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The Red Guards Essay

2241 words - 9 pages

The Red Guard strove to remove and destroy the Four Olds, foreign influence, enemies of the Party and the current societal structure by persecuting those who supposedly perpetuated them. All vestiges of outdated customs, habits, culture and ideas were to be destroyed, since the movement represented “a triumph of youth over age, of ‘the new’ over ‘the old.’” To do so, the Red Guard wrecked thousands of art collections and the contents of libraries, and changed “reactionary” street signs. They persecuted members of the public who attempted to stop them or refused to give up the Four Olds. Those who had foreign ties, like businessmen, missionaries, or who had western education were also persecuted to prevent backwards or rightist ideologies from spreading into the new Chinese society. Chinese intellectuals were also hounded for the same reason: to prevent free thought. The messages of the movement were “negative—against the established authority, against the Party, against the military” and the outdated structures of the older generation. To destroy the established order, the Red Guards attacked educational and political institutions that were enemies of Mao and the party, and created general havoc within China. The Red Guard targeted teachers, education policies, and universities to change the core of education and the qualities that it had extolled. Members of the general public and even party officials themselves were attacked, to remove the “capitalist roaders” with bourgeois tendencies from society. Mao hoped that in this chaos a new communist China would emerge.
The primary cause of the tension that led to their disbandment was that many members were drawn to the Red Guard by the chance for a better life and more opportunities, not because they wanted to rid China of bourgeois influence and follow Chairman Mao’s vision. Many peasants and proletarians felt like they had been denied an opportunity for a good education and the chance to move up in status, and saw the Red Guard as their chance. They would have a chance at rising through the Communist Party ranks, and to that end, gain power. Similarly, children whose parents had been marked as “rightists” saw the Red Guard as a chance to prove themselves as different, and gain access to new opportunities by stepping out of the taint of their parents’ shadow. Young students had often been encouraged to join by Party leaders themselves, who hoped to strengthen their own power with more allies in the group. Members who had joined with an “original sense of altruism” soon found it “gradually eroded” as they fell into “self-interested jostling for recognition.” While those of the lower class joined the Red Guard to better their opportunities, those of the middle class joined because they felt pressured to show their activism. If they did not, they were more likely to be labeled as bourgeois enemies of the Cultural Revolution, due to their social status. For high school students, one’s...

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