Sunday, December 5, 2010

Morning Sun - Carma Hinton

The Cultural Revolution was probably the only original feature of the Chinese Revolution. Until the mid 1960s, the Revolution did not deviate considerably from what happened in other armed struggles, either bourgeois or socialist: purges and betrayals inside the winning faction, national unification promoted to face external threats, and personality cult, were features common to the revolutions lived in France, Mexico or Russia. Even the Great Leap Forward was inspired on Russia's agricultural policies implemented by Stalin in the early 1920s. 

The Cultural Revolution was a really innovative idea both from a practical and a theoretical perspective. From a practical perspective, the Cultural Revolution was Mao's opportunity to consolidate his position as the sole leader of China right after the Great Leap Forward. When his leadership was stumbling: Mao encouraged the expression of all discontents and grievances for 11 years in order to get rid firstly of any potential challengers within the Communist Party and then of any independent thought outside the Party's structure. In his view, the irrational violence lived during the period was, as we would say now, "collateral damage." From a theoretical perspective, the Cultural Revolution was the most ambitious experiment to revolutionize revolution itself ever. The idea behind the Cultural Revolution was to take break away with the past in every sense.

The historical and political aspects of the Cultural Revolution at the macro level are relatively clear. What we still have to determine are the effects of the Cultural Revolution on the ordinary people who lived it. While pundits often praise China for carrying the most ambitious capitalist revolution in History, they often forget that the people who are turning China into a bourgeois society were the children who denounced their parents for being "counterrevolutionary" during China's Cultural Revolution. The aversion to democracy of the Party's leadership can be partly explained by the psychological effects that mob rule as applied during the Cultural Revolution had on them.

Morning Sun  is an amazing documentary about the daily live of China during the cultural revolution. This movie does not only present  pictures and films unpublished in the West, but also interviews Chinese people who lived during that process -some of them, children of former leaders of the Communist Party. The fact that  Chinese citizens dared to speak with a Western filmmaker about the Cultural Revolution should not be underestimated. Interestingly, while all the Chinese people interviewed in the film acknowledge their initial enthusiasm with the Cultural Revolution, none of them recognizes to have participated in the lynchings.

Here is the website of Morning Sun, which contains several documents and pictures of the Cultural Revolution. The film is not available for purchase in Amazon, but you can buy it in the website of the Center for Asian American Media.

Photo: Tianamen Gate, March 2010

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