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Remember the Red Guards Before You Cheer the Woke Mobs | The American Conservative

Today statues, tomorrow mass firings—or even worse. There’s a history here.

I’m ambivalent about statues and J.K. Rowling being torn down, but terrified of the thought process behind the destruction. Decisions should never be made by mobs.

Is America on the edge of a cultural revolution?

The historical namesake and obvious parallel is the Cultural Revolution in China, which lasted from 1966 to 1976. Its stated goal was to purge capitalist and traditional elements from society, and to substitute a new way of thinking based on Mao’s own beliefs. The epic struggle for control and power waged war against anybody on the wrong side of an idea.

To set the mobs on somebody, one needed only to tie him to an official blacklist like the Four Olds (old customs, culture, habits, and ideas). China’s young people and urban workers formed Red Guard units to go after whomever was outed. Violence? Yes, please. When Mao launched the movement in May 1966, he told his mobs to “bombard the headquarters” and made clear that “to rebel is justified.” He said “revisionists should be removed through violent class struggle.” The old thinkers were everywhere and were systematically trying to preserve their power and subjugate the people.

Whetted, the mobs took the task to heart: Red Guards destroyed historical relics, statues, and artifacts, and ransacked cultural and religious sites. Libraries were burned. Religion was considered a tool of capitalists and so churches were destroyed—even the Temple of Confucius was wrecked. Eventually the Red Guards moved on to openly killing people who did not think as they did. Where were the police? The cops were told not to intervene in Red Guard activities, and if they did, the national police chief pardoned the Guards for any crimes.

Education was singled out, as it was the way the old values were preserved and transmitted. Teachers, particularly those at universities, were considered the “Stinking Old Ninth” and were widely persecuted. The lucky ones just suffered the public humiliation of shaved heads, while others were tortured. Many were slaughtered or harassed into suicide. Schools and universities eventually closed down and over 10 million former students were sent to the countryside to labor under the Down to the Countryside Movement. A lost generation was abandoned to fester, uneducated. Red Guard pogroms eventually came to include the cannibalization of revisionists. After all, as Mao said, a revolution is not a dinner party.

The Cultural Revolution destroyed China’s economy and traditional culture, leaving behind a possible death toll ranging from one to 20 million. Nobody really knows. It was a war on the way people think. And it failed. One immediate consequence of the Revolution’s failure was the rise in power of the military after regular people decided they’d had enough and wanted order restored. China then became even more of a capitalist society than it had ever imagined in pre-Revolution days. Oh well.

I spoke with an elderly Chinese academic who had been forced from her classroom and made to sleep outside with the animals during the Revolution. She recalled forced self-criticism sessions that required her to guess at her crimes, as she’d done nothing more than teach literature, a kind of systematic revisionism in that it espoused beliefs her tormentors thought contributed to the rotten society. She also had to write out long apologies for being who she was. She was personally held responsible for 4,000 years of oppression of the masses. Our meeting was last year, before white guilt became a whole category on Netflix, but I wonder if she’d see now how similar it all is.

That’s probably a longer version of events than a column like this would usually feature. A tragedy on the scale of the Holocaust in terms of human lives, an attempt to destroy culture on a level that would embarrass the Taliban—this topic is not widely taught in American colleges, never mind in China.

It should be taught, because history rhymes. Chinese students are again outing teachers, sometimes via cellphone videos, for “improper speech,” teaching hurtful things from the past using the wrong vocabulary. Other Chinese intellectuals are harassed online for holding outlier positions, or lose their jobs for teaching novels with the wrong values. Once abhorred as anti-free speech, most UC Berkeley students would likely now agree that such steps are proper. In Minnesota, To Kill A Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn are banned because fictional characters use a racial slur.

