Letters of the Hundred Flowers campaign (1956-57)

The following statements were submitted by intellectuals and letter writers during the Hundred Flowers Campaign in 1956 and 1957:

“No one can deny that in our country at present there are still floods and droughts, still famine and unemployment, still infectious disease and the oppression of the bureaucracy, plus other unpleasant and unjustifiable phenomena… A writer in possession of an upright conscience and a clear head ought not to shut his eyes complacently and remain silent in the face of real life and the sufferings of the people. If a writer does not have the courage to reveal the dark diseases of society, does not have the courage to participate positively in solving the crucial problems of people’s lives, and does not have the courage to attack all the deformed, sick, black things, then can he be called a writer?”

The editor of Literary Studies

“Learning from the Soviet Union is a royal road, but some cadres do not understand and think that it means copying. I say if we do, it will paralyse Chinese engineers… I have been engaged in electrical engineering for 20 years. Some of the Soviet experiences simply do not impress me. Of course, I suffered a good deal in the Five Antis movement because of these opinions.”

A factory manager

“Literature and art do not serve politics by mechanically serving a certain policy, nor do creative works that conform to the constitution, Party regulations, and the letter of the law; they mainly do so through the class nature of works, through encouraging people, and through the function of aesthetic education of the people’s moral qualities.”

A writer

“After the liberation [1949], intellectuals warmly supported the Party and accepted the leadership of the Party. But in the past few years, the relations between the Party and the masses have not been good and have become a problem of our political life that urgently needs readjustment. Where is the key to the problem? In my opinion, the key lies in the idea that “the world belongs to the Party”. I think a party leading a nation is not the same as a party owning a nation; the public supports the Party, but members of the public have not forgotten that they are masters of the nation… isn’t it too much that within the scope of the nation, there must be a Party man as leader in every unit, big or small, whether section or subsection… For many years, the talents or capabilities of many Party men have not matched their duties. They have bungled their jobs, to the detriment of the state, and have not been able to command the respect of the masses, with the result that the relations between the Party and the masses have been tense.

The editor of the Guangming Daily

“The Party members, due to their occupying positions of leadership and being favourably situated, seem to enjoy in all respects excessive privileges. Take theatres, for instance. A certain Party member pointed out in his self-examination that he was never happy unless he was offered a seat in the first ten rows. Why did he feel like that? Because he was used to seats in the first ten front rows… During the past few campaigns, one by one the people have had the skin of their faces torn to pieces, and the intellectuals have had their authority knocked for six, all of which may, should and indeed does have certain advantages. But why is it that the rectification of Party members must be done behind closed doors, and why is it that the masses are not allowed to probe into things if and when a Party member makes a mistake? … Never treat a person as if he were worse than dog’s excreta one moment and regard him as worth ten thousand ounces of gold the next. The intellectuals cannot stomach the ice cold, nor can they swallow the piping-hot.”

A college professor

“True socialism is highly democratic, but the socialism we have here is not democratic. I call this society a socialism sprung from a basis of feudalism. We should not be satisfied with the Party’s rectification and reformist methods and the slight concessions made to the people”

A student leader