Political science department presents “The Revolutionary”

Sidney Rittenberg is not only the subject of a documentary shown at an event at the Loop campus Wednesday. He is also a former Chinese Communist Party member, father of four, prison inmate, University of North Carolina professor and revolutionary.

“No matter how you look at it, Sidney Rittenberg has certainly lived an interesting life,” said Phillip Stalley, a DePaul political science assistant professor.

“The Revolutionary” is a documentary film written and produced by Irv Drasnin about the life and work of Sidney Rittenberg, an American citizen who played a significant role in the history of 20th-century China.

Rittenberg first came to China as an American soldier after World War II, but finding himself having “fallen in love” with the Chinese language, he decided to stay in China. He eventually joined the Chinese Communist Party and spent many years working as a journalist and translator for the Chinese state radio. Rittenberg was also twice detained in solitary confinement Chinese prisons for a total of nearly 16 years.

The political science department hosted the event, which featured a screening of the film followed by a question and answer session with Rittenberg himself via video-chat service Skype.

Rittenberg looked back on his experience as a part of the communist revolution in China with mixed feelings.

“I still admire the people who believe in Marxism or Leninism. I think that they are generally people who want to work for a better world,” said Rittenberg. “But in my experience, it hasn’t worked. I do believe that someone will have a system that works better, but it won’t be for a very long time, and it won’t be anything like anything we have today,”

Stalley, the event organizer, is a professor of Chinese politics at DePaul and has a connection with Rittenberg from his own college days.

“To this day, I don’t know why I took his class,” said Stalley. “But it changed my life.”

Rittenberg remembers having Stalley as a student at the University of North Carolina, and also praised his book on Chinese politics and his work as a professor at DePaul.

“You still look like the same Phil Stalley from my classroom in Chapel Hill,” said Rittenberg, chuckling.

DePaul will be hosting another event on China in cooperation with the National Committee on United States-China Relations Oct. 29. The event, the sixth annual “China Town Hall” will feature a webcast with Gary Locke, U.S. ambassador to China.