Mao Tse-tung's latest battle is almost certainly his last. It will also probably lead to his first major and irreversible defeat. A superb political tactician, he should be able to destroy his old companions who have turned against him. But this will not attain for Mao what he set out to achieve with his "cultural revolution." For he seeks nothing less than the rejuvenation of a great revolution, the rebirth in middle age of the drive, the passion, the selflessness and the discipline it had in its youth a third of a century ago. But the clock can hardly be turned back, and a nation in the age of nuclear bombs and computers cannot behave as if this were still the age of millet and rifles.
The cultural revolution is pure Mao, with its roots not in Karl Marx but in Mao's own experience and memories, in his own idealized image of what the revolution was in its years in the wilderness, in the Chingkang mountains, in Kiangsi and, above all, in the caves of Yenan. His political ideas are permeated with nostalgia-with the Yenan syndrome. Classical revolutions spring out of popular suffering, grievance against injustice, popular protest. Mao's own revolution of the twenties and the thirties sprang out of the agonies of rural China. But his cultural revolution is made of different stuff. It is a revolution decreed from above. It is fired by no social or economic or even political protest. And even the enemies it is supposed to battle remain shadowy, nameless figures high in the party and the state.
But though this new revolution does not have its roots in popular angers, it has already produced radical changes. Above all, it has altered the balance of political power that has endured since the day Mao rode into Peking in triumph back in 1949. From that day until the autumn of 1965, the Communist party had a monopoly of political power, with no challengers allowed or even likely. The party
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