Cultural Revolution Propaganda: Posters & Slogans

Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts is an adjunct instructor in English, film/media studies and interdisciplinary studies.

This lesson explores the political propaganda of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). We we will examine the role of youth, women, and the working class through party slogans and propaganda posters.

Every Year, A Revolution Around the Sun

A revolution marks a rebirth and renewal in political and cultural terms, a new period for rebuilding a nation after a traumatic change. Just as the earth 'revolves' around the sun every year, nations also undergo periodical moments of change. The whole idea of 'revolution' signifies change, rebirth and renewal. In the case of the People's Republic of China, which exists today as a Communist state, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution occurred in 1966. Propaganda represented the proletariat, or working class, as the hero of the revolution.

This lesson explores the culture and politics of the People's Republic of China as it relates to the 1966 revolution.

Forces of Change

The previous decade had experienced famine and economic depression as a result of the Great Leap Forward, a political campaign aimed at modernizing China. By the mid-1960s, the power of the Communist Party of China (CPC) had weakened. Many Socialists felt that the nation was wavering in its values. They viewed the encroachment of Capitalism and the spread of anti-socialism as a threat to China's progress. Mao Zedong, the leader of the Communist Party of China, had lost control of the country.

In 1966, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution to mark the beginning of a period of change and renewal. It incorporated ideological teachings to rally support for Socialism, promoted revolutionary zeal in the nation's youth, and encouraged the working class to feel pride and honor in their professions. The purpose of the movement was to return Communist China to the core values of Socialism and Maoism. The Communist Party sought to purify the nation from Capitalist tendencies and vestiges of traditional culture. It entailed military aggression, purging anti-socialist politicians from power and reinforcing the hold of Communism in China.

Lin Biao, a Chinese politician, was represented as an enemy of socialism. His fall from power in 1971 marked a major change for China. One party slogan summed up the message of the Cultural Revolution: 'Criticize Lin Biao and Confucius.' As the Cultural Revolution encouraged youth to reexamine the political party and its ideological roots of Socialism in China, Mao's goal was to remove Capitalist sympathizers from power. Lin Biao was a figurehead of what was going wrong with the nation. The ancient philosopher Confucius was also a target, representing the persistence of tradition that needed to be stamped out in order to progress into a bright future.

Propaganda

This poster, entitled 'Advance Courageously Under the Guidance of the Red Flag of Mao Zedong Thought' (1966), combines the ubiquitous Mao bust (left) with a crowd depicting every facet of the Chinese nation: Students, farmers, military, revolutionaries, politician, children, industrial workers, etc.

Advance Courageously Under the Guidance of the Red Flag of Mao Zedong Thought (1966)
Mao Bust

The political and cultural campaign promoted the revolutionary spirit of the nation's youth. Known as the Red Guard, young Socialists across the country were not only encouraged but compelled to act out and rise to action for the sake of promoting the revolution. In political propaganda, the Red Guard was featured as the driving force of the revolution. One Red Guard slogan decreed 'To rebel is justified.' This phrase served to support revolutionary action among youth against forms of authority.

Book cover of Selected Works by Mao Zedong depict three young Red Guards.
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