By Harsh Thakor
On 13th September we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Lin Biao, due to a plane crash in 1971, when allegedly attempting to flee to the Soviet Union. Lin is one of the most controversial or complex and impactful characters of the Communist Movement. Few leaders more befitted the role of a Dr. Jekyll and a Mr. Hyde.
Lin made a great contribution to the Chinese revolution as a military commander, after 1945. In the last stages no military leader did as much justice to Mao’s military teachings. He exhibited genius in carrying out military affairs, settling up traps for the enemy at their hardest point. Few commanders patrolled troops with such skill, to overpower the enemy as Biao as a military leader was more responsible than anyone in delivering the final knockout punch, to Chiang Kai Shek’s Kuomintang.
By the end of 1945 Lin had 280,000 troops in Manchuria under his command, but according to Kuomintang estimates only 100,000 of these were regular forces with access to adequate equipment. The KMT also estimated that Lin also had access to 100,000 irregular auxiliaries, whose membership was drawn mainly from unemployed factory workers. Lin avoided decisive confrontations throughout 1945, and he was able to preserve the strength of his army despite criticism from his peers in the Party and the PLA. On May 8 Lin launched the first of his "three great campaigns", the Summer Offensive, intending to engage a large garrison at Huade, while a second force positioned itself to ambush the force that would predictably be sent to relieve it. With the skill of a surgeon performing an operation Lin crystallised an ambush, to deliver a striking blow to the Kuomintang in Siping, Jilin.
In the winter Offensive in Siping in Manchuria and at Jinzhou in Liaoshen he confronted encirclement of Chiang Kai Shek’s troops with daunting courage and military skill, rarely transcended. He went on to penetrate North China, annexing Taiwan and Beijing, through the Pingin campaign. The Pingjin Campaign saw Lin remove a total of approximately 520,000 enemy troops from the enemy's battle lines. Many of those who surrendered later joined the PLA. In the last stages no military leader did as much justice to Mao’s military teachings. He exhibited genius in carrying out military affairs, setting up traps for the enemy at their hardest point. Few commanders patrolled troops with such skill, to overpower the enemy.
In the post-revolution period after 1949 he was responsible for pioneering the projection of Chairman Mao’s military theory through printing of Chairman Mao's red book, where his writings were incorporated or assembled in readable form for everyone. Lin wrote a masterpiece on ‘International Significance of Peoples War,’ which lit the red spark of Mao’s teachings at an unprecedented level. Never in China's history were any leader's writings sparkled to such a magnitude. He also abolished ranks in the army and paved the way for the Socialist education movement to succeed. Possibly the Great Proletarian Cultural revolution could never be launched without the seeds sown of the Socialist Education Movement. In rendered the spirit of selflessness at the very core within the army by persuading them to participate in farm labour, to build a soil for planting a Socialist man. I recommend everyone to refer to ‘Daily lives in Revolutionary China’ which vividly illustrates the unparalleled democratic strides of the Peoples liberation army. In 1965 his speech on ‘Long Live the Peoples War’, elevated the pulse of the oppressed masses of the people to undertake peoples war at an unparalleled intensity. Above all it was Lin Biao who formally proclaimed Mao Tse Tung thought as the higher or highest stage of Marxism-Leninism.
Sadly, from the period of the Cultural Revolution Lin Biao exhibited a big deviation from genuine Marxism, by placing the army over everything, and giving scant respect to the class struggles within the sphere of production and enhancing the striking power of the masses. During mass movements, the people’s liberation army often curtailed the civilians, and in 1967-69 it was only after the intervention of Premier Zhou En Lai, that the army had to withdraw. Lin Biao attempted to project chairman Mao like a prophet and often it was Chairman Mao who had to intervene to eradicate personality cult. He now turned bloodthirsty for power, eulogising Mao to promote his chances of being anointed head of state. In 1969 Lin was chosen as Mao's successor. However, from late 1969 relations deteriorated between Lin and Mao. Lin insisted that the Cultural revolution be withdrawn and sole emphasis be placed on production In contrast Chairman Mao felt there were still glaring flaws in the society, which could be only resolved through continuous revolution. He also became a bitter critter of Chiang Ching as well as wished to restore relations with the Soviet Union.
