Le peuple, le peuple seul, est la force motrice, le créature de l'histoire universelle. (The people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history.)

Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, [c.1968] Stock Code: 149418
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An engaging example of Chinese Cultural Revolution propaganda in French, printed in comparatively small quantities. The quote, one of the most well-known of all of Mao's sayings, demonstrates the Cultural Revolution era's supreme and unwavering commitment to the masses as the driving force of history.

This quote, featured in chapter eleven of the "Little Red Book" under the theme of "The Mass Line", originally comes from Mao's political report to the Seventh National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 1945. It is quintessential Maoism: the revolution and the course of world events stem from, and revolve inextricably around, the energy and power of the masses. Twenty years later, Mao put this in principle into practice with devastating effect in the Cultural Revolution, exhorting Chinese to overcome what he perceived as a gradual stagnation of the revolution in the hands of cautious technocrats. Unhinged from many of the regulating structures of Chinese society, factions of students and workers took political governance and ideological bloodletting into their own hands and, for a time, presided over completely novel forms of political organisation with the Chinese Communist Party stripped of its vanguard role.

The French Left was unabashedly smitten with heavily glossed accounts of the Cultural Revolution in China, and intellectuals and activists were a prime audience for posters such as the present example. The Chinese Communist Party had always been closely linked to France - after all, several members of its first generation leadership cut their Marxist teeth in France in the early 20th century. By 1967, in Paris, "signs of Maoism's popularity abounded" (Wolin, p. 114). Clothing boutiques sold copious Mao suits - "les cols Maos" - and booksellers experienced runs on copies of the "Little Red Book" translated into French. In elite intellectual circles, Louis Althusser's students at the Ecole normale supérieure "were planning trips to China, copiously citing the Little Red Book, and praising the virtues of a "war of position" against the bourgeois enemy" (ibid., p. 118). In such a climate, posters such as this example were always going to sell well.

By distributing posters abroad, the Foreign Languages Press also deepened the ideological tussle between Maoist mass politics and the more bureaucratised socialism of the Soviet Union. Beginning in the late 1950s, private and then public cracks appeared in the socialist world, with Mao's China becoming increasing opposed to the policy direction of the Soviet Union. At a time when China was carrying out a series of audacious voluntarist socio-economic transformations, Beijing saw Moscow as having betrayed key tenets of Marxism-Leninism in favour of a highly regimented and top-heavy "revisionist" form of socialist governance that emaciated the masses of their vanguard role. Additional geopolitical tensions between Moscow and Beijing, combined with China's increasing military strength, eventually overflowed into public exchanges of vitriolic criticism and diplomatic ruptures, with Soviet diplomats expelled from China after the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. In this climate, Chinese propaganda focused as much on attacking the Soviet Union as it did on lambasting the United States. Having already disseminated the "Little Red Book" widely, more ephemeral items such as posters could take their place at French rallies, in schools, and on the walls of other organisations, with the ultimate goal of winning converts to China's ideological side of the communist world and simultaneously weakening what Mao called Moscow's "revisionist" and "imperialist" distortion of Marxism-Leninism.

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Poster (380 x 530 mm), with a three-quarter portrait of Mao and a red quotation printed onto a yellow panel with a gold border.


Small closed tear to margin with an unobtrusive tape repair to verso, printed material unaffected, light vertical crease at centre, couple of small creases to edges, a few negligible marks and scuffs. In very good, bright condition.


Richard Wolin, The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s, Princeton University Press, 2010.


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