"Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution," a period of tremendous upheaval, lasted for a
full decade, from 1966-1976. Launched by Chairman Mao Zedong ostensibly
as a call to students to rebel against the "repressive" education
system, it was in fact an attack on so-called "capitalist roaders" in the Communist Party who were at loggerheads with Mao. He claimed they
retained "liberal bourgeois" ideas and posed a danger to the Party
and the society. He saw them as obstacles to the development of
socialism in China, and checks on his own personal power.
Mao's urging, radical students formed "Red Guard" organizations that
traveled the country destroying property and attacking so-called "class
enemies." They seized power from local officials and civil war broke
out. Schools, factories and other enterprises closed and their leaders
were exiled. As the nation sank into chaos, workers and the military
were sent in to impose order, and millions of city youth were "sent
down" to the countryside beginning in 1968.
Struggle at the top continued as moderates returned to power to restore order, even as radical elements continued to attack them. Finally, after Mao died in 1976, the leftist "Gang of Four," which included Mao's wife Jiang Qing, was arrested and eventually tried and convicted, and moderation was restored to public life under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. The Cultural Revolution, which had caused the death of hundreds of thousands and the persecution, imprisonment and injury of millions more, finally ended, and was officially condemned by the Communist Party as a great blunder.
Top: Chairman Mao wearing a Red Guard armband.
Bottom: The trial of the Gang of Four, 1981.
© 2011-2021, Sasha Gong and Scott D. Seligman