Anti-imperialists got a little taste of good news from Trump last month when ey announced plans to pull troops out of Syria. Ey later backpedaled saying ey did not set a timeline for such a pull out. But Trump has long made comments indicating that the new focus of U.$. strategy will be to combat China and Russia. In other words, the war on oppressed nations, particularly in the middle east and north Africa, and euphemistically dubbed the "War on Terror," will no longer be the primary focus.
It has always been MIM line that we are in a period of World War III, that is a low intensity war by the imperialists against the oppressed nations. The hegemony of the United $tates allowed for this to be the focus in the decades following World War II. That hegemony is fading, and the emergence of a fourth world war, or a third inter-imperialist war is bubbling to the surface.
Of course, inter-imperialist war does not mean the oppressed nations get a reprieve from the needless brutality of capitalism, as inter-imperialist war is always about carving up the oppressed nations for their resources and markets. Enter "Prosper Africa", the plan announced by U.$. National Security Advisor John Bolton in December. Bolton stated, "America's vision for the region is one of independence, self-reliance and growth, not dependency, domination and debt."(1) This is a hypocritical jab at China, from the country who has done more to make Africa dependent and in debt in the last half-century than any other. At the same time the Trump administration is calling for more "honest" dealings with Africa, that recognize U.$. economic and political interests more openly.
The "Prosper Africa" plan coincides with Pentagon plans to reduce U.$. troops in Africa by 10%. Nothing close to our demands to shut down Africom, rather a subtle adjustment of current U.$. strategy. The immediate focus seems to be drawing hard lines in the sand of the African continent between those compliant with U.$. imperialism and those who are not.
In recent years, China has joined forces with other emerging imperialist or sub-imperialist nations with independent banking capital including Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa (BRICS). As a group, the BRICS countries have greatly increased trade with African countries over the last decade. Increases in trade on the whole is a benefit to the well-being of all peoples involved. While this trade provides outlets and opportunities for capital from countries with growing finance capital, the established imperialist powers (the United $tates and France) face a reduction in their access to markets and in their ability to strong arm the oppressed nations of the world into serving their interests. This threatens to contribute to economic crisis in the advanced imperialist economies, and trigger more militaristic and desperate actions politically.
The Trump administration has hinted at pulling support from United Nations (U.N.) "peacekeeping" missions in Africa. While opposing the U.N. garners support from white nationalists subscribing to isolationalism and Amerikkkan exceptionalism, the real motivation here is likely to reduce Chinese influence in the region. More than 2,500 Chinese troops are stationed in war zones created by U.$. and French imperialism in South Sudan, Liberia and Mali. China accounted for 1/5 of the U.N. troops pledged to operations in Africa in 2015.(2)
China established its first military base outside of China in 2017 at the strategic location of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. This is in line with a shift in Chinese foreign policy over the last decade from non-interference to "protecting our country's over-seas interests."(3) The United $tates, France and Japan are among the countries with existing bases in Djibouti, where the government depends on military leases as an important source of income.
The U.$.-backed coup and murder of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 helped break the continent's resistance to Africom. Up until then Africom had to operate out of Europe. With the pan-Africanist government in Libya out of the way, Africom was able to operate from within Africa for the first time. Now the United $tates has at least 46 military bases in Africa and close military relations with 53 out of the 54 African countries. Many countries have agreements to cede operational command of their militaries to Africom.(4)
While the coup in Libya was a victory for U.$. imperialism, it continues to be a disaster for Libyans, with repercussions for the whole region. The United $tates will have a much harder time stemming the still-expanding Chinese pole that challenges U.$. hegemony in Africa. As this contradiction threatens the world with inter-imperialist war, it offers opportunities for the oppressed to move independently as cracks widen in the imperialist system.
The Dangerous Class and Revolutionary Theory
Kersplebedeb Publishing, 2017
Available for $24.95 (USD) + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb
CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne
The bulk of this double book is looking at the limited and contradictory writings of Marx/Engels and Mao on the subject of the lumpen with greater historical context. MIM(Prisons) and others have analyzed their scattered quotes on the subject.(1) But Sakai’s effort here is focused on background research to understand what Marx, Engels and Mao were seeing and why they were saying what they were saying. In doing so, Sakai provides great practical insight into a topic that is central to our work; the full complexities of which have only begun to unfold.
Size and Significance
In the opening of the "Dangerous Class", Sakai states that "lumpen/proletarians are constantly being made in larger and larger numbers".(p.3) This follows a discussion of criminalized zones like the ghetto, rez or favela. This is a curious conclusion, as the ghettos and barrios of the United $tates are largely being dispersed rather than expanding. Certainly the rez is not expanding. Sakai does not provide numbers to substantiate these "larger and larger" lumpen populations today.
In our paper, Who is the Lumpen in the United $tates? we do run some census numbers that indicate an increase in the U.$. lumpen population from 1.5% of the total population in 1960 to over 10% in 2010. However, other methods led us to about 4% of the U.$. population today if you only look at oppressed nation lumpen, and 6 or 7% if you include whites.(1) This latter number is interestingly similar to what Marx estimated for revolutionary France (around 1850)(p.66), what Sakai estimates for Britain around 1800(p.112), and what Mao estimated for pre-revolutionary China.(p.119) Is 6% the magic number that indicates capitalism in crisis? The historical numbers for the United $tates (and elsewhere) are worthy of further investigation.
lumpen + destitute semi-proletariat (Colquhoun)
1850s France (Marx)
lumpen + destitute semi-proletariat
2010 United $tates (MIM(Prisons))
First Nations lumpen
New Afrikan lumpen
Raza lumpen + semi-proletariat
Alliances and Line
Certainly, at 6% or more, the lumpen is a significant force, but a force for what? In asking that question, we must frame the discussion with a Marxist analysis of capitalism as a contradiction between bourgeoisie and proletariat. There’s really just two sides here. So the question is which side do the lumpen fall on. The answer is: It depends.
One inspiring thing we learn in this book is that the lumpen made up the majority of the guerrillas led by Mao’s Chinese Communist Party at various times before liberation.(p.122) This shows us that the lumpen are potentially an important revolutionary force. However, that road was not smooth. On the contrary it was quite bloody, involving temporary alliances, sabotage and purges.(pp.201-210)
Sakai's first book spends more time on the French revolution and the obvious role the lumpen played on the side of repression. Marx's writings on these events at times treated the Bonaparte state as a lumpen state, independent of the capitalist class. This actually echoes some of Sakai’s writing on fascism and the role of the declassed. But as Sakai recognizes in this book, there was nothing about the Bonaparte government that was anti-capitalist, even if it challenged the existing capitalist class. In other words, the mobilized lumpen, have played a deciding role in revolutionary times, but that role is either led by bourgeois or proletarian ideology. And the outcome will be capitalism or socialism.
Defining the Lumpen, Again
Interestingly, Sakai does not address the First World class structure and how that impacts the lumpen in those countries. Our paper, Who is the Lumpen in the United $tates? explicitly addresses this question of the First World lumpen as distinct from the lumpen-proletariat. While MIM changed its line from the 1980s when it talked about significant proletariats within the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates, this author has not seen Sakai change eir line on this, which might explain eir discussion of a lumpen-proletariat here. Sakai's line becomes most problematic in eir grouping of imperialist-country mercenaries in the "lumpen". Ey curiously switches from "lumpen/proletariat" when discussing China, to "lumpen" when discussing imperialist-country mercenaries, but never draws a line saying these are very different things. In discussions with the editor, Sakai says the stick up kid and the cop aren't the same kind of lumpen.(p.132) Sure, we understand the analogy that cops are the biggest gang on the streets. But state employees making 5 or 6-digit incomes with full bennies do not fit our definition of lumpen being excluded from the capitalist economy, forced to find its own ways of skimming resources from that economy. The contradiction the state faces in funding its cops and soldiers to repress growing resistance is different from the contradiction it faces with the lumpen on the street threatening to undermine the state's authority.
Sakai dismisses the idea that the line demarking lumpen is the line of illegal vs. legal. In fact, the more established and lucrative the illegal operation of a lumpen org is, the more likely it is to be a partner with the imperialist state. That just makes sense.
The inclusion of cops and mercenaries in the lumpen fits with Sakai's approach to the lumpen as a catchall non-class. We do agree that the lumpen is a much more diverse class, lacking the common life experience and relationship to the world that the proletariat can unite around. But what's the use of talking about a group of people that includes Amerikan cops and Filipino garbage pickers? Our definitions must guide us towards models that reflect reality close enough that, when we act on the understanding the model gives us, things work out as the model predicts more often than not. Or more often than any other models. This is why, in our work on the First World lumpen in the United $tates, we excluded white people from the model by default. We did this despite knowing many white lumpen individuals who are comrades and don't fit the model.
How about L.O.s in the U.$.?
The analysis of the First World lumpen in this collection is a reprint of Sakai's 1976 essay on the Blackstone Rangers in Chicago. Sakai had referred to L.O.s becoming fascist organizations in New Afrikan communities in a previous work, and this seems to be eir basis for this claim.
While the essay condemns the Blackstone Rangers for being pliant tools of the Amerikan state, Sakai does differentiate the young foot soldiers (the majority of the org) from the Main 21 leadership. In fact, the only difference between the recruiting base for the Rangers and the Black Panthers seems to have been that the Rangers were focused on men. Anyway, what Sakai's case study demonstrates is the ability for the state to use lumpen gangs for its own ends by buying off the leadership. There is no reason to believe that if Jeff Fort had seen eye-to-eye with the Black Panthers politically that the youth who followed him would not have followed him down that road.
Essentially, what we can take from all this is that the lumpen is a wavering class. Meaning that we must understand the conditions of a given time and place to better understand their role. And as Sakai implies, they have the potential to play a much more devastating and reactionary role when conditions really start to deteriorate in the heart of the empire.
Relating this to our practice, Sakai discusses the need for revolutionaries to move in the realm of the illegal underground. This doesn't mean the underground economy is a location for great proletarian struggle. It can contain some of the most egregious dehumanizing aspects of the capitalist system. But it also serves as a crack in that very system.
As comrades pointed out in our survey of drug use and trade in U.$. prisons, the presence of drugs is accompanied by an absence of unity and struggle among the oppressed masses. Meanwhile effective organizing against drug use is greatly hampered by threats of violence from the money interests of lumpen organizations and state employees.(2) The drug trade brings out the individualist/parasitic tendencies of the lumpen. Our aim is to counter that with the collective self-interest of the lumpen. It is that self-interest that pushes oppressed nation youth to "gang up" in the first place, in a system that is stacked against them.
The revolutionary/anti-imperialist movement must be active and aggressive in allying with the First World lumpen today. We must be among the lumpen masses so that as contradictions heighten, oppressed nation youth have already been exposed to the benefits of collective organizing for self-determination. The national contradiction in occupied Turtle Island remains strong, and we are confident that the lumpen masses will choose a developed revolutionary movement over the reactionary state. Some of the bourgeois elements among the lumpen organizations will side with the oppressor, and with their backing can play a dominant role for some times and places. We must be a counter to this.
While Mao faced much different conditions than we face in the United $tates today, the story of alliances and betrayals during the Chinese revolution that Sakai weaves is probably a useful guide to what we might expect. Ey spends one chapter analyzing the Futian Incident, where "over 90 percent of the cadres in the southwestern Jiangxi area were killed, detained, or stopped work."(p.205) The whole 20th Army, which had evolved from the lumpen gang, Three Dots Society, was liquidated in this incident. It marked a turning point and led to a shift in the approach to the lumpen in the guerilla areas. While in earlier years, looting of the wealthy was more accepted within the ranks of guerrilla units, the focus on changing class attitudes became much greater.(p.208) This reflected the shift in the balance of forces; the development of contradictions.
Sakai concludes that the mass inclusion of lumpen forces in the guerrilla wars by the military leaders Mao Zedong and Chu Teh was a strategic success. That the lumpen played a decisive role, not just in battle, but in transforming themselves and society. We might view the Futian Incident, and other lesser internal struggles resulting in death penalties meted out, as inevitable growing pains of this lumpen/peasant guerilla war. Mao liked to quote Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz, in saying that war is different from all other humyn activity.
For now we are in a pre-war period in the United $tates, where the contradictions between the oppressed and oppressors are mostly fought out in the legal realms of public opinion battles, mass organizing and building institutions of the oppressed. Through these activities we demonstrate another way; an alternative to trying to get rich, disregarding others' lives, senseless violence, short-term highs and addiction. We demonstrate the power of the collective and the need for self-determination of all oppressed peoples. And we look to the First World lumpen to play a major role in this transformation of ourselves and society.
In my last article on China I rehashed the 40-year old argument that China abandoned the socialist road, with some updated facts and figures.(1) The article started as a review of the book Is China an Imperialist Country? by N.B. Turner, but left most of that question to be answered by Turner's book.
