Which cultural revolution has China influenced?

"Mystification of the Cultural Revolution"

S.ippel: As part of the preparation for the interview, I have a statement from you at the conference “China between the past and the future“Found in 2006 on the website of the Federal Agency for Civic Education. There Comment on the monumentalization of history that is taking place in the PRC through state funding for museums or the museumization of national history, speak on the other hand but also from one "Memory allergy“The generation of Chinese who came into the 70s immediately after the "Hot phase“Were born of the Cultural Revolution. How influenced In your opinion, this contradiction in dealing with history their processing?

S.ausmikat: For me this is not a contradiction, but one thing determines the other. In the 1990s there was a massive reduction of history to a very specific selection of episodes from the Cultural Revolution in museums, television series and literature. Stereotypes and certain aspects were magnified, others were left out and negated. This provoked backlash. One of those backlashes is what I've called a "memory allergy," a type of defense. We also know this from German history: at the end of the 1970s, when the Holocaust was intensively discussed, especially in its violent dimension, there was a defensive reaction on the part of the adolescents. On the one hand, this leads to people ignoring history, which I would call a “memory allergy”. On the other hand, it also leads to counter-narratives and differentiations of these very monolithic histories in the museums or in the commemorative documents that are published.

Sipple: Here closes the question for parallels or similarn phenomenan in Germany that you have just mentioned, for example the occurrence of xenophobia, or that one can read German history in the Second World War relativized. Would you say this is more likely is to be interpreted as a counter-reaction or defense mechanism, or that the desire becomes clear to bring in your own interpretation of history?

Sausmikat: First of all, this analogical swing to xenophobia in Germany is difficult to understand. I think it is possible to draw parallels. The fact is: if one's own history is not dealt with, or only very specific parts are dealt with, if amnesia is promoted and a large complex of topics cannot be addressed, of course there is a residue that will continue in the following generations and the integration of the following generation in the "new" China difficult.

Similar processes can be observed in the coming to terms with GDR history or the transition from fascist Germany to the GDR regime and later to the unified Germany. We know that from German history, these are also unprocessed fates and a lot of fears that were not addressed in the parents' generation and thus catapult the following generation into the new history with the guilt and the burden. The following generations in Germany and China grew into post-cultural revolutionary China or post-war Germany with a very reduced image and knowledge of history.

Margarete Mitscherlich described this as the "inability to mourn". We find similar phenomena in China: the museumisation of memory and de-emotionalisation lead to a reduction in the complexity of history. What was important for the Cultural Revolution, namely the educational movement and zhiqingMovement in the early 1960s, may no longer be discussed. Specifically with regard to land deportation policy, the deportees cannot even claim that what they experienced there, such as the persecution in the countryside, was a genuine cultural revolutionary problem, but that this movement was in retrospect as a product of the Cultural Revolution peeled out. It could no longer be described as a cultural revolutionary movement, but as a revolutionary movement whose roots were traced back to the 1920s. This also left these people speechless. They were instrumentalized in the 1990s as a collective that supports power. Some of the protagonists like to make use of this as a kind of protective collective. But the terribly brutal persecution of young people in the country, all the factional struggles that have taken place in the country, these facets of history cannot be found in the museums or in the memoirs. This of course leads to a conflict in China in the 1990s / 2000s with these groups of people.

Sipple: I.n ihIn the book and your lecture, you plead for a public review of individual fates not as a private matter, but rather in the sense of a socialn discourseit. How appreciate the importance of stater efforts to interpret history compared to a more public presentationmanagement of individual fates a?

An example would be the film "Not worth mentioning" by Hu Jie [1], which we saw in the seminar, which is about the story of the murder of the teacher Bian Zhongyun and her bereaved husband, who is about a public reappraisal of this History endeavored.

