Turbulent Decade: A History of the Cultural Revolution

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

Chapter 3

The Rise of the Red Guards
and the Cult of the Individual

The Birth of the Red Guards

After the formation of the Chinese Communist Party, its path was often difficult and uneven. During its formative stages, the leadership of the Party erred in various ways, and Mao Zedong's own early career was checkered. Mao was a Communist who, having selected Communism as a steadfast goal, fought for it with unwavering resolve. His abilities were gradually testified to by the experiences of the Chinese Communist Party. In 1935 at the Zunyi Conference, when Mao was elected as a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo and, subsequently, as one of the Three-Person Military Command, both actions placed him at the center and pinnacle of Party leadership. 1 Over the years Mao led the Chinese Communist Party in arduous struggles, finally achieving victory and at the same time strengthening his leadership of the entire Party.

The history of the People's Republic of China since its founding is also one of the continual ascendancy of the reputation of Mao Zedong. This was especially true after the Lushan Conference when Lin Biao, as defense minister in charge of the Military Commission, began promoting the wave of learning from Mao Zedong's writings within the PLA and throughout the country. As Mao's reputation grew to such an extent that he was nearly deified, his supreme leadership became the political precondition for the birth of the Red Guards.

By May 1966, the criticism of Hai Rui Dismissed had reached a high pitch. Some seniors of the Qinghua University Middle School, under the influence of public opinion, came to believe the criticism of Hai Rui Dismissed should be escalated to that of a political problem. They became intransigent in their arguments with the school. These students believed their meetings and actions would certainly receive the approval of the Party Central. From May 25 on,

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