By 1970 the relations of Lin and Mao embittered at crescendo and in the moral sense no more did Mao wish Lin to b his successor. Finally in September 1971 Lin fled in plane with his family, heading to Soviet Union. The Chinese govt alleged that Lin plotted to overthrow Chairman Mao, which is maintained by many Marxists today. However some comrades like Joma Sison feel we still have to look under the telescope to examine the correct facts. In recent years Lin's daughter has come out with another version on the incident.
The aftermath of Lin Biao's death was major determinant of the future course of events in the Cultural Revolution of China, breaking the backbone of the genuine left forces, and paving the way for the revival of the rightists or capitalist roaders. A major 2 line struggle was waged by the Maoist gang of four, portraying Lin as a 'Confucius' of the modern age or a mandarin. It had the overtones of famous emperor being overthrown and disgraced. Rightist commanders almost completely infiltrated the Peoples Liberation Army. After the rightist coup in 1976 shortly after Mao's death, in Biao was publicly disgraced and eventually sentenced as a criminal in the 1981 trials. It was ironic how a so called 'capitalist roader' was condemned by the anti-Maoist or revisionist like Deng Xiaoping, along with the Maoist gang of 4. In Mao's time after 1971, Lin was characterized as a capitalist roader.
Even if he betrayed Marxism towards the end it was travesty that on his birth centenary no memorial was staged for Lin Biao in China or amongst Marxists worldwide. Indian Maoists treated him like a demon as well as those in Peru and Nepal. Only the pro-Lin Biao camp groups paid him homage like the Leading Light Communist Organisation and the C.P.I.(ML) 2nd CC in India. Marxist writer Joseph Ball hardy gave credibility to Lin Biao being treated as a villain and plotting to kill Mao. Chairman Joma Sison is also neutral. Lin Biao would win a permanent place amongst the great Marxist or anti-imperialist military commanders but would also go down in history of marking a turning point in revisionism—in the International Communist Movement.
PERSPECTIVE OF ANALYSIS
What Marxist need to analyse is what phenomena led to a figure like Lin biao sprouting up within a Socialist state or Communist party, to the extent of his even being appointed as Chairman Mao's successor. I feel it reflected how Confucian culture was still embedded in the minds of the Chinese people, which upheld feudal authority. For historians it is worth probing into what caused such a sensational turnabout in Lin Biao. There was also deep penetration of the Army in all spheres. Strong hierarchy existed within the party itself. In my view the trend asserts that mere 2 line struggle within a Communist party, does not build a genuine Socialist society or Socialist democracy to flourish. Even if factionalism is negative, vanguardist tendencies of the party were not properly checked by the masses. in also most erroneously defined the era in 1969,as that of "Total Collapse of Imperialism and Worldwide Victory for Socialist Revolution,' replacing Leninist evaluation of 'Era of Imperialism and Proletarian Revolution. ‘The Chinese model of revolution was exported by Lin, giving no regard to the unique characteristics engulfing different regions. Marxists were made to asses everything through the prism of the Chinese revolution. in Biao most mechanically analyzed that the third world was a storm centre for world revolution that would besiege the cities of the 1st world. Morally, Lin virtually classed the working class of the developing countries to be counter-revolutionary and only workers of developing countries to be a potent revolutionary force. In fact genuine Marxists have to counter the Lin Biaoist tendency that classes all Workers of the 1st world to be reactionary, apart from the Afro-Americans or Asians. Lin’s writings compiled in the Red Book had powerful tendencies of rhetoric and generalisation, has pointed out by Stuart Schram in his biography of Mao.
Few leaders more illustrated a dual aspect to their nature. I feel Lin deserved a gold medal for some of his contributions, while on the other hand should face the equivalent of punishment for dealing establishing of a genuine Socialist state. It is very important that we evaluate him in the correct perspective and not devalue his contribution. One must take note of how even revisionist parties in the Indian camp denounce Lin Biaoism, with groups like C.P.I.(M.L) Red Star, even equating the CCP from 1966-76 as Lin Biaoist. I asesss Lin Biao to a kind of a Brezhnevite and not a Kruschevian like Liu Shao Chi or Deng Xiaoping. To me in the classical sense Lin was not a 'capitalist roader' like Deng Xiaoping.
I would love readers to refer to Edgar Snow's notes on Lin Biao in 'Red Star over China’, which does justice to his leadership before 1949.Lin's military writings too are very insightful, with semi- colonial features still persisting in third world countries.
