- Yang Tian Chang Xiao: Yige Dan Jian Shiyi Nian De Hongweibing Yuzhong Yutianlu (Outcry from a Red Guard Imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution)
Hubei is a province with a strong rebellious spirit. The revolution of 1911 first broke out here, in the provincial capital Wuhan. From the late 1920s through the 1940s, as Chinese communists fought their way to power in China, a large number of Hubei natives joined the movement—of the 1,054 People's Liberation Army officers who in 1955 were conferred the rank of brigadier general and above, 234 came from Hubei Province.
In the Cultural Revolution, Wuhan was the scene of the only large-scale open defiance of Chairman Mao. In the July Twentieth Incident of 1967, armed soldiers and workers unhappy with Mao's policies staged major demonstrations in the streets of Wuhan and stormed the guesthouse where Mao was staying, forcing the chairman into humiliating flight. For their complicity in what amounted to a mutiny, top brass in the Wuhan Regional Military Command, among them Commander Chen Zaidao, were discharged and disciplined.
Lu Li'an, the author of the book under review, was also a rebel in Wuhan when the Cultural Revolution began, but a rebel of a very different kind. His rebellion targeted officials and generals such as Chen Zaidao. Lu, like Chen, was condemned and punished. In Lu's case, punishment came in the form of imprisonment from 1968 to 1979.
Since the end of the Cultural Revolution, officials such as Commander Chen Zaidao have been able to write about their woes in the "ten years of chaos" (Chen's memoir came out in 1988). Red Guards like Lu, however, have been denied the status of victims and have been forbidden by the Chinese government to relate publicly their experiences. (In the postscript to his memoir, Lu lamented that his book could not make its appearance in mainland China; it was published in Hong Kong, by the Chinese University Press.) Rebellions in the Cultural Revolution had very different meanings and very different consequences, which point to the complexity of the momentous historical event that has both inspired and aggrieved so many Chinese.
To carry this reflection a little further: one of the two prefaces to Lu's book is authored by Jiang Hong, a retired professor who, for his criticism of the Chinese government in 1957, was denounced and labeled a Rightist. One generally expects Chinese like Jiang Hong, with liberal tendencies, to be hostile toward the Cultural Revolution. Yet, in Jiang we find someone who was excited about the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, and who, even today, admires a Red Guard like Lu. As Jiang recalls it, back in 1966 and 1967, Lu's "idealism, his oratorical talent, and his courage appealed to many Rightists. My Rightist friends and I often talked about him in private, praising him, because in him we see ourselves in the old days" (p. xv). [End Page 510]
Such experience spotlights something that China's official historiography on the Cultural Revolution has so far largely refused to acknowledge, that is, the Cultural Revolution was a phenomenon more complex than the official verdict "ten years of chaos" (shinian dongluan) can fully convey. At least in the early stage of the Cultural Revolution, many "little people," among them Chinese who had undesirable class backgrounds and who had suffered persecution in the past, harbored hopes that the new movement would address their grievances. This has not been fully recognized in China because Chinese leaders and officials who suffered at the hands of Red Guards have dominated the shaping of the official perspective on the Cultural Revolution, and they have been unwilling to give former Red Guards opportunities, and the pleasure, to justify or explain away the atrocities committed in the Cultural Revolution.
While the above-mentioned concern is certainly legitimate, one should remember that only through the...