Friday, December 26, 2014

for debate - an italian intellectual publishes a text about Cultural Revolution


Alessandro Russo

ABSTRACT In the Chinese Cultural Revolution – the epicenter of the last great political sequence at worldwide level in the 1960s and 1970s – the flashing of unprecedented possibilities of post-party politics was entangled with the epochal closure of a network of political culture. The Cultural Revolution proves to be extremely refractory to historical investigation because it undoes the established conceptual bridges between history and politics, bridges that all other social sciences crossed for studying politics. Therefore, new theoretical perspectives and new protocols of investigation are required, and not only for those events, but in the last analysis for the study of all political situations. The author discusses three main points for finding a new perspective. First, a basic distinction should be stressed between the intermittent nature of politics – one of the rarest modes of subjectivity, which exist only in singular intellectually inventive sequences – and the structural invariance of the state, despite the incessant historical mutations of its particular forms. Moreover, the relationships between the present state of depoliticization and the previous political situations deserve close analysis. The hypothesis is that the concrete form of the state in a given moment is the hollow imprint of the last great political sequence, or that it is shaped by a reactive de-politicization. Finally, the declarations and the related behaviors of the actors during the events are the major analytical elements in the study of politics. However, the Cultural Revolution was marked to an unprecedented degree by increasing dissonances and, finally, irremediable ruptures between the processes created by the subjective declarations and the same network of political culture within which they were formulated.
‘What else is translatable – we might ask – if not universals?’*1 Before asking how to translate Cultural Revolution, a preliminary question should therefore be, ‘Does Cultural Revolution have anything universal that deserves to be translated?’ The current answer, both in Chinese government official discourse and in globalized scholarly opinion, is sharply negative. The response is literally a chedi fouding, or a ‘radical negation’. Such stubborn negation requires, however, a symptomatic reading, in order to evaluate what it radically affirms.
Translating singularities
Translating universals involves a multiplicity of intellectual operations, whose scope largely exceeds the specific case of interlingual practices, through which singular subjectivities address other singular subjectivities, in various modes of intellectuality, such as art, politics, philosophy. With the possibility of infinite singularities at stake, as irreducible to any particular determination, translations of universals are rare and discrete operations, heterogeneous to the permanent and unavoidable activities of noticing particularities that pervade human communication.

In order to proceed, one must consider universals in the perspective of singularities. Universals without universe, we could say. Or, as Alain Badiou writes, ‘Tout universel est singulier, ou est une singularité’ (Badiou 2000: 12). Only singular can be universal and vice-versa. Translating universals is the equivalent of translating singularities – only singularities are translatable. To restate my initial question then, ‘Does Cultural Revolution have something singular that deserves translation?’ Current answers are again radically negative, or strictly limited to a number of particular and often fantastic determinations, such as a presumed ‘attitude’ of the ‘Chinese’ to be ‘despotically’ ruled, or that they are sometimes enthralled by cruel ‘totalitarian’ adventures and so forth.

A crucial element in translating universals is the intellectual retroaction from the translated to the translator. When universals, or subjective singularities, are at stake, the addressee, in return, addresses the addresser, most often uneasily, with an intense questioning concerning the true nature of his subjective intention. An example of this situation is the embarrassment that Althusser experienced in studying Machiavelli, which he described as the result of a reciprocal surprise (Althusser 1997: 43).*2 On the one hand, there was the surprise that the Florentine secretary’s political writings could arouse in a philosophical reader, and on the other hand, the surprise that those same writings manifested, for having been read. Consequently, the intense questioning begins. For what are you, reader, really searching? What subjective questions do you have at stake? Are you sure that they are compatible with mine? Can they really construct, together with my own categories of thought, a shared sphere of intellectual inquiry? These are the sorts of questions that, when translating universals, a translator should expect from the translated.
The undoing of the historical-political bridge
What subjective intentions could we then have in translating Cultural Revolution? I would argue that the only mode of intellectuality in which Cultural Revolution is translatable is political and can no longer be historical.

As for the negative side of my argument, there is no lack of empirical evidence. During the last three decades, research on Cultural Revolution underwent a steady and nearly complete scholarly decline. I refer here primarily to historical scholarship, but the impasse concerns the whole scope of the social sciences. One could easily conclude that the pure compulsion to repeat the ‘radical negation’ should have inevitably produced this result: if something is definitely nothing, why waste time and resources to research it?

