On Literature and Art
November 9 and November 12, 1967 — Peking Forum on Literature and Art, Peking China
I feel very sorry that for a very long time I have not had hearings of opinions of comrades. I can well understand it if comrades should have some opinion against us; for comrades know about our conditions.
Before the great proletarian cultural revolution, I worked wholeheartedly together with comrades for drama revolution and music revolution. This was a very burdensome task, a very serious work. It could not be accomplished in a day or two, or even in one month or two; it needed a lot of energy. On this question I spoke repeatedly to some comrades. Since the great proletarian cultural revolution started, as the working conditions changed, my energy was wholy committed to other aspects. Therefore, I have not been able to keep track of the plays, music and movies which you produce, as I did in the earlier years when I was together with you in the specific task of literary and artistic revolution. Having made this point clear, I may perhaps be pardoned by comrades.
During the period when the Chairman gave his talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art, my work was not concerned with cultural programs, and I only ran into occasional encounters in the cultural circles. In the initial stage after entering the cities, I followed Chairman Mao’s teachings and guidance, and wanted to establish two armies for the worker-peasant-soldier, for the proletarian revolutionary line: one army of creative writers, and one army of critics. But, on this front, other people imposed a dictatorship over us; they used all kinds of means to prevent the implementation of Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line and literary line. As for us, there was also a process for recognition, and there was further the question of work-post.* The Chairman certainly paid much attention to this aspect! I was merely a roving patrol. It was only in the process of the current great proletarian cultural revolution movement that the problem of troop formation in the cultural circles is basically solved.
Having listened to some utterances at this forum, I feel that they are of a relatively high level, and can point out the unbalanced development of the great proletarian cultural revolution. In fact it is unbalanced. You can see the objective rules of this class struggle. In some places it is done better; in some other places it is done not so well; and in still other places it looks very tranquil, but is in essence a pool of stagnant water. But for such a situation we must not say that all has not done well, that there should be great confusion for all again. Units such as “New Movies” and “Ballet Troupe” belong to the category of the smothered. Units which have not yet really made a success of the great revolutionary alliance and the revolution three-in-one combination, naturally cannot make a success of the struggle-repudiation-transformation and the great criticism. For such units, it would be good to have another spell of confusion. Confusion to the enemy! Confusion to the enemy!
Some units have realized the great revolutionary alliance, but have not yet made a success of the revolutionary three-in-one combination; they should, on the basis of further consolidation of the great revolution alliance, make a success of the revolutionary three-in-one combination, through debate, criticism and the solution of cadre problems. Only then can they effectively carry on the struggle-repudiation-transformation and the great criticism. For some units which have done comparatively well, where the great revolutionary alliance is relatively successful and the revolutionary three-in-one combination is also carried out, their total effort should be committed to the struggle-repudiation-transformation and the great criticism.
Generally speaking, it is to establish revolutionary troops. The establishment of troops in the cultural circles has this problem: the class element is relatively complicated. But, while a person cannot decide his own origin, his performance and attitude still count. The Chairman has taught us that in the establishment of the class troops, the class element should indeed be inspected but this element is not the sole consideration. The majority of youths and revolutionary young generals will surely take Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line, and the majority of cadres will also follow Chairman Mao’s line — for this we should all be full of confidence.
To carry on the great revolutionary alliance, all organizations should conduct more self-criticisms, and conduct more investigations and studies and self-criticisms in one’s own organization. This would facilitate the alliance. Otherwise, the enemy can easily exploit our weaknesses. In this aspect, the Chairman has issued important directives, which comrades have studied, so I shall not elaborate. In short, for matters belonging to contradictions within the people, it is best to conduct more self-criticism and less criticism against others; if it is contradiction between the enemy and ourselves, then we must carry on the struggle and the repudiation until the enemy falls and stinks.
The literary and artistic circles are relatively complicated. This can be perceived from your utterances and from the materials you sent us. Has the movement been carried profoundly and thoroughly? I think not. For the enemy is very shrewd. They have many sets of groupings. As soon as you get rid of one set, another set gets into place. So I feel that there must be a penetrating investigation and study of the literary and artistic circles.
We should be steady, accurate and harsh — towards our enemy; towards ourselves we should not wage civil war all the time, nor should we wage civil war all the time against our friends. If we engage in civil war, we are apt to be exploited by the enemy; sometimes the enemy manipulates behind the scenes so that wage civil war, then he takes the opportunity to sneak away. You should recognize this trick.
Recently the New Movie Studio produced a documentary of a few modern revolutionary Peking operas, taking much time in the project. I am told that you did not film it on stage. But you did it without first thoroughly comprehending the ideological themes and the artistic qualities of these operas; this was done in the past. After I saw the movie last evening, I felt uneasy. Is it possible for you to make some supplementary filming? If it is shown in the whole country as it is now, those workers, peasants and soldiers who have not seen these operas before would not be able to understand them; for they, unlike us, are not familiar with these operas. You should not be impatient to show it, but should see how to reform it well.
