THE FOUR MODERNISATIONS AND THE USE OF THE TECHNOBUREAUCRACY

 

1. Deng Xiao-ping and the Four Modernisations:

 

In August 1973, at the Tenth National Party Congress of the CCP, Chou En -Lai exposed the idea of achieving the 'Four Modernisations' before the end of the present century. The so-called 'Four Modernisations' refer to the modernization of agriculture, industry, science and technology, and national defence. During this same party congress, Deng Xiao-ping, the number two "capitalist roader" purged during the Cultural Revolution, was reinstated and appointed Vice-Chairman of the Central Committee of the Party. The formulation of the Four Modernisations can then be considered as the Chou/Deng line.

While Mao and his followers, The Gang of Four, were not opposed to raising productivity in agriculture and industry, or to the improvement of science and technology and the strengthening of national defence, they disagreed with setting the 'Four Modernisations' as the principal goals of the country. Mao and The Gang of Four preferred to speak in terms of the "three great revolutionary movements" of class struggle, struggle for production and for scientific experiment. Considering the Chou/Deng line to be 'revisionist'', Mao and company waged the campaign to "Study Proletarian Dictatorship" (to restrict 'bourgeois' rights) and to "Criticise The Water Margin" (a 14th Century Chinese classic), as means to attack Chou and Deng and to steer China along the course conceived by them.

In January 1976, Chou died; three months after his death, during the campaign personally led by Mao to counter-attack "the right-wing deviationist wind", Deng was relieved from all of his duties in the government and the Party. In September of the same year, Mao died in October, The Gang of Four were expelled from power in a palace coup staged by Hua Kuo-feng and others who were acutely aware of the unpopularity of' the Gang among the people (which was a threat to the continued rule of the Party), and of the Gang's impending attempt to take over power completely (which could have threatened their own positions in the Party).

After the fall of The Gang of Four, there were some attempts to carry on the policies of Mao (such as the movement to criticize and suppress Deng) by such figures as Wang Tung Hsien, Wu Teh, etc. who resisted any attempt at de-Maoisation. But with the support of members at all levels of the Party who shared his views, of the intellectuals (of professionals, writers, etc. who stood to gain by the implementation of the 'Four Modernisations'), and of a large part of the masses (attracted by the slogan of the 'Four Modernisations' given their material suffering during the period when Maoist policies predominated), the return of Deng Xiaoping to the centre of power was inevitable. Deng was reinstated in July of 1977 and by August when the Eleventh Party Congress of the CCP was held, the scene was set for Deng to play the most significant role in the determination and implementation of policy in China for the years ahead. Although still only a Vice-Chairman of the Party, it became obvious that he was assuming control in many areas. The 'Four Modernisations' were now to go forward at top speed.

 

2. The Four Modernisations and the Techno-bureaucracy:

On returning to power, Deng brought back much of' his old crew, those who had been purged along with him during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in the years 1966-68. Even the dead were posthumously rehabilitated. But not just the close friends of Deng returned to power. Apart from high-ranking officials, many intellectuals, writers, scientists, artists, professionals, etc - who had been purged by Mao and The Gang of Four - were given back their old jobs and even more important ones, allowed to retake their research, to write, to paint and to publish once more. In the end, not only were those purged during the Cultural Revolution and after rehabilitated, but those labelled as 'rightists' during the "Hundred Flower" period in 1956 were also given the same treatment. One by one the old faces reappeared - Peng Chen (Mayor of Peking), Wang Kuan Hei (wife of Liu Shao-chi and a party member and official in her own right) Peng Teh-huai (former Defence Minister purged at the Loshan Conference in 1959),Ting Ling and Pa Chin (1), both internationally known writers.

There have been some exceptions of' course. The then young student who in 1968 wrote the big character poster "Whither China" (2), Yang His-kwang, still remains to be seen or heard of. Also un-rehabilitated is the woman student Lin Hsi-ling of the Chinese People's University, who on May 2nd, 1957, publicly attacked the bureaucratic system of the CCP and condemned it as feudalistic socialism. While the persecution of young intellectuals who are a threat to the regime is not so surprising, we may still wonder why Liu Shao-chi, Deng's closest collaborator before the Cultural Revolution, has not yet been rehabilitated. This, in fact, seems a likely prospect although Deng may decide that it is worthwhile having at least one more scapegoat in reserve. (2a)

The rehabilitation of intellectuals, writers, scientists, artists and professionals, is part and parcel of a strategy which embraces a range of policies intended to realize the implementation of the 'Four Modernisations'. These policies inevitably imply the upgrading of the social and economic position of the intellectuals, specialists and the highly educated.

Concretely, what does the policy of the 'Four Modernisations' imply?

In March 1978, national congress of six thousand Chinese scientists took place. Here, an eight year plan was formulated with the following goals: firstly, in certain important areas of scientific technology, the world standard should be the target reached or nearly reached within the eight year period; (3) secondly, the number of professional scientific researchers would be increased to eight hundred thousand; thirdly, a number of modern, fully equipped centres of experimental scientific research would be built; and fourthly, a national system of scientific technological research would be established. In other words, the specialist nature of scientific work was affirmed. The scientists were assured that as mental workers they are also labourers, and as long as they contributed to the scientific development of the country they would be regarded as 'red and expert'. Scientific activity would cease to be dominated by the masses of peasants and workers and the scientists therefore would no longer be subordinated to them. Gone were the days when scientists would be sent for 'labour reform' or 're-education' in the May 7th, (4) cadre schools or in the countryside. The Party itself would cease to control all aspects of scientific work. Deng himself announced to the Congress that " (••• ) the leadership of the Party committee , will now be mainly that of political leadership. The administration and management of scientific and technological activities will be shared between the directors of the centres and they will be given a free hand. Whether the specialist responsible for the administrative work is a party member or not, his work should be supported by the Party committee. (•• ) He must be vested with the power and responsibilities corresponding to his job."

After the national congress on science, a national congress on education was held in April 1978. Once again dominated by Deng, the 'educators' were informed that the quality of education as a whole must be improved and specifically that the standards of teaching in science and culture should be raised; secondly 'revolutionary discipline' in the schools must be heightened; thirdly, educational work and development must correspond to the needs and development of the national economy; and fourthly, the work of teachers would be respected and their number and quality greatly increased. Deng also spoke of examining the salaries and conditions of the teachers. All post-secondary educational institutions which have been closed since the Cultural Revolution have now been reopened (5) and political thought and education classes have been reduced in number, while evaluation by examination has returned and is even the most important criterion for gaining entry into the universities. Many other 'reforms' have also been implemented. The number of high-school graduates who enter the universities directly without spending a period in the countryside has been increased; special classes have been set up for exceptionally bright students and special schools established with extra finance, facilities and teachers with the highest qualifications. Hundreds of students have been sent abroad for technical training, mainly to the western capitalist countries. They are assured of high positions on their return. Finally, the schools at all levels are to be run by qualified professional workers, peasants and soldiers, the 'lecturers' of yesteryear, will give way to the professionals.

In the field of the management of industrial enterprises, apart from the now extensive use of bonuses and other 'material incentives', strict discipline and regulations have been introduced into the life of the factories and are to be enforced. Managerial work is to be further professionalized, while the division of labour has been further refined and the distinction between the proletariat and managerial and technical staff is now formally recognized. In the enterprises, the number of Party political cadres has been significantly reduced. The enterprise Party committees are now only responsible for seeing that the policies of the Party are implemented, and the day to day running and management of the factories are now the responsibility of the staff of directors.

