One of the important factors that started the Cultural Revolution is power concentrated
on one person. In fact from about 1957 to the Cultural Revolution, all power was
concentrated on Mao Zedong. However because of the repressive laws he made, nobody was
able to criticise him. The people also admired Mao enthusiastically as a hero of the new
China. A statue to Mao was built in town and Mao's little red books were distributed to
the people. How was this crazy cult of Mao developed, and how did it connect with the
Personality cults go against the basic ideas of Marxism. Past personality cults, such as
for Stalin or for Mao Zedong, occurred in countries in the Communist bloc and brought
tragedy. The CCP, and Mao himself, had tried to take various measures against personality
cults, like prohibiting celebrations for the birthday of Party leaders since the Republic
Despite such attempts, they were unable to prevent a personality cult from developing.
Politics in the CCP before 1957 seemed to be relatively normal, but even at that time
several problems had arisen. For example, although leaders sometimes made mistakes,
exploits tended to belong to one person in the theory and advertisements of the CCP. By
ignoring this problem, personality cults grew.
Three factors promoted the development of personality cults.
First was the people's attachment to Mao. The CCP became the heroes of the new China by
liberating the people who had been suffering under the Kuomintang rule for a long time.
The people concentrated their admiration for the CCP on Mao, top leader of the CCP, and
admired him as a benefactor. This feeling of the people was affected by the long-term
feudal system in China. The peasants' ideas had been conditioned by the feudal system for
a long time, and these could not be changed quickly, and remained a power to promote
Second was the connivance and admiration for personality cults. Mao mentioned this at the
congress in Chengdu in 1958; "There are two kinds of personality cults. One is a
healthy personality cult, that is, to worship men like Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin.
Because they hold the truth in their hands. The other is a false personality cult, i.e.
not analysed and blind worship." This remark of Mao seems to have elements of truth
but it is false. He confuses the worship of truth with a personality cult, despite there
being an essential difference between them. But this remark played a role in helping to
promote the personality cult that gradually arose in the CCP.
Third were the few ambitious people who were plotting for their own benefit, and had other
intentions. They praised Maoism as the greatest thinking on Marxism and Leninism. It was
Lin Biao who represents those who were trying to gain power by promoting the cult of Mao.
That resulted in confusing many people.
Personality cults never occurred if the person to be worshipped didn't welcome it. Marx,
Engels and Lenin showed deep hatred for the admiration to themselves. Therefore the issue
around their cults didn't arise in the international communist movement. Mao himself was
responsible for an intense cult of Mao in China. When Mao meet with the American
journalist, Edgar Snow, he said, " Personality cults are sometimes useful", and
" Personality cults were needed for the last five years." Although he tried to
prevent personality cults before, he presented personality cults openly at that time.
He had to deal with the problem calmly and objectively soon when his policy was proved to
be false and objected to by many people. But he regarded himself as right and boycotted a
lot of opposite forces. Through arbitrary decision making and the personality cult many
Communists and organisations lost their operation of control and restraint.
A principle that collective leadership and democracy became tied to a single individual
leads to that individual dominating the masses. Of course Mao had never denied the
principle of collective leadership and democracy. That is the theme, which Mao always
thought was most important.
Actually an important decision by Mao was passed to a central organisation where it was
discussed and adopted in a congress. But under the abnormal conditions of the CCP, his
decisions were always adopted. That produced an atmosphere that concealed the arbitrary
decisions by Mao. Seen by an outsider, the truth seemed to be always in Mao.