Comrade Tan Yuan-shou of Peking First Troupe of Peking Opera is one of the impatient ones.
He complained that no new operas have been produced (of late). This sentiment is understandable; but, if new ones are produced crudely as was done in the past, people would still strike us down. It would be preferable that our eight model operas occupy the stage for the time being.
These eight model operas have already cleared the stage and the screen of emperors and generals and the bourgeoisie. Besides there has been a reform in ballet and symphony; though there are still many shortcomings and many areas which need further probing, this has also created a sensation and shock in the world.
The adoptation of “The White-haired Girl” by the Ballet Troupe this time was, on account of impatience, done crudely — (but) I believe the adoptation of “The White-haired Girl” can definitely be a success. And such products cannot stand up on their feet. Of course I am also responsible for this, because I have not spent much time to work together with comrades. But shouldn’t you yourselves get organized and carry on the program seriously?
There is a question of popularization versus elevation. Some one just said that we should organize small detachments and send them down to produce fragments and minor items for the viewing of workers, peasants and soldiers. This of course can be done. But, the central task now is still to combat self-interest and repudiate revisionism, and to organize the revolutionary troops. Otherwise it would be impossible to produce things really serving socialism and really suitable for the needs of workers, peasants and soldiers. To combat self-interest and repudiate revisionism is a hard and difficult matter. It would be wrong indeed if some people should attempt to escape from it by exploiting the activities of going to the countryside and the factories. Comrades do not necessarily have such ideas, but should be alert for them.
Can we say that the eight revolutionary model operas now are the peak of our national art? As we all know, it is not easy to produce a model opera, which takes thousands of actions to refine, and usually a period of two to three years. Therefore it is not possible for each opera to become a model. Model operas are the peak; they represent the direction. In order to produce more revolutionary model operas, it would be necessary to pass through various ways. Therefore, I feel comrades should set up a determination to make a success of the combat against self-interest and the repudiation of revisionism. This, for the present time, is the most important and the most fundamental.
Now there is still half a month left of November, there will be the whole month of December, and there are two to three months before the Spring Festival. Shouldn’t we first establish our troops in various units, and struggle harshly, repudiate harshly against our enemy until he falls and stinks! Otherwise, there is great ideological confusion in creative writing, and then creative writing cannot be done. During this period, some units will have to have some confusion; some other units have had enough, and do not necessarily have to have more confusion. The confusion in some units is to confuse the enemy, not to confuse ourselves; this is entirely proper. To cover up the contradictions is neither a good method nor a correct one. We are not afraid of confusion; but those units which have done relatively well, and have had the great revolutionary alliance and the revolutionary three-in-one combination, need not be submitted to confusion again. That is to say, we must have analysis. On this question, our revolutionary comrades and revolutionary young generals must have, on the one hand, the fearless style of a proletarian revolutionary, being unafraid of confusion and capable of sustaining pressure and refinement, and, on the other hand, the hard-working spirit of a pragmatist, using his head for scientific analysis, overcoming and pushing aside the interference of various kinds of un-proletarian ideologies; thus he may truly march victoriously along the revolutionary line of Chairman Mao.
There is also the question of the seventeen years and the fifty days. * * I feel that the opinion of certain revolutionary young generals is very good. Accounts must be settled for the fifty days, for the seventeen years, and for the nineteen thirties as well — the roots trace a long way back! One young general said that some people only pay attention to the fifty days, and not the seventeen years, and that this is in effect to use the fifty days to protect the seventeen years and the thirties. This view is very profound. Besides, to separate the fifty days with the seventeen years would mean to separate Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line with Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary literary line; and that would also be wrong. Of course, for the thirties, for the seventeen years, and for the fifty days, the principle of “one dividing into two” should be applied. In the thirties, there was also the Leftist faction led by Lu Shun; in the seventeen years, there was also some revolutionary Leftists; and there were more in the fifty days, who rose up to fight against the literary black line. The work-teams in effect were meant to protect the seventeen years, to protect the thirties, even to protect the twenties. Some young comrades and revolutionary young generals with a higher level (of political consciousness) have clearly recognized this question.
Concerning the question of joining the army, you should not be impatient. Now Vice Chairman Lin has issued an order, asking Comrade Yang Cheng-wu and his Office Group of Military Commission to select several cadres of the army or division level to take charge of this matter; this is a good news that I report to you. If you clamor for joining the army all day long, you would forget about everything else.
I was not prepared for giving a talk today; perhaps I have not failed to give a whole picture, and may have been mistaken in some aspect, for which comrades may criticize me. That is all I talk now; we shall meet again in such forums later.
Source: CCP Documents of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,1966-1967, (Hong Kong: Union Research Institute),1968, pp. 595-602.
Also: Marxism.org — Jiang Qing Archives