During the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution, the specter of the exam pervaded China: “does 1 divide into 2 or do 2 synthesize into 1?” The answer determined the fate of the interrogated: salvation or condemnation, the continuation of mundane regularity or reeducation in labor camps. During the fanatically ideological decade, 1966-76, a single wrong answer was sufficient to demonstrate that one had “headed down the road to capitalism,” which at the time seemed very crowded. Young men posed the question, drunk with the power they exercised, soaked with superficial understandings of Mao’s teachings, trained for a game larger than them. Casting a doubt on the sincerity of one’s revolutionary deference required little evidence: a neighbor’s accusation, an anonymous tip, personal vendettas, or the incorrect reply. Like truth serum, the question itself was unequivocal. If 1 was divisible in 2, the revolutionary license was issued; on the contrary, if 2 could be synthesized into 1, a person was condemned as an enemy of the state. The complete absence of ambiguity was coupled with the cruelty of the judgment. In that paroxysmal climate, one incorrect answer—or worse: articulated—was the prelude to ruin. The consequences were logical, cruel and primitive.
“1 divided into 2” exemplified the dynamism of Hegelian dialectics. Every thesis needs an antithesis, every phase is history is defeated by the subsequent, and the passage from capitalism to communism is inevitable even if the process is long and difficult. Especially, all results are temporary because as soon as 1 is formed, it divides in 2. Contradictions emerge that must be immediately mitigated with healthy ideological arguments. These struggles—Mao Ze Dong would always teach—can be “among the people” or battles with enemies of the revolution. Various instruments can be utilized, but the substance underlying them doesn’t change: tensions always exist, vigilance is therefore necessary, and political fight is constant and inevitable. The contrasts, class struggle, disorder—therefore chaos—are all part of the natural order of things. Impeding them means paralyzing the evolution of history on the path to liberation, social emancipation and equality. Battles must be fought to achieve peace, and arms are necessary to prevent future wars. If conservatism is pervasive in the PCC, it must be purified, even if it requires blood. This rigidity was consistent with the historical mission: building a new society starting from the zero year. Mao did not falter to unleash chaos against the very party he founded, giving the order to “bombing the headquarters”. Despite still directing the organization, Mao did not hesitate to let the young Red Guards – more sensitive to fanaticism an obedience – pounce on it. For 10 years China spiraled into complete disorder. Factories were not sources of production but ideological amphitheaters while the countryside served as an incubator for profitless social experiments; schools were deserted as students were sent to work in camps to “serve the people”. Law schools closed because the only justice was that of the proletariat, and the people’s courts substituted tribunals.
An entire managing group—the one whose children now hold power—was decimated, repressed, humiliated, and imprisoned. It believed that 2 could be converted into one, that new equilibrium would need stability and that synthesis could be an end and wouldn’t give rise to successive divisions. It was the veteran generation of the Long March. It experienced the anti-Japanese resistance and the civil war against the nationalists. It believed China needed order, not chaos. It praised an egalitarian utopia, albeit without enthusiasm. On the surface it was preoccupied with the benevolent intention of creating a strong society, while its true concern was maintaining the privileges it was accruing. The economy was its instrument, the “bourgeois science.” In order to be effective it needed discipline, rigor and obedience. It is known that these strategies recently prevailed. China defeated egalitarian ambitions, the absolute supremacy of politics and the experience of the Cultural Revolution. Mao’s death was traumatic, but it probably only accelerated the times of change. In reality, attempts to defeat the virtues of order—by opposing the preciousness of chaos—were destined to fail. China’s history and the objective difficulties the country was still facing conspired against this paradigm.