We did not publish that article to push some kind of struggle against Chinese imperialism. Rather, as we explained, it was an attack on the promotion of revisionism within the forum www.reddit.com/r/communism, and beyond. The forum's most-enforced rule is that only Marxists are allowed to post and participate in discussion there. Yet almost daily, posts building a persynality cult around Chinese President Xi Jinping, or promoting some supposed achievement of the Chinese government, are allowed and generally receive quick upvotes.
The title of our previous article asking is China in 2017 Socialist or Imperialist may be misunderstood to mean that China must be one or the other. This is not the case. Many countries are not socialist but are also not imperialist. In the case of China, however, it is still important (so many years after it abandoned socialism) to clarify that it is a capitalist country. And so our positive review of a book discussing Chinese imperialism, became a polemic against those arguing it is socialist.
One of the major contradictions in the imperialist era is the inter-imperialist contradiction. The United $tates is the dominant aspect of this contradiction as the main imperialist power in the world today. And currently Russia and China are growing imperialist powers on the other side of this inter-imperialist contradiction. Reading this contradiction as somehow representative of the class contradiction between bourgeoisie and proletariat or of the principal contradiction between oppressed nations and oppressor nations would be an error.
We have continued to uphold that China is a majority exploited country, and an oppressed nation.(2) But China is a big place. Its size is very much related to its position today as a rising imperialist power. And its size is what allows it to have this dual character of both a rising imperialist class and a majority proletariat and peasantry. Finally, its size is part of what has allowed an imperialist class to rise over a period of decades while insulating itself from conflict with the outside world — both with exploiter and exploited nations.
A major sign that a country is an exploiting country is the rise and subsequent dominance of a non-productive consumer class. At first, the Chinese capitalists depended on Western consumers to grease the wheels of their circulation of capital. While far from the majority, as in the United $tates and Europe, China has more recently begun intentionally developing a domestic consumer class.(3) This not only helps secure the circulation of capital, but begins to lay the groundwork for unequal exchange that would further favor China in its trade with other countries. Unequal exchange is a mechanism that benefits the rich First World nations, and marks a more advanced stage of imperialism than the initial stages of exporting capital to relieve the limitations of the nation-state on monopoly capitalism. As we stated in the article cited above, China's size here becomes a hindrance in that it cannot become a majority exploiter country, having 20% of the world's population, without first displacing the existing exploiter countries from that role. Of course, this will not stop them from trying and this will be a contradiction that plays out in China's interactions with the rest of the world and internally. At the same time with an existing "middle class" that is 12-15% of China's population, they are well on their way to building a consumer class that is equal in size to that of Amerika's.(3)
In our last article, we hint at emerging conflicts between China and some African nations. But the conflict that is more pressing is the fight for markets and trade dominance that it faces with the United $tates in the Pacific region and beyond. China remains, by far, the underdog in this contradiction, or the rising aspect. But again, its size is part of what gives it the ability to take positions independent of U.$. imperialism.
As we stated in our most recent article, this contradiction offers both danger and opportunity. We expect it to lead to more support for anti-imperialist forces as the imperialists try to undercut each other by backing their enemies. Then, as anti-imperialism strengthens, the imperialists will face more global public opinion problems in pursuing their goals of exploitation and domination. In other words, a rising imperialist China bodes well for the international proletariat. Not because China is a proletarian state, but because the era of U.$. hegemony must end for a new era of socialism to rise. We should be clear with people about the definitions of imperialism and socialism to make this point.
China's potential to play a progressive role in the world in coming years does not change the fact that the counter-revolution led by Deng Xiaoping dismantled the greatest achievement towards reaching communism so far in history. If we do not learn from that very painful setback, then we are not applying the scientific method and we will not even know what it is that we are fighting for. How and when socialism ended in China is a question that is fundamental to Maoism.
On 26 October 2017, U.$. President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. The declaration should lead to more federal funding for grants to combat opioid abuse.(1) As we explain below, this epidemic disproportionately affects euro-Amerikans. Trump linked his campaign to build a wall along the current Mexican border to the battle against this epidemic, despite the fact that prescription painkillers are at the root of it. This is consistent with the Amerikan government's solution for drug problems created by imperialism. For the crack epidemic of the 1980s Amerika responded with mass incarceration of New Afrikan men as the solution. As opioid addiction continues a steady rise, Trump offers further militarization of the border.
Opioids have been used by humyns for thousands of years both medicinally and recreationally, with many periods of epidemic addiction. Use began with opium from poppies. Morphine was isolated in 1806. By the early 1900s heroin was promoted as a cure for morphine addiction in the United $tates, before being made illegal in 1924. There was a lull in heroin use during the 1980s, when cocaine and crack overshadowed it. Various prescription pain killers began to come back into vogue in the 1990s
after the "Just Say No!" mentality was wearing off. Since then, use and abuse has been on a steady rise, feeding a new surge in the use of heroin as a cheaper alternative. This rise, in the economic centers of both the United $tates and China, is directly linked to capitalism.
While K2 is one dangerous substance plaguing U.$. prisons these days, partly due to its undetectability, opioids are by far the biggest killer in the United $tates, and we expect that is true in prisons as well. Drug overdoses surpassed car accidents as the number one cause of accidental deaths in the United $tates in 2007 and has continued a steady rise ever since. The majority of these overdoses have been from opioids.(2)
While the increase in deaths from opioids has been strong across the United $tates, rates are significantly higher among whites, and even higher among First Nations. One reason that use rates are lower among New Afrikans and [email protected] is that it has been shown that doctors are more reluctant to prescribe opioids to them because they are viewed as more likely to become addicted, and Amerikan doctors see them as having a greater pain threshold.(3)
We did see some evidence of this trend in the results of our survey on the effects of drugs in U.$. prisons. The most popular answer to our question of whether certain groups did more drugs in prison than others was no, it affects everyone. But many clarified that there was a strong racial divide where New Afrikans preferred weed and K2, while whites and usually [email protected] went for heroin and/or meth. Some of these respondents said that New Afrikans did less drugs.(4) A couple said that New Afrikans used to do less drugs but now that's changing as addiction is spreading. In states where K2 has not hit yet (CA, GA, CO) it was common to hear that whites and "hispanics" (or in California, "southern" Mexicans) did more drugs. The pattern of New Afrikans preferring weed and K2 seemed common across the country, and could have implications for strategies combating drug use among New Afrikans compared to other groups. In particular, stressing that K2 is completely different and more dangerous than weed could be part of a harm reduction strategy focused on New Afrikans.
If prison staff were doing their jobs, then we would expect rates of both overdoses and use in general to be lower in prisons. But we know, and our survey confirmed, that this is not the case (78% of respondents mentioned staff being responsible for bringing in at least some of the drugs in their prison). In hindsight, it may have been useful to ask our readers what percentage of prisoners are users and addicts. Some of the estimates that were offered of the numbers using drugs in general were
20-30%, 90%, 75%, and many saying it had its grips on the whole population.
Deaths from opioids in the general U.$. population in 2015 was 10.5 per 100,000, double the rate in 2005.(5) This is higher than the rates in many state prison systems for overdoses from any drug, including Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania that all reported average rates of 1 per 100,000 from 2001-2012. California was closer at 8 per 100,000 and Maryland exceeded the general population at 17 deaths from overdoses per 100,000 prisoners.(6) At the same time,
prison staff have been known to cover up deaths from overdoses, so those 1 per 100,000 rates may be falsified.
In our survey of ULK readers, we learned that Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, is quite popular in prisons (particularly in the northeast/midwestern states). Survey respondents mentioned it as often as weed as one of the most popular drugs, and more than heroin. Suboxone is actually used to treat heroin addiction. And while it is not supposed to be active like other opioids, it can lead to a high and be addictive. It is relatively safe, and will not generally lead to overdose until you combine it with other substances, which can lead to death.
Prescription drugs are not as common as other drugs in most prisons, according to our survey. Though in some cases they are available. We received a few responses from prisons where prescription drugs prescribed by the medical staff seemed to be the only thing going on the black market. Clearly there is variability by facility.
Two Paths to Recovery
The increases in opioid abuse in the United $tates has been staggering, and they cause a disproportionate amount of the deaths from drug overdoses. About 10% of opioid addicts worldwide are in the United $tates, despite only being less than 5% of the world's population.(7) At the same time, only about 1% of people in the United $tates are abusing opioids.(8) This is not the worst episode in U.$. history, and certainly not in world history.
Around 1914 there were 200,000 heroin addicts in the United $tates, or 2% of the population. In contrast, some numbers for opium addicts in China prior to liberation put the addiction rate as high as 20% of the population around 1900, and 10% by the 1930s. That's not to dismiss the seriousness of the problem in the United $tates, but to highlight the power of proletarian dictatorship, which eliminated drug addiction about 3 years after liberation.
Richard Fortmann did a direct comparison of the United $tates in 1952 (which had 60,000 opioid addicts) and revolutionary China (which started with millions in 1949).(9) Despite being the richest country in the world, unscathed by the war, with an unparalleled health-care system, addicts in the United $tates increased over the following two decades. Whereas China, a horribly poor country coming out of decades of civil war, with 100s of years of opium abuse plaguing its people, had eliminated the problem by 1953.(9) Fortmann pointed to the politics behind the Chinese success:
"If the average drug addiction expert in the United States were shown a description of the treatment modalities used by the Chinese after 1949 in their anti-opium campaign, his/her probable response would be to say that we are already doing these things in the United States, plus much more. And s/he would be right."(9)
About one third of addicts went cold turkey after the revolution, with the more standard detox treatment taking 12 days to complete. How could they be so successful so fast? What the above comparison is missing is what happened in China in the greater social context. The Chinese were a people in the process of liberating themselves, and becoming a new, socialist people. The struggle to give up opium was just one aspect of a nationwide movement to destroy remnants of the oppressive past. Meanwhile the people were being called on and challenged in all sorts of new ways to engage in building the new society. There was so much that was more stimulating than opium to be doing with their time. Wimmin, who took up opium addiction in large numbers after being forced into prostitution in opium dens, were quickly gaining opportunities to engage at all levels of society. The poor, isolated peasants were now organized in collectives, working together to solve all kinds of problems related to food production, biology and social organization. The successful struggle against drug addiction in China was merely one impressive side effect of the revolutionizing of the whole society.
In contrast, in the capitalist countries, despair lurks behind every corner as someone struggles to stay clean. The approach has ranged from criminalization to medicalization of drug addiction as a disease. "Once an addict, always an addict", as they say. Always an individualist approach, ignoring the most important, social causes of the problem. That drug addiction is primarily a social disease was proven by the practice of the Chinese in the early 1950s, but Western "science" largely does not acknowledge the unquestionable results from that massive experiment.
It is also worth pointing out the correlation between drug abuse and addiction, and capitalist economics specifically. Whether it was colonial powers forcing opium on the Chinese masses who had nothing, in order to enslave them to their economic will, or it is modern Amerikan society indulging its alienation in the over-production of prescription pills from big pharmaceutical companies marketing medicine for a profit.
And now, opioid addiction is on the rise again in capitalist China after decades. A steady rise in drug-related arrests in China since 1990 are one indicator of the growing problem.(10) As more profits flowed into the country, so have more drugs, especially since the 1990s. We recently published a review of Is China an Imperialist Country?, where we lamented the loses suffered by the Chinese people since the counter-revolution in 1976. It goes to show that when you imitate the imperialists, and put advancing the productive forces and profits over serving the people, you invite in
all the social ills of imperialism.
In China drug addiction has now become something that people fear. Like it did with its economy, China has followed in the imperialists' footsteps in how it handles drug addiction. Chinese policy has begun treating addicts as patients that need to be cured to protect society. Rather than seeing those who give up drugs as having defeated the oppressor's ways, they are monitored by the state, lose social credibility, and have a hard time getting a job.(11) Under socialism, everyone had a job and no one needed recreational drugs to maintain themselves mentally. The path to combating drug addiction and abuse is well-established. Attempts under imperialism that don't involve liberatory politics of the oppressed have little to no effect.
Is China an Imperialist Country? considerations and evidence
by N.B. Turner, et al.
Available for $17 + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
This article began as a book review of Is China an Imperialist Country?. However, I was spurred to complete this review after witnessing a surge in pro-China posts and sentiment on the /r/communism subreddit, an online forum that MIM(Prisons) participates in. It is strange to us that this question is gaining traction in a communist forum. How could anyone be confused between such opposite economic systems? Yet, this is not the first time that this question has been asked about a capitalist country; the Soviet Union being the first.
Mao Zedong warned that China would likely become a social fascist state if the revisionists seized power in their country as they had in the Soviet Union after Stalin's death. While the question of whether the revisionists have seized power in China was settled for Maoists decades ago, other self-proclaimed "communists" still refer to China as socialist, or a "deformed workers' state," even as the imperialists have largely recognized that China has taken up capitalism.
