George Walford: Latest News from the Communist Front

Latest News from the Communist Front – or does the front become the rear when they are retreating?

Exploitation, class inequality, corruption and superstition are re-emerging in China on a scale not seen for 50 years. This is not the snap judgment of a cynical outsider. William Hinton, an American farmer once on good terms with Mao Tse-Tung and Chou En-lai, is known to millions of Chinese as a foreign friend who has devoted 40 years to development of their agriculture. What has shattered Hinton’s confidence in the Chinese future is the new “Responsibility System.” This is the central dogma of post-Mao economic planning, which has abandoned the commune system and replaced it with family and individual enterprise.

China’s 800 million peasants, now in de facto ownership of the land they till “for at least 15 years” according to the Party’s recent regulations, are obliged only to supply the State with a quota and entitled to use any surplus as they please. (From the Observer of 17 June 84)

Mr.Hinton does not approve of the change. In 1966 he wrote an eye-witness report of the success of the (communistic) commune system in one village, and now comments: ‘The dream, born in 1949, of liberated tillers marching together towards socialist prosperity has given way to an old principle from which hundreds of millions suffered grievously, the principle that ‘a few must get rich first,'”

The Chinese seem to see it differently and it is, after all, they rather than Mr. Hinton who have experienced the commune system from the inside. After a test lasting some thirty years they have not found it to be bringing them either liberation or progress toward ‘socialist prosperity,’ and now they seem to be accepting that wealth for some, even together with what Mr. Hinton regards as exploitation, class inequality, corruption and superstition, is not an excessive price to pay for general economic individualism.

from Ideological Commentary 12, August 1984.