‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’: Political Correctness and the Reincarnation of Chairman Mao

By David R. Barnhizer

There could not possibly be any parallel between the actions of MaoTse Tung’s young Red Guard zealots and the intensifying demands of identity groups in the US and Europe that all people must conform to their version of approved linguistic expression or in effect be condemned as “reactionaries” and “counter-revolutionaries” who are
clearly “on the wrong side of history”. Nor, in demanding that they be allowed to effectively take over the university institution and its curriculum, while being empowered to approve the staffing of faculty and administrative positions with people who think like them, while others are subjected to “re-education” sessions that “sensitize” them
into the proper way to look at the world’s reality, should we judge students and protesters such as those who submitted fifty Demands to the University of North Carolina to be in any way akin to the disastrous, repressive, immature and violent members of the Red Guard who abused China between 1966 and 1976. Nonetheless, though it would be unfair to compare the two movements, the Cultural Revolution does send out a warning we should perhaps spend a little time thinking about lest we repeat some of its errors. A brief descriptive capsule appears below.

The first targets of the Red Guards included Buddhist temples, churches and mosques, which were razed to the ground or converted to other uses. Sacred texts, as well as
writings, were burned, along with religious statues and other artwork. Any object associated with China’s pre-revolutionary past was liable to be destroyed. In their fervor, the Red Guards began to persecute people deemed “counter-revolutionary” or “bourgeois,” as well. The Guards conducted so-called “struggle sessions,” in which they heaped abuse and public humiliation upon people accused of capitalist thoughts (usually these were teachers, monks and other educated persons). These sessions often included physical violence, and many of the accused died or ended up being held in reeducation camps for years.


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