An important document of the Red Guard movement–a letter from the senior cadres of Beijing No. 4 Middle School to Lu Dingyi in late 1964

At the end of 1964, the political ecology of Beijing‘s secondary schools was already “full of wind and rain”, and around October 1964, the cadres of the fourth, sixth and eighth middle schools in Beijing’s Xicheng District conspired with each other, believing that there were serious problems with the class line of the schools. They believed that party cadres and teachers of bad origins held the leadership of the school, and they focused on cultivating students of bad origins, excluding Ge cadres and children of workers and peasants; that the school neglected political Education, valued grades, and trained students to take the path of white specialization; that they should respond to the call of the great leader Chairman Mao and carry out class struggle; that the school should carry out an educational revolution and criticize the revisionist education line. In the fourth, sixth and eighth middle schools, there was a school wave, led by the sons of high cadres, criticizing the school leaders, teachers and language texts, and students fighting against students, which was called the “468 school wave” in the fall of 1964. The school wave in Sixth Middle School and Fourth Middle School later developed into the “social education movement”. I was a senior student of Beijing’s Fourth Middle School at that Time. The school wave in the fourth middle school was mainly led by the senior cadres of the senior class. Looking back at the history of that year, we can clearly see the trajectory of historical development: the “468 school wave” was the prologue and preview of the Red Guard movement in the middle school of the Cultural Revolution. The letter of December 20, 1964, from the senior cadres of Beijing’s Fourth High School to Lu Dingyi, the Minister of Propaganda of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, profoundly reflects the platform and thinking of the Red Guard movement in the middle schools at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.

In the late autumn of 1964, when a school wave broke out in No. 4 Middle School, some senior cadres of No. 4 Middle School wrote to the CPC Central Committee, reflecting that there were serious problems with the implementation of the Party’s class line by the school leaders of No. 4 Middle School and requesting the Central Committee to send a working group into the school. They wrote two letters, one to the Central Propaganda Department and one to the Beijing Municipal Committee. After the letters were written, the senior cadres jointly signed them, including Yang Dongsheng (Yang Chengwu’s son), Su Chengde (Su Zhenhua’s son), Song Kewra (Song Renpu’s son), Song Yangzhi (whose father Song Zhiguang was the deputy director of the Western Europe Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and six other senior cadres. The letter was written on December 20, 1964. The high cadres’ sons had their own channels, one letter was delivered to Lu Dingyi, the head of the Chinese Propaganda Department, through Lu Jianjian (later renamed Lu Jian, son of Lu Dingyi), a student of the fourth high school, and another letter was delivered to Peng Zhen, the first secretary of the Beijing Municipal Committee, through Fu Yang (son of Peng Zhen), a student of the fourth high school. After receiving the letter, Lu Dingyi forwarded it to the Beijing Municipal Committee on the 21st. The Ministry of Propaganda published the letter on the 25th in the 114th issue of the Propaganda and Education Update of the Ministry of Propaganda. The letter was confirmed by Li Chen, then director of the Beijing Municipal Education Bureau and head of the social education task force in Beijing No. 4 Middle School. In his work “A Review of Some Problems in Beijing Secondary School Education,” Li Chen said, “On December 20, 1964, six students, including Yang Moumou, from Beijing No. 4 Middle School, wrote a letter to Lu Dingyi, Minister of Propaganda, exposing the fact that the powerful faction in power in Beijing No. 4 Middle School excluded Party members and cadres of relatively good origin and On the 21st, Lu delivered the letter to Peng Zhen and Wan Li of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee, and on the 25th, the letter was published in the 114th issue of the Propaganda and Education Update of the CPC Central Propaganda Department. At this time among the students of the Fourth High School, there were brewing strikes, exam strikes, power seizures and criticisms against some student teachers, and some teachers and students had already been criticized. Under this revolutionary situation, the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee hastily formed a socialist education task force, which was stationed in the Fourth High School on December 28, 1964.” (Li Chen, A Review of Some Problems in Primary and Secondary Education in Beijing, Beijing Education Press, June 2001)

