Proletarian revolutionary rebel group, unite!
Artist: Jilin Luyi Great Revolutionary Rebel Army
Publisher: Jilin People's Publishing House
Size (mm): 532x760
The banner in the background reads: geming zaofan jingshen wansui (long live the spirit of revolutionary rebellion)
The slogan zaofan youli (to rebel is justified) had first been used by Mao Zedong during the Yan'an period of 1936-1945, and was revived during the Cultural Revolution to stir the Red Guards into revolutionary action. Mao felt that it was necessary to completely purge the party of revisionists, destroy and rebuild the entire bureaucracy from the bottom up, and to train a new generation of revolutionary youth to continue the struggle. To do this a mass mobilisation of students and, later on, workers was encouraged and given almost complete freedom to form organisations to root out those they viewed as revisionist or not sufficiently devoted to Mao Zedong Thought. The Central Cultural Revolution Group (CCRG) was given the task of steering and controlling the Red Guard groups, and was also responsible for identifying and punishing dissident Red Guards who were deviating from the approved line. Mao and the CCRG gave vocal praise and encouragement through the media to those groups who acted favourably, and leaders attended mass Red Guard rallies at Tiananmen Square. All classes and exams were suspended in June 1966, leaving the students with nothing to do except participate in the rebellion. The student activists often targeted faculty staff and administrators, holding criticisms and struggle sessions where violent denunciations and public humiliations were carried out, sometimes leading to the suicide of those who had been targeted. The increasingly violent behaviour of the Red Guards was initially viewed by Mao and the CCRG as an inevitable component of the rebellion, and they were reluctant to intervene to place restrictions on the movement.
The various student factions, however, proved difficult to control as they vied with each other to prove their loyalty, and attempts to curb the groups' behaviours only served to cause resentments and increase rivalries. The problems caused by the students led Mao to turn in late 1966 to industrial workers, encouraging them to mobilise and form their own rebel groups. Workers were granted the right to set up revolutionary organisations and the sheer numbers who participated soon eclipsed the student movements. The worker groups proved no easier to control than the students, with factions and conflicts quickly materialising and causing great divisions and disruption. In 1967 the military was mobilised in an effort to restore order and bring an end to the violent factionalism, leading to armed battles between rebel factions and the army - in some places involving tanks and artillery and resulting thousands of deaths. The military intervention ultimately caused much greater damage than the Red Guards and factional wars between rebel groups.