The Man Who Stayed Behind

In This Review

The Man Who Stayed Behind

By Sidney Rittenberg and Amanda Bennett
Simon and Schuster, 1993
476 pp. $25.00

This is the story of an American idealist who spent his youth organizing local miners as a member of the American Communist Party, landed in China in the mid-1940s as a young GI with the U.S. Army, and then joined the Chinese Communist Party during the civil war with the Nationalists. Rittenberg spent 30 years in China, more than half of them in jail. He was first put in jail from 1949 to 1955 and again during the Cultural Revolution from 1967 to 1977. Although this book has been accompanied by a good deal of hoopla about Rittenberg's alleged access to the inner circles of power, it is clear that he was never trusted by the Chinese communist leaders and that when he was not in jail he lived in a foreign ghetto of Western communists and fellow travelers who were kept away from most Chinese. Although there are occasional interesting tidbits of information, the book is devoid of any real analysis or insight. It is, however, a testimony to the extraordinary paranoia, xenophobia and self-destructive behavior that was rampant during the Maoist era.

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