In March 1979, a Federation of Enterprise Management was formed in Peking by managers from various enterprises throughout the country, with the aim of investigating and exchanging management experience in China and overseas. The Federation has already issued the first number of its monthly review, Jing Ji Guan Lj. (Economic Management), which came out in January 1979. The editorial comments that "( •• ) to bring about the 'Four Modernisations', we must shift away from small scale production , from feudalist, backward and the old mandarin style of management to the style of scientific management which corresponds to the requirements of modern, large-scale production. In this respect, we can discover that there are many scientific elements in the enterprise management methods used in the capitalist countries. We should try and learn from them while maintaining our own principles. (...) Over the past twenty years, certain capitalist countries have developed relatively quickly and even surpassed some of the advanced countries. They began by importing advanced technology. But their experiences indicated that by importing technology alone, without at the same time employing advanced managerial methods, economic development could not go ahead very fast. It was only by employing both means at the same time that the very best results could be obtained. We must value this experience." (6)

In the field of art and literature, the call has been "let a thousand flowers bloom and let a thousand flowers contend." The writers, painters, dancers, musicians, film-makers, etc. purged by Mao and The Gang of Four have now been rehabilitated. (7) New magazines and books are being published, old editions re-printed (including Pa Chin's 'Family'), and films considered by the Gang as reactionary have returned to the screens. Traditional Chinese opera and classical western music are also back in official favour. The old painters of traditional Chinese paintings are also back in business. Although the writers pen mountains of praise to the present regime and its leaders - and even in praise of the greatness of the now deceased (8), they are also writing novels, short stories and poetry reflecting the plight of the people and their suppression during and after the Cultural Revolution when Mao and the Gang were in command. Although still subject to restrictions, the writers, artists, etc. are well paid and housed, the spacious, well-furnished house in which Pa Chin now lives being only one example.

In the field of national defence, military expenditure has been increased in order to better equip the Armed Forces (9). Much of the new military technology and equipment, such as computers, jet engines and advanced weaponry, is being purchased from the western countries, in order to continually update the equipment of the forces. The Chinese are also concerned to keep up with the developments in modern nuclear weapons. Within the military forces, a more formal ranking system has been introduced, while discipline, loyalty and training and combat readiness have all been greatly reinforced through campaigns such as "Learn from Lei Fung" and "Learn from the Hardbone Sixth Regiment". Deng Xiao-ping is preparing China for the most modern forms of conventional warfare. Nevertheless, the fact remains that even despite the efforts, the quantity and quality of China's modern weaponry will continue to lag behind that of the best equipped countries. China then, will not abandon the concept of 'people's war' in which defence is the key element, although this can imply an offensive capacity as the recent war with Vietnam demonstrated. (10) The militia therefore continues to have an important role to play; defence is organized on a regional basis and the population is constantly placed on simulated alert in anticipation of air missile attacks. Deep underground tunnels have been and continue to be built in major cities like Peking, Dairen, Taiyuan, etc. The location of industries continues to be de centralised in this defence context and within the overall strategy of modernising industry.

Concerning the role of the Party, Deng is as much a Leninist as anyone in the CCP. He continues to emphasize the leadership of the Party at all levels of society, as well as the principle of democratic centralism within the Party organization. The State apparatus, the People's Liberation Army, the Trade Unions and other mass organizations are subject to the absolute control and leadership of the Party. The rural communes and industrial enterprises, the schools and research institutes, are all under the control, as well, of the Party. All Party organisms in every institution of society are directly appointed by the Party hierarchy. The system of democratic centralism, where the individual obeys the organization, the minority the majority, the subordinate the superior, within a rigid hierarchical set-up is to be further reinforced. Yet, even within such a hierarchical framework, the Party could be said to be less omnipresent.

The National People's Congress has, for example, been given a greater say (for instance, a plenum meeting of the Fifth National People's Congress was held in June 1979 to examine and approve the revisions to the modernisation plans). The National People's Political Consultative Conference has also been revived as have many other 'mass' organisations, such as the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the All-China Federation of Women, the National Committee to Protect Children and so on. Also, as we pointed out earlier on, day to day running and administration of industrial enterprises, research institutes, schools, etc. has now been taken out of the hands of the Party committees linked to these institutions. There has also been an effort to reorganize the judiciary and establish a new penal code which might also imply a certain reduction of the direct power of the Party organization. It should, however, be borne in mind that the leadership role of the Party has not been questioned. As Chen Yu, Vice-Chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions said in an interview in China Reconstructs, May 1979, "( ••• ) the unions are under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party." All of these developments, however, imply a certain diffusion of power away from the Party to other groups.

An examination of the policies adopted by Deng to bring about the 'Four Modernisation's', which we have discussed in this section, leads to the inevitable conclusion that the position and power of intellectuals, professionals, scientists, technicians, managers, writers, etc, are being and will be very much further enhanced as a result of these intellectual layers, or technocrats as they can be called, collectively form a techno-bureaucratic class which is in the process of taking more and more power away from the Party bureaucrats and gaining predominance in Chinese society. And as Deng and his supporters are pursuing policies which are entirely favourable to the development of this predominance of the techno-bureaucratic class, and as he also he controls the faction which is in control of the CCP (as opposed to the remaining supporters of Mao), we can say that Deng and his followers are the representatives of this class. The Party then is already in the hands of the techno-bureaucracy, one of the instruments of control within the techno-bureaucratic system. When the Party bureaucrats retreat from the management of production or from that of other areas of social life, a techno-bureaucrat takes over, trained and with the expertise to do the job. Within the hierarchical division of labour, their task is to manage. By carrying out this function, and through their monopoly of economic and political power, the techno-bureaucrats derive their privileges. The lifestyle of the techno-bureaucrats differs from the rest of those in society not only in the quantity and quality of goods available to them, but in the kind of education their children receive, in their dress, their forms of entertainment, etc. (11)


3. The Rise of the Techno-bureaucracy from an Historical Perspective:

 Before 1949, China was an economically backward country in which the old ruling classes were incapable of carrying out the economic 'Modernisation' of the country. The young, native bourgeoisie had neither the strength nor the courage to revolutionize the old social structure in the way that a genuine modernisation would require. The tasks of modernisation were then to fall to other agents.

The so-called revolution of 1949 had nothing in common with a genuine socialist revolution. It was simply a violent take over of the State by the Chinese Communist Party, with the aid of the peasant army that it had built for the job. The take-over, nevertheless, was a popular one in so far as the old ruling clique and its party, the Kuomintang, had proved their complete incompetence and corruption. On the seizure of State power, the CCP, already strictly hierarchically structured according to the principles of Leninism and due to the demands of the type of war it undertook, became a bureaucratic ruling class. In power, the CCP proceeded to bring a new mode of production into existence, transforming a semi-colonial, semi-feudal society into one where capital passed to be a monopoly of the communist bureaucracy. Such a change, however, did not occur overnight. Through power struggles and controversies within the Party, this transformation took ten years to accomplish.

When the Land Reform Movement came to a close towards the end of 1952, the CCP was in control of 70% of the total industrial capital. The remaining 30% was in the hands of private national capitalists. In the countryside, the Land Reform Movement had led to the partition of the land, with the consequent dispossession of the landowners and the breaking up of the social groups connected to them. Some 43% of farmland had been turned over to 3 billion peasants (60% of the total peasant population) who became transformed into small landowners. But the concentration of land ownership rapidly reappeared and a new class of agricultural labourers developed alongside a class of well-to-do peasants. On this phenomenon, Mao wrote in 1955 that ( ••• ) "in recent years, the spontaneous forces of capitalism have been daily expanding in the countryside; new rich peasants have appeared everywhere and a large number of well-to-do peasants are trying desperately to become rich. On the other hand, a large number of poor peasants still live in misery and poverty because their means of production are insufficient. Some of these poor peasants are in debt while others are selling or letting their land." The pace of monopolizing all capital and the way in which to deal with "the spontaneous forces of capitalism" became the cause of a split of the Party bureaucracy into two factions. Liu Shao-chi and his faction (to which Deng Xiao-ping was closely associated) felt that a long period of transition "was necessary during which a rich peasant economy would continue to exist. The following comments of Liu were indicative of his position: " ( ••• ) After the land reform, the peasants' spontaneous tendency towards capitalism and class polarization began to find its expression in the economic development of the countryside. Some comrades in the Party have already expressed fears about this spontaneous tendency and class polarization and have attempted to check or prevent them. They cherish the illusion that this tendency can be checked or prevented by means of mutual aid teams and by the creation of supply and marketing cooperatives. Some have already expressed the opinion that steps should be taken gradually to shake the foundations of private ownership, weaken it until it no longer exists, and raise the agricultural mutual aid organisations to the level of agricultural producers' cooperatives as a new factor in overcoming the peasants' spontaneous tendencies. This is an erroneous, dangerous and utopian conception of agricultural socialism." On the question of the nationalization of industry, Liu said in May 1957 that " ( ••• ) a certain amount of capitalist commerce and industry, of underground factories, should be allowed. Let them find and fill some of the gaps and once they do this, our socialist economy will move in."

