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International Socialism, Autumn 1960


David Breen

Sinologist’s vade-mecum


From International Socialism (1st series), No.2, Autumn 1960, p.35.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Economic Development of Communist China 1949-1958
by T.J. Hughes and D.E.T. Luard
R.I.I.A., Oxford, 22s. 6d.

Readers of this journal will find little of interest in Hughes and Luard’s book. Like so much ‘academically sound’ work, it is innocent of any socio-political sophistication; it ignores the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ and concentrates exclusively on the ‘whats’. It hardly needs saying that many of the ‘whats’ discussed are misplaced.

This is most patent in their treatment of the impact of economic development on the workers and peasants. We learn that at the time of writing – late 1958 – there were no more than 3 to 4 million factory workers, that unemployment was extensive, wage differentials increasing and that employed industrial workers were “probably” better off than in the war-ridden pre-communist regime. We learn that ‘trade unions must accept the leadership of the Party. This is the first rule of Heaven.’ (p.121) But there is no mention of the enormous struggles that resulted in the wage rise of 1956; nor any analysis of the relations between Party and working class; nor any hint that regimentation of labour and forced industrialization are correlatives in a backward and comparatively isolated country.

Careful reading enables one to form some idea of how the Chinese Communist Party used the peasantry, (as distinct from representing it). Thus Liu Shao-Chi justified the Party’s change of attitude to land reform after taking power as a change from the need to raise the peasants ‘revolutionary enthusiasm’ to the need to ‘set free the rural productive forces’, ergo uphold the interests of the rich and middle peasants when these conflicted with those of the poor and landless ones. (p.139ff.). The authors trace the history of collectivization but fail to show how it furthered the massive regimentation of the peasantry in the interests of public works and taxation. Nor do they show where consent by default gives way to coercion.

In short, although the specialist will welcome this latest exercise in modern Sinology as a useful compendium of facts, some of which are new, the general reader, and especially the socialist, might not find it very useful.

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