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Peasant — College Student — Peasant

— Peasant-Intellectual Li Wan-hsi

[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, Vol. 11, #44, Nov. 1,
1968, pp. 9-11. Thanks are due to the WWW.WENGEWANG.ORG
web site for some of the work done for this posting.]

OUR great leader Chairman Mao pointed out in a recent directive on educational revolution: “Students should be selected from among workers and peasants with practical experience, and they should return to production after a few years’ study.” This is exactly the bright road taken by Li Wan-hsi, one of the leaders of the Dijiutun Production Brigade, Toubaihu People’s Commune, Huaian County, Hopei Province.

Li Wan-hsi, son of a lower-middle peasant, completed his primary school education in July 1954 and then, in response to Chairman Mao’s call, returned to his village to do farm work. He became quite a skilled farmer. In July 1960 the people’s commune recommended him for a course of study in Hopei Agricultural University.

As he made his way from his native mountain village, the poor and lower-middle peasants, saying goodbye to him in hamlet after hamlet, admonished him again and again: “Wan-hsi, it is Chairman Mao who gives you this opportunity to go to college. You must live up to his expectations!”

Li entered the university with proletarian feelings of boundless loyalty to Chairman Mao and a resolve to dedicate himself to the building of a new, socialist countryside.

Hopei Agricultural University enrolled 60 peasant students that year. But victims of the revisionist educational line of China’s Khrushchov, 36 of the peasant students were forced to leave the university when they failed a difficult examination in 1962. With only a primary school education, Li too naturally faced many difficulties. Feeling hard-pressed and hesitating whether to continue his studies or leave the university, he wrote to the Party branch in his village and to his fellow poor and lower-middle peasants to ask for advice. They replied: “You should live up to the expectations of Chairman Mao and of us poor and lower-middle peasants. Stand up to the difficulties however Great!” This encouraged and steeled his determination. He persisted in his studies and, along with his classmates, arming themselves with Mao Tse-tung’s thought, fought the revisionist educational system, and the content and methods of teaching.

Integrating With the Poor and Lower-Middle Peasants

Chairman Mao teaches us: “All intellectuals who can work in the countryside should be happy to go there. Our countryside is vast and has plenty of room for them to develop their talents to the full.” Li Wan-hsi completed his college studies in 1964 and returned home to resume his peasant life in accordance with this great teaching of Chairman Mao’s.

Though he had resisted and fought the revisionist line on education in the university, the comfortable life led there had nevertheless had a harmful effect on Li’s ideology. Back in the village, he joined in the farm work every day but he was not so stout-hearted at work as before. Once, when preparing manure, the other commune members stood right in the muck and got on with the job without fuss. But Li stood at the edge of the manure pit, now and again throwing in a spadeful of earth or a bundle of straw. He was scared of getting down into the muck. Seeing this, some shook their heads and said: “A college graduate like him can’t hold out long doing farm work.” The class enemy also seized this chance to spread rumours about him. One bad egg even wrote some improvised verses against him.

One evening, an old poor peasant came to Li Wan-hsi’s home to have a chat and said to him: “Wan-hsi, you are a son of us poor and lower-middle peasants. It was only with Chairman Mao’s support that you were able to go to the university. You shouldn’t forget this when you have got a bit of learning.”

After the old man left, Li Wan-hsi, deeply moved, thought over his advice. Since coming back to the village, he had indeed in many ways shown himself different from the poor and lower-middle peasants. He wore better clothes than they. In doing farm work he preferred the light tasks and shirked the heavy. He was afraid of getting his clothes dirty or his shoes wet.

With these problems in mind, Li seriously studied Chairman Mao’s works. Chairman Mao has taught us that “the workers and peasants were the cleanest people and, even though their hands were soiled and their feet smeared with cow-dung, they were really cleaner than the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois intellectuals.” These words made Li realize that he was afraid of dirt because he had filthy bourgeois ideas, and that if he did not make a real effort to remould himself, to overcome these bourgeois ideas, he could not become a successor to the revolutionary cause of the proletariat, but could become an “intellectual aristocrat” divorced from politics, from reality and from the masses.

From then on, he made up his mind to stop acting like a college graduate and to be one with the poor and lower-middle peasants in ideas and sentiments. He was determined to learn from the poor and lower-middle peasants’ noble qualities of boundless loyalty to Chairman Mao and their revolutionary spirit of wholehearted dedication to the public interest. In doing farm work, he no longer feared dirt or fatigue. He went wherever work hands were needed and where conditions were hard.