On the other hand, Mao and his faction objected to giving in to the rich peasants and the 'spontaneous tendency towards capitalism' and advocated an accelerated pace in moving towards the complete control of all capital by the bureaucracy. Because of Mao's prestige in the Party, his policies prevailed. After the end of the Land Reform Movement, then, the mutual cooperative movement got under way in 1953. Mutua1 Aid Teams were set up in the countryside, followed by the creation of agricultural producers' cooperatives and then finally, in 1958, the whole of the Chinese countryside was turned into communes. The bureaucracy put not only the peasants but also handicraftsmen, nationa1 capitalists and commercial dealers under its control and the monopolization of capital by the Party as now complete.

Meanwhile, the question had arisen of what role the intellectuals should be given in Chinese society. Mao and his followers were sceptical about the intellectuals. From their experience in fighting the anti-Japanese and civil war (12) they had concluded that the role of the ordinary masses had been of great importance. They had gradually developed the idea that with the masses organized and guided by the Party, all things were possible. Any policy implementation then should be accompanied by the large-scale mobilisation of the masses. Mao did not want to see the intellectuals play any increasing role in society; less still did he want to see scientists, technicians and professionals taking on the tasks of management and administration which might lead to a separation between the Party and the masses. On the other hand, Chou En-Lai saw it differently. In January 1956, the CCP held a meeting to discuss the question of the intellectuals. Here, Chou affirmed that " ( ••• ) the strength of the intellectuals, whether in terms of their number or professional standards and political consciousness, is insufficient to meet the requirements of the rapid development of socialist construction. There exists a certain un-reasonableness in our present use and treatment of the intellectuals. In particular, some comrades have been sectarian towards those who do not belong to the Party. This has greatly affected the full use of the strength of the intellectuals." Chou considered that only a very small percentage of the intellectuals could be considered counter-revolutionary. The views of Deng Xiao-ping coincided with those of Chou. Nevertheless, Mao was in command and in 1956 and 57, we saw the Anti-Rightist Movement follow immediately after the period of' "Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom". Intellectuals who had been invited by the Party to speak out were purged and persecuted for having done so. Thousands of intellectuals were attacked and suppressed for being considered 'rightists'.

Faced with the tasks of modernisation, Mao and his followers believed that it was necessary to bring all capital under the monopolistic control of the state as soon as possible. They also believed that the process of modernisation did not require a techno-bureaucracy, nor that it should give rise to one (13). The Party bureaucracy alone, together, with the activated masses, would be sufficient enough for the tasks at hand. On the other hand, Liu Shao-chi felt that a certain degree of private capitalism, with all its implications, should be allowed to exist, at least for a considerable period of time. Chou en-Lai envisaged the need of the techno-bureaucrats in addition to the Party bureaucrats. Deng Xiaoping agreed with both Liu and Chou.

Roughly speaking, between 1949 and 1958, Mao was in command. But, in 1958, his influence suffered a severe blow because his 'Three Red Banners' policies (which represented Mao's conception of how Chinese modernisation should take place) had created enormous confusion and dislocation in the economy. (14) With Mao's control weakened, towards the end of 1958, Liu Shao-chi and Deng Xiao-ping adopted a series of policies aimed at minimising the economic crisis. These policies represented a serious modification of Mao's strategy, the policies of Liu and Deng , for example 'san zi yi bao' and the 'Four Freedoms' (15) also created an environment which was more favourable to the rise of the techno-bureaucracy. When, in 1966, Mao initiated the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the policies of Liu and Deng, were halted and reversed and Mao and his followers came out on top. Until the death of Mao, in 1976, he and his followers dominated policy making. But these same policies, in force since 1966, have left the Chinese economy in ruins. As we have already pointed out, it is Deng who is trying to pick up and put back the policies through the implementation of the programme of the 'Four Modernisations'. In every field, the techno-bureaucrats are taking over from the party bureaucrats and their role in the process of modernisation is becoming increasingly important. The techno-bureaucracy has now entered into the period of its great ascendancy. Short of a libertarian revolution by the masses, the domination of the techno-bureaucracy is irreversible, as they are winning the battle over the pure Party bureaucrats. Their ideology is becoming the ruling ideology in China today. It is an ideology of the modernisation of capitalism based on the monopolistic control of capital by the ruling class, and the ascendancy of the techno-bureaucracy as the ruling class itself (all phrased in the language of Marx, Lenin and Mao). We do not deny that the remnants of the Maoist faction in the Party, i.e., the pure bureaucrats, will continue to maintain a presence and will always be prepared to stage a comeback, particularly if some of the new policies fail drastically. But from all of the available evidence and indications, and taking into account the historical, social and economic framework of Chinese society, the victory of' the techno-bureaucratic class over the pure Party bureaucrats seems to be the only logical perspective.

 

4. The Techno-bureaucracy's prospects of success:

 Historical experience of the period since 1949 has shown that the technocratic approach and mentality are more likely to lead to economic growth and development, to the development of science and technology (according to the criteria of the techno-bureaucracy). Yet this should not be taken to mean that the attempt by the techno-bureaucracy to modernise China will be all smooth sailing. Nor is success inevitable. Deng Xiao-ping returned over two years ago to the centre of power and his programme for the modernisation of China has been followed since then. Yet, the country has been experiencing an economic crisis which provoked the convention of the Central Committee of the Party in April 1979 and of the National Peoples Congress in June of the same year, to tackle the various problems which had arisen in the economy (15a). The blame was levelled at The Gang of Four, and the Party leadership claimed that it had simply not fully grasped the enormity of the damage caused to the economy by the policies of the Gang and by the Cultural Revolution. In reality, the dislocations in the economy are in large part due to the attempts to reach unrealistic targets formulated arbitrarily and bureaucratically (16) for example, the target for steel production was set at 31 million tons for 1978 and 60 million tons for 1985. The target for 1978 was reached, but at the cost of development in other areas. In order to reach the target, other factories had to stop production so that the supplies of electricity and raw materials could be directed to the steel industry. This was especially the case with the West German built steel plant at Wuhan, Working at full capacity, the plant would require the entire electricity supply of the province. The plant itself often has to close down as supplies of raw materials do not arrive regularly - at an estimated cost of 2 million German marks per working day lost. Bureaucratic and hasty decisions have led to considerable waste, with large scale investments not yielding the programmed returns. The Pao Shan Steel Works in Shanghai, for instance was constructed without sufficient attention being paid to the topological features of the site (shifting sand). A large number of infrastructura1 projects have also been planned, without due consideration given to the availability of manpower and material and financial resources. Little attention was also given to the possibility of bottlenecks in the supply of energy resources (coa1, oil, etc.). Consequent1y, material plants have to stop functioning while they wait for supplies of fuel resources or raw materials. Many plants are operating at only 30% of their potential capacity. An inadequate transport system has also become a serious hindrance to the normal functioning of many production plants. One of the central problems facing the techno-bureaucracy is the difficulty in obtaining the capital necessary to fulfil its modernisation plans. Setting national defence as one of the areas of modernisation and expenditure, plus the costs of the Sino-Vietnam war, has drained many resources into unproductive areas. The eagerness of' the techno-bureaucracy to create a new generation of technocrats, professionals and scientists by renovating the whole educational system, to lay the groundwork for a rapid technological advance by importing from Japan and the West much of their technology and know-how and finally, to hastily expand existing scientific research facilities and personnel, have all meant the employment of resources in areas, which do not yield immediate returns. The techno-bureaucracy also decided to concentrate more investment in the heavy industries, with the result that the development of light industry has suffered (which is not producing sufficient to meet the needs of a people expecting changes), while development in agriculture has also been inadequate (inability to produce a surplus (17) it has not been possible to squeeze the peasants and workers for more, at least not openly and blatantly. The techno-bureaucracy knows only too well that if for now the masses appear to be supporting them, it is only because Mao and The Gang of Four had given the masses many years of impoverishment, while the techno-bureaucrats have promised them a better life. In fact, the techno-bureaucracy went so far as to order a pay rise for many categories of workers, and instituted a measure whereby the government will pay more in its procurements of agricultural produce. However, the peasants are yet to experience any marked improvement in their living standards because most of the money received in the agricultural communes does not go directly to them but to the various uses decided by the Party officials in charge. In the mean time, the prices of industrial goods and agricultural products have been increasing. In reality, the real wage of the urban workers is lower now than in 1965. It would even seem to be a subtle policy of Deng's to finance a part of their planned investments through inflation. The techno-bureaucracy has also allowed in foreign capital (and tourists), given the opportunity once more to exploit Chinese workers (18).

