I'm deeply excited to begin work on my college's senior history thesis research project. In the next few weeks and upcoming months, I hope to post some of my findings and share them with you. I'm currently in the very early stages though of my project, but I have a fairly rough idea of what direction I plan to take, since my last idea didn't work out so well (which was researching and seeing if the telegraph was what helped save the Union during the American Civil War). At the moment I have two ideas that have been on my brain for awhile now.
My first idea is in regards to historical preservation work. Having some background in journalism and having a bit of a knack in interviewing people about the most random of things and learning about a variety of things that way, I was thinking of doing some interviews with local museum directors and other historical preservationists and get their thoughts on protecting our past.
Another idea that I have, is research the development of industry in the Milwaukee area (gotta think local, right?). I'm very tempted to dive into the history of Harley-Davidson or even the Milwaukee beer industry, two very popular industries that are right here in Milwaukee.
I'm waiting for the green light with my professor on where to go from here........
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Two of Communist China's domestic policies, The Great Leap Forward and The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, were two of the most profoundly ideological, economical, social and politically destructive failed movements that was instigated by the Communist Party of China, most especially under the direction of Mao Zedong. The Great Leap Forward was instituted to greatly transform the country and make it into a more modernized country by using China's massive population to do it. As for the entire goal of the Cultural Revolution, it was done to impose communism throughout the country by removing capitalist ideology, as well as various traditional and cultural elements from Chinese society in order to create a more modern China. Most importantly, Zedong wanted to impose Maoist orthodoxy within the Communist Party. Both of these movement greatly impacted China politically, economically, and socially. The policies were massive economic and humanitarian disasters. Especially considering the fact that millions of people were killed and victimized through public humiliation, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, sustained harassment, and even seizure of property. During the Great Leap Forward, a devastating famine took place. Meanwhile, during the Revolution, the destruction of various historical, cultural and religious artifacts and sites took place and large portions of the country's youth were forced and exiled into the countryside in order to learn from the farmers.
The Great Leap Forward began in January 1958 by the Communist government. It was supposed to last into 1963, but the plan immediately lost momentum into the following year, and was terminated at the beginning of 1961. What exactly the Great Leap Forward was, was a plan put forth by Mao Zedong that would develop and modernize the country's agricultural and industrial production, and get the peasants out of their old traditionalist ways . He believed that "human energies of the masses imbued with revolutionary consciousness… could motivate people to heroic accomplishments" and in a few short decades, would be able to compete economically with the major superpowers of the world. Because so much manpower had been used in the success of the revolution, Mao believed that such massive manpower could also be used to build a massive amount of construction projects throughout the country - such as the building of roads and waterways, among others. With these industrialized projects, Zedong believed that it would help in hastening the country's economy and make great strides towards the goal of establishing a socialist approach. With Mao's mighty and deep ambitions for the country's future, he wrote:
"The outstanding thing about China's 600 million people is that they are 'poor and blank.' This may seem a bad thing, but in reality it is a good thing. Poverty gives rise to the desire for change, the desire for action and the desire for revolution. On a blank sheet of paper free of any mark, the freshest and… most beautiful pictures can be painted."
The Great Leap Forward called for a 100% increase in steel production, as well as a 500% increase in food production, all within the first year of the plan. These production goals were to happen through Mao's aspiration of having the massive manpower in order to achieve these results, as well as the spirit of man in order to do so. Mao ordered communes to be built to achieve the Great Leap Forward - with each commune averaging roughly 5,000 households, or in other words, holding about 22,000 people. Due to the country still lagging behind in industry, thousands of backyard furnaces were built in order to produce steel in all of the communes. Because of these dramatic actions, "people had their work, homes, land, belongings and livelihoods taken from them," all of which resulted in the deaths of roughly 45 million people from 1958 to 1962, due to a number of reasons, most especially from starvation and from various diseases related to the extreme lack of food. There are also many reports that several million people died from being tortured due to stealing food and other infractions, most especially those who were "slackers, weaklings, or otherwise unproductive" workers who didn't fully contribute to the rigorous labor that they were placed under. In Frank Dikötter's article, The Great Leap Backward, he says that food was a weapon that was used against the people. He states that; "throughout the country those who were too ill to work were routinely cut off from the food supply. The sick, the vulnerable and the elderly were banned from the canteen, as cadres found inspiration in Lenin's dictum: 'He who does not work shall not eat.'" Mao let this happen and even insisted that it continue in order for the country to move forward, so that China would surpass the Soviet Union and even England.
Following the failures of The Great Leap Forward, Mao handed over the power to several Communist leaders; Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. Mao believed that they would be able to help guide country's economy back into recovery. Both Liu and Deng led economic reforms that were far more liberal than Mao's ideas. After awhile, Mao didn't like what was taking place in the Soviet Communist Party and was afraid the same would happen with the Chinese Communist Party, and in order to gain back his power, the Cultural Revolution was created. The revolution was the next phase of Mao's plan towards wanting to take China into the future, toward a true communist state, instead of a socialist/capitalist one.
