Mao Zedong’s Monsters and Demons 牛鬼蛇神

The two 1966 editorials from the People’s Daily reprinted here relate to the themes touched on in our discussion of the Ghost Festival. In the first, ‘Sweep Away All Monsters and Demons’, published on 1 June 1966, in effect declares all enemies of the Communist Party and its enterprise, including those who have survived from the days before 1949 living in the People’s Republic of China, to be little more than subhumans. Here they are excoriated in word, within weeks they would be physically attacked and denounced, their homes ransacked, their families persecuted.

The rhetorical violence of the early Cultural Revolution, and the mass hysteria that it engendered, had real world consequences and, in many cases it led to the torture, persecution and murder of individuals who were deemed to be beyond the pale of the revolution and the salvation proffered by Mao Zedong Thought.

The second editorial, ‘Revolutionary Big-character Posters are Devil-deflecting Mirrors that Reveal all Monsters and Demons’ (in Chinese only), claims that the best way to reveal the heinous true appearance of the Monsters and Demons that threaten China’s revolution is to use a modern-day ‘Devil-deflecting Mirror’ 照妖鏡: the big-character poster. Traditionally, devil-deflecting mirrors were thought to reflect the real appearance of a noxious spirit, ghost or wraith. The true mien of the spirit thus revealed would also scare the spectre away. Such mirrors are still regularly used by households in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the People’s Republic. (When I lived with friends in Wanchai, Hong Kong, in the late 1970s their neighbours, fearful of the sudden appearance of a ‘foreign devil’ 鬼佬, hung a devil-deflecting mirror on their front door, which I passed whenever I entered or left my friends’ apartment.)


Chen Boda 陳伯達, one of the great stylists of New China Newspeak 新華文體, was the main writer of both of these editorials. His style, and ideas, held sway after the pro-Mao faction took over the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, on 31 May 1966.

Chen had come to fame in the 1940s with the publication of such works as Public Enemy Chiang Kai-shek 人民公敵蔣介石, and for a time he served as one of Mao Zedong’s secretaries. He had a hand in drafting the Constitution of the People’s Republic and was head of the Cultural Revolution Leading Group, a body established to take over the role of the Central Committee of the Communist Party as it came under attack in 1966. His powerful style and colourful vitriol played a key role in establishing the hysterical tone of the propaganda, and politics, of the early years of the Cultural Revolution.

Chen suddenly fell from grace in 1970 and, following a period in jail, lived out his days in obscurity. His bombastic form of rhetorical overkill, however, has had an abiding impact on China’s party parole and continues to influence contemporary mainland media hyperbole.

— The Editor, China Heritage

‘The Red Gene’, something that party-state-army leader Xi Jinping claims is hereditary in China’s revolutionary national corpus. This ‘sculpture’ is located at the Babao Shan Cemetery in Beijing.

Sweep Away All Monsters and Demons


People’s Daily Editorial, 1 June 1966

An upsurge is occurring in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in socialist China whose population accounts for one quarter of the world’s total. 一个无产阶级文化大革命的高潮,正在占世界人口1/4的社会主义中国兴起。

For the last few months, in response to the militant call of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman Mao, hundreds of millions of workers, peasants and soldiers and vast numbers of revolutionary cadres and intellectuals, all armed with Mao Tse-tung’s Thought, have been sweeping away a horde of monsters that have entrenched themselves in ideological and cultural positions. With the tremendous and impetuous force of a raging storm, they have smashed the shackles imposed on their minds by the exploiting classes for so long in the past, routing the bourgeois “specialists,” “scholars,” “authorities” and “venerable masters” and sweeping every bit of their prestige into the dust. 在短短的几个月内,在党中央和毛主席的战斗号召下,亿万工农兵群众、广大革命干部和革命的知识分子,以毛泽东思想为武器,横扫盘踞在思想文化阵地上的大量牛鬼蛇神。其势如暴风骤雨,迅猛异常,打碎了多少年来剥削阶级强加在他们身上的精神枷锁,把所谓资产阶级的“专家”、“学者”、“权威”、“祖师爷”打得落花流水,使他们威风扫地。

Chairman Mao has taught us that class struggle does not cease in China after the socialist transformation of the system of ownership has in the main been completed. He said:

The class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the class struggle between different political forces, and the class struggle in the ideological field between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie will continue to be long and tortuous and at times will even become very acute. The proletariat seeks to transform the world according to its own world outlook, and so does the bourgeoisie. In this respect, the question of which will win out, socialism or capitalism, is still not really settled.