It is likely that the masses will find their living standards improving in the near future. And, it is only due to the fact that the present techno-bureaucracy came to power as a consequence of the massive rejection of The Gang of Four and Mao by the masses that they have not yet seen a blatant attack on their living standards. Basically, the masses can expect no improvements because the techno-bureaucracy needs to accumulate capital in as short a time as possible, prejudicing the possibilities for increasing individual consumption. At the same time, the techno-bureaucracy differs little from the Maoist system in so far as they are both exploitative systems. Both consist of a class of exploiters which appropriates the social surplus value in the form of privileges, in terms of high wages, privileged access to goods and services, special shops, housing, trips abroad, the use of cars and jets, higher education for their children, etc. The masses of workers and peasants are the exploited ones, deprived even of the freedom to sell their labour to the highest bidder. Nevertheless, we can point to at least one difference between the two systems: it is that the techno-bureaucratic class will probably be somewhat larger than the class of Party bureaucrats. The techno-bureaucratic class in China has resulted from the fusion of the majority of the cadres of the Party with the intellectuals, professionals, technocrats, writers, etc. And as this new techno-bureaucratic class further consolidates itself more goods and services will be consumed in the form of privileges and higher pay than was the case under the system when only Party bureaucrats existed. In other words any likely increase in the production of goods and services in China will probably be expropriated by the techno-bureaucracy. When the workers and the peasants find that their labour is not leading to a better life, but to the enrichment of the techno-bureaucracy, then their enthusiasm to produce is not likely to be very high.

It will be no easy task for the techno-bureaucracy to bring about the Four Modernisations even if the objectives are achieved, it will only be in terms of the rise in the Gross National Product, the number of nuclear warheads produced, the number of steel plants built, etc. This is not socialism. Under the techno-bureaucratic system of State capitalism, the masses of workers and peasants continue to be the modern slaves of the state.

Minus 5. August 1979

(The following notes are the responsibility of the editorial collective).

 

NOTES

 (1) Pa Chin is well known to anarchists in the west for having once been an anarchist himself. He was recently allowed to tour France on the publication there of one of his books.

(2) The essay Whither China has been published in English and is included in the book, The Revolution is Dead, Long Live the Revolution, Minus 7, Hong Kong, 1977. The essay is a call for the destruction of the State and the overthrow of the 'red' capitalist class.

(2a) In fact at the beginning of October 1979 the former president of China, Liu shao-chi was rehabilitated by the party on the 30th anniversary of the 'liberation'. The publication of his complete works has also been announced.

(3) In the field of technological research, priority will be given to applied research in 5 areas: nuclear energy, semi-conductors, computer technology, laser beams and automation.

(4) May 7th. Refers to Mao's directive of that date at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, when he called for all spheres of employment to be turned into 'revolutionary schools'. The 'schools' of political reform through labour took their name from this directive and were little more than forced labour camps.

(5) During the Cultural Revolution, practically all scientific and educational work was paralysed. Consequently, the number of qualified cadres coming out of the universities has been extremely low. Presently, there are only 630,000 university students in a population of nearly 1 billion.

(6) After the expulsion of Russian and East European technicians from China in 1960 and the change in economic policy after the failure of the Great Leap Forward (see note 15) China began to import technology and equipment from the western capitalist countries, though still on a very small scale. It was nothing, therefore, in relation to the present massive purchases of advanced technology by means of which China hopes to modernize its economy. In the field of trade agreements with the capitalist countries in the American sphere of influence, the following rank as the most important; an agreement with Japan to the value of 20 billion (US) dollars whereby China will export oil and Japan will provide, in exchange, industrial equipment, steel products, vehicles and consumption goods. With France, China has made an agreement which previews trade exchanges to the value of 13.5 billion dollars over 7 years, including the construction by France of steel complexes and two nuclear power stations each with a capacity of 900 Megawatts. West Germany will undertake the complete construction and initiation of steel, petrochemical and heavy engineering complexes. With Sweden, the trade agreements cover mining, telecommunications and railway construction by companies of that country. Britain has signed a contract for the installation of modern coal mining equipment to the value of 315 million dollars. Contracts have been signed with Holland and Denmark for the modernisation of the port of Shanghai. With the USA, the commercial agreements cover American purchases of crude oil in exchange for concessions for the provision of modern technology in the coal mining and oil exploration industries, the construction of a chain of tourist hotels and the initiation of scheduled flights to China by Pan American to fill the newly built hotels with tourists. The US will also supply modern weapons and in discussion is the manufacture in China of American weaponry.

(7) Evidently, those intellectuals unfortunate enough to be identified with The Gang of Four have met the same fate as their former patrons. They are now in disgrace and their works have been suppressed.

(8) One of Pa Chin's first articles after being rehabilitated was entitled Gazing at the Portrait of the Late Premier, that is, Chou, in which he wrote that "( ••• ) Looking at the Premier's portrait, I could not but help burst into tears."

(9) Particularly hard felt is the lack of equipment and material that the Navy and the Air Force have at their disposal. Even the Army does not possess such commonplace modern weaponry as anti-tank missiles.

(10) The war with Vietnam was fought on the basis of a 'people's war.' It certainly brought home to Deng and the military commanders the inferiority of Chinese weaponry.

(11) Today, in Deng's China, it is okay to look good and smell nice. This is not unconnected with the official encouragement of a toiletries and perfumes industry. Displays of perfumes, scented soaps, lipstick, etc. and exhibitions of French fashion designer Pierre Cardin, Coca Cola are some of the new delights to be presently savoured by the ruling bureaucracy.

(12) The war with Japan began in 1937 and lasted until 1945, while the civil war carried on for 4 years from 1945 until the 'liberation' in October 1949.

(13) In 1953, the State had launched a programme of rapid economic development based on heavy industry, soviet technology and technicians, centralized planning and the consequent growth of' a technocracy. Mao and his faction within the Party opposed technological dependence on the Soviet Union which would accentuate China's economic dependence and were also opposed to the growth of the technocracy based on the specialized knowledge of technological systems.

(14) In 1958, after the economic difficulties of 1955-56, Mao re-took the initiative by launching the Great Leap Forward. In the summer of that year, following Mao's directive to the effect, five hundred million peasants organized into seven hundred and forty thousand agricultural producers cooperatives were newly (re)organized into twenty-six thousand Peoples' Communes, initiating the entire collectivization of agriculture. While the bureaucracy spoke of the enormous progress of 'socialist' agriculture, the reality for the peasants was in fact three years of famines, starvation and economic hardship, between 1960 and 1962. The peasants had to survive by eating wild herbs, grass, tree leaves, crickets and wild potatoes. The wild potatoes were often poisonous and many died from eating them. Young girls were married off by their parents in exchange for a little rice or sweet potatoes. There was massive migration from the worst effected provinces and tens of thousands of peasants fled to Hong Kong. Some estimate that in this period, 50 million died of starvation and malnutrition. Peasant resistance grew as a result. Some rioted, in provinces like Honan, Hopeh, Kwanktung, etc. Many others undertook forms of passive resistance, such as go-slows, the destruction of tools and equipment and even the assassination of Party overlords. As a consequence of the failure of his policies, Mao was forced to resign the State Chairmanship although he remained as Chairman of the Party.

