The period of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was a period in which every level of society was subjected to great sufferings. Although the loss of life was greater during the Great Leap Forward and the second Sino-Japanese war, suffering is not only measured in loss of life. Great pieces of cultural heritage was destroyed, official institutions seized functioning and everyone was in danger of being accused of counter-revolutionary (so called black) activities or tendencies.
This might seem as the very definition of a society in a chaotic state, but it is interesting to discuss what is actually understood as chaos. The Red Guard movement, which was a major actor in the revolutionary activities during the Cultural Revolution., was created by Mao Zedong. Additionally the objectives and privileges the Red Guards had and enjoyed were largely supported or instituted by Mao as well. Can one say that a revolution started by the de facto head of the state can go in under the mainstream definition of what is understood as chaos? In order to assess this question, and due to the massive scope of the Cultural revolution itself, I have decided to look at some key incidents in the beginning of the cultural revolution the so-called Red Guard period.
But before we can address these incidents, we must look at Maos reasons for launching the revolution itself.
Roots of the Revolution
Most scholars seem to agree on that the roots of the Cultural Revolution lay within the mind of Mao Zedong. Mao had been worried for a long time about the stagnation of the Chinese revolution and the bureaucratization of the Chinese Communist Party, a process that he found just as much a challenge to the proletarian dictatorship as the bourgeoisie. This bureaucratization of the party was, of course, entirely necessary. Hong Yung Lee points to several reasons why the CCP became gradually more bureaucratized1 . Among these are the rise in membership from 1,2 million in 1949 to 17 million in 1961. He also points to the failure of the Great Leap Forward (GLF) as a reason for an altogether changed mentality within the CCP. This change can be described as party officials distancing themselves from the idealpolitik of Mao's Thought (the ideology that has later become known as Maoism), and gradually becoming more and more inclined towards realpolitik. In short terms, one could say that after the failure of the GLF, and the dramatic increase in membership, party officials turned towards pragmatic solutions, instead of purely «red solutions» i.e. solutions in accordance with the communist doctrine. Mao's reaction to this has been explained in this way:
In sum, Mao saw in the reaction of some of his Party colleagues to the failure
of the Great Leap Forward, a willingness to pursue pragmatic policies instead
based on actual conditions at the sacrifice of doctrinal concerns. These colle-
agues seemed to believe that the best way to resolve the dilemma of...