Remembering Lin Biao
Published Dec 5, 2007 9:24 PM
It is 100 years since Lin Biao, an outstanding military leader in China’s
anti-feudal, anti-imperialist revolutionary war and later a political leader in
the Cultural Revolution, was born on Dec. 5, 1907.
After his death in 1971, Lin was almost erased from public recognition in
China. But in July, the Shanghai Daily News reported that Lin had finally been
returned to hero status and his portrait placed in the Beijing Military
Who was Lin Biao? Why should he be remembered?
Lin came from the Chinese countryside, which was impoverished and oppressed by
feudal landlords. At an early age he developed a desire to see things change.
At 18 he left home, joined the Socialist Youth League and became a student at
the Whampoa Military Academy, a hotbed of nationalist and Marxist thought.
Lin studied alongside Zhou Enlai and many others who would become leaders of
China’s socialist revolution. A civil war broke out between the
feudalists and the nationalist forces in which Lin commanded nationalists in
battles against the regime of emperors and landlords.
In 1928, Chiang Kai-shek, head of the nationalist Kuomintang party, turned on
his Communist allies, slaughtering thousands. Lin, Mao Zedong, Zhou and other
Communists eventually regrouped and established a new army that fought the
ruling classes. Its aim was to put the factories, the land and political power
in the hands of the workers and peasants, the overwhelming majority of the
Lin and Mao both mastered the art of guerilla warfare. Their strategy of
“people’s war” depended on the support of ordinary people to
gradually build up a new kind of army, highly political and democratic.
Anti-Japanese war of resistance
In the 1930s and 1940s, Lin and Mao led a guerrilla war against Japan’s
invading imperialist army. In the areas controlled by their People’s
Liberation Army, land was distributed to the poor peasants, who combined with
Communist Party cadres to run their villages in the interest of the people.
Ordinary people for the first time had a say in decision making. The landlords
and nobles were tried for their crimes against the people.
Lin and Mao were seen as Robin Hoods. Tens of thousands of Chinese people began
to join their ranks, seeking to build a socialist future in China.
In 1949, the revolution was victorious and Chiang Kai-shek, who had been
supported by the U.S., fled to Taiwan. “The Chinese people have stood
up!” proclaimed Mao to a giant rally. Lin, whose troops had just
liberated the capital, was at his side
In 1959, Lin became China’s defense minister. He abolished privileges for
officers and insignia of rank.
In 1966, students at Tsinghua University hung “big character
posters” attacking elitism and bureaucratic tendencies and formed the Red
Guards. Mao and Lin came out strongly in support of the students’
“right to rebel.” It was the beginning of a massive revolution
within the revolution. Chinese youth became a fighting force against those who
defended capitalist restoration and elitist policies.
In the state-owned factories, workers began to criticize their bosses. In the
schools, teachers once above criticism became targets of massive student
dissent. Empowering the common people and the collective became the rallying
cry of what would be known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
Lin, acting as Mao’s official representative during this period, wrote a
book, “Long Live the Victory of People’s War,” that said a
world revolution was going on against the U.S. imperialists. It argued that the
underdeveloped world and forces of socialism and communism could surround and
overwhelm the imperialists.
When the workers of Shanghai, China’s most industrial city, revolted, Mao
and Lin began to develop different views. The workers of Shanghai set up a new
government in their city modeled after the Paris Commune. Its leaders were
subject to immediate recall by the workers. There was free speech and total
access to the media by common people.
Lin was blown away by what he witnessed in Shanghai. He called for all China to
become a Commune state. No more bureaucracy, he proclaimed. Direct democratic
control by workers’ councils. He was joined by , Jiang Qing, Mao's
partner, and others later labeled as the “gang of four.”
But Mao disagreed. He argued that doing so would give rise to
“bonapartism.” Mao felt the Commune was too weak to suppress the
Lin also began to advocate a better relationship with the Soviet Union. Lin
viewed all the socialist countries as on the same side in the people’s
war raging across the world. But Mao had begun to proclaim that the Soviet
Union was a “social imperialist empire” and the “main danger
to the people of the world.”
Lin and Mao’s disagreements grew acute. Lin died on Sept. 13th, 1971,
in mysterious circumstances.
The official story is that Lin tried to assassinate Mao but failed and died in
a plane crash while trying to escape to the Soviet Union.
The founder of Workers World Party, Sam Marcy, argued in his pamphlet
“China 1977: End of the Revolutionary Mao Era” that Lin had been
killed and that his death represented the beginning of the rightward turn in
The view that the Soviet Union was the “main danger” became the
official line of the Chinese Communist Party. The next year U.S. President
Richard Nixon was invited to Beijing, even as the Pentagon was continuing its
war against the peoples of Southeast Asia.
Following Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping came to power. The leaders of the
Cultural Revolution were put on trial for “counter-revolutionary
activities.” Soon, China began to adopt policies of “market
socialism.” Foreign corporations were free to set up factories on Chinese
soil. Many of the socialist policies of the Chinese Revolution, including the
job, health and food security guaranteed by state-run communes and factories,
were abandoned. However, the Communist Party continued to play the leading role
and the state that had emerged from the revolution was not destroyed, as
happened later in the USSR.
What followed was an enormous industrialization of China and, along with
greater inequality, a huge increase in the size of the working class.
The Chinese Ministry of Labor reports dealing with more than 130,000 cases of
“industrial unrest” this year. China is currently undergoing a
massive strike wave as workers demand better conditions. There is also a
revival of support for the socialist policies and workers’ democracy of
the revolutionary period.
It is in this environment that the portrait of Lin Biao was finally placed in
the Beijing Military Museum.
The writer is a FIST organizer.
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: [email protected]
Subscribe [email protected]
Support independent news DONATE