Since December everyday life in Canton has been normal, except in two respects. Firstly, there was an almost total lack of rain from early August until about a month ago. This did not adversely affect the autumn harvest, which was excellent, but reduced the water levels of the reservoirs—resulting in electricity cuts and some short-time working. Secondly, as many people did not get home for the Spring Festival last year, and this is China’s traditional time for family reunion, there was a tremendous coming and going in and out of Canton, which overloaded the transport facilities.

Two activities have dominated the Cultural Revolution front, both aimed at forming or consolidating the new unity. Firstly, there have been negotiations between the leaders of the competing organizations in order to form alliances leading to three-way committees (leaders of rebellious masses, revolutionary cadres, and representatives of the Peoples Liberation Army—PLA). Secondly, there have been many study courses in Mao Tse-tung’s thought for dou si pi siu (‘combating self, and criticizing revisionism’).

Negotiations here in Zhongda have taken several forms: direct bilateral talks; the same, with the presence of members of the PLA unit staying here in the university; talks involving and under the auspices of the provisional provincial leading group (one, when the chairman of the committee took part, went on until 2 o’clock in the morning). There were two main stumbling blocks. The Red Flag Commune (RFC) and the quite small but very militant August 31st Fighting Group, which are closely allied, insist that they both be represented on the new committee, while the Rebellious Committee (rc) insist that only they and the RFC be recognized. They also disagreed about the number of representatives that each side, or the three organizations, should have on the new committee. At the time of writing, the second of these differences has been removed, by both sides saying they do not mind how many representatives the other has. Further, following a meeting this morning at which representatives from a nearby art college reported on how they overcame a similar impasse—by self-criticism and reaching the point where they were prepared to accept the proposals of the other side—our last obstacle is probably being overcome at this very minute.

We have not been taking part in the group discussions, presumably because it was felt that our presence might inhibit full self-criticism, but we have been told about several of these ‘short courses’. A RFC teacher friend described a two-week course that he attended, as follows:

‘We met three times a day for a total of about 8 hours. Sometimes the evening session went on till very late as we were so interested in the discussion. We commenced by reviewing the national and international situation. Then we discussed the local situation, and finally our situation here in Zhongda. In discussing the situation in Zhongda we put the main emphasis on self-criticism, and getting a clear idea of where we had made mistakes, due to petit-bourgeois and bourgeois small-group mentality and individual selfishness.’

This course was one organized for a selected group of students and teachers of the RFC. Following this, groups were organized for all the members of the RFC, to each of which one or two PLA men were invited. These courses have just come to an end and are being followed by mixed groups from both sides. In the language department, the situation is made difficult by the fact that the RFC is in a great majority. The mixed groups have been held first in the physics department, where the two sides are more evenly matched.

The turning-point here was on February 15th when, at a meeting called and presided over by the PLA, the leaders of our three main organizations for the first time made a number of serious self-criticisms, the major aspect of which was that they had put the interests of their own organizations before the advancement of the Cultural Revolution. They admitted that they had at various times pointed their spearheads at the PLA; that they had emphasized the errors of the other side, and refused to admit their achievements; that they had resorted to physical violence, and so on.