One of the immediate effects of this letter was to trigger the social education movement in the Fourth Middle School. At that time this letter was so widely circulated among the students of the Fourth Form that no one in the senior class knew about it. But for more than half a century, no one has seen the letter in its entirety. The authors of the letter have never published the full text of the letter and have done a good job of keeping it secret. Although I was named in the letter, I was not aware of it until June 2019, when I saw a detailed excerpt of the letter and felt that it was an important historical material, reflecting very typically the noble lineage consciousness and the impatient passion to carry out class struggle of the senior cadres.

This is how I got this historical material: Mr. Wang Haiguang, a professor at the Central Party School, a scholar of the history of the Party and the Cultural Revolution, and now a researcher at the Contemporary Literature and History Center of East China Normal University, exchanged information about the “468 school wave” and the “4 Central Society” with Mr. Yin Hongbiao, a professor of modern history at the School of International Relations of Peking University and a scholar of the history of the Party and the Cultural Revolution, on a long-distance phone call in June 2019. “The two of them talked about this letter from the Fourth Central Committee. Yin asked Wang for this letter. Wang Haiguang then sent a detailed excerpt of the textual material of this letter to Yin Hongbiao on June 10, 2019. He knew that the author was studying the “468 school wave” and the “social teaching of the Fourth Form”, so Mr. Yin immediately forwarded it to the author. In his weibo to the author, Mr. Yin specifically stated that Wang Haiguang had read the full text of the letter, but what he sent was an excerpt. I estimate that this is because the information has not been declassified, and no electronic files, only hand-copied. The author can see the detailed excerpt is already very rare. In this regard, the author is grateful to Mr. Wang Haiguang and Mr. Yin Hongbiao.

The following is a detailed excerpt of this letter.

Comrade Lu Dingyi of the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

First, in our school to teach the director Qu Datong, vice principal Liu Tieling headed in our school to join the party to stay in the school formed a hold on the school leadership of the power faction. This includes the secretary of the league committee, the head of the political teaching and research group, the head of administration, and the head of the sophomore class. All of these people come from bad backgrounds. Everything is decided by them, and they have the final say.

They exclude party cadres with better origins and reuse teachers with bad origins.

Second, the Party’s class line is not implemented among the students. The cadres of the student union were all from bad backgrounds. Wu Tiesheng, the president of the student union, had Parents who were historical counterrevolutionaries. Minister of Military Sports Wang Fuxing’s grandfather was a bureaucratic capitalist and his father was a first-class rightist. At the same time, Li Xinmast (Li Jingquan’s son) was insulted in all kinds of ways (Li said, “If I were in power, I would kill members like you first.”). The group’s membership was developed by Li Xinmeng. On the issue of membership development, he developed a large number of students from very bad backgrounds into the league. Xiao Yun (Xiao Hua’s son) volunteered for two years before being discussed.

Third, there are a lot of reactionary ideas among students, …… but the school does not care about this, greatly cover up. However, the students who come from a better background but adopt a high-handed policy, such as the South Self-Defense (he pushed a small classmate, was suspended for two weeks.)

Fourth, some other teachers in the school problems are also very serious. Such as fostering the children of the bourgeoisie as class leaders and student cadres.

The party branch did not allow class struggle, but also decided: no loud and loud! No posting of big-character posters.

We hope that the higher-ups will send a working group down to thoroughly address the problems in our school.

Yang Dongsheng (son of Yang Chengwu), Song Yangzhi (father Song Zhiguang was the deputy director of the Western Europe Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Su Chengde (son of Su Zhenhua), Qian Lejun, Li Andong, Song Kewra (son of Song Renpu)

December 20, 1964

The signature of the letter is interesting in that four of the six signatories are followed by brackets indicating who the father is. The author reckons that this is because they want to emphasize the identity (lineage) of the letter writers as a group of high cadre sons and daughters. Without the indication, because Lu Dingyi did not know these students and did not know who their fathers were, he would not have realized the weight of the letter.

