The Cultural Revolution: a Test of Political Activism

  • Anita Chan


When Mao Zedong gave young people the green light to assail the established order in 1966, the tensions, antagonisms, anger, self-disdain and bottled-up frustrations of the preceding years exploded into violence. The conscious basis for the young people’s behaviour was to ‘defend Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line’; but this became, as shall be seen, a rationale for the expression of their personal interests and emotional yearnings.


Cultural Revolution Central Committee Class Background Class Line Party Branch 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 3.
    It is interesting to note that the same chaotic situation resulting from a profusion of personal grievances occurred in Peking University as well, as recorded by a French student who was studying there at that time: ‘Many of the students at first seemed to lack a theoretical basis for their attacks on Lu P’ing [Party Committee Secretary of the university], and they acted largely in the context of their somewhat mechanical “official lives”. But in the days that followed a change began to occur. Their “official” political lives gradually began to become integrated with their private lives as, lacking theoretical notions, they found they had to talk in very personal terms about their lives under the old administration. Students described their feelings of oppression and intimidation. Some of the girls’ speeches were like “Greek tragedies”: swept up by their emotions, crying and tearing out their hair, they related how miserable they had been.’ In Victor Nee, The Cultural Revolution at Peking University (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969) p. 60.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    Jonathan Unger, Education Under Mao (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982) chs 7 and 10.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Max Weber, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretative Sociology, ed. by Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978) pp. 248–54.Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    ‘Origin Theory’, High School Revolutionary News, 2 Feb 1967, p. 3; translated in Gordon White, Class and Class Origin, pp. 71–93. Within a few months, nearly one million copies of the article were reproduced by students and circulated. The author of it was executed in 1970 for opposing some of the radical leaders who came to power in the Cultural Revolution. For details see Guang Ming Ribao, 21 July 1980, p. 1 and a report by the author’s sister, Yu Luojin, ‘A Fairy Tale in Winter’, Dang Dai, no. 3 (Sept 1980) 58–107.Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    See Stanley Rosen, ‘Comments on “Radical Students in Kwangtung during the Cultural Revolution”’, China Quarterly, no. 70 (June 1977) 395–6.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    Hong Yung Lee, The Politics of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978) pp. 312–22. AlsoGoogle Scholar
  7. Hong Yung Lee, China Quarterly, no. 64 (Dec 1975) 645–55. Also see his reply toGoogle Scholar
  8. Stanley Rosen’s comments in China Quarterly, no. 70 (June 1977) 399–406.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    Milovan Djilas was unknown to the young people, but their critique implied a recognition of a ‘new class’ in socialism as defined by Djilas: ‘The new class may be said to be made up of those who have special privileges and economic preference because of the administrative monopoly they hold’. Milovan Djilas, The New Class (New York: Praeger, 1957) p. 39.Google Scholar
  10. 18.
    This article is generally referred to as the Sheng-wu-lian article. Sheng-wu-lien is short for Hunan Province Proletarian Revolutionary Great Alliance Committee. A translation of the article is found in Klaus Mehnert, Peking and the New Left: at Home and Abroad, China Research Monograph No. 4 (Berkeley: Center of Chinese Studies, 1969).Google Scholar
  11. 27.
    Statistics showing this are contained in Anita Chan, Stanley Rosen and Jonathan Unger, ‘Students and Class Warfare: the Social Roots of the Red Guard Movement in Canton’, China Quarterly, no. 83 (Sept 1980) 445.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Anita Chan 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anita Chan

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations