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Lessons of the First American CCP Member: Why Is the 2020 Election Critical for U.S.’ Future?

Dec. 22, 2020 |   By Wen Zhirui

(Minghui.org) The New York Times published an obituary on August 24, 2019, titled “Sidney Rittenberg, Idealistic American Aide to Mao Who Evolved to Counsel Capitalists, Dies at 98.” The same article also appeared two days later in the newspaper's Chinese version, which claimed him as the first American who became a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member.

“Sidney Rittenberg, an American soldier-linguist who stayed in China for 35 years after World War II as an adviser and political prisoner of the Communist Revolution, and later made millions as a counselor of Western capitalists exploiting booming Chinese markets, died on Saturday in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 98,” wrote the article.

Rittenberg went to China in 1945 and did not return to the U.S. until 1979. “It isn’t that Mr. Rittenberg... has not wanted to come back before, but for various reasons, including a total of 16 years’ imprisonment, it had not been possible previously for him to leave with any possibility of returning to his life and his family in China,” wrote a March 1979 article in The New York Times.

Rittenberg openly regretted showing support for Mao and calling him “a great historic leader and a great historic criminal” in a reflective interview with The Financial Times in 2013. He was also very upset by his own role in the Cultural Revolution.

“I took part in victimizing innocent, good people,” he recalled. “It was institutionalized bullying and scapegoating, and I couldn’t see it because everything about the regime was good for me and I felt I was part of a movement for human progress, freedom, and happiness. I wasn’t feeling what happened to other people. It’s a kind of corruption, exactly the kind of corruption that ruins the whole thing.”

Following the CCP, Only to Be Twice Imprisoned

Rittenberg was born in 1921 and grew up in a Jewish family in Charleston, South Carolina. His father was president of the Charleston City Council and his grandfather was also a prominent South Carolina legislator. His mother came from a Russian immigrant family. After graduating from the Porter Military Academy in Charleston, he turned down a scholarship from Princeton and instead attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in philosophy.

Influenced by the Communist Party of USA (CPUSA), he became its member in 1940, one year before he graduated from college. Although still holding communist ideology, he left the CPUSA in 1942 and joined the military which sent him to a language school at Stanford in the same year. With a background in French, Latin, and German, he also became fluent in Chinese by 1945.

Sidney Rittenberg (Chinese name is Li Dunbai) was the first American who became a member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Discharged in 1946, Rittenberg joined a United Nations relief agency at Shanghai where he met some communists. From there he traveled 45 days to Yan’an and began to work for Mao. Shortly after that, he became a CCP member and worked for the Xinhua News Agency. He maintained a close relationship with top CCP leaders including Mao, his wife Jiang Qing, Zhu De, Zhou Enlai, and Liu Shaoqi.

Rittenberg was imprisoned twice in China, for espionage and counter-revolution. After the CCP took power in China in 1949, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin told Mao that Rittenberg was a secret agent for the U.S. Without trial, he was detained in solitary confinement for six years.

After being released in 1955, Rittenberg regained his privilege in the Party. He began working for Radio Peking and became a director responsible for programs that attacked the U.S. He also participated in the translation of Selected Works of Mao Zedong.

He was a strong advocate for the Great Leap Forward in 1958, a movement that caused tens of millions of deaths due to starvation. Furthermore, he directly participated in the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976.

Mao’s wife Jiang Qing then accused Rittenberg of spying and engaging in counter-revolutionary activities. Once again, he was put in prison, in solitary confinement, for nearly ten years in 1968. His wife was sent to reform-through-labor (laogai).

“They would watch. As soon as you fell asleep, they'd bang on the door to startle you awake. It was mental torture, in an atmosphere of terror,” he recalled the time in prison, “I was sleeping on this bare wood, and you weren't allowed to turn your head away from the door, or move your hands.”

Upon being released in 1977, Rittenberg lost hope in the CCP and returned to the U.S. in 1979. “The spirit was gone, the party became a mere machine for exercising power over the government and the people,” he explained while being interviewed by The Financial Times in 2012, adding that official corruption and careerism had become “prevalent” and “systemic.”

Fanatical Pursuit and Learning the Reality

The 2020 U.S. general election was not a race between two candidates, but a serious battle between good and evil, with one side fighting to maintain a free world and the other side anxious to lead the country to socialism and even communism.

Exactly what is communism? Rittenberg had described it in various speeches and interviews. Influenced by the communist ideology, he joined the CCP and worked for its top leaders. As the Red Guard openly persecuted millions of people during the Cultural Revolution, through detention, torture, humiliation, and property confiscation, the propaganda once again brought back his fervor during his younger years. He actively participated in the Cultural Revolution.

Rittenberg was involved in the attacks and defamation against many high profile CCP officials, including Wang Guangmei (wife of former China’s Chairman Liu Shaoqi), Lu Dingyi (vice-premier of the State Council), Zhou Yang (literary theorist whose work became a catalyst for Cultural Revolution), and Mei Yi (director-general of the Central Broadcasting Bureau). Rittenberg's speeches and press conferences appeared on the Red Guards’ newspaper. The autographing of his Little Red Book by Mao, along with his group photo with Mao, also became famous propaganda during the Cultural Revolution.

After reading an exaggerated report about a thrifty official, Jiao Yulu, Rittenberg regretted over the luxury life of his own and considered himself not a real Marxist (like other Chinese communists, Rittenberg did not know Marx’s scandals of being an informer, treating his servant as a sex slave, and giving his adulterine child to Engels). However, when Rittenberg volunteered to take a pay cut and give up his Party-assigned car, the proposal was “kindly” rejected with a threat – the CCP considered doing so would ruin the party’s reputation.

After being released from prison the second time, Rittenberg was tired of the communist system and decided to come to the U.S. “What brought it about was my disgust at the corruption that was already rampant. It wasn’t yet like it is today, but it was already very much in evidence,” he said in an interview published in The Atlantic in December 2013 with a title of “The American Who Gave His Life to Chairman Mao.”

“I was disgusted by the fact that Deng Xiaoping, after bragging to Robert Novak [CNN journalist with a nickname of “Prince of Darkness”] about the Democracy Wall, about how the government allowed people to put up posters and express their opinion and criticize freely and so on, he shut it down once he consolidated his power,” he explained. Disgusted by the shutting down of democratic activity and the corruption, he moved to the U.S.

A Regret That Came Late

In the preface to his memoir The Man Who Stayed Behind, Rittenberg said that he and others had “walked the Communist Road in the hope of creating a new and better world.” “But at the same time I want to paint a clear picture of the evils that ensued,” he wrote, “I saw them. I lived with them. In some cases—to my shame and chagrin today—I participated in them.”

“I had been dead wrong, however, in accepting the party as the embodiment of truth and in giving to the party uncritical and unquestioning loyalty,” he added.

He further explained this in an interview in 2012. “I have definitely lost faith in the Communist Party core doctrine of what is called Marxism-Leninism, based on the dictatorship of the proletariat. Experience taught me that dictatorship cannot lead to more democracy, but only to more dictatorship,” he remarked.

Speaking of the democratic movement in Hong Kong against the extradition bill in Hong Kong, Rittenberg said that what happened there is a tragedy. The CCP would not allow freedom in Hong Kong because the regime intends to control people.

The CCP’s Long-Term Goal: Infiltrating the U.S. Through Elite Groups

Although Rittenberg learned that he had made mistakes by blindly following the CCP, he was not clear on how the communist ideology had expanded globally to erode the West. In fact, he founded Rittenberg & Associates, a consulting firm for American companies for their businesses in China. In contrast to the Marxism that he was once loyal to, “he used his extensive knowledge and contacts in China to build his own capitalist empire.” His clients included Microsoft, Intel, Prudential Insurance, Polaroid, and Levi Strauss.

Infiltration through non-violent venues was not new. Karl Liebknecht, a co-founder of the Communist Party of Germany, also predicted this model. He said communism would advance in the Western countries in the name of democracy. Anatoliy Golitsyn, a Soviet KGB defector, revealed that all Soviet governments are Leninist governments with a long-range strategy of controlling the world. To achieve that goal, based on Lenin's methodology of dialectic, top Soviet intelligence developed and launched a plan between 1959 and 1961.

“One of the features of the plan, obviously, was to give the impression that the international communist movement was breaking up, that there were splits, divisions, dissent, that... there was a rift between Red China and the Soviet Union, all of these things were examples of this disinformation strategy, and one of the principal goals of it would be that the West would feel more secure and put down its guard,” according to “Anatoliy Golitsyn: The Key to Understanding Today’s World Situation” on “The Contemplative Observer.”

Falling in the trap of “playing the China card,” the U.S. considered China a true enemy of the Soviet Union and began to approach the CCP in the early 1970s and established formal diplomatic relations in the late 1970s towards building a stronger China.

“We must never forget exactly what communism really is. Communism is far more than an economic system. It is a total philosophy of life—atheistic and completely opposed to all that we hold dear,” said former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson, “We believe in a moral code. Communism denies innate right or wrong.”

Citing a book written by W. Cleon Skousen, The Naked Communist, Benson said, “the communist ‘has convinced himself that nothing is evil which answers the call of expediency.’ This is a most damnable doctrine. People who truly accept such a philosophy have neither conscience nor honor. Force, trickery, lies, broken promises are wholly justified.”

With the Soviet Union dissolving in 1991, communist China now plays a leading role in fulfilling the unfinished long-term Soviet strategy. The 1999 book Unrestricted Warfare: China’s Masterplan to Destroy America, written by two colonels of the CCP’s Liberation Army, further discussed how to dominate the world by all-but-politically-correct approaches by China, that is, warfare by all means.

Di Dongsheng, associate dean of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, recently explained that the CCP had infiltrated America through the elite groups. “We know that the Trump administration is fighting a trade war with us. So why are we having trouble with Trump, when we were able to handle all kinds of problems between China and the United States from 1992 to 2016?” Di said, “What was the reason? It’s because we have people high above. We have our old friends in the United States’ core circle of power.” He also bragged, “There's nothing that we can't fix with money. If one wad of money is not enough, two wads will do.”

“But now we see that Biden has come to power. The traditional elites, political elites, and the establishment have a very close relationship with Wall Street,” he continued, adding that Hunter Biden’s investment funds have close connections with the CCP, “Who helped him build the funds? You understand? There are transactions involved.”

Reclaiming Moral Values

The 2020 U.S. presidential election has been very eventful. The Trump campaign team and his supporters across battleground states have found a great deal of evidence of fraud, many of it pointing to the CCP’s influence in the election. Di’s comments, on the other hand, also supported this evidence.

During a speech on December 2, Trump said that investigating the fraud is critical. “This is not just about my campaign, although it has a lot to do with who’s going to be your next president. This is about restoring faith and confidence in American elections. This is about our democracy and the sacred rights that generations of Americans have fought, bled, and died to secure,” he explained, “Nothing is more urgent or more important.”

“We are THE United States of America. Patriots have fought & died for freedom since 1776. In 2020, American Patriots will honor sacrifices of our forefathers & will take ALL necessary action to ensure our country remains free,” wrote American attorney Lin Wood on Twitter on December 5, “Like Founding Fathers, we do so led by Almighty God.”

The general election is like a drama with many things unfolding before our eyes. It is also a test to see, at such a critical moment, what kind of people we are, from our heart to our words and actions.