The East Is Red

There’s a scene in the film, Mao’s Last Dancer, in which a group of children sing The East Is Red in a schoolhouse. The lyrics to the song struck me as so incredibly fatuous, that for a moment I felt as though I were watching some anti-communist propaganda film paid for with CIA money. I found it hard to believe that those could really be the lyrics, so I looked it up on the Internet.

The East Is Red was the unofficial national anthem of China during the Cultural Revolution. I’m told that it was played over PA systems in the morning and at dusk. These are the lyrics:

The east is red, the sun is rising.
China has brought forth a Mao Zedong.
He works for the people’s welfare.
Hurrah, He is the people’s great savior!
(Repeat last two lines)
Chairman Mao loves the people.
He is our guide
To build a new China.
Hurrah, he leads us forward!
(Repeat last two lines)
The Communist Party is like the sun.
Wherever it shines, it is bright.
Wherever there is a Communist Party,
Hurrah, there the people are liberated!
(Repeat last two lines)

Can you imagine having to listen to this every morning? This is one of the reasons that I’ve never been an admirer of Mao, and I’ve always been wary of people who admire him. The Chinese Revolution was a progressive event, in that it was a massive defeat for Western imperialism and it destroyed feudal relations in the Chinese countryside, but beyond that there’s not much that can really be said for it. Mao’s dictatorship mainly served to carry out the primitive accumulation that has made China’s transition to capitalism possible in recent years.

I had some experiences with Maoists when I lived in Los Angeles. There was a group called the Maoist International Movement (MIM). I never actually met anyone who was in this group, but I would find copies of their newspaper, MIM Notes, lying around at Los Angeles City College. I don’t remember much about it, except that it had an editorial policy of always spelling “America” as “ameriKKKa”. And I bet they thought they were really clever for doing that.

I knew some people who were in the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). They seemed nice, but a bit nutty. They had a bookstore in the downtown area. I went in there once. There was a picture of Stalin on the wall. They had copies of the writings of Marx and Lenin. They also had Selected Writings of Enver Hoxha. (I bet that was a big seller.) The RCP would form front groups, usually “coalitions” centered around local issues, such as police brutality. These would attract anarchists who prided themselves on never working with “Leninists”. Eventually they would realize that the RCP was calling the shots in these groups, and they would get mad and leave. This fits in with a pattern I’ve seen over the years. When one group with a particular agenda attempts to control everything in a coalition, it usually drives other people away.

One Response to “The East Is Red”

  1. ish Says:

    There’s a DVD available of an absolutely amazing 1960s Chinese production of a sort of stage musical called The East Is Red. It’s completely Busby Berkeley a la Mao Zedong, gloriously over the top propaganda.

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