All Marxists should dialectically study the phenomena of Lin Biao, to study his plus points and major flaws and understand the complexities that arise within a Socialist Society itself. His treachery towards the end, all the more illustrates how imperative it was to stage the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, to keep Leninism a float. The mass movements undertaken to confront Lin Biao's ideology also have great importance. Arguably an error of Mao was over deployment and excessive power within the army and not awarding sufficient independence to mass movements. Still I feel we should tooth and nail confront anyone who projects Lin Biao's line a s a Marxist one as well as those who use his example to denounce Socialist China under Mao. I do not ascribe to the view that Chairman Mao fostered his personality cult, but completely endorse that Lin Biao completed tried to promote himself through glorifying the chairman. It is also significant that chairman Gonzalo has shades of Lin Biaoism in his thesis on 'militarization of the party.’ Readers must critically study all the writings of Lin Biao, to be enriched in Marxism-Leninism., published in the ‘Marxist Internet archive.’ They must demarcate or distinguish the sectarian elements of his writing which replace Marxism-Leninism or Mass line with military ideology. From Lin Biao’s negative experience we further understand the importance of treating Maoism as an integral part of Leninism and the importance of the Leninist vanguard party. At the same time certain chinks are exposed in our armoury, ideologically in terms of genuine democracy within a Socialist society and not mere mechanical interpretation of Maoist peoples War. His life also expressed the mysterious aspect of Marxism itself.
CHAIRMAN JOMA SISON ON LIN BIAO
Very surprisingly Chairman Joma Sison is inconclusive on the Lin Biao affair 50 years ago, remaining neutral.
"The CPC Central Committee led by Mao himself made decisions in favour of and then against Lin Piao. The circumstances and decisions must be subjected to concrete review and analysis by dialectical and historical materialists. But if a telescope were to be used, especially by outsiders like us, the downfall of Lin Piao meant a split of the Left within the CPC and PLA (between Lin Piao and the group of 4) which opened the way for the rehabilitation and ultimate ascendance of Deng with the help of Chou En-Lai who had to defend himself from the attacks of the group of 4. Lin Piao was well-known as the first PLA commander to deliver the first big blow against the Japanese invasion army and as the consistent defender of Mao in the Lushan conference, in the socialist education movement and in the first four years or so of the GPCR. Remember that the support of the PLA led by Lin Piao to the Left was crucial in mobilizing the Left and the Red Guards against the bourgeois headquarters in the CPC and the state. For this, Lin Piao gained the title of being the closest comrade in arms of Mao. He was enshrined in the Chinese constitution as the successor of Mao. He was responsible for stressing that China was the central base of the third world's struggle of peoples and countries against the first world of imperialist powers. He was also associated with rhetoric about Mao thought as the atom bomb of the people and about the world era of the impending collapse of imperialism and global victory of socialism over imperialism. For the ultimate Rightist victors in the class struggle to discredit and bring him down, he was the target of the intrigues that he was in a hurry to take power for himself in order to displace Mao, letting his wife abuse her power in the PLA Political Department and prematurely promoting his young son to a senior position in the PLA and conspiring with him to assassinate Mao. At the ideological and political level, he was accused of immodesty and recklessness in depicting China as the central base of the world revolution, contrary to the wishes of the Right to adopt capitalist reforms and open up to and integrate China with the capitalist world as the way to modernize China and catch up with the rise of technology. The circumstances of the death of Lin Piao also need concrete review and analysis. There are certain serious claims that he and other pro-Lin officers were already dead at the start of the supposed flight to the Soviet Union. What an irony that one of the top opponents of Soviet social imperialism should be fleeing to the SU. The plane could have been put on auto-pilot before leaving the Chinese border. I state conflicting facts and arguments here."
REVIEW ON LIN BIAO BY LATE NICK GLAIS IN 2011
Below I am posting a most lucid analysis by late Comrade Nicholas Glais of Democracy and Class Struggle blog, who asserts how Lin Biao towards the end had betrayed the revolution and was at loggerheads with the ideology of Mao. In a dialectical manner it portrays the revisionist essence of Lin after 1969.
"Chang Jung and Jon Halliday love to compare Mao to Hitler but the absurdity of their comparison becomes evident when they raise Lin Biao's son Li Guo also known as "Tiger” to a comparison with Claus von Stauffenberg, the German officer who tried to assassinate Hitler in 1944.
Jung Chang and Jon Halliday skip over the political differences between Mao and Lin Biao and everything becomes personal between Lin Biao and Mao and politics disappears.
