by Ramin Mazaheri
For years I have talked about “White Trash Revolutions”, and the emergence of the Yellow Vests proves that my finger is perfectly on the pulse of things: the only people publicly wearing “Yellow Vests” on the streets of Paris prior to November 17, 2018, were… garbage men.
So, imagine me, with my love of Trash Revolutions of all hues (Iran’s 1979 “Revolution of the Barefooted” amounts to the same idea)… and then the French adopted the look of trash collectors as their uniform – I couldn’t be happier!!!
But this idea is not new – even in modern 24/7 politics, genuine historical processes take years or decades to culminate. In 2016, following the election of Donald Trump in the United States, Slavov Zizek expressed the same idea offhandedly: “Sorry, White Trash is our only hope. We have to win them over.”
I could not agree more. But we must go further than just “winning over Trash” – we must let them win.
That is the essence of China’s Cultural Revolution.
I penned this 8-part series because the Yellow Vests show us – urgently, courageously, necessarily, violently – just how relevant China’s Cultural Revolution (CR) should be to Westerns in 2019.
If you have not read the previous 7 parts of this series (and know only anti-CR propaganda) then you may not realize the China’s CR proved how good, productive, efficient and equal society can be – democratically, economically, educationally and culturally – when rural people are supported instead of insulted.
This entire series has not been designed to celebrate China or socialism – it has been written to show what happens when the rural-urban divide is seriously addressed in modern politics, as it was in China during the CR in an unprecedented manner. Society has many seemingly irreconcilable poles of contention – the only one this series seriously addresses is the rural-urban divide.
The CR showed that solutions to this seemingly irreconcilable divide are possible if we accept that Trash is our only hope and not – as the urban-based Mainstream Media insists – the cause of our ills.
Not everyone in a small town is a farmer, but the exclusion of village values is obviously why France’s rural traffic roundabouts have been blockaded for 5.5 months (the government started banning these rural protests on May 11).
More than anything, I think that studying and emulating the CR can end the urban West’s hatred, fear and disgust of rural citizens in power. Islamophobia – every definition includes the fear of Islam as a political force – is pretty bad, but Hillbillyophobia – fear of rural values as a political force – is truly at a modern apex. Thus this series.
The world has seen 2 Cultural Revolutions already – is the West finally ready for 1?
This series used the CR to to illustrate that France and the West are 50 years behind China because they are being wracked by a Yellow Vest movement which is essentially demanding a Cultural Revolution which the Chinese already had. However, because the neoliberal empire known as the European Union has been undemocratically forced on Europe during the interim, the French have even more work to do than 1960s China, but the first step is to realize that the Yellow Vests are essentially demanding a Cultural Revolution.
That IS what this is all about every Saturday – Yellow Vests want institutions to cease their terrible functioning, every major policy to come up for review (constitutional changes, staying in the EU, Eurozone and NATO, Françafrique, austerity spending policies, taxation policies, environmental policies, banking, education, housing, industrialisation, etc.) and new local, grassroots groups to implement them – a Cultural Revolution.
Like Iran from 1980-83 (Iran had the world’s only other state-sponsored Cultural Revolution, obviously modelled on China’s), like China from 1965-74, France wants several years where everything is brought to a halt in order to engage in mass discussions, with the aim of drastically updating French democracy and French culture in order to accord with more modern political ideals.
Capitalists cannot tolerate such a halting. Not only because it would lead to a reduction in their power, and not only because modern political ideals must be Socialist Democratic and not Liberal Democratic – it is also a cultural thing: “keep calm and carry on” is the fundamental ethos of conservatism worldwide.
The two Cultural Revolution have said: “To hell with this – halt! Now waitaminut…. what on earth have we become and should we keep being like this?” Both CRs also led to miniature civil wars, as reactionary or fascist forces, and insanely radical and democratically unwanted leftist forces (like the Mojahedin-e Khalq – MKO), were pushed out.
And, after the halt, as the trajectories of both China and Iran show amazing success. They started over (revolution), then stopped (cultural revolution), then restarted anew yet again.
A Cultural Revolution – China and Iran prove – does something the US and French Revolutions did not do: put into power the formerly-oppressed class of people, which is also the majority class. These four revolutions all eliminated monarchies, but only the former two put the oppressed in charge.
