Mao's Last Revolution

By Roderick Macfarquhar; Michael Schoenhals | Go to book overview

6
The Red Guards

By the end of the Eleventh Plenum, the "masses" had already risen. A "red terror" spread rapidly through the campuses of colleges and middle schools of the capital. That violence was the product of the Red Guard movement.1 Mao's endorsement of students' right to rebel had removed such restraints on violence as the work teams had selectively imposed. Various of his remarks indicate that Mao craved a measure of catalytic terror to jump-start the Cultural Revolution. He had no scruples about the taking of human life. In a conversation with trusties later in the Cultural Revolution, the Chairman went so far as to suggest that the sign of a true revolutionary was precisely his intense desire to kill: "This man Hitler was even more ferocious. The more ferocious the better, don't you think? The more people you kill, the more revolutionary you are."2 Perhaps he was vicariously reliving his glory days of mobilizing peasants in Hunan and Jiangxi. Whatever the motivation, in the autumn of 1966 the violence ranged from the destruction of private and public property, through expulsion of urban undesirables, all the way to murder. Although the human toll of some subsequent phases of the movement was greater, it was the in-yourface nature of the "red terror" of August-September 1966 that stuck in popular memory.

"Beijing is too civilized!" Mao declared at a post-plenum work conference of central leaders. "I would say there is not a great deal of disorder … and that the number of hooligans is very small. Now is not the time to interfere."3 Prompting Mao's comments most notably was an "Urgent Appeal!" issued on August 6 by Red Guards in the three elite middle schools attached to Tsinghua University, Peking University, and the Beijing Aeronautical Institute. The appeal spoke of "hooligans" masquerading as Red Guards going on a rampage, destroying state property, and beating people up at random, and it called on all "genuine, revolutionary" Red Guards to take action to bring to an end the "disorder" into which

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Mao's Last Revolution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The First Salvos 14
  • 2: The Siege of Beijing 32
  • 3: Confusion on Campuses 52
  • 4: The Fifty Days 66
  • 5: Mao's New Successor 86
  • 6: The Red Guards 102
  • 7: Red Terror 117
  • 8: Confusion Nationwide 132
  • 9: Shanghai's [January Storm] 155
  • 10: Seizing Power 170
  • 11: The Last Stand of the Old Guard 184
  • 12: The Wuhan Incident 199
  • 13: The May 16 Conspiracy 221
  • 14: The End of the Red Guards 239
  • 15: Cleansing the Class Ranks 253
  • 16: Dispatching Liu Shaoqi 273
  • 17: The Congress of Victors 285
  • 18: War Scares 308
  • 19: The Defection and Death of Lin Biao 324
  • 20: Mao Becalmed 337
  • 21: Zhou Under Pressure 358
  • 22: Deng Xiaoping Takes Over 379
  • 23: The Gang of Four Emerges 396
  • 24: The Tiananmen Incident of 1976 413
  • 25: The Last Days of Chairman Mao 431
  • Conclusion 450
  • Glossary of Names and Identities 465
  • A Note on Sources 479
  • Notes 483
  • Bibliography 611
  • Illustration Credits 659
  • Index 661
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