The revolution was announced by The Liberation Army Daily newspaper, when it made a call in April 1966 that called for a cultural revolution that would eliminate bourgeois ideology found in the academic, educational, journalistic fields, as well as in other fields of culture in order to purge Communist Party members who were trying to take the country toward capitalism. Mao immediately began removing the various Communist leaders from power following that announcement. In July 1966, Liu Shaoqi was removed from his various positions and expelled from the Communist Party, placed under house arrest and was regularly beaten at public denunciation meetings for a year until he died in 1969, while his wife was imprisoned and placed in solitary confinement for a whole decade. Deng Xiaoping was also a major target and was sent to a work camp. His purge was less severe though, was able to return in 1973, and Deng led as the leader of the country in 1977. As for Zhou Enlai, he escaped political persecution for many years by being forced to carry out many of Mao's policies, and was largely unsuccessful with being unable to stop many of the events during the Cultural Revolution from even taking place. Towards the end of the revolution though, Zhou was politically targeted by Mao and the Gang of Four. Peng Dehuai was a Chinese military leader who was also publically humiliated and persecuted for an entire decade before finally dying due to his ordeal.
Not only were Communist Party officials the targets of the purge, but also academics, landlords, military personnel, and ordinary citizens. Also, in the chaos of anarchy, Red Guards even killed one another. The bodies of 537 Red Guards can be found in Chongqing's Shapingba Park, all because after they killed their teachers, they then turned on each other and killed each other. Countless others suffered public humiliation, torture and placed in exile and re-educated during the time period. Those who had been mentally and physically humiliated committed suicide, resulting in 704 suicides in September 1966 in just the city of Shanghai alone.
There were no actions that was taken by the police to stop the incredible mob violence, all because of Central Document Zhongfa, which was ratified and issued by Mao on August 22, 1966. The report from the Ministry of Public Security, titled "Mobilizing the Police to Suppress the Student Movement is Strictly Prohibited" stated that the police should not interfere with or suppress the student movement, should stay out of the schools, "and not arrest anyone in the course of the movement, unless that person is a counterrevolutionary of whom it can be proved that he has murdered, practiced arson, poisoned people, engaged in sabotage, or stolen state secrets and so forth." The Minister of Public Security, Xie Fuzhi, went along with the report and explained to the police how to proceed:
"We must protect and support the Red Guards…. Don't say it is wrong of them to beat up bad persons: if in anger they beat someone to death, so be it. If we say it's wrong, then we'll be supporting bad persons. After all, bad persons are bad, so if they're beaten to death it is no big deal."
Following these events, the Cultural Revolution truly got out of hand and quickly deteriorated due to previous restraints on violent behaviors was lifted, leaving hundreds of educators dead at various schools, including at girls schools. Those who were not badly beaten or killed, were humiliated by being forced to perform humiliating tasks, such as cleaning toilets, leading many to commit suicide by hanging themselves in the toilet stalls. Once the Red Guards served their purpose, by committing mass murder and violent chaos, Mao ordered that all the young people with an education be sent into the country and be re-educated by farmers and peasants. 16 million urban middle-school students were placed in rural areas. Not only were the actions of the Red Guards not given proper responsibility by the authorities, but following the Cultural Revolution, the policy of the Communist Party stated in an official document in the 1980s, that those who participated in various criminal acts would not be held against them if they had admitted their errors and were good citizens. Not only did the revolution purge the country of political leaders who were trying to change the country's direction, but steps were even taken to destroy ancient buildings, temples, artifacts, antiques, books, and paintings that were of traditional origin or had a certain bourgeois attitude. A popular slogan that was seen during this time period was "Destroy the old world; Forge the new world."
Following the deaths of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai; Mao's widow, Jiang Qing, and her radical supporters (Wang Hongwen, Yao Wenyuan, and Zhang Chunqiao), better known as the Gang of Four, were arrested in September 1976 for their involvement of the Cultural Revolution and trying to seize power. They, along with various other leaders, were put on trial for their crimes during the Cultural Revolution and sent to prison. A vast majority though who had committed crimes during the course of the Cultural Revolution were spared, due to the fact that another massive purge was unacceptable to Deng, who was wanting instead, a period of harmony and not deal with any form of political chaos.
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Dikötter, Frank. The Great Leap Backward. History Today; Nov2010, Vol. 60, Issue 11.
Ferguson, Niall. China's Great Leap Backward. Newsweek; 3/26/2012, Vol. 159, Issue 13/14.
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MacFarquhar, Roderick & Michael Schoenhals. Mao's Last Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 2006.
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Schirokauer, Conrad. Modern China and Japan: A Brief History. New York, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers. 1982.
Song, Lijun. CulturalRevolution. Social Forces, University of North Carolina Press. September 2009, Vol. 88 Issue 1
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 Schirokauer, Conrad. Modern China and Japan: A Brief History. New York, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers. 1982. P., 296.
 Archer, Jules. China in the 20th Century. New York, New York: MacMillian Publishing Co., Inc. 1974. P., 135.
 Dikötter, Frank. The Great Leap Backward. History Today. Nov 2010, Vol. 60, Issue 11.
 Archer, p. 174.
 Ferguson, Niall. China's Great Leap Backward. Newsweek. 3/26/2012, Vol. 159, Issue 13/14.
 MacFarquhar, Roderick & Michael Schoenhals. Mao's Last Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 2006. P., 124.
 Ibid, p., 124-125.
 Ibid, p., 125.
 Ferguson. China's Great Leap Backward
 MacFarquhar, p., 128.