In this book, N.B. Turner does address the revisionists who believe China is still a socialist country in a footnote.(1) Ey notes that most of them base their position on the strength of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in China. This is a common argument we've seen as well. And the obvious refutation is: socialism is not defined as a state-run economy, at least not by Marxists. SOEs in China operate based on a profit motive. China now boasts 319 billionaires, second only to the United $tates, while beggars walk the streets clinging to passerbys. How could it be that a country that had kicked the imperialists out, removed the capitalists and landlords from power, and enacted full employment came to this? And how could these conditions still be on the socialist road to communism?
Recent conditions did not come out of nowhere. By the 1980s, Beijing Review was boasting about the existence of millionaires in China, promoting the concept of wage differentials.(2) There are two bourgeois rights that allow for exploitation: the right to private property and the right to pay according to work. While the defenders of Deng Xiaoping argue that private property does not exist in China today, thus "proving" its socialist nature, they give a nod to Deng's policies on wage differentials; something struggled against strongly during the Mao era.
Turner quotes Lenin from Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism: "If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism."(3) And what are most SOEs but monopolies?
Is China a Socialist Country?
The question of Chinese socialism is a question our movement came to terms with in its very beginning. MIM took up the anti-revisionist line, as stated in the first cardinal
"MIM holds that after the proletariat seizes power in socialist revolution, the potential exists for capitalist restoration under the leadership of a new bourgeoisie within the communist party itself. In the case of the USSR, the bourgeoisie seized power after the death of Stalin in 1953; in China, it was after Mao's death and the overthrow of the 'Gang of Four' in 1976."
We'll get more into why we believe this below. For now we must stress that this is the point where we split from those claiming to be communists who say China is a socialist country. It is also a point
where we have great unity with Turner's book.
Who Thinks China is Socialist?
Those who believe China is socialist allude to a conspiracy to paint China as a capitalist country by the Western media and by white people. This is an odd claim, as we have spent most of our time struggling over Chinese history explaining that China is no longer communist, and that what happened during the socialist period of 1949 - 1976 is what we uphold. We see some racist undertones in the condemnations of what happened in that period in China. It seems those holding the above position are taking a valid critique for one period in China and just mechanically applying it to Western commentators who point out the obvious. We think it is instructive that "by 1978, when Deng Xiaoping
changed course, the whole Western establishment lined up in support. The experts quickly concluded, over Chinese protests, that the new course represented reform 'capitalist style.'"(4) The imperialists do not support socialism and pretend that it is capitalism, rather they saw Deng's "reforms" for what they were.
TeleSur is one party that takes a position today upholding China as an ally of the oppressed nations. TeleSur is a TV station based in Venezuela, and funded by Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Uruguay and Nicaragua. Venezuela is another state capitalist country that presents itself as "socialist", so it has a self-interest in stroking China's image in this regard. One recent opinion piece described China as "committed to socialism and Marxism." It acknowledges problems of inequality in Chinese society are a product of the "economic reforms." Yet the author relies on citations on economic success and profitability as indications that China is still on the socialist road.(5)
As students of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, we recognize that socialism is defined by class struggle. In fairness, the TeleSur opinion piece acknowledges this and claims that class struggle continues in China today. But the reality that the state sometimes imprisons its billionaires does not change the fact that this once socialist society, which guaranteed basic needs to all, now has billionaires. Billionaires can only exist by exploiting people; a lot! Fifty years ago China had eliminated the influence of open capitalists on the economy, while allowing those who allied with the national interest to continue to earn income from their investments. In other words they were being phased out. Some major changes had to take place to get to where China is today with 319 billionaires.
Fidel Castro is cited as upholding today's President of China, Xi Jinping, as one of the "most capable revolutionary leaders." Castro also alluded to China as a counterbalance to U.$. imperialism for the Third World. China being a counter-balance to the United $tates does not make it socialist or even non-imperialist. China has been upholding its non-interventionist line for decades to gain the trust of the world. But it is outgrowing its ability to do that, as it admits in its own military white papers described by Turner.(6) This is one indication that it is in fact an imperialist country, with a need to export finance capital and dump overproduced commodities in foreign markets.
"The Myth of Chinese Capitalism"
Another oft-cited article by proponents of a socialist China in 2017 is "The Myth of Chinese Capitalism" by Jeff Brown.(7) Curiously, Brown volunteers the information that China's Gini coefficient, a measure of a country's internal inequality between rich and poor, went from 0.16 in 1978 to 0.37 in 2015 (similar to the United $tates' 0.41). Brown offers no explanation as to how this stark increase in inequality could occur in what ey calls a socialist country. In fact, Brown offers little analysis of the political economy of China, preferring to quote Deng Xiaoping and the Chinese Constitution as proof of China's socialist character, followed by stats on the success of Chinese corporations in making profits in the capitalist economic system.
Brown claims that Deng's policies were just re-branded policies of the Mao era. A mere months after the counter-revolutionary coup in China in 1976, the China Study Group wrote,
"The line put forward by the Chinese Communist Party and the Peking Review before the purge and that put forward by the CCP and the Peking Review after the purge are completely different and opposite lines. Superficially they may appear similar because the new leaders use many of the same words and slogans that were used before in order to facilitate the changeover. But they have torn the heart out of the slogans, made them into hollow words and are exposing more clearly with every new issue the true nature of their line."(8)
Yet, 40 years later, fans of China would have us believe that empty rhetoric about "Marxism applied to Chinese conditions" are a reason to take interest in the economic policies of Xi Jinping.
Brown seems to think the debate is whether China is economically successful or not according to bourgeois standards. As such ey offers the following tidbits:
"A number of [SOEs] are selling a portion of their ownership to the public, by listing shares on Chinese stock markets, keeping the vast majority of ownership in government hands, usually up to a 70% government-30% stock split. This sort of shareholder accountability has improved the performance of China's SOEs,
which is Baba Beijing's goal."
"[O]ther SOEs are being consolidated to become planet conquering giants"
"How profitable are China's government owned corporations? Last year, China's 12 biggest SOEs on the Global 500 list made a combined total profit of US$201 billion."
So selling stocks, massive profits and giant corporations conquering the world are the "socialist" principles being celebrated by Brown, and those who cite em.
The Coup of 1976
What all these apologists for Chinese capitalism ignore is the fact that there was a coup in China in 1976 that involved a seizure of state apparati, a seizure of the media (as alluded to above) and the imprisonment of high officials in the Maoist camp (the so-called "Gang of Four").(9) People in the resistance were executed for organizing and distributing literature.(10) There were arrests and executions across the country, in seemingly large numbers. Throughout 1977 a mass purge of the party may have removed as many as a third of its members.(11) The armed struggle and repression in 1976 seems to have involved more violence than the Cultural Revolution, but this is swept under the rug by pro-capitalists. In addition, the violence in both cases was largely committed by the capitalist-roaders. While a violent counterrevolution was not necessary to restore capitalism in the Soviet Union, it did
occur in China following Mao Zedong's death.
At the time of Mao's death, Deng was the primary target of criticism for not recognizing the bourgeoisie in the Party. Hua Guofeng, who jailed the Gang of Four and seized chairmanship after Mao's death, continued this criticism of Deng at first, only to restore all his powers less
than sixteen months after they were removed by the Maoist government.(12)
The Western media regularly demonizes China for its records on humyn rights and free speech. Yet, this is not without reason. By the 1978 Constitution, the so-called CCP had removed the four measures of democracy guaranteed to the people in the 1975 Constitution: "Speaking out freely, airing views fully, holding great debates and writing big character posters are new forms of carrying on socialist revolution created by the masses of the people. The state shall ensure to the masses the right to use these forms."(13)
This anti-democratic trend has continued over the last forty years, from jail sentences for big character posters in the 1980s and the Tianamen Square massacre in 1989 to the imprisonment of bloggers in the 2010s. While supporters of Xi Jinping have celebrated his recent call for more Marxism in schools, The Wall Street Journal reports that this is not in the spirit of Mao:
"Students at Sun Yat-sen University in southern China arrived this year to find new instructions affixed to classroom walls telling them not to criticize party leadership; their professors were advised to do the same... An associate professor at an elite Beijing university said he was told he was rejected for promotion because of social-media posts that were critical of China's political system. 'Now I don't speak much online,' he said."(14)
Scramble for Africa
What about abroad? Is China a friend of the oppressed? Turner points out that China's Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa is significant, though a tiny piece of China's overall FDI. First we must ask, why is China engaged in FDI in the first place? Lenin's third of five points defining imperialism is, "The export of capital, which has become extremely important, as distinguished from the export of commodities."(15) A couple chapters before talking about Africa, Turner shows that China has the fastest growing FDI of any imperialist or "sub-imperialist" country starting around 2005.(16) Even the SOEs are involved in this investment, accounting for 87% of China's FDI in Latin America.(17) This drive to export capital, which repatriates profits to China, is a key characteristic of an imperialist country.
In 2010, China invited South Africa to join the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and now South Africa) of imperialist/aspiring imperialist countries. This was a strategic decision by China, as South Africa was chosen over many larger economies. "In 2007... the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (now the world's largest company) bought a multi-billion-dollar stake in the South African Standard Bank, which has an extensive branch network across the continent." Shoprite is another South African corporation that spans the continent, which China has invested in. In Zambia, almost all the products in Shoprite are Chinese or South African.(18)
The other side of this equation indicating the role of China in Africa is the resistance. "Chinese nationals have become the number one kidnapping target for terrorist and rebel groups in Africa, and Chinese facilities are valuable targets of sabotage." China is also working with the likes of Amerikan mercenary Erik Prince to avoid direct military intervention abroad. "In 2006, a Zambian minister wept when she saw the environment in which workers toiled at the Chinese-owned Collum Coal Mine. Four years later, eleven employees were shot at the site while protesting working conditions."(19) While China's influence is seen as positive by a majority of people in many African countries,(20) this is largely due to historical support given to African nations struggling for self-determination. The examples above demonstrate the irreconcilable contradiction developing within Chinese imperialism with its client nations.
Chinese President Xi Jinping talks often of the importance of "Marxism" to China, of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and of "market socialism." Xi's defenders in communist subreddits cite Lenin and the New Economic Policy (NEP) of the Soviet Union to peg our position as anti-Lenin. There's a reason we call ourselves Maoists, and not Leninists. The battle against the theory of the productive forces, and the form it took in the mass mobilization of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is core to how we define Maoism as a higher stage of revolutionary science than Leninism. The Bolsheviks tended toward upholding the theory of the productive forces, though you can find plenty in Lenin's to oppose it as well. Regardless, Lenin believed in learning from history. We'd say Maoists are the real Leninists.
Lenin's NEP came in the post-war years, a few years after the proletariat seized power in Russia. The argument was that capitalist markets and investment were needed to get the economic ball rolling
again. But China in 1978 was in no such situation. It was rising on a quarter century of economic growth and radical reorganization of the economy that unleashed productive forces that were the envy of the rest of the underdeveloped nations. Imposing capitalist market economics on China's socialist economy in 1978 was moving backwards. And while economic growth continued and arguably increased, social indicators like unemployment, the condition of wimmin, mental health and crime all
The line of the theory of the productive forces is openly embraced by some Dengists
defending "market socialism." One of the most in-depth defenses of China as communist appearing on /r/communism reads:
"Deng Xiaoping and his faction had to address the deeper Marxist problem: that the transition from a rural/peasant political economy to modern industrial socialism was difficult, if not impossible, without the intervening stage of industrial capitalism... First, Chinese market socialism is a method of resolving the primary contradiction facing socialist construction in China: backwards
So, our self-described communist detractors openly embrace the lines of Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi, thereby rejecting the Maoist line and the Cultural Revolution.
Resilience to Crisis
During the revolution, China was no stranger to economic crisis. From the time the war against Japan began in 1937 to victory in 1949, goods that cost 1 yuan had risen to the price of 8,500,000,000,000 yuan!(22) Controlling inflation was an immediate task of the Chinese Communist
Party after seizing state power. "On June 10, 1949 the Stock Exchange — that centre of crime located in downtown Shanghai — was ordered to close down and 238 leading speculators were arrested and indicted."(23) Shanghai Stock Exchange was re-established again in 1990. It is currently the 5th largest exchange, but was 2nd for a brief frenzy prior to the 2008 global crash.(24)
The eclectic U.$.-based Troskyite organization Workers
World Party (WW) used the 2008 crisis to argue that China was more socialist than capitalist.(25) The export-dependent economy of China took a strong blow in 2008. WW points to the subsequent investment in construction as being a major offset to unemployment. They conclude that, "The socialist component of the economic foundation is dominant at the present." Yet they see the leadership of Xi Jinping as further opening up China to imperialist manipulation, unlike other groups discussed above.
Turner addresses the "ghost cities" built in recent years in China as examples of the anarchy of production under capitalism. Sure they were state planned, but they were not planned to meet humyn need, hence they remain largely empty years after construction. To call this socialism, one must call The New Deal in the United $tates socialism.
