Quotations: the Cultural Revolution

This page contains a collection of Chinese Revolution quotations about the Cultural Revolution, made by prominent leaders, figures, observers and historians. These quotations have been selected and compiled by Alpha History authors. If you would like to suggest a quotation for these pages, please contact Alpha History.

“Marxism comprises many principles, but in the final analysis they can all be brought back to a single sentence: it is right to rebel.”
Mao Zedong, 1939 (often cited by the Red Guards)

“We need determined people who are young, have little education, a firm attitude and the political experience to take over the work… When we started to make revolution we were mere 23-year-old boys, while the rulers of that time… were old and experienced. They had more learning – but we had more truth.”
Mao Zedong, 1958

“A big character poster is an extremely useful new weapon. It can be used anywhere as long as the masses are there: city, village, factory, commune, store, government office, school, military unity and street. It has been widely used and should be used indefinitely.”
Mao Zedong, 1958

“[The play] Hai Rui Dismissed from Office is not a fragrant flower but a poisonous weed… Its influence is great and its poison widespread. If we do not clean it up, it will be harmful to the affairs of the people.”
Yao Wenyuan, 1965

“Lately some weird happenings and weird phenomena deserve our awareness. There is a decided possibility of a coup involving killings, seizure of power and restoration of the capitalist class, and of attempts to eliminate the socialist way… We must not be paralysed in our thoughts. We must take categorical action and discover the capitalist-class representatives, time bombs and landmines, and eliminate them… We must criticise them, expose them until they are driven out of the party.”
Lin Biao, 1966

“The representatives of the capitalist class who have infiltrated our party, our government, our armed forces and various cultural groups are actually a batch of counter-revolutionary revisionists… They are Khrushchev types and they are sleeping right next to us. All levels of Party cadre must b especially aware of this point.”
The CCP’s May 16th circular, 1966

“Raise high the great red flag of Mao Zedong Thought, unite around the Party and Chairman Mao, and crush all kinds of constraints and subversive plots of revisionism… to carry the socialist revolution to the end.
A big character poster from 1966

“If the father is a hero, the son is a real man. If the father is a reactionary, the son is a bastard. That’s basically how it works.”
A slogan used by Beijing Red Guards, 1966

“We firmly support your proletarian revolutionary spirit of daring to break through, to act, to make revolution and to rise up in rebellion… Overthrow those persons in power taking the capitalist road, overthrow the bourgeois reactionary authorities and all bourgeois loyalists.”
Lin Biao’s speech to the Red Guards on August 18th 1966

“Our constitution allows people to have freedoms of speech and assembly. Chairman Mao tells us frequently that in order for the leadership to correct mistakes, the revolutionary masses must have the freedom of petition and strikes… The popular masses are allowed to criticise publicly through big and small character posters, big airings, big releases and big debates.”
Zhou Enlai, August 1966

“Speaking out freely, airing views fully, holding great debates and writing big character posters are a new form of carrying on socialist revolution created by the masses. The state should ensure to the masses the right to use these forms to create a political situation.”
The Fourth National People’s Congress, January 1967

“In some high schools, students killed their principals and then cooked and ate the bodies to celebrate a triumph over ‘counter-revolutionaries’.”
Zheng Yi, Chinese writer

“Resuming classes to make revolution means to reopen class in Mao Zedong Thought and in the Great Proletarian Revolution!”
People’s Daily, 1967

“To promote proletariat educational revolution, we must rely on the school’s revolutionary students, revolutionary teachers and workers. We must rely on the activists among them.”
Mao Zedong, 1967

“Some people say that China loves peace. That’s bragging. In fact, the Chinese love struggle. I do, for one.”
Mao Zedong, 1967

“I won’t be happy till I die. I’ve never lived a good day in my life. My mother was beaten to death, my father was left senseless, and I still have to beg for everything. That is what the Cultural Revolution did. It is unfixable. My scars will never heal.”
Lihua, a victim of the Cultural Revolution

“It was at this time, the height of the Cultural Revolution, that Mao was sometimes in bed with three, four, even five women simultaneously.”
Li Zhisui, Mao Zedong’s personal physician

“I was Chairman Mao’s dog. What he said to bite, I bit.”
Jiang Qing on her role in the Cultural Revolution

“Chairman Mao is very strict with me. Most of all, he is a strict teacher to me. Naturally he does not take my hands and make them do things the way he wishes others to do… We have lived together but he is the silent type. He does not talk much.”
Jiang Qing, 1968

“I saw our most, most, most dearly beloved leader Chairman Mao. Comrades, I have seen Chairman Mao! Today I am so happy that my heart is about to burst… I have decided to make today my birthday. Today I start a new life.”
An unnamed Red Guard at the height of the Cultural Revolution

“The purpose of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is to destroy the old culture. You cannot stop us!”
An unnamed Red Guard, 1966

“Father is dear, Mother is dear. But Chairman Mao is dearest of all.”
Junior school oath, circa 1967

“We will swing a big stick, demonstrate magic, exhibit supernatural power, turn heaven and earth upside down. We are going to throw men and horses off their feet, make flowers wither so that they flow away with the water. We want to heap chaos upon chaos.”
An unnamed Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution

“We were told that we needed to use violence to destroy a class, spiritually and physically. That was justification enough for torturing someone. They weren’t considered human anymore. If they were the enemy, they deserved to be strangled to death, and they deserved to be tortured. This was the education we received… the Cultural Revolution brought out the worst in people and the worst in the political system.”
Xi Qinsheng, former Red Guard

“The Cultural Revolution must be reassessed. Mao Zedong was 70 per cent good and 30 per cent bad.”
Big character poster, 1978

“Your action indicates that you are expressing hatred and denunciation of landowners, the bourgeoisie, imperialism, revisionists and their running dogs who exploit workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals and parties. Your actions suggest that your rebellion… is justified. You have my warmest and fullest support.”
Mao Zedong to the Red Guards, 1966

“Chief responsibility for the grave error of the Cultural Revolution does indeed lie with Comrade Mao Zedong… his prestige reached a peak and he began to get arrogant… Comrade Mao Zedong was a great Marxist and a great revolutionary. It is true he made gross mistakes during the Cultural Revolution but his contribution to the Chinese Revolution far outweighs his mistakes.”
Chinese Communist Party history text, 1981

“Some think that… inciting the people [during the Cultural Revolution] is democracy. In fact, inciting the people is to start civil war. We know the lessons of history.”
Deng Xiaoping, speaking in 1993

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