Mon, May 29, 2006 - Page 9 News List

The Cultural Revolution turns 40

The psychological turmoil of the `Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution' lives on and will continue to thrive, so long as everyone, particularly the perpetrators of violence, refuses to own-up to what they did

By Liu Xiaobo

Mao's Cultural Revolution was launched 40 years ago this month, yet, despite 20 years of economic liberalization, its wounds remain a taboo subject. Today's rulers dare not face up to their own experiences or moral responsibility. So, three decades after the Cultural Revolution ended, the national self-examination that China requires has not yet begun.

The Chinese Communist Party has deemed the Cultural Revolution a "catastrophe," a judgment supported by mainstream opinion. But China's rulers permit discussion of the Cultural Revolution only within this official framework, suppressing any and all unofficial reflections.

The generalized official verdict and the use of Lin Biao (林彪) -- once Mao Zedong's (毛澤東) vice president and designated heir, who rebelled against him -- and the "Gang of Four" as scapegoats, obscures the crimes of Mao and the Party, as well as the entrenched flaws in the system.

The Cultural Revolution's major figures, who wrought so much mindless violence, thus either maintain their silence or offer spurious self-defenses. Most victims also use various excuses to bottle up their memories. Those who both persecuted and were persecuted are willing to talk only about their victimization.

For example, the fanatical Red Guard movement swallowed up almost every youth of the right age. Yet all but a few old Red Guards remain silent, saying, "it is not worth remembering." During the Cultural Revolution's early days, the Beijing-based Allied Movement, formed by the children of party cadres, committed horrendous acts of violence, operating under the slogan, "If the father is a hero, the son is a good man; if the father is a reactionary, the son is a turtle egg."

But the memoirs of these rebellious vanguards of yesteryear highlight only their youthful passion and pure idealism, or their sufferings and those of their parents. They do not mention their own barbaric assaults, vandalism and looting, or their kangaroo courts. The revolution's veterans refuse to discuss their arrogant presumption of "natural Redness," or to mention that they rebelled because they wanted power. Worst of all, they express no remorse toward their victims.

The Cultural Revolution swept up all of China. So many people suffered that it is difficult to count the number of victims accurately. This is all the more true of the persecutors. Yet few reflect and apologize.

The terror of the Red Guards, the armed fights between the rebellious sects, the teams established to "cleanse" the social classes and all the bloody massacres are simply left to rot in China's memory. The official ban blocks reflection, but human weakness and instrumental self interest among those who participated buttresses the official ban.

Consider Ye Xiangzhen (葉向真), the daughter of senior general Ye Jianying (葉劍英), who once discussed her family's Cultural Revolution experiences on television. During the early stages of the Cultural Revolution, she played a dual role: daughter of a Chinese field marshal and leader of the rebels at the School of Art in the capital.

She complained that she was "too famous," "too active" and "too stressed" at the time and she provided extensive details about how Mao's wife, Jiang Qing (江青), persecuted the Ye family and how the Ye children went to prison.

But she had only 58 words to say about her career as a Red Guard leader -- no details or explanation of how she joined, which activities she participated in and whether she was involved in "physical struggles" or persecuted others.

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