January 17, 1966: Criticism of Wu Han gets “out of hand,” and Beijing academics attempt to keep things civil

 

On January 17, 1966, Peng Zhen in meetings with the editorial departments of the Beijing Daily, the Beijing Evening News, Beijing Arts and Literature and Front Line repeatedly emphasized that the Wu Han problem was purely an academic matter.
On the afternoon of January 17, the assistant head of the central government’s propaganda department Xu Liqun met with the respective personnel of 6 editorial departments, described the problem at hand, summed it up, and put forth Peng Zhen’s instruction, ordering that the 3 papers and 3 journals stop their criticism, for now letting Hongqi alone. He emphasized Peng Zhen’s “let things go” policy, saying that the leadership had created a chaotic scuffle. Xu Liqun held meetings on the scope of the struggle allowed to arise from Wu Han’s criticism, and also review criticisms that essays related to Wu Han were “too hard” for the masses to understand, and that many cadres simply only read the title of such articles. Other reports stated that there were not enough “quality” articles on the subject. Meetings were held as well to discuss how to respond to Chairman Mao’s instruction that Wu Han’s play be criticized around the point of “dismissal of officials” (referring to Peng Dehuai).
At stake at the time:
The criticism of Wu Han’s play clearly was making ripples throughout the ideological level, splitting the intelligensia about how to respond. Peng Zhen’s attempt to “control” the debate by ceasing criticism in the many Beijing papers, while insisting on quality shows the danger perceived in leading quarters about a discussion which they simultaneously insisted was merely an “academic” matter. The questions of quality can be seen as related to Mao’s writings on revolutionary upsurges.
Source
龚育之,《龚育之回忆——“阎王殿”旧事》,天津人民出版社,2008年;李筠,《我和“三家村”》,《炎黄春秋》2010年第12期 via: http://50nianqian.blogspot.ca/2016/01/1966117.html

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