The class struggle in the ideological field between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie has been very acute right through the sixteen years since China’s liberation. The current great socialist Cultural Revolution is precisely a continuation and development of this struggle. The struggle is inevitable. The ideology of the proletariat and the ideology of all the exploiting classes are diametrically opposed to each other and cannot coexist in peace. The Proletarian Revolution is a revolution to abolish all exploiting classes and all systems of exploitation; it is a most thoroughgoing revolution to bring about the gradual elimination of the differences between workers and peasants, between town and country, and between mental and manual laborers. This cannot but meet with the most stubborn from the exploiting classes. 毛主席教导我们,在我国,在所有制的社会主义改造基本完成以后,阶级斗争并没有结束。“无产阶级和资产阶级之间的阶级斗争,各派政治力量之间的阶级斗争,无产阶级和资产阶级之间在意识形态方面的阶级斗争,是长时期的,曲折的,有时甚至是很激烈的。无产阶级要按照自己的世界观改造世界,资产阶级也要按照自己的世界观改造世界。在这一方面,社会主义和资本主义之间谁胜谁负的问题还没有真正解决。”我国解放16年以来无产阶级和资产阶级在意识形态领域内的阶级斗争,一直是十分激烈的。目前的社会主义文化大革命,正是这个斗争的继续发展。这场斗争是不可避免的。无产阶级和一切剥削阶级的意识形态是根本对立的,是不能和平共处的。无产阶级革命,是要消灭一切剥削阶级、消灭一切剥削制度的革命,是要逐步消灭工农之间、城乡之间、脑力劳动和体力劳动之间的差别的最彻底的革命,这不能不遇到剥削阶级最顽强的反抗。

In every revolution the basic question is that of state power. In all branches of the superstructure ideology, religion, art, law, state power — the central issue is state power. State power means everything, Without it, all will be lost. Therefore, no matter how many problems have to be tackled after the conquest of state power, the proletariat must never forget state power, never forget its orientation and never lose sight of the central issue. Forgetting about state power means forgetting about politics, forgetting about the basic theses of Marxism and switching to economism, anarchism and utopianism and becoming muddle-headed. In the last analysis, the class struggle in the ideological field between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is a struggle for leadership. The exploiting classes have been disarmed and deprived of their authority by the people, but their reactionary ideas remain rooted in their minds. We have overthrown their rule and confiscated their property, but this does not mean that we have rid their minds of reactionary ideas as well. During the thousands of years of their rule over the working people, the exploiting classes monopolized the culture created by the working people and in turn used it to deceive, fool and benumb the working people in order to consolidate their reactionary state power. For thousands of years, theirs was the dominant ideology which inevitably exerted widespread influence in society. Not reconciled to the overthrow of their reactionary rule, they invariably try to make use of this influence of theirs surviving from the past to shape public opinion in preparation for the political and economic restoration of capitalism. The uninterrupted struggle on the ideological and cultural front in the sixteen years from liberation up to the current exposure of the black anti-Party and anti-socialist line of the “Three-Family Villages,” big and small, has been a struggle between the forces attempting restoration and the for! ces opposing restoration. 革命的根本问题是政权问题。上层建筑的各个领域,意识形态、宗教、艺术、法律、政权,最中心的是政权。有了政权,就有了一切。没有政权,就丧失一切。因此,无产阶级在夺取政权之后,无论有着怎样千头万绪的事,都永远不要忘记政权,不要忘记方向,不要失掉中心。忘记了政权,就是忘记了政治,忘记了马克思主义的根本观点。变成了经济主义无政府主义、空想主义,那就是糊涂人。无产阶级和资产阶级之间在意识形态领域内的阶级斗争,归根到底,就是争夺领导权的斗争。剥削阶级的枪杆子被缴械了,印把子被人民夺过来了,但是,他们脑袋里的反动思想还存在着。我们推翻了他们的统治,没收了他们的财产,并不等于没收了他们脑袋里的反动思想,剥削阶级统治了劳动人民几千年,他们垄断了由劳动人民创造的文化,反过来用以欺骗、愚弄、麻醉劳动人民,巩固他们的反动政权。几千年来,他们的思想是统治的思想,在社会上不能不有广泛的影响。他们的反动统治被推翻以后,他们是不死心的,总是企图利用他们过去这类的影响,为资本主义在政治上、经济上的复辟进行舆论准备。解放16年来思想文化战线上的连续不断地斗争,直到这次大大小小“三家村”反党反社会主义黑线的被揭露,就是一场复辟和反复辟的斗争。