(15) From the beginning of 1959, a great number of the measures adopted during the Great Leap Forward began to be abandoned, the year in which the conflict within the Central Committee of the Party resulted in the loss of influence of Mao. The policies introduced by Liu Shao-chi modified the economic policies followed up till then and traced a new strategy for development. Above all, Liu's policies sought to strengthen the agricultural sector, by reducing the size of the communes, involving a greater autonomy in regard to production, the use of 1abour, management and the distribution of income. 'San zi yi bao' introduced the extension of plots for private cultivation and allowed the existence of free markets, allowed small enterprises to develop and fixed output quotas in the communes based on the smaller and more manageable household. The Four Freedoms consisted of the freedom to practice usury, hire labour, buy and sell land and engage in private enterprise.

(15a) Given the economic problems which had arisen, the assembly decided to begin a three year period of economic 'readjustment' to reduce the imbalances in the economy between industry and agriculture and to raise production of consumer goods.

(16) Up to 1985, that is, at the conclusion of the 8 year plan, it is estimated that the cost of the programme of the 'Four Modernisations' will run to 800 billion dollars. It has become evident to the planners that this is clearly beyond the capacity of the Chinese economy and even now, estimates are being revised and some contracts with foreign companies have been either suspended or postponed.

(17) The 'Four Modernisations' programme envisages the complete mechanization of agriculture by 1985 and an annual production of over 400 million metric tons of cereals. The possibilities of attaining these objectives are, to say the least, problematical. According to official Chinese statistics, the annual rate of growth of agricultural production has varied between 2.5 and 3.4% in the last decade, while in absolute terms, the production of cereals has increased: from 240 million metric tons in 1970 to 280 million in 1975 and to 304 million metric tons in 1978. In order to reach the proposed figures, agricultural production will have to increase by over 4% a year. Evidently, this will imply implementing the proposed mechanization of agriculture. But, the engineering and vehicle building industries have, at present, nowhere near the capacity to produce the 1 million tractors,320,000 trucks and 3 million mechanical harvesters estimated to be necessary for the programme of mechanization of' agriculture. Productivity, for example, in the Chinese vehicle building industry is extraordinarily low in comparison with the advanced capitalist countries. While in Japan, for instance, 94 cars per workers are produced annually, in China the figure is 1%! Much of Chinese plant and equipment still dates from the 1950's, when it was installed by the Russians and eastern Europeans during the first Five Year Plan (1953-57).

(18) A new law, approved in July 1979, establishes the general conditions for setting up firms with mixed capital (of the Chinese State and foreign enterprises). The Chinese demand only a minimum of 25% of the capital as their share. The great attraction, of course, for foreign investors, is China's cheap and abundant supply of labour, forbidding any forms of self-organization. The average monthly wage of a Chinese industrial worker varies between 12 and 18 pounds a month (October 1979 prices!), or one fifth of that of neighbouring Chinese workers in Hong Kong.

Another novelty introduced by the Chinese State consists of the wholesale export of Chinese workers, in a type of package deal. In August 1979, Le Monde disclosed that in April of the same year, a contract had been signed between the Chinese Government and the Italian State holding company IRI (Institute of Industrial Reconstruction) under which China will supply 400,000 workers over the next 5 years for construction projects to be carried out by IRI throughout the developing countries. Amongst the workers, there will be 130,000 technicians and unskilled labourers for work on public works projects, 40,000 miners, 50,000 electricians and mechanics, 25, 000 building workers, 6,000 steel workers, and 50,000 meta1-workers. Naturally, the workers won't enjoy the right to the whole of their wages, these being paid by IRI directly into the coffers of the Chinese Treasury. On their return, the workers will be paid a fraction of their wage in Chinese currency. Evidently, the motivation of the State is to bring in foreign currency in order to help offset the cost of imported technology. It will also help to relieve the growing problem of unemployment in China, especially among the youth which has recently led to discontent and disorder in some Chinese cities. On the other hand, the consequences of the drainage of skilled labour on the economy in exchange for foreign currency may produce further bottlenecks in the Chinese economy.

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 LIFE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE AND PEASANTS DISCONTENT

 

1. The Peasants' Plight

A western journalist reported on 3rd July,1979 in Peking ---- they were sleeping under the huge Zhengyangmen Gate, filthy children, red-eyed women, sullen men --- a new, usually unseen social force marring Peking's antiseptic streets like a boil about to burst .....

Hundreds of (other) vagrants --- an unprecedented phenomenon here --- are sleeping inside the Supreme Court building, the post office and sometimes even along the famous Avenue of Eternal Peace.... The vagrants are allowed to nest in places not usually visited by foreigners, but Chinese see them... Late last year when, people from outlying areas began to stream into Peking with injury claims, political difficulties and job demands, some observers estimated that tens of thousands of persons were sleeping rough somewhere in the city. Those at Zhengyangmen Gate reported a cleanup before this year's May Day festival, with many persons sent home. But they guessed that several thousand like them still remained in the capital. (1)

Indeed by January 1979, hundreds and thousands of peasants from different, provinces had arrived in Peking. Many had walked all the way to Peking (some from far away provinces). It was estimated that 34,000 peasants actually went into the city with nine times as many being barred from entering Peking. Only temporary make-shift shelters were obtained in the severe cold of 10 degrees centigrade. Some were known to have been frozen to death. The peasants were petitioning to those in high authorities, asking to see them, and some organised marches and processions some of which were joined by the young people spearheading the democratic movement for a more detail discussion on the democratic movement.

It was also reported that on 27th January, the Chinese New Year Eve, CCP chairman Hua Guo-feng had invited 30,000 guests for celebrations at the People's Great Hall. When Hua and the guests were toasting and having their social dances, several hundred thinly and inadequately dressed peasants were asking to see Hua and they were driven away by the guards: two were arrested and reported to have been beaten up.

 

What do the peasants want?

The western journalist quoted in the first paragraph is correct saying that the peasants had come with injury claims, political difficulties and job demands. But perhaps he had not made sufficient count of the fact that the peasants are also demanding an improvement in their material well-being in the countryside. In their banners which carried in their marches, they shouted aloud: "anti- persecution anti-hunger."

The events in Peking point to the fact that all is not well in the countryside in China today.

Yet it has been commonplace belief, not only among the Maoists but also others on the 'left', be they economists, sociologists and laymen, that China has for long solved the food problem and been self-sufficient in grains. To many people who are concerned with problems of development in the 'third world', China serves as an example and a model.

All one can say now is that the propaganda of the Chinese communists has been swallowed hook, line and sinker too easily. And to those who have visited China and come out with rosy pictures, we can simply note that they had gone on guided tours and were led by the Chinese communists to look at thing which they wanted the visitors to see.

For now, even Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping has said, recently at a national conference in Science (held between 17th March and 31st Mach 1978) that "although several billion people are working on getting enough to eat, we have not really solved our problems of food."

Reality in the countryside in China today, and for most of the time during the past thirty years under the bureaucratic rule of the communists is one of poverty and deprivation.

The present situation is not as bad as that between 1960 and 1962. During those three years (as a result of natural calamities but more importantly as a result of the disastrous policies of Mao Tse-tung --- explained in a section below), there were widespread famines and starvation. In those days, the peasants were having to eat wild potatoes much of them poisonous and many died as a result of eating them. Little girls were married off to some of the slightly better off areas in exchange for small amount of rice and sweet potatoes. Peasants in the worst affected regions in Shangtung, Kiangsu and Anwei were going to other provinces.

Some from Anwei went to Fukien which was equally suffering from famine. Many were begging and falling sick. One hundred and twenty thousand people from the Kwantung Province streamed across the border into Hong Kong within one week in 1962. In 1959, the people of Hong Kong were already sending eight hundred and seventy thousand food parcels to their relatives, in China via the post but by 1961, it had increased to three million seven hundred thousand. During the three years, it was estimated that fifty million people died of starvation and malnutrition.

