Mao's Last Revolution

By Roderick Macfarquhar; Michael Schoenhals | Go to book overview
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The Fifty Days

During the early weeks of June 1966, work teams totaling 7,239 cadres entered educational and cultural institutions in Beijing. Some of the teams were extraordinarily large relative to the size of the institutions they entered. The biggest of all and the one destined to become the most notorious was the work team of more than 500 men and women that entered Tsinghua University on June 9. Drawn from the party committee of the State Council's Industry and Communications Office, it was headed by Ye Lin, a deputy chairman of the State Economic Commission, who recollected thirty years later that he was totally unprepared for the job.1 One of its members was a midlevel cadre (rank 14) from the CC's General Office, Liu Shaoqi's wife Wang Guangmei. Her confrontation with a twenty-year-old student in the Chemical Engineering Department named Kuai Dafu was eventually to become part of Red Guard lore and to be immortalized in novels and on the stage, even in the West.2

In the provinces, party committees also began sending out work teams soon after getting the lead from Beijing on June 3. In Shanghai, work teams entered forty universities and colleges and more than 160 middle schools. Work teams in Beijing to a large extent consisted of former PLA officers and men who since 1964 had been occupying nominally civilian posts in the government bureaucracy's so-called political departments. The latter had been set up on PLA lines after Mao had ordered everyone to take the PLA as a model. Provincial work teams were also drawn from the PLA, but consisted of serving officers and men from the provincial military district (MD). In Hangzhou, for instance, at the request of the provincial party committee, the Zhejiang MD contributed more than 200 cadres to the first work teams entering universities, the premises of the Zhejiang Daily, the provincial broadcasting station, and other cultural institutions.3 In Hubei, the Cultural Revolution was seen by the party leadership under one of Mao's most trusted first secretaries, Wang Renzhong, as a new version of


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