However, that compulsion is a peculiar symptom, rather than a cause, of an intellectual predicament, whose roots trace back to the closure, between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s, of an entire political epistème, to use the Foucauldian category – a closure that coincides with the Cultural Revolution itself. The major obstacles to any historical investigation of the Cultural Revolution are not at the level of factual knowledge. Basic facts are all well known, and the way out of the present scholarly impasse will not come from secret records kept in archives that are yet to be opened. Cultural Revolution proves to be extremely refractory to historical investigation because it undoes the previously established conceptual bridges between history and politics, bridges that all other social sciences crossed for studying politics.*3

The political events under question short-circuited the conceptual network for investigating them, with consequences that continue to reverberate through the entire sphere of political intellectuality. The new temporality of the Cultural Revolution brought to an end an epoch of political culture in which history constituted the privileged access to politics. Therefore, new theoretical perspectives and new protocols of investigation are required, and not only for those events, but in the last analysis for the study of all political situations. The Cultural Revolution undid the previous homogeneity between politics and history and closed the ‘historical understanding’ of politics. An urgent intellectual task is how to find a new mode of questioning political events in search of their political singularity and not of their historical meaning.
Political intellectuality and the current depoliticization
To argue that the main subjective terrain of investigation of political events should be political does not simplify the matter. What politics actually is today is obscure. The exhaustion of previous visions of politics and a paramount de-politicization mark our time. Although the real connections between the present conditions of statehood and the rampant depoliticization require a thorough exploration that is largely still to be done, at least two crucial elements of the present conjuncture can be clearly identified: the end of the party system and an increasing state of war.

The decomposition of the party system is a phenomenon not limited, as was first assumed, to the crisis of the socialist states; it has deeply affected the parliamentarian regimes as well. For example in the Italian case, where the state has been dominated for years by the clique of an adventurer businessman (his influence at present is far from exhausted), whose organizational consistency stands largely outside the former parliamentarian parties and whose private interests are at the core of government activities. This attests to an unprecedented change in the previous forms of the party-state. Parallel to this, the supremacy of the state of war is sinisterly evident. That is to say, war has become the key terrain of the state decisions, leading to the increasing hypertrophy of military apparatuses and the destruction of the civil functions of the state, especially those concerning the limitation of inequalities. The phenomenon is particularly concentrated in the USA, but it overdetermines the conditions of statehood at a worldwide level.*4

The urgent need for new forms of political intellectuality does not derive primarily from the powerful adversity of the present state of things, but above all from the singular nature of politics itself. Politics is a rare mode of subjectivity, probably the rarest one since the ancient times, which exists only in singular intellectually inventive sequences.*5 In modern times, politics exists when people organize themselves to invent new egalitarian prescriptions that are able to force the state to count everybody as one, to admit and even to promote their own individual lives and their subjective intents.

Although, in historical-social scholarship, politics and the state are usually considered equivalent, a basic difference must be stressed here. Politics is intermittent, whereas the state, despite the incessant historical mutations of its particular forms, is a structural invariance. This invariance does not concern an ‘Idea’ or an ‘Ideal-type’, but only the ritual-military functions of the state as such – the monopoly of violence plus the control of the various systems of hierarchical rituals that structure the society. Within the sphere of this invariance, statehood not only does not imply any form of intrinsic rationality, but the very empirical existence of a state is extremely aleatory. The description and the theorization of a pure form of the state (embodying ‘sovereignty’ or even ‘justice’) is an ideal long pursued by political philosophers. However, nobody has ever been able to demonstrate any principle of consistency and duration for statehood. In other words, in order to find a way out of the present crisis, we cannot invoke a general theory of the (just) state, but we must search for singular forms of political subjectivities capable of limiting the spontaneous destructivity and self-destructivity of statehood as such and to reinvent its civil potentialities.

More precisely, the main task is how to reinvent egalitarian politics. In the modern era, a crucial terrain of politics has been the formation of state policies that favor the limitation of inequalities, in order to promote, or at least not to hinder, the possible infinitude of subjects. The bureaucratic simulacrum of equality (or, the image of an existential paradigm to which everyone should equate himself) that was typical of the socialist party-states and that fell with them, masked the real issue. The real issue at stake in fact is the unavoidable degree of heterogeneity of egalitarian How to translate ‘Cultural Revolution’ 676 politics with any form of state. The statein- itself, i.e. the state without politics, is incapable of equality, because it has nothing to do with singularities, but spontaneously deals only with the recognition of communitarian rituals and the monopoly of violence.