(I do not call the French or American aristocracies “oppressed”, as they previously colluded with the king and shared in the ill-gotten gains – call me a radical, I guess.)
The Yellow Vests are this oppressed class which deserves to lead, and which would certainly lead the country better than France’s current leaders. Everybody in France knows this, but they feel powerless to make it happen. The Yellow Vests are also – everyone in France knows this as well – the majority class. The conditions for Cultural Revolution – for Trash Revolution – are as clear as the yellow vests of garbagemen who wear reflective gear to avoid traffic.
Yes, the Yellow Vests are not solely the result of an untreated urban divide, but anyone following them knows that this is one of the primary causes of the movement.
Those who have been following this series will know what I mean: what should rural “Jimo County, France” be demanding in their nascent French Cultural Revolution?
It’s a genuine political question to ask: is the future only for cities?
Modernized countries need to honestly ask themselves: should humanity’s goal be to empty the rural areas of people?
Are rural areas that bad? That depressing, boring, backward and hate-filled?
The rural-urban migration of the past century is universal, but do we not need any rural inhabitants? Will robots, drones and computers allow everyone to live in supposedly-superior urban areas? Are the values which flourish in rural areas more often than in urban areas not necessary for human culture any more – are these values only hindrances to human progress?
Because if the answer is: “No – rural areas will always have some people; farming areas will never be so efficient as to not need human involvement; rural people actually do learn a useful thing or two about life which city people don’t learn,” then we have no choice but to tackle the urban-rural divide as much as other key societal divides.
So, when we realize that we must clearly affirm that, “Yes, we need rural areas,” that necessarily implies a huge overhaul of value systems in the modern capitalist West, which has become hugely urban dominated. The aspects of this dominance – the financial futures exchanges, mass media, only-urban cultural hubs, the denigration of a collective ethos inherent in rural communities, etc. – are so obvious and so numerous that I don’t need to list them here. The path of history shows that the era of Thomas Jefferson’s ideal of farmer-citizen-soldier have been totally jettisoned in the West, probably due to the industrial/electrical/digital revolutions. However, China’s CR showed how necessary it was to re-balance the scales in favor of the country life.
What is more interesting is to discuss how specific policies of the China’s CR could be translated to the West. The Iranian CR was the democratically demanded introduction of Islam into governance, which resulted in what is clearly Iranian Islamic Socialism (out in book form this summer, Inshallah), but I don’t think the West is interested in religion-based ideas anymore – they have deluded themselves into thinking that religion is always regressive, never progressive. (The West prefers secular zero-theism – which is actually the bleakest and most egotistical version of monotheism, because zero is not a plural number, after all.)
But what are being demanded are cultural changes. These precede and influence political changes.
On the level of practical politics, which I will discuss later, I will be sweeping and brief here: neoliberalism (and free-market capitalism) is incompatible with democracy, and we all know it, and thus this particular version of the pan-European project is inherently anti-democratic; the historic heavy, urban-based statism of France is an anti-democratic legacy of the Napoleonic “revolution”; the 1789 French “revolution” was bourgeois and thus not democratic… 2019 France has to stop holding on to all of these falsely progressive legacies. China’s CR – and all forms of socialism – prove that local, socialist democracy is the only guarantee of success and stability. But back to cultural changes….
Above all, a Western Cultural Revolution must begin with an urban mea culpa – the gift of apology is the only way to start in any such situation of familial division and bad blood, which is what France currently has. Even Jesus son of Mary said the same thing, according to Matthew 5:23 – Therefore if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
After reconciliation comes actual gifts – reparations – in order to even the scales in the favor of rural areas.
But reparations and admission of arrogance/imperialism is verboten in capitalist societies – what the CR proves is that the rural-urban divide can only be healed through a collective mentality, not an individualist mentality: the urban individual must renounce their alleged superiority.
That is the primary psycho-cultural message of the Yellow Vests; the proof of this is obvious in the exaggerated hatred of President Emmanuel Macron.
His aloofness and arrogance are unprecedented in modern times, I agree, but his anti-democratic methods and beliefs are not at all different from his predecessor, Francois Hollande. Perhaps his anti-democratic methods and beliefs are 10-15% worse than Hollande’s, but many Yellow Vests only want Macron to quit simply because they have been so deranged by Macron’s urban sense of entitlement that they lose their sense of scope – I hear it often from Vesters every Saturday. But, just like Trump, Macron is the symptom and not the disease.
