On 24 January 1967, Mao Zedong renamed the Shanghai People’s Commune as the Shanghai Revolutionary Committee. These Revolutionary Committees (革命委员会, Geming weiyuanhui), which were supposedly based on a “three-way alliance of Red Guards, Party cadres and army men”, were to replace the original political structures that had existed until then in China.
One of their main functions, however, was to bring the factional struggle to an end that crippled the nation. The term “revolutionary committee” itself originated in the Soviet Union, where it refered to a power structure which combined the military and the state.
The formation of the revolutionary committees was the result of the power seizures by rebel and Red Guard factions that had led to nation-wide administrative paralysis. The introduction of the committees was a very slow process. Only by 5 September 1968, almost a year and a half after their inception, the committees had been set up in all provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, “with the exception of Taiwan”. Although Mao himself had allowed that the committees were merely provisional organs of power, they remained in existence until 1979, when they were abolished and replaced by people’s governments at all levels.
The revolutionary committees were not merely organizational tools that served political purposes. All work units, from factories to schools, from workshops to rural communes, formed their own revolutionary committees to take care of day-to-day administration.