Marx explained why crisis was inevitable under capitalism, and why it would only get worse with time as accumulation grew, distribution became more uneven, and overproduction occurred more quickly. Socialism eliminates these contradictions, with time. It does so by eliminating the anarchy of production as well as speculation. After closing the Stock Exchange the communists eliminated all other currencies, replacing them with one state-controlled currency, the Renminbi, or the people's
currency. Prices for goods as well as foreign currencies were set by the state. They focused on developing and regulating production to keep the balance of goods and money, rather than producing more currency, as the capitalist countries do.(26)
When the value of your stock market triples and then gets cut back to its original price in the span of a few years, you do not have a socialist-run economy.(27) To go further, when you have a stock market,
you do not have a socialist economy.
Turner addresses the recent crisis and China's resiliency, pointing out that it recently started from a point of zero debt, internally and externally, thanks to financial policy during the socialist era.(28)
China paid off all external debt by 1964.(29) This has allowed China to expand its credit/debt load in recent decades to degrees that the other imperialist countries no longer have the capacity to do. This includes investing in building whole cities that sit empty.(30)
What is Socialism?
So, if socialism isn't increasing profits and growing GDP with state-owned enterprises, what the heck is it? The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) was the pinnacle of socialist achievement; that is another one of MIM's three main points. No one has argued that the Cultural Revolution has continued or was revived post-1976. In fact, the Dengists consistently deny that there are any capitalists in the party to criticize, as they claim "market socialism" denies the capitalists any power over the economy. This is the exact line that got Deng kicked out of the CCP before Mao died. Without class struggle, we do not have socialism, until all classes have been abolished in humyn society. Class struggle is about the transformation of society into new forms of organization that can someday lead us to a communist future.
"A fundamental axiom of Maoist thought is that public ownership is only a technical condition for solving the problems of Chinese society. In a deeper sense, the goal of Chinese socialism involves vast changes in human nature, in the way people relate to each other, to their work, and to society. The struggle to change material conditions, even in the most immediate sense, requires the struggle to change people, just as the struggle to change people depends on the ability to change the conditions under which men live and work. Mao differs from the Russians, and Liu Shao-chi's group, in believing that these changes are simultaneous, not sequential. Concrete goals and human goals are separable only on paper — in practice they are the same. Once the basic essentials of food, clothing, and shelter for all have been achieved, it is not necessary to wait for higher productivity levels to be reached before attempting socialist ways of life." (31)
Yet the Dengists defend the "economic reforms" (read: counter-revolution) after Mao's death as necessary for expanding production, as a prerequisite to building socialism.
"The fact that China is a socialist society makes it necessary to isolate and discuss carefully the processes at work in the three different forms of ownership: state, communal, and cooperative."(32)
The Dengists talk much of state ownership, but what of communes and cooperatives? Well, they were dismantled in the privatization of the 1980s. Dengists cry that there is no private land ownership in China, and that is a sign that the people own the land. It was. In the 1950s land was redistributed to peasants, which they later pooled into cooperatives, unleashing the productive forces of the peasantry. Over time this collective ownership was accepted as public ownership, and with Deng's "reforms" each peasant got a renewable right to use small plots for a limited number of years. The commune was broken up and the immediate effects on agriculture and the environment were negative.(33)
Overall Turner does a good job upholding the line on what is socialism and what is not. This book serves as a very accessible report on why China is an imperialist country based in Leninist theory. The one place we take issue with Turner is in a discussion of some of the strategic implications of this in the introduction. Ey makes an argument against those who would support forces fighting U.$. imperialism, even when they are backed by other imperialist powers. One immediately thinks of Russia's support for Syria, which foiled the Amerikan plans for regime change against the Assad government. Turner writes, "Lenin and the Bolshevik Party... argued for 'revolutionary defeatism' toward all imperialist and reactionary powers as the only stance for revolutionaries."(34) But what is this "and reactionary powers" that Turner throws in? In the article, "The Defeat of One's Own Government in the Imperialist War," by "imperialist war" Lenin meant inter-imperialist war, not an imperialist invasion of a country in the periphery.
In that article Lenin praised the line that "During a reactionary war a revolutionary class cannot but desire the defeat of its government." He writes, "that in all imperialist countries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government." While Lenin emphasizes all here, in response to Turner, we'd emphasize imperialist. Elsewhere Lenin specifies "belligerent countries" as the target of this line. So while it is clear that Lenin was not
referring to Syria being invaded by the United $tates as a time that the proletariat must call for defeat of the government of their country, it seems that Turner is saying this.
We agree with other strategic conclusions of this book. China seems to be moving towards consolidating its sphere of influence, which could lead to consolidation of the world into two blocks once again. While this is a dangerous situation, with the threat of nuclear war, it is also a situation that has proven to create opportunities for the proletariat. Overall, the development and change of the current system works in the favor of the proletariat of the oppressed nations; time is on our side. As China tries to maintain its image as a "socialist" benefactor, the United $tates will feel more pressure to make concessions to the oppressed and hold back its own imperialist arrogance.
In 1986, Henry Park hoped that the CCP would repudiate Marxism soon, writing, "It
is far better for the CCP to denounce Marx (and Mao) as a dead dog than for the CCP to discredit socialism with the double-talk required to defend its capitalist social revolution."(35) Still hasn't happened, and it's not just the ignorant Amerikan who is fooled. Those buying into the 40-year Chinese charade contribute to the continued discrediting of socialism, especially as this "socialist" country becomes more aggressive in international affairs.
[We recommend Is China an Imperialist Country? as the best resource we know on this topic. As for the question of Chinese socialism being overthrown, please refer to the references below. We highly recommend The Chinese Road to Socialism for an explanation of what socialism looks like and why the GPCR was the furthest advancement of socialism so far.]
So, first lemme say that there were a few typos in my response that made some significant differences. Mainly I wanna be clear that it said I don’t care about your "lies." The correct word was "line."
Also, I have no fuckin clue what "Post-Fordism" could possibly mean. What the fuck is "Fordism"? I said "Post-Marxist". We live in a "Post-Marxist" era.
As for my acceptance of status quo definitions of "slavery", I don’t accept it simply because it's what is commonly presented to us, but because I more or less agree with it.
I do fully agree with your analysis concerning the exploited global proletariat as being the theoretical primary contradiction. Capitalist imperialism depends solely on expropriation of land and resources. In order to sustain capitalist rule this can only come as a result of perpetual expansion into foreign lands, etc., and not to mention wholesale slaughter of oppressed peoples across the globe. Imperialism being inherently nationalistic this means "global" class systems emerge and so there you see our analysis is virtually identical.
Now if you can explain to me how we can apply this dialectically correct analysis into revolutionary practice — aside from pencil-pushing while capitalism further secures itself by snowballing into a fascist state — sign me up. But in my studies of all revolutionary lines, I’ve yet to find a red theory that institutes practice in our current material time and place.
I’m a nihilist. I accept no theory/analysis simply because it’s common to any rev camp, but only if it jives with absolute objective and dialectically correct theo-analysis. I find red analysis to be exceptionally on point. But I find major flaws in dictatorships of any stripe based in historical evidence. Authority always shows to turn into tyranny. Communists are just as guilty of mass-murder and oppression as any fascist state and I find the differentiation between "nationalistic" socialism and so-called "international" socialism to be mostly a matter of semantics. Don’t get me started on Bolshevism being the theoretical root of fascism, evidenced by Hitler’s distribution of Leninist literature. So I’ll close this by saying red analysis is sound. But fundamentally anarchist methodology and principles are the only realistic road to a true egalitarian society. I don’t swallow this because of identity politics — be it the black flag or the red — but because it's true. And so I apply red analysis to anarchist principles.
Next, obviously I do recognize the importance of line as my writing clearly demonstrates. You make exactly the point of why it's important in your paragraph number five and others. When I say I don’t care about line, what I mean is that I don’t conform to any line simply because it’s a generally accepted body of politics. Though I will and do align myself with any line if it jives with my correct social analysis, theory, or mode of practice. In my case, red analysis, black theory (black meaning anarchist).
Obviously I’m also a big fan of theory. Marxist dialectics being the pinnacle of revolutionary science, this is my area of professionalism in fact. So, when I told you "your theory is based in theory", you omitted the first part of my statement which was that black theory is based in practice. So "anarchist theory is based in practice, red theory is based in theory." That was my statement, which demonstrates my ascription to theoretical science. I simply see no potential for practical application of red theory, and I’ve seen nothing from red camps that show otherwise.
Further, I say I don’t care about line, as in when I’m participating in any revolutionary campaign — not political agenda, but revolutionary campaign, which is different — I could really give a shit if you're a militant red or a backwoods biker for Christ. If you're with the business we’re crackin' off then I’ll ride in the same car with you. Do I dig your political line? That’s irrelevant during campaigns as long as our interests intersect on the immediate issues. This is also what Bakunin meant and myself when I quote him when he said in a letter to his sister "sometimes you have to throw theory into the fire for it only spoils life" — spoils, not "stalls" (another typo). We’re saying theory that cannot be applied, no matter how sound, is worthless. At that time he was still practicing Hegelian dialectics which is nihilistic in nature. And then he went and got himself a political agenda and became just as boring as Marx.
As I state in my original critique, your original article has a clear contradiction in your dudes' own analysis. The paragraph #5 and paragraph #10 directly contradict each other. But whatever. As I said, it was kinda half-assed and it's a mostly irrelevant point within all our other conversation on this shit. Ultimately I maintain my original statement on this which you neglected only to reiterate the same point which is that in refusing to participate in these pigs' exploitative practices, clearly I said "the P.I.C. will have to adjust to accommodate us." That does not even suggest a declaration that it will "close all prisons." For the record, I quoted a comrade from the Free Virginia Movement when I said that.
Lastly in my own personal defense of nihilism, I find red political agenda idealistic and historically and theoretically frightening and horrific. Be that as it may, I actually find anarchist ideas about some revolutionary end result of global economic syndications just as whimsical, and frankly unfavorable as any other systemic socio-economic structure. It's basically just another formula based around labor and industry and distribution of wealth and so on. It fails to bring into question the value and dependence of labor and production in itself. So ultimately it may be egalitarian in theory, which I align with in regard to revolutionary practice in our current socio-economic landscape, as we work from a decentralized organizational praxis. At the end of the day, the idea is to still be subject to industry, and so becomes somewhat mechanical and antithetical to the liberated spirit of the inherent animal nature of humanity. Further, any system, be it hierarchical like communism, or horizontal like anarchism, if it's a system designed to control the means of production, it is susceptible to corruption and a gradual development toward the control of humans by the worst part of other humans. In this case, the nihilist, rejecting all idealistic political theory, will be just as likely to attack and destroy anarchist syndicalism as she would any other system. That is, if it begins to be corrupted — which it would.
And so what this means for the nihilist is that we look forward to nothing but our cigarettes, our bitter coffee, and destruction.
I suppose I could go on and nit pick some more shit, but there's no point. I think we understand each other, and so I shall withdraw back into the black coils of my madness. Feel free to reawaken me for purposes of business or pleasure.
In the end, I hope I speak for everyone who gives a shit when I say I look forward to solidifying an alliance with you — as I’ve done before — for the coming tidal wave against the agony of oppression.
Face first in the fight for peace.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We appreciate Zero's willingness to continue the dialogue over our theoretical disagreements, and to build our practical unity in the struggle against oppression in which we do have much agreement. We want to reiterate that at this stage in the struggle, we have more unity with Zero and other anarchists than we have differences. We are all fighting to overthrow imperialism, and to take on that enemy we need a united front of all the enemies of the imperialist state. As Zero stresses that means uniting around the battles of the day, despite ideological differences.
There's no need to reiterate our responses to most of Zero's points, instead we want to take this opportunity to again comment on the theoretical debate over anarchism vs. communism and what's the best way to achieve liberation for the world's oppressed. As we've said before, anarchists and communists are fighting for the same end goal: a world where no group of people has power over any other group of people. Contrary to how Zero phrases it above, saying communism is hierarchical while anarchism is horizontal, anarchism is the communist's ultimate goal, we just disagree on how to get there. It is the getting-there process where communists believe in the use of force and repression of the oppressors.
This may seem like a theoretical and esoteric discussion that doesn't have much relevance to our day-to-day organizing. After all, we all know that right now the imperialists hold the power, and in the context of the prison struggle the criminal injustice system is a daunting and powerful enemy that we are all struggling against in many arenas. We aren't close to a revolutionary situation in the United $tates today, and so neither the communists nor the anarchists are in a position to seize power tomorrow. But this theory informs our practice in the struggle. Zero understands this and so stands firm in eir political positions, weaving them into eir discussion of the September 9th protests. In this we completely agree with Zero. In the long run this theory will determine whether or not (and how quickly) we are successful in overthrowing imperialism, which for many in the world is a life and death battle.
As scientists, we look to history to inform us about the most effective theory and strategy. Zero takes this same approach but draws different conclusions from eir study of history. We disagree with Zero's analysis that there isn't a significant distinction between communism and fascism (ey wrote: "the differentiation between 'nationalistic' socialism and so-called 'international' socialism to be mostly a matter of semantics.") Obviously Zero knows that fascism is an ideology that promotes the oppression of certain groups of people to the benefit of others, while communism promotes the end of oppression of groups of people. But studying the historical practice of communist revolutions we come to different conclusions from Zero. While capitalist propaganda tries to convince us that communists are brutal and murderous dictators, a careful study of Russian and Chinese history, from history books not written by capitalist apologists, demonstrates otherwise.