After 1962, the Chinese economy as a whole recovered but with the exception of those living in the model communes which are constantly visited by foreigners and those market-gardening in the outskirts of big cities like Peking, Shanghai and Canton, most peasants in the Chinese countryside have continued and are continuing to find that they lack adequate food, adequate clothing and the money to purchase daily essentials. In the province of Honan, in order that the problem of food becomes less acute, during the period when there is not a great demand for labour in the field, old men together with women and children were released from the communes to beg from elsewhere. Particularly during the very lean years, the members of the communes obtained official documents from the Party Secretary of the commune to go to other provinces like Kwangtung, Kwangsi, etc. They are allowed to travel on trains free of charge and with young and old, they beg as they roam by sleeping in the streets. The coins they collect by begging are exchanged into notes and sent back home for the young people who stay behind.

In Szechuan particularly in the eastern and northern parts, the peasants find the amount of staple food distributed to them can only last for eight or nine months. So in order to economise, they eat the stem of the sweet potato plant which used to be taken to feed pigs in older times. In Kweichow, some peasants go up to the mountains in groups to eat edible wild plants.

Rice has been known to be the staple food of many in China. Yet for many peasants, the chief source of calories has been sweet potatoes and to them white rice is reserved for festivals and the sick. In the supply of rice, the peasants in the food producing areas of Chekiang, Hunan and Hupeh are slightly better off and yet in these areas where good harvests of rice are possible, the peasants are required to work harder. But similarly to the peasants in other regions, they are so poor that they do not have resources to procure sufficient salt, or soap.

During the planting, ploughing and harvesting seasons, the peasants in China labour for fifteen to sixteen hours. One might expect that they can get a little rest at other times. But nay, when they are not busy in the fields, they are mobilised to labour in mending roads, irrigation projects, and other construction works --- very often in cold freezing weather and even at festival times. On average, each member of a commune labours this way for one hundred days out of the 365 in a year. Such labour is unpaid.

While the barefoot doctors have helped to eliminate epidemics in the Chinese countryside, they are not equipped to tackle illness arising out of under nourishment. Since everyone is supposed to work hard in the field, a sick person will be taken to the hospital in the town which is often many miles away (sometimes on foot on the piggy-back of a relatives, in areas which are hilly) only when the person is very sick. The sick person dies on arrival.

 

2 The Peoples' Commune: Liberation or Enslavement?

Much has been written by the Maoists and their apologists on collectivization of agriculture in the form of the Peoples' Communes and how the Communes led to high increase in productivity and are themselves representing a socialist transformation of society.

A Maoist apologist rationalised thus: immediately after the completion of land reform in 1953, attempts were made to speed up the process of agricultural cooperation through the campaign to set up mutual aid teams. The next stage of the movement saw them made 'socialist' in their essential features ...Mao and his followers insisted on an accelerated pace of cooperatisation with a view to raise agricultural productivity and to halt the polarization of classes in the countryside .... Mao considered.... the collectivization movement in China was an attempt to bring about a "cultural revolution" in the countryside and thereby transforming the relations of production.

Under certain circumstances, the Maoists argue, it is only through the changes in the relations of production and the ideological superstructure that the productive forces can develop rapidly .... By "relations of production", the Chinese refer not only to the "ownership system" and "distribution system" but also to "social relations in the production process". The Chinese leave little doubt as to essential elements of these "social relations". They refer particularly to the "Three Major Differences" the differences between town and country, between workers and peasants, the separation between manual and mental labour. A socialist transformation of the relations of production would necessitate, among other things, the progressive narrowing and ultimate elimination of these differences. It is equally important to note the Chinese conception of the productive forces... The Chinese recognise three components of the productive forces instruments of labour, objects of labour, and the labourers, with their production experience, skill and political consciousness.... the Chinese stress that it is PEOPLE with their [correct] political consciousness that is most important and decisive. By calling forth the political and productive initiative of the people, it is held, the productive forces could be pushed ahead even without significant changes in the instruments and objects of labour. But this necessitates the transformation of people's consciousness as well as the relations of production....In China,... the collectivization movement was aimed to effect above all a socialist transformation of the relations of production in the countryside.

So within two months after Mao Tse-tung had issued the directive in the summer of 1958 to form Peoples' Communes, the five billion peasants in the seven hundred and forty thousand agricultural producers' cooperatives were organised and transformed into twenty-six thousand Peoples' Communes.

With so much confidence that his theory would work, Mao spoke of enormous increases in agricultural (and industrial) production. The red banners of "general policy of socialist construction" (the joint development of industry and agriculture by the simultaneous utilisation of modern and traditional productive methods, and "the Great Leap Forward" (the attempt to vastly increase production especially steel and power ) and "the peoples communes" were raised sky high. The result? Three years of famines, starvation and economic difficulties as described in the section above.

What happened? Firstly within a short period of time, large scale People's Communes were set up, incorporating the former agricultural producers' co-operatives, and the Communes often contain 5,000 to 6,000 households. A system of free supply of grain was introduced along with communal mess hall, nurseries, laundress, etc. Child care, medical services, and education were free. All private plots of land were eliminated and all houses, livestock, farming tools, cooking utensils or fruit trees became communally owned. It must be pointed out that in the beginning, the idea of the commune appealed to many of the peasants and the masses show unheard of creativity and spirit and were in fact carrying out great experiments in socialism. Yet too, in the process, it was clear that many in the countryside, particularly the middle peasants, were resisting the switch over to communes. And so on the eve of communisation, these peasants would have slaughtered all of their livestock and poultry and eaten up everything they possessed so that these things would not be taken away from them. As a result of such activities, shortly after the establishment of the communes, the supplies of non-grain foodstuff became scarcer and scarcer.

But everyone was soon to be disillusioned when the real meaning of communisation was realised.

In reality, the Great Leap was primarily a production drive and the People's Communes were but tools which would mobilise labour on a large scale and in a more specialised fashion to bring about great increases in agricultural production to further a process of industrialisation which would enable the country to catch up with the towns.

Speaking about the advantages of Peoples' Communes, Mao was frank in pointing out "the good thing about it [the Peoples' Commune] is that it brings the workers, peasants, traders, students and soldiers together so that it is easier to lead."

"To lead" to the Chinese communists is "to control".

Communization meant "politics in command", "the party secretary in command", "the concentration of political and economic power in the hands of the party secretary of the commune", "the militarization of organisations", with combat-like actions and activities and "the collectivisation of all aspects of life".

In other words, after the peasants joined the communes, they found that they were coerced by political, military and police pressure to carryon production. They were forced to labour. In order that not one minute was lost, the peasants received technical training and ideological education while they were having their meals. Communal dining halls and child care meant all women would be required to work in the fields and the construction works like all men. Like serfs and slaves, in exchange for the "free meals", the Chinese peasants had 'sold' their whole bodies and time to the Party which organised them into a tightly controlled regiment. They became a simple number, to be working, days or nights, in accordance to the will of the Party cadres. Yet the "meals" they got in return very often were not properly cooked and often too, peasants had to walk a long distance to arrive at the communal mess hall to wait long hours to be served.

As for the fruits of labour, the state took thirty percent or more. As to the remainder, some was to be used as a source of capital to develop fishery, livestock, forestry, schools, communal facilities etc. and some used to finance the office, the activities and the livelihood of the party cadres. In the end, little was left to the members of the commune. Hopeh, Sechuan, Kwangtung etc. Many others were engaging in passive resistance, in the form of going slow and damaging farm tools etc.

What however led to the disastrous famines and starvation that took place in 1960 to 1962 was the fact that under the authoritarian leadership of many inexperienced party cadres, new but unproven methods were experimented in massive scale in an endeavour to increase production. Such practices led to disastrously lean harvests even in the richer region in southern China. The massive irrigation project in the dry plains in northern China was to turn the, wheat producing region into a high yield rice producing area. The failure of the rash project led to the destruction of large areas of arable land. Further aggravating the situation was the fact that the party cadres continued to report bumper harvests to their superiors resulting in nearly every grain from the commune being sent away to the state. The severe drought and natural calamities and the withdrawal of Russian aid and the demand by the Russians for the repayment of their loans were but the last straws leading to the death and starvation of millions.

