Soong Ch'ing-ling


A Great New Movement



Source: Soong Ching Ling, "A Great New Movement", in China Reconstructs magazine, vol. XXV, no. 3 (March 1976); pages 2-5.
Transcription & HTML Markup for Juan Fajardo, January 2022.




TODAY in China the whole people, led by the Communist Party, are engaged in a great new effort to push agriculture forward and build Tachai-type counties all over our vast land. Tachai is a production brigade, a subdivision of a commune, a northern hill village of some 90 families once remote, bleak, poverty-stricken, oppressed and unknown, but since 1964 the standard-bearer for China's socialist agriculture under Chairman Mao Tsetung’s call, “In agriculture, learn from Tachai.” Why learn from it? Because it has confirmed — in ceaseless collective work, struggle and advance — the people’s truth, the truth of history ringingly affirmed by Chairman Mao much earlier, in 1949 on the eve of China’s liberation, “Of all things in the world, people are the most precious. Under the leadership of the Communist Party, as long as there are people, every kind of miracle can he performed. . . . We believe that revolution can change everything. . . .”

Tachai, until its liberation, was a nightmare of frightfully eroded land, drought-stricken for most of the year, slashed by wild mountain torrents in the brief but concentrated rainy season — poor soil, poor crops, poor people made still poorer by landlord exploitation, living in crumbling earth caves. Today its fields, owned and tilled in common, terraced or completely transformed into small “man-made plains” by the leveling of hilltops, have increased their per- unit yield tenfold, are irrigated by water pumped by electric power from a river far below, and in the main plowed by tractors. And the socialist community has built itself a sturdy brick-and-stone housing complex with a clinic, school, library and other facilities.

These two Tachais could be a thousand years apart. In fact, between them lie almost three decades of intense labor and struggle. The formerly impoverished peasants have shown themselves unwavering in three respects — active determination to go the collective socialist road pointed by the Party, dauntless self-reliance and the ever-deepening, ever- inspiring consciousness that they were working not just for Tachai but for a new China and a new world. Their stirring story has often been told but I would like to note some highlights.

Immediately after their liberation, when the tenants and agricultural laborers had dispossessed the landlords and become owners of the land they tilled, they chose the road of cooperation and common advance over that of individual competition for self-enrichment in which a few win out while the many are trampled underfoot.

In Tachai, the initial battle took the form mainly of a competition between two mutual-aid teams. One was composed of the poorest peasants — who in addition were mainly old people, adolescents, weak or ill — but to battle difficulties would even harness themselves to the plow in the absence of draft animals. Yet this team outproduced the other which was composed of better-off peasants who were both physically stronger and equipped with more work-beasts and tools but finally fell apart because its members contended for separate individual gain — each would work well on his own field and slack on a neighbor’s. Thus mutual aid in Tachai was freed of capitalist tendencies and established on the only basis on which it could last and develop — the leading role of the poor peasants. Later, in 1955 when Chairman Mao called for agricultural cooperatives, Tachai waged another fight: to respond it had to defy obstruction by superiors in the then county leadership, which followed Liu Shao-chi in putting a brake on the movement. This was a victory against the revisionist line.

With the added strength of the co-op, the Tachai people began, transforming one of their worst gullies. But torrents twice wrecked the laboriously-built retaining walls of their new terraced fields, to the joy of class enemies who invoked old superstitions and called the disasters a punishment by the “dragon king of the waters”. Only at the third try, with more scientific construction learned from analyzing the failure, was the battle won — a triple victory over nature, class enemies and backward ideas.