Sausmikat: Much more films like this one by Hu Jie would be needed, they are extremely valuable. But it is very difficult to make such films and describe such individual fates. Using Anne Frank, Primo Levi once made it very clear how much this portrayal of an individual's fate promotes understanding. This is significantly more effective than talking about collective groups or collective fates, because the whole discrepancy and complexity of history becomes clear in such individual fates. That is exactly the problem, what we are missing. The reappraisal moves in monuments or stereotypes, and as a result all this contradiction and what actually led to the excesses of violence, the ambiguity in the political movements, the arbitrariness, the different fates, are lost and no longer has any place. This can of course be illustrated very clearly in the description of individual fates. In addition, the film is very moving, and all such films that evoke strong emotions naturally stay in the memory, and perhaps also ensure that larger groups feel urged to deal more with the topic of coming to terms with it. I believe that for the future of any nation, dealing with the past is extremely important in order to learn and deal responsibly with the future.

Sipple: There is the phenomenon after very traumatic episodes in a society that there is retrospectively a glorification of the zeitgeist of that time. That goes beyond pure nostalgia as there is also on descendant geneerations, but also to contemporary witnesses. Do you see this as problematic in principle, or under certain conditions? Keywords would be for example Ostalgie or resorting to propaganda art from Maoist China, such as for example the paintingde by Andy Warhol.

Sausmikat: Yes, I have tried to make that clear several times - I think it is very problematic because it is ultimately a mechanism of repression and represents vessels of meaning or sleeves of meaning. Andy Warhol is now left out, but these processes of glorification or the production of new heroes as bearers of a certain morality or attitude, in the case of party loyalty, can be seen well in the coming to terms with young people who have been deported to the country or Red Guards. You can trace very precisely which images operate which functions. [Aleida] Assman [2] once said this, referring to Freud: repression is the best kind of preservation. In this glorification or the new hero myth, repression mechanisms take place, which began with the court rulings in the 80s. At that time, attempts were already made to differentiate between groups of perpetrators and victims, and then in the 1990s to fix them using this meta-narrative, so that these mechanisms of repression were really cemented. The more solid these images are, the more difficult it is to tear down these monuments again, or to carve out small niches for yourself, in which one can depict what actually makes up the complexity of memory in all its facets. It is a great displacement that takes place in the East German Ostalgie or the current mystification of the cultural revolution. Responsibility is lost because one does not know or is no longer clear about the devastating consequences that went along with it. Quite apart from the excesses of violence, which are not discussed.

Sipple: This is certainly something that the increased presence of individual fates can help to come to terms with. You can see differences in such processes among contemporary witnesses in China or other areas in Asia, of whom we also heard yesterday (in lectures as part of the workshop, editor's note), and among old Maoists in the West like those yesterday as well addressedochenen K-groups who felt close to the ideology?

Sausmikat: Differences between the K-Groups and Old Maoists?

Sipple: No (both laugh) differences between the processes of glorification, iee emerge from contemporary witnesses in China, but also from former members of the various K groups in Germany or Europe, who also regard this as part of their youth.

Sausmikat: It is always very difficult for me to establish this connection with the K groups, since they had nothing to do with the reality in China. They lived in their own pictures, we heard that yesterday too. Some have made trips to revolutionary China where they were really only shown a very small part of reality, and because of this, they were confronted with a mystified version of cultural revolutionary China and Maoism from the very beginning. The glorification on the Laosanjie side in the 1990s [3] is a completely different story. This is a patriotic, domination-supporting glorification, which also found great support among the protagonists themselves, because they lived in the awareness that they had ultimately performed their revolutionary service, in the hope and belief that they represent the future government and power elite , represent the avant-garde. And ultimately this myth, which originated in the 1990s, is a small part of the fatal misunderstanding of their commission in 1967/68. It was then that the catalysts of the movement, the Red Guards of Beijing Middle Schools No. 1, No. 4 and No. 25, coined the decisive slogan for land settlement. “The country is a spacious place, where you can put your skills to the test”. The "correct" interpretation of these words of Mao, and thus the land settlement per se, began with the propaganda about the Red Guardsman Qu Zhe. The "early" land settlement movement that was initiated from October 1967 onwards was designed in such a way that the educational mandate was reversed: the Red Guards brought Maoist ideas to the rural population. They believed they were the main revolutionary force behind the revolutionary fate of China. At that time, the land settlement policy and its authenticity as "Maoist policy" were highly controversial. Although the military took action against Red Guards in rural areas as early as the end of 1967, the myth of being the “revolutionary heir” of Mao Zedong has been preserved in the generation around Xi Jinping. The K groups from the west were by no means involved in these struggles. In this respect, there are really such different motivations that I find it difficult to compare them. That would really only be possible on a very abstract level.