There are no statues to the Cultural Revolution here or in China. Nobody builds monuments to chaos. But it’s never really about the statues anyway. In America, we moved quickly from demands to tear down the statues of Robert E. Lee to Thomas Jefferson to basically any Caucasian, including “White Jesus.“

Of course, it was never going to stop with Confederate generals because it was not really about racism any more than the Cultural Revolution was really about capitalism. This is about rewriting history for political ends, both short-term power grabs (Not Trump 2020!) and longer term societal changes that one critic calls the “successor ideology,” the melange of academic radicalism now seeking hegemony throughout American institutions. Douglas Murray is more succinct. The purpose “is to embed a new metaphysics into our societies: a new religion.” The ideas—centered on there being only one accepted way of thought—are a tool of control.

It remains to be seen where America goes next in its own nascent cultural revolution. Like slow dancing in eighth grade, maybe nothing will come of it. These early stages, where the victims are Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, someone losing her temper while walking a dog in Central Park, and canceled celebrities, are a far cry from the millions murdered for the same goals in China. Much of what appears revolutionary is just Internet pranking and common looting amplified by an agendaized media. One writer sees “cancel culture as a game, the point of which is to impose unemployment on people as a form of recreation.” B-list celebs and Karens in the parking lot are easy enough targets. Ask the Red Guards: it’s fun to break things.

Still, the intellectual roots of our revolution and China’s seem similar: the hate of the old, the need for unacceptable ideas to be disappeared in the name of social progress, intolerance toward dissent, violence to enforce conformity.

In America these are spreading outward from our universities so that everywhere today—movies, TV, publishing, news, ads, sports—is an Oberlin where in the name of free speech “hate speech” is banned, and in the name of safety dangerous ideas and the people who hold them are not only not discussed but canceled, shot down via the projectile of the heckler’s veto, unfriended, demonetized, deleted, de-platformed, demeaned, chased after by mobs both real and online in a horrible blend of self-righteousness and cyber bullying. They don’t believe in a marketplace of ideas. Ideas to the mob are either right or wrong and the “wrong” ones must be banished. The choices to survive the mobs are conformity or silence. In China, you showed conformity by carrying around Mao’s Little Red Book. In America, you wear a soiled surgical mask to the supermarket.

The philosophical spadework for an American Cultural Revolution is done. Switch the terms capitalism and revisionism with racism and white supremacy in some of Mao’s speeches and you have a decent speech draft for a Black Lives Matter rally. Actually, you can keep Mao’s references to destroying capitalism, as they track pretty closely with progressive thought in 2020 America.

History is not there to make anyone feel safe or justify current theories about policing. History exists so we can learn from it, and for us to learn from it, it has to exist for us to study it, to be offended and uncomfortable with it, to bathe in it, to taste it bitter or sweet. When you wash your hands of an idea, you lose all the other ideas that grew to challenge it. Think of those as antibodies fighting a disease. What happens when they are no longer at the ready? What happens when a body forgets how to fight an illness? What happens when a society forgets how to challenge a bad idea with a better one?

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/remember-the-red-guards-before-you-cheer-the-woke-mobs/

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Olivia Kroth
July 10, 2020

“The historical namesake and obvious parallel is the Cultural Revolution in China, which lasted from 1966 to 1976. Its stated goal was to purge capitalist and traditional elements from society, and to substitute a new way of thinking based on Mao’s own beliefs. The epic struggle for control and power waged war against anybody on the wrong side of an idea.” Now we have the year 2020, forty-four years Later. The People’s Republic has survived the Cultural Revolution and has become all the stronger for it. Today, China is the most powerful economy world-wide. Mao modernized China’s education, industrialized the country… Read more »

Sue Rarick
Sue Rarick
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 10, 2020

Reality is China is in a recession with it’s growth rate drastically reduced. If money is worth no Internet. Living in total fear that if you don’t do what the party wants, you and your family will be punished. Constant monitoring by the police. A place where racism is accepted. Whites, Blacks, Mongolians, Tibetans etc are discriminated against. Religion is frowned upon and in many cases punished (ask the Muslims).
If that is your Utopia then that is the place for you.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Sue Rarick
July 10, 2020

Sorry, Sue, I have read quite the contrary, that the Chinese economy is doing very well. Diverging reports ….

