Guobin Yang Discusses His Book “The Red Guard Generation And Political Activism In China”

Guobin Yang Discusses His Book “The Red Guard Generation And Political Activism In China”


Some of them, often you know, in their
memoirs, sometimes in their diaries lament the fact that you know their parents had
the opportunity to actually prove themselves in revolution and in what
they never had that opportunity. Therefore when the Cultural Revolution
came they thought this was their opportunity, was their opportunity to
prove themselves as also devoted revolutionaries. Gobi Yang, the book
title is “The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China” The book has two really big stories in it and both stories are important for understanding
that history of China, which is the Cultural Revolution and for understanding
contemporary Chinese society and politics. So I’ll say something about
these two stories. So one story is about the whole generation which I called the
Red Guard generation. Some peoples may call it the Cultural Revolution
generation. Some people call this the send down generation. I thought the
Red Guard generation is it’s important in the sense that the Red Guard movement was
the most defining political experience for this cohort. They threw themselves
into the Cultural Revolution with great fervor and when they were engaged in
acts of violence, they were imagining themselves, they were imagining that they
were fighting a real war. And they were proud of being part of that war. Why? The
reason could be as simple as saying that it was part of their education that they
receive and that education both formal school education and informal education
through a society, through culture, media films, children’s books, novels, that’s the
kind of values they learn. Which is, you know about the glory of war and the
glory of the Chinese communist revolution and that in a sense was
understandable about that kind of inculcation of that kind of values
because they as I said they were the first cohort grew up in the new regime
and the regime was the revolutionary regime. So that was right after the you know
the communist regime came to power. I can give an example about the kind of
the situation, the war situation of that period, was about a particular
attack one faction attacking the other faction so the other faction has
taken hold of their school library. So the opposing faction wanted to take over
the school library. So they would launch attacks against that faction who
was holding the library and the person who wrote diary about it
recording what was happening then, was really describing this he said he would
say in his diary while we were going to launch our attacks and suddenly I feel
like this was like what I’ve seen in the film. You know in films people were doing things, doing the
soldier as the heroes who are doing or fighting like that so we seems to be
just doing the same thing that we have learned for. So in that way, you know in
that sense, one of my argument in its book is that they are enacting a drama, a
revolutionary drama which they had learned well through watching films and
reading novels and so on. So they had that kind of vivid sense on
this moment, on this moment I got to you know start and went, what kind of
you know weapons to use, when to use those weapons. So the Red Guard movement came to an abrupt end in July 1968 and it was a moment of
profound disillusionment and for this for the Red Guard generation. And the moment
was caught I think extremely vividly in
historically-recorded transcribed meetings with Mao, Mao meeting with
Red Guard letters in Beijing. I think that was, if I remember correctly,
July 28th 1968, in the middle of the night, Mao decided to call the
five leaders of Red Guards in Beijing to a meeting in the Great Hall of the
People with all the other leaders, you know present, Jo Win Lai, Lin Piao, Jian Ching,
all the leaders present with Mao to meet with the Red Guard leaders in
Beijing. So the meeting started and only four of the five leaders were present.
The one who was missing was Kuai DaFu, who was the most important Red Guard leader
in Beijing and nationally and he was a leader in Xinhua University and the
report to Mao was that he was not to be located. He couldn’t be found
because at that time Xinhua was in the middle of factional warfare and he was
somewhere fighting but couldn’t be found. Eventually he was found and brought to the Great Hall of the People and he
didn’t know what was happening, he didn’t know why he was brought there. So he went
in the room, that meeting hall and saw Mao there
and so when he saw Mao, this is recorded -transcribed in a meeting ,he burst
into tears. He cried and then he went over to Mao and said Chairman you got
to help us. You know a black hand, a black hand is manipulating the
workers militia, ordering them to crack down on our movement. So we are now being because someone has sent workers militia to to stop the fighting. So you
got to stop this for us and what Mao said was the moment of awakening or
disillusionment. Mao said I am the black hand.

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