Sipple: That is understandable. There is then no personal experience to be able to compare.

Sausmikat: I don't know, I think you can't just compare apples with oranges. The content is completely different, even if the processes are similar. In the book by Wolfgang Kraushaar, 1968 as Myth, cipher and caesura, this is described very well [4]. There are really similar mystification processes taking place with the 1968 generation. This reduced image that it was a wild time, with drugs, anti-authoritarianism, free love and sex, etc. Similar to the fading out of the violent excesses of the Cultural Revolution, the violent excesses of the 68s are split off and not addressed, the political struggles and arguments are hardly found in the eyewitness reports. Except perhaps in the Frankfurt School, one no longer deals much with the ideas that shaped the '68, which were extremely complicated and in some cases closely related to our fascist past. In this respect, the formal processes are already comparable, an incomplete and selective coming to terms with the past, but this mystification, which has now taken place in China with the Laosanjie, and the mystification of 1968 are too different in content to be related.

Sipple: In your book you name it as a major cause for that breaking out conflicts between the young people deported to the country and the rural cadres, this encounter understood as a class struggle, and this competition for the future leading role in the party, or the “right” revolution, the political and ideological ambiguities and the political vacuum. Mean You that as a result of this politically and socially unstable phase of "learning success" In Chinese politics, it is better to ensure too much stability and given interpretation than too much freedom of interpretation and too little stability?

Sausmikat: I have a little difficulty with the word "stability". Because what happened in the time of the early Cultural Revolution, and also later, after 1968, the brutal class struggle in the country, were so devastating because it was actually a rule of arbitrariness. There were no clear instructions for either the form of settlement or the purpose of this whole movement. They changed locally and changed over the years. This movement already existed in 1956, and even before the mass movement in the early phase of the Cultural Revolution, and both the subjects of this movement and its meaning and purpose kept changing. And the fighting in the country ... you can't overwrite that with "there was not enough stability" - there was no stability at all! There was chaos. This ultimately favored the excesses of violence. And class struggle, that was the key word at that time! The concept of stability is a long way off, because that's not what you wanted. And what is now under the catchphrase wending 稳定 or social stability, is more of a cover for social control and overregulation. The real danger of major social conflicts cannot be caused by ... how did you put that?

Sipple: ... too much stability than too little ...

Sausmikat: ... yes, not tamed by measures to increase "stability". Not even with clear definitions! It's not about naming something clearly or not naming it clearly. One was a class struggle, and it was deliberately fueled by unclear definitions, as you have called it here. These were arbitrary class divisions to spark a civil war with all these excesses of violence. What we then observe in the 1990s / 2000s, the striving for “stability”, which is also called “harmony” in China, is not a reaction to class struggles. It is an attempt to stop them, if you will. In this respect, one can speak of learning success, because the civil war-like conditions of the cultural revolution serve as a memorial to this day.

Sipple: I have one more question about museumization, about which you said yes, that the state is currently putting relatively great efforts into it, to solidify a national history through the opening of museums. On the other hand, there are also museums that are opened by private individuals, such as the very large Jianchuan Museum [5]. We raised this museum in the seminar and there were very controversial voices from the press. On the one hand, one read articles with the operator's quote “My tongue is too fast for politics” as a headline, with a description as if it was too fast and too livelyliable for censorship by the state, but on the other hand also voices that the whole museum is relatively lini is faithful. Depending on the source of the information, the whole thing seemed very compliant or a little "rebellious". How do you actually assess the state's influence on such private museums as soon as they have achieved noticeable awareness?

