T. Cliff


Ephemeral flora

(Winter 1960/61)

From International Socialism (first series), No. 3, Winter 1960/61, p. 29.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Hundred Flowers
Edited by Roderick MacFarquhar
Stevens & Sons. £2 2s.

Once upon a time a Communist ruler called upon his subjects to criticise his regime. This was in May 1957 when Mao Tse-Tung called for ‘a hundred flowers to bloom’. He invited all organizations and individuals frankly to criticise all deficiencies of Party work. Assurances were given that no action would be taken against critics. Mao thought that this movement, carried out ‘as gently as a breeze or a fine rain’ would provide a safety valve and ease social tensions. Alas, the breeze turned into a storm. And a bare month later criticism was clamped down upon severely. The hundred flowers wilted.

The short-lived period of unrestrained criticism revealed many aspects of the tensions rending Mao’s regime. The book under review partly documents this criticism but does not stress sufficiently the tensions underlying them.

The author pays too little attention to workers’ and peasants’ complaints compared to those of students, Government officials, industrialists, etc. The latter are more voluble and the author has a capitalist bias.

The book fails completely to explain why Mao allowed this liberal experiment. There is no correlation of the ‘Hundred Flowers’ period with the general historical development of Chinese communism and of world communism in the period following the Hungarian revolution.

Last updated on 3 February 2017