The Wind Will Not Subside

(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 19)

The Wind Will Not Subside constitutes an admirable effort to shed light on the period of astounding revolutionary turmoil in China known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Americans David and Nancy Milton were in China during this period as teachers at the Peking First Foreign Languages Institute. The Institute functions directly under the Foreign Ministry, and their presence there afforded the Miltons an excellent opportunity to observe at firsthand aspects of the monumental struggle between two divergent ideological lines within the Chinese Communist Party. It should be noted that the Miltons consider themselves friends of the Chinese revolution and admirers of its late leader, Mao Tse-tung. This orientation gives a sympathetic aura to their account. They begin with an interesting description of their arrival in China, together with their three sons, and their general circumstances at the Foreign Languages Institute. The attendance of a reception and lunch given by Mao in honor of Anna Louise Strong, a respected senior member of the foreign community in Peking, was one of the highlights of their stay preceding the complex revolutionary activities to follow.

The Cultural Revolution commenced in May, 1966, when classes were abruptly stopped before the term was up. The Miltons present an engrossing account of the unfolding of this rather confusing, yet tremendously significant, period of post-1949 Chinese politics. The seriousness and absorption of the students in the political debates about the proper “line,” as described by the Miltons, is amazing. The students had been encouraged to make trouble and to generate mass attacks on the established Communist Party cadres by Mao and his propagandists. The youth of China responded enthusiastically to the venerated Mao’s bidding. Red Guard organizations mushroomed and were exhorted to spread the revolutionary fever across the nation. Free transportation was provided for the roaming students; in fact, the entire railroad system was placed at their disposal. Eventually, the First Foreign Languages Institute came to be the locale of some of the fiercest contests carried out during the Cultural Revolution. For the Institute’s close relationship to the Foreign Ministry gave many of its students and teachers direct access to some of the major contestants struggling for power.

The Cultural Revolution had a distinctly dual character. As the Miltons suggest, it was both a power struggle and an effort to combat revisionism, “the bourgeois-reactionary line.” Chaotic as it seemed at times, it was coordinated at the top by Mao, his skillful and loyal ally Chou En-lai, and Lin Piao, who at the time was Mao’s declared successor. At first it seemed that Mao allowed the Red Guards a rather free reign and intended to let the Cultural Revolution find its own direction and momentum. Only gradually the Maoist forces created a network to oppose the regular Communist Party apparatus. The basic objective was to test the Party cadres for their Maoist purity and to either reform or purge them, if they did not follow the correct line. Despite Mao’s preaching about trusting the masses and respecting their initiatives, the movement was directed by elites under Mao. As the Cultural Revolution gained momentum, individual major adversaries were identified. The most prominent victim was Liu Shao-ch’i, the formal chief of state, who was deprived of his high party and state offices. In order to achieve his objectives and to dispute established authority, Mao, in turn, had to put together a leadership group of undisputed authority. The thirteen-member Cultural Group appointed by him served his needs and constituted a kind of storm center in the intensifying factionalism and chaos.

In general, the ideology and the institutions of the Cultural Revolution were directed toward eliminating the inequalities between city and countryside, industry and agriculture, and mental and manual labor. As such, it was a continuation of the basic revolutionary goal of egalitarianism and the achievement of true Communism. From the Maoist point of view, political leadership had to be purified, so that the fundamental transformation...

(The entire section is 1711 words.)


(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 19)

America. CXXXIV, May 1, 1976, p. 397.

Best Sellers. XXXVI, July, 1976, p. 127.

New York Times Book Review. May 9, 1976, p. 6.

New Yorker. LII, June 7, 1976, p. 138.

Time. CVII, April 19, 1976, p. 94.

Virginia Quarterly Review. LII, Summer, 1976, p. 86.