Sausmikat: As very big. I am convinced that no private museum could function without government support. You can see that very well in this museum in Shantou [6], as I presented yesterday. This was an effort to create a museum in the sense of Ba Jin [7], a reflective museum, a museum of learning that is not limited to glorification or nostalgia, but went much further, and specific questions about history has asked. And this museum is dead today. It is closed and of course fell victim to the state clean-up as part of this major corruption campaign. Other museums, like the one you mentioned, are clearly within the framework in which one would like to see museums, especially during the cultural revolution. Mao devotional objects are exhibited like reliquary shrines, and that at a time when Maoism is making a massive return. But it doesn't just have to be state influence. It was built by Fan Jianchuan, someone who likes to be critical of the party, but he is convinced of what he is doing. And that is absolutely on the party line today.

Sipple: Finally, I have a question about what Hannah Arendt said in her book “Elements and Origins totalitary rule "writes: It is an element of totalitarianism that individual and moral action impossible due to state terror according toeight becomes, and especially the aspect a very important one before arbitrariness Aspect is. To the extent that moral action is made impossible simply by this arbitrariness and illogicality, because it can have completely unpredictable consequences, in the worst case, death. Could Mao's lack of clarity about the mass movements, as already mentioned, possibly have had a psychologically similar, terrorizing effect on the protagonists of the Cultural Revolution? Has it made it impossible for them to act morally in a similar way?

Sausmikat: Yes, in any case. That is certainly comparable, where Hannah Arendt speaks of the “totalitarian character”, and that also refers to the bondage of the masses. These are two things that have to be kept apart. But in any case, the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, the effect of these constantly changing perpetrator-victim categories, these, as Prof. Roetz called it, "capricious politics" represent their own kind of terror. Enemies, friends, new categories of Classes and opportunities to “improve” this class affiliation through one's own behavior or to influence it negatively, to admit class guilt, to repent. In the interviews for my book, I also felt very intensely how the terrorism has a lasting psychological impact on the whole life of these people. This internalization of guilt, provided one has been branded an enemy; that if you have survived the terror, you will still continue to live your entire life with this terror that was sown subcutaneously. There is a great discussion about whether one should even draw a parallel between the Shoah and the Holocaust and the Cultural Revolution. Many Chinese scientists say that you shouldn't do that, that would take the voice of the victims in China. There is also a memory competition between the Nanjing Massacre and the Cultural Revolution. Here, too, Chinese scholars argue that if we push too hard that the Cultural Revolution should be dealt with more thoroughly, the Japanese would be given the argument that they do not have to deal with the Nanjing massacre any further, since this is not even within China with its own history, that is, with the cultural revolution happening. That being said, it is also absurd to compare the industrial murder of the Holocaust with the Cultural Revolution. But I do think that parts of what Hannah Arendt wrote about the totalitarian character can be applied to the cultural revolution in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Sipple: That was a point that particularly preoccupied us in the seminar, and the question of totalitarian character was also hotly debated.

Sausmikat: Ultimately, it is a question that was raised by those concerned themselves. In the very first early phase of the reflective literature, some Red Guards themselves drew this comparison and opened up a category of victims for themselves that was "equal to the Jews", and there were also very heated discussions within the Chinese community that this was not possible. That set the ball rolling. Then we got the historians' dispute on top of that, and then suddenly it was a discussion that took place both here in the West and in China. That was very exciting.

Sipple: Just that it was brought up by the Red Guards themselves, speaks for this psychological impact in the totalitarian-terrorist sense, which affected the protagonists themselves. You seem to be looking for a comparison.

Sausmikat: The most difficult thing is to understand the reflection processes: How could I then? What have i done How did it get to the point that I let myself be captured like that? This is also what drives most people when they think about it: What should I give my children? However, because of the patriotic glorification discussed above, many no longer ask themselves these questions. It is not questioned at all, because you can only do that if you are aware of what you were capable of in this state. And because excesses of violence are separated, that is what is dangerous, many no longer see it. But those who ask these questions quickly come to Hannah Arendt or the German totalitarian past. There is simply so much literature on coming to terms with National Socialism in Germany, some of which has been translated into Chinese. Ultimately, this Frankfurt School hype in China also has to do with coming to terms with the past. The step was no longer so far as to say that a totalitarian attitude has emerged in German society, and we can transfer that to the Chinese situation. It's just this very strong reflection process when we look back and realize: What did we do and how was that possible? So looking back and looking ahead.

Editing: Christopher Kerscht, Christine Moll-Murata