Chinese Cultural Revolution
Between 1966 and 1976, young Chinese revolted in an attempt to purge the country of the “old guard” including fashion, culture, customs and old ideas.
In 1966, “Mao Zedong” called for the start of the Cultural Revolution at the CPC Central Committee meeting and urged the formation of the Red Guards to punish Party officials and anyone else showing bourgeois tendencies.
“Mao” took this step to get rid of his opponents in the Communist Party, following the failure of the so-called “Great Leap Forward” policies (a plan developed by “Tsy Tung” to transform China from an agricultural country to an industrialized country). “Mao” realized that the rest of the party leaders sought to marginalize him, and he quickly appealed to his supporters to join him in the Cultural Revolution.
The first to respond to his call was the students, who organized themselves in the first groups of the “Red Guards”, and then the workers and soldiers.
The first places targeted by the “Red Guard” were the Buddhist temples, churches and mosques, and the burning of sacred texts, religious statues and other artifacts, any symbol associated with the pre-revolutionary period was targeted by them.
During their campaign, the “Red Guards” began executing people they considered “anti-revolutionary” or “bourgeois”.
The guards carried out what was then known as “torture sessions” where they tortured people accused of carrying capitalist ideas (usually teachers, monks, and other intellectuals). Many people died in those sessions or ended up in rehabilitation camps for years.
By February 1967, China had been swept into chaos, and some army generals had openly spoken out against the expansion of the Cultural Revolution. The “Red Guard” groups fought each other in the streets, and “Jiang Qing” (Mao’s wife) encouraged the “Red Guards” to disarm the PLA and even replace it if necessary.
By December 1968, “Mao” realized that the Cultural Revolution was beginning to spiral out of control, as China’s economy was collapsing.
To counter this, “Mao” called for “rural migration”, where families from the city were sent to live on farms and learn from peasants. The aim was to expand the deployment of the “Red Guards” to reduce the chaos that hit the country.
With the decline of violence in the streets, the Cultural Revolution in the next six or seven years focused on the power struggle between the Communist Party leadership.
By 1971, “Mao” and his deputy, “Lin Biao”, launched mutual assassination attempts.
“Biao” tried to flee with his family to the Soviet Union, but his plane crashed, believed to have been dropped by Chinese or Soviet officials.
With “Mao’s” old age and deteriorating health, his wife and three of her confidants, called “The Gang of Four”, seized control of the Chinese media and began campaigning against the country’s moderates.
The consequences of the Cultural Revolution
The revolution of the Chinese leader “Mao Zedong” has brought disaster to China, where it destroyed a social structure aged thousands of years old under the pretext of reform and communism.
The revolution was so violent and comprehensive that it even devoured its leaders from the first “Red Guards”, who was initially assigned the task of tearing apart the old and inventing the new.
Throughout the decade of the Cultural Revolution, Chinese schools did not open, leaving an entire generation without formal education. Learners and teachers were targeted to be held in rehabilitation camps. Those who had not been killed were expelled to the countryside to work as a farmer or worker.
All sorts of artifacts and works of art in museums and houses were destroyed as a symbol of the “era of old thinking”, and precious historical and religious texts were burned and turned into ashes.
The number of victims of the Cultural Revolution is not known, but it may amount to at least hundreds of thousands, if not millions.
The history of communist China carries terrible mistakes. The Cultural Revolution is one of the worst events, not only because of the sheer number of victims but also because of the destruction of a huge cultural heritage.
“Mao’s” Cultural Revolution, with its resounding failure, opened the way for a major change in China.
The Cultural Revolution was violent, but it was also a source of inspiration and social experience. Why did people get involved in the Cultural Revolution and then disappointment hit many of them? The challenge is to deal with the Cultural Revolution seriously, rather than simply rejecting its harsh behavior. Because of it, amazing political initiatives were launched amidst a scene of chaos, new beginnings and the settling of old accounts.
However, the movement remains the subject of disagreement over its extremism, ambitious range and its impact on the lives of nearly one billion people. It is difficult to understand this complex, often mysterious, still painful period.