Turbulent Decade: A History of the Cultural Revolution

By Yan Jiaqi; Gao Gao et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 11

A Shortcut to the
Peak of Power

The Engineer of the Cult of Personality

Lin Biao, born in 1907, was fourteen years younger than Mao Zedong. In 1925, at the age of eighteen, Lin joined the Chinese Communist Party and later participated in the famous Long March. He had been at various times president of the Resist Japan Military and Political University (Kangda), commander of the 115th Division of the Eighth Route Army, and commanding officer of the Fourth Field Army. In 1954, he was a deputy premier of the State Council, and in 1955, he was made a member of the Politburo at the Fifth Plenum of the Seventh Party Congress. In 1958, he was elected deputy chairman of the Party Central. At this time, his position was behind Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Chen Yun, and Deng Xiaoping in that order. 1 During the eight years following 1958, Lin Biao, through major efforts, jumped over Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai to become number two, second only to Mao in power and in position.

Lin reached his powerful position by a shortcut: clamoring in public for worshiping the persona of Mao Zedong.

At the Lushan Conference of July-August 1959, Mao Zedong initiated the criticism of the "right opportunism" of such figures as Peng Dehuai, Huang Kecheng, Zhang Wentian, and Zhou Xiaozhou. Lin Biao was called to Lushan midway through the meetings. With the top leadership split, Lin Biao then proposed "believing in the Party and trusting Chairman Mao," "that only the Central and Chairman Mao were accurate," and "that only Chairman Mao could claim to be a great hero." In September 1959, Peng Dehuai was dismissed as minister of defense, and Lin Biao was appointed in his place. At an armed forces high cadre meeting during the same month, Lin Biao energetically promoted the cult of Mao, saying, "Learning the writings of Comrade Mao Zedong is the shortcut to learning Marxism-Leninism. Chairman Mao's

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