It was China
in the year 1956
. The Chinese Communist Party
was still learning to deal
with the power
it had won from the country's civil war
. Things were starting to stagnate
; the march
towards the utopian society
promised was much harder than was expected. Most of the upper cadre of the ruling party
were still romantics, the sort that believe so totally in the ideology
that nothing, not even the Long Walk
, could sully
. And the leader
, Mao Zedong
, was quite possibly the largest romantic
of them all. So, from this, the Hundred Flowers Campaign
The purpose of this movement was to get China out of the doldrums and to advance it towards perfection, and this would happen by the loyal intellectuals giving input back into the system. They would criticize each part of the party leadership that was not striving at the utmost to reach the party goals. The plan should work; after all, wasn't this the way that the intellectuals were to help the movement? Weren't the leaders supposed to listen? 'To each according to his abilities', according to Marx.
Mao led the charge, quoting classical Chinese poetry in a famous speech - "Let one hundred flowers bloom and one hundred schools of thought contend...."
This was the plan on paper. It was created by romantics who didn't realize that they were very isolated from the people that they were trying to work for.
There was an immediate firestorm of criticism, much more than the party leaders expected. Often, the intellectuals criticized the closed-off, authoritarian manner in which the party conducted the government. But, there was also a major diversity of ideas.
The party leaders were thrown into chaos and little or no action was taken. This only increased the level of criticism. Certain liberties that the party had taken came into light; there were rumors of party leaders indulging in luxuries (basically true), and the Communist party was reported to have 'liquidated' up to 800,000 citizens by Western news sources (veracity unknown - certainly exaggerated, but by how much?). This news was not greeted kindly by the students, who had now taken up the charge. There were reports of widespread dissent.
In Communism, everyone working together towards a common goal is a key idea. For this to happen, everyone must agree. The ideology and goals of everyone must be the same - 'pure'. The criticism and maybe even the diversity of ideas scared the leaders, and they fell back to the idea of 'purity'. Mao made a public about-face, and the intellectuals who spoke out were labelled as 'bourgeois', a horrible insult at the time in China that harkened back to the decadent Chiang Kai-Shek. A small campaign stressing ideological purity was launched, and many intellectuals and students disappeared.
Some believed that the entire Hundred Flowers Campaign was simply a method to get dissidents out in the open - to let a hundred flowers bloom, and then reap them all. This doesn't jive with the reported state of the party at the time - the Long Walk was still a fresh memory in many minds, and the slow rot of corruption was only just beginning. Chances are, the campaign was serious. And seriously misguided.
There was still the issue of how to get China towards the end goal of the utopian society. The leaders gathered, created a plan, and presented it to the world : The Great Leap Forward.