Only forms of politics open to the infinite possibilities of subjective singularities, and capable of a rational distance from the state – in the present situation a rational distance from the decomposition of the party-system – may allow the state to operate beyond its ritual-military boundaries. In short, the necessity is to make prescriptions that are in favor of a reduction of inequalities. These prescriptions will always require inventive forms to force the spontaneous existence of statehood in a given conjuncture.

In conclusion, in order to find a way out of the present political desertification, we cannot invoke any general theory of politics. Only new forms of invention can reactivate political intellectuality. Two correlated tasks are of primary importance: to limit drastically the present state of war, and to reinvent the civil function of the state, or to prescribe inventively effective forms to reduce inequalities.
To investigate the last great political sequence
In addition to the necessary invention, that as such is largely unpredictable, another major condition for reactivating political intellectuality is the study of the last great political sequence. This argument leads us back to the theme of the possible translation of Cultural Revolution, which moreover was, in the 1960s and 1970s, the epicenter of the last great political sequence at worldwide level.

There are two basic reasons for considering the investigation of the last great political sequence as a prerequisite for renewed political thought. One is purely subjective. The most controversial issues left unsolved by the last political sequence are a major source of intellectual stimulation in a time of de-politicization such as ours.

Another reason is more analytic, or more precisely it concerns the analysis of the concrete forms of present statehood. This point is still a working hypothesis whose demonstration is not simple, but which could be synthesized in the following terms. If the state does not embody an Idea or an Ideal-type, and if, on the other hand, politics is rare and sequential, it is very probable that the concrete form of the state in a given moment is the hollow imprint of the last great political sequence, or that it is shaped by the de-politicization of the previous political sequence. I would tend to delimit the scope of this hypothesis to the present conjuncture, but I also have the impression that it can have a more general value, at least for the modern era.

The Chinese case, though perhaps it is not the sole decisive proof, shows nonetheless the path for research. How could the forms of the contemporary Chinese state be conceivable without the Cultural Revolution? In terms of ‘imagination’, the present form of the state in China embodies an ‘ideal’ that the Cultural Revolution had sabotaged and culpably delayed, but which was finally realized thanks to the wisdom of a certain group of leaders. Nevertheless, at present, the ‘effectual truth’ – to use Machiavelli’s category – of the Chinese state is deeply rooted in the Cultural Revolution and, above all, in its ‘radical negation’. The programs that Deng Xiaoping and his associates wrote in 1975, during their struggle against the Maoists, have been the operative basis of what they have done in the following decades. In contrast, the policies Deng and other Mao’s opponents advocated before 1966, rather than an anticipation of the economic policies of the 1980s, were a Chinese version of the Soviet impasse of those years. Without the Cultural Revolution, it is unlikely that China would have gained ten years of development and prosperity, but it is more probable that its present conditions would be much worse than those of the former Soviet Union today.*6

In the terms of the ‘archaeological’ relationships between the present conditions of statehood and the de-politicization of the last great political sequence, contemporary China is not an isolated case. In France and in Italy, the denegation of the events of 1968 – absolutely radical for what concerns their extra-parliamentarianism – has been quintessential for composing the present state of statehood. The hypothesis that this kind of investigation is a key task for the analysis of the present shape of the state also has the following implication. If the real consistency of statehood is the de-politicization of the last great political sequence, this process cannot go on indefinitely. Once de-politicization reaches its maximum degree, the empirical states will lose a crucial principle of consistency and duration that is not intrinsic to them.

On the other hand, the Chinese Cultural Revolution has a special importance, both for the magnitude of the mass mobilization and for the extension of its intellectual horizon, which included all the crucial themes of modern political culture since the French Revolution. If the Cultural Revolution was most probably, as Badiou writes, ‘the last revolution’ (Badiou 2005), it is the entire intellectual continent inaugurated by the ‘first revolution’ that requires a radical rethinking. Without such radical rethinking, there will be only the nihilist triumph of the ‘radical negation’.

