Lin Biao


Reading a Norwegian critique of ‘Third worldism’ sparked the curiosity to return to source. The publishers Routledge have reprinted (under a Revivals series label) a collection of documents from China on The Lin Biao Affair. 9781138203921

This anthology reproduces the information given by the party leadership as well as ‘Project 571’ and the speeches and writings of Lin Piao between 1965-1970.Included is Mao’s interpretation of events, available here online .

While in the late Mao period, there was the nation-wide Campaign to Criticize Lin Piao and Confucius: the common western complaint was about the thread-bare-ness of the official account of the Lin Biao incident.

The post-Mao leadership’s offensive against the Cultural Revolution’s ultra -left saw the shackling together in the 1980 Trial of the Lin Biao and Jiang Qing “Counter-Revolutionary Cliques”.

Subject to varying academic interest in journal articles, the Lin Biao affair has received scant attention since his demise. For a long time the standard text available was a popular Penguin paperback, The Rise And Fall of Lin Piao (1976 ) by Jaap Van Ginneken  that relied extensively on high level Chinese documents.

Subsequently books have echoed the revisionist stance of the sceptically received, The Conspiracy and Death of Lin Biao (1983) by Yao Ming-Le  and Stanley Karnow . Translated from a Chinese manuscript  smuggle out to the West, this account (regard as  great political fiction?) chronicles the events surrounding the death of Lin Biao, Mao’s chosen successor killed in a plane crash while fleeing after an attempted coup. Alternative edition published under the more explicit title The Conspiracy and Murder of Mao’s Heir.

The siniologist Frederick C Teiwes & Warren Sun, The Tragedy of Lin Biao: Riding the Tiger during the Cultural Revolution (1996)  offer an interpretation which radically undermines the standard view of Lin Biao presenting him as someone basically uninterested in power or even politics, who was thrust into leading positions and the successor role by Mao against his wishes.

While The Culture of Power: The Lin Biao Incident in the Cultural Revolution (1999) by ,  Qiu Jin daughter of the former commander-in-chief of the Chinese air force, who served under Lin and, along with thousands of others, was imprisoned as a result of the purges that followed Lin s death, intriguingly speculates that Lin was unaware of the “plot” against Mao, since he was extremely ill, but it was rather something concocted by his “princeling” son and wife.

The true “reversal of verdict” on Lin Biao has taken place on the leftist margins associated with Third Worldism which critics see as an ideological variety of Lin Biaoism – if singularly based on the text of Long Live the Victory of People’s War!.

In 2006 the Spanish group Gran Marcha Hacia el Comunismo (Long March Towards Communism) called for a reassessment of the Lin Biao affair in the document “Acerca de la Cuestión de Lin Piao” (On the Question of Lin Piao) .

In its maoist phase, what was to become LLCO published in 2008 a study, Two Roads Defeated in the Cultural Revolution, Part 2: Lin Biao’s Road and the document, “The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.”

There was a small revival of interest as internet distribution made available the arguments summarised by N. Brown’s Long Live the Revolutionary Spirit of Lin Biao! posted at in December 2013.

These were answered in a flurry of counter-reaction of ideological criticism from internet Maoists-identifying commentators, and from the Gonzaloist trend.