The important political differences between Mao and Lin Biao manifested themselves after the 9th Party Conference in the way Lin Biao was using his control of the military in a bureaucratic way.
Lin Biao also took advantage of Sino-Soviet border clashes in the spring of 1969 to declare martial law and further used his position to rid himself of some potential rivals to the succession.
Several leaders who had been purged during 1966–68 died under the martial law regime.
In foreign affairs the Lin Biao line was the tactical policy of the Cultural Revolution, fight both enemies at the same time with equal force and spread revolution, ignoring or showing hostility to other aspects of the international situation.
In regard to party and state Lin Biao intended to retain military hegemony if not dramatically increase army control over society.
Zhou Enlai supported by Mao wanted the return of civilian control of society after the Cultural Revolution in opposition to Lin Biao's line of the army in control.
In foreign affairs both Zhou Enlai and Mao wanted a foreign policy that favoured distinctions between imperialists, to determine which the principal is and which the secondary enemy is at a given time and to make use of the contradictions within the enemy camp and between the enemy camps.
The new foreign policy line represented Chairman Mao's ideas tactically applied to the current world situation.
This line meant accepting the temporary relaxation in relations offered by US Imperialism so as to remove one threat from China, attempt to divide the superpowers to the extent possible where they collude and build an important alliance of small medium and third world nations - to struggle against the "two overlords" defeating them one at a time
On August 22nd 1970 the Second Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party was once again held in Lushan. It was the Lushan Conference that first brought the differences between Mao and Lin Biao to the public. Lin Biao surprisingly did not provide a copy of his Lushan speech in advance which was the normal courtesy he gave to Mao.
The sharp difference at the Lushan conference was over the post of State President, Mao did not want the post but Lin Biao insisted that Mao take the position. It was Lin Baio's insistence on this matter that alerted Mao to the fact that Lin Biao wanted him to take this position to ensure the vice President would go to himself and confirm his succession to Mao.
There was also Chen Bo Da insisting that Mao's genius be inserted into the Constitution of China. Mao was seeing clearly that Chen Bo Da and Lin Biao were using the Mao Cult as a cover for naked power seeking for themselves. Mao had Chen Bo Da removed from the standing committee as a warning to Lin Biao to change his ways.
After the Nineth Party Congress Lin Biao had continuously requested promotions within the party and Central Government leading Mao to suspect him of wanting supreme power as quickly as possible. If Lin were to become Vice President he would legally have supreme power after the Presidents death.
Mao made his position clear about Lin Biao on a visit to Southern China after the Lushan meeting when he said that Lin Biao's politics had overestimated the role of the army in society, Lin Biao says that the army is everything, Mao said no the people are everything.
Mao wanted the rectified communist party to return to governing the provinces but Lin Biao wanted the army supervising the party. Mao made it plain the party controls the gun not the gun the party. Mao started moves to bring the army under control and this was the trigger that sent Li Guo the "Tiger:" into action to overthrow Mao.
During his visit to Southern China Mao still hoped to bring Lin Biao back to the straight and narrow inviting Lin Biao to criticise Chen Bo Da's "genius" nonsense which Mao so brilliantly ridiculed in with his classic sense of humour. Lin Biao comment that one word of Mao Tse Tung is worth 10,000 words of anybody else's were also the subject of Mao's wit on the South China visit. But Lin Biao refused to criticise Chen Bo Da and take Mao's offer of a way out of conflict and started to behave erratically at public functions.
Mao however had not calculated on the devastating effect of Lin Biao's son Li Guo who saw in his father’s diminution his diminution and saw in his father’s rise his rise. While Chang Jung and Jon Halliday relish any gossip abouts Mao's personal life they are more circumspect when it comes to Li Guo conceding he was something of a playboy, but no details here as he is another Claus von Stauffenberg and it would not do staining the character of their hero, albeit he was the spoilt son of a doting mother who could see no wrong in him, but worried about his womanising.
Without the fanatical hatred of Li Guo for Mao (shared by Jung Chang) there would probably not have been the 571 or Wu Qi Yi chinese pronounciation like "armed uprising"
But Li Guo was determined to kill Mao and raise his father to number one.
Qui Jin an historian who has studied the Lin Biao incident probably more than anyone else and whose father was head of the Airforce under Lin Biao believes that Lin Biao did not know all his son was up to and his son may have been acting on his own in organising the attempts on Mao's life.
