‘In the world today all culture, all literature and art belong to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines. There is in fact no such thing as art for art’s sake, art that stands above classes, art that is detached from or independent of politics. Proletarian literature and art are part of the whole proletarian revolutionary cause; they are, as Lenin said, cogs and wheels in the whole revolutionary machine.’
From: “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art” (May 1942), Mao Tse-tung Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 86.
Even whilst prosecuting, organising and developing military tactics in the war against the Japanese Fascist invaders Mao realised that literature and art were not only important to success in that campaign but he was also laying the foundations for the construction of Socialism once victory had been won.
In this he followed in the footsteps of both Lenin and Stalin, in the Soviet Union, who had both realised that Socialism cannot be achieved solely by taking political control as well as the ownership of the land and industry – what was more important was convincing and changing the thinking of those who had been brought up in ignorance, subservience and a lack of confidence in what they could attain, if only they tried.
Education, literature, art (in all its forms) and science – which could only be achieved through massive and extensive literacy and numeracy campaigns – was integral to this new, workers and peasants inspired ‘Enlightenment’.
In no country in the world – even in Britain where the first industrial revolution really started to change society – did the ruling capitalist class make a concerted effort to ‘educate’ the oppressed workers and peasants until there had been a movement from those exploited workers to educate themselves.
Religion, in all its insidious forms throughout the world, was the only education the oppressed needed – to maintain their oppression. In virtually all those societies the control of knowledge was in the hands of the ruling ‘elite’ and their theocratic hangers-on.
Ignorance was perpetuated by; the fear of eternal damnation in the afterlife – whether a hell or as coming back as something even more insignificant than the present; imagery, be it paintings or statues in European Christian churches, fed fear and subservience; crass, sycophantic homilies from the likes of Confucianism in Asia – and its tireless variants where kowtowing is the norm; or the situation of tribal elders and ‘caciques’ maintaining their control in Africa and Latin America the aim was ‘not to rock the boat’.
But the aim of Communists is not to rock but to sink the boat.
Through knowledge, through culture, through a realisation of their power workers and peasants throughout the world can ‘turn the world upside-down’.
After Mao made the short declaration of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in Tienanmen Square on 31st October 1949 the new state set about putting the theory into practice.
Within a couple of years they were producing material in English to show the rest of the world what they were doing, giving the lead in the production of a new proletarian culture.
Unfortunately we do not have access (as of yet) of all these magazines but a significant number are presented to the rational and thinking reader.
If anyone can help in filling in the gaps that effort will be very much appreciated.
Welcome to Chinese Literature.