Among the authors of the letter, Yang Dongsheng and Song Yangzhi are the same classmates of the author, Song Kehuang is is the same classmate of the author’s fourth middle school and the same grade classmate of high school, all three of them were good friends of the author back then and are still friends today. In particular, the letter is the first signatory Yang Dongsheng, we both like sports, personal relationship is very good. He was ranked first among the signatories, not because he was at the heart of the high cadre children’s rowdy school wave, but because of his father’s position, as his father was Yang Chengwu. In my impression, Yang Dongsheng himself was not very enthusiastic about getting involved in politics, and he once told me privately, “My dad told me to study hard and build the motherland later.” According to Su Chengde and Song Yangzhi when the author interviewed them on April 16, 2016, Su and Song told the author that there was a core group of senior cadres in the senior year of the Fourth Form school wave back then, and the convener was Qiu Chengguang (Qiu Huizuo’s son). Other core members were: Song Kehrao (son of Song Renpu), Xiao Yun (son of Xiao Hua), Su Chengde (son of Su Zhenhua), Liu Andong (son of Liu Lanbo, secretary of the party group and executive vice minister of the Ministry of Water and Power), Yang Dongsheng (son of Yang Chengwu), Li Xinshi (father was a major general of the Shanghai Air Force Four), Song Yangzhi (father Song Zhiguang was deputy director of the Western Europe Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)), and others. The meeting place was sometimes at Liu Andong’s house and sometimes at Xiao Yun’s house.

Back then, there was no personal grudge or entanglement between the author and them, but rather a personal friendship. I remember that in August 1966 (the beginning of the Cultural Revolution), Yang Dongsheng rode his bicycle from Tsinghua to Peking University to find the author and told him that he “supported the Kuai faction” in Tsinghua. Yang Dongsheng and He Pengfei (He Long’s son) had different views on the Tsinghua movement, and went to Peking University to tell the author, which shows that they had a good relationship. The author’s understanding of the motive of the letter written by the senior cadres of the Fourth Central Committee is that they wrote this letter to the CPC Central Committee at that time, and mentioned the author’s name in the letter, purely out of the so-called “public heart”, that is, their philosophy, values and ideology. According to them, it was out of the sense of responsibility of the successor of the revolution, for the sake of anti-revisionism and prevention of revision. In the author’s view, the strong view of lineage and origin discrimination shown in their letter shows that what they are essentially asking for is the privilege of the second generation of the Reds. In the end, it is still “selfishness”. From beginning to end, the letter was based on the doctrine of descent, which was used as a criterion for judging the political position of the leaders of the Fourth Form, and whether they were Marxist-Leninist or revisionist. With this philosophy, they criticized the school party leaders as revisionist. At that time, the author got wind of such a letter, but did not know that I was named. It was only fifty-four years later that I read the above information and learned that I had been named in the letter. If I had known that I had been named, I would have been “Alexander” and would have had a hard time with the mental pressure of a titanic mountain …… They did a good job of keeping the secret back then, thanks to them!

This letter criticizes the first sin of the school leadership, saying, “In our school to teach the director Qu Datong, vice principal Liu Tieling headed in our school to join the party to stay in the school formed a power faction to hold the leadership of the school …… these people are not good origins. All things are decided by them and decided by them. They exclude the party cadres who come from a better background and reuse teachers who come from a bad background.” The implication is that the main leaders of the school “come from bad backgrounds” and therefore “reuse teachers who come from bad backgrounds.” Here the educational policy, policy, and system of the school were not addressed at all, but only the right and wrong of the organizational line was determined by pedigree. They analyzed the leadership structure of the fourth middle school from the viewpoint of class struggle, naming and criticizing the head teacher Qu Datong and vice principal Liu Tieling.

