Long Live the Great Marxist- Leninist Mao Zedong Thought
- Pages: 6
- Word count: 1287
- Category: Marxism
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Since the 1970s, Stefan R. Landsberger had collected Chinese propaganda posters and developed his collection into one of the largest private collections in the world. They have become a rich primary source dealing with many important subjects in contemporary Chinese history. Mao Zedong, for instance was one of these prominent subjects, being the inspiration for much of the propaganda in China since 1949. One of the numerous posters depicting this great chairman of the People’s Republic was collected in 1971, originally shown at the ‘Shaanxi Provincial Class Education Exhibition Hall’. The poster depicts, Mao standing ahead of the four great leaders of communism: Stalin, Lenin, Engels, and Marx. Behind them is the communist flag and crowds of people and the red Guards, cheering and proclaiming their love for their leader, lastly, on the bottom is the caption, “Long Live the Great Marxism- Leninism Mao Zedong Thought” . The reason the poster holds such significance for its time is because it was a piece, like many others during the time of propaganda aimed at persuading the public to support its cause. It had the job of propelling Maoist thought to the masses and effectively captured in one frame what Maoist China as supposed to uphold and follow. The poster’s use of propaganda techniques particularly Mao’s charismatic leadership made this propaganda poster in Mao’s campaign for the cultural revolution memorable and compelling.
Contrasting the huge loss of life endured by people through Mao’s ‘Great Leap forward’ and “Cultural Revolution’, many of the people, “mostly the younger generation” adored Mao. He received a type of adulation from teenagers as if her were a celebrity. Liu Xiaoqing (who during the 1980s and 1990s was one of China’s most famous actresses) recalls her experience as one of the many supporters of Mao and emphasized how, “the importance of Mao Zedong as both a symbol and of and leader of Chinas attempted transformation during the Cultural Revolution”. Her account was one among many and the genuine love people had for him translated to the Cultural Revolution, making it truly beneficial to society. The poster idealized the Red Guards and the revolution as things that were to be upheld in the new Chinese society just as they praised Marxism/ Maoist thought. The poster best fits in the context of the Cultural Revolution as its phrase “long live Marxist- Leninist Mao Zedong thought” was greatly emphasized during the time from 1966- 1976.
This caption connecting the phrase Marxist- Leninist and finally Maoist thought suggest that he is communicating to the Chinese citizens that he is not is he a great communist thinker but also next in line to be one of the strong faces of communism. The claim is backed up by the imagery shown on the propaganda poster with the four faces of communism in chronological order, with him clearly being placed in the front. The progression of different leaders also demonstrates how the ideology, modified by Mao, has transcended into the Asian sphere of influence and is here to thrive and grow. This forward thinking, according to memebers in his party, is why he became known as the great helmsman and along with he appreciation given to him by his party leaders and much of the youth he was able to start the revolution, targeting the bureaucratic elite . It is this very prestige and admiration that the poster portrays the success of the revolution and the happiness it brings people clearly demonstrated the crowds of people cheering not just for Mao but also his ideology.
Propaganda techniques used by the Chinese communist party also helped to make the poster memorable and effective during its usage in the 1960s. The crucial element in all propaganda is to communicate a message that will induce a desired form of behaviour. Though much of the propaganda released to the public did have elements that were seen in Soviet Russia there were a number of differences between the two communist nations. As described by Lu Dingyi, head of the Propaganda Department, “ it is important to learn form the Soviet Union but we cannot copy indiscriminately from them”. The differences with Chinese propaganda during this time however was that they were devoid of religious connotations used folk and to assert a distinct Chinese identity, and almost all of the propaganda advertised the “voice of the nation” of one goal. Chinese visual representations denounced religious groups as precious to society and focused on their propaganda having messages that were related to nationalistic goals.
Propagandists also did no use “balloons” for dialogue, which was commonly used by foreign cartoons. Instead views were expressed in captions, a technique that would be easily recognizable to the average Chinese citizen. Nationalism was relatively easily communicated through artwork. Encourages to ‘speak the language of the commoners” and the nationalistic pronouncement by artists made the Chinese propaganda effective and memorable for citizens . These three characteristics are true of the “Marxist- Leninist- Mao Zedong” poster in Landsbergers collection. Focusing on the ideology and goal of the communist party shows the distinct nationalistic identity the Chinese communist party. Also the love and status Mao receives hints at how, rather than focusing on a religious figure, they idolize Mao. Lastly the short caption also captures the message that the artist wanted citizens to know.
In addition to the focus on the importance of Mao along with increasing support for his Marxist beliefs made the poster memorable able essential to the cultural revolution in the 1960s. The connection of the ideology to the communist leader was important. It is understandable how tying the principles of the party to the leader could effective. By having a direct correlation between the two, the chance of people wanting to listen to and follow in the Maoist thought carrying out the cultural revolution was a difficult process and that is why perpetuating these ideals and attaching them to Mao rather than just the part was a way to ensure there would be little criticism. Through the party’s execution of the propaganda, they were able to make citizens became deeply attached to the movement as they were to Mao himself. Portraying communist ideology as something that Mao reinvented for the people most likely made it easier to accept in the public sphere. As stated by Lin Biao (a fellow member of the CCP) stated, “the movement has truly touched peoples souls… chairman’s Mao’s thoughts have been extensively propagated and popularized.
They have become engraved in the minds of people”. The skillful use of Mao’s charisma in Chinese propaganda techniques made this poster highly efficient in capturing the goals and beliefs envisioned by Mao his ‘new’ communist China. Despite the great damage Mao caused to the Chinese population with the removal of “rebels”, many citizens of the younger generation loved him. His presence still resonates within the hearts of many, Liu Xiaoqing claiming: “Even now the songs I most often sing, the songs which I am most familiar, which I can sing from beginning to end, are songs written in praise of Chairman Mao. The works I can still recite off by heart are Chairman Mao’s poems… Dear Chairman Mao, people throughout China miss you”. In addition to the love many showed toward the Chairman, the usage of propaganda techniques made the multiple advertisements, like this poster, memorable. The Cultural Revolution, though not successful, maintained momentum through visual media. Just as advertisements today subconsciously embed their messages into the individuals mind, these propaganda pieces tried to do the same. Examining this primary source, a large historical background is provided with the imagery shown and accumulates to strong effective message to all that read the poster.