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THE GREAT PROLETARIAN CULTURAL REVOLUTION

Introduction

The domestic turmoil in China that began in 1966 and continued until Chairman Mao Zedong's death in 1976 is known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. As one of the most wrenching and complex, yet probably least understood mass movements of the Twentieth Century, the Cultural Revolution has acquired a bewildering variety of interpretations. The most common is that it was a simple power struggle, a purge of the so-called 'Rightist' factions in the Chinese Communist Party and government by the 'radical Puritan' factions led by Chairman Mao Zedong. This explanation is adequate when examining the power shifts at the very top, but does not reflect the fact that at street level the Cultural Revolution was also a popular uprising against the entrenched authority and bureaucracy of the Party and government. Why did it happen? Why would Mao, the very man who had led the Party to victory in 1949, engineer a revolt against the political structure he had created?