Breaking with Old Ideas

By our Co-op Revolutionary Cinema Director

After 28 years of arduous struggle against feudalism and imperialism, and proclamation of a People’s Republic in October 1949, Mao Zedong had emphasised that it was the beginning of an even more protracted struggle.

The party of workers and peasants had come into power in 1949 but this did not lead to an automatic revolutionary transformation.

Class struggle which would determine whether the course of development would take a capitalist or socialist path was faced with the enormous weight of cultural production of the last 25 centuries which disguised domination by exploiting classes as the natural order of things.

The weight of this cultural legacy was not lifted with the defeat of feudalism but continued to determine how much justice was too much justice for the peasant and working people. This legacy – which exists throughout the world in particular forms – deems peasants and working people best suited for the tasks of obedience, would have to be countered through revolution in the cultural sphere so that social conditions could be created which would allow redistribution of political power to collectives of the workers and peasants and thus enable socialist transformation in the economic sphere.

The Cultural Revolution which began in 1966 was understood not the initial, and not the only, but one in a series of such concerted efforts which would be needed to accelerate the process of social transformation. It came after a period of 17 years in which each policy which accorded greater decision-making power to the workers and peasants, which insisted on regeneration of the peasant society, had to be contested and it began at a time when there had come to be a consolidation of proponents of right-wing policies in positions of authority within the Communist Party. This consolidation created an impasse which threatened a decisive move towards the capitalist direction of development.

Similar to every effort that dominated and struggling people have made, exploiting classes have used the powerful media apparatus at their disposal to associate the Cultural Revolution with stories of excess and a period in which democratic freedoms narrowed.

It is good fortune that a film such as Breaking with Old Ideas exists because not everything can be conveyed through words at once, and against the narratives established by the organs of the exploiting classes which are forever in operation to inculcate defeatism and alienation, such art is essential for understanding people’s struggles. Such understanding in turn is necessary to do justice to people’s efforts, to learn from these efforts and to renew and extend them.

These books can be useful for greater context:

– Wind in the Tower: Mao Tsetung and the Chinese Revolution 1949-1975 by Han Suyin (1976)

– The Future of Maoism by Samir Amin (1983)

– Turning Point in China by William Hinton (1972)

Breaking with old ideas – Co-op revolutionary cinema!