Macron has become a symbol of what we can call the “anti-CR forces in France”, and the danger is that if the symbol falls – if Macron actually quits – that could stave off the demand for an actual French Cultural Revolution. Certainly, Macron’s puppet-masters will allow him to resign before they allow the sweeping discussions and changes of a CR.
Thus the first step towards reducing the rural-urban divide in the West begins with a revalorisation of rural areas. As long as mainstream journalists continue insisting on a “red state-blue state” divide, no nation can possibly be united, healthy and successful.
This revaluing is a cultural change – what about practical measures?
The CR sent politicians to do farm work – no wonder the Western political class hates the idea of a CR
The disease which roils the West is something which socialism is based on, and especially Maoism, and which was ably demonstrated in the Great Leap Forward – the collective mentality must triumph over the individualist mentality. Indeed, I fairly refer to the CR as the “Great Leap Forward #2” because the CR was an unquestionable restarting of collectivist projects.
But Westerners don’t wanna! To hell with the collective!
The collective line – which in Western Liberal Democracy is only limited to preserving the solidarity of the 1% among themselves – is really rather religious in its view, as it is based on the idea of something larger than just the individual and goes far beyond day-to-day concerns.
Nor is it mere nationalism, which is just a larger, modern version of tribalism. In neoliberal capitalism the loyalty is only to one’s self and family (and often not even to family, but one’s “household” within the necessarily multi-household “family”… and often not even to one’s household!), so it does not even achieve tribalism. How someone can live without a view of something larger than one’s own self is beyond me – it is truly to live without honor, and only with ego.
(In order to prove the enormous socioeconomic success of the CR, this book drew heavily from the ground-breaking investigative & scholarly work The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village, by Dongping Han, a former Chinese villager himself. Han hailed from and studied rural Jimo County, interviewing hundreds of locals about the Cultural Revolution (CR) and poring over local historical records. Han was kind enough to write the forward to my new book, I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China, which is available for purchase. This 8-part series is not a part of that book.)
Accordingly, Han relates the motivation of someone who worked for free on Jimo’s irrigation project during the CR: “She said that she, like others, volunteered to work at these projects at the time because it was an honorable thing to do.”
The major problem in Western capitalism is that their people are not lacking in honor – that would be untrue, as well as insulting: the problem is they do not believe their governments should promote selflessness and honor, as morality is a strictly personal issue. In China, Cuba, Iran and other socialist democratic-based systems, maybe everybody ignores the government’s morality campaigns, LOL, but such campaigns exist, at least, and thus surely have an impact (and a positive one).
A lesson of the CR is that if the government does not promote a “collective mentality”, then there is no “free-market magic” which can reliably conjure up the same necessary feeling, action and outcome.
But promotion is not leadership – leadership is done by doing! Perhaps the Chinese had a leg up in understanding this concept, as Confucianism stresses leadership by example.
“After the failure of the Great Leap Forward , many farmers in Jimo were so bitter about the food shortages that they declared they would not do any more work for the commune. Why, then, were Jimo farmers willing to work hard for the collective during the Cultural Revolution? What was behind this change of attitude? Some workers and farmers testified that the practice of cadres’ participation in production during the Cultural Revolution made an important difference. They said that when leaders worked hard, common villagers would work hard with them. … More importantly, village youth, politically emboldened through the Cultural Revolution conflicts and educated in the new schools, were ready to challenge party leaders if they did not work with ordinary people. … Common villagers would not tolerate lazy leaders. If leaders did not work, villagers refused to work as well, which would lead to a decline in production and living standards. If the leaders did not work hard, villagers would elect someone else to replace them in the year-end election, someone who was ready to work hard.” (emphasis mine)
Now Macron constantly says that he works hard, but he does not work hard with ordinary people – therein lies a world of difference.
It is impossible for an unempathetic leader (as Macron clearly is), who has never worked a regular, dreary, timeclock-punching job in his life (as Macron never has) to make policies which benefit the average worker when he has no idea what an average worker goes through.