First we will state the obvious: neither the Russian nor the Chinese revolutions succeeded in implementing communism. Both reached a socialist state and then were overthrown by state capitalists from within. But during the years when they were implementing socialism and building towards communism, both countries made tremendous contributions to humynity. There are several important metrics we could look at here. To name just a few important ones: (1) Lives saved from feudalism/capitalism, i.e. people no longer starving to death, receiving health care, etc. (2) Lives saved from fascist and imperialist aggression, i.e. the Russian pivotal and central role in the defeat of Hitler and the fascists in World War II, the Chinese support for revolutionary movements around the world. (3) Advances made towards communism, i.e. the Chinese Cultural Revolution as a historical advance over the Russian implementation of socialism in terms of addressing the issues of corruption in socialist state structures through mass participation.
"The central problem with the critics of Stalin is that they do not understand the historical time period he lived in and the real-world choices that actually existed. Yes, he killed many people, too many even according to himself. However, all his repression combined was small compared with the lives he saved through the rapid and revolutionary transformation of society that he carried out. The choice the USSR had was not between liberal humyn-rights utopia on the one hand and tzarist era backwardness on the other. As if to drill this point into thick skulls, history has shown what happens after decades of criticism of Stalin: regression so that millions today are dying for lack of conditions that used to exist under Stalin almost 50 years ago! People supporting 'humyn-rights' and attacking Stalin are responsible for far more deaths than Stalin. That is evidence of the real world choices being faced — not between utopia and Stalin but between the pro-Western phony communists like Khruschev and Brezhnev and bourgeois politicians like Yeltsin on the one hand and Stalin on the road of Marxism-Leninism on the other hand. Stalin should be compared with other political leaders and then his merits will stand clear.
“Middle-class people from the West focus much too much on dissidents and not enough on causes of death such as food, clothing and basic medical care being lacking. Even including the repression he carried out, Stalin still doubled the life expectancy of his people. For this reason, polls of Russians on their favorite past leaders continue to show Stalin as the second most preferred leader of the past century, after Lenin. Although Amerikkkans love Lincoln more than Russians love Stalin, Stalin has a higher public acclaim than most U.S. presidents have amongst Amerikkkans, according to the survey by the Public Opinion fund cited in Pravda.” (From MIM Theory 6: The Stalin Issue)
Zero believes that humyn nature will inevitably lead to people seizing power for persynal gain if a state remains. In some ways Zero is correct. Zero's conclusion is similar to what Maoists say about the dangers of a new bourgeoisie arising within the party because of the strong history and remnants of capitalist culture. People don't just magically change overnight, and some will try to take advantage of opportunities to seize power and wealth even after a revolution. This is why the Chinese communists initiated the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: to encourage and foster the criticism of leadership by the people so that leaders who become corrupt will be exposed and removed.
Communists believe that people are conditioned by their environment. We have loads of historical evidence to support this. And so, like the anarchists, we believe that if we can build a society where all people are equal and all people's needs are met, and where the culture doesn't encourage violence and power grabbing, but rather fosters cooperation and kindness, people will learn and adapt into this more peaceful existence. But unlike the anarchists, we don't think this can be implemented overnight. We will need a period where we have a state to force the former-oppressor classes out of power and keep them from taking that power back. We call this state the dictatorship of the proletariat, because it is using the power of the state in the interests of the oppressed. And during this time we will also be fighting against new people trying to take and abuse power. During this period of cultural revolution we will be remaking the culture while we are transforming ourselves to think and work collaboratively, for the good of all of humynity. People won't just start doing this on a mass scale spontaneously; it will take a long period of struggle against the capitalist patriarchal culture. The Chinese communists made significant strides, but we must continue to do more and better.
For people interested in going deeper into these questions we recommend a few readings:
There is an entire theory journal written by MIM in 1994 about Stalin, along with other relevant articles and reviews. Get MIM Theory 6.
For a deeper look at the successes and failures of communism we recommend MIM Theory 4, a theory journal by MIM, but also we distribute many books by both communists and non-communists detailing their experiences and observations in revolutionary China which provide objective (non-bourgeois-propaganda) facts about the real successes and struggles in that country under Mao.
We distribute several books and essays on the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and China for a more in-depth study of that history.
China's Urban Villagers: Changing Life in a Beijing Suburb
by Norman Chance
Thomson Custom Publishing, Second Edition 2002
"Thus it is not surprising that an important theme expressed by the suburban Chinese described in the concluding chapter of this book is resistance — not in direct opposition to socialism per se but against a government and party that in recent times chose to put its own interest ahead of those of the Chinese people. In the early years of the People's Republic, the Communist party was the major force leading the struggle for economic improvement, enhanced social equality, and greater political empowerment of its predominantly peasant population. But the protest movement of May and June 1989, supported by thousands of Chinese from all walks of life demonstrated to everyone that the party and government no longer had a mandate of leadership. What the future holds for China remains to be seen. But the lessons of the recent past, from which much can be learned, are there for all to see." - Norman Chance
China's Urban Villagers is a book about peasants on the edge of modernization. This book discusses in part how peasants made great strides in the construction of socialism, attained a life free from hunger, oppression and exploitation, and then lost it all. In particular this book chronicles the story of Half Moon Village, a small peasant village which used to be located on the outskirts of Beijing on land which prior to liberation was known as a "vast wasteland" but which following socialist revolution was transformed through the peoples collective strength into Red Flag commune, one of China's largest communes.
The author wrote the first edition of this book based on data originally gathered on his third trip to China in 1979. However, the author also references material collected from earlier trips to China in 1972 and 78. He was also assisted in collecting information for the first edition as well as the second edition to this book in 1984 and 1989 by his wife Nancy Chance and by Fred Engst, the son of Joan Hinton, sister of William Hinton. Within the preface to this book Norman Chance explains his decision to publish the second edition (of which this review covers) so as to put into perspective his previous experiences in China, both during and after the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) as well as his time in Red Flag in light of the repression at Tiananmen which followed capitalist restoration.
The preface to Urban Villagers began with the author discussing how he was initially impressed with the Chinese success upon his first visit to China during the GPCR commenting that: "Many people, including myself, were impressed with Mao Zedong's strategy of reducing economic inequalities through the immense collective effort of the people."
Yet he immediately follows up this statement by saying that in retrospect this prior assessment was incorrect due to the fact that he later came to believe that we was never really allowed to actually observe socialist China's failures in agriculture and industrialization, only its successes. This is an erroneous analysis which effectively amounts to a "Potemkin Village" thesis in which the author implied that everything that was good about China was false and everything that was bad about it was instantly authenticated. This is a contradictory stance on behalf of the author, not because he changed his position after leaving China, but because all throughout the book he finds it useful to compare and contrast what he saw and wrote about China in 1972 and 1976 with the changes he observed in 1979, all the while claiming to uphold the conditions of the Chinese people as being qualitatively better in 1972 and 76, while still stating that what he saw in those first two trips wasn't really real after all — either conditions were better in 1972 and 76 or they were not, you can't have it both ways. Indeed, even in Chapter 9, "A Decade of Change", added to this second edition using data from the years 1987-89, the author comes to the conclusion that social conditions had drastically changed in China since 1979. In particular he refers to "class polarization the breaking up of communal peasant land into individual holdings and the rising rate of inflation and exploitation."
Norman Chance was one of the first cultural anthropologists to be allowed into China between the years 1952-1972 as anthropology as a branch of the social sciences was discredited in the Peoples Republic following the socialist stage of the Chinese revolution (1). He was invited to visit China in 1972 as part of an educational delegation during the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution. Professor Chance was asked to give a lecture at the Beijing Institute of Minorities titled "Minority Life in America." No doubt the communist party invited this Western academic not only as part of a mutual exchange of ideas, but so as to expose the Chinese people to reactionary ideologies so that they may learn from them and be better prepared to combat them. Upon reflecting on his visit to China Mr. Chance commented on "how different were our perspectives on the relationship between minority and majority nationalities." (p XV)
It would have been helpful if the author would've spoken more on this last point so that we could've learned about the structural relationship between the majority Han nationality and minority nationalities in China. For example, the contradiction of nation (Amerikkkka vs the oppressed nations) is principal here in the United $tates. How did similar contradictions get resolved in the PRC? In particular how were these contradictions further elaborated and worked on during the GPCR?
"Apart from their other characteristics, the outstanding thing about China's 600 million people is that they are 'poor and blank'. This may seem a bad thing, but in reality it is a good thing. Poverty gives rise to the desire for change, the desire for action and the desire for revolution. On a blank sheet of paper free form any mark, the freshest and most beautiful characters can be written the freshest and most beautiful pictures can be painted." - Mao Zedong, Introducing A Cooperative, 1958
To understand how Red Flag commune and Half Moon Village came to be developed we must first understand China's need to raise the quality of life for its majority peasant population. As in any other society quality of life is first measured by the country's ability to meet it's citizen's basic needs, first among these needs being the government's ability to feed, clothe and house it's citizens. After providing a summary of China's national liberation and socialist revolution struggles the author dives right into some of the major social issues facing the People's Republic in the early 1950s' primarily how does a country of 600 million paupers who are stuck in medieval culture and a feudal economy pull themselves into the 20th century? Chance acknowledges the feat with which China was forced to contend at this critical juncture in its hystory as nearly insurmountable.
Indeed, if China had remained a colony or neo-colony of this or that imperialist empire as say a country like India was at the time and continues as today, then it would have proved insurmountable. As hystory has proven however the Chinese people, with the guidance of Chairman Mao and the Communist Party, were able to lift the mountains of feudalism and imperialism off their backs, and in doing so cleared the way for socialism and communist development to begin.
When learning about socialist experiments of the past it is always common to hear intellectuals and sophists alike speak of the contradiction of a supposed "humyn nature" that will always prevent us from building a society free of poverty, hunger, exploitation and war. And as most academics writing on the subject, Chance does not miss the opportunity of raising the specter of humyn nature. Where Chance departs from this common bourgeois narrative is when he frames the issue of greed and selfishness as originating in the culture prevalent at the time:
"Underlying these conflicts is a fundamental problem in the building of a socialist society — the issue of human nature. If greediness is at the heart of human nature, then the whole idea of socialism is nothing more than a utopia. If on the other hand, human nature involves a dialectical tension between self-interest and social interests, then self-interest can become secondary to the interests of the larger group. Anthropological studies of various societies demonstrate that pure greediness in human behavior is deviant indeed. Rather, individual motivation is strongly shaped by the social and cultural environment. If greed is encouraged and rewarded, it would be considered foolish not to act in a similar fashion. By contrast, if friends and associates strive to act in a helpful, cooperative manner, selfish actions on the part of an individual would likely lead that person to feel ashamed. Even within the competitive, individualistic orientation of Western society, one regularly finds selfless actions by individuals who are willing to risk their personal security for a given cause. Thus in discussing greed and selfishness, the question is not human nature but rather the dominant behavior expected in normal circumstances." (p7-8)
What's more the Chinese masses were able to transform their country from the "sick man of Asia" into a strong socialist power in the span of only twenty years. They were able to accomplish this not by force but by persuasion. Compare this to India which started ahead of China, had a higher life expectancy and had a higher per capita than China. It was also 75% peasant like China. Yet China surpassed India in all these areas within one generation — so much for the comparison between socialism and capitalism.(2)
"Our task is to build islands of socialism in a vast sea of individual farming. We are the ones who will have to show the way for the whole country."(3)
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was able to spearhead the collectivization of agriculture thru their successful mobilization of peasants first into mutual aid teams, then low level elementary agricultural cooperatives.(p4-5) These APC's were comprised of "20 or more households which pooled their labor, land and small tools for the common benefit."(p4) These cooperatives not only helped peasants survive, but begin to spurn on the economy in the countryside. With time and success the APC's began to grow as peasants eagerly joined. According to Chance the only people who hesitated or refused were the "well to do" peasants who saw an end to their standard of living come with the rise of the APCs. At first the government let these rich and middle peasants abstain from joining until of course their abstinence became a hindrance to social development. It was at this time that the communist party under the leadership of Chairman Mao "opted for a acceleration of rural collectivization — a Socialist upsurge in the countryside — in which mutual aid teams and low-level co-operatives were to be combined into larger, more advanced units."(p6) These APCs were but preludes to the Great Leap Forward 1958-1960. The Great Leap Forward was China's attempt to catch up with the West by building up China's ability to produce grain and steel. Experimentation in farming, animal husbandry and other associated activity were in fact the earliest models in innovation from which experience and rationale knowledge were garnered for and summed up for further practice and experimentation in the city environment. Once the Great Leap forward began the APCs quickly ran their course and became outmoded. The APCs then gave way to the commune movement in the countryside in which the most advanced APCs were consolidated into 42,000 communes.(p8)
In it's early developmental stages one of the fundamental political lines in the Chinese countryside was to "rely on the poor peasants, unite with the middle peasants, isolate the rich peasants and overthrow the landlords and wipe out feudalism."(p39) Having put this political line into practice the land was re-distributed "according to the number of persons in the family and the quality of the soil."(p39) Landlords were treated thusly: their house, animals and tools were divided among everyone. As for the rich peasants the policy was to let them keep whatever they were able to work themselves. Because most peasants were not used to having so much land and were accustomed to only working on small individual plots much land and crops went to waste. After having had time to accumulate and process experience and practice from this the peasants of Half Moon were well on their way to conquering this new social environment. Half Moon as so many other villages within Red Flag became responsible for growing rice, wheat, corn and a variety of vegetables, as well as raising chickens and pigs.(p29-30) On the question of forced collectivization, two old peasants known to have lived in the area of Red Flag prior to redistribution had "nothing to say." The author insinuates the peasants were afraid to speak out against land distribution and collectivization for fear of reprisals from the government. However, this insinuation is unfounded due to the fact that (1) the peasants interviewed clearly voiced their support for Red Flag commune and the CCP remembering the "bitter years" before revolution, and (2) this interview was conducted in 1979 at a time that collectivization and other socialist policies originally began under Mao were being dismantled throughout China in favor of for-profit enterprise.
