The Red Book and the Power Structure of Communist China

Propaganda in China during the Cultural Revolution took on many forms;
there were mass Red Guard demonstrations in Tianamen Square in support of Mao
Zedong, pictures of Mao were put up in every conceivable location from
restaurants to the wallpaper in nurseries, and pamphlets and books of Mao's
teachings were distributed to every Chinese citizen. One of these propaganda
publications Quotations from Chairman Mao which later became known as the Little
Red Book contained quotes from Mao Zedong and was distributed to every Chinese
citizen. The history of the Red Book provides one of the best ways in which to
analyze Chinese propaganda during the Cultural Revolution and see the ways in
which the Chinese government was able to produce and effectively indoctrinate
the Chinese people with Mao Zedong Thought. Official Chinese magazines from the
period of 1967 to 1970 are filled with many pictures of citizens holding,
reading, and memorizing the Red Book. This proposal will trace the rise and fall
of images of the Red Book in the official Chinese publication China
Reconstructs. This proposal will use a graphical analysis of pictures in this
publication from 1966 to 1973 to show that propaganda was not just a tool of the
Communist party but also a reflection of internal power struggles within the
party during the Cultural Revolution.
The Red Book was written several years before it became the object of
national adoration and a tool for the Cultivation of Mao's personality Cult. The
history of the Red Book and its meteoric rise from a hand book for military
recruits to compulsory reading for all Chinese citizens, is closely tied to its
developer Lin Biao's rise to power. Lin Biao was born in 1907 and was fourteen
years younger then Mao; he joined the communist party in 1925 and until the
communists captured control of China was at various times in charge of
resistance forces, and armies of communist soldiers. When the communists took
control in 1949 Lin Biao was behind Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Chen Yun,
and Deng Xiaoping in rank (Yan and Gao, 1996: 179). But eighteen years later
during the height of the Cultural Revolution Lin Biao by winning favor with Mao
by publishing and championing the Red Book and the Cult of Mao became second
only to the Chairman in power and position (Ming-Le, 1983: 80).
In 1959 Peng Dehua was dismissed as minister of defense and Lin Biao was
appointed in his place. At an armed forces meeting for high cadres during
September of that year Lin Biao, energetically started promoting the Cult of Mao
saying, "Learning the writings of comrade Mao Zedong is the shortcut to learning
Marxism-Leninism. Chairman Mao's writings are easy to learn and can be put to
use immediately. Diligent work will pay dividends many fold." (Yan and Gao,
1996: 182) His references to "shortcut" and "quick dividends" in his speech went
unnoticed at the time as few foresaw the effects of creating a Cult around Mao.
But looking back on the Cultural Revolution and Lin Biao, we can see his using
the Cult of Mao was indeed a shortcut that produced huge dividends both for
himself and for Mao.
Mao to the Chinese people was a symbol sovereignty and the construction
of socialism; to them praise for Mao was fitting with his symbolic role in
society. Starting in 1959 Lin Biao in front of military audiences in order to
help buildup support for the Cult of Mao used such phrases as, "the dire
necessity of acquiring Mao Zedong's thought," "to study the writings of Mao
Zedong with questions in mind is to shoot arrows with target in sight," "we must
arm our minds with Mao Zedong's thought" (Yan an Gao, 1996: 181). Lin Biao's
goal of building up both himself and the Cult of Mao lead him in September of
1960 to pass a resolution at the meeting of the Military Commission, which
called for more political education among the armed forces (Yan and Gao, 1996:
Mao Zedong Thought is the compass for the Chinese people's revolution
and socialist construction, the powerful ideological weapon against imperialism,
and the powerful ideological weapon against revisionism and dogmatism..... raise
high the red banner of Mao Zedong Thought, go further and mobilize the minds of
all officers and soldiers with Mao Zedong Thought, and resolve to make sure that
Mao Zedong Thought, and resolve to make sure that Mao Zedong Thought is in
command in all phases of work... Really learn by heart the Mao Zedong Thought!
Read Chairman