I include that passage because it is a fascinating phenomenon, seemingly unique to Chinese socialism – it is a dagger in the heart of Western technocratism. I wonder: how it can be replicated? Did Mao or Fidel spend time working in the fields at 55 years old? LOL, an elder-worshipping Iranian would probably commit suicide before being forced to watch Khamenei, 80, do hard labor in front of them (the guy already lost use of his right arm due to a bomb from the MKO, so how much more effort should he give?).
But what if Macron spent just one week working at a farm? I think his approval rating would rise 10 points immediately!
Macron is 41 – is he just lazy? Is he so effete that he doesn’t like hard & sweaty work? Or is it that he is trying to cultivate an image of someone who is “above” or “smarter than” everybody else in France, and thus only deigns to spend his time on a “superior” type of work? It’s clearly the latter – Macron is trying to cultivate the image that his mind and soul are too valuable, too finely-tuned, to waste on lower-class work.
(But it’s really surprising that a young Western leader doesn’t do these types of propaganda ops. If anybody in the Iranian government is reading this: I will GLADLY work a pistachio farm for months, even years at a time – sheesh, that sounds like heaven, as I write this from the most-population dense city in the Western world. (Y’all would have to pay to store my stuff, though. I guess I’d lose my apartment in Paris. Not that I own it, of course, but it is SO HARD just to find a long-term apartment to rent here – I moved 10 times in my first 3.5 years in France.) Anyway, I predict that in the future, with viral videos and the omnipresence of screens, there will be some leader who takes advantage of every country’s love of hard work – and this will be denounced as “populism” by general population-hating capitalists.)
Crucially, Han writes, “They participated in manual labor more conscientiously than their predecessors had. In some localities it was stipulated that members of the county revolution committee had to participate in manual labor for about two hundred days a year, and members of the commune revolutionary committees had to work in the fields for more than two hundred days a year.”
How can these ideas be applied elsewhere? Could we possibly imagine President Macron working manual labor for 8 hours a day for 10 days, much less 200? What about Theresa May working at an elder care center? These ideas are delicious but ludicrous – certainly, their defense would be that they have “more important things to do”. They are “above” such work; such work would degrade their incredible abilities.
These unstated, but universally perceived, beliefs, is a real problem – the CR solved this problem; thus this series.
This is a huge, flaming, primary message of the CR – rural toil (but also factory toil, service sector toil, or other toiling lower and middle class jobs) is indispensable in creating good governors. There is only one clear solution – joining the masses at work – and yet it would take a CR in the West for such things to occur.
I have relayed Han’s data which show the economic, industrial educational explosion for rural areas – seeing the cultural changes the CR wrought on their local political leaders: How fortunate (and superior) is the Chinese system that they had the CR?
Such practices are inherently anti-technocratic: a politician with a PhD who has to work some manual labor may be a worse technocrat, due to less time spent wonking out, but he or she is a better human being and governor.
Han relates a great story: A respected Peoples’ Liberation Army veteran returned to Jimo after four years in the army, to much acclaim, and he was elected secretary of a village Communist Youth League. He was asked to work on the irrigation project, which involved four people pushing a wheelbarrow of mud weighing 1,000 pounds. “But his army life had never put him to the test of such hard work.” The leader could not do the work, and thus was the naozheng – the incompetent person – in the group. He was not re-elected the following year.
“It was important that leaders could talk high-sounding words, but they had to live up to what they said at the same time. Otherwise nobody would listen to them. … The CCP’s policy then was: yu chenfen, dan bu wei chenfen (class labels are important, but they are not the exclusive factor in judging a person).”
I find it very hard to believe any demonstrating Yellow Vest wouldn’t agree with these policies and beliefs of the CR; putting politicians to work would be Yellow Vest demand #26 if they only knew about it.
Macron does not appear very physically strong… but that is no matter. What is important is that he only finally said the words “Yellow Vests” in public on April 25rd – he clearly has no interest in working shoulder to shoulder with them, no matter what job we can find for him to not be the naozheng at.
Why would such a sensible policy – forcing politicians to do SOME real work – likely be opposed by supporters of Liberal Democracy? Because forcing them to do things they personally don’t want to do is an alleged violation of Western individualist rights. The irony, of course, is that the 1740-1840 heyday of Liberal Democracy rested upon the stolen wages of slaves. And when the slave-masters were forced to work in the countryside – what a horror the CR was!