At this time, he and other commune members were assigned to haul out hemp which had been soaking in a pit of water. He was the first to jump into the muddy pit and he worked with a will, without a thought about the smell and dirt in the water.

One day in early April 1965, he and some fellow commune members were breaking the ice in the river preparatory to leading off water to irrigate their farmland when a dam suddenly sprang a leak. The commune members tried, but failed to plug the hole with earth. Prompted by Chairman Mao’s teaching on serving the people wholly and entirely, Wan-hsi plunged into the icy water in his bulky cotton-padded clothes and filled the breach with his body. Pressing down four straw mats as a base for the earth the commune members were piling on, he was soon numb with cold. His legs were battered by blocks of ice but he wouldn’t retreat. He kept shouting with his colleagues as they quoted to encourage themselves: “Be resolute, fear no sacrifice and surmount every difficulty to win victory!” After a half-hour battle, the breach was repaired. Much moved, the poor and lower-middle peasants said: “This youngster has not forgotten what he was. Wan-hsi takes the same road as we do!”

Scientific Experiments Linking Theory With Practice

Li’s home village had long suffered from unfavourable natural conditions. Its main crops are maize, millet and kaoliang (sorghum), but the yields of all of these were low. After returning to the village, Li racked his brains over the problems of how to raise bigger crops by increasing yields and build a new, socialist countryside faster.

In the spring of 1965, with the support and help of the Party branch, he organized a scientific experimental group made up of veteran farmers, young people and cadres. The first thing they did was to study this teaching of Chairman Mao’s: “Man has constantly to sum up experience and go on discovering, inventing, creating and advancing.” They resolved to try crossing good local varieties of food plants with those from other places to develop better strains giving bigger yields.

Combining the views of the poor and lower-middle peasants and his own experience in production with the scientific knowledge he had acquired in college, Li Wan-hsi proposed an experiment in double-cross breeding of maize. But the books said that in making experiments in double crossing no maize should be sown within 300 metres of the experimental plot, otherwise, accidental pollination might result when the maize was in flower. How should they solve this problem? “The masses are the real heroes.” The poor and lower-middle peasants proposed early sowing of the double-cross breed experimental maize. This would ensure that the lime of flowering of the maize on the experimental plot and other plots would not be the same. With this problem solved, the experiment were eventually successful.

At the same time the group made experiments comparing 14 varieties of millet from other places and found that some of them yield more than local varieties.

Maize root-worm is the most damaging pest in the area. Since it is resistant to the arsenolite which had been used locally for many years, Li Wan-hsi experimented with benzene hexachloride. But this killed both insects and crop. The class enemy seized the occasion to scoff: “With Wan-hsi, the expert spoiler in charge, the villagers will have nothing to eat!” Li Wan-hsi did not give up. Together with veteran farmers he continued experimenting until they finally devised a mixture of benzene hexachloride and other substances that poisoned the root-worms. This did no harm to the crop but was very effective against the pest.

By integrating himself with the poor and lower-middle peasants and linking theory with practice, Li Wan-hsi has achieved successes in his agricultural scientific experiments. As a result of improvements in agricultural techniques and the hard work of the commune members, the output of the three main local crops — maize, millet and kaoliang (sorghum) — has been increased more than fourfold compared with three years ago. Li Wan-hsi has also trained more than 130 agro-technicians for the people’s commune. The poor and lower-middle peasants said happily: “Combining scientific knowledge with our own experience gives fine results!”

Forged and Matured in Class Struggle

Tested in the three great revolutionary movements of class struggle, the struggle for production and scientific experiment, Li Wan-hsi has won the trust of the poor and lower-middle peasants and been elected leader of his production brigade. Since assuming his post, he has firmly grasped the most fundamental of all the many tasks in daily work — he puts the creative study and application of Chairman Mao’s works in first place. He enthusiastically propagates Mao Tse-tung’s thought, and has thus won the support and help of the poor and lower-middle peasants.

But the class enemies regard him as a thorn in their flesh. In the great cultural revolution, the fellow who did his best to mock and attack Li when he first came back to the village, managed to instigate some misguided people to put up big-character posters demanding that Li Wan-hsi be overthrown. Li did not waver for a moment in face of this attack by the class enemy. The poor and lower-middle peasants backed him up firmly. “Wan-hsi,” they said, “stand your ground! Even if the sky falls down we’ll stand by you!” Inspired by Chairman Mao’s teaching: “It is good if we are attacked by the enemy, since it proves that we have drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves,” and shoulder to shoulder with the poor and lower-middle peasants, Li Wan-hsi battled resolutely against the class enemies. In these struggles he himself was forged into a stauncher peasant-intellectual.

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