Speculation Chairman Mao Didn’t Write Famous Red Book

Image of Mao Tse-Tung via WikiCommons

Image of Mao Tse-Tung via WikiCommons

The Chinese government’s chief literary institutions are finding it difficult to quash rumours that Mao’s Little Red Book was actually written by ghostwriters. China’s official Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, has published a statement by a spokesperson of the Party Literature Research Centre, the Party History Research Centre and the Party School of the Central Committee of Communist Party of China denying the rumours, according to a report in The Independent.

If the rumours are correct, it would be another bitter historical irony for many older Chinese. The Little Red Book is the nickname of Quotations from Chairman Mao. In the chapter on culture and the arts, for example, Mao (or his ghostwriter) wrote, “Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting the progress of the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.”

The tome, of which some five billion copies were published, assumed scriptural importance during the Cultural Revolution, when, to revitalise the revolution and cement his own authority, Mao called on China’s youth to rebel against their slackening elders. Legions of youths spontaneously formed groups called Red Guards in response. In his book The Corpse Walker, dissident writer Liao Yiwu interviews a former member of the Red Guard who describes the period vividly:

“It was a crazy time … On the street, you would constantly see children carrying Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book and a red sword made of wood. They would stop adults on the street, asking them to recite Chairman Mao’s quotations. If they made one mistake, the children would stab their back with the wooden sword, and force them to start from the beginning. If they continued to make mistakes, children would report them to the Red Guards, and that person could be charged with ‘forgetting Chairman Mao’s words’ [and] could end up getting slapped in the face.”

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