In the final sections of this paper, I will discuss the perspectives of studying the events in more operative terms, with particular reference to two points: the necessary emphasis on the political declarations, and the question of the cultural character of the Cultural Revolution.
Focus on declarations
The Cultural Revolution is one of the political events most replete with declarations, all carefully made public and fully documented, to which an investigation of subjectivity should pay the closest attention. There is a declaratory essence of politics, for politics exists subjectively through declarations. If something universal in a political situation deserves translation, it is identifiable only through the political declarations of the participants. Political declarations should therefore constitute the fundamental unit of analysis, in addition to the relationship between what actors declare and what they really do.

The novelty of the Cultural Revolution was, for the first two years, an unprecedented plurality of independent political organizations, known as ‘Red Guards.’ These organizations produced all sorts of publications that recorded their political declarations, such as newspapers, leaflets, pamphlets, collections of their own dazibao, and even selections of the ‘black’ declarations of their enemies. A plethora of original documents concerning this key aspect of the situation have been available for a long time. In the last few years, following a liberalization of access to these materials in Chinese libraries, large collections of Red Guards’ newspapers have been reprinted. In the absence of new modes of investigation, however, these vast documentary resources crystallize the predicament in scholarly research. Under the rule of ‘radical negation’, there is no means to deal with this ‘nothing’ so carefully archived.

The rise, development, and decline of these organizations, from June 1966 to July 1968, demarcate the core sequence of the events. To focus on these organizations is clearly a task of primary importance for the study of Cultural Revolution. The problem at hand is how to conduct research starting from the political declarations formulated within the events, and not from general typologies of political behavior, as almost all studies do.

Let us take, for instance, what is generally considered the most puzzling phenomenon of the entire situation – factional struggle. As is well known, there were serious divergences and even clashes among organizations from the very first months. However, beyond the fact that the degree of intensity of the struggle varied widely, and only in 1967–1968 took the form of armed clashes, it was the very nature of the divergences that differed in the various moments. In the core sequence of 1966– 1968 at least two sub-sequences are distinguishable, in each of which the confrontation of political declarations determined the real issues at stake. There was an expanding phase of pluralization of political organizations, developed from Beida’s first dazibao in late May 1966 until the Shanghai 1967 ‘January storm.’ There was then a declining phase, started in the spring of 1967, intensifying in the following year, and lasting until the meeting between the Beijing Red Guard leaders and the Central Group of July 28, 1968. After this date, Red Guard organizations were dissolved de facto.*7

My point is that in each of the two subsequences, the issues at stake were heterogeneous, and that only by focusing on the declarations is it possible to evaluate the change of situation and to disentangle the phenomenon of factional struggle. In the first period, the ‘main contradiction’, to use a Maoist category, or the most controversial matter, was to be pro or against the unlimited multiplicity of political organizations. To what extent could the formation of independent student organizations be admitted? Should it be based on ‘good class origin’ criteria or could the new organizations be open to everybody that felt himself subjectively to be a revolutionary? And what about workers? Could they freely form their independent organizations, even outside the ‘historical representative’ of ‘working class’, i.e. the party-state? However, in the second subsequence – that of factionalism – contradictions did not at all concern the unlimited extension of pluralization, but were increasingly reduced to the pure and simple annihilation of the adverse faction.

In the first phase, declarations that selfauthorized the political existence of independent organizations supported a large expansion of pluralization, in contrast with other political declarations that aimed to limit the existence of organizations to the framework of the party-state. In the second subsequence, however, the declarations did not concern self-authorization, but inextricably made the existence of each ‘faction’ demand the elimination of the other faction, each declaring themselves as the ‘nucleus’ in the regeneration of a purified party-state. The fights in late 1966 between the Shanghai ‘Rebel Revolutionary Workers’, who declared their existence as an independent political organization, and the ‘Scarlet Guards’, fiercely opposing this possibility, were essentially different from the brawls in Beijing campuses in 1968. In those later conflicts, the only argument of every ‘little general’ was the ineluctability of the destruction of his adversary.

This problem concerning declarations deserves further exploration. The change in the nature of the declarations should be examined in the context of the transformation of the situation, and the most obscure passage to clarify in this investigation is undoubtedly that from pluralization to factionalism. On the other hand, it was the nature and the content of the declarations that determined the evolution, or better the involution, of the political scene. If the phenomenon of factionalism is detached from the singularity of the situation, i.e. from the political declarations of subjectivity, the result cannot but be its reduction to a particular case, albeit more complex than average, of a general typology of political behavior, or simply of human behavior.

