PEKING, Feb. 27, 1972 (UPI) - One of Mao Tse-tung's greatest concerns about Chinese communism is the emergence of an elite leadership class that will depart from the course he has set for China.
This, Mao contends, is what happened to Russia and turned the Soviet Union into a revisionist state.
This is what is happening in China when Mao launched the Cultural Revolution and destroyed the old leadership structure of both party and state.
Mao has always maintained that the best way to prevent the development of an elitist leadership class is for the leaders - the cadres - to spend time laboring with the workers and peasants, listening to their complaints and learning about their problems.
By getting their hands dirty, Mao says, the cadres will cleanse their minds of any capitalist type thoughts that they belong to a special group which requires privileged treatment.
On May 7, 1966, in a letter to the late Defense Minister Lin Piao, Mao proposed a program implementing these ideas. This became known as the "May 7th Directive" and is the basis for the retraining and reeducation of cadres going on in China today.
Mao issued another directive on Oct. 4, 1968, declaring that "sending the masses of cadres to do manual work gives them an excellent opportunity to study once again. This should be done by all those cadres except those who are too old, weak, ill or disabled. Cadres at work should also go group by group to do manual labor."
The new program swung into high gear later that same month. Special facilities, known as "May 7th Schools," were established throughout the country for cadres to participate in group study and collective labor.
For cadres working in the East City District of Peking, the May 7th School is located about 25 miles away in the eastern suburbs. It was established on Nov. 7, 1968. Since then more than 3,000 "students" have attended the school, including the present group of 450, ranging from schoolteachers to factory supervisors.
"Welcome to the East City District May 7th School," Chao Sung-ling, the man in charge, said when we arrived for a visit. "Let me tell you about our school and what we are trying to accomplish."
For the next three hours, Chao told me how the cadres had built the school from scratch, taking the barren, uncultivated land and turning it into a farmland that now produces about 8,000 tons of grain and 5,000 tons of vegetables annually.
"We have transformed not only the objective world, but also the subjective world," Chao said in his recitation of these and other achievements.
Each cadre attending this school stays six months. The term for other schools throughout the country varies from three months to three years.
"The length of time for the term is still under discussion," Chao said. "Some feel that the period is too short here and want to make it one year. This is good because it enables the cadres to gain more experience. But, it is bad because it slows down the rotation process and means many cadres will have to wait too long to take their turn."
Each cadre at this school spends from two weeks to one month living with a farm family in nearby communes. The remainder of the time is spent in dormitories built by the cadres themselves.
Because they are so close to their homes, each cadre is permitted to visit their families for three days every two weeks. For cadres from central government offices, who usually are sent to schools much more distant from Peking, the visiting periods are not so liberal. They get one month a year off to visit their families.
While taking us on a tour of the school's pigpens and vegetable patches. Chao said the cadres usually spend four days a week in collective labor and two days a week in group study.
"We feel that this system of self-study, participation in mass labor and living with the peasants has great significance in eliminating bureaucracy, preventing revisionism and consolidating the proletariat.
"After spending time here," Chao added, "the cadres are able to overcome the habit of divorcing themselves from the people and from reality. They return to their jobs with a remolded world outlook."
When the first May 7th schools were established there was a widespread belief among analysts outside China that they were at least partly punitive. Some specialists in Chinese affairs still hold to this belief.
"Absolutely not," Chao said with some vehemence. "Everybody who comes here is a volunteer. Everyone wants to come. We have a long waiting list now. That is why we have to keep them shorter than many would like."
If that is the case for all the schools, why is it that some people spend as long as three years in certain schools?
"Each department, each district and each school," Chao said without offering an explanation, "has its own particular situation."
From talking with cadres at this school and watching them at study and at work you get the impression that the six-month term is something like a long stay at a dude ranch for some of them. For others it is much like the American attitude about going into the Army - most people do not want to go, don't care for it much while their in but think it wasn't such a bad experience when its all over.