Cultural Revolution Readings 1960s
The Cultural Revolution saw the apotheosis of Chairman Mao. Although party leaders were aware of the tensions between the Chairman and his closest colleagues over the best ways to achieve socialism, and especially over how to recover from the Great Leap Forward, the public saw only their revered, godlike leader — the “Great Helmsman,” the “Savior of the Chinese People.” For reasons that still defy simple explanations, many Chinese acted irrationally in the Cultural Revolution (1966–69).1 Senior leaders found it impossible to bring themselves to stop Mao in the beginning and were helpless to save themselves soon thereafter. “Bombard the Headquarters” is the title of Mao’s August 5, 1966, “big-character poster” denouncing “some leading comrades” for arrogance and opposing the proletariat. Big-character posters are essays written on big sheets of paper and hung on the walls of factories, schools, or other places where people lived and worked. Anyone could write and post these essays. Mao’s big-character poster galvanized the emerging Red Guard movement of college and high school students. Leaders, from politburo members to local schoolteachers, were paraded through the streets in the dunce caps that Hunan rebels had used on evil landlords in Mao’s 1927 “Report on the Peasant Movement in Hunan” (see Document 1). The Cultural Revolution was under way.
KeywordsChinese Communist Party Cultural Revolution Select Work Party Leader Class Struggle
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