A reduction of this kind is evident in a recent article that conceptualizes the Red Guards’ political behavior within the framework of a particularly restricted version of rational choice theory. Red Guards would have acted not in order to obtain gains, but in order to avoid the losses that they could expect in retaliation from the bureaucracy once the turbulent phase ended and the state apparatuses were restored (Walder 2002). The vision of the author is clear: as one is essentially a victim, especially in the ‘totalitarian’ regimes, what else could he be capable of doing other than trying to protect himself from the evil that all-powerful despots can exert against him? Here is an example of what Alain Badiou has called the contemporary ‘ethical nihilism’ (Badiou 2001), on the palimpsest of more classical Cold War arguments.

The perspective in terms of general rules of human nature followed the decline of earlier research that had interpreted the Red Guards’ factionalism as a series of effects of contradictory ‘socio-economic’ conditions, or as a product of divergent interests in the nomenklatura. That conceptualization was more reminiscent of ‘historical- materialist’ arguments on the determination of consciousness by social being. In addition to the fact that available socio-demographic data do not support the ‘socio-political’ argument, or are at least very contradictory, that perspective also obviated consideration of the subjective singularity of the situation and treated the phenomenon as a particular case of a general theory of politics, which was considered primarily as a reflection of social conditions. Significantly, in both approaches, the declarations made during the events are not specifically analyzed.

A more sophisticated conceptualization, inspired by Pierre Bourdieu’s theories, tried more recently to show that the contradiction, at least in the case of the Qinghua campus, a key place of the events, was between the defenders of interests of ‘cultural capital’ and those of ‘political capital’ (Andreas 2002). The research, almost entirely based on interviews with former Red Guards of the two factions, the ‘Jinggangshan’ and the ‘April 14’, is indeed first hand. The problem lingers, however, of the relative lack of attention paid to the declarations of the actors during the events. The terms of the dispute between the two factions are well documented, even too copiously, in the respective newspapers (the Jinggangshan and the Jinggangshanbao).*8 One could say that they were sometimes abstruse and even inconclusive, but they constituted the real of the situation and it is clear that the personal reminiscences of the actors three decades later, in good faith or not, cannot in any case substitute them.*9

Perhaps it is more gratifying for the researcher to place the phenomenon into a set of well-formed sociological concepts, rather than to endure the odd arguments that the factions elaborated in order to annihilate each other in 1967–1968. There was, for instance, a ‘theory’ called ‘certain victory’, well known in those years among the Qinghua students, which affirmed that the faction that had been created earlier (in this case the ‘Jinggangshan’) should have ‘necessarily’ yielded up its ‘power’ to the faction created later (the ‘April 14’, born from scission in the first). It is very probable that the ‘theory’ was quite instrumental, and scarcely theoretical, but this is not a reason for not examining it starting from the original texts where it was formulated. The oddness of those declarations was part and parcel of the situation, and it was very significant in the process of de-politicization of the organizations – a de-politicization that was the true essence of ‘factionalism’.
Cultural Revolution versus revolutionary culture
To investigate political declarations during the Cultural Revolution as basic components of an unprecedented subjective process, and not as particular cases of a general typology of political behavior, involves a number of theoretical issues. One of these is deeply related to the singularity of the situation, that is, the specific tension between the declarations and the horizon of political culture. The question is not how to interpret those enunciations in the light of a certain cultural context, but how to evaluate a decisive subjective discontinuity. For the same reason that thought is never fully absorbed into knowledge, nor is subjectivity completely derivable from a culture, political situations are marked by a peculiar excess of subjectivity with regards to the surrounding political culture. However, the Cultural Revolution was marked to an unprecedented degree by increasing dissonances and finally irremediable ruptures between the processes created by the subjective declarations and the same network of political culture within which they were formulated.

The very name of Cultural Revolution is in fact the first obstacle met when attempting to translate its potential universality. It goes without saying that, in the syntagm Cultural Revolution, the adjective is currently considered more than blasphemous and the substantive at least abusive; or worse yet, it is definitive proof of the evil of every revolutionary politics and of the merits of counterrevolution. Immediately, questions are posed of the following sort. Which ‘culture’ was to be ‘revolutionized’? Moreover, what sort of ‘revolution’ was it?

