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6 – The Helmsman’s Hot Mess

In Module 5 we learned how vicious “Royal Court Politics” among Communist China’s Chieftains boiled over onto China’s streets. Module 6, The Helmsman’s Hot Mess, explains how this situation quickly disintegrated into a free-for-all civil war between sparring factions, plunging the nation into chaos as millions of unemployed hot-hotheads whipped into a frenzy went spinning out of control, wreaking havoc on the nation. Few were spared the obscene injustices that befell the Chinese people at the hand of their own children. Mao and JiangQing had turned them into their personal  shock troops, but unlike the military variety, these lacked military discipline and control, and they devolved into little more than roving violent mobs of bandits who looted not for personal profit, but for sake of simple vandalism under the guise of increasingly twisted ideals. In the end they were puppets of cynical, perverted and downright evil despots.

So it was ”Mission Accomplished” for Mao and his wife JiangQing, but now China’s reinstated Great Helmsman had a hot mess on his hands. Red Guards quickly began to factionalize, increasingly obsessed with inane arguments about whose revolutionary thought was purer and whose interpretation of Mao’s Little Red Book was superior. Rivalries between individuals and various red-guard factions quickly moved from push to shove. Meanwhile, like some of the compounding hysterically stupid ideas cropping up within the end of Twenty-Teen American Social Justice Warrior youth of today…such as cow flatulence threatening to all life on the planet, or growing cauliflower in North America is racist because it is a European vegetable, and the country needs to return to sail boats to get to Hawaii as aircraft must be banned…China’s youth of 1966 had more than their share of stupid and futile gestures to go around. Traffic lights, for example, were reversed: Red means go, Green means stop. Afterall, “red is the color of the revolution, so it should mean go,” went the goofy adolescent logic. An old friend in China recounted just one such pathetic idea hatched by his classmates that ended tragically. The boys were furious that Hong Kong remained in British hands. So they decided to sacrifice themselves for the revolution. They would steal a military jeep and attempt to drive it through the China-Hong Kong border. And when China’s People’s Liberation Army began shooting at them for trying to escape the country, the British military on the other side of the border would think they were being attacked and fire back. In this way the boys would spark a skirmish that would grow into an all out battle between China and the British and of course the PLA would be victorious. They would no doubt die in the process, but their sacrifice would unify the country! They succeeded in stealing the vehicle, but too many boys piled on and made the vehicle top-heavy. The inexperienced driver lost control, rolled the vehicle in a ditch, killing and paralyzing some of the passengers in the process. They never even got close to the border. 

One of the most destructive movements to come out of the cultural revolution was the so-called “4 Olds Campaign.” Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas. These were counterrevolutionary and must be destroyed. Like America-haters, such as ANTIFA and other American SJW, who tear down confederate and even founding-father monuments to erase American history they find shameful, China’s Red Guards torched ancient temples, buildings, museums and artifacts with the fervor of an American ANTIFA mob setting upon a conservative speaker on a university campus! And for the same reason: They were offensive to the new socialist fascist morality and must be erased from history: after all, for China it was 1966!  Year zero in the evolution of the cultural revolution !

When Red Guards weren’t making stupid and pointless gestures, or tearing their history down, they vented their wrath on the Chinese people. Innocent citizens were targeted, brutalized and looted. No one could trust anyone: neighbor, friend, family. One wrong word could get you sent to a re-education camp, abandoning your children and dependents to their own devices. One friend, Zhang, was 11 years old when his parents, both teachers, were taken away to re-education camp. He was left to fend for himself and take care of his 8 year old brother on the streets of Guangzhou. At first, they made the most of it. Any youth in China could ride the trains for free. And the army was obligated to feed any youth who showed up for a meal. Zhang and his little brother rode trains from one corner of China to another, living off handouts and a sense of adventure. It was a couple of months before they returned to their home town to find their parents. They were not to be found. Those who were re-educated were often badgered and brutalized, mentally and physically, to the point of suicide. There were many, many other such tragedies. And position and privilege could not spare one from these spasms of violence: even Deng XiaoPing’s eldest son was permanently paralyzed when he was thrown off a building by Red Guards. Throwing people off roofs was common practice.

