Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
REVOLUTION, 1966-1976
Mao was intensely dedicated to the task of seeing the revolution
through in China during his lifetime. Rather than see his revolution
derailed, he threw China into a decade of chaos and turmoil that
would, he hoped, maintain China's revolutionary ardor and keep the
nation on track to achieve socialism in his lifetime. Mao plunged
China into one of its darkest decades of the twentieth century because
the revolutionary ideals and goals of his youth remained unrealized.
He was, as his physician wrote in the 1990s, dedicated to socialism
for socialism's sake and cared little about the practical consequences
or real-world human suffering that his attempts to realize his theoreti-
cal ideals entailed (Li 1994, 377).
Frustrated that the majority of the Chinese government was appa-
rently abandoning China's revolutionary charter and following a more
revisionist path similar to the Soviet Union, Mao essentially threw a
temper tantrum; he went over the heads of the government and
appealed directly to the people for support. Mao tapped into a vast
reservoir of youthful discontent in China and told a generation of
Chinese youth that it was acceptable for them to rebel against authority
figures in families, schools, workplaces, and local and provincial
governments; many personnel in these organizations were, after all,
revisionist or counterrevolutionary and deserved contempt and
censure. That was all that a generation of angry and disenchanted
urban youth needed to hear, and by the summer of 1966 China was in
the throes of a nationwide upheaval that would last, to a greater or
lesser extent, until Mao's death in September 1976.
May 1966 was a big month in the developing momentum for the
Cultural Revolution. Mao's most prominent critics were dismissed in
May, and this same month Lin Biao asserted that these critics were part
of a “black line” in the party that was out to restore bourgeois interests
in Chinese society. Only a thorough housecleaning within the party
reverse these ominous developments. Sensing which way the wind
was blowing, Mao's longtime associate Zhou Enlai named the devel-
oping movement the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Also in
May, an ultra-leftist philosophy professor at Peking University (Beida)
placed “big-character posters” throughout the campus condemning
the university president's policies forbidding student protest move-
ments. Mao's discovery and approval of the posters had two results:
the dismissal or assailing of many professors and administrators at
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