The Bo Xilai affair in China is a flashback to the bad old days of communism. Not only is the disgraced party boss in custody, but an attempt is being made to root out his entire entourage of associates and lackeys.
To make sure everyone is convinced of his nefariousness, China has provided its citizens with anecdotes about the culprit's past, to show the public and the party faithful that they are dealing with a nasty piece of work and that this behavior goes back for quite some time.
Now it is known that Bo Xilai had his son kidnapped, so his first wife would not cause difficulties about a divorce. Bo Xilai is accused of having policemen who were doing their job liquidated, in order to prevent them from investigating his wife, the murderess.
Serious projects that Bo Xilai instituted in his Chungking fiefdom are now being investigated, although they were once called a success. This is retro campaigning against Trotskyite wreckers and Bukharinist liquidators.
The party promises to deal with Bo Xilai and his associates with the full force of the law, but this begs the question of how such an unsavory person almost reached the top rung of the Standing Committee of the party.
Apologists for the system undoubtedly will argue, with a degree of justification, that such things also occur in democratic systems.
After the affair with Dominque Strauss Kahn in New York, there were claims that the possible French presidential aspirant was a womanizer.
John Edwards, who ran for Vice President in 2004 with John Kerry at the head of the ticket, was shown to be the opposite of a devoted husband to his cancer stricken wife. These things happen and often the malefactor hoodwinks everybody or his deeds are covered up.
But extra-marital affairs and white collar crime, however unsavory, are one thing; murder cover-ups and kidnappings are in a different league of crime. The Chinese have managed to patch up divisive issues before and have accommodated various power brokers.
The decision on handling Bo Xilai is attributed not only to Hu Jintao, but to his predecessor Jiang Zemin, demonstrating that presumably retired big shots continue to pull strings from behind the scene. This occurred under Deng Xiao Ping as well.
This system is becoming cumbersome as well as unjust and it remains a question how long it will retain the "mandate of heaven".