As for the first question, considering the whole development of events and their long terms results, the most polemical target (or, etymologically, the ‘mandate’ that has been ‘reversed’) has been nothing less than ‘revolutionary culture’. The parameter of that culture was in the first instance that of the socialist party-states of the 20th century, organized around an inextricable connection between history and politics that structured their ideological orthodoxies as well as their institutional organizations. Cultural Revolution was an unprecedented mass mobilization that explored how deeply ‘revolutionary culture’ had become apolitical and depoliticizing, and how extensively the party-state itself was refractory to politics.

As for the name ‘revolution’, it is even more resistant to translation, because it designated the category around which the historical vision of politics pivoted. In that vision, revolution was the political event endowed with the highest degree of historical significance, and, in those terms, the highest degree of universality. It is exactly in this sense that the name ‘revolution,’ referring to Chinese events of the late 1960s, is not translatable – its historical meaning is totally obscure. Hu Sheng, one of the highest authorities on orthodox Marxist historiography, discussing a possible ‘historical meaning’ of Cultural Revolution, concluded that without it ‘the advent of economic reforms could not have been so fast’, and therefore ‘maybe’ it had at least ‘a bit of historical meaning’ (yidian lishi yiyi).*10

The argument does not lack an element of truth, but there is also a clear element of sophistry when a historian, wont to handle the category of revolution as ‘the locomotive of history’, claims that the ‘historical meaning’ of that ‘revolution’ was to have facilitated the advent of its ‘radical negation’.

