Comrade K’ang has asked me to talk about the “January Revolution” in Shanghai and how the seizure of power came to take place. I will try to do so in the hope that it may be of some help to your judgment of the seizure of power and to the solution of your problems. However, because the situation in Shanghai then was not the same, it cannot be wholly applicable in your case. The mobilization of the masses in the “January Revolution” in Shanghai was the same as in other parts of the country. Because the old Shanghai Municipal Party Committee had misled the masses to a serious extent, the masses there were mobilized a little later than those in other localities. This is particularly true of the workers as only a few of them rose in rebellion until August-September.
Even by October, only several thousand rebels stepped forth out of a total of more than a million industrial workers. At a rally of rebel organizations formed throughout the city held in early November, more than a million people attended. Actually, some of the participants were conservatives and people secretly planted by the old municipal Party committee to watch how things were going at the rally; only five thousand were genuine rebels. During November-December, the mass movement in Shanghai appeared to have gained momentum to an appreciable extent. There were fierce struggles between both factions which were equally matched in strength. The main force in Shanghai stemmed from the workers who made up two major factions, namely the rebels called the “Workers’ Rebel H.Q.”—a force of several thousand people that had grown to fifty to sixty thousand strong, and the “Workers’ Red Militia Detachment” which claimed to have a following of eighty thousand strong, a contingent of at least fifty to sixty thousand people.
The two factions were equally matched in strength, explaining the reason why massive armed clashes were rife between them. By the end of December, however, the “Workers’ Red Militia Detachment” had collapsed. At this juncture, the revolutionaries had the workers as the backbone plus revolutionary Red Guards and cadres of public organs. By the end of December, the revolutionary peasants on the outskirts of Shanghai had also come forward, thus spontaneously forming an alliance with the revolutionary workers. The situation in Shanghai then was excellent because the “Workers’ Red Militia Detachment” and the Red Guards antagonistic to the revolutionary workers had collapsed while the conservatives of public organs had not yet formed an alliance. Under these circumstances, the old municipal Party committee resorted to “economism” [money and material inducements] to corrupt and disintegrate the rebels among the workers.
I recall going to Shanghai with Comrade Yao Wen-yuan on January 4. The old municipal Party committee had then been paralyzed. Many factories, including vital industrial plants, had stopped production. The stoppage of operations of Kao-chiao Chemical Works led many other plants to halt production. The piers and railway stations were also immobilized, causing severe dislocations. Under such circumstances, the revolutionary rebels in Shanghai began to seize power [from those holding power in the old Shanghai Municipal Party Committee]. In the early stage of the seizure of power in Shanghai, we never thought of the “capture of power” nor did we use the words “January Revolution.” We proceeded in the main from the Party spirit with no thought of factionalism. This is because we saw with our own eyes stoppages of work in industrial plants, and the piers were in such a state of paralysis that foreign vessels entering Shanghai harbor were unable to unload or load cargoes.
Taking advantage of the situation, imperialists lost no time in broadcasting to the world, saying that wharf workers in Shanghai went on strike. They did so with the malicious intention to attack and slander us. Some foreign merchant ships displayed our national flag upside down. This greatly irritated the rebels and wharf workers. Because large numbers of members of the “Workers’ Red Militia Detachment” quit their jobs after drawing their pay, many [revolutionary] workers worked for several days on end without leaving their jobs, instead of working the usual eight-hour shift or sixteen-hour [double] shifts. Railway stations were also manned by a skeleton staff and only two runs were scheduled each day. Sometimes, not even a single train was run.
At the time, we were not motivated by factionalism nor did we think of recapturing power [from the power-holders]. What was uppermost in our minds was what we were going to do [about the widespread dislocations]. After discussing the situation as a whole, we set about putting the vital departments such as the piers, railway stations, waterworks, power plants, broadcasting stations, postal offices and banks under our control. We did so to prevent counter-revolutionary acts of sabotage. Therefore, we mobilized troops and students and the rebels of industrial plants and railway stations to assist the revolutionary workers. In the case of the Shanghai Railway Bureau, for instance, the: rebels of railway stations with the assistance of thousands of college students manned the ticket booths and entry points to platforms, or served as locomotive conductors and train attendants. The students of practically all secondary schools in Shanghai were busy at the piers helping to load or unload cargoes. To get these workers organized, a joint command was set up not for seizing power on behalf of this or that faction, but for the sake of class interests, for the honor of the fatherland, for the socialist economy and for repelling the counterattack of bourgeois “economism.”
