Now, I have heard some North American and European historians claim that this topic is verboten in China, and there are some stories of archival access being denied. But I also know Chinese historians working on related topics and have personally received encouragement from Chinese historians to pursue this line of research. I am not sure what to make of these contradictions, or whether at the end of the day I or someone else wouldn’t be allowed to pursue this research in Chinese archives. I guess we’ll see.
Another line of research which one might pursue is to interview former members and fellow travelers of the Shining Path. There are a good number of them relatively close at hand here in Europe, some of whom definitely spent time in China. I haven’t seen an obituary for Catalina Adrianzén, so there is a good chance that she might still be found in Sweden. A set of oral histories of members of the senderista exile community would be an excellent project for someone to undertake before they get too old. More and more of them have been released in Peru as well, although the conditions for interviewing them there are much less hospitable than here in Europe.
So, we’ll see if I or someone else can test this hypothesis about a clandestine transcript in the globalization of Maoism. If confirmed, this would shed new light both on the activities of the radical Maoist faction during the Cultural Revolution in China, and on the way in which post-Mao Maoism took form and adopted a vision of socialist society which has given the Maoists a remarkable resilience in the face of the collapse of other Marxist theories of revolution.