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Salient. Official Newspaper of Victoria University Students Assn. Volume 40, Number 1. May 23, 1977.

Chinese Govt. Falsifies History

Chinese Govt. Falsifies History

Since Mao Tse-tung died news from China has been concerned with one issue: the purge of the "Gang of Four". The campaign against the "Four Dogs" has been a vitriolic one, using all the resources of state propaganda. But it has reached a pinnacle of bizarreness with the making of Chiang Ch'ing Wang Hung-wen, Chang Chu'un-ch'iao and Yao Wen-yuan into unpersons. They have "disappeared" from official photographs, as shown here in the examples of two photographs, before and after the "Gang's" erasure.

The first two photos show an official tribute to the late Chairman Mao: the first appeared in Peking Review, September 24 1976, and the second in Renmin Hua Bao November 1976 (see photos overleaf). In the post-purge version the four missing names are replaced by x's.

The second scene is a famous one; it depicts Chairman Mao and, in the first photograph, his wife Chiang Ch'ing, in the Shensi province, during the Civil War, 1947. In the 1976 edition "Madam Mao" is replaced by a valley.

Why the Pictures Changed

Why has this extraordinary falsification of history occurred under the direction of the Chinese government?

The fight against Chiang Ch'ing and Co. is a struggle within the bureaucracy in China, who have always denied the Chinese people basic information, because information is the basis of people making a democratic decision. That's the last thing that the bureaucrats want to happen, since their rule is based on the suppression of democracy.

The campaign against the "Gang of Four" has also revealed a great deal not just about the purged leaders but also about the victorious faction of the bureaucracy. It has shown the total disregard of these people for democratic rights. It has also exposed the privileged conditions that the ruling elite in China enjoys - for example Chiang-Ch'ing has been attacked for her indulgence in Western movies when such movies are barred for the Chinese masses.

The Dominion of May 14 gave another example as told by Richard Nixon: "He described Chairman Mao's cultured office, his 'very fine, delicate hands' and how 'pretty Chinese girls' had lifted the ailing Chinese leader in his final days." The existence of the purged leaders in photographs of the line-up of the ruling elite is damning evidence that associates Hua Kuo-feng and his new "Gang" with the same privileges.

This historical falsification is an old tactic of the Chinese regime. When Liu Shiao-chi was jettisoned from his place as Mao's successor in 1969, all the copies of Mao's "Little Red Book" that included an introduction by Liu were withdrawn from circulation, and new ones were issued with the introduction gone.

And this slash and burn approach to history by the Chinese regime is no accident. It is done because the rulers of China are set firmly in the tradition of Stalinism, which is marked by totalitarian rule that brooks no genuine socialist democracy, and depicts itself as infallible. To do this it has to erase the evidence of past mistakes, or to scrub out past leaders who have fallen out of favour. Joseph Stalin systematized this method against Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition which Trotsky led. Trotsky was eliminated from photographs that showed him with Lenin, his fellow-leader of the Russian revolution, his books were banned (and still are) and he was eventually killed by a Stalinist agent.

Challenge to NZ Maoists

These photographs symbolise an urgent question that faces the New Zealand supporters of Maoism, such [unclear: as the] editor of Salient. Will they [unclear: cor e] to uncritically accept whatever the Chinese leadership says as the absolute truth? Or will they learn from this most recent example of an official cover-up?

While I hope that the New Zealand Maoists balance their support for China with criticism of the repressive bureaucracy there, I cannot be optimistic that they will do do so. They still seem to be dedicated to following every word of whoever's number one in Peking. For example, the Salient editor applauds the alteration of the photographs as "a cultural purge". In Salient this year the Young Socialists have been denied article space, while the newspaper is laden with Maoist-tinged items and slanders against the Young Socialists. In their own small way, they set about falsifying history to serve their own narrow ends: in one issue of Salient they printed a letter ascribed to me which the editor knew that I had not written (Salients 27 March and 4 April 1977).

In New Zealand more and more people are questioning the New Zealand government's secrecy and hiding of facts; freedom of information is seen as a basic right which is denied us. It is all the more horrifying to see a government of a post-capitalist country using the same practices. This latest example should be opposed strongly. If we do not speak out against such distortions we are helping the Chinese bureaucracy lie to the Chinese people, who were the real motive force of the great Chinese revolution.

In original photograph Chiang Ch'ing is first on Mao's right; note how she disappears.

In original photograph Chiang Ch'ing is first on Mao's right; note how she disappears.