As the three banners policies failed dismally, Mao Tse-tung's power was reduced and he had to resign the State Chairmanship although he retained the, Chairmanship of the Party. Liu Shao-chi, Teng Hsiao-ping and others now took command of the economy and they adopted a series of policies to minimize the economic crisis. The size of the communes was reduced, consisting of an average of 1622 households in 1963 instead of the original average of 5,000. The production team, which had in 1963 an average membership of 24 households, instead of the commune became the accounting unit. The production team was supposed to own the land, certain agricultural implement, domestic animals, and have autonomy with regard to production operations, use of labour, management, and distribution of income. The experiments in free supply of grain on a commune-wide scale were wound up together with the mess halls. Liu Shao-chi also advocated san zi yi bao (the extension of plots for private use and free markets, the increase of small enterprises with sole responsibility for their own profits or losses, and the fixing of output quotas based on the household. (2)

"Four Freedoms" (freedom to practise usury, hire labour, buy and sell land and engage in private enterprises).

The implementation of Liu Shao chi's policies which shamelessly made use of the material incentive and material guarantee, revived to a certain extent labour enthusiasm and at the same time, the economy was salvaged and rehabilitated. Mao Tse-tung found Liu's policies obnoxious and he was right in seeing that the over-all effect was to bring about a situation where the peasant's view was limited to producing for the immediate small group or family of which he was a part.

 

3 Learning from Tachai

Mao held on his own ideas and in 1966, he was to initiate the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution to regain power and to continue with his grand design for the Chinese peasantry and society. (3) While he was preparing the actual comeback, in 1964 Mao launched a movement with the proclamation of the slogan, "In agriculture, learn from Tachai!"

What is the Tachai road and what is there to learn from Tachai? A booklet called New China's First Quarter-Century issued by the Foreign Languages Press in Peking in 1975 puts it this way: Tachai began to organise mutual-aid teams in 1946. An agricultural producers' cooperative was formed in 1953 which developed into one of the advanced type and finally, in 1956; into a brigade of the Tachai People's Commune.... After more than 20 years of struggle Tachai today is a flourishing, prosperous socialist new village... Tachai is a standard-bearer in continuing the revolution in the rural areas after the transformation of the system of ownership. The people of Tachai have blazed a path for all the Chinese peasants in building a socialist new countryside through consistently following the principle of putting politics in command and placing Mao Tse-tung Thought before everything else, giving full play to the spirit of self-reliance and hard struggle and displaying the communist style of love for the motherland and the collective.

The team "hadn't much in the way of labour or tools, but it had plenty of unity and mutual help and worked hard collectively". Then "in the autumn of 1953 ... the Party branch drew up a ten-year plan for building fields .... It was necessary to terrace the strips of land on the slopes and build fields in the gullies to give good yields despite drought or water-logging.... In the winter of 1955 all 58 able-bodied peasants in the village were sent to work on a project to convert Wolves' Haunt Ravine into 13 productive fields. They worked right through the winter and into spring in freezing wind and snow, throwing up 38 retaining walls across the rugged ravine with stone slates hewn out of the hillsides .... Then a terrific summer downpour in 1956 washed away the fruits of their hard labour .... but the people were not disheartened and went back to work again that winter .... And as if to test the will of the Tachai people, an even heavier rain fell in the summer of 1957. The reservoir and retaining walls crumbled. Even the roads were carried away ..... A meeting of Party members was called and another for the poor and lower-middle peasants to ginger up everybody's will to fight. With cadres and the masses united as one they launched their third assault on Wolves' Haunt.

This was a, tougher campaign than the previous two. For 27 days cadres and members of the co-op battled in snow and freezing weather. Chia Chin-tsai, deputy secretary of the Party branch, wielded the exhausting 19-kg hammer which the landlord in the old society had ordered made especially for him so as to get more work out of him ..... For a whole decade the people worked on like this and brought their plan to fruition ... In 1963 Tachai met another disastrous natural calamity. Heavy pain lashed down wildly on Tachai for seven straight days and nights, devastating most of the fields the people of Tachai had so assiduously built over the previous ten years crops were swept away or flattened, roads were washed out and 97 percent of the houses were badly damaged ... Firmly standing by the Party Branch, they (the poor and middle peasants) .... determined to restore production and rebuild their shattered homes through self- reliance and hard work. Four times they sent back the relief grain, and even with this set back they still reaped a bumper harvest that year, enabling every brigade member to receive his full share of grain as planned. What's more; they fulfilled their original targets for putting aside grain reserves and selling surplus grain to the state."

Since Mao came out victorious in the Cultural Revolution and was able to gain a position of predominance in the bureaucracy, the policies of Liu Shao-chi fell into disgrace. Material incentives were severely condemned and restricted and the peasantry was urged and led to emulate Tachai. Again Mao dreamt that if every production brigade in the countryside emulated from Tachai, there would be "flourishing, prosperous socialist new villages" all over China.

But reality was harsh on Mao and was to lead to the downfall of his followers, the Gang of Four, almost immediately after his death.

Learning or emulating from Tachai, within the context of communes, production brigades and teams being bureaucratically dominated and run on authoritarian lines by the Party secretaries and cadres can only mean hard labour to the peasants. The peasants were urged and organised to work enthusiastically, for long hours and in "snow and freezing weather", to be "wielding exhausting 9-kg hammers which the landlords specially made to get more work out of them", to "send back relief grains" , to be "fulfilling targets and selling surplus grain to the state despite bad weather or setbacks".

Often party secretaries and cadres of the communes set very high targets and reported harvests much higher than the actual would, in order to impress their superiors that their units were like Tachai. Under such cases, the production brigades or communes had to yield to the state an amount much greater than otherwise. At harvest times, the party cadres came to the villages en masse. The pretext was to help in the harvest. In reality, they were to make sure the peasants submitted the exact amount to the state.

False reporting of production over and above actual production was prevalent during the Great Leap and was equally prevalent since the Great Leap. This must be considered to be a major cause of the famines which took place in 1960-62 and near-starvation conditions that the peasants in China found themselves in all these years.

Deputy Secretary of the regional committee of the Party, the Chum Kaing region of Kwangtung Province, Pei Chun-fun was purged recently for false reporting. It was found that when Pei was responsible for the May Chan Commune of the Chui Man County, he falsely reported twenty nine million catties of grain production in excess of actual production. The Commune was thus made to be a model commune of the County and as a result, Pei Chun-fun became a member of the Tenth National Party Congress of the Party. Then he was transferred to the Hai Hong County where he set down the target of one billion catties and insisted that the party cadres at all the lower levels set down and met their respective targets. As, a result, commune members in the County found a continuous drop in grain distribution and cash reward year after year. The People's Daily, which reported the case, also pointed out that when the masses became dissatisfied, Pei and his subordinates, persecuted them with barbarous means. Over a hundred people were beaten up and some died.

The Peoples Daily also last year reported another case of false reporting in An Shan County in Hunan Province. An Shan County was one of the first "progressive counties that learnt from Tachai". However, since 1975, production had progressively fallen for three years --- production in 1977 dropped to four billion and thirty million catties, i.e. 24% less than 1974. Yet the party leaders responsible for the region, in order to hang on to the glory of being a "progressive county that learnt from Tachai" did not dare to report the actual figure of output. False figures were submitted and as a result, the peasants in the County suffered much in their livelihood. To learn from Tachai, many party cadres also took it to mean to do something spectacular like "converting the Wolves' Haunt Ravine into productive fields." In many cases, massive manpower and resources were used up, and though taking years turned out to be a sheer waste of resources. One example is the case of using up in three years, an amount of five hundred thousand yuans RMB, with the help of peasants "voluntary labour" in the communes as well as those in the factories, shops and government departments in the county to set up embankments and retaining walls by the side of a river to bring about one thousand extra mus (one mu is 1/15 hectare) of fields! (4)

While the peasants suffered from hard labour and dire poverty, the Party secretaries and cadres have become in fact the new "landlords" of the Chinese countryside. Vested in the hands of the party secretary of the commune is the power of the party, the power of the government bureaucracy, and the financial- and economic power. They are privileged and are not hesitant in making use of their power to further their material well-being. They may ask the ordinary members of the commune to fix up their houses without paying. Their houses may be bigger than those landlords of the past. They place their relatives in favourable positions.