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Sue Rarick
July 10, 2020

The Gobal Times:

“It is just a matter of time… No matter what card the US plays, it cannot change the general trend of China,”
At a time when Taiwan remains a crucial issue between China and the U.S., an “opinion” piece published in China’s nationalization propaganda machine, The Global Times“It is just a matter of time before China surpasses the US in terms of comprehensive national strength.”
“No matter what card the US plays, it cannot change the general trend of China,” The Global Times wrote.
The piece is being published a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and China.

4comment0nly
4comment0nly
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

the global times is Chinese state media.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  4comment0nly
July 11, 2020

Yes, thankfully it is, it can counteract all of the western malevolent media reports about China. Russia and Iran have also built up their own state media, to counteract the malevolent west. Neither China, nor Russia, nor Iran will allow to be trampled upon. They are emerging giants, economically as well as with their military. No use badmouthing China, the Chinese will laugh loudly and do what they need to do to be successful.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

And I also like China Daily, it is also a very good counterweight against the western lying media, spreading fake news. Just like Russia Today in Russia, Press TV in Iran, Telesur in Venezuela, these are powerful national media, I am very glad they exist and consult them daily.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

The economy of China has transitioned to a market-orientated economy, since 1978, which as of 2019 ranked as the world’s largest by purchasing power parity. China has the world’s fastest-growing economy, with growth rates averaging six percent over 30 years.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

As of 2018, China’s private sector accounted between 70% and 80% of the GDP; the private sector is also responsible for 80% of urban employment and 90% of new jobs.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

China has natural resources with an estimated worth of $23 trillion, 90% of which are coal and rare earth metals. China also has the world’s largest total banking sector assets of around $40 trillion (268.76 trillion CNY) with $27.39 trillion in total deposits.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

Of the world’s 500 largest companies, 129 are headquartered in China. It has the world’s largest foreign-exchange reserves  worth $3.1 trillion.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

China is the world’s largest manufacturing economy and exporter of goods. It is also the world’s fastest-growing consumer market. China is a net importer of services products. It is the largest trading nation in the world and plays a prominent role in international trade. China has increasingly engaged in trade organizations and treaties in recent years. 

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

 With 783 million workers, the Chinese labour force is the world’s largest as of 2019.

4comment0nly
4comment0nly
Reply to  Sue Rarick
July 11, 2020

right Sue. the Chinese economy is slipping because of gigantic structural problems; however to Xi’s credit he knows this and is playing a longterm game. the CCP are eyeing the centennial which is fast approaching, vieing that as the test of whether their model can survive where historically Chinese dynasties have failed (b/c on average the dynasties lasted only ~100 years). so severe economic pain in the short and medium-term is tolerable if the country’s future under the CCP can be extended. the recent deal made public between Iran and China is for longterm strategic economic security; Trump made it… Read more »

Paul Martin
Paul Martin
Reply to  4comment0nly
July 11, 2020

I think you’ve nailed Olivia perfectly. People who have an over-investment politically without having spiritual roots directing their lives are prone to ideological zeal. For them the world will only be a place to fight and win over the other, not to make peace, and whoever is stronger wins… Despite the political horrors China has endured, I’ve always sensed that it was their rich spiritual inheritance, derived from Buddhism and Taoism (even the Confucian way), which has accounted for their ability to meet each day with equanimity and deep strength. Philosophy alone will not accomplish that… In any case, since… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Paul Martin
July 11, 2020

The Chinese have deep spiritual roots. Many of them are Taoist or Buddhist. Some are Atheist. To each his own. I see from these comments here that western people cannot accept the fact that China is a rising power, Deal with it!

romar
romar
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

Exactly. It’s hard to accept not being number one in the world, but that sort of silly competition will fade out with the Age of Aquarius. The notion of “One-at-the-Centre” – or at the top – ruling the world, is on its way out, and multipolarity is in. Really if Western people accepted the idea of being one among equals, they’d feel more comfortable – and save money by reducing their military budget (they are already over-armed)and removing many of those military bases they feel obliged to maintain throughout the world. China is not trying to rule the West: a… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  romar
July 12, 2020

I agree, romar. China is working hard to become richer, but not to impoverish the West. They are doing their own thing. The same with Russia. The US cannot understand the concept of multipolarity. They are insanely ambitious to dominate the rest of the world, to impose their views, their economy, their military. However, the USA is a hollow colossus on brittle feet, crumbling ….

