However, the counter-revolutionary faction, headed by, Mao Tse-tung, needed a vanguard shock force to lead “the masses” along the desired path.
On June 13th, 1966 schools and colleges were closed indefinitely to enable students to take part in the “cultural revolution”. From them the first units of “Red Guards” were formed in June and July 1966.
The Red Guards are the shock force of the great proletarian cultural revolution. (“In Praise of the Red Guards”, in: “Hongqi”, No. 12, 1966, in: “Peking Review”, Nov. 29, 1966, p. 15).
During the period when the Marxist-Leninists were in the ascendancy in the Communist Party of China, warnings of such a development had been made.
The lesson of the two great setbacks of the international communist movement teaches us that to carry out the revolution to the end the proletariat must know how to distinguish true Marxist-Leninists from false ones...
One of the main methods the modern revisionists and all adventurists use to seize the leadership is to take advantage of the youth’s lack of experience in class struggle and their inability to distinguish true Marxist-Leninists from fake ones. (An Tzu-wen: “Training Successors for the Revolution is the Party’s Strategic Task”; Peking; 1965;. p. 7,9).
Clearly, the Communist Youth League could not be, and was not, used as the youth shock force of the counter-revolution. What was required for this purpose was a new youth organization whose loyalty was not to the Communist Party of China but to the leader of the counter-revolutionary faction.” The “Red Guards” were developed to fulfill this function.
The Red Guards say, and say it well; Chairman Mao is our red commander and we are the young, red soldiers of Chairman Mao. ... They carry with them copies of ’Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung’... The young Red Guard fighters are concentrating all forces to strike at the handful of bourgeois rightists, and their main target is those in power within the Party who are taking the capitalist road. (“In Praise of the Red Guards”; op. cit.; p. 15, 16).
At first, the “Red Guards” were generally seen as fanatical young fascists. But at a mass meeting in Peking on August 18th, 1966, Mao Tse-tung signified his official approval of the movement by donning the red armband worn by its adherents.
When the Red Guards first appeared in June and July, they consisted only of several score people and were smeared as a ’reactionary organisation’...; they were attacked and assaulted from all sides. However, the great proletarian revolutionary Chairman Mao...sang the praise of the Red Guards for their proletarian revolutionary rebel spirit and gave them firm and warm support. Chairman Mao’s voice was like a clap of spring thunder. In a very brief time, Red Guards developed in schools all over the country, in many factories and rural areas, and became an enormous and powerful cultural revolutionary army. ... They have served as the vanguard. (“Carry the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution through to the End”, editorial in “Renmin Ribao”, January 1st, 1967; in: “Peking Review”, No. 1, 1967; p.9).
From August to November, Red Guards were encouraged to come to Peking and some 9 million took advantage of free rail transport and accommodation to come to the capital. Between August 18th and November 26th, 1966 eight mass demonstrations were held in Peking at which Mao Tse-tung reviewed a total of 11 million Red Guards.
During their sojourn in Peking the Red Guards from the provinces were accommodated in army barracks, and were given ideological and military training, before being sent back to their home provinces “to spread the flames of the great proletarian cultural revolution throughout the country”.
Last year, when millions of young revolutionary fighters came to Peking, P.L.A. men received them warmly and trained them. They saw to it that these youngsters had proper meals and warm lodgings and passed on to them the glorious tradition of the P.L.A. They enabled these young revolutionary fighters to take part in at least one of the great Tien An Men Square reviews, by Chairman Mao and later saw them all safely off to spread the flames of the great proletarian cultural revolution throughout the country. (“P.L.A.’s New Contributions In Serving the People”, in: “Peking Review”, No. 36, 1967; p.6).
The reactionary class background of the leaders of the “Red Guards” was tacitly admitted by “Renmin Ribao” (People’s Daily) in January 1967, when it took to task those who drew attention to the bourgeois social origin of the leaders of the “Red Guards” for “advertising the reactionary ’theory of family lineage’”.
This very small number of persons who stubbornly cling to the bourgeois reactionary line made use of the slogan: ’A hero’s son is a real man! A reactionary’s son is no damn good!’ to bewilder a number of students, create factions and confuse the class fronts. ...The way these people with ulterior motives have made use of the slogan is in essence to advertise the exploiting classes’ reactionary ’theory of family lineage’. (“Carry the Great Proletarian Revolution through to the End”, editorial in “Renmin Ribao”, January 1st, 1967; in: “Peking Review”, No.1, 1967; p. 10).
Inspired by their glimpse of the “greatest genius of all time”, and by the: military and ideological training given to them, the “Red Guards” proceeded to “spread the flames of the great proletarian cultural revolution throughout the country” by attacking Party offices and by beating up, torturing and killing officials of the Party.
The attempt to destroy the Communist Party of China had begun.