No immediate publicity was given to the events of September 13 as the leadership decided how to handle this political disaster, the "major turning point" that "objectively proclaimed the theoretical and practical defeat of the 'Great Cultural Revolution,'" according to Mao's official biography.1 A top-secret Notification on September 18, Zhongfa "1971" 57, began the briefing of senior party officials. The dismissal of Lin's four generals on September 24 was a signal to the upper ranks of the PLA. Disgraced members of the old guard, including Marshal Chen Yi and other participants in the February Countercurrent, were briefed at a meeting that started on September 26.2
Lin's fellow marshals quickly fell into line and denounced their former comrade-in-arms. Their criticisms were long on history and outrage but, given the circumstances, predictably short on observations that might just qualify as Marxist or "theoretical" in nature. Yet they were important for Mao in shoring up his military constituency. General Luo Ruiqing's attempted suicide in 1966 provided a justification for hitherto-unconvinced top brass to denounce their erstwhile colleague as betraying the party. So in 1971, Lin Biao's flight to the Soviet Union salved the consciences of China's marshals as they turned on this national traitor.
Zhu De looked back at the decades he had known Lin and concluded that "there is nothing accidental about his stepping onto the anti-party counterrevolutionary road." Liu Bocheng recalled that "Lin Biao told you one thing to your face and then said something completely different behind your back; in all the decades I knew him, he never spoke the truth." Chen Yi's characterization of Lin was similar to Liu's in that he too mentioned Lin's "sinister conduct, doubledealing, cultivation of sworn followers, and persistent scheming," but Chen allowed himself to add: "I don't want to deny that Lin Biao previously did some useful things, under the leadership of the Chairman and the party center." Nie