Turbulent Decade: A History of the Cultural Revolution

By Yan Jiaqi; Gao Gao et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 24

Escalation of Armed Struggle

As SOON AS it began, the Cultural Revolution distinguished itself from all the previous political movements and campaigns with its strong tinge of "revolutionary insurrection." In his Investigative Report of the Hunan Peasant Movement of 1927, Mao Zedong said, "A revolution is not painting pictures. It can't be that refined, that tolerant, that gentle, that good-natured, that respectful. A revolution is a riot; it's a violent movement in which one class overthrows another class." During the Cultural Revolution, this quotation of Mao became a popular slogan. When the "capitalist-roaders" and "reactionary gangs" were being criticized and denounced, good naturedness and respectfulness were swept away. During this "violent movement in which one class overthrows another class," many innocent people were beaten, interrogated, punished, and imprisoned. Humiliation and harsh treatment became commonplace.


Drastic Measures

The various violent activities were the result of the fact that Mao Zedong never wanted the rule of law. Influenced by the "class struggle" advocated by Mao Zedong on numerous occasions, people did not consider law as an instrument to protect civil rights. Even before the Cultural Revolution, China had developed many extralegal concepts, such as "Hu Feng League elements," "rightists," "the four kinds of people" (landlords, rich peasants, counterrevolutionaries, and bad elements)," "right opportunists," "revisionists" and "counterrevolutionary students." A person declared as belonging to any of these categories was automatically deprived of all rights. The fanaticism of the Cultural Revolution brought about many more extralegal concepts, which caused many deaths. A case in point was the campaign to "clear away thirty-five kinds of people" in Hunan Province in the early days of the Cultural Revolution.

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