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Violence during The Cultural Revolution

Violence during The Cultural Revolution

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Violence during The Cultural Revolution

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  1. Violence during The Cultural Revolution • The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution • Many still find it incomprehensible • Some believe it was all due to some people’s unending thirst for “power” • Demonstrated pervasive immorality in Chinese society

  2. Ten years of Great Disaster • Consequences: • One million deaths • Numerous cultural relics were destryoed • People died of beating, torture, execution, murder… • Numerous highly respected intellectuals, scholars, writers were beaten to death or forced to take their own lives • Those engaged in violence were victims of it • Widespread and endless generational and transgeneratioal revenges made the Communist state a “vengeance state”

  3. Causes of Revolution • Three levels of analysis: • Permissive: sanctioned by CCP leaders • Proximate: Mao’s charismatic authority and political ideology • Mao’s ideology supported and legitimized violence • Mao’s distinction between friends and enemies, good classes and bad classes provoked social conflicts in society • Immediate: outbreak of violence took place under different circumstances • One common reason: revenge

  4. Forms of Violence (I) • Public struggle session: • Places where the accused were struggled against: • the work unit of the accused (ordinary people) • Huge, opened stadiums (famous people, e.g., Liu Shaoqi) • Participants: • Accusers: whoever believed Mao and his ideology; whoever wanted be recognized as good people • Spectators: whoever wanted to be entertained by such spectacle (renao, excitement) • Process of struggle: • The accused was forced to endured verbal attack by colleagues, students, friends, relatives • Subordinates were pitted against superiors, students against teachers, friends against friends, colleagues against colleagues, spouse against spouse

  5. Forms of Violence (II) • Red Guards devastated Chinese society • Red guards: school students, most of them teenagers, 13 to 19 • Engaged in sacking, looting, beating, killing and warring with one another • Destructed public and personal properties, and anything regarded as representing the Four Olds, or “feudal” • Victims of Red Guards’ violence • Whoever classified as: landlords, reactionaries, counterrevolutionaries, rightists, bad elements, traitors, spies, capitalist-roaders, all of them “ox ghosts and snake spirits”

  6. Forms of Violence (III, IV) • Violence against the self • Self-criticism, including false confession • Self-destruction • Suicide • Suicide due to depression and despair • Suicide due to fear • Suicide in order to protest against an unjust government • Violence by the state • The state engaged in violence • PLA intervened to end factional fighting between rival Red Guard groups • Some 12 million young people were rounded up and sent to the countryside to “study” (xuexi)

  7. Revenge as a Motivation for Violence • Traditional Chinese ethic of reciprocity gave way to Mao’s theory of vengeance • Confucian ethic: • recompense injury with justice • Represented the value of Confucian ru and junzi (noble persons, gentlemen), which was viewed as unheroic • Mao’s ideology: • Recompense injury with injury • Represented the value of xia (knight-errant, roving swordsman), which was viewed as heroic

  8. Revenge during the Cultural Revolution • Class vengeance • Proletariats (peasants, workers) sought vengeance for harm inflicted upon them by party members

  9. The Cultural Revolution and Mao • New Book: • Mao: the Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. • New Assessment of Mao: • Beginning line: “Mao Zedong, who for decades held absolute power over the lives of one-quarter of the world's population, was responsible for over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other twentieth-century leader." • As someone who has been fascinated with Mao's story since high school in the 1970s, when the country was first opening up again after the Cultural Revolution, Zhang, and her husband, • “have reduced him [Mao] to a bloodthirsty, power-obsessed egotist, someone who never believed in communism, nor in anything else, and this from the very first pages of the book. “

  10. Flaws of the Book-- Why? • One reviewer (Howard W. French*) says: • “Their [authors’] act of literary violence, which bears the whiff of revenge, is built on compelling if sometimes disjointed anecdotes told for page after page about this great and terrible man. Readers who are even slightly inclined toward the subject are likely to find the book, for all its weightiness, hard to put down.”

  11. Flaws of the Book, Why? • Another reviewer (Marjorie Kehe* ): • Compelling as its narrative is, this book has its flaws. For one thing, the repulsion its authors feel for Mao is too clearly on display, evident in tone and occasional descriptors like "the beady Mao."