We submitted a report to the Center on the situation in Shanghai and what steps we had taken. Chairman Mao endorsed our actions, telling us that the seizure of power was wholly necessary and correct. This is how we came to use the term “seizure of power” as suggested by Chairman Mao. However, at the mention of “seizure of power,” we found the resultant evils of factionalism, such as selfishness, obsession with personal gain, the “mountain stronghold” mentality, the “small group” mentality, sectarianism, and so forth. This is because when those people were subjected to oppression or branded as “counter-revolutionary,” they hardly noticed these evils. But once the moment for the seizure of power came, some people became obsessed with selfishness and the “mountain stronghold” mentality. The seizure of power in Shanghai was not just plain sailing because once petit-bourgeois factionalism came to the fore, it was detrimental to the proletarian Party spirit and upset the general orientation of struggle. . . .
… As a result of our prodding, meetings were held many times in early February to approve of the professed plans for the seizure of power by the thirty-eight recognized rebel organizations. At these sessions, we made it clear that the seizure of power [from persons in power] in no way involved the seizure of official seals or occupation of the premises of official establishments. Rather, it involved the issues as to whether or not Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line was carried out, great alliances forged, the interests of the broad masses of people represented and popular support secured. We also made it clear that the seizure of official seals would be of no avail and in the absence of popular recognition of the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee and the Shanghai Municipal People’s Council, occupation of their offices would also be of no avail—merely a manifestation of formalism. We told them: Sukarno held a baton symbolizing presidential powers: nonetheless, Suharto stripped Sukarno of all his powers. What is the use of carrying the baton again?
In the joint seizure of power by the thirty-eight organizations, the great majority of organizations in Shanghai had in the main formed alliances. The situation was quite favorable because all the prominent rebel organizations in the city took part. At the time when the thirty-eight organizations met to draft a document for the formation of the “Shanghai People’s Commune,” another twenty-five organizations also met to inaugurate their “New Shanghai People’s Commune.” They told their rivals: Since you people haven’t asked us to join your setup, we call ours “New Shanghai People’s Commune”—something newer than yours!
The problem which confronted us then was that two major factions would be formed. The thirty-eight organizations were in the majority, being undisputed rebel groups. On the other hand, the twenty-five organizations were in the minority, having quarreled among themselves by calling one another conservative organizations. What was to be done in such a situation? If we proceeded from factional considerations when tackling the matter, deep rifts would inevitably occur. However, if we proceeded from fundamental class interests, from the interests of socialism, from the interests of all our people, and from considerations of the Party spirit, internal rifts would be avoided.
If the thirty-eight organizations proclaimed their readiness to seize power then and there, opposition would almost certainly arise and the factions in opposition to the thirty-eight organizations would not stop struggling against them, reminding us of what happened in Anhwei and Kiangsu (Comrade K’ang: Rifts will result if the seizure of power is undertaken by one faction and not jointly with other factions). In these circumstances, we held fast to the general orientation of struggle in accordance with Chairman Mao’s established policies and instructions of uniting the majority and relying on the majority. This general orientation must not be abandoned when uniting the revolutionary forces and struggling against the capitalist roaders. This is because once our own ranks were thrown into disarray in an unsuccessful seizure of power, the capitalist roaders would only be too pleased. Therefore, we tackled the matter in two stages, first dealing with the thirty-eight organizations which had formed the “Shanghai People’s Commune” because they were backed by solid strength and were numerically superior to other groups.
We told them: Do you people think it is right to do it this way and is the general orientation in order? They replied: Since seizing power from the capitalist roaders is in keeping with the general orientation, it is of course right for us to do so. But can we say we are keeping to the correct general orientation after splitting our own ranks as a result of the seizure of power? What you have said is right. Have they done the right thing by seizing power from the capitalist roaders and forming the “New Shanghai People’s Commune”? Who will benefit from this? Some people then said those were smaller organizations which could be smashed to pieces overnight and therefore it really didn’t matter much at all.