In order to seize state power, the bourgeoisie during the period of the Bourgeois Revolution likewise started with ideological preparations by launching the Bourgeois Cultural Revolution. Even the Bourgeois Revolution, which replaced one exploiting class by another, had to undergo repeated reversals and witness many struggles — revolution, then restoration and then the overthrow of restoration. It took many European countries hundreds of years to complete their bourgeois revolutions from the start of the ideological preparations to the final conquest of state power. Since the Proletarian Revolution is a revolution aimed at completely ending all systems of exploitation, it is still less permissible to imagine that the exploiting classes will meekly allow the proletariat to deprive them of all their privileges without seeking to restore their rule. The surviving members of these classes who are unreconciled will inevitably, as Lenin put it, throw themselves with a tenfold furious passion into the battle for the recovery of their lost paradise. The fact that the Khrushchev revisionist clique has usurped the leadership of the Party, army and state in the Soviet Union is an extremely serious lesson for the proletariat throughout the world. At present the representatives of the bourgeoisie, the bourgeois “scholars” and “authorities” in China are dreaming precisely of restoring capitalism. Though their political rule has been toppled, they are still desperately trying to maintain their academic “authority,” mould public opinion for a comeback and win over the masses, the youth and the generations yet unborn from us. 在资产阶级革命时期,资产阶级为了夺取政权,也是首先从意识形态上进行准备,搞资产阶级的文化革命。资产阶级革命是由一个剥削阶级代替另一个剥削阶级,尚且要经过多次反复,经过多少次的革命、复辟和反复辟的斗争。资产阶级革命从思想准备到夺取政权,在欧洲的许多国家,都进行了几百年之久。无产阶级革命是彻底结束一切剥削制度的革命,更不能幻想剥削阶级会乖乖地听任无产阶级剥夺他们的一切特权,而不想恢复他们的统治。他们人还在,心不死,必然要象列宁所说的那样,以十倍的疯狂,来企图恢复他们失去的天堂。赫鲁晓夫修正主义集团在苏联篡党,篡军,篡政,这个事实,对全世界无产阶级说来,是一个非常严重的教训。目前中国那些资产阶级代表人物,那些资产阶级“学者权威”,他们所做的,就是资本主义复辟的梦。他们的政治统治被推翻了,但是他们还是要拼命维持所谓学术“权威”,制造复辟舆论,同我们争夺群众,争夺年青一代和将来一代。

The anti-feudal cultural revolution waged by the bourgeoisie ended as soon as it had seized power. The Proletarian Cultural Revolution, however, is a cultural revolution against the ideology of all exploiting classes. This Cultural Revolution is entirely different from the bourgeois cultural revolution. It is only after the creation of the political, economic and cultural prerequisites following the capture of state power by the proletariat that the broadest road is opened up for the Proletarian Cultural Revolution. 资产阶级进行反封建的文化革命,到夺得政权的时候就结束了。无产阶级的文化革命,是反对一切剥削阶级意识形态的文化革命。这种文化革命的性质,同资产阶级的文化革命是截然不同的。这种文化革命,只有在无产阶级夺得政权以后,取得了政治的、经济的、文化的先决条件,才能为这种文化革命开辟最广阔的道路。

The Proletarian Cultural Revolution is aimed not only at demolishing all the old ideology and culture and all the old customs and habits, which, fostered by the exploiting classes, have poisoned the minds of the people for thousands of years, but also at creating and fostering among the masses an entirely new ideology and culture and entirely new customs and habits — those of the proletariat. This great task of transforming customs and habits is without any precedent in human history. As for all the heritage, customs and habits of the feudal and bourgeois classes, the proletarian world outlook must be used to subject them to thoroughgoing criticism. It takes time to clear away the evil habits of the old society from among the people. Nevertheless, our experience since liberation proves that the transformation of customs and habits can be accelerated if the masses are fully mobilized, the mass line is implemented and the transformation is made into a genuine mass movement. 无产阶级文化革命,是要彻底破除几千年来一切剥削阶级所造成的毒害人民的旧思想、旧文化、旧风俗、旧习惯,在广大人民群众中,创造和形成崭新的无产阶级的新思想、新文化、新风俗、新习惯。这是人类历史上空前未有的移风易俗的伟大事业。对于封建阶级和资产阶级的一切遗产、风俗、习惯,都必须用无产阶级的世界观加以透彻的批判。在人民生活中清除旧社会的恶习,是需要时间的。但是,解放以来的经验证明,如果充分发动了群众,走群众路线,使移风易俗成为真正广大的群众运动,那末,见效就可能快起来。

