Nous sommes pour l'abolition des guerres (We are advocates for the abolition of war);
la guerre, nous ne la voulons pas. Mais on ne peut abolir la guerre que par la guerre. Pour qu'il n'y ait plus de fusils, il faut prendre le fusil. (We do not want war; but war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun.)Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, [c.1968] Stock Code: 149414
"Revolution is not a dinner party" - Mao ZedongA well-preserved example of Chinese Cultural Revolution propaganda in French, printed in comparatively small numbers. The quote encapsulates the core Maoist belief that revolution required armed struggle and that "political power grows out of a gun."
These words, featured in chapter five of the "Little Red Book" under the theme of "War and Peace", are taken from Mao's concluding speech to the Sixth Plenary Session of the Sixth Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party in November 1938. In the late 1930s, the party was mounting a resistance effort in the face of the Japanese invasion of China, and in this speech Mao envisioned the whole Chinese nation rising in armed struggle to defeat hostile forces. Three decades later, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, factions of student Red Guards and workers were putting into practice the same principles, quoting Mao's dictum that "revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another." Maoism's call to arms in the face of aggression appealed across the world to mass movements and decolonial guerilla resistance fighters in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, making it a prudent choice for inclusion in the Foreign Languages Press' outward-facing propaganda efforts.
France was a natural target when it came to exporting Maoism and the Maoist language of armed struggle. On the one hand, several members of the Chinese Communist Party's leadership hierarchy had cut their Marxist teeth in France in the early 20th century, and the Cultural Revolution drew inspiration from the Paris Commune. On the other hand, the mass politics of the Cultural Revolution dovetailed with the counter-cultural left-wing activism that permeated France in the 1960s. By 1967, the French Left was much taken with developments in China and, 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). Beijing hoped that in an environment of such fervour, Maoism could take root and blossom.
By distributing posters such as the present item, Peking Foreign Languages Press also deepened the ideological tussle between Maoism 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, stodgy and top-heavy "revisionist" form of socialist governance. Soviet interventions in Eastern Europe in the 1950s also caused private disquiet among the top echelons of the Chinese Communist Party, and by the 1960s Beijing was accusing Moscow of using heavy-handed imperialist aggression to maintain its sphere of influence. By the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, Mao had planted China firmly in the Cold War's 'non-aligned' camp and presented China as a key proponent of peace prepared to support armed insurgent movements fighting against the empire-building of the United States and the Soviet Union. 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 to stoke fires of armed resistance to Cold War hegemonies.
In stock we have a small group of similar posters exploiting slightly variant themes - further details are available on request.
Poster (380 x 530 mm), with a three-quarter portrait of Mao and a quotation printed in red on a yellow panel with a gold border.
Couple of minor creases to extremities, light vertical crease at the centre, couple of negligible marks, image notably sharp and bright. In near-fine 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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