I don’t see it that way at all. I think, especially when tied to promises of advancement, it is a perfect apprenticeship for future politicians. China knows that, and they are sending another 10 million urban cadres to the countryside – more well-rounded, respectful leaders in the future for China thanks to CR 2.0.
The Cultural Revolution lessons for modern schools
Culture is taught – it is not inbred. Thus a revolution in education is just as fundamental as a revolution in the “work” of politicians. The CR grasped this as well.
I would be remiss not to include a short section on education in this final part. Previous parts of this series examined Han’s data and conclusions regarding educational policy changes, because giving equal access to education – and making schooling truly egalitarian and not urban-elite based nor technocratic – was truly a primary, if not the primary, motivation and goal of the CR. I reiterate Han’s thesis and data, which I gave in Part 1, because it is so necessary: “…this study contends that that the political convulsions of the Cultural Revolution democratized village political culture and spurred the growth of rural education, leading to substantial and rapid economic development.” Education change is the middle link between political culture change and economic change.
Firstly, there is a major problem of gender imbalance in modern schools: in Iran and seemingly all other modernised areas women outperform men, including at security spots i at university. This is not a cause for celebration, but a huge problem.
If men were outperforming women, we would say that there is some sort of prejudice occurring or, as is the case now, the system is simply set up for young men to fail more often than young women, correct? You never hear this view in the West, as their societies are far more matriarchal than in Asia.
But China’s Cultural Revolution did what I think all schools should do: not simply “be schools”.
It is something like a crime against humanity how young, fun, spirit-filled boys are forced to wedge themselves behind a desk for their entire youth. The Cultural Revolution did what many boys find fun – doing stuff: they had to work on a farm, a workshop, a lab, and even money-making activities. That all beats “school” for young and teenage boys.
Crucially, these are all activities which educate kids on the serious facts of life, facts which are vital for happiness far more than yet more technocratic learning.
A teenager who cuts grass, picks up garbage or simply breaks rocks for 7 hours one day a week learns many things. Among them: if you do not study you will be doing this boring work for the rest of your life; hard work is needed to maintain society; manual labor is hard, and thus those who do it must be respected; “boring” or toiling labor requires just as much attention and effort as “office work”, or mental work, and thus must be respected; some jobs wear humans out faster than others, and thus social safety nets – with different rules – are required to avoid widespread misery.
But in a capitalist system, which is technocratic and not meritocratic, 21st century students are incredibly overburdened by testing and homework.
Of course: this is primarily a result of forcing competition via false scarcities in education and jobs – forcing competition is what free market/neoliberal societies are built upon, of course. The CR recognised this and I relayed Han’s detailing of the enormous explosion in rural school creation.
But Liberal Democratic supporters will insist that schools must remain dull and conservative with nihilistic claims such as: “School is just a way to make sheep; is really just child care, because both parents have to work in order to survive; societal masters are only interested in creating compliant cubicle drones, human robots for factory work, and subservient service industry slaves.” I agree: in capitalist countries.
But in socialist countries, where power has been devolved to workers and away from the 1%/technocratic class, other educational policies ARE possible and ARE implemented. Because the Chinese Communist Party explicitly sought to reduce the influence of schoolteachers, and to reduce China’s longstanding over-admiration for them, it is thus little wonder that schoolteachers across the West have zero interest in teaching the truth about the CR!
A Yellow Vest CR must include major educational reform:
“Exclusive book learning that used mainly the rote method was opposed. During the educational reforms, the concept of education was greatly broadened to include productive labor and many other related activities. Education was no longer limited to reading books inside the classroom; learning could take place in the workshops and on the farms, and many other places. Teachers were not considered to have a monopoly on knowledge. Workers and farmers and soldiers could all impart experiential knowledge to students. In fact, even students might know something the teachers did not know.”
Socialism rests on two pillars: redistribution of money and redistribution of political power. Redistributing political power in the realm of education can have enormously positive impacts on how rural societies view, and benefit from, schooling.
The Yellow Vests want a Cultural Revolution – will it succeed? Right now, I’d say ‘No”
Brexit, the election of Trump and the Yellow Vests – these are all viewed as horrifically negative historical & sociopolitical developments in the West’s fake-leftist and elite circles. The Yellow Vests are yet another “basket of deplorables” who have been rendered insane by… what exactly? Racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism….