Her view that Lin Biao he did not know anything until the 12th September at 9 pm I do not find credible as to many things were going on for him not to know nothing.
Lin Biao was not a stupid man as his history demonstrates he was a brilliant military commander and his Manchurian Campaign a classic of military history.
Li Guo, Lin Biao's son contacted Jiang Teng -Jiao the youngest general in China to kill Mao. with a plan was to shoot up Mao's train in Shanghai but the plot did not proceed as planned because the Korean War ace asked to do the job deliberately hospitalised himself to avoid carrying out the task.
Li Guo was now getting desperate and planned a suicide helicopter attack on Tiananmen Gate in Beijing but this was aborted at the last moment. There does appear to be evidence of some kind of attack on Mao in Shanghai, assassination attempts were made against Mao in Shanghai from September 8th to September 10th 1971 according to police records.
However everything unravelled when Dodo, Lin Biao's daughter informed on her brother, father and mother as fleeing the country, the first plan to flee to Hong Kong was abandoned in favour of fleeing to Russia, with Li Guo shooting Lin Biao's bodyguard on the way to the plane, the plane was forced to take off without sufficient fuel and crashed over Mongolia killing Lin Baio his wife and son and all on board.
Mao was deeply shocked by the turn of events and began a purge of the armed forces which according to Jung Chang and Jon Halliday "not a single person was executed" page 685 of "Unknown Mao".
What did Hitler do after Claus von Stauffenberg failed in his assassination attempt?
“About 180 to 200 plotters were shot or hanged or, in some cases, viciously strangled with piano wire or hung up on great meat hooks, and executed. Hitler had some of the gruesome executions filmed and watched the movies."
Well you make an ambitious playboy son into an brave man like Claus von Stauffenberg, you admit Li Guo wanted to kill Mao on a number of occasions but failed, furthermore he caused the death of his mother and father as a result from his fool hardiness in taking off in a plane half full with fuel which crashes resulting in the death of all on board. That was not all, as Lin Biao's friends and associates like Qui Jin's father as head of the airforce were also implicated in Li Guo's plots and suffered disgrace and were purged and we are told to regard him as a hero and not as the fool he was.”
“Let the consequences Li Guo's self consuming hatred of Mao stand as a warning to Jung Chang and Jon Halliday."
A PERSPECTIVE: STEVE OTTO
Lin Biao (林彪) holds an interesting place in Marxist history. He is a hero to some Marxists and he is also a minor theoretician to others. But to other Marxists and Maoists he is a trator, accused of trying to kill Mao Zedong and create a coup. The evidence on that is not very clear, According to Wikipedia:
“Project 571 (Chinese: 五七一工程; pinyin: Wǔqīyī gōngchéng) was the numeric codename given to an alleged plot to execute a coup d'état against Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1971 by the supporters of Lin Biao, then Vice-Chairman of the Communist Party of China. In Chinese, the numbers "5-7-1" sound like the term "armed uprising" (Chinese: 武起义; pinyin: wǔqǐyì). The Chinese government initially claimed that Lin Biao himself had devised Project 571, but evidence inside and outside of China has made it more likely that Lin's son, Lin Liguo, a high-ranking officer in the People's Liberation Army Air Force, instead developed the plot.
So it does not seem so clear as to whether Biao actually was in on the plot to kill Mao. Biao played in important role in Chinese communist history.
In Aug 12, 1972, Roxane Witke made contact with Chiang Ching, so she could write a biography of her. Before she met Chiang Ching she was introduced some of her followers who read some of Chiang’s speeches. She made this observation:
“Why not let me read these texts in the original on my own time?”
“Because Comrade Chiang Ch’ing instructed us to read them to you.”
My hunch then, confirmed upon my return to America when I could investigate the records of Chiang Ch’ing’s speeches, was that the original printed versions, most of which have restricted circulation in China, contain comradely references to Lin Piao, Ch’en Po-ta, and other pilots of the Cultural Revolution, who were later dismissed from the ranks of the revolutionary elect. “
So, what was the significance of comradely references to Lin Biao? The two revolutionaries seemed to have clashed at times and yet she seemed on good terms almost a year after Biao was accused of trying to overthrow Mao.
All of this gives us a picture of a very complicated man and revolutionary. As Harsh Thakor said, Biao was a man with positive and negative attributes. He gave us a very complicated personal history.