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 12, 2020

How President Xi Jinping pursues happiness for the Chinese people:

romar
romar
Reply to  Sue Rarick
July 11, 2020

I think you’re misreading the situation in China. Or perhaps getting your info from biased sources. More importantly, you misunderstand the Chinese people. Their mentality and attitudes to power are different from Western people. The “democratic” system you have in the West is viewed as chaos and disorder by the Chinese – and much of the rest of Asia as well. Conversely, what you think is tyranny (it isn’t, but that’s what the West wants to believe) they view as good governance. An example. If you’re old enough, you’ll remember a time when SIngapore was despised and dismissed by the… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  romar
July 11, 2020

Very true, most US readers have blinders on. They are blind to the realities of the world and especially the reality of China. They know very little about Chinese history, economy and politics. They believe blindly what their fake news tells them daily. Blind sheeple, Sue Rarick is the perfect example for this.

BobValdez
BobValdez
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 12, 2020

So true.

BobValdez
BobValdez
Reply to  romar
July 12, 2020

Well said.

BobValdez
BobValdez
Reply to  Sue Rarick
July 12, 2020

I’ve lived and travelled extensively in China and I have been places many whites NEVER visit, including Tibet and Xinjiang, I’ve never witnessed or heard of the lies you talk about. Clearly you have never been to China, or understand it’s real history and culture.

romar
romar
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

Yes, but I wonder: did it have to take all that destruction and suffering?
It’s true that France did recover from the French Revolution and grew into a powerful country, but did that require so may lives lost and upended?
Perhaps. I don’t know…

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  romar
July 11, 2020

Most Eastern countries took huge destruction, especially Russia and China. It is their fate.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 12, 2020

Xi Jinping: “No ethnic group in China should be left behind in poverty alleviation”

Olivia Kroth
July 10, 2020

“- even the Temple of Confucius was wrecked”. Which Temple of Confucius was wrecked? Maybe the author of this text, PETER VAN BUREN, could be a tad more precise? These are the temples of Confucius in the People’s Republic of China, none of them was wrecked, they are all standing, perfect anc complete:  Wikipedia: Well-known Confucian shrines include the Confucian Temple in Jianshui, the Confucian Temple inXi’an (now the Forest of Steles), the Fuzi Miao in Nanjing, and the Confucian Temple in Beijing, first built in 1302. The Confucian Temple of old Tianjin is located on Dongmennei Dajie, a short… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

Lol! I am laughing loudly. People just cannot accept that none of the Confucius Temples in China were destroyed. They are all there, in perfect brilliance. Go an a tour to China and you will see them with your own eyes. Or just watch videos, look at photos on the Internet. “Tomaten auf den Augen”, as the Germans say. US fools have “tomatoes on their eyes”. Blinded by envy and jealousy. And that author PETER VAN BUREN IS a fool, writing nonsense. Probably some conservative grandpa, writing in his wheelchair?

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

The Confucius Temple in Beijing is standing pround and doing well:

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

The Confucius Temple in Qufu is also standing proud and doing well:

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

Furthermore, the Confucius Temple of Nanjing is standing proud and strong. Big, expensive cars are driving by, the people are well-dressed and look happy.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

Maybe someone could show these videos to ole grandpa PETER VAN BUREN in his Sleepy Hollow senior home? Make sure he has got his reading glasses and hearing aid on!

romar
romar
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

Olivia, perhaps the temple was not attacked (I don’t know), but so much else was. The CR was certainly a mad moment in China’s history, and no one in China is defending it. Why attack the author of this very interesting article?

