Chapter 27: The Lost Generation
The Lost Generation
Mango Fever happened quite by accident, without any planning on Mao’s part. But many other aspects of the Cultural Revolution were carefully planned and instigated by this madman, to effect as much pain as possible on the people he ruled.
On May 25, 1968, Mao launched the Cleansing the Class Ranks campaign, which was the next part of his Cultural Revolution. The stated purpose of this movement was to purge Communist society of traitors, spies, capitalist-roaders, and the Five Black Categories. These five black categories were:
The Red Guards stepped up their persecution efforts, Struggle Sessions, and beatings. Lynchings took place. Suspects were tortured, and many massacres were carried out. Around 30 million people were persecuted, and up to 1.5 million perished. Or, that is, they were “cleansed” from the ranks.
By the summer of 1968, Mao had succeeded in gaining the complete control and cooperation of the military. His reign over China was undisputed. Except from one area. The Red Guards.
Mao decided he no longer needed the Red Guards. And by god, these assholes were wreaking havoc across the country. Things were getting too dangerous and out of hand, so Mao decided it was time for them to disband.
But the fervor and zeal of these young radicals was hard to contain. They refused to disband.
This was a big problem. How do you get 12 million people to go home? But the ever ingenious Mao finally came up with a solution. In December 1968, he launched the Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside Movement.
Mao declared that privileged urban youth must be sent to rural areas to learn from workers and farmers. These privileged urban youth were high school and college graduates.
Mao proclaimed that by moving to the countryside, youths could “develop their talents to the full” through education among the rural population. According to Mao, “the countryside is a vast expanse of heaven and earth where we can flourish.” These lofty words became the slogan for the Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside Movement.
This program effectively dispersed the Red Guards, who mostly consisted of privileged urban youth. They moved to less populated areas where they would cause less disruption and be reeducated. This program went on for the next 10 years, displacing a total of 17 million youths.
Conditions for them were often harsh, and those who could not handle the grueling labor and tough lifestyle often died. They’re referred to in China as the Lost Generation, as some never returned from this exile. However, one who did return was Xi Jinping, the current Communist Party General Secretary, and leader of China.
Xi has revived some aspects of the Cultural Revolution, such as by imprisoning and reeducating millions of ethnic Uighurs, while subjecting them to hard labor. But this is not a tale about Xi. It’s about someone whose cruelty has not yet been eclipsed by Xi. It’s about Xi’s inspiration from the past, Chairman Mao.
Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 28: A Mysterious Death.