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  • Introduction:Global Maoism and Cultural Revolutions in the Global Context
  • Wang Ning (bio)

When we talk about the cultural revolution in general, we usually refer to two things. First is the cultural revolution in its narrow sense, that is, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (wuchanjieji wenhua da geming), which is actually a social–political movement that took place in China between 1966 and 1976. The other refers to all the revolutions in the world in its broad sense, which start from the cultural sphere, including the French May Storm and Iran’s Islamic Cultural Revolution. The present special issue will cover the first two, but will not deal with the Islamic Cultural Revolution. It will center around the Chinese Cultural Revolution and its influence worldwide, especially in the Western countries and Japan.

As we know, in the current international academia, discussing the cultural revolution, especially China’s Cultural Revolution and the French May Storm, has been more and more attractive to scholars both in the East and West.1 It is indeed an innovative theoretical topic which has not yet been adequately discussed. It is true that such a Marxist cultural revolution appeared and soon swept the whole world almost at the same time. In China, launched by Mao Zedong, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution started in 1966 and ended in 1976 after Mao’s death, which is obviously the longest and most influential “cultural revolution,” as well as social and political revolution, in the twentieth century. It is now designated as a “ten-year turmoil” (shinian dongluan) with numerous people killed during those years. And it caused deadly damage to the Chinese economy and people’s lives. But from today’s point of view, we have no difficulty finding that the legacy of this sort of cultural revolution, whether positive or negative, is still very valuable for us to research. Frankly speaking, the legacy of the Cultural Revolution [End Page 1] and its research value has not yet been fully recognized, either historically or academically. Historically speaking, it should not merely be regarded as a disaster brought to the Chinese people paralyzing the country politically, socially, culturally, and economically, but also should be viewed as a unique, global Marxist revolutionary experience of Chinese characteristics which certainly helped to form a sort of “Sinicized” Marxism: Mao Zedong Thought, or simply Maoism.

As we know, within the Chinese territory, the term “Maoism” has never been used, largely because Mao himself did not like this term. He would rather use a more modest term: Mao Zedong Thought, since in Chinese zhuyi (ism) is more universal and formal while sixiang (thought) is more individual and personal. But ironically speaking, internationally, Mao’s thought has always been called Maoism not only by the Marxists and left-wing people in the West, but also by all those who are interested in it and put it into effect in their revolutionary practice. We could say that the birth of Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism in the Chinese context was largely due to the coming of Marxism in China. Even before the founding of the PRC, Mao had already put forward his creative and pragmatic application of Marxist principles to the practical Chinese social reality. With the combination of Marxist fundamental principles with Chinese practice, Mao led the Chinese Communist Party to overthrow the Nationalist regime by armed struggle with “countryside surrounding cities” (nongcun baowei chengshi) and finally founded socialist new China. Also ironically speaking, Liu Shaoqi, former president of the PRC who was among the first to put forward the idea of Mao Zedong Thought, became the major victim during Mao’s cultural revolutionary practice, largely due to his “anti-Party, anti-socialism, and anti–Mao Zedong Thought.” Thus a ten-year cultural revolution became a political revolution of one class overthrowing another. People might well ask these questions: What is the cultural situation in such a revolutionary period? Or further, what is the literary creation and criticism at the time? These are the topics that most of the essays in this special issue will explore.

Actually, after the victory of the Chinese revolution, Mao’s thought was increasingly admired by those Western Marxists who also...


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