There was no one in China that the Red Guards wouldn’t victimize: alive or dead.  At one point Red Guards broke into China’s famed Ming Dynasty tombs, dragged the remains of the Ming Wanli Emperor and Empresses out to the front of their tomb, and posthumously “denounced” and burned them. Even the dead could not find sanctuary from the wrath of Mao’s Red Guards. But for those who survived it, it resulted in the life-long crippling of the soul of the Chinese people and Chinese society as a whole, damaging people in ways that would haunt them for the remainder of their lives, as these two personal testimonials show.

Even the Chinese Army was unsure of what to do with the Red Guard rabble and didn’t dare challenge them, lest they and their families be set upon themselves. They stood by as Red Guards began to break into arms caches. And when push had gone to shove, and was on the brink of becoming an all out shooting civil war, something had to be done. China was destroying itself from within.

So what do you do with a hot mess of this magnitude? Well, like any fire you cool it off by disbursing it: spreading it out. So, like hot ashes from a fire, Mao cast his Red Guards across the Chinese countryside like a farmer sowing seeds. It was his “Down To The Countryside Movement.” Red guards were to board trains and busses and go to the countryside. Peasants there would take them in and teach them to farm and the wisdom of the peasant life. And so, an entire generation of China’s bright and educated young people left the cities en mass. And when they arrived, they were issued new Hukous: household registrations. And Chinese were not allowed to move from one place to another in China without government permission. You stayed where your Hukou was registered. After while learning what they could from the peasants, the vast majority found that they would never receive permission to return to their homes and universities. They married, had children and stayed there for the remainder of their lives. Mao and JiangQing had no more use for them and so just threw them away: China’s lost generation.

While in college in the 1980s I befriended a Chinese woman who was one of the lucky few that managed to get back to her hometown: Shanghai. After the universities opened she sat for exams and did quite well. She eventually ended up going to university in the United States. And for that, she was truly one in a million. So I asked her what she learned from the peasants during her 4 years in the countryside. She told me: “That when you spread pig dung with your bare hands it is very difficult to get out from under your fingernails.”

All good things, and bad things, come to an end. And in 1976, the reign of terror of the Great Helmsman, the paramount leader of the Chinese Communist Party and Revolution died. His wife JiangQing, banded together with 3 others to form what became known as the Gang of 4 political faction. They pulled the strings of China’s Deep State, and would attempt to use the same old dirty tricks to perpetuate their power base after Mao’s death. Not unlike some familiar American politicians with the US Federal Government’s Deep State after the 2016 election. But their time had passed. Decades of lies, a long list of failures, and elaborate and ludicrous deceptions simply destroyed any credibility that they had enjoyed while in the shadow of The Great Helmsman. Deng XiaoPing, who has spent part of the intervening years under house arrest, deftly managed to navigate China’s Deep State apparatus that was heavily vested in decades of Mao-Faction rule. Triumphant, he rose to power officially in 1978. But the Chinese people pined for justice for all the suffering and destruction that Mao and his wife had caused the nation. The gang of 4 were put on trail in 1981 for their crimes against the Chinese people, convicted, and incarcerated for the reminder of their lives. In the spotlight of the docket of an auditorium-sized courtroom, JiangQing lashed out a her accusers with fiery monologues. But she simply looked like a pathetic caricature from a bygone era. The thousands in attendance could be heard laughing at her every word. It was as if she would have shouted with indignance: “What difference does it now make?” And the audience would giggle nervously—partly in response to dousing the terror they had once felt from the unmitigated power that this despot had so brutally wielded, and partly with satisfaction for her so public humiliation. No capitalist by any means, Deng XiaoPing spent the following decade gradually dismantling the Hard Line Communist Deep State in favor of a more pragmatic “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” variety, bringing his Black Cat/White Cat Pragmatism to bear on the colossal problems that China face at the time.

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