Education in the Peoples Republic
Education in the area of Half Moon Village lept from "fairly small" between the decade of the 1950s to the early 1970s when it then spiked to over 90 percent by 1979.(p91) These are surprising numbers for a Third World country, yet it is only another impressive indicator that only a country under socialist construction is truly serving the people. In visiting some of Half Moon's primary schools Professor Chance found that even in 1979, three years after the capitalist roaders rise to power, certain socialist values were still being upheld in China's education system even as others were being negated. One example of this could be seen in how peasant children were imbued with a sense of proletarian morality by being taken out of school and into the fields on a daily basis so that they could watch their parents and neighbors work. Children would also be put to work alongside the village engaging in light duty. The children's work consisted of "husking small ears of corn left behind by their parents... Such activities not only instilled in the student the value of hard work, but also emphasized the importance of being thrifty with what one produced."(p93)
In another example, the author describes how individualism was still being struggled against at the basic level of education:
"Students continually learned proper behavior from teachers, parents, textbooks, radio, newspapers and television. In all these instances they were encouraged to help each other, care for each other and take each other's happiness as their own. In contrast activities that caused embarrassment or remarks that emphasized a negative attribute were discouraged. Envision for example, a Chinese child's participation in a game like musical chairs. In an American school such a game encourages children to be competitive and to look out for themselves. But to young Chinese, the negative aspect was much more noticeable. That is, losers become objects of attention because they had lost their place — and therefore 'face.' In China, winning was fun too. But it should not be achieved at the expense of causing someone embarrassment. In all kinds of daily activity, including study as well as games, Chinese children were regularly reminded that they must work hard and be sensitive to the needs of others for only through such effort would their own lives become truly meaningful..."(p94)
Even groups like China's Young Pioneers, a group similar to the Boy Scouts, taught their members to engage in pro-social activities such as cleaning streets, assisting the elderly and aiding teachers as opposed to the leisure activities which the Boy Scout movement largely concerns itself within the United $tates.
Of course, not everyone in Half Moon was of the same mind politically. One school administrator spoke ill of education in China during the Great Proletarian Revolution (GPCR):
"Education is improving now... Before (meaning during the decade of the Cultural Revolution) the children had no discipline. They didn't behave properly and couldn't learn anything. Now that is all changed. We have ten rules and regulations for behavior, and they have settled down. Now they are learning very well."(p97)
As previously stated, it is logical that this school administrator would consider educational policies a disaster during the GPCR quite simply because his own power and prestige were challenged and negated by revolutionary students. In addition the author also states:
"Both primary and secondary education had expanded significantly throughout the commune by the early 1970s. Much of this activity, closely linked to the educational policies of the Cultural Revolution, emphasized the importance of utilizing local initiative. And indeed many villages had established new primary (and junior middle) schools by using local people and urban-trained "educated youth" to staff them. Wages for these new teachers were largely paid by the villagers themselves, though brigade-based work points. To obtain additional teachers for the new facilities, villages had reduced the earlier system of six-year primary schools to five years — justification for the step being summed up in the slogan "less but better."
"This dramatic educational effort put forward during the Cultural Revolution brought the benefits of expanded primary and secondary education to many commune youth — a real achievement, given the large increase in population between 1950 and the 1970s. Yet it did so at the expense of improving educational quality. The local primary school director was obviously identifying with the quality side of this equation."(p98)
Indeed, no period in the hystory of revolutionary China is more despised or has been more besmirched by the enemy classes as that of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. During the GPCR the bourgeoisie witnessed how the masses armed with Maoist philosophy opened up a new offensive against traitorous, revisionist and bureaucratic elements within the CCP itself, and attempts at the restoration of capitalism. This new offensive took the form of criticisms of bourgeois morals, values and ideals. Though seemingly innocent from a first worldist perspective such as our own, if left unchallenged within socialist society these morals, values and ideals become like a virus or disease in the body of socialism. When left untreated they will fester and wreak havoc on their socialist host, interrupting normal function with the very real potential to cause death.
Beginning in 1966 all established facets of life were forced to justify their existence within the new society or risk being relegated to the museum of antiquities. No more would an experts in command line be tolerated, in Chinese society whether in enterprise or education. No more would patriarchal rule be considered the natural order of things. Confucianism outside the temple of worship would be forced to contend with scientific method — all reactionary cultural products would be grappled with, criticized and torn asunder. In their place proletarian morality would be erected both as a guide and bulwark to the cause of socialism and the masses.
Later, on pg99 Norman Chance talks about how middle school students began to drop out and how most cases were related in one way or another to economic problems in the countryside. Chance explains that although "80% of all primary school graduates in the commune began middle school less than 30% finished. Of those who did, almost none entered higher education." Both the "failing" grades and new economic downturn can probably be linked to the restoration of capitalism.
Portrait of An Educated Youth
In socialist China education went beyond the enclosure of the classroom, as society as a whole was treated as a laboratory where people could discuss, debate, experiment and learn from others, not just experts in command. An excellent example of this could be seen in the "sent down educated youth" program which started in the mid 1950s but increased from the early 1960s to 1966 and then "dramatically from 1968-1976 before finally being concluded in late 1979" (p101). During the Cultural Revolution in times of intense political struggle in the country school was suspended so that students could struggle over the issues of the day and have a say in which direction China would go. This is more than can be said of the Amerikan public school system where rote memorization is popularized and children are expected to parrot what they heard and read and punished for leaving school to challenge government policies.
In this section we are introduced to Zhang Yanzi, a young tractor driver in Red Flag who chose to speak to Chance about her experience in the "Going to the Countryside and Settling Down with the Peasants" campaign. Zhang Yanzi recounted how after graduating from middle school she volunteered to go live with the peasants working first at a state farm as an agricultural worker then as a primary school teacher. She was only 16 years old when she took up a teaching position. She admitted to having her reservations about teaching because her parents were school teachers in Beijing and had been criticized by the masses during the Cultural Revolution.(p103) After requesting to be transferred from her teaching position, she ended up working with livestock and later attained a position as a cook.(p103) Zhang finally became a tractor driver in 1976 and was transferred to Red Flag in 1977.(p103)
She spoke about how initially there was great unity between the peasants and the sent down educated youth. This unity however soon began to dissolve after what Zhang describes as "political factionalism" began to develop amongst the older cadre in the commune. Another problem Zhang brought up was that there wasn't enough concern given to the educated youths' political development.(p104) It seems that much of what Zhang speaks about was happening in post-Mao China (1977) and it's somewhat hard to decipher what experiences happened when. For instance, on page 104 she speaks about how enthused at first she was about choosing to go work and live with the peasants in 1966. She speaks about how it was all done on a volunteer basis:
"In the beginning, no pressure was put on anyone to go. It was all on a volunteer basis. Each individual had to pass the 'Three OKs.' One was from the actual student, one from the family, and one from the school. If there was any disagreement, then the person wouldn't go. Even if you hesitated just before climbing on the train you could stay. But we didn't do that. We were all very enthusiastic."(p103-104)
In the next two paragraphs however Zhang speaks about how "later the policy was changed" and that families with more than "three educated children had to send two of them to the countryside" and if they didn't then the parents would be forced to attend study groups and if the parents still didn't agree then the "neighborhood committees would come out to the street and beat big gongs, hang up 'big character posters,' and use other propaganda to persuade you to let your children go."
Because the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was exactly that, a revolution in culture, it meant that the masses for the first time anywhere in hystory were given free reign to not only grapple and struggle with ideas but to engage in open debate publicly and at the grassroots level without government interference. This is the true meaning of democracy — and so long as violence wasn't used the masses were left to reach their own conclusions and express themselves freely. It is as Lin Bao correctly stated. "...the mass revolutionary movement is naturally correct; for among the masses, right and left wing deviationist groups may exist, but the main current of the mass movement always corresponds to the development of that society involved and is always correct."(note 4)
Critics of the Cultural Revolution, in particular, intellectuals like to portray the GPCR as some kind of punishment for the petty-bourgeois classes in which they were made to endure mental and physical torture at the hands of the Communist Party and hateful peasants. But Zhang who originally lived in Beijing and whose parents were both teachers, paints a much different picture. Admittedly enough, Zhang has her own disagreements with various CCP policies during and after the Cultural Revolution but commune living was not one of them:
"We all ate together in the public dining halls, with some of the older workers. Even though conditions were bad (speaking of the living conditions of the peasants and the weather) they took pretty good care of us, giving us easier jobs and better housing."(p104)
In that same paragraph Zhang also says that in fact it was the sent down youth who, after a while, began to talk down to and abuse the peasants calling them "country bumpkins," "dirty" and "uncultured." She also says that in "units where there were few educated youth, the work was done better, but where they were the majority, the problems became severe."
The most severe problem to occur at Red Flag during the time Zhang reflects on is an instance in which a corrupt high ranking cadre was discovered to be molesting young girls. This official was said to be virtually untouchable within Red Flag, until the People's Liberation Army caught wind of these abuses, entered the commune, began an investigation, arrested the official and subsequently executed him. Afterward the situation got better. (p104-105)
All in all, Zhang's biggest criticism of the GPCR is that there could've been more mechanization in Red Flag and that because of the lack thereof much of the commune's potential in agriculture went to waste. She thought that the sent down educated youth program was sound because it "enabled them (urban youth) to learn more about the good qualities of the peasants and also some production skills."(p105) Zhang also addresses the bureaucracy. This will however be addressed in the upcoming sections.
In this portion of the book the author focuses on how collectivization and land reform affected the family structure and the patriarchy in Half Moon Village. From control over the fields, tools and animals to wimmin's empowerment both in the home and the local and central government.
According to the author the focus of this attack in Red Flag was on "Feudal backward patriarchal thinking."(p130) Although the GPCR was the most progressive social event in world hystory we should not be mistaken to think that the Cultural Revolution simply went on unimpeded.
From a mother-in-law's perceived rule in the family to the bureaucratic apparatus there were a variety of social forces opposed to true revolutionary change, even in Red Flag.
The Changing Status of Women
Before the start of the GPCR wimmin's existence in rural China was largely devoted to serving the male's side of the family according to what was known as the "three obediences and four virtues." These required a woman to first follow the lead of her father, then her husbands, and on her husband's death, her son, and to be "virtuous in morality, proper speech, modesty and diligent work."(p134)
One peasant womyn recounts her experience to the author explaining how prior to the revolution she was given away as a child bride, beaten, starved and made to engage in forced labor at the hands of her husband and her husband's family. After 1949 however the Communist Party began the arduous task of doing away with the old system thru the enactment of wimmin's rights in a country where wimmin were by and large still considered property according to the old kinship system. Beginning with the Marriage Law of 1950, which required free choice in marriage by both partners, guaranteed monogamy, and establishing the right of women to work, and obtain a divorce without necessarily losing their children. This law when combined with the Land Reform Movement Act, which gave women the right to own land in their own name, did much to challenge the most repressive features of the old family system.(p137)
Social relations in Red Flag during the 1950s, 60s and 70s reveal a complex effort by the CP to simultaneously transform China economically and liberate wimmin. Because capitalism developed under congealed patriarchal social conditions, and ideology arises out of the superstructure, this means that even in a socialist society the ideology of the oppressor does not dissipate overnight. Rather, a cultural revolution must be set into effect so that the masses and society as a whole can learn to struggle against backward, reactionary and oppressive thinking. Therefore it should not be surprising to find out that when wimmin first attempted to assert their rights in the new society there were some who did not approve and attempted to put wimmin "back in their place." To some, especially idealists, this will seem difficult to understand, but revolution is never easy and at root requires scientifically guided struggle at all levels of society. And so to many Western academics and so-called "observers" it would've seemed that wimmin's rights were being subsumed into the wider socialist (and male dominated) framework. But before we get too discouraged with China's inability to meet our idealistic standards, we should remember that revolutionary struggle always requires determining and working to resolve the principal contradiction, to which all other contradictions become temporarily relegated. This is different than subsuming which requires the glossing over of contradictions or cooptation. It would therefore seem that this is also how the Communist Party saw it. Therefore they could enact land reform, marriage laws and divorce laws which recognized wimmin's democratic rights, but they also had to be aware of the fact that land reform, agriculture and industry were of the highest priority during this period. If China was unable to develop its productive forces in conjunction with changing social relations then all would be lost. Yes land reform was enacted, and yes wimmin were finally given democratic and bourgeois liberal rights which in semi-feudalist society were revolutionary. But socialist revolution proceeds in stages and it is ultra-left to believe that the patriarchy would not put up a fight and that some concessions would not have to temporarily be made. Ultimately this is why cultural revolution is necessary, to criticize and build public opinion against the old ruling class in preparation for the following stage of revolution.