I began this paper by asking what affirmation lies behind this ‘radical negation’. To offer a provisional conclusion, I propose the following argumentative path. On the one hand, the ‘radical negation’ is of course the symptom of a radical predicament of the historical access to politics. On the other hand, it should also be examined as directly concerning politics and the state in contemporary China. I would now qualify the two elements of the formula. ‘Negation’ refers to the active process of de-politicization pursued by the whole set of Deng’s policies beginning in 1975. In other terms, it is the affirmation of the ideal of a state without politics, or the accomplishment of bureaucratic desire – a pure state without any form of political subjectivity outside it. However, the addition of the exorbitant adjective ‘radical’ is not simply for rhetorical stress. It is, rather, a way to exorcize the doubt that that ‘affirmation’ can incite about the effective consistency and duration of a completely depoliticized state.
* Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Volume 7, Number 4, 2006
1 This paper was presented first at the conference ‘Translating Universals: Theory Moves across Asia’ organized by the CIRA (Comparative Interdisciplinary Research on Asia) Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, in January 2005. The title of the conference expressed the intention to explore new theoretical conditions for overcoming the de-theorizing and, in the last analysis, de-politicizing impasse in ‘cultural studies’ and ‘post-colonial studies’ on Asia. The project of examining the questions of translation in the light of a renewed approach to the question of universality was inspiring, as was the possibility to discuss in this perspective such a thorny issue as the universality of the Cultural Revolution. The present version takes advantage of further discussions with Chris Connery, Claudia Pozzana and Wang Hui on various occasions, among which was the conference ‘Is a History of Cultural Revolution Possible?’ organized by Tani Barlow at the University of Washington, Seattle, in February 2006, and the conference ‘ The Fortieth Anniversary: Rethinking the Genealogy and Legacy of the Cultural Revolution’, organized by Yan Hairong and the China Study Group at the Hong Kong City University in June 2006. I would to thank Shi Shumei, organizer of the CIRA conference, and Chris Connery for including the paper in this dossier here.
2 However, Althusser was not able to solve the problem declaring Machiavelli a philosopher tout-court.
3 I have discussed this question in more detail in ‘The Probable Defeat. Preliminary Notes on the Chinese Cultural Revolution’ (Russo 2002).
4 Two recent lectures by Sylvain Lazarus are clarifying: Les trois régimes du siècle (Paris, Les Conférences du Rouge-Gorge, 2001); Ètat de guerre et politique de la décision pure (Paris, Les Conférences du Rouge-Gorge, 2003). Further reflections on these points, in a text that I have written with Claudia Pozzana, ‘After the Invasion of Iraq’ (Russo and Pozzana 2005).
5 A theory of the rarity of politics and of its sequential character is fully developed by Sylvain Lazarus in Anthropologie du nom (1994). The idea of the rarity of politics in the Greek world was at the core of the intellectual enterprise of Moses Finley. See Finley (1983).
6 For the relationship between the present forms of statehood in China and the last political sequences, see Claudia Pozzana and Alessandro Russo (2006). References are made to Wang Hui (2003 and 2004).
7 A presentation of the chronology of the two subsequences is in my article ‘The Probable Defeat’ (Russo 2002). I have argued the relevance of the meeting of July 28 between the ‘Central Group’ and the Beijing Red Guard leaders as the conclusive moment of the core sequence of the Cultural Revolution in ‘The conclusive scene: Mao and the Red Guards in July 1968’ (Russo 2005).
8 These documents are undoubtedly familiar to the author, who is a specialist in the history of modern Chinese educational policies.
9 Of course, personal reminiscences can be a valuable source if critically confronted with the declarations made during the events. An interesting example is the study by Yin Hongbiao on Beida’s first dazibao, where the author demonstrates that, despite what Nie Yuanzi affirmed in an interview, that she was manipulated by Kang Sheng (as in the official version), the first dazibao was in fact the result of an independent initiative. See Yin Hongbiao (1996).
10 Quoted in Wang Nianyi (1988: 1).
Althusser, Louis (1997) Machiavel et nous, in Ecrits philosophiques et politiques, vol. II, Paris: Stock/ Imec.
Andreas, Joel (2002) ‘Battling over political and cultural power during the Chinese Cultural Revolution’, Theory and Society 31(4): 463–519.
Badiou, Alain (2000) ‘Huit thèses sur l’universel’. In Jelica Sumic (ed.) Universel, singulier, sujet, Paris: Editions Kimé.
Badiou, Alain (2001) Ethics. An Essay on the Understanding of the Evil (L’éthique. Essai sur la conscience du mal, 1993), Peter Hallward (trans.), London: Verso.
Badiou, Alain (2005) Cultural Revolution. The Last Revolution? (La Révolution culturelle: la dernière révolution?, Les conférences du Rouge-Gorge, Paris, 2002), Bruno Bosteels (trans.), in the special issue ‘Alain Badiou and the Cultural Revolution’, Positions, 13(3): 481–514.
Finley, Moses (1983) Politics in the Ancient World, Cambridge University Press.
Lazarus, Sylvain (1994) Anthropologie du nom, Paris: Seuil.
Pozzana, Claudia and Russo, Alessandro (2006) ‘China’s New Order and past disorders. A dialogue starting from Wang Hui’s analysis’, Critical Asian Studies 38(3): 326–345.
Russo, Alessandro (2002) ‘The probable defeat. Preliminary notes on the Chinese Cultural Revolution’. In Tani Barlow (ed.) New Asian Marxisms, Durham: Duke UP, 311–332. (Originally published in Positions (1998) 6(1), spring: 179–202.)
Russo, Alessandro (2005) ‘The conclusive scene: Mao and the Red Guards in July 1968’, Positions 13(3): 535–574. Russo, Alessandro and Pozzana, Claudia (2005) ‘After the invasion of Iraq’, (special issue, ‘Against Preemptive War’) Positions 13(1): 205–214.
Walder, Andrew (2002) ‘Beijing Red Guard factionalism: social interpretations reconsidered’, Journal of Asian Studies 61(2): 437–472.
Wang, Hui (2003) China’s New Order. Society, Politics, and Economy in Transition, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wang, Hui (2004) ‘The year 1989 and the historical roots of neoliberalism in China’, Positions 12(1): 7–69.
Wang, Nianyi (1988) The Era of the Great Disorder (Da dongluan de niandai), Zhengzhou: Henan Renmin Chubanshe.
Yin, Hongbiao (1996) ‘Cultural Revolution’s “first Marxist Leninist dazibao” (Wenge de “di yi zhang maliezhuyi dazibao”)’. In Liu Qingfeng (ed.) The Cultural Revolution. Facts and Analysis (Wenhua da geming: shishi yu yanjiu), Xianggang: Zhongwen daxue chubanshe, 3–16.
Special terms
chedi fouding - 彻底否定
dazibao - 大字报
Jinggangshan - 井岡山
Jinggangshanbao - 井岡山报
yidian lishi yiyi - 一点历史意义

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