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  romar
July 12, 2020

I do not think this article is “interesting” at all. In fact, it is full of misconceptions and omissions, regarding the People’s Republic of China. I know lots of people in China who defend the CR.

BobValdez
BobValdez
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 12, 2020

As do I, many are personal friends and have been for a long time.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  BobValdez
July 12, 2020

Yes, Bob, but many readers of US media like “the American Conservative” are blinded by hatred towards China. I wonder why. There are enough riches to be gained everywhere, if you are smart enough to earn them and keep them.

BobValdez
BobValdez
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 12, 2020

Fu Zi Miao temple is my favorite place to visit when in Nanjing. We started our desert trek outside Fu Zi Miao in 2005, to the fanfare of the local media. I still have the photos.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  BobValdez
July 12, 2020

That’s great, Bob. Those are wonderful memories.

The Mau Mau Uprising
The Mau Mau Uprising
July 10, 2020

Good article – it’s a bona fide cultural revolution in the works. Soon they’ll be thinking up re-education camps and not just using MSM as their vehicle of choice.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  The Mau Mau Uprising
July 10, 2020

I think that the “American Conservative” article is a wee bit too old-fashioned. It got stuck in the year 1976, the end of the Cultural Revolution, it has not noticed what happened in China since then. They have slept for the past 44 years, like Rip van Winkle.

romar
romar
Reply to  The Mau Mau Uprising
July 11, 2020

Mau Mau, re-education what the Princeton Faculty are “demanding”:
“3. Implement administration- and faculty-wide training that is specifically anti-racist in emphasis… Require the participation of staff members who work with students and student groups…This training should be led by an outside facilitator… and become an integral and annual component of our faculty institutional culture.” https://niotprinceton.org/2020/07/06/princeton-university-faculty-letter-re-anti-blackness/
The camps will not be long in coming…

Olivia Kroth
July 10, 2020

“The Cultural Revolution destroyed China’s economy and traditional culture”? No it did not. The economy is booming,and traditional culture is doing very well, with plenty of temples and museums to visit, historic towns, the Great Chinese Wall. Chinese films and theatre, Chinese literature, Chinese ballet, everything is just fine. I saw myself a Chinese ballet in the Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow.China’s Modern Dance Company dansed to the music of Rites of Spring. It was exquisite. All the old traditions were included, Tibet gongs, Chinese compositions, old costumes, old Chinese rites. Fantastic! Bravo! Respect!

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 10, 2020

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2000 was awarded to Gao Xingjian “for an oeuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the Chinese novel and drama.”

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 10, 2020

comment image

莫言Mo Jan – Literature Nobel Prize 2012– “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary”.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 12, 2020

And here we have a woman as Chinese Nobel Prize laureate in medicine, because the Chinese are outstanding in every field of life, men and woman equally::

comment image

屠呦呦 Tu You, in 2015,

Physiology or Medicine –”for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria”. She lives in Ningbo, Zhejiang, China

Last edited 24 days ago by Olivia Kroth
Olivia Kroth
July 10, 2020

Traditional Chinese Theatre is also blooming in today’s China: By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-17 08:02 Performers from the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe greet their online fans after a livestreamed show on March 16, to mark the 19th anniversary of Kunqu Opera being listed as a UNESCO “oral and intangible heritage of humanity”. Over 600,000 people watched the show.[Photo provided to China Daily] Traditional music has found increasing appeal among a younger audience, due to greater access to it and the passion of its fans, Chen Nan reports. Sometimes you have to travel to appreciate your own.… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 10, 2020
Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

Olivia Kroth: “A Russian-Chinese Rite of Spring”, in THE DURAN, 12.09.2019

https://theduran.com/a-russian-chinese-rite-of-spring/

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
July 11, 2020

Chinese ‘Rite of Spring’ brings Oriental philosophy to ballet:

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