Even with such reactionary ideas still being propagated wimmin's conditions were elevated exponentially. Testament to this being the fact that in 1978, 3,037 young wimmin students were enrolled in junior middle school in Red Flag compared to 3,202 males, while 1,035 wimmin were enrolled in senior middle school compared to 859 males in Red Flag.(p101) "In 1977, there had been six women members, out of a village total of fifteen members, of whom one had been the party secretary."(p44) In addition, let us not forget Jiang Qing, great revolutionary leader who helped spark the GPCR, one of the most influential and powerful people in China; neither should we forget the countless other revolutionary wimmin of China who without their participation in revolutionary struggle China's liberation would not have been possible. With the restoration of capitalism however, most of the progress made in the arena of wimmin's rights were reversed or negated with the exception of some democratic rights which mostly the petty-bourgeoisie and the bourgeois classes who reside in the urban centers are still privy to. China's countryside however has seen a resurgence in female slavery since the restoration of capitalism.(5)
Among other reversals in socialism which the author documents is a perversion of China's barefoot doctor's program which the social fascists used to depopulate the masses. Here the author speaks about how barefoot doctors and wimmin's federations "introduced system of material incentives to reduce births, pregnant Half Moon peasant women at that time could receive five yuan in cash and have several days off from work if they agreed to abort their unborn child. Counseling women on such matters was the responsibility of the local women's federation. Technical medical questions were handled by barefoot doctors in consultation with the federation."(p142)
"Becoming Rich is Fine" and A Decade of Change
These are the concluding chapters in China's Urban Villagers and they are very interesting as well as disappointing in the fact that they really document China's about face in building socialism. Perhaps they can be both summed up in Xiao Cai's (a young wimmin in charge of foreign affairs at Red Flag) statement to professor Chance: "you know, it's all right to become rich... I mean that individuals and families can work hard for their own benefit. If they make money at it, that's fine. They won't be criticized any more for being selfish."(p151)
Emphasis on getting rich came thru the "Four Modernizations" campaign which emphasized developing the productive forces while negating production relations in the economy and social relations in society. In popularizing this campaign the revisionists stated that "collective effort must be linked to individual initiative" and that the GPCR "was an appalling disaster."(p152) These criticisms expressed the class outlook of the bourgeoisie in the party and their attempts to convince the broad masses that "the political extremism of the Cultural Revolution" offered a "simplistic notion of capitalism" and "unfairly labeled people as capitalist roaders."(p152) The outcome being "a large decrease in individual and household sideline activities, to the detriment of China's overall economic development."(p152)
In reality however, nothing could be further from the truth. While the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution were not without their mistakes, both the GLF and GPCR marked profound shifts in both the development of socialism as well as the overall development of the humyn social relations not seen since the development of classes themselves. Furthermore, the GLF and GPCR offered the masses insight into the unraveling of contradictions on a hystoric level. Thru participation in the Great Leap the masses learned what it was to engage in industrial production as well as how to innovate traditional farming techniques by utilizing collective effort in combination with proletarian thinking (see note 3). By their participation in the GPCR the revolutionary masses learned what it was to both gain unprecedented insight into the advance towards communism and the unraveling of contradictions prevalent in socialist society. Thru this experimentation the masses contributed not only to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as the science of revolution, but to the development of rational knowledge as well.
Other reversals in socialism in Red Flag were made apparent when officials in Beijing issued an order to China's commune to "de-collectivize" the land and privatize most plots. Opposition to this privatization was fairly strong in Red Flag even though its residents weren't as politically educated as others, they still clung to the memory of the hardships common in the countryside before the revolution. In particular they were well aware that it was only thru collective strength and revolutionary leadership that they were able to overcome such difficulties. Thus, they began to openly fear class polarization as they rightly began to recognize that some peoples "rice bowls" had gotten bigger than others. Especially when it came to party officials.
As time went on, many in Red Flag began to get a new understanding of what Mao spoke about before his death concerning the revisionists and the return to capitalism.
By the mid-1980s exploitation in China had returned full-force and no-one could deny or claim ignorance to what was happening except for perhaps the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie. As a part of the so-called "responsibility system" initiated under the traitor Deng Xiaoping "separate households and even individuals, could contract with production teams and brigades to produce their grain, vegetables, and other agricultural goods on specific plots of brigade land divided up for that purpose."(p161) The inevitable result of all this was that migrant peasant workers began to be sought out to work Half Moon's individually owned plots. The result? Deplorable oppressive conditions for hundreds of thousands of peasants from poorer regions of China who began arriving in Beijing's agricultural suburbs:
"It looks like a prison labor camp to me" commented one visitor on seeing Half Moon's migrant worker dormitories "After spending all day in the fields these poor peasants return to their dorms in the evening only to be doled out a bare minimum of food — lots of grains but not many vegetables. Once the harvest is over, they are paid a small wage by the manager and then head back to Henan, Hebei, or whatever province they came from. It's highly exploitative."(p166)
Due to a return to capitalism by 1985, China was again forced to import grain, something unheard of since the natural catastrophes that occurred towards the end of the Great Leap Forward. During this time corrupt party officials' greed reached new heights as they enriched themselves at the expense of the masses thru their manipulation of the national economy and exploitation of workers and peasants thru their access and control of the means of production. Some of the frustration of the people was captured in an interview of a party member by professor Chance in 1988. Although the quote is much too lengthy to feature here the party member was very critical of the capitalist roaders. This is part of what he had to say:
"Some people feel the nature of the party and the state has changed. The change first appeared in the late 1960s and 1970s when the power and authority, rather than representing the interests of the people came to represent those in power. This process took some time to unfold. But now it is quite clear what Mao meant when he warned us about the danger of capitalist roaders.... You don't know how hard it was for us to figure out what was going on. Mao tried time and time again to weed out the capitalist roaders, but still he failed. Now people don't know what to do.... Since Mao came along many years ago and saved China from the mess it was in, someone else will come along someday and save us from the mess we are in today..."(p173)
In fact, contrary to what this "Communist" Party member has to say, many of the problems with the bourgeoisie in the party first surfaced during the Great Leap forward 1958-1961 and were illuminated for us by Mao and his followers prior to the Cultural Revolution. In fact, during the Great Leap Forward political struggles and factionalism were already taking place in China's factories and industrial centers between those wishing to keep expert-in-command and those wanting the masses to take the lead in production. Furthermore, this party member is in error when he places Mao as a great individual whose responsibility it was to save China. Yes Mao was a great revolutionary leader, but he would've been the first to point out that the masses were responsible for controlling their own destiny. Afterall this is why the GPCR was initiated.
The student movement at Tiananmen Square is also addressed in which the author chronicles the events leading up to the political repression and massacre of the students. The demands of the protesters ranged from a return to socialism to freedom of the press and a desire to turn to Western style capitalism and democracy. The revisionist CCP, fearing an uprising by the masses, ordered the People's Liberation Army to fire on the protesters. On 3 June 1989, 8,000 troops, tanks and armored personnel carriers entered the outskirts of Tienanmen and began firing on protesters and city residents alike. Discussion in Half Moon over the protests and political repression and Tiananmen brought mixed reviews.
"Based on their past knowledge and experience, most villagers found it inconceivable that the PLA would fire on the protesters. Even during the height of the Cultural Revolution, the army had gone unarmed into the colleges and universities, where the worst fighting had occurred. But when several factory workers reported that the army had fired on crowds at street corners, the tenor of the conversation began to change."(p182)
Close enough to Beijing to have participated in the rebellion (and indeed some Red Flag students and other villagers did participate), Half Moon residents were brought under investigation by authorities. Most were eventually cleared.
In short, contradictions in China since the return of capitalism have once again created the conditions for a new revolutionary upsurge. With China's economic emulation of the so-called "economic miracles" of the South-East: Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong (also knowns as the "Four Tigers" or the "Four Dragons") contradictions in China have once again created the conditions for a new revolutionary upsurge. In relation to this point the author ends this book with the following:
"Implicit in this proposal is the assumption that by emphasizing privatization and a market driven economy, China too can achieve a similar prosperity. However, those four nations that were able to break out of Third World poverty were small, were on the Asian periphery, and were the beneficiaries of two large Asian wars financed by America. There is little reason to assume that a market-driven economic system will enable China to repeat the process. Much more probable is a return to a neo-colonial status with small islands of prosperity and corruption on the coasts and with stagnation in the hinterland — a sure formula for future revolutionary upheavals."(p187)
In the People's Republic: An American's First Hand View of Living and Working in China
by Orville Schell
The author's trip was arranged in the 1970s by the Hinton's, an Amerikan family. The group was composed of men and womyn between the ages of 18 and 60. As I read 'In the Peoples Republic' I came to see each subchapter as a beautiful blueprint of Maoism in practice It was very informative on how people can transform all their daily habits to better the people as a whole. For instance, Mao's China seemed what some today would call "green" friendly, Schell explains how hotels in the city that obviously generate much trash, separated the trash for organic garbage, which was sent to pig farms and used for slop. This was done nationwide. Even human waste was collected in what they called "honey trucks" and taken to special ponds where thy would turn to fertilizer. This recycling and notion of wasting nothing is an advancement that even 30+ years later has not reached the U$ on a nationwide level. The Chinese people's ability to use all material was remarkable, wasting nothing was common practice.
On the passing of Chiang Kai Shek Schell notes that hardly a mention was given in the People's Daily publication, and there was no rejoycing or anger shown in the streets or otherwise and that the people hated what he stood for, but not him as a person. This shows the difference under socialism and the behavior the people developed even to disliked enemies, unlike here in Amerika as we witnessed the gleefullness and cheer in the U$ media when Saddam Hussein was executed. It is clear that under capitalism humyns mean shit.
Shell included Mao's essay "the twenty manifestations of bureaucracy" in its entirety. This document showed Mao's passionate disagreement with different bureaucracy. It was real good to see Mao fervently denouncing ever becoming disconnected from the people. During the Cultural Revolution many plays and dance troupes even addressed this issue with one of the performers wearing oversized glasses, dressed in a suit with much face makeup appearing very pale from staying in an office and carrying a briefcase. This performer played the arrogant bureaucracy.
What I enjoyed about 'In the Peoples Republic' was it gave a brief description of all levels of society in a Maoist country. Even the artists and performers only created artforms that had a correct line and benefited the people, and what was amazing is even the best performers or dancers were never singled out and praised. This is a deep contrast to what is seen here in Amerika where it is totally opposite and performers or dancers and especially actors and actresses are praised for their individuality. Individualism is not only praised here but expected.
This book spoke a lot of Mao's emphasis on including the peasants in all spheres of society, Schell described how dance troupes would take their andmade props and travel by foot to mountainous areas off the beaten path where they would perform their politically charged dance performances and songs to peasants and when Shell asked one of the performers "where do you live on such trips?" the performer stated "we live with the peasants" and he went on to describe how they have the "three togethers": eat together, live together and work together.
A scenario was posed that would be incomprehensible here in the U.$. While touring Schell's guide in China gathered some workers off the street, a factory worker and other store workers, and conducted a political discussion and the workers explained how politics apply to their jobs. Schell wrote how in the U.$. during a foreign tour if one would gather a Kentucky Fried Chicken worker, a Safeway worker, etc and the same discussion was held, how different that discussion would be. I believe this is because in this country it would not be beneficial to U.$. interests for the masses to take up politics because should the people become aware of how things work, capitalism would suffer, so the average person is kept in the dark about politics. I thought this was a good scenario that showed the big contradiction in socialist versus capitalist societies, and the average person living in these societies.
Having experienced the imperialist prisons and its most suppressive states, i.e. control units/security housing units, I was particularly interested in the subchapter on prisons. There was a short description of the prisons in Mao's China that I enjoyed, I saw the real difference in treatment in a socialist prison and in a Maoist prison specifically. Here in imperialist Amerika most prisons will often pass out Christian bibles, prison officials will leave a vast amount of bibles and other religious literature in the dayroom where it is all conveniently accessible to prisoners. Prison officials often send religious pastors cell to cell asking if prisoners would like to discuss/learn about religion. I often tell these pastors I would rather discuss communism and this usually sparks a long debate between me and the pastor, ending with the pastor walking off angry because I point out religion's long history of atrocity and oppression.
