The failure of the “Great Leap Forward” weakened Mao’s takeover. So he launched a campaign to crush his political rivals and create total loyalty within the party.
Without warning, Mao claimed that groups opposed to communist ideology had invaded the party and needed to be purged.
His demands to remove the “counter-revolutionaries” and “right wing” quickly spiraled out of control. Student packs, now known as the Red Guards, attacked anyone believed to have bourgeois ideals or imperialist habits.
Students across the country turned against their teachers, accusing them of being capitalists or traitors. Anyone who came into conflict with the mob was tortured and ill-treated and forced to make a public confession. Others were imprisoned in makeshift camps.
Some died as a result of torture, while others took their own lives. As the situation escalated, various groups of the Red Guards began to fight each other with weapons from the People’s Liberation Army.
The chaos finally ended with Mao’s death in 1976. The Cultural Revolution is widely viewed as a disaster that, by some estimates, could have resulted in millions of deaths.
In 1981 the Communist Party passed a resolution according to which the Cultural Revolution “was responsible for the worst setback and the worst losses for the party, state and people since the founding of the People’s Republic”.
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