We told them: If you people do it this way, the power you people have wrested won’t last long because nobody will accept you. Later, we submitted a report to the center and proposed the following measures to the two rival factions: First, we suggested changing the thirty-eight component units making up the “Shanghai People’s Commune” to proposing units, in this way leaving the door open to the other twenty-odd units after subjecting them to gradual stages of screening. Second, a notice should be inserted in the newspapers tomorrow, but none of the proposing units will identify itself with the inserted announcement so as not to be mixed up with the seizure of power on behalf of a particular unit or with the desire to seek limelight. The first Message to the People of Shanghai which appeared in newspapers was issued by eleven units approved by Chairman Mao. That message made quite an impression on the public. The second Message to the People of Shanghai, however, was not made known to the public until the twenty-odd units which drafted the notice had vehemently wrangled over the order the names of the individual organizations should follow the message. Quarrels went out of hand and at one point the contenders for precedence over others disputed so furiously that they almost closed down the Wenhui Pao, indicating the serious extent of factionalism. Therefore, proclamations are not to be inserted in newspapers to avoid fomenting factionalism.
Third, at the inaugural meeting, delegates from organizations big and small or proposing or non-proposing units should be seated in the presidium. This is to unite the majority. Fourth, regardless of what organizations, conservative or otherwise, they are from, the people of Shanghai (Comrade K’ang: the citizens of Shanghai) have the right to attend celebration rallies or take part in processions. The conservatives are welcome whether they attend celebration rallies or take part in processions. In fact, all are welcome so long as they are not our enemies or landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements and rightists. In this way, the majority is united. After this was done, dealing with the other twenty-five organizations posed no problems at all. Because the proposing unit made allowance for other organizations to join them after screening by stages, no feelings were ruffled. Consequently, steps were not taken to form the “New Shanghai People’s Commune.” Of course, it wasn’t easy at all to convert these people to our point of view. For instance, some people clamored for inclusion on the next day and considered themselves as proposing units and so had the right to be seated in the presidium.
We had to hold repeated negotiations with them. Fortunately, we then had a “trump card” in our hands, for the Center designated myself and Comrade Yao Wen-yuan to be members of the “Shanghai People’s Commune.” Since there could be only one and not two organs of power in Shanghai, we could only join one. Incidentally, the three services of the army could not possibly support two organs of power because if they were asked to support both organs of power they would certainly lose heart. Of course, that wasn’t final and what was a matter of decisive importance was none other than Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line. In short, what the editorial of the February issue of Hung-ch’i journal stressed was a call to the proletarian revolutionaries to unite and to seize power from the handful of Party persons in authority taking the capitalist road. In the congratulatory message sent on January 11 to the people of Shanghai by the CCP Central Committee, the State Council, the Central Military Commission and the Central Cultural Revolution Group, there was this line: “You have formed a revolutionary great alliance, thus putting firmly in your hands the destiny of the great proletarian cultural revolution, the destiny of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the destiny of the socialist economy.” .
The reason why the situation in Shanghai was under control without showing any serious signs of rift was not that problems did not crop up among proletarian revolutionary organizations; rather, various mass organizations were able to handle problems correctly whenever they had cropped up in accordance with Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line and on the basis of guidelines laid down by the Party Center. Otherwise, Shanghai would have been seriously divided as in other [trouble spots]. Since we made a practice of handling and resolving problems in accordance with Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line and the thought of Mao Tse-tung, the question of Shanghai was rather successfully resolved and the situation there stabilized.
Arriving in Shanghai in the course of his inspection tour, Chairman Mao said: Why is Shanghai so stabilized? Well, barring other factors, the relationships between the masses and the cadres and between the masses and the Liberation Army were rather good. Between the masses themselves, between the masses and the cadres, and between the masses and the Liberation Army, the relationship was one of uniting with one another, not in opposition to one another. Under the condition of keeping to the same general orientation, if problems should crop up, people would sit down and discuss them, go over Chairman Mao’s writings, make criticism and self-criticism. That is why no serious rifts occurred then and no major problems cropped up. There were occasional rifts on a minor scale as there were cases in which certain individuals turned bad but nothing abnormal. But on the whole there were no problems of consequence.
SCMP No. 4145 (March 25, 1968)