Cultural Revolution

All revolutions bring changes to the society, but these changes are not always positive. Some revolutions do not aim at eliminating the old regime that oppresses and enslaves people, but pursue the strengthening of this regime and presenting it with complete and absolute power. This was the case of the Cultural Revolution in China. It is a good example of how revolutions can harm the country. However, to understand the nature of this event and give a thorough analysis of its consequences, it is necessary to study why the Chinese communist chief Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966. This essay attempts to show what functions the Cultural Revolution should fulfill, according to the Maoist doctrine, and why it was a mandatory measure from the point of view of the Chinese ruling elite close to Mao Zedong.

It is very difficult to stipulate what exactly Mao Zedong had in mind when he initiated this revolution, as, according to Schoenhals, Mao himself treated this event both as “a nation-wide all-round civil war” and “the greatest ever revolutionary transformation of society, unprecedented in the history of mankind” .

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First of all, it is important to bear in mind the social and political situations in China at the beginning of the 1960s. The relations between the two loyal allies – the USSR and China – have deteriorated significantly. In particular, Mao Zedong could not forgive Khrushchev the political liberalization in the country, known as the “Khrushchev thaw”, and debunking of Stalin’s cult . Collectivization and industrialization of the Marxist principles failed almost everywhere. 40 million of the Chinese citizens became the victims of erroneous decisions of the top party leaders and a large-scale famine. To make his position in the party and among the masses stronger and give himself a godlike status, Mao conceived a huge purge in the political ranks. Those, who ever doubted the ability of the great communist leader to rule China, had to go under the knife of the Cultural Revolution. Although, such cleaning required a strong ideological foundation. In the early 1966, Mao said that the hydra of the bourgeoisie still raised its head, and this infection lingered in the old culture, old customs and old ways of life . The Cultural Revolution had to create a new socialist man. It was based on Mao’s idea that the national question is a class issue, which meant a declaration of war to the diversity of national traditions. In fact, it was the policy of assimilation of all minorities. At the popular level, it is referred to as the “brain transplant”. Those, who adhered to the old values and traditions, had the “green brains”. Those, who were considered to be progressive people, had normal, “white” brains . These “white” brains should be filled with Mao’s ideas of true communism. Without them, the brain is considered to be empty.

In China, this reforming was associated with contrasting between the old and the new, between capitalism and socialism, etc. In Tibet, the main division line was drawn between the “Tibetan” and the “Chinese.” The latter one for most Tibetans was associated with “the new”. This region was one of the most problematic for Mao’s party. In Tibet, there was almost no proletariat, there was little room for the revolution, the administrative apparatus was ineffective, and the party consisted mostly of the Han Chinese people, who often complained about the Chinese authorities. Therefore, the aim of the Cultural Revolution there was the creation of effective governing structures, the completion of the social and economic restructuring according to the Maoist style, and displacement of ethnic and religious prejudices by communist ideology. To do that, it was necessary to ensure the success of the Red Guards, who arrived from China. It explains the large-scale repression in Tibet that were even crueler than in other Chinese territories.

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Therefore, the first and the most important explanation of the Cultural Revolution implication is the necessity, according to Mao Zedong, to organize the ideological purification among the Chinese. The main principles can be formulated in the following way: “We must be both at once “the arrow and the bull’s eye,” because the old worldview is also still present within us” . Eliminating this old worldview was a crucial task of the Cultural Revolution. According to Maoism, it was very necessary to create a homogeneous and loyal communist society without any radical antirevolutionary elements.

Another very important aim of the Cultural Revolution was to create the basis for a new type of the Chinese political system. It can be described as “logical manifestation of Mao’s political ethic, one which assumed the pervasiveness and persistence of contradictions and consequent struggle within society” . Within the frame of Maoist ideology, political purification was a favorable thing, as building a new society on the old and rotten basis is absolutely impossible.

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It is especially interesting to look at what consequences the Cultural Revolution had in the economic sphere. Min’an and Xie wrote, “Attempting to eradicate individual desires, the revolution demanded of individuals a total dedication of the self to the collectivity” . However, the desire is one of the keys and absolutely necessary aspects of any economy. Taking this information into account, as it could be predicted, the Chinese economy during the Cultural Revolution experienced a significant decline. The desire to be individualistic is always considered very positive for the economic development. Therefore, it is possible to say that the system of measures organized by Mao Zedong eliminated the crucial prerequisites for the economic prosperity of China.

To conclude, Maoists considered the Cultural Revolution to be a very efficient step towards the creation of new and pure communist China, but it turned out that it did not have the impact that Mao Zedong hoped for. It almost destroyed the economic system in China. However, Mao managed to eliminate almost all old members of the party that were able to express their disagreement. He replace them with new politicians, who were ready to accept the cult of Mao. The Red Guards managed to eradicate almost all heritage of the old traditional Chinese culture, which was regarded favorable by Mao. Nevertheless, after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, the Cultural Revolution quickly faded out.


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