How Mao mobilized millions and benefitted from the chaos

The Cultural Revolution, in a nutshell, was Mao Zedong’s attempt to come back from the relative political irrelevance to which he had been relegated in the years following the Great Leap Forward and the famine that it helped produce, and to impose his notion of “continuous revolution” on China. When he launched it in May 1966, he had already been eclipsed, and so needed a flank attack on the Party bureaucracy that had sidelined him.