The Grassroots Turmoil in China’s Cultural Revolution: A Half-Century Perspective
5:30pm - 7:30pm
03 Nov 2016
The Auditorium, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU
After Mao launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966, vast numbers of students, workers, peasants and other ordinary people divided into hostile groups that violently fought against each other for more than a year and a half. Each group claimed it was fighting out of loyalty to Mao’s teachings. But research by the speaker that included well over a hundred in-depth interviews in the 1970s and 1980s with former participants in these conflicts revealed that the fighting between groups was actually the consequence of mounting tensions within Chinese society prior to the Cultural Revolution. The upheavals in the Cultural Revolution pitted those who had earlier been favoured by Communist Party policies against those who had been disfavoured. But the nature of grievances and antagonisms differed from group to group—be they students, workers, peasants or government office workers. As a result, there were a number of different types of upheavals, generated by different reasons, in different sectors of society. Examining these provides insights into the complex fabric of Chinese society under Mao.
[Image credit: Red Guards on the cover of an elementary school textbook, Wikipedia. Their brassards read Red Guards 红小兵. The book’s title is The Selected Works of Mao Zedong 毛泽东选集. The handwritten characters in the top left corner read 'study well and improve everyday 好好学习，天天向上', a quote from Mao.]