After 1958, when Tachai became part of a people’s commune, it built terraced fields on a larger scale. But the class struggle did not die down. Early in the 1960s the Soviet betrayers of socialism attempted to subjugate China to their own will and revisionist ideas by paralyzing our industry, breaking contracts and withdrawing specialists. Meantime, our agriculture was in difficulties from three years of nationwide bad weather. And within the country the Liu Shao-chi revisionists tried to break up the communes and restore private farming. The people of Tachai resisted heavy pressure, maintained their collective, stepped up the remaking of nature and pushed up yields. Then in 1963, nature struck them its most savage blow yet, a flash flood that wrecked much of the field construction of ten years and washed away four-fifths of their homes. Once more winds of discouragement were fanned — some for leaving the village and resettling elsewhere, some for seeking massive state grants as the only salvation, with rebuilding expected to take a dozen years even then. But the poor and lower-middle peasants of Tachai, their will expressed in the words of their brigade Party branch secretary, Chen Yung-kuei, returned with thanks all government aid. If every locality stretched its hands to the state, they reasoned, where would the state get the wherewithal for national- scale projects? Any aid grant would be soon spent; moreover, the self-reliant spirit, which alone was inexhaustible, would be undermined. Tachai pledged itself to work in such a way that, that same year, there would be no reduction of collective income, of contributions to the state, or of members’ earnings. They did it. It was then that Chairman Mao said, “In agriculture, learn from Tachai.”

After the flood, turning a bad thing into a good, Tachai took advantage of starting on a clean slate to transform itself more sweepingly. Quickly the fields were rebuilt in new, better ways. Housing was revolutionized into a community project that freed land for production and members’ minds from many of their domestic concerns. But to the advocates of capitalist restoration, Chairman Mao’s setting up of Tachai as the banner for socialist agriculture was an imperative motive for pulling it down. They were a handful, but strongly placed. Again Tachai resisted, and worked on. It was only with the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution that Liu Shao-chi and his covey of restorers of capitalism were swept from positions of authority.

In the 1970s came a new development. Not only have numerous teams, brigades and communes learned from Tachai, improving both the relations and the conditions of production, and getting yields two, three and more times the general targets for their regions. Whole counties with spirit, style and material achievements like Tachai’s have appeared, first singly, then in groups, starting with Tachai’s own county, Hsiyang. A county, generally with hundreds of thousands of people, can of course do things smaller units cannot. Once-backward Hsiyang is not only transforming its land, and like others setting up a system of small and medium industries. It has designed, and makes, light tractors especially adapted to China’s rugged highlands, with mass production in the offing. It was in Hsiyang’s enlarged tractor plant that the National Conference to Learn from Tachai held its first session last fall. Building Tachai-type counties today also means mechanizing them.

Against this background, one can understand today’s movement and its launching at a national conference with the Party committee secretaries .of China’s more than 2,000 counties participating. One can understand the concise definition reiterated there: “Tachai’s fundamental spirit lies in its adherence to the principle of putting proletarian politics in command and placing Mao Tsetung Thought in the lead, to the spirit of self-reliance and hard struggle, and to the communist style of love for the country and the collective.” One can understand Vice-Premier Hua Kuo-feng’s statements, in his sum-up report: “Learning from Tachai in agriculture and building Tachai-type counties throughout the country is a great revolutionary movement to continue the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat and build socialist agriculture with greater, faster, better and more economical results.” One can understand his statement that the mass upsurge now launched, “like the land reform, agricultural cooperation and people’s commune movements, is another great revolutionary movement in the rural areas”.

What are the qualifications of a Tachai county? Its Party leadership is Marxist like Tachai’s, the poor and lower-middle peasants are in authority and fight capitalist trends and restoration; its cadres — whether at county, commune or brigade level — participate in collective productive labor; it moves ahead rapidly and substantially in building new fields, mechanization and scientific farming; it steadily expands its collective economy, brings the output and income of its poorer units up to or above the present level of average ones; and it develops its rural economy in an all-round way, raising its output, its contributions to the state and the living standards of its commune members.

Today capital construction of farmland is geared to mechanization, the way forward. To advance this, besides expansion of farm-machine manufacture by national and provincial-level plants, each county is to produce iron and steel, coal, chemical fertilizers and insecticides, and small and medium machines. By massive initiative at all levels, all China’s farming is to be basically mechanized in five years — by 1980. This vast undertaking will push forward our industry and science. An essential step will be taken toward fulfilling the great plan, announced by Premier Chou En-lai at the Fourth National People’s Congress, of ensuring that socialist China will be advancing in the world’s front ranks by the end of the century — before the year 2000.

