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Anyuan: Mining China's Revolutionary Tradition

Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 412
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    How do we explain the surprising trajectory of the Chinese Communist revolution? Why has it taken such a different route from its Russian prototype? An answer, Elizabeth Perry suggests, lies in the Chinese Communists’ creative development and deployment of cultural resources – during their revolutionary rise to power and afterwards. Skillful “cultural positioning” and “cultural patronage,” on the part of Mao Zedong, his comrades and successors, helped to construct a polity in which a once alien Communist system came to be accepted as familiarly “Chinese.” Perry traces this process through a case study of the Anyuan coal mine, a place where Mao and other early leaders of the Chinese Communist Party mobilized an influential labor movement at the beginning of their revolution, and whose history later became a touchstone of “political correctness” in the People’s Republic of China. Once known as “China’s Little Moscow,” Anyuan came over time to symbolize a distinctively Chinese revolutionary tradition. Yet the meanings of that tradition remain highly contested, as contemporary Chinese debate their revolutionary past in search of a new political future.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95403-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xv)
  5. Maps
    (pp. xvi-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    The idea of a revolutionary tradition is inherently ironic. Revolutions are intended to overthrow traditions, not enshrine them. Yet nation-states born of revolution construct myths about their historical origins and political legacies that prove as powerful and persistent as they are contradictory and contested. Acrimonious debates surrounding the bicentennial of the French Revolution demonstrated that descendants of that epic event still grapple with its multiple meanings.¹ More recently, the rise of the Tea Party movement in the United States—named for the incident in Boston Harbor that helped ignite the American Revolution—has highlighted deep divisions in interpretations of this...

  7. 1 Rehearsing Revolution
    (pp. 15-45)

    Revolution does not take place in a cultural vacuum. Although the ultimate aim of revolution is a radical break with tradition and a wholesale reconfiguration of the political and social landscape, its objectives must be conveyed in terms sufficiently intelligible and attractive to engage a mass following. When the blueprint for revolution is borrowed from abroad, the difficulty in communicating the new message is especially daunting. Impressed by the Russian Revolution though the founders of the Chinese Communist Party were, they recognized from the outset that their own revolution would demand a degree of adaptation and alteration of the Soviet...

  8. 2 Teaching Revolution: The Strike of 1922
    (pp. 46-77)

    Despite an accumulation of excellent scholarship on the Chinese Communist revolution, we are still hard-pressed to offer a compelling answer to a question that goes to the heart of explaining the revolutionʹs success: How did the intellectuals who founded the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) manage to cultivate a large and loyal following among illiterate and impoverished peasants and workers, a stratum of the populace so distant from themselves?

    One might ask a similar question of many revolutions, of course, in light of the leadership role that intellectuals have typically played in nationalist and Communist movements around the world.¹ It seems...

  9. 3 Chinaʹs Little Moscow
    (pp. 78-123)

    In the aftermath of the victorious 1922 strike, Anyuan shed its ʺLittle Shanghaiʺ moniker in favor of the new sobriquet of ʺChinaʹs Little Moscow.ʺ The notable successes of Li Lisan, Liu Shaoqi, and their comrades at Anyuan, together with the crushing defeats suffered by Communists elsewhere in China (epitomized by the February Seventh Massacre along the Jing-Han Railroad), turned the coal mining town into a prominent stronghold of Bolshevik-inspired labor organizing. For three years (September 1922 to August 1925) Anyuan served as the paramount center of the Chinese Communist labor movement. The special importance attached to Little Moscow was reflected...

  10. 4 From Mobilization to Militarization
    (pp. 124-152)

    The demise of Little Moscow signaled a critical juncture not only in the development of the Anyuan labor movement but in the history of the Chinese revolution more broadly. The disintegration of the Anyuan experiment in the fall of 1925 was followed by a new phase of ruthless reprisals and mounting militarization in which the CCPʹs previous stress on workersʹ education and organization was superseded by a call for armed class struggle. The murderous zeal with which many former Anyuan workers and their peasant allies would answer this call suggested something more than a dutiful response on the part of...

  11. 5 Constructing a Revolutionary Tradition
    (pp. 153-204)

    Like any state born from revolutionary struggle, the newly established Peopleʹs Republic of China was faced with the tricky problem of how to legitimate its origins without at the same time introducing incendiary ideas into the heads of restive citizens. This challenge of constructing a sanctified yet sanitized revolutionary tradition that would serve to reinforce the ruling authority of the new party-state was further complicated in the Chinese case by the unusually protracted and protean nature of the Communist revolution. Former revolutionary sites existed in abundance, but many of these places were compromised by their close association with particular periods,...

  12. 6 Maoʹs Final Crusade: Purifying the Revolutionary Tradition
    (pp. 205-246)

    In the spring of 1966, Mao Zedong launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.¹ Intended to cultivate ʺrevolutionary successorsʺ by giving young people a taste of the hardships that the rapidly aging revolutionary generation had endured in the course of its battle for power, the new mass campaign was supposed to prevent Soviet-style revisionism by promoting authentic proletarian culture. Millions of student Red Guards from across the country streamed to the sites where Mao and his comrades had once engaged in revolutionary struggle in hope of thereby acquiring their own proletarian bona fides. As a cradle of the Chinese Communist labor...

  13. 7 Reforming the Revolutionary Tradition
    (pp. 247-282)

    With the death of Chairman Mao and the dramatic arrest of his widow, Jiang Qing, and other members of her radical so-called Gang of Four in the fall of 1976, the Cultural Revolution decade drew to an official close. Three years later, Deng Xiaoping announced his historic program of ʺreform and openingʺ to revitalize the economy and reconnect China to the international community. The resulting commercialization and globalization brought major changes in the system of cultural patronage that had developed under Mao. A longtime scholar of Chinese cultural politics, Richard Kraus, observes that ʺa new politics of culture has taken...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 283-296)

    The common characterization of Maoʹs revolution as a struggle against Chinese culture, originating with the iconoclasm of the May Fourth era and culminating with Red Guard rampages against the ʺFour Oldsʺ—Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas—has until quite recently discouraged serious investigation of the culture of the revolution itself. Whether or not Mao Zedong and his comrades succeeded in delivering a deathblow to tradition was often debated, but that they fully intended to do so was less often questioned.¹

    In the influential interpretation of historian Joseph Levenson, traditional Chinese culture had lost all value for...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 297-356)
  16. Glossary
    (pp. 357-360)
  17. Bibliography of English-Language Sources
    (pp. 361-374)
  18. Index
    (pp. 375-392)