According to Schell, when he and his group visited a prison in China, all cells had Marx, Lenin and Maist books in each cell. They also worked and partook in criticism/self-criticism, there were not reports of prison riots, suicide or guards abusing prisoners, unlike here inthe U.$. where there are many of suicides and guards are always caught abusing prisoners. Here even rape is a common occurance, depression is high with guards feeling a sense of hopelessness as well as prisoners. In contrast, in Mao's Chian prison guards felt it a great honor to work as prison guards as it was seen as a great contribution in rebuilding these people and socialist reconstruction as a whole.
This book was good and gave a good study of Maoism in practice. I would liked it to be more in depth on things or to show more on China's economics or its military, nonetheless it was a good look into everyday life in a Maoist society.
MIM(Prisons) adds: The author is a Harvard graduate who travelled with a group of other U.$. citizens to China in the last few months of Mao's life. They worked in a factory for a few weeks, worked in a field for a few weeks, and toured many facilities such as clinics and schools. In the People's Republic is written exclusively through the subjective filter of a typical Amerikkkan with a bourgeois perspective. The main take-home lesson of this book seems to be "Socialism works for the Chinese because they are so odd and different from Amerikans. Socialism is against so many cultural values we have as Amerikans, and it is bad for us for these reasons."
It gives a favorable view of China in this period, but summarizes it as the Chinese are "just different" from Amerikans. The author writes off much of the Chinese hospitality as awkward and boring, and has a near obsession with connecting with the Chinese on an individual level, and telling anecdotes with a sense of irony. While having an apparent ignorance of Mao Tse-Tung Thought, the author does not hesitate to interpret the Chinese's body language and conversation through an Amerikan cultural lens.
If you already have an understanding of Maoism and Chinese society under socialism, it can be interesting to read about such an important project from a bourgeois perspective. While the author's subjective interpretation of events is "off", ey at least doesn't lie about how successful the Chinese were in raising the living standards of even the most destitute people in the country in incredible ways. There is much first-hand favorable reflection on the cultural revolution as well.
There is one point that we disagree with in this review, and apparently also with the author of In the People's Republic. Both Schell and the author of the review seem to think that Amerikan's are not given information about politics because it is in the interests of Amerikan capitalism to keep them in the dark. The reviewer wrote: "I believe this is because in this country it would not be beneficial to U.$. interests for the masses to take up politics because should the people become aware of how things work, capitalism would suffer, so the average person is kept in the dark about politics."
On the 50th anniversary of the launching of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) by Mao Zedong, a commemorative concert was held in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. It featured music, art and slogans from the GPCR. A propaganda poster with the slogan, "People of the world unite to defeat American invaders and their running dogs!" was displayed on a giant screen. A large choir sang the Sailing the Seas Depends on the Helmsman as a poster of Mao as the sun was projected on the screen. Thousands clapped. The lyrics are:
"Sailing seas depends on the helmsman,
Life and growth depends on the sun.
Rain and dew nourish the crops,
Making revolution depends on Mao Zedong Thought.
Fish can’t leave the water,
Nor melons leave the vines.
The revolutionary masses can’t do without the Communist party.
Mao Zedong Thought is the sun that forever shines."
We are under no illusions about the current state capitalist government in China: they will only hold up Maoism when it serves their political purposes, which are definitely not serving the people. But this celebration serves to remind us that the GPCR plays a much more complex and subtle role in modern Chinese society, compared to the West where it is merely a symbol of communist extremism that is almost universally condemned. In China there are also those who condemn "extreme leftist ideology making waves again," but there are many who still recognize the rise of Deng Xiaoping as the end of a great time in China when the interests of the people guided the government of the largest country on Earth.
In the United $tates, reverence for the GPCR and support for the battle against the revisionism that had taken over the Soviet Union after Stalin's death was not relegated to a tiny minority of people in the late 1960s, as it is today. In January 1969, The Black Panther newspaper reprinted an article from India condemning the revisionism of the Soviet Union, and it's invasion of Czechoslovakia. In March 1969, The Black Panther featured a longer article on the collaboration between "U.S. imperialism and Soviet revisionism, the two most ferocious enemies of the revolutionary people of the world..." In April 1969 the newspaper said, "China stands as a beacon to all revolutionaries around the world: the guiding light showing the path to freedom to all of our brothers in Africa and Asia." Fifty years later, the GPCR still serves as that beacon of what is possible when the masses of an oppressed country are unleashed to guide their destiny and self-determination.
It is no coincidence that the Black Panther Party emerged the same year as the beginning of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. 1966-1969 was a high tide of revolutionary fervor across the globe. It may take that kind of tide to raise the revolutionary spirit in the United $tates again. MIM(Prisons) believes that New Afrikans will once again play an important role the next time it does, and that it is the duty of communists today to prepare for that time by continuing the fight against revisionism, and developming the most correct line among communist cadre in the internal semi-colonies.
Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village William Hinton University of California Press, 1966
The word "Fanshen" was coined during the Chinese Revolution. It means, literally,
"[T]o turn the body', or "to turn over." To China's hundreds of millions of landless and land-poor peasants it meant to stand up, to throw off the landlord yoke, to gain land, stock, implements, and houses. But it meant much more than this. It meant to throw off superstition and study science ... [to] learn to read, to cease considering women as chattels and establish equality between the sexes, to do away with appointed village magistrates and replace them with elected councils.(1)
And that is precisely what Fanshen chronicles. It is written from the personal experiences and extensive notes gathered by William Hinton himself while in the Liberated Area village of Changchuang (Long Bow), Lucheng County, Shanshi Province, China, during the spring and summer of 1948. Long Bow sat on the edge of an area surrounded but never conquered by the Japanese. It was one of the few villages which the Japanese invaders occupied and fortified. This Japanese occupation (1938-1945) ended when Long Bow was liberated by the Eighth Route Army and the Peoples Militia of Lucheng County on August 14, 1945.
Hinton wend to China as a tractor technician with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and was sent to the communist-led area of South Hopie to supervise a project there. When UNRRA closed down in the fall of 1947, Hinton accepted an invitation from Northern University to teach English in South Shansi. Hinton relates that Northern University was a guerrilla institution in Kao Settlement that moved according to the dictates of war and that life at the University was not much better than village life. As examples he states that the University only served boiled millet (a grass grown for its edible white seeds) and was never warmed by scarce firewood.
Fanshen is foremost about land reform in rural China. To fully appreciate the enormity of this land reform, Hinton provides plenty of background information on the revolutionary upheaval that led up to it, as well as the traditional society which brought on and was transformed by revolution. From the British-imposed First Opium War of 1840 and the Second Opium War of 1856-1860, to the 1899 imperial rescript granting Catholic bishops equal rank with provincial governors which led to the 1900 Boxer Rebellion, to the Amerikan backing of the Nationalist Government of Chiang Kai-shek, Fanshen supplies the reader with plenty of pertinent hystorical dialectic facts. No punches are pulled in the especially provcative documentation of Amerikan interloping. From General Marshall's mission in China to the lend-lease program that gave the Nationalist Government over $600 million between Victory over Japan Day and the end of July, I was left wondering who left the hystory books I had read in school incomplete. There are plenty of footnotes recalling Amerikan troop involvement in China well after the Japanese surrendered. Nuggets such as;
Of numerous attacks in Eastern Shantung the most widely known were the one by U.S. warships on Langnuankou and Hsiali Island, Mouping county, on August 28, 1947, and one by U.S. forces in conjunction with Kumintang troops on Wanglintao Village, north of Chino County, on December 25, 1947.(2)
left me scratching my head and hungry for more. I was not let down. It is interesting to note that this is the time period that Hinton joined Northern University.
Fanshen does not neglect the environmental conditions of so vast a country as China. Without knowing the violence and extremes of the seasons, the living conditions of such an agrarian society could not truly be put into context. Drought followed by famine, followed by peasant-dwelling-destroying monsoons are a way of life for the Chinese peasants, and Hinton documents these ordeals with great clarity, even experiencing a flash flood and violent localized hailstorm first-hand while in Long Bow.
Once the hystorical context is set, Hinton wastes no time in drawing you into the consciousness of Long Bow. He begins this phenomenal feat with the Japanese invasion of Long Bow in the summer of 1938. With great skill he documents what village life was like for the peasants through their own words. He continues this painstaking documentation of events, using thousands of interviews, from the period of liberation when the cadres took over until the arrival of the work teams (1945-1948).
The Draft Agrarian Law was announced to the world on December 28, 1947, three days after the joint U.$./Kuomintang military assault on Wanglintao Village. The Draft Law was to serve as a yardstick by which to measure theand movements, as well as to measure the political position and consciousness of everyone who opted for progress and a new democratic China. Many questions had to be answered, such as: Had the land been equally divided? Had the poor peasants and hired laborers taken control of village affairs? If not, why not? Politically, the main question was, on which side do you stand? I was so drawn in by Hinton's prose that I was just as shocked as the villagers to find that the majority of the cadres carrying out the reforms of the Communist Party, sometimes to extremes, were not even Party members. This was but one of many surprises to come.
So, in 1948 the Communist Party organized work teams made up of local and district cadres and students and intellectuals in all the Liberated Areas sending them to key representative villages throughout their respective regions to check on the status of the land reform movement. These work teams, made up of groups of 10 or 12 people each, then went out to survey the true conditions of the peasant population and carry the land reform through to completion.
It was during the assignment of Northern University students and intellectuals to work teams that Hinton requested of University President Fan Wen-lan to be allowed to "join one of the work teams, at least as an observer, and learn first hand what the land reform is all about." Three days later permission was granted to join the work team in Long Bow. He was assigned a young woman instructor, Ch'i Yun, to act as an interpreter. Long Bow was chosen because it was the nearest to Kao Settlement, approximately one mile to the south. This way Hinton and Ch'i Yun could return to the University each evening. On March 6, 1948, the two set off for the first of many trips into Long Bow to begin documenting the long process of getting to know its people, their hystory, their progress, their mistakes, and the complexity of their current problems. Then, in early May 1948, Northern University moved 300 miles away; however, Hinton and Ch'i Yun stayed in Long Bow to continue their work alongside the other work team cadres.
Fanshen thoroughly documents the individual stepwise movements, e.g., the Anti-Traitor Movement (ending 1945), the Settling Accounts Movement (January 1946 - February 1946), the Hide-the-Grain movement (fall of 1946), and the Wash-the-Face movement (spring 1947) that were necessary for the land reform in Long Bow. The mistakes made by the cadres and peasants alike during these movements are laid bare and analyzed. By doing this the reader gains a richer appreciation of the struggle for a true democracy. One of the largest myths of Maoism is that Chairman Mao, via the Chinese Communist Party, ruled China as a totalitarian. Hinton thoroughly debunks this myth as he documents his first-hand experiences of the true democratic election process in Long Bow.
The writing style of Hinton's Fanshen is transcendental. It puts the reader into the mind, i.e. the political consciousness, of the cadres and peasants themselves. My political consciousness developed right along with theirs. Hinton's documentation of the self- and mutual criticism done during village meetings had me identifying with those being criticized. I found myself connecting with them, at times thinking that I would have done the same in those circumstances. Nothing is held back from the reader during these sessions; the selling of female children, the indifference to starvation during the famine years, the beatings, and the violent oppression. At times I rooted for the peasants as they beat a landlord to death during a Settling-of-Accounts, only to be corrected in this error of thinking by Mao's own words a few chapters later.
Fanshen ends by Hinton summing up the progress as of 1949:
Land reform, by creating basic equality among rural producers, only presented the producers with a choice of roads: private enterprise on the land leading to capitalism, or collective enterprise on the land leading to socialism...
Land reform had broken the patriarchal rigidity of the family by granting property rights to women. With property of their own they [are] able to struggle effectively for equal rights...
One had only to think of such problems as illiteracy, the almost complete absence of medical care, and the primitive methods of cultivation still in use, to realize what a long road lay ahead for the village and its people before they could claim full citizenship in the twentieth century.(3)
This is a fitting ending as it is also a new beginning. Once a people organize and gain a political consciousness they can then unite in struggle to break the chains of oppression and write their own future.
Fanshen is a work of literary genius. Hinton does not just write about events as a passive observer, he vicariously brings the reader into the time and space of rural China, circa 1948, to live them. By the time you finish reading Fanshen your own hystorical views and political consciousness will be impacted. Through the various movements, some correct and some incorrect, you will pick up on the subtleties of how and why communism can work, the mistakes that doom it, and the consciousness of the people needed to support it. I have been greatly moved by Hinton's work and feel the Western world owes Hinton a debt of gratitude for his sacrifice in documenting land reform in Long Bow Village and bringing us his first-hand account.