Su Chengde stood up and spoke at a meeting of the alumni of the Fourth Form in 2005 to apologize to Liu Tieling and Qu Datong, the school leaders who had been attacked (for the letter of denunciation from the high cadres to the Central Propaganda Department and the Beijing Municipal Committee, which criticized Vice Principal Liu Tieling and Head Teacher Qu Datong by name). As soon as Su finished speaking, Mr. Qu Datong immediately stood up and said, “This page has been turned over, so don’t mention it again.” The students and teachers applauded for their speeches.

The second sin of this letter criticizing the school leadership says, “The party class line is not carried out among the students. The student cadres are all of bad origin.” They cite the author and the student council president Wu Tiesheng as examples by checking three generations. What is untrue about this article is that the election of the author as the military sports minister (head of the military sports department) of the student council that year was not appointed by the school leadership at all, but was elected by the student representative assembly. I was elected with the highest number of votes among the elected members of the student council. The election results were posted on the campus. The main reason for my election was that I was the 400m and 800m champion of the Beijing Secondary School Athletic Conference that year, and I won the 400m for three consecutive years. Most of the students in the fourth middle school like sports, so I have more fans of sports in the fourth middle school. The letter of recommendation from the league branch of my class praised me as a “three good students” (physically, academically and mentally). The report letter cited my example, which is completely untrue and unjustified, and is clearly discriminatory in origin. Their letter mentions my grandfather and father. Where did they take the information about my Family from? They did not have the right to see the records of their classmates. It should be because I was “consciously revolutionary” at that time, and had spent two weeks writing a dozen pages of “ideological reports” to the league branch, criticizing my grandfather and father and expressing my intention to draw a clear line with my bourgeois family. Similarly, Wu Tiesheng made a typical report at the school assembly on the living application of Chairman Mao’s writings, criticizing his bourgeois family and saying that he wanted to break with his family and be the successor of the revolution. At that time, Wu Tiesheng was treated by the school leaders as a typical example of a person who came from a bad background but had good political performance and betrayed his exploiting class family. Wu Tiesheng studied very well and was awarded a Gold medal. But this positive example at that time was also used as negative material by the authors of the report letter. Positive examples are used as negative material to expose, criticize with, this technique is certainly inappropriate, and the reason for doing so, of course, not only to the student cadres are not convinced, but to the entrance exams into the university, the league into the party, work positions, they are demanding privileged treatment. For example, in the second charge, it is accused of “developing a large number of students from bad backgrounds to join the league in the issue of developing league members. Xiao Yun (Xiao Hua’s son) volunteered for two years before being discussed.” In those years, the college entrance examination for university, not only to pass the political examination, but also to see the score of the college entrance examination, some high cadres’ children are not good at schoolwork, but still can not get into famous universities. They were also dissatisfied with this. They also quoted Li Xinmast (Li Jingquan’s son) as positive material, pointing out that Li had said, “If I were in power, I would kill regiment members like you first.” This shows that they want to carry out a brutal class struggle against members of the Black Five categories. This shows their strong “class consciousness”.

The third article of this letter accused the school leaders of not carrying out class struggle among the students and not criticizing the “reactionary ideas” among the students. This opinion was later adopted by the Social Education Task Force of the Fourth Form. The Beijing Municipal Committee responded to the letter’s request for a “social education campaign” in the Fourth Middle School and sent a task force to the Fourth Middle School on December 28, 1964. A week after the Beijing Municipal Committee received the letter, Peng Zhen sent a task force to Beijing No. 4 Middle School with the purpose of controlling the school tide, cooling down the brakes, and restoring the normal teaching order of the school. The task force of the Fourth Middle School was led by Zhang Wensong, Secretary of the Municipal Party Committee for Culture and Education, and Li Chen, Director of the Municipal Education Bureau, led the team into the school and took specific responsibility.

