China invokes great writer's name in crackdown on arts

Lu Xun would be up in arms. china's communist leaders have chosen the centennial of their country's greatest modern writer to call for sharper criticism of writers and artists who have "published gravely erroneous views."

In his day, Lu Xun (1881-1936) fought for freedom of artistic and creative expression against warlords and the Kuomintang government of Chiang Kai-Shek.

Author of the bitingly satirical "Diary of a Madman" and "The True Story of Ah QM," Lu Xun looke d to the communist to free China from centuries of feudalism and the encroachments of the Western powers and Japan.

Today, using carefully selected quotations from Lu Xun, the party leadership is trying to justify its effort to impose idelolgical conformity on workers in literature, publishing, and journalism.

Party chairman Hu Yaobang delivered the party's message Sept. 25 before an audience of 6 000 gathered to honor Lu Xun's memory in the Great Hall of the People.

"While fully affirming the main trends of our literature and art, we must point out that it still has certain unhealthy, negative features which harm the people," Mr. Hu said. He recalled that last year and again this spring the party had published several statements on the need to correct these negative features, and had held several discussions on the subject.

"Regrettably, these important, principled views of out party did not receive sufficient attention from comrades in the literary and art fields."

Mr. Hu did not specifically mention the film script "Bitter Love" by the Army writer Bai Hua, which has been heavily criticized by military and party figures. But it appears that his speech was motivated at least in part by the leadership's anger over the great reluctance of the intellectual establishment to join in the campaign against Bai Hua.

No writer of note has come out against "Bitter Love" except in the most lukewarm terms.

This is not, literary observer said, because they agree with the theme of "Bitter Love" or think the script is without flaws. rather, it is because, having suffered from so many politically motivated campaigns in the past, they are reluctant ot identify themselves with anything that smacks of the beginning of another witch hunt.

"Bitter Love," which has never been publicly screened, is the story of a Chinese artist who makes his fame and fortune in the West but who returns to China after the advent of the People's Republic. Then when the Cultural Revolution comes, he is persecuted. He is kicked and beaten until he escapes into the wilderness, where he lives like a wild man, and is finally found dead by a rescue party, having expended his final ounce of energy to trace in the snow "a question mark of unparalleled size."

One line spoken by the hero's daughter: "Father, you have loved your motherland: has your motherland loved you?" has particularly incensed military and party propaganda workers. Since then a series of similar meetings have been held at regional levels. Both national and regional newspapers have emphasized the need for stricter control over "bourgeois liberalism" and related tendencies considered harmful by the party.

But an authoritative and detailed public critique of "Bitter Love" in a prestigious newspaper such as the People's Daily has yet to appear, and there is much gossip to the effect that although several drafts of such a critique have been pre pared, no one of sufficient prestige is yet willing to sign his name to a final version.

Mr. Hu's speech, which he delivered with vigorous gestures, was applauded politely but not enthusiastically. The only spontaneous, prolonged applause during the hourlong speech came at the end of a passage which attacked bureaucratism and officials who feathered their own nests, "going so far as to ask for gifts or to accept bribes from foreigners."

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.