As the Bourgeois Cultural Revolution served only a small number of people, i.e., the new exploiting class, only a small number of people could participate in it. The Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the broad masses of the working people and is in the interests of the working people who constitute the overwhelming majority of the population. It is therefore able to attract and unite the broad masses of the working people to take part in it. The bourgeois individuals who carried out the enlightenment invariably looked down upon the masses, treated them as a mob and considered themselves as the predestined masters of the people. In sharp contrast, proletarian ideological revolutionaries serve the people heart and soul with the object of awakening them, and work for the interests of the broadest masses. 资产阶级的文化革命,是为少数新剥削阶级服务的,它只能由少数人参加,无产阶级的文化革命,是为广大劳动人民服务的,和最大多数劳动人民的利益是一致的。所以,这能吸引和团结广大劳动人民参加。资产阶级启蒙人物总是卑视群众,把群众当作愚民,把自己看成是人民的当然支配者。无产阶级思想革命家同他们根本相反,是全心全意为人民服务的,目的是在唤起人民群众的自觉,为最广大的人民群众的利益而奋斗。

The bourgeoisie, with its base selfishness, is unable to suppress its hatred for the masses. Marx said:

The peculiar nature of the material it [political economy] deals with, summons as foes into the field of battle the most violent, mean and malignant passions of the human breast, the furies of private interest.

This also holds for the bourgeoisie when it has been overthrown. 资产阶级的卑鄙的自私自利,抑制不住自己对于人民群众的仇恨心。马克思说:“政治经济学所研究的材料的特殊性质,会把人心中最激烈最卑鄙最恶劣的感情,代表私人利益的仇神,召唤到战场上来反对它。” 被推翻了的资产阶级也还是这样。

The scale and momentum of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution now being carried on in China have no parallel in history, and the tremendous drive and momentum and boundless wisdom of the working people manifested in the movement far exceed the imagination of the lords of the bourgeoisie. Facts have eloquently proved that Mao Tse-tung’s Thought becomes a moral atom bomb of colossal power once it takes hold of the masses. The current great cultural revolution is immensely advancing the socialist cause of the Chinese people and undoubtedly exerting an incalculable, far-reaching influence upon the present and future of the world. 目前,我国无产阶级文化大革命的规模和声势,在人类历史上还不曾有过,它的威力之大,来势之猛,在运动中所迸发出的劳动人民无限的智慧,远远超出了资产阶级老爷们的想象。事实雄辩地证明,毛泽东思想一旦掌握了群众,就成为威力无穷的精神原子弹。这一场文化大革命,正在大大推动中国人民社会义事业的前进,也必将对世界的现在和未来,发生不可估量的深远影响。

‘Sweep Away Monsters and Demons’, Red Guard propaganda poster, 1968.

The stormy Cultural Revolution now under way in our country has thrown the imperialists, the modern revisionists and the reactionaries of all countries into confusion and panic. At one moment, they indulge in wishful thinking saying that our Great Cultural Revolution has shown that there are hopes of “a peaceful evolution” on the part of China’s younger generation. A moment later, they become pessimistic, saying that all this has shown that Communist rule remains very stable. Then again, they seem to be fearfully puzzled, saying that it will never be possible to find genuine “China hands” who can promptly pass accurate judgment on what is taking place in China. Dear Sirs, your wishful thinking invariably runs counter to the march of the history. The triumphant progress of this great and unparalleled Cultural Revolution of the proletariat is already sounding the death knell not only of the remnant capitalist forces on Chinese soil, but of imperialism, modern revisionism and all reaction. Your days are numbered. 我国轰轰烈烈的文化大革命,引起了帝国主义、现代修正主义和各国反动派的惊慌和混乱。他们一会儿想入非非,说什么我们的文化大革命,表明了中国下一代“和平演变”已经有了希望呀;他们一会儿又悲观失望,说什么一切消息表明,共产党的统治还是十分巩固呀;他们一会儿又表现出无限迷茫,说什么要对中国所发生的事情随时作出准确判断的真正的“中国通”是永远不可能有的呀。亲爱的先生们,你们的胡思乱想总是同历史的发展背道而驰的。人类历史上空前的这一场无产阶级文化大革命的开展和胜利,敲响了中国土地上残存的资本主义势力的丧钟,也敲响了帝国主义、现代修正主义和一切反动派的丧钟。你们的日子不会长久了。

Illuminated by the great Mao Tse-tung’s Thought, let us carry the Proletarian Cultural Revolution through to the end. Its victory will certainly further strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat in our country, guarantee the completion of the socialist revolution on all fronts and ensure our successful transition from socialism to triumphant communism! 让我们在伟大的毛泽东思想的光辉照耀下,将无产阶级文化革命 进行到底。这一场文化革命的胜利,必将进一步巩固我国无产阶级专 政,保证我们在各个战线上把社会主义革命进行到底,保证我们将由 社会主义胜利地过渡到伟大的共产主义!

Revolutionary Big-character Posters are Devil-deflecting Mirrors that Reveal all Monsters and Demons


《人民日报》一九六六年六月二十日, 社论