As soon as the social education started, the task force spearheaded downward and launched a campaign to criticize the reactionary students. The task force made Bi Xiangming of senior class 4 the key target of criticism in the whole school. Bi Xiangming was a student in the author’s class. He came from the countryside and his grandfather was a rich farmer. He attached importance to study and did not care much about politics. The class held a meeting to criticize him, and Comrade Li of the task force was present to sit in. The students criticized Bi for taking the path of the White Specialists and asked him to hand over his family’s “changed accounts” (referring to the land deeds before the land reform in ’49), which the students had learned from the stories of the Four Purities in the countryside that were circulating. Finally, Comrade Li of the task force made a speech sharply criticizing Bi Xiangming.

At a meeting of senior class 4 to criticize Bi Xiangming, everyone “forced” Bi Xiangming to confess his reactionary ideas, and Bi could not pass the test unless he confessed. Under repeated pressure, Bi Xiangming began to crawl up the pole, nonsense, he “confessed”: “I once wanted to blend into Zhongnanhai, bomb Zhongnanhai.” “You can not get into Zhongnanhai, how to bomb?” “Some of my classmates have permits to enter and leave Zhongnanhai, I can borrow the documents.” After Bi “confessed” counter-revolutionary ideas, everyone “believed”. After the “forced confession letter”, there was a natural “down!” After the meeting, some of the students ran to look for him. After the meeting, some students went to the task force and demanded that Bi Xiangming be shot. (The task force promptly criticized and stopped this development.

At that time, all the other senior classes held a criticism meeting to criticize Bi Xiangming. The only one who was the target of the struggle was Bi Xiangming, who was identified by the task force as a typical reactionary student and became the focus of the Four Cleanups campaign in the Fourth Form. At the end of the campaign, Bi Xiangming was designated by the task force as an enemy and was labeled a “reactionary student” and was not allowed to take the college entrance exams. After graduation, he was sent to Tuanhe Farm in Beijing for reform through labor. Bi Xiangming was the only one who was designated by the task force as an enemy of my contradiction in the social education of the fourth middle school. During the Cultural Revolution, the people of Tuanhe Farm, together with the people of Bi’s hometown, almost beat him to death. After the Cultural Revolution, Bi Xiangming found Li Chen, the leader of the task force, and asked to be rehabilitated. Li Chen said, “Son, you have suffered ……”, and Li Chen wrote a certificate for him to be rehabilitated, and then Bi Xiangming was accepted by the fourth middle school to do infrastructure work. In the mid-eighties, the alumni of the fourth school returned to school party, the 65th senior class 4 party organized by Bi Xiangming, the students were very enthusiastic about Bi, expressing their apologies to him. Liu Andong, the head of the core group of the four-clear movement of the senior class 4, apologized very sincerely to Bi Xiangming twice. Bi Xiangming, who was addicted to alcohol, died in 2002 due to illness, and more than twenty alumni of the same class in Beijing attended the memorial service.

Su Chengde recalled after the Cultural Revolution that the task force launched a student fight against students, believing that the task force was trying to calm the anger of the high cadres against the school leadership and shift the target, so the spearhead was downward to fight the students. The fact is that the Task Force adopted and implemented the third opinion of the petition of the senior cadres in the Fourth Form.

In the fourth article of this letter, it was alleged that “some other teachers in the school also had serious problems. For example, they support the children of the bourgeoisie to be class leaders and student cadres.” The sons and daughters of high cadres had a strong sense of power and regarded the student cadres of school classes and groups as the grassroots power. During the school wave in the fourth middle school, they followed the practice of “all power to the poor peasants” in the four purges in the countryside, and carried out “power struggle” in the senior classes.

Around November 1964, the “power grab” took place in many senior classes of the Fourth Form. The sons of high cadres seized power from the league branch secretary and class president whose families were not from the Red Five. There were six classes in the senior class, and three of them had a “power grab”. In the author’s senior class 4, Li Jun, the former league secretary (a son of cadres, whose adoptive father was criticized for right-leaning opportunist mistakes in 1959 and whose biological father left for Taiwan in 1949) He was replaced by Liu Andong (son of Liu Lanbo, executive vice minister and party secretary of the Ministry of Water and Power); class president Du Wen (whose father was a Chinese doctor) was replaced by Yang Dongsheng (son of Yang Chengwu). One day the whole senior 4 class met, and Liu Andong presided over the class meeting and announced the change of the “leadership team” without giving any reason and without going through the re-election process.

