Comparisons between current cancel culture and Mao’s Red Guards should serve as a warning of what could happen in the U.S.
By Cassie B. // Jul 26, 2020

Recent events in the U.S. have drawn more than a few comparisons to what took place during the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960s and ‘70s. John Gray, an emeritus professor at the London School of Economics, recently explored the connection in a thought-provoking piece for The Mail on Sunday.


He started out by stating that we no longer live in a free society. Instead, we’re being ruled by people who are trying to enforce their extreme views on others by shaming and ruining people who don’t think the same way.

He believes the current cancel culture we’re seeing and the destruction of people’s professional standing for not being “woke” enough is just a modem expression of the Mao brand of intolerance. He also calls the promotion of “woke ideology” by the media, local authorities, publishers, businesses and universities “a terrifying development.”

At his first academic job in the early ‘70s in England, Gray said that although the University of Essex, where he worked, was pretty far to the left, he was able to adopt a fairly detached attitude because he and his colleagues didn’t feel threatened. Even in his time at Oxford and his earlier days at the London School of Economics, no one had to fear the repercussions of their beliefs.

Now, however, those who oppose leftist ideals, no matter how weakly, are being silenced. This is where he really launches into the parallel to Mao’s Cultural Revolution, which ruined much of what was left of China’s ancient civilization.

The Cultural Revolution was launched by Mao in 1966. His mobs were tasked with purging the capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society and replacing them with his own beliefs. It was often young people and urban workers who formed Red Guard paramilitary units that went after anyone who was tied to an official blacklist, typically elderly Chinese and intellectuals. Their goal was to get rid of what they called the “four olds” – old culture, old ideas, old habits and old customs.

Because religion was considered to be a capitalist tool, churches were destroyed. They also killed people who thought differently than them; police were told not to intervene. The Red Guards destroyed religious and cultural sites along with historical relics and statues. Sound familiar?

The only way people accused of a thought crime could avoid punishment was by confessing publicly, undergoing “reeducation,” and agreeing to “struggle sessions” that entailed torture and humiliation. The Cultural Revolution ultimately destroyed the Chinese economy and left millions of people dead.

In The American Conservative, Peter Van Buren drew a similar comparison, writing: “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."

He also pointed out that if you switch out the terms revisionism and capitalism for white supremacy and racism in some of Mao’s speeches, “you have a decent speech draft for a Black Lives Matter rally.”

Where does this end?

It’s becoming harder and harder to keep track of all the examples of this today. First, we have statues being torn down of American historical figures before the anger started being directed at Jesus. Now Christian churches are being burned down and statues of the Virgin Mary are being beheaded.

We have young people like the 16-year-old daughter of a police officer ambushed and killed in the line of duty who tweeted kind words in memory of her father with the hashtag #bluelivesmatter being slammed with hateful words from people who claim to be concerned about equality.

We have people losing their jobs and other professional opportunities, like a journalism professor’s offer to become dean being withdrawn by Arizona State University after she tweeted offering prayers for both George Floyd and good police officers who keep people safe. Meanwhile, a UCLA accounting lecturer was removed from teaching after he declined to give minority students an extended deadline during the George Floyd protests.

It’s clear that the comparisons to the Chinese Cultural Revolution are not a very big stretch, so now the real question is whether or not society will wake up and realize the path we’re headed down before it’s too late. Read for more coverage of "thought crimes."

Sources for this article include:

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