Moreover, the projected multiplication of Tachai-type counties — from 300 now to at least 700 by 1980 and later to all will make our country all the more invincible against aggression. If the Chinese revolution could win its previous victories against foreign invaders and internal reactionaries by relying on the resources of the countryside at the then pre-industrial level, how incalculably stronger will it be with each county having a substantial food surplus its own industrial base, a rural population not only politically inspired and informed but technically experienced and competent.

In short, the country we build will be more secure m its national independence, its socialist nature, its ability to guard against and oppose revisionist degeneration towards capitalism. It will be able to contribute more to the progress of mankind and march more firmly and quickly towards its ultimate goal —a communist society.

Some ask: Will the extension and increased productivity of China's agriculture be absorbed or even finally outstripped by population growth? Facts long ago provided the answer. In old China, with a population of not much over half today’s, there was famine. Since liberation, there has been none. For more than a dozen years now, grain output has risen at double or more the rate of increase of our people. In Tachai, with its exceptionally bad material heritage, the crop in 1974 was equal to that of eleven pre-liberation years. Hsiyang county, once equally poor, feeds all its people, retains reserves, and markets one-third as much again to the state for use elsewhere. And all Shansi province, when every one of its counties is of the Tachai-type (they are not yet, but certainly can be), will produce 2 times as much grain as at present, and have a marketable surplus nearly four times the present. Most parts of the country have better natural conditions and a higher potential for increased food output than these areas — and can realistically be expected to multiply output even more rapidly in the coming years.

Socialist China’s family-planning program, already reducing population growth, is not prompted by any Malthusian fear — of more people than food. It is part of overall planning, to ensure the scheduled growth of production per capita; faster overall development, more supplies for everyone; better health, less household burdens and more participation in all fields of work for women; better facilities for the care and education of the young. In short it is part of the working people’s fight to plan all society and control all nature for the common good.

People are the most precious.” The people make history. In Tachai, and wherever its spirit takes hold, it is people who unfold their endless potential, their thinking, initiative, militancy, organized effort. Thus they transform the land and with it, again, themselves. Take the Tachai brigade’s long-time Party secretary, Chen Yung-kuei. Left an orphan, his parents and many other family members done to death by the old society and foreign invaders, he was a hired laborer for twenty years, was awakened by the revolution and joined it wholeheartedly, learned to read only at 43, is now one of the leaders of the entire Party and state, has never ceased to labor and to struggle, still returns as a villager, a Held worker among the rest. Myriads of such Tachai-type people, Tachai-type cadres, their outlook constantly broadened and deepened by Marxist science in our vast study movements in the course of practice, never losing their foothold in the masses and reality, me the pre-condition for the “Tachai-ization” by whole counties, of our entire vast countryside. And take the “Iron Girls” of Tachai, from among whom comes its present Party secretary, Kuo Feng-lien. Do not they represent, in addition to the general potential of once-oppressed working people, a vast step in the liberation of women from their former added oppression, a shattering of age-old Confucian mental shackles? Let those who talk of “limits on personal development” under socialism, seeing it only in bourgeois individualist terms, show anything comparable in terms of opening the windows of millions of minds to the real laws of society, of the masses of working people acting as conscious masters and changers of the world, of courage not to knuckle under to retrogression and misleadership from any quarter, of the ability to raise, not oneself above the people, but the whole people with oneself in their midst. Such initiative for valid common purpose is at the same time the true realization of individual potential.

But the march which has already come so far in such short historic time is only beginning in terms of distance still to go. There will be new efforts, new obstacles to be surmounted — both counterattacks by moribund forces and difficulties caused by nature. But the people will overcome all these, and in the process generate new understanding, new energy, new leaps forward. Though I am not in sufficient health now to go to Tachai, to contribute what others can, this new surge forward increases my faith, my pride, in our country and in the people here and in all lands.

Cooperation. Long vision. Self-reliance. Though conditions are everywhere different, these things, not just said but expressed through action, help once- dependent countries, oppressed nations, oppressed people to know their own strength, think through their own problems, realize their own potential to build the future they desire. The world does not belong to “supermen” or superpowers. It is the people’s.