The Red Guards had run amok in China for a long while, unchallenged. However, Mao finally stepped in to stop the rampant violence. The PLA soon quelled all student unrest, and with the banishment of 10 million of the Red Guard to the village and borders, violence abated. But the party was in tatters and needed to be revitalized.
Reckoning the Damage
With the Red Guards effectively banished to the countryside, the next step in the Maoist restoration of political order was to revive the country’s political institutions and administrative services. After two years of unremitting power struggles, the Communist Party was in a shambles. Between 1966 and 1968, hundreds of thousands of party officials had been overthrown, including almost 40 percent of the Central Committee members.
In rural counties, townships and villages, the assault on local power-holders was even more widespread, though reliable statistics on the extent of the damage have never been made available.
Among the civilian population at large, death and destruction were even more widespread. Years later, after Mao died, Jiang Qing and her Shanghai Clique would be officially charged with the murders of 34,800 people during the Cultural Revolution and the persecution of more than 729,000 others.
Learn more about Mao’s lieutenants Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping.
Rebuilding the Party Apparatus
Under the circumstances, putting Humpty Dumpty back together again would be a daunting task. To whom would the job be entrusted? Because Lin Biao’s PLA had survived the power struggles of the previous two years more or less intact, the army, almost by default, assumed a major role in party reconstruction. And as more and more provinces formed revolutionary committees in the last half of 1968, the vast majority of these new ruling bodies were dominated by uniformed military officers.
Along with the rise in military leadership in the provinces, substantial numbers of civilian party cadres who had been overthrown during the last two years were now cleared of allegations of wrongdoing and restored to active leadership. However, those on Mao’s personal enemies list, people like Liu Shaoqi, his wife Wang Guangmei, Deng Xiaoping, Peng Dehuai, Peng Zhen, and Lo Ruiqing—just to name some of them—remained under a cloud of suspicion. Their exoneration would come only later, in some cases posthumously. For now, they remained condemned as bourgeois power-holders.
This is a transcript from the video series The Fall and Rise of China. Watch it now, on Wondrium.
Where Were the Masses?
There was no small irony in this outcome: The Cultural Revolution had been fought in the name of unleashing the masses; yet when the dust settled, the masses were nowhere to be seen. To be sure, Mao had succeeded in toppling his worst enemies, both real and imagined. But not a single provincial revolutionary committee was headed by a member of Mao’s cherished worker-peasant masses. And his little revolutionary generals, the Red Guards, were nowhere to be seen. The “new boss” looked a whole lot like the “old boss.” The one big difference was that more often than not, the new boss wore a shiny green military uniform with brass stars on the collar.
When the Ninth National Party Congress met in the spring of 1969, it was the first such meeting to be held since the onset of the Great Leap Forward more than a decade earlier. Predictably, its main theme was “party rebuilding”. Also not surprisingly, the army was highly conspicuous at the Party Congress. Almost 45 percent of the members and alternates of the newly selected Party Central Committee were uniformed military officers. At their head stood Lin Biao, who was now formally designated as Chairman Mao’s successor.
The New Regime
Along with the PLA, the other big winners to emerge from the Ninth Congress were members of the Central Cultural Revolution Group. Two members of that group, Mao’s security chief, Kang Sheng, and the radical theoretician Chen Boda, were added to the Politburo’s inner sanctum, the Standing Committee. Although Jiang Qing was not included on the five-member Standing Committee of the Politburo, she and two other members of her Shanghai Clique were promoted to the Politburo itself.
A scattering of workers and peasants were also chosen to sit on the new Central Committee as tokens of the Maoist commitment to “mass democracy”, but almost without exception, these mass representatives were excluded from leadership positions. In terms of its core leadership, the Chinese Communist Party was now overwhelmingly dominated by two major factional groupings, Lin Biao’s army and the radical leftists of the Cultural Revolution Group.
Learn more about the Children’s Crusade.
Lin Biao’s Address
Standing at the head of the reconstituted CCP were the only two holdovers from the party’s pre-Cultural Revolution leadership group: Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou. When Lin Biao delivered the keynote address to the Ninth Party Congress, he declared that the Cultural Revolution had won a great victory against the forces of revisionism in China. Wrapping himself tightly in Mao’s mantle, he declared that the “Thought of Mao Zedong” had achieved co-equal status with Marxism and Leninism as the main source of doctrinal orthodoxy throughout the world.
With the country having so recently drawn back from the edge of anarchy, Lin Biao was also extremely cognizant of the need to rebuild the shattered unity and morale of the Communist Party. So, even as he was trumpeting the brilliance of Chairman Mao, Lin held out an olive branch to Mao’s defeated foes, welcoming their contribution to national healing.
Common Questions about the Ninth National Party Congress in China
Jiang Qing and her Shanghai Clique were officially charged with the murders of 34,800 people during the Cultural Revolution and the persecution of more than 729,000 others.
In the Ninth National Party Congress, the army was highly conspicuous. Almost 45 percent of the members and alternates of the newly selected Party Central Committee were uniformed military officers.
Along with the PLA, the other big winners to emerge from the Ninth Congress were members of the Central Cultural Revolution Group. Two members of that group, Mao’s security chief, Kang Sheng, and the radical theoretician, Chen Boda, were added to the Standing Committee.