At the same time, Gao Yanhua (later renamed Gao Feng, whose family came from a small businessman), the group secretary of senior class 6, was replaced by Tan Xiaoman (whose father was the secretary general of the General Administration), a son of a high cadre, who was not a son of a Ge cadre, and was replaced by Qiu Chengguang (son of Qiu Huizuo), the group secretary of senior class 3. In fact, Shi Xiaoxing was also a son of a high cadre, but his family background involved intra-party struggle. He was wrongly designated as “anti-Party” by the Central Committee, expelled from the Party, dismissed from his post, and placed under house arrest in Wuhan, which was an unjust and wrongful case. Chen Guang committed suicide on June 7, 1954. The fact that Shi Xiaoxing was stripped of his right to be a branch secretary of the league because of his father’s background shows how deeply the children of high cadres were influenced by their fathers’ power struggle, and how politicized the 17- and 18-year-old high school students were. Chen Guang was rehabilitated and rehabilitated by the central government in April 1988. Shi Xiaoxing later authored the book Chen Guang in memory of his father and changed his name from his mother’s surname back to his father’s, changing his name to Chen Xiaoxing.

On April 16, 2016, in Beijing, I dated three high school alumni of the Fourth Form: Su Chengde, Ren Xiaobin, and Song Yangzhi, with my classmate Yu Huo, for an interview. Su was a member of the core group of the Fourth Form school wave back then, and Ren and Song were members of a larger core circle. The three were guaranteed to be sent to the youth training class of the Central Senior Party School for further study and training at the end of the Fourth Qing and at the end of high school. During the gathering, they were invited by the author to recall and reflect on the school wave and social education in Beijing’s Fourth Form in those years. Su Chengde and three others recalled and told in detail many of the inside stories of those years.

Su Chengde said at the gathering of our five alumni: “At that time, there were mainly several ideas that pushed our senior cadres to engage in movement and social education: first, the class struggle concept, to respond to the call of the great leader Chairman Mao to carry out class struggle; second, the successor concept, at that time, a one-sided understanding of the Central Government’s instructions on training successors, that the descendants of the revolution should first take the responsibility to take over and be the successor of the revolution; third, the anti-revisionist concept. The third is the anti-revisionist and anti-revisionist view, which is to oppose both Soviet revisionism and Chinese revisionism, and to first break the revisionist education line in schools. Driven by such several ideas, out of a sense of responsibility and superiority, they feel that the children of the revolutionary army and the revolutionary cadres have the revolutionary responsibility to engage in class struggle; they think that they come from revolutionary families and are the natural successors to do the revolution, who else can they be?”

Su Chengde said, “Reflecting on what happened back then, what the high cadres did in the school wave of the Fourth Form and later in the social education was actually the forerunner and preview of the Red Guard movement in the early stage of the Cultural Revolution. The superiority feeling of the high cadres later developed into the lineage couplet ‘Old son is a hero and a good man, old son is a reactionary and a bastard’. The small group activities of the senior cadres in the fourth middle school, which broke class boundaries, were the prototype of the Red Guards later. The class struggle, the criticism of leaders and teachers, the students’ struggle against students, the raiding of homes, the things that the Red Guards did later, were already showing their heads and starting to appear in the Fourth Form.”

Su Chengde’s reflections tell that the causes of the Cultural Revolution originated before the Cultural Revolution.

The school wave and social education in the fourth middle school were the prologue and preview of the Red Guard movement of the Cultural Revolution.

The letter sent by the senior cadres of the Fourth High School to Lu Dingyi at the end of 1964 is very typical of the thinking of the senior cadres in those years, who divided the classes by descent and carried out class struggle.

Wang Fuxing

September 1, 2020
In Austin, Texas, USA