Firstly, we should ask, in order to find parallels: did China’s deplorables have these problems of prejudice and “identity politics” when their CR started in 1966? Or what about Iran’s barefooted?
No, neither did – that cannot be disputed – and the reason why is indicative of why I feel the Yellow Vests will not achieve their revolutionary goals:
Iran and China already had governments inspired by socialism when they embarked on their Cultural Revolutions, whereas France does not. State-sponsored efforts to end prejudice is just one of many, many proofs which show how much more politically-advanced China and Iran were when they embarked on their Cultural Revolutions than the Yellow Vests are.
I am not blaming the Yellow Vests: because the West has totally rejected socialism’s advances and ethos – unlike Iran and China – they have many types of reactionary problems which China and Iran did not suffer from as strongly at the time of their CRs.
There is a tremendous amount of political regression among the Yellow Vests and their leaders, who have aims which are merely incremental improvements and not truly a new French order. This was illustrated by my last article, A French cop on why French cops will never join the Yellow Vests – many Vesters not only expect but want the cops to join them… even though it cannot and should not work because they are the devoted dogs of the reactionary order! Whoever heard of a revolution were the forces of order remained unchanged? Is France still stuck in hippie, utopian 1960s thinking?! Perhaps they are… it leads to regression, individualism and nihilism.
This political-cultural backwardness and conservatism of many Yellow Vests cannot cannot be repaired by an 8-part series, nor by protests which only attracted 2% (1.3 million) of the nation on its biggest day (the first Yellow Vest demonstration, on November 17, 2018, – data according to a police union, not the French Interior Ministry).
So when I wrote that “everyone knows” the Yellow Vests are the majority, that is true – the problem is that they don’t act like it!
It is amazing how effectively the French political class is able to suppress polling about the Yellow Vests. This suppression coincided with March 23, when President Emmanuel Macron deployed the army, unveiled even harsher measures of repression and banned of urban demonstrations. The latest poll I can find, from a month ago (even though this is the most important issue in French society) still has their approval rating at 50%, and that follows months of anti-Yellow Vest propaganda.
But being a Yellow Vest and merely supporting the Yellow Vests are two different things entirely. After all, the latter can be appeased even more easily than a right-wing Yellow Vest can be bought off. The Yellow Vests are the cultural majority but not the political majority.
Therefore, what the Yellow Vests are is this: they are the nation’s political vanguard party.
However – there is no “nation” anymore. There is no more political and economic sovereignty in Europe, and that is a concrete, structural, “rule of law” reality and not hyperbole.
The prime adulthood of France, and 41-year old Macron exemplifies this 100%, is full of people who grew up being culturally inculcated into blindly and hysterically supporting not modern socialist democratic ideals, but instead the neoliberal empire known as the European Union, and also the even more undemocratic banking empire known as the Eurozone.
Therefore, there is no “France” for the Yellow Vests to be – as they should – raised upon the People’s shoulders and put into power nationwide; the Yellow Vests, thus, have to be a pan-European movement in order to succeed in their aims. We are talking about an order of magnitude, here.
The reality is that the Yellow Vest movement reflects the same schizophrenia as most Western governments and societies: this is succinctly encapsulated by a favourite phrase and policy of the West’s – “humanitarian intervention” (whatever that is – as though nations were dogs which were humanely euthanised).
Vesters are certainly clearer than most – this is why they are the vanguard party, i.e. the most enlightened local leaders – but they also partially suffer from the tremendous cognitive dissonance and intellectual fog caused by the intersection of European neo-imperialism, bourgeois-centered European Enlightenment ideals, and the undemocratic concepts and political structures of the liberal democratic European Union empire.
Yellow Vests, especially on the right-wing of their spectrum, are often so blinded by their “glorious” view of France’s (bourgeois) “revolutionary history that they have not updated their political thought in 200+ years – they don’t want to admit their revolution was not enough; that they probably need a true revolution before a 2nd revolution; that the CRs of Chain and Iran should be their model.
And yet they do admit this….
