LAND AND REVOLUTION
29. Plot and Counterplot
PEOPLE do not revolt against society and commit revolution any more eagerly
than a man breaks up a marriage in order to begin a new love affair. In
China, the peasant did not always storm the manorial citadels of his own
accord; the party often had to lead him by the hand to the assault. Nor
did the Communist cadre always rush eagerly against the bastions of feudal
power; the peasant sometimes had to push him from behind. Peasant and
cadre were like a two-man patrol into enemy territory; they went forward
into the unknown by a process of mutual encouragement, first one holding
back, then the other, then both rushing forward together.
As for the peasant, his problem was much more critical. Figiting the landlord to him was a simple matter of life or death. He would not have even considered such a struggle had he seen any other way out. Circumstances had put his back against the wall. His neighbors had starved, his family died; he might be next. But to die slowly is much more easy than to die at once; it was far easier for the average peasant to face the prospect of ultimate death by starvation than to face immediate death from a landlord's sword.
Necessity is the god of any revolution. But the old gods often exercise
as much, and at first more, influence than the new deity. Not only fear,
but also two thousand years of tradition dragged on the peasant's foot
as he stepped toward the landlord's mansion.
None of these things came easily to the peasant. The landlord played on his superstitious mind with all the cunning with which years of overlordship had endowed him. "It is your fate to be poor," said the landlord. The peasant would bow his head: "Yes, I guess I have a bad fate." The landlord would smile and reduce interest by 2 percent on the peasant's debt.
| Tradition had taught the peasant that
governments were always on the side of the landlords. Why should the 8th
Route Army be any different? The landlords harped on this idea. Everywhere
they tried to discredit the cadres and the government in the peasant's eyes.
In Pingying County in western Shantung, near the end of the Japanese war, the landlords, never having seen the 8th Route Army before, thought the cadres could be bought just like Kuomintang officials. They collected seventy thousand dollars from the people to buy two banners to welcome "the liberation heroes," and at the same time taxed each food stall on the fairgrounds one thousand dollars each in order to by watermelon seeds and peanuts for the families of the "Anti-Japanese fighters." The actual cost of the banners, however, was only twenty thousand dollars while that of the refreshments was but three thousand dollars, the difference being pocketed by the landlords. When a sour note crept into the celebration, the landlords privately told the farmers: "From ancient times till now, every government has grafted; don't entertain any hopes from the 8th Route Army."
Rising to a speech of welcome, made by a village chief, a cadre said: "We understand you have been taxed for this meeting. This money will be returned to you."
Dumfounded by this speech, and having lost face, the landlords realized
they had to deal with a different kind of government and they began to
play up to the cadres, on the one hand, and to maltreat the people, on
the other. When the district government organized by 8th Route guerrillas
compelled them to raise the wages of long-term workers, the landlords
cut down on the workers' food and refused to give them any oil for their
lamps. When militiamen, standing guard outside the village walls, asked
for some congee (1) , the village chief scolded them: "Oh you want
to eat congee! Next thing you'll want to eat meat!" Then he forced
"the congee group" to do transport work for the army. When the
peasants grumbled, he called a village meeting and said: "Let's all
go to the district government and ask for congee." Seeing that they
had nothing to eat and that they were also forced to labor for the army,
the people were disgusted with the district government. "We are just
eating the Northwest Wind," When the district government sent relief
food into the village, the village chief warned the people: "Whoever
eats this food will be seized by the army." On this theme, the landlords
spread many rumors. "You are all going to meetings, but be careful.
You may be taken away by the soldiers." As a consequence many steered
clear of the meetings and stayed indoors.
|原注一：稀粥里的营养少得可怜，算是很低的要求了。村长这是在故意恐吓，想让农民觉得政府什么也不会给。||(1) Congee is a thin gruel, containing little nourishment. The village chief here is being sarcastic at the district government's expense, meaning even this poor food can't be obtained from the government.|
The farmer was also under great pressure from his family not to struggle
against the landlord. In Putsun village, a cadre went home with an active
farmer. He was greeted by the farmer's mother with these words: "From
what my son says, I know your 8th Route Army is very good, but what will
be the last result?" When the cadre left, the father and mother said
to their son: "You must take care." Parents were petrified when
their sons took the lead in Speak Bitterness Meetings. "Why do you
raise your head higher than the rest?" said a farmer in the Taihang
Mountains to his son. "Why don't you stay in the common mass and
shout slogans in the background?"
Most important processes are taking place underneath the surfaces,
and somehow of their own accord. In the older Liberated Areas, it is a
simple matter for the peasants with traditions of struggles to divide
the land. The landlords, accustomed to the new regime, hardly put up a
fight. In areas occupied by the army, the landlords also go under easily.
Meanwhile, the landlord has not been quiet. Not for nothing is he a
landlord. Everything that is going on in the village has come to his ears.
He knows all about the secret meetings. Furthermore, he sees the peasant
glancing around with a look that says "All the land is mine."
| From thought he passed to action. While
the tenant was dreaming of a far-off world of peace and plenty, the landlord
descended on him in the night, kidnaped him and threw him in his dungeon.
In other cases, he cut off the most active farmer's head and stuck it on
the village wall as a warning. Or he broke into a small meeting and speared
everyone to death on the spot. Nor did the government cadres always escape
his attention either. As the cadre was going from village to village, or
walking back to the county seat to report, the landlord would set his "Dog
legs" on him. Often, they would castrate him, trying to make it seem
as if he had been killed for raping some village woman. The villagers knew
differently but, being afraid, they began to avoid the cadres.
Other strata of the peasantry besides the tenant were also affected.
Originally, many of the smaller landlords had joined the people's struggle
of their own accord. Not a few of these men were Christians and they had
been favorably affected by the strict discipline of the 8th Route Army,
the kindliness of the soldiers and also by slogans of justice and equality.
Wishing to join the struggles against the bigges.t traitors, they had
come to the cadres with their Bibles, saying: "Look, our Bible says
here that it is wrong for a rich man to live off the poor. You see even
a rich man is not good according to our Bible." So long as it was
only a question of rent or settling with the traitors, the upper circle
of the peasantry had played a prominent role. But when the land began
to be divided and when both the landlords and the tenants lashed out in
a fury of violence, the rich peasant began to look with distrust and fear
at the spread of the movement, not knowing where it would end.
A district official walked in the night to remonstrate with the landowners.
"The people here are organizing in a democratic way," said the
cadre. "Why oppose them?" The landlords flew into a rage. "I
don't care what the people want,?one shouted angrily. At the same instant
a dog leg hurled his spear and cleaved the cadre's throat from front to
back. With a dying shriek for help, the cadre fell to the ground, his
life's blood gushing from him. Hearing the fight, farmers ran to neighboring
villages for help. With picks and shovels a crowd of three hundred peasants
broke into the meeting place and beat the six landlords to death. The
dog legs escaped in the night.