They rape. They persecute people they don't like. They have the power to deduct work-points of the members. They could stop the supply of grains to let the members starve. They give orders to anyone they want to carry out errands for them. Most of them are corrupt. It is useless to complain to their superiors because the superiors usually protect them. (Hence so many saw it necessary to go to Peking). (5)

The Peasants sigh, "We are now worse than horses and cattle because they were given free time to eat grass. We have not the "slightest freedom --- not even the freedom to have a belly-full meal." (5) Lee Chui-pei, someone who had lived in the villages in Southern China is to write, "The Chinese villages have gradually become a system of serfdom unparalleled anywhere." (6)

Under Mao, the, peasants in fact were unenthusiastic about production, sabotaging tools and machines, collectively stealing produce, even assassinating local party cadres in power positions.

 

4. The Way Ahead: Teng –Hua's way versus Self-Management

The Chinese bureaucracy, having set the goals of the Four Modernizations (in agriculture, industry, science and technology and national defence), is most concerned about agricultural development particularly an increase in productivity in the countryside.

The Chinese bureaucracy in developing the present strategy have even gone so far in admitting that "over the past ten years, because of the interference and sabotage of Lin Piao and the Gang of Four and the deficiency and mistakes in our work, a very unreasonable burden has been placed on the peasants. A great part of this unreasonable burden is in essence exploitation of the peasants. This

is an urgent problem which has to be resolved in the countryside."

On 5th July, 1978, The People's Daily published The Experience of Shan Heung

It was reported that agricultural production had been found stagnant for four consecutive years in Shan Heung County of the Hunan County's Party leaders and those of the different levels below sought to re-strengthen their work, it was discovered that the peasants of the production teams were laid heavy burdens on their backs from eight sides:

1/ certain units were using the labour, material and financial resources without payments to the production teams to carry out "non-productive" constructions e.g. building many offices for the county's administration.

2/ The party cadres and officials of some units were corrupt, extravagant in expenses, dining and drinking frequently, stealing and seized away the fruits of labour of the commune members. Some went so far as to expropriate the collective savings and capital of the teams.

3/ The communes had to finance the livelihood of an extraordinary number of non-productive officials and cadres (including those temporary ones arriving to promote state directives and the managerial staff of the teams. Ordinary commune members also had to pay the expenditure on constructing high schools, broadcasting facilities, tractors, etc. They also had to pay fees for livestock maintenance, machinery maintenance, water storage maintenance, maintenance of various small scale enterprises, maintenance of cooperative medical facilities etc.

4/ When different levels of government construct rural cultural, educational, sanitary, health or transport facilities, large portions of the expenditure had also to be born by the production teams. Often the subsidies from the state for teachers, for immunisation of diseases of live stock etc. were used by the county or the commune for other purposes. In the end the peasants had to bear the actual expenses. Finally, there were also the road maintenance fees, water irrigation fees etc.

5/ Party cadres and officials made use of the financial resources to purchase bicycles, watches, radios etc. or to repair their own houses without paying back.

6/ Party cadres and officials expropriated for themselves payments made by their superiors who utilised labour power from the communes. It was said that out of a payment of eighty-two yuans RMB; for each labour power used, the peasant was paid only 0.15 yuan.

7/ There had been an excessive amount of basic constructions on the fields. Since 1975, on average, twenty million labour days were used for such constructions. To engage in such works, the peasants had to bring their own money, food, and tools.

8/ The industrial divisions of the county also engaged in the exploitation of the peasants. Some charged high prices. Some provided low quality products. Some cheated in quantities provided. Some agricultural machinery, on arrival at the fields, was useless. And the peasants commented," Selling the cow in exchange for an iron one, but the iron one becomes a dead one!" (For more information on this see The Experiences of Shan Heung which has been quoted from here).

Having painted a fairly accurate picture of how peasants in the Chinese countryside have been exploited; by the state and party bureaucrats, Teng and Hua felt the solution lied in purging a few of the most corrupted and hated officials and strengthening the leadership at different levels from the County Party Committees downwards. Teng and Hua continued to believe in the Leninist myth of a vanguard and a leadership. They felt that all might be boiled down to a question of leadership, and if the leaders have the correct ideas and attitude or if the bad leaders were replaced by good ones, all would be resolved.

In the final analysis, there is little difference between the Mao Tse-tung system and the Teng-Hua system. Both systems are bureaucratically run and managed in an authoritarian way by a self perpetuating class of bureaucrats.

It would be mistaken to consider as some Maoists (e.g. Charles Bettelheim) continue to argue that Mao's road was the socialist road and those in command now are revisionist. It is true that Mao believed in a quicker pace of collectivisation and talked about the communes in terms of total abolition of private ownership, free supply of grains etc. But there is nothing socialist about collectivisation or abolition of private property if societies (or communes) continue to be hierarchically divided into order-givers and order-takers as it was the case under Mao-dominated China. Maoist policies too demonstrated collectivisation by itself was no guarantee to increase in productive forces. In fact they showed that collectivisation coupled with bureaucratic management can obstruct the development of productive forces by destroying the initiative of the people [peasants].

On the other hand the failure of Maoist policies does not go on to show, as the supporters of the free enterprise system would claim, that communism (which implies but is not equal to collectivisation) must fail because it fetters individual initiative. The peasants had produced better and more when material incentives were widely approved and practised and when the individuals' interests were appealed to. One had to admit that the peasants farm their own self private plots with extra care ----in the morning before dawn and in the night when they don't have to take part in collective work, the peasants are found on their own private plots. Travellers in the countryside will not find difficulties in noticing the existence of isolated pockets in the fields where crops appear to be extra green and more flourishing. Those are the private plots of the peasants which have been given great care.

It is also an undeniable fact that when production on private plots was condemned, supplies of pork and other secondary commodities would be lowered, affecting both the country's export and the living standard of the peasants. Nevertheless, these must be seen within the context of a/ the peasants are so poor that they are very much dependent on that little extra production they can obtain from the self private plots for survival and b/ the peasants have been totally disillusioned with a collective system in which they are but slaves of the party.

Indeed the Teng-Hua strategy might lead to an increase in productivity but it must be born in mind that even if their targets of productions and 'modernisation' are achieved, it will not be socialism for the Chinese masses. One can also predict with certainty that before long, bureaucratic control and management will lead to the stagnation of the productive forces.

To the anarchists, the Chinese experience can only lead to the strengthening of their conviction: self-management must be the basis of their new collective society.

Notes:

 

1/ Jay Hatthews in the International Herald Tribune 4th July, 1979.

2/ Tae Kai-kui :Agricultural Collectivization and Socialist Construction: The Soviet Union and China in China Towards Modernisation published by the HK Federation of Students, 1977, pp 277-318.

3/ For a fuller understanding of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, read The Revolution is Dead; Long Live the Revolution edited by Mok Chiu Yu, published by the 70s Biweekly, Hong Kong 1976. For a shorter analysis, read the article by Kan San: The GPCR: the Chief Mandarin Asked for Rebellion collected in Three Essays on the New Mandarins published by Minus 6, Hong Kong, 1978.

4/ Reported in the 20th issue of the Cheng Ming magazine, June 1979, p36-37. Cheng Ming is a monthly periodical published in Hong Kong which is pro-Peking government and is generally regarded as a semi-official publication.

5/ Quoted in the first issue of Huang He, May 1976, p2. Huang He is a magazine published by a group of ex-Red Guards who have been disillusioned with the Maoist regime and fled to Hong Kong.

6/ Cheng Ming, June 1979 p 36.

7/ Huang He, May 1976, p2l. There may remain a problem to explain the 'success' of Tachai, which had been observed by many visitors. The following comment by a party cadre from a production brigade in Peking is revealing. Reported in the 18th issue of Cheng Ming, April 1979, the cadre said, "If our production brigade had been supplied with as much investment and loans from the state as some others we might have got somewhere."

End

August, 1979

By: Lee Yu See