THE PEOPLE'S WAR
37. Brother Against Brother
|BY THE time I arrived in Anyang, the
rising against the landlords and the Kuomintang was spreading like an all-consuming
fire. Every village that rose to defend itself, as a matter of course, had
to seek to get its neighbor to do the same. Thus, ever new peripheral and
protecting groups were built up. Soon the villages learned to cooperate,
to succor each other in distress, to fight shoulder to shoulder against
the hated bandits and the landlords and even sometimes against the soldiers
of Chiang Kai-shek. Yet the steel ring of arms - many of them American,
was close about the rising villages. The shadow of destiny was like a brand
on men. It was landlord against peasant, bandit against farmer, sometimes
brother against brother.
At night I used to sit among the peasants and listen to the stories they told of their villages. Mostly they were brutal stories, told in a flat monotone that failed to convey any sense of life or reality, but always they seemed somewhat sad. One story that has clung to my memory concerns two brothers who fought each other on opposite sides of the lines.
The brothers were sons of a stone worker named Wang, who lived in the east corner of Suiyeh. The gate of their poor home opened out to the countryside. Close by ran the Anyang city road. To the east, a series of steep ravines descended to the plains. On the west rose the Taihang Mountains.
In this environment, the two brothers grew up side by side. But they
grew so differently that neighbors said they could not have been born
from the same mother. Tungse, the elder brother, was an earnest, hardworking
man of twenty-five, with a square face, big eyes and a large nose. Sober
and industrious, he worked hard in a cigarette factory to support his
wife of whom he was very fond.
The brothers constantly quarreled. Tungse did not approve of his brother's shady transactions nor of the atrocities that were being committed by the landlords ho shot and killed many people during the Japanese occupation. I/liable to bear the grim life any longer, he fled back into the mountains where the 8th Route Army found him another job in a cigarette factory. Being a native of Suiyeh he became a counselor of the Armed People's Committee. Just before the Japanese surrender, he led the guerrillas back to Suiyeh and even threw hand grenades into the city during the attack. As he was entering the city, his brother was leaving with the landlords and the bandits.
After the liberation of Suiyeh, Tungse became a militianian, then he
was elected chief of the east sector of Suiyeh near the town walls. In
struggling against those landlords who had remained behind, he demanded
that they give up all their arms. To show his determination, he took four
rifles from his own uncle, a man who had many connections with the bandits
and bought and sold rifles.
In every struggle, in every Speak Bitterness Meeting, in every effort to reduce rents, Tungse was the leader. Yet, he tried to be fair. In Qrder to move the people, he said: "The Communist party wants us to have democracy. When we make a settlement, we must make it reasonably. In the famine, the landlords took our land and houses and left us no way to live, but we shall not do that, we must leave everyone a way to live."
Originally, Tungse's relatives and his mother had thought the younger
brother the better of the two sons because he brought them presents. But
now, as a result of the settlement, the family got some grain and they
began to think the older brother was a capable man.
On returning to Suiyeh, Ko Tseng-chiang plundered the poor again. Worse,
he instituted executions. One of his victims was a fifty-year-old farmer
from whom Ko had taken his house a few years before in payment of a debt.
During the land reform, the old man had received back his house. Now Ko
killed both him and his wife for molesting his property.
By this time, Tungse's clothes were in rags. He sent someone to Suiyeh to beg some cloth. By a young girl, his mother sent him a small bundle of thread. "Tell him," she said, "don't come back. If he has no clothes to wear, I'll make some for him." She begged her younger son for cloth. He would give her none.
Soon, Sitze left home, returning to the plains where life was easier than in the desolate mountains. It was said that he left because he was afraid Tungse would kill him.
The day after Sitze's departure, three hundred men of the Home Returning
Corps, summoned from three districts, and some men of the Peace Preservation
Corps, organized by the Kuomintang, came out to rob and steal. It was
late February and snow still lay upon the ground.
He ran forward into a ditch. His companions, a little to the rear,
could see the snow and sand sprinkling down into the shallow gully where
he had gone.
Ko Tseng-chiang. spit on the corpse.
Soon he arrested Tungse's father and mother.