Simply review number 7 on the list of their 25 primary demands: “Rewriting a Constitution by the people and for the interest the sovereign people.” It’s the latter part which would require a revolution in French/Western culture because it is obviously rooted in socialist democratic ideals; the people were not sovereign in US and French Revolutions (the only Western nations to have revolutions), as non-Whites, women and the poor, landless masses were all most glaringly excluded, of course.
This “they do but they don’t” is exactly why French society is both “revolutionary” in self-conception but incredibly reactionary in practice.
It would take a Cultural Revolution to sort out these issues, and that is what the Yellow Vests are truly asking for; it is the leftist ones which are willing to slough off the ancient husk of 1789, not the right-wing Vesters.
Any way you look at it, two things are clear: the Yellow Vests still have very far to go, and victory will look like Cultural Revolution.
This series emphatically demonstrated that China’s post-1980 economic success did not start with Deng Xiaoping’s reforms but instead was built upon on the Cultural Revolution’s hugely successful creation of human, educational, and economic capital in China’s rural areas.
By focusing on and promoting the values of the rural areas, China has soared past us all today – this is the hidden lesson of the CR and the genius of Maoism.
Han’s book, this series, and the lessons of the Cultural Revolution should have tremendous interest for developing countries – the CR is a blueprint for lifting essentially non-industrial societies into the socioeconomic stratosphere. The blueprint is not provided by the IMF – they have certainly had decades of chances.
The idea that China’s success is due to being a “Western sweatshop” is, it is rarely remembered, merely a way to credit the West for China’s success. No, it is due to Chinese innovations and adaptions of ideas already present around the globe.
A key flaw in Western capitalist allegations that the CR was simply a way for Mao to gain control: if that’s true – what could he have possibly gained by encouraging criticism of Confucius? The CCP was already in control – there was no “pro-Confucian Party” which was taking the CCP’s power. Confucianism is an inherently conservative ideal – why rock that boat? Bring up this point to those who are anti-CR and they will certainly be totally flummoxed.
But criticising Confucianism – which is such a thrillingly productive and superbly admirable philosophy which I have learned much from for years – was a way to pull down the dominant class and replace it with the oppressed classes.
However, Chinese culture remains incredibly Confucian, any Chinese person will tell you. I predict that one day the ubiquitous phrase “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” will be replaced with a regional generalisation of “Confucian Socialism”, and this phrase will describe not just China but include Vietnam, Korea and (hopefully) others. This is exactly the same as how “Iranian Islamic Socialism” is a variant of the larger “Islamic Socialism”. These truths are self-evident, if not yet fully flowered….
When discussing the anti-Confucius campaigns, Han writes: “But it had specific meaning for ordinary people. The major theme of the campaign was to criticize the elitist mentality in Chinese culture. It promoted Mao’s idea that the masses are the motive force of history and that the elite are sometimes stupid while working people are intelligent. These were not empty words. Villagers toiled all year round, supplying the elite with grain, meat and vegetables. But they were made to feel stupid in front of the elite. They did not know how to talk with the elite, and accepted the stigma of stupidity the elite gave to them.”
This idea – that rural Trash are stupid, that urban leaders are right to view themselves as “elite” – is something which has to be remedied in the West, or else Western society can never be whole. The rural-urban divide is the most urgent divide in the West today, but the CR shows it can be resolved.
Unfortunately, because they adhere to capitalism-imperialism, many nation in the West are not trying to be united at all – their people subsist on contempt for “the other” as well as competition to join the 1%, as capitalism-imperialism ceaselessly instructs them.
This was the final article in an 8-part series which examined Dongping Han’s book The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village in order to drastically redefine a decade which has proven to be not just the basis of China’s current success, but also a beacon of hope for developing countries worldwide. Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!
Part 1 – A much-needed revolution in discussing China’s Cultural Revolution: an 8-part series
Part 2 – The story of a martyr FOR, and not BY, China’s Cultural Revolution
Part 3 – Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China?
Part 4 – How the Little Red Book created a cult ‘of socialism’ and not ‘of Mao’
Part 5 – Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution?
Part 6 – How the socioeconomic gains of China’s Cultural Revolution fuelled their 1980s boom
Part 7 – Ending a Cultural Revolution can only be counter-revolutionary
Part 8 – What the West can learn: Yellow Vests are demanding a Cultural Revolution